Hikari no Daija

(The Serpent of Light)

A Cabbit Patch Production

by Miriani and Andrew Norris


Characters are the properties of JK Rowling, Rumiko Takahashi, CLAMP, 20th Century Fox, Paramount, AIC, Pioneer and the team at #Akane.


Chapter 1 – New Faces, New Places



June 24th, Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry


            Albus watched as Minerva strolled in, for a private breakfast with him and Severus.  Today was important.  A lot of plans for the upcoming war depending on things going according to the plans he laid out.


            "Ah, Minerva, are you ready to go to Patterson's to visit with their transfers to us, and check up on the rumors of a sorcerer there?"


            Minerva nodded sharply.  She didn't quite believe in sorcery, but with one confirmed sorcerer, and a possible attending Hogwarts, it was necessary.  Plus, with Albus's recruitment of a teacher for sorcery and miko studies, it would help to have some students for the said professor.  "Of course, Albus, I'll leave after lunch.  Should arrive right after their breakfast.  I'm still not convinced we should have Patterson students, why not Salem's instead, they're more... in tune with our ways." Minerva sniffed disdainfully at the thought of Sorcerers and technomagi in her school.


            Albus' eyes twinkled as he replied.  "But, our students wouldn't learn anything new from the Salem students.  Patterson or Franklin would be far better choices to introduce the actual magic of the Americans, you have to admit." He waited for Minerva’s grudging nod. "And, as for the quality of students, only Patterson or Franklin are our equals, in America, you have to admit.  Salem, while a fine school, does not deliver the same quality of students that those two do... and out of those two, Patterson applies a more ... flexible approach to magic...  An 'Anything-goes' style, I think would be the best way to put it." Albus' eyes twinkled harder, on that line, he understood the joke he had just made.


            Minerva sighed, and nodded. "I understand, and I have to admit, your reasoning is correct, Albus.   Still... you know how Snape will react..."  As she trailed off, the aforementioned professor strode in.


            "Taking my name in vain, Minerva?  I have no problems with the concept of technomagic, after all.  It's a precise study.  I rather like it, though it's hard to get information on it here."  Snape smirked.  "Of course, those schools aren't our equal, that's a given. We are the oldest wizardly school.  Golden Sora and Patterson are barely 100 years old, and Franklin is only 200 years old.  Their students should be honored by studying here."  Snape sat, and nodded at Albus.  "You asked for my presence, Headmaster?"


            Albus sighed slightly.  While he'd concede the age issue on the two schools with Snape, the insinuation that the schools mentioned were inferior because of that, annoyed him.   Snape did take pride at being the Potions master of the oldest school.  "Severus.  Please restrain that attitude when visiting Golden Sora, to meet with the young person."  He watched as Snape grudgingly nodded.  Albus had to at least concede that he, unlike Minerva, didn't have any prejudices towards sorcery or technomagic, was actually curious about technomagic, and planned to talk to Angus about it.  While he disdained a bit of the American's practices towards other aspects, their basic approach towards defense and technomagic, he fully agreed with.  Albus had caught him and Harry having a spirited discussion about how to go about defense.


            "Yes, I did, Severus.  I feel you'd be the best to visit Golden Sora, especially since we all know why you're visiting." Snape nodded towards his headmaster, and waited for him to continue. "I think... yes. Make sure you collect Mrs. Saotome, as well.  Oh, please find out what her maiden name is, since she's in the process of divorcing her husband.  You do have all the information you need to have the young heir to access her vault, and to find a place for Nodoka?"  Snape nodded.


            "Of course, Headmaster.  I even have taken the liberty of finding several properties that I know the Slytherin Trust owns, and having some descriptions of them.   I feel that Nodoka-dono will find at least one of them suitable for her and her child."  Snape finished, looking quite ... smug, is all Albus could think of.


            "Good, good.  You've clearly done all I could have asked.  And you even studied up on Japanese customs and their languages.  Excellent, Severus."  Albus smiled slightly.


            Snape nodded to the complement, and ignored Minerva’s sniff.  "I should, since the young child will be in my house, it's only proper to help Ranma adapt to living here."  Minerva’s sniff was more pronounced, and tinged with worry.  Both professors had heard the prophecy, but Minerva was not convinced that it was true, plus the current house's members weren't the ... most acceptable.


            Albus smirked. "Are you sure that the child will be in Slytherin, Severus?  Ranma's life does not lead me to that conclusion.  Ranma has a lot, nay, all the virtues that Gryffindor or Hufflepuff admire.  Even some of Ravenclaw's.  I think that you're going to be sorely disappointed, my friend."


            Severus snorted. "The child is Salazar's true heir.  Where else would Ranma be?  That's not even in question. I'll even wager on it, if you're so inclined Headmaster?"


            Albus smiled. "Say 20 on Gryffindor?"


            Snape nodded... "And I'll place 20 on my house, of course."  Albus nodded in response.  "Now, if you'd excuse me, Headmaster, I do have to go.  The young child is waiting for me, and it'd not do to be late, you understand, of course."  With that statement, Snape swept out.


            Albus shook his head fondly.  "Dear boy, I hope you're not too disappointed."  He looked at Minerva’s shocked expression at the thought of having Salazar's heir in her house.  "Minerva, don't be too surprised.  Just because a child is of a bloodline, does not mean the child will automatically be in that house, remember? Sirius, for example."  Minerva’s expression became cold at that name.  "Though I have to admit, he fell into the darkness, indeed."  Minerva’s pinched expression didn't change.   Albus decided to move on.  "I will be also out for the day, I feel the need to visit with someone, and ask if she minds returning here.  I have this feeling she'd be a welcome asset." 


Minerva’s expression changed to curiosity. "A new professor, Albus?" 


Albus nodded. "Well, not quite... new. You'll see if she agrees.  Plus, this would allow me to discuss matters with a few others.  If you'd excuse me, the lady in question does not like to be kept waiting.  I wish you a good day Minerva." Albus stood, and waited to precede Minerva out the door.


"You as well, Albus." Minerva left with a nod, and a smile.



June 24thGolden Sora Mahoujin Academy


            The outside of the school brought images to Ranma’s mind of a massive shrine or temple, as if it were dedicated to the kami of magic themselves. It wasn’t merely the construction, surrounded by high walls of stone, nor was it the sturdy walls and rice-paper and wood doors. If it was anything, it was perhaps the sensation of peace and serenity that seemed to flow through the wind.


It was a sensation that was virtually unfamiliar, as Genma constantly pushed Ranma into tense situations, all in the name of ‘all-important’ training. Even over the last few months, Ranma had not experienced much of it as he pushed almost beyond his endurance to work on his extended training regimen under Happosai.


The old lecher had definitely seemed to have better days. Evidently his admission of his gradual decline was not an exaggeration. Despite his extensive control of his ki, as well as some cheating of various sorts, he was well into his twelfth decade, and he knew he didn’t have forever, as much as it pained him (and pleased Cologne) to admit. At times, Ranma wondered if the speedy training regimen was hastening Happosai’s decline, but Happi refused to allow him to even speak of it, merely redoubling his efforts.


He reached into a pocket for a moment, squeezing an antique key in his hand that his mother had given him. She hadn’t explained why she had given him the key this morning, saying that it was to be given to her child if she was to go to one of the wizard’s schools. He shrugged and took his hand out of his pocket. There was a lot that his mother talked about that he had not quite understood, but so be it.


A young brown-haired girl walked up to him and said, “Saotome-san?”


Ranma blinked and turned toward the girl. “Yes?”


She bowed softly, smiling. “I’m Kinamoto Sakura. I was sent to bring you to Headmistress Yamori’s office.”


Ranma returned the bow and smiled. “Thank you, Kinamoto-san.” He followed the older girl as he walked onward. “So, how long have you been here?” he asked.


Sakura shrugged. “This is my second year, actually.”


Ranma nodded as he followed along. “I wonder what Yamori-sensei wants,” he said softly.


“Who knows? So are you starting here soon?” Sakura asked.


“Actually, I was going to, but some European place called Hogwart’s has me instead.” This got Sakura’s attention quickly. “I don’t know what’s going on, but I figure that they’ll let me know.”


Sakura looked surprised. “I’ve never heard of schools poaching like that. It’s just not done.” She shook her head and then paused as they came to a door. “Here you go, Saotome-san.”


The door opened suddenly, revealing a diminutive man behind it. “Ahh, Saotome-san, please, come in. You too, Kinamoto-san, this involves you as well.”


Sakura blinked and nodded slowly. “Yes, Kazaru-sensei.” She shrugged as she followed Ranma and Kazaru-sensei into the office. Books filled the numerous shelves in the room, and all of the furniture seemed to be covered in various objects, widgets and knickknacks. The smell of a mild incense drifted through the room as Kazaru-sensei walked toward his desk.


