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you make me a believer

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It is hard to pinpoint the moment where Alex remembers being Alexander. The memories and thoughts are always there, sort of, whispers of wrongness whenever he hears himself speak with a British accent - he might not have lived in Britain, but his father speaks like this and that is how he learned - an incommensurable sadness whenever his mother hugs him, the betrayal he feels in front of his father, and the fact that he can never quite seem to trust the man as he should…

And then there are the dreams, which always fade before he wakes up - only they do not quite completely do so, as sometimes he catches himself thinking of himself as someone else.

Everything changes when the letter comes - when he meets the others, and something simply slots into its right place in his mind.

Yes, his mind whispers. This is it - this is who I am.

Alex closes his eyes, and Alexander opens them.

(only that’s not quite true, is it? Alexander died years - centuries - ago, and now Alex doesn’t even have his legacy to carry)

(well, that’s fine - he did it once, he can do it again. And this time, he even knows which mistakes to avoid)

The realization hasn’t quite settled in when he arrives at the platform and spots a boy around his age. His skin is a pale russet, reddish-brown and he stands uncomfortably next a prim looking white lady.

In that moment, something sparks inside of him and that something connects the pieces of the puzzle in his mind. Alex moves over to the boy before he can really think about it.

“Pardon me, are you Aaron Burr?” He is only half-aware of why he is asking this, but the boy’s flinch is undeniable.

“That depends,” the boy says slowly. “Who’s asking?”

“Who’d you think?” He asks, raising an eyebrow. He isn’t quite sure what he is expecting.

(but he does know what he is hoping)

“Alexander?” The boy’s voice is barely more than a whisper. He is afraid of the consequences, Alex can feel it.

(it is understandable, really)

Alex barely registers what is happening, but the next thing he notices is that he and Aaron are hugging.

Both of them are whispering nonsensical words and Alex can feel the tears forming in his eyes. He’s ready to cry here, in front of everyone, because he finally knows what all the half-remembered dreams mean.

But they are interrupted by Aaron’s aunt.

(something tells him Aaron is an orphan again and he feels a sense of dread rising inside of him)

“You two are making a scene!” she admonishes. “And as if that wasn’t bad enough you’re blocking the way. Get ahold of yourself, Aaron!”

Alex doesn’t like the way the woman looks down on the two of them. He has seen many glances like this in his - second - life.

These glances of thinly veiled disgust, based only on the colour of his skin. It was several shades darker than it had been the last time around and, so he notices, is Aaron’s.

(a stray thought wanders through his mind. He wonders if God had been nice enough to let the same be true for Jefferson)

Aaron lets go of him within a second, without further thought. Almost as if it is a reflex.

“I’m sorry,” he apologizes, before changing the topic. “This is my friend,” there is a pause, as if he was holding back something, “Alexander -”

“Hampton. Alexander Hampton,” Alex jumps in before the awkward silence even begins. He holds his hand out for her to shake.

She doesn't react immediately, but eventually she does take his hand.

“Hampton, you say?” Alex can clearly hear that the interest is merely superficial. All of her opinions of him are already formed. “Can’t say I heard that name around before.”

“Well, yeah.” He awkwardly scratches the back of his head. “I’m not from around here.”

“Oh? Where are you from then?” She speaks as if he was a little child, as if he was stupid.

Alex sees the spark of recognition in Aaron’s eyes, the raised eyebrow, asking him if the answer is the same.

(and, yes, it is. He is again from Nevis and, again, moved to St. Croix because of a Hurricane)

“The Caribbean.” Alex refuses to get any more precise than that. Not in front of this woman at least.

Aaron seems to detect where this conversation would continue and decides that that is not something he needs to hear right now.

“Anyways, we really have to get going. I will see you in the summer,” he says to his aunt, before grabbing Alex and dragging him towards the train that is already waiting for them.

They are hindered by Alex’s trunk which is so much heavier than it needs to be.

“Haven’t you gotten the trunk charmed, Hamilton?” Aaron asks as they heave that thing on the train.

“Please, call me Alex,” he corrects. “And what do you mean?”

Aaron knows this look. This is the look Alexander gets when he learns something new. And if this is new than that means... “You’re a Muggleborn, aren’t you?”

Alex hasn’t heard that word before, but he does know what a Muggle is. “Uh, yeah. Why?”

This is really not one of the times when Aaron wants to be the one to tell him. His friend, Alex, whom he shot. “Let’s just say that you’re going to be treated about the same as you were last time for being a bastard.”

“Is that what your aunt - I’m assuming?” Alex waits for Aaron to nod. “Is that what she meant when she asked for my name?” His mind is already running wild with the implications that accompanied Aaron’s statement.

“Yes.” Aaron doesn’t go into any more detail, instead choosing to look for an empty compartment to settle down in. They are fairly early, so they find one in virtually no time. It is located in the middle of the train.

The two of them sit down and Aaron takes out his book. He is happy to see Alexander again, but he is also afraid. And the sheer enthusiasm that is only barely contained in the small statue of Alexander, causing him to fidget in his seat and almost literally jump around, that doesn’t really help.

“You never answered my question,” Alex speaks up after a minute or two of silence. “What charm were you talking about earlier?”

“A featherweight charm.” Aaron’s answer is intentionally as concise as possible.

Alex blinks, taken aback. The words of his friend - because, despite everything, that is what they are - are self-explanatory, but at the same time they bring up so many questions. He can’t help but wonder, how does magic work?

He shakes his head and clears his thoughts. He is going to learn everything eventually, he doesn’t have to wonder about everything now. It makes no sense to ask question about details before he understands the basic concept, after all. His books had been awfully quiet on this subject, so Alex assumed that that was just something that teachers simply mentioned.

His thoughts were interrupted by a knock on the door. Both Alex and Aaron turned towards it.

“Excuse me, can I sit with you?” asks a tall boy with dreadlocks. He doesn’t quite enter the compartment, instead choosing to lean against the door. He doesn’t provide any reason, either.

The other two boys exchange a short look. The spark of recognition has returned, this is someone they know. Alex can feel it and he is almost certain that Aaron can too.

“Sure,” replies Aaron. “I’m Aaron Burts, by the way. And that’s Alexander Hampton.”

“Who can speak for himself,” Alex inserts, glaring at Aaron, before he turns back to the other boy. “And who are you?”

Growing up, Aaron never really had any friend. Of course, he socialized with the other children of his station, as his guardian would say, but they were never friends.

Part of it was that their world was hardly one where children could actually make friends instead of future allies, but mostly it was the terrible guilt that had plagued him, it seemed, since the moment he was born.

Not knowing what the guilt was for--only that it was something terrible (that he deserved it, that and so much more)--only made it worse somehow. It isn’t until he meets Alexander again that he realizes how much it weighs on him, and what it could feel like to be free of it, if only for a few moments.

Of course that short moment of happiness is soured by the presence of his aunt, whose glare on his back he can feel. It is terribly unfair, he thinks, to have been given this second chance at life only to have it be so close to his first.

(well, he thinks as he looks into Alexander’s bright, living eyes, maybe not everything about this is that unfair)

Even once they part with her, they barely have any time to themselves, to talk about their options--to think about what this (being back) means--before they’re interrupted.

Making eye contact with the boy who’d make his aunt shriek in fury at his hair (only, no, because his aunt doesn’t shriek, she only sneers very, very disdainfully) sparks something in his mind, so much so that Aaron barely register his words.

It feels familiar already, this jolt of i-know-you-i-remember-you, and Aaron can’t help but wonder if this is what he’ll always feel like now whenever he meets someone new. Is everyone from here on out simply going to be another weirdly doubled version of people he knew in another life? Or are they the only ones, Alex, this new-yet-old soul, and him?

“I’m Aaron Burts,” he says, introducing himself first almost by rote, and then Alexander.

Alexander, who of course cannot let this stand and has to make the point that he can speak for himself. He rolls his eyes so hard they hurt.

“Who are you?” Alexander asks their visitor--who is still standing in the doorway to their compartment.

“Thomas Jerson,” the boy introduces himself, eyes guarded, and it takes Aaron half a second longer than Alexander to remember why he would.

“Jefferson!” Alexander spats out like a curse, and where it anybody else Aaron would probably laugh right now with how horrified yet oddly delighted he looks.

The boy who was once Jefferson sighs, sounding deeply put upon. “It’s Jerson now, Hamilton. Or Thomas, if you must,” he adds, in a tone that clearly states that terrible things will happen if he tries it. “And before you ask, James is here too.”

“Where is he?” Alexander asks, looking around Thomas as if the other boy was hiding him.

Thomas rolls his eyes and uncrosses his arms. “Not here, obviously,” he says in that tone of voice that says he thinks you’re stupid for even asking. Aaron can already see Alexander bristling, and yes, this is probably going to end up in disaster. It’s nice to see that some things, at least, haven’t changed. “I’m not his keeper, you know,” Thomas continues flippantly. “Anyway, can I sit with you or not?”

“Sure,” Aaron replies before Alexander can refuse, ignoring the betrayed look he gets from his friend. He can, after all, see that Thomas isn’t going anywhere, and maybe if they agree to let him sit with them he’ll stop antagonizing Alexander quite so much.

It’s not very likely, but stranger things have happened--exhibit A, this weird reincarnation thing they’re all experiencing (unless this is heaven, in which case Aaron has some things to say to whoever’s in charge, and he’s sure Alexander would be more than happy to help compile a list of grievances).

After Thomas puts his things away, they sit in awkward silence for a while--or they do, until Alexander starts stifling laughter, and very badly so too.

“And here it is,” Thomas mutters quietly enough that only Aaron, sitting beside him, can hear him.

“So, Thomas,” Alexander starts with gleefully, because clearly he still has no mouth-filter nor self-control, “how is it to know you were wrong ?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Thomas denies, sneering.

Alexander just stares pointedly at his skin, which is decidedly far darker in tone as it was in the other boy’s last life. “Yes,” he drawls, “I’m sure you don’t.”

Thomas’ hands tighten into fists. “It was another time,” he says defensively.

“Oh my god, Jefferson, I can’t believe you! How can you still be defending your actions now?”

“It was another time,” Jefferson repeats. “We were different people, mentalities were different, and what’s done is done. I am not getting into this debate with you again, Hamilton, so if you would kindly let it go, it’d be much appreciated.”

The silence that follows feels charged with electricity, and Aaron is desperate enough not to see this come to a fistfight that he digs through his pockets for anything that might salvage the situation.

“Exploding Snap, anyone?” he asks half-heartedly, putting his book aside. “It’s a game,” he explains to Alexander who looks non-plussed, “where you pile up the cards and if they explode in your face you lose.” That’s simplifying the rules a little, but the basics are there, and everything else can be picked up by playing.

“A ruffian’s game,” Jefferson sneers, but Aaron sees the glint in his eyes that says he’s interested, if only because he wants to win.

At the same time, Alexander says, “It sounds brilliant,” eyes wide with wonder, and Aaron knows it’s on the moment the two start glaring at each other again.

Well, at least this time they’re considering strategies to defeat the other instead of plain old murder by strangulation. At this point, Aaron will take any victory he can get.

The game--or rather games, as Alexander seems to grow as addicted to it as Aaron himself is (not that anyone else will ever know that, of course) and Jefferson is unable to resist a rematch--actually go much more peacefully than Aaron would have ever dared to dream.

By the fourth one, they’re all actually somewhat getting on. Or well, no one is yelling, or throwing veiled insults about one’s character or lack-thereof, so it’s definitely a win.

It’s also when the door opens one more time, and a boy with slanted eyes sneaks in. The same jolt of remembering washes over Aaron, who barely has the time to blink before the boy talks.

“Well, color me impressed, Thomas, you’re all still in one piece. I was expecting at least some blood by now,” he continues, and has the audacity to even sound somewhat disappointed.

“We do have some scorched eyebrows,” Aaron observes.

“So I see,” Madison replies dryly. “Would you, perhaps, have room for one more in this game of yours?” He smiles like he knows something they don't, but they all agree to let him join anyway.

After all, in for a penny, in for a pound, as the saying goes.

(in retrospect, the way none of the cards ever explode in Madison’s hands should have been the first clue)


Angelica will forever be grateful for the way that whoever had granted her this second chance at life, had also granted it to her sisters, and had even given them the grace of being sisters in this new life too.

The magic had been a surprise though. A welcome one, but a surprise nevertheless.

The first two years at Hogwarts had been fascinating and filled to the brim with creatures and so much more she had never seen before, but she is glad that she will finally be able to share the experience with Eliza, even if Peggy won’t join them for two more years.

(as everyone who had spent a single minute around her in the last months was well aware of)

Still, by now Angelica is well accustomed to the Hogwarts’ Express, and so she knows that no matter how early or how late you arrive, there will always be a free compartment for you. It is just a matter of finding it.

This also means that the Skylar family knows not to hurry too much, though they still get there before the last minute rush, leaving them enough time to give proper goodbyes and promises of writing.

Angelica knows something is different--that this year will be different--from the moment she steps onto the platform. There is something undeniably different in the air, and for all that she can’t quite put a finger on what it is, it is there, and it smells like change.

As soon as Eliza sees the train, she has to stop herself from squealing. She tries to hide it, but her older sister is well aware of it and can only smile.

(a few years earlier, she had been the same. And they all know that Peggy will not even try to hold herself back when her turn comes)

In the previous two years, Angelica had always sat near the back of the train, but today she lets her sister choose and Eliza feels compelled to go to the middle of the train for a reason she can’t explain. The sisters had long since learned to trust their intuition, and so they head for the centermost wagon without much thought.

Eliza is the one who sees them first: two boys, talking in the rather stiff and awkward way of friends who haven’t seen each other for a while and are learning to rediscover who they are.

They are standing two feets away from a closed compartment door, clearly debating on whether or not to go inside. It is not that, however, that shocks Eliza the most.

No, what does is the sudden rush of something, like she’s suddenly stepped through a waterfall, that washes over her as she crosses eyes with the shorter of the two boys. She knows them, she thinks, in the same way that she knows Angelica and Peggy are her sisters twice over.

Beside her, Angelica gasps, and Eliza knows her sister felt it too.

She feels at once overwhelmed and disappointed. She--like her two sisters--thought that they were alone in this, but that thought was arrogant. They should have known better, should have listened to their instincts about this too.

(but how could they have, when doing so would mean considering being haunted by ghosts of another life--or well, more ghosts?)

But really, if they had to meet anyone else who shared in this weird reincarnation they seemed to be experiencing, why did it have to be these? Why couldn’t it be…

(she isn’t sure who her heart yearns for more: her husband or their children)

But she has hope now, hope greater than she’d felt in years--who could blame them for losing it after years without any sign but Angelica seeing a boy who had once been George Washington around Hogwarts?

It is the taller boy who speaks first. His voice is already deep, at least for their age. “Do my eyes deceive me or are the Schuyler sisters standing in front of me?” It is said with a smile.

Angelica knows him. It's one of Alexander’s friends, Hercules. Which would make the other one John. Alexander would have jumped at Eliza a few moments ago and Lafayette would have long since started greeting them in rapid French.

“It’s spelled differently this time around, but indeed,” Angelica confirms.

“Why are you standing here?” Eliza asked. She was eyeing John with a gaze Angelica wasn’t sure how to describe. “Why not enter the compartment?” If she could feel the wave of familiarity through the closed door and blinds, then surely so could they.

“Because I’m pretty sure that I heard the name ‘Thomas’, quickly followed by ‘Hampton’, and Hercules is convinced that there is a bloodbath happening in there,” John replies, neither openly agreeing nor disagreeing with Hercules’ statement.

Angelica’s eyes widen even as her heart skips a beat. “Oh, yes. I can see how that would be worrying. But still, wouldn’t you want to put a stop to it if it were?”

“But I like living!” Hercules yelps.

“Don’t be daft,” Eliza replies before Angelica can. “They wouldn’t kill you--maybe maim you a little, but you’d live.”

“Unless Aaron is also in there,” John points out.

“How do you even know about that? You were already dead!”

“History books are a thing,” the Nordic boy deadpans. “Also, ouch, right in the feels, Morgan.”

Suddenly the door opens and an Indian boy sticks his head out. “You do know we can hear you, right?”

He looks supremely unimpressed by them, and at first all Angelica can see is a mop of dark hair struggling as whoever that hair belongs to tries to get out of the headlock a dark-skinned boy has him in.

An asian boy sits across from them, and when the dark-skinned one says, “A little help, James, if you please?” he only smirks and replies, “Hey, this is your mess, don’t drag me into it.”

Blinking somewhat incredulously, she turns her focus back on the boy who opened the door, letting the odd spark of remembrance wash over her. “Aaron, I presume?” she asks with a deceptively mild tone.

“Yes,” he replies with a small voice. “If you want to slap me--or worse--could you please come in first? I don’t want everyone to see.”

“Well, maybe I do,” she retorts.

Oddly enough, it is Eliza who stops her, resting a restraining hand on her arm. “Give him a second chance,” she argues. “After all, isn’t this what this is for?” She gestures wildly at this, encompassing their surroundings in a gesture that Angelica knows means this life they’re (re)living and not just this meeting.

“Is it?” Hercules mutters under his breath. “Because I’m actually fine with my last life.”

“I think you might be the only one without regrets,” John points out.

“This is all nice and well, but what do you say about getting inside the compartment?” Madison drawls, voice just loud enough to be heard by everyone.

“Well, it might be a bit crowded,” John replies.

“Are you sure it’ll fit everyone?” Eliza asks at the same time. They share an amused look.

They don’t notice that the scuffle happening between Jefferson (or whatever his name was now) and the dark-haired boy has stopped until said boy looks up, a brilliant smile lighting up his face.

“John!” he exclaims, and then half a beat later, as his eyes rest on Eliza, “Eliza!” He looks like he wants to hug them and is trying to decide where to go first, and that determined look in his eyes is so familiar that it still Eliza’s breath away.

He’s moving before Eliza’s had a chance to react, and John barely gets the time to mutter a half-panicked “Alex, no” before Alexander is coming toward them, arms open.

Which is of course, when he faceplants, tripping over his own feet.

“Ow,” he says from the ground, rubbing at his head. “That hurt.”

Jefferson starts laughing so hard that Angelica almost - almost - worries for his health.

Eliza, of course, is already moving towards her husband and is helping him up, John right at her heels, though he is smirking.

“You know, I seem to remember you being steadier on your feet, my friend,” he teases.

For a second, Alexander looks like he’s been slapped, but his expression smoothes out as he accepts their hands to help him get up.

But then the train starts moving and Alex falls back over, dragging Eliza and John down with him. It takes a while for the trio to untangle, and there is a lot of blushing involved on everyone’s part.

