Prue woke to the light ding of metal. She looked to her left side, seeing that Callisto had slid the curtains around her bed open. On Prue's other side and across the room, the three other Slytherin girls were also getting ready for the day. Prue sat up in bed, scanning exposed stone and witchlight sconces. Buzz hadn't given her his usual tap of hello.
He doesn't have to stay with me all the time, Prue thought. He's probably just out because he's happy he's home. But Buzz had only left his place on her ear when he'd had to, so she could lay down to sleep.
Prue looked out for a flash of blue as she got washed and dressed. Even when the other girls started leaving for breakfast, she hung back to rummage around. Buzz hadn't ever gotten more than a room away from her since she'd met him. She didn't know what she'd do if something had happened to him.
Calisto left last, saying, "Don't miss charms. It's at eight."
Prue nodded. "Thanks. I won't be that long."
Prue sifted through her sheets, clothes, and school supplies for a creature the size of a knut. She called for Buzz to give her a sign even if he wanted to hide. She searched until the pendulum clock on the wall read seven fifty, then had to run for the charms classroom.
She burst into class with a minute to spare, briefly returning an acknowledging smile from Calisto. The only free seat out of three long benches that ran the length of the classroom was at the middle bench's right end.
"Hiya," said a red-and-gold-tied boy as she sat next to him. "You sleep in?"
"Something like that," Prue said, watching the teacher walk in through a door from the next room.
"Well, glad to meet you. Name's Octavian West."
"Sure. Mine's Prudence." She took her wand out of her sleeve.
For the entirety of the next hour, Prue struggled to act interested. She might have been able to if the teacher had let them cast, but Prue knew first year charm theory front and back. The lesson became background noise as Prue ran through worst-case scenarios about Buzz. He was sick and couldn't answer her, or one of the other girls had caught him, or he had decided that he didn't want to stay with her anymore.
The class laughed at something the teacher had said, and Octavian smiled over at Prue. She frowned back at him.
Octavian's smile staled. "Slytherins," he muttered, as he turned to his other side.
Prue broke from her musings again at the end of class, when Calisto met her at the door.
"Hey," Prue said.
"Morning," Calisto said, frowning slightly. "You never came to breakfast."
"Oh, yeah. Sorry, I got lost." Prue smiled to reassure her. "Barely got to class on time, too."
"I saw. There's a map on the back of your schedule, you know."
"Er, no. I missed that."
"It's fine. The print is too tiny to read anyway," Calisto said. As they entered a hallway divided from a courtyard with stone arches, she seemed to brighten with the flood of sunlight. "And now you have me to lead you."
Prue gave her a half-smile. "History, right?"
"I'll try to keep you awake. My sister says it's taught by a ghost that tries to bore people to death."
"It might be better to fall asleep then."
Calisto shrugged. "Might be." She pulled out an envelope from under the cover of her charms book. "This came for you at breakfast. I hope you don't mind me taking it for you. I'm not sure what would have happened to it."
Taking it, Prue frowned. "I shouldn't be getting any letters."
"I thought it was from one of your friends in the muggle world," Calisto said. She pointed at the postage stamp. "Because they stuck a queen on the envelope, see? It's a pretty picture, but I don't get why they used it up on something that you're just going to throw away. I can unstick it for you, if you like. If you want to save it."
"No, that's alright," Prue said, slipping the envelope under the cover of her own charms book. "But thanks. I'll read it later. Did anything else happen at breakfast?"
Calisto's eyes lit up. "Oh yes, you remember that boy that was watching us before? At the feast?"
A picture in a history book, the man at the gate, Prue thought. "…What about him?"
"I talked to him this morning."
"Why?" Prue said, heart in throat.
"Curiosity! As it turns out, you two have a lot in common. He doesn't know who his parents are either."
"I'm not going to be his friend."
Calisto slumped a little. "Why not? I think you could get along."
"He's a little odd, don't you think?"
"Well that may be a good thing, considering his upbringing. He's very restrained. You wouldn't know he hadn't been raised by a good family."
"What's he restraining?" Prue muttered.
