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   The remainder of the week went by quickly.  Albus spent all his spare time on the Quidditch pitch, trying to hone his skills for the try-outs on Saturday.  Unfortunately, the Slytherin Quidditch team booked the pitch all Friday evening, so Albus was unable to cram in a last minute practice session.

    Instead, Albus sat in the common room with the rest of his friends, trying to write an essay for Transfiguration.  He was supposed to research a famous Animagi and write a foot long essay about him or her.  Albus had wanted to write about his grandfather, but given the fact that Prongs's Animagus status had been a secret, Albus didn't think such an essay would work.  So, Albus eventually decided to write about McGonagall.  He had a feeling half the class would write about her.

    "What are McGonagall's markings?"  John asked, proving Albus's theory.

    "Spectacle marks around her eyes,"  Albus answered as he stared at his mostly blank piece of parchment.

    "Thanks,"  John grinned,  "You just saved me fifteen minutes of research."

    "No problem,"  Albus replied.  He wasn't sure why the essay was taking him so long.  He knew a great deal about McGonagall and her Animagus capabilities.  He supposed he just had his mind on other things, like the Quidditch try-outs.

    "How can she even concentrate on her studying?"  Rose sighed loudly.

    "Who?"  Albus asked.

    "Linda Morales,"  Rose muttered, with a hint of contempt in her voice,  "Just look at her."

    Albus turned around and saw Linda sitting at a table with a bunch of books and parchment strewn about it.  There was quite a crowd of boys surrounding her, including Bilius, Ethan, James, Ben, Cedric, Nathan, and a few second years Albus didn't know the names of.  They all seemed to be talking at once while Linda had her eyes fixed on one of the books.

    "Well, from what you've said, she's so freakishly smart she doesn't need to study,"  Kaden said.

    "Humph,"  Rose huffed,  "Everyone needs to study."

    "I think you're jealous, Rose,"  Albus smirked.

    "Am not,"  Rose replied.

    "I wonder what position she plays,"  John mused.

    "What?"  Albus asked.

    "Position.  You know, in Quidditch,"  John explained,  "She must be on the Australian team.  Since she's our age, she can't be on the dueling team."

    "Seeker,"  Rose said.

    "How do you know?"  Albus asked.

    "Karina asked her one day in the dormitory,"  Rose explained.

    "Who's a Seeker?"  Matt dropped his bag onto the table and sat down in the chair next to Albus.

    "Linda Morales,"  Albus told him,  "How was your boggart lesson?"

    "Weird,"  Matt replied,  "Balladanis wasn't stern like he is in class."

    "Really?"  Kaden gaped,  "I don't think I could imagine him not strict."

    "Yeah.  I wouldn't say he was nice, but he didn't act like he does in class."

    "What did he do?"  John asked.

    "Well, I walked in and he was sitting at his desk.  So I walked up to him and he got up and went over to the trunk.  He didn't say much, just told me to battle the boggart.  And then I did.  Over and over again until I thought I was going to go mad."

    "That sounds like Balladanis,"  Kaden interrupted.

    "I know,"  Matt replied,  "I'm getting there.  Anyway, eventually he told me I could stop.  Then he told me to sit down and that he wanted to talk to me.  He basically told me the same thing he told everyone in class the other day.  But he changed it a bit."

    Matt lowered his voice.  "He said that the point of Defense class wasn't only to learn how to defend ourselves against the dark arts.  He said it's also to teach us why the dark arts are so horrible.  He then went on to tell me that it was especially important for me to know that."

    "That is weird,"  Albus said quietly,  "You don't think he said that because of, well, you know."

    "Yeah, I think he did,"  Matt replied,  "But he didn't say it in a mean way or anything.  It was just really really odd."

    "I'll say,"  John agreed,  "Do you have to go there again?"

    "Unfortunately, yes,"  Matt muttered,  "He wants me to go every Friday until he says I don't have to anymore."

    "How did it go with the boggart, though?"  Rose asked.

