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– CHAPTER ONE –

A Fairytale Come True

Autumn seemed to arrive suddenly that year. The morning of the first September was crisp and golden as an apple, and as the little family bobbed across the rumbling road towards the great, sooty station, the fumes of car exhausts and the breath of pedestrians sparked like cobwebs in the cold air.

No, I’m kidding. It was actually raining, big, heavy raindrops falling down on the little family consisting of three people who hurried across Kings Cross Station towards platforms nine and ten. If you could call it a family. It wasn’t like Tina and Keith Carlile was married anymore. Just about half a year earlier they had made the discovery that they simply had nothing to build a relationship on any more. And would it have been worth it to stay together just because you had a daughter? No, because if they had done so it would have ended in daily fights. They had done what they thought was best for their little daughter, the eleven-year-old walking between them. She was shivering all over, but not because she was cold. Oh no, she was nervous. Very nervous.

When the letter had arrived, Mariah, more often going by the name Mia, had thought it was a joke. Surely she, the child of a Squib and a Muggle, had no chance of entering Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. That had just been a foolish dream, a wonderful fairytale that her grandmother used to tell her about. A very real fairytale, yes, but not one that Mia was ever going to enter. She would just have to be satisfied with watching it from afar and boy did she do just that. Whenever her grandmother got out her wand Mia would be there, being fascinated about the magic and asking questions that never seemed to stop. She was so interested in this other world that her parents became slightly worried. But they never really thought about something to do about it, and then the letter came.

With a flutter of brown feathers an owl suddenly swooped in from the open window that sunny day in late July. This was nothing unusual in their home, since they did have a few friends and relatives from the wizarding world. Still, this didn’t stop Mia from bouncing over to the bird and almost ripping off its leg in her excitement to get the letter. She had just turned to her approaching mother when she stopped dead, shock written on her face. It was addressed to her, and although her grandmother did send her letters by owl, this hadn’t been the right bird. One more thing that didn’t seem right was the green ink the letter was written with; she couldn’t remember her grandmother ever using that. And there was this purple wax seal bearing a coat of arms that looked vaguely familiar; a lion, a snake, a badger and an eagle surrounding a big H.

“What’s that, honey?” her mother asked, reaching for the letter.

For some reason, Mia clutched it to her chest and took a step back. “It’s mine.”

Tina, surprised at her daughter’s reaction, withdrew her hand. “Well, then, aren’t you going to open it?”

“Yes.” She did just this, and carefully enfolded the letter and started reading. All of a sudden, there was this feeling of incredible warmth filling her, when ever so slowly, the letters on the parchment started making sense to her, and she knew where she had been invited. It was that school that her grandmother had gone to! She was going to Hogwarts! She was neither a Squib nor a Muggle, and was going to be a witch! Surely, that day would stay in her mind forever, as one of the happiest moments in her life.

Right now though, she didn’t feel much like cheering. She might have turned right there on the spot to run away had it not been for the fact that she had promised herself to not do just that. This was her big dream, after all. But what if she didn’t get any friend? What if the teachers didn’t like her? What if she wouldn’t be good at magic?

Of course, this was something that shouldn’t even have bothered her, as it seemed to work out on its own. Mia’s grandmother met up with the little former-family just beside the ticked box between platforms nine and ten, positively beaming at the sight of her granddaughter.

“Look at my big girl!” she said, lifted Mia into the air and swung her around before putting her back down with a heavy sigh. “You’re getting so big, in fact, that I might not be able to do like that much longer.”

“Nan, do you think I’ll do good at Hogwarts?” The fact that Mia didn’t laugh or brush away her grandmother’s words was proof of that she was both nervous and slightly afraid.

Carina Prince smiled and kneeled down so that she came face to face with her granddaughter. “Listen closely now.” she said. “Doing your best will always be enough. Remember that. No matter what anyone tells you or what grades you get, me, your mother and father will be proud of you.”

Mia looked up at her family, and they all nodded. With the reassurance of her grandmother’s words and the nods of her family she dared allow a small smile to spread on her lips. As she gathered courage enough to run towards the barrier between the two platforms, and then did it, she made a vow to herself. She was going to go to Hogwarts, she was going to become as good a witch as she possibly could, and then she would show all those pure-blooded morons who had thrown her grandmother out of their family, the same kind of moron as her grandfather had been. They would regret all that, sooner or later.

And then she suddenly found herself at platform nine and three-quarters. Owls were hooting, cats were running around people’s feet, people in all ages was chatting, bidding their farewells, hugging, kissing, running around, talking to classmates, and some trying to get their big trunks up the steps of the train. Mia’s own trunk was lying on the trolley that her very uncomfortable-looking Muggle father was holding. Mia couldn’t blame him for looking that way, since walking through solid walls wasn’t something he did everyday. Mia hadn’t done it either, but she had seen a bit more than her father. After all, he had never been to Diagon Alley.

