The moon was just beginning to rise as a group of children clambered into the small wooden boats clustered on the shore of the lake. They quickly filled, and the small wizard in the first boat flicked his wand toward the black expanse of water. To the sound of awed gasps, the boats began to propel themselves forward, calmly drawing nearer to the immense castle. When the boats softly bumped into the shore, beaching themselves, the students scrambled out.
They were the newest additions to the student body of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, purebloods and muggle-borns. They clumped together walking to the castle that seemed to extend into the sky from their close view. Stumbling a little in the dark, they traveled across the expansive grounds. Most students instinctively shied away from the ominous forest that bordered one side of the area, though some glanced at it with curiosity.
Two minutes later found the students waiting expectantly for the large oak doors of the castle to open. About the time several of the first years were beginning to grumble with impatience, the right-hand door was whisked ajar and a smiling woman appeared in front of them. The students assumed she was a professor, Deputy Headmistress, to be performing this role.
"Welcome to Hogwarts!" she said brightly, motioning them to follow her in. The wizard who had led them thus far walked in after the last student, and slipped unnoticed through a larger doorway while the students were led into a smaller room.
The kindly witch waited until every student was facing her and paying attention to begin the short speech. "As I said before, welcome to Hogwarts. You will presently be sorted into one of the four houses that make up Hogwarts: Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, Slytherin, and Gryffindor. Your house will be important whilst at school, not in which one, but as a whole. Classes are taken as a house, meals are eaten at the house table, and dormitories are by house. As part of your house, you will also be able to earn and lose house points. These points are totaled at the end of each school year and the house with the most points wins the house cup. The Sorting will be in a few moments, please wait here until I return."
The assembly of first years broke their respectful silence when the woman closed the door behind herself, buzzing with nerves and excitement. The muggle-borns were unsure of their magical abilities at this point, the purebloods worried over being chosen for an unsuitable house, and the others an unstable mix.
"Will we have to cast any spells? I haven't even opened any of the textbooks..."
"My mother was a Slytherin, so I most certainly can't be a Gryffindor..."
"Why me? Why me?"
When the witch returned, she was no longer smiling, yet somehow reassured each student that the challenge would maybe not be so bad. Of course, this reassurance could only do so much to the rising levels of panic running through the students as they were led through the door and into a significantly larger room. The windows along one side of the Great Hall faced the lake, though it was not distinguishable in the black of night. Above their heads, there appeared to be no ceiling, only the crescent moon and scattering of stars twinkling in the sky. There were five tables, four of students facing the one of staff members. The older students had turned to watch the first years when the door opened, a mixture of feelings emanating to the younger students.
They stood clustered at the foot of the dais, reaching the peak of emotion. A three-legged stool stood centered in front of the students, upon it was a patched wizard's hat that looked as if it belonged in the rubbish bin.
Suddenly, right above the brim of the hat, a tear appeared, and from it the hat began to sing,
"Many years ago, when Hogwarts was first beginning,
The four founders taught their selected,
Each different in their own right,
Leaving no student rejected.
But they were not immortal,
And so created the Sorting Hat,
The new divider for future times,
To serve as the Hogwarts welcome mat.
Now I wait here for you to try me on,
To see what's inside your head
And place you into a seven-year home,
So pay attention closely to what I will have said:
The courageous and bold will belong to Gryffindor,
Never represented by the meek,
While Hufflepuff prizes the loyal and fair,
Hardworking and holding of secrets they will never leak.
Those cunning Slytherins will appreciate over all ambition,
Ever wary of tradition and blood,
Where Ravenclaw accepts those of learning,
Clever and mindful of the intellectual bud.
So these are the choices, yours and mine,
To sort and begin to educate.
Now is the time to come forward and take your turn,
Step up and down to the table I allocate."
Claps erupted when the song was over, and the first years seemed, if possible, even more anxious than before. The professor produced a scroll of parchment from somewhere, and gave the first years their last instructions before being sorted.
"You will come up to the stool when I call your name and place the hat on your head." She unrolled the parchment and called the first name, "Achilles."
A rather tall boy, Achilles, placed the hat on his head and sat for less than ten seconds before the hat cried, "Gryffindor!" Aegisthus was next, the hat taking considerably longer to sort him into Slytherin.