    "I thought it went ok.  I mean, I'm doing better than I was.  But he still wants me to go in for extra help."

    "Well,"  Kaden said after a few moments,  "This just proves that Balladanis is a very very strange teacher."

                        ******

    Albus awoke riddled with nerves the next morning.  It reminded him of the nerves he had only one year ago prior to the Gryffindor team try-outs.  Only this was ten times worse.  He felt like he'd eaten a few live pygmy puffs and they were bouncing around his stomach trying to escape.

    Try-outs were to be held shortly after lunch and Albus spent all morning talking with his fellow Gryffindor teammates in the common room.  Georgia spent over an hour talking about the strengths and weaknesses of the other people who would be trying out.  Albus only sort of paid attention.  The rest of the team seemed excited and not nearly as nervous as Albus.  Albus thought James was lucky; he was only competing against Lisa Galivant of Hufflepuff and Miranda Corner of Ravenclaw, as Slytherin was getting a new Seeker that year.

    Albus sat with his team at lunch, although he didn't eat much.  Georgia continued talking about everything they'd need to know for the try-outs.  The other Gryffindors kept coming up to him and wishing him luck.  All Albus could manage to do was nod and mutter 'thanks'. 

    In an effort to keep order on the Quidditch pitch, the headmaster had banned the rest of the students from watching the try-outs.  Albus was very grateful of this and was kind of relieved when Georgia finally announced that they should leave for the pitch.  Albus's friends wished him luck and he left the Great Hall following James.

    The walk to the pitch was quiet.  Georgia had stopped her running commentary on the strategy of the rest of the Hogwarts Quidditch players and everyone else seemed to realize they were more nervous than they thought.

    Albus took a deep breath as he entered the pitch and adjusted his broom on his shoulder.  He tried to think positive thoughts and followed his team onto the pitch.  Then, he stopped in his tracks and felt his jaw drop to the ground.

    Standing in the middle of the pitch, next to Professors Oteski, Longbottom, Slughorn, Patil, and Polo, was none other than Teddy Lupin.  Standing with Teddy and the professors were Oliver Wood and Tyler Pike, the Head Boy from Albus's first year.

    "What's Teddy doing here?"  James whispered.

    "No idea,"  Albus whispered back, wondering the same thing.  Why was Teddy there?  He hadn't mentioned anything over the summer about doing anything at Hogwarts that year.

    Albus stood with his team and looked at the rest of the students who were trying out.  The Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff players were already there.  Amongst the Ravenclaws were Kate Waverly, the Keeper; Natalie Cable, Damien Waverly, and Dan Burke, the Chasers; Zack Valentino and Allie Davis, the Beaters; Miranda Corner, the Seeker.  Their entire team was trying out, like the Gryffindor team. 

    The Hufflepuffs had a few less players trying out.  Their Keeper, Tanner Royce was there, along with Anna Reilly and Shawn Ames, the Chasers.  One of their Beaters, Andy Kaper was there.  Albus remembered that their other Beater had graduated the previous year.  Lisa Galivant, their Seeker, was there as well, looking determined.

    The Slytherins showed up a few minutes later.  Leading them was their new captain, Ferris Fielding, who was a Chaser.  His fellow Chasers were Peyton Haines and Hailey Odele.  Their remaining Beater, Talan Flint, glared at the Gryffindor team as he walked by.

    Professor Oteski gazed around the pitch and then looked at his watch.  He said something to the four heads of houses and then cleared his throat.  Albus stopped watching the Slytherins and turned to Oteski.

    "I think everyone's here now,"  Oteski began,  "First, I want to introduce you to your Head Captain and your Assistant Captains.  Oliver Wood, formerly of Puddlemere United, has agreed to captain the team."

    There was a very loud round of applause and a few whistles from the crowd of students.  Albus grinned and clapped until the applause began to quiet down.

    "And your Assistant Captains are former students you probably all remember.  Teddy Lupin, former Seeker and Captain of the Gryffindor team, and Tyler Pike, former Seeker and Captain of the Ravenclaw team will be your Assistant Captains."

