The Unicorn at Hogwarts.

by Saphroneth

First published

Chrysalis sent Twilight somewhere she could never return... just outside Hogwarts, in fact.

After discovering that Cadence is not who she appears to be, Twilight is sent to another world entirely by the disguised Changeling Queen to avoid her plan being disrupted.
When Twilight lands, she discovers that not only have Spike, Owlowiscious and Peewee followed her, but that they've arrived in a world where the main sentient species is human.
There's still a place where they teach magic, though.
Crossover with Harry Potter. Twilight will be effectively taking the role of Hermione.

Long way from home

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Long way from home

In a forest in the far north of Scotland, a chill wind blew throughout the countryside, rippling across the vast hills of the highlands. Had anyone been there, they would have felt a quick shift, as though the world had gone off its axis for the briefest moment.

Twilight Sparkle appeared in a flash of green light, fell four feet, and landed on a huge fallen tree trunk. “Whouf! Oww…”

Spike materialized next to her, wobbled for a moment on the edge of the log, and fell off. Twilight managed to catch him by the ankle before he hit the floor of the forest they had apparently appeared in.

Owlowiscious and Peewee appeared next. Being birds, they landed a little more gracefully.

“What happened, Twi?” Spike asked, as she lifted him up to where she’d landed. “One minute I was trying to sort out a problem in the kitchens, and the next…”

“I don’t know. I’d just tried to confront Cadence about how she was acting so differently, she did… something, and then we all appeared here.” Twilight looked around the area, seeing a dense canopy of trees of several kinds and a covering of leaf litter. “Hmmm. Large forest, no sign of habitation that I can see.” Her horn lit again, and a number of spells began firing one after another. “We’re at high latitude… it’s late summer… the time has changed by at least two hours from when I was facing the fake Cadence… and I can’t sense Canterlot’s magical beacon.”

“That’s… bad?” Spike asked, looking around nervously.

“Yes, it’s bad,” Twilight confirmed. “In fact, I think we’re on a different world entirely.”

“What makes you think that?”

Twilight ran through the various reasons she had for determining that datum. Well, I can’t feel the Canterlot magical beacon or any of the other Equestrian magical landmarks… no, Spike’s never felt them so it won’t mean anything to him. The Element of Magic feels more distant than it ever has before, which didn’t even happen when Discord corrupted me… same problem. And if I tell him what the fake Cadence said, he might not believe me.

“Well, for starters,” her hoof pointed into the sky. “That.

Spike looked. Then looked the other direction, just to make sure he wasn’t imagining the gentle morning sunlight.

No, he was right. There was the sun in the sky… and so, in the opposite direction but not more than half the sky away, was the moon. A half-moon up in the middle of the day.

“Uh…” Spike ventured, cringing. “Shouldn’t you be… panicking?”

“Nope!” Twilight said, and started to walk along the log to somewhere they could get down, carefully not focusing on the argument she’d had with her friends shortly before being transported.

“Star Swirl had a number of theorems about dimensional travel – well, technically universal travel – and one of them was that time elapsed in one world didn’t match to time in the other one. No matter how long we spend here, when we head back to Equestria we’ll have been gone as long or as short a time as we want. And the same thing in reverse.” She arrested her fall with a quick spell, and continued talking to occupy herself. “Because the fact that you were brought along confirms the Third Theorem, and Owlowiscious and Peewee confirm the Fourth Theorem and the contagion corollary, and that the rest of the girls weren’t brought along is good evidence for the Second Theorem… I think we can trust the Fifth. It’s based on all the same maths.”

“So…” Spike jumped down from the log more carefully this time. “…the fact that the Princesses haven’t rescued us yet?”

Twilight had considered this – thanks to the Fifth Theorem, if she could be traced then a rescue attempt would take no subjective time at all. “Just means we’ll have to get back ourselves.”

“And can you derive dimensional travel from first principles?” Spike pressed.

Twilight froze.

Thankfully, she was distracted from the incipient panic attack by a voice. It was a gruff, male voice, with an accent she couldn’t place.

“’Ello, there. Well, not seen a unicorn foal that colour before. Or a dragon in the wild like that. Hey!”

The last word was accompanied by a low growl, and Twilight turned more quickly as she heard it.

“Calm down, Fang,” The speaker said. It – presumably he – was a very large, bipedal creature, mammalian by the looks of it, addressing a very large dog.

“Don’t worry, I’m not goin’ to hurt yeh.”

“I should hope not,” Twilight said, moving to place herself between the dog and Spike just in case.

The enormous mammal blinked in shock. “Well, bugger me. Not seen a talking unicorn before.”

“Glad to be the first…” Twilight said. “Where are we?”

“Forbidden forest. Oh, sorry. My name’s Rubeus Hagrid. What’s yours?”

Twilight had expected something unusual for the name – obviously, an alien culture wouldn’t necessarily have the same name format as ponies did. “I’m Twilight Sparkle. This is my assistant, Spike.”

“Hi,” Spike waved, and Hagrid if anything became more astonished.

“The owl’s my number two assistant, Owlowicious – Spike is number one – and the baby phoenix is Spike’s pet, Peewee. We ended up here after some kind of… accident,” Twilight decided to elide the details of that, “and we’re pretty much completely lost. Are there any other ponies around here?”

“Ponies? Yeah,” Hagrid said, before frowning. “But I think yeh mean more like you? Who talk? Then no, none o’ them.”

Twilight’s heart sank. “Is there anyone else we can talk to?”

“I’ll take you to Dumbledore,” Hagrid said, after spending no more than a moment thinking about it. “Great man, Dumbledore.”

“Man?” Twilight asked, thrown for a moment.

“Yeah. Man. Male human.” The half-giant shrugged awkwardly.

“I think we’ll have to start right at the beginning,” Twilight said, thinking through all the books she’d read which had some kind of First Contact situation. “I know you have the word for unicorn the same as us, and the word dragon, but I’ve never heard of a human.”

“Right.” Hagrid frowned. “Well, the correspondence courses never said anything about this.”

“Correspondence courses?” Somehow it was incongruous coming from such a giant, though it shouldn’t have been. After all, the closest Equestrian she’d seen to this… man… in appearance was Iron Will, and he gave seminars. Twilight felt a bit of an idiot for making such a foolish assumption, and hoped her surprise wasn’t obvious.

“Yeah.” Hagrid turned and began to walk, beckoning her with a jerk of his head, and after a moment Twilight hoisted Spike onto her back and cantered up alongside him. The dog, Fang if Twilight remembered correctly, gave a canine snort of indifference. “I’m the Keeper of Keys and Grounds at Hogwarts, see? But I want to be qualified teh teach, and so I’ve been taking a course in care of magical creatures. It’s kind of what I do anyway, more or less, and it doesn’t need magic, so…” he shrugged, one hand straying to a wooden handle and caressing it for a moment. Seeing her looking, he quickly resumed. “Anyway, er, there’s a lot in there about teaching humans about magical creatures, but I never expected to have to tell magical creatures about humans.”

“I can understand,” Twilight said. “I–”.

At that moment, they left the boundaries of the Forbidden Forest and entered the Vale of Hogwarts. Ahead was a gentle dip to the shores of a large, midnight blue lake that Twilight guessed was cold and deep. There was a grassy slope running all around the lake, except for one point near the opposite side where a rocky crag overhung it. And atop that crag was a large, towered castle – a little different from what Twilight remembered of the Equestrian standard and with walkways spreading out from it.

“…well. Wow.”

“That’s kind of impressive,” Spike said, looking the castle over. “A lot more blocky than Canterlot. What kind of place is it?”

“That’s Hogwarts.” Hagrid said, still striding ahead. “It’s the best school of magic in the world.”

“Oh, good!” Twilight said, relieved. “When you said unicorns I was fairly sure, but now I’m certain – you have magic in this world. You can help us get home.”

“Well, I can’t.” Hagrid shook his head. “Wouldn’t know where to start! I’m sure Dumbledore will know, though. Very intelligent man, he is.”

The wide, tall corridors of Hogwarts Castle were silent and empty. Twilight’s hooves made a steady staccato clop on the stonework next to Hagrid’s heavy footfalls, seemingly the only sounds in the building.

Despite that, however, Twilight knew she was in the centre of a place of great magic. The suits of armour she passed were woven with intricate guardianship and animation spells layered into the metal, the portraits whispered amongst themselves and moved from frame to frame, and the castle itself seemed almost aware.

“Turn left here… okay, let’s see… it’s a Tuesday, in August, and the year ends in one… right, up this staircase!”

“Does it matter?” Twilight asked, keeping one eye on Spike in case he fell. She knew he could take care of himself, but she couldn’t help but worry for him.

“Well, they move.” Hagrid said it nonchalantly, being so used to the idea. “You just have to be sure you get on the right one.”

Twilight blinked. “O…kay, then. Suppose it makes more sense than marketing cloud mattresses to earth ponies…”

She’d tried one. It was very comfortable, but after the third time her cloud-walking spell had worn off in the middle of the night and she’d fallen through her bed, she’d given up and passed it on to Fluttershy.

“Here we are.” Hagrid pointed along a corridor. “That gargoyle there is where Dumbledore’s office is.”

The enormous man walked up to the statue, cleared his throat, and said “Flying saucers.”

Apparently this was a password, as the gargoyle leapt aside and revealed a steep, spiral staircase.

“Come on. Don’t worry, Dumbledore’s a very kind man. Looked out for me when – er-hem,” Hagrid coughed. “Never mind.”

Before Twilight could ask – not that she particularly wanted to pry – he headed up the stairs. Twilight followed carefully, reducing her weight with a tricky but useful spell so she didn’t fall.

The office was a little startling. There was so much magic in it – from books, from moving portraits, from little devices on the cupboards, and most certainly from the large… man, who was behind the desk.

Before Twilight had even finished looking around, Peewee took off from Spike’s arm and flitted forward towards…

She blinked. That was another phoenix. Not quite like Philomeena, but a touch of familiarity that caused a stab of homesickness.

“Well, I see Fawkes has a new friend!” the man said as Peewee alighted smartly on the perch next to the larger phoenix. “Tell me – where did you find him, Hagrid?”

“Oh, he’s the pet of this young lad, Spike. I found ‘em in the woods, Professor Dumbledore.” Hagrid indicated Spike, which meant indicating Twilight, and the unicorn suddenly felt self-conscious.

“My word,” the indicated Dumbledore said. “Hello there. I am Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of this school.”

“Pleased to meet you,” Twilight managed to get out, cursing herself for the attack of shyness. Making a good first impression was so important – had she blown it? Would that mean that this headmaster would mock her, or, or…

No. Twilight thought to herself firmly. Calm down. To distract herself, she focused on the strange silver devices rather than on the human, and pretended she was talking to a pony. “I’m sorry to intrude, ah, professor? We ended up in the forest outside by accident.”

“Indeed,” Dumbledore said, in a tone which might have been interest – but Twilight didn’t feel nearly confident enough of how human emotions sounded to be sure. “Do go on.”

Realizing she hadn’t screwed up yet, Twilight looked over at Dumbledore directly and tried to concentrate. “All right. Well…”

“I see,” Dumbledore – who had turned out to be not nearly as large as Rubeus Hagrid when she got closer, though still taller than any pony short of perhaps Princess Celestia and possessed of a most impressive beard – nodded, as Twilight finished her slightly shortened account of how she had come to this world.

“Yes, I am familiar with what experiments our world has done on universe travel.” Dumbledore then shook his head sadly. “However, those experiments amount to very little. I am sorry, but you may need to invent your own way home.”

“Okay.” Twilight slumped, realizing just how difficult this could be, then picked herself up. “May I make use of your library? And I’ll need some note-paper…”

“Actually.” Dumbledore raised a finger. “An idea presents itself. Are you aware of Hogwarts’ purpose?”

“I think Hagrid said it was a magical… school?” Her ears perked up.

“Correct. And while I am sure you are most talented with magic, Miss Sparkle, there is always more to learn – indeed, your young assistant Spike could join you.”

“What are you suggesting?” Twilight asked.

“Why, that you attend the school.” Dumbledore smiled, his eyes twinkling. “Since an owl is a permitted familiar, and I can certainly approve Peewee–” Dumbledore turned his gaze to Fawkes’ perch, where the younger phoenix was chattering animatedly with the elder, “–there would be no problem on that front.”

Well, if he’s focusing on that, then clearly the school doesn’t care about species. “I… it’s a nice offer, but…” Twilight tailed off, seeing Spike looking eager.

“I like the idea, Twilight,” the young dragon said. “I mean, we’re going to be here for a long time anyway, and it doesn’t matter how long, does it? And if this kind of magic is one I could learn…”

“You’re right,” Twilight said. Celestia knows that learning an entirely different branch of magic without the foundational level stuff is tricky. “In fact, if it doesn’t require a horn, it could be a very good idea to learn it. We could teach it to the others.”

“Yeah!” Spike grinned, before suddenly looking worried. “What about food?”

“Oh, that is true.” As Dumbledore quirked an eyebrow, Twilight elaborated. “Spike needs the occasional gemstone to supplement his diet. I think the minimum is about a carat a week.”

“Awww…” Spike whined. “That’s hardly enough to taste!”

“We don’t know how common gemstones are without the kind of earth magic saturation Equestria has, Spike,” Twilight said. “I’m sure they have other foods which you’ll enjoy, the problem here is how much you need to survive.”

“Alright, fine,” Spike huffed. “But I won’t enjoy it.”

“I’m sure you’ll get used to it.” Twilight smiled to herself. You like everything else.

Dumbledore blinked. “You eat gemstones?”

“Well, technically large crystals,” Twilight said. “He prefers things like fire rubies, but anything from quartz to diamond is alright really.”

“Hm. I think that a fairly substantial amount of quartz would be relatively easy to provide.” The elderly wizard decided to elaborate. “While I believe you mentioned earth magic saturation, we have crystals’ rarity determined by their formation conditions. Garnet and quartz are quite common, but things like rubies and diamonds are very rare and valuable.”

“Oh, you can get garnet?” Spike perked up. “That’d be nice.”

“I shall endeavour to arrange it,” Dumbledore promised. “Now, what do you think of my proposition?”

Spike and Twilight shared a glance, then nodded. Twilight reached a hoof across the table, and Dumbledore took it.

“Allow me to welcome you to the Wizarding World, then, Miss Sparkle. I shall have Minerva see about getting you somewhere to stay until the Sorting, and about taking you to Diagon Alley for your supplies and wands.”

Spike chuckled.

“Hm? Oh, I see. Diagonally. I never saw that before. Yes, it is rather amusing, isn’t it?” Dumbledore beamed.

“Please don’t use levitation charms in the library,” Madam Pince said, disapprovingly.

Twilight glanced over from where she was cross-referencing The Magical Dictionary of Magical Terms and Apparition and You. “I’m sorry, but this is my main way of holding things. I could put the books on the floor and kick the pages over, but it wouldn’t be very efficient.”

The librarian blanched. “I… see. Well, I may be able to make an exception… so long as you only use magic to read with.”

“Not a problem,” Twilight assured her. “I’d hate to be thrown out; a whole new library is such a pleasure…”

“Speak for yourself,” Spike muttered, from about a hundred pages into Hogwarts: A History. “This is really dry reading. And this is supposed to be for a student audience about the age of the Crusaders?”

“A few years older, I think,” Twilight replied. “But maybe it’s just how they write books here.”

“May I see?” the librarian asked. Spike acquiesced, and she lifted the book up to check the publication date. “Ah, I see. This is from one of the first few printings, which was written for academics. I’ll go and get one of the latest copies.”

“Don’t worry.” Spike jumped up. “I can go and get it, I’m used to libraries. I suppose I’ll have to learn where edition numbers come in this world, though… are they always in the back?”

“I understand Muggle books have them in the front,” Madam Pince said.

“Muggle?” Twilight asked. “I’ve run into that term a couple of times but it hasn’t seemed essential to the mechanics of your form of teleportation. What does it refer to?”

“Why, people without magic.” Madam Pince seemed surprised that someone would have to ask.

Twilight noticed, making a guess that the voice cue was the same for humans as it was for ponies or griffins, and waved her hoof around to remind the librarian that neither of them was human. She supposed it was a bit of cultural blindness, or something – like how she was trying to remember to say anyone instead of anypony. “It seems a bit of a silly term to me.”

“Oh, well, I suppose so… but it’s the one we’ve always used.” Twilight thought the human librarian seemed faintly troubled by the realization, and decided not to press it.

“Wonder who thought it up,” Twilight said, then shrugged her forelegs. “Ah well. Spike, when did Dumbledore say that this Minerva was going to show up?”

“About two, I think he said.”

“Right, thanks.” Twilight cast another time-spell. “That should give us about another half an hour, then. Time for me to work out if the theoretical basis of this Apparition is the same as that of my teleportation.”

Spike came back over with the more modern version of Hogwarts: A History, set it down, and skimmed the chapter list to find where he’d got to. Twilight gave him a look.

“If that is a more readable version, Spike, you should read it from the start. Remember, it’s likely that a lot more things are in this version, things that happened since the publication of that older book.” It was a point she’d not thought she’d have to bring up, though in retrospect Spike was still young.

“Yes, quite a lot has happened since 1793.” Madam Pince smiled thinly.

Twilight looked up. “Actually… what’s the current date?”

“Tuesday, the 27th of August, 1991.”

The unicorn idly wondered what the epoch was for that date – one much more distant than the Equestrian one, just over a thousand years ago. “Thank you. See, Spike? That other book you were reading was nearly two centuries out of date.”

“Yeah, yeah, I understand. Right, let’s see… yeah, this is much better. Thanks.”

“Not a problem,” Madam Pince said. “It’s a pleasure to see two new faces who actually appreciate a well-organized library.”

The two world-displaced Equestrians devoured their respective books in silence for another half an hour, before a light gasp alerted them to someone else entering the library.

“Yes?” Twilight said, turning from her research. She was now fairly certain that what she performed was different to Apparition – but not in the fundamentals, simply in the minor technical details.

Which, of course, meant it was blocked on Hogwarts grounds by the wards. A nuisance, but it made sense.

“Ah… you are Miss Twilight Sparkle? And Master Spike?”

Twilight nodded. Spike bookmarked his place, and replied in the affirmative as well.

“Good. I am Professor Minerva McGonagall.” This new female human – woman, Twilight reminded herself – was fairly tall, though not as tall as Dumbledore. She wore a pointy hat which at first glance reminded Twilight of the magician Trixie, but the stern, controlled expression on her face put paid to that comparison.

Twilight was actually reminded more now of one of her instructors – a stallion by the name of Recent Runes.

“If you’ll come this way please, I have a Floo in my office. We’ll use that to get to Diagon Alley.”

“Thank you.” Twilight marked her own place. “I’m sorry for pulling you away from your work.”

“Not at all, I’m quite on top of it. The reason it is I taking you in the first place is because I’ve done this for less students this year, since one of the students I was to introduce to the magical world moved to France.” She looked a little put out about that particular decision.

“What’s a Floo?” Spike asked, as he began making for the entrance to the library.

Twilight went to the trouble of stacking all their active books on a single table and leaving a note – one she’d prepared when they arrived – on top of the stack.

“A Floo, Master Spike, is a form of magical travel that uses fire.”

“Wow!” Spike said, suddenly very alert. “I can kind of do that – well, to letters anyway. Or bigger things, but they have to be completely engulfed in the fire.”

“You can?” McGonagall asked. “Most interesting. We shall see if it shares other characteristics with the Floo aside from the use of fire.”

Twilight caught up with them a moment later. “How will people react to seeing us in Diagon Alley? I was less worried about Hogwarts – because it’s a school environment, or will be, and I remember how quickly Spike became normal at Celestia’s Academy – but if this is just the general public, they might react…badly.” She remembered vividly the occasional Ponyville Stampede, which had gained the capital letters after Roseluck started one when Market Day changed.

“I can assure you, Miss Sparkle, that regardless of the reaction we will get your shopping done.” McGonagall gave a thin smile, with little humour. “And whoever reacts too strongly will face the consequences.”

Twilight didn’t want to ask what the consequences would be. Recent Runes was never this intimidating.

“Master Spike, do pay attention,” McGonagall said firmly. “This is Floo Powder, which is used to turn a normal fire into one connected to the Floo network. Observe.”

She took a pinch of the powder and threw it into the flames, which roared up green.

“Wow!” Spike said, excited. “That’s the same colour my fire goes when I use the postal magic!”

“You can use it at will?” the professor asked.

“Well, more like I can suppress it at will.”

“It’s the result of an enchantment,” Twilight clarified. Deciding that the professor could follow her, she elaborated further. “It’s will-triggered, but it defaults to ‘on’ because it’s safer. I think it was applied soon after he began expressing fire…?”

“Probably,” Spike said. “It makes sense. I don’t remember that far back.”

“I see,” McGonagall said. In the meantime, the fire had slowly died back to normal. “Now, to travel by Floo one must state their destination clearly before stepping into the flames. The user arrives at the closest suitable fireplace, though they do not always arrive upright.”

“Yikes,” Spike muttered. “Reminds me of when Twilight first teleported.”

“And as I told you before, Spike,” Twilight said, with the tones of long weariness, “I didn’t think far enough ahead to realize teleporting out of a chair was a bad idea.” Would Spike ever let that go?

“I know. I’m just saying, it reminds me strongly.”

“Well, I shall go first,” McGonagall said. “Pay attention to what I say, and when I say it. Take a pinch of powder at least as large as mine – too much is better than too little.” She cleared her throat. “Diagon Alley.”

With a rush of green flame, she was gone.

Spike and Twilight exchanged glances, then Twilight nodded. “I’ll go next. You can hold enough powder, right?”

“My hand has a palm, I’ll be fine,” Spike assured.

“Good. See you there.” Twilight levitated a small amount of the Floo Powder. “Diagon Alley!”

Twilight skidded to a halt, hooves flailing on a stone floor, and managed to avoid falling over. “Ooh… that’s not very fun. I feel like a scroll…” Teleporting was much more pleasant.

She looked up, and discovered that the room, while silent, was full of humans. The poleaxed way they were looking at her made her feel nervous – especially with how some of them had stopped in the middle of taking a drink.

The fire flared up again, and Spike rolled through. “Whoo, what a rush!”

“You actually enjoyed that?” she hissed.

“Yeah!” Spike bounced back upright. “Bet Pinkie would like it, too. Er… wow. Lots of humans.”

“Tell me about it…” Twilight agreed. “Oh, there she is.”

“Come along now, Miss Sparkle,” McGonagall said, from near a door. “Diagon Alley is this way.”

The dragon and the unicorn picked their way through the silent bar, far too conscious of all the stares on them.

Twilight breathed out deeply once she was into the small yard through the door. “I hate being stared at like that.”

“So I could see.” McGonagall had her lips pursed in disapproval, but it wasn’t directed at them. “I shall be having words with the next person to look at you like a slab of meat, Miss Sparkle. Rest assured.”

With that, she pulled an object from her sleeve and tapped on some bricks. They rumbled aside, to leave an archway leading into…

“You know,” Spike muttered. “I’m almost relieved to see something familiar. That’s a bit like if the Canterlot shopping district took its cues from Ponyville shop design.”

“I agree,” Twilight said, chuckling. It was perhaps a bit of an exaggeration, but there were certainly some strange shop layouts. From the building focused entirely on owls, to a more general menagerie, shops with cauldrons outside, shops with books or robes or ice cream… and there was one shop with nothing but a name – Ollivander – and number – 382 BC, whatever a BC was – above the door and a single… baton? No, the sign mentioned wands, so that must be a wand on a red cushion in the window. It didn’t have the white-tips-on-black or star-on-a-stick look of what Equestria thought of as wands, though. Looking further, Twilight realized that 382 BC was clearly some kind of date – did the BC system predate the current numbering, supplant it, or was it the same one? She didn’t know.

“Hmmm…” McGonagall said, thinking. “I forgot to ask – did Albus perhaps provide you with funds, Miss Sparkle?”

“Oh, I can’t believe I forgot that!” Twilight shook her head, feeling like an idiot. You don’t have access to your stipend or the money your parents gave you here, Twilight! “No, I don’t have any on me.”

“Not to worry, I shall cover you for now,” McGonagall assured. “I shall see if perhaps there is some relevant fund available through the Ministry, though – simply stating you have no available guardians should suffice. Now, the first place we should probably go to is to obtain a wand for each of you.”

“Do we need them?” Twilight asked. “I thought they were mainly props, but that’s the wands I’m used to…” she tailed off. If magic here required an object, that had all sorts of implications.

“Our form of magic requires wands to use, Miss Sparkle. Now, come along. The best place is Ollivander’s.”

The bland façade of the shop turned out to conceal a nondescript interior, not much more than a front room with a counter and hundreds of boxes on the walls. None of them were labelled, and there were more visible through the door to the back room. Spike picked up one of the boxes, presumably to see if they were labelled.

“Good afternoon.”

Twilight half-reared up in shock, before overcoming the reflex and landing her forehooves back on the floor.

“Yes, yes… most interesting, it’s not every day I have to fulfil an order for a client who isn’t human.”

The human – Ollivander, presumably – looked Twilight up and down, paying especial attention to her mane and tail, then as Twilight started to get offended switched to measuring Spike. “And both of you have some kind of magic already… yes, tricky. Try this one, ash and unicorn hair, nine inches. Quite powerful.”

“Unicorn hair?” Twilight asked, slightly worried, as she took the wand in a telekinetic grip. “There’s hair in here?”

“Yes, all Ollivander wands have cores made of one of three magical materials. Unicorn tail hair, phoenix feather, or dragon heartstring-”

There was a bang, as Spike dropped the box he was holding. Twilight’s horn snapped up to overglow with a blasting spell on the tip. “Dragon what?

“Miss Sparkle, calm down!” McGonagall said sternly.

“Not until this Ollivander explains himself!” Twilight moved slowly over to put herself between Spike and the male human.

“I believe what we have here is a misunderstanding, Miss Sparkle,” Ollivander said calmly. “Your companion there is the only dragon I have ever heard of, let alone seen, with the gift of speech. And the same for yourself and unicorns.”

Twilight glanced over to McGonagall. “Is this true?”

“Yes,” The professor answered, looking concerned. “I should have realized it could be a problem – you’re unlike anything we’ve ever seen before, both of you, but the feeling is clearly mutual. Dragons in this world are dumb beasts, which grow to maturity in the span of a few years or less, while unicorns are simply magical animals.”

Twilight slowly stepped down the power of her spell, until finally it fizzled out. “I’ll trust you on that… for now. But I’m going to research it properly.”

“I would expect no less.” McGonagall nodded, approvingly. “Now, I believe you were about to try out that wand.”

Twilight made a conscious decision to put the moment of tension behind her. “Alright. How do I do that?”

“Just give it a wave, and… hm.” Ollivander nodded. “I see, yes, a bit of a problem there. Tell you what, just give it a wave while wanting something to happen, keep it in that magical grip of yours.”

Twilight swished the wand, and Ollivander snatched it from her grip before it was finished. “Some response there, but not much of one. Hmmm… perhaps this one? Yew and dragon heartstring, twelve inches, a little whippy?”

Still slightly disgusted, Twilight took the wand anyway and gave it a wave.

“No, much worse… oak and phoenix feather, ten inches? Much better for charms.”

Ollivander started passing the wands that Twilight didn’t get responses with to Spike, who didn’t manage much more. Wand after wand piled up on the reject pile, and the only ones Twilight could get to respond at all were the ash and unicorn hair ones.

Spike, for his part, did the best with hawthorn and phoenix feather, but at most he got a fairly tepid reaction.

It all seemed a little inefficient.

After nearly an hour, Ollivander stopped. “I think I know what would be best for you, Twilight Sparkle. If you would be so kind as to donate a number of your own tail hairs, I can reconstruct the wand you got the best reaction with – ash and unicorn hair, eleven and three quarter inches – with your own hair in place of the original strands. I believe that may solve the problem.”

“What about me?” Spike asked. “I was best with the hawthorn and phoenix feather, right? Could Peewee’s feathers work there?”

“Ah, your phoenix familiar. Yes, that may be the best course of action. I have always felt that the wand chooses the wizard, but I daresay that none of them were ready for this particular variety of wizard.”

Spike blinked. “I never told you about Peewee. We left him and Owlowiscious in Dumbledore’s office.”

Ollivander simply smiled enigmatically.

“I believe you have a Floo, Mr. Ollivander?” McGonagall asked. On receiving an affirmative, she headed for the back room of the shop. “I shall inform Albus of the matter, and bring your phoenix through, Master Spike.”

“Actually, I’d better make sure he knows it’s okay to come with you,” Spike suggested, following her. “See you in a few minutes, Twi.”

“Alright.” Twilight waved, then turned to regard her tail with apprehension. “How much do you need?”

“Hmmm…” Ollivander looked the striped mane and tail over. “I believe three strands should suffice – as long as possible, though. I can trim them shorter as I work. One from each band of colour.”

“Alright.” With a shaving cantrip she’d learned for completeness, Twilight carefully sliced off three tail hairs near the base. Taking them in a telekinetic hold she raised them to a comfortable height, and Ollivander took them delicately.

“Yes, wonderful quality… this should work well, Twilight Sparkle.”

“Hi again!” Spike said, coming back out of the back room. “Peewee’s fine with it. Here you go.” The young dragon passed a pair of small red feathers to the wandmaker, who accepted them with his free hand.

“Marvellous… it’s rare indeed that one has a phoenix as a familiar, and rarer still that the wizard has the opportunity to use a wand made with their familiar’s feathers. Yes, I shall see what I can do. Best get on with the rest of your shopping, and return in an hour.”

“How did he know we hadn’t done the rest of the shopping?” Spike asked, spooked. “He keeps knowing things we don’t tell him!”

“You don’t have any bags,” Ollivander said, smiling faintly. Twilight chuckled at how prosaic the answer was.

“Well, that was about average for a trip into Ollivander’s shop,” McGonagall commented. “Not in terms of what happened, but certainly time. If you ask me, it’s a good thing he only has a few dozen new students a year, or else there’d be queues going out the door.”

“What’s next on the list?” Twilight asked, wishing she actually had a paper version of the list.

“Well, since it’s the activity likely to take nearly as much time, fitting robes. I’m sorry, Miss Sparkle, Master Spike, but the rules are clear – robes must be worn at all times when in class.”

“Could be a problem,” Twilight agreed, as they entered a shop fronted by the name of ‘Madam Malkins’ robes for all occasions’. “I think it’d take even Rarity a while to work out how to design clothes for an entirely new body plan… I wish she was here.”

The unicorn stopped, and sniffed, drawing the attention of all the others in the shop – which appeared to be free of customers, at that moment.

“I wish all my friends were here, actually,” Twilight said, sniffing again. “I know it’d be cruel to ask them to be here, because they’ve all got someone who they’d miss just like I do, but…”

Spike patted her neck awkwardly, stretching slightly to reach. “Hey, at least you’ve got me, right?”

She smiled wanly at him, thankful more than she could say that he’d been pulled along with her – no matter how selfish it made her feel at the same time. “Thanks. And yeah, sorry. That’s probably been building up since we arrived.”

“Do not be ashamed, for shame is recognition of a fault, and no fault exists,” Spike said, trying to sound wise.

Twilight snickered.

“Oh, what?” He put his hands on his hips. “If Celestia said that, you’d eat it up!”

