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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."


"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."


"Barrett, Colm."

This time the pause was a longer one.


"Belcher, Lucinda."


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."


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.


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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