Slowly, the long line of first-years thinned. Finally, “Zellar, Rose” was Sorted into Hufflepuff, and the the sorting was over. Peculiarly, the Hat was left on the stool as Professor Dumbledore rose to his feet.
“Well, now that we’re all settled in and sorted, I’d like to make an announcement. This castle will not only be your home this year, but home to some very special guests. You see, Hogwarts is hosting a very special “exchange program”, if you will, with a school with good relations with ours.” Harry raised a brow. This is new, why didn’t we hear anything about this? His eyes caught the stealthy movement of Professor McGonagall who exited the great hall. “You should all be aware that the school which these students hail from is unique in the way that it carries out a program of co-existence between humans and vampires.” The hall burst into non-too-silent murmurs.
“D-did you guys just hear what I think I heard?” Harry asked hurriedly as he turned to face his friends, who both wore equally shocked expressions. “Vampires? Seriously?”
“Well if you think about it, why not?” Hermoine had recovered from her shock relatively quickly as she replied. “I mean, we did find out werewolves existed; among other species’.”
“Yeah but, stil...” Harry trailed off before Ron cut in quickly.
“Dumbledore’s gone insane! We’ll all be bitten and turned into vampires!” Before Hermoine could counter his statement, the man in question resumed talking once again.
“As the results in their school is showing a great deal of success, it is to the both of our interests to attempt a similar program here at Hogwarts. The Ministry of Magic has also allowed this program to be carried out in the interests of co-existence between the races. Thus, a few representatives from the school have been specially selected to take part in this program and shall be attending the school year here at Hogwarts. And also before you ask, none of you need worry as none of you will be in any danger. These students have developed a very unique way of bypassing their thirst and have chosen to restrain themselves from the partaking of any human blood.”
“How can we know they won’t bite any of us anyway?” A voice from the masses shouted out. Whispers of agreement spread throughout the crowd.
“Ah, for that very reason there are certain measures that are in place should there be any students who disobey these rules, rest assured.” The crowd hardly seemed convinced as Professor Dumbledore rattled on. “We have a total of ten exchange students participating in this program. As they usually operate during the night, we have come to an agreement that their schedules will be somewhat different to yours. However as we hope to achieve maximum interaction between our students, it is arranged that they will begin their lessons when you are midway through yours. This way, we will be able to at least have them in some of our classes.” The atmosphere in the room was shifty as the uncomfortable feelings of the students at this piece of information could be felt.
“Bloody hell. I’m not going to attend classes with a bunch of bloodsuckers,” Ron stated, not even bothering to whisper.
“Ron!” Hermoine whispered sharply in a warning tone, but only got so far before Dumbledore continued.
“But more of that later. First they will be sorted into our houses respectively. So please join me in welcoming, the students of Cross Academy!” Dumbledore ended enthusiastically. Harry felt somewhat sympathetic that he seemed like the only one excited about this. Shifting sounds rang across the room as everyone craned their necks to stare at the entrance to the great hall as it swung open. A single file line of students dressed in highly formal uniforms were blocked from view by Professor McGonagall, who stood at the front of the line. She began to lead them in as she did with the First-Years just minutes before. The hall was dead silent was the students stared at the newcomers; not a whisper was heard. They were all extremely beautiful and quite pale. They walked with grace and pride. It reminded Harry of Draco when he watched them. But not in a negative way.
They soon reached the platform before the sorting hat and Harry felt like he was watching a parody replay of the Sorting of the first-years. The student’s interest shifted as the boy behind Professor McGonagall broke off from the formation just as the line came to a halt and began to ascend the steps. Dumbledore stepped away from the podium and they stood before each other. As the boy’s back faced the crowd, they could not see what he was doing. However it soon became clear as the two of them began conversing at a normal voice level, but their distance made sure that the students were unable to catch what was said. The conversation didn’t last long and soon the boy turned around to face the crowd, remaining at Dumbledore’s side.
