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The Pawn in the Game. by MargaretLane

Format: Novel
Chapters: 4
Word Count: 11,609
Status: WIP

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Contains profanity, Mild violence, Spoilers

Genres: General, Mystery
Characters: Harry, Ron, Hermione, Albus, Lily (II), Rose, Scorpius, Teddy, OC
Pairings:

First Published: 08/06/2015
Last Chapter: 10/25/2015
Last Updated: 08/20/2016

Summary:



 

Albus is pleased Lily's finally joining him at Hogwarts, but their relationship begins to deteriorate as she grows increasingly distant. And outside Hogwarts, Teddy faces competition from an unexpected and unpleasant quarter, when he applies for the position of Goblin Liaison Officer.

Banner by SiriuslyLupin.
  

Spoilers for The Writing on the Wall and The Rise of the A.W.L.


Chapter 1: Summer Days.
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 Disclaimer: Everything you recognise belongs to J.K. Rowling. No copyright infringement is intended.


Apologies for the delay in getting to this story.



Staying with Derek was a lot less daunting now Albus was a little more familiar with the Muggle world's wide range of technologies, ideas and traditions, which until last summer, he'd rarely even heard of outside Rose's stories of visits to her Muggle grandparents.

Now he'd stayed in a Muggle home and seen the TV shows, some of which were like photographs, others more like drawings that actually moved. He'd used the internet, which according to Rose, contained information on practically every aspect of Muggle life, but which he and Derek preferred to use for games or music or watching films.

It was just a pity you couldn't play Quidditch on it.

"I said that to Mum," Derek agreed when he mentioned it, "but she doesn't think it'd sell too well. After all, wizards don't usually use computers. Well, most of them don't." He laughed.

"Couldn't Muggles play it to? They wouldn't have to know it was real. I mean they've games like that one you showed me with the dragons, right?"

"Yeah, but she said Quidditch is a bit complicated. If it were just sort of basketball on brooms, it'd be different, but with the Snitch and Bludgers and all..." He trailed off. "And she said people might think the Bludgers a bit violent, though that seems pretty silly, when you think of some of the stuff out there."

Albus glanced at him questioningly and Derek shrugged.

"I'm not allowed to play the really graphic stuff, but I'm pretty sure it's not just about knocking people off brooms. More like killing loads of people or torture or stuff. I don't know."

Albus shuddered. Torture and violence made him think of the war and all the half-stories he'd heard about that. The stories were bad enough. The last thing he'd want was to have to see it.

"Muggles play games about that?"

"Some do." He shrugged again. "There are games about nearly everything."

"It looks that way." Albus glanced through the rows of games that lined the room.

They were just choosing one when Derek's father entered the room.

"Don't tell me you're still staring at that computer!" He shook his head disapprovingly. "The sun is shining outside, you know. You should go out and have a kickabout or something."

"Daad," Derek complained, rolling his eyes. "You know I hate football."

"Well, what about cricket then? You didn't use to be too bad at that. Unless you've forgotten it all after a couple of years at Hogwarts."

"Of course I haven't." He glanced at Albus. "I don't suppose you're too familiar with cricket, are you?"

Albus shook his head. He'd a basic understanding of football and tennis and had at least heard of rugby and golf, but cricket was a new one.

"Really?" Derek's dad sounded surprised. "Well, we'll have to rectify that. Of course, we'd need a lot more people than this for an actual game, but we can at least teach him some of the basics, don't you think, Derek?"

"Do you mind?" Derek glanced at Albus apologetically.

"Of course not. Anyway, Grandpa Weasley would kill me if I missed a chance to learn about the Muggle world. He's really interested, you see," he added shyly to Derek's father.

"Well, we'll give you something else to tell him about. Come on out now. Better for you than staring at a computer all day anyway. You know, they say it's the cause of a lot of this obesity crisis."

The game actually seemed like rather good practice for being a Seeker, he decided. Of course, catching a ball on the ground was very different from tracking the tiny Snitch through the air, but it was the closest you could probably manage in a Muggle area and it certainly replicated the need for a good eye and quick reflexes.

There were bats too, though apparently these weren't used for the protection of the players.

"Muggle games aren't quite as dangerous as wizarding ones," Derek explained laughing. "That's why Mum said the Bludgers seemed so violent. After all, without magic, it really wouldn't be a good idea to have people falling hundreds of feet or hitting heavy objects at each other."

"Even with magic, I can't say I'd miss the Bludgers too much if they were removed from Quidditch," Albus admitted. He loved Quidditch, but the Bludgers were intimidating.

"Yeah, I'd be more inclined to try out if it wasn't for them," Derek agreed.

They continued playing a while longer, before returning to Derek's room to watch a film.

"I can't believe you've never seen this before." Derek sounded amazed.

"Well, wizards don't usually watch TV much. Unless they're Muggleborn or something. Dad did grow up in the Muggle world, but I don't think he got to watch much TV, so I guess he just never really got into it. You know?"

"How come?"

Albus shrugged. "I don't think his aunt and uncle treated him very well. I don't really know the details, but they're not close. He doesn't really talk about it much."

"Sounds unpleasant."

"Yeah, I think it was." He shrugged again, unsure if he should say anymore. It was his father's personal business after all.

Derek seemed to understand. Or perhaps he was simply uncomfortable with the topic. Either way, he turned on the film and the rest of the evening passed peacefully.



The week was a fast one and it seemed like no time until Friday, when Albus's father came to collect him.

"Did you have a good time?" he asked.

"Yeah." Albus grinned. He'd missed his family, of course, but it was fun to spend some time with Derek.

"Thank you so much for having him." Albus's father shook hands with Derek's mother.

"You're welcome." She smiled. "Have you a moment to come inside? My husband was looking forward to meet you and sharing a few experiences."

"I'd be delighted. You don't mind, do you, Albus?"

He shook his head and he and Derek followed his father through to the kitchen.

"Ah, good to meet you again." Derek's father rose to shake his hand and the two men settled down to a long discussion, comparing law enforcement in the Muggle and magical worlds.

"Does it make things more difficult that the entire population is essentially armed?" Derek's father was asking.

Albus's father thought for a moment. "I'm not sure. The sort of criminals we deal with would probably have access to weaponry in just about any world, I think. After all, we're not dealing with the ordinary housebreaker or cases of domestic violence. Those sort of things come under the jurisdiction of the ordinary Magical Law Enforcement Patrol. Those we are dealing with would be closer to our equivalent of terrorists or criminal gangs. And of course we have the benefit of being able to use wands ourselves. I'd imagine unarmed policing requires a good deal of diplomacy."

"I think any form of law enforcement does. After all, you never want force to be the first response, do you?"

"Not harmful force, no, but wands can be used for a good deal more than Muggle weapons can, you know. Disarming for example is a spell I've always found particularly handy. And of course, the summoning spell can be rather useful when it comes to searches."

"What are the rules about that, actually?" Derek's father asked. "Do you need some kind of warrant to use it?"

Albus tuned out. He'd no doubt Rose would find it fascinating, but he'd had enough of mysteries. Not that his second year had been too bad, he supposed. It had been Rose who'd faced Fairfax and Dora and while it had been scary to think of somebody tampering with the Wolfsbane, it hadn't really affected him directly.

