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Amy Smith used to try to believe that the weird stuff that happened round her was just her imagination. After all, it couldn't really be anything else, could it? There was probably a reasonable explanation for why she could hear a hundred times better than any of her friends, especially when people were talking about her – and the rest was just so silly. She couldn't possibly have made Mike's hair fall out when he tried to beat her up, and he said the next day at school he'd decided to get a skinhead because it looked well hard. And she must have imagined the time the cat vanished and turned up again on the other side of town just as it was about to pounce on her hamster. Probably it was just scared of hamsters, or something, and had run away very quickly. If it had happened, that would have been – well, something scary that she didn't want to think about. She'd never liked things that didn't make sense. She wasn't sure how she was supposed to act, and she felt all hot and awkward. Though she always felt like the odd one out at school anyway. All she really wanted was to feel she belonged somewhere.

That was why she liked the Scripture Union group at her new school, the big school, so much, even though her parents didn't seem all that keen on it. Terry, who led the group, was so nice and friendly, and made everything seem so clear and straightforward, and the other kids were nice, although they mostly didn't have much in common other than God and not fitting in.

All she really wanted was to know where she belonged. Looking back, she probably should have been more careful about what she asked for.

***

It was a bit of a shock when the old woman turned up at the front door and insisted she was a witch and had to learn to magic. It was even more of a shock when her parents looked at each other, nodded significantly – and her Dad muttered "So Uncle Bill wasn't senile after all" – then said "She'll go."

She tried everything, from weeping to begging to praying – to God, obviously, not to her mum and dad – but her parents were adamant. Even the fact that the witch had said that she'd missed the first year of her education, because there'd been some sort of a war didn't put them off. "I suppose it makes sense" her mum had said, "there's always been something a bit… different about her… Oh, don't look so pole-axed, Amy, you'll get used to it; it's only realising what you are." Eventually, she'd screwed a promise out of them that if she didn't like it after a year, she wouldn't have to go back, though she suspected that her parents were hoping they'd never have to keep their promise. She'd see to it that they did, though.

Only a year was an awfully long time.

In desperation, she turned to Terry.

"What should you do if your Dad makes you do something you don't want to?" she asked him at the end of a meeting.

"Um… that depends what it is and why you don't want to do it" he said. "Everything all right? You're not upset about anything? Has anyone done anything to make you feel bad? Or anything to hurt you?"

"He wants me to do something that's wrong, and that I don't want to do," she said, conveniently ignoring the fact that her mother was backing him up, even though she could usually twist her round her little finger. Just cause she didn't know better than to think magic was really impressive! And cause Dad turned out to have… evil … family.

Terry was looking at her oddly. "Oh… What…" For some reason he seemed to be choosing his words very carefully. "What exactly does he want you to do?"

"He wants me to go to this school where…" she paused. The scary old witch had been very strict about her not telling anyone about magic, and Terry probably wouldn't believe her, anyway. Grown-ups could be like that. Normally she found it reassuring, but as things were, it didn't help. "Where they teach you to do bad things and not believe in God."

Terry, for some reason, looked relieved, which he definitely shouldn't have been doing, but also confused. "What? What sort of a school? What bad things?"

"This weird boarding school that some of Dad's family apparently used to go to, though he's never talked about it before. It's…" she thought fast, remembering what the old witch had said, because she didn't want anyone to turn Terry into a toad, or whatever it was they did to people who found out about them, "It's sort of a special science college. "

"Oh" said Terry. "Look, I know it's tough, but you can't just ignore what your parents want you to do. Honour your father and mother, eh?"

"But –"

He held up a hand. "No, I think I know what you're going to say. Whatever anyone's said at fellowship, science isn't a threat to God. Actually, it sounds like a really great chance for you, I bet they'll have all sorts of fantastic stuff you'd never get a sniff at round here. You do science here, anyway – and quite right, too."

If only you knew, thought Amy, miserably. That was the worst of it, really; she couldn't even tell Terry the truth, or the witches would come round and – well, she didn't dare imagine what they'd do. And what could you do, anyway, as a kid, when your parents told you to go away to boarding school and learn magic? She was pretty sure that it wasn't anything Childline could deal with.

