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Once things had begun to calm down, now that the students had full stomachs, Dumbledore rose to the front of the Hall again.

"As some of you are aware, the Daily Prophet has finally admitted to Lord Voldemort’s return." A few students winced and I saw Hermione shake her head. "This is true. I was there. Please… do not be frightened. Within these walls I will do everything in my power to keep you all safe this year. It saddens me that many students have not returned to Hogwarts out of fear. But what makes me happier is to see so many new faces and seeing so many familiar faces."

He scanned the crowd, his familiar smile bringing a bit of relief to me.

"I am pleased to introduce a new face to our family. Professor Horus Slughorn will be taking over as Potions Master. Our own Professor Severus Snape will be serving as our Defense against the Dark Arts teacher."

"What?!" Hermione whispered. "Snape? He’s joking, isn’t he?"

"Snape might not be half bad at the job, though." Harry whispered back. "Consider his history; Dumbledore knows what he’s doing. He must have a plan.”

"At the request of Mr. Filch, as every year, I’m going to warn all first years, as well as my older students, the third floor corridor is strictly forbidden." Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled to Ron, Harry and Hermione. I looked next to me and the red head smiled.

"I’ll tell you later." He whispered.

I smiled back and returned my gaze to the wise wizard at the front of the hall.

"Although I promise you all the safety I can provide I must ask you to be careful. It is hard to trust everyone, in my shoes at least. I hope that your childhood innocence will help you see the good in people that I may not. Please, don’t let me ruin the night."

We turned back to our plates and I noticed that Ron was refilling his with one hand, the other guiding a fork to his mouth piled with what looked like a combination of mashed potatoes, Shepard’s pie and possibly carrots.

"It’s rather disgusting, isn’t it?" Harry asked. Hermione leaned across the boy to whisper to me. "I’ve seen animals that eat cleaner than him."

"Me too." I giggled, watching the red haired boy beside me. He looked up and with a full mouth attempted to say something along the lines of: “What’s so funny?” But I can’t be certain.

I felt a hand on my shoulder and I looked up to see Professor McGonagall.

"Hello, professor. How can I help you?"

"Ms. Carlott, I’m here to invite you to begin Animagus training. Professor Sprout has declined to teach and I have offered to teach you with a select group of Gryffindors. Would you like to be trained? I am only asking because once you start, you will not be able to quit." She looked over at Ron and raised an eyebrow.

I was speechless. "I’d … I’d love that, Professor!" I smiled. “Thank you!”

"Who are the other students?" Hermione asked.

"Yourself, Ms. Granger, Potter, Longbottom, Finnegan, Thomas and Weasley." She looked at the redhead beside me and grimaced at the food-ridden face of the boy.

"Are the other houses training?" Harry asked, eyeing a few Slytherins throughout the hall.

"Yes, the other heads of house will be choosing the students at their own discretion."

McGonagall explained when we should be meeting and I would need to see her at the end of the feast to go over a few of the rules and prerequisites of the training. Usually this training is only offered to select seventh years, and never had I heard of a group this large being selected.

The rest of the feast passed without any excitement. When we were excused I stayed seated, figured it would be easier to find McGonagall after everyone had made their way to the dorms. Ron stood, but turned when he didn’t feel me stand behind him.

"What are you waiting for?" He asked, a few crumbs still on his tie.

"I have to meet with McGonagall. Remember?" I smiled. "You go ahead. I’ll see you in the common room."

"No. I’ll stay here." He sat next to me, a smile on his face. "It’ll give us some talking time, you know?"

"Sure." I smiled, wiping away the remnants of food from his uniform. We talked until the Hall was empty, mainly about our summers. Both seemed rather uneventful. Once the students had cleared out and a few house elves quietly began to clear plates from the tables we made our way to the Transfiguration classroom. The halls of the castle were quiet, the paintings talking indistinctly amongst themselves about the new students, the new teacher and the new set up in the Great Hall. Once we reached the classroom I could see the glow of a candle from inside. We knocked on the door and there was a cat on the desk. She was beautiful, a gray calico it looked like, very distinctive markings. I approached it, reaching out my hand towards the animal.

"Aren’t you a gorgeous little thing?" I pet the cats head and it purred. "I’ve always had a soft spot for cats."

