ro781727: Snape will not try to use Legilimency on Hazel or even around her, not when it gives her the chance to see into his own mind while his shields are down. A near-paranoia about other people seeing one's thoughts is a common trait among Occlumens; that's the entire point of the discipline. As for what Hazel's staff does, you'll just have to be patient. She doesn't know either.

najex: I had a long rant typed up, but I'm going to skip it for something simpler. Don't assume Hazel's opinions are somehow The Real and Perfect Truth™. She's an abused, neglected, isolated 11-year-old with all the psychological issues that stem from such a background. She thought everyone in the the last-place house being starved would be more sensible outcome than the winners getting a day's bragging rights, for crying out loud! *shakes head*

Chapter 36
Weekend Wanderings

Heavy doors creaked ever so faintly as Hazel stole between them as lightly and quietly as she possibly could. They closed with just as much noise, and she held her breath and listened for a time before shaking her head. No footsteps, no shouts, no thoughts; she was in the clear. Strange shadows flickered around the tall bookcases in the room, the result of clouds passing in front of the full moon. The world was already painted in shades of yellow and blue and grey, and these shadows only made it appear that much more dreamlike. Not a single person or light source threatened to shatter the illusion, which was a relief in its own way. She did not expect to run into anyone, and if she had she held no doubts they would have many questions.

It was almost midnight, after all. Several hours after the library was closed to the student body at large.

This made it the perfect time for her to slip inside and perform some more research. She had looked for information here and there in a fairly scattered method over the last couple of days with the time she had available to her, but with the library empty she hoped she would be able to be more organized and thorough. She needed a better history book, and preferably multiple, than the one she had brought for the required class.

She had read a number of mundane history books, and that had created a certain expectation for those of the magical world. The falsely titled A History of Magic had most definitely not met those expectations. There was not one single thing in the book about druids, or for that matter much of anything of value. The entire book was about how the wizards had formed their 'magnificent government' and how they had achieved victories over other magical species. The author had painted it as the wizards bringing civilization to the unenlightened non-humans; as far as Hazel could tell from reading between the lines, it was more a celebration of them conquering their neighbors and imposing their will on all others. And even more, it was concerned solely with the wizards' history here in the British Isles, with less than a chapter dedicated to an overarching wizarding government body and nothing about any other country in any kind of detail.

Most ironic of all, this did not even feel like it was something the wizards had come up with themselves. It was all too reminiscent of what she had read in a few books back in Bristol about the Roman Empire and how they manipulated and controlled information that was available to the general populace. They demonized their rivals to make it easier to justify going out on campaigns to seize land and slaves, and even when they lost they claimed they had actually won so as not to risk lowering public morale. They had been concerned about their legacy and how future generations would see them, and that led to them distorting the truth so as to cast themselves in the best light as they envisioned it.

Hazel dearly hoped that was not true of all wizard historians, that some of them were more concerned with recording the real truth than making themselves look good. Otherwise she was going to have a harder time digging into the past than she already faced. About the only good thing was that she could definitively and without reservation scratch one class off her schedule and free up three hours a week for her own purposes.

Those extra hours were in addition to whatever she could claim once everyone else was asleep. Now that she had a fairly comfortable place to bed down whenever she was locked out of the common room, the faint hesitation she had to sneaking into the library had faded away. Tomorrow was Saturday, so she hoped that would mean she would not be missed when she was not present for the group trip to breakfast. Even so, she had forced herself to tell Sally-Anne not to expect her in the morning, although she had to tell a little white lie and say it was because she wanted an early morning instead of admitting that she was going to sneak into the library.

Having other people worry about her activities and where she was going had been strange enough with the werewolves and the hags, and those groups were at least willing to let her do what she wanted when she wanted. The attitude of the Hufflepuffs and their need to know everything she was doing when she was not in view was nearly smothering. Sally-Anne was the worst in regard to that, enough that Hazel had found herself almost regretting becoming friends with the anxious blonde. Not that she would ever tell the other girl; Sally-Anne already acted pitiful enough that disavowing their friendship would be like kicking a whimpering puppy.

But oh! If only she could get a little more personal space.

She reached into her satchel and pulled out her wooden campfire sphere before giving it a squeeze to set it alight with ethereal flames. Her ghost hand lifted it up so it might follow her more closely without tying up one of her hands, the red light shining past her glinting off the embossed titles of the books before her. Night Eye, the paste Gertrud had taught her how to make so many months ago and that currently tingled on her eyelids, was invaluable to see in the darkness, but her enhanced nightvision was insufficient on its own to make out tiny details like words written on book spines or pages. It was yet another advantage of her campfire sphere, in addition to its lack of batteries and the amount of light it shined. Unlike her old torch, the spectral flames were not bright enough or the right color to blind her whenever she wore Night Eye.