Terry was still talking: with a hopeless effort, she concentrated on what he was saying. "So: if someone tries to make you do something you think is wrong, then you shouldn't. But you ought to listen, and then decide what God's telling you to do. I think you shouldn't worry about going. Listen, test, and pray. Learning stuff doesn't hurt you, even if it's just learning how other people think. Read your Bible and pray, and you'll be all right. And if it's the boarding bit that's really worrying you… you'll be all right with that. It'll be tough at first, but everyone will be missing their mum and dad, even if they don't want to admit it. You'll soon make friends, and I bet when you come home at Christmas you'll think it's the best thing ever."

He hesitated, then rolled his sleeve up, unclipped the fabric bracelet he was wearing, and gave it to her. "Look... take that. Maybe it'll make you feel better, and remember that God's always there for you."

"Thanks, Terry," said Amy, feeling touched. PUSH, it read - Pray until something happens.

•••

But going to Hogwarts didn't look like being the best thing ever so far. Amy had sat in the corner of a compartment, hunched in misery, and trying to ignore everyone who came in. The train seemed quite empty, though, and when she merely mumbled something incoherent – she was trying not to cry – most of them went on to another compartment.

Most of the kids had – as far as she could tell – seemed quite normal; apart from the cloaks, they weren't at all what she had expected from witches. They mostly seemed to be wearing jeans or cords or tweed; the worst you could say about them was that a lot of them looked very old-fashioned, like children from one of those serials that you used to get on the BBC at Sunday teatime.

"Hey, are you all right?" A red-headed girl had poked her head round the door. "I'm Ginny Weasley– I'm a prefect, and I'm supposed to look after the younger kids, so…"

"'M fine" muttered Amy, and dragged her hand across her eyes.

"What's your name?"

"Amy. Amy Smith."

"Are you sure you're OK? Are you feeling a bit homesick? When I first came to Hogwarts, I really missed my Mum and Dad, even though I had lots of brothers at the school, so I bet it's even worse if you've no family here. Everyone feels homesick at first, you don't need to be ashamed of it."

"'Mnot homesick," said Amy defiantly. "Not really. I just don't want to go to school here."

"Why not? Hogwarts is a brilliant school."

"'Mnot a witch."

The red-haired girl stared at her. "But – of course you are. You wouldn't have got a Hogwarts letter otherwise. They don't make mistakes."

"I can't do magic" said Amy, flatly.

Ginny smiled. "Of course you can. Maybe it'll take a while before you get your first spell to work, but you'll get there in the end. And it doesn't mean you'll never be any good at magic. One of my friends got really lousy marks for most of his time at school, and thought he was rubbish, but he's turned out to be very good, once he stopped panicking. One of the bravest people I know, at that – and the kindest. Did some pretty remarkable things last year."

"You don't understand" said Amy. "I can't do magic. I mustn't." She added in a smaller voice "Nobody ought to. It's wicked" but she wasn't sure Ginny was listening.

"Stay here" said Ginny. "I'll go and ask someone else to come and talk to you. Oh, - and have a hanky."

Amy took it from her, and slowly unfolded it. It was a small, crisp square of a fine, light white fabric, and it smelled faintly of lavender.

Amy burst into tears.

•••

" – that's her in there" Amy dimly heard the red-headed girl saying. "She seems really unhappy, and she said she couldn't do magic, which is mad, because she wouldn't be here if she wasn't a witch. Poor kid, she's probably just worried because she's so behind for her age."

Another girl laughed. "It's a common problem at the moment, isn't it? OK, Ginny, I'll try and have a talk with her, but you're better at this sort of thing than I am…"

"Yeah, but I'm not a Muggleborn" the red-head said. The compartment doors slid back, and Amy hastily wiped her eyes with Ginny's hanky and tried to look as if she hadn't spent the last ten minutes crying. She had to be brave, after all, and trust that God would help her.