“Thank you for coming on such short notice, Saotome-san,” Kazaru said with a slight wheeze. “Headmistress Yamori will be here shortly to explain the situation.”


Sakura asked softly, “I apologize for interrupting, Kazaru-sensei, but shouldn’t I get back to class?”


Akira shook his head. “No, Yamori-sensei will need to speak with you as well.” Before more could be said, however, two women stepped into the room, the elder in a soft blue kimono, the other in a school uniform with a knee-length skirt. “Ahh, thank you, Yamori-sensei, Kagehabu-san. Kagehabu Shiriana-san, you might know Kinamoto Sakura-san, and this is Saotome Ranma-san.”


           The younger woman, perhaps fourteen, turned toward Ranma. Her appearance surprised Ranma. She was attractive, with long black braided hair and a brown eye. That was the surprise. Her right eye, or presumably what was her right eye, was beneath a black eyepatch. It was obvious, from the edge of a pair of scars around the patch, that the eye beneath was most likely missing. It seemed to give her the look of one who had been through fire and darkness, a look far older than her age would lead one to believe. “Hello, Saotome-san. It’s nice to finally meet you.” At Ranma’s confused gaze, the student replied, “I was asked by Yamori-sensei to work on a special project for you.”


            Yamori-sensei noticed Ranma’s confusion. “We received reports about your Jusenkyou curse, Saotome-san. And Kagehabu-san has done extensive research upon that particular kind of magic.”


Shiriana nodded. “It’s always fascinated me, so I’ve researched it for some time now.” At Ranma’s hopeful expression, she said, “I’m sorry; I’ve not yet found anything along the lines of a curse, though I did some research on a way to stabilize it somewhat. That is what I have so far.” She pulled a pair of cloth bracers from a purse, offering them up to Ranma. “The best I can do is something that can prevent water from seeking you out, and increasing the temperature the curse needs to change you back. Jusenkyou curses are very pernicious in that they do not like being weakened, so the best I can do is strengthen the shifting part enough to make it not bother you.”


Ranma blinked, and sighed. “So I’ll be a girl, huh? Joy,” He muttered under his breath.


Shiriana looked a bit embarrassed. “I’m sorry, Saotome-san, but that’s as much as I can do about the curse. If I find out more, I’ll be sure to let you know, but for now, this is the best I can do.”


Ranma shuddered and nodded. “I understand. Thank you, Kagehabu-san,” he said quietly as he took the bracers.


Shiriana nodded gently as she stepped back to sit down. Yamori-sensei then spoke up. “Kinamoto-san, Saotome-san, Kagehabu-san, I had another reason for calling you here. This affects Kinamoto-san and Kagehabu-san more than you, Saotome-san, but it is important for you too. There is going to be a student exchange program in a few months, and you two have been chosen to represent Golden Sora at Hogwart’s, the school that Saotome-san is going to.” This surprised both students. Sakura seemed rather concerned, but Shiriana seemed delighted.  “This is, of course, pending your family’s or guardian’s approval,” she says to the girls.


Ranma listened quietly until a voice was heard from outside. “Yamori-san, we have a representative from Hogwart’s here to speak with you?”


Headmistress Yamori nodded. “Please let them in,” she replied back. A moment later, a tall, greasy-looking man with a stern face walked into the room. Dressed in black, he looked positively dour. He bowed sinuously to Headmistress Yamori then looked at the students, eyes pausing as they stopped on Ranma. The man’s eyes bored down on Ranma’s, and it felt like he was being measured, though for what, he couldn’t say. “Thank you for coming, Professor Snape,” Yamori greeted, shifting to English. “This is Sakura Kinamoto, Shiriana Kagehabu, and Ranma Saotome.”


Snape took a second look at Ranma, his eyes widening. This confused Ranma, to say the least. Snape looked to Yamori and nodded quietly. “I see… This saves time then. Headmaster Dumbledore wanted me to bring Ranma with me for a visit to speak with him and to help him prepare for his classes.”


Ranma blinked and nodded. “Thank you, Snape-sensei,” he replied. “But why would Dumbledore-sensei want to see me early?”


Snape gave a hard look to Ranma and replied, “That is for him to explain, I am afraid.”


Ranma shrugged quietly. “Alright. I guess that makes sense.”


Snape nodded quietly then looked toward the other two girls. “Hogwart’s is proud to have students from Golden Sora come and learn there.” He bowed to the headmasters of Golden Sora.


Ranma bowed gently to the headmasters as well before moving to Snape’s side. Snape pulled a folded newspaper from underneath his cloak. Ranma looked at it. “Something to read on the plane?” he asked.


Snape sighed. He didn't quite believe that the young child would be totally ignorant of such things, but it was clear he was.  "I assume, Headmistress, that your wards are like Hogwarts, am I mistaken?"  While delivered in a tone that would not offend, the words along made Yamori's eyes narrow a bit.  She nodded sharply, while noting Snape's comments.


"Of course our wards are similar.  But, I'd recommend not attempting to portkey until you're at least a good 2 blocks away from the school, Snape-san.  Our wards, as you say, are a bit different."  She smiled coldly, and added. "As you should be aware, we are the leading school for sorcery, so our wards are sorcerous."  Snape flushed ever so slightly, but took the unspoken rebuke with no comment.


Snape instead asked a question.  "I assume that you will handle your transfer student's needs, Yamori-sama?"  He turned after receiving a slight nod of agreement to Ranma. "I have a question before I explain.  What name will you go by in female form?  "While the vast majority of Hogwart's students are unaware of Japanese naming customs, I would suspect at least one... rather nosy... student to figure out immediately.  This of course, assumes you will keep the curse a secret."  Snape finished while leaving 'It would be better if you did' unsaid, but clearly in the air.


Ranma blinked, and sighed slightly.  Since Happosai's training, he had become a lot more aware of things.  "Ranko, I guess, I've gone by it before, Snape-sensei."  Unspoken, was that he didn't like it, and had a suspicion of his mother's reaction.  Snape nodded to both the spoken and unspoken statements.  Snape bowed slightly to the Headmistress, as Ranma did the same, and lead the way outside.


"Excellent.  First, we need to go collect your mother, Ranma, and then this newspaper will take us to England.  It is called a Portkey, which allows instantaneous travel."  Snape's explanation was precise and concise... but Ranma picked up on a hint of displeasure, though he wasn't sure why Snape-sensei was displeased.



June 24th, Mid Morning – Diagon Alley


Snape smiled slightly, at the Shidou's reaction to the portkey. Watching the slight expression of disgust on that lovely face of Nodoka's, and the exclamation from Ranko, since he had suggested that she use the bracers now, and get used to them, especially since his research on Jusenkyou was that it would attract water, and as he knew well, magic attracts magic, so in Diagon Alley, it would be assured the curse would be activated.  He actually liked the fact that the official divorce decree had come in while he was collecting Ranma.  It made life easier, and when transferring the vault to Ranko, as he should also grow used to thinking of her female form, the goblins would be ... annoyed at having to change it twice in a short period of time.  He bowed slightly, to Nodoka and Ranko, to precede him out of the alley, and Nodoka nodded back regally, as he expected she would.  She was clearly what her bloodline declared her to be.  And with her help in convincing Ranko to hide the curse, and be a girl for school, he was glad he made sure to treat her with the utmost respect.  She seemed to be able to get her child to do whatever she wanted, with ease.  He led the two ladies towards the Leaky Cauldron, and opened the door for them, as Nodoka blinked.  Squibs could see the pub, but it sometimes hid from them, and this was one of the cases, though with a quick pointing of it, from Ranko and himself, she saw it with ease, and her slight gasp pleased him in an obscure way.


            "Ah, professor, you're here.  I assume these are the two ladies you requested the rooms for?"  Snape nodded to Tom.


            "Yes, Tom, though they'll not take advantage of them until the 1st, as we discussed previously." Snape received Tom's nod, and noted with a bit of amazement, that Ranko had no problems following the conversation, while Nodoka apparently had to work to follow it. Curious, she knows English well? I'll have to ask, will make her schooling much easier, if she does.  Though Nodoka will clearly need a refresher course. Snape raised an eyebrow, and asked the pair.  "Would either of you care for a glass before we attend to the school supplies?"  Tom raised an eyebrow at the clearly solicitous tone in Snape's voice, and made a mental note of it.  Also, others had as well.  Snape cursed silently, he could see the rumors flying already.


            Nodoka looked at Ranko who shook her head, and replied in halting English.  "No, I think we wait until later, Snape-sensei."


