Disclaimer: Not the Rowling, not the Kanzaka.


Sorry this one took so long. The conversation on the train refused to cooperate, and took four rewrites to get to the point where I was happy with it.

Once again, thanks to everyone who is following, has favourited, or has reviewed this story.

“Hello.”  :  voice.
“Hello.”  :  voice over phone, radio, TV... or telepathic hats.
‹Hello.›  :  thought.
Hello.  :  spellcasting, or other invocations of power.


ENTRANCE! Harry débuts at Hogwarts!

“All right, that’s everything as far as I can see,” said Harry. “Can you think of anything I’ve missed, Mandy?”

“I don’t think so, Master Harry,” replied Mandy. “If you’ve forgotten anything important, I can always pop it to you once you’re in your dorm.”

“Are you sure that’ll be all right? I thought you said students weren’t supposed to have house elves at Hogwarts?”

“Well,” said Mandy, smirking, “there’s a big difference between ‘not supposed to’ and ‘actually incapable of’, isn’t there? Anyway, I won’t be there every moment, waiting on you hand and foot...” she shared a grin with Harry at that, as very little of that went on anyway, “but if you ever need me for something, you can always call. And if Mistress Lina’s needed back here for something, I’ll pop up and get you.”

“As long as it’s not in the middle of class,” said Harry with another grin.

“I’ll try to give you advance warning. I’m sure Muon won’t mind taking a note from me.” Said owl bobbed her head a couple of times in agreement.

“Speaking of,” said Harry, turning to Muon, “have you decided if you’re flying up to Hogwarts, or coming on the train with me?”

Muon launched off her perch by the window and glided over to Harry’s trunk, landing next to her cage.

“All right, you can come and make friends too. I’ll see if you can spend the journey out of your cage.” Muon bobbed her head again. “And Mandy...” Harry paused, unsure of how to phrase his next point.

“Yes, Master Harry?”

“If you start to feel... odd, or whatever, like you’re not getting enough magic...”

Mandy came over to him and laid a hand on his arm, nodding understandingly. “If Mandy be talkings like stupid slave house elfsies, Mandy be coming to see Master.”

Harry laughed despite himself. “Try not to let it get that bad though, please?”

“I won’t, Master Harry,” Mandy assured him. “Anyway, it’s more to do with what you and Mistress Lina expect and want.”

“All right then,” said Harry, nodding. “Lina’s been poking me for the last five minutes; I think she wants to say something to you as well. Hang on...” Harry relaxed, and Lina took over.

“Did you get it?” she said, without any preamble.

“Yes, Mistress Lina. Here it is,” said Mandy, and snapped her fingers, causing a pile of folded clothes to appear on the chair beside her.

“Excellent!” said Lina. “Thanks, Mandy! Now, should I change into it now... probably better, just in case.” Suiting action to word, she began pulling off her tunic.

“If you don’t mind me asking,” said Mandy, “what do you want with a Gryffindor girl’s uniform anyway?”

“Ah,” said Lina, pulling on the uniform skirt. “Himitsu desu, Mandy. I want to keep it as a surprise for Harry.”

“Well...” said Mandy. “You can tell me all about it once you’ve played whatever prank you have in mind, then.”

“Don’t worry Mandy, I will.”

“Now,” said Mandy, looking severely at Lina, “I won’t be able to look after Master Harry all the time, so you’ll have to do it. And that means stopping him from doing anything silly, yes?”

“Yes Mandy,” mock-grumbled Lina, shrugging into the uniform robes. “Even though we know it was Headbastard Dumbdoor that left Harry with his aunt, we won’t fireball his bony arse into next week.”

“Not until we have some actual proof anyway, Mistress,” said Mandy. “Bonehewer wasn’t able to find out any more without raising too many questions, especially with the old man poking his nose into things the last month or so. Hopefully once Harry shows up and term starts he’ll be too busy to keep on at it.” She gathered up Lina’s favourite outfit and sword, then packed them into the secret compartment in Harry’s trunk that already contained a change of clothes for her. “And remember, try to stay off the subject of Sirius Black as well.” Bonehewer had just the previous day written to them about some anomalies in Harry’s godfather’s case.

Lina nodded. “Hopefully Bonehewer will be able to dig up something about that soon. If he needs any help, from any of us, let us know.” Mandy nodded as Lina checked herself out in the full-length mirror. She ignored its muttered comments about her hair, grinned at her reflection, then knelt to give Mandy a hug. “I’ll miss having you around, Mandy. Don’t forget to write, and call me if you need anything.”

