‘I didn’t see that coming,’ Ron said quietly to Hermione once they were back up in his and Harry’s bedroom.
Harry sat unblinkingly on his bed across from them, trying to process what he had just been told.
‘A witch?’ he said the words out loud, ‘Aunt Petunia’s had a witch for a daughter?’ Harry repeated the words several times in hopes that they might not sound so strange, but after the fifth time, nothing had changed and he was still unable to believe it.
‘Maybe this is a good thing,’ Hermione said hopefully, trying to break the awkward moment, but it was not very convincing and earned her mingled looks of disbelief and bewilderment from the boys.
‘How could this possibly be a good thing?’ Harry asked her, leaning forward on the bed and looking her hard in the eyes. ‘Please Hermione, explain it to me.’
Hermione shifted uncomfortably under the boys’ gazes, but maintained the calm voice she generally used when explaining something basic to the pair.
‘Well, I just thought that if your new cousin is a witch, then maybe you’d have a new friend in a few years at the Dursleys. That is provided they treat her the same way they treated you.’
Harry’s anger and shock rushed away from him and his body was flooded with an entirely new emotion: pity. What if the Dursleys did treat their daughter as badly as they had him?
‘I’ve got to warn Dumbledore. What if they keep her in the cupboard under the stairs?’ Harry said, sickened by the thought of the tiny girl locked in the damp spider-infested space.
‘Oh Harry, don’t be so melodramatic!’ Hermione said, rolling her eyes, and once again winning herself nasty glares from both boys. ‘Think about it. It’s Petunia’s only daughter, and since Dudley isn’t her little man anymore, she’ll want to take good care of her. Besides they’ll probably just forbid you from telling her you’re a wizard and that she’s a witch. In fact, I doubt they’ll even let her go to Hogwarts.’
‘WHAT!’ Ron and Harry both turned on her and shouted, making her jump.
‘Not go to Hogwarts? They can’t do that!’ Ron said as though outraged by some great crime.
‘Knowing the Dursleys, that’s exactly what they’ll do,’ Harry said through gritted teeth, fuming at the thought of his horrid family members.
‘What can you do though, mate?’ Ron asked his best friend sympathetically.
‘I can go to Dumbledore and make sure my cousin knows she’s a witch!’ Harry said determinedly, before standing up and stalking off toward the toilet. ‘They’re not going to ruin another kid’s life!’
When Harry had returned from the bathroom, Hermione was gone and Ron was lying in his bed, seemingly asleep. Loud snores rose from his bed, but Harry found them far to frequent to be real. He assumed that the pair had decided to leave him to his thoughts for the night and was grateful toward them.
He lay down on his bed, pulled his covers up to his chin and closed his eyes to begin clearing his mind. He tried not to think of how his cousin would be treated, but this just led to his thinking about his aunt and uncle and his immense hatred for the pair, resulting in his falling asleep angry.
He found himself running through a cornfield chasing chocolate frogs and stuffing them into his mouth whenever he caught one. He ran and ran until suddenly a noise up ahead caused him to look up and trip over a particularly large clump of dirt. Tumbling forward he broke through a wall of corn stalks and was surprised to see that he was in Hogwarts castle, just across from the statue of the one-eyed humpbacked witch. He stood up slowly and surveyed the third floor corridor for any signs of trouble and was caught off guard when the statue slid aside and Padfoot and Prongs came rushing out of the narrow passage concealed behind it.
‘What are you doing? Run!’ James’ sixteen-year-old voice echoed loudly and he and Sirius grabbed Harry by the robes and pulled him along.
‘He’s already got Peter!’ Sirius panted as they turned a corner and dashed up the fourth floor staircase, Harry still unaware of what they were fleeing.
As they reached the top of the stairs, Sirius tripped over the edge of a suit of armor, causing him to fall spectacularly at the top of the landing. Harry turned to help him up, but James grabbed his arm and pushed him ahead.
‘No, you go. I’ll help him. Don’t look back, whatever you do! I’ll meet you at the Divination tower.’
Harry continued to run as fast as he could. All he had to do was make it to the Divination tower and his dad and Sirius would meet him there.
‘Ahhh!’ Sirius’ ear-splitting cry of pain tore through the air, making Harry cringe and shudder with fear.
What was chasing them? Did it get them both? What had the Marauders done to deserve this?
Harry’s feet pounded the stone floor as he started to climb the winding staircase up to the rope ladder that he knew hung fifty feet above him. As he passed one of the doorways, he happened to glance inside and almost fell over when he saw his mother looking back out of the window at him. What was she doing in there?
