Chapter 1: The Queens and Bees
Part I – The Arrival
Professor Severus Snape’s dark
robes flipped and twisted violently in his wake, rushing to join Professors
McGonagall and Hagrid standing by their astute headmaster Dumbledore. Wearing his
typical brisk snobbish expression, he adjusts his cloak before acknowledging
his fellow staff.
“Well, I suspended my preparations for the next school year even though I only have three weeks left before the start of the year. What’s so important to drag all of us away from our preparations…” He pauses to stare coldly at Hagrid before continuing, “…well, almost all of us.”
Dumbledore clears his raspy throat and prepares to speak only to stop to stare up into the patchy clouds of the midday sky. “Ah…the time has arrived, and so has our guests.”
Descending from above the clouds, a pair of mammoth red birds circles down gracefully, riding the embers of the currents. Snape stares intently discerning the two riders, each with packs and heavy loads strapped to the birds. Dressed in heavy beige travelling cloaks, they guide the fiery feathered birds down towards the ground at amazing speeds. In less than a minute, the birds are spreading their huge wings and gently landing before the assembly. Boasting easily a fifty-foot wing span, the melting of red, orange, and brown feathers gave the common onlooker a sense of awe as the rustling of wings resembled a wall of fire. Bowing down before the entourage before them, the birds allow their riders to disembark easily, and release the satchel bags they carry. The smile and awe covering Hagrid’s face seems permanently etched as he steps forward to take the reigns of the majestic Thunderbirds of American legend.
The weary and worn pair finish releasing the bags from the birds, and collect them into a pile. The taller rider, easily six feet tall, drops the hood of the cloak and displays a warm and greeting smile to the crowd. Her long red locks fall free from their confinement, and rest just above her waist.
“Uncle Albus! It’s great to see you! Let’s see…” She places her hand horizontally on her lower thigh. “I came up to here last time I saw you.”
She closes with him to share a warm hug before continuing.
Dumbledore slips an embarrassed grin to Minerva, who can’t contain her amusement, enjoying the rare moments of embarrassment she gets to witness. She listens intently at their banter, and accurately identifies her unique Australian accent.
“Amelia, yes it has been a while, but you have certainly grown since then…and this must be your apprentice you spoke of.”
Nodding, she motions for her companion to join them. “Yes, Albus this is YOUR exchange student…one Constance Marie Hollander.”
Discarding the traveling robe, the small girl reveals a full-length gothic black dress along with matching boots and gloves. She strides alongside her teacher and bows dramatically to the Headmaster then professors, letting her straight raven locks fall into her face. Rising, she pushes her petit round spectacles snuggly against the bridge of her nose.
Dumbledore breaks the silence to announce, “Well our guests have traveled a long distance today, so let’s retire to the school for some supper and continue our discussion there.”
Moving around the remaining food on his plate, Headmaster Dumbledore concedes with not finishing the remaining morsels and pushes the plate aside.
“It’s decided then. Severus, you will test her knowledge level in potions and defense against the dark arts, while Minerva and I will test her aptitude and placement in the remaining areas. It’s obvious she has considerable real world experience, but it’s only fair to ensure she has enough training to intermesh with our curriculum and students.”
Amelia Creighton only nods and sighs. “I understand, but she’s quite adept…the fastest learner I’ve had in almost seventy years. Albus, I’m sure she won’t disappoint you.”
Severus only sighs dramatically, refusing to believe her opinion. The aged headmaster diplomatically smiles, and tries to find some middle ground.
“Nonetheless, we will determine her aptitude prior to school starting, which brings me to my next point: which house should she be put in?”
Minerva speaks up immediately, having been preparing herself for this question. “I don’t believe the sorting hat should determine that. She has an air about her; and to put her in Gryffindor or Hufflepuff, could seriously disrupt the house and its students.”
Albus continues to nod in agreement, and says little. Staring off, he watches the dazed and bewildered girl eat quietly at the end of the table, seemingly oblivious to the decisions firing all around her. With the pale skin of years of studies surrounded by shelves of books, Albus notices the great weights hanging on her shoulders; he grimaces imagining the tragic tales she could tell, with only thirteen years to claim.
