The partially risen moon shone bright on the battlements and the many windows were lit with a warm yellow glow. The ancient castle was a massive construction, both grand and ostentatious. In its walls was housed a bewildering array of corridors and staircases, which were confusing enough without the added difficulty of their apparently random movements. Perched the cliff over the silver lake, Hogwarts projected a timeless majesty.
“So that’s Hogwarts,” Scott said. He thought about it for a second then nodded in acceptance. “Not bad.” He leaned over to Harry, and whispered in his ear, “Just don’t let me do anything stupid on my first night.”
“Well, for starters, you might not want to follow me, then,” Harry said. He pointed at the waiting carriages. Scott thought the skeletal steeds that pulled them were kind of cool looking. “Those take students second year and above to the castle. I guess you’re really a sixth-year, but since you haven’t been Sorted yet, you’ll probably want to go with Hagrid.”
“Yeah, I’d hoped to avoid that. I’ll go ask about it,” Scott said glumly.
Harry gave him a shrewd look. “You can see the Thestrals, can’t you?”
“What, the anorexic horses over there?” Scott gestured towards the carriages and their spectral pullers. “Obviously.”
“Not really. You can only see them if you’ve seen someone die,” Harry explained.
“Oh.” Scott considered that for a second. It was an odd qualifier.
Harry waved his goodbye and hurried to catch up to Ron and Hermione, who had already climbed into one of the carriages.
Scott took a deep breath. This was it — his big debut in front of the full crowd. All of the required objectives were clear enough. It was figuring out how to complete them that would be the problem. He let out the breath.
“Prorsum,” he muttered to himself, and started walking.
He made his way over to the hulking figure of Hagrid, who was shouting and gesturing to get the scared looking first-years to assemble. Rather than gain everyone’s attention by trying to shout over the top of him, Scott simply tugged at his sleeve.
“Wha—?” Hagrid glanced around in confusion before remembering that he had to look down in order to see other people. “Oh, you’ll want ter go to tha carriages, over there—” Hagrid pointed towards the carriages before continuing, “FIRS’ YEARS OVER HERE!”
“Actually,” Scott said once his ears stopped ringing, “I’m new, this is my first day. I have to go with you to be Sorted, right?”
“Really?” Hagrid peered at him. “American, are ye? Is that your accent?”
“Yeah. I just moved here.”
“Well, alrigh’, alrigh’ then,” Hagrid rumbled good-naturedly. “Dumbledore said something abou’ tha’, if I remember. Welcome ter Hogwarts! You can get in tha’ boat over there, be careful now and watch yer step.”
The boat was somewhat rickety and sported no oars, so Scott assumed it had to be magically propelled. The lake looked bottomless and dark in the moonlight, stretching out and away into the distance. Sitting awkwardly in the gently swaying vessel, Scott could see things moving down below the surface in deeper water. None of the first-years crowded around him with pale faces seemed to notice them, which was good, since Scott felt it would probably have led to full-scale panic.
The boat rocked as two other students clambered into it with him. Scott’s legs were significantly longer than the small craft’s bottom allowed and he was forced to bring his knees up to his chest in order for the first-years to squeeze by. Once settled, they looked at him with open curiosity.
“You’re not really a first-year, are you?” one of them, a small, dark-haired boy piped up. His companion, a pale girl with strawberry-blond hair, merely looked on with wide eyes.
“I’m a new student,” Scott explained. He speculated that a large pin with the words ‘I’m an American transfer student’ emblazoned on it might speed introductions along.
The boy squinted at him. “You talk a bit funny, don’t you?” The girl appeared shocked at his audacity.
“I’m from America,” Scott said dryly. “We all talk a bit funny over there.”
The girl’s eyes widened further. Scott thought there was a fair chance they might detach and roll out of her head. The boy looked intrigued by Scott’s revelation. “That’s all the way across the ocean, innit?”
Scott wondered whether Hogwarts had a good geological curriculum. “Yeah, across the Atlantic.”
“What team are you backing, then?”
“What team are you backing? You’ve got to pick a Quidditch team, you know, since you live here now.” The boy said it with authority.
