Friday, 4 September, 2009
"Are you ready, Rena?" Dad's voice came from the front of the car. Mum was busy driving, white knuckled and pale. They were late, which didn't come as much surprise. Irena was the first one to go to Hogwarts in their family since Mum graduated, but that was ages ago.
Irena grinned to her dad from the window seat. "Of course I am!" Irena said at once, but in her tummy she was nervous. It would be good to get out of here, her family could be too much sometimes!
They parked outside the train station, getting Irena's cart ready. She had so many books and things from Diagon Alley! So did Dad, but he was a Professor, so it wasn't surprising. "God, we're going to be late." Mum said grumpily while everyone filed out of the car.
Leo stood beside Irena, Perseus busy poking and prodding his arm. "Cut it out, will you?" Leo asked angrily, shuffling away from his brother. Perseus only laughed, continuing to annoy his brother.
"We wouldn't be late if we left when I said." Dad pointed out plainly, though he smiled playfully at her. Even when they disagreed, they never grew angrily with each other. Padfoot and Moony had said they were soulmates, but Irena didn't know what that meant.
"Cedric, would you be quiet with that? I get it, you're right." Mum chuckled, helping Selene and Nova out of the car. "Percy! Stop chasing your brother! Cedric, can you wrangle them in?"
Dad grinned, going after the two boys. It'd be nice to spend time alone with Dad without all the others getting in the way, which seemed to happen often. Mum picked up baby Aurora, waving her wand over the others. A small silvery tendril appeared over each child, linking them back to Mum. Perseus and Leo were dragged very suddenly towards her. "God bless Molly for teaching me the leash spell, I can't have them all falling onto the tracks." Mum muttered, placing Aurora on the cart with Irena's things.
"Fawn, you worry too much." Dad chided, kissing her, picking up Zenith and putting him on the other cart. Irena took Dad's hand as they walked to the entrance.
They went through the wall on Platform 9 and 3/4, surrounded by other wizards and witches at last. It wasn't that Irena hated Muggles, they were just so boring! She wanted to play fairy and goblin, but no Muggle made a good playmate, not like her best friend, Teddy Lupin.
"Sirius, come to see your two off?" Dad asked as they approached the four people. Sunny, their daughter, squeaked excitedly, saying hello to Nova and Selene.
Sirius, who everyone called Padfoot, beamed. "Nope, just Teddy this time! Remus is taking a break from teaching this year, he figured that ten years was enough before vacationing." Padfoot said with a grin.
"I'm standing right here." Moony grumbled, but he smiled.
Teddy broke free from his fathers and embraced Irena. Moony bent down to them, looking to his son, ruffling his hair, kissing Irena on her cheek. "Teddy, remember what we talked about last night?"
"Yea." Teddy muttered, as if he'd rather be anywhere but there.
"What'd you talk about?" Irena asked.
"Dad wants me to control my Metamorphmagus powers." Teddy groaned. "He thinks I'm gonna be bullied all cuz my hair changes colors!" He huffed, clenching his fists.
Irena frowned. "Well, remember Asher, from the DA? He was pretty mean." She reminded him. They both had gone to Dumbledore's Preparatory Academy for Young Pupils (and the Magically Influenced) but it was such a long name, everyone shortened it to the DA.
"She's right, Ted." Moony told his son affectionately. "I won't be there to protect you this time, you're going to be far, far away." His focus turned from his son to her. "Irena, you'll make sure that he listens, won't you?"
Teddy groaned audibly. "I will, I promise." Irena told him.
"Wait, if Remus is retiring, who's taking his place?" Mum asked.
"Harry is." Padfoot said with a proud smile. "He was crushed after the accident, left poor Cho alone and came to ours for a while. Remus already was thinking of vacation, and it seemed like a worthy opportunity."
Dad grinned. "Harry's coming to work with us? Oh, Neville'll be so glad!" He said cheerily.
