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Post last updated: Jul 23, 2014 8:13 PM
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Dear Miss Mason,

We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry...


Emma's parents are thrilled. Such a good school, so well respected, and those alumni- just look at the battle against the Dark Lord! All that talent!- they're beyond proud. Emma's pleased on their behalf, of course. She wants to make her parents proud. She doesn't ask how badly the school was damaged in the war; she doesn't inquire how many teachers are missing or dead; she doesn't mention wishing she could stay home for a year. Maybe until things are just a little more rebuilt.

(She thinks it, though.)

She smiles and hugs her parents and agrees yes, of course it's wonderful, helping to rebuild the wizarding world is important. She'll start school in the fall, become a better witch.

And, as her mother points out excitedly- now they need to go shopping.



Emma's hardly unfamiliar with Diagon Alley. It's the place to be seen, as far as her parents are concerned, so that's where they've always shopped. But it feels different, somehow, to be shopping for Hogwarts. Her mother is showing every shopkeeper the list, fingers underlining the Hogwarts letterhead. Her father is stopping every friend he sees, talking loudly about "here to shop for Emma's first year, at Hogwarts you know".

Emma wants to scrunch up and hide from the attention, but her parents are so happy. It's only just the once she starts school, she supposes. She plasters on a smile and follows after her mother. Almost done now; all she needs is a wand.

And as everyone knows, there's only one place to get those.
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There is a girl her own age mid-argument with Ollivander himself.

"Are you planning to mistreat this wand?" he asks. "Perhaps you would prefer to return it and get a more disposable model -"

"No! I just want to have two. I'll be very good to the both of them."

"Are you planning to lose your wand, Miss Swan?"

"No one plans to lose things. I just want two. I have enough money for a second one from my mum, please, let me try some more."
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Emma is somewhere between shocked and impressed. She's arguing with Ollivander? It's Ollivander. She's not sure why you'd want a second wand- everyone only has one, right? That's how it works?- but that doesn't mean she understands why Ollivander is refusing.

"Why two?" she asks without thinking. Her mother elbows her sharply; breaking into other people's conversations isn't polite, Emma repeats mentally with a sigh. She mumbles, "Sorry t'interrupt," though she doesn't really mean it. She can't very well unsay the question, and she does want to know.
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"It's going to be the most important thing I own," says Miss Swan. "I don't mean to lose it or break it or let someone steal it, but if it happens I don't want to be wandless until I can replace it. They only cost seven Galleons, and my mum said it was sensible of me to want two."

"Nevertheless, Miss Swan, I will not be accommodating you," says Ollivander.

"This is a store, and I have another seven Galleons," Miss Swan begins, but Ollivander shushes her with a gesture and turns to Emma.

"Now, you're starting Hogwarts this year too, are you?"
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"Um," Emma stammers, mildly panicked. The other girl was here first, she's not done, Emma can't just... jump her.

"Yes, she's starting this year-" her mother starts, beaming with pride.

"-but she was here first," Emma says quickly.

"Emma," her mother sighs.

"She was!"
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"I can wait," says Miss Swan, folding her arms.

"You will be disappointed," Ollivander warns Miss Swan, and he proceeds to take bizarre measurements from Emma and then present her with wands to try.
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"Sorry," Emma mouths at Miss Swan apologetically, but her mother hustles her forward towards Ollivander and his wands. It goes faster than she expected; it only takes him a couple of piles before he hands her a wand and a cheerful cloud of little sparkles shoots out to bounce in the air in front of her. Emma smiles; they look like they're giggling.

Her new wand is willow and unicorn hair, ten inches. Her mother smiles; clearly, she considers this a perfectly respectable wand. (Emma's not clear on which wands aren't acceptable, but she's quite sure they exist, and she is very glad she did not match one.)

Once she's settled, she looks back at the other girl, then Ollivander. She's done shopping now; her mother has nowhere left to hustle her, except perhaps off to relocate her father. And she wants to see what happens with Miss Swan- she's so brave.
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"Mr. Ollivander," says Miss Swan, "if you won't sell me a second wand, can you tell me who will?"

"The highest-quality wands are in this very shop, Miss Swan."

"I came here first. I'd buy my second from you if you'd let me. I'm not insulting your quality. Please tell me where I can find another wand shop for a spare."

Ollivander hems and haws and gives her an address that "may have something secondhand".

Miss Swan nods, thanks him, curls her mass of braids into a bun at the nape of her neck and sticks her new wand through it, and marches out.
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Emma's mother looks disapprovingly after Miss Swan- what is impressive to Emma is just "inappropriate behavior" to her mother- and drags Emma outside in search of her father. Fortunately he hasn't gone far, and is still chatting with a couple Emma only vaguely recognizes. Emma's mother trills with delight and greets them both fondly, while Emma squirms uncomfortably. She doesn't know these people and they don't seem inclined to include her in the conversation at all. After a couple minutes, she finds a convenient break to tug on her mother's arm.

"Mum? Can I wander around a bit?"

"Well," her mother says doubtfully, but the other woman says something that draws her attention. "Don't go far, all right? And meet us right back here. Oh! I almost forgot." She hands Emma a couple coins. "We're low on nettle tea. Grab a box, please."

"I will," Emma agrees, and wanders off. She'll get the tea, of course- but first, there's an address she wants to investigate.
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The address is a pawn shop. It is not principally devoted to wands, but the proprietor has produced about thirty of them for Miss Swan to try, and she's working her way through the lot diligently.

"Oh, hello again," she says to Emma.
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"Hi," Emma says shyly. "I'm Emma. I, um, I wanted to say sorry about earlier."

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"It's not your fault. I'm Miranda," adds, apparently, Miranda.

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"Nice to meet you," Emma says. "No luck yet?" She eyes the piles next to Miranda.

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"Not yet, but it's worth a try." Miranda picks up another wand; nothing. "Do you want a second one too?"

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"I think I'm okay, but thanks." My parents would be so confused, and probably annoyed. "It's a cool idea though?" She adds with a tentative smile. She doesn't want to imply she's against the idea. It made sense, when Miranda said it. Just... probably not worth it. Not for her.

