It was swelteringly hot and stuffy in the room. The windows were open wide, but there was no breeze. It was the last day of exams. I had just taken my last exam. I was incredibly bored. I stifled a yawn. If only the professor would say…
"Time's up!" He collected our papers and we were free. I headed outside, where my sisters would be.
"How'd the test go?" Piper asked.
"I think I sense a one hundred."
Phoebe scoffed. "You think? Prue, you always get perfect grades. You're bound to be recruited by the Ministry of Magic and soon as you step out of Hogwarts."
My heart fell a little. I had almost forgotten that I would be leaving Hogwarts so soon. "I'm going to miss this place," I said sadly.
"You're going to miss this place? I won't."
"You're thinking otherwise."
"Hey, no reading my mind."
I looked around the grounds, hardly believing that next year I wouldn't be at Hogwarts. For seven years, I had attended Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Soon I'd be off on my own, exploring the world. I planned to have a nice desk job at the Ministry of Magic. My Charmed duties would bring me excitement, not my work.
"Miss Nostalgia," Phoebe said. "I think that you should have one last adventure here at Hogwarts. Tonight, I am going to take you all around the school, to every forbidden nook and cranny."
"Miss Nostalgia is also Miss Head Girl," I reminded her.
"No problem. Piper has been working on her power. Now she can make whole groups of people invisible. And," she dropped her voice to a whisper, "she has one last secret. I can feel it."
"I heard that," Piper said. "I do not have a secret."
"You are a really bad liar."
"For you, that should be a compliment."
Do my sisters have to get involved in all my secrets? Is this how I treat Phoebe? I have good reason with her, though. Oh, it doesn't matter! I don't want them to know this secret. They wouldn't even believe it.
I backed off. We were irritating her.
"So, are you interested?" Phoebe asked, obviously picking up on Piper's feelings.
I considered. Normally I would say no, but I couldn't turn down one last adventure. "I'd love to."
"Finally you're rebellious!"
Someone screamed. We looked around and found the source of problem. It was a man, but he had extraordinary powers.
"Demon," we all said at the same time.
Piper automatically flicked her fingers. However, instead of freezing anything, she blew off the demon's hand. She was still having some trouble with those two things. The demon howled with pain and formed another energy ball. I knocked it out of his hands before he could do anything.
"Hi. What did I… Oh. Let's go," Paige said as she ran up.
We ran up to the demon, which was scattering all the students.
"Hey! Why don't pick on somebody who can handle you?" Phoebe said casually.
"With our bloodline we banish thee, hear our command, no more will you be!"
The demon was instantly killed.
The students all ran over to us.
"That was amazing!"
"How did you do that?"
"What was that thing?"
Paige looked to me. I shook my head.
"That was a demon," I said simply.
We were flooded with a million questions, which we answered. There was no harm in letting them know. They were all witches and wizards, after all, and there were no Slytherin students in their midst.
So now our powers were known. I wondered how this would affect my sisters. They wondered the same thing.
"Take my hand."
"Will this wear off after a while? How will we know? What if it wears off without us knowing?" I asked worriedly as I took Piper's hand.
"You can feel when you become visible. It lasts for as long as I want it to. When you feel like you're being slammed together, you're visible," Piper explained calmly.
"She's sure," Phoebe said.
"Plus, I can always orb us out. Don't worry," Paige said. "Just relax."
She's so nervous. I don't understand the big deal, Phoebe thought.
"The big deal is that my record is pure now," I said. "I don't want it to get tainted."
My sisters, by now, had grown accustomed to me picking up on their thoughts. They were able to carry on the conversation without noticing.
"You won't get caught, may Paige erase my memory if I'm lying," Phoebe promised.
They awaited my answer.
"Okay. Let's go."
My body buzzed with energy as Piper turned us invisible.
"Here we go," Paige whispered.
"Good evening fellow rebels," Phoebe said. "I will be your guide tonight on our tour of Hogwarts. On your right, you'll see a secret passageway that leads to Hogsmeade through Honeydukes. I myself have used it many times. I was caught only once by the owners. They weren't too pleased."
"Phoebe, shh!" I hissed. "What if someone hears?"
"I put a silencing spell around us. No one can hear us."
I had to admit that Phoebe was very structured in her trouble making.
"And there is the disappearing classroom. They used to have classes there, but they could never find it. There's Moaning Myrtle's bathroom. Ugh, I think she's flooded the bathroom again."
"There's another secret passageway," Piper said suddenly.
"How did you know that?" I asked.
She didn't answer.
By the time it was midnight, we had explored almost all of the school.
"One last place," Phoebe murmured. "The room that holds the Mirror of Erised."
"Are you sure about this? The mirror holds so much power..." Paige said.