“Mariah…” her mother now called, and seconds later she found herself embraced in a hug. When her mother pulled back a little she noticed the tears in her eyes.

“Tina…” Carina mumbled and draped one arm around her own daughter. “Don’t be like that. Maybe Mia will get to do all the things you wanted in your place now? She can get home at the holidays and tell you everything.”

Tina nodded, and gave her daughter another hug. “Have a wonderful time, honey. Be careful, and don’t worry about us, we’ll manage.”
“We will.” Mia’s father said and gave his daughter a hug as well. “I cannot begin to tell you how proud I am of you.”

“Ten minutes.” Carina said briskly, breaking the gloomy atmosphere with her big smile. “You better get that trunk on the train and find yourself a compartment, or they will all be taken. Here, I’ll help you…” She did just this, and they managed to get the heavy trunk up the steps into the red train.

Carina then hugged Mia as well, just like her mother and father had done. “Take care. Don’t let anyone look down at you because of something as stupid as your blood or who your parents are. Such things doesn’t matter, remember that.” Mia nodded.

“Bye, Mariah.” Her father gave her one more hug, and then her mother did it twice.

“Do remember to write a lot. I’ll send you letters as well. And don’t forget to tell me how my cousin is.”
Mia shivered at her mothers last words, but nodded anyway and said her goodbyes, hugged some more, and then started moving through the train with her trunk to find a compartment. Her mother’s cousin was Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts, and the stories Mia had heard about him made her feel slightly uneasy. He had been a Death Eater once, when the evil wizard Voldemort had still been powerful, but apparently, that had all been an act. One of the first things the famous auror Harry Potter had done after killing the evil wizard had been to make sure that her mother’s cousin, who’s name was Severus Snape, had his name redeemed, since non of the crimes and murders he was supposed to have committed had been true. By that time everyone had thought he was dead, and Harry Potter had even said he saw the death with his own eyes. Therefore, the whole wizarding world went shocked when he once again appeared at Hogwarts, and asked for a job. Apparently, although no details were revealed to the public, he had found a way to escape death. It had taken a lot of time for him to convince everyone that he was on the good side, but in the end he had landed the job as Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts. Still, Mia thought it was creepy to be taught by someone who carried the Dark Mark and had actually killed someone, because Snape had confessed that he had killed Albus Dumbledore. The circumstances around how he had managed not to end up in Azkaban after that had also been kept from the public, and all they had really got was that he was now considered innocent. Most people chose to believe this, considering all the months Snape had been in court before he was allowed back into the world. Some people though, Mia being a prime example, didn’t really trust him, even though she was related to him. Maybe just that was the problem; that he was a relative. It was no secret that Mia disliked her relatives, with the exception of her parents and grandmother, and of course her Muggle relatives on her father’s side. After all, Carina had been thrown out of the Black family just because she refused to leave her Squib daughter to an orphanage and pretend she didn’t exist. Mia’s mother’s father; Patrick Prince, had also been a stuck up pure-blood that, in contrast to his wife, had chosen to ignore he had neither a wife nor a daughter. Of course, not all pure-bloods were bad. The stories Mia had heard! There was the whole Weasley family who had fought in the war with Voldemort, and there was the famous Sirius Black, who had also been the last living Black until he had been killed by his very own cousin. He had been one of the four marauders, an unregistered animagus, had survived twelve years in Azkaban despite being innocent, and then managed to escape. Currently, he was one of those persons that Mia really looked up to, and one of the few she was proud about being related with. Of course, no-one would know that unless she told them, and she really didn’t have any intentions to do that. Luckily, her name wasn’t Black, but Carlile; the completely innocent and unrecognizable Muggle surname she had got from her father.

She had almost wandered through the whole train and was just starting to lose hope of finding an apartment with room for her when she came across a girl sitting alone hanging out of the open window and talking to two people who probably were her parents, considering the man had the same brown hair as the girl. She waited for a while outside the door since she didn’t want to interrupt their conversation, and suddenly someone ran into her and almost made her fall.

“Oy!” he screamed and stopped, reaching out to help her back on her feet. “Ye okay?”

Mia looked up as soon as she found her balance and nodded at the short boy. He looked like he could be eleven as well, but didn’t seem as uncertain as she felt but much more confident. Maybe he was a second year. He had very long, light brown hair, unusually long for being a guy, longer than her own black, curly strands, and golden brown eyes.

