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September First

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As he stood on Platform 9¾, Combeferre was struck by how serene he felt. He could feel Courfeyrac beside him, fidgeting and bouncing about, reminding Combeferre of a puppy. But he felt nothing but calm. He supposed it was because he was older than Courfeyrac – Combeferre hadn't wanted to leave all his friends behind, so he waited to go to Hogwarts with them. Still, though, he had expected butterflies. He was almost disappointed.

Combeferre could spot Enjolras approaching from a mile away – anyone could. He looked astonishingly regal; people's eyes locked on him as if nothing else existed. Back straight, shoulders back, head high. He carried his snowy white owl, Liberté, on his right shoulder and a small suitcase in his left hand. He strode towards the two boys. When he got close, his face broke out into a grin.

He set his suitcase down and clapped Combeferre on the back. "Ferre, Courfeyrac. Glad to see you two. Where's Marius?"

Courfeyrac shrugged as he chewed on a Licorice Wand he had pulled from his pocket. "Dunno. But he'll be here soon enough. I know he will!"

As if summoned by Courfeyrac's words, Marius popped up behind him. "Top of the morning!" he crowed. Startled, Courfeyrac jumped into the air and let out a rather high-pitched squeak. As Marius shook with giggles, Courfeyrac glared at him.

"Don't you dare, you bloody – " He was cut off as the whistle blew, and the doors began to open.

Combeferre turned back to his parents. "Mum. Dad." The situation seemed very grave all of a sudden, but his dad crouched down and took his hand.

"You're so brave, Ferre." His dad smile looked rather watery. "You're going to have so much fun at school!"

His mother, openly crying, kissed his forehead. "And if you don't write us every week, I swear!" she scolded, trying to sound imperious.

"I promise I'll write you whenever I can," He said solemnly, looking at them both. "And I'll miss you both very much."

After two big hugs, and two soft kisses pressed to his forehead, his parents nudged him to the doors. Courfeyrac flounced up to join him, face obviously streaked with tears, and wrapped his arms around him tight. Knowing his friend's moods, he just let him hold on, occasionally patting his arm.

When the whistle rang out a second time, Combeferre untangled himself from his friend's arms. "If we don't go now," he joked, "they may leave us behind altogether!" Courfeyrac gasped dramatically, and followed him up the stairs into a compartment, where Enjolras and Marius joined them. Where Marius and Courfeyrac had obviously cried at leaving their families behind, Enjolras sat as stony and silent as a mountain, his face pinched as he stroked his owl through the bars of her cage. Ferre knew that he didn't like his family much, and let him sit in peace.

As the train started moving, he waved to his parents, feeling anxious, not knowing what was coming next.

Not ten minutes after the train went on its way, the compartment door flung open, and standing in the entrance was a rather gaunt looking boy, in shabby, worn clothes. He looked down at his feet. "Do you…" he trailed off, mumbling.

Combeferre looked at the others in confusion, before looking up at the boy once again. "Could you speak up, please?" he asked, as kindly as he could.

The boy flushed. "Do you mind if I sit here?" he murmured. "I don't really know anyone, and … well … everyone is asking what 'house' I'll be in. Isn't it just one house? Or, school, or something …"

Courfeyrac grinned. " 'Course you can sit here!" he laughed. "We won't turn you away!" The boy sat down next to him, and Courfeyrac went on. "And Houses just means where you're sorted."

The boy gave Courfeyrac a confused stare. Marius piped up. "Are you Muggle-born?" The boy looked up sharply, his face turning dark.

"What's that supposed to mean?" he spat, glaring at Marius defensively. Combeferre reached over and put his hand on the boy's forearm.

"It's not an insult," he explained. "Marius was just asking if you came from non-magical parents." He paused. "Non-magical people. They're called Muggles." A look of understanding dawned on the boy's face, and he stared down at his lap, embarrassment flushing his cheeks.

"Oh. Yeah," he mumbled. "Yeah. They're Muggles."

Enjolras nodded. "That makes more sense." He smiled sagely. "There are four Houses. My cousin told me about them. There's Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin."

The boy frowned. "And what's the difference between them all?" he asked.