Containing her amusement with an effort, Twilight shot back “If Celestia expressed that sentiment, she’d do it more eloquently.”

“Well… your face!”

Twilight finally broke down laughing, and after a moment Spike joined her.

“Whoo… I needed that.” Twilight composed herself, and looked up. “Sorry about that, Professor.”

“Not a problem,” McGonagall assured her. “It seems that it gave time for Madam Malkin to retrieve some useful books from the back.”

“It did, yes, dear.” The witch in charge leafed through a dusty old tome. “Now, there were several times in centuries past that we’ve been asked to provide formal outfits for centaurs, and much of the hindquarters can be adapted. I’m afraid it’ll take a while, though. The young… reptile?”

“I’m a dragon – but not the same kind as you have here, I’m told,” Spike answered.

“Ah… I see. The young dragon will be easier, though he’s going to be perhaps the shortest I’ve ever fitted for Hogwarts robes.”

“Here we go…” Spike deadpanned. “Again with the short jokes.”

And so it went.

By the end of their trip, Twilight was more or less inured to being stared at, though since Peewee was still with them he seemed to reassure the humans somewhat – being a familiar sight, she assumed. Owlowiscious had slipped through the Floo as well at some point and taken up a silent orbit overhead, and again this seemed to be a touch of the familiar to them.

McGonagall explained that owls were the primary method of postal communication in the magical portion of this world, though on being told that Owlowiscious was a qualified secretary she seemed a little surprised.

Spike had picked up a pair of dragonhide gloves with a completely disgusted expression, and only taken them at McGonagall’s insistence. She had pointed out that, while he was indeed a dragon, there were some substances which could eat through even dragon-hide – and so he needed the gloves, or something like that would be able to start straight on his skin.

“Alright,” The young dragon had finally said, dumping them in the latest of a number of shopping bags. “But I’m not using them except if something like that is around.”

Twilight, of course, didn’t need any – nor could they possibly fit her.

As for the bookshop… it had taken a firm assurance that most of the books within Flourish and Blott’s were also provided by the school library to allow Spike and McGonagall to coax Twilight from the building.

Finally, they came back around to Ollivanders’ and picked up their reconstructed wands. Twilight only had to take it in her telekinetic grip to realize why these wizards used wands, as her magic flashed from base to tip in a fraction of a second.

“It’s… a very efficient conduit of magic.”

“Try this, Miss Sparkle,” McGonagall said, waving her own wand. “Simply say, ‘Lumos.’” The wand lit with a bright yellow light.

Twilight nodded, and pronounced the word carefully. “Lumos.”

It was… strange. The power seemed to flow not from her horn, but from somewhere in her chest – and the wand lit in much the same way that McGonagall’s had.

“Very good work, Miss Sparkle,” the professor said. “Extinguishing it again is ‘Nox.’”

She frowned, digesting the information, then turned the wand-light off and stowed it in a holster the wand-maker had been kind enough to provide her.

Spike was turning the light on his wand on and off repeatedly, ecstatic to finally have some means of performing magic – something he could share with Twilight.

“Come on, Spike,” Twilight finally said. “We’d better get back to Hogwarts, it’s getting fairly late. Celestia will be–no, of course not.” She shook her head. “Sorry, lost track of where we were.”

“What’s that?” McGonagall asked. “I’ve not heard you mention a ‘Celestia’ before, Miss Sparkle.”

“Celestia’s the one who moves the sun around – where we come from, anyway,” Twilight explained. “I’ve seen her do it, but I can barely comprehend the magic involved.”

“Moves around?” McGonagall said, somewhat perplexed. “Miss Sparkle, no-one moves the sun. The Earth rotates, and the sun stays in the same place.”

“Well, here,” Twilight agreed readily. “But where we’re from, that doesn’t happen. This whole world is like the Everfree forest, by the looks of it – things happen in nature on their own. While in Equestria, we have to do it ourselves. Pegasi control the weather, earth ponies ensure things grow, all three types share the task of changing seasons, and Celestia and Luna turn day to night or night to day.”

“It all sounds very far-fetched,” the professor said. Twilight recognized the tone – she was doing some kind of mental calculation on just how possible it would be with the magic she knew. Just a back-of-the-scroll piece of work, probably. “Magic on that scale?”

“I’ve experienced a twenty-hour night before, when things were disrupted,” Spike volunteered. “That was summer solstice, too – or supposed to be.”

“Well… goodness,” McGonagall concluded after a moment. “Now, we really should head back to Hogwarts. Do you have everything, or is there a shop from which we did not pick up what you require?”

“Ah…” Twilight went through her mental checklist. Clothes, books, potions materials, wand, no need for a familiar so I can ignore that one… “Yes, that’s everything.”

“Good. If we might prevail upon your Floo once more, Mr. Ollivander?” McGonagall asked.

“By all means.”

“What a day,” Twilight muttered, as she collapsed onto the bed she’d been assigned. The cooks – apparently some wizened little creatures called house-elves – had been interested to find they had an “oonicorney” and a “draggy” to cook for, and had risen to the occasion. She actually felt every bit as full as she’d been expecting to after the wedding, and Spike’s garnet-laced gammon roast had apparently been a good meal for him.

Dumbledore had explained that most of the students slept in dormitories assigned by “house”, and that the house was determined at a special ceremony in a little under a week. Given both that the two Equestrians were not suited to normal Hogwarts beds and that they were not yet sorted, they’d been assigned a room in the lower levels of the ‘astronomy tower’ which Twilight had sorted out with several transformation spells to suit her.

The headmaster had assured her that a similar room would be added to whichever house she and Spike were sorted to, if they were together, or two smaller rooms if they happened to be in separate houses.

“I agree…” Spike contributed. “I can finally do some magic!”

“Be careful, though,” Twilight said, sleepily. “Remember how often I overdid it.”

“Point taken. Night, Twi.”

“Night,” Twilight replied, then finally fell asleep.


View Online


(revised 12/05/13)

The next morning, at breakfast, the two Equestrians ate much of their food in silence. At first it was simple tiredness from the dimensional equivalent of jet-lag, but as they awoke more fully it became something else. Neither really wanted to think about where they were eating, but eventually Spike broached the subject.

“Hey… Twi?” Spike asked, toying with a fork.

Twilight swallowed her mouthful of toast. “Yes?”

“Think we’ll ever get home?”

The unicorn started to speak, paused, and then reached a hoof across to Spike’s opposite shoulder. “I don’t know. But I hope we do.”

“Because, I… I don’t know.” Spike’s voice turned slightly husky. “Maybe it’s finally got to me, you know?”

Twilight did. She’d thrown herself into the new world yesterday, and slept too deeply to think about it last night, but everything was coming back to her this morning.

Maybe waking up made it more real.

She squeezed his shoulder a little. “Come on, Spike, don’t worry. I’ll get us back.”

Spike hugged her. “I know you will.”

“If it helps…” Twilight waited until Spike was looking at her before continuing. “What helped me yesterday was that I was thinking about how much this is like some magic fiction story.”

While Twilight would read just about anything, Spike wasn’t so general in his tastes. Magic fiction, speculation on what could be, was one of the things he enjoyed. Perhaps it was being a dragon, brought up amongst ponies.

The dragon chuckled. “Yeah, I know what you mean. We are in a parallel universe, aren’t we?”

“Exactly!” Twilight said, before frowning. “Hmmm… we’d better look up what the laws are, today. I don’t want to find out something simple by being arrested.”

“I see what you mean. But let me finish first!”

“All right…” Twilight said teasingly, “This once.”

Spike was already diving into his own toast, much more enthusiastically than before. “You don’t mean that. Would you starve a cute little dragon?”

“Nope. But a number one assistant is tough enough to take it!”

Spike chewed for a moment, trying to think of a way out of that. “Alright, you got me.”

“And don’t you forget it.” Twilight chuckled.

After breakfast, it was straight to the library. This time, Madam Pince was ready for them, and simply nodded to greet them. She did make it clear that the ‘Restricted Section’ deserved the name, though.

In all honesty, given the name of the section and the rope blocking it off, it was already fairly clear.

“The first thing is to get more information on what unicorns and dragons legally are, here.” Twilight said, nodding to one of the desks. “We’ll sit over here. You read Fantastic Beasts, I’ll look for an introductory legal book.” She passed over a library copy of one of the textbooks they’d got at Flourish and Blott’s yesterday.

“I have to say, I don’t think all that much of this.” Spike said, looking at the slim red volume. “I mean, I remember your textbooks from the later years of the academy, at least. Were they this small in the early years?”

“No.” Twilight shook her head, paging through the library’s index book. “About the same size throughout, really… though the words were usually simpler in earlier books and there were more diagrams.”

“Diagrams would help.” The young dragon grumbled, flipping through the first half before opening it at the beginning again. “Or at least some kind of table. What’s the point of making a book short if it’s all dense text?”

Twilight shrugged awkwardly. “Beats me. Maybe their printing skills aren’t great? Or perhaps it’s just the custom.” There had to be some reason why the book was so badly laid out… but for the life of her she couldn’t think of a good one.

Accepting that there wasn’t an easy answer, Spike set the book down on a table and got to reading. It was only a few minutes before he looked up. “Twilight?”

“Yes?” Twilight replied, having finally deciphered the library’s reference system enough to locate the legal material. Ooh, that looks like a good primer…

“I found something. Apparently every magical creature is categorized into Spirit, Being or Beast.”

“Go on.” Twilight said, floating a weighty tome on the basics of wizarding common law with her out of the stacks.

“The definition of a being is, er…” Spike read aloud. “Any creature that has sufficient intelligence to understand the laws of the magical community, and to bear part of the responsibility in shaping those laws.”

Twilight nodded. She was perfectly willing to be responsible – in as much as she would vote, and pay full attention to the candidates – and was fairly sure that the law wasn’t too complex for her to eventually get the grasp of. If not, she’d find out as soon as she was into the book. “So, hopefully, we qualify. What about ‘magical creature’?”

“Uh… not got there yet.” Spike shrugged. “Apparently there are some they consider magical creatures which don’t have any actual magic, though. And there’s a creature called a werewolf which transforms from a human on the full moon.”

“Right.” Twilight put her own book down on the table and began scanning through it. “Let me know if you find anything else.”

“Will do.” Spike turned a page with his claw, avoiding damage to the paper by long practice.

“So.” Twilight summarized. “We have to remain concealed from the entire non-magical population of this country. Well, that makes sense… I suppose if these wizards did have to go into hiding, there must have been good justification.” There was a niggling feeling at the back of her mind, the same as with the book layout. While there had to be a good explanation, she couldn’t think of one offhand. Unless it was based on prejudice, which would be fair enough.

“And while the names are the same,” Spike continued, “I sound nothing like the dragons in here. If I was, I’d weigh well over a tonne by now.”

“You’re still a baby dragon, aren’t you?” Twilight asked, thrown off track. “How big are they?”

“No, they grow up a lot quicker here. To be my size, a dragon would have to be a month or two old at most. Anyway.” Spike flicked through the book to near the end. “They have both unicorns and pegasi here, but they refer to pegasi as ‘winged horses’ and unicorns are described as a type of horse. I assume this means horses are a larger type of pony.”

“I agree with you there.” Twilight turned back to her own book. “There is some good news. Laws on wands exist, and while they’re banned for most magical races for reasons that this book doesn’t go into… they’re all specific bans. We’re fine unless a law is specifically passed. And there’s precedent to prevent that, as well… there are at least two magical races which are not human which get wands in addition to innate magic.” Summarizing material was a good way to be sure she’d understood it, so she was at least partly organizing her own thoughts by explaining to Spike.

“Who are those?” Spike asked.

Twilight tapped her hoof thoughtfully. “Veela are one, though they’re apparently able to cross-breed with humans – it was one of the cases mentioned from other cultures’ laws in this book’s example section. I haven’t found mention of the other or others, yet. The gist of it seems to be that there has to be evidence that a given race is both able to use wands, and not willing to misuse them.”

“Wonder how they work that out…” Spike muttered.

“I’ll see if there’s anything in here about why races which don’t have wands were banned.” Twilight said, moving to the index. What would it be under? W?

“Okay. I’ll go and find a history book.” The young dragon jumped down from his chair and went over to the index Twilight had used. He looked through it as surely as she did – having stacked things for Twilight back at the Books and Branches often enough.

Twilight glanced around at him. “Good thinking. That way we can correlate.”

As Twilight scanned through the law book, Spike came back with a basic overview of history. “I know it’s not very detailed, but I didn’t feel like carrying back something as big as the Decline and Fall of the Romane Empire.”

“That’s alright.” Twilight chuckled, remembering the almost ridiculously large tomes of Edgar the Griffin’s greatest work. It weighed in at a million and a half words, and Spike had ended up fire-sending it to her when she asked for it rather than carrying it. “We just need the basic details.”

“Of course, I’d feel a bit happier about it if I knew how to levitate things…” the dragon trailed off, hopefully.

“I’ll help you do it when we learn it here.” Twilight said. “Or, if they do something different, I’ll teach you how unicorns do it as soon as I’ve worked out how to convert it.”

Around half an hour later, Twilight was cross-relating the history of the goblin rebellions with legal bills relating to goblin rights and privileges. The general sense she got was that the wars were brutal, on both sides, and that the wizards tended to hold the advantage only because of their wands – since it seemed an economic crash accompanied the start of each war.

Her train of thought was broken by a shocked exclamation. “Merlin.”

She looked around, and Spike peered past her at the doorway to the library. “Who is it?”

What she saw was a very small human – he looked like he was barely the same size as Spike, in fact, though rather differently proportioned.

On seeing her looking at him, and hearing her speak, he gave a little start. “Goodness. Well, I didn’t expect to see a unicorn indoors, let alone a talking one. Please forgive my poor manners. I am Filius Flitwick, Professor of Charms at Hogwarts.”

“Charms?” Twilight asked, interested. “I’m afraid I only got hold of my books yesterday – I’ve not read enough to know what that category covers. What does it refer to specifically? Is it mental spells?”

“What? Oh, no, nothing so specific.” Flitwick walked over, excitedly. “You’re one of the transfer students Albus told us about? It’s just like him to forget to mention something like that.”

“Well, transfer is pushing it…” Twilight said, shrugging her forelegs awkwardly. “We didn’t exactly intend to end up here. But we may as well make the best of a bad situation.”

“We? Ah, the reptile behind you. Pleased to meet you as well, young… sir?”

Either Flitwick had seen the young dragon when he first entered the library, or he was much better at not being shocked when he was prepared. Twilight wondered which it was, then decided it didn’t matter.

Spike nodded, standing a little straighter. “The pleasure is mutual, Professor.”

Twilight gave him a miniscule nod of approval for remembering Canterlot court manners. “My apologies, but the field of charms?”

“Ah, sorry.” The professor tapped his chin. “It’s all spells which are neither directly offensive nor transmutative – they layer over an object’s properties or otherwise affect it, such as cheering someone up or moving something.”

Twilight and Spike shared a glance. “Well, I’m sure Spike in particular will want to learn that aspect of charms. I wonder, though, Professor, is there a specific spell for telekinesis?”

“Not for some years.” Flitwick looked upwards, as if trying to remember something. “There’s a series of spells for applications of telekinesis – from moving certain objects to making any object do certain things, but nothing below NEWT level more specific.”

“Interesting.” Twilight lit her horn, and brought her wand out. It still felt strange, but less so than yesterday. “My own natural form of magic – the magic of unicorns in my home plane in general – has telekinetic control as the most basic form. Every unicorn can do it, though to varying degrees of skill, power and finesse. Spells apart from that tend to depend on the unicorn’s special talent.”

“How so?” Flitwick asked. “I know there are students here who are talented in charms or transfiguration, but your use of the term bespeaks a more definite meaning.”

Spike saw Twilight take a deep breath, and rolled his eyes.

“On Equestria, every pony has a cutie mark – or emblem. The term depends on gender, though emblem is a bit archaic and not many stallions bother making the distinction. The mark is a representation of something at which the unicorn, or pegasus or earth pony, is especially talented. It appears when they realize that talent.” Twilight, not wanting to boast, cast around for a more specific and illustrative example. “So, my friend Rarity has a cutie mark which is three blue diamonds. It represents her skill in being creative, and her affinity for gemstones – one of her specially developed spells is a gem divining one.”

Flitwick smiled. “Remarkable. And most serendipitous, as well – many I know would likely have led less confusing lives were we humans to have a similar property.”

Which made Twilight really realize, for the first time, that humans didn’t have that guiding star in their lives. What that meant for them was difficult to imagine, but Flitwick had already hinted it meant many humans just never found what they were good at.

The idea of trying to live as a, a dressmaker like Rarity… she didn’t think she’d be able to cope. Trying to muddle through at something she had neither passion nor talent for…

“I’m in the same boat you are.” Spike said, shrugging. “Dragons don’t get cutie marks – it’s something only ponies have.”

“And zebras.” Twilight clarified, thankful for the distraction. “Equine races in general.”

“Then, might I enquire – what does your own, ah, cutie mark mean?” Flitwick took a look at the one on her left flank, leaning a little closer and peering at it.

“Magic in general.” Twilight said awkwardly, moving slightly so he could see it better. “I’m not as efficient with any given spell as another unicorn at their speciality, but I’ve got a pool several times the size of them and can learn just about any spell which doesn’t require some kind of knowledge I don’t have.”

“She’s the best unicorn at magic in Equestria.” Spike stated.

Twilight blushed. “Don’t say that! I can’t do weather magic yet, and my shields don’t have nearly as much power as Shining’s, and…”

“You showed up that Trixie without even having to face her directly, Twilight.” Spike said, confidently, and gave her a thumb-claw up. “You’re the best.”

“I just don’t feel comfortable with that much… attention, I suppose.” Twilight said nervously. “Please drop it, okay?”

“Alright.” Spike allowed. “But you’ve not changed my mind.”

“This seems something of a sore point with you?” Flitwick asked. “I won’t enquire further, then. Well, I must get on with my preparation for the coming year. I hope to see you in Ravenclaw.”

“Ravenclaw?” Twilight repeated.

“I’m the head of house. But you’ll hear about all that at the welcoming feast!”

Reminded of that, she changed topics to something that might be an issue. “If you’ve got a moment, actually – what are the arrangements?”

Flitwick paused, tapping his chin. “Hm. Normally, students come to platform 9¾ at King’s Cross station and travel up from London, but I suppose if you’re already here… well. There are two possibilities. You could either Floo to King’s Cross station and take the train, which will let you meet people before the Sorting, or you could join them at the station in Hogsmeade.”

Twilight hummed. In all honesty, she didn’t have much of an opinion one way or the other. “Spike? Any preference?”

“I’d feel more comfortable with the train ride, actually.” Spike said. “Apart from anything, trains are familiar.”

“You’re right, they are.” Twilight nodded. “Might help settle us – and we can bring enough books for the ride.” She looked back to Flitwick. “Since Spike wants to, we’ll take the train.”

“I’ll let Albus know.” Flitwick said. “I assume that you’ll be most often found in here?”

“Yes, that’s right.” Twilight gestured at the shelves. “I’m a librarian as my normal job, so it’s fairly familiar. It’s helping us adjust.”

It was barely twenty minutes later that Dumbledore entered the library. “Miss Twilight Sparkle? Professor Flitwick has pointed out to me that your appearance and that of mister Spike may shock other members of the faculty if they run into you before the welcoming feast.” His eyes twinkled. “While I don’t see what he means at all, he was most insistent. If you have the time, the staff are gathering in the Great Hall for lunch at twelve sharp and it will be possible to meet them all there.”

Twilight nodded. “That sounds like a good idea.” It’d be nice to be on good terms with the teachers, since she was probably going to rely on their expertise for some time.

“And I approve of your decision to take the train. It’s important to have good friends to support you.”

“I wish my friends from Equestria were here.” Twilight admitted. “Hopefully I’ll make new ones for the time I’m here.”

“An admirable goal. Now, I have one more matter. There’s a corridor on the third floor which is out of bounds – there’s some powerful defences in place. I must ask that you not attempt to bypass them.”

“Of course.” Twilight said, slightly surprised. “Which one?”

“The door is locked, so it should be no problem in identifying it. Simply make sure not to unlock any door on the third floor – not that you would, of course.”

Twilight and Spike both nodded.

“Very good. Carry on doing whatever it was you were doing, I have to look up something about quills.”

Spike started slightly. “Oh, don’t talk to me about quills…”

“A bad experience, mister Spike?”

“The shop where we live keeps selling out of quills. The only other thing he sells is sofas.” Twilight tossed her head. “Never made sense to me.”

“A most interesting shop. Were it possible, I might peruse his wares. I find myself in need of a sofa more often than one might think.” With that last remark, Dumbledore walked on into the stacks.

When Twilight and Spike entered the Great Hall at ten minutes to twelve, around a dozen humans in robes of varied styles were already standing near the entrance and making conversation.

Dumbledore noticed them first. “Ah, Miss Twilight Sparkle. It would seem you are early.”

“Yes, sorry.” Twilight said, and began to explain. “I was worried about the moving staircases – I don’t know yet how much time they add to trips, and-”

“It’s no problem.” Dumbledore said, to a background of surprised exclamations. “I fear not all the faculty has arrived yet, but we may as well begin – after all, the sooner we finish, the sooner we can have lunch.”

A rather awkward silence fell after that. Looking around, Twilight saw that none of the other humans she’d met were yet present. “Er… I suppose I should introduce myself?”

“Do speak up.” A bored-sounding voice said, apparently belonging to the… male? human who moved to the front of the crowd. “I cannot stand mumblers.”

Comparatively speaking, he was a bit taller than the average, and his hair was black. It seemed – from what she could see here – that most humans had hair colours in the range of blonde-red-brown-black, with white also being present for some. It was much less varied than the manes she was used to…

“Ah, sorry!” Twilight blushed at her hesitation. “I’m a little nervous, that’s all. Erm…” She fell back on her old court etiquette training, from the times she’d been introduced as the protégé of Celestia. “I am Twilight Sparkle, of the Canterlot court, and…” she trailed off for a moment, thinking what her current prime title might be. “Bearer of the Element of Magic.”

It was grandiose, perhaps, but it was better than describing herself as the personal pupil of Celestia, which she formally wasn’t any more; or the princesses’ special envoy, since she had no current diplomatic status.

Seeing their slight confusion, she ushered Spike forward. “This is my assistant, Spykoranuvellitar, fosterling of the court – he normally goes by Spike.”

“Canterlot?” Several wizards and witches asked the question at the same time.

“In Equestria.” Twilight tried to clarify. “We’re here thanks to, well, a spell I can’t currently replicate. It seems to be a different world entirely.”

“Do introduce yourself, Severus.” Dumbledore said, gesturing forward. “Our guests have no more idea who you all are than you do of who she is.”

“Very well, headmaster.” The human – Severus – turned more fully to face her. “I am Professor Severus Snape, Potions instructor and head of Slytherin House. I hope you understand that your uniqueness will earn you no leeway with me.”

“No chance of that.” Twilight said. “I hate people making questions easier. Actually, there’s a form of potion making that I studied back in Equestria, which I’d like to compare with potions here.”

“Comparative studies is NEWT level.” Professor Snape said abruptly, and turned to walk away.

“Don’t worry about him.” The next wizard said, walking heavily forward with the aid of what seemed to be a wooden leg. “Severus is a brilliant man, but he’s not one to suffer fools. Kettleburn’s the name, professor of Care of Magical Creatures. I’d love to write something about you two – entirely new forms of unicorn and dragon – but I know it’s impolite to ask.”

“Oh, don’t worry.” Twilight hastened to say. “I think I could give you some information.”

Spike chuckled. “Hey, maybe you could just explain the basic biology classes you had to him.”

“Of course.” Kettleburn nodded, seeming to realize something. “Albus said you had an education where you came from. There’s no rush, just something in your spare time – it might help, in case either of you get injured.”

“That is true.” Twilight tilted her head in agreement. “It was hard enough to get Spike medical treatment in Equestria. Nobody knew enough about dragons.”

“You do now, though.” Spike pointed out. “After I shrunk again, you read half the books on dragon physiology in the Canterlot library.”

“And then I read the psychology books after we got back from the migration.” Twilight added.

“Marvellous.” Kettleburn pronounced.

Twilight was introduced to Aurora Sinistra (Astronomy, and she was puzzled but interested that that was a required course), Pomona Sprout (Herbology, and head of Hufflepuff) and Septima Vector (Arithmancy, a class Twilight was looking forward to eagerly… though Spike was less keen and was glad it was optional) before she realized something and raised a hoof.

“Er… sorry to interrupt, but… are any of your names new ones?”

“Whatever do you mean?” the Arithmancy teacher asked. “I was born a Vector, like my father.”

“Well, in Equestria there’s a tendency for ponies’ names to relate to what their talent will eventually be in some way – though it’s not a rule, and ponies often take new names when their talent is revealed. But since people here use… inherited second names and… parentally chosen first names?” She received a nod to confirm her guess. “I don’t know how it is so many people have talents matching names.”

“She has a point.” Pomona Sprout said, snapping her fingers. “Newt Scamander comes to mind, as well.”

“How curious.” Dumbledore said.

At that point the remaining professors arrived, along with the librarian and a somewhat unpleasant individual who was apparently the caretaker.

All told, the introductions took nearly half an hour. It seemed like all the professors aside from Snape wanted an outsider’s perspective on their subject one way or another, and Charity Burbage (Muggle Studies) went so far as to suggest she make an anthropological report on wizarding society at some point.

The last professor the two Equestrians were introduced to was Quirinus Quirrell, a nervous man with a fragrant turban who taught Defence against the Dark Arts.

“Oh, does that involve combat magic?” Twilight asked, interested. “I assume it does, because there’s no real better place for it in the curriculum. My brother’s focus is mainly defensive and shielding spells, so I suppose that’s his speciality.” Shining had taught her several shields, from minor to major, though she could never wring the same performance out of them as he could.

Thinking about that reminded her of the strange enemy wearing Cadence’ face back in Equestria, and she focused on the conversation instead.

Quirrel’s hands trembled. “Ah, y-yes. Defensive m-magic includes some limited c-capability for offense, though o-of c-course there’s little m-more than stunning s-spells until OWLs.”

“Really?” Twilight frowned, remembering lessons on battle magic at the Academy. “But I thought that most battle spells were simply more powerful and refactored forms of… oh, of course, different world. Well, I’ll look forward to discovering these differences.”

The turbaned teacher gave a convulsive nod. “Of c-course. Ah, w-what was your n-name again?”

“Twilight Sparkle.” Twilight repeated.

“And… you’re s-sure you’re not a v-vampire?” he pressed.

Twilight quickly matched vampire with vampony, which made sense of a reference or two in the preamble to Fantastic Beasts, and realized he must be afraid of them. “Oh, no, strictly herbivore. Spike’s an obligate silicivore who aside from that is an extreme omnivore.”

Quirrell glanced down at his feet, noticed he’d been gradually sidling away, and forced himself to stop. “A-alright. For s-some reason your n-names make me n-nervous.”

Spike shrugged. “I’m used to ponies being nervous of me. One unicorn delegation from Manehattan tried to call the guard on me, before they found out that, well…”

Twilight giggled with the memory. “That was hilarious. Fourteen experienced mages, cowering behind a guard as the ‘fearsome dragon’ entered the room, and then they saw he was about four years old, came up to their knees, and had a lollipop.”

“Yeah.” Spike shrugged, fatalistically. “There’ll always be people who are scared of me.” Then he brightened, looking much more his age. “But none of them in Ponyville, and hopefully very few here.”

After a quick lunch – fortunately the concept of “sandwich” was universal – Twilight went straight back to work on the legal structure of the Wizarding World.

“This actually has some close parallels with the Equestrian system.” She said, frowning. “Oh, they don’t have a monarch, or a pair of diarchs or so on because they’re a technical subset of the government… but this ‘Wizengamot’ does use a combination of hereditary and life seats.”

“That’s like the advisory parliament, isn’t it?” Spike checked. “What about elected members?”

“None of them, and because they don’t have any direct royal ruler there’s no distinction between royally appointed life seats and council appointed life seats. But it’s a taste of home.” As it happened, she’d only voted once for the advisory parliament, and it hadn’t been a particularly close election either. Democracy and devolved power were sometimes seen as unnecessary with a ruler like Celestia, but Twilight – having got said princess’s opinion on it from her personally – was best convinced by when she’d told Twilight ‘no one pony can think of everything’.

“Yeah.” Spike said. “What does that mean for scandals and stuff? I loved watching Blueblood scramble to explain why he’d done what he did to Rarity the week after the Gala.”

Rarity had by that time already got to know a few members of high society. Hoity Toity and Sapphire Shores, in particular, had not been pleased with an up and coming fashion designer being put down so harshly, and had spread the word. Blueblood was still trying to make up for the fallout, as other ponies like Fleur de Lis or Fancy Pants connected his boorish behaviour with their new acquaintance.

Twilight bobbed her head from side to side, uncertain how to put it. “Scandals… well, since the population is relatively small it’s quite common for popular backlash to heavily impact a Minister. The current one, Cornelius Fudge, came to power when someone called Millicent Bagnold retired. It looks like he was a compromise candidate to me, there’s some nasty currents I’m spotting by reading between the lines.”

“What kind?”

Twilight made a face. “Take the old attitudes of unicorns from before Hearth’s Warming and mix them with those ridiculous ponies who think that earth pony or pegasus genes dilute magical potential.”

“Ouch.” Spike winced, remembering how spectacularly a lecturer had dispelled those myths during the first year he’d been mature enough to join Twilight in the academy. Lodestone, a relatively young professor, had attended a garden party put on by the Unicorn Geneticists Association… and had invited his parents, an earth pony builder and a pegasus who specialized in rainbows.

Since Lodestone was the faculty member who taught battle magic, it had been a humiliating lesson for the UGA, and the body had disbanded shortly afterwards.

The dragon tapped the table idly with a claw. “Any evidence it’s true?”

“Nothing conclusive one way or the other.” Twilight said. “I’d like to check leaving examination results, but even those could be skewed by the effect of having parents who know magic.”

Spike nodded. “Like Dinky?”

“Yes. Though she has Sparkler, at least, and Ditzy is doing an admirable job of teaching them the theory.” Twilight had helped give the young filly her magical aptitude tests, and if anything Dinky was above average so far. No actual spells as of yet, though, just telekinesis, which suggested her talent might not be pure spellcasting.

Twilight then laughed. “This is funny. Their definition of ‘pure blood’ – well, the official one – is that you have to have all four grandparents magically capable. How much doesn’t matter.”

“Even if they only mean unicorns, you qualify – just.” Spike nodded, looking up as he remembered. Twilight’s grandparents were all unicorns, but past that there were two pegasi and one earth pony just in the next generation up. “And if they mean any magic, there isn’t a pony in Equestria who isn’t ‘pure blood’ by their reasoning.”

“Yes.” Twilight frowned again, looking at the book. “But occasionally the books seem to be skirting an unpleasant topic. They keep mentioning a ‘pureblood supremacist’ group, but they don’t want to name them, most of the members or the leader.”

“Most?” Spike looked askance at Twilight.

“Yes, it’s mentioned that two members of the ‘Black’ family, who are as pure as it gets, are in a place called Azkaban. I think I’ll look it up once I’m finished.” Twilight made a note to.

“Alright.” Spike said. “I’ll see if I can get any cultural information from this book on Quidditch.”

