Set in the "Harry Potter" Universe
Spoilers: Harry Potter
I am not exactly comfortable with the idea of 'borrowing' a real author's work so some parts of this are intentionally vague and may not make a lot of sense if you haven't read the wonderful books by J. K. Rowling.
Voices floated across the dark, still lake. Excited whispers filled the night, blending with the gentle lap of water against the sides of the small boats. Clouds scuttled across the night sky and the crescent moon seemed to hang especially low over the dark mass of the castle waiting on the far shore. Not that far actually, and drawing closer with every heartbeat.
A small shiver raced up Vin's spine as he took in the eerie surroundings. He felt like he was entering a whole other world and the thought was both exciting and frightening. Next to him, JD wiggled and squirmed with excess energy but for once he wasn't saying anything. He was probably just as nervous as Vin, which was something of a comfort. Ezra, the other boy in the their boat was new too but he did not seem the least bit concerned. Vin sort of reckoned it was a good job of acting but he hadn't known the kid long enough to be sure.
He had met both boys on the Hogwarts Express, the train that had carried them from the city to this, their new school. JD, which was short for John Dunne, was a dark-haired, dark eyed boy. Vin had learned a lot about JD from their mostly one sided conversation during the long ride. At first he had thought JD was really short for his age but it turned out that the boy was actually a couple of years younger than the rest of the students. It seemed that he showed so much magic potential the Ministry had decided it best that he go ahead and start his education early. By 'best' Vin thought they might have really meant 'safer'.
The other boy, Ezra Standish had shared their compartment on the train but had made it clear from the start that it was not entirely by choice. He had boarded the train at the very last minute and all the other seats had been taken. The compactly built brunette obviously considered himself superior in upbringing to his companions and was not loath to share that information. Even his rat had a smug attitude as it perched regally on his shoulder. But still, Vin had the impression that a lot the southerner's attitude was just an act.
As Vin regarded his two companions, he had to admit that they did share one thing in common. They at least had no doubts about being chosen to attend Hogwarts. Vin wished with all his heart that he felt the same way.
Soft feathers brushed his left cheek and he reached up to give Silver a quick scratch on the chest. His owl responded with a gentle nip to his ear as if chiding him for his silly anxiety. Vin smiled as the thought reminded him of his Aunt Nettie and the day his letter had arrived.
+ + + + + + +
"Well, go on Vin, open it."
Obeying his aunt's command, Vin slowly broke the wax seal on the envelope and pulled out the letter inside. Unfolding the stiff parchment with trembling fingers, he read the first line.
"Dear Mr. Tanner,
Congratulations. You have been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry."
He didn't need to read any further. "But there must have been a mistake. I mean "
"No mistake child. You come from a long line of witches and wizards on both sides of the family. You belong at Hogwarts."
"But I haven't done any magic!" Vin couldn't help raising his voice. He had been dreading just such a letter for years and now his nightmare was a reality. "And I'm barely passing my regular classes! I'll never learn any spells."
Nettie Wells placed her hands firmly on her hips in a no nonsense manner. "Oh really? Maybe you should read that second piece of paper that was inside the envelope."
Steeling himself for even worse news, Vin haltingly read the second page.
"Hogwart students are not allowed to perform magic off of school grounds. However, exceptions can be made when a student shows both a high level of skill and responsibility. You will be allowed to continue flying and are encouraged to try out for the Quidditch team of whichever house you enter."
Vin finally swallowed the lump of fear that had formed in his throat with the first sentence. As the words sank in and he realized he was not to be punished, he looked to his aunt for an explanation. "How...how do they know about that?"
'That' being Vin's late night, unapproved trips on his aunt's 'borrowed' broom.
Nettie smiled even as she wagged a scolding finger. "Probably the same way I do."
"You you aren't mad?"
