Oh, Susan tipping over the potion was deliberately done in order to avoid making Daphne too perfect and able to deal with any situation. She didn't have a solution, someone else had to help her.
And too bad for Daphne that Ron isn't giving up on 'Harry' playing Quidditch quite that easily.
Disclaimer: If I could cup my hands and shout from the top of the exact replica of Hogwarts castle constructed entirely out of gold bricks due to any connection whatsoever to the ownership of Harry Potter, the thing I might shout is an answer to why the psuedo-horcrux in Harry wasn't destroyed when he was bitten by the Basilisk fang, one of the only things capable of destroying horcruxes (and most likely not something phoenix tears would have saved, considering how dark the horcruxes are).
By the end of the week, Ron still hadn't stopped complaining about 'Harry' leaving the Quidditch team. Daphne's rather pointed remark that resigning meant that there was an open space on the team that Ron could try out for if he was really that invested had been met with a blank look, followed by protests that Ron wasn't good at playing Seeker, that 'Harry' was and that he shouldn't throw that away.
It was an argument that she had tried to avoid as much as possible. Which just ended up making things worse, as the Weasley boy realized right away that Harry was avoiding him.
It would have been easier if Daphne could have completely blamed Ron. Unfortunately, it wasn't as simple as that. While the boy was being a bit of an arse about it, the fact was that she, as Harry, was acting different. The Harry that Ron knew most likely would not have quit the Quidditch team the way that she had. So his frustration and confusion was understandable.
But that didn't mean she was going to cater to it either. She had things to do, things to focus on that actually mattered more than a dumb sport. If those priorities bothered the Weasley boy, there was nothing Daphne could do about that other than bear through his repeated arguments.
Not that she did much during Ron's attempts to convince 'him' to rejoin the team other than sit quietly and let the boy talk. If there was one thing she could do better than anyone else she knew, it was be patient. Once in a while, Ron would pause in the midst of one great Quidditch story or another, and look at 'Harry' as though expecting 'him' to be in awe over the kind of life he could have just by joining the team again. Instead, he always found 'Harry' simply watching him without comment or apparent opinion.
That was simply the way that Daphne had come to deal with arguments in her own life as she grew up. Some people became argumentative at the drop of a hat, while others passively accepted everything rather than go against the grain. Either example either fell backward or pushed forward during such arguments, letting others walk over them, or bullheadedly shoving their own opinion.
Daphne, in contrast, simply stood in place. She let others argue, let them make their arguments. If she felt they were right, she would, naturally, be swayed. But when they were wrong, she didn't tend to openly argue that fact except in certain cases, such as her defense of Ginny Weasley's placement. The majority of the time, she simply outlasted people. She would let them debate, complain, demand, even threaten or cajole, all while she remained stoic, presenting as blank of an expression as possible. Most people would rant for awhile, see they were getting no reaction from her, and make a final comment before leaving.
In her opinion, it was a much better way of solving disputes than actually arguing back. In most cases, people weren't going to be convinced anyway, so she would quite literally be wasting her breath. Their words, even when they turned ugly, weren't going to hurt her.
That method of handling disagreements, presenting a blank expression and not outwardly reacting to any attempt at getting a rise out of her, had made the other students last year give Daphne the nickname of 'Ice Queen', as if she didn't care about anything or anyone, or that she thought she was better than they were. It wasn't true. She did care, and she did listen to what people said. She just didn't see the point of wasting her breath or energy when frustrating the other person into giving up because of her lack of reaction accomplished just as much as a drawn out argument would have.
That had worked especially well once she had gained the reputation as someone who didn't engage in such arguments, because most people stopped trying to drag her into them. Granted, there were still a few that tried to prod for a reaction, or who made a point of spreading nasty gossip, but she ignored the talk that went on behind her back even more easily than she ignored the talk that came to her face.
It wasn't as though she could explain why she had come to avoid open arguments and debates, after all. She couldn't tell people that she had seen firsthand what arguments could escalate into when the men who had abducted her years ago couldn't settle on what they wanted to do with her. Not only had her own childish arguments accomplished nothing, but the men had bickered back and forth over killing her or not killing her until violence erupted and they had all died in their own crossfire.
