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Yew, Pine and Oak

Chapter Text

It was raining. Fat droplets splattered against the kitchen window, trailing down the glass like tears. The sound of thunder echoed in the distance and every few minutes, a flash of lightning would illuminate the sky. In the Lupescus' kitchen, the radio chatted away happily as two wizards discussed the recent changes in the Ministry for Magic. Mr and Mrs Lupescu were listening intently to what was being said. After all, since the defeat of You-Know-Who, there had been some big changes in Britain's wizarding community.

For their son, Vasilica, things were different. He didn't fully understand what had happened in the last year. His parents were, after all, wizards, and law-abiding ones at that. The Ministry had never found a reason to come knocking at their door. That wasn't to say he wasn't aware of the deaths, the fear and the Battle of Hogwarts, it just hadn't sank in yet.
And that was why he was much more interested in the rain crashing against the windows than the report on Harry Potter. As the presenters discussed whether the young man would work for the Ministry or not, Vasilica listened to the sound of the storm. He liked storms. They were fun, different to what he was used to. Unfortunately, storms meant no post. And no post was the worst thing that could happen to him right now.

For, you see, Vasilica Lupescu was currently an impatient eleven year old awaiting his Hogwarts letter. He couldn't wait to finally start learning magic! To be able to do what his parents did daily with no difficulty, to play Quidditch for his House, to actually belong to a House he could be proud of... there were so many things he was dying to do!

He had spent most of his summer up to now thinking about what house he wanted to be in. His father had been a Hufflepuff, his mother a Ravenclaw. Consequently, neither cared which house he would be sorted into, providing he was happy. But Vasilica worried. He worried constantly about it. What if he was sorted in Slytherin? Everyone knew about how many Slytherins became dark wizards. In fact, it had been the House with the fewest fighters in the Battle of Hogwarts. Vasilica did not want to be associated with a house like that!

Suddenly, there was a loud tap at the window. Mr and Mrs Lupescu immediately drew their wands, aiming them towards the kitchen window, and approached the opening slowly and carefully. Vasilica stayed back, hiding himself behind a sofa. He wasn't scared, not like his parents; he had been sheltered from the atrocities the Ministry and the dark wizard had committed for the past year. And although the dark wizard had been defeated, some of his followers still remained.

The Romanian peeked his head around his hiding place and glanced towards the kitchen. There was no noise. Finally, a few tense seconds later, a loud hoot resounded from the small room and the sound of wands being put back into robe pockets could be heard.

"Vas, come on in! The owl's brought you something!" his mother called.

Vasilica scampered from his hiding place to the kitchen, face spreading into a large grin as he spotted a large bedraggled barn owl and a thick envelope with a trademark crest sealing it. He raced over to the table, petted the owl, then grabbed the envelope, quickly glancing at the letter H, and tore it open, scanning the contents as fast as he could.

"Dear Mr. Lupescu,
We are pleased to inform you that you have a place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment.
Term begins on 1 September. We await your owl by no later than 31 July.
Yours sincerely,
Minerva McGonagall
Headmistress"

He stepped back, eyes glimmering with excitement. He re-read the letter a few times, turning it upside down, examining the back, spinning on the spot. He had been accepted into Hogwarts. He was going to Hogwarts!

"Look, Ma, Pa! I'm going time Hogwarts!" he sang, waving the letter in his parents' faces.

Both smiled and clapped, although it didn't quite reach their lips. Who knew what would happen in that school after a year of torment and suffering? What would the pupils who had been taught the dark arts for a year be like? How would the new teachers react? Would their son be safe?
Yet admitting their fears to their son would make them real. Hogwarts had always been considered the safest place in Britain. There was no reason that should change. Especially now that the darkest wizard of all time was dead.
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The sun was shining when the Lupescus decided to travel to London in order to buy Vasilica's school things. The young boy was practically skipping as he followed his parents through the busy streets of Diagon Alley. He had been here before, naturally, but now he could actually buy some of the cool-looking stuff in the windows, he found himself paying more attention than ever before.

It was oddly subdued. Many shops were closed or out-of-business, and the few wizards out shopping were unusually quiet. Rather than stop and chat, they hurried from shop to shop, almost as though they feared staying in one spot for too long was dangerous. The children, or students, however, stood out. They bounded from window to window, admiring the displays, running over to friends and chatting loudly about their favourite Quidditch teams or whether they were ready to go back to school.

First up was Madam Malkins. Although Vasilica insisted that he was alright going in alone, his parents insisted on accompanying him, and joined the long rows of adults watching their children being fitted in silence. It unnerved the brown-haired boy, to be honest. He was used to the happy, bright Diagon Alley, not this dark, sombre one.

As he seated himself on a stool while an elderly witch started to measure him, he turned his attention to the boy next to him. He was rather tall, with black hair in need of a cut which drifted into his dark brown eyes. He smiled as he noticed the first year next to him.

"H-Hey there," he stammered, nervousness seeping through his words.

"Hiya! I'm Vasilica Lupescu! It's nice to meet you!" on the other hand, the shorter boy had never had any trouble with chatting with strangers.

"Aleksander Dimitar, nice to meet you too," the black-haired wizard shot him a small smile.

"What year are you in? I'm starting my first, and I'm really excited about it! Mum and Dad are wizards, so I always knew I'd be going to Hogwarts, but it's still really cool!"

An unfortunate habit of Vasilica's was blabbering on for too long. He couldn't help it though! He just got so caught up in what he was talking about that he paid no attention to what he was saying and let everything out at once. Most people he knew were used to it, and knew when to stop him. Aleksander, however, didn't. He just stared with wide eyes as the red-eyed boy started a tirade on the staircases that moved and the talking paintings. Eventually, after about ten minutes of non-stop talking, the Romanian stopped to take a deep breath, looking at his new friend expectantly.

"Um... that sounds great... I, uh, don't know much about Hogwarts. I'm not wizard-born," Aleksander ducked his head in embarrassment.

All of a sudden, a spark of interest lit up in Vasilica's mind. Aleksander was Muggleborn? He was speaking to a person who had only just discovered they had magic. His eyes sparkled. How cool was that?

"Seriously? Wow! That's awful! You had no idea you were magical?" he leaned forward, causing the clerk to snap at him to stay still.

"No. We were all really surprised when Professor McGonagall showed up. Apparently I should have received my letter last year, but they were having problems," the black-haired boy chuckled.

"Yeah, we had a bad wizard going around murdering people. But he's dead now, so everyone's safe," Vasilica grinned, not noticing the scowl on the face of the woman fitting him.

Aleksander seemed unnerved by how nonchalant he was being, shifting awkwardly on his stool. Luckily, the conversation quickly changed to what they liked doing in their spare time, and soon enough, both boys had been fitted and chatted a few seconds longer as their parents paid for their new robes.

"Guess I'll be seeing you at Hogwarts then?" the twelve-year-old checked.

"You bet! I hope we'll be in the same house... oh! I know! Let's share a compartment on the Hogwarts Express!" the eleven-year-old jumped up.

"What's that?"

"It's the train that takes you to Hogwarts! You have to get on Platform nine and three quarters to get on."

"Vas, we're going!" his father called.

"Coming!" He grinned one last time at his new friend before skipping after his parents.

Next on the list were his books. Now, usually, Vasilica loved shopping for books. However, when you had to queue for an hour and weren't even allowed to check what was for sale in the Vampire section, it became the most boring thing ever. He tried to look for some source of amusement though, and found in it a small group of boys in front of him.

They were highly unusual. Not only were they taller than all the other children there, and all four of them blond, two of them were frantically waving their hands around. Vasilica blinked a few times as the boy with spiky hair burst out laughing, a loud and irritating cackle that caused the entire line to stare at him. The boy he was facing turned red and moved his hands some more, which only caused Spiky-Hair to laugh even louder. The other two boys were shifting away as though they'd rather not know them.

"It's rude to stare, Vas," the young wizard's mother poked his shoulder.

"What are they doing, Ma?" but just he couldn't look away from those hands.

The Romanian witch frowned, a puzzled look on her face as she watched the two boys move their arms around. Finally, her eyes lit up and she turned to her son.

"That's sign language, Vas. Muggles use it to communicate with people who can't hear," she explained.

Vasilica frowned, staring at the two boys. One of them couldn't hear? Well, it was most likely Spiky-Hair, judging by how unaware of his surroundings he seemed.

"Why aren't they using a Translator Spell? Isn't that what wizards use?" he cocked his head to one side.

"They're probably Muggleborn. And stop staring at them," the old witch scolded.

Despite her scolding, Vasilica still shot discrete glances at the boys in front. The tallest of the four had also joined in, although his movements were slower than those of the other two. When they reached the counter, it was the smallest blond who gave their order. They had more books than the other students, including some that involved famous witches and wizards and some about non-verbal magic. It intrigued Vasilica, how people so different to him would be attending Hogwarts alongside him. He wondered whether any of them would be in his House.

"1st year?" the clerk checked.

Buying his potion ingredients, cauldron, gloves and scales was far from fun. Sure, the apothecary was fascinating, what with eyes staring at you and other strange ingredients, but Vasilica was preoccupied by the thought of buying his wand. They had saved it for last, as it was the most important thing on the list.

Ollivanders was a small shop, yet it had been battered in the wizarding war. Ollivander himself seemed worn and tired. He was skinny and dark bags surrounded his eyes. He was in the process of tidying some boxes away when he heard the bell chime and turned to greet his new customers.

"Erika and Marcus Lupescu. Dogwood and unicorn hair for one, Holly and dragon heartstring for the other, am I right? And today it is your son who will be needing his first wand?"

