Credit for the chapter image goes to nala @ TDA! ♥
Chapter Two: Seven Years Previously
Albus Dumbledore stood by the lake, awaiting the arrival of Hogwarts' new first-years, who he could now see rowing across the waters. He smiled when he heard their gasps carrying over the water as they took their first look at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the place where they would spend the next seven years of their lives. Ogg, the gamekeeper, was first to arrive and quietly moored his boat, before he and Albus quickly assisted young eleven-year-old students out of their boats, most of whom were unfamiliar with sailing. Albus noticed Tom Marvolo Riddle, the boy whom he'd met at a Muggle orphanage in London and who he'd promised himself he would keep an eye on.
In the same boat as Tom were two girls and another boy; Albus surveyed them carefully as he extended his hand towards them. He was almost positive that the dark-haired, dark-eyed girl was Walburga Black, who had suffered from a terrible bout of dragonpox the previous year causing her attendance at Hogwarts to be delayed. Consequently, by the way their features were so similar, Albus could deduct that the other boy was Walburga's younger brother Alphard. And of course he remembered the young flame-haired girl who accompanied them; he had paid Fiona Phoenix a visit personally over the summer, just like he had with Tom. Unlike the boy, the girl had been full of indignation at having no choice but to attend boarding school, declaring that she didn't want to become “one of those posh toffs” despite Albus' reassurances that witches and wizards from all walks of life attended Hogwarts.
“Welcome to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry,” Albus smiled at the young students standing in front of him. “My name is Professor Albus Dumbledore; I am the Deputy Headmaster and Head of Gryffindor. Follow me or Mr Ogg, and we'll take you to the Entrance Hall. Please do not wander off; these passages are dangerous to navigate for children your age, and I'm sure none of you have the desire to get into trouble on your first night.”
“He'd be wrong,” Alphard whispered to the redhead he'd become friends with on board the Hogwarts Express. “I've got a jar full of spiders and I fully intend to let them loose in Cousin Abraxas' bed tonight to get him back for putting frogs in mine.”
Fee laughed, her emerald eyes sparkling.
“Is he scared of spiders then?” she asked curiously.
“That'd be the understatement of the millennium
,” Alphard answered with a grin. “Once, Abraxas was sleeping at ours and he saw a spider in the bath, so he ran out of the bathroom screaming while he was still naked! It was the funniest thing I've ever seen!”
“If he's that scared, don't you think it's overly harsh to prank him like that?” Fee queried as they reached the Entrance Hall. “Shouldn't you use something different? What about frogs? He pranked you with frogs so you could do the same in return.”
“I'm not a copy-catter,” the boy replied scornfully.
Albus stopped in the middle of the Entrance Hall and held both of his hands up in the air in a silent request to all the students to quieten, before indicating towards the doors leading to the Great Hall.
“This is the Entrance Hall. Through those doors is the Great Hall, where all your meals will be served. It is also where you will be Sorted into your respective Houses. The people in your House will be considered somewhat like family whilst you are at Hogwarts. You will share dormitories, a common room and your classes with your House. There are four Houses here at Hogwarts named after the four Founders of the school; Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw. Each House has its own noble history and all have produced spectacular witches and wizards. While you are at Hogwarts, your accomplishments will be rewarded with House points, while misbehaviour leads to points being taken away. At the end of the school year, the House which has the most points will win the House Cup which is considered to be an honour. I hope that each and every one of you will thrive in your House and be a credit to the school. Now, before we enter, do any of you have any questions?”
None of the first-years spoke up, unsurprisingly. Albus smiled at them gently before leading them into the Great Hall and promptly indicated where they should queue, before conjuring the scroll of names into his hands. He waited while the Sorting Hat opened its brim and started to sing its annual song.
“It has been almost a thousand years
Since the day I was newly sewn
A day when four wizards lived
Whose names remain well-known
They worked hard to fulfil their dreams
And eventually Hogwarts School began
They divided their students into four
Each Founder having their own plan
While alive they chose their worthy ones
From the incoming throng
But they feared for when they died
How could they choose when they were gone?
So Gryffindor whipped me off his head
And the Founders put brains in me
Now, when I am placed atop your head
I can tell you where you should be
Will you be in Ravenclaw, who only takes
Those with great intelligence?
If you have an eagerness to learn
There you'll find you can make a difference
Or will you be in Gryffindor, where
Dwell those with courageous hearts?
If you're known to be daring and chivalrous
There you'll find those with similar pasts
Will you be in Slytherin, who only takes
The purest blood and the most dignified?
