Title: "Veronica Mars and the Vagabond Squib" 1/2
Authors: Angel Grace and monimala
Fandom: Veronica Mars, Harry Potter
Character/Pairing: Lamb/Veronica and implied Hermione/Snape
Word Count: 15,000
Disclaimer: Not ours, although we enjoy playing with them. Rob Thomas is God, and J.K. Rowling has more money than God, so we're pretty much outnumbered in the deity department.
Summary: Veronica's a wizard and Mala and Gracie are quite possibly high.
Spoilers/Warnings: General spoilers for the VM S1 & 2 mysteries and the Harry Potter universe through HP: HBP. Some dirty words and adult content, crossover, AU, crack!fic.

"You're a wizard, Veronica."

"I'm a WHAT?!" Veronica cried, staring at the giant creature looming in her doorway.

"Beggin' yer pardon," he said, shifting from foot to foot and causing a minor earthquake. "But yer letter ta Hogwarts musta gotten lost. Bettin' someone ate the owl."

She continued to goggle at him. Hogwarts? It sounded like a biker gang gone wrong. And what was that about an owl? "I'm sorry, I don't know what you're talking about," she said, attempting to close the door.

He stopped her with one large sausage-shaped finger. "I know it's a lot ta take in a' once," he rumbled. "Lots o' Muggles don' have a clue that they're wizards. But there ya have it, jus' the same."

A wizard? What was this guy on? The only wizard in Neptune was the one Lamb told her to go see, which was probably tangled up in a Wizard of Oz fetish that she didn't really want to contemplate.

"'ogwarts is the greatest school for witchcraft an' wizardry in all the world." By the way he puffed up to twice his size (which was pretty considerable), Veronica knew it was obviously a big deal. "All the best ones go there." His face darkened just a bit behind the bushy beard. "An' sommat the worst ones, too."

"In case you've missed it, Mr..."

"Hagrid," the big fella supplied helpfully.

"Mr. Hagrid, I'm a bit old to be going away to boarding school. I'm a freshman in college," she pointed out.

"I know tha', and so does Professor McGonagall. But y'see, ever since the war with You-Know-Who ended..."

"I'm sorry," Veronica interrupted. "The war with who?"

Hagrid looked pained. "Voldemort," he mumbled in a voice barely louder than a whisper. "Dead eight years, 'e's been, but ya can't be too careful. Since the war ended, our numbers've been down, wot wit so many o' the young folk bein' killed an' such. So we're lookin' fer anyone we can find, an' that's you."

Veronica sat down hard on the sofa. Her best friend had been killed. She'd captured murderers and rapists and other petty criminals. But this? This was too much.

Hagrid sat down on the couch, too, which nearly sent Veronica flying off the other end like it was a teeter-totter. "Er, sorry," he muttered, fiddling with what looked like a battered pink umbrella. "It's not so bad, really. We'll have ta get you a wand, o' course. An' fin' someone to train ye..." He fumbled with a crumpled up paper he'd drawn from somewhere deep inside his voluminous coat. "Professor McGonagall said there's a bloke right here in Neptune...sent 'im an owl I did..."

But she wasn't listening. She was still stuck on..."A WAND? You mean...a magic wand? Like, abracadabra-poof-rabbits, that kind of wand?"

All of a sudden, his meaty fist was over her mouth. "Shh!" he cried, panicked. "Tha'...tha's a sight too close to one of the Unforgivables!"

Okay, Veronica officially needed Wizard Google to keep up with this guy. "An unforgivable what?"

"A curse, Veronica. A curse."

As if her day couldn't get any weirder. Sheriff Lamb stood in the still-open doorway...with a very cranky barn owl hovering just above his shoulder. Were barn owls even native to southern California? Were *barns*?

She gazed up at him, eyes pleading. "Please…*please* tell me you're kidding."

Lamb stepped into the apartment, closing the door behind him and narrowly missing his feathered friend's beak. "It's no joke, Veronica. You're a wizard--magic wand, spells, potions and all."

"And this involves you how, exactly?"

"You must be Donnie Lamb!" Hagrid declared, lumbering to his feet. "Yer a mite bigger 'n the las' time I saw ya."

"Twenty years will do that," Lamb replied.

"Don't tell me *you're* a wizard," Veronica interjected. "Dear Lord, the irony."

"Nah, 'e's a squib," Hagrid explained. "Wizard mum an' dad, but not a lick o' magic in 'im."

Veronica smirked. "Good to know your incompetence crosses all boundaries."

Lamb's eyes narrowed. "It's really too bad you didn't snag her early, Hagsy my man...because she would've annoyed Voldemort to death. Saved the Aurors a bunch of trouble." Hagrid shuddered, not at the horrible 'Hagsy' nickname, but at *that*? Veronica's trip to Bizarro World was officially complete.

"Deputy, when I do get a wand, I think I know the first thing I'm going to do with it..."

"Turning me into a toad is high level transfiguration. You won't be able to do it."

