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[june 2019]


a/n : hello, everyone, and welcome to and all that jazz! i started writing this story ages ago - it's the first thing i ever published on hpff! - and i’ve recently decided that it needs a major rewrite. because let’s face it - the writing at the beginning is crap. so the chapter below is a new, improved, and just generally much better version of the original story. nothing major has changed and the plot, characters, etc. will remain (mostly) the same.


i’m (slowly) in the process of rewriting everything, but right now only a few chapters have been redone. i’m putting this out there as a disclaimer so that when the following chapters inevitably revert back to the original style (and you notice a drop off in quality/minor discrepancies in aria’s story) you’ll know why. everything will be made cohesive soon, though :)


thank you so, so, so much for reading! y’all really do mean the world to me - every single one of you - and i am so incredibly grateful for everyone who has read, reviewed, and favorited. it still honestly blows my mind that people love this story as much as they do. so again, thank you so much and i hope you enjoy the journey!


Despite what anyone tells you, there is nothing good about a fresh start. A fresh start, you see, means a new start, and a new start means having to do things all over again.


“Look at the bright side, honey,” my mom had cooed as she waved her wand with a flourish, sending furniture spiraling out of an enchanted moving box. “Not many people can say they’ve attended three of the best schools in the world! Think about how much you’ll learn.”


At that, I scowled and ducked as a lamp came flying at my head.


True, the prospect of living in a new place was sort of exciting, I guess. But then again, that place was England - not exactly an exotic locale. It’s very odd, too, European life, but not quite odd enough to be interesting. So similar to America, but at the same time so vastly different, but in small ways, like the compactness of the cities and its efficient public transportation systems.


True, I thought about doing an exchange program once, but my parents quickly squashed the idea of even a semester abroad. Sort of ironic, then, that I wound up here regardless, albeit thanks to my dad’s new gig with the Appleby Arrows.


I suppose I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with Quidditch. I love the game, of course, and it’s thanks to the sport that we can afford a nice house and family vacations. But the professional life is hard, too, in a way that a lot of people don’t realize. Sure, you get the salary and all the perks from being an athlete, but there’s also the stress of renegotiating contracts and waiting out trade season, wondering if you’ll have to pack up and move your life on a moment’s notice.


I guess we got luckier than most, as Dad spent the bulk of his career with the Laguna Beach Lynx. Then they decided to tear it all down and rebuild, so he got shipped off to the Sweetwater All-Stars. Those were the hardest two years, I think. Texas was too far away for him to apparate but too close to justify moving the whole family, so Dad came back when he could, taking red-eye Muggle flights or catching the odd portkey, but it was mostly just my mom and me.


But we made it through, and I guess it was kind of a relief when he got sent to the Fitchburg Finches up in Massachusetts because we all knew the long-distance thing wouldn’t work anymore. So we packed up our house in southern California and traded in the beautiful sunshine of the Pacific for cool, foggy days on Cape Cod. My mom called that a “fresh start,” too. I remember her saying that exact phrase before I started at my new school, Ilvermorny. And I guess I was sort of excited, as I liked my school on the West Coast - the Salem Witches Institute up in Oregon - but Ilvermorny was, you know, Ilvermorny. The Harvard of American Wizarding education, basically.


...and then Dad’s contract ended, and he signed with Appleby in the British Quidditch League. So one year after picking up our entire life, we did it again. But this time we didn’t just cross the continent - we crossed the ocean. And I’m still kind of pissed about it.


I mean, I get it. He’s in his early thirties now and probably doesn’t have a ton of time left as a professional player. He’s got to think about big market exposure, endorsement deals, pulling in as much income as he can before his career’s over. And like it or not, Quidditch is just bigger over here. It made sense to move leagues, but that doesn’t mean that I’m happy about it.


I actually was sort of looking forward to a Boston summer, too. I never really got the chance to explore properly. We moved, and then the school year started, and then we moved again. I even started a list at school last year of everything I wanted to do - shopping on Newbury Street, a day trip to New York City, catching a Red Sox game in Fenway. But, alas, it was never to be.


And I never even really get to explore London this summer, either, because Dad had to spend extra time training with Appleby and Mom had to spend extra time at the Ministry to get accustomed to her placement in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement (Improper Use of Magic Office). So I had to get accustomed to stewing around the house while both of them were out. It’s not safe to wander on your own. You don’t know the city yet. Well, duh. Because you won’t let me explore.