“I’ll miss you too, Mistress Lina. Stay out of trouble, and I’ll see you as often as I can.”

Lina gave Mandy another squeeze, then let Harry take over again. “Time to go, I suppose,” he said, sounding a little down.

“Now Master Harry, you should be looking forward to this! Meeting new friends, learning new magic... it should be fun!”

“Yes... but Lina isn’t going to be able to enjoy it properly. Even though she’ll be able to wander about at night, she won’t really get to meet people.”

“You’re a very good boy, Master Harry, to worry about Mistress Lina like that. I’m sure she’ll find ways to amuse herself while you’re at school.”

“I hope so, Mandy.” Harry collected himself, then opened Muon’s cage. “In you get then, Muon. And get ready for popping.” Muon hopped into the cage, took a firm grip of the perch inside, and bobbed her head.

“Here’s some food for your journey,” said Mandy, producing a small satchel. “From what I’ve heard the train only has sweets available.”

“Thanks, Mandy.” Harry put the satchel over his shoulder, lifted Muon’s cage with one hand, and gripped Mandy’s hand tightly with his other. Mandy laid her free hand on Harry’s trunk, then popped them directly to Platform 9¾.



Harry was quite used to popping by this point, even if it was mostly a vicarious experience, but the transition from the quiet of Inverse House to the bustle of the platform was quite disorienting. Mandy quickly led him away from the apparition point, but Harry’s attention was swamped by the sight and sound of more than two hundred children and teenagers running around, saying goodbye to their families, and greeting friends not seen for months.

“I’d better be going now, Master Harry,” Mandy said, tugging his arm to rouse him from his daze.

“What? Oh, sorry Mandy.” Harry put Muon’s cage down and knelt to give Mandy a final hug. “Keep safe Mandy, and have fun.” His eyes were getting suspiciously moist again.

“Don’t you worry about me, Master Harry. I’ll probably see you in a week or so, knowing Mistress Lina. And I’ll keep myself busy in the mean time. Now, off you go!” She gave Harry a final squeeze, then stepped back. Harry took up Muon’s cage again, lifted his trunk by one end, and headed to the second carriage from the front.



Inside the train it was much less busy. Only a handful of students had boarded before him, so he was able to drag his trunk along the corridor without obstacles. He was passing the first compartment, which had been claimed by an older couple who were busy reacquainting themselves with each others’ tonsils, when he spotted a large brown toad squeeze its way out of the next compartment. Harry carefully set Muon and his trunk down, then stepped up quickly and grabbed the toad as it began a determined march down the corridor.

Straightening up, Harry knocked on the compartment door, then slid it open as the round-faced boy inside looked up. “Er... hello. Are you missing something?” He held out the toad-bearing hand.

“Trevor!” said the boy, standing quickly and taking the amphibian. “That’s the third time this morning. Thank you...?”

“Harry,” supplied Harry.

“I’m Neville,” said the other boy. “Would you care to join me? If you haven’t found somewhere already, that is.”

“Thanks, I will,” said Harry. “Hang on.” He ducked back down the corridor and retrieved Muon and his trunk, then took them into the compartment. Setting the cage down again, he took off the satchel and looked around.

“We’re supposed to put our trunks up in those racks,” said Neville, “but I can’t manage it on my own.”

“Maybe together?” said Harry. It wasn’t easy, but with some effort they managed to get both trunks stowed safely for the journey.

“Would you mind if my owl came out?” asked Harry.

Neville eyed Muon doubtfully, then shrugged. “As long as it doesn’t eat Trevor, I suppose it’s alright.”

Muon cocked her head and opened her beak half-way, making a strangled »prek« sound.

“I think that means that she knows Trevor would taste bad. Actually, she’s more likely to warn us if he tries to escape again. She’s very smart.” Harry opened the cage door and held his arm so Muon could hop out. “This is Muon to Yuki, Muon for short.”

Neville grinned and gave a short bow to the owl. “Neville Longbottom, at your service.”

“Oh?” said Harry. “Any relation to Alice Longbottom?”

“That’s... she’s my mother,” said Neville, looking slightly downcast.

“I’m sorry,” said Harry. “It must be awful. However...” He bowed to Neville, then held out his hand. “Harry Potter, at your service. It’s good to finally meet you, god-brother.”

