Author's Note One: Readers should know that prior to the upload of this chapter I have uploaded a moderately significant edit of every chapter of the fic. This edit did not change any of the content of the fic, but it did change the execution significantly. The aims of the edit were a) to lighten the tone of the fic b) to make Alex slightly more likable c) to soften some of the most extreme moments of the fic that readers consistently commented upon and d) general improvement of phrasing and narrative.
Author's Note Two: This is the last chapter of Alexandra Potter year one. Should readers have forgotten previous events in the fic and not wish to reread it, a link can be found on my profile to a Google Document summarising the story so far.
Chapter Fourteen: Back and Back Again
The door to the potions lab was a good one. A deep, dark brown, it was made of a sturdy wood thick enough to block sound. Only the faintest hints of Professor Snape's voice made it through. A large metal ring hung in the centre, worked into a twist.
Alex sighed, replacing the knocker. She took a few steps back and rummaged through her bag, producing a small mirror. Her hair wasn't right. She focused and her braids unravelled, knots undoing themselves. In the blink of an eye her black hair was straight and loose, hanging just past her shoulders. She took out a hair band and put it into a ponytail.
That was better. Simpler.
She knocked three times, the heavy wood absorbing the sound. A moment later the door swung open to reveal the scowling face of Professor Snape. His dark eyes took her in, standing at his doorstep like a beggar. She was dressed, for the first time, in Hogwarts' summer uniform: a short-sleeved summer dress, white and buttoned down the front. It was boring, but at least it was well-fitted. It was obvious she'd grown since last summer - the hem hovered a couple of inches above her bare knee caps, higher than Professor McGonagall would have liked.
Behind Snape, the class craned their necks to look. And then the whispers started. Alex resisted the urge to fiddle with her hair. "Sorry I'm late, Professor," she said, stepping into the room. "I just got here."
Snape took some time to reply, continuing to stare at her. Alex looked away, catching Lily's eyes. She was beaming. "Is that so?" he said at last, stretching out each word. He paused, then spun around and paced back to the front of the room. "Five points from Hufflepuff for your tardiness."
Alex swallowed her reply. "Yes, sir."
"Well, what are you waiting for?" snapped Snape. "Sit down."
Alex looked around for a spare seat. Most everyone immediately moved to appear unavailable, placing bags and parchment on any stool near them. All but one: Lily beckoned with a wave and Alex joined her, the whole class still following her movements. The room was completely silent.
"Hey," Alex whispered, dropping her bag under the bench, "long time no see." She wanted to say more, but not with everyone listening. She hadn't forgotten that Lily alone stepped forward to testify for her.
Lily gave Alex the briefest of hugs - anything more would have brought Snape swooping down upon them - before returning to the cauldron on her desk. She gave it two stirs using a twig. The potion turned a cloudy grey.
"So what're we making?" Alex said, looking at the tabletop. Soil, grass, leaves, and some still-wriggling worms… she knew the answer before Lily replied.
"Potable potion," she said, flipping through her book to the ingredients page. "It's pretty cool, actually."
Alex smiled at the Muggle expression. "It purifies water, right?"
"Yeah, but that's not what makes it special. All the ingredients are the kind of thing you can find anywhere."
"Meaning it's perfect for a stranded, wandless witch," said Alex, impressed. It must have been fiendishly difficult to design with such limited ingredients. "What's next?"
Lily peered into the cauldron and sniffed cautiously. The potion, which was supposed to be turning clear, still looked like it contained a handful of limestone. But then, Lily had never been the best at Potions. "I think we're more or less there," she said. "I just have to..."
Snape loomed overhead. "Miss Potter," he drawled, and Alex jerked back from the potion. "Where is your cauldron?"
Alex's heart sank. It was just like Snape to make a big deal over it. "In my dorm, sir."
"And why would it be there?" he said, smirking. "Clearly the papers have overstated your intelligence, if you cannot even bring the correct equipment to class."
To Alex's horror, giggles came from behind her. She spun around, trying to catch who it was, but everyone was suddenly interested in their desks. Alex clenched her jaw and turned back to Snape. "Like I said, sir, I only just got here. I came by Floo half an hour ago."
"Fortunately for you, the store cupboard has spares," said Snape. "Another five points from Hufflepuff for poor organisation, Potter."
Alex frowned and looked at the clock. It was only five minutes until the next class. There was no way she could make the potion in time. "But sir-"
"Now, Miss Potter. Don't make me repeat myself."
And so, pushing down her annoyance, Alex rushed to start the potion. She lit a burner and arranged a cauldron on top, setting some brackish water to boil and chopping up some worms. All around her the other students were moving to decant their potions and clear up, the clatter of their equipment and the sound of running water at the sinks pushing Alex to cut even faster. She threw in the worms and stirred rapidly, skipping the counter-clockwise motions. It would make an inferior potion, but it was much quicker.
Snape passed by with an evil smile. He looked down at Alex's work and his smile grew. "Almost as incompetent as Longbottom," he said, before moving on to collect the class' finished potions.
Alex ignored him, too busy grinding her grass into a paste. Her arm burned from the motion, like making whipped cream, but she switched to her left hand and carried on. Soon enough she dumped the grass into the cauldron - it was meant to be added slowly, bit by bit - and turned up the heat.
"Your time is up," Snape called from the front of the class. All the others were now back in their seats with their bags packed and surfaces clean, just waiting to be dismissed. "Most of you made a passable attempt," he continued, pointedly looking towards Alex. "Alas, some among us are just less gifted. Evanesco!"
"No!" cried Alex, just as her potion disappeared into the aether. She threw the soil in her hand onto the bench and glared at Snape. "I was almost done!"
Snape drew his robes around him, his eyes boring into Alex's. "Feeling angry, Miss Potter?" he said, softly this time, and the class went silent. "Are you going to attack me, or can you control yourself?"
Heat rushed to Alex's face - embarrassment, anger, frustration all competing for dominance - and she looked down. Without saying a word, she started to clean up her bench.
"Class dismissed," said Snape. The class moved to leave, their stools scraping on the stone floor, chattering in hushed whispers.
"Come on, Alex," said Lily, hovering next to her, "it's ribs for lunch today."
Alex moved frantically to clean her chopping board, running it under the tap. She still had to pack up the cauldron. "Why don't you go on ahead?" she said, "save me a seat."
"Okay!" Lily said, all but running off, leaving Alex alone with Snape. The room was absolutely silent, every clatter and clang of Alex's equipment jarring. Finally, everything was washed and back in the cupboard, but when Alex turned to leave, Snape finally spoke.