But it would be nice to have a year when nobody was hiding anything significant, a year when nobody proved themselves untrustworthy. Especially with Lily starting Hogwarts in September. He wanted her to have a good time there, not to have to wonder if somebody was targeting her or if a teacher or classmate could be trusted.

He was still pondering what her first year might be like when his father's voice interrupted his thoughts.

"Ready to go home?"

He jumped to his feet.

"Yeah, I'm ready. See you in a few weeks, Derek."

"Don't forget to owl," Derek reminded him.

"I won't. You don't either, OK?"

They said their goodbyes and then Albus and his father headed to a quiet place from where his father could escort him home by Side-Along Apparition.

"You might find the house a bit full when we get back." His father grinned at him as they approached the house.

Albus sighed. He'd been hoping to spend some time alone with his family. He hadn't seen them for a week after all. Not that that was so long, but it was a good chunk out of the holidays when he spent most of the year at Hogwarts.

His father laughed. "Don't look so disappointed. I don't think you'll mind so much."

"Who is it?" he asked.

"Well, to be honest, I'm not even sure if they're still there. I spent rather longer than I'd intended chatting to Mr. Thompson."

"You did." Albus grinned at him.

"But before I left, Hermione arrived with Rose and Hugo."

Albus felt himself relax. Hermione and her family didn't count as company. They were family.

"Hey," Rose greeted him as he entered the house. "Did you have a good time? How's Derek?"

"He's fine. He's off to Spain with his family next week. Though Dad spent so long talking to his father about Muggle policing, I thought they'd miss their flight."

"I wasn't that long," his father interrupted.

"Well, my mum's out in the kitchen going on about this new werewolf employment legislation. Don't get me wrong, I think it's a great idea and all, but I've heard about virtually nothing else since we got our holidays."

"Teddy's had a lot to say about it too," Albus said, laughing. "I guess it is kind of important though. I mean..." He trailed off.

"Yes, I know," she agreed. "It could change people's lives completely. I just wish they could iron out the loopholes."

"Politics tends to be like that," Albus's father said. "I don't know if we'll ever completely rid the world of injustice. Anyway, come on. I'm sure your mum wants to see you again, Albus."

They entered the kitchen and his mother beckoned Albus towards him.

"How are you?" she asked.

"Fine."

Hermione smiled at him. "I hope you'd a good week."

"Yeah, I did."

She turned to his father. "I was just telling Ginny about my meeting with Neil Callaghan from the Irish Ministry. He's very interested in our Werewolf Employment Legislation. He wants to introduce something similar in Ireland, but he's not having much luck, I'm afraid. Apparently many of his colleagues feel it would be 'too controversial'." She rolled her eyes.

Albus's father shrugged his shoulders. "Well, smaller community, more of an interest in social cohesion."

"Too small sometimes," she said. "They're always like this. To hear them talk, you'd think there was no blood prejudice over there either. Now, I'll admit they may have less of a problem with that. The magical community there is so small that purebloods can't really isolate themselves as they do here and of course, the country doesn't have the same history of witch trials, so that's made a difference, but they talk as if the issue doesn't exist at all and that is not true."

"There's prejudice everywhere," Albus's father agreed. "But you've introduced legislation that's being discussed internationally. That's got to be a good start."

Albus sighed with impatience. He'd been looking forward to talking to his parent and telling them all about his week at Derek's, but it looked like there wasn't much chance until Hermione left.

He got up.

"Do you know where James and Lily are?" he asked Rose quietly.

She shrugged. "Outside, I think. I don't know."

"Let's go and find them."

James, Lily and Hugo were sitting outside in the garden.

"Shut up," Lily yelled at James. "I'm not listening and I don't believe you anyway."

"Suit yourself." He grinned. "You'll find out soon enough."

"Albus!" Lily called him to them. "What happens if you get a detention at Hogwarts?"

"Well, I haven't got any yet," he said and James rolled his eyes, "but I think you usually have to do some task for the teachers, like helping them clean their classrooms or maybe helping Neville with some plant or something."

"SEE!" She turned to James triumphantly. "I knew they wouldn't make students fight dragons."

"No, you didn't," he crowed. "Otherwise, you wouldn't have had to ask him."

Rose glared at him. "Leave her alone! You'd Albus absolutely terrified when he started Hogwarts and it's not fair. Ignore him, Lily. He just likes scaring people."

"I know that," she said defensively.

Albus sat down beside her. She'd been looking forward to starting Hogwarts ever since James's first year, but he knew it could still be frightening when the time actually came. And it wasn't easy to admit to being scared, not when your parents had fought in the last war and taken on the most evil wizard since Grindelwald.

"Most of the teachers are pretty nice really," he told her. "They don't give detentions that often."

"Not to you anyway," James scoffed. "How on earth could I have a brother who went two years without a single detention? Even Rose got one last term."

"Did you?" Lily glanced at her in surprise.

She shrugged. "I hexed somebody who'd been really asking for it. For a long time."

Hugo got up and headed for the house.

"Where's he going?" Albus glanced after him. He'd been very quiet since Rose and Albus had joined them.

"Probably fed up with the Hogwarts talk," Rose said. "He really wishes he was starting this year too. After all, if his birthday had just been a couple of weeks earlier."

"Poor Hugo," Albus said.

"He'll get over it." She shrugged.

"I sort of wish he was starting this year too," Lily said.

Albus imagined starting Hogwarts without Rose. It didn't bear thinking about.

"It's only one year," he said awkwardly. "And you will have fun."

He started to tell her all the good stuff about Hogwarts, the Quidditch matches and the feasts at Hallowe'en and the start of term. He told her about some of the things they learnt and about the nicer teachers.

It wasn't hard to think of things to say, because life at Hogwarts was fun. After two years there, he could now definitely admit that.


Chapter 2: School Supplies.
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Two weeks later, letters from Hogwarts arrived for both James and Albus.

Removing the envelope from the owl's leg, Albus tore his open eagerly.

James rolled his eyes. "What's the rush, little bro? They're probably just our booklists."

"You'd never know." Their mother waved her wand and flipped the sausages she was frying for breakfast before turning to face them. "There could be a prefect's badge waiting for you."

"Like that's really likely." He rolled his eyes again. "Anyway, I wouldn't want it. I'd hate to be a prefect."

"Being a prefect is an honour," their mother pointed out mildly. "Your dad and I would be delighted if you were chosen."

"Well, you'll have to wait until Albus reaches fifth year, won't you? He's the goody-goody in this family after all."

Albus took a deep breath and reminded himself his brother said stuff like that about everybody. He just liked to tease. It wasn't as if it was personal or anything.

And Albus was thirteen now, turning fourteen in December. He was too old to still take James's comments to heart.

Their mother raised her eyebrows. "There's no need to be rude, James."

"Yeah, yeah."

"Mum?" Albus was glad of a chance to change the subject. "What's an exercise book?"

"What?" She took the booklist from him and scanned it quickly. "An exercise book, pen, pencil, sharpener, rubber, ruler...they're all things Muggles use for writing. Instead of quills and parchment. I've got no idea where you'd get any of them." She bit her lip. "Maybe your father would know."

"Or Aunt Hermione would," Albus reminded her.

