This story is written in parts. You can link to each chapter by clicking on the links below.
The noise level on the train rose steadily as more and more children arrived, bumping luggage down the aisles, sharing sweets, and chattering excitedly to their friends in English, filling in the news of the long summer holiday. Klaus had, of course, arrived at the station well in advance, and was comfortably settled in the corner of the compartment, his luggage neatly stowed. He was reading a book on hexes that his father had given him; he would be expected to demonstrate proficiency at the Christmas holidays.
Another wave of students passed the door to his compartment, pausing at the doorway before deciding that there was nothing worth stopping for within. Klaus hoped that he would get to keep the compartment for himself, but he wasn't sure if the train would be full. Perhaps if he concentrated on his reading, nobody would talk to him, though judging from how loud the other people on the train were, there wasn't much hope of that.
The whistle blew. The train would be departing soon. Klaus would be glad to arrive at school; all this travel was very unsettling.
The compartment door opened again, and Klaus stubbornly did not look up. He turned a page in his book.
"Excuse me, I'm terribly sorry to disturb you," said a voice, "But the train is awfully full, and the only other seat I could find was next to a girl with a toad, and I just couldn't, now could I? So I've come to share your compartment. I'm starting my first year. Are you new, too?"
Klaus refused to look up from his book. "Ja."
"Lovely! So you don't know anyone, either, but now we'll know each other! My name's Dorian." A small hand intruded between Klaus and the page, and he admitted defeat for the moment, giving the hand a brief shake as he lifted his head to glare at the interloper, who had shockingly blond hair, in a mess of curls all over his head like a little girl's. He blinked. "Klaus Heinz von dem Eberbach," he said.
Dorian was leaning over and looking at his book. "Is that German? Are you from Germany?"
Wasn't that completely obvious? "Ja," he said again, pointedly.
"I've never been to Germany," Dorian said. "Are there a lot of German people at Hogwarts?"
"Most German wizards and witches attend Durmstrang," Klaus said.
"Why didn't you go there?"
"My mother wished me to attend Hogwarts," he said.
"My mother went to Hogwarts, but I never knew until this year," Dorian said. "My father's not magic, just her. He always said she was a witch, but I thought it was just an expression. Then I got my letter, and Dad said I could go here instead of Eton if I liked, and I thought it sounded like great fun, so here I am!"
Did the English never shut up? Klaus sighed. He had a feeling this was going to be a long journey.
The heavy doors swung open and the first-years followed Professor McGonagall into the Great Hall. Klaus approved of Professor McGonagall; she seemed very sensible, and had raised her eyebrows very high when she caught sight of Dorian's hair.
Dorian had attached himself to Klaus after they got off the train, insisting on riding in the boat with him and sticking close by his side on the way into the castle, chattering excitedly the entire time about everything he saw. Klaus tolerated it because at least with Dorian exhausting the air supply nobody else tried to strike up a conversation.
"OH!" Dorian grabbed hold of Klaus' arm. "Klaus, LOOK!" He pointed up at the ceiling. Klaus looked up, interested. He had read about the charm on the ceiling in one of the books his father had assigned him that summer.
"It's charmed to look like the sky outside," he explained.
"Oh, it's lovely," Dorian said, not letting go of his arm. "Look at the clouds! And the moon!"
"Hush," Klaus said. "They're starting." They watched as the hat was placed on the stool, and Dorian squeaked in delight as the hat began to sing. It was, Klaus thought, a very silly song. The hat was very old; it should be more dignified.
Professor McGonagall was opening her scroll. "Andrews, Colin," she said, and a little boy came forward hesitantly and took his place on the stool.
"What does the hat do?" Dorian whispered. "That girl over there said her older brother told her that there's a TEST! What if you can't answer the questions?"
"My father says the hat just looks into your head to see what house you're best suited for," Klaus whispered back.
"I wonder what house I'll be in!"
"Probably the one that can't be quiet," Klaus hissed. "Stop talking."
Dorian subsided, but continued to look from table to table as though evaluating each house for conversational possibilities.
Klaus' mother had been a Ravenclaw. Before her death, she had told him stories about living in the tower, studying in their quiet, book-lined common room. He thought it sounded pleasant. At least in a place such as that a person would be able to think. And Dorian wasn't likely to be Sorted there. He looked around the room, his glance falling on the Gryffindor table, whooping in glee as "Collins, Samantha" took her seat. That would be the place for Dorian, he thought. They would probably like him talking all the time.
"Eberbach, Klaus," said Professor McGonagall, and Klaus shook off Dorian's clutching hand to take his place on the stool. The hat settled down over his eyes, and he waited patiently.