"Stay," he said, looking up from his desk, upon which lay several dozen scrolls. He pointed at the seat immediately in front of his desk. "Sit."
Alex licked her lips and sat down. Snape, however, did not recognise her presence. He turned back to his work, dipping his quill into red ink occasionally as he defaced some student's homework. When he reached the bottom he wrote a large P and circled it several times.
"Sir?" said Alex, "did you want to speak with me?"
Snape unravelled another scroll and started marking. Alex sighed and looked at the clock. Lunch had started five minutes ago. She swung her legs and waited. And waited. Ten minutes passed without any sign that Snape would speak.
Finally, Alex moved to get up.
"I don't recall giving you permission to leave," said Snape, still without looking her way. She sat back down.
It was another ten minutes before he rolled up the final scroll in his pile, set it aside, and looked her way. Alex quickly sat up from her slouch.
"Miss Potter," he said, sitting completely still. His eyes bored into hers, uncomfortably intense. She broke eye contact and resolved to look somewhere between his eyebrows. "Do you recall your first Potions class, here at Hogwarts?"
How could she forget? "Yes, sir."
Snape steepled his fingers. "You will recall, then, that your mother and I attended Hogwarts together?"
"What I have not told you is that we were, in fact, friends." He flicked his wand and summoned an old photo, levitating it over to Alex. She plucked it out of the air and stared. There was her mother, looking about the same age as Alex, her long red hair thick and beautiful. She was smiling out at Alex, waving at her. Next to her stood a tall, thin boy with pale skin and greasy hair. It was unmistakably Professor Snape.
Remus Lupin hadn't said anything about this. If Snape and Alex's mother had been friends, why was he so mean to her? It made no sense. "Why are you telling me this?" she said, her voice barely more than a whisper.
Snape's lip curled. "It was necessary for you to know," said Snape, snatching the photo back with another flick of his wand, "so that you know I speak the truth when I say that your mother would be disgusted by you."
Alex froze. "What?" she said, blinking rapidly. She wouldn't cry. She'd cried enough. But there was something stuck in her throat, and it wouldn't go away even though she was swallowing. Her lip trembled.
Snape's lips stretched into a smile. "Yes," he said, his eyes glinting, "Lily hated the Dark Arts. Abhorred them. What would she say, if she knew her daughter was a dark witch?"
"Please…" said Alex, and the tears came despite her best efforts. "Please, don't…"
"Don't tell the truth?" Snape said, rising out of his seat. "These are words you need to hear, Miss Potter. Your mother was an extraordinary woman. Not just talented… she was kind, generous, and unfailingly good. You disgrace her memory."
"I know!" said Alex, rising to meet Snape, her fists clenched at her sides and streaks of tears running down her face. "Don't you think I know that, with the papers going on about how terrible I am and everyone here whispering about me? Why are you doing this?"
"Isn't it obvious?" said Snape, "I'm teaching." His eyes flickered over her form, evaluating her one last time. "Now get out."
After stopping at the first floor bathroom to clean up, Alex arrived at the Great Hall to find lunch in full swing. It was, as Lily had said, one of the students' favourites: barbecue ribs, with corn-on-the-cob slathered in butter and generous helpings of mashed potato. Alex sat down just as Lily was helping herself to seconds.
"What took you so long?" Lily asked, licking each of her fingers in turn. "You've been ages."
"Snape wanted to talk," Alex replied, and Lily raised her eyebrows in question. "Nothing important. Just my catch-up work."
It wasn't a complete lie: Alex did have catch-up work to do. It was just that Professor Sprout had given it to her earlier.
Lily scrunched up her nose. "Urgh, extra work. You'd think they'd let you off, with everything that happened and all."
Alex shrugged and used a slotted spoon to heap some ribs onto her plate. "I don't mind too much. It's only a week or so."
"Knowing you, you'll enjoy it," said Lily, rolling her eyes. She looked at Alex's plate. "Aren't you gonna have more sauce? That's the best part - you mix it in with the mash, see?"
Alex obediently dumped a ladle of thick barbecue sauce over her potatoes. "So what's everyone been up to, while I was away?."
Lily picked up a rib, getting her fingers messy again, and bit into it. "Oh, you know," she said, sauce around her mouth, "not too much. Been hanging out with Helen and Lizzie, mostly."
"From the other dorm?" asked Alex, frowning as she tried to figure out how to eat ribs with elegance. She decided upon using a single finger to hold each end, before taking a dainty bite from the middle. It didn't work.
Lily shrugged. "Well, Susan and Hannah don't like me much, and I don't like Megan much…"
"Don't be silly," said Alex, giving up on the ribs and going for the potato, "of course Susan and Hannah like you!" Lily snorted. "Well, okay, Hannah doesn't like you," Alex said, smirking, "but Susan does!"
"Whatever," said Lily, "I'm just glad you're back. Everything's a lot more fun when you're here!" Alex stiffened and Lily cringed, covering her mouth in surprise. "I'm so sorry, I didn't mean the whole thing with Daphne was fun. I just meant -"
"Don't worry about it," said Alex. "I know what you... what're the owls doing here?"
A flock of owls swooped into the hall as if it were breakfast, all of them apparently delivering identical post. It wasn't long before a small tawny owl dropped one in Alex's lap: a single sheet of thin paper, rolled up. As she undid the tie, excited conversations started all over the hall, and for once they weren't directed at Alex. Everyone was looking at Dumbledore. When she unrolled the sheet it became clear why.
"FUDGE IS THE FUTURE"
In the greatest political upset of the decade, Cornelius Fudge's re-election campaign received an enormous boost this morning from none other than Albus Dumbledore, all but guaranteeing his victory in the General Election next month. Cornelius Fudge has now been endorsed by prominent figures across the political spectrum, from Lucius Malfoy to Oliver Swann.
Dumbledore's approval will almost certainly carry with it the support of Amos Diggory's Modern Wizardry Party, giving Fudge almost unprecedented power in Hogsmeade Town Council and the Wizengamot. With this unanimous support, Fudge is certainly…
Alex stared at the article, numb. It was so clear now: of course Dumbledore hadn't just convinced Fudge to help out of the goodness of his heart. There was a price for everything and this was hers. The price of her freedom.
"Alex?" said Lily, trying to see the article. "What is it?"
"Here," said Alex, passing Lily the paper. She looked to the head table and met Dumbledore's eyes. He looked sad, but still, he raised his goblet and toasted her. Alex raised her own glass in return.
She wouldn't let him down again.
Alex's first class after lunch was Transfiguration. She and Lily made it just in time and were forced to take the only remaining seats: the empty ones right at the front, next to Hermione.
"Hey, Hermione," said Alex quietly, pulling out her book and parchment, "how're you?"
