It was always the same dream. The same dark, swirling shadows and shrouded claw like creatures with faces like reptiles and streaks of flashing lights, as if she was in the midst of a wild electrical storm. And it was always the same screams. Screams and yells, bursting with terror coming from men, women and children, pleading and whimpering for their lives.
Eleni would shoot up in bed like a frightened rabbit, her heart pounding like a time bomb, trying to untangle the blankets that were twisted round her body like a snake.
The dream had begun a year ago but had accelerated in intensity since arriving at Hogwarts two and a half months ago. The dream so disturbed her that she could never settle back to sleep. She'd go and sit by the window and wait for the dawn to break, before dressing and escaping down to the Great Hall for breakfast. She was always the first student to arrive but after sitting and filling her plate, she'd remember the screams and be unable to swallow more than a mouthful of eggs.
After breakfast Eleni would return to her room to collect her books, scrolls and quill and go to her classes, tired and dispirited, knowing that night fall would soon return and so would the dreaded journey back to bed.
Some nights in retaliation to the dream, she'd take to sitting up as long as she could in the Gryffindor common room, pretending to read while the others said goodnight before leaving for the comfortable sanctuary of their beds. Once alone Eleni would put her book down and stare at the fire, until it burnt itself out.
Life had never been easy for her. Since being dumped unceremoniously on the doorstop of an orphanage with a bag of clothes and a tattered blanket at the age of nine, she had been shunted from one Wizarding School to the other. Summer holidays always meant an orphanage, one that had a spare bed and tolerance for the peculiarities that came with her presence. It had been a relief when she had been invited to enrol at her first Wizarding and Witchcraft school. Finally knowing there was an explanation for all the weird stuff brought relief.
Because strange things always seem to happen when she was around. Cups and saucers flew across the room when she was angry, rain fell in rooms when she was sad and cakes liked to splatter over people's head. Consequently she was never invited back to the orphanage.
And for some curious reason, she also never lasted long at he Wizarding schools. Just as she became comfortable at the school, she was asked to leave.
It was never because of any bad conduct. Her teachers considered Eleni respectful and intelligent. All of them commented favourably on her attitude and diligent work.
Yet at each Wizarding School, long before she was settled into the school, she'd be called into the principal's office and told she'd have to leave.
The excuses they gave were endless. When the owl came with the inevitable note that the Principal wanted to see her, Eleni would play bets with herself and try and guess what excuse would be played out this time
'This school isn't rich. Your parents, well whoever they were, left you no money.'
'I'm sorry but we no longer have room for you, we already have too many students.'
'We don't have the right curriculum for you, another school would better fill those requirements.'
And it went on and on.
She knew there had to be more to these sudden expulsions. So in the beginning Eleni would stamp her feet and refuse to leave till she was told the truth. But whatever headmaster it was, would merely cast an obedience charm and her feet would about turn and march swiftly back to the dorms to pack up her belongings.
Before 'Hogwarts', her last school had been 'The Melvin School of Witchcraft and Wizardry'. It had been her longest stay at a school. A whole year.
A year where she had become hopeful that this was it, that she wouldn't have to shift. After all she surmised, how many Wizarding schools were left, she must be close to the end of the list.
Eleni had been so hopeful at Melvin that she had even permitted herself a complete immersion into the comfortable safe routine of timetables, classes and study that everyone else took for granted.
But then the inevitable happened. A school owl delivered the message that Professor Pickleton wanted to see her immediately in his office. Downcast and morose she arrived in his office and watched while he paced backwards and forwards, unable to meet her eyes. Even the portraits of the old headmasters covering the wall had turned away. Eleni knew it wasn't a good sign.
'Well you see,' he had begun, stumbling over his words. 'The Ministry, well the school board, well maybe that's a little severe but it has been decided, not unanimously mind you but I think it's better, well I need to let you go. Of course it doesn't mean you're not an excellent student, courteous and hardworking, everyone agrees that you are but Eleni, it's better this way, better for all. We wouldn't want, no it's best this way, yes it is. So I am sorry but I have no choice.'
