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A Degree in Sorcery (HP/SI)

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When I woke up today, the last thing I expected was to be thrown fifty years into the past...

Eternal Yujin

Not drowning in uni assignments... yet
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When I woke up today, the last thing I expected was to be thrown fifty years into the past, ripped away from everything I'd ever known. Some would leap at the chance. Abusing your future knowledge to get rich sounds enticing, don't get me wrong, but me? I just wanted to go to university. Though I do suppose that Hogwarts is a pretty good alternative. Marauders Era. AU. SI-OC.
 
Prologue: Knocked Off Course
If you enjoyed the chapter, I'd appreciate it if you left a review detailing your thoughts!

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Any and all constructive criticism is welcome but please, keep it constructive. If you're going to flame me, I'd at least like to get something useful out of it besides the crippling blow to my ego.


OOOOO
Prologue: Knocked Off Course
OOOOO


Opening the creaking house door, I peered over the wooden fence, catching glimpses of the morning sunlight peeking just over it. There was a general wetness about— expected of London in the autumn.

But like your average Londoner, I grumbled about it almost ritualistically. I was well aware that it didn't change anything, but for some reason, it helped.

"Have you got your bag and suitcase?" my mother asked, her voice as high-strung as it was ten seconds ago.

Beside her stood my father, stoic, but looking just as nervous. His arms were folded over his ample-sized stomach, as if it were the only thing holding him back from assisting my mother in her last-minute frenzy.

I wasn't sure if he was aware of it, but his right hand seemed to twitch imperceptibly every so often. But it would be hard to notice when standing next to a presence as all encompassing as my mother's.

"Yes mum…" I drawled, making a show of hoisting the rucksack over my shoulders before letting it slam against the steps towards the house as a testament to its weight.

"Your train ticket?"

"Yup. Right here."

"Your keys?"

Fishing through my pocket, I twirled the keys to the house around my finger. Maybe the sight of it and its jingling would put my parents' worries to rest. As annoying as the ordeal was, I knew that it was part of the 'Eldest Child Package Deal' I had subscribed to upon entering the world.

I also knew going to university away from my parents was going to be tough, but boy did I underestimate their reaction. Still, it was heartwarming to see how much they cared. Especially since it was a stark change from their more implicit displays of affection.

They weren't neglectful, not in any sense. It's just where my mother thought that "I love you" meant cooking me my favourite food after a long day, my father equated it to getting me into boxing as a child and making sure I stuck to it until the present day.

And I wouldn't have it any other way.

I looked over my parents' heads and straight at my little brother sitting atop the staircase. His inky hair fell in loose curls over his face. Despite this, the warmth from his chocolate-brown eyes shone through the frizzy mess. He gave me a shaky smile that I returned with much more enthusiasm than he offered.

"Lunc—"

"Mum." I put a stop to her fretting and met her worried eyes with my own. Shooting her a soft, albeit nervous, smile before I extended the same to my father, abating his nervous twitches. "I'll be fine, okay? I'm going to uni, not war."

"I know, son." my father's baritone voice rumbled. He ran a shaking hand through his balding hair. "But you know? We worry. That's our job as parents. We feed you, annoy you, and worry when you leave."

A soft chuckle slipped through the cracks of my seemingly collected facade but despite its briefness, it was enough to ease the tension. Sensing the shift, my brother flew down the stairs at once.

His soft but plentiful footfalls brought forth groans of protest from the aged wood— they'd lasted a little over two decades now. At this point, they might as well have been immortal.

Clearing the final step, he bounded towards me and clung to me in a death grip. I could feel his soft tremors as he sniffled into my shirt.

"Will you come back?" his voice was muffled on account of his face being buried into my chest but his words shot straight through my already panging heart.

"Yeah, I'll come back." I said, stroking the top of his head in an attempt to both calm him and tame the wild mess sitting atop his head. "In fact, I think I'll get you a present while I'm at it."

"Really?" he looked up at me, eyes widened and gleaming. It seemed his previous sadness was all but forgotten under the promise of gifts— but what else would you expect from a seven year-old?

"Really." I affirmed, gently unwrapping him from around myself as he wiped a few wayward tears from his face. I looked at my parents, who were gazing fondly at our hug. "That goes for you two as well."

My mother began to protest but my father beat her to it.

"No." his rejection was kind but firm. "Your job is to focus on studying."

I withheld a sigh. It seemed for the last few years of my life, that's all I'd been doing. Alas, I knew that in some way, it was my responsibility as the eldest child. After all, my parents had come here in search of a better life and as their son, it was my responsibility to make good on that risk.

Not that the interaction was anything outside of the norm. That was my father. Kind, fair, and always to the point.

I took his dismissal in stride and vowed to get them presents regardless. I could tell that behind his stiff exterior, he knew I'd get him one anyway. That was just the kind of person I was: annoying to a fault.

Steeling myself, I took my first step towards independence. Away from my parents, away from the comfort of being provided for, and most importantly, away from everything I'd known for almost the last two decades.

For some time, I continued along the pavement. It was devoid of all life, be it people or animals, and left me feeling strangely nervous with every step I took. The soft, and more importantly, solitary crunch of gravel beneath my shoes reminded me that for the first time in my life, I was well and truly alone.

But for some reason, it didn't feel like a bad thing.

OOOO

"Here we are, friend!" the cab driver chirped, disgustingly chipper for 8 AM in the morning.

He turned around and flashed me a wide grin. Huffing, I unfastened my seatbelt and leaned over the back.

It took me all of five seconds to realise the better course of action would've been to leave the car and then open the boot from the outside— but as the Americans say: hindsight's always twenty-twenty.

"Thanks Tanveer." I said, smiling at the gap-toothed cab driver.

The journey from Surrey to St. Pancras station took a little under two hours— which was more than enough for me to learn quite a lot about the man.

Though me being the same age as his daughter might have eased the process. It was with that thought that I slammed the door shut and thumped its roof in farewell. I smiled at the sound of the car's horn and stepped out onto the cobbled street.

"Well," I sucked in sharply, my front teeth tingling at the sudden chill. It was early in the morning but from the look of the entrance, you'd think it was the middle of the day. "Here we go."

I trudged along the street, my fingers tingling as I approached the grand archway leading into the station. I was never one for trains, both underground and overground. Not on purpose, I just found myself using the bus more often.

That hadn't changed in the eighteen years I'd walked the earth, and so arriving at St. Pancras station for the first time led to a series of "Wow…" moments.

The biggest of which was definitely the arch that pretty much spanned the entire width of the station. Not that I had long to admire it. After all, travelling through a station as busy as this one meant that I'd been pushed aside by more suitcases than I would like to admit.

Straightening my overcoat, I sighed and removed my slightly crumpled train ticket from my pocket before smoothening it out.

"Platform B at 9:36 AM. Seat 42." I muttered, eyes roaming in search of a sign that could point me in the right direction.

I wasn't worried about being late, but still upped my gait from a relaxed stroll to a brisk walk whilst repeating the details on the ticket like a mantra. Over the course of ten minutes, I'd dodged countless trailing trunks and the occasional toddler in a sort of reverie. So when I finally stopped and looked around, it was of no surprise to me that I was lost amongst the hordes of the station.

My panicked eyes flicked over to my watch. '9:17 AM', it read, and I slowly allowed the tension to seep out of my bones.

There was still some time left.

With a now calmed heart, I peered around in search of someone—anyone at all—who could point me in the right direction. And lo and behold, just over yonder I spotted the towering but loveable figure of the station's patron: Paddington Bear.

He was accompanied by an exhausted looking, yellow-vested ticket inspector. She was leant against his left leg, her posture slouched as she took frequent sips from a mug.

Doing my best to not trip over my own two feet, I dragged my trunk towards the life-sized teddy bear.

"He-Hello there sir!" the inspector yawned in a sordid attempt at a greeting. Her hazel eyes were puffy and it seemed the steaming cup of coffee in her hands wasn't doing her much good.

"Yeah, hi," I said, somewhat breathlessly, and showed her my ticket. "I'm trying to get to—"

"—Platform B, yeah?" she broke in, swallowing another yawn. "Yo-You head down there, right? And you see the pole over there?"

I followed her finger until I spotted a navy-blue signpost pole.

"Yeah, I do." I nodded.

"Cool. Then you turn left, take the escalator right in front of you—the middle one—and it should take you up to the platform, okay?"

"Alright, thank you." I said, offering her a sympathetic smile as she battled what seemed to be her fifth yawn yet.

Spinning on my heels, I shot off towards the pole, the inspector's recommended route burned into my mind.

This time, not even the widest of suitcases and wildest of children would stop me.

OOOO

"The train now approaching Platform B is the Northern Line Crown service to: Leicester. Please stand back from the platform edge."

The automated female voice brought me back to reality in an instant— though it might have been the faint whistling of the wind as the sound of a speeding train grew closer.

Wiping the trail of saliva that had slipped down the side of my mouth, I rubbed my bleary eyes and downed the last of the tea my mother had kindly packed for me.

Jumping to my feet, I fumbled for my thermos, screwed on the lid, and hastily stuffed it into my bag. The faint aftertaste of tea dried my mouth and I lamented the fact that I hadn't any water on hand.

I swung my bag over my shoulders, wincing, and walked towards the boundary line hoping that there would be some kind of refreshment trolley on the train.

"This is the final call for the Northern Line Crown service to: Leicester approaching Platform B. Please do not leave your luggage unattended. Unattended luggage may be removed or destroyed by the station's security services."

The robotic voice sounded again, heralding the arrival of the train as its roar filled my ears. Gusts of wind buffeted the platform, forcing me to squint. The vibrant red locomotive slowly came to a stop in front of the platform and its yellow doors slid open with a soft hiss.

I could hear the faint and faraway call to mind the gap as I stepped onto the train, feeling the uncomfortable nudge of somebody's bag. It seemed that I wasn't the only one dead set on claiming a window seat.

A few tussles and near misses later, my seat was secured and I collapsed against its sinfully soft back with a sigh.

"Dear Lord, that was exhausting…"

"You can say that again sonny…" an equally tired but elderly voice sounded from behind me.

Nearly leaping out of my chair, I looked up at the old man smiling genially down at me. The wrinkles spread across his face told a tale of toil in the mire of the modern world— a tale that was only exacerbated by his attire.

He was outfitted in the traditional garbs of the working man: stained cargo pants, a ratty shirt that smelt of several things—none of which I wanted to think about—, a high visibility jacket, and an ancient looking skipper's cap.

Taking a closer look at the insignia woven into his cap, I blinked, completely stumped as to whether I should be amused or confused. It seemed that old Popeye over here was working for a cheese company?

In the time that he set down an opened can of lager on the table and melted into the seat opposite mine, the thought had disappeared from the forefront of my mind.

Instead, I was more focused on his choice of beverage at 9 AM in the morning. A bit too early for day drinking, I thought, but far be it from me to judge another's life choices.

Lord knows I've made poorer.

There was also the irrefutable fact that the old man had graced the earth with his presence for far longer than I had.

And lastly, it wasn't my life so who was I to judge?

"Headed for Leicester too?" he asked with kind eyes, though they were alight with something I couldn't quite place my finger on.

"Yeah." I tried for some bravery that I definitely wasn't feeling at the moment. "First day of university— or rather, moving into university."

"Oh!" he crowed, his face somewhat proud.

I was quick to dismiss it though. The UK was rife with odd characters and the occasional crackhead. For all I knew, he could just be another one amongst the bunch.

"Quite the place university is," he said. "A place where learning and debauchery are often bedfellows, if you get what I mean."

He followed his poorly concealed innuendo with a wink and I could swear his eyes were twinkling.

I snorted and whipped out my phone to open up my PDF of 'Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone'— completely legally acquired mind you.

A while later I looked up to realise that the old man was still talking. He was, if anything, infuriatingly thick-skinned. Though there was something oddly endearing about his persistence in striking up a conversation with me, so I set down my phone on the table and crossed my arms.

"Hear this… My theory, little chap, is that Albus Dumbledore was a madman! Stark raving mad I tell ya!"

"Well once you've explored magic for as long as he has, you've got to take pleasure in the little things, right?" I asked the cheerful senior citizen who still hadn't given me his name.

"And have you seen the length of his beard?!" he broke out into a snicker, completely ignoring my input.

I swallowed and tried my best to dismiss the burn of annoyance and shame tickling the back of my throat once it dawned on me that I'd been ignored.

"Yeah, it's pretty long, isn't it." I smiled, bringing an end to the spell of negativity with an exhale.

I wasn't sure what I'd done, but he immediately stopped laughing, his gaze boring into me with unsettling intensity.

Beady eyes narrowed as he exhaled noisily through his nose. His eyes were a yellowish-orange, a detail I'd failed to notice until that very moment. The colour reminded of the eyes of an eagle, and much like the man himself, they were currently frighteningly intense.

I think what made his current expression so unsettling was the one-eighty in demeanour from the previously ditzy old man. But it was more likely to be the fact that you usually don't see an amber-eyed person every day.

His inquisitive stare dragged on for far longer than was comfortable. My eyes roamed around our section of seating—anywhere but at his unnerving eyes—in a futile bid to escape the awkward situation.

After what felt like an eternity, the elderly man pierced the silence with a snort.

"Heh." the corners of his mouth twitched upwards. "That's what Grindelwald said, ain't it lad?"

The tense atmosphere collapsed in an instant. I exhaled, both in relief and exasperation, and pinched the bridge of my nose; all whilst the man cackled at his joke.

He slapped his thigh as his laugh grew into a hearty roar, drawing many odd looks from our fellow passengers. A particularly snobby-looking woman seated across from me huffed derisively before drawing her newspaper over her face. The tips of her horn-rimmed glasses peeked over the top, and she took not-so-discreet glances over her morning paper when she thought I wasn't looking.

This was going to be a long train ride, of that I was sure.

Not that I was averse to it, though. The old man had proved to make for good company, and I was sure he'd make for even better company once I learnt his name.

After all, I was growing tired of referring to him as 'old man' in my head.

OOOO

"Okay then, name your favourite Tamrielic deity!" said the old man.

At long last he had finally told me his name. But by the time I'd found out his name was Bob, 'old man' kind of stuck.

"Not Sheogorath, that's for sure." I said, shaking my head.

"Aww, why?!" he hung his head low and sighed. When he looked up, he fixed me with an accusing stare, as if I'd kicked him whilst he was down.

"Because!" I huffed. "He's mad! You can never tell what he's going to do. One minute you're having a calm conversation and the next he's in a rage and threatening to skip with your innards whilst stuffing cheese wheels down your throat! No, I much prefer Akatosh. Thank you very much."

"Why the old dragon of all u— them?" he asked, now more curious than upset.

"Well… I think it's because you play as the Dragonborn in Skyrim— son of Akatosh and aspect of Talos to some." I paused and rolled the words around my mouth, trying to get a feel for where I wanted to go with this. "So you feel some kind of bond or tie to him, even though you don't really interact with him. The same with Talos. You feel like you have to live up to their mantles in the game— or, well, at least I do."

"But anyways, why are you asking me this, it's not like any of this is real, right?" I laughed.

"Oh lad," he warned with a sombre shake of his head. "There are things in the world that would drive you mad. Best not write off that which you can't see."

And in that moment, I couldn't help but notice how similar he was to the Daedric Lord of Madness himself.

"That's besides the point though!" he clapped, sudden joy blossoming across his face in the form of a lazy smile. "I hear the trolley man coming towards us. I do hope he has some cheese for me!"

I snorted and leaned over my chair's armrest. And as the slightly odd old man had said, the train's catering staff was wheeling the trolley down the aisle. He was a portly middle-aged man.

"Any refreshments?" he called. He was pretty loud, but not in an unpleasant way. "I've got tea, biscuits, scones, fizzy drinks, and sweets!"

At the mention of sweets, I heard a few kids call out before being furiously silenced by their parents. In fact, just behind me there was a father who was whispering promises of McDonald's to his irate son in exchange for his silence on the train.

I watched the interaction in amusement before sitting back against my chair thanks to the aching in my neck.

"So, d'you want anything? From the trolley, I mean." I asked.

"Well, does he have any cheese?"

"No he does not." the old man pouted. "But he does have some Wotsits."

"Well," he huffed, folding his arms over his stomach. "It's not genuine cheese, but it'll have to do."

I snickered and waved over the trolley man.

"Hello there gents!" he greeted us. His face was flushed and he took in several deep breaths before continuing. "What'll you be having from the trolley?"

"Could I have a packet of wotsits and a coke please?" I asked, standing to remove my rucksack from the luggage rack.

I opened up the zip on the side of the bag and removed my wallet before returning the bag onto the rack.

"That'll be two pounds and ninety-four pence, sir." he stuck out a meaty palm and looked at me expectantly.

"Cheaper than I thought." I muttered and handed the man a two pound coin followed by a one pound coin. "Pleasure doing business!" I smiled at his chuckle and pocketed the change as I handed my elderly companion his packet of crisps.

He opened the packet and grumbled about a loss in integrity or something along those lines. Still, he ate his Wotsits without much complaint. In the end, cheese was still cheese, and from what I could tell, the old man liked his cheese.

We ate and drank in silence until we'd finished our respective snacks and I pulled out my phone to continue reading.

A good fifteen minutes later, I caught the old man's curious amber eyes flitting between my phone and myself. At first I ignored it, but I eventually caved and placed my phone back onto the table.

"You know," he began, his tone almost wistful. "There was so much that could be done to build upon the Wizarding World. If it's called a world, then surely there's more to it than the journey of one Harry Potter, no?"

I was silent for a while, mulling over his words and the story that I'd come to love.

"You're right." I said, and for all my love towards the story I'd grown up reading, it, at times, felt so restricted in terms of scope. "The cameos in the story by some foreign figures wasn't really enough, but it, in essence, is a children's story. And for what we got, it was a damn impressive one. I only wish we could've seen more, you know?"

"So do I, lad. So do I..." the old man agreed, his voice deepening.

Then, there was silence, and I was content with staring at the pull-down table in front of me until curiosity drove my gaze upwards.

Now, the old man's gaze was predatory, and a scythe-like smile stretched itself across his face.

The temperature around me dropped in an instant, and I gazed in the eyes of something that I honestly wasn't sure was human. I was overcome by the urge to escape—to get away from that… thing—until I realised I was on a train.

It was then that I came to an epiphany: there would be no escape.

Gone was the cheerfully eccentric old man I'd been chatting with for the last couple of hours. Sat before me was something that a part of me knew could destroy me in an instant. But us humans… We are masters at denying the reality of situations until the very end.

But those eyes… There was something about them that, quite frankly, scared the shit out of me.

"W-What's the matter with you Bob?" I stuttered, my voice unable to truly portray the levels of fear pumping through my veins.

What made it worse was that I had no idea why I felt the way I did, and it was my fear of the unknown that made the situation all the more terrifying. My throat constricted and with each breath I took, it became harder to take another.

"Bob he says!" the elderly thing chuckled, yellow eyes flashing.

This time, there was something different about his laugh. As if instead of laughing with me, as he had been over the course of the train journey, he was now laughing at me.

He continued laughing for several minutes until his laughs turned into choking coughs and he wiped mirthful tears from his face and the corners of his eyes.

"Dearie me!" he said, chuckling into his hand. "Well lad, you've entertained me well enough for the last few hours so I'll do you a solid in return."

He raised his hand and began to draw in his fingers until he stopped.

"In fact how about I…" he began to mutter, whispering to himself so quietly that not even I could hear him.

Suddenly, he drew into himself and the oppressive presence seemed to have… retracted.

Taking that as my sign to escape, I shot out of the chair and readied myself to bolt down the aisle. As my frightened gaze swept across the seats, it began to dawn on me that nobody could see me.

It wasn't that I was invisible. Simply that the rest of the passengers were going on with their lives as if the old man and myself weren't there at all.

"Ah, not so fast there, lad." I stopped and turned around to the smirking old man. "I did say I'd reward you, didn't I? Sit back down."

I did so immediately because at this point, what other option did I have?

"Thank you!" he said, crossing his legs. "Now then. As thanks for the lovely company, despite the counterfeit cheese, I'll throw you a once-in-a-lifetime gift."

He cleared his throat, adjusted his skipper's cap and snapped his fingers as I squeezed my eyes shut.

There was no flash of light. No expected explosion. Nothing. All was completely silent until the whir of a ceiling fan entered my ears.

My heart pounded in my chest and I took deep lungfuls of air in an attempt to calm myself. Slowly, I opened my eyes to a room that I could only describe as decrepit.

The plaster walls were peeling and odd smudges ran across the walls and around the thin pipes spanning the room. It was mostly bare of furniture besides a dilapidated bed that took up most of the space on the floor and a wardrobe that was tucked away in a corner of the room.

I would love to say that I calmly analysed the situation but I, in fact, did the opposite. Jumping back with a yelp, I slipped on a stray shirt that was strewn across the floor and fell against the mattress.

I was then overcome by the most peculiar of sensations. It was like I'd been submerged within water or something, as an odd but not uncomfortable pressure made its presence known in my head.

This wasn't my room… but it felt so familiar.

With trembling feet, I wandered over to the wardrobe and blinked owlishly at the figure staring back at me.

The child's eyes widened and raised a shaking hand to his face— or rather, I did.

Then, as if a spell had been broken, there was a knocking at the door as a worried voice filtered through.

"Cyrus, are you okay in there?" a distinctly female voice, I noted.

My older sister: Sadie's. A sister that didn't exist before today but she was the one who tucked me into bed just last night.

"Yeah, I'm fine Sadie!" I called out, the words escaping my lips on instinct.

Squeezing my hands into tight fists, I struggled to bring my breathing under control as I whispered harshly.

"What the actual fuck?!"

Thanks for reading everybody. I'll start posting regularly once I've written ten chapters. Right now, I'm halfway there, so this prologue is proof of life and whatnot. See you sometimes soon!
 
Chapter 1: Turn That Frown Upside Down
If you enjoyed the chapter, I'd appreciate it if you left a review detailing your thoughts!

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Any and all constructive criticism is welcome but please, keep it constructive. If you're going to flame me, I'd at least like to get something useful out of it besides the crippling blow to my ego.



OOOOO
Turn That Frown Upside Down
OOOOO


Saadia Azar

Life wasn't fair.

Saadia Azar knew that fact very well— intimately even, some would argue. Bottom line was that life was never fair. The minute you thought it was going well, you'd be completely blindsided by some kind of tragedy that, if you were lucky, brought you right back to square one.

But that was if you were lucky.

Most of the time, the "unforeseen variable" took you so far down that it would be better to sit down and accept that you'd never make it than to claw your way back up.

Why bother getting up if you'll end up right back there again, right? She certainly felt that way for a while.

After the deaths of her parents, she didn't know what to think. She didn't know what the exact details of their deaths were— not for sure anyways, but she did have her suspicions.

Suspicions that she'd kept to herself. One night three years ago, they had gone out for a dinner date, leaving Cyrus in her care for the evening.

An understandable choice, she had thought at the time. When almost all the people she knew were more likely to hurl abuse at them, it made sense to leave your youngest child of eight and a half with someone you could trust in certainty… Like your seventeen-year-old daughter, for example.

That was until there was a knock at the door a few hours later. Instead of the expected faces of her parents, she met the indifferent gaze of an even more indifferent officer.

The loss? The heart wrenching grief? That came to her much later.

The reality of the situation didn't really hit her until she gazed upon their faces one last time before they were returned to the earth.

Well, nothing seemed real afterwards. Like one long bad dream that she ached to wake up from.

But that part of her life was over now.

Traversing the aisles of the local off-licence, a frown found its way across her face. She knew they were falling on hard times lately—courtesy of her boss refusing to pay her for this week's overtime—but not being able to afford groceries?

She didn't realise it was that bad.

Not that she could up and leave, though. As an immigrant woman, her chances at being re-employed were slim to none. Still, she couldn't help but mutter a few unkind words directed towards her boss before leaning over to pick up a couple cans of tinned tuna.

It wasn't much, but with the bread at home, she reckoned she could whip up something tasty for her brother.

Despite her current condition, she couldn't help but smile at the thought of the little tyke. His antics at school aside, he always did his best to lessen her load at home. "If you work outside, then I'm working inside!" he declared this morning with just about the same fervour as when he decided he wouldn't do homework anymore.

She didn't think he realised that he didn't have to. Graduating from Primary School meant that he'd never have to submit another piece of homework again… Until Secondary School that was.

She snorted softly at the thought before deciding it was high time she stood up straight— her lower back seemed to be of the same mind. She rose from her crouched position on the floor, her feet protesting at the very thought that she should walk some more. Nonetheless, Sadie trudged over towards the counter with the canned tuna in hand, each step more arduous than the last.

The cashier sat behind the counter, half asleep and teetering off the edge of the stool. She set the cans on the counter rather loudly, jarring the man from his sleep.

Scowling, he huffed and swiped the cans before inspecting them.

"That'll be twenty-four pence," he gave her a once-over as a cruel smirk slowly spread across his face. "If you can even afford it, that is."

He pointed lazily at a stack of canned cat food piled up towards the end of the aisle closest to the counter and snorted. "But there's something closer to home over there."

Sadie swallowed and gritted her teeth, shoving the swirling red-hot rage as far down as it would go. She wanted nothing more than to give the bastard a piece of her mind, perhaps with a smack or two. But she also knew that the minute she laid a finger on him, she'd be in a holding cell faster than he could spout another disgusting remark.

She was all her little brother had left, and she'd be damned before he was sent to an orphanage.

Releasing a shuddering breath, she fished through her purse and slammed the coins onto the counter.

She would not give him the pleasure of seeing her rattled.

"Oi!" she heard him call out as she walked through the doors. "Don't go on breaking the counter. I could get you locked up for that!"

His laugh was the most infuriating thing of all. Even at the other end of the door, she heard it. It was nasally, and struck a chord so deep within her that her first impulse was to kick the lamppost opposite the shop.

Safe to say she regretted it immediately.

"And don't go damagin' public property either!" she heard him holler before breaking out into another bout of snide laughter.

"Prick!" she snarled, limping down the street.

By the time she got home, her rage had mostly subsided. The thought of seeing her brother after a long day's work was enough to banish the stormy expression marring her face.

Carefully, she closed the door and fastened the latch as quietly as she could before inserting the key into the padlock.

An extra precaution after her parents had passed away. To Sadie, there was no such thing as "too safe."

She tiptoed her way down the hall and into the living room, eyes fixed on the worn couch before her and with every step, she felt aches in parts of her body she didn't know existed.

But before she could collapse into the welcoming folds of the couch, a set of soft snores entered her ears and she stopped herself from falling any further than she already had.

"Cyrus…" she murmured. A soft smile adorned her face as she glanced down at the sleeping figure of her little brother.

Although it was pretty late, she knew that he hadn't had dinner yet so she decided to shake him awake.

"Hey, Cyrus, wake up." she gently shook him by the shoulder until he stirred.

"Sad-Sadie?" he sat up, slowly rubbing his eyes as he battled a yawn. "You shou-shouldn't be home this early."

Sitting down, she wrapped her free arm around him and drew him closer until his head lay against her shoulder.

"Is that so?" she began to comb her hand through his hair, losing herself in the moment. He hummed contentedly and leaned into her touch. "Well, that's what happens when you take a late afternoon nap, mister."

He stopped and turned towards her, seemingly scandalised at the notion.

"I wasn't napping!" he huffed.

She raised an eyebrow, a smile tugging at the corners of her lips as she did. "Oh? What were you doing then? Resting your eyes?"

Immediately, the boy jumped out of the chair and extended his hand towards her.

She stared at the hand and sighed. "Cyrus… I just got home!"

Whatever he was about to say swiftly died on his lips. He stared at her and furrowed his brow, something he always did when he felt guilty of something.

After a little while, his eyes brightened and he smiled at her. "Don't worry! This'll make you really happy, I promise."

Sighing once more, she took his hand and allowed herself to be pulled out of the chair and led back down the hall she'd just come through.

"Cyrus?" she asked, more amused than anything else. "Where are you taking me?"

"You'll see." was his reply before he clammed up and refused to answer anything else she asked.

Until they reached the kitchen, that was.

Entering the kitchen, she looked around and took in the spotless tiled floor and shining dishes on the rack.

Even the counter had been thoroughly cleaned.

"You…" she felt a familiar warmth in her stomach and brought the grinning child into a tight hug.

"See?" she could practically hear the smile in his voice even as he was stuffed into her chest. "I told you, you'd be happy!"

"Well then, mister," she pulled back the chair at the centre of the kitchen and sat him down. "It's time for dinner!"

She shrugged off her blazer and draped it over the shoulders of the raven-haired boy, snickering at his startled squawk. Her exhaustion seemed to melt away as she whizzed around the kitchen.

What she wouldn't give to keep him like this. To preserve this innocence before it would ripped away from him.

Alas, that's not how the world worked. She began to frown, something he noticed faster than she thought he would.

"What's wrong, Sadie?" he asked, placing the blazer on the back of the chair.

Sadie jumped, not expecting the question, but she collected herself quickly enough. "Oh, nothing. I'm just going to get changed before dinner."

Then a thought struck her and she smirked. "You think you can manage to stay here without the kitchen burning down?"

He frowned and shot her a mock glare. "Go and get changed then!"

Sadie darted out of the kitchen, dodging the slipper that Cyrus had thrown at her, cackling as it slapped against the wall.

OOOO

Dinner was a quiet affair.

They ate their sandwiches whilst exchanging the details of their respective days— or rather, Sadie listened to her brother list all of the things he'd done.

Not that she didn't enjoy it.

The joy on his face was enough to breathe new life into her.

Finishing the last of her tuna sandwich, she spotted Cyrus' drooping eyelids and stood up.

"I think," she leaned over the table and tapped him on the nose. "That it's time to go to sleep."

He nodded, seemingly too tired to respond. Sadie took him by the arm and guided him towards his room, tucking him into bed before placing a soft kiss on the top of his head.

She began to walk towards the door before she heard something so quiet, she almost missed it.

"Love you, Sadie."

She froze, and stopped herself from squealing. Slowly, she turned towards the bed, a wide grin stretching itself across her face.

"Love you too, squirt."

OOOO

Cyrus Azar

Still rooted to the spot, I barely had time to react before the ancient wooden door was thrown open. In stepped a tawny-skinned young woman, looking to be about twenty— none other than Sadie.

She was outfitted in a blazer and pencil skirt, holding a briefcase that she immediately set on the floor. She was pretty tall, looking to be somewhere around five foot seven— perhaps five foot eight.

Her black hair fell around her shoulders in neat curls, some falling over and around a pair of brown eyes shining worriedly. "Are you alright, Cyrus?"

I stared at her, my heart overcome by the crushing desire to envelop her into a strong hug. To express to her how grateful I was for everything she'd sacrificed over the last few years for me.

But another part of me baulked at the thought. Why should I? I didn't know her, right?

"I-I'm alright, Sadie." I said, my voice hitching in my throat.

My words had the opposite effect on her. She frowned and stepped forwards with purpose and brought the back of her hand against my forehead.

"You haven't got a fever… But then what's…" she muttered, stepping back and raking her concerned gaze over my body.

The genuine look in her eye and the sincerness in her demeanour tore me apart even more. I found myself unable to say a word as she muttered under her breath and fussed over me.

"Cyrus?" I looked up and met her guilt-riddled gaze. "I've got to head off to work but please… Take care of yourself."

I gave no reply and moved to raise my hand towards her before letting it fall to my side. I had absolutely no idea how to react. The memories of her were one thing, but seeing her in front of me was something I evidently wasn't ready for.

"Cyrus." she said, a little more insistent now.

"I-I'll take care of myself." my voice found its way back to my throat as I stuttered out the empty promise.

She nodded, seemingly satisfied and dashed out of the room, leaving me alone to stew over the whirlwind of emotions raging through my mind.

My stomach growled something fierce and I wandered out of the door towards the kitchen. Food first. Everything else could wait.

OOOO

The merge.

I'd like to say I took on my new circumstances with all the grace and poise afforded to me by my mental age and combined life experiences but the truth was, I shut down.

Many a day were spent in bed, dealing with the fallout of that thing's actions. Trying to gather some sense of self from two people's memories was an ordeal, to say the least. Especially when considering the moral implications of my circumstance.

Sure it was out of my control, but the fact remained that a child had ceased to exist in order for myself to survive. The only thing stopping me from wallowing in the guilt was the fact that for all intents and purposes, I was both myself and the child… somewhat, at least.

It would be another thing entirely if I were shoved into this body—my body—without the memories and emotions. In some way, having them helped to dull the blow. To convince me that not all was lost. I loved my family, both past and present, but it didn't change the fact that I would never see them again.

My mother, father, and… Little brother.

But then we had this life. I had parents, but they unfortunately shuffled off the mortal coil.

All my sister and I saw of it all were police officers at our door late at night to deliver the bad news.

The funeral and everything else was on us to deal with. Or rather, my sister to deal with.

This country, my country, always had a problem with immigrants. Back in the future, it was "They're stealing our jobs".

Here it was much worse. This was England in the 1970s after all. As if their mere presence—our presence—was enough to incense nearly everyone around.

The few strolls I took outside were enough to convince me of that. There were the overt signs and posters on business windows reading "No Dogs. No Blacks. No Irish.", and then there were the subtle things: mothers drawing their children closer to themselves and the poorly hidden stares.

The funny thing was, they didn't care where you came from. We were all the same to them. If you looked even slightly different to your average caucasian person, then it was safe to you'd have to prepare yourself for social exclusion at best.

That alone was enough to shock me out of my funk. I'd heard stories growing up, but actually witnessing and experiencing it all was another thing entirely.

All that lasted until I got home.

Everything about the building was enough to remind me of all I'd lost. My life was just getting started back home, and it all looked positive to me. The world was pretty much my oyster… And then I was sent here.

And to my regret, I took it out on my sister. Not that I did anything towards her, but I was closed off.

Colder even.

The worst part of it all were the worried and slightly hurt looks she'd send my way at breakfast, but that didn't last long. Her long hours as a Stenographer meant that she was locked up in the office for the remainder of the day, and by the time she got back home, I was asleep.

I rolled over onto my front, my face burrowed deep into the slightly coarse pillow. The aged wooden bed creaked beneath me with every movement of my body.

I stayed that way for a while, simply content with soaking in my existence… until the rickety bed creaked once more and I muttered my annoyances to the empty room surrounding me.

Then there was a knock at the door. A moment later, it was opened.

"U-Um, Cyrus?" my sister hedged. I noted the tremor in her voice, my chest constricting. "I've left some breakfast for you on the table, alright? I'm going to work now."

Staring at the door, I felt the moment stretch on until the grateful words tumbled out of my mouth.

"Thank you."

"Cyrus?" she asked, her voice was soft this time. It was only then that I noticed how miserable she looked. Not even make-up could mask the toll that the last few weeks had taken on her.

"Yes?"

"Take care of yourself, okay?" she said in the same defeated tone of voice I'd grown used to hearing.

There was the squeezing again, as if something had gripped my heart in its hands and refused to let go.

It took a good while for me to identify it as guilt. Guilt for putting her through this for weeks. But still, like always, I answered her pleas the same way I knew how.

And everything she did to help me only made it all the more worse.

"O-Okay. I'm heading out now."

Moments later, her tentative footfalls grew distant.

I stayed still until I heard the door leading out of the house click shut.

Only then did I get out of my bed.

OOOO

As I sat on the couch, my eyes were focused on a particular spider that had decided to scale the wall ahead of me. Over the last half an hour, it had fallen more times than I could count, but despite its numerous failures, the spider still seemed intent on reaching the ceiling.

Persistence was a beautiful yet pitiful thing.

There was something oddly inspiring about watching the spider throw itself at its challenge in the face of failure.

Then I heard the click of the door latch and was summarily pulled out of my musing.

I hated how I felt whenever Sadie and I were in the same room. The knowledge of her presence alone made me hyper-aware of everything around me. Like the slightly wonky clock on the wall, or the thin coating of dust on the table, even my reflection in the old—or rather, new—T.V.

For minutes, I waited for the expected terse greeting as she wandered into the living room but it never came.

More nervous than ever before, I wondered whether I should go and look for her, but eventually, I gave into my usual indecision.

Moments turned into seconds, and those too soon changed to minutes— my worry growing beyond anything awkwardness could excuse.

Flying out of the couch, I sped off towards the door— any slower and I'd give myself room to talk myself out of it.

The longer I walked, the deeper the pit in my stomach seemed to grow.

As much as Sadie's presence threw me for a loop, I cared for her, and I'd rather spend the rest of my life in an awkward relationship with her than never see her again.

Following the carpet, I turned left, walking out onto the hallways that led towards the front door, and what I saw brought my heart all the way up to my throat.

My sister was on the floor. Fully clothed and all. Not a single thing had been removed. Not her shoes— nothing.

Hell, even the door was still open.

I flew into action before I could even think.

Taking great care to not step on her, I moved to shut the door and fasten the latch. With that out of the way, I immediately fell to my knees.

"H-Hey, Sadie?" I held her head in my hands and gently shook her by her shoulders. "Sadie, are you okay?"

She murmured something incomprehensible under my breath but I could swear it sounded like she'd said "Cyrus."

I swallowed the lump in my throat, and furiously rubbed at my eyes. As far as I was concerned, this was my fault.

I was the one who made it difficult for her, knowing full well that her job was already hard enough. I shut her out, and even rejected her to some extent.

This was all my fault.

But all that ended now. My coming here may not have been intentional, but now that I was here, the least I could do was make her life better.

Easing her feet out of her shoes, I placed them at the door. Next I removed her handbag, stripped off her blazer, and then leaned her against the wall.

The next few minutes were all a blur to me, but I felt nauseous throughout it all. I darted towards the kitchen to pour her a glass of water—intent on flicking some on her face to try and rouse her—but by the time I'd returned, she'd already woken up.

"Sadie, are you okay?" I all but threw myself into her embrace before stopping myself.

"Y-Yeah, I'm fine." she blinked, propping herself against the stained wall, seemingly more surprised with my behaviour than her current state.

I wasn't going to have any of it.

"The hell do you mean you're alright?!" I hissed, watching her flinch at my voice. Another lance through my chest, but I ignored it. "You didn't come to the living room when you got in and when I went to check on you, I found you passed out on the floor!"

I couldn't stay strong anymore, hot tears falling down my face despite my best efforts to keep them at bay.

She raised a tentative finger but I beat her to it.

