- Character Bashing
- Alternate Universe
Amaranth wandered through the corridor of the Hogwarts Express, her new familiar, a juvenile magical gemstone snake by the name of Prism, gently looped around around her neck like a living necklace and Neville following just behind her. Prism had scales that glittered like small gems in an array of various hues, thus his name. He was a vain little thing and liked to be praised and pampered. Amaranth had found him in a shop on Diagon a few days prior, having been drawn to his tank by her Parselmagic.
Merlin and Sirius had ensured that she wasn’t ashamed of her Parseltongue and Parselmagic abilities, bringing in teachers from around the world to instruct her in their uses as well as publishing articles in the Daily Prophet about various famous Parselmouths from around the world. By the time Amaranth was nine, the British Magical World had mostly relaxed its stance on the ‘evilness’ of the ability, especially when Gringotts revealed the fact that some of their best healers and warders had it and were highly prized amongst the ranks of their human and near-human employees. After all, if the goblins prized the ability, then surely it couldn’t be too bad even if the Dark Lord and Salazar Slytherin had been.
When they reached the middle of the train, Amaranth was about to turn to talk with Neville when she heard the soft sounds of someone crying in a nearby compartment, the door of which had been hastily but not entirely closed. She shot her soulmate a worried look before she knocked on the compartment’s door and then slid it open. A girl about her age sat within, her loose hair marking her either as a Muggleborn or as a Pure- or Halfblood that didn’t hold to the Old Ways; either way, it had Neville blushing a little as he and Amaranth stepped inside.
“Hi,” Amaranth said, pulling a clean handkerchief out of her dimensional store and handing it to the other witch as she sat down next to her. “I’m Mara, and this is Neville. Who’re you, and why’re you crying?”
There was sniffling and a soft blowing of a nose before an answer was given. “M-my name’s H-Hermione, and some of the girls in another c-compartment said I should get off the train now and not bother going to Hogwarts. They said I don’t belong h-here because I’m not a proper witch.”
Amaranth huffed sharply at that. “Well, they’re idiots,” she said. “Are you Muggleborn?”
Hermione nodded as she wiped at her eyes. “Y-yes. Why? I can still do magic, so why am I not a proper witch?”
“Yes, but they were raised in the Old Ways, and look down on anyone who hasn’t been, even those who don’t know what that means,” Amaranth explained. “Your hair gave you away.”
Hermione lifted a hand to her frizzy hair. “My hair?”
“A witch’s hair collects some of her magic and reflects her moods,” Neville said, his cheeks still dusted with pink. Most Pureblood wizards didn’t think about talking about a witch’s hair in polite society save to say it looked nice, so for him to be actually explaining the meaning behind it was highly unusual. “Witches raised in the Old Ways keep their hair bound up except in front of their bonded, children, or healers. Well, most of them, anyways. There are some who wear it down even if they were raised in the Old Ways, but they’re not viewed… kindly by most of Wizarding society.”
“I didn’t even know!” Hermione insisted. “And I’ve read a lot about Wizarding culture and nothing is mentioned about keeping my hair up. I don’t even know how that’d work. My hair is horrible to work with and can’t really be tamed.”
“I can help with that,” Amaranth assured her. She gestured at her own hair, which was currently held back in two simple braids at the back of her head. “My house elf helps me with my hair in the mornings. I can call her and see if she’d be willing to help you with yours.” She paused. “I can also help explain more about the Old Ways if you like. Most Muggleborn learn about them when they’re fostered or sponsored by a House or Family. My Aunt ‘Cissa has told my cousin that he should keep an eye out for someone for the House of Malfoy to either foster or sponsor. Fostering and sponsoring are a little different in how they work, but–”
“Did you say ‘Malfoy’?” Hermione interrupted, her eyes wide. “I–” She worried at her bottom lip with her teeth, her fingers twisting the handkerchief into tortured shapes. “Professor McGonagall took us to the Ministry of Magic on our introductory tour. We went to a room with a book in it.”
“The Book of Souls,” Amaranth supplied helpfully. “It… Did it tell you the name of a Malfoy?”
Hermione nodded. “Yes. Draco Lucius Malfoy.”
Amaranth smiled warmly. “He’s my cousin,” she said. “Now, it wouldn’t be considered proper if Draco or myself offered to sponsor you, but Neville here or one of the other Families or Houses could.”
“Why wouldn’t it be proper?”
“Because soulmates are considered a sacred thing amongst magic users,” Neville said. “And traditionally, soulmates are sponsored or fostered in separate Families or Houses to ensure nothing untoward happens to either of them. It’s considered an honor by many to foster an ally’s soulmate. It strengthens the bonds between the Houses, or is supposed to, anyways. I can write my mum to see if she’d be willing to owl your parents about us sponsoring you.”