So I read, mostly, or followed my dad around to Appleby practices, and the summer trickled by at a speed that moved almost as slowly as my mom in an interior design store. The only highlight, if you can call it that, was a visit from my new Headmaster for my sorting (Ravenclaw, whatever that means) and then a drop-in from Professor Abberly, the Ravenclaw Head of House, to discuss joining the Quidditch team.


Despite the slow summer, though, the first of September arrives sooner rather than later, and before I even have time to triple-check my room, my parents literally shove me into a car so they can ship me off to my new prison.

Yay. Sense the excitement. I’m just dripping with it.

The train station’s busy with No-Majs (as usual, I’m sure), but today magic folk flood it in droves as well. Kids of all ages run excitedly along the tracks, waving their parents along; owls hoot in a horrible cacophonous symphony; massive brown trunks make their way slowly to the Platform entrance.

Honestly, you’d have to be blind and deaf not to know that something’s up. How the No-Majs don’t figure out our secret, I’ll never know.

But before I have time to ponder this further, Mom and Dad literally shove me once again, this time towards the enchanted barrier between Platforms 9 and 10, and when I reemerge I find myself standing in the glow of the scarlet and gold Hogwarts Express.


I have heard of it before, come to think of it. Lisa Roth, a friend of mine from Salem, did an exchange semester once and came back excitedly chattering about the train. I never thought it would look like this, though.

But I don’t have much time to admire it, as my parents monopolize my time with goodbyes - a kiss and a hug, a promise to write - and then they’re gone, disappearing back into the No-Maj world, leaving me all alone on the bustling platform with literally no one to talk to.


I let out a sigh and stand there awkwardly, surrounded by a strange symphonic swirl of giddy reunions and tearful goodbyes. It feels exactly like it did last year, when I started at Ilvermorny, terribly alone in a sea of familiarity. But hey, it’s a “fresh start,” right, Mom?


God, I don’t want to do this.


The pit that’s built in my stomach all summer long - a concoction of nerves, anxiety, and dread - feels about ready to burst as I lug my trunk behind me towards the train. A burly boy who looks around my age sees me struggling and hauls it up, but I don’t even get a chance to thank him before he bounds off towards his friends, and I’m left alone once more.


I suppose there’s no point in looking for an empty compartment, right? I arrived with only a few minutes to spare, so I’m sure they’re all taken with friend groups anxious to catch each other up on all the summer gossip. Guess I’ll just pick one and hope for the best? I don’t know, I’m quite bad at introductions and small talk and all that - oh, God, this is going to be a long ride to school - what if I get stuck with horrible people? - or even -


My spiraling anxieties go spinning from my head, though, as a group of boys around my age shoves past me in the narrow space - oi, rude, by the way - and I almost drop the damn trunk on my foot in the confusion.


I let out a huff of exasperation under my breath and, as if hearing it, one of the boys does spin around to look at me. “Sorry!” he calls back, sending an apologetic smile.


And at that, the even taller boy next to him glances back over his shoulder. His eyes lock on me - brown, I think, although the less than ideal lighting in the train corridor makes it difficult to tell - but he says nothing. It lasts only a few seconds, maybe more, and he glances away once their other friend nudges him in the side.


Well. Okay, then.

Sighing, I turn back around and continue my slow struggle down the hall. There’s a promising compartment down the way, with just one girl sitting inside. Better than nothing, I suppose, and honestly, my arm’s about to fall off from carrying the stupid trunk.


The girl glances up in surprise as I knock softly and slide the door open, although upon seeing her up close I kind of wish I hadn’t. Not because she looks mean or anything, but because - well, she does look rather intimidating. Drop dead gorgeous, long legs, big blue eyes. Girls who look like her - like they belong on a magazine cover - don’t exactly help my already fragile sense of self-esteem.


Nonetheless, though, she has an empty compartment, so I swallow my nerves and take a step inside. “Do you mind if I sit here? I can’t seem to find any open seats.”


“No problem,” she says, smiling slightly. “You’re new, aren’t you?” she asks, and I vaguely wonder how she knows that until it clicks in my head. Accent. Dead giveaway, of course. “Exchange or transfer?”


“Transfer.” I nod as I drop my trunk onto the compartment floor, and she flicks a wand at it to set it up on the rack. “Thanks. I’m Aria.”