The sorting seemed to take a long time, and to first year Odysseus, this was not a good thing. He could not wait to have the hat shout out his house for the school to hear, to have the uncertainty blown away by one word. "Meriones" was called up to the stool, and Odysseus knew it wouldn't be long.
"Odysseus," she called, and he broke away from the remaining students, firmly fixing the hat atop his head so that it obscured his view of the other students.
'Well, you're assertive aren't you?' a voice from somewhere said in his ear. 'Cunning, loyal, intelligent, daring, you would do well in any house. But, I think it would be ideal for you to have one house, and yes, I know which house.'
"Gryffindor!" the hat shouted to the hall, and Odysseus placed the worn garment back on the stool. He proceeded to take a seat at the table to the far left while the professor called the next student up. Odysseus was too exhausted from the nerve-wracking ordeal to pay attention as the last students were sorted. He just wanted the feast to begin so they could find their new dormitories and relax after the long day. The headmaster waved his hand toward each table, and food of every imaginable kind appeared. Odysseus immediately began to eat, turning one ear to the conversation his fellow housemates were having over pie. He contributed his personal favorite, peach, and settled in for an interesting seven years.
"You will be expected to know the repelling charm for your exams this year," Professor Antenor informed the class of Gryffindor and Ravenclaw third years. "Your homework for our next lesson is to practice, and I suggest some of you put in more effort than you did during class."
The bell rang signaling the end of the class and there was a mad rush as the students packed up their materials and headed to lunch. Odysseus shoved his Charms book in his bag and stuck his wand in his robe's pocket, joining the others as they left the classroom.
"I can't believe Antenor is already thinking about exams," Achilles grumbled. "It isn't even Christmas yet."
"He's just letting us know what will be on it, and let's face it, some people do need to practice more," Menelaus reasoned. "Did you see Cassandra's? It attracted every object on her desk."
"Well, she's been a bit off ever since she started taking Divination," Achilles laughed.
Odysseus was silent, not following his friends' conversation. He was still back in the Charms classroom, moving through the corridor solely by reflex. He hesitated following them down to the Great Hall when they reached the marble staircase, though.
Achilles and Menelaus were halfway down the staircase when they realized Odysseus was no longer behind them.
"I'm going to go to the library," he told the confused Gryffindors.
"But you've finished all your work; you said so yourself last night," Achilles pointed out, ascending the stairs again.
"This isn't about Charms, is it?" Menelaus asked, remembering what Professor Antenor had told the class about practicing. "You know he didn't mean you when he specified that some people should practice."
Odysseus made a non-committal noise, avoiding their gazes.
"You had one of the best charms!" Menelaus said incredulously. "It was even better than mine!"
"I have to finish... some extra work," Odysseus insisted. "I'll see you in Potions." He took off up the staircase, leaving Menelaus and Achilles to head back downward.
He entered the library and immediately proceeded to the farthest table. Odysseus sat for a few moments before sorting out what he would do. Despite what he had told Menelaus, this impromptu visit to the library was indeed due to his Repelling Charm. He had been fairly successful by the end of the lesson, but not, as Menelaus had suggested, one of the better casters. Usually he was toward the top of the class, but if so many others had been able to surpass his attempts, he surely could as well.
Odysseus first read the chapter over in the book, checking the wand movement and the pronunciation more than once. "Impervius... Impervius..." He selected a thick volume from one of the numerous shelves and placed it on the table.
Concentrating, he circled his wand counterclockwise and stated the spell clearly, "Impervius." Noting that there were no unintended consequences as of yet, he began the process of testing his charmwork by casting spells on the book.
"Wingardium Leviosa... Aguamenti..." He paused to dry the book, and marked the water spell on a scrap of parchment.
He soon had a collection of spells that were not repelled by his charm. For the next few weeks, he added charm practice to his workload, to the wonder and annoyance of his friends.
"Your charm is fine, Odysseus, we've got Quidditch practice now," Agamemnon, the fifth year seeker on the Gryffindor Quidditch team would tell the third year when he practiced in the common room. Odysseus would distractedly shut his textbook and trail after the older boy, circling his wand over and over.
Occasionally he cast the spell on a person, and Achilles was soaked more than once.
"Why can't you study for tomorrow's test in Transfiguration?" he complained while Odysseus performed the drying spell that had come in very handy through this experience.