"Hmmmm," said the hat. "Far from home, aren't you? It isn't often we get students from so far away. I remember your mother; very handy with transfiguration, as I recall."
Klaus bit back a sigh. Were there no people at Hogwarts who were able to get to the point?
The hat chuckled. "You're an impatient one," he said. "I know you fancy yourself in Ravenclaw, but I see something else in store for you. GRYFFINDOR!"
The hat was removed from his head and he blinked in the sudden light. That was unexpected. He made his way to the red-and-gold-draped table, noting absently that Dorian was cheering as loudly as his new housemates were.
He thought that perhaps the hat was having a laugh at the students' expense.
Some time later, when Dorian took his place at a surprised-looking table full of Slytherins, he was sure of it.
The Gryffindor common room was warm and bright, though the abundance of scarlet and gold hangings, curtains, and upholstery made Klaus feel rather as though he were inside the stomach of a very squashy dragon. Although of course it would be dark inside a dragon.
After showing them the way to the portrait hole and telling them the password ("Cinnamon Whips"), the Gryffindor prefects gave the first-years a little speech about House points and the importance of the Quidditch Cup, and then showed them to their bedrooms. Klaus was pleased to note that his luggage had been brought up already and unpacked in the appropriate place, but he wasn't ready to go to sleep yet; he went back down to the common room to explore the contents of the bookshelf he thought he remembered seeing.
It was a round room, so there really wasn't much in the way of corners. But the placement of the furniture and the lights created a satisfactory amount of shadow in a few places; Klaus dragged a cushion over to one of them and sat down with his hex book, the common-room shelf having yielded a disappointing assortment of comic books, cheap novels, and battered reference works.
All of the first-years but Klaus were upstairs, but there were still a number of older students in the common room, talking and laughing. Klaus wondered if it were possible for a hat to lose its senses with age; he certainly didn't fit here. At least nobody was paying attention to him.
Two older girls, from the looks of them sixth or seventh years, settled down excitedly on the couch that Klaus was sitting behind. "And did you SEE that little firstie with the curls?" one of them was saying. "What a little love of a boy."
Klaus looked up from his book, interested. There was only one first-year that could possibly match that description.
"And Sorted into Slytherin! I don't know what the hat was thinking," the other said. "They'll eat him alive in that snake pit."
"I know! He's Muggleborn, isn't he? I didn't think you could even be in Slytherin if you were Muggleborn."
"I think he's a halfblood," the other replied, "but he was raised like a Muggle so it hardly makes a difference, does it? Marianne told me his mother was in Slytherin but the family lost all their money and she married a Muggle peer. They say that she used a love potion on him."
"I shouldn't be surprised. Everyone knows those Slytherin witches know their way around a cauldron," said the first. "I suppose the hat must have Sorted him there because of her."
Klaus remembered his own conversation with the hat, and wondered. He listened to the girls for some time, but they seemed to have finished discussing Dorian and had moved on to ladies' fashions. After a few minutes, he took his book and went back up to bed.
Klaus woke the next morning before the other boys in his dormitory, and lay in bed without moving for a moment while he got his bearings. He pushed the heavy bed-curtains aside and got up, shoving his feet into his slippers and noting with approval that the house-elves had laid out his new uniform.
This early, he was able to have the bathroom all to himself; he was washed and dressed and in the common room by the time the other boys had started to stir. Klaus was hungry, but he wasn't sure he remembered how to get to the Great Hall, so he waited in the common room until someone came down from one of the other dormitories and then followed her down to breakfast, keeping careful note of the route.
As he walked down the last flight of stairs he saw a little knot of people by the door, and cringed when he noticed a bright head in the middle of them. Perhaps he could slide by quickly, without being noticed.
"Klaus!" Dorian emerged from the crowd and grabbed Klaus' hand, dragging him over to where he'd been standing. "I was waiting for you. Isn't it wonderful here? Did you know that the paintings can talk?"
Apparently the Slytherins had yet to eat Dorian alive.
"Of course they talk," Klaus said. "How else would you know who they were if they couldn't tell you?"
"Well, our ones usually have little cards stuck in front that tell you about them," Dorian said, "but I like it your way much better. Have you got lost yet?"
"No," said Klaus.
"I've been lost twice already this morning," Dorian said happily. "But that was all right because I ran into Bonham, and he showed me how to get back here!" he waved an expansive arm at a Hufflepuff prefect who was standing nearby, watching them with a bemused air.
"I didn't even know Bonham was magic!" Dorian said. "I know him from home, you know, his uncle works on our cars and sometimes Bonham would come up to visit on his holidays but we never knew we'd be coming to the same school! Bonham, this is my friend Klaus. He's from Germany."
