On Hogwarts, Merlin House, Argyra and Poaching Week


Hogwarts School of Witchcraft was established back in medieval times by the four greatest witches of their time: Godiva Gryffindor, Helga Hufflepuff, Rowena Ravenclaw and Silvia Slytherin.

Each witch had her own ideas and philosophies, and would go on to form the original four Hogwarts houses that bore their names, and after they were gone, their descendants or hand-picked teachers that embodied the individual house traits particularly well would become the Head of their respective House, while a single witch was chosen to be Headmistress.

(Sadly, the name of the first Headmistress is lost to history; nobody knows who she was anymore.)

The school was closely modelled after the cathedral schools at the time, though it wasn’t affiliated with any particular church and instead of the “seven liberal arts” (grammar, astronomy, rhetoric (or speech), logic, arithmetic, geometry, and music) it focused on teaching the “seven magical arts”: Transfiguration, Charms, Potions, Astronomy, Herbology, Arithmancy, Runes and Alchemy.

(The subjects would later change somewhat; more subjects such as Dark Arts, later renamed “Defence Against The Dark Arts” would get introduced and become prominent, while Arithmancy, Runes and Alchemy became electives along with newer subjects like Muggle Studies and Care of Magical Creatures.)

Another important difference from the cathedral schools was that the cathedral schools only accepted boys — but Hogwarts was the first all-girls’ school in the world. (Granted, the girls were all witches and Muggle girls had to wait more than six hundred years before they started getting similar academic possibilities.) Given that magical births were most often female, wizards were already then considered rare and special, and it was deemed unwise to have them mingle with witches.

A few half-hearted attempts were made at making a similar school for wizards, but since there were so few of them, it was found to be impractical… and so, for centuries, there was no formal education for wizards. Young wizards would sometimes attend Muggle cathedral schools or monastery schools, but more often they were simply either taught by their parents, or apprenticed to older wizards.

(The “apprentice system” has never officially been abandoned, and even in modern times a young wizard may theoretically be apprenticed to an older one instead of, or in addition to, attending Hogwarts. I say “theoretically” because nobody actually does it anymore… but they would be allowed to, should they so choose.)

As the witching society of Britain got more organized, the Hogwarts school system developed, there was an increasing concern that wizards were not getting the same quality education as the witches. By the mid-1400s, it had become common for wizards and their young apprentices to visit Hogwarts on occasion in order to “exchange magic secrets with the witches.” Indeed, it had become so common that specially-made guest quarters for visiting wizards had been made, at the “Heart of Hogwarts,” directly above the Great Hall.

In 1541 (curiously enough the same year that Henry VIII passed the first Witchcraft Act, the first of several Acts that would increasingly make witchcraft a felony in Britain and force British witches further and further underground), these visits were formalized. On the week after the students at Hogwarts had finished their end-of-year exams, Hogwarts invited all young wizard apprentices, along with their masters, to stay at the school for one week in order to take similar exams. This of course became one of the year’s biggest events, where young witches and wizards could finally meet, and the week always ended on a great celebration feast.

Things may have continued like this indefinitely if it hadn’t been for the establishing of the International Statute of Secrecy in 1697. All of a sudden, witches and wizards were to live apart from Muggles and hide their magical nature. The newly established Ministry for Magic decreed that it was no longer feasible to keep the young wizards from a formal education, and so for the safety of everyone, Hogwarts was to accept boys as well as girls.

Hence, the school was renamed “Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry” and became co-ed.

To make the transition easier, it was decreed that the boys would not join any of the four established houses of the school; instead a fifth school house would be established, that would exclusively take in boys. This house would be named after the most famous wizard of all time: Merlin.

It was also at this time that the first wizard was ever employed to teach at Hogwarts, Vindictus Viridian, who became the first Head of Merlin.


As the newest, smallest, and only male, house at Hogwarts, the Merlin house is a little different from the others. Where the girls are sorted into Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff or Slytherin based on personality traits, values and goals, boys automatically join Merlin, making it more the “token male house.” Merlin doesn’t even have its own animal mascot; the House colour is a deep purple but the symbol is just a black wizard’s hat. Unofficially, the students have joked that the mascot ought to be a merlin (a pigeon hawk), but this has never been seriously considered.

The number of boys joining Merlin every year varies between one and five, though five boys at once is considered highly unusual — and so, Merlin never has more than a couple dozen students at any given year — contrasted with the other four houses who may have more than one hundred students each. Hence, due to their small numbers, Merlin does not compete in the House cup and boys don’t gain or lose house points. (They might still get detentions, though, if they are caught misbehaving.) Neither does Merlin have its own Quidditch team, because boys are banned from broomstick flying.

While the boys are separate, they do share most of their classes with the girls. Of the core classes, Merlin shares Transfiguation with the Gryffindors, Charms with the Ravenclaws, Potions with the Slytherins and Herbology with the Hufflepuffs. They have Defence against the Dark Arts and History of Magic alone, and any of the electives or extra-curriculars are shared. They also have the unique class “Merlin’s Secrets,” where they learn “wizard stuff that witches don’t need to know.” Only the Merlins know everything that is taught in those classes, but one thing that everyone knows is taught is the art of wandmaking.

