NB: The events of this story take place at the beginning of the second volume of the Harry Potter saga. The reason its events were suppressed from the original account will become obvious, given the light that is cast on Hogwarts Academy in general and on one faculty member in particular. In any case, the school did indeed have a running debate all that year about Muggles and Mudbloods and Squibs and thoroughbred wizards. Such controversies do not happen in a vacuum, even with the instigation of He Who Must Not Be Named…
The characters of Kiki and her family as depicted here owe less to Hayao Miyazaki’s anime Kiki’s Delivery Service than to the book on which it was based, Majo no Takkyuubin (Witch’s Delivery Service) written by Eiko Kadono, with illustrations by Akiko Hayashi. Except for a few names of my own invention (and one which is an anime in-joke), Harry Potter and the rest are the creation of J. K. Rowling.
If this story has to be rated at all, some might rate it PG-13 because of a certain bodily function. We don’t know when it occurred, because Rowling doesn’t go into detail. However, we can assume that it did occur, and this is as likely a time as any.
The assembled faculty of Hogwarts Academy of Witchcraft and Wizardry, plus its board of twelve Governors and the resident ghosts, met to discuss school business one week before the start of classes. The meeting was in a conference room near Headmaster Albus Dumbledore’s office. (The only one who wasn’t there was the new Defense Against the Dark Arts instructor, Gilderoy Lockhart. He was on a book promotion tour and wouldn’t arrive until the first day of term.) The meeting had started with an hour’s worth of fruitless discussion, which might have gone on for another hour when Dumbledore rose.
“Further debate seems unable to shed either light or heat on this question. Therefore I second the motion of my esteemed colleague Professor Severus Snape to table the discussion of a formal course of Muggle Studies until a date to be determined by the board, whilst retaining Muggle Studies as an elective at Hogwarts.”
Lucien Malfoy, a particularly disagreeable Governor on the board and father of Draco Malfoy, an equally disagreeable student, smiled inwardly. He saw no reason for the school to waste time and resources by studying—as if such a thing could or should be studied—the non-magical world.
“Point of order! Point of order!” moaned a voice like a rusted hinge. It was Professor Binns, the History of Magic instructor and the only ghost on the faculty. “How can we deny our responsibility by ignoring a solution that is so close even I can almost touch it? Magic users and non-users have fraternized for centuries now; ‘twas ever thus…”
“And evermore shall be so,” Dumbledore interrupted. “Your point is taken, but there is a motion on the floor…”
Professor Binns seemed not to realize he had been interrupted. “And, left to themselves, these matters usually work themselves out perfectly well.”
“Some would dispute that claim,” interrupted the governor from Stonehenge, Llanfair Mhobhgurheihahn (which he pronounced “Moran”).
Professor Minerva McGonagall rose at once. “Which makes it all the more important that somebody conduct some proper research!”
Dumbledore flourished his wand and lobbed a few fireballs, no bigger than pennies, to the center of the conference table. They exploded with no damage but a mighty flash of light. “May I have order please! We’re not going over this battlefield again. There is a motion on the floor and it has been seconded; all in favor…”
The ayes had it, barely. Dumbledore desperately hoped that this Muggle problem would be the worst of it. After the previous year, with the arrival of both Harry Potter and his never-to-be-named nemesis, he thought that he deserved a quiet year.
So of course, the next thing that happened was that an owl crashed through the window. It was a large and muscular owl, as it had to be to break through that window in a single blow. It laid upon the table, panting like a marathon runner, a scroll still in its claw.
“Mine, I think,” said Professor Phyllida Sprout, the Herbology instructor. She was one of the most even-tempered, levelheaded members of the Hogwarts faculty, and it took a lot to fluster her. Which is why she surprised everyone when, having read half the message, she burst out “Oh dear!” and followed it up with “I’m taking a leave of absence from Hogwarts, effective at once. I’ll be back in about two months, I hope, but don’t count on me until after Christmas.” With that, she was out the door.
“What’s that all about?” McGonagall asked. For answer, Dumbledore passed the scroll to her.
After looking it over for a minute, McGonagall explained to the others. “It’s from her niece. She’s with child, and wanted one last holiday in Majorca before the baby came. Unfortunately, no sooner does she get to Spain than she starts having trouble. I’ll spare you the details. Anyway, the niece sends for Sprout; seems she doesn’t trust the local practitioner, and wants family around in any case.”
Snape stirred. “Why can’t we just send her a get-well owl? The Herbology classes won’t take care of themselves.”
For the next few minutes they talked about how to fill in for Sprout. No teacher wanted to take on a second teaching load, and all the obvious choices were on research trips or sabbaticals or otherwise engaged.
Poppy Pomfrey, who ran the Infirmary, spoke up. “I don’t have a teaching position, and I really don’t know enough about plants to try to fill in for her there, but I’m sure I could step in as acting head of Hufflepuff House while Sprout’s away.”
“Very good of you,” Dumbledore nodded.
“And speaking of Herbologists, weren’t you telling me, McGonagall, about an owl you received the other day…”
“Of course! I’m sure most of you remember Isolde Barkleberry. She was Prefect for the Hufflepuff girls a few years ago. Scored highest marks in a century in Herbology. I’ve often heard Sprout say that she hoped Barkleberry would take over the greenhouses here when Sprout’s time came to step down.”
“And we all hope that won’t be for a long time to come,” Dumbledore added, “but what have you heard from her?”
“She’s been traveling the world as part of her University graduate studies. She’s looking for a magic fertilizer even Muggles can use, in any climate. Says she wants to eliminate famine once and for all.”
“And give all our secrets away,” Snape muttered.
“A laudable pursuit, but I still don’t see…”
“Sorry, but I’m just coming to the point. She mentioned that she had recently met with a very gifted Herbalist; said she was the only one who could surpass even Sprout herself, and was very well versed in the old ways. Said her name was Madame Kokiri.”
“Was she a student here? That name sounds familiar,” Pomfrey said.
“Of course it sounds familiar,” Professor Dedalus Diggle spoke up, sounding rather irritated, as if Madame Kokiri’s identity should be common knowledge. “We have that entire shelf of books.” He pointed to a row of volumes in the bookcase just behind Dumbledore’s chair.
He had indicated the writings of a Professor Okino, some of whose books were required reading among the seniors at Hogwarts: The Interactive Paradigm of Fairy Enchantment, Witch Trials: Colossal Lies, Subtle Truths, and Dragons as Theme and Meta-Theme, among others. He seemed to make a specialty of the history of magic and the interaction of magicians and Muggles.
“And this explains everything,” Dumbledore nodded as he read the biographical information on Professor Okino. “He’s married to Madame Kokiri.”
“Where did you say they live, McGonagall?” Malfoy knew full well she hadn’t said, but he already knew. He wanted to see her squirm.
“Well,” she began nervously, “they’re…” Her voice trailed off, muttering something unintelligible.
McGonagall shrugged her shoulders, like a student caught in a forbidden corridor. “They’re—on the Continent.”
Dumbledore didn’t think any row could top the Muggle Studies argument, but at this news everyone started shouting at once. Even the ghosts were levitating.
Nearly Headless Nick tried to clear his throat, which wasn’t easy since it was separated from his neck. “In all my centuries, I cannot recall a time when the faculty was anything but British!”
“Quite true, but this is an emergency.”
“You seriously wish to tender this Madame Kokiri a guest lectureship?” said Professor Diggle.
“Actually,” Dumbledore interrupted, “I would recommend asking them both to come to Hogwarts.”
“We don’t have that kind of surplus in the budget, do we?” one of the Governors asked nervously.
Nearly Headless Nick tried to pound the table; being a ghost, his fist went through it instead. “The budget doesn’t enter into it! They’re not British!”
Dumbledore stood up. “As for the budget, I have a small sum set by. I would be willing to turn my salary for this year back to the board to use to bring these two to Hogwarts.” This generosity was a gesture even the Governors could understand. They fell silent to hear the rest of what Dumbledore had to say. “We obviously can’t let Herbology take care of itself for four months, as Professor Snape puts it. We need someone, and barring the unforeseen,” (at this, the Divination Professor, Madam Sibyll Trelawney, cleared her throat a little too noisily), “this candidate seems excellent. And, given Professor Okino’s field of study, we may finally get the Muggle Studies inquiry off to a proper start. In any event, for the few months that they’re here, I seriously doubt that we’ll overthrow all of our methods in favor of European magic, which, except for some details of formality, isn’t so different from our ways in the first place.”
This quieted most of the objections, but not all. “Do we know if she’s ever taught anyone, anywhere?” Flitwick the Charms master asked.
“Actually, she will have followed the Continental tradition and instructed her daughter. She’s in the picture, you’ll notice.” They all glanced back at the book jacket’s picture of Professor Okino, who sported a bushy mustache and a dancing pair of eyes. His wife, Madame Kokiri, had long hair, dark Slavic eyes and an expression that was almost melancholic even when she smiled. Then there was their daughter Kiki, who looked to be about eleven when the picture was taken. Already wearing a witch’s robes along with a large bow in her hair, she fidgeted as if she wanted to be anywhere except sitting for a photograph.
“Is the daughter an Herbologist as well, Dumbledore?” asked Pomfrey.
“Actually, she’s not. I met this family a few years ago, and have been keeping track of them. Kiki followed the Continental tradition of leaving home at age thirteen and making her own living by her magic. She’s just spent her first year away. Now, I know that this will sound demeaning to some of you, but you must bear in mind that witches live openly in some communities on the Continent, without disguise or pretense.”
“And we could stand to take a page from that book, I’m sure,” Pomfrey put in. A few wizards jumped to their feet to shout her down.
“Can we please,” interrupted Dumbledore, “get through one bit of business in this meeting without inducing a stroke? As I was saying, Kiki doesn’t seem to have taken to Herbology as readily as her mother, but flight seems to be her forte. She’s made her way starting an airborne parcel delivery service.”
“But that’s a job for, for OWLS!” sputtered an outraged Mhobhgurheihahn.
“Some small minds among us may think so,” McGonagall responded, “but Barkleberry paints quite a different picture in her letter. It was an ingenious display of initiative, providing a fairly large city with what they needed but didn’t have. And, though she started out working for a bakery, her clientele grew quite rapidly. Kiki’s helped repair a clock-tower, she’s delivered a whole band of instruments at one go, rescued a child drowning in the ocean…”
Lucien Malfoy rose. “As time is short and the proposed candidates seem eminently qualified, I move that Hogwarts extend an offer to both Okino and Kokiri.”
It wasn’t until after the vote had been taken that Pomfrey gave a yelp of surprise. “Oh my word! Dumbledore, look at his picture.”
“Eh? What about it?”
Sure enough, Professor Okino’s image sat perfectly still, looking out at the faculty.
“Then this means…”
“Aye,” McGonagall muttered sadly. “He’s a—a Muggle.”
“A Muggle to teach at Hogwarts? A Muggle from the Continent?!”
“Why stop there?” Diggle muttered. “Let’s get someone from, from … AMERICA!!”
Malfoy smiled to himself. One way or another, he would set his plan in motion. Rather, his Master’s plan. One way or another…
So it was that, as Harry and Ron tried and failed to get through gate nine-and-three-quarters, they missed seeing a family standing on the platform, bemused by the scampering and scrambling of the students trying to get themselves and their luggage onto the Hogwarts Express. Professor (for this half-year, at least) Okino took it all in with his usual good humor; his wife Kokiri was equally calm but was glancing about every few seconds, half-expecting someone or something to come crashing into her at high speed.
And, facing the prospect of spending several months living among the girls of Hogwarts and attending classes when she’d never received a day’s worth of formal magical education in her life, with a carpetbag in one hand, a broom in the other and a giant red bow in her hair, was their daughter Kiki.
Kiki waited until the family was settled in a compartment and the train was actually underway before she opened the carpetbag she carried. Her black cat, Jiji, jumped out of the bag, shook himself all over, and curled up in a corner of the seat, his back deliberately toward the others.
They left Jiji alone, since he was clearly in one of his moods. It wasn’t until Okino and Kokiri went to explore the train that Jiji turned his head toward Kiki. “Explain to me one more time why we’re going with your parents.”