Finally the old ladder came into view up ahead, much newer looking then when he first used it. He quickly pulled himself up toward the trapdoor, stopping with his palm on the handle and holding his breath as he saw a shadow coming up the stairs. James’ ragged form turned the last bend and came quickly to the base of the ladder, his robes torn and bloodied. There was a large gash on his left cheek and tears were flowing openly down his face now.
‘He got Sirius,’ he said barely audibly, before reaching a hand up to the rungs and pulling himself up behind Harry.
Harry pushed the trapdoor open and heaved himself through the opening and onto the floor, turning back to the entrance to help his father. He watched James pull himself up to the last rung and reach a hand up for help. Just as he grabbed his hand James let out a tortured scream and Harry saw a hairy, clawed limb wrap itself around the boys leg.
‘NO!’ Harry screamed as he held on to his father’s hand, ‘I’m not letting go!’
‘You have to!’ James struggled to say. ‘Close the trapdoor and lock it! Don’t let him get you too! I love you Lily!’
With that, he let go and was torn away from the ladder, deafening screams rising to Harry’s ears as he slammed the trapdoor tightly and threw the iron latch across it. James’ screams continued for another minute before it became deathly silent. Harry screamed in frustration and leaned with his back on the wall. What was happening? Why had his father called him Lily, and who was hunting them one by one?
The latch on the trapdoor rattled and Harry scurried back, terrified of what was trying to get inside. He pulled out his wand and stood ready in his duelling stance when he noticed something odd. This wasn’t his wand. An ten and a quarter inch much lighter coloured wand laid firmly within his grasping fingers and he did not understand whose it could be. Unsure if a strange wand would be of any use, he ran over to professor Trelawney’s desk in hopes of finding something that he could use in defence.
Another loud bang on the trapdoor made him jump and knock over a cart carrying crystal balls. He bent down to pick one up, thinking that at least it would be heavy enough to hurt something if thrown. He looked for a moment into the sphere and dropped it once more, having seen not his, but his mother’s reflection looking back at him.
He stood up and ran over to one of the large mirrors hanging on the back wall, kicking poufs out of his way as he hurried. He frantically pulled the frilly scarves covering its gleaming surface away and found that he was in fact Lily Evans. He touched his face and found that there were not glasses resting upon his nose, and then he reached up to his head and tangled his hand in a large clump of long, auburn hair pulled back with a tie.
‘WHAT IS GOING ON!’ he cried, so loudly that he thought his throat would tear in half.
The trapdoor flew off of its hinges and Harry watched through his mother’s eyes as a creature’s clawed arms reached up through the opening and pulled itself up. He looked around for anything to use and jumped abruptly as a hand shook his shoulder.
Harry opened his eyes and saw Ron staring back at him nervously, fear etched into his features.
‘Harry, are you alright?’ Ron spoke loudly. ‘What happened? You started screaming in your sleep and then you were thrashing your arms and legs around. I didn’t know what to do.’ He sounded panicked.
‘It’s alright Ron. No big deal.’ He lied in a voice out of breath, unwilling to think about what had just occurred. He saw the disbelieving look on Ron’s face and knew that he wasn’t buying it. ‘Listen Ron, I did have a nightmare, just not what you think. I dreamed that Snape was chasing me down the hallway for not handing in am assignment and when he caught me he reinstated my lifetime ban for quidditch.’
Ron’s eyes widened, and he looked sympathetic.
‘I’d have screamed too. Imagine dreaming about Snape. At least it was just a dream though.’ He added clapping Harry on the back, and visibly relaxing now. ‘I’m going to try and sleep again. Are you sure you’re alright?’
‘I’m fine, Ron,’ he lied again, and watched as the redhead clambered back over to his four-poster.
Harry laid his head back down and started to think about what had happened. He hated to lie to Ron, but he couldn’t explain his nightmare to him, as he did not even understand it himself. Once again he had seen the sixteen-year-old versions of the Marauders, but this time, instead of seeing his mother’s terrified expression, he was forced to feel her fear and live through what she had. What did it mean? Harry continued to think about it as he lay in bed, staring up at the ceiling until he felt sleep tug at his eyelids and he fell asleep once more.
The next morning proved to be much like any he might have had at the Burrow. Mrs. Weasley woke them up for breakfast, and when Harry and Ron entered the Hogwarts-like kitchen they found one of the largest meals she had ever made splayed across the table.
