Back to School
A/N: I don't own Harry Potter and wouldn't particularly care to. I would like a rental agreement with option to buy for Hermione Granger. A short term contract with Nyphadora Tonks wouldn't be turned down. A Long-term agreement with Luna Lovegood would probably be a whole lot of fun. Any time Padma Patil wants to open negotiations, call me and oh for aweekend with Fleur. Oddly Lavender and Padma's sister (despite being her twin)Parvati do nothing for me...
Harry Potter and YASMWTS
(Yet Another Someone's Messing With Time Story)
Neville Longbottom sat in a leather chair in the sitting room of his grandmother's apartments within Longbottom Hall sipping at a cup of tea. Hermione and Padma had taken the boys shopping for necessities following a short meeting with their new great grandmother, leaving Neville to speak with Augusta.
The old woman peered at her grandson over the rim of her teacup. "You've had quite a few changes in your life this year Neville. The war, your marriage to the Granger girl, and now suddenly, the day after the war is over, you've adopted a pair of twins into our family."
"My wife's name is Hermione Gran. Not 'the Granger Girl'. The War is over, and yes, I've adopted my sons."
The old woman smiled. "I know her name Neville. Hermione has been good for you. Even after your adventures with Harry you would never have stood up to me." Her face took on an odd expression. "Who was the twin's mother?"
The question startled Neville. "What makes you ask that Gran? Why would I know?"
"Neville, please. Young Harry is obviously Harry Potter's son, and young Tom resembles him as well. Harry wouldn't be the first warrior to keep his family a secret until after the danger of war was past. The children would have been a prime target for You-Know-Who. I ask who their mother'was' because the boys are with you rather than with her, she must have died in the war as well. Unless..." Augusta Longbottom sat up straight in her chair. "Neville, is Hermione their mother?"
"They would have been born after your fourth year, which was when there were all those rumors about Harry and Hermione." She saw the look on her grandson's face. "Neville, I'm not judging her, I've come to love Hermione like a daughter. I just..."
"Gran." Neville said trying very hard not to start laughing hysterically. "Hermione is not the birth mother of the twins. Hermione and Harry never had any relationship outside of being dear friends. Harry Potter is not the father of either of my sons. Not everyone with messy black hair and green eyes is a Potter."
"Gran, just let it drop. Who their birth parents are doesn't matter, and I don't want the boys dwelling on what might have been."
"Tom? Are you awake?"
"Yeah Harry?" Tom looked to where he knew the bed on the other side of the room was, despite not being able to see it in the darkness.
"I just wanted you to know that I had a real good time today."
That comment perplexed Tom. "Why are you telling me? You sound like you don't expect to see me anymore."
"I don't Tom, not really. I think I've figured out what's going on. This is all just a dream. I've always wanted a family and today I got one. I've always wanted a brother who wasn't a big fat wally like Dudley, and I got you. We had so much fun today, there's only one answer that makes sense."
"And what answer makes sense?" Tom asked.
"This is all a dream and I'm going to wake up in my cupboard under the stairs." Harry answered with ashaky voice. "New clothes, magical glasses that let me actually see things, Mum and Dad, Gran, Aunt Padma, even this warm bed in a room I share with my brother? This can't be real. It just can't."
"Don't forget the Grandparents we're supposed to meet tomorrow." Tom said quietly. "I know what you mean. I've been lying here wondering how any of this could be true, wondering if I'm dreaming."
"What if it's all real?" Harry whispered.
"Then we're two lucky blokes." Tom concluded. "Good night Harry."
"Good night Tom."
In the Master Suite of Longbottom Hall, Neville was preparing for bed.
"The boys are asleep." Hermione said as she entered the bedchamber. "It took a while for them to settle down, but they're both asleep now.
"Good, they've had a hard day." Neville picked up his wand from the bedside table and cast a few diagnostic charms confirming that the suite's privacy wards were active and fully charged. "A new wrinkle to our adopting the boy's came up today while you and Padma were out shopping with them."
"Oh?" Hermione frowned, trying to think of what she might have missed.
"Yes. Gran noticed immediately that Harry looks like... well, Harry."
"We expected that."
"Yes we did, but we didn't think it through. Gran did a bit of mental arithmetic as to when the boys would have had to be born and made a most logical guess as to who their mother might be." Neville grinned.
"A pair of six year olds would have been born the summer following fourth year." Neville said quietly. "And there were only two young ladies associated with Harry that year. Pavarti and yourself."