"Of course." Her face cleared. "I'll owl her after breakfast."

"And then can we go and get our school stuff." Lily was practically bouncing up and down on her chair. "I've been waiting since my birthday, you know."

"Maybe on Saturday," their mother said thoughtfully. "That's the next day your dad has off, I think, and I know he wants to be there to see you get your wand."

"Oh, he won't mind." Lily brushed the consideration aside. "And you know what the Auror department is like. He'd probably get called into work just as we were leaving or something anyway. There's no point in waiting for him."

"Now, Lily..." Her mother glanced at her sternly. "It won't harm you to wait another couple of days. I'll speak to him tonight and see what he says. All right?"

Lily sighed and muttered something under her breath.

"All right?" This time their mother's tone made it clear she was taking no nonsense.

"All right," Lily mumbled, fidgeting with the tablecloth.

Albus smiled at her sympathetically. He remember how excited he'd been to get his supplies before he'd started Hogwarts and how long the wait had seemed. Actually, he was pretty excited now as well, especially at the idea of Muggle writing implements. He wondered where they would get them and if they'd have to go to a Muggle shop. He couldn't remember the last time he'd been in one of those.

No doubt he'd find out when Hermione replied to his mother. He was looking forward to it.

Her owl arrived that evening and he hurried to his mother's side.

"What does she say?"

"Will you give me a minute? I can't tell you until I've read it."

"Sorry."

He tried to remain patient, but it wasn't easy. Lily sidled up beside him, jiggling from one foot to the other, obviously even more anxious than he was to hear what the letter said.

"Rose needs the same things for Muggle Studies as you do, obviously," their mother said finally, folding the letter. "And Hermione agrees we're probably not going to find them in Diagon Alley, but she says it shouldn't be difficult if we venture into Muggle London. It's back to school time for them too, after all. She suggests we all meet up in Diagon Alley and afterwards, we can go looking for the Muggle stuff."

"When?" Despite their mother's stern words earlier, Lily seemed completely unabashed.

"Like I said, probably Saturday, if that suits your dad. And Ron and Hermione, of course." She thought for a moment. "We should probably get some of Lily's stuff before meeting them, actually, because that could take some time."

"Yeah, 'cause I'm going to try out every wand in the shop." She grinned. "Well, I have to make sure I get the right one, don't I?"

"You'll know it." Albus smiled at her. He was looking forward to seeing her face when her wand "picked her" actually. It was an exciting moment.



On Saturday, the family gathered in the living room and his mother took down the Floo powder. Then, one by one, they stepped through the fireplace and emerged in the Leaky Cauldron.

"Liwy." Neville and Hannah's son, Frankie, toddled across the floor of the pub and threw his arms around her legs.

"Come on, you can say my name better than that." She picked him up and swung him into her arms as she spoke. "It's Lily. LiLY."

"Careful!" Hannah gave her a warning glance as she approached them.

Lily gently placed the little boy back on the floor. "Come on. Say Lily."

"Liwy."

"Say 'Albus.'" Albus approached them and tried to get the little boy's attention, but he buried his head in Lily's side.

"See!" she crowed. "He likes me best."

Albus's face fell.

"Don't worry about it." Hannah touched his arm. "He's just going through a bit of a shy phase, that's all. And it's been a while since he's seen you. It's different with Lily. She's been in and out of the place all year."

"I suppose so."

He tried to persuade himself it was no big deal. He had been at Hogwarts all year, after all. But he didn't like to think he was missing out on things. Not when it meant he missed out on getting to know people.

"Oh, who cares?" James was laughing. "He's just a baby."

"Don't be rude!" Their mother glanced at him disapprovingly.

"You wait until you've one of your own, James," their father said. "The first time you see your own child...well, it's a special moment. One of the best."

"Hate to disappoint you, Dad, but I don't exactly intend becoming a father any time soon!"

"I should hope not too," their mother said briskly. She glanced around the pub. "Is Neville around, Hannah? We'd like to say 'hi' before we go about our business."

"Of course." She smiled. "I'll just go and get him."

Lily hoisted Frankie up onto her lap and Albus tried, mostly unsuccessfully, to get the little boy's attention. James tapped his foot, looking bored.

Neville came over to join them.

"Looking forward to starting Hogwarts?" He grinned at Lily.

She bit her lip. "Yeah."

"And how about you boys? Looking forward to going back?"

"Sort of," Albus said.

"Big year for you, James. Exams and all."

James shrugged.

"We're hoping his results are a bit better than this year," their mother put in.

"Yeah, talk about me as if I'm not here, why don't you?"

"JAMES! There's no need to be rude."

"Sorry," he muttered.

Neville smiled. "Oh well, the exams probably aren't the most interesting topic at this time of year. Enjoy the rest of the summer. We'll be putting you through your paces when you come back. All of you, I mean," he added, glancing at Albus and Lily.

"Herbology is really interesting." Albus smiled shyly.

"I'm glad you think so. I've got a few interesting projects in mind for this year. And for your class too, Lily."

She grinned and began asking about the first year curriculum, until their mother finally interrupted.

"I've sorry, Neville, but we really need to be going. We're meeting Hermione in less than two hours and we've quite a bit of shopping to do for Lily first."

"Not at all. We can have another chat before you go home. If you've time, that is."

Lily jumped to her feet. "Can we go to Ollivander's first? Please. Please."

Their mother turned to consult silently with their father. "I don't see why not. Get the longest job out of the way."

"Absolutely," their father agreed. "And after all, it's about the most exciting one too, isn't it?" He winked at his daughter.

Albus was looking forward to this almost as much as Lily was. After all, getting a first wand was a special moment. He didn't think he'd ever forget getting his.

Ollivander didn't appear to have forgotten it either and he greeted Albus enthusiastically when he entered the shop.

"Just give me a moment now. Mahogany and dragon heartstring, wasn't it? A nice wand, if I remember correctly. Rather bendable?"

"Yes, sir."

"And how do you find it? Good for defensive spells, I'd imagine."

"Yes," Albus said thoughtfully. "I suppose it is, really."

"Well, what else would I have expected from the wand that chose Harry Potter's son? Now, the wand that chose your father was rather a special one. Very interesting story there."

"They already know it," Harry interrupted, a little brusquely. "And if you don't mind, I'd rather not dwell on the past right now. Not when my little girl is about to receive her first wand."

"No, no, you're quite right." The old man gave a rather creepy smile. "Hold out your wand arm," he said to Lily.

She obeyed his instructions eagerly and grinned with excitement as he handed her her first wand to test.

She waved it back and forth, but nothing happened.

"No, that's not right. Hmm, how about this one?"

It took a few more tries before a surprised look crossed Lily's face and green and blue sparks shot out of her wand.

"Ooooh." Lily looked amazed, despite having seen similar reactions from Albus's and James's wands when they'd been purchased.

"Ah, willow and unicorn hair, eleven and a half inches. Quite a nice little wand." Ollivander sounded pleased with the result.

"I was hoping for one with unicorn hair." Lily turned to her parents. "Can I carry it myself now? Please."

"Well..." their mother began.

"I'll be carrying it all the time in a couple of weeks," Lily interrupted to remind her.

Her parents exchanged glances.

"I suppose it can't do any harm," their father said finally.