“Oh?” said Neville, shaking the offered hand and glancing up at Harry’s scar for a split second. “Oh!” At Harry’s questioning look he went on, “I’ve heard of you, of course; not just the unbelievable stories that everyone tells, but some things Gran told me too. This isn’t the first time we’ve met, you know; our mothers were close, and apparently we played together when they visited each other. But then... well, you disappeared, and my parents...”

Harry put a sympathetic hand on Neville’s shoulder as he started to tear up. “It’s okay, you don’t need to talk about it.”

Neville sniffed. “Thanks. Anyway, Gran tried to find out where you’d gone for a couple of years, but eventually she had to give up. Then a few weeks ago she heard a rumour that you’d been seen around Diagon Alley, and that Dumbledore was trying to find you. It’s brought back all the old worries she had, and she’s been spending a lot of time asking around...” He tailed off, obviously wanting details, but too polite to ask.

Harry paused, wondering how much to say. “Your Gran, that would be Madam Augusta?” Neville nodded. “I’ve heard about her. You should definitely let her know that I’m safe; I’ve found somewhere much better to live, and I have a guardian to look out for me, as well as the best house elf ever to help us.” He paused again, then went on, “The rest... well, it’s a bit personal, if you know what I mean. I’ll probably tell you once we know each other better. We are going to be friends, aren’t we?”

Neville looked a bit apprehensive. “Well, if you want... I’m nothing much, you know...”

“You’re my god-brother, that’s good enough for me,” said Harry, smiling. Neville started to blush, and the silence that followed may have become awkward if it hadn’t been broken by a knock on the compartment door.

Outside was a bushy-haired girl about their own age. Harry slid the door open again, and asked, “Care to join us?”

“Yes please,” said the girl, somewhat breathlessly, and started lugging her trunk in.

“Let us help you with that,” said Neville.

“Please,” replied the girl. “I’m Hermione Granger, by the way. I take it you’re both first-years too?”

“Yup,” said Harry. “This is Neville Longbottom, and I’m Harry Potter.”

“I thought so. I’ve read quite a bit about you,” said Hermione. A »snap« came from behind Harry, and he stood aside and said, “And this is Muon, and over there is Trevor,” gesturing at the toad.

“She’s beautiful,” breathed Hermione, as Neville took the other end of her trunk. “Snowy owl, yes? And she is a ‘she’? Why did you name her after a high-energy lepton?”

“Eh? It’s Japanese; it means ‘Silence’. And yes, she’s a girl snowy owl.”

“Ah. All right, are you ready Neville?”

Neville nodded, and heaved as hard as he could. Hermione got her end off the ground, but after struggling for a few seconds Neville had to give up.

“Sorry Her... Her-mio-ne. It’s a bit too much for me. Harry, could you help?”

Hermione blushed as Harry took over from Neville. “I may have packed too many books.”

“No kidding,” gasped Harry, hoisting his end. With Neville helping to guide it, they managed to get Hermione’s trunk stowed safely.

“I’m sorry about that,” she said as they sat down, Neville and Harry (and Muon) across from Hermione. “But thank you for helping, both of you.”

“It’s fine,” said Harry. “We’re going to be spending most of the next seven years together; we should at least try to be friends.”

“Oh...” said Hermione, ducking her head shyly. “That would be nice...”

“I should say though, if you’ve read any of the books about me, you may be in for a disappointment. I’m nowhere near as cool as they suggest.”

“Well, I didn’t bother with the Harry Potter And The... stuff; they’re so obviously fiction. But the reports of the... incident... were interesting, and they did describe your looks pretty accurately.”

Harry was about to respond when several boys, at least half of them redheads, ran past their compartment laughing noisily. The youngest redhead was left in their wake, and came over to the door, sliding it open tentatively.

“Hi... do you have space for one more? I think the rest of the train is about full.” As if to back his point up, the engine’s whistle sounded.

Neville looked at Harry and Hermione and shrugged. When Hermione shrugged back, Harry turned to the boy. “No problem. Do you want a hand with your trunk?”

“It’s all right,” said the boy. “I’ll manage.” It was a bit of a struggle, but he got it stowed without any mishaps, then sat down beside Hermione just as the train began to move off. “I’m Ron Weasley. You’re Harry Potter, aren’t you?”

Harry nodded, and the others introduced themselves, and the animals. Ron produced a half-dead rat, which he called ‘Scabbers’. He put him back in his pocket again when Muon expressed an interest in him, even though Harry was confident she’d behave herself.

