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I paced around the common room; most of the younger students had gone to bed. It was mainly 6th and 7th years gathered around the fire.

"What are we going to do? It’s the second day of school and everything’s gone to hell and back." I mumbled, rubbing my hand through my hair.

"Mags, please, sit down." Ron held his hand out for me and I sat next to him on the couch.

"I’m serious though. This is the second day of school. Merlin knows what Voldemort has planned for the rest of the term. What's going to happen when Christmas comes around? Where are we going to send people?"

"I doubt that Dumbledore won’t come up with some sort of plan, Maggie." Hermione sighed. "He won’t leave us high and dry."

"Has anyone here owled their parents?" I asked.

"I have." Dean Thomas spoke up. "They’re on their way to Paris, to stay with family. Mum says that the attack just came out of nowhere. One minute she’s making lunch and the next she’s running out of a burning house, with Death Eaters all around her."
 

"The bloody cods attacked in broad daylight!" Seamus growled. "They got me dad’s house, too!"

"I don’t get it. I just don’t get it, you know?" Harry murmured. We all looked to the Boy-Who-Lived who stood against the fireplace.

"Everything Voldemort does--there's a reason. It’s either to get at me or Dumbledore. What’s the reasoning behind it? He’s got to have someone working for him, someone here at the school. How else would he have access to records of who lives where and whose muggleborn of half-blood or not? It’s so complicated. I think the Squid was a distraction, I really do." Harry sighed. "I’m reinstating Dumbledore’s Army."

"What is that?" I asked.

"You didn’t know about it last year?" Harry turned to me. "Didn’t anyone mention it to you?"

"No. With Umbridge around no one talked to each other. They were afraid of something being used against them." I answered. "What is it?"

"It’s a student run organization." Hermione explained. "Harry, Ron and I basically taught the students how to defend themselves, because Umbridge obviously wasn’t teaching us anything."

"How’d you pull it off?" I asked, curious. "How did you not get caught?"

"We did." Harry chuckled. "They broke down the bloody walls. There’s a secret room called the Room of Requirement. It only becomes available to people who truly need it."

"That’s incredible!" I gasped.

"It is. Harry taught me more than any of the past teachers." Dean smiled. "I didn’t even really know what a Patronus was until he showed us."

"You can create a full Patronus charm?" I asked, and many different heads around the room nodded. "That’s amazing."

"It’s amazing and most people thought that it was impossible." Harry sighed. "We should get to bed. There isn’t anything that we can do tonight. We can talk to Dumbledore in the morning, I’m sure he’ll have something to tell us. It’ll be a bloody miracle if they don’t close the school."

"They won’t do that, will they?" A first year girl stood at the bottom of the stairs, her eyes big and frightened.

I rushed over to her and pulled her into a hug. "No sweetie, they won’t close the school. Professor Dumbledore won’t let them."

"You promise?" She sniffled.

"I promise." I pulled back, brushing one of her stray hairs behind her ear. "What’s your name sweetie?"

"I’m Emily." She smiled.

"Well, Emily, I’m Maggie. And I promise no one is going to hurt you, okay?" I whispered, kneeling down in front of her. "Because I don’t let people hurt my friends, alright?"

She nodded, smiling. "Thanks Maggie!" She hugged me again, and ran back up the stairs.

"You shouldn’t have made that promise, Mags." Harry sighed. "You have no way of keeping it."

"Dumbledore won’t close this school. He can’t close this school. This may be the only place that some of these kids have to go anymore." I retorted. "It’s the only place I have to go anymore."

"We’ll figure it out in the morning." He put his hand on my shoulder. "But there’s nothing we can do tonight."

I nodded. Most everyone went upstairs. Harry, Ron and Hermione stayed in the common room with me. I stood and looked out the window, watching some children making their way to the carriages.

"Maggie, are you alright?"Hermione asked.

"I’m fine." I answered.

"I don’t believe you." Ron said, standing up and walking over to me. "Your guardian just died and your home was destroyed. I don’t know about you, but I’d be going out of my mind right now."

I turned to him and I hugged him. "I’m going out of my mind because I’m worried about these kids. Most of my friends in Hufflepuff were muggleborns and I recognize some of the names in the paper. Some of them have nowhere to go anymore. I can’t help but wonder what’s going to happen to them now."

"I don’t know, but Harry’s right. We can’t do anything about it tonight" Ron leaned his forehead against mine. "We’ll deal with what we can in the morning, love."

I nodded. He leaned down and lightly kissed me, making my heart skip a beat. "Don’t worry about a thing right now."