Kiki had been reading a fashion magazine she bought in the station. She folded over the page and set it down. “You know how they are about witchcraft. Mother says some magical bits are always getting lost, so they want me to try to pick up something besides flying.”
“And you think your mother’s right?”
“It’s funny. I never used to think so.”
“What about the business? Do you really think Tombo is going to keep things running smoothly?”
“We both know he’s better organized than I am. If he didn’t have to go to school, I probably would have brought him into the business by now anyway.”
“And so you’ll let him boss you around?”
“It’s still my delivery service. I’ll remind him when we get back.”
“Well, you’re far more patient than I am. I know that if I had to hear your mother going on about your being ‘a witch of a proud and ancient bloodline’ one more time…”
The door to the compartment was pulled open, a hand threw what looked like some beans against the window, then shut the door again. A second later, the beans exploded, not with a bang but with loud barking. Jiji reflexively jumped up to the luggage rack. Kiki was too startled to move at first, but she glanced at the door and saw two identical faces laughing uncontrollably. Her temper flaring, she pulled open the door, rushed into the hall, and collided with someone bigger.
This older boy had a head of violently red hair, as did the two boys running along the corridor, still laughing.
“Sorry about that,” the boy said, a little formally. “My younger brothers. They live for practical jokes. I’m Percy Weasley, Prefect at Gryffindor. Which house is yours?”
Kiki glanced back into the compartment to check on Jiji; he was still up on the luggage rack. “I don’t know anything about houses. I’m with my parents. They’re teaching for a few months.”
“Ah, the Herbology substitute. Well, I hope you realize we’re not always like this. These first-day hi-jinks…” Percy never finished his sentence, as Fred and George ran past, throwing more beanbombs at his feet. This time, they made a noise like a lion’s roar. Percy may have been used to his brothers’ antics, but Kiki almost jumped up next to Jiji.
The owl that Kiki’s parents had received from Dumbledore offering them the faculty positions asked them to stay on the train until all the students had gotten off. Most of the students would travel around the lake by carriage; the first-years, however, would be rowed across the lake to the main door. They too would be rowed across once the first-years had gone.
They waited in the compartment until the noise of the students faded away. Then, with no noise at all, elves began to materialize aboard the train, taking the baggage and loading it onto vans. Okino watched, fascinated. He then felt in his pockets, apparently looking for a notebook. Not finding one, he tore an advertisement out of Kiki’s magazine—one with a lot of white space—and began making lengthy notes.
Kiki and her mother exchanged looks that said, You know how he is. Jiji jumped back into the carpetbag. As the three of them left the carriage and stepped onto the platform, all trace of the students was gone.
As they stood on the platform, looking across the huge black lake at Hogwarts, Kokiri was amazed at its size, having seen whole villages that were smaller than this castle. Kiki thought it looked a bit spooky, but hoped the people would be nice.
Okino, on the other hand, started muttering to himself in a kind of distracted joy. “Of course! It had to be here! Don’t know why they even bother with that gate nine-and-three-quarters nonsense.”
“Is something wrong, Father?”
“Sorry. I was just thinking about this place. At first I wondered why we couldn’t just get a map and a train schedule; why keep this place such a secret. Of course, it would have to have been built near a great center of magical power. To tell the truth, I thought we’d end up somewhere near Stonehenge, but this makes so much more sense.”
“But remember, dear, the wizards here mask this place,” Kokiri interrupted. “There’s a constant spell making the school and the lake invisible to outsiders.”
“But that makes even more sense.”
“Think about it, Kiki. This lake hidden from human eyes.”
Kiki turned to her mother, who now also seemed to realize the true nature of where they were. When Kokiri spoke, her voice was low and respectful.
“Kiki, this is Avalon. This is the magical center for all of England. In the middle of that lake is the sword Excalibur. It is guarded by The Lady of the Lake, a very powerful water sprite. She, and she alone, will give the sword to King Arthur when he returns again. And he shall set right in England all that has gone wrong over the years.”
Kiki was quiet for a moment, then turned to her mother and asked in all seriousness: “Does that include their cooking?”
Kokiri looked as if she was about to scold Kiki, but was stopped by Okino’s surprised laughter. For the next few minutes, that laughter echoed to all sides of the lake as they walked down to the dock where a giant waited to row them across. They were a bit taken aback both when they saw the giant and when they realized that he was stroking the tentacles of a giant squid.
“Welcome to Hogwarts,” he said, although for some reason his heart didn’t seem to be in it. “I’m Hagrid the gamekeeper.” He saw them cast nervous glances at the squid. “Don’t worry about Bubbles; he’s perfectly harmless; at least, in the daylight, when he can see what he’s doin’. Diff’rent story at night, though.”
“Then why keep him so near the school?” Kokiri asked.
Hagrid didn’t say anything until Kiki was already in the rowboat, taking her seat. Then he whispered to her parents. “I expect you knows what young folks can be like sometimes. Bubbles cuts down on the, er, midnight swimmin’. I’ll say no more with the child present.”
Hagrid rowed them all across the lake, and it was truly a beautiful sight. The sun was just beginning to set, the weather was just cool enough. Kiki glanced at a dense wood near the castle, and thought she saw a unicorn, cautiously looking out at the lake. This might not be too bad, she thought…
They were met at the pier by a severe-looking witch. “I’m Minerva McGonagall, Assistant Headmistress. We’re very pleased that you could come, especially on such short notice.”
“It’s an honor to be asked,” Kokiri replied.
“We have your office and living quarters set up here in the castle. You may go in to our welcoming banquet. I would like to keep your daughter for just a moment, though. We need to see which House she’ll live in during her stay.”
When her parents had left, McGonagall pinted to a battered-looking stool. “Have a seat, Miss, er…”
“Kiki. Just Kiki.”
“Yes, well, if you please.” Kiki sat on the stool, not entirely certain that it would hold her, it looked so old. “There are four residential Houses at Hogwarts, named for the four magicians who founded the Academy centuries ago: Gryffendor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff. Each has its own distinctive character, and you will be more comfortable in the one that suits you best. Deciding which house that would be has been the job of this Sorting Hat.” McGonagall picked a large conical hat off of the table and placed it on Kiki’s head. Almost at once it made a kind of a noise as if a fly was buzzing around her ear.
“Ah,” buzzed the hat, “there is considerable power here. Clearly a witch of a proud and ancient bloodline…”
Kiki groaned: Not you too?!
“GOTCHA!” buzzed the hat happily. “I knew that would get a rise out of you. Now, then. Well, I see great power, but all of it channeled only into one skill. Great power, but also strong ethical guidance. So that lets Slytherin right out. Maybe not a great student, but you’re a far better teacher than you know. So you’re for Gryffendor!”
While Professor McGonagall was dressing down Ron and Harry, Albus Dumbledore was concluding his welcoming remarks in the Great Hall. Snape, who had found Harry and Ron lurking outside the castle, had stopped at the door to the hall. Dumbledore had just introduced Gilderoy Lockhart, who would be teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts.
“There are two others I wish to welcome to the faculty of Hogwarts, however temporarily. Some of you may have heard that our Herbology professor, Phyllida Sprout, has been called away on a family emergency. Until her return, her duties as head of Hufflepuff House will be taken by Madam Pomfrey. As for her classes, I have the distinct pleasure of welcoming to our faculty a prominent Herbologist from the Continent, Madame Kokiri. Also joining our faculty will be her husband, Professor Okino, a name I’m sure will be familiar to the seventh-years among you. He will be conducting a series of seminars on magic-Muggle relations, and I expect something truly exciting as a result.”
The students had no trouble picking out the newcomers at the headtable, not least because they alone weren’t wearing the traditional pointed hat. Kokiri wore her hair, which was usually pinned up and under a scarf, down her back. It was almost as long as Dumbledore’s.
“I should also mention that they are accompanied by their daughter Kiki, who will be staying in Gryffindor while attending some of our classes.” Kiki, who had snuck into a seat at the Gryffendor table just a minute before, and was sure Dumbledore hadn’t noticed her, was stunned. Dumbledore went on: “This means that Hogwarts is honored to have on its faculty, for the first time since the Seventeenth Century…” Dumbledore paused here, letting the others speculate. Foreigners? Muggles? He smiled and finished the thought: “Parents. I am sure that, what they lack in experience of the classroom, they have in other ways more than surpassed those of us who have devoted ourselves to matters magical and academical.
“But let us now devote ourselves to matters gustatorial as I say the magic words: Tuck in!”
The banquet food started appearing on all the tables.
Snape had not moved from the doorway.
Kiki wandered the corridors for several minutes after the banquet. It had been quite an experience for her. She had never seen so many witches and wizards in one room before—and they were all kids! Well, some were younger and some were older, but they far outnumbered the grownups. And there was such a variety of them! She knew from school that England had once had colonies all over the world; tonight it seemed that all those far-flung colonies were represented at the Gryffendor table alone. An English witch with kinky brown hair was talking to another girl who must have been Indian; her skin was as brown as the other girl’s hair. One boy was almost coal-black, with long ropes of hair hanging down from under his hat. There was a very pretty Chinese girl at another table; a mean-looking boy at a third whose hair was so blonde it was almost white. This might be an interesting school after all…
She walked up and down the corridors until she found what she thought was supposed to be the entrance to Gryffendor House. They’d only told her to look for a large portrait of an even larger woman in a pink gown, but she couldn’t see any way in. Until she was almost hit in the face by the picture swinging wide and Harry climbing out into the corridor. Kiki barely had time to hit the floor, and Harry’s first reaction was that he had indeed hit her. “Are you alright?”
She looked up at the English wizard, whose round black glasses reminded her of a younger Tombo—except for that scar on his forehead. “I’m fine, thanks, but is Gryffendor through there? I’m supposed to stay there.”
“What, didn’t they tell you the password?”
Secret doors? Passwords? “Is there a lot of trouble between English witches?”
Harry thought of his encounters with Lord Voldemort and his servants. “Well, I guess every barrel has a few bad apples in it.”
“Must be a lot of bad apples, to need all this secrecy.” Then Kiki realized how her words must have sounded. “Nothing personal; it’s all new to me here. My name is Kiki.”
“And I’m Harry. Harry Potter.” He waited for the recognition and the gushing adulation (or in some cases resentment) generated by the mention of his name.
It never came. “Pleased to meet you, Harry. What did you say the password was?”
She came close to laughing at him, but the picture swung open. She climbed in. “Thanks a lot. See you later.”
Harry was intrigued in spite of himself. Who was this witch—the only one at Hogwarts who had treated him not as a celebrity but as a person? He decided that this girl, a full head taller than he was, might be someone worth having as a friend.
And that friendship may have developed more quickly than it did, except for a flock of owls, which arrived during the second week.
Before the ill-fated race across the lake, though, there were classes. Kokiri found herself the next day, before the students were finished with breakfast, going over notes sent by owl from Professor Sprout.
“I don’t understand this business about points for houses at all. I’d better just take notes on what happens and let Miss Sprout make sense of it when she returns.”
“What’s your first class? Anything interesting?” Okino asked.
“I’m supposed to start the twelve-year-olds cultivating mandragora. This place may be harder to adjust to than I thought.”
“That’s a pretty dangerous plant, isn’t it?”
“Of course! That’s why my mother taught me about it when I was six! Why do they put it off so long?”
“Then they’ll really benefit from your experience.”
“I hope so. But, speaking of dangerous plants, there’s something I have to do before class. Promise me you won’t laugh.”
“Laugh at what?”
“A note from the headmaster says I’m to tend to a tree that got hit by an automobile.”
“Here at the school?!”
“Near the lake. Apparently, when the auto attacked the willow, the willow attacked the auto.”
Okino squeezed his lips together, but couldn’t keep it in. Laughter exploded out of him. “I’m sorry, dear, but that’s a new one on me!”
Kokiri grabbed her notes off of the table and left. She tried to get to the greenhouses in plenty of time before the first class, but Gilderoy Lockhart spotted her and tagged along, insisting on trying to tell her how to patch up the Whomping Willow. Kokiri hadn’t dealt with this species before, but she was able to calm it enough to patch it as best she could. She ignored Lockhart’s advice, since it was clear he hadn’t the faintest notion about plants. Still, he wasn’t there to teach Herbology; she was.
