of a Feather
Book One: First Flight
Author’s note: The End! Hurray! And don't think this is the last time you'll see these four. I'm working on BoaF 2 as we speak. Matter of fact, I'll be far into it soon. So get ready for more of these guys. Like I'd leave you hanging.
Morag had planned on packing early—he didn’t want to spend most of the next day stuffing odds and ends into his trunk. After all, it was the night of the feast and he didn’t want to miss a bit of it. He was distracted, however, by a note dropped on his breakfast that morning. Wiping the butter from the envelope, he opened it to see a short, quick note.
I’ll be at the Three Broomsticks the day of the feast for an hour. Meet me, if you can; if not, send a note. If nothing else, I hope to see you at Platform Nine and Three-Quarters—if you’ll have me there.
Morag didn’t need to read it twice. He stuffed the letter in his robes and made a great show of needing to return some books to the library before making his way out of the Great Hall. He was at the mirror, nudging it open, when Professor Snape made his way around the corner. He took one look at the partially open mirror, Morag, and his wand, and got a rather nasty look on his face. Morag’s heart sank.
“A first-year attempting to sneak off the grounds?” Snape’s tone was particularly nasty. “On the day of the Great Feast, too—planning to sneak over and grab a few pranks from Zonko’s to set off at the feast tonight? Perhaps you just wanted to see if you could get away with it? I wonder how many points I shall take from Ravenclaw for this—not that it matters, you’ve lost the house cup anyway, but losing points after term—bad form there. I don’t reckon your Housemates will be pleased with you then…”
Morag’s teeth clenched. Before he could control it, he’d started hissing things under his breath, loud enough to be heard. “Go ahead then! Take every point Ravenclaw’s got! Not like it matters. Slytherin’s already won, and it’ll only put us behind Gryffindor—it’s not as if I haven’t lost a lot of points before. I’ll just get shunned again, but it’s better than your lot! If my Uncle Alex is anything like you filthy Slytherins, only looking out for yourselves, just go ahead! Dock the points and get it over with, and show that you’re all alike! It’ll prove that everything about Slytherin and the MacDougals is true. I’ll never deal with my uncle again, if he’s anything like you!” He stood there trembling as Snape turned to face him. He’d meant to be overheard, and this would probably get him expelled. But when there was no chance of making up lost House Points, there was no reason to hold back. At the least, Morag wouldn’t have to see the Potions Master before the start of next term.
Snape sneered at Morag fiercely. If looks could have killed, Morag wouldn’t have made it to the Feast. “Ten points for being such an insufferable smart mouth, Mr. MacDougal, and be grateful I don’t take more!” he hissed tightly. Morag glared defiantly, waiting for more punishment. Then Snape’s expression softened a bit.
“I wouldn’t be so harsh on the MacDougals on account of Slytherin House, at least, not because of Alexander.”
“Pardon?” Morag looked up at him, clearly shocked.
“He was a classmate of mine. His brother, Geoffrey—I’m guessing that’s your father?” Morag nodded. Professor Snape looked pensive. “He was two years earlier, himself, with Opaline right between them. Each was Sorted into Slytherin—really, no one expected less of the MacDougals. Top marks—Geoff was all set to go into the Ministry. Great at Quidditch, he never took lip from any Gryffindors, though none crossed his path. Everyone expected his brother and sister to follow right behind him. He knew tons of curses and jinxes. Taught them to Alex as well, though Opaline wouldn’t have anything to do with them.
“Then, right after Alex and I left Hogwarts, Geoff met this pretty Muggle girl. Mavericka, her name. It wasn’t a good time to be getting married, what with the Dark Lord on the rise. But Geoff felt he’d be safe with a Muggle if he didn’t take sides and just stayed out of the spotlight. Things would be okay, he later told me—not that I was keeping much of an ear out for them. I had my own tasks…” Snape looked darkly towards the floor. “The MacDougals were so disgusted they disowned them all. The whole trio. I didn’t heard another thing until after the fall of the Dark Lord. Alex found me later and told me Geoff had died. He’d been in France during the War, felt it safest there. And he told me that it’d been Opaline’s fault Geoff had died.”
“Aunt Opaline? But she said that Uncle Alex was to…” It clicked before he could even finish. They blame each other.