"But..." Hermione sputtered.
"Of course everyone knows that Harry's date with Pavarti was just short of disastrous, mean while, you were almost constantly by his side through that year. Gran'squite proud of me really, seeing as I don't hold your shameful past against you."
"Neville." Hermione ground out through clinched teeth. "I am more than willing to become a widow. I do hope you disabused her of her notions."
"I informed her in no uncertain terms that you are not the twin's birth mother." Valuing his testicles, Neville wisely refrained from laughing. "We just need to be ready for it Hermione. Gran isn't the only one who can take the current date and subtract six years."
"But nothing happened between Harry and me." Hermione protested.
"You know that, and I know that. The busybodies and gossips will think and say what they want. I just wish we had thought of it first." Neville shook his head. "I was completely shocked by the suggestion, and by Gran's support of my 'protecting Harry's reputation.'"
"Harry's reputation? What about mine?"
Neville shrugged again, while moving behind his wife and wrapping her in a hug. "Scarlet woman I guess." He nibbled where her neck met her shoulder, one of her more sensitive spots. "Luckily, I'm a saint and make allowances for your youthful indiscretions ..."
"NEVILLE!" she squealed, ruing the day he discovered he could distract her so easily.
"You know," her husband said as his hands moved to her breasts. "I've never slept with a woman with twin six year olds before..."
"Neville! Stop it!" she said while leaning back into his embrace, her eyes closed, she offered her neck to his ministrations. "You're making me sound old."
"Older than me anyway." He murmured.
Padma moved from the bathroom to the bedroom of wrapped in Harry's bath robe. It had been the first thing she had bought for him after they moved in together. She pulled the lapels of the robe to her face and breathed in his scent.
The flat had always seemed so small before. She and Harry had always been bumping into each other, usually in enjoyable ways. Now, it seemed huge for just one person. Padma wasn't used to being alone. That was one thing about being a twin, there was pretty much always someone there, but Parvati and their mother had died in a Death Eater attack in Diagon Alley the year before, about a month after she and Harry had moved in with each other.
Harry had been there for her in her grief. Now who could she turn to?
There was a knock at the door. Padma stood stock still staring at the door. No one had ever come visiting before. She left the bedroom for the sitting room and looked through the peephole the way Harry had shown her.
Luna? Why would Luna be here?
"Padma?" the blond called. "Padma let me in." This was followed by more knocking.
Padma stared at the muggle locks on the door, trying to remember how Harry had said that they worked... First the death-bold... no, dead-bolt. Then lock on the door knob, and then open the door.
"Luna? Is there something wrong?"
The blond woman entered the flat and closed the door behind her, expertly relocking the door.
"I was at home, wondering what I was going to do now that Daddy is gone, and it occurred to me that someone else was alone, so I came over."
Padma stared at her former housemate for a moment, and then pulled her into a hug.
"Oh" Luna exclaimed. "You smell of Harry. You must keep that around for inspiration!"
"Inspiration?" Padma asked incredulously wondering how Luna knew what Harry smelled like, "Inspiration for what?"
"Why for fixing Harry of course. We start our research tomorrow."
"Good morning Lady Longbottom, Miss Patil. I am Disof Wills and Estates. How may Gringotts serve you today?"
Despite having lived in close association with the magical world for more than a decade, Hermione still wasn't used to interacting with Goblins. That particular Goblin seemed to be more openly antagonistic than usual.
"Thank you for your time." She said as an opening, recalling how her parents always dealt with business associates. "We have come to discuss the will of Harry James Potter."
"What is it about the will of Lord Potter-Black that you wish to discuss? I've had two different representatives of your Ministry of Magic in here already."
Padma shook her head. "We were afraid of that. Is it safe to assume that the Ministry has reported Harry's death Master Goblin?"
"It is. Your Ministry's position is that since Lord Potter-Black died without issue, the Ministry is the rightful recipient of his fortune. Will I be disabusing you of the notion that you are Lord Potter-Black's heirs as well?"
"Not at all Master Goblin." Padma answered immediately.
"We wish to take advantage of Gringotts' fabled discretion." Hermione continued. "Harry Potter is not dead."
There was silence in the cavernous room for a moment
"We know." It appeared to Hermione that the goblin's expression softened a bit. "We at Gringotts have methods of monitoring the health of our major Vault Holders. We know that something happened to Vault Holder Potter two days ago, but he is most specifically still living."
