Pick Your Poison

Story B) Marauders Era Au

This au is set in the 70's.

Harmony potter is the illegitimate daughter of Fleamont potter making her James half sister.

But neither Fleamont nor James knows she exists and Harmony certainly has no idea that magic does. Not until one fateful visit on her eleventh birthday.

Ambitious to make a life beyond the one she's been served Harmony grabs at the unexpected with both hands. Unfortunately for her the snakes won't react kindly to someone they think is a mudblood joining their ranks.

But the snakes would do well to remember it's never wise to judge a book by its cover, or an orphan by an unknown family tree.

STORY B

(A Serpents Tale)

Prologue.

My name is Harmony Callisto Melania Ebony Potter

I am a Potter for the father who doesn't know.

I am Ebony for the family my conception would've disgraced.

I am Melania for the mother mine never knew.

I am Callisto for tradition and the heritage that flows in my veins.

I am Harmony for no one but myself.

And this is the story of how magically thrilling my life would become after one fateful day in 1972

chapter 1

July 31st 1972

Well you're dirty and sweet

clad in black

don't look back

and I love you

You're dirty and sweet, oh yeah..

Harmony Potter stared out of her open window. The sound of the radio added a nice background noise to the horrendous weather outside. It'd been the same for days. Dull, humid and occasionally absolutely pissing it down. Like right now.

As she followed a particularly fat rain drop with her eyes, she heard the first strains of distant thunder. Harmony heaved a sigh, she knew what was coming even before it started.

Well you're …. and you're weak

You've got ... teeth

Of the hydra upon...

Right on cue the storm started sending her radio through sporadic waves of static. It was incredibly annoying.

You're dirty and sweet

And ….. my girl

Get it on

Bang ... gong

Get it….

Harmony turned slightly to turn the radio off, before settling in her original position and staring listlessly at the weather once more.

Without the soothing cadence of the music in the background all she had to occupy her attention was the deafening sound of the rain against her window and the distant rumble of thunder. It wasn't a bad thing to listen to she supposed.

Certainly better than listening to a song you were only half hearing.

With another sigh of discontent Harmony turned over on her back and stared at the water stained ceiling.

She supposed it could be worse. She could be outside right now instead of shut away in her stuffy room. She knew which of the options she preferred, even though they both left a lot to be desired.

Madam Aster really didn't give a hoot if they got soaked doing the chores. It built character apparently. But with it being a Saturday she wasn't here at the moment and Aster always locked them in if she had to be away from the institution for more than half an hour.

So for today at least, Harmony would be spared the horror of trudging around in a soaked uniform as she tried to maintain Asters garden to the high standards the cow demanded.

At least Aster had permitted her to empty her chamber pot before she'd been locked in for the day. Otherwise she'd not only be bored stiff, she'd be stuck in here with a horrendous smell as well.

Huffing she rolled onto her other side, trying in vain to find a cool spot on her threadbare pillow.

She could feel the sweat beading over her face.

She swiped her tongue over her upper lip; Tasting the salt that had collected and contemplated removing her thick Woollen smock dress to help her cool down. But the thought was a fleeting thing and it left as quickly as it'd come.

Putting up with the heat was a lot less painful than the punishment she'd receive if Aster came back and caught her out of uniform during daylight hours.

She'd removed her top layers during the day only once before.

But once had been enough to teach her not to do it again, no matter how hot she was.

It was the first summer that she'd been in residence here. Aster had come back from one of her outings and found her in nothing but her shirt and knickers and despite the fact that she'd been locked in the tiny room on her own, Aster had gone nuts.

She'd called her wicked and a harlot in the making. She'd taken a switch to her backside as punishment; Harmony hadn't been able to sit for a week.

It wasn't an experience she wanted to repeat.

She'd have changed into something lighter weight if she had it, but unlike most of other permanent boarders the only clothes she had to her name were a couple of ratty oversized uniforms and two over-starched nightshirts that were starting to go very thin in certain places from the frequent wash and wear.

She absolutely loathed her uniform and the nightshirts; She'd made a vow to herself, that the first thing she would do when she could legally leave this place was burn the damn things.

Even if she had to walk out of the institution naked, they'd end up as ash before she left. she refused to even contemplate taking the disgusting garments anywhere beyond the gates that kept them all locked away like prisoners.

She didn't think anyone would blame her for burning them. Not if they knew that she'd been literally wearing the exact same uniforms 365 days a year since she been dumped here at the tender age of eight.

She'd been in the Vale orphanage before that.

She really missed the Vale, she'd spent four very happy years there before she'd had to come to this hell.

The years before the Vale had been spent with her mother.