"We can handle it. I want Prue to see it before she leaves."
I had never seen the Mirror of Erised before, and I was rather curious about it. We walked into the room. Piper took off the invisibility.
"Stand in front of the mirror," Phoebe instructed me.
At first, it seemed that nothing was going to happen. Then mom suddenly appeared beside me. I knew that she wasn't really there, but it felt so much like she was. But she wasn't real. I couldn't dwell on impossible wishes. I stepped away from the mirror.
One by one, my sisters looked into the mirror. We left feeling a little emptier. I wasn't sure how I felt about seeing something that could never happen. It was great to see mom once again, but it left me with less than I had before.
I spent that night thinking. I didn't sleep at all. I was far too wired. The next morning, I locked up the feelings that the trip had invoked, and I went about my usual duties as if nothing had happened.
When I woke up the next day, my first thought was of what I had seen in the Mirror of Erised. I felt more than a little guilty about it. My sisters had wanted their, rather, our mother alive again. I could sense that. What I had wanted was for my adoptive parents to be my real parents. It was a perfectly acceptable wish. I knew that. Yet I couldn't help but feel guilty. At least my sisters would never find out. That would be one of the few things I knew I would never share with them.
I thought that my sisters would be silent and sober, but they were quite the opposite. It seemed that they wanted to savor the last days at Hogwarts.
"I'm bored. Let's try a spell," Phoebe said and pulled out the Book.
All of a sudden, the pages flipped by themselves. "I wish they'd give us some sort of warning when they do that."
"What is it?" Prue asked.
"A power-binding potion. Why would we need this?" Phoebe wondered.
"I don't know, but I think we should make it. Something's telling me that we'll need it someday," Prue said.
"Well, it looks simple enough. I'll go get the stuff," Piper said and left. After few minutes she returned with the materials.
Half an hour later, we had the potion bottled and ready.
"If we every need it, we have it," I said, trying not to show my nervousness at the thought.
All of a sudden, there was an explosion in the boy's dormitory.
"I think that's our cue."
We ran up the stairs and Piper blasted the door. Dark purple smoke poured out.
"What the heck happened in here?" Prue coughed.
"I told you it didn't need more!" James yelled.
"It said that it needed that much!" was Sirius's response.
Phoebe flicked her wand and the room cleared.
"What ha—" Prue cut off and swore loudly.
Piper saw them and screamed.
They looked into the mirror and swore worse than Prue.
"I knew we shouldn't have put in so much," James said.
The Marauders were now covered in patches of green growth. They rather resembled sea creatures.
I couldn't help but laugh. Phoebe had the same reaction. Prue and Piper, however, were both displeased.
"What were you trying to make?" Prue asked, trying to keep her voice even.
"Nothing much…" Sirius said.
"Just tell me!" A few objects jumped to the ground and shattered.
"Okay! It was an illusion potion," James admitted.
"And who were you planning on using it on?" Prue continued.
"I seriously doubt that. Tell me the truth. I do not—" Prue cut off and narrowed her eyes. Her voice lowered to a barely audible whisper. "You were going to use that on Severus? After that display last year?"
"How did you know that?"
"I read your mind." She stopped and motioned for Piper to continue.
"We won't punish you any more. I could take off the effects easily, but I don't think I will."
We all walked out. I stopped in the doorway and muttered a spell. "You owe me," I said and walked out.
That night, I took to wandering the halls. As I was going by an empty classroom, I heard a noise. Against my better judgment, I decided to have a peek. I opened the door ever so slightly and looked in.
Prue was standing in the classroom, looking out the window. A cauldron sat upon one of the desks. A puff of smoke snaked its way up from the cauldron, making a small hissing sound. Prue turned her head toward the cauldron, and I quickly moved away from the door, hoping that she hadn't seen me.
I listened carefully and heard something scraping against the cauldron. I supposed that Prue was stirring it. After a few moments, the sound stopped and Prue sighed. I chanced a peek and found that she had gone back to staring out the window. Her gaze was distant, as if she was looking beyond the stars. Her body was sagging. What was she being weighed down by?
The moment after I wondered that, I felt very stupid. The Mirror of Erised—that had drudged up so much misery. My sisters were just putting on happy faces. And suddenly, I was angry with myself. Why hadn't I seen through their pretending? Why couldn't I offer any comfort to them?
Prue sighed again, breaking my concentration on my thoughts. She rested her head against the window. I couldn't tell if she was crying or not. I continued to watch as her body made no movement and she made no sound. She remained like that for a long time. I wanted to say something, but I didn't know how I would affect her. My presence hadn't done much for Piper.
Abruptly, Prue turned away from the window. She blinked, and a tear rolled silently down her cheek. She touched it and pulled back her hand. She looked down at the moisture, seeming amazed.