Hermione nodded, a shy but pleased smile on her face. Amaranth called for Dahlia to help her with Hermione’s hair, and by the time the last call whistle sounded, Hermione’s hair had been mostly tamed and put up in a French braid. There were still flyaways here and there, but Dahlia assured Hermione that those could be managed better in time with specialized shampoos and hair wraps, just like what Amaranth used. Dahlia returned to Potter Manor just before the train started off, though since she was Amaranth’s personally bonded elf, she would be able to pop in and out of Hogwarts as needed. It was a perk many of the noble Heirs used if they had the chance, though Amaranth had no intention of abusing the privilege like some did.
Draco joined them ten minutes or so after the train started off, bringing Blaise Zabini and Susan Bones with him. The latter two had been part of the larger friend group of the two cousins since they were young, often spending time with them during various parties and balls. When Amaranth introduced Hermione with a bit of a grin, she was highly amused to see the blush form high on her cousin’s cheeks when he heard Hermione’s name.
Once the initial awkwardness had passed– though Hermione and Draco would occasionally exchange shy smiles and curious looks –the rest of the train ride went well, with the occasional visitor dropping in to say hello. Amaranth made sure to introduce the others in the compartment to Prism, the young serpent preening under all the attention he received. When the train finally reached Hogsmeade Station, the six of them stayed together until they had to separate into the boats at the shore of the Black Lake.
Amaranth, Neville, Draco, and Hermione all took one boat, while Susan and Blaise were in another. A deep warmth swept over Amaranth as the boats crossed the ward line near the middle of the lake, making her feel like she’d just sunk into a warm bath. It was wonderfully welcoming, though whether it was because she was Heir Slytherin or Heir Pendragon– or if Hogwarts just liked her that much already –she wasn’t sure. She kept it to herself, however, taking Neville’s hand as he helped her and then Hermione out of the boat, Draco staying in it until the end to help keep it steady.
Once all the children had safely gotten onto dry land, Hagrid led them up to the castle, knocking three times upon the towering front doors. When Professor McGonagall answered the knock, Amaranth couldn’t help but smile. The older witch was a favorite of hers, even if she didn’t see her all that often during most of the year. She’d proved an invaluable ally with managing Dumbledore, especially after she’d been allowed to pass off her duties as Head of Gryffindor and Transfiguration teacher to others in order to focus solely on being Deputy Headmistress.
The Board had decided some time ago that having professors who both taught and who were House Heads was detrimental both to the teachers and the students, so they’d changed it so that the House Heads had no other responsibilities except to oversee their Houses. That had drawn quite a bit of protest from the Headmaster, but when the numbers showed that productivity had gone up and enmity both between and within the four Houses had gone down, he stopped fussing as much about it. The students had thrived under it, and inter-House rivalries had been at an all-time low in the past five years since the new status quo had been implemented. That didn’t mean that there hadn’t been trouble, of course, but it was more common to see mixed-House groups of friends, as well as study groups and clubs than it had been just a decade prior.
Amaranth listened to what McGonagall had to say, and when the Professor had left, turned to speak to the others about the Sorting. She was just about to start talking when a loud and rather obnoxious voice sounded nearby.
“Is that a snake? What are you doing bringing a great slimy snake here?”
Amaranth sighed softly before turning to look at the speaker. Ronald Weasley. Such an annoying boy. He’d always been rather dismissive of her, especially when she showed little interest in wanting to be around him. The rest of his family was lovely– though Molly seemed to think that there weren’t enough females in her life and tried to mother her even when she didn’t want to be –and Amaranth got along with them perfectly fine. She quite liked the rest of the Weasley children, even Percy, who, while often officious and headstrong, was quite handy with a healing charm and a kind word if needed.
“Mister Weasley, Prism is my familiar, and he is not slimy,” she replied calmly, falling back on the kind of distant politeness Merlin had taught her was a ruler’s greatest weapon when dealing with someone she didn’t like. After all, she couldn’t be accused of being rude or spiteful if she kept calm and somewhat gracious regardless of what was being said to her. That didn’t mean she couldn’t defend herself if necessary, but Merlin and Sirius had pressed upon her that because of her status, known or not, her every action would be judged and dissected by those who were watching. It was better to establish a persona of being just and fair in all things with all people now rather than thrusting it upon people when she took the throne.
“So? It’s still a ruddy snake! It shouldn’t be allowed!” Ron insisted. “It could bite us all!”
“Prism isn’t venomous,” Amaranth corrected. “He’s a constrictor. More to the point, he’s also a baby. The most he can do is eat small mice. An eleven-year-old is far too big for him.”