"They all look for different things, different types of students and such," Enjolras explained. "Gryffindors are supposed to be brave. Hufflepuffs are supposed to be loyal. Ravenclaws are supposed to be smart. And Slytherins," he puffed up as he said the word. "Slytherins are supposed to be ambitious."

"Are you a Slytherin?" the boy asked, hearing Enjolras' pride when he said the word.

"No," Enjolras said determinedly, "but I will be! My entire family is Slytherin. There hasn't been any other House in our line!"

Courfeyrac rolled his eyes at Enjolras, obviously for the boy's benefit. "But in the end, it doesn't really matter THAT much." He grinned. "You can be friends with whoever you want, regardless of House. And we all have to learn the same things, so nothing's really that much different, I'm sure."

The boy nodded, and started picking at the fraying knees of his trousers in the ensuing silence.

"What's your name?" Courfeyrac blurted out, breaking the awkwardness.

"Grantaire," the boy mumbled. "My name's Grantaire."

"Grantaire," Enjolras mused sagely. "That's a nice name. I'm Enjolras." As if seeing him for the first time, Grantaire stared at Enjolras for a second, then glanced away quickly, his cheeks tinged pink.

"Hullo," he managed.

Marius introduced himself with a grin, and Combeferre smiled gently at Grantaire. "So," he said, his voice soft, "are you excited for Hogwarts?"

Grantaire shrugged. "I weren't that good at regular school," he admitted, "So I don't think this'll be much different."

Courfeyrac laughed. "But we won't be learning regular school stuff! I mean, yeah, we still have to work, but we'll be working on magic!"

Grantaire's brow crinkled. "No science?" Courfeyrac shrugged and shook his head, and a wide grin spread across Grantaire's face. "Wicked!"

They chatted in the ensuing hours, as the four boys explained some of the intricacies of the wizarding world to their new Muggle-born friend – he was especially interested in Quidditch.

"The Chudley Cannons are bunk!" Courfeyrac declared. "They have nothing on the Kenmare Kestrels!"

Combeferre laughed. "You just hate them because they're finally winning again, and beating your favorite team at that!" Courfeyrac groaned at that.

"Who'd have thought that they'd start winning after losing for so bloody long?" he whined.

"Are the … Chudley … Cannons? Are they good?" Grantaire asked, stumbling over the team name.

"Well, they didn't used to be," Combeferre explained, chuckling. "Up until … I don't know, about ten years ago, they never won anything! But now, they've been winning like mad, and it's really throwing everyone for a loop."

Courfeyrac sniffed indignantly. "I bet they're using magic to cheat," he sneered. "I bet they each drink a cauldron of luck potion a day! That's what the reporter said they'd have to do to ever win!"

Marius leaned over to Grantaire. "He's just angry because they made a bet on who would win," he whispered loudly. "Courfeyrac ended up having to give Ferre all his allowance for a year!" Grantaire snorted, as Courfeyrac glared at the two.

"I can hear you, you know," he pouted.

"So how do you keep up with all the scores and stuff if you can't go to games?" Grantaire asked. "I mean, does Hogwarts have computers there, or wi-fi? Or are there apps for the games, like there are for footie?"

Combeferre looked at the others searchingly, but they were all just as confused as he. "Apps?" Enjolras asked tentatively. "Is that, like … a newspaper thing?"

Grantaire looked at them as if they were mad. "What, you don't know what computers are? Or iPhones? Do wizards even use the internet?"

Enjolras' eyes widened in recognition. "Oh, this is something to do with the internet?" Grantaire nodded, and Enjolras shrugged, saying, "Magic users don't really have much use for the internet. I mean, I guess we could, but it's just not used." He scrunched up his face. "It's not very traditional."

Grantaire raised a skeptical eyebrow. "I'll show you how to use it some time," he offered. "It really is pretty great. It's helpful."

At that moment, the trolley came rumbling through the halls, and Marius began frantically fishing through his pockets to find his coin purse. The trolley lady peeked her head in and smiled. "Candy from the trolley? Sandwiches? Biscuits?" she asked, in a voice shaking with age.

Grantaire looked at the cart. "What sorts of things do you have in there?" he asked.

"Well, we have Bertie Bott's Every-Flavor Beans. We have Cauldron Cakes – and those are nice. We have Drooble's Best Blowing Gum, and Ice Mice, and even some Fizzy Wizzy. Do any of those suit your fancy?"

