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    Albus Severus Potter awoke to a high pitched shriek.  He sat up quickly in bed and listened.  It was coming from downstairs and sounded exactly like his little sister, Lily.  He groaned and got out of bed.  It would be pointless for him to try and go back to sleep. 

    Lily had been impossible to deal with ever since Albus returned home from Hogwarts.  She was incredibly excited about the fact that she was going to go to Hogwarts in the fall. Therefore, Lily had been constantly asking Albus about Hogwarts and the questions were usually ones Albus did not know the answer to or did not want to answer. 

    Albus quickly changed his clothes and ran downstairs.  It was a mystery as to what Lily was shrieking about now.  His mum probably told her some new piece of information about Hogwarts.

    "Al!"  Lily shoved a piece of parchment in Albus's face,  "It came!  It came!  My Hogwarts letter came!"

    So that was what the shrieking was about, Albus thought.  Lily had been waiting for that letter all summer.  Every morning she'd watch the window waiting for the post owl to arrive.

    "Congratulations, Lily,"  Albus grinned at her and continued his walk down to the kitchen.  Lily ran ahead of him and was literally dancing around the room by the time Albus arrived.

    "Lily!"  James shouted,  "One does not shriek and dance like a lunatic when one receives their Hogwarts letter."

    "Oh, really, James?"  Ginny smirked at him,  "Weren't you the one to stand on top of the table and do some sort of dance?"

    James blushed.  "Er, no."

    "Oh, don't be ashamed, James,"  Albus grinned as he sat down next to his brother,  "At least you didn't shriek like a girl."

    "Yeah, that was you,"  James laughed.

    "I did not!"  Albus shouted,  "I acted perfectly normal!"

    "Normal for a girl,"  James replied.

    "Stop it, James,"  Ginny scolded as she set a bowl of oatmeal and a few envelopes in front of Albus,  "You got some post as well, Al."

    Albus picked up the pile of letters and opened the top one.  It was the usual book list as well as his Hogsmeade permission slip.  "Here, Mum,"  he handed her the slip,  "You'll have to sign that."

    Ginny took the parchment.  "I can't believe you're a third year, Al.  You're growing up so fast."

    "Mum!"  Albus groaned. 

    "I can't believe it either,"  James sighed,  "Ickle Al is getting so big!"

    "James!"  Albus smacked him.

    "Mum, Al hit me!"  James shouted.

    "Behave yourselves, boys,"  Ginny said without looking at them.

    Albus opened the other envelope.  It was from Matt. 

Dear Albus,

My parents said you could come visit
on the 16th for a few days.  They're
going to take us to Diagon Alley too.
Let me know if you can come!

Your friend,
Matt


    "Mum!"  Albus shouted,  "Can I go to Matt's house on the 16th?"

    Ginny read the letter over Albus's shoulder.  "Sure.  We'll meet you in Diagon Alley and get James and Lily's stuff then."

    Albus grinned.  He was very excited about going to Matt's house.  He had never been there.  He hoped that John and Kaden would be able to go as well.  They hadn't seen each other in about a month, when Albus and Rose had had their birthday party. 

    "Thanks, Mum."

    "Mum!"  Lily whined,  "I wanted to go to Diagon Alley today!"

    "Sorry, Lily,"  Ginny replied,  "I'd rather get everyone's supplies at once."

    "I don't want to wait!"

    "Lily, you have to wait,"  Ginny sighed.

    Albus turned to James and they smirked at each other.  Lily still hadn't grown out of her whiny phase.  It got rather annoying.  Albus hoped that she wouldn't be like that at Hogwarts.

                        ******

    The next few days passed very slowly.  Albus was anxious to get away from Lily.  She asked him no less than fifty times how the sorting was done and Albus replied with fifty 'I can't tell yous'. 

    Eventually the sixteenth arrived and Albus sat in the drawing room waiting for Matt and his parents to show up.  Kaden was with him.  He had arrived a few hours earlier and they had spent their time trying to stay away from Lily.

    "You know, Kaden, you were as irritating as Lily a year ago,"  Albus pointed out.