"Just remember to be careful," their mother added. "Wands are powerful magical items, you know. They're not toys."

"I know that." Lily brushed the warning aside.

Their mother gave her a serious look. "No, Lily, I need you to pay attention. You'll be using a wand from now on and you need to start learning how to carry it safely."

"Yes, Mum." Lily calmed down, clearly aware their mother could quite easily take the wand from her.

"Good girl. Now, I suppose Madame Malkin's is our next stop." She turned to her husband. "They all need new robes."

He shrugged. "Oh, we can afford it."

James sighed and Albus turned to catch his eye. Waiting to have your robes fitted was boring.

Only Lily seemed enthusiastic about the idea and after they'd waited twenty minutes for the customers ahead of them to be served and Madame Malkin then spent at least a quarter of a hour measuring Lily and pinning her robes so that they fit her perfectly, even she was beginning to lose interest.

"And James and I still have to be fitted," he whispered to her.

She sighed. "At this rate, we'll never get the rest of my stuff."

Finally, they left the shop and headed for the Apothecary to get Lily's potions ingredients and stock up on some of those Albus and James had run out of.

"Hermione will be waiting for us." Their mother looked at her watch anxiously, as they left the shop. "Knowing her, she'll be early."

"She'll wait a few minutes," their father reassured her. "And we'll be at Flourish and Blotts in a few moments."

"I suppose so. It's just that this job seems to get more and more intense every year. I don't know how my parents managed with seven of us."

"You weren't all at Hogwarts at the same time," James pointed out.

"Well no, but five lots of supplies to organise would still be quite a job. Three is enough work. I can't believe you're all at Hogwarts now." She shook her head almost sadly.

"I know," their father said. "Wasn't it only about two years ago they were fighting over their training brooms?"

"Daad. I'm nearly sixteen, you know."

"Don't remind me!" their father said.

They headed for Flourish and Blotts, where as their mother had predicted, Hermione and Rose were waiting, a pile of books already in Hermione's arms.

"Where's Hugo?" Lily glanced around the shop.

"He didn't want to come," Hermione said, "so Ron's at home with him."

"But we always went back to school shopping with them." She indicated Albus and Rose. "And I wanted to show him my new wand." She was almost pouting.

"Now, Lily," her mother began carefully. "That might be a little insensitive. You know how disappointed he is that he's not starting Hogwarts until next year."

"It's only an extra year."

"Think how you'd feel," her mother said, "if Hugo'd started last year and you'd had to wait."

"I suppose," she agreed reluctantly.

"So be nice to him. You'll miss him when you start Hogwarts, you know."

"Yeah," she admitted, before losing herself in a search for her new textbooks.

Albus and Rose wandered off to find their own books. It was weird to think they'd have some different subjects from one another this year, he thought, as he glanced through the assigned Care of Magical Creatures book.

"I knew Hagrid would choose something interesting!"

Rose glanced at it. "Somehow I doubt this directly addresses the course."

"Why not?" Albus screwed up his face in confusion.

"Um, how to tame an erkling...do you really think the Ministry would want you learning that?"

"I suppose not," he admitted. "It sounds like Muggle Studies might be pretty interesting. Do you think we'll have to write like Muggles do?"

"It looks that way, doesn't it?" she said. "It makes sense really. After all, a lot of people have to work with Muggles, so it makes sense to know how they operate."

"Do you think we'll get to use computers?" He couldn't help grinning. If they did, he'd have a bit of a head start, after the time he'd spent with Derek.

She shook her head. "Muggle electronics don't work at Hogwarts."

"Oh, yeah." He was a little embarrassed he'd forgotten that. "Muggles use them way more than pens and stuff though, so we won't really be learning Muggles live if we don't."

She shrugged. "We'll probably read about them."

"That's not the same." Albus always preferred it when he got to do things. It was hard to remember something you hadn't actually experienced. At least he thought so. Nathan seemed to find that easier.

Their conversation was interrupted, as his mother approached them, carrying a large pile of books.

"I'll take some of those." He hurried towards her.

"Thank you, Albus. At least one of my sons is a gentleman." She glanced rather pointedly at James, who was leaning against a nearby shelf, chatting to a rather good-looking girl, completely ignoring his mother.



"Are we ready to head into Muggle London?" Hermione asked once they'd paid.

"Well..." Their mother bit her lip. "Lily still needs a few bits and pieces."

"Why don't you take her to get those?" their father suggested. "And Hermione and I can get Albus and Rose's stuff."

James tore himself away from the girl he'd been talking to long enough to ask, "and can I head to Weasleys with Marian?"

His parents consulted with one another silently.

"All right," their father said finally, "but just try and be sensible about what you buy. You're a fifth year now, remember. It's time we stopped getting owls about your antics every second week."

"Yeah, 'cause you never got into trouble when you  were my age." He grinned. "Or Mum."

"All right, I take your point." Their father returned the grin. "But things were different back then, you know. We didn't usually get into trouble just for the fun  of it."

"And your father got pretty good O.W.L.S.," Hermione put in. "Surprised himself a little, I think."

"Right. So can I go?"

"Go on," his father said.

The family split up and Albus and Rose accompanied Hermione and Albus's father to Gringott's where they exchanged their money for Muggle notes and coins, before returning to the Leaky Cauldron and heading out into Muggle London.

"Have you been here before?" Albus asked Rose, as he glanced frantically around, trying to memorise all he was seeing.

She nodded. "Once or twice. Don't think I've ever seen anywhere that sold pens or exercise books though."

Hermione turned to smile at them. "There's a stationery shop not far from here. Ah, here it is."

They came to a stop in front of a small shop with a large window and Hermione led them inside.

Albus glanced around. Large piles of books filled the centre of the shop, differing in size, colour and design and mysterious items Albus didn't recognise hung from shelves around the walls. The shop was eerily quiet apart from the staff and customers. None of the items seemed to move or make a sound.

"How will we know what to get?" he asked in a whisper, affected by the unfamiliar silence.

"I do remember what a biro looks like." Hermione laughed. "Here, these should do." She took down two packs of transparent tubes with blue lines running through the centre of them.

"Muggles write with these?" Albus asked.

"They certainly do. Now, why don't you pick out an exercise book and a rubber." She pointed at a large pile of different coloured and shaped objects.

Albus examined them closely, before finally choosing one that resembled some kind of sea animal.

"A dolphin," Hermione told him.

Rose chose one in the shape of a book.

When they had finally found everything they need, Hermione and Albus's father went to the checkout to pay and Albus watched as the assistant waved each item in front of him.

"Six pounds and twenty-five pence please."

It seemed to take his father a little time to find the right coins.

"Well, now," he said, turning back to Albus once he'd paid. "Time to meet up with your mother and sister. We might even have a few moments for Weasleys."

Albus grinned. He might not be as fond of pranks as his brother, but Weasleys was always worth a visit and he loved meeting his uncle.


Chapter 3: At the Warlock's Court Hotel.
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 The following day, an owl arrived for Albus's mother.

"I could have predicted this." She grinned once she'd finished reading it.

"What is it, dear?" Their father folded up the paper he'd been reading.

"Percy," she replied. "He's inviting us all to a meal at the Warlock's Court Hotel on Friday to celebrate Lucy's results. He's hired a room."