She couldn't remember the time she'd spent with her mother quite as well as all the time she'd spent in the institutions. But she knew she'd been very well loved by her in the short time they'd had together, and really that was all that mattered as far as Harmony was concerned.

After all she knew that her mother had loved her, and that unlike the parents of some of the children she'd met, her mother wouldn't have abandoned her to the world if she'd been given a choice.

Unfortunately for Harmony, the choice had been taken out of her mothers hands by a madman with a strange stick and a smile that still haunted her dreams.

She couldn't remember much of the attack other than her mothers desperate pleading, before she dropped to the floor in a flash of green. Harmony can vaguely remember the man rounding on her as she screamed for her mother, then there was a green light and everything had gone black.

When she'd woken up, her mother still wasn't moving and Harmony had blood dribbling down her face; The man and his weird green light were gone.

She can remember screaming herself hoarse as she tried to get her mother to respond, and years later when she'd asked one of the Vales staff who'd found them, she'd been told that it was her mothers neighbor who'd done so

The attack had happened in their back garden and when the housewife next door had come outside to put her washing up she'd heard Harmony's screams. She'd ignored them to begin with, putting it down to the single mothers child being a brat she'd said. But apparently she'd gotten annoyed enough by the screams that she's decided to give her mother a tongue lashing.

According to what Harmony had been told, the woman had looked over the fence ready to reprimand her mother for her abysmal parenting and had found the young woman lying motionless on the grass; Her small child screaming bloody murder at her side.

Harmony had vague recollections of people coming, she thinks they must've been policemen. They were dressed completely in black.

One of them had cleaned her head up and placed a bandage over the small gash on her forehead. If they were policemen they hadn't stayed long. No sooner had the person stopped her head from hurting, a couple of men in red had turned up and the people in black had left.

She'd still been crying, but the red men hadn't tried to console her or even speak to her. They'd simply ignored her.

They'd covered her mothers body in something and taken her away.

Then they'd dumped her on the steps of the local orphanage with a small note that they'd pushed into her hand.

As they'd rung the bell to get the staffs attention, one of the red men had said something about mudblood sluts getting what they deserved

She hadn't known quite what those words had meant at the time (she still wasn't a sure what a mudblood was), but his friend had laughed at the comment as they'd walked away and left her stood on steps by herself.

She'd still been crying and they hadn't cared. They'd just walked along the Vales driveway before vanishing without a trace. It was like they'd never been there.

Looking back she knows her mothers death had sent her into shock by that stage. She certainly hadn't spoken for quite some time after the event, so perhaps the red mens abrupt disappearance had just been a figment of that.

A thin woman had come out of the orphanage just after they'd disappeared. She'd gently led Harmony into the building and that had been the start of her life as an orphan.

Thankfully, and contrary to the horror stories that sometimes circulated about such places, the one she'd been left at had turned out to be a rather nice place to live.

She knew there were places that weren't so nice, some of the older children had told her that, but she'd felt at home there.

She'd missed her mother terribly of course, but the staff had been friendly and caring. The place had been clean, if not a little bare and she'd eventually become friendly-ish with most of the other children.

Though she was never going to be a social butterfly.

Most of the staff became like pseudo Aunts and Uncles and she'd have been very happy to stay there given the chance.

She wasn't like some of the others, she hadn't wished for a new family, because the only family she wanted was her mum. Some of the others were very vocal with their thoughts about why they should've already been adopted, but Harmony wasn't worried about adoptions, she was quite content to remain as she was until she was old enough to leave.

Unfortunately she would soon come to learn that if fate thought you were happy you weren't going to remain that way for long.

One cold November night, the year she'd turned eight, fate had finally seen fit to pounce and her world had come tumbling down around her for the second time in her short life.

It was a simple equation really. New orphan, plus a lighter in the kitchen at midnight equalled the end of Harmony's contented life.

She'd scrambled out of her bed as the staff had pounded on doors trying to get the children out before the place burned to the ground. No sooner had most of the children gotten out of the smoking building than the place went up like a stack of kindling.

The youngest children who were housed in the attic space of the orphanage hadn't stood a chance. They'd died in the flames. One of the newer members of staff had died with them. She'd been trying to get them all to safety.

The boy who'd lit the fire was also amongst the dead, his body had been found on the stairs leading up from the basement kitchen. There'd been a melted lighter clutched in the charred remains of his hand.

Harmony hadn't known any of this right away of course, they'd only been told all this just before they'd all been separated.

No, in the immediate wake of the fire Harmony hadn't spared a single thought about anybody dying.

Huddled with the other children and shaking in the cold November air. She'd been oblivious to the crying and the screaming and the sobbing. She'd been in too much shock to really take it in the anguish of those around her.

