by Emily Kopf
Word Count: 3346
Rating: PG for deceit and magic
Summary: Identical twin sisters try to pass off the squib twin as magical while attending Hogwarts.
It’s not easy being a Squib in an esteemed magical household. It’s even harder being a Squib in said household and pretending to have magic. It all started with Martyn and Valerie Pickersgill.
Martyn and Valerie had only been married three years when Valerie gave birth to identical twins named Averonna and Cheryce. Of course the couple had high hopes for their daughters. The Pickersgills were purebloods with a long history of magical talent. Both Martyn and Valerie, along with several of their family members and many ancestors, had made discoveries, won awards, and achieved greatness. (Not as great as some families, but that was beside the point.) It was only a matter of time before their daughters joined their family in magical talent.
And Averonna most certainly did. Before she was out of diapers, she was blowing bubbles the size of her head with her milk and turning the tabby cat purple. Martyn and Valerie were overjoyed at her talent and frequently bragged about her to their friends and family. They would have even instructed Averonna to show off her magical abilities to their guests if it wasn’t forbidden for children to practice magic outside of school.
Cheryce, however, was a different matter altogether. Where Averonna showed premature gifts, Cheryce showed nothing. Her parents tried everything to get her to produce even a sparkle of magic before she reached two digits in age. They encouraged her to copy Averonna’s actions and to operate some of the simple magical objects in their household, with no success. As the years passed, so did their desperation to prove her to have magical talent. As a last resort, Martyn and Valerie dropped Cheryce in a lake to see if she would float (a barbaric, yet tried and true method of determining magical ability). When she did not pass the test, Martyn pulled her, dripping, onto shore. All their practice was to no avail.
But Martyn and Valerie couldn’t bear to let anyone know about Cheryce. It was embarrassing—the first Squib in the history of the Pickersgill family, and she was their daughter. At first, they passed her off as a late bloomer. It had happened before, and while inconvenient, was nothing to sniff at. But as the time passed, tests failed, and familiar pressure increased, they realized they had to do something about it.
First, while gossiping with her friends, Valerie let slip that Cheryce did have magical powers. It was harmless, thought she, since Cheryce was sure to develop talent in the coming months; it was, after all, long before they gave up hope for Cheryce. Valerie told her husband about it, and they agreed to allow people to believe that both of their daughters were magically gifted. Their friends and family were happy with the news and thought nothing of it.
Then, Martyn bragged about one of Averonna’s accidental spells. This brought a line of questioning about both of his daughters, and he simply couldn’t bear to let Cheryce seem lesser than her twin. It was a matter of pride. Valerie was brought into this knowledge, and she soon shared it with her friends. Their stories became more elaborate as the time progressed. Averonna and Cheryce, of course, were instructed never to let slip that Cheryce was magicless.
The first sign of trouble came when Averonna and Cheryce’s great Aunt Marbella came to visit. She insisted upon seeing what the girls could do. Rules were for weaklings, and every magical child accidentally spelled something at one point or another. It was how others could see that they had magic at all. She pressured the family greatly, but it was her death glare that finally did it. In an unusual show of emotion, Valerie threw up her hands, “Whatever you wish, Aunt. Girls, show her what you can do.”
The twins exchanged a look. They were ten years old now and knew by heart the rule to never reveal Cheryce’s lack of talent. How was Cheryce supposed to follow their mother’s directive?
“Obey your mother, girls,” said Martyn. “Averonna, you go first.”
Averonna walked up to her aunt and did a simple trick she practiced when her parents weren’t looking. Staring hard at the cookie jar on the top shelf in the kitchen, she managed to levitate a cookie out of the jar and into her hands. She would have been worried that her mother would scold her for the trick if Valerie hadn’t vanished into the other room before she had fully begun. As it was, her father grinned at his daughter’s cleverness, having used as similar spell himself many times.
“Passable, child. Never do it again,” said great Aunt Marbella. She turned her eyes from the chagrined Averonna and fixed them on Cheryce who had been trying very to make herself blend into the couch. “Your turn.”