"I was thinking of something more along the lines of shoving it up your--"

"Enough o' that," Hagrid chided with a loud "harrumph," looking at them both like they were, well, school kids. "We got work ta do if Veronica's goin' ta be up to speed."

"Yes, please, let's get Veronica up to speed," the woman in question said dryly.

Lamb looked down at her, an expression of resignation on his face. "It's going to be a long night."

By the time they finished, it was coming up on 4 a.m. Veronica's eyes were drooping, and Lamb kept yawning. Only Hagrid seemed unaffected, his enthusiasm for Hogwarts and the wizarding world still unabated.

"So just to recap," Veronica said tiredly, "there's an entire parallel society consisting of people with magical powers, which they learn at schools like Hogwarts. Due to a war between the forces of good and evil, the wizarding population has been decimated. And now you want me to put my life on hold, pop on over to Scotland or wherever, and learn magic with the less-than-stellar assistance of Deputy Lamb here?"

"More'r less," Hagrid replied.

Veronica sighed. "My father is never going to believe this. Maybe I can just tell him I'm studying abroad." She looked around the apartment, so comfortable and familiar. "I can't believe I'm really doing this."

"So ye've made yer decision, then?"

She nodded. "I just have one last question."

"Wot's that?"

She jerked her thumb in Lamb's direction. "Does he *have* to come?"

"Yeah, I have to come." Lamb sounded surprisingly indignant for someone who was half-awake and holding on to a can of Red Bull for dear life. "I haven't seen my gran and gramps in ages! Of course, they disowned me, but--"

"Can you blame them?" Veronica interrupted, tiredly swiping the Red Bull from him and drinking the last of it, backwash and all. "I'd disown you, too."

Hagrid sighed heavily. Which practically changed the direction of the apartment's airflow. "Come on now." He pulled forth his pink umbrella, which had fallen to the floor at some point during Magic for Dummies. "We've got lots ta do and little time to do it in. Apparatin's out of th' question o' course." He looked around, a little bewildered. "Wot? No fireplace? Well tha's a problem."

"It's southern California and we're not decadent enough for a fake one," Veronica informed, dryly. What, were they going to have an official wizarding marshmallow roast now? Make some s'mores, sing "Kumbayah"?

The men ignored her, saying something about the "flue" and a "network."

"How about a Portkey?" Lamb asked, which almost made Veronica want to remind him, "the bathroom's right down the hall," but she thought better of it. "They had to have given you one. I hope you didn't sit on it or something."

"Stuff it, Donnie." Hagrid glowered. "Any more o' that outta you an' I'll let Miss Veronica stick that wand in your--"

"Alright, Guys, what the Hell is a Portkey?" Veronica interrupted before Hagrid could do something like sit on the sheriff. Those stains would be a bitch to clean out of the cushions.

"It's an enchanted object that can be used for transportation," Lamb explained. "Whoever touches a Portkey will be instantly transported to another, preset location."

"What, like on Star Trek?" she asked with a smirk.

"Kind of, but we don't need Scotty to make it work."

"What are you two on abou'?" Hagrid asked while rummaging in one of his never-ending pockets.

"It's a Muggle television program," Lamb replied.

"Ah yes, tellyfishin!" Triumphantly, he pulled something from his pocket. "'ere it is!"

Veronica and Lamb stared down at the small plastic figure Hagrid had set on the coffee table. "Is that a...troll doll?" Veronica asked.

"Indeed it is! Course, trolls don' look a thing like tha', but Professor Dumbledore, bless 'is 'eart, always found 'em rather charming."

"So what do we do with it?"

"On the count of three, we all grab on, an' quicker 'n ya can say 'fizzing whizbees,' we'll be back at 'ogwarts!"

"Wait, you mean we're going right now?"

"We'll send yer dad an owl," Hagrid told her. And if that was supposed to be comforting, it really wasn't, because the bird that had flown in with Lamb was currently perched on Backup's head, its head tucked under its wing.

Oh, God. Backup! "I can't leave my dog!" she cried. Since Backup was asleep, too, the separation anxiety was decidedly one-sided.

"Took care of it," Lamb said, victoriously waving his cell phone. "I texted Sacks. He'll be happy to come over and check on the mutt until Keith is back."

"This...this is ridiculous!" Veronica sputtered. Because it was. She was about to get beamed to Wales or Ireland or wherever with someone who desperately needed to sign on for the next season of "The Biggest Loser," and someone who already was a big loser.

"Completely insane," Lamb agreed. "Now put your hand on the damn troll, Mars."

For a change, Veronica did as she was told. Maybe it was because it was 4 a.m., or maybe it was because that was the first time Lamb had ever sounded authoritative. Whatever the case, she rested her fingers against the electric blue hair of the troll.

There was a tugging sensation behind her belly button, and the next thing she knew she was standing in a rather dusty village, where people were milling about in the oddest styles of cloaks.

"Welcome to 'ogsmeade, Veronica," Hagrid said, clapping her on the shoulder and nearly breaking her clavicle. "It's just a short walk to 'ogwarts from here, but perhaps you'd like to do a bit of freshenin' up first."