    "Was not,"  Kaden replied,  "And I've matured."

    "Yeah, sure,"  Albus rolled his eyes.

    The two boys looked up when they heard a loud crack.  Matt's entire family had Apparated into the drawing room.  Ginny walked into the room and greeted Matt's parents.

    "Matt!"  Albus grinned,  "I am so glad to see you.  I can't wait to get away from Lily."

    "Oh, Al, be nice,"  Ginny sighed.

    "What?  She's irritating,"  Albus shrugged,  "Bye, Mum."

    "Goodbye, Al, I'll see you in a few days,"  she gave Albus a hug.

    "All right,"  Mr. Eckerton said,  "Albus, you can Apparate with Amy.  Kaden, you can Apparate with my wife."

    Albus nodded and stepped over to Amy.  She wrapped him in a hug and the two of them disappeared with a crack.

    They reappeared in the middle of a large field.  There was a log house in the distance.

    "This doesn't look like a house,"  Kaden announced as he stepped away from Matt's mum.

    "It's not,"  Matt said as he pointed to the log house,  "That's my house."

    "Oh,"  Kaden replied as they started towards the house,  "Why didn't we just Apparate into it?"

    "My parents put anti-Apparition wards on the house,"  Matt explained.

    "Why?"  Kaden asked.

    "I don't want to get into it,"  Matt muttered.

    Kaden groaned.  "I thought you were done keeping secrets from me."

    "There are some things I don't tell anyone, Kaden,"  Matt sighed.   

    Albus smirked and shook his head.  Some things never change.  Kaden still didn't know how to keep his mouth shut. 

    Matt's house was the only one in the area.  Albus couldn't see any other buildings besides a shed behind the house.  There were fields surrounding the house and a low fence surrounding the property.  Beyond the fence was farmland. 

    Matt's dad unlocked the door and Albus followed him inside.  He stopped in the entryway and looked around.  The place was about as different as a house could be from Grimmauld Place.  It was open and airy and decorated in a modern yet rustic way.  From the doorway, Albus could see the kitchen straight ahead, the dining room next to it, and the living room next to the door.  On the other side of the door was a set of stairs leading upstairs.  Albus continued walking into the living room and saw a corridor next to the kitchen that lead to a few more rooms.  Albus liked it instantly.  It had a homey feel to it like the Burrow did.  Except it was much cleaner.  Matt had said his mum was kind of a neat freak, but Albus wasn't expecting it to be this neat.

    "Great house, Matt,"  Albus grinned.

    "Yeah,"  Kaden agreed,  "But it's too neat.  We're going to have to change that."

    "My mum likes it neat,"  Matt said,  "She'll make you clean up whatever you mess up."

    "I'll go get John now,"  Mr. Eckerton announced,  "You can come, Matt.  I'll be able to Apparate both of you."

    "Ok.  I'll be right back, Albus,"  Matt said and left the house with his dad.

    "You can just wait in the living room,"  Mrs. Eckerton gestured for Albus and Kaden to turn to their left.

    Albus nodded and sat down on one of the couches.  It was quite comfortable.  Kaden sat down next to him and put his feet up on the coffee table, earning a stern gaze from Mrs. Eckerton.  Kaden sheepishly removed his feet from the table.

    Amy sat down on a chair and pulled a book off the table.  She opened it and began reading.  It was some sort of potions book.
   
    Kaden tilted his head and read the title.  "Do you like potions?"  he asked.

    "Yeah,"  Amy replied,  "I'm studying to be a Healer."

    "That's great!"  Kaden exclaimed,  "I like potions too.  Albus thinks I'm insane.  Well, so do Matt and John."

    "There aren't many people who appreciate brewing,"  Amy replied,  "But I'm glad you like it."

    "Me, too,"  Kaden said.

    Amy set her book down.  "So, Albus, how has your summer been?"

    "Good,"  Albus said,  "Well, Lily is driving me mad because she got her Hogwarts letter the other day."

    "I still remember when I got my letter to the Australian School of Sorcery-"

    "The what?"  Kaden asked.