Shakily, Cheryce stood up and faced the pie that was sitting, uneaten, on the dinner table. She stared at it, hoping a twist of her hands would be sufficient to call forth the magic she had been missing most of her life. When the knife rose from the table and divided the pie into even slices, even she gasped in surprise. Maybe she had magic after all!
Great Aunt Marbella was satisfied, and Valerie returned to serve the pie to the family. Cheryce couldn’t stop grinning. That is, until she overheard her parents’ conversation late that night.
“We have to tell her,” argued Martyn. “It’s unfair she think otherwise.”
“I know,” responded Valerie. “But she looked so happy. I can’t bear to crush her hopes like that. You tell her.”
“It would be better coming from you. You know how to break difficult things to people, and besides, you are the one who did it.”
“Did what?” asked Cheryce, walking into her parents’ room in her nightclothes. She twisted her hair in her fingers, afraid of what they would say.
Valerie sighed. “Come here sweetie.” Cheryce sat in her mother’s lap and looked up at her.
“I cut the pie, not you. I couldn’t bear to let aunt know that you don’t have magic, so I tricked her into thinking that it was you who did it.”
Cheryce’s heart sank, and tears sprang to her eyes. “Will I ever have magic?”
“Oh, honey,” Valerie hugged her closer. “We all hope you will. But until you do, you will have to keep pretending that you have it. We will talk to Averonna so that she will help you when we aren’t around.”
And so the farce continued. It became especially complicated when two letters arrived soon after the girls’ eleventh birthdays:
“We would like to inform you that, because of their exemplary magical talents, Averonna and Cheryce Pickersgill are invited to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.”
The family was at once overjoyed and anxious. Averonna was talented, so of course she would excel at Hogwarts. But Cheryce … well, Cheryce was a different story altogether. She was eleven years old now; any magical talent should have revealed itself by now. She must be a Squib. But what about all the lies Martyn and Valerie told to their acquaintances? It would be devastating to their reputations and family name to have Cheryce be revealed as a Squib. There was only one thing to do.
In response to the unspoken question, Martyn instructed, “Cheryce, you will go to Hogwarts. Averonna will simply have to cover for you. You’re twins. Dress and act the same, and no one will know the difference between the two of you.” Shocked exclamations ensued, but over the following weeks, a plan was developed to hide Cheryce’s lack of talent in every possible circumstance. Eager to please their parents and used to the subterfuge, Averonna and Cheryce agreed to the plan.
In the following weeks, the family traveled to Diagon Alley for school supplies. They bought identical stacks of books and school uniforms, then added a small owl named Idiana for the girls to care for.
For wands, they went to Ollivander’s, planning to trick the elderly proprietor into choosing two wands for Averonna. While everyone was occupied with choosing the first wand, Cheryce’s eyes began to wander around the shop. They landed on a small box lying half-opened underneath a chair. She stooped to pick it up, intending to replace it on the shelf, then stopped. There was something about it, some sort of sparkle, that drew her like a magnet to caress the smooth wood.
“Beautiful piece, that one,” said Ollivander, startling Cheryce from her thoughts. “It seems to have chosen you.”
“Thank you, sir,” said Cheryce, blushing.
Her parents stared at Cheryce and exchanged covert looks as Ollivander packaged it with Averonna’s wand.
Getting onto the train was easy. Platform 9¾ was usable by anyone; knowing it was there and getting past the guards were what kept the muggles from accidentally stumbling through it. Averonna and Cheryce sat with a few of their friends—the children of their parents’ wizarding acquaintances—during the ride to Hogwarts. But Cheryce was quiet most of the trip. Everything had gone according to plan so far, but no matter how her parents schemed, they could not come up with a foolproof plan about how to pass the Sorting Hat undetected. Another Squib, named Angus Buchanan, had tried more than one hundred years before, and failed. If her sister could not find a way to trick everyone into believing she was Cheryce as well as herself, Cheryce’s only hope was that the Sorting Hat was getting old and mistake-prone. It didn’t seem likely. Then the secret would be revealed, and Cheryce and her family would be disgraced, if not worse.
