The waters of the Great Lake were still as a mill pond, the evening sky reflected on its glassy surface. A solitary figure sat staring disparately at the shore of the lake lost in her thoughts.
Emma, along with the rest of the Sixth Year Hufflepuffs, had spent the afternoon practising the Patronus Charm in Defence Against the Dark Arts, but Emma was the only one in her class who had not managed to summon a corporeal Patronus. The Sixth Years had been studying Patronuses now for over a month; first researching the theory of the spell, then practising the incantation before finally attempting to produce a Patronus. Emma was particularly gifted at Charms, she had already mastered all of the Sixth Year charms and even some of the Seventh Year spells, and she was one of the first in her class to produce a non-corporeal Patronus to the great surprise and delight of Professor Slughorn. She therefore had expected to discover what form her Patronus would take very soon after, but it had been almost five weeks since the first burst of silver mist had shot from her wand there was no sign of the protective fog morphing into an animal. She would freely admit that she was depressed by this, Emma was not a vain person but she took pride in her ability at charm-work and was most disappointed at not being able to conquer the Patronus Charm.
Sighing, she took out her rowan wand, waved it meekly and muttered “Expecto patronum”, surprised that there was even the faintest cloud of silver mist flowing from her wand. She was upset and that was not conducive to producing a Patronus. She knew she needed a happy memory, and she had thought that she had had lots of happy memories, but none of them had worked. There were very few memories before Hogwarts that were happy for Emma, so she had soon narrowed down to her happiest times at school. The moment she had received her Hogwarts letter, being Sorted into Hufflepuff, being chosen as a Beater for the Hufflepuff Quidditch team in her Third Year, her first Care of Magical Creatures lesson, helping Hufflepuff win the Quidditch Cup and consequently the House Cup in Fourth Year... None of them had worked.
Feeling the chill of the evening create goose-bumps on her skin Emma decided it was time to return to the warmth of the Hufflepuff Common Room. She got up and turned toward the castle; its turrets and towers silhouetted against the darkening sky. Suddenly a thought struck her; maybe it wasn't necessarily a memory she needed, but more a feeling, a feeling of complete happiness. After all, a Patronus was meant to help keep away Dementors, which made a person feel utterly desperate and depressed. In order to combat that, one would have to feel completely and truly happy, and the only place Emma felt truly happy and at peace was Hogwarts. Looking up at the castle and calling upon every positive thought and shred of happiness she had ever felt she raised her wand and said with conviction “Expecto patronum!”
Emma felt the familiar tingle of magic flow through her and into her wand but this time she felt something new, like she was putting a part of herself into the spell. She gasped as the familiar silver mist appeared, but this time it surrounded a body. She had done it! She had produced a corporeal Patronus! She bent down to stroke her Patronus before it disappeared, and the badger nuzzled into Emma's hand, stopping to scratch its belly quickly, before climbing into Emma's lap where it continued to nuzzle her thigh. Emma could scarcely breathe as she held the badger close; it felt so solid and real and warm. Though it was no more than silver mist given form she could still feel its fur as she stroked its back, feel its heart beating in time with hers, see the black stripes on its face, set with mischievous yet protective eyes. The badger looked up at Emma, who smiled, and knowing its job was done it melted away into the evening as Emma stood up.
She returned to the castle with the biggest grin on her face, hoping that no-one had seen her practicing magic outside of class. Although, she reasoned to herself as she reached the barrels by the kitchen, the rule was “no magic in the corridors”, so technically she hadn't broken school rules...