She glanced down at her t-shirt and jeans, which had definitely looked better almost 24 hours ago, when she first put them on. "That would be great, but I didn't exactly pack anything."

"'s all right. We'll just pop on into Gladrags and pick ya up a few things. Ya won't be needin' Muggle clothes anyway."

Veronica and Lamb followed him into the small shop, where he threatened to upset entire displays every time he turned around. They emerged nearly an hour later, both Veronica and Lamb carrying boxes full of their new clothes.

"Come on, now, and I'll treat ya to yer first butterbeer," Hagrid said, clomping off down the street. "Madame Rosmerta keeps a few rooms above the Three Broomsticks, and I'm sure she'll be happy ta let you use 'em."

"Butterbeer?" Veronica repeated, dumbly, still reeling from the fact that what she held in her arms was a box of *robes*. She was going to look like a graduate of every high school in California. Sans fetching tassels.

"Relax, Veronica. It won't get you drunk unless you're a house elf," Lamb snorted. And before she asked, he added, "Elves were actually freed years ago, but they used to be used as basic slave labor in most of the pureblood houses in the wizarding world."

She hated that Lamb actually sounded intelligent about something. It was unfair. Unnatural. An abomination of "Dukes of Hazzard" remake proportions. And while she was seething over it, he guided them both towards the door of a cheerfully lit pub.

"Rosmerta used to be a real babe," he was saying when she tuned back in to his self-important ramblings. "Wasn't a straight guy at Hogwarts who didn't have a hard-on for her at some point in their sweaty adolescence."

"I wasn't aware that you'd actually *left* your sweaty adolescence, Deputy."

Lamb smirked at her. "You're just mad that for once in your life, you don't know more than everyone else around you."

"Is that your way of admitting you don't normally have a clue?" she shot back.

He didn't have a chance to reply before Hagrid swung open the door of the Three Broomsticks, and a chorus of cheerful greetings went up. They quickly fell silent, however, upon realizing that there were two strangers in their midst.

"Ever'body, I'd like you ta meet Veronica Mars. She'll be stayin' up at 'ogwarts fer a while. And this 'ere's Donnie Lamb. Ya know, of the Killarney Lambs."

People began to murmur, and Veronica caught the word "squib" more than once. Don did too, if the scowl on his face was anything to go by.

Hagrid made his way to the bar, where a rather buxom older woman was pulling pints. Veronica guessed she was the famous Madame Rosmerta.

"Afternoon, Rosmerta," Hagrid greeted her. "Would it be all right if these two used th' rooms upstairs ta get cleaned up?"

"Go right ahead, dearies," she replied, addressing Veronica and Lamb. "Top of the stairs, on the left. A butterbeer for you, Hagrid?"

Leaving Hagrid at the bar, Veronica and Lamb climbed the steps, clutching their boxes of robes.

She didn't know why she cared, but the question tripped out of her just as she tripped over a step. "Is it hard to hear them say that about you? That you have no magic?"

Lamb grasped her elbow to keep her from falling all the way back to the bottom of the stairs. "Was it hard when your 09-er pals called you a slut?" he countered, with a shrug. "People are still people, Veronica. Whether they're wizards or not."

She laughed wearily, suddenly feeling every moment of jet lag (or was it Portkey lag?) and the time difference. "So they all pretty much suck?"

"Pretty much." Lamb's laugh echoed hers and for just a moment, as they paused outside the two doors that suddenly opened for them, she could swear they understood each other. That what she saw in his pretty blue eyes -- Good Lord, where had that come from? -- was something familiar.

And he must have found that thought just as disquieting as she did, because he was quick to leer at her before stepping over the threshold. "Just so you know, Veronica...? Robes aren't like kilts. You do wear your underwear beneath them. So keep that thong on."

"You're disgusting," she snapped, without much heat behind it. "When you go change? Please change for the better."

Lamb leaned back against the enchanted door as it closed behind him. He had known this day would come eventually. The wizarding world kept track of its own, and he'd known that Veronica Mars was a witch--in a very literal sense--from the moment he met her.

Most days, he didn't really mind being a squib. He'd been tucked away safely in the States when all hell broke loose between Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort, and he couldn't say he'd been sad to miss out on that.

It helped that he was rarely around magical people. It was hard to miss a skill you'd never had when no one else you knew had it either.

But Veronica *did* have it, and whether she realized it or not, her entire world was going to change. She'd always been a crusader for the triumph of good vs. evil, and being trained at Hogwarts would only draw her farther into that philosophy.

He wasn't entirely sure where he fit in, but one didn't say no when Minerva McGonagall beckoned. It wasn't up to him to train Veronica in the practical arts of wizardry. If anything, he was a liaison, a bridge between Muggle and Wizard.

He just wasn't sure how he would get through it without the two of them killing each other.

In fact, if there was ever someone Veronica would be raring to use the Cruciatus Curse on, it would be him.