Calisto snickered behind her hand. "Now, don't be difficult. I was thinking: You two look kind of alike don't you think? His hair is darker than yours, and he's very pale, but what if you were related? Wouldn't that be a fairy tale? Brother and sister separated at birth by the tragic disappearance of their parents and sent to live in the muggle world until their eleventh years."
"There is no way he's my brother."
Calisto laughed. "Probably not, but isn't it fun to imagine?"
"Not with him."
With a sigh, Calisto gave in. "You're difficult, you know."
Prue nodded, and she and Calisto returned to their dorm. Prue looked around her storage shelf as she retrieved her History book, but she saw no sign of Buzz.
Calisto said, "Come on. You're going to make us both late."
History was as boring as promised, leaving Prue to worry until lunch. She glanced around the Great Hall for the absent Tom Riddle. Admittedly, her developing suspicion of him didn't make sense. He had no reason to hurt Buzz.
"Are you looking for that boy again?" Calisto said. She also looked around, but her eyes lingered more on the first years present. Two of their roommates, Ellery Burke and Roslyn Rookwood, sat together with some of the older Slytherins. Prue didn't know the names of all six first-year boys, but Calisto also took a moment to look over the three of them at the table.
Prue replied, "Looking out."
Calisto frowned at her. "What do you have against him? You can't object to his heritage."
"I just get a bad feeling about him." Prue shrugged, focusing on her meal. "It's not something I can explain."
"You should have told me that sooner! A wizard must always trust their instincts."
"Yes. If you feel like he's bad news, then why bother with him?" Calisto looked around and spotted the arrival of their last roommate. "Oh! Maybe I can get Aquila to sit with us. She doesn't seem to have formed an opinion about you yet."
Calisto waved the girl over, who hesitated before joining them.
"Aquila, I wanted you to meet Prue. I've been trying to get her up to speed, but she probably needs a third eye."
"Well, if last night was any indication…" Aquila said. She looked at Prue. "I feel like I know your life story already."
"The interrogation. Calisto was afraid you'd feel attacked and unwelcome."
"Aquila!" Calisto said in a hiss. She glanced over at Prue, then said, "It's unfair to leave you at a disadvantage, I suppose."
Aquila worked with Calisto and Prue through the animal wrangling of Care of Magical Creatures, but in Herbology, Prue paired with Calisto to replant a green tulip with roots that danced like they had been hit by a jelly-legs jinx. Despite Calisto's complaints, they were one of the first done. When they were leaving the greenhouses, Calisto gasped and held her hand up for Prue to see.
"Look what it did to my skin. What is that?"
Prue looked at the small red spot on Calisto's pointer finger and sighed. "A hangnail. You've never gotten one before?" She reached out to stop Calisto. "No, don't pull it!"
Calisto let out a shrill shriek that had a few heads turning. "Merlin and Circe, that hurts!" She held tight to her finger.
"How do you not know that you aren't supposed to pull a hangnail?"
"Ahh, look for the nurse on the back of my schedule."
"You don't need to go to the nurse for a hangnail. They heal on their own."
"I don't care what muggles do. I want it gone."
Prue shook her head but obligingly turned over the schedule. "The Matron is going to laugh you out of the infirmary."
The school nurse sighed when Calisto stormed into the infirmary, but she didn't send them away. She got out a big tub of pinkish paste and spread a dot over Calisto's hangnail.
"Leave that on for ten minutes while I do some paperwork," she said, before disappearing into her office.
Calisto hummed at Prue because she'd been right, then jumped off the bed to walk around the infirmary.
Prue followed, inwardly shaking her head.
The infirmary had four other patients, two of which were first year Slytherins.
Calisto stopped at the edge of one of the beds to tut.
"Mulciber, Lestrange, what happened to you?"
In the other bed, Lestrange said, "Just a few broken bones, Calisto. Are you here to wish us well?"
Calisto held up her finger with the pink paste. "Herbology accident," she said, quite seriously. "How long are you going to be in here?"
"Probably until after dinner."
"Oh, that's tough. What happened?"
Mulciber said, "Why don't you mind your own business, Calisto?"
Calisto gasped. "Well, someone's not getting any sympathy next time they get themselves hurt! Let's go, Prue."