She looks around; it's still just Miranda. "Um, did-" how to ask? Is anything not rude here? She briefly wishes she was better at talking to people, "-you come by yourself?"
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"My mum is unpacking the new apartment," Miranda says. "She said I could get my things myself if I liked, so I did."

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"You're allowed to come here by yourself?" Emma asks enviously. Eleven is, in her parents' opinion, definitely not old enough for solo excursions. "Alone but we're nearby" is, obviously, fine; "entirely alone on a shopping trip" is out, no question.

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"The new apartment is just down Plur Alley, I can run home if I need her," says Miranda. "But I don't see why I would. I know not to go into Knockturn and I know how much my things are supposed to cost and we moved back in the first place because You-Know-Who is properly gone again so it should be pretty safe."

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Emma does not live that close, but she does not expect that would make a whit of difference. "Yeah, I mean, my parents- um, I think- well, eleven's not old enough, for them," she sighs. "You're lucky."

Also for having been gone recently. Very lucky. She does not bring that up; she doesn't like thinking about it.

"Welcome back though? Do you like being back?"
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"It's okay. My mum is very excited that I'm going to Hogwarts instead of the Owly." Miranda tries another wand; nope.

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Emma nods in understanding. She has heard the Owly called the 'Hogwarts of Australia,' and the fact that Miranda got into both confirms her opinion of the other girl as Extremely Impressive. On the other hand, she has spent two weeks being cooed over incessantly; parents who prefer Hogwarts are no mystery to her. "Well, you know. Hogwarts. Obviously we're just that cool?" she jokes. Then flushes. She doesn't actually know this girl that well. "And, uh, Australia, wow, that's cool, how was it?"

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"Mum went to Hogwarts so she prefers it but I would have been fine staying in Australia, too. Except it's very far from my dad. Also it gets beastly hot in summertime."

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"Okay, so maybe not actually cool," Emma says with a (mostly) straight face. "What about your dad, was he Hogwarts too?"

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Miranda shakes her head and goes through the last five wands briskly. Nothing.

"Excuse me, do you have any more?" she calls to the proprietress.

"Not in the standard varieties, dear - I mean, we have some curiosity pieces. I could let you try them if you insist, I suppose it would be all right since you have a perfectly good wand already..."

"What makes them curiosity pieces, please?"

"Nonstandard materials, mostly. I'll get them." She scoops up the ordinary wands and bustles away with them.
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Emma sneaks closer to watch. One of her parents' French friends has a Veela hair in their wand, but other than that she's only ever seen Ollivander's standard dragon, unicorn and phoenix wands.

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The new wands are odd shapes and lengths and colors. Miranda gamely tries them. In one case she has to be corrected about which end is the handle. The proprietress watches curiously.

When she picks up a relatively normal-looking hazel-wand from its dusty old box, a globe of light sprouts at its tip and engulfs a diameter of six feet inside of two seconds before it goes out just as abruptly.

"Whoa," says Miranda. "What's in this one?"

"Hazel and - well, the person who pawned it said chimaera hair, but it's hard to be sure unless we wanted to take it apart," says the proprietress with interest. "Whatever it is clearly is both magical and friendly to you, though! Do you want that one?"

"It's not hideously expensive for having chimaera hair, is it?" Miranda asks.

"Oh, no, dear, it's not even as much as a new Ollivander, five galleons," the proprietress says.

"Oh, good," says Miranda, and she hands over the requisite gold and stick the wand in her hair.
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"Wow, cool" Emma says, staring. "That's-"

The time, it should be looked at. Ideally right about now.

"Um, sorry, I'm running late," she sighs. "I told my mum I'd pick up nettle tea, too." She waves a hand at the wand. "That's still really cool though. Congrats! I'll, um, I guess I might see you on the train? Maybe?"
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"See you then!" agrees Miranda.

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September arrives, as it tends to do. King's Cross is busy this time of year, with students both Muggle and magical, and Jenny is just one more girl in an enormous crowd. This is not helping her, not at all; she knows her train leaves from platform 9¾, but that doesn't tell her where that platform is. She hasn't even seen anyone obviously 'wizardly' enough to ask yet, though she's been looking. They couldn't put up signs, or something? "Impossibly Numbered Platform This Way", that would work.

Her hair is starting to curl and darken in frustration. Hopefully, no one will notice.
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Does the girl with two wands crossed in her hair, leading a trunk on wheels by a sort of leash, and accompanied by her mother and a caged owl, look wizardy?

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That certainly seems wizardly to Jenny!

"Excuse me? Hi? Sorry, don't mean to bother you, I just- I think we're maybe possibly going to the same place? I'm... sorta lost. A little bit."
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"Oh, are you looking for nine and three-quarters?" says the girl's mother.

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"Oh, brilliant! Yes, yes I am. Could you give me directions, please?"

Wizarding people have been found! Stress averted, for now. Her hair correspondingly starts to creep back to its usual blonde.
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"It's just this way. Miranda's starting this year too," says the mom.

"You might want to cover up your hair if it does that whether you like it or not. There's Muggles around," Miranda advises.
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"Oh, geez, is it doing that again? Sorry!" A second's focus has her hair all the way back to normal. "I'm usually really good about it, I was just stressed about being lost." She shrugs. And then, since they seem friendly and she didn't get a chance to ask anyone when she did her school shopping: "How do you deal with yours?"

(That she is going to a school for People With Magic, this Jenny knows. But if there was a memo that 'people with magic' does not equal 'people with magic hair', Jenny has definitely missed it.)
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"...My hair? Mum braids it for me," says Miranda. "Well, has done. I can do the spell myself at school though. Can metamorphmagi braid their hair by magic or is it only color and length and so on?"

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Blink. Blink. Huh?

"I don't know? What's a meta... er... that thing? The letter said everyone-" non-wizards around, right, being careful "-at the school would be, y'know. Like me. Us."
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"...Metamorphmagi and witches aren't the same thing," says Miranda.

"All metamorphmagi are witches, or wizards," says her mum, still leading them through King's Cross, "but not all witches and wizards can change their hair like that. Most can't, in fact."

"Are you Muggleborn? That's okay, Mum is too," Miranda says.
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"...oh, huh," Jenny says, assimilating. "Who knew." She grins. "I guess I'm special! So what is 'witchy', then? You said you can do spells already? That's so neat!" They're talking about magic, Jenny supposes it's probably okay if they are. They know way more about this than her, clearly.