But by the time they’re standing up again, everyone else has found some place to sit, leaving barely enough space for two--let alone three.

“I don’t think we have enough room for everyone,” Eliza points out, blinking slowly in realization.

Madison speaks up. “We can move the trunks somewhere else. There’s room in the compartment Thomas and I were planning on using, and it isn’t far from here. It won’t take much to get them there--we can even leave the two that are already there in place, and place everyone else’s in that compartment.”

“That still doesn’t solve the sitting problem though,” Hercules says.

“I can help with that,” Thomas replies gleefully. Before anyone else can guess what his intentions are, he has already stood up, crossed the compartment, and picked Alexander up.

“Put me down!” Alex hisses menacingly, but considering the fact that Thomas is more than a head taller than him and doesn’t look like a strong breeze might knock him over, that isn’t as impressive as it could have been.

“But of course,” Thomas answers, his smile saccharine sweet. And he promptly sets Alexander down--only it isn’t on any seat or the floor. No, instead he sort of half rolls half pushes the shorted boy on the free net-like space meant for getting the trunks out of the way. “There,” he says, ignoring Alexander’s indignant spluttering, as he sits back down next to Madison, “now there’s room for everyone.”

For a second or two there is silence, as everyone processes what just happened.

“Get him down from there,” Aaron fumes.

Alex surprises all of them even more when he protests. “You don’t have to, actually. It’s quite comfy up here.”

Another moment of incredulous silence settles over the group, only ruptured by Alex’s voice. “No, really, I mean it. You should try it out.”

Thomas looks like he’s swallowed something extremely bitter and is about to climb up there himself just to prove Alex wrong.

“How about we all settle down,” Eliza tries to take some tension from the air. “I mean, I would never have guessed that we would all find ourselves together again.”

“I agree,” says Madison. “I thought I was the only one when not one of my siblings turned out to be from last time. It’s rather perplexing, to tell the truth.”

“I kind of miss Lafayette,” Hercules sighs.

“I am terrified of the fact that Washington isn’t here to keep those two from killing each other,” says Aaron, looking between Thomas and Alex who are back at glaring at each other.

Angelica hums secretly, sharing a knowing look with her sister.

John picks up on that almost immediately. “What aren’t you telling us?” he asks curiously.

“Well,” Angelica draws the word out as much as she can, “I might have met George in Hogwarts before.”

The boys straighten as one, which looks kind of funny in Alex’s case, as he is lying down. Everyone focuses on a different part of her statement.

“What do you mean, might have?”, and “Wait, George Washington is at Hogwarts already?”, as well as, “But why isn't he here now ?”, and “You call him George?”

“Well, I expect he’d be in the prefect compartment, since he is, you know, a prefect,” she states dryly.

Aaron is the first one to speak. “You know, somehow I’m not even surprised.”

“And you shouldn’t be,” Alexander replies, his tone already halfway to offended. “Really, what else would he be?”

The next thing that happens is something no one would ever have suspected.

Thomas sighs. “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I agree with Hampton.”

“Thomas, are you feeling well?” Madison asks, genuine concern evident on his face. “Do you need to lie down?”

“You’re exaggerating,” says John, the only one here who hadn’t lived to see these two in action.

Angelica shakes her head. “Not really, no. I don't recall them ever agreeing on anything.”

“I do,” Alex pipes up and the compartment looks at him in wonder. “On three accounts, actually.”

“On what topics?” Thomas questions flatly, raising an eyebrow.

Alex holds up three fingers. “Number one,” he takes one down, “America’s independence.”

“Okay, but that one’s a given in this company,” Aaron points out.

“Number two: King George was a dick.”

“...I’ll give you that one,” Thomas says, looking extremely put-upon.

Alex grins in victory as he takes down the last finger. “Number three: Lafayette was awesome.”

“I said he wasn’t entirely terrible,” Thomas tries to protest sourly, “not that he was awesome.”

“I thought you called him a friend?"

“Who said that I needed to find all my friends awesome? And kind of word is that anyway?”

“Oh my god, Jefferson, don’t tell me you’re this stuck up in this life too!” Alex looks and sounds so horrified that half the compartment dissolves into more or less evident laughter as Thomas scowls.

“To be fair,” Aaron injects tentatively, “I haven’t really heard that word either.”

If possible, Alex only looks more horrified. “You too, Aaron? What kind of sheltered world is this?”

“I hate to disappoint you, I really do,” says John, “but you’re first person who used this word in my presence.”

“It’s a muggleborn thing,” Angelica explains with a dry smile. “They use new words sometimes.”

“Are you telling me none of you know what happened in the meantime?” Alex doesn’t need to elaborate the meaning behind his sentence.

Most of them have the decency to look ashamed. “Getting information from the muggle world is rather difficult,” John admits.

“So you don't know about the American Civil War?” he asks incredulously. “Women’s Suffragette? The World Wars? JFK’s assassination? The Cold War? The Civil Rights Movement? The space race? Anything?” He sounds more and more desperate with each sentence.

“I do,” Hercules answers. “Well, some of it at least--I wasn’t always the most attentive student in history class,” he adds with a sheepish shrug. “Plus, I didn’t research in my free time and most of that gets tackled in secondary school.”

“And don’t forget that we didn’t really have opportunity or reason to learn about these. Most wizards never really interact with their muggle counterparts,” Eliza adds.

“That doesn’t stop you from dying if someone fires an atomic bomb!” Alex is almost screaming at this point.

Aaron blinks. “A what?”

“Actually, it probably could,” Angelica interjects thoughtfully. “I mean, if we saw it coming… There are wards that could be used, potions to treat the effects… I don’t think it was developed much in Britain, but some of the magazines I’ve found in the Library suggested other countries worked on it more…”

“That doesn’t explain what it is,” Aaron points out.

“Hogwarts in Scotland, right? If one of those bombs were to hit London we might feel the effects, depending on many different things.” Alex pauses to let revelation sink in properly. “And I don't think either Hiroshima or Nagasaki have recovered and it's been almost half a century.” Alex looks at James, desperate for him to recognize the names.

“That is true,” he nods sadly. “But Japan’s magical world isn’t exactly big, or spread out… Safety measures have been put in place since then though, but I’m not entirely sure what they are.”

“Why are we talking about Japanese towns again?” John asks. “You lost me.”

Alex looks uncharacteristically grave. “It has to do with World War Two,” he begins somewhat tentatively.

“Wizards did fight in those wars, you know,” Angelica points out.

Still, there is a look of confusion of Thomas’ face and John doesn’t look all that knowing either.

“Really? How? What did they do--though I guess it would lend some credence to some of the more… unorthodox stories out there,” Alex muses aloud. ”I wonder if-”

“Focus, Alexander, please,” Aaron intervenes, rubbing at his temples.

“Ah, right,” Alex says sheepishly. “So I’m assuming that all of you know at least some of the background, how the war started and how it came to that point that people were feeling the need for those weapons and so on. Not-so Great Britain and the United States had agreed on the policy of ‘Germany First’ as they perceived them to be a bigger threat than Japan. Which, given the fact that Germany was actively practising genocide and-”

“Long story short,” Angelica interrupts when Alex’s rant threatens to go on and on without getting the crux of the matter, “America entered the war because of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and Japan surrendered because America dropped an atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima and a few days later on Nagasaki.

“About one hundred thousand people died, most in a matter of seconds, and many others suffered a number of negative effects. In fact, even children born today do.”

For a few moments there is silence, as the purebloods - bar James and Angelica - wrap their minds around this fact. No one seems to be quite sure what to say, but several of them look horrified.

“Let’s change the topic,” Eliza proposes.

“Please,” James’ voice cracks as he agrees.

“What do you think your House will be?” asks Hercules.

“Slytherin,” Jefferson and Alex reply before a beat has passed. Then they once again begin glaring at each other.

“God, please, no,” prays Angelica.

“If that happens, there will be a murder within the first month,” Aaron predicts.

James eyes the two warily before says, “I think you’re being generous there.”

John nods. “Two weeks, tops.”

Hercules looks at him incredulously. “Weren’t you just saying that we had to be exaggerating their enmity?”

“I hadn’t seen them glaring then,” he replies, shrugging a little. “Or really talk to each other.”

“Well, in the event that Hogwarts keeps standing, I’m aiming for Ravenclaw,” James says, choosing to ignore the others. God knew that if they kept talking about Thomas and Hamilton this way, the two would start going up at it again.

“Good choice,” Angelica replies, smiling at him. “Morgana knows this school has enough hot-headed Gryffindors and Slytherins anyway.”

Eliza elbows her to the side with a pout. “Excuse you, but not all Gryffindors are hot-headed, sis’!”

Angelica rolls her eyes fondly. “Yes, of course you would never count as one of those Gryffindors, would you?”

“Exactly,” Eliza smiles before she turns to the boys who haven’t answered yet. “What about you guys?”

“I don’t really know,” Aaron admits, “We don’t even know how we get Sorted--is there really a point in saying which House we want when we have no way of being sure we’ll get it?”

“Doesn’t surprise me that he fails to express an opinion,” Alex mutters from above.

Aaron throws the book he had put aside at him. “Shut up.”

“I don’t know,” Hercules comments absently. “That way he at least won’t be disappointed if he gets another house. That’s what I’m doing, at least.”

Aaron turns to him. “Thank you.”

“And you, John,” prompts Eliza. “What House do you want to be in?”

“Most of my family’s been in Slytherin or Ravenclaw,” John shrugs with a wince. “So that’s kind of where I’m expected to go too…”

“No offense, John, but I don’t see it happening,” Alexander comments from above. “You’re clearly a Gryffindor.”

George bites back a sigh again. Honestly, he feels like he should have known that being a Prefect would mean going to these boring meetings, but for some reason, he had thought they wouldn’t be so bad.

(perhaps it was due to the fact that he hadn’t truly remembered how much he hated those things until his path had crossed with the oldest Skyler sister)

And now, as Head Boy, he can’t even skip any of them, as he is the one who was supposed to organize most of them.

He sighs as the first meeting of the year finally comes to an end, and stands up to go and patrol on the train.

(most likely he will patrol until he finds Angelica: that was what happened the last two years - the only years he had done this - at least)

The first few compartments he looks into are just perfectly ordinary - a few third years gushing over some boy called Diggory, a couple of sixth years talking about their OWL results and NEWT subjects, and some students from his year comparing their plans for the future.

(which he should most likely think about as well, but previous experience suggested that something would come up either way)

When George reaches the middle of the train, he feels something that instantly replaces his boredom. It is the same something he had felt around Angelica the first few times. The feeling of recognition had diminished fairly quickly and this is too much to stem from Eliza alone.

Which meant that at least one other person - most likely more - of those he had known before was returning to Hogwarts.

(and if his mind flew to Hamilton and Lafayette, the boys who were practically his sons, well, then it was understandable. Only finding Martha or her children would give him as much joy)

Without hesitation, George opens the door.

He sees Angelica and Eliza, yes, but also two boys who can only be Laurens and Mulligan next to them. Because the three across of them are clearly Madison, Jefferson, and Burr while Hamilton is lying in the net above them for some reason.

(of course all of their last names will have changed, just like his own did. Though at least this way he is still George.)

Not one of them has noticed him so far, they are all too involves in their discussion about… what exactly? It’s probably better for his continued sanity - or whatever these guys had left him with last time around - not to ask.

He decides to call their attention towards him. At least this way it will be mostly done with when they actually reach the castle.

George moves his hair - it is brown and curly this time around - aside with his - compared to last time - noticeably darker hand.

(he might not be quite as dark as Jefferson or Mulligan were, but it was enough that he would have been a slave and not a slaver the last time around)

For a moment or two he’s not sure what to say, but eventually he decides on. “And here I thought I could concentrate on my NEWTs this year.”

Everyone’s head snaps towards him - even the one of Angelica who had already found him years before - and he is greeted by a mixture of voices calling out his name.

He would sit down with them and talk, but they have already used all available space - literally, considering Hamilton’s placement - and George is going to have nightmares about what they will do with an undetectable extension charm.

Instead, he excuses himself fairly quickly and heads back to the prefect compartment.

As he drops on one of the seats he comments to the Gryffindor fifth year prefect who is the only other person in the room, “You are so lucky I’m Head Boy this year. There is no one else who will be able to control them.”

Chapter Text

The train ride had seemed to somehow simultaneously last for hours and fly by in an instant. They had been so busy getting to know each other again--because for all that they were the same people they were also different, because they had lead different lives up until then--that Alex had nearly forgotten to be nervous about starting Hogwarts.

Now that they’re leaving the train behind though--now that they’re being lead on a earthy trail in the dark, all the nervousness seems to bubble back up to the forefront of his thoughts.

Logically he knows that he shouldn’t worry, that everything will go fine, but there is this inexplicable feeling of worry he can’t quite shake. This world of magic is still so new to him though, and what he’s heard so far--the unbiased opinions of his friends, rather than the watered down version given by the teacher who visited him--doesn’t exactly fill him with confidence.

But well, he’s made himself a place to belong once, in a world that was arguably harsher than this one. He can do it again.

(he hopes)

It feels odd, conciliating his identity as Alex--the person he is now--with the memories of who he used to be. In a way, the mix of the two has already happened, and is irreversible, but in another it still feels like a demarcation between the two exists. No one identity is taking over the other, not really, but he feels more like Alexander than Alex, and while his mind tells him that this is because Alexander simply lived more, it is still disconcerting to feel.

“I can hear you thinking from there,” Eliza says, rolling her eyes. “Stop it. It’s gonna be fine, you’ll see.”

Alex smiles, unable to help it. “Sorry, just have a lot on my mind,” he says sheepishly.

“When don’t you?” someone says, their voice sounding exasperated. In the darkness, it is hard to see who said it, though Alex thinks it might have been Aaron.

(is it odd, to be friends with the man who killed your previous incarnation? to forgive him so quickly, to be glad to see him?)

(Alex likes to think that it isn’t)

“Oh, leave him alone, we can’t all be empty-brained like you or Jefferson,” comes John’s unmistakable voice.

“Can we be quiet for two minutes?” Herc asks. “Just until everyone has entered the boats. I don’t want anyone drowning.”

Alex blinks. “Wait, boats? Nobody said anything about boats!” He mutters, quietly enough that only those next to him - John and Eliza - understand what he says. Still, the panic is clearly evident in his voice, despite his best attempts to hide it.

Just then, the voice of the gigantic man who had lead them here booms through the night. “No mor’ than fo’r a boat,” he cautions.

Alex sees them then. There are rows about rows of small wooden boats, and they indeed don’t look like they could hold more than four people.

They also look like a strong breeze would be enough to make them capsize.

“How sure are we that these things are safe?” Alex hears himself ask his friends in a panicked whisper.

“I’m sure they’re perfectly adequate,” Eliza replies. “They wouldn’t use them otherwise, now would they?”

“She’s got a point there,” John says, already halfway in the boat. It rocks a little, but that’s about it. “See? It’s fine, now get in before we’re the last ones left on land.”

And indeed, Aaron, Thomas, and James have already climbed into a boat with some random kid, while Hercules is waiting for them in another one.

“Just because they look adequate doesn’t mean they are,” Alex protests. “Anything could happen, we don’t even know what kind of creatures live in this lake,” he adds, because they’re going to a magical school and it makes so much sense for this to be a magical lake as well.

“Alex,” Eliza asks sweetly from inside the boat, calmly sitting beside John, “get in the boat.”

Alex gets in the boat.

“Everyone’s in?” Their guide’s voice booms through the darkness again, and Alex’s voice joins the muttered ‘yes’ uttered out in answer. “Good! Then let’s go.”

As he says this, Alex feels the boat start moving, wood groaning slightly as it starts to glide atop the dark waters.

He is so busy staring at this extraordinary phenomenon that he almost doesn’t hear their guide’s next warning of, “Keep you’ heads down!”

Alex ducks just in time - if he had been taller if might have been too late already - and then they’re outside. The night air’s chills makes him shiver, but the starry sky above them is something he hadn’t even been aware he had been missing.

Unfortunately, it also breaks the spell of wonder that was over him, and he clenches his fist in his robes.

“This can’t be safe,” he says. Memories of his journey to America in his last life come to the surface. He remembers the fire and the fear for his life.

That spell too breaks when soft hands settle over his. Eliza’s eyes are different in this life, but the way they shine isn’t. “Alex? Are you okay?”

John is already looking at him in worry, but this causes Herc to do the same.

“Yeah...I guess…”

The other three exchange a look and seem to decide not to question the matter any further. At least for now.

They wouldn’t have had the chance anyway, as just then Hogwarts finally comes into view.

“Wow.” Alex can feel his jaw dropping. For once he doesn’t quite have the words to adequately describe something and he’s just happy that Jefferson is in another boat. The fool would never let this particular fact be forgotten.

“Alex? At loss for words? We have to mark the date!”

Then again, neither will Herc. If Alex is completely honest, no one is ever going to drop the matter.

Alex scowls but all it seems to do is make is friends laugh. It does also help him relax though, and that, added to the truly magical sight of the castle where they’re apparently going to spend much of the next seven years, is enough to make him ignore that they’re aboard such a fragile vessel for what remains of their trip.

That doesn’t mean he isn’t relieved to disembark though. If Jefferson, Aaron, and Madison weren’t present, he might have sunk to his knees in relief. But they are here and so he doesn’t.

Still, he is relieved to have solid ground beneath his feet again.

Their guide leads them up numerous stairs - Alex had been too distracted by the moving ones to count - until they arrive in front of Professor McGonagall, standing in front of tall wooden doors.

She was the one who introduced Alex to this world of wonder; it's very unlikely that he will ever forget her. She looks just as serious as she had two months ago - had it really been that little time? It feels so much longer.

(time in general is odd at the moment)

The Professor looks at the assembled first years, focusing on a few people seemingly at random as she greets Hagrid - their guide’s name - before she addresses them.

“Welcome to Hogwarts,” she says. “This will be your second home for at least the next seven years. In this castle, you will laugh, study, and form friendships that will last forever.

“But first, you will be Sorted into one of the four Houses: Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff or Slytherin. Each and every one of them was founded by a great wizard or witch and values the same qualities they did.

“None of the Houses are superior compares to any other, no matter what some of you may think. They cannot function alone. What is bravery without the loyalty to a cause, the ambition to win or the wisdom to strategize? What is cunning without the hard work needed to put any plans into motion, without the ability to think ahead or to know that there are some risks that need to be taken? There are numerous other examples of this particular fact, neither better or worse than the one before. They are all equally true.”

She looks at them with piercing eyes, and Alex shivers. It feels like she can see directly into his soul, and it makes his back straighten. There is something in the way the Professor speaks, he thinks, that makes them want to prove themselves to be better, to be more.

“And now, if you would follow me… The Sorting will begin.”