A round-faced girl with a mop of untidy brown curls pushed her head round the door. She looked, Amy thought, a bit old to be at school, more like a student, but she was wearing the same kind of cloak as the other kids. "Hello," she said, and smiled in what was probably meant to be a reassuring way. "I'm Hermione Granger, and you must be – Amy, isn't it? I'm Head Girl, so when Ginny said you seemed a bit upset, I thought I should come and see if there was anything I could do to help. If you're worried about being behind, you needn't be. You'll catch up with a bit of hard work, and there are a lot of people in a similar situation – I missed my last year because of the war, so I've ended up in a class with people who are younger than me."

"I don't want anything" said Amy. Then she thought that was rather rude. You shouldn't be rude, even to witches, she thought, so she added. "Thanks. But I'm just not a witch. I'm only going because my parents made me, and I'm only staying for a year. It's against my religion. I'm a Christian."

Hermione raised her eyebrows. "Amy, I don't know who's been talking to you, but Professor Sprout must have said it's not something you get a choice about. You are a witch or wizard or you aren't, it's something inside you. It's got nothing to do with religion. I mean, I'm not really religious myself, but that's how I was brought up – by non-magic people, incidentally. But my – fiancé's family are Catholics, and I know the Headmistress goes to church every week in the village, and quite a few people go with her. We've got some Jews and Muslims and Hindus in the school, come to that. Anyway, should I put your name down for church on Sunday? What are you – C of E?"

Amy gaped a little, but rallied. "Going to church every Sunday doesn't make you a Christian."

Hermione looked startled; it obviously wasn't the answer she was expecting to hear. Then she brightened. "Well, of course I know you have to be baptised and stuff, but I can assure you that all my fiancé's family – actually, Ginny's one of them – were all baptised when they were little."

"Being baptised doesn't make you a Christian, that's just what Catholics think, and they're mostly not really Christians, my pastor says," said Amy. Hermione's eyebrows now appeared to be trying to crawl off the top of their head. "I'm sure some of them are, though", she added hastily.

"Uh huh" said Hermione, in an odd tone of voice. "So what does, and what on earth has it got to do with not doing magic?"

"Accepting Jesus Christ as your personal saviour" answered Amy promptly. "And following the Bible. And it says in the Bible that doing magic is evil, so I can't do magic."

Hermione sighed "But Amy, Muggles think magic is bad because they think it means conjuring up the devil and getting him to do things for you. That's not what we do. It's like – being very strong. It's only good or bad depending on what you do with it. It's not the sort of witchcraft the Bible's talking about."

"It's the word of God, so if it says magic is bad, then it must be bad" said Amy firmly. "I mean, being a witch probably isn't a sin, because being bad-tempered isn't either. But it is if you do it. It's just a temptation I've got to live with. I don't mind if I get chucked out of Hogwarts, it wasn't my idea to come. But hopefully I'll be able to, um, witness for Christ before I do. Have you, um, you know, thought about asking Jesus into your life?"

Hermione stared at her. Then she said "I – ah, I should be going, I need to go and talk to the new prefects. But I hope you'll think about this, Amy, I really don't believe God would give people a gift and then punish them for using it." And before Amy could even mention the tree in the Garden of Eden, she was gone. Faintly, she heard Hermione say "- completely hopeless, can't you talk to her again, it's more your sort of thing."

"I'm a bad Catholic, I don't think that counts," said Ginny, lightly. Aha, thought Amy, she knows something's wrong. Maybe she could help her accept Jesus into her life? She resolved to pray for her – and for Hermione too, though she didn't seem to like her very much…

Ginny was still talking. "Maybe we should ask Father David to come over to school and talk to her?"

"I bet she'll ask him if he's saved" said Hermione, in disgusted tones.

"Well, he's a good bloke, and he's kind, even when people are rude to him" said Ginny. Rude? thought Amy. What an odd way to look at it. Poor Ginny, she obviously had no idea… "He even managed to be polite to Malfoy senior when he complained about him praying for Muggleborns at that last Christmas carol service. Well, I say he was polite, but what I mean is he didn't actually tell him in so many words to go snog a Dementor or hex his balls off, and if he was dead and Catholic that alone'd be grounds for canonization, never mind the rest of it. That was just before they came and... God, how can that only have happened last year?"