"That’s probably a good thing." Ron said. "I’d step back if I were you." He gently tugged at my arm.

I did what he said and the cat jumped down from the desk and before it hit the floor McGonagall stood in front of me.

"Animagus?" I gasped. “I didn’t know that any of the teachers were. I’ve read about them.”

"Indeed, Ms. Carlott." The woman smiled. "Please, sit. Hello, Mr. Weasley." She gestured to one of the desks in front of her.

"Hi." Ron nodded, sitting next to me at the desk.

"Well, are you surprised, Ms. Carlott? This is quite the honor." The woman sighed, moving behind her large desk, sitting in her chair. "I do wish to say that I have slightly stricter rules than Hufflepuff. Our students tend to be…" She looked at Ron, "Restless."

"I understand." I nodded. “Why did you choose me, if I may ask, Professor.”

"I would have pegged you for a Ravenclaw, to be honest, Margaret." She linked her hands and set them on the desk. "You are one of my brighter pupils in class. In fact that is why I’ve requested that you, and Ms. Granger, attend my Animagus training along with the boys."

"I’m really excited." I grinned. “And I really appreciate the opportunity.”

The woman smiled. "Trainings will start next week, every Tuesday and Thursday for you and Ms. Granger and then every Tuesday and Friday for the Boys as to not interfere with Quidditch Practice."

"Awesome." Ron smiled.

"Are there any questions?" McGonagall asked. “I’m sure this is all a bit much for you, Ms. Carlott.”

"No, thank you." I smiled, standing from the desk.

"Your class schedule will change, as per mine and Professor Sprout’s wishes. I have great plans for you this year." She stood, extending her hand. "You’ll need to confer with my students regularly, so I am entrusting you with the password to our dorms. The password to the common room is Iron Mask, should it change I will make sure you are aware."

"Thank you, professor." I shook her hand. "And it’s Maggie, please. Call me Maggie."

She nodded and Ron and I walked out of the classroom. He held his hand out and I took it, intertwining our fingers.

"You know, you are full of surprises, Maggie. I wasn’t expecting the training thing." Ron smiled. "Don’t get me wrong, I couldn’t be happier that you’re practically in Gryffindor now. This means I get the chance to know you more. I’ve never really liked someone like this before, at least not after only knowing you for nearly 6 hours, you know?"

"I know. I wasn’t expecting the training.” I looked up shyly at him. “I like you, too, Ron. I’m almost glad that Malfoy cornered me. Otherwise we probably wouldn’t have talked to each other." I sighed. "I’m really glad that we did."

Ron surprised me by pulling me into a hug. He laid his head on top of mine and I snuggled against his chest. I could see the rain outside, in the courtyard, slightly over filling the top of the fountain, causing it to spill into the bottom basin. Autumn leaves floated in puddles and the courtyard pattered with the sounds of the droplets.

"You won’t have to worry about Malfoy cornering you anymore. I’ll beat him to a bloody pulp if he even looks at you funny." He kissed the top of my head. "I promise. He won’t hurt you, Maggie."

"Thanks, Ron. That means a lot." He squeezed me tightly before letting go and linking our hands again.

We made our way to the main stairwell and up to the fat lady. "Iron Mask." I smiled.

"Welcome, Ms. Carlott." The painting said to me before opening up.

Ron led me into the common room where we were met with a huge crowd of people.

"Maggie!" I looked over to see Hermione and Harry sitting by the fireplace. We wiggled our way through, ignoring the different questions being thrown at me, wondering what a Hufflepuff was doing in the common room.

"You will never believe the news I have to tell you!" I said, letting go of Ron’s hand and sitting next to Hermione. She looked up at me, from a book no less.

"What? Besides the fact that you’re holding my best mate’s hand?" Harry replied, raising an eyebrow and glancing between myself and his friend.

"I’ve already asked her to Hogsmeade, mate. It’s no secret anymore." Ron smiled, placing his arm around me.

"Anyway!" I said, interrupting the boys, turning back to Hermione. "I’ve basically become an honorary member of Gryffindor. McGonagall gave me the password because of the training."

