Max Greene was a short boy, with fluffy black hair and a cheeky smile. He had a pair of Muggle grandparents, but Alfred quickly told Hannah that he hadn’t learned much from them, and while, like most young American wizards and witches, he had gone to Muggle elementary school, he had forgotten almost everything he had learned there too. “When we first roomed together last year,” he said, “he thought Muggles didn’t have radios. He was stunned to hear they actually invented them!”
Sappho, on the other hand, was not only pureblood, but had been raised in a wizarding commune here in the Catskills. “Never met a Muggle in her life,” said Alfred. “I want to introduce her to my parents.”
“That’s really rare,” commented Hannah. She didn’t say so, but she also initially was wary while shaking hands with Sappho. She knew most wizarding communes had been founded out of a wish not to be associated with Muggles, and while obviously Sappho couldn’t be too prejudiced against Muggle-borns if she was friends with Alfred, she had seen all too well over the last five years what even subtle blood-prejudice had done in Britain, as well as outright prejudice.
But Sappho was very nice, and she expressed the same horror about what was going on in Britain as everyone else. “The worst thing is,” she said, “is that there are people I grew up with who might agree with his ideals. Not with killing or anything like that,” she hastily added, “but, you know...”
There were three long tables in the dining hall, draped with white tableclothes and with too many candles suspended above them, as well as a shorter one that looked like the staff table. The five of them needed some time to find five unoccupied seats all next to each other, but then they settled down. For the first time Hannah took a good look at the walls, and saw they were covered with one large Dutch mural, on which 18th-century Dutch people wandered from wall to wall, stopping to talk to each other and survey the students, ducking under the high windows and dancing their way up towards the ceiling, which was decorated with a map of New England, with the various magic schools noted as deep sapphire blue stars.
Shortly after they sat down Mrs. Hesselwin came over and asked, “Do you know where the Observatory is, Miss Abbott?”
“The Observatory?” asked Hannah, confused. Why would she need to know where some Observatory was?
“For Astronomy,” Mrs. Hesselwin told her impatiently. “You need to be there at midnight tonight, and do you know where it is?”
“It’s okay,” Alfred offered. “I’ll show her.”
“Thank you, Mr. Fadton. Also, Miss Abbott, I want you in the Goblin's Cellar in the North Wing tomorrow morning at 7 on the dot for your Potions assessment. You’re roomed in the North Wing, so I think you should be able to find that without any trouble.”
“Will I?” Hannah whispered to Alfred when she was gone.
“That one’s not too much trouble,” he told her. “Just go down the stairs until you see the inscription above the door. There were once a bunch of goblins who planned a rebellion in that celler, so it got named to commerate that.”
Just then the sound of a bell ringing came from nowhere in particular, and the room fell silent. Hannah was so used to this kind of thing beginning her school year that she didn’t have to think before turning towards the staff table, and was startled to see a number of the other students looking at each other in confusion. She saw several people take a hold of their classmates and turn them towards the staff table, and a couple of people look at each other anxiously. Nearby, she thought she heard someone say, “Whatever this is, I don’t think it’s good.”
Mr. Bobwhite had risen to his feet. When silence reigned, he took a moment or so longer than was really necessary to speak.
“I am afraid,” he said, “that I have a very grave announcement to make. As not everyone is here yet, I will repeat this announcement at breakfast tomorrow morning. Some of you may have already heard this, but I will now confirm it for those who are not sure. It is my unpleasant duty to inform you all that Adeline Mayfair, who would have begun her junior year here with us, was found dead with her family on September 3, and we have reason to believe, though no absolute proof, that they were killed by Death Eaters.”
In the middle of the resulting flurry of reactions, the gasps, the shocked exclamations, the urgent conversation, even the crying, two thoughts warred for control of Hannah’s mind. The first was that the principal was lying to his students. Or possibly to himself, but if the Dark Mark above them wasn’t proof of Death Eaters, Hannah didn’t know what was. Noone else even knew how to generate that symbol, or so she'd always been told. The second thought, which won the battle between the two thoughts, was that if they had been found on the third, that pointed to them having been killed the night before, the same night her mother had probably been killed.