Hermione stiffened. "Fine, thank you," she said, giving Alex a quick, forced smile before returning her eyes to her desk. Alex and Lily shared a look; Lily shrugged.
McGonagall walked in. "Good afternoon," she said, closing the door after her and flicking her wand at the blackboard. A title scribbled itself on the board: Medium Scale Shaping. "We are starting a new topic today, which will be the last we cover this year." Hermione raised her hand. "Yes, Miss Granger?"
"Are we going to revise, before the exams?" asked Hermione.
McGonagall gave Hermione a small smile. "That is the plan, yes. The exams begin on the first of June, so we still have just over two months to prepare." Ron Weasley's hand went up. He didn't get a smile like Hermione did. "Mr Weasley?"
"Can you tell us what's in the exam?"
His question caused McGonagall's lips to thin in disapproval. "Everything in the course," she said, "which means, in case you haven't been paying attention, both minor and major shaping, including object division and combination. And, of course, today's topic."
Her tone clearly indicated that question time was over, and she started pacing in front of the board. "Now, so far this year we have focused on small scale shaping. But we need to be able to shape objects which are considerably larger than a cubic foot, which is what we are learning today. Who can tell me what medium scale means?"
"Bigger than a foot?" called Ron, without raising his hand.
"Your hand, Weasley," reprimanded McGonagall. "I was hoping for a more specific answer. Miss Potter?"
The class shifted, as if only just noticing her. Alex resisted the strong urge to look back at them or shrink into her seat. "Less than three cubic feet, ma'am," she said, "but more than one."
"A point to Hufflepuff," said McGonagall, nodding her head. "Another if you can tell me why."
Alex was glad she'd read up on the basics of arithmancy. "Three is a very stable magical number, isn't it?" she said, thinking aloud. "Magic likes three feet… you'd need a more powerful spell to go further."
"Exactly," said McGonagall. "Imagine that the mutation spell is a hill-" she flicked her wand, and a sloping line drew itself on the board "-and the larger the object you're shaping, the more power the spell needs to have." Another wave of her wand made the line shift, flattening out in the middle. "Three cubic feet is like a plateau in the spell," she continued, pointing to the flat section, "after which the hill grows much steeper."
"Are there other plateaus, Professor?" asked Hermione.
"Certainly," said McGonagall. "In truth, the spell is somewhat more complex than this line indicates. Who can tell me why it is that larger objects are more difficult to shape? Miss Patil?"
"Oh!" said Parvati, sounding startled. Alex had no doubt she'd been daydreaming. "Er, you need more magic?"
"A common misconception," said McGonagall, "but it is close to the truth. You need to use stronger magic to affect a greater area, or in this case, volume. This is a universal rule of magic: to affect a greater amount of stuff, you need a more powerful spell. And that is what we will practice for the rest of the lesson: increasing the power of the mutation spell. I want you in groups of four, please."
Alex, Lily, Hermione and Dean Thomas ended up in the same group by virtue of proximity. By the looks he kept sending to his friends, Dean wasn't too happy at being stuck with girls, but Seamus and Ron were grinning at him, winking and sending him thumbs up. Boys.
McGonagall swept her wand, banishing their desks to the sides of the room, and a quick jab conjured a large block of wood for each group. Once she was done, she returned to the front of the room. "You are to attempt to turn this cube into a sphere, as we have practiced before," she said. "The only difference is that the object is larger. To increase the power of the spell, you need to grip your wand more firmly, make the jab sharper, and the wrist motion faster. If you do not understand why, consult your books - you will not be able to perform this spell properly unless you understand it! Any questions?"
Predictably, Hermione raised her hand. "Won't those changes make the spell harder to control?"
"One thing at a time, Miss Granger," said McGonagall. "First we have to boost your spell-power. We can worry about regaining fine control later. Now, off you go!"
Shouted incantations soon filled the room, generally not having much of an effect. Alex's own group, however, stood in awkward silence, no-one wanting to go first.
"Oh, fine," snapped Lily, pulling her wand out. "I'll do it, shall I?" She waved her wand around clumsily, going through the spell at super-speed, finishing with a jab at the block. "Mutato lignum!"
The block wobbled like it was made of jelly but did little else. Alex poked it with her wand; it wobbled again.
"Er… it wasn't meant to do that," said Lily, frowning at her wand.
McGonagall swooped down on them. "A bit less speed, Miss Moon," she advised after she saw the wood jelly. "The increase in speed must be deliberate, not rushed. Try adapting just one element of the spell at a time, until you have each individual part mastered." She reset the wood and headed off to help another group.
"I'll go next," said Dean, frowning in concentration. He went much slower than Lily did, finishing with an extremely violent jab. "Mutato lignum!"
The wood cracked loudly, splitting down the middle. "Oops," said Dean, avoiding the girls' eyes. "Any idea what I did wrong?"
"It was your jab," said Alex, miming his action with her own wand. "It was too out of balance with the rest of the spell, so you just got a lot of power but not much else. Here, let me try." She had, in fact, been practicing this topic since before Christmas. The motions were quite familiar by now, and manipulating wood was rather easy compared to iron. "Mutato lignum!"
The cube smoothly reformed into a ball with the sound of creaking wood, the crack from Dean's spell not disappearing.
Hermione sighed. "Of course," she muttered, not looking at Alex. Lily just laughed, well-used to Alex by now.
McGonagall came over, awarded her a point and changed the sphere back to a cube, removing the crack too. And then it was Hermione's turn.
"Mutato lignum!" she said, speaking firmly, but not shouting like Ron. Her wand articulation was good, but Alex noticed a few mistakes. After a moment the cube shifted, reforming and shrinking at the same time, forming itself into a sphere half the size of Alex's. Hermione frowned. "Not enough power," she said, speaking mostly to herself.
"I'll help you, if you like," said Alex while Dean fetched McGonagall to fix their wood. "You just need to-"
"No, thank you," said Hermione, her voice clipped. "I can figure it out on my own."
Alex shrugged. "If you want."
The rest of the lesson was quite boring for Alex, as they were just practicing the same spell. She did it again a few more times, just for practice, but spent most of her time helping Lily and Dean, who seemed to lose his ability to speak every time she tried to start a conversation with him.
Finally, just as Hermione was getting it, McGonagall ended the class. "That's all we have time for!" she said, returning the desks to the centre. "Next class we'll be using more complex objects, so make sure you're comfortable with everything we did today."
The class filed out, Hermione being one of the first to leave. "I'll catch you in Charms," Alex said to Lily, quickly packing up her stuff and hurrying out the door.