Ollivander was creepy. His pale blue eyes seemed to look through Vasilica, and his words were spoken so softly, so gently, it was unnerving. The boy only managed a curt nod before a tape measure flew around his head and started to measure him. It was strange. He didn't like it one bit.
Finally, Mr Ollivander stepped away and moved over to one of the many shelves in the shop. He paused, searching the shoe boxes before taking one and giving the child the wand.

"Silver Birch, seven inches, springy. Give it a wave."

Vasilica waved it curiously, wondering what might happen. He didn't expect the box it had come from set alight. Immediately, the wandmaker snatched the wand off him, muttering under his breath as he searched for a new one.

After what felt like an eternity of setting fire to half the shop and making the other half explode, Vasilica finally felt a wand that felt different to the others. It was burning hot, yet the warmth did nothing other than send a wave of serenity over him. He waved it, only for sparks to shoot out the end. His parents clapped enthusiastically as Ollivander nodded in approval.

"Yew, eight inches, springy, with the heartstring of a Romanian Speartail."

But Vasilica was no longer listening. His eyes were glued to the dark wood in his hands.

He was a wizard. This wand proved it. And he would be going to Hogwarts in only a few weeks. With those strange boys and Aleksander. He couldn't wait!

Chapter Text

Eirik' first encounter with magic hadn't been a happy one. Instead of opening the front door to a kindly witch or wizard with a smile on their face and a speech explaining what an exceptional person he was, a group of people wearing terrifying masks had withdrew pointy sticks they aimed like guns to his parents' heads and shot two blasts of green light out of their tips. In a split second, the eleven-year-old's parents were sprawled unmoving on the ground. Fear and incomprehension had filled the child's heart as the nightmarish figures approached him and dragged him out of his home. Then, the world was spinning; he felt sick as his feet left the firm soil for a few seconds, before harshly meeting concrete once more.

The next events passed by so quickly that they became but a blur in the young wizard's mind. One minute, he was lined up behind many chained children like him, the next, he was in a courtroom where a lady who resembled a toad talked gibberish to him before judging him guilty of theft. He recalled the terror that had coursed through his veins and turned his blood to ice as he was once again transported to another unknown place, except this one was ten times worse than the other. The air was thick with sadness and sadness, with people on all sides wailing and screaming as though they had lost their minds. Eirik had begged his captors not to leave him here, to send him back to his parents, back home, far away from this place. He hadn't stolen anything! He was innocent!

Yet his pleads went unheard and he was tossed into a tiny, filthy cell and left to rot.

The following weeks and months were the worst he had ever lived. Some days, the masked people escorted him to a dark room, where they tortured him for hours on end. Like at the trial, they seemed convinced he had stolen something from them, something he had no right to and he had to give back.

At first, he had screamed, begged them to stop, pleaded his innocence. Then, after a while, he gave up. The dreary place was finally getting to him. Why fight? Why try? His captors had their minds made up, there was nothing he could do to change them, so why resist? When thousands of red-hot needles seemed to burn his skin, he closed his mind to the real world and lost himself in his thoughts.

The monsters regularly brought in more children of various ages. Some were barely over ten of age, others almost eighteen. They were all treated the same. As thieves who had stolen something so valuable, they had no right to live. They were all the same. They would scream, cry, beg for someone to rescue them for the first few weeks, then they would fall silent as they cowered in the shadows.

Yet there was one boy different to the others. He was in the cell opposite Eirik's, and was rather tall for his age, with mangled blond hair that he spent his time trying to make stand up. Unlike the others, this boy never stopped smiling. He didn't seem to understand what their captors told him, instead waving his arms and facial expressions around like a madman. Of course, he would cry, whimper in pain when he was taken away for the day, but he would always smile once the pain was gone.

Eirik couldn't remember when they started communicating to each other. He couldn't remember how they had created their own sign language after the boy informed him he was deaf. All he could remember was how Mikkel soon became his sole reason to live.

Mikkel was Danish, he learnt. He had been deaf for as long as he could remember, loved sport, especially football, and had no idea why they were being kept here. The Norwegian found himself explaining whatever the taller boy didn't understand, and in return was gifted with smiles or jokes from his new friend.

His nightmare was starting to become bearable, if only by a little bit.

Eirik could clearly remember the moment the torment finally ended. There had been a loud explosion, shouting in the corridors, followed by a surge of pure happiness he hadn't felt in months, and then it was over. People dressed in long robes with relief etched across their faces and chocolate in their hands had run from cell to cell, unlocking them and giving the now free youths pieces of chocolate to eat. It was the first time Mikkel and Eirik had been able to share warmth and comfort properly since they had met.

However, despite the end of the nightmare, there were still many dilemmas for the new Ministry of Magic to deal with. First and foremost was the amount of orphaned muggleborns. Owls were sent, queries were made as aurors searched for living relatives who could take them in. Then, there was the question of therapy. Most had lived or witnessed horrors no child should face, it was imperative for them to have professional care immediately. Thankfully, free therapy was provided, helping thousands of witches and wizards get through their traumas. Finally, there was the question of Hogwarts. When would it reopen? It had apparently been severely damaged during the final battle, and people were unsure when it would open its doors once again.

Eirik didn't pay attention to most of the problems. The realisation he no longer had a home was slowly sinking in, and even after being welcomed in by his biological father and stepmother, who just so happened to be a witch, he felt distant from the world. Mikkel had managed to give him his phone number and address, urging him to write so they could stay in contact. The twelve-year-old would spend hours watching the mailbox or phone, waiting for a reply.

It was no secret his stepmother disliked him. The constant snaps reminded him of the monsters - death eaters, he had been told - who had hurt him. His father could only just stand him, providing he remained silent and did as he was told. The only beacon of light in his new home was his eight-year-old half-brother, Emil. The boy was adorable and followed Eirik wherever he went. He was curious as to why the elder boy had come to live with them, but didn't complain or ask to many questions.

It was a good thing, Eirik thought, as he would be unable to answer any of them.

For Eirik hadn't spoken in a year, and stubbornly refused to. Speaking reminded him of when his parents were alive, of the screams he would make when the death eaters pointed their wands at him, of the snaps his new parents gave him when he said something wrong. So, he didn't. No matter how many therapists he saw, how many times his new parents ordered him to speak, he wouldn't. He couldn't. Instead, he had taken to taking a few notebooks, pens and a whiteboard with him wherever he went. He had also learnt British sign language, just in case.

On the 22nd of July 1998, Eirik and Mikkel were sprawled out on the dry grass in of a tree, trying to escape the Sun's boiling rays. Eirik's parents had recently moved back to England, in the same village as Mikkel, much to the Norwegian's joy. The two had spent most of summer lounging around, climbing trees and chasing each other around the village.

He felt a nudge in his side, and glanced at his best friend, who was sporting a large grin and pointing up at the sky. Two barn owls were swooping down towards them, dropping two identical thick envelopes on their laps. Mikkel shot up, hastily opening his letter and jumping up and down in joy as he read the inside. On the other hand, Eirik was a lot more hesitant as he slowly tore the envelope open and read his Hogwarts Acceptance Letter, hands shaking slightly.

"Isn't this cool? We've been accepted into..." Mikkel frowned as he realised they had no sign for Hogwarts.

Of course, they could just spell it out, but Mikkel argued that it would take too long.

"Anyway, it's way more fun to think of a sign!" he added firmly.

Eirik rolled his eyes, but gave in, suggesting a literal translation, only to have the Dane laugh at him.

"That sounds awful, Eirik! It's a terrible name as it is. Let's at least try to make it sound epic!"

They eventually settled on "magic school" preceded by the letter H. It wasn't excellent, but it certainly beat Hogwarts.

"Isn't it cool? We're gonna learn proper magic and stuff!"

Eirik was pleased he had made progress in BSL; his best friend signed so quickly and animatedly it could be hard to keep up.

"I guess. We'll have to make up new signs for everything, though. And how do you expect us to actually cast spells? In case you haven't noticed, neither of us can speak," Eirik sighed.

"We created our own sign language last year, we can do it again this year," Mikkel shrugged, completely ignoring the fact that their "sign language" had been extremely limited and basic. "Besides, they'll probably give us extra lessons so that we can keep up with the others."

The pale blond didn't comment on it. Instead, he re-read his letter a few times. He felt uneasy about attending Hogwarts, not that that was a big surprise. When your first encounter with the magical involved the murder of your parents and a few months of agony, you usually weren't in a hurry to go back. Anyway, according to his stepmother, Hogwarts pupils were sorted into four different Houses. What if Mikkel and he were in separate Houses? What would happen then?

Another prod in his side. Lifting his head, his eyes met Mikkel's bright blue orbs. His friend looked unusually serious. Eyes never leaving Eirik's, he signed slowly, his face as expressive as could be.

"You'll do great, Eirik. No one will hurt you. The teachers at Hogwarts are good people. And if anyone dares lay a hand on you, I will turn them all into frogs, got it?"

Then, he smiled. That trademark smile that had prevented Eirik from going mad a year ago. Tugging his lips into one of his own, the Norwegian nodded.

"Obviously."


 

Sigrid Steilsson, Eirik's stepmother, had agreed to take both boys to Diagon Alley in London to buy their school things. She was a rather tall lady, with short curly pale blond hair and grey eyes. Her long and thin face was framed by sharp cheekbones and her over-the-top makeup did nothing except make her constant purses lips stand out. She never smiled. Well, unless it involved Emil. If her real son was involved, the Icelandic woman was a completely different person. At least she had the decency to be polite in other people's presence.

Diagon Alley was subdued when they arrived. Witches and wizards scurried around from shop to shop, only pausing to greet acquaintances before hurrying off again. Children, on the other hand, rushed about, admiring the window displays, discussing the latest wizarding trends or complaining about going back to school.

Both children's eyes were as wide as saucers as they looked around at the unfamiliar surroundings. Mikkel, especially, was hard to pull away from the strange Wizarding sport shop where a shiny broomstick was in display for teenage boys to goggle at.