Forget butterbeer. He was going to need Rosmerta to break out the firewhiskey.

When Veronica returned downstairs, it was with something more strange to her than flowing green robes that brought out her eyes (according to the Gladrags proprietor, a very tiny, very gay wizard). She was utterly and completely lacking in confidence. She had absolutely no game plan. Absolutely no idea what she was supposed to do. Fortunately, the sight of Lamb clad in severe black robes took care of the need to do anything besides laugh hysterically. "Did you upgrade from deputy to judge while I was gone? Judy's going to want her outfit back."

"What about you? Graduating Summa Cum Bitch?" he shot back, toasting her with a shot glass of something that couldn't possibly be the much-touted butterbeer. Because, judging by his bloodshot eyes, he was well on his way to being hammered.

"Nice to know that even in the wizarding world, you can't hold your liquor. What happened? Did somebody steal your wand?"

He leered down at her. "Baby, I got my wand right here…"

She rolled her eyes in disgust. "It scares me to think that you'll be the one guiding me to becoming a wizard."


"Excuse me?"

"Technically, you're a witch. A few years back they went all PC and bullshit and started calling everybody 'wizards.' But it's really men who are wizards, and women are witches. But that should be obvious," he sneered.

"Ignore 'im, Veronica," Hagrid said as he walked over, holding out a frothy mug of what she assumed was butterbeer. "The Lambs never could hold their firewhiskey."

She smiled up at the enormous man, and took a sip. It really was delicious, and helped dull the edge of this endless day. "So when are we going to Hogwarts?"

"Soon as yer ready, love," he replied, finishing off his butterbeer. "Term's already in session, o' course, but yer a bit o' a special case, what with yer bein' older 'n' all."

"So I won't be taking classes with the rest of the students?"

"Nah, Professor McGonagall thinks it'd be too distractin'. You'll have tutors…and of course, Donnie here."

She spared an icy glance at her nemesis. "What exactly *will* Donnie be doing?"

"Stop calling me 'Donnie,'" Lamb growled into his whiskey.

"Hagrid started it." Veronica gestured with her butterbeer before taking another warming sip. "I'm not about to argue with a man bigger than the entire Neptune High football team."

"Smart girl," Hagrid approved with a broad grin. "An' *Donnie* here—I reckon he'll be yer tour guide. He'll help you get acquainted, help you tell kittens from kneazles an' the like."

"Mmm, yes, because I was just so darned good at Care of Magical Creatures before I got kicked out of Hogwarts." Lamb rolled his eyes.

Veronica couldn't help it. She gasped. "They actually kicked you out for being a squib? That's awful." Sure, Lamb was an ass, but that was a terrible thing for a kid to have to go through.

"No," he snorted, waving for another shot of firewhiskey. "My grandparents pulled me out in my first year when it was apparent that I would 'amount to nothing.' Professor Dumbledore was actually willing to let me stay another term, but they packed me off to my uncle in Texas. Wasn't long before old Uncle Bobby beat the Irish and the Hogwarts right out of me."

Okay, that…? That was a *worse* thing for a kid to have to go through. Veronica elected to drain her butterbeer completely rather than speak. Hagrid, who'd ordered another one, did the same…and then slapped his tankard down on the table, shaking it violently.

"Well!" he said, smacking his lips, "Tha' hit the spot!"

After that, there was really nothing to do but leave the Three Broomsticks and head for Hogwarts. The trio was quiet along the way, because snarky banter was just never appropriate after a revelation of childhood abuse. Was she the only person who'd had a relatively normal, non-hitting kind of childhood?

All thoughts of Lamb's past flew from her mind when they crested a hill and Veronica got her first glimpse of Hogwarts. They'd told her it was a castle, but that was …breathtaking. It sprawled among the craggy hills, towers and turrets spiking up into the clear blue sky. A rather forbidding-looking lake spread before it, with a looming dark forest along the perimeter.

Hagrid looked down at her dumbstruck expression with a smile. "Welcome to 'ogwarts, Veronica."

"This is *so* much better than Hearst," she breathed.

"I thought ye'd like it. Ever'body does. Well come on, it's even better up close."

She followed him eagerly, Lamb trailing several steps behind. This wasn't a homecoming he had been especially looking forward to. Magic was in his head and his heart, but it wasn't in his blood, and being here…he'd never be able to forget that. So, he did what any normal Muggle guy would do in this kind of situation. He stared at Veronica's ass.

"You'll want ta be sorted, o' course," Hagrid was saying as they approached a wide set of stone steps. "Just a formality. I bet you'll be Gryffindor. All the brave sort end up there. I wish you coulda known Harry Potter. Good lad…great man…"

"And the other three houses are Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherin, right?" Veronica tried to remember from the crash course earlier today. Er, yesterday. Whenever. "Loyalty, cleverness, and Big Naughty Evil?"

"Tha's right." Hagrid guffawed, thumping her on the back so hard she nearly went flying. "How'd ya know it says 'Big Naughty Evil' on Slytherin's seal?"

