AN: Sometimes you just don't find the fic you want to read and have to write your own. Please note: English is not my first language (not even my second). So if some of the grammar sounds German, forgive me. Writing fics is much better than doing boring translations of essays.
Rating: R - for what is about to happen.
PS: Thanks for the reviews!
1. Back to School
Laurel Hunter shook her head vigorously. "You can't be serious. I am not walking into a solid brick wall!"
Phillip Wineberry sighed. What had he done to deserve this? Couldn't anybody else be in charge of those annoying mature students they were taking on this term in Hogwarts?
"Miss, I told you all about it," he ventured with a hurt expression. "It has been done before. Thousands of times in fact. Nobody has ever been hurt."
Not exactly the truth since he remembered the time when he himself as a second year student had crashed into some other student's trolley on the other side of the wall and broken his nose. But still. There was no other way to gate 9 3/4.
Laurel let her shoulders slump. She still felt angry, confused and a little scared. A mere week ago she had been nothing but one of the hundreds of scholars, sitting in the dusty vaults of the National Library. Research work wasn't well paid but it suited her, especially then. Jack, her fiancée of more than three years, had suddenly decided that he was not ready for a commitment. One of her friends, who was an accomplished author of historical novels, needed some research done in England and had offered her the job. So she had taken the easy way out and packed her packs without much notice to any friends or relatives.
Now, seven days later, she stood between platform 9 and 10, and this man, who insisted in treating her like some not so clever child, urged her to walk into the wall in front of her. Her trolley was packed with things she didn't recognise and were certainly not hers. An old-fashioned trunk with brass corners, some paper-wrapped parcel that looked like a cauldron. Lord, they had even tried to hand her a toad when she was picked up at the guesthouse of the Ministry that very morning.
"Guesthouse, my ass," she thought. She had not felt like a guest there, more like a prisoner.
She had begged, even cried but they wouldn't let her go. She had demanded to see a lawyer or someone from her embassy, but of no avail.
Wineberry nervously fingered the silver watch he kept on a chain in his breast pocket. "You'll be late. There is only this train and if you miss it, you will have to return to our guesthouse and stay there until next term."
That did it. The thought of spending months in that spooky house surrounded by walls and guarded by mean looking thugs was more than Laurel could take. She gripped the handles of the trolley, pushed off - and stood suddenly on the other side. The platform was packed with children, teenagers, their fussing mothers and their luggage. Somebody helped her to hoist her trunk on the train, somebody pushed her into an empty compartment, and before she could think, the train had left London and rolled through the countryside.
Laurel closed her eyes. All this madness just because of that freaking computer incident! OK, calling it an 'incident' might be playing it down. All she could remember was that she had thought about Jack and felt this huge wave of anger and sadness sweep over her. And the computer in front of her exploded. Then the next one and so on until all the units in the room were reduced to fuming sparkling heaps of molten plastic and fried wires. After that everything was lost in a haze. Somebody had taken her to an office, and while she had tried to find an explanation - after all, she had done nothing to make them blow up, had she? - somebody had placed a phone call. The next days she spent in the guesthouse, under constant surveillance. Friendly doctors had asked her questions and not so friendly men in dark suits had asked her more questions until she became irritated and tired - and until the neat stack of paper on one of the desks caught fire.
The screeching of the compartment door woke her. A woman with grey hair ruthlessly forced back into a tight bun stood there. Laurel held her breath. She knew that woman, had seen her walk out of the ministry.
The woman smiled and her smile lit up the solemn face. "There you are, Laurel. The children told me that the new teacher for DADA was sitting all alone in the last compartment. But since we don't have a replacement for that position yet, I figured they were referring to you."
"I am sorry?" Laurel asked confused. "Who are you? How do you know my name?"
"In a moment, my dear, in a moment. Let me get the others." The woman turned around and ushered a man and another woman into the compartment. It took a few moments until everybody had found a seat which gave Laurel the opportunity to check them out. The man was rather handsome, in his early twenties, with freckled skin and very fair hair. He wore a grey suit and paisley tie and looked like a teaching assistant on his first day on the job. The woman next to him was startling. Not only had she the most beautiful red hair Laurel had ever seen, but her green eyes and matching robe gave her an air of mystery. Suddenly Laurel felt underdressed with her everyday outfit of jeans and shirt.