"Come on." There was a noise as if Hermione had hugged the other girl. "Let's go and see the other prefects. Oh God, I bet the hat puts her in Gryffindor, we're going to be in negative points by the end of the week."

"It could be worse. Can you imagine her and Snape, poor bugger…?" the voices trailed away.

•••

Amy had to admit that part of her was really impressed by the boat-ride across the loch to the castle, high above the water. It was certainly a beautiful place, and even overhearing someone explain that "only witches and wizards can see Hogwarts – Muggles just see a ruin" didn't entirely spoil her enjoyment. Though probably the fact that it was beautiful counted as a temptation, too.

It was only when they got to the school that things got really weird, and considering that up to that point she'd seen pet toads, boats that moved of their own accord, and a man with incredibly untidy hair who looked too big to be allowed, that was saying something.

They said that they were going to be sorted into houses, and there had been all sorts of weird theories about how that would work. There were all sorts of ridiculous rumours about what they would have to do: a mousy haired boy said miserably that they had to wrestle a troll, and someone else said that they had to do a test of magic. That was OK, thought Amy. She'd just not do it, and then they'd send her home.

Except it wasn't that. They pushed them to the front of the hall, with all the other pupils sitting looking at them, and they looked at the pupils, and at a stool, on which sat a hat.

A hat. A shabby, slightly scorched looking hat that sang something alarming-sounding about peace and friendship rising from the ashes of hatred and suspicion.

And then they had to put it on their heads.

"Is that all?" muttered a boy. Amy said nothing, but she thought a hat that could look in your head was a good deal more alarming than anything they'd thought of in the boat coming across. And then she thought hopefully, perhaps it will see I don't want to be here and send me home.

Only it didn't. She sat down on the stool, and felt Professor Sprout lower the hat onto her head, and then she heard the hat, talking very quietly so that only she could hear. It was like having someone whispering in her ear.

"Hm" the voice said. "Not Slytherin, obviously, too direct. And I don't see you doing well in Ravenclaw. You might fit in Hufflepuff, that's a very strong sense of loyalty you've got there."

"I don't want to be here," thought Amy flatly. "I'm not going to do magic, it's wrong."

"Who gave you that idea?" the hat replied, sounding curious. "I haven't heard that in a long time. And what do you plan to do instead?"

"Tell them the truth. Tell them magic's not God's will."

"Nonsense," said the hat, rather impatiently. "And they won't like it, you know."

"I can't help that," thought Amy, and tried to stifle the feelings of misery and loneliness that washed over her at the idea of everyone thinking she was mad or being angry with her or trying to force her to do magic. She really couldn't help it, though.

"Well, that clarifies matters a bit," the voice said. "You're going to have a rotten time if you don't rethink your ideas, but there's no doubt that you're a – GRYFFINDOR!"

Over at the Gryffindor table, she saw Ginny put her head in her hands, and some of the children from her year who had already been sorted looked decidedly fed up.

I hate Hogwarts, thought Amy as she walked over to them. It's horrible, and evil, and I'd rather die than do magic and be like them.

•••

Things, predictably, did not improve once classes started. She hated getting awful marks, she hated feeling she ought to join in, she hated that the teachers kept taking house points off her because she wasn't trying – though she did do the written work, and even got reasonably good marks – and most of all, she hated that they cut her off before she could explain why she wouldn't do magic. Her classmates all thought she was weird, and they didn't listen when she tried to tell them why she didn't join in with stuff. Some of them laughed at her, and one of the boys, who said he was an Anglican, called her a stupid heretic. She wasn't sure what a heretic was, but somehow that seemed worse than the Muggleborn witch who said that Christians were evil and burnt witches and tried to make everyone do what they wanted instead of what was natural. Heretic-boy, at that point, completely lost his temper and hit the other girl with some sort of curse that made her sprout alarming big flapping things from her nose, and was just telling Amy that it was people like her that gave the church a bad name when Professor Sprout turned up and gave all three of them detention, which didn't seem fair, as Amy hadn't actually done anything. During detention – re-potting Snargaluff seedlings, which were horribly sticky – Heretic-boy, who was called Pusey, and seemed to be slightly ashamed of landing her in detention, kept trying to convince her of how much Christian stuff there was in wizarding culture. Eventually she snapped that she knew all that – which, she later realised uneasily, wasn't entirely true – but that it didn't make any difference, magic was still immoral.