The heavy wooden doors open, revealing what has to be the Great Hall. The ceiling looks even more magnificent than he had thought it would--Hogwarts: A History had said it was enchanted, but to know it and to see it with his own eyes are two very different things--and hundreds of floating lit candles illuminate the room.

Four long tables--obviously destined for each House--are on the floor, filled with impatient but eerily silent students whose hungry eyes are watching them as they proceed up to the teachers’ table, in front of which rests a stool and an old Hat.

They stop there, and as Professor McGonagall goes to stand beside it, a heavy roll of parchment in hand, the Hat open its (his? Hers? Does a hat have a gender?) mouth and starts to sing.

It has been my privilege
For the last thousand years or so
To sit upon your heads and tell all what I know
To give you a home and somewhere to go

Whether in Gryffindor,
Where the brave lions roar,
Or in Ravenclaw,
Where the clever eagles soar

Or maybe in Hufflepuff,
Where the loyal badgers labor,
Unless you’d rather Slytherin,
Where the eager snakes sneak.

To each their own, I think
And you’ll never find someone as skilled as me
At telling you where you should be
For this is why I can think

So listen close when I speak
Because I won’t rewind
But never fear
And don’t forget:

A lion can be cowardly
And a snake brave
An eagle knows when to land
And a badger when action it is wise to take

So now that you know
There is only one thing that can follow
Sit, child
And trust where I will guide

Alex has to admit, he is stunned by the musical performance of this hat, and not only because it had been the last thing he had expected. For a mere piece of fabric, it had carried out the tune surprisingly well.

Professor McGonagall clears her throat, and calls out the first name. Immediately, their ranks part and a little blonde-haired girl runs up to the stool. She is sent to Ravenclaw right away, and though the boy that comes after her joins her there, it clearly takes the Hat a bit more time to decide.

Alex wonders how exactly the Hat decides. Clearly there’s some kind of trick to it, though it’s not really one Alex can see.

Still, he is glad that their last names hasn’t changed all that much - just a few letters removed or replaced, really - because this way he knows roughly what is going to happen. He knows that Aaron will be the first one out of their group and then he will follow.

Of course he has no idea how many people are going to be in between them, but it’s comforting to have a vague idea of how long he will have to wait.

It doesn’t take long until Aaron’s name is called. “Good luck,” Alex whispers, and Aaron flashes back a quick smile.

The Hat’s eyes--or what passes as its eyes, anyway--widen the moment it touches Aaron’s head, and it seems to stand a bit straighter than it had with the previous students it Sorted.

Taken aback, Alex wonders if the Hat knows. He exchanges a look with the others. John and Hercules don’t seem to notice, but James - when had he become James again? - looks just as confused as he is. Eliza is too anxious to really think about anything but the sorting itself and he refuses to meet Thomas’ eyes.

(he doesn’t know whether or not the other boy was even trying catch his, but it won’t happen anyway)

Suddenly, Aaron pulls a weird face and the Hat shouts out: “Slytherin!”

Behind Alex, Herc stiffens. “Oh no.”

“This is going to end in a disaster,” James groans.

Several other students get sorted. Chang becomes a Ravenclaw, Diggs a Hufflepuff, Fenly a Gryffindor - there are more, these are simply those he can remember - and then Professor McGonagall reads out his name.

“Hampton, Alexander”

Alex moves towards the three-legged stool. As he sits down, he observes the hall. He sees Angelica at the Ravenclaw table watching him eagerly and even Washington at the Hufflepuff table who is sitting next to a pink-haired girl that keeps trying to talk to him. But Washington is watching him attentively and ignores any attempt at distraction.

(it’s not parental pride on his face, no. No way.)

(yes, Alex is aware he is lying to himself)

Well, well, well, isn’t this interesting.’ The voice echoes inside his head, and Alex startles.

‘What is?’ he thinks back tentatively, and gets back the impression that the Hat is a little amused.

Why, the fact that you are here, of course!’ the Hat proclaims as if it were obvious - which Alex guesses it kind of was. ‘If anything, I would have expected you to reappear in Ilvermony, but not here.’

‘Don’t remind me,’ Alex thinks petulantly. ‘I’m still not over the British thing. But anyway, weren’t supposed to like, Sort me?’

‘I can multitask,’ the Hat replies, offended. ‘Perks of centuries of doing this--I’ll have you know I’m actually quite good at my job.’

‘I’m sure.’

‘Also, I would think that the choice is fairly obvious in your case. With such a desire to rise above your station - and your ability to do just that - how could you be anything but a Slytherin?’

The Hat shouts the last word into the Hall and Alex feels the thing being lifted from his head.

Well, that certainly was something different, he thinks as he walks to the Slytherin table. They’re silent, mostly--stunned, he thinks, and once again he remembers Aaron’s words about Muggleborns and how this new world viewed them. They start clapping by the time he gets there though, but it is slow and measured, and less noisy than it was for anyone else.

(they’ll learn his worth soon enough)

By the time he has sat down next to Aaron, who gives him a small nod of acknowledgment, the next student has already been called. It’s a girl and she joins them at their table.

Then, it is already Jefferson’s turn.

Somehow, Alex knows what’s about to happen before it does. Well, not what exactly, but he has this strong feeling that something will happen and that Jefferson is not going to like that something at all.

(though, well, anything Jefferson doesn’t like is already something Alex can appreciate)

The word the Hat shouts this time isn’t Slytherin.

It’s Hufflepuff. Alex isn’t sure what’s funnier: Jefferson’s face or everyone else’s.

“Did that just happen?” Aaron asks, blinking in surprise.

“Yes, yes it did,” Alex replies gleefully, a grin so wide that it almost splits his face.

Aaron rolls his eyes. “Well, let’s keep watching, shouldn’t we? Maybe we’ll get another surprise.” The way Aaron says surprise reveals that he finds this amusing too, though Alex could have guessed that from the fact that his friend’s lips kept twitching up.

“I don’t think anything else can be as good,” Alex replies, but he bites his tongue at Aaron’s next longue, and settles in to watch the rest of the Sorting.


Even though he had died earlier than anyone else - and wow, that sentence left the oddest feeling in his stomach, but he wasn’t Alexander and couldn’t quite put a word to the feeling - John still knows why Thomas Jefferson’s reincarnation being sorted into Hufflepuff is very important.

His family wasn’t quite part of the same circle of the Jersons and the Masons, but the difference in expectations for children was negligible at best - his life as John Laurens must’ve influenced his life as John Lawrence, because he had gone against most of them from the very beginning.

He knows that he is expected to go into Slytherin or Ravenclaw and is well aware that the same is true for Jefferson - Jerson? Everything was so confusing at the moment. For him to be sorted into Hufflepuff, well, let’s just say John is already expecting a Howler to arrive at breakfast tomorrow.

And then there is the fact that Alexander Hamilton - Hampton, whatever - did indeed get Slytherin. A Muggleborn. His family - and many others as well - would consider this a disgrace and the fact that the two had possibly the most famous rivalry in American history certainly doesn’t help.

“Lawrence, John.”

It takes a second until he registers that the Professor - had she introduced herself? John doesn’t remember - had read out his name. He had been so deep in his thoughts that he hadn’t even noticed that the sorting had progressed.

He steps out of the somewhat smaller group of students and goes to sit on the wobbly chair. The Professor places the Sorting Hat on his Hat and it slips down to his nose.

‘Another one? Never before have there been so many of you in one year!’

John doesn’t need to ask to know who the voice in his head is or what it means. ‘I’m not even the last. There’s still Eliza, Herc, and James.’

‘Seven of you?’

For a second, John wonders if, perhaps, that number is significant in this context. Seven is a powerful magical number, after all. But then, Angelica, Peggy, and Washington were also living a second life, so they aren’t actually seven.

(that's not the only group John's involved in that's not exactly seven)

‘Magic works in mysterious ways,’ the Hat hums in his mind, and John stays silent. Well, he guesses that this is true--magic does seem to be the less previsible force in the universe.

‘Now where to put you…’ The funny thing is, John thinks he can almost feel it, the way the Hat is rummaging through his head to find where to Sort him. It isn’t painful--not even uncomfortable in the slightest, to tell the truth. It feels a little like wading through still water, when you’re going so slowly it feels like it’s not even there, only you just know that it is.

It would be easy, he realizes, to tell the Hat where to put him--or rather, where his parents have always believed he would go (“You’ll like the Slytherin dorms,” his father had said in a rare moment of softness, before his mother had countered with a “But the Ravenclaw Tower is in a much better location”, and John had hated it, but he had also thought that if it came down to him, he’d rather get Ravenclaw than Slytherin. Somehow, it hadn’t occurred to him that he could go elsewhere, but he should have known, should have thought of it).

Obviously, the Hat hears this, or maybe finds it--who knows how the artefact works?

‘Oh, I’m afraid you wouldn’t fit in either of those,’ it whispers in his mind, and it sounds almost as amused as it is wistful.

(how many children in John’s position has he had to Sort, John wonders, and damn if that doesn’t make it just a little hard to swallow)

‘Then where?’ John asks, but his gaze finds the gold and red table on it own, and something in his chest pangs.

‘Oh, I believe I know just the place…’ The cry of ‘Gryffindor’ resonates both inside John’s head and in the Hall, and it makes him smile. The Hat lifts from his head and the Professor smiles at him, just a little, and directs him to his table.

She’s his Head of House now, he thinks, and she was kind, so he smiles back. At the Slytherin table, Alex is waving and applauding, shouting at Aaron what John just knows has to be a variation of ‘I knew it’ or ‘I told you so’. His grin is so wide it threatens to split his face, and John grins back, waves, and sits down.

He makes sure to leave some room empty by his side--some of his friends still have to be Sorted, and he’s rather sure he won’t be the only one to join the lions’ table tonight.

Only a few minutes later, it’s Madison’s turn. John has no idea how many sortings he missed, but he can’t find it in himself to truly care. He’s sure he’ll find out soon anyway.

It doesn’t take the Hat long to decide, though Madison still looks more pensive than pleased as he walks to the Ravenclaw table.

Before he can think about what exactly that means, it’s already Hercules’ turn. He supposed that that makes sense. Mason and Morgan are not far apart, alphabetically speaking.

Hercules’s sorting is the quickest one so far - or at least the shortest out of all those John noticed. Within seconds, the Hat shouts out his choice and Herc is joining Jefferson at the Hufflepuff table. He claps the other boy on the shoulder, and John stifles back a laugh, because even from his place at another table, John can see that Jefferson’s--Jerson’s (Merlin, this is going to get confusing fast) expression is thunderous.

The only one of them left is Eliza, but she won’t be sorted for a while. There are way too many students left, there is no way that a name starting with “Sk” is one of the next ones.

While John is waiting for her sorting, he looks around and studies the people he will be sleeping with. There’s not many of them - at least not yet. There’s Katie Bell, another girl he can’t remember the name of, and a guy who pompously introduces himself as Cormac McLaggen - John must’ve missed his sorting. He just hopes that Alexander had as well, because these two are another disaster waiting to happen.

Still, distaste aside--and putting his personal feelings toward other people away is something John is terribly familiar with--the three of them manage to strike up an easy conversation revolving around Quidditch. It seems that this sport is their one common link, and it is a large enough subject that they can avoid getting into a fight, though McLaggen is pompous enough that John isn’t sure that’ll last for long.

Amusingly enough, Bell ”Call me Katie” seems to share his opinion, because she regularly rolls her eyes at the other boy who seems to delight in boasting about exploits John is fairly sure couldn’t have actually happened.

Merlin, he hopes he won’t be alone with this boy in a room for seven years, because screw him and Alexander meeting, John will be the one responsible for a disaster.

Maybe someone is listening, because they get two new students in a row: a boy who sits across from Katie and already looks to be sharing John’s distaste for McLaggen (thank god for small miracles), and a girl with slides in between John and Katie like she belongs there, making room for herself.

Eliza’s Sorting comes after another girl joins the Hufflepuff house, and John excuses himself from the conversation--still on Quidditch, though it’s shifted from players to equipment (Laura, the new girl, is a fervent defender of Snidgets’ rights and as such has mixed feelings about a sport that supported animal cruelty for decades)--to watch it.

He sees the way she keeps her head up as she walks towards the stool and he knows that he won’t be the only one from their group at this table much longer. And sure enough, he’s proved right less than a minute later, when the Hat bellows ‘Gryffindor’ for all to hear.

“Bit unusual,” someone older - in a sense - comments. “That there is so much applause from other Houses this year.”

Looking at Washington’s proud smile, at Angelica’s knowing eyes, and at Alex’s determined face, John already knows who is responsible for this. And not just during their sortings either, although it is likely they were a bit more forceful in those moments.

“I really don’t see why it should be unusual,” Eliza replies primly, pointedly clapping as the last girl is Sorted into Hufflepuff. “The way Professor McGonagall said it, we should all be a family, shouldn’t we? And family supports each other.”

She says it in such a tone that no one quite dares to retort, and John bites back a smile. She’s already making them think--making them look at the other Houses differently, and sure, it’s not working with all of them, and this introspectiveness probably won’t last long, but if John knows one thing it is that it doesn’t need to. Besides, he doubts Eliza--or anyone else in their group, to be honest--will be satisfied with a single try.

Well, it’s not like he actually expected to have a quiet time at Hogwarts anyway. He had never been completely convinced of that and the second he had seen Hercules he had given up any hope of such a ridiculous notion. A quiet time when these guys were around was even less likely than it suddenly raining like, macaroni and cheese or something.

(he had absolutely no idea where the hell that had come from, however, that doesn’t mean it is wrong)

(but actually, given the fact that Jefferson had apparently invented it--and trust that guy to create something that sounded so disgusting--maybe that isn’t the best comparison John can make)

John startles so badly when the food appears--and he should be used to this, he knows, but somehow this feels different now--that he almost falls off the bench.

There was just so much food. A lot of things he was used to, but there were also some things he was unfamiliar with.

“Don’t know what to pick, huh?” Eliza questioned. “Me neither.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much food in my entire life,” John replies with a slightly stunned smile. “At least not in one place, nevermind the fact that there are three - no, four - more.”

Eliza nods. “Angelica said the feasts were crazy, but that the rest of the time the meals were sort of quieter, I guess. I mean, I can’t imagine it’d be sustainable to offer that much food at every meal.”

As John agrees, one of the other first years--the silent girl John had yet to remember the name of--pointed at ...something and pointed her thumb upwards.

Eliza is the first of the two to get it. “Is that good, Maya?”

The girl - Maya, apparently - grins as she nods.

Eliza follows the recommendation and so does John, shrugging as he shovels some on his plate. It wasn’t like he couldn’t get something else if he didn’t like this...whatever it was called.

But he doesn’t need to do that. This is quite good, actually, better, in fact, that most of the food he’s ever eaten. As he soon finds out, this is a trend here: all the food he tries that evening tastes entirely too heavenly, and he understands all the comments he’s ever heard about the food at Hogwarts.

(if anything, they had understated it)

Looking around the Hall, he sees that Alex agrees with him, if the sheer mountain of food that seems to be on his plate is any indication. Meanwhile Aaron is rolling his eyes and eating in the proper, dignified way his parents in both lives had tried to ingrain in John as well.

(it hadn’t worked all that well)

Hercules and Thomas - sticking to first names is easier than trying to decide on last names - seem slightly less fazed by it for some reason - although the latter seemed overwhelmed by something else - and James is sitting with his back to John, so he can’t really tell whether or not the other is enjoying it.

The rest of the meal passes almost in a daze and John can barely think until he has eaten all the food he can hold.

(thank God that someone - he had no idea who it had been - had pointed out the fact that he had to save room if he wanted dessert as well)

The realization hits him just as the desserts vanish, and he sort of hates himself for not remembering sooner. It sours something in his stomach, and suddenly he’s not really hungry anymore.

The House-Elves (and oh, how it hurts to find that there are still slaves here and now, in this new world). They'll have to do something about that, he thinks, resolve burning hot in his stomach. They cannot let this continue. It has already been seen as a given for long enough.

He turns to Eliza and he swears that she nods in agreement half a second before he had even opened his mouth to explain.

“I’m in,” she promises John. “Alex will most likely be as well.”

John smiles fondly at the thought. “Of course he will.”

“Honestly, I will be weirded out if he won’t,” Eliza admits.

Before their conversation can get any further, a strange sort of silence falls over the Hall. It takes John a moment until he realizes that it is because Professor Dumbledore, the Headmaster, has stood up.

“Now that we are no longer distracted by our empty stomachs, I would like to take the opportunity to welcome all of you into the sacred Halls of Hogwarts. Welcome! Welcome back!”

John doesn’t think he’s ever seen someone looks so cheerful while telling them everything that they shouldn’t do - and goddamn it, he swears some of them, like Alexander, are mentally taking notes for all the wrong reasons - but he guesses that all the rumors about Dumbledore being eccentric (to say it kindly) have to start somewhere.

To John and Eliza’s horror, he finally proceeds to introduce them to the school’s hymn, which is apparently sang on whichever tune one chooses. It sounds terrible--he’s having war flashbacks to things they’ve all agreed never to mention again--and yet John can’t help but join in.

It kind of reminds him of the days of the war, when they were at their camp, drunk as hell, and everyone was attempting to sing a different song. He doesn’t know what it reminds Eliza of, but considering that she sports the same kind of expression he does, it has to be bittersweet too.

Still, despite those memories, he is glad when the singing stops. Any longer and his ears would have started ringing, and he’s not exactly keen on nursing a headache on his first night at Hogwarts.

The Great Hall clears up surprisingly quickly--the older students follow a path they must know by heart by now, and the first years follow them, guided by an older pair who introduce themselves as their fifth year Prefects. They lead them up the moving staircases, which, on one hand, are amazing, but also on the other, seem incredibly dangerous, and toward the portrait of a plump lady holding a wine glass.

They all press up closer to the portrait, the Prefects first and John’s fellow students close behind them.

“This is the Fat Lady,” the girl Prefect introduces sternly. Her grey eyes somehow hold the same kind of poised strength as Professor McGonagall had while they were waited for the Sorting, and John instantly knows that she’s not a person you want to cross. “She guards the entrance to the Gryffindors’ common room. To enter, you only have to speak the password, though it will only work if she,” and as she says this she gestures at the painted woman who preens proudly, “is there, which is anytime outside of your curfew.”

As much as John would like to deny it, he can already see that becoming an issue in the future. He just knows that someone would require them to be out and about in the late hours of the night more than once, but they would burn that bridge when they got to it.

“The password changes every other week,” her fellow Prefect adds, taking over. “They’ll be posted in the common room, but it’s up to you to learn them. Our first password this year is Courage.”

As he says it, the Fat Lady gives a little bow and waves, giggling, as the door swings open.

