"Albus, we may have a problem."
Albus Dumbledore looked up from his desk to see his Deputy Headmistress, Minerva McGonagall. The professor had been his trusted colleague for several decades, and he was confident that Hogwarts would barely run without her steady hand.
Which made the troubled look on her face that much more worrying.
"What's wrong, Minerva?" the Headmaster asked.
She held up the scroll with the names of the first years. It was the same parchment she would read from at that evening's sorting ceremony. To Albus' eye, it seemed normal.
"The sorting list was on my desk, Albus." She almost brandished the parchment at him. "It seems that sometime in the last two hours, the list of incoming students grew significantly."
"There are always late additions, Minerva," Albus said, in his best reassuring voice. "There were thirty-eight students when we held yesterday's staff meeting, as I recall. How many are there now?" Perhaps one or two of the students who had declined to attend had changed their minds? It was known to happen once in a while.
Again, the Deputy Headmistress held up the parchment. "The Hogwarts Class of 1998 now has eighty-two students, Albus!"
Shocked, Dumbledore sat back in his chair. Eighty-Two?
"Oh, dear…" he sighed.
Duke Leto Atreides had no illusions about death. His last thoughts were about Jessica and Paul, not about what might wait for him. He had known, even before the Baron began his gloating, that he was a dead man. All he could do, all he could hope for, was to strike back before it was too late.
Jessica and Paul were out of his hands, now. There was no longer anything he could do to help them.
And damn everything if that thought didn't infuriate him.
As the poison filled his mouth, he heard a shriek of pain, and knew he had been successful. Someone - either the Baron Harkonnen himself or Piter de Vries, that vile, twisted mentat of his, had died horribly. It was all he could do, and he was satisfied with the result.
Hours later, when the poisonous gas had dissipated, no one would be able to explain why the Duke's body had an odd smile.
To Leto, the surprising thing about death was that it felt like he was moving. There was vibration underneath him, almost like a poorly adjusted 'thopter, but the lack of motion sideways told him that he was still on the surface. A groundcar, perhaps?
Leto opened his eyes, and saw sunlight streaming into a window. Sitting up, he leaned forward, hoping to get an idea of where he had been taken. Already, his instincts were screaming at him, for the light he saw was far too bright for the harsh, reddish sun that scorched Arrakis.
Then he saw the view, and everything stopped.
Grassy fields, as far as he could see. Trees, perhaps a river in the distance. Signs of civilization, but nothing familiar. Certainly, no desert.
Wherever he was, it wasn't the desert planet of Arrakis.
He placed a hand on the glass, getting as close as he could, in hopes of getting a glimpse of the vehicle in which he found himself. The sight of his hand startled him almost as much as the landscape - for it was a child's hand.
Leto stared at it in wonder. It was definitely his hand, for he could identify two scars he would have had as a young boy. He could not see a third, though, one he had gotten from a bull in the stables, helping his father prepare for his next opponent in the bullfighting rings of Caladan. If he was right, it placed him in what had to be his ten or eleven year old body.
"Where am I?" Leto whispered to himself.
"Earth," was the unexpected reply. Leto spun around, and found another boy sitting across from him.
The boy was wearing simple clothes - trousers, a white shirt with long sleeves, and some sort of black robe thrown over his shoulders. He had a thick book in his lap, and a stack of additional books beside him on the bench in whatever compartment this was. His glasses combined with his overall manner of aloof disinterest to complete the picture in Leto's mind - the boy had all the markings of a scholar or scientist, perhaps even a mentat in training.
The other boy closed his book and carefully set it aside. Then he folded his hands in his lap, and sat still. It was obvious to Leto that the move was intended to be non-threatening, which meant that the boy could tell how agitated the Duke had become. Unconsciously, Leto's evaluation of the boy went up another notch.
But for all that, the boy's answer was nonsensical.
"It's not possible for us to be on Earth," Leto said, as calmly as he could.
The boy nodded. "True. And yet, here we are." He gestured out the window. "There are many beautiful worlds in the galaxy, but none seem to compare to the green hills of Earth." His eyes lingered for a moment on the landscape, and Leto heard the boy sigh before he continued speaking. "I never really expected to see it, you know. Not with my own eyes."
"Earth is a radioactive wasteland," Leto said, not knowing how else to respond. "Even the navigators have been unable to find its location for millenia."
