bObligatory Legal Disclaimer: Harry Potter and all associated creative properties are the property of J.K. Rowling and Scholastic Publishing company. I make no claims of ownership of any creative properties mentioned in this story. This story is written and posted entirely for recreational purposes, and no monetary profit is gained from this story./b

This story wormed its way into my head one day and just wouldn't leave. I'd heard of a few stories that were entire-cast gender-swaps or a female Harry of some variation, but none of them seemed quite right. Then one idea really hit: what if, instead of looking just like his father, iHalle/i Potter looked just like iher mother/i?

Well, it just took off from there.

So, I present to you the first chapter/prologue of Halle Evans: Year One.


In the village of Littlebourne, located in Kent, more generally located in South East England, there lived a girl and her family.

Halle Evans knew she was unusual. She'd always simply figured it was a personal quirk; everybody had them. Her brother, Dudley, was a big eater and had a baby face, even now at the age of eleven, and her mother was a worrywart, always fussing over Halle and Dudley if they got even the slightest cough.

Nonetheless, Halle's quirks were a bit more pronounced.

For instance, whenever she'd peruse the library and find a book she wanted to look at on the very top shelf (and, really, why make the shelves so high in a primary school library?), the books had always seemed to simply jump into her hand as though pushed. And on the few occasions that some schoolyard enemy of her brother's had decided to target her to get to Dudley (who was fiercely protective of her, mind you), sometime during the pursuit, she'd find herself blocks away, sometimes even conveniently standing down the candy aisle of her favorite store. And there was the one occasion where Derrick Collins had managed to get a hold of her shortly before a very angry squirrel manifested itself in his pants.

He still refused to be in the same room as Halle.

All told, though, Halle had chalked up those peculiarities to happenstance. She hadn't willed the books to fall into her hand or somehow mastered teleportation or entered into some secret pact with woodland vermin. Unless she sleepwalked.

So, until 23 June, 1991, Halle Evans thought she was simply strange as a matter of circumstance.

Then she had quite a civil conversation with a snake.

The morning had started off like any other, with Dudley (ever the early riser, somehow), bursting into Halle's room and shouting for her to get her lazy bum out of bed and do something with her life.

"It's my birthday!" he shouted from the doorway. "You just gonna lie there and sleep it away?"

"Oooooh, sod off, Dud," Halle grumbled, curling up tighter in her blankets. They were so warm; it would be criminal to crawl out from under them!

Dud, it seemed, had other plans. Halle heard his footfalls cross the room before her bed sheets shifted, abruptly flying away from her. With a very (very) displeased whine, she curled into a ball, glaring hatefully at her brother, who dropped the sheets to the floor.

Average of height but hefty of build, the only thing keeping Dudley from venturing into unhealthily overweight territory were membership to the school football team and frequent trips to the nearby park, where Halle's constant taunts of being able to climb the jungle gym faster or cross the monkey bars without falling ensured that he stayed active, lest he be beaten by a girl. His corn silk blond hair was messy but kept economically short, and his sea-blue eyes were full of mirth as he smirked at his sister.

"Up," he said, turning and traipsing out. Cursing her brother in ways she would never repeat in front of Mum, Halle clambered from her bed and staggered to her wardrobe, opening the door and gazing at herself in the mirror.

A boney girl of ten (and eleven months) stared back at her, long red hair falling past her shoulders and to the middle of her back. Currently, it was a messy crow's nest of tangles and knots that would need to be meticulously combed out before setting out for the zoo. As always, her almond-shaped green eyes seemed to pop from her pale face. Unnoticeable at the moment, tucked beneath her bangs, was a scar shaped like a lightning bolt marring the skin above her left eye, the only real feature of any interest about her. According to Mum, it was a parting gift from her abusive father before the divorce.

Letting a puff of air between her lips to send a red lock floating away from her nose, she grabbed out an outfit for the day (khaki shorts and a pink tank-top; it was rather warm this week) and clicked the wardrobe shut, dressing in a rush and making her way down the hall of the small flat the Evans family called home to the bathroom to brush her teeth and do what she could with her hair. Half an hour later, she emerged a new girl, her plait of hair a perfect curtain down her back and pulled from her face with a pink headband that also conveniently hid her scar.

She strolled downstairs to the small kitchen, spotting Dud in the sitting room watching cartoons on the telly while he munched on a plate of eggs and bacon. Mum rarely let them eat in the sitting room, but the two kids could almost get away with murder on a birthday. Turning to the kitchen, Halle smiled when she saw her mum setting a second fresh-made plate of food on the counter for her.

"Morning, Mum," she said, and Mum patted her affectionately on the head.

"Morning, Halle dear," she said. "Eat quickly; I'd like to be on the road as soon as possible. It's a two-hour drive to the zoo."

Nearly eight years ago, Petunia Evans was still Petunia Dursley, married to a horrible lump of man named Vernon Dursley, who ran some drill company. The exact circumstances of her divorce from said man were still a secret from the two children, but Dudley's favorite theory was that Vernon had pulled a gun on one of the two and Mum had fought him off with a sword. When asked, all Mum would say was that Vernon had had no idea how to raise children, and Petunia owed it to someone special to see that Halle and Dudley were raised properly.

Now, she was the editor of a gossip column in a rather popular celebrity magazine, though she insisted her children never read an issue.

"It's hardly appropriate for a child to read," was all she would say whenever the subject was brought up.