            Snape nodded, and proceeded to lead the way to the back, where he removed his wand, and commented. "I suggest you pay close attention, as this is something you will need to do on your own, Ranko."  He waited for her nod, and then opened the wall to Diagon alley, secretly enjoying the looks of amazement on both women's faces.  He couldn't resist the line, so he didn't. "Welcome to Diagon Alley, ladies, the heart of the British wizardly shopping.  All women in Britain’s wizardly society know this place well."


            He lead the way to Gringott's, while enjoying the oohs and ahhs from Nodoka, and commenting slightly on some of the shops, and smiling slightly at the two's expressions.  He was enjoying this immensely.  He actually now understood why Minerva and Filius enjoyed this part of the duties.  Showing those unfamiliar to the society the heart of the community, was enjoyable, especially these two.


            "This is Gringott's, the wizardly Bank for most of Europe.  This is only one of their branches, of course.  They do all the necessary things here, exchanges, hold money, loans, though I wouldn't recommend that, nor do you need such." He said the last with a bit of a sniff to himself.  "Goblins run this, and they do an excellent job."  With that statement, he opened the doors for them, and watched as they walked in, and followed.


            Snape lead them into the line, and waited with them.  He actually enjoyed Nodoka's soft "Ara" and Ranko's slight start on seeing the Goblins, and he smiled slightly, as they talked about the sign.  "There are dragons guarding some of the vaults, so, they do take their sign seriously, you understand."  He enjoyed their slight start at that, and as they came to a teller, he stepped up for them.


           "I am Visrak, how can I help you, Professor Snape?" the goblin introduced himself, and waited for Snape's response.


            Before Nodoka could step forward, with the cash she had taken from a hidden vault in the house, he stated. "I need to speak with Mordan; he's still in charge of the sealed trusts, is he not?"  Nodoka looked at him with a puzzled expression, and he nodded at her softly, adding... "Later, in private."  She nodded.


            "Of course, but, I'll need more than just that, you do realize."  Snape nodded at the Goblin's comment, and handed over a note for Mordan.


            "I believe this from the Headmaster should be sufficient, to attract his attention, Visrak."  The Goblin nodded, and disappeared.  Snape waited quietly, while adding. "Do not worry about converting yen to Galleons, Nodoka-dono.  Your ancestors have made sure you were well taken care of, you understand."  Snape waited for her nod, and made a slight gesture to keep quiet.


            Mordan appeared quickly, while studying the two ladies. "These are them, Professor?"  Snape nodded, and the Goblin added. "They will be tested, of course, you do know."  Snape smiled.  "The last to try, did not enjoy it, mind you... even though it was not fatal."


            Mordan studied the two women and nodded.  "Let us try this time. Perhaps we will have better luck.  Shall we, ladies?  Oh, if it is not too rude, may I have your names?"


            Nodoka blinked, but nodded her assent, taking all in stride, or appearing to.  "Shidou Nodoka and daughter Shidou Ranko"


Mordan stepped from behind the cage, and lead the way to a different entrance than most used, one intended for the highest security vaults, as Snape explained in an aside.


            "I assume neither of you would care for the cart ride, am I wrong?" Mordan asked in a slightly teasing tone. Snape shook his head, and responded for them.


            "While I have the feeling the Shidous would... not mind it, I do think they'd prefer stability, you understand, of course." Snape said in a dry tone.


            "Oh, of course, and we do try to accommodate our more... discerning customers.  And since it is a long trip to these vaults, it's not worth it to me, or to them wasting our time taking the long way."


            Ranko started, and Snape calmed the ladies, or so he thought.  "We're just going down..."  Ranko just turned to him with a slight smirk, and laughed.


            "I knew that, Snape-sensei, I was just curious why in what appeared to be a town from history, they had an elevator."


            Snape blinked.  He hadn't considered what the Muggles did for their tall buildings.   "Interesting... I see I do need to discuss certain things with Angus when he arrives.  A new professor at Hogwarts, Ranko, Nodoka-dono." 


            The descent stopped, and the doors opened.  Snape started slightly, along with the two ladies, as several dragons appeared in their view, and Mordan smirked. "We are serious about security, ladies.  If you weren't attended by me, or a similarly cleared goblin, you would be attacked on sight."  He stopped at Ranko's smirk.  "Something funny,  Shidou-san?"


            "Not as scary as the Orochi, in Ryuuganzawa." 


Mordan blinked.  "Ah. I see... I think."  He led the way along a ledge to a vault door.  "Vault 5, of Gringott’s.  There is no key needed, there is just a test, which only a magically active member of the Slytherin bloodline may attempt.  It is not fatal, mind you, but it is... unpleasant if you fail."


            Ranko shrugged and asked. "What test?" 


Mordan looked at the young lady, and smiled. "I do not know what is tested, but I do know, you place your hand on the lock, and then are tested.  What is tested I do not know. Salazar himself set it up this way." 


            Ranko did as instructed... and initially a light of pale sliver appearing from the lock, washed over her form, slowly.  The light sped up, sweeping her more quickly, and seeming to linger on the bracers, and on her heart, and head.  The light suddenly changed to green and silver, and unlocked.


            Mordan smiled. "Well, I see the Headmaster's correct, in his assumption.  Now, I need you to answer a few questions, if you don't mind?"


            Ranko blinked. She'd never be able to describe what the sensations were like... except probing... though at the end, very... warming, almost like feeling her mother's hugs.  She shook off the feeling, and asked. "What questions"


            "First, what nation is your nation of citizenship, and how old are you?" Mordan had a slip of parchment, and a quill out.


            "Umm, Japan, and I'm eleven?" Ranko ended on a questioning note.


            "Excellent.  By the laws of Japan, you're a minor until your 20th birthday, so I need a person to have asset control, at least limited. It's limited according to the trust agreement, to your immediate family, head of your house, if not Slytherin, and the Headmaster of Hogwart’s."


            "Um... my mother?"


            Mordan nodded, and scratched that down, and asked. "In case of her death, or inability to access it, how do you want the Trust and your vaults handled?  Locked until you can reopen, or a second one in control, in that case?"


            Ranko looked helplessly at her mother, who stated for her. "Locked, I think, would be safer, wouldn't it?" The goblin nodded.


            "Excellent, you will find a listing of all your assets, Shidou-san, inside, plus keys for other vaults, I would recommend you transfer some funds to an upper level vault, which if I remember right, you do control at least one, and use that as a day in, day out vault.  And only yours and Ranko's signatures combined, until she's 20, can move funds from this vault, to others, and it requires both of you here, unless reassigning asset control, to open this vault, for massive transfers."  Mordan rolled up the parchment, and pushed open the vault doors.  Nodoka's expression was a study.  Ranko's eyes widened. 


            Snape snorted softy, and smiled. "Quite impressive, indeed, I have to admit."  He took in the vault's pile of gold, boxes, loose gems, and like, with a soft shake of the head.  He noted a small key ring hanging up on one of the walls with 5 other vault keys on it.  He watched as Mordan removed that, and a book under it.  He raised his eyebrow, recognizing the Estate manager journal, popular among the older or more moneyed families.


            Mordan returned his raised eyebrow, with a smirk.  "Yes, this is the Estate journal, Shidou-dono, of your late great-great-grandfather. If I'm correct, all the information about the 9 vaults you are responsible for, are in here, and updated regularly.  While you might need some information out of this vault, and a lot of special family items are in here, and several other vaults, this will list the contents, and will usually act as proof of ownership for deeds and stocks, and bonds.  Besides that, I would recommend you take some time to look these over, later, so we can be on our way." 


Nodoka nodded, and Mordan produced a pouch from his pocket, and he muttered to himself.  "These two pouches are actually a new innovation, but one I think you both might enjoy.  And as the Slytherin Estate is a 1st level account with us, there is no charge for these, at least in their basic function."  He handed one to each of the two Shidous, and closed the vault, and instructed Ranko to press her hand to the lock, and then Nodoka as well.  He waited until they were finished, and the lock glowed its green and silver to indicate its locked status.  "Now.  As for what those pouches are, Shidou-san.  They are linked to two of the five keyed vaults. One is traditionally the Spouse vault, intended for daily spending, of the wife, though considering how much is currently in it, I daresay you could quite easily purchase a house with what's in there, and still have enough for several years of easy living, easily.  This is its key, and I suggest you keep track of it, there is a fee for replacing it."


Mordan watched as Nodoka stored both items. "Yours, Ranko-san, is linked to the heir vault, and is intended to give the heir to the estate a spending income, though like the other vault, it has built up over time." Mordan nodded as he watched as Ranko stored hers. "Both pouches are keyed to you, and require you to open them.  Since they're linked to the two vaults, you don't have to visit us, for Galleons, or like.  For Muggle currency, you just state to it, what type, and how much, though there is a 1% processing fee, if the vaults don't contain it, mind you, for the exchange, and it will be done at current day value, or for times the trading is not done, it'll be at last stated value."


