When she woke up the next morning, the sun was already up. She cursed as she realised she was late. She had apparently forgotten to set her alarm clock. Luckily, she didn’t have any classes that morning. After having showered and dressed, she went to the kitchen to have a couple of toasts before making her way to the library.
Instead of getting one of the usual books she had been using for her projects, she went to see Madam Pince, the librarian.
“Excuse me, I was wondering, is there a book on the topic of animagus please?”
Madam Pince looked suspicious “And why would you want to read about it?”
The young woman took a deep breath “Professor Dumbledore mentioned it to me and it seems it’s rather close to muggle fables. I wanted to read on the topic to see if it could have been at the origin of some of them.” She held her breath, then.
Madam Pince huffed “Very well, you’ll find them under transfiguration, over there”
Breathing out, Alex made her way in the direction. Eventually she found what she was looking for. Reading the explanations of the technique, she wondered how someone like her, a muggle, could have done it in her sleep –literally. It seemed to be very complex and required to be already good in transfiguration. When the bell rang, she remembered with a start she was supposed to ask Professor Snape for a potion.
She quickly made her way downstairs to the dungeon and was relived to find the classroom’s door open and some students still finishing to clean their cauldrons. When he saw her walking in towards his desk, he raised an eyebrow but didn’t speak. Alex felt relived as she had expected him to make feel awkward like he did with his students. She had the feeling he saw her as an over-aged student.
“Erm, Professor, Professor Dumbledore told me to ask you…” She looked behind to see the last students make their way out. She carried on in a lower voice “Is there a potion to stop people from transfigurating themselves? Because, I woke up in the middle of the night as a wolf and…”
Snape cut her “You what? How is that even possible? You, an animagus?”
“Apparently. That’s what the headmaster think anyway. He’s going to ask Professor McGonagall to help me control it but, in the meantime, could you help me? I really don’t want to wake up as a wolf again; I have no idea how to get back to normal.”
The potion master was already up and looking through books “There is a potion. I suppose I’ll have to modify it as it needs to be efficient only at night…”
“Yes, if I want to learn to control it, I guess I’ll need to learn to do it voluntarily too.”
Still looking at his books he replied “Yes, obviously.”
“Erm… Well, thank you for accepting, sir. I’m going to leave you to your class…”
The professor turned around “What?” Then, noticing the students waiting outside “Ah, yes, how could I forget… I’ll have this ready for this evening. Come to my office after dinner.”
“Yes. Thank you” And she made her way out as the students, fifth years from Gryffindor and Slytherin, made their way in. She thought she’d caught an interrogative glance from Hermione but she probably had imagined it.
She spent the rest of the morning in the library to finish the information part of the “Muggle-born wizards information leaflet” as she had tentatively called it. After a month of work on it she was almost done. All there was left was the “mentoring families” list. She really hoped Professor McGonagall would write a template that she could copy, and that she would have some addresses to suggest.
When the bell rang, she made her way down to the dining hall and was lucky to reach it at the same time as the transfiguration teacher.
“Professor, do you have a minute please?”
“Yes, of course.”
“I’m done with the leaflet, well, as far as I could go. All I have left to do is the “mentoring families” list. Could you help me with that please?”
“Of course; I already have a few persons in mind. I don’t have a class in the last period, we will have two hours before dinner, you can come to my office and we can discuss this. Ah, and I saw the headmaster this morning. I think I should be able to help you with that as well. We can talk about it this evening.”
“Thank you, it’s very kind of you to take some time to help me.”
“Not at all.”
With that, they both made their way through the dining hall to the professors’ table. On the way, Alex stopped by Hermione.
“Hi, I wanted to thank you, the list of books you suggested really helped me, I’ve just finished it this morning.”
“Oh, that’s great! Could I see it? If that’s ok, of course?”
“I don’t mind, you can tell me what you think. This evening we’re working on the “mentoring family” list with Professor McGonagall and then it’ll be done. I’ll show you tomorrow, ok?”
“Yes, sure. The mentoring families would be wizarding families that could give advices to the parents?”
“Yes, that’s my idea anyway, why?”
Hermione turned to her neighbour “Ron, do you think your parents would be interested?”
The young man looked from Hermione to Alex and back again “Well, they’re kind of busy these days but… I suppose they would, yes.”
Hermione turned to Alex, who replied “Well, I’m writing a letter tonight with Professor McGonagall, I can give you one for your parents’ tomorrow maybe? They don’t have to say yes if they’re busy, don’t worry.”
“Erm…OK” The young man replied, looking not very convinced.
Alex finally made her way to the table as food started to appear. It was a wonder for her to always find something she liked, even though she was particularly difficult with food. Professor Burbage took time to tell her about her program for the next two month:
“I thought we could cover religions with the third years. We have enough time between now and Christmas to cover the main ones, and that way we could do a stable for Christianity and talk about the winter solstice, which is celebrated by the pagans. What do you think?”
“I think it’s a great idea! Maybe I could write to my parents and ask them to send me traditional stories about Christmas, or we could do some crafts “the muggle way” maybe… Well, I am finishing one project; it’s nice to have another one in mind.”
