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The Hogwarts Express sat chugging at the platform of Hogsmeade Station as it disgorged its rather boisterous cargo. Students of all years swarmed the station as they waited for directions and Elizabeth watched as Hagrid summoned the first years to his side for the ride across the lake. Memories abounded for her here as she remembered clearly meeting Professor McGonagall for the first time on this very platform and then being tripped by Scorpius Malfoy as she ran to reach the boats in time to prevent being left behind.

 Now she stood on the platform surveying the scene as Prefects guided children in various directions and even doing some directing of her own as confused first years tried to find their way. She swiftly gathered several errant children and led them to the landing where Hagrid was frantically searching for them.

“Why, thank ye, Mrs. Potter, I was afraid I might a lost em.”

“My pleasure, Hagrid,” she answered as she turned to walk away.

“That would be Elizabeth Blackwell-Potter,” he announced to the first years crowded around him. She helps Professor McGonagall in Transfiguration so be sure ta listen to ‘er. Some says that she’ll be the next professor in that classroom. I remember when she were in one o’ these boats crossin the lake to get ter the castle. Now she’s a Teachin Assistant and the Head Girl to boot!”

The very large man watched as the children clambered into the boats and then the group settled down to begin their trip across the lake and into adventure. He was unaware of the young witch that watched them with tears in her eyes as yet another memory of that first night replayed itself. The night was bittersweet for her as there would never be another night like this for her. Her final term had begun and when this scene replayed itself again she would not be a part of it.

She stalked nearly silently to one of the carriages that waited for her with Lily and Beatrice already on board. She climbed into it and then the door closed behind her as she settled down for the ride to the castle.

“You’re really not happy about my decision, are you?” Lily asked.

“What made you think that I deserved this more than you?”

“Elizabeth, you saved the castle and everyone in it last term. Without you, a lot of people would be dead right now. You risked everything to save all of us and deserve that honor far more than I ever could.”

“Well, I want you to know that I selected both of you as my deputies.”

“Are you for real?” Beatrice asked.

“Why would I lie?”

“So who is the third deputy?”

Elizabeth looked at Lily and then spoke to answer the question.

“Abigail Shoman.”

“You picked Abisnail Slowman as a deputy?”

“Come on, Beatrice, you know what her name is. Please don’t do this,” Elizabeth answered with a touch of pleading in her voice.

“You know that she is less than motivated about things and it takes a while to get her moving on anything.”

“I know, but we have to give her a chance.”

Elizabeth turned her head to view the boats crossing the lake and the reflections of the many lights of the castle on the water. She still felt as though the sight was one of the most beautiful that she had ever seen. The carriage continued along the path before it and soon was arriving at the place where the students would disembark and then it would travel on along to its parking area. Talking as they went the trio of seventh year girls helped to guide the younger students towards their destination and they soon were entering the Great Hall for the first time that term. They hurried to their customary spaces and soon had settled down to wait for the first years and the ceremony that would follow.

A glance at the High Table revealed no new faces among the staff and this relaxed them. No new professors meant no surprises and that was something that all were grateful for.

“There were a lot of new first years on the platform, I don’t think that I have ever seen so many,” Lily remarked.

“Yeah, the professors that have first year classes are going to have their hands full.”

Elizabeth nodded at the remarks that her friends were making while she looked around the giant chamber. The ghosts were in attendance and Peeves was fluttering about near the ceiling of the Great Hall, obviously thinking of some new mischief or perhaps some recycled mischief to get into. The poltergeist was still a bit of a hero after rescuing Elizabeth after her encounter with Alecto Carrow but nothing, not even hero status, stopped him when he intended to pull a prank.

The chatter in the Great Hall subsided as the doors opened and the older students got their first real look at the new first years. Nervous younger children followed the elderly witch as they made their way to the place where the Sorting Ceremony would take place and the older students waited patiently for the festivities to begin as Professor Leeds rose to speak briefly.