Nodoka and Ranko both nodded, slightly stunned.  "Oh, and the other three keys are for the other six vaults of the Estate.  It's unusual for a key to open more than one vault, but it's the way the estate was set up.  Each opens one money vault, and one storage vault for documents, artwork, jewelry, and the like.  The Estate journal has details of what's in each."  Mordan opened the elevator, and they left the lowest level of Gringott's with both ladies having a slightly stunned look.



            Snape was still slightly smiling as he led the way into Ollivander's shop.   Before he could call for the man, Ollivander appeared.


            "I take it you're escorting a student for a wand, Professor?" the old man asked with a bit of a raised eyebrow.


            "Yes, Shidou Ranko from Japan, Ollivander."  The statement was delivered flatly, implying he should know all about this.


            "Quite, Albus did inform me she would be coming shortly, though it wasn't... but, I'll go along with it, this time, mind you young man!"  The reprimand was delivered in a teasing voice as he fetched his measuring tape.  "Now, young Ranko, which is your wand arm... oh, writing arm, I should say since you are Muggle-raised."  Ranko turned to look at Snape, the question clear in her eyes.


            "Muggle, a term we use to state those without magic, Ranko-chan."  Snape watched as Ranko narrowed her eyes slightly and then nodded.


            "It's important you tell me which arm, so I can go about selecting a wand for you... since it's the wand that chooses the wizard, really.  It's something most don't realize.  Wizards and witches can't use certain wands, and especially when they're just learning." Ollivander mentioned with a smile.


            "Right."  With that, Ollivander let the tape do it's work on it's own, and he nodded as Ranko held still, without any reaction, except a pleased 'Sugoi' from her mother.


            "Yes, yes... let's try this.  Seven inches, willow and unicorn hair."  As Ranko took up the wand, he snatched it back shaking his head. "No, no. That won't quite do, I think.  Try this one, 6 inches, oak and veela hair..."  She tried to give it a wave, but he snatched it out of her hand.


            After several more tries, Ollivander shook his head. "You're almost as difficult of a customer as some I've had... but I have a feeling, I was choosing the wrong wand for you, simply because I rarely get Japanese students here, they tend to collect their wands in Japan.  Wait here; I might have something though..."  With that, Ollivander bustled off into the back, and came back with a box. "11 inches, Sakura grown in Kyoto, in the Sun Goddess' shrine and sentient phoenix, from China, Saffron I believe was kind enough to donate a single feather, to me.  Go on, try it."  He watched as Ranko waved it, and a brilliant green and gold light appeared, solidifying into a brilliant magi snake, with silver eyes.  Ollivander blinked, and then nodded. "Yes, yes.  This wand is meant to do great things, like any phoenix cored wand, but the wood itself tends to make me think it'll be a peaceful wand... more of a healer's or teacher's wand, than a fighter's.  I wish you well, that'll be 12 galleons." 


As Ranko went to open her pouch, Snape stopped her for a second, and mentioned to Ollivander. "Please, if you would, remove the detection charms.  As a recognized master in Japan, Ranko is not considered underage." 


Ollivander’s eyebrows rose, but he nodded.  "Of course.  My mistake."  He used his own wand to remove the charm that reported back to the ministry, and then smiled. "Still, it will be 12 galleons, Shidou-dono."  Ranko handed over the gold, and he wrapped the wand in a box.



            The trio walked toward Madam Malkin’s shop, but Snape stopped at the door. “May I suggest that I go acquire your books and supplies? I know what is needed and where to get it, so you can take your time with the robes and uniform.”


Ranko nodded hesitantly and moved into the building, where Madam Malkin greeted her. “Yes. Um… Well, I’m supposed to be getting my robes and uniform for Hogwart’s?” she said hesitantly.


The clerk nodded quietly as Ranko and Nodoka were escorted into the fitting room. Both women froze as they watched measuring tapes fly about the room. “Hello, my dears. I am Madam Malkin…” she paused as she took a good look at them, her eyes widening as they fell upon the Gringott’s pouches. “And I am most happy to help you in any way possible.”


            Ranko did not understand the sudden kindness, but Nodoka did. This was either going to be a good thing or a bad thing, she wasn’t sure. She had seen that reaction before on several shop owners when dealing with the very rich. They could either be very greedy, or go out of their way to help. However, Nodoka did not feel the vibe of the former from Madam Malkin.


            Indeed, Madam Malkin was just a hair away from obsequious as the tape measures drifted around Ranko’s body, measuring her. “So what can I get you, child?”


           The ‘child’ grated slightly on Ranko’s nerves but she replied, “I need robes and uniforms for Hogwart’s,” she replied.


            Nodoka replied, “If you have time, I’d like some kimonos, and some clothing appropriate to here, if you could, please.”


            Malkin smiled gently and nodded. “I would be glad to. The kimonos may take some time, I will have to get some patterns for it, but I can probably have the rest by the time you are finished with your shopping.”


Suddenly a young woman stormed in, irritated. “Excuse me,” she said, testily.


Malkin’s smile slipped a bit. “I will be with you in just a moment, these customers were here first. Have a seat, please.”


The girl sneered. “They’re just a pair of foreign mudbloods. I should be first.”


Malkin was about to say something, but Nodoka stopped her. “And what is your name, young lady?”


The newcomer looked toward Nodoka, sniffing. “Not that it is any business of a slant-eyed mudblood like you, but my name is Pansy Parkison.”


Ranko replied, “I gather you attend Hogwart’s?” she said, looking her over carefully. “Well, you will apologize to my mother, or you will be holding your wand in your teeth this year, because I will break both of your arms.”


Outraged, Pansy reached for her wand, but suddenly a blossom of blinding pain surged through her arm. “Now,” Ranko replied after finishing pressing a point on the girl’s elbow. “You will apologize to my mother.”


“How dare you…” But as promised, another surge of searing pain hit her, this time from her jaw. She clutched at her face as she was roughly dragged to a bench.  She tried to move her jaw, but all that caused was agony.


"Don't talk.  It'll only hurt more."  Ranko's blue eyes were icy cold.  "Next time, think before opening your mouth.  It pays to know just who you are insulting, or their parents, Pansy-baka.  Now sit down, and wait until it's your turn.  Or your jaw works again. Whichever comes last” Ranko poked a point on her chest, freezing her and turned toward Madam Malkin and smiled slightly. “I apologize for that… unseemly display,” she said, hoping that would sound appropriate.


Madam Malkin tried not laughing herself as she returned the smile. “There is no need to apologize, dear. Now may we finish?”


Ranko bowed deeply, nodding. “Thank you, Malkin-san,” she replied as the tapes cross along her body, measuring her out, ignoring the whimpering of the girl in the corner.


“Very interesting… Smaller than most of the students I get. Yes, I should be able to get these done by the end of the day. I can even have them delivered to wherever you are staying if you wish?”


Nodoka smiled gratefully. “The Leaky Cauldron.”


Madam Malkin nodded, and drew her off to discuss the kimonos, and several items for wear in England.  Ranko wandered around shaking her head at some of the outfits, and after a while of this, just at the same time that Nodoka had finished with Madam Malkin, Snape walked in, and blinked at the image of a silent and still Parkison.  "Dare I ask why Miss Parkison is frozen?"  Ranko just shrugged, and Snape decided to leave it.  After all, it wasn't during school and he wasn't fond of the young lady.  "If you're both ready, we can go by the shop to collect an owl for mailing, if you wish, now."  Nodoka and Ranko nodded, and he lead the way to the shop.


            Snape led the Shidous to the pet shop, amidst the cacophony of hoots, screeches and other animal noises. Unfortunately, there was a sound amidst them all that chilled Ranko's blood and squeezed her heart. Ranko's head turned in terror toward a group of monsters, her eyes widening as she stumbled back into Nodoka. "No..." she whispered hoarsely, trying to back out of the store.


            It was a hideous figure in orange fur, eyes filled with hatred, teeth ready to rend her flesh. It gave a terrible screech of malice as it turned toward Ranko. In horror, Ranko blew past Nodoka and Severus, screaming as she fled, trying to escape.


            Nodoka blinked as Ranko wailed something about cats as she disappeared down an alley. Snape paled as he followed quickly. "Oh no... Nodoka, stay here!" He said as he ran down Knockturn Alley after Ranko. Nodoka followed quickly behind, worried for her child's life. Severus seemed like a steady man. If he went pale, this did not sound good at all.


