My name is Margaret. I have a last name but I don’t like it. So Margaret is what you should call me.
I am eleven, which is much better than ten. More mature. I have come a long way on the train all by myself because when you are eleven, you have the maturity to do that.
This is an essay for Professor Snape because I have done something bad. I said sorry, and sorry again in a quieter voice, and he said that is not enough, you must have a detention and write. When other students must write, especially Hufflepuff students, they have to write the same thing a hundred or a thousand times. Lucy says one million billion times but that would take far too long for a detention unless you have a Time Turner. Lucy does not have one. If it was Pansy or Dextra, one million billion would be a lie, but Lucy is nice, so instead it is an exaggeration. Exaggerations are what you call lies when nice people say them. My writing is to be an essay about me and what the blazes I think I’ve been doing with my time at Hogwarts. I would rather write the same thing a hundred times.
When I was eight, the governess decided to teach us about metaphors and similes. The fog comes on little cat feet and My love is like a red, red rose. Peter and Stephen didn’t understand, but I did. Everything has a lot of traits so it is easy to say how it is like something else. Similes are better, though, because metaphors seem too much like lies.
Also when I was eight, and also now still, I decided my life would be better if it was narrated by someone. THIRD PERSON. It’s much more official.
Time is like a handful of jam. It seems solid but when you move just the slightest bit it turns out to be unstable. Also sticky. Memories are like the bits of jam stuck to your hand after the rest of it's fallen through your fingers onto the floor. Other people's sticky leftover bits are quite a bit bigger than Margaret’s, if she understands correctly what other people have told her. Which sometimes is not the case. Most people -- carers, teachers, and the like -- seem to think it's Margaret's fault for not getting what other people say. She accepts that that may sometimes be the truth, but other times it is other people's saying of things that is incorrect.
Margaret's sticky bits of memories are quite small and she thought before that that was always true, that today was always far, far bigger than the yesterdays, even though the yesterdays have a greater count to them, but now she has been informed that for other people the memories are large-ish and sometimes even touch each other. (Some people at Mungo’s have such huge jam memories that they can’t see their today hand at all. But that is not Most People.)
Margaret has a snake. The snake has a name but Margaret doesn’t know what it is because Margaret doesn’t speak Parseltongue.
Margaret was reading for homework in the Gryffindor common room with the snake keeping her company. The snake was resting where it usually does, around Margaret’s arm and across her shoulders with its head in Margaret’s other armpit because there it is warm. Snakes of this kind like to have a temperature of 27 to 29 degrees but the air in the common room cannot be that hot because all the people and animals that are not snakes would fall down fainting.
Harry said hello very quietly and he was alone by himself which was quite good. Harry has two friends who attack Margaret’s ears with loud. All the time, not even talking, they can jump on Margaret and crowd her. A lot of people crowd Margaret, but Harry doesn’t. Mostly. He can be quiet and keep in his body. It calms the air.
The snake raised its head out of Margaret’s armpit and looked at Harry. The snake likes quiet and calm air too.
“Your snake’s quite nice,” Harry said.
“Yes,” Margaret said.
“You didn’t want a cat? A lot of girls like cats,” Harry said.
“Fur gives a tickly itch shock,” Margaret said, because it does. It is rather amazing no one else seems to have noticed this.
Harry nodded and sat quietly reading a scroll. In a minute the snake made a short hiss-hiss. That was strange because usually the snake is silent. Margaret looked to see if it was upset, but it was looking at Harry who was looking back.
Then Harry made a hiss too, and the snake hissed longer. Then the snake went back under Margaret’s armpit and squeezed her arm like happiness. Because the snake was not upset, everything was fine and Margaret studied more.
Harry said a sound like, “Humf.” Then it was quiet. Then Harry said, “Hah-rumf,” like almost coughing.
Then Harry said, “Margaret, would you look at me, please?” so Margaret did.
“Your snake quite likes you,” Harry said.
This was something Margaret already knew so she waited for Harry to say something else.
“A lot,” Harry said. “It thinks you are the best possible friend it could have and appreciates your care.”
The snake tightened around Margaret’s arm, tight tight tightest, and Margaret was happy until Harry hissed and the snake let go. It moved to her lap and curled into a tight ball. That meant it was scared. Not by Margaret, so it was scared by Harry, and Margaret was not happy.