"Sure" said Pusey, "they're waiting till we've got our OWLs to teach us to invoke Satan, but we're starting on human sacrifice next week – oh, for crying out loud, that was a joke, Hogwarts isn't Dark… There's nothing wrong with magic, there's heaps of wizarding saints, Dunstan and Mungo and Dominic and Christina Mirabilis, and… um, would you like to borrow my hanky? It's only a little bit sticky."

"Oh leave me alone" snarled Amy, and dragged her hand across her eyes.

Then she remembered, too late, that Sprout had told them not to let the sap get near their eyes. She spent the next day in the Hospital Wing with foul-smelling bandages over her eyes, and Madam Pomfrey coming in every now and again to tell her not to scratch and scold her for being too silly to listen.

She thought, sometimes, about running away, but that would be cowardly – and disobedient, too, she thought, after all, you had to stand the trials placed on you. And she had promised to try for a year.

Hermione Granger kept cornering her and trying to convince her that magic was a good thing. Like Pusey, she also kept coming out with even more obscure details about Christianity in the wizarding world. Not, to Amy's mind, that any of them proved anything. After all, in the middle ages people had never read their Bibles and been more interested in saints than Jesus, so they were probably capable of anything. But nothing she said seemed to change Hermione's mind, either.

Only one of the Gryffindor girls was still talking to her, but Vicky Sloane was nice, even if she changed the subject every time Amy tried to bring up God. She'd given up asking when Amy was going to give up and do magic, and although she was wizard-born, she was interested in football. Her uncle, who was a Muggle, used to take her, she said. And the classes weren't all dreadful. Herbology was actually quite good fun; History of Magic was unbelievably boring, once she had recovered from the shock at realising that the class was being taught by a ghost – she wondered if someone ought to exorcise it, but concluded that it was probably a dangerous thing to try if you didn't know what you were doing. On the other hand, you didn't have to do magic, just learn dates and things, so that was OK. Potions was all right, as well – after some thought, she had decided that it didn't seem that different, morally, from chemistry, what with there being no wand waving or spells, and she actually started to enjoy it. Of course, she'd never use any of the things they made, but she liked to watch the potions brewing, and there was something comforting about the way you followed a set of sensible instructions to a clear result. The teacher – Professor Grayne – was new, and seemed strict but nice; Amy was rather baffled to hear some of the Gryffindors from a couple of years above talking about how soft and useless she was.

"They mean compared to the potions teacher before last," said Vicky, briskly packing away her potions kit. "He was headmaster last year, and then he was killed. He was really horrible – and everyone thought he was evil, only it turned out he wasn't."

"What? Evil?" said Amy. Vicky has spoken quite matter-of-factly.

"Well, everyone thought he was on You-Know-Who's side – I mean Voldemort's, we can say it now – only it turned out he was working for Dumbledore and on the right side all along, and he helped Harry Potter to destroy Voldemort, and he got killed doing so. And he did try to protect the students from the other Death Eaters."

"Death Eaters?" Amy squeaked. Now that did sound like black magic. Only – if other witches and wizards were against it… Of course, they seemed to genuinely believe that some magic was OK… "Vicky, what are you talking about?"

Vicky's eyes stretched wide. "The war, idiot! Harry Potter saving us from the Dark Lord – who'd have had you locked up in prison, incidentally. I don't know, Amy, maybe if you tried to find out what the wizarding world is actually like, you might not offend half the people you meet before you get two minutes into a conversation with them."

"I'm just trying to tell them the truth, and what the Bible says" said Amy crossly.

