Miss. Patterson, the head mistress of St. Asyllium Children's Orphanage hurried down the long corridor, her high heels taping rhythmically on the stony surface of the floor. She bore a frown on her forehead and her lips were puckered almost to a dot. She could see where this was going. The tall young man was in for big disappointment. She was surprised that he asked explicitly for her. Nobody wanted Marry. She was older now than most of the parents wanted. And the ones that did give her a try gave up very fast.
She was just too odd for somebody's liking, not even her own. She didn't like to admit it, but sometimes the little girl frightened her. She couldn't help feeling that all those accidents that happened around her weren't accident at all. Like that time when the hard metal scissors broke right in Mrs. Perkins' hand as she tried to give Marry a haircut, or when Johnny and his friends got attacked by a swarm of bees, in the middle of winter, minutes after they played a trick on her.
She was so sure that Marry was behind it all, that she started giving her detention for any unnatural happening around the orphanage. Not once did the little girl complain when she had to spend the night in the attic. Most children were terrified only at the mention of the place. Marry didn't even cringe. There was definitely something odd about the girl.
Miss Patterson came to a stop in front of the study room. She ran her hand across her tight bound hair, and opened the door. The children were doing their homework quietly, heads bent over their books. The head mistress' eyes searched the room until they found the little girl in the corner. Her table was empty except for a small boy, with his back towards the door. The other children didn't like Marry much. They kept picking on her when she was younger, but learned soon enough that good things didn't happen to those who upset her. They left her alone most of the times, avoiding her company. The only person that didn't mind being around her was the boy that shared her table, Theo, who was as much of an outcast as Marry was. Miss Patterson gave a little sigh at their sight and then addressed the girl in the corner.
"Marry, would you please come with me? There is somebody asking for you."
Marry gave her a blank look while the other children turned to stare at her. Miss Patterson beckoned her. "Come on girl, I haven't got all day!"
The girl got up slowly and gave the little boy a long, deliberate look and moved towards the door. She was tall for her age, skinny but with a certainty in her walk that made her seem older. Her long, wavy, dark gold hair was pulled back in a tight plait, revealing a small, thin face which bore the bluest eyes Miss Patterson had ever seen.
She pulled the girl out of the room, and closed the door on the whispers that arose as soon as they stepped out of the door.
"There is a young man waiting in my office, Marry. And he seems very keen to make your acquaintance. I know there have been many persons in the past that have tried to receive you into their homes. They all turned out to be disappointments. But luck has shined upon you once again, my girl. This is not something common for a child your age. Therefore I must advise you to try your best. You never know when a chance like this will come about again, or if it ever will." The girl didn't say anything, but merely nodded in agreement. Miss Patterson always felt uneasy when dealing with the girl. So she ran her hand nervously over her tight bound hair and hoped against all hope that after this meeting she will not have to do it anymore. Then she opened the door to her office.
The room was small, with a small desk set in front of the big, glass window. The walls on each side were covered in and rows and rows of books. Two chairs sat in front of the desk, one of them occupied by a man with a kind smile on his face. He got to his feet as the two of them came in the room.
"Mr Longbottom, this is the young lady you were so eager to see" said the headmistress, nudging the little girl forward.
Smiling a kind smile, the young man stretched his big hand towards the little girl.
"My name is professor Longbottom. Nevile Longbotom."
Marry looked up at him, her face straight, shook his big hand and gave him a long, piercing stare. Neville's smile broadened, unimpressed by the little girl's attempt to intimidate him.
"Miss Headmistress, may I have a few minutes alone with miss Brown? We have important things to discuss, and I think it might be easier on both of us if we were to discuss them in private."
Miss Patterson nodded curtly and back away from the room, a small ray of hope budding in her mind. Maybe this meeting will turn out differently than she imagined, after all.
Inside the office Neville took a chair, offering the other one to Marry.
"So, Marry, I hear you've got quite a reputation here" Neville said, still smiling.