"Hermione! Wait!" she called, almost having to run after the girl striding down the corridor. Hermione paused, then turned around.
"What is it, Alex?" she said, her voice resigned, as if expecting bad news. "I have to get to History."
"I just wanted to-"
"-out of the way, Potter!" said an older boy, pushing past the two of them. They shifted to stand by the wall.
"Well?" said Hermione.
"I wanted to apologise," said Alex, rushing it out before she lost her courage. "I was a… a right bitch, and you got hurt. I'm sorry. You don't have to worry about the hearing - I'm not going to go after revenge or anything like that."
Hermione said nothing, her face giving nothing away.
"So… yeah," said Alex, looking around. She ran a hand through her hair. "That was basically it."
"I forgive you," said Hermione, nodding as she said it as if convincing herself.
Alex smiled widely, feeling suddenly much lighter. "Oh, thank you!" she said, throwing her arms around Hermione in a hug. Hermione stiffened and Alex withdrew.
"As I was saying," said Hermione, stepping back. "I forgive you. But I can't forget what happened. I think it would be best if we just avoided each other."
Alex bit her lip. "Well, if that's what you want…"
"Okay then," said Alex, and she breathed in deeply. "I won't hold you up longer. Truce?" She held out her hand.
"Truce," said Hermione, taking Alex's in her own.
They shook on it, and parted ways.
The evening found Alex in her dorm, sitting on a cushion by the fire with books and parchments spread around her. Dumbledore was stretched out on the carpet to her side, soaking up the heat of the flames and enjoying Alex's hand stroking his fur idly as she worked.
She'd retreated there as soon as classes were over, unable to stand the whispers and the stares. She'd never minded it much, before, but it felt different now. When she'd first arrived in the castle people whispered because of You-Know-Who. It felt distant, disconnected. But now it was personal: they were whispering about something she'd done. Something she wasn't proud of.
It made her feel like there was a huge spot on her nose and everyone was staring at it.
So she holed herself up in her dorm and did her catch-up homework. She was trying to focus on her astronomy essay - "the effects of Mars on destructive energies" - but her mind kept wandering, thinking back to the events of the year. She just couldn't understand where everything had gone so wrong.
When had winning become so important to her? She'd wanted to beat Hermione so had gone out with Draco. That had lost her a friend. She'd wanted to beat Daphne. That had almost cost her freedom. At some point, she realised, she had stopped having fun.
At that moment she decided that next year would be about fun. No boys, no quarrels, no schoolyard politics.
The door opened and Alex turned to see Susan standing silhouetted in the doorway, the light of the landing spilling into the dorm.
"Hey," Susan said quietly, stepping into the flickering firelight. Alex couldn't help but smile. It was the first time Susan had initiated contact in months. "Why're you in the dark?"
"Didn't realise," said Alex. "Lumos." The lighting charms turned on, filling the room with a soft, slightly golden glow which seemed to come from nowhere. She indicated the cushion opposite her. "Sit with me?"
"I'll do your hair," Alex added with a little smile, sweetening the deal. She pulled the cushion towards herself and puffed it up, making it look inviting. "Come on, get your brush and sit."
"Oh, alright," said Susan. She was pretending to look put out but Alex saw the little smile on her lips. Susan went over to her bedside table and fetched her hairbrush before joining Alex by the fire, her back to Alex's knees.
For a while they didn't speak, just content to enjoy a companionable silence as Alex brushed Susan's hair gently, more of a massage than any kind of practical hair-care.
When it seemed likely that Susan might fall asleep, Alex shuffled around to her side. "Your hair's so beautiful," she murmured, running her fingers through it, delicately separating strands to form a braid.
"Thanks," said Susan sleepily, "it's getting long, though. I should get it cut next time I'm in Hogsmeade."
"I like it long," Alex said, "you can do so much with it." She tied off the braid with a hair band and moved to the other side.
Susan shrugged. "I guess," she said, "it's all a bit too much work, though. I think I want something simpler, you know? It feels like I spend an hour on it every morning."
"Mmm," said Alex, who generally didn't have to worry about such things. They fell quiet again, several minutes passing before Alex spoke again. "I was thinking of dyeing mine, actually. Red, like my mother."
Susan opened her eyes. "Your mum had red hair?" she said, "I didn't know."
"Mr Lupin sent me some photos at Christmas," Alex said, tying off the second braid, hardly daring to believe she might have her friend back. "I can show you them later, if you like."
Susan smiled. "That sounds nice," she said. "Maybe we can show the photo to Helen and get her to charm your hair the same colour. Just to test it out, you know?"
"Perfect," said Alex, who could of course change her hair colour any time she liked. That wasn't really the point, though. She hadn't realised how much she'd missed this. "Listen, Susan…" Alex began, biting her lip, "about what happened… I just wanted to say I'm really sorry. I shouldn't have chosen Draco over you."
Susan sighed. "You don't need to apologise, Alex. You already said sorry so many times... I just didn't want to hear it." She looked down at her hands. "It seems so silly now, but I was just so angry… I think the worst bit was that you didn't tell me. We were meant to be best friends, you know?"
"I know," whispered Alex. "Everything got so screwed up."
"Tell me," said Susan, and Alex did. Not the censored version that the aurors got, nor the rehearsed performance she gave Natalie Poett. She unloaded it all on Susan: how happy she'd been at Christmas and how badly she'd wanted to be Daphne's friend. How hurt she'd been when Daphne called her a mudbood. How utterly alone she'd felt when only Lily was willing to testify.
The tears came freely and by the time their stomachs were rumbling, Alex's head was in Susan's lap, her face splotchy from crying.
"... and as soon as I saw the paper today I knew it was my fault. He looked so sad."
"Who did?" asked Susan.
"Dumbledore," said Alex, closing her eyes. Susan was stroking her hair and it was very relaxing. "He was smiling but I could see it in his eyes. If I hadn't messed up, he wouldn't have had to do it. I owe him big time."
"You seriously do," said Susan, a smile in her voice, "but I'm glad he did it."
Alex heard the door opening and twisted in Susan's lap, turning to see who it was.
"We're ready!" Lily said, before frowning and stepping into the room. "What're you doing? You're not even dressed yet."
Alex looked down at her uniform. "Er… yes I am."
"Not like that!" Lily cried, "quickly, put something nice on."
Alex looked between Susan and Lily in confusion. "Something nice? Why?"
Lily grinned. "It's a secret," she said, "now get dressed! You have five minutes."
"Five minutes!" Lily repeated, before running away down the stairs, shouting all the way: "Five minutes!"
Alex got to her feet and raised her eyebrows at Susan, who had the grace to look embarrassed. "There, er, might be a party," said Susan, getting up and stretching. "I was meant to come and help you get ready."