    Albus clapped hard enough to make his hands hurt.  He had no idea Teddy was going to help run the Hogwarts team!  Teddy must have had a hard time keeping that a secret over the summer.

    "You will all try out this afternoon and I, along with your captains and heads of houses will make the decisions tonight.  The final list of the team as well as the reserve players will be posted in your common rooms late tomorrow.

    "Now, I thought we'd start with the Seekers.  Everyone else please go sit in the stands."

    Albus and the vast majority of the crowd drifted towards the stands.  James, Lisa, and Miranda remained in the pitch.  Miranda was a third year and Lisa was a fourth year.  Albus thought James had a pretty good chance of making the team.  He had beaten both of the other Seekers numerous times.

    Albus paid some attention to James's try-out, but mostly he was thinking about his own try-out.  Eventually, James and the other Seekers finished and Oteski called for the Keepers.  Georgia practically ran down to the pitch, followed by the other two Keepers.  Albus watched and he was pretty confident Georgia would make the team as well.  After Georgia returned with a huge grin on her face, Oteski called the Beaters down.  Albus's cousin, Bradley, as well as Ryan O'Malley did well with their try-out, but so did the other Beaters.

    Finally, Oteski announced for the Chasers to enter the pitch.  Albus stood up with his cousins, Heather and Fred, and walked nervously down to the pitch.  Teddy flashed him a grin as he entered the pitch. 

    There were ten other Chasers besides Albus; the worst chances of all the positions to get a spot on the team.

    "Ok, I want everyone to fly around the pitch a few times,"  Oliver Wood announced. 

    Albus mounted his broom and flew into the air.  His nerves seemed to calm down as he felt the wind blowing against his face.  Just think of it as another Quidditch match, he thought as he flew amongst the other Chaser hopefuls.

    The thought of try-outs being like a Quidditch match carried Albus through the whole try-out.  He was still nervous and did drop a few Quaffles, but all in all, it wasn't as bad as he thought it would have been.  The rest of the Chasers had dropped a few Quaffles as well.  Albus still wasn't sure he'd make the team, but at least he hadn't made a fool of himself.

    "Everyone did great,"  Oliver Wood said at the end of the try-out,  "We'll make our decision and post the team list tomorrow.  I'll be seeing some of you really soon."

    The group started to disband and Teddy made his way towards the Gryffindor team.

    "Teddy!"  Georgia shouted,  "I can't believe you might be my captain again!  How in the name of Merlin did you keep this a secret?"

    Teddy shrugged.  "Honestly, I'm not even sure.  I guess I kind of liked knowing something you lot didn't."

    Georgia groaned.  "Oh, shut it, Teddy."

    "You all did really well, though,"  Teddy grinned.
   
    "Yeah, but there's so many other Chasers,"  Albus pointed out.

    "Al, even if you don't make it, you're a brilliant Chaser and you'll still have the house Quidditch.  That's still going on during this whole thing."

    "Oi, Teddy!"  Tyler Pike called,  "Get a move on, we've got to discuss the team!"

    "I'll see you later, Al, everyone else,"  Teddy waved as he left.

    Albus left the pitch with the rest of his team, who were all talking animatedly about the highlights of the try-outs.  Albus was thrilled that Teddy was going to be one of the captains and it made him hope for a spot on the team even more than he had before.

    Albus and the rest of the Gryffindor Quidditch team were greeted by raucous applause when they returned to the common room.  Albus thought it was kind of premature, since none of them were actually on the team yet, but it was still nice.  Rose, Matt, and Amanda were sitting at their usual table and Albus went over to them.

    "How was the try-out?"  Matt asked immediately.

    "Better than I thought,"  Albus replied as he sat down,  "I think I have a slight chance of making it."

    "That's good,"  Matt grinned.

    "Oh, and Teddy's one of the captains!"  Albus told them.

    "Really?"  Rose said,  "Who are the others?"

    "Tyler Pike, the Head Boy from our first year, and Oliver Wood-"
   
    "John is going to be thrilled when he finds that out,"  Matt interrupted. 

