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It’s the first day of term, and I’m sitting in my seat on the Hogwarts express, trying hard not to throw a punch at my worst enemy George Weasley.
He, his twin brother Fred and our friend Lee Jordan are sitting across from me, laughing their heads off and pointing. Fuming, I pull the firework out of my hair and throw it as hard as I can at George. He snatches it out of the air before it can hit his face and pockets it. “Research,” he gasps, trying to pull together a straight face.
“Uh huh,” I mutter angrily. Okay, fine. George’s not really my worst enemy. In fact, he’s one of my best friends. But right now I’m hacked off at him. I mean, it’s our first day back for our sixth year at Hogwarts, and I don’t want to go inside the castle looking like a bomb exploded on my face!
I turn to my other friends Alicia Spinnet and Angelina Johnson who are on the same row as me. “How do I look?” I ask, turning my head so they can see every angle. “Do I look like a burn victim?”
My face is still stinging slightly from the impact and my eyes are tearing up from the smoke. I’m sure I look lovely.
The boys snigger in the background, and Alicia and Angelina tell me I look fine. “Real mature, George,” Alicia says, rolling her eyes.
“Well,” Fred says, sticking up for his twin, “We had to see if it would work.”
“And what was it supposed to do, burn people’s hair off?” I exclaim.
They know it’s impossible for me to stay mad for any amount of time, so they keep laughing.
Lee points at my cheek and grins. “Hey, Valerie! You got a little soot right… there.”
I sigh. “Got anything to fix it?” I ask the twins. I’d be surprised if they didn’t. They’re always up late in the common room at night, supposedly working on schoolwork, but if you know the Weasley twins at all you know that’s impossible. They’re down there inventing stuff. Pretty cool stuff, if you ask me. Not that I would tell them that, as they tend to experiment on me and the girls after the initial test on themselves. I don’t want to egg them on.
“Sure thing,” George says, pulling something out of his pocket and flicking it at me. I snag it and flip the little box open. There’s a little bottle inside.
“W.W.W. Un-Messable Mess Remover,” I read off of the label. Angelina and Alicia lean over to see it.
“What does ‘W.W.W.’ stand for?” Alicia asks the boys.
“That is for us to know and you to find out,” Fred says, winking jovially.
I’m more concerned with what it does. I voice this.
“It’ll fix you up in no time,” George replies.
“It won’t like, make my ears turn into turnips will it,” I say worriedly.
Fred puts on a fake-hurt face. “C’mon. You don’t think we’d be mean enough to trick you, do we?”
“Yes,” All of us girls reply instantly.
They laugh. “You’re right,” George says.
“But this isn’t a trick,” Fred finishes.
“Fine.” I pop open the top and squeeze a little dab into my palm, then pat it onto my face. “Whoa, it’s working,” Angelina says, watching my face fascinated. Alicia’s nodding.
The stinging has definitely gone away, and when I put my fingers up to feel my face they come away clean. “Cool,” I say, closing the bottle and throwing it and the box back to George.
“Told ya,” he says with a smirk.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” I mutter.
“Can you maybe not throw something for two minutes?” Angelina asks, exasperated but grinning.
“Sorry, don’t think we can,” George replies, taking a box from Lee’s outstretched hand and stuffing it into his pocket.
I look out the window. It’s already getting dark outside, so we have to be getting close to Hogwarts by now. I’m starving, even though the candy wrappers littered on the floor of our compartment indicate that I shouldn’t be. Between the six of us in this compartment, we’d been through at least 40 candies, most of them being by the twins and Lee. Those boys never seem to get full.
I start as I notice a pair of fingers snapping in front of my face. They belong to Lee. “What?” I say, annoyed. I don’t like people snapping at me.
“How was your summer,” Fred repeats slowly.
“Oh. Boring, same as usual,” I say. “I flew around with my cousins a lot at their place. That’s the only interesting thing.”
“I heard you got to go to the Quidditch World Cup,” Alicia says excitedly. “How was it?”
She is a member of the Gryffindor Quidditch team, as are the twins, and as is Angelina. Me and Lee are the loners of the little group.
“Man, I wish I’d got to go,” Angelina says.