Unfortunately, all of that reputation meant nothing now that she wasn't being herself. As Harry Potter, he was expected to act a certain way. Most of all, in this case, he was expected to be giddy about Quidditch, and to be inseparable best friends with Ron Weasley. At the very least, 'Harry' probably should have gotten into a heated debate with the other boy or something.
Instead, 'Harry' was simply passively allowing Ron to make all the arguments he wanted, and then dismissing them without comment or debate. It had apparently frustrated the boy so much that he had taken to eating lunch with the remaining members of the Quidditch team as they continued to plot for how they could lure their Seeker back to the field.
Part of Daphne felt bad about that. She didn't want to damage the real Harry's relationship with his best friend. But there was no way around it. Ron was focused on the Quidditch thing, and her sole attempt to explain that he had to leave the team to focus on the clearly imminent return of they-should-know-who had been met with bewilderment. To Ron, the danger wasn't immediate and obvious, so they had time to do whatever they wanted to do.
Ron Weasley wasn't a bad person. He simply tended to focus completely on what was in front of him. A vague, possible threat, be it detention for breaking a rule or the end of the wizarding world due to the return of the most evil dark wizard they had ever known, was an uncertain future that he could ignore. Quidditch was in front of him, while the Dark Lord hadn't publicly shown himself. When an actual threat appeared, Daphne was certain that Ron would be just as brave as any Gryffindor, throwing himself at it while remaining (mostly) loyal to his convictions. But a threat that was simply possible, that lurked in the shadows rather than showing itself and giving him something to look at and react to, was a threat that Ron found easy to ignore and put aside.
Hermione, on the other hand, expressed nothing but admiration for 'Harry's' new-found studiousness. She had wanted to participate in the tutoring sessions with Tonks, but Daphne had told the girl that the professors most likely wouldn't allow it. Not at first, anyway. He had told Hermione to let things sit for a few weeks, and then he would bring up the possibility, once Professor Dumbledore and McGonagall saw that 'Harry' wasn't spontaneously combusting from all of the extra practice. Or, to be more accurate, wasn't making other people spontaneously combust.
The bushy-haired Gryffindor hadn't liked the idea of missing out, to put it mildly. But she had recognized the point of what 'Harry' had been saying, so she was willing to let it go, for the time being.
Night and day, Ron and Hermione were, night and day.
Not that Hermione had stopped making suggestions for what 'Harry' should ask Tonks, or requests about how long it would be before 'he' brought up the idea of her joining them, and so on and so forth.
Which meant that, as Daphne found her seat in History of Magic on Friday afternoon, she had Ron rambling on about how playing Quidditch enhanced reflexes and was therefore very good Dark Lord combat training (his latest tactic) in one ear, while Hermione babbled about which kind of capture spell would be best to learn from the trainee Auror in the other ear.
At least Binns wasn't still teaching the class. In that case, Hermione and Ron would have been free to continue going on and on throughout the period. Even better, the fact that their new teacher was Ron's older brother meant that the Weasley boy would have to behave himself even more than if it was a normal professor.
Or so she hoped. And she was studiously telling herself that the reprieve from the boy's constant attempts to change 'Harry's' mind about Quidditch was the only reason she was looking forward to this particular teacher.
Not that she was the only one who had been paying attention to the new History of Magic professor. Between him and Professor Lockhart, roughly half the school was spending their time sighing dreamily.
The class, a combination of Gryffindors and Ravenclaws, had been chatting for a few minutes by the time the door opened and Professor Weasley strode in, using his wand to float a literal pile of books along in front of him.
"Sorry I'm late. Bad first day of class, I know." He gave a flick of his wand, and the random mess of books rapidly flew into neatly sorted stacks along his desk.
Leaning against the desk, Professor Weasley plucked one of the books up into his hand before he began to speak again. "I'm going to guess that no one could have slept through the Headmaster's introduction speech, so you all probably know who I am. Or if you didn't, the sound of my little brother repeatedly hitting his head against the desk back there gave it away."
There were a few snickers, and glances toward where Ron was currently doing his best to melt into his chair.