"A-And the worst part is, it's all my fault! If I were less of an arsehole to you, then it wouldn't have happened!"

Pouring out my heart like that had left me gasping for air. I wasn't sure whether it was the realisation that had caused it, or the fact that I'd said so much in a single breath.

Eventually, I forced my gaze up from my feet towards Sadie. She looked like she wanted to both hug and smack me at the same time.

Her eyes darted around the narrow hallway, spotting the glass of water on the floor beside her. She downed it before turning her attention back towards me.

"Listen here mister," she croaked, and for the first time since my transmigration, her eyes were steely. "It is not your fault, alright?"

There was little more I could do than clench my teeth at that. Whatever my physical appearance was, I was pretty much an adult in mind. I could tell she was lying, but it was a lie told for my own benefit.

"I've been working overtime for the past week and I guess it all caught up to me today. Good thing it's Friday..." she trailed off before blinking rapidly. "Now, come here, you."

Before I could say a word, she pulled me down into a soft but firm hug and I desperately tried my best to hold back a fresh bout of tears.

Needless to say I failed, and I soon devolved into a blubbering mess profusely apologising to her. And Sadie humoured me for a while before whacking me over the head.

"None of that." she wagged her finger threateningly before moving to get up.

"Hold on!" I panicked, grabbing her arm. "You just collapsed. There's no way we're going to gloss over that."

She stared at me and smiled. "Nothing some rest won't fix. You can heat up last night's dinner, right?"

"I can, but let me help you to your room first." I said, wordlessly bending over to pick her up.

I did my best to prop her up, but when you were at best four foot nine, trying to help someone almost an entire foot taller than you was a difficult endeavour, to say the least. Eventually, we managed to reach her room and I made sure to tuck her in.

"I'll go and heat you up a bowl, alright?"

She hummed and drew the duvet around herself, nestling into the mattress with a relieved sigh. "Thanks. Love you Cyrus."

Completely taken aback, I stopped just before the door. After the way I'd treated her, those were the last words I'd expected to hear.

The sadness weighing me down seemed to evaporate in an instant, and I turned back to her with a beaming, albeit relieved, grin.

"Love you too Sadie."


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Chapter 2: The Door-to-Door Solicitor
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OOOOO
The Door-to-Door Solicitor
OOOOO


I thought that there'd be some awkwardness left after yesterday's heart-to-heart, but apparently that didn't seem to be the case. Sadie was as willing to forgive and forget as I was—thank God—something she demonstrated by waking me up in an… interesting way— and that was putting it mildly.

"Wakey, wakey, mister." she whispered, tickling the tip of my nose with something that felt oddly feathery. And though I was already awake, I kept my eyes closed in the faint hope that my silence would make her leave.

I was wrong.

"You do realise I know you're awake, right?" she snorted.

It seemed that the jig was up. I sat up and rubbed my face. "Even if I wasn't, there are several ways to wake someone up, and a feather duster is not one of them." I grumbled as I left my bed.

She seemed to take offence to that, tickling the back of my neck with the feathered stick. "It woke you up, though, so I think it counts as a success." she teased.

I sighed and started to make my bed whilst Sadie stood at the door, humming a cheerful tune.

I turned back to her, curious. "What's got you so happy this morning?" I asked the cheerful woman.

"Oh, nothing." she denied with a small smile.

I narrowed my eyes in suspicion. She was never this happy usually, so something was definitely up. She met my stare and decided that there was something undeniably fascinating about the wardrobe.

But if she didn't want to tell, I guess I'd find out on my own.

Once I'd finished making my bed, she uttered a sentence that set off pretty much all of my alarm bells.

"Wash up quickly, Cyrus." she said, walking through the door. "There's a plate of scrambled eggs and toast on the table for you— and it's growing colder by the minute."

I stared at her retreating figure with a healthy amount of suspicion before calling out. "...Why are you being so nice to me? Usually, you'd be asleep right now. Something is up, I can smell it."

She didn't reply, simply waving the feather duster over her head as she wandered off.

I sighed and massaged my temples. All this suspicion was starting to get to me. Maybe, just maybe, she was being kind for kindness' sake.

I was allowed to wish, right?

There's nothing wrong with wishing— even if it would fall flat in the end, as it usually did with siblings. Our love was of a different kind. Sadie, to me, was both my mother and sister, usually more sisterly in her demeanour, but there were times where life forced her to step up. And that was something I'd be eternally grateful for, I thought as I dried my face with my towel.

To be completely truthful, I looked myself in the mirror before setting off. One must appreciate that which they were blessed with after all.

My eyes were a warm brown, partly hidden beneath raven-coloured hair that fell in loose curls— it seemed I'd need to get a haircut soon, if only for convenience sake. Similar to my sister, my skin was of a tawny colour, perhaps a tad darker than hers, but you wouldn't notice unless you were staring intently at the both of us.

With my bout of narcissism coming to an end, I gave the bathroom a once-over, making sure all the faucets were tightly closed before leaving.

One-hundred and one scenarios raced through my mind on my way to the kitchen, but by the time I'd arrived, I was no closer to figuring out Sadie's angle than I was earlier.

True to her word, Sadie had placed a plate of piping hot eggs accompanied by two slices of nicely toasted bread. Not too much, nor too little; just how I liked it. There was even a sprinkling of black pepper on the eggs, the taste of which momentarily sent me into another plane of existence.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and my heavenly meal was no exception to this.

For me, it was in the form of Sadie, who'd stepped into the kitchen looking dressed for war and then some. She wore an apron and was equipped with rubber gloves. Her curly black hair was pulled back into a ponytail, and her brown eyes were as tough as flint. She held her trusty feather duster over her shoulder as if it were a rifle.

"Attention Soldier!" she yelled, marching from the door and to the sink before returning.

"What's the getup for?" I asked through a mouthful of eggs.

"Swallow your food first, Cyrus." she admonished, breaking character for a moment. She then cleared her throat noisily and continued. "You, Cyrus Azar, have been conscripted into my Cleaning Corps effective immediately!"

I swallowed and raised an eyebrow. "Right… And?"

She visibly deflated, her head hung low. "Why'd you have to go and spoil my fun?" she pouted. "You were supposed to play along and say "But what if I don't want to be conscripted, Sadie!"

"Yeah, I'm not doing that." I rolled my eyes.

"Why not?!"

"Because it's fun to derail your plans." I deadpanned and returned to wolfing down my meal.

Sadie, on the other hand, awkwardly stood around the kitchen for a bit before deciding to sit down and do nothing but stare at me.

At first, I tried to ignore it, but her eyes seemed to glimmer with an eagerness that began to unsettle me.

"Any reason why I'm so interesting today?" I asked her.

"Because you, my friend, are going to be my most prized soldier." she replied airily.

"Well I'm honoured." I snorted, and bowed my head.

She chuckled, and stood up, bringing down both sides of the feather duster on my shoulders. "Then rise, Ser Azar, and take your rightful place beside me!"

I held her gaze for all of ten seconds before crumbling.

"Fine…" I muttered before playing along. "Come, Lady Sadie, for we must vanquish the demons that haunt the four cardinal points of every room: the cursed cobwebs and their arachnid mother!"

"Don't forget our most hated foe: diabolical dust and his ministers!"

"Indeed. The confines of our noble house will gleam before the end of this day! Purged of all filth!"

Unable to hold it in anymore, I began to laugh.

It sure was nice to have days where I could completely let everything go and be as childish as I wanted. One of the upsides of actually being a child, I supposed.

With my dishes washed, Sadie had raced off to bring me what she'd called "Your own battle armour", leaving me alone in the kitchen to twiddle my thumbs.

Though she returned soon enough, bringing with her a bundle of things. The first of which was my own apron, accompanied by a pair of rubber gloves. And perhaps the most notable thing of all, my own feather duster— equally as purple as hers.

"Arm yourself!" she stuck her weapon of choice in my face. "Today, we set out to destroy the foulest beasts known to man. It will be hard… Some of us will not make it back." she wiped what was supposed to be a tear from the corner of her eye. "But rest assured, we will be victorious! Now, with me men!"

She set off to our first destination, the living room, bringing with her several other cleaning products and tools that she had dubbed her "hidden arsenal."

And as much as I complained outwardly, I was having some fun— something I'd never say aloud.

OOOO

"Put some more back into it!" Sadie yelled down the hall.

I stopped mopping the floor and craned my neck to get a look at what she was doing, more bemused than angry. But she wasn't anywhere that I could see.

"How'd you know I'm not?" I shouted back.

There was a moment of silence before she replied. "... I just do!" sounding far less convincing.

I returned to mopping the floor with a half-hearted sigh and a shake of my head.

If there was one thing I learned over the course of these last few hours, it was how good menial work was for the mind. In between the verbal jousts between my sister and I, my mind was completely free to wander, giving me ample opportunity to consider my next steps in life.

Lord that sounded a lot better in my head.

Being thrown almost fifty years into the past was a shock, that was for sure, but what it also gave me was an opportunity— a fresh start so to speak. There were so many avenues to wealth I could consider. Buckling down and studying in full earnest was one of them, or at least, a more immediate option.

Anything more long term was about twenty years away. What was I to do until then? Sit there on my arse? Fat chance.

I'd pretty much been handed a silver platter and I'd be a thrice damned fool not to take it. Not only for my benefit, but for the sake of the sister who was willing to push herself to the brink of exhaustion and beyond for me as well as for the family I'd left behind.

I liked to think that somewhere, somehow, they'd be proud of me. But given the fact that my father's birth was ten years away—an even weirder thing to think about since he was born in 1981 and my mother a year later—I reckoned it was a moot point.

But it brought me some much needed peace of mind, so at the end of the day, did the specifics really matter?

Finishing up the last stretch of the floor, I placed the mop inside its bucket, making sure to wring it thoroughly before placing the shaft against the wall. Once I was sure it wouldn't topple over the minute I'd turn around, I backed away and admired my handiwork with a proud smile.

"Sadie!" I yelled, cupping a hand over the side of my mouth.

"Yeah?" I heard her call from somewhere down the house.

"I'm finished!"

"Everything?!"

"Yup!" I answered, grinning. "Anything else you need me to do?"

There was no reply, but I heard some kind of scuffle as Sadie cursed. Bemused, I began to walk down the hall until I almost ran into her, face first.

"Oi Cyrus!" she yelped, stumbling backwards. "Watch where you're going damnit!"

I frowned. "What am I supposed to do when I hear noises like that followed by you cursing?" I grumbled, glaring at her.

And I held it for a while before sighing, too tired to argue.

"So, anything you need me to do?" I repeated, wiping my hands on my apron.

The gloves had been discarded long ago. I realised that although they were stopping my hands from getting dirty, I was also losing some of the grip and dexterity I'd have otherwise. Besides, I could always wash my hands afterwards so they were of no real importance to me.

"Yeah." Sadie said, a light sheen of sweat on her forehead. She'd been hard at work, courtesy of being the taller one out of the two of us. It was her who had to stretch to clean the places that were too high for me to reach, much to my pleasure and her chagrin. "Can you clean the dishes in the sink and then leave some chicken to dethaw in a bowl?"

"Chicken, huh?" I mused, moving to stroke my chin before realising my hands were pretty filthy. "What're you thinking of making?"

"That," she said, giving me an infuriatingly smug smile. "Is for me to know, and for you to find out in…" she pretended to look at a watch she obviously wasn't wearing. "...a few hours, give or take." and took off back to whatever room she'd sprung up from.

"Well, you're awfully energetic for someone who was complaining about exhaustion not too long ago." I muttered as I walked back to the kitchen.

"What did you say?!" I heard her yell, her voice once again distant.

"Nothing, nothing." I returned, chuckling to myself.

OOOO

Water is the greatest gift that God had ever given us—barring life of course—and that was something I would stick by until my death. The wonders a nice shower could do to the human body never failed to surprise me.

Stepping out of the bathroom, my hair still damp, I wondered what we were going to do for the rest of the day; it was only four in the afternoon.

"I'm out of the shower." I said by way of greeting as I entered the kitchen.

Sadie looked up from her crossword in today's edition of the local newspaper and grunted.

"What's wrong?" I teased whilst squeezing the water out of my hair using the towel. "No words for me? Seems you're more tired than you said you were. What happened to "I could go for another five hours!" I chuckled.

"If you're feeling so smart," she jabbed me with her pencil once I sat down. "Why don't you go and serve us dinner."

"What?!" I turned to her, affronted. "You realise I cooked most of that, right?"

"Cooked?" she snorted. "You stirred the pot every so often. I'm the one who cooked that." she said, to which I couldn't exactly disagree.

Twenty-nine years total life experience when combining both this life and my last and I still couldn't cook anything more than spaghetti.

I had ample time to change that though.

I grumbled, but complied with her wishes regardless, walking towards the stove. If there was one word I could use to describe our household, fair would probably be the most accurate. Lifting the lid covering the pot, I was immediately hit by the pleasant aroma of its contents.

"This smells good." I muttered.

Sadie looked up from her paper and laughed. "Stop gawking and start serving."

"Yeah, yeah." I said, reaching to grab two plates from the drying rack.

We ate in silence for the most part, more preoccupied with devouring the food before us than making fun of each other.

After our late lunch—which might as well have been dinner—Sadie and I decided to watch some T.V, something we hadn't done in quite some time.

It was an odd experience since I came from the future. I was so used to high quality, full colour films and television shows that it took me some time to get used to it. That wasn't to say coloured television didn't exist, it was just that our T.V was still black and white on account of our income. Though coloured had been introduced a couple of years ago.

It didn't make much of a difference to me anyways, I was never one for television shows—even before I ended up in the seventies—and rarely went out to watch films.

But I decided to bring it up to my sister, if only because I was bored.

"Sadie?"

"Hn." she grunted, eyes fixed on the T.V.

I called out to her again, and she turned to me.

"What?"

"Are you thinking of getting a coloured T.V soon?"

Her face immediately grew uncomfortable. "Maybe." she said, her eyes shifty. "They're really expensive nowadays, but we'll see if the price changes in the next couple of years."

"I think they will." I supplied, feeling somewhat guilty at reminding of our poverty. "With most of the channels in the UK switching over to colour, I reckon they'll make them cheaper."

"I hope so." was all she said before turning back to the TV.

With not much else to do, I decided to watch it with her. It was some kind of American cowboy flick. Not that I knew which one. It was the type of film you watched but didn't think about much afterwards.

A little while later, our watching was interrupted by a knock at the door.

I threw her a curious glance. "Are you expecting anyone?"

"No, are you?" she asked me, equally confused.

I blinked and shook my head. "Not that I can think of, no."

We stared at the door before Sadie decided to open it, much to my dismay. I took off after her, telling her that we could always just ignore it, but one look at her face told me that she was out for blood.

"If you're here to invite us to join your chur—" she began, absolutely fuming, but her rebuttal came to an abrupt end by the time she'd opened the door.

"No," an amused voice said. "I unfortunately am not here to invite you to join my faith. I do, however, have a letter that Mr. Azar would find interesting, if nothing else."

Hearing the mention of my name, I looked at the letter the stranger held in their hand disbelievingly.

Surely it wasn't what I thought it was, right?

I screwed my eyes shut before opening them again and the envelope was still there… alongside the man who held it in his gloved hand.

At its centre was a crest that seemed to be some coat of arms. It was made up of a lion, a snake, an eagle, and a badger, surrounding a fancily drawn H.

"In fact, I think he'll find it quite… magical, if I do say so myself." he chuckled, moving to enter the house before stopping abruptly. "Oh, I'm overstepping, aren't I? My apologies. May I enter?"

Both Sadie and I were too stunned to reply, but it seemed that the man had come to a decision on his own.

A decision that I had a feeling I'd be grateful for, for the rest of my life.


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Chapter 3: Magical Problems Require Magical Solutions
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OOOOO
Magical Problems Require Magical Solutions
OOOOO


After the man had invited himself in, we'd moved to the living room. I sat next to my sister and observed the elderly wizard with curious eyes. His appearance didn't ring any bells, but then again, I didn't expect to know everything there was to know about the world.

The man was dressed like an everyday passerby for the most part. Atop his head sat a grandpa's beret highlighting a pair of vibrant emerald green eyes. He wore dark green trousers and an equally sage green jumper over a white polo shirt. The one thing that stood out, however, was his belt. Attached to his side was a scabbard, though it was much, much shorter than your usual scabbard.

I reckoned it was to hold his wand, given the scabbard's length.

"Greetings," he removed his hat and bowed his head before putting it back on. "My name is Alan Archimedes. I am a Professor and the current Deputy Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The reason for today's visit is to extend a place to one Cyrus Azar at our boarding school."

Sadie was… sceptical, to put it mildly.

"School?" she scoffed. "Excuse me if I don't believe you immediately, sir."

To his credit, the senior citizen sitting across from me didn't seem the least bit perturbed. "Yes Miss Azar, a school. One located in Scotland that teaches students to harness the magic around them to perform feats that regular folk would call miracles."

"So you're saying magic is real?" Sadie asked, sounding close to laughter.

Even though the old man had invited himself in, Sadie was far from welcoming. She followed his every movement and there was a perpetual frown on her face.

"Indeed it is." Archimedes replied, his face a mask of pure calm. "I take it that you require proof?"

His question was met with no answer, but I guess Sadie herself was reason enough.

I sat on the edge of my seat, eyes rooted on the man. He stood up, and drew his wand from the side of his hip in a single fluid movement.

"What to use…" his eyes scanned the room. "Ah, I know!" he chuckled and removed his hat.

Slowly, he swished his wand, turning his beret hat into a top hat. Another wave of it and he plunged his hand into the hat and pulled out a white furred rabbit.

I stared at it with my mouth agape. Reading about it or watching it was one thing, but actually witnessing such an act was another thing entirely. I blinked, making sure that what I sure was real, and not some figment of my imagination.

From beside me, my sister yelped and muttered something underneath her breath.

"Does that answer your question, Miss Azar?" he smiled and crossed his legs.

"Y-Yes." Sadie eyed him warily as he sheathed his wand.

She unconsciously drew me closer and placed a protective arm around my shoulders. Not that the gesture was needed, but it warmed my heart.

"Why Cyrus?" she asked, her voice terse. "Why him?"

"Your brother was born with magic, Miss." Archimedes answered simply.

He gave my sister a disarming smile and placed his hands on his lap where they were easily visible. Perhaps he thought it'd calm her down, but I felt her grip around my shoulder tighten at his words.

He continued on, none the wiser. "Growing up, did you ever notice anything strange happen around him, say, when he was angry or scared?"

Sadie removed her hand from my shoulder, taking a few moments to think.

"Well, there was the time where we saw a dog at a park and you panicked." she broke contact with the man to look at me. "I blinked and you were all the way on a tree. I thought I must've been dehydrated or something." she turned back to the man, or wizard rather. "You're telling me that was magic?"

Hearing her story, I remembered another instance as a child.

"There was that time in Mrs. Linton's class." I felt the two's eyes shift themselves onto me. Still, I continued. "She made us do some kind of test. I didn't want to do it so I remember crying and she told me to do the test or else I'd get my name moved down. The next thing I know the paper's completely filled out."

"I didn't know about that." Sadie said.

"Well, I didn't tell anyone because I was afraid I'd be sent to prison for…" I trailed off, embarrassed.

"What?" Sadie nudged me.

"For cheating." I eventually admitted, absentmindedly rubbing my hands together.

"You thought that you'd go to prison for…" Sadie stared at me before shaking her head. She turned her attention back to the old man. "Say that Cyrus attends this…" she paused and whispered in my ear. "What did he call the school again?"

"Hogwarts." Archimedes interrupted, his hearing surprisingly sharp for someone so old.

My sister flinched, but remained stoic and continued. "Yes, Hogwarts. What will he need? Where will he sleep? How are we supposed to get there? And how can your guarantee that he will be safe?"

"Ah, I forgot to give you the letter!" he said. After which he leaned over the coffee table and handed me the envelope.

I unfolded its contents, and began to read it out loud.

"First-year students will require: three sets of plain work robes…" I listed off the required equipment, doing my best to stop myself from smiling. I'd read the list more times than I could count—be that in fanfics or the stories themselves—but having one for myself was exhilarating. "One wand, one cauldron—it says that it has to be pewter and standard size 2—, a set of glass or crystal phials, a telescope, and a set of brass scales."

"And would we be expected to pay this completely on our own, or is there some kind of scholarship that he can take?" she asked once I'd finished.

"Well—" Archimedes began but I interrupted him.

"Wait, don't you earn an alright wage?" I asked her, confused. "And since it's just me and you, you should have more than enough to pay for it, right?"

Sadie let out a dry, humourless laugh at that. "I would, but since this fu—" she looked at me. "... idiot landlord keeps jacking up the rent, I can't really afford much at all these days outside of the necessities."

She turned away, her jaw clenched. I knew how she felt all too well. Seeing our own poverty was one thing, but admitting out loud was another thing entirely.

My own discomfort aside, I narrowed my eyes at her and filed away that particular bit of information for later.

"In that case," Archimedes said, sensing the shift in mood. "The Ministry of Magic sets aside a small stipend for orphans and those who are unable to afford the means to buy the necessary school supplies," he explained. "Since you at the very least fulfil one of those requirements, your expenses will be paid for. But bear in mind that you will have to pay this sum back at the end of your schooling. It will not be all at once, but will be subtracted from your wage at a fixed rate per month until it is paid."

I sneaked a glance at Sadie to gauge her reaction to all of this. She was tapping her foot against the floor, a contemplative expression on her face.

"What happens if he doesn't want to go?" she asked.

I turned to her, my eyes widened.

"If neither of you wish for Mr. Azar to attend, then this meeting will be wiped from your memories and you will be free to go on with your lives completely unbothered." he replied, sounding saddened that she would even ask such a question.

"Hold on." I interrupted him. "Sadie, I think I'd like to go to this magic school. I mean, who wouldn't, right? It's magic." smiling softly, I placed a hand on her shoulder and squeezed. "Please. Can I go?"

She met my pleading eyes and pursed her lips, a conflicted expression crawling across her face.

"And you are absolutely sure that this school is safe?" she asked Archimedes, her voice stern. I almost missed the tremor in her voice.

Archimedes nodded. "Hogwarts is touted as the safest place in Magical Britain, after Gringotts bank of course. In fact, the Headmaster, Albus Dumbledore, is regarded as the most powerful known wizard in the world."

She sighed. "Then I see no reason to deny him the opportunity." she turned to me and smiled. "If this is what you want to do, then go ahead and do it. What kind of guardian, or sister even, would I be if I stopped you from taking an opportunity like this?"

Smiling, I threw myself at her and laughed. "Thank you, really. You won't regret this."

The elderly wizard clapped his hands and stood up. "It's settled then. It's best we be on our way now."

My sister stood up. "Where are we going?"

He stopped and turned around. "To buy Mr. Azar's school supplies, of course." he unsheathed his wand. "Now, both of you hold onto me and do not, under any circumstance, let go. Do you understand?"

I shared an apprehensive glance with Sadie before I nodded.

The difference between her and I was that I knew what was about to happen. In some respect, that made it all the more nerve wracking. Regardless, we both held onto his arms, eyes shut.

For a few moments there was nothing, and I tightened my grip on his arm.

Then it began.

A squeezing so intense that I felt that my eyes would pop out of my skull and my head would be completely crushed. I made the mistake of opening my eyes, only to witness a dizzying mess of dark smudges and inky blotches.

The sensation disappeared as suddenly as it arrived and I slammed against the ground, grateful. It may have not been gone for long, but its absence was very noticeable. Once I'd regained enough control of myself to take in my surroundings, I turned to see how my sister was doing.

She was currently throwing up in a bucket that I assumed had been conjured by Archimedes. The man in question gazed at her sympathetically. Once she'd finished, he waved his wand, vanishing the bucket before waving it again and removing the vomit around her mouth.

"Would you two like a moment, or shall we be off?" he asked us.

"N-No, we're fine." Sadie replied shakily after a quick glance at me.

"Good." Archimedes walked out of the alleyway. "With me."

I nodded at Sadie and took off after him. We walked down Charing Cross Street, weaving through daily commuters, all while making sure to keep the old man in sight.

He was surprisingly spry for an elderly man, though given my own history with seemingly ordinary old men, I realised that assumptions based on appearances weren't the be-all and end-all to things. Eventually, he stopped in front of an archway with a worn down sign reading: Leaky Cauldron.

Sadie caught up to us, huffing and puffing, before whacking me upside the head. "Why'd you leave me in the alley, idiot?!"

"I was following the wizard!" I replied, equally as annoyed. Though my annoyance quickly turned into curiosity once she looked up at the shop, confused.

"Is this the place?" she asked Archimedes. "The Leaky Cauldron?"

"You're able to see it?" Archimedes replied, his eyes widening.

Sadie frowned. "Was I not supposed to be able to?"

Archimedes simply smiled and knocked on the door thrice. A moment later, it opened, revealing a middle-aged man with brown hair and almond-shaped eyes.

"Professor Archimedes." he smiled at the elderly wizard and bowed his head.

"Tom." the professor replied fondly with a smile of his own.

"Another arrival for Hogwarts shopping?" he asked.

"Indeed." Archimedes placed a hand on my shoulder and gestured to Sadie. "I have with me today Mr. Cyrus Azar and his sister, Miss Sadie Azar."

"Welcome!" Tom beamed, opening the door wide and inviting us in. "It may not be much, but it does the job well. Gentlemen, and lady, I welcome you to the Leaky Cauldron!"

Archimedes stepped into the pub first, chuckling as he did so. "As dramatic as ever Tom."

"I need to make a lasting impression, Professor." the man replied as we walked past him and through the pub's door.

Archimedes stopped to turn back to him. "I told you when you graduated, Tom, it's Alan now."

"Well you know me, Professor." Tom grinned. "Never one for doing what I'm told."

Archimedes shook his head helplessly and continued to walk on.

The jolly tune of a violin grew clearer the more we walked until we stepped into the pub itself. Looking around, I noticed the place was old, but in an attractive way. Grime and dust coated the shelves, and tables. The light spilling into the room through the windows highlighted the dust particulates in the air, but I supposed that it added to the pub's charm. Its denizens ate and drank, the low hum of conversation a constant thing alongside the pleasant tune of the violin.

I met the eye of a squat, long-nosed woman who fixed me with a predatory grin that made my skin crawl. But in hindsight, she was probably a hag, so her reaction to me made sense— though that realisation alone made it even worse to me.

I tore my gaze away from her and suppressed a shudder.

Away from the tables was a fireplace that wasn't on for obvious reasons such as it being the middle of July. And in a corner were several barrels—presumably filled with alcohol—stacked on top of each other. Tom led us to the bar and motioned to the several wooden stools lined up in front of it.

"Can I get you anything, Professor?" he leaned over to grab three glass cups from the shelf.

Archimedes hummed and turned to us. "Would you two care for anything?"

My sister peered around at the pub, more withdrawn than I'd ever seen her. In fact, so much so that Archimedes had to repeat his question.

"Oh, just water please." she said.

"How about you, Mr. Azar?" he asked me.

I peered at the list of drinks on the wall before picking one. "How about a Tongue Tying Lemon Squash?"

Tom chuckled. "A bold choice indeed, Master Azar."

"I'll have a glass of water too, Tom." Archimedes said.

The barman nodded and filled up the glasses. Sadie accepted the drink tentatively, taking small sips from it. Archimedes also began to drink, striking up a conversation with Tom whilst he did so.

Curious, I stared at my drink. Why anyone would call it 'Tongue Tying', didn't make much sense to me but I cast caution aside and raised the glass to my lips. Unsurprisingly, I found out the answer to my question almost immediately after tasting the drink.

It was so sour that I squinted my eyes, my lips firmly pressed together in a thin line.

Tom saw this and snorted. "Well, now you know why we call it 'Tongue Tying', lad."

He offered to vanish the squash and bring me a glass of water but I refused. Although sour, I found that I quite enjoyed the taste.

I'd almost finished drinking mine when I heard Sadie gasp.

"Professor!" she said. "I've forgotten my purse so I can't pay for the drinks. Is there any way we can pop back home for me to get it?"

Tom smiled and shook his head. "No need. I offer drinks to first time muggleborn families completely free of charge. And besides, even if you did have your purse, wizards have a different currency to muggles so you wouldn't be able to pay for it anyway."

Sadie breathed a sigh of relief from beside me and downed the remainder of her water. I soon followed suit, wincing at the squash's tang and the sour aftertaste.

Archimedes stood up from his stool. "Now that we've rested, it's onto shopping."

His smile was infectious, and even Sadie found herself smiling at his enthusiasm.

He turned to Tom and nodded. "Tom, my boy, if you would?"

The barman smiled, and opened the gate into the bar with a wave of his wand. "Right this way, folks."

He led us through a door behind the bar and out to an open courtyard. For some reason, there was a dustbin shoved into a corner.

Archimedes walked to a particular section of the wall close to the bin and turned to me. "You would do well to remember the combination necessary to open the entrance. Especially since I assume you will be coming here with your sister from now on."

I nodded, and stared intently at the wall in front of us.

"From the dustbin, you tap three bricks up, and then two across to your left." he instructed.

As he completed the combination, the bricks retreated into the wall before receding outward, forming an archway wide enough for even the tallest of beings to walk through. He smiled and gestured us through.

"Mr. Azar, Miss Azar, I welcome you both to Diagon Alley. The hotspot for wizards and witches in the United Kingdom."

Gazing around at the cobblestoned streets and outlandish shops selling all types of wares and items, I couldn't help but marvel at the sight.

"Sadie." I turned around and tapped the shoulder of my equally blown away sister. "Which shop should we go to first?"

She didn't respond, still turning her head from left to right, sweeping her eyes across the street, gobsmacked.

Instead, Archimedes interrupted me with a cough. "Whilst your enthusiasm is heartwarming to see, I will say that it'd be best to start off with your robes. Even if it's still July, Madam Malkin's is usually swamped by both current and future Hogwarts students. The sooner we get that part of our day over with, the better."

I nodded, and clasped my sister's hand, leading her along as we followed the man to the shop, taking in the sights as we did so.

OOOO

"Stop moving, dear." Madam Malkin sighed, folding her arms over her chest. "I can't exactly measure you otherwise."

I stood up a little straighter, the slight burn of my limbs reminding me that I'd been standing for quite some time. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted Sadie hiding her laughter beneath her hand. But it was no use. After we locked eyes, she began to chuckle, unable to hold her laughter any longer. Beside her sat Archimedes, looking between my sister and myself in amusement.

"And I'm done." Madam Malkin stepped back and floated her tape measures over to her desk. "You can get down from there now."

"Thank you." I said gratefully, hopping off the raised platform.

"No problem, dear." she wheeled back and I followed her out of the room. "Take a seat over there and one of my assistants should bring you your robes shortly."

I thanked her once more and returned to the waiting area of the store. Just as Archimedes had said, it was a busy place. Every other step, you were likely to run into another person if you weren't watching where you were going. The waiting area was so full, in fact, that Archimedes had decided to conjure chairs for us instead of waiting for the endless throng of bodies to give up a seat.

"What was so funny?" I asked Sadie, taking the seat beside her with a grateful sigh.

She laughed. "You! You were as stiff as a board up there."

"Well, next time, you can try and stand still whilst being prodded by floating tape measures and needles." I smiled tiredly and looked to our tour guide for the day. "Where are we off to next, Professor?"

He inclined his head. "A valid question. I shall hand you a sum of twenty-five Galleons once we arrive at Ollivanders."

I paused. Didn't wands cost seven Galleons? Though perhaps the ministry could afford to spend more on welfare now that there was some peace. I certainly wasn't complaining though.

We didn't have to wait long for the assistant to arrive. She was a bespeckled girl looking barely older than seventeen. She nearly tripped on her way towards us but was saved by Archimedes who prevented her fall with a simple wave of his wand.

"Thank you, Professor." she smiled, adjusting her glasses.

Archimedes smiled kindly at her and sheathed his wand. "Not a problem at all, Marigold."

The assistant, or Marigold rather, turned to us. "I do apologise for my blunder there!" she laughed in a Scottish twang. "But here're your robes. Thank you for your patronage and I hope you choose to come to Madam Malkin's again next year!" she smiled.

With that said, she passed Sadie a bag and rushed back towards Madam Malkin's office. I'm pretty sure she managed to trip once more as she entered the room if the scuffle I heard was any evidence.

"Marigold dear," I heard the woman sigh. "How many times have I told you to look where you're going."

"Sorry ma'am." the girl said.

I blinked, staring at the half-open door before shaking my head. "She seemed nice." I said to Sadie.

"Right." she replied. "I think we'll come here next year if the service is usually like this."

"Well, that's that, then." Archimedes clapped his hands, breaking out into a brisk walk.

Once we'd walked a considerable distance from the shop, he turned to me, slightly regretful. "Whilst your letter says that you are entitled to a pet, it is unfortunately not covered by the Ministry. However, the school does have its own parliament of owls that you may feel free to use at any point in the year to send letters to your family."

"That's fine, then." I replied, and continued to follow him, making sure to hold tightly onto Sadie's hand.

It didn't really matter to me much. Pets were troublesome most of the time, and the only use I'd have for one would be for letters.

We walked up the cobbled streets and past countless people peddling their wares. One woman was selling the liver of a dragon in front of an apothecary. Another, a varied assortment of cosmetic products such jars of Boil Cure and shimmering lavender phials of Beautification Potion. Nearly all the shops we saw had small crowds gathered in front of them. Some children, others grown men and women, but mostly a mix of both, all peering through the windows and exchanging excited smiles and gleeful whispers.

After about ten minutes of walking, we'd just got past Eeylop's Owl Emporium when I heard something that made me freeze on the spot.

"... But Tuney!" whined a young girl sporting curly, fiery red hair. She tugged on the arm of an older girl with slightly straighter blonde hair.

"None of that, Lily." the elder girl admonished. "You won't need an owl. We can share Eurus now that you're going to Hogwarts too."

Behind them followed a lost looking couple, who were taking long, frequent steps to keep up with their children.

"Lily, Petunia." the mother called out. "Slow down, alright?"

The father tried to lighten the mood with a joke. "Wouldn't be looking to lose your non-magical parents here, would you?" he laughed.

"Really father?" sighed the blonde girl, swatting his arm.

He laughed and ruffled her hair, much to her displeasure if her complaining was to be believed.

They soon disappeared amidst the continuous throng of people that rushed here and there, but I couldn't help but stare at the direction they'd gone in shock.

What I'd seen shook me to my core— not the event specifically, but rather what it signified in the grand scheme of things. The blonde girl, Petunia, had a wand sticking out of her pocket. The younger one was named Lily, and considering that the year was 1971, there was no mistake.

It took me some time for my brain to restart, but everything felt odd once it did. If Petunia Dursley—or Evans rather—was a witch, then I might as well throw away everything I knew. After all, she was the most hateful, anti-magic person I knew from the books and films, and if she could be a witch, then I wondered what else was different here.

Perhaps my Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher would be Tom Riddle in the flesh. Or maybe James Potter, a girl.

I let out a snort at the thought and Sadie squeezed my hand, bringing me back to the moment. "What's the matter?"

"Oh, nothing." I gave her a shaky smile. "Just surprised by how many people there are. I thought Madam Malkin's was bad, but up here might just be worse."

Archimedes laughed. "Yes, there does seem to be quite a few families out today. Don't worry, it's only like this around the summer. Come here later on in the year and you'll find it to be much calmer."

I nodded and began to walk again, taking discreet looks back as I did so. It was, after all, quite the pill to swallow.

Soon afterwards, we stopped in front of a shop that stood out amongst the rest— and not for good reason. Where all the other shops were eye-catching, either through their colours or the lights that spilled out of the open doors and through the windows, this one was not.

It was a towering building that cast half the street in shadow. I made a futile effort to look through its dusty windows, and could barely make out a purple cushion just in front of the window.

"Alright, we've arrived." Archimedes said, drawing me away from the window. "There are still quite a few things we must acquire so I propose we do this. Miss Azar, you stay with Mr. Azar whilst he acquires his wand. I will go and buy the necessary books and equipment while you do so. I should return soon, but if not, would you wait for me inside the shop?"

"That sounds fine, Professor." Sadie nodded.

The man tipped out a couple of handfuls of golden coins into his hand and counted them before passing them to my sister.

He pocketed the pouch. "And Mr. Azar?"

I looked up.

"Garrick is, shall I say, rather eccentric." he explained with a wry smile. "He has always been since our time at Hogwarts. One of his eccentricities is that he loves to scare customers on their way in. Something he's picked up in his old age that irks me to no end."

After divulging the news, he turned around, disappearing into the crowd.

"Now then, Sadie," I said, placing my hand on the door handle. "In we go!"

She followed after me, a wary hand placed on my shoulder. I looked around in search of the wandmaker but there wasn't a single grey hair in sight. It was only after we'd reached the counter that I felt a spindly hand clasp my other shoulder.

"Here for your wand are you?" an aged voice asked, and I could hear the smile in his voice.

Sadie let out a loud scream and I spun around to stare at the amused silver eyes of an elderly man.

He raised an eyebrow. "A brave one, then?"

I smirked. "No, but Professor Archimedes warned us that you had a penchant for scaring potential customers. A sign of the marks of age on your mental faculties, I believe he said."

"Is that so?" he snorted. "Well I'll show him the so-called marks of age next time." he vowed. "Regardless, you are here to meet your wand?"

Sadie spoke up. "Yes we are."

"Then we had better start." he said. "Stick out your dominant arm, Mr…" he trailed off.

"Oh, Azar." I supplied. "Cyrus Azar, pleased to meet your acquaintance." I stuck out my right arm.

He shook it, and furled a single finger. A tape measure floated over from the counter and began to wrap itself around my wrist, slowly travelling up my arm.

"Garrick Ollivander, Mr. Azar." Ollivander said, placing his monocle over his left eye. "As the sign outside of the shop says, my family have made wands for generations. The wands you will find in my shop are made of three possible cores: phoenix feather, dragon heartstring, or unicorn tail hair."

"Why only those three?" I asked. "Aren't there hundreds of magical beasts to choose from in the world?"

The elderly looked up and eyed me strangely. "Yes, you're quite right. I have a colleague in America who is quite fond of using the feathers of Thunderbirds for her wands. There is also Gregorovitch in mainland Europe who is known for his rather outlandish combinations. To answer your question, I mainly use wands of the aforementioned cores because I find that they produce the strongest and most stable of wands. No use having a powerful but extremely volatile wand now, is there?"