Grantaire looked rather lost, so Combeferre decided to take pity on him. "Here, I'll buy for both of us," he said, smiling. "Can I have two Cauldron Cakes, and a box of Bertie Bott's?" He handed over a few coins, and sat next to Grantaire to share his bounty. As was the usual, Courfeyrac bought one of every candy, Marius bought a sandwich, and Enjolras enjoyed a Chocolate Frog.

"Look!" Enjolras exclaimed. "I got a Harry Potter card!"

Marius rolled his eyes. "You get a million of those. Honestly, do they even print cards for anyone else anymore?"

Reaching into the box, Grantaire pulled out a shiny white candy. "What flavor is this?"

Combeferre shrugged. "You really never know for sure until you try it. Just be warned, though, when they say 'every flavor', they really mean it." Pulling out a mottled brown bean, he bit into it, and his face scrunched up. "See?" he said. "Liver and tripe."

Grantaire's face paled, and he looked at the candy very suspiciously, but eventually popped it in his mouth. He cringed instantly. "Ugh!" he exclaimed, spitting it back out into his hand. "Soap!"

Enjolras nodded gravely. "It's the price you pay. Every bean is a risk."

The day progressed quickly after that. It was already growing dark when they woke, and they hurriedly changed into their robes. Combeferre felt himself growing nervous, as his parents had told him little about the Sorting, saying that they "wanted to keep it a surprise."

Soon after they changed, the train slowed, and came to a stop. As they stepped off the train and onto a platform, an older boy walked towards them, his eyes planted on Enjolras, a cruel smirk stretching his lips. He held himself like Enjolras, but he had pitch-black hair, cold green eyes, and unusually pink lips. He was taller even than Enjolras, and looked down at the five boys over the end of his long, thin nose.

"Enjolras," he sneered, his voice syrupy with false kindness. "What a pleasure to see you here!"

Enjolras stiffened, his muscles tensing and his face going blank. "Montparnasse," he muttered, sounding every bit like he wished the older boy would go away.

Montparnasse's Cheshire cat grin grew wider, and Combeferre thought to himself that he looked like a shark cornering its prey. "Your mother told me you were coming this year," he purred. "She told me to look after you, cousin. And that's exactly what I'm going to do."

Enjolras drew himself up and squared his shoulders. "Thank you, but that will not be necessary." His voice was cold. "As you can see, I already have friends to help me."

The older boy's face grew dark, and his grin crumbled into a glare. "Very well," he spat, looking down at the first years. "But I must warn you that you will regret this." With that, he stalked off, looking every bit as dangerous as a panther.

Enjolras looked down at his feet. "Sorry about that," he sighed. "Montparnasse is one of my older cousins, and he's not … well, he's certainly not nice. And it's pretty obvious that he doesn't like me much."

Combeferre clapped a hand onto his shoulder, and Enjolras looked up at him and smiled. Courfeyrac shrugged. "It's not your fault if your cousin's a knob," he said crassly, and grinned at Ferre's exasperated sigh.

From a distance, they heard a great, booming voice call out: "All right, firs' years! If you could all line up, nice an' orderly behind me!" It quickly became clear that the voice came from a giant of a man, towering above the first years, some of them only going up to his knee. He looked over at the Combeferre and the others, and waved towards them. "Hallo! You lot might wan' te get in line with the others!"

They quickly fell in behind two boys, one of whom was holding a brown owl. It hooted at Liberté. The boy holding the cage turned around and smiled at them. He was completely bald, and wore the thickest glasses Combeferre had ever seen. "Hello," he grinned. "I'm Bossuet." He tugged the hand of the boy next to him. "This is Joly," he said. Joly turned and nodded to the boys, looking like someone about to face one of those Unforgivable Curses Combeferre had read about.

The others introduced themselves, and Joly and Bossuet quickly got involved in a very excitable conversation with Marius about Puddlemere United. They walked for a bit until they got to the docks. Little boats were lined up – too many to count. Combeferre had never been on a boat before, and was excited, but beside him, Joly panicked.

"That water looks incredibly unsanitary," he whimpered. "Bossuet, I'm going to get cholera if the water touches me! And the boats look so old! What if they aren't structurally sound?!" Bossuet tried to calm him with gentle strokes on the shoulder, but he was inconsolable. Hearing the commotion, the giant man came over to them.