Her first morning was spent with Gryffindor and Hufflepuff second year students. Most of the students seemed to know what they were doing and did what she told them to do. The one student that stuck in her mind, though, she asked to stay after class.
“Excuse me,” Hermione asked, “but I really would like to wash up after all that potting, and there isn’t much time.”
“Of course; I should have realized. However, will you have time to come to my office, perhaps before supper tonight?” Hermione nodded. Concern must have been written on her face, because Kokiri smiled. “Don’t worry, my child, you’ve done nothing wrong. But there is something I feel that we really must discuss. Will you come?”
Things were very different that afternoon, when the other second-years showed up to transplant the remaining mandrake seedlings. Just as the students were about to start work on the plants—
At first nobody knew why Madame Kokiri had shouted at them, but she seemed on the verge of losing her temper. Slowly, deliberately, she walked to the back row, where Draco Malfoy was trying to chat up Pansy Parkinson, a skinny and shrewish-looking Slytherin. Malfoy had put the earmuffs only over one ear, to hear Pansy and (presumably) himself.
She stopped in front of Malfoy. “What is your name?” she asked in a cold and even voice.
Draco—who had already had an earful about Kokiri from his father—tried to stare her down, but he decided after a few seconds that he’d better answer. “Draco Malfoy. My father…”
“This isn’t about your father, whoever he may be,” Kokiri cut him off. “Perhaps you think these ear protectors are some silly school rule, which you can disobey if you wish. Maybe you have no respect for rules at all.” She was beginning to sound uncannily like Professor Snape taking a dig at Harry Potter—a comparison which was not lost on the Ravenclaws, as they struggled to hide their grins. “But you are here to learn the rules of magic and of nature. Perhaps you wish to knock yourself unconscious with your own mandragora. But you will not do it in my class.”
Grudgingly, Malfoy put on the earmuffs. Kokiri walked back to the other end of the greenhouse, putting on her own earmuffs as she walked. At her signal, they began transferring the mandrake from one pot to another.
That afternoon, Hermione stopped by the office that Kokiri and Okino were sharing, a room that had been an empty classroom in the castle, but nobody was there. On a hunch, she went back to the greenhouses. Kokiri was still there, pruning a plant that resembled a peacock’s tail.
Hermione tapped timidly on the door. Kokiri turned with a start. “I’m sorry, should we be at the office now? It’s just that there are so many wonderful things here. I’ve heard about some of these plants, but never thought I’d see them.”
She pointed to a stool near the door. Hermione sat down, and Kokiri pulled up another stool next to her. “Your Professor Sprout only mentioned a few of the students by name in her notes, but you’re one of them, Miss Granger. She says you’re a very hard worker, and as a result you have the best marks in your class.”
Hermione couldn’t have said exactly what, but there was something about Kokiri. Something—motherly. Like her own mother and Mrs. Weasley, but also different. She felt at once comfortable talking to her, and also puzzled that she could talk to a teacher like this. “Well, the fact is, I feel that I have to work very hard. My family isn’t magical, you see. When the letter came telling me about Hogwarts, we all thought it was a joke at first.”
“Do your parents still…?”
“Oh no! They’ve gotten used to the idea of me becoming a witch now. I just don’t know where it comes from.”
“You may say you’re family’s not magical,” Kokiri smiled, “but I’m sure that, if you search, you’ll find one of your ancestors was magical. Your talent had to come from somewhere.”
“But that’s just it. I don’t really think I have talent; not like everyone else here. I just read the books and follow the instructions.”
“That’s what I wanted to talk to you about. If magic came out of books, anyone who can read could be a witch. You’re very quick with memorizing, and your answers are always right. But that’s the magic that lives in your head. You need to pay more attention to the magic in your heart. That’s what makes you a witch.”
Hermione was really confused. She had an innate, unshakeable respect for teachers and would seldom think of contradicting one. But she couldn’t really see what Madame Kokiri was driving at. “I’m sorry, Madame, but I’m not sure I know what that means.”
“Then don’t worry too much about it. It’s like your magical ancestor. It’s there, even if you don’t know about it yet. As for that, ask your parents about your family history when you get a chance. They may know something that will give you a clue.”
Hermione made a mental note to write to her parents and ask about any odd relatives. As she turned to go into supper, though, she stopped at the greenhouse door. “Madame,” she said a bit timidly, “do you think we could talk some more about this tomorrow? If you’re not too busy, I mean.”
Kokiri beamed. “It would be my pleasure.”
Because Kiki didn’t have any of the equipment or textbooks for most of the classes at Hogwarts, she was allowed to sit in on lessons pretty much at will. During her first week she had a little taste of just about everything—and most of it didn’t taste too good.
One afternoon she rushed into her room from Potions, made straight for the window, threw it open and leaned out as far as she could.
“Doing breathing exercises?” Jiji asked. “I didn’t think they taught that here.”
“Oh shut up,” Kiki muttered. She took a couple more deep breaths, then shut the window and fell down onto the bed next to the cat. “I have just wasted my time in the worst class—with the worst teacher—in the worst room in the entire school.”
“I’ll pretend, for the moment, that I care.”
“You’d better care. You want to avoid the man named Snape. Why they let him teach is a mystery to me. He’s mean, he’s insulting, he’s cruel…”
“Did he say anything about you?”
“No, I stayed in the back and hoped he wouldn’t say anything to me. He spent most of the time saying nasty things about that boy Harry I met the other night.”
“Getting soft on him, eh? What would Tombo think?”
Kiki grabbed a pillow and tried to bring it down on Jiji, but he jumped off the bed at the last second.
And so it went:
Transfiguration: “Turning beetles into buttons?! That’s totally useless—and cruel to the beetles.”
Defense Against the Dark Arts: “The class is taught by the same wizard who tried to help mother patch up that willow tree. Well, guess what, Jiji? This makes two subjects he knows absolutely nothing about.”
History of Magic: “I thought it might be interesting, because the teacher is a ghost. I think his class killed him for being so boring.”
“And I was worried you wouldn’t give this place a chance,” Jiji yawned.
But before her first week was out, Kiki saw the Sorting Hat’s words come true: she became a better teacher than a student.
Kiki had set up her delivery service in Koriko, a city that was nowhere near as big as London but still much bigger than the village where she was born. The tallest building in Koriko was an old clock-tower, and Kiki sometimes spent her free time (the little that she had) by the tower. Sometimes she’d see a flock of pigeons feeding at the base of the tower. There would always be a small sparrow—half the size of the pigeons—bobbing and darting around the edge of the crowd of pigeons, searching for leftover food and looking out of place.
That image came back to Kiki when she saw Ginny Weasly sitting alone in a corner of the Gryffendor common room. She didn’t seem to have a friend in the place. Kiki, who didn’t know anyone either, knew the feeling. She barely knew Ginny to speak to—just that Ginny was a first-year and was Harry’s best friend’s little sister—but decided to see if she could help. She went over and threw herself into an overstuffed chair next to Ginny.
“How’s it going, Ginny?”
“Okay, I guess.” She didn’t look okay. “We just had Madam Hooch for Beginning Flying.”
“Really?! I love flying! I’ll bet it was great.”
“No it wasn’t. Nothing happened. My broom just sort of sat there.”
“Well, that’s no big deal.”
“Yes it was. It was a double class with Slytherins, and almost everyone flew a little bit. And my big brother Charlie used to be on the Quidditch team here, and Fred and George are now…”
Ginny couldn’t go on. She was almost in tears. Kiki didn’t hesitate, but grabbed Ginny’s hand and pulled her out of the chair.
“What are you…?”
“Let’s see what you’ve got.” She dragged Ginny to the entry-hole, reared back and kicked the picture.
It flew open at once, then slammed shut as soon as they were through. They saw the fat lady in the pink gown rubbing her obviously sore backside. “WELL! I NEVER!”
“That’s your problem, isn’t it?” Kiki shot back. The two girls were off down the hall.
Kiki took no notice of Ginny, but dragged her down to the school broom-closet. She thrust a broom at random into Ginny’s free hand, grabbed her own, then went out onto the lawn.
“Okay, Ginny, show me what the teacher showed you.”
“Well, we had the brooms on the ground, and we stuck out our hands and said “UP!”, and the broom was supposed to jump into our hands. Mine didn’t do anything.”
Kiki’s opinion of the teachers at Hogwarts sank to a new low. Brooms jumping up on command?! she thought. What next—teach them to roll over and fetch? But instead of saying any of this, she asked Ginny, “You had to do more than that, didn’t you?”
Ginny repeated what Madam Hooch had said about proper seating and holding on to the handle.
“Well,” Kiki said when Ginny had finished, “your teacher was right, as far as she went. She just didn’t tell you enough. I remember when my mother taught me to fly; I was about as old as you are now. The first thing she taught me was how to land. She knew I was afraid.”
“Afraid of flying?”
“No, silly; flying’s the fun part. It was landing that scared me. I didn’t want to break a bone in my foot or anything.”
It had simply never occurred to Ginny—with three older brothers having been on Gryffendor Quidditch teams—that any witch could have shared her fear, not of flying but of getting hurt. Feeling immensely relieved, she hung on every word and gesture as Kiki explained floating down to a soft landing.
“You can get off running if you have to, but you don’t need to know that until later. So; do you feel like giving it another try?”
Ginny looked at the school broom in her hand and bit her lip.
“Tell you what,” Kiki said. “If you want, get onto my broom behind me. Hang on to me and we’ll take a quick flight, just so you can get the feel of it.”
Ginny climbed onto the broom behind Kiki, and a second later they were level with the third-story windows of Hogwarts. Ginny was elated; flying really was as much fun as everyone said.
Kiki was also overjoyed, but for a different reason. She not only remembered everything her mother had taught her on that wonderful first day, but was using it now to teach another young witch. Years from now, when she married and had a daughter, Kiki knew that she would be able to pass along the little bit of magic that she knew—flying.
They circled for a quick minute, then settled back onto the ground.
“How was that, Ginny?” Kiki didn’t need to ask—the joy in Ginny’s face was plain to see—but she wanted Ginny to say it out loud.
All Ginny could do was smile and breathe the word, “Wonderful!”
“Great! So get on the other broom and-- No, you don’t need to have it jump up into your hand. Bend down and pick it up; that’s why you have knees. So get on the broom—back a bit, you’re a little too far forward—and take off! And don’t worry about anything; if you get into any kind of trouble, I’ll be right up to help you.”
On her own, Ginny didn’t rise higher than the second-story windows, but she was having the time of her life. Whatever fear she had was gone. She circled for a minute then settled back onto the lawn. As soon as she did, the dinner bell sounded.
“We’d better put these away,” she told Ginny, “but in your next flying lesson I’ll bet you’ll knock the eyes right out of their heads.”
Ginny wasn’t worried about the next lesson. All she felt at this moment was gratitude to Kiki for helping her.
A few days later, a half-dozen owls, bearing two letters and two long thin packages, were seen flying in formation over the lake toward Hogwarts. The Patil twins’ parents had sent them the very first of the newest line of Japanese brooms, supposed to be able to beat out even a Nimbus Two Thousand. Some of the Gryffendor girls oohed and aahed as Parvati Patil showed the brochures of her new broomstick: a Kobayashi-maru.
Later that day, in the library, Kiki was trying to read a deadly dull volume on astrological divination when she overheard a couple of other girls complain about “those Paki showoffs”.
This caught Kiki’s ear. She didn’t know the Patil twins particularly well, but she could still be happy for what they thought was their good fortune. Kiki, after all, knew something about brooms and flying. These strange English witches seemed to think that the broom did all the work.
The speaker went on: “Their dad makes a bit of money doing whatever he does; runs a coin launderette, I think.” Another girl giggled at that. “So they think they’re better than anyone else with their new Jap brooms.”
The other girl spoke up. “All I know is, I’ve had a chance to fly the Nimbus Two Thousand and One, and there’s none other for me.”