Bonham nodded at Klaus. "Hullo," he said.
"Hello," said Klaus. He looked around. There were several other Slytherins hanging about uncertainly, looking from Dorian to Bonham to Klaus and back to Dorian. He supposed they were Dorian's new housemates, and wondered if Dorian had been dragging them all over the castle all morning while he talked to portraits and got rescued by Hufflepuffs.
"You're blocking the door," he told Dorian. "You should go in and eat your breakfast." He edged past Bonham into the Hall.
"Yes, let's," Dorian agreed cheerfully. "The prefects in Slytherin said we'd get our schedules today. Do you think we'll have classes together? I hope we do."
Klaus ignored him, taking his seat. Dorian plopped down beside him and started reaching for a dish of scones.
"You can't sit here," Klaus said. "You're supposed to sit with your House."
"But there's nobody there!" Dorian said, waving an accusing hand at the notably empty Slytherin table.
"That's because you've got them all confused," Klaus said, pointing to the little bunch of Slytherins who were hovering behind Dorian. "You have to eat at the proper table."
"Bonham!" Dorian turned to the prefect, who was casting longing looks at his own table. "I'm allowed to sit with my friends, aren't I?"
"Sorry, m'lord," Bonham said. "You are supposed to eat at your own House table."
"All the time?" Dorian looked dismayed. "But then when will I talk to everyone else?"
"I'm sure you'll find plenty of chances," Bonham said, and Klaus snorted. There was little doubt of that. Dorian could probably carry on a complete conversation while under a Full-Body Bind.
"Well, all right," Dorian said, rising reluctantly. "If you're sure." He crossed the room to the Slytherin table, the other children trailing behind him. He kept trying to catch Klaus' eye, but Klaus kept his gaze fixed on his eggs and sausage and didn't look up. He would have to make sure to sit facing the other way from now on; even Dorian couldn't make conversation with the back of someone's head.
Klaus heard a thunder of wings and glanced up to watch the post arrive. He had never seen that many owls outside of a post office, and never all flying in at once. It was an impressive sight.
He heard a delighted shout from across the room and glanced at the Slytherin table, where Dorian was extracting a large parcel wrapped in silver paper from a large bowl of porridge. Perhaps that would keep him occupied for a while.
Klaus helped himself to some fried potatoes, and went on with his breakfast.
Klaus had, by dint of hurrying to double Charms (which he had with the Ravenclaws) directly after breakfast, avoided Dorian all morning, only to be pounced upon at the door of the Great Hall as he was going in to lunch. Dorian's entourage seemed to have grown since breakfast; he was trailing a pair of Ravenclaws and an amused-looking Gryffindor second-year in addition to his knot of Slytherins and Bonham.
"There you are!" Dorian said happily. "You left before we could compare our schedules this morning. I was going to give you some sweets, I got a parcel. Did you see the owls?" He pulled something wrapped in rather sticky paper out of the pocket of his robes and held it out.
Klaus frowned. "I do not eat sweets," he said.
Dorian looked appalled. "Not ever?"
"They are not nutritious," Klaus said.
"They aren't meant to be nutritious," Dorian said. "They're meant to taste good."
"That attitude is exactly why you Brits no longer have an empire," Klaus said, hoping that Dorian would be offended and go away. It didn't work.
"Perhaps," Dorian said, laughing. "But at least we're happy." He shoved the unsavoury parcel back into his pocket. "So what have you done today? I had Transfiguration all morning, we were trying to turn matches into pins. I can't do it yet but I did get my matchstick quite pointy at the end. Were you in Charms? Freddie says the Gryffindors were in Charms with him today. Did you get your feather to float?"
Klaus had, in fact, known how to do a levitation charm since he was six. "Ja," he said shortly.
"You must be awfully smart," Dorian said, looking at him with wide eyes.
Klaus shifted. "I am going to eat now," he said.
"An excellent suggestion," came a dry voice from behind them, and Klaus turned to see Professor MacGonagall regarding them with a lifted brow.
"Perhaps you should all avail yourself of Mr. Eberbach’s advice," she continued. "Mr. Eberbach, Mr. Bonham, a word, if you please?"
Dorian led his flock away with a chorus of rather sheepish "Yes, ma’am"s. Klaus was impressed, and wondered if she might perhaps be related to his father. With her black hair and stern expression, she did rather resemble his Aunt Catherine. She turned to Klaus, and smiled.
"I wanted to take a moment to welcome you to Gryffindor house," she said. "We don’t often get students from outside Britain here at Hogwarts; I’m glad to see you’ve already found a friend."
