Alex looked up from the book in front of her and through the window on her left. The sky was blue, the sun was shining, and she was stuck in a library by choice. “I must be mad” she thought, taking a moment to enjoy watching the students outside walking across the grounds. Some were going to classes, some returning; others were looking for quiet spots to chat or what not before their next lesson. She smiled. She was happy here and life was a lot more exciting than it had been before, when she was still at home. She returned to her copy of Hogwart: a history before starting to dwell more on her past. Her place was here now.
Her current project, which she had started once she was fully settled here, was to make an introductory leaflet to send to muggle parents in case of the birth of a witch or wizard. Initially, she had suggested to Professor McGonagall that such a leaflet would be helpful to send along with the acceptance letter. However, after a lot of thinking, she realised that, since many wizard children did “strange” things from birth, muggle parents would benefit from receiving help right from the start. In the leaflet would be enclosed some basic wizarding history, some explanation on Hogwart, and some resources such as the address of the closest wizard family who had agreed to be mentoring –she had yet to get to that-, the closest shops, healers etc.
She gladly put a term to her copying when the bell rang, announcing a change of class. Incidentally, she herself had one to get to, not as a student but as Professor Burbage’s assistant. For now, this entailed in sitting in Professor Burbage’s lessons and in giving students the opportunity, one period every other week, to ask her all the questions they might have about the “muggle way of life” as she called it. Turning the lesson into a conversation, where she even brought muggle objects, seemed to make many appreciate the subject a lot more.
As she reached the class, she crossed path with Harry Potter. She remembered how she had found out about him in a book one of his friends, a muggle-born called Hermione Granger, had suggested she read for her project one day in the library. Actually, Hermione hadn’t merely suggested one book but given her a full list, which had been most helpful. She was partly glad he wasn’t in her class, as she had no idea how she would have dealt with his past and celebrity status.
Today she had the third years, and she was looking forward to it. They seemed sometimes to be more curious than the older classes. They wondered at how people could live without magic and looked at her with a mix of disbelief and curiosity when she talked about her own magical-less life. Sometimes she felt like a story teller, and sometimes like a curious beast. Either way, it made for fun periods. She was used now to the look students gave her. She had chosen to assume fully her strange status as only muggle member of staff and wore muggle clothes rather than robes. It was one more way for her to confront her students to muggles within the familiar environment of the school.
After lunch, she made her way across the ground to the forbidden forest. When she had asked Professor Dumbledore where she could find an oak, he had told her of one on the edge of the forest. He had said she should be safe going there, but no further and, as much as she was curious, she had no intention of trying.
When she reached the tree, she dropped the bag she always carried with her and hugged it. Then, she sat crossed legged with her back to it and started telling it about the going on in her life since their last meeting. Talking to trees, and other non-human beings, was a habit she had taken as a child and never lost. As she grew up and started researching spirituality, she had discovered Druidry and had felt like she was finally on the right tracks.
Once she had told it everything, she prepared to do her meditation.
“I come to the west, the realm of water, and call the Salmon. Please watch over me as I work.”
“I come to the north, the realm of the earth, and call the Bear. Please watch over me as I work.”
“I come to the east, the realm of the air, and call the Raven. Please watch over me as I work.”
“I come to the south, the realm of fire, and call the Phoenix. Please watch over me as I work.”
“Within this circle I am in a place that is not a place, in a timeless time. Please, wise Deva of the Oak, guide my travel in the otherworld.”
She took three deep breaths and went still and silent.
She was in her Grove, in wolf form. Her guide, cloaked in black, was there too. He led her to a pool and she understood she was to scry in it. She saw images flashing: men in black cloaks and masks, a wolf, a black dog, the potion professor, a young woman with pink hair, a group of people around a table, a wand. Then it stopped and she made her way back to consciousness.
“I come to the south and release the Phoenix. Thank you for watching over me.”
“I come to the east and release the Raven. Thank you for watching over me”
“I come to the north and release the Bear. Thank you for watching over me.”
“I come to the west and release the Salmon. Thank you for watching over me.”
“Wise Deva of the Oak, thank you for your guidance in my travel today. Merry meet, merry part and merry meet again.”
In front of her was a stone that hadn’t been here before. On it were dots connected by lines. It looked like a stick drawing of a dog. Alex was puzzled as to what it was doing there, but it seemed to her she had heard hooves whilst she was meditating. Could it be a gift from a centaur? She took the stone, turned towards the forest and bowed whilst saying “Thank you”.
During dinner, she showed Professor Burbage the stone.
“Does this drawing remind you of anything, by any chance? I found it in the forest.”