Breakfast started around six in the morning, and it was midnight now. That meant a solid six hours that she had at her disposal before anyone could possible expect to find her. And since it would be Saturday morning, no one would need her for anything and she could take a short nap sometime in the afternoon.

It was the perfect circumstance for a late-night search. She could only hope it would be a search that was fruitful.

"How convenient. Now I won't have to look for her. Miss Potter?"

Hazel had to hold back a sigh, silent as it would be. Her plan after spending all night in the library had been to catch a quick nap and then return to the library to continue her search in the daylight. The nap should – should – take her less time than she had spent in the library overnight, and it had the advantage of getting her away from Madam Pince. Back in Little Whinging the school librarian, Miss Brandine, was someone she liked and who liked her more than she had the typical student. Madam Pince, on the other hand, seemed in Hazel's admittedly limited observations to regard most students with the same level of distaste and distrust. Hazel, in fact, was apparently a person of special interest, both because of her father's behavior throughout his time at Hogwarts as well as because of some incident where her mother somehow set a section of the Restricted Section on fire?

It was times like this that Hazel hated that she could not bluntly ask questions about thoughts she overheard because what in the world?!

Regardless, it meant she had appreciated the time away from Madam Pince's inquisitive eye, even if it required that she stay up all night. Hence the nap she desperately wanted; a nap she somehow doubted would be coming her way anytime soon if Professor Sprout was looking for her. She turned around to find the head of Hufflepuff house standing only a few feet behind her.'Yes, Professor?'

"I'm sorry it has taken this long to find time, but I wanted to have a talk with you about something, namely your lack of wand, and get it sorted out. You weren't in the dorms, but one of your roommates mentioned that you had left for an early breakfast. Would you come along with me please?"

No, that nap was not in her future at all, was it? Hazel let out the sigh this time and shoved the last of her toast in her mouth before picking up her staff and ushering Morgan to her shoulder. Silly bird was much more chipper than she was, which she supposed made sense. He had not been up all night reading, after all. She followed Professor Sprout out of the Great Hall and hastened her steps a little to come even with the professor. 'No one else has needed a wand in Herbology.'

"I'm not worried about Herbology, Miss Potter. I'm more concerned with your other classes. Half of your classes are based on wandwork, and you simply will not be able to do well in them without one." Professor Sprout shook her head. "I'm more surprised that you did not bring one despite it being on the supply list."

'I already told McGonagall about this. I can't use one. At all. There was no point getting something I can never use.'

Professor Sprout slowed to a stop, and Hazel stopped a couple of steps ahead and turned around to look at the professor. Professor Sprout stared back at her with surprise that was quickly morphing into pity. "I heard there were rumors that she was a Squib, but I didn't think they could be true. I'm still not sure, honestly. Minerva told me she could do a few 'parlor tricks', as she put it, without a wand, and surely Squibs cannot do such a thing. Who told you you can't use a wand, Miss Potter?"

'Mr. Ollivander. I went to his shop to get a wand only to find out I can't use one.'

"Ollivander told her that? Now I find myself more curious than ever. I planned to take you to Ollivander's shop today to get matched with a wand anyway, so this gives us both an opportunity to get more details. Surely there has to be more to the story."

There was more, but Hazel did not exactly want Professor Sprout learning those details any more than she wanted them known by McGonagall. She had entirely too much experience as it was with adults doing whatever they thought best, and for a pair of witches who had never interacted with non-wizards with magic, breaking her staff would be an easy decision. They would not care that according to Mr. Ollivander's own words she would be left as half a witch; half a witch was probably better in their minds than a complete druid. It was something they understood.

A week was not a long time, but it was enough for Hazel to learn that in the wizards' eyes, she very much was not.

Do you think we would be able to sneak back into the castle on our own, she asked Morgan. Having her staff broken was not an outcome she could accept. If Professor Sprout insisted or forced the issue…

Well, she had escaped people chasing her before. Between her ignore-me smoke and jumping, she could get away. It would mean losing access to the library and the guaranteed meals, but she would not surrender her entire way of life just for that.

Her decision made, she glanced sideways at Professor Sprout and decided to change the subject. She might as well get some of her curiosity sated, particularly if this was the last time she had to ask. Asking outright about spells to protect an area against someone jumping in or out was probably a bit too on the nose, but… 'Professor, I know the common room has the barrels protecting it, and from my understanding the other houses have something similar. I just don't understand why.'

