This week’s prompt is #collaboration, which pairs up multiple writers for one piece. Due to every creative writer’s tremendous love of Harry Potter, this piece has been written by N. Alysha Lewis, Erin Vail, Thomas Viehe, and Ryan Fay.
Xander Cliffton had just been promoted to Managing Editor at Muggles & Magic Magazine. This meant moving to London. He’d been there once before, on a class trip during his year studying abroad at Hogwarts. Keri Chuffington, Editor-in-Chief, suggested that Xander get to know some of the people he would be working with and pointed out a few new colleagues to grab drinks with after work.
Fast forward to that night at the Warlock’s Tabernacle, Ryan Fay, VP of Marketing, came back with two pitchers of butterbeer for the table, careful not to spill any. Nicole Wincourt, Senior Digital Editor, thanked him and poured a glass. Xander and Erin Leavesden, the staff writer with a sense of adventure and a heart of gold, complained that they would rather something less sweet. Ryan came back with Erin’s usual goblet of fire whiskey and an Amstel Light for Xander.
“So, Xander,” said Ryan, sliding the Yankee his gross beer, “KC told us you spent a year at Hogwarts during the Potter years. We all went through some degree of that nonsense, too. Which house were you in?”
“Yeah,” Xander started, “I was there back in ‘95 or ‘96. My sixth year. Rough term to be studying abroad, lemme tell you. My Browns were moving to Baltimore and I was stuck up in Scotland in old Hogwarts castle, cold and barren. Not a single way of following the NFL because the backwards Ministry of Magic forbade international and No-Maj media. They call ‘em “Muggles,” can you believe that? Odious country. All them British wizards and witches loved that place, Hogwarts, like it was some enchanted haven. Wonder what they’d make of the New World and our beautiful Ilvermorny.”
“Oi!” Nicole squinted at Xander over her glass. “You haven’t yet earned the right to shit on England or Hogwarts. Know your place, newbie.”
There was an awkward pause before Xander continued. “Anyway, like all of their Yank exchange students, as they called us, all eleven of us, we were sorted into Slytherin. It was a private ceremony. Heard it was because their government was leery of outsiders. Thought we were plants from Dumbledore. Guess they tricked that hat into putting us all some place they could watch us. Or it just discriminated against us cause we was different and smarter than them. I reckon no American’s been put in any other house in that dusty ole place. We’re all cunning, strong, and ambitious. What else could they do with us?”
Ryan cut in: “Slytherin House wasn’t filled with asshats until the Malfoy kid got there. That’s when everything went to hell. He kept talking about ‘making Hogwarts great again.’ Before then, I had some Slytherin friends that were actually OK. They were clever, but in a shrewd way. As the only one of us who had actual first-hand experience, how was your time with them?”
“Slytherin wasn’t so bad,” Xander said with a shrug. “Dungeon was danky. But I couldn’t expect the warmth and comfort of the Horned Serpent’s common room, could I? And it’s not like anyone had good food. It is Britain after all.”
Erin shot Xander a look. “You know, we get that Hogwarts wasn’t the best, but… it might help you readjust to being here if you had a slightly better attitude. Just a thought.”
Nicole held up a hand. “I get what he means about the food, though. Get a bunch of white people in a kitchen, and you’re bound to end up with something lacking in flavor.” She nodded at Tom. “You should’ve gotten in good with the house elves. They let me come into the kitchens and make chips whenever I wanted. Of course, being a Hufflepuff, it’s not like I had to travel far to get to them. But still. Those house elves were tops and oddly cavalier about essentially being slave labor.”
“You’re lucky you just had to touch a brick,” Ryan said. “I had to solve a sodding puzzle to get into my common room. I was excited when the Sorting Hat put me in Ravenclaw, but then I started to feel the pressure to perform. Everyone knows that Ravenclaw House has the reputation for the best grades in every class. As in all of them. Like you couldn’t fall back on specializing in just potions or just transfiguration.
“But then the sodding puzzles were enough to drive you up the damned walls. Every bloody time I wanted to get into the common room I had to answer a damn riddle. I’m horrendous with puzzle logic. I think it was less about the puzzles themselves and more making introverts talk to each other and make friends while figuring things out. Without those puzzles, I may not have made many friends in my 7 years since I was so focused on my studies. I supposed I should be grateful for them, but when you’re alone and have to use the restroom, you find yourself looking like a loon yelling at a painting.”
Nicole laughed. “If it makes you feel any better, there were a couple times I couldn’t remember which brick to tap to get into our common room because I was a little… overindulged in some of the rum I’d copped from the kitchen’s stash. I’m telling you. Those house elves were great. I fully supported Hermione’s campaign for people to stop being twats and actually treat house elves with respect.”
Out of obligation to their boss, Erin tried her best to wrangle everyone back to the goal of getting to know Xander. “So,” she asked him, “did you ever meet Harry Potter?”
Xander looked off with a shrug. “Yeah. The one time I met Harry Potter… It’s not a really interesting story…”
Ryan, most of a pitcher of butterbeer in, interrupted. “I never met him per se. I did enjoy the rather confusing antics that came out of his entrance in the Goblet of Fire tournament. Suddenly having to find a fourth dragon on short notice? The logistics alone are bonkers! I wonder how much extra that costed the school. I did see that tuition rates rose a little the next year. I can’t say that I was pleased with it being ‘wonder boy’ who ended up being the fourth contestant, but I also wasn’t shocked. Harold had a way of inadvertently mucking everything up.”