"A party?" said Alex, confused, "what for?"
Susan giggled. "Why, for you of course! Now come on, what're we going to wear?"
Alex quickly swung her wardrobe open, pulling her dress over her head and slipping her socks off using her toes. A party! She didn't own any proper dress robes, but she'd accumulated a fair amount of expensive clothes over various Hogsmeade weekends. She pulled out a simple, light pink dress with a belt of black ribbon.
"How about this one?" she said, holding it up to herself and looking across to Susan, who was changing into a royal blue dress robe.
"Great!" said Susan, giving her a quick glance, "now put it on!"
She wriggled into the dress and pulled the belt tight before putting on some sandals. "Ready!" she called, deciding to leave her hair loose. "You done yet?"
"No!" cried Susan, who was struggling with the back of her dress. "Do me up?"
Alex took the flaps of Susan's dress and pushed them together, making sure to line them up right to avoid crumpling. The two sides fused together seamlessly. "There we go," Alex said, tucking the strap of Susan's bra under the dress shoulder, "all done."
The party was in the Big Room. They made their way down quickly, not meeting a single person on the stairs. It was oddly quiet. But the moment she opened the door:
All of Hufflepuff was there, dressed to the nines, spilling out of the door and into the stone garden, wearing party hats and blowing party trumpets. Tables ladened with buffet food lined the edges of the room and the ceiling was littered with floating balloons. A large poster above the stage declared:
WELCOME BACK ALEX
"Let the party commence!" called Peter Hadley, and the music started playing. A few people started dancing awkwardly, but everyone else rushed for the food, grabbing paper plates and stacking the food high.
Lily came skipping over to Alex and Susan. "Do you like it?" she said, grinning from ear to ear.
Alex pulled her in for a hug. "It's amazing," she said, releasing her and taking Susan's arm. "I can't believe this is all for me!"
Susan gave her arm a squeeze. "This is Hufflepuff," she said. "No one does a party better than us."
Or forgiveness. Somehow Alex couldn't imagine the Ravenclaws or Slytherins throwing a party for her after everything she'd done. The Sorting Hat, it seemed, had chosen well.
"I love your dress," Alex said to Lily as they walked over to the food. It was white and gold, with a layer of transparent gauze over the white lace.
"Thanks," said Lily, browsing platters of sandwiches cut into tiny triangles, "it's one of my mum's designs." They moved down the table towards the cold meats where Hannah Abbott was helping herself to a pork pie.
"Hey, Hannah," said Susan, taking some mini-sausages on cocktail sticks. "How was art club?"
"It was great!" she said, her face becoming animated, "James showed us how to draw animated figures."
"That sounds amazing," said Susan as Alex leaned over to the ham. As she did so, she couldn't help but notice Hannah shying away. She tried to ignore it. "Is it a spell, or…?"
"Well, the pencils are enchanted," Hannah said, eyeing Alex nervously, "so you just have to imagine what you want it to look like at the same time as drawing."
"That's really interesting," said Alex, wishing she could get a look at one of the pencils. It sounded almost like they were a kind of wand. "I'm useless at art but maybe I should come along one day."
Hannah gave her a weak smile that lasted all of two seconds. "Er, maybe," she said, "I'm not sure if it's your kind of scene."
Alex blushed at the rejection. "Maybe you're right," she said, and half a dozen barbed replies came to mind. But Susan gave her a look, so she simply said, "I think I'm gonna get a drink."
She grabbed Lily's arm and dragged her away to the drinks table.
"Well, I guess we know how Hannah feels," said Alex, taking a glass and filling it was strawberry fizz.
Lily snorted. "You'll get used to it." She swiped the glass Alex had poured for herself with a cheeky grin. "She's hated me for years and I'm all right, aren't I?"
Alex laughed. "Depends what you mean by 'all right'," she said as she poured another glass, "you're a drink thief, for one."
"Hey! I resent that!" said Lily, and they went to sit down on some chairs by the radio so they could eat. "It was a well-earned reward for rescuing you from Hannah."
Alex fluttered her eyelashes. "My hero!"
Tiberius Slowe and Zach Smith sauntered over with butterbeers in hand and took the seats next to them. "All right, Potter?" said Tiberius. He was getting taller every day, it seemed. Alex was sure he hadn't towered over her so much at the start of the year.
"Congrats on escaping Azkaban," said Zach, sharing a snigger with Tiberius. Obviously they thought themselves very funny.
Alex ducked her head. "Er, thanks," she said, sending Lily a disbelieving look before turning back to the blond boys. ""I'm not sure if I'd put it that way, myself…"
Tiberius ignored her. "I bet you could get away with all sorts of shit," he said, "being the Girl Who Lived and all. You should curse a teacher next-"
"-McGonagall, for sure," suggested Zach.
"-yeah, McGonagall. She's always really boring."
Alex just stared at them incredulously. "I'm not going to curse a teacher," she said, "and for your information, I like McGonagall."
"All right, all right," Tiberius said, holding up his hands as if to imply she was being overly sensitive. "It was just a joke. But, seriously-"
"Hey, here's an idea!" said Lily, "why don't you piss off and leave us alone?"
The boys tried to laugh it off, but their red faces betrayed them. "Whatever," said Zach, flicking his long hair as he got up, "you coming, Tibes?"
The boys left and Alex and Lily shared a secretive giggle. "Really?" laughed Alex, "Tibes?"
Susan came over just as they were finishing their food. "You want to head outside?" she said, passing them a butterbeer each, "I feel like some fresh air."
The cold March wind was biting but it hadn't stopped the party: large braziers crackling with flames kept the cold at bay, each one surrounded by a ring of chattering students. The girls huddled together behind a group of fourth years, their presence going unnoticed under the noise of the group.
"So what're you doing for easter?" said Alex, wishing she'd brought her wand with her so she could cast a warming charm. The fourth years were blocking all the heat and she was beginning to shiver.
"I'm going home," said Susan, her eyes lighting up, "dad always does this really big scavenger hunt to find the eggs. I just hope he doesn't turn them all invisible like last year... even after I found them he couldn't turn them back, so I had to eat invisible chocolate!"
Alex laughed at the mental image. "I've forgotten - how long's the holiday?" she asked.
"Three weeks," said Lily, "three beautiful weeks of no work."
"You know we're going to have holiday homework, right?" said Alex, twirling a strand of hair around her finger.
Lily waved her hand dismissively. "I'll do it the weekend we get back," she said. "I'll be too busy during the holiday... we're all going to France together. Lizzie's bringing Oliver Wood."