“Anyone fancy a game of Exploding Snap?” asked Ron.

“Pardon?” asked Hermione, obviously confused. Harry shrugged to her, never having heard of the game himself.

“No thanks,” said Neville, “it’s a bit too... intense for me. But you go ahead.”

Ron ignored Neville, and turned to Hermione in incredulity. “You’ve never heard of Exploding Snap? Oh wait— you’re a Muggle-born, right?”

“Yes,” said Hermione. “And I’ve played Snap, but like Neville, I don’t like it much.”

“Just ‘Snap’? Sounds boring,” replied Ron. “What about other games then?”

“Well, I’ve played most of the usual kid’s board games, but the only one I really like is Scrabble.” Hermione looked embarrassed for a moment. “And I tried to learn chess, but I’ve never got the hang of it. Mostly I like reading and learning things.”

Ron, whose face had lit up momentarily when she mentioned chess, fell again. “Chess is cool though, and I’m pretty good at it,” he said. “Maybe we could have a game later? The rest of it...” He mimed a yawn.

Neville frowned at him. “There’s nothing wrong with enjoying something quiet; I spend a lot of time working in my greenhouse.” He turned to Hermione and said, “You should tell us more about these other games. We don’t have all that many in the magical world. What’s Scrabble?”

“Oh,” said Hermione, “it’s a word game. I’ve actually got a small set in my trunk.” She looked up at the overhead rack and shook her head. “I’ll show you later, but basically you get tiles with letters on, and use them to make words. The harder the word is, the more points you get for it.”

“Seriously?” said Ron. “That’s the sort of thing Muggles do to have fun? Sounds really boring; I’m glad I’m a wizard.” Hermione looked hurt, and the other two glared at him. Ron ignored them and went on, “If you enjoy all that other stuff, you’ll end up in Ravenclaw for sure.” He turned to the others. “What houses do you think you’ll be in? I’m for Gryffindor.”

Although Ron had effectively excluded Hermione, the boys let her answer first. “Well, Ravenclaw would be nice,” she said, “but I think I’d rather be in Gryffindor.”

“Are you going by personality, or elemental affinity?” asked Harry. The others looked at him questioningly. “Same thing really, but if your magic has a strong bias towards one element, it might affect which house you end up in.”

“What are you on about?” said Ron. “It’s simple: the best go in Gryffindor, the swots go in Ravenclaw, the duffers go in Hufflepuff, and the evil gits go in Slytherin.”

Hermione looked as though she was about to explode, but Harry spoke first, shaking his head. “There’s a lot more to it than that. Look at the house colours. Gryffindor is red—”

“And gold”, interrupted Ron.

“Ignore the metals,” continued Harry. “Red, blue, yellow, and green.”

“Oh!” said Hermione. “Like a Ludo set! And my primary school split us into four teams for sports, and they used those colours too!”

“That’s right,” nodded Harry. “They’re like... the four basic colours, but they’re also the four elements.” Hermione gazed at him raptly, gesturing for him to continue. Ron’s eyes were starting to glaze over, but Neville was looking interested too, so Harry started a more detailed explanation.

“Well, red is for Fire. It’s associated with bravery and righteousness—”

“That’s Gryffindor, all right,” interrupted Ron.

“—but also lack of planning and forethought, and a quick temper,” said Harry, looking meaningfully at Ron. It largely went over his head.

“Fire also has aspects of cleansing,” added Hermione, “in the sense of burning away everything that’s old or tainted, to allow something new to grow.”

Harry nodded. “Good point. Yellow is for Earth, which is strong, reliable, supporting, and fertile. It can also be stubborn, and practical in a way that some people would consider boring.” Harry turned to his god-brother. “Neville, if you like working with plants, you may be strong in Earth. Don’t let Ron’s Gryffindorish lack of tact put you off Hufflepuff, if you think you could fit in there.” Neville nodded, thoughtfully.

“Next is blue, for Air,” said Harry. Hermione was practically bouncing in her seat, so he waved for her to take over.

She grinned at him, then said, “The primary aspects of air are intelligence, inquisitiveness, higher learning, and communication; ‘swots’ as Ron put it. All the Ravenclaw strong points, and yes, I would fit well there. However, it can also be flighty and disconnected from practical things, and I don’t think that describes me too well.

“Finally, Slytherin, green, is water. Calm, subtle, and adaptable; associated with cleansing and healing, but also cold and sometimes highly destructive.”