(Wandmaking is one of the few things in the witching world that is only open to wizards; jokes have been made about phallus symbols, but traditionally witches are not allowed to learn wandmaking… just as wizards are not allowed to learn broomstick flying. While only a few wizards are skilled enough wandmakers to make a career of it, and most wizards really only make their own wands… it’s considered slightly embarrassing for a wizard to leave Hogwarts with the same wand he came in with.)

The Merlin common room and bedrooms are located in the “heart of Hogwarts,” directly above the Great Hall, the same quarters that once housed the visiting OWL- and NEWT-taking wizards.

It’s the only common room at Hogwarts where the entrance isn’t hidden, though the door is enchanted so that no girl can walk through it. (It is, however, an open secret among Merlins that girls can be carried through the door, no problem.) The common room is large, rectangular and casually-decorated, with a large number of couches, tables and comfy chairs for lounging or doing homework.

The walls on both sides have doors leading to the bedrooms — where girls all sleep in dormitories arranged by year, each boy gets his own private bedroom, which he is free to decorate in any way he likes. This is partly a carry-over from the times when wizards were guests at the school and were given more luxurious accommodations, and partly a result of the witching world’s tendency to give special attention to its rare male citizens.

Each boy even has his own personal bathroom connected to the bedroom, complete with shower and king-size bathtub.

The Head teacher for Merlin is traditionally the only male member of staff. It was decreed back when the house was established that at least one adult wizard should be at hand to take care of the “boy things,” whatever they were. The Head of Merlin is required to live at Hogwarts to be at hand at all times, and so he has his own office and extensive quarters connected to but separate from the Merlin common room, where he lives together with his wives. Said wives are often, but not always, fellow teachers or staff members.

The first Head of Merlin was Vindictus Viridian, a noted potioneer and author of several books that are still considered classics today, but over the years a lot of notable wizards have had the position, such as Phineas Nugellus Black, Armando Dippet and Brutus Scrimgeour.

The current Head of Merlin is Gilderoy Lockhart. He is a devilishly handsome man; not the sharpest quill in the pack but good at Charms and at least a decent, if not spectacular teacher. He’s also known for being extremely lenient with the Merlins and letting them get away with a lot… though it may just be that he’s a little too self-absorbed to really notice what they’re getting up to.


Back when the four Founders first built Hogwarts by the shores of the large Black Lake in the Scottish highlands, they discovered that the lake was inhabited,,, by a young Naiad. or water-nymph; a pretty-looking naked woman with blue skin and hair like flowing water. Her name was Argyra (named for a Nymph of Greek legends), and she was both curious and wary of these four witches who were planning on founding a school by her lake.

Initially, the four Founders were concerned, because nymphs are extremely magical creatures who are almost completely immune to any human magic… and at least back then they had a not wholly undeserved reputation for being rather careless with human lives. Could they really have young girls attend their school if there was a chance that the nymph would lure the girls into the water with her enchanting song and drown them?

Godiva and Silvia were all for killing or at least banishing Argyra from the lake, but Helga and Rowena thought it wiser to negotiate and cooperate with her instead. After all, even a young nymph could be a powerful ally if they got her on their side.

In the end, Helga and Rowena won out, and a treaty was established: Argyra agreed that she wouldn’t drown anyone and would help to the best of her ability to protect the school and its students. In return, she would full sovereignty of the Lake, and the four Founders would provide her with anything she wanted from the outside world. (“Within reason, of course,” as Godiva put it.)

Over the years, Argyra grew in power, but also grew immensely fond of the school and the witches. What had started as a treaty and an arrangement of convenience had turned into a fierce protectiveness of the school and its students. As she grew in power, she became Hogwarts’s greatest and most infallible security system: Nobody who wished harm on the school, its students or its staff could enter Hogwarts grounds. As her power grew, the Lake also transformed; after a century or so what had used to be an icy-cold Scottish lake had turned into a warm and almost tropical resort.

Today, the lake is a small world on its own, with its own climate and weather. No matter how cold the winter gets around the castle and on the rest of the school grounds, no matter how bad the weather — in and around the lake it’s always pleasantly warm, with blue skies and refreshing waters. The warm climate means that the lake is home to a lot of birds, plants and fish — both magical and mundane — that normally would not be found this far North.

A great number of nymphs now live in and around the Lake; these are Argyra’s daughters. Most of them are Naiads like her, but a few of them are Dryads (wood nymphs) and Anthousai (flower nymphs) who take care of the forest surrounding the grounds.

The nymphs are curious and friendly: every autumn when new students come to Hogwarts, the water nymphs are the one who take them on a boat ride over the lake to get the “scenic route.” Sometimes they’ll playfully splash the students with water, but they are always very careful about not letting anyone fall overboard.

While they love to listen to stories of the outside world, the nymphs aren’t particularly engaged in current events. They don’t care much about wars or terrorists or threats from outside, because they know that their lake, and the Hogwarts grounds, are safe.