I hummed in acceptance and let the man work in silence for the most part. A few minutes later, he returned the tape measure and floated over a box— my first wand.

"Try this." he instructed, handing me the stick. "Fir and phoenix feather, nine-and-a-half inches and quite firm."

I grasped the handle and waved it. A shower of golden sparks spouted from the tip of the wand, but it was soon snatched out of my hand.

"No, not that one, but almost…" he huffed, sending the wand back to its shelf with a lazy wave of his hand before summoning another. "Try this one."

I turned back to my sister, who was looking at me with widened eyes and a permanent, goofy smile.

"Hornbeam and unicorn tail hair, eleven inches and slightly bendy." he passed it to me and stood back, poised and ready to spring forward at a moment's notice. No sooner had I raised it above my waist when he snatched it out my hands, muttering: "Not this one, definitely not this one."

He looked back at me and gave me a toothy grin, his silver eyes flashing. "This is one of the reasons I love being a wandmaker so much. You never know which combinations will match a person. In fact, half of the game, I believe, is just that."

I smiled back at him, his enthusiasm rubbing off on me.

"This one." he said, opening the box, revealing a dark grey wand with an etched handle. "Hawthorn and dragon heartstring, ten-and-a-half inches long. Only slightly supple too. Gregorovitch once wrote that Hawthorn 'makes a strange, contradictory wand, as full of paradoxes as the tree that gave it birth, whose leaves and blossoms heal, and yet whose cut branches smell of death.', and whilst I disagree with many of his conclusions, I must concur that Hawthorn wands are quite complex in nature, oftentimes like their owners. Quite the interesting wand wood, if I do say so myself."

His spooky quote aside, I grasped the wand and was enveloped by a warmth that felt so right that I couldn't help but grin.

"Give it a wave then, Mr. Azar." Ollivander smiled as he pocketed his monocle.

I snorted and did as he asked, a surge of blue and orange sparks rushing out of the wand.

"As I thought." the man smiled. "This wand shall serve you well indeed, Mr. Azar. Could I perhaps interest you in a wand-maintenance kit?"

"Yes please, Mr. Ollivander." I agreed to his offer quickly. "And could you also add a wand holster too?"

He froze, cocking his head. "A wand holster you say? What need could you possibly have for such a thing?"

"I saw Professor Archimedes with one and thought it'd be more useful than shoving it into my pocket or bag."

Ollivander blinked his round, silver eyes. He remained still for a moment before nodding to himself. "Well you are correct indeed. Wands should be treated with proper care. They are oftentimes a wizards sole companion against the world and its toils. In that case, your total will be twenty-five Galleons."

Sadie stepped forward and handed him the coins before the old man darted behind the counter and slipped into the back room.

"That was amazing!" she laughed and ruffled my hair. "You'll have to show me some magic when we get home."

"Then you're in luck, Miss Azar." Ollivander said, walking past the counter. "The Trace is only applied to children once they board the train to Hogwarts and not a moment before. You didn't hear that from me, though." he smirked and winked at us.

Sadie laughed, the shock from earlier having worn off after seeing me bond with my wand, and thanked the man.

"No bother at all Miss Azar." he waved her off, sliding our newly bought equipment into a bag. "This wand maintenance kit will make sure to keep your wand in tip-top shape over the course of the year. Though do remember to come back next year to buy another. Now, since your wand is an absolutely delightful shade of grey, I thought that it'd be nice for your holster to be the same as well."

He tied it around my waist and stepped back, humming appreciatively. I slipped my wand into the sheath and thumbed it.

Content, I smiled at the elderly Wandmaker. It was a truly genuine smile expressing just how grateful I was. "Thank you Mr. Ollivander. Truly."

He grinned and bowed his head. "No thanks needed, Mr. Azar. This is my job, after all. You have been a splendid customer this afternoon."

Just then, the shop door clicked open and a familiarly dressed man stepped through.

"Ah, Garrick." Archimedes enveloped the man in a one-armed hug. "It's good to see you, old friend!"

"Is that so?" Ollivander smirked from beside him. "I have heard that you have referred to my eccentricity as a mark of my declining mental faculties."

Archimedes snorted. "What else could it be? You weren't like this forty years ago."

Ollivander huffed but didn't contest him.

"Well, with this over, it is time for me to take these two home." Archimedes said. "Should we go to the Leaky Cauldron for dinner?"

Ollivander shook his head. "No, I think the Three Broomsticks would be better. Far too many people here today."

Archimedes nodded and turned around to us. "I hope that you've enjoyed the whistle stop tour of Diagon Alley." he smiled. "Now, hold on tight to both your belongings and myself. As usual, I advise you not to let go lest you wish to splinch yourself and possibly die a very painful death."

Sadie blanched, but grabbed onto his outstretched arm and I did the same. A dizzying few moments later, I collapsed into the familiar softness of our couch.

Taking a few moments to collect myself, I squeezed my eyes shut and breathed in through my nose, battling the urge to throw up. Swallowing, I looked around and found Sadie on the floor in a similar state to myself. Archimedes on the hand looked completely unbothered. He set down my books on the coffee table, removed his hat, and bowed.

"I shall see you on the first of September, Mr. Azar." he placed his hat back on his head. "And Miss Azar, have no fear. Your brother will be perfectly safe at Hogwarts, that I assure on my word as Deputy Headmaster and a Professor at the school. It truly was nice to meet you both."

I blinked and he was gone, leaving behind a soft pop, and my school equipment as the only sign of his existence.

I stared at the table for a minute, reading the books' spines before picking out 'The Standard Book of Spells: Grade 1' and turning to Sadie.

"So, which spell do you want to see first?" I removed my wand from its holster, my fingers tingling pleasantly at its touch.

She stood up and grinned, taking a seat next to me and flicking through the book.


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Chapter 4: All Aboard
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OOOOO
All Aboard
OOOOO


My last month at home was all but a blur to me. Sadie had seen a spike in court sessions at work, meaning that for a good few weeks on end, she'd spent more time out of the house than she did inside it. I, on the other hand, mostly spent the rest of the holidays reading through my textbooks and testing out some basic spells, doing my best to commit as much as I could to memory.

Seeing my sister leave the house so full of life and energy, only to return completely drained day after day was hard to watch and even harder to stomach. I was well aware, though, that her job was necessary to prevent us from being thrown out onto the streets but it didn't mean that I had to like it.

Hence my frenzied studying. I hoped that the wizarding world would be an opportunity to bring my plans to earn some money forward a little earlier than usual. So the more I did now, the less I'd have to do later, and the more time I'd have to figure out a way to earn some quick cash at school.

I'd entertained the thought of running some sort of gambling den for the inter-house quidditch matches, but something like that could easily be shut down by professors if they felt like it wasn't appropriate for a school setting. Though to be honest, enticing underage children into gambling away their parents' money was probably a tad on the immoral side of things.

On the other side of the spectrum was tutoring. But for that to work, I'd have to cement myself as either practically or theoretically inclined to my peers, which was another reason for me to study ahead. The former could be achieved easily enough at school under the instruction of professors who I hoped would be more qualified than Quirrell.

I glanced around at my room and frowned at the peeling plaster on the far right side of the wall opposite my bed. The sooner my sister and I could move out—preferably to a much nicer neighbourhood—the better. With my plotting coming to an end, I snuffed out my small bedside lamp and stared at the wall, waiting for sleep to claim me.

Sometime in August, Sadie, thankfully, had been given the month off. She'd taken it upon herself to help me study, asking me questions at random points in the day to test that I was studying efficiently. And in the face of her earnest attitude, I could do little but agree as she helped me make flashcards and a timetable for studying. No matter how many times I told her I didn't know how long the school day would be, she seemed adamant that no sane school would teach students after four in the afternoon.

Most of my days passed in such a fashion and soon, it was the first of September. On the morning of my departure, I stumbled into the kitchen—my hair flattened on one side—after being roused from my sleep by my sister's accursed purple feather duster.

"Did you have to use it?" I sat down and smothered a yawn.

Sadie flipped the pancake over before she replied. "I didn't, but it sure was fun. It's not like you woke up when I stopped by to knock on your door— three times, might I add."

I grunted and nestled my head into my arms, doing my best to remain awake. In my half-asleep state, I thanked my lucky stars that I wouldn't see the feather duster until December.

Halfway through the thought I jumped, the clatter of a plate against the wooden table startling me.

"Eat up, boio!" Sadie ruffled my bed hair, laughing as she shuffled back to the stove with her spatula in hand.

Too tired to complain, I looked down at my plate, watching the butter slowly melt, and inhaled the warm, sweet scent.

"Thanks for the food." I mumbled, shovelling a bite into my mouth and practically melting at the taste. It was like everything good in the world mixed together and served as a circle of splendidly soft goodness. "Oh Lord, your pancakes are heaven."

If Sadie had heard me, she didn't reply, but I heard her giggle as she placed another pancake on top of her pancake tower before pouring out some more batter onto the pan.

Once I'd finished my pancake, Sadie swooped over and shovelled another onto my plate despite my pleas.

"Come on, Sadie!" I groaned. "Do you want me to leave the house unable to walk?"

"You're a growing boy, Cyrus," she sang, sliding a pancake onto a plate of her own. "Better eat it whilst it's still hot."

So I quickly stuffed down the pancake—not that it was hard to; it was frigging delicious—and glanced at the clock on the wall.

"Why didn't you tell me it was eight?!" I exclaimed. My eyes goggled, darting between my sister and the clock as I struggled to decide which source of panic to fix my eyes on.

Sadie chewed her pancake in slow measured bites. "Because it'll only take us around an hour to get to the station— if you hurry up that is."

I stared at her for a moment, narrowed my eyes, and raced to the bathroom. I didn't know what would happen if I missed the train to Hogwarts, but if I could help it, I didn't want to find out.

OOOO

"We're here!" Sadie grunted, hoisting my suitcase up onto a trolley. "Now to ask around for directions to a…" she leaned over my shoulder and glanced at the ticket held in my hand. "... platform nine and three-quarters."

I stared at my crumpled train ticket, feeling a sense of déjá vu as I did so.

"Sadie?" I hummed. "I reckon it's somewhere between platforms nine and ten, and even if it isn't, we can follow all the oddly dressed people over there." I pointed towards flocks of robed families wheeling their own trolleys down the station.

Sadie nodded, and we followed the crowds of what I assumed to be wizards making their way to the platform. Standing beside my sister, I watched a grinning child looking to be around thirteen race towards the wall without a single hint of fear on his face.

"See you on the other side, mum!" he yelled, taking off in earnest.

"Wai—!" Sadie reached out, ready to stop him from giving himself a concussion, but froze when he and the trolley melted into the wall. "What the fuck?" she whispered, her outstretched hand falling limply to her side.

I stared at the section of wall he'd disappeared through blankly, trying to fully digest what I'd just seen.

And I was struggling.

A brown-haired middle-aged woman—likely his mother—turned to Sadie and gave her a sympathetic smile. "Is your son a muggleborn?"

Sadie jumped, not expecting the question, and turned to her. "Oh, no, he's not my son." she said, nervously placing a hand on my shoulder. "He's my little brother, but yeah, he's a wizard. It's all been so mind blowing. I've known about…" she took a couple of conspiratory glances over her shoulders. "...magic for a month now, and it still hasn't sunk in yet."

The woman nodded understandingly. "I'd imagine it would be quite the shock. I'd recommend you hold onto the trolley with him and run straight ahead— you can close your eyes if need be." she smiled at us before stopping her two-year-old son from toppling out of the trolley with a panicked leap.

Sadie nodded and looked at the wall, her face wan. She stepped towards me, curling her fingers around the bar just outside of my own hands. A few of her hairs hung down and tickled my face but I didn't complain— she was already nervous enough as is.

"Alright, are you ready?" I asked her, but received no response. Chalking it down to nerves, I began to countdown from three to make it easier on her. "One… and go!"

Despite the woman's advice, I kept my eyes open, the wind rushing past my face bringing tears to my eyes. The wall drew closer and soon, I could make out each individual ridge and gap in the bricks. I resisted the urge to squeeze my eyes shut, gasping as the trolley seemed to pass through the wall as we followed after it.

I slowed my run to a walk but was carried forward by Sadie.

"Hey," I said, nudging her chin with the top of my head. "We're here. You can stop running now."

"We are?" she asked, her voice uncharacteristically small. Slowly, she relinquished her grip over the trolley's bars and stopped to look around.

True to the cover of the first book, the train was a vibrant red and the pitch-black cast iron funnel on top of it spouted cloudy steam that trailed and coiled all across the platform. People huddled close together, bunched up in little groups as they spoke to their relatives through the open windows of the train.

I looked back at the wall we'd just come through and gawked up at a sign that told us when the train would depart.

It took me a puzzling few moments to decide that it was one of those things that were better accepted than thought about before I turned back to my sister.

"Do you know what time it is?" I asked.

She glanced down at her wrist. "Ten-to-eleven. Why?"

I pointed up at the notice board and she stared at it for a while before her eyes and cleared. She gasped, her bottom lip trembling slightly.

"R-Right." she said, clasping her left hand over her wrist.

I stood there and shuffled my feet, wiggling my toes from within my shoes as Sadie sniffled from beside me. I sighed, and turned to her, wrapping my arms around her back, giving her a soft but firm hug.

"Sadie," I said, gently patting her back. "I'm not going to disappear and never return when I get on that train. You know that, right?"

I felt her shoulders tremor as she replied. "Y-Yeah. But that doesn't mean I won't miss you." she said, placing her hand on my head. "I've been with you for your whole life, you know."

I winced at that.

"So you leaving to go away to magic school feels pretty weird." she said, her throat no longer sounding as constricted. We stood there for a while, simply content to sit in each other's embrace before she said, "You will write to me at least once a week, okay?"

"I promise." I whispered, slowly uncurling my arms from around her and stepping back. I rested my arm on top of my suitcase, stared at the woman who'd raised me for the last few years, and smiled. "Mind helping me move this onto the train?"

She wiped her face and nodded. We walked towards the train, her arm slung over my shoulders as we basked in the last few moments we had together for the next couple of months. It was an odd few minutes for me. As we loaded my suitcase onto the train, I couldn't help but wonder what would be in store for me for the next few hours. It dawned on me that for the first time in a while, Sadie wouldn't be there.

And whilst it wasn't that much of a problem in the grand scheme of things, I had to admit that it would take some getting used to. I realised, as she stepped back and stared at the train with a forlorn frown, that despite her teasing, I quite enjoyed having Sadie around, and that alone brought forth a whole slew of emotions.

"Oi." I snapped my fingers in front of her face, blinking back tears of my own. "No frowning allowed. Who knows, when I come back, maybe I'll bring you something cool like a magic feather duster or something."

She gave me a small smile, her eyes glistening with fresh tears that she seemed to barely be holding back. "I'll hold you to that then." she said, holding her arms out for me. "Now come here, you."

Not even a moment later, I threw myself forwards and wrapped my arms around her, resting my chin on her shoulder. Patting my back, she reluctantly pushed herself away from me and jutted her chin towards the train. "Now get on there. Find some friends too, alright?" she squeezed my hand.

That one might end up being a tall order, I thought. It was hard for me to look at the children on the platform as anything more than that. Still, I didn't want to unnecessarily worry her.

"I'll try." I sighed and stepped onto the train after giving her one last glance as I began my walk to find a compartment, my suitcase trailing behind me as I did so.

The minute I turned to walk down the compartment, I damn near ran into a uniform-clad man who stared down at me tiredly.

"You got your ticket?" I nodded, and he snatched it out of my hands, returning it to me with a hole punched through it. "Find yourself a compartment. Once we get to Hogwarts leave your luggage on the rack. It'll be taken care of."

"Thank you." I said, to which the man grunted.

With only a handful of minutes left to spare before the train began to move, I strode down the cart, dead-set on finding an uninhabited compartment to occupy for the seven-and-a-bit hours long journey to Scotland. Most, if not all, the compartments had been slid shut— soft murmurs and excited laughs travelling beyond the closed doors.

Well, all but one, that was. A few steps ahead of me one compartment had its door half-open.

Trying not to alert the occupant, I took a peek inside and spotted a wild-haired blonde child hanging out of the window, yelling at an older looking version of himself— his father, I realised, who was waving his arms around, his face almost as animated as his son's.

"Oi dad!" the boy yelled. "I'm going to go to Hogwarts and be the greatest inventor ever. Watch me!"

His dad's reply took further straining on my part to hear over the general noise of the station, but I managed.

"You do that, son!" his smile seemed to never fade from his face as he expressed his undying confidence in the boy. "You make sure that the Stebbins name becomes a legend in that castle, you hear?" fervent tears shone in his eyes as beside him, a rosy-faced woman held her face in her hands at the odd stares the pair were drawing.

And while I was all for weirdness, even I had to admit that sharing a compartment with the blonde boy would be nothing short of exhausting. So I gently slid the door shut and continued on in search of a different—perhaps calmer—compartment.

I didn't have to look far.

I opened the next compartment from the previous one and locked eyes with a withdrawn, brown-haired boy sitting next to the window. His hair hung low over his face—falling over slightly scratched and scarred skin—but couldn't hide his bright emerald eyes— or at least, not completely. I waved at him and he flinched at the movement. An odd thing to do when someone waved at you, I thought, but ignored it. Perhaps he was feeling especially nervous today— even I was, to some extent, so his reaction wasn't all that surprising.

"Hello there." I said, giving the boy what I hoped was a disarming smile. "Mind if I sit here?"

He blinked at me, not seeming to register what I'd just asked so I repeated my question.

"O-Oh, sure. Feel free." he stammered, gesturing to the seat opposite his. He helped me place my suitcase atop the luggage rack, much to my relief.

I noticed he was already wearing his school robes. Meeting my gaze, he wrapped them around himself as I sat down— as if they were protecting him against something.

"So," I said, piercing the tense silence. "I'm Cyrus Azar. What's your name?"

He stared at the table between us, not meeting my eyes, but eventually, the boy spoke. "I'm Remus Lupin."

His flinching suddenly made a lot more sense to me now.

We stared at each other, an uncomfortable sensation pooling in my chest as the silence stretched on. Safe to say that my first interaction with somebody "my age" was going horribly but I refused to give up. There was no way that I couldn't coax him out of his shell, right?

"So Remus, can I call you Remus?" I asked him, to which he nodded. "What class are you looking forward to the most?"

He was pensieve, a small change from the nervous, stammering child from moments earlier, but a welcome one regardless.

"Defence Against the Dark Arts." Remus decided, lowering his hand from his chin.

"Oh," I placed my hands on the table. "Why?"

Not expecting the question, he froze, but began to speak after a little. "Well, my dad works with the Ministry to help them with research on non-beings."

"Like dementors and ghosts?"

He nodded. "Right. He's an expert on dark creatures."

"That sounds cool." I supplied, smiling at him.

It worked, and he gave me a small smile. "What about you?" he asked, seeming to not be as guarded as earlier.

I paused whilst I thought about my answer.

Charms seemed to encompass every facet of wizarding society. They had uses that spanned pretty much every category I could think of. From everyday cleaning, to bringing permanent, crippling harm to people. Then, there was transfiguration, every Harry Potter fan's wet dream. Who wouldn't want to conjure cool things out of thin air, or turn one thing into something completely different.

Potions seemed alright. It was kind of like chemistry in a way, and to some extent, cooking. A useful subject that required a keen mind and focused hand. And sure it still counted as magic, but it wasn't something that grabbed my interest like wandwork did. Herbology was also useful, if a little on the dull side of things. With all that said, I couldn't deny that knowing which plants could kill you was a useful thing to know, though.

"I guess if I had to narrow it down to one choice, it'd be Transfiguration." I said. "It's really cool, no? You could conjure pretty much anything you want out of thin air. It lets you do things that simply boggle my mind."

Remus blinked, stewing over my answer for a while before speaking. "You're right. But dad tells me it's really hard."

"I bet it is." I agreed, folding my arms. "Nothing worth doing is ever easy, mate. Besides, if we didn't do something because it's hard, d'you think we'd ever get anywhere?"

Remus frowned and chewed on his lip but said nothing. I had a feeling that I'd gotten everything I could get out of him for the time being, so I reached up to my suitcase and slipped out 'Magical Theory by Adalbert Waffling' from it, gazing out of the window as I did so.

Flashes of sprawling fields and smudged hills rushed past as the train continued its journey towards the Scottish highlands. I sat back down, opening to the page I'd bookmarked from a couple of days ago, taking curious glances at Remus from time to time. He sat perfectly still, his eyes intense enough to bore a hole through the table. But every once in a while, they moved between the book and myself, as if he wanted to ask me something. He didn't quite seem to be willing or ready to ask, though, so he decided to stare out our compartment's window instead.

It was completely silent. So much so that I could hear the din of conversation from the other compartments on the carriage. Except this time, it didn't feel as uncomfortable anymore.

I returned my gaze to the page, nestling into the back of the chair as I readied myself for a long journey.

OOOO

Over the course of the last couple of hours, Remus had ended up falling asleep, much to my amusement. Though I was grateful for it. The few students who'd trickled into the compartment had decided to swiftly disappear after noticing the unconscious boy in front of me.

The much appreciated alone time also allowed me to get some extra reading in, something that I took advantage of. I wondered, staring out of the pristine window, what house I'd be sorted into.

Slytherin was immediately out of the question. My own ambition aside, placing a muggleborn in a house famed for its derision of them would be a bad move on the hat's part.

I also wasn't someone to pursue knowledge just for the sake of it. To me, it was always a means to an end. In my previous life, I pursued it to make my parents proud. In this one, it was a weapon to bring change to the sordid circumstances that I found myself in.

As for Gryffindor, that was a slightly more realistic option. To me, there was a time and place for bravery, but I honestly didn't subscribe to the house's sense of self-righteousness. Just because one wore a red and gold uniform, it didn't make them better than anyone else.

That left Hufflepuff. A place that valued loyalty, hard work, and fair play. I, of all people, knew that life wasn't fair, but the sentiment was appreciated nonetheless. I did believe, though, that the fruits of hard work almost always paid off, and loyalty was something that anyone would appreciate in a person— be they a friend or a colleague.

Muttering a curse, I regretted drinking as much water as I had over the last couple of hours and stood up out of my chair. Keeping an eye trained on Remus, I slowly slid open the compartment door and took off in search of the train's bathroom. There had to be a bathroom, right?

On my way down the carriage, I saw two older students—perhaps in their fourth year—arguing in the distance. From what I could tell, the girl seemed angry at a regretful looking boy who was doing his best to stop her from leaving.

"Leave me alone Whitby." snapped the blonde girl, moving to walk past the taller ginger boy but he blocked her way.

Wait, hadn't I seen her before? She turned around and I noticed a familiar pair of sky-blue eyes.

Holy fuck, it was Petunia Evans.

"Evans, please," he sighed, running a hand through his hair and grabbing onto her arm. "I didn't mean it like that, I swear."

"Tell that idiot friend of yours that." Petunia seethed, yanking her arm back.

She shoved past him despite his pleas for her to stay, barrelling straight into me and knocking me to the ground. Contrary to my expectations, she paused, her face softening a fraction.

"Sorry, I didn't see you there." she helped me up, brushing off some lint from my shoulder. "My name is Petunia Evans, yours?"

My breath hitched in my throat as I stared at her but I quickly collected myself. "It's okay. It was an accident." she smiled at that. "I'm Cyrus Azar. Can I ask you something?"

"Go ahead, Cyrus." she smiled.

"Do you know where the toilets are?"

She snorted softly and pointed towards the direction she'd just come. "Walk down there, past him," her voice took an edge before calming. "And keep going for around a couple of compartments or so. You should see a sign directing you to the toilets."

I thanked her and bolted down the train, catching the boy grumbling something about idiotic friends underneath his breath as I ran past. I returned to my compartment a few minutes later. Between the time it took me to go to the bathroom and return, Remus had woken up and was reading the book I'd set on the table.

He flinched, slamming the tome shut as his face flushed. "S-Sorry. I didn't think of taking my own copy out of my bag because… I really wanted to read it." he trailed off, averting his eyes from me.

I snorted. "Don't worry about it." I took a seat and pushed the book towards him. "So, what're you the most interested in so far?"

He perked up. "I read a little at home, but the way Mr. Waffling describes magic is really interesting. He compares magic to a running faucet and us a container for it. So even though you could technically have an infinite "supply" of magic, you can only ever use as much as your container lets you. After your container has reached its limit, you're magically exhausted."

I blinked, not expecting him to explain it so concisely. Though he was described as a bookworm so it really wasn't unexpected.

"Exactly." I smiled. "I don't know if you got onto this part, but he says you can increase the size of you "container", so to speak. It naturally increases as you get older anyways, but training your body and regularly exercising your magic just by using it helps to an extent. Nothing absurd, but hey, who wouldn't want to wield as much magic as humanly possible, right?"

For the first time, he gave me a wide, genuine smile. "Right?" he rummaged through the bag at his feet and brought out stacks of paper. "Here are my notes on everything I've read so far. I thought something similar when I read it. Maybe we can ask one of the professors at school."

For the few hours left of the journey, during which I'd changed into my robes, we mainly discussed any interesting points we'd found throughout our reading. At some point, the trolley witch came over, but since neither of us had any money on hand, she left almost as soon as she'd arrived. By the time we'd arrived at the station, it was already pitch-black outside.

"I think I'll be sorted into Ravenclaw." Remus said, getting up to head off to the platform. "Either there or Gryffindor."

I slid open the compartment door to let him out. "Why not the others?"

"Well my dad was in Ravenclaw, but Dumbledore was in Gryffindor, so I'd like to go there if possible."

I suppressed a groan but it honestly wasn't all that surprising. From what I could tell, Dumbledore was widely regarded as the second coming of Christ in the wizarding world after he beat Grindelwald— especially since Voldemort wasn't around to terrorise Britain yet. I, on the other hand, knowing what I did, couldn't look at him in the same way. Sure I had no doubt in my mind that the man was absurdly powerful. But at his core, Albus Dumbledore was a human being as flawed as any other, not some all-knowing, all-powerful being who sat in the headmaster's office at Hogwarts.

I was so lost in thought that I was almost ploughed into by a familiar redheaded girl as we left our compartment.

"Come on, Sev!" she huffed, dragging a bemused, raven-haired boy with her whilst two others strained to catch up.

"Oi Evans!" shouted a wild-haired boy wearing circular glasses, hot in pursuit of the two. "I was only joking, y'know!"

A grey eyed boy with longer, inky-black hair stopped next to us, looking down the cart at his speeding friend in amusement. Atop his head sat a small black furred kitten with piercing yellow eyes.

He turned to Remus and I and laughed. "Women, am I right?"

Remus, too shocked to reply, stared at the boy. I merely raised an eyebrow. "You sure it wasn't glasses down there who's the problem? I don't know, she seemed pretty pissed at him."

He nodded. "Yeah, you're not wrong. James was being a bit of a prick to her friend. But her friend, Snape, was it? He was giving just as good as he got, so I don't see why she's so pissed. Sirius Black by the way." he pulled down the kitten and smiled. "And this is Delilah."

"Well, we're all nervous, no?" I started to walk, Remus shuffling a little to walk next to me. "Being so far away from home, I bet we're all on edge. And I'm Cyrus Azar."

Sirius snorted. "Not me. The sooner I get away from dear old mum, the better." he said, before adding on as an afterthought, "But I do feel bad about leaving Reggie home alone with her. He's coming here next year though, so it isn't too big of a deal."

Not too surprised at the information, I decided not to press on it. Remus stared at him for a moment before wisely deciding not to comment on it either. We walked in silence for the rest of the journey until we stepped onto the platform and James Potter ran up to us.

"Sirius, why'd you leave me?" he narrowed his eyes at him and turned to us, his face calming. "Oh, hello. I'm James Potter, and you two?"

He stuck out his hand and I shook it. "I'm Cyrus Azar," I nodded towards Remus, who was staring at James' hand. "And he's Remus Lupin."

"N-Nice to meet you." he said, tentatively shaking his hand before pulling back.

"Enough of all this, we're going to get left behind if we keep standing around!" Sirius yelled, already quite a way ahead of us.

I looked between James and Remus before deciding to catch up to Sirius, and if the footfalls behind me were to be believed, the other two thought the same. As I did so, I spotted a familiar nest of golden-blonde hair just ahead.

It seemed, if nothing else, that my year group would be full of interesting characters.


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Chapter 5: Tell Me Where I Belong
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OOOOO
Tell Me Where I Belong
OOOOO


Lined up in front of a stool in the great hall, I stared at the hat perched atop the aged wooden seat with a healthy amount of trepidation. Was it something that looked into the deepest recesses of your mind, or only surface thoughts?

I didn't get to think about it for long, because Professor Archimedes began reading out our names from a roll of parchment. And since I had the unfortunate fate of having a surname beginning with the letter 'A', I was one of the first few kids to be called up.

"Azar, Cyrus."

Stumbling forward slightly, I frowned and turned back to Sirius who just so happened to be standing behind me. He winked and pointed at the stool. Not that I could raise a fuss in the middle of my sorting so I forged onwards.

Because realistically, what else could I do?

The filthy hat was placed on my head, falling well over my brow and then my eyes.

"I'll have you know that I've brought up the issue of my cleanliness to Headmaster Dumbledore— several times!" an aged voice sounded in my head. "It's not my fault that he hasn't cleaned me before. Yet his predecessor and fast friend, Headmaster Dippet, made sure to clean me before and after every sorting…"

I frowned. I didn't remember the hat being so talkative.

"Well excuse me for having a personality, then!"

Unsure of how to reply to that, I briefly wondered how much of my mind the hat could peer into. I hoped it wasn't everything, but the Sorting Hat's next words were like a splash of ice-cold water to me.

"Oh everything!" the hat said, quite cheerfully too. "But I'm here to sort you and nothing else. Now… Let's see…"

I gripped my knees tightly as the hat grew silent. Minutes seem to stretch on forever before the hat's voice sounded in my head once more.

"You're an odd one indeed." it hummed. "Wise beyond your years, for obvious reasons, but not one for hoarding knowledge like Rowena did. Always a means to an end for you. Salazar would be proud. Ambitious too! Quite the pickle you've put me in. Alas, Slytherin is not for you."

I released a grateful sigh at that and relaxed a little as I waited for the hat to continue.

This conversation alone was enough to tell me that Hogwarts sorted way too early. Unlike me, everyone else in my year were children in both body and mind. Children who had no real grasp of who they were or what they wanted to be and do in life. And for them to be told that being one way was bad and that they should instead be another was one of the most moronic things I'd ever heard.

"Well, excuse me," the hat huffed. "But I have to do the best with what I've been given. Or as you children say nowadays, I've simply played the hand I've been dealt— and superbly well for the most part, I'd say. Though I do concede that we sort a tad too early here."

I froze. The last thing I expected was the hat to agree with me.

The Sorting Hat ignored me and carried on. "Hard work seems to be something you have in spades, and whilst friendship is important, it seems that you have no problems with being alone. You are a funny one! Loyalty is something you believe is earned, not given. I see… — Quite true, quite true. And though you would settle in well with Godric's lot, the place for you is— HUFFLEPUFF!"

The hat was ripped off my head in an instant, the sudden exposure to light causing my eyes to prickle. I stood up, slightly disoriented, and made my way towards the roaring applause of the Hufflepuff table where I was pulled down onto the bench by a wiry looking fellow.

He took my hand and shook it enthusiastically. "Good to have you! My name is Aaron Cooper, a fourth-year." he smiled, abruptly letting my arm go mid-shake as the next name was called up to be sorted.

There was a momentary pause before the hat screamed, "RAVENCLAW" and the girl seated on the stool skipped towards the Ravenclaw table, her robes showing her affiliation to the house as she did so.

"Black, Sirius!"

A smattering of soft mutters swept across the hall and the same boy from moments earlier began to whisper to me. "That's Sirius Black, the heir to the Most Ancient and Noble House of Black. They usually get sorted into Slytherin."

Though he was shocked into silence when the hat yelled, "GRYFFINDOR!" and Sirius swaggered over towards the lions, as happy as a clam.

I turned to him, unable to stop my smile and raised an eyebrow. "You were saying?"

He sputtered, promising me that it was true, and that all the other members of his family went to Slytherin.

I snorted, and stared at the figure of a newly-minted Hufflepuff rushing towards us. He was a plump boy, with stubborn baby fat clinging to his cheeks and a mop of brown hair. He took a seat on the other side of the wiry boy and watched the rest of the sorting. There wasn't much more opportunity for conversation as I stared at the starry sky above, tuning out the rest of the sorting. That was until I heard something that made my eyes goggle.

"Evans, Lily!"

And almost as soon as the Sorting Hat was placed on her head, it yelled out, "RAVENCLAW!"

Lily removed the hat and placed it back on the stool. Grinning, she sped off towards the eagles and into the arms of her beaming sister.

Just another thing that was different in this damned world.

The rest of the sorting flew by much faster. Quite a few people I didn't recognise were shuffled between the four houses. The rest of the Marauders ended up in Gryffindor barring Remus who ended up going to Ravenclaw— something I'd expected, but still surprised me regardless.

Would the Marauders even end up banding together? The remaining three certainly wouldn't become Animagi with Remus having ended up in Ravenclaw.

I cursed under my breath. Even more changes. At this point, I may as well have been running blind. So many things were different that I didn't even know if the future I remembered would end up playing out. Leaning backwards, I craned my neck and swept my gaze over the remaining first years. There were a few familiar faces left like Pettigrew and Snape, but the rest were a sea of unfamiliar figures.

The boy I'd seen on the train earlier—Stebbins—had also been sorted into Ravenclaw. Snape went to Slytherin, followed by a few more students who were quickly sorted into all four houses, bringing an end to the sorting.

For all my knowledge, I found myself at a loss for the most part. It seemed I'd have to get as strong as possible— so strong that any differences wouldn't matter. All I could do was hope that the main events—like where Voldemort put all of his horcruxes—remained untouched.

The hall grew silent as Dumbledore stood up to announce the start of the feast.

"Students, both new and old," his cobalt eyes swept around the hall. He smiled at us, his eyes promising that there was nowhere else he wanted to be but here. "I welcome you, once more, to another year at Hogwarts. Whilst I could go on for hours about how dearly I have missed you all in your absence,"

There was a round of laughter at this, though it quietened as Dumbledore began to speak. "I will not. I hope your summer was enjoyable and that you have all returned ready and willing to tackle the next academic year. I must, however, express to the fifth and seventh-years that you have entered a critical juncture in your education. Your O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s will, in no uncertain terms, determine the trajectory of your future. It would do well, therefore, for you to take to your studies like you have never done before."

Tuning out the speech, I tugged at the elder Hufflepuff's sleeve wanting to confirm something. "What is it?" he grunted, eyes firmly planted on Dumbledore as the elderly wizard went on with his speech.

"Nothing much. I heard the position of Defence Against the Dark Arts Professor is cursed. Is that true?"

This time, he turned to me. "Where'd you hear that?"

"On the train."

He looked around us before leaning in close. "Well, you're right, or at least, I think you're right. We haven't had a professor stay on for more than a year. Not in the four years I've been here, and definitely not in the years before me."

"Is that so…" I hummed.

It seemed some things remained the same after all. Curious, I stared at the teacher's table at the front of the hall, looking at the people who would be my professors for the foreseeable future— barring Defence Against the Dark Arts for obvious reasons.

I spotted a few familiar, albeit younger figures in the bunch, like Professor McGonagall. I had to admit that she didn't look anything like Maggie Smith. Her dark green eyes were angular and lacked any of the famed sternness that I'd read about and her black hair was pulled back into a… ponytail? What happened to only letting our hair down in celebration?

She looked about the hall, smiling kindly at the few students who met her gaze, something that completely threw me off. Almost as much as the glistening ring on her finger.

Professor Flitwick was also noticeably younger, though his jet-black hair had a few odd grey streaks running through it. The same for his wispy beard. He looked slightly nervous too. None of the nonchalance I remembered him for. Perhaps he'd only been teaching for a couple of years. I grinned at the thought. A Flitwick still fresh from duelling would be a treat to learn under, no doubt.

What surprised me the most was when a slightly younger and less plump looking Sprout laid a comforting hand over his, to which Flitwick responded with a smile. I had no idea the two were ever romantically involved but once again, most things I knew weren't really useful anymore. I'd go as far as to say that some of these assumptions would probably end up hurting me in the long run.

On Sprout's left sat a stern-looking woman sitting ramrod straight. She looked fairly young, but I made no assumptions as to what her age was. With magic, anything was possible. She had straight strawberry-blonde hair, and flinty brown eyes that were staring at the back of Dumbledore's head. Her hand often strayed from the table to the wand holster at her hip. Perhaps she was an auror, or some kind of combatant?

Either way, I was intrigued as to how she'd teach us. Next to her sat an ancient wizard wearing a stereotypical wizard's hat. Woven onto the front of it was a silvery half-moon peeking over a fluffy cloud. Safe to say that he was our Astronomy professor.

I met the gaze of Archimedes, who winked at me before whispering something to Slughorn. He was exactly as I'd imagined him. A bushy golden moustache, balding but equally golden hair, and warm brown eyes. Pretty much you standard portly gentleman— with a penchant for connections.

And lastly, on the end of the table sat Professor Kettleburn. Although his face was pretty scarred, most of his limbs were still attached to him, to my surprise.

As much as I was enjoying amateurishly analysing and predicting the behaviours of all the professors, it was probably a little disrespectful. Both to them, and to Dumbledore who was still giving his speech. Especially if the dirty look from one seventh-year girl sat a few seats away from me was any indication.

"...And to our new arrivals." he looked around the hall, seeming to glance at each of us first years in turn— and there were quite a few of us. "I would like to extend the warmest welcome from me to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. I sincerely hope that you will all be absolutely enthralled by all the magic on display here, and will immerse yourself in the knowledge that this castle has to offer to each and every one of you."

Excited murmurs broke out across the hall to which he simply raised a hand, quieting the hall almost instantly. Talk about presence.

"Now, you may know her for her recent successful capture of a cell of African Shamans ensnaring the local populace who if left unchecked, would have subjugated the entire region of West Africa with Juju and Dark Magic. Had she not done so, many innocents would have sadly lost their lives. I ask that you join me in giving a warm welcome to the ICW Hit Wizard, renowned Bounty Hunter, and more recently, Defence Against Dark Arts Professor of Hogwarts: Professor Irena Brezova!"