Professor Sprout nodded at the change in subject. "That is a very good question, Miss Potter, and one that few ask. I myself did not know the full purpose until I became head of house. While today they are meant to provide a safe place for the members of the house, somewhere they can leave their belongings without worrying that members of another house will damage or otherwise interfere with them, the passwords and the barrels were originally meant to be a different kind of protection.

"It ties into why the school is built like a castle. It's because it is. The Founders lived in a time when magic was known to the Muggle populace, and they worried that collecting a large group of untrained students all in one place would prove too tempting a target for magic-hating Muggles. The common rooms are therefore the last line of defense and have additional protections compared to the rest of the castle. Should the castle walls ever be breached, students can flee into their common rooms with the doors locked tight behind them until the danger has passed. With the invention of the Floo system, ugh, all the common rooms' fireplaces were connected and locked in a way that any member of staff can undo, providing a means of escape that was lacking in the Founders' day."

'What about it if were not just magic-haters who attacked? I know some wizards can teleport. What is to keep them from coming into the school?' Hazel wrote, carefully not looking at the professor. She did not want the older woman seeing any hint of her backup plan in her eyes. She was well aware that there was some spell preventing her from jumping in the school itself, but she did not know where the spell ended. That would be essential information if she needed to run.

"You have nothing to worry about from that, Miss Potter. There are spells over the castle that prevent Apparation into or out from the castle." She could not hold the displeased frown at that answer, one that told her nothing she did not already know, and Professor Sprout saw it. "Is that not enough reassurance for her? Then again, if she is that worried about people Apparating into the castle, which is something that isn't too much of a surprise considering her history… The spell covers the grounds as well, all the way to the walls at the edges. There are additional spells on the walls to further deter anyone seeking to force their way in."

By now they had reached a familiar door, one that Devin had shown them during the tour that first day. Professor Sprout opened it and waved Hazel to join her in the office. Once the door was closed, the professor walked over to the small fireplace on one wall and tapped the mantle with her wand. The fireplace immediately grew in both height and width, no longer only a couple of feet to a side but tall enough for two of Hazel to walk about side-by-side. Professor Sprout picked up a bowl that had appeared alongside the larger fireplace and offered it out to Hazel, the bowl filled with glittering powder like silver that had been ground into sand. "Do you know how to use the Floo, Miss Potter? We are headed to the Leaky Cauldron."

She gave the professor a nod and took a pinch of powder, though not without an internal grimace. The fireplace network was not one she liked, not when it tossed her around like a ship on the stormy seas. Taking a deep breath, she tossed the powder into the fireplace and directed her thoughts into the verdant flames just as she did when she spoke to Morgan or when she communicated with the maple tree from whose branch she had made her staff. Leaky Cauldron.

A step, and she was swept away by the flames. She held her staff and Morgan close, her eyes squeezed shut tight to try to keep some of the dizziness back. Without her eyes to confuse her, she had a moment's warning where the sickening spinning seemed to slow for just an instant before she was shot out of the fireplace like a cannonball. She rolled over and over again, Morgan taking off from her shoulder so he would not get squished, and she grunted in silence when she bounced to a stop off something hard.

"Cor, girl! Watch where you're going!" the man whose legs she had hit shouted. Hazel opened her eyes to give the wizard a glare. It was not her fault that the fireplaces hated her! If she had her choice, she would jump from place to place exclusively and never bother with this particular bit of wizarding madness.

She staggered to her feet and braced herself against her staff on one side and an empty table on the other. Her equilibrium was still coming back to her when the fireplace roared again and disgorged Professor Sprout. The witch did not come flying out like she had, but nonetheless the professor stumbled over to the nearest wall and slumped against it. Professor Sprout looked distinctly green, and with a breath to shake off the last of her own dizziness Hazel moved in the professor's direction. 'Are you okay, Professor Sprout?'

"Do I look okay? It is nothing for you to worry about, Miss Potter. I'm fine." Professor Sprout pushed herself fully upright and gave Hazel a wan smile. "Not that it isn't nice to see her worrying about someone else. Other than Miss Perks and Miss Smith, I haven't seen her act truly warm to any of the other Badgers. I worry about how well she will do in Hufflepuff if she continues to be so standoffish. I have an inner ear issue that causes me issues with magical transportation. The Floo is sadly the least bad option I have for getting around, but it doesn't make it enjoyable."