    Albus grinned.  Oliver Wood had gone to Slughorn's Christmas party in their first year and John had given him a Quaffle to sign.  John was a big supporter of Oliver Wood and Puddlemere United.

    "Where is John anyway?"  Albus asked,  "And Kaden?"

    "In the Marauder's Den,"  Matt answered,  "Plotting.  They're planning on swimming in the lake tomorrow with the Giant Squid."

    "I'm rather afraid of what sort of plotting they're doing,"  Rose muttered,  "If swimming requires plotting, nothing good will come of it."

    "I take it you three don't want to join them?"  Albus laughed.

    "Definitely not,"  Amanda said.

    "Are you insane, Albus?"  Rose raised her eyebrows,  "Of course not."

    "Nope,"  Matt shook his head,  "I'd rather not get in trouble this soon into the year."

    "Yeah,"  Albus agreed,  "I don't want to either."  Albus and his friends had gotten into quite a bit of trouble, mostly because of Kaden, the previous year and Albus was hoping he'd keep Filch's detentions to a minimum this year.

    "The two of them are going to be in detention more often than they're not,"  Rose muttered.

    "That wouldn't surprise me,"  Albus replied.  John had always been the trouble-maker of Albus's group, even before Kaden entered the scene.  And then when Kaden had arrived, nothing was going to stop him.  Now John had someone to conspire with for all of his mischievous schemes.

                        ******

    Although Albus and Matt flat out refused to swim in the lake with John and Kaden, the two mischievous boys managed to convince them to at least watch by the side of the lake.  However, Rose and Amanda refused to be anywhere near the lake when this took place.  Rose insisted that she needed to devote the day to studying and Amanda decided to join her.  Albus had a feeling Rose's increased amount of studying had a lot to do with Linda Morales, but knew better than to mention this to his cousin.

    John and Kaden walked excitedly ahead of Albus and Matt on their way out of the castle the next day.  Albus still had no idea what exactly they were planning on doing, and for that he was grateful. If John and Kaden got caught, Albus preferred to not know anything about it, so he could deny his involvement. 

    There were a few students sitting around the lake enjoying the warm late summer day when the boys arrived.  Albus and Matt chose a spot underneath a large beech tree and sat back to watch the event unfold.

    John and Kaden grinned at each other and then pulled off their shirts and shoes, so they were only wearing shorts.  A few first year girls who were sitting near Albus and Matt giggled and began whispering to each other.  Albus turned to Matt and rolled his eyes.  Matt stifled a laugh.

    "This isn't going to end well,"  Albus said.

    "But it will be entertaining to watch,"  Matt laughed.

    John and Kaden began to obnoxiously stretch by the edge of the water.  Albus had a feeling they were doing it only to try and gain the attention of the few students who weren't watching them.  Next, they bent down to the water and felt the temperature.

    "Bloody hell!"  John shouted,  "It's freezing!"
   
    "That means we'll just jump right in!"  Kaden announced.  He turned around and walked away, and then took a running start into the lake.  He landed with a loud splash that soaked John, who was still standing by the edge.

    "They're mad,"  Albus grinned.

    "All right, here it goes!"  John shouted and followed Kaden into the water,  "Merlin, that's cold!"

    Albus laughed as John and Kaden got used to the water.  The two of them were flailing around and shrieking like little girls.  They had gained quite a few on-lookers who were standing around the lake laughing their heads off.

    Albus may not have wanted to do something this crazy himself, but he was having a good time watching his friends do it.  The two of them got used to the water and then began swimming around.

    However, merely swimming in the Black Lake wasn't that exciting.  Albus knew they had something else up their sleeves (or lack thereof) and it was only a matter of time until they put their plan into action.

    John and Kaden were just beginning to have a contest to see who could remain underwater the longest when a long tentacle appeared out of the water a few feet behind them.

    "Ooo!"  a girl shouted,  "It's the squid!"

    Both John and Kaden turned around.  "Yes!"  they both shouted at the same time,  "The squid has arrived!"