"Really? That’s…wow. Animagus is very strange course addition for students. I’ve read that they usually wait until after graduation. Why would they start us so early?" Hermione asked, furrowing her brow. “And I’ve never heard of a teacher granting permission to another student from a different house access to a common room before.”

"I haven’t the faintest idea. McGonagall said that we were chosen by her. We’ve got different training days than the boys because of Quidditch." I bounced slightly in my seat. "Isn’t this exciting?"

"It certainly is." Hermione smiled. "Here, I’ll show you the girls’ dorm. You and I will probably spend more time there."

"Okay." I grinned. Following the girl through the crowd up the stairs, I felt like I had been friends with her forever and we were on our way to exchange secrets. We made our way up to the room, giddy as six year olds who were staying away from boys on a playground.

Hermione opened the door and there were 5 beds. Hermione sat down on her bed and I sat next to her.

"These dorms are SO much different than mine. We have little coves in our rooms, and then a large fireplace in the middle. After 3rd year the years get separate dorms. The first through third years are all in one room. It’s not all separate like yours." I sighed, rolling over and propping my head on my hands. "I’m so excited. I mean this is a perfect start to a year."

As suddenly as I was comfortable we heard a loud screech and a huge splash. We looked out the window and we saw the giant Squid along the shore of the lake, a large gash in its side. Water splashed along the shore violently, the figures of fish and mermaids near the surface in confusion.

"NO!" I ran out the door, down the stairs two at a time and was out the door faster than I ever thought I could run. I could hear Ron yelling after me as I ran through the halls. I pushed my way through the main doors out onto the grounds, the rain pouring heavily around me, but I ignored it. I could hear the screeching from the mermaids, the commotion from the students behind me, but all I could see was the wounded creature dying on the beach

I ran along the side of the lake and found Hagrid and Fang near the animal. The gentle giant was stroking the Squid’s head, sobbing quietly. The squid was twitching, and there was a low moaning emitting from the creature. It laid there, a few tentacles frantically trying to splash water onto the wound. Fang gently licked the head of the squid, his friend.

"No. No." I whispered, shaking my head. Its eye shifted to me and a tentacle reached for me, gently curling around my arm. I dropped to my knees beside it and laid my head against it.

I had met the Squid my 3rd year, while swimming in the lake. It stopped me from swimming into the Mermaid’s territory, and certainly to my death. It made sure I got safely to shore, its tentacles curled protectively around me. It saved my life.

I sobbed as the Squid stopped moving. Its eyes closed and Hagrid began wailing. The tentacle around my arm became limp and fell to the ground as I started weeping. Ron came up behind me and wrapped his arms around me.

"Look!" A crowd had gathered and a first year had pointed up towards the sky.

The dark mark appeared above the lake, the rain falling on the surface of the water-distorting its reflection. I felt all breath leave my body as I tensed in Ron’s arms.

"No." He whispered. “He can’t be here.”

"Why would he do this?!" I screamed. "What’s the point?! WHY DID YOU DO THIS?!" I yelled at the top of my lungs towards the sky. “Why?!” I sobbed, my throat closing around the sound.

"Shh." Ron began rocking my back and forth. "It’s okay. It’ll be okay."

I sobbed into his arms, to the point where it was hard to breath. Harry came up behind Ron, with Hermione close by.

"I’m going to talk to Hagrid. Dumbledore’s on his way down." He whispered to Ron.

Hermione sat beside me, stroking my hair. She whispered the same thing as Ron. That it would be okay. Everything was going to be alright.

But things just got worse. Draco Malfoy had to open his mouth.

"Aw, does the freak miss her freaky little pet?" He mocked. "Boo-Hoo."

I lost it. I couldn’t hold back anymore. I wasn’t going to sit here and take this. Not this time. Not now.

"Will you, for once in your pompous spoiled life, shut up?! You’re an arrogant selfish pig who will end up nowhere in life on insults and degrading remarks!" I screamed, standing up, being held back by Ron. I didn’t care about the mud, I didn’t care about the slime from the squid still on my arm as I gestured angrily at him, trying to reach around the arms that held me back.

"You’re nothing, Malfoy! You don’t have friends; you just have cronies that do what you tell them because they are afraid of your father. Not you. They’ll never be afraid of you." I spat at him, and he jumped back. "You’re nothing but a fear driven coward!”