Sigrid ignored their wonder, huffing as she led her charges towards a tall white building. It was built out of marble, cold and imposing against the smaller Victorian houses. As she walked, she hastily scribbled something down on a sheet of paper and gave it to the boys.

First off, we're going to Gringotts to pick up your money. Then I'll let you two wander off by yourselves. Remember to stay on this street and to keep your notebook handy. Eirik, you've written some sentences already, haven't you?

Eirik nodded as Mikkel wrote a question underneath the paragraph.

Gringotts? Is that a bank? Do wizards have a bank? Is that the big building up ahead?

Sigrid paused as she read his unnecessary questions, pursing her lips as she replied.

Yes, and it's one of the safest buildings in Britain. It's run by goblins, so be polite and don't touch anything.

Mikkel nodded enthusiastically before turning to Eirik, trademark grin on his face.

"So... Marble bank? Goblin bank? Wizard bank?"

"Marble bank. You are aware we have a new money system to translate, right?"

The blond groaned loudly, earning him a few states from passers-by and a downright murderous glare from Sigrid. By now, they had reached the entrance to the grand building, Eirik concentrating hard on not staring at the strangest creature he had ever seen opening stunning bronze doors. The person who he assumed to be a goblin was about his height, with a pointed face and beard, long ears and remarkably long fingers and feet. The second doors were silver and were adorned with a warning not to steal engraved on the wood. Inside the bank, hundreds of goblins were hurrying to and fro, leading wizards down to their vaults, exchanging pounds for galleons or weighing previous gems.

Sigrid led the boys to a long queue notable for its non magical people, easily distinguished by their lack of robes or clothes of any clothed other than grey. The tall woman handed down another note.

We'll exchange Mikkel's money first, so get your money out already. Goblins hate it if you aren't fully ready when you reach the counter. Then you will both wait here while I get some money out of our vault for Eirik. Understood?

The wait was long. And, if you ignored its beautiful architecture, Gringotts remained a bank, and banks really weren't that interesting, magical or not. While waiting, Mikkel and Eirik decided to use simply signs for the various monetary values: gold and G for Galleons, Silver S for Sickles and Bronze K for knuts. As for muggle...

"People with common sense?" the Dane suggested.

The twelve-year-old chuckled.

"Mundane people?" he suggested.

Mikkel grimaced at that.

"It makes then sound boring. What about common folk?"

"And how is that better than mundane people?"

"Oh, come on! It sounds way better!"

"Non magical people?"

"I like common folk..." the pale blue-eyed boy pouted. 

Eirik rolled his eyes before agreeing that common folk would have to work.

Less than half an hour later, the two children were wandering the street of Diagon Alley, deciding what to check off the list first. They eventually decided to do it in the order it was written, which was how they ended up in Madam Malkins to buy their school robes.

It was rather busy, measuring tape flying around as fabric wove itself into robes. It was a rather boring shop, if you ignored the magic. Not to mention having a person invade your personal space so much was annoying. Why couldn't you try the pre-made robes yourself? Because pre-made robes didn't exist, for some reason.

Next were the dragon hide gloves they found in a small shop tucked away. It had recently opened, and smelt of leather and polish. It had taken a while to pick their gloves. They were, luckily, pre-made and the customer simply had to pick a pair, but the varying colours made it difficult to chose. Whereas Eirik eventually chose a pair of black Norwegian Ridgeback hide gloves, particularly resistant to fire, Mikkel went for the black Danish Crestsnout hide ones, which were waterproof.

After that, it was Flourish and Blotts for their books, where they ran into one of Eirik's neighbours, a shy giant called Berwald. The timid Swede was accompanied by a friend of his who introduced himself as Timo. Thankfully, this meant they could leave the communicating to Timo as Berwald practised his sign language. Being a long-time fan of bookshops, Eirik literally had be dragged away from the shelves of books. He did, however, have enough spare coins to afford a book on performing non-verbal spells, one about great witches and wizards of all time and some fairy tales.

After bidding farewell to Berwald and Timo, it was off to the apothecary, which was... an interesting experience, to say the least. The eyes stuffed in jars, body organs and generally unpleasant things made Eirik shove the list of ingredients into Mikkel's hands and go buy them a cauldron and brass scales each.

"You left me in there!" his friend protested when they saw each other again.

Apparently the paleness of Eirik's face was enough to make him drop the subject and suggest buying their wands. Now, this was the height of their shopping trip. After all, a wand was the basics for any wizard.

The two boys approached a small, dusty-looking shop with a faded "Ollivanders" painted above the door. They exchanged an apprehensive glance before opening the door. A bell chimed throughout the store.

It was definitely dusty. Shoe boxes were either piled up to the ceiling or stuffed onto shelves, hopefully containing wands, although you could never tell with wizards. The owner of the shop, a frail old man with thinning white hair and pale blue eyes, seemingly appeared out of nowhere to greet his new customers. Eirik held out his notepad.

Hello. I'm Eirik Thomassen, and this is Mikkel Køhhler. I am mute and he is deaf. We're just starting our first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and we would like a wand, please. We apologise for the inconvenience.

Ollivander's eyes widened as he read the note, but he nodded before turning to the two children.

"Who first?"

Mikkel stepped forward, cowering slightly under the wandmaker's gaze. Ollivander studied him silently before gesturing for the Dane to stand in the middle of the room. A tape measure immediately flew up to him and started measuring him thoroughly. The old man mimicked writing, and Mikkel waved his left hand. Once the measuring was done, the wandmaker searched the shoe boxes for the right wand.

It took a few tries, streams of snow, water and even fish at some point shot out of the tips of those presented to the deaf wizard before red sparks fizzled at the end of a creamy coloured wand.

"Dogwood, eleven and three quarters, slightly flexible, Dragon heartstring. Fiercely loyal, this one. Notoriously hard to turn to the dark arts," the old man commented as he wrapped the stick up.

Eirik felt extremely nervous as he was measured and tried wand after wand. He was beyond relieved when it only took one of clump of snow before his wand chose him. This one was a darker shade than Mikkel's, and an inch shorter.

"Pine, ten and three quarters, rigid, Pheonix feather. A rather open-minded wand, albeit temperamental. Interesting. Very interesting."

The wizard's inquisitive eyes followed the elder man.

"You see, your wands are vastly different to one another. On the one hand, a loyal and noisy one, on the other, an independent and silent one. And yet you two seem to be good friends. Very curious, I must say."

He didn't say any more, leaning the youths confused and slightly nervous as they left the shop.

"He was creepy. Let's hope we never have to go in there again," Mikkel shifted, glancing back at the store.

Eirik wholeheartedly agreed. However, the old man's words had intrigued him. Why was it curious that two completely different people could be friends? What was so odd about their wands? Unfortunately, it looked as though he wouldn't be getting any answers anytime soon.

By some miracle, Mikkel still had a few coins left with he spent on ice-cream while waiting to meet up with Sigrid once more. As Eirik licked his mint cone, listening to Mikkel enthuse about their situation, he couldn't help but think that Hogwarts wouldn't be that bad after all.

Chapter Text

Arthur Kirkland was an oddity among wizards. His father had been tossed into prison when he was six, his mother was an active practiser of the dark arts and his many siblings were entering various stages of rebellion. And, to top it all, the twelve-year-old hated the idea of going back to Hogwarts. It wasn't that the school was a bad place.

It had some commendable teachers and the house-elves whipped up marvellous food. Unfortunately, it had a bad habit of letting in students who shouldn't be allowed an education, students who risked breaking the statute of secrecy every waking moment: mudbloods.

Arthur had first learnt the word when his father had been taken away. His eldest brother, Allistair, fifteen at the time, had stormed out of the kitchen at dinner time and returned half-an-hour later with a suitcase at his side. Naturally, he and their mother had engaged in a shouting match that the youngest was certain had shaken the walls. Terrified, he had scurried upstairs to the library, the only room the yelling didn't reach, and read for the next few hours. And it just so happened that the book he picked up was an essay about the declining Wizarding population and what could be done to stop it. Within the yellowing pages, Arthur learnt the danger of muggleborns, or mudbloods as the author called them, and their tendency to get into magical situations around muggles that endangered them all. Why should vermin like them be allowed to live amongst real wizards, amongst purebloods?

Fiona was the next to leave. At age seventeen, she decided she was going to leave for America to become an auror. Despite her mother's insistence she could train to be one in England, the girl refused adamantly, proclaiming her father's record was enough to prevent her from ever fulfilling her dream in Britain.

A year later, the dark wizard Voldemort returned to power.

Arthur's mother was ecstatic. She encouraged her sons to celebrate his return and preached his ideologies whenever an opportunity presented itself. However, Arthur seemed to be the only one who agreed with her. Peter was still too young to understand and was in his rebellious five-year-old state-of-mind that involved trying to cut the cat's whiskers and disagreeing with his siblings, and seven-year-old Patrick had no interest in politics.

One night, Arthur heard a strange pop in the house. The next morning, Dylan was gone, leaving nothing but a letter explaining that he couldn't agree with his parents' beliefs and that he was going to fight Voldemort's supporters in the war.

Arthur had never seen his mother so upset. She drank herself into a stupor that evening, leaving the eleven-year-old to tuck his scared brothers to bed, leaving him to slowly realise he was now the eldest in the family. The weight of responsibility on his shoulders made him run to the library and read up on dark wizards once more.

Later that month, a letter arrived from Hogwarts, informing the young wizard of his expected attendance at the famous school in September. He went to Diagon Alley with a spring in his step, anticipation gnawing at his insides at the thought of getting all his stuff. Despite the threatening people who stood at the entrance to every shop, keeping an eye on who exactly was going where, Arthur thoroughly enjoyed himself. He bought an interesting book titled The Dark Lord's Rise to Power and received his wand at a shop called Wands by Gregorovitch, since Ollivander had been missing for the past year. English oak and unicorn hair, nine inches, rigid. It was perfect.