Snape looked down. His face was neutral—not angry, but not pleased. It was probably the most Morag could expect.
“Indeed, young MacDougal. Your uncle and aunt both think that the other is the cause of their brother’s death. I doubt they both will ever reconcile—she has pointedly ignored him and he’s had no one to turn to for comfort since Geoff died and has had nothing to do with her, to my knowledge.” Morag didn’t bring up that he’d sent Uncle Alex to go talk to her. “I expect that, if you have been in contact with Alex, you have been a bright spot in his life. But Alex is not the kind to hurt his brother. No, he would have fought the Dark Lord himself, had he not been instructed to go into hiding.” Snape looked over Morag’s head, as if lost in thought. “If you need to ask anyone about Alex, ask me, when I’m not occupied. I know more about your family than most of the teachers here.” Then he snapped back to his regular attitude.
“But, dangerous or not, I will not have first-years wandering all over the grounds like this. Return to your common room immediately, Mister MacDougal, or I’ll do as you so eloquently put it and ‘take every point Ravenclaw’s got.’ ” He motioned with his free hand, closing the mirror with the other.
Morag hightailed it back to his common room. He’d gotten off light and there was no reason to stick around and get in more trouble. Against his better judgment, he made a quick stop at the Owlery. He needed to inform Uncle Alex that he wouldn’t be able to make it out that day, but sincerely hoped to see him at King’s Cross.
Carolina checked her hat in one of the mirrors to make sure it pointed straight up before the prefects conducted everyone to the Great Feast. As they filed into the Great Hall, Carolina tensed at the green and silver banners that fluttered around, and the huge banner on the wall behind the High Table showing the Slytherin serpent. Carolina was so angry she couldn’t speak. She noticed that Quirrell’s seat was empty, and she shivered to herself. The news had come out of Gryffindor—from Hermione Granger, who got along well with a few of the Ravenclaws and had spoken to Carolina herself in the library that afternoon—that he’d been the one after the Stone, and that You-Know Who had been attached to his head, which is why he’d worn that turban all year. He’d even tried to curse Harry earlier—during the Quidditch match against Slytherin, it’d been him trying to shake him off the broom. Purple had never been Carolina’s favorite color, but now she positively disliked it. I’m glad he’s gone, then, if he was involved with You-Know-Who. To think, every time I was in Defense Against the Dark Arts, one of the darkest wizards ever was there the whole time, listening as we did our lessons.
People kept talking under their breath, the Slytherins smirking and boasting the whole time. Morag was grumbling about how he wanted to slap the snide little smirk off of Moira’s face when Harry Potter walked in. A hush fell, and then everyone started talking loudly again, as if not to draw attention to him. Carolina stood up to look at him—she wasn’t sure if that was really a bandage peeking out from under his robes—when the talk died away. She sat down and turned to face Dumbledore, who held his arms out.
“Another year gone!” he said, beaming brightly. “And I must trouble you with an old man’s wheezing waffle before we sink our teeth into our delicious feast.” He continued on, finally getting on to the House Cup. “Now as I understand it, the House Cup needs awarding, and the points stand thus: in fourth place, Gryffindor, with three hundred and twelve; in third, Hufflepuff, with three hundred and fifty-two; Ravenclaw has four hundred and twenty-six—”
“Would have been thirty-six, but for that incident earlier,” Morag mumbled.
“It could have been much worse, Morag, you know it,” Carolina chided.
“—four hundred and seventy-two.”
The Slytherins started stamping and cheering. Carolina could see some Seventh-years at the table whooping and cheering, and she realized they’d won the House Cup all the years they’d been here. “Beastly,” she hissed under her breath.
“Yes, yes, well done, Slytherin. However,” and at this, the Slytherins froze mid-cheer, “recent events must be taken into account.”
The Slytherins, along with everyone else, became very still.
“What do you think he’s doing?” Morag whispered.
“He says there are some last minute-points to give out.” Padma’s eyes were wide.
“Can he do that?” Carolina said breathily.
“Of course, he’s the headmaster.”
“…Ronald Weasley, for the best-played game of chess Hogwarts has seen in many years, I award Gryffindor house fifty points.”
