Harry, Hermione and Ron were looking for an empty compartment on the train. After their encounter with Malfoy they weren’t in the mood for talking to anyone else. They didn’t find an empty one, but they did find one with only one other person in it, and they were sleeping. The girl appeared to be a first year, but they didn’t know everyone in the school. On the rack above her, there was a trunk with C. J. Novak on it.
The Trio sat near the window, so they wouldn’t disturb her. They talked about the Death Eaters at the Quidditch World Cup and what could possibly be going on at Hogwarts that had everybody excited. Malfoy and the older Weasleys already knew, so it must be something with the Ministry. It was the only thing that they had in common.
It was Hermione who noticed first. “I think she’s having a nightmare.” She was referring to the first year, who was shaking in her corner.
“Should we wake her?” Ron asked.
“I don’t know,” Hermione said. “She doesn’t know us, so it might not be a good idea.”
They watched her. When she started making pained noises, Harry reached over and shook her awake. “Hey, are you alright?”
The girl sat up immediately. She was short, with short black hair and piercing blue eyes. She was wearing black slacks and a white blouse with a crooked blue tie and a trench coat. “Where am I?”
They were surprised by her deep gravelly voice. “You’re on the Hogwarts express, on the way to the school,” said Hermione.
“Who are you?” she was studying them all, like she didn’t quite trust them. She cleared her throat, probably getting rid of the catch, still watching them all very carefully.
“I’m Hermione Granger.”
She tilted her head at Harry’s name. He shrank a bit under her gaze. Eager to take her attention off him, he said, “Er, is that your trunk?”
She stood, looking at the trunk. “Yes,” she pulled it down. She quickly opened it, read a note, grabbed her wand, then put it back on the shelf. There was silence.
“What’s your name, then?”
Castiel woke up in a strange place. They might have been expecting it but it didn't really make it less unnerving. They took stock of their situation. Their body was now female. Young female. Maybe eleven.
That part didn't bother her. Yes, her. She would have to get re-accustomed to female pronouns because humans are so woefully ignorant of how little gender matters in life. It made almost no difference, yet humanity put such rules based off such arbitrary things. It didn't make sense.
Anyway, that wasn't what bothered her. What bothered her is that she had no idea where she was and who were these people around her. It was distressing to say the least.
Another thing, was that she couldn't feel her grace. None of her senses seemed to be working. She had been warned about this and she had experienced this before, but it still didn't feel good. She could never get used to this feeling. This feeling of being vulnerable, and alone. The silence, even though most of the time she didn’t like hearing her siblings, it was always nice to know that she could if she wanted, or needed, to.
Castiel now faced the others on this train with her. One was a brunette female, called herself Hermione. Another was a ginger male, Ron. Then there was Harry, the one in the note. For the next 365 days, she had to stay with him. It wasn't going to be easy, but it would be worth it once she was able to return to her own time and go back to her friends. She could do this.
She investigated her new wand. She had never had one before and couldn't sense its core, only someone who had trained to do that would, but it appeared to be elder casing, 11 inches, slightly flexible. Why the British, who had been using the metric system for centuries, used inches for wizarding things, was beyond her. Like many things, it made no sense to her.
Back to her companions. “I'm afraid I don't know a lot about Hogwarts. What can you tell me about it?”
“Are you American?” Ron asked her.
“Yes, is that unusual?” She asked. She didn't like how little she knew of wizarding culture. Of course, all of her family know of them, but most don't bother with the headache it takes to locate and continuously watch them. The wards that they have developed were not impenetrable. They were bothersome and caused the less powerful of her siblings to become disoriented. None of them would ever look for someone among the wizards. It wasn’t worth the effort. Maybe it would be beneficial for her as well. If they weren’t looking for her, then they wouldn’t find her.
“Well,” Hermione thought, “America has there own wizarding schools. One would think you would be going to one of them. Were you born in the UK?”
“No, I wasn’t. But I am living here for the next year. Afterwards, I am going back to America.” Hopefully.
“Interesting,” Hermione said. “Well, what do you know?”
“Not much,” Castiel said. She liked to be honest when she could. Half-lies if she couldn’t. “I know that it is a magic school, one of the best in the world. Albus Dumbledore is the headmaster. There are four houses. That’s about it.”
They nodded when she said that. It meant all of that information was true. Castiel had talked to few wizards with her family and was worried that their knowledge would be out of date.
“The four houses are Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff and Slytherin,” Hermione stated. “You’ll be sorted with the other first years once we get to Hogwarts. We’re all fourth year Gryffindors. Do you know any other wizards?”
“Not really,” she said. “A colleague of my fathers brought me here. I don’t really know him, though.” It was true. They didn’t talk much other than to play with Cas and to comment on what a nuisance Cas was. And they did work with her father. Watched over his children while they slept. Castiel barely restrained from shuddering at that thought. “No one has really explained things to me.”