"And yep, Muggleborn, that's me." This much vocabulary, at least, she has figured out from her trip to Diagon Alley. "What's it like, growing up already knowing this stuff? Any tips for a hapless Muggle?"
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"Keep your voices down a little bit till we're on the platform," advises Miranda's mum.

"It's very special," Miranda confirms. "People will want you to do tricks. I haven't done any spells yet but I know the incantations for some of them from Mum and once we're allowed it shouldn't be too hard to actually do them. If I think of any more tips I'll tell you."
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"Sorry!" Voice goes down two levels as instructed.

"Huh. That doesn't sound too bad. I can do tricks! They're fun!" She smiles at Miranda. "Any requests? Once we're inside, I mean?"
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"Well, can you make it braid itself?"

"Here's the platform," says Miranda's mum. "It's best to go at a bit of a run if you're nervous. Nobody's looking just now, go on."

Miranda trots straight at the wall, trunk rolling behind her.
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Jenny stares. Then she giggles and pushes her cart faster. She's not all that nervous, but that's okay. Zoom!

"I've never tried!" she tells Miranda as they go. "But I bet I could if I practiced some. I have a Unicorn Face I'm very proud of," she says rather gleefully.
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"Unicorn face?"

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"Yep! For reading unicorn stories to my little sister." Costumes are very important for bedtime stories, after all. "Sparkly pink horn and silver hair. I am an Extremely Pretty Unicorn!"

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"Awwww!"

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Jenny smiles, pleased. "I nominate Unicorn Face as my trick until I have mastered hair braiding!"

At this point Jenny hits the wall, and-

-doesn't. Straight through to the other side she didn't know was there, where she is now surrounded by lots more Wizardly People.

"Eeee! This is so neat! How did it do that?"
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"Magic," giggles Miranda, ushering her out of the way. "I don't know the spell yet."

Miranda's mum follows presently.

"Where are your own parents, anyway?" she asks Jenny.
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"Pfft, cheating," Jenny huffs, but with a wide grin. "It's all magic!"

"Thank you for helping me find the platform!" Jenny says as soon as Miranda's mom appears. "They both have work today. Dad brought me to the station on his way in, but he couldn't wait with me or anything."
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"Well, it's a good thing you found us, then," says Miranda, "or you probably would have been very lost. What all do you already know about Hogwarts?"

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"Not much," Jenny admits. "I mean, I figured out why they admitted me, that one wasn't hard. It's a school? It has magic people? I did get directions to that alley place, I got my stuff there, I picked up a couple things there I guess. Like Muggle! I knew that one!" She thinks. "Oh! And the letter mentioned broomsticks, I think? I really really want to see that!"

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"Well, we don't get to have our own broomsticks, first year, but we can learn to ride them on school brooms. Hogwarts is a really old school. Also there was a war at it last year but now it's over and that's why I'm going to it instead of the school in Australia."

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As Jenny has no expectation of ever owning a broomstick, she is undeterred. The idea that flying lessons exist, and she can take part in them, is, in fact, far better than expected. However, she is distracted by more pressing concerns. "...er. War?"

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"Yes, there was an evil wizard, but he died and so did most of his followers so it's safe to be in the country again. But the last of the fighting actually happened right at Hogwarts."

"There's no need to scare her, Miranda," says Miranda's mum.
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"I'd rather know," Jenny assures her. "I- it's over now, though, right? I won't, like, step on a magic land mine on my way to class, anything like that...?"

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"There's no magic land-mines," Miranda's mum says. "Did you say what your name was, dear?"

"We would still be in Australia if it was still going," says Miranda. "It's okay now."
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"...did I skip that? Wow, I did. Sorry! I'm Jenny. Genevieve, actually, but," wince, "please, Jenny. And I think I heard you're Miranda?"

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"Yeah, I am. And I understand, Miranda's actually my middle name," says Miranda.

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"Nice to officially meet you, fellow name-adjuster!"

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Over on the other side of the platform is a face that may be familiar! Along with her also-maybe-familiar mother and not-at-all-familiar father, and a large pile of luggage.

When Emma spots Miranda, she waves hesitantly.
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"Hi, Emma!" says Miranda, waving. "I met Emma in Diagon Alley the other day," she explains to Jenny. "When I was getting wands. She's nice."

"I'm so glad you're making friends," says Miranda's mum.
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"Hi Miranda!" Emma calls back happily, pleased to be remembered.

"Emma, dear, please don't yell, I was talking to your father," her mother remonstrates gently. "And who's-" she sees Miranda, and frowns. "That girl from Ollivander's? The one who was very... direct?" This is, from Mrs. Mason, not a compliment.

"She's nice," Emma mutters weakly.

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"Friends are the best!" Jenny agrees, smiling at Miranda's mum. "Of course, friends with Unicorn Faces are the very best." Nothing self-serving here, not at all, carry on. "Let's go say hi? Is that okay- er, Mrs. Miranda's Mum, can I borrow Miranda for a Greeting Expedition? If you want to, Miranda."

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"Of course," says Miranda's mum.

"She's Ms. Swan," says Miranda. "To people who do not call her Mum." And she's off towards Emma.
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Jenny follows cheerfully. People to meet! Magical people! Who are her own age, even!

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"Hello again," Emma's mother says politely to Miranda. Very politely. It's not necessarily friendly, but polite is better than many of her available tones, so Emma will take it.

First, though, there is a new person. "Hi, I'm Emma. Nice to meet you. Are you one of Miranda's friends?"
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"I'm Jenny! Nice to meet you too!" She laughs. "I am Miranda's rescue, actually. I got totally lost on the way in, she took pity on me. But she said you were nice, so I followed her to say hi. Therefore: hi, Emma-who-is-nice!"

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Emma blushes and fails to come up with a response to that, so she looks back at Miranda. "A rescue? That was nice of you."

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"She was lost," says Miranda. "She's a metamorphmagus! So we could tell it would be okay to show her the platform."

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"A metamorphmagus, really? Cool! Can I see?"

Emma's father comes over and raises his eyebrows at the girls in front of him- one carrying two wands, and in her hair of all places, and the other dressed in Muggle clothes he can tell immediately are rather... worn.