"Does the Ministry know that Harry is still alive?" Padma asked.
"Not from Gringotts." Dis said. "We do not normally discuss our Vault Holders with anyone. It is only your status as Executors of Lord Potter-Black's will and your free admission that he is still alive that has allowed this conversation to go on as long as it has."
Hermione quickly digested what the Goblin had just told them. "As I'm sure you are aware, Harry faced down Lord Voldemort two days ago."
The goblin named Dis nodded, so Hermione continued. "Harry destroyed the Dark Lord, but in doing so was deaged to the age of six years. Not just physically, but mentally and magically as well. He has no memories of his life or magic."
The goblin seemed to be considering information Hermione had supplied him. "This would explain many things that our monitoring charms have been telling us."
Hermione passed over several sheets of parchment. "My Husband and I have adopted Harry into the House of Longbottom."
"So now you are his Guardian as well as one of the Executors of his Will."
"Yes. As his Guardians, my Husband and I would like you to place Harry's estate back into trust for him until he once again reaches his majority, the exception being the reestablishing of a trust vault for him to cover his education expenses starting in the 2006 school year."
The goblin made a few notes on his desktop. "Done. Was there anything else?"
"Yes." Hermione passed over some more parchment. "My Husband and I have adopted another boy, and we would like to open a trust vault for him from the Longbottom vaults, with the same status as Harry's."
Dis accepted the parchment and read it over before an expression of shock took over his face. "Tom Marvolo Riddle? Is this a joke?"
"I assure you Master Goblin," Padma said quietly. "It is not."
"Am I to assume from your expression that you know the name?" Hermione asked.
"Names are an important part of Goblin culture. We know names. You are raising them together?"
"We are." Hermione agreed. "The battle left them both six year old blank slates; neither of them holds any responsibility for the actions of their adult selves."
"While we adults were trying to come to terms with what had happened to them, the two boys bonded." Padma explained. "We have no explanation for what has happened to them, but it has and they must be protected."
"There is already a vault in the name of Tom Marvolo Riddle." Dissaid. "There is no trust protecting that vault, as his guardian..."
Hermione thought for a moment. "Please place that vault into trust status for Tom," She hesitated for a moment. "After you remove any cursed objects of course."
Dis nodded. "And the disposition of any such objects?"the goblin asked in a way that suggested that such objects did in fact exist.
"I would like an inventory of the objects with an estimate of value, then Gringotts may dispose of them as the bank sees fit."
Dis offered the two witches aGoblin's grin. This would turn out to be a quite profitable transaction.
"Mum?" Hermione called as she entered the Granger home via the back door.
"Over here dear." Deidre Granger called from her kitchen table. She filled the mug to her right with tea. "Your father is doing his'Granddad' world tour, showing off 'his boys' to his friends."
"Daddy certainly took to them quickly."
"Ken is just ecstatic that you are all right and that your war is over." Deidre smiled. "That by its self made suddenly becoming agrandfather surprisingly easy to take."
"Were did he take them?"
"There's a funfair over near High Street. I'm sure they'll come back full to the gills with greasy food and sugar." Deidre's smile faded. "Harry was their father wasn't he?"
"Hermione, are... are they yours?"
"Mother! How can you ask me that? How can you think that I would keep something like that from you?"
"You mean like you told us about the Troll? Or being Petrified second year? Or about assisting a wanted criminal in his escape? You've kept things from us Hermione practically since you started at Hogwarts."
Hermione shook her head. "I never expected this from you Mum."
"Alright, I'll explain. Just let me get through it, alright?" Hermione sipped at her tea. "Little Harry isn't Harry Potter's son."
"Hermione, I'm not blind, anyone can see..."
"MUM! I asked you not to interrupt. My adopted son IS Harry Potter."
"Something unexplained happened then Harry fought Voldemort two days ago, their magics interacted and both of the men reverted to their six year old selves."
"What? Are you telling me your father is out with Harry Potter and Voldemort?"
"No. Daddy is out with Harry and Tom Longbottom. They are six. Not just their bodies, their minds and memories as well. Believe me, I've checked and rechecked. Once we realized what had happened, Neville and I decided to protect Harry by adopting him. But while we were trying to figure out what was going on, Harry and Tom made friends. Harry wouldn't leave his friend, just like he jumped on the back of atroll to save me; he was going to save Tom."
"So you adopted them both?"