Now that was something Hazel could understand, and she gave Professor Sprout a sympathetic grimace. The fireplace network, the Floo, whatever they wanted to call it, held a special hatred for her. If every form of transportation misbehaved that same way? Oof. 'What about teleportation? Does that also cause problems?

Professor Sprout gave her a nod, and Hazel could only feel even more sorry for the witch. She might not be a stranger to getting from place to place solely with her own feet, but jumping was ever so much more convenient. Not to mention necessary when her journeys required moving across entire countries.

'We can wait here awhile if you need time to get your feet back under you.'

"That is sweet of you to offer, Miss Potter, but I'm fine now. This trip is about your lack of a wand, not my lack of balance. Trips to Ollivander can take quite a bit of time, so we had best get a move on."

The streets of Diagon Alley were noticeably less packed than they had been when Hazel had come by just a month ago, and Professor Sprout caught her moment of surprise. "It is always busier during the end of the summer. Some of that is because of the rush for school supplies, and some of it is that because of that rush stores will sometimes offer sales that everyone else wants to take advantage of."

With the smaller crowd and no need for Hazel to gawk at all the new stores around her, the walk to Mr. Ollivander's shop was quicker than it had been during her first visit to Diagon Alley. The bell over the door dinged when Professor Sprout pushed it open, the sound catching Mr. Ollivander's attention from deeper in the store but still in sight from the doorway. He glanced up with a curious frown before smiling at the sight of Professor Sprout. "Ah, Professor Sprout. Hornbeam and unicorn hair, twelve inches. Nurturing but firm. Is it still serving you well?"

Despite being behind the professor, Hazel could still almost feel the roll of Professor Sprout's eyes. Her thoughts revealed a certain near-fondness, though. "Yes, it is, Mr. Ollivander. I'm not here about my wand, however. A student of mine recently came to school without one of her own, and I hoped you had one amongst your stock that would fit her."

Mr. Ollivander set a chisel and hammer down out of sight and started walking towards the counter at the front of the store. "A student without a wand? My goodness, that will not do at all…" His eyes fell on Hazel as she closed the door behind them, and when they did she could feel his surprise and confusion. "Miss Potter? I had not expected to see you here again. She was quite firm in her opinion when she left last time."

Professor Sprout glanced back and forth between Hazel and Mr. Ollivander. "Here again? That would fit with what she said about him telling her that she can't use a wand, but that still makes no sense."

'I did not expect to come back here again either, Mr. Ollivander. I told the teachers what you told me about how I can't use a wand, but they refuse to believe me.'

His eyes moved from the floating letters in the air to first her face and then her staff. She pulled the shaft of maple closer to her in response, hoping he would pick up what she was implying but did not want written or spoken in the professor's earshot.

"Ah. She has told them the what but not the why. Fear of what they would do if they knew it was her staff causing issues, perhaps?" He gave her a reassuring smile before turning back to Professor Sprout. "Miss Potter is right, I'm sad to say. I tested her against every wand in my shop, and she rejected them all. Some of them rather violently, I might add."

"She rejected them?" repeated Professor Sprout. "Do you mean she refused to take one, or…?"

He shook his head. "It was not a conscious decision, no. It is a clash of natures. A wand might choose the witch, but it must be accepted by both sides. Such an agreement was not possible."

"I don't even know what he means by that. Should we seek out a different wandmaker then? Not to insult your talent and skills," she added when Mr. Ollivander's unblinking eyes grew stormy, "but to see if perhaps there is a wood or something someone else uses that might be more… acceptable to her?"

The professor's words did little to settle Mr. Ollivander's flaring temper. He stood somewhat straighter than he had, and Hazel shivered at the feeling of an approaching thunderstorm. "You misunderstand me, Pomona Sprout. It is not a matter of a particular wood or core or combination thereof. If that were the case, there would have been some consideration with the wands she tried rather than a flat rejection. So long as Miss Potter carries her staff, there is no wand made by my hand or any other that will choose her. You can take her to another wandmaker and find that out firsthand, but you will only be wasting your time.

"Especially when I doubt anyone else would be able to uncover why they cannot find a matching wand. I almost missed it, and that is with more experience than those youngsters put together. They would be left stumbling in the dark."

"I see," Professor Sprout said with a face and voice that made it clear even to people who could not read minds that she saw naught at all. "How could a wand not choose a witch? It's a piece of wood. What is he talking about, that it was not a conscious rejection? If you are sure that she can use no wand at all…?" Mr. Ollivander nodded, his expression becoming more placid despite Professor Sprout asking again what he had just said. "Then I suppose we will have to trust your professional opinion. I have never heard of such a thing, but he is considered the expert on wandlore. If he says it isn't possible, I will not presume to gainsay him. I'm sorry for wasting your time."