"Emma, you know these girls?"

"I met Miranda at Ollivander's, Dad, you were outside talking," Emma tells him. "We just met Jenny."

"Ollivander's?" he says skeptically. Of her wands, the wand he can see clearly is definitely not Ollivander's. He can tell.

"Yes, Ollivander's," Emma replies, slightly annoyed. What, does he think she'd get Ollivander's mixed up with Gringott's?

"Don't take that tone with your father," her mother whispers to her with a sharp nudge.
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Miranda notices him looking at her wands. "He wouldn't sell me a spare," she says. "So I had to go somewhere else for a backup wand."

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"I see," he says. (He does not. A spare? Whatever for?) "You do seem to have succeeded admirably in your hunt for... a spare."

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"Yes. Thank you," says Miranda politely.

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Emma decides this is the wizarding equivalent of her brothers misbehaving, and should be handled as such. Namely, distractions!

"So, is now a good time for my meta-something special tricks? I believe there was a request for Unicorn Face!"

There was not actually specifically such a request, but since she has not yet thought about how to get her hair to braid itself, she is going to gloss over this fact.
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"Sure, go ahead," says Miranda.

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Unicorn!

Her horn grows first. It's small and simple, with a single spiral going up the outside, but it's a very bright shade of pink, and it glitters like it was made for it. (Which, in fact, it was). Her hair retreats until it is basically bobbed, which is as close to a traditional 'mane' as Jenny is willing to get, and fades from its normal dark blonde into a bright shade of silver that is also rather shiny.

It's not the most flattering look in the world, but it is extremely sparkly.
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"Real unicorn horns aren't pink," says Miranda.

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"Trust me, Anne did not ca- wait, wait, oh geez, I didn't even think- there are real unicorns? Can I meet one, where are they?!"

It is possible Anne came by her unicorn obsession honestly.
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"They're really hard to find! But you can take Care of Magical Creatures later and there might be some you could meet."

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"My books are kinda buried, but if either of you can get to yours I bet Fantastic Beasts has a unicorn section?" Emma suggests.

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Miranda goes for her trunk and opens it up. It is neatly organized. She finds Fantastic Beasts and opens it up to the page on unicorns, which is illustrated with a moving photograph.

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"Eeeeee," Jenny squeals softly, hovering over Miranda's shoulder and bouncing on her toes in excitement. After a couple seconds staring at the picture- the actual text is definitely optional- she sighs happily. "I will never ever get tired of these pictures," she declares. "Best thing ever. Er, besides unicorns. Unicorns are actually the best."

In deference to the new best thing ever picture, her hair has been lightened to a whiter shade of silver, and her horn is now a silvery blue. The sparkliness remains, however, because why not? Sparkles!
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"Wizard photographs are pretty good," agrees Miranda. "Well, for this kind of thing. My mum thinks Muggle photographs are better for artistic shots because you can line things up just one way."

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"Is it just photographs?" Jenny asks curiously. "Do drawings move too?"

Nothing she's ever drawn has moved (and with four younger siblings, she has been the doom of a rather impressive number of crayons) but she does have a wand now...
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"You can make paintings do it," says Miranda. "But it doesn't happen by itself, you have to make the painting special. The photographs have to be developed in a potion, too, to do it right."

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"Uh, hey guys?" Emma breaks in nervously. "I think the train's about to leave, you should probably say goodbye to your parents?" She looks enviously at Jenny's glittering hair. "We could sit together on the train though. Um, if you want to."

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"Oh, yeah, let's all get a compartment," agrees Miranda, and she walks back to her mum, and hugs her, and gets kissed on the forehead, and goes onto the train.

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"I'm in!" Jenny agrees immediately. "My parents are at work, so I'll get us seats I guess? Nice to meet you all!" She fetches her stuff, calling an extra thank you back to Miranda's mother in the process. (Imagine if she'd run into Emma's parents first? Emma was nice, but her parents were... well, Jenny's now extra glad she met the Swans first.) And onto the train she goes to find a free compartment.

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"Bye, Mother," Emma says with a hug for her mom. "Bye, father," with same.

Her mother just sniffles and tells her to be good and study hard and make them proud. Her father tells her the same, but adds, "And remember, you'll be there for seven years! You have plenty of time to make friends! Lots of students there with good connections. Good opportunity, that."

"Don't worry, Father, I'll remember," Emma agrees neutrally, mentally translating to and try to find some friends we like better. Since historically, the overlap between children her parents consider Valuable Connections and people Emma can even begin to tolerate doesn't actually exist, she's not going to promise anything.

"That's my good girl," her father says fondly, and hugs her again. "You'll be a wonderful witch, just you wait and see."

Emma smiles weakly in response. Gathering her stuff, she follows the other two girls onto the train just as they're yelling the last call. She finds Jenny in a cabin near the back, conveniently close to where they all got on. "Oh, bliss, I can sit now, thank Merlin. Mother wanted to be extra, extra careful so we arrived hours ago."

Two hours is in fact hours, even if it is the minimum number of hours to qualify as plural. It is still much, much longer than Emma wanted to be standing.
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"We ran late because Mum wanted to walk as it's a nice day, and it wasn't making us late enough that I could argue her into taking the Underground." Most of the compartments are occupied; they have to duck around the snack cart to get past lots of full ones. Eventually there is an empty one. Miranda ducks in to claim it.

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"The Underground?" Emma asks curiously. "Oh, uh, that's that Muggle train, right?"

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"Yes. Renée - that's my mum - doesn't like the Floo. She has a broom but I don't fit on it so even if she Disillusions us it doesn't mean we can fly around in the middle of London."

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"I haven't taken the Floo much," Emma admits, "but I kinda see her point? It's, um, not the most comfortable thing in the world. Mother found us a Portkey to the station; that's kinda why we were so early."

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"Okay, is there, like, a cheat sheet or something?" Jenny asks plaintively. "Magic to Muggle dictionaries? Wizarding Gobbledigook 101? Help, someone, take pity on the confused Muggle please!"