In any case, Mum made enough to ensure that she and her two children lived comfortably, if not extravagantly. While neither ever got a pile of gifts on their birthdays, they could be sure that they would get to do something fun, like a trip to an amusement park or a zoo.

This year, for Dudley's birthday, it was the London Zoo, while Halle's birthday would be a closer-to-home shopping trip. Halle didn't mind, of course; it wasn't like they were leaving her at home while Mum and Dudley went to the zoo.

After a hastily-eaten breakfast and a full two minutes spent searching for her left shoe, Halle was ready, and the three piled into Mum's car, Halle graciously conceding defeat in the battle for the front seat in honor of Dudley's special day. Relegated to the back seat, she sat and listened with a smile as Dudley excitedly listed off all the animals he wanted to see when they got to the zoo (which was pretty much every animal at the zoo).

"Mum, we have to go to the reptile house first!" he insisted. "Can we go to the reptile house first?"

"Yes, Dudders, we'll go to the reptile house first," Mum said, giving Halle a wink in the rearview mirror, and Halle smiled back. "Halle, any special place you want to visit after there?"

"I want to see the birds," Halle said, trying to keep the dreamy tenor out of her voice; she didn't want to sound like some giggly little girl who "just loved pretty birds".

Though, they were pretty.

Looking back to the mirror, Halle thought she saw a flicker of fear on her mother's face, though as soon as she noticed the look, it was gone. Curious, she pondered. Maybe her mum was afraid of birds? Some people just couldn't stand when their wings started flapping like mad in their faces. One of the girls at school had brought in her pet cockatiel for Pet Day, and another boy had had to leave the room after it had gotten out of its cage.

Her mind was wandering.

Whatever the case, she dug through the little backpack she'd brought along, unearthing her Gameboy and her favorite Mario game. Last Christmas, Mum had gotten a substantial bonus from her magazine after numerous letters from fans saying that they originally subscribed to the magazine because of Peeping Petunia. The money had gone toward buying her two children the latest in handheld gaming technology. In the front seat, she saw Dud getting his own Gameboy out, though he preferred Solar Striker to Mario.

The rest of the drive passed in relative silence, with Halle occasionally asking Dudley (who had already beaten his own copy of Super Mario Land) for tips on how to beat a certain level. With a long-suffering sigh (and an amused smirk), Dud would reach back and take the game, easily stomping whatever point was giving Halle trouble.

"Hopeless little girl."

"Big arrogant oaf."

Halle wasn't a fan of snakes. The few garden-variety ones she'd encountered in the backyard had always given her the creeps, though perhaps it was simply the looks they gave her (if a snake was capable of such a thing), like they were expecting something.

It's not like she carried around live mice for them to snack on or something.

So, while Dudley oohed and aahed over the boa constrictors and pythons and other large snakes (Halle didn't know what they were called), she strolled by the lizards, giggling when she spotted a fat monitor lizard snoozing on a rock with such a contented-looking face that she almost got sleepy looking at it.

"Comfy, are we?" she smirked, turning and crossing the room, stopping in front of a display of one of the largest iguanas she'd ever seen. The sign marked it as an Antillean iguana.

Staring at the colorful lizard, she jumped when she heard a voice.

"Yeah, stare at Mitch. They all love Mitch."

"Oh, be nice," another voice said. "Mitch isn't all that bad."

She turned, spotting no one nearby. Mum and Dud were across the room reading about a Brazilian python, and there were only a few other people in the reptile house this early in the day.

"Over here, sweetheart," the voice said from Halle's left, and she rounded in the direction of the voice, finding…a display of Arabian horned vipers. The two snakes were peering at Halle, one of them actually winking.

"How you doin', love?"

"Must you flirt with every girl that comes through here?" the other snake…said.

"Oh, get out of it, woman; how often can they actually understand what I'm saying?"

"You're talking," Halle whispered, and the smaller of the two (the male, Halle gathered) dipped its head, and if a snake was capable of sighing in exasperation, this one did it.

"Sharp, this one," he said. The other snake gave him a chiding hiss.

"Be nice," she snapped, turning to Halle. "Have you never talked to a snake before, darling?"

Halle shook her head. "You sound British," she whispered, glancing around to make sure no one saw her talking to snakes. "The card says you're from Arabia."

"Aye, our species is," the male said. "But we were raised in captivity. Nice life, though. Not a lot of space, but we don't have to catch our dinner, at least."

"And how…how am I talking to you?" Halle said.

"You're a Speaker," the female said. "I think your kind call it being a parselmouth."

"I've never heard of parselmouths before," Halle said. "Are there a lot of them?"

The female snake shook her head (which was a disconcerting thing to watch), her tongue flicking out to taste the air.

"I've not met many," she said, "though I can't be sure. Maybe they just don't like to visit the zoo."

"Halle!" Dud called from across the room. "Let's go look at your birds!"

"Birds," the male snake spat. "Think they're so special just 'cause they can fly."

"Don't be petty," the female said, turning back to Halle. "Lovely talking to you, dear. Have a wonderful visit."

"Stop back and see us again," the male said as Halle gave them a little wave and caught up with Mum, who reached out and took her hand.

"Making friends, are we, Halle dear?" she said with an amused smile. Halle laughed.

"Apparently."

The Snowdon Aviary was gorgeous. An unfathomably huge cage housed entire trees, and quite a few birds were noticeable through the foliage. Watching them fly through the greenery, Halle couldn't stop a small stab of envy and the strangest feeling of nostalgia.