“How’d you manage that?”
“Malfoy’s dad bought a whole set for the Slytherin Quidditch team. If you ask me, these aren’t your usual factory brooms. I think he may have had a little extra enchantment put on them.”
“But the first match of the season is weeks away! How will we know which broom is better?”
“I’ve been thinking about a race. And I don’t mean a few laps around the Quidditch field. Across the lake and back, maybe a couple of obstacles thrown in. One way or another, I want to pin their little brown ears back.”
So this wasn’t about brooms at all, Kiki thought. She put studying out of her mind as she went to find out who the girls were.
She wasn’t surprised to see that one was Millicent Blustrode, who was only second year but had already built a reputation as the bully among the Slytherin girls. She didn’t know the other, but thought she was from Ravenclaw, where Parvati’s sister Padma lived.
They sensed Kiki’s presence and looked up from their conversation. Kiki simply said, “Let’s make this race really interesting. I want to get in on it.”
Millicent stood up; not a wise move. Millicent usually intimidated other girls her age by being slightly taller and broader, but it didn’t work this time, since Kiki was two years older and several inches taller. Still, she wasn’t going to back down. “So what’ll you be flying?”
“My own broom. My mother made it.”
At this, the other girls burst out laughing. The idea of anything as antique as a homemade broom competing against a factory model was totally absurd. Millicent pulled herself together long enough to ask, “What model is that again? Oh yes, El Euro-Trasho.”
Kiki couldn’t help what happened next. She grabbed Millicent’s collar, actually pulling her off the floor. “Let’s just settle this right now!”
“Oh no you won’t!” Madam Pince, the librarian, came over and started herding all three of them to the exit. She gave Kiki’s ear an extra-tight squeeze. “I might have known you’d try to start a brawl; Hogwarts girls are better than that. Whatever it is you ruffians plan to do, you won’t do it in here!” And she pushed them out into the bustling corridor.
Kiki and Millicent still glared at each other. Millicent finally found her voice: “Sunday at noon by the lake.”
“It’ll be a pleasure.” Kiki stormed off.
“You don’t think she could beat you, do you?” the other girl asked.
“On a homemade broom? Are you kidding me?” Still, Millicent thought, it never hurts to take precautions.
Sunday at twelve noon, the three racers stood at the foot of the great stone steps leading up to Hogwarts’ massive front doors. Parvati’s hands twisted nervously around her broom’s handle, although her face was calm and confident. Millicent looked threatening, as usual. Kiki looked as if she was trying to keep from laughing.
Millicent stepped away from the others toward the lake, then turned to face them. “Here’s the course. First we go halfway across the lake on the left side and pick up a red ribbon. Then straight across to the other side to get a yellow ribbon. Then the far shore, closest to the station, where we’ll get a green ribbon. Then straight back across the lake and finish here. First one back with all three ribbons is the winner; if you don’t have all three you’re disqualified. Understand?” The others nodded.
Millicent and Parvati Patil took off at once, angling upward over the lake. Kiki hadn’t yet moved. Rather than kick off of the ground, she simply nodded her head, at which her broom started slowly straight up. On the way up, she took note of the flying styles of her adversaries. Parvati Patil liked to open up the throttle slowly and take the broom gradually to maximum speed. Millicent took her broom right to top speed at once, even at the risk of losing control.
By now, Kiki was as high up as the others, who were halfway to the first checkpoint. She smiled to herself, leaned forward and said one word: “Go.” The broom lurched forward, closing the gap between her and the other girls in no time at all.
The watcher at the first checkpoint (where the flyers were supposed to grab a red ribbon) was past amazement when she saw Kiki and her homemade broom catch up to, then pass, the others as if they were statues. Kiki had enough of a lead to coast to a full stop and ask for a ribbon.
The watcher, a third-year Ravenclaw student named Cho Chang, stood dazed, her mouth hanging open, before she remembered herself and handed Kiki a ribbon. Kiki took it, thanked her, rose up gently, then seemed to vanish as she sped to the opposite shore.
Cho Chang had forgotten the others for a moment, until she heard the yelling. Parvati Patil wasn’t slowing in her approach. Cho Chang shut her eyes and held the ribbons straight up over her head. Patil scratched the back of Cho Chang’s hand while making a flying grab for the ribbon. As for Millicent, flying in last place, she pulled Cho Chang up into the air by the wrist, took a ribbon, then let her fall into the lake.
Directly opposite, Pansy Parkinson was waiting on a rock with the yellow ribbons. Not many girls outside Slytherin (and only a few in it) liked Pansy, who was always planning her life, boasting about what she would do, where she would live and (mostly) what she would buy. Lately she’d seemed to target Draco Malfoy as suitably ambitious marriage material, even though they still had five more years at Hogwarts.
Kiki pulled to a stop in front of Pansy. Before she could ask, Pansy held out a yellow ribbon, but, just as Kiki reached for it, Pansy let it go and it fluttered toward the lake.
Maybe Pansy had worked it out earlier with Millicent Blustrode to buy Millicent some time if she needed it; maybe it was her own idea. Kiki had to grab at the fluttering ribbon several times, but managed to catch it before it hit the lake. Then, with her lead cut but still intact, she sped off toward the dock.
Millicent and Parvati weren't even close to catching up to Kiki, in spite of Pansy's trick. While Millicent was collecting her yellow ribbon, Kiki was getting the green ribbon at the dock from Parvati's twin sister Padma. (Parvati had insisted on Padma being one of the ribbon-bearers as a condition of the race.) Not wanting to waste any time, even though she had a substantial lead, Kiki took off at once back toward Hogwarts.
That was when Millicent performed the Summoning Spell.
The night before, Millicent had gone down to the broom closet where Kiki kept her broom, per school rules. It stood out from the others, of course, being the only homemade broom on campus. Millicent had brought a screwdriver and some screws, just a bit shorter than the width of the broom-handle. She drove the screws in until the wood just started to crack. She then snuck back to Slytherin, hoping that in the morning Kiki would still be so angry or nervous or preoccupied that she wouldn't notice the damage.
Now, with Kiki over the lake and fifty yards from the nearest shore, Millicent Summoned the screws out of the broom. They tore out at the same time, with enough force to crack the broom-handle from one end to the other.
At first, it was as if Kiki had hit a bump in the road. With the handle split and the halves slipping from side to side, it was all she could do to stay aloft; steering was almost impossible. She looked around frantically--
There! Hagrid was rowing back to the station from Hogwarts. One of the Governors, Endor St. Germain, had brought his son up for the weekend, to show him where'd he be attending school next fall. There was nothing she could do about it now; Kiki steered toward Hagrid's boat, hoping against hope that she wouldn't hit the lake first.
Hagrid, standing at the stern, didn't even see Kiki until the last second, when she suddenly went into a nose-dive toward the lake, just in front of Hagrid's boat. In that moment, though, something flashed out of the lake; one of Bubbles' tentacles pushed Kiki into the boat. Actually, into Hagrid's stomach. The blow knocked the wind out of him; he sat heavily on the rear seat, causing the boat to bob and rock as if it were in a storm at sea.
"'Ere now, wot're ye playin' at?!" Hagrid began angrily. Then he saw the broom Kiki held in her hands, completely split. Kiki just stared at it in silence. The three ribbons lay forgotten in the bilgewater of the boat. When she looked up into Hagrid's face, tears had already started down her cheeks.
"They broke it," she said quietly. "They broke it."
Kiki held herself in check until Hagrid deposited his passengers at the dock, so that they could catch the Hogwarts Express back to London. It was only after the Governor and his son had gone, and Hagrid walked back to the boat, that Kiki let go. Her face scrunched up, and she started crying, as Hagrid later described it, "as if it was her own cat wot was split up th' middle."
She cried all the way across the lake, the echo carrying from one shore to the other. When the boat landed at Hogwarts, Kiki jumped out and ran to her parents' office.
She burst through the door, still clutching the destroyed broom. Kokiri rose from her desk. “What happened, Kiki?”
Kiki threw the pieces at her mother’s feet. “I hate this place, and I hate the people here and they hate me and look what they did to your broom!” She threw herself into a chair and started crying again.
Both her parents looked at the broom, split completely up the middle. Kokiri was very quiet for a minute. Finally, in a soft, almost dead voice she asked, “I don’t suppose you really had an accident?”
Okino sighed. “No, this was sabotage.” He pointed to the holes showing where the screws had been driven in, cracking the wood.
“It broke right when I was over the middle of the lake.”
“You didn’t fall in, did you?” Kokiri asked, her face paling a bit.
“No, I just barely made it to Hagrid’s boat. He was taking someone to the station. I thought I was going to fall short, but I made it. Do we really have to stay in this awful place?”
Kokiri turned her large, serious eyes on her daughter. “Do you remember when we talked about Starting Out On Your Own, and the poem I taught you?” Kiki stared sullenly at the fire, so Kokiri went on with the opening line:
“The only words more powerful than a witch’s spell…”
She waited. Kiki finally turned to her mother and completed the poem:
“Is the promise that she makes to do a job and do it well.”
Kokiri took both Kiki’s hands in her own. Kiki had stopped crying, but Kokiri looked as if she would start any moment. “Kiki dear, I know how you feel about this place, but your father and I have already given our promises to teach here for the rest of the year. We can’t just walk away. But this…” She gestured toward what was left of her broom. “There’s no excuse for this, especially among other witches. So I’ll make you a promise. It will take me a week to make a new broom. Wait one more week after that, and, if things haven’t gotten better, you can take that broom and go back to your delivery service.”
Kiki thought about this promise for a long while. She finally turned to Jiji and seemed to ask him a silent question. Then she turned back to her mother. “Can we make this broom together?”
“Of course,” Kokiri smiled, even though tears still threatened to pour from her eyes. This time, though, they were tears of joy at Kiki’s request. “We’ll need a good strong willow branch. I’m sure I saw some willows growing by the lake; the kind that won’t attack us. I suppose we’d better ask the school about using a branch.”
Later that same day she went to Dumbledore’s office, with the broken broom. As she told him about Kiki’s flight and fall, his face turned visibly paler.
“Madame, how can I begin to apologize for what has happened?”
“It is not your place to apologize, but the vandal who did this. I’m not here about bringing anyone to justice. That falls under the way you run this school, and I have no say-so about that. But, if I may be so bold, there are two favors I wish to ask.”
“If it is at all within my power.”
“I wish to make a new broom.”
“Wouldn’t you rather have one from our closets? We would be more than happy to repay you with the best we have, free and gratis.”
“Forgive me, but it seems that aspects of the true witch’s craft are dying out every day, both here and on the Continent, and I wish to keep at least this one piece of it alive. I hope you do not think me ungrateful, but I would rather make my own broom.”
“How stupid of me; I should have realized. You’re right, of course. If I may ask; would it complicate matters if some of our students watched? I’m sure they’d find it fascinating.”
“There’s actually very little to watch. I need to harvest a branch from a willow tree, then, as the old formula says, ‘wash it for three days in water and three days in sunlight’. Is there a mountain stream that feeds the lake?”
“Several, in fact.”
“I’ll take a look around tomorrow, then cut the branch at midnight. I hope there won’t be a problem about curfew if my daughter assists me.”
“I do hope you reconsider letting the students watch. I assure you they’ve never seen anything like it. The last broom-making I saw was before you were born.”
Dumbledore kept coming back to the students. Broom-making was too personal to let Hogwarts turn it into a sideshow. Still, she could see why the headmaster thought it was important that students learn something about their history. “Let me be frank. With students gathered by the lake at night, there is that much more of a chance for, er, mischief.”
“Do you know what you are accusing my students of? I don’t wish to make this personal…”
“I know that my daughter could have drowned! I have no choice; it is personal.”
“I understand, Madame, and I think I can guarantee that you and the broom will not be interfered with.”
“If you were thinking of casting a spell of protection, I must ask you not to cast it on the broom. Its ability to fly might be affected. If you could, cast a circle around the broom, so that none but Kiki and I may approach it.”
“Consider it done. Anything else?”
“Yes, one last item.”