In September, he boarded the Hogwarts Express and was enthusiastic about starting his first year at Hogwarts. His mother had previously informed him of the death of its weak headmaster and the extraordinary exploits of its current one, and he was highly excited to see how much he could learn throughout the next few months. Yet, contrary to expectations, the train was eerily silent. There were no students racing from compartment to compartment, setting off pranks or looking for lost friends. There was no trolley lady offering sweets and pastries walking along the wagons. There was only a thick and heavy atmosphere dying the world in grey. It was unnerving, to say the least.

He couldn't really recall the sorting. After all, he had been rather tired from the train ride, and the sombre atmosphere did nothing to alleviate his mood. He did, though, remember the frayed hat calling out Slytherin and the snake table clapping and cheering as he strutted over to them with his head held high.

Unfortunately, things weren't as he had expected them to be. First of all, his classmates were boring. None of them shared his passion for dark magic or his disdain for mudbloods. Even Ivan Braginsky, son the infamous murderer Gavril Braginsky, a death eater who had killed twenty mudbloods fleeing from snatchers and cursed so many even his allies feared him, had snapped at him for suggesting they were inferior. Of course, the boy spent his lessons doodling sunflowers in the corners of his notes and refused to harm a fly, so his credibility was non existent. Still, it was disappointing, to say the least, especially as Slytherin politics dictated he be respectful and grovel at the fragile kid's feet. How he loathed the pathetic being!

At least the lessons were interesting. Arthur learnt how to cast minor hexes that caused a person's skin to feel as though it were on fire, how to recognise cursed objects and get the most use out of them and exactly how dangerous mudbloods were. So, with the exception of his spineless classmates, Arthur liked life at Hogwarts.

However, all good things must come to an end, as they say, and his fantasy was shattered with the battle of Hogwarts. The students' revolution sickened him to no end. All those lives lost, all those hours of learning wasted. What's more, it was all filthy mudbloods like that acclaimed Hermione Granger who were to blame. If he heard her name one more time on the radio!

To make things worse, his mother insisted he return to Hogwarts the next year. Who cared whether the new headmistress had chosen to revert to the old curriculum or that filthy magic-stealers were permitted to attend once again? The old woman certainly didn't! The Kirklands were suspected of being Death Eaters, so Mrs Kirkland was determined to make the Ministry believe they had turned over a new leaf so they would leave her and her family alone.

Arthur glared at the clear blue sky as he followed his mother down the quiet street of Diagon Alley. How dare the weather defy his current mood? It should be raining, stormy at the very least, anything but sunny.

"Bloody weather," he grumbled under his breath.

"Language, Arthur," his mother scolded lightly, swatting the side of his head softly.

"Sorry."

He wasn't. The mere thought of returning to that god-awful castle - because without the Dark Lord's teachings, what else could it be qualified as? - was enough to send a shiver of disgust down his spine. Freezing cold dungeons, creepy ghosts, annoying pupils... the list went on and on.

As his mother slipped away to buy him some fresh potion supplies, Arthur strolled over to Flourish and Blotts, the only bearable shop in the street. It was busy inside, with many families blocking access to the shelves by their queuing and clerks running themselves ragged trying to get past the customers. Arthur immediately found the famous witches and wizards section, letting out a sigh of relief as he spotted some interesting-looking books. He would probably only buy one - his mother thought it unwise to indulge him too much - so it was imperative that he picked the best one.

A loud laugh distracted him from his search, crushing him to glare at a group of scruffy boys who were waving their hands in the air and pulling faces like madmen. Mudbloods. Why their kind were allowed in a sacred place as this was beyond him. Honestly, people should be ashamed.

He forced himself not to throw up as one of the boys scurried over to where he was crouched down, frowning as he picked out two heavy volumes before rushing back to his group. Who knew mudbloods could read?

Fortunately, the vermin were gone soon enough, enabling Arthur to relax and enjoy himself a little bit. Which book should he buy? It would have to be something big enough to last him until Christmas, so maybe something potions-related? They tended to be long. Or transfiguration? After an agonising half hour choosing the encyclopedia of his dreams, he settled on an essay by Mallory Rivera, a brilliant witch known for inventing the chains of perpetual confinement, entitled The Universe parallel to ours: where does magic come from? . His mother would most likely disapprove, but it seemed interesting.

It was late by the time the two came home, Mrs Kirkland having some errands in Knockturn Alley to do that took longer than expected, and Arthur wasn't surprised to notice the babysitter had given his brothers the last edible food in the house, leaving him with some spinach and sardines for supper, much to his dismay.

Swallowing one last mouthful, the child forced himself not to throw up and rushed back to the library, the only place where he could find people who would truly understand him. Even though he had read every single book in there, he never grew bored of starting them from the beginning once more. The authors just had a talent in making him interested in what they wrote, especially as everything they said made perfect sense.

Immersed by the pages of writing before his eyes, Arthur failed to see the early hours of morning creeping up on him and fell asleep, curled up on the floor, a book lying open in front of him, free from the negative thoughts plaguing his mind.

Chapter Text

Vasilica's parents had always told him that his first trip on the Hogwarts Express was the most important part of his Wizarding journey. After all, it was during this first ride he was most likely to meet his friends for the next seven years. As a result, he was both extremely excited and jittery. What if he met the wrong sort? What if he didn't meet anyone?


To be honest, he was really hoping to find the boy he had chatted with back in Diagon Alley. Aleksander, was Vasilica's parents had always told him that his first trip on the Hogwarts Express was the most important part of his Wizarding journey. After all, it was during this first ride he was most likely to meet his friends for the next seven years. As a result, he was both extremely excited and jittery. What if he met the wrong sort? What if he didn't meet anyone?
To be honest, he was really hoping to find the boy he had chatted with back in Diagon Alley. Aleksander, wasn't it? Or was it something else? Either way, the boy had seemed friendly enough, the sort that cheered you up when you were down. Yep, the Romanian definitely wanted to befriend him properly, and maybe the Hogwarts Express was the place to do that.


However, his search for the muggleborn was proving unsuccessful. He hadn't quite gathered the courage to knock at random compartment doors and ask whether anyone had seen a tall black-haired boy, so he had been forced to look and listen as much as he could in the hope of catching a glimpse of Aleksander. So far, no luck.


Naturally, when you're so focused on one task, it's usually difficult to pay attention to your surroundings, something the eleven-year-old had completely forgotten as he skipped forward, oblivious to the unimportant people around him. As to be expected, his passage didn't go as smoothly as he had hoped.


"Oof!"


In a split second, he had barged straight into a girl, sending both of them sprawling onto the soft carpet. Suitcases and bags went flying, and Vasilica could have sworn he heard an alarmed bird screech as they fell down. Groaning as he heaved himself back onto his feet, the child held out his hand to the girl he had knocked over, smiling sheepishly.


"I'm so so so sorry about that. I wasn't looking where I was going. Are you okay? You're not hurt, are you?"


Contrary to expectations, however, the girl didn't seem angry. As a matter of fact, she burst out laughing as she stood up, ignoring his outstretched hand in the process, and dusted herself off. She was clearly muggleborn, ripped jeans and trainers a dead giveaway. Her bushy brown hair stuck out at all ends, and her bright green eyes shimmered with mirth.


"Don't worry about it! I'm used to it," she laughed.


"Uh... you are?" he couldn't think of anything else to say.


"Yep! Gil's always running around without looking where he's going. He knocked me into a puddle of mud once!" she explained, giggling.


"Come on, Lizzy, I'm not that bad!"


The foreign voice belonged to a boy with short pure white hair and blood-red eyes. An albino? His rolled his eyes good-naturedly as he thumped his friend on the shoulder playfully.


"Yeah, right. And pigs fly," the girl teased before turning back to Vasilica. "Anyway, my name's Elizaveta Hédérvàry, but please call me Eliza, Elizaveta's too long. The airhead next to me is Gilbert."


"Vasilica. I really am sorry about just now..."


"Don't worry about it! Hey! Fancy playing exploding snap with us?"


And that was how Vasilica Lupescu ended up in a full compartment, playing exploding snap with a person he just ran into and her friends, Gilbert and another boy called Roderich. He quickly learnt that Gilbert was the son of the legendary Quidditch player Aldrich Beilschmidt, so the boy was Quidditch mad, just like him. All three children were childhood friends.


"Anyway," Gilbert said as he tapped two cards with his wand, "dad was worried they wouldn't open Hogwarts this year, what with everything that went on last year."


"That would have sucked," Vasilica pouted, quickly tapping two cards which were starting to smoke.


"And it would have pushed everything back for everyone. Last year was bad enough that muggleborns couldn't attend Hogwarts and are all a year older than us; imagine if they had to close the school for another year," Roderich added.


"You guys aren't muggleborns then?" Vasilica was confused.


"Lizzy is, but she was ten when you-know-who took over the school, so no one knew about her. Roddy's half and half, and both of my parents are wizards. They fought in the Order, you know," the albino explained.


"Wow! That's awesome! My parents didn't really do much..." Vasilica sighed.


"Neither did mine. It was bad enough she was married to a muggle, I think she just wanted to keep her head down," Roderich shrugged.


"At least you didn't have to leave the country. West and I had to stay in Munich with family for a whole year," Gilbert grumbled.


"West?"


"My awesome little brother! His real name is Ludwig. We were both born in England, although our whole family's from Germany. Where're you from?"


"I was born in Romania but I moved here five years ago. But shouldn't you have had problems with death eaters, being muggleborn and all?" Vasilica turned to the girl.


"Apparently they weren't interested in me, since no one came knocking at my door or anything. I only just learnt what happened this August," she shrugged.