Ron huffed at that. “Still a snake.” He sneered. “Bet you’re going to be a Snake as well. I–”
He stopped when the ghosts started streaming through the wall, talking animatedly about Peeves. Not too long after that, Professor McGonagall was back to collect them and lead them into the Great Hall. Amaranth was glad not to have to deal with Ron any more, secretly hoping that they wouldn’t get Sorted into the same House. It may have been petty of her, but she didn’t want to have to deal with him for the next seven years. The Lady only knew what he’d be like when he found out about her royal status, let alone the fact that she and Neville were soulmates and betrothed, something that had been quietly done a week after their joint birthday party.
The betrothal would provide both of them protections against others who might seek to use them for their status– both were Heirs of Ancient and Noble Houses, after all, and to titles in both the Wizarding and Muggle worlds – as well as not caring about the fact that they were soulmates. They both wore gold betrothal rings on the pointer finger of their left hands; Amaranth’s had the Longbottom coat of arms engraved on it while Neville’s had the Potter coat of arms. The rings would provide extra protections against love and lust potions and spells specifically, adding to those their Heir rings already gave them.
Amaranth shook herself out of her thoughts when they reached the front of the Great Hall, carefully not looking at the Headmaster. There was a strict magical restraining order on him that prevented him from speaking to her outside the sole capacity of her Headmaster while at school, and even then, he was required to have either Sirius or Remus at any meeting that took place in his office, as well as whomever her Head of House would be. Neville and Draco had similar orders against him as well, not wanting to be used as a way to get close to Amaranth indirectly.
The orders had been debated about amongst the Avalon Alliance, but in the end it was decided it was for the best, especially given the power Dumbledore still had over quite a bit of the Wizarding World, even outside of Britain. No one wanted him to have more power than he already did, especially not over Amaranth. That would be a disaster of epic proportions if it happened.
McGonagall set the three-legged stool down on the floor before taking the Sorting Hat from the Head Girl, who had been assisting with getting things ready. She cleared her throat and began to read off names, placing the Hat on each student’s head in turn. Amaranth clapped for them all, but wasn’t ashamed to admit that she clapped harder when Hermione went to Ravenclaw, Neville went to Hufflepuff, and Draco went to Slytherin. Everyone seemed to hold their breath when her name was called.
Amaranth ignored them all, stepping up to the stool and then taking a seat on it. McGonagall placed the Hat on her head, and soon the rest of the Hall was blocked by the cloth making up the ancient artifact.
Ah, welcome to Hogwarts, your Highness. It is an honor to finally meet you.
An honor? Amaranth murmured back in the privacy of her mind. I’m not sure about that, but thank you anyways.
The Hat chuckled softly. Modest, hmm? That’ll serve you well. I can see the same fire that your mother had in her, though, as well as the eagerness of both your fathers to prove themselves to the world. There’s cunning here, yes, as well as bravery, loyalty, and intelligence. You’re a tough one to Sort, but given who’s had hands in raising you, I’m hardly surprised.
My family has always stood by me and made sure to teach me everything they can.
Yes, they have, but they’ve also given you love, the drive to succeed, and the knowledge that while you may be the future Queen, you’re still allowed to just be you, the Hat countered. It hummed softly to itself for a moment, snatches of ancient melodies flowing into Amaranth’s brain without going through her ears first. Yes, yes, they’ve shaped you well, though you have grown and developed in your own way as well, like a vine on a trellis or arbor. You would do well to continue that growth in–
Amaranth blinked in the candlelight as the Hat was lifted off her head. She got up to the sound of clapping and cheers and made her way to sit next to Hermione, who looked rather pleased about having a friend in her House already. Amaranth glanced up at the teacher’s table, barely hiding a smirk at the tight expression on Dumbledore’s face. He probably expected her to go into Gryffindor like all three of her parents, but she didn’t care. She was her own person, after all, and the sooner he learned that, the better.
Once the Sorting had finished (with Blaise joining Draco in Slytherin) and the Headmaster had made a short but rather nonsensical speech, the Welcoming Feast began. Amaranth and the others started to put food on their plates, with Amaranth making sure to quietly cast detection spells on her food, plate, and silverware before beginning to eat. It might seem paranoid, but even with the protections on her rings, she wasn’t about to take chances.
As she settled in, Amaranth relaxed more and more, finally feeling like she was on the road to fulfilling her future. It would be a long and hard road to get there, and doubtlessly filled with many obstacles, but as long as she had good friends and family on her side and magic in her soul, she was confident that one day, she would ascend the throne and lead the British Wizarding World and Avalon to the shining future once promised by Arthur himself.
For now, though, she was going to focus on simply being herself and enjoying school. She was, after all, only just eleven. There would be plenty of time for the rest later.