Hala watched as the plume of white steam billowing from the scarlet engine trekked its way toward the train station located on the other side of Black Lake, its compartments filled with hundreds of Hogwarts students including their new friends, the Weasleys. A pot of bubbling excitement continued to simmer inside of her, her stomach roiling in anticipation of the Sorting that night. The past three days had been agonizing as the time slowly ticked by and now that it was here, she could barely hold herself together.
During their three day stay at Hogwarts, they had met almost all the teachers at Hogwarts except for Professor Trelawney who was the Divination teacher and usually tended to keep to herself in her tower. Cosmas and Damian had met up with Professor Snape and Sprouts, the latter who was the teacher for Herbology, no doubt asking what they needed to become a healer. From their talks late at night, the two teachers had been prodding them to join their respective Houses. Shyamal was keeping more to himself as he kept an eye on his younger sister from a distance though he mingled from time to time. As promised, all of them spent time with Professor Hagrid who was giddy at taking care of four Seraphinas. He had even asked them if he could use them in his plans for the year.
The white plume had stopped at the station, a dark mass moving around on the platform. A few minutes later, the fleet of yellow spots started across the lake, while another line making its way around the path that circled the edge of the lake and Forest up to the stone steps of Hogwarts. No doubt the horses that pulled the so called 'horseless' carriages were in fact from the Thestral herd they had stumbled on when they had been riding the Seraphinas to give them a workout.
Hala shivered at the memory of seeing the horse.
It looked like the four legged animal except for the fact that it was pure black, so thin that they could see every single rib along the side of the animal, straggly black manes and tails. The reptilian face was long and thin, fangs peeking out from under the upper lip. Wings that resembled a bat stretched out along the side, folded as it ate from the carrion that was lying on the forest floor. As they had watched, another trotted out from the trees and started eating. The feature that had caught their eyes was the eyes of the Thestrals themselves; shining pure white orbs.
Later, when the Seraphinas were back in their paddocks, they had asked Hagrid about what they had seen. The half-giant told them they were animals that could only be seen if they had ever seen a death and only then if they had accepted it. Being twelve, Hala hadn't really understood the conversation between Shyamal and Hagrid had about that. She had only known that she had seen one of the Blood Elves die during the five years they had been there.
"Hala! Come on! The students are going to be here soon and we have to be down in the Great Hall." Damian said from the doorway.
"Helping Shyamal get his trunk down into the living room so the house elves can teleport the trunks to our Houses once we're sorted." Damian threw an arm around her shoulders. "Can you believe it? Our first year in the Wizarding world. I hope I'm in Gryffindor."
Hala giggled. "You just want to be in that House because the Weasleys are there. Otherwise, you'd be asking to be in Ravenclaw."
Damian grabbed his chest. "You wound me." He winked at her. "But you're right. If all four of us are in the same house then we'd be able to plan our pranks more easily." They left her room and into the living room just to see their brothers dump Shyamal's trunk next to the others.
"All of you are ready? Come on then, we need to get down there." Shyamal led the way down the moving stairs to the Great Hall just to see the doors close after the last of the older students enter the room. Hala could barely contain herself. Feeling a hand on her shoulder she looked up to see Shyamal grinning at her. Hala returned it, her eyes dancing merrily.
I can't wait! Hufflepuff or Gryffindor? I love badgers but lions are cool! Oh, so many choices.
Shyamal waited tensely, watching as Hala bounced on the edges of her feet. Cosmas and Damian were talking quietly behind him as they waited which they didn't have to for long. Professor McGonagall rounded the corner that led to the dungeons, the group of first-years right behind her. She stopped before the Hall, turning around to face the nervous young face looking up at her.
"Welcome to Hogwarts. In a few moments, all of you will be sorted into one of the four Houses which are Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Slytherin, and Hufflepuff. While you are here, your House will be become your family. Mischievous, tardiness, and rude behavior will cost you House points. Being on time, sportsmanship, and academic pursuits will gain you points, The House with the most points at the end of the year will win the House Cup. Wait here while I check to see if the rest of the student body is ready for you."