Gryffindor cheers nearly reached the ceiling, and Carolina quickly told the others, “He navigated them past Professor McGonagall’s chess set—he’s very good at the game.”
“They’re at three sixty-two, then,” Lawrence said, having figured the numbers out in his head.
Once the noise had died down, Professor Dumbledore spoke again. “Second—to Miss Hermione Granger, for the use of cool logic in the face of fire, I award Gryffindor house fifty points.”
Carolina saw Hermione bury her face in her arms—she was either blushing or had burst into tears.
“Four twelve now,” Lawrence announced.
“Third, to Mister Harry Potter…” Silence fell, and Carolina swore she could feel the tension in the room. “…for pure nerve and outstanding courage, I award Gryffindor house sixty points.”
The noise was deafening, and Carolina could barely hear Lawrence mutter, “That ties them with Slytherin! That’s not fair at all, they’ve placed us in third with one awarding of points!”
“Well, he did stop You-Know-Who,” Antigone said. “I’m surprised it wasn’t more, though then it would have been a win instead of a tie.”
Gradually quiet fell as all turned to look at Professor Dumbledore. “There are all kinds of courage,” he spoke, a smile going over his face. “It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends. I therefore award ten points to…” he looked at a round-faced boy, who looked to be trembling in his spot at the Gryffindor table, “Mister Neville Longbottom.”
The noise reached cacophonous levels, and Carolina could barely hear her own cheering as she leapt to her feet, whooping. No, Ravenclaw hadn’t won, but Slytherin—Slytherin had been defeated, and to that even she could cheer. Morag screamed his delight. Padma only said, “Oh, there’ll be no living with Parvati after this,” but the grin on her face was a mile wide. Carolina turned and blew a big fat raspberry to Moira Ryans, who looked like she’d been force fed her own robes. All of Slytherin looked pained, and one of the Seventh-Year girls looked like she was crying.
Carolina didn’t hear what Dumbledore said, but she saw him clap his hands. The green rippled into scarlet and the silver burst into gold; the hissing Slytherin serpent became a massive Gryffindor lion. Carolina could hear one of the Gryffindors loudly. “…Never won a point for us before, and then puts us over the top for the house cup!”
Carolina cheered and whooped and screamed so much her throat felt hoarse. No, Ravenclaw hadn’t won, she thought as Antigone hugged her tightly around the middle. But it certainly wasn’t Slytherin.
Antigone had nearly forgotten, in the excitement at the Great Feast, about her grades. She hadn’t forgotten about her note from Esmerelda though. It arrived by Ministry owl in a thick parchment envelope at breakfast three days later.
Carolina saw it too. As soon as she, Carolina, and Morag were out on the grounds and curled up under a tree—Padma was off under a nearby tree comparing grades with Parvati—Carolina squeaked, “Open it, open it!”
“After my grades,” Antigone said. That way if I know I’m not coming back, I can know that I’m a good witch first. Perhaps there’s a magical school in the States…I could always try to find one myself later on.... She shook her head and slit open her envelope.
She expected her Potions grades to be abysmal; as it was, they were low but not disgustingly so. She’d managed to scrape up a barely-passing grade. While it was the lowest of the Ravenclaws, it wasn’t the worst; she’d heard Neville groaning over by some of the Gryffindors and suspected he was at the bottom. However, her Charms marks were top of the class, she’d nearly tied with Hermione Granger and had with—
“Top marks in Charms!” Morag grinned, squeezing Antigone tightly. “We would have beaten Hermione, but she did extra work and got a hundred and twelve. We each got only one hundred and nine, but that’s still bloody good! And it makes up for my not so good Transfiguration grade; my snuffbox had tiny whiskers and was a little fuzzy in places, but I aced the written part.”
“I got top marks there,” Carolina grinned. “Lost points in Astronomy—stupid stars, it’s hard to make out Libra anyways. And I didn’t do as bad in History of Magic as I thought I did.”
They could hear shouting under another tree, and turned to see Padma hollering back at her equally angry twin. It wasn’t long before Padma marched over to where they were, flouncing down onto the grass. “I can’t believe it—I’m so disgusted!” she fussed.
