Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter. No money is being made, this is solely for practice and personal amusement. The rating is for later content.
Harry Potter never enjoyed the ride on the Hogwarts express when it traveled away from the school. He knew, that with each passing second, he sped closer to the smallest bedroom of Privet drive, to chores, and to neglect at the hands of his relatives. In short, to the Dursleys. Harry was far past sick of his relatives. He didn't understand why he couldn't just simply go to the Burrow, or with Professor Lupin? Or even just get a room at the Leaky Cauldron like he had before the year began. He sighed a little bit and stared out the window. He resigned himself to thinking of ways that he could make his summer more bearable. Surely, after Aunt Marge, the Dursley's wouldn't be happy to see him. But, perhaps they'd simply just ignore him more. He could remember how happy he felt in those brief moments when he thought he could go and live with his Godfather. He had dreams of a happy family, a caring adult, and those dreams had seemed so close. But now there was just the crushing sadness that accompanied shattered hopes and dreams.
He was reminded of the letter he had received a few moments before from Sirius. The little owl was still fluttering around the compartment. He could hear his two best friends, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley, chatting casually about what to name the excitable owl. He had suggested 'Warren' after a singer his aunt liked. One of his songs reminded him of the bird. They hadn't known the tiny thing long, but it certainly didn't seem like it would run out of energy anytime in the foreseeable future.
As he thought about the bird, and who it came from, Harry realized he still wasn't very sure about his Godfather. It was strange to realize that he was not completely cut off from his parents. He wondered why he never thought about who had been his parents' friends. He assumed Dumbledore, of course, but the more he thought of it, were they friends or did they have a similar relation to the old teacher that Harry did now? Sure, Dumbledore had possessed his father's cloak for a while, but could there have been something more? He felt woefully naive for assuming that every link to his parents had been severed with their death. He made a mental note to talk to Sirius or Lupin about his parents the next chance he got. He had learned a lot about them during this last year, but he wanted to learn more. At the very least it would be nice to hear stories, and to learn more about them. Hopefully they wouldn't feel the need to tell him that he looked just like his father, but the eyes, Lily's eyes.
He looked down at the letter he was still clutching in his hands. He read it again, for perhaps the fifth time since he received it. He still couldn't help but smirk at the permission slip to attend Hogsmeade visits. At least he wouldn't have to wear the cloak in the village anymore. That was a definite plus. He also knew that he would never live down the fact that Sirius had sent him the broom. Of course, Hermione was not really the type to gloat about that. Harry made a mental note to put a little more faith in her judgment. She was only looking out for his best interest. Really, the more he thought about it, he couldn't believe he was ready to jump onto a broomstick from an unknown sender without a second thought? Had his first year taught him nothing at all? And Ron was upset that the broom was scanned by the professors? He was slightly concerned that his best friend seemed to have little care for his personal welfare. Yet he couldn't blame Ron. He was just as excited to hop up onto the broom as his friend was to watch him on it. Why he hadn't thought, like Hermione, that someone may have been out to get him amazed him. While Voldemort may have been gone, or at least a wraith, he knew he should be more careful than that. It was as much his fault as his friends. He and Ron would both need to grow, he knew, to understand the dangers that likely faced him. He realized, that after Trelawney, he was afraid. Why he hadn't been frightened before that, he didn't know.
After a few moments some of their other friends, notably Neville Longbottom and Ginny Weasley, joined them in the compartment. The argument about the name of the owl became more spirited. Harry didn't pay as close of attention as he likely could have. And when he did participate, he decided to play the role of the critic rather than suggest any new names. It was easier, after all. The argument continued without any major breakthroughs. Something told Harry he wouldn't learn the name of the owl until the summer. Harry's thoughts continued to drift to Sirius. He wondered what his Godfather would do now? Surely, he had to have some type of house he could hideout at or something. He had invited Harry to live with him, which meant he had to have some type of lodging.
"So, who do you have in the World Cup?" Harry heard Ron ask. The question snapped him out of his thought. He hadn't followed the preliminary matches at all. Some of the students had chatted about scores, or perused the Prophet for box scores. Occasionally a game could be heard on the wireless in the common room, but Harry rarely paid attention to it. Sure, he loved playing quidditch, but he rarely paid attention to it during school. He wondered if he would if he lived in the Wizarding world. As is now he didn't watch many sports. Occasionally, he'd catch an early morning Formula One race while the rest of the Dursley's were asleep. But he didn't particularly care. It was just on TV at the time. He rarely kept it on for more than a few minutes. Usually, during the day when most sports were on he tried to avoid being in the house, or around the Dursleys.
