Having a semi-famous father had never done anything for Minnie Longbottom’s social life. True, when she first got to Hogwarts, people gawked at her, full of stories their parents had told them about the great battle at Hogwarts. It didn’t take long for her presence to lose its interest, especially when she had Hugo Weasley and Lily Potter, children of two of the most famous couples in Wizarding history, in her grade.

Hugo and Lily had been her friends since childhood, but once they got to Hogwarts, they had been separated into different houses. Sweet Lily found herself in Hufflepuff and clever Hugo was instantly dropped into Ravenclaw. Somehow, Minnie had found herself sorted into Gryffindor, forced to endure her father as Head.

The other girls in her House were nice enough, of course, but they didn’t really have anything in common with Minnie. For example, Norah Finnigan, a bouncy girl with short sandy blonde hair, was far too interested in makeovers for Minnie’s taste.

Thus, Minnie found herself boxed into the stereotype of an overly studious bookworm. She grew to be comfortable with this and, encouraged by her father, had been the top of her class through her first four years of Hogwarts. She expected her fifth year to be no different.

Except for one tiny secret.

Her secret endeavor had begun in the spring of her third year, when she began learning about Animagi in Transfiguration. A great lover of animals, she grew fascinated with the idea of becoming an Animagus herself. Since she didn’t have the patience to wait until she was of age, Minnie decided, after careful consideration, to take the biggest risk of her life.

She was going to train herself to become an Animagus, without having to be registered.

She set about immediately, gathering most of the information before she left for home that year and spent the whole summer poring over volumes on the advanced type of magic. It wasn’t until the next year that she began experimenting, trying the spell over and over again.

Every once in awhile, she felt her body twitch and start to change but she never had so much as a tiny bit of fur grow on her body. She obviously couldn’t do anything about it over the summer, and so she had contrived a perfect plan to get Professor O’Durkle, her beloved Transfiguration teacher, to give her the tips that she needed without arousing too much suspicion.

On the eighth day of classes, Minnie made her way through the hallways with a large book clamped to her chest. She tried to look casual as she weaved in and out of the traffic of students, worrying that somehow one of them might guess her secret.

Just as she was nearing the Transfiguration room, Peeves the poltergeist dropped an alarming quantity of whipped cream filled balloons on the head of a third-year walking by. She let out a scream of rage, trying to wipe the creamy substance out of her eyes while screaming, “Peeves, you bloody arse! I’m going to kill you, I swear!” in a light Irish brogue.

“He’s already dead,” called out another voice. “And serves you right for wearing your skirt that short, Maeve. Mam’ll kill you if she finds out.”

Minnie, like many in the hallway, had stopped in her tracks to watch the spectacle, and now turned to see two of the seventh-year Gryffindors approaching the still fuming third-year. She recognized them as Larkin Finnigan and, her heart skipped a beat, Albus Potter.

Albus had been a long-time crush of Minnie’s. Their fathers had, obviously, been dear friends at Hogwarts, and Albus had been a constant present in Minnie’s childhood. She didn’t see much of him at school since he tended to run with the more popular, older Gryffindors.

That didn’t stop him from giving her a small smile as he walked over with Larkin, though. “How was your summer, Minnie?” he asked politely.

Minnie was at lost for words for a moment, staring into his lovely brown eyes. “Erm, it was fun!” she said, her voice squeaky to her ears. “I read a lot and stuff, and it was, you know, fun!”

“Glad to hear that,” said Albus, with a slight chuckle as Larkin started to drag his sister away from the crowd. “I’ve got to go with him, but I’ll be seeing you, I guess.”

He gave her a slight wave as he walked off, and it was only then that Minnie realized that she hadn’t remembered to ask him how his summer had gone, and whether he had a girlfriend, and whether he ever thought about her when he could think of absolutely nothing else to do- Damn it, Min, she thought, a blush creeping high onto her cheeks. You’ve got to keep focused!

With only one quick glance at Albus’s retreating figure, she hurried off to Professor O’Durkle’s office.

”&”&”&”


Less than an hour later, she emerged from a long talk with O’Durkle, the notes of which were crammed tightly in her hand. He had completely bought her story about a Care of Magical Creatures paper that would explore the benefits of communications with animals through Animagus. He hadn’t even batted an eyelash when she asked him to describe in detail what he felt like before he transformed (his Animagus happened to be a cheerful Irish Setter).

She started quickly down the corridor, planning out spots to try another transformation when she was stopped by O’Durkle’s voice calling from the office, “Wait, Miss Longbottom!”

Minnie stopped in her tracks, her heart immediately starting a terrified tattoo. “Yes, sir?” she asked timidly, turning around.

She sighed in relief to see that O’Durkle was merely holding her forgotten quill out to her and was not intent on questioning her motives. “Do come back if you have any more questions,” he said cheerily, patting her on the head. “I love to see students as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as you.”

Minnie offered him a smile, since his silly expressions were a common occurrence, and said, “Of course, sir!”

With that, she started off towards the Entrance Hall, deciding that the Quidditch pitch would be the most deserted place at this time of day. The sun was shining brightly as she stepped outside; Minnie took in a deep breath of fresh air and beamed at the lovely earth around her.

She pondered what kind of creature she would transform into, positive that the new advice would help guide her. She fancied something grand, like maybe an eagle. Or perhaps she would turn into something wonderful and fluffy- something that people would like to pay attention to- like a Golden Retriever.