Mr. Bobwhite called for silence again, and after a minute or so he had it. “I know,” he said, “that this must be an extremely upsetting and frightening thing to have happened. Those of you who had Adeline Mayfair for a friend will not forget her easily, and nor will anyone else. How she may have died, furthermore, is a reminder of the troubling times we now face, all of us, all over the world. The violence may be concentrated in Britain, but no country is certain to escape the clutches of this darkness. And nor should this be a menace which we just ignore. As wizards and witches ourselves, we must remember that what happens to one of us, happens to all of us.
And now we will remember our classmate. Take time to think about Adeline Mayfair, as we pause for a moment of silence in her memory.”
Having never met Adeline Mayfair, Hannah felt only general regret, and as the dining hall fell silent, she instead could think only of her mother. She thought of her earliest memories of her, of bedtime stories read and scraped knees healed. One of her more vivid memories came to her, of her smiling at ten-year-old Alfred after they had tested for and confirmed his magical ability, laughing at how dazed he had appeared. She remembered the tight hugs with which she had always greeted her when she had come home from Hogwarts for the year, her dismay, though, when she had come home after that first year and cried out “Mum!” because she’d trained herself to imitate Ernie’s accent to avoid being teased; her mother had exclaimed, “Louis, our daughter’s turned into a Brit!” It had felt wrong when she’d arrived in Kennedy two days ago, and she hadn’t been there to hug her and tell her how much she’d grown.
Beside her, Francisca was once again in tears. Hannah placed her hand over her and offered her a handkerchief; her new roommate nodded her thanks.
“I hope,” Mr. Bobwhite finally concluded, “That Adeline will live on in the hearts of all of you who knew and were friends with her. A final toast.” He clapped his hands, and glasses of water appeared in front of everyone. “To Adeline.”
Again vivid memories beseiged Hannah, when less than a year and a half ago she had risen a glass with the population of Hogwarts to Cedric Diggory. It was hard to believe it had been so recently; the past year had felt like two years, and the past week like three. Had she remembered Cedric enough, the way she should have, the way Professor Dumbledore had told them to? It would be harder now, when she was no longer among her fellow Hufflepuffs, when there wasn’t anything around to remind her. One of Cedric’s more artistically talented dormmates had sketched him, and the resulting portrait was displayed in the Hufflepuff common room. When she had gone to get her suitcases she had looked at it, but he’d been out, and he hadn’t come back when she’d come back down with them either.
Cool drops of water floated past her lips as she drank. At Hogwarts they’d been allowed wine for the toasts, both to Cedric and to Harry Potter. Afterwards Susan had identified it as special wine that couldn’t get them intoxicated or damage their brains, kind of like an extremely weak butterbeer, which of course no one had hesitated to serve to students of only thirteen. Briefly she wondered what things had been like in France, at Beauxbatons, for there had once been a young man who had told her tales on that subject. But he had turned out to be a piece of shit, and she didn’t want to think about him too much.
Food had appeared while they drank, and at the rich smells Hannah was surprised to feel herself hungry for the first time since she’d heard of her mother’s death. She had the feeling the fare here wasn’t going to be as good as it had been at Hogwarts, but she didn’t care.
“Your roommate mentioned you hadn’t been able to sleep much,” he said. Hannah had planned on taking a nap right after dinner, but she had found out that with more students and them all housed in the same part of the building, things were far more chaotic and louder outside; it took too long for her to get back to her room and too long for her to fall asleep when she was there. “And this would be the time of night when the jet lag kicks in, wouldn’t it?”
“No, actually, I haven’t suffered too much from jet lag this time. I slept through the entire flight home.” It had shocked her she’d been able to do that, but then again, when she thought about what had been going on in the world even before her mother had been killed, it was a little incredible she’d never lost sleep at night. Maybe deep down her mind knew when she needed it. “But really, you shouldn’t have stayed up, Al. Classes start tomorrow.”