"But just in case," the older Weasley continued. "My name's Bill Weasley. I'd tell you to just use my first name, but for school purposes, I've been told that you have to stick to Professor when we're in class. So Professor Bill it is."
"Now, believe it or not, but it wasn't that long ago that I was sitting on that side of the room. So I know exactly how this class used to go. Professor Binns would talk on and on and on, and you'd learn everything you actually needed to know from the books." He managed not to look directly at his brother while adding, "or by copying off of people who did learn from the books."
"But I'm afraid that you're not going to be able to nap anymore. I couldn't match the exact cadence of Professor Binss's speech anyway, so everyone who depended on that to lull them to sleep would be out of luck in any case."
Daphne glanced first one way, then the other to see how both of Harry's friends were taking this. Ron was so embarrassed it looked as though he was seriously considering bolting from the room. The color of his face nearly matched that of his hair.
By contrast, Hermione was positively beaming. The idea of having a teacher that might actually teach her something was almost enough to make the little bookworm bounce.
Daphne would have found that even more amusing, if she hadn't felt a bit like bouncing herself. Binns really had been a horrid teacher, as far as that went. It would be fantastic if Professor Weas- Professor Bill could actively teach them. She might find the school-obsessed girl a bit of an annoying know-it-all, but having a real History teacher was a good thing.
"So before we get started with handing out the books," the man was going on. "Does anyone have any questions?"
Every time it had happened in the last week, Hermione always looked positively astounded whenever 'Harry's' hand was up before hers. This time was no exception. She stared with her mouth open, looking as though she had forgotten that her own hand was halfway raised. On the other side of Daphne, Ron had snapped out of his apparent shame to gape as well.
"Harry?" Professor Bill nodded that way. "You have a question?"
Daphne nodded. "Yeah, where's Professor Binns?" She added after a moment, "For that matter, where's all the ghosts?" Over the past week, she had been all over the school. None of the ghosts were present. Binns was gone, as were all four House Ghosts, and even Peeves. There were no ghosts anywhere in the school. She hadn't even seen Moaning Myrtle any of the times she had futilely investigated the second floor bathroom where she was still certain the two men she had been following had disappeared.
People had been wondering the same thing, though up to that point no one that Daphne had seen had managed to get a straight answer out of a teacher. She had chosen to save up the question for the newest Professor (that seemed halfway competent).
Professor Bill cleared his throat while gazing around the room. "I take it Harry isn't the only one wondering that?" Receiving an assortment of agreement, he gave them a faint smile. "All right, well I'll tell you as much as I know. Honestly, it's not much. The fact is, we don't know where the ghosts are."
That started some confused murmuring, and Ron blurted out, "What'd they do, wander off?"
Shrugging, Professor Bill offered, "Probably not. But we don't know. Neither does Professor Dumbledore. All we know is that one day over the summer the ghosts just weren't here. No one knows what happened to them, why they disappeared, if it was their choice, or if something happened to them."
"Let me get this straight." Sophie Roper, one of the Gryffindor girls that shared a dormitory with Hermione, spoke up. "First a... a student dies last year and the professor responsible disappears. Then the ghosts all disappear without a trace over the summer. And when we arrive, our train drives itself into the lake and nearly drowns everyone. Why are we still here, exactly?"
Kevin Entwhistle, a Ravenclaw who sat across from Daphne, put in his own remark. "You wanna leave? Aren't Gryffindors supposed to be brave?"
"Brave doesn't mean blind." Sophie shot back. "If there's danger, we shouldn't sit here and wait for it to pick us off."
"No one's getting picked off." Professor Bill cut in. "Trust me, if it becomes too dangerous to be here, Professor Dumbledore will move everyone. But the fact is, being under the same roof as the headmaster is one of the safest places to be, no matter what else is going on."
"Tell that to Greengrass." Daphne heard someone mutter, and found more than one person staring at 'Harry'. It was almost enough to make her want to say that she wasn't really dead. But somehow she doubted that finding out that Dumbledore's personal favorite boy hero was the one who had died under his watch was going to reassure anyone.
Then it was Saturday, the first day for 'Harry's' tutoring from Tonks. Ron had made one last concentrated effort to change 'his' mind, all but pleading with 'Harry' to go back to the Quidditch team and move his tutoring to another time. He had decided to make what he called a compromise by saying that 'Harry' could just play in the morning and afternoon, then be tutored at night.