"I have no idea," Harry replied. "How's England?"
"Not very good. I doubt they'll make it far. The Irish are pretty damn good, though. They should make it far," Ron replied.
"Oh," Harry replied.
"Who else is good?" Neville asked.
"The Germans aren't bad. The French shouldn't do anything. Italy may surprise," Ginny responded. Neville and Harry both looked at her almost in shock. She smiled a little, for just a moment, before blushing and looking away from Harry. "What, I like Quidditch too. You grow up with a bunch of brothers and not develop some interest in the sport!" Everyone in the compartment laughed. They continued to talk of Quidditch, making predictions and insulting each other's picks.
The ride continued. Harry noticed that the prefects were coming from compartment to compartment, pausing for a few moments at each and hanging out what appeared to be manila folders. Strange, he thought. It must just be the 'don't use magic outside of school' reminder. He saw two of the Ravenclaw prefects approach their compartment. The female one opened the door and entered.
"Who do we have in there?" the male asked, looking over her shoulder.
"Looks like Potter, Granger, The youngest two Weasley's, and Longbottom," the female prefect responded. Harry didn't know her, but she was a pretty girl with long brown hair and hazel eyes. It didn't hurt, either, that she had changed out of her school uniform already and wore a tight pair of jeans and a violet t-shirt. Really, the only reason Harry knew her house or her status was because she had pinned the badge to her t-shirt, and had one of her school ties wrapped around her wrist. He thought she had likely just finished her fifth year. The male prefect, who remained behind her in the hallway dug through a bag of something, pulling out a bunch of the envelopes. He handed them to the girl who started handing them out. Harry looked at his, it seemed like your typical manila envelope. There was a Hogwarts crest in the center of it, and in the upper corner was 'H. Potter' with 'Gryffindor' and 'Yr 4' written under it. He then opened it and looked inside. There wasn't a warning about using magic outside of school. In fact, there wasn't anything inside it at all.
"What are these for?" Hermione asked the prefect girl. She was checking off their names on a sheet. Harry looked over at Hermione's folder. It was labeled the same way as his.
"These are your summer assignments," the prefect said as she looked down her sheet, making sure everything was in order.
"But there's nothing in them!" Hermione exclaimed. The prefect raised her eyes and looked at Hermione, then shook her head and marked some things off on the paper in front of her.
"I'm getting to that," she said curtly. Hermione's face fell for a moment.
"Oh," she replied.
"Well, alright. That's in order," she said as she tucked the quill back into her hair. She took out her wand and cast a quick activation spell on all of the envelopes in the compartment, then wrapped the parchment she had been checking things off of around her wand and slid it back into her pocket. She turned to exit the compartment then.
"So what do we do with these then?" Ron asked, holding his up in the air limply. The prefect looked back at them.
"Oh, uhm. Right," she began. She paused for a moment and continued with what Harry assumed was a pre-planned speech. "In the spirit of international cooperation you are required to write three letters to a pen-pal over the summer months," she explained.
"But what do these have to do with anything?" Ron asked, still holding his folder up. The prefect glared at him a little bit.
"I'm getting to that," she responded. "You will write a letter and place it in your folder. The charm place on the folder will send it to your pen pal. Copies will be sent to your head of house as well, to make sure you do in fact complete the assignment."
"Don't we get to know our pen pal?" Hermione asked. She sounded excited by the assignment. Ron and Neville groaned a little bit at the thought. Ginny seemed mostly indifferent. Harry wasn't sure how he felt about it. It felt mostly like another assignment he'd have to do. But, at the very least, it would give him something to do when he sat alone in his room at night.
"No," the prefect responded. "The school feels that having the first letter be anonymous will be better for the assignment."
"But what if we have nothing in common with them!" Ron asked.
"That shouldn't be a problem. You were matched with a pen pal based on age and interests. There are plenty of students at both Beauxbatons and Durmstrang. I'm sure they matched you appropriately," she responded.
"So Hogwarts students are writing to the students of two other schools?" Hermione asked. Harry was glad she did. He wasn't sure what a Beauxbatons or Durmstrang were. But gathered that they were other schools. It did seem off that Hogwarts's students could match with both of the schools, unless the others were much smaller.