"You’ll pay for that." He reached into his robes and grasped his wand.

“I dare you! What are you going to do?!” I shouted.

"Malfoy!" I turned to see Snape at the front of the crowd. "You will put your wand away… now." I was in shock. Why was the Slytherin Head of House defending me… against one of his students?

"Sir. She insulted me." Malfoy growled.

"And I am ordering you as your Head of House." Snape retaliated. “Now, Mr. Malfoy.”

It took a minute, but Malfoy put his wand back in his robe.

"Apologize to Ms. Carlott." Snape kept a stone gaze on the blonde teen.

"What?" Malfoy turned to him. "You expect me to apologize to this--?"

"Yes." The Professor answered, cutting the teenager off. "Now. Or ten points from Slytherin."

The platinum haired student sneered at me before practically spitting out an ‘I’m sorry’ He turned and walked back into the crowd. Greg Goyle stopped for a minute and offered me a sympathetic smile before following Malfoy up to the school.

I turned in Ron’s arms and hugged him as hard as I could. I was so upset. I didn’t know how to function.

Dumbledore came up behind us and walked swiftly down to Hagrid, rubbing the Half-Giant’s back. "It’ll be alright, Hagrid. He isn’t suffering anymore. We will give him a proper burial."

The huge man nodded. He sniffled. He cried. And he wailed. This man’s pet was dead. I walked up to him, reaching for his hand. Hagrid knew what happened with me and the Squid. He had been there when I reached the shore. He had been flabbergasted due to the fact that the Squid hadn’t ever shown the contact towards a human as he had with me.

The teacher gently squeezed my hand and a sob racked his body. “I’ve… I’ve got to go, Mags.” I nodded my understanding as he walked towards his hut, Fang whimpering behind him.

My tears were still silently falling as Ron came up and help me from behind, wrapping his arms around me.

Dumbledore turned to all of us. "The Squid has been part of this School’s life since Hogwarts opened its doors. This is a sad night for us all." He pointed to the Dark Mark in the sky, anger etched into his aged features. "This is a cowardly attempt to place fear in the hearts of our students. They are attempting to send you away from a safe haven. Do not let this work!"

His shout echoed throughout the grounds. "Voldemort will not get away with this."

With that, Dumbledore ordered us back to the school. Ron walked me back to into the castle, his arm secured around my shoulder. Harry suggested that we make a pit stop to the kitchens. That maybe a cup of tea would help calm me down.

I really liked that idea. My mind was working too much.

We made our way to the large portrait of various pieces of fruit. Hermione opened the portrait and we were met by dozens of house elves, asking if we were alright and what they could serve us.

"Um, could I have a mug of warm apple cider?" I asked, sitting on a stool brought to me.

"Absolutely!" A small elf chirped, running towards a large stove near the back of the kitchens.

The elves began bustling as they brought four mugs, two teas for Harry and Hermione, a hot chocolate for Ron, and my cider.

"I don’t get why they would do this. What did the squid ever do to them?" I asked, sipping my drink.

"I don’t know, Maggie. I can’t think of any reason why they would blatantly attack a creature that has done nothing bad towards these students. Remember when it pushed that Creevey boy back into the lake after he fell off the boat?" Harry laughed. "I mean that thing nearly scared the wits out of me when I was in the second task. I only saw a part of it, but boy was that thing big."

"You never told me you saw it." Hermione looked at him.

"I didn’t really think about it. I didn’t think that it was very important." Harry shrugged.

“It saved my life.” I whispered and my friends turned to me. “My third year. I went swimming. It was in the spring. Just before we were to go home at the end of term, and it was just too beautiful a day to not go swimming. I must have drifted further in the lake than I thought because when I had dived down I saw a mermaid coming at me with pitchfork. Then the next thing I know there’s a tentacle wrapped around me and I was being pulled away… Back to shore.”

My cheeks hurt from the tears and my nose was still slightly runny. “It carried me gently, not once did I think it was going to hurt me. And now… it’s gone.”

“Maggie, I’m sorry. I can tell that it meant a lot to you.” Hermione reached across and patted the back of my hand.