“Let me at least make sure you get back to the dorm safely. Unfortunately I can’t go into the hall with you-no opposite sexes in each other’s dorms from 9 PM to 9 AM-but just to make sure you get there. You really do look that tired, Hannah.”
“I am that tired,” she agreed, and meekly followed Alfred down the stairs. “At least I tested into your year. Mrs. Hesselwin wasn’t that pleased, so I don’t think I passed by much, but she told me I passed.”
“They should have let everyone take that exam over,” said Alfred. “Didn’t you say even the guy overseeing it got distracted?”
“Admit they’d tried to chase out a teacher who could have legitimately stayed on as the groundskeeper anyway in the middle of the night? The Ministry would never have allowed it. Even now, you know, Ernie talks about how we all ought to get apologies, but even Harry Potter they only apologized to indirectly. He even says I might have done better on my O.W.L.s, calls me robbed...” She shook her head as she dissolved into worn giggles.
“That’s awfully nice of him,” Alfred observed, which made her giggle even more. “No, really, Hannah, it is. And I know you don’t think so, but it’s not impossible he’s right.”
They’d reached the bottom of the tower and were ascending again towards the dorms when Hannah said, “That’s not what I’m mad at the Ministry for now, though.”
“They treated you pretty badly on the way back to Heathrow, didn’t they?”
“No, that was the representative from the National Ministry.” Hannah didn’t know why the American representative had been a National man; one from the New York Ministry would have made more sense, but he had been there and behaved just as she would expect such a man to behave; the British representative had actually been very kind and helpful. “No, I was talking about what happened with my half-Uncle.”
“You’ve never wanted to talk about that,” he had to comment, because Hannah’s general attitude had always been that she hadn’t wanted to think about anything that had happened to her personally that year. Bad enough that it had ended with the Dark Lord returning. “That was disgraceful, though, I absolutely agree, that they put a fifteen-year-old girl in that position.”
“Yeah, and I didn’t even realize it back then. Not the way I do now. I’ve been thinking about it a lot since...” She drifted off; now she had a new subject she didn’t want to talk too much about; even though it hurt to keep it all bottled up inside too.
“I feel like now everything really has changed,” she said. “I should have when I was at Hogwarts last year, but I didn’t. I just do now.”
He stopped walking then, and stepped over to her and hugged her. She was so glad for that, for the strength with which his arms squeezed her, for how warm he was, and for how she could feel his sympathy and how he wished he could make it better.
And then the moment was broken when they heard the sound of chittering, and several cracks in the air, and Alfred pulled away yelling, “Stupid house-elves!”
“Will you get in trouble?” Hannah asked anxiously. Of course she was supposed to be out there, but they might punish him for being out without an excuse.
“Don’t think so; I think the curfew only requires Juniors and Seniors to stay in the building. But the house-elves here are big gossips. They see students hugging and...”
“Oh no...” Hannah groaned along with him. They’d been enduring teasing and questions since she’d first walked up to him in the elementary schoolyard when noone else had wanted to talk to him. At one point she’d even gotten used to it, but now that they’d been spending most of the year on different continents for so long, she wasn't used to it anymore.
But as they were now doomed to songs and jokes, at least it made no difference if they continued their way back to the dorm close together, or if she put her hand on his arm as they reached the barred wooden doors. “You put your hand on the doorknob,” said Alfred, “and it’ll Apparate you in side-along style.”
British wizarding safety regulations would have forbidden something like this, Hannah thought as she gingerly placed her hand on the bronze knob. When nothing happened for a few seconds, she started to ask, “Alfred, do you think-” but suddenly she felt as if her hand was being sucked into the door, followed by her arm, then her entire body was being squeezed until she couldn’t breath, she was shoved against her arm and she thought her skull was going to be crushed, and then next thing she knew she was standing on the other side of the door, with her hand laid against the other side of the doorknob.