As the students arrived at breakfast the next morning, each found a notice written on the gold plate in letters that glowed with a silver fire:
At 12:00 midnight
Will demonstrate the ancient art of
Curfew will be waived
THIS EVENING ONLY!
Observers should assemble
In front of the castle
At 11:30 p.m.
WANDS ARE NOT ALLOWED!!
“What sort of rubbish is this?” Over at the Slytherin table, Draco Malfoy sneered loudly at the note. “Do we have to go? I don’t want to stay up all night just to watch some old-fashioned arts and crafts.”
At the Gryffendors, Hermione stared daggers at Draco. Ron also had objections, but they were more practical than Draco’s. “Going down to the lake at midnight without a wand? How are we supposed to see?”
“Oh, don’t worry your heads about that part; it’s all been arranged,” Ron’s brother, Percy the Prefect smiled.
“You know already, don’t you? What is it?”
Percy grinned like the holder of a map to buried treasure. “Wait and see.”
In the end, they could barely wait. Harry, Ron, Hermoine, Neville, even Draco and his bully-boys--the worst that Slytherin had to offer, who dismissed a homemade broom as “hopelessly antique”--wanted to see what all the fuss was about, and so at 11:30 there they were, robed as if for class, in the dead of night in front of the school, along with every other student in the castle.
“Well, what’ll it be?” Ron asked his brother Percy.
For answer, Percy Weasley, the Boys’ Prefect of Gryffendor, produced from his robes a torch topped with oil-soaked rags in one hand and a Muggle cigarette-lighter in the other. One flick of the lighter brought the torch to full flame. None of the students realized that a single torch could cast such light. Then, when he touched his torch to those of the Prefects from the other houses, the students were sure the fire was enchanted. It HAD to be; how could ordinary flames be so bright?
“Right!” Percy Weasley called out. “Stay with your houses and no chatterin’!”
They all went down to the lake, stopping by a stream which fed the lake with melted snow from the mountains. The students were amazed. The entire faculty had also turned out to see this; Hagrid watched from behind the faculty; even the Ghosts glanced nervously about, but maintained a respectful silence. They all waited.
At the exact stroke of midnight, Kokiri and Kiki appeared—literally. They seemed to melt out of the woods. Their steps were deliberate, unhurried. Kokiri stopped before one graceful old willow. She turned to Kiki, who wordlessly took something that had been tucked into her belt, and handed it to her mother.
Almost everyone there gasped when they saw what it was. One of the greatest prizes in the Trophy Room was a silver dagger, with a curved blade like a miniature Arab scimitar, and set with rubies. Legend said that it was brought to England from the Crusades, and was owned by Merlin himself before being passed down to Godric Gryffendor.
Kokiri took the dagger in both hands and held it to her forehead for a minute. She seemed to be reciting or praying, but, even though her lips moved, nobody could hear a sound. As the four torches cast dancing shadows around them, she moved toward the tree, and toward one branch in particular. She brandished the dagger and
It circled the branch in a single gesture, cutting through the bark. With only a moment’s pause
Again the knife flashed, cutting deeper into the branch. Some students thought they heard the tree moan.
That third stroke was the last. Kokiri now held the branch in her hand. While everything up to now seemed ceremonial, her next moves were practical. She trimmed all the bark and twigs from the willow branch as quickly and efficiently as an old rancher shearing a sheep.
Once that was done, Kokiri and Kiki stepped into the stream. Nobody noticed until this moment that mother and daughter were barefoot. As Kokiri held the branch on the bottom of the stream, Kiki began weighing it down with rocks. After another minute, assured that the branch would not break to the surface and drift away, Kiki and Kokiri silently entered the forest where they had appeared, and seemed to vanish at once.
All of Hogwarts was silent. After an awkward minute the Prefects started leading the students back up to the school.
Hermione Granger was, of course, the first to speak. In the Gryffendor common room she went straight to the window that looked out on the lake. Harry stood next to her, trying to ask without words if she was all right.
She turned to Harry and smiled. “You know, Harry, I think I’m finally understanding what it means to be a witch. I’ve read and practiced and dreamed about it, of course. But I was just thinking of the mechanics, I guess you’d say. I thought you just had to learn the procedures, like the way my parents learned dentistry. I had no idea—” She turned back to the window.
Harry still couldn’t find his tongue, so he went upstairs to bed, leaving Hermione to stare at the moon reflected in the lake.
Three days later at dawn those who were still interested (notably fewer, but Hermione Granger was among them) saw Kokiri and Kiki take the willow branch out of the stream, tie onto it the bristles of the old broom, which they had saved, and hang it to dry from a branch of the willow. Kokiri had chosen a spot that received several hours of direct sunshine each day. The broom hung undisturbed for three days.
Three dawns later, only Kokiri and Kiki appeared by the lake to untie the broom. As soon as Kokiri was done with this part, she handed the broom to Kiki. At once, Kiki looked up in surprise.
“Did you hear that, mother?”
“I could swear the broom spoke just now. It said…” Kiki’s voice caught. “It said, ‘Thank you.’”
Kokiri opened her arms wide to embrace Kiki, who still clung to the broom even as her mother clung to her. “Let them keep their academies and their factory-made brooms. At times like this, I wouldn’t trade my life for anyone else’s,” she said quietly. After another minute she let go. “I think we’ve delayed breakfast long enough. Let’s get back.”
As they returned to Hogwarts, they were followed from the edge of the Forbidden Forest by another pair of eyes.
Professor Okino’s first seminar on Magic-Muggle Interface may have been well attended, but from his point of view it didn’t go particularly well. He had wanted to verbally scold the magical elitists, one of whom he suspected had meddled with Kiki’s broom and almost hurt his daughter. This is just what can happen, he wanted to say, when people separate into camps, instead of working together.
Instead, it was almost all question-and-answer from the packed lecture hall. One seventh-year wizard, who was born Winston Terylton but insisted on being called Vladimir, repeatedly interrupted to proclaim that “fascist agents of the landholding class” who wanted to prevent “a magical uprising of the workers” were keeping magicians and Muggles apart. Most of the other seniors simply shouted him down. About half of the witches asked for details of his meeting and marrying Kokiri, convinced that there was some sort of underlying drama about “star-crossed lovers rejected by both societies”.
“The fact is,” Okino said with a sheepish grin, “I met her when I asked her to fill out a questionnaire. I was doing research for my doctorate on comparative magic lore. When I got to her village, I sought out the local witch. At that time, she was about your age, but had been an Herbologist for five years, so I asked her to fill out the questionnaire. She showed up the next day at the inn where I was staying to tell me that I needed to reword my questions. We talked about the survey, and my work, for what we thought was a few minutes, and the next thing we know it’s suppertime. I hadn’t much food, or much money to buy any with, so we pooled our resources and split a bowl of soup and a loaf of bread at a cafe. After that, we took a moonlight walk by the river, and that was that. I proposed the second day I knew her. Maybe for some of you that’s a lengthy courtship.”
“Don’t you think she Charmed you?” asked senior Hieronymous Corrigan.
“I’m sure she did,” Okino smiled, “but not with any art they teach in a place like this.”
“But what did your families say?” asked Hilary Dunsinane.
“Kokiri’s family didn’t say anything, except perhaps, ‘What took you so long?’ Don’t forget, in her tradition witches leave home at age thirteen to make their own way by their magic. Marriage usually isn’t a part of that first year, but it sometimes happens. And I think my folks knew all along that I’d marry a witch. I daresay your parents know more about you than you think they do.”
He never did get to read the lecture he’d worked on for so many days, but Albus Dumbledore reassured him afterwards that the class had gone “swimmingly”.
Okino’s teaching duties were fairly light, but he didn’t have much free time during the run of the day. Ron Weasley decided that Okino would be his special project. At least once a day, and usually more often, he would pop into the office and say something along the lines of, “My dad’ll never forgive me if I don’t ask this…” Then he’d try to find out about some piece of Muggle technology or other. Arthur Weasley’s hobby, as well as his job at the Ministry of Magic, involved human ways of doing things, without magic.
When Kiki once asked her father if Ron wasn’t being a pest, he simply gave his usual chuckle. “I think it’s fun, actually. And it keeps me in perspective. With people calling me “Professor” all day long, I don’t want to forget that I’m just as much a student as they are.”
Ron sought out Okino in the first place because of the glowing report Ginny gave him about her flying lesson with Kiki. As for Kiki, she didn’t need a go-between; she’d met Harry Potter that first night at Hogwarts. From then on, she always seemed to sit at his end of the Gryffendor table in the Great Hall, or take a chair near his if they were in the Common Room together. And when she audited a class, usually Harry was in it.
If you had asked Kiki why she acted this way, she would have denied it was conscious. (If you teased her about it the way Jiji did, she would have thrown something at you.) But Kiki was someone new and more than a little mysterious to the students at Hogwarts. Before her first week was out, a couple of older boys from Ravenclaw asked her about studying in the library together. She refused, very quickly and very nervously. Her outlook on life in general, and on boys in particular, seemed to be changing, and she wasn’t sure exactly how it would end. She did know that she felt safe around Harry, who was younger than she was, and who did indeed remind her of Tombo. She still knew almost nothing about Harry’s fabled past.
Harry didn’t mind at all. He saw Kiki in rather the same light in which he saw Hermione: as a girl who was a friend, but not necessarily a girlfriend. Besides, being thought of as Kiki’s friend seemed to enhance Harry’s stature in some circles, as if it needed enhancing.
Hermoine spent as much time as she could with Kokiri—although that wasn’t much, given the amount of homework she always seemed to have. Still, it was a rare day when Hermione wasn’t in the greenhouses, at least for a few minutes. She kept trying to understand what Kokiri meant by “the magic of the heart.” None of the other faculty ever seemed to talk about it.
One afternoon, though, came a visit neither expected. It was in late September. The sky was overcast, but no rain threatened. Kokiri was in the greenhouses. She had just finished harvesting some brillibot pods (which make a very therapeutic cough medicine as well as a tasty spaghetti sauce) when she saw Hermione standing at the door, looking rather glum. Kokiri was surprised: “Aren’t you supposed to be with Professor Lockhart now?”
“I…I was excused,” Hermione muttered. “Had to go to the infirmary.”
“Are you in pain?”
“I was told … I could go to my dormitory after I got cleaned up a bit. There was nobody about, so I started writing home. I mean, it’s not every day a girl starts…” Hermione’s words suddenly caught in her throat, as Kokiri moved next to her.
“What’s wrong, Hermione?”
“I…I…” She suddenly threw her arms around Kokiri and started crying like a lost soul. “I want my mommy!”
Kokiri knew that there was nothing to do but hold Hermione, and let her emotions run their course. After a few minutes, Hermione could speak again between sobs. “I’m sorry, but…why did it have to be today? Why couldn’t I be home with my mother? Now she’s hundreds of miles away and…and…” The tears started again.
“It’s all right,” Kokiri said soothingly, stroking Hermione’s hair. “I suppose I’m a poor substitute for your mother.”
“Oh no!” Hermione shook her head violently. “If you weren’t here, I don’t know what I’d do! I mean, I know some of the other girls, but none of them well enough to speak to about this. My best friends are Harry and Ron and Hagrid, and, well, I couldn’t talk to them, either.”
“Mother!” Kiki stormed into the greenhouse. “Father’s making me crazy; he insists you took his lecture notes for tomorrow by mistake. You don’t have them, do you?”
“No, but that ghost Peeves was hanging around in the corridor when I went to have lunch. Hermione, would he have taken Professor Okino’s notes?”
“I wouldn’t put it past him,” Hermione said, wiping her eyes. “If he did, he’ll probably drop them on Professor Okino’s head in the middle of dinner, or when he’s taking a bath.”
“Is something wrong, Hermione?” Kiki asked.
“Nothing’s wrong, Kiki,” her mother smiled. “Hermione just climbed the mountain.”
“You mean she… That’s great!” Kiki pulled Hermione off of her mother and half-dragged, half-danced her around the greenhouse. “That is so great! Aren’t you excited?”
“Kiki, dear, don’t be so rough on her,” Kokiri said gently. “She was feeling kind of alone, since her mother wasn’t here.”