“Dominique Weasley.” She clears her throat, waving to the open bench across from her, and I sink onto it with a bit less grace than intended. “I did an exchange semester at Beauxbatons last year. First days can be overwhelming.”

“Just a bit.”

She laughs at that, tossing her head back, and then giggles a bit more when a wad of hair sticks to her freshly glossed lips. “Well, I’m happy to be of assistance. What year are you?”


“Sixth,” I reply, and at that precise moment, the Hogwarts Express shoves off.


“Same.” One hand fiddles with her hair, unsticking it once more from the gloss, and tucks the wavy length behind her ear as the station fades away outside of the window. “That works out, then. I’ll introduce you to my friends.”


“Thanks,” I say, hoping my desperation isn’t too palpable, but she simply waves me off.


“No worries. Anything for a fellow blonde.”


Now it’s my turn to laugh, and with that my friendship with Dominique Weasley officially begins. We dive into the usual questions, and for once in my life, I think that I don’t make some sort of embarrassing word vomit comment. My only-childness fascinates her (as does, you know, my foreignness), and her massive family fascinates me equally (as does, you know, her foreignness). Apparently her sister, Victoire, just got engaged to long-time boyfriend Teddy (took them long enough), Roxanne interned with Uncle Percy at the Ministry of Magic this summer (Uncle George was so disappointed), and James got a new broom for making Gryffindor Quidditch captain (he’s been absolutely insufferable ever since).


I’ve got no idea who these people are, but man, it sounds like some sort of dramedy for a cheesy cable network. I’d love to have a family like that. Dominique, of course, thinks I’m the lucky one for not having to deal with “prattish cousins,” although she does seem pleased that I keep asking questions about them. I kind of get the vibe that she likes talking about herself.


So far, so good.


But then a knock echoes at the door and Dominique glances over, through the glass, before waving three boys from the corridor inside. The same three boys who nearly made me amputate my foot with my trunk earlier, in fact.


The taller one, the one I thought had brown eyes - hazel, actually, as I can see much better now - steps in first, running one hand back through a mass of unruly black hair atop his head. “Mind if we join you, Dom?” he asks lazily, but he drops down beside me on the bench without waiting for a response.

I glance over in time to catch Dominique roll her eyes and send him an annoyed scowl. “Well, Lila Andrews did say she would drop by, although I suppose she won’t now that you’re here.”


“What did you do?” The second boy, the one who apologized to me earlier, asks curiously. He slides onto the bench next to his friend, and I think I see him send a wink at the third boy, who then settles down next to Dominique.


“Nothing!” The first boy protests, looking quite insulted at the insinuation.


“Exactly. He did nothing. Not write her, not take her to Diagon Alley -”


“We’re not dating, Dom, I’m not obligated -”


“Oh, shut it, James, it’s common courtesy -”


“We don’t even fancy each other -”


“Well, that’s not the point!” Dom exclaims wildly. The boy beside her lets out a cough that sounds suspiciously like a laugh and turns to face the window before she can catch his eye. “She’s still cross with you.”


“Maybe we’ll conveniently sit with Grace and her group at the feast tonight. That’d please Lila, I expect,” James (I think that’s what she called him?) says with a shrug. The other boy on our side of the bench, the one who apologized to me earlier, hits James on the shoulder for that, but it goes ignored. “Anyway, who’s your new friend?”


“Oh, right, sorry,” Dominique says sheepishly. She bites down a bit on her lip, as if figuring out what to say - oh, Merlin, she's forgotten my name already, hasn’t she? Of course this would - “Aria, sixth year, just moved here from the States. My cousin James and his friends - okay, mine, too, I suppose,” she tacks on after a grunt of displeasure from the boy next to her, “Jett Nolton and Connor Finnigan.”  


The boys’ three heads swivel to face me at that, and I feel my cheeks flush with a tinge of heat. “Hi,” I squeak out, wiggling my fingers, and that boy who apologized for them earlier gives a friendly wave back. He’s definitely my favorite so far. What was his name? Jett?


“So, new girl,” the one beside me begins, and I glance over to meet his gaze. “Are all Americans as pretty as you?”


I’m sorry, what? Did he just -


The boy next to him, Jett, lets out a poorly disguised laugh, while the other one, Connor, makes no effort to hide his amusement. Dominique, meanwhile, looks absolutely horrified, and she simultaneously elbows Connor in the gut whilst kicking her cousin in the shin.