            Ranko blew past the various people meandering down the darkened corridor, crashing into a trashcan, causing her to sprawl across a pipe. She shuddered, not noticing the people crowding around her, until suddenly a voice called out, "Back away!"


            Snape and Nodoka quickly moved toward Ranko's side, only to hear, "Don't throw me in again! Get them off of me!" Ranko wailed as she thrashed, trying to shoo off an invisible assailant. Then an ear-piercing scream backed everyone off... "MOTHER, PLEASE!!!"


            Nodoka quickly rushed to Ranko's side, moving to take the child into her arms, holding her close. "It's ok, Ranko, I'm right here..." She said, her eyes haunted.


      Snape hid his shock at the situation, as he escorted the pair towards the Leaky Cauldron.  Nodoka was comforting Ranko, as he held his silence.  After arriving in the room he had reserved for them, he watched as Nodoka slowly helped to restore some of Ranko's composure.


            Snape paced slightly, as Ranko finally calmed down, and wiped her face on her sleeve.  "Would you care to tell me, just why you reacted like that?"


            Ranko's expression was actually hard to describe for Snape.  Before this, he could easily read her; she was an open book to anyone who paid attention... but this?  She was _reluctant_ to tell, yes, but... why... if he was right, it was mixed with hate, terror, and shame?  Why shame?


            Ranko hesitated, and Snape sighed.  He turned from the child, and looked out the window, his black clothing a contrast to the sunshine outside.  "I can understand if you don't want to talk about it, but I can tell you now, you will encounter many cats at Hogwarts... I need to know, so I can make arrangements for you to face your phobia."


            Nodoka paused and shook her head slightly, her look pure confusion. "You shouldn't have a phobia; you loved cats as a child."  Nodoka paused, reassuring Ranko without words, that she was safe, after her reaction to the word cat.  Nodoka continued, "Only reason why you didn't have one as a pet was Genma refused to have one.  Claming it made people weak to have pets.  What ever happened to cause this?"  Nodoka's expression was beginning to change, unnoticed by Ranko and Snape. 


            Ranko was still hesitating... and Snape just shook his head. "There is nothing wrong with being afraid of something.  It can be corrected, since it's natural to fear... though I have to agree, if you had a history of enjoying felines, it's unusual to gain a phobia."


            "What did Genma do?" Nodoka asked, resigned to more of Genma's clear stupidity.  That was the only explanation, had to be.


            Ranko sighed... "You don't want to know, trust me."


            Snape nodded.  "I believe you're right.  But, we need to know, anyway."  Snape hesitated ever so slightly. "Please.  The only way to cure this, since it's important for your education, is if you tell us."


            Nodoka stroked Ranko's hair, and leaned her head on top of her child's.  "No matter what he did, I won't blame you, or ever stop being proud of you, my child... please...  tell us, so we can fix his mistakes."


            Ranko in a hesitant tone, stated. "The Neko-ken." 


            "Cat-fist?  Exactly how would that cause a phobia?  I don't quite understand on what appears to be a fighting technique would cause this."  Snape was honestly puzzled. 


            Ranko sighed, closing her eyes.  "Find a manual with rare and lost techniques, and only read the first page."


            "How was the technique taught, daughter?" Nodoka enquired softly.


            "Take a student, wrap him or her in fish sausages, fish paste, and fish guts... while the student is unable to move..."


            Nodoka was quickly getting a horrified expression on her face.  She had heard of insane training, but... this?  No, even beyond plunging your hands repeatedly into hot sand.


            "After doing this...  put student into a pit, filled with c-c- felines you have starved for several days..."


            Snape's expression was horrified.  Who said that Muggles weren't creative about torture? This was something that Voldemort would think of.  "Surely it was only once."


            "No.  Pops thought that it didn't work the first time."


            Nodoka's face was utterly white.  "He repeated this?"


            Ranko's face was... still. As if she had disassociated with this... as if she had been only a clinical observer at the time. Snape understood that this was so she could get though telling this to them.  "I lost count after a week, of the times he tried it.  Varying types of fish, even trying different seafood types."  Ranko's voice was... distant.  "Finally, well... it worked. More or less."


            Snape hesitated, but he had to know. "More or less?"






            "Well... if I stay with cats long enough... I go insane."  Snape was getting an itchy feeling between his shoulder blades.  Something was bad about her tone of voice.


            "Insane... how?"


            Ranko's expression... well, Snape wasn't sure he wanted to describe it. "I become a c-c-feline, in mind.  With ultra sharp ki-claws, and the thinking patterns of one."


            Snape's expression was livid; NO child should have undergone this.  It was clearly a Muggle invention to equal the Cruciatus curse!  He stepped away from the window, while schooling his features into a concerned look and placed a hand on Ranko's shoulder. "Ranko, that bastard that spawned you will never hurt you again." Snape had a well-deserved reputation for arrogance, loathing of most of his students, and various and sundry other unsavory personality traits. But hearing of tortures being inflicted on someone barely more than an infant, by his own father, no less, could not be tolerated. He wouldn't even dream of doing anything like that, even to that loathsome Potter.


            Severus then looked to Nodoka. “I think we’ll need to speak with Headmaster Dumbledore. This is not a good situation, and he’ll need to be informed as soon as possible.”


            Nodoka looked broken, but nodded. “I should have never ever let Genma take Ranma...” She whispered, stroking Ranko’s hair gently.


            Snape quickly reached for a quill and parchment, scrawling out a note before slipping out of the room, returning a moment later. “I’ve sent an owl to the headmaster. There are far too many felines to keep Ranko away from in Hogwarts, and this will be a... problem if it cannot be ... cured.” Snape had noted that it was the word cat that Ranko was unable to speak, and didn't want to risk any more trauma on the girl.


            Ranko shuddered as she though of seeing those horrid demons over and over again. “Please… Can we not talk about this right now?” she whispered in a quiet voice.


            Nodoka nodded and sighed. “It’s alright, dear.” She stroked Ranko’s hair softly, while Snape paced, thinking intently.


            To their surprise, a tap on the window was heard shortly after. Severus quickly went to the window to look at the owl on the ledge, getting the note from its leg, reading it. “Why is she coming?” he asked aloud.


            Nodoka looked up, confused. “Why is who coming?”


            Severus replied, “Professor McGonagall. I don’t see how she can help Ranko…” He trailed off in confusion.  McGonagall was a well educated woman, but he had no knowledge of this, and she shouldn't either.  What would she know about...  Snape's eyes narrowed, and he nodded.


            "Would you both care for a private meal?" Snape asked, thinking it was better to distract them, while waiting for the others. Both women nodded, and he stepped out, to have Tom prepare a meal for the ladies, and some tea, for later.


            There was a knock upon the door an hour later. Severus opened the door. “Thank you, Headmaster, Professor. Come in… would you like some tea?” he offered.


            Albus nodded as he moved to sit down before Ranko. “I know of your Neko-Ken. It was not a martial arts technique,” he said quietly. “There had been some terrible experiments centuries ago, attempts to learn quickly, without working for things.” Ranko shuddered at that thought. She had seen far too many people around her taking shortcuts that had un-expected side-effects (1). “In this case, it was an attempt to create what we call an Animagus, someone who can take an animal form nearly at will. It failed miserably, and even those involved in the Dark Arts were loathe to try something so foolish. The only thing I can determine is that your father mistook it for a martial arts technique.”


            Ranko blinked and muttered something under her breath that all three professors caught. “It figures that the stupid panda would do something like that.”


            “Yes. And that will complicate things. We do have a way to work around it, but it will require you working with Professor McGonagall here.” He nodded his head towards the stern looking woman next to him.  Ranko's senses were... uneasy around her.


            Minerva nodded, and then spoke up. “Yes… I am afraid the only known way to cure the technique's traumas is for you to undergo actual Animagus training. We normally would not train one so young, but it has become necessary. It will require your permission, though.  And it will be... unpleasant, in parts.  However, it will go quickly, mind you.  The Neko-ken did grant shortcuts in the training, I'm sorry to say."


            Ranko paused. “This’ll give me control of myself, and I won’t have to worry about cats?” Minerva nodded. “Alright… I’ll do it.”


            Snape's eyes narrowed.  He caught Minerva's hesitation on the last statement, and wondered what she was hiding.




The next several weeks flew by for most people, but for Ranma, they seemed to drag on into an eternity as he struggled through the Animagus training. Knowing how much time he was going to be spending as a female, he did his level best to remain male, even during McGonagall-sensei’s training. His first time as a cat nearly scared him senseless at first, but what stunned him was that the fear did not come on its own, that his mind had not blanked out as it did every time he faded into the Neko-ken. He walked toward a mirror smoothly, surprising Minerva as his movements did not show the missteps and clumsiness she had felt so very long ago when she made her first changes.