“Oh, right. If we were back home in our village, we’d throw you the best party!”
“Think about it, Hermione,” Kokiri said. “There isn’t a wizard on this planet, no matter how powerful, who can ever do what you can do now.”
“You mean … you mean, have babies and all? I never thought of that as magic. I mean, my mother told me about all that years ago.”
“Yes, and, no offense meant to your mother, but she probably made it sound like pulling teeth. Most doctors—and dentists, I’m afraid—treat the body like a machine in need of spare parts. Believe me, my dears, that this really is magic.”
“Well, father’s lecture notes can wait. Let’s go in to supper and celebrate!”
“I’ll meet you later, Kiki,” Hermione smiled at Kokiri. “I have to finish writing a letter.” She paused at the door. “Thanks for everything.”
Okino’s second seminar went much like his first; he was peppered with questions from the first minute until the last. The seminar had also grown noticeably bigger. Not only had more seventh-years shown up this time, including those who had never signed up for the course, but some sixth-years were also caught trying to sneak in. Most of the students were curious to hear what this knowledgeable Muggle had to say, while some had heard that his lecture style—humorous and conversational rather than dry and pedantic—was a breath of fresh air in the halls of Hogwarts.
“When did you first become aware that there were such people as witches?” asked seventh-year Hufflepuff Chumley Wheezdale.
“Nobody can remember back that far. You hear these bedtime stories about dragons and wizards told to you when you’re very young, and you wish they were real. For most people, that wish never comes true. I’m one of the lucky ones.
“That didn’t stop us kids from thinking whatever we wanted. And of course we thought we had a witch living in the neighborhood. Ugly little old lady, never came out of her house unless it was to yell at us kids. Of course we gave her reasons to yell at us, but we never thought about that.
“Then, when I was about thirteen, I started going to a junior high school with kids from other villages, and one girl said that she was a witch. Well, I’d never met a witch my age before—never even considered the possibility. So I asked her about the old lady I thought was a witch, and she said the woman was probably a hag. That was my first lesson in kinds of witches, and also an exercise in logic: that all hags are witches, but not all witches are hags.”
“How well did you get to know that witch?” asked Medea Fotheringay.
“Not well at all. She was in our class for a few weeks, then, right after her thirteenth birthday, she was off for parts unknown. Now, of course, I understand what happened; it’s what the witches in that part of the world call Starting Out On Your Own. The teacher never bothered to explain anything to the rest of us, though. Either she didn’t know the truth or didn’t care. But her attitude was, “If she comes back, fine; if not, fine, but I’d just as soon not bother with her again.””
Okino stopped and looked around the hall. “That teacher taught us a lot more than literature and history and math. She taught us her attitudes about magic. Some of us already shared those attitudes, and others learned to share them. I’m glad I didn’t do either.
“This school…” He looked around the room. By now, everyone knew about the sabotage of Kiki’s broom, and the students in the hall wondered if he was going to start talking about that. “This school is in a very special position. You stay tight within your magical world, of course, but there are also pressures that you can feel even here; pressures from outside your experience. Don’t be afraid of them; treasure them. They could be your most important teachers. Because witches and wizards are not so many, nor so powerful, that they can stand up against the rest of the world.”
“But you don’t know the history!” Varnelia Blackwood, Prefect for the Slytherin girls, interrupted. “Muggles have attacked us for centuries!”
“Actually, my wife would tell you that I know altogether too much history—and that I talk about it any chance I get. I know about all the witch hunts, I’m afraid, including the times the witches were the hunters instead of the hunted. Reprisal raids were regrettable but understandable. However, there were times when magical forces attacked us Muggles without provocation.
“Speaking of witch-hunts and provocation, you are Miss Blackwood, aren’t you? I seem to remember a prominent family of witches in England named Blackwood. That is, they’re Blackwood now; for centuries they were the Schwarzwald family, but then the war came along and a different kind of prejudice arose. You wouldn’t know that Blackwood family, would you?” Varnelia glowered at Okino, but said nothing.
“In any event, I don’t deal in prejudice. Whether it’s prejudice about magic-users versus non-magic-users, or full-magic versus half-magic, or England versus the rest of the world. I’m only interested in historical facts, and then only to the extent that you all use those facts to build the future. I hope it’s a future without violence, but that’s going to be up to you.”
Neville Longbottom was the first to come right out and say it, a few nights later at dinner: “Does anyone else think Professor Snape is acting a bit…peculiar lately?”
“Seems the same as always to me,” Fred Weasley answered.
“Same old cranky dried-up twig,” George Weasley picked up the thought.
“Wouldn’t have him any other way.”
“How many points has he hit us for this time?”
“None! That’s just it,” Neville exclaimed, accidentally knocking over his water goblet. Hermione hastily picked her textbook up off the table.
“I had to make up a Potions I missed today,” Neville went on. “We were studying Levitation, and I guess I got it backwards. Dipped a feather in my stuff; felt like it weighed fifty pounds. I couldn’t hang onto it; it broke a couple of phials. Anyway, that’s the sort of thing Snape loves to take points for, right? So you know what he says to me? ‘Don’t worry about it. You’re not expected to know it all; that’s why you’re here.’”
There was a stunned silence at the table. “Doesn’t sound like Snape,” Fred agreed.
“Not at all,” George followed.
“Wonder what’s wrong with him?” Harry asked.
Hermione slammed her book shut. “Oh, it is so obvious! Obvious to all but you BOYS!” She stressed that last word a little too hard for most of their liking.
“Come on, Hermione,” Harry tried. “We’re not as thick as you paint us!”
“Tell me that the next time you fly a car to school.”
Fortunately, Neville leaped it. “Well, I wasn’t part of that. Are you going to be mean to me as well?”
In truth, she wasn’t. In fact, she was looking for a way to break the news. She would have mentioned it anyway in another minute. This way, she took a dramatic look around to make sure that nobody else was listening, then lowered her head to the table. “Professor Snape is…”
“SAY WOT?” Hagrid’s voice must have boomed across the lake; it shook the timbers of his already-shaky cabin.
“The rumor is that Professor Snape’s in love!” No matter how many times Harry Potter repeated those words, out loud or even to himself, they just seemed to be so impossible. Even in his old life, before he’d even heard of Hogwarts, talk of giants and unicorns and dragons wouldn’t have seemed as fantastic as that one simple sentence.
Harry Potter usually dreaded Potions. Not only did Professor Snape single him out for ridicule and unjust treatment from the very first day, but it was a double class with Slytherin students, including Draco Malfoy. The combination of the two usually made Potions feel like pure torture—appropriate for a class held in what was once a dungeon.
Now, however, Snape’s conduct in class was becoming completely unpredictable. He was acting like a schoolboy with a serious crush. The difference was that he was an old wizard with a serious crush. It made him look ridiculous at best, but nobody dared to talk to him about it.
This particular day, he was supposed to begin teaching the students how to make a Quickening potion; one drink would cause anyone to move faster than the eye could see—until it wore off. However, that wasn’t how he started.
“I need to ask you a question,” he began. “How are you all getting on in Herbology? You’re doing well, I hope, since many of the ingredients that make up our potions come from the plant world. You might say there’s a natural affinity, even an inevitable partnership, between Herbology and Potions.” Snape just stopped dead, a thin smile on his face, lost in thought. After a minute, he went on as if nothing had happened. “So I expect you all to buckle down and do your best for Professor Kokiri. I would be very disappointed indeed if you didn’t show this fine and knowledgeable woman the proper respect.”
Harry and Ron exchanged quick, wide-eyed stares. He’d all but come right out and said it…
Later that day, Kokiri was working in the greenhouse, preparing plants for the next day’s lesson. She was removing aphids from some potted wolfsbane (if she didn’t, at the next full moon they’d turn into vicious were-aphids) when she heard the tapping on the door.
She wasn’t surprised to see Professor Snape standing in the doorway. She would have been, though, if she knew him any better. Unlike Professor Gilderoy Lockhart, who seemed to want to meddle in everyone else’s business whenever possible, Snape usually kept very much to himself. This was one of the handful of trips he made to the greenhouses during his entire tenure at Hogwarts.
“Is there something I can help you with, Professor Snape?”
“Why, yes, now that you mention it.” He stepped into the greenhouse, smiling. Because he was so out of practice at it, his smile was thin, weak and sinister. “By all reports, you’ve done very good work in your brief time here. You’ve gotten us through the loss of our Herbologist, and I don’t just mean the students. I’ll admit that I, too, have learned something by your being here. I’m afraid that I was not completely in favor of your coming at first, but I can see my error now. I simply didn’t know you well enough to see your…your many talents.”
Kokiri’s hand tightened nervously on the trowel she was holding. “You flatter me, Professor.”
“I speak the truth. However, I do have one question, and I hope that you can answer it. You obviously have considerable talents, and you have, I’m sure, accomplished much with those powers. But don’t you think that you could accomplish a great deal more if you weren’t burdened by your … association with a Muggle?” And he reached out to touch her left arm.
Her right hand came up quick as thought, brandishing the trowel like a weapon. In her eyes was a mix of fear and anger. “Professor,” she said in a voice she kept as steady as possible, “before you say or do anything further, you had better leave. For my part, I will do you the favor of forgetting that this conversation ever happened, but you must leave now.”
Even Harry Potter had never seen Snape as angry as he was at that moment. “As you wish, Madame,” he said, his voice low and menacing. He spun on his heels at the door. “But you shall hear from me again, and soon!” He was gone.
Kokiri stayed dead still for a few seconds, then dropped the trowel. She found her hand was shaking uncontrollably. Trying not to burst into tears, she raced to the castle and up to her office.
Okino was there when she burst in. “What happened?”
“I—There was a problem. I handled it. It’s over.”
“Dear, this isn’t like you. What happened?”
It was all Kokiri could to not to shout at her husband. “I said I handled it. It’s over.”
“I…made a promise. I can’t tell you; not now. Please don’t press me on this”
“Look, if you’re in any danger…”
Kokiri hugged Okino, in part so that he wouldn’t see her face. She said, “Don’t be silly.” But she thought, My love, I fear you’re the one in danger…
“Oh dear oh dear.” Hagrid was tugging at his beard with one hand and scratching the ears of his huge boarhound Fang with the other. Neither gesture seemed to comfort him very much.
His guest shifted in his chair, put down the mug of tea and looked over his half-moon spectacles at Hagrid. “Is there any chance that this is all a misunderstanding?”
“Misun’erstandin’? It’s a DISASTER!” Hagrid took a long drink of something considerably stronger than tea. “Beggin’ yer pardon, Headmaster. I know yer don’ like me ter be drinkin’ on the groun’s.”
“It’s understandable under the circumstances, Hagrid. Has he done anything more than talk to her yesterday in the greenhouse?”
“But talk’s bad enough, innit? With her husban’ an’ chil’ right here an’ all…” Hagrid took another long drink.
“Hagrid, I said that your drinking was understandable. However, drinking that much is not a very good idea. It certainly won’t help the situation. Leave it to me and I’ll sort it out in a day or two at the most. I quite agree that we can’t let this go on.”
Dumbledore walked back to the castle, thinking about the irony; that, although he loved the giant like a second father, he couldn’t tell Hagrid exactly why Snape’s behavior couldn’t go on. There were the obvious reasons, of course, including the row the Governors would make if they got wind of this. They would accuse Dumbledore of letting it happen and setting a bad example for the students. Lucien Malfoy would see to that. But that wasn’t the only reason.
Dumbledore had no way of knowing, when he stopped by Hagrid’s hut, how much the giant had already drunk that day. It was enough that, after another quart and half an hour, Hagrid rose and marched unsteadily toward Hogwarts.
Snape’s behavior had become obvious enough that rumors spread through the student body like a fire through dry brush. Percy Weasley thought it scandalous that Snape should openly profess his interest in a married woman. The Weasley twins, on the other hand, were amused by Snape making a spectacle of himself.
The Slytherin students tended to blame Kokiri rather than Snape. They never said anything to Kokiri’s face, or Okino’s for that matter. Kiki, however, found that when she walked down the hall, some of the girls would glare at her, or whisper to each other and start giggling. If she started to ask what the problem was, they’d turn and run.