“Anatatachi wa ima no ie ni soto remasu (You will now be sorted into your houses),” intakes of breath from the whole room were heard as the boy had opened his mouth and spoken. Even Harry was struck by his voice. It held power like that of Dumbledore’s. Immediately he understood that he was, in a way, their leader. “Ore wa anata no saizen no kodo ni naru koto o kitai shite imasu (I expect you to be on your best behaviour).” Mumbles rippled through the houses. Was he talking to them? Or about them? This question was answered soon after as the “exchange students” moved as one and lifted their right arms to lay across their heart.
“Hai, Kuran-sama,” as one they replied, similar to that of a trained parrot. Hermoine, along with everyone else, gawked at the students. But she, unlike everyone else, caught something odd in that moment. However, she remained quiet and watched with the others as the boy turned to nod at Dumbledore who smiled and nodded to Professor McGonagall. She lifted a short scroll and began to call out their names.
“Aidou, Hanabusa.” A short blonde boy with golden blonde hair and electric blue eyes ascended the steps towards the Sorting Hat. Although he was silent, the playful smirk he wore gave off a flirtatious personality as he sat on the seat and the hat was placed on him. It looked sorely out of place on his head.
The Hat’s makeshift mouth pursed into a tight line in thought. It didn’t last long as he opened his mouth and bellowed “Raveclaw!” This time, a single applause was heard as the boy stood up and made his way towards the appropriate table. Its’ occupants shifted away from the boy who sat, quite contentedly, alone at the end. Many of the students shot various looks at Luna, who had clapped as if nothing was out of place at all.
“Ichijou, Takuma,” another, lighter-haired blonde who was slightly taller and thinner with bright green eyes went forward with a smile on his face. He seemed very excited as the Hat was placed on his head; smiling and humming softly to himself. “Ravenclaw!” The Hat was removed and he moved to sit opposite the boy from earlier. Both slightly reassured to have a familiar face near them.
“Junsu, Shiruba,” this time a petite girl with shiny straight black hair took her place on the seat. She had forest green eyes which stood out strikingly against her dark hair, her skin considerably more tanned than the others. She regarded the masses with a blank face but her eyes glinted in a show of excitement. “Slytherin!” A round of boos and hisses were heard from Slytherin as she approached. Their pride kept them where they sat but many regarded her with disgust.
“Kain, Akatsuki,” the tallest of the group with strawberry blond hair and amber eyes strode up the steps. He too was more tan than most of the other students and had his uniform jacket unbutton, effectively giving off a rebellious feel. “Ravenclaw!” His face split into a grin as his eyes slid over to the table and made his way to it. He sat next to Hanabusa and he briefly ruffled the boy’s hair affectionately. The Ravenclaws were beginning to feel alarmed at the number of vampires were being allocated into their house.
“Kiryuu, Zero,” read literally, some brows were raised. Said boy rolled his eyes and trudged up the steps. He was considerably tall with pale silver-white hair remeniscent to that of Luna’s and pale amethyst eyes. He too wore his uniform unbuttoned and tie loose. With three silver earrings and a tattoo on the left side of his neck, he was immediately labelled as a “bad boy” by many girls who seemed to have forgotton all about the vampire business. He wore a scowl on his face as the Hat was placed on his head. “Gryffindor!” The answer was almost instantaneous and his eyes flicked up to look for the table with a red banner. Dragging his feet he plopped onto the end of the table where the students did not move either but their reactions were varied from disgust, fear, to even curiousity.
“Kuran, Kaname,” the boy next to Dumbledore excused himself with a curt nod and descended to the seat. He had light brown hair and unusual garnet coloured eyes. Compared to the others, he wore his uniform perfectly and as he sat on the flimsy stool, he somehow managed to make it seem like he was sitting on a throne. “Slytherin!” Another, louder, round of hisses were issued. Just their luck to have the leader vampire in their house. The boy turned slightly to nod at Dumbledore once more, who nodded with a smile in return, before taking a seat across Shiruba. They seemed to lock eyes with one another for a split-second before both returning their attention to the platform.
