For Your Own Good
To Friends and Dreams
Speculation ran rampant in the Great Hall at Hogwarts on the morning of 2 September, not only about the upcoming school year and the young wizards and witches newly Sorted into their Houses, but over one young wizard who hadn't been Sorted, for the good and sufficient reason that he hadn't been present for the Hat to do its work.
The murmurs of the famous name circled the Hall, dying away here, picking up anew there. The Boy Who Lived, within the span of thirty seconds, had been dead for ten years, was a Squib taken in by his mother's Muggle relations, had been rescued from an orphans' home and un-aged into a baby to be adopted by pureblood relatives of his father, and was alive and well and living in Paris.
"I dreamed last night I met Harry Potter," said Ron Weasley to Henry Blake, his friend for several years through visits and letters, now also his dormmate as a Gryffindor first year. "Just bumped into him on the train to school. He was all right, but he didn't know very much about most things."
"Well, if you listen to some of these stories, that'd make sense," said Henry in his slightly nasal American accent, circling two fingers to indicate the entirety of the Hall. "If he'd been raised Muggle, or off in hiding somewhere, or both of those, he wouldn't. Except we'll probably never know, because the reason everybody's telling all these stories is that he's not here." He stabbed his fork moodily into his eggs. "I know I wouldn't want to be here, if I were him. Who'd want to spend all day, every day, getting stared at?"
Across the table, a burly second year turned to look Henry up and down. "Where'd you come from?" he demanded.
"Creedsdale, Pennsylvania, United States of America," Henry shot back without a pause.
"What're you doing here, then?" The second year sneered. "American schools wouldn't take you?"
"If it were up to me, I'd be at Adastra Academy right now." Henry checked his wristwatch. "Or more likely, still in my own bed sleeping, since it's three in the morning there. But my parents wanted me to go to Hogwarts like they did, so here I am." He pushed a rack of toast out of the way and offered his hand. "Henry Blake."
The second year looked askance at the hand for a moment, then met it with his own. "Cormac McLaggen," he said. "But if your parents went to Hogwarts, then why…"
"Mom moved to America for work, and Dad had family issues," said Henry smoothly. "They met there and settled down together, had me and my little sister, but they signed us up for Hogwarts because they never wanted us to lose sight of where we'd come from. How about you? Any brothers or sisters?"
"One sister. She's a fourth year, in Ravenclaw." McLaggen waved towards the table two down from the Gryffindors' own. "How old's your sister?"
"She's nine, but I've got two cousins about my same age. Jeanie's a Ravenclaw too, and Mal's a Hufflepuff." Henry glanced over at this table, situated beside the Gryffindors' own, where Mal and Neville were sitting side by side, chatting with their new Housemates. "Lucky little jerk. He gets to wear black and gold all the time."
McLaggen frowned. "What's black and gold got to do with anything?"
"It's the colors of our sports teams at home. Baseball, football—American football, that is—and hockey, for Muggles, and Quodpot and crosseball for wizards. All five of the teams have black and gold as their colors." Henry grinned. "We're the only city in the world that does it like that."
"Cool. What's your Quidditch team, or don't you have one yet?"
"Haven't decided. How about you?"
"Falmouth Falcons. Best team in the league." McLaggen stuck out his chest proudly. "I've got a spare poster of theirs you can have. Give it to you tonight in the common room."
"Sounds great. Thanks." Henry helped himself to a piece of toast from the rack and started loading his eggs and bacon on top of it.
"You're really good at that," said Ron after McLaggen was safely engaged on another conversation with a short-haired witch next to him.
"Hmm?" Henry asked through his mouthful of breakfast food.
"At that. You know." Ron waved his hand vaguely in McLaggen's direction. "He started out wanting to pick a fight, and ended up offering you a Quidditch poster."