“Oh, of course,” Scott said. “Well, I haven’t had time to pick one I like yet.”
“The Falmouth Falcons are the right one,” the boy stated with absolute conviction.
“I’ll keep that in mind.”
“What’s your name?” To Scott’s surprise, the wide-eyed girl had spoken up in a small voice. Her question was put forward very timidly, and Scott wondered if she thought he was going to eat her.
“Scott Kharan,” he introduced himself. “I’m a transfer student to the sixth-year class.”
“I’m Kylie,” she said softly, and then promptly shut her mouth as if afraid to say any more.
“And I’m Trevor,” the boisterous boy said in a tone that was ear-splitting in volume after straining to understand Kylie.
“Really?” Scott said conversationally. “I know a toad named Trevor.”
The boy looked outraged at the thought.
All talking ceased as the boats began to move, Hagrid looming large at the front of their diminutive fleet. The vessels glided silently through the glassy surface of the water, trailing expanding ripples in their wake. Scott could feel the magic that propelled the craft humming just beneath normal senses like an electronic noise beyond human hearing range.
His two boatmates were a study in contrasting reactions. Kylie was shivering in her seat, eyes firmly fixed on the bottom of the boat — either to avoid looking at the water or to check for leaks. Scott considered putting a comforting hand on her shoulder but felt the action might give her such a jolt that she really would go overboard. Trevor was all but leaning out over the prow of the tiny vessel, eagerly monitoring the progress of the other first-years and gazing rapturously at the castle that was beginning to loom over them. Every time his movements rocked the boat slightly, Kylie would close her eyes in abject terror.
The last thing Scott wanted was a hysterical girl on his hands when he was crossing a lake that had God only knew what living in it. He tried to distract her. “So, Kylie, any subjects in particular that you’re looking forward to?” This garnered no response save a barely perceptible nod, but he felt that it was progress nonetheless. “I figure Defence Against the Dark Arts should be interesting. You think they’ll let us practice duelling?”
Kylie appeared terrified at the thought, but it pulled Trevor’s attention back to them. “Yeah, maybe!” the boy said excitedly. “I’d like to learn to duel!”
Kylie buried her face in her hands; doubtless, visions of mandatory duels to the death were dancing in her head. Scott hastened to change the subject. “Any houses you guys are holding out for?”
“My mum was in Hufflepuff,” Trevor said. “But sometimes she says I’m as brave as a lion and twice as foolhardy, and it drives her spare… So maybe Gryffindor?”
“That’s where I’m headed. How about you, Kylie?”
“Don’t know,” Kylie whispered from between her hands.
“Well, you don’t seem like a Slytherin to me,” Scott said encouragingly, “so you really can’t go wrong.” Privately, he thought the slip of a girl was probably destined for Hufflepuff.
The castle was now almost overhead, blotting out a considerable section of the starry night sky. The sound of the lake against the immovable cliff on which the school was perched was now loud in his ears. He focused on the great vertical sheet of rock, trying to discern whether there were any spells placed on it to prevent erosion. As apparently immutable as the rock face was, he knew the lake would eat its way through with the passage of enough years.
Moving past such titanic constructions of nature was still slightly humbling for Scott. He hoped that he never lost that sense of awe entirely. Trevor didn’t seem to have that problem. The small boy gaped with unselfconscious wonder.
The boats slid into a subterranean dock, the lanterns glistening off the wet limestone walls in a dazzling array of shifting glitters. Getting out of the boat proved to be more difficult than getting in. Scott would have had no problem simply hopping out of the craft on his own, but his shipmates were troublesome. Trevor very nearly capsized the boat when he tried to clamber out and after that Kylie wouldn’t even move until Scott all but picked her up and set her onto the dock. The first-years assembled by a staircase with Hagrid as a stern-looking older witch came down to meet them.
Scott recognised her as most likely being Minerva McGonagall, a fact that was confirmed when she introduced herself. As she spoke, he ran through the information he had on her in his mind, placing her in the ever-changing puzzle that was his mission. It was important to know where people stood in the grand scheme of things. He catalogued the shape around her for future reference, tangled though it was.