No more tears flowed from her eyes as she picked up a small bottle containing a potion. The liquid was black, almost like ink.
Prue stared unblinking at the potion. Was she in indecision? Why would she be?
Fear erupted within me. What was that potion? I was about to burst into the room when Prue spoke. Her voice was low, so low that I had to strain to hear it.
"The Power of Four… no more." She uncorked the bottle.
Panic again took over. I rushed into the room and slapped the potion from Prue's hand. It fell to the ground and shattered.
"Paige!" Prue gasped. "What—"
"What was that potion?" I demanded, gripping Prue's hands.
"It was nothing," Prue said.
"The Power of Four no more? Prue, what was that potion?"
"It was just the power-binding potion," Prue said.
"I don't believe you," I said.
"It's the truth," she swore. "I didn't…" Prue squeezed her eyes closed. "I don't want us to be involved with this."
"You mean our magic?"
"I mean destiny!" She ripped her hands away and went back to her place by the window. "Why do we have to be puppets? Why do I have to be imprisoned? I can't take this, Paige. If everything's out of our control, what's the point of it just taking it? Those forces can take everything that we love, and what can we do about it?" She placed her hand on the glass and softly repeated, "What can we do about it?"
I didn't know what to say, yet I still found myself forming words. "We… we can hope," I said, my voice steadily gaining in strength. "We can take what joy there is in life, and we can turn to each other for strength." I went up to her and placed my hand on hers.
I knew that this was about so much more than just destiny, but the individual issues were not as important as my hand on hers, my strength flowing into her.
"I keep the pain to keep me going," Prue said. "It's always there for me…"
"So am I. No matter what, Prue, I'm here for you, and so are Phoebe and Piper," I responded. "We need you."
"Sometimes," Prue whispered, "I need the pain just so that I can feel."
"Do you feel my hand on yours?"
"Do you feel my strength?"
She blinked. "I…"
"If you can't find strength of your own, Prue, take mine. You don't always have to be strong."
And then, something broke in Prue. She was crying, and she wasn't trying to hide it. "I… I shouldn't…"
"You can cry, Prue," I told her. "You should."
That was only the first step. This was not ended, and I didn't see closure coming any time soon. But we had taken the first step.
"I know it's not all right, and I don't know if things will get better. But I will be here. I can't promise you much, but I promise you that, Prue."
I intended to keep that promise.
The day had arrived. It was the last day at Hogwarts. I felt quite sad at the thought of leaving Hogwarts. I would be cut off from the wizarding world for three months. I would miss it even more than I had in previous years.
The final feast came and it was announced that the Slytherins had once again ended up with the most points. However, when the banners were unfurled, they changed the mood considerably.
The first banner showed the usual Slytherin snake. The next one, however, had been improved. It showed the Gryffindor lion devouring a snake. The third banner portrayed an eagle with a snake clutched in its claws. The last one had a badger holding a headless snake. Everyone except the Slytherins laughed. I caught James's eye. He winked.
There was a loud pop and something rained from the sky. That something was pink and smelled of strawberries—strawberry pudding. Now it was Phoebe's turn to wink.
Headmaster Dippet was not very pleased. He was covered from head to toe in strawberry pudding. "That's it!" he roared and threw down his pudding-saturated hat. "I'm retiring to a far away island! This is your show now, Albus!" With that, he walked out.
The hall was silent for a minute. Then it erupted in claps and cheers. Dumbledore bowed slightly, a smile on his face.
What a way to end the year, I thought with a smirk.
"I'm going to miss you so much, Paige!" Piper sobbed.
"Get a grip on yourself, Piper. Orb in any time. See if you can stay for a week or something, okay?" Phoebe said. I noticed she too had a tear in her eye.
"Send us tons of owls," Prue said.
"I will. I can't believe we're going home. It's been such a crazy year. I'll miss you."
We all hugged one last time. Phoebe went over to Sirius; Piper went over to Remus.
Prue and I were left together.
"Prue," I said, "you still remember what I said, right?"
"You don't always have to be strong."
"I know," Prue said quietly. "I know."
That was enough reassurance for me. "Thank you, Prue."
"I should be thanking you."
I smiled a little. "I'll see you again soon."
Prue went over to her grandmother to wait, and I went to my parents.
"How was school?" mom asked.
"Well…" I would have a lot of explaining to do. "We'll talk about it on the ride back."
Once again, I was going home. But this time, I was going home a different person. I knew much more about myself and about my family. For so long, I had wondered about my lineage. I had imagined my family so many times. Yet the real thing, as I had discovered, was far better than any family I ever could have imagined. I was a Charmed One. I was a sister. I was a Halliwell, and I was a Matthews. They all made up who I was. Only the future would tell who I would become.