"An opportunity to learn new things is never wasted," Mr. Ollivander said with a faint smile and the most subtle hint of condescension. "It was a pleasure to see you again. I would like to have a private word with Miss Potter, though, if that is acceptable?"

Professor Sprout gave the wandmaker a nod and stepped out of the shop. As soon as the door closed fully, the man's expression became flat and he let out a small huff as a nebulous dark cloud swirled around in his head. Discontent, irritation, and a strange sense of impatience. When his eyes found her, however, the melange of emotions had already passed. "I take it from your attitude that this trip was arranged over your protests?"

'More like it was arranged without telling me about it at all until Professor Sprout was taking me to her office.' Mr. Ollivander nodded in understanding, only to pause when she continued writing. 'And thank you, Mr. Ollivander. While I have told the teachers that I can't use a wand, I never told them why. I was worried that they would do something like break my staff if they knew it was the cause. Thank you for not telling her.'

In other words, exactly what he assumed was the reason for her silence. She could not agree with those assumptions directly without giving away that she could hear his thoughts, and she did not want to risk losing the man's good opinion and making him fear her in the way her relatives had her magic or be angry at her like Snape. This was the best compromise she could think of.

"Wizards never have been good at accepting people who want to do things their own way," he said in a bland voice that had her smiling. "As for my discretion, there is nothing to thank me for. I shall not gainsay the choice you have made knowingly. Everyone's path is their own to walk. Your staff might not be one of my children, but the bond between them is the same. To violate that would be an abhorrent act, and one I refuse to be party to any more than I would snap a wizard's wand."

She gave him a curtsey and a wave nevertheless and left the store to join Professor Sprout in the Alley proper. "That was quick," the witch remarked with a questioning expression.

Hazel shrugged with one shoulder, her writing hand firmly at her side. Mr. Ollivander had already told the professor that he wanted to speak privately, and hopefully that would be enough. After a short moment, Professor Sprout nodded. "Very well. Back to the Leaky Cauldron, I suppose, and brave the Floo once more."

Hazel's gaze moved down the alley in the direction of the pub and stopped on a particular store that lay in their path. 'Actually,' she wrote, 'while we're here I have a question. For classes, am I supposed to use a quill and parchment, or does it not matter?'


'Professor Snape assigned us an essay of a required length, and I noticed people measuring out rolls of parchment before starting. But no one ever said it was a requirement.'

Professor Sprout looked down at her as if she had grown a second head. "Of course parchment is required! Are you telling me you came to Hogwarts without anything to write on?! Did you bring quills and ink, either, Miss Potter? First a wand, although that has an explanation at least, and now anything with which to do her homework? Do I need to go through all of her school supplies?"

'I brought paper and pens to do homework and take notes with!' she wrote, throwing her hands up after her protest was written out. 'No one said I needed parchment or quills specifically, and it wasn't on the shopping list sent out with the letters either!'

The look of incomprehension on the professor's face only grew more intense. "What are you talking about? Of course it is on the supply list."

No, it was not! She had checked that the first time she noticed she was the only one using pen and paper. Hazel shoved her hand into her satchel and pulled out the list of school supplies, her eyes never leaving Professor Sprout's own, and pointedly held the list out for the woman to examine for herself.

Professor Sprout took the folded piece of parchment out of Hazel's hands and started reading it. The farther she read, the slower her eyes moved and the more confused her expression became. "But… There is no mention of parchment. Or quills or ink. Merlin. Surely we would have said they were required…" Very, very slowly, Professor Sprout looked up from the list to meet Hazel's gaze again.

"I am sorry, Miss Potter," Professor Sprout said with a faint grimace on her face and guilt bubbling in her mind. "You are right, both about this and your inability to use a wand. I shouldn't have disbelieved you. I can only imagine what this might look like to her, having a professor proved wrong in front of her face twice in a matter of minutes.

"To answer your question, then, yes, you are required to turn in both your homework as well as answer your tests on parchment. You will need a quill as well; Muggle materials do not write as well on parchment as a proper quill will. You can use whatever materials you want for your notes, or at least you can in my class. Other professors can tell you that they do not want you to use Muggle materials in their classes if they so desire." The woman's eyes moved to the stationary store just as Hazel's had. "We can purchase what you need at Scribbulus. Unless you need to stop at Gringotts first? We have an agreement with Ollivander to allow deferred payment should a student break their wand mid-year, so grabbing coin was not a priority. I don't think we have such an agreement with any of the other stores in Diagon…"

Quickly Hazel gave Professor Sprout a shake of her head. 'I have enough.' It was a good thing she still had plenty of the money she stole from that G.L. person, though she should probably continue taking notes in her normal notebooks since she had so many in her bag. That would allow her to reserve her parchment and quill ink for assignments she needed to hand in. 'Let's go, then. I wanted to spend time at the library today, and we're burning daylight.'