"I think he'll do an excellent job." Mum said confidently. "He did so good with Dumbledore's Army, getting us all ready for the final battle."
The train made a loud, long toot sound, signaling that the train would be leaving in ten minutes. "I think it's time to board soon." Padfoot mused, looking down at all the children, but Teddy and Irena in particular. "I suppose it'll be time to say our goodbyes. Cedric, you'll look after them, make sure they don't get into too much trouble?"
"Oh, no, only a little bit of trouble." Dad teased.
Mum bent down tending to Irena's clothes carefully. Her blue eyes looked into Irena's, which was almost startling. "You'll be good, won't you?" She whispered to Irena. "No getting into trouble, no being mean to teachers, and no setting things on fire!"
"Yes, Mummy, I know!" Irena groaned, growing red in the face. The first time she'd ever performed magic had been a total accident! She'd been throwing rocks at recess at the DA, which apparently was against the rules. She got sent to Headmistress Sprout's office, where she got scolded and threatened to send a Howler to her mother. Irena had set the filing cabinet on fire, but it was a mistake.
She smiled, straightening her jacket. "Your wand is in your suitcase, I don't want it to be lost on the train. Magic is quite hard to perform without one." Mum told her, kissing her forehead. Her face twisted, as if she were sad. "Oh, you look so grown up, look at you. Let me get a picture."
The parents made Irena and Teddy stand in front of the brick walls while Mum took a picture. Irena hugged each of her siblings goodbye before getting on the train with Teddy and Dad. "You two don't need a chaperone, do you?" Dad asked. "You can find somewhere to sit yourselves?"
"Yes, Dad, we can." Irena said pointedly.
"Thanks for the offer, Mr. Diggory!" Teddy said cheerfully. Dad gave Irena a kiss on the forehead before leaving for the teacher's compartment. "Dads said that this is one of the most important days of our lives, on the first train ride to Hogwarts. The friends we make here will last a lifetime."
Irena sighed. "I don't think that's true." She shook her head. "We'll have plenty of time to make friends in classes and at lunch. Can we sit together?"
"Well, duh!" Teddy told her, grinning. They went from compartment to compartment, looking for somewhere empty to sit. The train gave off another toot , signaling that there was only five minutes left. They went into a compartment where only two people sat, a girl and a boy. "Can we sit here?" Teddy asked when they came in.
The boy, an odd looking boy, peered up to them. "Yea, sure." He said in a monotone voice. Teddy stored their luggage in the upper compartments, sitting beside the boy. Irena sat next to the girl, waving out the window to Mum, Padfoot, and Moony before the train lurched into motion.
"So, what are your names?" Irena asked, looking at the boy and girl. The boy had a shaved haircut, the fuzz showed that he was supposed to be blond. He had deep green eyes and freckles, as well as a dark bruise on his eye. Mum always said it was rude to stare, but he was very hard not to look at. "I'm Irena, and this is Teddy."
Teddy smiled, looking at them. The girl who sat across from the boy had long black hair tied into two braids, but the way they looked at the ends proved that her hair was meant to be very curly. "I'm Aria, Aria Rowe. That's Felix Fitzgibbons, we come from the same home."
"Oh, like you're brother and sister?" Teddy asked. "I've got a sister."
"No, I've got a sister." Felix muttered, avoiding looking at them. "But I've never even met her."
Irena wanted to know more, but he grew very quiet, looking at the landscape out the window instead of them. Aria was more eager to talk. "No, we come from the same care home, Chatsby's Home for Lost Children. I haven't got parents, I used to have this one lady take care of me, but she got old and died, and they moved me to the orphanage with boys like Felix, who were never wanted in the first place." She said with a smirk, looking to Felix.
"Shut it!" Felix snarled angrily.
"Hey, let's all take a deep breath, okay?" Teddy muttered, trying to keep the peace. Felix sighed angrily, looking out the window.