He hugged me one last time before we parted ways and I made my way down to the Hufflepuff common room.

I turned to my left and saw the Fat Friar beside me.

"That was really sweet of you, what you said to that little girl." He smiled. "I think it meant a lot to her."

I nodded. "I hope so. I don’t want her thinking there’s nowhere to go, or that there’s no one here for her." I sighed. "I’m not going to abandon anyone."

"You’re definitely loyal; I’ll give you that, Mags." He laughed laughed.

"You know who I am?" I asked, shocked.

"Of course I do, dear. You’re my mother’s heir." He smiled. "You truly embody what she always hoped Hufflepuff House to be. She never wanted the house to be lost in the meaning. She wanted it to bring out the qualities of its students. It’s not the name that makes you loyal, Maggie." He stopped floating in front of me and pointed at my heart. "It’s what is inside you that makes you loyal, not only to your housemates, but to your school."

I smiled at the ghost and he escorted me to the dorms. "I may have left the wizarding world behind, when I gave my life to the church, but I’ve always remained forever faithful to the castle. I’m glad my spirit is here. Its home to more than just its students, Maggie. Remember that. This place is home for the feelings that Hogwarts imposes on its students. Safety. Happiness. Trust. Remember this. You’ll need to."

"Need to what, Friar? Remember it for what?"

"You and I both know that something dark is coming, child." He sighed. "It takes the jolly laugh out of me every time I think about it."

With that he left, leaving me alone outside of the Hufflepuff common room. I made my way in, the room empty and quiet. Heading down the hall towards the dorms I could hear the slow steady breathing of my housemates.

I tossed and turned a bit, but all in all, I slept pretty well. The gravity of the situation finally hit me when I realized just how many kids went home the night before. We had lost most of the first years, a couple second and third years and nearly all of our seventh years were gone.

"I don’t get it." Ron whispered at breakfast. "Why would they leave?"

"Most probably wanted to be with their families, I’m sure they’re scared out of their minds." I whispered back.

He nodded, poking a bit more at his breakfast.

I heard the screeches as the owls brought in the morning mail. I saw my father’s owl, Egeus flying gracefully towards me. He landed on my shoulder and dropped a note into my lap.

The parchment felt heavy as I opened it


Margaret,


If you are reading this then I’m sorry to inform you that your mother has left me. She said that she felt betrayed that she didn’t get any magic and that you got more than you deserved. I gave her the choice of taking that back or leaving. She chose the latter.
I’m on my way to England. Dumbledore has requested I fill an empty teaching position and I feel that in these times I cannot refuse him. I’m sorry that Hannah’s gone. I’m sure that you will miss her.
Dumbledore told me that you discovered that you are the heir of Hufflepuff. I was going to tell you when you were out of school, but I guess fate will choose its own course. I’m sorry that I didn’t tell you. I just didn’t know how to. With your friends in Gryffindor, I am even more at ease as to your future.
I will see you in a few days, darling.
Love Always,
Papa
"My dad’s coming." I whispered.

"What?" Ron asked.

"My dad… Dumbledore asked him to fill in a teaching position. He knew all along that I was the heir. He knew all along. And my mom…" I looked back down at the paper. "She left him…"

"Why?" Hermione spoke. "Were there problems?" Egeus hopped down to the table and began pecking at my oatmeal.

"No. My father loved her. He basically worshipped her. But she… she said I had more magic than I deserved and it wasn’t fair because she didn’t have any." I sighed, tears coming to my eyes. "I wouldn’t think that anything a mother said could be as hurtful as that…"

Ron put his arm around me. "She might just be a bit overwhelmed with everything." He suggested. "Moms do that."

"Not my mom. She always keeps her cool." I folded the paper up, putting it away inside my potions book. I reached over and pet Egeus as he ate what was left of the oatmeal.

"She’s just being dramatic, I guess." I tried to reassure my friends… I think more than anything I attempted to assure myself.

My mom never really liked to talk to me, you know? She didn’t seem to love me after my magic became apparent.

I was six… A dog had scared me and I turned him into a flower. It was a total accident. But it happened, none the less. My mom went absolutely livid. I thought she was going to kill me.
I guess she really did think that I didn’t deserve my magic.

"Maggie?" I turned to see Emily standing next to me, her schedule in her hand.

"Yes, sweetie?" I asked.

"Can you help me find my first class?" She held the paper up to me. "I don’t know where Professor Trelawney is."

I smiled, getting up. "I know right where her class is. Come on, I’ll show you."

