FernWithy (fernwithy) wrote,

...and the Forest Guard, Chapter Four: The Smallest Year, pt. 1

Countdown, countdown. Today, tomorrow, and Friday, no spoilers in titles and icons. Saturday morning, I'm even thinking of switching my default icon to a spoilery one.

Table of Contents and Summary So Far Spoiler character name in page title.

Teddy has arrived at Hogwarts after a (mostly) pleasant trip on the Hogwarts Express, during which he met his friend Frankie Apcarne's geeky gang of RPG-ers, who have a secret society to "fight evil," which involves sneaking out into the Forbidden Forest every couple of weeks. Frankie promises that they will still be available as friends even if Teddy isn't sorted into Hufflepuff with them. On the whole, Teddy is feeling pretty good until he's down at the edge of the lake with a group of fifteen first years--and he realizes that this is his entire year. As a less than pleasant classmate points out, a lot of half-bloods didn't exactly make it through their birth year.

For the record, the original name of the unpleasant classmate was originally going to be "Sarah," but myf recommended "Honoria," and I'm happy enough to pick that one up. (At least, unlike one of Bill and Fleur's daughters who needs a new name, I hadn't used it yet!)

Hagrid took a single boat to himself; the first years split into four boats, with the last one only containing three students. Teddy was one of them, the unpleasant brunette was another. The last student was the small, beady-eyed boy with black hair, who identified himself as Maurice Burke, and, without stopping to breathe, added, "Yes, from Borgin and Burke's, but that's my great-uncle and we don't take money from them."

The girl looked at him coolly. "Honoria Higgs," she said, then added, looking at Teddy, "That's Teddy Lupin. He lives with Andromeda Black. His father was a werewolf." She turned back and leaned toward the prow of the boat, looking ahead at the castle.

Maurice gave Teddy an apologetic sort of look and said, "Nice to meet you. Wonder what her story is."

"I'm guessing spoilt rotten," Teddy said.

Maurice laughed. "True. If it were anything more interesting, she'd have told us about it at length."

The wind blew, and a cloud passed from the full moon, lighting the castle with a silvery gray glow. The battlements high on one tower shone brighter, where the stones were newer on the fresh repairs, and the new brass fixtures on the huge doors shone like lamps. These were only the most surface of repairs, Teddy knew--it had taken a decade to repair all of the damage done by the dark spells that had broken Hogwarts' protections on the night his parents had died--but they stood out, a symbol of defiance. He imagined his parents storming in here, diving into the battle--

"We'd better watch out," Honoria Higgs said. "Who knows what happens to a werepup when it sees the full moon?"

Had Teddy thought for a moment about what he was doing, he probably wouldn't have done it, but he didn't. As Honoria looked over her shoulder smugly, he morphed as he had for Hermione at the picnic, forcing hair out of his face, sharpening his teeth, pointing his ears.

Honoria's composure broke entirely. She scrambled to the front of the boat, which rocked alarmingly, then slipped over the side into the lake. She was halfway to Hagrid's boat before she looked back again. Maurice Burke was doubled over laughing.

Hagrid steered over and fished her out of the water, pulling her up into his own boat.

"He..." she sputtered, looking at Teddy, who had released the morph, and arranged his features innocently (though Hagrid would know well enough). "He frightened me, deliberately."

"Well, he can talk to his Head of House, once he gets one," Hagrid told her amiably.

Teddy smiled, feeling quite satisfied with himself.

The boats carried them silently across the lake. A veil of ivy--magically regrown three years ago after the Carrows had cursed it during the war--was dead ahead, then the boats skimmed under it, and slipped into the underground harbor from which first years had been entering Hogwarts for a millennium. They clambered out of the boats onto the shore, then followed Hagrid up, up onto the grounds, into the shadow of Hogwarts, onto the grounds outside the door, where so much blood had been shed.

"Watch for the redcaps!" Hagrid said gruffly. "Just give 'em a kick if they get in yer way."

Teddy saw a redcap scurrying along, but it didn't come near them. Hagrid led them up the stairs, then the great doors opened, and they crossed the threshold.

Neville Longbottom was waiting for them in the entrance hall, a pleasant smile on his round face. Traditionally, this had been the deputy headmaster's job, but as soon as he'd become a professor, general sentiment had swung sharply toward the idea that he ought to be the one to greet first years, all of whom--well, at least the wizard-born among them--knew the story of his defiance of the Death Eaters, and how the Sorting Hat had been burned on his head.

"The firs' years, Professor Longbottom," Hagrid said.

"Thanks," Neville said, and Teddy corrected himself mentally, forcing himself to think of Neville as "Longbottom." "I'll take them from here."

They nodded to each other at the end of the ritual, then Hagrid hurried inside to the head table.

Neville--Longbottom--led them across the entrance hall, into an alcove near the Great Hall, and sat them all at a single table that seemed lost in a sea of shadows.

"Welcome to Hogwarts," he said when they got there. "As I'm sure you all know, there are four houses..."