"Oh, that." Henry looked up at the high table, where his parents sat side by side (Ron knew the relation existed, but doubted the rest of the school realized it, since "Blake, Henry" had been the second student Sorted before the feast began and Healer Thea Blake hadn't been introduced until pudding was appearing on the tables). "Well, you know Pearl. She's got a big mouth, and she tends to swing first and think afterwards, which means she gets herself into a lot of trouble that we have to get her out of. So I've gotten really good at playing dumb, pretending I don't realize that somebody's trying to be rude to me, and most of the time it works. They get so confused that I'm not getting angry, they calm down themselves, and then you're home free."
"Got it," said Ron, though he wasn't sure he did. "Where is Pearl, anyway? I don't see her."
"Down in the kitchens with her friend Cassie, getting spoiled rotten by the house-elves." Henry made a face. "They don't want to advertise it too much that some of the teachers bring their kids along with them to Hogwarts, because it looks like favoritism, so the girls are only allowed to eat in the Hall on special occasions. Pearl's probably going to have every secret passage in this castle mapped out before the year's even halfway over, and I won't have a chance to keep up with her because I've got classes!"
"Doesn't she have lessons of her own, though?" Ron chose another piece of toast for himself and started spreading on marmalade. "From your mum or somebody?"
"We went to regular school before this, but Cousin Cecy said Pearl could sit in on some of Cassie's homeschool sessions, and Aunt Gigi's going to chip in with that whenever she's not too busy." Henry nodded towards his aunt, who was chatting animatedly with Professor Charity Burbage of Muggle Studies. "So yeah, Pearl'll have some work to do, but she's fast at that kind of thing. Not as fast as Jeanie, of course."
"Nobody's as fast as Jeanie." Ron shook his head in wonder. "I've never seen anyone read like that. Her eyes don't even go back and forth on the page, they just go zipping straight down the center, like she's afraid the words are going to get away from her if she doesn't read them all right this very minute."
"Dad actually enchanted her books to make the words do something like that a couple times while we were growing up. Mix themselves up so the story didn't make any sense anymore, or fall to the bottom of the page, or jump completely off it and dance around her." Henry snickered. "You could hear her scream all over the house whenever he'd do that to her. It was priceless."
The bell rang just as Ron took his last sticky, crunchy bite. Henry downed the last of his morning pumpkin juice and set his goblet back on the table. "Tell you what we do need," he said under the noise of several hundred students climbing over benches and picking up bags. "We need a place to meet, to hang out together. You, me, Jeanie, Mal, Captain, Pearl. Keep your eyes open for any likely-looking hallways."
"You mean like the one on the third floor Dumbledore mentioned last night?" Ron slung his own bag over his shoulder. "I'd rather not die any painful deaths this year, thanks."
"No, but that still might be a place to start." Henry drummed his fingers thoughtfully against his opposite hand. "If people are staying off that floor entirely for fear they'll get too close to that corridor, maybe we could find a spot somewhere else up there and claim it for our own…"
"What is the matter with you?" Thea Blake demanded of her husband as the Great Hall began to clear. "You've been making faces since we woke up this morning, and you've barely eaten anything."
"That is serious," said Gigi, pulling a troubled face.
"Not anymore, it's not," John put in, making both women snicker.
"Har de har har." Ryan glared at his friend. "It's nothing, really. Just a leftover from a dream I had last night."
"What kind of dream?" Gigi sipped from her third cup of tea.
"Have you ever picked up a toad?"
"With your mouth?"
"Don't." Ryan pointed his finger down his throat. "I couldn't smell or taste anything else for hours after I'd had that thing in my mouth. And it wasn't just toad, either. It'd been around one of those awful plants that do Stinksap, what do you call them…"
"Mimbulus mimbletonia?" Thea suggested.
"That's the one." Ryan awarded his wife a seated bow. "So I had toad with a hint of Stinksap stuck in my mouth and nose, all afternoon and all night long. Blah. No fun."
"We could always see if Severus has anything to get rid of that for you." John nodded towards the Hogwarts Potions Master, who was standing at a side door of the Great Hall discussing something with his wife. "It might even freshen up that doggy breath of yours."
Ryan raised an eyebrow. "Mr. Padfoot wonders if Mr. Moony is harboring some hostility towards him."