Hermione lit up. “Well, I’m sure we would all be happy to share what we know. Right?” She looked at them. They were quick to nod. She smiled. It was vaguely scary. “What do you want to know?”
Castiel smiled back at her. “The houses sound important.”
“People are sorted into the houses at the beginning of the year. You stay there for the rest of your schooling. It’s a judgement that will follow you for the rest of your life,” Castiel got the sense that Hermione was very knowledgeable and liked to share it with everyone. “You’ll be sorted by your most prominent traits. Gryffindor for the brave, noble and chivalrous. Ravenclaw for the intelligent and creative. Hufflepuff for the loyal and hardworking. Slytherin for cunning and ambition.”
More arbitrary guidelines. Humans sure do love them. “How are the students sorted? It must be very reliable if it affects your future so much.”
“The Sorting Hat,” Ron said. “It looks into your head and says where you belong.”
“Ron!” Hermione cried. “It’s supposed to be a surprise. We didn’t know before our Sorting.”
“It’s alright. I won’t tell anyone.” Castiel was thinking. They were all very random qualities. What if no one fit properly in any of them? What if they had all of the traits? Could people choose where they went? She had so many questions.
Her mind started to wander. Where would Sam and Dean end up if they were here with her? They could easily be put into any of them. They were quite adaptable. Both were incredibly loyal to each other and to others they consider family. They were also brave, to be hunters, and to risk their lives to save others every day. Sam and Dean had their share of intelligence. They had pulled of many clever stunts during their years. That could be either Slytherin or Ravenclaw. She couldn’t really sort them. Maybe that’s why they didn’t have a human do it.
“Thinking about where you’ll be sorted into?” Harry asked.
“No,” Castiel replied. “I was thinking of where my friends would go. I can’t sort them. They fit all of them so well. They are brave, loyal, intelligent, cunning, clever. I don’t think I could sort them.” She tilted her head, not looking at anything. “Now that you mention, I don’t know where I’ll end up.” She thought a bit harder. “I really could be in any of them.”
“I don’t think you could be a Slytherin,” Ron said. “You’re too nice to be a snake.”
Castiel frowned. “What does being nice have to do with cunning and ambition? Can’t I be both?”
“No, it’s just-” Ron started, but was interrupted by Hermione.
“Slytherin’s got a bad reputation, because a lot of evil wizards come from that house and most of the house is pureblood. They tend to look down on the other houses,” she explained. “And we don’t know you well enough to discount anything.”
“Exactly.” Cas said. “If I were to assume your house without you telling me, I would’ve thought you would be Ravenclaw, but you are a Gryffindor, which means impressions aren’t always correct assessments of someone.”
“Maybe you’re the Ravenclaw,” Ron muttered.
Hermione glared at him. “That’s very true, Castiel.”
And so the train ride went. Castiel would ask questions, they would answer her, sometimes with another question. She learned much, while giving away little. She doubted any of them would be able to come to any worthwhile conclusion based on what she had said. Eventually, Hermione shooed Harry and Ron out of the compartment so they could change for school. Castiel pulled her trunk down again and waited to see if Hermione would be watching before she started to undress.
Castiel was unfamiliar with her new body. She was in a prepubescent female vessel, which she hadn’t been in for years, and that wasn't even for an hour. She didn’t know what she looked like, if she had anything a normal girl would want to hide or anything she wanted to hide, and she had to find out with someone else being in the room where she might see anything.
The trenchcoat was the first thing to go. She was glad that she kept it in this form. Next was her tie and jacket. Then her regular white button down shirt. Looking down, she saw that she still had the tattoo she got from her last time as human. She would have to hide that. She was reaching down to get her uniform shirt when she heard Hermione gasp.
“Where did you get that scar?” she asked. Castiel touched the middle of her back. Right where she had been stabbed, there was a small, circular patch of raised skin. Oh. She quickly put on her shirt.
“It’s personal,” she said, putting on her other layers and gray tie. After she finished changing, she left the compartment to get away from Hermione’s inquisitive looks. Thankfully, she didn't press the issue afterwards.
Once they had all changed, they sat back down, Harry and Castiel on one side, Hermione and Ron on the other. Hermione was looking at Cas with something akin to pity. She didn’t need that. Ron and Harry just looked confused with the silent tension that was now there.
Castiel cleared her throat. “Are we friends?”
“Yeah, sure, if you want to be,” Harry shrugged. Ron and Hermione nodded.
“That’s good,” Castiel said. “Even if I’m in another house?” They nodded again. Castiel gave a small smile. The silence was now much more comfortable now that they had cleared that up. For Castiel, at least.