Thankfully, it had been Hermione who had pointed out that Quidditch was an exhausting sport, and that if 'Harry' threw 'himself' into it, he would be too exhausted to learn or practice any magic. And if 'he' took it easy in Quidditch in order to save 'his' strength, then what was the point?
Ron clearly still hadn't liked it, and he'd gazed pleadingly after 'Harry' the whole time Daphne was making her way out of the Great Hall after breakfast. Apparently the boy had put a lot of stock into his best friend being Seeker of the Quidditch team. Maybe losing that would be good for him. Riding the coattails of his friend for the next seven years rather than developing his own life and skills was bound to end up with a lot of misunderstandings and jealousy eventually.
'Harry' had been told by Professor McGonagall to meet 'his' new tutor in an unused classroom on the sixth floor. The Deputy Headmistress had given 'Harry' a bit of parchment with some handwritten directions and landmarks for him to pay attention to, and Daphne carefully followed them as she came off the stairs. The suit of armor with the pink feather had been on the opposite side of the stairwell from where it had been when McGonagall had written the directions, where she had described a painting of dancing hippos there was merely a blue and white tapestry.
Fortunately, other than those mostly cosmetic differences, the directions worked well enough, and Daphne soon found herself standing outside of a classroom in a clearly long-ignored corner of the castle.
As she reached up to knock on the door, Daphne paused when she noticed words engraved on the wood. The engraving read, 'The castle believes what others may doubt. The teachings within while the teacher without.'
The teachings within while the teacher without. Was that even a sentence? Daphne traced her fingers over the words in the wood, frowning thoughtfully. It was probably just rubbish, and yet she still wanted to know what it meant, if anything.
While she was still processing, the door swung open, and she was nearly bowled over before Tonks caught herself. "Oh hey, there you are." The older girl's hair was currently long, nearly reaching her ankles, and had been colored a different, vibrant shade every few couple of inches. "I was just coming to find out if you'd gotten lost."
"Nope." Daphne shook her head. "Right here." She reached past the other girl to touch the engraved words on the door. "What does this mean?"
Turning slightly to see what she was indicating, Tonks shrugged. "Dunno. Maybe just some nonsense phrase some kids made up whenever this classroom was actually used." She waggled her fingers at 'Harry'. "Or maybe it's a clue to reach the Chamber of Secrets."
"The Chamber of Whatsits?" Daphne inclined her head curiously, glancing at the phrase again.
Tonks winced, switching from wiggling her fingers to waving her hands quickly. "Nothing. Never mind. Forget I said anything. Come on, we've got learnings to do." Daphne found her arm seized and then she was hauled into the room.
It was obvious that someone had recently scrubbed the place. There was no dust anywhere, the wooden floor was squeaky clean and still slightly damp, and the desks that had been stacked on top of one another in one side of the room were all but sparkling.
Noticing 'Harry's' examination, Tonks gave another helpless shrug. "It was a mess this morning. Desks just tossed everywhere, dust on everything, mold that was about to develop the ability to talk. I asked one of the elves in the kitchen if they could clean up a little area that we could use. Two hours later I come back and find this."
"They like helping." Daphne said quietly, thinking briefly of her own family's house-elves. Lanky, the elf who had taught her how to cook, and Bripsy, the elf that had been in charge of cleaning the family's rooms and their clothes.
"How many house-elves have you met, Harry?" Tonks wondered. "I thought you grew up with muggles."
Merlin's blood. Daphne cursed inwardly and then made herself blink at the question. "Oh you know, I've seen them around the castle." She changed the subject before the other woman could pry further. "So you want me to drop the whole Chamber of Secrets thing, huh?"
Blanching, Tonks pointed at 'him'. "Don't say that where anyone can hear you. The teachers are really touchy about anyone bringing it up. If they find out I started another search..."
She was definitely interested in whatever that was about, but Daphne picked her battles. She could get something better out of Tonks than information on whatever this Chamber of Secrets was. Instead, she chose a different tact. "Okay, if I don't bring it up again, I want to ask about something else."