We chatted for a while longer, all trying to get a sense of the situation. Theories were tossed, ideas. But nothing made sense.

I was starting to get a headache from the lights and Ron was beginning to notice.

"Want me to walk you back to your common room?" He whispered.

I nodded, sipping the last of my cider, setting the mug on the table. He set his cup down and held out his hand, I took it. I felt safe when I was with him. I feeling that I hadn’t realized I craved before.

"We’re going to head back. You guys going to stay here?" He asked Harry and Hermione.

"Yea, we’re going to try to figure out Voldemort’s thinking behind the Squid." Hermione nodded. "We’ll see you guys in the morning. Try to get some sleep, Maggie, it might help." She gave me a sympathetic smile.

"Thanks, Hermione. I’ll see you in the morning." I smiled back. Ron took my hand and we walked through the painting. A few elves said goodbye on our way out and told us to come back any time if we needed anything.

We walked in silence, Ron’s large hand keeping my much smaller one warm. The paintings were in a bustle, a few of them noticed us. One asked if I was alright, Ron told her that I was just a bit shaken up. She smiled sadly.

“We all are, son.” She sighed.

Once we made it to the Hufflepuff common room, I didn’t feel like going to bed right away. I invited Ron in and we sat on the floor, next to the stone fireplace that took up the majority of one wall. Plants flanked the walls, Ivy crawling up one and out a few windows while flowers framed many portraits. The fire crackled in the silence of the common room.

"Sickle for your thoughts?" Ron broke my concentration. I turned to him, his blue eyes bright in the glow of the fire.

"I’m just trying to figure out why. Why the squid? What has it ever done to hurt Voldemort?" I asked. "There’s no logic to it."

"Maybe he was just trying to scare all of us. Don’t know if he realized it, but the blighter might’ve scared a good bit of us. I’m pretty sure I saw a first year piss him." Ron smiled, attempting to make a joke. "You’re really torn up about this, aren’t you, Maggie?"

"I don’t know what to think." I replied. I lay down, resting my head on his thigh. He began stroking my hair and it was probably the most relaxing thing anyone could’ve done for me at that moment.

I stared into the flames. I kept trying to figure out why the Squid. Why would they attack the most peaceful animal at our school? Well maybe, besides Fang. I just don’t understand. There’s no reasoning behind it.

And why has Malfoy been targeting me lately? Did he have something to do with this? Maybe trying to break the spirits of all the students. But that wouldn’t make sense to target me. I’m not someone important. I’m just me.

But the way he saw me I was the daughter of a blood traitor. Could that be it? Now that Voldemort is back he’s targeting people that he doesn’t think are pure. Was Malfoy a Death Eater Trainee?

"Can I ask you something?" I questioned, staring into the fire.

"Sure." He answered.

"Does it matter to you that my mother is a squib?"

"Does it matter to you?" He asked.

"I asked you first, Ron." I smiled.

"No. It doesn’t matter to me either way. You could be the daughter of a unicorn, centaur hybrid thing and I could care less. You are you. Not your mother." Ron sighed. "Don’t let what Malfoy says to bother you. It’s not true. You aren’t scum and neither is Hermione. Malfoy’s got someone’s wand up his arse, and it’s been there for years."

"I didn’t even realize that he knew. Most people don’t. Dumbledore does." I chuckled. "He knows everything, though, right?"

"Pretty much." He laughed. “Maggie you can talk to me about anything. Whether it’s the squid’s death bothering you or that you just want to rave about a test that went sour. I’m here for you.”

We stayed like that for an hour or two. Just talking to each other. He kissed my cheek before heading back to his dorm. Sarah and a few other Hufflepuffs came in from the lake and we all went to bed. When I saw we all went to bed, I mean they went to sleep and I just lay in bed beneath the blankets for a few hours.

I couldn’t help thinking about what Ron said. ‘You are you. Not your mother.’

But what if I am?

Something has to be wrong with me. Most squibs can’t produce magical children. Even with the most pure of magical blood can’t ensure a magical child. What happened that made me who I am? There’s got to be something that makes me different. Why would McGonagall want to start Animagus training with me? I mean the Golden Trio makes sense.

They’ve been through so much; it makes sense to specially train them.

But why me?

I’m just the daughter of a squib.


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