The strawberry-blonde woman stood up to the roaring applause of the Great Hall and inclined her head before taking a seat.

Impressive; if there was one word I'd use to describe her, it'd be that. Her feats and accolades were one thing, but her gaze was sharp enough to make multiple people sit up straight— myself included. However, the realisation that she would only stay the year soon removed the excited smile from my face.

"With that said, I would also like to make the point that the restricted section of the library, which you will undoubtedly discover soon, is generally off-limits to students. However," he raked his eyes over the hall. "You may obtain explicit permission from your professors to give to the castle's librarian, Madam Pince, if they deem you to be mature enough to do so. Moving on, Mr. Pringle—the castle's caretaker—has also expressed his position on what he deems as 'foolish behaviours' in the corridors. I expect that you will carry yourselves with all the grace and poise that Hogwarts students should."

Dumbledore flourished both his arms to the side, seeming to conjure food onto the numerous golden plates in the hall.

To say that I was blown away by the display of magic—even if he didn't really do it himself—was the understatement of the century. One moment, there was no food, and the next, there was… Alongside the captivating aroma circling around our table.

And sure it wasn't anything impressive on its own—my stomach certainly seemed to think the opposite—but I still thought it was amazing.

Magic was a lifelong wish of every person I'd ever known. Or at least, almost everybody, at some point in their lives, wished to be able to perform magic. So for me not only to witness it, but to be told that I could do so was truly amazing and not something I could accurately put into words.

With a shake of my head, I reached for one of the empty plates and peered around.

As far along the table as I could see were mountains of English food. There were several steak and kidney pies, steaming whole chickens, towering stacks of yorkshire pudding, and piping hot piles of vegetables. I picked and chose anything that caught my fancy, supping in quiet satisfaction for the most part. It was all smooth sailing until I sipped from the golden goblet before me and screwed my eyes shut at the taste.

Whoever thought that pumpkin juice was a good idea clearly had more than a few screws loose.

"God that was gross…" I muttered. The juice vanished from the cup, being replaced by something that tasted pretty fruity—not quite orange, but not anything I could accurately discern either. Regardless, it was miles better than pumpkin juice.

I'd have to ask the House Elves for the recipe. Staring at the liquid. I sloshed it around a little. "I don't know what you are, but I will welcome you with open arms."

OOOO

I woke up the next day feeling more well-rested than I ever had before. I didn't know if Hogwarts' beds were just that much better— or maybe magically enhanced to make sure I slept as best as I could. Eventually, though, I chalked it down to sleeping on that rickety bed at home.

Yawning, I stumbled into the bathroom.

To my utter surprise, the Hufflepuff dormitories gave each student an ensuite room to themselves. I'd expected that Helga would've had students bunk together to foster a sense of family, but I guess even she understood that sometimes, people needed to be alone. And with puberty over the horizon once more, I was happy that I didn't have to sit through the shit-show that was teenage drama— or at least, not more than was necessary.

There were more interesting things to do and discover. The chief of which being magic.

After a quick shower, I swung on my now golden-yellow robes and moved towards the common room through the tunnel-like passages of the Hufflepuff basement. It wasn't too early in the morning, so I shouldn't have been surprised when a couple of older students were scattered across the common room on the comfortable couches and at the few desks positioned around the room.

It was honestly larger than I'd expected. The ceilings were much higher than I thought. Every once in a while, you'd see the ankles of a passerby cut through the grass out of the windows circling the common room. In fact, the windows were positioned closer to the ceiling than they were to the floor, and like the circular design of the common room, the windows were equally spherical in nature.

A plethora of plants had been hung across the golden walls, on top of the coffee tables, and even on the desks. In front of the great fireplace at the common room's centre was a huge still painting of Helga Hufflepuff herself. She sat under the shade of a great tree, toasting her students with her signature two-handled golden cup and a beaming smile on her face, the fire crackling and hissing just beneath the painting of her.

I took a seat on one of the armchairs facing her painting, relaxing into the seat. My bag had been packed for the day and was at the foot of the chair. We hadn't been given our timetables yet, so I brought everything I thought I'd need. Meaning all of my textbooks, and of course, my wand and wand holster. Leaning my neck against the back of the armchair, my feet dangling, I opened up 'The Standard Book of Spells: Grade 1'.

My eyes roamed the pages until I found a familiar spell titled: 'The Levitation Charm'. I pulled my wand out of its holster, grinning at the contact, and aimed it at a pencil I'd pulled out of my stationary case.

Relaxing, I gathered my will to levitate the pencil and flourished my wand. "Wingardium Leviosa."

The pencil rolled over, one side slightly rising from its position on the coffee table before slumping. Was I fucking up somewhere?

Frowning, I stared at it for a few moments and tried again. "Wingardium Leviosa."

This time, it floated a little weakly— barely hovering.

Impatiently, I chewed my lip and stared at the pencil, a little put-out by my lack of success. This was, of course, only logical. I couldn't expect to cast it on my first go. However, after a few more minutes of unsuccessful casting, I'd had enough. I set my wand on the table and grabbed the textbook hoping that I'd find out where I was going wrong.

From what I could tell, the spell enabled the caster to allow objects to float. Not much was really explained besides the incantation and appropriate wand movement. Slightly disappointed, I picked up my wand and did my best to imagine how I could make the pencil fly. Perhaps visualising it being pulled up by a set of strings or imagining it float would work?

Brandishing my wand, I readied myself and tried to picture the image in my mind. "Wingardium Leviosa."

The pencil, at first, stayed completely still. Though the stillness felt different this time. I could feel that something was happening, even whilst the pencil stayed completely still. Curious, I raised my wand, and the pencil rose with it, remaining level with the tip of my wand at all times.

As giddy as I was, I kept my focus on the pencil. Grinning, I moved the pencil left and right, going faster and faster with each wave of my wand. It wasn't a surprise, therefore, when my focus slipped and the pencil went flying off down the common room. I winced, watching the pencil hurtle across the room and hit an older girl hunched over a textbook across the back of the head.

She picked up the pencil and stomped towards me, anger written all over her face.

"Listen here, kid," she hissed, jabbing me with her finger. "I'm trying to study right now. It's my final year here and I can't afford to mess anything up."

I didn't really know what her problem was. It wasn't even the start of the first day yet, but still, I was undoubtedly in the wrong here.

"My bad." I smiled, taking the pencil from her outstretched hand and slipping it into my pocket. "I was just really excited when I got the spell down and then my control slipped. Sorry about that."

Her face softened a little, but she was still frowning. "Just be careful next time. There's a reason why teachers are present when you first-years learn new spells— especially when you first-years learn new spells. What if you screw something up and then end up hurting someone?"

I frowned, but said nothing, watching her stomp off back to the desk. Turning, I sheathed my wand and returned my books to my bag. It seemed that I'd had enough practice for the time being.

Maybe next time I could try visualising in a different way. "A slightly more stable way than strings…"

Sighing contentedly from the armchair once more, I opened up my bookmarked page in 'Magical Theory' and began to read as quietly as I could.

A few minutes into reading, one of the Hufflepuff prefects—a girl named Viola Moss—strode into the common room with the rest of my year in tow. Most looked disgruntled at the early start— I even felt a little bad for them. The first day of term sucked if you weren't used to rising at the buttcrack of dawn.

The other prefect was bringing up the rear, a guiding hand placed on the shoulder of a stumbling child who had his eyes closed. His grey eyes flashed in mirth as he shared an amused glance with Viola. For the life of me, I couldn't remember his first name, but I knew his last was Allen… probably. Though I might've been mixing it up with the boy standing next to him.

She stopped at the door, her eyes roaming over the room. It didn't take her long to reach me.

"I've spent the last fifteen minutes looking for you, you know. First-years are never up this early." she grumbled, folding her arms, her annoyance clear. Though I could tell that she wasn't truly as annoyed as she made herself out to be. She stared at me for a few moments and snorted, helping me out of the chair. "There's always one of you each year. Well, come on then."

I circled around her and took my place amongst the crowd of half-asleep preteens. By then, one of the children spoke up from behind me, somewhat awake. He was tall for an eleven-year-old, with long arms and legs to boot. His straight brown hair hung low over his face, pretty much obscuring his eyes from view.

"Where are we going?" he yawned, brushing his hair aside to rub at his bleary eyes.

Viola smiled and tied back her raven hair into a ponytail, her violet eyes flashing humorously. "Where do you think?" she walked over to the common room's exit.

Curious, the rest of the children followed her.

She opened it and forged on, though not before looking over her shoulder to answer the boy's question. "To breakfast, of course. Make sure to stay in front of Eric at all times please. Wouldn't want to lose one of you now, would we?"

Now I remembered his name. It was Eric. Eric Aldritch. I nodded contentedly and fell in step beside Viola, making note of any useful landmarks for the future.

OOOO

Breakfast was pleasantly uneventful. In fact the most notable thing to happen during the hour was the distribution of our timetables for the year. Getting to our first class of the day—which happened to be Charms—was an adventure all on its own.

It mostly consisted of my housemates following me around like a bunch of ducklings as I annoyed the older students on their way to class. Not that I minded it too much. I actually found it funny when all my housemates' excitement fizzled out upon meeting the disgruntled gaze of the older students— though not all of them were like that. The vast majority were welcoming, but that didn't seem to make any difference to them.

Eventually, we made our way down the Charms Corridor thanks to generous advice of the older years— something I noticed when we walked past a portrait of several drunken monks lazing about in a stone courtyard. They waved at us languidly and continued guzzling down copious amounts of alcohol like there was no tomorrow.

This was not lost on the children, of course.

"Did you see the portrait?" one of the children behind me whispered. His tone was scandalous, as if the monks were committing the greatest sin known to man.

Another was quick to reply, excitement rippling through her voice. "I know right?! They were drinking."

I snorted and peered through the half-open door to our left. Thankfully, I wasn't leaning against it when it opened.

"You made it on time after all." Flitwick said. He raised his eyebrows after spotting me—something I didn't fail to notice—but quickly masked it with a smile and opened the door all the way, inviting us through. "Come in, come in. Good to meet you all. The Ravenclaws are already here courtesy of myself being their Head of House."

True to his word, about a dozen blue-robed kids were scattered around the class. I noticed the familiar figure of Remus tucked away in the back of the class, his face hidden from view. Not missing a beat, I walked over towards him and set my stuff down on the table. A couple other Hufflepuff's followed me, but the rest took seats elsewhere.

"You alright, Remus?" I asked him, taking out my copy of 'The Standard Book of Spells: Grade 1'.

He yawned, and took his head out of his arms. "I'm alright. A bit tired, but alright."

"How's Ravenclaw treating you?" I asked him, placing my wand on the table.

His eyes brightened. "It's honestly amazing. There are so many books on anything and everything. Though one of our prefects is a bit… unpleasant."

"A prick, you mean?"

He blanched at the quite frankly vulgar language, but nodded. "He told us to meet him in the Great Hall and then disappeared. Thing is, we didn't know where the Great Hall was. Thankfully Esmerelda—the other prefect—was there."

I winced. Poor kids. "Well, at least you've got one decent prefect, right?"

He grunted in acceptance as Flitwick began the lesson. Standing atop a stack of books at the front of the class, he raised a hand to silence the class.

"Thank you." he said. "Now, Charms. A branch of magic that, like Transfiguration, pervades every part of life for witches and wizards. Now, what is a charm? Can anybody tell me?"

At first, nobody raised a hand. I waited a little longer to see if anyone would bite, but they didn't.

Flitwick waved towards me. "Yes Mr…?"

"Azar. Cyrus Azar." I supplied. "A charm is a spell that imbues something with an effect. I say something because there doesn't seem to be a limit to what charms can be applied to. People, animals, objects, food. You name it."

Flitwick chuckled. "Quite right, quite right. Well-put Mr. Azar, take five points for Hufflepuff." he said. "Indeed, as Mr. Azar said, a charm is a spell that imbues the target with a desired effect. Charms can be used in almost any sense, but unlike Transfiguration, we are not altering the target of the spell in any way whatsoever." he picked up a quill from his desk. "Take this quill for example. If I were to charm it to jump across the table, it would, at the end, still remain a quill."

He stopped, smiling at the raised hand of a familiar redheaded Ravenclaw girl. "Yes Miss…?"

"Evans, professor. Lily Evans." she said. "So charms don't actually do anything to the object itself?"

"Precisely." he nodded. "Now, talking about charms, it's time for today's spell." Flitwick chuckled at the excited whispers of the class. "Although simple, this charm is perhaps one of the most useful spells you will ever learn. Please turn to chapter one."

He waited for the class to quieten before he continued.

"The Mending Charm is a spell that fixes broken objects. That may sound like a miracle, but the spell does have its caveats. The Mending Charm can only repair things that have been broken up to a certain point." he freed his wand and conjured a strip of cloth. "See this cloth?" he waved his wand and cut it in half before repairing it. "It's completely restored. But when I do this…" he shredded it until the previously unblemished cloth was in tatters at his feet. And no matter how many times he cast the Mending Charm, the pieces of cloth wouldn't move. "It cannot be restored to its original shape."

I was following everything so far. I'd made it through a decent bit of theory thanks to studying at home so I wasn't too worried about noting things down. I'd written enough in advance.

"We'll spend the rest of the allocated class time trying to cast the spell successfully." he instructed, sliding his wand into his own holster. "If you open the drawers beside each of you, you will each find two items: a tattered book and some kind of broken metal trinket. I would like you to place the book in front of you."

Sliding open the drawer, I placed the book on the desk. Flitwick wasn't kidding when he said it was tattered. In fact, the thing was so ancient that the title had long since faded. The only indication of lettering being the tail end of surprisingly stubborn but ultimately dwindling golden S.

"Repeat the incantation after me: reh-PAH-roh. Good, once more. Reh-PAH-roh." Flitwick walked through the necessary wand gestures, making sure we had it down pat before setting us off.

I narrowed my eyes at the decently thick book on the table. The spell's instructions were as concise as always. It went: wand movement, incantation, and what the spell did. No tips on what to think of when casting. Though I reckoned most would obviously follow the titling of each spell.

Staring at it would get me nowhere, so I gripped my wand and trained it on the book. To repair. An ambiguous word to me, since I didn't really know how the book looked prior to being weathered by the passage of time. I sat still for a few moments longer before sticking my hand up. Flitwick noticed it in a heartbeat and made his way towards me— there was no way I'd be able to hear him over the noise.

"Sir, is there any way for me to know what the book looked like well… before?" I asked.

The short man blinked. "Why would you need to?"

Not expecting the question, I stumbled over my words before taking a breath to compose myself. "Well, if I could have an accurate picture of what the book looked like, I could focus on the whole "repairing" part of the spell."

He smiled. "You're thinking too much, Mr. Azar." he said. "The only thing necessary is that you should want to repair the book. Knowing what the book looked like is completely irrelevant. Just be sure to maintain your focus, make the right wand movements, and enunciate the words properly and you should do fine."

I nodded mutely and watched the Charms Master walk away, no doubt to help another stuck student.

To want to repair the book, huh? I placed a hand over the worn cover and traced my finger over the faded letter.

I closed my eyes, my wand held out in front of me. "Reparo."

I opened my eyes. Now, the book looked well-used, instead of a relic of the past. Progress was progress, no matter the form. Once more, I raised my wand, affirming my desire to make sure the book was as fresh as possible— imagining the slightly leathery scent of a newly published book. "Reparo."

I watched the faded lettering slowly come to life, a sleek golden trail curving over the top of the cover eventually forming legible words. The cover's lifeless black grew to a more vibrant navy blue. The book seemed to rejuvenate itself until I sat before a copy of a book titled: 'Everyday Charms for Everyday Wizards'.

"Huh, neat." I smiled, holding the book out in front of me. "Look Remus."

The young werewolf looked up from his own book. "Oh, wow." he blinked. "That was quick."

I snorted. "You look like you're pretty close." I pointed towards his own book. "One more cast should do it, I think."

He nodded, his face serious and brought the tip of his wand closer to the book.

I raised my hand and waited for Flitwick to notice. It didn't take long. The man scurried over to our table from the other side of the class.

"What is it, Mr. Azar?" he asked. I gestured towards the book. "Oh, well done! Well done indeed. Another five points to Hufflepuff. Now, try repairing the watch, I believe you ended up with. Though I will say that there is a reason I asked you to start with the book first. Don't be too disheartened if you're unable to repair the watch."

As he began to walk away, I called out. "Sir?" he stopped and turned back. I lifted up the book. "Can I keep this?"

He smiled at me and his brown eyes gleamed appreciatively. "I don't see why not." he said before turning to the rest of the class and speaking up. "In fact, if you can succeed in repairing your objects, then feel free to take them."

I almost laughed out loud at the furious whispers of the class at his challenge. I slipped the book into my satchel, satisfied, and placed the sharp black and grey wristwatch on the table.

I thumbed the watch's crystal and smiled. "Time to see what makes you tick."


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Chapter 6: A Black Encounter
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A Black Encounter
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I slung my satchel over my shoulder and shifted my weight from one foot to the other, waiting for the line to shuffle on out of the classroom. My eyes flicked to my wrist and I smiled. For my first lesson, I reckoned I did quite well. Not many managed to complete both tasks by the end of the lesson. Though a pretty big handful managed to repair their books— and boy were there a lot of them. There was one on skincare potions, others for prank spells, calming charms for newborns, and—to everyone's amusement—there was even somebody's diary.

Those of us who'd managed to complete both tasks were a minority, comprised of myself, Lily, Remus, Stebbins, and a Hufflepuff boy by the name of Cadmus McCallan— he had quite the strong Scottish accent. That took us up until the end of the lesson, though Remus and I had finished with a couple of minutes to spare, during which Flitwick decided to strike up a conversation with us.

I quite enjoyed the lesson, to be fair. As new to the job as he was, I couldn't deny that the man had a knack for teaching. I was just about to leave the classroom when Flitwick placed a hand on my shoulder.

"Just a moment if you will, Mr. Azar." he said.

I looked at him, my face asking him why but stayed regardless.

Remus stopped and looked at me curiously before a Ravenclaw boy stuck his head through the door. "Remus, you coming?"

He flinched. "O-Oh yeah, coming!" and scurried through the door after giving me one last look.

Noticing it, Flitwick gave me an apologetic smile. "I won't keep you long, I promise. Just indulge my curiosity for a moment." with that being said, his eyes dropped to the holster around my waist before meeting my own. "In all my time here—despite not being here for long—I have never seen a first-year with a wand holster. Do you perhaps have an interest in duelling?"

Caught completely off guard, I stilled. There wasn't that much thought put into the purchase. I honestly bought it because I had the cash to spare, and it seemed to be far better than stuffing my wand into my pocket. But duelling, if it were anything similar to boxing, definitely sounded interesting. Unfortunately I had priorities; money first. Everything else later.

"Honestly, I can't say that I'm not." I admitted. "But I think that it's too early for me to focus on a specific thing. I'm going to learn everything that I can for now. But if an opportunity comes around, I'd definitely be interested."

Flitwick smiled appreciatively. "An admirable choice." he moved over to his desk and took a seat. "Off with you then. If my timetable is correct… You have History of Magic with… Slytherin, if I remember correctly?"

I nodded. "I do. I guess this is goodbye, Professor. Or I suppose 'until we meet again' would be more apt."

He laughed. "Quite."

Nodding at him once more, I raced out of the class and almost stumbled at what awaited me outside of it. Lined up in front of the door were my housemates. Each and every one of them stood against the wall.

"Why are you guys here?" I asked, blinking owlishly at them.

From the front of the line, a short mousy haired girl spoke up. "W-Well, we couldn't leave without you, right?" she looked back at the rest of the line. "Right?"

I couldn't help but smile fondly at her and patted the top of her head. She squeaked and retreated back into the line.

Though my happiness was swiftly put to an end when a familiar voice spoke out in a Scottish twang. "Then how would we get to our next class?"

I shook my head with a wry smile. I supposed it made more sense than all of them deciding to wait for someone they barely knew out of some misplaced sense of friendship.

"Well then, people!" I chuckled, pointing a finger down the corridor. "Off to History of Magic."

OOOO

I'd read a lot on how much of a bore History of Magic was. So much so that it was some kind of running joke. From Fanfiction, to the original books themselves. They all spoke of how mind numbing the subject was— and sure to some extent that was true.

Binns' voice made it difficult to really get invested into it, but the content of the lecture was enough for me to stay awake for. I glanced down at my watch; only fifteen minutes left. Beside me, a quiet Slytherin girl sat rapt as she scribbled down what I believed was every single word that came out of Binns' mouth.

"Although short-lived, Emeric's reign of terror over the South of England in the Middle Ages was so fearsome that we talk about him until this very day. He was eventually brought down by Egbert the Egregious, who bested him in a duel that spanned…" The spectral man droned on about the minute details of the duel, as well as anything else that caught his fancy.

Though what happened next was arguably the best thing to happen in the entire hour. Binns ended up speaking for so long that he'd drifted off to sleep. The class was completely silent, waiting for the ghost to wake up at any second.

But he didn't. At all. Moments passed and the class was silent still, nobody daring to utter a word.

Someone was even bold enough to throw a wad of paper at him. It simply passed through his torso with the sleeping ghost still completely unconscious.

Already holding back my laughter, I let out an unintentional snort as the ball of paper landed in the bin behind the ghost. I knew that the ghost tended to fall asleep midway through class, but I didn't think it would happen on my first day at school.

Gathering myself, I glanced at my watch before whispering to the rest of the classroom. "The lesson's more or less over, so I reckon it'd be fine if we leave to go to break." I looked back at the still sleeping ghost. "If objects going through him couldn't get him to wake up, then I doubt anything else could."

With that said, I kept my eyes trained on the sleeping ghost as I backed away towards the door. One by one, the children hopped out of the chairs and carefully tiptoed towards the door, not bothering to push their chairs underneath the tables.

A few were reluctant to leave, though soon, they succumbed to the wondrous effects of peer-pressure as the vast majority of children followed me out. Nobody made a noise until we'd left the classroom. Soft snickers soon filled the hallway as the children raced down the corridor.

I stayed back to make sure that the door was closed before I left. The last thing I wanted was for the elderly ghost to follow us out of the classroom.

Was this going to be a constant thing? I had the feeling that it would. I thanked my lucky stars for Sadie once more and strolled down the corridor, smiling at the snorts and giggles of around twenty-eight or so children.

OOOO

I didn't know why I expected to walk away from class without any consequences. Not that we were thrown into detention, but we were told to simply wake Binns up when he would doze off— how we were supposed to do such a thing was completely beyond me.

Otherwise, my life for the next couple of days passed by in the blink of an eye. I'd done much and explored the castle to my heart's content— even the kitchens. There was a particular elf that I'd become friends with over a period of two days. After I had asked him about his day, he seemed intent on feeding me all sorts of foods every time I stopped by.

And I'd never say no to free food.

Since school had started in the middle of the week, there were some lessons that I just wouldn't have until the next week— one such lesson being Defence Against the Dark Arts. Though it didn't really hamper my spirits all too much. My plate was already full thanks to the Charms book that I'd repaired in class.

With Snape currently being my age, Potions was headed by Professor Slughorn. There wasn't all too much I could find to fault about the man. All things said, he was a pretty good Professor but he did have an eye out for the more talented and affluent members of his class.

Astronomy, as expected, didn't really interest me all that much. Though I could name a few stars now, which was pretty cool.

If there was something else I was looking forward to, it'd be our Flying Classes. My—very rational—fear of heights notwithstanding, I was pretty excited. I would, after all, be fulfilling another childhood dream of mine.

All that aside, there were a lot of practical elements of the year that I hadn't tried out at home. It doesn't matter how much theory you learn, if you can't exercise it in a real life situation then it's a waste of time.

"Thank fuck I don't have to sit through Umbridge!" I snorted.

But there was one thing that, for now, took priority over everything else: the Room of Requirement. Definitively, I had no idea what it was capable of. I knew that it catered to the needs and desires of the castle's residents, but what of its limitations? That was one of the first things on my list.

However, in order to do that, I had to traverse several sets of staircases to get to the seventh floor— which was by no means an easy feat. It was as if the castle itself was taking joy in my suffering. Steps would disappear just as my foot would touch down, entire staircases would wheel around and take me back to wherever I came from— and not to mention the menace to society that haunted the halls of the castle: Peeves the Poltergeist.

"Oh, look at the ickle firstie, all sweaty are we? Let Peeves help you!" he crowed, zooming overhead with a bucket. The water within sloshed threateningly, a few droplets sliding down the rim.

I raised my wand with a snarl. I was way too tired for his shit. "I swear on everything, Peeves, you had better turn around and dunk your water on somebody else!"

The poltergeist chuckled darkly at the threat, his crimson jester hat jingling, and his shoulders shook with mirth.

"Really now?" he leered at me, raising the bucket a little higher. "Peevesey here doubts that a little— just a smidge is all."

He tittered and began to raise the bucket overhead. Watching him mutter to himself in between suppressed giggles, I panicked and did my best to invoke my desire for light. "I warned you, Peeves! Lumos!"

Contrary to my expectations, my spell didn't cause Peeves to turn tail and run like he'd seen the devil. I'm pretty sure it made the menace even angrier instead, his perpetual smirk stretching across his face.

He grinned like a cat that'd eaten a canary. "Little 'puff thinks he's tough, huh?" he laughed, his spectral eyes alight with madness and barely restrained anger as he dropped the bucket of ice cold water right on top of me. "See I really do think that you should cool off!"

"M-Man," I growled, my teeth chattering. "F-Fuck you, P-P-Peeves!"

He gasped, comically bringing his hands over his mouth. I had no idea how but his pallid cheeks somehow flushed. "Who me? I'm sorry little firstie, but you're much too young for anything like that!"

He raced off to God knows where, leaving me freezing, but absolutely livid on the staircase. That brought up the blighter all the way to the top of my shit list. Not that there was much debate on that, the only other person on it being the arsehole landlord who owned my house. But without any actual way to vent out my anger, I could do little else but stomp my way up the stairs.

They seemed to take pity on me after my encounter with Peeves and I reached the seventh floor wheezing for air. Completely soaked, I trailed water all the way across the hallway, drawing odd looks and the occasional snicker but I could honestly care less about how I looked to others right now.

I stopped for a moment to mutter out an apology to the House Elves. Lord knew if they could hear me but I felt a touch of guilt once I thought about the mess I'd brought with me. I continued on, my eyes scanning around for the tapestry.

What I was about to do would either make or break how I went about my time at the school. I trudged past the moving tapestry of trolls performing pirouettes for a bearded wizard standing atop a stage. Making a turn, staring right at the section of wall opposite the tapestry, I looked around to make sure I was out of sight before I began my pacing.

'I'd like a room with all the books in the restricted section.' I ran the sentence through my mind like a mantra until a door appeared completely out of the blue.

Grinning, I quickly entered the room and shut the door behind me, whistling at everything on display. It was as if I were standing inside the Restricted Section itself, with its shelves towering over me, casting the room into darkness. For a while, I explored the aisles, not removing a single book from the shelves. Though when I eventually did, it was because I spotted a book with a title that I just couldn't pass up on.

"'Shield Your Mind: A Practical Guide to Becoming An Occlumens', huh?" I muttered, sliding the book out of its shelf.

Though the minute I opened it, I yelped and dropped it in surprise.

Not only were the pages completely blank, but a shrill voice, for lack of a better term, leapt out of the book. "DEGENERACY! THEFT! I AM BEING STOLEN FROM THE LIBRARY BY AN UNSCRUPULOUS, UNPRINCIPLED FIEND! HELP! HELP!"

Once the initial shock had abated, I gingerly placed the book back onto the shelf and removed another, only to face the same dilemma: a screeching banshee crying out to the heavens about a theft— as well as choosing other colourful choices of vocabulary to describe the would-be thief.

That wasn't all I'd found though. There was one that stung my hand when I tried to open it and another that decided to skip that and try to bite it off instead. Eventually, I left the library annoyed and disgruntled, thinking that some fresh air would help me.

"Damn." I sighed, stepping out of the Room of Requirement and onto the fairly empty corridor.

To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. I'd expected the room to pretty much solve all of my problems when it came to studying material— and to be fair, it did. I could still ask for books on things that weren't locked behind the Restricted Section and have them all to myself.

Curious, I spent the next couple of hours testing out everything I could to do with the room.

Essentially, I'd discovered that it had no limitations regarding space— not any that I had encountered, at least. If something existed in the castle, then you could bring it into the room.

Briefly, I wondered if it brought the object itself, or just a copy of it. If it was the former, then that might be a bit of a problem. I assumed it was the latter though, it would only make sense. If the room hadn't been discovered by the professors despite the school existing for around a thousand years or so, then I reckoned it was pretty safe to assume that anything in the room was a copy, and therefore couldn't be brought out of the room.

But that was just what I thought.

"Yeesh…" I hissed, sniffling as I drew my robes tightly around myself.

It wasn't actually that cold outside, but the evening wind coupled with my earlier impromptu shower meant that I was feeling a little chilly.

What I saw next was enough to warm my freezing toes. A small voice in my head told me that I should probably go, but I ignored it. For some reason, I was too curious to leave.

Either that, or my toes were just too numb.

"You gormless idiot!"

An older Slytherin boy slid across the hall so fast that I only noticed his house once he'd slowed down. Unfortunately, the only thing stopping his momentum was the stone wall behind him. Grunting and groaning, he picked himself up from the admittedly cold floor, looking more confused than hurt.

A slow but ominous set of footsteps travelled down the hall and a furious voice echoed towards us. "You mistake my civility for some kind of romantic interest, you complete and utter maggot!"

The insults aside, as hilarious as they were, weren't the most fascinating bit about this all. It was really the person behind them that stopped me in my tracks.

She stepped onto the hallway, her hair thick and as dark as raven feathers trailing down her back and fanning her heart-shaped face. Even from as far as she stood, I could tell that she was tall—almost as much as Sadie—with long-lashed eyes and a pretty, if haughty, looking face.

Her stygian eyes were narrowed in what seemed to be rage as she stalked towards the downed boy and rained down hex after hex on him. And despite his pleas and apologies, she didn't seem to be remotely near done.

… That was until she saw me.

Never in my life had I wanted to be invisible as fiercely as I did at that moment. Now that she was facing me directly, I recognised her almost immediately. Younger? Sure. But there was no way I'd mistakenly identify Bellatrix Lestrange— or more accurately, Black.

Her narrowed eyes widened before she stowed away her wand. "Speak!" she snapped and I blinked myself out of my thoughts. "Who on earth are you?"

"I'm Cy—" I was immediately cut off by the previously downed Slytherin boy shakily standing up to his feet with his wand in hand.

"T-The fuck's wrong with you, you crazy slag!?" he roared, gingerly rubbing his shoulders before wincing afterwards.

Poor bastard. I couldn't imagine that many Stinging Hexes were pleasant— if she was using Stinging Hexes in the first place.

Bellatrix rounded on him, the speed at which she did so whipped her lustrous locks over her shoulders. "Slag?!" she screeched, rending her wand free from her robes and training it on the woozy looking Slytherin.

Then, she began to laugh. The kind of laugh that made most intelligent people turn around and walk away as fast as they could. But of course I, being the idiot I am, didn't do that. I stood still and watched in morbid fascination as the growing fury spread over her face.

Bellatrix furrowed her eyebrows. Her dark eyes could be described as pretty if only they weren't burning with anger. "Oh make no mistake, I'll show you slag! Slugulus Eructo!"

A sickly green light burst forth from her wand and the boy's eyes widened before it engulfed him.

Completely frozen to the spot, I watched as he gagged, retching out a bulbous, oozing slug the size of my fist. It was a washed-out yellow and left trails of viscous slime along the front of his robes as it slid down onto the floor.

The boy retched once more, cupping yet another slug in his hands, before taking off down the corridor, presumably towards the Hospital Wing. That left me and Bellatrix relatively alone, and whilst I usually wouldn't mind being alone with a hot girl, this was somebody who'd go on to torture people into insanity in around a decade from now.

That alone was enough to scare the shit out of me.

She screwed up her face at the slug sliding its way across the hall and turned to me. "Well?! Who are you?"

I scanned the hallway for some help and blanched when I found none. Seeing no other way out of here, I decided to indulge her. "I'm Cyrus."

She looked at me as if expecting more, but if I gave her my last name, there was a pretty significant chance that I'd be the next one on the end of her wand left to vomit out slugs.

Sadly, I didn't really get a choice. "Cyrus what?"

I sighed, flexing my toes in preparation for the very real possibility that I'd have to hightail it out of here. "Azar… Cyrus Azar."

Her posture immediately brightened and she began to grin, an unnerving light dancing within her eyes.

"A mudblood, eh?" she sang as she looked me up and down. "Well then, how about we play a little game."

Not seeing how this could get any worse, I decided to open my mouth and say something that I immediately regretted. "I have a feeling I'm not going to like this game very much."

She cackled and raised her wand. "No, I don't think you will."

I reckoned that whatever colour left on my face had vanished by this point and I rushed down the corridor, dodging as much spellfire as I could— which admittedly wasn't really all that much in the end.

OOOO

So I returned to the common room, wincing from the welts all over my back and barely managed to ask one of the Hufflepuff prefects—Eric I think he was called—to dry me off. Thankfully Bellatrix, the crazy bitch that she was, had only used Stinging Hexes. Fat lot of good that did me, though.

I'd spotted him sitting on the armrest of the couch near the fireplace. He took one look at me and laughed, his grey eyes glinting. "Who the heck did this to you?" he asked after a couple more laughs at my expense.

"Pe—"

"Let me guess, Peeves?" he asked, muttering something I couldn't hear and drying me off with a flick of his wand.

I nodded. "The shithead flew right over me and dunked a bucket of cold water on my head." I shuddered, partly at the cold, but also at the pain from the welts. "Not just that cockwomble but fucking Bellatrix Black."

His eyes goggled. "What did you do to piss her off?!"

I whirled towards him, my eyebrows shooting upwards. "Absolutely nothing! I was minding my own business and happened to stumble across her hexing the fuck out of another Slytherin."

He shook his head. "Well, I know she's got a reputation for being a little unhinged but damn! You must have some rotten luck to run into her during your first week of school."

"Unhinged?" I spat, wincing. "T-That bitch is batshit crazy, is what."

"Well, aren't you a ballsy firstie!" he chuckled. "Cursing Bellatrix Black—or just cursing openly at all—without any fear."

I shrugged, the movement alone sending lances of pain down my back. "W-We have wands and there are words that can kill a man. I think swearing should be the least of anyone's worries."

Truthfully, that wasn't something I'd say on a normal day, but I was cold, sore, and was pretty much through with everything for the day.

He threw his head back and laughed. "I've heard a bunch of outlandish shit during my time here but I don't disagree with this!" his face quickly lost all humour, though. "But on a serious note, you might want to stop cursing her— or the Black family in general. Think of it this way, right? They're pretty much Wizarding Britain's Mob. Dark as hell, and they practically control half the Wizengamot— that is to say the government. If she, or anyone else in her family, ever catches wind of anything disrespectful from you, you're kind of fucked."

A nearby girl walked up to the fireplace and heard the tail end of our conversation, swatting the prefect's arm.

"Eric, language! You're a prefect; act like it." she shook her honey-blonde locks at him and pointed at me. "Actually, why on earth are you telling him stuff like this? That's a child, Eric. He's eleven for Merlin's sake!"

I rolled my eyes. Whilst I could've toned down on the profanity, her comment only made me want to swear even more. "Nah, I don't give a shit."

She whipped around and frowned at me. "Well, young man, that isn't language that you should be using."

I turned to Eric, my smirk strained thanks to my sore neck, back, and… everything. "Do you want to tell her or should I?"

He shook his head with a smile, so I decided to take the pleasure for myself. "Hey, uh, I don't have your name. Mind telling me?"

She smiled. "I'm Eva. Eva Harrison. You?"

"Cyrus Azar." I replied. "Now, Eva. I'm going to call you Eva."

She shared an amused glance with Eric and nodded.

"We have spells that, if needed, could cause pretty serious harm to people, right?"

She nodded, her brow furrowed.

"Hell, we even have the Killing Curse." I continued. "Which, mind you, outright kills people. So I don't really get the whole fuss around swearing."

She blinked, looking more confused than anything else. A moment later, her eyes cleared. "I get where you're coming from," she grudgingly admitted. "But still, it's better to be polite."

"Oh I'm not saying you shouldn't." I hurriedly added. "All I'm saying is that I don't get why there's such a fuss over people swearing."

Eric nudged her shoulder with an amused smile. "I'm telling you, this has to be the most interesting first-year I've ever met."

She quickly lost her frown and began to smile too. "Yes, I'd have to agree."

I inclined my head. "Glad to be of service."

Eric snorted at that and Eva simply shook her lead with a wry smile, her golden curls bouncing.

"Honestly though, Cyrus," she said. "If you're going to curse, please make sure there aren't any professors in earshot. From this conversation alone, the amount of points we'd lose wouldn't be fun, I'll tell you that."

"Eh, I'll be fine." I waved her off. I stood up from the chair with a light groan, muttering a couple of curses underneath my breath. "I have enough sense to watch my tongue around teachers."

Wishing them a good evening, I decided to go take a shower, hobbling my way over to my bedroom. I'd been dried off but I still felt off— no doubt thanks to Bellatrix.

"I really hope I don't end up getting a cold tomorrow." I muttered as I stepped into my room.


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Chapter 7: A Professor and A Friend
If you enjoyed the chapter, I'd appreciate it if you left a review detailing your thoughts!

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OOOOO
A Professor and A Friend
OOOOO


Stuffy noses sucked. They made it hard to breathe, and then there was the whole 'not noticing your nose is running' thing. At least I could get it solved in a matter of minutes thanks to magic. It didn't make it any more pleasant though. Sniffling, I cursed Peeves and hoped that he'd be exorcised before setting off to find Madam Pomfrey— all in my head of course. I knew for a fact that he could turn invisible if he wanted to. There's no way I'd risk a peaceful school life even if I hated the bastard.

On my walk to the Hospital Wing, I realised that there was no point in memorising the routes to places in the castle. It seemed the castle took joy in leading me on a wild goose chase— either that or I was an idiot.

Like this morning, for instance. Instead of finding myself in front of the winding staircase leading up to the Hospital Wing, I was on the other side of the castle. Which made absolutely no sense since the map of the castle in the common room told me that the Hospital Wing was on the west side of the second floor, but it didn't matter.