Harry grinned back at Hermione, then winked. “That’s right. A good chess player has a lot of Slytherin traits.”

WOT?” shouted Ron. “I’m not one of those evil gits! I’d rather die than be sorted into Slytherin!”

The compartment door slid open again. “You’d never be welcome in our house anyway, Weasley,” said the pinch-faced blond boy outside. Leaving two larger boys hovered in the corridor, he turned to Harry and stepped in, holding out his hand. “I was told you were on the train. Malfoy,” he said, “Draco Malfoy.”

Harry rose and shook his hand politely. “Harry Potter.”

“Of course. I had hoped to introduce you to some of the proper sort; it’s unfortunate that your first trip on the Hogwarts Express has been spoiled by mudbloods and blood-traitors. Shall we?” and he turned to leave, guiding Harry towards the door.

“Actually, we were having a very interesting conversation about the links between the Hogwarts houses and the four elements,” said Harry. “You’re welcome to join in — and your friends,” he indicated the two outside. “It may be a bit of a squeeze, but I’m sure we’d be comfortable.”

Malfoy glanced at Hermione and turned up his nose, sniffing ostentatiously. “I’d rather not. The air is a little... tainted in here. I’m sure we could continue your conversation in more refined company.” He made to usher Harry out again.

“No thanks,” said Harry, sitting back down. “I’m comfortable here. Maybe we could talk once we’ve arrived?”

“We’ll see,” said Malfoy. He went out and headed down the corridor, leaving it to one of his companions to slide the door shut.

“See what I mean?” said Ron. “Evil git, going to Slytherin. Dead simple.”

“I’m not so sure,” said Harry. “He’s not very subtle, and I don’t think he could have held on to his temper much longer. With that much Fire in his character, he may fit better into Gryffindor.”

“As if,” scoffed Ron. “Where did you two get all this Elemental stuff from anyway? I thought you were Muggle-raised?”

“I was,” Harry replied, “and Hermione is Muggle-born, but she’s learned something about the associations, and worked the rest out just now. However, I found out about magic a few years ago, and I’ve been learning and practising ever since.”

“But that’s illegal!” gasped Hermione. “How did you manage to avoid being detected by the Ministry?”

“Um, well, two reasons,” said Harry. “The second one... this summer I moved to an old Magical home. Even if the house wards don’t mask it, the Ministry assumes that any magic they detect from a Magical home was performed by an adult.” He looked to Ron and Neville for support, and they both nodded in confirmation.

“But... but that’s so UNFAIR,” cried Hermione, flushing with anger.

“Too right,” said Harry, “and now I can see why you want to be in Gryffindor. Wanting to take on the world and fix everything?” He grinned at the incensed girl, who nodded fiercely.

“What was the first reason though?” asked Ron.

“Ah, well,” said Harry. “The thing is... the magic I use isn’t exactly the same as you’re familiar with. Long before I found out about the magical world, or the Ministry, I was practising it... and the Ministry never noticed once.”

“How?” said Ron.

“Well... Lighting,” Harry intoned.

“How did you do that?!” squeaked Hermione. “You didn’t use your wand, and that’s not the light spell!”

“That’s my point,” said Harry. “I’ve been using a different kind of magic for about three years now.”

“If you already know all that, why are you bothering to go to school?” said Ron.

“Well... Hermione, from a Muggle-born’s viewpoint, what are the most useful spells?”

“Um, well... I’m not sure, but I’d say that household charms are probably the ones that would make the most difference to someone’s life. Cleaning, heating, cooling, repairing... that sort of thing.”

“That’s exactly it; that’s what I want to learn. Aside from a couple of tricks like the light spell, and being able to fly and stuff,” he ignored the others’ gasps, “all the spells I know are only good for blowing stuff up and killing people.”

“But surely you haven’t—” started Hermione, then cut off with a gasp when she saw Harry’s face.

Bolstered by a wave of support from Lina, Harry said in a monotone, “I was attacked by two wizards. They made their intentions very clear. I had no way of escaping or getting help, and had to put them down before they could hurt me.”

“I’m sorry,” said Hermione hesitantly, reaching over to Harry. “I didn’t realise...”

“No way you could have,” said Harry. Neville was looking at him sympathetically, but obviously couldn’t think of anything to say. “It’s all right Neville. It’s been ruled as legitimate self-defence.”

Ron, however, had been gazing at Harry with awe. “That’s so cool,” he started, only to be overridden by Hermione.

