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.
"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."
"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.
"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?"
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.
"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.
"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.
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?"
"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."
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?"
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?"
"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.
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.
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?"
Her hair is starting to curl and darken in frustration. Hopefully, no one will notice.
(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.)
"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.
"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?"
"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."
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?"
"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."
"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!"
"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.
"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."
First, though, there is a new person. "Hi, I'm Emma. Nice to meet you. Are you one of Miranda's friends?"
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.
"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.
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.
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!
"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.
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.
"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.
"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."
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."
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.
"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.
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?"
"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."
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.
She points her Ollivander wand at the extra hair and says firmly, "Evanesco," just like her mum cleaning up a spill.
"I'm probably missing something. I don't think it's in the first year textbooks or I'd look it up."
"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."
"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."
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?"
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."
"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."
"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?"
"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."
"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?"
"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."
"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."
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.
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!"
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!"
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 -
Miranda gets up and sits at her new table.
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-"
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.
She's here she's here she gets to learn magic! Classes are going to be wonderful.