I ended up where I wanted to be… eventually.

"Fucking magic castle…" I grumbled, adjusting the scarf around my neck.

All things considered, it wasn't all that surprising that I had a cold. Madam Pomfrey could probably fix me some kind of potion to help but either way, it wasn't all too bad. A slight headache and regular cold symptoms aside, I felt alright.

Just as I cleared the staircase I spotted a familiar brown-haired boy on his way out of the Hospital Wing.

"Hello Remus." I stopped and smiled at him.

He jumped, placing a hand on his chest. "O-Oh, hi Cyrus."

"What's wrong?"

He smiled nervously. "W-What do you mean?"

"We're in the Hospital Wing." I said.

He blinked before nodding in understanding. "I've just been feeling a little lightheaded, is all."

"Have you seen Madam Pomfrey?" I stepped into the room.

"She stepped out to go and get something, I think." he replied. "She said that she'd be back in a little bit though."

I nodded. "See you later in Transfiguration, I think?" I yawned as I rubbed my eyes.

"Y-Yeah we have Transfiguration and Charms together." he said.

He fingered the collar of his shirt, his eyes darting around the room. It wouldn't take a genius to realise he wasn't all too happy right now. And whilst it wasn't really any of my business, I felt some pity for him.

"Oi," I said, breaking him out of his thoughts. "You okay?"

He sighed, running his hand through his hair. "... Yeah, I'm fine. I should probably head down to breakfast."

He started to walk off.

"Remus." he stopped. "If you don't feel like being around people right now, head down to the kitchens. It's near the Great Hall. Just take the stairs heading down— where you usually see us Hufflepuffs going at the end of dinner. There'll be a painting of a fruit bowl. Tickle the pear and you should be allowed through. The House Elves would be happy to give you food, trust me."

He blinked. "Wait, are we even allowed into the kitchens?"

"There aren't any rules against it, as far as I'm aware. My common room is opposite the kitchens, so I pop in there for a snack sometimes. Oh! That reminds me. Can you ask Dippy to set aside some pastries for me? I probably won't make it to the Great Hall so I'll come down to the kitchens too. He's got grey eyes and some of his left ear isn't there."

He nodded. "Cyrus?"

"What is it?"

The boy smiled at me. "Thank you."

I couldn't help but be reminded of my little brother when he smiled and quickly looked away.

"Anytime." I replied, walking into the Hospital Wing.

I spotted the Matron placing some filled vials into a cupboard, though she stopped once she noticed me.

"Hello there young man. I'm Madam Pomfrey." she smiled. "What can I help you with?"

"Hello Madam Pomfrey. I'm Cyrus Azar." I said, returning the smile enthusiastically. "Peeves dumped some cold water on me yesterday, and now I've a cold. Do you have anything that can help with that?"

"That damned poltergeist. He's been here since I was your age and probably before then too." she rummaged through the cupboard to her left. "Not even Dumbledore can do much about him— or so it's said. Personally, I think he enjoys the chaos Peeves brings."

I found myself agreeing with her. Someone as powerful as Dumbledore could probably get rid of Peeves quite easily, but here we are and he's still around bothering people.

"Here's some Pepperup. You'll be fine after drinking it." she slid me a vial holding vibrant red liquid. "I'll have you sit here for about ten minutes until the steam stops."

I eyed the vial warily but eventually uncorked the vial with a shrug and knocked it back. Big mistake. My throat burned as I swallowed it, gagging at the taste. The effects were immediate. Warmth spread out from my stomach and all over my body. At first it was pleasant, but it slowly grew hotter, forcing me to strip off my scarf and outer robes.

Even then, it felt as if I was sitting next to a furnace.

"Oh…" I plopped down on the bed and blinked owlishly at the woman, steam rushing out of my ears. "This is weird."

She chuckled. "The steaming will stop in a couple of minutes. You'll be free to go afterwards."

I lifted my jumper and shirt, grimacing. "That's not the only thing." the woman stopped to look at me, gasping at the sight of my back.

"Who did this?" she said. I couldn't see her face, but I could tell she was beyond pissed from her voice alone.

Question was, was I prepared to name and shame Bellatrix? There was a pretty significant chance that she'd make it her life's mission to fuck me over if I did.

"It doesn't matter." I said, and as much as it pissed me off, there wasn't much I could do against Bellatrix right now.

She sighed at that. "If you don't tell me anything, I can't help you, Cyrus."

I chewed on my lip. If I told her, sure she'd help me, but then I'd have a pissed off Bellatrix to watch out for. Snitches get stitches and all that.

"It's alright, I promise." I said woodenly.

Madam Pomfrey was silent for a moment. "... I see. Is there anything else I can do to help you?"

"Outside of helping with these welts? I don't think so." I sighed. "Thanks for the offer."

She ordered me to remove my shirt and worked in silence, slathering my back in a foul smelling, slimy ointment. I lay on the bed whilst waiting for my skin to absorb the salve. By the time it did, all the pain was gone, and I assumed the welts had been healed.

"Alright." she said as I slipped my shirt back on. "I'm done."

"Thank you, Madam Pomfrey."

She screwed the lid onto the ointment and smiled— though it seemed strained. "Not a problem, Cyrus. This is what I'm paid to do after all. I'm only sorry that I can't do much else to help you."

I grinned. "No worries. If I get banged up, I know who to come to now."

She shook her head and sent me off to breakfast.

OOOO

Remus Lupin

He stared at the countless eyes boring into him wordlessly. It wasn't that he was afraid, but the creatures' stares were unnerving. The elves hadn't stopped cooking at all, they merely worked in silence now, pausing every once in a while to glance at him from above the bubbling pots.

Remus broke the silence first. "H-Hello there." his voice cracked and the young werewolf smothered his embarrassment.

A bearded, older-looking elf walked over towards him. A slightly off-centre ragged chef's hat sat atop his head. "What can old Codger do for you, little wolf-wizard?"

Remus' heart leapt up to his mouth. "W-Why do you call me 'wolf-wizard'?"

The elderly elf stared at him blankly. "Are you not both wolf and wizard?" Codger asked before he wordlessly hobbled back to the giant pot at the back of the room.

His eyes followed Codger as he made his way to the pot. Remus started to hurry after him but another elf swiftly caught up to him and tugged on his robes, stopping him from going any further. "What is Dippy be helping you with, little wolfie?"

Ignoring the way the elves seemed to address him, his eyebrows rose in recognition as the elf introduced himself. "You're Dippy?"

It nodded, flapping its rather large ears. Though as Cyrus had described, a part of his left ear really did look like it had been chewed off. "Yes."

"Um, Cyrus told me about you and asked if you could set aside some breakfast for him."

Upon hearing his friend's name—at least Remus thought they were friends—the elf's face brightened. "Cyrus?! Dippy is doing it now!"

Dippy seemed poised to rush away before turning back to him, his grey eyes widening. "Is little wolfie wanting breakfast too?"

Remus sighed, realising he couldn't stop the elves from referring to his curse without hurting their feelings. The little he'd read about them during the holidays told him that much.

"Yes, Dippy," he smiled. "I'd like some breakfast."

The elf squealed in delight and dragged him by the leg to a low table in the centre of the room. "Just be waiting. Dippy will bring breakfast soon."

He could only nod in the face of such enthusiasm. A few minutes later, an array of pastries had been laid out before him— far more than he'd expected. There were croissants, pain au chocolat, bridies, bowls of fruit and jugs of water and orange juice.

He thanked the eager elf to which he replied, "No, no, thank you, little wolfie. Dippy is not leaving kitchens often and Cyrus visits Dippy every day. Dippy is grateful that you is doing the same today."

The painting swung open, a soft breeze caressing the back of Remus' robes. He turned around curiously.

"Cyrus!" the elf cried, rushing forwards and wrapping itself around the boy's leg.

"Hello Dippy." Cyrus smiled. "How're you doing today?"

The elf glowed at the question. "Dippy is doing very well, thank you very much." he backed away and dragged him towards Remus. "Look, Dippy be feeding your friend, little wolfie."

His heart leapt up to his throat.

Cyrus laughed. "'Little Wolfie', huh?"

Remus bit into a croissant and tried his best to not look the least bit rattled. But it was a hard thing to do when his entire life could fall apart at any given moment. Thankfully, Cyrus didn't comment on the odd nickname, both confusing and calming him.

Honestly, Remus didn't really know what to make of him. He was nice— awfully so, and he always seemed to smile. But he was weird too. He didn't feel like all the other people in his year. From the way he spoke, to how he was. It was more like talking to his dad or a professor than someone his age.

"What've you got here today?" Cyrus asked.

"There is lots of pastries." the elf explained, crossing his arms over his concave chest. His voice quietened and his leathery ears folded against his head. "But if you is not wanting them, Dippy will go and make something else…"

"No, it's fine, Dippy." Cyrus smiled. "I think I'd love to have some pastries, right Remus?"

The young werewolf quickly broke himself free of his thoughts and nodded. "Yes. These taste amazing, Dippy."

His grey orbs swam with tears and the elf's bottom lip began to quiver. "R-Really? You is telling the truth?"

Remus nodded.

"Your food is amazing, Dippy, honestly." Cyrus added, reaching over to pick up one. "Do you want to eat one too?"

Dippy tentatively stretched out his hand, taking the pastry from the other boy. He bit into it and nodded. "They is tasting good." he looked between the both of them and smiled. "Dippy hopes you is enjoying the food."

He watched the elf race back towards one of the pots before turning to Cyrus. "Why were you in the Hospital Wing anyways?"

The boy snorted lightly, sipping from his goblet. "I had a cold because of Peeves."

"What did he do?" Remus asked curiously.

"I was on the stairs yesterday and he dumped a bucket of freezing water on me." Cyrus admitted. "I was shivering for hours before I could get somebody to dry me."

Remus winced. "Yeah, Peeves is horrible. The other day I watched him pelt a few Gryffindors with wet tissue because they were late to one of their classes. I hope somebody exorcises him."

Cyrus smiled and raised his goblet. "I'll drink to that."

Remus eyed him. "What do you mean?"

He shook his head with a smile. "Nevermind. You're too young."

Remus didn't understand what he meant by that considering they were the same age but he cast the thought aside in favour of eating some more pastries. Soon, they'd finished their breakfast and thanked Dippy one last time before heading towards their respective lessons.

They travelled up the stairs to the entrance hall and Cyrus turned back to him. "What do you have now, anyways?"

"Herbology with Slytherin." he hung his head and sighed.

Cyrus hissed. "I don't envy you, that's for sure." he said. "I've got Potions with Gryffindor, which isn't too bad."

Remus sighed. "At least Professor Sprout is nice. But I really don't like some of the Slytherins. Snape doesn't seem to be too bad though."

Cyrus blinked owlishly. "... Is that so?"

Remus nodded and stepped out onto the Great Hall. "I'm going to join the rest of my house but Cyrus?"

"What is it?"

"Thank you."

A grin stretched itself across the Hufflepuff's face. "No worries. I'd say we're friends, right?"

Remus blinked, not expecting the blunt statement.

"... I guess we are." he murmured before nodding. "Yes. We're friends."

Cyrus wandered off to the Hufflepuff table leaving the brown-haired boy alone to stew over his thoughts.

"Friends, huh?" he muttered, taking a seat on the Ravenclaw table.

"What's wrong, Lupin?" asked one of the Ravenclaw prefects: Esmeralda Goshawk.

Remus looked up and smiled. "Nothing. But Esmeralda?"

"Yes?"

"I think I've made a friend."

She stared at him before smiling. "Is that so?" she bumped his shoulder with her own. "Well, I'm happy for you."

Remus ducked his head a little lower, hiding his embarrassed flush from view, or so he hoped. Hogwarts seemed to be everything that he'd dreamt of… and more.

OOOO

Cyrus Azar

"Damned Walrus!" Cadmus growled, stomping his way to the front of the group.

With Potions over, we were dragging our hungry—and cold—arses from the Dungeons to the Great Hall. By now, most of my house had a general idea of where to go but it'd become some kind of habit for them to trail behind me.

"I mean he's not even trying to be subtle about it!" his face flushed thanks to his impassioned outburst. "It's always the ones with famous families or some insane talent. What about the rest of us, huh?! We can't all be like Pettigrew and Aberffraw!"

He muttered a few curses underneath his breath.

I snorted. "Well, you're not wrong." I sighed. "But trust me, it could have been far worse…"

Like Snape. Currently, he was a pretty alright kid. Respected dedication and creative thinking and all that from what I'd seen. But as an adult? He was a fucking piss-poor professor and an even shittier person.

"How?" Cadmus asked.

"Trust me," I shook my head. "You could do far worse than Slughorn. Sure he likes to build connections with promising students, but at least he won't give up on us. He makes sure to teach us all properly, regardless of family background and aptitude. What if he completely disregarded everybody outside of the talented and wealthy?"

Cadmus frowned. Deep down, he knew I was right, but from what I'd seen of him, he was way too prideful to admit it.

"Whatever." he grumbled, continuing to stomp up the stairs.

I ruffled my hair and snorted. Kids man. Sometimes they were super mature and other times they acted completely contrary to that.

"Don't worry about Cadmus." a tall brown-haired boy drawled, brushing his brown locks out of his eyes— I think his name was Michael or something. "He can never admit when he's wrong."

Ellie, a short mousy haired girl, nodded her head furiously. "We've known each other since we were seven. He's always like that. But he's a good person."

"Yeah, I figured." I agreed. "Let's keep going."

We entered the hall and there were already quite a few people seated. I led my year over to the Hufflepuff table, but not before meeting the eyes of Bellatrix. Since the Slytherin table was across from my own, I ended up looking straight at her.

Her lips parted and she gave me a small, self-satisfied smile. A smile that made my blood boil. Though if I let any of my emotions show on my face, I knew I'd be giving her a reason… No, an excuse to come after me. But if she really felt like it, I knew she'd come after me anyways so I stared back defiantly.

The little I'd seen of her told me that she was just that sadistic. It didn't matter that I was eleven and she was seventeen, bordering on eighteen. She did what she did because she could. And there was nobody around to stop her— not really anyways.

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, bringing my focus back to the table as I did so.

"Merlin, Cyrus." Viola laughed from a few seats away from us first-years. "At this point, I should give you my badge and be done with it. You're pretty much doing my job for me."

I smiled at her. "I mean from the first day onwards, these lot have pretty much been following me around the castle. I don't mind it too much anyways. They make for great conversation."

I ignored the indignant squawk from Cadmus and a few other Hufflepuffs.

"What do you all have next then?" she asked.

"Defence Against the Dark Arts." Ellie answered. She immediately shied away from all the eyes on her though.

Viola mistook it for nerves. "Don't worry about Professor Brezova— I just had her." she said. "She's fair, but she's also stern when she needs to be. So long as you listen to her instructions, there's no reason to be nervous about anything."

"Besides," I spoke up. "What's the worst that could happen, right?"

I had no idea how much I'd regret those words when it was all said and done with.

OOOO

Brezova began the lesson by cycling through the class register. Her eyes scanned the class as she made a mental note of every student's face.

"Eleanor Allanach?"

"H-Here Professor."

"Thomas Avery?"

"Here."

"Cyrus Azar?"

"Here Professor."

She cycled through quite a few more names before approaching the last few people on the register.

"Cadmus McCallan?"

"Afternoon Professor!"

"Michael McConnell?"

"Here Professor."

"Arthur Mulciber?

"Over here Professor."

"And lastly, Severus Snape?"

"Present."

She rolled up the parchment and set it aside with a flick of her wand. Another smooth arc and the drapes were shut, casting the room into sudden darkness. The candles mounted along the walls lit up one by one until we could see around us once more. A few stray beams of light poked through the gaps in the curtains but now that there was some light, they weren't as noticeable.

"The Dark Arts…" Brezova said, her voice low— slightly accented but her English was flawless. She was loud enough to be heard by me and I sat at the very back of the classroom. "I can't claim to be an expert in teaching but what I can tell you with certainty is that I have seen spells so abominable that they are scarcely mentioned anywhere. Be that textbooks, or obscure covens and tribes across the world. Spells that have but only one directive: to destroy in the most wicked and cruellest ways possible. But what are the Dark Arts? Can anyone tell me?"

I raised my hand.

"Yes Azar?"

"The Ministry defines the Dark Arts as any spell cast with the intent to maim, injure, or kill another living being." her face remained impassive at my answer but I wasn't done. "But, I have a definition of my own."

She cocked an eyebrow. "Oh really? What's this definition of yours then?"

"The Dark Arts are spells that are created by those who worship power and nothing else. All else is abandoned in the pursuit of power: family, friends, morality, it doesn't matter. Everything that gets in the way of that is systematically dismantled in ways so brutal that it would give people nightmares for days on end."

Brezova whistled. "Spot on. Ten points to Hufflepuff. As Azar said, the Dark Arts are spells that are made with one goal in mind: power. But make no mistake, never should it be revered. The power that one gains from the Dark Arts will never be worth what was sacrificed to get there. Yes, Mulciber?"

"But, professor," he said, and without having to see him, I could already hear the cocky smirk in his voice. "In the end, isn't power, power? If you have power, then you can do anything, right?"

It took me a while to register what Mulciber had actually said, but when it finally hit me, I screwed my eyes shut in frustration. I knew the Slytherins of the Marauders Era were fanatics, but this was really pushing the boundary.

"Is that what you think?" Brezova asked, her voice no more than a whisper. It was cold, and instantly forced me to sit up. "That studying the Dark Arts is a viable pursuit to power? That is what you said, correct?"

"... Yes." he said, sounding a lot less sure of himself.

"Tell me, Mulciber, if you were told to sacrifice a newborn child in order to strengthen your ability to channel magic, would you do so?"

"N-No Professor."

"Would you rape innumerable women for a chance at power?"

"N-No Professor?"

"Would you murder wantonly and toy with the lives of others?"

"N-No Professor."

"Then answer this for me once more." Brezova said. "Do you still believe that power born from atrocities such as that will be worth it in the end?"

The class was silent until his trembling voice spoke up again, giving Brezova the same answer as before: "N-No Professor."

She stared at him for a moment longer before moving on. "Those who practise the Dark Arts are called Dark Wizards— and the strongest amongst them Dark Lords and Dark Ladies. I am not here to teach you the intricacies of the Dark Arts. But I'm merely showing you the reality of life outside of the castle walls. Whilst you are here, you are all safe. Now some of you may go through your lives without seeing any conflict, but for others, there is a very real possibility of it in your immediate futures."

There was a tense silence at her words.

Her voice softened a fraction. "Nonetheless, this is what I'm here for. Now, please turn to page seven of 'The Dark Forces: A Guide to Self Protection' and place your wands on the table."

The little hiccup from Mulciber aside, the lesson passed by pretty smoothly. After the introduction, Brezova had done a one-eighty and started on Imps.

"Now, Imps aren't that dangerous at all. They are easily dispatched by a properly cast Knockback Jinx." her wand was trained on a straw dummy that had been wheeled into class minutes earlier. "Like so: Flipendo."

The dummy was sent hurtling backwards until it smacked against the wall and clattered to the ground.

"This charm will be covered both by myself—next lesson—and by Professor Flitwick. In fact, you will often find that there is some overlap with what you are learning in both Charms and Transfiguration. Does anyone want to hazard a guess as to why?"

Surprisingly, Snape was the one to answer this one.

"Yes Snape?"

"Defence Against the Dark Arts is essentially Charms and Transfiguration applied in a situational and often combat related context." his voice was silkily smooth, even at the age of eleven.

"Correct. Five points to Slytherin."

A dark haired boy sitting beside him gave him a good-natured clap to the back and Snape smiled. Despite having only been around him for a couple of lessons now, I couldn't help but be surprised by how… childlike he was. I'd expected him to be at least a little contemptuous but instead, he was mostly calm outside of studying— something he took more seriously than life itself. Other than that, he left others to their own devices and expected them to do the same.

"Now, does anyone want to volunteer?"

I immediately raised my arm. Partly because I needed the recognition from my year group, but also because I'd been practising a few charms in my spare time.

Brezova waved me over. "Come on up then, Azar."

I waltzed between the desks, feeling the class' curious eyes follow me all the way to the front of the room— Snape's in particular. Once I arrived, I squared up a little ways in front of the downed straw man. A small flick of Brezova's wand and the dummy was lifted off the ground.

"Okay, the spell is pronounced: fli-PEN-do. Make sure to stress the second syllable, alright?" Brezova instructed, an encouraging hand placed on my shoulder. She lightly grasped my wrist and guided my hand in the proper wand movement. "You ready?"

I nodded, my jaw set, firmly picturing the desired effect of the spell in my mind. Then, I cast. "Flipendo!"

A burst of white light and the next thing I knew, the dummy smashed against the wall with a sharp crack. I smiled, noticing that there was splintered wood where its arms should be. A little too forceful, perhaps, but I mostly had the spell down.

Turning back, I swiftly sheathed my wand and smiled. "I did it, Professor."

She eyed my holster appreciatively— or at least I thought she did. "Evidently so." she said. "Perhaps next time, try not to maim the demonstration dummy?"

I felt an embarrassed flush crawl over my cheeks but remained calm. "My bad."

"Not a problem, Azar. Another ten points to Hufflepuff. Now, back to your seat." she trailed her wand through the air and I swore I heard her mutter something.

The dislodged pieces of wood shot back onto the arm and soon afterwards, it was as if I'd never broken the dummy in the first place. The Repairing Charm sure was nifty, huh?

I took my seat once more and gathered my notes for the lesson. Defence Against the Dark Arts was mainly a practical class. There wasn't much I could do to study ahead other than note down some facts on magical creatures but I relished in the opportunity. So far, the class was interesting and the professor competent.

"Merlin," I grumbled. "How does anyone learn anything if they change professors every year…"

"Did you say something, Azar?" Cadmus asked, turning back to me.

"No, nothing Cadmus. Nothing at all…"

He blinked, but slowly turned back to watch the next person step up to try out the Knockback Jinx on the newly repaired dummy.


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Chapter 8: The Wheel Turns
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OOOOO
The Wheel Turns
OOOOO


I grunted, pulling myself up until my chin was nestled firmly above the bar, my arms shaking from exertion. With each pull-up, the burning in my limbs grew, but there was something oddly cathartic about it.

Pain is weakness leaving the body, eh?

Even under the blissful strain of working out, I managed to chuckle a little. Though as I did so, my damp fingers slipped off the bar and I yelped, bracing myself to fall properly. My feet thudded against the stone floor, but I was otherwise unhurt.

"Bloody hell…" I cursed. Despite my legs begging me to stay, I jumped up to grasp the bar tightly once more. "Alright, one more time…"

Over and over again I pulled myself up and down, relishing in the soreness my muscles felt. In some way, it both centered and assured me that progress—however small it was—was being made. Once I was done with my set of pull-ups, I hopped down and walked over to the weight training bench to finish off the last few exercises I had left.

By the time I'd finished, my entire body was pulsing and my limbs felt like jelly. I couldn't help but have a self-satisfied grin across my face. Hogwarts itself was the biggest cheat imaginable for me. I had access to nutritious food, a pretty good magical education, and a room that facilitated all of my needs.

What wasn't there to love?

Talking about the room, I'd found that on top of copying the things in the castle, if your needs were attainable via Transfiguration, then it'd fulfil them. Hence my current training room.

After a quick shower, I slipped on my robes with a grateful sigh and tied my wand holster into place.

"Tempus." I muttered, twirling my wand clockwise.

The Tempus Charm was one that I'd found in the Charms book I'd repaired in my first lesson. It was a Charm that told the time, and it had an alarm variant— something that I was grateful for. My only complaint was the fact that I couldn't change the alarm to something less… Ear piercing. Perhaps that was something I could try and tinker around with someday, I thought, tying my watch around my wrist.

"Ten minutes till breakfast." I muttered, spinning on my heel. "Better head back to the common room before everyone heads off without me."

Whilst I could've just gone straight to the Great Hall, I'd found over the course of the last month that I quite enjoyed the presence of my housemates— even if they managed to annoy me sometimes. But whenever they became too much, I mysteriously "vanished" to cool down. No matter how much I liked the kids, the fact remained that I was eighteen and they were eleven.

There wasn't really anyone around the main castle outside of Mr. Pringle since he was the castle's caretaker. I didn't really know what to expect until I met the man, and even then, he blew my expectations out of the park… And not in a good way.

I chanced upon him just as I passed the Great Hall. He was floating over numerous golden platters and cutlery when he saw me. Mr. Pringle was an elderly fellow, sported a head of full grey hair falling down to his neck, and a bushy moustache not unlike the Pringles Man. But that's as far as the resemblance went. His face could only be described as evil with a perpetual frown that was currently directed towards me.

"Oi!" he called out.

I stopped and pointed to myself. "You mean me?"

He rolled his eyes. "No, I mean the idiot standing at the door— yes I mean you, you halfwit!"

The hell was his deal? Regardless, I wiped the frown from my face and walked over to him.

"What can I help you with, sir?"

"'Sir'," he scoffed. "Well, you, at the very least, know to respect your elders."

I'd sooner sit through a day's worth of Binns' lectures, but I didn't know if he was allowed to beat students so I wisely kept my thoughts to myself. Filch certainly wasn't allowed to but it was the seventies, not the nineties.

"What are you doing out of bed?" he frowned, folding his arms over his chest.

"Sir, it's seven in the morning."

He narrowed his eyes at me. "... What are you up to?"

"I just got back from exercising."

He blinked, evidently not expecting me to say so. "Really?"

I watched the man mutter to himself, his great moustache twitching as he did so. It was amusing to watch the conflict flash across his face. Eventually, though, he concluded that I wasn't worth the effort.

"Get out." he decided, floating over a teapot. "And stay out of trouble, you hear me?"

I swore that I would and continued on towards the common room. When I arrived, most people were getting ready to leave for breakfast.

"Cyrus, over here!" I was waved over by Michael and joined the rest of my year.

"Where were you?" Ellie asked. "We knocked on your door, but you weren't answering."

A couple of people nodded, bringing a smile to my face. These lot were just too damn cute.

"I was outside exercising."

"Why, Cyrus?" Cadmus spoke up from one of the golden sofas to my right. He was splayed across it, his leg hanging off the side. "Are you trying to get onto the Quidditch team or something?"

"I'm a first-year, McCallan, I can't play Quidditch. I just like to exercise." not like I could tell him I was working out because of Bellatrix, right?

He rolled his eyes and sat up.

I suppressed a snort at the thought. I still had some pride left. Then again, I did enjoy exercising. It was one of the few things left from my previous life that I could hold onto. Plus it helped to energise me for the day ahead, which was always something I was grateful for.

"Are we waiting on anyone else?" I asked the small crowd. Since nobody spoke out, I assumed that everyone was here. "Alright then. Let's go."

OOOO

Slughorn stood just behind a large cauldron at the front of the class. Clad in the proper protective equipment: dragonhide gloves, goggles, and an apron. He began the lesson as boisterously as he usually did— which was to say, very.

"Good morning, children!" he grinned. "How are you all today?"

There was a general hum of "good" around the class.

I sighed and nudged Michael with my elbow. "You reckon there'll be one day where he just crashes. You can't be this happy every single day of the week, right?"

He tilted his head, briefly showing his curious hazel eyes. "I'm not sure. He's a lot better than dreary Binns though."

Not knowing what else to say, I turned back to the front of the class as Slughorn began to speak some more.

"In the spirit of All Hallow's Eve—or Samhain, a more recherché term for the celebration used by the wealthier members of society—we shall be brewing an… interesting potion." Slughorn said with a knowing smile. "Before you, you will see an assortment of ingredients. Flitterby Moths, Bouncing Bulbs, and some Foxglove. Can anyone tell me what these ingredients are used to brew?"

I hadn't the foggiest idea. I didn't remember ever reading about such a Potion at all. I glanced at an equally clueless Michael.

"This isn't a potion that is on the Potions syllabus or in any of your textbooks. As I said, in the spirit of All Hallow's Eve, your lessons will be taking quite the amusing turn today." Slughorn smiled.

From the front of the class, a hand snaked upwards. Something that Slughorn noticed almost immediately.

"Yes, Mr. Aberffraw," he smiled.

"I believe that these are the ingredients to the Pompion Potion?" he asked, a little unsure.

Slughorn's smile widened. "Correct! Ten points to Gryffindor. Pray tell, how did you know what the potion was?"

"My parents are Potioneers." he said, his voice a little subdued.

Slughorn's eyebrows rose. "Christopher and Esmé Aberffraw, eh? I had the great pleasure of teaching them myself. A genius couple who are well-renowned in Potioneer circles across Europe. In fact, they send me a beautification potion every year on my birthday." he chuckled, his great stomach jiggling as he did so. "It seems that you've inherited their great talents!"

From beside me, Michael turned to me, sticking a finger in his mouth and pretending to gag. Nobody from my house seemed to like Slughorn very much. I wondered if it was a result of one of the many changes to the world but something told me that the same thing would've happened even without them.

Aberffraw ducked his head and squeaked. "Thank you sir!"

Slughorn smiled at him. "You are quite welcome, my boy!" he assured.

I rolled my eyes at his blatant attempt at ingratiating himself with the kid. It wasn't like I could fault him though. His whole Slug Club deal wasn't a one-sided thing. Both he and the children who joined benefitted from the networking sessions that those dinner parties really were. I'd go as far as to say that it prepared them pretty well for later life.

Still, in the spirit of fairness, I didn't agree with the man. But was life really fair in the first place?

"Now, as Mr. Aberffraw has just said, the potion that you will all be brewing is the Pompion Potion. Its effect…" he gave the boy a conspiratory smile. "...Well, Mr. Aberffraw and I will keep that one to ourselves, I think. Now, if you all move closer to my cauldron—not that close Mr. McCallan—I will give you a demonstration showing the correct way to brew it."

Slughorn ran through the steps to brew the potion, making sure everyone was wearing the proper protective equipment to shield them from anything if an accident were to occur.

"By the end of all this, your potion should turn orange— like so. Not too bright, but not too dark. Just right." he wiped the sweat that had accumulated on his rather broad forehead. "Make sure to have a firm handle over your Bouncing Bulbs lest you look forward to chasing your plant around. And once more, I say this at the risk of sounding like a bit of a bore, be careful with the Foxglove. It is a highly toxic plant that will send you straight to the Hospital Wing if it doesn't kill you first."

He pointed towards the blackboard just behind him. "If your focus slipped during my demonstration, have no worry. The instructions are on the board behind me and if you have any questions, any at all, feel free to call me over." he nodded once more before walking back to his desk.

We all trailed back to our respective workstations.

"Okay…" I rolled my sleeves up to my elbows and hunched over the table. My eyes scanned over the ingredients on the desk and just as I was about to reach for the pestle and mortar, I felt a gloved hand grasp my now bare forearm.

"You handle the Foxglove and stirring and I'll handle the crushing." Michael said.

I shrugged and began to slice the Foxglove. Was it more work for me? Definitely. But overall, it didn't seem to be too hard.

Michael began by crushing the Flitterby Moth to a pulp before casting it into the bubbling cauldron. Next, he moved to pick up the Bouncing Bulb, but it was too quick for him. Thankfully, I had my eye trained on it and caught it before it hopped off the table.

"Thanks, mate." Michael smiled, taking the wriggling plant out of my hands.

I sighed, but returned his smile. "Be a little careful with that, but you're welcome."

I stirred the mixture clockwise until it turned green, stepping back and waiting for Michael to finish with the Bouncing Bulb. He soon added the now ground plant to the cauldron and I stirred—this time anti-clockwise—until it was a burning red.

"Michael," I said. "Throw in the sliced Foxglove."

He did so, and I stirred the cauldron until it was orange before bringing it to a low simmer— a little too dim, I thought, but I supposed it was at least an 'Exceeds Expectations' grade. I was pretty happy with that, in all honesty. For a subject I didn't have too much interest in, I reckoned it was a solid grade.

By the time we'd finished, the rest of the pairs were either finishing up, or had already finished.

"It seems that you're all finished, then." Slughorn slid off his stool and wandered around the class, assessing the potions as he did so.

"A little too bright. You didn't grind your Bouncing Bulb enough, but it's safe to drink. The effect will just last for a little less longer than usual." He moved around the class, doling out criticism and praise alike. "The same to you two. Perhaps next time…"

After a few solid minutes of watching him waddle around the class, he arrived at our cauldron.

"Very nice, very nice…" he leaned over and inspected our cauldron before straightening and clasping his hands over his stomach. "Slightly too dim. Most likely because you didn't crush the Flitterby Moth enough. But otherwise? A very good potion."

He hobbled away to the next workstation and Michael groaned just as he did so.

"I'm sorry, Cyrus," he frowned. "This is my fault."

I smiled at him. "Nah, it doesn't really matter to me." I leaned in close. "Don't tell old Sluggy this, but I don't really care too much about Potions."

He blinked before snorting. "'Old Sluggy'?"

I shrugged and took a seat on one of the stools as we waited for Slughorn to finish.

"Okay," he called out, now back at the front of the class. "Those whose potions I've deemed safe to consume, get ready to drink them. Everyone else, you should have a dose of a safe potion to drink. I'd like you all to drink them on the count of three."

I uncorked my vial and held it out to Michael. "Cheers?"

He brought his vial to my own. "Cheers"

"Three!" Slughorn began to count down. "Two! Uncork your potions." the classroom echoed with pops. "And one!"

I eyed the orange liquid and sloshed it around. For the briefest of moments, I wondered what would happen but cast the thought aside as I downed it. "Bottoms up."

At first, it was slightly sour, but mostly tasted like nothing— plain.

"Ugh…" I shook my head—which for some reason felt oddly heavy—and turned to Michael. "That tasted weir—!"

Too surprised to censor myself, I yelled out. "What the fuck?!"

Slughorn immediately docked five points for that and I had to stop myself from laughing out loud. The irony was hilarious to me.

I looked around the classroom and everyone, including myself, were sporting jack-o'-lanterns for heads. Once the novelty wore off, I wondered, a little nervously, when our heads would turn back to normal.

Slughorn beamed at us, spreading his hands outward. "A happy Allhallows to all!" he grinned. "And for those who are clued in on the more esoteric side of wizarding culture, I shall say to you this: tonight is the night when the veil between the dead and the alive thins and you get a glimpse of the spooky world…so enjoy it, and have as much fun as possible!"

I shook my head once more and almost toppled over. Leaning on the table to right myself, I used my other hand to push my head up. This lesson was many things— the chief of which being odd, but a close second was interesting.

After we wished him a happy Allhallows in return, we left the classroom and headed off to break. And as weirded out as I was by my new cranium, it would be a lie if I said that the second glances we got as we trailed through the Entrance Hall were anything less than hilarious.

OOOO

As Slughorn had said, the lessons for the rest of the day were Halloween themed. Some were interesting, others didn't seem too different than normal. Like Transfiguration where Professor McGonagall had us attempting to change a rod into a candlestick. Or in Charms, where Professor Flitwick was teaching the Wand-lighting Charm. Though he did tell us that it had the added effect of scaring away bothersome ghosts, which wasn't new to me.

Then there were classes that changed track altogether. In Herbology, we were making jack-o'-lanterns for the feast— not many were actually passable but a few of them were. And in History of Magic, Binns was telling us about the fiercest hags to grace the British Isles and for the first time ever, nobody fell asleep— not even Binns himself. Maybe the whole "thinning of the veil between life and death" was working, because the elderly ghost seemed to be a lot more spry.

A pity that it was a once a year kind of deal.

That left me—or rather us, since I wasn't alone—with one more thing left for the day: the feast. I don't know why I was so on edge on our way to the Great Hall but I was practically foaming at the mouth for something to go wrong. Something always went wrong on Halloween. In retrospect, though, I wasn't Harry Potter.

It turns out that we were early, and we walked in on Flitwick decorating the hall. He sent out a cutout bat and stuck it to the wall before he noticed us. "Oh, you're all a little early it seems. What lesson have you come from?"

Cadmus decided to answer him. "Herbology."

"Ah, yes," he smiled. "Pomo—" he stopped himself, his smile straining a little. "Professor Sprout told me about the jack-o'-lanterns you made earlier. She was especially happy with, I believe, Miss Allanach's pumpkin."

The girl blushed at the attention and decided to disappear into the crowd of badgers. She couldn't avoid the praise from us though. I leaned over and ruffled her mousy hair. "You should be proud, you know? You were the only jack-o'-lantern she took from our class."

"Thank you." she warbled, her flush fading.

Flitwick continued to levitate the bats and stick them to the wall. He stopped and perked up. "In that case, those of you who are proficient in the Levitation Charm, would you help me put these up? The side facing you has been charmed to stick to whatever surface it touches. I'd like you all to stick them around the hall. I shall not be disappointed if you refuse as this will be quite the straining ordeal— especially for ones so young."

Most people walked towards the Hufflepuff table but quite a few of us stuck around to help. In no time at all, we managed to stick up all of the decorations with time spare, much to Flitwick's glee.

"Very well done indeed!" he smiled and returned his wand to his holster. "Since there are eight of you here, that will be eighty very well-earned points to Hufflepuff!"

I watched our group share tired but excited whispers and proud smiles as we made our way to the table. As for me, I was a lot less tired than they were, mainly because I'd been exercising, but also thanks to my practice. Now, all that was left was to wait for the rest of the school to arrive.

It didn't take too long either. Soon, packs of students began to flock towards their tables, sharing grins and pointing at the decorations around the hall. I felt a small amount of pride at that, but quickly smothered it once I realised that all I did was put them up.

The last to enter the hall were the rest of the professors—barring Flitwick—who were led by Dumbledore. Most took their seats at the table, leaving the only person standing to be the Headmaster himself. He smiled through his rather long beard and his voice seemed to float across the hall.

"Welcome to our annual Hallowe'en feast!" he began. "A happy Allhallows, Samhain, and Hallowe'en to you all. I hope you have enjoyed the festivities today and are looking forward to the feast. I have but a few short notices before we begin, the most important of which being to our sixth-years. In a fortnight, there will be a careers fair just a stone's toss away in Hogsmeade Village. There you will be able to talk to numerous individuals about possible career choices. From active Aurors, to Healers, Enchanters, and perhaps you will be able to discuss the possibility of an apprenticeship with some of the masters visiting Hogsmeade for the fair."

No small amount of furious whispering broke out across the hall, but like the opening feast at the start of the year, Dumbledore silenced the hall by merely raising his hand.