His internal council of war was interrupted when she called his name. “Scott Kharan?”
“That’s me,” he said, before tacking on a quick, “Professor.” McGonagall was a key figure at the school, and he didn’t want to be on her bad side.
“There have been some special arrangements made to accommodate you, taking into consideration that you will be joining the sixth-year class.” She examined him closely. “Hogwarts has not had the opportunity to accept many American students. May I be the first to welcome you to our school. I know adjusting will not be easy. If you have any questions, please feel free to come and see me.”
“Thank you, Professor,” he replied with a smile. She returned it with a small one of her own and a terse nod before turning and leading the group up the stairs.
Despite his unusual status as both the eldest and the only transfer student of the group, he did not receive much attention. The huddled children seemed much more concerned with their own growing nervousness.
The inside of Hogwarts was much as he remembered it from his earlier visit, though now it was full of life. He could see why people loved the school so much — despite the cold stone that made up most of its vast structure, the castle had a welcoming feeling of warmth to it. Hogwarts was not only a school, it was a home, and that distinction had sunk into the very walls.
The party stopped in front of the huge double doors that led into the Great Hall. Scott only half listened as McGonagall explained the Sorting process — he already knew how that worked. A number of the first-years did seem mightily relieved, though. Once she was finished the doors swung open, and they filed through to be Sorted into their houses. Scott felt it was kind of strange for a school to actually promote segregation and disunity. Kids could already ostracise each other well enough without outside help.
The Sorting Hat sat on a stool in the middle of the Hall, lined up directly with Dumbledore’s chair in the centre of the professors’ table which stood against the far wall. Scott spotted Harry sitting with Hermione, Ron and Neville along with some other students whom he didn’t immediately recognise. He was receiving some assorted looks and mutterings as he passed the house tables, no doubt due to the fact that he was substantially taller than any of the other students in the group.
After the line of new students had come to a stop, the Sorting Hat opened its wide brim in preparation to say something. Scott was intrigued. He had been unaware that the Hat directly addressed the students in any way but in their own heads when worn.
He certainly hadn't expected it to start singing.
Welcome, students, welcome here! Once again, another year Has brought new minds to learned halls, For brighter futures, one and all!
And I, the Hat, your trusty guide, Will send you to your chosen side Of this Great Hall, where tables four, Mark each House of ancient yore…
Strong Gryffindors, the red and gold, The home for all those brave and bold! Or Hufflepuff, the black and yellow, where you will meet your loyal fellows!
And Ravenclaw, the bronze and blue, where minds are sharp and wit sparks true! In Slytherin, the silver and green, you will claim ambition by any means!
But remember, students, I am your host, And though judgement is mine to boast, I seek to show you your own heart, Not to force an improper start.
I Sort not just what each House requires, But hear your thoughts, your own desires. So choose not merely by destined creed; But by what you want, and what you need.
Scott listened with one ear and absently applauded with the rest once the Hat finished, but was far more concerned with cataloguing the various faces around the Hall. He noted the students he recognised and made a mental list of those he didn’t. Putting names to faces was important. He liked to know who was doing what, and with whom.
The line began to move as students’ names were called. With trembling hands the first-years donned the Sorting Hat. Sometimes the Hat would immediately call out the name of the house chosen, and other times a tense silence would descend on the Hall as the Hat made a more difficult decision. Each Sorting resulted in a round of applause from the table of the house that had received the new student. He watched as Trevor hurried eagerly to the Gryffindor table.
His name not being all that far down the alphabet, Scott’s turn soon came.
As Scott approached the stool, Dumbledore stood from his spot at the table, causing something of a stir. There had been no previous occasion on which the Headmaster had interrupted the Sorting ceremony. Scott halted and waited for him to speak.
“I would like to announce…” Dumbledore said, gesturing to Scott and giving him a benevolent smile, though his eyes conveyed a deeper understanding. Scott nodded slightly in acknowledgement. “…the arrival of our first American student in some time. Scott will be joining our sixth-year class, having recently moved from the United States. I trust we will all make him feel welcome.”