"Mr. Moony is shocked, shocked, that Mr. Padfoot would consider such a thing, but does have a suspicion that Mr. Padfoot might know at what point the Dungbomb made its way into Mr. Moony's trunk."
"Mr. Padfoot would like to plead the Fifth Amendment on this subject."
"We're not in America anymore, Ryan."
"Shame you weren't here last year," said the fourth year Hufflepuff boy who had appointed himself Mal and Neville's House-brother (a thoroughly Badger institution, which none of the other Houses matched as far as the Hufflepuffs were aware, and didn't much care one way or another) as they made their way out of the Great Hall. "You could have met my House-sister. She was a lot of fun. What they call a Metamorphmagus, so she could look like just about anything just by wanting to."
Neville started to open his mouth, then closed it at Mal's quick headshake.
"I'm going to miss her, but at least she got what she wanted." The older boy paused on the stairs to gaze out the window. "Auror apprenticeship. It's hard, but worth it, and perfect for her. No matter what she did, she did it with everything she had. That's how she got all the marks she needed on her N.E.W.T.s, and she still managed to be a reserve Beater for our Quidditch team too, and tutor me through about half a year's worth of Defense Against the Dark Arts. The professor they got in as a substitute for Quirrell wasn't very good. I hope this new assistant professor knows a bit more about the subject…"
Turning back to the younger boys, he frowned. "Hang on a tick. Your hair wasn't like that before. Was it?"
"What, this?" Mal raked a careless hand through his untidy crop, now black spangled with gold rather than his usual middling brown. "No, it wasn't. You're talking about Dora Tonks, aren't you?"
"You know her?"
"She's a cousin of mine." Mal grinned. "And as you can see, I've got just a trace of Metamorphmagic myself. I don't use it often, because it takes a really long time for me to change anything, but now and again it's fun."
"You're faster than you used to be," said Neville. "I remember the summer we first met, it took you a whole minute to change your hair even from one shade of brown to another, and now you can do something like that in thirty seconds." He waggled his fingers. "I counted."
"Well, you're going to be popular at the Quidditch matches, I can see that much." Cedric Diggory chuckled, beckoning for the boys to follow him once more. "Just don't try any patterns with Snitches, all right? Dora did that one time last year while she was playing, and the actual Snitch tried to hide in her hair. We had a three-way collision on the pitch, her, me, and the Gryffindor Seeker…"
"More tea? Yes, please." Pearl allowed the house-elf in the Hogwarts tea towel kilt to replenish her cup, sniffing with pleasure at the floral fragrance of the herbal blend Cassie's father had created especially for his daughter. "Shall we have a toast?" she asked her friend across the small table they were sharing.
"Yes, let's." Cassie picked up her own teacup. "A toast to friends and dreams."
"To friends and dreams," Pearl echoed, tapping her cup against Cassie's. "If not friends in dreams. I don't have very many of those."
"Me neither." Cassie sighed, tucking her long, dark hair behind her ears so that it wouldn't fall into her tea. "I love my dream-aunt and -uncle very much, but there just aren't very many other kids living in our neighborhood, and most of them don't want to play with me, because I'm…" She shrugged one shoulder. "Different. Because I have a different last name than the grownups I live with, or because I like to read and I do well in school, or maybe because they might have seen me do accidental magic. But I don't care. Even in my dreams I have Aunt Amelia and Uncle Phil, and Mummy whenever she can come and see me. And in real life I have her all the time, and Daddy and Hogwarts too. And now you."
"And now me." Pearl wiggled with glee in her low, comfortable chair, looking around at the enormous, vaulted room of stone which was the Hogwarts kitchens, filled with squeaky house-elf voices as the contingent of these beings currently resident at the school scurried to keep up with the breakfasting needs of students and teachers. "We're going to have so much fun this year, and next year too! We'll learn everything about the castle, if you don't already know it," she added in fairness to her friend. Cassie had, after all, lived at Hogwarts for most of her life. "And then we can bargain with what we know, to make sure we never get left out of adventures because we're 'too little' or we 'can't keep up'." The phrases were the bane of her existence.