James rolled his eyes. "Do we have to go?"

She eyed him sternly. "Yes, James, we have to. You want to congratulate your cousin, don't you?"

"Not particularly," he muttered.

Ignoring him, their father turned to Lily. "It'll give you a chance to catch up with Molly. You'll be attending classes together in a couple of weeks after all. You might even be in the same house."

"Yeah, Hufflepuff." James grinning tauntingly at his sister.

"I won't be in Hufflepuff!" Lily glared at him.

"That's enough." Their father raised a hand. "There's nothing wrong with Hufflepuff. Teddy was there, remember."

"I suppose so," Lily muttered.

"Your mother and I don't care what house you're in, so long as you do your best and enjoy yourselves."

"I'll agree with the last part," James interrupted.

"You could do with placing a little more emphasis on the first part." Their mother gave him another warning look.

"I wonder if Molly's got her wand yet," Lily said. "Mum, can I...?"

"No." Their mother cut her off before she could go any further.

Lily placed her hands on her hips. "You don't even know what I was going to say."

"Yes, I do. You were going to ask if you can bring your wand with you on Friday and the answer is no."

"It's not fair." Lily stamped her foot with annoyance. "Bet if it was James or Albus, you'd let them."

James laughed aloud. "Are you kidding, short stuff? They never let me do anything. You and Al get more freedom than I do and I'm supposed to be the oldest."

"You'll get privileges when you earn them," their mother said, glancing around at all three of her children. "But none of you will be bringing wands with you on Friday and that's an end of it. You can bring wands to family functions when you turn seventeen and not before."

"I wasn't even going to use it," Lily burst out. "I just wanted to show it to people, that's all. You never let me do anything." And she stormed suddenly out of the room.

"She doesn't mean it, Gin." Their father's tone was reassuring. "She's just nervous about starting Hogwarts, that's all."

"I know." Their mother sighed. "I just hate fighting with her when she's leaving in a few weeks."

"I'm going back to school in a few weeks too," James pointed out, as he stretched out on the sofa. "But you don't mind fighting with me."

"That's different," their mother said. "You're just trying to pick a fight. Your sister is upset."

Albus left them to their argument and headed upstairs after his sister.

"You OK?" he asked, knocking on her bedroom door.

"Go away!"

"It's only me," he said. "Albus. Mum and Dad and James are still downstairs."

"I said go away," she repeated.

He paused, unsure whether or not he should do as she asked. Rose wouldn't; he felt certain about that. She'd either wait where she was until Lily came out or, perhaps more likely, just push her way into Lily's room and find out what was wrong. But had he really the right to do that when she'd specifically told him not to?

He sighed. How on earth were you supposed to know when people meant what they said and when they said one thing but really wanted you to do something different? It was a riddle more difficult than any of those posed by the knocker on the door to Ravenclaw tower.

Sighing and feeling like he'd failed at being a supportive big brother, he decided to do as she asked him and headed back downstairs.

"Is she all right?" His mother glanced up at him.

"I don't know. She won't let me talk to her."

She sighed. "Well, just leave her for a bit then. She's bound to be anxious, after all. Remember how you felt when you started Hogwarts."

"Yeah." He bit his lip, trying to think what he could say to reassure her. What would have reassured him two years earlier?

As if aware of the thoughts going through his head, his mother laid her hand on his arm. "Just give her some time. Maybe she just needs to be alone for a while."

Sure enough, she returned downstairs an hour later, the argument apparently forgotten. Perhaps it really had all been a storm in a teacup.



Another argument began on Friday when their mother insisted that James, like everybody else, wear his best dress robes for that evening's gathering.

"I'm not having Percy say I let you dress like a bunch of ragamuffins." She glanced around at James, dressed in dirty jeans, Lily who was wearing shoes with neon laces and too much jewellery, including flashing earrings and Albus who was, once again wearing his favourite t-shirt and trousers.

"Since when did you care what Uncle Percy thought?" James burst out laughing.

"It's not about Percy." Their father entered the room and gave him a stern look. "This is for Lucy, to celebrate her results. And I daresay we'll have to give our congratulations to Louis and Dominique too."

"Who aren't making half as much fuss about their results," James pointed out. "And Dominique's are her N.E.W.T.s." He paused for a moment. "Mum, have you heard how her trial with the Arrows went?"

She shook her head. "No word yet, not publically anyway. She might have been told something on the quiet."

"I hope she gets in." He sounded a good deal more enthusiastic now he was talking about Quidditch.

"Maybe she'll have some news tonight," their mother said.

Albus hoped she would and that it would be good news. He was looking forward to seeing all his cousins, he realised, to hearing about Dominique's try-out and her N.E.W.T. results and Louis and Lucy's results and how Molly felt about starting Hogwarts. The hotel might be a bit stuffy, but he was sure they'd have a good time anyway.



When they reached the hotel, Rose's family, Percy's and his grandparents were already in attendance.

"So glad you could make it," Percy said. "Charlie couldn't make it, I believe." He pursed his lips a little disapprovingly. "But everybody else is coming, I'm pleased to say. After all, we had to do something to celebrate. Ten Os is quite an achievement, don't you think?"

Lucy shifted awkwardly and Albus couldn't help feeling she found her father's boasts embarrassing.

"Yes indeed," Albus's father agreed. "Well done, Lucy. I'd never have managed a result like that."

"It was more of a relief than anything," she said.

"Nonsense." Her father cut her off. "Everybody knew you could do it. You take after me. I always said that."

"And I suppose I get no credit." Audrey was smiling as she spoke.

"Well, perhaps she takes after both of us.

Rose turned to Lucy.

"How difficult are the O.W.L.S?"

"To be honest, they weren't as bad as I'd been fearing, but it is as well to start studying as soon as possible. Three years seems like a long time, but the longer you let things go, the harder fifth year will be."

James yawned audibly, but before he could say anything, the door opened and Bill entered the room, followed by Fleur, Victoire, Dominique and Louis.

"Well done, Lucy." Bill reached out to give her a hug. "What was it? Ten Os?"

"Yeah."

"Fantastic result, wasn't it?" Percy slipped an arm around his daughter's shoulder. "How did Louis do, by the way? You never said."

"One E and three As." Fleur's tone was slightly brittle.

"Oh, what a pity. And Bill did so well in his own exams."

Louis shrugged. "You don't need O.W.L.s. to succeed in life, Uncle Percy. Look at Uncle George. He got even less than I did and he's coining it now. And it's not like the Arrows cared how many O.W.L.s Dominique got."

"They offered you a place on the team?" James grinned at Dominique in delight. "I knew they would. You're a fantastic player."

"Well, nothing's official yet." She bit her lip. "I'm reluctant to start counting my dragons before they've hatched. But they did seem pretty encouraging."

"They went through the whole training schedule with her afterwards," Fleur said. "I doubt they'd do that if they weren't planning on offering her a place. What do you think, Ginny?"

Albus's mother paused, clearly reluctant to commit herself. "It does sound promising. Did they say when they'd let you know?"

"Early next week," Dominique replied. "I'm pretty nervous, to be honest."