"Oh heavens no child. I'll admit I was worried the first time you took off but you made it back safe and sound. And I will never forget the look on your face." A single, sparkling tear rolled down Nettie's cheek as she lovingly brushed back a stray lock of hair from her nephew's forehead. "I hadn't seen you smile like that since since before your mother died. If flying made you that happy I wasn't about to stop you and I told those busy bodies in the Ministry the same thing. I knew you would be careful and stay out of sight of the Muggles. Besides, you had Silver to watch over you and I knew he would keep you out of trouble."
Vin looked down at the parchment in his hands then back up at his aunt's smiling face. He couldn't put into words the way he felt at that moment so he let his actions speak for him. Stepping forward, he threw his arms around Nettie's shoulders and gave her a tight hug and a kiss on the cheek.
"I love you too Vin. And don't you worry none about doing well. Remember, you're a Tanner. Just do your best and that will always be good enough."
+ + + + + + +
"Well, it looks like we have finally arrived."
Ezra's southern accent woke Vin from his memories and drew his attention back to the present. Yes, they had indeed arrived at Hogwarts School of Wizardry along with all the other first years.
JD practically leaped from the boat as soon as it nudged the dock. The sudden rocking motion threw Ezra against Vin and they clutched at each other as they fought to remain standing. Silver gave a loud hoot of disapproval as he launched himself into the cool night air while Ezra's rat dove into his robes.
"Oh gosh! I'm sorry. Here," JD stretched out a hand to help the two boys out of the boat but they both shook their heads.
"Uh, that's ok JD, we can manage." Vin didn't want to hurt JD's feelings but Ezra had no such qualms.
"Really, I would feel safer if you were to step back away from the dock, thank you very much." Ezra pulled himself from the boat and proceeded to dust and straighten his robe.
Seeing the unhappy look on the younger boy's face, Vin quickly stuck out his hand. "On second thought, I could use a little help."
JD grinned and practically jerked Vin from the boat. As they fell in line with the other new students walking through the stone arch he began talking in a giddy rush of excitement.
"I wonder which house I'll get sorted into. I heard there were real ghosts here. I hope their not the scary kind. Have you ever met a ghost? Wow! Look at the size of that room! Hey! There's Dumbledor. I hope we get to eat soon. I wonder if the food is any good. Look! I think that's a ghost over there. Unless of course a person could live with their head cut off."
Vin listened to JD's never ending stream of chatter as he also took in their new surroundings. The dining hall they had just entered was indeed impressive for both its size and the ceiling, which appeared to mirror the real sky. Vin liked that very much since he preferred the outdoors no matter what the time or weather.
"Hey, I think we're about to get started." JD nudged Vin in the side and pointed to a stool on which a very worn and tattered, pointed hat had been placed. It was a surprise to hear the hat suddenly start speaking and Vin couldn't help wondering if it was alive.
As the hat spoke, it became apparent that its purpose was to select which house each new student would be assigned to. When the hat finished its introductory rhyme, JD whispered to Vin. "A sorting hat? Do you think it's going to read our minds?"
"Surely not." Ezra overheard the question and sounded a little upset at the thought. Vin noticed that for the first time the southerner's eyes showed just a hint of doubt.
As Mrs. McGonagall began calling names, Vin let his gaze sweep across the crowded hall. Most all of the seated students had their attention focused on the stool and the new students being quickly sorted into the four different houses. But as he looked around, he suddenly found himself meeting the stare of a blond-haired youth at the Gryffindor table. The distance was too great to make out the color of his eyes but there was something very compelling about his stare.
Vin looked away from the unknown youth as he was suddenly jostled from the side.
"That's me!" JD hurried forward and grabbed the hat off the stool, quickly pulling it on his head without even bothering to sit down. The hat seemed as excited as the boy did as it almost immediately shouted out, "Hufflepuff."
With a grin stretching from ear to ear, JD trotted to his table where he was greeted by a tall, dark skinned boy amid a loud round of applause. More names were called and more new students left the small gathering to find seats at their assigned tables. Vin avoided looking at the table with the blond-haired boy so that he wouldn't get caught again by that knowing look.