"What about your dreams, where you're Meghan?" Cassie tipped a spoonful of sugar into her tea and stirred it. "You said in your letters once that they weren't bad, just boring. Is that still right?"
"They're a little worse right now, ever since August when her mother heard some sad news from home." Even to such a good friend as Cassie, Pearl hesitated to reveal such details as her father's original name or the crimes of which his gray-world self had been convicted in the court of public opinion before she'd ever been born. "She's been crying at night, when she thinks Meghan's asleep and can't hear her, and she's working harder than ever on her private projects."
"What kind of private projects?" Cassie helped herself to half a toasted scone from the plate of pastries the house-elves had provided for the end of the girls' breakfast. "My dad does those, and sometimes they make him swear a lot." She giggled. "I learned all my best words from him when his cauldrons aren't behaving."
Pearl smiled at the thought of this, but couldn't maintain the expression for long. "It's not just potions Meghan's mother's working with," she said. "She has all kinds of samples that've been taken from people, magical people and Muggles, and all different blood statuses of magical people, pureblood, half-blood, and Muggleborn. Squibs too. And she does tests on them, and writes down her results, and then sometimes she sends Meghan to stay with her aunt Amy and goes out late at night and doesn't come back until morning. I think, when she does that, she's going to the hospital to do experiments on actual people."
Cassie gasped. "Experiments? You mean like—"
"Nothing bad, I don't think," said Pearl hastily. "Just…tests. Meghan's sneaked some looks at her logbooks, where she writes everything down, and I think she's trying to find out where magic comes from, and where it lives, and how Muggleborns and Squibs happen. Whether magic depends on something in a person's body, in their DNA, or whether it's all in the soul, or even if it's a cross between the two."
"People have been trying to find that out for thousands of years." Cassie blew out her breath. "Pearl, you scared me! I thought it was something awful, like she was trying to breed dementors, or torturing Squib kids to try and make their magic come out!"
Pearl shook her head. "I think it's the opposite," she said quietly. "I think she's trying to find out if there's any way to take magic away from a person who has it. And she'd prefer to do it without hurting them, but if she has to hurt them, she will. Because she thinks keeping on having magic will hurt them more than taking it away would do, so she's willing to hurt them a little bit now to save them a lot more pain in the future."
"But…" Cassie stared open-mouthed at her friend. Clearly she couldn't decide which part of this to refute first. "But magic doesn't hurt!" she finally got out. "Magic's wonderful!"
"Not to her." Pearl stared into the depths of her teacup, the bits and pieces of herb leaves in the liquid drifting without her conscious intent into the shape of a big, broad-faced dog. "To her, magic only means pain. She met Meghan's dad because they both had magic, and then he betrayed her and their friends because he believed in a different sort of magic, and killed a lot of people with some really, really Dark magic. So she hates her magic and wants to find some way to get rid of it, and to get rid of Meghan's, too."
"That's really sad." Cassie sniffled a little over her teacup. "But it's only in your dreams, right? Your real mum isn't like that?"
"No, she's not." Pearl took a sip of her tea, letting the bright, sweet flavors swirl in her mouth and chase some of her bad mood away. "But that's because my dad, my real dad, isn't an evil crazy murderer. He just writes them in his books."
"I liked best the one about the Strange Lady, with her magical silver knife that could cut a doorway into nowhere." Cassie shivered deliciously. "And if she knocked you through that doorway, you'd be lost in nowhere forever, unless somebody you loved more than life called your full name and told you to come home…"
"And that story, and what Dad based it on, made my real mom start a project of her own, back when my dad first wrote it, when I was really little. Like, five." Pearl held out her hand beside her chair to indicate how little she meant. "Back during the war, some of the Death Eaters used spells so Dark that the people they hurt ended up getting their minds and souls trapped, either inside of themselves or outside of everything. It's what happened to my Aunt Gigi's mom and dad. Mom's been researching for years now, and she thinks she might be close to brewing a potion that would help them find a way back from whatever nowhere they're in." She smiled a little. "She's hoping your dad will help her finish it, now that we're here."
