Hogwarts and the Wolf in the Fold

Voldemort puts a spy into Hogwarts.
Set during the year of the Half-blood Prince.

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14. Settling in at School

Settling in at School

When the carriages stopped outside the front door of the castle, David climbed out and waited as Professor McGonagall directed the other students into the hallway. When they were all inside, he went in with her and the huge wooden door closed with a resounding ‘boom’.
The students who were wearing overcoats removed them and took them into the cloakrooms at the side. Meanwhile, the rest of them shuffled into the great hall, along with David and Professor McGonagall.
As the students milled around, David saw a gangly long-haired man running around between them and poking at them with a metal rod shaped like a television aerial.
“What’s heae doing?” David asked Professor McGonagall.
“What? Oh, that’s the caretaker Argus Filtch. He’s running a secrecy sensor over everyone. Ministry orders are for every student to be checked for hidden dark artefacts. Though personally, I believe he’s only interested in finding dungbombs or fanged frisbees.”
When David entered the great hall for the first time, he was awestruck by the size of the room. Tables ran the full length of the hall and there were others on a raised dais at the far end. Sitting at that table were an assortment of older wizards and witches, obviously the teaching staff.
The high ceiling had been magically transformed to resemble the night sky, but without the accompanying wind and rain that might be happening outside. Tonight, it was a deep bluish black with some cloud cover and an eerie moon in one corner.
Professor McGonagall took David over to the dais and waved at a plump little witch who was watching the students settling down at one of the long tables.
“Professor Sprout.” She called.
The witch saw her beckoning and getting up, she made her way around the edge of the table and over to David.
“This is David Bertillon, the exchange student. David, this is Professor Sprout. She is head of Hufflepuff house and during your stay you will have a room in the Hufflepuff dormitory.”
“Ahh, so pleased to meet you, David.” She said and held out a hand.
David shook it and was surprised to find that it was hard and horny, almost like a working man’s.
“Pleased to meet you, Professor.” He replied.
“I teach herbology to the sixth year students, so I’ll be seeing a lot of you this year.” She smiled and nodded at David.
“I look forward to it.” He said and privately thought that he was going to make sure that he never did anything to warrant her slapping him hard across the head with those hands.
“If you sit over there next to Biggins.” She pointed to a tall boy sat at the end of the table.
“That’s the Hufflepuff house table and he is the house warlock, so he is in charge of the students, in my absence.”
David nodded his understanding and thanked her and Professor McGonagall once more. He left them and walked over to Biggins and introduced himself. Dusty preferred to stretch his wings and he flew high around the room and settled somewhere hidden in a niche in the wall, but with a clear view of everyone below.
Biggins turned out to be friendlier than his outward appearance showed. Although he was tall and fairly stocky, his voice was rather high-pitched and he spoke in a very laid-back manner.
“Ah, yes. The French exchange student. Sprout did mention earlier.” He drawled.
“If you catch me after the feast is over and the sorting and speeches are all finished, I’ll take you up to the dormitory and show you to your room. You’ve got a single next to mine. As I’m warlock for Hufflepuff, I get a room to myself. Not a bad little perk if you ask me.”
“Sounds pretty good to me.” Said David and was pleased that he didn’t have to share rooms with a complete stranger.
Too often in the past, he’d had to bunk up with three or four other boys in the children’s homes. He remembered the noise and smells of the room and it wasn’t very nice. Having to keep a watch on your own stuff too, because some of the boys made free with the property of others.
David sat down at the table and looked around at the crowd milling around the tables. Before too long, they had all found seats of their own and the hubbub died down.
There was suddenly an expectant silence, as the students all held their breath and stared up at the wizard at the centre of proceedings. Having observed the silence that had fallen, he stood up and smiled in welcome, his hands clasped together behind him.
He was tall and slender, with a long white beard and hair under a pointed hat of bright purple. His matching robes had tiny gold points of light all over them and they sparkled in the light of candles, lamps and the moon overhead.
“Welcome one and all to another year at Hogwarts school of witchcraft and wizardry.” He beamed and looked out at the sea of happy faces.
David listened intently, he wanted to catch every word of this address. He knew instinctively that this must be Dumbledore. The man seemed to exude a sense of hidden power, even as he stood there just talking.
“The first task at the beginning of every new year is the traditional sorting of new students into their houses and this year will provide no exception. If Professor Flitwick can bring in the sorting hat, then we can begin.”
The little ‘charms’ Professor appeared from behind the table and sat the dusty old wizard’s hat on a chair at the front of the dais. The hat coughed and cleared its invisible throat, then it began to speak in a croaky voice:

“Another year, another group of students to be sorted;
Divided, yet together will your enemies be thwarted.
Do not forget that strength is found in those who stick together;
And if you argue, hawk and fight, the war will last forever.
So heed my words and work as one, to fight a common foe;
I’ll tell my tale and you will learn the thing you want to know.