"Not quite. The pen pals are distributed throughout all three schools. The only guarantee is that you do not have one from your own school. Don't ask me for more information than that. I don't know anything more," the prefect seemed annoyed. Harry guessed that just about everyone else had simply accepted the assignment without much thought.
"Are we expected to write first?" Hermione asked. The prefect stared at her again, like she couldn't believe this girl would just keep asking questions.
"There are no expectations except that you write the pen-pal three letters. Every school, to my knowledge, is getting the envelope upon their departure," she explained, sounding somewhat exasperated.
"Oh, okay. Thanks," Hermione responded.
"Any more questions?" the prefect asked.
"What happens if we don't do it?" Ron asked. Harry had to admit. He felt that that was a far better question than any of the ones Hermione had asked. The prefect smiled little bit.
"One month of detentions with your head of house, and for those who are old enough, a one year ban from Hogsmeade visits," the prefect responded automatically. Harry got the feeling she was use to answering that question.
"Ouch," Ron responded. The prefect smiled briefly at him.
"Indeed, so I highly suggest that you do write the letters. We are also required to inform you that your head of house expects excellence, or at least competence in them. The professors will not have the institution shamed by terrible handwriting or poor composition. But they also would like us to remind you that perfection is not required on these assignments," the prefect concluded. "Now, are there any final questions?"
"No. Thank you," Hermione said. The prefect nodded and turned, stepping out of the compartment.
"Who's next, Mark?" Harry heard her ask as she slid the door closed. He noticed Ron staring after her.
"Who is she?" Ron asked, still staring at the compartment door.
"Lillian Seslion," Hermione said. "She's a Ravenclaw prefect. I'm surprised you don't know her, Harry should."
"What me, how?" Harry asked.
"Yea, him how?" Ron said.
"Honestly you two, don't you pay attention at all?" Hermione asked.
"Apparently not," Ron responded, eliciting laughs all around.
"She's a chaser for Ravenclaw," Ginny responded.
"She is?" Ron said, sounding incredibly surprised. Like he should have noticed that earlier. There was only one member of the Ravenclaw Quidditch team Harry was really interested in, though, so he had never noticed her.
"Yes, she is," Hermione scoffed.
"She's rather good, too," Ginny added.
"But Davies and Chambers do all of their scoring!" Ron exclaimed. Ginny shook her head.
"Yea. She has a rather weak arm. And not the greatest of shots. But she plays some of the best defense from a chaser that I've ever seen," Ginny explained. "In fact, I've heard a few developmental league teams are going to be scouting her next year."
"Really?" Ron asked.
"Yes," Ginny said. "She's nice, too. She's let me practice against her."
"She's helped me with potions, too," Neville said quietly.
"When did she do that?" Hermione asked.
"Oh, she was just in the library one night, writing a letter, and saw what I was working on and offered some help. We don't ever have potions with the Ravenclaws, but the 'Puffs all say she's incredible there. Like better than Hermione good. Apparently even Snape is civil with in class," Neville said. Hermione scoffed at the reference of her skill.
"I've heard that. But, I've also heard she can't transfigure anything. McGonagall has to give her extra lessons every year," Hermione commented. The compartment was silent for a moment until Ron spoke again.
"Why don't Gryffindor girls look like that?" He asked quietly.
"Excuse me?" Hermione scoffed. Ron looked at her.
"What? Did you see her, total knockout, right guys?" Ron continued. Harry noticed Hermione was fuming. Neville blushed a little bit before he spoke.
"Yes, she's beautiful," he admitted. Both girls stared at Harry then, as if waiting for his judgment.
"I, uh….erm. She's not bad, but not my type," Harry said, hoping that was a diplomatic enough answer. It was the truth, too, he realized. Cho Chang was certainly more his current type.
"Thank you, Harry," Hermione said. He couldn't tell if she was being sarcastic or not. He figured it would be best not to ask. Ginny just blushed and looked away.
"So, Hermione," Harry spoke carefully. "What do you know of these other magic schools. I didn't even know they existed." He figured stroking her ego would be a good way to have her warm up, if she was really annoyed.
"Oh, not much really. Beauxbatons is in southern France. I think it's near Cannes, but I can't be sure. Like Hogwarts it's unplottable. They even have charms that prevent people from rival schools seeing it," Hermione said softly.
"Ugh, the French? They're the only country with a Quidditch team worse than England!" Ron scoffed. "I hope I get a Durmstrang student. Not going to have anything to talk about with a French one."