Eleni knew it was useless arguing. She excused herself, packed and left without saying goodbye to anyone. 'Why don't I know who my parents were?' she asked herself for about the millionth time. 'Could they be out there somewhere, alive and wondering where I am? Or are they dead? And if they are what happened to them? Do I have any other family? If I do, do they know I exist?'
Her first memory was when was found on the steps of an orphanage. Eleni was interrogated for days but she didn't remember who she was or where she had come from. Her past was stretched out like a long blank canvas. It was like being stranded on an island in the middle of nowhere and not having a clue which direction to swim to reach the mainland.
Sometimes she considered different ways of investigating her past. But how was she supposed to begin? Eleni didn't even know what her real name was. The nameless one she was nicknamed when they found her. She had been given the name Eleni after Elena the nurse who found her and Devon, after the caretaker who picked her up and carried her inside.
Several months after leaving Melvin and languishing in another orphanage, an owl arrived with a letter from Professor Dumbledore, inviting her to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Eleni had heard of Hogwarts, of Harry Potter and his escape from Voldermort when he was a baby. Word was that Voldermort had returned and that Professor Dumbledore was collecting forces for what looked like to be a final showdown. She didn't waste time and sent a reply back immediately, yet under no illusion that she'd spend the rest of her school life there.
Eleni arrived at Hogwarts one week after the start of term and in the middle of the night. Professor Dumbledore was waiting for her at the great Entrance Hall, holding a long black hat and a block of chocolate.
'Welcome Eleni,' he said, shaking her hand before handing her the chocolate, 'I've been wanting to invite you to this school for a long time.'
'You have?' she asked, taking a tentative bite of her chocolate and feeling the colour return to her cheeks.
'Yes,' he said, looking her right in the eye, 'and I give you my word that this will be the end of the journey. No more changes of school, your schooling will be completed here.'
At hearing those words, somewhere deep inside of Eleni, a place that she shared with no one, a trembling began, a trembling of disbelief yet hope. Could he be telling her the truth, she wondered? Please let it be so, she thought.
'Now I know it's somewhat irregular,' he continued again, 'to be truthful I think it's the first time we've sorted someone out in the Entrance Hall but the sorting ceremony was a week ago and,' his eyes twinkled as he looked at her, 'and I doubt you would have wanted to be sorted with the first years.'
Eleni smiled nervously but remained still as he dropped the hat onto her head.
She looked up as the hat moved, twisting first one way and then the other.
'Yes, yes,' it said, 'another difficult one. Could really be placed in any of the houses. Would do well in all of them but I must make a choice. Now let's see, where shall I put her. Yes, of course, it's obvious. Where else are the investigative sources the strongest? I will put her in Gryffindor!'
Dumbledore chuckled and called out.
'See Professor McGonagall,' he said, into the shadows. 'Told you she'd be sorted into Gryffindor.'
Eleni gaped as a tall, severe looking witch appeared out of the darkness.
'As always Albus you are right,' said Professor McGonagall, staring at the tiny suitcase by Eleni's feet. 'Where are the rest of your things?' she asked.
Eleni blushed. 'That's all there is.'
'I had Hagrid go to Diagon Alley to collect the books you'll need for the school year,' said Professor Dumbledore. 'You'll find everything in your room.'
Eleni stared at him, dumbfounded, lost for words. She was unaccustomed to such kindness. 'Thankyou,' she eventually stammered.
'Well if that is all, I will retire to my quarters. Professor McGonagall will escort you to your room.'
'Well then,' said the tall witch, 'come along Eleni. We'll get you fed first and then I'll show you to the Gryffindor tower. I'm afraid that at this stage you'll be on your own, as the girl's dormitories are full but never mind, after so many orphanages you might welcome the privacy.'