All too soon, the train arrived at Hogwarts, and the students were ushered inside. Cheryce, Averonna, and the rest of the first years were led to the center of the hall to be sorted into their houses by who she later learned was Professor McGonagall. Averonna’s name was called first. She walked to the Sorting Hat and was quickly swept into a House. The two girls were trying to covertly swap places, so that Cheryce was in the House’s group and Averonna would be sorted in Cheryce’s place, when Cheryce’s name was called. There was no time for the twins to move without someone noticing. Fear paralyzed Cheryce as she stared at Averonna, begging for help. Averonna could only send her a hopeless expression. McGonagall called, “Cheryce Pickersgill,” a second time, shocking Cheryce into movement. She walked on numb legs toward the front of the hall and sat gingerly on the stool. The Sorting Hat was placed on her head.
Before it could utter a word, a young ginger man and an identical ghost flew into the hall on broomsticks, letting off confetti and fireworks behind them. They called out well-wishes for the new year advertisements for their business while the professors scrambled to get the children in order and the unwelcome visitors expelled from the school.
Amidst the chaos, Cheryce heard the Sorting Hat speak (some magical objects are, after all, oblivious to external goings-on). “Clever child,” said he. “I would put you in Slitherin for your deception, but the subterfuge has given you wisdom beyond your years. Ravenclaw!”
Cheryce’s eyes widened. The Hat hadn’t called her out but put her in the same House as her twin. “Thank you,” she whispered, slipping off the hat before anyone noticed.
By this time, the room had quieted. McGonagall turned to Cheryce, “Well, what did it say?”
“Very good. Now go join your sister.”
Cheryce scurried off and soon whispered everything that had happened to Averonna. “At least you weren’t caught” was the response.
Once all the first years had been sorted, they were shown to their House dorms and ushered into the dining hall for the introductory feast. The Headmaster introduced the professors and announced the yearly House competition, and all too soon the Cheryce and Averonna left with the others to go to bed. It was a magical night, and the biggest obstacle in the plan was overcome.
The following days passed in a blur. The twins made sure to match their clothing and hair so that none but each other and their closest friends and relatives could tell them apart. All of their classes were the same, and they made sure to sit near each other. If no one could tell the difference between the two, no one would be able to recognize that Cheryce had no magic. When Cheryce was called on, Averonna would answer. They made sure to switch seats every day or two so that if a teacher called on Averonna one day and Cheryce the next, Averonna would be sitting in a different seat, posing as a different girl. If both of them were called on in a single day, Cheryce would give it her best shot. Teachers could be harsh for failure, but they were usually forgiven.
And Cheryce did not fail at everything. Memorization of the spells, histories, and other bookwork was something even a muggle could do if given the information. She could grow herbs and mix potions as long as they didn’t require spells to perform, and her twin filled in most of the gaps by being her partner.
Overall, living going to Hogwarts as a Squib was not as difficult as some wizards claimed. The girls had to lie all the time, and they were nearly caught on more than one occasion, but they did well as students. Weeks blended into months and then years. A few people asked questions, but Cheryce and Averonna became experts at keeping the secret.
It was during their fourth year that the trouble came, and it was not in the way anyone would have expected. Cheryce had returned to her room after a rather important exam Averonna had taken for her and was in the process of opening a book when Averonna stormed inside.
“I’m sick of this!” Averonna said, anger lacing her words.
“Sick of what?” said Cheryce.
“Of you taking all the credit for what I’ve done!”
Cheryce’s brows knit as her sister continued her rant: “I took that exam for you, and everyone praises you for being such a great student when it was me who did that horrible exam—twice!”
“But it’s part of our secret. So that I don’t get expelled and our parents don’t get humiliated. This isn’t the first time.”
“No, it’s not! I have done this for you over and over again, and I’m tired of it. Everything is about you—so you don’t get expelled, so they don’t get ‘humiliated’ because of you. What about me? What if I want to do my hair a different way or choose a different career to study? But, no, it’s all about you.”
By this time, Cheryce was feeling very hurt. “I’m sorry. I never wanted to be this way. But it is what it is, and we have to deal with it.”