"Now, now, what seems t'be the trouble?" he asked, his voice softening.

Joly, who had been rendered to incoherent sobs and mumbling, just tugged on Bossuet's shoulder. Bossuet sighed with concern for his friend. "He's … he's very scared of the water," Bossuet explained. "He's worried about it touching him. He doesn't much like being dirty."

The big man smiled kindly. "Well, how about ye take a boat with me, then?" he offered. "I've been doing this job fer a long time, and I've never once gotten a drop into the boat!" Joly looked up at him, sniffling and wiping his eyes, and finally gave a small nod. As they got into the boat with him, the man pointed to Grantaire. "How about ye join us?"

Like a deer in the headlights, Grantaire just stared at him, but quickly scrambled to get into the boat when Enjolras gave him a gentle push. As they left the dock, he waved. "See you soon, I hope," he called, and blushed when Enjolras yelled back.

"It was nice to meet you, Grantaire!"

Not long after, the four of them were shuffled onto another small boat, with an older girl at the head. She gave them a smile, and they soon found themselves out in the middle of the lake. For a while, all they could see was darkness and the soft glow of the lantern. But, slowly, lights in the distance flickered into view, and a great castle was rising above them.

Enjolras let out a breath. "It's beautiful!" he whispered, his voice hoarse. Courfeyrac, stunned into silence, simply nodded.

When they got close, they could see stone steps leading up to an enormous door, opened wide, a warm light pouring through. As they docked, Courfeyrac couldn't stop moving besides Combeferre, and almost threatened to tip the boat over completely. They bounded up the stairs, and when they reached the top, they saw an older man standing in the doorway, smiling.

"Hello, first years!" he called out. "My name is Professor Valjean. I am the Head of Gryffindor House, and I teach Defense Against the Dark Arts, so you will all get to know me very well! Some of you will even be in my House!" He gestured towards the students. "If you would, please come closer – yes, that's it, form a nice group. We'll be going to the Great Hall in a moment." He waved an older student who had been steering a boat closer, and whispered in their ear. They ran off in another direction. Professor Valjean faced the crowd again. "Right, this should only take a moment!"

They waited for what seemed like an eternity, getting progressively more fidgety and anxious. Finally, the older student came back and nodded at the teacher. Valjean led the group through a long, stone hallway, with ceilings that seemed impossibly high, until they faced another huge wooden door, this one closed. He turned back around to address the students.

"Here's what's going to happen," he said, and his voice was more serious now. "We're going to go into the hall, quietly, where Headmaster Javert will give a little speech. Then, you will all be Sorted. They are ready for us, so if there are no problems, we can go in." No one spoke, and he smiled. "Relax. The process is perfectly safe, I promise you. This will be over, and you all will be eating in no time."

With that, the doors opened, and as they walked through, Combeferre couldn't help but be entranced by the ceiling, where thousands of candles floated feet above their heads. When he had gotten a good, long look, he lowered his gaze, and was overwhelmed by row after row of students. Some chatted with their friends, some laughed, and some were restlessly waiting for the feast to start. And at the front of the hall sat a long row of adults, most of whom he assumed were teachers. He spotted the big man from the docks, who was sitting and chatting with a young man.

In the middle of the table was a man who looked about the same age as Professor Valjean. Combeferre was struck by how straight he carried himself, and the stern look upon his face. He supposed this was the Headmaster, and he had to admit he was rather intimidated. As the first years all gathered and stood in a clearing at the front of the hall, he stood, and only had to clap his hands once before everyone fell silent.

"Welcome to another year at Hogwarts," he said, his deep voice echoing around the hall. "I am Headmaster Javert." His voice softened. "It is good to see so many old and new faces." He turned slightly towards the other people sitting at the table. "I am pleased to welcome our newest faculty member, Herbology Professor Neville Longbottom." The hall erupted with whoops and thunderous applause. The young man who had been talking to the giant stood, smiled, and gave a nod to Javert.