The Gryffendor common room wasn’t much better than the castle halls or the dining room or the library. Everywhere she went, she could feel the eyes of other students on her. Jiji didn’t offer any clues; he had his own problems with Mrs. Norris, the caretaker’s cat.
Kiki was on her way out onto the grounds Friday a little before supper, although with no clear plan of where to go once she was outside, when she realized: she needed to fly. It had been almost a week since she and her mother had made the new broom, and she hadn’t even taken it on its maiden flight yet. She ran back to her parents’ office, where the new broom was being kept.
There was nobody there; it was time for her father to give another lecture, and her mother was probably still in the greenhouses. She took the broom from behind a secret panel in a wardrobe; she wasn’t about to leave it where students could get at it again. Once outside, she looked at the lake, but she still had too many bad memories of her last flight. Looking around, she noticed the Quidditch stadium. She had only ever seen the outside of it, so she went over to take a look.
She wasn’t prepared for the size of it, or the height of the benches and goalposts. Still, she didn’t let it faze her. She mounted the broom, and took off at high speed up, up toward the goals. She dashed from one end of the field to the other and back for fifteen minutes, trying to drive the bad feelings out of her head. Finally, she came to a stop atop one of the goalposts and sat down on it, holding the broom in her lap and looking at the sun setting behind the hills to the west.
It was Harry Potter. He’d risen up to her on his own broom. A breeze blew the hair off of his forehead, showing that lightning-bolt scar. It was as red as the robes he was wearing.
“Do you mind?” he continued. “If you’d rather be alone…”
“It’s alright,” she shrugged.
Harry sat on the goal next to Kiki. They weren’t touching, but he was very aware that he was sitting very close to her. He started feeling nervous, and cleared his throat. “It’s nice up here. I never would have thought to just sit here.”
“Did you want to ask me something? Is that why you’re here?”
“Huh? Oh, no, no. It’s just that we have practice here in a little while. I’m on Gryffendor’s Quidditch team. That’s why I’m wearing these robes; they’re the house colours. I just got here a little early.”
“Oh.” They sat on the goal post quietly for another minute.
“Is that the broom you were making the other night?”
“Yes, it is.”
“Looks good. How is it for flying?”
“I don’t know. This is my first time trying it since we made it. Feels good, though.”
“That’s good.” Another minute went by. “Well, that is, do you mind if I ask you something, Kiki?”
Had any other student asked her this, she probably would have flown off without another word. But Harry was among those (seemingly) few students who hadn’t been preoccupied lately about what was supposed to be between her mother and Professor Snape. “What is it?”
“Well, I know you’ve been living out on your own and all, and, well…” Maybe it was the wind, or maybe Harry really did blush a little bit, but Kiki smiled in spite of herself. That encouraged Harry to go on. “It’s just that, I’ve been thinking about it since last year, about what will I do after I get out of Hogwarts. I really don’t know what witches do to make a living.”
“Well, neither did I until I Started Out On My Own. I mean, my mother grew plants and made medicines and things, but I could never do that. Everyone says I’m too impatient. And I met another witch who was a fortune-teller. But flying was all I knew how to do.”
“Didn’t you figure it out with your parents?”
“No; that’s part of Starting Out On Your Own. You have to make your own decision about what to do, as well as when and where to go.” She paused for a minute, not sure if she should ask her next question. “Haven’t you talked it over with your parents?”
Harry realized that Kiki didn’t know about this part of his history, either. He took off his glasses and cleaned the lenses on his robe. They didn’t seem dirty to Kiki, but Harry took the opportunity to look away. “They’re dead. They were killed when I was barely a year old.”
Now Kiki knew she shouldn’t have asked. Part of her wanted to just fly off, but she couldn’t just leave it at that. Fortunately for both of them, a voice called out.
“Come on, Harry! What’re you doing up there?”
It was Oliver Wood, captain of the Gryffendor Quidditch team, with a couple of the other players. Practice was about to start.
“In a minute!” Harry called down. As he turned back to Kiki, she was already on her broom, ready to fly off.
“I’d better leave you to your practice. But here’s what I think. No matter what you do, do it so that your parents would be proud of you. Then you’ll be alright.” She drifted off toward the castle.
Harry’s mind was wandering. These late-afternoon practices were getting to be a bit much. They wouldn’t be practicing this late if the Slytherin team hadn’t somehow rigged the practice schedule. The Gryffendors were supposed to be up at dawn…well, maybe afternoon practice wasn’t such a bad thing.
He glanced over at Hogwarts, and could see some sort of commotion atop one of the higher towers. He couldn’t see much more than that, though. He took out his wand, tapped it against his glasses and muttered, “Magnificum.” Hermoine had just taught him this one; it turned his glasses into binoculars. This way he could see…
Snape—and Hagrid—and Kiki?! He took off toward the castle, practice forgotten.
Harry ignored Wood and flew even faster toward Hogwarts.
Wood was beside himself. He yelled at the Weasley twins: “Will you two get that idiot back here!” They were off out of the stadium at once.
Snape had taken to watching the campus from whatever out-of-the-way posts he could find: the Forbidden Forest, a high turret overlooking the lake, an alcove in the Great Hall where he could see without being seen. He watched for Kokiri; he watched for Kiki; he especially watched for Okino, trying to find the best time and place to catch the Muggle alone and off his guard.
He was on an upper parapet now, as the sun started dipping beyond the western hills. Most of the school had already gone in to supper. He had his eye on the area around the greenhouses…
“Look ‘ere, P’fessor.” Snape turned; it was that oaf Hagrid, and he was clearly drunk. He made a mental note to have Hagrid sacked—in the morning.
“Excuse me fer speakin’ about this, P’fessor!” Hagrid tried again. “But what ye’ve been doin’ just in’t right…”
Snape was steaming mad. “You colossal fool! Lecturing ME about right and wrong!” He had his wand out in a flash, and put Hagrid in a full body bind. The giant fell on his back on the stone floor of the parapet.
“Sleep that off,” Snape sneered, as he turned back to the greenhouses.
“What did you do to Hagrid!” Now it was Kiki, who had just dismounted her broom and was looking at the fallen giant. At this point, he didn’t care if she was Kokiri’s daughter; he put a full body bind on her as well. She fell face-first onto the giant, stiff as a board.
Now it was the infernal Harry Potter hovering just beyond the parapet. Snape drew his wand yet again, but Harry recognized the look in Snape’s eyes. The old wizard meant to do someone an injury, and he was past caring who got hurt or how badly. Harry dropped down to the lawn before Snape could hex him.
A few people had already gathered near the tower, having heard the commotion. Harry told them what he had seen. Someone ran to tell Kiki’s parents, someone else ran to tell Dumbledore, and others dashed up the tower steps.
It was a matter of two minutes before Okino and Kokiri, with a few dozen students and faculty trailing behind, burst onto the parapet. Okino stepped forward. “You’d better let them go, Snape. You’re in enough trouble as it is.”
“You don’t understand. You’re the one that needs to let go.” Snape pulled out his wand. “Set Kokiri free, and I’ll spare you.”
“That’s her decision; not mine.”
Kokiri stepped forward. “And I made my decision long ago. Okino is the man I love; Okino is the father of our child; Okino is my husband until the day I die. Can’t you understand, Professor? You could never take his place.”
“Surely he can be persuaded to vacate that place, one way or another.”
Okino took another step toward Snape. “Not by anything you can do or say. Now give me back my daughter.”
Snape pointed his wand at Okino and said, “Crucio.” Okino immediately crumpled to the stone floor, his body a ball of pain. Kokiri screamed, but she was held back by a horrified Professor Diggle. They had just heard Snape utter one of the three Forbidden Curses. Snape could get life in prison for using it, and Diggle didn’t like to think about what life was like in the wizard’s prison, Azkaban…
Kokiri gasped, focusing Diggle’s attention back on Okino. He was struggling to his feet. Snape looked as surprised as the others—this Muggle was fighting off the Cruciatus Curse!
Okino inched another step toward Snape. “My…child…” he gasped.
“CRUCIO!” Snape roared, pointing his wand again. Okino staggered back, but this time did not fall to the floor. His resistance to the Cruciatus Curse seemed to be getting stronger.
Kiki, paralyzed, could only watch in horror what was happening to her father. From the little she knew of Snape, she was sure he would abandon the Cruciatus Curse and try to get rid of Okino once and for all. She cursed herself; why, why hadn’t she ever learned this kind of magic? She couldn’t help her parents now, even if she weren’t frozen like this; all she could ever do was fly…
And the answer hit her like lightning. If that’s all I have, use it.
Apologizing in her mind to Hagrid, she reached out with her magic as much as she could, imagining herself on a broom. And Hagrid started to float. He rose about a foot off of the floor, with Kiki still on top of him, then glided straight at Snape.
Snape wasn’t watching behind him; his full attention was on Okino, still advancing in spite of the pain of the Cruciatus Curse. He was still enraged, but fear was rising within him as well. This Muggle left him no choice. He drew back his wand again: “AVADA--”
He never finished the curse. Hagrid butted him from behind in the small of the back. Snape dropped his wand and staggered toward the edge of the parapet, then over it.
Dumbledore, watching everything from the doorway to the parapet, had his wand out in a flash, pointed at the falling Snape. A dozen other faculty did the same; stopping his fall, lowering him to the ground, putting Snape into a deep sleep.
When Snape dropped his wand, the body bind was broken. As soon as Kiki could move again, she lost her concentration on flying, and she and Hagrid thudded onto the stone floor. She ran to Okino, who was being held and comforted by Kokiri, and threw her arms around both her parents, crying out of sheer relief.
The instant Snape touched the ground, Dumbledore shouted down: “Get him to the infirmary! NOW!!” He sat heavily on the stone floor, his face almost as white as his beard, his wand-arm still shaking.
Two hours later, no less than the Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge, was sitting in Dumbledore’s office, along with Okino and Kokiri. They had just explained to Fudge what had happened on the parapet.
The Minister self-consciously rubbed his chin, aware that he didn’t even have time to shave before being summoned to the campus. “You put me in an awkward position, Dumbledore. A highly awkward position.”
“I’m quite aware of that. Still, I must ask for clemency for Snape.”
“But there are a dozen witnesses to the fact that Snape used the Cruciatus on … this man here.” Fudge didn’t look at Okino, but gestured vaguely in his general direction.
“Those same dozen witnesses saw this man resist the curse,” Dumbledore pointed out. “Have you ever known a non-wizard to do that?”
“I’m sure it’s, er, been done. I could, er, have my office check the official records. But that still doesn’t excuse Snape. If anyone’s ever earned a cell at Azkaban, surely…”
“If I may,” Okino spoke up. “What Snape did to me was painful; there’s no denying that. But it’s over now, and I really feel none the worse for it. I don’t know whether the punishment fits the crime.”
“Very generous of you, I’m sure,” Fudge replied, “but the matter of punishment isn’t up to you. There are rules about such things, of which you may not be aware, being…” The Minister let his sentence trail off into silence.
“Being a Muggle—is that the word you seek?” Kokiri asked Fudge. “Exactly what are the rules under which Professor Snape would be sent to prison—for performing a forbidden spell, or for doing it so poorly?”
“Madame, given the, er, indelicate suggestions made to you, I am surprised that you should suggest anything like clemency for Snape.”
“I don’t speak of clemency; I speak of justice. I agree with my husband; Snape must not be punished out of proportion to what he has done. And sentencing the man to life in prison, a prison where I understand that terror and torture are a part of daily life…”
“Such an accusation is baseless and inflammatory! I assure you that we have a proper justice system.”
“Then let justice be done. I may not be fully aware of your laws, but I am a witch of a proud and ancient bloodline, and I feel that I have the right to ask this of you. I ask that Snape’s punishment be no more and no less than he deserves.”
“But what about deterrence? These curses are forbidden, and punishable by imprisonment in Azkaban, in order to stop people using them.”
“Then your deterrence doesn’t work very well, does it?” Okino asked. “I’m sure Snape knew exactly what awaited him if he used the forbidden curses, and he used them anyway.”