"Yeah, right. You know you do actually have to think about it, as well, right?" said Vicky, and got up to leave. "Give it a rest, Amy, you're not going to change anyone's mind, you know."

•••

Amy, because she was embarrassed, did go and read the paragraph at the end of Recent Developments in Magical History on the war. It turned out that there had been a booklet about it in the orientation pack Sprout had brought her parents, but she had refused to look at it. Both booklet and Recent Developments seemed to be trying to be dull and matter of fact, but whole story was most alarming, and it didn't seem to make much sense.

The worst moment, though, was when someone had, once again, tried to tell her, totally ignoring what the Bible said, that magic was OK, and once again had said that this 'Father David' would be able to tell her better. Amy was sick of the name.

"He can't be that good a Christian if he just ignores what the Bible says," said Amy, shrilly, "I don't think I ought to go to that sort of church."

The other Gryffindor – this time it was a third year called Fenwick – turned pale and, most unexpectedly, slapped her.

"Fenwick! Stop it, you can't hit first years!" said one of the girl's friends, catching her arm. Amy, blinking with shock more than pain, said nothing.

"I don't care," said Fenwick, who looked almost on the verge of tears herself. "I'm not religious, but I'm not going to let a snotty little cow talk about him like that, as if she was better than him. Not after last year."

But Pusey, who had been on the fringes of the crowd, came and stood beside Amy and said quietly, "It's not her fault, really. She doesn't know what happened."

"Then I suggest you tell her," snapped Fenwick. "As for you, Smith, one of these days you'll get into serious trouble making assumptions about people you've never met. Oughtn't to go to his church! Bloody hell, you're not fit to be his house-elf."

House-elf?

"Come on, Smith," said Pusey, "and listen, for once…" He took her arm and drew her, un-protesting, out of the corridor and into the courtyard.

"You know what happened last year, right?" His voice was rough, as if he was frightened and trying to hide it.

"There was a war, and Harry Potter defeated the Dark Lord. You all talk about him as he was Jesus, or something…."

Pusey glared, but seemed to decide to ignore her last comment. "Not just that. Merlin, didn't you read the stuff they sent out before term…? Or listen to Sprout? The Death-Eaters wanted to stop people who didn't have wizard parents from having magic –"

"I wouldn't mind. They could have had mine."

"Shut up and listen, will you? They thought that Muggleborns – like you – were too dirty and common to be magical. They thought you weren't really human. You can't imagine it, even if you've seen the pictures…. They killed a lot of Muggles, too. Remember that bridge collapsing? And the train accident? They weren't accidents, that was black magic. And they rounded up all the Muggleborns, and people who didn't agree with them. And they, well, sent them to camps, and took their wands away, and made them work for almost no food, and lots of them died, and it was horrible. Really, really horrible."

He paused, and swallowed. Amy was silent, feeling as if a cold hand had closed on her stomach. What sort of a world was this?

Pusey went on. "Well, they had taken over the government, and a lot of people just went along with it, because they were scared, or they didn't believe the government would really do anything evil as that and it was just rumours – they'd taken over the press, and they kept saying the people who were taken away were terrorists –, or because they wanted to have a quiet life or make more money, or… I don't know. Mostly because they were scared, I think. I hope. But some people fought back. Harry Potter, and Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger –"

"What, that Hermione Granger? The Head Girl?"

"Yes," said Pusey, crossly. "How can you not know… She's wonderful, she's so brave and clever and pretty… Anyway, there were the Three, who really saved us all from V-Voldemort, and there were people like the Order of the Phoenix who fought against the Death-Eaters – and lots of them got killed – and Potterwatch, who kept a radio station going with real news , not the rubbish that was on the WWN, and then there were lots of people who didn't fight but who did what they could to help people who were in trouble. And Fr David saved a lot of Muggleborns. He helped a whole lot of kids get to a convent – a magical one – where they hid for a bit and then got out of the country. And he had a lot of people hidden for a few days in his attic who'd run away from Hogwarts or who were on the run, so they had a better chance to get away. Fenwick's big brother, for instance. Her parents are dead, the DE's killed them, but her brother got to Norway and lived, and Fr David's one of the people who helped him get away. But he got on the wrong side of Lucius Malfoy – it started with the carol service, of all things, Fr David prayed for Muggleborns – and in the end they took him away, and put him in prison, and – I guess they must have tortured him. But he came back to his parish as soon as the Healers let him, as if he'd just been on holiday or something."