Scott supposed that would save him a lot of questions in the future but he wasn’t all that happy at being singled out. A dull roar of conversation rose and fell in the Hall until Dumbledore held his hand up for silence — though that still didn’t stop a great deal of students from standing and craning their necks to get a good look at Scott. Ignoring them, he picked up the Hat and placed it on his head, taking a seat on the stool.
“Back again, are we?” The dry voice of the Sorting Hat sounded in his head.
I don't exactly have a choice. Nice song, by the way.
“Thank you. You’re quite the sensation, Mr. Kharan. I dare say that at this moment, almost any of the houses would like me to speak their name, if only so they can deluge you with questions…”
Almost any, huh.
“Yes, well, Slytherin has never been a house for the more open-minded…”
Is there something I should know about my probable opponents?
“Opponents?” The Sorting Hat sounded amused. “You must have been busy indeed to claim foes amongst students you’ve never met before… No doubt this has something to do with your mysterious purpose here…” There was a short pause as the Hat seemed to consider that. “The Slytherins will not accept you because of what you are. America is a much younger country than the United Kingdom… The wizarding society there is different than it is here. Nearly all American wizards are half-blood or Muggle-born… The Slytherins are fond of neither.”
Scott should have known the Sorting Hat would prove a valuable source of information. Who better to give insight into the wills and whims that made the students of Hogwarts what they were than the very creation that was tasked with dividing them by those same inner proclivities? Second class citizens, by pure-blood definition.
“Exactly. In America, the magical and Muggle societies are much more closely related than here. Those who hold to certain brands of pure-blood ideals feel that has tainted American wizards beyond redemption.”
Interesting. We should talk later, but for now how about you lay some Sorting on me.
“Droll as always, Scott Kharan, and as much as I’ve enjoyed our little chat, the time has come for me to deliver on a promise and say—” the Hat opened its mouth and shouted for the Hall to hear, “GRYFFINDOR!”
There was no eruption of furious applause or anything of that sort — Scott was hardly a celebrity — but he did receive something slightly above the normal level of clapping reserved for a newly Sorted student. Removing the Hat and placing it back on its stool, he made his way to the Gryffindor table. He was pleased to see that Harry had moved to make room for him. He gratefully slid onto the bench.
“Any problems from Malfoy on the way in?” Scott whispered to Harry while the Sorting continued. Ron leaned towards them to listen in.
“No, not yet,” Harry whispered back, remaining focused on the Sorting so as not to alert any teachers.
“Malfoy? What about Malfoy?” Ron said a trifle too loudly before Hermione shushed him.
“I’ll tell you later,” Harry muttered to Ron. “Ask me tonight.”
Ron looked a little disgruntled at that but held his peace. Hermione seemed curious despite herself, though she kept her eyes steadfastly on the Sorting. Turning his attention to his new-found house, Scott tried to spot the other boys he’d be sharing a room with. Being on good terms with his roommates would be the most important thing. There was no point in having to work in a hostile environment.
His concentration was pulled back to the ongoing Sorting by the shaky appearance of Kylie, looking like she’d rather be anywhere than about to be Sorted. She donned the Sorting Hat with weak hands and looked desperately at the floor while it panned through her brain. If the Hat really was most strongly guided by personal desire then Scott figured it would send her home.
Thus he felt no small measure of surprise when the Sorting Hat loudly proclaimed, “GRYFFINDOR!”
As Kylie scurried over to find a seat at the table, Scott wondered if the Hat was really infallible. Only Slytherin would have been a less fitting choice than Gryffindor. Perhaps the Hat had seen something in her that Scott had missed. He decided to bring it up the next time he talked with it.
The Sorting ended with “Yarrow, Caroline!” and the first feast of the school year appeared before the hungry mass of students. Harry and Ron appeared perfectly content to stuff themselves in silence. Hermione, on the other hand, was eyeing him with obvious questioning intent. Scott readied himself to dance his way around the truth.
But before she could corner him with pointed queries, he was saved by less dangerous curiosities. Dean Thomas and Seamus Finnigan made their way over to meet the new addition to their dormitory. Scott shook both their hands in greeting and mentally blessed them for the much-needed distraction.