“Are you really that thick? Obviously Harry doesn’t feel good about it, even if it was the only thing he could do.”

Ron blushed, then muttered, “Sorry Harry, didn’t realise...”

“It’s okay Ron,” said Harry. “I just hope you’re never in that sort of position yourself.”

“Anyway,” said Hermione, “tell us about some of the other games in the Magical world.”

The others accepted her rather clumsy attempt to move the conversation to lighter topics, and the rest of the journey passed pleasantly.



“Firs’ years! Firs’ years over here!”

The booming voice, coming as it did from an equally impressive figure, was somewhat alarming to the youngest of the children. They were diverted away from the rest of the students, and led off by the huge man. He carried a lantern, but its light was of no use for navigating the treacherously steep, narrow path he took them to, so Harry quickly produced his ball of light again. Ron, Hermione, and Neville kept close to him, helping steady each other down the worst parts. From the sound of it, not all of the others were as lucky or as careful.

The first view of the castle was definitely impressive, as was the boat trip across the loch. Trevor tried to make a break for it a couple of times, but Muon (who didn’t consider herself luggage to be left on the train, and was riding on Harry’s shoulder) alerted Neville to the attempts in time to thwart them.

Once at the castle gates, the huge man handed them over to a stern-looking witch. Harry was too far back to hear her name at first, but from his and Lina’s research he was fairly sure that this would be Professor Minerva McGonagall, Deputy Head of the school.

She led them all to a room which was rather too small for the purpose, but asked Harry to stand aside while the others filed in.

“Mister Potter, I presume?”

Harry nodded. “Yes, Professor?”

“Normally students leave their pets in the train, to be collected with the rest of their luggage. I don’t think the Sorting Ceremony is the proper place for an owl.”

Harry adopted a conciliatory expression. “I’m sorry Professor, I wasn’t aware. When Neville and Ron kept their pets in their pockets I assumed it would be all right. Muon would like to watch though, would it be possible? I promise she won’t be a problem.” Muon bobbed her head at this, and extended her wing around the back of Harry’s head.

A tiny hint of a smile quirked the corner of McGonagall’s mouth for an instant, before being hidden by her stern professional mien. “If she were to find a perch at the side of the hall, or in the rafters, I suppose it would be acceptable. However, it is normal for owls to spend most of their time in the Owlery.”

“I’m sure she’ll enjoy that,” said Harry. Muon bobbed her head a couple of times.

The hint of a smile appeared briefly again. “All right then. Let’s get started.”

The professor ushered Harry into the room with the rest of the students. Calling for their attention, she gave them a short run-down on the purpose of the houses, without giving much detail, and then left them to their own devices.

“What was all that about?” asked Ron of Harry.

Harry waved it off as inconsequential. “Apparently I’m the first person to ever bring an owl to the Sorting. We were just arranging how to handle it.”

“How are we sorted, anyway?” asked Hermione.

“Trust a mudblood to not know that,” muttered a vaguely familiar voice from somewhere in the crowd.

“Ignore him,” said Ron. “I don’t know either, and neither does he.”

“It’s sort of a tradition,” elaborated Neville, “to not tell anyone how the sorting works. Even though everyone older than us had to go through it.”

“My brothers keep spinning these horrible stories, like fighting trolls or taking painful tests, but they’re all nonsense,” said Ron.

At that point several ghosts floated through the wall, in what Harry later decided was a staged prank. At the time he reacted in the same way as most of the rest of the students, jumping and gasping in shock. At least he didn’t scream, like some of them. Hermione, after she calmed from the initial surprise, stage-whispered, “Of course, ghosts can’t hurt you. Even a muggle-born knows that.” Malfoy, who had heard her quite plainly, sneered back at her, but couldn’t say much since one of the screams was quite definitely his.

Then Professor McGonagall returned, dismissed the ghosts, and led the students back into the entrance hall, to a pair of large double doors. They swung open at her gesture, revealing a large, grand room. All the students, seated at the four long House tables, and the staff at the head table, turned to examine the new inductees.

Of course, everyone’s attention was pulled from them as Muon took flight and made her way to the rafters, finding a suitably dramatic perch at the edge of the sky enchantment.

“That’s some impressive charms work on the ceiling,” commented Harry in a whisper.

Hermione nodded excitedly. “I’ve been looking forward to seeing it ever since I read about it.”

“Floating candles and gold place-settings are a bit much though,” noted Neville.