Just as the morning before, the two boys were the last ones to descend and found that the rest of the wedding party were already eating and conversing animatedly. Harry plopped back down next to Ginny and watched as Ron stared over at Hermione, who once again had a textbook in front of her but was plainly ignoring it in lieu of conversing with Hogwarts’ Head Boy.
Noting Hermione’s hair was back to it’s usual bushy self, Harry took in the rest of the girls’ appearances and found they too had gone back to jogging bottoms, pajamas and t-shirts. Angelina, having guessed what it was he was looking at, leaned over the table and told him loudly that she had used the reducto curse on her gown and that it was now lying in pieces up in her room where it could never cause anyone to suffer again. Everyone laughed loudly, despite the obvious insult to the bride’s choice of gowns, and looking around Harry saw why.
‘Where are Percy and Penelope?’ he asked curiously, craning his neck and scanning the large kitchen in case they were hiding just out of view.
‘They’re gone on their honeymoon Harry! Where do you think married couples go?’ Hermione said plainly, clearly used to explaining everything to him and Ron. She looked up at Roger Davies who smiled back at her and she reddened significantly.
‘Where’d they go?’ Ron asked, knowing nothing of his brother’s plans.
‘Penelope said they were going to Bulga- Ouch!’ one of the blond bridesmaids started to say from her spot at the end of the table before being cut off by the other one and leaning over to rub her foot that had so obviously been stomped on.
‘Paris. She said they were going to see Paris for the rest of the summer,’ the other girl said smiling
broadly at the whole table while her friend looked away sheepishly.
‘This is a delicious breakfast Molly!’ Lupin said loudly, interrupting the awkward silence from everyone at the table and changing the topic of discussion quite obviously.
‘Thank you Remus,’ she replied, narrowing her eyes at the first blond girl and then again at Lupin, clearly unsure of whatever was going on.
Over the course of the day, people were slowly starting to pack up and leave the Nest, saying their goodbyes and reassuring Mrs. Weasley that they would without a doubt return in December. By four o’clock the large group had been whittled down significantly to leave only the Weasley family, Harry, Hermione and the other inhabitants of the vast home.
Harry and Ron lay on their backs in the newly undecorated back garden, day dreaming in the sun’s warm rays while Hermione sat facing them with her back against a large tree. The sunlight punched through bits of the green canopy and Crookshanks lay, purring peacefully, in the hollow created by Hermione’s crossed legs while she read Harry’s copy of Defend, Don’t Die with an intense curiosity playing on her features.
‘You did say Lupin gave you this, right?’ she asked without lifting her eyes from the book and continuing to scan from left to right across the page, unwilling to miss a single detail.
‘That’s what I said. Thinks it would be helpful,’ Harry replied.
‘He’s right. Have you read any of this? It’s very dark and it sounds extremely dangerous, but it really would give you the upper hand against, well you know what I mean.’
‘That’s why he said he gave it to me,’ Harry sat up now and lifted his hand to his brow so that he could see Hermione. ‘I’ve only started reading it, but there are some curses I’ve read about that sound as bad if not worse than the Unforgivables.’
‘What could be worse than Avada Kadavra?’ Ron said plainly, not bothering to sit up or even open his eyes.
‘Ron!’ Hermione hissed at him, ‘Don’t ever say that! Even if you’re not holding a wand.’
Ron continued to lay there and gave his shoulders a slight shrug, indifferent to Hermione’s scolding. Crookshanks, deciding he was tired of laying on Hermione’s lap, got up and trudged over to where Ron was laying and curled up by his side.
‘Traitor,’ Hermione hissed at the ginger-coloured cat, who ignored her completely like Ron, and started to laugh when she noticed Harry snickering.
The pair continued to talk for the next hour while Ron, who was seemingly napping, would interject and argue the opposite of whatever Hermione said. Harry loved it; it was like being back at Hogwarts and now he really was with his two best friends. He laughed openly when Ron sat up to argue that the inventor of Chocolate Frogs was in fact a genius.
Their conversation stopped when the back door flew open and all of the inhabitants of the house piled out into the yard with broomsticks, Ginny carrying her Cleansweep and Harry’s Firebolt.
‘Up for a match?’ Fred asked Harry. ‘We’ve been dying to see you play again.’
‘Yeah sounds great!’ Harry grinned, jumping up toward Ginny and grabbing the Firebolt as Ron dashed toward Bill to get his Cleansweep.
Harry asked George why there was a chain link attached to the end of his broom with an iron peg and the whole group roared with laughter when he told them that it was reminiscent of their escape from Umbridge the year before.
