Author's Note: I'd like to thank all of those who helped with this story, both in the writing and by reviewing it. You have no idea how much I appreciate your compliments, complaints, comments, corrections, and critique. The prologue to the sequel, "Summer Rituals" will be posted within minutes of this part.
Mandy Brocklehurst was glad her first year was over. It had been a bad one, and she knew exactly when everything had gone wrong. If she had only removed that ritual circle on Halloween. If she had done it, so much would be different.
Mandy looked out the window. The Express had pulled into King's Cross a few minutes ago, but she wasn't getting up yet. She couldn't. Outside she saw Hermione Granger waddling over to her parents. Mandy was not looking forward to seeing her mother or grandmother. Not after how badly she'd made things.
If she'd done it on Halloween, perhaps Granger wouldn't be about to be a mother. She would have just had to get Granger out of the stall and out of the restroom. She might have even been a friend if Mandy had let her watch. Mandy did not have a lot of friends. Ravenclaw was a very cut throat house, and once the Gryffindors made it plain that they considered her a persona non grata, and she dropped out of the top ten, it was basically over.
"Come on, Mandy." If it wasn't for Robert Hillard, her house's sixth year prefect, she would be all alone. Of course, she'd ruined him too. It had been an accident, caused by his interruption of her, at first. He'd been changed back and forth between a boy and a girl. She'd only gotten sick and had green skin. Then there had been the final ritual that was supposed to correct everything and take down the ritual circle.
Robert bent down to pick Mandy up. She couldn't move her legs after she'd accidentally reversed a rune. She could still feel them, and Madame Pomfrey said that she'd be able to walk again in a few months. Robert thought it was his fault, no mater how much she said otherwise. He put her in a fireman's carry to get her off the train now that the corridor had cleared a bit. She was amazed that he could still carry her, as the final ritual had stripped three years from his age.
As Robert carried her out of the train, Mandy spotted Weasley, the one in her year, talking with Brown. She wished she had friends like the Gryffindors did. She wished she'd had the courage just to ask. Instead all she'd been able to do was study with the girls in her dorm, who now shunned her. There were tears in her eyes when Robert settled her down on the old wooden wheel chair.
It was with those tears in her eyes that she was finally greeted by the family who was going to take care of her for the summer, her grandmother having taken her mother for treatment across the pond.
"Mister Hillard, Miss Brocklehurst, I am Dowager Longbottom," the statuesque lady with a vulture on her hat said. "This is my grandson Neville. I believe he is in your year, Miss Brocklehurst? I've been asked by your parents, Mr. Hillard, and your grandmother, Miss Brocklehurst, to take care of you this summer."
Mandy could only nod her acceptance.
Neville smiled. "I heard you needed some help in Herbology, Miss Brocklehurst," he said. "Maybe I can help you with that this summer."
Mandy smiled. Maybe she wasn't alone. Maybe she could have friends, just like the Gryffindors did.
"Hey, Neville," Dean Thomas yelled across the platform. "See you in a few weeks in Crawley!"
"I'll be there, Dean," Neville said. "See you next week, Seamus, Ron. Portakey Gran?"
"Flue," Dowager Longbottom said. "Be careful with the pronunciation, Neville. I don't want you to end up in that district pub again."
Neville leaned down, and whispered in Mandy's ear, "She got drunk before taking me home." Mandy was surprised at the mischievous grin on Neville's face. Then he stood up and said, "It's Froggy Bottom, right Gran?"
"Foggy Bottom," Dowager Longbottom said firmly.
"Right, Guinness waiting," Neville said. "Wait, the head house elf is Gunnus." Mandy couldn't help but start giggling. It looked like her summer was going to be better than she thought.
"What happened to my shy little Neville?"
An illustrated version of this work is being created and will be on my homepage and linked on my profile when complete. This will also include some appendixes with some background information as well as commentary. If there is any information you'd like me to include in that version, or particular illustrations of scenes, feel free to PM me with the request.