“James!” Dominique hisses, but he pays her no mind, keeping those most-definitely hazel eyes locked on me intently. “She’s barely been here for an hour! Godric, you’re such an idiot -”


“Okay, fine,” he mutters, swatting absentmindedly at the girl harping on him. “And I’m not an idiot, Dom -”


But it doesn’t matter, as she shoots back another snarky comment, and before long the two of them have a full-on bicker going over - well, frankly, I don’t really know what, because the subject keeps changing. I take it from the roll of their other friends’ eyes that this happens quite often, though.


The arguing must go on for a full five minutes, if not more, and it doesn’t end until the sharp rap of a knock on the compartment door pulls everyone’s attention to the glass. Two boys stand on the other side of it. One looks unnervingly like the boy next to me - the same messy black hair and tall frame, but with slightly softer, younger features - while the other could nearly pass for Dominique’s twin. More of her crazy family, I suppose. She did spend at least thirty minutes going over all of them.


“Have any of you lot seen Aiden Wood?” the black-haired one inquires after shoving open the compartment door. They make no move to step inside, though, as apparently they’ve just stopped by for a quick word.


A chorus of sorry, no rings around the compartment (save for me, of course, given that I’ve got no clue who this Aiden Wood is) and both of the new boys frown in disappointment.


“Why d’you want Wood?” the boy beside me, James, asks lazily. One hand drags back through the inky mess of hair on top of his head slowly, and I see Dominique roll her eyes at the motion from across the compartment.




“Well, yeah, I guessed as much. Probably holed up with Samuels and MacAvoy somewhere, isn’t he?”


“Probably,” his brother - I mean, I think it’s his brother, they look too similar not to be related - agrees.


“I’ll help you look, then. Was about to go for the trolley, anyway.” At that, the boy beside me stretches up, followed by the friend beside him. The third boy, the one next to Dominique, shoots some sort of unreadable expression at the other two, but follows suit shortly after.


“Nice to meet you,” Jett, the polite one, says softly as his other friends step out of the compartment. Definitely my favorite.


A silence settles over the compartment as the door slides shut behind the boys, broken only by the rhythmic clack - clack - clack of the train. People wander in every so often, of course, catching up with Dominique or rapping on the window with a friendly wave.


Her brother, the one who appeared earlier, wanders back in a few hours later, and it’s around this time, after watching the two of them bicker back and forth for ten minutes, that I officially decide that people should never reproduce.


First of all, nobody actually needs as many family members as she’s got. I’ve already encountered at least six of them, and apparently that’s not even half of the clan. Second, there’s the little fact that they’re all absolutely nuts and those genetics definitely do not need to be spread to another generation of children. And the final reason, of course, is that Dominique Weasley is currently reading Witch Weekly.


Yes, really. The tabloid gossip rag Witch Weekly. I really don’t think the world needs any more people who actually enjoy reading that trash.


Hence, why we should just end reproduction altogether.


Louis - a fourth year Ravenclaw, as he proudly informed me upon joining our compartment the second time - leans over as if reading my mind and whispers, “I can’t believe she reads that trash.”


“It’s not trash, Lou,” Dominique says in a bored voice. “This is important news.”


Right,” he drawls slowly, flicking a disbelieving expression in the direction of his sister. Even if she hadn’t explained the relation, I could have guessed it within a minute; there’s simply no way to confuse the same sharp cheekbones, blond hair, and brilliant blue eyes.


Dominique, meanwhile, flips to another page and stares at it for a half-second before her eyes widen. “Oh. My. Gosh.”


She sticks the paper in my direction, flapping it furiously, so I grab it out of pure curiosity. And then, much to my surprise, I find my own face staring straight back up at me.


Celebrity Sightings


Former Fitchburg Finch star Hayden Fields was spotted out and about London earlier this month, accompanied by his daughter, Aria, age sixteen. Fields, long considered a top Chaser in the American Quidditch League, agreed to a lucrative five-year contract with the Appleby Arrows earlier this year, as first reported by Witch Weekly. Fields' daughter will attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry this fall.


“You’re Hayden Fields’s daughter?” Louis, who’s reading over my shoulder, asks in surprise. I glance over at him and nod slightly before shoving the magazine back at Dominique. Holding that trash any longer might make me break out in hives. “My cousin James would not shut up about him singing with Appleby.”


“Great,” I deadpan, turning back to the window. “I’ll get him an autograph.”