“No, no,” Padma said, waving her hand. “I did very well in everything—well, all but Charms and History of Magic, I mixed quite a few dates up and so only did average, but both Astronomy and Herbology was excellent and it balances out. Oh no, it’s not me at all—it’s Parvati!”
“What about her?”
“She did horribly—far below what she’s capable of—and barely passed two subjects! The only high grade she got was in Astronomy—she might as well not have cracked a book the whole time for study—and when I asked, she’d said she’d been too busy talking with Lavender Brown to bother studying at all!” She looked over to where Parvati was now making a dramatic show of sobbing into Lavender Brown’s robes. “Mother and Father are going to give her a firm talking to the second we get home. They both had always done very well here. She’s never going to hear the end of it. Sometimes I think you’re right, Morag—all brawn and no brain, those Gryffindors, and they’ve gotten to my sister. Why didn’t she choose Ravenclaw?”
“I guess she’d rather be brave and popular than smart and not so popular,” said Carolina. “Anyway, the Hat Sorts the student; the student doesn’t choose the House. I heard Lisa Turpin’s right behind Hermione for top student,” Carolina went on to say. “Apparently the two have been getting along excellently and they reviewed together. Not that Lisa’s needed loads of it, but still. Well, we’ve all announced our grades. Tig, go ahead and open the letter.”
“What letter?” Padma looked. “Oh, a Ministry Letter! It must be the results of the hearing. Open it and read it aloud.”
“If they won’t let you stay, we’ll protest,” Morag said determinedly. “We’ll make them let you stay, even if you have to stay at Hogwarts all summer with Peeves.”
With trembling hands, Antigone split the seal and opened it. There were two letters folded together, and she read the one on top first, which was addressed to “Miss Antigone Moon, Great Hall, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.”
“ Dear Miss Moon: An interim finding has been made by the heads of the Department of Muggle Situations and Interactions on the tenth of June as to whether you should return to the custody of Mr. and Mrs. Clayton Moon”—those are my parents.
“ Based on the reports of Miss Esmerelda Toners (Muggle-Born Witch and Wizard Liaison Office) and Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore (Headmaster, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry), along with the high risk that your parents will neither return you to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry nor enroll you into another accredited magical school, we have determined to remove you from the care of your parents until you return in the fall. A full investigation will then be conducted, whereupon a permanent decision on your residence will be reached.”
“ A Ministry-appointed guardian, Miss Toners, has offered to take you under her care for the summer or until such time as your permanent placement has been decided… ” She looked up, eyes sparkling with tears. “There’s other official stuff, about the next hearing and other notes, and it’s been signed by the Head of the M. B. W. W. L. O., but…they’ve told me that I’m staying with Esmerelda this summer. It’s only the summer but…”
Carolina gasped. “Only? It’s the whole summer! Tig, that’s wonderful! She’ll drop you at King’s Cross proper!”
Morag swept Antigone off her feet and spun her in a circle. “You’re coming back to Hogwarts, Tig!” Antigone was somewhat worried, as she hadn’t heard about what to do about her parents once they got to King’s Cross or read the second letter. But she had to admit that right now things sounded good.
The next morning Padma was all packed and ready to head home. Each student was warned not to use magic over the holidays. They rode back over the lake on smoothly gliding boats as Morag looked as though he was going to be sick, and then they were on the train. Padma had been offered a seat with Morag, Antigone, and Carolina but she had said she would go spend some time with her sister, to talk about her grades and how she’d acted before the last match, before she made it their way.
She felt it was a waste of time once she saw Lavender Brown inside, giggling and gabbing. Susan Bones and Hannah Abbot were there as well. “Where’s Mandy?” she asked. “I thought you were going to invite her over too.”
“Oh, she didn’t want to be over here,” Lavender babbled. “Said she was discussing dragons with Oliver Hutchins and Terry Boot—honestly, we’ve only got a month and half off for hols and she’s doing book work...anyways, where was I?”
“You were talking about Lisa Turpin,” Parvati cut in.
“Oh yes. Did you see her outfit she’s picked out for the station?” Lavender rolled her eyes in disgust. “Just jeans and a shirt and her old ratty sneakers. If we’re going to have to all dress like Muggles anyways we might as well look good, right? I’m wearing my pink top, it’s just wonderful, and my mum will hate the modification but she can’t say anything in front of everyone.” Padma blinked—it was a loose pink top that had been modified to hang off of one shoulder.