She turned away, with Mulciber sticking his tongue out at her back. Once they moved back out of sight, she said, "Mulciber is so rude. I don't know how Lestrange can stand him."
"You knew them before school?"
"Oh yes. Everyone always puts the kids together when there's parties. It's so embarrassing. I can't wait until I get older."
The nurse came back promptly at ten minutes, wiped Calisto's finger off to reveal flawless skin, and gave Calisto a small vial of the pink stuff for future hangnails. She told Prue that she had to come back and get her own if she wanted Skinknit paste too.
"The formula might not agree with your skin," Calisto explained.
It wasn't until after dinner, when Prue was in the library, reading her letter which turned out to be from the Matron of the orphanage, that she felt a tickling weight on her right ear. The library was large, and her table was half hidden by bookcases. Prue risked whispering, "Is that you, Buzz?"
Hearing the soft whisper of confirmation, she brought her hand next to her ear. He touched her pinky. Relief washed over her. "Hold on," Prue said, "I'll get somewhere private."
There were so many rooms in the castle, it was easy for Prue to find an empty classroom. She sat down at a bare desk, set out a piece of paper, and opened her well of ink.
"I was worried about you, Buzz. Where were you?" Prue looked away from the paper until she felt a tap on her ear. There on the paper in shaky black ink, was the word, Hiding. Buzz was still learning to write, and most of the time he was a terrible speller, but he knew how to write hiding.
"Why were you hiding?"
Buzz responded by drawing a stick figure of a human.
"Well, I guess there are a lot of people around, but I'll keep you hidden."
Buzz wrote Not in front of the word Hiding he had already put down.
"Do you mean not hidden enough?" There was an affirmative buzz in Prue's ear.
"I don't want you to leave me, Buzz." The Gribblywink gave her head two pats for, It's okay.
"Will you stay with me?" One buzz.
"But only when I'm alone." Another buzz
Prue bit her lip. "I'm scared again. I got Slytherin, you know. One girl seems nice enough, but she's probably as dark as the others. And if the hat sorted me there, does that mean I'm evil too?"
There were two taps on her head and two buzzes, then Buzz floated down in front of her, waving to keep her attention on him. He landed on her pinky and wrapped his four arms around it as far as he could. Prue pushed her hand into the table to make sure it didn't shake.
"I'm going to find a way to fix your magic, so you can hide again and go anywhere you want." The problem was, she had no idea where to start. Gribblywinks were considered fantasy creatures even by wizards' standards. Hardly anyone believed in the species, let alone had complex information about their magic. There was no way she was going to find a how-to guide floating around the library, so she'd have to come at the problem from a different angle.
To Prue's surprise, Buzz stopped hugging her. He went back to the ink pot and dipped two of his hands in it. As soon as Prue realized what he was doing, she turned away again.
Buzz flew to float in front of her face. He got her to look over to the page again.
Wings and an extra set of arms had been added to the stick figure. There was also a line with a cloud at the top drawn next to it, along with an X and an arrow pointing from the figure to the cloud. Prue started at it, turning her head to look from another angle. Buzz added more ink to the page. Prue frowned. Buzz added some more.
A minute later, Prue looked at the scrawl of drawings and symbols, squished between misspelled words and individual scattered letters. As Buzz pointed to a drawing of a firework and an arrow, then jumped over to the word hidden again, she said, "I think it's time for another writing lesson."
The lesson continued into dinnertime, delaying Prue by ten minutes. She wasn't used to leaving Buzz behind. It felt almost like betraying him. When she got to the Great Hall, most seats were filled. She headed to an open spot between Calisto and some older year.
"Prue, where have you been," Calisto said. "I thought I was going to have to find you and drag you to dinner myself."
"Sorry, I had to look up a few things in the library."
Without questioning the lie, Calisto started some light gossip in the guise of helping her get to know their fellow Slytherins. The Death Eaters sitting at the table distracted Prue, but she ignored her conscience telling her to interfere. She didn't want to get herself in more than she could handle again. There was nothing to do unless she wanted to go around telling people that she had a feeling that Tom Riddle was evil. Besides, in fifty years, he would be handled. Meddling might only mess that up.
She still couldn't help but tense when she saw that Abraxas Malfoy had sat with Tom Riddle.