Natasha & Clint
"So which house do you think we'll end up in?" Clint asks. He is perched along the heavy arm of a tree near the border of their properties. Natasha walks along the rail of the great fence the branch extends over with easy grace. She spins into a handstand and Clint catches her feet even though she no longer needs him to do so.
"I'll be in Slytherin, of course," she says.
"Of course," Clint says, something patronizing in his tone. She pulls from his grasp and returns to her feet, wobbling a moment as she regains her balance. Clint is grinning at her, as she'd known he would be.
"You'll be," she draws out the word, thinking. She squints at him and then glances at the ground. "Either Gryffindor or Ravenclaw."
"Don't think I can survive the snake's den with you?" Clint asks. He joins her on the high fence and paces backward and forward, his arms wheeling wildly.
"I don't think you can survive being underground," Natasha corrects. "You'll want a tower. So, Ravenclaw or Gryffindor."
"Better make it Gryffindor then," Clint says, even as Natasha wrinkles her nose at the thought of having a Gryffindor for a best friend. He leans back on his branch. "We're going to be enemies, aren't we?"
"Don't be ridiculous," Natasha says. She tries a cartwheel away from him, but falls instead. She's learned, over the years, how to make the fall less painful. She rolls with it, laughing when she's recovered control. She leans back on her elbows and looks up at Clint. "We're allies," she tells him.
"Friends," he corrects, rolling his eyes.
She flicks a puff of dandelion seeds toward him. "It's everyone else we have to worry about."
Bruce stirs his cereal slowly, letting the milk seep in and turn his Cheerios into mush. His father had come in late that night. The door had slammed open and shut, echoing through the house like a clap of thunder. Bruce had awakened immediately, though he'd kept in bed with his eyes squeezed shut and awaiting the inevitable cacophony. But it appeared to have been an all right night, because instead he'd only heard the television switch on. The sinister music of a horror movie crept up through his floor and had lulled him back to sleep.
His father is awake now. And at the table, eating in the dim light. He'd cussed until Bruce's mother had turned off the kitchen light and pulled the pale blue curtains closed over the window above the sink. So Bruce is eating as quietly as he can manage and forcing himself not to make faces at the mush sliding back over his tongue.
He has already made his parents' lives difficult enough. He can manage this much. Besides, he's finally received his letter--the one he'd been promised years ago after his first full moon--and a teacher from his future school will be visiting later to help him buy his school things.
Bruce swallows down more of his cereal mush, giving nearly all of his concentration to the task. His parents at either end of the table are likewise silent. He wonders if the breakfasts without him will be like this. He doesn't want to leave his mother, is actively terrified of leaving her, but maybe things will be better without him.
He hopes, anyway. Bruce quietly skims his spoon along the base of his bowl and sips a spoonful of milk thickly rimmed on one side with sugar. The summer is half over, soon he will be at school and life will be better for everyone.
Once they are in Diagon Alley, Steve's nana does not remark on the scales dancing in one shop window or strange, long robes everyone seemed to wear, or their great hats. Instead she scans the alley, her mouth tightening like a puckered seam. "You've had a war," she says. Their guide, Professor Quirrel, startles and then looks around the street as if trying to see what Nana had seen.
"Yes, well," he says, his hands flapping about like fish on a dock. Nana gives him the Not Amused look and Professor Quirrel stills.
"When did it end?" Nana asks.
"A year ago, about. We're all quite safe now. Really."
Steve looks up at his nana as she hums. This is her Very Not Amused hum. Steve knows about war from his grandparents' bedtime stories. He's figured out that war isn't a happy thing, but that people have to make the best of it and that's how it becomes an adventure. Sometimes the sad parts can be too much though, like when his grandpa's voice gets thick and hoarse mid-story and he has to go be alone for a little while.
Steve isn't sure he wants to go into a world with war. He looks up at his nana nervously, wondering if accepting the strange letter had been a good idea after all. Nana squeezes his hand and pats his knuckles with her free hand. "We'll be wanting to learn more about your recent history, first, I think. The bookstore, perhaps?" Her voice is crisp and low.