    Albus watched as John and Kaden swam towards the tentacle, wondering what sort of torment they were going to inflict upon the squid.  He didn't think the squid was particularly dangerous, but who knew what it would do if it was provoked. 

    John and Kaden treaded water on either side of the tentacle and then began to tickle it.  This earned a bunch of loud gasps and more hysterical laughter from the crowd.

    A few more of the squid's tentacles appeared out of the water and two of them smacked John and Kaden on their heads.

    "Hey!"  John shouted and pushed the tentacle away.

    Then, the squid's head emerged from the surface of the water.  A few of the younger girls who were watching began to shriek and the older students laughed even harder.  Albus was laughing and shaking his head at the same time.  He couldn't help but laugh at his friends' stupidity.  They should have known that the squid would try and tickle back.  And it had more arms than John and Kaden combined.

    John and Kaden grinned at each other and then swam towards the back of the squid as it rose out of the water.  They grabbed onto its back and began to ride it.  Albus gaped as the squid began to swim around with John and Kaden on top of it.  The two of them had actually decided to ride the Giant Squid. 

    "They're idiots,"  Matt commented.

    Albus nodded as the squid swam closer and closer to the shore.  The onlookers retreated and scattered as it drew nearer.  John and Kaden both looked thrilled, until the squid propelled them onto the shore.  They landed in the grass and the squid returned into the murky depths of the lake.

    Albus jumped up and ran towards John and Kaden, followed by Matt.  He squeezed his way through the crowd and looked down at his two friends.

    "Urgh,"  John groaned as he sat up, rubbing his head.

    "That was incredibly stupid,"  Albus grinned,  "And very entertaining."

    "Let's do it again!"  Kaden said excitedly as he examined his arm, which was bleeding.

    "How can you actually want to do it again when the squid threw you five feet into the air?"  Matt asked.

    "It was fun,"  Kaden shrugged.

    "Move aside!"  a female voice shouted.

    The crowd immediately dispersed and people ran towards the castle and to other areas of the grounds.

    Albus looked up and saw Professor Patil striding towards them.  Albus groaned.  He knew they wouldn't get away with this.

    "I've just been informed that the two of you were riding the Giant Squid!"  Patil shouted at John and Kaden,  "Is that true?"

    "Er-"  John began.

    "Well..."  Kaden said.

    "Of course it is!"  Patil replied,  "Look at you!  I'm very disappointed!  I thought it was a given not to swim in that lake and the fact that you provoked the squid..."  she shook her head,  "Well, you two will need to go to the Hospital Wing  and then I'll assign you detention."
   
    John and Kaden stood up and nodded.  The thrill that had been on their faces just moments before, was completely gone.

    "And what about you two?"  Patil said to Albus and Matt,  "Were you involved?  I see you're both dry, but I've noticed that the four of you are always getting in trouble together."

    "They didn't do it, Professor,"  Kaden announced.

    "Yeah,"  John agreed,  "They didn't even know what we were going to do."

    Albus felt a surge of gratitude for his friends, especially Kaden.  Just a year ago, Kaden had been getting all four of them in trouble for things only he had done.  Now, he was actually telling teachers that Albus wasn't involved.  True, Albus hadn't been involved, but it was the principle of it.

    Patil nodded.  "All right.  Mr. Brickston, Mr. Dursley, you'll need to follow me.  Mr. Potter and Mr. Eckerton, you may return to your common room."

    Albus didn't need to be told twice.  He and Matt took off towards the castle and once they were out of earshot of Patil, started talking about John and Kaden's adventure.

    "I think the two of them could single handedly cause the destruction of the entire castle,"  Albus laughed.

    "It's only a matter of when they'll do it,"  Matt smirked,  "Let's see, Kaden's already tormented the Whomping Willow, and now they've tormented the Giant Squid.  What'll be next?"

    "Filch's new cat?"  Albus suggested.

    "Filch would love that,"  Matt replied.