Fred and George were team captains and split the group so that the teams were equally fair. On Fred’s team he was a beater while Katie and Alicia were chasers, Ginny was seeker and Ron played keeper. On George’s team he was beater while Angelina and Charlie were chasers, Harry was seeker and Bill played keeper.
Harry threw his leg over the edge of his broomstick and kicked off hard, feeling the wind rush through his hair as he soared upward toward the clear blue sky. It had been so long since the last time he had been allowed to ride his broom, making this feel even better. He whipped around the perimeter of the Nest a few times, looking over the town of Hogsmeade and toward the welcoming castle in the distance, before rejoining his teammates for their match.
For the next two hours the group played quidditch, managing unbelievably to finish six matches while Lee Jordan commentated and Hermione watched from beside him, flipping her interest back and forth between the game and her text.
Of the six matches, Harry only managed to catch the snitch four times, narrowly missing it twice as Ginny swooped in and caught it, much to the pleasure of her teammates. The matches were finally called to a halt when Mrs. Weasley bustled outside to tell the hungry group dinner was ready.
The following ten days were the most relaxed Harry had seen this summer, filled with nothing but rest and quidditch. As it turned out, Ginny was a much better chaser than seeker, and that was saying something. Hermione continued to read all of her new textbooks and Ron continued to do absolutely nothing school related while she nagged him about it. Harry had not once had a nightmare related to either Voldemort or his parents and was finally glad to put the entire ordeal out of his mind. On the whole, Harry felt that this was the perfect way to end his summer holidays.
The morning of September first dawned bright and early, the sun slowly creeping in through the uncovered window of the boys’ bedroom, and Harry once again found himself in a heap on the floor next to Ron.
‘Get up! You’ll be late if you two don’t hurry,’ Mrs. Weasley warned the pair, having once more flipped their beds onto the ceiling.
‘What time is it?’ Ron asked through bleary eyes as he tried to read Harry’s small alarm clock on the bureau across the room. ‘Blimey! It’s half past eleven Harry. We’ve missed the train again!’
Ron and Harry were both off the floor and scuttling around the room in a frantic hurry, throwing on their robes and stuffing their school things into their trunks the best they could. Dragging their things behind them, they rushed out onto the third floor landing where they ran full into Ginny, who was also lugging her trunk behind her and was now sprawled on her back over top of it.
‘What’s your hurry?’ Ginny asked as she accepted Harry’s hand up.
‘We’ve missed the Hogwart’s Express Gin,’ Ron said exasperatedly and tried to push his way past her.‘Mum’s going to kill us!’ he added, looking around frantically for his mother, as though she may have been hiding in the shadows ready to ambush them.
‘You’re kidding right?’ Ginny started to say, laughing at the frantic sixteen-year-olds in front of her.
‘What are you laughing at?’ Hermione asked the red-haired girl as she came up the stairs behind her.
‘These two are all in a hurry because they think they’ve missed the train,’ Ginny told her, and the two of them started to laugh at them again.
‘Really Harry! Do you think that I, Hermione Granger, would be foolish enough to miss the school train?’
Harry eyed her up and down and saw that had stopped Ron in his tracks.
‘We’re in Hogsmeade!’ She finally said exhasperatedly. ‘We don’t meet the train at the town station for another six hours.’
Harry and Ron both collapsed onto the landing and took deep breaths, both of them relieved that they had not missed the train, but also embarrassed that they had made such fools of themselves.
‘I take it you’re all packed then?’ Ginny said laughing as she followed Hermione down the staircase, her heavy trunk making a loud thump every time it fell down another stair.
Harry and Ron stood up and followed the girls, their trunks adding to the loud clunking of Ginny’s on their way to the entrance hall.
Breakfast this morning was different from the last week’s as this would be the last time all of the group would be together until Christmas. Fred and George spent the first two hours of their time telling them all about hidden passages that Filch had not found yet and about the professors’ daily routines so that they could be easily avoided. Harry and Ron listened intently to all of this useful information, while Hermione rolled her eyes constantly and tried her best to change the subject at every pause in the twins report.
When Fred and George felt satisfied with what they had given to the boys that they expected to fill their shoes, Angelina instantly pulled Harry and Ron’s attention away. For the next hour the four members of the Gryffindor quidditch team were given every helpful pointer they did and did not need to win the house cup. Even Lee Jordan, who had never played quidditch due to his fear of flying, seemed to have pointers for the remaining members of the team.
‘I think we’ll manage Angelina,’ Katie said to her, leaning back slightly in case she decided to retaliate.