The inside of the room feels warm, somehow. It’s not just the red and gold tones everywhere, or the fire crackling softly in the chimney, but something else too. John feels at ease there, like he belongs. It’s so very nice, and he can’t help but smile.

The Prefects lead them toward a staircase, and the stone should feel cold but it doesn’t--instead it, too, feels warm to the touch.

“Boys are this way, and girls this way,” the Prefect says. “There’s a dorm room per year, and your stuff should be waiting for you. If there’s any trouble with that, come and tell us. If not, it’s lights out in twenty minutes. Breakfast starts at six, though I doubt you’ll see anyone up that early, especially on the first day back.”

“Well, I guess I’ll see you tomorrow then?” Eliza quips by his side, mouth quirked up in a smirk John doesn’t quite know how to interpret.

John blinks. “I guess,” he shrugs. “So, err, good night?”

Eliza rolls her eyes, and laughs. “Good night,” she replies brightly, before following the other girls they were Sorted with.

Feeling a little confused, he settles for following his own dormmates. The dorm they enter isn’t particularly big, but it’s not small either. John can see himself belonging there for the seven years--holidays excluded--he’ll have to spend in the castle, and it’s a nice feeling.

His trunk is waiting for him by the bed closest to the window--it overlooks the grounds and the Forbidden Forest, and if he leans just the right way, he can see the moonlight reflected across the lake’s still waters--and when John plumps down, the bed is so soft it feels like heaven.

He knows he should change, but anything apart from kicking off his shoes and socks, and taking off the black robes is simply asking for more energy than he’d care to spend right now.

He lays awake for a while, just thinking about everything that had happened. Because, honestly, this day had been all sorts of amazing. He had hoped it would be--he had been, after all, finally getting away from his family and their crushing expectations--but nothing could have prepared him for the truth, for this unexpected reunion with the souls he had once cherished.

John is pretty sure that he’s still grinning as he slowly but surely drifts off to sleep. The stars are a wonderful thing to look at to calm himself. Despite the time that has passed since the last time he had actively done this, the stars still look the same. They look like they remain untouched by time, unchanged. It’s odd, but comforting, to know that not everything is different.

It reminds him, that despite everything that has changed, there are things that will always be constant. Alexander will always be tremendously ambitious, Eliza will never cease to be the sweetest person around, and Hercules will always be, well, Hercules. There isn’t really any other way to put it.

Just like with Lafayette, apparently the only one missing from their group, with the possible exception of their wives - obviously excluding Eliza. John doesn’t know why the man isn’t with them, he doesn’t even have a proper hypothesis or anything.

It doesn’t take long after that until he is completely asleep. His dreams are a wild mixture of his lives - his old and his new - but he doesn’t remember them by the time morning comes. That doesn’t really matter, though. Because the things that count, they stay.

Chapter Text

Waking up early was habit for Alexander. It had driven his parents mad, the way he never really seemed to be able to rest, but he had to do something. Staying in bed when he could be doing literally anything else wasn’t exactly an option for him, and ironically enough, the only moments he ever felt truly calm were when he was too focused on a task to care about anything else.

It had taken a while for everyone to adapt, but eventually putting a label on things (ADHD, as it turned out), had helped.

Which doesn’t mean that Alexander isn’t aware that his dormmates would probably murder him if he woke them up before the sun even rose (not that he could even tell, since their common room was located underground, but Alexander knew his own habits well enough by now to know that it was probably too early for much of the Hogwarts’ populace to be awake).

Since he is already awake, he can’t stand to stay in bed and falling back asleep isn’t even worth considering, so he decides to stand up and get ready for the day. It is slightly awkward--there isn’t much light, and though he’s sure he read a spell for that somewhere, he’s not sure he should be practicing it in this kind of situation--but eventually he manages to grab his clothes and bag, and heads to the bathrooms to shower and change.

He’s thankful they were shown around last night, because otherwise he’d probably have ended up in the wrong room.

He takes his time in the shower--he’s become rather convinced that he’s the only one awake, and the peaceful silence is nice. It gives the common room a whole other atmosphere, and it allows him to properly observe his surroundings in a way he hadn’t been able to last night.

There is an air to the Slytherin common room that is almost ethereal. The walls, painted a dark green, seem to glow from the candles that burn with a constant low flame, and the lake Alexander can spot through what passes as windows emits a yellow-ish light that basks the entire room with something otherworldly.

The quiet belongs there, it seems, and as much as he loves it, Alexander is also loath to disturb it. Besides, he was promised breakfast, and if it’s anything like the food they had last night, he’s quite eager to get there.

Later, Alexander will wonder how he possibly managed to reach the Great Hall without getting lost. But now, in the quiet hours of the early morning, Alexander lets his feet take him back to the only other place in the castle he knows, already composing in his mind the letter to his little sister.

He wrote to his parents already--speaking of, he’ll need to post that letter somehow--but he promised Sara he’d write her her own letters, and his little sister deserves the very best letter he can write.

The Great Hall is almost empty when he gets there, and for a moment Alexander feels dwarfed by the grandeur of it. Somehow, even though it isn’t as richly decorated as it was the previous night, it still makes him feel slightly out of place.

Half the teachers are there already, though they don’t look particularly happy about it. A handful of students are already sitting too, mostly at the Ravenclaw table, but they’re all much older than Alexander himself--students he doesn’t know.

Maybe another day, he’ll go introduce himself. Today, however, his stomach is grumbling and he has other things to do, so he settles at the first free seat he sees, even if it technically isn’t one that belongs to his own house. Food appears almost instantly, warm and smelling divinely good, and Alexander fills up his plate quickly, pouring himself a glass of what he was told last night was pumpkin juice. He hadn’t dared drink it then, but now he finds himself curious enough to try.

It’s not a good decision, but he doesn’t regret it. That doesn’t mean he’ll try it again, but well, at least he can say he did try it now.

He trades his glass of pumpkin juice for one of water, and sets down his parchment and ink beside his plate, grateful for all the free room he has. This would have been impossible had the table been as busy as it had been the night before.

(he absently starts wondering why he can’t just use pen and paper, but Alex has other things to do right now. That is a problem for later.)

He loses himself in his writing easily, narrating everything that has happened to him so far to his sister. He voices it differently than he had for his parents, but he won’t keep any secret from Sara if he can help it, and so the words flow on the paper, his food growing cold and lying forgotten but for the occasional bites.

“What the hell are you doing here, Hamilton?” someone eventually asks grumpily from beside him.

Alex doesn’t look up--he doesn’t need to, he recognizes the voice--before he answers, “Writing.”

Thomas sighs and rolls his eyes. “I can see that much. I meant why are you sitting at this table.”

“Because I felt like it,” he replies unhelpfully, rolling his eyes as well. Thomas’ voice does prompt a rant he immediately writes down--knowing his sister, she’ll get a kick out of him annoying Jefferson, even if she doesn’t know who that is.

The other boy - are they boys or men? - stands there for a moment or two before he sighs and sits down on the opposite of Alexander.

“This is going to be a long seven years,” Thomas mutters and Alex is not quite sure if he agrees, but it certainly seems like a plausible suggestion.

On his first morning in Hogwarts, James enters the Hall with John and Eliza. He’s glad he stumbled over the two of them on his way, because he’s honestly not sure he would’ve found the way alone. The other three boys in his House - James doesn't know their names quite yet - they were only just waking up when he left and he couldn’t find Angelica anywhere.

He is about to head to the Ravenclaw table, alone, when he notices Alexander sitting at the Hufflepuff table with Thomas.

If Alex can sit at another House’s table, then so can he, James decides.

“How is it that neither of them are injured or shouting?” John wonders as the three of them make their way towards the odd pair.

“I think it might be because Alex is writing,” Eliza theorizes.

“Possibly,” James agrees. It’s a reasonable suggestion.

They greet the two as they sit down, but Alex barely reacts, which is why John decides to poke him with a spoon. Thankfully, that breaks Alexander’s concentration enough for him to look up.

“John! Eliza! Good morning.”

“Hello to you, too, Hampton,” James comments dryly.

“Oh, sorry,” Alex grins sheepishly. “I didn’t realize you were here as well.”

Thomas snorts and rolls his eyes. “Sure you didn’t.”

“What is this?” Eliza attempts to distract and points at what Alex is writing.

“A letter to my sister,” Alex replies absently, finishing a sentence and starting the next one.

“There’s more of you?” Thomas questions, sounding completely and utterly horrified.

Almost despite himself, James snorts, and John and Eliza look at each other, trying to figure out how to handle this situation.

“How old is your sister?” It is the only question John can think of right now, but even so it doesn’t sound particularly adequate. Thankfully, Alex doesn’t really seem to mind. The smile that blooms on his face could outshine the sun, and he actually stops writing as he answers.

“She’s almost eight,” he replies, “and she’s already amazing. She’s curious about everything--she read all my textbooks when I was done with them, and I think she might have asked Professor McGonagall at least as many questions as I did when she came to tell me I had magic. And you should have seen her face when she saw Diagon Alley,” he adds without stopping to breathe (while John’s glad to know that that hasn’t changed, he’s also still incredibly curious as to how exactly it’s possible), “I think she wanted to go everywhere at once.”

“And you didn’t?” Eliza prompts with a light smirk.

Alex rolls his eyes and smiles somewhat sheepishly. “Well, yes, but that’s different.”

“In what way?” Thomas raises an eyebrow.

“It just is!” Alex raises his arms, almost punching Hercules in the face as he does.

The Hufflepuff in question carefully moves Alex’s hand away from his face.

“How many pages are that?” James questions, trying to defuse the situation. He is well aware that he is not doing a great job, but it is better than nothing. “Seven? Twelve?”

Before Alex can answer, they are interrupted by Aaron and Hercules sitting down.

“What are you even writing?” Hercules asks seconds later. “It’s only the first day of school.”

“He wrote around four pages or so yesterday as well,” Aaron informs the others.

“Alex!” Eliza scolds.

“You need to sleep”, John adds, clearly worried.

“It was a letter to my parents!” Alex raises his arms in front of him. “And this, Herc, is a letter to Sara.”

“We will allow that one,” Eliza nods. “But eat.”

“Sara?” Aaron questions, clearly confused.

“His sister, apparently,” James replies dryly.

Meanwhile Alex obediently picks up a piece of toast. Then, he turns to Aaron. “That reminds me: I wrote about all this as well, but don’t worry, I told them that you’ve sworn that you’re not going to kill me again.”

Aaron blinks, taken aback. “I said nothing of this sort. Don’t get me wrong, I do mean it,” he adds hastily, “but that doesn’t change the fact I never said it.”

“Yeah,” Alex acknowledges, “but not only did I mention that you were rooming with me and advised they should check history, I actually told them how it ended last time. Let me just say that my Dad is a mechanic and my Mom is a nurse. They would find a way to get here, he would beat you up, and she would make it look like it was an accident. I know they can do it. It happened before.”

Alex nonchalantly takes a bite of his toast while the others process what he just said.

It’s James who can find his words first. “What do you mean, ‘it happened before’?”

“I’m not allowed to talk about that. Seriously,” he adds when the others are about to argue. “They made me sign a nondisclosure agreement and everything.”

“That sounds…”

“Crazy?” John suggests.

“I was going for ‘like a bit much’,” Eliza corrects, sounding reluctantly impressed.

“But not legally binding,” Thomas points out, “since you’re not a legal adult.”

“It is very obvious that you don’t know my parents,” Alex shakes his head. “What I can tell you is that the person who it happened to moved a week later. Haven’t heard from them since. And I know their cousin and asked. Repeatedly.”

There are a few seconds of stunned silence.

“It’s probably for the best you lied in that case,” Hercules eventually manages, swallowing visibly.

Alex hums in agreement for a moment before turning to Thomas, and asking, “Can you hand me the orange juice? Pumpkin juice tastes terrible,” he adds, grimacing.

Thomas startles blankly for a few seconds before he tugs the jug closer to him. “Not for Federalists,” he comments with a glare.

Aaron groans in frustration, but James pays more attention to the other Hufflepuff students. Washington -- no, Warren -- isn’t here yet, but the pink haired girl he sat with yesterday is.

She looks just as confused as everyone else in hearing radius, but she is the only one that dares to speak to them.

“What is going on with you guys?”

“Inside joke, I’d wager,” Hercules responds, spreading jam nonchalantly on a piece of toast.

“They have a bit of a rivalry going on, you see,” Eliza adds with a wink.

“A bit?” James snorts, raising an eyebrow sarcastically.

“Please, I’m clearly better than Jeff-I mean, than Thomas here, so there really is no rivalry,” Alex says at the same time, glaring at everyone in sight.

You, better than me? Don’t make me laugh,” Thomas retorts.

“Can you stop fighting for five minutes?” Angelica comments as she arrives at the table. “I’ll bet you five Galleons that you can’t.”

“Each?” Alex asks, licking his lips, eyes suddenly focused.

Angelica rolls her eyes. “Well, I know better than to make the two of you share anything, so yes.”

Thomas and Alex exchange a long look that is half barely concealed disdain, half considering, before they turn back in unison toward Angelica. The sight is surprisingly unsettling.

“We’ll do it,” they say at the same time.

“Do you even have five Galleons?” Aaron asks in the tone of the deep suffering.

Alex shrugs before smirking. “Not yet.”

Aaron rolls his eyes but eventually focuses back on his breakfast.

Meanwhile, Alex stands up and goes to grab the orange juice Thomas had tried to refuse him. Though Thomas says nothing, his lips curl into a smirk as he tugs the bottle closer to himself.

“Seriously?!?” Alex asks, sounding exasperated. “You're still doing this?”

“Seriously,” Thomas confirms. “And yes, I am.”

Angelica leans forward and Alex’s scathing answer dies on his lips. “We're not fighting,” he says quickly.

Angelica arches an eyebrow. “Right,” she drawls, unimpressed. “Of course you aren't.”

“Hampton’s right,” Thomas interjects reluctantly. “That wasn't fighting.”

“See?” Alex says, preening.

“Of all the things for them to agree on,” Aaron mutters in his drink.

Alex tries to take advantage of everyone’ distracted state to make a grab for the juice, but it fails.

“Nice try, Alexander,” Thomas smirks, taking a slow sip of his own drink and smacking his lips together loudly. “You know,” he adds almost musingly, “I think this might be the best orange juice I’ve ever had.”

James snorts and rolls his eyes. “As amusing as this is, Thomas, you do realize that this isn't the only orange juice in this room, don't you?”

Thomas’ betrayed face is almost as entertaining as Alex’s enlightened one when he realizes he can just grab one from further down the table.

When Alex returns from his ‘quest’, he pours himself a large glass, sighing appreciatively at the orange liquid.

“Ah, finally something drinkable!”

Everyone else around him does a version of rolling their eyes, but any further reaction on that subject is stopped as suddenly dozens upon dozens of owls enter the room, each and every one with a package or a letter of some kind.

One of them - a rather large barn owl - is heading towards them, a red envelope clearly visible in the animal’s claws.

“Oh no,” John groans, clearly recognizing the owl. “I knew this was coming.”

“What?” Alexander questions, frowning.

“Is that a Howler?” Eliza asks. “What reason would your parents possibly have to send you one of those foul things already?”

“The same mine do,” Thomas sighs, eying the arriving owls warily.

A look of understanding passes on Hercules’ face. “Is it because of your Sorting?”

“I imagine you’ll find out any second.” John is correct. Two owls land at their table almost instantly after he says that. One of them focuses on John, the other on Thomas, who groan in unison.

“I don’t get it--what’s a Howler?” Alex asks, clearly confused, though it’s rather clear from his face that he’s worried.

James sighs, picking at his food. “They’re special letters,” he tries to explain, wondering how to put this into words. Every wizarding child knows what a Howler is, though most of them--thankfully--never get to see one. James’ father had gotten one at breakfast two years ago, and though James didn’t recall the words, he could still hear his ears ringing when he focused on that memory. He sincerely hoped he’d never get to see another one, but he should have known better. “A rather shameful practice,” he adds as a filler before Angelica takes over, rolling her eyes.

“It’s something people use when they want to yell at someone else but can only write a letter. So they send a letter that does the yelling for them,” she sums up rather accurately.

James winces at the unholy light that appears in Alex’s eyes. He should have guessed that Alexander Hamilton’s response to letters that could actually scream would be unorthodox, more unbridled fascination than the expected horror.

At Alex’s next question (“How do they work?”, worded innocently enough that it would probably have fooled anyone who didn’t know him), he exchanges a meaningful look with the others, swearing not to reveal that particular secret.

(hopefully, this information isn’t available in any of the books in the Library--and if it is, well ‘hopefully’ those books won’t be available for much longer. And any ways to owl order would have to be hidden as well.)

The two owls land in front of their intended targets gracefully, delivering their letter with disdainful ‘hoots’ that are ridiculously identical before flying away.

(undoubtedly they’re clever enough to want to be far away from the explosion)

The fact that there are two letters screaming almost in unison - the only things that are really different are names and Houses, it’s kind of scary - only makes it worse. James is almost convinced that he might become deaf any second; and he listened to the delegates fighting about the capital, so that is saying something.

Thomas looks more and more horrified as the letter goes on and shows no sign of stopping anytime soon, while John seems to shrink on himself, even as his face remains carefully schooled blank.

“Oh, for the love of-!” Alexander says loudly - though his voice is drowned out - as he stabs the knife he was just using to butter his toast through the ‘mouth’ of John’s Howler.

The Howler emits an unearthly scream that rings through James’ ears - and, by the looks of it, everyone else’s - before Eliza grabs Alex’s arm, incensed, and yanks it and the knife away from the letter.

“What the hell was that?” she yells, rounding up on him. “Are you mad?! You’re lucky that didn’t explode and take out half your arm with it!”

“He is clearly mad, but we knew that already,” Aaron points out.

“I’m more concerned with the fact that your first response to annoying noise is to stab it.” Hercules frowns.

For a second, James debates if he should add something like take care, Thomas, or it was nice to know you, but he decides that the Hufflepuff has suffered enough for now. John doesn’t have the same restraint.

(given the fact that John is suffering through the same thing, he is also probably the only one who could do it without earning a Slap from one of the sisters right now)

“Well, it could have worked,” Alex protests mulishly.

Angelica rolls her eyes at him. “In that case, first lesson on magic for you: just assume everything is trying to kill you, if not outright then in ways you’d never see coming or find logical.”

“That's kind of a bleak perspective of things, don't you think?” Aaron replies with a small frown.

“Well, maybe, but try spending more than a week in this castle and tell me I'm wrong,” Angelica says.

James considers retorting, but then he remembers that the stairs move around, which in retrospect doesn't seem like the safest option, and how many stories of people getting lost on their way to class he’ already heard, and so he stays quiet. Angelica may very well have a point here.