Twilight laughed. “You mean you want to read about flying.”

“Yes. That’s what I said.”

Spike was halfway through the Quidditch book (which seemed to suggest that the main rulebook of the sport consisted largely of a list of fouls, and that for some decades the sport had involved killing small birds) when Twilight dropped her book with a bang.

“Twi?” he asked, startled. “Are you alright?”

“Spike.” Twilight’s voice was as icily precise as a diamond. “Do you remember reading about those creatures called ‘Dementors’? The ones which are essentially windigoes?”

“Yeah.” Spike shivered. “They eat positive emotion, wasn’t it? And make it cold?”

“Yes.” Twilight turned her gaze back to the book on the floor, and after a moment it lifted shakily into the air wrapped in lavender magic. “Further more, they do not require conflict to catalyze them, merely negative emotion of any kind. And the Wizarding Government of Great Britain uses them as prison guards – as far as I can tell, simply to make it worse to be there, since you could easily just magically seal a cage and deny the person inside a wand to shut down their casting.”

“They what?” Spike asked blankly. He’d never seen Twilight quite like this, and it was almost as scary as what she was describing.

“They subject people to something almost as bad as the greatest torment in our history. And it’s not the equivalent of a life sentence, either – some people get short terms there.”

Spike gulped. “I… wow.”

“Yeah.” Twilight picked up three books, and started for the library desk. “I don’t know about you, but I think I’m going to go back to our room, and... try not to think about windigoes.”

“I’m with you.” Spike said, hurrying to take out an account of the ridiculously foul-heavy Transylvania-Flanders game of 1473. “This should be good for a laugh, at least.”

The dragon and the unicorn spent most of the rest of the afternoon trying to cheer one another up. Twilight managed an early lead by speculating about how Trixie would have battled Nightmare Moon – complete with Luna’s dark side giving up from exasperation in the face of a steady stream of fireworks to the nose – but Spike rallied by reading from the Quidditch book the commentator’s words when the goalkeeper was transfigured into a polecat.

The irony was that said keeper had actually done slightly better.

Peewee turned up in a spectacular flash of fire in late afternoon, and landed beak-first on the carpet. It seemed like he’d already learned a lot from the elder phoenix, Fawkes – though not how to land.

That started both of them giggling, and Peewee’s indignant chirrup followed by an ‘I-meant-to-do-that’ strut finally pushed them both over into laughing.

“Ah, phew. We need to do that more often.” Spike said, picking his familiar off the floor and giving him a quick stroke. “Must be why Pinkie always greets new people.”

“Yeah, I think you’re right.” Twilight said, musing. “It stops people feeling too stressed about moving if they’re able to laugh.”

“Definitely something we should do more of.” Spike put Peewee on his perch, and checked the food and water were both still full enough.

Twilight nodded. “It’s almost dinner. What should we do afterwards?”

Spike considered, tapping the floor with a claw. “I feel more like having a walk. Spend the evening watching the sun go down.”

“Sounds like a good idea.” Twilight said. Fresh air would do her good. “And we can put the project on hold, and spend the next couple of days practicing a few simple spells.”

Spike nodded eagerly.

“What do I have to say?” Spike asked, looking at the pile of grass. “And I have to move my wand for this one?”

“Yes.” Twilight read the description again, carefully. The Scottish sunlight shone down on the grassy slope near the Black Lake, and she was glad to have found a tree to sit under. “You move your wand from one side to the other holding it loosely – a swish – and then you bring it back to centre with an upwards flick which takes place while pointing at the object. The incantation is ‘wingardium’ on the swish, and ‘leviosa’ on the flick. The first bit sort of tells the spell you want the target to weigh less, and the second tells it you want to gently push it upwards.” She activated an Equestrian magic-viewing spell as she finished, watching her assistant.

Spike complied, waving his wand as best he could. “I don’t think it worked then.”

“No, you put the emphasis on the wrong syllable in the first word, so the spell matrix was disrupted.” Twilight created an illusion of what she’d seen. The spell never really got formed thanks to the mistake, and the magic fizzled out before leaving the wand.

“Oh, alright. Win-gar-di-um, right?” Spike pronounced the words slowly and exaggeratedly.

Twilight nodded her approval of the pronunciation. “Yes, and remember to also focus on what you want the spell to do – just like you focus on where you want a scroll to go when you’re not sending it to Celestia. Now, give it another try.”

Spike concentrated, remembering to hold the hawthorn wand loosely, and attempted the spell again. This time, the pile of grass fountained up into the air and went everywhere.

“Good!” Twilight said, absently nibbling on a piece of grass which had gotten into her mouth. “That’s a case of overpowering the spell, which is still a slight problem but much better than a miscast. We’d better work on power next.”

“Was it this hard for you?” Spike asked. “When you learned. I mean, you didn’t have to wave the wand or say anything.”

“No, but I overpowered every spell for about the first six months of the academy. Believe you me, I know how to control my power output with any spell I’ve cast enough times to get a handle on the matrix.” It’d taken rather longer than six months for the teachers to stop putting on goggles whenever they were asking her to cast a spell, though. Since she’d managed to overload a food-heating spell enough to melt the pan, she didn’t blame them…

“Well, at least we have the same problem.” Spike said. “How does this compare to unicorn levitation, by the way?”

“It’s more specific, but possibly slightly more energy efficient.” Twilight answered; she’d been thinking about that herself. “Though it can’t handle more than one or two things at a time.”

Spike took that on board. “Right. Okay, how do we work on power?”

“We start with a rock.” Using her own natural telekinesis, Twilight brought a rock about six inches across over to them. “Try to lift this. That’ll give you some idea of how much power you need to do a given task.”

Spike nodded determinedly. “Here goes. Wingardium Leviosa!”

At six A.M. precisely on September 1, 1991, a flash of purple light resolved itself on Platform 9¾ into a studious unicorn, a young dragon, a younger phoenix and an owl with a secretarial degree.

“No-one else is here, Twi.” Spike complained, looking around the deserted platform. “We’re early.”

“Better to be early than late.” Twilight replied. “I wasn’t sure that a teleport that far would work properly.” She tried to see differences with Canterlot or Ponyville stations, but mostly ended up disappointed. Same big clock, same high platform… there was slightly more clearance between train and platform, but nothing important. And the rolling stock was just… less interesting.

“Whatever.” Spike picked up the bag with reading material, a good lunch for each of them and their familiars, and one of Twilight’s new collection of notebooks. “Let’s get some good seats. Celestia knows nobody else should have one yet…”

The Train and the Hat

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The Train and the Hat

(revised 13/5/13)

After some discussion, the Equestrians took the western side of the train, the side away from the platform – since that way they would get as much daylight as possible if the train kept going until dark. The train turned out to have compartments rather than being a single rail coach, and the large bench seats on each side were easily large enough that Twilight could sit/lie on one perpendicular to the direction of travel.

That actually rather relieved her. While she knew how Lyra could sit upright, it wasn’t very comfortable when she’d tried. She passed Spike his book and settled down with her own.

It was nearly an hour and a half of quiet, comfortable reading later that the outside world made itself known again, as the door was pushed open.

“Er, hello? Is there someone – oh. Er…” the voice tailed off into uncertainty.

Twilight looked up, and saw a possibly-young probably-male human standing in the doorway. He looked shocked, eyes darting between Spike and herself, and she gave a little wave. “Good morning.”

Apparently that helped, as he blinked and shook his head to clear it before starting to speak again. “Er… good morning yourself. I… sorry, this is hard to…”

“Try closing your eyes.” Twilight suggested. “Imagine we’re human.” It had worked for her the other way around.

The – colt? No, boy – gulped, and then closed his eyes. “O… okay. Sorry, I didn’t mean to disturb you, I was w-wondering if there was space in this compartment.”

Mentally, Twilight pigeonholed this boy’s personality as somewhat reminiscent of Fluttershy – timid, for sure, and probably not very self-assured.

“That’s alright. There’s some space.” Twilight made to nod at the engine end of the compartment, then realized there wasn’t any point because his eyes were closed. “I’m afraid I take up quite a lot of my seat, but the other one is mostly free. I’m Twilight Sparkle, by the way, and my assistant here is Spike. We’re both going to Hogwarts starting this year, at least until we can find a way home.”

Spike waved when his name was mentioned. This didn’t actually do anything, because the boy still had his eyes shut.

“I’m Neville – Neville Longbottom. I’m a first year as well. Er…” Neville opened his eyes, and breathed deeply. “I’m calm, I’m...”

“Are you feeling a bit overwhelmed?” Twilight said sympathetically. “I don’t blame you.”

“Yeah.” Neville shrugged helplessly. “I thought I’d be better off than the muggle-born students…”

“Oh, you’re from a wizarding family?” The unicorn asked, eyes lighting up. “If you don’t mind, I’ve got so many questions for you!” This was the first chance she had to speak to a student who’d grown up here – well, there were presumably some of the professors, but asking what they knew when they entered school would be a question they might find it tricky to answer over a decade after they’d done so…

Neville blinked. “Okay, but I don’t know how much help I’ll be.”

“Come on, sit down.” Twilight nodded to the seat opposite her, next to Spike. “I’d say next to me, but I’m afraid this is as close to how you sit as I can come.”

The boy giggled, then looked mortified.

Spike patted the seat. “Come on, you know what girls are like.” Then he frowned. “Actually, this will be the first time I’ve talked to a boy near my own age in… a long, long time.”

“Apart from Snips and Snails.” Twilight pointed out.

“Yeah, but they’re not exactly easy to have a conversation with. They’re nice, but most of what they talk about is magic.” Spike shrugged. “I’d have a lot more to talk to them about now than last week, actually…”

“Yeah, that’s true.” Twilight looked at Neville, to make sure he wasn’t upset at the conversation passing him by, but he didn’t seem to mind much.

Neville sat somewhat awkwardly, looked over at Spike, and then spent a moment staring at the phoenix perched on the curtain rail. “Is that a…”

“That’s Peewee.” Spike said. “He’s my pet, though apparently he’s also my familiar?” Spike looked slightly unsure. “I never asked, Twilight, what does familiar mean?”

“It’s a kind of magical bond.” Twilight dropped into explanation mode, which was like lecture mode but shorter. “It’s similar to how friendship and partnership create bonds. Originally, you and I had that kind of bond as well as others, but mine transferred to Owlowiscious when he became available. It’s…” she glanced at the boys, and skipped the maths. “…complicated. Anyway, familiar bonds do some strange things and are a bit hard to follow. They usually lead to an animal familiar becoming like the pony – or dragon, or I suppose human – who has them, which can have any number of effects.”

“Would that have affected me?” Spike asked, eyes flicking to the floor and then back to Twilight.

“…don’t know.” Twilight shrugged her shoulders. She wasn’t an expert on familiar bonds, at least not how they interacted with a creature already possessing full sentience.

“That’s… interesting?” Neville said, looking slightly lost. “Does that mean Trevor will have that happen to him?”

“Trevor?” Twilight blinked at the apparent non sequitur. Oh, perhaps he means he has a familiar? That’d make sense…

“Oh, sorry. He’s my toad.” Neville reached into a pocket of his trousers and pulled out a morose-looking toad. “My great-uncle got him for me when I got my Hogwarts letter last month – well, a bit more than that, but… er…”

Twilight took pity on him, and nodded at Trevor. “I’m no expert on animals, but he looks alright. At least he’s easier to handle than some of my friends’ pets.”

Spike shuddered. “That alligator…”

“One of your friends has an alligator?” Neville gaped. “Wow.”

Twilight winced as well, remembering her introduction to the reptile. “Gummy’s still young, so he doesn’t have any teeth yet – not that Pinkie would care much. But he’s got quite a nasty set of gums on him.”

“Huh.” The boy said, with a bit of a stunned-fish expression.

Twilight guessed that meant Neville still felt overwhelmed, and decided to give him a bit of space. With a nod, she went back to her book.

It was about ten minutes later that someone knocked on the door. “Excuse me? Is there room in here?”

Twilight looked around – she was occupying a surprisingly large amount of her side’s seat herself, and between them Spike and Neville, and their bags, more or less covered the other side of the compartment. “Er… depends. We could probably fit in someone small.”

“Nah, if it’s that cramped I won’t bother. Sorry to bother you,” the unknown voice said, sounding fairly understanding about it.

Spike looked up. “Well, they’re polite, at least.”

A voice dimly filtered through the door, saying something about having checked the compartment. A number of others replied, and then were drowned out in a more general murmur as the train began to fill in earnest.

Then the door slid open. “I can’t believe there’s a compartment full this-” the last word, which Twilight absently guessed was something along the lines of “early”, was never said.

“…hello?” Twilight said, giving a little wave at the boy. He looked older than Neville, but she hadn’t got her eye in to tell how much older yet.

The boy rubbed his eyes, and blinked them hard, staring at Twilight. “…bloody hell. Er, guys, there’s a talking unicorn in here.”

“What?” someone said incredulously.

“Come on, Davies, what’s really… bloody hell,” another boy with darker skin than most she’d seen so far said, coming into view. “You’re right, as well.”

A young – girl, not filly, Twilight reminded herself – poked her head in shyly. “Wow. You’re pretty.”

“Er, thanks.” Twilight looked over at Spike, who shrugged. That only drew attention to him, though.

“Lee, is that a dragon or are my eyes playing tricks on me?” Davies said.

“If it is a dragon, there’s something wrong with it,” The other boy, who was apparently ‘Lee’ replied. “Way too small.”

“Hey!” Spike said, stung. “There’s nothing wrong with me!”

Peewee chirped, and the heads of both boys and the girl – no, three boys and three girls now, as more and more crowded into the doorway – swung up to the phoenix, then across to Owlowiscious and down to Neville.

They seemed vaguely disappointed not to find a Manticore or something similar.

“All right, now, come on.” A female voice got steadily louder, approaching from the front of the train “Stop holding things up.”

“But Penelope.” Davies moaned.

“That’s Clearwater to you, Roger Davies. I don’t care if there is a talking unicorn on the train,” the voice continued sternly, “you’ll get to see it at Hogwarts and there’s no need to block the corridor.”

The speaker came into view, slowly pushing back the reluctant half-dozen young witches and wizards by dint of constant admonishment. Twilight noticed she was already in robes, and wore a badge with P marked on it on the front of them.

“Thank you.” Twilight said. “I don’t mind… much… but, well…”

“It’s my job.” Penelope Clearwater turned to look into the compartment for a moment. If she was actually surprised to see Twilight and Spike, she concealed it admirably well in Twilight’s opinion. “The prefects are supposed to keep order on the train as well as at Hogwarts, but I seem to be the only one bothering so far.”

Neville managed a twitchy shrug. “Better than nobody doing it.”

“Hmm… you’re a first year?” Neville nodded, and Penelope gave him a smile and nod. “Don’t worry, it seems a lot worse than it is, when you’re not there yet. Hope to see you in Ravenclaw. Right, come on, you lot – Lee Jordan.” There was a flash of red light. “I hope you’re not planning on messing around with that tarantula again.”

“Never fear,” Lee replied from out of Twilight’s eyeline, with an irrepressible bubble to his words.

“That is for Gryffindors. I hope you’ve at least made sure to get it properly registered, or it’ll be points once we reach the castle.” Penelope pulled their door to, and chivvied the gawkers along towards the back of the train.

Spike looked over at Neville. “You reacted better than they did.”

“Oh, thank you.” Neville looked surprised, but gratified. Twilight wondered if he’d been praised much, since he didn’t seem used to it. Or it could just be that he’s being praised by a creature which, to him, is almost as strange as a talking fish would be to me, she thought flippantly.

That wasn’t the end of it, not by a long shot. Every few minutes the compartment door opened slightly as someone peeked through, then either slammed it shut again or worked up the courage to introduce themselves. Always to Twilight, or to Spike, it seemed – very few took much notice of Neville, though those who did seemed pleased enough to see him. Childhood friends, or acquaintances, by the sound of it.

The train had been moving for a good half hour when the last pair of visitors – twin boys, who reminded Twilight of nothing less than Rainbow Dash in prank mode – finally left.

After spending a few more minutes just to be sure, she finally picked her book up again and opened it to the bookmark, getting down to some serious research again.

Spike put his book down. He liked reading about stuff, sure, but at this point they’d already been in the compartment nearly five hours and he was getting bored.

“Hey, Neville?” he ventured.

The boy looked up from his lap. “Y-yes?”

“Know any… I dunno, card games?” Spike’s hands waved as he tried to be general about it. “Anything would do, really.”

“Oh. Er, there’s exploding snap, but I don’t have a pack. Grandmother thinks it’s too dangerous.” Neville’s voice trailed off into a mumble with the last sentence.

Exploding snap?” Spike’s eyes glinted. “What’s that like?”

“Well, you put cards down from a face down pack, and when two that are the same are put down, you call out ‘snap’… and it explodes.” Neville accompanied his explanation with gestures.

Spike nodded. “Sounds fun. Pity you don’t have a deck, I’ll have to get one. Any others?”

The human boy frowned, thinking. “Well, there’s gobstones… I don’t know much about that one. My great-uncle tried to explain it to me, but grandmother stopped him and said it was rude.” Neville’s face lifted. “There’s chess, though. I have got a set of that.”

He pulled his trunk down (with help from Spike) and took out the chess set, then laid it out on the compartment’s table.

Spike watched the thirty-two miniature soldiers… well, some of them were castles, but that didn’t seem to change anything… as they marched to their positions. “Neat. How do you play?”

“It’s like normal chess – you don’t know that?” Neville’s lips moved as he tried to work out how to put it. “Okay, er… I think I remember how it works. Um… the pawns can move one square forward at a time, and they attack diagonally. There’s some other rules about them… can they move twice if they want to the first time?” he nodded to himself. “Yeah. And the rest of the pieces move and attack the same way. Rooks in straight lines, bishops in diagonal lines, the queen in both, and the knights… kind of jump.”

“Okay…” Spike looked at the board. “What about that one?”

“That’s the king. You have to keep him safe. If he’d be able to be attacked next turn, you have to save him – if you can’t, you lose.”

“Right.” Spike shrugged. “I’m sure I’ll pick it up.”

“Yeah…” Neville looked nervous, and fidgeted a bit. “I’m still learning, to be honest… the good thing is that wizarding chess pieces don’t make illegal moves. Actually, they sometimes shout advice…”

“Okay then. Let’s have a game. Who goes first?” Spike looked from one side of the board to the other. “They’re identical…”

“White does. I’ll be black – that is, if you don’t want to-?” Neville winced, thinking he’d perhaps been too presumptuous.

“That’s fine. Right… er, you?” Spike tapped a pawn in the middle of his line with a claw.

The pawn looked up at him, and managed to look unimpressed. Quite eloquent, for ivory.

“Forwards two spaces.” Spike ventured, crossing his claws.

With a silent sigh, the pawn trudged forwards.

Neville blinked. “They were never this bad-mannered with Grandmother. Er, king’s knight… forward and left?”

“Take the bishop! The bishop!”

“No!” Spike’s remaining knight said, shouting over the pawn. “The important one is that one there! The queen!”

Spike looked at the board, and tried to work out what would happen if he made a move. “Er… wait a minute. I can’t take the queen.”

“Not this turn! But if you move me over there, then I can get her!” the Knight said, waving his morningstar.

Spike shrugged; it seemed to make sense. He ordered the knight over. Neville quickly ordered his bishop to capture the knight, who had the good grace to look vaguely apologetic as he was smashed to bits by a mace.

“I told him.” The pawn sighed.

“Oh. Any chance we can still win?” Spike asked. It seemed like the pawn knew more than he did at the moment…

The pawn looked back at the rest of the white chess pieces. One bishop, two other pawns, and the king.

“If one of us pawns makes it to the other side of the board, we get promoted to something better. That’s about it.”

“Well, let’s give it a go.” Spike shrugged.

The pawn saluted.

Spike had to admit, talking game pieces really helped you get into the game. He felt a bit like a captain in charge of an army.

The door slid open. “They’re saying all down the train there’s some sort of animal in this department. Oh, and it looks like they were right.”

Spike looked up from the game, and saw Twilight putting her book back down again. The person who’d spoken (in a tone of deep contempt) was a blond boy. He was short, about the same size as Neville, and had two extremely large boys behind him doing what Spike could only think of as a loom.

“Hello.” Twilight said, politely. “I’m Twilight Sparkle. What’s your name?”

All three of the newcomers blinked, though the one in front recovered quickly. “Draco Malfoy. And you,” he turned and looked at Neville, “Must be Neville Longbottom. Father made sure I’d recognize all the proper families.”

“Proper?” Twilight asked.

“Proper wizards. Who know our culture.” Draco sounded as if it was obvious. “Not like you’d know, I suppose. It’s bad enough they let muggleborns in, but at least they’re human.”

Spike stood up quickly, chess game forgotten. “Hey! Twilight’s smarter than you are, I bet!”

“Spike!” Twilight said, shooting him a glance.

“I doubt it,” Draco said, his whole tone carrying years of practice at sneering. He’d have fit in well with the worse part of the advisory parliament. “Everyone with a basic magical education knows unicorns are beasts, not beings. Well, Longbottom, it’s nice of you to care for the livestock, but I’m sure you know who the right sort are.”

Neville looked down, not saying anything.

After a few more seconds, as if waiting for something, Draco stepped back and slid the door closed.

The moment it was, Spike turned to Neville. “Who was that?”

“He said he was Draco Malfoy.” Neville said slowly, thinking hard. “Grandmother said something about the Malfoys… she often has trouble with his father, Lucius, in the Wizengamot. And he’s the head of the Hogwarts board of governors, I think.”

Twilight sighed. “I hate politics. At least, when they’re happening now and not safely in the past.” It looked like her assessment about the boy was right – he would fit in well with all the ponies who practiced politicking in Canterlot, most likely by dint of long training.

“I don’t much like learning about it.” The boy shrugged. “But I suppose I have to – Grandmother says that Longbottoms don’t abandon their duty.”

Twilight nodded. She could certainly respect that. "It sounds like your grandmother’s important to you.”

“She is…” For a moment, Neville looked terribly sad. “She… brought me up, after my parents…”

Twilight felt tempted to give him a hug, but wasn’t confident enough of how socialization went among humans to be sure it was alright with such a recent friend.

“… I know it’s inadequate, but… I’m sorry. For bringing it up, I mean,” she said finally.

Neville shrugged, but stayed silent.

Twilight tried a different tack. “What does ‘livestock’ mean, by the way?”

“Er…” the boy’s sadness was replaced by embarrassment. “It means… cows and horses and pigs and stuff. Farm animals.”

“So?” Twilight asked. “I know a few cows. They don’t tend to borrow many books, but they’re nice enough.”

“Well… none of our livestock animals are… smart, and they’re… they’re what’s used for food, a lot of the time. They’re just…” Neville trailed off helplessly, unable to find the words.

Twilight nodded to herself, having realized the context. It was a major insult, of course it was. He was calling them the most insulting thing he could.

“He’s…not very nice, is he?” she said, considerably understating the situation.

“Well, it’s pure blood manners – the kind that Grandmother doesn’t approve of, but some people do.” Neville said, looking down again. “They think the only people whose opinions matter are other pure bloods – that’s why he was polite to me, and that’s why he was so nasty to you.”

“I wish Rarity was here.” Twilight muttered. “She knows this kind of thing better than me.”

There was a rattling around mid-day, and someone knocked on the compartment door. With a quick burst of telekinesis, Twilight pulled it open, and saw a much older human (woman, she thought) than the rest of the ones on the train.

“Afternoon – oh!” the woman gasped, looking at Twilight and patting her heart. “Goodness, you gave me such a fright.”

“Sorry.” Twilight shrugged awkwardly. “I can’t really help it.”

“Bless me. Well, it takes all sorts, I suppose.” She shook herself slightly. “Anything off the trolley, dearies?” With that, she pulled her trolley back slightly so it was visible to everyone in the compartment.

It was piled high with food, mostly sweets. Spike looked eager straight away, and Twilight thought wistfully of Pinkie’s snacks from Sugarcube Corner. It was tempting… but they didn’t have any money with them, and she had to decline.

“Don’t worry.” Neville said, suddenly digging into a pocket of his clothes. “Great-aunt Enid gave me some money as a gift, and-”

“Please don’t feel you have to-“ Twilight tried to interrupt.

“No, I insist.” Neville said, clenching his fists for a moment. “I couldn’t possibly spend it all, and… well, I’m sure I’ll get more than I can eat, anyway.”

“Don’t argue, Twilight!” Spike pleaded. “I want to see what magical sweets are like!”

“Well… alright, then.” Twilight said, as reluctantly as she could – which wasn’t much. It had been a long time since breakfast, and sandwiches suddenly seemed boring.

In the end, they mostly got the more interesting things. Neville said the Cockroach Cluster was a bad idea, and after realizing one of her customers was an herbivore the lady helped them pick what would be most safe.

Spike insisted on five bags of Every Flavour Beans, even after being warned about them, and started off with what turned out to be turpentine and ketchup.

Twilight and Neville shared a moment of cross-species empathy. Draconic eating habits were weird.

“Oh no – Trevor!”

Twilight looked up again, this time from a pumpkin juice. (It was nice that the wizarding world had a drink like that.) “That’s your – toad, right?”

“Yes! I’ve lost him! I’ve looked all around the compartment – I don’t know when he went missing – he could be anywhere on the train!” Neville said, breathing fast and looking on the edge of a tearful panic.

“Right.” Twilight put the half-finished drink back on the table. “Come on, we’ll go look.”

The boy looked immensely grateful. “Thank you. Sorry, I just-”

“Don’t apologize.” Twilight said firmly. “I’d like to think we’re friends, and friends just help each other. That’s how it works. I should know.”

Spike stayed seated. “I’ll make sure no-one comes in and messes with our stuff. Especially not that Draco person. Hey, Owlowiscious, you up for a game of chess?”

The owl flapped his wings. “Who.”

“You.” Spike pointed.

Owlowiscious gave the dragon an inscrutable look. “Whoo-o?”

“You, you featherbrained… okay, we’re not doing this again. I know you know what I mean.” Spike pouted.

Twilight giggled, and then looked apologetically at Neville. “Sorry, I know you’re worried about Trevor.”

She manoeuvred carefully out of the compartment, and pulled the door to after Neville followed her. “Right, we can start at the front, or the back, or head in one direction from here and keep going.” She hovered one of her notebooks in front of her, and began writing. “Which would you prefer?”

Neville looked lost.

Twilight decided for him. “Alright. We’ll start at the front.”

To make sure the evasive toad didn’t accidentally slip past them, Neville kept an eye on the corridor while Twilight was asking people if they’d seen Trevor.

It was interesting, going down the train like that. Amazing as it seemed, there were people who hadn’t come to have a look at the rumoured unicorn, and to discover her not only entirely real but politely asking whether they’d seen a missing pet was… confusing, to most of the older students who’d dismissed the idea.

The younger ones who just hadn’t heard at all, though, reacted somehow better. Perhaps because they weren’t as used to what was “normal” in the magical world.

And, for some reason, half the girls offered to brush her mane. Twilight felt vaguely offended – she didn’t take as much pride in her appearance as Rarity, but she thought she’d done all right that morning.

“Right, this one next.” she said, pointing. Neville duly knocked on the compartment door for her.

“Come in.” a voice said. It was fairly high, but had a different colour to it – so, probably a young boy. Twilight was working on recognizing them, so she didn’t make too many mistakes or wrong assumptions.

As the door opened, she saw there were two boys – about the same age as Neville? One of them was taller, but she’d already observed more size variation among humans than there was among most ponies – and neither of them was in robes yet. They reacted with astonishment.

“Bloody hell…” one of them muttered, the taller one. “Fred and George weren’t joking.”

“Hello.” Twilight said. “Has anyone seen a toad? I’m afraid Neville’s lost one.”

The taller boy shook his head dumbly.

The shorter one, with black hair, apologized and said they’d not seen one. Twilight, however, was more surprised by his forehead.

“…is that a cutie mark?” she gasped, realizing in the back of her mind she was sounding like Pinkie. “I hadn’t realized humans had them! Where do other people have theirs?”

The boy had sighed on seeing her focus there, but was now just confused. “A what?”

“A cutie mark – I know boys like to call them emblems sometimes, but it’s the right… term…” Twilight trailed off. “You don’t know what I’m talking about?”

“No.” the boy said flatly.

“…oh. So, what is it? Does it mean you’re skilled with… lightning magic, or something?” Twilight asked.

“I don’t know.” The boy said, sighing. “I didn’t even know about magic until a month ago.”

“But you’re Harry Potter!” The redhead said to the now identified Harry. “I still don’t get this, how can you not? You’re a legend!”

“Harry Potter?” Neville said, craning. “H-hello…” He seemed to want to say more, but couldn’t work up the courage.

“Harry Potter…” Twilight mused. “I think I read something… yes, the Potter family were mentioned as an example of a hereditary seat on the Wizengamot. So you’d be descended from Charlus Potter?”

“I don’t know. I hardly know anything about my family.” Harry shook his head, frustrated. “I thought my parents died in a car crash until a month ago.”

“What’s a car?” Twilight asked. “Is it like a chariot?”

Even Neville looked surprised at that.

“Oh… sorry… I’m new here.” Twilight shrank down slightly. “Don’t mind me… I’ll find out later.” She forced a smile. “Anyway, Neville and I must keep looking for his toad-”

“Excuse me.” A pompous voice asked from the direction they had been going. “Is this your toad, then?”

Twilight looked over, and stepped back slightly as another prefect, with blazing red hair like the taller boy in the compartment, came down the train, with-

“Trevor!” Neville said, delighted. “Thank you, sir!”

“Oh, don’t call him that…” the taller boy of the two in the compartment said, exasperated. “Come on, Percy.”

“I don’t have to take that insubordination from you, Ronald,” Percy said.

“Insubordination?” Ron moaned. “I’m your brother, it doesn’t count.”

“Oh!” Twilight looked between the two boys. “Were those hyperactive twins part of your family as well, then? So hair colour is genetic?”

She kept talking, explaining, as all four wizards looked at her in confusion. “You see, where I’m from – well, among ponies, anyway – mane and coat colour aren’t very important, genetically. There’s usually a slight resemblance, but it’s not very much at all – a friend of mine comes from a mostly drab coloured family of earth ponies, and she’s bright pink. And my brother’s white and blue.”

“Ponies?” Ronald said, incredulously. “Why call yourselves ponies? You’re a unicorn.

“Not everyone is. I’m a unicorn pony, yes, but there are also pegasus ponies and earth ponies. I know you have larger animals called horses, but…” Twilight trailed off. “Never mind. Oh, I forgot to introduce myself. I’m Twilight Sparkle.”

Ronald snickered.

Percy looked disapproving. “I should think you can’t talk about amusing names, Ronald Bilious Weasley.”

“Perce!” the younger sibling groaned. “You know I like to be called just Ron! Even Mum calls me Ron… sometimes…”

“If you like being called Ron, I’ll do that.” Twilight said. “We’re used to shortened name forms in Equestria.”

“Is that from the root Equus, meaning horse or pony?” Percy asked.

“I suppose it… must be.” Twilight answered, uncertainly flicking an ear. “I didn’t give it much thought when I arrived, but that I speak the same language really is a quite remarkable coincidence, isn’t it…”

Percy nodded, frowning. “I’d love to see if you had any magical effect lingering on you… I’m doing Arithmancy, you see.”