"It must be wonderful to be able to fly like that," she said to Dud, who was similarly fascinated as he leaned against the railing around the cage, sipping at a juice box. He reached the end and continued to pull air through the straw, the juice box shrinking as a loud bubbling sound came from the container. Unable to stop her lips from stretching in a wide smile, she burst into giggles as Dud smirked at her, tossing the box into a nearby rubbish bin.

"I was trying to have a very serious moment here, Dud!" she said through her laughter, and Dud gave her a playful shove.

"Exactly," he said. "Don't want you turning into some philosophical prat."

"Of course," Halle rolled her eyes, falling silent as she stared unseeingly at the enclosure, her thoughts drifting back to the strangeness at the reptile house. Looking back, it seemed almost surreal, tucked away in the cool darkness, conversing with what seemed for all intents to be a married couple of snakes. She wanted to simply write it off as a delusion resulting from lack of sleep, but if she were to have any dreams about talking animals, it would be a bird of some sort. Or a unicorn.

Hey, unicorns were pretty.

Finishing her own juice box, she tossed it to join Dud's, standing.

"Tell mum I'm off to use the loo?"

"I did not need to know that."

"Oh, hush," she stuck her tongue out at him and strolled off. The restrooms were just around a corner, only barely out of sight, so Mum shouldn't have fussed too much about not going with her or as a group or something.

Really, she could be a worrywart.

After a quick trip to the toilet (which are as disgusting as a public restroom can be expected to be), she emerged and caught sight of a bird not a foot away from the cage, staring intently at her.

Her first thought was, Is this one going to speak to me, too?

Sadly, it didn't, only flying off as a shadow fell over Halle. She turned and jumped, letting a tiny squeak as she caught sight of a truly intimidating man.

He was tall and spindly, reminding Halle vaguely of a spider, especially with his all-black getup. His skin was pale, clearly wanting for sunlight, and his longish black hair was slightly greasy. He looked down his hooked nose at Halle with something akin to…longing?

Having seen a special about child predators, Halle immediately backed up a few steps, ready to scream at even the slightest indication of ill-intent.

"You will receive a letter in the mail tomorrow," he said, his voice soft and just slightly raspy. "Your…mother will likely not want you to read it. See to it that you do."

"What do you know about my mum?" Halle asked. "Who are you?"

"I was a friend of your real mother," the man said. "It's time you stopped living a lie. Tomorrow, when you get your letter, show it to her," he nodded vaguely in the direction that Mum was surely waiting. "Ask for the truth. Tell her if she doesn't tell you, the letters will keep coming."

"My mother is Petunia Evans," Halle all but growled, glaring hatefully up at the man, who only smirked.

"You look exactly like Lily," he said, and then abruptly, he was gone, leaving an empty patch of air where he'd been standing. Looking around, no one seemed to have noticed his abrupt departure. In fact, she noticed no mutterings about the strange man in black or his presence at all.

"Halle!" her mother's voice said, and she recognized the shrill quality all too well. If they were out and about and either of them was out of her sight for more than a few seconds, the frantic search began. Sighing and trying to put the strange man out of her mind, she hurried back to her Mum.

Needless to say, as Halle sat alone in her room that night (after a day that would have been thoroughly exhausting even without talking to snakes or meeting a strange man in black), she had quite a bit on her mind. Thus, while The New Kids On The Block serenaded her, she sat on her bed and stared out at the dark street, lost in thought.

Somehow, she was able to communicate with snakes (which possessed remarkable intelligence for creatures with heads the size of her thumb), and according to a mysterious man with the power to disappear at will, she would be getting a strange letter in the mail tomorrow that would perhaps make all of this clear.

It would be a simple matter of slipping out the front door and snagging this letter from the mailbox. After today, Dudley would most likely want to spend tomorrow lazing on the couch and watching cartoons, and old Mrs. Figg rarely spent the whole day babysitting them while Mum was at work these days. Especially now that Dud was eleven, Mum was having to admit that they were old enough to look after themselves, at least during the day.

With the comforting thought of answers coming the next day, she switched off her CD player and settled into her bedclothes, staring up at her ceiling, nervous and excited for what tomorrow might bring.

It was a sign of how eager she was for answers that Halle was actually awake before Dudley, who stomped into her room just as she was pulling her shirt on. The sight of his sister's bare back must have broken something in the poor boy, as he only spluttered soundlessly before stepping back and hurrying downstairs.

Maybe that would teach the git to knock next time.

After her morning routine was complete, she made her way downstairs and fixed herself a bowl of cereal, settling into a seat in the dining room to find rain pounding at the window outside. At least Dud had an excuse not to go the park today (like he would anyway). She then retreated back up to her room, where she resumed the New Kids music from last night and dug out the giant tub of Legos she kept in her closet. Whenever she needed a distraction, Legos provided.

Three hours later, she had a twelve-story tower nearly as tall as she was, complete with a ground floor lobby, offices, and a break room on the seventh floor. She was just constructing a water cooler when she glanced at the clock and quickly sprung to her feet, dashing for the door and taking the stairs two at the time. Dud, far too engrossed in whatever daytime talk show he was watching, didn't even notice her full sprint to the front door.

She opened it just in time to see the mail carrier shutting their front gate and heading over to Mrs. Figg's house. Ignoring his perplexed look, she reached into the mailbox and drew out the cluster of letters. Most of them were fan mail that had made it through the chief editor's screening process, and there were a few coupon books as well as an offer for some sort of preapproved credit card. She left all this on the kitchen table, as she spotted the envelope that that mysterious man had told her about.