The fact that he startles a bit when Hercules draws back their attentions to the still screaming Howlers--well, Thomas’ is, anyway, as John’s has dissolved into incoherent shrieks that are somehow less disturbing that the actual rant had been--proves that one can truly get used to anything.

“That aside, isn’t there anything we can do about these things to make them stop?” Hercules moans. He, like most students in the neighboring seats, holds his hands clenched around his ears, and his face looks pained.

Eliza shrugs and looks questioningly at her sister, who shrugs back. “Most people usually wait for them to end,” Angelica admits. “Though they rarely last this long,” she adds, sounding reluctantly impressed (to be fair, James is too--who know there were so many ways to call someone a disappointment to the family line?). “You’d think they’d have run out of things to say by now.”

“Yeah, you’d think that,” Thomas bites, clearly bitter.

“It is rather ridiculous,” James finds himself pointing out, lips twitching up.

Alex looks incensed, though it is unclear on whose behalf (probably his dear John’s, though it is possible that he considers Thomas--the one who, for all his parents know, is actually being addressed--deserving of some of his concern). “You should write back to them! Really, all this because of a House when they know you don’t have an actual say on where you end up! This is inadmissible!”

John perks up, eyes sparkling in delight. “That could be fun,” he says, clearly savoring the words. “But I’m afraid I only got maybe half of that thing because someone decided to play around with the silverware,” he adds, half-teasing half-annoyed.

Thomas snorts before Alex can retort. “You can use mine for inspiration, as I’m rather sure our parents have to have written these together. This,” he says, gesturing at the still yelling red envelope--is it slowing down? Oh wait, no, that was just a break for breathing (and why does a letter needs to take breaks for breathing, James wonders, but sometimes magic makes little sense like that), “might as well be useful for something.”

Between the noise from the Howlers and their conversation, no one sees George arrive, though they all fall silent at the quiet that follows the sharp ‘ Silencio!’ he casts on the two red letters.

“Wow, you have got to teach me that one,” Angelica says appreciatively. She sounds like she has at least 23 different uses planned already.

“You can find it in your textbook,” George replies dryly, already sounding exhausted. “Or in the fourth year one.”

(James pities him for a second--having to deal with Thomas and Hamilton, not only in one life but in two sounds hellish--before he remembers they’re in the same boat)

“And anyway, what are you all doing at my table?” he asks, probably sounding more horrified than he had planned.

“Alex was writing a letter,” John explains. “And we couldn’t very well leave him alone with Thomas.”

“No, I guess not,” George says in stunned relief. He stands in front of the table, unblinking, for what feels like hours.

“You should sit with us, sir,” Hercules says, gesturing at a seat that had ‘miraculously’ cleared up between him and Aaron.

“Yes, eat with us,” Eliza says with all kind smile.

“Ah, I-” George casts a pleading look toward his pink-haired friend, but the girl only smiles widely and gestures at him to go ahead. “Fine, then,” George says as he sits down, shoulders dropping a little. “But only until you’re all done eating, and then it’s back to your tables--you’ll be getting your timetables, and the teachers won’t know where to find you if you’re not where we supposed to be.”

His commanding look and tone is much more familiar than the meeker version they had witnessed until now, and James isn’t surprised to find himself nodding along everyone else.

“Good,” George says, nodding. “Now, Alex, please pass the eggs.”

Waking up that morning, George had known that this day would be trying on his nerves. Heck, he knew this year would be trying on his nerves (one more year, was that to much to ask for? One more year and he’d have been free, one more year and he wouldn’t have had to be Head Boy while the people he had known in another life started their first year).

It took him a great effort to get up--greater than usual, that is--and not simply lay around in bed for the whole day (a very valid option, he thought, considering what he’d have to deal with outside his dorm room), but the moment he walks in through the Great Hall’s doors, George only yearns to go back.

“I can’t believe this,” he mutters to himself. “Already? How is this even possible?”

Honestly, the screaming is so loud George isn’t even sure how he didn’t hear it from the other end of the castle. The words themselves are almost inaudible through the harsh, painful noise, but George can make out a few “you ungrateful disgrace”s and “how dare you”s, as well as “and what about our family name?”s, and beside that the sentiment is clear. Even before he spots the red envelopes (and one of them actually looks oddly damaged, which is surprising), George knows exactly what’s going on.

(he is relieved that his first hypothesis was wrong and Thomas and Alexander aren’t already reenacting the Cabinet Battles. It’s probably only a matter of time, but George is going to savour every second until then)

It is a travesty, the way everyone here seems to be listening in on the letter. This, even more than the yelling, is what grates George the most about Howlers, this way they have of holding everyone’s attention over things that should stay private.

Of course, the recipients of those Howlers being who they are, they are not nearly as shamed as the senders intended, and instead seem to be fully set on ignoring the screams as best they can while holding a seemingly normal conversation.

George isn’t surprised. After all, he’s seen them pull off worse things.

(hopefully he hadn’t jinxed anything)

(who is he kidding, he definitely did)

He takes pity on Jerson and moves to the table to silence the letter.

Angelica wants to learn the spell immediately and George directs her to the textbooks. She is, after all, rightly amazed by the possibilities of the spell -- what wouldn’t he have given to have this ability in his last life -- and who is he to stop her from learning?

“And anyway, what are you all doing at my table?” he asks, because he desperately needs to know who to blame for his suffering.

Lawrence's explanation that the other choice would have been to leave Jerson and Hampton alone until Morgan would have arrived (or the teachers intervened) is an excellent reason. He would have hated looking for a new school in his NEWT year.

“You should sit with us, sir,” Morgan asks, and his voice drags George out of his musings. His first instinct is to say no, but unfortunately he doesn’t actually have any other option, seeing as Tonks is refusing he sit beside her (he should have known calling her Nymphadora--which he still insists is her real name--would backfire on him somehow). And so, wishing his peaceful days could return, he reluctantly sits down on the seat that Morgan and Burts have cleared up for him.

(how? when? he hadn’t even seen them move?)

He sits down with a sigh. At least they are (probably?) more likely to behave while he is around. Or at least something close to behaving, since the full thing is almost certainly impossible.

And then it hits him that, for at least this morning, they can’t all stay at this table forever. They have to leave--have to get their schedules, and those are distributed by your Head of House, who won’t go looking for you at another House’s table.

The sad thing is that that will really only be the case today, but he will take whatever he can get. He needs it, because otherwise he’ll most certainly go insane within a matter of weeks.

(it’s not unlikely that he will do that anyway, but he’d like to cling to his sanity as long as possible)

Sharing that ‘discovery’ with everyone lightens up his mood, and so he’s feeling rather more chipper as he asks Alexander to pass him the eggs--somehow, at Hogwarts they are always perfectly cooked and seasoned. The other advantage of eating is that he doesn’t really have to make conversation, and so he settles for keeping an eye on the new dynamics of these people he once knew.

George has the feeling he will never get used to the sight of Alexander and Jerson coexisting so… peacefully. Granted, they’re currently mostly ignoring each other, but it’s the politest ignorance he’s ever seen from either of them. It’s actually kind of refreshing, if a bit odd.

Maybe that’s why he didn’t notice that Charlie was approaching them until the redhead put his hands on George’s shoulders and gave him the scare of his life.

“What in the,” George jumps, biting back a curse in extremis. “Charlie, what are you doing here?” he asks, turning his head to stare pointedly into his friend’s eyes.

Charlie grins, unrepentant.

“I am not letting you two abandon me for a bunch of first years! Besides, it looks like all the fun’s happening here today,” Charlie reasons.

“Couldn’t have put it better myself,” Tonks chirps in, and no, George was wrong before-- this is her revenge.

“Oi!” Angelica protests. “I’m not a first year!”

“I know, Angel,” Tonks laughs. “Speaking of, where’s Layla?”

Angelica shakes her head, shrugging. “I have no idea. She’ll turn up whenever she feels like it.”

“Who is Layla?” Lawrence questions.

“She’s a friend of mine,” Angelica explains with a fond smile, and her sister adds with a smirk that says she’s heard a lot about this Layla, “She’s the only other Ravenclaw girl in her year too, so they share a room.”

Alexander frowns. “That seems odd… There are more students in our year than that.”

“It’s because of the war,” George replies soberly. “Your generation was born toward the end of it, so it didn’t suffer as much, but you’ll see quickly the difference between your year and the next ones, and the older years. There hasn’t been a first year class this big in a while.”

Angelica nods along gravely.

It is a little heartbreaking to see how the entire group of first years twist their heads to look around them and at the other tables to spot older students, and their dismayed expressions as they realize George spoke the truth.

“The war?” Alexander asks, frowning, and for an instant George’s blood freezes in his veins as he considers the idea that maybe Alexander doesn’t know about it yet. Thankfully, the little Slytherin’s next words prove him wrong, though they grant him little relief in the end. “You mean the one against the Dark Lord no one seems to be able to name?”

Alexander sounds so unimpressed at that fact that, despite how serious the matter is, George can’t fight off a small smirk. Judging by the sparse and sudden bouts of coughing that erupts at the table, he’s not the only one.

“That war, yes,” George finally confirms in a sigh. “And you won’t find many people brave enough to say his name out loud--or even write it,” George adds, shrugging his shoulders a little.

“Why though?” Alexander asks. Beside him, Eliza nods sternly and says, “What does bravery have to do with a name?”

It’s Charlie who answers them, a wry smile twisting his lips. “Fear,” he says simply, before pointed looks have him elaborate. “During the war, You-Know-Who put a Taboo on his name-” at that, Angelica’s eyes light up with a sad kind of  understanding, “-so that he would know where the people who said his name were hiding. It could break through even the strongest wards, and may of his opponents died before they realized what was happening.”

“But that was a decade ago,” Lawrence protests weakly. “Shouldn’t people know better by now?”

Charlie shrugs uneasily. “I guess old habits die hard. And there are rumors that-”

“-that some of his followers remain free,” George interrupts quickly, for fear that Charlie reveals the too real rumor that this Dark Lord might not be as dead as people believe. George remembers the dread he had felt when he had learned that--he might be too young to have ever known what the war was like, but he has known other wars, and he knows how miserable those are, especially when they’re based on baseless hatred and fear--and he would like to spare Alexander and the others that knowledge for as long as possible.

“But weren’t there trials?” Alexander asks, and George curses himself for bringing up another subject that could lead to debate. Though, to be fair, most subjects would lead to debate when confronted with Alexander.

“Most people say the Ministry’s corrupt though, and that those officiating the trials accepted bribes,” Burts says with disgusts, stabbing at his eggs with a little more force than necessary.

“What?!?” Alexander protests loudly, his head whipping around to face Burts. “Is that true?” he asks the others.

“Our current Minister’s pretty spineless, according to my father,” Jerson states, looking almost reluctant to do so. “But the Department of Magical Law Enforcement has gotten a lot better apparently.”

Charlie snorts. “Your name is Jerson, right? Figures your father’d know all about Fudge being spineless, wouldn’t he?”

“And what is that supposed to mean?” Jerson replies, eyes narrowing dangerously.

“Nothing,” Charlie shrugs innocently.

“That didn’t sound like nothing,” Jerson continues, glaring into Charlie’s unrepentant eyes.

“Thomas, please,” Mason asks at the same time as Tonks adds, “He meant that your father was involved in some pretty big scandal a couple years back and that Fudge helped him out of it in exchange for some compensation.”

The way she rubs her fingers together and winks, hair turning from its more usual pink to a bright shade of yellow for a few moments, leaves no doubt as to what the ‘compensation’ was, and Jerson reddens in anger.

“Wait, I know you,” Morgan blurts out suddenly, and George has never been more grateful for an interruption before.

Tonks turns toward the boy with a questioning look. “Oh?”

“Yeah, from the family meetings that are only every five years for some reason.” Morgan nods to himself. “You’re Nymphadora-”

“Don’t say that name,” Charlie interrupts with panic.

“-Tonks. My...cousin? I think? Something like that anyways.”

Nymphadora’s eyes lighten up. “It can’t be! Little Hercules! Last time I saw you, you were convinced that Grandpa Tonks was actually Merlin disguise.”

Morgan ducks his head down. “Come on, I was five!”

“Six,” Tonks corrects with a smirk. “And what an adorable six-year-old you made too!”

Morgan turns bright red and turns to the others with a look that translates to don’t you fucking dare, but he is saved from more embarrassment when Layla sits down next to him, proclaiming “Morning!” with a smile on her face that is way too huge to be appropriate.

Nothing new, then. At least not in this regard.

Layla looks around and scans the new faces. “Who are these guys? And why are we sitting here? Not that I’m against sitting with more people who look like they have stupid but fun adventures, but give a gi-” she stops and corrects herself “a person some warning next time.”

“Next time?” George didn’t mean to let that panicked whisper escape, but it did nevertheless.

Just like Morgan, George too is saved by Layla talking -- honestly, now that he thought about it, she reminded him of Alexander and oh no.

She has noticed the letter - letters? With Alexander, who even knows - and the question that follows is: “Aren’t you a first year? How do you already write that fast?”

Alexander snorts. “Please, if I were to use pen and paper, I’d have at least three pages more, but I need to re-adjust to quills somehow.”

George’s heart skips a beat. Had Alexander just said that…?

“There is something that allows you to write even faster?” Burts questions, sounding honestly afraid - which is the only proper reaction to this piece of news if you ask George.

Everyone of them who has been reincarnated looks rightfully afraid.

“I’m missing something,” Charlie declares.

Tonks and Layla nod in agreement.

“Does it have something to do with that thing?” Tonks questions, wiggling her eyebrows.

George nods voicelessly.

“Oh, they know?” Mason inquires.

Layla frowns. “Know what?”

Charlie seems to understand suddenly. “Oh, you mean - wait, is it a secret? Should we speak about it here?”

“I wouldn’t say it’s a secret,” Eliza states. “It’s not like any of us have made any attempts to hide or plan to do so.”

“Hide what?” Layla questions, looking confused.

“And even if we did try, I’m pretty sure we’d fail,” Lawrence adds with a shrug. “But on the other hand, who would believe us?”

Morgan and Mason make noises of agreement.

“Believe what?” Layla sounds both annoyed and insulted now. “And am I the only one here who had no idea what you are talking about? Angie, I thought we were supposed to be friends!?”

“We are!” Angelica quickly replies, sounding offended at the mere suggestion of anything else. “But this is something a little more... complex.”

“Insane, you mean,” George corrects, because somehow he still hasn’t completely processed who he is, was, whatever.

“I’d say both fit,” Burts speaks up.

Alexander groans and moves his hand to his face. “Of course you avoid arguments!”

“There is nothing wrong with that!”

“Can someone please tell me what the actual fuck is going on?” Layla requests. She’s not quite screaming, but it won’t take much more until she is.

“We’re reincarnated,” Eliza answers calmly.

“All of you?” Layla asks, eyes wide with disbelief.

“Not me and Tonks,” Charlie replies. “At least I don’t think so.”

“I wish,” Tonks says with a wistful sigh. “And you haven’t even heard who they were yet.”

“To be fair I’m not even sure I believe it,” Layla admits.

“Neither am I and I am one of those with memories,” Mason laughs.

“Well, I do believe these memories are real,” Jerson comments. “It sounds more likely than all of us - and just us - hallucinating upon meeting.”

“He’s right,” Lawrence points out and Alexander looks at him in a way that is betrayal and approval at once.

“Anyways,” Morgan says, preventing an argument (probably). “The fact who we are the reincarnations of is even less believable. I may not have become very famous in my last life, but the others...well…”

“I bet you all the money I have on me that you’ve heard at least one name,” Lawrence inserts, grinning widely.

“I don’t know,” Mason says, looking at Layla up and down. “Are you a Pureblood? Because then I’d take that bet,” he adds in Lawrence’s direction, who winces.

“You can’t be serious,” Alexander says and the disappointment in his voice is almost tangible. “They have to have advanced past the 1700s.” He turns to Charlie. “Are you a Pureblood? Can you please tell me that you heard at least of George before he remembered?”

“Yeah, I’m a Pureblood, but I’m also a ‘blood traitor’-” Charlie makes air quotes around these words “-so I may not be the best person to ask. But, yes, I did know who George Washington was before.”

Layla screeches. “What?!”

Chapter Text

To Alex, breakfast had seemed to last forever. Logically, he knows it hasn’t, but it sure felt like it. It was nice, though, to meet up with everyone--Jerson not included, even if Alex will admit that he wasn’t as bad as he could have been--and also meet some new faces. Washington’s friends are great, and Layla is pretty nice too, even if her knowledge of Muggle events seems to be even more lacking than that of everyone else’s.

(though he has gotten five Galleons out of the mess, which is a good start)

They haven’t had time to properly educate her yet--in retrospect, them talking all at once about who they used to be in another life perhaps wasn’t the best way to introduce themselves, but her surprise/disbelief at George (and her barely knowing who George Washington was) had lead all of them to wondering if she knew about anyone else.

(spoilers: she didn’t)

They will though, if only because Alex can’t believe how sheltered and backward this wizarding society seems to be. Because really, are they actively trying to be clueless? They have to have heard something by coincidence at least. It’s impossible that not one Muggleborn talked about the Moon Landing, for example. Especially since Hogwarts isn’t exactly a new school and people like him were here when it happened!

But still, when he mentioned that out loud, almost everyone at the table had looked at him like he had grown a second head, and eventually Alex had had to leave anyway, since class schedule were being distributed.

(well, Aaron had half dragged him away, but eventually Alex had followed of his own free will, so it counted)

Alex finds it stupid that they didn’t hand out the schedules last night--surely they were already done then, and everyone had been in their own common room, meeting with their Heads of House. Truly, he can’t think of a better moment to make sure everyone gets their schedule, and that way they could both have asked questions about where the classrooms are located, and known which classes they’d have first i.e. which books they should have taken with them.

It does leave them plenty of time to consider their schedule as they go back to their common rooms to get their bags, and before Alex knows it they’re all back before the Great Hall and ready to start learning magic.

His first class of the day is with John and Eliza, so it’s not half as bad as it could have been, and it’s Potions, which promises to be an interesting subject as well, though Alex chooses to reserve judgment on Snape’s methods. The man has seemed rather sour so far, but hopefully his personality won’t reflect too badly on his teaching abilities.

As Hercules, James, and Jerson make their way outside and the older students go to whatever their classes are right now, the four Slytherins and Gryffindors make their way downstairs.

(they only knew the way for certain because Eliza had asked her sister which had prompted the others to ask for the way to Herbology as well)

Alex isn’t sure what to think of the fact that these corridors feel familiar already, but the damp darkness doesn’t feel as oppressive to him as it feels to their Gryffindors companions.