That had to be what Apparition felt like; with the recent murder of her Aunt, Susan’s parents had started moving about with her as much as possible, and she had described similar experiences from side-along Apparition in one of her letters to everyone. She supposed everyone here was used to being thus squeezed into their dorms after Astronomy class, at the very least, but it took her a few seconds to fill her lungs back up with air, and after that she ran her hands along her arms and legs and face, beset by a random fear that she’d somehow been splinched.
Alfred knew she hadn’t ever done that before, so he called through the door, “All straightened out? You’re okay? Not too dizzy?”
Well, she’d definitely been too dizzy a moment ago. But as Hannah breathed in, she was able to nod to herself, and yell back, “I’m fine, thanks. Good night.”
Francesca has waited up for her, too; when Hannah started fumbling with the magically proofed lock she got up and opened the door for her. Again Hannah chided her for staying up.
“You would have woken me up anyway,” said Francesca, “I sleep light. You don’t snore, do you?”
“No, but sometimes I wake up early, and of course I have to get up early tomorrow. I can’t believe they have a dorm here which Apparates everyone who’s out after nine. That’s not healthy for the growing body.”
“Really?” asked Francesca. “I’ve never heard of that. Though except for Astronomy classes, freshmen and younger aren’t supposed to be outside the dorms after nine anyway. You can get in big trouble if you’re caught out there and you’re too young. Though of course to get back in you have to admit you were out, and I’ve heard of some of the boys hiding in closets all night to avoid that.”
Hannah had the feeling Francesca had never set foot outside the dormitories on nights when she didn’t have class. She doubted Alfred had ever broken the rules either. Max or Sappho might have; she might ask them if she got curious. But none of them had ever needed to.
As she climbed into her bed and they blew the lanterns out, Hannah contemplated the significance of that, of this place, set so far away from the fear and violence of Britain even when a single student or her mother was found dead. They might feel the impact of Adeline Mayfair for a week, maybe a little longer, but she knew now from experience they wouldn’t remember her as much as they were supposed to. On that regretful thought she slept.
Each class was fifty minutes long, with ten minutes to get from class to class. First period was Transfigurations 6, which she had also tested into somehow; she didn’t know how. Second period was Divination 4, which was going to be a bit of a climb, though Alfred’s account made it sound like less than the hike up to Professor Trelawney’s tower. At least he’d be there to guide her, but for third period she went to Muggle Studies 4, which he, being Muggle-born, didn’t really need, so he went to Arithmancy instead. They reunited after that, though, for Potions 6, before lunch(which Hannah thought was a stupid piece of scheduling; Potions always made her lose her appetite and not just because it had been taught by Professor Snape), then the afternoon had Defense Against the Dark Arts 6, Charms 6, and finally Herbology 6 ending the day, which she did like.
What she didn’t like was the general format. She hadn’t minded it back in elementary school, but Muggle subjects were okay with it, while magical subjects weren’t. She didn’t get, for instance, how they were supposed to anything with the complicated kinds of plants that she assumed Herbology 6 featured(the Hogwarts equivelant had, after all) in only fifty minutes. And as for trying to make a potion in fifty minutes, well, Hannah could hear Professor Snape throwing a fit from across the ocean. The others subjects she thought could work with it, but meanwhile, she thought having only ten minutes between classes was going to drive her crazy. The worst bit was right after this first period, when she’d have to go half the length of the school and up three winding staircases. She hoped she wouldn’t have to use the toilet.
Max and Francesca had both gotten there before them, and there were thankfully two empty desks between them. As they sat down, Alfred said, “Hey, Max, you have Muggle Studies after Divination, right?”
“Yep,” said Max.
“Well, Hannah needs help getting there today, and I can’t take her because I’ve got Arithmancy, so could you?”
“Sure,” said Max. “But it’s really not hard, Han, you just have to remember to use the smaller door when you reach the bottom of the tower.”
“Han?” Noone had ever called her Han before. It was the name of one the main male characters from one of Alfred’s favorite movies; that made it sound weird.