"No way!" gasped Susan.
"I think she's actually getting pretty serious about him," Lily said, "I guess we'll see how it goes."
"He must be terrified," said Alex, "meeting the parents and all that. I know when I met-" She stopped short, suddenly remembering who she was with.
Susan rolled her eyes. "Honestly, you can say his name."
"Sorry," said Alex. "Anyway, when I met Lucius and Narcissa I thought I was going to throw up I was so nervous."
Lily scrunched up her nose. "If he hurls during the portkey I'm gonna kill Lizzie."
A particularly brisk gust of wind blew through their hair and Alex shuddered. "Let's go back inside," she suggested through almost-chattering teeth. "It's pretty freezing out here."
"Alright," said Susan, shrugging, but just as they turned to go they heard it - the fourth years were discussing Alex, oblivious to her presence.
"... Potter almost killed a girl and she gets a party! Honestly, I have no idea what Professor Sprout was thinking. Why wasn't she expelled, again?"
Alex stilled and held her finger to her lips, forestalling Lily and Susan's interventions.
"Come on, Henry," said a tall, thin girl, "she's just a firstie, give her a break."
"Yeah, because that's what she needs," said Henry, his tone sarcastic, "famous, rich Alexandra Potter, if only the world could give her a break!"
Susan began tugging on Alex's arm, jerking her head towards to the door, but Alex stood firm. She wanted to hear more.
"Hufflepuff is the house of loyalty," said another boy. "No matter what she's done, she's still one of us."
Henry laughed. "You sound like the damn Sorting Hat," he said, "no one actually believes any of that shit. Have you seen the Longbottom kid? The Hat actually put him in Gryffindor! What a joke."
"Come on," hissed Susan, and this time Alex let herself be pulled away. They walked back into the Big Room without another word. The dancing had finally taken off: someone had turned the music up and a small dance floor had formed at the end of the room. But Alex suddenly wasn't in the partying mood.
Her eyes flickered towards the door. "Maybe I should go."
"Oh no you don't!" cried Lily, putting herself between Alex and her escape route. She took hold of Alex's shoulders and spun her around to face the dancefloor. "We're going to dance and you're going to have fun. And that's that."
Susan hooked her arm through Alex's. "Ignore the others," she said, gently guiding her towards the dancing crowd. "They're just gossiping. Enjoy your night."
The song changed to the Weird Sisters and the dancers cheered their approval. "Well, alright," said Alex as they joined the others, letting the beat guide her movements. "Maybe just one dance."
"That's the spirit!" cried Susan.
They danced all night.
Time seemed to accelerate as the end of the year approached. Easter came and went in a blur of homework and revision, the OWL and NEWT students demanding silence at all hours. For her part, Alex was content to study: with Lily and Susan both away, there wasn't much else to do but practice her magic and enjoy the steadily improving weather. But soon enough the students returned and the exams were upon them.
Though she would never say it aloud, Alex found the exams quite enjoyable. She had studied hard and this was her chance to show it. Of course, the end-of-year tests were rather informal compared to the externally-assessed OWLs and NEWTs, but for Alex, doing well was a matter of pride. Anything less than one hundred percent would have her kicking herself with disappointment.
She needn't have worried. The theory tests came first and she found them all pathetically easy - she probably could have passed them with an Acceptable back in September. She hadn't realised just how far she'd gone beyond the curriculum in her reading.
It wasn't that she had read ahead, like Hermione did. Rather, she had read deep, seeking to understand magic beyond the superficial. So while she knew next to nothing about animate transfiguration, she could cast the mutation spell better than most fifth-years. The locomotion charm was a complete mystery to her, but she could levitate a car with ease. And though she couldn't brew a draught of peace, she could whip together a passable hair-growth potion with half the ingredients missing.
Again and again she had to ask for more parchment. They were given one page in Charms to outline the geometry of the sealing charm. She used three. The Transfiguration paper only left them a half-page to define the concept of "form". Alex wrote two pages and could have written four.
After theory came practice. In Defence Against the Dark Arts they had to perform spells to repel snakes, spiders and wolves before demonstrating three methods of defence against Muggles. In Transfiguration they were presented with wood and glass blocks of increasing size, each of which they had to transfigure into as detailed a shape as possible. And in Potions, Professor Snape made them brew a draught of drowsiness and an energy elixir simultaneously.
The last exam of the year was their Charms practical. When it was her turn, Alex entered the classroom to find it transformed: the desks and chairs were gone and the stone floor had been replaced with turf. Professor Winters sat at a desk in the corner with a parchment and quill, her blonde hair tied up in a bun.
"Come in, Alex," said Winters, gesturing for her to come closer. Alex did so, noticing a single wooden post sticking out of the ground in the centre of the room. "Well, welcome to your Charms exam," Winters continued with a smile, "you have just one task. Buried beneath that post there is a chest. I would like you to retrieve it, open it, and follow the instructions you find within. I encourage you to use as much magic as possible. Any questions?"
"No, ma'am," said Alex. She took her wand out from within her robe.
"Then you may begin."
Alex thrust her wand at the ground under the post. "Defodio!" she said, and there was a sound like a shovel entering soil. Feeling a slight resistance, she flipped her wand to the other side of her body, a large clump of dirt rising out of the ground and sailing through the air to land where her wand now pointed.
There was no sign of the chest underneath - clearly the floor had been enchanted to be quite deep. So Alex repeated the spell again and again, digging out a pit in the floor, the pile of dirt on the other side of the classroom growing and growing. Eventually:
"Defodio!" Alex repeated, but this time the spell made a plop sound, like a stone hitting water. Frowning, she approached the hole and peered down. It was about four feet deep, and at the bottom there was a dark pool of water. "Lumos."
The wand light revealed the chest, submerged about two feet beneath the water. She needed to remove the water to be able to reach it. Alex twirled her wand as if she were using it to stir a potion and said, "Anhydra!"
A sound like drawing breath accompanied each rotation of the wand, and each time the water level decreased. It didn't take long to dry up the entire pool, and when all the water was gone Alex swished and flicked her wand, clearly pronouncing the words: "Wingardium Leviosa!"
Slowly but surely the chest rose through the air, following Alex's wand. But just when it was about to emerge from the hole, it stopped, bobbing in place like it was straining against something. Alex dropped to her knees to look underneath, and there it was: a rope was attached to the base of the chest, preventing it from advancing further.
"Diffindo," Alex said, slashing her wand, and the rope cut cleanly in two. She recast the levitation charm and settled the chest down on the ground not far from the hole. It was quite big, about two feet long, and there was a large padlock holding it shut. Easy.