So she'd stood there silent amongst the grief, watching the scene play out with an odd sense of detachment. Eventually the fire engines had arrived to put out the blaze.

Various groups of people had started to usher the now homeless orphans away from the burning building and towards a church hall that sat a little way up the street.

As she been guided up the road without even a pair of slippers to protect her feet against the harsh bite of the pavement, she'd suddenly realised that all she now had to her name was a pair of thin red striped pyjamas and her mothers silver chain.

The only reason she had that much was because she'd refused to remove the chain since the day her mother had secured it around her neck. The same day that her mother had been murdered.

After a sleepless night in a draughty church hall and a bizarre breakfast of digestive biscuits and condensed milk, things had started to move quicker than she'd been able to keep track of.

It was barely eight hours after the fire when the announcement was made that the live-in staff were to be moved to a facility in the next town. Most of the children, many of them people she was friendly with, had gone with them.

Harmony wasn't amongst them though.

Apparently there'd been something of a kerfuffle, the new orphanage was adamant that they wouldn't take on children with little hope of being adopted. They hadn't got the room apparently.

This meant many of the older children, and a few of the younger ones like her who'd gone out of their way to avoid being adopted, had been left behind.

Those left had had no choice but to spend another cold night on the church halls floor.

The next morning a sombre announcement had been made to the remaining children about those that had died in the blaze, including the boy with the lighter. No one outright blamed the dead boy for the fire but everyone knew he'd been the one who'd cost them their home. While the news of those that had died was still sinking in, the authorities had seen fit to lumber the orphans with another piece of news.

They were told that places had been found for them in various fostering facilities.

This seemed like a good thing, until the orphans had realised that the facilities they were speaking of were scattered around the country. Having already lost a home the orphans would now loose what little semblance of family they had.

Not a single one of the children left in that church hall would be re-homed together.

Harmony was one of the first to be taken from the hall and sent on her way.

She been taken to the station and bundled onto a filthy train by a harried looking volunteer. The woman had given her something that was to supposed to have resembled a smile, before telling her that someone would collect her from the other end.

The compartment door had been slammed in her face before Harmony had even had a chance to ask just who it was that was supposed to be collecting her.

The compartment had been empty except for her. So she'd placed her meagre belongings (the red striped pyjamas, and a one eared bear that she'd saved in the chaos of the various children being removed from the hall) on the seat next to her and waited for the train to set off with a slow drawn out screech of metal against metal.

No one had even thought to tell her were she'd be going.

Thankfully a quick glance at her ticket had given her that information.

In plain printed letters, the ticket had told her she was going one way to Guildford.

With that knowledge, she slipped the ticket into the pocket of her disgusting brown and orange dress (that she'd been given out of the church donations bin), and gripped the edge of the smelly velour seat for dear life.

Alone after two days surrounded by other people grieving for the loss of their home and their pseudo families, Harmony had finally released the dam around her emotions. She doesn't know how long she'd cried or even what she'd cried for.

All she knows is that by the time she'd let all of her emotions out, they'd nearly been at Guildford.

The other passengers began to disembark as soon as the train came to a stop. The rain had stopped by then, but Harmony had been in no rush to get off the train. She was small for her age and wanted to try and avoid getting trampled by the various people rushing around.

Eventually the tide of people thinned and Harmony had disembarked just before the train set off on it's return journey back up the line.

With the all the passengers more or less gone, Harmony had easily spotted a white wooden bench near the entrance of the station. She'd thought it as good a place as any to wait for her unknown collector.

She'd watched as the last of the people who'd been on the platform trickled away out of the entrance or onto another train. With everyone gone it become quickly apparent to Harmony that the person who was supposed to collect her wasn't there.

She'd felt her stomach drop like it had been filled with lead.

She hadn't been sat there for long when she'd begun to shiver in the damp station are, she'd pulled her holey cardigan closer to her slight frame in a vain attempt at keeping herself warm. But try as she might, a thin summer dress and a cardigan with enough holes in it to make a passable colander were only ever going to do so much to keep the chill at bay.

She'd felt like she was going to start weeping again, but she'd willed herself not to. She wasn't a baby and she'd refused to let anyone believe otherwise.

Forty five minutes were to pass before someone would eventually came for her.

She'd thought for sure that she'd freeze to death on that station.

She'd been contemplating if the station staff would find a block of Harmony shaped ice in the morning when a shadowy figure had finally appeared near the entrance.

She'd stayed in her seat, after all there'd been no guarantee that this person was there for her, or even that they'd be friendly.