    At some point in between the end of the last year and the start of this one, Filch had obtained another cat.  Albus had heard stories about his previous cat, Mrs. Norris, from his parents, aunts, and uncles, but had never actually met her.  She had died before Albus was born.  Apparently Filch had been so overcome by grief that he hadn't gotten another one, until now.

    The new cat, Josie, was a young sprightly kitten, whose only resemblance to Mrs. Norris was her uncanny ability to locate students who were breaking rules.  All the students took an immediate dislike to Josie and turned in the other direction when they saw her small orange body emerge from around the corner.

    People were already talking about John and Kaden's swim in the lake when Albus and Matt entered the Gryffindor common room.  Albus had a feeling it would be weeks before anyone forgot about it.

    Albus and Matt spotted Rose and Amanda and sat down at their table.  It was spread with numerous books and rolls of parchment and quills.  The only other table that rivaled its amount of books was the one Linda Morales was sitting at.

    "I take it you've heard about John and Kaden's incident with the squid?"  Albus asked.

    "Bits and pieces,"  Rose muttered without looking up.

    Albus and Matt launched into the entire story and Amanda was in stitches by the time they finished. 

    "Those two are going to be expelled if they're not careful,"  Rose said as she frantically scribbled something onto a roll of parchment.

    Albus looked curiously at his cousin.  Rose had always been a stickler for homework, but never had he seen her this obsessed with it unless it was right before the end of term exams.  And this was only the first week of school.

    "Rose, why don't you take a break?"  Albus suggested.  He was actually kind of worried about her.  Studying was good, but too much was kind of unhealthy.

    "Can't,"  Rose muttered,  "My Potions essay is only a roll and a half of parchment."

    Albus gaped at her,  "Rose, you do know that Slughorn only wants a half a roll, right?"

    Rose nodded.  "Yeah, but Janie said that Linda's essay is already two rolls.  So I've got to make mine at least that long."

    "Rose,"  Albus sighed,  "Your essay doesn't have to be longer than Linda's."

    "Yes, it does,"  Rose insisted.

    Albus sighed and sat back in his chair.  He knew it was a lost cause.  His cousin had that determined look in her eyes and Albus knew there was no convincing her that she didn't have to be so competitive with Linda.

    "I think she studies so much because she doesn't really have any friends here,"  Amanda said quietly.

    "What?"  Albus looked at her incredulously.  At any given moment, Linda was surrounded by at least five other people.  She was easily the most popular of all the Australian students.  "Look at her!  She's got eight people talking to her at once!"

    Amanda groaned.  "They're not her friends.  They just think she's pretty.  She doesn't even want them around.  They do all the talking.  All she does is sit there and study.  Plus, ever notice how she's never around any of the other Australian students?"

    Albus looked at Linda again.  Amanda was right.  Linda wasn't actually talking to any of the students around her.  And come to think of it, he hadn't seen her talk to any of the other Australian students either.  "Wonder why that is?"

    Amanda shrugged.  "Well, all the other Australian students are a lot older than her.  All her friends are probably still in Australia."

    "She could befriend any of those blokes near her,"  Albus pointed out.

    "Again, they're only there because they think she's pretty,"  Amanda sighed,  "But she's really really quiet.  Her first night here, she didn't say a word in the dormitory.  Now, Janie's really the only one she talks to.  I mean, being shy is one thing, but never talking at all?"

    Albus turned to Linda once again.  It was kind of odd for her never to talk to anyone, besides the teachers.  It was like the only thing she wanted to do was study.  Her obsession with homework seemed to be ten times that of Rose's and Albus wasn't sure if Rose could keep up.


A/N:  Big thanks to PotterCast for giving me the idea for the giant squid incident!  The title for this chapter was also made up by PotterCast.  It's used in one of their interview with J.K. Rowling podcasts.

As usual, thanks to my beta, Dancer_of_Starlight and all the awesome people who have read and reviewed this story!

Also, I am yet again doing NaNoWriMo, so if I'm ever late on updates or seeming to take a long time to answer reviews, that's why!

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