Halle Evans

131 Cambridge St.

Littlebourne, Kent

It was a heavy, yellowed envelope that seemed to be made of old parchment. The lettering was a vivid emerald green color, and the letter was actually sealed with wax imprinted with an ornate crest. It looked like something straight out of a Victorian play or that might change hands at Buckingham palace (perhaps containing a shopping list or duties for the day).

Halle almost felt bad ripping it open.

Almost.

Setting the envelope aside, she unfolded a precisely trifold piece of (surprise) more parchment and read.

HOGWARTS SCHOOL of WITCHCRAFT and WIZARDRY

Headmaster: ALBUS DUMBLEDORE

(Order of Merlin, First Class, Grand Sorc., Chf. Warlock,

Supreme Mugwump, International Confed. of Wizards)

Dear Miss Evans,

We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment.

Term begins on September 1. We await your owl by no later than July 31.

Yours sincerely,

Minerva McGonagall

Deputy Headmistress

Completely perplexed, she moved on to the second page.

HOGWARTS SCHOOL of WITCHCRAFT and WIZARDRY

UNIFORM

First-year students will require:

1. Three sets of plain work robes (black)

2. One plain pointed hat (black) for day wear

3. One pair of protective gloves (dragon hide or similar)

4. One winter cloak (black, with silver fastenings)

Please note that all pupils' clothes should carry name tags.

This was followed by a list of the strangest course books she'd ever read, including The Standard Book of Spells, Grade 1, A History of Magic, A Beginner's Guide to Transfiguration, and others.

"That's it?" she said to herself, turning the letters over, looking for anything else, perhaps a quick paragraph explaining how she was able to talk to snakes, maybe a handwritten message from the mysterious man in black. She would've settled for a message from Dud confirming that this was all some elaborate prank. She would've been inclined to believe the last part, but Dud lacked the forethought, and he would never go to so much trouble just for a prank.

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry…. Well, Hogwarts sounded silly, but witchcraft and wizardry sure rang true for some of the stuff she'd been witness to. Maybe talking to snakes had been some kind of magic trick. And magic would sure explain her frequent ability to suddenly be somewhere miles away from danger.

In fact, a lot of the oddities she'd been privy to in her ten short years of life could be quickly justified by magic.

The rest of the strange man's message came back to her.

"I was a friend of your real mother…. Ask for the truth."

Maybe no one was pranking her, but the man in black seemed to be under the impression that Mum knew more than she was letting on.

Absently, she found herself wishing that the stranger had at least had the decency to introduce himself. Constantly calling him the man in black was giving her an unshakable urge to listen to some Johnny Cash music.

At least it would let her kill some time until Mum got home.

Humming a few bars to Walk the Line, Halle twirled her spaghetti around her plate, too nervous from the imminent confrontation with her mother to really eat. Dud had finished his second helping and was trying to convince his mum that a third was in order, but she adamantly refused.

"Something wrong, Halle?" Mum asked while Dudley sulked. "You haven't touched your food."

"I'll take it if – "

"Dudley Michael Evans."

Falling silent, Dudley huffed as Halle bit her lip, hunching her shoulders nervously and staring up at her Mum.

"I got a letter in the post today," she said. "From a school called Hogwarts."

The change in her mother's demeanor was alarming; she went from an understanding smile to pale as a sheet, eyes wide with alarm, her fork falling to her plate with a clatter.

"Dudley, go to your room," she said.

"But, Mum – "

"Now," she said, and though she didn't yell, Dud flinched back, shooting Halle a sympathetic look and scurrying from the room. Halle knew fully well that he wouldn't go all the way to his room. No doubt he would be eavesdropping from a safe distance.

When the two were fairly alone, her Mum sighed, placing her forehead in her hand and shaking her head.

"You've read it, I suppose?" she asked, and Halle nodded, though obviously, Mum didn't see it.

"Yes," she added, hating the quiver of fear in her voice. "Mum, are you angry?"

"Yes," her mum admitted. "But not at you. I'm just…tired of them taking away the ones I love."

"'Them'?" Halle asked.

"Witches, wizards, and that…Albus Dumbledore."

"His name was on my letter," Halle said. "He's the headmaster of Hogwarts?"

Her mother said nothing, though Halle thought she saw a teardrop fall to the table. She got up and moved to her mother's side, wrapping her arms around Mum's shoulders and nestling against her shoulders.

"Mummy?"

"I don't want them to take you, too, Halle. What if we just forgot this and…you went to school with Dudley next year, like always?"

"But…. Mum, if I'm a wizard or witch or something, I…I want to learn how to use it," Halle said. "And, anyway, I saw this man at the zoo. He said – "

"What man?" her mother asked sharply, sitting up and wiping her eyes. "What did he look like?"

Briefly, Halle recounted her cryptic conversation with the man she'd come to identify as Cash, simply because he wore black.

"Sounds like that boy that – from a long time ago."

"You've met him?" Halle asked, her mind struggling to catch up. "Mum, what's going on? What aren't you telling me?"

"Halle, dear…."

"He said the letters would keep coming, Mum," Halle said. "Please, don't…. If there's something I need to know, I want to know what it is. It won't change anything. You're my Mum, and if I have to…go away for a while, I'll always come back. You and Dud, I…would never abandon you."