"Try not to worry too much," Albus's mother advised her. "From what you've said, it sounds like you've an excellent chance and even if it doesn't work out, there  will be plenty of other opportunities. The fact they were encouraging is a really good sign. It means even if they can't find a place for you, somebody else will. And..." She paused for a moment before continuing. "There are other careers to be had in Quidditch too, as well as playing. Look at me and what I'm doing. So I'd be wary about taking it for granted you won't need O.W.L.s." She turned to Louis and gave him a stern glance. "You never quite know the turns your life might take. I certainly never thought I'd end up as a journalist. Having seen Skeeter's treatment of Harry, I was pretty anti-journalist in my teenage years."

"Oh, we got the better of her in the end." Albus's father grinned. "Or rather Hermione did."

"Temporarily."  Hermione sighed. "Look at all the trouble she caused again last year.

Albus couldn't help noticing Victoire wasn't contributing much to the conversation. She'd hardly even congratulated Lucy.

Maybe she was considering Dominique's chances of making the Arrows team. He certainly would be if it were James or Lily.

"Are you planning to play professionally yourself some day?" he heard Dominique ask James, who shrugged.

"Maybe. I haven't really given that much thought to what I'll do when I leave school. It's years away still."

"Wait another couple of months," Lucy said, grinning, "and you'll have half the staff waiting to hear your decisions. Adulthood is coming closer than we think."

"Well, we're not all as organised as you, you know." James sounded huffy.

"James!" His mother glared at him. "Lucy was just making conversation. Have some manners."

He shrugged.

"Sorry," Lucy said. "And I'm not as organised as you seem to think. I've really no idea what I want to do either, although the teachers have been really pushing me for a decision."

"You should really think about coming into the Ministry with me," Percy said pompously. "Keep up your current grades and you should have no problem."

His lecture was interrupted as George and his family burst noisily into the room.

"Sorry we're late," George said. "I just couldn't stand the thought of listening to Percy pontificate for any longer than necessary."

Albus stifled a giggle and James, Louis, Lily and Hugo didn't even bother trying to hide their laughter.

"George!" Angelina slapped his arm. "The children are listening."

"Oh, I'm sure they'll soon figure out what he's like. If they haven't already. My kids are smart, you know. Even if they don't get seven hundred Os or whatever it is."

"We're all very proud of Lucy." Grandpa Weasley interrupted before George and Percy could start a real argument. "And of Dominique and Louis too, of course."

"Well, they certainly all did better than I did." George grinned.

"That's just what I was saying," Louis said. "And it didn't do you any harm, did it? You've got a thriving business."

"Quite right," George said. "Put it there, son." He raised his hand to high-five his nephew. "Much overrated, these exams are."

"Oh, don't encourage him, George." Bill sighed. "It's not that I'm expecting straight Os or anything. Percy, Hermione and Lucy have filled the family's quota for geniuses."

"Don't be so modest, dear." Grandma Weasley interrupted him. "You got twelve Os yourself, I seem to remember."

"And Rose looks set to follow in her mother's footsteps." Albus's mother grinned.

"All right. We're a family of overachievers," Bill said. "Especially if we add in Ginny's Quidditch career and Dominique's chances, along with George's business acumen and Harry having saved the entire country from the most dangerous Dark Wizard in who knows how long. I'm just saying that while exams aren't everything and our kids have many other talents as well as their exam grades, it's still worthwhile doing your best."

"Hear that, James." His mother gave him a significant look.

He rolled his eyes.

"I think we'd better sit down." Audrey gave a tight smile. "They seem to be getting ready to serve."

They had just begun their starters when Victoire finally broached what was on her mind.

"As everybody's been discussing their plans for the future...," she began, crumbling a breadstick in her hands.

"Have you finally decided on a career?" Percy asked eagerly. "Those hours in Gringotts are hardly a long-term option, are they? It doesn't seem like you've been getting that many recently."

"Well, she got a fair bit of work over the summer," Bill said, "but now the tourist season is over, things will probably quieten down again, so if you're thinking of something else..." He glanced at his daughter questioningly.

She looked slightly embarrassed, Albus thought, probably regretting she'd raised the topic in front of the whole family like this.

"Well, I was sort of thinking of spending a few months abroad," she said tentatively. "Maybe travelling a little. After all, if I want to work in wizarding tourism, it would be good to familiarise myself with some of the more popular destinations. And living in a country really is the best way of improving your language skills."

"I think that's a marvellous idea." Fleur clapped her hands approvingly. "I remember my first trip to England as a teenager. It was such an experience and I was pretty much confined to Hogwarts. You'll have so much freedom. You will love it."

"Thanks Mum."

"Travelling's all very well." There was a disapproving note in Percy's tone. "But it's really time you started thinking about making a permanent career for yourself. It's never too soon, you know. I was younger than you are now when I started work at the Ministry."

"For a boss who couldn't even remember your name, if I remember correctly," George put in. "Now, what was it he called you again? Ah yes, Weatherby, wasn't it?"

"Never mind that." Percy sounded irritated. "My point is..."

"I think it's quite a good idea actually." Bill smiled at his daughter. "You'll learn a lot and have fun at the same time. Times have changed since we were young, Percy. The risk of war is over. Young people don't have to get a lifetime's experience into their youth anymore. So long as they get a few qualifications first, I don't see any harm in their having some fun  before settling down. I certainly enjoyed my years in Egypt."

"That was completely different. You had a good career as a cursebreaker."

"It wasn't exactly what Mum would have chosen for me though." Bill smiled across the table at Grandma Weasley.

The banter continued, but Albus couldn't help noticing Lily and Molly remained quiet, perhaps realising just how soon they would be leaving their families for months on end.


Chapter 4: Returning to School.
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Disclaimer: Everything you recognise belongs to J.K. Rowling. No copyright infringement is intended.

Apologises for the delay in posting this chapter. I really have no excuse, other than laziness and having been focussed on editing an original story Leonore and I are collaborating on.



The closer the first of September came, the more Lily's moods seemed to fluctuate. At times, she seemed excited, pumping Albus for information about Hogwarts or pleading with her parents to be allowed to just try one spell, until her mother threatened to confiscate her wand if she couldn't be trusted not to use it until the appropriate time.

At other times, however, she seemed anxious or moody, arguing with James when he teased her about her future house or how strict the teachers were or slamming upstairs to her bedroom over a missaid word.

Unlike Albus, James seemed to find this hilarious and his teasing continued to escalate until one particular comment almost reduced her to tears and their mother threatened him with the loss of his broom if he didn't cut it out.

"I was only teasing her," he insisted, rolling his eyes with exasperation. "Merlin, you can't even speak around here."

"I would have hoped you might be able to say something constructive once in a while instead of continually delighting in tormenting your siblings. Albus manages to avoid reducing Lily to tears every time she asks about Hogwarts."

"Well, we all know Albus is the good boy."

Albus got up to leave the room. He hated getting dragged into these conversations and he was never quite sure if James really resented being compared with him like that or if it was just one more way he liked to wind everybody up. Neither idea was particularly pleasant, but he thought he preferred the latter. At least that meant James didn't hate him.



And yet, despite the occasional rows and Lily's increasingly frequent tantrums, Albus was sorry to see the holidays drawing closer and closer to a close. Even with Lily now returning to Hogwarts with him, he knew that he would miss his parents. And of course how much he saw of Lily would greatly depend on the house she was sorted into. He barely spoke to James from one end of a term to the other, after all.