"Dad says that Hogwarts has a list of future students, but only the headmaster can access them. Apparently Snape was decent enough to only share the names of students who were meant to start last year," Gilbert shrugged.


Vasilica nodded, absorbing the new information as he tapped another two cards. Elizaveta was winning, although he still had a chance.


"Enough about that, though. What house are you hoping to get in?" the German asked.


"I don't know... my mum was a Ravenclaw, and dad was a Hufflepuff, so I'm not sure. What about you guys?"


"Anything but Slytherin." Gilbert muttered. "Not after last year's shenanigans. Did you know Slytherin had the fewest fighters during the Battle of Hogwarts? Who'd want to be lumped in with cowards like them?"


His statement was met with agreements all round. Still, Vasilica couldn't stop a tiny butterfly if worry fluttering in his stomach at the idea. What if he was sorted into Slytherin? Neither of his parents had been in the snake house, so it wasn't that likely, but still. What if?


Platform nine and three quarters was packed. Witches and wizards were spread across the platform, students hugging their parents one last time or reuniting with old friends as the adults gathered in small groups and made small talk. Younger children ran to and fro, chasing after small pets attempting one last run for freedom while the elder pupils preferred to chat in tight circles, forlorn and unusually silent. Indeed, despite the noise and chaos, the atmosphere was tense. Parents glanced left and right, a hand on their wands at all time, aurors were stationed in the corners of the station, almost unnoticed but unmistakably alert and ready to intervene in case of an incident, and the older students clung to each other more than what was considered normal.


Arthur took all of this in as he bid his mother farewell and dragged his luggage towards the scarlet steam engine. He had already changed into the black robes adorned with the emerald-green of Slytherin with great reluctance, already dreading the day ahead.


With so many people saying their goodbyes down on the platform, it was easy to find an empty compartment. Taking out his new book he had bought in Diagon Alley a few weeks ago, he settled down to read it for the next few hours. As expected, it was highly interesting. Rivera explained her strange theory with such solid proof and convincing belief it was easy to believe that parallel words actually existed, despite the possibility being ridiculous.


Little by little, the Hogwarts Express started to fill up as students filed in, chattering more or less loudly. The tense atmosphere of the platform still lingered, although the vast amount of new students excited to start their first year learning magic dissipated it slightly.


A few minutes after the whistle sounded, Arthur's compartment door slid open and a friendly voice interrupted his reading.


"Kirkland, do you mind if we sit here?"


Ivan Braginsky had grown during the holidays, towering over his housemate. His platinum blond hair was fluffy and brightened by the recent sun and he sported a wide smile as though he were greeting a beloved family member. Behind him, a shorter girl peered at Arthur, lips furrowed in a straight line and eyes cold.


"Not at all. Make yourselves at home," Arthur pushed a few books aside to make place for them.


At least Braginsky was a Slytherin. Better a weak Slytherin than a filthy mudblood. He wondered whether the girl was his sister. He had mentioned how she should be starting this year...


"This is my sister, Natalya. Natalya, this is Arthur Kirkland, a classmate and housemate of mine," Ivan said amicably.


The girl nodded once before looking out of the window in disinterest. Ivan sighed, but didn't say anything. Arthur didn't care. The brat probably wouldn't even be accepted in the noble house of Slytherin, anyway. Why waste time getting to know her?


"How were your holidays, Kirkland?"


Guess I won't get much reading done.


"They were pleasant. How were yours?"


"We visited Moscow with my parents for a few weeks which was really nice. Moscow is such a beautiful city; you must visit someday!"


"Maybe. I thought you were from Russia?"


"I am, but we haven't been back since the end of the Cold War. It was really lovely to go back and see my old friends. Anyway, my father had business up north," the Russian explained.


This caught Arthur's attention. Gavril Braginsky had business up north? What could an ex Death Eater want with the Russian Magical Community? Of course, he and the man's son weren't close enough for him to ask, so he could only guess.


"Oh? Long way to go for business," he muttered instead.


Ivan chose not to comment on his statement, instead starting an extremely boring conversation about the sunflower seeds he had packed and was hoping to plant in the upcoming year. And so Arthur tuned out, burying his nose in his book once more.


This year was going to be a boring disappointment, just like last year.


"Checkmate!" Mikkel grinned triumphantly.


Eirik stared at the chessboard in mild surprise, mentally looking for a way out his predicament.


"So, what's bothering you?" the Dane went on, a slight smirk on his face as he watched his best friend begrudgingly admit defeat.


"Nothing."


"Yeah, right. You lost way too easily. Our games always take us at least an hour. So, what's up? Is it Hogwarts? Cos you know I'm going to protect you if anyone picks on you, right?"


Eirik rolled his eyes at the boy's "bravery". Mikkel could be an idiot sometimes...


"You can't protect me if we're in different houses," he retorted, looking away.


It was a silly fear, he knew. After all, Hogwarts was supposed to be safe, and just separate Houses didn't necessarily mean they couldn't remain friends or hang out together, but he couldn't help but worry. He still hadn't mastered the courage to speak again, and was dreading spending the year writing messages to his classmates in order to be understood. Not to mention learning spells. According to his book, non verbal magic was a highly advanced branches that many experienced wizards were unable to perform. How on earth would someone like him cast a spell without opening his mouth?


There was an irritated huff from opposite him, causing him to turn back reluctantly towards his friend. Mikkel frowned.


"I can't talk to you if you're not looking at me, and I struggle to understand you if I can't see your face," he reminded Lukas impatiently.


"Sorry," the mute signed back.


"So, what else is worrying you?"


"Nothing, now let's play again. I refuse to lose to you continuously," he shook his head firmly.


True to his word, Eirik won the next eight rounds, only losing once more. They had stopped for lunch, of course, simple slightly dry sandwiches which they shared, and some sweets they bought from the trolley lady as she came past. It was dark out by the time they finished the ninth match, and despite the lights in the compartment turning on, they decided it was too dark to play properly.


"Just in case it gets too dark to see when we get off the train later, do you mind remembering everything and explaining anything that's been said when we get back into the light?" Mikkel checked as the train started to slow down.


Eirik nodded, earlier fears arising and bubbling in his stomach. What if this was all a trap? What if they were told their acceptance had been a mistake and they had to make their way home alone? What would happen then?


He didn't have time to brood, though, as the train slowed to a halt and a voice rang out through the train, informing its passengers to descend and to leave their luggage on board.
It had started to rain outside, the night air chilly and damp, making the students huddle together for warmth.


"Firs' years! Firs' years o 'er here!"


A giant of a man stood a few steps away from the steam engine, waving a lantern around and bellowing at the crowd of students, stopping to greet a few of them as they walked past. As Mikkel had predicted, it was practically impossible to discern signs in the dark, so Lukas resorted to tugging at his friend's sleeve and dragging him over to the giant.


It took a while, but eventually a rather large group of first years was huddled around the giant, shivering from the cold rain. Berwald and Tino were there, of course, and waved as they spotted their friends.


"Everyone 'ere? This all the firs' years?" the man bellowed a few more times, stopping to greet a few more students that walked past.


Finally deciding that everyone who should be here was here, the giant introduced himself.


"Rubeus Hagrid, Keeper of the Keys and Grounds at Hogwarts, an' professor here too! Now, follow me, mind yer step now!"


Hagrid led the small group down a steep, narrow path surrounded by trees, to one of the biggest lakes Eirik had ever laid eyes on. Tiny rowing boats floated on the murky water, and the children were instructed to board them in groups of four.


Eirik and Mikkel found themselves with their other friends, and all four boys gasped in surprise as the boats moved forward by magic. In the distance, a giant castle towered against the starry sky. Turrets and towers spiralled even higher towards the sky, making Eirik's neck hurt as he tried to look up at them.

The boat ride couldn't have been longer than five minutes, but it was enough time for the worry to gnaw at the first year's stomach once again. Soon, they would be sorted. Soon, Mikkel and him might be in different Houses. Soon, Eirik would be stuck writing his thoughts down rather than signing them. Soon, Eirik would be branded a freak. 

A stern witch with her greying hair tied in a bun was waiting for them by the castle steps.


"Thank you, Hagrid. Those of you who attended Hogwarts last year may stay in the Houses you were sorted into, and will follow Hagrid through to the great hall. The rest of you, follow me."


She led them to an empty chamber off the hall. There, she explained the sorting process to them, which sounded rather odd to Eirik, before leaving them to check if the Great Hall was ready for them or not.


As soon as she was gone, Mikkel turned to his best friend with lost eyes. By the time his beast friend had finished explaining the last ten minutes, he was panicking.


"But how am I going to hear which House I'm going to be sorted into?"


"See which table is clapping the most?" the shorter boy giggled. "Don't worry, I'll tell you. Red Lion for Gryffindor, Yellow Badger for Hufflepuff, Blue Raven for Ravenclaw and Green Snake for Slytherin?"


Suddenly, a voice interrupted their discussion. The two had failed to notice how everyone else in the room was staring at them.


"What are you doing with your hands?"


The speaker was a rather short boy, with short honey blond hair, red eyes and an Eastern European accent. However, he didn't sound judgmental, simply curious. Fortunately, Timo came to their rescue before the mute boy had to open his notebook.


"Eirik's mute, and Mikkel's deaf, so they use sign language to communicate."


His explanation was met with a cacophony of stupid questions and funny stares that not only made the shy Norwegian want to bury himself six feet under the ground and stay there for eternity, but also made him wonder which rock they had been living under for the rest of their life. 


"Can they understand English?"


"Are they stupid?"


"Why is he deaf?"


"Does he not have a tongue?"


"Did no one teach them?"


Before Timo could rectify them, the stern woman returned, looking surprised at the animated students.


"Is something the matter?" she queried.


"Those two are deaf and mute!" a girl squealed, pointing at the boys.