Twilight smiled. “Oh, interesting. I’ve looked into that a bit, but haven’t really had the time to make a proper study – we only turned up on Tuesday.”

“We?” Ron said, having been barely paying attention.

“Spike and I – and Owlowiscious and Peewee, as well.” Twilight made to gesture to them, but then remembered they were all back in the compartment and felt a little stupid. “Oh, Spike is my assistant, and the other two are our familiars.”

“Bet they’re better than Scabbers.” Ron said glumly. “Stupid rat, doesn’t do anything.”

Percy rounded on Ron. “Ronald! Scabbers was my pet before he was yours, and I was perfectly satisfied with him.”

“Trade you for Hermes.” Ron quipped back.

“Ah…” Percy put on an expression which Twilight thought was an attempt at magnanimity. “I’ll decline, thank you Ronald.”

“Yeah, I figured…” Ron muttered, snapping his fingers idly.

“So, is that owl yours?” Twilight asked, pointing to the snowy owl cage and then to Harry.

“Yes, she is.” Harry said. “Hagrid got her for my birthday.”

“That’s nice of him. My friends say it’s good to have a pet – or, familiar, if you’re a mage.” She giggled. “Actually, we had a lot of trouble picking a pet for my friend Dash. She’s so fast, she wanted a pet that could keep up with her – and she chose a tortoise in the end.”

Ron blinked. “She did what?”

“Well, she learned there’s more to choosing a pet than it being cool. You want loyalty, too.” Twilight said, not missing a perfect opportunity to mention a friendship lesson.

The boy looked contemplative at that.

After a few seconds of silence, Percy spoke up. “Well, I’d better get back to the Prefect’s carriage. Hope to see you all in Gryffindor.”

Neville just looked more nervous at that.

“Shall we head back to our compartment?” Twilight asked. “Now we’ve found Trevor, I mean.”

“Y-yeah, sure.” Neville nodded, cradling Trevor.

“Alright. Nice meeting you,” she nodded to the boys.

“Yeah, thanks.” Harry said.


“Yes, sire, but what should we actually do?” the knight said, frowning up at Owlowiscious along with the rest of the black pieces.

“Hoo!” the owl repeated, spreading a wing and gesturing regally.

Spike rolled around on the floor of the compartment, laughing. The scene had been going on for half an hour, and it was still just as funny as when it started.

The chess pieces didn’t speak Owl.

“Who-hoo, hoo,” Owlowiscious said pointedly, turning to gaze at Spike.

“Alright, alright…” Spike clamped down on another giggle, and clambered back into his seat. “What did you want to do?”

“Hoo,” the owl nodded.

“Right. Er, he said… Queen’s pawn, forward one.” Spike translated.

“Finally.” The foot soldier muttered, stepping forward.

Examining the board, Spike picked out a move for his own pieces to make. “Okay, my right hand knight’s pawn, move forward two!”

“On it, sire!” the white man-at-arms said, running forwards past the Bishop’s pawn Spike had moved a half hour ago..

“Hoo-whoo. Hoo.” Another wing gesture.

The black pieces looked expectant.

“He said, Queen forward and left… oh.” Spike stared at the board.

Owlowiscious looked smug.

“How did you do that? That was a checkmate in two turns!” Spike shook his head. “Right, there’s no way I’m falling for that again. Come on, back in place!”

“I hope you do better this time, sire,” one of the rooks said loyally.

“He could hardly do worse…” the king muttered.

“Oi, none of that!” Spike snapped.

A few moves into the second game, Twilight pulled the door open. “Hello, we’re back!”

“Hoo-whoo.” Owlowiscious boasted.

Spike glared at Owlowiscious. “Smug owl. That won't work the second time.”

“Right, we’re getting to Hogwarts fairly soon… we should probably get our robes on.” Twilight levitated her trunk down, opened it, and then slipped the robes on quickly. “Need any help, Spike?”

Spike shook his head. “I’ve put clothes on more than you have, I do know how they work. I’m not a baby.” He fiddled with the robe fastening, trying to get it to hang comfortably. “Wearing it every day will take some getting used to, though.”

Neville blushed. “Er, could you two go out while I get changed?”

Twilight looked lost for a moment, then got it. “Oh. Oh, sorry, I keep being confused by the culture… with us, it doesn’t really matter, but I know it does for some, so…” she trailed off in a cloud of cultural embarrassment.

She slipped out of the compartment again, along with Spike, while their new friend got changed. Luckily for them, nobody else was in the corridor in this carriage – it felt awkward enough just standing there outside a door as it was.

Neville let them back in after a couple of minutes, wearing his plain robes like the others, and the group spent the rest of the journey alternating between books, chess and stopping escape attempts by Trevor.

The train came gliding to a stop in the early evening, with the sun starting to slip slowly behind mountains to the west. The three of them gathered up animals, books, bags, notes, chess board and (at Twilight’s insistence) rubbish, and joined the general movement towards one of the doors.

Twilight and Spike were the focus of even more attention than before; with a majority of the girls coming close to squealing over how “cute” they looked in their robes.

The unicorn was twitching nervously by the time they were out on the platform, and had lifted Spike onto her back to make sure he wasn’t trampled too badly. At least, that’s what she said. Spike suspected it was more just to make sure they weren’t separated – but that was bad enough, so he agreed whole-heartedly.

The air was crisp and cool, a comfort after the relatively close air of the train. Both Equestrians breathed deeply, relishing it.

“First years, come on! Over here. Don’t worry, come with me, firs’ years.” Hagrid raised a lantern, and shook it. “Come on, over here. Hey, there’s Twilight and Spike, come on, you as well. I know you were here this morning, but all firs’ years come this way, it’s tradition. Come on. Leave those bags and stuff over here, the elves’ll take them up. Come along. First years!”

‘This way’ turned out to be boats by the shore of the lake, big enough for one Hagrid or four first years. Twilight took up… a little more space than normal, so Spike stayed on her back to make up the space. With that, Neville and a girl called Sally-Anne Perks could fit in as well, and once the rest of the boats were full Hagrid did… something.

It actually made Twilight suspect he was concealing a wand somewhere. Certainly there was something unusual about that umbrella.

She could see why they did this, though. Despite the inconvenience, despite the occasional splash of cold lake water… seeing Hogwarts towering over the lake was breathtaking.

“Canterlot’s better.” Spike muttered, sounding defensive.

“Well, better or not, this is our home for now.” Twilight pointed out.

“Yeah.” Spike shrugged an agreement.

Talk turned to the Sorting as the first years waited outside the Great Hall to be called in. Twilight realized that, despite the amount of research she’d managed, none of the books had actually explained how the Sorting took place – it seemed to be some kind of in-joke among attendants.

“Fred and George said we have to wrestle a troll.” Ron said, nervously shifting from foot to foot. “Hope they were joking…”

“Spike?” Twilight asked. “You’re the one who read the book about Fantastic Beasts. Trolls?”

“Bad news.” Spike replied. “Big, strong, magic resistant.”

“Hope it’s not, then.” Twilight fretted. “Oh, what if it’s a test? I haven’t studied…”

“There is no need for studying, Miss Sparkle.” McGonagall said, walking in. “Though it does you credit to think of it so early in the year. If you’ll all come along, please.”

As it turned out, when the Great Hall was in use for a feast it was much more impressive. The teachers were all sat along the high table, apart from a few who Twilight couldn’t see and a missing spot which was probably the deputy head’s.

Candles floated in their hundreds over the four long tables, casting an even light, and the enchanted roof showed a beautiful starry vista.

There was also the little matter of several hundred students staring at them.

Twilight looked for something to distract her, and noticed a large, beaten-up magician’s hat on a stool in the middle of the clear area. It looked like what Star Swirl’s hat would be by now if it was never washed or darned.

Then it started to speak. In fact, it started to sing.

Both Twilight and Spike had become caught up in Pinkie’s infectiously enthusiastic songs before, and were quite used to them breaking out around her (or sometimes when she wasn’t even there), so this wasn’t much different.

“Could do with more than one singer.” Spike said.

Twilight chuckled, and replied “Would you volunteer?”

“No chance,” he shook his head emphatically.

The content was interesting, though. It seemed that the hat was a self-aware artefact (Twilight immediately cast a mage-sight spell, and saw the hugely complex twining of magic around the hat – it seemed to be connected to the castle itself, in fact) that picked where people went based on their personalities.

“I wonder if that’s what they do instead of cutie marks here…” she mused.

Spike shrugged, blinking a bit. Twilight thought it was probably tiredness, since they’d been up since five.

Once it had finished, the Professor explained it would be alphabetical in order. While Hannah Abbot (one of the ones who’d been squealing about Twilight) was being sorted, Twilight asked her about how they’d handle Spike – who only had a single name.

“We use full name, surname first if applicable. What is his full name?” McGonagall stressed.

“Spykoranuvellitar – that’s S, P, Y, K-” Twilight began.

“No need for more, Miss Sparkle,” the professor forestalled her. “That – Bones, Susan! – that puts him in order right after yourself. Thank you for addressing that issue before it came up.”

Twilight watched the next several children be Sorted. It was interesting through the mage sight – the hat seemed to send a signal to the castle wards, which changed the colour of the student’s robes and tie to match. Presumably it also added them to some of the conditional wards.

Neville took the longest, spending almost thirty seconds before being declared a Gryffindor. His face was pale as he walked shakily over to his new House, but he did manage a wan smile.

Harry took nearly as long, but the cheering was intense. It made Twilight feel like there was some important detail she’d missed… and it made her feel sorry for him, as well. It was too reminiscent of the times ponies had expected something special from her in the first days she’d been Celestia’s protégé.

Then it was her turn.

There was widespread whispering and pointing as she trotted up the hall, and more when she levitated the hat to get it on her head.

Hmmm. Most unusual. It’s not every year I get someone who is already an adult. But you’re new to this world, I see. Strange, indeed.

Are you the hat? Twilight thought. How do you operate? Is it like the Elements of Harmony? Or some kind of pure sentience? Perhaps operating using the mind of the wearer to think? Why are you connected so directly to the ward scheme – isn’t that a potential weakness? Or am I missing something? If I were to-

Slow down! There was a soundless chuckle. Well, you’re intelligent enough for Ravenclaw, and loyal enough for Hufflepuff too, that’s for certain. But… hmmm… goodness. That is most impressive. Well, for someone who stares down gods and demons, charges hydras and faces dragons there’s nowhere to go but GRYFFINDOR!”

Twilight jumped as the last word was shouted to the hall. She took the hat off shakily, and walked over to the red-and-gold table – noticing the miniscule flare of magic which colourized her clothes and added the griffin crest.

There were some empty seats next to Neville, and she took one of those before turning to watch Spike.

Ah, you’re from the same place as Twilight.

I am… Spike thought, nervously.

You’re more like the others I sort than she was, though. I’m more used to preteens.

You are?

Yes, I am. Now… hm. Interesting. Loyal to friends – that sent a dark memory flashing through Spike’s mind, from during Discord’s attack, with himself wearing the cloud-and-bolt necklace of the Element of Loyalty – and brave as well. You’ve grown, recently at that. And it is never easy to resist peer pressure. But there’s that acquisitiveness as well…. Anything you want to say?

Yes… I’d want to be with Twilight. But… if it would be better for me to go into another house, I don’t mind. Spike gulped, but nodded firmly.

I see that you would. Well, my mind is made up. That you’d be brave enough to be be away from her makes me confident enough to put you in GRYFFINDOR!”

Twilight gave Spike a hug as he joined her. “Well done.”

Spike leaned into it. “Thanks… I think that hat is very wise.”

“You do?”

“Yeah.” Spike grinned. “It makes decisions that make me feel better, but I don’t understand them.”

“Sounds about right.” The Weasley twins said in unison.

“Well, we-”

“-are doing well this year.” They continued, swapping who was speaking mid-sentence.

“Twilight, how are they doing that?” Spike asked, pointing.

“I don’t know…” Twilight replied, and released him.

“That’s the twins for you.” Percy said, butting in. “Been like that for years. Oh, it’s Ronald’s turn!”

“Why don’t you call him Ron?” Neville asked, suddenly. As Percy turned to him, he shrank back, but rallied. “He said he prefers it.”

“It’s the job of older brothers to annoy younger ones.” Percy answered, completely seriously.

The twins looked at him as if he’d grown a second head.

“Which is why these two are getting above their place,” he continued, before breaking off to congratulate Ron as the Sorting Hat’s shout echoed through the hall.

The Sorting concluded with a boy who went to Slytherin, and then the Headmaster stood up. “I would like to say a few words…”

“Oh, no.” Spike muttered. “A speech. I hate-”


“-what?” the dragon broke off in confusion.

“Blubber! Oddment! Tweak! Thank you.”

Spike’s mouth hung open. Several of the other first years looked similarly pole-axed.

Twilight blinked for a moment. “That makes me think of what Pinkie would do if she ever had to give a speech…”

Further discussion was interrupted by the materialization of the feast. Twilight noted that, despite the short notice, both she and Spike had had their peculiarities properly catered for. Including a side dish of Every Flavour Beans for Spike… which was frankly amazing work.

Maybe they’d asked the trolley lady.

“That looks good.” Ron said, already digging into his own food and nodding at Spike’s. “Why don’t we get a roast that big? Can I have some?”

“Probably not a good idea.” Twilight said. “Spike… eats rocks.”

“Wow, there’s amethyst in here!” Spike exclaimed, as he pulled out a small blue stone that had made his knife grate, and then popped it into his mouth with a crunch. “Lovely.”

Looking up, he saw half the table staring at him. “What?”

“You seriously eat rocks?” three people asked at once.

“Yeah. Why?” Spike asked, puzzled. “Diamond dogs eat rocks, so do dragons.”

“Different world, Spike…” Twilight reminded him. “Remember, they think dragons are large, unintelligent and carry off entire cows.”

“Oh, yeah.” Spike snapped his claws. “Sorry, still getting used to this.”

“Where did you come from, actually?” a girl asked. “I’m Alicia, by the way.”

“Well, we were at my brother’s wedding, and his fiancée was being… weird. Really weird. I tried to warn people, but nopony believed me,” her voice caught slightly at the memory. “And she cast some kind of spell on me, and the next thing we knew, we were landing in the Forbidden Forest.”

Twilight could tell from the expressions on peoples’ faces that the explanation hadn’t helped. She had a quick drink of pumpkin juice to wet her throat, then started explaining about Equestria.

“Well. There’re no humans at all, in the world we’re from. There are ponies – unicorns,” she indicated her horn, “pegasi and earth ponies – and those are the most common species in the country we come from.”

“She’s Princess Celestia’s personal student!” Spike said, before returning to his meal.

“Princess?” several people asked. Including what appeared to be a ghost. Twilight decided to ignore the transparent person unless he became an issue.

“Thanks for making it even more complicated to explain, Spike.” Twilight said sarcastically.

“Any time!” Spike gave her a claw-up and a wink.

“Right…” she ran through what she was planning to say. “So, Princess Celestia is…”


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“…and that, at least according to modern theories, is how Equestria was made,” Twilight finished.

While the various Gryffindors digested the short lecture Twilight had given (complete with the occasional illusory picture for clarity, and several interjections from Spike), she took the opportunity to polish off the remains of her dinner.

After a long day like this, buttered roast vegetables were just the thing.

“…blimey.” Someone finally said.

“You really fought a manticore?” Asked a boy Twilight identified from the sorting as Dean Thomas.

“Not fought, exactly…” Twilight said, trying to explain.

“And how did you…?”

“What did you say happened when…?”

“Why didn’t you know about…?”

As if the first question had opened a dam, several people started talking at once. Twilight tried to answer what questions she could, but she was grateful when Dumbledore called for attention.

He gave a short speech, more a list of reminders and updates than anything. Twilight was amused by part of what he said – the twins did indeed sound like they could give Dash and Pinkie a run for their money, and were there really that many banned items? – but some of it was more worrying.

The Forbidden Forest, for example, sounded just as dangerous as the Everfree and was closer to the castle than she was comfortable with (though, of course, weather operating on its own would hardly be a surprise here…), while it seemed that the elderly wizard had understated how dangerous this third-floor corridor was when he’d let her know about it.

Either that or he was trying to scare the children away from taking chances, of course.

After the ominous speech had sunk in, he perked up and conjured some words in the air. “Right, time for the school song. Pick a tune, and off we go!”

Spike blinked. “Did he say pick a-”

The singing started.

Twilight and Spike both clapped their appropriate forelimbs over their ears.

Perhaps it was spending so long around Pinkie and the others, whose impromptu singing was usually in tune and well-coordinated, but the sound of several hundred schoolchildren of varying ages singing with random pitch and tune skipped funny and went straight to giving the duo a major headache.

After a few seconds, Twilight managed to get off a Cone of Silence, and both she and Spike exhaled in relief.

When almost everyone seemed to have stopped, Spike stuck his head out of the spell’s area and then nodded to Twilight. Upon taking it down, all she could hear was the twin red-heads singing a funeral dirge.

“Phew…” she muttered to Spike. “Didn’t expect that.”

“Yeah.” Spike nodded. “Wonder if their hearing’s less good?”

“Could be…” Twilight wondered. Certainly their ears looked strange to her…

The twins finally finished. Dumbledore called what had just happened “music” (Twilight didn’t agree) and then sent them all off to bed.

Bed did sound good, actually. She and Spike had been up for going on seventeen hours now, after her perhaps overzealous plan to be certain to catch the train. At least tomorrow was still the weekend.

Gryffindor Tower, it transpired, was right up at the top of the castle. Apparently, all the dormitories were either in towers at the top or dungeons in the bottom.

Twilight supposed it made sense, if they wanted somewhere with a lot of space. The password-locked door, on the other hand, seemed just a little silly. She was keyed into the wards now; couldn’t they just restrict access to Gryffindor students only?

As Percy gave the password to open the portrait (a rather large female human, as it happened), one of the first years raised her hand. “Can I give the password to my sister? She’s in Ravenclaw.”

“Well…” Percy thought for a moment. “I don’t think it’s against the rules. I’ll ask about that next prefect’s meeting and tell you.”

Twilight felt like facehoofing. Of course people might like to visit! Besides, this was a school, not the Star Swirl wing…

After that thankfully private embarrassment, Twilight and Spike followed the other students through the hole in the wall. It was slightly awkward for Twilight to climb up, but nothing too inconvenient.

Inside was a large, round room with arm chairs, tables, a couple of desks, and a large and well-stirred fire. The flames and the red-gold livery gave it a very warm look, in Twilight’s opinion. Given how far north they were, it’d probably be all the more appreciated in winter.

“Well, here we are: Gryffindor common room.” Percy said. “The left stairway is the boys, right is the girls. This year, the first years are on the… second floor, I think?”

He directed this question at an older boy also wearing a prefect’s badge, who nodded.

“Right. Your room this year will be your room for the whole time at Hogwarts, and your luggage will already be in there. The bathrooms are on the stairs, at – wait a moment,” Percy frowned at a door roughly opposite the portrait hole. “I don’t think I’ve seen that door before…”

“Ah.” Twilight raised a hoof awkwardly. “That’s the room Spike and I have, I think.”

“How come you get your own room?” Ron asked.

“We’re different species to you.” Spike said, shrugging. “I’m used to being in Twilight’s room, and she’s used to having me around.”

“We got it sorted out.” Twilight added, apologetically. “We don’t really have anywhere else to stay, outside school…”

“Right, you said,” someone nodded. He looked like he was a few years older than the new students, and closer to the twins’ age.

“Yeah. Sorry if anyone’s upset, but… we’re kind of lost.” Twilight yawned. “Anyway, I’d really like to get to bed…”

“Right, right, sorry. Ahem. Off you go.” Percy said. “Tomorrow morning is when you get your timetables.”

It was, indeed, the very same room they’d been using for the last few days – just decked out in red and gold on some of the hangings.

Twilight forced herself to stay awake long enough to clean her teeth, and to make Spike do it as well, and had to remind herself to take the school robes off before she crawled into bed.

Getting dressed every morning was going to be something new, at any rate…

They were among the first into the dining room the next morning. Twilight hadn’t meant to wake Spike, but wake him she had, and he’d decided to come down with her for breakfast.

Most of the others were a scattering of older students, along with two or three teachers eating like the rest of them.

“Miss Sparkle, and Mister Spike. It is good to see some of my students up so soon on their first day.” Professor McGonagall said, walking over from the door. “I have your timetables here; I was just up to the Owlery with them. If you have any questions, do get them sorted out today.

“Oh, thanks.” Twilight accepted the parchment. “Hmm, let’s see…”

Many of the lessons were doubles, which meant about two hours long here – the rest were single blocks, about an hour, with several free periods.

“What are we supposed to do in the free periods?” Twilight checked.

“Homework, or study, or leisure.” McGonagall said. “Anything you want, really, so long as the homework is done on time and you keep up with your lessons.”

“Right,” Twilight checked the back of the timetable. “Oh – is there a castle map?”

“Goodness me, I forgot. Thank you for asking, Miss Sparkle.” McGonagall took two parchment sheets from the bottom of the stack.

The map wasn’t as complete as it could be, with quite a lot of rooms unlabelled, but it did have the main class locations.

“Thank you. Er… what is this material? It doesn’t feel like paper…” Twilight said uneasily, feeling it with a hoof.

“It is called parchment. Originally, parchment was made from the skin of animals, I understand, though wizards have only made it out of wood pulp since the seventeenth century.” McGonagall gave a tiny smile. “I believe the wizard Uric the Oddball first invented the method. One of his most useful contributions to magical society.”

“Right.” Twilight exhaled. “I was worried for a moment there. Hmmm… we first have you tomorrow, right?”

“Indeed. If you have no other problems, I shall see you then.” McGonagall raised an eyebrow questioningly.

“I think we’re fine.” Twilight looked over. “Spike?”

“Yeah, should be.” Spike nodded, determinedly.

“Very well, then.” McGonagall inclined her head respectfully, and walked away.

Spike managed to strike up a tentative friendship with several other pupils in the common room that afternoon, usually based on stories of outlandish pranks he and Dash had tried on Pinkie, or that he and Pinkie had tried on Dash for that matter. Twilight noticed a few she’d not actually known about before, but declined to comment.

She was too busy reading through The Standard Book of Spells, and One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi, and anything else that might help with their first day. Not knowing something when the answer was in the book would be so embarrassing.

And seeing the two of them just relaxing and acting normally, like there was nothing out of the ordinary about a unicorn and baby dragon hanging around, helped everyone else relax too. It was the same way they avoided mass-panic at Ponyville over a dragon living in town (well... except for a few notable exceptions, at least.)

Around five, there was a sudden stillness, followed by wild cheers. She looked up, and saw Peewee flying in circles in the centre of the common room.

Some of the Gryffindors were laughing at his antics (including what looked like a double inside-out loop – had Dash been showing off where the little phoenix could see?) and others sounded more happy that Gryffindor had the unquestioned “most awesome pet of the year”.

The dark-haired boy – Harry – caught her eye, sitting in the corner with Ron. The shorter boy seemed more relaxed than he’d been all yesterday.

Inspiration hit her. Maybe Harry was a bit like Dash, in one important respect? She’d been thinking of him more like Fluttershy, but Dash – for all her confidence – could do terribly badly if there was too much attention on her.

Maybe, with Peewee showing off like that, he was coping better.

Though, there was that similarity with Fluttershy as well. The modelling incident had shown that she didn’t cope well with the limelight either.

Twilight realized she was staring, and looked down before anyone noticed. Anyway. Magical theory… the basic levitation spell. How does this differ from unicorn levitation?

Well, there’s the form of the translations available… I wonder if Rarity has a more sophisticated version she uses for her dressmaking? Pity I can’t ask her…

The Charms class was fairly standard, as classrooms went. The desks were of a different design to the ones Twilight was used to, and the space for practical work smaller than it would have been if it had had to handle unicorns, but the blackboard and chalk – and reference books lining the walls – were entirely familiar.

Professor Flitwick seemed very excited to have the first lesson for the Gryffindor and Ravenclaw first years. Part of that was probably because he could introduce his own house to the subject he loved, but there was also the presence of all three of the year’s unusual individuals.

Strangely, perhaps, it was Harry who excited him the most. He actually fell off the books he was using to see over the desk when he reached the name “Potter” on the register (by contrast, Twilight and Spike only elicited unusual squeaky exclamations).

“Right, right,” he said, closing the register book with a snap. “Now that we’re all here… who here has done wandless magic?”

Twilight raised a hoof. Spike, next to her, frowned for a moment before lifting a claw. Everyone else looked flabbergasted at the question being put to some first years.

Flitwick pointed to her first. “Ah, Twilight Sparkle. Well, can you give us examples?”

Twilight took a deep breath. “Er… I only got a wand a week ago, but I’ve been using magic all my life. Unicorns – on my world, anyway – use magic to hold things, and we cast spells to do a lot of other things. Um…” she cast around for something illustrative. “If I need to move quickly, I sometimes teleport rather than walk. That’s a short range thing usually – the power cost goes up exponentially with distance, though there’s a lower limit below which the magic involved is constant…”

The professor smiled widely, his hands twitching with excitement. “A form of apparition! Excellent, but not quite what I was looking for. Spykoranuvellitar?”

Spike winced. “I prefer just ‘Spike’, really. And there’s a spell on me which means I can do a kind of post-delivering magic. I think it’s a kind of floo?” he finished, looking uncertainly at Twilight.

She gave him a quick nod.

“Remarkable. But again, not what I was thinking of.” Flitwick turned, and waved a hand at the board. Chalk leapt up and began writing.

The next words had the tone of something well rehearsed and often said. “Magic is divided into three main areas. The Will, the Wand and the Word. Or, that’s what we call them, though none of them are quite accurate. The Wand is any magical focus – I presume your horn works like that, Miss Sparkle?”

“Twilight, please,” Twilight requested. “And yes, unicorn horns are considered magical foci – like pegasus wings and earth pony hooves.”

“Hm. Interesting,” Flitwick said, and Twilight could see him itching to ask her about the other two races of pony. “But yes, when I say ‘wandless’ magic, I mean any magic performed with no focus. I’m sure all of you have done that… after all, how do you know you’re witches and wizards?”

“Oh!” Padma Patil exclaimed. “Accidental magic!”

“Precisely. Three points to Ravenclaw – though I will take one off for not putting your hand up. So, overall two points.” He winked. “Now, let me ask again. Have any of you done wandless magic?”

This time, almost every hand went up. Flitwick spent a few minutes going around the classroom – he was very impressed that Harry’s list of accidental magic included another case of apparition, found Lisa Turpin having set her parents’ flowerbed on fire hilarious and looked slightly put out that Neville had been dropped out of a window.

Finally, he came to the two Equestrians. This time, they were the only ones who didn’t volunteer anything.

“Neither of you?” The professor tapped his chin, pondering. “Hm. Ah, I think I see – you are hardly without your focus, Miss Sparkle. So, have you ever performed magic without conscious Will behind it?”

Twilight blushed. She had, but…

Spike grinned at her. “Go on, Twilight. I know the answer to this one.”

The unicorn swallowed, and looked up. “…alright. Right, when I first went to Celestia’s Academy, I was given a test of hatching a dragon egg. I couldn’t do anything at first, but then my magic went completely haywire. I think I turned everyone else in the room into potted plants, actually… it was terrifying, and I couldn’t stop until Princess Celestia managed to calm me down.”

“I see.” Flitwick nodded gravely. “Don’t feel so down, Miss Sparkle. It is a common factor in magic performed without will – or without a focus – that it is performed with an excess of emotion. I expect that your panic made things worse. That is a lesson you all could learn – focus in magic is vital. If you try to levitate a feather and your focus is elsewhere, you could end up sending the desk flying across the room!”

Several children gasped.

“Which would mean you’d have to put it back later, of course,” he added with a wink.

This time, there was a smattering of laughter.

“Anyway, where was I?” Flitwick stared at the ceiling for a moment, then spun back to the class “Right. Spike. Do you have a tale of accidental magic to share?”

“…I think this might count.” Spike said, frowning. “Well, there’s two things. The first time is when I got the hiccups. I couldn’t control my fire, and I think Celestia got about twenty scrolls inside a minute. The other one…” he got a bit quieter, and Twilight knew full well he was having to force himself to say it. “It’s kind of, well, I’m not proud of it. It was my last birthday… I got really greedy, and… it turns out that dragons – our dragons – kind of… grow, when they’re like that.”

Twilight shivered. “I was so scared for you. The doctor was useless.”

Everyone went quiet for a minute after that.

“Well, that seems to have lowered the mood slightly.” Flitwick put on a determined smile. “Still, I hope you won’t mind if we crack on with the lesson a bit? Now, where had we got to…”

“The Will, I think.” Terry Boot volunteered.

Flitwick pointed at him, snapping his fingers. “Thank you. The Will. It is the most important part of magic. Our magic doesn’t do anything if we just say the words and wave the wand. Observe.”

The diminutive professor brandished his wand, and said “Aguamenti.”

Nothing happened.

“You see, that was an example of a spell with no Will. More precisely,” Flitwick gestured with his wand, “I was restraining my Will. If the spell were cast normally, it would produce water – but I would need to be precise with what I wanted, or run the risk of either far too much water or far too little.”

“With accidental magic, there is usually nothing but the Will – well, perhaps a better term would be the wish. Your magic isn’t used to working properly, and when your emotions get behind some idea and push you end up doing something. Often spectacular, as well! But it’s tiring, because one of the things that the Wand does is avoid wasting magic. And what shapes the magic to avoid wasting more of it is the Word.” By now the chalk had finished writing about the Will on the board, and Flitwick glanced back to check on it. It started on the final section, the Word.

“Words are the least important bit – at least, they’re supposed to be. But they do end up being important, because they can replace some of the Will. Think of them like a stabilizer, if you’re Muggle raised,” he nodded to some of the students in Ravenclaw, “or a cushioning charm. They shape your magic a bit, so it flows more easily in the right direction.”

Flitwick put his wand down on the table, then pointed to it. “Now, just the Will and the Word. Accio.”

The wand went flying right back into his hand. He pointed it at the board eraser. “Just the Will and the Wand.” The eraser went floating into the air. “And, finally, just the Will.” He threw his wand into the air, and it stuck there, hovering above his head.

Several students applauded.

The diminutive professor sketched a bow. “Thank you. Now, we’ll start with a very simple spell. It doesn’t require you to shape your magic – just tell it what to do. Point your wand forwards, think of light, and say ‘lumos’.”

The class complied, and a series of lights of varying colours and intensities sparked into being. Flitwick walked down from the front of the room to inspect various lights, fixing a few problems people were having.

When he got to Twilight, he stopped and frowned. “Hm. Interesting, Miss Sparkle. Do I detect a second magical effect?”

“I’ve always had a large magical reservoir, so I’m buffering it through a smaller one,” she answered. “It took me… three or four years, I think? To get past basic telekinesis reliably and efficiently because of that, and I was wasting masses of power for a long while.”

Flitwick nodded. “Indeed. An important point, there, class. More power does not always make the better wizard! Without control, you are not able to use your power. And – Mister Weasley? Is that wand alright? Your light seems rather… dim.”

Ron looked defensive. “It’s the one my brother Charlie used, and it was fine for him!”