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"Sorry," says Miranda. "The Floo is a way to go from one fireplace to another by magic, but it makes my mum dizzy and it's also very hard to land on your feet. A Portkey is a thing that is enchanted so if you touch it, it puts you somewhere else. Brooms fly. And there's this train, which is somewhat magical but mostly only a train, and in other countries there are are magic carpets but not so much here, and apart from, like, things like sitting on magical animals and special-purpose-built things that aren't any of them very common, that's most of the wizard methods of getting around."

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"Thanks," Jenny says, smiling at her gratefully. "I mean, I don't really care much, you don't have to, like, randomly interject details every third word or whatever- it's going to happen all the time anyway. But I will totally make sad faces at you two if I get too confused. Sad faces will totally happen."

She makes an exaggeratedly sad face, and switches her hair to a rather dismal shade of blue-grey just for emphasis. "See? So very sad."
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Emma giggles helplessly. "How do you do that? I've never met a Metamorphmagus before. What can you do besides the unicorn one?"

And, after a second's thought- "...is there a female form of that? Metamorphmaga? I mean, um, it's kind of Latin. I've never heard it, though."
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"Ooh, ooh, I was going to try to braid it, right Miranda? I should try that!" She turns her hair back to its usual shade, then focuses her attention on this braiding activity.

It's not particularly efficient- it's noticeably slower than even the unicorn horn- but her hair does start to move into a braid-like form.
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"I think it's just Metamorphmagus for boys or girls. But if you want to say 'witch or wizard' without it taking all day you can say 'wix', and like - at least the sort of person Renée hangs around with will know what you mean." She supervises the braiding process with fascination.

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"Heh, wix, I feel like a candle now," Jenny says. "Ooh, look, it worked!"

Her hair has made it successfully into a braid. It's not elaborate, nothing she couldn't have done with her hands- not even a French braid- but it's definitely a braid now. She beams.

"I did it! Eeeeee! Gimme something else to try?"
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"That was pretty much my best idea... ummmm... can you do a beak?"

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"Oh yeah," Jenny says blithely, and her face converts slowly. It's clearly a swan bill, and she's clearly done this before.

"Mm cn-" she starts, then decides not to try talking around the beak and turns her face back before she continues. "I can do feathers too! Couldn't get actual wings, but these worked-"

And swan feathers sprout from her head, trailing down alongside her hair decoratively. When she has them arranged to her liking, she turns them purple. "Free hairclips! But, er, don't pull them out please. Thaaaat hurts." She sighs. "Brothers."
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"How many siblings do you have? ...I'm not going to pull them but if you make feathers and someone pulls them out do they stay feathers after?"

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"Only four! It's not that bad. One of my friends from church has eight, I don't know how she sleeps. And no, see-"

She can pull them out herself, she knows how. Careful about how she dislodges them, she removes the closest feather. It promptly turns back to a small cluster of hair. "Errrrr, whoops. Did not think that through, did I?" Failing to spot a trash can, she ties the hapless lock back around her hairtie.
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"It must be nice having siblings," Emma says somewhat wistfully. "Even that many."

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"I don't have any. I don't know if I would like them but I don't think I particularly want them. Jenny, do you want me to see if I can Vanish the extra hair? I don't know if I can, but we're allowed to do magic once we're on the train so I can try."

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"Sure! I haven't actually seen anyone use a wand- well, except the whole 'my wand turned into a sparkler when I picked it up' thing- so I am totally on board. Also, y'know, thanks."

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"You're welcome! This is supposed to be complicated, though, so I might not be able to."

She points her Ollivander wand at the extra hair and says firmly, "Evanesco," just like her mum cleaning up a spill.

Nothing.

"I'm probably missing something. I don't think it's in the first year textbooks or I'd look it up."
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Emma gives it a try, just to see.



Nope.
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So does Jenny!

Since the spell is not in fact "Evesco", unsurprisingly, nothing happens.
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"Ev-an-es-co," says Miranda. "Vanishing Spell. When it works, anyway."

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"Whoops! ...at least nothing exploded?"

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"You might think you're joking, but that can happen."

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"It was about half a joke? I mean, I've seen my wand go all sparkler, it seemed like maybe a thing."

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"The neighbor's kids blew up a tree one time," Emma volunteers. "It knocked a branch onto the house. My mother made them come help her with the repair spells."

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"When Renée was substitute teaching in Australia one of the kids in her class blew up the time-out corner when she was about to get sent to it."

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Emma laughs. "Was that even an accident?"

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"She was five, so it's technically accidental magic anyway, but maybe not!"

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"Patrick would absolutely do that," Jenny says fondly. "Probably Michael and Thomas too, if they thought of it, but- Patrick would so do that. Your mum's a teacher?"

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"Yes, she teaches - basically wix nursery school. The one she worked at before we went to Australia took her right back when she asked, she's very good. Are your siblings magic too? I didn't think it was usual to have more than one in an otherwise Muggle family."

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"Awww, that's cute. Kiddies are the best! Well. When not being small demons. And I don't think so? I haven't seen any of them do anything magic, anyway. It's just- what he would do, if he could. It's probably good he can't. He is fiendishly creative about his pranks already, I could tell stories all day."

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"Are you the oldest?"

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"That's me! Or, when I'm feeling whiny, 'slave labour babysitter', take your pick."

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"I've gone with Renée to work a couple of times and I can take or leave small children, really."

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"Leave," Emma contributes. "Mostly since I have no idea what to do, and freeze up." Pause. "Worse than normal, I mean."

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"Awwww, but kids are easy! I mean, Unicorn Face makes it super easy, but they're easy! Find a park and a football and you're set for hours."

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"That must be it," Emma says dryly. "I am handicapped by my witchness. If only we had football instead of Quidditch. Um, that's- football on brooms? Ish?"

She looks at Miranda. "Do you play at all? Or watch?"
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"Quidditch?" asks Miranda. "I've never played it, I'm very clumsy just walking around and Renée doesn't want me on a broom until I'm somewhere there's a qualified healer just around the corner. I don't really watch it either but occasionally she does."

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"My parents don't care much, but my dad goes to matches sometimes. I think mostly to be social, though. I don't care much about the game itself, but I had a broomstick when I was younger. I wasn't spectacular at flying or anything but it's so much fun. Are you excited for flying lessons?" She grins. "Since there will in fact be qualified healer just around the corner."