Tonks regarded 'him' for a moment, clearly considering her options before she waved a hand. "Okay, whatever. Let's hear the question."
"What do you know about the ghosts disappearing?" Daphne promptly asked. She was even more convinced after hearing from Professor Bill about the lack of explanation that it had to be related somehow to what was going on with he-whose-name-was-obscured. She just couldn't figure out how the two puzzle pieces fit.
Groaning, Tonks shot 'Harry' a dirty look. "Couldn't you ask something simple? Preferably something that doesn't involve passing on potentially classified information to a minor. Why do you want to know about that?"
In response, Daphne gave the older girl the most innocent, blank look she could muster. "I'm just curious?"
"Bollocks." Tonks continued to look at 'him' doubtfully. "You're trying to figure out if there's something you can do about it, when the best thing you can do is stay put and let the others deal with it."
"Look at it this way," Daphne pointed out. "If you don't tell me what you know, I'm just going to go looking for answers somewhere else. Somewhere I might get in trouble. I'd go wandering and find some nasty element to tell me what I want to know, maybe get myself-"
"Oh shut up." Rolling her eyes, Tonks poked 'him'. "Do not tell anyone that I'm talking about this, or we'll both be in the fire without a wand. But fine, the truth is, no one knows much. Dumbledore and Moody have both been all over this place from top to bottom, and there's no sign of any ghosts, and no indication of what made them disappear. They just poofed, gone."
Frowning at that, Daphne considered. "Is this the only place they've disappeared from?"
Tonks raised an eyebrow. "I think so. Why?"
"Because if there are still ghosts in other places, they might be able to come here and tell someone what happened to the other ghosts."
"Oh yeah, Dumbledore thought of that too." Tonks acknowledged. "But he's having trouble getting any ghost to agree to come check this place out. Ghosts are really superstitious, you know. They hear about bad things happening to one of them, and the rest turn chicken. Since no one knows exactly why the ghosts here disappeared, the rest of the ghosts are assuming the worst. They won't get within screaming distance of Hogwarts. But the last I heard, they were having better luck with the Headless Hunt."
"Headless Hunt?" Daphne echoed in confusion.
Nodding, Tonks explained. "It's a group of ghosts that lost their heads when they died. They go around playing games. It's fun to watch, if you don't mind morbid things. We saw them a couple times here at Hogwarts when they'd visit for their big party. Nearly Headless Nick's been trying to join them for decades, but they won't let him in since he's not technically headless. Hufflepuff's Fat Friar usually has to listen to Nick moaning about it every time they deny him."
"Anyway," she continued. "The Hunt's supposed to be really into dangerous, creepy things. Dumbledore thinks he can convince them to come to the castle and see if they sense anything. But it'll take awhile."
Frowning, Daphne let her thoughts drift briefly. Ghosts wouldn't come here just in case something bad had happened to the ones that had vanished. People couldn't remember the name of the most evil and infamous dark wizard in recent history, and the train had driven itself into the lake when they arrived.
How on earth was any of this connected to each other? She was racking her brain, trying to figure out if the loss of the ghosts could be connected to the stone that Quirrel had run off with. But surely that would have occurred to the Headmaster. There had to be another relation, something she hadn't thought of. Something that was eluding even Professor Dumbledore, since he clearly didn't know what was going on either if he had been reduced to sending for ghosts to maybe find things out.
"Oy." Tonks poked 'him' a little more firmly in the shoulder. "Focus. Let's see how much you think you know about defending yourself already, Mr. Boy-Who-Lived."
"Get it, boy!" Sophie Roper heaved the ball into the air, raised the beater bat that she had borrowed from the equipment shed, and sent the ball flying off into the distance. The ball arced up, soaring far off into the distance before dropping out of sight in the tall grass on the edge of the lake.
Instantly, Valefar leapt after the ball. The large dog went tearing across the field, his dark fur turning him into an almost ominous shadow as he wound his way through the tall grass.
The idle voice came from behind, and Sophie turned to look over her shoulder. "Oh, hey, Professor Bill." She looked back to where Valefar was already on his way back, ball clutched tightly in his mouth. "Yeah, I guess." She took the slobber-covered ball away from the dog while he sniffed at Professor Bill's hands and pants.
