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How did it happen that I found myself in the body of an eleven-year-old wizard-born Muggle, heading to the Hogwarts Express?! It's a complex question that an ordinary person, raised in the twentieth century, would unlikely be able to answer. But the fact remains that I, starting at the age of seven, remember my past life where I was just an average citizen of the Soviet Union and later the Russian Federation. Having lived a long life, I spent a considerable amount of time frustrating government officials, receiving an increased pension, and eventually passing away from old age. Towards the end of my life, although I suffered from senility, I remained a spirited old man, using various gadgets, playing computer games, and being self-sufficient. My agility amazed all my loved ones, while my grandchildren grew tired of waiting for me to depart for the afterlife so they could start dividing my possessions.

At the age of seven, when memories of my past life in a future world awakened within me, I contemplated whether to share this joyful news with my parents but ultimately decided to keep this fact a secret. I suggested to my mom and dad to invest money in computer and software companies... But what parent would listen to the ramblings of a seven-year-old child? All my attempts to convey ideas of real enrichment were futile and only elicited laughter from my relatives... Idiots! They could have turned pitiful savings of five thousand pounds into several million in the same currency over twenty years, but no, let's not listen to the child; we're adults, let's just laugh and mess up the little one's hair...

Apparently, the problem lied in the fact that I didn't tell anyone and had no intention of sharing the memories of my past life. This was my trump card, which would provide an advantage, at least at the beginning of my journey, as the life experience of an adult is difficult to underestimate.

I began to fully enjoy my new life; it's great to be young and healthy. However, there was one thing that bothered me—I stood out from my peers due to my short stature; you could say I was a dwarf. Although, why could you say that? That's exactly what all the doctors claimed, whom my parents dragged me to. Though I was short, I was still within the range of an average person, just shorter than my peers, but not so much that I could breathe into their belly buttons. The doctors explained that it was a genetic deviation and such a condition couldn't be treated. Although my parents were of average height, they were more upset about it than I was. According to specialists' predictions, as an adult, I wouldn't grow taller than 140 centimeters. In my previous life, I had average height, so this fact saddened me for a while, but youth and the opportunity to live life anew quickly made peace with this fact.

Life for a person of short stature is challenging, yet rarely dull. I constantly found myself in amusing, and sometimes unpleasant, situations. Once, a classmate in school asked me, "Harry, where do you get all those stories you tell?" To which I replied, "Dude, I'm a dwarf; all I have to do is stand up and wait for something ridiculous to happen to me!"

But besides the problems associated with my short stature, strange things sometimes happened to me. For instance, I learned how to bend spoons with my gaze, a couple of times objects flew around the room when I experienced strong emotions, and once I didn't want to eat boiled broccoli so much that the dish burned right on the plate.

In the summer of 1991, a creepy lady in her Balzac age showed up at our house. She was wearing a cloak reminiscent of a judge's robe and a pointed hat, making her look like a canonical witch, as if she was begging to be thrown into the bonfire of the Inquisition (thanks to the shiny balls of my deceased cat - that structure has long fallen out of use). This lady, in an ultimatum-like manner, declared that I was a wizard and should study at some Hogwarts School located in the arse end of the world, I mean, in Scotland...

Why on earth would I be a wizard if I couldn't convince my parents to buy stocks in several promising companies so that I wouldn't have to work like Papa Carlo, but could just throw money in the air and live off dividends?! What does Scotland have to do with anything? It's as cold as in the northern part of my native Russia, and I'm a southerner who loves warmth...

Oh, by the way, in case anyone didn't understand, my new life didn't begin like the previous one, in a Soviet peasant family, but in the United Kingdom, London, to be more precise! It may have been on the outskirts, in an old district, but it's the capital, not some shabby place like Cockwort, which was recently written about in the newspapers, where there's hardly any work left after the factory closed down, but there's an elevated crime rate. Plus, this time I was lucky to be born not in the pre-war era but in 1980, closer to the blessings of civilization and the abundance of Chinese-made goods.

Of course, I understood that my soul with its memories had been reborn in a parallel world. My contemporaries wrote about such things in works of fiction. Time traveler, reincarnator... whatever! I thought I was going to die and, damn it all, go through the whole inheritance, children, and grandchildren thing, and then this embarrassing situation happened... No, I was definitely an atheist and cursed God's mother, and, on the contrary, I visited a couple of Buddhist temples, but I never thought it would have such an impact!