‘You had better!’ Alicia said, ‘because we’ll be at every match, and if you lose, well the other team’s taunting won’t be all you have to put up with.’
Harry and Ron exchanged semi-terrified looks before excusing themselves with Ginny, Katie and Hermione and walking into the back garden, leaving the five ex-Gryffindors to argue tactics amongst themselves.
‘There’s nothing like pressure to make you play like a pro,’ Ron said sarcastically, kicking a pile of leaves out of the way as the small group walked toward the edge of the garden.
‘Oh don’t even think on it Ron,’ Hermione said, placing a hand on his shoulder, ‘I’ve been watching you play all week. You’ve really gotten good! I don’t think the other houses will stand a chance.’
‘We’ll see,’ Ron said quietly, but he had gone a shade of red that matched his fiery hair.
Katie and Hermione discussed her upcoming N.E.W.T’s while Ginny griped about her O.W.L’s.
‘They’re really not that bad Gin. There’s nothing to worry about,’ Ron told her, ‘If Harry can pull off eight- Oi!’ he yelped as Harry punched him hard in the ribs and the two began to wrestle.
After an early supper, the time to leave the Nest rushed toward the returning students and they began to say their goodbyes. One by one they all got hugged by Mrs. Weasley, and then surprisingly by either Fred or George. Once out on the road with their things, Hermione sighed and shook her head at a small roll of parchment in her hand.
‘Can you believe those two?’
‘What do you mean?’ Harry asked her, wondering what she was holding.
‘Check your pockets, I’m sure everyone has one.’
Sure enough all four of the others emptied their robe pockets and found identical rolls of parchment. Unrolling hers, Ginny read aloud:
Tired of sitting through your lessons? Would you rather be sleeping or doing nothing? If you answered yes to either of these questions, we have the solution for you. Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes
Come and see our newly redone Skiving Snackboxes, now with more than eight ways to appear seriously ill, ensuring your immediate removal from undesirable lessons. Many new items aswell, including the Anti- Umbridge Fireworks and Portable Swamps.
Newly located at 123 Hogs Road, directly across from the Shrieking Shack
‘So that’s why they hugged us,’ Ginny said rolling her eyes stupidly. ‘I wondered what was going on. They’ve never hugged me in my life.’
‘Well, hand them over. We’ll have to dispose of them before they get out around the school,’ Hermione said holding an outstretched hand toward the others.
‘Are you mad!’ Ron said to her, holding his far out of her reach and watching as the others placed theirs back in their pockets. ‘We have to hand them out so that the twins get some business,’ he added as though it was the right thing to do.
‘Besides, I wouldn’t mind seeing Filch scramble a little after the way he acted last year with Umbridge,’ Harry said, smirking as he imagined the look on the caretaker’s face when the twins’ products invade the castle.
‘Fine! Do what you want, but I for one will take no part in creating mayhem. I am a Prefect after all,’ Hermione said stiffly, staring pointedly at Ron and Ginny, both of whom pretended not to notice.
For the next few minutes Hermione did not talk to any of them, but rather stared ahead of her and led the way. Ron waved at the old couple who owned Honeydukes Sweet Shop as they passed and received a half-hearted hello in return. They all waved at the owner of Zonko’s who was out sweeping his walk and Ron and Ginny were confused when he only said hello to Harry, Hermione and Katie.
‘What was that about?’ Ron said to Ginny, who shrugged her shoulders and was just as clueless.
The five friends climbed the steps to the station platform and took a seat on their trunks to wait for their friends’ arrival. Barely five minutes had passed when they heard the first high-pitched whistle in the distance, signalling the train. Slowly the whistle got louder and the screeching of the braking wheels filled the air as the Hogwart’s Express pulled up to the platform and expelled a large puff of billowing white steam. The doors slid open and the once silent platform was riddled with laughing voices from the students and the odd hooting, meowing, or croaking from their pets as they unloaded their baggage.
Harry watched as Dean Thomas came running over to give Ginny a hug before backing up slightly at seeing the threatening look in Ron’s eyes.
‘How are you Harry?’ a voice said from behind him, and he spun to see who it was.
‘Neville! Good to see you!’ Harry said clapping a hand on the tall boy’s shoulder. ‘Grown a bit have you?’ he said noticing the remarkable change in his normally short, stout friend.
Neville had grown at least five inches over the summer and had lost almost all of his baby fat. He seemed, like Harry and Ron, to have done some sort of training in the summer and no longer looked so unfit. This change did not go unnoticed by any of the girls on the platform. They all seemed to be looking over at the three boys, all having grown significantly over the holidays, and none of them gangly or chubby any longer.