The man let the animal sniff at his open hand while he looked at Sophie, who was turning the ball over in her hand as she avoided looking at him. "You practicing for the team?"
Her eyes rolled. "Beater for the Quidditch team? Not bloody likely. A certain pair of twins have those positions all locked up." She shrugged. "Besides, I'm still not sure I understand the rules. I just felt like hitting some balls for Valefar."
Bill nodded, chuckling slightly. "Fred and George won't be on the team forever. They have to graduate at some point. That or mum'll kill them if they don't, and you can take their positions anyway." He winked at the last, then went on. "So about yesterday..."
"I'm sorry, all right?" Sophie threw the ball up in the air and gave it a hard crack with the bat, sending it soaring once more. The dog bolted onto the chase. "Just give me detention for badmouthing the school or questioning Saint Dumbledore or whatever."
Professor Bill looked taken aback. "I'm sorry, what? Why would I give you detention, exactly?"
She shot a look at him over her shoulder. "Like I said, for saying a single word about how this place might not be safe. For being the Gryffindor who doesn't blindly trust precious, perfect Dumbledore." Sophie took the ball back from Valefar and threw it up once more. "For being the only person that seems to remember that Dumbledore was here when that girl died last year!" Her words, which had grown louder as she spoke, were punctuated at the end by the loud crack of the bat as she launched the ball once again.
Shaking his head, Professor Bill regarded her. "I'm not giving you detention for questioning your safety, Sophie. Or anyone else's."
The ball had carried further that time than before. Sophie watched the grass in the distance move as the dog searched for it before she responded. "You sure I shouldn't be kicked out of Gryffindor House for it?" That was what several of her house mates seemed to think, which was the reason she was out here by the lake by herself. Besides her dog, at least.
It would have been worse last year, before she'd had Valefar. If she hadn't found him, she'd really be alone.
The new History of Magic professor was quiet for a moment before he spoke again. "No, Sophie, asking questions, being worried, raising concerns, none of that is bad. Just as long as you don't let fear paralyze you."
"Do I look paralyzed?" She asked while taking the ball back from Valefar, who had finally returned. "I just think it's a stupid idea to decide, 'oh we have this super powerful wizard on our side, so we don't have to worry at all, la dee da...'"
"You sound awfully cynical for a twelve year old." Professor Bill remarked.
Sophie turned the ball over in her hand, looking back at the teacher. "Hey that's funny. I had no idea that in the wizarding world, 'realistic and not blinded by hero worship' meant the same thing as cynical. Learn something new every day."
The professor coughed, shaking his head as he looked away. "You don't mince words, do you?"
"I don't see the point to it." Sophie replied, crouching to scratch her dog's side and back. "People are too afraid to say what they mean. There'd be a lot less stupid miscommunication in the world if people would just be honest."
"Okay then, I'll be honest." Professor Bill reached out to scratch Valefar behind the ear. "Do you feel unsafe here, Sophie? Do you feel like you're in danger?"
She snorted at that, burying her face in the dog's fur briefly before responding. "Unsafe? I haven't felt completely safe since we found out that one of the people that was supposed to teach and protect us last year was a bad guy the whole time. A bad guy that killed one of us. And then got away. Do you guys get that? He killed one of our classmates and then escaped. How powerful could Dumbledore be if he let that happen?"
Professor Bill sighed a little, running a hand over Valefar's back as he considered his response. "I don't suppose saying that was part of the reason I was hired would make you feel any better?"
Sophie gave the man a doubtful look. "No offense, Professor Rugged, but what're you gonna do that Dumbledore couldn't?"
"Not much." The man answered truthfully. "Anything I can do, the Headmaster can do a thousand times better. But he can't be everywhere at once, and he needed more eyes that he knows he can trust to help out."
She was quiet for a few seconds after that, merely petting the dog while also checking for any bugs that might have gotten into his fur. "You're not just some history geek then? What are you, a dragon tamer?"
"Nah," Professor Bill drawled. "That's my brother." He winked when she looked at him. "I was working for Gringotts as a curse-breaker before Dumbledore asked for some help. And there are some other security measures he's put into place already that you're not seeing."