A round, severe woman, with a head tightly permed bleach blond hair had stepped out of the shadows and into one of the stations lights.

Harmony can remember hoping that this person wasn't there for her. No matter how cold she might've been feeling.

The woman had looked around the platform, before her eyes had landed on Harmony. Seeing the skinny girl sat alone on the bench the woman had walked towards her with a look of pure loathing on square jawed face.

The station had echoed ominously with the steady click of her heels. The closer the woman had gotten the more of her features she'd been able to see.

Her nose was long and thin, her lips had been bright red and her ice blue eyes had flashed with something undefinable the closer that she'd gotten to the tiny girl.

The woman had levelled Harmony with a biting sneer once she was directly in front of her. Without saying a word to the shivering girl, the woman had grabbed the bear and the pyjamas that Harmony had been clinging to like a life line and threw them in a nearby bin that reeked of vomit.

Taken aback by the hostile display from this unknown woman, Harmony had dug her fingernails into the palms of her hands so she didn't end up saying something she might regret. She knew her mouth had the nasty habit of running away from her if it was given the chance, and she'd had an inkling that this woman wouldn't take kindly to that.

When the woman finally addressed Harmony, her voice was cold and callous and held none of the warmth that she'd grown accustomed to from the majority of the Vales staff.

"You'll not be bringing tat like that".

The woman had said as she'd pointed one long fat finger at the rubbish bin.

"Into my establishment. It's already bad enough that I have to take someone as scraggy and urchin like as you into my clean halls".

Pure disdain had curdled the woman's features at the thought of having to take Harmony in and without another word her pointy fingers had wrapped around Harmony's upper arm.

The woman had dragged her out of the empty station and towards a very old car. It'd had a crank handle for gods sake.

One of the thick steel doors had been wrenched open and Harmony had been harshly shoved into one of the back seats.

It had taken the woman several long minutes to get the crank turned engine started and when she finally managed it she'd gotten into the car with a huff of annoyance.

The silence in the car had made Harmony feel extremely unsettled.

She would've asked for the woman's name as a way of breaking through the tense atmosphere, if it wasn't for the fact the she had a feeling the woman would've ripped her head off her shoulders for so much as breathing in her direction. Let alone asking for her name.

Harmony wasn't sure how long the car journey took. But it seemed like it took forever and not long enough all at the same time.

The old car had come to a juddering stop outside a pair of high walls that had a set of tall, blue painted, iron gates anchored in to the foreboding brick.

In the weak glow of the cars headlamps Harmony had just been able to make out the shape of numerous spikes lining the top of the structure.

She can remember thinking, that whatever this place was, it was nothing like the cheerful place she'd left. This place had looked like a prison.

The woman had gotten out of the car to unlock the gates, and they'd swung inwards witch an audible screech of rarely used hinges. To say the sound had been bad for Harmony's already frayed nerves would be a gross understatement.

The woman had lumbered back to the car and slowed edged the ancient vehicle through the open gates. Once they'd been through the woman had pulled the car to a stop again and got out with a growl of annoyance, clearly not best pleased at having to go a relock the gates she'd only just opened.

While she waited for the woman to return, Harmony risked at glance through the windows, there wasn't much to see in the dark, but a flash of bright blue to her left drew her attention. The weak headlights seemed to be shining on some sort of sign.

Cautiously she leant forwards over the drivers seat for a better look.

The sign was covered in Ivy and most of the writing had been to obscured for her to read it. But one part of the sign had been dutifully kept free of the plant. Likely because it was the most important part.

Madam Asters School of correction & Boarding Home For Wayward Youths.

Harmony hadn't known if to feel insulted at the implication that she was now, apparently, a wayward youth, or if she should've been terrified by what those few simple words would now mean for her life.

It didn't take her long to realise that she should've been terrified.

Much later, after she'd been given a rudimentary tour of the dank building by the woman who'd finally been identified as the Aster the sign had mentioned. Harmony was shown to the dreary little cell that she still calls home three years later.

There'd been a single metal bed with a mattress so thin she'd been sure some of the lumps were the bed frame sticking through it, a small desk with a three legged stool sat next to it and a single shadeless bulb hanging from a bare wire in the middle of the ceiling.

As Harmony had looked around the room in distaste the old bag had thrown a well worn nightshirt at her head and told her she needed to be up by five to help the other boarders make breakfast and if she wasn't there promptly she'd suffer the consequences.

With one last sneer of utter disdain the woman had swept out of the cell, slamming the door shut and locking it behind her.

That last parting shot had been enough to convince Harmony that any life she had to live here wouldn't be a happy one.

Even worse than that had been the realisation that she'd have no hope of escaping it until she was at least fourteen.