"He’s not my friend!" Klaus said. "He just follows me around." Bonham snickered.
"There’s a change," he said. "Generally with his young lordship things are the other way around."
Professor MacGonagall frowned a bit. "And that was what I wanted to speak to you about, Mr. Bonham," she said. "I do hope that you do not feel pressured by your family’s connection to the Earl of Gloria to defer unduly to his son. You are here for your education, not to serve as anyone’s domestic staff, and Muggle titles have little power in the wizarding world."
Bonham blinked at her, obviously surprised. "Oh, no, ma’am, it’s nothing like that," he said. "It’s just that I’ve been looking after him since he was a little thing, and his father used to bring him to my uncle’s garage. He wouldn’t dream of presuming, he was just happy to see someone he knew from home." He paused, smiling to himself. "He’s a real nice kid, Professor, you’ll see. I was hoping he’d sort into Hufflepuff, but..."
The professor nodded. "Indeed. At times, the Hat makes fools of us all," she said. "It will be interesting to see what he makes of Slytherin house."
What would be interesting, Klaus thought, would be what Slytherin house made of him.
Klaus was very pleased when the day of his first flying lesson arrived. Madam Hooch had played Beater for England, and for his birthday he had once been allowed to attend a World Cup match in which she had played. He had, of course, been supporting Germany, but he had still admired her skill, and the way she combined utter ruthlessness on the pitch with a scrupulous attention to the rules. Klaus hoped that under her tutelage, Quidditch at Hogwarts would be played properly.
He was a little annoyed but not especially surprised to see that they had their flying lessons with Slytherin; for whatever reason, they seemed to be paired up for many of their lessons. Dorian had by this time trained their classmates to leave an empty seat next to Klaus any time Dorian was expected.
Klaus had long since given up trying to understand why Dorian was so determined to believe that they were friends. In any other child, he would have suspected an ulterior motive, but Dorian was effortlessly popular, across all Houses and most years, with teachers and students alike; he was by all accounts fantastically rich, even for a Slytherin; he did well in his lessons when he could be persuaded to stop chattering and pay attention in class; and, while it was true that his Muggle father might be a social liability in certain circles, said father was an earl, and despite Professor MacGonagall's words there were those in the wizarding world with a healthy respect for a title. But having established that Dorian was not seeking money, social advancement, or academic assistance, the only remaining possibility was that Dorian was either trying to drive Klaus mad or had, inexplicably, actually meant his oft-repeated assertions that he and Klaus were friends. Klaus couldn't imagine why Dorian, who was as different from him as the night was the day, would possibly want to be his friend, but the English did have strange whims like that from time to time.
Klaus had even written his father for advice, feeling certain that Dorian was not the sort of boy a proper German wizard had as a friend, and had received a curt reply telling him not to be such a fool; however annoyingly flighty he was, the magical son of an English peer would almost certainly wind up attached to the British Ministry, someone whose friendship would bestow considerable diplomatic and political advantage; Klaus should cultivate him, if he could.
Klaus rebelled at the thought of deliberately encouraging Dorian, but he did concede so far as to stop being rude to him on purpose. It had never seemed to make him go away, anyhow, so there wasn't much point. He consoled himself by remembering that Dorian at least didn't demand much from his friends in the way of conversational participation; it was sufficient to let the tide of words wash over one and just nod or grunt occasionally to reassure Dorian that one was paying attention.
The Slytherins were already at the pitch when the Gryffindors arrived, but, true to form, made room for him when Dorian began waving him over.
"Klaus! It's flying lessons at last," he said, craning his neck to see the school brooms that a few older students were helping Madam Hooch take out of the broom shed. "Is it fun to fly? Do you like it?"
Klaus thought of his previous flying lessons, hovering a few feet from the ground on a children's broom, flying sedately through the garden with his tutor.
"It is excellent exercise," he said. "And a good way to take the air."
"Exercise?" Dorian wrinkled his nose.
"It improves your posture and balance," Klaus explained. "And you hold on with your legs, so it helps make you stronger."
"It sounds a bit like riding," Dorian said. "Horses, I mean."
Klaus frowned. "I wouldn't know," he said, feeling a little embarrassed, and then angry with himself; what would he need with such a Muggle skill? His father kept Abraxians, but Klaus was not permitted to ride them.
"I ride all the time at home," Dorian said. "It's splendid fun. You'll have to come home with me at the hols and try it."
Klaus felt rather horrified at the thought of spending a holiday with Dorian in Muggle Kent, but before he could say anything, Dorian had moved on.