“Good.” he said when he saw her nodding, and straightened himself up and suddenly looked very cocky. “Yer in the way, in case ye didn’t know that.” With that he left, shooting down the corridor and out of sight. Mia muttered something very nasty about him and then turned back towards the girl in the compartment, and found to some embarrassment that she was curiously looking back.

Suddenly, the train started moving. Mia gasped. This was it. The platform slowly moved out of view and she was on her way towards something she didn’t have much of an idea about what it was. She forgot all about the girl in the compartment until she actually came over and opened the door.

“Don’t you have anywhere to sit?” she asked, and Mia shook her head after some more seconds of staring out of the window.

The girl smiled. “You’re a first-year, aren’t you? I think I looked just about the same as you do now one year ago.” So she was a second-year. “If you want to, you can sit in here.” Mia nodded and forced her dark brown eyes away from the window to look up into the girls greyish blue ones.

“Thank you.” Together they heaved Mia’s trunk into the compartment and stuffed it away before they took their seats opposite each other beside the window. The girl stretched out her hand.

“I’m Rachel Wood.”

“Mia Carlile.” They shook hands, and Rachel seemed to think for a moment, the smile never leaving her face as she did so.

“Are you Muggle-born? I don’t think I’ve ever heard your name before…”
“My father is a Muggle.” Mia said in a small voice, she just couldn’t help it. What if she had ended up with one of those pure-blood morons she wanted to try and avoid?

“And your mother?”

“A Squib.”
Rachel’s eyes widened a little. “That’s unusual, I think. That you’re a witch, I mean, with such parents. You’ve got to be a rare case.” She still smiled, which made Mia feel a bit more comfortable. This girl seemed okay, and it was clear now that she just asked out of interest rather than to judge.

“Well, what’s your mother’s name then?” Rachel continued, seemingly unable to shut up for more than some seconds at a time.

“Prince.” Mia said, almost holding her breath. How well known was it that Severus Snape’s mother’s maiden name had been just that?

“Hm, still not ringing any bells.” Rachel just said, shrugging, to Mia’s relief. “Well, that doesn’t really matter, does it?” She laughed. “So, how much does the daughter of a Squib get to learn about the wizarding world? Did you know it existed at all?”
“Yeah, I’ve seen a lot of what my nan has been doing with her wand, and she has told me a lot of stories. Neither she nor my parents has ever tried to keep it a secret.”
“That sounds nice. My parents are both magical, although my mum is a half-blood. So, what house do you think you’ll end up in?”

“My nan was in Slytherin.” Mia said. “So was my grandfather. Of course, they were both pure-bloods, while I am not, so I guess I won’t be able to follow in their footsteps.” She knew what everyone thought of that house, but didn’t believe any of it. Her grandmother was a grand example of that you didn’t have to turn out bad just because you went to Slytherin.

“You seem too nice to be in Slytherin, too.” Rachel said directly, to which Mia had to object.

“Just because you go to Slytherin doesn’t mean you have to be bad.”
“It certainly seems to be a good qualification to end up there, anyway.”

“It’s not. What house are you in, anyway? Bet it’s Gryffindor.”
“You got that one right.” Rachel bent down to her trunk which lay open at her feet and pulled up a black robe with the Gryffindor crest upon the chest. Mia had to agree on that the lion looked fancy, but she had decided she would be proud no matter what animal she would be wearing on her chest once the sorting was over.

She suddenly had an urge to take out her own brand new robes to admire the Hogwarts crest that would magically change as soon as she had been sorted. It was the first wizarding clothes she had ever owned, if you didn’t count the cloak her grandmother had given her on her tenth birthday.

“Maybe we should change, since we’ve got them out and all?” Rachel suggested, and Mia wholeheartedly agreed. Soon she had slipped out of her muggle clothes and into her school robes, which was a fantastic feeling that drove all thought and prejudices about Hogwarts’s different houses from her mind. One more thing that helped was the discovery that Rachel had taken out her wand. Mia, of course, had to do the same.

“What kind of wand have you got?” Rachel asked at once.

“Hazel and dragon heartstring. You?”

“Oak and dragon heartstring.” Rachel smiled. “Seems like we like our dragons.”
“I actually think it would be a bit cool to get to meet one.”

“You do? I dunno… Maybe if I was far away enough for it not to burn me to death.”
“Yeah, that might be a good idea…” Mia agreed, and then remembered something her grandmother had told her about Hogwarts. “Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus, right?”

“Pardon?”

“That’s Hogwarts motto, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, right! It is, now when you mention it. You know Latin?”

“Not at all. Just that part, ‘cause my grandmother told me.”