"This next morsel applies to the seventh-years alone. For those of you who are seeking masteries in a given subject, do speak to your subject professors so you can discuss the opportunity in detail. As there are very limited spaces for each subject, I urge you all to be quick about it— the phrase "first come, first served" is quite apt in this case."

As soon as he was finished, mountains of food dropped onto the plates and jugs clattered against the wooden tables.

Dumbledore pushed his glasses up to the bridge of his nose. "Now, I believe it is time that we get stuck in!"

The feast wasn't all too different from regular meals outside of a few Hallowe'en specialities like some pumpkin pie. Of course you couldn't ever have a Hogwarts meal without the castle's staple: pumpkin juice. I didn't touch it with a ten-foot pole, more than content with water. I was just about done with my food, taking a few leisurely sips from my goblet, when Dumbledore stood up once more to close the end of the feast.

"I hope that you enjoyed the sumptuous food prepared by our House Elves. Now, onto the evening's activities…" he smiled.

As far as I could remember, I'd never read about any festive activities outside of Christmas. I tussled with the thought for a little before pushing it aside. It wasn't really all that important and only really meant that I'd have an evening to enjoy.

"This year's festivities will be a series of thrilling stories told by our very own Bloody Baron." Dumbledore said. Though his eyes suddenly began to twinkle completely out of the blue. "But… I know that our older years in particular like to have their own fun during this time of the year."

"Morgana's saggy tits!" I heard an older Hufflepuff curse. "How the hell does he know about that?!"

"Which is completely fine," Dumbledore continued. "Provided you make sure to remain safe and that the occasion is fun for all involved."

I heard the same Hufflepuff sigh in relief at that.

"That will be all." the Headmaster said. "For those who would like to join myself and some of the other professors in listening to the Bloody Baron's regaling tales, please remain seated. Otherwise, I wish you all a happy last few hours of the night. But before you all go, as it is Sunday, I ask that you do not let the revelry stretch on for too long. A healthy amount of sleep is paramount for proper growth, after all."

I watched on as most if not all of the older students left the hall. What they were planning to do, I hadn't the foggiest idea. But somehow, I had a sneaking suspicion that it involved something that would have Mr. Pringle throw a fit if he ever caught wind of it. I remained seated since I'd done everything I'd planned for today.

The candles mounted along the hall swayed lightly before winking out of existence, an eerie fog creeping into the hall from the only exit. A low howl echoed into the hall and I'm pretty sure I heard somebody whimper. Slowly but surely, a somewhat ghastly light bobbed up and down, casting the castle walls in an unearthly glow. It seemed that the bloodstained ghost had finally made an appearance. Groaning, I leaned back slightly and stretched out my neck.

If nothing else, I was in for a very long night.


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Great story! He could use the room of requirement to get loose change or train in duelling as well. What is the pairing going to look like in the future? No pairing, one girl, harem, etc?
 
Great story! He could use the room of requirement to get loose change or train in duelling as well. What is the pairing going to look like in the future? No pairing, one girl, harem, etc?
It'll be a single pairing fic. I don't like harems and will never write them.
 
Nice and well written story. While Cyrus is a bit boring for my taste and Hogwarts feels less magical- how can you skip the boat trip!?!- I'm happy you seem to have fun writing this story.

I will point out that while Hufflepuff is a fine pick, it's just feels like the least interesting option. And not to insult your work or anything, but it feels like this story is pretty slow already, there's not enough conflict. Put differently, writing about an adult turned into an 11 year old attending magic school needs a bit more zest for adults to read. You don't really go out of your way to make the building feel exciting or novel, the magic kinda feels formulaic, and your Cyrus is only active or interesting when other characters appear in the scene. His thoughts are smart, but not exactly clever or brilliant, and he doesn't seem special or anything beyond that.

The whole background of being an immigrant and poor doesn't do much to tug at my heartstrings because mentally, Cyrus has already lived a better childhood, one that seems to be apart of his identity. In fact, it doesn't really seem to be relevant at all when you consider he's more of an outcast for being a muggleborn, but again he's in a house where that's not really a conflict. It's just well, not really conducive to keeping an audience engaged. Cyrus is always emotionally even, he's not really wowed or sad, and when he is, it's not exactly expanded on. He's never really intimidated etc., and he comes off a generic npc. He doesn't feel passionate or passionate about anything, he's not timid nor bold, he's social but not friendly, he's smart but not quick, he plans but isn't OCD, etc. He's got no personality, beyond being over confident a bit. He's not an ideal character to build a story around.

I like you to think about a person who is a huge super fan of Harry Potter going to Hogwarts. They would lose their mind at everything and that excitement would transfer to the reader. In contrast, Cyrus is more grounded and talks about what house he prefers. By skipping to him being put on the stool, you mute his excitement at the whole ceremony of the event, and it reeks of going through the motions. There's no build up, no rising action, just hat on head. Not to mention Cyrus is thinking about having his preconceived notions validated rather than you breaking out your writing chops and rationalizing the sorting ceremony- maybe J.K. missed a reason and perhaps there is a different, deeper reason for the event.

Other stuff that bothers me, his use of the word "Merlin", and his easy adjustment. For the whole Melin swear, he's a muggleborn without parents. He'd never use that word a couple weeks into class. It's just immersion breaking. As for the adjustment, well he's went from about to become an adult and enjoy uni to a world where he doesn't seem bothered by the lack of tech, to a magical school with strangers. That's 3 huge life changes in a short amount of time and i feel didn't get enough attention.
 
Chapter 9: And Then There Were Two
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OOOOO
And Then There Were Two
OOOOO


Sirius Black

He was over the moon, and Sirius Orion Black had every reason to be. For once in his life, he had struck gold. He'd escaped his mother for a time, stuck it to his family by being sorted into Gryffindor, and had become fast friends with James all in the first week of school alone.

What was there not to love about his life?

"Even your soft-hearted great-aunt Dorea was a Slytherin! You are a shame upon this house!" she'd said. In fact, not only had she put all of it in writing—amongst other things that left the Great Hall completely gobsmacked— but she had also put it into a howler for the entire castle to hear.

Without a doubt in his mind, Sirius knew that the howler's contents could be heard far from the boundaries of the Great Hall. His mother just had that kind of voice: the kind that caused ear bleeding pain alongside possible, if not probable, deafness.

After all of those lessons on class and grace that he was forced to sit through and his mother sends him a howler to air out their family's dirty laundry? He had never seen something so hilarious. But it was to be expected, he supposed. There was no way his mother would ever love him. Not in the past, and certainly not now. And as far as Sirius was concerned, his mother could go bugger herself for all he cared.

He woke up that morning raring to go, a grin splitting his face the moment he opened his eyes. Today, like so many other days, was going to be amazing. Certainly not because he had been complemented by Professor Brezova on his wandwork the day before.

Definitely not.

Sirius quickly washed up before heading down to the common room. He searched over the room for a familiar face, something that he found almost immediately.

"Wotcher, Sirius!" the spectacled boy smiled from the desk nearest to the window.

"James." Sirius nodded back with a smile of his own. "What're you doing?"

"I'm…" James said, furiously scribbling away. "Getting this essay done."

"McGonagall's one?" Sirius guffawed. "That was set ages ago!"

"I know, I know," James sighed. "But I've been busy practising my flying and it's due tomorrow!"

It was no secret to Sirius that his friend wanted to join the Gryffindor Quidditch team. In fact, it was all he'd go on about from the minute he'd been sorted until now. Unfortunately, he couldn't join the house team this year, meaning Sirius was all he had to vent out his grievances to.

He strolled over to the desk, whispering his good mornings to the few students already up. There weren't really all that many awake since it was a Saturday but those who were smiled back at him.

"You know," he drawled. "If you really are as interested in flying as you say you are, maybe you should do your homework during the week so you're free on the weekends?"

James stared up at him and frowned. "But I don't want to."

Sirius huffed. "Well, you can't complain, then."

"Are you going to help me or do you want to stand there and poke fun at me for the rest of the morning?" he eventually asked.

Sirius rolled his eyes but complied. "Alright, budge up. I've got my essay written but I won't let you copy it. McGonagall is a bloodhound when it comes to homework, even if she's pretty nice. I'll still help you though."

And so Sirius spent the rest of the morning helping his friend complete his essay. It was only after they'd finished that he realised that they had unfortunately missed breakfast.

"What are we going to do?!" James fretted, quickly shoving his essay into his satchel. "If we don't have breakfast we won't have enough energy for the game later on in the afternoon!"

Sirius, whilst not as worried as James, couldn't ignore the panging of his empty stomach. Thankfully, a third-year by the name of Frank Longbottom noticed their plight and decided to help them out.

"Well, breakfast in the Great Hall might be over, but you can always head down to the kitchens, you know?" he said.

James immediately sped forwards without so much as a thank you before Sirius yanked him back by his robe. "Hold on there. Do you know where the kitchens are, James?"

James looked sheepish. "... No."

Sirius smirked. "I thought as much."

Longbottom smiled at the exchange. "You know where the Entrance Hall is? It's a little way off the Great Hall."

The two nodded.

"You'll find a set of stairs descending down into the basement," he continued. "On your left will be a set of barrels and on your right a painting of some fruit. Tickle the pear and it'll swing open to show you the kitchens."

Sirius thanked the older lion before rushing after his overeager friend. Sometimes, he thought that James would one day get himself into some deep shit with how he moved first and asked all the right questions afterwards. He eventually caught up with the bespectacled Gryffindor and was none the worse for wear.

That was the one and only time he'd thank his mother for all the tutoring he was forced to go through as a child. They'd only just walked past the Great Hall when Sirius noticed three familiar green-clad witches walking towards them.

"James…" Sirius hedged, slowing down from his brisk walk.

James stopped and turned back to his friend. "What's wrong?" he asked. Though soon, he too realised why his raven-haired friend had all but stopped walking and joined him in looking down the corridor at the approaching figures of Sirius' cousins.

The three Black sisters turned heads everywhere they walked when they were on their own— and even more so when they were together. At the centre of the group was Bellatrix Black. Since she was in her seventh year, most if not all of the student body had heard of her… reputation. Sirius, however, knew her more than the Hogwarts rumour mill ever would or ever could and he could attest to the fact that every single rumour of her was true.

He met her obsidian eyes. They were completely cold, but there were slight embers flickering within those murky depths. Embers that he quickly identified as anger.

To her immediate left was Narcissa— or Cissa to Sirius. Narcissa was only a year older than him, but still managed to lord it over him almost every chance she got. She was alright, he supposed, if a little too prim and proper. But just as Sirius did, she was likely so because her parents made her that way. Under all of the upper-class mannerisms and behaviours, Narcissa was blunt to a fault. There was nothing wrong with bluntness per se, only that it often coupled well with humour. Though his blonde-haired cousin, unfortunately, sorely lacked the latter.

And on Bellatrix's right was Andromeda, who was one year younger than her older sister. She stood out to Sirius. Where the other two Black sisters were unreadable, Andromeda was not. He liked that about her. Though she could pass as Bellatrix's twin, there was something undeniably different about Andromeda. Perhaps it was the way everything about her just felt warmer. Either way, Sirius didn't care. She was his favourite cousin, and that was that.

Her eyes warmed with affection the minute he met her gaze and she shot him a small smile behind the shoulders of her two stoic sisters.

He stood still, lost in his thoughts for long enough that the three sisters had already reached the two Gryffindor first-years by the time he'd broken free of them. James stood off to the side, his dark eyes flitting between the two parties nervously. Sirius sighed and turned to the boy who could only be described as his best friend.

"James," he roused his friend out of his shock. "Head on to the kitchens without me."

"But Sirius…" James tried, looking pointedly at the three Slytherin girls before him.

"Don't worry, James." Sirius smiled. "This won't take long."

He watched the indecision flash across James' face before his friend scuttled away, his eyes following him until he turned the corner and disappeared from his sight.

Despite his outward confidence, Sirius' mind was swimming with all sorts of what-ifs and maybes. True to himself though, he put on a brave front and turned to three sisters with as wide a grin as he could manage.

"Hello there my dear cousins!" he smiled, though it didn't quite reach his eyes. "What can little old me do for you three ladies today?"

Andromeda giggled and ruffled his hair. "Aww look at you, Siri!" she smiled. "You've grown heaps!" she said. "But you're still a little cutie to me, unfortunately."

For once, he let his smile reach his eyes. "Thanks, Andi." he said.

He frowned as Bellatrix shot her sister a scathing look that swiftly vanished all happiness from Andromeda's face.

Bellatrix turned back to him, her brow furrowed. "We, dear cousin," she parroted his early words, spitting them with such vitriol that it made even Narcissa flinch. "Are here to talk about you."

She gave him a sickly sweet smile and led the remaining three Blacks through the corridor and into an empty classroom. One lazy wave of her wand and it was slammed shut and with another, the lock clicked into place, leaving the four members of House Black completely alone.

Just his luck, he almost groaned. To be locked in a classroom with Bellatrix, what joy.

She traced her fingers over the wooden table, unearthing layers of dust as she inspected the tip of her ashen finger for a moment before blowing it away. "What I would like to know," she said, her voice dangerously calm. "Is what on earth you were thinking by being sorted into Gryffindor."

Sirius shrugged. "Well you know me, Bella," he drawled. "Always one for defying expectations. Wouldn't you agree? Cissa? Andi?"

Narcissa rolled her eyes, her face slightly amused, but mostly resigned. "We all knew it was coming, Siri, or at least I did. You're too brash and loud to be either a Slytherin or a Ravenclaw, and you definitely are not Hufflepuff material."

Andromeda looked affronted. "What do you mean he's not "Hufflepuff material", Cissa? Hufflepuff is a perfectly acceptable house. Might I add that Grandma Mellie was a Hufflepuff. "

She narrowed her eyes on the blonde-haired girl. When she got no reply, she turned back to Sirius. "Don't listen to Bella, Siri. I'd be proud of you no matter where you'd be sorted. Be that Hufflepuff," she stared pointedly at Narcissa. "Or Gryffindor." before turning her eyes onto an irate Bellatrix.

He smiled at the two girls, grateful now, more than ever, that they were willing to stand up for him— against Bellatrix of all people. Merlin, he couldn't imagine what living with her day in, day out, was like. Sirius found himself respecting the two girls more than he had ever done so before.

"Nothing wrong?!" Bellatrix's voice rose a little. "Nothing wrong? Us Blacks are not the common, oafish sort to be herded into Gryffindor or any of the other houses for that matter! Members of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Black are only fit for one place: and that is the illustrious house of our ancestor: Salazar Slytherin."

Andromeda huffed. "Come on Bella…"

But the eldest Black continued on. "And what this…" she stared at Sirius, half-angry half-exasperated. "... imbecile has done completely besmirched all of it. And what's worse is that it's him: the Heir Apparent."

"Nothing mother hasn't told me before…" Sirius sighed.

He thought that this conversation would be different. That perhaps Bellatrix would see reason, but he was quickly disillusioned of that. Honestly, he didn't know what he was thinking. Bellatrix of all people? Liking him being in Gryffindor? He had a better chance at making his grandfather smile.

Sirius shook his head and drew his wand. "If you've got nothing else to say to me, Bella, I'll be on my merry way. I've missed breakfast, after all." he gripped the handle of his wand and coiled it in a tight swirl. "Alohomora."

The door lock clicked, and Sirius grasped its handle and opened it wide.

"Andi, Cissa." he nodded to the other two girls and gave them small but grateful smiles before making his way towards the kitchen.

That talk may not have gone the way he wanted it to, but it could've been far, far worse.

OOOO

James Potter

He'd heard of Hogwarts from both his parents. A place that couldn't really be described by mere words, they'd said. James never really understood what they'd meant by that. Not until he'd gone to the castle for himself. The castle was everything he'd imagined and more. For someone who'd grown up amongst magic his whole life, Hogwarts was another thing entirely.

He'd taken to the place like a fish in water thanks to the invisibility cloak gifted to him by his father. It was an heirloom passed from father to son in the Potter family since time immemorial, he'd been told. With it, James explored every part of the castle that he could, and with months to do so, he thought that there wasn't a single room in the castle that he hadn't been in. Of course, he couldn't say that in full confidence since he discovered new things in the castle practically all the time.

Like the other day, where a loose brick in an unused classroom led to an entire underground duelling arena. James didn't have long to look around though, thanks to the abundance of mice and a single Doxy that had made its home there.

Hogwarts was a dream come true for James Potter. He could do all the exploring he wanted and even join a Quidditch team whilst learning under some of the most powerful witches and wizards that the United Kingdom had to offer. Not to mention that he was free to explore the centuries old castle. If he wasn't training his flight out on the Quidditch pitch, that's what he would be doing on most days. Today, though, James Potter prowled the halls of the castle with a different goal in mind: revenge.

"We've been tailing him for an hour, James!" Sirius hissed from beside him, clasping his shoulder. "I know you're pissed, but this can wait until tomorrow, can't it?!"

James stiffened, and threw more of the cloak over the two of them before he turned to his friend. "Tomorrow?! You heard what Mulciber said to Macdonald in Flying Class today!"

Sirius was silent. It took a lot to anger James Potter. That something he'd found out over the last few months they'd spent in each other's company. There were very few things that could enrage him like this.

"He called her a Mudblood, Sirius." James said quietly, his chin jutting outwards defiantly. "She didn't do anything to him. 'cept Macdonald the Muggleborn was right and Lord Mulciber was wrong so he called her a Mudblood. That isn't right! And you know what's worse? I know everyone else heard him say it and did nothing. Nothing at all!"

"Azar didn't…" Sirius tried, but was swiftly cut off by his friend.

"I know, I saw Azar smack the idiot with a Stinging Hex too, but he's a Muggleborn! Now Mulciber and his goons are going to come for him because none of us said or did anything." James said, his usually playful brown eyes grim. "So we're going to make him pay for what he said to Macdonald, and give him a little extra in advance."

Sirius sighed and removed his hand from James' arm. "... Fine. But if we're going to do this, we're doing it right."

James grunted, his hold over his wand tightening. As furious as he was, he couldn't help but notice the fear seeping into him as they neared the lone Slytherin. What if this went wrong? What if they were caught by a professor? What if he had backup?

His mind was plagued by such questions until they'd left the staircase and walked onto the ground floor. Mulciber was just ahead, his gait completely relaxed as if he hadn't a care in the world.

James' fury resurfaced with a vengeance. It bubbled in his stomach and his blood roared in his ears. Wasting not even a second more, he sped forward, keeping his noise to a minimum and dragged Sirius along with him. A small part of him felt horrible for bringing Sirius into this, but he forged onwards anyway.

Slowly sliding his hand out of the protection of the cloak, James pointed his wand at the boy's back, feeling neither pity nor guilt at what he was about to do. Only a blasé sort of acceptance. "Depulso."

James watched as the bright light surged forwards, drawing closer to the unaware Slytherin. It washed over him and sent Mulciber tumbling to the floor in an instant. He smiled slightly and he felt Sirius tremoring against his shoulder, doing his best to hold in his laughter.

Mulciber shot up at once, wand in hand and his anger etched across his face. The side of his face was beginning to swell thanks to his enthusiastic embrace with the stone floor. James stifled a snort. Now Mulciber had a matching welt on the other side of his face thanks to them.

"Who are you?!" Mulciber stumbled around, his eyes flashing. "Show yourself, coward!"

Slowly, James backed away under the cover of the cloak, watching as Mulciber whirled around with his eyes widened in fear. But he wouldn't find them, though.

Once they were far enough to not have to hide anymore, James ripped off the cloak, stuffing it into his satchel, his face flushed with excitement.

"Merlin!" Sirius gasped, his face as elated as James'. "You actually did it!" he shook James by the shoulders.

"I know!" James laughed. His smile slowly fell, giving way to a frown. "The git deserved it, though."

Sirius nodded, his grey eyes stormy. All humour had vanished from his face and he looked at James appreciatively before turning his gaze back down the way they'd come. "That and more, mate."

The two Gryffindor exchanged a solemn nod and returned to the common room, satisfied with what they'd achieved, leaving behind a confused and enraged Slytherin to lick his wounds.

All in a good day's work, James Potter would say.


If you'd like to join my discord, click the link below and hit the discord tab. If you want to peek at the next few chapters in advance, you know where to go. Click on the link below and navigate to the site-that-shall-not-be-named for your goodies.

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One problem I keep finding is that every time you update I have to reread a bit of the story to remind myself because it is a bit forgettable, I think because the pace is a bit slow so so far it hasn't had the chance to branch out into unexplored territory
 
Good start, looking forward to more.

The big problem that I see looming is the very slow pacing means that you may never leave first year. A gentle recommendation I have is to consider skipping more time between chapters.
 
Good start, but have you written to Sadie?
 
Chapter 10: Plant Your Feet and Take Flight
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OOOOO
Plant Your Feet and Take Flight
OOOOO


With the end of term drawing near, I couldn't help but feel the restlessness slowly crawl in as the days stretched on, leaving me all the more homesick. The scant few letters Sadie and I exchanged with each other, quite frankly, weren't enough for me and I found myself yearning to see her again, if only to tell her how much I'd missed her. Thankfully, school would come to a brief close for the Christmas holidays soon. After replying to her letter for the week, I looped the roll of parchment around the foot of one of the school owls and rubbed its head affectionately, chuckling as it pushed its round and feathery head into my palm.

"Away with you, Ser Glimfeather!" I thumbed the crown of the owl's head and laughed at the withering look it directed towards me. Ser Glimfeather—I'd taken to naming the owl that for the last two weeks—stared at me unflinchingly.

Startlingly intelligent amber eyes met my own bronze pair. A moment later, Ser Glimfeather burst out of the arch in an explosion of feathers and smattering of wings, leaving a single, tawny feather on the wooden floor beside me. I bent down to pick it up and played with the feather, watching the owl begin its journey. Slowly, it grew smaller, its powerful wings carrying it far away from the castle until it was little more than a inky smudge in the slightly grey sky. Perched atop one of the wooden platforms of the school Owlery, I stared at the mountains in the distance and raked my gaze towards the Forbidden Forest on the west side of the grounds.

Even in the early morning, the forest found some way to remain unnerving. Its tall and gnarly trees cast a looming shadow over the ground beneath them. It stood out, really. The only place on the grounds that didn't seem to be vibrant with life. Instead, the dark—almost blackened—branches stretched outwards. As if they were slowly inching forwards, perhaps one day, to claim all the land on the castle grounds.

The wood above my head creaked, sending grains of sawdust between the cracks in the flooring. I remembered, all of a sudden, that I wasn't the only one in the Owlery, and craned my head to see who else was around. Furrowing slightly, my eyebrows rose in recognition and I called out to the figure descending down the wooden steps.

"Alright, Evans?" I greeted the girl who I'd shared classes with for the past few months.

Her lips curled upwards as she noticed me and the girl bobbed her head. "I'm fine. And I've told you before, call me Lily. Remus' friends are my friends."

She nodded with such finality that I couldn't really refute her without feeling at least a little bit guilty. I blinked and my lips stretched themselves into a wry smile. "Lily it is then."

"Thank you, Cyrus." Lily smiled. It swiftly vanished from her face, her eyes widening. "I've just remembered! We've got to be quick or else we'll be late for Charms! Professor Flitwick said that he'd be getting us started on the Wind, Water, and Fire-making charms today."

Even through her alarm, her excitement showed on her face. Emerald eyes glimmered like jewels in the morning sun.

Nodding slightly, I turned my head. Briefly, my eyes lingered on the mountain range in the distance. A few stray clouds covered the peak, slowly drifting onwards. I inhaled the crisp morning air, its soft caresses slipping past my robes, chilling me somewhat. Finally exhaling, I hopped down from the ledge, my pleasantly tired muscles flaring slightly— but in a comfortable way. "Better get a move on then, eh?"

I snatched my bag off the floor and brushed the sawdust from it. Once I was satisfied that no more lingered on it, I slung the satchel across my shoulder and opened the door, following the redhead out of the Owlery.

OOOO

Flitwick's classroom was completely different today. Once Lily and I had arrived, we walked in and noticed that the rest of the class stood at the front of the room, their belongings and the like still on their persons. We'd arrived midway through Flitwick greeting that class, thankfully.

"... morning to you all—" he was saying, though he paused to glance at the door. "Miss Evans!" he smiled, his eyes moving over to me and capturing my own. They glowed warmly, and he gave me an equally enthusiastic greeting. "And Mr. Azar, my assistant!" a short round of laughter bubbled from the class at this.

I smiled back at him, taking the joke in stride— it wasn't completely unfounded. I'd taken to helping out struggling classmates where I could, something the diminutive duelling champion appreciated very much. For all his nimbleness, he couldn't be everywhere nor help everyone at once.

"Join the line you two, we'll be out in a moment. As I was saying, good morning students! Today is the day that I'm sure you have all been waiting for." he paused, basking in the suspense until it grew to almost be too much. "As I said a few lessons ago, you will be learning a few charms that I would be remiss in my duties if I didn't teach you. This will be taking us up to the end of term to make sure you learn these charms safely and are as proficient as can be in preparation for the practice exams after Christmas."

A few students groaned out at that, but they were in the minority— Cadmus being one of them. And though our class was filled with stereotypical "hard workers" in the form of the Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw houses. One house worked hard to prove that they were more than just average. The other worked for the pursuit of knowledge and knowledge alone— though I assumed the bragging rights due to being perceived as smart sure didn't hurt.

Still, I didn't expect everyone to embody these views. Just as not all Gryffindors are brave and honourable nor every Slytherin cunning or ambitious, not every Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw would embody all of the house values— only enough for the hat to consider placing them there.

Flitwick rolled his eyes. "Yes, yes, I know exams, woe is me!" I snickered and he winked at me. "These exams are for us professors to accurately gauge what the general skill level of your cohort is and how we can help you moving forward in preparation for the final exams at the end of the academic year. Nothing more."

It made sense, I thought. After sitting through one education system, I realised that it was the most efficient way to teach a large number of students. But I guessed that I wouldn't be saying the same thing were I as old mentally as I was physically.

"Now then. Follow me and we'll move over to a more spacious classroom that Professor McGonagall and I use for the slightly more… risky lessons, if you will."

A trickle of nervousness seeped into me at that. Sure I'd practised some spells, but nothing that could go horribly wrong and potentially mess me up. Especially not when I was in the Room of Requirement— a good five or so floors above the Hospital Wing.

Flitwick must have noticed, because he quickly rushed to amend his sentence. "Do realise that by "risky", I mean spells that have a far more direct chance at causing harm as opposed to, say, the Levitation Charm. Hence why we will shortly move to a larger classroom on the ground floor suited for exactly that. Follow me." he hopped off the podium and led us out of the class.

On the way out, I hung back to wait for a few of my housemates and Remus. The line shuffled out of the class and soon, they came into view. After Halloween, most of my house had branched off, becoming friends with people of all houses and I rarely interacted with them outside of the common room. That left me with the most stubborn of the bunch: Cadmus, Michael, and Ellie.

I was happy for them. It'd be slightly worrying if they were stuck to me throughout the rest of our school years.

Cadmus swaggered along at the front of the group, his eyes dancing with excitement as he slung his arm over my shoulder. "D'you hear that Cyrus? We're going to learn actual magic!"

I stared at the auburn haired boy, not really knowing what to do with him. "Cadmus… we've been learning magic for the last three months now, mate. Are you okay? Do you need to make a quick stop at the Hospital Wing."

Michael plodded over with Remus, Ellie, and Lily and sighed. "It's no use, Cyrus. I think you'd realise that by now. Cadmus just doesn't think like the rest of us."

Lily nodded. "Cadmus is just Cadmus. In fact, he's almost as bad as Stebbins."

I mulled over the statement for a bit before nodding in agreement. "... I think you might be right, Michael. You too, Lily."

Remus and Ellie stood beside Michael, trying their best to not succumb to laughter. Their shoulders shook with effort and their eyes shone. Still, they remained as quiet as they could.

Not that Cadmus seemed to notice. He barked out a short but loud laugh. "'course I don't think like the rest of you. I'm one of a kind!"

I shared a knowing glance with Michael and hid my smile behind the sleeve of my robe. "One of a kind indeed…"

We soon reached a spacious room, though the more apt term for it would be a hall. Straw dummies not too dissimilar to the ones we use in our Defence Against the Dark Arts classes were lined up on either side of the room. We huddled around the centre, circling the Charms Master.

I shifted my weight between my feet, excitement bubbling in my gut.

Flitwick spoke up from the centre of the group. "Now that we have arrived, I'd like to make one thing as clear as can possibly be. Whilst you are, by far, the most well-behaved class of your cohort, you must all," he stared pointedly at both Stebbins and Cadmus. Both boys had the decency to flush slightly. "Follow each and every one of my instructions whilst we are here. If not, I am perfectly happy to remove House Points for those who don't."

The class mumbled in agreement and we soon dispersed around the room, each standing before a dummy. On the chest of each dummy, a bright red circle had been drawn— a target possibly? In a single smooth movement, I unsheathed my wand and spread my feet slightly, making sure to keep my wand hand in front of me.

Even from as far away as he was, Flitwick's voice rang out from the hall, strong and true, the tip of his wand held against his throat. "Do not fear, this won't be our only session here. We have practised the wand movements and incantations for each spell and every student in this room is capable of casting these spells successfully— of that I am sure, or else why would we be here? Remember: in-SEN-dee-o, AH-gwah-MEN-tee, and lastly VEN-tuss. Stress the right syllables but do not overthink it. I believe in the abilities of each and every one of you. First, have a go at the fire-making charm until I say otherwise."

I guess that was one way of motivating the class. Any lingering worries felt as if they'd been shrugged off and the hall filled with whispers and scuttling. Slowly relaxing, I eased my wrist through the wand movement for the fire-making charm over and over again until I didn't have to focus quite so much on it anymore.

Next came the incantation. I stilled my hand for a moment and felt the feel of the word in my mouth. Slowly but surely, the word began to flow off my tongue. "In-sen-dee-o… no, it's in-SEN-dee-o…"

Months later, I was sure I'd look back on this moment and laugh but I made sure to take each minute detail completely seriously, ensuring that I had everything down pat before I started casting anything else. I raised my arm, training my wand on the centre of the dummy.

"Alright…" steadily, I etched my intention into the air with every trace of my wand, imagining a jet of flame rushing forth. Then, I spoke. "Incendio."

If I were to be brutally honest, I'd expected to fail— multiple times, really. But what I didn't expect was to succeed. Staring at the scorch mark at the centre of the dummy—right on target—I was overcome by something I couldn't quite describe.

It felt as if all my hard work over the last few months had finally paid off. Like a thousand needles pricking the centre of my chest, warmth spreading across my body and up to my cheeks. I felt my lips stretched into a wide grin and a lilting laugh bubbled from my stomach. "I did it!"

Honestly, I don't think I'd ever expressed such elation at something before. I'd been excited before— sure. But never like this. Perhaps it was the feeling of success… but it also could've been because I was a child again. Regardless, it wasn't important. Not anymore. What was though, was the undeniable fact that there were more spells to practice.

Off the back of that, I heard Flitwick's exasperated exclamations. "Stebbins! McCallan! What did I just tell you two about behaving?!"

I turned back and watched Flitwick stomp over to the two boys, who for some reason, thought it was a good idea to take dummies that were right next to each other. My eyes lingered, amused, as Flitwick chastised the two boys.

And so, my success and subsequent distraction aside, I squared my shoulders and readied myself to go again. I took a few moments to get back into the zone, doing my best to psych myself up.

"Let's try and do that, say… ten more times."

OOOO

Stood in the middle of the Quidditch pitch, one of the school's well-used brooms nestled between my thighs, I shivered slightly. The weather seemed to plummet as the day went on. No more was the sky a lovely shade of blue. Instead, angry grey clouds dragged across, bringing with them chilling winds.

The entirety of my year was gathered here. Around fifty children clumped on the pitch, all of them shivering in the cold.

Madam Hooch stood a little ahead of us, paying little mind to our suffering. Her hawk-like eyes bored into us with frightening intensity. "This is it, ladies and gentlemen! Everything you have learnt for the last four or so months comes to a head here. If you pass, that is it. This lesson block will function as a free period for the remainder of the year. But if you fail…" she let the threat hang in the air. "... then you will have to attend remedial classes until I deem your flying to be competent enough."

I looked out onto the Quidditch pitch. It was devoid of the usual house teams practising their drills and motions— a sight I'd grown used to over the term. And whilst I never found much interest in Quidditch—on account of it being fucking stupid—I still found genuine joy in watching my house team play. Perhaps it was being a part of something that made it like that.

Personally, just being able to fly from time to time was enough for me.

The obstacle course was pretty much a few hoops floating around the grounds. Some were quite easy to reach. Others required slightly more complex manoeuvring that we'd covered only weeks prior. Truth be told, I was pretty apprehensive at trying my hand at the course. A few of the hoops looked downright dangerous to try and reach.

Like the one that was wedged dangerously between the tip of a spire and a section of wall, for instance. But far be it from me to judge the expert instruction of my professor. No, I would never.

Madam Hooch called up the Gryffindors and they were pretty happy to do so. James Potter volunteered to go first, as he always did in our lessons. It'd become painfully obvious to me—and anyone with half a brain—that Madam Hooch favoured Potter out of everyone in our class. Which was to say, our entire year. I couldn't deny that he was talented, though.

I watched him roll his shoulders back, muttering something under his breath. James Potter was, I think, the only student who came to Flying Classes outfitted in actual training gear. At first, nearly everyone had laughed when they spotted him joining the line, outfitted like a professional Quidditch player. But in time, we all found out that Quidditch was something that he took extremely seriously.

And his dedication to it was something that I could respect— even if the sport's scoring system was absolute horseshit.

His trademark rounded glasses had been discarded, replaced with goggles. Brown gloves made of some sort of leather wrapped themselves around the broom, straining as he gripped the shaft tightly. Potter slowly lifted his legs off the grass and the broom raised him into the air before he pulled it upwards and sped towards the first hoop.

As expected, he cleared it with ease, turning as he did so. He briefly stopped, hovering in the air as he searched for the second.

"Bloody hell…" I muttered. "The kid can fly, huh."

Ellie turned to me. "Did you say something, Cyrus?"

I blinked, not really expecting anyone to have heard me. "Oh, I was just wondering what he did to get so good."

"Nearly every wizard child grows up playing Quidditch." Ellie explained. "Michael, Cadmus, and I all grew up in Portree and mucked about on brooms all the time. But him? I guess he's just talented at it."

I nodded. It made sense, now, why most of the class were better than me at riding brooms. It felt odd, that was for sure, to ace classes, and then sit there and watch as hordes of children run circles—fly, to be precise—around me.

The absurdly long line of students of all houses shuffled on as individual students took to the skies, darting around. It was a relatively peaceful lesson for the most part, though a Hufflepuff girl had taken a nasty fall after the tail end of her broom snagged the top of one of the castle's spires.

"Can you move it, Haywood?" Hooch was crouched beside the downed girl.

She whimpered, her face flushed. Tears stained her face but she managed to reply. "N-No, professor."

Hooch stood up, and levitated the girl above our heads. She stared at us before she eventually spoke. "Not a single person moves from where they are standing. If I find out that anyone has been using their brooms in my absence, the consequences will be severe— I promise you that."

Once the Flight Professor had entered the building, furious whispers broke out across the field.

"Is she okay?"

"Did you see?"

"I know! The back of her broom…"

Though one voice cut through the cacophony. A voice that I, unfortunately, was pretty familiar with. Arthur Mulciber, a boy who for all intents and purposes, embodied everything wrong with the Slytherin House.

"So you think you know more than me, eh?" he laughed.

In front of him stood a girl. Black pigtails falling over her shoulders. Her arms were crossed over her Gryffindor robes and her coffee-brown eyes annoyed. "No. I just said that it was her broom that caught the end of the spire. It was an easy mistake to make, especially since she was looking ahead."

Mulciber stopped laughing. "Is that so? Well, I don't remember asking for the opinion of a…" he gave her a once over and sneered. "... Mudblood."

I clenched my jaw, but stood still, waiting to see what the girl would do. Active justice was something I firmly believed in. If a person was able to enact proper retribution for themselves, then it was their right to do so. Only when they were unable to should somebody step in. And so I waited, hand on hip. The pommel of my wand pushed into the centre of my palm, almost comforting. As if it were reassuring me that it would be there when I needed it.

I watched on, staring intently at the pair.

All other conversation ceased and the field was completely silent, staring at the two. Confusion flickered across the girl's face. She tilted her head and her face twisted into a frown. "Did you just… insult me?"

Mulciber laughed again, bumping another Slytherin with his elbow. "Oh Morgana! Mudbloods really are stupid!"

That settled it for me. I smothered my rage— Mulciber was many things. Unfortunately, 'child' was one of them. It was more than obvious to me that the girl was a Muggleborn, meaning that she had absolutely no idea what Mulciber had just called her.

One twitch of my hand and my wand was ready. More annoyed than anything else now, I whipped my arm and sent a… moderate Stinging Hex towards him. I returned my wand to its holster and watched as the spell smacked him across the face, sending him to the floor.

I might have overpowered it a little, but nothing the little gobshite didn't deserve. Snickers exploded as the boy tumbled into the dirt, landing unceremoniously on his arse. He stumbled to his feet, gingerly rubbing his cheek where a welt was quickly forming. Anger clouding over his eyes, they roamed over the field, searching for the source of the spell. The Slytherin beside him pulled him by the shoulder and whispered in his ear.

His eyes snapped to mine, and he stalked forward. "You!"

I quirked an eyebrow. "What about me, Mulciber?"

"Do you know what you've done?!" he stood only a little ways away from me. "I'll make you regret ever coming to Hogwarts!"

"Really now, Mulciber? That welt on your face seems to tell another story." I placed my hand on my hip, gripping the handle of my wand. My eyes quickly lost all humour and I frowned at him. "Now do the smart thing and walk away."

His eyes dropped from my face, to my wand, and then rose again. Fury blazed in his eyes, but we both knew that were he to start a fight here, I'd win. It sounded cocky, but he shared Defence Against the Dark Arts with me and knew exactly what the both of us could do with a wand.

That was ignoring the very obvious consequence of punishment. It seemed, though, that fate had other plans. Madam Hooch had returned just after I'd given Mulciber the only warning he'd have the pleasure of receiving from me. She stared at the welt on his face and turned to me. "What happened here?"

It was then that I was struck with sudden inspiration. Grinning, I threw my arm around the Slytherin. My action was so unexpected that he froze. "Nothing, professor! Arthur here took a tumble is all. I was helping him up, right?"