‘Good holidays boys?’ Parvati Patil said, walking up to them with Lavender Brown following closely behind her.
‘Yes. Thank you Parvati,’ Neville said kindly, looking at her and then at Lavender. ‘And how about the two of you?’ The girls giggled and exchanged funny looks.
‘Oh very good holidays indeed. Lavender and her parents came with my family on holidays to Italy. It was beautiful!’
Harry noticed that both the girls had very dark tans, something odd for Lavender who was normally as white as cotton.
‘Well, we’ll see you at the feast,’ Parvati said, and pulled Lavender along behind her through the throngs of excited students.
‘Well, come on Ron. You too Ginny,’ Hermione said, grabbing both their sleeves and pulling them toward a carriage at the front of the long row of Hogwarts carriages. ‘We have our duties to perform.’
‘See you inside,’ Ron called to Harry and Neville before disappearing inside one of the large black carriages being pulled along by the eerie looking Thestrals.
‘Shall we?’ Neville said to Harry and the boys made their way toward the row of carriages, stopping when they heard their names called aloud.
‘Harry, Neville, we’ve got an empty one over here,’ Seamus Finnigan’s thick accent cut through the air.
The boys looked over to where Seamus stood on a carriage’s wooden step, beckoning for them to come over. Neville and Harry made their way over and hopped in, finding Seamus and Dean already seated and waiting for them. Just as the carriage started to pull forward, another hand threw itself inside and Harry smiled as Luna Lovegood pulled herself onto the seat next to him.
‘Hello Harry,’ she said in her usual dreamy voice, her bright orange turnip earrings dangling from her earlobes. ‘You don’t mind do you? All the other carriages are full.’
‘Not at all. How are you, Luna?’
‘Oh, I’m quite well, thank you Harry. I had a very good summer. Dad and I went on holiday to Alaska. He set up an expedition to try and find the Scampled Tilberbeast, and I dare say got some excellent photographs for the magazine. They’re all sort of fuzzy, but it’s the best evidence anyone’s found so far.’
Dean snorted from his seat and Luna showed no signs of noticing. She simply leaned back and pulled the latest copy of the Quibbler out of her robes and began to read it upside down quietly. Harry just smiled to himself.
‘Do you know what’s happened to Hagrid, Harry?’ Seamus asked him suddenly. ‘I noticed some young man calling all of the first years on the platform.’
‘Oh right!’ Harry said, remembering Hagrid’s letter telling him that he might not be back by the start of term. ‘He’s fine. He’s just visiting with Madame Maxime up at Beauxbatons.’
‘So I guess they’ve worked things out between them then, have they?’ Seamus said smiling at everyone.
As the carriage pulled up to the front doors, they all stepped out one by one and climbed the stone steps to the enormous entrance hall. Remembering last year’s start of term feast, many of the students were covering their heads in case Peeves decided to welcome them all with water balloons again. Oddly enough, Peeves was nowhere in sight so the students filed into the Great Hall and took their seats at their respective House tables to wait for the first years to finish their journey across the lake. The hundreds of burning candles hovering above their heads lit the magnificent room and made it glow warmly under the enchanted ceiling. The night sky was darkening and the stars beginning to shine when all of the students and professors were finally seated.
‘I can’t wait to see our new Defence professor,’ Hermione said eagerly from between Ron and Ginny, all three of them plopping down across from Harry and Neville.
‘Anyone would be better than Umbridge at least,’ Seamus said from down the table, receiving a more than hearty cheer from all those around him who had heard and agreed.
Harry scanned the staff table and noted that Hagrid’s seat was empty, but knew that the substitute professor would occupy it as soon as he arrived with the first years. Then he saw that the two seats between Snape and Dumbledore were empty. One he knew was professor McGonagall’s and the other was the mystery professor’s.
The doors to the Great Hall opened then to reveal a shivering row of tiny first years following a very familiar red-haired man. Charlie Weasley led the children toward the staff table, waving at the Gryffindor table as he passed it. Ron and Ginny exchanged surprised looks, as they clearly knew nothing of his being at Hogwarts. Several of the first years were sopping wet, probably owing to the choppy water of the lake. The giant squid could also have leant to the problem. The children walked down the center of the hall quickly, some avoiding eye contact with the older students as they passed them and others looking around the room in amazement.