“Hm. A family wand, then… perhaps Gideon Prewett’s. I remember him,” Flitwick looked distant for a moment. Twilight recognized the same look that the princesses sometimes got when talking about ponies long dead, though much less so. “A very skilled man for Charms. You might want to see if Fabion’s is better for you, if your family has access to it. After all, the wand chooses the wizard, and while it is certainly preferable to have a wand than no wand, a focus that matches you is much better. Now, to extinguish the light again, it is ‘Nox’ and think of darkness. Notice how, although you are no longer thinking of light, the spell continues until you end it. This is similar to how enchantments work.”

Twilight wrote frantically with a quill, transcribing the lesson and speculating in the (large) margins she left herself. There was certainly a focus on permanence in this variety of magic, compared to the Equestrian version – perhaps that indicated that the Elements of Harmony had their origin in the past, when this style of magic was better understood in Equestria? It was well known that Star Swirl, for all his extensive notes, had never written down everything he had known… and he was hardly the only ancient mage who had taken secrets to the grave.

Spike, meanwhile, was trying to see if he could change the colour of the light on his wand, or make it brighter. He remembered Twilight doing an exercise similar to that when she was working on illusions, since it improved visualization and specificity.

“Professor?” someone asked. Twilight looked up and saw it was one of the boys who’d said he was “half and half” – Seamus Finnegan.

“Yes, Master Finnegan?” the Charms teacher asked.

“Well, me mam’s a witch, and me da’s a muggle,” Seamus outlined. “Why is it that I’m a wizard?”

Flitwick smiled apologetically, and shrugged. “I’m sorry to say, Master Finnegan, but that isn’t currently understood. We know that magical parents more often have magical children – though not always – and we know that sometimes several muggle-born wizards come from the same family. But we don’t know why.

“It’s genetic.” Twilight found herself saying. Seeing every eye swivel to her, she continued. “Unicorns tend to have unicorn foals because their genetics are like that – but it’s possible for somepony to be a pegasus or earth pony and have latent unicorn genes, which shift in amount over the generations since the last unicorn ancestor by chance until they come out again. A couple of earth ponies in Ponyville – the town I live in – recently had a unicorn and a pegasus child as twins. It’s not a simple dominant-recessive allele issue for us, though it might well be multiple recessive traits combining which produce magic users amongst humans.” Most of the class looked a little lost.

“Genetics?” Flitwick asked, fascinated. “It sounds like a wonderfully explanatory topic. I’d be delighted to hear more about it. What do you mean allele?”

“Right. Er – may I use the board?” she asked, checking her route there would be clear.

“By all means.” Flitwick waved her over, and she trotted to the board before picking up two colours of chalk.

Twilight took a moment to gauge the age of her audience, and how much she’d need to simplify it. “Okay, what I’m going to show is a simplified version, and it won’t be right – it would take statistical analysis to show the real numbers, so this one won’t explain squibs or things like that. But let’s pretend that whether you’re magic or not is controlled by just two… instructions, you inherit from your parents. Big M for muggle, small w for wizard or witch. If you have two w, then you’re a wizard or a witch. If you have just one, you’re not, and if you have two M then you’re also a muggle.”

She chalked two squares on the board, and then divided each into four smaller ones. At the top of both she put a big M and a small w, and then she pointed her right foreleg at Seamus. “You said your mother was a witch?”

“Yeah,” Seamus nodded.

“Right, so she goes here.” Two w's went at the left side of the first box. “Now, when you were born, you got one letter from each parent. You could have had the M or the w from your father…” she chalked a blue M or w into each square, appropriately, “And you got a w from your mother, because that’s the only thing she has.” Four red w's went into the four squares.

“Now, there’s an equal chance of being in any of these four boxes,” she pointed to them in sequence, “so you could be either an MM or an Mw and a muggle, or a ww and a wizard.”

Several students nodded, while the rest frowned.

“If you have two wizarding parents, then under this model the only letter you can get is w. That’s not quite right, like I say,” she shrugged apologetically, “but we’ll leave that for now. And finally, if you are a muggle born…”

She put a second pair of M and w on the side of the lower box, then filled it in. “There’s three which are muggles, but one which is a wizard – or witch. So you can have a wizard born from muggle parents.”

“Wonderful!” Flitwick said. “Is that how it works for unicorns?”

“It’s how lots of basic genetics works,” Twilight hedged, “but the tribe mix among ponies is much more complicated – as it probably is for wizards and muggles in reality. Sadly, I didn’t bring a textbook from my world – I didn’t exactly have time to pack.”

“Well, that’s still a wonderful bit of information. I’ve learned something in my own class, how marvellous.” Flitwick beamed. “Now– yes?”

One of the Ravenclaws had his hand up. “My mum’s a biology teacher at a muggle school. I think I heard her talking about that once – it’s why I have blue eyes when neither of my parents do.”

“Oh! Well, if you’re able to speak to her about it over the Christmas break, I’d be very grateful if she has a textbook to spare. Thank you,” he turned to the unicorn, “and thank you Miss Sparkle.”

Twilight went back to her place, feeling embarrassment warring with euphoria. It did feel good to teach.

“Now, the other thing I wanted to address is pronunciation.” Flitwick resumed his lesson. “To cast a spell, you really do need to say it properly – it’s the syllables, the shape of them, which are very important…”

That more or less set the pattern for most of the lessons. Harry Potter’s presence was more interesting than Twilight and Spike, though only slightly, and the lessons tended to turn into discussions between Twilight and the teacher at least once. She got the sense she was going to be doing more independent research than actual lessons within a few years, which was understandable – after all, the school was set up to teach pupils of secondary school age, not students in full adult growth.

Herbology turned out to be Neville’s strong point – when he was around growing things, he was so much more confident that Twilight could barely believe he was the same boy. (Privately, she suspected that he’d have got a gardening cutie mark were he a pony – he was still new to magical plants, but the kind of skill he was showing reminded her of Applejack’s relentless focus on her own trees. He even managed to keep track of Trevor.)

However, where Herbology was his strength, Potions was his weakness. Twilight couldn’t help but compare the teacher’s relentless perfectionism with her project supervisor in her last years at the Academy… which was probably the problem – that kind of focus, while it brought out the best in students like herself, also put enormous pressure on the less confident students.

Fortunately, she managed to catch a couple of errors before he actually made them and help talk him through making the potion. In effect, he served as her “hands”, which meant that he’d more or less made the potion in his own right.

She planned on pointing that out at the end of the term.

Spike, meanwhile, had ended up partnered with a spare Slytherin. He seemed to be enjoying talking to the other boy, and the boy seemed to be glad he didn’t have to handle the nasty ingredients, so it was working out well for them.

History of Magic was… a disappointment. There was no other way to put it. Twilight had looked forward to learning about the way the wizarding world had developed, but all she got was endless droning talks about the minutiae of goblin rebellions.

The idea of a ghost teaching a class was a little strange.

Eventually, she’d resolved to spend the class making notes on a completely different topic – dismantling spells to their component concepts, and seeing how they compared to an Equestrian equivalent. In particular, the levitation spell she’d practised with Spike two days before term started and how it differed from unicorn levitation.

The unicorn method involved surrounding an object with an aura of power, then feeding in more power to replace energy bleed and using the aura itself to apply absolute physical translations or rotations. There were slightly more advanced variants which anchored the frame of reference to the pony themselves, but it was interesting actually thinking about this sort of thing again. Unicorn foals practised until it was so instinctive it came without thought, like walking – but walking in an instinctive way didn’t help you work out how a digitigrade leg compared to a plantigrade.

The levitation spell, wingardium leviosa, involved an aura at the very start but it was almost a secondary effect. The main feature of how the spell worked was a tether. Slightly springy, very strong and capable of lifting a great weight without transferring much force, it sprang directly from the casting wand (or hand) and almost “levered” the object around. The key was relative motion, not absolute.

The whole thing was utterly fascinating.

Then there was astronomy (a fun class if ever there was one for Twilight, who had started a new notebook simply full of things to suggest to Luna when she got home), Transfiguration (where Twilight had mainly buckled down and tried to work out how the spell operated, usually getting several pages of inconclusive notes and a silent transfiguration by the end of the lesson), and finally Defence Against the Dark Arts.

Quirrellhad explained (in his stuttering way) that a major part of defence was a non-lethal offence, and that it was important to be able to cast spells well. He’d begun teaching a number of minor jinxes to the class and how they worked – as a very basic prelude to later magical ways of fighting. He’d also hinted that the spells in question would be stopped by even the most basic shield, but that enough power behind a jinx relative to the shield would reverse that.

It was a different approach to Lodestone, who had emphasized movement and inventiveness over near-static offensive and defensive spellcasting, but Twilight was already thinking of ways to mix the two styles – along with a few tricks of her own – and beat practitioners of either school.

The flying lessons, on the other hand, were something entirely different. Quite apart from anything else, they were for one term only – and involved a non-wand focus.

Twilight had had to sit out of the lessons, because Professor Kettleburn hadn’t been able to confirm that it was safe for her to lie on a broom (without hands to grip it), and Professor Flitwick’s solution of a custom cushioning charm was taking longer than anticipated – but it made her heart soar to see Spike flying around with a wild grin on his face.

And she’d at least been able to catch Neville when he fell off his broom. Though Harry turned out to have the kind of talent which made her associate him with Dash all the more strongly – truly spectacular flying ability.

Before they knew it, a holiday was coming up. One that both Equestrians recognized in concept, if not in detail – and that had led to another discussion with Percy about cosmic coincidences – as being similar to Nightmare Night.

Twilight had worked for most of the preceding Sunday to make her costume, consisting of layered wing spells and glamours to make her nearly identical to Princess Luna, and Spike had also decided to put in as much effort as he could – resulting in a suit of miniature armour that made him look every inch the knight.

The expressions on everyone’s faces when they left their room that evening, though, told them they’d misunderstood.

“You don’t dress up?” Spike asked. “But it took hours to make this! I had to get extra coal to keep my fire going!”

“Well, we kind of do. But that’s for trick-or-treating. We don’t do it for the holiday as a whole, and it’s usually scary costumes. I think Americans do it more like you are.” Seamus answered. “Still, it’s very impressive, both of you.”

The Weasley twins got identical mischievous looks on their faces. “Why don’t we see who actually says something in the feast?”

Spike grinned. “I like the sound of that!”

Twilight suppressed a grin of her own, then gave in. It was the kind of thing the real Luna would love.

“Just remember.” She said, a few minutes later as they prepared to head down. “You’re all going to be ready for it, I know, but don’t react too soon or too late. It’ll be funnier if you just don’t treat it as unusual.”

The dozen or so kids – the twins, Neville, Ron, Lee Jordan, Seamus, Dean, two other boys, and three girls who Twilight understood to be on the Quidditch team – shared smiles. Twilight then switched her spell set to inactive, turning back into her normal self, and packed Spike’s armour into a small box with a shrinking spell.

With the right come-to-life on it, it could be put back on in seconds.

“Hey, Harry, you coming?” Ron asked, looking over at the boy in question. “Come on, mate, it’s Halloween! Don’t you want to see?”

Neville gasped suddenly, and tugged Ron’s arm. “Shut up!”

“What?” Ron asked crossly.

“Look, Ron…” the Longbottom boy seemed to shrink in on himself slightly. “It’s Halloween. The day You-Know-Who died.”

“Yeah! It’s a day of celebration!” Ron said, shrugging.

“It’s the day Harry’s parents died.” Neville pointed out.

Everyone else there winced suddenly, as they made the connection. “Ouch…”

“Poor thing.” Alicia said.

“Yeah, I wondered why he was so quiet.” Seamus weighed in.

“You could tell? I mean, compared to normal?” Dean tried to joke, though it fell a bit flat.

“Look, I think we should just… give him a little space.” Neville said, seemingly emboldened a little by how people were taking his point on board.

“Alright.” Several people nodded, and Spike hurried over towards Harry.

“Just so you know, we’ll be at the feast, okay?” the dragon said quietly.

Harry nodded slightly.

Unscheduled Excitement

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Unscheduled excitement

The Great Hall was full of pumpkins and pumpkin motifs. And other things, as well, but the pumpkins weren’t usually there – so when Twilight walked in, they were what she noticed first.

She and the other Gryffindors were relatively late to the feast, and it was already in full swing. Most of the humans were too busy eating to look up, but some did. And Twilight had to swallow a giggle when she saw their reactions.

After all, she was clad in layers of glamour and magic which made her look a little taller, a lot darker, rather more bewinged, made her mane flow like the stars, and generally caused her to be the spitting image of Princess Luna last Nightmare Night. Comparatively speaking, Spike next to her was barely noticeable.

The conversations bubbling around the tables started to falter as people alerted their friends to the unusual sight and others turned to look. Confusion was mixed with a faint hint of fear from some, though others had started to look back and forth between her disguised cutie mark and the crescent moon visible through the roof.

That had been pure luck, actually. Halloween happened to fall on a one-third full crescent moon, which fit Luna’s cutie mark closely enough that Twilight had tweaked her illusion to make it an exact copy. Artistic license.

Dumbledore looked over his glasses at her, then through them, then nodded amicably to the others at the high table (which Twilight noticed was almost full – there were only two empty seats, one for the perennially-absent Divination teacher and one for Quirinus Quirrell) and began cutting himself some pumpkin pie. Twilight suspected he’d worked out what was going on one way or another.

Not saying anything yet, Twilight trotted smartly over to the Gryffindor table and sat down, with Spike following her. By now almost every eye was on this strange apparition, and many of the Gryffindors who knew what was going on were barely containing their laughter.

She pointed across the table at some potatoes, and addressed Lavender Brown. “Couldst thou pass me the roast potatoes?”

A credible imitation of the Royal Canterlot Voice boomed out – not nearly so loud as Luna herself routinely did, but with the kind of force that echoed in the large hall.

“S-sure…” Lavender said, timidly, and lifted them over to her.

Twilight took the dish in a magical grip, lifted one onto a fork, and delicately ate it. “Marvellous.”

Dumbledore stood up and began to applaud, surprising most of the room. “Excellent costume, Twilight Sparkle. Wonderful display of detailed illusion magic. I confess, at first I thought another of your countryfolk had joined us.”

Twilight toggled the costume off, producing an intake of breath as she confirmed what Dumbledore was saying. “Thank you, Professor. I’m afraid I forgot to research the customs on Halloween here, and assumed they were like they are in Equestria.”

“Entirely understandable,” he replied, across the silent hall. “I must say, were that part of our own Halloween traditions then the feast would be rather more colourful. Perhaps it would be good to give consideration to such an idea… but don’t let me keep you from your food. Eat up!”

Twilight put the illusion back on, and started getting herself a proper meal – noticing that, as usual, the elves had delivered Spike’s special dinner right where it had to go.

“Who’s that you’re dressed as?” Sally-Anne Perks asked. “Why do they have wings?”

“Well, I made myself look like Princess Luna.” Twilight decided not to keep up the Royal Canterlot Voice, because she was just having a private conversation. Besides, she’d spent a fair amount of effort helping Luna to stop using it… “She’s one of the rulers of Equestria, and she’s in control of the moon.”

Cormac McLaggen looked up from his own meal. “What, the whole moon?”

“Yes.” Twilight nodded, simply. “Princess Luna is one of the alicorns, who have wings and horns – they have equal parts unicorn, pegasus and earth pony magic, and they’re very powerful. Celestia and Luna, the Royal Sisters, are over a thousand years old – Celestia controls the sun, and Luna controls the moon.”

“Wait a second.” Seamus said, frowning. “Aren’t princesses the daughters of queens? Or have I forgotten something?”

“Not in Equestria. There’s no queen – or king – there. I think the reason Celestia uses the term princess is because it makes more sense to have more than one princess than it does to have more than one queen, and she didn’t want to exclude her sister.”

Twilight winced slightly, suddenly reminded of the situation in Equestria when she left. She’d been running herself ragged trying not to ever since they’d first materialized here, but it did hurt.

It’s alright, Twilight, she told herself. They didn’t see what you did, and you’ve got worked up over nothing before. And when we go back, you can go back the moment after we left. You won’t miss anything.

“What’s Halloween like where you come from?” someone asked. She hadn’t learned his name yet, because he was in one of the upper years and she didn’t run into him nearly as often.

Twilight looked up, grateful for the distraction. “Well, we actually call it Nightmare Night. It’s based on the story of Nightmare Moon, and…”

The food, as usual, was excellent, and delivering a semi-lecture as part of a meal suited Twilight very well. Spike was more involved with chatting with humans of around his age – boys, mostly, though girls on occasion – about topics like flying and… well, mainly flying.

Around an hour in, the feast was interrupted by a loud bang as the doors slammed open. Everyone looked around to see the Defence against the Dark Arts teacher staggering in, clothes torn and in a panic.

“Troll in the dungeons!” he shouted. “Big one! I…I… thought it was important.” And with those words, he collapsed forwards.

Almost before people had started to panic, Dumbledore set off an explosion from his wand.

“Excuse me, everyone!” he said, his voice magically amplified by some spell. “Please remain calm. Prefects, please make sure students of your houses remain in the Great Hall. Half of the professors will remain in here to keep them safe, the other half will search for the troll!” He cancelled his spell and began speaking more normally to the various teachers.

Normally Twilight would have started analyzing how that wizarding spell compared with the Equestrian equivalent, but things weren’t quite calm enough for that and neither was she.

Someone ran over to Quirrell and helped him up, supporting him with their arm. He still looked dazed, but a student in the upper years had cast a spell on him and he was clearly recovering.

Twilight looked around, thoughts whirling. There was a dangerous creature in the school? Why was there a dangerous creature in the school? It was a school, not the Everfree Forest! This was terrible!

Unless it was some kind of Halloween scare, like Luna did on Nightmare Night? But no, that didn’t make sense, since the older students were all as panicked as the younger ones. They’d be used to it if it was, and-

Oh no.

“What about Harry?” she asked urgently.

Her partners in mischief looked back at her, realizing what she meant.

“But… he’s in the Tower, right?” Fred asked.

George nodded. “That should be safe.”

“No, no, he said he might come down!” Twilight fought down the beginnings of a panic attack. “If he’s coming down and he thinks it’s all fine, he might run into the troll on his own!”

Spike gulped beneath his costume. “Trolls are bad news. They’re very resistant to magic… that’s all I remember, really, except that they’re also very strong and tough.”

Twilight fretted for a moment, then made a decision. “Right. I’ll go make sure he’s alright.”

“You can’t go!” Spike said. “It might not be safe!”

“If Harry’s on the way down and the troll’s there, I can help him. If he’s on the way down and the troll’s not there, I can warn him. And if he’s not on the way down, then at least he’ll know not to come down.” Twilight listed off the possibilities, and made for the door. “Percy, I’m going to make sure Harry’s okay.”

“You’re what? Wait!” The red-headed prefect turned in shock.

“I’m going too.” Ron said. “I’m the one who was stupid about it, and he’s my friend.”

Neville got up to go as well, along with Spike and the twins. Percy gaped, shook his head, and explained the situation tersely to his counterpart prefect from the girls’ dorm before following with his wand drawn.

What’s the way we always take from the Gryffindor Tower to the Great Hall? Twilight asked herself, galloping for the main steps. It’s a Thursday, so… Trying to remember how the stairs worked, she hurried up as fast as she could. It was still slightly awkward, but the main stairs were a much gentler slope than the spiral ones leading up to the Headmaster’s office and she’d got fairly used to them. Er… oh! The only good route to the fifth floor and up is the other stairs, and this one’s the only one to get to the fourth floor.

That meant a connecting corridor along the fourth floor.

Reaching the third floor, Twilight felt her legs starting to burn and paused, panting. A flicker of movement caught her eye, and she flinched back for a moment before realizing it was a robe, not a troll – and moving away from her.

Twilight weighed the advantages of calling out, and decided against it. Presumably the teachers had worked out a way of efficiently quartering the building already.

Besides, she technically wasn’t supposed to be here. So she didn’t say anything, and got right back to climbing stairs again.

Stupid castle and its stupid anti-teleportation wards…

When she finally reached the fourth floor, she paused for a second to work out the quickest route to the other staircase – and heard a crash from one of the corridors, followed by a slightly panicky “Impedimenta!”

That’s not going to work, she thought to herself as she started following the sound. A lot of magical creatures in this world have thick skin, and an inherent magical resistance – a lot like Equestrian dragons. Perhaps that means-

Twilight’s train of thought derailed as she cantered around a corner and saw a boy – clearly Harry, from his black hair and his short stature – backing away from an oncoming troll as fast as he could. He was launching what looked like all the jinxes and curses he knew at the creature, but the list wasn’t exactly a long one.

Focusing, Twilight channelled magic into her horn as she ran forward. Trolls are resistant to magic – but I don’t need to hurt it, just make sure-

Harry heard her coming, and was just turning to look as she skidded to a halt beside him. A blazing pink dome materialized around them, and the troll’s club bounced off it with a loud thwack and a shower of sparks.

“Thank you, Shiny…” she muttered to herself. “Thank you.” Then she looked back up at the troll, which was frowning in puzzlement at the pink sphere and poking it with a finger.

“W-what just happened?” Harry asked.

“Professor Quirrell warned us there was a troll in the castle. I don’t know how it got up here, but I realized you might be in trouble.” Twilight explained, wincing as the troll hit her shield again. Looking down, she realized she was still wearing her Nightmare Night costume, and dispelled it to clear her core in case she needed to channel lots of magic at once. “Looks like I got here just in time.”

“Harry!” Ron shouted from behind them. “You alright, mate?”

“Y-yeah, thanks Ron.” Harry replied. “So far.”

“Nice work, Twilight!” Spike grinned, before shouting over the sound of the troll resuming its assault. “How long can you keep that up?”

“Quite a long time, I think!” Twilight replied, monitoring her mana expenditure. Thankfully Shining’s shields were well optimized, even if she never could get quite the same performance out of them that he did. This particular one was designed for purely physical impact resistance.

“Well, we do have a predicament.” The twins said simultaneously.

“Why did all of you follow me?” Twilight asked. “Is that Neville as well?”

“Yeah.” Neville said quietly. “You’re our friend.”

As if it was that simple. And… it really was.

“There you are!” Percy said, hurrying around the corner. “What do you all think – oh.”

To give Percy credit, he recovered quickly from the shock of seeing a glowing pink shield protecting a unicorn from a troll on the fourth floor of Hogwarts.

“Right. Er…” he pointed his wand at the troll. “Expelliarmus!”

A jet of light flashed from his wand, hit the troll, and did nothing much.

Twilight glanced back, interested. “What was that spell?” There was another thud and shower of sparks from her shield.

“It’s a disarming spell,” Percy answered, looking vaguely put out. “I’d hoped it wouldn’t resist it because it affects the club, not the troll…”

“Of course!” Feeling stupid for not seeing that solution, Twilight split her attention between the shield and her telekinesis and began trying to pull the club out of the troll’s hand. “And… there!”

The club went flying into the air, bounced off the roof, and landed somewhere past the troll, which looked at its hand in confusion.

“Right.” Percy said. “Well done. Ronald, can you go and get one of the professors, please? I saw Professor Snape on the third floor when I came up.”

“Why does it have to be me?” Ron asked, annoyed.

“Random chance, Ronald. Now hurry up.” Percy turned back towards the troll. “Twilight, do you have any spells that might work on it? I’m afraid that penetrating spell resistance is NEWT level and I’ve not read ahead on Defence Against the Dark Arts.”

“Spell resistance…” Twilight shuffled through her Equestrian magic repertoire. “Most of my spells are more utility or straight-combat, and I’m rusty on many of those. Is spell resistance absolute?”

“No, it’s a relative factor.” Percy’s eyes wandered up as he tried to remember the exact wording of his textbook. “Spells below power level A are absorbed to no effect, spells between A and B are partially absorbed with their power increasing non-linearly compared to the original spell, spells above B…”

Fred, George, Harry, Spike and Neville watched with some bemusement as Percy gave Twilight a quick rundown on how spell resistance operated, punctuated by thracks as the troll tried an experimental fist blow to the shield.

“Okay, so enough power should get through it, thanks.” Twilight turned, powered up an Equestrian non-lethal blasting spell, and fired.

Everyone was at least a bit surprised when the troll went even further down the corridor than its club had, and hit the opposite wall upside down.

“I thought you said they were highly resistant to magic!” Twilight said, staring at her hoofwork.

Percy gulped. “I thought you had a lot less magic than that.”

Spike was grinning, vindicated in his resolute belief that Twilight was the best unicorn there was at magic. Everyone else just looked a bit scared.

Then the twins grinned. “That was-”


Neville raised a hand. “Er… what do we do now?”

“Oh, yes, sorry,” Percy shook his head. “Right. Anyone hurt at all?”

“I’m not,” Twilight began. “But I don’t know about Harry.”

“No, I’m fine.” Harry said, in a slightly uncertain voice.

“Good.” Percy said awkwardly. “Er, why was Harry not at the Feast?”

“It’s the anniversary of the death of his parents.” Neville explained. “He wasn’t sure if he wanted to come down at all.”

“Oh, goodness.” Percy flushed. “Sorry for asking, I hadn’t realized.”

“Nobody does.” Harry said bitterly, and then hiccupped a bit. “I…”

“You alright?” Twilight asked. “It’s always frightening after something big happens. I know what it’s like.”

Harry looked up. “Like what?”

“You start to realize everything that could have gone wrong. You start second-guessing yourself over what you could have done better.” Twilight swallowed. “While you’re in danger, you don’t have time to be afraid, but once it’s over all that hits you at once. I… don’t like it.”

Spike grinned weakly. “At least you’ve got practice at it by now.”

“I’d rather not have had to.” Twilight flicked her ears and tail.

“Hey, where’d the troll go?” Ron asked, returning with Dumbledore and Flitwick.

Fred and George spun to face their younger brother. “It was-”

“-amazing! Twilight-”

“-blasted it right down the-”


“My word.” Flitwick peered around Twilight, seeing the concussed troll up against the wall. “How much power did you put into that spell?”

Twilight looked awkward. “I didn’t know how much the spell resistance would stop, so I erred on the high side.”

“Well, you did say you have trouble lowering your power…” Flitwick said, half to himself. “Most impressive.”

“Now, we should get all this sorted out.” Dumbledore said. “Why were you all up here?”

“It’s my fault,” Harry began. “I wasn’t at the feast, and I was on my way down when the troll-”

“Oh, of course.” Dumbledore mused. “I thought someone was missing. And you wouldn’t have heard Professor Quirrell’s warning, of course. Do explain how it was your fault that a troll got into Hogwarts, though. I’m sure it’ll be quite the tale…”

“Er, no,” the boy mumbled. “I didn’t let it in.”

“Well, it’s the only part of this you could be at fault over. Now, Twilight Sparkle. Why are you up here?”

Twilight looked down, feeling rotten. “…I panicked. Sorry. I know you said to stay in the Great Hall, and I could have told one of the professors, but… I just didn’t think.”

“I see.” Dumbledore looked over his glasses at her. “I understand from what you have told me of your past that you are used to handling emergencies yourself, but it is better to rely on the staff in situations like this.”

You didn’t make it in time!” Ron said suddenly.

Twilight shook her head at him, frustrated that people were making excuses for her. She knew how important it was to accept fault. “No, he’s right. If I’d told the teachers, they could have got here in time. They didn’t even know.”

“You ran all the way here.” Neville pointed out quietly. “And you can’t apparate in Hogwarts.”

“Please.” Her voice stilled them. “I appreciate you trying to find ways that I’m not to blame, but… I feel I’ve done something wrong, somehow. Maybe I’m wrong. But I still feel that way. I didn’t think – and that’s what I’m supposed to be good at.”

She sounded more bitter than she meant to.

After a moment, Flitwick excused himself and headed over to the troll, to try and remove it from the castle humanely.

Dumbledore stroked his beard, considering. “It is true that your assistance prevented a potential catastrophe, Twilight Sparkle. Perhaps this will suffice. You will be given a detention for leaving an area of safety during a crisis-” he held up his hand to quiet the other pupils, “and you will receive twenty points for successfully protecting your schoolmate. Does that seem acceptable?”

Twilight nodded jerkily, as the aftereffects of the adrenaline rush started to bite.

“Very well, then. Please report to Hagrid this Saturday evening, after dinner. I believe he has a number of tasks that may suit you.”

Once they got back to Gryffindor Tower, Twilight ignored the others and made straight for their room. Spike followed, concerned, and winced as she collapsed onto the bed.

“You alright, Twi?” he asked.

“No.” Twilight answered, a hitch in her voice. “That was… terrifying.

“But…” Spike waved a claw. “You’ve faced Discord! And Nightmare Moon! And… and… me!”

“Yeah.” Twilight shuddered. “But I was… I got there just in time. I can’t stop thinking about what might have happened if I was just a second later.” Spike noticed that she was breathing deeply and evenly, presumably to try to avoid panicking. “It… seems more real, when there’s just one person.”

“…alright.” Spike walked over to the growing stack of books Twilight had taken out of the library, sorted through it for a minute or so, and picked out a book on spell theory. “Just so you know, I probably won’t understand most of this, but it’ll do you good.”

Sitting on the edge of the bed, he flipped from the contents page to a chapter about enchanting. “Right. Uh… a number of forms of enchantment exist. The simplest, known as the Persistent Spell, is simply a magical charm or transfiguration that is temporary but long lived, such as the Cushioning Charm. Many forms of magical… uh… I don’t even know what that word is.”

Twilight giggled, and looked up. “Are you trying to read a book to me at bedtime?”

“Yeah.” Spike said, running his claw along the word. “But it’s not working. Hmm… male-ism?”

“Let me see.” Twilight peered over Spike’s shoulder. “Oh. Malison. It’s a really archaic way of saying curse.”

“Then why don’t they just say curse?” Spike asked, throwing his claws up. Twilight caught the book as it began to slide. “I mean, do they get points for using more obscure words?”

“You didn’t mind archaic,” Twilight pointed out.

Spike shook his head. “That’s a nice word. I like that word. Anyway, should I keep going?”

Twilight waved the book slightly, and he took it again. “Go ahead.”

“Right. Many forms of magical… malison… are simply long-lived… detrimental spells, hence meaning that they are an enchantment either on an object or a person. The more specific forms of enchantment include runic enchantments, where a spell formula is inscribed by way of runes that define an effect – such as were used in… antiquity, I think?” Twilight nodded. “And more modern arithmantic enchantments, where the spell is converted to a single diagram and mapped onto an object. Certain types of subtractive enchantment also exist, where an object with innate magical properties is refined by removing undesirable traits.”

Spike stopped. “I don’t think I can go much further, it gets into equations in another couple of sentences.”

“Thanks, though. I do feel better.” Twilight put a hoof on his shoulder for a moment. “Now, you’d better go clean your teeth.”

“Do I have to?” Spike asked. “I mean, they mentioned something about bringing some of the feast up here.”

“All right.” Twilight said. “Go on, then. Oh, what happened to your costume armour?”

“I took it off halfway up the stairs, it was getting in the way. I’ll get it tomorrow.” Spike answered, already half way to the door.

“Make sure you remember!” she called after him.

The final lesson the next day was an hour long Defence Against the Dark Arts session, which was inevitably focused on magical creatures. It turned out that Quirrell was in fact quite well qualified to handle trolls, though he admitted that he’d much prefer to handle them with the assistance of a number of other wizards.

As everyone was leaving, however, he raised his voice.

“E-excuse me? Miss S-Sparkle?”