The professor rolled her eyes up at the ceiling, before nodding.


"What remarkable observation skills you all have. Mikkel, Eirik, are you two alright?" her tone was surprisingly warm as she addressed the boys.


Mikkel frowned in incomprehension at her lack of articulation, looking automatically to Eirik for a translation. The latter simply nodded, keeping his head lowered. Professor McGonagall sighed before speaking to the group again.


"Just because Mikkel can't hear and Eirik can't speak does not mean they are unintelligent or beneath the rest of you. I expect you all to treat them with the same respect you would treat one another."


There were a few murmurs of agreement following her short speech, most pupils embarrassed at being told off on the first day. Then, wasting no more time, they were herded into the Great Hall.


The room was huge. Four long tables were spread out facing another table at which the staff sat. Candles floated in the air under a ceiling reflecting the night sky. If Eirik hadn't been about to collapse from panic, he may have admired it. As it was, though, he was shaking, clinging tightly to Mikkel's hand for comfort.


He barely heard the Sorting Hat's Song, too absorbed in staring at the colourful tables before him. Which House would he be in? No one seemed malicious, but looks could be deceiving. He didn't notice the first few students being sorted, was only startled back to reality when Mikkel tugged his hand free and sat himself down on the stool.


Not even a second had passed when the hat shouted out "GRYFFINDOR!" for the entire hall to hear. Mikkel beamed as he joined the red table, shooting Eirik a tiny thumb's up from his new spot.


With no one there to ground him, Eirik felt the panic take over him, accelerating his breathing until black dots were dancing in his vision and the world was losing focus. He distantly registered the boy who had first pointed out their signing being sorted into Slytherin, much to his apparent disappointment, before finally, the sound starting to fade and his hands tingling, the wizard's name was called out.


Please put me with Mikkel. Please put me with Mikkel. Please put me with Mikkel.


It was a mantra he repeated in his mind, his hands slowly losing any feeling. He couldn't focus on what the hat was saying, it was all too much, too bright, too loud. His vision was black but it was too bright. He could barely hear anything but it was too loud. What would happen if Mikkel and him weren't in the same House? What if this was all a trap and they would be thrown into prison once again?


He gasped for air. He was scared. So scared. He was terrified. He needed Mikkel, needed to go back home, to see his parents and for them to hug him. He needed to be normal, to be safe, for his parents to still be alive, he needed Mikkel to protect him.


"SLYTHERIN!" the hat called out.
Everything went black.

Chapter Text

Arthur thought he had seen everything. The son of the great death eater Gavril Braginsky had turned out to be nothing more than another weakling. The greatest headmaster Hogwarts had ever known, Severus Snape, had died a pathetic fool because of his allegiance to Harry Potter. Most Slytherins, members of the most majestic house of them all, had refused to fight alongside the Dark Lord during the Battle of Hogwarts. And now, a stupid first year had fainted upon being sorted into said best House. It was embarrassing.


According to Madam Pomfrey, the kid had only experienced a rather severe panic attack, and she rushed him off to the hospital wing so that he could calm down.


The rest of the sorting proceeded without a hitch. Arthur counted only another two Slytherins among the few students left, which meant there were twelve of them in total, including the lad passed out in the hospital wing. The other Houses fared little better.


"There aren't many of us," a boy with a frown plastered to his face whispered.


"Not as many parents sent their children here this year. They don't think it's as safe as it used to be," a brunette with glasses explained.


Any further discussion was cut short by Professor McGonagall standing up to deliver the annual start of year speech. Arthur found himself blocking it out as she went on for a much longer time than Professor Shape had the year before, droning on about how lucky they were to be there this year, how some parts of the castle were still in need of repair, therefore joined the Forbidden Forest as places students weren't allowed to enter, etcetera, etcetera. She also introduced some new teachers, although none of them seemed interesting enough to warrant a closer inspection.


God, this was boring. Was she finished yet?


By the time her endless monologue was finally over, the Slytherin's stomach was rumbling with hunger. Fortunately, the long table before him was soon covered by the one thing Hogwarts was good for: delicious food.


Platters of steaming roast potatoes, bowls of juicy vegetables, row upon row of various meat dishes that begged to be tasted, jugs of thick gravy, obscure handmade accompaniments... they made Arthur's mouth water as the smells and sight of it all hit him.


As the first years heaved piles of food onto their plates, many relishing in the opportunity to eat whatever they wanted without their parents nagging them to finish all their greens, conversation broke out.


"Weird to actually be here, isn't it? After last year, I didn't know if I'd ever be able to study at Hogwarts," an albino was saying.


"It's weirder to be here as a firs' year again!" Sadik, one of Arthur's classmates from the previous year, laughed.


"You studied here last year? What was it like?" a honey blond with striking red eyes gazed at him in excitement.


"Pretty shit, you know, what with the death eaters running the place and all. We didn't learn anything worth knowing, so I'm glad we're able to retake the year."


A chorus of agreements sounded from the other first years, much to Arthur's disgust. Last year had been a disappointment, that was for sure, although that was primarily because of the pansies he called classmates rather than the lessons themselves. Why, he had learnt a decent amount of interesting curses he could perform if ever someone irritated him too much, and knew more about carnivorous plants than most. Heck, he even knew how to brew some simple poisons, although actually brewing them proved more difficult than the textbook made it out to be.


The conversation quickly turned to introductions and trivial information about each other. Arthur was shocked to find out he was the only one born in Great Britain to British parents. Of course, he knew Ivan was Russian, and Sadik came from Turkey, then there was Gilbert Beilschmidt, son to a famous Quidditch player, who moved to Manchester from Germany when he was five, Vasilica Lupescu, Romanian, Vash Zwingli who still had a home in Switzerland, Jan De Vries who had only just moved over from the Netherlands and Lovino Vargas, an unpleasant Italian. And that was only the boys! Agáta Novak was born in the Czech Republic, and Chloé Desbois hailed from someplace called Monaco.


"What are you all doing at Hogwarts then?" the English boy blurted out.


He had received many confused, even offended in some cases, looks from his fellow classmates at his question.


"Because we live here," Agáta had said as though it was the most obvious thing in the world.


Deciding now wasn't the best time to inquire about everyone's blood status, Arthur kept silent, listening to his housemates chat but taking no further part in their discussions. They all seemed weak, if he was being honest. Yet more disappointments to tarnish Slytherin's reputation. 

"So, is anyone here actually eleven, or are you all twelve?" Vasilica chuckled.


"I'm thirteen, actually," Chloé corrected him, "my parents chose to home school me when I was eleven, before realising that wasn't a good idea and trying to enroll me at Beauxbatons last year. Unfortunately, I wasn't accepted, so we had to wait for everything to calm down over here before I could start at Hogwarts."


Gilbert whistled, eyes wide.


"And I though being held back a year in Munich was bad!"
Chloé managed an awkward smile back at him; apparently she wasn't as confident as she acted.


Arthur had lost interest by then. Really, these weird people were his new housemates? And he thought last year's had been bad!


By the time dessert was served, the first years had moved on from complaining about last year and droning on about their life stories to enthuse about magic. Although most of his housemates turned out to be either half-bloods, blood traitors or purebloods, a mudblood had successfully infiltrated the group with his ignorance on anything magical.


"I just don't get it. How does magic work?" Vash shook his head after Vasilica finished listing off the spells he couldn't wait to learn.


"Magic isn't science," Lars, half-blood, explained, "genetics are involved, of course, but it doesn't follow specific rules. It's a bit like a soul; you can't locate it in the human body, but it's there."


Vash wrinkled his nose, but didn't say anything else.


"I wonder whether that kid's okay..." Vasilica frowned.


"He'll be fine. Madam Pomfrey is very good at her job. She's dealt with worse," Ivan reassured him.


"What blood do you think he is?" Arthur wondered out loud.


Again, funny stares were sent his way, for some reason. Apparently his housemates didn't get the importance of blood lines. Uncultured children.


"Who cares? As long as he's not a jerk, he's good in my books," Gilbert shrugged.


"I feel sorry for him. A panic attack in front of the entire school must be horrible to go through," Agáta sighed.


"Yeah, it must suck. And wasn't he the mute kid?" the albino asked.


"In that case, we'll just have to give him an even warmer welcome when he's well enough to join us, won't we?" Ivan smiled.


Arthur fought the urge to gag. Just what on earth was his House becoming? Hufflepuff?


 

The flickering of chandelier lamps caused black spots to dance across Eirik's vision as he opened his eyes. The past was a blur. His hands were tingling. He felt exhausted.


Where was he? Lying on a bed somewhere. What was he doing here? He could remember Mikkel being sorted into Gryffindor, the hat being placed on his head, shouting "SLYTHERIN!", and everything went black. Had he passed out?


"Good, you're awake. How are you feeling? Any numbness? Dizziness?"


Eirik almost jumped out of his skin upon hearing the woman's voice, soon accompanied by a stern face looming down at him. To make matters worse, he couldn't answer her. Where was his notepad? Guessing she wouldn't understand sign language, he mined writing on the palm of his hand, and gave a small nod when she passed him the notepad and pen he had learnt to cherish.


He passed her his reply, which she examined before nodding.


"Good. You experienced a severe panic attack, so you just needed to calm down somewhere quiet. Do you know what triggered it?"


Being in a separate House to Mikkel. Wow, that probably isn't the best thing to tell her.


Instead, he shrugged, writing "stress" down on the parchment. From her pursed lips, he guessed she didn't believe him. She didn't mention it, however.


"Well, you've missed the end of the ceremony, and most of the feast, so I'll get you some sandwiches and you can choose to either rest here tonight or go back to your dorm to be with your housemates."


Eirik nodded. He didn't feel particularly safe alone in what he assumed to be the hospital wing, so was actually looking forward to being in a dorm with other people, even if they were strangers. He just hoped they weren't all like those stupid kids before the ceremony.