Argyra still rules the lake as its queen; though she is more than a thousand years old she still looks like a young beautiful woman, and having given birth to a multitude of daughters hasn’t changed her figure any — except that she has grown so powerful that both she and the lake are near-untouchable by any who wish them harm. People can enter or stay only by her leave — luckily she is fond of the Hogwarts students and allows them free passage and even sanctuary if needed… long as they agree to follow her rules.

(One of her rules is a total ban on swimsuits; anyone who wants a swim is welcome to, but they have to do so naked!)

In the latest couple of Century, Argyra has also taken up a teaching position at Hogwarts; she teaches Basic Magical Theory and History, and teaches the fist-years to the fourth-years. The lessons take place by the lake, and students are allowed to go swimming afterwards if they like.


“Poaching Week” is the unofficial name for the week after the end-of-year exams. It has its roots in the old days, for the one week of the year when young wizards stayed at the school for their exams and for the first time.

The coven system was not as widespread back then since witches could freely interact with Muggles, but a witch who snagged a wizard tended to enjoy a higher status than witches who married Muggles, and already you saw a few polygamous relationships in which two or more witches shared a wizard. So naturally, especially older students saw this week as a great opportunity to meet young magicals of the opposite sex and perhaps establish something that could lead to future romances and relationships.

The watchful eyes of teachers and masters would protect the wizards from getting mobbed, but over the years a subtle game developed between the older students, played between the examinations (and curiously enough involving a lot of practical magic training). It was called the “Poaching game,” and revolved around the swapping of magically-coloured bracelets.

Every boy who was playing would be given a simple cloth bracelet in a random colour, and every girl who played would be wearing a simple white cloth bracelet. If a boy used magic to change the colour of said bracelet to match his own bracelet, that was a sign he was interested in that girl and she was free to approach.

For as long as a girl’s bracelet remained white, she was not allowed to approach or make a move on a boy… nor was any boy allowed to approach or make a move on her. But if a if a boy for example had a yellow bracelet, then all the girls whose bracelets he managed to turn yellow were considered “his” for the week… or, “poached” as the slang soon became. They could approach and make moves on him whenever they wanted, and vice versa, though they were not allowed to approach any other boy. Nor could a boy approach a witch whose bracelet sported a colour that wasn’t his.

Girls whose bracelets remained white were not allowed to approach or be approached. It was often pretty humiliating for the girls whose bracelets were still white at the end of the week, and so, both to lessen the humiliation and to make it more of a challenging game, a points system was introduced in which the boys got points for each poached girl, and girls got points for each day they avoided getting poached.

By the time Hogwarts became co-ed in 1692, and boys were to attend the school on a permanent basis, the Poaching game had already developed a number of rules for what was allowed and what wasn’t allowed, who were allowed to play and who weren’t, what actions were worth how many points and so on, By now, the Poaching game had become a century-long tradition, and after a few years’ transition, it was eventually decided to continue playing the Poaching Game on the week after the end-of-year exams. Among students, this week would henceforth be known as “Poaching Week.”

Today, Poaching Week is an “open secret” among students. Teachers are not supposed to know about Poaching Week, so the game is always played in secrecy… and everyone is careful not to mention that the teachers were once students too and probably know exactly what’s going on.

Some of the most important rules of Poaching Week:

  1. You have to be 15 or older in order to play.
  2. Only students who wear bracelets are playing. If a student isn’t wearing a bracelet, s/he is off-limits.
  3. A Poaching Committee, consisting of one member from each house, will be chosen by the students before Poaching Week. The Committee’s responsible for enforcing the rules.
  4. The Committee also decides on the “safe word” of the year, for use in emergencies and in cases where players get in over their heads. If any player uses this safe word, for any reason, the game is on temporary pause until the issue has been resolved.
  5. A girl is considered “poached” if a boy manages to change the colour of her bracelet to match his.
  6. A boy is allowed to use any magic or tricks at his disposal (short of anything illegal) in order to poach a girl.
  7. A girl is allowed to use any magic or tricks at her disposal (short of anything illegal) in order to avoid getting poached.
  8. Boys get points for every poached girl. Fourth-years are worth one point, fifth-years are worth two points, sixth-years are worth three points and seventh-years are worth five. In addition, the Poaching Comittee will choose one girl from each house who is worth ten points.
  9. Girls get one point for each successfully avoided poaching. In addition, each girl gets five points for each day she avoids getting poached. The four chosen girls get ten points.
  10. At the end of the week, points are tallied and the winners are the one boy and the one girl with the most points. In case of a tie, the Poaching Comittee decides on a tiebreaker.
  11. As long as the game goes on, you can’t hook up with anyone, boy or girl, who doesn’t have the same colour bracelet as you. Even if you’re in a relationship beforehand, if you play the game all bets are off.
  12. Boys are not allowed to complain about the colour bracelet they’re assigned.
  13. Girls are not allowed to change the bracelet’s colour themselves, or swap bracelets with other girls.
  14. The Great Hall, class rooms, common rooms and dormitories are free zones. No poaching allowed in these places.
  15. No directly involving the teachers; no poaching in front of teachers, no telling the teachers about Poaching Week.