Holly gazed critically at her reflection in the mirror, twisting this way and that to check the fit of her new Hogwarts robes. It made a change to be able to do this without having the mirror wheeze out a running commentary of remarks on her appearance.
Satisfied that all was well, she turned to help Chelsea adjust the clasps on her own robes to make a proper, traditional wizarding fit. Matthew had told her how some Ppure-bloods liked to tease Muggle-born first-years about ‘not even being able to dress themselves properly’ and she didn’t want anything like that happening to her new friends on the Hogwarts Express tomorrow.
“So why do we have to set this clasp up on the shoulder, rather than central on the neck, then?” Chelsea enquired, having taken Holly’s place in front of her mirror.
Holly gave one last twist to the folds of Chelsea’s robes before replying. “Doing it this way gives your wand hand free movement, so you can draw your wand without it getting tangled up in your robes. Try it and see.”
Chelsea drew her wand in one fluid motion. “Oh, yes, I see what you mean!” she exclaimed. “Whoops!” A couple of random sparks shot from her wand, ricocheting around the bedroom. “I must stop doing that. I burned a hole in the curtains yesterday.” She giggled quietly. “Still, it’s not as bad as Simon. He turned the neighbour’s cat yellow, and we’ve no idea how to change it back.”
Holly laughed delightedly. “Wicked! Come on, let’s get the fashion show over, then maybe my dad can sort the cat out, if we can find it.”
“Well, she’s quite difficult to miss. Just look for something bright yellow, with a very puzzled expression!”
* * *
Holly felt unaccountably self-conscious when they walked into the lounge. Everybody was waiting for them, and her eyes were drawn to Simon, looking very smart in his new robes, with a shy smile playing on his face.
“At last!” Mr Mayer exclaimed. “We were about to send out a search party.”
Matthew laughed at this. “It’s an immutable law of nature, Mr Mayer, that girls will take twice as long as boys to get dressed. Muggle or Witch, makes no difference!”
Sophie Mayer was smiling at them. “Take no notice of these insensitive males, darlings. You both look wonderful, and those cloaks give you a marvellous air of mystery.”
Holly wasn’t too sure whether she wanted an air of mystery, but she decided that if the elegant Mrs Mayer was satisfied with their outfits, they must look all right.
After her father had taken a few wizard photographs of them all, Holly trooped upstairs with Chelsea and Simon to change back into jeans and sweatshirts. They were going to have something called a ‘barbecue’ in the garden, and they wanted to keep their robes clean. The next time they put them on; they would be arriving at Hogwarts!
* * *
Holly skipped back downstairs, and into the lounge. On impulse she ran to bury her father in a huge hug. “Thanks for letting me go on the Hogwarts Express tomorrow, Dad. I’m really looking forward to it!” She remembered her manners, and turned to Mr Mayer. “And thank you so much for inviting me to stay the night. It’s very kind of you.”
Mr Mayer chuckled fondly, “Think nothing of it, Holly. You are doing us a favour by helping Simon and Chelsea. They were very nervous about going off on their own, but they’re much happier now they will have a friend to show them what to do.”
Holly pulled a face at this. “Really, Mr Mayer, I’m not going to know much more than the twins. All my family will tell me is to ‘be yourself and have fun, but work hard as well’. That’s hardly going to make me an expert on Hogwarts!”
Harry was smiling, but looking a little embarrassed as well. “We don’t want you to set off with any pre-conceived ideas, Holly. Your mother and I didn’t exactly have a normal experience of Hogwarts, and we messed up your sister’s first year by all assuming she would be sSorted into Gryffindor. You are all individuals in your own right, and we will love you whatever House you end up in.”
Mr Mayer looked across interestedly. “You’ve mentioned this sSorting into hHouses before. How does that work then? Is it alphabetical, or just random, or what?”
Hope and Matthew chose that moment to walk in through the patio doors from the garden. Hope’s eyes gleamed with mischief. “It’s a special magical test, Mr Mayer.”
Simon leaned forward with a groan. “A test! But I don’t know anything. How can I take a test?”
“Ignore her,” Holly snapped, “she’s just teasing.” She took in the silly grins on Hope and Matthew’s faces, and the way they were holding hands. Her eyes narrowed. “Have you two been kissing again? As our favourite Aaunt would say,” she rolled her eyes theatrically, “honestly!”
Hope grinned back. “Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it, Hols. And I wouldn’t lie to your friends; sSorting is a magical test.” She relented at Simon and Chelsea’s anguished expressions. “But all you have to do is put a hat on, and I think even my sister can manage that, so you two will have no problems.”
Relief spread over the twins’ faces. “What does the hat do, then?” Chelsea asked.
Matthew replied this time. “It can read your minds, and sense your abilities. It reads your thoughts as well, so you can try to ask it to put you in a particular hHouse, but it won’t put you anywhere unless it decides you will do well there.” He smiled encouragingly. “Don’t worry, it’s been doing this for about a thousand years, and I don’t think it has made many mistakes.”
Ginny and Mrs Mayer walked through from the kitchen carrying trays laden with food and drink. “Sounds like you’re talking about the Sorting Hat,” Ginny opined. “It will be interesting to see where you all get placed.”
Harry waved the pictures he had taken towards Ginny. “Well, this time, we’ll know as soon as the children do. I’ve charmed these pictures so that the uniforms will change to show their house colours as soon as they have been sSorted.”
Sophie Mayer looked at the pictures, shaking her head in amazement. “All this magic is going to take some getting used to.” She turned to the twins. “Mr and Mrs Potter have told us some things about this magical world you are about to enter. I think you’re going to have a wonderful time; all your father and I ask of you is that you don’t forget about us!” She smiled at Harry. “So, what are we looking for in these hHouse colours?”