The Headmaster faced the students once again. "Now, before the Sorting, a few school rules," and his tone was serious once more. "The Forbidden Forest is forbidden for a reason. It is a very dangerous place. Do not go there on your own – yes, even you seventh years. If you do go, you are going with a teacher, or for detention purposes." He was quiet for a second, his eyes scanning the room. "Second, curfew is at twenty-two hours, on the dot. If you are caught out of your common rooms after that, points will be deducted, and you will get detention." His eyes narrowed. "I know you have probably heard many stories of students sneaking around after dark, getting into all sorts of trouble, almost as a rite of passage, but let it be known that I uphold the rules very strictly." He paused again, letting the students feel the weight of his gaze. "And third," he said, with an air of finality, "is the matter of respect. Respect your fellow students. Respect your teachers. And respect yourselves. I know we've been having some issues with tolerance, but hurtful behavior is unacceptable." His voice was dead serious. "Absolutely unacceptable."

With that, he turned to Professor Valjean, and gave a small nod. "Right!" Valjean made his way up to the platform where the teachers' table sat, bringing with him a small stool and what looked like a torn cloth bag. With further examination, Combeferre could see that it was a ratty, tattered old hat. Whatever sorting they were going to do with that, he had no idea. Did they have to pick slips of paper out at random, and it was decided like that? That didn't seem particularly magical to him.

"Now, when I call your name, you will come and sit, and I will place the Sorting Hat on your head. When you have been sorted, please go sit with your assigned House." And Valjean began reading the list. The first, someone with the last name of Abbott, made his way up to the stool visibly trembling in his robes, and he slipped off the first time he tried to sit. Shaken, he pulled himself up again.

As the Hat was placed on his head, there was a moment of silence, until, out of nowhere, the Hat spoke! "Slytherin!" it proclaimed, and there was a sudden surge of applause.

A steady stream of names was read, but all too soon, it came to Combeferre. His legs wobbling like a colt's, he walked to the stool and sat. Right as the hat touched his head, it proclaimed, "Ravenclaw!" Excited, he made his way to the Ravenclaw table, waving to Courfeyrac as he passed him.

He was disappointed, though, when Courfeyrac was sorted into Gryffindor. They gave each other a sad look as Courfeyrac walked to his table, away from Combeferre. And his disappointment only grew as all his other friends were sorted into other Houses – Enjolras into Slytherin, just as he had predicted, and Grantaire into Hufflepuff. He breathed a sigh of relief when Joly was sorted into Ravenclaw, and Combeferre waved him over.

"Thank goodness," he exclaimed. "I worried I would be the only one!" Joly smiled at him.

More names were read off, but he heard Joly give a sharp intake of breath when Valjean called out, "Lesgle!" Confused, Combeferre looked up to the stage, only to see Bossuet climbing up the steps.

Leaning in to Joly, Combeferre whispered, "Is that Bossuet's real name?"

Joly nodded. "But he doesn't like to use it," he hissed, "So don't."

The hat stayed on Bossuet's head for a long time – almost a minute – before it called out, "Gryffindor!" In the seat beside him, Joly began to cry great, heaving sobs. Combeferre patted his back as gently as he could, but he just wouldn't stop shaking.

After Marius was sorted into Hufflepuff, the rest of the list seemed to go by quickly, and soon enough, everyone was seated. Javert stood once more, and, saying nothing, clapped his hands. Food sprang up on all the platters, every type of food imaginable. Combeferre realized suddenly that he was starving, and began ladling food onto his plate.

"Where do you suppose the food is made?" Joly asked through hiccupping gasps.

Combeferre shrugged. "I would assume they have a kitchen somewhere."

Joly shuddered. "What if it isn't sanitary?" he asked, his voice pitching higher and higher.

"I think," Combeferre said slowly, "that a school like Hogwarts, that's been around for so long and had so many students, would keep their kitchens very clean. If only to prevent complaints." Joly thought about it, then nodded, and began ladling potatoes and broccoli onto his plate.

After everyone was suitably stuffed, two older students led the first years to their Common Rooms. Combeferre stuck close to Joly, as they walked up, and up, and up. He began having some serious concerns about navigation, as many of the staircases and walkways kept moving. He turned to Joly, and muttered under his breath, "I'm afraid I'm going to be late all the time!"

One of the older students heard him, and smiled understandingly. "You shouldn't worry about the stairs," he said jovially. "You get used to it, and it's not without reason. There's a pattern to the movements, and if you're a true Ravenclaw, you'll be able to grasp it." Combeferre didn't know if he believed him, but he nodded anyways.