Dumbledore then stood and raised a hand to the chattering students. Silence fell immediately, and everyone including the Slytherins watched the Headmaster intently, unsure of what exciting or possibly preposterous message would be delivered this year.
‘Welcome back to all of our returning students, and welcome to all of the first years. I only have a couple of announcements to make before the Sorting ceremony and then the feast may commence.’
Ron’s stomach made a sick gurgling noise that made Ginny slide a little away from him.
‘As always, I must warn the students that the Forbidden Forest is indeed out of bounds as its name might indicate,’ he stared pointedly at the Gryffindor table. ‘The caretaker, Mr. Filch, has asked me to let you all know that he has once again extended the list of items that are forbidden in the castle, and if anyone would care to see it, they should stop by his office on the first floor. Unfortunately, I must inform you that found on that list is the entire inventory of Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes.’
A silent snicker rose from all of the tables and Harry saw that even most of the professors were chuckling at the ingeniousness of their former students.
‘With that out of the way, I may now inform you that Professor Charlie Weasley will be substituting for Professor Hagrid in Care of Magical Creatures until he returns to us later this week, and then will be staying on for the rest of the school year to share Care of Magical Creatures with him.’
Charlie stood behind the staff table and smiled at the Great Hall as the students clapped loudly, welcoming him to the castle.
‘Now I must introduce you to the newest member of our faculty, and new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, Professor Black.’
Harry’s heart almost jumped out of his chest, and Ron, Hermione, Neville and Ginny all gasped loudly. Black? How could that be? Harry was told that when Sirius died, he had been the last living member of the Black family. He looked up and found that Snape did not look malicious this year like all the others before it, but instead smiled slightly and began to clap along with the other professors as a door behind the staff table opened. The door to the anti-chamber in which Harry had met with the other Tri-Wizard champions two years before opened and professor McGonagall stepped out with something grey in her hands, closely followed by a short blond woman. Now it was Harry’s turn to gasp.
The short blond woman with high cheekbones and icy blue eyes walked down the table and took a seat next to Snape who smiled at her respectfully. Dumbledore continued as the students clapping died down and they all inspected their new professor, many of them wondering what fate she would come to in that cursed position.
‘Professor Hyacinth Black will be with us for the rest of this new school year, and I know that you will all treat her kindly,’ his sparkling blue eyes swept the hall and everyone remained silent as he took his seat once more.
Professor McGonagall stepped forward and placed the old worn Sorting Hat on a three-legged stool and stepped back toward the staff table. All of the students leaned in closely to hear what the Hat would say this year, wondering if it would try and give a warning like that of the year before. Then the rip near the hat’s brim opened wide like a mouth and the Sorting hat burst into song:
In older days there were four friends, but you’ve all heard that story,
So instead I’ll tell a new tale, now listen or be sorry.
Strong Gryffindor, who taught the brave, befriended Slytherin we know.
But why that friendship fell apart and best friends became foes?
I was there and so can tell what no other person knows.
I will tell you one and all the way the scene was played.
While cold and strict our Slythrerin, ‘twas Gryffindor who betrayed.
Salazar was cold and crude but not in the beginning.
It took a friend’s knife in the back to start his life of sinning.
He was smart and oh so cunning, his skills he taught to all.
Bloodlines did not mean a thing, and for a Muggle did he fall.
Slytherin then wed his bride and for years they loved each other.
And he and Godric Gryffindor continued on as brothers.
With Helga and Rowena, forTen years Hogwarts was grand,
Until it changed one stormy night, I saw it all first hand.
The Muggle wife changed suddenly and darkened was her heart.
She turned on all four founders and tore the friends apart.
She told Rowena Ravenclaw, cleverest of the four,
The other founders thought her dim and would have her out the door.
To Helga sweet Miss Hufflepuff, she lied and fed her fears,
But she did not believe her friends would change after all these years.
Losing patience, the woman fled to Godric Gryffindor,
And told him she wed Salazar but loved him so much more.
Here Gryffindor made his mistake as he too declared his love,
For just as his wife had arranged, Salazar watched from above.
Slytherin then drew his wand and turned it on his friend.
He told him that his days on Earth were just about to end.
A duel ensued between the men for what seemed like hours,
Until the other founders came and drained them of their powers.
Good Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw had hung their heads in shame,
For after talking to each other, they knew exactly who to blame.
Together the four friends were strong and the wife had no more game,
But even though it was her fault, things never were the same.
When Salazar learned of his wife’s betrayal he was changed.
His views from that day forward became more and more deranged.
He only taught the Purebloods and lost his kindly way.
He refused to speak to Godric and soon after went away.