“American, huh?” Dean was saying. “I know you play football over there, too.”
“Yeah, we call it soccer,” Scott replied, noticing that nobody save Hermione was following the conversation. “We have a different sport that we call football. It’s really a misnomer but it’s too late to change things.” Scott’s desire to befriend the Muggle-born was tempered by the knowledge that the boy’s relationship with Ginny would have to go. Harry needed Ron’s little sister, even if he didn’t know it yet. Dean’s love life would be another sacrifice on the altar of necessity.
They continued in this vein while everyone else looked bored, Scott dredging up everything he could remember about FIFA. Soccer had never been his game, but if that was what it took to normalise himself in Dean’s eyes, then that’s what he’d talk about. Seamus had already wandered back to his original seat. Scott gathered that the topic of football was well-worn territory for all of Dean’s friends.
All conversation ceased when Dumbledore stood and addressed the Hall. There was quite an uproar when it was revealed that Professor Snape had become the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. Scott smiled humourlessly at Harry’s dark comment regarding the curse that supposedly plagued the position.
Dumbledore finished his speech and the Hall immediately began to empty, the students standing and filing off towards the dormitories. Most of them looked tired. Scott wondered how the first-years managed to get any sleep their first night away from home.
As Scott stood to follow the rest of the Gryffindors, Dumbledore called him from the front of the Hall. “Mr. Kharan! A moment please?”
“Looks like the Headmaster wants to see me,” Scott said to Harry and Ron. “Uno momento, por favor.”
Dumbledore motioned Scott aside from the other teachers, placing a hand on one of his shoulders as if taking a moment to privately reassure the boy. Scott allowed himself to be led. “I see you’ve become acquainted with Harry and his friends,” Dumbledore said quietly. “I trust everything is going well?”
“So far, so good,” Scott replied. “But I’ve still got a lot to do.”
Dumbledore glanced backwards over Scott’s shoulder. “Harry wrote to me after your visit. I expect he’ll wish to speak with you privately.”
“I figured he would,” Scott said, nodding. “You didn’t spread any unsavoury truths about me, did you?”
Dumbledore smiled slightly but his eyes were serious. “I told him that I believed you. That is, so far as your efforts on our behalf are concerned.” He paused. “Personally, I am inclined to accept a great deal more than that… But I think Harry will not be so willing to take such a leap of faith.”
“It’s enough if he just sees me as an ally. Anything else is chaff.”
“I told him as much myself,” Dumbledore said. “I stressed that you should be given the chance to prove your intentions. I hope that he will be convinced, but—” a pained expression flitted across his features, “—Harry no longer…” He stopped, before continuing, “He does not place blind faith in me.”
Scott shrugged. “I can talk a good game if I have to, but I’d rather move the ball with something besides my mouth. I’ve got a job to do whether he trusts me or not.”
Dumbledore gave him a piercing look. “Were you planning on telling the others?”
“Yeah. I don’t know when,” Scott said, answering Dumbledore’s unspoken second question. “Maybe Harry will tell them all first; it really doesn’t matter.”
“Then I will leave you to your work.” Dumbledore smiled, some of the twinkle returning to his eyes. “If you need anything, please feel free to visit me in my office. The password is still the same.”
“You might be seeing my sister sometime soon,” Scott told him. “And yes, that is a warning. She’ll want to introduce herself to some of the key people around here, so you can expect a visit someday.”
“It would be my pleasure to meet her,” Dumbledore assured him.
“Meeting her oughta divest you of that little delusion,” Scott muttered. “Anyway, I’ll talk to you later.”
“Good luck tomorrow,” Dumbledore said as they parted. “The first day is never easy.”
As Scott walked back towards the exit of the Great Hall he was pleased to see that Harry and Ron had waited for him, though Hermione was nowhere in sight. Whether this was indicative of a growing friendship between them or a desire on Harry’s part to keep an eye on him, he didn’t know. Ron was leaning against the wall, looking impatient.
