“Where’s Kaylee?” Crow demanded the second Alexis stepped through the front door.
“She had an emergency, why?”
“She left you alone in Diagon Ally? You’re bleeding!” It was the first time Alexis had seen her uncle worried about her physical well-being. He was becoming increasingly absent around the house, always popping out for one thing or another.
“I’m fine, it’s nothing.” Alexis waved off. She dumped her parcels at the foot of the stairs. “A bookcase fell on me, that’s all.”
“A bookcase? There was an explosion in front of Gringots!” Crow said, his voice rising.
“What’s the big deal? I wasn’t hurt or anything. You have barely talked to me since I arrived and now suddenly you’re all worried about where I am and if I’m hurt?” Alexis shouted back. Crow seemed to back down. He rubbed his black hair with his right hand while his pet crow cawed over his shoulder.
“There have been incidents…” Crow began, his eyes staring into hers. “There’s a growing criminal organization in the wizarding world. If your safety was jeopardized, your grandmother will force you to return to Japan.”
“Why do you care?”
“What happened to your parents, could happen again. I agree with your grandmother on that point. You need to be kept safe until the truth is known. Hogwarts is safe.”
Alexis paused on the steps. She was about to carry her belongings up to her room when Crow said what he did. “Are you helping her?”
“In finding your parent’s killer yes. I never got along well with Wesley, but he was still my brother and whoever did this will pay by my hands.” Crow said, his tone hard as stone that sent a chill through Alexis’s body. She wouldn’t want to be on the other end of her uncle’s rage.
“Is that why you’ve been away so much?”
“Partly.” Crow said, his shoulders sagging. “Just be careful when you’re out. No more getting caught up in explosions.”
“I’ll try, but I make no promises.” Alexis teased.
September arrived, and Crow was nowhere to be found. It was Kaylee who took Alexis’s to King’s Cross and Platform 9 3/4. Now that she knew what he was doing, Alexis didn’t mind his absence. Crow never told her if he found any leads, but doubted he would if he had any. It was clear he didn’t want her on the hunt, despite the pleading. The man was a shroud of mystery. Alexis was about ready to give up on finding any answers to him. It was better just to let him be.
The train station was busy, full of muggles and wizarding families. Alexis pushed her trolley through the crowds, Kaylee next to her chatting away about her years back at Hogwarts.
“It must be five years since I’ve been on Platform 9 3/4. Five years, amazing how time flies! Oh Alexis, you will have such a wonderful time.” Kaylee kept repeating the last bit, trying to sell Hogwarts as some high-class institution. From Alexis’s point of view, the school wasn’t as impressive as her’s back in Kyoto. No electricity, no computers, and it didn’t seem like they had many other sports teams except Quidditch. It sounded like she would be stepping back in time a few hundred years, and she wasn’t looking forward to it. Even her cousins had complained when she told them she’d be out of contact until Christmas. The three lived on social media, more now since their separation. They wait to hear from them will be unbearable.
“Oh, there we are!” Kaylee said, jumping in her spot as she grabbed hold of Alexis’s trolly handle and steered them towards a brick wall.
“Ah, Kaylee!” Alexis said, alarmed, but there was no stopping her as the woman picked up her pace into a jog. Alexis closed her eyes and stifled a scream when the brick wall came at them, but the impact never happened. She opened her eyes to see they had passed through the wall and were standing on the wizards platform. There was a large steam locomotive with a giant H on the front, whistling and sending steam out in random intervals. Throngs of families and children rushed about, piling their trunks, and animal changes before boarding the train themselves.
“Ah, just as I remembered it.” Kaylee said with an air of nostalgia. “Sorry we didn’t get you an owl or pet. Crow put a little something special in your trunk for later. It’s a secret and a surprise, so don’t open it until you get to your dorm room.” Kaylee winked at Alexis then helped her find someone to lift her trunk onto the train.
There was no time for a long goodbye, Kaylee had errands, and Alexis wasn’t the type. Once her luggage was on board, she found an empty compartment and took out her iPhone, determined to make as much use of it before it stopped working. With her ear buds in, she closed her eyes, expecting a long, boring train ride. Alexis thought about searching for Zack, or Lilly, but she didn’t want to push in. It was obvious that all the students had their pre-defined group of friends, gossiping and catching each other up after their summer vacation. She would be the stranger, the new girl.
The train loaded, with the last of the passengers aboard, the whistle blew and the Hogwarts Express was off. Minutes passed as the scenery outside of the window turned from the urban metropolis of London to the green fields of the country. Alexis lost herself in it’s beauty, unaware of the bodies passing up and down the narrow corridor. The door to her compartment opened and a few other students entered to sit down. They gave Alexis a sideways gaze before continuing on with their conversation. Alexis turned the volume up and went back to window gazing.
