Chapter 1 : Graínne (The Sorting Feast)
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"We welcome you to Hogwarts," said Deputy Headmistress Professor McGonagall with a severe sort of smile. The little knot of students nodded their thanks, looking nervous, trying to look cool. They were, after all, sixth and seventh years.
"One of the traditions that we observe here at Hogwarts is the Sorting Hat," she went on. "This will place you in your House, which will be your home away from home, your surrogate family. You have all chosen to be Sorted publicly, and so when I call your name, please come forward, sit on the stool, and I will place the Hat upon your head. It will announce your House."
There was a slight shifting among the group, and before McGonagall could say "Adamson, Angela," a confident blond girl stepped forward. She perched on the stool with a bounce and rolled her eyes up to watch for the brim of the hat. After only a moment, it called, "Hufflepuff!"
The students watched this Sorting much more avidly than they had the first-years. There had never been international transfer students there, as far as they knew, only visitors from rival European schools the one time, for the Triwizard Tournament. Benjamin, Ira, was tall and lanky, and went to Ravenclaw. Brookes, Shelby, went to Slytherin. Cameron, Graínne, was the first Gryffindor. Harry watched her heart-shaped face, which was very solemn, with a certain detachment, although he sensed Ron and Seamus coming to attention to his left, and Hermione across the table sitting up, too. She was, he noticed, very pretty. There was more about her than looks, though what it was he couldn’t tell. Whatever it was slipped through his dulled senses and made him alert to her, when normally he would not have noticed her at all. The candles of the Great Hall, though bright enough, failed to show just what color her hair was, only that it was dark but not black, and very curly, pulled back from her face. She dropped onto the bench by Ginny Weasley, who welcomed her pleasantly.
Gryffindor also gained two boys in the Sorting, Lynford Ross and Joe Welles. Harry nodded a greeting to them as they joined the table, smiling benignly. His insides were aching with hunger-- he had gone through another growth spurt on the train, he was sure-- and he just wanted the formalities over. He had also caught a glimpse of a new Slytherin that made him wonder: pale and pointed like Malfoy, they looked like brothers. However, hunger was uppermost.
"Welcome to Gryffindor," said Nearly Headless Nick cheerfully, to the newcomers as the food appeared. "From whence do you hail?"
"I’m from Northern Witchcraft and Wizardry, in Michigan," said Joe Welles. "We call it Northern WW. My dad got transferred to Birmingham in his job. He’s a Muggle."
"I went to Sturdonville," said Lynford Ross in a deep-South drawl. He had a pleasant voice, deep and calming. He was tall and thin like Ron, but his hair and eyes were dark, and his skin was deeply tanned. "It’s in Georgia."
"Are all the transfers from the US?" Hermione asked curiously.
“Um, no, some were from other countries. There’s one girl from Africa, and a guy from South America, that I know of." Lynford tasted the pumpkin juice cautiously. "But I didn’t meet everyone."
"Neither did I. What about you, Cameron?" called Joe Welles, leaning a little to catch the girl’s eye. "Where are you from?"
"Thunder Hall," she answered quietly. "Colorado."
"It’s a Scottish name, though," Seamus pointed out.
She nodded. "My parents went to school here."
"Really?" Harry asked. "Mine did too. A lot of us are legacies, in fact. How long ago?"
"Oh, ages. My parents went to the US over twenty years ago." She eyed him very briefly, but Harry had the feeling it was a thorough inventory. "I’ll ask them, though. What are their names? Maybe they knew each other after all. My mom has a good memory."
"James and Lily Potter. Uh, Lily Evans," he corrected.
He was watching her for a reaction. She only nodded, and said, "That must mean you’re Harry. I’m Graínne."
"Grawnyah?" Ron echoed, wanting to make sure he got it right.
"Yes. As this one has surmised, it’s Scottish. My parents are both from the clans." She had indicated Seamus with her eyes, but now she looked up at the ceiling and around at the walls. "This is a gorgeous place. You’re very lucky." Despite her flat American accent, she spoke very precise English.
"What’s Thunder Hall like?" Ginny asked.
"Stuck up," said Welles with a laugh.