“I don’t like you doing that,” she told Harry. He hissed again and the snake curled tighter and Margaret could feel heat in her head. She wanted to jump up and stamp, but the snake needed her lap, so she put her anger in her eyes and looked at Harry. “I don’t like you doing that,” she said again as angrily as she could while being quiet.
“Me?” Harry asked. His eyes were as round as his glasses.
“You upset the snake,” Margaret said even though it was very, very obvious. Sometimes Most People are not smart enough to see the most important things.
“It was hurting you!” Harry said. “Your arm was turning purple.”
“It didn’t hurt. I like the squeezing. Leave us alone.”
Harry left the room and later the snake came back to Margaret’s arm. Margaret was reading for another class because that is what you must do if you are at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Margaret has a detention again. Margaret is writing an essay for Professor Sprout. The topic of this essay is other people’s feelings because we are very disappointed in you young lady.
Other people’s feelings are very, very, very, very important. Margaret has been told this all the time since she was a baby. Well, really, Margaret cannot remember being a baby so it is possible that telling Margaret this did not begin until Margaret was a few years old. People tend to ignore telling babies anything because if you don’t talk people think you can’t listen. This also happens to adults who don’t talk. Samuel, Lawrence, and Crawford, for example. There is also the case of strong feelings not being always important because calming down is the most important.
Kevin from Hufflepuff felt sad when Margaret shouted and kicked him. Margaret could tell because he looked like the picture SAD that Margaret’s carer showed her every day to teach her. And also like the picture HURT INSIDE that Crawford uses because his face can’t show that feeling.
Margaret was shouting because Kevin had said a very nasty and bad word to Margaret. He said, “Peggy-Peg.”
So this nasty word made Margaret very angry and nasty words can not be tolerated and Margaret was only fighting back.
Susan held Margaret’s hands together tight like a perfect ball which was excellent and serene, and looked at the floor. Margaret looked at the parting in Susan’s hair, it was straight and nice. “Margaret, please don’t shout,” said Susan so quietly.
Margaret didn’t want to shout any more. Everything was in the tight perfect ball of her hands. “I won’t,” she said, and Susan nodded.
“Good,” said Susan. “You seem angry.”
“Yes, I am,” said Margaret because if someone has guessed your emotion correctly you must reward them by telling them they’re right. Also the governess and carers would give a bit of rubber to squeeze or extra time on the swing but Margaret didn’t have those to give.
“Why are you angry?” asked Susan.
“She’s a nutter!” hollered Kevin, and Susan made a sound of zzzttt to him.
“What happened?” Susan asked. Kevin stood with very cross lips stuck together, so Margaret decided it was her turn to tell the story.
“Kevin said a bad word which is not allowed so I stopped him.”
Kevin’s eyes grew round and his mouth opened, exactly exactly like the SURPRISED card. “I didn’t say a bad word at all,” he said. “I called her Peggy-Peg and she flipped her lid.”
“That’s the bad word,” said Margaret, although now she was thinking that she didn’t know exactly what the word meant. It was bad though, like peg leg pirates and square pegs for round holes and the wee pegs of brandy that made Miss Estaurine’s breath smell strange.
“Cor,” said Kevin, and Susan hushed him, and Susan said, “I think it’s just a nickname, Margaret.”
“Yeah, my Ma’s name is Margaret and my Da calls her Peggy-Peg, and what with her name being Margaret, I just thought I’d call her that is all,” said Kevin. “I won’t make that mistake again.”
Kevin was not sad any more. Margaret could tell by his face. Then Professor Sprout came in and Susan said what happened and Professor Sprout’s face was DISAPPOINTED and Margaret will be allowed back in the Hufflepuff common room when she’s thought about what she’s done.
Margaret has been quite good, with no detentions. Nonetheless, which is from none-the-less but without the dashes, it is one word, nonetheless, Professor McGonagall has assigned Margaret an essay. Most essays are about runes and history and not-yourself but this one must be about Margaret.