Outside, my face was a mask of pure friendliness, but on the inside, I was doing my best to keep a tight hold over my growing mirth. Mulciber gave me a look I couldn't quite decipher— both angry yet also… evaluative?

He turned to Hooch, doing his best to keep his voice calm. "Exactly. C-Cyrus here was helping me."

The woman eyed me strangely but shrugged, calling up the next person to try their hand at the obstacle course. I quickly removed my arm from the boy, and smiled at the seething look he sent my way. He made it a point to stay as far away from me as possible, sending hateful glares my way when he thought I wasn't looking.

Once he was far enough, I let out the laugh I'd been holding in for so long. Fucking hell, that was hilarious.

The shuffling of grass alerted me and I looked up, wiping tears from my eyes. "Yes?"

The pigtailed girl from earlier smiled at me. "Thanks for the help," she looked over to Mulciber and furrowed her brow. "My friends just told me what… Mudblood means."

Ah, that would do it. I merely nodded. "No worries. I'm a Muggleborn too, you know? I could tell you had no idea what he was calling you so I decided to help." I stuck out my hand. "Cyrus Azar. You?"

She accepted my hand. "Mary Macdonald."

"Nice to meet you, Mary." I said.

She smiled once more and wandered back to her friends. Alone once more, the reality of the situation had finally hit me like a truck and I suppressed a groan. My plans of a peaceful school life were null and void now. Mulciber was the type of person who wouldn't give up until he'd paid back what I'd dealt to him today… tenfold.

But for the time being, I'd revel in the hilarity of what I'd just done. It was a long time coming too. My annoyance towards him had been growing ever since our first Defence Against the Dark Arts lesson. A little while later, my friends swarmed me towards the front of the line. Most of them were worried, but then we had Cadmus.

"Merlin!" he laughed. "I definitely didn't expect you to hex him!"

He was in complete hysterics, clutching his belly as he laughed. The rest of them, although reasonably worried, also had smiles on their faces— all of them except for Ellie.

"Come on, Ellie," I sighed. "Don't look at me like that. It was a long time coming and you know it!"

The girl huffed, a rare frown on her face.

"Exactly, Ellie," Remus chipped in and turned to Lily. "You know exactly how Mulciber is in Herbology. He's insufferable!"

Even Lily, somebody who was perhaps the greatest stickler for the rules that I knew, was nodding. "Besides, Cyrus is definitely the best wizard in our year. Mulciber can't do anything to him."

Eventually, the short brunette caved. "Fine. It was funny, but be careful, Cyrus."

As flattered as I was that they held such confidence in me, I knew there were a lot of things Mulciber could do to hurt me outside of class. Especially since he was a pureblood and I was a muggleborn.

Which brought me back to another problem: money. I'd had my fun at school, cemented myself as the smartest wizard of my age, and served justice to a bellend of a child. Sure I'd enjoy my Christmas, but after that, I reckoned it was time to consider all of my options.

Overhead, another student whizzed about—a Hufflepuff I realised—clearing hoop after hoop as our house cheered her on. I smiled to myself, taking in the sight of my friends and then the student racing up above. I guess I really was a Hufflepuff through and through.


If you'd like to join my discord, click the link below and hit the discord tab. If you want to peek at the next few chapters in advance, you know where to go. Click on the link below and navigate to the site-that-shall-not-be-named for your goodies.

Here's the link to all my relevant sites in case you feel like joining my discord or donating.
 
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Chapter 11: Avifors
If you enjoyed the chapter, I'd appreciate it if you left a review detailing your thoughts!

All my relevant stuff, such as my discord and ways to support me, is available here!

oOoOo

Any and all constructive criticism is welcome but please, keep it constructive. If you're going to flame me, I'd at least like to get something useful out of it besides the crippling blow to my ego.



OOOOO
Avifors
OOOOO


"Good morning children." McGonagall smiled. It was a small smile, but it warmed the class a little— especially since winter was now in full force and I would take warmth wherever I could get it. "I hope that you have written the essay that I set last week. Please put them on the table and I'll pick them up later on in the lesson."

I reached over into my bag and pulled out a roll of parchment. McGonagall paused and waited for the class to do the same.

"Today I will be starting you off on the Avifors spell. It turns small objects and creatures into birds." McGonagall slowly waved her wand and a stick of chalk floated over towards her. It hovered in the air, bobbing up and down. "I shall demonstrate once and then go through the wand movement and incantation for you all. Avifors."

The bobbing stick of chalk began to spin, so fast that its shape quickly became indiscernible to my eyes. It whirled around, growing larger and darker. Wings sprouted outwards in a haze of blurred flapping and a shiny, gleaming beak poked out. In what seemed to be an instant, the chalk was gone and a crow had taken its place. Its beady eyes glimmered intelligently and it let out a squawk, perching on McGonagall's shoulder.

"The bird in question does not matter." she ran a slender finger over the crow's head. "As with all Transfiguration, it is paramount that you keep your focus clear, and your intention even more so. Visualise the change from one thing to the next— I've found that it helps greatly. Don't worry, everything I have taught you thus far was in preparation for harder spells. Notice how, slowly, I've moved away from having you transfigure similar looking objects?"

I froze. She was absolutely right. But I was still a little apprehensive. Mice to Snuffboxes was one thing, but doing the same thing reverse? I had a feeling this was the hardest thing we'd done yet.

McGonagall turned the crow back into chalk and placed it on her desk. "Yes Stebbins?"

"Professor, how small does an object have to be for the spell to work?"

McGonagall blinked. "Generally, if it can fit into the palm of your hand, then the spell will work."

Stebbins nodded, his messy curls bouncing as he did.

"Now, if you would all take out your wands…" McGonagall made us repeat the incantation after her and took us through the motions before setting us off. "Open your drawers and remove from it whatever trinket I've placed in there. Once more, this spell is quite difficult and you should not be disheartened if you don't succeed during this lesson. We will have multiple lessons on this spell. The fact that you inspired any sort of change in your objects alone should be cause for celebration."

I knew what softening a blow sounded like and if that wasn't it, then Merlin knew what was. I pulled back my drawer and found several pebbles. My gaze drifted over to Remus who was sat next to me, staring down at a couple of knuts and a few faded badges.

"That's one intense stare." I joked.

He looked up. "This is going to be hard, isn't it?"

"I've no doubt of that, mate." I picked up a pebble and played it between my fingers, feeling its smooth yet coarse surface on the tips of my fingers. "How are we supposed to turn this into a bird?"

Remus picked up one of the badges, flipping it over so that the needle side was facing up. "Like we've always done, I guess. Start by visualising the change—small ones at first—and letting your imagination and magic flow from there."

I nodded and raised my wand. "Sound advice."

Doing my best to blot out the classroom's noise, I pictured the pebble in my mind. Its size, its feel, the slate grey of it, even the dark smudges where the grey turned to black. I imagined the pebble growing bigger, darker. Soft feathers rose out of the pebble's smoothness until it morphed into a crow in my mind's eye.

My grip over my wand was firm, yet gentle as its tip cut through the air. "Avifors." I cracked my eyes open, expecting to see a live crow sitting in front of me— I was sorely mistaken.

"Woah!" I gasped, scooting back from the table.

My supposed crow was slumped across my desk. Its wings were frayed slightly and I wondered where I went wrong. I intended for the crow to be alive, not a fucking corpse.

Remus looked over from his side of the desk. "What is it?" he blanched. "... I don't think that's quite how the spell's supposed to work."

"You think?" I snarked, passing my wand over the failed transfiguration. "Reparifarge."

It shimmered, the limp bird slowly blurring, its shape no longer as defined. It grew brighter in colour and folded into itself until the crow was gone, back to the pebble it once was.

I leaned back, the chair teetering slightly. "Well that didn't go how I thought it would."

"And can you tell me why?" McGonagall's voice cut in from beside me.

My heart rate soared and arms flailed as I tried my best to not fall backwards. It was only after I righted myself that I mumbled out an answer. "I don't know…"

McGonagall quirked an eyebrow before her tone became slightly softer. "Think. How did you go about performing the spell?"

"I pictured the pebble in my mind and imagined it turning into a crow. Dark feathers, shiny beak, beady eyes, all of it." I said. "... But that was it. I only imagined it looking like a crow."

"Mr. Azar," McGonagall sighed. "What did I say at the start of the lesson?"

What had she said? I racked my brains for a moment until understanding dawned on my face. "That I could use any bird I wanted."

She pressed on. "Why?"

I paused, trying to think of an answer. "Because familiarity with a type of bird means you'll be able to imagine how it would act."

"And so?"

"I should use a bird that I'm familiar with because it would make this easier for me."

"What bird are you thinking of using then?"

My answer was instantaneous. "A pigeon."

She smiled and inclined her head. "Try again. This time, as well as visualising the change, remember how pigeons behave."

I licked my lips and nodded, my wand tip placed against the top of the pebble. I let my thoughts simmer. The slate grey of the stone grew larger, a curved head. Bright orange eyes and an almost skeletal beak. "Avifors."

I opened my eyes to a pigeon waddling across my desk.

"... Damn it." I muttered.

"Why are you upset?" McGonagall asked.

I placed my wand on the table and looked up. "Because it's not exactly what I imagined. It's too bright for starters, and it's a little too…" I pressed my lips together, watching as the pigeon put too much weight on one of its legs and almost fell off the table. "... fat."

"The fact that you've been largely successful on your second go speaks of your talent, Mr. Azar. Ten points to Hufflepuff. Keep at it and you'll have the spell down in no time." McGonagall jutted her head to my desk where my wand was placed between the pigeon's beak.

I scrambled, eventually prying the wand out of its mouth and turning it back into a pebble. Collapsing back into my seat with a sigh, I blinked. "Yeah, I think I'm going to take a break."

McGonagall smiled once more, though a frown quickly fell over her face. "Stebbins!" she began to briskly walk away from me. "Stop levitating the duck before I remove points from Ravenclaw!"

I shook my head, too tired to care at that point. Instead, I looked out to the class to see what my friends were up to. Lily had managed to partially transfigure a robin, though it was somehow wearing a bowtie whilst Cadmus was engaged in a staring contest with a bangle wearing raven. Sat beside him, Ellie and Michael were trying to resurrect their own corpse ravens.

Yup, it seemed to be going swimmingly.

Exhaling, I sat up and picked up my pebble, staring at it intently. "I'm not giving up until you're eating bread off the floor."

Remus tapped my shoulder. "Where did I go wrong?" he pointed to what I could only describe as an abomination. Some kind of bird-badge thing. Where its head should have been was the front of the badge. It was blue, and a single coal-black eye blinked at me at the badge's centre.

"... I think you weren't focusing enough on the change between the badge and whatever bird you wanted to turn it into." I decided. "What bird is it supposed to be anyways?"

Remus turned it back into a badge. "A bluebird." he admitted, rubbing the back of his neck sheepishly.

"Oh." I stared at the faded badge. "I think that I might have to get us all into a classroom after this. Just so we can get the spell down."

Remus scanned the room, his eyes falling on the frustrated faces of our friends. "Yeah, I think you're right."

OOOO

There were a lot of unused classrooms around Hogwarts, and I mean a lot. Maybe the number of students had dwindled, or perhaps there just weren't as many classes as there used to be. I reckoned that it was probably the latter since the NEWT level functioned similarly to A-levels in regular school. If there wasn't high enough demand for a subject, it wouldn't be taught for that year. The only Hogwarts class that came to mind for that, however, was the Alchemy class taught by Dumbledore himself. It was so obscure that I had absolutely no idea what it entailed.

I shuddered slightly, my breath fogging up in front of me. I sneaked a glance at my friends sitting around the table, seeming to be equally as cold as me. Then to the fireplace on my right before muttering a quick incantation underneath my breath and flicking a minute spark at the flame, watching it roar to life, pumping some much needed warmth outwards.

Out of nowhere, Cadmus groaned. His chest was against the back of the chair and his head slumped forward, hanging limply in front of the chair. It just so happened that his position gave him a bird's eye view of his raven. "This isn't working…"

Several pebbles and odd trinkets were strewn across the table. Sat around it, my friends had relentlessly tried to transfigure various objects around the room into birds for the last hour and a half. Each of us completed the task with varying degrees of success.

I don't know if it was my more mature mind or something else but I had an easier time performing spells that required more focus and visualisation— hence my apparent prowess in wandwork. About twenty minutes prior, I'd moved on to casting Avifors on two pebbles instead of one. It felt like I'd gone all the way back to square one. Any pigeons I brought into the world were either emaciated or straight up dead.

Remus had managed to conjure a perfect, albeit slightly faded, bluebird. An improvement from his earlier abomination. Lily still had yet to separate her bowtie from her robin, but eventually decided that she'd keep it like that for the novelty. She too had moved on onto two objects. Michael and Ellie had finally managed to transfigure a pair of live ravens, though their heads were a little too big and their plumage slightly grey.

Then we had Cadmus.

"It's working, no doubt about it." I laid a hand on his shoulder and tilted my head towards his bird. "You managed to separate the bangle from the raven, right?"

He nodded, his face haggard. "But look at its eyes."

I leaned lower and peered at the bird. The raven's eyes were gleaming blue and gold instead of black— the colours of the bangle it used to be. A mistake, sure, but a relatively small one. I still didn't get why he was so put out. He'd managed to almost perfectly cast the Avifors spell after two hours of constant practice— something I thought he should take pride in.

He slumped down even further, groaning.

Bemused, I scratched my head. What was his deal?

Ellie leaned over and spoke in hushed tones. "He's completely spent." she whispered. "He gets like this all the time when he's tired."

I was sure it hadn't been that long. I glanced at my watch and baulked a little. A split second later I stood up, my chair scratched against the stone floor and made me cringe.

"Alright guys!" I said. "I think that's it for today."

My declaration was met with some interesting responses— or one interesting response in particular.

Lily nodded, returning her suave birds into a bowtie. Yawning, she slipped it into her pocket and tapped a droopy-eyed Remus on the shoulder. He blinked, looking momentarily lost before he too returned his bird into a badge and pinned it onto the left side of his robes.

"Just one more minute…" Michael mumbled, not moving his eyes from his bird. He quickly returned it to a knut and closed his eyes, his wand held perfectly still for a moment. Then his brown eyes snapped open. "Avifors."

The knut blurred, its bronze sheen dulling, growing darker. Soon, I saw plumage, a beak, gleaming eyes and then, all evidence of the coin was gone. Instead, a perfectly ordinary raven stood on the table. It turned its coal eyes towards Michael and in one leap—and several more flaps of its wings—perched itself on his head. The bird nested inside his brown locks, seeming to find it a comfortable enough seat.

"Nice!" I smiled, bumping my fist against his shoulder.

Michael grinned, his cheeks flushing slightly at the praise. Lily and Remus grinned at him whilst Ellie quickly ran over to his side and gave him a hug. Even the exhausted Cadmus managed a smile. Slowly, we returned the chairs and tables back to where they were and I put out the crackling fireplace with a controlled water-making charm. It sputtered out of existence, hissing slightly as the jet of water gradually consumed the flame.

If you wanted a quiet house, you needed tired children. My mother told me that all the time back in my previous life. Trailing down the hall in relative silence, I couldn't agree more. The only noise until we made it to the Great Hall was a few stifled yawns and the occasional yells of the Quidditch teams outside.

The Great Hall was mostly devoid of students. There were a few here and there completing homework on the tables as well as the castle's caretaker: Mr. Pringle. He shot us a glare, and narrowed his eyes as we walked past him. I was the only one who really noticed though, the rest were too busy stumbling around.

"Not that way, Remus." I placed a guiding hand on his shoulder and turned him away from the Slytherin table and towards the Ravenclaw table.

He grunted, following Lily. "See you tomorrow, Cyrus..."

I hummed and caught up to my Hufflepuff friends. Swinging my legs over the bench, I leaned back and sighed.

"So, I'd say today was pretty good." I smiled.

Michael nodded, his smile a little tired.

Ellie stifled a yawn. "M-Me too, but I can't wait for dinner so I can go to b-be-bed."

I was about to reply but Cadmus' soft snores entered my ears. It seemed I'd underestimated exactly how tired he was, but when I'd had them cast pretty much nonstop for an hour and a bit on top of an hour of spellwork in Transfiguration, their fatigue made sense. Cupping my chin in my hand, my cheek against my palm, I watched the hall slowly fill up with students.

Every once in a while, a professor or two would follow them in. Soon the hall was abuzz with conversation. My eyes grew heavy, and before I knew it, I too had drifted off to sleep.

"I guess the kids weren't the only ones who were spent after all…" I mumbled.

OOOO

I flexed my fingers, the tips tingling in anticipation. But it was too soon to act. Calming slightly, I watched the deck shuffle itself, taking mental notes of each card that slid onto the top of the deck. Elfrida Clagg, Bowtruckle, Manticore, Welsh Green, Cyclops. Then I saw the flash of the new card as it shuffled upwards.

Its jaw hung low, revealing a set of pointed teeth. With waxy skin and a large frame, it leered threateningly at me from within the card. But what grabbed my attention was its large, bloodshot blue eye. My wand was as fast as lightning, touching the top of the card just a bit faster than Cadmus could.

"Ha!" I laughed. "You snooze, you lose, mate. Next person!"

Cadmus shuffled off the chair, grumbling as he did. "I could've won that…"

Ellie slipped onto the chair, her usually shy eyes determined. "I'm not going to lose so easily this time, Cyrus."

"Bring it." I replied, lowering my gaze to the deck of cards.

It began to shuffle.

Mountain Troll, Hebridean Black, Giant Squid, Welsh Green… then I smelt the beginnings of a fire.

I caught the hint of spark in the dragon's maw and my eyes widened. I leant back and watched the fire stream out of the dragon's mouth, setting the card alight before exploding, scorching the edges of the rest of the deck.

"Aw…" Michael groaned. "I just bought that one too!"

"Isn't that the whole point, though?" Cadmus asked. "It's called 'Exploding Snap' for a reason, you know."

Ellie paid no mind to either of them and neither did I. The cards began to shuffle again, each card staying on top for the briefest of moments before the next. It didn't take long for a matching pair to come up, and though I tried my best to bring my wand to the top of the deck, Ellie was just a little faster at it this time around.

"Yes!" she grinned. "I've taken you off, at last!"

I bowed my head and smiled. "Well, it took you all a while. I've been sitting up here for the last half an hour."

"Yeah but it's still something." Michael piped up as he took the seat I'd just left.

I collapsed into the couch beside Cadmus with a sigh. "It was good while it lasted, but I think I'm going to get one last workout in before we leave to go home tomorrow."

"Really?" Cadmus raised his eyebrow. "It's ten-to-six."

"Yeah, I've got about two hours until dinner." I stood up and dusted off my robes. "Best time to get a workout in, I think."

He held my gaze but ultimately shrugged, more interested in the game of Exploding Snap than anything else. I said my goodbyes to Ellie and Michael, but they merely grunted, not looking up from the deck of cards. I tapped the exit out of the common room, watching the barrel slide sideways, revealing a stone passage leading to the main castle.

About halfway through the passage, I almost ran into my Head of House: Professor Sprout. She smiled at me, patting the top of my head. "Where are you off to, Mr. Azar?"

"I'm going to go exercise." I said.

"Is that so?" she smiled, her eyes twinkling. "Well I suppose that's five points to Hufflepuff for taking care of your health. After all, a healthy body is a healthy mind, wouldn't you agree?"

I grinned. "Indeed I would, Professor. Indeed I would."

"Oh, before you go," she placed a hand on my shoulder and guided me back into the common room. "I would like to make a small announcement for those of you who are inside the common room."

I stood just next to the entrance, watching the kind-faced woman plod over to the fireplace. She placed her wand to her throat, clearing it a little noisily. The students in the common room stopped what they were doing and looked at her expectantly.

"Sorry for the disturbance to your evenings, children," she smiled warmly. "But as this is the last night that most of you will be here until the new term begins, I would like to wish upon you a happy holiday. I am mostly here to express how proud I am of you all. In these last few months alone, we have racked up one hundred and seventy-five points—placing at the top of the table—and that still doesn't account for today's points."

There was a moment of silence before the room burst into roaring applause. Just over the din, I could hear a small chant that slowly grew louder and louder until it was almost deafening.

"WE'RE GONNA WIN THE HOUSE CUP!"

Sprout covered her mouth with a hand, amusement dancing within her hazel eyes. She raised her other hand and silence fell once more. "For that, we have a few select individuals to thank. And though you have all played a part, they have gone above and beyond for our house."

Still leaning against the wall beside the exit, I shared a curious glance with my friends. They sat all the way across the room beside the Herbology Professor. It seemed that Michael's deck of cards had been packed away, though the case was still atop the coffee table.

"First off, one of our fifth-year prefects, Viola Moss! Viola here, alongside Eric, has been amazing with her duties. Making rounds of the castle, leading around the first years when needed, and being an asset to this house overall." Sprout beamed at the dark-haired girl, and began the thundering applause. She stood up and grinned.

I clapped along with the others. I didn't really care much for the House Cup, but I knew that it was a big thing for my house. As far as I knew, they'd won the damn thing once in the last six years.

"Next, we have Eva Harrison, another fifth-year!"

The blond girl stood up and took a shy, albeit well-executed, bow and sat back down.

"Amos Diggory!" Sprout cheered. "And though he has been working hard these past few months, Amos has made sure to gather as many points as he could— even whilst preparing for his N.E.W.T.s this year."

From the very moment that I heard his name, my interest was piqued. I stood up straight, craning my neck so I could get a better look at who would, perhaps, end up being Cedric Diggory's father. His warm brown eyes were framed by rectangular glasses. He was handsome in a sort of proper way. His robes were neat and tidy, his hair perfectly combed, and a smile on his face that was nothing less than impeccable. And from how many people he was with, it seemed that he was as much of a social butterfly as his future son.

I made to leave the common room before Sprout's voice drifted across the room one final time.

"And lastly," she said. "I would like to thank a newcomer to our den. And though he may not have been with us for very long, I've heard that this individual has made quite the splash in both his year group, our house, and Hogwarts in general. Thank you, Cyrus Azar, for gathering fifty points for the Hufflepuff house since the first of September."

I blinked. Then blinked again. And then one more time as I tried to make sense of what I'd just heard. I knew I'd been given a tonne of points over the last few months, but nothing that big. Several dozen eyes snapped towards me, and before I knew it, I'd been swarmed by practically everyone there was. I felt somebody lift me up and hoist me onto their shoulders and despite what I'd say afterwards, being paraded around the room was pretty fun.

Once the excited badgers put me down, I was once more swarmed by my own year group. It took me a while, but I managed to pry myself away from them under the excuse of exercising. I watched the barrel slide shut, hiding the common room entrance until it would be opened once again. I sighed, waiting for my heart to calm down before I began to leisurely stroll towards the Great Staircase.

Hours later, I stumbled into my room, my limbs sore, but satisfied. My hair was still dripping from the shower I'd taken up in the Room, tracking water onto the carpeted floor. I winced, shrugging my robe off and hanging it over the wardrobe door. As much as I wanted to do little else but collapse onto my bed—Lord knows it was beckoning me over—I knew that I had to pack up before I could do so.

Grudgingly, I dragged my suitcase from underneath my bed and began to fold up my school robes, placing them at the bottom of the bag. Then, I pushed them slightly to the side, making room for my books. I rummaged through the wardrobe, taking home anything that I thought I'd need. There wasn't much sense in packing everything since I'd be back in a few weeks. In the end, I decided to pack the essentials and little else.

Once I was finished, I placed Sadie's presents at the top of the stack. I hadn't got her anything fancy on account of forgetting her gift until the letter she'd sent me last week asking what I was bringing her. In my guilt, I'd asked Professor Sprout for some Hufflepuff winter gear: a woolly Hufflepuff hat, with matching gloves and a scarf. If Sadie ever came to the castle, she'd at least be representing the best house in the castle.

Crawling into bed, I switched off my bedside lamp and buried my head into the golden pillow, letting out a content sigh.


If you'd like to join my discord, click the link below and hit the discord tab. If you want to peek at the next few chapters in advance, you know where to go. Click on the link below and navigate to the site-that-shall-not-be-named for your goodies.

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I think I'm going to drop the story here. While has been somewhat interesting, it's been kinda slow going for the most part. But I'll probably come back if the story picks up or there are more chapters, cheerio!
 
I think I'm going to drop the story here. While has been somewhat interesting, it's been kinda slow going for the most part. But I'll probably come back if the story picks up or there are more chapters, cheerio!
No worries! I do it all the time. If a story's slow-paced, I disappear for a month or so and then come back and read everything in one go. Though, I will say that binging doesn't really yield much in terms of retention so I've tried to cut back on it but you do you. I'm happy you've enjoyed it! ^^
 
Okay, so. I definitely agree that the pacing is pretty slow, which I personally don't really mind, and that Cyrus is just kind of.. bland? But aside from those things, and some of the AU changes that I'm not decided on quite yet, this was a fun enough way to spend some time. Though you should probably consider seriously hiking up the points mentioned in the last chapter; it's kind of jarring to see Cyrus thinking about how he's been earning a ton of points, and yet according to Sprout he's only earned the fifty we see him earning. No way in hell are those the only points he's earned in four whole months, not with how diligent he is in studying and application and how helpful he is with the other students. He literally earned thirty of them in the first week of classes.
 
Chapter 12: A Well-Earned Break
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OOOOO
A Well-Earned Break
OOOOO


I woke up on the morning of Christmas Eve, feeling not quite right. The castle, for all its oddities, had become like a second home to me. I wandered the many corridors with a familiarity that made me smile each time I remembered that this was all real. But that would all come to an end… for a time at least.

The day of my departure to London could be described as an odd one for me. I was so used to the routine I'd followed for the last four months that most of the morning felt like a fever dream. I hopped out of bed, my head already feeling a little light. After a quick shower, the first thing I did was slip on my shoes and head out of the common room, whispering my good mornings to the few seventh-years awake.

Travelling just to the other side of the corridor, I tickled the pear on the fruit bowl. Its giggle echoed down the corridor and the painting swung inwards to grant me access to the kitchens. The familiar sight of elves standing on podiums, peering over large silver pots was one I'd grown used to. Even now, the bubbling of the pots was like a sort of music to my ears and the scent of cooking food drew a growl from my stomach.

Dippy rushed towards me in an instant, grinning from ear to ear. "Cyrus! Is you excited for the Christmas Evening feast?"

"I sure am." I smiled. "And it's 'Christmas Eve', Dippy." the young elf lightly slapped his forehead. "I'm also here to say goodbye for now."

Large grey eyes angled upwards. "You is going home for Christmas?"

I nodded. "It's been a while since I've seen my older sister. We've been exchanging letters every week but I miss her."

The juvenile elf gasped, his leathery skin flushing. "You is having older sister?!"

Dippy was practically vibrating with excitement, only being stopped by a light slap to the shoulder.

"Dippy." Codger rumbled, his beard twitching. "You must get back to work. The students will be up for breakfast in two hours and we will be ready for them."

Dippy hung his head, his ears wilting a little. He trudged back to his pot. "Dippy is understanding, Codger."

The older elf nodded at me by way of greeting and then moved to follow him. "It's 'Dippy understands', Dippy, not 'Dippy is understanding'."

Sensing that I'd only be a bother if I stayed, I slowly retreated out of the kitchens, shutting the door as gently as I could. I had no idea if the noise would disturb the elves over the bubbling of the pots and general clamour of the kitchen, but if their ears were as sensitive as they looked, then I'd rather be safe than sorry. Now finding myself with more time than I knew what to do with, I wandered about the basement level of the castle for a while before deciding to head to the library.

If I was going to be away for a while, then I'd at least take note of anything interesting to ponder on over the winter break. But it was on my way to the library that I realised I was a muggleborn. In other words, I'd be unable to practise magic for about three weeks. Just the realisation alone filled me with annoyance. I'd grown so used to being able to twirl my wand around my fingers, clean or levitate random objects so absentmindedly that imagining life without doing so was impossible.

And to my shame, a small part of me wished to stay. It voiced sweet whispers and promises into my mind, only to be squashed under the weight of my shame and by the time I'd arrived, it had all but turned into resignation. The library's blinds were still closed, small motes of light slipping through the parts that they could not cover. Even as early as it was, Madam Pince sat at her desk, sipping from a mug of what smelt like coffee. I walked over to her with a smile, despite knowing that she'd be as prickly as she always was.

Months of being around her could attest to that.

"Good morning, Madam Pince." I smiled.

The librarian looked up from her drink, her dark eyes more confused than annoyed— progress. She set it down. Her voice was hesitant, but it still lacked any sort of warmth. "What is it?"

"Since it's my last morning here, I thought I'd stop by." she looked like she wanted to say something, but held her tongue. "Take advantage of all the reading and practice I can before I have to stop using magic for three weeks…"

Her gaze was a little kinder now. "Is that so?"

I nodded. "Though I'm also here to wish you a happy holiday."

"Me?" her eyes widened.

"You keep all the books we read in amazing condition." I said. "Especially considering how old the castle is. In my book, I'd say that makes you a pretty cool person."

A small smile slipped across her face at the praise— though perhaps it might've been the pun. Not missing a beat, I followed up on my compliment— it was time to go for broke. "Honestly ma'am, you should smile more. Not only do you look nicer—and smiling is proven to make you feel better—but it would also make the library a much more comfortable space for everyone, don't you think?"

Pince picked up her mug, her eyes evaluative as she drank from it. "I'll… take it into consideration."

Satisfied, I waltzed over to the shelves, not searching for anything in particular. Hopefully I'd make life at the library a little better for everyone staying here for the holidays— and maybe for every student in the future.

With my suitcase already packed, there wasn't much else for me to do. I was more interested in just absorbing the atmosphere through the books. Every once in a while, I'd spot an interesting title, or an eye-catching cover somewhere and would follow up on my curiosity. And until breakfast began, that's how I spent the remaining time until I was forced to leave.

OOOO

The train back to London had set off well over three hours ago, taking with it all the students who wished to go back to their families for Christmas. Which was to say the majority of the students at Hogwarts.

"Snap!" Lily cheered. She lashed her wand out, tapping it on the card. Snape's own wand hand froze just as hers reached the deck. "I win, Sev!"

His eyes burned with annoyance, though it quickly melted once he saw the joy blooming across her face. Remus peeped over the top of a book, hiding his smile. This was the fifth time Snape had lost to Lily in the last hour.

Amused, I got out of my seat and stretched. "I'm going to the bathroom." I announced, sliding the compartment door.

I stepped out onto the carriage, the rumble of the train drowning out all other noise. To my surprise, Madam Pince had allowed me to borrow a single book for my time at home— maybe out of pity, though I'd like to think that my compliment really had worked on her. Either way, I was grateful that I'd get to start off on something completely new over the holidays.

It was an introductory book on duelling complete with basic duelling techniques. Nothing too fancy, just the most optimal stances as well as basic conditioning. Apparently, duels could last from anywhere between one minute to half an hour depending on the skill of the wizards involved. Though the time limit really depended on the type of duel taking place. For instance, Formal Duels were often ones fought over lost honour or as some kind of vengeance. Rules were agreed on beforehand by both parties. So long as the rules were obeyed, everything else was completely fine.

Competitive duels worked a little differently and were sanctioned by a referee. They ended if a combatant was either disarmed, knocked unconscious, or fifteen minutes were up in which case the judges would come to a decision as to whether the duel results in a win, a loss, or a draw. Death wasn't a common occurrence as far as I could tell, though at the world stage, you had to sign waivers in case you did die.

Breaking out of my thoughts, I stepped back a little as the compartment just ahead of me opened up. Out stepped a pale-blonde haired girl in Slytherin robes. She was a little shorter than I was. When she noticed me, her eyebrows rose before she masked her surprise under a sneer. "Well, well."

She seemed familiar. I was the first to break the tense silence between us. "I'm sorry, do I know you?"

Her eyes glimmered in both derision and amusement as she covered her mouth. "Know me? Merlin no! But I've heard of you."

"Oh?"

"I doubt that there's a second-year who hasn't." she folded her arms. "Cyrus Azar, Quite the talented first-year. But you're a Mudblood regardless so I suppose you won't really amount to much in the end."

The amusement on my face swiftly fell and though my right hand itched to hex her, I stopped myself from gripping my wand. Something told me that this girl wasn't as two-dimensional as she wanted me to believe. But perhaps I was reading too much into it. I let my hand relax and it fell limply to my side.

"Yes." I replied simply, my voice measured. "But enough of myself. Tell me, who do I have the pleasure of meeting?"

She blinked at my change in tone but indulged me, her voice smug. "Narcissa Black. Slytherin second-year and daughter of House Black."

I stared at her, certainly not expecting her to be Narcissa of all people. I thought she'd be a little older than that. She could pass for a first-year if she wanted to. Regardless, I was very much still annoyed at what she'd called me, but unlike Mulciber, I couldn't hit her with a spell and walk away as if nothing had happened.

Her sister was the girl who had hexed me to hell and back during my first week. And her family was even more terrifying. Eric's warning from the start of the year rang through my head.

"They're pretty much Wizarding Britain's Mob. Dark as hell, and they practically control half the Wizengamot— that is to say the government." he'd said.

I chewed the inside of my cheek and decided that it was better to vent my frustrations in a way that wouldn't get me killed. "You seem to be mistaken of something. You think that calling me a Mudblood will do something to me— that flaunting your blood status will somehow make me feel some type of way. I'll tell you right now that it won't, because either way, I'll still be as accomplished as I was before meeting you. Me, a Mudblood."

I stressed the last word, enjoying the mix of annoyance and grudging respect on her face, as I walked past her. Though before I'd even cleared a few steps, a thought occurred to me.

"And Black?" she turned. "The only thing you have over me is wealth and I'm sure that deep down, you know it. You seem smart, and I'm not being arrogant when I say that I've got both the talent and drive to work hard— I'm a Hufflepuff for Merlin's sake."

Not wanting to waste a second more, not even to wait for her reply, I walked back to my compartment—which coincidentally wasn't all that far from hers—and slipped through the gap.

"Oh!" Lily said. "You're back."

I nodded, picking my book up from the table. "I am. Who won between you and Remus?"

"I did." Remus waved. "Though I lost to Snape just before you got here."

I smirked. "So it's Snape and Lily. Again?"

The Slytherin shot me a warning glare, but I chose to ignore it.

Remus caught on pretty quickly and shot me a smirk of his own. "It's almost as if someone is losing on purpose."

Lily's head shot up instantly. "What? Sev, is that true?!"

Snape looked like a deer caught in headlights, but managed to reply with some grace. "No, Lily. You're just that much better than me."

Lily narrowed her eyes suspiciously. "Is that so? But surely you'd at least win once out of five times. Based on your reactions, it's certainly a possibility. You've beaten both Cyrus and Remus at least twice."

The boy stuttered for a response and I bit down on my index finger to stifle my laughter, my face hidden behind the covers of my book. I honestly hadn't intended on exposing him like that, but I sure as hell was enjoying him squirm.

He shot me a look that promised retribution and readied himself for the game. I had a feeling that this time, Lily wouldn't be the winner.

OOOO

The train hissed as it entered King's Cross station. We'd left a lot earlier than eleven, meaning that the sun had only just begun to set by the time we got back. I rolled my slightly stiff neck, craning it up as I slowly brought down my suitcase from the luggage rack.

"Any plans for the holidays?" I asked.

Lily slung her backpack over her shoulders. "Sev's staying over with Tuney and I for the holidays so that should be fun."

Snape simply nodded.

"What about you, Remus?" I asked.

"I think I'll have a quiet holiday with my parents for the most part." the boy said thoughtfully. "Though we might visit my grandparents if we can."

"That sounds pretty nice, honestly." I smiled. "And as for me, I get to see my sister at last."

Lily smiled. "The older sister you've been going on about for months?"

"The sister with the feather duster?" Remus laughed.

"The very same." I smiled back. "In fact, I think we'll run into her once we get off the train."

We slowly filed out of the compartment and joined the line of students leaving the train. Ignoring my rumbling stomach, I stepped onto the platform and waited for the children to join me. One by one, they separated from the crowd and took a moment to look around for their respective families.

"I think I see my dad!" Remus smiled. He paused for a moment. "Let me introduce you all."

I looked back at my two remaining companions. Lily's eyes brightened as she smiled and followed Remus whilst the quiet Slytherin merely shrugged and went after her. My eyes scanned the platform, not finding my sister's familiar figure so I decided to follow the three of them. There were a lot of people around. Nothing comparable to how the platform was on the first day of the year, but there were still enough people that I had to take care to not run into anyone.

Remus' father was a tall man. He towered over us, blotting most of the light from view. He was dressed in a wolly black turtleneck and jeans under a trench coat. His stern face warmed once he saw us— or rather, Remus.

"Da—!" Remus was brought into a tight hug by his father, whatever he was about to say being smothered in his father's embrace.

"I've missed you, son." his dad sighed.

"Me too, dad." Remus replied, his voice small.

He stepped back and rubbed his eyes. "I've made some friends too. This is Lily."

The redhead smiled at the older man. "Hello Mr. Lupin!"

He clasped her much smaller hand in his own gloved one. "It's nice to meet you too, Lily."

"The broody one is Severus."

Snape shot him a half-hearted glare but wordlessly stuck out his hand. Mr. Lupin took it in his own before turning to me, his eyes curious. "Then I believe this one is that Cyrus boy you were telling me about?"

Remus nodded.

"In that case, let me be the first to tell you how grateful I am, young man." Mr. Lupin said. "Remus here has always had trouble making friends. So much that I believe that you might be his first friend. Unfortunately, my wife isn't here. She was really looking forward to meeting you, but work took priority unfortunately."

"It's fine." I smiled. "And Remus is a good friend to all of us."

The boy in question bowed his head and curled into his father's embrace, hiding his face from view.

"That's good to hear." the man said. "But I'd like to thank you all properly. There are three more that he spoke about. Do you know where they are?"

"They decided to stay at school for the holidays." Remus mumbled.

"I see…" he said. "In that case, would it be alright if my wife and I invited the three of you to our house for dinner at some point during the holidays?"

I shared a glance with Lily and then Snape. The sallow-skinned boy shrugged noncommittally. I turned back to Mr. Lupin. "I'd be alright with it, but you'd have to talk to my sister."

"Me too. My parents should be around here somewhere." Lily said.