Irena looked at Aria. She had a sharp jaw and puffy lips with big dark brown eyes. "Well, I live in London with my mum and dad and all my brothers and sisters. I'm glad to finally be away from them, I can finally have some peace and quiet!"
"Depends on what house you get into!" Teddy teased. "I know I'm gonna be Gryffindor, cuz both of my dads were in Gryffindor. I know it's gonna be loud, cuz my house is loud! I love it though. I hope I'm in Gryffindor."
Aria looked on to Teddy, analyzing him. "I hope I'm in Slytherin." She said coolly.
"That's the evil one! You-Know-Who was in that one!" Irena exclaimed. She hoped that she would be in Hufflepuff, since mum and dad were both in Hufflepuff. It only made sense, didn't it?
The other girl only laughed. "You-Know-Who was only one wizard, there have been plenty of other Slytherins who've been good- very smart too. It's the house of cunning and cleverness, is it not?"
"I suppose.." Teddy mumbled. "I kinda always thought that kids in Slytherin got put in there by accident, that no one wanted to be in Slytherin.."
"Well, I guess I'll be one of the first." Aria told him proudly.
There was quiet in the car. "I think being in Hufflepuff might be nice." Irena murmured. "They always seem pretty friendly, I think. Plus, my mum and dad were in Hufflepuff and they turned out alright."
The train witch came with her snacks, Irena already knew what she liked. Most of the candy was made by Uncle Freddie and Uncle George, and they always let her sample things before selling them (Mum doesn't like it, but who cares?). "Oo, Felix, I think you'll like these Ton-Tongue Toffees!" Irena teased.
Even if Felix was brooding and grumpy, he couldn't refuse sweets. He took the little bit of candy, unwrapping the wrapper, taking a tiny nibble. Felix coughed suddenly, making Irena laugh as his tongue began to grow. Felix squealed in alarm while Aria laughed.
"Irena!" Teddy chastised her, raising his wand, flicking it to Felix's tongue. " Finite Incantatum. " He cast, making the tongue go back to normal size. "That was a mean trick, Irena." Teddy told her.
Aria was still laughing while Felix pouted. "It was a funny trick!" She giggled.
"I'm out of here." Felix said suddenly, standing up and grabbing his old, broken suitcase, leaving the three of them alone. He slammed the door shut, making the glass rattle in its frame.
Irena felt guilty, sitting back quietly. Teddy looked out the window. "I'm- I'm going with him." Teddy announced, grabbing his suitcase.
"What happened to us sitting together?" Irena complained.
"I want to sit with Felix now." Teddy replied plainly, leaving, running after the other boy.
Aria sighed contently. "Tell me which candies are safe, okay? Don't make my tongue big." They rode the train to Hogwarts. Aria didn't have much of a story to tell, so Irena told her all about her family, about the DA, about the Christmas and New Years parties at the Burrow with everyone she considered family. By the time they had reached Hogwarts, Irena was busy telling her about what she'd got for Christmas last year.
"And then Uncle Moony got me- wait, I think we're here." Irena said, gazing out the window. The landscape was beginning to change, the moors and meadows that the train once passed had turned into a dark, lush forest. "Okay, Dad told me what happens now. We're supposed to change into our robes- done. We're supposed to leave our luggage on the train too."
The train came to a stop, letting Irena and Aria out onto the platform. The kids around her were buzzing with excitement, older children left to the right of the platform for the carriages to Hogwarts, while a large, tall man called out to her right. "Firs' years! Firs' years! C'mere!"
Irena and Aria were one of the first to arrive in front of the man. He really was quite tall, probably three times Irena's size (though she was short for her age). Aria watched reprehensibly as Teddy and Felix tumbled out of the car with another boy, laughing and just being loud. "Stupid boys." Aria shook her head.
"Boys are stupid." Irena agreed, though she mostly echoed Aria's own sentiments. Irena wanted Aria to like her. While Teddy had his moments of being annoying, Irena didn't actually think he was stupid.