Professor McGonagall brought out a small stool and placed it in the middle of the hall, then placed on it what in olden times would only be described as a ‘shocking bad hat’.

Which proceeded to sing to them.


All the sitting students thought it was wonderful though, and applauded vigorously once it had finished its pun-laden doggerel. While the Hat was taking its bows, Neville pulled the other three together, and said, “You three are all pretty sure of making it into Gryffindor, right?” They nodded. “All right, I’m trying for there too. You’re probably right about the Earth thing Harry, but that won’t change wherever I go, and I’d rather be with friends.”

Harry clapped him on the shoulder, but at that point the hall fell silent, and Professor McGonagall stepped forward again, carrying a long roll of parchment. “When I call your name, you will put on the Hat and sit on the stool to be sorted,” she said. “Abbott, Hannah!”

The blonde girl who came forward put on the Hat and sat down for a moment, then the Hat announced “Hufflepuff!” to cheers from that house’s table. She took the Hat off and went to join her new house-mates.

The list of students went on, slightly more of them going to Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw than the other two houses. Harry took the opportunity to have a look at the upper years, and noted that in three cases at least they did seem to fit the stereotypes: the Gryffindors were boisterous and animated, the Ravenclaws were polite and refined, and the Hufflepuffs were warm and welcoming. The Slytherins, however, while somewhat cold, as would be expected, also had a rather snobbish air, and several of them looked quite cruel — both of Malfoy’s friends had been sorted there, and they didn’t look especially pleasant. ‹I hope that’s just my imagination, not Ron’s ‘evil git’ theory actually proving to be true.›

He was brought out of his musings by McGonagall calling out “Granger, Hermione.” His new female friend shot forward eagerly and jammed the Hat over her head. She sat there for a good three minutes, before it finally announced “Gryffindor!

When Neville’s turn came up, he also took longer than most, but was sent to Gryffindor as he intended. Malfoy, on the other hand, needn’t have bothered putting the Hat on, given how little it deliberated before sending him to Slytherin. ‹Something’s definitely not right there.›

Shortly thereafter, it was Harry’s turn. Ignoring the whispers, he walked to the stool and donned the Hat.

“Hmmm... interesting,” said a voice in his head. “A thirst for knowledge, a drive to achieve, loyalty, bravery... you could do well in any house. Stronger in ambition and bravery though, so let’s rule the other two out.”

‹Um... excuse me? Can you hear me?› thought Harry.

“Of course I can,” replied the Hat. “Do you have a preference?”

‹Well, I’d rather stick with my friends in Gryffindor, if that’s all right,› thought Harry, ‹but what I wanted to ask was: why are you using ‘ambition’ as the deciding factor for Slytherin? What happened to subtlety, cunning, and adaptability?›

“I— I— I— I— I—I—I—I—” the Hat stammered, sounding more and more strained as it went on. Harry thought quickly.

‹Look, if you’re under some sort of geas to not talk about it, don’t try. I understand.›

“Thank you.” The Hat sounded decidedly relieved. “Now, going strictly by the criteria, you should be in Slytherin, but I am allowed some leeway to account for personal preference.”

‹Perhaps you should look a little deeper?› suggested Harry, trying to allow Lina some access without having her take over completely. ‹Don’t look too hard though, there may be... side-effects.›

“Let me see... MERCIFUL MERLIN! I can’t put you in Slytherin; you’d kill half of them before the week was out! Better be—”

Ignoring the chant of “We Got Potter!” from further up the table, Harry quickly made his way over to Neville and Hermione. “You both took a while; did you have to argue with it?”

Hermione shrugged. “Not really. I just wanted to talk to it.”

Neville nodded. “It though I would fit better in Hufflepuff, especially when I explained why I wanted to be in Gryffindor, but eventually it admitted that I was brave enough.”

“It looks like our theory on the elements was wrong though,” said Hermione. “Water isn’t associated with ambition in any way.”

“I noticed that too,” said Harry, “but when I asked the Hat about it, something stopped it from answering. I think it’s been tampered with.”

“Really?” said Hermione in shock. “But that means everyone’s sorting is wrong!”

“What’s wrong,” said Ron, who joined them at that point. “Other than a couple of swots getting into Gryffindor?” He grinned at Hermione and Harry; they had settled that particular point on the train, and he was only joking.

“We may both have been right,” said Harry. “Slytherin is supposed to be about adaptability and subtlety, but someone has done something to the Hat to make use ambition and... well, ‘evil’ I suppose... instead.”