“He nicknames everyone, Hannah,” said Alfred, just as a tall, thin man with a very bushy mustache walked into the room. “That’s Mr. Rivers,” he whispered.
Several people giggled, and he raised his eyebrows and inquired, “Miss me?” No answer from anybody. “I see we have a new face here.” Attention turned to Hannah. She’d have to deal with this all day, she realized, but she still felt embarrassed. “And, unfortunately, one face gone.” Attention away from Hannah, who looked anxiously over at Francesca. Her roommate had bent her head, and as Hannah watched, she moved her hand across her chest in a pattern that Hannah thought she might have seen somewhere...in Muggle Studies at Hogwarts, maybe? She was too tired to remember.
“Sad, obviously...but if the entire world is indeed under threat, that is only reason to attend to your studies all the harder, since now the knowledge might just save your life.” Hannah heard a skeptical grunt somewhere behind her, but thinking about some of the spells Harry Potter had emphasized in the DA, and what he’d said about the Disarming Charm saving his life once, she herself thought he might be right.
“So we will start with a little review, since unfortunately you were required to neglect your wands for over two months.” He sounded like he disapproved of this. “So we will start with Vanishing. I hope you remember the definition of it, at least the short one.”
After her disastrous encounter with this during the O.W.L.s the previous spring, Hannah was unlikely to ever forget the textbook definition of Vanishing, though this didn’t mean she could do it. She raised her hand, just as from the back, someone said, “The elimination of an object from existance, usually by dissolving it into air molecules.”
“Thank you, Mr. Radlowski. Yes, Miss...” He momentarily couldn’t remember her name.
“Nothing,” Hannah squeaked, turning red, and trying to hide her shock. No one would have dared speak without being called on first at Hogwarts.
“Miss Nothing, then, is that your name?” He muttered it as if absent-minded, which caused half the class to laugh. Hannah flushed with further embarrassment, then with anger. “Seeing you come from Hogwarts, which I know teaches Vanishing much earlier than we do, why don’t you demonstrate for us?”
“What?” Trying to Vanish something in front of the entire class, when she was too tired and upset to concentrate? Her first day was turning into a nightmare.
“We’re starting out with Gobstones today.” More laughter, which Hannah didn’t understand at all. Had everyone except this teacher seen already that she couldn’t do this? “Surely you remember how to do it?”
Technically, she remembered how to do it. And Gobstones actually weren’t that hard either; she was surprised he was going back to something so basic, even for review. He had to go get them out from his desk, which gave Hannah a moment to remember all this.
It also gave a moment for Radlowski to say, “Think she’s better than us, doesn’t she? Hogwarts snob,” just loud enough to make sure she heard.
Hannah had already been angry, but at this insult to her, her school(well, it wasn’t her school anymore, but she was still thinking of it as her school), all her classmates and friends, and even to her family, though the boy might not know it, turned something in her cold, made her realize even more than she was fretting over nothing, that if she’d had to work with an animal again things might have turned hairy but a few Gobstones were no trouble at all. When Mr. Rivers put the Gobstones down, thankfully all touching each other, she had to tap them with her wand twice, more because she was so tired than anything else, but after that she had it, and they were gone.
“Well done!” exclaimed Mr. Rivers, as behind her Hannah heard murmurs of surprise, which made her indignant; had they thought her that bad? “Why don’t I get you a muskrat, while the rest of you try with more Gobstones?”
Hannah was not looking forward to working with a muskrat, but as he hurried out of the classroom to get it, she had a chance to watch her classmates work with the Gobstones, and what she saw stunned her. A couple of the students Vanished them as quickly as she had; one boy even did it without the tapping she’d had to do. But most of them were having real trouble. One one side of her Alfred kept only Vanishing one or two of the stones at a time; on the other Francesca kept getting half of each stone left(a weird sight), and on Alfred’s other side Max’s wand kept sending out sparks and burning the desk, but not Vanishing anything at all. She hadn’t even worried about being that ineffective; she’d figured if she messed up, it would be either by leaving one or two of the stones, or by doing something really crazy like she had during the O.W.L.s.