The sorting hat is what I’m called, I came here long ago;
I greet the first-year students and I tell them where to go.
I sort them each into the houses formed by founders four;
In Hufflepuff, in Ravenclaw, Slytherin and Gryffindor.
Now come and place me on your head, I’ll try my best to do;
What is the best to make a witch or wizard out of you.
Perhaps in Hufflepuff you’ll find you value hard work best;
Or Ravenclaw whose students’ marks are better than the rest.
In Gryffindor the brave at heart and daring are the kind;
While in the house of Slytherin, are those of cunning mind.
Whichever choice I make for you, your life will change forever;
Will shape the person you become, I really am that clever!”

Everyone laughed and then clapped out loud when they realised that the hat had finished it’s little speech.
Professor McGonagall signalled for silence and having got it she read out the first name on a list that she was holding in front of her.
“Abercrombie, Fergus.” She called and a small boy shambled nervously from the table of first-years below the dais.
He placed the hat on his head, but it was so big that it fell down to his shoulders. Everyone laughed again and even Dumbledore beamed widely.
The hall fell silent again as the hat prepared to make its decision.
“Hufflepuff!” It cried out and the table around David erupted in cheers and shouts of triumph at getting the first student.
The boy took off the hat and ran down to their table where he was instantly surrounded by Hufflepuffs. They shook his hand and patted his shoulders and then plonked him down on the bench between them.
The sorting continued in a similar fashion, until each of the students had been placed into one or other of the four houses. They seemed to have been divided fairly equally and David noticed that there was some kind of method in the madness of the whole process.
It did look as if the geeky-looking students went into Ravenclaw and the shifty, sharp-faced types went into Slytherin. The more confident-looking kids were assigned to Gryffindor and Hufflepuff took everyone else, ‘the more normal types’ thought David.
Meanwhile, Dumbledore had got to his feet again and was clapping vigorously. He waved his arms up and down before him, to silence the hall and then spoke to them.
“Now that the sorting has been completed to everyone’s satisfaction, I hope, there are a few messages and notices that I would like to give you. But, first things first. After all the excitement of the sorting, let us refresh ourselves with the welcome feast. Tuck in, everyone!”
At that, the tables filled with a wondrous arrangement of food and drinks. There was roasted chicken and potatoes, steaming piles of carrots and peas, gigantic fluffy brown Yorkshire puddings and boats of thick gravy to pour over them.
There were pies, puddings, slices of beef and all the tastiest things that would satisfy the needs of a hungry diner. David tucked in without further ado. He chatted to the others around him and got a full run-down of Hufflepuff’s more recent triumphs and disasters, including Cedric Diggory’s death at the tri-wizards tournament.
This mention of the tragic death of a student brought back a memory that David had of Fleur Delacourt returning to Beauxbatons in a flood of tears. He was pondering this thought when there was a sudden commotion behind him and heading towards the Gryffindor table.
A boy around the same age as David was making his way along the benches and trying his best to be inconspicuous, but almost everyone had turned to watch him.
Biggins nudged David and nodded in the direction of the boy.
“Potter.” He said.
“It’s Harry Potter. How come he’s so late?”
David perked up at the name and lifted himself up in his seat, staring hard at the boy and trying to get a good look at his face. The boy was soon lost in a sea of Gryffindors.
“Showing off, as usual.” Biggins continued, oblivious to David’s disappointment at missing out on catching a glimpse of the Potter boy.
David did notice that he could see a man moving towards the place where Potter had disappeared. Or was he floating? He was dressed in an old-style costume, like something from ‘the three musketeers’.
 “Who’s that man over there?” He asked Biggins.
“Oh, that’s Sir Nick. He’s the ghost of Gryffindor.”
“Ghost!”
“Of course he is. Each of the houses has their own ghost. It’s just another of the traditions. Ours is ‘the fat friar’.” He pointed down the table, where David could see a fat greyish monk-like figure floating behind and chatting to some of the students.
‘Weird.” Thought David to himself.
David sat back and watched as his dinner plate suddenly disappeared. He looked in astonishment at the empty space where it had been, but then sighed with relief when an empty pudding dish appeared in its place.
The table was then re-filled with an assortment of cakes and puddings, jellies and custard. There was also fruit, cheese and crackers for those who hadn’t much room left for dessert.
David filled up the corners with a few cracked walnuts and sat back, as full and happy as he could ever remember being.
The table soon cleared itself and there were only drinks left on it. Silence fell again as Dumbledore rose to his feet and addressed the school.
“The very best of evenings to you.” He said and beamed at the students, with his arms now raised in welcome.
There was a common intake of breath from several students who had noticed something about Dumbledore.
“What is it?” Asked David.
“His hand looks all blackened and burned.” Said Biggins in fear and disgust.
The Hufflepuffs whispered together, speculating as to what could have happened to make Dumbledore’s hand so dead-looking.