Harry took out a picture of Simon, and waved his wand over it. The plain colours were instantly trimmed with Gryffindor scarlet and gold. “That’s Gryffindor, the house Ginny and I were in.”
Holly piped up. “Gryffindor the bold – main characteristics, courage, bravery, and a certain amount of foolhardy recklessness.”
Hope laughed out loud. “Quoted directly from ‘Hogwarts: A History!’ Have you pinched my copy again?”
Holly stuck her tongue out. “Nope – I’ve pinched Aunty Hermione’s. Or, to be strictly accurate, Uncle Ron pinched it and begged me to take it to Hogwarts!”
Harry was suppressing a grin as he waved his wand again, and Simon’s uniform was trimmed with blue and grey. “So who’s this then, Holly?”
Holly’s forehead wrinkled as she reeled off, “Ravenclaw the wise – main characteristics, lively minds, curiosity, and a thirst for knowledge.”
“I might as well let you carry on, Holly.” Harry laughed. “And the next hHouse is…”
Holly peered at Simon’s picture, to see the trimmings had changed to yellow and black. “Hufflepuff the kind – main characteristics, loyalty, hard work, and a desire to always be helpful.”
“And last but not least…”
Holly frowned. Green and silver didn’t really suit Simon at all. “Slytherin the ambitious - main characteristics… low cunning, deviousness, and biscuit stealing!” She dived behind the sofa before Hope and Matthew could draw their wands.
* * *
The party moved out to the garden now, and sausages, chicken legs and burgers were soon sizzling on the barbecue. Holly was fascinated by this, never having seen food cooked without magic before, and finally had to be shooed away when she burned herself for the second time.
As the garden wasn’t overlooked, Matthew used his wand to do first aid on her burns.
“There,” said Matthew, pocketing his wand, “that’ll be right as rain again in five minutes.” He grinned at Holly. “I hope you aren’t going to be as accident prone as your sister was at Hogwarts. Maybe I should owl Madam Pomfrey and warn her there’s another Potter on the way, so she can get a bed ready in the Hospital?”
Holly grinned back, pleased that Matthew had been on hand to treat her burns. Her mum could have done it just as well, but she would have got a five-minute lecture about being careful. “Oh, yes, the ‘Potter Memorial Hospital Bed’ is probably already waiting for me. However, seeing as Mum, Dad and Hope between them have removed all traces of Voldemort from Hogwarts, I won’t have that to worry about.” She saw a shadow of emotion pass over Matthews face and lowered her voice. “Was it… really awful in Hope’s first year?”
Matthew seemed to consider his answer for a few seconds before sighing, “Yes, it was. I thought she was going to die.” He looked over towards Hope as he was speaking. He brightened up, “bBut that was all over a long time ago, and for the rest of her time at Hogwarts, all she had to worry about were Quidditch injuries.”
Just for once, Holly decided to keep her curiosity in check, and tried to lighten the mood. “Just as well. Think of all the snogging you would have missed out on.”
Matthew picked up on her teasing tone, and responded in kind. “Yeah, I’d have had to wait for you to grow up!”
* * *
The shadows were beginning to lengthen, and Holly had decided she quite liked beefburgers and lemonade. Finally, the neighbour’s cat decided to put in an appearance. Holly stifled a giggle as the bright yellow animal stared at Simon in an aggrieved manner, before starting to furiously wash itself.
Hope appeared at her side, smiling at the twins. “It looks like someone’s been doing some accidental magic.” She whispered conspiratorially. “Do you want me to fix it for you? Or have you charmed it to be spell-resistant, like that damned chicken?”
Holly blushed slightly at the memory of the mayhem she had caused. “I only meant to turn that bottle of wine into pumpkin juice. I’ve no idea how it ended up as a chicken!”
Hope was giggling softly. “Not only did you turn it into a chicken, you made it into a champion sprinter as well. Forty minutes we spent chasing that thing around the garden; summoning spells and freezing charms just kept bouncing off it!”
Simon chuckled, “I’m afraid the cat was me. I was just trying to get yellow sparks out of my wand, but the cat sort of… got in the way.”
Hope laughed again. “Easily fixed, then.” A swish of her wand, a “rReverso iIncantatem”, and a sleek black cat sat before them. With one last baleful look at Simon, it stalked off again, head and tail held high.
* * *
All too soon, it seemed to Holly, the party was over, and they were all back indoors again.
For once, Holly didn’t complain at being sent off to bed. They had a long and exciting day to look forward to, after all. As they were all heading off upstairs, she heard a telephone ring.
* * *
Mr Mayer took the phone call. He listened in silence before answering with a terse, “OK. I’m on my way.”
He turned apologetically to his guests. “I’m sorry, duty calls. There’s been a robbery at the British Museum, and a security guard has been found dead in the Egyptology storerooms. I am the senior officer on call.”
Harry and Hope exchanged a look. “Can I come with you?” Harry asked. “Anything to do with Egyptology could have a link with Simon and Holly’s wands.”
Mr Mayer shook his head. “I may be the senior officer, but I can’t think of a way to bring a civilian in right at the start of an investigation.”
Harry pulled some papers from his pocket, and passed them to Mr Mayer. “Well, how about taking Inspector Potter of Interpol, with Home Office authority to investigate any crimes which might involve the illegal trade in ancient artefacts?”
Mr Meyer hesitated for just a second before nodding decisively. “That should be fine. Come on, we’ll take my car.”