"I’ll come, too." Ron got up, coming beside me and taking my hand.

"Is he your boyfriend?" Emily asked.

I nodded.

"Doesn’t he have cooties?" She scrunched her nose.

"No, I make him take a shower every day and cooties don’t like clean boys." I winked.

"Oh, okay. I’ll remember that." She nodded.

"I don’t have cooties." Ron whispered in my ear.

"I know, love." I whispered back, kissing him on the cheek.

He smiled as the three of us made our way up to the Divination Tower. Emily hadn’t ever seen that part of the school and she was in awe as we made our way up the winding stairwell.

"She’s not scary is she?" The first year asked me.

"She’s… different. She likes to theatricalize things." I smiled.

"That isn’t a word." She laughed.

"There aren’t really many words that she can use to describe Trelawney." Ron explained.

We dropped her off at her first class and made our way back to the Gryffindor Common Room. Ron and I had free period while Harry and Hermione had Advanced Arithmancy.

"So you never did tell me what your dad’s coming to teach." Ron stated as we sat on the couch.

"He didn’t tell me." I shrugged in reply. "I assumed that he didn’t know yet."

"I don’t know of any other teachers who have quit or anything, you know?" He sighed, wrapping both arms around me.

I cuddled against him and breathed in that scent that I absolutely loved.

"Did you mean what you said, to Emily?" Ron asked.

"You don’t have cooties, Ron." I smiled.

"No, you said… You said I was your boyfriend." He whispered. "Did you mean that?"

"I was kind of just assuming, you know?" I grinned, looking up at him.

He smiled back at me and we spent most of that free period cuddling on the couch. I really liked the feeling of being in his arms. I felt like how those cheesy teen romance novels describe. Safe, loved, wanted. I don’t care if it is cheesy, to be perfectly honest. All I know is that I feel perfectly content.

Hermione and Harry came into the Common Room after class, and we chatted for a while before making our way down to Ancient Runes.

Ron and Harry were going to drop us off at the classroom while they went to Divination.

As we all walked down the hall, my hand secure in Ron’s, I saw Sarah. She glared at me before turning away.

I was really confused by this, and kind of hurt.

"I’ll be right back." I mumbled before running after her.

"Sarah!" I yelled as I saw her long brown hair turn a corner. I ran after her, finally catching her in the Astronomy Tower stairwell.

"What’s wrong?" I asked, out of breath.

"You! That’s what’s wrong!" She yelled, startling me.

"What?" I gasped.

"You! You’re so perfect, aren’t you?" She growled. "What was Hufflepuff not good enough for you? You have to go and pretend you’re a Gryffindor? You aren’t your mother; you know that, I know that—Stop trying to prove it to everyone else!"

"I’m—I’m not, Sarah. I’m not pretending--these are my friends. What is your problem?!" I cried.

"You’re just trying to prove you belong. You don’t belong anywhere, you bitch." She sneered. She ran up the stairs, leaving me crying at the base.

"Maggie?" I turned to see Neville, coming up the stairs. When he saw my crying he rushed up. "Are you alright?"

I shook my head and ran all the way to Ancient Runes, crying the entire time. Ron was waiting outside the classroom. I stopped when I saw him and I just collapsed against the wall. He was by my side in a second.

"I haven’t changed!" I cried, punching the ground.

"What are you talking about, love?" Ron asked.

"Sarah! She says that I’ve changed and I haven’t!" I wailed. "How could she do this to me? I was there for her for everything…" Sobs overtook my body and I could feel anger and betrayal boiling in my blood as I cried on the cold cobblestone floor. I felt strange. My body felt like it was attacking me with all its power.

"Maggie…" He almost sounded like he was crying, too. "What’s wrong?"

Everything was so much… The Squid, Hannah, Sara… I couldn’t handle it. My body felt like an army, and I was the battleground.

I passed out in Ron’s arms.

Apparently Professor Babbling came out when I was screaming and she ordered Ron to take me to the infirmary. He carried me the entire way.

I woke up to an overly sweet smelling powder being rubbed on my upper lip. I opened my eyes to see Madam Pomfrey and Ron, Harry, and Hermione. Dumbledore was standing at the edge of my bed.

"Maggie, are you alright?" Ron asked, grabbing my hand.

I nodded. "I’m really sorry." I whispered.

"For what?" Harry sighed. "You are stressed beyond belief; it was only a matter of time before you passed out."

"He’s right." Hermione nodded. "There’s nothing really that you could’ve done to prevent this breakdown. Not that you had a mental breakdown or anything. Well you did, but at the same time you didn’t—Never mind, I’m just really glad that you’re okay." She smiled.