Up and up they traveled, until Combeferre didn't know quite where he was anymore. Finally, they reached a door, but instead of a doorknob, there was a single knocker, in the shape of an eagle. The older female student knocked once, and from the eagle's mouth, came the words: "Who makes it, has no need of it. Who buys it, has no use for it. Who uses it can neither see nor feel it. What is it?"

"A coffin," the girl said, and the door swung open. She gave the first years a grin. "Best remember that and have an easy September, at least, because it's changing in a month."

Their common room was huge, and circular, and a lovely breeze blew through an open window. Boys and girls started getting split up, and Joly and Combeferre found themselves going through the door to the boy's dormitory. Finding two open beds, with very soft-looking blue sheets, they began changing into their pajamas, and after wishing each other a good night, fell promptly asleep.

The next morning, Combeferre woke, well rested and ready to begin his day. At the foot of his bed, he found several blue-colored clothes, such as a few ties and a scarf. Pulling on his uniform and, finally, his robe, he walked down the many steps to find the Great Hall once more.

The older boy – who he learned was a Prefect – had been right; there was a pattern to the movements of the stairs. Unfortunately, he hadn't quite mastered it yet, and so it took him quite a while to actually find breakfast. When he got down to the Hall, he saw Marius and Grantaire sitting at a table together, and went to join them.

"Hallo, mates," he said, scooting into the space at the end of the table, next to Marius. Marius smiled, but Grantaire simply grunted. Apparently, he was not a morning person.

Marius turned to me, and nodded to the people he was sitting with. "Jehan, Feuilly, this is Combeferre. I told you about him, right?"

The two beside him nodded, and Combeferre found himself awkwardly trying to figure out whether they were boys or girls. The one with short, curly brown hair nodded, and grinned. "I'm Feuilly." His voice was deep, but there was something feminine about him.

The – girl? Boy? – person besides Feuilly waved. They had bangs, and long hair, and their large purple glasses were slipping down their nose. "And I'm Jehan," they said, and their voice was soft, and shy, and lovely. Combeferre quickly decided that he liked them very much.

"It seems rude to ask," Combeferre started awkwardly, "but –"

"Neither," Jehan said.

"What?"

"I'm not a boy or a girl." They stared at him intently. "That was what you were going to ask, wasn't it?"

He flushed. "Well, yes." He paused. "I didn't know you could be neither."

Jehan smiled. "Well, you can, and I am."

Combeferre nodded. "And, do you use 'she' or 'he'."

"I use they." They smiled. "You'll get used to it, I promise."

He looked at Marius and Grantaire, who smiled and shrugged. Feuilly cut in. "I use he," he said, challenging them to say no. Combeferre just nodded. After all, they were magical. The pronouns and gender stuff wasn't that weird in comparison.

Soon, Joly had joined them, and Enjolras came not long after that. Last of all, Courfeyrac came bounding up, dragging Bossuet and another boy with him. "Hallo, chaps!" Jehan cleared their throat, but stayed silent, and Combeferre made a note to talk to Courfeyrac later. "This is Bahorel! He seems nice!"

Bahorel gave a grin and moved around the table, shaking hands with people as he went. The three Gryffindors found seats at their end of the table, and the table fell silent after introductions and icebreakers were done.

Finally, Enjolras spoke up. "Well, this is awkward!" he exclaimed, and the others giggled slightly. "I rather like all of you, so maybe … we should do a thing. We can study together."

As the first years all looked around at each other, they nodded. "That sounds fine to me!" Courfeyrac said, and grinned. "I mean, I'm probably gonna need an awful lot of help!"

Combeferre rolled his eyes affectionately. "Oh, I'm sure."

Jehan smiled. "It does sound awfully nice. I mean, there are so many people here, it would be good to just have a constant few to hang out with."

Grantaire snorted slightly. "There's more than just 'a few' here, but it's cool. There are ten of us. That's a good number and all." He looked at Enjolras, blushing.

Enjolras nodded. "Well, people," he said. "That sounds good."

Combeferre was excited for classes, excited for getting on a broom, excited for the future that lay ahead of him – but most of all, he was excited for these people. These friends he made. The friends he'd keep.