September 1st, 1st year

"Let's go here," Mia poked her head into a compartment and tossed her bag onto the seat.

Alex followed her in and plopped down across from her. "So, this is it," he grinned.

Mia giggled and pointed to her cheek. "Your mum left some lipstick on you."

Alex grimaced and rubbed his sweater over his right cheek to wipe away the residue of Martha's lipstick.

"At least it's on you and not Fred," Mia teased. She dodged to the side as Alex threw a copy of the Daily Prophet at her.

"Erm," a cough at the door to the compartment halted the teasing fight before it fully began.

Mia and Alex looked up to see a short boy with dozens of freckles and stubby brown hair. He looked around anxiously before giving the two of them a hopeful, quirked smile.

"Hi, I was wonderin' if I could sit here," he said. He shuffled inside and plopped down on the seat next to Alex with Mia's nod and smile.

"I'm Alex Carmichael and that's Mia Malfoy," Alex said. "We're first years."

"I'm Patrick Finnigan," the boy said. "I'm a first year, too."

"Finnigan?" Mia's head tilted to the side. "Are you related to Seamus Finnigan?"

"Yeah!" the little boy bounced up eagerly and smiled. "He's me grandda."

"He's married to my aunt Lily."

"I know Lily! She's my favorite aunt," Patrick nodded solemnly. "I don't like Aunt Elizabeth much," Patrick's nose wrinkled in dislike. "She's got a pole stuck up her ass all the time."

"Where're you from?" Alex asked, still wary of the newcomer. He didn't trust as easily as Mia. He thought it was a downfall of hers, often. But she just told him that it didn't matter if he was going to be there to balance it out.

"Belfast," Patrick said.

"Oh! D'you know the Quidditch team there? They've been doing well these past few weeks."

Mia watched as the boys launched in to a intense discussion about Quidditch. She liked it, but not to the extent these boys did. And then they went full-throttle into the football teams of England and Ireland.

The woman who pulled the trolley came by twenty minutes after Mia had joined into the conversation, arguing point-blank against the Cannons. No matter how much her grandpa Ron loved them, they were still in dead last for every tournament.

They talked the whole way to Hogwarts.

"Are ya nervous?" Patrick leaned over to whisper in Mia's ear.

"Nope," she replied. She shook her head, making the strawberry-blonde waves get a bit messier and fall behind her shoulders.

"I am," he said emphatically.

"Me, too," Alex whispered. "Does the Sorting Hat ever just, not sort someone?"

"'Course not," Mia scoffed. She stared up at her uncle Neville who was clearing his throat up at the top of the Great Hall, holding a long, yellowing scroll of names of the first years.

"Anderson, Geoffrey," Neville called.

A lanky boy with gangly hands and no control of his limbs clambered up to the stool. Neville set the hat down on Anderson's head.

"Ravenclaw!" it cried.

Anderson sank with relief before ambling over to the table clad in the blue and bronze ties.

Mia silently slid her hand into Alex's. She put on a brave face, but she was just as nervous as he and Patrick. She just didn't want to show it.

"Carmichael, Alex." Just like that, Alex's hand left Mia's and he climbed up to the Sorting Hat.

It barely touched his head before proclaiming him a Gryffindor.

Alex sent Mia a relieved grin before hopping down beside Claire, Teddy and Victoire's daughter, at the Gryffindor table.

Soon, too soon for Mia's liking, Finnigan, Patrick was called up and she was left all alone in a crowd of her fellow-first years.

He sat down next to Alex at the Gryffindor table, too.

Gryffindor, please, please, let it be Gryffindor, Mia silently begged.

"Malfoy, Hermia."

Mia's head jerked up at her name. Now or never. Her feet went one in front of the other and somehow, she was seated on the stool with the hat on her head.

Was she imaging it, or were people whispering? Fiercely? One was even pointing.

"Oh, a Slytherin for sure," someone muttered.

"No, don't you know? Her father was in Gryffindor. And her mother is a Weasley!"

"Oh yeah, my dad told me about that. The Weasley who got knocked up as a teenager."

Mia felt a fiery anger surge through her. How dare they judge her? Judge her mother and her father?

Ah, a loyalty to your family, I see.

Mia jerked up. Who's that?

I'm the Sorting Hat, of course. Let's see, let's see…you are brave, no doubt about that. A little too confident and cocky for Hufflepuff. You are smart and witty, but academics are not your focus. You're too focused on the good and the bad, as seen just by your reaction to the gossip. Well, well, I have a decision.


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