"May I have a moment with Ms. Carlott alone, please?" Dumbledore asked.

"Can I stay?" Ron asked, still holding my hand.

"I would really like him to." I added.

He nodded and Harry, Hermione, and Madam Pomfrey left the room. He looked back at us and sighed.

"I have some news that may be rather shocking, especially considering your condition, but you must know." He came around the end of the bed and sat down on the adjacent cot.

"Your father is on his way here, and I know you already know this, but what you don’t know is that your father is coming here to be reinstated as an Auror. Your father will be among the many Aurors around the school, here to protect the students."

"What?" I was beyond confused. "My dad said that he was coming here to teach a class. My dad isn’t an Auror."

"Your father was among the first to capture the Death Eaters after Voldemort’s fall when you were a baby. But your mother didn’t like the idea of him fighting dark wizards, so she asked him to retire." Dumbledore sighed. "And you know better than anyone how faithful he was to your mother."

I nodded. "He’d do anything for her."

"He’ll be here any minute." The headmaster smiled. "He already knows that you’re here." He stood up and made his way towards the door.

"This just keeps getting weirder and weirder." I whispered.

"Oh!" The old wizard turned. "One more thing, Professor McGonagall has asked me to remind you of your Animagus training tonight."

"Wait, she said it wasn’t until next week." I reminded him.

"She changed it." He smiled.

"Professor?" I asked.

"Hmm?" He turned back towards me.

"Before I passed out I felt as though… I don’t know, as though my magic was attacking me. It really scared me and I don’t quite understand it."

"You will, Ms. Carlott."
Dumbledore then turned and exited the wing.

"That ought to be fun." Ron mumbled.

I turned to the red head boy at my side and I couldn’t help but stare. Right then, at my bedside, Ron looked as handsome as I had ever seen him.

"What is it?" He asked.

"Nothing." I whispered. I leaned down and kissed him, putting more emotion into it than I probably should have. He kissed me back, as much passion as I, and something more. He held back just enough as to not pressure me into going farther than that kiss.

I pulled away and leaned my forehead against his.

"Bloody Hell…" Ron smiled.

"I really like you, Ron." I sighed.

"I really like you too, Maggie." He grinned, kissing me again, but we were interrupted.

"Care to introduce me, Margaret?" I turned to see my father standing a few beds away.

I hadn’t seen my father in a little over a year. He was still as regal looking as ever. He had very defined features and a resonating voice. He had gentle blue eyes, and a slight scruffy jaw line.

"Papa, this is Ron Weasley. Ron, this is my dad." I gently brought my legs to the side of the bed, and was about to stand when Ron stopped me.

"Pomfrey gave you a muscle relaxant. You wouldn’t be standing for very long." He smiled. I stayed sitting while he went over to shake my father’s hand.

"It’s very nice to meet you, sir."

"I know your parents. Good people. I hope you’ll treat my daughter well. You don’t want to know what I can do to you or where I could send you if you broke her heart." My papa smiled.

"Don’t tease him. He’s a good person, papa." I laughed.

"I know, sweetie." Papa winked.

"I’ll leave you two alone." Ron came back over to me and kissed my head. "I’ll be outside."

He nodded to my father as he walked past him. When he was out of the wing my father came and sat down on the bed with me.

"Are you alright?" He asked.

"I’m just stressed, papa." I explained. "With everything that’s going on and all of the new things that I’m learning about myself, it’s hard to stay fully aware of everything around me, you know?"

Papa nodded. "Maggie, there’s nothing to be afraid of. With me here you don’t have to worry about anything anymore. I won’t let anyone hurt you, or your friends. That’s why Dumbledore asked me here. I’m going to help Hagrid with Care of Magical Creatures and Severus wants my help with DADA. The other Aurors will simply stand post on the grounds. We can’t risk a battle at Hogwarts."

"A b-battle?" I stuttered. "Is that what Voldemort’s planning."

Papa flinched at his name. "The minister thinks so. We can’t risk it."

I nodded.

"I’ll go ask Pomfrey for a potion that will at least allow you to walk. That way you can get to your Animagus training." Papa winked. "Hopefully if you’re anything like your old man here, you’ll be a courageous Panther."

He walked into the office of the Head Healer and I sighed.

I hoped that he was right, that I didn’t have to worry about so much now that he was here. I knew that my Papa would protect me. I knew that Ron would, too.

I just don’t know if I can protect them.
 


 

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