That got a small smile from her mum. "She said the same thing."

"Who?"

Heaving a deep sigh, Mum said those fateful words.

"Your mother."

Halle learned the whole story that night, or as much as Mum knew anyway.

Mum. Even if she was really Halle's aunt, she was still Mum. When she said that, her mum started crying all over again, wrapping her arms around Halle.

Nearly ten years ago, Halle's witch and wizard parents, James and Lily Potter had been murdered by an evil wizard for reasons unknown. For reasons even more unknown, the same dark wizard had turned his wand on Halle and attempted to murder her as well, but the curse rebounded and struck down the man called Voldemort instead. Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts, which both of her parents had attended, and a close friend of the Potters', had left Halle with Vernon and Petunia Dursley, the girl's last living blood family.

This was where her mum really started crying.

Vernon, a staunch hater of anything that didn't fit in his narrow worldview, had originally confined the child to a cupboard under the stairs, content to let the "little freak" bawl her eyes out until it was "feeding time". Petunia had gone along with this for almost two years until one day, it was her turn to feed little Halle, and the full realization of the situation had struck her. As she'd stared into the baby face that looked exactly like her little sister's, the full weight of the loss had finally struck her, and she'd fallen to her knees.

"I just couldn't do it anymore," her mum told Halle. "Every time I looked at you, every time I still look at you, I see your mother. My sister. And I remember what it was like, before…. We were everything to each other. And I couldn't watch you suffer anymore. To do that to Lily, to disgrace her memory like that…."

When Vernon had gotten home from work, Petunia had beseeched her husband to allow Halle a room of her own and treat her a little more humanely, but Vernon had put his foot down.

"He called you a freak and a monster, claimed that if you weren't blood, he would've tossed you on the street long ago," Mum explained. "I said that you looked just like my sister, that you were my blood. He lost it. He stuck a padlock on the door and hid the only key. He said 'Let the freak starve. Let her use her magic to save herself.' He…. I'm sure he lost his mind that night."

"What did you do?" Halle whispered.

"I called the police," her mum replied. "Vernon was arrested and thrown in jail. He died in prison about a year later."

"And you…adopted me?"

Her mum nodded. "I felt I owed it to Lily after treating her so horribly, and…I wouldn't have been able to live with myself, looking at you day after day. You look exactly like Lily. You were a constant reminder of her, and I was tired of feeling guilty."

"You've no reason to feel guilty, Mum," Halle said, feeling her own eyes stinging. "You're such a great mother."

She smiled, leaning in and kissing Halle on the forehead. "And you're a fantastic daughter. I just…. When you're mother went to Hogwarts, she was never the same. She came back going on about potions and transfiguring mice into teacups and back again, and…I suppose I was jealous. I wanted so much to learn magic to, but I didn't have what she had. Maybe if I had, things would've gone differently."

"Oh," Halle fell silent at that. Did that mean Mum was jealous of her, too? She felt a little bad. If she looked just like Lily, and now she was getting a Hogwarts letter, her mum must be reliving the past all over again. Come to think of it, how was Dudley going to take this?

She felt her mother's fingers toying with a lock of her red hair.

"Listen, Halle," she said. "Whatever happens, I'm so proud of you. I was proud of your mum, but I let my jealousy get the better of that. Now I realize how frightened she must have been, how terrible she must have felt leaving everything behind. But at the same time, there's this strange new world inviting you in, and that's amazing."

"It is," Halle said. "Mum, I have to go. If I don't, I'll always wonder. I'll always want to know how it could have gone."

"I understand, sweetie," Mum said. "But see things from my point of view. When my sister went off into this world, she…died. Not right away, but they took her from me. I don't want to lose you, too."

Halle crawled into her Mum's lap and wrapped her arms around her.

"I promise I'll come back, Mum," she said, putting every bit of meaning she could in the statement. "I promise."

The next day, an owl arrived, swooping in as Dudley went to get the mail and terrifying him to pieces. The bird swooped through the entryway and landed on the kitchen table, peering expectantly at the family.

"Mum! There's an owl in the house!"

"I can see that, Dudley," Mum said patiently, sighing and removing a letter attached to the bird's leg. "Do stay," she said to the bird. "We haven't exactly had a chance to buy a post owl."

"They send letters by owl?" Halle asked while a bemused Dudley watched the scene in absolute confusion.

"Yes," Mum replied, pulling out a pen and paper and scribbling down a letter. "When Lily first started, we'd get owls nearly every week. It's neat at first, but the novelty wears off."

Halle had time to read the letter before Mum folded it up and stuffed it in a regular paper envelope, attaching it to the owl's leg.

Dear Mr. Dumbledore,

My daughter, Halle Evans, has received her acceptance letter to Hogwarts, and we thank you for your diligence in ensuring it gets to her. We will be traveling to Diagon Alley today to purchase her supplies.

Yours sincerely,

Petunia Evans

"What's Diagonally?"

"Diagon Alley," Mum corrected her. "It's where we'll be buying your school supplies."

"What are you two going on about?" Dudley asked. "And what was that with the owl?"

Sighing, Mum glanced at Halle before standing. "Dudders, come to the sitting room. We need to talk."

It was a subdued trip to London (for the second time in two days, which Mum grumbled about briefly, along with contemplations of sending a petrol bill to Hogwarts) for the two Evans women. Dudley had been instructed to stay behind, as he was what wizards called a muggle, or a non-magic person; the only reason Mum would be tolerated was because she was Halle's guardian.