The dam she'd built around her emotions at the train station hadn't been able to withstand the thought of of six years of hell in the horrid place and she'd broken down for the second time that day. She'd spent the rest of the night crying into her thin musty pillow.

She'd been staring off into her darkened room, her eyes swollen form the crying and her head pounding from the lack of sleep, when she'd heard the door unlock. A stern voice had shouted through the warped wood, telling her to get her lazy arse out of bed.

Despite the fact that she'd felt like death warmed over, she'd gotten off her bed and quickly donned one of the two uniforms she'd been grudgingly provided by Aster the night before.

The blouse had been much to big and she'd had to roll the cuffs several times so it didn't keep slipping over her hands. The grey woollen smock dress had been similarly oversized, but unlike the shirt she couldn't roll this up to make it fit better so she'd had to content herself with wearing a knee length dress that ended at her ankles. She'd looked ridiculous, but she had a feeling that was the point.

A few minutes later, she'd opened her stiff door and hurried off to find the kitchens, all the while cursing the boots the bitch had given her.

They were sturdy and well worn in, but they were also at least three sizes to big and they'd sloshed alarmingly on her feet as she'd tried to walk down the polished staircases.

She'd honestly thought that she was going to break her neck.

Maybe that was what Aster had wanted her to do, she wouldn't have put it passed the cow in the slightest.

Somehow managing to avoid an untimely death by over large footwear, she's eventually made it down to the basement kitchens. (What was it with these places always having the kitchens in the basement?) where she'd quickly been put to work.

And thus had started her incarceration in her own living breathing nightmare. Somedays she was sure it was one she was never going to be able to wakeup from, no matter how hard she wished to.

She was pulled from her heavy musings by the sound of the entrance buzzer being rung.

To her complete surprise someone answered it.

Curious Harmony went to her door and gave the knob a tentative twist. The knob gave under her hand with little effort, she clearly wasn't locked in anymore. This gave Harmony pause, how had she missed Aster coming back? She needed to hide her radio before the old crone came looking for her. She'd destroy it if she found it, and Harmony held little hope of being able to er... procure another one.

She'd barely managed to hide the radio when her door knob began to twist and the stiff door was pushed open in halting increments.

Gulping Harmony got up off the floor and gave the loose board a discreet tap with her booted foot to make sure it was in place. If the sour woman was to ever find the little space where Harmony kept the few illicit things she could truly call her own, she dreaded to think what the consequences would be.

She was sure the inability to sit down would be the least of her worries.

With one last jolting shove, the door was finally pushed open and Harmony was confronted with the nasty visage of Madam Abigail Aster.

The woman in question was still as round, red lipped and pointy and she had been all those years ago when she'd picked Harmony up from Guildford station.

The only noticeable differences to the womans appearance was the ever increasing abundance of wrinkles and the fact that she'd changed her hair from her bottle blond to a horrible shade of fake ginger that looked even worse in the artificial light that lit Harmony's cell.

Asters eyes narrowed at the sight of her stood ramrod straight at the side of her bed.

The woman in question cast a pin sharp glare around the room looking for anything suspicious. But all she could see were the same things that Harmony could.

The usual mouldering, peeling walls, the unwashed bedding and the bare floorboards that creaked with every step.

Aster bared her teeth at Harmony in displeasure.

She was clearly disgruntled at being unable to catch Harmony up to something.

Harmony did her best to will away the smirk that wanted to trace it's way onto her face, but she wasn't sure if she was completely successful.

The woman pursed her bright red lips and glared at her over the top of the glasses she kept perpetually perched on the tip of her over pointy nose.

Sometimes Harmony wondered if Aster had the ability to read people minds, but she never gave it mush consideration beyond the abstract. It was likely that Harmony's face was just to expressive.

"You have a visitor Miss Potter".

Without further explanation Aster stepped back from the doorway and began to stride off down the hall, her block heels clicking ominously on the hard floors.

Harmony hurried to catch up.

She had no idea what Aster could possibly mean about her having a visitor, it had to be a mistake.

No one ever came to see her specifically, not unless it was one of those sycophant social workers and they never came on a Saturday. But Harmony new better than to ask.

You didn't ask Aster questions. You just did what she wanted you to as quickly as possible, three broken ribs had taught Harmony that.

She caught up with the old bat just as she was heading down the corridor that led to her private sitting room.

It was an area of the institution that Harmony had rarely been in to.

The few times she'd been down here in the past it was usually because Aster wanted the long term "Boarders" (Some of them were orphans like her, but the majority were children that had been taken away from their parents for one reason of another), to put on a good display of obedience for one visiting git or another.

