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A pair of hands planted themselves firmly on the table right next to my and Jacy’s plates of waffles. “You’re the Ambaret girl, right?” I rolled my eyes, and even Jacy seemed annoyed. We’d only been friends for about two weeks or so, but that was how everyone in the entire school seemed to introduce themselves to me. And they had no qualms about interrupting whatever I was doing at the time (like now, eating breakfast). It was like being a zoo animal, and my enclosure was labeled “The Ambaret Girl.” It was getting on Jacy’s nerves too.
I looked up at the new visitor and immediately had some idea of who it was. He had a massive head of curly orange hair, creamy pale skin smattered with freckles, a confident smile, and a Gryffindor scarf around his neck. Even Muggle-borns like myself could recognize the Weasleys. “I’m Deliah,” I answered, “And I’m in House Ambaret.” That was the standardized response I’d come up with. Most of them would immediately disregard the first part, but it was worth a shot; maybe three or four people in the school would eventually learn my real name. “And you are?”
He had a momentary look of shock, surprised that his reputation didn’t precede him. Or at least his family’s reputation. There were at least four other Weasleys eating their breakfast in the Great Hall, all proud Gryffindors. “I’m Artie Weasley,” he said. Jacy gave a soft “ah” of recognition, and gave me a pointed look that I couldn’t quite decipher. Luckily the Weasley boy didn’t seem to notice. He crouched down low to whisper and glanced up to the head table where the Professors were dining with an unwanted guest: Underminister Depit. Every once and a while, he would glance down the hall toward where Jacy and I were eating. He’d made himself my own personal babysitter, and it was getting to be quite annoying. “I heard what you did with this Depit guy,” Artie continued.
I hadn’t really done much of anything except for make a bit of red light, and then Professor Bancroft disarmed him. But from the way that the rumor had spread around the school one would think that we’d had a ferocious and raucous duel to the death right there in the hallway, and that Depit was just lucky that Bancroft was there to hold me back.
“Well,” I started to explain, “It wasn’t exactly like wha….”
“Ugly bugger,” Artie continued, interrupting my explanation. Not that he was listening in the first place. “He’s been going around the castle deciding which subjects are ‘too dangerous’ for us students to learn. I heard he’s even lobbying to prevent first years from learning to fly!” Jacy gave a quiet gasp, which caused Artie to really take notice of her for the first time. Jacy had already told me all about how excited she was to finally get on a broom; she was dead-set on becoming Slytherin’s Quidditch Seeker, perfect with her very small stature. And she was hoping that she could fly her way onto the team as a first year like Harry Potter had. I couldn’t deny that I’d also been looking forward to the class, which was one of the few I was able to take with students my own age.
“Well, how would you like to teach old Depit a little lesson?” Artie said to us both. He reached into his bag and brought out a small vial filled with a canary-yellow potion. Jacy snatched the bottle from his hand and spun it quickly in her fingers, studying it. “Some sort of transfiguring potion?” she asked. “What does it do though?” I had no idea how she’d been able to tell what type of potion it was, but I wasn’t going to bother asking. She just seemed to have a knack for potions, and I was just lucky to have her there to explain it all to me.
“It’s one of my Grandpa George’s inventions,” Artie answered. “He was good friends with the Harry Potter, you know.” Jacy rolled her eyes. Everyone knew all about the Weasleys and the Potters, inseparable even decades later. “Anyway. Great Uncle Harry had this story about some muggles that he grew up with. And when Hagrid came to rescue him, the muggles wouldn’t let him go to Hogwarts. So Hagrid tried to turn the boy into a pig.” Artie shook the bottle. “He was a fat git anyway, and Hagrid always said he was too much of a pig already for it to fully work, but it was enough to give the muggle boy a pig’s tail. Well, Grandpa George thought that was just the funniest thing he’d ever heard, so much so that he marched right upstairs and didn’t come out of his workshop for two weeks until he had invented a potion that gives the drinker a little piggy tail.” He nodded up to Depit now piling his plate with more eggs. “It never ended up on the shelves of Wheezes for some reason, but he showed it to me over the holiday, and… well maybe I nicked a bit.” He twirled the bottle in his fingertips with a cocky smile. “And now I think our new friend the Underminister might need a little alteration to his behind.”
