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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.

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