I do not own Harry Potter and affiliated story lines, characters, or settings.

Well…here it is. My first fanfic. Please let me know what you think! Rated M for future lemon.

*June 25th 2013*

I looked up to view the bold, outstanding numbers on the face of my digital clock for the fifth time that night. It was already 2:36 am, and I had not slept a wink. Let's see... I had gone to bed at 10 o' clock, hoping, in vain, to actually get some sleep that night. Instead I found myself lying in my empty four poster bed for more than four hours straight. Great. Just great. Of course, this would happen to me on tonight of all nights, I thought to myself ruefully. The one night I would need to sleep the most would be the night I didn't get any. Who could say how much sleep I would get over the course of the next week? No one knew, and if they did, they would not tell me.

Nerves, I decided. I needed to relax and stop thinking about this upcoming week and focus on clearing my mind to catch at least a few hours' rest. I needed to let go of my excitement, anxiety, and dread with each exhaled breath. In, out. Breathe. Forget.

It is easier said than done. My name is Astrea Graven, and I do not relax easily. Sometime close to 4 in the morning, I did fall into a restless sleep. I had let go of my emotions consciously, but they continued to torment me in my dreams. In my dream that night, everything that had brought me to that point in my life flew in a streaming torrent of images and voices. It had all begun in early 2012, with the new release of the Tronic400, the newest, and most expensive, game console to ever be released in public.

The Tronic400 was also a very large gaming system. It did not need a television screen, or controller. Instead, there was a large metal box large enough for someone to sit in comfortably, and that was exactly how it worked. To open the box, a red button had to be pressed on the top of the cube; the only feature on the outside of the otherwise smooth, cold metal. Voila, one side of the odd box slid up to reveal what was within.

The interior was quite the opposite. The Tronic400 sported an elaborate system of controls and a deluxe chair with a head rest. The head rest was unique, though. Spidery lines of silver traced a pattern on the cushion that shaped perfectly to the back of the head. These lines matched perfectly with the network of nerves controlling thought, speech, and movement in the brain, and were the key to experiencing the Tronic400.

To play a game in the Tronic400, you had to sit in the chair, insert the game chip into a particular slot, and then press a shiny green button. Then, the only thing left to do would be to sit back, rest the back of the head against the head rest, and literally let the game console download the game into your mind. About thirty seconds after resting your head against the head rest and closing your eyes, you would wake up in the game. You would feel normal, and move around like normal, but there were some adjustments. In some games, such as Mario Bros, you would gain the ability to jump higher, and feel stronger than in real life. Imagine something you would do with this invention, and a game was probably developed around it. There were skiing games, skydiving games, racing games, shopping games, and even pornographic games for adults.

Most families and teenagers could not afford to buy this system for home, so it became popular by summer of 2012 for businesses to invest in one, and then rent out the system for hour increments. I enjoyed playing tennis games and sometimes shopping games, but I was a seventeen-year-old nerd. I didn't "go online" as the kids called it in order to play games in a second reality with my friends.

Neither did I play the games to try feats and challenges that would be considered risky in real life, without the actual risk of dying. True, you could still feel pain and emotions in the games, as the controller was your brain. However, many used the system to do things like climb Mount Everest, or walk a tight rope over a volcano, without death to deter them. Instead, I focused on my studies junior year, and worked several days a week during summer to save money for college. I was really looking forward to senior year. My classes would be challenging, but they were the ones I had been waiting for my entire high school career to take. The one class I looked forward to the most was AP English.

Mrs. Groundford was my favorite teacher at Stanley Prep. I had never taken a class with her before, but we had bonded through many school activities and clubs. After all, she was the drama teacher, as well as senior English teacher, and I had starring roles in the Musical each year. As director, she had mentored me into becoming a potentially professional actress. She constantly tried to convince me to go big with my talents, to make it to Hollywood. I always smiled, shook my head, and said "No, thanks."

It wasn't that I did not enjoy acting. I would not have participated in the Musicals if I did not. But… acting and singing were hobbies for me, and nothing more. I hated the snobbish, big-headed girls that dominated the casts at our high school, and I knew that no matter where I went with acting, the personalities would never change. I liked learning and exploring as much as I enjoyed being on stage, and that is why I never chose to pursue a career in acting. Little did I know that my combined acting skills and impressive grades would hand me the opportunity of a lifetime…

*February 10th, 2013*

Luke leaned back in his chair and away from the mountains of files still remaining on his desk. The manila folders were pristinely stacked, categorized by country, gender, and age. There were so many to go through… Luke smiled. He loved this job. Even if his mother hadn't been one of J. K. Rowling's best friends, his brilliance in school and smooth talking would have gotten him hired at HPTronic Corporation in no time. He had opted for a year's paid internship with the company, rather than attend a four year institute immediately after graduating high school.

Sighing, Luke glanced at his watch. He did a double take. After midnight? Geez, these files took forever to analyze and sort. It was interesting work, but highly repetitive. He must've been so buried in his work that he did not hear his coworkers rushing past his office to exit and return home for dinner at 7. Obstinate, J. K. Rowling called him. He preferred the word dedicated. And this job was most certainly something he was dedicated too.

He was looking for the perfect match, as his job, after all, did depend on it. The scholarship couldn't go to just anyone. It had to be someone special. It was his mother's scholarship. J. K. Rowling had come to him with the idea during his senior year. By that time, the Tronic400 had already become an epic success in Europe and North America. Little had Luke known that the machine's main purpose was not the trivial games that had made it so popular, but a much grander purpose awaited the gaming system.