Daylight darkened into evening when the Hogwarts Express slowed to a stop outside of a platform near Hogsmead. The only remaining pure wizard town, from what Alexis had read. The others whom she had shared her compartment with on the train left, with Alexis a few steps behind. Everyone was in their school uniforms and robes as they grabbed their trunks and headed towards a row of carriages, pulled by large, winged horses. Alexis knew what they were, she read about them last year, Threstles. She was stunned to learn she could now see them.
“Alexis!” A high pitch voice shouted over the others. Nearby a large man, with a long grey beard walked up and down the platform. He carried a lantern and called out to all the first years. Distracted and confused, Alexis remained in her spot until a hand clutched your arm.
“You made it! I was looking for you on the train, we must have missed each other.” Lilly said a bright smile on her lips. “This is my friend Amelia.” She said, and Alexis noticed another girl next to Lilly, with soft brown hair and eyes. She smiled at Alexis, but there was something else in that smile that made Alexis feel uncomfortable.
“Should I be going with the other first years.” Alexis asked though Lilly and her friend were leading her away from where the younger kids were gathering. “Who is that anyways? A Professor?”
“That’s Hagrid, he’s the gamekeeper and Professor for Care of Magical Creatures. He’s been here for years, even back when our grand-parents were students.” Lilly said. “Anyways, the first years take the boats across the lake, it’ll look weird for a fourteen year old to join them.”
“Right.” Alexis said with a frown. The three found a carriage with two other students who joined them. Both wore yellow ties, a contrast against the scarlet red ones that Lilly and Amelia wore. As expected, the two knew Lilly and Amelia. They talked and shared stories about their summer vacations. With her iPhone dead, Alexis had no choice but to listen in.
“You were in our compartment, back on the train.” One girl said. She had gold coloured hair, that matched her yellow tie and bright blue eyes. “I’m Eloise Cooper, and this is Victoria Smith. Sorry we didn’t open up to you on the train.”
“It’s all right,” Alexis said, giving the girl a soft smile. “I wasn’t really inviting conversation.”
“You’re new here?” Victoria asked, she had dark black hair, cut short to her neck. “It’s just that your tie, it’s just black.”
“Yeah. I’m Alexis. I just moved here from Kyoto, Japan.” Alexis explained.
“Really?” The two girls said in unison.
“What a change.” Amelia noted from her seat across from Alexis. “This must be all new to you.”
“It is. Very new and very different.”
“So, are you being sorted with the First Years?” Lilly asked.
“I guess so. What’s with this sorting?” Alexis asked. The four other girls turned to exchange glances with themselves.
“Its to decide which house you belong in.” Victoria spoke first.
“There are four main dormitories, the sorting puts you in one of them where you’ll live for the rest of the school year.” Eloise explained in more detail.
“That is the first straight answer I understood,” Alexis said with a small laugh the others shared with her. “What happens if I don’t like my house, can I change?”
“Change?” Amelia asked in a shocked voice. “Nobody changes houses.”
“Take it easy Amy.” Lilly said gently. “Aunt Hermione said that the muggle schools are different and that some dormitories allow you to change.”
“So you went to a muggle school?” Amelia asked, sounding a little condescending.
“No, it was a magical school. Just not a boarding school.”
“What do you mean?” Victoria asked, both she and Eloise and even Lilly were leaning in with curiosity on their faces.
“Well, I mean… it was like the other schools, a day school. I lived at home, head to school in the mornings, then head home in the evenings. There are boarding houses for those students who came from out-of-town to stay in during the school year, but they are all located off school property.”
“You use muggle transportation to get to school?” Amelia asked, Alexis shifted in her seat, hoping the ride was drawing to an end quickly.
“The school is in Kyoto, right in the middle of the city. There’s no escaping muggle life, we instead choose a co-operative arrangement. The muggles just see another private school campus when they pass, which it is.”
“That is fascinating.” Victoria said, leaning back. Their carriage stopped, and Alexis was glad, she didn’t how much more questioning she could take.
Stepping off the carriage, Alexis was struck by the visual before her. She was expecting some school building, square and modern, not a castle. It was like something out of a fairy tale.
“This is your school?” Alexis asked Eloise who had stopped beside her.
“It sure is, pretty impressive huh?”
“It is.” Alexis blinked and followed the rest of the students in through the front doors. Everyone set their luggage down in the grand entranceway and made a beeline towards the Great Hall. Alexis pulled away from the group she had come up with and watched from the entrance way as students moved to their tables. There were four long tables, each with a banner raised overtop, floating along with the candles in the air. Her eyes trailed upwards at the ceiling, enchanted to see the night sky.