“Look here, are you preparing the man’s defense? How can you presume to tell us how to handle our affairs?”
“We are the aggrieved parties here, are we not?” Okino asked. “Our testimony is necessary for any kind of trial.”
“And after the ordeal we’ve just been through,” Kokiri smiled, picking up on her husband’s thought, “our family might want to take an extended vacation. We could be unable to come forward for six months, at the very least.”
Fudge was seething. Without their testimony, a quick and quiet trial for Snape would be almost impossible, and publicity was the last thing the Ministry wanted. After a minute, he grumbled, “I assume that you have a counter-proposal.”
“As a matter of fact, we do,” Okino said. “Perhaps the school’s own disciplinary procedures can best decide how to handle Snape.”
Dumbledore stroked his beard. “It would be the best way to keep things from getting out of hand.”
The Minister rose. “Things are already out of hand, when the Ministry can be dictated to by a schoolmaster. You put them up to this, didn’t you?”
“I have to get to Hogsmeade; bloody inconvenient that one can’t Apparate on the grounds here. I’ll expect a full report at the first opportunity.” Fudge strode out of the room without even acknowledging Okino and Kokiri.
No sooner had he left the room, though, than a witch rushed in it: Phyllida Sprout.
“Sorry to have left you all in the lurch, but I hope I never have another month like the last one. My poor niece having fainting spells, plus stomach cramps all the time, and nothing I could suggest seemed to work at all. Took me and the local witch a week to get her stable, and no sooner do we get that done than labor starts. Well, that lasted another week, but she ends up bringing a new witch into the world. Her name is Sol Bianca Whifflebridge. I have no idea where that name came from; the new mother said it was in honor of the Spanish weather. But she and the father couldn’t be happier, and I guess that’s all that matters.”
Professor Sprout finally stopped to take a breath, then looked at Dumbledore and his guests. “Have I missed anything interesting?”
Even as Okino and Kokiri were being questioned about Snape, Kiki found herself trapped in the Gryffendor common room. A party had been quickly thrown together, with her as the guest of honor.
“There’s no choice,” Ron was telling anyone who would listen. “They have to sack Snape now! He can’t very well teach Potions from prison, can he?”
“Ara, they’ll find some reason to keep him here, you’ll see.” Seamus Finnegan barely made himself heard above the din. “There’s the guilty, and then the very guilty, and the very guilty never seem to get what they deserve.”
Midway through the party a first-year brought a note from Dumbledore to Kiki. She read it over; then she sort of slumped in her chair, as if the wind had been knocked out of her.
“It’s not bad news, is it?” Harry asked.
Kiki shook her head, then stood up, waving the note in the air. Students seemed to know that she wanted them to be quiet.
“It says here…” She had to stop a second and compose herself. “It says here that Professor Sprout has returned. Because of that, and everything else, they say we can go home on Sunday.” There were some outbursts of surprise and even outrage, but Kiki waved them to silence. “After tonight, maybe it’s for the best. It’s just that I wasn’t sure I’d like it here, and now… I’m going to miss you all.”
So the celebration of Snape’s defeat turned into a going-away party. A few of the students got up to make short speeches about Kiki. The real surprise, though, was Ginny Weasley. Looking as nervous as she did for her first flying lesson, she got up and stood next to Kiki, facing the others.
“I just want to say that … I think there are some classes here … should be taught by students … because grownups forget …” Her cheeks burning, she sat back down.
“Ginny,” Fred said in an awed whisper, “you’re one of US!”
George picked it up immediately. “We were afraid you’d end up like Percy the Pill Prefect.”
“And here you are, upholding the Weasley tradition of boat-rocking!”
The twins clinked their glasses, toasting their thoroughly embarrassed sister.
Kiki hung onto the carpetbag with Jiji back inside. Castle elves had already brought her family’s other bags to the dock where the boat was moored. Hagrid would row them back to the station. So she wasn’t surprised to see Hagrid already waiting at the dock. Something in his manner, however, surprised her. He seemed almost bashful.
“There’s somethin’ I’d like to tell yer, Miss Kiki; somethin’ private.”
It seemed a little strange but she answered, “Alright, Hagrid, what is it?”
“Well, it’s about the other night, when Snape threw you on top of me…”
“Well, to tell yer the truth, I was a student here mysel’ once. Years ago, o’ course. Din’t last but two er three years. Never did get to fly on a broom. Don’t think they coulda found one in my size.
“Anyway, what I mean is—what happened the other night. Apart from ridin’ a flyin’ motorcycle, I never did nothin’ like that before. I flew. I can’t put into words what that means to me, but I flew…and I wanted to thank yer.” He stretched out a massive hand.
Ever since Kiki had gotten the note, it seemed she’d been biting her lip to keep from crying. She took hold of one of Hagrid’s fingers—it was all she could do to reach her hand around it. “Glad I could help.”
As the hour for their departure approached, students started gathering by the pier. They just kept coming and coming; almost the entire student body was standing there, waiting for the visitors to leave. Hermoine was one of the last to show up, her eyes swollen as if she’d been crying. She stayed as far from Harry and Ron as she could, as if she didn’t want to answer any questions.
“What’s her problem?” Ron muttered to Harry.
Before they could say anything else, Albus Dumbledore started down the steps to the pier, followed by Okino and Kokiri. Dumbledore stepped out in front of the students.
“We have some people here, I see. This year hasn’t started the way I thought it might, but some very interesting things have happened, and we have our Continental visitors to thank for that. If perhaps Madame Kokiri would be so kind as to grace us with one final lesson…”
Kokiri seemed to have been planning just what to say. She stepped forward confidently.
“These last few weeks have given me a great deal to think about. I hope that they have done the same for you. From now on, when you look at any growing thing at all, from the trees in this grove to the spices on a grocer’s shelf, you will remember that magic is within them all, and that we bring our abilities to this magic, so that we may bring it to the service of others.
“Listen to me! I did not say “to the service of other witches”, because they also know the craft. That means we cannot truly be witches and wizards unless we make our magic available to those who do not or cannot use it for themselves. I believe we not only can help the so-called Muggles; we must help them.”
There was some muttering; even Hagrid didn’t agree completely with this view. Taking no notice, Kokiri went on.
“A thousand years ago, the ability to turn cream into cheese was considered magic, since only Herbologists such as your Professor Sprout and myself knew about cheese cultures. But, as time went on, we Shared our knowledge, little by little, with the world around us. And, as time went on, science discovered so many of our secrets that we began to find it all rather difficult to sort out. The last great Sharing was after the disastrous First World War, when we Shared our knowledge of the mold that produced what we called the Great Cure; what everyone else now calls penicillin. We haven’t done anything else for humanity since then, although I wish there was a way we could have stopped them inventing the atom bomb.
“Does this mean that what the so-called Muggles call technology is really magic, or does it mean that what we call magic is just another kind of technology, and not really magical at all? We must leave the answer to the future. But I look to the future with hope, with anticipation, and I hope you do so too. For, as we refine and expand our knowledge, we will not be casting off magic. We will be passing through what we all thought was magic, passing through to the very heart of nature, and the heart of God, where dwells the true magic.
“I believe the time will come when we will stop forcing the so-called Muggles to live lives of illusion, convinced by us that they didn’t really see dragons and fairies and unicorns. Someday they will embrace the fairies and the unicorns and even the dragons that never left their world after all. And they will embrace us, for we will have led them to the Great Truth.”
With that, feeling she had no more to say, Kokiri turned toward Hagrid’s rowboat. As she turned, though, a hand stopped her. Okino spun her back around to face him. His face shining like a sunrise, he put a hand on either side of her face. “Haven’t I always said you were a better teacher than me?” he said quietly, then drew his wife toward him and kissed her lips.
Kiki covered her eyes with one hand. It’s embarrassing enough when one’s parents are publicly affectionate. But they were in front of the whole school--! Well, at least it’s not my school anymore, Kiki thought.
Some of the Hogwarts students worked very hard to suppress their giggles. Some of the teachers were shocked at the display. And some, like Minerva McGonagall, nodded and smiled and told themselves, “Your Great Truth sounds wonderful, Madame Kokiri, and the sooner we get there, the better!”
Kiki had to wait until her parents decided to get in the boat. When they finally broke their kiss, which seemed to Kiki to take an eternity, they joined her in the center. Just as Hagrid reached for the oar, Albus Dumbledore turned to the assembly. “Faculty, staff, ghosts and students of Hogwarts Academy, I say ye, Okino! Kokiri! And Kiki! HIP HIP”
Such a tumult of shouting and cheering had never been heard outside of a championship Quidditch match. The cheers echoed and re-echoed across the lake as Hagrid pulled away from the shore. Kiki could make out Neville, waving so violently that he lost his balance and fell over. She saw Hermione, tears of joy streaming down her cheeks, as if she had just received the most wonderful present in the world. And she saw Harry Potter, cheering and waving and—she was sure—mouthing the words “Come back to us!”
The cheers continued even when they passed the mid-point of the lake. Then, they suddenly fell silent at once. Hagrid, working the oar, turned back to look, then stopped himself, muttering “I don’t believe it.” Kiki and her parents turned to look.
A woman stood on top of the water—the most beautiful woman Kiki had ever seen. Her long red hair, longer even than Kokiri’s, cascaded down her back, almost touching the water. She was dressed in a robe with ornate Celtic designs, such as nobody had worn in a thousand years. In her hand she held a sword, pointing toward the sky in salute. Then, as quickly as she had come, she sank back into the lake, in absolute silence, leaving not a single ripple behind.
As the crowd began to drift away, Dumbledore turned to McGonagall. “Would you walk with me for a moment?”
It was a perfect autumn day as they walked toward the lake. The trees had turned dozens of shades of red, yellow and brown. The leaves were just starting to fall, but the smell of rained-down leaves was already hanging in the air like sweet smoke.
“Well, all things considered, I’d say that your putting them on the faculty was a success.”
Dumbledore sighed. “If that were true, Minerva, I wouldn’t ask what I’m about to ask you.”
McGonagall thought she knew what was coming. “Oh, Albus, you can’t.”
“Think about it. Severus is still asleep in the infirmary; what happens when he wakes? If his infatuation with Madame Kokiri had been an enchantment, we could undo it easily and that would be that. Unfortunately, what he felt, as improper as it was, came directly from his heart. If he wakes up tomorrow and she’s still on his mind, he might spend weeks, even months, pining for her. He might turn to an act of desperation even worse than the last one. In which case, we’ll have lost him—as a Potions master, as the head of Slytherin House, and especially as a weapon against Lord Voldemort.”
“Can’t we simply drive her from his mind with a memory spell?” McGonagall asked, although she already knew the answer.
“And what happens if Filch says the wrong thing at the wrong time? Or one of the other faculty? Or dear Hagrid, whose tongue is as loose as his heart is large? No, I fear this will be a long and difficult night. We must enchant the memory of every soul in the castle, living and dead, erasing all memory of Okino, Kokiri and Kiki.”
McGonagall stopped walking, a very troubled expression on her face. “Albus,” she said after a minute, in a voice that was soft and full of ache, “we spend our lives and our powers changing the memories of Muggles, as Kokiri said, convincing them that they didn’t see us or Hogwarts or any of our magic. And now we’re doing it to our own kind. It hurts me to the heart.”
Dumbledore took a quick look around, making sure no student could see them, and put his hand on her shoulder. “Because you’re a good witch, Minerva, and a good woman. I wouldn’t expect you to feel any other way.” McGonagall bit her lip, trying not to cry. “But cheer up,” Dumbledore continued. “At least you’ll get a couple of hours sleep tonight. I have to do a whirlwind tour of the Governors to change their memories as well.”
They turned back toward Hogwarts. “It’ll be Halloween soon,” McGonagall said, “you can feel it in the air. Always a good time for the students. I suppose the worst of it is behind us now.”
That night, before they began enchanting Hogwarts’ memory, a little girl in the Gryffendor Tower closed a diary, hid it under her mattress, then buried her face in her pillow, whimpering in terror.
Far below the castle, something was stirring in the Chamber of Secrets.
The worst was about to begin.