The older woman took the seat next to Laurel and shook her head exasperatedly. "Finally! Every year it gets worse!" She smiled at the three people who watched her eagerly. "Well, well. It's lovely to have all three of you together. Saves me some breath. I am Professor Minerva McGonagall. I teach Transfiguration at Hogwarts. Since this is our first course for mature students at Hogwarts, we will have to take things as they come. As time passes everything will fall into place. Why don't you introduce yourself to your classmates?" She looked at the young man who turned a bright red.
"My name is Ben Olsen. I am from Sweden. There is some wizard blood in my family but for the last three generations it seemed we had turned Muggle after all. As a child there was no indication that I posses any unusual talents. But then it became obvious I could …" He bit his lip. "I read minds." Laurel starred at him and he smiled back rather sheepishly. "I try not to do it. It is exhausting and very embarrassing most of the time."
"Well, I always knew I was a witch," the red-haired woman brushed his excuses away. "But since I grew up in the States with utterly ignorant parents nobody ever cared to give me an education. All I know I had to teach myself from books. I applied for this course three years ago!"
Professor McGonagall pursed her lips. "Now, I think your fellow students would be interested not only in your merits but also in your name, my dear!"
"It's Sally Kennedy but I prefer Serene."
The older woman nodded. "Sometimes our given name does not describe who we are. But sometimes chosen names can mislead as well." She turned to Laurel. "What is your given name, my dear?"
Laurel swallowed. How in all the world had she got amidst this bunch of lunatics? "My name is Laurel. I am not a witch nor do I know of any witches in my family. And I certainly did not apply to go to that place, Hogwarts."
Serene frowned. "Then why are you here? Your place should be taken by a gifted student."
Professor McGonagall raised a hand. "Contrary to Miss Hunter's belief she is as gifted as anybody present." She turned her warm eyes to Laurel. "I know you feel abducted and forced, my dear. Anybody in your position would feel the same. I have to admit that I am responsible for your rushed placement at Hogwarts."
"You? I saw you at the ministry but ..." Laurel managed.
"They called me in as soon as they took notice of the incident at the National Library. I watched them test you and yes, I also saw the little bonfire you set on Dr. Rencewind's desk."
Now it was Laurel's turn to be embarrassed. "I didn't mean to."
Ben smiled and nodded sympathetically.
Professor McGonagall patted her hand. "I know. But something deep inside of you meant to. It has been there all the time, Laurel, and now it wants out."
"But I am normal! Don't you see? All this is some awful misunderstanding. I never had anything to do with magic. I don't even like magicians!"
"Well, who does?" sneered Serene. "Petty impostors that they are."
"I like them," Ben ventured.
"Enough!" Professor McGonagall dug a small notebook out of the depths of her purse. "Laurel, do you remember the summer you spent at your grandparents house in Italy? You were four then, weren't you?"
She nodded in surprise.
"There was an accident then."
Laurel remembered all too clearly. "A car went straight into a tree, the driver died at the site. Yes. How come you know about that?"
McGonagall studied her notes. "A witness saw you playing on the road. She swears that you had no chance to get away from the car in time. Yet you did. This woman reported - and I quote - 'the little girl stood in the middle of the road and suddenly right before the car would hit her, she stood in a field some hundred meters away.'"
"I can't explain, I really don't," stuttered Laurel. She remembered the sudden feeling of disintegration very clearly. "I have no explanation."
"It is our fault." McGonagall closed the book. "Every once in a while a child is born out of pure muggle stock who nonetheless bears the gift. In the old times we had a network all over Europe. Children like you would be found out and offered an education. But when you were a child things turned bad. Real bad. We had other problems than stray little wizards being left without proper schooling. Or so we did. Some still found their way to Hogwarts, but some found a different way. Straight into the Dark." She shuddered involuntarily. "This course is the first ever. If it turns out successfully I expect many will follow. You all will train your talents and became responsible wizards and witches."
Her students sat silent, all in awe.
Laurel was the first to speak. "When can I go home?"
"What's wrong with you?" Serene didn't trust her ears. Oh, she had fought for this opportunity. She had studied hard. She would have done almost everything to be admitted to Hogwarts while this whining woman with her plain brown hair and her ridiculous sweater-shirt-jeans uniform begged to be sent home! "This is the best that ever happened to me!"
