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It was raining in Hogsmeade when the train arrived, ensuring the students hurried to the thestral-drawn carriages as quickly as possible. Albus secured one of the closer carriages, as it was one of the many benefits of being a sixth year to have the second years afraid of you. Albus didn’t even have to say anything before two terrified looking second years scurried out of his way.

“Real nice, Al,” Rose said as she watched the second years splash through the mud to another carriage.

“I didn’t say anything,” Albus said as he climbed inside. “I swear.”

“We can’t help it if they’re afraid of us,” John said, climbing in after Albus.

The carriage was blissfully dry and Albus let his mind wander during the bumpy trip to the castle. He realized this was now his second to last September return to Hogwarts and it struck him as odd. It didn’t feel like any time had passed since his journey across the lake in first year, let alone five years. But when he looked around the carriage at his friends, he realized five years really had passed. None of them were the same as they were five years ago.

The carriage lurched to a halt in front of the castle and Albus hurried out, leading his friends inside, eager to get into the Great Hall and eat. He kept a close eye on Matt as they walked through the crowded Entrance Hall and noticed Rose did the same. But Matt showed no signs of having a panic attack, like he had the previous year before the feast.

Having missed the Sorting the previous year, which took place while Albus took Matt up to their dormitory, Albus was quite excited to see this year’s. The amount of Weasleys getting sorted per year had dramatically decreased, but this year both Samantha and Lindy would get sorted. Plus Bethany and Gemma.

Albus glanced up at the staff table to see if his dad was there yet, and he was, seated in between Professors Longbottom and Burke. Burke looked just as ill as he had the previous year and Albus was close enough to notice he was still shaking. There were more people than usual at the staff table. Albus was surprised to see Professor Trelawney, who usually didn’t grace the student body with her presence at meals, and less surprised to see Madam MacDougal. But Aunt Hermione was also there, which made Albus realize she must be representing the board of governors.

“They must be making some sort of announcement,” Matt said, gesturing to MacDougal. “Think anyone will be sacked?”

“The only one likely would be Binns,” Albus said. “And that’s probably more trouble than it’s worth.”

“Or Trelawney,” John added.

“They wouldn’t do it in front of the whole school,” Rose pointed out. “Did Lily ever arrive?”

Albus scanned the table and spotted her at the opposite end, in between Hugo and Ashtyn, looking much more subdued than usual. “There she is.”

“Good,” Rose said.

“Burke still looks ill,” Matt pointed out.

“Guess he hasn’t finished his potion,” Amanda said.

“But he’s here,” Kaden said. “So he must be okay.”

“Still, I can’t imagine it’ll be easy teaching in that state,” Matt said quietly.

“What’s taking so long?” John asked, craning his head to see the door, where there was no sign of the first years. “I’m starving.”

“Maybe there was trouble on the lake,” Rose suggested, furrowing her brow.

“If there was, I bet my sister created it,” John muttered.

“The professors don’t seem worried yet,” Kaden said.

That was true. The professors were still chatting at the staff table, oblivious to the hungry students below them. But ten minutes later there was still no sign of the first years and the excited chatter in the room had turned to urgent whispering.

Kaden had turned a delicate shade of green and was staring at his empty plate. “I was just trying to scare her a bit. I didn’t mean anything by it….”

“What?” Matt asked.

“Bethany. I exaggerated all those stories of us nearly dying every year and now she’s going to drown in the lake!”

“She is not going to drown in the lake!” Rose said. “I’m sure there is a perfectly logical reason why it’s taking them so long that doesn’t involve Bethany drowning.”

“Quiet!” Professor Kendrick shouted. The whispering ceased at once. “Professor Potter and I will investigate what the hold-up is. Until then, I urge you to remain calm.”

Professor Kendrick descended from the platform with Dad, both of their wands raised. The whispers started up again as soon as they left.

“Mum will kill her if she had anything to do with this,” John said. “She’s already out of patience when it comes to this stuff because of me. She always says if it weren’t for Ashtyn, she’d be locked up in the madhouse.”

“At least now she only has one at home,” Amanda pointed out.

John nodded. “When Amelia starts next year, she and Dad are going on a month-long holiday on September 2nd.”

Ten minutes later Dad returned with Professors Kendrick and Patil, the latter of whom looked incredibly frazzled. Behind them were the fifty or so first years, all completely soaked. Half of them looked excited and the other half looked terrified. At the end of the line were Samantha, Lindy, Gemma, and Bethany, the wettest of them all. Gemma’s cloak was missing. All four looked sheepish.