We can do this, Eirik. Mikkel isn't a million miles away. He's just in another dorm. You can see him in the morning. It'll be alright.


It was only when Eirik discovered that the Slytherin dorms were located in the dungeons that he reconsidered sleeping in the hospital wing after all. Dungeons brought back bad memories, memories he would rather not recall. As it was, it was to late to turn back, so he entered the ominous chambers.


For some reason, the witches and wizards who had designed the common room had decided to go all out with the green snake theme. Cold stone walls were illuminated by green lanterns and aesthetic snakes were carved pretty much anywhere they thought looked good. This left a common room with very little light and a much too ominous feeling for Eirik's liking. This was where he was supposed to live for the next seven years?


The actual dorms fared little better. After seeing how they were located down a dark corridor, the twelve-year-old wasted no time in settling down on one of the larger sofas in the common room.


There's no way I'm sleeping in there.


Vasilica couldn't sleep. Partly because excitement was bubbling in his stomach, partly because worry was gnawing it away. He had been sorted into Slytherin. Slytherin. The House which had refused to fight during the Battle of Hogwarts. A bunch of cowards and death eaters most witches and wizards were ashamed of. How had he been sorted into Slytherin?


At least Gilbert had also been sorted into the snake house. He hadn't been pleased about it either, but it didn't seem to bother him as much, judging from the snoring coming from his bed. And, sure, Vasilica's new housemates were nice, apart from the kid with the bushy eyebrows. Still, he felt unsure about the entire situation.


What would the rest of his family think about it? He doubted his parents would be too concerned, but what about everyone else?


I'm not going to get any sleep like this. Come on, Vasilica! Don't worry about that!


But the worry didn't go away. Sighing to himself, the first year swung his legs out of bed and left the dorm as quietly as possible. He didn't want to wake his housemates, especially not the foul-mouthed Italian who had snapped at them all to be quiet when they had still been chatting after light's out.


The common room was quiet, the green flame dancing in the lanterns casting an eerie glow across the stone room.


Huh? Is someone sleeping on the sofa?


Sure enough, a boy was curled up on the white cushions, chest rising and falling as he slept. Why he was sleeping here rather than in the cosy dorms was beyond Vasilica, but the Romanian chose not to wake him up. Instead, he walked over to one of the long glass windows and sat himself down.


Their head of house had told them the dorms were under the lake and that the windows had been charmed so that Slytherin students could see what the world under the surface of the lake looked like. Indeed, as soon as he approached, the window lit up, revealing murky green waters. A few fish swam past, their scales flashing in the dim light.


A gentle tap on his shoulder almost made Vasilica scream and wake up the entire House. Luckily, only a frightened squeak escaped his mouth as he swivelled around to stare at the newcomer.


The sleeping boy had visibly woken up and wasted no time in thrusting a notepad into Vasilica's face.


"Who are you? Can you not sleep either?"


It was difficult to make out the words in the dim green light, but not impossible.


"No, sorry if I woke you. Why were you sleeping on the couch?"


"I didn't want to disturb the first years. I spent the evening in the hospital wing, and only arrived here late."


So this kid was the one who had passed out at the start of the ceremony. The honey blond couldn't help but notice how he shifted where he stood and how his fingers fiddled with the strange thing he was using to write with as he waited for Vasilica to finish reading his note. He was probably shy then.


"Oh! You're the kid who passed out earlier! Are you okay? We were all really worried about you!"


The fidgeting intensified as the boy looked away, scribbling a new note down.


"I'm fine. Are you a first year too?"


"Yep! Vasilica Lupescu, nice to meet you!" Vasilica beamed at his housemate.


The smile was definitely forced, although he didn't seem mean, just... shy? Nervous?


"Eirik Thomassen. Likewise."


The conversation trailed off, neither boys quite knowing just what to say to the other. A flurry of possible questions he could ask Eirik surged through the Romanian's mind, but none seemed right this late at night. And he was worried about waking anyone else up.


"Mind if I sit with you?"


"Sure, feel free! I'm not doing anything interesting, just watching the fish, I guess."


Vasilica wondered whether Eirik was worried about being sorted in Slytherin. Well, he must have been considering how he passed out, but was it just panic or actual worry about what people would think? He couldn't bring himself to ask him about it. Instead, he watched the fish swim past, gawking at some of their pretty scales or weird shapes.


He wasn't sure how long they sat there, watching the world beneath the lake's surface come to life under the night sky, but little by little, he grew more and more sleepy, until he could no longer keep his eyes open. Maybe it was because of the fatigue, but the worry was ebbing away as well, until it was nothing more than a distant problem that didn't affect him in any way. Stretching, he stood up.


"I'm tired. You gonna sleep on the couch again?"


The subtle hesitation was exactly what Vasilica was waiting for.


"Come on! Your bed's waiting for you!"


Eirik managed a sincere smile at his invitation, and nodded.


"Thank you."


"Hey, we're in the same year and house, aren't we?" the red-eyed boy chuckled.


Then, a thought so obvious he couldn't believe it hadn't passed through his head until now struck him, and he turned to the taller blond.


"So, I know we've just met and all, we haven't really chatted or anything, but fancy being friends? I mean, I still need to find Aleksander, 'cos I haven't been able to chat with him yet, and I'm friends with Elizaveta, Gilbert and Roderich too, but you can never have too many, right?"


Eirik stared at him, face a blank slate, but he nodded, writing something down.


"I'd love to, I'd like to, I would be glad to. Yes. If you don't mind."


Vasilica grinned at him. Maybe Slytherin wouldn't be that bad after all.

 

Chapter Text

The dorms were just as dark the next morning. The pale sunlight didn't reach so far beneath the lake, therefore the only light came, yet again, from the green lanterns on the walls. Eirik felt exhausted, the nervousness eating away at his energy. He would have to meet his housemates today. Although Vasilica seemed nice and friendly, who was to say the others would be like him?

He wasn't first up, that award had been granted to a tall boy with blond hair who was currently taking some hair gel out of his bag. He looked up when he heard Eirik slip out of bed and nodded, apparently not in the mood to talk, which suited Eirik very well.

He threw on his robes before rushing out of the dorms and into the corridor, trying to remember how to make his way to the Great Hall where Madam Pomfrey had told him breakfast would be served and timetables would be distributed. It took him longer than he expected, the corridors twisting and turning, coats of armour that had been there the night before mysteriously gone, only to reappear in a completely different place. By the time he finally found the room, the benches were slowly filling.

He recognised the same boy he saw earlier sitting opposite a shorter lad, also blond-haired, albeit a darker shade. The taller one waved him over, although the shorter one made no sign of acknowledging his existence.

"You must be the kid that fainted last night. Feeling better?" the taller one asked.

Yes, thank you. My name is Eirik. I'm mute.

"Lars, and this is Arthur. Sorry, I'm not a morning person."

Arthur flickered his gaze upwards briefly, nodding quietly, before looking back at the book he'd brought with him.

Eirik helped himself to some bread and jam, keeping an eye on the table furthest away from him, hoping to spot Mikkel. Apparently he hadn't surfaced yet. Slowly, the Great Hall was filling up, until the room felt densely packed, and he wouldn't be able to spot his best friend through the crowd of black robes.

"Morning, Eirik!" Vasilica seemed unaffected by the early start, his body exuding energy.

Good morning. Did you sleep well?

"Yep, eventually. Kinda dark in the dorms, don't you think?"

Eirik nodded, taking in the group of first years on his end of the table. Three girls and nine boys. Were wizarding classes usually this small? All introduced themselves, but didn't linger on the fact he'd been missing the previous night, chatting together comfortably. Only Arthur stayed out of the conversation, nose buried in his book.

Just when Eirik was wondering whether they were allowed to leave whenever they wanted, a plump aging man walked up to the table and started to pass them timetables.

"Which one of you is the mute boy?"

Eirik raised his hand, noticing immediately that his timetable was different to that of the other first years. Tapping on Vasilica's shoulder and gesturing to his timetable, he compared the two. History of Magic, Herbology, Astronomy and Potions, he shared with the other first years, but Charms, Transfiguration and Defence against the Dark Arts were noted to take place in a separate classroom. He guessed that meant these subjects included spellcasting. Would he take them with Mikkel?

"Any reason why we have lessons at midnight on Tuesday night, lessons at eight the next day, but free period until nine on Thursdays?" Gilbert groaned.

"I'm more concerned about potions followed by herbology on Fridays. The dungeons and the greenhouses are miles apart," Sadik grimaced.

Eirik tapped Vasilica's shoulder.

Did they give you a map yesterday? I don't know where classroom 213 is.

"Nope, uh, guys, how do we find our way to class?"

"You can either ask the older students, or you can follow us. The castle is big, but you get used to it," Ivan said.

Eirik circled his second sentence and showed it to the smiling boy.

"You climb up the stairs just outside the Great Hall, until you reach the second floor, then you go... right I think, until you find the right classroom. The numbers are in the top left corner."

Thank you.

"Why can't you talk anyway?" Lovino blurted out.

One think Eirik had learnt since becoming mute was that no matter how quickly he wrote something down, people would always talk faster than he could write. So, while he was busy writing down a quick explanation, trying not to feel too miffed about the way the first year had spoken to him, Vash spoke up.

"If it was any of our business, he would have told us. Do wizards not usually interact with kids with a handicap?"

"I just asked. Why get so damn defensive about it?"

I'm a selective mute, so it's psychological. My vocal chords work, I just can't talk out loud.

He then scribbled a note to Vash.

Thank you for your help.

Then to the rest of the table.

People will ask anyway, so I'll have to get used it. I'd rather not talk about it, though. If you don't mind.