Laurel shot her a vile glance. "Listen, I am not interested in being a witch. I have a perfectly fine degree in History, I don't want another one in Magic. I had a life. I want it back."
Professor McGonagall smiled. "Don't we all, dear? Don't we all."
* * *
The mature students entered the hall amidst the first years. Reluctantly fascinated Laurel watched how the Sorting Hat placed the kids in their respective houses. She saw McGonagall at the High Table, discussing with a kind looking old man who had been introduced as Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of the school.. When all the kids were placed, the old man rose.
"Welcome to your houses! Since this is the first time we have mature students here in Hogwarts, nobody really has an idea where the Hat will place them. I propose you step forward and just take your chance."
"Miss Hunter." Professor McGonagall called out her name.
Laurel took a seat on the stool and let the older woman place the Hat on her head. Hundreds of students watched her. Embarrassed she clenched her fists when the Hat began to grumble and guess. "What is this? Oh, so you are definitely not a child anymore, ha? Let us see, let us see then. Not Slytherin, no definitely not."
Laurel didn't know whether his diagnosis was something to be glad about. But a quick glance at McGonagall told her that it probably was. The hat went on. "Not Ravenclaw. Not Hufflepuff either. Too old for Gryffindor, sorry 'bout that. It is all there - and not enough. Your own house then!" he decided.
Albus Dumbledore nodded. "Just as well. The mature students will form their own house and will join classes according to their abilities. At mealtimes they may sit where they please but for now I suggest Gryffindor."
"Wow." Ben wiped his brow. "That was spooky."
"No, that was unfair," snapped Serene. "Just because that filthy hat can't place her, we are not allowed to be in one of the traditional houses either."
"Where would you go if you had a choice?" asked Ben when they took their places at the Gryffindor table.
"Slytherin of course." She looked at him with distaste. "Don't you know anything at all? Slytherin is by all means the best house here. I read all about it. They are smart, they are powerful."
"And they have to live with Professor Snape. A fate worse than death," piped a voice to Laurel's right. She turned away from Serene's angry face.
"Is that so? Who are you and who is that Professor Snape?"
The girl smiled. "I am Hermione Granger. Professor Snape sits on the High Table to the very left. Don't stare at him," she warned. "He hates it if somebody does." But it was already too late.
Laurel felt her gaze melt into the deep dark eyes of the man at the high table. He was tall, his black hair greasy, his robe even darker than his hair. If not for the sallow face, he would have been nothing but a shadow. She tried to look away, she really did, but something held her captive. Her skin started to crawl and her throat became dry. Then all of a sudden he let go and turned to the man next to him. Shaken, Laurel lowered her gaze to the plate. Hermione patted her arm. "Told you so."
The boy next to Hermione held his hand out to Laurel. "I am Harry, and this is Ron. We are all third year. Don't let Snape scare you. Once he has sorted you out as a victim he can be a really nasty bastard."
"In what way?" asked Ben concerned.
"He picks on weaker students. Takes points away for everything. Favours his own brood, the Slytherins."
Serene lifted her head. "So he is Head of Slytherin?"
Rob nodded solemnly. "They deserve each other."
Hermione turned to Laurel. "Are you really students? With grades and all? You are rather …" She blushed.
"Rather old." Laurel finished the sentence for her. "I guess, for you thirty must be ancient."
"Snape is at least 36! And Dumbledore must be a hundred! "Harry tried to be polite. "And I suppose it is not your fault that you are a beginner at that age."
Serene shot him a venomous glance. "I am not thirty by far! And I am not a beginner. Do you understand?"
Before he could answer, McGonagall clapped her hands and sent the students off to their dormitories.
The three mature students were led through the maze of stairs and corridors by a seventh year who did nothing to hide his fascination with Serene.
"This will be your quarters for the winter term," the young Ravenclaw announced. "Will you be in our class tomorrow?"
Ben shrugged. "We will be where they tell us to be, I assume."
Serene shook her glorious red mane. "You didn't pay attention, Ben. Not a good start. McGonagall just told me we should join the Gryffindor kids in potions tomorrow first hour."
"Potions?" The boy pursed his lips. "Sorry about that. But once you survived Snape everything else can only be an improvement."
* * *