"O-of course," Professor Quirrel says. "This way."
In the book store, Nana immediately goes to the recent history section and starts thumbing through books. Professor Quirrel touches Steve's shoulder.
"Why don't we get your school books while we're here?" He gestures to the second-floor balcony where Steve can see several other people around his age. He glances to his nana.
"Go ahead," Nana says. "And see if you can find any good novels while you're up there."
Steve grins. "Do wizards have novels?" he asks Professor Quirrel.
"Oh yes," he says. "We have novels and poetry and even comic books."
His eyes widen and he can hear Nana laugh behind him. "Comic books?"
"I'll show you after we get your textbooks," Professor Quirrel says, leading him upstairs. "There's a series that started only a couple months ago that I think you'll like. Martin Miggs. It is not very accurate, but very silly and fun."
"That sounds like it might be all right, Professor" Steve says, politely.
"Might be?" Professor Quirrel asks. "It was v-very popular last year."
Steve ducks his head. "I just like superhero stories better," he says.
Professor Quirrel smiles. "Me too. There's one about three brothers who use magic gifts they win from Death himself to help people all over the world."
"Can we look at that one?" he asks.
When Steve meets his nana back downstairs, she has a stack of three books and he has a much larger stack, plus the first five issues of Brothers Three and one issue of Martin Miggs.
That night, instead of his usual bedtime story, Nana reads aloud from one of her books and Steve learns about Harry Potter, the little baby who ended the war.
The book makes the story sound like an adventure, but as Steve falls asleep, he thinks about how Harry Potter's parents are dead now, too, and he knows that the story is also a sad one.
Jane & Darcy
"Jane! We're going to be late for the train."
Jane chews her lip, her gaze darting at each of the books she's laid out across her bed. Stacks of discarded books surround her. "Coming! Just one more minute!"
"Yeah, she stopped believing that the fifth time you said it."
"Oh, Darcy, thank Merlin, help!" Jane gestures at the books. She's narrowed it down to the ones on the bed, but she isn't sure that they're the right ones.
Darcy steps around the book stacks carefully and joins Jane at the bed. "You realize that Hogwarts has its own library, right? Full of books. I've not seen it, but I've heard stories. Multiple shelves even."
"Darcy." This is so not the time for joking, but Darcy has a point. Jane forces herself to stop worrying about her selection and picks up her book bag.
"Fine, fine." Darcy gives the fraying bag a critical look. "I hope that bag of yours has a weightless charm."
Jane starts to worry her lip again. "An old one, but it should be fine."
"How old?" Darcy asks, dubiously.
"It'll be fine." It has to be fine.
"All right then." Darcy helps her stack the books and fit them into the bag. She has a way with packing, fitting books into gaps Jane wouldn't have considered. In the end, all but two books are stuffed into the bag. Jane trades a sweater from her trunk for the last two.
"That's everything." She shoulders her bag and starts to drag her trunk to the stairs for her mother to take down.
"Are you sure?" Darcy asks, laughter in her voice.
"Books, school books, clothes, supplies--" She visualizes her packed trunk and the probable locations of all her necessities. "--that's everything." She resumes her dragging and is about to call out to her mother, when Darcy coughs.
"Er, Jane? You might need this." Jane looks back to see Darcy waving her wand back and forth.
Jane winces. "Right." She starts shifting her bags to grab it, wondering how she'll hold it and drag her case at the same time, but Darcy rolls her eyes and twirls a finger.
"What?" Jane asks, already turning.
"Trust me." Darcy weaves the wand through the base of Jane's ponytail. "There. How are you ever going to survive two years at Hogwarts without me?"
"I'll manage." Jane turns back around and wraps Darcy in a tight hug. "I'm going to miss you."
"Hey, you're not saying 'good-bye' yet. I'm going to the train with you."
"You are?" But before Darcy can answer, she notices the clock over her bed. "Oh, the train, we're going to be late."
Darcy laughs and calls down the stairs. "We're on our way down."