“Me too,” I say enviously. It was only the biggest match of the year! And so close, too… “Dad tried to win us tickets at the ministry, but he couldn’t,” I explain.
Fred laughs. “Yeah, that’s the only way we got to go. There were ten of us! But Dad got us seats in the top box!”
“No way!” We say.
George nods. “It was wicked. We saw everything. And Krum…” He and George immediately launch into a play by play of how the game went and what Viktor Krum, the young and famous Bulgarian seeker, did during the game.
“I think maybe you guys have a little crush on Mr. Krum,” I tease the twins. They roll their eyes at me.
“Oh definitely,” Fred says sarcastically.
Soon it’s announced that we’re nearing Hogsmeade station. Alicia, Angelina and I kick the boys out of the compartment to change elsewhere and we pull on our Hogwarts robes. The train comes to a slow halt and we all crowd into the hallways and push against the groups of people to get out.
Progress to the horseless carriages is slow; made even slower by the fact that it is pouring outside. The twins manage to snag an empty on and the six of us pile in, soaked to the bone and freezing.
I catch sight of Hargrid rounding up the first years and I feel a surge of pity. “They’re gonna drown, even if they don’t fall in the lake!”
Once we get inside the castle, there’s puddles all over the floor and I’m slipping all over the place. Twice I slip and fall backwards into George, who’s behind me, and he shoves me not so gently back onto my feet. “Sorry,” I call at him, not daring to look over my shoulder at him lest I fall.
There’s a huge traffic jam at the doors to the Great Hall, so my friends and I stand there in the crowd, waiting. “Hurry up,” I hear Fred moan behind me.
I turn and shoot him a grin. “Amen.”
Then, “AUUGHH!!” I screech, as do Alicia, Angelina, I’m pretty sure Lee, and everyone surrounding us. My head, face, and shoulders are now even more soaking wet than before, and my head hurts. “PEEVES!” I scream, pointing up at the ceiling where the stupid poltergeist is drifting lazily away, cackling madly.
“He just dropped a water balloon on my head!” I turn and hiss angrily to the twins, who somehow managed to jump out of the way in time and miss most of the spray. Now they’re laughing maniacally at those of us who weren’t so lucky.
“Yeah, I noticed,” Fred howls, bending double and slapping his knees.
George is clutching his stomach and gasping for air. “Valerie… your face-“ He breaks into a coughing fit. “Was priceless.”
I walk over and give him a shove. He tries to dodge but isn’t quick enough. He goes sliding a few feet, knocking into a couple of younger kids, and almost runs into Professor McGonagall, our transfiguration professor.
“Watch where you’re going, Weasley,” she says briskly, striding over to everyone who’s gathered in a group at the door. “Move along, move along,” she says, ushering people through the double doors into the Great Hall.
Every year at the first of term, I’m always amazed by the Great Hall all over again. It’s enormous, with four long wooden tables lined up according to house and the staff table at the front. The ceiling is enchanted to look like the sky outside, and today it’s gray and stormy. You can see the occasional flash of lightning.
There’s not much time for admiring, though. I’m being jostled about by the hundreds of students making their way inside, and Fred is tugging me along by the arm to the Gryffindor table.
It’s already filling up fast. “Where are the little firsties going to sit,” I wonder, tugging my arm away.
“Who cares,” Lee groans. “Let’s just sit somewhere.”
The only spot with more than a few seats open is nearly right in front of the staff table. Even from here, I know there’s not enough space for the six of us.
“It’s okay,” Angelina says, realizing this too. “Hey, there’s Katie over there!”
She points over on the other side where Katie Bell, Angelina and Alicia’s fellow chaser on the Gryffindor Quidditch team (and Fred and George’s as well; they’re beaters) waved furiously at them to come over.
Alicia and Angelina said goodbye to us and made their way over to their other group of friends. “Perfect,” I say, hurrying to the space before someone else takes it. “Lee, sit by me.” I pull him down into the seat beside me and the twins go around the table to sit across from us.
The spot wasn’t ideal; the staff had a close up view of what we were doing, if we were talking, etc. But oh well. We weren’t planning on breaking any rules. Yet.
While we wait for the first years to appear, Fred and George tell us about how they blew up Harry Potter’s cousin’s tongue at his house before the World Cup.