Odysseus ignored this and returned to magicking the textbook.
By the time June rolled around with examinations, Odysseus had crossed off every spell from his list, and had cast the repelling charm more than the rest of his class combined.
"Aguamenti...Locomotor Book...Engorgio..." he muttered in the hushed common room the night before the third years were due for their Charms exam.
"Is this right, Odysseus?" Menelaus whispered frantically, waving his wand in random sequences. The fifth years, even Agamemnon, were extremely stressed, and lately prone to venting that stress out on anyone who chose to disturb their frenzied studying.
"Not quite. Circles, Menelaus, circles," he demonstrated, proudly casting the spell perfectly.
The next afternoon, however, we was wordlessly miming spells along with his distraught peers, internally reviewing every spell they had ever learned. After all, the Repelling Charm could hardly be the only spell they would be tested on.
"Menelaus, Meriones, Odysseus, Penelope," Professor Antenor called the next group of students in to take the practical portion of their end of the year exams. "You will each cast the Cheering Charm and the Repelling Charm, in that order. Menelaus, you're first," Antenor instructed.
Menelaus moved to the center of the room, cleared of desks for exams. They would be casting their spells on the student who had just finished; Ravenclaw Laocoon was Menelaus' casting dummy. He performed both of his spells successfully, taking Laocoon's place and cheerfully enduring the consequences of Meriones' faulty Repelling Charm.
Odysseus was confident in his abilities as he stepped up to complete his exam. "Felices," he articulated, and Meriones' frown from his poor performance disappeared, replaced by a full-blown smile. Odysseus took a deep breath before continuing. This is the moment all of his hard work would show.
"Impervius," he aimed toward the happily humming Meriones, and it sounded as though someone else was saying it with him.
Professor Antenor directed his first test spell at Meriones, and had to duck when it ricocheted off.
"Good work, Odysseus," he congratulated the ecstatic student on his advanced level of casting when he reappeared from behind his desk.
Odysseus came out of the Charms classroom practically singing; his own victorious joy having been built upon by Penelope's expert Cheering Charm.
"Well done, Odysseus," he heard from somewhere as an owl flew past a nearby window.
"Come on, Menelaus, that was an easy shot," Aias griped. The seven Gryffindor Quidditch players were preparing for their match the next day against Hufflepuff.
"Odysseus wasn't even paying attention, were you?" he turned to the sixth year Keeper, who was staring at something across the grounds. "Odysseus?"
"What?" he asked, still unfocused.
Aias sighed, "Let's try this again." He tossed the Quaffle to Menelaus and flew over to the other players. Menelaus caught it and joined Odysseus facing the pitch. He knew what - or who - Odysseus was losing his focus over. Under a tree across the grounds, a group of Ravenclaw girls were taking advantage of the sunny weather and studying outdoors.
"If you fancy Penelope, why not ask her to Hogsmede next weekend?" he queried. Odysseus grinned; he'd been found out.
"I will," he responded, and had half a mind do fly over and do it right then before remembering that they were only ten minutes into practice. "Later."
"Of course," Menelaus said, flying off to join his fellow Chasers, Achilles and Arete.
"I'm letting out the Bludgers," Aias called from the ground. The two black balls instantly flew upward and began their destructive attempts. "Agamemnon?" Agamemnon let go of the Golden Snitch he held, not yet keeping track of it. "I want everyone to focus," he shouted even as the mock game was beginning and he knocked a Bludger away from Achilles.
The team improved considerably from the start of practice, and by the end, Aias was sufficiently pleased.
"We should do fine in tomorrow's match," he told his team. "Ajax, watch the direction of your hits, you nearly hit Arete a few times and Arete, pay attention to any approaching Bludgers. Meet here at the usual match time, and get some rest."
Odysseus walked up to the common room with his teammates and quickly finished his Arithmancy essay, before being prodded up the dormitory stairs by Aias.
"It's twenty to one, Gryffindor," Machaon announced, his commentary of the match resounding over the roar of the crowd. "Gryffindor has possession, Arete, the only girl player on the field, aims for a goal, blocked by Hufflepuff Captain Idomeneus."
Odysseus was alertly circling the three goal posts on his side of the pitch, keeping one eye on the Hufflepuff Chasers and the other on the two Bludgers. Aias and Ajax had so far been effective in preventing any Gryffindor injuries, but it never hurt to stay on guard.