And now, I'm traveling... In a red, foul-smelling train with a bunch of underage wizards. I found the only vacant compartment, damn it, by the toilet in the last carriage, and settled in like a proper human! Naturally, my solitude didn't last long. Soon, a scruffy little troublemaker, with his round glasses resembling John Lennon's bicycle glasses, stumbled into the compartment. This hairy wonder dragged an unbelievably huge suitcase and a cage with a snowy owl before realizing that the compartment was already occupied. Whatever, let's dance, I don't mind sharing the space for a bit of banter.

"Excuse me," the bespectacled lad addressed me, assessing my height. He looked embarrassed, as if he was to blame for me turning out the way I did. "Can I join you? All the compartments are taken?"

My short stature almost never hindered my social interactions; on the contrary, people often treated me kindly because of it. What annoys me more is when others pity me, which I absolutely don't need, and it ruins my self-esteem. Life is the greatest treasure, and I'm grateful to the universe for giving me a second chance to enjoy this miracle. And well, being a meter tall doesn't mean a thing—I'm still a human being. But hey, girls love dwarfs; they're curious to know what they're like in bed... At least, I think so, since I haven't had the opportunity to check it out due to my young age.

"Well, first of all, hello, my young friend! I'm glad to see you in this realm of reality. Secondly, make yourself at home, get comfortable..."

"Thanks," the young lad blurted out, then placed the owl cage on a small table and slid the trunk under the seat. "I'm Harry," he said.

"That's cool, me too! It seems our parents are shining with originality! No wonder, you were also born in the 80s..."

"Well, yeah..." the boy replied with confusion.

"Don't tell me you're not aware?!" the lad shook his head disapprovingly. "Wow, you're something else! It's as if you don't even live in England! At the time we were born, give or take a few years, Queen's grandson was born, and they named him Prince Harry. After that, there was a trend in the 80s to name children Harry! Are you some kind of hermit, or what?!"

In my world, Prince Harry was born in England a few years later, around the mid-80s. In this world, things are slightly different. Indeed, a boy was born in the royal family in January 1980, and he was named Harry. From that moment, the name became incredibly popular in the UK for a while, and many boys born that year were named Harry. In my primary school class, out of fifteen boys, including myself, there were four other Harrys, but the teachers didn't get confused because in English educational institutions, it's customary to address students by their surnames, just like it was in our Soviet school.

The boy looked flustered and glanced down at the floor, blushing slightly.

"Oh, come on! You're kidding me! Did you really live in a closet?!"

"Well..." the boy hesitated. "Yes! I had a spider living with me for a whole year. I called him Edward..."

I placed both hands on my face. Then the compartment door opened, and the head of a red-haired eleven-year-old boy appeared in the doorway, his nose smudged with soot or something similar.

"All compartments are taken. Can I sit here?" the redhead boy said.

The second lad glanced at me questioningly.

"Enter one pound, exit five!" I said with a playful tone.

"Um..." the redhead boy hesitated. "I think I'd better join my fellow third-year students in the compartment!" He immediately slammed the compartment door with a loud bang and ran off. A muffled voice came from the corridor: "Merlin's leprechaun! These half-blood girls will do anything to make money..."

Mr. "Piece of the Beatles" stared at me with a reproachful look.

"Dude, that was a joke!" I said to him. "Sense of humor! Ever heard of it? It's when one person tells a joke and laughs a lot!"

"Well..." the bespectacled boy replied.

"Do you know any songs?" I decided to distract the lad who didn't understand humor, and at the same time, cheer up and remember my homeland, which I still consider to be Russia.

"Huh?" Harry immediately stopped pondering and stared at me with interest. "No... On my cousin's birthday, someone gave him a music player, but he broke it quickly. But I got to watch TV with my uncle and aunt!" he said proudly.

"You're a strange one. I can't imagine the paradigm shift that awaits you when the internet becomes widely available in the world, if you find joy in watching the box! Forget about all that! You're a damn wizard, you have a weapon of unreal power—a magic wand! A gun is nothing, it can only kill, but I've read about this wand! You can curse with it, heal with it, even use it as a TV remote if you're too lazy to get up! You get it?!"

Regarding guns, I don't actually think that way, because I love firearms, but the concept of a magic wand is new to me. But when I learned what things can be done with it, I was amazed at how such a dangerous object is entrusted to underage wizards. I wondered about it until I came across an explanation in one of the books that the magic wand is merely a tool, a concentrator of magic that facilitates spellcasting, and it is the wizard who performs the magic. In other words, wizards themselves are dangerous.