The large man cleared his throat, silencing all the first years. "Alright, firs' years, come with me. I'm Hagrid and I'm the Keeper of Keys at Hogwarts. We'll be taking the boats on the lake to the castle- watch yer step!- I'm also the Gamekeeper on campus, and I teach the Care of Magical Creatures class, but you won't be seein' much of me 'til third year."
They stumbled through the dark forest, Irena and Aria held onto each other tightly. Teddy tripped over a root, tearing the knees on his robes. Padfoot would surely be upset that he tore his new trousers, he was usually upset about that sort of thing.
"Four to a boat!" Hagrid said when they approached the shore. Irena looked to Teddy to see if he wanted to ride with her, but he was too busy with Felix and the other boy to even notice her.
Aria sat in a boat, and Irena joined her. Two other girls joined them, a pretty girl named Tabitha Travers, and another girl named Philomena Fitzgibbons. Irena remembered that Felix had the same last name, but she didn't mention anything to her. It seemed that she didn't even know he existed.
They made their way through the water. There were times when Irena looked into the water and thought she saw a face or a hand. It was magic, but it didn't make her feel any safer knowing there was something watching them from under the water. Irena was relieved when they hit the shore, stepping out to a large wooden door.
Hagrid knocked with his large hands, the door swung open. "Professor Longbottom, I've got the first years." Hagrid told the professor who stood in the doorway. He was tall and very slender. His hair was messy and his hands were stained brown. Irena remembered Mum mentioning a Longbottom when talking about the war. He seemed about her age.
"Thank you, Hagrid, feel free to move to the Great Hall." Professor Longbottom grinned. The Gamekeeper shuffled into the doorway, disappearing, but not without leaving a few good natured muddy footprints. "This way, first years, let's get a move on, we don't want the feast to start without us!"
Longbottom stepped through the door, disappearing into the hall. The first years looked around at each other, wondering what to do. Irena watched as Teddy and his new friends raced in after the professor, the rest of the first years followed suit. Irena was getting a bit clammy now, so she wiped her hands off on her robe.
In the hall, the walls were dotted with portraits, all moving and smiling at the incoming students. The ceilings were so high, they almost seemed to disappear into the shadows. There was a warm glow throughout the castle and Irena could hear the chatting of the older students from the Great Hall.
They were led into an empty chamber not too far from the Great Hall. Irena's stomach growled, all she'd eaten that day was breakfast and sweets on the train, she looked forward to the hearty Hogwarts meals everyone always talked about.
The professor clapped his hands together, grinning as the first years quieted down. "Welcome to Hogwarts, all of you." Longbottom said. "The start-of-term banquet will begin shortly, but before you take your seats in the Great Hall, you will be sorted into your houses. The Sorting is a very important ceremony because, while you are here, your house will be something like your family within Hogwarts. You will have classes with the rest of your house, sleep in your house dormitory, and spend free time in your house common room."
" What kind of name is Longbottom anyway? " Aria whispered to the three girls. Tabitha giggled, so did Philomena. Irena only wanted to pay attention to Professor Longbottom, eager to learn more, even if they were things Dad already told her.
Longbottom continued his speech. "The four houses are called Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin. Each house has its own noble history and each has produced outstanding witches and wizards. While you are at Hogwarts, your triumphs will earn your house points, while any rule breaking will lose house points. At the end of the year, the house with the most points is awarded the house cup, a great honor. I hope each of you will be a credit to whichever house becomes yours.
"I'm Professor Longbottom, the head of Gryffindor house. There's Professor Slughorn, the head of Slytherin house, Professor Flitwick, the head of Ravenclaw, and Professor Diggory, the head of Hufflepuff." There was a pause, someone had opened the door and whispered something, closing the door. He didn't seem upset or fazed by this. "The Sorting Ceremony will begin in a few minutes, I suggest you fix yourselves up in this time. When I return, we will begin the ceremony."