“Seiren,” a stiff woman with bobbed greyish hair stepped up and placed herself in the stool. Her face bore no emotion at all as she stared at nothing in particular. “Gryffindor!” Making her way to place herself across Zero, a flash of dissapointment flickered in her eyes for the briefest moment.
“Shiki, Senri,” an obviously bored boy with mahogany hair and tinted blue eyes made it up the stairs. As he turned to face the crowd and the Hat was placed on him, many thought that his expression held a striking similarity to that of Professor Snape’s. “Hufflepuff!” Some students scoffed at how the house name sounded and the creature sorted into it. Senri remained unfazed as he took a seat at the end, hardly even glancing at the other students.
“Souen, Ruka,” a very beautiful girl with pale brown hair and similar coloured eyes held herself with ladylike grace. “Hufflepuff!” Another was sorted into a similar house and she practically glided across the floor to take a seat across Senri.
“Touya, Rima,” the final girl strode up the stairs. She was slender and sported a unique orange-like shade of blonde hair tied in pigtails and had cerulean eyes. Her attitude was like a professional model of sorts and she even managed to make the Hat look good as it was perched atop her head. “Hufflepuff!” The last house called and she sat next to Senri, immediately ruffling through her pockets for something. Professor McGonagall took away the Hat and stool and Dumbledore returned to the podium.
“To our newcomers, welcome!” His arms were stretched wide and a smile on his lips, emphasizing his words. “Now that we have all been settled in. Tuck in!” The atmosphere relaxed considerably as food appeared out of nowhere, filling every table. Reactions to this miracle were slowed as students cautiously watched the newest additions to their houses. Despite the earlier reassurances, murmurs broke out regarding the safety of eating amongst vampires. Seemingly oblivious to the stares, the vampires “tucked in” and some began conversing among themselves. This did little to tame the curiousity of the students but soon enough they grew tired of expecting something to happen and begun their meals.
Unsure if it counted as “luck”, Harry and his friends were sitting relatively close to the vampires. Hermoine and Ron were already in a heated argument about the vampire’s diets and that left Harry to watch the two vampires at his table. The girl, Seiren or something, was eating with the mannerisms one would find at a fine dining restaurant. The other boy, Zero, was leaning his head against his left arm, eyes trailing across the dishes before him as if contemplating what to eat whilst his right hand twirled a goblet by his fingers.
“Kiryuu-san,” Harry almost jerked as he heard the voice of the girl for the first time. She had paused in her eating and was looking at the boy who dragged his eyes up to look at her in return. “Koko ni wa anata no jozai o toru tame ni, sore wa kanzen ni anzendesu wa (It is perfectly safe for you to take your tablets here).” Zero’s eyes narrowed by a fraction before he let out a sigh and placed the goblet on the table firmly.
“Wakatteru (I know that),” he replied in an exasperated voice. “Maa, arigatou.” Harry’s eyes widened in realization at the last word. They were speaking Japanese! He was about to turn and let his friends know about this new piece of information but he stopped as he saw the boy take out a metal case similar to a matchbox. Sliding the lid open, he shook out a few white tablets and dropped them into his drink. Harry frowned. The boy continued to swirl the liquid shortly before taking a swig. He watched this happen a couple of times before concluding that he wouldn’t be able to figure out what had happened anytime soon. He turned around to see Ron and Hermoine still at it.
“Hey guys,” Harry cut in. They both halted and turned to him, the looks on their faces saying, this better be something good. He rolled his eyes, scoffing. “These guys are from Japan.”
“How do you know?” Ron said, ripping a huge bite off a drumstick in the process.
“You speak Japanese?” Hermoine added. Harry resisted the urge to roll her eyes once again.