"Then I think we should look for them." Mr. Lupin decided.

Finding a handful of people on a platform swimming with them was a harder task than I thought it'd be— especially when you had to compete with little children and pets. For the briefest of moments, I wondered if Sadie had forgotten to pick me up. That was until I spotted a familiar curly-haired individual in the distance.

Abandoning my suitcase, I ran forwards, cupping my hands over my mouth. "Sadie!"

She whirled around, her eyes widening. A grin spread across her face and she opened her arms and drew me into a hug. I stood still for a while, not saying anything, simply just absorbing her presence. It wasn't until I was in her embrace that I realised just how much I'd missed her.

Sadie separated from me and ran her brown eyes over me. "Oh my God, you've grown so much!"

I smiled, ignoring the wetness of my own eyes. "Yeah, that's what happens when you eat well and exercise regularly." I laughed. "But look at you! You're looking a lot better than you did before."

She put her hands on her hips and huffed. "Oh? And what's that supposed to mean?"

"That you're not as stressed anymore." I smiled as she ran a hand through my hair.

"Cyrus!" I heard Remus call. I turned around to see him dragging my suitcase with him. Lily, Snape, and his father weren't behind him either.

"Oh?" Sadie smiled mischievously at me. "And who are these people?"

"Hello, Miss Azar." Remus smiled, stretching out his hand. "I'm Remus."

Sadie shook his hand, giving him a warm smile. "It's good to finally meet you, Remus. Cyrus has talked about you in his letters, you know."

Remus was like a shark that had smelt blood now. He looked over his shoulder and smirked. "What did he say?"

"Hmm…" Sadie hummed and cupped her chin. "Should I really tell you?"

I wasn't all too worried. It wasn't like there was anything to embarrass me with anyways. Once she realised I wasn't taking the bait, Sadie sighed and answered Remus. "Nothing much really. Only that he'd made a good friend at school."

Remus smiled at her and wheeled my suitcase over to me. Soon, the others had joined us, and Mr. Lupin and my sister were ironing out the details of the dinner. Lily shuffled her feet impatiently.

"What's wrong?" I asked.

"I don't know where Tuney is." she sighed.

"Did you see her on the train?" Remus supplied.

Lily was glum. "No."

I was silent, not really knowing what to say. We'd probably find her if we looked around for a little longer but—

"I see her." Snape spoke up quietly.

"Where?" Lily asked, running over to him.

He pointed and I followed his finger until I spotted a blonde haired girl flanked by a red haired man and a taller blonde woman.

Lily sprung up and ran towards them. "Mum! Dad! I'm over here!"

She returned soon enough, her arm linked with sister's and a grin on her face. "These are my friends: Cyrus and Remus. There are three other people, but they decided to stay at Hogwarts for the year."

I met Petunia's blue eyes and smiled as they lit up in recognition. "Wait, I know him!" she pointed at me.

Lily turned back to her. "Really?"

"Yes." Petunia nodded. "I ran into him at the start of the year on the train."

I laughed. "You really did "run into me."

Her cheeks pinkened as she spoke a little loudly. "I apologised for that though!"

I held up my hands. "And it was a very good apology! But you can't deny that it wasn't funny— not even a little bit?"

She sighed, smiling a little. "I suppose it was, looking back on it."

"Nice to meet you Mr. and Mrs. Evans." I turned to her parents, stretching out my hand and capturing their own.

"It's good to meet you too, son." Mr. Evans smiled. His face was kind, despite his gravelly voice and broad shoulders.

Mrs. Evans smiled kindly at me, and then Remus. "Thank you for looking out for our little flower here." she lay a hand on a flushing Lily's head. "I know she can be a little too forward sometimes—Severus would certainly agree—but she's a sweetheart."

The dark-haired boy gave the older woman a soft smile.

"Not a problem, Mrs. Evans." I said.

"Yeah, I'd say that Lily has been a big help to me this year." Remus piped up.

We'd left the platform a little while ago, near the station's exit. We stood off to the side as the adults—part of me wanted to laugh at that—discussed the details of the dinner that Mr. Lupin proposed earlier. I shook out my tired feet as I waited for them to finish.

"How ready are you guys for the exams once we come back?" Lily asked.

Snape sniffed a little. "I could take them right now and still get an outstanding."

Lily blinked. "Really? I knew you were smart but that's amazing."

The Slytherin's pale cheeks gained a little colour as he huffed and crossed his arms.

I glanced at an amused Remus and nudged him with my elbow. "How about you?"

"I need to go over some of my notes but I'm not too worried either." he tilted his head. "You?"

I smiled. "Do you want me to be honest?"

He looked at me confusedly but eventually nodded.

"I could take the End of Year exams right now if I wanted to." I said with a small amount of smugness.

Lily and Snape turned to me. The former's eyes were widened in shock whilst the latter's were… calculative?

"Really?!" she exclaimed, flushing a little when her parents looked over to her. She cleared her throat and spoke again. "Are you serious?"

I nodded. "I am."

"Then why haven't you done so already?" Snape asked.

"Because I don't want the attention." I replied.

It wasn't an entirely untrue response either. Why would I make a show of wanting to learn more if I had the Room of Requirement? I could study ahead at my own leisure whilst not having to pay as much attention in class.

"Think of it this way," I continued. "I can carry on studying whatever and whenever I want without anybody being the wiser, right? There's no reason for me to go and spoil that."

Snape gave me a small nod.

"I also happen to like most of my year group so there's that."

It was then that we were waved over by Sadie, who had a large grin on her face. "We've talked it over and have decided that there's no harm in meeting at Lyall's house for dinner." she smirked at me. "It gives me an excuse to get you out of the house for a few hours. We both know that you don't plan on leaving the house unless you absolutely have to."

I rubbed my neck, a little embarrassed that she'd figured me out, and turned to Remus. "Lyall?"

"My dad." he whispered.

Mrs. Evans spoke up, a little regretful. "It's a shame that your other friends can't come, but there's always the summer."

Lily beamed at her. "Talking about our other friends, I can't wait till you meet Cadmus, Ellie, and Michael."

"So what now?" I asked.

Sadie walked over and pulled me along by my hand. "Now, it's time to go home."

Mr. Lupin placed his hand on his son's shoulders and drew him close. "I agree."

Snape found himself wedged between Mr. and Mrs. Evans whilst Lily and Petunia linked arms just behind them. Mr. Evans nodded at us. "I suppose we should get going too. See you next week everyone!"

They walked out of the station, all in different directions, leaving Sadie and I on our own, surrounded by Hogwarts students and their families wandering around. I smothered my yawn and blinked at her tiredly. "Can we go home now?"

She laughed and ruffled my hair. "Alright then, let's go home."

I missed it then, but a pair of eyes lingered on us as we left the station. Eyes belonging to a source of annoyance that would find more ways than ever before to piss me off once we got back to school.


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In my opinion, you have done a lot of things well in this story. To start, you are a quality writer; the grammar and structure of your chapters are well developed. Along those lines, I respect the way you have written your characters. Each feel like they have their own voice and personality, making them feel recognizable. Contrary to the majority of criticism I have seen in this thread, I like the pacing you have set. The story is moving forward in a way that keeps us in touch with the characters and the narrative, spaced in a way that moves time forward at a respectable pace. Personally, I don't think there needs to be any great overlying threats or drama; So far, the MC is just a guy that is adjusting to the radically new world he has been thrown into. There is no need to arbitrarily throw in constant conflict or roadblocks so early in his journey. Cyrus even has general goals that he is striving towards, primarily finding a way to care for his sister and growing in power to prevent future atrocities. There is one aspect of this story though that I feel deserves significant praise though, that being the MC's relationship with his family. Many fanfiction stories I have read include family as a primary motivation to strive for whatever the protagonist desires, but few have succeeded in actually making the reader feel any connection with them. You have done a brilliant job of endearing us to both his previous family and his sister. When Cyrus talks about his want to support his sister, I find myself rooting for him to succeed.

Despite the praise I have for your work, I think I am going to move on from this story solely because of my personal preference in main characters. I generally struggle with Lawful good characters and their motivations, and this story hasn't yet proved to be an exception. I like his relationship with his sister, but I find myself not really caring about any of his other desires (like his stated interest in becoming strong enough to stop Voldemort). Personally, all my favorite Harry Potter stories involved protagonists who primarily focused on the wonders of learning magic and exploring new areas of the setting. So far, neither of those avenues have been explored. The MC's magical development so far has been completely bog-standard, and the setting has not been expanded from its canon counterpart (granted we are pretty early in his education). One development that hasn't occurred, that I appreciate, is that you haven't placed the MC within the Marauder friend group (not yet at least). Coming from my personal preference again, I have never been a huge fan of James or Sirius (and Pettigrew).

Overall, I think you have a lot going for you in this story, and I wish you all the best.
 
Even though the story is moving slow, I intend to stick with it because any kind of conflict that he would be encountering right now would either be something appropriate for an 11 year old (which he should be able to easily solve or avoid thanks to his mental maturity), or something that no 11 year old should be dealing with (which would make the plot lose a lot of its believablity). Having no major source of conflict while he is young and just starting out is perfectly fine, especially if you are trying to build a more believable wizarding world. There is even less reason ti try and railroad in a conflict when he is currently mostly keeping his head down and not standing out that much, or at least only having minor conflicts with literal children. Actual problems can come later in the story when it makes more sense and when he actually has decent knowledge of magic to try and solve his problems.


My only current problem with the story is that I feel you have skimped out on characterization for Cyrus. The prologue set up a loving family and little brother who he seemed to deeply love and be loved by in turn, but after essentially dying and never getting ti see them again he seems completely fine and never mentions then. Even right when he transmigrates there is very little of his thoughts we are actually privy to about how he feels.

Also we never see Cyrus really take advantage of his advanced knowledge except to physically work out in the ROR. He states that he could take his exams right now and pass, but that was as much of a surprise for me as it was the people he was informing because we have almost never seen him studying any kind of magic alone, or leveraging his foreknowledge to learn different kinds of magic. It seems he must have if he was so far ahead but we never saw it. I just wish you would dive a little deeper into both Cyrus's actions when he is alone (studying ahead or otherwise) and Cyrus's thoughts about his past and future.

At the end of the day though, these are personal complaints. Even if the story is currently a moving along at a peaceful pace, there is nothing inherently wrong with that and if properly explained and showcased it can add to the world building.
 
Chapter 13: A Day Out
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OOOOO
A Day Out
OOOOO


"You were serious about taking those everywhere, huh?" I stepped down the stairs out of the house and turned back to my sister. She was clad in the Hufflepuff winter gear I'd gifted her a little over a week ago.

Sadie locked the door and slipped the keys into her pocket. She smiled and snuggled into the scarf. "I was. It's just about cold enough to wear these too."

I smiled as I opened the creaking gate to the house and walked out onto the pavement. Our house was a little ways off the main road, thankfully, so it wasn't noisy at night. Dozens of identical houses to ours ran across both sides of the road and I busied myself with counting all of them until we reached the end of the street.

"Are we going into London by regular transport, then?" I asked Sadie.

She sniffled a little. "We are. It's why we're up so early. I know it's the weekend, but it'll still take about an hour or so to get to Charing Cross Road. The pub's at Charing Cross Road, right?"

I nodded. "We could probably take the 176 and get off at…" I racked my brains in an attempt to remember the stop and gave up when I couldn't.

"Cambridge Circus." Sadie supplied.

I threw her a questioning glance.

"I was working at a courthouse in Blackfriars, a month ago," Sadie explained. "So I'm pretty familiar with the area."

Made sense. I shrugged and put one foot in front of the other until we had reached the main road. I stood still for a few moments as I looked around for the bus stop. "Over there, Sadie."

She broke out into a brisk walk. "I think that might be the bus on its way too."

I cursed and began to jog. Countless dreary cars whizzed past as we stood below the traffic light. A little impatient, I shifted the weight between my feet whilst keeping my eyes trained on the approaching bus. As it drew closer and the numbers on the front cleared, I realised that Sadie was right.

"It's green!" Sadie ran across the road, pulling ahead of the regular pedestrians, and I soon followed.

We continued to tear down the street, just barely getting to the bus stop in time. My previously numb toes were warm by the time I collapsed into one of the seats at the back of the bus. Since it was the morning of an incredibly chilly Saturday, there were only a couple of people on the bus' lower deck. Excluding Sadie, myself, and the driver, there was an old woman sitting at the front of the bus with a toddler on her lap.

"You'd better get comfortable," Sadie sighed as she sat across from me. "We'll be on this bus for a while."

I unzipped my coat but kept it on. "When are Remus' parents expecting us?"

"Somewhere around two o'clock."

"... Isn't it like ten right now?"

Sadie looked away from me. "Yes."

I stared at the side of her face and sighed. "Is this one of your ploys again?"

She whipped her head around and the pom-pom on the top of the Hufflepuff hat jiggled. "If it was one of my ploys, I wouldn't tell you. But no, it isn't. I'd like to ask Lyall and his wife a few things."

I folded my arms over my chest and let out a rumbling yawn. "It's fine. That just means Remus and I get to revise a little, I guess. I also get to practise a few spells for the first time in a week."

Sadie blinked and leaned in. "Why wouldn't you be able to use magic at home like you did during the summer?"

"There's no need to whisper; nobody can hear us anyways. We aren't allowed to practise magic outside of Hogwarts," she was about to interject but I continued. "The Ministry can track underage wizards performing any sort of magic. But I looked into it during my time at school. If you live with an adult wizard, they aren't actually able to discern who used the spell, only that magic was cast in a particular area around an underaged wizard. I reckon it's used to make sure Muggleborns like me don't break the Statute of Secrecy since it's pretty much useless if you live with an adult wizard."

"What's this 'Statute of Secrecy' anyways?"

"You know about the Witch Hunts, right?"

She nodded.

"The Statute of Secrecy is a law that wizards created to protect themselves from non-magical people as a result of them. It's a little complicated, but I'll make it simple: wizards can't perform magic near non-magicals for fear of breaking that law. Because if they do, it'll reveal the magical world to everyone."

Sadie nodded and leaned back. "That… makes sense."

"Why wouldn't it?" I asked.

"From what I've seen so far, wizards teleport everywhere, pay with solid gold, and dress like they're stuck in the mediaeval times. I wasn't exactly expecting common sense to be something at the top of their list when they had magic to compensate for it."

I stared at her, not knowing what to say for a while. "... You know, that does make sense."

OOOO

The door to the Leaky Cauldron swung open. The narrow hallway was half-cast into shadow, but I could make out the hazy figure of the barman approaching us, a cloth in hand.

"It's nice to see you again, Tom," I smiled.

The kind-faced man returned it, if a little guiltily. "I recognise you two, but I seem to have forgotten your names."

"It's fine," Sadie said. "Really. We can't expect you to remember us for months now, can we?"

I offered him my hand. "I'm Cyrus."

He took it gratefully before moving to Sadie and doing the same. Leading us into the pub, which was fairly empty besides a couple people having a late breakfast, he circled behind the bar. "What can I help you with today?"

I turned to Sadie. She fished through her pockets and took out a folded sheet of paper. "It says here that we need to… floo?"

Tom pointed to a small urn on a shelf opposite the fireplace. " I've got some floo powder there. It'll be three knuts per person."

"... I've only got normal money, unfortunately." Sadie said.

"Tom, do you know what the current conversion rate is?" I asked.

The man hummed and rubbed his chin. "I think that a Galleon's about ten pounds."

"Wait, I can convert my money?" Sadie gasped.

"You can," Tom wiped down the counter. "There's a bank called Gringotts in the Alley. Run by Goblins."

Sadie's mouth opened and closed without a sound. "... Goblins?"

Tom laughed. "I'll never get tired of seeing that! They're the sole bank in the country for wizards." he opened the latch, giving us entry to the counter before he locked it with a lazy wave of his wand. "With me then."

We left the bar through a door just beyond the counter. Cold drafts of air howled and swept about as we trailed down a creaking set of stairs and the barman led us out into a walled courtyard. Exposed to the lovely London winter once more, I shuddered and zipped up my coat. The crunch of gravel was all the sound that followed until we neared the brick wall.

"I'll head back in." Tom bowed his head. His cheeks were already flushing a little.

I smiled kindly at him. "You do that. I can't imagine you're having the best time out here."

"Thank you." Sadie called after him.

With a final nod, he told us the directions to the bank and sped back into the pub, closing the aged wooden door behind him. Flakes of snow drifted down from the grey clouds above, melting upon making contact with the earth.

"Alright." my breath warmed the air in front of me. "What was the combination again… three up, two across?"

The bricks shuddered before rotating outwards. Dust and little bits of brick fell from the forming archway. The small gap widened until we could see clearly into the snowy wizarding district. As expected, the Alley was relatively empty, especially in comparison to when I last visited.

I stepped through the archway. "Shall we?"

I only continued to walk again once I heard the click of Sadie's heeled shoes behind me. The sun shone down on the Alley, deceptively bright but lacking any warmth. I sniffled once more, my nose numb, and peered around at all the stores. None seemed to be as vibrant as they were when I last came, but I guessed that they put on a show during the summer for newly discovered wizards and witches.

An irritated-looking ginger man stalked past us muttering, "A simple Potions set for a Galleon and Fifteen Sickles? They must be trying to hoodwink me. I'll try out Patrice's..."

We walked on for a little longer and I saw a squat, hunch-backed old woman hobble into a gloomy little alleyway. Just as we walked past it, I sneaked in a glance and could swear that I saw a pair of glowing crimson eyes. I blinked once, and they were gone, leaving me to squint into the darkness. "Is that…"

Sadie stopped just ahead of me. "What's wrong?"

I lingered, torn between looking into the alleyway—which was most likely the entrance to Knockturn Alley—and turning to Sadie. Gritting my teeth, I pulled away from it and caught up to her. "Nothing, don't worry. Probably a racoon or something."

She looked at me worriedly but said nothing.

Soon, we neared a gleaming marble building, held up by sturdy pillars. Almost immediately, it stood apart from all the other buildings in the district— and not because it was bigger. Rather all the other buildings near it had a sort of dreary feel to them, and then here was this building that was practically shining amidst the gloomy weather.

A show of wealth if ever I'd seen one.

"'Thief, you have been warned. Beware of finding more than treasure here.'" Sadie murmured and stood up straight. "A bit ominous, isn't it?"

I was just about to answer her when a guttural laugh sounded from behind us.

"I don't deny that," the voice said. It belonged to a scarlet and gold clad figure. His skin was swarthy, beard wispy, and his teeth pointed. This was a goblin, no doubt about it. His dark eyes tinged with amusement. "But it keeps the thieves away so I cannot say that it doesn't work."

Sadie tilted her head. "Fair enough." she cleared her throat. "Would this be Gringotts bank?"

"It would," the goblin said. "I presume that you are here for our services?"

Sadie nodded.

"In that case we welcome you," he bowed once and opened the bronze gates.

If I thought the outside of the bank was a show of wealth, then it paled in comparison to the inside of the bank. Standing in a vast marble hall, I goggled at the shining ornaments hanging overhead. Several goblins sat behind a long counter that spanned the width of the hall, each preoccupied with a task. One wore a monocle and was carefully inspecting a gleaming ruby gem. Another furiously dipped an ornate quill in an inkwell before scribbling away on a flowing roll of parchment. The one sitting closest to me was carefully weighing solid bars of gold whilst the one beside him frantically tapped away at some sort of typewriter.

We weren't the only people in the hall. Several other people were dotted around the large hall. Some were speaking animatedly with the goblins, others huddled nervously, their eyes darting around as if they feared their wealth was being depleted simply by them standing here.

A long-bearded goblin exited one of the tens—possibly hundreds—of doors circling the hall. "How can I help you?"

Sadie stepped forward and extended a slightly shaking hand. "Hello there, sir. We'd like to exchange some normal money."

The goblin eyed her hand strangely but eventually clasped it. A small shake and he withdrew his hand. "I'm assuming that by "normal money", you mean muggle money?"

Sadie nodded. He simply beckoned us forward, leading us over to the side of the counter. "The current exchange rate between the Pound Sterling and the Golden Galleon is one Galleon per ten pound. Gringotts charges a small fee of ten pence per exchange. How much would you like to exchange today?"

Sadie looked at me. "How much do we need?"

"Honestly?" I asked her. She nodded. "We don't even need to exchange a pound. But it'd be useful to have some spare change today, I think. How much money have you got on you?"

She looked through her purse. "Thirty-five pounds and seventy-four pence."

"In that case, I'd say do ten pounds."

She walked up to the counter and placed a ten pound note on the table. The goblin slid a single golden coin to her, which Sadie slipped into her bag. A little while later, we returned to the Leaky Cauldron, entering in from the Alley, sneezing and shivering.

"Back already?" Tom called over from the counter.

"Yeah. We've got a single Galleon. Got any change?" I asked him.

"That's about sixteen Sickles as change, give or take." the man replied.

I wordlessly slipped the golden coin into his hand, taking a handful of silver ones in return.

"Know how to use the floo?" he asked.

Sadie removed the paper from her pocket and unfolded it. "It says here to throw the powder into the fireplace, say 'Hopeful Home' and then step into the fire?!"

Tom laughed. "Exactly that. Don't worry, you won't burn. Remember to say the words to your destination clearly as you do, though. Wouldn't want to mess it up and end up on the other side of the world now, would you?"

Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted Sadie stare at the fireplace dubiously, not budging from where she stood. "I'll go first."

I marched over to the shelf and grabbed a handful of floo powder. Careful not to get any of it on myself, I tossed it into the fire. It hissed softly, darkening into a spooky emerald and I tentatively stepped inside, feeling none of the heat I'd expected. I swallowed, cringing a little at the name of the house. Fearing the consequences of screwing up the jump, I made sure to enunciate my words properly. "Hopeful Home!"

The fire roared, engulfing me. I squeezed my eyes shut, accidentally inhaling a mouthful of ash. After what felt like a moment later, I exited the fireplace, covered in soot and dust. My eyes itched and my lungs burned, but as far as I knew, it seemed to have worked properly.

OOOO

Remus' room was pretty minimalistic as far as preteen rooms were concerned. The only noticeable articles were the dark grey carpeted floor, single bed, large wardrobe, and desk occupying most of the space in the room. The walls were plain, as was the rest of the room for the most part.

With that said, there was a magical calendar just beside the wardrobe and on the wall in front of his desk, a motivational poster. From what I'd seen, it had been charmed to give different messages depending on the time of the day. Currently, it read: 'You've been working so hard! It's the final push now— fifteen more minutes!'

I sat at the foot of the bed, pen in hand as I scanned through the work on my lap. "This is correct, but a little too simplistic. Explain this further. Try not to repeat words that you've already used in quick succession. Sure, accurate knowledge earns you points, but so does a well-written essay."

I handed Remus his notebook back, giving him an encouraging smile as I stretched out my other hand for Lily's work.

"Hold on," the redhead muttered, not looking up. "I'm not done yet."

My arm grew sore as I waited for her to hand me her answers. It slumped back to my side, pulsing in relief. Lily lay on the floor, propping herself up on her arms, lazily kicking her feet in the air as she scribbled away. "Am I ever going to get that sheet of paper?"

"Aaand done!" she shot up and handed me the lined paper. It had been marked in neat cursive, rivalling Remus' own handwriting.

I raised an eyebrow. "How many spelling errors am I going to encounter this time?"

Her cheeks flushed. "That was one time!"

I rolled my eyes. "The exams are only "one time."

She huffed and plopped down onto the carpeted floor, crossing her arms.

About five or so minutes later, I returned her work to her. "All things said, it's a solid essay. I'm not Flitwick or McGonagall but I think that'd be a high exceeds expectations, perhaps borderline outstanding."

She beamed at the praise. "That's great!" she turned to Remus and nudged his shoulder. "I think we'll ace these exams!"

He looked at her, a little amused. "You sure? There's still a lot we haven't covered."

"You do realise that we're only here for about six hours, right?" I interjected. "I don't think we should expect to cover everything we've learnt during the year, much less try to."

Remus turned his chair around to face me. "Then what should we do?"

I smiled. "It's simple, really. We list out the things that we're not so confident in, circle the ones that are common between us all, and then go through those."

Lily rolled her eyes and blew a few strands of hair out of her eyes. "Why do you even keep saying "we", Mr. I-can-take-my-exams-whenever-I-want?"

"Because," I laughed. "Just cause you know something, doesn't mean that you can't forget about it."

She tilted her head, but eventually conceded.

"Anyways," I looked to my right at the last member of the study group. "I think it's about time I check through your essay, Snape."

The dark haired boy stared at me for a moment before wordlessly slipping it into my hands. I roamed over the page, taking a moment to whistle in approval. "If only you could write like this for all your other subjects," I said. "Then I'd really have some trouble for that top spot— at least in terms of theory."

Lily sat up, placing her hands on Snape's knees. She craned her neck to get a better look. "Is that a Potions essay?"

I nodded and passed her the essay. A few minutes later, she looked up and smiled brightly at the boy. His cheeks flushed a little and he looked away.

"Let me see," Remus called from the desk.

Lily passed him the paper and he sat in silence for a few moments after he'd finished reading. "Wow… Cyrus wasn't kidding. This is really well-written, Severus. I'd say it's about as good as Cyrus' essays."

It was hard not to feel a flash of indignation at his remark, be it because of my physical age or the fact that my work was being compared to a child who was seven years younger than me. At the very least, though, I had to concede the fact that it was a well-written essay and that Snape was a talented child.

"I know it's not as simple as it sounds," I began, drawing Snape's attention. "But if you can get this level of detail and analysis in all your essays—maybe with a bit of personal comment in your conclusions—then I might have a real academic rival on my hands, Snape."

The boy gave me one of his rare smiles— and by rare, I meant practically nonexistent. "I'll keep that in mind. And Azar?"

"What is it?"

"My name is Severus."

I smiled at him. "Feel free to call me Cyrus then, Severus."

Lily rolled over onto her back and groaned. "Thank God! You two have been calling each other 'Azar' and 'Snape' for months!"

"It's called etiquette, Lily. And stop being so dramatic. Cyrus and I have been on speaking terms for two weeks," Severus drawled though his eyes shone with amusement. "Though on second thought, I guess you wouldn't have heard of such a thing."

She reared up. "That is not true! I can be polite when I need to."

Remus laughed. "Yeah, for all of ten minutes when meeting someone new."

I watched on in silence, content to just watch them get along. It was mind-boggling to think that in another time and place—one where I didn't exist, I thought morbidly—that these three would have never sat in the same room, much less joke around with each other.

A knock at the door pulled me out of my spiralling thoughts. Remus' mother, Hope, poked her head through it. Her golden locks fell over her face slightly, framing her smooth face. The dimples on her cheeks stretched as she smiled at us.

"It's nice to see you all getting along," Mrs. Lupin said. "But it's time for dinner now."

Remus' face brightened the minute he lay his eyes on her. "Oh, hey mum!"

"Hello dear," she smiled.

"We just got done revising," he puffed out his chest a little and I couldn't help but smile.

He reminded me a lot of my little brother sometimes. From the way that you could tell what mood he was in from his eyes alone, to how he sought out praise from people he looked up to. Though I shook my head to banish the thoughts. Even now, I couldn't help but feel my heart ache every time I thought of my unborn family.

"Good," Mrs. Lupin said. "Go and wash up then. The bathroom's downstairs, just across from the staircase. You guys had better hurry though, the food's getting cold."

I was the first to leave, though the others soon followed. As I descended, the pleasant aroma of freshly cooked food wafted through the house and filled my nose. I made a beeline for the bathroom, rending my wand free from its holster and locking the door after muttering the incantation underneath my breath.

"Oi!" Lily rapped her fist against the door, rattling it slightly.

I grinned as I began to wash my hands.

OOOO

"Hey dad," Remus glanced at him from over the table. "Can we show you some magic in the garden?"

Mr. Evans sat up at that. "Magic? Now that is something I'd like to see more of."

"Me too," Sadie nudged me with her elbow.

"So long as I'm watching, then that's fine. But, give me a minute," he floated the dirty plates and cutlery over to the kitchen. I heard the patter of water against the sink and the clatter of the dishes being washed.

"I never get tired of seeing that," Mrs. Lupin smiled. "Makes life so easy, you know?"

Sadie ruffled my hair. "When will you be able to do that, huh?"

I swatted her hand off my head. "Unless some wizard decides to live with us and our house ends up registered as a wizarding home? When I'm seventeen."

Mrs. Evans frowned. "That doesn't sound very fair. Doesn't that mean all the children with wizards for parents will be ahead of those whose parents are like us?"

Snape furrowed his brow. "Unfortunately."

"It's something that's been getting on my nerves for years, mother," Petunia sighed.

Mrs. Lupin leaned across the table and slid Sadie an aged book. "You asked for this earlier, right?"

"What is it?" I craned my neck to look at the cover. "'A Muggleborn's Guide to Wizarding Britain'?"

"This was a lifesaver when I married Lyall," Mrs. Lupin said.

"Do you perhaps have a copy that we could borrow?" Mrs. Evans asked her.

The blonde shook her head. "Unfortunately I've only got the one."

"But thankfully, you've got me," Mr. Lupin entered the dining room with his wand in hand. He looked at Petunia. "I don't know if you've learnt about this spell yet, though you might when you return to school. It's a variation of the Doubling Charm that's often used by newspaper businesses like the Daily Prophet. Coincidentally, it's also quite useful for paperwork."

I didn't hear what he muttered, but the book in front of me seemed to split right down the middle. Each side pushed outward until two identical copies of the book sat in front of me. Staring at the beaten covers of both books, I was struck by an idea that had me pull out my wand.

"What are you doing?" Sadie asked.

I didn't reply. Instead, I passed my wand over the two books, gathering my will to make them look as new as they possibly could. "Reparo."

As my wand passed over them, the wrinkles on the books' covers faded away, and the slightly worn lettering writhed across until it was a full, inky black once more. I appraised my work with a satisfied smile and slid my wand back into its holster.

"Well-cast, Cyrus. That'd be five points to… Hufflepuff?" Mr. Lupin smiled at his joke. "Talking about spells, I think it's time we make our way to the garden."

The grey sky was even gloomier than when I first arrived at the house. Thankfully it was a little less colder though. The Lupins' garden was deceptively large. From the outside, it seemed to be about the size of your normal garden, but now that I stood inside it, it seemed to be about twice that. Maybe Mr. Lupin had used an extension charm of some sort. His special job at the Ministry might have allowed him the privilege.

Remus wandered into the grass just ahead of me. "What spell would you like us to use?"

The man folded his arms and hummed. "Any of you guys familiar with the Disarming Charm?"

Snape, Petunia, and myself stuck up our hands.

Lily frowned. "But isn't that a second year charm?"

"There's nothing stopping you from learning it," Snape said. "The school library has all the editions of 'The Standard Book of Spells'."

"I guess I can teach you guys the spell then," Mr. Lupin smiled at Remus and Lily. "It's, arguably, one of the most useful spells to have for self-defence purposes."

"Wait, the magical world is dangerous?" Mrs. Evans asked, a little worried.

"If I were to tell you that it was no more dangerous than the muggle world, I'd be lying," Mr. Lupin replied. "And whilst it pains me to admit it, it's better to be equipped to deal with that danger than it is to be caught unawares by it."

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Sadie's gaze on me and gave her what I hoped was a reassuring smile.

"Now," Mr. Lupin clapped his hands. "Wander around the garden and find a stick for yourselves."

"Why?" Petunia asked. "Can't we just practise the charm on our wands?"

"And run the risk of breaking them?" Snape replied.

Once we'd all gathered our sticks, Mr. Lupin had us line up in front of him. The parents crowded around the door leading back into the house, watching on curiously.

"Severus and Cyrus, since you two are already familiar with the spell, I'll call you guys up first," Mr. Lupin said.

I moved onto an open patch of grass in front of the man and stood opposite Severus. "Who's going to be casting first?"

"Severus," the man replied.

I nodded and held out the stick as I would with my wand. "Ready?"

The boy nodded. He spread his feet and traced his wand in the air, whispering, "Expelliarmus."

A bolt of scarlet light, not unlike a tennis ball, leapt towards me. The stick in my hand was sent hurtling to the fence but, by a stroke of luck, it didn't go over.

"Nice," I smiled at him. "Try to control where it lands, though."

"What do you mean?" he tilted his head.

"Watch this," I brought out my wand and waited for him to bring out his twig. Calming myself, I gripped my wand a little tighter and gathered my desire to disarm him. "Expelliarmus."

A slightly smaller but more intense bolt of light darted towards him. The twig was ripped out of his hands, and sent spinning back towards me. I snatched it out of the air and waved it at him. "Like that."

Outside I looked completely calm but I was grinning like a child on the inside. That had taken me weeks to get that down and I still couldn't do it at the drop of a hat. It'd be much simpler to use the spell as Severus had. After all, it was better to be practical than it was fancy— at least until you could do both.

"Well done you two," Mr. Lupin nodded with a small smile. "Next up: Petunia and Lily."

I walked back to Remus with Severus in tow and watched the two girls. I reckoned they'd take a little longer since Mr. Lupin had to teach Lily how to cast the spell before they could do anything.

"D'you think it'll be you and your dad next, Remus?" I asked him.

He shrugged. "Probably."

"Well, good luck with that," I said. "A word of advice, though. Don't try to do what I did— at least not at first. Start off with trying to disarm, and when you can do that ten out of ten times, move on to the fancy stuff."

I stalked through the grass and back to Sadie and the parents. She hooked an arm behind my neck and brought me into a tight hug.

"That was amazing!" she ruffled my hair.

I smiled, even though she'd practically smothered me into her coat. "Thanks Sadie. Now can you please stop suffocating me."

"Oh?" I could her smirk. "Now that you're a big bad wizard you don't like your normal sister anymore, huh?"

I rolled my eyes and stood up straight. "That'll never happen. Besides, if you weren't around, I doubt that I'd survive for very long."

"Glad you know it," she puffed up.

I sat down on the stone steps leading back into the house. Not even my jeans were enough to stop their chill but I gritted my teeth through the cold. I watched as Mr. Lupin held a spindly twig in his right hand, several more clutched in his other one, as Lily sent one after the other across the garden— one of them even landed at my feet.

Stretching my neck, I glanced upwards at the darkening sky. "Hmm… I think it's going to rain."

Mrs. Evans looked upwards. "I think so too."

"You reckon magic could stop it from falling on us?" Mr. Evans asked me.

I looked at a particularly dark cloud thoughtfully. "Huh. I don't know… maybe?"

"Expelliarmus!" I heard Lily cry. The twig smashed against the wall next to my head, snapping. I eyed it warily for a moment.

"Oi!" I cupped my hands over my mouth. Lily stopped mid-cast and turned to me. "Watch out with that. You almost blinded me!"

She smiled apologetically.

"Good grief," Sadie placed a hand on her chest. "That was quite the scare."

Mrs. Lupin laughed. "You're telling me. I've lived with Lyall for over a decade now. At first, I jumped at anything magical that he did."

I turned to her. "Really?"

She nodded. "It takes some getting used to, but I think being around magic more sure does help. It seems less magical and more normal, you know?"

Sadie snorted. "I don't know, no," she held up the book that Mrs. Lupin had given her. "But hopefully this will help with that."

I felt a drop of water slip down my forehead and sighed. "Great. It's started to rain now…"

"We'd better head back inside," Mrs. Evans said.

One by one, we all trailed back into the house, even Lily, who was quite vocal about her displeasure.


If you'd like to join my discord, click the link below and hit the discord tab. If you want to peek at the next few chapters in advance, you know where to go. Click on the link below and navigate to the site-that-shall-not-be-named for your goodies.

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I'm enjoying the story, pace wise it seems mostly fine.

The two things I'd have liked to see are him passing off the horcrux from the ROR to Dumbledore before Christmas (if only to protect the DADA teacher) and the MC trying to make money. It seems like he missed an opportunity to do some low level looting of the ROR to make money quickly. He wouldn't necessarily be able to spot all the enchantments but I'd have expected him to ask a prof for a good reference book on runes/identifying charms then see if he could salvage an old dimensional suitcase and start hunting in the ROR. There have to be a ton of things that he could pawn/sell to other students, give to Sadie, or use himself (lost textbooks, items). If folks hadn't lost a small hill of pocket change as well I'd also be shocked.

I'd expect him to be able to get 20+ galleons worth of loot in a semester. With inflation £10 in the mid seventies is like £70 today and an extra £1400 would be huge for his sister (in addition to her not having to pay to support him during the year). Some magic items could also do great things to help her comfort or expenses. He'd have to do some work when folk asked him where he got stuff but if he was smart he could pick stuff that didn't draw too much scrutiny.

TLDR: Story emphasized how much financial struggle MCs family was under and how much he wanted to help but he hasn't been as proactive about addressing this as I would have expected.

Otherwise great story, pretty SOL as he adjusts (again) to a new social framework. AU elements seem interesting and like they'll lead to more canon divergence. Hope you've got more in the tank AshestoDusts
 
I'm enjoying the story, pace wise it seems mostly fine.

The two things I'd have liked to see are him passing off the horcrux from the ROR to Dumbledore before Christmas (if only to protect the DADA teacher) and the MC trying to make money. It seems like he missed an opportunity to do some low level looting of the ROR to make money quickly. He wouldn't necessarily be able to spot all the enchantments but I'd have expected him to ask a prof for a good reference book on runes/identifying charms then see if he could salvage an old dimensional suitcase and start hunting in the ROR. There have to be a ton of things that he could pawn/sell to other students, give to Sadie, or use himself (lost textbooks, items). If folks hadn't lost a small hill of pocket change as well I'd also be shocked.

I'd expect him to be able to get 20+ galleons worth of loot in a semester. With inflation £10 in the mid seventies is like £70 today and an extra £1400 would be huge for his sister (in addition to her not having to pay to support him during the year). Some magic items could also do great things to help her comfort or expenses. He'd have to do some work when folk asked him where he got stuff but if he was smart he could pick stuff that didn't draw too much scrutiny.

TLDR: Story emphasized how much financial struggle MCs family was under and how much he wanted to help but he hasn't been as proactive about addressing this as I would have expected.

Otherwise great story, pretty SOL as he adjusts (again) to a new social framework. AU elements seem interesting and like they'll lead to more canon divergence. Hope you've got more in the tank AshestoDusts
not only that but there are likely to be jewels and other expensive things as well. Remember that hog warts has a bunch of wealthy in the castle. There are bejeweled stuff in quite a few places
 

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