Neko-Ranma stared into a mirror, as a black-tipped Siamese stared back into his eyes. He blinked a bit, and then lifted his tail a bit, watching as his mirror image did the same. “Kami-sama… I’m a cat. It’s… creepy, staring at one in the mirror and not feeling terrified.” It took him a full thirty seconds to realize that the words came out in a series of myaas and rumbling purring sounds.


He turned toward McGonagall, who had changed behind him, replying in ways no normal human or an average wizard could not understand. “That is most definitely a relief,” Neko-Minerva said softly. “What do you think?”


Ranma took a few more steps, turning to get a better look at himself in the mirror. “Everything looks strange,” He said a bit worriedly.


Minerva replied, “Cats see differently than humans. Night vision is better, but we do not see colors as well as humans.”


Ranma relaxed at that information and began to walk, testing his movements. “This is… interesting.”


Minerva nodded. "I could have guessed what your Animagus animal was, just by watching you in motion, I might not have been able to guess the breed, Mr. Shidou, but even if I didn't know about the Neko-ken, you have all the hallmarks of a cat." She suddenly grinned. "Including being vain about our appearances."


Ranma nodded. “Ye… wait a second!”


Minerva smiled. "I dare say I could match you on balancing on a fence, easily, and I am just as... prideful and well, vain.  It's traits that we share.  Nothing _wrong_ with it.  Several Animagi of my knowledge share traits with their animal.  For example, a Dog Animagus tends towards being more unable to sit still, loyal, more "group" thought, and tends to favor his breed's build.  A bird Animagus would favor being slight and finicky, and depending on the bird, and even gender, tends towards ‘nesting’ habits.”


Ranma stopped. "McGonagall-sensei, do our personalities pick the animal, or do we adopt traits after picking?"


McGonagall shrugged slightly, a very unusual-looking gesture in a cat.  "I've seen several train, and in all but one case _was_ right about their animal that they would become _before_ they chose.  I think you tend to choose the animal that you match with best in personality, and then develop some of the physical traits to match."


Ranma stretched, yawning a bit. “That would explain some things,” he thought wryly.


Minerva nodded. “We should change back now.” And with those words, she melted back into her human form. After a few moments, Ranma did the same, though with a hint of hesitation. “Very good, Ranma. Now I want you to practice this every day until school starts.”


Ranma nodded. “No problem.”


The professor nodded. “Now run along, dear,” she said as Ranma slipped out of the room. A moment later, Albus stepped into the room.


“I gather that Shidou’s progress is quite advanced?” The headmaster asked with a hint of amusement.


“I have never seen a student learn the skills of an Animagus in such a very short time. I know this ‘Neko-Ken’ helped hasten things but still… It took me nearly six months to get as far as he has in the last couple of weeks.”


Albus merely replied, “I suspect Shidou will surprise us about a great deal of things.”



Ranko returned to Japan for a few days to pack his things and finish his remaining shopping, including picking up his own pet and messenger, a Peregrine Falcon which he named Soratsume, or Sky Talon. Nodoka and Ranko arrived at King’s Cross Station early on the first, meeting up with Professor Snape. “Did you have any problems, Shidou-san?” he asked Nodoka almost solicitously.


Nodoka nodded softly. “Thank you, Snape-sensei.”


Ranko nodded, adjusting her robes a little, still seeming somewhat uncomfortable in both robes and female form. “Yes, thank you very much, sensei.” She paused, and then asked, “I noticed something weird… where is Nine and three quarters? There’s nine, there’s ten, but I don’t see a three quarters.”


Snape nodded softly. “Yes, that is a rather frequently asked question.” He took control of the cart Ranko was pushing, and proceeded toward a wall. “It’s through here; you just have to go through this wall.”


Nodoka looked confused, but Ranko shrugged. “I’ve been told stranger.” She shrugged and then proceeded to walk through the wall, surprising Nodoka as she passed through smoothly.


Snape nodded. “Go ahead, Shidou-san,” he said softly as he gestured through the wall. Nodoka hesitated, before slipping through the wall herself, sighing in relief.


Ranko looked about, noticing the small crowd already here, waiting for the train evidently. Snape moved the cart to join the rest of the carts, before moving back to Nodoka and Ranko’s side. “I apologize for having to leave so suddenly, but I need to do some shopping before I join you at the school, Ranko.” He then bowed deeply to Nodoka. “Take care, Shidou-san,” he said before walking off.


Nodoka looked toward Ranko, a regretful expression on her face. “So once more, you leave me to train.”


Ranko flinched and sighed, embracing her mother. “I won’t be gone for years on end. I’ll be back as often as I can.” She sighed. “I’m going to miss you too, mother.”


Nodoka sighed softly and held her daughter gently. Suddenly, in the background, a guitar could be heard. The two turned to a small group of teenagers, one of them evidently the source of the music. The Shidous watched as the young woman played a battered Stratocaster, seemingly lost in her music. Ranko had a wistful expression on her face but said nothing, so she would not interrupt.


As the girl’s fingers finished strumming the guitar, Ranko applauded. “Wow. That’s incredible,” she congratulated. “I’ve never heard anything like it.”


The girl smiled. "Thank you, it’s a pleasure to play. Just glad someone enjoyed it.”


Ranko nodded and smiles, extending a hand. “I’m S… Ranko Shidou.”


The girl nodded, shaking the hand. “It’s nice to meet you, Shidou-san. Kuukino Mitzi.” She looked suddenly at her large hawk that chirped, slightly disgusted at the oversized cage on the trunk next to the girl. “Yes, I know, you feathered eating machine.”


Ranko’s own hooded falcon gave a couple of aggrieved chirps itself, as Ranko smiled. “It’s very nice to meet you as well.” She replied as she set her cart aside in a small but slowly growing line. “


"So, what's a Japanese student doing attending Hogwarts?  I know _why_ I and my friends are.  Patterson's all taken with the idea of expanding contact with the prims here," Mitzi asked.


Ranko blinked. "How did you know I was Japanese?"


Mitzi smiled. "You responded to my use of it, plus you used Far East naming convention."


Ranko looked surprised.


"I'm not the second ranked student at Patterson's for nothing.  Shana over there" Mitzi pointed at a girl leaning against a post who was apparently napping. "Beat me this year, though. That's Largo there, who's too involved in his game to look up, and the other boy who's napping's Danny."


Ranko bowed to those who were awake, as the crowds began to build. “I think we’d better get ready for the train,” she replied.


Mitzi nodded as she moved to Danny to try to wake him up, while Ranko moved toward the train, smiling a bit. Well, at least there’d be a few people who she could maybe be friends with. That was encouraging to the redhead. She turned toward her mother and gave her a clumsy hug. “I’m going to miss you, ‘kaa-san,” she said softly in Japanese, looking up into her eyes.


Nodoka nodded softly, trying to hold back tears. “I know, my dear. Please try to send a message as soon as possible.”


Ranko nodded. “I promise,” she replied before giving one last hug. Then, ever so hesitantly, she stepped toward the train.



Ranko struggled through the crowds that waded into the Hogwart’s Express, giving an irritated little growl as she was both shoved into a door and got her foot trodden upon. Finally she slipped into a side chamber and heaved a great sigh as she relaxed, moving to massage her foot. Several minutes passed as students continued to file into the school, and Ranko pulled out “Curse Removal: Theory and Fallacy”. She had seen the book while shopping and figured she would see if it had any ideas on Jusenkyou. A moment later, two familiar faces slipped into the door. “Ahh, Sakura, Shiriana, come on in, have a seat,” she offered, gesturing across from her.


The two Golden Sora transfers nodded, thanking Ranko as they slipped into the bench-like seat. “What a mess, huh?” Shir said as she reached into a bag and pulled out a bottle of a clear sports drink, taking a long draught. “GS was peaceful… this is just… a mess.”


Sakura shrugged. “I suppose worse, it could be.” She said a bit awkwardly, still struggling a bit with the language but doing her best to practice.


Shiriana noticed this and replied, “It could be worse. But you’re doing pretty well, Sakura-san.”


“Thank you, Shiriana-san,” she replied. “I also noticed your English is very good, both of you.”


Ranko froze a bit but Shiriana replied, “I learned both English and Japanese as a child. My father was a Japanese-American airman in Misato Air Base, and my mother was a witch who loved researching various magical cultures. It actually worked well between them, but they died when I was six in a car crash.”


Ranko used Shiriana’s explanation to give her time to think of how to put it best. “My father took me training a lot of places, and I just picked it up here and there.”


Neither of the other two gave anything more than a nod to Ranko’s explanation as Shiriana took another drink from the blue labeled clear bottle. “Well, to be honest, this is going to be a neat experience,” Shir piped up. “I’ve been traveling a lot myself, and I think seeing a whole new country is going to be really fun.”


