A/N - I've always thought there was more to Millicent Bulstrode than canon shows. I've enjoyed this chance to explore her backstory.

- / - / -

Chapter 1 - - The Pre-Hogwarts Years, Part I

- / - / -

"Hopeless."

The first time Millicent Bulstrode heard this word uttered in relation to herself, she was four years old, and she thought it meant "beautiful."

She was sitting with her papa in Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlour. Papa had been on one of his rare visits home (he worked for Gringott's and travelled a lot), and they were having a Day Out.

Mr Fortescue had come to their table. "My, my," he'd said, smiling at Millicent as she dug into her chocolate ice cream with chocolate sauce and a whole chocolate frog on top. "And who is this lovely young lady? Can you tell me your name?"

Millicent stared at him. Of course she could. What did he think she was, a baby?

"My name is Millicent Euphemia Violetta Justine Bulstrode," she said, and bit the frog's head off by way of punctuation.

"That's quite a name," Mr Fortescue said.

Millicent nodded. It was. It was the best name in the whole world, much better than the names of the other children she knew. "Millicent Euphemia Violetta Justine Bulstrode" was much longer than anyone else's name, and "Millicent" was prettier than "Daphne," and it was more grown-up than "Pansy" (which was a silly name for a girl anyway, since it wasn't a name at all, but a flower, and a boring flower at that. A flower for babies).

Then there was "Bulstrode." Auntie Enna said that "Bulstrode" was a good name because it was a pure-blood name, but that's not why Millicent liked it. She liked it because "Bulstrode" sounded like "bull." A bull was a strong, powerful animal that was in charge of things. In one of Millicent's books, there was a picture of a big black bull that stomped its foot on the ground and then went galloping across a field. It had a ring in its nose. Millicent loved it; she watched it over and over and stomped her foot, too.

But apparently sometimes bulls also got into china shops and broke things when they weren't careful, as Auntie Enna reminded her regularly. (Millicent tended to break things, too.) Still, Millicent never blamed the bull in such circumstances. If china got broken, it was the fault of the people who made the bull go into the china shop in the first place. Millicent was quite sure it didn't want to be there.

For herself, Millicent much preferred ice cream parlours to china shops, and Mr Fortescue's was her favorite. On that chocolate day when he said she had "quite a name," two ladies sitting nearby had liked it, too - - or so she'd thought then. One of them said something Millicent didn't understand - - "Parvenus" - - and the other said, "Yes, who else would give a child such a hopeless name?"

"Hopeless." It sounded rather pretty, and Millicent was so pleased that she'd put all the rest of her frog into her mouth at once.

It ended up being rather hard to chew, but only a very little bit of the chocolate dripped out onto her best robe, and really, there was no need for Auntie Enna to have got so crabby about it.

- / - / -

The next time Millicent heard the word "hopeless" in connection with herself, she was six and was standing in the entry hall of the Parkinsons' townhouse.

She'd just finished her dancing class, which took place in the Parkinsons' ballroom, and when Auntie Enna came to collect her, she said, "Wait here. I need a moment with Miss Morna."

Miss Morna was the dance mistress, who for years had taught the waltz and the quadrille and countless other steps to the children of upper-crust, pure-blood wizarding society. That's what Auntie Enna had called them - - the "upper crust" - - and at the time, Millicent thought it meant the literal crust on top of the loaves of bread that Boka the house-elf baked in the Bulstrode kitchen. She'd wondered if the people who weren't "upper crust" - - like mudbloods and Muggles - - had to eat bread that didn't have any crust. It would serve them right, she'd thought then. Millicent liked fresh-baked crusty bread.

By the time she'd figured out that "upper crust" was a metaphor, Millicent had figured out a few other things, too, like the fact that being "pure-blood" wasn't all it was cracked up to be.

And the fact that most of the time, Auntie Enna was full of shit.

As things turned out, Millicent found she didn't mind a little shit, or at least, didn't mind the smell of it, but that was a revelation for the future. When she was six and standing in the Parkinsons' entry, the only facts she'd cared about were, first, that she wanted her tea and, second, that Pansy Parkinson was staring at her from behind the parlour door and sticking her tongue out whenever Millicent glanced her way.

Millicent had been getting ready to go over and push Pansy down when she heard Auntie Enna say to Miss Morna, "Tell me honestly. Just how hopeless is the Child?"

"The Child" was Millicent, of course; she hated that baby word, but it was what Auntie Enna always called her. So Millicent turned her back on Pansy and crept closer to the door of the little cloak room where the grown-ups were talking. She wanted to find out if she was hopeless at dancing.

Since that day in the ice cream parlour, she'd come to understand that "hopeless" was not at all a good thing to be. She knew this because "hopeless" was what Auntie Enna called things she thought were stupid: Boka the house-elf and Muggles and Mrs Shunpike the robemaker's assistant (who had bad breath) and all those wizarding families who didn't have any upper crusts on their bread.

Millicent knew that Auntie Enna was wrong about Boka, who wasn't stupid at all, but she thought Auntie had the right of it when it came to hopeless Mrs Shunpike, who once famously waved her wand in the wrong direction and ended up sticking a lot of pins in herself instead of in the robe she was making.

So Millicent felt rather anxious as she waited for Miss Morna's response. Was she hopeless at dancing?

But Miss Morna tittered in that way she did - - behind her hand, Millicent was sure - - and said, "Hopeless? Oh, no, Miss Bulstrode, she's not hopeless in the least. Not in the least. In fact, for such a. . .well, sturdy little girl, Millicent is rather light on her feet."

Light on her feet, was she? Millicent heaved a sigh of relief and twirled around on her toe like a ballet dancer she'd seen a picture of, to show stupid Pansy just how light-on-her-feet she was. Of course, the effect was rather spoiled when she lost her balance and fell over, but she stuck her own tongue out at Pansy while she lay on the floor, which was very satisfying.

And from the floor, she was able to see the charmed pictures on the ceiling of the Parkinsons' hall: unicorns running about, and laughing girls in fluttery robes being chased by boys in old-fashioned clothes and high black boots. Silly boys. And silly girls, too - - they didn't run very fast. Millicent was sure that in a race, she could have beaten every one of them.

So engrossed did Millicent become in the pictures that she forgot all about Pansy until Pansy flopped down beside her to say, "That ceiling belongs to me and my family, and you can't look at it unless I say you can. And I don't say you can."

"Why not?"

Pansy poked her with two fingers. "Because your family only has one house-elf. And because you call your daddy 'Papa.'"

Millicent poked Pansy right back. "Piss off," she said, which was what her Granny Hendershot said whenever someone annoyed her. Millicent liked Granny Hendershot.

Unfortunately, Auntie Enna did not, and she chose exactly that moment to emerge from her talk with Miss Morna.

"Millicent Euphemia Violetta Justine Bulstrode!" she cried, in tones so outraged and booming that up on the ceiling, the girls and boys and unicorns all fled to hide behind trees. "What is that language? And get off the floor this instant!"

She grabbed Millicent's arm and yanked her upright, muttering "hopeless!" as she did so. Millicent took advantage of the uproar to stick her tongue out at Pansy once more and to remind herself that even if she was hopeless, she was also light on her feet.