During the time between the publication of GOF and OOP I thought that their would be another girl introduced to the series. There was, Miss Luna Lovegood, she is a great addition to the story and I really enjoy her character. But...here is my sketchy rendition of who should have joined the gang at Hogwarts. Starting with the opening feast of the school year.
"It means the Minstry is interfering at Hogwarts."
After Hermione surmised the true nature of Professor Umbridge's speech the door of the Great Hall opened. Hundreds of students turned to watch Professor Snape leading a girl toward the head table. The girl had a rucksack slung over her shoulder, with eyes on the floor she limped after the billowy cloak until she reached the stairs. Snape turned and offered his arm for balance, each step causing the girl to wince. A curtain of dark hair shielded her from the frenzied whispers that had broken out across the Great Hall.
As Snape talked quietly to the Headmaster, Ron turned to Hermione, "Who do you think she is, then? I don't recognize her." He craned his neck to get a better look, having a father in the Ministry meant that he had met many of the wizarding families in Britain at one time or another but he could not place the girl on the dias.
"She's too old to just be starting school, maybe she's from Beaubaton or Daurmstrang?" Harry guessed as he scrutinized the actions of his least favorite teacher, who had just swooped down to collect the Sorting Hat and stool again. As Snape brought the girl to sit down, the Hall hushed again in anticipation. The girl sat with eyes closed under the Sorting Hat for longer than any other student. "Is the Hat refusing to sort her?" Harry whispered to his best friends, "It did want us to stop separating into houses..."
Harry was interrupted by the Sorting Hat's pronouncement. "Slytherin!"
"She looks so scared." Hermione spoke just under the tepid applause coming from the Slytherin table. She was much more tactful than Draco Malfoy who could be heard complaining, "She looks like a Hufflepuff, send her there. What do we want with a dirty Squib? Or maybe she's a mudblood." Mean laughter broke out along his table. Both the words and laughter reached the girl's ears, she whipped around from Professor McGonagell who had been welcoming the girl to the school.
Focusing in on Draco, she shook her hair out of her face and ran straight toward the far table. Harry jumped up and saw her bound onto a Ravenclaw bench. She bounced up to the table and launched herself. She seemed to hang mid-air with arms outstretched before her body began to transfigure. Webbing sprouted between her splayed fingers, legs tucked up and behind her, face lengthening. She flapped her arms once and the down draft from her new wings knocked a group of Ravenclaws to the floor. The yellow muggle dress she was wearing had transformed into brilliant lemon yellow scales and there were black spines running down her back. Harry didn't know what type of dragon she was but compared to a Hungarian Horntail she was tiny.
The Great Hall erupted with screams as the newly minted dragon soared toward the ceiling, the floating candle enchantments faded out as the golden reptile twirled through the air. Harry looked up to the head table to see many of the professors frozen in shock, Harry could not help but smile when he thought of how disappointed Hagrid would be that he missed the action. His large friend loved dragons, hopefully he would return before this one destroyed the castle. Chunks a plaster rained down from the roof when the dragon grazed against it. Professors Dumbledore and McGonagall sent protection spells above the students. Harry added his own to the mix as a gargoyle dislodged. The shield kept the Patil twins safe from the concrete monster.
Hermione and Ron began casting protection spells along with other upperclassmen. First and second years dove under the tables. The dragon had turned her attention toward the Slytherin table, she blew fire at the protective shields. Malfoy and his gang flung themselves under the table as the charm broke. Her next shot burned into the centuries old wood of the house table. As another attack came, Snape jumped on the smoldering table muttering and flicking his wand. His magic blew her fire back upon the angry dragon, engulfing her. As the last bit of fire went out on her snout, she hovered above Snape for two wing flaps before rising into a left turn. The dragon lined up with the Hufflepuff table, changing back into a girl as her shoes shattered the few glasses that remained on the table. She dropped to the table, her dress smoking, low whimpering could be heard above the deadly silence that followed.
As the whimpers turned to sobs, the whole school saw Neville Longbottom move toward the table. Shocked gasps accompanied his hand petting her hair. No one moved as he shifted the broken glass littering the table, clearing a path even as his hand was scratched. Neville spoke to her in a low voice that only she could hear, after a moment her head rose and she let Neville slip her off the table.
Neville supported her weight and brought her through the wreckage back up to the Head table. Snape, McGonagell, and Dumbledore met them. Seeing the adults faces, Harry was startled at how old and tired his mentors seemed.
Dumbledore nodded at Snape, who glided over to the teens. The Headmaster took his place behind his pedestal, "Students. Please welcome Zoe Drinkwater to Hogwarts. I know you will make her feel right at home. Now I think it is time that you all take your seats and begin the wonderful feast in front of us all." With a wave of his wand, the Great Hall restored itself to its past glory while platters of steaming food materialized upon the house tables.
Dumbledore resolutely took his seat and began with dessert, a huge chocolate treacle. Each of the professors but Snape and Madame Pomfrey joined in, leaving the students little to do but follow suit. Professor Snape and Madame Pomfrey made to lead Zoe up to the hospital wing. Zoe grasped Neville as he tried to rejoin his house and whispered urgently at Professor Snape.