Louis snorts at this, but the door to our compartment slides open before he can shoot a reply back, and a bossy looking girl with reddish hair sticks her head in. “We all need to change,” she announces, fiddling slightly with a silver pin on her robes. “We’ll be arriving in Hogsmeade shortly.”


“Thanks, Sophie,” Dominique says brightly as the girl shuts the door. “Oh, damn. Should have introduced you.” She flicks her wand towards our trunks, pulling them down gently, and starts digging through hers aimlessly. “She’s a sixth year Ravenclaw as well. Guess you’ll meet her soon enough, though.”


Louis excuses himself shortly thereafter to let us change in privacy (“I saw Dom naked once and it scarred me for life”), and I just barely finish pulling on my robes before the train lurches to a halt. The hallway immediately fills to capacity as students file out of their compartments, and I, of course, wind up in the back of the long line waiting to exit. Clearly, that’s just how I should start my Hogwarts career: alone and jostled by first years pushing into line behind me.


Except, no - those aren’t first years. The voice sounds like -


“New girl! What a pleasant surprise.”


I turn just the slightest bit to look back over my shoulder, and James Potter’s hazel eyes immediately manage to catch mine. His two friends - Jett, the polite one, and the other (can’t remember his name to save my life) stand behind him, holding a muttered conversation that I can’t quite hear, although I swear one of them just said “Dominique.”


“Aria,” I correct him, but James simply swats me off, apparently unconcerned.


“Let’s grab a carriage, yeah?”


“Carriage? I - oh.” The protests slip off my lips as I step off the train and onto the platform, where a line of students load into the aforementioned carriages. Which would seem fairly normal, except for the fact that the carriages apparently have no horses. Add that to the list of things that make this place a freak show, I guess.


James laughs at the look on my face - or maybe just at my face, who knows - and pulls open the door to the nearest horseless carriage. I really was hoping to find an empty one and pull myself together, but I guess that’s not happening. Shame, really, as I don’t exactly do the “good first impression” thing. Or the “social” thing. And I’m really, really damn hungry.


(I get cranky when I’m hungry.)


“After you,” he says, and I climb up into the carriage, followed closely by my new-found shadow and his two other friends, still holding their whispered conversation. “Right, so, I’m really sorry to inform you of this, but apparently my lovely cousin Dom has taken a liking to you, and you’re now going to be stuck with her forever.”


The carriage lurches into motion just as we all take our seats - James to my left, and his two friends across the way from us - but sadly, that does not prevent him from pestering me with belligerent conversation.


“And that’s a bad thing?” 


He shrugs slightly, undeterred by the way my eyes sweep over to the carriage window, locked onto the rolling landscape outside, and lightly kicks his friend in the shin. “Maybe not if you’re Connor.”


Right. Connor. I don’t know what he means by that, but at least I know the other guy’s name now. I’m sure I’ll forget it in a day, but it doesn’t hurt to put a bit of effort in, I suppose.


“Oh, shut up, James,” the boy in question moans, shooting a dirty look across the carriage. He sounds different than the other two, with a lilting Irish accent that almost seems to roll in time with the carriage wheels.


I do have to admit that that’s one good part about the whole moving thing. I’ve always loved accents - except, ironically, Boston ones - so jumping headfirst into a whole new pool of linguistic ticks certainly presents some exciting possibilities.


“Well, you’ve only been -”


“Shut up,” Connor hisses again, and their other friend, Jett, leans back in amusement, folding his arms across his chest.


“Honestly, Connor, just -”


Drop it.”


“Okay, fine,” James says, shrugging slightly. “Some Gryffindor you are.”


Jett snorts at that while Connor scowls, his vivid blue eyes turning angrily to look out the carriage window.


Thankfully, though, we grind to a halt before the tension escalates, and everyone piles out instinctively before walking up the loose stone path towards the castle. Well, everyone except for me. As soon as I catch sight of the glittering black spires, twisted turrets, the bridges and shimmering lake - well, I freeze, eyes tracing over every detail of the Gothic wonderland before me, and just kind of let it take my breath away.


“Beautiful, isn’t it?” a voice beside me says, and I glance over to find Jett beside me, also soaking up the view of the castle, as his friends wander on ahead of us. “Six years now and I’m still not over it.”


“Definitely a view I could get used to,” I agree as we begin trekking up the long, sloping lawn to the castle in question.