The boy nodded enthusiastically, like a Chinese bobblehead.

"Oh... Whatever you understand!" I waved my right hand in his direction and examined him closely.

The boy who introduced himself as Harry was dressed in worn-out clothes several sizes too big: a shirt that looked like it was taken from an overweight child, pants of the same kind, a belt wrapped around his waist twice as if it had been previously used by a hippopotamus from the Winnie-the-Pooh story. Apparently, his parents were not wealthy and shopped at second-hand stores. That's not a big deal; when I was his age, I wore an oversized shirt made of burlap and my pants were my father's old ones, rolled up a third of the way, and I used a rope instead of a belt.

"Let's sing!" I said.

"I don't know any songs," the boy said, but in a way that indicated he was willing to try.

"I'll teach you, but the song will be in Russian."

"But I don't know that language," the namesake said, frightened.

"Okay-hockey! I won't hesitate for you and will translate the meaning into English."

Half an hour later, eerie wailing accompanied by stomping echoed through the train car.

Ojsa, you ojsa, don't be afraid of me,

I won't hurt you, don't you worry!

Voldemort young, bought a pig,

He's been kissing it for a fortnight, he thought it was a girl!

Ojsa, you ojsa, don't be afraid of me,

I won't hurt you, don't you worry!

A sorcerer is floating on the river, waving his arms,

And a Cossack is standing on it, and he's dancing!

In the third verse, the compartment door suddenly opened, and a fair-haired boy, our contemporary, peeked inside accompanied by two muscular troublemakers.

"I heard that Harry is in this compartment..." said the fair-haired boy, elongating his words.

"Well, that's right!" I didn't let him finish, grinned, and struck a pose. "Of course! Fame runs ahead of me! I, motherfucker... Held him by the leg when he was a baby and pulled his tit! Harry, the real deal!"

"I'm Malfoy! Draco Malfoy!" the fair-haired boy, extending his words in a mannered way, said as he offered me his sweaty palm.

"I was joking... Actually, I'm, motherfucker, Voldemort!" I replied to the lad with a wide smile, almost snarling.

I had read about this terrorist a couple of times. He had scared society so much that people are still afraid to utter his name, even though the guy has been dead for a long time.

The fair-haired boy paled, as did his two companions, only the bespectacled neighbor remained unfazed. That's when it clicked in my head where I had heard the Malfoy name before. For a change, I listened to the gossip at the magical marketplace, in Crooked and Grimmauld Alleys. These crazy Malfoys were under some kind of hypnosis or spell, like gypsy hypnosis, and they worked for that very terrorist, Voldemort. No wonder the fair-haired boy got scared.

"Send greetings to your father and not a word to anyone!" Instead of dispelling the child's fears, I took the joke to its logical conclusion and winked dramatically.

The compartment was instantly cleared of outsiders, and once again, it was just me and the bespectacled neighbor.

''You know, do these wizards have no sense of humor at all?

''I don't know, - young John Lennon honestly replied.

''Whatever, for or against them. I know many more songs, let's continue.

Soon, the cries in broken Russian echoed through the train once again.

Enough for you, wizards, to mourn and grieve,

Let's leave sorrow and sadness in the dark forest.

Let's get used to the Scottish side,

Wizards, oh wizards, fear nothing!

We sing, we sing about the magical life,

Let the headmaster take a look at the magic wand!

May my magic wand be properly lubricated,

So that it is charged for battle in times of danger!

"Which Hogwarts house do you want to be in? - the bespectacled boy asked.

"I don't care!

"How come?! I wouldn't want to end up in Slytherin since Voldemort was from there! - the boy said.

"So what?! Well, a terrorist studied at a certain house... In the UK, almost all politicians studied at "Cambridge, and after that, with happy smiles, they sent thousands of times more people to their deaths than Voldemort killed. But for some reason, it doesn't deter people from wanting to study at "Cambridge! Harry, my young friend, you're prioritizing it all wrong! Tell me, which house is considered the scariest?!

"Hufflepuff?! - the boy guessed.

"Exactly! Do you know why?! The boy shook his head.

"Because they are the coolest! Think about it! Hufflepuffs grow herbs... The basis for potions, drugs, and everything valuable... They rake in money! And what does that mean?!

"I don't know, - the boy hesitantly replied.