He disappeared through the doors, leaving the children alone. "Do I look okay?" Philomena fretted, running a hand through her silky blonde hair, it looked like it was made of gold.
"Yes, Philly, you look fine!" Tabitha told her assuredly.
Irena touched the braid in the back of her head. Mum had braided her hair for the train ride, but it still looked okay for a ceremony, right? The door opened quickly and the group shuffled out of the tiny chamber and into the Great Hall.
Everyone gawked at the first years, which made Irena nervous. Teddy must have been nervous too, since him and his group eventually gravitated toward Irena and her new friends too. The ceiling was covered in magic floating candles. Irena caught Aria and Philomena staring upwards excitedly at it all. So what? Mum made candles float at home too!
They stood at the front, Irena felt the funny twist in her stomach. She wiped her hands on her robes again.
Longbottom placed a tiny wooden stool near the front with a frumpy, ugly brown hat. The professor was ginger and kind with it, setting it up perfectly. Irena watched in shock as it sat up, forming a face with its folds, and began to sing.
Oh, you may not think I'm pretty,
But don't judge on what you see,
I'll eat myself if you can find
A smarter hat than me.
You can keep your bowlers black,
Your top hats sleek and tall,
For I'm the Hogwarts Sorting Hat
And I can cap them all.
There's nothing hidden in your head
The Sorting Hat can't see,
So try me on and I will tell you
Where you ought to be.
You might belong in Gryffindor,
Where dwell the brave at heart,
Their daring, nerve, and chivalry set Gryffindors apart;
You might belong in Hufflepuff,
Where they are just and loyal,
Those patient Hufflepuffis are true
And unafraid of toil;
Or yet in wise old Ravenclaw,
If you've a ready mind,
Where those of wit and learning,
Will always find their kind;
Or perhaps in Slytherin
You'll make your real friends,
Those cunning folk use any means
To achieve their ends.
So put me on!
Don't be afraid!
And don't get in a flap!
You're in safe hands (though I have none)
For I'm a Thinking Cap!
The crowd cheered, clapping their hands as the hat finished its song. She peered up at the staff table. In the center sat an older woman in deep maroon and gold robes. She drank from a goblet, grinning down at all the first years. Beside her was a tiny dwarf, and on the other side was Dad- er, Professor Diggory. He smiled sweetly to Irena, muttering something to the lady in the center, who nodded and smiled, looking down at Irena.
"When I call your name, you will sit on the stool and place the hat on your head until it sorts you." Professor Longbottom said warmly. He took out a piece of parchment from his robes, unrolling it and squinting. "Antwork, George."
A boy with dark skin and curly hair stepped forward, sitting on the stool timidly. The hat thought for a moment before shouting, "HUFFLEPUFF!" The kids from the table in yellow cheered and clapped as he went and sat beside them. I hope I'm in Hufflepuff.. I really do!
Kids with A names went first, like Riley Appletree, who became a Ravenclaw, and Talon Aves, who became a Gryffindor. Then, there were B names, C names, and finally, D names. Longbottom cleared his throat. "Diggory-Black, Irena!" He called out.
"Good luck!" Teddy whispered as she left.
"It'll be fine!" Aria told her.
Irena went up to the stool, glancing to Dad and the Headmistress before looking at Professor Longbottom. She trembled a bit as she sat on the stool and he placed the hat on her head, beaming at her.
"Ooh, yes, I haven't sat upon a head like yours in nearly a century!" The Sorting Hat told her as everyone around the tables stared at her. Can you hurry this up? Irena begged. "Hurry up? We've only just got acquainted! Now, let's see.. I see a great mind.. so talented! What's this? A loyalty to friends, quite a lot of bravery, I'll give you that. I see.. a bit of selfishness and entitlement, ah a spoiled girl. I see ambition and the need to prove yourself.. with a mind like this and a history like yours.. I see no other choice.. SLYTHERIN!"