Marry raised her chin defiantly. The headmistress wasn't here, so she didn't need to behave anymore. This professor seemed like a nice person, but she didn't want to leave the orphanage. Not when Theo needed her there.
"It's true" she started defiantly. "I don't like people, I love getting into trouble and I don't need nor want to be adopted."
"I can see that, but that's not why I wanted to talk to you." Marry was taken aback for a second. Why would anybody want to talk to her, an orphan with no known relatives, if not about adoption?
"I would like to present you with an invitation for attending a very old and prestigious school" Marry, who put a lot of effort into not being a good student, gave him a puzzled look.
"Normally, we send out letters to the children's families but in some rare cases, such as yourself, we, the teachers, prefer to deliver the invitation in person, so as not to involve … unnecessary parties."
"This is because the people attending the school are, let's say, out of the ordinary. Not unlike yourself" Neville carried on, pleased to see that he got the girl's attention. "I know you are special, Marry. I know you can do things, amazing things, when you put your mind to it"
Marry didn't say anything. She noticed she could do things that scared other people. In the beginning she did it without knowing. Moving things just by thinking about it, transforming things into others, making stuff appear out of thin air. With time, she managed to control some of it, but there were times when she had to fight it coming out of her like a wave, crushing everything in its path. It sometimes hurt the people around her. She didn't want that. She didn't want to cause pain. She felt lonely and wanted to fit in, she wanted to be understood and accepted for what she was, though she didn't know herself what that thing really was
And now, this man, this stranger, seemed to be able to see the truth that the others just seemed to shy away from. He seemed to embrace this side of her, without even knowing the rest. But what if it was a hoax, a cruel joke played by the headmistress? Or perhaps by other teachers? She could see them being afraid of her, just like the children were.
"How…?" she managed to ask, her voice strangled by emotion.
"It's our job to know these things. It's our job to guide people like you. Just like we were, by others before us." Neville smiled as her eyes broadened with understanding.
"What are we then? How is it that I can I do all these things?" she asked, a bit frightened to hear the truth.
"You're a witch" he answered plainly. Marry looked taken aback for a second then scowled at him.
"Magic. Really? Like flying-on-brooms-black-cat-and-warts-on-my-nose, witch? Mister, I might be 11, but you can't expect me to believe I'm all that".
"Warts on the nose, maybe, if somebody puts a nasty, wart-growing hex on you. But you should be able to cure it. I mean, we teach that in school." Neville said mater of factly. "If you don't like brooms, there are of course other means of transport, but unfortunately you need to be a bit older to use them, and they're not nearly as much fun. You can have a cat if you want, though. I, myself, preferred a toad when I started my first year".
Marry gave him an incredulous look. So Neville pulled out what looked like a crooked piece of old wood from inside his sleeve and gave it whirl. The neatly stacked papers on the headmistress' desk rose in the air and started swirling in circles.
Marry was gaping now, her eyes wide with wonder. She did manage once to throw all the essays in the air in English class, but they only floated for a couple of moments, before they fell to the ground, creating havoc in class and causing their senior teacher, Miss Dubfire to faint. She wanted to be able to do what Neville was doing. Her heart fluttered rapidly in her chest, as the possibility of a new life formed in her mind.
With a flick of the wood, Neville set the papers back on the desk. He smiled seeing the eagerness in the little girl's eyes. He could only imagine how she felt. For it had been easy for him. He grew up in the magical world, with his grandma, a cookie old hag, but a witch nonetheless. He didn't have too much contact with Muggles, or any other part of the non magical world. He didn't know how it was to be blamed and judged because of your talents by others, how didn't not posses them. But he did understand how it felt to not fit in, to be considered a freak.
It was his first time delivering the admission letter. He was reluctant at first, being inexperienced in interacting with non magical folk. But looking at the elation on Marry's face, he was happy he accepted the challenge.
"How did you do that?" Marry asked, her cheeks flushed, her big eyes sparkly.