“No, I don’t. But I heard them talking just then and one of them said “aligato”, which is like, thanks in Japanese isn’t it?”
“Yeah that’s right. But so what? None of us speak Japanese. Ugh,” Hermoine slumped in her seat, shooting a disgusted look at Ron who was thoroughly stuffing food down his throat. “How’re we supposed to ‘achieve maximum interaction’ if we can’t even communicate with one another?”
“Why are you even upset about this, Moine?” Ron finally gave some input. “It’s like you want to be buddy-buddy with em.”
“Oh come on Ron,” her tone saying, as if you don’t even know. “You have to admit; aren’t you even a little interested in them?” He scoffed.
“There’s so many things we could learn from them! Even more so than from our textbooks!” Her eyes seemed to sparkle at the thought of these fresh sources of information. “Like, their heirachy, or ancestry, lifestyle, ettiquate!” Harry and Ron stared at her.
“You’ve got to be kidding, Hermoine,” Harry honestly stated. I mean seriously, ettiquate?
“Yeah! What’s there to know other than that they’re a bunch of monsters who drink blood to survive.”
“Ron, don’t you think you’re being a bit harsh?” She countered. “I mean, we got along fine with Professor Lupin even though he turned out to be a werewolf!”
“But that’s different! We didn’t know that at the time!”
“How is that any different?” She was beginning to get fed up. “Even more so this should be even better because we know what they are from the get-go!” The noise level in the Hall was starting to creep upwards as most students had finished their meals and Dumbledore got to his feet once more. The talking ceased immediately as all turned to face their Headmaster.
“Well, now that we are all digesting another magnificent feast, I beg a few moments of your attention for the usual start-of-term notices,” said Dumbledore. He began his ritual of going through out-of-bounds areas, magic in corridors and the like. “We are also very pleased to welcome back Professor Grubbly-Plank, who will be taking Care of Magical Creatures lessons; and are equally delighted to introduce Professor Umbridge, our new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher.” Harry, Ron and Hermoine exchanged somewhat concerned looks during a round of applause. The Hall’s noise level dropped significantly for a moment, causing the three to glance at Dumbledore who was looking off a side. A sort of throat-clearing cough sound was made, “Hem, hem”. Professor Umbridge took to her feet and strode towards the front as if inteding to make a speech.
“Thank you, Headmaster,” her voice was high-pitched, girlish and made Harry flinch on the inside just listening to it, “for those kind words of welcome.” She looked ridiculous, like a child with her stupid voice and fluffy pink cardigan. “Well it is lovely to be back at Hogwarts, I must say!” Her superfluous smile revealing pointed teeth. “And to see such happy little faces looking up at me!” Harry was sure nobody was happy at all. “I am very much looking forward to getting to know you all and I’m sure we’ll be very good friends!” Students exchanged looks and grins. Harry caught the sound of someone scoffing rather loudly at the front of the table. He whipped his head to see that it was the boy with silver hair.
“Gaki da (what a brat),” he had muttered under his breath. Harry saw the emotionless girl across him glance at him once, and a small smile gracing her lips. The woman made that horrible throat-clearing sound once again to get the student’s attention.
“The Ministry of Magic has always considered the education of young witches and wizards to be of vital importance. The rare gifts with which you were born may come to nothing if not nurtured and honed by careful instruction. The ancient skills unique to the wizarding community must be passed down the generations lest we lose them forever. The treasure trove of magical knowledge amassed by our ancestors must be guarded, replenished and polished by those who have been called to the noble profession of teaching.” She paused to nod curtly at the table of teachers.
“Every headmaster and headmistress of Hogwarts has brought something new to the weighty task of governing this historic school, and that is as it should be, for without prograss there will be stagnation and decay. Then again, progress for progress’ sake must be discouraged, for our tried and tested traditions often require no tinkering. A balance, then, between old and new, between permanence and change, between tradition and innovations...” Harry’s concentration begun to ebb away; he noticed many students too had stopped listening. Over at Ravenclaw, Cho was chatting with her friends, and Luna had gotten out her Quibbler magazine. At Hufflepuff, Ernie was staring glassy-eyed at Professor Umbridge, no doubt merely pretending to listen.