"Not nearly so much style, architecturally speaking," said Graínne Cameron, ignoring him pointedly. "It’s in the mountains, very isolated. The buildings are probably all just as big, but not so great to look at, more institutional and utilitarian, not nearly so old. Academically, it’s probably one of the best in the Western Hemisphere. And they are very long on learning good manners." Though she never looked at Welles, everyone knew it was a barb aimed at him, and he had the grace to blush.
"Do you play Quidditch there?" Harry asked, looking at Graínne, but meaning the US.
"Yes," she replied. "The schools often have better teams than the amateur leagues."
"Thunder Hall teams are rated the best amateur Quidditch teams in the whole country," said Lynford fairly. "Better than the adult amateur leagues, and better than a lot of semi-pro teams."
"That’s where I’ve seen you before!" ejaculated Welles. "You have twin brothers, don’t you? They’re Beaters, and you’re a Seeker--"
"No. You’re right about Jamie and John, they are Beaters. Or maybe you mean Will and David, they’re twins, too, only they were Chasers in school. The Js are identical."
"But do you play?" Ginny persisted.
"Ginny!" interrupted Colin Creevey. "Professor McGonagall wants the prefects!"
Harry now found himself next to Graínne Cameron. "Do you?" he asked.
"I have," she said at last, pushing her potatoes around. "But your teams are probably all set by now. Summer try-outs and Quidditch camp?"
"No, our season doesn’t start until October. We don’t do any pre-season preparations or camps or anything, but I wish we could. We’re looking for Beaters and Chasers. I know Ginny’s going to try out for Chaser, but there are still three other openings."
"Who is Ginny? That nice one who just left? Oh. And do you play?"
“He’s team Captain," put in Seamus Finnigan proudly.
"Seeker. What did you play at Thunder Hall?"
"Chaser. Keeper, a few years back, during a desperate few months. It was ugly. I played Seeker my first year."
"This is Ron Weasley, our Keeper, and that’s our friend Hermione Granger. This is Seamus Finnegan, he’s a sixth year too, and Ginny’s Ron’s sister, she’s a fifth-year. That’s Dean Thomas, over there, on your other side. And you’ve met Welles and Ross, apparently."
"Howdoyoudo?" she said automatically, nodding to each. She shook the hand that Hermione stuck out over the table. So far, she had only given them a little smile, in the way of expression, but something in Hermione’s face made her relax, and her smile became dazzling.
"You’ll be rooming with us," said Hermione, returning the smile. "Very top of the tower. Gryffindor is definitely the best House."
"She’s only a little biased," said Ron.
When the last of the desserts had faded away from the golden plates, Professor Dumbledore stood up and addressed the school. Harry paid attention, but his eyes kept straying to the curly dark hair beside him. It was in a single braid, which hung down to her waist, and was as thick as his wrist. He had a suspicion it was dark red. She was shorter than he, and her hands were graceful, but they looked strong, too. She never moved while Dumbledore was speaking, and afterwards she looked around at her tablemates. Harry’s was the only eye she caught in the scramble to go up to bed.
"Is that a half-giant?" she asked softly.
"Hagrid, yeah. He’s a right one. Care of Magical Creatures."
"Oh. And the dark, greasy one?"
She gazed up at him. "You hate him, I see."
"Devoutly. And it’s quite mutual."
"Mmm. And the vice—I mean deputy headmistress?"
"Professor McGonagall? Transfiguration. Also Gryffindor Head."
"Ah. I should have known. That explains – and she’s our Head of House? Where is this House to which I now belong?"
For the first time in months, Harry smiled, though it was just a small one, and rather painful in coming forth, as if he wasn’t used to it. "I hope you don’t mind stairs."
Graínne Cameron peered through the door of the dormitory. "Is this where I am supposed to be?" she asked humbly.
"Ah, there you are! I lost sight of you after the feast, I meant to bring you up here and show you around. Your trunks are just there, that’s the empty bed. Only it’s yours, now. This is Lavender Brown, and this is Parvati Patil. Ladies, this is Graínne Cameron."
"Hi," said the two girls, smiling.
"Hi," answered Graínne. "Just us four?"
"Super. Do you all like chocolate?" She opened the smaller of the two trunks.
"Who doesn’t?" giggled Lavender.