It took a moment before Sophie responded again, finally pushing herself to her feet. "You know how I found out I was a witch?" When the man shook his head, she continued. "I made my little brother disappear."
He frowned at that. "You turned your brother invisible?"
She shook her head, and rubbed the back of her hand at her eye briefly. "No. I mean he was annoying me. Lennon's two years younger than me, and he always wanted to go everywhere I went. He wanted to hang out with my friends, go to the mall when we went, see every movie we did. He wouldn't leave me alone."
She was turning the bat over in her hand agitatedly as she went on. "Finally I'd just had enough. I turned to him and I screamed at him. I said that I never wanted to see him again and that I wished he'd go away."
The bat came down hard into the dirt with a crack that made both man and dog jump. "BAM! Lennon was gone. Vanished completely. I made my brother disappear, and no one's found him yet. Some people from the Improper Use of Magic Office showed up. They're the ones who told me about being a witch, about magic being real and what I did. They went looking for Lennon, and I had to answer a bunch of questions. What I was thinking about, what time of day it was, which direction we were both facing, the exact words I used. But they couldn't find him. They still haven't. I was barely eleven years old, and I think I... I think he's gone forever."
Sophie was looking down at the ground now, while Valefar nudged up against her. Her arms went around the dog's neck while she sank to her knees.
"I'm sorry." Bill said quietly, his hand moving to her shoulder.
Her voice was hollow. "I was trying to make a point, not make you feel sorry for me. I want to be a witch, I want to learn magic, because maybe I can figure out a way to bring him back. A way to undo what I did."
"But if I die before that happens, then he really is gone forever. So they can call me the worst Gryffindor all they want. I'm not taking stupid chances, and I'm not going to start blindly worshipping Saint Dumbledore, when even he couldn't find a way to bring my brother back. No one could."
She stood once again, gripping the bat in her hand. "I don't get to go home. Not until I fix this. They told me, the people from the Ministry did, that they were going to have to adjust our parents memories so that they didn't know their son was gone, until he could be found. Something about the magical secret law or whatever."
Sophie looked toward him while she turned the ball over in her hand. "So I told them to erase me from their memories too. So now when Hogwarts closes, I go stay at this little home for unclaimed students in Diagon Alley."
Professor Bill looked stricken at that. "Why? Why would you do that?"
"It's not so bad there. I met Valefar hanging out in the backyard over the summer. And because..." Sophie bit her lip hard. "Partly because I didn't want to see them act normal about Lennon being gone. I didn't want to see them carrying on like he never existed. And partly because, if he doesn't get to exist, then I shouldn't exist either. I can't... just go back to normal and act like an only child."
His hand squeezed her shoulder. "You need your parents, Sophie. You can't just-"
"I can't!" She shouted, making the dog jump once again. "You're right, I can't! I can't let myself be an only child! Because that's what I was wishing for when I made Lennon disappear. I was wishing that I could be an only child, because I was so annoyed! But now, now he's gone and if I get to be an only child, if I get to be there with mum and dad and he's not there, it means the spell is complete. As long as I'm not their child, as long as we're both gone and they don't remember either of us, then I don't get my whole wish, the spell isn't complete, and I can still undo it!"
The man stared at Sophie, then reached for her. She jerked back away from him, turning away to throw the ball up into the air one more time before letting the bat smack into it loudly. The dog went galloping after it, while she muttered, "Like I said, I don't care if I am the worst Gryffindor who ever lived. I'm going to live long enough to find a way to bring my brother back. Then our whole family can be fixed."
This time, Bill didn't let her pull away. He took the girl's arm and turned her to him so that he could hug her. He felt her stiffen at first, then relax marginally. "You are not the worst Gryffindor." He told her quietly.
Her last strike had sent the ball further than it had gone before. The ball sailed all the way out into the lake. Heedless of the water's chill, the dog splashed in after it.
After all, the cold of the water was nothing compared to what the dog had experienced for more than a decade before that summer. The thought of those long years was enough to make Sirius Black shudder fearfully, before he caught the floating ball in his mouth and went rushing back to the girl who had let him get this far into Hogwarts.