“Ooh, can you do that to my shirt?” Parvati asked.
“Sure, it’s an easy piece of charm work, you just…”
“Parvati, you know Mother won’t want you wearing your shirt half off,” Padma fussed.
“Oh, Padma, you’re such a wet blanket. Mother will be upset but I can reverse it later.”
“I’ll be surprised that you can reverse it at all, what with your poor performance in Charms.”
“Not on about that, again, are you?” Parvati groaned. “You should have come to Gryffindor, then maybe you wouldn’t be so stiff and worried all the time. You never have any fun anymore, it’s because of that boring group you’re always around. It’s not like the grades matter too much, I’m not out of Hogwarts--”
Padma’s cheeks turned pink. “You didn’t do that great, either! And maybe if you’d gone to Ravenclaw you have done better on your exams--”
“Oh, look!” Susan Bones squeaked, cutting them both off. “There’s a pic in Teen Witch Weekly of the newest Puddlemere United Beater, Ted Baumgartner—and he’s got his robe off from the waist up!”
There were girlish squeals and catcalls as the magazine revealed a young muscled man holding a Beater's bat, flexing and blowing kisses all around. Padma took that moment to storm out, making her way back to where her friends were.
As soon as she walked in, Morag spoke up. “Nothing doing with her scores, then?”
“Nothing at all! She’s more interested in cooing over Quidditch stars and modifying her clothing than her grades! Honestly—and she called me a wet blanket! Said I should have gone to Gryffindor, that I was stiff and worried and—”
“And that your friends are boring?”
Padma nodded, hurt. “Just because she wants to worry about how she looks and not how she’s doing in class…”
“Well, she’s changed here at Hogwarts,” Carolina added, “and so have you. You’re going in separate directions. You probably won’t like it now but it’ll turn out okay. I mean, when we were Sorted she went right over to Gryffindor. And would you have really hung out with all of us if you’d spent all year having to keep mind on Parvati?”
Padma nodded. “I guess you’re right,” she said. “She also talks in her sleep at times, you’d have hated to have her in the dormitory.”
Antigone gave one of her shy smiles. “It’s almost time for lunch, and I bet if we pool our money we can get a lot of stuff—more than separately.”
“Great idea, Tig!” Morag had already turned out his pockets, setting his change neatly on the floor, and Carolina had joined him. “I’ve got a Galleon, about twenty Sickles—that’s at least one more Galleon—and lots of Knuts. Carolina, set your two Galleons over here. That makes three, enough for at least two pasties and a Cauldron Cake each,” he said as he scribbled on a parchment with a Muggle felt pen he’d fished out, marking off funds and multiplying fast. “If we can get together another two Sickles that’s a super sized bag of Every Flavor Beans. It’s the best value really. We’ll get more than enough for all four of us for the price of four regular bags and we can just weigh them out so they’re even. I saved my bags from the start of the term, so we can make sure we each get a good variety of flavors. But I won’t eat the black ones at all. I’ve had one that tasted like fresh tar, and I’m not chancing it again.”
Antigone opened her backpack and fished out her brass scales. “We can use mine. I gave them a good clean washing right before I’d packed them so they’d be pristine over the holidays—I remember there’s fifteen ounces in the super bags so that’s about four ounces each.”
“Three and three quarters,” Padma said, grinning broadly. She’d always been good at a lot of mental math, especially fractions. “And I’ve got ten Sickles and twenty Knuts, That’ll get us all two Chocolate Frogs as well as cover the cost of the beans.”
“Let’s make it three,” Antigone said, handing over a few more Knuts and a sickle. “Lets see if we can’t buy one more cake to split four ways.”
Morag was almost disappointed when the train had pulled up to King’s Cross. He’d already pulled on his jacket and stuffed the rest of his Every Flavor Beans in his pocket. They’d spent all of their money save for twenty Knuts and four Sickles, which they split evenly among them, in the process getting everything they wanted. Carolina had bought her own pack of Licorice Wands since the other three weren’t so fond of them.