Dear Hazel,

Your notes on this drying spell you sent to us were much appreciated. Marcel in fact did not learn it during his time at Beauxbatons, but if his old school teaches magic in roughly the same framework your own does, likely it was a spell he would have been taught in a few more years. Regardless, it is certainly making the laundry duties faster to finish, and it has given us some ideas that we might investigate later in order to earn a few extra sous.

I am honestly torn on your offer to send us notes on other spells you are taught. On the one hand, I find it hard to refuse with how useful they would no doubt be, which I know is why you are offering in the first place. On the other, I do not want you to put additional work and stress on yourself to the point that it hinders your own education. That is the reason you are attending your magic school in the first place.

We are doing well here overall. Serge has finally opened up, I feel, but it only came after he spent a week morose and inconsolable. I think he has finally realized that no matter what he does, his parents have given him up for good. It is always painful to watch a child discover that he is no longer wanted by his own family because of events beyond his control. The only silver lining I can see is that now will he be able to heal, and he has the entire commune willing to support him. This is sadly a pain all of us have felt within our own hearts.

Claude turned sixteen a month ago or so, and he has since found a job in a restaurant off Place Cachee. We were worried initially that it was an offer too good to be true, but over the last couple of weeks his employer seems to be as good as his word. That by itself is unusual; exceptionally few wizards ever treat us kindly or fairly. Claude has mentioned that he thinks the head chef during the night shift might be a vampire, though, which would support that conclusion no matter how hard it is to believe.

On a lighter note, Erik has started writing some new music, and shockingly it does not feature his old flame. It is a welcome change of pace, if I may say so myself.

The owl arrived while everyone was eating breakfast, and I did not have the heart to deny to the others that it was you who sent the letter. They all had things they wanted to tell you, and several of them voiced threats if I did not pass their comments on.

Elise says you need to eat well, and eat many small meals through the day. We have all seen how small a stomach you have, and while none of us want you to be ill you need to eat more than you do. It is not healthy how thin you are. On that note, Simone chimed in and says you should make an effort to try every food the castle has to offer at least once.

Grégoire reminded us of your proclivities for exploration and wants your promise to avoid exploring dangerous places. Barring that, I want a promise that you will at least be careful should your wandering take you somewhere that poses a risk to your safety. He also asks that you avoid doing harm to yourself and that you will understand what he means. He refused to explain it to me, and I can only think of a few explanations for his words, so I will also add that if you ever need to speak to someone about any problems in your life, you are always a welcome face among us. Please do not do anything rash if you feel overwhelmed.

I mentioned that some of the others threatened me if I did not relay their advice, no? I speak more specifically about Jacqueline and Yvette. In order to keep my hands where they are, I reluctantly will forward their demands that you find all the cute boys and tease them fiercely. I think they want you to come out of your shell some, but their minds are more inscrutable to men than women normally are. Jacqueline had other things she wanted to tell you, but none of them were things that are fit to be put to paper and even less to be read by innocent eyes. You can ask her about them when you are older.

As for myself, my advice is somewhat different. I noticed that your letter contained a great amount of detail about the where and the what of your school, but little of the who. I will not tell you not to focus on your academics, for that is the primary point of a school, but I have no doubt that as bright and clever as you are, you will fly through all your classes with ease. I am more concerned that you should reach out and try to make friends your own age. Whether that is within this Hufflepuff house of which you are a new member or through your classes or even after joining a club matters not, but it needs to be a task you push yourself to do. I know from my own time before I joined this group that the life of a wanderer is a lonely one even if you collect a number of acquaintances, and I do not wish that life on someone of your years.

And yes, do well in your classes. Elise is upset about what I just wrote and is now glaring at me. You have an opportunity that has been denied to all of us, and you need to make the most of it. I know you will make us all proud.

Ever your friends,

Jean Luc and everyone else

Hazel folded the letter that had arrived at breakfast that morning and stroked the creases thoughtfully. She had not expected this kind of a letter to come to her. A thank you from the werewolves at some point, yes, but not as quickly as it had. It had only been a couple of days since she sent her first letter to the commune about the drying charm, and her only expectation would be a short paragraph or two. Not advice and well wishes from so many people in the commune.