“Cor,” said Ron, but couldn’t say more as the hall fell silent. The Headmaster had stood up, and was welcoming them all to Hogwarts.

After the most nonsensical announcement Harry had ever heard, the tables suddenly groaned under the additional weight of a massive feast. Ron immediately abandoned all thoughts of the Hat and its problems, and started tearing into the food in a way that was very reminiscent of Lina.

At one point during the feast, Harry experienced a sudden sharp twinge in the area of his scar, but other than that he spent his time eating, chatting with his friends, and ignoring the glares of one particular staff member who apparently couldn’t keep his eyes off him.

After the meal was over, Dumbledore made a few more announcements, which at least made some sense this time, and led the students in another awful song. Finally, they were dismissed.

A rather officious boy, who appeared to be related to Ron, gathered up the first years and began to lead them away. He stopped and glared at Muon as she glided down from her perch to land on Harry’s shoulder. However, she rubbed her head against his, called hoo-ah a couple of times, then flew back off to vanish out a skylight.

“She’s gone to check out the Owlery,” said Harry. Mollified, Percy the prefect led them out of the hall.



Once safely in bed and behind drawn curtains, Harry let Lina take the fore.

“Well, that was interesting,” she said. “It looks like you’ve managed to find your own versions of Gourry and Amelia.” She felt Harry laugh at this; Ron did indeed resemble Lina’s warrior companion, at least as far as his eating habits and perceptiveness were concerned, and Hermione’s sense of justice mirrored that of the priestess princess. “Neville is definitely nice too. What’s up with that teacher though? Snape, isn’t it?” Harry registered confusion. “Don’t worry, we’ll find out. Anyway, you should get some sleep, Harry. I might go for an explore later, so don’t panic and take back control if you wake up somewhere odd. We don’t want you getting into trouble on your first night here.” She gave control back to Harry, who wished her good night, and began to drift off.



Lina waited a few hours, to make sure everyone in the room was asleep, then took control again. The light of the stove in the middle of the room was just enough to see by. She slid out of bed and went over to their trunk, opening it as quietly as possible and retrieving her sword from the secret compartment.

‹Just in case,› she thought, as she buckled it on under her school robes. ‹I do feel sort of naked without it.› She glanced around the room, and noticed that Scabbers had poked his nose out of the gap in Ron’s bed curtains and was watching her with beady eyes. She lifted a finger to her lips and said “Shhh...”, then went to the door, giggling to herself.

It only took moments to get down the stairs, across the common room, and out the portrait door. Ignoring the portrait’s snoring, she headed off down the corridor to the main stairwell.

‹’Out of bounds to everyone who does not wish to die a very painful death,’ eh? That’s an invitation if I ever heard one.›

Lina giggled to herself again, and skipped off down the stairs.

‹Someone’s hiding treasure here.›

To be continued...

Oh dear... Lina is loose in Hogwarts.

Himitsu desu: Harry picked up a few random Japanese words and phrases during his time at the students’ house (and hence Lina knows them too). One character in Slayers has a sort of catch-phrase, “Sore wa... himitsu desu”, which is translated as “That... is a secret”. It’s highly frustrating to the other characters, and hence is the sort of thing that sticks in the mind.

Elemental magic: Although Lina is technically a Black Mage (in the Final Fantasy sense of the term) she uses Shamanistic (Elemental) magic far more in her day-to-day life. Given that she feels that she should know more than Harry does, and he usually knows only the incantation and a vague description of a spell’s effects, they’ve both put a lot of time into learning everything they can on the subject, from both magical and Muggle sources. Which is why he’s the first person to notice the problem with the Hat...

Loch: I don’t care what Rowling calls it; it’s a body of water, it’s in Scotland, so it’s a loch. (There’s only one exception to that rule, and Hogwarts is nowhere near it.) The kids, of course, don’t know any better, and will call it a lake when talking about it.

Neville and Hermione: To my mind, since at this point Neville has had a different experience with his Gran over the last few months, and hasn’t had months of being picked on and discouraged by his peers, it would only take a small amount of encouragement to bring out the real Neville, that we only get to see much later on in canon. Similarly, I’ve always felt that the more irritating parts of Hermione’s personality at the start of the series was mostly a defence mechanism; a bit of acceptance at the start (even if Ron is being his usual thoughtless eleven-year-old self) should curb the worst of it.

‘Shocking bad hat’: kudos if you can name the source.