They’d all exchanged addresses, promising to owl each other at least weekly, and Carolina said she’d ask Esmerelda for her phone number and get it to Morag later. Padma was sad she didn’t have a telephone and Carolina nor her father knew anything about the Floo Network, but they all promised to meet up and go shopping together for supplies. Most of the trip had been discussion of books, spells, and some discussion of Dean Thomas, who was a great artist and had been showing Morag some fundamentals of drawing which he shared in turn with the others.
It was with somewhat heavy footsteps that he’d gotten off the train. Many parents were on the platform there, but some had waited outside. Hovering his trunk in front of him—reading up on that in the spell book ahead in the library meant not having to get help to carry it, and it wasn’t quite outside to the Muggles yet. As soon as he was off the train he’d been swept up by his mother in a tight hug.
“My big boy!” she cooed, smoothing his hair. “How was your first year? Can you show me any magic later—well, not too much, don’t want you getting in trouble, but Geoff was always good at Charms.”
Opaline was there as well, chirping over Miriam. “An internship at Madame Malkin’s! I’m so proud! It’s not a high paying job but we can get you a nice flat in London near Diagon Alley. My girl all grown up and out of Hogwarts! Your father would be so proud!”
There was a rustle beside Morag as Carolina flew towards her father, and he swept her up into his big strong arms. Then he heard a voice from the far away side of the platform, one he’d heard before.
“I made it, Morag.”
Morag turned to see grey eyes behind small glasses, and he cried out without thinking. “Uncle Alex!”
The rest of his family turned to face him. Opaline stiffened, Miriam gasped, and Morag’s mother held her hands over her mouth. Before Morag could wave him over, Opaline had marched over, her cheeks red with rage. “You disgusting, filthy traitor!” she screamed, drawing attention of many of the students who hadn’t left through the barrier. “How dare you show your face, you evil, traitorous, dirty…!”
“Morag asked me to come,” Uncle Alex said, paling in anger.
“Oh and I’m not supposed to believe you’ve bewitched or tricked him? How dare you even think to speak to him after what you did to Geoff! And Mavericka! How do you think she feels, seeing the person who’d gotten her husband killed and left her a widow?”
“It was not my doing that killed Geoffrey, Opaline.” Alex was terse, but Opaline kept screaming.
“Oh, and I bet you still think it’s my doing, don’t you? That I’m the reason our big brother was killed? It was bad enough you showed up at my door the other month but now you’re skulking about Morag even after I told you to go away! Well I tell you what, Alexander, you stay the hell away from my nephew!”
“If you’d told him about the MacDougals then he wouldn’t have contacted me. And if you’d told him about me he wouldn’t have done it behind your back.”
“Am I to believe that tripe? That you wouldn’t have tried to find him? I wish he’d never bothered to owl you, then I wouldn’t have to see your face ever again!”
“That can be arraigned,” Alex said curtly, turning towards the exit.
“No, Alex!” Morag’s mother called out, and he turned in his tracks to look at her. Opaline gasped, and Miriam looked like she was going to throw up.
Alex looked at her. “You heard Opaline. She wishes I stay away from her family and her nephew.”
“Alex—but he’s your nephew as well!” She burst into tears.
Opaline turned towards Morag’s mother. “See, he’s hurting you again! Let him go away and back into hiding where he belongs!”
“Shut up!” Morag’s mother screeched. “I haven’t seen him in nine years. I don’t care what you say, I miss him, Opaline! Morag’s been contacting him all year and must have seen him at least once—is that right, Morag?”
Morag nodded. Best not to tell her how right now.
“—and if he hasn’t done anything to Morag, then he can’t be all bad, can he?” She looked up at Alex, then threw her arms around him. “Oh, I haven’t seen you since that dreadful night!”
Opaline’s lips were set in a thin line. She spun on her heel and marched off. Miriam followed her with her trunk on a trolley. Morag watched her storm off and he tensed up. Then a hand landed on his shoulder, and Morag looked up at his uncle. He’d guided his trunk onto one of the trolleys.
“Shall we go get some tea—I’ve learned to drive one of those Muggle carriages, a car, is it?—and over scones we can discuss how Morag found out all about me, Mavericka.”