He'd taken that news about as well as being told Halle was a witch and would be going to a magic boarding school in Scotland instead of grammar school with him. Rather than shouting, as Halle had been afraid he would do, he'd simply fallen silent and gone to watch his cartoons. Even when the two had bidden him farewell, he'd said nothing.

"I'll talk to him," Mum said as they drove. "I went through the same thing he is right now, having to watch someone he loves go off to a strange and fantastic place. Don't you feel bad at all, though," she added hastily.

Like she could help it.

This was the gateway to the magical side of London? This dingy pub whose only notable quality was its innocuousness (a word Halle was proud she knew the meaning of) filled with shabbily-dressed men talking about quidditch or bands she'd never even heard of before?

She'd expected some sort of stone archway flanked by Merlin statues and guarded by a dragon or something. Though, thinking about it, hiding something like that in the middle of London would be rather difficult.

Shaking herself out of her thoughts, she strode up to the counter and smiled at the toothless old man behind the counter. He was stooped with age and had only a few wispy gray hairs left, but he had a kindly glint in his eyes as he smiled down at Halle.

"Hogwarts, right?" he said. "Muggle-born?"

"Sort of," Halle said, pointing back at Mum. "My Mum's a muggle."

"Where's your father, darling?" the man said, moving out from behind the counter and gesturing for the pair to follow.

"He's…gone…."

"Oh," the man said, falling short. "Sorry 'bout that. Now look here," he said, pulling what was unmistakably a magic wand from his pocket and pointing it at a brick. "Three up from the bin, two across from here. And, tap."

He did so, and the wall seemed to fold away from the point his wand touched, bricks slipping back and rolling in on themselves to form an arch revealing one of the most crowded streets Halle had ever seen. Men, women, children, elves, the occasional goblin, and countless animals of all shape and size milled around, forming a turbulent crowd that made Halle sure Mum would have a death grip on her wrist for nearly the entire trip.

Sure enough, as the innkeeper welcomed them to Diagon Alley and stepped back into his pub, Mum reached down the gripped her arm.

"Shall we?"

Before any shopping could happen, the pair found their way to Gringotts bank, the only wizard bank in London and considered the safest one in existence. According to Mum, this was where they would have to exchange their muggle money for wizard money. Halle thought it was a bid odd that they didn't just all use the same currency, but perhaps that was just the way of things.

Thankfully, Gringotts cut quite a distinctive profile, the white marble building sticking out prominently amongst the redbrick and smoky gray buildings, gleaming in the noonday sun. With the towering bank acting as their beacon, they waded into the sea of people, Halle for once glad that Mum had such a strong grip. A few times the pair was buffeted and almost separated by a passing witch or wizard, but her mother's grip remained firm.

Halle wished she had about four more sets of eyes as they passed stalls of potion ingredients, cauldron shops, alchemy supply stores, a magical beastiary (with the most gorgeous owls ever), and a bookstore with some of the most curious books Halle had ever seen. As they passed, a store associate stood looking quite bored as he supervised a book that was currently reading itself to the crowd.

One store caught Halle's eye, and she stopped dead before being tugged along again, staring in fascination at the window display of broomsticks. These brooms clearly weren't for sweeping the floor, though.

"Mum, I want a broom," Halle said.

"A br – no. Absolutely not. You wouldn't even be able to take it to school anyway."

Vaguely, she remembered the very bold-faced all-capital-letters statement from the supply list:

PARENTS ARE REMINDED THAT FIRST YEARS ARE NOT ALLOWED THEIR OWN BROOMSTICKS

What a buzz kill.

A goblin showed them into Gringotts.

At first, Halle thought it was some equal-opportunity publicity stunt, or the bank had hired a goblin for tax reasons, but when they entered the bank proper, it was to find dozens, hundreds, of goblins lining a long desk in the enormous hall. Along the walls, innumerable doors led deeper into the bank, and even more goblins were showing the occasional witch or wizard in or out.

"Goblins handle the money?" Halle whispered as they approached the desk.

"Watch your back," Mum said. "They don't look the nicest sort."

"Right."

They approached a goblin at random, Halle stepping forward and actually having to stand on tiptoes just to peer at the goblin over the desk. Why did such a short race need such unreasonably high desks?

"Um, pardon me," she said, and the goblin looked up, then down at her. "I'm, um, Halle Evans."

"Evans," the goblin said, withdrawing a massive tome and setting it in front of him. The pages seemed to flip through themselves before the book shut with a little flump. "No accounts under that name."

A sudden thought struck Halle. "Try Potter?"

The goblin blinked. "Halle Potter?" He studied her, his eyes darting to where her scar was hidden away, and she reluctantly pulled up her head band to show it to him. "Hm. A moment, please." He tapped an instrument on his counter, which hummed and whirred, a small light blinking before it flashed green. "Everything's in order, then. Griphook!"

Another goblin rushed over, giving them a bow.

"Show Miss Potter to her vault and see that she gets the key. And Miss Potter," he said, looking to Halle. "Mind you don't lose the key. They're dreadfully hard to replace."

"Thank you," Halle said as Griphook led them deeper into the bank.

For Halle's tenth birthday, Mum had taken her and Dudley to see Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Gringotts bank reminded her unpleasantly of the temple.

Rather than more white marble, the deeper parts of the bank were quite a treacherous cave system accessible only by the most nerve-wracking cart ride ever. Granted, it was fun, rather like the roller coasters at the amusement park from Dudley's tenth birthday, but there were no seat restraints, so the fun was tempered by a sizable dose of concern for one's life.