- And for nothing! You have to think with your head, not just eat into it! It means they don't want to draw attention to themselves, so they act like sissies. Those who have money, especially big money, and in their hands hold all the business of magical England, purposely make themselves look like louts who no one cares about, so that while the rest of them are biting, they can make money in peace! That's it, Harry, learn while I live!

- You mean you're going to apply to Puffendum?! - the boy asked. - But you don't know how the placement works!

- You have to be able to read between the lines, though being able to read is enough... It's written in Hogwarts History, black and white, that an artifact, an old hat, is responsible for distributing to the faculties. I think, like any artefact, it's easily tricked... I mean, cheated! Apparently it reads the minds of the students, otherwise all that comes to mind is that everyone is already pre-distributed or the distribution is random. If the former is true, all you have to do is think about which department you want to get into. I'm going to grow magic herbs and make a lot of money from it, so I'm going to apply to Puffendum!

- I tended my aunt's roses, which is better than many other things, but I don't like tinkering with the soil," Harry said, wrinkling his nose at the unpleasant memory. - But I'm afraid I won't be admitted to any of the faculties.

- What have you got to be afraid of? You go back to school, you learn maths. I recommend studying to be a programmer, it's a very bread-and-butter profession! But you have to know maths very well!

I can see the kid's tense. I would have been tense myself from such a statement, because the magicians would not let the untrained wizard live in peace.

- Well, let's check it out. Grab your shaman stick digger and do the simplest spell in the book to see if you're a wizard! I've tried them all this summer; they're all crap, except for the Levios Vingardium. Practically telekinesis, you can make any visible thing fly without getting out of bed!

Harry pulled out his wand. The door to the compartment swung open once more. A young maiden head with disheveled auburn curls and somewhat long front teeth appeared in the doorway, looking around the compartment with her brown eyes with the look of an executive who was unexpectedly checking on his subordinates.

- Have you seen a toad in here? Neville's lost it, and I'm helping him look for it! - The girl declared in a cheeky tone, as if she were copying a bad teacher from a porn movie. - Oh! You're doing magic! Can I see it?! - Without waiting for permission, the girl plopped down on the couch next to me.

- Actually, it's an intimate question, but if you want to see it..." I take out my wand, wave it. - Dickus, double the size!

- Erm..." the girl was struck by a stupor, and Harry's neighbour could hardly keep from laughing. - Are you sure this is the right spell?! I haven't read about it! Did it even work?

- Trust me, the spell worked properly! Or would you like to find out?! All right, you can feel it.

- No, no, thank you! - The girl blushed like a tomato and stormed out of the compartment.

The goggle-eyed neighbour finally took the joke as it should be, and laughed out loud after we were alone.

- Harry, this is a song you must know! Pick it up!

Black crow, why do you fly over my head?

You won't wait for me, black raven, I'm not yours!

We arrived at our destination station in the dark. Scotland, as expected, turned out to be a pain in the ass - cold, chilly wind chilling to the gut, and it's only the first of September, what's next?

On stepping off the train, I found a huge bearded homeless man with an oligophrenic face. He could fix the roof on my dacha in a past world without getting off the ground. This monster was waving an ancient oil lamp, which, judging by its size, used to be an ordinary street lamp.

- Freshmen, to me! This way, all of you! - the mega-bum proclaimed in a booming voice.

To say I got scared is an understatement, I almost put off the bricklaying. Why did you have to drive us into the middle of nowhere, to leave us at the mercy of the giant bum? Couldn't we have just, I don't know, taken for organs?! I don't feel like going to him.

- Harry, how's it going? - The monster looked at me and exclaimed.

Ahhhh... How does he know me? Don't look at me, you big bum, I'm against socializing with monsters like that! Here, he's Harry too, you'd better get him! Maybe he asked the mini Lennon about business.

- Hey, Harry, do you know that bum?!

- "That's Hagrid," replied the mini-Lennon indignantly. - He's the woodsman at Hogwarts. And he used to take me to Slanted Lane!

- So it doesn't bother you that he's a giant, that he looks like a criminal element and consorts with small children?

- Hagrid is nice! - As if defending a bullied sparrow rather than a big dirty man with a disheveled beard, Lennon exclaimed.

- Yes, I suppose so. I wonder why I was followed by a strict teacher and a vice-principal and you were followed by a woodcutter. I suppose it would have been cooler if a cleaner had been sent for you, or even if a homeless man had called from the street passing by...