Professor McGonagall said it can be about anything having to do with Margaret but then Professor Dumbledore said there are too many things about Margaret to fit into one essay even if Margaret had a self-writing quill which she does not. So Professor Dumbledore said the subject of the essay is to be a retelling of what Margaret’s fellow students have said about where Margaret lived before Hogwarts. Professor McGonagall said that topic is about fellow students, not Margaret, but Professor Dumbledore said intense truth is best glimpsed through a mirror and the bird with the longest wingspan must stretch farthest.
Margaret is not a bird and may not ever be an Animagus. Professor McGonagall is an Animagus who turns into a cat.
I don’t know why Professor Dumbledore talked about birds.
Professor McGonagall agreed with the essay topic after that. Now here are some of the things Margaret’s fellow students have said about where Margaret lived before Hogwarts.
Susan and Lucy and Megan from Hufflepuff said it doesn’t matter because Margaret belongs at Hogwarts now.
Hermione from Gryffindor said it’s a shame, and really the wizarding world ought to know better, but honestly the Muggle world isn’t that much better.
Pansy from Slytherin said it’s bad blood in a line that causes that awfulness and locking them away from decent people is only right. Draco from Slytherin said they should just kill all those loonies to erase the blight.
Ron from Gryffindor said Mungo’s Bungos are an odd lot, and he made a face with wide rolling eyes and tongue stuck out to the side. Margaret said, “No, that’s only Lawrence.”
Ron looked at Margaret, and so did his tall brother with the kind face (only one because the other tall brother with the same kind face was somewhere else), and a few other students nearby at the dinner table looked too. But not too many.
“What?” asked Ron.
“Lawrence is the only one who makes that face,” said Margaret. “Tim tips his chin up like this, and says ‘Uh, uh, uhhh.’ Stephen bashes blocks together close by his nose, and Callum bashes his head. He wears a helmet so it won’t damage him.”
“How do you know that?” asked Ron’s brother.
“I’m not lying!” said Margaret.
“He didn’t say you were,” said Ron.
“I’m not!” said Margaret. Margaret’s speaking was rather loud, and Professor McGonagall reminded her that a moderate voice is best within the Great Hall.
Joshua from Ravenclaw said where you come from is not as important as where you let your brain take you, and if Margaret keeps reading Astronomy then a N.E.W.T. may take her to the stars. Margaret thinks that may be an exaggeration, but perhaps when she learns more magic, it won’t be.
Harry from Gryffindor said it’s difficult to be without your parents because a guardian may not be quite the same thing. Harry’s aunt and uncle seem not nice at all, and Margaret’s carer was mostly nice, but both are not the same as parents who love you. Harry has seen his parents smile at him, in a mirror and picture. Margaret hasn’t ever seen that even though her parents are alive while Harry’s are dead.
One day when Professor McGonagall was speaking to the students in the Gryffindor common room, she said, “And five points have been awarded to Gryffindor for the diligent straightening of the Great Room today by Mr. Creevey and Miss Margaret.”
Ron put his hand up and asked, “Is Margaret’s last name Margaret?”
Professor McGonagall frowned. “No, it is not,” she said.
Margaret’s face felt warm. She didn’t like her last name. Professor Dumbledore had promised at the very beginning that if Margaret agreed to come to Hogwarts, no one would ever use her last name.
“Then why do you call her Miss Margaret instead of Miss Whatever Her Last Name Is?” Ron asked.
Professor McGonagall frowned more. She frowned like Margaret’s carer frowned when she despaired of any good ever coming of something Margaret did. Professor McGonagall’s frown was pointed at Ron. “Miss Margaret has received a special dispensation, and that is all we are going to say about that.”
A first-year boy whose name Margaret didn't know with hair like a spinystar cactus asked, “What does dispensation mean?”
“Mr. Weasley will investigate that and then present it to the common room,” said Professor McGonagall. “By tomorrow evening, Mr. Weasley.”
Ron groaned and Hermione hushed him, and everyone went to their dormitories.
Professor Dumbledore is not a student but he said something about where Margaret lived before Hogwarts. He said the Sorting Hat did not make a mistake in putting Margaret in Gryffindor because to leave where you’ve lived every day of your life one way with rules and being looked after, and to come to a different world filled with Most People, is very brave indeed.
And that is all we are going to say about that.