Virginia Potts (& Tony & Bruce)
Virginia arrived at the train early. Her father helped stow her trunk; and, she had plenty of time to purchase some sweets with the money her mother had pressed on her before the line at the cart grows with the other students rushing on board. She has secured a car in the center of the train and is perfectly ready and at ease while chaos builds up around her. She empties three boxes of Bertie Botts' Every Flavour Beans into a small, collapsible bowl and begins sorting out the gray ones into one of the empty boxes. Other colors are sorted into the other boxes based on their probable flavors and how much she likes or detests them. This is a soothing process and one she's perfected over the six years since she'd eaten her first jelly bean at age five.
Students bustle up and down the aisle; train compartment doors slide open and closed; greetings are loudly exchanged. Virginia wishes, not for the first time, that her parents had allowed her to attend Beauxbatons, rather than Hogwarts. At least then she'd be among friends. The UK is just a bunch of painted-in memories, the majority of which feature Christmas trees. With the war over, however, her parents saw no reason she shouldn't attend their alma mater.
The door to her compartment slams open. A boy tosses a suitcase onto one seat and slouches across from her, his feet propped on the seat beside her. "I'm here under protest," he says.
"Excuse me?" she asks.
The boy waves a hand around indicating the train. "This is ridiculous. All of it. Magic. As if that's done any good."
She blinks. This is not a conversation she'd anticipated having. "I'm Virginia Potts," she says, instead, deflecting.
"Tony Stark. Muggle-whatever."
"Right." He knocks the side of his foot against her knee. "What're you doing?"
"Pulling out my favorite flavor." She offers him one of the grays.
Tony tosses it in his mouth and, a moment later, makes a face. Virginia looks down to hide her smile. "Pepper?"
Just then the compartment door slides open again. A small boy with messy brown hair and a button missing at his collar glances at them and steps back. "Sorry. You look full, I'll just--"
"Muggleborn or wizardborn?" Tony asks.
"Muggleborn?" the boy says, uncertainly.
Tony shoves his suitcase to the floor--Virginia has to raise her feet to keep from being hit--and slides down his seat. "Come, sit. I need someone normal to talk to. I'm Tony. This is Pepper."
"Virginia," she corrects, but Tony doesn't appear to hear her.
"I was just telling Pepper about the superiority of the normal world and she retaliated by giving me a vile sweet."
"I didn't realize we were having a debate," Virginia says. "Had I known I'd have given you a toffee or strawberry flavored bean instead."
The boy still stands nervously between them. Tony reaches up and tugs on his arm. "Sit down already. You're?"
"Bruce." He slides into the seat quietly, a small bag perched on his lap. He doesn't lean back in the seat and seems ready to leave at a moment's excuse. Tony appears to notice none of this.
"So, Bruce, what do you think of the new Doctor?"
"I like him," Bruce says without hesitation. Virginia had not thought the two boys knew each other, but now she is less certain. Bruce had seemed to almost recognize Tony when Tony had introduced himself; and, besides, how else would they know the same physician? "He's not as, well, mean as the Fourth Doctor."
"You like him? But--" Tony's hands move wildly. "--the celery. It's ridiculous."
Virginia finishes her sorting--favorite, foul, and fair--into her boxes, only half paying attention as Bruce and Tony discuss this 'doctor' in great detail. The man is fictional, she discovers, though she is curious why the Muggle world apparently considers medical work as a sort of magical power. Bruce relaxes into his seat while Tony bickers with him. Part of her wonders if that had been Tony's intent all along.
"You can't think the Daleks are scary," Tony is saying. "They look like--" He stops, looking at her. "Hey, you're not secretly a purity-obsessed killer robot, are you?"
"What?" Bruce asks. "She looks nothing like—"
"She's Pepper Potts," Tony says, cutting him off. "The Daleks look like pepper pots. It was an honest question."
Bruce covers his face, his shoulders shaking slightly. Virginia just rolls her eyes. "First, my name is Virginia--"
"Pepper," Tony corrects, grinning broadly.
"—and, second, I am not aware of being anything other than a normal witch."
"So you could be a killer robot, but you're just not aware of it yet?"
Pepper narrows her eyes at him, but then instead, hands him and Bruce each a box of her sorted jelly beans. "Every Flavour Beans," she says.