Graínne pulled out foil-wrapped chocolates shaped like rosebuds. "My mother’s pretty old-school, and believes that newcomers should bring gifts. These are from Bridgers Confections in New York City. It’s the best wizard candy in the States, they say." She unwrapped one for herself. "I always have room for chocolate, especially around that time!"
Parvati laughed, and Hermione nodded knowingly. Lavender looked faintly embarrassed, but she giggled. Apparently sisterhood superseded the national reputation for reserved demeanor.
They chatted while unpacking, tacking up pictures and posters, preparing for bed. Suddenly Ginny knocked and put her head in at the door. "All right, Graínne?"
"Cheers, Ginny," said Graínne with a grin that charmed all of them. "Us red-heads have to stick together. You’re a prefect?"
"Yeah. Don’t hold it against me. Hey, what kind of broom is that?"
"It’s a Thor." She stretched out her hand, and the broom hopped off its rack on the wall into her hand. She held it out to Ginny. "American. It ranks with the Firebolt in independent consumer studies. Rumor has it that the new model is going to be tapped for the World Cup in two years."
"It looks sharp. It has to be fast if it’s ranked with the Firebolt. Our Seeker has one."
"Wow. I’ve read they’re really good. I’ve wrecked a broom a year since I was nine. This is the only one I’ve had longer than nine months, and I like it better than any of its predecessors. I never had a Firebolt, though, only American brooms. They don’t have the import duties on them, and my parents, being good Scots, are cheap."
"Are you going to try out for the team?" Ginny gave it back and accepted a chocolate rose.
"I don’t know. Maybe. I had thought your teams would be set already, so I didn’t give it much consideration. And I didn’t want to seem like a pushy bossy American."
"Why did you transfer, Graínne?" asked Parvati, as Lavender looked embarrassed. It was so patently her opinion of Americans, being the loudly-voiced opinion in her home, that she was embarrassed to find it voiced here, by an American. It was like having a secret discovered.
"Oh, my parents have been contracted by the Ministry of Magic. My younger brothers stayed in Colorado with my oldest brother and his family. They’re still at Thunder Hall. I was going to stay there, too, but a chance to come here to school -- I wasn’t going to miss it."
"I don’t know, what you were saying about Thunder Hall sounded like it’s a pretty good school," said Hermione.
"But it doesn’t have Professor Dumbledore. He’s legend." She tacked up a photo of a large group of people, mostly boys. Most of the boys had dark brown hair and laughing blue eyes. Graínne and her mother had dark red curls and dark green eyes. Her dad was like the boys, except he was going gray. One of the boys, though, had dark blond hair and gray eyes.
"Wow, those are all your relatives?" asked Parvati.
"No, not all. Just the immediate family. My parents, my brothers Bart, Will, Dave, Charlie, Johnnie, Jamie, Fergus, and Bruce."
"I’m an only child," said Hermione. "Wow! They’re all hot, Graínne, even the young ones! Will they come to visit you, I hope?"
She laughed. "Will and Dave, maybe. Bart is looking after the brats--he’s married, anyway, and Charlie doesn’t go out of his way for anyone."
"Let me know if they do come to visit," yawned Ginny. "I’m for bed. Good night, ladies."
They called their wishes for her rest after her as she went out. Graínne pulled off her robes and sat down to jack off her boots with a quaint wooden tool that she used and tossed back into her trunk. The Muggle clothes she had on were extremely cool, narrow-cut hip-hugger jeans and a fitted shirt that showed a slender waist and a curvy figure. "It has been such a long day. I could sleep for a week!"
"Well, unfortunately, we only have about eight hours available right off the bat," Hermione answered, unbuttoning her skirt. "Hey, you photos, about-face!"
Obligingly, all the figures in the photos turned around. Graínne stripped out of her clothes along with the others and slipped into her flannel pajamas. "I don’t think I brought enough warm clothes," she said with a shiver. "Is it still the first of September?"
"All day. And wait until January," Parvati told her. "Castles may be picturesque, but they’re as cold and drafty as the great outdoors."
Soon they settled down, and the candles were extinguished. Graínne, restless, looked out the window over the grounds below for a while before closing the red velvet hangings around the head of her four-poster bed. So far she liked it here. Her roommates were nice, her house-mates seemed to accept her. She just wished she could go home on Friday.
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