"Neville did, without asking me, because as far as he is concerned it's the right thing to do. We can afford it; we can afford to hire help if we need it. This will give them both a chance to grow up loved. To grow up in afamily."
"Nurture over Nature?"
"In part, yes. But mostly it couldn't possibly hurt, could it?"
The two women sat in silence drinking their tea for a few moments.
"I'm proud of you Hermione." Deidre Granger said quietly. "I don't know if I could do what you are doing. I don't think many women could."
"I'm not doing anything special Mum."
"Yes you are. You've got to promise to bring them around often so we can spoil them rotten."
Hermione grinned. "Throw in free dental work and you've got a deal."
May 8, 2005:
The door of the Longbottom family study opened, attracting the attention of the two boys working on their arithmetic homework. A wide smile broke out on both of their faces at the sight of the tall red head who stuck his head in the door.
"Hey mates, your mum about?"
"She's having a lie down Uncle Ron." Tom answered.
"That's 'cause Frank and Alice are being pains." Harry added. "They're down for naps too."
"Oh, that's too bad." Ron Weasley said. "'cause Ihappened to bring a couple of brooms over that the Cannons were going to throw out... I just thought that a couple of Cannons fans like you two would like a couple of Honest to Merlin team brooms autographed by the entire squad, including the best Keeper in the world." Ron struck a heroic pose in the doorway.
"Cannon fans?" Harry sniffed. "Who's a Cannons fan? I support the Arrows!"
"But you come to all my games!" Ron protested.
"You get me free tickets." Harry explained.
Tom slapped his brother on the back of his head. "What Wonder-dummy here means is 'Thank you Uncle Ron, we'd love those brooms.'" The boy's dark eyes glinted as a smile crossed his lips, "Or you could take into account that he hates the Cannons and give them both to me..."
"You make a good point Tom. Are you done with your assignments?" The boys nodded, indicating that they were. "Well then, come on you two."
"Where are we going Uncle Ron?" Harry asked closing his notebook.
"To try out these brooms of course. What's the point of owning a broom and not going flying? What did you think you were going to do with them, clean the floor?"
"I thought you said that the team was throwing the brooms out?"
"They are Tom, because they aren't good enough for competition, but there's plenty of life in these old sticks, more than enough for a couple of knuckleheads like you two to learn to fly with them. Oh, don't tell yourMum that I asked if you were done with your school work before I took you out, I've got an image to maintain."
Twenty minutes later Hermione Longbottom made her way from her bedroom to the family study to check on the boys. She reflected that having the first two at six years old really hadn't prepared her for her twins. At three Frank and Alice were bundles of manic energy that ran her ragged.
She opened the door to the study. At least almost ten year old Tom and Harry tried to be helpful, they were...
Where could those two be? She checked their arithmetic assignments to find them completed, though as usual Harry's scrawl was untidy compared to Tom's precise handwriting. The house was quiet, which didn't make her feel better. Having been a mother for almost four years had taught her that quiet children were usually up to something.
That was when she spotted Ron Weasley through the window. What was he doing here? Hermione made her way out of the house to where Ron was... staring up into the sky?
Where she found her sons, whipping about at breakneck speeds. On Brooms. She watched as one of the boys (at this distance it was hard to tell which was which, but she suspected it was Harry from the insanity of his flying)corkscrewed around the other. Their laughter drifted down to where she stood.
"RONALD BILLIUS WEASLEY!"
Ron cringed at the sound of Hermione calling his name. She used 'Billius'. He was in trouble.
"Who told you you could put my children on those death sticks?" she shrieked.
"Calm down Hermione." Ron said quietly while he gestured to toward the boys in flight. "Look at them, Harry was born to fly, and Tom is having the time of his life."
"That doesn't mean that you can just..."
"I cleared this with Neville when I saw him yesterday Hermione. He agreed that it was time the boys were exposed to flying so that they weren't as frightened of it like you two were."
Hermione recalled Neville mentioning Ron intending to come over at dinner the previous night, but she hadn't made the association.
"I'm sorry Ron; I didn't mean to jump to conclusions like that." She looked back to the sky. "Are they safe?"
"They're limited to twenty miles per hour, the brooms won't dive past fifteen feet from the ground, they can't leave the wards and they've got sticking charms that they can't cancel until both feet are on the ground holding their butts to the sticks." Ron smiled at her for a moment before returning his eyes to the boys.
"It's good of you to do this Ron."
"Anything for Harry, you know that. As far as Tom goes, well you know I was against all this from the beginning, but he's a sweet kid. You've done a good job with him."