Severus waits patiently as Albus finishes reading Constance’s grades for the past three days of tests. Having taken the Pre- O.W.L.S. and countless other placement tests, she faired far better than Albus had expected. Even Snape, the most difficult to impress, was worried she was too experienced.
Albus sighs and looks at his potions teacher skeptically. “Really Severus? Do you actually believe she is overly qualified for your forth year? She’s only 13, she can’t be that qualified.”
Severus only cocks his head, holding his position firmly. “I believe she’s too qualified to sit in on my sixth year class as a teacher’s aide! The only way I could teach her more, is to delve into the forbidden section of my library; something, I do not intend to do. As for her Dark Arts training, she excels too well. Fortunately, she could teach some of my students thing or two, which wouldn’t be too bad considering how things are fairing. Too bad she wasn’t here from the beginning of her education; I might have taken her under my wing. Now, I think she’s too scarred and wildly educated to adequately learn anything here. I never thought I’d ever say this, but wouldn’t the Durmstrang school be more appropriate for her skills?”
Albus shakes his head defiantly and silences him with a wave. “Definitely not! So she’s up to par for a fifth year? You can assign her additional tasks, perhaps to challenge her?”
Snape nods considering the possibilities. “I suppose. And are you still serious about putting her in Slytherin? Is that wise? She’ll hardly fit in.”
Albus only nods, while never taking his eyes off of the reports. “Yes indeed. I have my reasons; and when the time is right, she’ll fit into our plans where we need her to. When she is done with her broomstick tests, could you send her to me? I wish to have a word with her, after I go over her test results.”
Bowing as before, Constance waits to be addressed before standing upright again. A habit beaten into her by one of her teachers; she never forgave him and probably never will.
Albus looks up surprised, and clears his throat. “OH! Come dear, it’s alright. If you wish to continue that, you must only bow once, because I doubt anyone will acknowledge you with the appropriate response. Sylver Tannious was one of your teachers, was he not?”
Hearing the name of that loathsome balding man does little to put her at ease. A small mousy voice replies, “Yes sir. He was my Potions, Dark Arts, and Herbology teacher long ago.”
Albus only nods, and motions to sit beside his desk. After offering her a butter beer, he continues.
“Ah yes…I remember hearing about Sylver…he was never very fond or kind to children. I’m sorry. Well, other than your Broom and Magical Creatures studies, you actually exceed the requirements for a fifth year. This is good for you, but I’m afraid you’ll have to take remedial classes on those two areas. Due to your age, I must insist you be placed with students of your own age in the fourth year class, until your skills are up to par. And I’m fully aware you learned how to fly without brooms and such, but we stick to the classical arts here. Oh, and I hear you don’t use a traditional wand and can cast non-verbally either? Well, as I said we stick with the classics here, so I’ll arrange a trip to London so you can get the standard supplies all students use here. Furthermore, I’ll store your...instruments…here in my office. Now, Professor Snape has told me you have exceeded his requirements for potions so I must say he will try and challenge you above the rest of the class. He’ll be harder on you for failure, only because he expects so much more.”
Constance only nods, comprehending as much as she can, and making sure she doesn’t interrupt him.
“I’ll ensure you have remedial wand training immediately, before the start of school. No one must know you can cast without using wands! Understand?” His glare makes Constance shiver in her boots.
She nods fearfully and squeaks, “Yes sir. Not a word.”
Transitioning back to the loveable school master, Dumbledore leans back in his chair and smiles. “Excellent! You’ll be in the Slytherin House, so you’ll fit in really well. I want you to fit in actually, and I have some special instructions that go along with that; but first…” Dumbledore rises and retrieves the tall sorting hat from atop his shelves. “…let me put this on you to appease my curiosity.”