Twilight turned, surprised. “Yes, Professor?”

“A w-word, if i-i-it’s not too m-much trouble,” he said, forcing the words through his stutter as normal.

She nodded, and stepped aside to let Dean and Lavender through. “Of course not. This is my last class of the day.”

“T-thank you.” He waited until everyone else had left, then closed the door and sat down. “Now, M-Miss Sparkle, I was w-wondering if you had n-noticed how strange that t-troll was.”

“Not really.” Twilight admitted. “I’m looking forward to Care of Magical Creatures, of course, but that’s third year-”

“N-not in that s-sense, M-Miss Sparkle. It all s-seemed very… convenient.” Twilight looked lost, and he elaborated. “Y-you are aware of the t-third-floor corridor?”

“Yes, Professor Dumbledore mentioned it.” Twilight nodded.

“I t-think that s-someone may be trying to s-steal what is concealed in the c-corridor.” At her surprise, he gave a tense smile. “H-Hogwarts has been called the s-safest p-place in Britain, though it m-may not seem like it a-after Halloween. D-D-Dumbledore asked for my h-help in p-protecting something.”

“Oh, okay…” Twilight frowned. “Wouldn’t that goblin bank… Gringotts?” Quirrell nodded an affirmative. “Wouldn’t that be a safer place?”

“P-possibly. But D-Dumbledore thinks differently.” Quirrell shrugged. “He is a g-great w-wizard.”

“I suppose…” Twilight said, troubled. “But what do you want me to do?”

“J-just let me know if you s-see anything s-suspicious,” the Defence professor said. He probably couldn’t be more specific, because almost anything might qualify

“Oh!” Twilight gasped. “I did see something when I was running up to try and find Harry. There was someone going into the third-floor corridor. I… didn’t think anything of it, really,” she finished, a little guiltily.

That wasn’t entirely true, after all. And hadn’t Percy said he saw someone on that floor? Who was it? She couldn’t remember…

“M-most troubling. I w-was with P-Professor K-Kettleburn, so it c-can’t have been him… if it w-was someone who w-was s-supposed to be here at all.” Quirrell looked grim.

“You think someone might have snuck in?” Twilight asked.

“I c-can’t rule it out.” Quirrell raised his hands, in a gesture Twilight was almost certain indicated his uncertainty over what to do.

Twilight nodded. “Alright, I’ll keep an eye out.”

“I c-can’t ask for m-more than that.” Quirrell got up, and opened the door. “T-thank you for your t-time, Miss S-Sparkle.”

“Alright, then, Hagrid,” Twilight said, as the last natural light of the second of November faded. “What are we doing? I don’t think I’ve ever actually had a detention before.”

“Well, I can’t speak for the Professors,” Hagrid replied, hefting a crossbow in one hand and holding the leash of his huge dog Fang in the other, “But I’ve always believed in practical work. See, I’ve got to go into the Forbidden Forest to patrol it anyway, and you may as well come along.”

“Er, okay.” Twilight cast a pair of light spells, one from her horn and the other a local lumos from her wand. “Does that help?”

“Well, if you aren’t a prize!” Hagrid chuckled. “Most people I have to ask to do that. Right, there’s only three of us, so we should stay in one group. Come on.”

Hagrid set off with great strides towards the forest perimeter, leaving Twilight having to do an awkward trot-canter to keep up.

“Is there a particular reason you have to patrol?” Twilight asked as they reached the trees, keeping her eyes on the ground to be sure she didn’t trip over branches or roots. “It must eat up a lot of time.”

“Well, kinda.” Hagrid admitted. “Normally I’d do it only a couple times a week, but recently there’s been somethin’ nasty in the forest at night.” He looked worried. “This isn’t takin’ time you need to do essays, is it?”

“Oh, no.” Twilight shook her head. “I made sure I was caught up with classwork. I’m going to start researching shield spells tomorrow. Did you say something nasty was in the forest?”

“Yeh. Somethin’s been killin’ unicorns,” the big man said grimly.

Twilight tripped, stumbled, and only Hagrid grabbing her across the back saved her from falling over. “Something’s been what?

“…oh. Sorry.” Hagrid winced. “Should have remembered. Sorry, I’m just used teh… never mind.”

Breathing fast, Twilight put her hooves back on firm ground, and Hagrid let go. “Killing unicorns? Something in here is killing unicorns?”

“Yeh. I don’t know what it is. At first I thought it could be a werewolf or summat, but there was an attack two weeks ago, and that weren’t a full moon.” Hagrid gestured with his crossbow. “Don’t worry, you’ll be all right with me and Fang.”

“…have you been taking other students on these trips?” Concentrating, Twilight formed a contingent shield spell – almost but not quite cast, so she could throw it up on reflex. It was magically costly, but she didn’t care right now.

“Well, yeah.” Hagrid said, puzzled.

“That’s… probably not safe.” Twilight felt proud of having restrained herself into merely calling it unsafe. “Right, we’re in here now, let’s get this done so I can go back inside.”

After several experiences in the Everfree forest, the idea of walking around where a potentially hostile creature might be was very upsetting.

Twilight jumped at every creak or animal noise, imagining everything from a hostile dragon to a cockatrice lurking in the darkness, but nothing materialized until, half an hour after they entered the forest, Hagrid pointed at some shimmering material in a clearing.

“That’s probably unicorn blood,” he said, grimly. “Nasty business.”

By the time they were in the clearing, Twilight was feeling faint. She took one look at the large, white animal stretched out on its side-



-and was noisily sick into a bush.

“You alright?” Hagrid said, crouching down. “An’ I thought horses couldn’t be sick…”

“No, I’m not alright.” Twilight said, through tears. “I… one of my best friends has a white coat. And my teacher – she’s even about the same size. I just saw… them. Not just…” She coughed, and spat to get the taste out of her mouth. “Urrrgh… ponies can, but it’s harder for the occasional pony who’s larger than normal. I didn’t study biology much, I don’t know why…”

“Huh.” Hagrid was silent for a moment. “Tell yeh what, just stay over there. I’ll keep an eye on yeh, and so will Fang. Mind passin’ me yer wand, so I can see what I’m doin, though?”

Twilight levitated the ash wand over, and Hagrid took it between two fingers.

“Don’t worry. I’ll be careful with it,” he added.

Twilight heard the rustling of undergrowth as Hagrid moved over to the dead unicorn. Don’t think about it, don’t think about it…

“Well, this isn’t good.” Hagrid said. “This poor mare has been dead a good couple of days… and nothing’s been eaten. Weren’t a predator, unless it was after blood.”

Gulping, Twilight worked up the confidence to ask a question. “Why hasn’t it been eaten by other predators?”

“Unicorns – well, the unicorns we have here – are pure creatures. Nothin’ will eat ‘em, pretty much. As for the blood, it’s supposed to be powerfully magic, but there’s a cost to it.” Hagrid said distractedly. “I don’t understand it myself. Never was interested in that sorta subject. Some sort of curse?”

“Right.” Twilight swallowed convulsively. “Can we go? I still feel a bit ill.”

Hagrid walked back over. “Yeh, alright. I’ll come back and pick ‘er up later. Fang! Home, boy.”

Fang turned and started pulling on the leash. Hagrid followed, and Twilight started moving after him. She picked up her wand from him a moment later, and started focusing on the ground again.

This has not been a fun week…

The next day, Twilight threw herself into research again. She started with the local version of shield spells, but after a while found herself wondering where a book mentioning the nature of unicorn blood could be found.

Doggedly sticking to shield spells, she managed to get the most basic one – protego, a shield bubble which could stop most low powered spells – working, before the temptation grew too much and she went after a book on uses of magical creatures.

It wasn’t encouraging. Unicorn blood was full of magic, enough that it could stabilize a creature which would otherwise be about to die – it could even reverse aging if taken in enough quantity – but the curse Hagrid mentioned was there all right. It doomed the subject to feel less and less enjoyment in life, because they had killed such a pure creature for such base reasons.

Twilight turned the pages with mounting disgust. Not only was this a repellent subject anyway, it wasn’t even a sensible way to go about extending life. She could see that much. Sheer magical overload would cause the natural magical production of the body to atrophy, and the user would become increasingly reliant on the magical substance – and after a while, if they stopped it would be fatal.

There was a small flash of fire next to her, and Peewee dropped out of the air to land on the table.

“Oh, hi, Peewee…” Twilight said. “Sorry, I’ve been feeling a bit off the last few days.”

Peewee chirped something disapproving, then started to sing.

It wasn’t very complex, as bird song went, but it was lovely to listen to. Twilight could feel her mood lifting.

“I see you’ve learned something new,” she said, as he finished. “Thanks. I needed that.”

The little phoenix chirruped self-importantly, and flew off as Madam Pince came to see what the noise was.

Hearing me out

View Online

It was two days later that the dam finally broke.

“What happened?” Sally-Anne Perks asked, almost blurting it out. She then promptly blushed and looked terribly embarassed.

“What happened when?” Twilight asked, looking up from her book with a feeling of foreboding. She'd known this was coming, but hadn't exactly looked forward to it.

“With... the troll, and whatever happened on Saturday,” the girl said.

“Okay.” Twilight closed her book – advanced magical law – and sighed. “When we got told about the troll, I realized Harry might be in danger, because he wasn't there to hear. So I went up to find him and warn him, and...” she shrugged her shoulders. “I cast a shield spell, which stopped it, and then I hit it with a stun spell.”

There were murmurs.

“As for the thing on Saturday... sorry, but I'd really rather not talk about it...” Twilight shook her head. “It wasn't nice. Don't worry, I'm fine, I just... don't want to talk about it.”

“What spell did you cast?”

“My brother taught it to me. It's something he called a shimmershield – it's hard to cast, but shield spells are his speciality and he can make them do amazing things.” She smiled for a moment, at an old memory – Shining Armor using a specially designed shield to keep heat out of an ice cream.

“You have a brother?” Cormac Mac Laggen said, startled. “I didn't think...”

“I do. His name's Shining Armor. He's a royal guard – that's like an Auror, I think, but not quite the same...”

“That was exhausting,” Twilight said, two hours later, when the question-and-answer session finally petered out.

“You alright?” Spike checked.

Twilight tossed her head. “I hope so. I just...”

She was quiet for a minute or so.

“Right. Where was I?” With a determined look on her face, she picked the case law book back up and scanned the bookmarked page. “There we go.”

“What is that?” the dragon asked.

Twilight gave him a sharp look. “Are you just asking to get out of homework?”

“No, I've done mine for today.” As proof, Spike held up a roll of parchment in slightly ink-stained claws.

Twilight took it and speed-read her way through the essay. “Not bad at all, Spike. I'm sure Professor Flitwick will be pleased.”

Spike grinned bashfully.

“Anyway. I'm reading about Wizarding law, and it's taking a while. They use common law here, so I have to read all the precedents to understand it...”

“Okay.” Spike nodded, then frowned. “What about us getting home?”

Twilight looked him in the eye. “Spike, that's probably going to take years. I'm sorry about that, but it is. I know it can look like I'm focusing on everything else, but I'm spending at least an hour a day ploughing through the maths behind this kind of spell on the Equestrian end-”

“Okay, okay,” Spike said, raising his hands. “Sorry.”

The unicorn winced. “No, I'm sorry, you deserve to be kept up to date.”

Spike shrugged. “Don't sweat it.”

Twilight watched him walk over to some of their class-mates, and begin asking questions about Quodpot.

She still felt a bit guilty about snapping at him, but if he wasn't going to make an issue about it, then perhaps they could both just let the subject quietly die.

On Thursday, a letter landed in front of Twilight at breakfast.

“Thanks, Owlowiscious,” she said, and he replied with a hoot before winging off upwards.

A moment's work with her telekinesis neatly stripped off the wax seal – something official looking – and she unfolded the thick parchment.

“Hmm... okay.”

A second letter landed in front of Spike.

“It'll probably be the same thing as I got, Spike,” Twilight said, as he finished his fried egg and reached for the letter. “Check to make sure, though.”

“Sure,” he replied, wiping his claws on a napkin.

“And don't-”

“Talk with my mouth full, yeah, yeah,” he said, and swallowed. “Right. Uh... something about the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures?”

“Yes, that's what I got.” Twilight looked over at his letter. “Court time's the same, as well.”

“We have to go to court?” Spike gulped.

“It's just a formality,” Twilight soothed. “Or it should be, anyway. We're certainly intelligent creatures, and if they nearly took in trolls...”

“Right.” Spike nodded.

“Oh, you're going to the Ministry?” Ron asked. “Huh. My dad works there. Different department, though.”

“What's he again?” Twilight tapped a hoof. “I probably should remember...”

“Misuse of Muggle Artefacts,” Ron rattled off. “Well, there's only a few people in his department, so he's kind of overworked, but he likes it.”

“Oh, okay then.” Twilight got up from the bench. “I'll go let the headmaster know.”

Dumbledore looked over his glasses. “Indeed? How peculiar. Normally there is much more notice given for such a hearing. It is today, you said?”

Twilight nodded, holding up her letter with telekinesis.

“Eleven AM, the seventh of November. Indeed it is.” Dumbledore contemplated his mostly-finished breakfast, and pushed his chair out with a scrape of stone. “Well, then, since I believe you require transport, I shall accompany you.”

“Thank you,” Twilight said, smiling. “I'm afraid I haven't been to the Ministry yet, so yes, I do require transport.”

“And, of course, it is not possible to apparate or disapparate within Hogwarts. Since I understand your own teleportation uses the same method, there is that to consider as well... simply give me a few minutes to retrieve my cloak, and we shall be off.”

The main hall of the Ministry building was almost like Diagon Alley all over again.

Once more, Twilight and Spike were the involuntary centres of attention – the sight of a purple unicorn and a small, bipedal dragon drawing every eye even before it became apparent they were wearing altered forms of Hogwarts robes.

And yet, there were differences. Rather than everyone staring individually, it became more that the crowd aggregated into small knots and talked quietly amongst themselves, still looking at them most of the time.

Dumbledore strode confidently through the hushed hall, heading for a particular set of doors, and the two Equestrians followed along in his wake.

As she hurried along behind him, Twilight found time to take in the architechture. It was all very unusual, to her eyes – ponies tended towards airy structures more than anything, while this whole complex was underground; But, at the same time, she could see a practical hoof – hand – had shaped it.

This big area was obviously for people to get from place to place without crowding, and the entrances all along one wall allowed for substantial throughput.

There was one thing still bothering her, though. The upper balconies indicated that people worked up there, but there was no sign of any stairs. And if they were behind the doors she was headed for, then they would take up a large amount of space...

Dumbledore tapped on a door with his wand, and it slid open to reveal a very small room. “Come in, please, Twilight. You as well, Spike.”

Twilight looked at the room, confused. “It's not very big...”

“Ah!” The old wizard nodded to himself. “Yes, I suppose you wouldn't be familiar. No, this is what is called a lift. It is a small room which moves from place to place.”

The unicorn's eyes lit up. “That would be so useful! It must be like a dumb-waiter? I've seen a few of those in Canterlot – I can't imagine why we didn't think of scaling them up. Or maybe we have...” she trailed off in confusion, thinking hard. Canterlot Castle was old, built hundreds of years ago as an administrative centre and royal residence. It was entirely possible that the Equestrian version of these 'lifts' was a more recent invention.

Maybe there were some in Manehattan? Now that she came to think of it, there'd be a terrible crush on the stairs of a high-rise building otherwise...

Dumbledore coughed discreetly. Twilight flushed, and trotted forwards into the lift car. Spike followed her, and then the doors closed with a clunk.

“Er, hi?” Twilight said, holding up the notice she'd received in the post. “I have a hearing at eleven?”

The receptionist didn't look up, instead checking the papers on her desk. “Please wait in the antechamber through the door on the left until called.”

“Right.” Twilight looked over to the only door that was on the left in any way. “Okay. Do both of us wait there?”

“That's the waiting room,” the receptionist replied. “Next?”

“She wasn't very polite,” Spike muttered.

“Well, she does seem busy...” Twilight looked back. The man in the queue behind them was giving her a number of glances, and seemed a little distracted.

“The Being division is, perhaps, a little more in demand than most,” Dumbledore allowed. “Now, since the two of you are separate hearings, I must warn you that I do not believe that you will be permitted to sit in on the hearing of the other.”

“What?” Spike said, a note of uncertainty in his voice. “But-”

“No, I know why.” Twilight's eyes flicked up for a moment, as she called the passage to mind. “Something about how trolls could be trained to repeat simple phrases, and so could pass for intelligent beings when coached by a goblin?”

“That is indeed correct,” Dumbledore confirmed. “However, I should have no such restriction.”

“That'll help.” Twilight gave Spike an encouraging smile. “Don't worry, we'll be fine.”

“If you say so...”

The large teak doors swung open at their approach, and then closed again once they were through with an ominous thud.

With an air of unconcern, Dumbledore sat down on one of the provided chairs. “Well, we have around ten minutes to spare, so perhaps I might prevail upon you for a chat. Tell me, Twilight, how did you come to know Spike?”

“Oh. Well, actually, I hatched him.” Twilight shared a glance with Spike. “I was applying for entrance to Celestia's Academy for Gifted Unicorns, you see...”

“Could – oh!”

Twilight stopped in the middle of describing how she and Spike had begun a more formal relationship some way into her time at the Academy, and turned. “Yes?”

“I'm sorry,” the Ministry employee said, regaining his composure. “Could Mister... ah... Spikoran-nu-”

“Spykoranuvellitar,” Spike filled in, wincing at the poor pronunciation. “Just call me Spike, please.”

“A-alright, then. Could Mister Spike come through into the courtroom for his hearing, please.”

“Good luck,” Twilight said with a smile. “You'll do fine.”

Dumbledore rose as well. “I am afraid we must cut our discussion short, Twilight. A pity, I was rather enjoying it.”

He followed Spike and the Ministry employee out of the room.

It was only when he had left that Twilight realized something strange. Unlike most of the teachers – indeed, all the teachers, and most of the other adults she'd met here – Dumbledore had called her by her first name in conversation today.

It had been so natural she'd not even noticed.

Unfortunately, with no-one left to talk to, Twilight began to become anxious. She couldn't help but worry about how Spike was faring, and how she would fare, and...

To try to take her mind off it, she started pacing. That singularly failed, so she began instead to mentally plan out how she would make up for the day's missed lessons.

Nearly half an hour after Spike went in, the door opened once more. The same Ministry employee poked his head around the door – though Twilight noticed that he seemed a bit more composed this time. “Twilight Sparkle?”

“That's me,” she said promptly. “Excuse me – what happened with Spike? How did he do?”

Looking embarrassed, the man shrugged. “I'm not sure if I'm allowed to tell you...”

Twilight grimaced. “That's a pity.”


Twilight walked over to the door. “Alright, then. May as well get this done.”

The room was... well, large. Rather than the courtrooms she was familiar with, this one incorporated a ten foot wall between the area that witnesses and defendants stood, and even the lowest of the seats for the various officials.

There was also a very large, very securely built chair – with shackles – pushed over to one side of the room. Dumbledore gave her a cheery wave from where he happened to be sitting in it, and carefully got up as she walked to the centre of the circular floor.

“Miss...” there was a pause. “Twilight Sparkle.” The voice came from somewhere in the panel of judges, but she couldn't tell where.

Twilight nodded. “Yes, that's me.”

“You are here for a hearing on your status as a being, as opposed to a beast; and furthermore on your right to carry and use a wand. Do you understand?”

“Well, if I didn't it would be a bit of a black mark on my record...” Twilight stopped. “Sorry, that was sarcastic of me. Yes, I understand.”

That answer produced a bit of quiet muttering.

“Very good,” the main speaker said after a moment. “This court is now in session. Miss... Sparkle, make your case.”

Twilight swallowed, and took a deep breath. “Okay. I am of the opinion that Being status is one that I deserve, mainly on the grounds that I am a self-aware creature with the ability to understand and make reasoned arguments. It could be that I am not as intelligent as I think I am, but in this case the dictum 'I think, therefore I am' could be said to actually apply.”

She paused, marshalling her thoughts. “Further to that, since one of the requirements for Being status is to be able and willing to take part in the process of shaping those laws, might I suggest that the current laws on wand usage could perhaps be construed as unfairly restrictive? While it is true that wand use is not permitted to various non-human beings for cause, and is allowed to others, it seems to my outside eyes as though the main criterion for permitting wand use is that a being be of the same species as humanity.”

There was a short silence.

“Well, that seems clear enough, doesn't it?” Dumbledore said brightly. “Certainly, Twilight Sparkle is no troll, so it seems to me that her status as being should be a matter of a moment's thought.”

“Wait just one minute, Albus,” said that same speaker again. “This is most certainly not a settled matter.”

“Well, we sorted it all out with young Spykoranuvellitar, did we not?” Dumbledore asked, still cheerful. “I don't see how Twilight's case is different except in that she is older.”

“The dragon was bad enough,” someone else said. “But this Twilight is supposed to be a fully trained mage already. Why is she going to Hogwarts?”

“That's hardly at issue-”

“It most certainly is at issue!” that first speaker said yet again. Frowning up at them, Twilight thought it was the one in the middle – it was hard to tell, what with the light being behind them, but she had a reasonable confidence in the matter...

“As the Headmaster of Hogwarts, I am at liberty to accept whatever student I decide to accept.” By now, Dumbledore's voice was rather more stern. “I am sorry if you do not follow, of course, but if a student is to be removed from Hogwarts after acceptance then it must be demonstrated that they are a clear, present and immediate danger to staff or students.”

“Perhaps we should ask her,” a third voice said. “So? Why are you attending Hogwarts?”

Twilight smiled. “Well, a combination of two things. First, I don't really have anywhere else to go – Spike and I are lost. Secondly, while I'm trained in magic, Spike isn't – and neither of us know how to work the magic you have here, with wands.”

“You mean to say your magic is wandless?” the second speaker asked. “But why would you need a wand in the first place, then?”

Dumbledore chuckled.

“We are not here to be laughed at, Albus!” the first speaker said, with what Twilight uncharitably felt to be more than a hint of petulance.

“Well, dear me, Cornelius,” Dumbledore said, smiling broadly. “Do you mean to say that you have never performed accidental magic?”

There was a slight hush.

“That's beside the point,” Cornelius said. “What is at issue here is whether she is dangerous.”

“We're all dangerous,” someone in the lower rows pointed out. “We learn how to cast hexes in second year!”

“That's not the same as-”

“Who put you up to-”

“Can we at least vote on the first issue before-”

Twilight winced. This wasn't going at all well...

There was a bang next to her, and she jumped.

Dumbledore lowered his smoking wand. “Ladies and Gentlemen!”

All talk stopped.

“I understand that tempers are running high, though I may not understand why. But please, for the benefit of the visitor to our world, conduct yourselves with dignity. Now, is there any more debate to be had on the issue of Twilight Sparkle's status as Being?”

One witch cleared her throat. “I'd only like to say this. If we end up not giving her Being status, there's a number of people I'd like to see re-classed as Beasts!”

A quelling glare from Dumbledore stopped the next rush of talk before it really got started.

“Very well. Those in favour of granting her Being status?”

Most hands went up, including those three in the centre of the judging panel.

“Excellent. Congratulations, Twilight Sparkle.”

Twilight nodded to him. “Thank you.”

“Now, as for the matter of magic – dear me. My opinion on this is much the same as on the first. Why not?”

“We can't be sure that she won't misuse a wand,” someone said.

“Nor can I be sure that any of my students would use their wand with the care it deserves,” Dumbledore pointed out reasonably.

“I'm aware of the ethics of magic use,” Twilight volunteered. “No casting of spells on those who are not willing to receive them, except in cases of self defence.” Her mouth twisted slightly. “Well, that's the summary version. The full version is a trimester-long course...”

“What's a trimester?” Cornelius asked, distracted.

“I believe, from context, it is what we refer to as a term,” Dumbledore tried.

“Yes, that's right.” Twilight nodded. “If a term is what you have three of in a school year, that is.”

“We do.”

“Aren't we getting a little far from the point?” someone asked plaintively.

“Oh! Of course.” Cornelius cleared his throat. “Well, then. Perhaps we require the services of an expert witness. I call in William Jennings, of the Office of Werewolf Support Services.”

“That's hardly a fair comparison,” someone muttered, loud enough to be heard. Cornelius flushed.

“Ah, mister Jennings,” Dumbledore said, as a thin and reedy wizard walked in through a different set of doors. “I trust you are well?”

“Tolerable, thank you, Professor,” Jennings said shortly. “Minister.”

Twilight suddenly realized who “Cornelius” must be – Cornelius Fudge, the Minister for Magic.

It must have been stress stopping me from making the connection earlier, she thought.

“Mister Jennings, if you would describe to the court your normal responsibilities?”

“Very well, Minister. I am involved with the registry, tracking and proper acclimatization of those of our citizens afflicted with lycanthropy.”

Dumbledore raised a finger. “Excuse me, mister Jennings. Might I enquire as to how many werewolves are registered with the support services?”

“Ah...” Jennings looked up at the Minister for a moment, then controlled his reaction. “None at present.”

“Such a shame,” Dumbledore said with a smile. “And in the past?”


“Well, well.” Dumbledore's smile did not shift. “Then please, continue giving us the benefit of your munificent experience.”

Jennings paused for a moment, thinking, and then turned to go.

“Mister Jennings!” Fudge said sharply. “You are required by the court to-”

Another voice cut over him. This one was that of an elderly woman. “Enough with the farce, Minister.”

“You are out of order, Madam Longbottom!” Cornelius snapped.

“I am not!”

Twilight turned, along with most of the room, to watch Augusta Longbottom as she stood.

“I am one of the heads of house on the Wizengamot assigned to observe the actions of this committee, and it is becoming clear that it is an attempt at defamation of an innocent – nay, virtuous – young woman, no matter her precise shape. My grandson, Neville, has written to me of Twilight's actions this Halloween last, when she saved the life of no less than Harry Potter!”

Muttered conversation greeted that statement.

“Furthermore, I shall now inform you that I will recommend to the Wizengamot that an inquiry be launched into the circumstances of this court – and, particularly, into the question of whether certain parties on the board of governors at Hogwarts are having an undue influence into the actions not merely of the board as a whole but of the government as a whole.”

Fudge's face drained of colour.

“All who wish to strip Twilight Sparkle of the default state in law, that being permission to own a wand?” Dumbledore asked into the silence.

No hands went up.

“Excellent. Thank you for your time,” Dumbledore said amicably. “Come along, Twilight, I believe that Spike was asked to wait in the blue room.”

Spike hopped down from an armchair as Twilight came through the door. “Twilight! Everything fine?”

“Yes, it is,” Twilight said, then looked over her shoulder. “Though, I have to say, that showed me rather more of the operations of the local government than I would like...”

Spike nodded, absently touching his wand-holster as though to reassure himself that he still had it. “They brought on an expert in dragons. Expert – he hardly listened to anything I was saying!”

“Indeed, such is the problem with an expert.” Dumbledore winked. “They know almost everything about their chosen subject, so it can be very hard to wedge new facts in.” He clapped his hands. “Very well. Shall we head back? I believe there is a fireplace nearby, so let us see if I can find it.”

By the time they got back to the castle, Double Potions was over, and the duo got into class just as Defence Against the Dark Arts was starting.

Rather than take her usual place, Twilight pulled away a chair nearer the back – where Neville was, in fact – and put her things next to him.

Twilight followed along for the first five minutes, worked out which chapter from their textbook Quirrell was working from, and decided she could bear to read up on it (again) later.

“Neville – are you alright?”

Neville sniffed. “Yeah.”

“What happened in Potions? I missed it...”

Neville twitched. “Snape was... I... I screwed up the potion, and it melted my cauldron, and Snape shouted at me.”

“Are you alright?” At Neville's nod, Twilight relaxed slightly. “What potion was it?”

“I – I think it was a boil potion?” Neville shook his head. “No, it was something else... I can't remember.”

“M-m-miss S-Sparkle?” Quirrell asked. “What is the principal advantage of the stunning spell?”

“It can't do any permanent harm, at least unless it's used on a young child,” Twilight answered promptly.

“And the d-disadvantage?”

“Most common shield spells stop it easily.”

“V-very good. M-mister P-Potter?”

As Quirrell moved on, Twilight turned back to Neville. “Sorry I wasn't there.”

“No, it's not your fault, I just...” Neville tailed off.

Twilight thought for a moment.

“You know, your grandmother really helped me out earlier.”

Neville looked up. “Really?”

“Yeah.” Twilight nodded. “She mentioned something you'd said in a letter to her, and that helped a lot – basically, she's why I'm still allowed a wand, or she helped at least. So thanks.”

Neville smiled wanly.

“Okay.” Twilight tapped a hoof on the floor for emphasis. “Now, let's concentrate on the lesson, okay? Don't let Snape ruin your other classes.”

With a hesitant nod, then a firmer one, Neville got out his notebook and started writing.

Twilight smiled, then got back to her own work. (Mostly theory, this class.)

“Enjoying your last day, Sparkle?” Malfoy asked that evening, at dinner.

Twilight blinked. “Last day?” she asked, turning to face him.

“I'm not surprised you didn't notice.” The boy sneered. “That hearing you were off at this morning, remember? If you can, of course.”

“Not really,” Twilight said, slowly. “I remember getting confirmed as a Being, and that I was okay to carry and use a wand. Why?”

Malfoy flushed. He started to speak, then thought better of it.

“This isn't over,” he said finally, walking off.

The Weasley twins clapped politely.

“Excellent show,” one of them said.

“Top marks,” the other confirmed.

Percy shook his head, the edges of a smile on his lips.

“What just happened?” Ron asked, looking lost.

“Not sure...” Twilight said, thinking. “Perhaps – isn't his father on the board of governors?”

“Yes, he is.” Percy frowned. “Largely due to money, I suspect.”

“Right. Well, Neville's grandmother said something about people on the board of governors influencing their actions? Maybe Draco's father passed the information on to him about the meeting?”

“I wouldn't be surprised if he was the one who had the hearing called,” Percy sighed.

Fred and George exchanged glances.

“Well, all's well that-”

“-ends with us pranking Malfoy.”

The first twin looked at the second. “I'm pretty sure that was supposed to be ends well.”

“You mean we're not pranking Malfoy?”

“I never said that.”

Percy gave his brothers a look. “Now, now, you two.”

“Don't worry, Perce,” they said in unison. “We'll be good.”

“We'll be excellent,” one added.

“Positively cinematic.”


“I don't think our dear brother is all that reassured by the prospect, Fred.”

Many of the first years were watching the verbal tennis game by now, their heads going back and forth between the twins.

The sight made Twilight giggle.

“I heard about the hearing,” Professor Kettleburn said as Twilight unpacked her latest weeks' worth of notes in his office. “Shameful business. It's plain as the nose on my face that you're human in every way that counts – which is the mind.”

Twilight looked up at him. “Didn't you say you broke your nose once?”

The professor shrugged. “It's still there, isn't it?”

“Fair point.” Twilight put the notebook down. “Okay, there's the last of what I remember about Spike's biology.”

“Excellent!” Kettleburn opened the book and flipped through it. “Oh, diagrams, I see. Very useful.”

“They're probably not all that great...” Twilight admitted. “I used an illusion spell to create the image I wanted, then traced it onto the paper – so it might not be all that good. I'm still trying to see if there's a transcription spell...”