“Ah, Miss Rune.” Alexis jumped and turned around to see Professor Draper standing almost right behind her. “I apologize if I startled you. Please if you would follow me this way.” He held out his hand towards a side room.
“Is that where I’ll be sorted?” Alexis asked.
“That is where you will wait with the other First years, you will be sorted after them.” Draper said. He opened the door for her and saw another man in dark green robes waiting. “Good luck Miss Rune.” Draper added before closing the door behind her.
“The First Years will be along shortly.I’m Professor Longbottom, I teach Herbology.” He was tall, well-built with light brown hair and a round face, his hand was outstretched towards her.
“Alexis Rune.” She said, half way through a bow until she realized she had missed the handshake.
“No, it’s all right. I haven’t been to Japan, but I’ve heard about some of their customs.” He said with a kind tone. “You must be nervous.”
“Yes, I am. There’s no switching from what I’ve heard.”
Longbottom laughed. “No, I’m afraid not. But the Sorting Hat is never wrong.”
“Hat?” Alexis asked, but before an answer could be given another set of doors opened. A bunch of nervous, wide-eyed eleven year olds walked in, their eyes wide with excitement.
“Welcome to Hogwarts. I am Professor Longbottom, in a few moments you will enter the Great Hall and be sorted into your houses. Your houses will be like your home, and family. Points are associated with each house, your triumphs will earn your house points, rule breaking will lose your house points. Now wait here while I’ll go see if they are ready for you.” With that Professor Longbottom left the room, leaving Alexis along with a bunch of kids. Many of which whispered among themselves, others stared at her with curiously.
It felt like an hour had passed before Professor Longbottom re-entered the room and organized the first years into two rows. With a flick of his wand, the doors opened and the group entered into the Great Hall. Alexis, not knowing where to stand or go, followed meekly behind them trying her best to blend in with any shadows she could find.
They were led through the house tables, towards the head table were all the Professors now sat. They lined up in a gap between the Professor Table and the house tables, with a stool in the middle that had an old, ragged hat sitting on top. Everyone in the Great Hall grew silent, expecting something to happen.
The folds around the hat moved, opened as if it had a mouth and sang a song with a deep voice.
Gather round and hear the story
Of the four founders greatest glory
To create a school hidden away
And teach the youngsters of the magical way.
Griffindor bravery echoes far across the land
of strength and courage in hand.
Ravenclaw’s mind was wise and bright
And she gathered those who had similar light
Slytherin felt pride the most, and with an unruly grin
Made his House strong with the urge to win.
Hufflepuff full of kindness, open her arms wide
Said she’d take the rest, no matter their side.
Now don’t be afraid as the time has come
For me to search you heart and see where you’re from
From there I will make my decision known
To which house you will now call home.
Alexis smiled, amused by the song. When it ended, everyone clapped. Then, Professor Longbottom produced a scroll and called names. Upon hearing their name, the frightened first years approached the stool, sat down and had the hat fall upon their heads. One by one, the hat called out one of the four houses, Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherine. Alexis stood to the side, watching the proceedings and how each house cheered when someone entered their house.
There were over sixty First Years, the ceremony went on for hours. Once every first year student was sorted, all that remained was Alexis. Others were noticing she was standing at the front of the Hall, still waiting, when a Professor from the table stood and approached a podium. He was old, with dark skin and wrinkles, his face clean shaven.
“Before we start the welcoming feast, we have one final student to sort. I would like you all to welcome Alexis Rune, a transfer student from Kitsune Academy in Kyoto Japan. Miss Rune if you would please take a seat.”
There were whispers as Alexis moved to the stool though once Professor Longbottom set the had on her head all outside voices stopped.
“Well, well, haven’t had a Rune for some time.” The hat said, but it sounded like it came from within Alexis’s head. “How interesting, now where to place you.”
“It seems the Runes have quite a History around here.” Alexis said with a sigh.
“That they do, greatness is one of them. Slytherin would always welcome a Rune… but that is not what I am getting with you.”
“Good, I’m not a fan of snakes.” Alexis joked. The hat seemed to understand her point and laughed with her.
“There is only one other place then… GRIFFINDOR!” He shouted, last word echoed around the hall for all to hear.
Alexis pulled the hat off with smile. She turned her attention towards the table that had the lion with the scarlet and gold colours. She was expecting the same enthusiastic cheer. There were claps, and a few whistles, but nothing compared to how the others.
Alexis walked down the table until she found an opening, next to a waving and overjoyed Lilly Potter.
“You didn’t tell me your last name was Rune!” Lilly said with a surprised look.
“Why, is it important or something?”
“The Runes have always been linked to dark magic, and, you know, him.” Came a reply from one of the Seventh Years across from them, none other than Lilly’s older brother James. “They say it’s in their blood.”