As Luke sat in his office, a game was being created that would shock the world to its very core. It was a virtual reality that would be housed in one facility, on one island, by thousands of people. Two thousand Tronics were already housed in a large, white, and impressive building. They were there with the intent for two thousand players to live and experience Hogwarts, and most importantly, the Battle of Hogwarts, first hand.

However, the game was more than it first appeared, although the first appearance was already impressive. The game partly followed the schematics of the book series and subsequent movies. All well-known characters involved in the books would be found in the games. Harry and Voldemort would still be enemies, and Hermiona, Ron, and the rest of the gang would battle the death eaters to save the wizarding world. However, each time the game would progress; it would follow a different path.

The hope was that the game was to be influenced by its players. An arena was to be created based on the multitude of opinions, strengths, weaknesses, and fears provided by its players. Each game could be vastly different. Hogwarts could take the shape of an underground domain, or the Wizarding World, including Hogwarts, could be afloat in the sky on aircraft or held by magical charms.

The arena was not the most important thing influenced by the players. The outcome of the story would be influenced, as well. The makers of the HPTronic games were going to be very specific with their players. A majority of players could apply and be admitted into the games in exchange for a vast amount of money. Others could pay less exorbitant prices, but had to go through a tougher selection process, and had to meet certain requirements.

In order to play the part of a named character within the storyline, you had to first look like the character. For example, a young person hopeful of playing Harry Potter would need dark hair and might be required to wear glasses if the player was not already prescribed them. A player would need to pass a physical test, as the game was expected to be violent, and a personality test, to see if they could handle the pressures of the game in such a spotlight position.

Surprising tweaks to the game would come from the makers themselves, who chose the players. If for example, they wished for the game to end with Lord Voldemort winning, they could choose an insanely smart man to play him, and brave, but doomed players who were to act as the Golden Trio. Not that the makers actually intended specific endings, they rather left them open, and often hoped for surprise endings. However, they needed at least some way to shake things up a bit.

The most interesting part was this – the company recognized the fact that not everyone could afford such an extravagant experience, and lamented the fact. So, a scholarship was created that would allow players with skills in acting and academics to participate in the games free of charge. The only problem? There were literally thousands of applicants for only a few choice spots.

Actually, there was to be only one scholarship awarded the first game, as this game was to be the biggest money maker. Rich families, whose children were not noteworthy enough to gain spots through normal admission, were paying double to ensure that their child participated in the first ever HPTronic game.

That was where Luke came into play. He hoped one day to be a psychology major, and perhaps assist part-time with creating new game features, story lines, and character selection. His only task during his brief internship was simple. He had to choose the only scholarship awardee for the first game. There were only several thousands to look through, the most that would ever apply for the scholarship.

Luke sighed. He had already gone through over ten thousand applicant backgrounds since October, and there were still four thousand to consider before April 1st. He had only saved around two hundred files for continued consideration. It was not that many of the applicants would have been unsatisfactory players. In fact, many of them would have played outstanding parts in the games. However, Luke was looking for something special. He wanted someone that would have made his mother proud. It was a scholarship in honor her, after all.

He did not consciously realize, as he sorted out applicants, that his favorite matched his mother's personality type, or had her same color hair. He did not know what exactly what he was looking for. All he knew was that he would know when he did find the right person, and he had not found that person yet.

Opting to forge through twenty more applications before heading home, Luke chugged the last remains of his now cold coffee and went to work. "This person would make a hilarious Malfoy", he thought, but his academics were not as strong as Luke preferred. "This girl would make a pretty Ginny Weasley", he smirked, but her interests were listed as shopping and sleepovers. Luke chuckled; his mother would most definitely not have approved.

He was about to open the last folder of the night when he hesitated. Luke realized that it was now 3 am and he was extremely tired. Maybe he should wait until morning, when sleep put him in a more positive mood for reviewing this applicant. "Hell," he thought, "I gave myself a goal, and I'm going to reach it."

He opened the folder. This girl was... beautiful.

Astrea Graven; Trayton, New Jersey; age 17; Brown curly hair; Chocolate brown eyes.

He looked closely at her face. He could almost see his mother's crooked smile staring back at him. His mother's rambunctious, but naturally beautiful, curls were certainly there. "She would have to play Hermione Granger," he mused. "Now let's see if she lives up to Granger's standards."

Graven was incredibly smart. She was not valedictorian, but she was third in her class. How she fit in enough time for homework and studying with all of her activities, Luke could only wonder. She was a member of the Cross-Country Team, and had even earned a second-place medal for her county race. She was a Girl Scout, a volunteer at her local historical archives cataloguing century-old photographs, had a hard-working job, and was actually an impressive artist in her school's art club. He looked at photos of her paintings and sketches. "Very romantic, but practical pieces," thought Luke. "Mother would have loved them."

Luke found himself pouring over every detail of this girl's life contained in one single manila folder. She had starred in the musicals at her school, and was recommended highly by her Drama teacher by the name of Mrs. Groundford. She was kind, and had a large circle of friends that she did her numerous activities with. She had a cat, she had a younger sister, her favorite class was English. Luke absorbed snippets of information he had not bothered to read with any of the other applicants. As he read, a grin slowly spread across his face, until he was smiling widely from ear to ear.

Jumping up from his seat, he whooped with joy. He had found her! She was perfect! Of course, he would skim through the other applications to be fair, but he knew that he had made up his mind. She was a lot like his mother: athletic, dramatic, academic, and social. However, this girl had a flair all her own that stood out as the perfect candidate for HPTronic. "Look out, Harry Potter World," shouted Luke, "because here comes Ms. Astrea Graven! Age 17! Beautiful! Smart! Strong! Perfect!"