"Will you stay for dinner? I need to be getting Frank and Alice up, and they'll want to see their favorite Uncle."
"I was hoping for an invitation." He grinned. "I need to pick out a new favorite kid anyway."
"It turns out Harry is an Arrows supporter who hates the Cannons. I should have known when he wouldn't paint his room orange. Yep, gonna have to start forgetting birthdays and Christmas and things like that."
Hermione shook her head smiling. "I'd best see to the twins."
Fighting against all of her instincts Hermione returned to the house, and headed for the twin's rooms when she spotted Augusta staring out the window at the boy's antics. Hermione stopped at the older woman's side.
"I don't know why I thought that I could keep them from flying. It was always in Harry's blood."
Looking at them is like watching my Frank and his friends at that age." Augusta said wistfully. "I sheltered Neville so much after I lost Frank and Alice, I never let him do any of the things he wanted to do, and that stunted his development... At least until he became friends with Harry. Now I look at the man he's become and know that I had almost nothing to do with what a good man he is." She sighed. "Love your children Hermione, but let them be themselves. All this passes so very quickly."
September 1, 2006:
Neville led his family through the barrier onto platform 9 ¾. The boys were both wide eyed looking at the huge train while trying to push their carts. Neville and his sons loaded their trunks onto the last car, and then the family gathered on the platform.
Hermione was doing her level best to not cry, recalling her own first trip to the platform fifteen years before. She knelt down so as to be eye level with her two oldest boys, straightening Harry’s collar, brushing a bit of imaginary lint from Tom’s shoulder.
“I expect a letter from each of you at least every other week.” She said, trying and failing to sound stern. “Archimedes will be making the trip at least three times a week with letters from your Dad, the twins and me, so you can use him to return your letters, or use a school owl.”
“And make sure you two hellions write Frank and Alice occasionally.” Neville said gently. “As hard as it might be to believe, they’re going to miss you both.”
The call for boarding went out and the Longbottom boys scrambled into the carriage, immediately appearing in and hanging out the windows. As the Station Clock struck eleven, the big steam engine put a strain on its load and began to chug out of the station.
“Boys!” Neville called. Upon seeing he had their attention he continued. “Remember Rule One!”
Along with the rest of the parents they watched as the train pulled away from the platform.
“Dare I ask?” Hermione said with her head on her Husband’s shoulder.
“About what? Rule one? That’ pretty simple really, Rule One: No one messes with a Longbottom.” I discovered that rule in my Dad’s journals when Gran gave them to me when I turned eighteen.” Neville looked around the platform as the crowd of parents was clearing out. “You know, I don’t think I’ve ever been here without spending a little time looking for Trevor.”
“Hmm.” His wife murmured. “I think letting Tom and Harry visit Fred and George’s shop yesterday may have been a mistake.” Hermione grinned. “Oh well, Minerva’s problem now.”
“Yeah.” Neville laughed. “Say, your folks have Frank and Alice, and no one is supposed to be over for dinner until six…”
“Neville.” Hermione said in a no nonsense tone of voice.
“”We’ve got that great big library…”
Hermione’s eyes went wide. “No, we couldn’t.”
“Gran is out at one of her ‘Daughters of the Goblin Wars’ meetings.” Neville said waggling his eyebrows. “I wonder what the fine might be if you were to have an overdue book and a strict Librarian?”
Hermione took hold of the lapels of Neville’s robes and the pair vanished from the platform.
Tom and Harry hung out the windows of their carriage until the train made a turn and the platform moved out of view. The pair settled down for the journey, Tom pulling a novel from his book bag and Harry started running through wand motion drills that their Mum had taught them a couple of years before.
The door to the compartment slid open. The pair looked up from their diversions to see a pair of children roughly their own age standing in the door frame. Based on their clothing the pair, a boy and a girl who were obviously related appeared to be Muggle Born.
“Mind if we sit in here?” The girl asked.
“Not at all.” Tom said noting the Scottish lilt to her voice.
“Yeah, Lots of room.” Harry added.
“Thanks.” The boy said pulling his trunk into the compartment while eyeing the Longbottom’s robes. “I’m Alec Armstrong, this is my sister Caleigh. We’re twins.”
“Harry Longbottom, that’s Tom. We’re brothers.”
“So.” The girl said settling into the seat across from Harry while balancing a cat basket on her lap. “You are from a Magical family?”