“He’ll go ballistic,” I warned. “All I really did in front of him was create some red light, and he acted like I was using one of the Unforgiveable Curses on him. I imagine that an ‘unapproved’ potion would probably drive him up the wall.”
Artie grinned. “Yeah, that’s kind of the point.”
“You know,” Jacy chimed in, “Maybe there’s a reason that your grandfather never sold this particular potion in his shop.”
Artie gave a careless shrug. “Uncle George was usually pretty careful, especially with his inventions. Tested most of ‘em on himself, too! I’m sure that Depit will be fine…. in a little while.” He pushed the potion toward me. “What do you think?”
I glanced back up at the head table, where the Underminister was busy lecturing a professor that I didn’t know. And who I might never get to know, because it looked like he might die of boredom. Depit’s chins wobbled as he held up four pudgy fingers and began to list four points of something. “Yeah,” I told Artie. “Let’s do it. What’s the plan?”
Twirling my wand like a baton, I approached Professor Bancroft seated just a few places away from Underminister Depit. His watery eyes followed me the entire length of the Great Hall, and the professor that had been subjected to his rant quickly slipped away while the Underminister’s attention was focused elsewhere. His rant was long forgotten now that I, his pet project, was on the move again.
“Professor,” I told him, “I’ve been working on this new charm and I’d love some guidance while I test it out. But it may be a bit… well, the explosions would probably be pretty loud. Potentially dangerous. Would you be able to accompany me to the Forbidden Forest?”
Professor Bancroft, who wasn’t quite in on the joke, gave me a quizzical look. “Well, what does it do?”
Depit couldn’t help himself at this point. His chair groaned as he rose and approached us with a quick waddle. “I would also like to accompany you to see this new spell,” he said. His tone was formal and polite, but the implications were clear. He was just gathering evidence against me (and by extension, House Ambaret) at this point.
“Oh, I don’t think that’s necessary, Underminister.” I did my best sweet, innocent tone. “it’s not part of a class; just something I’ve been thinking about on the side.” Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Artie approach Depit's now-abandoned meal. Jacy struck up a conversation with her Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, who was the only potential witness while Artie poured the bright yellow liquid into Underminister Depit’s tea. Hopefully it wouldn’t turn the tea yellow too.
“No, no,” Depit said with his jowls shaking. “A young wizard’s education doesn’t just happen in the classroom. If you are attempting to create a potentially dangerous spell, then I need to witness it to ensure that Hogwarts is doing all that it can for the safety of pupils. It’s absolutely necessary that I accompany you both.”
Professor Bancroft ground his teeth together and tried to force a smile. “Very well, Underminister.” He turned back to me and said: “When do you have free time on your schedule today?”
I did my absolute best not to look to the side as Artie shook the bottle, making sure that every last drop was out. He then flashed the “All good” signal and scampered back to our place at the table down the Great Hall. Jacy made some excuse to end the conversation with her professor and followed Artie.
“On second thought,” I told them both, “the spell just isn’t quite ready yet. In fact, I don’t think I’ll keep trying this one. Never mind!”
Bancroft gave me a confused stare, while Underminister Depit seemed more
suspicious. “Well, I best finish my breakfast and be on my way. It’s the most important meal of the day, right Underminister?” He glanced back at his plate as though he’d completely forgotten about it, and I took the opportunity to get away. I returned to my plate and finished off the last few bites of my waffle. Jacy and Artie were whispering and giggling as the Underminister returned to his spot, took another bite of sausage… and then lifted the teacup to his lips. He took a drink, then smacked his lips with a perplexed look on his face.
“How much of the potion does he need to drink?” I asked Artie, wondering how long we’d need to sit here.
“You know… I’m not sure,” he said.
Underminister Depit stood suddenly from his chair and clasped both hands to his bottom. The rip of his pants was audible throughout the entire room. His face contorted with shock and horror, and it looked like a few other professors were leaning back in their chairs to glance behind him.
“I guess not much,” Jacy giggled.
Depit shuffled behind the table and made a break from the door, but didn’t make it out in time: his already plump red nose transformed into a big pink snout.
Artie gave an impressed whistle. “Oh man, I thought it would just be the tail!” The rest of the students took notice, pointing and whispering and laughing. Underminister Depit shot me one last glare and then ran off through the doorway in the direction of the hospital wing. Up on stage, Professor Bancroft was giving me an accusing stare, but even he couldn’t hide the satisfied smirk on his face.