'Thankyou,' Eleni said again, too overwhelmed to say anything else. Hogwarts was already beginning to feel more home than any other of the places she had lived in.
Five minutes into her first potions class and Eleni was in no doubt that the stories about Professor Snape were by no means an exaggeration. At "Melvin" she had done well in Potions but was under no illusion about her prowess with the subject. Professor Blockmarble, the Potions Master at "Melvin", had been tardy with his punctuality. He never followed the set curriculum and usually let them out fifteen minutes before the end of class.
When Eleni entered Snape's classroom down in the dungeons she felt a cold blast of air across her back. It was like the air had managed to soak through her clothes, leaving her shivering with cold. That's when she noticed a tall, sallow faced man, draped in black, standing at the front of the class, watching her with black, coal eyes.
'So,' he announced, with a menacing note to his voice when the class the settled in their seats, 'we have a new student. Another Gryffindor.'
The Slytherins turned and looked at her like she was some muggle who had ended up in Hogwarts by accident. Draco Malfoy sniggered and nudged Crabbe and Goyle who were making faces at her.
Eleni ignored them and stared at her feet in acute embarrassment, hating Snape for singling her out like that.
'All right,' he suddenly snapped before giving his wand a wave. Ingredients to a potion magically appeared in front of them. 'Today we are going to study the art of memory enhancement. Something many of you are in desperate need of. Now open your books to Chapter four and begin to follow the steps.'
Eleni shuddered as she opened her book. The way he had looked at her when he had said, 'memory enhancement'. As if he knew of the large chunk of her past missing.
She was busy reading through the chapter and didn't notice him sidle up behind her.
'Miss Devon I presume,' Snape whispered, causing her to almost leap to the ceiling in shock. His voice was slow and deliberate, pronouncing each syllable with the utmost care.
'Yes, I'm Eleni Devon,' she whispered nervously, half turning to face him and being greeted by the most unfriendliest eyes she had ever seem.
'Mmmm. So let's see, your last potions teacher was?'
Eleni went to answer but he put up his hand to silence her.
'No, let me guess,' he said. 'Your last school was Melvin, so your last Potions teacher would have had to be Professor Blockmarble.
'Yes,' Eleni said weakly.
'Ah yes, Professor Blockmarble,' continued Professor Snape as if talking to himself, 'the illustrious Professor Blockmarble, who considers himself the best Potions master, the Wizard world has ever had the pleasure to have seen.'
By the way, Snape's lip was curling, Eleni was in no doubt that he was not being facetious.
'Well,' he said, 'don't let me interrupt your work. Continue.'
She picked up her tiny scalpel and despite being aware of the ominous presence breathing down her neck, sliced in half the chief ingredient, a big green dried up beetle.
'Miss Devon,' Snape whispered menacingly. 'What do you think you're doing?'
Eleni swallowed and looked at him. 'Cutting up the beetle for the potion.'
'Oh really, cutting up the beetle?' he snapped. He waved his wand and produced another beetle. 'I suggest that this time you do it properly. Doing it that way spoils the beetle's powers, renders it useless.'
Eleni looked down at her beetle helplessly before moving her eyes discreetly to the other Gryffindors for help. Behind Snape's back, Hermoine was making an array of hand movements, trying to demonstrate the best way to begin the dissection.
But as quick as a flash, Snape whirled around and caught Hermoine in mid flight.
'Miss Granger,' he sneered, 'as always ready to show off. That little effort just lost Gryffindor ten points. Do it again and it'll be detention.'
Eleni watched Hermoine's scarlet face, turn away. Even she knew Hermoine was a top student, destined one day to be a prefect. Other than getting an answer wrong, losing points for Gryffindor would be one of the worst things that could happen to her.
'Now Miss Devon,' said Snape, turning back to her, 'surely you don't need anyone else's help, not after experiencing the brilliance of Professor Blockmarble.'