“Yeah.” Tom said. “And you’re Muggle Born? I could see that you weren’t used to seeing robes.”
“Yes…” She seemed to be slightly embarrassed by the admission. “I guess that will make us the oddballs at Hogwarts.”
“Maybe.” Harry shrugged. “Hard to tell really, Tom and I are adopted at six. Before that we were both raised in the Muggle world. Our Dad is a Pureblood whose line goes back to like when magic was invented, and our Mum is Muggle Born.”
“So your folks know about Hogwarts?” Caliegh asked.
“Our Dad thinks that having to go to London from Edinburgh to catch a train that goes to a school in Scotland is insane.” Alec Armstrong said.
“Can’t say I would disagree with that.” Tom noted. “There must be a good reason for the communal train ride, but I don’t know what it is.”
“I think it’s so everyone can get to know one another.” Caliegh offered. “Given what I’ve read in Hogwarts: A History that seems to be the most logical explanation.” She caught sight of her brother rolling his eyes. “What?”
“I think the there have been maybe a dozen people in the whole world who have actually read that book.” Harry said grinning. “Unfortunately for us, our Mum is one of them.”
“Wait.” The girl suddenly seemed to have realized something. “You said your last name was Longbottom? Are you related to Neville Longbottom, one of the heroes of the Second War with Voldemort?”
“Forgive her.” Her brother said. “She’s been doing nothing but reading The History of the Magical World and Hogwarts: A History since we found out we were magical.”
“Well, actually Neville Longbottom is our dad.” Tom said.
“Really?” The girl seemed amazed. “Do you know any of the other heroes of that war? Ron Weasley?”
“Our Uncle Ron.” Harry offered. “He plays Keeper for the Cannons.”
“Then you know Ginny and Fred and George too?”
“What about Hermione Granger? She’s Muggle Born like us.” The girl seemed about to hyperventilate. “She was Head Girl and got the highest N.E.W.T. scores in two hundred and fifty years, despite being in the middle of the war.”
“Uh, yeah.” Tom said embarrassedly. “She is also our Mum.”
Silence filled the compartment for a moment as the girl looked at the Longbottom boys with open mouth amazement. Then she collected herself and sat back in her seat.
“You should let her know, I’m going to break her record.”
Tom smiled. “Me too. Hope you don’t mind second place.”
Harry shared a look with Alec and rolled his eyes.
“Welcome to my world Alec.” He said. “Tom here thinks he’s the smartest guy around. What really sucks about it is he usually is.”
Dinner was over, the table cleared and drinks distributed to their guests, Neville looked over to his wife. “It’s just about time.”
“It is.” Hermione agreed. “Everyone, Harry and Tom restart at Hogwarts today, the purpose for this get together is to celebrate that fact.”
“You’ve still got your little ones spending the night with your parents Hermione...” Luna noted. “It’s a bit early to be celebrating your children leaving the nest.”
Hermione smiled. “You misunderstand Luna. Five years ago we all, with the others decided to hide what had happened to Harry and Voldemort from the world at large. Tonight we may get our first inkling of how much difference we’ve made.”
“I don’t understand Hermione.” Dean Thomas said. “What are you talking about? This feels like one of your revision sessions back in the old Common Room. I never knew what you were talking about then either.”
Hermione opened her mouth to respond, but Padma beat her too it.
“Hermione means that tonight Harry and Tom are sorted. If Tom is sorted into any house other than Slytherin, we can take that as an indication that we’ve made a real difference in his life.”
“But even if he is a Slytherin, that doesn’t mean he’s going to be an evil git does it?” Ron asked.
Tracey Davis was sitting to Ron’s left, and she reached over to pull the tall redhead into a hug. “There was a time when you wouldn’t have asked that question Ron. Thank you.”
“Yeah, well, Tom’s a sweet kid… I just don’t want to think of him as… I don’t know… Evil.”
“So, Hermione, are we waiting for an owl from Minerva to tell us what happens?” Ginny Macmillan asked.
“No Gin, we don’t need to do that.” Hermione spread out an old tatty sheet of parchment, and then tapped it with her wand. “I solemnly swear I am up to no good.”
“The map.” George breathed.
“I always wondered what happened to it.” Fred agreed.
The map finished drawing its self while Susan Bones peered at the dots with the associated names moving about the enchanted parchment.
“This is how Harry managed to get away with everything he did?”