David listened to Dumbledore’s speech intently, paying attention to the news of a replacement potions Master and defence against the dark arts Master. He also caught the name Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes and thought of the handkerchief now stuffed in his pocket.
Dumbledore then waffled on, to David’s mind about being careful and looking out for strange things. This just made David think about taking extra care when trying to get some useful information.
It was soon over and David looked around to see where Dusty had got to. He eventually saw him stood at the edge of the niche, looking down at the boy David had seen earlier.
David had a sudden strong desire to be where Dusty was, to be able to see what Harry Potter was doing. At the same time, he was absent-mindedly playing with the wand hidden in the inner pocket of his robes.
He remembered the incantation that he had read in the book of familiars and was saying it over and over in his mind.
His eye met that of Dusty and the urge became so overwhelming that with no warning, he felt himself rise up and out of his body and he flew directly into the familiar. He must have cast the spell non-verbally.
He turned around and found that he was ‘inside’ the bird and looking out at the great hall. At the other side was his own body standing there waiting to leave, with a vacant expression on its face.
He looked down and saw Harry Potter talking to the red-haired boy from the train. Weasley, wasn’t it? A giant of a man approached them from behind just as Potter said.
“How d’you know Voldemort doesn’t need someone at Hogwarts?”
David felt himself fall forward and his wings opened wide. With a silent scream he flew back into his own body and looked back out in time to see Dusty coming straight at him.
“Whoa!” He cried out, as Dusty braked hard and landed gently on his shoulder.
Biggins turned and looked at Dusty.
“Nice bird.” He said.
“I like ravens, there are supposed to be really intelligent.”
“Yeah.” Said David, trying to get his breath back.
He trudged after Biggins and out towards the doorway that led to the kitchens, even though he did not know it. Looking back, he could see Potter chatting with the giant man.
Biggins called for the new Hufflepuffs to line up behind him and to follow him to their common room. Everyone else made to make their way their way there in twos and threes.
The Hufflepuff common room was down a corridor, past a painting of some fruit. On the right-hand side was a dark recess filled with a stack of large barrels.
David and the first-years gathered around Biggins, who took out his wand and said.
“Listen carefully to what I do with my wand. This is how you get inside the Hufflepuff common room. Make sure you only tap this barrel in the middle of the second row, two up, otherwise you’ll get drenched in smelly vinegar.”
He tapped out a short tune on the lid of the barrel and it swung inwards.
“You have to remember the name ‘Helga Hufflepuff’ and tap out the syllables on the lid. She was the witch who founded Hogwarts, along with the other three wizards. This was her ‘house’ and we keep all the traditions that she began, in her honour.”
David was enthralled by this unexpected magical secret and wondered how the other students got into their house common rooms.
They walked up a sloping earthy-floored corridor that opened into a round low-ceilinged room. The common room looked very warm and cosy, with a large fireplace that spread flickering light over many round wooden tables and chairs.
By the light of lamps around the walls of the room, he could see many yellow and black hangings. This appeared to be a common theme in the room. The furniture was mostly made of rich dark wood that shone as if highly polished, but there were fixtures and fittings in the house colours.
They matched perfectly and gave the room a feeling of warmth and friendliness.
There were also many plants decorating the room. Bright green ferns dangled from copper pots hanging from the ceiling and there were cacti and colourful flowering plants dotted here and there, on shelves fitted against the walls.
Dominating the room was a large portrait that hung over the fireplace. It showed a witch, Helga Hufflepuff, holding up a two-handled golden cup and seemingly toasting the students in the room. The badgers carved in the wooden fireplace were fashioned to look as if they were dancing around her feet. A badger was now the symbol of Hufflepuff house.
There were several round wooden doors that Biggins told them led into the dormitories and the correct ones were shown to the first-years.
Biggins led David through the door nearest to the fireplace and along another short corridor that had two doors, one on each side.
“This is my room.” He said and opened the door on the right.
“That’s yours. See you in the morning for breakfast.” He added and yawning widely he went inside and shut the door behind him.
David opened his own door and entered the bedroom. It was furnished with a wooden four-poster bed that had a flowery patchwork quilt on top. This didn’t really meet with David’s approval, but it looked comfortable and warm.
His trunk was already at the foot of the bed. On one side of the room was a wardrobe and set of drawers, with a washbasin standing next to them. There was also an armchair and a writing desk with a lamp above it.
Dusty jumped onto the lamp and settled down for the night. David took a quick wash in the basin and then swapped his robes for his pyjamas, from the trunk. He put his wash kit at the side of the basin and made a promise to himself that he would clean his teeth and hang up his clothes in the morning.
He climbed into the welcoming bed and thought about the trip he had made into Dusty’s body. He had actually flown as a bird!
‘I wonder if Potter was talking about me?’ He thought, but before too long he fell fast asleep.

 

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