Eleni looked from him to the beetle.
'I'm waiting,' he continued, with his arms folded.
Eleni tightened her grip on the scalpel. Well here goes she thought. If he wants a dissection, I'll give him a dissection. She took a deep breath and plunged the knife in.
'No,' he spat. 'Wrong! Five points from Gryffindor.'
'Professor Snape,' she said, putting the scalpel down. 'The truth is I don't know what to do. I've never had to dissect anything. Professor Blockmarble didn't really believe in practical work.'
Snape's lip curled like he didn't believe a word she was saying. 'Oh really.'
'I am telling you the truth,' she said, aware that the whole class had gone silent and was listening to their conversation.
'So am I to conclude Miss Devon, that for a fifth year your knowledge of Potions is what you would call, sub standard.'
'Yes, I guess you can say that Professor Snape. And I also agree with you that Professor Blockmarble wasn't much of a teacher.'
Snape's robes billowed back, like there had been a sudden gust of wind in the room. Eleni kicked herself for not keeping quiet, worried that she had gone too far. It was apparent that he wasn't someone to cross.
He leaned towards her, his black eyes boring right into her like a drill, probing and searching her mind for its secrets, for its very essence. Eleni didn't know how but somehow with every bit of will power she could muster, she maintained neutral eye contact as the moments ticked past. Her whole body was trembling and she knew she was blushing but there was no way she was going to let him intimidate her.
Finally he took a step back but maintained eye contact even though the intensity had lessened. Eleni thought she saw something flicker in his eyes, like he had seen something that had puzzled him but as quickly as it appeared it disappeared.
'Well Miss Devon,' he said, 'if you're to catch up, you're going to have to work extremely hard.' She saw him look sourly in Neville's direction. 'Although by the standard of some of this class that shouldn't be too difficult.'
And with that final comment, Snape moved away to look for someone else to torment.
Eleni didn't began to breath easily, till the end of class, when she was well away from the dungeons and on her way to Herbology.
The others were full of praise for the way she handled Snape.
'That took guts the way you didn't look away when he was staring right down you,' said Ron, as they dug up 'bugleweeds' in Herbology.
'He just has to glance in my direction and I'm shaking,' said Neville.
'He just wanted to get to me,' said Eleni, 'going on and on about Professor Blockmarble.'
'I don't think it was nice the way he was putting him down,' said Hermoine.
'Well,' admitted Eleni, 'I hate to say this but he's right. Professor Blockmarble had to be the worse teacher I've ever had. He really was hopeless.'
'Anyway don't let Snape get to you,' Ron told her. 'He hates everyone in Gryffindor.'
'I thought I was going to die when he wouldn't leave me alone,' she said.
Ron laughed. 'I loved the way you plunged that scalpel into the beetle. That really showed him.'
'Yes,' said Harry, 'he's a champion at intimidation. But the good news for you, is that he likes to concentrate his venom in my direction.'
'No way,' called out Neville, 'he hates me more.'
'Yeah and who loses us the most points in Potions,' said Harry.
'Yes but who does he yell at the most,' insisted Neville, whose voice had begun to shake just at the mere thought of Professor Snape unleashing his fury on him.
'He doesn't like me very much either,' inserted Hermoine. 'You saw how he was with me today.'
'And you're his top student,' said Harry.
'Except for his Slytherin pets,' said Ron, 'I don't think he likes anyone.'
'Now enough of Professor Snape,' said Professor Sprout, coming over to check their work, 'and more concentration on your digging. "Bugleweeds" are very delicate.'
'Thanks for trying to help me before,' Eleni whispered to Hermoine, when Professor Sprout had turned away. 'I'm just sorry it cost you points.'
'Thanks but look if you need any help with potions, outside of class that is, just let me know. Okay?'
'Thanks, I appreciate it,' said Eleni, taking another easy breath. Things at Hogwarts weren't too bad after all, well except for Professor Snape.