"Interesting," the boy replied. "Much like my own home, it seems. We even lost track of its location as well, though that was deliberate, I learned later."
Leto took a deep breath, fighting to keep himself calm. Before he could respond, the boy had leaned forward.
"What's the last thing you remember, before waking here?" he asked.
"I died!" Leto spat in reply. "I was captured by my enemies, and held on long enough to learn that my son and my... his mother had escaped. Then I opened a small canister of poison hidden in a tooth, and took one of my captors with me." Even now, even in this outrageous situation, the regret bit back at him hard. I should have married you, Jessica, he lamented.
"That fits," the boy said, thoughtfully. "Your son, then. Was he named Paul?"
"You do know of me?" Leto asked.
The boy shook his head. "No, you kept saying two names in your sleep. Paul, and Jessica."
Leto sat back in his seat. "Yes. My son, and… well, honestly, the woman who should have been my duchess."
"Duchess?" asked the boy, with a raised eyebrow.
Leto nodded. "I am… or, rather, was, Duke Leto Atreides, Head of House Atreides, one of the great houses of the Landsraad Council."
"I see," said the boy. "Fascinating. You really are from another universe."
"What the hell does that mean?" Leto growled. "Who are you, then?"
The boy smiled calmly at him. "I am Hari Seldon."
The boy in front of him - Hari, he had called himself - had been a scholar. His work placed him at the core of the galactic empire, but one far different from the Imperium Leto had known. Hari had seen the signs of decline in his Empire, and tried to stave off disaster. He even served as the top aide to the Emperor at one point, a thing unheard of in Leto's mind.
Eventually, his project had been established at the far end of the galaxy, and Hari Seldon had died peacefully, his work set in motion.
Leto noticed that Hari very carefully did not mention his family, and so the topic was avoided. Instead, Leto listened patiently as Hari explained his experience in this new world, with the fervor only a scientist could replicate.
"I think whatever happened to you, happened to me as well," Hari explained. "Except that I woke up almost a month ago in an inn. This culture, the one you and I are entering, is more of an enclave of sorts. It keeps itself hidden from outsiders, but the hiding is almost in plain sight at times. For example, the inn I stayed in has doors that go from one world to the other."
"And what world is this, exactly?" Leto asked.
Hari grinned. "It seems that whatever force brought us here has a sense of humor, Leto. I was a man of pure science, and I believe you were a military man, the governor of a planet, yes?" Off Leto's nod, Hari continued. "Well, it seems that we're about as far from our old lives as we could be."
With a flourish, Hari pulled a stick from his sleeve. Muttering an incantation, the boy waved the stick at his stack of books. To Leto's astonishment, the books began to levitate around the compartment.
"No suspensors, no antigravs," said Leto, as he watched the display. "No hidden strings, no means of support… It's almost like magic."
Hari's sharp laugh drew Leto's eyes to his companion.
"Sorry, sorry," Hari said, waving the books back to their place. "I'm sorry, I thought it'd take you longer to guess."
"Guess? What, you mean that was magic?"
Hari nodded. "You're a wizard, Duke Leto Atreides." He reached into his robe, and pulled out a letter. "Check your pockets, you'll have a letter like this one."
Leto realized that he was wearing clothing similar to Hari's - simple trousers, shirt, and what seemed to be some sort of robe. In one of the interior pockets of the robe, Leto found three sheets of yellowed paper.
"Mister Callaway," Leto read. "We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed…" Leto's voice trailed off as he read the letter, and the attached supply list.
"I suspect you will have whatever you need in that trunk," Hari said, pointing at one of the large trunks in the luggage rack. "Whatever force brought us here, it would not have called attention to you by sending you to Hogwarts unprepared."
"No, I suppose not," Leto agreed. It was then that the third piece of paper caught his attention. The text was in a far different style than the letter, and its contents raised more questions than they answered.
"Ah," Hari said, when he saw the document. "That is convenient. They included an inheritance test."
"Lee Atreides," Let read. "Born Leto Atreides, and Heir to the Minor House of Atreides," he frowned, looking up. "Minor house?"
Hari chuckled. "The long-standing houses in magical society generally rank themselves on how long they have been active, among other things. I suspect that it was impossible to create a longer history for your family here."