Once the ride stopped (and Mum lost the green tinge to her complexion), the trio climbed from the cart and approached a metal door twice again as tall as Halle. The goblin produced a key and unlocked the door, which swung in on its own, revealing a jaw-dropping pile of gold.

"Oh, my…."

"Goodness," Mum finished for her, stepping forward.

"This is mine?" Halle asked the goblin, who nodded.

"Your school fund, set up by your parents the moment they found out Mrs. Potter was pregnant."

"Look at that, Mum," Halle said, smiling up at her mother. "School supplies for the next seven years, bought and paid for."

She smiled, her eyes shining a bit. "Should've known Lily would look out for you like this."

Their first stop (at Halle's insistence) was to buy a wand.

"Mum, if I'm to be a proper witch, I need a wand before anything else!"

It took them only a few minutes to stop a passing wizard (a kindly old man with a beard that went past his belt) and ask them the nearest place to buy wands.

"Ah, starting Hogwarts this year, young lady?" the man asked, smiling genially down.

"Yes, sir."

"And polite," he said, leaning down. "You listen to me, now. Don't let any of them tell you that just because your parents are muggles that you can't cast circles around them. My wife is a muggleborn, and she can kick my butt in a duel like no other."

Halle giggled, and the man gave her a wink, standing and turning to Mum. "Now, for wands, you'll want Ollivander's. The man's an artist. You go down two blocks, make a left, and look for the sign. Can't miss it."

"Thank you so much," Mum said. The man tipped his hat and bade them farewell, disappearing into the crowd.

"People here are nice," Halle said as they wended their way through the crowd.

"Some of them are," Mum said, "but you be careful. Lily told me that the wizard world is just like the muggle world. There are kind people, but there are some rotten eggs out there, too."

"Yes, mother," Halle said, rolling her eyes. Mum quirked an eyebrow and poked her daughter in the forehead with a smile.

"Don't you roll your eyes at me, young lady," she said as they turned down the side street that would take them to Ollivander's. "I'm your mother. I'm supposed to worry about you."

"And I'm supposed to cause you no end of trouble," Halle shot back, sticking her tongue out at her Mum.

They spotted the shop and stepped inside. Instantly, Halle was reminded of a library; the dead silence, the dusty smell of old things, and the shelves after shelves rowed behind the counter, though she noticed that instead of books, the floor-to-ceiling structures were stacked with small boxes, presumably holding wands.

A bell chimed somewhere deep in the distance as the pair entered. A single spindly stool sat in front of the counter, which Mum took while Halley stood at the counter.

"Um…. Hello?"

From among the shelves, a man stepped up to the counter, fixing large silvery eyes on Halle, who was immediately reminded of an owl. The man's silver hair stood straight up, fanning out from his head and looking remarkably like a tuft of feathers. He didn't seem to blink as often as someone should, Halle thought, and his eyes never left her as he moved around the counter.

"Halle Potter."

"Evans," Halle corrected him, and he smiled, giving a slight bow.

"Forgive me, Miss Evans," he said, holding a hand out. "I am Garrick Ollivander. I've been wondering when I would be seeing you come through here."

"How did you know who I was?" Halle asked. Ollivander smiled.

"You are the spitting image of your mother," he said, leaning in remarkably close, and Halle had to wonder if wizards had any concept of personal space. "I remember her visit well. Ten and a quarter inches. Willow. Very swishy. Excellent for charm work. Your father, though…." He leaned closer, and Halle froze nervously, not wanting to be the one to back down in case this was some sort of test to figure out what wand she would get. "Mahogany, eleven inches long, and quite pliable, as I recall. Excellent for transfiguration."

She had to stop herself from cringing away as one of Ollivander's long bony fingers slipped under her pink headband and tugged it away to expose the scar on her forehead.

"And that's where…."

"If you're finished manhandling my daughter, could we get down to business?" Mum said, and even Halle was frightened by the ice in her voice, though she wanted to thank her mother profusely when Ollivander drew away.

"Apologies, Miss Evans," he said. "I merely feel some responsibility. I crafted the wand that created that scar. Yew, thirteen and a half inches. Very powerful. I couldn't have known that it would decide to take such a dark path when I made it."

"Decide?" Halle asked.

"The wand chooses the wizard, Miss Evans. They are powerful magical objects, but one should never consider them tools. Now," he gave a soft clap of his hands. "Let's see which one decides to go home with you. Which is your wand arm, young lady?"

"I'm right-handed, if that's what you mean."

"Very good," he said, pulling out a tape measure. "Hold your arm out, if you please, nice and straight." Halle did as advised, and Ollivander measured her arm. Then her forearm. Then the length of her index finger, from her knee up to her armpit, from her shoulder to the floor. As he measured, he spoke.

"Each wand contains a powerful magical substance at its core, Miss Evans. Here at Ollivander's, we use dragon heartstrings, unicorn hairs, or phoenix tail feathers. No two wands are exactly the same, though some can be considered siblings if their cores come from the same animal. And as I said, the wand chooses the wizard; should you attempt to use a wand that is loyal to another witch or wizard, it will not yield the same results as your own. It may not cooperate at all."

He rounded the counter to collect a few boxes, and Halle realized that the tape measure was now measuring on its own, recording the distance between her nostrils. Just as she was marveling at how very attentive to detail wizards were, the tape measure dropped with a wordless command from the wandmaker.