“Well, if you find one, please let me know – it's tricky enough writing with only one arm that works properly.” He was silent for a few minutes as he continued to skim the book. “What's this? Greed growth?”

“Oh.” Twilight looked down. “I half forgot about it until this afternoon, in a free period... when a dragon like Spike gets very greedy, he can start to grow larger.”

“That sounds risky, if you don't mind my saying so,” Kettleburn said casually. “How do you stop it?”

Twilight winced. “Last time, it was, er, shouting. But I'd feel responsible if it happened again, so I'd put as much effort as I could into stopping him. He seemed to stop when someone he... cares for,” Twilight summarized something which none of the parties involved were entirely sure of the precise nature of anyway, “was in trouble. And he does know about it now – half our trouble last time was that we didn't have anyone to talk to who knew the first thing about dragon biology.”

“Yes, I can see why that would be a problem. Well, I'll let Hagrid know if it happens to him again – solid chap, Hagrid.”

Twilight nodded. “He's a bit... inconsiderate? No, that's not the right word...”

“I do know what you mean.” Kettleburn frowned at her. “Wait, didn't you go out with him on one of his perimeter sweeps last week?”

“Don't remind me.” Twilight shook her head. “I... we ran into a dead unicorn. I...” she swallowed. “I didn't take it well.”

Kettleburn clapped her on the shoulder – or, in other words, her right withers. “Nasty business, that. I'd feel ill enough, and I'm not even the same species. Well, if you need someone to speak to, do stop by. My door is always open for you and Spike – unless, of course, I'm at class.”

Twilight nodded. “Thank you, then, professor.”

A man can smile, and smile...

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A man can smile, and smile...

Twilight looked up from her latest book – this one was a history book, in the hope that something in the past might hold a hint to a way home – at a general hubbub in the common room.

“Er...” she ventured, nervously.

Some of those nearest to her turned to look at her.

“Well...” Twilight gestured at the wizards and witches of Gryffindor, who were putting on cold weather clothing. “What's going on?”

“Quidditch match!” several people said at once.

“It's the first game of the season!” Ron said, grinning. “Gryffindor against Slytherin. Fred and George are the Beaters! It's a pity I wasn't here last year, actually, Charlie was captain.”

“We know, you mention it often enough,” Seamus muttered.

“Oh.” Twilight absorbed that. “Do I have to come?”

Ron deflated slightly. “Well, er, I suppose not – not if you don't want to...”

“What's going on?” Spike asked, walking out of their room with a Gryffindor scarf around his neck. “Oh, Twilight – are you coming?”

After a look at Spike, and then at her book, Twilight decided – a break might actually be a good idea. She bookmarked her place and stepped back from the table, leaving a note asking for her books to be undisturbed – an old habit from her years in the Academy.

“Okay,” she said, casting a spell to keep herself warm. “Let's go, then.”

Twilight hung back a bit from the general movement downstairs – while she was getting quite comfortable on the stairways of Hogwarts, walking down them in the middle of dozens of students would be quite another matter.

“You don't look especially enthusiastic,” Percy commented, keeping an eye on the younger witches and wizards.

Twilight checked her pace slightly, and fell in next to him. “Well, I'm not really one for sport...”

“Neither am I,” Percy admitted. “My brothers were all mad for it – are, I should say. And with five brothers...” He shook his head. “But, well, I've learned to follow it.”

“Well, it's nice that you have something you can share with your brothers..?”

“Actually, it's not because of them.” Percy chuckled. “My dorm-mate is Oliver Wood. Spend four years in the same room as someone as fanatical as he is, you soon learn.”

Twilight nodded. “I see.”

The game was... interesting, Twilight supposed. The rules were still a little strange for her – why was the Snitch worth fifteen times as many points as the main ball? - but she was sure Dash, at least, would love it.

Spike certainly did. His eyes flicked around the stadium as he followed the rapidly moving Quaffle, and he cheered as loudly as anyone in their stand when Gryffindor scored. (Twilight felt sure that the commentator shouldn't be cheering in the same way, but perhaps it added something.)

About twenty-five minutes in, however, the Slytherin Seeker caught the Snitch. What had been a comfortable lead for Gryffindor of eighty points turned into a seventy-point loss, which left everyone a bit sour.

“We were cheated!” Ron grumbled, as they trooped back upstairs.

Neville frowned. “Er... isn't the Seeker part of the rules?”

“Well, yeah... but without Charlie, our team's Seeker sucks.”

“I have to agree,” a fourth year said. “Cormac's not terrible, but he's not up to playing like this – he's only a second year, and he's not experienced.”

“Still,” Ron added, in the tone of someone forcing himself to cheer up, “at least Fred and George did well.”

“Yes, they can certainly hit large metal cannonballs at other people like they were born to it,” Percy commented, causing Ron to give him a suspicious look.

Twilight suppressed a smile, then looked over at Spike. “Not too disappointed, I hope?”

“No,” Spike said, sighing. “A bit upset, I suppose... just wish Gryffindor had a better seeker, our current one's rubbish.”

“Is he?” Twilight asked. “I heard someone just up there saying he was quite good...”

“Yeah, but he didn't see the Snitch at all!” Spike replied. “I kept seeing it, it was easy...”

“Me too,” Harry contributed. “I lost sight of it a few times, but it wasn't very hard to find it again.”

“I'm sure it's harder when you're on a broom,” Twilight replied, making to shrug but then aborting the attempt – doing it while handling the stairs would have been a little tricky.

“Yeah, I suppose.” Spike shook his head. “Ah well.”

A few days later, Twilight noticed that Professor Quirrell was limping as he came into the classroom. He hid it fairly well, but the wince as he sat down was obvious.

“A-alright, c-class,” he began. “T-today, we will b-b-be l-looking at the s...stunning s-spell. Who k-knows about this s-spell already?”

Twilight raised a hoof. Perhaps surprisingly, Seamus Finnegan raised a hand.

“M-Mister F-Finnegan?”

“Well, me mam used it once when we were out shopping one night in Dublin.” Seamus shrugged. “I was about nine at the time, see, we were getting something for me da, and this scunner in a mask tried to threaten her. She just got out her wand, Stunned him, and we waited for the Obliviators to show up.”

Quirrell nodded. “I s-see. D-did your m-mother tell you about the s-spell?”

“She said it was a good one to use, 'cause it doesn't hurt someone. It just knocks 'em out?” Seamus made it a question, to which Quirrell nodded. “And then you wait for the Aurors. That's what she told me to do, wait for the Aurors.”

“A m-most clever w-witch, your m-mother,” Quirrell agreed. “D-defence against the d-dark arts is about p-protection from d-dark m-magic,” the teacher looked mildly unsettled by the very concept of dark magic, “but it is also f-for protection from other p-people. The im...portant thing is to d-defuse the s-situation. Always r-remember, m-muggles can be d-dangerous as well. M-miss S-sparkle?”

Twilight lowered her hoof. “Like a lot of spells, the stunning spell – stupefy – is made to do a particular task, which makes it easier to cast than a spell with more factors in the casting formula. With a spell to conjure water, for example, you could mean to create fresh or salt water; you could want it cold or hot; you might want a large amount or only a small amount. So the will component is complicated. But with stupefy, the will component is very simple and it is easy to cast – you just want to knock someone unconscious, and that's all that spell is ever used for.”

“V-very c-clearly summarized, m-miss S-sparkle.” Quirrell said, nodding to her. “N-now, what are the d-downsides of the s-stunning spell? M-mister W-weasely?”

Ron jumped. “Sir?”

“Y-your b-brother Charlie is a d-dragon tamer, y-yes?”

“Oh, right!” Ron thought back. “Er, Charlie said at the end of the summer that during his training classes it sometimes took all of them working together to stun one of the big dragons. Is that the sort of thing you mean?”

“A-adequate, M-mister W-weasely.” Quirrell raised his wand, levitated some chalk, and began putting the points people had already mentioned on the board. “S-so, Stupefy is a s-spell which is p-perhaps not the m-most p-powerful, and as s-such some m-magical c-creatures can r-resist it. S-shields also b-block it.”

“A-anything else?”

Another couple of hands went up.

“M-miss P-patel?”

“M-miss S-sparkle, if you could remain behind for a moment...?”

“Of course.” Twilight gathered up her books and put them into her saddlebags, then waited as the first-years headed out to enjoy their free period. “What is it, Professor?”

“W-well, I w-was checking on the p-p-protections we d-discussed,” Quirrell explained, indicating his leg. “I was s-shocked to d-discover that a n-new d-defence had been p-put in that I w-was not aware of.”

“So that's what happened to your leg,” Twilight said. “Are you okay?”

“I w-will mend.” Quirrell grimaced. “W-worse things have h-happened in my p-past.” He paused, then continued at Twilight's curious expression. “It w-was a three-h-headed d-dog.”

“A cerberus?” Twilight asked. “Oh, I met one of those once. He just needed a tickle and he was much happier. My friend Fluttershy dealt with him, and then I led him back to Tartarus.”

Quirrell blinked. “I s-see. Isn't T-tartarus the h-home of... the d-dead?”

“I think it's the prison of monsters, actually,” Twilight replied critically. “If there were more around I'm sure one of the Princesses would have taken care of things.” She visibly gathered herself. “Right, sorry, lost track a bit there. We were talking about the layers of protection Dumbledore set up?”

“Y-yes. Well, the f-first layer was j-just a locked door, w-which...”

“Which isn't very secure because of charms like alohomora, or because of other spells which can quickly deal with a locked door,” Twilight finished the thought. “That is strange. I'd have just made the door into a part of the wall, so to get through you'd have to blast the wall down.”

“M-most curious,” Quirrell agreed. “I b-believe that m-most fourth years could d-deal with the d-door, so it isn't very s-safe to have such a d-dangerous beast b-behind it. When I h-helped supply a t-troll for the d-defences, I d-did so on the understanding that there be n-no c-chance that a p-poor helpless p-pupil could run into the t-troll.”

Twilight nodded. “This does sound strange. I wonder if Professor Kettleburn knows anything about where the dog came from...”

“Just d-don't let him k-know w-why you're asking,” Quirrell cautioned. “Even if h-he is a g-good man, a-as I t-think he is, he m-might talk to the w-wrong p-person.”

Twilight considered that. “Good idea, yes. And I've had trouble with people not believing me even with good reason. I don't know if I've convinced myself yet this time, so trying to convince someone else of all this...”

“A w-wise decision, m-miss S-sparkle.”

When the unicorn got back to Gryffindor tower, she was surprised to discover that Spike wasn't there. A few minutes' questioning revealed that no-one had much idea where he'd gone, so she sighed and settled down to research shields again. The parallels between her own style of magic and the local version were starting to come into view, though the actual spellform concordances remained frustratingly vague.

Let's see now... a protego type shield is the most basic, and it stops any magic which isn't cast by the original caster. How does it tell? Magical signature, right.

So why aren't those horrible Forbidden curses stopped?

Can't tell for now. Maybe they're like the Harmony effect – I know Luna said once that she certainly was shielding when the Elements turned her back from Nightmare Moon into herself...

She made a note of that. Unfortunately, her own Element was still safely in the store-rooms of Canterlot Castle, along with the others. So she couldn't exactly test further into the nature of the harmony-wave.

What about... she stood up, and headed for one of the sixth years.

“Excuse me?”

“Yes?” he replied, looking up from his history of magic textbook. “Oh, hello, Twilight.”

She smiled. “I was wondering if I could borrow your standard book of spells. Grade six?”

“Oh, sure.” The boy rummaged in his bag for a moment, his arm going in up to the shoulder, and then pulled out the reference guide. “I've got to revise Charms later, so I'll need it back, but you can certainly borrow it for an hour or so.”

“Thanks, that's great.” She took the book from his grasp, and carried it carefully to where she was working.

A few minutes turned up what she was after. A sixth-year shield spell designed specifically to work against the stupefy spell.

“So, how does it determine the spell it's supposed to block...” she muttered. “Spell form? Perhaps, but that means a decision gate, and this is supposed to be a simple spell... wait a second.”

She looked more closely. “Oh, I see! It doesn't bother with a decision gate, it just loops the antiform across the surface. Wow, that is specialized. I wonder if I could modify a spell Shining taught me...”


Twilight looked up from her fifth page of notes. “Spike! Sorry, I couldn't find you... where were you?”

Spike frowned. “We went to see Hagrid. Remember? He invited us.”

Twilight winced. “Oh, no, now I feel terrible. I'm so sorry, Spike.”

The dragon shrugged it off, though he still looked a little hurt. “Don't worry, Hagrid knows you're busy – I know you're busy – and...”

“No, seriously.” Twilight looked down. “I know I'm working hard. I want to get us home, and I want to understand the way magic works here. But I'd be letting Princess Celestia down if I let my study of magic get in the way of my friendships.”

She forced some brighness into her voice. “If I forget next time, fire-send me a note, okay? I really want to make sure this doesn't happen again.”

Spike nodded, a little more cheerfully. “Okay. Did you make any progress, though?”

“A bit.” Twilight shook her hoof back and forth. “I'd be doing a lot better if I had my old reference books here, I'm going off memory, but it seems to be working. Slowly.” She shrugged. “Anyway, how was Hagrid?”

“Same as usual.” Spike grinned. “Spent half the time trying not to stare at me. Fang seems to have got over his shyness with me, though, he was trying to lick me. Face full of dog drool, uuugh!”

Twilight grinned. “Now I really wish I'd been there. Anything else?”

“Yeah, he talked a lot about Charlie – Ron's brother? The one who tames the local dragons-”

“I remember,” she interrupted.

“Right. Well, Ron mentioned the quidditch game again, and Neville asked about what Charlie was actually like, and Hagrid had a lot to say. Apparently he helps Professor Kettleburn with some of the end-of-year classes in Care of Magical Creatures, so he saw Charlie at work.”

“And?” she prompted.

“He sounds like a mixture of Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash,” Spike said with a laugh.

Twilight winced at the thought, getting a mental image of a pegasus demanding that everyone train until your hooves hurt!

“So, yeah, that's how we spent the afternoon,” Spike finished.

“Sounds fun.” Twilight gave him a look. “How's your homework situation?”

Spike gave an exaggerated sigh. “I'm mostly up to date!”


“Well, there's something for History of Magic I haven't done yet, and that paper from Quirrell about the appropriate uses of the stun spell...”

“Right.” Twilight looked out the window. “I think we can get the History of Magic paper done. It's about the rebellion of 1719, isn't it?”

“Yeah.” Spike slouched over to get his book and a roll of parchment. “What was it again?”

“We have to list the main battles in date order, and who won them,” Twilight reminded him, “and then do six inches on why the goblins lost.”

“It's obvious, though,” Spike muttered rebelliously. “They didn't have wands...”

“Well... yes,” Twilight admitted. “But you have to say that in six inches, basically.”

Twilight looked over the large wood-cut chart covering most of one wall of Kettleburn's study. “This is... impressive?”

“Glad you think so.” The Professor stumped over to her, and joined her in looking at the chart – which shifted slightly as he pointed his wand at it, revealing itself to be a magical version of a skeleto-musculature chart. “This is what I've got so far from my studies of your body plan. It shouldn't take much longer before I can work with Madam Hooch on that modified cushioning charm.”

“That'd be nice...” Twilight said, a little wistfully. “Dash always has such fun flying...”

Kettleburn shrugged. “I never cared for it much myself. Now, on the back of a hippogriff, that's something else entirely.”

Twilight nodded, and turned to go. Then stopped. “Professor? I was curious about something...”

“Go ahead.” Kettleburn sat down, smiling. “As I said before, my door is always open – though, of course, you're already inside.”

“Well, I know how unicorns and dragons are different here, and I've read about pegasi, ponies and griffons, as well as manticores... but there's a few I think I missed, that I encountered in my world.”

“Oh?” Kettleburn nodded. “Do go on. Such as?”

“First, I had a rather nasty experience with a Hydra.” Twilight produced an illusion in the air. “It looked like this.”

“Ah, a hydra!” Kettleburn leaned forward. “Can you bring that image closer?”

Twilight complied.

“This is wonderful...” Kettleburn said, smiling broadly. “A hydra! To think I'd get as close as this to seeing one...”

“Are they rare?” Twilight asked, concerned.

“Well, they're extinct, I'm afraid.” The Care of Magical Creatures teacher let out a deep sigh. “Poor things. Wizards wiped them out during the Roman Empire – too dangerous, really, too hard to kill. I imagine the same would have happened to the Nundu if it were closer to civilization.”

Twilight didn't really know how to take that. Certainly, if a hydra were encountered in the middle of Canterlot or somewhere like that, it might be necessary for the Guard to put it down, but... the whole species?

It was a long time ago, and a long way away, she reminded herself. You don't know why it was their choice, or if it was the only choice.

“I... see,” she said, aloud. “That's a pity.”

“Oh, I agree,” Kettleburn said readily. “Indeed, we try to relocate magical creatures nowadays, that's why we have dragon reserves.”

“Well... thanks.” Twilight nodded, and produced another image. “This one...”

“Is that a cockatrice?”

“Yes.” Twilight swallowed. “Sorry, I had a horrible experience with one of these. It... petrified me, and it took several hours for my friend Fluttershy to save me.”

“If she saved you from something that dangerous, she sounds like a model Care of Magical Creatures student,” Kettleburn pronounced. “In fact, it sounds like she'd have my job...”

Twilight giggled, surprising herself. Then had a silly thought, and started laughing.

“Are you alright?” Kettleburn asked. “Twilight?”

“Sorry, Professor,” she managed. “It's just... we were discussing this, and then I thought about the way Care of Magical Creatures is C-M-C, and... well, there were these fillies back home who got into all kinds of mischief who called themselves the Cutie Mark Crusaders... sorry, it probably sounds very strange now I've explained it all...”

“No, it's perfectly fine.” Kettleburn shrugged. “Any others?”

“There was one more.” Twilight created the image of Cerberus.

“Well, well. There certainly seems to be a Greek theme, doesn't there...” Kettleburn looked the three-headed dog over. “A little more squat than the ones I've seen, but recognizable. How did you handle this?”

“Fluttershy again. She gave him a belly rub, strange as it sounds.”

“Well, I imagine that might work, if you could reach the belly without being eaten... what I find works is music. It makes them fall asleep, you see.”

“Right. That'll help if I ever run into one again. Thanks again, Professor.”

“Any time, Twilight.”

The next morning, at breakfast, Owlowiscious came swooping down to the tables with the rest of the owls. In his talons was a copy of the Prophet.

He dropped it in front of Twilight, deftly unrolled it, and then indicated a circled headline. Twilight took the paper in her magical grip, and read the article he'd picked out for her.

“Scandal at the Ministry?” she said aloud. Then shot an embarrassed glance at Seamus (who seemed rather startled) and got to reading the body of the article.

Major concerns have come to light at the Ministry in the past week regarding the appalling handling of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. Augusta Longbottom – matriarch of the Longbottom family – gave a speech in the Wizengamot yesterday, accusing the Fudge administration of 'willingly neglecting those we have a burden to support in favour of supporting those we would be better off neglecting'.

Madam Longbottom also decried what she described as undue influence by a body of men with former criminal charges brought against them (such as the well known philanthropist Lucius Malfoy) in the affairs of the Ministry. While this reporter feels that this is perhaps reading too much into the situation as it stands, certainly it is hard to believe that so august a body of men and women as the Minister and his chief undersecretaries could allow the corruption in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures.

'The Werewolf Registry office is a boondoggle,' proclaimed one source, who wishes to remain nameless. 'No Werewolves have been registered there in the entire history of the office. I've heard that only one werewolf has ever applied, and he was turned away for being too poor! All that means is that the money for their support goes straight into the pockets of the Departmental authorities, of course.'

The Minister has so far retained the support of his base in the Wizengamot, though his majority is much slimmer than usual and the chamber failed to pass a bill yesterday which had his support – 23 members abstaining. The bill would have made it illegal to search the home of a wizard with a ministerial position without a two day advance warning, to ensure that the wizard in question be in to show the searchers around.

The crisis was precipitated by a hearing last fortnight, in which two magical creatures – a unicorn called 'Twilight Sparkle' and a dragon by the name of 'Spykoranuvellitar' – were certified as legally Beings and permitted to attend Hogwarts. (Photos on page 3).

Twilight turned to the page in question, interested.

The photos both showed the floor of the large hearing room in the Ministry, with the witches and wizards sat on benches around it involved in a furious argument. The photo-Spike in the left hoof picture waved at her, then the photo-Twilight in the right hoof picture winked.

“Huh,” Twilight said, passing the paper to Spike. “You know, that's quite a good picture of you...”

Owlowiscious dropped some letters next to Ron's plate. (He'd volunteered to do extra duty to help the Gryffindor boy, and Twilight had resolved to calculate his back pay once they got back to Equestria and then double it.)

The next few weeks passed with relatively little to break the routine of Hogwarts life. Spike improved noticeably with his wand-work, aided by whatever time Twilight could spare him from her research, and their little group from Halloween spent a number of evenings in Hagrid's hut having conversations about an incredible variety of topics.

Perhaps inevitably, the first one was about the scandal in the Ministry. Neville's ears were red through the entire day, and he didn't contribute much, but Twilight noticed he seemed... well, proud, of his grandmother.

Ultimately, the scandal blew itself out, though not without a number of acrimonious debates in the Wizengamot which included a spectacular public haranguing of Lucius Malfoy by Augusta Longbottom.

Twilight couldn't help but feel quietly gleeful when the Prophet ran the full text of that speech, including a memorable exchange where Madam Longbottom continually tried to pin Lucius down on a particular point and all he would say was that he 'regretted the war as a whole'.

Hagrid had barked laughter. “Just means he's sorry 'e lost!”

It was all very rough-and-tumble, more like something from the early days of Equestria than the modern Canterlot parliament. But it was somehow humbling to know what the two displaced Equestrians had started.

There was one interesting result, as well. A man by the name of Remus Lupin had been brought in to consult as to what the role of the Werewolf Registration Office should be, and from what little the papers said about him Twilight was rather reminded of the dusty librarians from her days at the Academy.

The evenings at Hagrid's hut weren't over with the political storm, though, and Twilight came to enjoy them as much for the break from her intensive studying as anything.

Quidditch was a common topic, and one which almost all of the boys enjoyed going on about at length. Hagrid himself wasn't much of one for flying, mainly due to his bulk, but he and Ron spent considerable time holding forth on the relative merits of their favoured teams. It was mostly quite hard to understand for Twilight (she spent most of that part of their trips talking plants with Neville) but one thing which seemed to be incontrovertible was that the Chudley Cannons were the best team in the Quidditch Cup.

The fact they hadn't won a single trophy in living memory (except the living memory of people like Dumbledore, of course) didn't seem to change this assessment. They were having an 'off century', and would win this year. For sure.

Another time, it was dragons. Twilight had a few sharp words to say about certain dragons from Equestria, while Hagrid said wistfully that he'd love to raise a dragon – while the accepted wisdom was that they were untameable, he thought differently. Twilight just hoped he did it somewhere fireproof.

Spike got to show off his flame-sending trick, which was much less of a chore for him now he didn't need to deliver regular post – though, like Twilight, he did miss the earlier routine of Ponyville life, with the weekly friendship lesson and the picnics.

One evening it was about Equestria – what started as a discussion of how Princess Celestia worked with Parliament, then talked about Canterlot, then Ponyville, and from then on the conversation rambled over dozens of topics and continued on into the night. Twilight and Spike described their homeland in tones which went from matter-of-fact to wistful to choked up over the course of the evening, as all the memories they'd tried to bury came back again.

Spike mentioned, in whispers, his (not so) secret crush on Rarity. The idea (a dragon with a crush on a unicorn) seemed to confuse the younger wizards a little, but Hagrid just shrugged.

That was also the evening Peewee managed to show off his song in front of all of them. It lifted their spirits after such a sad topic, and when the little phoenix finished and gave a self-important chirrup, the hut was filled with glad laughter at his antics.

As they headed back to the castle through the darkness of an early December night, lit by Peewee's steady patrol overhead, Twilight fell back to talk to Harry.

“Are you okay?” she asked, softly. “I saw you were looking a bit sad earlier.”

“Yeah,” Harry said, then paused and shook his head. “No, I'm not. I was just thinking about... well, home.”

“Home?” Twilight repeated.

“Yeah. It's nearly the end of term, and I know I've got permission to stay here, but... I don't want to go back home at all.

Twilight stayed silent, inviting further comment.

“See, you and Spike... you miss your home. And...” Harry rubbed at his eyes. “Ever since I found out I was a wizard, it's all been amazing... but it isn't really home at all. I feel more at home here at Hogwarts than I ever did at the Dursleys.”

“There's something more, isn't there?” Twilight asked gently.

“Yeah.” Harry rubbed at his eyes again. “See, here, everyone thinks of me as 'the boy who lived'. I'm a celebrity, and people just see that. They expect me to be some kind of... hero, with a sword in one hand and a wand in the other, who rides down on a dragon and saves them. They keep asking how I beat Voldemort! And I just want to be... Harry Potter, first year wizard.”

He sniffed, then shook his head. “Sorry.”

“No, it's fine.” Twilight shrugged. “I know the feeling, actually – back in Ponyville, I did try to fit in, but my friends and I were 'those mares who defeated Nightmare Moon'. Or Discord, or whoever.”

Harry nodded.

“If there's anything I can do to help...”

“Yeah, there is, actually,” Harry said. “I think. See, if people usually see you at the same time as they see me, they're more likely to think you're the strange thing and so I can look relatively normal.”

Twilight stifled a giggle. “Reminds me of when I sat next to Pinkie Pie...”

A minute or so later, they entered the castle itself.

“What are you still doing out of bed?” Filch asked suspiciously, looking at them.

“We were visiting/ the Grounds-keeper,” Fred and George answered together. One of them looked at his watch, and the other added “It's at least five minutes until curfew.”

“And you're going to get into your common room in time, are you?” the janitor asked, with a still more suspicious look.

They all exchanged glances, then broke into a run up the stairs.

No time like the presents.

View Online

Before too much longer, it was the end of term, and the halls were much emptier with over half the student body back at their homes.

Much like Equestria, the school year was broken up into three long terms (Twilight would have called them trimesters, but they were the same thing) with about a month between them, and a longer holiday in the summer. Each school holiday was centred on a more general holiday, and for the winter one it was 'Christmas' – which sounded a lot like Hearth's Warming.

Well, in some ways. There were presents, at least.

The question of what to do about presents had occupied Twilight for some time. She and Spike had little money while they were here, and she didn't want to spend some of that sparse resource – but, then again, it wouldn't have been right to avoid giving presents, either.

So she'd discussed it with Spike, and they'd decided to make some joint presents.

A quick talk with Hagrid had secured them some small pieces of wood, like down-scaled logs, suitable for whittling or crafting with. Spike had then used his claws to carefully remove bits of wood, to make a shape that was at least... well, crafted. (Though not well crafted. But they did look alright.)

Twilight then cast some spells she'd researched on them, including her first attempt at mixing together Equestrian and Earth magic to make the spell last longer.

At the end of a weekend's work, they had several baton-shaped magical objects which would keep the person carrying them warm in cold weather – or, Twilight was fairly sure, cool in hot weather.

It wasn't much, but hopefully they would be useful for the people who got given them.

With the holidays, Twilight found herself with a substantial amount of extra free time on her hooves.

It wasn't until the round of lessons and homework stopped that she really realized just how much time they'd been taking up, and even with her continuing research aimed at finding a way home there were still several hours of the day she had an open schedule.

The unicorn did consider expanding her research to fill the gap, but after giving it a second thought (and a mental conversation about dusty old books and making some friends) she decided to just enjoy the time instead.

Some days, she sat on the lakeside, a heating spell wrapped around her and a mug of cocoa beside her, watching as the forest slumbered in her first entirely natural winter.

More often, there was some kind of snowball fight. She and Spike joined in with most of those, along with the younger three Weaselys, Harry, most of the remaining Quidditch team and whoever else was passing by.

Strangely, though, she and Spike were both much-sought-after team members. Or perhaps it wasn't so strange... very few humans could throw a snowball the size of a hoofball, much less dozens at a time, and Spike enjoyed showing off by melting snowballs clear out of the air.

That hadn't been enough, however, to secure them victory on the snowball fight two days before Christmas Day. Everyone else had ganged up on the two Equestrians, demonstrating excellent tactical sense and terrible manners at exactly the same time.

Twilight and Spike had held out for quite a long time, with Twilight throwing snowballs in all directions and with Spike riding on Twilight's back, melting any coming from behind her she couldn't catch herself.

But, eventually, time and exhaustion wore the gallant dragon down, and he flopped into a snowdrift. Twilight followed him only a few minutes later, and they shared a shrug (as the humans cheered their victory) before breaking out into a fit of giggles.

The next day, Christmas Eve, a blizzard howled around the castle.

No-one was particularly willing to go out into the below-freezing weather, driving snow, and gale-force winds of the Scottish blizzard howling east off the Cuillin, so it was a day for sleeping late, staying indoors, and lots of warm drinks.

And, of course, games.

Neville's chess set had gone home with him on the train, but the Weaselys – specifically Ron – had one, and one of the fourth years had another. Someone also dug out a set of Gobstones (Twilight took one look at the rules and decided it wasn't for her), three Exploding Snap decks were made available, and there was even a magical version of Skittles dragged out of the corners of a student's trunk.

“Okay...” Twilight tapped a hoof on the floor. “I think... queen's knight's pawn forward one.”

The piece moved obligingly, and her opponent nodded. “Very nice. Now... I think I'll move my bishop. Forwards and right two spaces.”

Twilight frowned. “Hmmm... okay, king's knight left two and back one.”

“Rook forward to capture,” Percy replied, and his castle trundled forward. When it reached Twilight's other knight, it creaked, then fell forwards with a thump, smashing the piece to bits.

“You're good at this,” Twilight commented.

“Why do you think Ron got so good?” Percy replied, smiling briefly. “He can beat me a little more than half of the time, now.”

“I see.” Twilight thought hard. She was quite out of position, now. But perhaps she could turn it around...

“King's pawn forward one.”

“Bishop forward and left three,” Percy replied smugly, moving his bishop between her knight and rook and forking them.

After that (she sacrificed the knight), Twilight didn't have much chance. She played on a few more moves, then surrendered when she was fairly sure it wasn't possible to win any longer.

“Good game,” Percy complimented her. “Another?”

“Don't think so,” Twilight replied. “It's getting late, and I don't want to be too tired on Hearth's Warming – sorry,” she smiled, shaking her head. “Forgot where I was again. Christmas, of course.”

“Actually,” Percy interjected, “what is Hearth's Warming like? I'm fascinated by all these parallels between our worlds...”

Twilight nodded. “I know what you mean. Okay, the basic idea behind Hearth's Warming is that it's a celebration of the foundation of Equestria.”

She pondered how best to explain it. While her friends had rather exaggerated the real personalities of the various ponies involved in the Founding – Puddinghead had been silly, but not that silly, and was usually referred to as 'eccentric' in history books – their performance had also gotten across most of the salient points.

“Okay, this is going to be a short version. Originally, the tribes – unicorn, pegasus and earth pony – that would make up Equestria were separate. They lived far to the north of where Equestria stands now, and they... didn't get on.” Twilight paused, pondering whether to air her civilization's thousand-years-dead grievances, then mentally shrugged and pressed on. “The earth ponies' food was extorted out of them by the pegasi who controlled the weather, and the unicorns who moved the sun. They weren't treated well, and the pegasi and unicorns kept plotting against one another as well.”