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"I'm really excited! I'm hoping Renée is wrong and I'll be able to fly just fine."

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"Well, school brooms are pretty basic, but there are some pretty fancy stabilizing spells out there now? You could cover for clumsy pretty well, I bet."

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"Yeah. Or it just won't matter because there isn't anything to trip on, who knows?"

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Jenny cracks up. When she recovers her breath, she manages, "Picturing you- heee- tripping on a gargoyle. Or a fairy! Or... or..." and back to cackling.

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"Fairies are really small, I don't think running into one on a broom would be a big deal," laughs Miranda.

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"Imagine if they were pixies though," Emma shudders.

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"Help?"

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"Oh. Um, fairies are sort of like butterflies? Pixies are larger and smarter and really obnoxious."

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"And there's doxies, which are like fairies, but they bite, and they're venomous."

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"So... basically there will be small magical creatures of various amounts of friendliness coming out of my ears?"

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"I wouldn't expect them to nest in your ears unless you never bathe."

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"But I'm a witch! If I shower, I'll melt!"

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"Only if you turn green first. Most of us don't have that problem, but you might have to be careful."
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"Be careful around girls with fancy silver shoes..."

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Green goes her skin! She can't do anything about her shoes, so she turns her hair silver instead. (Unicorn Face has lots of practice with silver hair.) "Best of both worlds!"

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Miranda giggles. "Auntie Em! Auntie Em!"

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Hair goes black. "I'll get you, my pretty, and your little owl too!"

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"I haven't named my owl yet. Do you want to help me name her?" asks Miranda.

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"...I would! But I'm not really gonna be that helpful. I mean, I look at her face and think 'Pancake.'"

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"She looks kinda like a jewel tone? Amber, or tiger's eye, I don't know. Ambera? Ambara? In Latin it's Chryselectra or Glaesa, I think. No idea about tiger's eye. But... um. Pancake? Where's that from?"

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"The circle on her face looks like pancake batter! It was the first thing I thought of!"

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"I'm not going to name her Pancake. Amber's nice, though! What do you think, owl, would you like to be called Amber?"

Amber makes an owly noise.

"I think I'm going to say that's a yes."
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"Hi Amber! It's nice to meet you!"

Meeting before you have a name does not count.
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"I helped!"

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"Yeah. Do you want to pet her? She's very soft."

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"Sure!"

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"Ooh yes please!"

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Miranda opens the cage and takes Amber out of it. Amber sits docilely on her fist and permits petting.

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Jenny is extremely excited. This is her petting an owl! For the very first time! She scoots over and pets Amber very, very carefully.

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Amber is very, very soft.

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"She's so fluffy! If she was not an owl, I would cuddle her. So many cuddles. How did you pick her?"

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"I went into the store with the owls to see if any of them seemed to like me, and she seemed to like me, and was not too expensive."

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"That seems pretty sensible, and yet also disappointing. Not enough magic fireworks involved."

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"Not everything can be as fancy as choosing a wand!"

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"Wand-choosing was definitely the flashiest thing. I liked the potions ingredients store, though, even if all I was getting was the first-year student kit."

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"My wand was pretty cute about it," Emma volunteers. "The sparkles looked like they were laughing."

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"Awww! I don't think I can pick? I mean, everything was so neat! Er. Except no, I lied, it was the candy shop. Oh my Lord was it ever the candy shop."

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"The trolley should be here eventually. What candy did you like? I think wizard sweets are more fun but Muggle sweets are on average tastier. None of them try to melt through your tongue or trick you into eating ear-wax."

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"I didn't get to actually try any, but everything looked delicious. But, er, earwax? Really? I maaaay rethink this. Even the floating sherbert?"

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"Bertie Botts' Every Flavor Beans are every flavor, which sometimes means strawberry and sometimes means grass and sometimes means earwax. Renée gets them sometimes but I don't like them at all. The sherbert isn't earwax-flavored, probably."

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"Ooooooh, so I can just focus on things with consistent flavors. Neat! Cause really, earwax, ewww."

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"Careful, the jellybeans might hear you."

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"The jellybeans can't hear you," Miranda corrects for Jenny's benefit, just in case.

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"You," points at Miranda, "thank you. You are a kind and gentle soul, taking pity on me in my ignorance. You," and at Emma, "are a bum."

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"What, me? Never!"

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Miranda snickers.

The compartment door opens to reveal the lady with the trolley full of snacks. Miranda produces her pocket money and gets a pumpkin pasty and a pack of six Chocolate Frogs.
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Jenny eyes the trolley curiously, particularly the Chocolate Frogs (moving things are hard to ignore), but she doesn't purchase anything.

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Emma waits for Jenny to order. When she fails to do so, Emma watches her consideringly for a moment. Then she orders three Cauldron Cakes and three Licorice Wands. When she's been handed her pastries, she offers one of each to the other girls. "Wands and cauldrons for brand new students! Candy-style cheers? Before we're deeply, deeply tired of anything that looks like school?"

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"Cheers," says Miranda. She gives each other girl one of the Chocolate Frogs as well.

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Jenny blushes, and accepts both offers with a mumbled "Thanks. Er, sorry I didn't get anything, too, though."

She starts in on the Chocolate Frog and discovers the card attached, peering at it curiously.
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"Nooo, thank you! I'm... um, I'm usually really shy. Talking to people isn't really my strong suit? It's nice to have people to talk to on the way to school."

Having started on her cauldron instead of her frog, and not yet possessing a card of her own, Emma leans over to spy on Jenny's card instead. "Oooh, Merlin. He's one of my favorites."
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Miranda is munching her licorice wand. "Yeah, Jenny, it's fine. Do you collect the cards, Emma? I just like the chocolate, you can have my cards if you want them after I eat the frogs."

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"Only sort of, um, accidentally? I don't really care or anything, but I like to read them, so I would ask for cards to read the backs and people just kind of...assumed."

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"I usually throw them out," says Miranda, "unless I get rare-ish ones that I can let Renée take to work for the little kids."

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"I used to, after I'd read them, but then my aunt would save them specially for me and I felt bad throwing them out, so. Collecting by accident."

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"Aw. I don't have any aunts or uncles."