“Just some first day stuff,” Scott said by way of explanation as he approached them. They all turned to leave, heading as a group for the Entrance Hall.
“Lucky, you getting into Gryffindor, wasn’t it?” Ron said. “Though I guess after what happened at Knockturn Alley—”
Ron’s supposition was lost as Hagrid drew up behind them, thundering, “Knockturn Alley! I thought I told you ter stay out of there, Harry. It’s no place fer young wizards!”
“I had my Cloak,” Harry said in defence. “We were curious about something.” Scott was unsure why he was avoiding any mention of Malfoy.
“No good tellin’ the two of you off,” Hagrid grumbled, though his voice had lost most of its fire. “Yeh never listen, yeh don’t.” He looked at Scott, noticing him for the first time. “Yeh made it to Gryffindor, then? I didn’t know yeh knew Harry.”
“Dumbledore introduced us over the summer,” Scott said. It was sort of true. “And we met up in Diagon Alley during school shopping.”
“Well, good, good.” Hagrid grinned down at him in a welcoming sort of way. “Always great to make new friends. Are yeh taking Care of Magical Creatures, by chance?” Hagrid asked.
“Not as a scheduled class,” Scott said. “But I’ll probably be turning up for some private lessons. Dumbledore said he’d talk to you about it.”
“Did he?” Hagrid puffed up in pride. “Private lessons, I can do tha’. You’ll be missing out on the group fun, though — too bad, eh, Harry?”
Harry nodded silently, looking a bit pale.
“Anyway, you two should come to class a bit early tomorrow,” Hagrid advised. “So you can see Buck — ah, Witherwings. He’ll be happy ter see yeh!” Hagrid waved over his shoulder at them as he trundled off towards the main entrance.
Scott looked at Harry, who was standing stock-still. “Let me guess — you’re not taking Care of Magical Creatures?”
“Me, neither,” Ron added. “And I’m not looking forward to Hagrid finding out.”
“Well, maybe he won’t take it too hard,” Scott said philosophically. Harry and Ron didn’t seem to buy into that, but he pressed on anyway. “What’s more important is showing me to the dorms so I can get my stuff set up.”
“I didn’t think about that,” Harry said. “There might be room for another bed in there, but it’ll be a lot tighter fit.”
“Maybe the room gets bigger by itself,” Ron suggested as they walked. “Like the Room of Requirement.”
Ron shrugged. “Maybe. Or maybe they’ll put you on the stairs…” He snickered at Scott.
“Yeah, whatever,” Scott said. “I guess I could always sleep on the couch. At least I’d sort of have my own room then.”
“It’s not so bad,” Harry reassured him. “You get used to the snoring after a while.”
“Well yeah,” Scott said sarcastically. “Sure. But what are you supposed to do when you want to masturbate? Pretend you’re alone and just go for it? And you can’t rub one out under the sheets, you’ll block your shot.”
Ron made a face. “You seem like a creative bloke. Just don't share with the class when you work it out.”
“Like you couldn't give me any pointers.”
Harry and Ron spent the rest of the trip to Gryffindor Tower answering Scott’s various questions about school life, taking the occasional detour to point out important areas and classrooms for him.
Scott told them a little bit about himself (‘Don’t tell my dad you’re a Muggle-born,’ Ron warned. ‘You’ll never hear the end of it.’) but withheld any real revelations. He had been honest when he had told Dumbledore that he would reveal himself to the core group, but he hadn’t worked out a good timetable for it. He’d already told Harry before he probably should have — it was easier to inform people of the facts after he had done some things to help support them. Timing was a trickily subjective matter when it came to the truth.
“…which was a lot of trouble to get a good location,” Scott concluded. “We’re still getting settled into our apartment. Now that I’m at school, my sister will have to do all the work around the place herself, at least until Christmas break.” He grimaced. “I can probably expect to come home to some pastel pinks and whites and superfluous curtains.”
“But she won’t touch your room, right?” Ron said, looking genuinely worried.
“Probably not. But you never know with her,” Scott said glumly. He opened his mouth to say something else but stopped, looking down the hall ahead of them. “Is that Kylie?”