“So, any idea what to expect?” Eliza asks as they walk. “I mean, Professor Snape is your Head of House--did he tell you anything?”

Alex and Aaron share a long look. “Not really,” Aaron shrugs.

“He doesn’t really seem like the type to talk much anyway,” John nods pensively. He sighs. “Well, I just hope I won’t make too much of a fool of myself,” he winces.

“Nonsense,” Eliza and Alex say at the same time. “I’m sure you’ll do great,” Alex adds supportively.

“He probably won’t be expecting too much of us on our first day anyway,” Aaron says, fingers playing nervously with the strap of his book bag.

“Maybe not from you,” John says. “But we’re Gryffindors,” he says, as if that explains everything.

“And what’s that supposed to mean?” Alex asks with a frown.

“I’ve heard the sentence ‘Snape is a dick to Gryffindors’ in at least 23 different variations this morning before I left the common room,” John informs them. “Granted, at least fifteen of those were from some redheaded twins, but that still leaves around eight other people.”

“I’m sure they were just exaggerating,” Eliza tries to reassure them, but she doesn’t look very confident, and thinking back on it--and remembering the way Snape had looked at the students last night when they were being Sorted, Alex isn’t sure he can blame her for that.

Also, the man had given them a speech yesterday evening and while it was something like what he had expected, it was also full of thinly veiled disgust that Alexander was pretty sure had been aimed at him.

(he despises it when people tell him he ‘doesn’t belong here’ or that he can’t do something. He does, he can, and he will, just you wait)

“Yeah, maybe,” Aaron says, but Alex can see that he shares Alex’s doubts.

“Let’s at least hold our judgement until after the first class, alright?” Eliza proposes.

“Alright,” Alexander agrees as Aaron adds, “Probably a good idea.”

The four of them have been walking slowly, as Angelica had advised them, since they were still early enough and many of the other students probably had no idea where to even start looking for the potions classroom - really, were room numbers too much to ask for? His old school had done it with ease - and indeed, he could see some of the Slytherins and Gryffindors trailing behind them more or less hesitatingly.

One of the Gryffindors -- he has an even darker skin than Jefferson does, but this guy’s nose isn’t quite as flat, and his ears are noticeably smaller -- jogs up to them. “Hi, sorry to bother you, but, err, do you have any idea where we’re going?”

Aaron glares at him disbelievingly, but Eliza is the one to voice their thoughts. “You mean that you’ve been following us without making sure we weren’t leading you astray?”

The boy looks sheepish as he rubs the back of his neck. “Kind of? I mean, yes? It seemed like a good idea at the time,” he adds, muttering a little by the end of his sentence.

Eliza rolls her eyes. “Well, you’re lucky we know some people who actually know their way around the dungeons then,” she says.

“I wouldn’t say that we know our way around the dungeons yet, Skyler,” Aaron retorts. “We’ve been here as long as you, it’s not like we’ve had time to explore.”

“But you know where you’re going?” John says, arching an eyebrow pointedly.

“Well, yes, Angelica confirmed it, but-” Aaron replies, before Alex elbows him and cuts him off, “We passed in front of the Potions classroom on our ways to the dorms, so we know where it is.”

It seems that just then the Gryffindor realizes that Alex and Aaron aren’t Gryffindors but are, in fact, Slytherin. He makes a funny kind of face as his eyes roam over the silver and green ties, but eventually he just frowns a little and nods, voicing his thanks softly before running back to the group he had left before.

“Uh, that was weird,” Alex says. Aaron just stares at him like he’s lost his mind.

“Don’t you think weird is kind of an-” then he stops and shakes his head “-you know what? I’m not even going to bother with that.”
“Probably a wise choice,” John approves.

By that point, they have arrived in front of the Potions classroom. The door is already open, so they enter and choose seats in the second row. Alex pairs off with Aaron, since the other three agreed that he was the one most likely to stop a disaster - John was more likely to encourage him and Eliza was weak to his puppy dog eyes, so they weren’t exactly a good choice for this - and John sits next to Eliza.

Everyone else shuffles in quickly after that, and on what Alex guesses is the time for class to begin (it’s not like there are clocks or anything to check it against, which to him seems kind of stupid) Snape strolls in, his cloak swishing behind him as the door snaps shut with a loud bang. He looks unforgiving as he stops in front of his desk and grabs a roll of parchment he uses to call out everyone, and Alex has to repress a small shiver.

Honestly, the lesson is… Well, it’s bad. There’s really no other way to describe it--except maybe hellish or some such variation on the theme--because that’s just how it is. Even the roll call was unsettling, and that takes some serious skill to manage.

The way he glared intensely at Aaron once he realized that he was sitting with Alexander, John, and Eliza. Every time he read out the name of a Gryffindor, it was with a sneer that clearly wasn’t even intended to be disguised, and he does the same thing when he looks as Alexander.

Not particularly great as far as first impressions go.

Once the man is done with the roll, he simply proceeds to tap his want into the air, which reveals a list of instructions and tells them to start. No further explanation, no warnings what not to do, nothing of that sort.

Yeah. Disappointment doesn’t quite cover what Alexander felt after that lesson. It was totally unsuited to let eleven-year-olds start a subject that sounds like it’s pretty important in this community with something like that and Alexander can think of roughly fifty reasons why. The fumes from the Potions bubbling in the classroom give him a headache, and he’s pretty sure the stench will cling to his robes for the rest of the day. They’re lucky nothing exploded - it was a near thing when a Gryffindor’s girl’s Potion turned black instead of green and started sparking, but say what you will about Snape’s teaching methods, he at least stopped that disaster from worsening. Well, he also vanished the Potion, yelled at the girl until she was nearly in tears and then yelled at the class some more while taking points, but at least no one was injured. This time. It’s not nearly as reassuring as it should be.

Their first lesson in Defense, however, is totally different. Their Professor, a black man around thirty by the name of Silvanus Grey, confidently stands in front of the classroom as he addresses them. He doesn’t sneer, or yell, and the atmosphere in his classroom is already much more relaxed than Snape’s had been. The lesson is… interesting enough, Alex guesses, given that almost half of it is spent outlining this year’s objectives.

(another thing that Snape hadn’t done, he notes, and God, does this mean there aren’t any? or that Snape expects them to find out for themselves? Slytherins are supposed to be resourceful, so that could technically happen, but it does seem a little far-fetched to let eleven-year-olds run so free)

Alex is still a little confused by what, exactly, counts as ‘Dark Arts’ by the end of the lesson. He had read the assigned book during the summer, and while for the most part what Professor Grey had said seemed to align with the philosophy he had read, some things didn’t quite fit. Still, this is only the first lesson--hopefully things will only get clearer from here on in, and if not, he’s sure that he can find someone to tell him what the Dark Arts are. Not because he wants to practice them--they honestly sound bad--but because he’s rather sure that people who grew up around magic would know more about the nuances he thinks he’s missing so far.

(And the classifications seem to be a bit wobbly. Many spells that are allowed can be used to do harm and some of those forbidden actually sounded pretty helpful, and that’s slightly infuriating)

He thinks he could grow to love this class in a way he doubts he ever will with Potions, no matter how interesting ‘putting death on hold’ (or whatever it was that Snape had said he could teach them before proceeding to not teach them anything at all ) sounds though.

He’s still kind of glad the lessons ends, because he’s getting hungry. Also, sitting still for two hours where he hadn’t had much to try to focus his brain on had been some kind of hell, because his mind kept wandering off on tangents. Snape would probably have killed him--or at least done something very painful, because as distasteful as the man seems to be, Alex is still rather sure Hogwarts doesn’t condone murdering your students if you dislike them--if he had caught him scribbling down on his notebooks the way he wanted to, but Grey had actually asked them to take notes.

Well, Alex took notes alright, even if to anyone else they’ll probably only look like a jumbled mess that takes off in a hundred directions at once. The fact they had been written in at least three languages--a weird mixture of English, French, and Spanish--probably didn’t help.

“Well, that was certainly… interesting,” Eliza muses as they finally leave the classroom.

Aaron just snorts. “You can say that again. But at least it wasn’t as bad as Potions.”

“Like you can speak about Potions when the teacher so clearly favors you,” John retorts, hitching his bag up his shoulder.

“Just because the Professor is clearly biased doesn’t mean I can’t see how terrible he is,” Aaron protests. “Potions are a dangerous subject too, I can’t believe he’d act so carelessly…” He sighs. “I suppose he probably has his reasons, but still…”

Alex rolls his eyes and elbows him in the side. “Now come on Aaron, you were almost expressing an actual opinion for once, don’t take it back now!”

“Oh, screw you, Alexander,” Aaron huffs.

“Sorry, but you’re not my type,” Alex quips back, delighting in the half-offended half-disturbed face Aaron makes at that.

“Please, you have no type,” Aaron shoots back, eyebrow raised, once he finally gathers his bearings.

John and Eliza laugh as Alex starts to pout. “He’s got you there, Alex,” John points out.

“Ugh, why are we friends again?” Alex asks.

“Because you love us,” Eliza says matter-of-factly even though the question didn’t call for an answer, “and because you’d die on your own.”

“I wouldn’t die,” Alex retorts, incenses, but his protest falls on deaf ears.

“You’d definitely starve, at the very least,” John says, nodding along--a gesture that Aaron is copying, though he adds a smirk to it.

“Speaking of starving,” Alex starts, desperate to change the subject, “how about we get some lunch, uh?”

Once all of them have returned to the Great Hall for lunch, Alex continues right where he left off that morning.

“Don’t you guys know anything about what our country did in those almost two hundred years since our deaths? Do you even know about-” there are so many options to choose from, but, for some reason, he choses “-Mount Rushmore?”

“What the hell is that?” Jerson asks.

“Funny you should ask that,” Hercules adds with a smile on his face. “Come on, Alex, tell them.”

“Actually, I’d rather not.” He turns to Angelica, pleading her silently to take mercy on him.

She doesn’t. Instead, she comments, “It’s gonna be so much funnier if you tell it, though.”

Beside her, Tonks agrees. “Based on what this guy-” she motions to Warren “- told me, it’s gonna be hilarious to watch Alexander tell it.”

“So you know what that is?” Jerson asks, turning to them.

“Yeah,” Tonks replies. “My Dad’s a Muggleborn. After George remembered, I did some digging.”

“I did as well,” Charlie adds with a frown on his face, “but I don’t recall what that was.”

“Look at our dear Georgie blushing and that might change,” Tonks advises and a look of understanding passes on Charlie’s face.

“Ah, that one.”

“Okay, but what is it?” James asks.

“Help us out here,” John requests, nodding along.

“Alexander should really be the one to say it,” Angelica insists - to his own obvious dismay - and now everyone turns around to him expectantly.

Alex sighs and facepalms. Then, he takes a deep breath and explains, “They went and carved your stupid face into a mountain, Thomas, alright! Right between-” he turns to the General “-well, you, sir, and later President Abraham Lincoln, who, by the way, outlawed slavery. Oh, and President Theodore Roosevelt as well.”

Layla and the other Purebloods sit there for a few seconds until Thomas begins to grin.

“Angelica was right,” James laughs. “You telling it made it hilarious.”

“Did you say outlawed slavery?” John repeats. The tone of his voice is so sweet and hopeful, it just makes one want to hug this kid.

Alex’s face lights up gleefully. “Yes, I did. Granted, he chose the wrong way to do it, but at least he did it which is more than anyone else can say.”

“What do you mean, the wrong way?” James asks tentatively, the expression on his face a lot more considering than Alex would have expected.

“Well, he just outlawed it point blank. It’s no wonder that the South revolted. Their existence relied on it, after all. It would have been a lot smarter to make it a gradual process.”

“That actually makes a surprising amount of sense,” Jerson admits reluctantly.

“Stop that, you’re scaring me,” Hercules says accusingly.

“Was that always your plan?” the General questioned.

Alex nods. “Yeah. But none of you ever really listened past ‘outlaw slavery’. It was always ‘we won’t talk about this till 1808’, wasn’t it, James?”

“Anyway,” Eliza asks, smoothly changing subjects, “what were your classes like? We had Defense and Potions, and those were… Well, they were certainly entertaining,” she says, the words bitter in her mouth.

“We had Transfiguration and Herbology,” James states slowly. “It’s just the beginning, so we didn’t actually get to do much, but the teachers seem to know their subject, and from what I’ve heard, they’re good at their job.”

Hercules stares with incredulity. “You mean there are teachers here who don’t do their job?”

“Technically, there are bad teachers everywhere,” Aaron points out.

“Yeah, but they’re generally not as bad as Snape,” John replies, biting out the word like it’s an insult.

Ignoring them, Eliza asks James curiously, “What else have you heard about our teachers?”

James shrugs a little, poking at his food pensively with his fork. “Well, apparently Snape hates everyone but the Slytherins-”

“He didn’t like Alex though,” John interjects, somehow managing to make the words sound like that had been Snape’s greatest offence so far.

“-and I’m sure I have no idea why anyone would do such a thing,” Thomas drawls sarcastically before getting cut off by an elbow to the side.

“Well, then he doesn’t like anyone but the Slytherins, Alex not included-” though James has complete faith in said boy’s ability to somehow correct that or make it even worse in the next few lessons “-and he definitely plays favorites. History of Magic is apparently a joke and, depending on who you ask, a self-study period or naptime.” James lets his lips curl up in a small sneer before continuing, remembering the information he had gathered from his older housemates last night.

“That explains why no one knows their history,” Alex mutters.

“No one really knows anything about the Defense teacher because he’s new--apparently they get a new one every year, but nobody knows why,” James adds.

“I heard the position’s cursed,” John interjects, and when Eliza throws him a questioning look he elaborates, “I heard some of the boys talking about it last night. Apparently last year’s teacher just vanished at the end of the year, and no one’s heard from him then.” He shrugs. “They said that ‘it happened’.” He looks perplexed by the thought of vanishing teachers, but not entirely disturbed.

“He probably left the country,” Aaron explains. “Wizarding countries are somewhat insular, it’d make sense for him not to have much communication with Britain, and especially not his students.”

“Or it could be a curse,” Hercules retorts.

“Curses don’t work like that,” Angelica interrupted, sitting down beside them and grabbing an apple. “Besides, do you really think that they’d let anyone hold the position if it was actually cursed?”

“You did say that no Defense teacher had kept their job for more than a year in decades, though,” Eliza says, smiling at her sister.

“Bad luck,” Angelica dismisses. “Besides, they’ve all had good reasons to leave, or had never really planned to stay for more than a single year in the first place.”

“Bad luck is what muggles use to describe curses though,” Thomas replies with a smug smirk.

“Lucky for us then,” Angelica retorts, a sweet smile that somehow threatens horrors untold on her lips, “we’re not muggles. We know better.”

“Anyway,” Eliza interrupts when she sees the gleam in Thomas’ eyes as he opens his mouth to reply, “we’ve had Defense this morning and it wasn’t that bad. Professor Grey probably isn’t a genius in his field, but he does seem competent enough.” She shrugs.

“This lesson was mostly him telling us the course goals anyway,” John adds, catching on. “It was a little boring, but at least it made more sense than Snape’s “the instructions are on the board, begin!”.”

Angelica winces. “Snape’s methods are…”

“Terrible?” Alex fills in, unimpressed.

“Barbaric?” John adds in the same tone.

“He is rather unfairly biased,” Eliza offers, brow furrowed in concern.

Angelica sighs. “I was going to go with ‘unorthodox’, but those fit too, unfortunately. You’ll have it worse,” she adds, nodding in her sister’s and John’s direction, “as you’re Gryffindors. He favors his own House, and mostly tolerates Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs as long as we’re quiet, but he hates Gryffindors.”

“And Alex, so far,” John repeats.

“And Alex,” Angelica adds.

“Well, that certainly promises to become an interesting lesson,” Hercules says, gesturing at his schedule. “We have Potions after dinner.”

“Maybe you can bond with Snape over hating Alex,” James suggests mockingly.

“Maybe I will,” Thomas retorts primly, glaring, and everyone at the table dissolves into snickers.

“I’d love to see that,” Tonks admits. “Please make sure to inform me if that actually works out.”

It takes Alex approximately five minutes to realize that the Magical Theory class was going to be his favorite class. Not only does it deal with the workings behind the spells--something they’re quickly told would be taught more in depth if they chose electives such as Ancient Runes or Arithmancy--but it’s also arranged like a sort of free study session. Their goal every month is basically to chose an aspect of magic and think of applications, research how it was developed and why, as well as how it fits into a greater sense of ‘what is magic’, and basically Alex is in love.

He doesn’t understand why the others don’t agree.

“Thank Merlin this class is only taught in first year,” John sighs in relief when the class ends, a feeling visibly echoed by everyone within earshot, even Eliza and Aaron, though Aaron is less obvious about it.

“Come on, didn’t you find this interesting?” Alex protests. “Think about it--we’re learning about why magic works the way it does!”

“We know how magic works,” Eliza replies, rolling her eyes a little. “It’s magic.

“But that doesn’t explain all the details, and--see, I’ve already started researching what’s behind the Lumos spell, you know, for the project, and did you know that at first the light was so strong it was nearly blinding? They had to rework so much of it to get the light to the manageable shade it is now, but also now you can’t get the results people used to have earlier! Isn’t that fascinating?”

“Yes,” John drawls, though he makes sure to keep his voice fond, “fascinating.”

“Anyway, where do you think the others are?” Aaron tries to distract them. It’s not clear if he wants to avoid a fight or one of Alex’s monologues; both are equally plausible.

“I don’t know,” Eliza states. “But given we haven’t been here for that long, they shouldn’t be very hard to find.”
“Are you sure about that?” John asks with a weird twinkle in his eyes. “I mean, Hercules is with them. And Herc is pretty great at hiding.”

“Now I want to play hide and seek,” Alex mutters.

Eliza snorts. “You’d get lost.”

“She’s right,” John nods, shrugging sheepishly when Alex sends him a hurt look. “I’m sorry, but she is--you’d wander off and next thing we’d know, we wouldn’t find you until three days later.”

“Hogwarts can get very maze-like,” Aaron comments. “Or so I’ve heard.”

John rolls his eyes and shares a knowing look with Eliza that the two other boys ignore.

“I think I heard that too,” Alex says, frowning a little. “I mean, the Prefects did say we shouldn’t try to wander off too far on our first days…” They had also heavily implied that if they tried anyway, they shouldn’t get caught after curfew or miss classes, but Alex doesn’t believe mentioning that to their Gryffindor friends would endear his house to them.

Well, at least on Eliza’s part--John might very well want to join in.

And Alex would gladly let that happen.

They never formally agree to anything, but somehow once their class have ended they all find themselves at the Library.