“I’d like that,” Morag’s mother said, smiling. “But first, Morag do you want to introduce me to your friends?”
“And this is Padma Patil, Papa,” Carolina bubbled. “And this is her father and her baby brother Amar, and that’s her twin sister Parvati—well, right now she’s being fussed at by their mother, so we won’t interrupt.”
Caroline's papa took Padma’s hand and shook it kindly, then gave her father a good firm shake. “Pleased to meet you,” he said to both.
“Padma’s wizard-born but she doesn’t have an advantage over me there, and she was Sorted into the same house, along with myself and Tig—that’s what we nicknamed Antigone—and Morag too. I told you all about it at Christmas Holidays. We’ve all become great friends and I’m going to owl them every week and we’ll exchange treats too!”
“Speaking of Antigone, where is she?” her papa asked, looking around.
Morag’s Uncle Alex—he didn’t look as bad as Carolina had feared, though his hair was longer than normal—noticed them and waved them over. “She remembers me from our meeting,” he said as Antigone and Esmerelda came over. “Mistook her for Morag at first, what with his name being a girl’s name—oh, don’t blush so bad, Morag, I explained it to you back then.” While there were a few Ministry officials out, only Esmerelda was from the M.B.W.W.L.O. She had her official robes on, and a neat pair of slacks and blouse underneath.
“Oh, hello, Esmerelda,” Papa said. “Come to escort Antigone to her mother? Did she not come along?”
Esmerelda looked grim and Antigone’s hands tensed around Shadow’s carrier. “You’ll see outside. She’ll probably be waiting there. No use waiting much longer Antigone, they’re probably outside.”
Antigone gulped. Carolina gave her a reassuring pat, but other than that she could be of no help. It was up to Esmerelda and Antigone.
Antigone had read the second note—from Esmerelda—over and over in the last few days at Hogwarts and partway on the train back. It had been shorter and less formal than the Ministry letter, and since Esmerelda had needed to send off the first one and seal it she’d slipped in a note to Antigone to reassure her that things were going to be okay and she’d be right on the platform to get her. But it was different on the train and at Hogwarts to feel reassured. Here, with only the barrier between her and her parents, it was like walking into the jaws of a beast.
Esmerelda and she were the last of the group to come out, but the others were looking towards the conservatively dressed couple on the platforms. Morag’s shoulder was tightly gripped by his uncle, as if to hold him back. Carolina was clutching her father’s right arm, and Padma was peeking out from behind her trolley. Her mother had taken Parvati off by her shoulder earlier to continue her fussing near the cabs, taking Amar with her, and only her father was there.
She hadn’t seen her father since July, and seeing him again made her heart leap into her throat. He was there, all six feet of him, imposing in his dark suit and tie, with angry eyes. Her mother had her head down as she stood behind him, once again in her long skirts. Antigone was glad for a moment that she was wearing a skirt, though it was shorter than the one's she’d worn before she came to Hogwarts. Even Shadow was silent, staring out of his carrier.
“Antigone Sarah Moon.” Her father spoke in his terse, commanding voice. “Come over here right now and bring me your things. They are going to be destroyed, so you won’t have any more temptations to follow the dark arts anymore. In a month you’ll be in the States, in a school the light of the good Lord shines on, where His Word is law, and there won’t be any more of that witchcraft under my roof.”
Antigone froze in place, swallowing. Before she could say anything, Esmerelda spoke up.
“So, you are back to Mr. and Mrs. Clayton Moon, then? As late as December your wife was still back to Lorna Davies, I recall.” She looked pointedly at Mrs. Moon.
Antigone’s father spoke as her mother’s eyes lowered to the ground. “I speak for my wife, ma’am. Return my daughter and give her things to me. I am her father.”
“And I am her court-appointed guardian.” Esmerelda motioned to her badge.
“I was not summoned to court regarding anything about my daughter.”
“I mailed you myself. Twice.”
“I do not heed orders from Satan’s harlots. You should know your place.”
Esmerelda held her head up high and looked him in the eye. “Well, since you didn’t answer, the heads of the department decided without your input—not that a stubborn Muggle like you would have even been able to get to the offices—and since you didn’t send anything to hold up your side, it was determined that Miss Moon have a guardian to ensure her safe return to Hogwarts this fall term. Your daughter’s skills at magic--”
“Work of the devil!” her daddy boomed, and Antigone whimpered softly.