Stumbling up the rough and weathered path from Hogsmeade, Constance found constant companionship no longer a burden; but rather an aching longing for familiarity after years of wandering the world with her mistress and protector. Sporting a set of small round spectacles, she pushes them higher onto the bridge of her nose, struggling to get used to their presence. Passed by a pair of Hufflepuff boys laughing and joking, they failed to notice Constance’s unique pale complexion or ghastly blue-black lips, until they turn to scare her with an animated balloon snake. As the blood drains from their faces, Constance widens her smile to a horrifically vile grin, exposing her exceptionally pronounced canines. Practically stumbling over their feet, they turn screaming and drop the half-full bag of remaining balloons. Snickering, Constance reaches down and retrieves the bag, fearing that it could hurt any animals that might come across them and eat them. A brisk wind erupts, announcing the change in weather, and she doubles her pace, not wanting to get caught far from the school in a torrential downpour.
As she steps towards the entrance, she can’t miss the enormous puddle across the threshold and pauses instinctively. With a loud crash, a waterfall explodes in front of her, dropped for high above. A disgruntled snarl from Peeves, the poltergeist, from far above holding a large brass pan, confirms her suspicions.
Laughing, Constance fires: “Next time try lobbing one of these filled with water.”
She drops the bag of balloons behind her as she enters the hall, sure that they won’t lie there for very long. Meandering back to her locker, she stows the jellybeans she’d bought, and magically locks it back up with a flick of her wand. As she stares out her window at the fading light and worsening weather, she waits until the first horseless carriages begin approaching from the train station, before finally heading down to the great hall. Noticing the horrific creatures pulling them, she notes no one seems to notice the beasts, and catalogs that for a question to ask another day.
Finding an open seat alongside her class mates underneath the Slytherin banner, Constance picks up a shimmering globe rolling by itself along the length of the table. After spending a minute looking at it, she sets it down, and it rolls away towards the end of the table. From the reflection of her glass of butter-beer, she notices a sinister figure edging closer to grasp at her hooded robe. Unlike the Hogwarts coats and ties, Constance was wearing the New England standard: hooded black robe and matching dress, the gloves and two-inch heeled boots were only optional and left to each witch’s preference. Though she only attended the school for two months, it was technically the last school she attended; therefore, she was required to wear the uniform, or wear a Hogwarts one. Not fond of the Hogwart’s colors, she figured she ought to stand out from her English counterparts, or have to explain constantly about her lack of an English accent. The only deviation to her uniform was a two inch long and one and a half inch wide Hogwarts pin, with the Slytherin emblem in the center. Just as the chubby and untidy boy leans in to grasp her hood, Constance spins out of her chair as he blinked his eyes, grasps his outstretched hand, and pulls him forward. A girlish yelp escapes his mouth as he falls forward across table’s bench, and whimpers in pain as his arm is pinned behind his back.
As she drives his arm tighter into his back, she whispers harshly, “Didn’t your mummy ever tell you to keep your hands to yourself?” Before she can hear his reply, a stern clearing of Professor Snape’s throat is all the suggestion Constance needs. Releasing his arm, Constance steps back quickly in case he still has hard feelings.
With his usual disdain, Professor Severus Snape seethes: “Mr. Goyle, would you please get Mr. Crabbe off the ground…it’s embarrassing.” Whizzing by, he continues to press forward to the staff table, joining the various professors already seated.
As the boy is dragged away by the collar to the far end of their table, Constance sits back down, and finishes her drink. After downing it, she catches the scrutinizing gaze of a petit brunette seated at the Gryffindor table. Her mousey frame and discerning stare draws out a sinister grin across Constance’s black lips as she realizes she has an audience; and immeasurable pleasure as she watches her reel back in fear.
After witnessing the spectacle of introductions from the school’s latest Dark Arts teacher and new first-years students, the Slytherins find their places around the common room and their appropriate dormitories chatting and snickering. Constance’s presence was only a side note during dinner as an ‘exchange’ student, and no fanfare was attached to it. Even with that, she can’t help but become the subject of whispered conversations, finger pointing, and idle curiosity. With no further fanfare, diner ends as quickly, and Constance meanders back to her room. Pansy Parkinson, the self-appointed enforcer of order for Slytherin, strides towards her trailing a menagerie of sidekicks, supposedly as muscle. With her legs crossed, Constance sits idly on her bed, browsing the latest issue of The Quibbler and munching on a paper bag filled with fresh salted crisps. She decides to continue reading until the hive makes their first move…whatever that may be. Pansy makes several exaggerated huffs and sighs to capture Constance’s attention; and her building aggravation becomes unmistakable. Without looking up from the Quibbler, she finally addresses her audience.