When she'd regained her footing and her breath, she looked over her shoulder at Lamb. He looked even more like a judge than ever. Serious and sober despite all that firewhiskey. It was disturbing. "What house were you in, Donnie? Slytherin, right?"

He jerked his gaze up from what had to be her general butt region—the man was nothing if not predictable—and actually looked embarrassed. Since she knew him, she knew it wasn't because she'd caught him ogling. Even the tips of his ears were pink. "Hufflepuff, actually," he ground out, with some amount of difficulty.

Her eyebrows arched up. Lamb had been in the house known for its loyalty? Things really *were* different in the wizarding world…

She didn't have time to give him grief, though, because they had finally arrived at the massive doors of the castle. Hagrid ushered them in, and once again her breath was taken away. Massive stone walls arched around them, flickering torches casting dancing shadows on the floor.

Hagrid chuckled at the expression on her face. "Wait 'til ya see the Great Hall. Come along, now. Professor McGonagall's waitin'."

Veronica and Lamb followed him through the labyrinthine passages of the castle, up staircases and through hallways that Veronica was sure she'd never be able to navigate on her own. At last, they reached a corridor with a very ugly stone gargoyle in it. Hagrid said "haggis" rather loudly, and the wall opened before them. She watched in amazement as a sort of spiral stone escalator was revealed. Feeling more than a bit nervous, she stepped onto the moving steps behind Hagrid, with Lamb just behind her. The staircase rose smoothly, eventually depositing them on a landing with yet another door. Hagrid knocked, and a distinct Scottish brogue replied, "Enter."

Almost two hours later, Veronica's head was so full of extraneous wizarding knowledge that it was leaking out her ears, there was a bona fide real magic wand tucked in her pocket (12 inch, willow, with a unicorn hair), and she was climbing up an honest-to-God ladder just to catch a quick nap. And she had the distinct feeling that Lamb, who was right behind her, was staring at her butt again.

She should've made him go first. After all, the guy was an ass with a great ass.

"These used to be Trelawney's rooms and her classroom. Woman was a kook," Lamb murmured as she emerged into the base of the North Tower. "But she got a few things right in her life. Big prophecies."

It was on the tip of her tongue to ask, "What prophecies," but she chose to take in the room instead. Circular, it looked as though it had once been crowded and cramped but had received a major overhaul in the Feng Shui department. A small corridor led back to what she assumed was the Divination professor's original suite, but whoever had done the place over had made sure it wouldn't be necessary to go back there except to use the loo. The walls were painted an airy light blue and there was a very minimalist dresser and wardrobe that smacked of IKEA. No desks, no schoolbooks. Just a very, very large four-poster bed. Practically Hagrid-sized.

One four-poster bed. With their stuff stacked neatly beside it.

"Uh, Lamb…Professor McGonagall knows that we're not…*together*, right?"

"Please." Lamb looked just as revolted by the idea as she did. But then he looked at the bed with a critical eye and waved a hand at her. "Get over it, Veronica. Do you see the size of that thing? It would take me a week to find you in there. I think your virtue is safe."

"Who says I was worried about my virtue? I was worried about yours, Mr. Huffandpuff."

"That's Hufflepuff."


"And you should worry about my virtue, Veronica, because you have no idea what you're capable of. What you can do to somebody who isn't as strong as you." Lamb had sudden, explicit visions of 101 ways Veronica could abuse the Imperius Curse. And while a percentage of them were X-rated, most of them involved things like making him squawk like a chicken in the middle of a city council meeting.

Veronica knew that the idea of having that kind of power over someone was supposed to make her laugh, supposed to make her banter back and insult Lamb's manhood. But all it did was make her go pale and stumble towards the bed just so she could sit down before her legs gave out. When she could speak, she barely recognized her voice. "L-lamb…if I have that kind of power…why couldn't I save Lilly? Or the kids on the bus? Or…or myself?"

He climbed up on the other side of the bed. And he was right; it was nearly a whole continent away. "Because, like I said before, people are people, Veronica. And like you said…they still suck."

She managed a small smile. Amidst all this craziness, even as she hovered on the edge of self-doubt, at least Lamb was familiar. He wasn't the tour guide she would have chosen for this crazy journey, but he was going to have to do.

She yawned, the long hours and emotional exhaustion finally catching up to her. Scooting all the way up onto the bed, she toed off her shoes and stretched out on the soft quilt. "I think," she managed to say between yawns, "I need a nap."

He watched her eyes close, and kept watching as her breathing quickly evened out. Within minutes, he could tell that she was fast asleep. Only then did he lay down himself, an ocean of bed in between them. It had been a long time since he slept in this castle, and those nights had often been plagued by fear and uncertainty. Those same doubts still hovered on the edge of his consciousness, but the pull of sleep was too strong to resist.

When Veronica opened her eyes, the room was dark. An empty stomach had pulled her from sleep, although her tired body longed to remain in the comforting warmth of the bed. She tried to sit up, but something was holding her down. As the fog cleared from her brain, it registered that she was spooned against Lamb. Continent-sized beds just weren't as big as they used to be.