“The map, an invisibility cloak, good friends and a whole lot of luck.” Hermione agreed. “Look, the student’s are starting to arrive.” She pointed to clusters of six dots and names coming up the drive to the entrance of the castle.
“And there are the firsties.” Padma said pointing out clusters of four dots and names slowly moving across the lake.
“Firs’ years! Firs’ years over here!” The man speaking was huge. Harry noticed how his appearance had startled the Armstrongs.
“Hey Hagrid!” He called.
“Good ‘ter see ya Harry. How ye doin’ Tom?” The half giant called out.
“Just fine Hagrid.” Tom answered as the first years followed Hagrid to the docks.
“That’s Hagrid.” Harry explained to Alec. “He teaches Care of Magical Creatures. Nicest adult ever, that one.”
Hagrid quickly got the first years settled into the small boats that waited for them.
“No more’n four to a boat!” He called. Tom led Harry and the Armstrongs to one of the boats in the middle of the small fleet, while the other children clambered onto their own boats. Hagrid did something with his pink umbrella and all of the boats sailed away from the docks, shortly giving the first years their first view of the castle.
“Heads down!” the giant yelled as the first boats reached the cliff; they all ducked as the little boats carried them through a curtain of ivy that hid a wide opening in the cliff face. They went through a long dark tunnel, which went underneath the castle.
The boats pulled up alongside yet another dock and the students disembarked following Hagrid. The large man approached an ornate door and knocked three times.
The door swung open at once. A small, wizard in blue robes stood in the doorway. He had a most jovial face. “Good Evening Professor Hagrid.”
“The firs’ years, Professor Flitwick,” said the giant.
“Thank you, Professor Hagrid. I will take them from here.”
He led the students inside. The stone walls were lit with flaming torches, the ceiling towered high above them, and a glistening marble staircase facing them led to the upper floors.
Following Professor Flitwick, Tom could hear the drone of voices from a doorway. The upper forms must be waiting, but the first years were shown into a small alcove off the hall.
“Welcome to Hogwarts,” said Professor Flitwick. “The start-of-term feast will begin shortly, but before you take your seats in the Great Hall, you will be sorted into your houses. The Sorting is a most momentous ceremony because, while you are here, your house will be something like your family within Hogwarts. You will have classes with the rest of your housemates in your year, sleep in your house dormitory, and spend free time in your house common room.
“The four houses are called Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin. Each house has its own noble history and each has produced exceptional witches and wizards. While you are at Hogwarts, your achievements will earn your house points, while any breaking of the rules will lose house points. At the end of the year, the house with the most points is awarded the house cup, a great honor. I hope each of you will be a credit to whichever house becomes yours.
“The Sorting Ceremony will take place in a few minutes in front of the rest of the school. I shall return when we are ready for you,” said Professor Flitwick. “Please wait quietly.”
“So, how does this sorting work?” A tall girl standing to Caliegh’s left asked.
“Some sort of test, I think. From the way my sister talks about it, it tests your mind and body.” A short boy said with an Irish accent.
Tom frowned. “All you do is put on a hat. Our Uncle Ron told us. The Hat looks into your mind and decides where you would best fit in.”
“If you’ve got a preference, you can ask for it.” Harry added. “The Hat doesn’t always listen to you, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.”
“Put on a hat? Is that all?”
The crowd of first years all seemed to calm down at that news, with the exception of some of the Muggle Borns who seemed disturbed by the idea that a hat could think
“Come along now,” The happy voice of the diminutive Professor came from behind them. “The Sorting Ceremony’s about to start. Form a line now,” Professor Flitwick told the assembled first years, “and follow me.”
It was odd really. As the first years trooped into the Great Hall, the adults assembled in the Longbottom dining room became silent, just as if they were once again seated at their house tables. The first dot sorted was labeled ‘Alec Armstrong’ who went to Hufflepuff; Alec was followed by Caliegh Armstrong (his sister?) who went to Ravenclaw. They watched as the dots worked their way through the alphabet, finally coming to ‘Abigale Lincoln’.
“Harry’s next.” Hermione said breaking the silence.
As if that had been its cue, the dot labeled ‘Harry Longbottom’ separated its self from the pack and moved to where they knew the stool and Sorting Hat sat.
Harry felt the hat come down over his head.
“My my my Mr. Longbottom. I’ve never sorted anyone twice, yet here you are again.”
“I don’t remember the first time Mr. Hat.”
“I see that as well. As I recall, you went to Gryffindor last time, is that still your preference?”