Vin watched as Ezra walked slowly to the stool and paused for a moment before placing the hat gingerly on his head. His shoulders tensed visibly and it looked like he was actually shaking his head in refusal to a question that only he could hear. The silence stretched out for a few more seconds and then, almost reluctantly it seemed the hat called out, "Slytherin."
Applause sounded from the chosen table as Ezra removed the sorting hat from his head and carefully patted his hair back into place. Casting a quick glance behind him, he gave Vin a tight-lipped smile and lifted an eyebrow as if saying, 'See? What did I tell you?' before making his way down the aisle.
Vin frowned as he watched Ezra walk slowly away. There was something there that just didn't seem right but before he could really give it more thought, he heard his name being called.
Taking a deep breath, Vin stepped forward and after a heartbeat's hesitation, placed the sorting hat on his head. It was so big it fell over his eyes and in the darkness he heard a small voice.
*Ah, a Tanner. It's been a long time since I last sorted a Tanner. And a natural born flier I see. That's a skill that will serve you well. And you are the seventh. Time to join your friends in* ..."Gryffindor!"
Vin lifted the hat from his head as the sound of applause rang through the hall. His eyes met those of the blond youth who tipped his head to the empty seat next to him, almost as if he had been saving it just for him. As Vin began making his way down the aisle, he couldn't help puzzling over the hat's words. He was the seventh 'what' and who did he already know in Gryffindor?
Nearing the seated Hufflepuff students, Vin heard his name called and saw JD waving to him. "Congratulations Vin! This is Nathan." JD gestured to the kid at his side who grinned in response. "We'll get together later." Vin nodded his head in agreement as he continued walking. As he passed the long table belonging to Ravenclaw, a rather large, ruggedly handsome boy stuck out his hand and smiled warmly as he spoke. "My name's Josiah. Welcome to Hogwarts, Vin."
"Thanks." Vin's reply was a little breathless as he quickly shook Josiah's handed and hurried on to the Gryffindor table. He walked up to the empty seat but paused before sitting down. The two older boys on either side stood up, the dark-haired one speaking first.
"Hey, my name's Buck Wilmington. Heard tell you've got some flying experience."
"Yeah, a little."
Buck grinned as he shook Vin's hand. "Well, let me tell ya, ain't nothin' better for getting dates then being on a Quidditch team." He gave Vin a knowing wink and a nudge in the ribs before returning to his seat, clearing the way for the other boy.
"Hi, my name's Chris Larabee. I'm the captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team." His green eyes flashed as he spoke and Vin had the sneaking suspicion that few people ever dared cross the serious looking boy. And the ones that did probably regretted it afterwards. "Tryouts for the Seeker position start next week. I'll let you know exactly when."
Vin shook Chris' hand then moved to take his seat. As he pulled his chair out, he happened to look down and notice the pair of black, western-style boots being worn by the older student. A smile tugged at his lips and he felt his worries fading away.
"Don't remember ever saying I was interested in playing on your team...cowboy."
Vin's soft, Texan drawl carried clearly to the other students sitting around them and everyone froze in shock, hardly daring to even breathe. For his part, Chris narrowed his green eyes and turned his head slowly to glare at the newest arrival.
"What did you just call me?"
"What, you want me to repeat it? Maybe say it a little louder so's the folks at the next table can hear?" Vin's blue eyes sparkled with mischief and he grinned as Buck slapped him merrily on the shoulder.
"Finally, someone that can stand up to the Larabee glare. I swear things were starting to get downright boring around here. Looks like this year may turn out to be fairly interesting." Buck continued to chuckle and the students around them relaxed once more.
Vin turned his head toward Chris and as their eyes met, both boys felt the bond of friendship that formed instantly between them. It happened so fast it was almost like magic. But then, wasn't that what Hogwarts was all about?
"Yep, going to be an interesting year."
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