"Beware the gray ones," Tony warns.
"I took all of those out."
Bruce selects out a dark blue one and then smiles. "Blueberry."
Tony pulls out a pale yellow one. "Yech. Vinegar. Seriously, what is wrong with you magic people and candy?"
Pepper just smiles and eats another of her grays.
All right. So the ceiling thing is cool and a lot more realistic than the planetarium he got to see when his father took the family to Chicago on a business trip. Tony wonders how accurate the sky projection is. He'll have to return at night and compare with star charts, maybe. The room has four massive tables, besides the one at the head, each under its own banner. These have to be the houses he'd heard some students discussing when he'd been looking for a place to sit on the train. He decides he wants either the red one or the yellow one--blue and green really aren't his colors.
He starts to move toward one of the tables, when Pepper from the train grabs his sleeve. "You have to be Sorted first," she hisses.
He's about to ask what she means when the floppy hat he'd dismissed as some sort of weird school mascot opens its brim and starts to sing. Given the way everyone, and he means everyone, is paying attention, he figures this song must be somewhat important in some other way than the fact it is impossibly coming from a piece of headgear. Tony pays attention and finally learns what the various houses mean. As the strict-looking professor in green starts calling up students to put on the hat and be told where to go (and seriously, how does that work?), Tony processes what he's learned. The Hat uses some sort of instant personality test to decide which House trait (bravery, cunning, intelligence, or dedication/just generally being a decent person) is most prominent.
He wonders if there is any correlation with the Myers-Briggs Types. He could probably—oh, Bruce joined the Ravens, good for him—create a program that mimicked the Sorting. He'd need data first, a survey to start, something based on the MBTI, maybe, but not just that. He'll need to consider multiple understandings of personality. Then he could start identifying the essential questions, the real test would be to use the program to pre-Sort next year or—another thought occurs to him, how much influence does a person have over their Sorting? Could the pre-test predispose people for certain houses? He'd have to rig some of the tests to give the least likely house then, see if it makes a difference.
Tony's mind whirls with possibilities and plans until he hears the strict-lady-in-green call out "Potts, Virginia!" P is close enough to S that he should probably start paying more attention, besides, he wants to know where Pepper ends up. The Hat sits quietly for a few seconds and then announces, "SLYTHERIN."
Pepper smiles, replaces the hat neatly on the stool, and goes to sit next to another first year with dark red curls at the green banner table. The next couple students go to Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff. A blond boy ("Rogers, Stephen") says, "Here, Professor" as he goes up to the front of the room. He smiles at everyone and walks so upright that Tony's back aches just watching him. The Hat barely even touches his head before it yells out, "GRYFFINDOR." Everyone at the table the blond joins looks like a bunch of do-gooders. At that moment Tony decides, no matter what, he is not going into Gryffindor, which only leaves the yellow house.
Tony considers the table beneath the yellow banner. They all look friendly enough, maybe not the brightest bunch, but Tony knows how important "hardworking" can be. He thinks of long nights up in his room hacking together his own programming language (he could so create something better than C with Classes), of the plans he'd drawn up for the robot he'd planned on building before the stupid letter with green ink had arrived with his name on it. Hufflepuff wouldn't be so bad.
Some students start murmuring as he goes up to the stool with the hat. Stark? You don't think-- I think it is, don't you recognize him from the telly? Tony flashes a media-worthy grin at the room and jauntily dons the Hat.
"You'd fit well in Ravenclaw," he hears the Hat say.
"Don't like blue," Tony mentally replies, wondering how exactly the mental link was working.
"I can't Sort you on color preference," the Hat says. Tony can feel it tremble on his head a little in laughter. "You like to ask questions and find answers--"
"--and then do something with those answers. Besides, I'm only here until my father sees sense and lets me go attend a proper school. I want a house where I can have fun, where--" he does not finish the sentence; too many words swell up into the gap at once. Where I can have friends, real friends, where I can work on something for hours without someone asking me why I'm wasting my time, where people care about what you do more than who you are, where I'm not alone.
The Hat loudly replies, "HUFFLEPUFF."