Snape sneered, then visibly sighed, "Very well, if you would go with Miss Drinkwater up to the infirmary, Mr Longbottom."
As the quartet passed between the Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff tables, Harry, Ron and Hermione could see the students shying away from the aisle.
Dinner was a very noisy affair once the Great Hall doors closed.
After the feast, Harry, Ron and Hermione were sitting in their favorite squishy chairs. The rest of the common room was empty, the excitement of the first night back had finally died down enough for sleep. Harry was glad in a way, at least Zoe had taken some of the interest off his shoulders. There were still a lot of whispers directed at him but most were about the strange dragon-girl. Seeing their professors work some strong magic was equally gossip inducing. The golden trio had done their fair share of gossiping on both topics.
"There hasn't been a natural Animagus born in years. I'm sure I haven't seen Zoe Drinkwater in any of the research I did on Rita Skeeter." Hermione humpfed at the idea that her books were not correct. She had poured over multiple tomes addressed to the subject of Animagi the year before.
"But if that Skeeter woman could keep off the lists, couldn't Zoe?" Ron wondered.
"Really, Ronald. Dumbledore obviously knows her, and the entire school has seen her transform, other people must know about her out in the community."
Harry let them squabble for a while. They had been over the same topics for the last few hours. All three had been grudgingly impressed by Snape's performance and shocked that Zoe had been so violent toward the Slytherins.
"She didn't win any friends by going crazy like that." Harry was concerned about the blowback the new girl would face in her house. "They're going to rip her apart when she leaves the hospital. The Slytherins aren't exactly known for their warm welcomes, even under the best circumstances."
"I'm kind of glad she didn't get put in with us though." Ron gulped as he voiced his worry. A new thought struck him, "Do you think Neville knows her?"
"He must. Or else why would he have gone with her?" Harry didn't have time to follow-up his musing because th portrait hole had just creaked open.
"Hey guys, didn't think anyone would still be awake." Neville sleepily came toward the fire, seeing the questions in their eyes, he brought a chair over and sat down.
Hermione asked "How is she, Neville?" Ron went with "Who is she, Neville?" Similar questions with infinitely different meanings.
Neville nodded at Hermione, "She is feeling better, Madame Pomfrey gave her a potion to ease the pain. When she transforms, her bones ache, especially with such a big animal." Neville's eyes seemed far away. "Professor Snape left us when we arrived at the infirmary, he was going to brew a different potion which should stop her transforming. Until she gets a better handle on it."
"As to who she is... She didn't come to Hogwarts when she was 11 because of her transformations. Zoe's been at St Mungo's pretty much her entire life, the changes take their toll so she always needed healer supervision. I've known her for a long time. I think I met her on her 7th birthday, I kind of remember cake and party hats. She's quiet, but I think that's because she's never around other kids. I see her each time me and gran visit London. I think I'm the only one who visits her regularly."
"She just lives at St Mungos? Other than the transformations, what's wrong with her?" Harry asked quickly. Harry wanted to avoid his friends asking why Neville was at St Mungo's so often, often enough to make friends with a patient. He guessed that Neville had met Zoe while visiting his parents. Harry had found out last year that Frank and Alice Longbottom were in the long-term care unit at the wizard hospital, but Dumbledore had made it clear not to spread the word.
"Nothing's wrong with her." Neville was testy before admitting, "Not really. She just can't control herself." He slumped back into his chair, "She's an Animagus, but she hasn't settled on a form yet. Dogs, wolves, deer, rabbits...but always different markings, which isn't suppose to happen. Markings are supposed to be the same each time an Animagus shifts, its how the Ministry keeps track of them. I've never seen her turn into a dragon...that's a little scary. She could burn the place down without even knowing it. The honeybadger incident was bad." Neville shook himself with the memory.
"Without knowing? McGonagell remembers what she does as a cat, are you saying Zoe turns completely animal?" Hermione seemed poised to run to the library to see if this had happened to any other Animagus.
"I don't know, she's told me about changing but its confusing. Zoe says that she feels mostly animal when she morphs but she knows people, can understand us. Doing animal stuff, like growling at an enemy makes complete sense and she just goes along with it. One day she was a wolf and she attacked the vulture on my gran's hat." Neville smiled at his memory and the laughter it brought, before turning serious again. "The problem is that she can't turn back into her human form without help. That's what Snape was doing when he got on the table."
"You know what? I'm trying to convince myself that its good that Zoe is in Slytherin. But I wish she could be here with me...us." Neville blushed at his slip of the tongue.
Hermione followed his meaning. "Well if Professor Snape brews the potions she needs and can also change her back to human form...its the best place for her, right?"
The four let the question hang in the air among them. Knowing that Voldemort was lurking at the edges of Wizard society meant that Zoe needed to be watched, they just didn't know if Snape was the best caretaker.
Five minutes of silence passed before Neville nodded goodnight, retiring to the boy's dorm room. Harry and Ron followed soon after, splitting from Hermione as she went up to the girl's dorm. None of them had restful sleep that night.