Ranko nodded and looked at her book for a moment, thinking. “Wonder what this Hogwart’s is going to be like…” She muttered, before a noise drew her attention. Ranko looked up from her book, as the door opened. From the door, two more girls poked in, one with tousled brown hair, the other with a hair color that rivaled Ranko’s own in the red department, as well as a freckled face. "Hello, I'm Hermione, and this is Ginny. You're the new transfer students from Japan?" The brunette asked.


            "Hai." "Yeah." "Hello."


"So, what's it like in Japan?"  Hermione asked, perching next to Sakura, while Ginny squished next to Ranko.


Ranko looked to Shiriana. “You wanna go with this one?”


Shiriana chuckled. “Sure. Considering I’ve seen a lot of it…” She began to describe a place the Europeans had never thought of. Ranko was fascinated at the witch’s view of the Magic side of Japan. And even Sakura was intrigued by the mundane side of Shiriana’s life from time in the orphanage and before, from her Muggle father’s point of view.


The camaraderie was enjoyable, but unfortunately, it was not to last. The door opened again, and a blond haired boy stepped in, behind him were two hulking masses of boys. The blond boy ignored Granger and Weasley, in favor of the other redhead in the room. It was obvious he knew what he was looking for as he looked directly at Ranko. "Hello, I'm Draco Malfoy.  And you must be Shidou Ranko... your beauty is greater than the rumors..."


            As Draco prattled off, Ranko felt like Kodachi and Tatewaki had a younger brother. No. This little snot was worse than a Kunou. Not only was he starting in with the cloying crap he’d heard virtually every time Tatewaki showed up while Ranko was in this form, but she could practically taste the bad vibes this boy was giving off. However, before she could open her mouth to chase the British Kunou-wannabe off, Hermione spoke up.  "We were having a conversation, Draco. Leave!"


            Draco sneered at Heroine. "Why would one such as her, would associate with a mudblood like you, or trash like Weasley there..."


        "Probably because you're an annoying bakayarou who I'd just as soon see how far I can throw than talk to." Ranko said without looking away from Heroine.


            Draco blinked.  "Pardon me?"  He couldn't have heard right, he was a Malfoy!  "I'm sure you misunderstood, I'm Draco Malfoy, of the Malfoy family... my father is quite well known."


            Ranko finally looked at him.  Yup, he was a Kunou type.  Well... a bit more intelligent than the ones in Japan, which wasn't saying much...  She held out her hand and a small ball of blue laced with green and silver appeared.  "I suggest you leave under your own power.  Or you will leave, but it will be far more painful for you."


            Draco blinked. "You don't realize your status in Britain depends on who you associate with... after all how do you plan to acquire a husband..." That was probably the worst thing Draco could have said. He was cut off by flying out the room, from the release of the chi blast Ranko had summoned.


            "Bah. Baka.  Don't want a husband!"


            His two hulks stepped forward, until Heroine and Shir both snapped out wands.


            "I would suggest you tend towards your master." Hermione snapped.  The two hulks looked at the girls who all had wands out, balls of energy in their hands or otherwise prepared to strike before they could move, and chose discretion instead of valor.


            “Ugh. Let me guess… that little baka is going to Hogwart’s as well… Juuuuust great.” Ranko said with disgust.


Hermione stared at Ranko, having noticed the energy in her hands, but Ginny just giggled as she looked out the door after the departing dimwits. Shiriana shrugged. “You get twerps like him in every school for the most part. People who think breeding and family influence is their free ride. Don’t worry about it; maybe he’s learned his lesson.”


“I doubt it. I know his type. Had one chasing me down for the last year and a half… Ugh.” Ranko replied.


Hermione finally found her voice and replied, “What was that?” She asked, gesturing to her hands.


Ranko looked at Hermione. “What was what?”


The others, who had not paid attention to Ranko when she had blasted the Malfoy boy out the door and had merely assumed she had used some sort of hex upon him, looked toward Hermione curiously. Hermione replied, “That… light in your hands! How did you do that without your wand?”


“Why would I need a wand for my ki?” Sakura and Shiriana stiffened, staring at Ranko.


Hermione said, “Key? What are you talking about?”


“You can control your ki?” Sakura said, stunned.


Shiriana stared. “I’ve heard stories but I’ve never actually seen someone able to do that…” She whispered, more than a bit awed.


Ginny and Hermione were still confused, with the latter looking a bit cross at the lack of forthcoming answers.


Ranko shrugged. “I’ve been able to do it for a long while now.”


“No wonder that greasy-looking professor was so respectful,” Sakura replied.


Hermione blinked. Greasy-looking professor? Couldn’t be… She said, “What are you talking about?”


Sakura spoke up, “Ranko is able to do something an extremely few people have ever been able to do. And every other person who’ve ever been able to do it trained for decades!” Hermione still looked confused at Sakura, who continued, “Ranko is a Chi-Mistress! She’s someone who can use her life force in ways that even wizards aren’t able to do.”


“What… some kind of life magic?” Ginny asked.


“No, that’s the amazing thing. It’s not magic, nor is it something that you have to be born into. The only way she could have done what she did to that Malfoy baka is to have trained for longer than all the rest of us put together have been alive!” Sakura seemed both excited and respectful at the now incredibly embarrassed Ranko.


Even if Sakura’s words were leaned toward hyperbole at that point, it got her point across as everyone stared at the now mortified redhead. “Come on, like you said, Sakura, anyone could do it…”


“You do yourself a disservice,” Shir said firmly. “I don’t think there are any living Chi Masters right now except for you.”


“Now that, I know I can re… refute?” she asked herself, trying to make sure she had the right words. “I know four personally.”


Shiriana stared. Four? “You’re kidding…” She whispered a bit hoarsely.


“Nope. Well, maybe four… I’m not sure one fits, but I know for certain the other three do with no doubt. I’ve fought against all of them, and one of them’s helped me out a lot.” (2)


“No wonder that professor was acting so nice.” Sakura replied. “He probably knew what you were.”


Hermione replied, “Professor? About six feet, greasy hair, dark robes?” Sakura nodded. “I can’t believe it. I can’t believe Snape had a respectful bone in his body.”


“I don’t know, he seems nice enough. A bit formal, but he helped me out a lot for shoppin’ and stuff.” Ranko replied.


This nearly floored Hermione. “Nice?” She almost squeaked out. “Professor Severus Snape? Nice? I can’t believe it…” She shook her head. “Harry and Ron will never believe me.”


Ginny paused, “That reminds me, where are Ron and…” She blushed a deep red and clammed up but Hermione paid it no mind.


“Good question. I’m sure they’re on the train somewhere.”



But despite Hermione’s encouraging words, neither Harry nor Ron were anywhere to be seen. This worried Hermione and Ginny, but the others didn’t think much of it. After all, there were so many students; they could have been caught up in the rush. Suddenly, a loud, booming voice called, “Firs’ years and transfers, o’er here!”


Ranko looked toward the source of the voice and saw quite possibly the second largest human she had ever seen. Only the Dojo Destroyer could have rivaled this man’s size, in Ranko’s mind. Curious, she walked toward the man, flowing through the crowds. “’ere you go, four to a boat,” he called out.


Ranko looked at the boats, and for a second, flinched, before remembering her form and the like. “Idiot,” She said to herself as she walked toward one of the boats, climbing on. Shiriana, Mitzi and Ginny joined her on the boat, before it began to cross the lake toward the massive castle.


A tentacle could be seen near the side of the boat, which almost immediately put Ranko into combat mode, except for the fact that it wasn’t attacking, nor did it even feel aggressive. Curiously, she stared at it, before it moved away. Ginny piped up, “It’s just the giant squid. Bill told me about it a long time ago. He’s friendly.” This wasn’t necessarily reassuring, but Ranko shrugged and sat back.


Other than the surprise, the trip was peaceful, and as the children disembarked, an older woman called out, “Everyone, please, follow along. I am Professor Minerva McGonagall, Deputy Headmistress and Transfiguration instructor. I welcome you to Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. We will be going in shortly, and you will be sorted you into your respective houses, Hufflepuff, Slytherin, Ravenclaw and Gryffindor. However due to the new Student Exchange program, there will be some changes.”


            As Minerva led the students into the hall, she motioned them to stop.  "Children, please wait here.  Oh, those who are transferring, or are from Japan, please wait until I call for the transfer students.  The Headmaster requested it this way."