She took a sip of water. “And all that hatred and mistrust resulted in the attack of creatures called Windigoes. They're... they were... spirits of air and ice, who fed on dissent and disharmony, and made a terrible blizzard spring up. The earth ponies could grow no crops, and not even the pegasi could turn the snow aside, nor did raising the sun help. So all three tribes moved south, to find a new home.”

Twilight noticed that Percy was frowning as he listened. “What is it?”

“Sorry?” The boy shook his head. “Oh, right. No, I was wondering about those windigoes. They make it cold and feed on bad memories?”

“Yes.” Twilight glanced involuntarily at the window, and shivered. Then nodded. “Yes, if you're thinking of dementors – I wondered about that as well, back when I first arrived.”

“Right.” Percy scratched his nose, seemingly without noticing. “And – sorry, do go on.”

Twilight reviewed where she'd got to. “Okay. Well, they all ended up in the same place, and got right back into the same old argument – even though the snow began to thicken again, even covering them as they stood shouting at one another.”

Pausing again for a moment, Twilight cast a warmth spell on herself. It was quite pleasant in the common room, but this story always made her feel cold.

Especially after Discord.

“And what happened then?”

“Then...” Twilight smiled, as another memory drove back the chills. “Then three young mares – one unicorn, one pegasus and one earth pony – actually made friends. And that, alone, was enough to drive the monsters away and thaw the whole of the Canterlot Vale.”

Percy looked surprised.

“Friendship is magic,” she explained, or rather elaborated. “Literally. And the result was that the three leaders of the tribes made up their differences and agreed to share power. That's how Equestria was founded.”

“I see.” Percy smiled. “That's a nice story.”

Twilight returned the smile. “I've read Clover the Clever's diary and Pansy's action report. It happened, all right.”

The Prefect seemed to not know quite how to take that.

“Well...” he stopped, and tried again. “I see. And it's somehow comforting to know that the kind of mistakes Pure Bloods like the Malfoys make aren't something only humans can do...”

She shrugged. “It never really makes sense, though.”

Dawn broke over Hogwarts castle, revealing a landscape of blinding white. The blizzard had blown itself out overnight, and the whole vale was cloaked in over a foot of fresh snow.

Of course, everyone in the castle wasn't much bothered with that. There were more important things to deal with.

“Look, Twi!” Spike enthused, holding up a large stocking. “We got presents!”

Twilight grinned, enjoying watching her sort-of-brother happy. “I'm sure you've got more than me.”

“I hope-” Spike began, then stopped, frowning. “Uh... is it okay if I hope I have got more than you?”

“Sure.” She chuckled. “I won't mind.”

“Cool. Thanks!” He rummaged in the stocking as Twilight got out of bed. “Hey... uh, how did these get delivered?”

“The House-Elves, I think,” Twilight replied with a shrug. “I was going to give the presents we made out today, but they're gone.”

“Okay.” Spike lifted up an oblong object wrapped in colourful paper – paper with flying dragons on it. “I kind of want to keep the paper now...”

“Just open it on the flaps where it was stuck together,” Twilight advised, picking up her own stocking. “Should we go into the common room, do you think?”

“Yeah, good idea.”

As it transpired, they weren't the first up. Various Weaselys were already in various armchairs wearing various jumpers, along with Harry, and were showing off the presents they found most interesting.

For Percy, it was a set of writing materials, including a quill which could write in six different colours. (He was strangely reluctant to talk about who'd got it for him.)

Fred and George enthused over the batons Twilight and Spike had made, saying that it was a nice idea that would make it much easier to sneak out at night (Percy looked disapproving at that), and that they'd love to know how to make more.

Ron had a book about Quidditch, one which Spike almost immediately asked to borrow once Ron was done with it. The lanky first year had seemed almost surprised by the question, but agreed quickly.

Spike, for his part, had a book of his own to read through. It was a very old but interesting book about phoenixes, which seemed to Twilight to look both rare and valuable. (She had her suspicions about where it had come from, but just smiled about it.) He also got a lot of sweets, including one box from Neville which was to share with Twilight.

Harry had something silvery and clothlike, and seemingly so normal to Twilight's well-honed magic sense that she did a double take. Then he swept it onto his shoulders and vanished, and her jaw dropped.

It was a cloak of invisibility, apparently – but Twilight couldn't feel any magic from it. She couldn't see it with mage sense, either. And when he walked across the room to test it, she couldn't even hear his footsteps.

Somehow, that cloak was making him... well, almost not even there at all.

As for Twilight, the thing she was most excited about was a letter from Professor Kettleburn.


Flitwick and I are finished. We've enchanted a broom with a cushioning charm that should take your weight and distribute it safely, and modified all the other charms on it as well to make it properly safe.

I'm afraid you'll have to wait until Rolanda gets back for proper lessons, but if you've got a moment on the 27th we can go over those charms together.

-Silvanus Kettleburn.

“What's that, Twi?” Spike asked, peering over at the paper. “Oh, cool! Hey, maybe I can teach you how to fly!”

“That'd be lovely.” Twilight smiled at him. “Thank you for the offer, that'll help me a lot.”

Apart from the letter, Twilight mostly got books. There was one nearly as old as the one Spike had, which was about the basics of wand-making, and a much newer one about the latest advances in Arithmancy, one about Greek mythology and which of the myths had actually happened... she had reading material for a month.

Well, two weeks. Maybe three.

“That was a good haul!” Fred announced, as the last of the wrapping paper settled to the floor.

“Now, let's put it all away,” George continued,

“Or as away as things ever get with us,”

“And go get breakfast,” they finished together.

George raised his wand. “Tempus. Good, we can probably be first to the dining hall.”

As she rose to leave, Twilight noticed Fred was checking some parchment – probably a list of who to send thank-you notes too, she thought, remembering how she'd used to remember it. (Nowadays she just kept the gift tags.)

“You go on,” Fred said, frowning down at the parchment. “I'll take our stuff up, Fred.”

“Alright, Fred,” George replied. Twilight blinked, trying to work out if her guess as to which was which had been correct. “See you downstairs. I'll save you some cheese.”

“Marmalade!” the stay-behind twin called, already heading upstairs.

There was a lot of breakfast laid on, given how few people were in the castle – sausages, beans, toast, hash browns, tomatoes... all kinds of fried food, along with a salad for Twilight and the rare treat of a small diamond for Spike.

George, however, didn't seem to be able to keep his mind on the meal at first. When Fred finally appeared about ten minutes in, he relaxed noticeably and the two of them started trying to decide which crackers to pull first.

“Er... can I just ask, who got you that cloak?” Twilight asked Harry, after her curiosity overcame her. “I've never seen anything like it.”

“Oh.” Harry swallowed his toast. “Er... I don't know, actually. It didn't have a name. But it said it was my father's.”

“Oh, right.” Twilight nodded to herself. “I see. Well, keep it safe. I'd love to study it, but it's yours so it's your choice.”

“I think you could, actually...” Harry frowned. “I'm not sure. I... I'll think about it.”

“That'd be nice, thank you.” Twilight smiled. “Hold on. Spike!”

Spike turned, halfway through putting a third helping of eggs onto his plate. “What?”

“You might want to save room for the Christmas dinner....”

Spike blinked, nodded, and put the eggs back. “Sorry.”

Twilight chuckled. “Well, it'd be Future Spike's problem if he didn't have room for dinner, not mine.”

He shared her chuckle.

“...was that funny?” Ron asked. “Am I missing something here?”

“Sorry, it's an old joke with us.”

The rest of the day passed in the warm glow of a holiday, and of large numbers of new presents to try out.

Twilight spent a good few hours reading through her book on Greek mythology, wondering at how many of the creatures from Equestria seemed to also be around in this world. She also had to help Spike out with reading the phoenix book, some of which was in quite spidery ...handwriting, and she decided to try writing it all out in a neater hornscript when she had the time.

Peewee seemed as interested as Spike was in the contents of the book, too.

But the clear winner was Harry's cloak. Twilight was no closer to working out just how it functioned, or even what the limits were, but when she had a few minutes to examine it... she couldn't detect her own leg when it was under the cloak, by any means except feel. And yet she could look out of it with no difficulty whatsoever.

It was clearly very magical. Perhaps as magical as the Elements of Harmony were.

Twilight had all her thank-you notes written by bedtime, and had Spike add his name to them before handing them out (for the ones to people in the house) or giving them to Owlowiscious (to take to people like Neville or Hagrid, who weren't there to thank in person).

He'd moaned a bit, but she'd insisted – reminding him gently that it had to be done, and that it was better to get it done quickly before they forgot to. After a while, he relented, and the chore was out of the way before the end of Christmas Day.

As she lay awake, Twilight couldn't help but think about Equestria again. She'd been gone for months, now, and though she knew that it wouldn't be that long on the Equestrian end... she missed her friends. And her family.

She moved slightly, looking over at Spike (already asleep), and felt a smile creep over her lips. At least some of her family was with her.

Harry was very excited about something, the next morning.

“I went out last night,” he explained. “In my invisibility cloak – just to test it... and I found a mirror which...”

He paused, then continued more quietly. “It showed me my parents.”

“Really?” Ron asked. “A mirror did that? Not a painting?”

“Yeah,” Harry confirmed. “I must have looked at it for-” he yawned. “I must have spent hours looking at it.”

He turned to Twilight. “Have you heard of something like that?”

“A magic mirror?” Twilight frowned. “Not in Equestria... I know there's magic mirrors which talk about your appearance, here, but to show other people...” She shrugged. “Why don't we go have a look?”

Harry looked at her dubiously. “I don't think we'd all fit under the cloak...”

“I can go on Twilight's back, if that helps,” Spike suggested.

“No, I mean now.” Twilight gestured with her head towards the windows, which showed an overcast sky. “It's daytime – we can just go there. It wasn't anywhere we're not allowed to go, was it?”

“No, just an old classroom...” Harry thought about it. “Sure. Follow me.”

The two Equestrians and Ron followed Harry out the portrait door – he'd spoken only to them because there weren't many other people he knew still in the castle, and of the Weaselys Fred and George were somewhere else.

And mentioning his midnight jaunt to Percy wouldn't have been a good idea. After all, Percy was a Prefect.

It wasn't far – a five or ten minute walk – before they reached the door to the old classroom Harry had been in last night.

“Here,” he said, pushing the door open. “It's in the middle of the room – there's a cover on it.”

“I'll get it,” Twilight volunteered, and used her telekinesis to lift the sheet off the mirror.

And saw... Equestria.

All five of her friends from Ponyville where there with her, smiling, and Celestia and Luna stood patiently behind them. Her family were there as well, including Shining, and Cadence – the real one, not the fake she'd discovered just before coming here.

Further back, also smiling, were Trixie and Gilda, and the Cutie Mark Crusaders – with Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon, all happy together – and past that more and more ponies and other Equestrians, smaller with distance... and all of them content.

“Wow...” Spike breathed. “I look awesome.”

Twilight blinked, at that, and looked for Spike in the reflection. There he was... the same as normal, perhaps a little taller, though Peewee was fully grown and resting on his arm.

“Er...” Twilight began. “Spike? What can you see?”

“I must be five times bigger!” Spike said, grinning. “And...” his breath caught. “Rarity...”

Twilight closed her eyes, tearing them away from the sight in the mirror, and shook her head. “Guys – I think this mirror might be dangerous.”

“How can it be dangerous?” Ron asked. “Look! I'm Head Boy – and Quidditch captain!”

The Element of Magic tried to put her concern into words. “Everyone's seeing something different – something they want to see, something they want more than anything else in the world.”

“What do you see, then?” Harry asked.

“Home,” she replied, with a little catch in her voice. “I can see home, and my friends.”

She shook her head. “But that's not the important bit. The important bit is that Harry spent hours staring at this mirror last night. I think it's some kind of... trap.”

Twilight opened her eyes again, not focusing on the reflection, and noticed some words at the top of the mirror. “Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi...”

“Pardon?” Spike asked.

“It's an inscription, look.” She pointed. “Hmmm... Erised... ah! I show not your face but your heart's desire.

“What?” Ron squinted. “Where's that?”

“It's backwards. Erised-Desire, see?”

“So... what now?” Harry asked.

Twilight grimaced. “I don't think it's safe to keep looking. Sorry. I just... I could imagine spending hours looking at it – days, even weeks – and I don't think that's healthy.”

An example came to mind from the mythology book. “Maybe this is where the story of Narcissus came from.”

Seeing their confusion, she elaborated. “In the story, Narcissus was a nymph in Ancient Greece, and he was cursed to fall in love with his own reflection. He stayed staring into a pool of clear water at his own reflection, not moving for anything, and eventually... when he realized that he could never have his reflection, only look at it... he killed himself.”

Twilight shivered. “I wouldn't be surprised if this was where that came from, like I say.”

“...yeah, I understand.” Ron gulped. “Still...”

“What was yours, again?” Twilight asked.

“I was Head Boy and Quidditch Captain,” Ron replied.

“You know...” Twilight looked him up and down. “That's not really a bad heart's desire. You could actually manage that.”

“I could?” Ron asked, eyes wide.

“Yes.” Twilight held up a hoof. “But – it takes a lot of effort to do either of them. You need to be good at schoolwork to be able to be head boy, because it's a lot of work, and especially if you're Quidditch captain as well because that means you'd be spending a lot of time at practise. And, of course, you'd need to be good at keeping to the rules and good at making sure others don't break them.”

The boy had gone a bit pale.

Twilight smiled, restraining a giggle. “But being just one of them isn't as much work – though it still is work. I suppose what I'm saying is, your dream is one you need to work towards. Sort of like mine is, really.”

“And me?” Spike asked.

“Well.” Twilight began to answer, but paused. “Actually, your one isn't impossible either.”


“Really.” Twilight clapped him on the shoulder with a hoof. “Remember what I said – back in Equestria, time isn't passing for them. That means that, if it does take four years for us to get back, you'll be four years older when we get back.”

Spike nodded, still not seeing it.

“And that means you'll be four years closer in age to Rarity,” Twilight finished. She chuckled as his eyes widened. “That doesn't mean she'll fall in love with you, though – just that you'd have a better chance.”


“As for you, Harry...” Twilight sighed. “I don't know. I really don't. But... it's still possible you could get a family. A proper family, I mean. It all depends what you call a family.”

Harry shrugged. “I do know my parents are dead – I've had ten years to get used to that. I just... I don't even have any pictures of them.” Twilight winced in sympathy. “But... anything's better than the Dursleys, and at least I'm at Hogwarts now.”

“Yeah.” Twilight frowned. “Maybe you could stay at Neville's house over the summer? It couldn't hurt to ask.”

“Yeah, good point.” Harry sighed, making to look back at the mirror, but stopped and turned for the door. “Let's go.”

Twilight took the time to replace the sheet over the mirror, then followed, closing the door securely behind her.

Flying, Free

View Online

The next morning, Twilight got up early, and ate before almost anyone else in the castle was awake.

Kettleburn accosted her almost as soon as she finished. “Ah, miss Sparkle. Good morning!”

“Good morning, Professor,” she replied. “I'm looking forward to this.”

“Good, er, mare. Follow me.”

As he turned to go, Twilight cleared her throat. “Er – Professor, have you had breakfast?”

“Eh?” Kettleburn glanced back at her. “Oh, no – but don't mind me. If we can get you sorted out, then I can just have a late breakfast. Better to get it done sooner, in my opinion.”

“Okay.” Twilight acceded to that – she did want to try flying. That was the whole reason she'd gotten up so early, after all. “Where are we going?”

Kettleburn chuckled. “Outdoors!”

The broom looked a lot like the ones she'd seen the others using. It was a middle-aged Cleansweep, with nothing visibly remarkable about it – the handle was worn, the brushes stuck out a bit and the binding that held it together was recently repaired.

“Right,” Kettleburn said. “On you get.”

“Er... okay,” Twilight stepped over the broom shaft. “How do I do this?”

“Oh...” Kettleburn tapped his chin. “Say 'up'.”

“Up,” Twilight complied, and the broom rose to press softly against her chest.

“I think I can feel the cushioning charm,” she volunteered, prodding at it experimentally.

“Good, good. Does it feel uncomfortable?” Kettleburn crouched down to check how it was seated. “Good, it looks like it's up against your breastbone – that's automatic. Should be supporting your weight evenly, so let me know if it starts to feel uncomfortable.”

“Right. What now?” Twilight asked, apprehensively.

“Hmmm... how to do this...” Kettleburn mused. “Try clamping your legs around the broom shaft.”

Cautiously, Twilight lifted her legs one by one to grip the broom, opposite sides first. When the third leg lifted and she didn't fall over, the broom smoothly taking her weight, she let out an unconscious sigh.

“That's good!” Kettleburn grinned, as she rested entirely on the hovering broom. “Now, brooms are a bit like wands – they channel magic, and they rely on intent. Think forwards – slowly, mind!”

Twilight thought for a moment, then concentrated on the broom and on moving like she would make a telekinesis spell move something forwards. Slowly, the broom slid through the air.

“This feels very strange...” she muttered.

“I'm not all that surprised,” Kettleburn replied, pacing alongside her. “Okay, now, up – gently!”

Twilight, it transpired, was not particularly good at flying.

She could go in a straight line, though slowly, and turn in mid-air – though doing both at once resulted in a wobbly curve and a racing heart as she clung grimly to the broom.

“I don't know how pegasi manage...” she said through clenched teeth, coming unsteadily down to the snow-covered grass at a little above walking pace.

“Hm.” Kettleburn frowned. “Well, if they're at all like winged horses, they're held up by their wings – which are above the centre of gravity, not below it – and they've got muscles which attach to a flight keel. Both of those are going to make them much more stable, and then there's instinct on top of it – they're built for flight.”

“Go on,” Twilight asked, looking for something to distract her from her stomach. “What about humans? How do you all manage?”

“Some of us don't.” Kettleburn readied his wand, just in case Twilight needed assistance. “Part of it is that we have our legs down around the broom, and often crouch over it – which lowers our own centre of mass.” He broke off as Twilight skidded in the snow, then continued when she slowed to a stop. “I'd hoped the same would apply with you, but your body barrel is too large. We might need to tweak the cushioning charm...”

Twilight nodded, swallowing uneasily, and put her legs down. “I think I'd like to stop now.”

“Oh, by all means.” Kettleburn waited until she'd walked forwards off the broom, then collected it. “As I say, we'll have Rolanda work with you – obviously, flying isn't essential, but it's certainly useful.”

“Thank you.” Twilight regarded the broom uncertainly. “I think. Maybe Spike can help...”

Actually, Spike was probably up by now. Maybe he'd have some advice.

As Twilight trotted back along the corridors, she heard voices ahead of her.

“...surprised, I have to...”

Her ears pricked up involuntarily, and she continued forwards at the same pace.

“...didn't expect you to come to me...”

The voice took only a moment to recognize – it was Professor McGonnagall.

“...Professor,” a different and more male voice replied. “...serious.”

Twilight considered casting a spell to allow her to hear better, but almost instantly discarded it. She wasn't an eavesdropper, after all. What she was overhearing was entirely accidental.

The next word she heard a little more clearly, as Professor McGonnagall said 'Giblets' to the Fat Lady.

Twilight checked her stride slightly, not wanting to crowd them, and ended up coming around the corner only as the paining swung closed.

“Giblets,” she informed the Fat Lady, trotting up.

“I've been hearing that a lot lately,” the portrait replied, opening again and admitting Twilight.

“Hi, Twilight,” Spike waved. “Where were you?”

Twilight slowed to a stop next to him. “Oh – sorry, I got up early and ran into Professor Kettleburn. He wanted to check on his work with that modified broomstick.”

“He did?” Spike grinned. “Cool! So, how did you find it?”

Twilight winced. “Not great...” she admitted. “I don't really have the stomach for flying, I think. Not on my own, anyway.”

Spike's grin morphed into a frown. “Don't we go around in a balloon? How's that different?”

“Well...” Twilight blushed. “Basically, I trust pegasi to know what they're doing. I know I can't fly, and all the books I've found here are about learning to fly a broom if you're human.” She shrugged, embarassed. “So I can't do what I usually do, which is read a book.”

“Oh.” Spike digested that. “Well... can't I teach you? I did say.”

Twilight forced a smile. “You can give it a go. I might just not be cut out for flying, though...”

A snigger. “Actually, I just thought, if I had wings then I'd be more confident because I wouldn't be in danger if I fell off...”

Spike saw where she was going. “But if you had wings you'd be a pegasus anyway and you wouldn't need a broom. Right.”

“Yes.” Twilight sat down next to him. “Maybe, if this doesn't work, when we get back home we can give a broom to Dash and see what she thinks.”

They contemplated that for a bit.

“I... actually don't know how she'd react,” Spike said.

Any further conversation was cut off by a commotion from up the left stairs.

“What's that?” Twilight asked, frowning.

“Not sure,” Spike replied. “Professor McGonnagall and the twins went up there a moment ago-”

He was interrupted by the sound of the Professor's raised voice, then the sound of a spell hitting something.

“That was a stun-” Twilight began.

More shouting, and more spellfire. Red and blue light flickered in the stairwell.

By now, all the students in the common room were standing. Most looked puzzled, some warily walking away from the stairs, and a few had drawn their wands.

Twilight, for her part, lit her horn and cast some shield spells.

“What's going on?” she asked, looking quickly over at Percy.

“I'm not sure,” Percy replied, looking lost. “The Professor took Fred and George upstairs – I was wondering if she wanted to have a word with them about-”

Something small came darting down the stairs, chased by a jet of yellow light.

“Stop him!” McGonnagall shouted, hurrying down herself.

“What?” Ron asked, frowning. “Isn't that Scabbers?”

The rat scurried across the floor, through the cleared lane between chairs, making a rat-line for the portrait hole. A grey spell hit next to it, making a small crater-


And a bolt of red light hit it squarely, sending it flying into the wall unconscious.

All eyes in the room turned to Harry, who had his wand out and levelled, and was looking rather surprised with himself.

Over the course of the next few minutes, Albus Dumbledore, Filius Flitwick and Quirinus Quirrell turned up in Gryffindor Tower. The rat was lifted by magic, placed inside the same cage Ron had kept him in for months, and then carried out of the room – still unconscious.

Once the procession of teachers had left, silence reigned for a few seconds.

“What the bloody hell just happened?” Ron burst out, breaking it. “Did they just confiscate Scabbers?”

The boy rounded on his friend. “And Harry – why did you stun Scabbers?”

Harry looked uncertain, and shifted his grip on his wand. “I... McGonagall said stop him, so I thought... it had to be important, right? And after all those reviews we've done on the stun spell, it's what came to mind...”

“He wasn't Scabbers,” Fred replied, unusually sober.

George nodded. “He wasn't even a rat.”

Ron gaped. “But... what the hell, guys?”

“I'm inclined to agree,” Percy said. “Especially if this is one of your pranks-”

“Shut up, Perce, we wouldn't joke like this,” George snapped.

Fred gestured to a table. “Sit down, we'll explain.”

After a few more stares, the other Weasleys sat. Harry did as well, still looking a bit numb, and Twilight and Spike watched along with most of the present Gryffindors.

Fred rummaged in his robe pocket, and pulled out a sheet of blank parchment. “This is the Marauder's Map. We found it-”

“Well,” George interrupted, a ghost of his normal grin playing across his face, “It was found. By us.”

“Somewhere no-one else ever looks.”

“Well, Filch might, because it's his-”

Percy cleared his throat. “Fred? George?”

The twins looked abashed. “Sorry, Perce.”

“Right. Anyway, this is the Marauder's Map. Watch.”

Fred cleared his throat, placing his wand on the sheet. “I solemnly swear I am up to no good.”

Twilight watched in astonishment, as the parchment... sprouted lines from the tip of Fred's wand. The lines curled together, branched out, and formed into words.

“Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs...” she read aloud, along with several other Gryffindors, “are proud to present the Marauder's Map.”

The words cleared, turning into a large diagram showing a map of Hogwarts.

“Wait...” Ron said, uncertainly. “Are those us?”

He pointed to a collection of dots around Gryffindor tower.

“Yep.” Fred nodded. “It tells you where people are. That's the cool thing.”

Percy gaped. “So this is how you keep sneaking around all the time!”

“That's right,” George confirmed.

“Makes it easy.”

“Bit too easy, really.”

“No challenge,” Fred said, before pointing back to the map. “Anyway. Notice anything important about who it shows?”

Twilight leaned closer. Herself, Spike, Harry, the Weasleys...

“Where's my tarantula?” Lee Jordan asked.

“Spot on, Lee,” Fred said, pointing at him. “It doesn't show pets.”

Several other voices raised. “But it shows-”

“I can see-”

Spike joined in. “Peewee's right there!”

“Yeah.” George nodded. “It shows familiars. And when we were first learning to use it, there was a name we kept seeing who we thought was a familiar.”

“Stupid name for a cat or whatever,” Fred said, shrugging. “But we don't know Percy's year-mates or anyone older well enough to say.”

“And when we looked back on Christmas day,” George took up the story. “It was in Ron's room. Had been the last few times we looked, but this time it was the only one there.”

Percy paled.

“What?” someone asked. “Why is that-”

“So I went up,” Fred continued. “To make sure there wasn't a cat about to try to eat Scabbers, 'cause we were all down here and there was no-one else there. But when I got there... no cat. Just a sleeping rat in a cage.”

“But...” Ron frowned. “Scabbers isn't a familiar... he used to be Percy's, right?”


There was an intake of breath. Twilight frowned – she could almost feel the answer, just out of reach...

Fred dropped his firecracker. “He's an Animagus called Peter Pettigrew.”

Dead silence greeted that sentence.

“...what in Merlin's name...” someone murmured.

Percy had gone chalk white.

“So...” Ron gulped. “You mean that Scabbers... was a person? A man?”

“A man with an Order of Merlin,” Percy said distantly. “Who's supposed to have died ten years ago.”

“Oh, bloody hell...” Ron had gone slightly green. “I feel ill now – he shared my pillow some nights!”

“How do you think I feel?” Percy snapped. “I was the one who found him in the garden!”

The older boy took a deep breath, then sighed. “Sorry, Ron. I apologize – I just feel...”

“Yeah,” Ron replied. “I can guess.”

“Who was this Pettigrew?” Spike asked. “I mean, if he's supposed to be dead... couldn't it be good he's still alive?”

“Not when the worst of You-Know-Who's lieutenants, Sirius Black, is supposed to be the one who killed him,” Percy replied. “All they found was his finger – and Scabbers has always had a missing toe.”

“I think I'm gonna be ill,” Ron mumbled.

The common room was full of a buzz of speculation for the next few hours. Twilight didn't have much to contribute, still not being entirely up-to-date on who these people were, but what she overheard filled her in quite quickly.

And made her feel very confused.

“Excuse me,” she asked a seventh year, “but... I'm not sure who Peter Pettigrew and Sirius Black were. Can you explain?”

“Oh?” The girl frowned. “Sure. Hold on, let's see... okay. So Sirius Black was a wizard from a really nasty family – Black by name, Black by nature, you know?”

“I'm afraid I don't, much,” Twilight replied, thinking that over. “But go on.”

“Well...” the student hissed through her teeth. “He was supposed to be this big friend of the Potters, I think – not sure about that – but he betrayed them to You-Know-Who.”

Twilight nodded.

“Anyway, Peter Pettigrew confronted him about it – called him out in the street – and Sirius just... blew him up. Him and at least five Muggles.”

That elicited a frown from the Equestrian. “But... if he was the rat...”

“Yeah...” The girl looked thoughtful. “I don't know, actually. Doesn't seem to make sense...”

She shrugged. “Sorry, that's about all I know. It happened when I was only about seven years old, so I didn't follow everything.”

“Right.” Twilight turned the information over in her mind.

It all seemed to make very little sense, to her. There just wasn't enough information to tell what was going on, except that what everyone thought had happened wasn't what had actually happened.

Very little got done for most of the day. The talk eventually died out around lunch, but nothing really replaced it – a few desultorily did a bit of homework, but no-one really seemed inclined to do much.

Twilight wanted to help – especially Ron, for whom all of this seemed to be really sinking in – but... this wasn't really something she knew how to help with.

It wasn't as if she hadn't encountered problems as bad as this. Discord, who had manipulated the emotions of her friends to twist them into bad ponies, sprang to mind... but even then, he'd used magic, and magic had been part of the answer.

This was just... betrayal.

She asked Spike what he thought, and he didn't have an answer either.

Around four, the portrait hole swung open.

“Ron?” asked a short woman with brown-red hair, climbing through. “Ronniekins?”

“Mum!” Ron half-stood, startled, then blushed. “Don't call me that, mum!”

The woman – Mrs. Weasley – stood up as she got past the door, and let it swing closed behind her. “I came as soon as I heard, dear. Are you alright?”

Ron frowned, uncertain. “I... not really.” His voice trembled. “I'm still... trying to really get it. I mean...”

The woman moved quickly towards her youngest son, and swept him into a hug. “It's okay, Ron.”

Ron resisted for a moment, then leaned into the embrace. “Mum,” he whined, half-heartedly. “All my friends are watching!”

Mrs. Weasley ignored him. “It's alright, Ron. He's gone now.”

“I-” Ron began, then fell silent. Another try got no further, and then he sighed. “...thanks, Mum.”

Everyone tried to pretend they hadn't been watching.

“Mother?” Percy began.

“Yes, dear?” Mrs. Weasley replied, still hugging Ron.

“What's going to happen with... well, with Pettigrew?” Percy swallowed.

She released Ron, who sat back down with what looked a little like gratitude, and frowned. “I don't know, dear. It's all very sudden. It might go to trial – I hope neither of you will be called up, but it might be necessary.”

“What about us?” Fred – well, probably Fred – asked, nodding to his twin. “Will they ask for us, too?”

Mrs. Weasley turned towards her other two sons, and her expression softened. “I don't know that either. Sorry, darling.” She paused. “And – George, whatever else I say about you two, and I know I do say a lot – thank you. You've done the right thing, shown you do know what to do when it's serious, and I'm proud of that.”

The twins both went red.

“Arthur couldn't get away, I'm afraid,” she added, now turning back towards Ron and Percy. “He's at work, and there's been a lot of activity all over the Ministry today. But he did find time to Floo me, and he'll try to come up on Saturday. In the meantime – if you ever need to speak to me or your father, just let us know by post or by Floo and we'll come as soon as we can.”

“Thank you,” Percy said solemnly.

“Yeah.” Ron's eyes were perhaps a little wet, but he looked up at his mother with a wan smile. “Thanks, Mum.”

After Mrs. Weasley had left, Twilight saw Spike approach Ron.

“Uh...” Spike scratched the back of his head. “Just so you know, er... if you need to send a letter quickly, I can try using Peewee. He wants to give it a go, I think, so... er, it might help.”

Ron nodded. “Thanks.”

Percy put an arm around his brother's shoulder. “Thank you, Spike. I'm sure it'll help.”

Ron shrugged the arm off half-heartedly. “Gerrof, Perce.”

The elder brother dropped his arm, and didn't put it back again. “Okay. If you need me, just ask.”

“Me, too,” Lee Jordan volunteered. “Griffs stick together.”

A low rumble of approval spread around the common room. Twilight joined in as much as anyone.