"Alohomora!" The padlock clicked open and Alex tugged it off before lifting the lid of chest. It was filled with kindling, atop of which lay a single piece of parchment. Light me, it said.
"Incendio!" A pinprick of orange light flew from Alex's wand, igniting the kindling into a fierce but controlled fire.
"Bravo!" cried Professor Winters, clapping her hands several times, and Alex grinned. That had been fun. "Ninety-five seconds," whistled Winters, scribbling away on her parchment, "that's one for the record books! Anyway, that's the entire test so you're free to go."
The rest of the class was waiting outside in the corridor, most of the Hufflepuffs sitting on the floor, huddled around their textbooks for some last-minute revision. Lily was sitting with Hannah and Megan, the three of them whispering frantically as they argued over the correct incantation to conjure confetti. The Slytherins were further down the hall, slouched against the walls. Her eyes met Draco's and she looked away quickly.
"Alex!" cried Lily, looking up in surprise. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing," said Alex with a shrug. "I've finished."
Lily gaped; Pansy shot her a dirty look, her snub-nose rising into the air haughtily.
"What?" said Lily, "but you only just went in! Even Susan took four minutes!"
"It's just the spells we did in class," Alex said. "So long as you can do them, you're fine."
"Easy for you to say," grumbled Lily, "I still can't get my cutting charm to do anything more than paper. Please say we don't have to use it."
Alex sent her what she hoped was a sympathetic look. "Sorry," she said.
"Great," said Lily, looking to the ceiling as if for divine intervention. "Just great." Divine intervention didn't come, but Professor Winters did.
"Lily Moon!" she called from within the classroom.
"Oh, shit," muttered Lily, gathering her stuff, "shitshitshitshit."
Alex offered her a tight hug. "Good luck," she said, "I'll meet you back in the common room, okay?"
"Thanks," said Lily, her face grim, and then she was inside.
Alex picked up her discarded bag, slung it over her shoulder and made to leave, only to trip as she passed the Slytherins. She flew face-first onto the floor, only just breaking the fall with her hands.
"Oops," said Pansy, her voice all too innocent, and the Slytherins sniggered. Alex's face burned and she picked herself up, brushing the dirt off her robes.
"Very mature," she said, sending Pansy a withering look.
"Is someone speaking?" said Pansy, casting her face around as if looking for an invisible speaker, her loose brown hair whipping with each turn. The Slytherins laughed again.
"Just a half-blood," said Draco, his lip curling as he looked at Alex, "but don't worry, we can wash after the test."
Pansy tittered and touched Draco on the arm.
"Well, make sure to do your hair, too," snarled Alex, "it looks like you've got a load of gunk in it."
This time it was the Hufflepuffs who laughed, the row having caught their attention. A faint pink tinge rose to Draco's cheeks and he opened his mouth to speak, but Alex interrupted.
"Lovely speaking to you, Draco," she said, promptly spinning around and striding off towards the Hufflepuff common room.
So, Draco was with Pansy now, was he? They deserved each other, as far as Alex was concerned. Draco was a coward and braggart, Pansy a sycophant. No doubt they would be very happy together, spending all their evenings lurking in their dark and dank common room, laughing about how pure their blood was.
She was done with him.
Alex swept into Hufflepuff and hurried up the stairs without stopped to socialise. The door to her dorm closed with a slam behind her. A quick survey of the room revealed that she was alone. Good.
"Incendio!" she cried, pointing her wand at the fireplace, and the kindling burst to life with a roar. Another charm opened her trunk violently, the lid thumping hard against the bedstead. She then proceeded to systematically and ritualistically destroy all evidence of her relationship with Draco.
She went for the photos first, tearing them up before casting the pieces into the fire. All the letters he'd sent her followed, including her invite to the Abingdon Club, though she kept the key that represented her membership. She would keep that just to spite him. Similarly, she kept the elegant charm bracelet Narcissa had given her for Christmas. There was no point throwing away such a beautiful - and not to mention expensive - piece of jewellery.
It was when she reached the diary Lucius had sent her that she paused. It was just a blank book, really. Nothing particularly special. There wasn't really any reason to keep it, and burning it would probably be fun. But it suddenly seemed rather pointless, burning something that she might as well use.
Snorting, she flipped it to the front page, pulled out a quill and wrote.
June 10th, 1992
Draco Malfoy is a ponce.
Alex smiled to herself. It felt rather satisfying to use Lucius' gift to mock his son. Perhaps keeping a diary might not be such a bad idea - she could use it to keep track of her thoughts about magic.
Thoughts of keeping a diary fled, however, when Alex saw her words sink into the page, disappearing without a trace. And then, slowly, as if written by an invisible hand, new words appeared, the script slanted and spider-like, so unlike Alex's rounded letters.
If he is anything like his grandfather, this does not surprise me.
Alex froze, her heart thudding in her chest. What magic was this? She had never heard of anything like it.
My name is Tom Riddle, by the way. Who are you?
Alex's eyes widened and she slammed the book shut, her mind racing. How was there a person living inside a diary?
The last day of term arrived sooner than Alex would have liked, bringing to an end the two weeks of bliss which had followed the end of exams. While the older students were still studying frantically every night, the first-years had been able to relax, spending the sunny days running around the castle.
Slytherin had won the house cup, mostly thanks to their quidditch success, with Gryffindor coming in a close second. Ravenclaw followed, and Hufflepuff was, as usual, bringing up the rear. That hadn't stopped them from enjoying the leaving feast though, and Alex was still feeling full the morning they were due to leave.
"You have to eat something," said Susan, nudging a basket of freshly baked croissants towards her. "The train takes hours to reach London and the trolley only sells sweets."
Alex reluctantly took a croissant but couldn't bring herself to eat it, so she wrapped it in a napkin. "I'll have it later," she said, stifling a yawn. "It's too early."
"That's not a bad idea, actually," said Susan, and she started constructing a sandwich out of bacon and a toasted English muffin.
Professor Sprout came over and smiled warmly down at them.
"All ready to go, girls?" she said, "the elves will be taking your trunks in an hour."
"I'm all packed," said Alex, nodding.
"Me too," added Susan.
Lily coughed. "I'll just, er, finish up," she said, and Alex laughed as she ran from the hall. The last Alex had seen, Lily's bed had been covered by a small mountain of robes.
"Excellent," Sprout said, following Lily with her eyes. "Alex, Professor Dumbledore would like to speak with you in his office."
"Now?" said Alex, glancing at Susan.
"As soon as you've finished breakfast," said Sprout, "the password is toffee crisp."
Alex looked down at her empty plate. "I think I'll go straight away," she said as Sprout moved away.