- Principal Dumbledore asked him to," the child said embarrassed.

When we reached the shore of the lake, we climbed into the wooden boats.

- Um...

- What?" Harry-Lennon shot up sharply, as if he were preparing to defend his giant friend again.

- I wonder what kind of fish you can catch in this lake, and on what? Worms or bread?

- Errr..." the boy scratched a zigzag scar above his right eyebrow.

- I think we'd better stick to the worm, too! But where in the Scottish countryside would you get it? We can't breed it ourselves.

- You can't fish here! - A familiar commanding voice came from another passenger of "our steamship line", the shaggy-haired girl who was leaving the compartment in a hurry.

- Oh! Familiar faces! - You never did get to see the result of the spell, did you?

- It's you!" the shaggy haired girl with the prominent upper incisors exclaimed fearfully.

- Who else could it be? I didn't realize we were joined by... Oh, well. What were you saying about fishing?

- I read that there's a giant squid in this lake! - The girl said.

- Oh! That's awesome! Smoked squid tentacles go great with beer, they're so greasy and delicious, like lard, only squid. What else can you catch in this lake?

- That's not what I meant," the girl exclaimed indignantly. - Squid is a Hogwarts landmark, you can't eat it!

- If you can't, but you want to, and no one will see you, you can. Take it from someone who's had his tackle confiscated three times by the Fish Inspector.

- Besides, we are too young to drink beer," the girl began to speak with more confidence, as if she had found her feet on solid ground.

- Where did that "we" come from? It's not like I was offering it to anyone. I'm sure you can get top-fermented ale at best, and it's expensive because it's contraband. I have got some very fine alchemical gadgets here at the Potions Shop, such as a serpentinite coil, a sealed copper alchemical cauldron no. 10, which means that it has a capacity of ten litres of liquid. All in all, it's livable. I'm already in love with potions in absentia! Do you like potions as much as I do?!

The kids went berserk. The shaggy, shaggy-haired girl was the first to wake up.

- Why do you need a copper cauldron? - asked the shaggy-haired one. - Our letter said that a number two pewter cauldron was needed!

- Women do not understand the fine art of alchemy! - I told the girl proudly. - By the way, my name is Harry, what do I call you? Otherwise, I'll call you "Hey, you," but I don't think you'll appreciate...

- I'm Hermione Granger! - The girl stuck her head up proudly. - What kind of discrimination is that anyway? Are you the kind of guy who thinks girls are beneath you?!

Now that sounded insulting, like a reference to my height.

- I come from a family of peasants, so I think a man ploughs and grazes cattle, and a woman bakes rolls! Otherwise it's not a family, it's just nonsense. Although my grandmother was a great alchemist! She was good at this art, people from neighbouring villages came to her for potion...

Oh, yes! The moonshine my grandmother made was very good, I once found a tin of it in the cellar, it had been there for thirty years; the best cognacs lie dormant there.

We unloaded from the boats. Shaggy Granger clung to me like a tick, and Harry-Lennon was frightened by the girl's aggression and fought us off, trying to stay away.

- So you're one of the hereditary wizards? - Hermione immediately asked.

- More like alchemists! - I grinned, remembering how I'd been into making moonshine myself for a long time.

A brown-eyed blonde girl, who looked older than her eleven or twelve years because her face showed no emotion, glanced at me appraisingly. Judging by her clothes of expensive fabrics and demeanour, she was of the rich or aristocratic class, which was not always the same thing.

- Tell me about the wizards! - Granger immediately demanded in a commanding tone. - Do you know how we're going to be taught?

- What's there to know? The usual - you pick up your wand and wave it from your desk to lunch!

The girl caught the cognitive dissonance of not being able to immediately put together a twisted Russian army proverb.

The forester, after everyone had disembarked, escorted us to the castle entrance and handed us over to the very lady who had introduced me to Cosy Lane. We were led through the castle and soon we were left in a relatively small room, with the sound of a multitudinous roar that football fans and children could create behind the door.

Suddenly someone shrieked, which temporarily made my ears prick up. It turned out that the screaming was caused by a dozen ghosts infiltrating the room. That raised the question of whether someone who'd already died once should be afraid of ghosts. And anyway, how do ghosts appear? Maybe some kind of magic keeps the souls of wizards in the castle? I would like to be reborn again after death, not stuck forever as a ghost.