Her mind screamed at her to *move now!* but her body wasn't in the mood to cooperate. It felt warm and safe where she was, and the truth was, she hadn't been held like that in a while. Sure, she'd never let him get away with it if he were actually conscious, but that didn't mean she couldn't enjoy it while he slept. Did it?

Objectively, she knew that he was an attractive man, who was more than a little concerned with his physical condition. Evidence of that physical condition was pressed against her in all sorts of distracting ways at the moment, and damn if it didn't feel good. It was almost too bad she didn't believe in no-strings-attached sex, because she had a feeling the erstwhile sheriff would be more than up to the task.

His arm was thrown possessively across her waist, his mouth pressed against her shoulder. She could almost swear she felt it through her robes because her skin was tingling. Or maybe...maybe that was just magic.

Now she was just being ridiculous. With a fresh burst of determination, she carefully removed his arm from her body and climbed out of bed. Her head spun a bit--she was still exhausted--but after a moment she was steady. Jamming her feet into her shoes, she made her way over to the ladder and carefully climbed down.

It took her twenty minutes and three wrong turns to find her way to the Great Hall. Dinner was in full swing, if the loud chatter she heard was any indication. Much to her relief, the room didn't fall silent when she walked in. A few people at the nearest table glanced at her with idle curiosity, but they quickly returned to their food.

From his seat at the High Table, Hagrid quickly spotted her. "Over 'ere, Veronica!"

Grateful for a familiar face, she made her way over to him and took the empty seat on his left. A brunette woman was on her other side, and Hagrid hurried to introduce them. "This 'ere's Professor 'ermione Granger. She'll be tutorin' ye in 'istory of Magic. Brightest witch of 'er generation, so ye go to 'er if ye need any help."

Hermione flushed at the praise. "You must be Veronica Mars. Professor McGonagall has told us all about you. Welcome to Hogwarts."

"Thank you. It's...well, it's a little strange to be here, but I'm sure I'll adjust."

Hermione laughed. "Yes, it was quite a shock when I got my letter from Hogwarts. I'm Muggle-born, too," she explained. "Hogwarts is wonderful, though, and I'm sure you'll be very happy here."

"I hope so."

Veronica filled her plate with all sorts of delicious-looking food. She'd barely eaten anything today. Before she could take her first bite, though, an aristocratic voice drawled, "You're in my seat."

Since Veronica *was* technically in grade school again, she didn't feel quite so immature for snapping, "I didn't see your name on it!" as she glanced up to find the source of the snotty tone.

The professor was probably the same age as Hermione, somewhere in his mid-twenties. He looked absolutely appalled by her off-the-cuff remark. And he had hair so pale that he practically seemed albino. "You wouldn't," he said, quite literally looking down his nose at her. "As I suspect you can hardly read."

Ouch. That was surprisingly not insulting. "Let me guess, you're the Hogwarts Welcome Wagon?" she shot back, not bothering to move. Especially since Hagrid and Hermione's laughter put them firmly on Team Veronica.

And go figure, she thought, automatically. It was always the blondes, wasn't it? Not that Logan had really been blond but "it was always the sandy-haired ones" didn't roll off the mental tongue nearly as easily.

Laughter still in her voice, Hermione said, "Veronica, I'd like you to meet Professor Draco Malfoy. He'll be tutoring you in Potions. Draco, this is Veronica Mars, the new student from America."

Although Veronica wouldn't have believed it possible, Draco looked even more disgusted. "If this is the caliber of student McGonagall is accepting these days, then Hogwarts is doomed," he sneered.

She couldn't help rising to the bait. "And if you are any indication of the education I'll be receiving, then I doubt I'll be learning much!"

Unexpectedly, he smiled. "Rather feisty, eh, Granger? Reminds me of you at a certain age."

"Careful, Malfoy," Hermione responded mildly, "or someday she might turn you into a bouncing ferret."

"You're never going to let me live that down, are you?"

"Not in this lifetime. Possibly not in the next."

Veronica watched the verbal duel with interest. They reminded her of her and Logan…and her and Weevil…and her and Lamb…

"Since you refuse to relinquish your seat, Miss Mars, I must admit defeat and seek refuge elsewhere. I will see you tomorrow for your Potions lesson. Good evening Hermione, Hagrid."

When he was gone, Veronica turned to Hermione and said, "Well, that was…interesting."

"Oh, don't mind Draco. He was a complete prat growing up, of course, and fell in with the Death Eaters for a bit. But he wised up eventually and managed to redeem himself during the war, and he's actually a first-rate Potions Master. Not as good as Professor Snape, of course, but then no one is."

"Professor Snape?"

Hermione leaned forward and pointed. "Dark-haired fellow at the other end of the table. He teaches Defense Against the Dark Arts these days, and he's also the Head of Slytherin House. He's not particularly sociable, but he's very, very good at what he does."