He wondered if there was any chance she might join him in Ravenclaw. He wondered how she'd feel about it if she did. He knew she'd always wanted to be in Gryffindor, but then, wasn't that what he'd wanted to? But now, after two years at Hogwarts, he had to admit he was glad of where he'd been sorted. He really didn't think he'd have made a very good Gryffindor or that he'd have made the friends he did in Ravenclaw.

More than once, he considered telling Lily that, but each time he hesitated, not wanting her to think he was suggesting she wouldn't be placed in the house she hoped for. And he wasn't entirely sure it was the sorting that was worrying her anyway. It could just as easily be the thought of leaving home for the first time or whether she'd manage to make friends or the thought of living up to their parents' legacy. It could even be the separation from Hugo.

He sighed and tried to concentrate on packing his things for the return to school. His mother would not be pleased if he left it until the last minute.

James, on the other hand, seemed completely unconcerned by this, leaving most of his packing until the night before the day of their return. Then, as the family were finally piling the trunks into the back of their father's car, he disappeared again.

"JAMES!" their mother called. "Honestly, he was here just a moment ago. Albus, will you go and look for him. LILY! Where are you going?"

"I left Penelope Purple in my room. I can't leave her behind." She sounded ready to argue.

"Oh, for Merlin's sake."

Albus left them to their argument and hurried upstairs to find his brother. Knocking on his brother's bedroom door, however, he received no reply.

"James, come on, we're going to be late."

He was beginning to get worried himself now. What would they do if they missed the train?

He tapped on the door again, but on getting no reply, decided to leave it. Maybe James wasn't there after all. Maybe he was even outside by the car by now and they were all just waiting for Albus.

But as he passed their parents' room, James emerged, stuffing something hastily into his pocket and grinning triumphantly.

"What are you doing?" Worry about missing the train made Albus sharper than he'd usually risk being.

"Wouldn't you like to know, little bro. Wouldn't you like to know."

"Mum's getting really worried."

"Ah, don't mind her." James waved a hand dismissively. "We've got loads of time. I'm telling you. This is my fifth time returning to school after all. Ah, there's Lily."

She hurried to join them, her pymgy puff's cage in her hands.

"Now are you all finally ready to leave?" Their mother glanced around at them as they got into the car. "You haven't forgotten anything else."

"Relax." Their father placed his hand on hers. "We'll make it."

Albus wracked his brain hastily. His mother would be raging if he thought of anything now, but it was his last chance to retrieve anything he'd forgotten.

He was still trying to think as his father backed the car out of their driveway.

Lily was almost bouncing up and down on her seat.

"I can't believe I'm finally going!"

"Nor can I." Their father sighed. "The house will be so quiet with all of you away.

"Yeah, right," James scoffed. "You and Mum were probably just waiting to get rid of us so you could start throwing mad parties with drugs and strippers."

"JAMES SIRIUS POTTER." Their mother turned around in her seat to stare at him. "What on earth do you know about strippers."

"Muum, I am nearly sixteen, you know."

"Not until February," Lily pointed out.

Now they were finally on their way, the atmosphere in the car was relaxed and they continued to tease and joke as they headed for King's Cross Station.

Remember how nervous he'd been two years earlier and mindful of Lily's recent mood swings, Albus half-expected her to turn shy and anxious once they entered the station, perhaps hanging back to corner one or other of her parents for a few final words, but instead she approached the barrier purposefully, reaching it even before James did.

Their mother hurried to catch up with her.

"Wait a moment," she hissed. "You need to be sure nobody's watching."

"Nobody'll see me," Lily said. "The place is too crowded."

"You don't know that." Their mother glanced around. "OK, now."

They slipped through the barrier and Rose hurried to meet them.

"I was beginning to think you wouldn't make it."

"So was Mum." Albus grinned. "To be honest, I was beginning to worry myself."

"James?"

"Well, sort of." He screwed up his face. "But Lily delayed us a bit too. She nearly forgot Penelope Purple."

"At least it's her first year."

"I'd better say goodbye to Mum and Dad," he realised. "The train will be leaving any minute."

And then he'd have to find Lily, he thought, glancing around. Oh, good, she was saying goodbye to their mother.

"Bye Mum. Bye Dad." He gave them both a final hug. "I'll miss you."

"We'll miss you too." His father slipped a few coins into his hand. "I haven't forgotten you've your first Hogsmeade trips this year. Now, go on, have a great year and work hard. I know you'll make us really proud of you."

"ALBUS!" Rose called to him. "The train will be leaving in a minute."

"I'M COMING. Come on, Lily. Rose and I will find us a compartment."

"I'm not sitting with you."

Despite the shortage of time, Albus ground to a stop and stared at her.

"Why not?"

He would have loved to have  sit with James on his first journey to Hogwarts, but James had made it abundantly clear that was not going to happen.

"Well, I'd look a right idiot sitting with my brother and cousin, wouldn't I?" Lily said now. "Anyway, Molly's starting this year too. I can sit with her or some of my other new classmates."

She hurried towards the train, leaving Albus staring in her wake.

"Come on, Albus," Rose said again.

"I'm coming."

"She knows where to find you," she said, as they boarded the train and began the search for a compartment.

"No, she doesn't," he said. Right now, even he didn't know where they were going to sit. The entire train seemed to be full.

"You know what I mean." She brushed the consideration aside. "She knows you're on the train. She can find you if she really needs to. Ah, this looks quiet."

They entered the empty compartment and sat down, just as the train prepared to leave.

"We could go and find Rasmus and Angie. Or Derek," Rose said. "But we don't really want to lose our seats here."

"It's fine," he said. "Unless you really want to move?"

He didn't, if he were honest about it. He'd rather be alone with Rose in case Lily came looking for them.

But to his surprise, when the door of their compartment opened sometime later, it wasn't Lily who entered, but James.

"Hey, little bro." James was grinning furiously, so this clearly wasn't an accident.

"Hey," he said warily. James never sought him out voluntarily.

"Bet you wonder what I was doing in Mum and Dad's room!"

"Not really," Albus said. "I'm practically forgotten about it."

James looked aggrieved and Rose laughed.

"Well, if you actually thought about the significant things now and again," James said. "What does Dad keep in his room?"

"Erm, his clothes?"

He was pretty sure that wasn't the answer James wanted, but there were so many things. How was he supposed to know what James was referring to?

"Nooo. Think about it. Something that would come in very, very handy at Hogwarts."

"I don't know." And the reality was that he didn't really care. He was far more concerned as to how Lily was doing. At least he'd had Rose with him on his first journey. OK, she had Molly, but that wasn't the same. They weren't that close. If only Hugo were a few months older.

James seemed a little irritated that he wasn't more curious.

"What would you say if I told you I'd obtained...this?" With a flourish, he pulled out a piece of parchment.

Albus stared at it. "You stole Dad's Marauder's Map?"

"I wouldn't say stole exactly. Anyway, it's not much use to him now, is it? Not unless he's planning to start spying on us."

"In your case, that might not be such a bad idea," Rose put in acidly.

Albus shifted awkwardly. "It's just...well, if he wanted us to have it, he'd have given it to us."