They stumble in one by one -- or rather in small groups -- but there can’t have been more than ten minutes between the first and the last of them arriving.

It’s kind of weird, but what isn’t?

“Someone please tell me it closes at night,” James says, looking highly disturbed by the way Alex is eyeing the shelves before he has even reached their table.

(though to be fair, those shelves are magnificent, and the amount of books they let one glimpse at is enough to make James’ hands itch with the need to grab as many as he can)

Angelica, who spotted them as soon as they arrived and came over, laughs. “It does, don’t worry. And anyway, the Librarian, Mrs. Pince, would probably chase him out at curfew if it didn’t.”

James is sure he doesn’t imagine the sigh of relief that echoes through the group at that.

He doesn’t know if it’s luck or magic, but they end up finding a table that sits all of them (honestly, James suspects both, but he supposes it’s not very important anyway).

The seventh years already seem to be neck-deep in homework despite it being literally the first day. Honestly, it makes James kind of worry about the future.

“So, how was your afternoon lesson?” Hercules asks before James can continue that line of thought.

“Don’t get him started,” John replies, his hand already placed over Alex’s mouth.

It takes Alex exactly three seconds to do what everyone expects him to and lick John’s hand. John, of course, promptly pulled it back with a squeal.

“Alex! Stop that!” he complains as he cleans his hand on Alex’s cloak.

“You two stop that immediately if you want to stay here,” Angelica orders. “There’s no way Mrs. Pince will allow you -- or any of us -- to stay if you’re this loud.”

“Alright, alright,” John mutters defensively.

“What’s all this fuss about anyway?” Thomas questions.

“Basically Alex is the only one out of the four of us who liked the last lesson,” Eliza replies before the boy in question can.

“What subject was that?” Layla inquires, absently playing with a quill.

“Magical Theory,” Aaron answers.

"I think Magical Theory has a lot of potential," Thomas says, getting out his timetable. “It’s a shame I won’t have it until tomorrow afternoon.”

"Thank you, Thomas," Alex replies emphatically before his eyes widen in horror as he realizes what's he just said.

“This is at least the third time that they agreed with each other,” Hercules realizes with horror.


Is James imagining that or…?

“Herc, why does your hair suddenly have a blue tint?” Alex inquires loudly.

This causes everyone who hadn’t noticed before to eye the Hufflepuff’s hair. Even Charlie and Warren look up from their work.

“You’re right, Alex,” Aaron says slowly.

“Thank you for pointing that out.” Hercules then closes his eyes and the blue tint vanishes after a few seconds of concentration.

“That’s cool!” John exclaims. “Are you a metamorphmagus?”

“A what?”

“Someone who can change their appearance at will, Alex,” Tonks explains. “I can do that as well. It seems to come from my dad’s side, which is actually quite strange considering he’s a Muggleborn…”

“He could be from a line of Squibs,” James points out.

“Yeah, maybe.” Tonks sounds like she is actually considering it, which is more than James normally gets with that theory.

He can see the way Alex is about to question what exactly a squib is, so he tries to steer the conversation in another direction.

“You were right about Snape being...not exactly nice, by the way” he addresses John. He would’ve said worse, but Mrs. Pince happened to appear in his field of sight right at that moment.

“Did Thomas actually try to bond with Snape?” Layla places her head onto her folded hands.

“Well, he didn’t get the chance to,” Hercules replies, a chuckle almost managing to escape his mouth.

“What happened?” Alex asks. There’s that unholy glee in his eyes again.

“A damn near repeat of the Tomato Incident,” James replies, just barely holding himself back from facepalming.

This causes Alex to break out in laughter, Warren to frown disapprovingly at Thomas, and everyone else to look at the four of them in confusion.

“The what?” John questions, blinking repeatedly.

“There was that one time,” Warren begins, his eyes staying on Thomas who is beginning to shrink in his seat, “when Thomas decided to bite into a tomato during a session of Congress.”

“So what?” Tonks asks.

“The thing was, back then we thought they were poisonous,” Alex somehow manages to explain while still laughing hardly. “At least on the side of the Atlantic we were on.”

“But Thomas had been the ambassador to France and knew better,” James continues. “So he decided that just biting in one was the best way to spread that knowledge.”

“That’,” Layla stutters.

“It kind of sounds like something some of my brothers would do.”

“Ah, I love George and Fred,” Tonks exclaims. “They always bring joy to my life.”

“Wait, do you mean the guys who insulted Snape in numerous different ways this morning?” John questions.

“Yes,” Charlie nods. “That’s the twins. They’re pranksters too, so you should watch out anything they tell you or give you.” Beside him, Tonks and Angelica nod enthusiastically, while Warren pulls a bitter face.

“You really should,” he sighs. “Why couldn’t they be more like your other brothers? Bill was nice, and Percy never causes any trouble!”

Charlie laughs. “Come on, you know you love the twins,” he retorts. “Don’t try to pretend otherwise, I won’t believe you.”

“Yeah,” Tonks says. “Plus they have this weird crush on you,” she adds, winking.

“I know,” Warren replied, sounding exasperated. “Can we stop talking about that? I have an essay for McGonagall to finish and there is a meeting of the prefects later this evening, so I won’t have time to do it then.”

“You mean the essay for next week?” Tonks replies with a teasing smile as John says, horrified, “You already have essays to write?”

“Yes, that essay. You know how busy Sean was last year as head boy. I’m just trying to stay on top of everything.”

“Just as long as you’re not turning into another Hamilton,” Thomas mutters, just barely quiet enough not to be heard by anyone else.

“We have homework as well,” Eliza reminds John. “It probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to start.”

“Grey’s list was easy,” Alex says, shrugging and reaching into his bag. “It just required us to list five things that we think would help us survive in an emergency and five things not to do.”

“You’re already done?” Aaron asks. “When did you have the time to do that?”

At the same time, Eliza states that she isn’t even surprised at this point.

“I don’t know, during lunch,” Alex replies.

“You didn’t have a quill out during lunch,” Herc points out.

“There are other, faster ways, though,” Alex argues.

“You didn’t have pen and paper on the table either.”

“I don’t know when I did it then!” Alex sounds, exasperated. “I just did!”

“Alex, the lunch break is for lunch and relaxing, not for work,” John sighs.

“Working relaxes me!” Alex exclaims. “I actually have evidence of that this time.”

For a second or two, everyone is quiet.

Then Layla speaks up. “Where on earth would you get evidence for something like this?”

“More like, why would you want evidence of that?” Thomas mutters, only to be silenced in a yelp of pain as John kicks him in the shins.

“By visiting a doctor? ADHD is a thing, you know.” Alex’s voice is full of desperation. “My teachers in Primary School told my parents to have me tested for it and six months later I was diagnosed.”

“What does that stand for?” Warren questions, pausing the movement of his quill for a second.

“Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder,” Alex recites. “In the simplest terms, it means I can’t sit still and either can’t focus or can’t stop focusing.”

“That really does sound like you,” Angelica acknowledges, nodding slowly.

“It’s actually not all that uncommon,” Hercules inserts. “I’ve certainly heard of it. I think the older brother of a girl in my class in first grade had it…”

“People -- or at least Muggles -- have gotten a lot more open about mental health,” Alex explains, a bit teary eyed.

It’s only when he sees Eliza’s pained expression that James recalls what he heard about Angelica Hamilton after Philip had died.

“I can’t imagine why they would,” Thomas mumbles, causing John to kick him again.

Thomas slaps John’s arm in a move that has everyone at their table scrambling to protect their ink and parchment, and had Angelica cursing at them to keep quiet lest they get banned from the Library on their first day.

“I don’t think you can be permanently banned,” Charlie mused. “Otherwise the twins would’ve managed it with their antics last year.”

Why would you tell them that? ” Angelica screeches.

“You just encouraged them,” Warren groans at the same time. He also facepalms.

“What are you talking about?” Alex asks incredulously. “I need to have access to the library. I need it,” he insists.

“As do I, actually,” Thomas adds reluctantly.

Hercules’ hair starts to get that blue tint again and he starts muttering under his breath.

“Didn’t you die in debt because you kept buying books?” James feels like that’s true, but he needs a confirmation.

“Yes,” Thomas replies. “And I have no regrets concerning that.”

“Ah, but you have other regrets?” Alex inquires. “Do tell.”

Thomas crosses his arms defensively. “I don’t have to tell you anything.”

“That’s right,” Eliza inserts, clearly trying to placate them. “Now do your homework you two and not a word until you’re done,” she orders.

Alex complies immediately, taking out both his quill and some -- what were they called? Pens? Probably in preparation for his impatience.

Thomas, however, is about to argue with Eliza when he catches her eye. Then he silently gets out his stuff as well and starts to work quietly.

“Finally,” Warren mutters. “Some peace. I should’ve hired you the last time around.”

“Yes,” Eliza agrees. “Yes, you should have.”

It takes them a while to realise that Hercules has slipped away at one point.

Chapter Text

The rest of the week goes by similarly enough. Getting used to life at Hogwarts is really surprisingly easy — or at least, it would be had they any time to actually feel surprised. In between classes, exploring the castle (and not getting lost, no matter what the others had said about that), writing letters home and doing homework, Alex doesn’t really actually have the time to realize how used he’s gotten to Hogwarts.

Homework starts to pile up — or well, it does on everyone but Alex, who always tries to finish his essays on the day they’re assigned, even if he almost always ends up adding more as the deadlines grow closer — and lessons grow more interesting, delving deeper into what magic is and what it can do.

Hogwarts is so exciting and the new things don’t stop turning up. Quite frankly, he’d be surprised if they did. Stop, that is. After all, this castle is a magic school. How on earth could things get old within days or weeks? The suggestion of it becoming ordinary and boring after months and years, yes even decades, seems preposterous and laughable.

The only thing that brings their spirits down is, ironically, the subject most connected with them. History of Magic is taught in a way that — sadly enough — completely explains the lack of historical knowledge found in this new world Alex has all but thrown himself at.

Even setting aside the fact that one would expect a class taught by an actual ghost to be less brain-damagingly dull — the damage came from repeatedly introducing his head to the desk in front of him — the lessons left much to be desired.

Alexander, personally, was able to deal with the lecture style way the lessons were set up, but he had learned in primary school that not all people learned the same way. Some need visuals, some need to do something themselves, some people need to speak, and more. None of that seems to be an option here.

Also, there is the choice of subject matter. Alex isn’t denying that the Goblin Revolutions weren’t important — especially since they are, you know, in charge of the finances of the whole British Magical World — but there are other topics to be discussed as well. Considering that Muggle Studies has been confirmed by the General, Tonks, and that Charlie guy to be an elective, one would think that Muggle History would be included here.

But no. Not a single word in their text book. Well, okay, no there is one mention of Hitler being Grindelwald’s “pet muggle” that is wrong on so many levels, even setting aside that Alexander has no idea if the two men had ever actually met. At least he does not yet. This just belittles all of the horrible acts committed in relation to that man.

Also, the world seems to be reduced to Britain. Alexander can only barely find a mention to the colonies — any colonies — in the textbook, even after reading it thirteen times. At the very least, the rest of Europe and Russia should be included, if nothing else. Because isolationism just does not work (anymore) and how can interaction between countries be expected without any knowledge of the other side’s history?

So yeah. Teaching method and subject matter are more than subpar.

Which is why Alexander decides to do it himself. If Binns can’t — or won’t — provide these students with a proper knowledge of history, then he will at the very least give them the option, so that their education of lack thereof can be their own choice.

Is he overreacting? Maybe a bit, but Sara had assured him in her letter that she supports him, so he can not be completely ridiculous.


To everyone’s shock, Thomas and Alexander keep agreeing on the subject of magical theory.

Thomas himself can only barely comprehend it, but there is one thing he has started to notice:

Hercules keeps disappearing whenever it happens.

He does not actually bring the fact that he noticed to the other Hufflepuff’s attention, if only because Thomas is doing his very best to pretend that he is not, in fact, a Hufflepuff.

He hasn’t gotten any news since that Howler — not that he is expecting any soon, really — but the silence has him on edge. His new housemates, who seem to alternate between sending him pitying looks as though he needs their help and comfort and looking scared of him, aren’t exactly any help either.

They just annoy him to no end, which is just another proof that he does not belong here.

Yes, he valued loyalty, but that alone should not be enough to make him a Hufflepuff of all things, right? The aspect of valuing fairness alone should disqualify him, because — not that he had any intent to admit out loud — Hampton was right. The aspect of him having been a slaver alone should probably disqualified him for at least thirteen lives.

Especially since he had been talking about the equality of all men at the same time. No, that is many things — sickening, for example — but fair is most certainly not one of them.

So yeah. No matter what some stupid hat says, Thomas does not belong in Hufflepuff.

That, however, does not change the fact that this is what Thomas is stuck with for all of his seven years at this place. If he doesn’t want to be totally miserable, he should learn to accept it.

He knows that, intellectually. That does in no way mean that he does not try to spend as much time as physically possible in James’s company, pretending that the blue and bronze is on his robes as well as on his friend’s.

It’s kind of pathetic, he is well aware of that. A thing that helps, though, is that Hercules — when he is not off doing whatever he’s doing — is usually in the company of John and Alex, each of which is usually in the company of someone else.

That, combined with the fact that it’s still the first week of the year and everyone is kind of finding their place, means that he is able to do it without anyone noticing.

At least for now.

Despite the fact that everyone keeps trying to stop him, Alexander starts exploring on his own. There are so many nooks and crannies and secret tunnels to explore that for a moment Alexander starts doubting that seven years will be enough.

Would a lifetime even suffice?

(Did the teachers keep exploring too? Somehow, he couldn’t picture Professor McGonagall roaming the corridors, looking for secret entrances… Flitwick, maybe, and the Headmaster certainly did seem eccentric enough for that, but somehow Alex thought he might be too busy for that, what with him also being the Supreme Mugwump and part of the ICW.)

He briefly thinks about inviting John along, but then he reconsiders. Perhaps he will do so at a later day, but for now, his exploring mostly takes place in the early hours of the morning and the late hours of the night. He’s pretty sure that John would not want to be dragged out of it, so he lets him sleep.

(That, and John actually has at least some impulse control and would most likely stop him from entering a few places and Alex can’t have that.)

But Alex doesn’t require as much sleep — or at least, he’s good at ignoring that he does until he crashes — and exploring a magical castle is the perfect way to occupy his sleepless nights.

Well, that and the Library, but the latter closes way too early and he hasn’t yet figured out a way to escape detection when attempting to stay.

He will figure something out before the year ends, that much is sure. For now, however, he is more than happy trying to map out the corridors. Especially since they seem to change — he would swear, for example, that last night he had been able to take a turn left here, but today there is nothing, and up ahead is another staircase.


The portraits eye him curiously as he passes them by, but sadly they don’t seem too interested in conversing with him. One would think it was midnight already rather than the nine-ish pm it actually is from the way most of them yawn his way or yank curtains closed.

He climbs steps for long enough that his mind begins to wander and he starts getting a little out of breath. He wonders what he’ll find up there, how interesting it will be.

Finally, he comes face to face with heavy wooden doors that open to another corridor. This one is almost bare of portraits — both a curse and a blessing — and his feet lead him toward another door. It looks simple at first, but a large bronze, eagle-shaped knocker thrones in the middle of the door.

It comes alive as Alex makes a move toward it, beady eyes opening and starting to shine as its beak snaps toward Alex’s still extended fingers.

Alex pulls back his hand quickly. “Hi,” he says, stomach filling with excitement as he realizes that this must be where the Ravenclaw dorms are located.

He wonders absently how different — or alike — to his they are.

“Hello,” the knocker replies, causing Alex’s heart to jump in his chest. “What is always on its way but never arrives?”

Alex frowns. “Wait, so if I answer correctly I can get in? That doesn’t seem very secure.”

He hadn’t thought it was possible, but the knocker bristles.

“If you don’t know the answer, that’s no reason to be rude. You’ll just have to wait for someone else to help.”

“The answer is tomorrow, but honestly? I don’t even really want to get in.”

If the knocker could glare, Alex has a feeling it would. “Then why are you here?” it snaps.

Alex shrugs. “I don’t know. I was exploring and you asked me a riddle, so I stopped. Also the door looked interesting.”

“You are something else.”

“I hear that frequently, believe me.”

“Well, if you don’t want to get in, why don’t you… leave?”

Alex pouts. “But what if I want to answer more riddles?”

“What if I don’t?” the eagle retorts.

“Come on,” Alex says, giving it his best imitation of his sister’s puppy dog eyes, “aren’t you bored? Just a little?”

The knocker lets out a noise that sounds an awful lot like a sigh, and Alex hides a triumphant grin.

“Just one,” the knocker says. “Just one more riddle, and then you leave me to my rest,” it says. “And to actually opening the door to students.”

Alex smiles innocently. “One more riddle. Unless you change your mind.”

“Right.” It shifts a little, before proclaiming in the driest tone possible, “When does a gift become dangerous?”

“When you’re in a German speaking region,” Alexander deadpans. “Because then it’s poison.”

The knocker starts to open its beak but Alex interrupts him before it gets the chance.

“Wait, but what if I had answered differently? What if I had responded with, say, ‘when the gift is a devil’s snare and the recipient isn’t knowledgeable in herbology’. Would that also have worked?”

The knocker’s mouth falls shut and it lets out a groan.

“Don’t you have anyone else to annoy?”

“No, as far as I know they’re all asleep by now or on their way there.”

“As you should be.”

“You just don’t want to admit that you’ll run out of riddles.”

The knocker seems insulted. “I most certainly will not!”

Alexander smiles. “So prove it. Also, you never answered my question. Are multiple answers to the same riddle possible?”

It’s really astonishing how much emotion can be captured in a door knocker. Like, annoyance, for example. This castle is truly magic.

“Perhaps,” the knocker admits. “You, however, will not find any for this next riddle.”

Alex grins. This is going to be a lot of fun.

“How do you increase 666 by half its value without performing any operation?” James hears the door knocker of his dorm ask while on his way out of the Common Room. It sounds tired; James hadn’t thought that could happen, though that opens intriguing avenues of thought.

Still, however, he’s torn between finding this system brilliant or stupid.

“By turning it upside down.” The response comes from someone whose voice is way too familiar.

“Hamilton? What on earth are you doing here?” James groans, pinching the bridge of his nose.

“I’m trying to exhaust the knocker’s supply of riddles,” he replies, grinning like the madman he is once again proving himself to be. “I think it’s working. Also it’s Hampton, Mason.”

“It is not,” argued the doorknob. “There are still plenty I know and have not yet used.”

“Oh, is that so? Bring it on, then,” Alexander challenges.

James sighs internally. Why had he fought to become a student of Hogwarts again?