Her mind on fire with all the possibilities, she whipped out her wand and started the incantation immediately upon reaching the edge of the field. She focused hard on every part of her body, as O’Durkle had told her to, and centered on the word “change”.

Change, change, change, she thought, her pace of thought quickening as she felt her body vibrate and begin to heat.

Suddenly, she felt an intense sucking sensation somewhere in her belly and a loud whirring in her ears.

After a moment, it stopped, and she cautiously opened her eyes. She blinked several times at what she saw. The field is enormous, she thought, exasperate. I must have shrunk myself by mistake!

She looked down to where her hands usually were only to find brown, fur-covered paws. She let out a yelp of surprised only to find that a loud squeak had replaced it. Oh, Godric, she thought, panicked. I’m not a dog at all!

Something moved in her peripheral vision, and she slowly turned her head to look behind her. She gulped at what she saw. With a big, bushy tail like that, there was only one possible explanation as to what her Animagus form was.
”&”&”&”


Minnie was utterly distraught; not only was she a failure at making friends, but now her wonderful, secret plan had backfired. How could she ever be special if her Animagus form was so lame.

There’s nothing to be done, thought Minnie the squirrel as she raced across the yard. I’ll have to throw myself in the Lake.

Her disappointment disappeared and was quickly replaced by panic when she recognized two figures sitting alone by the lake. She backtracked slowly on her paws until she knocked into something behind her. She looked up, terrified, to find an enormous owl eyeing her hungrily.

It clicked its beak, and she surprised herself by letting out an angry chatter before sprinting up the nearest tree. I guess I have an animal instinct now, she thought, her heart still pounding from her brief encounter.

The tree she had escaped to had a branch extended out over where Albus and Larkin were sitting. Minnie debated for a moment whether or not listening in on their conversation while in a tree moved her feelings from silly crush to creepy obsession; her curiosity won out in the end, however, and she crawled along the edge of the branch.

“Well, you know that Chrissy Kralhome has a thing for you this year, right?” Larkin was saying.

“She’s only interested ‘cause of my dad,” said Albus, rolling his eyes. “Besides, she’s not my type of girl.”

“I’m starting to think that you don’t have a type of girl, Al,” said Larkin, poking him in the shoulder. “You haven’t dated anyone since Eve. And that was beginning of last year!”

Albus shrugged, clearly not fazed. Although she couldn’t see his face, Minnie could hear the smile in his voice as he said, “What do you think of Minnie Longbottom?”

“Herbology teacher’s daughter?” asked Larkin incredulously. “Isn’t she a friend of your sister’s?”

“Yeah, kind of,” replied Albus, his voice not giving away anything. “I don’t think they hang out much anymore.”

“Dunno,” said Larkin, with a bit of a snort. “She’s kind of a weird skirt.”

Albus nodded in agreement, and Minnie’s heart sank. Eavesdropping had been a terrible idea. This stupid squirrel suit just led to one disaster after another. That is, until she heard him say, “She’s kind of interesting, though.”

“Yeah?” said Larkin, never one for talks about feelings.

“Yeah,” said Albus, his voice betraying a little more awkwardness. “I mean, she’s pretty, too, right?”

“She was looking good when we just saw her,” grunted Larkin. “Why? You interested?”

“I think so,” said Albus, and Minnie nearly fell out of the tree. “I don’t think I could ask her out, though.”

”Why the hell not, mate?” asked Larkin. “If you’re going to put me through this kind of torturous situation, you can’t just sit there and do nothing about it.”

Albus shrugged again, unaffected by his friend’s outburst. “I guess it just seems like she has a lot going on,” he explained. “Studying and all. She’s top of her class.”

Meanwhile, up in the tree, Minnie was so excited that her entire tiny body was quivering. He likes me! her brain squealed. He wants to ask me out!

“Yeah, I probably won’t,” he said. “She’ll probably be too busy.”

The violin music that had been playing in Minnie the squirrel’s head for the last fifteen seconds came to a crashing halt. What? she asked herself, outraged. Because I spend a lot of time focusing on my studies, some ridiculous boy isn’t going to ask me out?

It was then that Minnie made up her mind. For once, she wasn’t going to be awkward; she wasn’t going to be shy. She was going to march straight up to Albus Potter and ask him if he would go out to Hogsmeade with her. She leapt out of the tree, surprised by her own agility and raced back to the Quidditch pitch.

Maybe a squirrel is a great Animagus, after all, she decided as her body transformed back.

Not even checking to see that all of her body parts had returned to where they belonge, she hurried back to the castle just in time to see Albus and Larkin heading inside. “Albus, wait!” she called out, her breath running out.

He turned, looking pleasantly surprised to see her. His kind smile quickly grew on his face, and he motioned for Larkin to go inside. Larkin gave him a wink and left him waiting for Minnie to approach.

“What’s up?” he asked curiously, once she had reached him.

Minnie’s face reddened and her throat closed up. Here it was, the moment of truth. “Erm…” she started, before she shook herself. She could do this. “I was wondering if you would gotoHogsmeadewithme?”

Although the last part of her sentence blurred together out of nerves, Albus got the message. In fact, he seemed to find it pretty funny because he burst out laughing.

Ashamed and hurt, Minnie grew silent and muttered, “Okay, I’m sorry that I-“

“No, no!” said Albus earnestly, trying to wipe the grin off of his face. “I would love to go to Hogsmeade with you. I’d love to go anywhere with you, honestly. It’s just-“

Unable to contain himself, he let out another hearty laugh and pointed over her shoulder.

“You might want to get rid of the tail first!”

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