Harry leaped down from the carriage, and reached up to take Hermione’s hand, before helping her out of the rig. Ron quickly followed suit and assisted Ginny, while Neville did the same with Luna. When they had all gotten out of the coach, the friends proceeded up the great stone steps alongside the other upperclassmen, and entered the greatest institution of learning.
Harry, Hermione, Ron, and Ginny parted ways with Luna and Neville, after their entrance to the Great Hall, for the boy went to sit with Seamus and Dean. As the four remaining friends found seats at the Gryffindor table, they glanced up at the High Table, noting the vacancy of three seats. Shortly, after all the senior students were seated McGonagall stood up, and unfurled a long, vellum list. Just then, Hagrid stomped into the Hall, leading a line of seventy or so first-years. Harry noticed this relatively diminutive number of young students, and mentally contacted his fiancée.
“A lot of parents must not think Hogwarts is safe without Daerada, anymore. I mean, I guess they just aren’t sure.”
“Yeah, the majority of parents are probably home schooling their children, now. It’s too bad; the kids are really missing out on a good education.”
“Oh, well! At least only a few of the older students are gone.”
Meanwhile, Minerva had begun to call first-years up, to the front of the Hall, to try on the sorting hat. (A/N: With Dumbledore’s departure, the hat stopped composing songs. This was my own idea.)
“Walter Ainsley.” A slight, fair-haired boy walked forward and sat on the rickety stool before Hagrid plopped the musty, pointed hat on his head.
“HUFFLEPUFF!” The hat announced, as the Hufflepuff table exploded with cheers, and Walter ran to join his peers.
“Mitchell Barnes!” Hearing, his name being called, a short boy with chestnut hair whizzed to the stool, before having the hat be placed on his head.
“GRYFFINDOR!” Harry beamed as he heard this, and leaned over to converse with Ron.
“I bet that Mitchell boy will replace me as Gryffindor seeker next year.”
“How do you know, Harry?”
“Did you see how the boy zoomed up to the stool? And his frame… he is definitely small-framed. Barnes has the ideal physique for playing seeker. If he hasn’t grown by the year’s end, I think I will assess his playing abilities, and if he is good I’ll recommend him to Daernana.”
“Are you going crazy?”
“What’s the matter?”
“The year hasn’t even started, and you’re already talking about the next Gryffindor seeker.”
“I just thought it would be nice to be able to choose my own successor, in order to benefit the team, you know.” The boys left the conversation at that, and continued watching the sorting. Soon, all the first years were sorted and McGonagall proclaimed the official beginning of the start-of-term feast.
Harry smiled as he loaded his plate with food. The boy, having been deprived of his proper share of food during childhood, loved the Hogwarts feasts. There were a wide variety of foods: fish, chips, sausages, potatoes, salad, corn, and green beans, chicken, pork chops… Oh, there was every type of food imaginable! Even sushi and calamari! (A/N: Olive Garden has the best calamari. You can get it as an appetizer.) The enormous, cavern of a room was alive with the sounds of happy people chatting with friends, of hungry people making their way through plates of food, and of people swigging down tankards of butterbeer. In a short period of time, the last plates were cleared and the reverberating din of forks scrapping hurriedly against golden plates, gradually died away. Almost immediately afterward, the entrée platters vanished to be replaced by thousands of desserts.
Harry seized a slice of his favorite treacle tart, and was about to take a bite when he observed that the three previously, unoccupied seats had been taken by a trio of tall, hooded persons. The elf unconsciously ran a hand through his unruly mop of tangled hair, as he carefully projected his mind and attempted to determine the identities of the three mysterious strangers. Harry’s eyes widened in astonishment when he learned the personages of the new teachers, and he instantly heard the familiar voice of his grandmother, invading the privacy of his intellect.
“Not a word to Ron or Hermione.”
“The young man cautiously glanced at his fiery-haired friend, whom he found be munching on a scrumptious-looking chocolate éclair. Next, the lad’s eyes strayed to his fiancée, who happened to be in a deep discussion with his cousin, no doubt debating over the historical accuracy of muggle history or an equally bizarre subject. Good… nobody else had noticed: his secret was safe. Presently the Headmistress stood up and, clinking her spoon against her goblet, began the start of term speech.
“Welcome, all students old and new to a new school year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. I am Headmistress McGonagall. It has now been three months, since the passing of our late Headmaster Dumbledore, and the school’s staff has undergone several significant changes, since then. First of all, I am no longer the Transfiguration Professor, nor I am Head of Gryffindor. My successor is Professor Galadriel.” Minerva paused, to allow Galadriel to lower her hood and stand, before continuing.
“Furthermore, our new Defense Against the Arts professor is Professor Elrond. And, we also have a new Potions Master and Head of Slytherin House: the spouse of Professor Galadriel, Professor Celeborn.” Minerva concluded. Inevitably, the information that the new Head of Gryffindor was married to the new Slytherin Head was shocking for the entire school to learn. Harry however, turned to face his three best chums grinning, and said:
“If Malfoy thinks Celeborn is a Death Eater and another Snape… he is going to find out the hard way.”
“Yeah,” Carina agreed. “If Malfoy thinks our uncle is going to give any of us detention, he is dead wrong!”
“This year is going to be a breeze, when it comes to dealing with Malfoy!” Ron quipped, laughing. Before long, the other three friends joined in and the prospect of the future, seemed to have regained some of its lost hope.
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