"Bonham lent me a book about Quidditch," he said. "With pictures that move! It's a brilliant book. He says the House teams will start playing next month."
"The second Saturday," Klaus said instantly. "Gryffindor and Ravenclaw."
"Are you going to be on a House team? I bet you're brilliant at Quidditch," Dorian said.
Klaus had opened his mouth to explain that first years did not play on House teams when Madam Hooch's voice rang over the pitch. "All right, class, gather round," she said. "Find a broom to stand beside but don't touch it!" Several children, Dorian included, snatched back guilty hands, and she continued. "There will be no funny business during this class. These brooms are not toys and do not have the safety charms you may be accustomed to. Any student who disregards my instruction will leave class for the day. Any student who continually disobeys will be removed from class and will spend this period in remedial study under the supervision of Professor Marvellin, and since this would take away her free period I would suggest you not make this necessary."
Klaus nodded, pleased. Professor Marvellin taught Arithmancy and had a widespread reputation as the strictest teacher in the school. The fear of having to spend hours a week with her instead of flying should be enough to keep the class relatively orderly.
Madam Hooch strode to the end of the pitch, looking down the double line of students. "Right," she said. "Listen closely. A broom is a magical tool that you control with a combination of your body movements and your magic. You provide the magical power that allows the broom to move and fly, and you interact magically with the charms on the broom in order to control its speed. However, it is your physical movement that provides steering and fine control. You must master both to be a good flyer." She surveyed the class. "Now hold out your hand and call your broom to you, like this: 'Up!'"
She demonstrated, the broom bounding into her hand with a solid thump, and started to make her way along the lines of students, helping those who were having trouble connecting to their brooms.
Dorian was so excited when his broom came to his hand that he put it back on the ground and called it again.
"You should calm down," Klaus told him, holding his own broom steadily. "If you try to fly when you're over-excited the broom might run away with you."
Dorian looked pleased. "It is like riding, then," he said, and stood more quietly, petting the handle of his broom with his other hand.
Klaus thought about telling him that the brooms weren't alive, just attuned to the magic of their riders, but decided it was probably just as well for Dorian to try to be quiet.
Apparently brooms were more like horses than Klaus had thought, because Dorian, despite his obvious excitement, managed to complete the lesson without once falling off or being run away with. Klaus himself had felt a great deal of quiet satisfaction when Madam Hooch had finally let them all fly slow circuits around the pitch, a good ten feet off the ground. Next time, she promised, they would be working on stops and starts, and if there was no trouble, they would be allowed to have races.
"Our team will win the races," Dorian said happily, as they walked back to the castle afterward, trailed as usual by a scattering of Dorian's housemates.
"We will probably be put on teams based on our House," Klaus said.
"I don't see why they do that so much. We live in our Houses and take all our classes together. Why should we have to do everything else with them too? It's hard to find time to talk to your friends in other places."
Klaus snorted. "You will always find a way to talk to anyone you want to."
"Yes," said Dorian, "but some people are shy." He was quiet for a moment, looking thoughtful. "Perhaps I should talk to the Headmaster."
"You shouldn't bother the Headmaster," Klaus said. "He doesn't have time to worry about your social calendar."
"He always talks about cooperation between the Houses," Dorian said. "How are we supposed to cooperate when we never see each other?"
Klaus thought about that. "I do not know," he admitted grudgingly. "Perhaps when we are older and take more elective classes, we will have more opportunities to work with students from other Houses."
"I think it's silly to wait," said Dorian. "By then everyone will be in the habit of just doing things with the same people all the time."
"Like you do with me and Bonham?" Klaus asked pointedly.
"Well, yes, but I picked you to be my habit," Dorian said with a laugh. "And I've friends in my own house too, of course." He turned and smiled radiantly at the little group of Slytherins. "I never said you shouldn't, just that we should be able to pick from all the houses to get our friends, not have them picked for us by singing hat."
"That hat is an historic magical artifact," Klaus said, though he did have some doubts about the Sorting Hat. Cultural heritages were often rather peculiar, but should be paid the proper respect nonetheless.
"I never said it wasn't," said Dorian. "But things aren't always right just because they're old."
Klaus sighed. "I suppose you will do as you please, without listening to anyone," he said, "as you always do."
"I do listen," Dorian protested. "I just don't always agree. But I promise not to say anything disrespectful to the Headmaster about the Hat, all right?" and he looked so sincere that Klaus grudgingly agreed.
It came as no great surprise when the Headmaster announced, a week later, that in the interest of promoting inter-House cooperation and friendships, all students would henceforth be permitted to sit at any House table they pleased during lunch.
~The End... For Now~