“So, what does it mean?”
“Apparently, there are two versions of what it might mean. ‘Let sleeping dragons lie’ or ‘never tickle a sleeping dragon’.”
“Well that’s… informative.”

“Very. I’ve always wondered what the bloke who came up with it had in mind.”

“Maybe he didn’t have a mind… Maybe he had tickled a dragon and lost it that way.” After a look at each other they both burst out laughing.

It was a wonderful relief that she had managed to find a friend that fast, even if they had different opinions on a lot of things. Rachel seemed to be one of those genuinely nice persons that just made you feel welcome and happy, and even though Mia sometimes couldn’t figure out things to say, Rachel’s mouth did nothing else but move. When the old lady arrived with the trolley full of Pumpkin Pasties, Chocolate Frogs, Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, Liquorice Wands and a lot of other things, the girls both bought enough to last the rest of the trip and maybe even longer.

It did. When a voice echoed magically through the train and told them to leave their luggage behind they stuffed the candy that was left into their trunks and headed out on a tiny, black platform. It wasn’t raining anymore. Mia looked around and thought she could see the outline of some little village further ahead, but mostly it seemed to be huge trees surrounding them. A lamp seemed to suddenly be sailing over their heads, but when it came closer and was lit up a bit from the train windows it turned out to be in the hands of the biggest man Mia had ever seen. She knew immediately that it was the Keeper of Keys and Grounds; Hagrid, that her grandmother had been telling her about. Carina had said he would be big, but Mia couldn’t have imagined something like him even in her wildest dreams.

“Firs’-years!” he shouted, and there was something in his voice that told them all that he had said it a lot of times. “Firs’-years over here!”

Rachel pushed Mia closer to the big beaming man and did thumbs up before leaving with the older students, and Mia had not much of a choice than to follow the smaller crowd of nervous first-years. She thought she could make out the boy that had run into her on the train, and hoped she wouldn’t end up in the same house as him.

“Mind yer step, now!” came Hagrid’s voice again as they stumbled after his lamp and tried to keep their balance on the narrow path, the huge trees soon closing in on them. “Yeh’ll get yer firs’ sight o’ Hogwarts in a sec.” Hagrid called, and Mia felt her insides twist a little with excitement once again. “Jus’ round this bend here.”

It was even more spectacular than Mia could ever have imagined. More spectacular than her grandmother had made it sound. The huge castle seemed to glitter along with the stars in the sky, due to the many lit windows. It stood on the top of a large cliff, and below it a huge lake lay, as still and blank as a mirror, with the castle reflecting itself in it. To her delight she thought she could make out the boy from the train, and even his face carried an expression of complete awe. As Hagrid started speaking through his beard again, however, he quickly regained his cocky attitude.

“No more’n four to a boat!” Mia gulped as she saw the small bunch of boats in the water in front of them. They didn’t look very safe. Still, when the other first-years climbed into them she fought back her fear of water and carefully sat herself down beside a girl which white blonde hair seemed to shine in the dark. Her blue eyes had a kind look to them, and she seemed to not be afraid at all, although slightly nervous. The two where joined by a pair of identical boys with blonde hair. Both looked nervous, but not afraid. After Hagrid had called out again the boats started to move across the mirror-like water, all by themselves, and Mia clutched its sides, not so taken with the beauty of the castle anymore. The blonde girl however, reached over the side of the boat and stuck her hand down into the water with a small smile. Then she recognized Mia’s face.

“Are you okay?” she asked with some worry. Mia nodded, but the blonde girl cast a sideways glance towards the water and seemed to understand.

“You’re afraid of water?” she said, almost in a whisper. The twin boys seemed to currently be in awe about the castle that just seemed to get bigger and bigger as they went closer to it, but it was hard to tell if they were listening or not.

Mia nodded, barely noticeable. “It’s okay.” the blonde girl said. “These boats are safe. I doubt one is actually able to fall out of them in case they don’t really want to.”
“Really?”

“I’m not completely sure, but I think so. After all, if that wasn’t the case, would they really let the first-years travel this way? It could be really dangerous.” Mia felt a bit calmer at those words, and when the boats seemed to glide into a tunnel leading under the castle itself, Hagrid yelled at them to duck. As they finally made it to the end of the boat ride, Mia quickly climbed out of the boat and onto the cliff, with the blonde girl and the twins following close behind. After a climb up from the tunnel they suddenly found themselves just beside the big oak doors leading into the castle. They were huge, big enough for Hagrid to enter.

“Everyone here?” he suddenly asked, his voice booming through the darkness. Then he raised a gigantic fist and knocked three times on the castle door.

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