“Magic—proper, honorable magic…”
“I will not have Satan under my roof!” Antigone could see the anger build up in her father’s eyes, and he looked as if he would explode. In three quick strides, he was nearly upon Antigone, but Esmerelda was quicker, and he froze at the sight of her wand out at the ready as she stepped in front of Antigone. Antigone heard a small gasp from Padma, but there was otherwise silence. The other Muggles on the platform hadn’t noticed, continuing to march by as if nothing was wrong, but a couple of the other students turned to see. Most were waving to Harry Potter as he made his way off with a purple faced man, his thin horsy wife, and their waddling son.
“Your daughter’s skills at magic,” Esmerelda repeated, clearly emphasizing the word ‘magic’, “are such that if she is not properly trained she will not know what to do later in life and it may very well drive her insane or cause grave danger to herself and others. Where she is now, she will get the best magical training this side of the Atlantic, and no school you could think to send her to will beat out or suppress that fact. Your daughter is a witch, Mr. Moon, and primed to become a good one at that. She has nothing to do with this ‘Satan’ of yours. The Ministry of Magic will not allow a child to not return to Hogwarts without good reason, and your overly strict following of the laws of a Muggle belief system—one based around one of our kind—is not a valid reason.”
“YOU WILL NOT SLANDER MY LORD GOD--” her father roared, reaching for Esmerelda, but she pointed the wand out straight from her and he backed away a couple steps. Antigone’s mummy whimpered quietly.
“See what I said, Clayton—they’ve been feeding her lies and blasphemy…”
“They’re not lies!” Carolina hissed, but her father pulled her away protectively before she could say any more.
“Your daughter is going home with me for the holidays, Mr. Moon,” Esmerelda spoke through clenched teeth, and Antigone could see her wand hand tense up. As kind as she was, there was no mistaking her for anything but a fully trained witch and one who would use her wand if needed. Though the way she held her wand, with the pointer finger extended, it could have been mistaken in passing for her pointing a finger at him. “She is going home with me, she will be staying there over the summer, and I will be sending her back to Hogwarts in the fall. And I would advise you not to come searching for my place to try and snatch her away. Your daughter is not a fully trained witch, sir. But I am.”
Antigone’s father didn’t step forwards, but he glared directly at her. “Until she returns to the flock,” he spoke, his speech clipped, “I have no daughter.” He marched off, Antigone’s mother following quickly behind him.
It wasn’t until they had disappeared into the crowd that Esmerelda slid her wand back into the inner pocket of her robes. Antigone let loose a hiccupping sob, and started crying as she realized what had happened. Disowned. I’ve been disowned by my daddy.
Morag, Padma, and Carolina came quickly to her side, and Esmerelda held a hand to her forehead as she watched Antigone’s parents walk off. “I wasn’t expecting that much confrontation, Antigone. I’d heard of your father from you and your mother, but I never thought he was so bad. Soon as you’re a bit calmer, I’ll take you back to my place—well, it’s home for the next few months—and I’ll brew you up some nice hot tea. Oh, Antigone.” She dropped into a kneel and pulled her close in a long hug. “I wish I could make it all better, I really do.”
Carolina handed Antigone one of her dark blue hankies to wipe her tears away with once Esmerelda had let her go. “It’ll be okay, Antigone,” she whispered. “You’ll be coming back to Hogwarts, and Esmerelda will straighten this all out while you’re there, and we’ll keep you distracted. I’ll write every day if I have to, send you sweets, Nike will take all your mail back and forth if you ask nicely, won’t you, Nike?” Nike replied with soft clicks of her beak. “You can keep that hankie, I’ve got three others, they were gifts from my mum but she won’t know, and I promise I’ll mail you as much as I can, okay?”
“We’ll all mail you, Tig,” Padma added. “It’ll be okay, it’s going to be hard being a witch for but you won’t give up, will you?” Morag gave her hand a squeeze but was otherwise quiet.
Antigone nodded, her tears slowing. It won’t be easy. But I can do it.
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