Al Potter never could quite fully shake the jitters he got on the 31st of August every year since his first at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The excitement, the anticipation, and the apprehension of the upcoming school year was always enormous, this year more than ever.
Al's parents had decided to come stay with his aunt and uncle for the night before the start of term so his uncle could drive all five children to King's Cross in the morning. Al had been looking forward to seeing his cousins again after the summer holidays, but as soon as they had arrived, Al couldn't see why he had ever wanted to come. He had spent most of the day listening to his aunt and uncle fawn over his brother: his Quidditch skills, his brilliance, his bravery. James had inherited his father's Seeker ability, his mother's hexing talents, and his grandmother's brains. All Al inherited were his father's looks, and once people got over their resemblence, they generally realized what a bore Al was and moved on to James. Al couldn't help but be bitter--a fat lot of good Harry's appearance had done him--untidy hair and poor eyesight. Who needed it?
Al took a seat in his aunt's kitchen between his favorite cousin, Rose, and his uncle. The smell of burning roast wafted from the oven, where his aunt was hastily waving away the smoke from a pan. James began to snigger, but Al couldn't even manage a laugh. Aunt Hermione's notoriously awful cooking rivaled that of Al's favorite teacher Hagrid's.
"Oh, dear, Hermione. Shall I pop over to the Leaky Cauldron and place an order for us there?"
"Actually, Ginny, this roast will survive yet." She laughed.
"But Aunt Hermione, your oven dragon-breathed our dinner." Complained Lily, her mother shooting her a deathly glance reminicent of Al's grandmother.
"Yes, but Ron's store has just come out with these wonderful Quick Cuisine packets," Hermione began, "You just empty a packet of this powder onto the ruined food, and say the incantation and the food it was originally supposed to be."
"She was the inspiration for them," Ron said, "George paid a visit to Greta Catchlove, that old bat who wrote--"
"Charm Your Own Cheese," Ginny finished, "Mum's favorite."
"Yeah, and she and George made these. We've sold loads of them."
"Well, do they work?" Asked Harry skeptically.
"You're about to find out for yourself. Everyone sit down. Dinner is served."
Over a dinner of surprising delicious roast and the usual chatter over James's Quidditch victories, Al sat in silence, contemplating the upcoming year. The third year was a big one, and he had strong doubts but stronger hopes that all he had looked forward to would not dissappoint.
"...Care of Magical Creatures and Ancient Runes, right Al?" asked Uncle Ron, apparently addressing him. Al swallowed and tried to think of an answer to the question he had not heard.
"Er...yes?" He managed.
"No you're not, Al. You chose Muggle Studies." James scoffed.
"That'll make your granddad happy," Ron smiled, "Rosie here was a bit of a dissappointment to him on that respect, but she'll be following in her mother's footsteps."
Al nodded, as he couldn't think of anything else to do. His parents showed signs of indifference. Perfect James had taken Arithmancy, the tough course, along with Care of Magical Creatures, mandatory for all Potters and Weasleys. His parents seemed pleased with James for that, but then again, when weren't they? So long as Al wasn't taking Divination and took Hagrid's class, his father was satisfied. Al hadn't really put much thought toward his lessons until now, though in thinking about it, he presently realized how lame his schedule seemed compared to Rose's and James's.
Too late now, thought Al. Not that you could handle Arithmancy. You can barely pass Potions!
"Nevermind Ancient Runes, I can't wait to learn some real jinxes in Defense Against the Dark Arts." Rose added excitedly.
The chatter continued through dessert, after which the Al and James were sent to bed in Hugo's room. Aunt Hermione had conjured cots and squashy matresses on the floor, beside which lay Al's and James's fully packed trunks. Just seeing them standing ready was enough to make Al's heart leap. Nevermind that he wasn't taking more impressive classes; tomorrow he would be a third year. As a third year, he had authority. He wouldn't be "you there" or "midget." Al would be somebody this year, and between the cool cotton sheets of the magicked bed, sheltered by the dark of the room and the promise of the hour, Al had never felt more sure that the year to come would be the most memorable yet.