Harry thought for a second. “I don’t really care. I’d like to be with Tom if possible, but not if he needs to be somewhere else.”
“I see you are brave Mr. Longbottom, just as your birth parents were and your adopted parents are. I also see your need for friends, your loyalty and your work ethic. I also see that you’ve got a supply of recreational objects from the Weasley brothers… Hmm. You are still so very ambitious, but I don’t know if the world is ready for a Longbottom in Slytherin house… Tricky. You could easily fit in with any of the houses…” The Hat quit speaking in Harry’s mind and spoke aloud.
The assembled adults in the Longbottom watched as the dot labeled ‘Harry Longbottom’ made his way to a most unexpected table.
“HUFFLEPUFF?” Ron Weasley turned to Hermione. “What the hell did you do to Harry?”
“And what’s wrong with Hufflepuff Weasley?” Susan Bones asked dangerously.
“Nothing’s wrong with the ‘Puffs Sue, but this is Harry we’re talking about here. He’s the guy who invented rushing into places where angels fear to tread.”
“While making friends everywhere he went and showing an extreme level of loyalty to those friends.” Ernie MacMillan noted.
“That was the old Harry, Ronald.” Luna observed. “This Harry has had a loving home, family, and friends for the last five years. Of course he’ll be different.”
“Tom’s next.” Neville pointed out.
Tom sat rigidly on the three legged stool, dreading what was to come.
“There’s no reason to worry Mr. Longbottom, we’ve done this before after all.”
“The first time didn’t turn out all that well though did it Sorting Hat? I mean, I don’t remember ever doing this before, but you know who I am.”
“Who you were Mr. Longbottom. You humans are, after all, nothing more than the sum of your choices. The first time I was on your head you had made very different choices. If a history of the Dark Lord Voldemort had been available to the young man I sorted in 1938, he would have been thrilled by his achievements. The young man I’m sorting in 2006 has read of those exploits and is desperate to avoid becoming what he once was.”
Tom digested the Hat’s wisdom for a moment. “I don’t think I should be in Slytherin.”
“It has been noted, Mr. Longbottom, that Slytherin house would be the very last place a true Slytherin would ever want to be sorted. Let us see where you belong, shall we? You feel tremendous loyalty to your adopted family and friends, loyalty worthy of a Hufflepuff. There is no doubt that you are very intelligent truly a Ravenclaw, and the bravery you show in trying to avoid the pitfalls of your previous life more than qualifies you for Gryffindor. Your ambition speaks for itself…”
The ancient hat seemed to ponder for a moment. “Truly, even more than your brother, you would prosper in any of the houses… But Hufflepuff wouldn’t challenge you… You would do well in Gryffindor, but I’ve already done that joke.”
“Joke?” Tom asked.
“Yes, I mix things up to keep life interesting in the old castle. A few years ago, out of boredom I sorted a brave little genius into Gryffindor when Ravenclaw suited her better. She shattered the grade curve in Gryffindor House, then began tutoring and revising with the house at large, hauling the entire house up fifteen percentage points. It was amusing, but I don’t like repeating myself. I won’t do that again for a century or two.”
“Of course Mr. Longbottom, who else? So, back to the task…” The Hat was suddenly speaking aloud…
Hermione and Neville looked at each other as the dot representing Tom moved from the location of the Sorting Hat and made his way to his new house table.
“Ravenclaw!” Neville breathed.
“We’ve done it.” Hermione agreed. “We’ve broken the cycle.”
Around the table, laughter spread and glasses were clinked together.
“Ok, we’ve got to get invitations to the Quidditch games.” Ron enthused. “They’re both natural born fliers, the ‘Puffs and ‘Claws would be crazy not to have them on the house teams.”
“I know I’m having words with Professor Sprout. It’s been too long since the ‘Puffs had a decent Seeker.” Susan Bones said.
Ginny pulled Hermione into a hug. “Thank you for helping them both. I was so wrong back then, thank you Hermione.”
“Gin… I wonder how Hogwarts will deal with my boys?” she asked changing the subject.
“Are you going to let them have the Map?” George asked.
“No. God knows what sort of mischief those two would get up to with the map.”
“I’m guessing you won’t be giving Harry his cloak either?” Fred asked. “Because after all, you know for certain what sort of mischief one can get into with one of those…”
“That was different!” Hermione protested. “Besides,” she smirked. “Now I can keep an eye on them, instead of the other way around.”