"Perhaps," Leto said, as he continued reading. "They even have my parents' names, my grandparents. All listed as deceased, but still." His eyes travelled down the page, narrowing when he did not find the name he had been clearly searching for.
"You're eleven years old," Hari said, gently. "Your son would not have come back with you, and if he had, he wouldn't be your son."
"Paul was a gifted lad," Leto answered, surprised at the defensive tone in his voice.
"I have no doubt," Hari replied. "And perhaps you will see him again someday. But not today, alas." Hari gave Leto his most reassuring smile. "Tomorrow doesn't look good for it, either."
Leto nodded, unwilling to say more about his missing son. Instead, his eyes caught a note at the bottom of the test. Off Hari's look, Leto read the note aloud.
"Heir Atreides shares the legal name of his mother, and will do so until he ascends to become Head of House. Thus, for the purposes of Gringotts' and Hogwarts business, Heir Atreides is known as Lee Callaway, in honor of his family's birthplace."
"Birthplace?" Hari asked. He watched as Leto sat back in his seat, smiling.
"Caladan," he replied. "To many, it was a small, backwater world with too much water and not enough industry. But to me, it was home."
"So," Leto said, as the train came to a stop in a small village. "What happens now?"
Hari stood, stretching out to work the kinks out from the long journey. "Now, we are sorted into a house, one of four groups within the school. And then, we learn about magic."
"Oh, to be a kid again," Leto muttered. But the idea had grown on him, as he thought about it. No real responsibilities to anyone but himself, just the opportunity to learn and enjoy a childhood no Duke's son would ever have imagined.
He had loved the life he led, even with the heartbreak and tragedy that came with the intrigues common in the Imperium. He would not have traded it in for anything. That didn't mean he couldn't enjoy this second chance, though.
"Besides," Hari continued as he put his books into a satchel. "Finding the answers isn't half as rewarding as figuring out what questions to ask." He looked up at his new friend with a grin. "Leto, I spent my life trying to predict the life of an empire containing trillions of souls. Doing the same thing with a small magical enclave numbering in the tens of thousands should be easy."
Leto could not help but laugh at Hari's enthusiasm. "It sounds like Ravenclaw for the two of us, then," he said.
"For me, absolutely," agreed Hari. "But why you?"
Leto put a hand on Hari's shoulder. "Because you sound like the sort to get into trouble as you seek your answers," he said. "Someone's got to keep an eye on you."
In his focus on helping Leto come to terms with the situation, Hari Seldon realized that he had not quite been forthcoming about his own "history", so to speak. Just like Leto, or Lee as he would have to start thinking of him, Hari had been given a history in this world as well.
Hari and Leto stood near the front of the large group of first years. Leto knew that he would be going relatively early in the order, since the Deputy Headmistress seemed to be going alphabetically. The pair watched a girl with bright red hair be sorted into Hufflepuff, only to be surprised by the next name on the list.
Leto looked over at Hari, and saw the surprise on his face. Gently, he elbowed his new friend, and the gesture seemed to be all that was needed. Hari began walking forward, as Leto chuckled.
All that knowledge, Leto thought, and he forgets his name. Whatever else happened, knowing Hari Seldon would not be dull.
Once the hat was on his head, Hari heard a voice speaking to him.
My word, the hat said. I didn't know that the professor had any family out there.
He might not, Hari replied. But it's a long story.
So I see, said the hat, in a weary tone. Well, you will need to meet with Professor Binns when you get the chance, Mister Seldon.
Of course, Hari agreed. Hari did not realize that he had any living family in this world, and was interested in finding out what connection might exist. At the very least, he'd have someone who lived in this world to offer guidance, which could prove useful.
As for the rest, this will surprise you not at all. But would there be any other option for Raven Seldon than
"RAVENCLAW!" The hat, as seemed to be tradition, shouted the last word, and the hall politely applauded. Hari stood and walked over to the blue-trimmed table, taking a seat near the end.
It was not long before Leto heard his own name called.
Buggering hell, muttered the hat's voice in Leto's ear.
Not exactly what I was expecting, mused Leto.
You should bloody well see it from my side, then! The hat was clearly growing annoyed at something, though Leto couldn't imagine what.
Your secrets are safe with me, Duke Leto, the hat continued. As are your new friend's. Quite an unlikely pair you make.