    "The Australian School of Sorcery,"  Amy repeated,  "The school of magic in Australia.  I went there for three years.  Then we moved here."

    "You lived in Australia?"  Kaden gaped.

    "Er, yeah,"  Amy looked at him strangely,  "You didn't know that?"

    "Nope.  Matt never told me,"  Kaden turned to Albus,  "Did he tell you?"

    "Yeah, my first year,"  Albus replied,  "I never really noticed that he didn't tell you."

    "Well, he didn't,"  Kaden muttered,  "But it would explain the funny accent he's got."

    Albus stifled his laughter.  "Er, yeah."

    The three of them sat quietly for another few minutes.  Kaden began to laugh and it became louder and louder until Albus turned to look at him.
   
    "What?"  Albus asked.

    "The Australian School of Sorcery,"  Kaden laughed,  "A, S, S.  Ass!"

    Albus groaned.  Leave it to Kaden to figure that out.

    Amy laughed.  "You know, that's what Teddy said when he first heard about it."

    The front door opened and Matt and John ran inside followed by Mr. Eckerton.  John paused in the entryway and looked around.

    "Whoa,"  he grinned,  "This house is bloody brilliant!"

    "Thanks,"  Matt said and the two of them entered the living room.  "What are you three laughing at?"

    "My old school,"  Amy smirked,  "Kaden figured out its acronym."

    "Oh, ASS,"  Matt laughed,  "Yeah, I laughed about that for days when I figured it out."

    "Well, I've got to get to work,"  Amy stood up,  "I'll try and stop by for dinner sometime this week."

    "Bye, Amy,"  Mr. Eckerton gave her a hug.

    "Bye, Dad."

    "So, I'll show you the upstairs,"  Matt said after Amy left.

    Albus grabbed his bag and followed Matt upstairs.  John and Kaden thundered behind them.  Once they reached the top, Matt led them to the door on the left along the back wall. 

    "This is my room,"  Matt announced as they entered.

    Albus stepped inside and looked around.  The carpet was blue and the walls were white.  It was messier than the rest of the house, but nowhere near as messy as James's room.  There was a Chudley Cannons bedspread on the bed and multiple posters on the wall.

    "Nice bed,"  John smirked,  "Nice to see the Cannons can still sell merchandise.  If only they devoted that effort to their playing...."

    "Shut it, John,"  Matt replied,  "The Cannons have been playing better this season."

    "Oh, yeah, they did get three goals in their game against Puddlemere,"  John said,  "Too bad Puddlemere had a hundred times that many goals."

    Matt groaned.  "Come on, I'll show you the other rooms."

    Albus followed Matt out of the room and down the corridor.  The next door was a bathroom and the one after that was Amy's room.  The last door was alongside a different wall and Matt gestured for them to step inside.

    "This is the library,"  Matt announced,  "We'll be sleeping here."

    "Sounds like Rose's dream come true,"  John laughed.

    The library was twice the size of Matt's room.  Bookshelves covered all the walls and there were a few desks sitting in the middle of the room.  A squashy looking couch was sitting below one of the windows and there were a few armchairs in various places.  There were also four cots in the middle, but Albus doubted they were normally there.

    Albus tossed his bag down on a cot as John and Kaden did the same.  Kaden started wandering around the room and looking at the various books.

    "I don't think I've ever been in a house with this many books,"  Kaden said.

    "There's even more in Dad's study."

    "You should see Rose's house,"  Albus commented.

    "You've got a lot of books about magical creatures,"  Kaden pointed out.

    "Yeah, well, that's what Dad's into."

    "Especially werewolves,"  Kaden went on,  "There's a whole row of them."

    "Yeah, you can probably guess why,"  Matt mumbled.

    "So,"  Albus changed the subject,  "How was your trip to New York?"

    The discomfort that had been on Matt's face moments before disappeared.  "It was brilliant!  We had so much fun."

    "And how was the airplane?"  John asked eagerly.

    Matt laughed.  "Just like every other one I've been on."

    "Anything else new with anyone?"  Albus asked.