"He looks rather…intimidating." And unwashed, but Veronica wasn't about to say that out loud.

"Oh, he is, there's no disputing that. And I won't lie to you and say that he's actually a pussycat underneath, because he's a snarky git at heart. Still, you can learn a lot from the man."

Oh, Hello. If Veronica had thought Hermione and Draco's banter had all the makings of a Shakespearean comedy, then the way her eyes took on a bit of a glaze and she sighed saying "a lot" smacked of a serious history play. What exactly had she been learning from the Head of Slytherin? Actually, come to think of it, *head* was probably what she'd been learning…

Veronica choked on her sticky toffee pudding and vigorously shook herself. If this was what a power nap next to Lamb did to her, then she was going to be an outright pervert before this crash course in magic was over.

"Are you all right, Veronica?"

"Um, fine," she assured Hermione, clearing her throat with a fake cough. "Something went down the wrong tube."

For the next several minutes, she tried to concentrate on eating and not on the sexual habits of strangers. And just when the plates were vanishing (hey, she wasn't done yet!), Professor McGonagall rose from the center seat at the head table, looking severe and very headmistress-y. "Today, students, we have a very special privilege to behold," she intoned. "For the first time in Hogwarts esteemed history, we will be sorting a fully grown witch."

With a flick of her wand, McGonagall made a small stool with a battered hat appear before the rows and rows of student tables. Like something out of The Sorcerer's Apprentice, the hat was pointy, and there was a large slash across the middle, as though someone had taken scissors to it.

She was so busy staring at the odd little chapeau that it took a few seconds for McGonagall's words (which were still being spoken) to sink in.

"…join me in welcoming Veronica Mars."

Oh, shit. They were going to sort *her*? Like…in public?

Hagrid hauled her, helpfully, to her feet and practically dislocated her shoulder in the process. And Veronica was faced with a smattering of unenthusiastic applause from four House tables that were only half-filled.

Hagrid hadn't been kidding when he said a lot of their world's young people had died in the war. Their enrollment numbers were severely pathetic. But, still, people! Watching her put a weird, ugly hat on just so she could have some kind of crackpot diagnosis on her moral compass! For crying out loud, she didn't even like singing Karaoke at Java the Hut.

"Go on wi' you," Hagrid encouraged.

"It's perfectly safe, Veronica. It doesn't hurt." Hermione's eyes twinkled. "Though an old friend used to love telling the first years that the hat bites."

She sucked it up and put all fears of public spectacle aside (it couldn't be any worse than having a psychic call out her Mammamax usage on cable access, right?) and made her way to the stool.

"Just put it on," McGonagall directed, adjusting her spectacles. "The Sorting Hat will do the rest."

The pointy cap was too big for her head, flopping down to almost hide her eyes. Just… almost. Because she could see, clearly, that Lamb was standing at the back of the Great Hall, near the doors. Great, she'd probably end up in Huffandpuff with him.

And as Hermione had assured her, the hat didn't hurt. Or bite. What it *did* do was sing, the slashing tear opening up like a mouth.

"Is it all in that pretty little head of yours?
What goes on in that place in the dark?
Well I used to know a girl and I would have
sworn that her name was Veronica
Well she used to have a carefree mind of her
own and a delicate look in her eye
These days I'm afraid she's not even sure if her
name is Veronica…"

While the closest row of burly teenagers boggled, she burst out laughing. And she could hear Lamb's obnoxious braying clear across the room. It was actually kind of comforting. "Elvis Costello?! Really?" she managed to gasp out past the uncontrollable giggles and the hat's rendition of the chorus.

"Sorry. The hat's gotten a bit cheeky since the war," apologized McGonagall, trying to hide a smile.

The serenade apparently over, the hat began to talk to her, a low murmur in her ear. "You're a tricky piece of baggage, aren't you? You're brave enough, so I'm sure you'd do well in Gryffindor, but that doesn't seem quite right…"

*Not Huffandpuff*, she thought to herself.

The hat chuckled. "Not Hufflepuff, eh? No, it doesn't suit you-brave you might be, but your loyalty needs work. And you're clever enough, although Veronica Mars is *not* smarter than me, so I suppose Ravenclaw would work… Ah, wait a moment. Yes, yes, that's the ticket…"

The hat paused for a moment, and Veronica braced herself just before it shouted "SLYTHERIN!"

A stunned hush fell over the room, followed by excited chatter. From behind her, Veronica heard Hagrid say, "Well, blast. I bet Flitwick ten Sickles she'd end up a Gryffindor."

Professor McGonagall lifted the hat off her head, and said, "Welcome to Slytherin House, my dear."

Veronica looked up, her eyes seeking out Lamb. He still stood at the back of the room, his back against the wall. But instead of his earlier amusement, a troubled look was on his face.

A bit numbly, Veronica made her way back to her seat, plopping down unceremoniously. Hermione placed a comforting hand on her back. "Don't worry about it, Veronica. Some of the most powerful wizards have been in Slytherin. And really, since the war, they're not so much evil as…cunning."