“Welcome to Hogwarts, students both returning and new, I am very certain that we are all very interested in the results of the toils of the Sorting Hat but I do have one quick announcement to make. Please listen carefully to this because it could mean severe difficulty for you if you fail to heed my warning.”

The tall balding wizard waited until there was complete silence before speaking.

“The Ministry of Magic as well as the Department of Magical Education has added a required class for all years. This means that even you seventh years must take and pass this class.”

There was a sudden rushed outburst of whispering as the news that there was yet one more thing to study before one could call themselves finished with school. The whispers died as the professor at the lectern motioned for silence.

“The class itself is not new as it has been an elective here at Hogwarts for many years although a great number of students tend to pass it over. Magical Laws and Regulations has become a required course and all students shall be henceforth required to have a passing mark in it. If you have taken it in the past, you shall have to take it again at a year appropriate level. As this was not known at the time of the printing of your required text list a supply of books has been sent to the classroom where you shall study and you shall not be required to pay for them, unless you elect to keep them at the end of the term. Yes, I said at the end of the term, for this class shall last the entire year. Now, having said that, I need to introduce your professors for this class,” he continued.

“For those students between first year and the fall portion of fourth year the professor shall be Bertha Nerstack.”

The students watched as a portly witch rose from a chair that they had not seen to walk to the High Table and take one of two empty seats.

“If you are a fourth year your professor shall change in the spring, you and the students up to seventh year shall have Ludwig Portman as your professor.”

Elizabeth and her friends watched as a rather dour looking wizard rose to walk to the other empty seat at the High Table and then settle onto it.

“Wonderful,” Beatrice remarked, “he looks like he could take on a dragon in a biting contest and win easily.”

Lily’s eyes widened at the sight of the wizard and she quickly spoke to her friends.

“I know him! He’s a former Auror that got sacked by my dad. He got a little rough with a suspect during an arrest and actually ended killing the guy.”

“So much for having a relatively quiet seventh year,” Elizabeth added as she watched the wizard and then shuddered.

The students clapped as Professor Leeds stepped away from the lectern and then settled back on their benches to watch the Sorting Ceremony. The stool on which they had all been seated was brought forward and then the Sorting Hat was placed upon it. The older students waited with anticipation while the first years could scarcely breathe as the hat began to sing.

“Oh, yes, you are a first year,  you've never heard of me, but I decide where you shall reside and at which table you will be!”

“Many have come before you, and all have felt this way, but once all of this is over, prepare to begin your stay.”

“Quite a lot goes into all of this, as sorting is no joke, so sit on the chair please do not swear, when your fate is finally spoke.”

“Those who go to Gryffindor, are brave of heart and so much more. They are so true, if this is you, you’ll walk right through that door!”

“Past the doors of Hufflepuff, loyalty is prized, be patient with all and you will not fall, your hard work satisfies.”

“Ravenclaw is next in line, for those who love their books, with keen minds and studies fine, Rowena is where to look.”

“Slytherin’s where you want to be, for those with lots of cunning, get ahead without much dread, and hit the ground fast running.”

“Four Houses sit within this place, no need to push and do not race, for once I’m placed upon your head, you are already a step ahead.”

“Now I’m finished with my song, I’m sorry that it took so long, but if like me you spent the whole term on a shelf, you too would be full of yourself!”

The hat stopped singing and then did what passed for a bow as the older students clapped loudly and the waiting first years stood dumbfounded. All watched as Professor McGonagall reached into her robes to withdraw a parchment that contained the names of the nervous beginners.

“In a few moments I shall call your names one at a time and you shall step forward to sit upon this stool. The hat will be placed upon your head and you shall be sorted into your Houses.”

All watched as the professor looked at the list that had unrolled, and would unroll more on its own as she progressed down it, before she read the first name.

“William Stanford!”

The small red headed freckle faced boy hesitantly walked up to the stool and then took a seat, watching apprehensively as the professor lifted the hat over his head. She placed it upon the head of the child and then stepped back as it moved and then began to speak.