When he left he left a beast, in a secret room they say,
To be opened by his one true heir, for the monster to obey.
That I’m sure you all have heard, but what you all know not,
Is that Gryffindor too had an heir so that one day they could have fought.
I’ve seen inside each of you heads, I’ve searched for many years.
You cannot hide a thing from me, not secrets nor your fears.
And to my shock I found them both, in Hogwart’s year: the same!
But as it’s all a mystery I will not give a name.
With history to guide them the heirs are meant to fight,
But curses can be broken and things can be made right.
Outside the castle evil waits, you all know of whom I speak.
He grows strong as you divide, and the havoc he will wreak!
Now I have given warning and you must all beware,
For even though I split you up there’s one thing you all share.
A thumping just beneath your robes, in each house just the same.
So once again stay united although it sounds quite lame.
Each house possesses qualities for which you’re sorted one by one,
But please remember history: Four hearts bested one.
The hat fell silent and the brim closed up once more. The students in the hall looked around at one another and slowly they clapped half-heartedly while whispering to one another about what they had just learned. The Slytherins, Harry noticed, were looking quite smugly toward the Gryffindors, who were shocked and angry at what they had learned of their founder. It seemed that the other houses felt unsure of what to believe as well and avoided meeting any Gryffindor’s eyes.
‘Gets better every year, doesn’t it?’ Ron said sarcastically, shaking his head.
‘Now, I will call out your name and you will sit on the stool and place the Sorting Hat on your head,’ McGonagall told the nervous looking first years as she stepped forward once more.
‘Appleton, Jenny,’ she called out from a long roll of parchment, and tried to smile reassuringly as a tiny blond haired girl walked slowly to the stool and placed the hat on her head.
A few moments passed and the tear in the hat opened wide again to shout ‘RAVENCLAW’.
The Ravenclaw table burst into cheers and the small girl rushed over to her new house to sit next to Luna Lovegood, who seemed to be staring off in the other direction.
Two more girls were sorted into Ravenclaw and three boys into Slytherin and Hufflepuff each. As the sorting continued, it appeared that Gryffindor would have quite a shortage of first years until McGonagall called ‘Evans, Marcus’.
A rather tall first year boy who looked much older than eleven stepped forward without hesitation and sat on the stool. He lifted the hat over his dark curly hair and before it even touched his ears it shouted louder than ever ‘GRYFFINDOR!’
The whole table erupted in cheers and the new boy walked over and sat down between Dennis Creevey and Seamus.
Before continuing, McGonagall uncharacteristically spoke in the middle of the ceremony.
‘Mr. Evans is joining us this year as a fifth year student. He has just come from Durmstrang Academy and I am certain that all of the students will do their best to make him feel comfortable with the large change.’
The entire hall was filled with whispers again as the students craned their necks to get a better look at the new boy. The Gryffindors were all just as interested, for all they knew, it was mostly dark wizards that came out of Durmstrang.
The rest of the sorting went well, except that of the thirty odd first years, only four of them were sorted into Gryffindor. Other than Marcus there were no new boys but there were four new girls: Sarah Abbot, Parmander Sclereli, Dorothy Jenkins and Deidre Whethers.
Dumbledore stood once more at the end of the sorting and sent a gold stream into the air to get the students attention. ‘One last thing before we begin the feast. Please give a round of applause for your new Hogwarts Head Boy and Head Girl, Roger Davies of Ravenclaw and Katie Bell of Gryffindor.’
The entire hall broke into applause again and nobody heard Dumbledore shout ‘Tuck in’ before the tables were covered in one of the most delicious looking feasts they had had yet.
Several times during the evening Harry looked over and found that Marcus had been staring over in his direction, but looked away every time Harry noticed. Putting it to the back of his mind, he looked around and found that all of the other tables kept looking over at him and some of the students were even openly pointing.
‘What’s their problem?’ he finally blurted, annoyed by all the constant attention.
‘The first years are probably trying to get a look at the famous Harry Potter. I thought you’d be used to it by now,’ Ron said plainly to him through a mouthful of mashed potatoes and minced meat pie.
‘I don’t think so,’ Hermione said quietly from next to Ron, placing her goblet of pumpkin juice back onto the table and staring hard at Harry.
‘Oh you don’t? Then what is it?’ Ron asked waiting for her long-winded explanation, and piling another load of lamb chops onto his plate.
She looked at Harry for another second and sighed before saying what she thought.
‘Well, maybe they’re looking at Harry because they think he might be the heir of Gryffindor.’
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