    "Bethany thinks she's a witch,"  Kaden announced,  "She found a stick outside and has been pretending to cast spells."

    "Bet your grandpa loved that,"  Albus laughed.

    "He turned a lovely shade of purple,"  Kaden laughed.

    "I'd pay to see that,"  John replied.

    Albus and Kaden laughed.  "I wouldn't suggest being anywhere near my Uncle Vernon when he turns purple,"  Albus put in.

    "Did I tell you that my dad's getting a promotion?"  Matt asked.

    Albus turned to him.  "Nope.  What kind of promotion?"

    "The head of the Department of the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures is retiring at the end of the year,"  Matt explained,  "And he's recommending my dad for the position.  It's not final, but it'll most likely happen."

    "That old bloke is finally retiring?"  Albus asked,  "He's been there for decades."

    "Yeah.  Dad wasn't sure he wanted the promotion, but after thinking about it, he decided to take it if it's offered to him,"  Matt continued.

    "Why wouldn't he want it?"  John asked.

    "Well, that's what he did in Australia.  And he hated it towards the end.  But he thinks it'll be better up here."

    "From what you've told us, everything is better up here,"  Albus said.

    "What does your dad do now?"  Kaden asked.

    "He works in Werewolf Support Services."

    Kaden nodded.  "You know, that is kind of funny, considering...."

    Matt rolled his eyes.  "Yeah, I know.  The general public didn't really think it was that funny when we were living in Australia."

    "And that's why you moved?"  Kaden asked.

    "Pretty much, yeah,"  Matt said quietly,  "But I like Hogwarts, so I don't really care that we had to move."

    "How about you, Albus?"  John asked,  "Anything exciting happening in the most famous wizarding family?"

    Albus rolled his eyes.  If anyone besides his friends referred to his family that way, he probably would have hexed them. 

    "Actually,"  Albus began, surprised that he had momentarily forgotten about it,  "I do have some interesting news about the Hogwarts staff."

    "What is it?"  John asked eagerly,  "Is Slughorn finally retiring for good?"

    "No,"  Albus laughed,  "I don't think that will ever happen."
   
    "Then what is it?"  Matt asked.

    "My dad's not teaching Defense this year,"  Albus answered.  Harry had broken the news to Albus, James, and Lily a few weeks ago.  Albus was disappointed, but not really surprised.  He had been surprised that Harry had stayed for more than a year.

    Matt, John, and Kaden gaped at him.  "What?"  John asked,  "Are you serious?"

    "Yeah,"  Albus nodded.

    "Why?"  Matt asked,  "He's a brilliant teacher."   

    "He thinks he needs to focus more on his Auror job,"  Albus explained,  "He wants to fully devote his time to finding Willinson and Washburn."

    "Oh, well, that makes sense,"  Matt replied.

    "Who's replacing him?"  John asked.

    "Dunno,"  Albus shrugged,  "Dad didn't tell me.  He said he wants me to develop my own opinions of the teacher."

    "I wonder if we'll ever have the exact same staff for two years in a row,"  John commented,  "I mean, first year they were all new to us.  Last year we got Cedonia.  And this year we've got some new Defense teacher."

    "I just hope whoever the new teacher is, that they're nice,"  Matt said,  "So what do you lot want to do?  We've got a few hours until dinner."

    "Hmm,"  Albus mused,  "Want to play Quidditch?  That field would be excellent for it."

    Matt groaned.  "That's the one thing we can't do.  The Muggle farmer is often out tending to his fields and he'd see us."

    "I've got an idea,"  Kaden grinned mischievously and dug around in his bag.  He pulled out a football.  "Let's play football."

    The boys decided it was as good an idea as any and they ran downstairs.  Albus had limited experience with football.  He had watched a couple matches and played it a few times, but that was it.  He didn't think John had ever played and he wasn't sure about Matt.  John was skeptical about the fun of football, but he was willing to give it a try.
   
    "Where are you boys going?"  Mrs. Eckerton shouted from the kitchen as they ran to the back door.

    "We're going to play football,"  Matt said as he pulled the door open.

    "Be careful!"  Mrs. Eckerton replied.