"That's a great comfort, thank you," she replied dryly.

Dinner being over, the room was starting to clear. As he passed behind her chair, Draco Malfoy leaned over and murmured, "Perhaps you're not a complete loss after all, Miss Mars."

Okay, the Potions master's approval was *really* not comforting. Veronica suddenly wanted to shower. And Lamb, who was approaching at an alarming speed, looked like scrubbing her back was the last thing on his mind.

"So, I guess you heard, huh?" she began, lamely, rising from her chair.

"Yeah. And I'm not exactly doing a dance of joy here," Lamb sighed, heavily, pacing her as she followed the students spilling out of the hall.

"I don't know. I think the Sorting Hat should totally go on tour."


"I certainly thought so."

"Veronica…" Lamb touched her shoulder. And since he was a quarter of Hagrid's size, it didn't stop her in her tracks, just slow her. "There's not a single dark wizard who didn't come from Slytherin." He said it quietly, as some truly hobbit-like first years fell over their feet trying to get past them.

"So…what are you saying? I'm going dark? That I…I've *been* dark?" Veronica did stop then, turning to face him as that awful, twisting feeling she'd had upstairs returned. "Did I…? Oh, God, did I make Beaver jump off that roof somehow?" she demanded, the pudding and roast chicken threatening to come rushing up her throat.

"No." For a guy who didn't have many convictions -- literally or figuratively -- Lamb sounded dead certain. He reached out and smoothed a few strands of hair off her forehead. "No, Veronica. You'd have to have at least a little magical knowledge to be able to perform an Imperius Curse…and doing it nonverbally and wandless…? That's very, very rare."

She tried to chuckle, but it came out weak. "My dad always says I'm precocious."

Lamb's laugh was strong. And it helped. "That's because Keith's too nice to say that you're a pain in the ass."

"But not you, huh? *That's* why you came along, right?"

"Someone had to warn the poor denizens of Hogwarts! Hide your valuables, Veronica Mars is on the loose!"

She couldn't help it; she punched him in the arm. Good Lord, were they really at buddy punching level now? No, no apparently they were at awkward hugging level, because Lamb pulled her close, patting her shoulder and murmuring, "It'll all work out," against her temple.

And she was almost considering doing something with her arms when a voice boomed, "That's quite enough!"

They sprang apart, and turned to see the very forbidding Professor Snape bearing down on them. Veronica couldn't help noting that he looked like nothing so much as a gigantic black bat, with his dark robes billowing around him.

"Miss Mars," he began in an icy voice that raised goose bumps on her arms, "I realize that you are new to Hogwarts, and perhaps such behavior is acceptable in…*America*," he sneered. "But here we strive to maintain *some* semblance of decorum, and as such I must insist that you refrain from…demonstrating your affection to your paramour in the hallways."

She stared up at him, completely astonished. He thought that she and Lamb were… And that they had been… She shuddered at the thought. She could only stutter a protest, "It's not what you think, Professor. Lamb and I, we're not…"

He turned his formidable gaze on Lamb now. "Ah, yes. Mr. Lamb. You were in my first-year Potions class, were you not? A perfectly abominable student, if my memory serves me."

Lamb's eyes were trained on the stone floor. "Yes, sir," he mumbled.

Veronica looked at him with a sudden burst of compassion. Was this what his time at Hogwarts had been like? Constantly berated and belittled for his failings? It was no wonder he had grown up into such a bastard. She looked up at Snape with a new resolve, her anger making her bold, "If you'll please excuse us, Professor, my *friend* and I have had a very long day. I can assure you that 'indecorous' behavior won't be a problem."

"Very well, Miss Mars." As he swept off down the hallway, she reflected that perhaps the Head of Slytherin hadn't been getting any head recently after all.

"So we're friends now?" Lamb's eyebrows quirked, his gaze back somewhere in her chest region now that the odious professor was gone.

"Don't get any ideas, Donnie," she snorted as they resumed their walk back to the North Tower.

"Even if I had ideas -- and I'm not saying that they don't already exist in some Spice Channel form -- I'd need a road map to find you in that bed, remember?"

Actually, he'd found her just fine. He hadn't even needed to stop and ask for directions. But if he didn't know that, she wasn't about to tell him. They made the rest of the trek back through the maze-like halls of Hogwarts in companionable silence and, this time, she made him go up the ladder first. Damn, but he had a nice butt.

He had a nice everything. Against her better judgment, she had to admit it. Especially when she came out of the bathroom in Trelawney's old suite and found Lamb shucking off his clothes, ready for his own turn in the huge clawfoot tub.

He'd totally been eating his Wheaties. And possibly her Wheaties, too.

She made sure to be buried deep under the covers with her eyes squeezed shut when he came out 20 minutes later ready for bed.

"Goodnight, Veronica," he said to her back.

"Goodnight," she said, instinctively.

She didn't have to turn to see him grinning.

Okay, so maybe they *were* friends now.

Part Two

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