“I suppose that you already have aspirations of greatness, do you? Well, to move you on your way I guess that I have to send you place.”

Elizabeth imagined what the boy must be thinking and that his heart, like hers had been, was trying to beat its way out of his chest. A moment later the hat yelled its decision while the boy squirmed on the stool.

“RAVENCLAW!”

The great chamber seemed to rock with applause as William Stanford rose from the stool to walk quickly to the waiting table of Rowena.

“Lindsey Mattock!”

The students watched as a dark haired girl with, what Elizabeth considered, a sour expression on her face advanced slowly to the stool and then settled down on it. The girl watched warily as the older witch approached and then seemed to cringe as the hat was placed on her head.

“OOOH! A tough one to sort! You have the characteristics of all of the houses, but of course I can’t cut you into four pieces! So where do I put you?”

No one beyond Lindsey, Professor McGonagall and the hat could hear the mumbling that was going on between the pair and it seemed to go on forever. But apparently a decision had been finally made because the hat suddenly announced its decision.

“HUFFLEPUFF!”

The girl rose to walk to the waiting table while the other students in the room clapped politely.

“I thought for certain that she was going to Slytherin,” Beatrice remarked. “She’s almost scary!”

Elizabeth and Lily nodded their agreement as the next student was called to the front.

“Susan Teriff!”

This one must have been much easier as the hat nearly screamed out its decision before it settled onto the fair hair of the girl.

“SLYTHERIN!”

“Another shock,” Beatrice announced, “she doesn’t look mean enough to be a Slytherin. I would have put her in Hufflepuff.”

They watched as student after student went to a House other than Gryffindor and were becoming a bit worried as another name was called out.

“Kimberlee Lawson!”

A cute, rather shy appearing, blonde girl stepped out of the crowd and then walked to the stool while also occasionally looking back over her shoulder at the group that she had left. The hat soon settled down on her tresses and then the hat spoke.

“I sense that you lack confidence, but I know the place where it can be built.”

The hat paused and then yelled out its decision for all to hear.

“GRYFFINDOR!”

Elizabeth joined the others at her table in applause as the new member of their House walked to them and then was seated. The seventh year noticed that the girl appeared to be frightened about this whole thing and made up her mind to take the child under her wing.

New Gryffindors began to appear one after the other after Kimberlee and it was not long before the list was rerolling itself and the stool, along with the hat, were being moved aside as Professor Leeds rose to speak.

“Let us begin this most wondrous meal!”

An instant later, to the amazement of the new students and the anticipation of the older ones, the tables filled with all varieties of food. Elizabeth hurried to secure some chicken for Tiger, wrapping it in a napkin and tucking it into her pocket, before filling her own plate. The new students followed the lead of their peers and soon were involved in eating their first meal at the school.

Elizabeth glanced at a large container of thick soup and was not amazed when it seemed to read her mind and a smaller vessel of the liquid appeared next to her plate. She dipped her spoon into it and then, after blowing on it, she carefully tested it. It was not long before she was enjoying the soup and several large pieces of bread while she talked with her friends.

“What do you think about the new class?”

“I wish that we didn’t have to take it,” Lily complained, “I tried it during fifth year and it was terrible. Professor Leeds was teaching it then and he tried to make it fun, but it was ghastly. I’ve never done so much writing in my entire life, not even during second year with Professor LeBlanc.”

Elizabeth choked slightly on her soup at the mention of the name of the hated professor that had come from Beauxbatons. It had been an abysmal year until the professor had been forced to leave and then nearly deadly when the witch had attempted to kill her by destroying a land bridge that extended over a section of the lake. Elizabeth remembered tumbling into the water and nearly drowning. Then all had changed when Sebastian had come into her life and she had begun to learn all that he could teach her. That training still continued, even after Sebastian’s death at the hands of the followers of the Dark Lord.

“Sorry Elizabeth, I forgot about you and Professor LeBlanc,” Lily added sheepishly as she noticed her friend’s reaction to the name of the witch.