“I’m almost done. When I’m finished with it, you can have it.”
The lack of response pulls Constance’s gaze from the pages, up to meet Pansy’s threatening overbearing stance. Placing her finger on the spot she left off at, she begins absently tracing the sentence, as if it were brail. A girl at the rear whispers to a taller flat-haired blonde in front of her:
“She has the sage touch.”
Pansy misses the exchange, as she seethes, “So you’re from the colonies, huh? Well here, I run the place and you are nothing unless I say so.”
Constance shrugs, looks around, and asks innocently, “And you’re worried that I’ll come along and steal your queen-bee status? NO THANK YOU! You can have it. Listen, I’m here because no other school wants me, and Dumbledork thinks his school can warp me into the perfect student. If you’re the leader of this prison gang, then you have nothing to worry from me…remember? I’m from the states…instead of soccer we have baseball. And there, the name of the game is: play ball! Cool? Err…cheers…whatever you all say here? As for pecking order, fine! Hail to the queen, if that’s you. If not, hail to whoever calls them selves the headcheese! If you want me to dance behind you like the rest of your flock, fine! Done! But if you start pulling the reform school bully, song and dance by telling me this is your bed, and mine is on the roof or some other B-movie act, then we might have a breakdown in order. As long as you don’t go disrespecting my privacy, space, and belongings, I’ll pay homage to whatever you want me to.” She pauses only to flip the page and continue tracing the path of the paragraphs, dodging the pictures mixed among the text. “Ms. Parkinson, my name is Constance…and they call me Constance; not Connie, Cornie, Corkie, or any other pet name. As I said before, respect me, and you’ll have me as a devoted ally…stab me in the back…well this is a very small world.”
Pansy snarls back, bringing a threatening finger to bear. “Don’t you get smart with me! I’ll do…”
Constance cuts her off, pulling back her hood, revealing a flood of straight raven hair, and glass spectacles. She dramatically lowers the glasses from the bridge of her nose; her emerald green eyes, as the spectacles clear her eyes, suddenly take on a demonic green glow and unmistakable cat-like appearance to the pupils. “You’ll have a devoted friend and ally, as long as you don’t screw me over. You’re calling the shots on this, not me. I can do a year either making connections in Slytherin, or in Azkaban…makes no difference to me.” She closes the magazine abruptly, affixes her glasses back tight against her nose using her little finger, and stands up to Pansy. Several inches shorter, even with her two inch heels Constance shows only indifference to this obvious fact; she smiles and leans against the foot post of her bed.
“Look what do you want from me? These kind of stand offs only result in busted lips and civil wars; neither of which I’m looking for. I already told you that I don’t want to be the leader of this troupe, nor do I have any intention of ripping it out from under you. You’re the mistress of this house, so what do you want? If you all want to lock the doors and have a brawling contest to see who’s the toughest chick, then I won’t lie down and take anyone’s crap. If you have another way of proving your dominance over newbie’s…all I can say is that I don’t like more than 3 at once. After three, they just seem like an audience, unless that’s your thing, of course.”
All but Pansy step back disgusted, offended, and grimacing their disdain at her perverse innuendo. An explosive round of laughter from Pansy draws everyone attention back onto her. As the only one who found any humor in their new arrival’s words, Pansy lets her echoing chuckles drift away, and she sucks in a quick draught of air before spitting out her reply.
“Fine! You’re a foul-mouthed Yank with as much spunk as me…I respect that. As long as you don’t cross me, I won’t have a problem with you. This…(referring to a hazel-eyed redhead standing to her right)…is Madeline. She’s my right hand, and I go through her when it comes to homework assignments and reports for extra credit. If you donate your time to our little pool, you’ll become a valuable asset in the house. Furthermore, if you are a valuable asset here, then we can acquire virtually anything you might require while here at Hogwarts.” She extends her hand out to Constance to shake.
Constance’s evil toothy smile makes all but the bravest shirk backwards in terror. Pansy, though as terrified as her ilk, refuses to show an ounce of fear; and thinks to herself as she’s shaking Constance’s hand: How does she do that?