By Jared Chausow
By Katie Toth
By Elizabeth Flock
By Albert Samaha
By Anna Merlan
By Jon Campbell
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
Looking up from her bowl of Bertie Botts' navy bean soup, she couldn't suppress a flash of annoyance as she saw the vaporous figure drifting through the Senate cafeteria. Its shoes floating above the floor, it was trying to greet the busy wizards and their staffers, who often strode right through its outstretched hand.
Who let him in here? Hillary thought, knowing she should be more tolerant. But in her third year of whooshing around Hogwarts in elevators marked "Senators Only," she just got so angry every time he appeared. Maybe she should leave her meal unfinished and get in one, where the visitor couldn't follow. But he was already wafting toward her, a familiar twinkle in his see-through eyes.
"Hello, Nearly Headless Bill," Hillary said coldly.
"I wish you wouldn't call me that," he complained. "Back when I was teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts, I'd have been plain old Headless Bill if it had been up to you. And you wouldn't be here if it wasn't for me."
"You wouldn't have been there if it wasn't for me, either," Hillary reminded him sharply, as her old headband indentation throbbed again. "And everyone else who ever stood by you got expelled from Hogwarts as soon as you left, remember? Or hit with a Gibberish Charm. It's why I'm a legend," she said bitterly. " 'That's Hillary PotterThe FONHB Who Lived!' " *
Even as she spoke, two different owls dropped envelopes on the table. Tearing themselves open, both envelopes began spouting gibberishone in a scream, and the other in more of a bleat.
"Is it true?" Nearly Headless Bill asked almost, but not quite, guiltily. "I mean, what happens once they get turned into unaddressed Howlers?"
"It's true. Unless they can find a recipient, nothing they say will ever make sense again. Carvala! Begville. Please go away now," Hillary said. "Go bother Bloated Teddy for a while."
Resealing themselves, the envelopes flew off to the cafeteria's dessert line. But Nearly Headless Bill still lingered. "I want to tell you something," he said. "I know the Defense Against the Dark Arts job is open again next year. And everywhere I go, I float through Believers all saying you should try."
She had known all along this was coming. Like his body, Nearly Headless Bill's motives were always transparent.
"You know I can't run," she told him. "I'm only a third-year Hogwarts Senatornot even a prefect yet. I haven't even learned the Immunization Spell. And I can't go against the Prophecy."
"But what if Eleanor was wrong about the year?" he urged her. "Hagridlock says that in the Forbidden Forest, the ashcrofts are growing wild. Anyway, if you do decide to run, I wanted you to know I'm with you."
"That's my problem," Hillary very nearly shouted, her headband indentation going scarlet. "Oh, leave me alone, Nearly Headless Bill! I need to think. Go talk to Dumbledole."
After a moment, he dutifully floated toward the Hogwarts Senate's former headmaster, who had just materialized in a puff of Sixty Minute Dustheralded, as always now, by Viagra, his pet phoenix. Watching their conversation through Nearly Headless Bill's back, Hillary felt a surge of affection for her husband's old antagonist. Since his retirement, she had, like everyone else, grown fond of Dumbledole. Viagra's presence and the Britney Charm made him more genial.
It was just that his wife was a Death Eater. And the former Liddy Malfoy wasn't even the worst of them, Hillary knew.
Just thinking of the Death Eaters made her old headband indentation ache. How they used Fox Dementors to suck the hearts and brains out of their prey, replacing one with a vial of Fear Potion and the other with a sprinkle of the red-white-and-blue powder that induced a Solipsism Trance. Hillary and her friends, who believed that magic should be used to improve people's lives, had never understood how such menacing creatures fooled the Gopplesthe trusting souls beyond Hogwarts' walls who simply refused to believe that wizards like Liddy Malfoy, Santorum Snape, and Mitch McGonnagle could be up to no good.
What the Prophecy of Eleanor had said, as all Believers knew, was that only Hillary Potter could stop them. That was the meaning of the red mark on her forehead.
I never asked for it, she thought resentfully, as the first bell rang announcing the next session of the Senate Chamber of Secrets. The truth was that sometimes Hillary hated being the one and only Hillary Potter. For years, she'd tried to hide her headband indentation with one hairdo or another, while insisting on calling herself Hillary Dursley Potter to keep her destiny at bay.
Deep down, she wasn't even sure she was a Believer. She remembered one secret gathering when they'd all been enraged at Nearly Headless Bill for giving in to the Death Eaters by changing the rules of Hogwarts' house sport. Since Chappaquidditch had been named in his honor, Bloated Teddy was naturally the angriest: "Am I to understand that from now on, any players who lose the power of flight will just crash?" he demanded. Everybody knew he hadn't been on a broom in years, but then Almost Invisible Jesse rose. "I refuse to play Chappaquidditch when only the other team gets the Golden Snitch," he bellowed.