“... And although the Ministry deigns such interaction between humans and creatures unpractical, I shall personally make sure that you children are protected from these.. things,” she waved off dismissedly. Harry turned to glance at some of the vampires and saw many with narrowed eyes, except those in Slytherin and the boy at Gryffindor, who seemed to be having a silent conversation with the other boy in Slytherin. “Do not hesitate, however, to let me know of your concerns, dear students, as I am here exactly for that purpose; improving Hogwarts. Rest assured that if I have numbers on my side, I am fully able to banish these creatures from your school.” She halted in her speech to look down somewhere with contempt in her eyes. Harry’s eyes followed her gaze and was surprised to see the that boy at his table had stood up.
“No need for all the formalities, Professor,” Harry’s mouth dropped. He spoke English! Although with a hint of an eastern accent, it was plenty fluent. “However, it has already been settled that punishments for our students will be dealt by either their dorm leader, or those of the Hunters Association.” Professor Umbridge scoffed.
“And who are you to say that you won’t just let them off the hook after a mere warning?” She countered boldly. Zero heaved a sigh and begun striding up the steps towards her, she froze. He stopped beside her and looked her in the eye, trying not to glare as it would be a bad first impression.
“Trust me,” he purred the words in a convincing voice, “unless you’ve been trained for it, not even your ‘Defense Against the Dark Arts’ will do you any good.” A hint of a smirk played on his lips.
“How dare you,” she uttered in a completely offended voice, “are you implying that our teachings are lacking? You beasts are nothing more than child’s play to us!” Zero’s senses were on high alert and he let the smirk creep onto his face, shaking his head.
“Fine, if you insist. But you better learn quick who it is you’re against. Underestimating your opponent will lead to your downfall.” Zero swept out his arm as he turn, waving it towards the students. Umbridge’s eyes followed the action and widened at the sight of menacing, blood red eyes watching her. Gasps rung out as students too realized this and shuffling sounds were heard as many attempted to distance themselves even further. Professor Umbridge managed to gather herself quickly however, retorting.
“See what I mean? Abominations. Can’t even control yourself here?”
“Professor Umbridge,” the name flowed like silk coming from a low, seductive voice. Heads turned to see it was the leader, Kaname, seated calmly at the Slytherin table. “I assure you you are perfectly safe. Kiryuu-kun is highly able and about the best in his field, considering his.. advantage, so to say.” His eyes held an amused glint as it flickered to Zero briefly. “However I ask that you refrain from insulting our race. The purpose of this program is co-existence; and how is that to be achieved if the teachers themselves do not support this? We shall in return reciprocrate this and respect the other students accordingly.” Umbridge opened her mouth to respond before she was silenced by Dumbledore holding out a hand.
“I think the students should be dismissed to begin unpacking and getting ready for their new school year, Professor Umbridge.” Without waiting for her approval, he dismissed the students who eagerly followed instructions to leave. The vampires followed their house groups silently and obediently. Kaname nodded off Shiruba who followed the group before he promptly strode over to Zero.
“Gozenchu ni anata ga hyoji sa remasuyo, Zero (I will see you in the morning, Zero).” Zero looked up at him, searching his eyes for something, before nodding. He had things he wanted to know, but decided to postpone it for now. He turned and begun to walk off in the direction the other Gryffindor-ers had gone. Kaname turned briefly to Seiren, his trusted bodyguard.
“Kare o mimamoru, Seiren (watch over him, Seiren).” She bowed deeply.
“Hai, Kaname-sama,” and dissapeared. Kaname turned to see Professor Umbridge bickering with Professor Dumbledore. No doubt about his interupting her. He decided to leave as he’d rather not stay and attempt to reason with the woman.