She froze on the spot, looking around. The kids at the Slytherin table cheered loudly, banging against the table loudly. "Go on then, love." Professor Longbottom told her in a quiet voice. Irena got off the stool, walking very quickly toward the Slytherin table. This was very much not what she wanted. Her cheeks flushed and she could feel the beginnings of tears in her eyes, she buried her face in her sleeves, listening to everyone else being sorted.
E, then it was F . "Fitzgibbons, Felix." Longbottom announced.
Irena raised her head to watch the boy through irritated eyes. The hat barely touched his head before announcing: "GRYFFINDOR!" The table roared in delight, Irena felt jealous. Even Gryffindor would be better than being in Slytherin. She looked up to Dad, who watched her intently, his facial expression unreadable.
"Fitzgibbons, Philomena." The professor called.
Felix's eyes widened as she stepped forward, sitting on the stool, sweeping her golden blonde hair away from her face and behind her ear. The hat hadn't even touched her head before shouting: "RAVENCLAW!" The table clapped ceremoniously, as if they were too good to bang on the table.
Irena let her face fall back into her arms as she listened. G, H, I, J, K, L .. "Lupin, Edward." Longbottom called out, peering around. She looked up again, noticing a bit of his hair on the back of his head twitched from brown, to auburn, to blond, then back to brown. He hated being called Edward.
The hat was quick with its decision: "GRYFFINDOR!"
Great, now I'm virtually alone!
More names were called and soon, Irena was not the only one at the Slytherin table. M, N, O, P, Q, R.. "Rowe, Aria." He called out.
The hat sat on her head for a while, Aria only grinned. Even from a distance, everyone could see that she would grow up to be beautiful. "SLYTHERIN!" The hat called out. Aria raced to the table, shoving herself in a seat beside Irena.
"We're together again!" Aria whispered with a grin as more kids got sorted. At least she had her new friend with her. Irena worried as she watched Teddy, him and all his friends had been sorted into Gryffindor. Did that mean they had to be enemies now?
The sorting ceremony was finished, and there was a good amount of students in each house. The Headmistress, McGonagall, stood by the podium while things quieted down. "I have a few start of term notices for all of you," She spoke in a clear, authoritative voice. "First years, as always, should note that the Forbidden Forest is forbidden to all pupils. Mr. Filch is asking that no magic be used in the halls during the passing period.
"As for our staff, Professor Remus Lupin has decided to take a leave of absence and in his absence, we will be joined by Professor Harry Potter, the newest Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher." McGonagall said with a smile.
Irena watched as the man stood up by the table, adjusting his glasses and waving, smiling an awkward smile. The Gryffindors cheered, even a few Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws did too. His eyes drifted to the quiet Slytherin table, resting on Irena. He never visited like Uncle Ron and Auntie Hermione, but when he did, he was always curt and short with her. He'd never liked her, but maybe this year could change that. She wanted to be liked!
The food appeared at the table at once. Steamy roast chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, several helpings of the creamiest, cheesiest macaroni and cheese Irena had ever tasted, and steamed vegetables. Come dessert, she was almost too full, but indulged in a bit of chocolate ice cream anyway.
She was good and sleepy by the time everyone decided to sing the Hogwarts song, but she paid no attention to it. They followed the two prefects, Amanda Polliwog and Robin Boartusk, to the Slytherin common room. It was hauntingly beautiful, with bright luminescent green lights and decorative serpent art over the walls.
Irena yawned tiredly, going upstairs to the Girl's Dormitory, while the boys went downstairs. She went into the room, meeting with her new roommates. Aria was there, of course, with her bed set up by one of the windows, Irena's was beside hers at the other window. Tabitha Travers, who wanted to be called Tabby now, introduced herself, and so did another girl, Diana Dolohov.
She collapsed on the bed tiredly, yanking the curtains closed as she fell asleep.
That night, she dreamed she was a bird floating on the breeze over the lake.