James laughed aloud. "You worry too much, little bro. I don't suppose he really wants me to have it, but what he doesn't know isn't going to worry him, now is it?"

"He's an Auror," Rose pointed out. "I think he'll figure it out!"

"He probably doesn't even remember where he put it. Honestly, Rose, why would Dad be looking for the Marauder's Map? It's not much use outside Hogwarts."

Rose rolled her eyes.

"Anyway," James said shrugging, "I've wasted enough time on you pair of squirts. Things to do, people to see."

He sauntered out of the compartment.

"Good riddance," Rose muttered. "I know he's your brother, but he is such an idiot sometimes."

Albus bit his lip. "I wonder if he's seen Lily."

It wasn't that he thought James would worry about her like he did, but if he was determined to show off his ingenuity in stealing the map, it wasn't impossible, was it?

"She'll be fine."

He sighed. He really hoped so.



Lily remained in his mind for the rest of the journey and as soon as they disembarked at Hogsmeade station, he glanced around furiously, trying to catch sight of her. He wanted to know she wasn't alone or scared; he wanted to know she was all right.

"FIRS' YEARS," he heard Hagrid calling. "Firs' years, this way, please."

To Albus's relief, Lily was heading towards him, surrounded by a large crowd of other small eleven year olds. It was hard to tell from a distance, but it looked rather as if she was in conversation with some of them.

He moved a little closer.

"ALBUS!" Rose hurried after him. "Come on. We need to board the coaches."

"I just want to see she's all right," he muttered. "And I haven't seen Molly at all yet."

"They'll be fine," she said. "Lucy isn't running after Molly, is she?"

"I suppose not."

"You'll see them both at the sorting," Rose reassured him as they headed back towards the coaches.

"Yeah, but I won't get to talk to them, will I? Unless they get into Ravenclaw..."

It didn't seem such an unlikely placement for Molly, now that he thought of it. Her sister was there, after all. And maybe it was possible for Lily too, though it really didn't seem the most likely. Perhaps that was only because she'd talked for so long about wanting to be a Gryffindor though.

"Come and join us," Derek called as they reached the coaches and Albus and Rose piled into a coach with Rasmus, Angie, Nathan and Derek.

"We were looking for you on the train," Rasmus said as it set off.

"Sorry," Albus said. "That was my fault. We were late. And...well, I thought we'd have Lily with us."

"Is she looking forward to starting Hogwarts?" Angie asked.

"I think so," he said. "Most of the time anyway."

"Hugo is so annoyed he has to wait another year," Rose said.

"Oh yeah, your brother will be starting next year, won't he?" Angie said.

Albus tuned out. Once everybody reached the school the sorting would begin and he was feeling almost as anxious as he had two years earlier when it had been his turn. He really, really wanted his sister's time at Hogwarts to be happy.

They reached the school and entered the Great Hall, where the three-legged stool had already been placed at the front of the room.

Albus crossed his fingers as they sat down at the Ravenclaw table to wait for the Sorting to begin.

"Amundsen, Gerard," Flitwick called out, once the first years had lined up to await their turns.

A scowling dark haired boy sat down and had barely placed the hat on his head when it shouted out "SLYTHERIN."

His new housemates cheered as he rose to join them.

"Baker, Polly."

"HUFFLEPUFF."

"Barrett, Colm."

This time the pause was a longer one.

"GRYFFINDOR."

"Belcher, Lucinda."

"SLYTHERIN."

Albus tried to catch his sister's eye, wanting to smile at her reassuringly, but her eyes were focussed on the stool and what was taking place in front of her. It didn't surprise him. Waiting to be placed in the house that would form such a huge part of your life for the next seven years was a daunting process.

Slowly, Flitwick moved through the alphabet, eventually reaching the Ps.

"Patil, Raya."

"RAVENCLAW."

His housemates rose to greet her, but Albus's mind was elsewhere. Watching his sister approach the stool, he tried to judge her level of anxiety. His own heart was in his mouth.

"Potter, Lily."

There was a moment's  silence, but only a moment's.

"GRYFFINDOR."

The Gryffindor table erupted in cheers and Lily smiled nervously as she headed towards it. James and Louis both rose to greet her, with James slapping her on the back a little more enthusiastically than might have been necessary.

Albus joined in the clapping, but half-heartedly. He was pleased for her, of course. It was just that he'd see so much more of her if she'd been sorted into Ravenclaw.

Rose raised her eyebrows.

"You OK?" she asked as the cheering died down.

He nodded. This was, after all, what she'd always wanted.

He turned his attention back to the Sorting. Molly's turn was still to come, after all, and even if they weren't particularly close, she was still his cousin.

With half his mind still wondering how Lily was settling in, the calling of her name caught him unawares.

"Weasley, Molly."

He snapped out of his thoughts and watched as she sat down and placed the sorting hat on her head.

"HUFFLEPUFF," it called out immediately.

Molly screwed up her face and for a moment, it looked as if she might cry.

As the moments passed and she still made no attempt to rise from the seat, Flitwick came forward and bent his head to speak with her. Her lips still clamped tightly together, she nodded slowly, then handed him the hat and got up to head towards the Hufflepuff table where she was greeted with what seemed to Albus like rather less enthusiasm than usual.

He turned to Rose.

"She was almost crying!"

"I know." She nodded. "But really, there's nothing at all wrong with Hufflepuff."

"I know that."

But it obviously hadn't been the house Molly had been hoping for. Albus sighed. For the first time since he'd started Hogwarts, he wished he could just skip the feast. He wanted to go to Lily and ask  about her first impressions of Hogwarts or to Molly to try and comfort her. He could tell her how he'd felt when he'd been sorted into Ravenclaw. He could tell her about the doubts he'd had and how silly they now seemed.

But even if he could have, he really doubted that he would. He wouldn't know what to say. Rose would be better. Or Lucy.

He glanced across to meet Lucy's eyes. After all, she'd surely know how her little sister might be feeling. It was hard to tell just from looking at her, but he had the impression she was as worried as he was.

At the staff table, McGonagall cleared her throat and Albus turned to face her. There was something about McGonagall that commanded your attention no matter what else you might have on your mind.

"I'll keep this short," she began, "but I do have a few announcements to make before you begin eating. Firstly, Mr. Filch wants me to remind you that the list of banned items can be found in his office. I recommend that all first years acquaint yourselves with this. And some older students might do well to re-examine it as well." She glanced around the room, her eyes seeming to seek those regularly found in breach of such rules. "I also want to remind you that the Forbidden Forest and the Whomping Willow are strictly out of bounds to all students and that students must remain on the school grounds at all times, except on Hogsmeade weekends, when students in third year or above with permission from their parents may visit the village.

"And finally, I want to welcome our new Potions teacher,  Professor Summerhayes."

There was a smattering of applause and Albus glanced up at the one new face at the staff table. She was a plump, middle-aged woman with blonde hair, who in many ways seemed to Albus as almost resembling a younger, female version of Slughorn. Whether this was a good or a bad thing, he wasn't sure.

"Now, let the feasting begin," McGonagall said and a delicious assortment of foods appeared on the tables.

Albus, however, barely tasted any of it. His mind was still fixed on his younger sister and cousin.


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