Teddy let the description wash over him; it was certainly nothing new, though Longbottom's kindly voice seemed to calm everyone down.

"Now," he said when he finished, "I understand there was already an incident on the lake?"

Honoria came forward, dripping, and pointed at Teddy. "He scared me. He turned into a werewolf."

Longbottom's face grew cool. "Is that true, Mr. Lupin?"

"I morphed at her," Teddy admitted, but decided not to start his school career by whinging to a teacher about someone being unkind.

"An interesting way you have of honoring your father," Longbottom said. "Reminding people of the thing he hated most."

Teddy looked at the floor, suddenly feeling like he'd rather be the redcap outside, skipping mindlessly through the shadows toward the lake.

Longbottom put a hand on his shoulder, and he looked up again. The expression was understanding. "I imagine you had your reasons," he said.

Honoria snorted. Longbottom dried her clothes with an absent flick of his wand and said, "I don't want to hear about anything like this again." He was not, significantly, looking at Teddy as he said it. "I'll come back for all of you when we're prepared in the Great Hall. You might want to straighten up your robes."

After he left, there was some nervous straightening of clothes, but more nervous glancing at one another. Donzo McCormack seemed to want attention paid to him--kept looking over his shoulder like he expected a crowd to be there--but no one was looking. One boy didn't seem interested in putting on robes at all.

"Excuse me," a girl with curly strawberry blond hair said, "but you really ought to put on the robes."

"Why should I?" the boy said. "All this kowtowing to medievalism is ridiculous. I wouldn't be here if there were any other way to learn about this part of who I am."

"It's your school uniform," another boy said. "Put it on. You'd be doing exactly the same thing if you were in Muggle school."

"How do you know?"

"Do you think you're the only Muggle-born here?"

The first boy looked suspiciously around. "How many of you are like me, then? And just going along with this nonsense?"

Six of the fifteen, including the boy who'd asked, raised their hands.

"Fewer than I was expecting," Honoria sniffed.

"What did you mean?" one of the Muggle-born girls said. "Outside, about the half-bloods not making it through?"

"Most years, there are a lot of half-bloods," Honoria said. "But the year we were born, there was a dark wizard killing Muggle-borns, so they didn't have children. Other half-bloods left. Everyone figured they'd be the next target, once the Muggle-borns were all gone. Even some pure-bloods left. It was dangerous to be here that year." She looked at the boy who had the strange accent. "Your parents went abroad, didn't they?"

"Well, yeah. My mom did, anyway. My dad's from Toronto to start with. They just stayed put."

"My mum was a model," the pretty blond girl said. "My dad's a Muggle. He was taking pictures of her. He said they should stay in Italy until the war was over." She looked suspiciously at the Canadian. "My parents came home after the war, though."

"Any other half-bloods? I mean, other than the werecub."

"Let up on that!" Maurice Burke said. "Anyway, it wasn't just half-bloods who ran. My father and mother headed out to the Falklands right after Cedric Diggory died. Said they saw writing on the wall."

Donzo shouldered in. "Yes, that's true. My father was on tour and my mother went with him, and as soon as they found out what was happening here, he sent her to live with his friends in the Pondhoppers--don't know if you remember them, big American group, they had quite a hit..."

No one was interested in the Pondhoppers, and Teddy actually felt a bit bad for Donzo, who looked crushed. Two other pure-bloods had got away through what they called "the Quidditch network"--born to a Quidditch player and a Quidditch manager, they'd been spirited away through international team connections, and seemed to believe Oliver Wood had arranged it. One had been born in Bulgaria and the other in Israel. Honoria claimed to have been born in Gibraltar while her parents were on an extended holiday (which just happened to coincide with the rise of Voldemort). Only one of the other wizard-born students, the plain girl with gapped teeth, had been born in Britain. She introduced herself as Tinny Gudgeon ("Ernestine," she muttered when questioned) and quickly deferred to Teddy, saying that her parents weren't brave like his, only careful not to draw attention to themselves in the Ministry.

They'd got so deeply into this conversation (the Muggle-borns, with the exception of the boy who had finally, grudgingly, put on his robes and was now ignoring all of them, were listening with rapt attention, as if to a very good story that they'd missed most of) that they wouldn't have noticed the ghosts coming in at all if it weren't for one of the Muggle-born girls screaming.

Teddy smiled. He knew Nearly Headless Nick and the Fat Friar on sight, and they nodded to him happily.

"Ah, here he is!" Nick said. "I hope to see you in Gryffindor!"

"He's sure to be in Hufflepuff," the Fat Friar said.

The Grey Lady and Moaning Myrtle came next, speaking quietly to each other--the Lady had made a motion to allow Myrtle greater haunting privileges in Ravenclaw, and it had apparently improved her disposition--and the Bloody Baron nodded solemnly to the new students. Several other ghosts floated by, then passed through the wall into the Great Hall.

The door opened, and Professor Longbottom came back in. "We're ready for you," he said.

The first years gathered, and he led them in a silent parade to the doors of the Great Hall.

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