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"I just have the one. She's nice, but, um, in an easily distracted, kinda forgetful way? Still sweet, though."

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"Awww, your families are so small! They fit into mine like five times over!"

(Seven, actually.)
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"Are you jealous or sorry for us?"

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"Yes!"

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Miranda giggles.

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Emma's card is Dumbledore. She's read his a million times before, so she skips the back, but she stares at the picture sadly for a second before tucking it away in her bag. "What about you, Miranda, what card did you get?"

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"I wasn't going to open the other four yet, but I guess I can open one." She takes out a frog and unwraps it and bites its head off and collects the card. "I got Harry Potter."

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"...I wonder if they've updated the back? I mean, he did kinda a lot, kinda recently."

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"Let's see -" Miranda turns over the card. "The first and only known wizard to survive the Killing Curse, earning the title "The Boy Who Lived." Youngest Quidditch player in the last century after gaining the spot of Seeker in the Gryffindor Quidditch Team in his first year at Hogwarts in 1991. Also known for having found Salazar Slytherin's Chamber of Secrets and defeating the monster within, which was a basilisk, in his second year at Hogwarts. Only known Gryffindor student able to speak Parseltongue. Youngest competitor of the Triwizard Tournament and winner of said Tournament at the age of 14 in 1995. The last master of death for having gained true possession of all three Deathly Hallows. Most famous for the defeat of the most dangerous dark wizard of all time, Lord Voldemort, in 1998. So, yes, they updated it."

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"Oh, he was in that war you mentioned?" Jenny asks, peering over Miranda to try and see the picture. "He sounds like a biiiig deal. But, er, translations. Like, Killing Curse I can guess, Quidditch you mentioned- Parseltongue? That tournament thing? The Deathly Hollows?"

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"Oh, of course - the killing curse is exactly what it sounds like, yeah - Parseltongue is snake language, he can talk to snakes. The tournament is a competition sort of thing between Hogwarts and two other European magic schools, Beauxbatons and Durmstrang, there were dragons and a maze and an underwater rescue thing and stuff. The Deathly Hallows - I don't actually know much about those, by the time they were involved in anything we were in Australia."

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"Oooh! Is there a horse language too? Can I learn it?"

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"I think it's just snakes, and you have to be born with the snake one."

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"That is sorta weird! Why snakes, I wonder? Also, boo, I wanted to talk to horses. But I already got my neat born-with-it power, I guess!"

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"Being a metamorphmagus is way better than being a Parselmouth. They're kinda not trusted. At all." Pause. "Except for Harry Potter, obviously."

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"Being a metamorphmagus is much better," Miranda agrees. "Even if it weren't for the part where Parselmouths are kind of - oh, has anybody told you about the Houses, Jenny?"

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"I know that there are Houses! That's, like, a thing for boarding schools, I think. And er, I think someone said the names, but I forget. Is there more?"

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"Yeah. Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw, and Hufflepuff are the four of them. In Muggle schools I think you get a random House? Or something like that? It's not like that at Hogwarts. I got Renée to tell me how it worked when it looked like I'd be going to the Owly so it wouldn't matter if it was a surprise, but it would usually be a surprise, do you want to know how the sorting works anyway?"

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"Yes please!"

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"I got the whole speech from my parents already, they're both Ravenclaw, but thanks."

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"Renée was Ravenclaw too - they just told you? Renée seemed to think it would be better if it was a surprise but I never saw why. Anyway, Jenny, there's a magic hat, you put it on your head and it figures out what sort of person you are and each sort of person goes to a different house. It's more complicated than this but basically Ravenclaw is for smart kids and Gryffindor is for brave ones and Hufflepuff is for hard-working ones and - Slytherin is supposed to be for ambitious ones, but it was full of all the kids from the evil families in the war, so - if the hat tries to put me there I will just go to the Owly after all, it doesn't start classes for another two weeks."

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"I think some of our neighbor's kids didn't know? My parents said not to talk about it with the other kids, at least. But I was worrying about getting put in Slytherin and they were reassuring me I could ask for Ravenclaw."

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"Oooh, those sound like good traits, finding out which I am will be fun! But I guess not Slytherin. Ambition is fine and all, but wars are bad. I hope it does not put you there either! Then you would leave, and who would protect me from Emma when she is being a bum?"

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"I'm going to try to get Ravenclaw too," says Miranda. "I think I can talk it into Ravenclaw probably."

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"You kinda seem like you'd be great there regardless!" Emma's seen inside that perfectly organized suitcase.

"But... I don't actually know what I want," she admits. "I mean, my parents really want me in Ravenclaw. But if the Hat knows better I should listen to it, I think? I mean, except about Slytherin."
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"I wonder if it's going to be able to put anyone voluntarily into Slytherin, this year," frets Miranda. "Maybe it usually listens but this year it will have to stop to keep the numbers even."

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"Are there, like, Magical Reasons the numbers need to be even? Or just so everyone has a place to sleep?"

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"I don't actually know."

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"Here's to it being bed related!" She holds up her Cauldron Cake for a candy-toast. "Since then we can just move the beds."

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Miranda toasts with her still-kicking headless Chocolate Frog, and then deprives it of its forelegs for good measure. "Let's hope."

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The train arrives at Hogwarts not long thereafter. Emma spends the remainder of the ride quietly squirming with delight. Most of her interactions with other children have varied from 'unmemorable' to (thankfully rarely) 'decidedly unpleasant', and the experience of having two people she likes, that she thinks are nice, to talk to is wonderful. She basks in it. For all she knows Miranda might leave for Owly and Jenny might sort into Slytherin and never emerge, or- who knows what. She refuses to worry about it. They're about to be sorted. She'll find out soon. She wants to enjoy this. She wants to have life be like this forever, but she will settle for right now.

The boats are a surprise, of a sort; she'd been told, of course, but she'd promptly forgotten. It didn't seem that interesting at the time; in person, it's much more memorable. (That might have to do with the slowly building panic about her Sorting, though.) The view as they glide across the lake is spectacular, even if it's rather cold to be in a boat at night. She wraps her cloak tighter and focuses on the view. Don't think about the Hat, don't think about the Hat, it'll be over soon.