The git's in questions were usually rich bastards who invested in the institution to make them feel better about themselves. They were supposedly giving money to make the boarders lives more comfortable. In reality they were paying for the kind of luxury tat that Aster liked to display in her private rooms. But the investors, for lack of a better word, couldn't care where their money was going. Just as long as it looked like they were doing their philanthropic best, by the poor wayward urchins, in the local press, they were happy.

The children that were rolled out for these occasions, were scrubbed to within an inch of their lives and then placed into brand new uniforms. Uniforms that were taken back as soon as the photos were finished and the snotty git's felt good about themselves again.

But Aster had made no comment about changing out of her tatty oversized clothes.

So who could be important enough that they were in Asters private sitting room waiting to see her and yet not important enough to require Harmony to look like a well looked after child.

To Harmony's surprise Aster held the door open for her.

Feeling more than a little wary, Harmony gingerly moved passed her and made her way into the garish sitting room. The situation was getting odder by the minute and Harmony didn't appreciate feeling so wrong footed.

The door closed with an audible snick as Aster made her own way into the sitting room, the look she sent Harmony's way was so full of loathing that she knew she was going to be in deep shit once this mysterious visitor left.

Once inside it didn't take many seconds for her eyes to land on the distinctly plain (and therefore out of place figure) who was stood in front of an empty fireplace with her back to the room.

She had a tight bun at the base of her neck and her hair was an interesting mix of auburn and grey.

Whoever she was she hadn't got a single hair out of place. The visitors clothing was simple, Harmony would've been tempted to say sensible, but she didn't see how a long sleeved wool dress and a tartan shawl could be classed as sensible when the weather was so sticky that Harmony's own shirt was welded to her back with sweat.

Aster harshly cleared her throat to gain the visitors attention.

The woman finally turned away from the fire place. Harmony wasn't anymore sure what to think of her presence now that she could see her face to face, than she had been when she'd only been able to see her back.

The face held obvious signs of age, but she didn't look ancient. Her mouth was set in a severe line and yet her eyes seemed to say that she wasn't as mean as Aster was.

The woman appeared to be inspecting her over the top of her half moon glasses, Harmony had to will herself not to start tugging at her tatty clothes. After several seemingly endless seconds, the woman nodded to herself and took a seat on one of Asters brightly flocked chairs.

Harmony didn't know what the woman had seen, but she didn't seem displeased with Harmony and this woman certainly seemed to be someone one who wouldn't pull any punches if she wasn't pleased with something.

She knew it shouldn't matter. But Harmony felt a small amount of pleasure at not being instantly judged by the tattiness of her clothing by this random stranger, who was now pouring herself a cup of tea from the silver tea service that was set out on the coffee table.

There were only enough cups for two people so Harmony had a feeling that whatever this stranger wanted her for it wasn't going to be a long conversation.

The woman finished pouring the second cup of tea. "Do you take sugar?".

Harmony was so dumbfounded by the simple question she had half a mind to look behind her to see if someone else had arrived, but the woman's gaze was fixed solely on her.

Still feeling unsure if it was really her who was being asked, Harmony nodded her head. This gained her a reprimanding eyebrow and expectant look. The woman obviously was talking to her after all.

"Yes, please Ma'am". The words barely passed her tight throat and for a second she wondered if the woman even heard her squeaked reply, but the she merely smiled at her and placed a sugar cube in the small porcelain cup.

"Milk?".

"Yes please Ma'am". The words were still just as hard to get out but they were a little louder this time at least. The woman poured in a good amount of milk and Harmony watched as the colours swirled together.

"Is this really necessary!"

It was a good job Harmony hadn't taken hold of the cup and saucer yet, otherwise there would've been a horrid mess all over the shag-pile carpet.

The woman on the seat stopped trying to hand over the tea and turned to Aster with a flash lenses and a set of quickly thinning lips.

"Yes. I believe it's quite necessary, there's nothing better for the soul than a good strong cup of English tea".

The woman had a lilting Scottish brogue when she spoke and Harmony decided that she much preferred it to Asters fake upper class accent.

Honestly that woman's voice set her teeth on edge.

The woman glared at Aster over the top of her glasses. "You may leave us now. You've brought me Miss Potter and I thank you for your time. But the matters I need to discuss with the young lady are quite private and your involvement is not required at this time".

It was as clear a dismissal as Harmony had ever heard; Aster went an interesting shade of purple at being essentially thrown out of her own home.

With a glare at the pair Aster turned on her heel and left the room in a snit.

The door banged so hard as Aster left that it rattled the cups on the tea tray.

The Scott shook her head and muttered something that sounded bizarrely like jealous squids, before handing Harmony her tea.