“Don’t mention it,” Elizabeth answered as she dabbed at the front of her robes with a napkin.

The seventh year glanced at the new students and realized that Kimberlee was taking furtive glances at her. Elizabeth had already decided to use the potion that she had prepared the year before. There was plenty left and it would give her an advantage in detecting intruders early enough to deal with them while protecting the younger students from harm. She didn’t think that Kimberlee was a follower of the Dark Lord, but she wanted to make very certain that none of the new arrivals were.

After a time, the meal vanished and dessert appeared, much to the delight of all. Elizabeth hurried to spoon a large portion of Cherry Crisp onto her plate before dipping vanilla ice cream over it. She ate quietly while listening to her friends and the conversations around her. Many people had congratulated her on her new status and she thanked them graciously, but she could see one person who was not happy about it.

Abigail Shoman glared at her from across the room and Elizabeth knew that she had some damage control to do. She didn’t want the long standing feud between Gryffindor and Slytherin to reignite. Elizabeth made up her mind to talk to the other seventh year as soon as she could to prevent that from happening.

As the evening wound down Elizabeth noted groups of students as they prepared to leave and the remainders of dessert vanishing, leaving the containers as clean as if they had just been washed. The Gryffindor first years began to rise and she rose with them as Lily also rose.

“Gryffindor first years, with me please,” Lily announced. “I want a nice neat line and stay with me, there are one hundred and forty-two stair cases here at Hogwarts and the last thing that you want to do is to take the wrong one. You also need to pay attention because the stairs sometimes move into new positions. (J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone)”

Elizabeth watched as her friend led the line of younger children out of the Great Hall and followed them closely to prevent stragglers from wandering away. They kept an eye out for Peeves and Elizabeth was the first to spot him as he hovered over the very stairway that they needed to use.

Oooh, Silly Lily has ickle firsties following her. Does we have time for some fun?”

The poltergeist spotted Elizabeth just as she realized that he had something rather nasty in mind. He paused in mid-air as she warned him off with a menacing glance.

Why, um, Bizzy Lizzy, how nice of you to be here, Old Peevsie didn’t see you following the firsties. Can’t I have even a itty bitty amount of fun with the firsties?

“Peeves, unless you want to be a poltergeist ice cube I would leave them alone.”

Her comment, confusing to the first years, meant perfect sense to the poltergeist. Peeves backed away in mid-air and then turned to swoop away, a rather rude raspberry left in his wake. Lily watched him vanish in the distance, probably to torment someone else, before leading her group onward.

They climbed upward and finally reached the portrait of the Fat Lady. The line paused as the portrait spoke to the seventh year and Lily spoke the password that would allow them entry.

“Password?”

“Perfect Pumpkin Pasties!”

The woman in the portrait nodded and the portrait frame swung open to reveal the passage that led to the Gryffindor Common Room. Lily stepped through the portal and then into the room as the students followed her and then gathered to listen to her directions.

“Welcome to the Gryffindor Common Room, you will find your dormitories through the doorway. Boys dorms are on the left and dorms for girls are on the right, don’t worry though, boys cannot enter girls dorms and vice versa. You will find that all of your things have already arrived.”

Elizabeth watched as the children vanished to the stairs and then turned her attention to Tiger, who had appeared from one of the shadowy areas where he had undoubtedly been hunting for mice. The girl reached into her pocket to retrieve the chicken and she laid it on a plate that magically appeared before her. The friends, including Beatrice, who had just arrived, watched as the cat enjoyed his treat and talked while they considered what was coming and the many changes that they would undergo in this, their final term.

They talked well into the night before making the familiar climb to their dorm and slipping into bed. The quiet breathing of the other girls in the room told Elizabeth that she was alone in being awake and she said a quiet prayer before closing her eyes and going to sleep.

“Please let this be a normal, boring term with no excitement out of the ordinary.”

The wind outside the windows to the dorm and the clouds overhead offered no clue as to what lay ahead for the students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
 

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