John groaned. “It was her.”

“It was all four of them,” Albus said. “Uncle Percy’s going to go mental.”

“I hope we’re here when they get their howlers in the morning,” Kaden said eagerly. “My parents probably won’t care. Compared to what I’ve done, I’m sure it wasn’t that bad.”

The Sorting Hat burst into song and Albus was pleased that it seemed to sing faster than normal. He felt certain his friends could hear his stomach growling over the Hat, and hoped all the new first years had fast sortings. Once it finished, Professor Patil picked up her list and the Hat, and stared out at the first years. She gave the instructions and called the first name. A tall, lanky boy with longish sandy brown hair stepped forward. The Hat had barely touched his head before it called out ‘Slytherin!’

“Brickston, Gemma!” Patil called.

John’s sister ran forward, the sheepish grin now replaced with a normal grin. She sat eagerly on the stool and let Patil drop the hat onto her head.

“Please be Hufflepuff, please be Hufflepuff,” John muttered.

“I thought you said there wasn’t a chance,” Albus said.

“There isn’t,” John replied.

“Gryffindor!”

Gemma stood up and ran to the Gryffindor table, her grin nearly as wide as her face. She stopped behind John and Kaden and weaseled her way in between the two of them, much to both of their chagrin.

“Want to tell me what happened on the lake?” John asked.

“Nothing happened,” Gemma said.

“Something happened. You lot were twenty minutes late.”

“And you assume it was my fault?” Gemma asked, glaring at him with a stare worthy of her mother. “Why?”

“Because I know you!” John exclaimed. “And you might as well tell me because once Mum finds out she’ll send a howler and then the whole school will know.”

“Shhh!” Gemma hissed. “Bethany’s next!”

Albus had missed Patil calling out his cousin’s name while listening to John and Gemma. He watched as she sat on the stool and the Hat fell over her head, completely covering her face down to her nose.

“Gryffindor!”

Bethany hurried to the table, where she sat in between her brother and Gemma. John turned back to the sorting, making no move to continue interrogating his sister.

Albus watched as the group of first years dwindled, separating into the four House tables, until the only two left were his cousins. Both were sorted into Gryffindor before the Hat had time to get settled on their heads, something that didn’t surprise Albus at all. As of yet, none of the Weasleys had turned out as anything but Gryffindors, and now Eddie was the only one left.

Samantha and Lindy pushed their way in between Rose and Matt, so that they were across from Bethany and Gemma. Matt didn’t seem to pleased to have two squealing eleven-year-olds next to him, but Rose didn’t seem to mind.

“Welcome,” Professor Kendrick said. “Welcome back to returning students, and to the first years, welcome to Hogwarts. I have more announcements than usual tonight, but for now, we eat.” He waved his arms and the golden plates filled with the usual feast delicacies.

“Now will you explain?” John asked as he filled his plate.

Gemma sighed. “It wasn’t me. I swear, John.”

“It was me,” Lindy said. “But I didn’t mean to!”

“And it was bloody cold on that lake!” Samantha said.

“Can one of you just explain what happened?” Albus asked.

“I tried to conjure some flames to keep us warm,” Lindy said. “I thought it would be okay, since the lake is made of, well, water. What was the worst that could happen?”

“You burned up the boat,” Bethany said flatly.

John groaned. Kaden burst out laughing. Rose and Matt sighed. Amanda raised her eyebrows at the twins. Albus simply stared at them, unable to figure out why they thought conjuring flames before they had one class would be a good idea.

“You realize the boats are made of wood,” Rose said.

Lindy’s face reddened. “I’m sorry!”

“Then what happened?” Albus asked.

“We all jumped into the lake,” Lindy said. “Hagrid put out the fire, but the boat had sunk. We climbed into other boats and then went to the castle. It wasn’t that bad.”

“Did you see the Giant Squid?” Kaden asked eagerly.

“Giant Squid?” Bethany said, her eyes large. “No.”

“Don’t worry. You’ll meet him if you go swimming in the lake,” Kaden assured her.

Bethany looked like the last thing she wanted to do was swim in the lake with the Giant Squid, but Kaden didn’t notice.

“What did Patil say?” Rose asked.

“She gave me a detention,” Lindy muttered.

“Just her, though,” Samantha said.

“Uncle Percy will be so proud,” Albus said, smirking.

“The first of many, I’m sure,” Samantha added.