            Minerva waited until all the students nodded, and went in.  A few conversations broke out, with Ginny commenting to Ranko "Oh, my brothers told me we'd have to wrestle a troll."  She waited for the various snorts and giggles, plus a quick translation from Mitzi to the Japanese students, before she continued. "I doubt it, Ron said they were full of it, but he'd not say what we'd have to do."  Before Ranko or indeed anyone else could respond, the Deputy headmistress returned.


            "Please listen, all of you.  I will lead you in, and when I call your name, you will come forward, and allow me to place the sorting hat onto you. It will sort you, and you will then move to your house.  Remember, transfer and Japanese students will be done last, to allow for several messages from the Headmaster."  She waited until everyone had responded, and then lead them in.


            The sorting went fast, with the last British student ending up in Gryffindor, and Ranko noticing what house Malfoy and Parkison were in.  The Headmaster rose, and began to speak.  "As you all are aware, we have new students arriving from overseas.  Please make them feel welcome, and in several cases, their native language isn't English, so please help them to learn English.  Also, some of our new professors are here so the transfer students can have classes that they are required to by their nation's laws.  Professor McGonagall? Please."


            McGonagall nodded, and began calling out names.  "From America, Carson, Rodney!"


            He had to be pushed forward by Mitzi, but sat down, and the hat after a second screamed out "Gryffindor!"


            They applauded, and he went to them.


            "Kuukino, Mitzi!"  As the hat sat on her head, it took a good 30 seconds, and then finally called out...




            They applauded politely, and off she went.


            "O'Hearns, Shana!" After a pause, a short one...




            "Vetucci, Daniel!"  As soon as the hat was placed...



            They applauded and the last American went to his table making a hand signal, which the other three apparently recognized.


            "Now, for the Japanese students...  Daidouji, Tomoyo!"


            Within a second... "HUFFLEPUFF!"


            "Kinomoto, Sakura!"




            "Kagehabu, Shiriana"




            "Shidou, Ranko!"


            "SLYTH..."  Everyone blinked.  The Hat rarely stopped.


            *If you put me into Slytherin, I will have gloves, nice, brown, leather, well-aged from centuries of use, do you understand?*


            *Quite, young lady... or not so young, indeed... now that I have dug a bit deeper, I think your house is...*


            "RAVENCLAW!" A silent pause happened... stretching for what appeared to be three seconds, then noise.


            "Wha..."  "But..."  "Excuse me..." "Say WHAT?!"  "That's never happened before..."


            Albus blinked, and quietly muttered to a stunned Snape... "Well... that was unexpected..."

            Snape was muttering about the ghost of James Potter... then shook himself, and stood.  In an icy voice...


            "Silence! You are students at Hogwarts! Not a pack of panic stricken house elves. Behave as such!"


            Filius joined him in standing, and applauded, loudly and clearly.  His house followed suit, and Ranko walked over to their table.


            Albus waited until the applause ended, and stood up. "Well, that was unusual, I will admit, but pleasant.  I would like to introduce several new professors.  First, from China, here to assist me, and Professor Snape in Potions, and Ancient Runes, Kuh Lon, a former professor, herself, of Potions, in fact.  She was my potions teacher."  He waited for the gasps to stop, and then continued on.


"Harry Tasker, here to teach American Style Defense against the Dark Arts. American students will be taking it, instead of Professor Lockhart’s DADA.  His wife, Helen Tasker, who will be teaching American Culture and Civics, which is open to all who are curious how our cousins are.  Kuh Lon will be running a similar class for Chinese Magical Culture, which she's already asked me to invite those who are curious."  Albus nodded at the interested students.  "Kaho Mizuki, From Japan.  Japanese culture and Defense against the Dark Arts." He waited as Kaho bowed, and then went on.


            "Some students from Japan and America will have these teachers, because of their nation's laws, or special requirements, emplaced upon them.  It's always been my policy to handle all student's needs as well as I am able to, even hiring extra teachers.  Now, Flick, bzzt, and zap!" He waved his hand, and food appeared on the table.


            More than a few at the Ravenclaw table were surprised at the speed of the newest member’s eating speed, and she received more than a few irritated glances, but most of the expressions leveled toward her were troubled. After the meal, the students were led toward their respective rooms. Some distance was given to Ranko from everyone save Shiriana, as they eventually separated into their own rooms. And then the whispers began. "What do you think the hat was going to say?"


"Don't be dense... it sounded like Slytherin, didn't it?"


"Why'd it change its mind?"


"Who knows what a hat's thinking?"


Shir shook her head.  "Why ask why. Maybe the hat made a snap judgment, and then changed its mind..."


"But I've read the hat's never changed its mind."


Shir snorted. "First time for everything.  Plus, why is Slytherin such a shock? I mean, Salazar's considered to be a founder of both American and Japanese wizardry studies."


And then the whispers became slightly harsher, "But what if it was supposed to put her in Slytherin?"


"Yeah, it could have put her here as a spy..."


"Nonsense," Shir replied, "Why in Amaterasu's name would they want a spy for something so minor? It's not like we're selling state secrets or something like that."


Someone piped up, "But my da says that no bad wizard came from any house but Slytherin."


Shir snorted. "But that doesn't mean that no Slytherin has ever been anything but a bad wizard, does it?"

Mitzi snorted. "Well, define bad. Franklin, Jefferson both attended Hogwarts, and were Slytherin." She paused, and said, "Oh, that just might be it. After all, we told you cousins where to put it."


"But what if," One of the students said a bit loudly. Everyone shushed her and looked toward Ranko... who was snoring away, one arm dangling off the side of the couch, face buried in a pillow.


Shir snorted, Mitzi just shook her head. "If she was a spy, y'think she'd be snoring away?"


Some students were still suspicious, but most of the rest felt a bit foolish and said nothing. Meanwhile, others were suspicious as well, though for far different reasons, as the professors met in the staff lounge.


            As soon as Minerva brought the Hat in, Snape snarled.  "Why did you hesitate?"


            The hat appeared to shrug, and spoke.  "Two reasons, actually," the hat replied. "One, she explicitly stated that were I to place her in Slytherin, I would promptly be a pair of well aged, comfortable gloves."


            Albus chuckled softly at that comment.  "And the other?" The headmaster asked.


            "That years ago, I would not be swayed, given. She was Slytherin though and though.  Now?  No, she belongs in Slytherin as much as that Granger Girl would."


            Snape steamed quietly, and in a cold voice. "Do you know why she warned you away from my house?"  Albus raised an eyebrow and also was curious.


            "Of course.  Having Draco and Pansy insult her was... not the best way to convince her of your house's niceness. She might be able to handle abuse, with ease, mind you... but she's of the mindset, why bother, if you don't have to."


            Minerva couldn't help but smirk at Snape, as he steamed even more.  "Well, well... both of you were wrong... I am curious though, why wouldn't she belong in Slytherin, or failing that, Gryffindor."


            Albus was about to speak, then the hat interrupted.  "While there is no question she has the House's sneakiness, and cunning, she's already attained her ambition.  Now, she's focused more on learning, than actually a goal.  She's brave, yes... but doesn't seek out fights.  Loyal, yes, and kind... but self absorbed and unaware of what she does to others... None of the other houses fit.  Ergo, Ravenclaw."


            Snape still steamed.  His mood wasn't helped by Filius' grinning.  "Oh, you gnome. Stop grinning like that."


            "Which 'gnome' are you referring to, Severus?" Cologne spoke grinning. "This reminds me. My 20 galleons, both of you?"


            Snape snarled as he forked them over. "You are too lucky."  Albus nodded in agreement as he paid her as well.


            "No, just more aware of Ranma, than you are.  Filius, be proud of your new house member, she will bring... much enjoyment."


            Filius nodded to her comment, still rather bemused.






Miri’s notes


1: The more read Ranma fans may recognize which shortcuts Ranma had in mind, but in particular, the Super Soba and Battle Gi incidents are the two strongest examples of this. In the former, Akane had used some of Happosai’s ‘Super Soba’, a special kind of noodle that granted its eater much-amplified strength, but with a very unusual side-effect: The user would grow a rather ugly set of facial hair in the process. The latter incident is another Akane mishap, in which she uses a cursed gi, or battle outfit. It gave Akane incredible skills, but was insanely jealous of any attention given to Akane, and could not be removed voluntarily. Ranma ended up the victim of both situations as Akane tried to show Ranma up using her ill-gotten power.


2: The four people Ranma has in mind at this point are Cologne, Happosai, Herb and Ryouga being the conditional one he spoke of. Ryouga does know how to use his ki, but Ranma thinks of him as a bit too unstable to be considered a master. Herb, on the other hand, most definitely qualifies. For those unfamiliar with the latter Ranma 1/2 manga, Herb is the half-dragon prince of the Musk Dynasty and a ki-adept of incredible power. He also bears the same curse as Ranma.