It felt… different from the attitudes of the wizards here at Hogwarts. True, the professors had their expectations, but they felt more severe and demanding. It was much like the teachers at Little Whinging had behaved. They wanted things, and they would express their acceptance or displeasure based on whether and how those expectations were met. It was something she was used to, even if it was never comfortable; transactional, almost.

The werewolves' letter was something else entirely. It was encouraging, with no doubt as to whether or how she would succeed. They assumed she would – easily, even, if Jean Luc's words were to be believed – and that kind of pressure was a new feeling to Hazel. Part of her wanted to squirm beneath it, but another part of it was tempted to revel in it instead. It was not the praise Petunia and Vernon had lavished on Dudley, but it felt like it was in the same sphere.

The newness of this attitude, at least directed at her, was disconcerting.

Footsteps tapped faintly on the stone, and Hazel's eyes flicked up as Professor Flitwick walked past her. That would not be strange normally, but she was leaning against a wall on the path from the Great Hall to the Hufflepuff dorms, wrapped up in her ignore-me smoke to give herself a little privacy while she read the letter. Sally-Anne and the other Hufflepuffs had already expressed curiosity about who was writing to her, this being the first letter she had received since coming to the school, and the blonde had been even more confused when she saw that the letter was written in French.

After witnessing the attitude of British wizards towards their lupine cousins, Hazel had no interest in telling them any more of her associations with the commune. The wizards so far had not shown themselves worthy of that level of trust.

Still, that did not explain why Professor Flitwick would be walking towards the Hufflepuff areas, nor why his thoughts were focused on giving 'it' to 'her'. Was one of the Hufflepuffs in trouble or something? But if so, why would he not simply take away the points the students and staff were so enamored with? And why make a special trip on a Sunday instead of waiting for classes?

Her curiosity now thoroughly piqued, she pushed herself off the wall and started following in his footsteps.

Professor Flitwick walked the entire path to the barrels that made up the hidden entrance to the Hufflepuff common room and stopped in front of the proper barrel. Laying his hand against it, he muttered something she could not catch. Hazel had assumed, reasonably she might add, that professors could get into the common rooms without issue, that they had some kind of special access.

The barrels popping open and spraying him with far more vinegar than they could possibly contain proved that assumption to be a baseless one.

Watching the tiny professor splutter from where he lay on his back in sodden robes was too funny to ignore, and she covered her mouth to hide her smile even as she dismissed her ignore-me smoke. A tap of her staff against the stone floor quickly got his attention. 'Do you need some help, Professor?'

"Oh, how embarrassing. I am quite fine, Miss Potter," he told her. Not that he refused her hand when she reached out to help him back to his feet. "Why is she here right now? This is the one place I did not want her to be. It's a very pleasant day outside. I'm sure you have better things to do than to hang around empty hallways."

He did not want her to be here? That was strange, and she had to wonder whether she was the person he had been thinking about on his walk down here. Except that still did not explain why he was here. She tilted her head as she looked him up and down, then gave him a shrug with one shoulder. 'Maybe. Maybe not. Either way, right now I'm curious about what you're doing here.'

"I suppose I shouldn't be surprised about that. Your mother would rarely let something go if it caught her attention, either." Hazel blinked at the sudden comparison to her mother and almost missed Professor Flitwick reaching out his hand. "I was here to test this."

Between his thumb and his forefinger was a small, blue-grey pebble. Before she could ask what it was, he gave it a small squeeze. From the stone came his own voice, reciting in a monotone, "I want to enter the common room."

It took her a moment to realize the significance of what such a stone would do, and another for her to believe it might connect to her. She had a couple of false starts before she finally wrote out, 'Is that for me?'

"Indeed. It was supposed to be a surprise, actually. Professor McGonagall asked me to come up with a way for the Ravenclaws' knocker to recognize the written word in case you were Sorted into my house, but the Hufflepuffs' entrance does not have anything approaching eyes I could use. I had to come up with something else, even if this was the only thing I could come up with that I thought had a chance of working. Sadly, this does not seem to do the trick."

'Maybe it does, and you were just using it wrong.' He frowned at her comment, so she explained, 'From what the prefects told us, the door opens if you have an honest reason to enter. You didn't actually want to get inside; you just wanted to test this speaking-stone.'

Professor Flitwick glanced between her and the stack of barrels. "An intent-based defense? Pomona never told me anything about that. That is an interesting theory, Miss Potter. The only question is how we would go about testing it."