I had a bit of luck, Leto replied. The first person I met seems to be smart enough to figure out what is happening, which makes him a good resource.
This is not your Imperium, Mister Callaway, you need not speak in polite half-truths with me. I can see where your loyalty lies, at the moment, and that would serve you well in Hufflepuff. But I also see the wisdom behind those tired eyes, and I know where you'll have the most success.
I see, said Leto, unsure how else to respond.
Clearly, the hat had said its peace, for the next words were spoken aloud.
When he had sat down on the stool, in front of hundreds of children, he had been Duke Leto Atreides. Now, thinking about the hat's words, he nodded to himself. Best to do the thing properly, he thought to himself.
It was Lee Callaway who handed the hat back to the Deputy Headmistress. It was Lee Callaway who sat down at the blue-trimmed table, across from his new friend, Hari Binns-Seldon.
Grinning, he stuck out a hand. "Lee Callaway, nice to meet you."
Hari looked sheepish, and shook the offered hand. "Hari Binns-Seldon, at your service.
"Are you sure?" Lee asked, teasingly.
"You know, in our long conversation, I realized that certain details may have slipped my mind," admitted Hari.
Both boys laughed at the ridiculousness of the situation, which got a few looks from their fellow Ravenclaws. The boys ignored it, chatting quietly between sortings.
Other first years began to sit down nearby, including a young girl named Eve. Lee introduced himself, and then Hari did the same. As Hari and Eve were talking, Lee's eyes wandered over to the still unsorted students.
It was a set of grey eyes that caught Lee's attention. He had seen those eyes before. Frowning, Lee focused on the boy, standing near the edge of the group. The boy's mannerisms were all wrong, there was no hint of nervousness, no attempt to mingle with his yearmates. Those grey eyes were moving rapidly, but subtly - something he had definitely seen before.
Why is this so familiar? Lee asked himself. Then he recalled an old Master of Assassins doing the same thing, and his eyes grew wide.
The boy was gathering data about his surroundings - just like a mentat would.
The next name on the list was called, and the grey-eyed boy walked confidently forward.
As the boy walked up to the stool, Lee got a closer look. Unkempt eyebrows, dark brown hair barely contained in a ponytail, skin slightly paler than the norm.
Lee had indeed seen that boy before. Far more recently than he would like.
Lee looked to his left, and saw that Hari had moved around the table to sit next to him. The look on Hari's face told Lee that the boy had noticed his concern. That made denying it useless, so instead Lee nodded toward the sorting hat, which was just getting ready to shout.
"That boy, James Peterson," said Lee. "His real name was Piter de Vries."
Hari nodded. "I take it you know him?"
Lee nodded, as James Peterson took his seat at the green table. "I'm pretty sure I killed him, just before I woke up on the train."
A/N: I'm enjoying fleshing out some of the background intrigue in this year's Hogwarts class. Some characters are necessarily going to be drawn to each other, and others will have history to contend with. It starts with me asking the Discords for the most outlandish characters to include, and then figuring out story to go along with it.
Leto Atreides is the correct answer for our boy Lee - but even then, I wasn't certain which Leto would show up. Duke Leto, father of Paul? Leto II, the baby slain almost as an afterthought in the original Dune novel, for reasons? The other Leto II, the God Emperor? Any of the three could have had a compelling story, but in the end Duke Leto seemed to be the best fit for Hari Seldon.
Speaking of which - the Foundation saga is one of the core works in American Science Fiction, and a must read. Isaac Asimov had a very particular style, in that much of the action in his stories consisted of people talking to each other and reasoning things out. Of all his characters, Hari Seldon was perhaps the closest to an author avatar, and in that light there is no chance whatsoever that he doesn't go to Ravenclaw. I hope I captured some of his essence here, and in chapters to come. Needless to say, he's one of my favorites.
The in-universe names these characters are getting may matter, in some cases. Alexstrasza the Life-Binder becomes Alexstrasza Binder, for example. Here, someone on Discord suggested a relative of Professor Binns - and who better to be related to the History Professor than the founder of Psychohistory? As for Leto, I just wanted something plausible to match up with his homeworld, Caladan. Does the name James Peterson matter for the sinister Piter de Vries? I dunno, perhaps we'll find out.
Feedback, as always, is welcome.