Once they've landed she follows the group inside. She's a little too stressed to be chatty, particularly with this many strangers around, but that's okay. She'll meet them eventually. It doesn't have to be right now.

Don't think about the Hat, don't think about the Hat, it'll be over soon.
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Miranda nips over to the Headmistress where she is awaiting the students, to have a quick word about her name. "Excuse me, Professor?"

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"Can I help you, Miss Swan?" the Headmistress asks.

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"Yes, Professor. When you call out names, can you use my middle name instead of my first name, or at least let me tell you how to pronounce my first name?"

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"As you like, Miss Swan. Will that be all? We have rather a lot to do here still," McGonagall says with a slight smile.

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"That's all. Thank you."

Back into the swarm of kids.
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Of the three of them, Emma's name is first alphabetically. By the time they get to her, a few Slytherin have been called, but few of them looked particularly excited about it; this is not helping her nerves.

"Mason, Emma!"

Up she goes, and she puts the hat on with an attempt at a smile. It's rather strained. As soon as the hat's on, a voice appears in her head.

Hmm. Hmmm! So many opinions here! Yes? Yes, indeed. But nothing deep, nothing you really want.

No, I guess not, Emma agrees. She knows what she doesn't want. It's not the same.

No, no, indeed it isn't. Well! Since you don't seem to have an opinion, we'll just go with mine, shall we?

"Right, then. Hufflepuff!"
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Jenny claps wildly for Emma, beaming at her from her seat. For the sake of the new Slytherins she doesn't actually yell "Hooray, you're not in Slytherin! Go you!" but she thinks it.

"O'Meara, Genevieve!"

She wasn't raised a witch; she's not nearly as stressed as Emma. She skips right up to the stool and plops it on her head excitedly.

A Metamorphmagus! Don't see you very often, no. Interesting, interesting. A decision to make, hmm. You could be Gryffindor, you could be Hufflepuff. Yes, indeed you could. But it's not quite even, you see. So-

"Let's go with, Hufflepuff!"
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And a few students later -

"Swan, Miranda!"

Excellent, no attempts to make her first name rhyme with "pebble" or sound like "able". Even people who technically pronounce it right as far as the international phonetic alphabet is concerned make it sound weird. Miranda goes up to the hat, a firm expression on her face.

Ah, now you -

I know what you want to say but I won't have it.

You really are a Slytherin at heart.

In another time maybe. If you could make me and all that was left was for me to make the best of it, maybe. Now? No. If I wanted to touch that House while it's in this reputational pit and have to drag it up just to get anywhere myself? If I were that selfless about people I've never met and a group that's done nothing for me in my life, when I have better and more efficient things to do? Then I would not qualify. You could only make me a Slytherin if I were less of one.

The foundational virtues suit you to a T.

Except the blood prejudice, the elitism, the keeping dangerous animals in a school.

None of it part of the core values, only accreted over time... You are determined to leave me no choice, aren't you? Hogwarts will truly lose you forever if I try to make you the most spectacular Slytherin it has ever seen instead of only another Ravenclaw.

If you wanted to put me in Hufflepuff or Gryffindor I wouldn't leave, but Ravenclaw is preferred, yes, and I will not have Slytherin.

You would have made a marvelous snake. But if you insist -

RAVENCLAW!


Miranda gets up and sits at her new table.
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Jenny waves at her from the Hufflepuff table, grinning with delight. From a distance, she mouths, "No Owly!"

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Miranda waves back, smiling, relieved. She didn't really relish the conversation with her mum about wanting to storm off to Australia, even if she thought she could finesse it.

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The start of term banquet carries on. It is a reasonably cheerful affair, though much subdued compared to previous years. The Hall itself has been repaired but damage is still visible from a few of the windows, and many students were fighting here not long ago. It's not quite back to being just Hogwarts yet. But there are newly Sorted students to welcome, old friends to greet and food and drink aplenty; there's still plenty of smiles going around.

Eventually, the Headmistress stands for a welcome speech and the room quiets.

"Welcome to Hogwarts, all of you. It is our pleasure both to see new faces and to welcome back old ones. A moment of silence first, if you will, for those who will not be returning and for their courage in the Battle of Hogwarts."

This she receives instantly. Towards the end, a couple of students start to cry quietly; all are immediately converged upon by concerned friends with hugs.

"Madam Pomfrey will of course be available to all those who wish to talk. Now, for the announcements. First, Professor Vector will be taking over as Head of Gryffindor House." This receives somewhat scattered applause; Professor Vector is respected, if not necessarily liked, due to her reputation for strictness. "Professor Fisher and Professor Reed are both joining us from Texarcana in the United States. Professor Fisher will be taking over the Transfiguration classroom-"
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He stands and waves, then sits back down.

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"-while Professor Reed will be taking the post of Defense against the Dark Arts teacher."

That causes a bit of a stir: there's that legendary jinx, after all. A few students whisper, "They had to go all the way to America to find someone?"
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Ignoring the whispers, Professor Reed follows her colleague's lead: stand, wave, sit. Her smile's rather more enigmatic than his, but at least she doesn't look threatening (at least she's not Umbridge) (at least she's not a Carrow).

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"Please welcome them both. And now, I'll let you return to your meals. A very good night night to all of you," McGonagall finishes.

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Miranda sets about collecting details on what she missed from her vantage point in Australia about recent events in wizarding Britain, and what she missed by being as young as she is and therefore not having encountered either Umbridge or Carrow. Also eating, she does that too. And she writes down the teachers' names that she has, so she won't forget them, and receives her class schedule from a prefect, and tucks that into her notebook, and fields questions about her duplicate wand, and generally integrates herself as best she can into her new House, because she had to threaten a hat to get it and she had better like it.

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Emma and Jenny are guided back to Hufflepuff by their prefects not long after the speech ends. Jenny spends most of the evening bouncing excitedly at Emma that "they get to be roommates isn't that the best!" The rest of the time she spends exploring her new House and exclaiming over everything, much to the amusement of all the nearby students. When she returns to the room, Emma stops by her bed with an extra copy of a first year class schedule, a raised eyebrow and a smile; Jenny just grins at her unrepentantly, gives her a hug and a thank you for the schedule, and flops back onto her bed.

She's here she's here she gets to learn magic! Classes are going to be wonderful.