She wanted to ask one of them if the class was regularly at this level, but that would have hurt their feelings very badly. Besides, Mr. Rivers returned soon enough with the muskrat, and she had to first get her head around the spell to Vanish it, then force herself to cast it on a living animal.
She actually did it, towards the end of the class, when most of the class had finally successfully Vanished their Gobstones, but a couple of blokes near the back were still struggling with them. When each person had succeeded, Mr. Rivers had given them a bigger set of Gobstones, which made Hannah angrily wonder why he’d given her something harder. Had she been too good; had it turned him sadistic?
But when he noticed, and exclaimed, “Oh look, Miss Hogwarts has done it!” a nickname that made her burn, there was another astonished murmur through the class. Hannah didn’t get it. Had they been watching her try to Vanish the poor animal the entire time when they should have been working on their Gobstones and seen how pathetic she’d been at it? That would at least explain why some of them had taken so long.
But then she looked at Alfred, and saw he was wide-eyed.
“What?” she asked, now completely confused.
“I had no idea,” she said to Alfred as they sat down. “All right, I suppose I should have, but I mean, I failed three of the O.W.L.s I took. Surely I shouldn’t be the best in the class for two of those subjects at any school!”
“Well, it seems you are,” he was grinning, especially in anticipation of this particular class. The two of them had spent the summer with her teaching him some of the things she’d learned from the DA, and her E on that O.W.L. was the bright mark of her entire scholastic history. “Just be thankful we didn’t have to go to Liberty Island. The New York Scroll calls it the worst school on the Eastern Seaboard. New York State, on the other hand, they rank as fifth best.”
“You mean there are only four schools on the entire coast better than this?” Hannah shook her head in disbelief. “I heard Ernie make remarks about the American education system sometimes, but really, I’m shocked.”
“Then I suppose this class won’t be that exciting for you,” said Max as he joined them. “Or maybe it will be. Today we’re finally going to get to see illegal curses!”
“You find that exciting?!” In a day of shocks, nothing compared to what she’d just heard. “You actually find Unforgivables exciting? Watching spiders be tortured and killed is just going to be a show for you?!”
“Han, I didn’t mean...” Max started, but Hannah was too angry to hear him. He put his hands up, to no avail, as she rose to her feet and glared down at him.
“For your information,” she said to him, “I first saw the Unforgivables done when I was fourteen. I shouldn’t have; like here, Hogwarts is supposed to wait until later. But the Defense class had been hijacked by a Death Eater who also happened to be my half-Uncle, and disguised himself as an old Auror, not that I found out until nearly nine months later, when he’d been Kissed by a Dementor and they told me I had to decide what to do with what was left of him because all his family in Britain were dead and contacting my father would have made it too hard to hush it up!”
“Hannah, Hannah!” Max was yelled. “Calm down, everyone’s looking at you.” They were; she could feel it, now that she’d stopped yelling. It was like her first year at Hogwarts all over again.
But even her embarrasment couldn’t get her to be quiet, not over this. “And what’s more, I saw the aftermath of the Avada Kedavra curse on my MOTHER! And you know what? It was used too on her friend!” She pointed to Francisca. “And her friend’s family! Why can you not take them seriously?”
“We are taking them seriously, Hannah,” said Alfred, and reached out to calm her.
“I hope you are,” said a new voice from the door, and they all turned to see the teacher entering the room. Of course his eyes fell on her, in her black Hogwarts robes. “Hannah Abbott? Your reputation preceeds you.”
“That quickly?” remarked Francisca as Hannah turned pink.
“Merely a few remarks. Sit down, if you please; I’ll believe what I’ve heard when I see proof of it.”
Hannah kept her head high as she sat, for now she was aware not only was she ahead of the rest of the class, which meant little to her, but she was wiser than them too, and that meant more. She was starting to feel less embarrassed now, and more proud.