While I was immersed in my thoughts, the ghosts started a dialogue with the frightened children.

- Hey, monk," I called out to the full ghost in the monk's robe. - What school did you get your moustache from?

- I was a Puffunduian," the full ghost said proudly, "my favorite department, you know! I hope you get in.

- I knew it! If the placement isn't a sham, I definitely want to go there! I can tell by your face that they're feeding you to death. What else can you do besides scare kids? What if I ask my neighbour to scare the milk she steals from our doorstep?

- I'm sorry, young man," the full-coated ghost said in a good-natured voice, "but we can't leave the castle. I should be more than happy to help you in the noble task of frightening off thieves!

- That's sad...

But to communicate with the ghost of a monk we were not allowed, came the "evil teacher" McGonagall and chased away the ghosts. And it's clearly all set up on purpose, although it's not clear why. Apparently, it's a tradition to scare children before they're allocated. There's a lot of silly traditions in England.

We were led into the Great Hall, which resembled a factory canteen: lots of tables with benches, with identically dressed people sitting at them. By this point, Granger's shaggy-haired girlfriend had regained consciousness and immediately thrown her head up, a hologram of a starry sky below the ceiling. In a past life a viral advertisement had directed me to a gadget site that sold a compact unit that projected a hologram onto the ceiling, you could make a starry sky or any picture you wanted, very similar.

- The ceiling was specially enchanted to look like the sky," Hermione said in the tone of an experienced guide. - I read about it in Hogwarts History.

The girl is clearly trying to attract the attention of others, but doesn't know how, and also has an unfulfilled thirst for leadership. She's a typical Communist activist, the kind of person who, in my youth, would become the head of the school and the Party leader and hold all sorts of other brain-breaking positions. I wouldn't be intimidated by that, and the children tried to stay away from Granger. The girl, seeing the indifferent reaction, stepped closer to me.

- It's like a built-in television," I said to the girl with an eye toward the ceiling, taking modern technology into account. - It is as if a video camera has been installed on the roof and the image is broadcast on the ceiling as if it were a screen.

- Yeah, that's what I thought too," Hermione said. - Are you familiar with the Muggle world?

- Are you one of those?

- Which one of those? - Granger asked.

- The ones who despise ordinary people!

- No!" the girl said indignantly. - My parents are dentists. What makes you say that?

- How about that?! You don't call your parents Muggles after you've just joined the wizarding community. You've lived here for years, it's one thing, but it's another when you're in contact with wizards for the second time. So I thought you might be the sort of person who doesn't like ordinary people.

- Well, everyone does," Granger said embarrassed.

- Oh, you little kommunist activist! Silly! Who's everyone? Say, did I say that? Or that little brat over there who used to be next to me, and now he's staring at the talking hat on the stool!

- Talking hat?! - the girl immediately perked up and turned around to watch the spectacle.

The hat sang in an eerie unaccompanied voice and Hermione immediately forgot about the conversation.

- Shit! Get a proper tape recorder and spin some good music! What are we being tortured for? - I quietly resented the nasty, squeaky voice of the singing hat. - Or hire vocal and poetry tutors for your magic helmet! This is not a poem, but the most real pop, you can lay it on a beat, give it to a bearded woman and send it to the Eurovision Song Contest!

When the hat finished its torture of singing, the whole audience applauded. How I understand them! I myself am immensely grateful that this horror is over!

Minerva McGonagall stepped forward. In her hands she held an unfolded scroll.

- 'I will now pronounce the name,' McGonagall pronounced, 'the one named must come through, sit on a stool and try on the Distributing Hat. So, let's begin. Adams, Harry!

О! I think they're calling me.

I step out of the crowd and walk towards the three-legged stool. My height, as usual, has attracted a lot of attention, but not much excitement.

I wonder how often schoolchildren are released into the village and how well they are searched? Surely high school kids buy alcohol and teachers confiscate most of it. If they rarely go to the village, you could get a good business selling them homemade moonshine. By the end of school, you may have some capital and at the worst, you will have some cash in your pockets for minor expenses. The only question is, what to make moonshine from?

I reached my destination and sat down on a stool, and Minerva McGonagall lowered the Distributive Hat on my head.

Isn't there supposed to be a greenhouse around here? I'll have to see what vegetation is available there, and if anything, I'll have to arrange with the teacher to allocate a bed for my fruit - vegetables!

- Puffendum.! - shouted the hat loudly.