"Do sit down Miss Potter, this conversation will be easier if you're not stood there like a scared animal".

Harmony felt a slight twinge of annoyance at the woman's comparison. She wasn't scared, she was just wary of unknowns.

After the knocks she'd received in her short life she personally didn't think it was a bad trait to have cultivated.

Harmony didn't say anything to this effect however, she just sat down on one of Aster gaudy seats.

As she sat she could feel the woman appraising her again, so she took a gulp of her scolding tea to stop herself from fidgeting under the scrutiny.

For several minutes nothing was said and Harmony could do little more than concentrate on the intricate patterns of her tea cup. The precise clink of porcelain made her look up from her cup and she could see that the woman had finished her tea and was placing the cup and saucer back on the tray with the tea pot.

"So Miss Potter, I suppose you're quite curious by now as to what a seemingly random stranger wishes to discuss with you".

"Yes, Ma'am".

With a decisive nod the woman pulled out a thick cream envelope.

"I think you will find this letter most enlightening Miss Potter".

Harmony could feel her palms sweating, so she carefully placed her tea on the floor near her foot and wiped them on her raggy dress before taking hold of the thick the letter the woman was holding out to her.

She turned the letter over in her hands, the paper wasn't like anything she'd ever felt before and her name was written on the front in neat black calligraphy. What surprised her more was that the letter had the number of her dinky little cell written on it.

To Miss H Potter

Room 17

Madam Asters School Of Correction and Boarding Home For Wayward Youths

Guildford.

Intrigued she flipped the letter over.

She could feel there was some sort of shield embossed in the wax but her eyesight was so poor in her severely out dated glasses that she had no hope of making out such minute intricacies and broke through the red wax with out even attempting to decipher what it was.

The letter was several pages thick and there was more of that precise calligraphy covering the pages.

Holding the letter away from her face she squinted at the tiny writing waiting for in to come into focus.

To Miss Harmony Callisto Melania Ebony Potter.

Upon reading her full name Harmony felt a little unnerved. How did this woman know her full name? No one had known her full name since her mother had died.

The authorities only seemed to know her first and her last names when she'd been dumped at the Vale and she'd done nothing to alter their assumptions. To begin with it was because she'd refused to speak, but later it was simply because she hadn't wanted to be lumbered with that mouthful of a name in an environment where bullies were very much prevalent. And she didn't just mean other children either. Even the vale, nice as it'd been, wasn't immune to having the odd crotchety member of staff.

Shaking off her unease she began to read the rest of the tiny writing.

We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted into Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Enclosed you will find the necessary lists for books and equipment.

We await your owl no later than 31st July 1972

Yours sincerely

Minerva McGonagall.

Deputy Headmistress.

Harmony gaped at the letter. Witchcraft and wizardry? What the hell was this!

She was pretty sure she must look like a right idiot, but she just couldn't bring herself to care. After all, how often was someone told that they were accepted to a school that taught witchcraft.

She wanted to ask the woman if this was some sort of joke, but she seemed to have lost the ability to move her jaw.

How the hell could she be a witch. Yes strange things happened around her sometimes and the others children here often called her a freak but this was absurd.

"I'm sorry but I think you've made a mistake. Magic isn't real and even if it is somebody like me wouldn't have it". The voice startled her, until she realised it was her that was speaking.

"I can assure you Miss Potter there's been not mistake. Hogwarts registers do not lie about who does or does not have magic and you most certainly do".

Harmony shook her head sending her scraggy, unwashed black hair into her face.

"Look, I get that this must be some sort of really good joke for someone. But I'm not a witch, I'm just Harmony. A girl hoping like hell that she can survive in this dump until she's old enough to leave it".

"Well Miss Potter let me ask you this. Have you ever done anything that you couldn't explain when you were angry or scared or in pain?"

The women's eyes seemed to bore into her. Harmony looked away, but it was to late. The memories came unbidden and they weren't going to be stopped now they'd been let loose.

So the weird occurrences were a little more frequent that she was willing to admit to, but just because her hair had grown back when Aster had shaved her bold, three times, or that time she'd somehow ended up on the roof when she'd been trying to get away from Billy and his thugs or that time when she'd had to grab a hot tray out of the oven and she'd badly burned her hands but they'd looked perfectly fine a few minutes later.

None of that meant she was a witch, did it?

But then other memories came to her, her mother stirring a pot without touching it. The flowers in the garden growing despite the thick snow. A spoonful of something horrid that made her ears steam. A picture that moved like a film.

Had her mother been a witch too? Or was she just a freak like her daughter?