"No problem," said Susan, and she passed Alex the sandwich she'd made. "Here, here take this."
Alex rolled her eyes but took the sandwich nonetheless. "Meet you in the entrance hall?"
Susan nodded. "Don't be late!"
The way to Dumbledore's office was quiet, with everyone either eating breakfast or packing. Alex made it to his door without seeing a single student.
"Come in," called Dumbledore when she knocked on the door, and she pushed it open to find him sitting behind his desk. He gestured to one of the chairs opposite. "Please, take a seat."
She did so, the memory of her arrest playing vividly in her mind. Why did Dumbledore want to speak with her? Was it about Daphne? The Slytherin girl still hadn't returned to school.
"Well, Alex, it's been quite a year, hasn't it?" he began, and he picked up a parchment and glanced at it. "I must congratulate you on your exam results. Straight Os are no mean feat."
"Thank you, sir," Alex said cautiously. "Hopefully next year will be… quieter."
Dumbledore chuckled. "The Chinese have a curse," he mused, "May you live in interesting times. I suspect you've rather learnt its true meaning this year, yes?"
Alex offered him a smile.
"Well, here's to boredom!" he continued, and he pulled out another, much larger sheet of parchment, rolled up into a scroll. "The reason why I called you here today is frightfully dull, I'm afraid, but cannot be avoided. This-" he indicated the scroll "-is the paperwork for the weregild of 1500 galleons which you are to pay Mr Greengrass."
"Oh," said Alex. She'd completely forgotten about it. Dumbledore unravelled the scroll, laid it upon his desk and passed a quill towards Alex.
"Gringotts requires your signature to authorise the transfer," he said, pointing to a space near the bottom for her to sign. She scribbled her name without flourish and passed the quill back to Dumbledore.
"Good," he said, rolling the scroll back up again. "Now, we should discuss your finances."
Her finances? What was wrong with them?
"After the goblins transfer the weregild, your balance will be 1368 galleons," Dumbledore went on. Alex did the mental arithmetic: it was just over £200,000. "Between your Hogwarts fees, books and other expenses, you are currently spending around one hundred galleons a year, which means, of course, that your balance will almost halve by the time you leave Hogwarts."
Alex nodded. It was still more money than she ever thought she would have, but she'd taken quite the hit. "So no racing brooms, then," she said with a smile, having had no intention of buying one.
"Quite," said Dumbledore. "You are far from bankrupt, but I would advise you to be careful from now on. You might even like to consider a part-time job - in a few years, that is."
"I'll think about it," said Alex, her mind going to some of the shops in Hogsmeade. Working in somewhere like Manor could be interesting.
"Marvelous," Dumbledore said, tucking the weregild scroll into a drawer. "Time is precious, so we should next move on to the issue of your invisibility cloak."
Alex sat up straight. "The Greengrasses don't have it?" she said, surprised.
"No, Alex," he said, "Professor Snape was able to retrieve the cloak, before Miss Greengrass' things were returned home. The cloak remains in his possession."
She frowned. Professor Snape hated her. "Sir?"
"In light of this year's events, passing you such a powerful item was, perhaps, premature," he said, and he held up his hand to forestall her objection. "The cloak is, of course, still yours, and Professor Snape is merely keeping it safe until you turn seventeen."
"Seventeen?" said Alex, incredulous. Dumbledore peered at her over the top of his spectacles and she looked down, suddenly embarrassed by her outburst.
"Seventeen," said Dumbledore firmly. "However, should Professor Snape believe you worthy of the cloak before that time, he may choose to return it to your possession. I have left the matter in his hands."
The cloak was as good as gone. She knew better than to argue it, though: Dumbledore was resolute. "Seventeen it is, then," she muttered, speaking to her shoes.
Dumbledore smiled mysteriously. "We'll see," he said. "You have worked hard to make amends this term. I know of your apology to Miss Granger - should you continue in this manner, I have no doubt that Professor Snape will be convinced of your maturity." He stood up and the door swung open. "I look forward to seeing you next term, Alex," he said, "and remember, my door is always open to you."
Alex forced a smile and stood up, seeing the dismissal. "Thank you, sir," she said, "and have a good summer."
The ride to London was long, yet Alex didn't want it to ever end. Every mile away from Hogwarts was another mile closer to the Dursleys and a summer of no magic.
"Why so glum?" asked Susan as they settled themselves into a compartment. The moment they sat down, their trunks popped into existence on the racks above them. "Surely you're looking forward to the summer?"
Lily cackled. "She's just upset that she's not going to have homework for months!" she joked.
Alex rolled her eyes and ignored her, speaking pointedly towards Susan. "My aunt and uncle don't really approve of magic," she said, "I expect it's going to be a very boring summer."
Susan laughed. "But of course we'll visit each other!" she said, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. "Besides, it's your birthday in July, isn't it? We'll have to do something for that! I'm sure, if I asked Dad, he could help organise something…"
Alex's mood instantly lightened. Things wouldn't be like before. She was a witch now, and even if she couldn't do magic in the holidays she could still take the Knight Bus.
"You're right," she said, a smile growing on her face as endless possibilities occurred to her. There was so much of magical Britain she had yet to see. "Have you ever been to the Museum of Magical Natural History? I heard they actually have the skeleton of an English red dragon!"
Lily groaned and put her head in her hands. "Please tell me we're not going to a museum for your birthday," she said, and Susan laughed.
"Well, where would you go?" asked Alex, and then they were off, arguing over different activities, planning sleepovers and trips. By the time they reached London they had enough plans to last ten summers, and more besides.
"I'll write you tomorrow!" called Alex as Susan wandered off with her dad.
"And me!" demanded Lily, who had to wait for her sister.
The Dursleys were waiting for Alex on the other side of the barrier. Vernon grunted and took Dumbledore's box from her. "Good year?" he asked, his tone clearly indicating that he didn't want details.
"Yes," said Alex, her mind flicking back to all the drama. To all the magic. To her friends. "The best."
Author's Note Three: And with that, year one is complete! Stay tuned for year two, which will be uploaded as a separate story. Put me on autor alerts if you want an email notification of when I do so.
Year two will be rather different from year one in terms of style and content. Year one was in many ways a kind of prologue, introducing the characters and magic, giving them complex histories with each other to form a backdrop for the rest of the series. As I said in chapter one, this story was a carácter base done. Future installments, while still having a strong character focus, will have progressively more adventure elements to them.
Another change I'm planning to make in year two is converting to many short chapters (around 3000 words in length) rather tan a few long ones. This will hopefully improve my update rate and will also bring my writing in line with mainstream publishing standard form.
As always, I welcome your reviews!