She looked at it closely “Yes, it does actually. It looks like a constellation. You should ask Professor Sinistra to be sure though.”
“Thank you, I will.”
Alex went to see Professor Sinistra as she left the table. She immediately confirmed what Professor Barbage had said “Oh, yes, it’s a constellation: Canis Major, Orion’s hunting dog. Where did you find it?”
“In the forest, after I finished my meditation. I think it might have been a centaur who left it for me.”
Professor Sinistra made a face that expressed very clearly just what she thought of centaurs, but merely said “I see” before bidding Alex good night.
Alex made her way back to her rooms so deep in thoughts that she nearly walked into professor Snape, the potion teacher. He held her at arm length.
“Would you mind looking where you are going?”
“Sorry Professor, I was lost in thoughts.”
“Yes I could see that. What is this?” he queried, looking at the stone.
She showed him “I found it in the forest after my meditation; it had been left in front of me, by a centaur I think. The puzzling thing is that, in my vision today, there were a big black dog and a wolf.”
He raised his eyebrows, the only sign of surprise or interest on his face. “Really? And, what else did you see?”
“People I’ve never seen sitting around a table, a woman with pink hair, a wand, and men dressed all in black, you now, like that day. Oh, and I saw you as well.” She was looking at him intensely, trying to read any emotion or thought on his face, not that it was going to happen, it never did.
“What were all these people doing?” He asked, in an almost bored tone.
Ever since the day he had rescued her, she had watched him to try and understand how he could have been there, with the “bad guys” as she called them in her mind, yet save her life and bring her here, where she was safe and protected. One thing she had learned was that Professor Snape never showed anything but never asked a question out of politeness.
Wondering why he asked this and thinking it would probably disappoint him, she replied “I don’t know; I only saw images like muggle pictures, not moving or talking.”
Snape nodded “Very well. If you see any of this again, come and tell me.”
“OK, I will… Well, goodnight then, Professor.”
There were many men cloaked in black, in half a circle. They were facing a man, with the face of a snake. He was pointing his wand towards Snape.
“Helping a muggle, Severus, really? You have fallen very low. Since when have you spied for Dumbledore, do tell me?”
Snape didn’t have time to answer, however, before the man said “Crucio” and he fell to the floor, screaming in pain.
She heard herself growl, then, and jumped at the man, in wolf shape. She never reached him, however, as with a flick of his wand he sent her flying. She fell hard on the floor and…
Woke up with a start. “Oh good, it was just a nightmare. Deep breath… Hang on… Something feels weird, as if I’m still a wolf. Great, I’m bringing the feelings back with me again.” And she opened her eyes to see a paw where her hand should have been.
“What on earth?” was what she meant to say, instead she just yelped. She tumbled out of bed, hard to get out of bed sheet with paws when one isn’t used to it, and went to the door.
It took her three attempts to open the door – “Why do I ever close it!” – and she went straight to the portrait Professor Dumbledore had suggested she keeps on the wall, in case she needed help. So far she had only asked it about how to get breakfast from the kitchen when she had missed it or explanations on the wizarding world.
The man on it was snoring softly. She stood with her paws on the frame and half barked half growled at him until he woke up with a start.
“What is going on? What in Merlin… Alex?” The man’s eyes were wide.
She barked some more until he hurried out of sight “to get the headmaster”. She sat in front of the dying fire, hoping they hurry up.
Professor Dumbledore walked in, wrapped in a dressing gown. He stopped dead upon seeing the wolf.
All she could do was yap in reply.
He held out his wand, muttered a word, and she was back to her pyjamas-clad self.
“Now, tell me what happened” The headmaster asked as, with a flick of his wand, he conjured a mug of hot chocolate.
She gratefully took it, sat in front of the rekindled fire and told him about her dream.
“And when I woke up, I was a wolf. It’s never happened before. I have brought back from the otherworld the feeling of it, as if I have a muzzle or claws, even a tail, but I thought physical shape-shifting was impossible.”
The headmaster looked at her for a while before answering “Oh, no, physical shape-shifting, as you call it, is possible. Either as a curse, like a werewolf, or through a transformation, like an animagus. What you did is exactly that, although I have never heard of spontaneous transfigurations. It takes a lot of work to become an animagus usually.”
“Professor McGonagall is a transfiguration teacher, isn’t she? Could she help me learn to control this?”
“I intend to ask her, yes. Incidentally, she is also an animagus, perhaps her own experience will help. I think you should ask Professor Snape for a potion, too, so as to prevent any more spontaneous changes during your sleep.”
“Yes, that’s a good idea; I’ll ask him tomorrow then. Thank you Professor.”
“It’s quite alright. Now, you should get some sleep.” And with that, he left.