“I’m done dealing! Next time you have a test, do it yourself. I want my own life.”
“Averonna! I’ll get kicked out of school!”
“I don’t care anymore.”
“But—” Cheryce’s words were cut off as Averonna slammed the door on the way out.
“She’ll come around. Of course she will,” Cheryce muttered to herself. But Averonna didn’t come around. The rest of the night, Averonna refused to talk to Cheryce, and when Cheryce found herself in class the next day, Averonna sat on the opposite side of the room in every class. Cheryce escaped the notice of each of the teachers for several days. She answered questions she knew she was able to at the beginning of the class so the professors wouldn’t call on her. But her assignments were suffering without Averonna’s help, and there was no one else Cheryce could ask for help.
Cheryce tried to reason with Averonna, but she refused to be swayed. It made Cheryce think. It was unfair to Averonna that they had to keep up the charade. And Cheryce agreed that they would have a difficult time choosing a career classes that would make them both happy in order to keep up the charade. Cheryce understood the feeling of wanting to be her own person. She was tired of everyone thinking that, because they were twins, they always liked the same things or thought the same way, not to mention that they were both called by the wrong names half of the time. Cheryce wanted many of the same things, but she didn’t know how to do it without hurting her parents and her own chance at life. The only thing she could imagine doing was going to the Headmaster and confessing that she was a Squib. She would be expelled most likely, but then Averonna could be her own person, and Cheryce could start over somewhere new, no deception involved. But that would mean giving up everything she knew and had worked for. What about her friends? Her parents? She was torn. It would be so much easier I she had actual magic.
She was considering this in the middle of her Defense Against the Dark Arts class when the professor, a particularly nasty old wizard, confronted her. “Cheryce,” he said, “demonstrate the spell.”
Cheryce rose to her feet and drew out the wand she had been given so long ago now. I don’t want to go! she thought. I don’t want to give it all up. She glanced around the classroom as if for the last time.
“I’m waiting,” prompted the professor.
Cheryce knew the spell. She had memorized the words and the wand motion in the past. But she had no magic in her. She took a deep breath and performed the necessary actions, squeezing her eyes shut for the derision she knew was coming. A flash showed past her eyelids, and a moment later, the professor said, “Well done, Pickersgill.”
Cheryce’s eyes popped open. “What?”
“You completed the spell. Now sit down.”
Cheryce slowly lowered herself to the chair, glancing toward Averonna. Her sister stared at her in shock. “I completed the spell.”
“Yes, Pickersgill. Kindly stop talking so we may resume our class,” the professor said.
“But she can’t have!” interjected Averonna, furious once more. “She’s a Squib, and everyone knows Squibs can’t do magic.”
“Then how did she do the spells all those years?” asked the class troublemaker.
“I did them for her!”
“Silence!” said the professor. “Both of you girls may remove yourself to the Headmaster’s office to get this problem sorted out. Go, now.”
Cheryce and Averonna shuffled out amidst the stares of their classmates. As the trudged up the stairs, Cheryce gloried in the fact that she had actually performed magic. The future was uncertain, but she had succeeded!
At the top of the stairs, they explained the entire situation to the Headmaster, telling their whole story for the first time. “Cheryce,” the Headmaster said, “you must be an extremely late bloomer. It has happened one or two times in the past. Ollivander and the Sorting Hat must have seen it when no one else did.”
“It’s true then?” Cheryce asked, breathless.
The Headmaster smiled, “Yes. Now, as for your conduct.” The girls shrunk in fear. “You two have spent the last three and a half years lying to all of the professors and students. I cannot allow that to go unpunished.”
“Am I going to be expelled after all?” asked Cheryce.
“No, child. You may remain at Hogwarts, although the both of you will be under strict supervision, with detention and points deducted from your House. I am going to have to call your parents in for a visit. They are as much at fault as you are, and they must know what is happening.”
But all Cheryce could think was that, at last, she was a proper witch. She could be herself and make her parents proud. She could stop lying to her friends. It felt like freedom.