"Of course he will." Cassie nodded hard. "Why wouldn't he?"
One or two reasons came to Pearl's mind, but she held her peace. Cassie, after all, didn't yet know the history between her father and Pearl's parents and uncle. "It'll probably still have to finish up with someone who loves them calling their name and telling them to come home," she said instead, taking the other half of Cassie's scone. "I hope it doesn't have to be someone magical. Aunt Gigi isn't, or hardly any."
"Isn't she? I didn't know that." Cassie dusted scone crumbs from her hands. "Did she need special permission to come to Hogwarts, then? I know there are Muggle-repelling spells all over the castle."
"She got it. From the Headmaster himself, no less." Pearl drew herself up grandly, as much as this was possible in such a comfortable chair. "Written permission for Gigi Rose Reynolds to enter the premises of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, signed, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore." She grinned. "She's going to help Professor Burbage set up all kinds of things for her Muggle Studies classes. When she's not teaching us, that is."
"I can't wait." Cassie took another drink of her tea, then began to swirl the dregs clockwise in her cup. "I love getting lessons from Mum, but Mum's a pureblood, and sometimes it really shows. Dad knows a lot about both worlds, Muggle and magical, but he's busy a lot of the time, especially during the school year. So if we get lessons from both my mum and your aunt…"
"Then we'll have a good balance." It was one of Pearl's favorite concepts, both in abstract things such as life and in more concrete matters like her dances or her block sculptures. "That's one of the other reasons I don't like my dreams. With just me and Mama and Aunt Amy, it always feels unbalanced. Like trying to dance on a stage with a whole lot of rotten planks, so you're never sure where it's safe to step."
Cassie turned over her teacup onto her saucer, then looked up at Pearl before she lifted it. "If your mum in the dreams doesn't like magic that much…" She had to stop for a nervous swallow before she went on. "Is she even going to let you come to Hogwarts when you're old enough? Or let Meghan, I should say."
"No, she is." A little, twisted smile found its way to Pearl's lips. "She knows untrained magic is really and truly dangerous, and she doesn't want that for her daughter. But she doesn't want to watch it or get involved with it either, so she put in all the right paperwork to send Meghan thousands of miles away to learn about magic." She sighed, letting go once again of the painful chill which seemed to live permanently inside her chest in the gray world. "At least we know we'll have each other. Right?"
"Right." Cassie nodded firmly. "And I know somebody else I'll have too." She smiled a small, sneaky smile. "I've been asking Mummy questions for years, in the dreams. Careful questions, never too much at one time, but I always wrote down the answers. Somewhere she'd never think to look." Her hands shaped vertical cylinders and a flame beneath them. "In the margins of the instruction book for the chemistry set Uncle Will got me when I was six. And all those answers added up together mean my dream-dad is exactly where he ought to be. He's here." She stamped her foot on the stone floor. "Here at Hogwarts."
"So you'll see him when you get here!" Pearl caught her breath at the thought of the astonished, tearful discovery, whether it took place in the Great Hall in front of everyone or in the confines of an office or even in a deserted stretch of corridor. "But how will he know you're you? If he's like everybody else in the dreams, he'll think this life is the dream. So you could just be some random girl whose face looks like his dream-daughter."
"Uh-uh." Cassie shook her head smugly. "Mummy was too clever for that. As long as he's not being stupid, both names she gave me will tell him I ought to belong to him. It's too much of a coincidence otherwise, and Dad always says he doesn't believe in coincidence." She lifted her teacup and dipped her finger into the dregs of tea in her saucer, then used it to write out a name on the white tablecloth. "This is what I'll be Sorted by, in that world," she said, sitting back.
Pearl leaned forward to see what her friend had written, and giggled.
The name scribed in small, flowing handwriting on the tablecloth was Cassandra Evans.
*throws canon and mainline DV in blender, hits frappe, serves results* Hope you're still enjoying. More soon!