'That part is obvious. May I?' She held out her hand, and Professor Flitwick handed over the pebble as he caught on to what she had in mind. She rolled the stone around and around in her fingers as she walked up to the barrels and laid her hand against the middle one; Morgan, perhaps not wanting to chance anything, leapt off her shoulder and flew towards the professor. I want to enter the common room, I want to enter the common room, she told herself as she gave the pebble a squeeze. She hoped a focused thought would be enough, and she really did want to go inside. Even if she was just going to come back out a moment later.

The spray of vinegar told her just how well she deceived the entryway.

Hazel spluttered and spat out the vinegar that had found its way into her mouth as the torrent slowed to a trickle. Professor Flitwick had managed to step out of the way of her slide and now stood with his own hand over his own mouth. Morgan, twittering on his shoulder, had no such decency. "I really should not laugh, but I can see now why Miss Potter looked so amused. Should I assume you were not successful either?"

'Very funny.' She pulled herself up to her feet with the help of her staff and spread her fingers out against the fabric of her robes. A few ripples later, they were clean and dry.

"What in the world?" Hazel glanced over at Professor Flitwick as he looked at her hand in fascination. He met her gaze and gave her a small, peculiar smile. "I had heard the conclusions other students have drawn, and Professor Sprout mentioned that you are unable to use a wand at all. I must say, though, that I did not expect this. Wandless magic is so incredibly rare."

Rare? That was not the word Hazel had ever heard the wizards use about magic without a wand. 'All the books I read say that wandless magic is impossible. You're the first person who has said otherwise.'

"I have a slight advantage over most wizards," he replied with a tight smile. "Partly because of grandfather and his stories of the magics the goblins put into their metalwork, one of the excuses for why they are prohibited to carry wands. Partly because back in the day, before I started teaching, I worked the international duelist circuit. It means I got to see how different wizards from other parts of the world use magic. A few people who trained at Ilvermorny – the school for magic in the United States – claimed to have learned some abilities that did not require a wand, although mostly that boiled down to a process that was more along the lines of rituals. Only one witch could do anything on demand without spending five minutes setting things up, and even that was limited to moving small objects around. What you can do puts their accomplishments to shame."

The hope that had begun to bloom in her heart quickly wilted. It took her a second before she was willing to write what she understood him to say. 'So you know of no one who can do what I can?'

"Know personally? No." Professor Flitwick frowned. "And while I will not say that this is fact, it is rumored that African wizards who study at Uagadou learn purely wandless magic. No one knows how they do it, or again if they even can, but seeing what you can do makes me think it might not be all that different."

'Why is it just a rumor?' she asked. 'Why not just ask them?'

At her question, Professor Flitwick sighed and looked away from her at the wall. "We would if we knew where they were. The wizards of that continent are insular to the extreme. After the colonization of Muggle Africa by the European powers and the enslavement of the people there, the majority of the native wizards cut off basically all contact with outsiders. Not that they interacted much with others to begin with; it was rare to see them deal with anyone but the wizards in Egypt and some of the other northern regions of Africa, whose wizards practice magic more along the lines of the Arabic tradition. Even the Egyptians do not know where their school lies or how to get in touch with them."

She sighed and reached up to scratch Morgan's breast feathers. His response was better and yet also worse than she expected. Other people could do what she did; this was the first time she had been told such a thing, or even rumors of such a thing. But the only people who might know how to help her progress and teach her anything she could use without breaking it apart and putting it back together again also refused to have anything to do with people who looked like her.

The professor's hand reached up to pat her elbow consolingly. "What must her life be like, walking through a world where neither Muggle nor wizard is truly like her?" Professor Flitwick wondered to himself. She shifted her eyes over to look at him and the smile she knew he was putting on for her benefit, not because he was truly confident. "Chin up, Miss Potter. Hogwarts might not be a perfect fit, but it is better than nothing. You have seven years here. I'm sure that in that time together we can come up with something."

'Together?' she repeated.

He gave her a nod. "I do not understand how you use magic the way you do, but I'd like to think I have a decent grounding in magical theory. Hopefully I can give you some kind of guidance. And if not?" He shrugged and gave her a sheepish smile. "Two fools stumbling in the dark is no worse than one, wouldn't you say?"

I'm aware that you guys have had a long wait for this chapter, and fair warning but it will probably be a longer one until the next. Moving to another state (again) is going to take up a majority of my time for the near future.

After taking a similar role in the Black Queen series, I wasn't expecting to have another mentor Flitwick story so soon. We'll see how well it goes.

Silently Watches out.