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POTION OF DOOM: Chapter 1 Excerpt

Her teacher was wrong. Not all bats were nocturnal. Stella LaPlant flipped through the notebook on her desk. She kept an animal journal and the bats she had seen were odd – maybe a new species. She pushed her sunglasses further up her nose and scoured her entries under "Strange Sightings."

Her finger slid down the page. Yes! She raised her hand and blurted, "Yesterday, I saw bats flying in broad daylight. I know that we have bats in North Carolina, but these were some sort of giant mutant species." Leaning forward, she tapped the page. "And they had a 'Z' on their bellies!"

Mrs. Smoot dropped her eraser. "What?"

The entire Possum Trot Elementary fifth grade class looked at Stella as if she'd just blown peas out of her nose.

"Stella, that's very … interesting." Mrs. Smoot turned to the board.

Stella's shoulders fell as snickers surrounded her. She shouldn't have said mutants. Now she'd have to put up with another round of teasing.

"Mutant bats," Cody whispered behind her. "You're such a weirdo."

Stella sighed. Dumb Cody didn't understand. Bats flying in broad daylight had to be a sign – or a special message. Grandmother Hummingbird had taught her that if you paid attention to the animals that crossed your path, you would receive messages to help you. Her grandmother gave her a journal to record animal sightings. Stella had filled many journals since then. She missed Grandmother.

The bell rang and the teacher erased the board as the students gathered their books. Stella heard snickers behind her.

"You're a freak," Cody whispered again, poking Stella between the shoulder blades and causing a fresh round of giggles. "Just like your kooky granny."

Stella whirled around. "You're a stupid cow pie!"

Cody raised his fist. Stella grabbed her backpack and dashed out the classroom door and down the hall. Simon would be waiting for her outside, and no one messed with him.

She flung open the door. Whew! There he sat at the bottom of the steps.

“Meow.”

Some kids had a guard dog, but Stella had a guard cat. Simon was a rather large Siamese with a mean streak. Cody had followed, but he stayed at the door, glaring at Stella's cat. Simon hissed. Last month, Cody had made the mistake of picking on Stella when she was walking home from school. By the time Simon had finished with him, Cody was hobbling down the street and covered in scratches.

Stella stuck out her tongue at Cody. He sneered and went back inside.

"My knight in furry armor." As Stella bent down to pat Simon's head, her sunglasses slid down her nose and she grabbed them just before they hit the ground. It was against school rules to wear them inside, but she had special permission from her teacher. Otherwise, there would be even more teasing.