“No one buys your theory that his real name is Harold, Ryan,” Nicole said, rolling her eyes.
Ryan waved her off. “I rooted for Cedric. May he rest in peace, poor soul. He had such a confidence about him, such great energy like he almost sparkled. I hope he moved on to something better.”
“Cedric was kind of a jock, though,” she said with a grimace. “Like, yeah, he wasn’t a complete wank about it, but a lot of his friends were pretty aggro. Also, he was a little pale for my taste. But I get why Cho picked him; Harry’s hair was AWFUL that year. Ron Weasley’s too.”
Everyone except Xander nodded in agreement.
“As far as meeting him, I was in Ginny Weasley’s year,” Nicole continued, “so I never had a class with him or anything. But I got kinda close with Ginny, once she stopped being possessed by an evil ghost or whatever that bloody business with You-Know-Who was.”
Ryan scoffed. “Come off it, Nicole. You can say his name: V-v-voldemort…”
“Anyway,” Nicole said, ignoring the interruption. “It was back when everyone was being really shitty to Harry after Cedric died, and, you know, our government was actively trying to discredit a teenager. Remember that? No one talks about that enough. It was really weird. So. I was coming out of Transfiguration with Ginny and this other girl from Ravenclaw, and we ended up bumping into Harry. Ginny seemed like she’d finally gotten over her crush, so she was normal for once. She introduced us, which, like, obviously I knew who he was. But still. He was a little distracted; he kept looking off the side and trying to flatten that crazy hair. I remember his eyes looking… haunted. And, you know, why wouldn’t they? He watched someone die! So, it just made me feel really bad for him. Also, didn’t his, like, uncle or whatever die later that year? I think I read that in the biography that came out a few years ago. His life really sucked when you think about it.”
“So,” Xander said. “About the time I met—”
“I only ever saw Harry in passing or in the Gryffindor common room at the quidditch afterparties,” Erin said, accidentally speaking over Xander. “I remember my second year, around Christmas time when Harry woke up the whole dormitory, yelling and screaming in the middle of the night. And, I know all of the rules Umbridge made up that year weren’t Harry’s fault at all, and I’m not blaming him in any way, it’s just that I had just joined the school paper then and had finally gotten my quidditch column running. And then the school newspaper was disbanded along with every other club—including quidditch! Again, totally not on him. Umbridge was a foul, awful, malicious—and I mean this in the negative way—WITCH. But it was just all the consequences of his shenanigans that would cost Gryffindor the most. Don’t even get me started on our house points, you guys. I think the whole House Cup system is flawed, and the point distribution is completely arbitrary, and—”
“Erin, we’ve been over your issues with the House Cup already. Many, many times.” Nicole reached over to pat Erin’s hand. “We all agree with you. Snape was absolutely the worst offender during the year, followed by Dumbledore at the end of the year. But let’s not ruin another happy hour over this.”
Erin looked sheepish. “Right, sorry. If SOMEONE would just let me write that op-ed… Anyways. Just one more thing about Harry, and he is such a hero, and I am so grateful for him saving the world and all that—but he was always hogging the common room fireplace! It’s not like Hogwarts has wi-fi, and sometimes I just wanted to talk to my mom, ya know? But you’re right, Nicole. He had a crazy life! Sometimes I would overhear Hermione and Ginny and the older girls talking about their adventures, and not gonna lie—I was kind of jealous!”
“Anyway…” Xander droned rather loudly, taking back control of the conversation. “This guy I knew—Cassius Warrington—he was an alright guy, not too bright, surprised he was in Slytherin, to be honest, must’ve been a legacy or something… anyway, he comes up to me one night and says they’s gonna need a hand rounding up some kids who’d run afoul of the Inquisitor. I wasn’t keen. Been told when I’d come over that us exchange students should steer clear of politics.
“But there I was, like an idiot, standing in a dank smelling hallway when we heard Harry Potter yell, ‘What are you waiting for? Run!’ Students flooded the hallways. Cassius and I were down the hallway from the other squaddies—or whatever they called themselves—really isolated. But then I saw her. Most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. Soft brown eyes. A careless gait. The type of smile that was likely to sooth you as it was to burn you.
“Cassius went to block her path, but I knew what I had to do. I slipped my foot in front of his path and he tripped and knocked himself out. I told her then not to be alarmed, that I wasn’t really Slytherin, just a transplanted Horned Serpent… not that she knew what that was, mind you. But she flashed me a smile, and I grabbed her hand to get her out of there.
“That’s when I saw him. Harry Potter. He and his pals getting were busy getting cornered like the blustering idiots they were.
“But I knew I could get this beautiful girl to safety. Well… I didn’t know a goddamned thing. Told her I knew a shortcut to safety and just started running. Thought I’d get lost in that place. All the other Inquisitors must’ve thought I was stealing this girl back to be reprimanded. Can’t give any other excuse for it. But soon enough we made it out to the Hufflepuff common room.
“Maybe it was just dungeon eyes talking, you might think, hadn’t seen a pretty face in a long while. But that girl, Alicia Spinnet, her smile still haunts me sometimes. I saw her a few times after, but we never got another moment alone. Harry Potter kept his antics up and the school got so that I couldn’t be seen with a girl, let alone a Gryffindor.”
After a period of silent reflection, Nicole started to sing: “He’s got jungle fever, she’s got jungle fever.” Everyone laughed and decided to order another round.