"And you'll have so much more to talk about with a Durmstrang one, Ronald," Hermione scoffed. Harry could sense her need to lecture coming on and decided to spur her on.
"And why is that?" Harry asked. Hermione smiled at him.
"Because Durmstrang only accepts pure-blood loyalists. They're even more secretive than Beauxbatons. Their uniforms require a lot of cold-weather clothing. And they're somewhere in central Europe. The exact location wasn't in any book I could find," she explained.
"How do you know all of this?" Ron asked, looking surprised. Harry felt that he at least had an excuse for his ignorance. He assumed other magical people would know more, but judging from the looks on Neville, Ginny and Ron's faces. They were nearly as clueless as he was.
"I picked up a book on it last year," Hermione said carefully.
"Why?" Neville asked.
"I wanted to see if Hogwarts was really the premier magical academy," Hermione answered.
"And what did you find?" Ginny asked.
"Not much," Hermione admitted. "It's near impossible to find curriculum from any of the schools. There's rumors that Durmstrang focuses more on the Dark Arts than Hogwarts or Beauxbatons, but that is about it. It seems that there is actually very little choice in schooling. They're all rather insular."
"I wonder why that is?" Harry asked. From what he knew of Muggle schools, they were more likely to try to actively recruit some students. Yet magical schools seemed to want privacy more than anything else.
"I don't know," Hermione shrugged. "Some schools were already trying to recruit me when I got my Hogwarts letter. I almost expected the magical world to be the same way. Apparently I was wrong.
"That's just how it is here," Ron said. Harry and Hermione looked over at him.
"Yea," Neville agreed. "That's just how it's done." Hermione could tell that the conversation wasn't going to get them anywhere, so she decided to not press. To not point out how bad of an answer that was.
The train rolled on. Eventually, it arrived at King's Cross station. Harry dreaded his return to his relatives. But he had thought of a clever way to ensure that they would bother him less. He clutched the letter from Sirius in his hand and stepped off of the train, ready to brave the Dursleys. He barely heard Ron comment on possibly attending the World Cup.
A few hours later found him in the smallest bedroom at Privet Drive. The Dursley's had left to take Dudley out to a celebratory dinner for the end of his semester. They made no mistake to mention, repeatedly, just how much of a nuisance having to pick him up, and then drive someplace for dinner was. Uncle Vernon also made it quite clear he was not allowed out of his room while they were gone. So, naturally, the first thing he did was look for something edible in the fridge. Then he sat down in front of the TV and watched that for a few hours. It wasn't until he heard Uncle Vernon's car pull into the drive that he decided to run up the stairs and disappear into his room. He grabbed a book, turned Dudley's old TV, with very low volume, and acted like he was reading. He wasn't the least bit surprised when no one came to check on him. After a few moments, he opened his trunk to look for some pajamas to change into. He noticed the envelope on top of it. He plucked it up and tossed it on to the bed, figuring that of all his summer assignments, it would require the least amount of effort. Or, at the very least, the least amount of reading to complete. He grabbed one of his history books and a roll of parchment and tossed them onto his bed as well. After changing he grabbed a quill and some ink and sat on his bed. He dipped the quill and started to think about what to write. He didn't move for a few moments, framing the start of the letter in his head, before he decided to start to write, using the history textbook as a makeshift table.
Dear Fellow Student,
That's a terrible way to start a letter, but I figured it would be better than 'to who receives this' or 'dear pen-pal'. So I went with this instead. My name is Harry. I just finished my third year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. I'm a member of the Gryffindor house, if that means anything to you. I'm not exactly sure how to have a pen-pal. I've never really done anything like this before. So if I ramble I apologize. I'm not sure what the Professors are expecting for this assignment. The prefect who explained the assignment didn't do a very good job.
Since I know nothing about you, I guess I'll have to talk about me. I dislike talking about myself; people always assume I'm lying or glory seeking. I know I'm not lying, and I certainly don't think I'm glory seeking.
So, well, I suppose starting with my interests is as good of a spot as any. I enjoy quidditch. My friend thinks he can get tickets to the world cup through his father, who works at the Ministry of Magic. That should be fun. I don't really follow international quidditch, or the Quidditch leagues, but I do enjoy playing the game. I'm the seeker on my house team. We won the school tournament this year. First time in a long time our house team has done that. I'm the seeker. I enjoy chasing too, but I only ever do it when one of our chasers misses practice.