Albus mostly listened to John and Gemma bicker throughout the feast. Listening to the two of them made him appreciate Lily more, since Lily never had any desire to drive Albus nuts while at Hogwarts, which seemed to be what Gemma was trying to do to John. Gemma also talked a lot. Even if Albus had wanted to say something, he wouldn’t have been able to get a word in edgewise. Mostly he smirked at Matt, who seemed to be having trouble stifling his laughter at some of the things Gemma was going on about, as well as how much of a rise she was getting out of John.

“She reminds me a little of Kaden,” Matt said as they served themselves pudding.

“Gemma?” Albus asked.

Matt nodded. “She’s as talkative and as energetic. Plus the whole trouble-making thing. Bethany doesn’t seem much like Kaden.”

“She’s not,” Albus said. “She’s really quiet, until she gets to know you. Plus, with Kaden around, she probably never had the chance to say much.”

Matt laughed. “Did you see them much growing up?”

“Not until Kaden got his Hogwarts letter. Once a year at the most. I think it was really awkward for Dad and Dudley, Kaden and Bethany’s dad. I think they’ve mostly gotten over that now.”

Once the final bits of pudding disappeared from the gold plates, Professor Kendrick stood and gestured for quiet. Gemma was the last one in the room to close her mouth, only quieting after a glare from John.

“Thank you,” Kendrick said. “I think we can all agree that the house elves outdid themselves this year. My hat goes off to them!”

Everyone murmured in agreement. Albus felt sure he wouldn’t even be able to move when Kendrick dismissed them.

“Onto the announcements. As usual, the Forbidden Forest is out of bounds, as is the direct vicinity around the Whomping Willow.”

“The what?” Gemma said. “Whomping Willow?”

“Shh!” John said.

“No magic is permitted in the corridors. The number of objects banned from the castle has now reached a record number. The full list may be perused on Mr. Filch’s door. Mr. Filch would also wish me to tell you that a good guideline is if the object may be purchased at Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, it is against the rules to have it in the castle. Along the same lines, Madam Pomfrey would like me to tell you that if you use Skiving Snackboxes to get out of class not to go see her. She has enough on her plate dealing with, and I quote, ‘real illnesses.’”

A ripple of laughter spread throughout the room. Albus knew the nurse was fed up with most of the student body and was one of the few who knew she planned to retire at the end of next year.

“Anyone who wishes to try out for their House Quidditch team can sign up in their common rooms. I believe all four teams have vacancies this year. First years are reminded that they are not allowed to try out. Now, onto the more unusual announcements.

“I’d like to welcome back Professor Potter, who has left his job at the Ministry to teach full time. Let’s give him a warm welcome.”

A roar of applause came over the room, the loudest of all coming from the Gryffindor table. Dad raised his hand in acknowledgement, but didn’t stand or attempt to give a speech.

“The following announcements are a result of Madam MacDougal’s observations last year. The Education Department at the Ministry worked with the school governors, myself, and the other professors all summer to assess what needed to change here at the school. To announce these changes, I welcome Hermione Granger, one of the governors.”

Aunt Hermione stood and walked to the dais, where she shook Kendrick’s hand. Kendrick took a seat.

“Thank you, Professor Kendrick,” Aunt Hermione said. “In an effort to bring the Hogwarts curricula up to date, we have decided on a number of course changes. We have voted and decided Divination will no longer continue, after the current Divination students complete their O.W.L.s in the subject. As there was not a N.E.W.T. Divination course last year, N.E.W.T. Divination is discontinued as of now. Divination will no longer be an option for this year’s third years. Professor Trelawney has agreed to these terms and will retire in two years’ time.

“To replace Divination, Hogwarts will offer two new courses. The first is Magical Theory and the second is Alchemy. Both are open to current third years only, and if they go well this year, they will continue.”

“Only third years?” Rose whispered. “That’s not fair.”

“You want to take more classes?” John asked.

“I wonder where the new professors are for those subjects,” Matt said.

“If they’re only teaching third years, they have no reason to live in the castle,” Rose pointed out. “That’s only a few classes a week.”

After a year of observations, all they were doing was getting rid of Divination and adding two more classes? Young most likely would’ve been sacked if he hadn’t quit, but it didn’t look like anyone else was getting sacked.

“Lastly,” Aunt Hermione continued, “Hogwarts is going to implement a program this year that will hopefully better prepare sixth and seventh years for their time after Hogwarts. If it goes well, it will be continued in the future.”

That got Albus’s attention. The third years could keep their new classes. This sounded far more exciting.

“The program will be mandatory for sixth years and optional for seventh years, as seventh years may need to focus all their attention on their upcoming N.E.W.T.s.”

“Likes to keep us in suspense, doesn’t she?” John said.