The afternoon flew past and soon enough it was time for the young woman to join Professor McGonagall in her study.
“Ah, Alex. Please, take a sit.”
“Thank you.” Taking the papers out of her bag and handing them to the professor “Here’s what I’ve done so far. Since I had no idea how to copy what I needed from the book besides writing it out myself, it took a bit of time.”
Professor McGonagall took the papers “I can imagine. Now, let’s see… You did a first part on a basic history of the wizarding world… Then an explanation on Hogwarts… I see you included a brief description of each subject… And a resource section with shops, healers… Very well, it seems rather complete. Except for the list of families, of course.”
“Yes, and maybe it could include a foreword from yourself or professor Dumbledore, explaining why the school is sending this?”
“It would seem appropriate. I suppose one could include the story about the quill which writes every birth of a wizard or a witch in a big book.”
“Is it true? Is this how you know to whom sending the letters every year?”
“Oh yes, it is true. It’s lucky we have such a mean, too, as we would miss out all the muggle-born otherwise. Now, about this list, what I suggest is that I contact them myself. I can have those letters written and sent out this evening. I’ll ask for a reply before Christmas. This will give us plenty of time to ask to more families if those I have in mind are not interested.”
“Oh, well, ok, thank you professor.”
“I don’t mean to take your project from you, I know you enjoyed doing it and it is very well done, I must say. I just happen to be able to use magic, which makes certain tasks quicker. Also, I thought we could instead concentrate on your little problem. Now, Professor Dumbledore told me about your dream and about what it triggered. He also mentioned you had “felt” wolfish before. Can you explain?”
“Well, I don’t know if the headmaster told you, but I practice what some muggles call magic.”
Professor McGonagall nodded and Alex carried on “I often travel during my meditations. It is believed the soul can travel to the spirit world even without dying. During those travels, I often take the shape of a wolf and it’s happened that, once I was back, I still felt like a wolf. Sometimes it would be that I’d feel playful like a puppy and want to chew on things; sometimes I’d feel protective and growl at intruders, or what I considered as such; sometimes I’d feel like my teeth were different and I had claws… I’ve done it in dreams before, too, but it’s never done that. I don’t understand how it is even possible. I read about it in the library, animagus I mean, and it makes no sense that I can do it.”
“In fact it is as if you could change in your mind but not physically. Interesting. You see, being an animagus requires a lot of concentration and work. Wanting to become the animal isn’t sufficient. You also need to be able to bend the magic to your will and transform your body. When you transfigure an object or an animal, your wand serves to direct the magic, but when it’s you, you have to focus even harder.” She paused to think for a minute. “I am going to guess here but I’d say in your case the animal has already picked you, your mind has already changed partly. Maybe, being here in a strongly magical place unlocked the barrier preventing you from fully transfiguring.”
“It makes sense to me but, could it mean that I might be a witch?”
“You already are according to muggle standards. The headmaster thought being in contact with so much magic might … change your capacities, or even reveal them. After all, you did project a man with a single thought.”
“Well, that’s something to think about…”
“Don’t think too much about it. Let it happen. We will start the lessons tomorrow. I hear from Professor Snape you asked him a potion? Be very careful with the quantities or you will be trying for nothing tomorrow. Now, it’s time for dinner. Meet me here tomorrow after dinner and we will see how it goes.”
“Yes, I will. Thank you again, Professor.”
As soon as dinner was over, Alex made her way to the dungeon and Professor Snape’s office. He was already there and the door was open.
“Ah, Alex, come in and close the door.”
The young woman did as asked, feeling a bit nervous at being in a room with such an enigmatic person. Not that she was scared of him, but uncomfortable might be the right word.
“I’ve changed the initial potion slightly so that it will be effective only at night time. The appropriate dose is three drops before sleep. Do not take any more than that.”
“Are you sure that’s going to be ok for me? I mean, I’m small and light weighted and usually muggle medicine for adults are a bit too strong for me…” She stopped when she noticed his eyebrow rising.
“Well, we won’t know until you’ve tried, will we?”
“Erm… no, I suppose we won’t.” She was feeling embarrassed and awkward now “Well, erm…Thank you Professor.”
“You’re welcome. Good night.”
She got up to leave “Good night.”
Once outside the room she took a deep breath to calm herself. His coldness was unnerving. She went back to her room to get some reading time before bed. She was currently reading her way through the Lord of the Ring books again and she was really glad she had found a way to get some of her stuff from home.
That had been what had stressed her the most when she had ended up here, in another country and unable to go home for her safety. How was she to let her parents know she was safe and get some of her things sent to her? She doubted owls would like to carry parcels from the south of France to wherever in Britain she was.
Luckily, the head master had found the perfect solution: a friend of his, a squib, agreed to let her use his address to get her things sent. Then, all she had to do was floo to his house to collect her parcels. He even agreed to post her letters to her parents in the muggle post, and send her theirs via owl to the school.
She still wasn’t a hundred per cent sure why she was supposed to stay here, and a lot less than that about what had happened that day. She never heard about the woman she tried to help again and never really dared to ask, the headmaster being very busy with all the problems with the ministry, and Professor Snape being far from a talkative person.