"Now, let's get started shall we?"

Halle lost count of how many wands she waved. Beech, maple, ebony, applewood, oak, pine, cypress, cedar, redwood, with so many parts of so many dragons, unicorns, and phoenixes that Halle had to wonder if there were any left alive in the world. At one point, Ollivander tried a wand with a beard hair from Albus Dumbledore that he'd made "during an odd time in my life", though to no avail.

Finally, when the pile of reject wands was threatening to topple onto the floor and Halle was beginning to experience a bit of tennis elbow, Ollivander perked up.

"Hmm…. Perhaps…." He wandered into the back and came back with quite an old-looking box, opening it and passing the wand to Halle, who felt a warmth shoot up her arm, the cramp in her elbow disappearing immediately as she gave it a wave, sending a shower of green sparks in a mini fireworks display that lit up the room. Mum smiled and gave her a little round of applause, which Ollivander joined in.

"Wonderful, simply wonderful!" he said, looking immensely satisfied. "Albeit curious."

"Why curious?" Halle asked as Ollivander boxed up the wand and rang it up on the ancient till on his counter.

"Eleven inches. Holly and phoenix feather. An odd combination, but quite supple. It's very curious that that wand should choose you, when its brother gave you that scar," he gestured at the scar now concealed beneath Halle's headband.

Halle felt a chill down her spine. Voldemort's wand had had a feather from the same phoenix that hers did? Maybe this wand was trying to make up for its brother's mistakes? It felt strange, thinking of a wand as sentient, or at least slightly so. She amused herself with a brief mental image of the wand giving her advice on how to wave it to get the best results from a spell.

Her mind was wandering.

She paid for her wand, and the pair left the shop, Halle more excited than ever to actually get to Hogwarts and cast some spells.

The next several hours were a blur as they wandered through Diagon Alley, first to buy course books at Flourish and Blotts (where Halle also picked up a few contemporary history books to learn a bit more about this world she would be inhabiting). Next was the apothecary, where she picked up all of her potion ingredients (some of which made her gag thinking about; beetle eyes and newt tails). Madame Malkin's (where the plump witch herself fitted Halle with her school robes) was followed by a trip to pick up a solid pewter cauldron.

As they were leaving the alley, Halle's feet protesting vehemently to their extended use for the second time in three days, Halle once again found herself stopping outside of Eeylops Owl Emporium, her eyes landing on the most beautiful snowy owl ever. As her eyes took in the beautiful plumage, the owl turned a pair of amber eyes on her, staring at her levelly.

"Mum," she breathed. "I want it."

As she lazed on her bed that night, Halle could scarcely make herself move after the excitement of the day. On the one hand, she was elated that she'd finally got a taste of the magical world, even gotten a magic wand, and found out that her parents had left her a small fortune for her school fund.

On the other hand, though, her legs were killing her. Yesterday had apparently not been enough time to recover her legs completely from their extended exercise at the London Zoo the day before.

And Dud was still distant. Halle had tried numerous times to engage him in conversation throughout supper, but his answers had been terse, and he'd excused himself to his room immediately after. She tried to put herself in his shoes, imagine if Dudley had been the one to get his Hogwarts letter and she would be left behind. She had to admit that he had at least an understandable reason to be upset. But at the same time, Dudley would be going back to school this year with a bunch of his primary school friends. Familiar people in a familiar place, and he would get to come home to Mum every night.

Halle would be locked away in a castle in Scotland for ten months with Hedwig the owl her only connection to home.

She'd come across the name Hedwig in one of her textbooks, glanced up at the owl, and determined that the name was just too perfect. Thus, the owl was Hedwig.

Sighing, Halle switched off her bedside lamp and settled into her sheets. Maybe Dud just needed to sleep on it.

Everything would probably be better in the morning.

Strangely enough, everything was better in the morning. Waking to the sight of Hedwig just settling in for the morning, she wished her owl a pleasant sleep and stumbled from her bed.

Mum was working again today and had told the two children last night that she would need to stay extra late due to yesterday's unplanned shopping trip. Some movie star had apparently been caught with her pool boy in a romantic tryst, despite being married, and Mum's coverage of the fallout had been given the cover of the next issue of the magazine as well as a two page spread. It was, as she called it, a career-defining moment.

Thus, Halle would likely be preparing dinner. She knew her way around the kitchen and could throw together a few passable meals, though they were never up to Mum's fare.

She was stepping out of the bathroom, pondering maybe just throwing together grilled cheese sandwiches, when she literally walked straight into Dud.

"Oi, space-cadet," Dud said, quirking an eyebrow at her. "Come back down to earth."

"Sorry, Dud," Halle said with a little smile. "Are you…not mad at me anymore?"

He sighed. "I wasn't mad at you, Hal." She smiled the nickname that only he could get away with. "I was…I guess I was jealous, but Mum talked to me. Said that just because you were born magic and I wasn't, I shouldn't be mad at you. So…I hope your Hogwarts thing turns out okay."

Feeling a lump in her throat, Halle could only blink the tears from her eyes as she struck, wrapping her arms around her brother. "You'll always be my favorite big brother, Dud."

"I'm your only big brother, you madwoman," Dud said, his voice muffled through her hair, and Halle giggled.

"You're still my favorite."


Feedback would be quite appreciated. I have a few chapters written, but I wanna see how this is received before I do anything else.

Review, please.