There were hurried apologies, nods and words of sympathy following his words, but Eirik wasn't paying any attention. There were too many of them, all paying attention to him. He felt trapped, like their eyes judged him, that they were observing him as though he were prey. He hated it.

Fortunately, he was able to dismiss himself from the table quickly enough and scurried back to the dorms, praying he wouldn't get lost yet again. Arthur was already there, leading Eirik to wonder whether there was a shortcut he didn't know about, but he didn't acknowledge his presence at all, which both unnerved him and relieved him.

He still hated the dungeons, the dreariness of the common room, the darkness of the dormitories. The view of the lake, he didn't mind, and allowed himself to watch the fish for a while, at least until the other Slytherins came back to get ready. His bag was packed and ready, with textbooks, copybooks, a quill and some ink sealed away in a pencilcase. He'd packed a few pens for his notebook, which laid on his lap, just in case someone asked him something. Hopefully everything would go well today.


 

Arthur was pondering whether he had time to borrow a book from the library before classes began when the vile mudblood made his way back to the dorm. He'd been thinking about him since this morning. He couldn't speak because of a psychological issue. Now, Arthur was no expert on muggle sciences, but he was fairly certain psychological meant his brain didn't work, which for him, must also mean the kid was stupid. Why waste time conversing with an idiot?

Besides, he'd had a sort of epiphany during breakfast. Mallory Rivera had made some interesting points in her book. She'd mentioned, for example, how wizards were less affected by muggle ailments and pathologies. Wizards didn't die of measles, she pointed out, while muggles needed vaccination to protect themselves and others from it. The reason must lie in magic. However, the mute kid contradicted this. There was something wrong with his brain, so how could he have magic? And thus Arthur had decided to use him as a case study. Were muggleborns truly using magic, or had they concocted a way to steal magic somehow but this one hadn't yet perfected his method of theft yet?

Name: Eirik
Age: 12
Condition: selective mutism
Blood status: mudblood
Notes: Has confirmed that his mutism is the result of a brain defect, rather than a physical one. Prefers not to "talk" about it, so maybe has something more to hide?

The ink turned invisible as it touched the parchment, a birthday present from his mother. If he tapped it with his wand, then he, and people he chose, could read it. He'd planned on using it for his research on the now banned subjects, but this worked just as well.

The first lesson of the day was Defence against the Dark Arts, or, as Arthur was starting to call it, the idiot's guide to surviving encounters with not-so-dangerous creatures. Their professor was a cheerful man with curly hair peppered with grey and a smile so infectious most of the class smiled back. Lovino Vargas' grandfather, he showed no favouritism whatsoever; quite the opposite, in fact.

The introductory lesson informed them of the curriculum, how they would be evaluated, and tips on how best to study for the exams. However, he also made a point of telling them how useful his subject was in the real world and how they would do well to remember everything he taught them.

"Last year, some of you were taught the Dark Arts. I strongly advise you to keep in mind that although in a dire situation, you may have no choice but to use them, you should set them to the back of your minds," he said. "You are Slytherins, and prejudice will rest on your shoulders far heavier than students from other Houses. Unless you want to be branded death eaters, you would do well to heed my advice."

Arthur scoffed at that, but nodded along like the rest of them. The man had a point, Slytherins were considered lesser than the other Houses, but there was no greater compliment, he thought, than to be called a death eater. What a shame the others thought differently.

The rest of the day proceeded just as boringly as he had expected. History of Magic proved exceptionally yawn-provoking, as Professor Binns droned on the same pre-made lesson he taught them the previous year. On the bright side, as Arthur knew the subject matter inside out, it allowed him to study the mute.


He sat next to Vasilica, another idiot, from what Arthur had gathered, and spent most of the lesson fiddling with his pot of ink. Had the idiot never learnt to write with a quill before? Or was he too dim to comprehend?

He seemed irritated, too. Or, at least, Arthur thought he appeared irritated. His foot tapped against the ground, and he even kicked the table leg a few times. Could his private lessons not be going well? Maybe this was proof he couldn't actually perform magic, that he was just a fraud, a muggle pretending to be a wizard.

The worst the day had to offer arrived after today's lessons came to an end. Arthur had decided to check out a few books from the library, seeing as he'd only brought a few from back home, and The Universe parallel to ours: where does magic come from? wasn't exactly a light read. Now, he had checked out books the previous year, consequently he had met the grumpy librarian, Madam Pince. This year, however, she seemed even more uptight than the last.

"Do you have permission for checking any of these out?" she queries when he asks for her help finding them.

"No, should I? I checked them out last year, and it wasn't a problem."

"They're in the restriction section. Unless you have a professor's note allowing it, I can't let you borrow them."

Arthur had left the library with some books on famous wizards instead, fuming. He'd been fine reading them last year. Why did this year have to be so bloody difficult?


 

"Professor Vargas is pretty awesome, don't you guys think?" Gilbert said.

The small group constituted of Vasilica, Eirik, Gilbert, Elizaveta, Roderich, the deaf kid Vasilica learnt was called Mikkel, and another Gryffindor called Alfred. The seven were sitting in a circle on the grass near the Owlery, working on homework and chatting about the day's lessons.

Vasilica thought giving them homework on the first day was unfair, and hadn't hesitated to say so. So far, they hadn't even learnt any magic, just theory and how they should forget most they learnt the previous year. It had been boring. He wanted to learn how to turn mice into teacups, dammit!

"Yeah, he seemed cool," Elizaveta nodded.

Her fingers were smudged with ink, a result of her never having used a quill before today. Alfred, Mikkel and Eirik were in the same boat as her, Alfred somehow having succeeded to spill his pot of ink all over his parchment.

What is he like? Mikkel wrote down.

Unlike Eirik, he didn't have a notebook, just a few sheets of paper and a pencil. For someone who couldn't hear, he was excellent at following the conversation. Sure, being stared at intensely took some getting used to, and he had to remember to slow down and articulate more, but Vasilica didn't find it as weird as he'd expected.

"Really nice. He said we'd do lots of practical work, and if anyone felt uncomfortable about anything, we could go and talk to him in private," the Romanian explained.

He sounds cool.

Mikkel was frowning despite his words, biting his lower lip. Eirik, who seemed to know exactly what Mikkel was thinking at any said time, pursed his lips and started waving his hands around. Signing, he'd told Vasilica. A way to communicate without speaking.

The two quickly started to flap their hands and pull faces with much more rigour, leading Vasilica to suspect they were arguing. Mikkel huffed loudly at one point, stamping his foot on the ground.

Their private lessons hadn't gone well, Eirik had told him. He hadn't wanted to share what happened, but he dismissed their teacher as incompetent.

One teacher for three subjects with no intention to actually teach us anything because she doesn't think we're intelligent enough to learn non-verbal spells, he had scribbled down furiously.

Mikkel eventually stormed off, leaving Eirik shaking his head in disbelief.

I need to go clear my mind. I'll see you at dinner, he wrote.

"Must be hard for them," Alfred mused once he'd gone.

"Yeah, I think it's the first time Hogwarts has actually taught students like them. They're usually home schooled," Gilbert said.

"Mikkel seemed angry though. He was all happy and smiley last night and this morning. I hope he's okay," Elizaveta frowned.

The conversation quickly veered back to their lessons and new life at Hogwarts. As the group boarded the subject of Quidditch, Vasilica spotted a familiar face from across the grounds.

"Aleksander! Hold onto my stuff, will you? I need to talk to someone."

Without waiting for their reply, Vasilica rushed towards the dark-haired boy.

"Aleks! Hold up!"

The boy whipped his head around, eyebrows furrowing as he recognised the boy he'd met at Madam Malkin's.

"What?"

Vasilica blinked. Aleksander's polite but nonetheless friendly attitude had vanished, replaced by a dark glare and crossed arms. What had happened?

"Uh, I just wanted to say hi, seeing as I didn't see you on the train. What House are you in?"

"Hufflepuff. And you're in Slytherin," the term came out almost as a sneer.

"Yeah, is that a problem?" Vasilica frowned, not quite understanding why he was acting so hostile.

"I've been told all about Slytherins. They didn't fight in the Battle of Hogwarts, they only care about blood purity and they're all death eaters. And they only care about their own House."

His friends, sniggered and looked at Vasilica as though he were a piece of dirt under their shoe. Just what was Aleksander saying?

"That's not true! I mean, we've got one guy who's a bit odd, but everyone else is nice! We're friends with some Gryffindors and a Ravenclaw, too," Vasilica protested.

Aleksander shook his head, fixing the person who could be a good friend with a cool, haughty gaze.

"Leave me alone."

Vasilica stared as he walked away, mind racing to understand what had just happened. Aleksander was muggleborn, so it made no sense for him to suddenly hate Slytherin, especially considering he had already met Vasilica. Why then, was he acting so cold?

The Slytherin dragged his feet, looking down at the floor as he rejoined his friends.

"You okay?" Gilbert asked him.

"I'm going back to the dorms. Thanks for watching over my stuff."

He ignored their worried questions, a sinking feeling in his stomach. Hufflepuff had been the House to send the most fighters during the battle of Hogwarts, Slytherin had stayed out of the conflict entirely. Only now was he starting to realise how shameful that really was. Sure, he'd been worried about being sorted in Slytherin last night, but he hadn't felt ashamed. Why had he been sorted into Slytherin, anyway? Why couldn't he be a Ravenclaw, like his mother, or a Hufflepuff, like his father and Aleksander? Was he meant to be a dark wizard after all?

The common room reminded him even more of a villain's lair, with the dim lighting, location, view underneath the lake, snakes everywhere... Eirik was sitting by the window, mouthing words from the massive book on his lap. Arthur was reading still, although he kept on glancing at Eirik from time to time. Were they destined to be death eaters too?

He hated this. Studying at Hogwarts were supposed to be the best years of his life. Why then did he feel ashamed to be there?