Amy's cheeks burned. She forced herself to look at Pusey, and saw his face had taken on a strangely awed expression, even more so than when he had talked about Granger.

"He's a hero," he said finally. "A real, genuine hero, and even though he'd say he was just doing his duty, and lots of people did more, you mustn't be surprised if people get angry if you say he's not a good Christian. Specially Fenwick. She'd have lost all her family, if it wasn't for him. You'll be, well, you'll be doing well if you're ever half as good as he is." He gave an awkward, embarrassed laugh at sounding so sentimental. "So will I be," he added.

"He sounds… very brave. But that doesn't mean he's right about magic." said Amy, almost reluctantly. "And honestly, Pusey, the more you say about Volde-whatsit and the Death Eaters, the more you make me think none of us should be messing about with magic. It isn't right."

"But can't you feel the difference? None of us chose to be magical. But you can choose if you want to be like Voldemort or not."

"But it's more important to choose if you want to follow Jesus or not. But I suppose you just think he was another kind of wizard." And there it was, she realised, her secret fear. Because with all the things magic could do, how could you know Jesus was special? Well, because the Bible told you, and the magic other people did was just a trick. But if you didn't believe the Bible, then it all fell to bits…

But Pusey was looking indignant. "I do not! For one thing, you can't beat death by magic. There's no spell in the world that can do that, not truly. That's God, that is. And he was God, is God. That's totally different to being able to do a little bit of magic."

"Well, yeah…."

They looked at each other tentatively, surprised by the sudden moment of agreement. Then he said, "The sacraments don't work like magic, either."

"Sacraments?"

Pusey looked at her narrowly. "Baptism and Communion, f'rinstance."

"Oh, that. That's just symbolic" said Amy.

"Heretic," said Pusey. "You're hopeless."

"You're rude."

"You're stupid."

"So are you."

There was a long pause. Then Amy said cautiously, "What is a house-elf, anyway?"

•••

She had a number of conversations like that with Pusey over the next couple of weeks: they tended to start amicably enough, then dissolve into arguments. She didn't know why he didn't just leave her alone, but he seemed to keep wanting to make up with her, but be unable to stay made up.

They were about half way through the term, and her teachers were getting increasingly exasperated with her – with the exception of Professors Sprout, Grayne, and of course Binns, though the latter didn't really count, as he had never once managed to get her name right, even the time she had asked if the witch burning mightn't have had something to do with the Muggles being frightened (and when, she wondered, had she started calling normal people Muggles? She had to stop doing that.) One Saturday morning at breakfast, an owl dropped a folded note on her plate, and flapped off without waiting for any tit-bits. A shame; Amy genuinely did like the owls, and thought that she'd miss them when she finally left.

Cautiously, Amy unfolded the note – she didn't know the writing.

"The Headmistress" said Pusey, peering over her shoulder. "You're for it, Smith."

"Didn't anyone ever tell you it's rude to read other people's letters, Pusey?" Amy snapped.

"Ah, but it doesn't say so in the Bible, so it must be OK, right?" said Pusey, smugly.

"Don't be an idiot!"

"And it doesn't say 'Thou shalt fail your end of year exams because you're too bloody stubborn to admit you're wrong, either, so –"

"That's not the same thing!"

"Ahem" said a voice behind them. Amy spun round and saw Hermione Granger. "Pusey, literacy is a wonderful thing, but five points from Gryffindor, and it'll be a lot more if I ever catch you snooping at other people's letters again. Haven't you got anywhere else to be? Hang on, Amy, not you, I'd like a word with you."

Great, thought Amy; another set of so-called saints and dodgy bishops... Arguing with Hermione Granger was like being hit over the head with half the library.

Though to be fair, she was a lot more interesting than Binns. On the other hand, so was mould.

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