In school my favorite classes are Defense Against the Dark Arts and Transfiguration. I also started taking our Magical Creatures class, as well as Divination. I'm not sure I really enjoy either of them, but I like the professor for creatures. Divination, well, the professor just keeps trying to predict my death. It's rather unsettling, really.
I hate potions. I'm not sure if it's because of the subject matter or the teacher, though. The professor hates me. I recently learned he had some grudge with my parents. Well, specifically my father. I'm not entirely certain what happened between them. But apparently it was a nasty prank gone wrong, and he never forgave my father for it. It seems childish that he would take it out on me. And it seems childish that I would even think he's taking it out on me, I know. But even other students have commented on how horrible he is to me.
As for the other classes, I'm mostly indifferent. Charms is the next best, I suppose. History of Magic is more of a nap time than anything. Herbology is vaguely interesting, but only because I do some gardening at my relatives house over the summer. Mostly not by choice.
I should probably mention that I'm an orphan. My parents died when I was one. I live with my aunt and uncle. They are not very kind to magic. They knew my parents were magical. But they're mostly ignorant of the magical world. They think I'm a freak. It's not all bad, though. They make me do chores every now and then, but usually they ignore me. I only ever spend a few weeks here in the summer, before usually going to my friend, Ron's, house.
I met the man who was suppose to be my Godfather this year. And another one of my parent's friends. I thought for a bit that I would be going to live with him this summer. But that didn't happen. Maybe it will some day. I don't think it's wise to hold my breath, though.
That's me in a pinch. I'm still not sure what the required length on these things are. But I think this has been a pretty good first letter. I hope you don't disagree. And I hope my writing is not lonely legible, but not awfully boring. I look forward to hearing back from you soon.
Your new Pen Pal.
He paused and reread the words a few times. Hoping they were satisfactory. He didn't think it was too poor of a first attempt at a letter. He did some quick editing to it and then reread it one more time. Hedwig hooted in the corner from her cage. Harry laughed and looked up at her.
"Not this time, Hedwig," he said. His snowy owl gave a hoot of displeasure and looked around the room, almost as if she was looking for another courier. He laughed a little bit and stared down at the envelope. "Sorry. It's for an assignment. Some strange pen-pal thing we have to do." He lifted up the envelope and dropped the parchment into it. Nothing happened. He sat for a few minutes and looked at it. He noticed Hedwig lean forward and look at it too, as if she were also expecting something, well, magical to happen. Nothing did. He picked up the envelope and looked at it. Nothing still. He opened it and looked inside. The letter was still just sitting in there. He put it back down and sighed. Hedwig hooted victorious from her perch.
"It doesn't matter," he laughed a little bit. "I don't even know who it's going to. So I can't even have you deliver it." Hedwig just hooted again. For some reason Harry got the feeling that he could probably give the letter to Hedwig and she would do her best to figure out where it was suppose to go, and get it there. She'd probably go and pester McGonagall until she got the answer. Harry laughed a little bit at that. He stood up and went to his trunk, fetching an owl treat for Hedwig, who hooted lovingly, before staring at the envelope again. He made sure it was sealed with the little clasp and then examined it in his hands. He knew that sometimes charmed objects needed an activation phrase. He held it in his hands and whispered.
"Activate." Nothing happened. He sighed and looked at it again. He could see Hedwig out of the corner of his eyes, stretching her wings luxuriously in an almost taunting manner. He shook his head and got another idea.
"Send," he said softly. He didn't feel anything happen. But when he turned the envelope around he saw the Hogwarts crest on the front of it was glowing. He shrugged and pressed his finger to it. He felt magic radiate out of it for a second, and then the glow vanished. He didn't need to check the inside of the envelope; he knew that the letter had sent. He opened it anyway to check. Sure enough, it was gone. He smiled and laughed a little bit. Hedwig looked annoyed.
"Don't worry, in a few days I'll write to Hermione or Ron and send you off on your way," he said. She perked up a little bit at that. He put the envelope on his small desk, emblem up. He figured that if anyone replied to his letter, that emblem would likely glow as it had when he sent his first letter. He went back to his bed, then, and crawled under the covers. He picked up the text and decided to attempt to get a start on his summer History of Magic reading. He made it to the third page of the chapter before he simply put the book down, turned off the lights, and attempted to drift off to sleep.