Harmony glanced down at the letter and ran her fingers over the words. If this was real it would mean she could leave this horrid place. But could she trust this woman on blind faith alone.

A loud bang of thunder made her jump, causing her leg to knock of the fragile teacup near her feet. It never stood a chance against her heavy boots.

The letter was forgotten for the moment as she bent down to try and clear up the mess.

Aster was going to kill her when she saw that Harmony had broken one of her porcelain cups.

"Allow me Miss Potter". The voice was oddly close and Harmony looked up to see that the woman was stood over her with a strange looking stick.

Harmony's memories flashed back to the day her mother died, the man with the sinister smile.

But they were quickly washed away as she saw the shattered teacup knit back together before her eyes and the tea that had soaked into the shag-pile, pour it's self back into the repaired porcelain.

Cautiously Harmony picked the cup up and ran her fingers over the surface. There wasn't a single crack. If this woman was lying she was very good at illusions.

The woman moved away from her, and Harmony got off the floor, very gently placing the repaired cup onto the tea tray.

Harmony sat back down and contemplated what she'd just seen. After a minute or two one particularly burning question scorched its way across her tongue.

Grabbing hold of courage that she'd long since buried in favour of going unseen, Harmony looked the woman directly in the eyes.

"Ok, so say that I do believe you. Magic is real and I'm apparently a witch. Why are you only just coming for me now? I've been trapped in this godforsaken institution for years! Surely someone could've come for me sooner".

Harmony was ashamed to say that she felt a single tear leave her eye, but she swiped at it angrily.

"The simple answer to your question Miss Potter. Is that today you turned eleven and our society demands that once this age is reached all humans with magic must be trained to use it".

Harmony blinked. She'd quite forgotten that today was her birthday.

"So what you're saying is that children don't matter to your society until you deem them old enough to be trained".

The woman's eyes flashed.

"No Miss Potter. What I am saying is that as a Muggle born our society would've had no known record of you until the registration book saw fit to send you your acceptance letter."

"Muggle born?"

"A child born to parents who don't possess magic".

Harmony bit her lip. Should she tell her what she'd remembered about her mother?

"So ... Hypothetically if someone was to have a witch for a mother, would they still be a Muggle born?"

"No Miss Potter, they'd be a half blood. But it was my understanding that you had no knowledge of magic when I first handed you your letter. Are you now trying to tell me otherwise?"

The woman's glare was fierce and Harmony gulped.

"Not necessarily. She may have just been a freak like me, but I can remember a few odd things from when I was a young child. Flowers growing in several feet of snow, photograph's that moved on their own and a few other things. Would that make her a witch?"

"First things first Miss Potter. I would caution you against calling anyone, including yourself, with magic a freak. Secondly she does certainly sound like she was a witch. May I enquire as to your mother's name?".

"I don't really know it".

"I'm sorry?"

"I don't really know. Her first name was Ophelia and I know her last name wasn't the same as mine, I can remember her telling me I was named for my father. We rarely ever left the house, but no one ever called her by her last name because she just introduced herself as Ophie."

The woman looked at her wonderingly.

"Well Miss Potter, you're turning out to quite a bit more of an enigma than I planned on unearthing today. But no matter. You're mother's name does ring a bell but I've had so many students pass through my hands I've quite forgotten those not in my house. It's possible your mother was a continental witch. It's certainly not likely your father was a wizard. There's only one magical Potter family I'm aware of. And the last surviving member of that is happily married with a son not much older than you".

"Oh"

The woman gave her a kind smile.

"Do try not to look so glum Miss Potter. You're still a witch and one in need of a great deal of training. Can I take it you would like to attend Hogwarts now you no longer think it a joke".

Harmony looked at the letter. This was her chance at freedom, but how was she going to afford this.

The woman could apparently read minds because the next thing she said answered Harmony's question before she'd even voiced it.

"Of course, I should perhaps mention that your school fees and the rest will be covered by the orphan fund. It will mean you will likely have to buy a few things second hand but I'm sure you'll manage".

She didn't like being reminded of her orphan status, but perhaps just this once it would come in useful. The fact they would pay her fees instantly lifted her spirits and for the first time in a long time she could feel hope of a better life igniting in her soul.

There was just one more question that needed answering.

"How do I get hold of an owl to write my reply on"

As soon as the words left her mouth she cringed; she could see the woman trying to hold back a smile.

"I can assure you Miss Potter. That the wizarding world is not yet bad enough off that we are being forced to write our missives on our familiars. In any case the need for a written reply is a moot point, since I am the one who needs to receive it, so what is your answer."

Well there was only ever going to be one reply that Harmony could give to that question.

Wasn't there.