“See that over there?” he asks, pointing to a tall tower climbing up into the clouds. Candlelight winks out at us from inside the windows that line it, shimmering like stars in the distance. “That’s where Merlin had a famous duel with his school rival, and he fell backward over the top of the tower. Survived with some sort of cushioning spell, but dueling’s been banned ever since.”


“Really?” I ask in disbelief.


“No.” He lets out a bark of laughter, one that seems to echo over the rolling grounds before us, and James turns around to look at us curiously. “But it would be a cool story, wouldn’t it?”


“I -”


“Jett, hi!” A loud voice cuts through the space between us, covering my reply, and I turn to catch sight of a pretty girl around our age waving towards us from a few feet away. Her shiny brunette curls almost seem to reflect the jewel tones coloring the sky, and she absentmindedly tucks a stray strand behind her right ear.


“Hey, Grace,” he says easily, tossing an arm around her shoulder as she approaches for a light hug. “How was your summer?”

“It was so fun, we took a family holiday to…” But her voice trails off as her quickened pace pulls the two of them further and further away. A small group of other girls follows behind them in a pack, and I just barely make out red and gold accents adorning their uniforms. The same colors Jett had on, I think, so I suppose they all belong to the same house.


I glance around half-heartedly for a familiar face, although I suppose I know I won’t really find one. I lost Dominique in the line for the carriages, and the boys are already up ahead, catching up with that group of girls, so it’s just me. And I feel that nervous pit again, this time practically eating at my stomach, but I swallow it and simply follow of the flow of students up towards the castle and into a massive dining hall, where I settle in at a long table with a few faces I recognize and far more that I don’t.


Louis Weasley, Dominique’s brother, sits a few feet down the table with their dark-haired cousin, the one that looks like James, and all the way down at the far end, I think I see the girl who told us to change earlier on the train. But I don’t really know any of them, save for recognizing faces, so I simply take an open seat at the end of the table closest to the doors.


The buzz of pre-meal chatter warms the hall, practically dripping over the tables, as friends laugh together, all evidently excited for the start of the school year. I’m seated between a second-year whose name I don’t quite catch a group of mumbling fourth-years, but neither seems particularly interested in speaking with me, and I can’t say I blame them.


So I just sit there, awkwardly looking around and desperately hoping that no one notices the weird new girl sitting alone, until the headmaster finally takes his place at the long table before us.


I suppose it’s the same in every school, isn’t it? A long, boring speech at the start of term, declaring us all the best students in the world. Everyone back home will do the same thing sooner or later - throwing clothes into trunks in a frenzy, hug and squeal as they reconnect after long summers, sit in boredom at house tables before the feast.


I guess no matter where you are in the world, school never really changes. Same routine, same stress over grades and homework. The populars and the nobodies, the jocks and the nerds. It doesn’t really change.


Even here, even though I don’t really know anyone, it’s not hard to glance around the hall and pick out the school royalty. The way eyes naturally gravitate to certain groups, watching magnetically, hoping to pick up on a small movement, a small gesture that lets you in on the secret. It’s obsessive, really. And you think if I could just know what that’s like - but once you do, it’s never quite what you think. Petty rivalries and passive aggressive comments and mountains of gossip that bury even the best of us. A dirty reality hiding beneath the shiny veneer of popularity.


I honestly can’t believe I wanted that once. The admiring looks and girls whispering about you in bathroom stalls - it makes you feel special and sort of powerful, I guess. I wanted it because I didn’t have it, because I didn’t feel like I belonged, and once I got there, it all felt hollow and empty. And now I know better. Best not to get sucked into all the drama.


Although I still wouldn’t mind a friend or two.


The Great Hall lurches into motion as soon as the headmaster dismisses us from the feast, which I will admit was definitely a highlight and far superior to Ilvermorny food. Prefects yell out over the din for first-years to “follow me please!” and students start to trickle out in a steady stream, like a colony of ants following their queen. I attach myself onto the line that the red-haired girl from earlier - Sophie, I think Dom called her - leads, and then we march on out of the dining hall and into the winding corridors of the castle.


By the time we reach the dormitory entrance at the top of a long, winding spiral staircase, I’m far too tired to pay much attention to anything, and I’m so far at the back of the line that I can’t even hear how to get the common room door to open. But it does, and I clamber in behind the last of the first years, beyond ready to fall asleep in my new bed.




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