    Albus followed Matt down the deck stairs and into the field.  He stood next to Matt and John and all three of them turned to Kaden, who had set the ball on the ground and had one foot on it.

    "Have any of you played football before?"  Kaden asked.

    "A few times,"  Albus answered.

    "Nope,"  John said.

    "When I was younger, I played a bit,"  Matt replied,  "But I was never any good."

    Kaden sighed.  "All right.  Why don't we just play two on two.  John and I versus Albus and Matt."

    The other three boys nodded.  Kaden pointed out two different trees that would serve as makeshift goals.  He next explained the rules of the game and they began playing.

    Albus found the concept very similar to that of his Chaser position in Quidditch, only he couldn't use his hands.  That was very odd.  He had trouble keeping the ball near his feet and even more trouble aiming it to Matt.  Half the time Kaden would steal it and he wouldn't even get a chance to pass it.

    John was hardly any better than Albus.  He never managed to kick the ball where he aimed it, but Kaden's superior skill seemed to compensate for John's lack of skill.  The two of them (well, Kaden) had scored more goals than Albus and Matt.

    Matt seemed to be able to aim the ball, but he wound up tripping over it a lot.  He did manage to score a few goals, though.

    All in all, Albus thought it was kind of fun.  It wasn't something he desired to be on an official team of, but it was fun to play informally.  Not nearly as exciting as Quidditch, though.

    "John!"  Albus shouted as John picked up the ball and took off across the field,  "You can't touch the ball!"

    "I'm turning the game into Quidditch-football!"  John shouted and threw the ball at the goal,  "See, we've got another point now!"

    Kaden groaned and kicked the ball back into play.  "That's cheating, John!  And we're winning, so we don't need to cheat!"

    "I don't care!"  John grinned and picked the ball up again.

    Kaden tackled John and tried to wrestle the ball out of his arms.  John tried to escape, but Kaden was holding onto his leg.

    "Now it's Quidditch-football-wrestling,"  Albus said to Matt as the two of them walked towards their wrestling friends.

    "Albus!  Help!  Your cousin is Muggle dueling with me!"

    "Well, we are playing a Muggle sport, John,"  Albus smirked and yanked the football out of his hands.

    "Hey!"  Kaden shouted and grabbed Albus's leg,  "Give that back!"

    Albus stumbled and fell onto the ground.  He held the ball out of Kaden's reach and Kaden tackled him.  John, now free of Kaden's wrath, grabbed Matt's leg and pulled him into the mix.
   
    "Hey!"  Matt shouted,  "I didn't take the football!"

    "Doesn't matter,"  John grinned,  "We're not going to let you stand there while we're Muggle dueling each other."

    "Got it!"  Kaden shouted a few minutes later.  He held the football up over his head.  "And I declare John and I the winners!"

    Albus stood up and shook his head.  John and Matt stood up after him.  John looked quite triumphant at the win, even though he hadn't really contributed to it.

    "Congratulations,"  Matt smirked,  "You beat a clumsy wizard and a Chaser at football."

    "Any win is a good win,"  Kaden grinned.

    "Boys!"  Mrs. Eckerton shouted from the window,  "Dinner is ready!"

    Albus grinned as he walked towards the house.  As much as he enjoyed his own house, it was fun to spend a few days with Matt and his other friends.  Plus, the girls weren't there.  They had never really had time away from Rose and Amanda and it was kind of fun.  Not that he didn't enjoy their company, there were just things they couldn't really do around Rose and Amanda.  Like turn a football match into a wrestling match, for example.

    "What did you boys do?"  Mrs. Eckerton exclaimed as they entered the house,  "You're filthy!  I want you all to go shower before you eat!"

    "Just like home,"  Kaden commented,  "You're a lot like my mum."

    "Well, I'll take that as a compliment,"  Mrs. Eckerton smiled.




A/N:  Thanks to my beta, Dancer_of_Starlight!  Thanks so much to everyone for reading and for your wonderful reviews!  You make my day when you leave reviews!  Also, I will be updating on Wednesdays from now on, they're just easier this semester.

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