It was Kylie, standing alone in the corridor and looking more than a little scared. As they approached her, she hugged her bag to her chest and stared at the floor, appearing absolutely mortified.
“Oi! Are you lost?” Ron shouted to her, as they were still some distance away. Predictably, instead of taking comfort in the presence of the loud prefect Kylie only flushed bright red and said nothing.
“Let me talk to her,” Scott whispered to Ron as they drew near the slight girl. “We met on the boat over, and she’s kind of… shy.”
“Oh,” Ron said with some distaste. “One of those.”
Scott still couldn’t believe that Kylie had been Sorted into Gryffindor. She didn’t look up as he advanced towards her but she also didn’t run away, which he took as a good sign. “Hey, Kylie. Trying to find the tower?”
“Okay, just come with us; that’s where we’re going.”
She nodded again, but still didn’t look up or move. Scott looked back at Harry and Ron. “Lead the way, guys.”
“This way,” Ron said to her, though he spoke less loudly than before. Harry tried to catch Kylie’s eye with a friendly smile but she kept her gaze firmly downcast. Scott shrugged at Harry in silent response. Kylie seemed like a lost cause when it came to being social.
“So you’re going to be taking lessons with Hagrid?” Harry said, restarting their conversation as they began to walk. Kylie was following Scott so closely that she was almost stepping on his heels. She must have been steering solely by mimicking the motions of Scott’s legs, because she still hadn’t looked at anything but the floor.
“Not just him,” Scott explained. “It’s sort of a catch-up program for me. I’ll be spending some of my free time — more some days than others — with different teachers for tutoring. Dumbledore wants to be sure I’m in line with the rest of you guys.”
“Free time?” Ron said, aghast. “You have to work?”
“Is that required?” Harry asked.
“The American school system uses a different curriculum, so these sessions are to find out what I know and what I don’t know.”
“What’s your old school called?” Harry looked genuinely curious; Scott figured he had probably never heard anything about the American equivalent of Hogwarts.
“Maliseet,” Scott said. “It’s in northern Maine.” He saw the blank looks on Harry and Ron’s faces and added, “That’s a state on the very northern edge of America’s eastern coastline. We had Canadian students, too.”
“And they don’t teach the same things there?”
“That’s a question with a long answer.”
Scott didn’t expand on that statement any further since they had reached their destination. The portrait swung aside in response to Ron’s password and admitted them into the common room.
It was mostly empty, a lot of students having gone to settle themselves in their dormitories. There were some older students gathered on the chairs and sofas, talking quietly, and the few new additions to Gryffindor who were still caught up in the novelty of it all. Hermione was sunk into an armchair, cradling a large textbook while keeping one eye on several boisterous first-years. She looked up when they entered.
“There you are!” she exclaimed. “What kept you?”
“Showing Scott around the school a bit,” Ron said offhandedly. He flopped down into a chair across from her.
Scott had never been in the common room before and was examining it thoroughly. It was a comfortable, homey sort of a place that immediately made him feel secure. There was a certain solidity about a stone tower, after all. It was a self-contained area of both work and play, sealed off from outside distractions by a wall and password. The world receded in the face of this microcosm.
“And who are you?” Hermione asked Kylie in a kind voice, seeing her standing behind Scott and using him as a moving shield.
The diminutive girl managed to squeak out her name before hiding herself completely behind Scott’s much larger form.
“The stairs to the girls’ dormitories are right there,” Hermione said, pointing towards the staircase. She stood. “I’ll show you up to the room for your year. This way…” She gently took Kylie’s hand and led her up the stairs.
“Mental, that one,” Ron said after they had left. “I bet she sleeps with the lights on.”
“I don’t think the Sorting Hat is infallible.” Scott seated himself on a couch.
“That’s a scary thought,” Ron said. “I hope it doesn’t change its mind. Imagine if we got Malfoy in here or something.”
“Bollocks to that,” Harry snorted. “He wouldn't last a day.”
Scott shrugged. “If that happened, I’d just have to beat the shit out of him again. Boy, I’d sure hate to do that.” He sighed insincerely.