I got a discreet applause from the children from across the table, where everyone was sitting with badger patches on their robes. I got up and headed towards that table.

I didn't watch much of the rest of the distribution, wondering what to make moonshine from and where to get the tanks for the brew. Transfiguration was not an option, because it was only a temporary transformation, and I did not want to lose the brew because the spell had expired, and I did not know how to do spells yet. Eh, I should have brought more tanks, but the chest is already full, and the expansion bag my parents bought was the cheapest and only one. Saving up on an only child! They also resented me for stuffing almost half the house into the bag! No, what, they're sorry? I've gone to such an arsehole, what do you need? And my father didn't use the tool anyway. By the way! I've got locksmith tools! We could try and make some barrels for the brewery.

Yeah, Harry-Lennon got into Gryffindor, shaggy-haired Granger got in, as did that ginger kid who didn't get the joke-humour. The hooligan blond boy with a couple of gangly faces ended up in Slytherin, understandably a faculty just for majors. On the right, the newly minted, brown-eyed, cheeked, brown-haired boy was talking over his ear.

- What did you say? - I ask the lad again.

- I'm saying I'm excited to get into the Badger Faculty! - said the boy. - When Minerva McGonagall came to our house in July and said that I was a wizard and should go to Hogwarts, my parents didn't believe me. I'd noticed my oddities, but I never thought I was a wizard! My parents are ordinary people, they wanted to send me to Eton, what's more, I'd already had an interview.

- Wow! - I immediately perked up.

You can tell you're a well-to-do English kid. You can't get into Eton just because you've got to be an aristocrat or a very well-to-do man. There are four thousand applicants for every hundred places. Even the rich have a tough competition with a one in forty chance of getting into the school.

- Don't you regret it? I'd rather go to Eton, after that school you could go to any college and make a fortune, and here we're looking at being out-of-town warlocks with no prospects. Oh, yeah, I'm Harry Adams! - I offer my hand to the guy for a handshake.

- "My name's Justin," the boy said. - Justin Finch-Fletchley, nice to meet you, Harry!

- Nice to meet you, Justin.

- Mum and Dad were upset that I had to go to some wizard school instead of Eton," Finch-Fletchley recounted, "but Professor McGonagall said that according to wizard law I had to attend a magic school for at least five years, otherwise they would block my gift and erase the memory of my visit.

- Yeah, that bitch also agitated me! - People listened to our conversation with interest, so I lowered my voice. - I read the laws and some literature and it's a load of crap! Mages can actually wipe your memory and, if you refuse to study at Hogwarts or another school of magic, have your gift blocked. The only thing this lady, who resembles an elderly porn star, didn't explain was that a wizard with a blocked gift lives a maximum of thirty years, which is at least half as long as an ordinary person!

- Ow! Justin Finch-Fletchley went pale. - And my parents almost said no! So I could die young?

- Yeah, just like that! But that's rubbish! While you and I, and one other girl, had a visit from the Vice Principal, Harry Potter's orphan was introduced to the wizarding world by a giant bum!

- What?" exclaimed a girl of about fourteen, sitting about a metre away from us, in astonishment. - 'It can't be! After all, Harry Potter is a national hero! What kind of bum would drive him up Spiny Lane?

- I think his name was Hagrid, he'd met us at the train. He was huge and hairy and smells like a mile away!

There was a heated discussion around the table about how strange it was that a whole deputy headmaster was taking muggle-born wizards to Slanted Lane and the national hero was an alcoholic woodsman.

After dinner we were taken to the dormitory, the headmasters gave a little pep talk, which I, used to such meetings under the Soviet Union, let slip past my ears, after which the headmasters put the freshmen into their rooms.

The room was a semi-circular space with a recess in which four beds were placed. I was put in the room with the familiar Justin Finch-Fletchley, and the three in the next room were Ernie McMillan, a blond, blue-eyed, round-faced kid, a tenth-generation purebred wizard; Zachariah Smith, also blond, but brown-eyed and half-blond; and a third passenger named Wayne Hopkins, a skinny, grey-eyed brunette half-blond.

To be honest, this sort of room allocation, though strange to me, proved advantageous. One room was occupied by a pureblood mage and a pair of half-breeds, the other by a pair of muggleborns, that was me and Justin. Yeah, I'm just glad there's only two of us for a reasonably decent-sized room, while hereditary mages settle for a similar room for three! I'd be even happier if they'd put me in that room alone...

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