"Alcinous speeds the Quaffle down toward the Gryffindor end," Machaon said, and Odysseus was already preparing for the goal attempt. "Alcinous passes to Othryoneus, shot caught by Odysseus."
Odysseus threw the Quaffle to Achilles, who flew it to the other side of the pitch.
"Achilles passes to Menelaus, to Arete, back to Achilles who SCORES! Ten points to Gryffindor!"
Odysseus cheered the goal, hoping they would score several more before Agamemnon caught the Snitch. He looked up from the Quaffle to where Agamemnon and the Hufflepuff Seeker Helenus circled above the game, searching for a glint of gold.
"Fifty to twenty, Gryffindor," Machaon narrated later in the game. Odysseus had been sloppy and let in two goals, but was now determinedly preventing any more Hufflepuff goals. "And Othryoneus is hit by Aias' well placed Bludger. Professor Polypoetes calls a time out. It looks like his leg's been broken, it most certainly is; the game resumes with Hufflepuff short a Chaser. Gryffindor has possession once again, Menelaus passes to Arete, caught instead by Asteropaeus."
Now that the Hufflepuffs were down a player, they attempted many more goals, one of which sneaked past Odysseus only because of its poor aim.
"Come on, Agamemnon, find that Snitch," he encouraged.
"Hufflepuff is not doing well. Why they chose Menestheus as a Beater when he flies away from the Bludger more often than hits it is indeed a mystery, one that is not helping them in the slightest," Machaon was saying. "Hufflepuff in possession, Alcinous passes to Asteropaeus, who sc- Hufflepuff shot blocked by Odysseus, and Gryffindor in possession, now Hufflepuff, has the Snitch been sighted?"
Odysseus forced himself not to look up, as Alcinous was attempting to score once again. He easily caught the Quaffle in front of the right-hand hoop, tossing it back into the game before glancing skyward.
Agamemnon was racing Helenus to a spot near the Hufflepuff goal posts, avoiding the Bludger sent his way by Pandarus.
"Gryffindor in possession, Arete from Achilles," Machaon announced, as a collision seemed inevitable.
Arete was flying toward the Hufflepuff goal, same as Agamemnon, bringing the other Chasers that direction as well. She tossed the Quaffle through the middle goal as Agamemnon and Helenus reached for the Snitch. Idomeneus striving to block the Gryffindor goal provided the confusion to allow the Snitch to be lost and the goal to successfully add ten points to the Gryffindor team.
"Both Seekers head back to their positions and Hufflepuff is in possession."
Odysseus blocked the next three Hufflepuff goals, letting in the fourth after avoiding a Bludger sent his way by Pandarus.
"Gryffindor is still in the lead, Achilles intercepts Asteropaeus' pass to Alcinous, turns a one-eighty and flies straight into Menestheus, Alcinous catches the dropped Quaffle, blocked by a Bludger from Aias, Quaffle recovered by Gryffindor Menelaus."
Odysseus had resumed his circling of the goal posts, watching Menelaus pass the Quaffle to Achilles and miss the goal.
"Gryffindor Seeker Agamemnon has seen something, could it be the Snitch?"
Odysseus searched the pitch for Agamemnon, who had indeed seen the Snitch. The match was over in less than thirty seconds, leaving Gryffindor with a victory two hundred and ten to forty.
"And Gryffindor has won the match!" Machaon concluded, cheers from the Gryffindors nearly drowning him out.
Odysseus flew down to join his team in celebration, a wide smile on his face. Much later, he was walking up to the common room with Achilles and Menelaus, still feeling the glowing after effects of the triumph.
"Congratulations on the match," Penelope approached the Quidditch players from the side corridor they were passing.
"Thank you," Odysseus nodded in affirmation. Penelope smiled and began to walk away, heading the way the three friends had come. Odysseus hesitated a second before calling after her, "Wait."
She turned back to face them, still smiling, "Yes?"
"Do you want to go to Hogsmeade with me next Saturday?"
A man and a woman sat in a corner of the Three Broomsticks, sipping butterbeer.
"Any ideas, Odysseus?" the woman asked, and the man, Odysseus, obviously understood.
"I hear Greece is nice."