“It was all the ton-tongue toffee,” George was saying excitedly, using his hands to convey how cool it was. “It just started growing-“
“And then it got to, like, three feet long!”
Lee and I were cracking up. “That’s horrible,” I say between my giggles.
Fred shakes his head. “Nah, he’s a great bullying git, according to Harry.”
“Yeah. He deserved it.”
I shake my head, still grinning. Lee launches into a story of how he found a rattlesnake in the upstairs toilet at his house. Finally, the doors open again and McGonagall leads in a bunch of frightened-looking eleven-year-olds up the aisle to where the wooden stool sits. The Sorting Hat sits on top of it, brim closed, waiting to sing.The room instantly goes silent.
We listen to the Hat’s song, then watch as the first boy is called. Ackerly, Stewart becomes a “RAVENCLAW!” then Baddock, Malcom becomes a Slytherin. Fred and George hiss him as he makes his way to his seat. He turns and gives them a worried glance.
I glare at them. “Don’t be mean!”
They shrug. “You know he’ll just end up like one of them, a slimy little-“
I shake my head and go back to watching the sorting.
Soon Creevey, Colin is called up. I immediately notice how freakishly tiny he is, but that might be because he was wearing an overcoat so large it could only belong to one person at this school.
“Why is that bloke wearing Hagrid’s coat?” Fred asks us. We shrug.
“Maybe he forgot to wear his pants. I don’t know,” I respond.
We end up with eight new Gryffindors. When we’re done applauding the last boy (“RAVENCLAW!”), our Headmaster Albus Dumbledore walks to the front to give his speech. Thankfully it’s short, and soon our plates fill with heaping amounts of delicious food.
“Yeah!” I cry, grabbing a chicken leg and tossing it onto my plate. Across from me, George’s face is already stuffed with food. So is Fred’s. I laugh at them, looking away in disgust.
Pretty soon though, I’m joining them. It feels like so long since our snacks on the train, and I eat like I’ll never do it again.
It feels like the meal is over fairly quickly, although I’m completely stuffed. Satisfied, I lean back against my chair and watch Professor Dumbledore as he gets up to speak again.
The four of us smirk as Dumbledore names off a few items on the banned list. Is it just my imagination, or does he look at us as he does so? Hmm. Must just be my imagination.
Soon, he goes on to announce that the Inter-House Quidditch Cup will not be taking place this year.
There’s a mini-outbreak all over the hall.
“What?” I can hear Angelina gasp from here. The twins are mouthing wordlessly up at Dumbledore. I exchange a glance with Lee.
He shrugs, and I turn my attention back to Dumbledore, appalled. At that moment, the doors to the Great Hall open, and a very scary looking man walks in. Every square inch of his face is covered in scars, and he has two different eyes. One is much larger than the other and is spinning wildly in the socket, and the other, more normal looking one, is staring straight at Dumbledore.
“That’s Mad-Eye Moody!” Fred whispers to us.
“Moody? Like, the Auror?” I ask. I’ve heard about him. Apparently he was really good, but got paranoid and started hexing, like, trees if he thought they were too tall to be normal.
“Who?” Lee asks.
The twins and I explain to him who Moody is as Dumbledore introduces him.
Dumbledore goes on to explain that instead of the Quidditch Cup happening, the Triwizard Tournament is going to be reinstated.
“You’re JOKING!” Fred exclaims loudly. Everyone giggles and looks around at him. He, however, looks completely unabashed.
“I’m not joking, Mr. Weasley,” Dumbledore replies, smiling at him.
Students all over the hall are whispering as Dumbledore explains what the Triwizard Tournament is. I’m one of them. “I can’t believe it!” I exclaim, excitedly. “Wasn’t it supposed to be, like, really dangerous?”
George nods animatedly. “Yeah, who cares?”
Surely not me.
“I’m going for it,” Fred hisses at us. I nod in agreement. I’m imagining all the glory and fame, not to mention a thousand galleons prize money…
Then, Dumbledore explains that because of the dangers, only sixth and seventh year students will be allowed to enter. This causes an angry outbreak among the younger students, but I don’t care; it doesn’t affect me. I can’t wait until I can enter, get chosen, and win the tournament.
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