If you're full of cunning and ambition
There you will find your kind
Or will you be in Hufflepuff, where
You'll find those unafraid of toil?
If you'd never betray a friend
There you'll find those also loyal
Now allow me to look in your mind
And I'll tell you where you belong
For in almost a thousand years
I've never yet been wrong
“When I call out your name, you are to come forward and sit on the stool, and I will place the Hat upon your head,” Albus instructed. “Alphard Black!”
The long-haired boy stumbled forward, and it didn't take the Sorting Hat long at all to declare, with a loud shout, “SLYTHERIN!”. Walburga was called forward next, and walked more smoothly. The Hat was millimetres away from her head when it Sorted her into what she dubbed “the house of my fathers”. A multitude of students were Sorted into their Houses, and consequently the queue shrunk until only ten children were left.
Fee walked over to the stool and sat on it, and the Hat was placed on her head.
Hmm, that's interesting.
That you can read my mind? Yeah, I know- it's crazy.
I didn't mean that, Miss Phoenix. I was remarking on how a mother could possibly leave her daughter in the street, abandoned and alone. It's interesting in the sense that in all my years Sorting young sorcerers, I've never seen a child treated like that.
You don't need to tell me I'm a freak of nature; I already know that. Anyway, I thought you were supposed to announce which House I'm in, not psycho-analyze a dead woman's actions?
How do you know that she's dead?
Death is the only excuse I'll accept for why she's never tried to find me all those years.
That's fair enough, I suppose. May I ask you a question, just to confirm my suspicions?
When you grow up, what would you like to be?
I'm only eleven! Not all eleven-year-olds can answer that question, you know. I can, though. Ever since I found out I was a witch, I've been reading the Daily Prophet and I've decided: I want to be the Minister for Magic.
You do know that there's never been a female Minister for Magic in all of history?
There's always a first time for everything.
I think you might be one of the most ambitious people I've ever met since Salazar Slytherin himself, Fiona Phoenix. Good luck- although you probably won't need it.
Fee flinched when the Hat shouted, its voicing sounding much louder from atop her own head. She got up and began walking to the Slytherin table, where Alphard was standing on his bench clapping and whooping uproariously, earning himself glares from his sister. Behind her, she heard Albus call Tom's name and, when they passed each other, she gave him a friendly smile. At the Slytherin table, Alphard had saved two seats next to him and explained he'd glared so convincingly that no-one had dared to take the seats he'd demanded were for Fee and Tom.
“Thank you,” Fee grinned.
“SLYTHERIN!” the Hat shouted, and Tom walked over too, smiling as he rejoined Fee and Alphard.
“So how do you two know Walburga and Alphard?” a blond boy with shoulder-length hair asked. “I've never seen either of you before and I know all the pure-blood families. I'm Abraxas Malfoy, by the way.”
“We met on the Hogwarts Express. And as for why we've never met, I was raised in a Muggle orphanage after my mother died in childbirth,” Tom explained. “It was the worst place on earth.”
“I'd agree with you there, Tom,” Abraxas said with disdain in his voice. “Well, you're certainly pure-blooded, since Slytherin House has never taken in any half-breeds or Mudblood filth. How about you, Fiona?”
“The name's Fee, nobody calls me Fiona,” she answered with an American accent. “I'm American; my mother died when I was five, so the police sent me to live with Muggles.”
“I didn't hear you use your American accent on the train!” Alphard complained, elbowing the young redhead. “You should keep it permanently, it suits you.”
“Really?” Fee asked, turning to the raven-haired boy, who nodded violently. “Okay then.”
“Alphard, you shouldn't nod so over-eagerly.” Abraxas sneered. “Anyone would think you were mentally retarded.”
“Yeah,” Fee nodded in agreement. “I'm sure even that spider next to Abraxas agrees.”
The blond boy yelped in terror and scrambled out of his bench in fright, so quickly that he slid off his seat and fell unceremoniously onto the floor. Alphard laughed hysterically, and when he glanced at Fee she gave him a wink.
“Best friends,” she whispered.
He grinned in response.
You're starting school this week. If I'm honest, I think I might be more excited than you. I keep wondering what your favourite subjects are going to be and if you're going to be in the library permanently or forever outdoors.
I know you'll do well in class. I'm sure you'll make lots of friends. I'm so proud of who you're growing up to be; I just wish I could be there to tell you that in person.
But I know it's my own fault that I can't be.
I'm so sorry. Please forgive me.