“Shh!” Rose hissed.

“The program will provide internships for all sixth years and interested seventh years,” Aunt Hermione explained. The internships will start in October and go through May, and you will work once or twice a week, depending on the internship. There will be an information session tomorrow after classes, at four, where you will learn the details. All sixth years are required to attend, and all seventh years who think they may want to participate must attend as well.

“I think this will be an exciting year. Please ask your heads of house if you have any questions regarding the new classes or internships.”

Aunt Hermione returned to her seat amidst scattered applause. Hardly anyone seemed very excited, but Albus wasn’t surprised since the new classes only affected third years and only sixth and seventh years could do internships.

“I’m going to sneak out,” Matt whispered.

Albus nodded. “See you in a bit.”

“Where’s he going?” Gemma asked as Matt left.

“None of your business,” John said.

Professor Kendrick stepped back up to the dais. “Yes, very exciting, indeed. I suggest an early night for all. Prefects, please escort the first years to your common rooms.”

Albus was all too happy to pass that task onto the fifth year prefects and walk up to the common room with John, Kaden, and Amanda (Rose had elected to help the fifth year prefects). They took a few shortcuts and by the time they reached the seventh floor they were far ahead of everyone else. Once they reached the Fat Lady, Albus gave her the password and they clambered through the portrait hole.

The familiar circular common room hadn’t changed. The squashy armchairs were in front of the crackling fire, and the rest of the furniture sat scattered throughout the rest of the room. The portraits were having a lively conversation about something that had happened centuries ago. The notice board was empty, save for a big sign-up sheet for Quidditch. It felt good to be back.

John hurried over to the notice board and was the first one to sign up for Quidditch try-outs. Albus knew his spot on the team was guaranteed, and was very happy about it. John would be a practically seamless entry onto the team.

“Where’s Matt?” Kaden asked.

“Dormitory, maybe?” Albus suggested.

“He probably wanted to escape my sister and the others,” John said. “I’ll go check.”

John ran up the staircase and returned a minute later, alone.

“Not there?” Albus said.

“Nope. Probably in the Marauder’s Den. Definitely avoiding my sister.”

“She’s not going to follow you around all year, is she?” Kaden asked as they turned to leave.

“I don’t think so,” John said. “Damn, I still have her wand.”

“Give it to her later,” Kaden said.

The four retraced their steps and climbed back out into the corridor, earning a disgruntled look from the Fat Lady as they did so. At the other end of the corridor were the first years, led by Rose and the two fifth year prefects. They were somehow louder than they had been in the Great Hall, despite the fact that there were only around ten of them. There weren’t any other girls besides the twins, Bethany, and Gemma. The six boys walked behind the girls, their own voices drowned out by Gemma’s. Gemma was easily the tallest of the bunch. She even looked to be an inch or so taller than Matt, something Albus hoped he wouldn’t realize. Given her height, she could easily fit in with the fourth years.

“I want my wand,” Gemma said loudly as they got within a few meters.

“Promise you won’t set fire to anything else,” John said as he pulled out the wand and held it above his head. John easily had a foot on his sister.

“Fine. I promise I won’t intentionally set anything on fire,” Gemma said. “Where are you off to, anyway?”

John handed her the wand. “None of your business. Go to bed. Mum told you not to stay up late.”

Gemma muttered something that her mother certainly wouldn’t have approved of and stalked off to the other first years.

“Meet us when you’re done, Rose!” Albus shouted as they passed each other.

“I’ll be there in ten,” Rose said.

Albus, John, Kaden, and Amanda reached the Marauder’s Den a short while later and when Albus opened the door, he found it was just as they left it. Matt was on the couch, leafing through one of his textbooks, but it didn’t look like he was paying much attention. He set it down as Albus and the others walked in.

“Sick of my sister yet?” John asked as he sprawled out on the floor.

“I don’t know how you do it,” Matt said. “Just eating dinner with her gave me a headache.”

“Everything gives you a headache,” Kaden pointed out. “But I agree. I’m really glad my sister is quiet.”

“Just wait until Gemma corrupts her,” John said.

“All of you make me happy my little brother isn’t a wizard,” Amanda said, smirking.

“All right,” John said. “Enough about sisters. Let’s talk about what’s really important. Kaden, any ideas for Mischief Night?”

Albus groaned and sat down next to Matt, who rolled his eyes. Amanda joined them and they listened, stifling their laughter, as John and Kaden suggested more and more outrageous prank ideas. Yes, it was good to be back.


A/N: Thanks for all the reviews!

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