(He knows damn well why. And he still would have done it, even if he had known what he would have to deal with here.)

Alexander and the doorknob continue their conversation as James just stands there for a moment.

“You know what?” he eventually decides. “I’m not going to ask. I don’t care. You do with your time whatever you so desire. I am going to get some breakfast.”

Neither Alex nor the doorknob as much as acknowledge James’s existence in that moment, so he simply turns away.

“At least this is a better use of your time than certain other things you have done,” he mutters under his breath.

James had woken up quite early today — for nightmare related reasons — so the hallways and the Great Hall are still mostly empty.

(He’s probably awake around the time Alexander usually wakes up, he realizes to his great horror.)

He choses a spot at the Ravenclaw table because he — unlike certain other people he could mention — actually has respect for the house system, his personal feelings about it aside.

(He would make an argument about simply accepting things the way they are, but that is one he knows he would lose, so he does not even bother.)

That, however, simply means that their group — they’ve managed to establish themselves firmly as such within a week, James is not completely sure how — is gathering at the Ravenclaw table today. Angelica and Layla as the only other Ravenclaws are the only ones who have an actual reason to sit here, but that stops exactly no one.

Even if George Warren looks like he would rather run and hide, he still sits down with them every single day.

Today, the last one to enter is Aaron, who looks fairly distressed for reasons James can sadly enough guess.

“So, please don’t panic, but I can’t find Alexander and his bed does not look like it was slept in.”

“Your friends are wild,” Tonks comments towards George.

“They fit in nicely,” Charlie adds with a nod.

“Let me at least pretend differently for a day, will you?”

“What do you mean Alex didn’t sleep?” Eliza questions, her voice clearly full of panic. “That’s when he makes his stupidest decisions!”

“Oh my God, we’re gonna be expelled, I see it coming. That is, if no one dies first,” Hercules groans.

“We have to find Alex!” John is already standing as he says that.

“Guys, I said don’t panic,” Aaron mutters.

“He’s probably in the library,” Thomas says, unconcerned, as a butters a piece of toast.

Angelica raises an eyebrow. “What, you think he figured out a way to stay overnight and avoid detention?”

“Are you saying he wouldn’t?” Thomas questions, leaning away ever so slightly.

“No, but he has to take more than a week to figure out a thing no one else I know ever did,” Angelica argues. “Otherwise it’s just not fair.”

“If — or apparently when — he figures that out he is not allowed to share it with my brother Percy,” Charlie orders, suddenly struck by horrific visions of his brother buried underneath a pile of books. “That’s the one thing I can see him breaking rules for.”

“Guys,” James clears his throat. “I know where Alex is. And the fact that you two,” he eyes Layla and Angelica, “don’t kind of freaks me out, actually.”

“Where is he then?” Eliza wonders.

“Right in front of the Ravenclaw common room,” James replies. “He’s trying to exhaust the riddle supply of the knocker.”

For a few seconds, everyone is silent as they process this. Then Layla and Angelica begin to blush, implying things that James would prefer not to think about, thank you very much.

“Wait, riddles?” Tonks asks.

“We certainly don’t have those,” Aaron comments.

“Neither do we,” Charlie states.

John rolls his eyes. “Can we focus on the important things for now, please?”

“Just have one of the Ravens take you or Eliza to the door,” Hercules says with a smile. “That should convince him to come.”

Just then, Alexander actually stumbles into the Great Hall, looking dishevelled and out of breath.

“Well, that’s one less thing to worry about.” Thomas shrugs as he drags the orange juice a bit closer to himself.

James sighs and rolls his eyes, while Hercules grins and Angelica groans in frustration.

“Really,” Warren asks dryly, “you’re still doing this?”

“Why of course,” Thomas replies and James once again wonders if his hand would like to be introduced to his face.

During this conversation, John and Eliza had managed to not only greet Alex, but to squeeze together and find a place for him in between the two of them.

“So,” John questions, “why did you decide to come down here now?”

James can practically hear Eliza’s plea the lines of ‘please let him have at least some amount of sense’, but she is setting herself up for failure. At least she seems to know it.

“A third year Ravenclaw — whose name has escaped me — pointed out that I would have been in danger of missing classes and I can’t have that. Not when it’s Defense first thing in the morning.”

“Is some amount of self care really too much to ask from you?” Warren groans in frustration.

“You do know who you’re talking to, right?” Angelica asks.

Tonks grins. “I love how that just explains everything for you guys.”

“It will for you, too,” Eliza predicts. “And it will be much sooner than you think.”

“Where did you get coffee from?!” Charlie suddenly exclaims in shock. “I’ve never seen anyone have coffee here.”

Alex just smiles mysteriously.

“Can I have some?” Thomas asks, stupidly. Honestly, he should see the response coming.

“Not for Democratic-Republicans,” Alexander replies smugly.

As several people around the table groan, Layla perks up. “Does that mean I can have some?”

Their first week at Hogwarts is over a whole lot quicker than Eliza had expected, even if Angelica had — repeatedly — told her that it would be so.

And yet, it still comes as a surprise to her. It kind of reminds her of having children in her last life. They always arrived and left quicker than she had thought, too. And she wasn’t even simply talking about her dear Philip — and then, years later her son William who at least got to live more than two decades before his earthly career was ended. She’s also thinking of the children leaving home, even dear Fanny, the orphan girl they had taken in for a decade.

Eliza shakes her head and tries to rid herself of these thoughts. All of that is in the past now, over a century, even. It is time to move on, to look forward, and hope that this time,at least, she won’t have to bury any of her children.

“Eliza?” It is Alexander’s surprisingly gentle and hesitant voice that yanks her out of her thoughts.

Right. The two of them are the only ones left at the dinner table, likely because the multiple stacks of parchment on his sides. She can discern letters to his sister and his parents, as well as a piece of potions homework — Alex’s last class this week if she is not mistaken — but that still leaves around three more stacks unaccounted for.

Eliza is about to ask what they are, but then Alex voluntarily and without any prompting puts his quill aside and looks at her, and that is a behaviour she has to encourage. She debates whether she should say something or simply wait for him to speak when he takes that choice away from her.

“Betsy,” he takes a deep breath. “I — I’m sorry. For everything.”

The way he speaks makes it more than obvious that he is not apologizing simply for worrying them this time around.

Eliza doesn’t know how to respond, but her husband — he might not be so legally, but she’s pretty sure he is in her heart. At the very least, it feels right to mentally refer to him as such — is once more better with words than she has ever hope to be.

“I know I’ve apologized for the whole mess with the Reynolds a bunch of times before, but you deserve all the apologies you will accept. I was stupid and there is no excuse for what I did, especially not for failing to stop it either entirely or earlier.

“Given the new perspective this has given us — given me — I have realized that this is far from the only grievance I have caused you. There are probably more than I could name here, but that is not the point I am trying to make.

“I would like to say that I never intended for you to feel such pain, but I fear that that would be at worst a lie and at best an admission of ignorance. The only things I can assure you of is that I can assure you of is that I know I don’t deserve you, that I am honored that you chose me nonetheless in a way I am not sure I can put in words, and that I will try to do better from this point onwards.”

Eliza blinked a few times, completely stunned. “Your new parents have done you good,” she says slowly, admittedly also to give herself some time to comprehend what he’s just said.

“I’d like to think so. Even if there are some more… questionable things I have been taught this time around,” he mutters the last part to himself more than he actually speaks with her, but nevertheless he never breaks their eye contact.

He is awaiting an answer from her, that much is obvious.

“Alex, you know that you were always the one who had a way with words, so bear with me.” She gives off a shaky laugh before taking a deep breath.

“Of course, Betsy,” he replies, listening intently. Eliza can almost hear the addition of ‘love’.

And she realizes that she wishes it was there.

“I —” She licks her lips nervously. "I — Honestly, Alex, I forgave you a long time ago.” The words tastes like salt on her tongue, even though she knows she’s not crying. She sighs and smiles, almost bitterly. “And anyways, it wouldn’t be fair of me to blame you in this life for your faults in another. I would think you paid for them a hundredfold already. We all have.”

She swallows heavily and finally raises her head to look at him again. He seems… struck, like he can’t believe she’s real and there with him, and yes, there is the man she married, once upon a time.

Aaron has absolutely no idea how Hercules has managed to learn this, but on the fourteenth of September, Hercules greets him with a “Happy Birthday!” when he arrives in the Great Hall that morning.

“Um, thank you?” Aaron replies. “But how did you know?”

“That’s for me to know and for you to never find out.” Hercules laughs as he responds.

“Wait, it’s your birthday?” Layla asks. “Happy Birthday!” she adds after Aaron nods, and that statement echos around their part of the table.

(He notes that a few people not from their group also mumble it and he takes care to meet their eyes as he thanks them.)

Once they’re all done with that, Eliza frowns.

“I’m sorry that this will probably ruin the mood — and also please correct me if I am wrong — but isn’t it also the anniversary of your death?”

He should have expected that she would remember the date, considering how it happened and what he had done.

Aaron sighs. “It is.”

Charlie, Tonks, and Layla look at each other, obviously worried, while just about everyone else in their group frowns.

“I never thought about that before, but it’s the same for me. And my sisters,” Eliza continues, sharing a look with her sister, who nods.

Alex’s statement of “same” is echoed by nods around the table.

“This is so weird,” Hercules states and Aaron notes that his hair is getting lighter even if he can’t really tell what color it is turning into.

“Kind of makes me feel uncomfortable, now that I’ve realized it,” James admits and Aaron cannot help but agree with him.

“I wonder if there is any reason for this?” Alexander wonders and one can physically see how he removes his mind from the conversation and begins to ponder theories.

“I don’t think there’s even a reason for us to be here. Again, I mean,” Thomas argues, possibly just for the sake of arguing. Aaron really can’t tell in this moment.

“There has to be a reason,” John disagrees. He looks at the group, clearly hoping for reassurance. “Right?”

No one really has an answer for that.

“Can we talk about something else now?” Aaron requests and they all readily agree.

And such the school year starts. They quickly fall in a routine and before they know it, September has passed.

The school starts buzzing in excitement for a reason that Hercules understands well: the Quidditch Season is starting!

Of course, it is only Hogwarts’ own season that is starting now — the professional one is actually nearing its end, which only makes the whole season more exciting, if you ask him.

They’re had many discussions about Quidditch in their group, since they’re all fans of different teams and between them, they seem to have just about the whole British League covered.

The House teams are an equally divisive topic, perhaps even more so, since Charlie is actively playing for a Quidditch team and even Alex — who hasn’t taken the time to find a professional team to root for and thinks of the whole sport as nothing but a petty way to let out some aggression — is actively supporting his house team.

The first match is against Gryffindor, which they’re told is quite usual, and by the end of the first thirty minutes, Alex is no longer feeling quite so supportive of his House team.

“Is Quidditch normally this… violent?” he asks as one of the Slytherin beaters actually takes his bat to a Gryffindor player. The bat doesn’t connect, luckily, and the Gryffindor team is granted a penalty, but Alex still winces.

Eliza, sitting beside him, shakes her head, biting her lips and frowning. She’s decked in red and gold in support of the Gryffindor team, and Alex is starting to regret his own choice to wear green and silver. At least they’re sitting in the Ravenclaw stands, where no one really cares who they support — he can’t imagine what things would be like if Eliza had shown up in the Slytherin stands, or vice-versa.

John, located on Alex’s other side and also clad in red and gold, disagrees. “There are over seven hundred recognized ways to commit a foul — some of them sound like no one should even have thought of them — and they all happened in a game in 1473.” He shrugs. “One of my cousins is kinda obsessed with it.”

Alex gapes. “And the match wasn’t stopped?!”

John shakes his head, but Eliza is the one who answers him. “The only way a Quidditch match can end is if someone catches the Snitch. “Though obviously, since this is Hogwarts, they’d find a way to end it if it went on for too long…”

John nods. “There’s probably a time or points limit we don’t know about. Besides, none of the House teams really have reserve players, at least not for every position, so the matches can’t go on for as long as professionals can anyway.”

Alex leans in, curious. “How long do those typically last anyways?”

John and Eliza exchange a look. “It depends,” John replies, shrugging. “Sometimes hours, sometimes days.”

“Or weeks,” Eliza adds.

Alex can feel himself gape. “ Weeks?!

John laughs as Eliza rolls her eyes. “That’s pretty rare, don’t worry,” she continues.

“Still leaves plenty of time for it to become more violent,” Alex points out.

Eliza shrugs. “True, but this isn’t exactly a national team. The matches shouldn’t be as violent.”

A girl from the row behind them — Hercules is pretty sure that she’s a Ravenclaw in their year — snorts. “Yeah, sure. Because teens are really known for their self-control and their ability to follow the rules.”

Eliza and Alex trade looks.

“She has a point.”

“You sure that wasn’t just Alex’s fault?” John questions.

“Hey, I resemble that remark!” Alex protests immediately. “The kids were perfectly well-behaved. Well, mostly.”

(“What the hell is going on?” Some kid in the row behind them wonders out loud, whispering to his neighbor.

The girl shrugs and whispers back, “I got no idea. Now hush, I’m watching the game.”)

“Do you agree with that assessment, Eliza?” Hercules asks curiously.

She smirks. “I agree with the condition of mostly.”

Alex grins at the victory as John chuckles. Eliza sighs and rolls her eyes fondly at them — they’re both idiots, but they’re her idiots.

On the pitch, Slytherin scores — again — and Alex gives a perfunctory shout of joy. He hadn’t really been watching, but he’s pretty sure he missed a couple of fouls making that goal possible.

“Shouldn’t they be doing more to try to stop this sort of thing?” he asks out loud.

John shrugs. “Maybe. But Quidditch wouldn’t be Quidditch without some animosity.”

Eliza scoffs. “Don’t listen to him — Angelica told me the other games are much more… sporting. It’s just that Gryffindor and Slytherin have this annoying rivalry, and Quidditch only exacerbates that.”

John looks intrigued, but he nods. “I guess we really can’t expect school matches to be as good as international ones.”

Eliza bites back a laugh. “No, I don’t think you can.”

Alex is about to add something when the stadium suddenly turns silent. The commentator, a seventh year whose name escapes him at the moment, shouts, “And yes, Weasley had spotted the Snitch and he is diving for it!”

The atmosphere turns tense as everyone leans forward to try to follow as Charlie, the Slytherin Seeker close behind, drops dangerously low, slaloming through the air almost too quickly to truly follow as he chases something too small for anyone else to see from the stands.

It is over in minutes — not even that, really — but it feels longer somehow.

The Gryffindor stands erupt in cheers so loud they must be audible all the way back to the castle when Charlie shots back to his team, hand raised in victory.

Eliza and John are grinning, standing up ad clapping, and even though his House’s team just lose, Alex finds that he’s doing the same thing.

As they leave the game and walk back to the castle, Hercules notices that — for possibly the first time in their new lives — Eliza and Alex are holding hands in a way that suggests the possibility of there being something more than friendship between them.

And when John absently takes Alex’s other hand a moment later, he does that in a way that makes it seem totally natural, as if he has always belonged there and there is no other place he can reasonably be.

Hercules supposes that in more ways than one, that’s always been true.

By the time Halloween rolls around, they have all kind of gotten used to how things are in the castle, as much as such a thing is possible, at least.

Halloween falls on a Wednesday that year, so James has the pleasure of having a free period after breakfast. Usually, James would spend it with Thomas, but his friend could not seem to stop bragging about the first marks they had gotten in Herbology and James had better things to do with his time. Like, not listening to that.

This morning, as James arrives in front of the Transfiguration classroom, there is a boy with Arabian features and clad in the blue of Ravenclaw waiting for them already. He’s their age and James pretty much has their year group down, but he does not recognize him.

And yet he feels oddly familiar in a way that James had felt on exactly one day so far. Nevertheless, the feeling is unmistakable.

This is someone from his old life.

“Who are you?” Desdemona, a girl from Slytherin, questions.

“Tis I,” the boy replies with a smile, “the frenchiest fry.”

James can hear Alexander dropping his books somewhere behind him. He probably either had taken their free period as time to work on something that was not due for weeks to come or he had spent it with John and Eliza and forgotten the time.

Both are equally possible and James wants to think about neither of them.

“Lafayette?” Alex exclaims softly as it seems to have clicked in the same moment it had for James.

The boy grins at both James and Alex. “Oui, mes amis,” he answers with a smile.

And as Alexander always seems to do at the first chance he gets, he engulfs his old friend in a hug.

Lafayette laughs as he returns the hug eagerly.

“Why are you here?” Alex questions. “Don’t get me wrong, I love the fact that you are, just, why now? And here?” James is pretty sure that he means ‘in Britain’ with that, but given it’s Hamilton, he just can’t be completely sure.

Laf shrugs. “It was time.” He smiles innocently, and doesn’t add anything else.

“Right,” James states slowly. “Of course. Because that makes so much sense.”

“It really does, doesn’t it?” Lafayette replies, still smiling.

The fact that not one of their peers in the hallway argue with that statement really drives home as how weird they have established themselves to be.

At that point, Professor McGonagall opens the door to their classroom and since all of them know better than to mess with her, they fall silent — though their eyes keep wandering back to Lafayette, who stands there innocently and just like he’d always been there.

The very second the class is over and their things are hastily shoved into their, Alexander takes Lafayette’s hand and drags him out of the room. James decides to follow them, in part because he’s afraid they will do something stupid and in part because he’s curious. He sees Aaron doing the same thing after a moment.

They make their way to the nearby Defense classroom quick enough, that the students of Gryffindor and Hufflepuff have travelled less than a hallway, which makes it easy to spot their friends.

“Guys!” Alexander exclaims happily, “Look who’s here!”

That causes all four of them to turn around.

John’s face lights up in joy and he sprints towards them. “Laf!” he yells as he, too, hugs Lafayette, only his almost throws the boy over.

Thomas and Eliza are hot on John’s heels, with Hercules only a step behind them. In a heartbeat, all eight of them are sharing a group hug, even if he is not completely sure how that happened. But James has to say, he likes this method of problem solving.

“We should probably head to lunch,” John eventually states as they eventually untangle.

“He’s right.” Alexander nods in a agreement. “After all the General should be there and I’m sure he will want to see you.”

Lafayette nods. “Let’s go then. Lead the way.”

It’s only a slight exaggeration to say that George sprints across the Hall the moment they step into the room and wastes no time to put his arms around him and hold him close to his chest.

(“I missed you,” George whispers.

“So did I,” Lafayette replies, too quiet for anyone other than then to hear.)

Before they know it, they’re all sitting at the Gryffindor table, sharing an excited conversation with their usual group with some random comments thrown in by the Weasley twins, who seem to delight in being as confusing as possible.

By the end of lunch, though, they’re all acting like Lafayette has always been here with them.