“Again?” Ron perked up at that. “That’s right — what happened with Malfoy?”
Harry told him briefly about his partly invisible adventure. Ron gave him a sceptical look when he explained his theories concerning Draco and Death Eaters, though he let it pass. By the time Harry was done, however, he had an almost grotesquely gleeful visage. “I can picture it almost perfectly,” he said dreamily. “Malfoy landing right on his fat face…”
When Hermione interrupted their conversation by returning from the girls’ dormitories, she looked suspiciously at the three suddenly silent boys. “What was that about Malfoy?” she questioned them.
“I don’t know who that is,” Scott said expressionlessly.
“Oh really.” Hermione was obviously unconvinced.
Scott attempted a redirection. “How’s Kylie?”
“She’s fine now,” Hermione said, still eye-balling Scott. “What were you saying before?”
“Scott was telling us about his school in America,” Harry interjected. “Weren’t you going to tell us how they taught things differently there?”
Hermione was neatly deflected by the topic of school, settling down with a rapt expression on her face. Scott raised his eyebrows at Harry in amusement — he obviously knew exactly how to distract his friend — but switched back to their hallway conversation. “Yeah, the curriculum isn’t the same. That’s one reason why some of my free time will be spent getting tutored. Like, we have a class on Native American magic and Herbology.”
“I’m sure that’s a fascinating subject, Native American magic,” Hermione said with enthusiasm. “I’ve often wondered why Hogwarts doesn’t have a Druidism course.”
“The school system isn’t structured the same either,” Scott continued. “America is a much bigger country than the UK and we have more than one wizarding school. Anyway, that’s why I’ll be getting private lessons to make sure I’m on the same page as everyone else.”
“That stands to reason,” Hermione agreed. “If you’d like, I still have all of my notes — you could borrow them.”
“Cool, I might do that,” Scott said, though he had no intention of doing any such thing. He had enough to work on already without wading through a mass of Hermione’s overly detailed notes. “Anyway, it’s getting late. Let’s go test Ron’s theory of automatic room expansion.”
Before Hermione could winnow out the details of yet another snippet of background information to which she was not entitled, Scott had removed himself from the couch and started up the stairs to the dorms. Harry shrugged a little apologetically to Hermione, and followed him up.
“Night, Hermione,” Ron said, standing.
“Goodnight,” Hermione replied somewhat distractedly. She had already re-immersed herself in her book. Ron didn’t ask her what she was reading about — he didn’t want to accidentally learn anything before classes started in the morning.
When Ron joined them upstairs, Scott was surveying his new room. Despite Harry’s concerns, it didn’t appear to be all that cramped. Whether this was due to spatial distortion or a clever rearrangement of furniture, Scott was unable to determine. It was easy enough to spot the bed that was his; it was the only one without any personal accoutrements nearby and his suitcase was resting against the foot board. It seemed pitifully small next to the massive trunks most of the other boys were unpacking.
Dean was plastering his available wall space with football posters while Seamus looked on in obvious amusement. Neville was arranging a carefully cultivated batch of various plants on his bedside table. He looked up from his task long enough to give Scott a welcoming smile, one that the blond boy returned. He made a mental note that a few talks with Neville could save him a lot of studying when it came to Herbology.
“Thinking about class tomorrow?” Harry ventured from somewhere over Scott’s shoulder.
“More or less.” Scott sat on the edge of his bed and regarded Harry with serious eyes. “So. Here we are.”
Harry returned the look for a moment, before saying in a low voice, “Tomorrow night, I think we should talk.”
Dumbledore hadn’t needed to warn Scott that this might happen. He had expected it. “You got it.”
Harry nodded and didn’t pursue the topic any further, moving back towards his own bed. Fortunately, it didn’t seem like Ron had noticed the exchange — he was too busy trying to get things out of his haphazardly packed trunk. Scott figured he should follow suit.
The following day would be his first real school experience at Hogwarts, and his goals would be not so much altering anything as blending in. For the moment, his sister would be doing any fieldwork.
So there wasn’t much else to do but unzip his suitcase and start making his new room a home.