The professor disappeared behind the great oak doors. Whispers broke out among the first years, quite a few stealing glances at the four older teens standing separately from them.
Damian leaned toward Shyamal who was watching the first years with mild interest. "What happens if we're split into different Houses?"
"We'll find a way to communicate to each other. But first let's see what House we'll get into." Shyamal whispered back.
"If we're sorted in Gryffindor with Edward, I'm not going to be holding myself back." Hala whispered quietly. "If he's anything like what he was when we were small, he's probably already spread rumors about me to the rest of the House."
"I kind of what to be in Gryffindor. The only people we know here are the Weasleys and the whole lot of them is in that House." Cosmas pointed out.
Before Shyamal could say anything McGonagall appeared. "We are ready for you know. Mr. Suha, can you please lead your siblings behind the group as you will be sorted after the first years?"Shyamal gave her a quick nod, jerking his head toward the back of the group. "Follow me." McGonagall turned around, the doors opening to their fullest as the group marched up between the Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw tables to stand right before the Head table. Sitting there on a stool was a decrepit looking hat.
Just as all of them stopped moving, the hat broke out into a song. While it sung, Shyamal was staring at the table furthest to the right, looking for the red heads. They were sitting closest to the head table, a girl with bushy hair sitting with them. Further along, near the doors, was Edward Potter talking with two boys that he hadn't seen so far. The hat stopped singing; Shyamal turned his full attention on the Transfiguration professor.
"Now, when I call your name, sit on the stool and I will place the Sorting hat on your head to be sorted." McGonagall called out the first name. One by one, the first years was sorted into one of the four Houses, the occasional catcalls coming when a first year was sorted into Slytherin. After what seemed like an eternity to the four siblings, the last first year, a 'Zeller, Rose' was sorted into the yellow and black House of Hufflepuff.
McGonagall looked up to the four tables. "This year we have four transfers from our comrades at Durmstrang. Please give them some time to adjust to our routine here at Hogwarts and help them when they ever need it. Suha, Cosmas."
The younger twin walked up to the stool and sat down. The moment the hat touched his head, it yelled out "GRYFFINDOR!"
Happily, Cosmas made his way down to the table adorned in red and gold.
"Suha, Damian." The older twin followed suit.
"Suha, Hala." Shyamal gave his sister a small grin as she walked up to the stool. Seconds ticked by. He could see her small hands tighten on the edge of the stool, her lips moving in a silent plea. Just as Shyamal was about to explode from the waiting, the hat yelled out her House. "GRYFFINDOR!"
"Suha, Shyamal." As he walked up there, he could feel the weight of the hundreds of eyes staring at him. He could also feel the ones from his older sibling and his mother on him as well as the ones from the teachers. Sitting down, he felt McGonagall gently place the hat on his head.
"What do we have here? The eldest of the four lost children."
"What do you mean?"
"Ever since I peeked into the inflated brain of your brother's head, I have been waiting to meet you, Harry." The hat chuckled at the discomfort of the teen. "I know your secret. Hmm, what do we have here? Saved your sister from a stampeding herd of wild Seraphinas. Ah, you refused to give up when your brother Cosmas was lost in the forest. My, my, my, you four have certainly had a busy five years. But you have a thirst to prove yourself to your parents. Perhaps you would do well for Slytherin?"
"NO! Anything but Slytherin." If he was sorted into Slytherin, the rest of the house would cause problems if he took care of his siblings as they had been sorted into the rival House. Anything but Slytherin. The risk of me losing control is too great.
"But you would do so well there. You have the ambition to prove that you are not worthless, that you can be someone great. Unlike your brother, you have what it takes to reach it. You are not blinded by the illusions that he has built himself to live these past five years. You've seen the worst and best of life. You know."
"I don't care! I have to protect my siblings. They count on me to get them through this. I won't leave them behind like what our parents did to me."
The hat chuckled in delight. "Despite living in the darkness, you've still have held to who you are, still willing to protect the light. Perhaps you will do your greatest with your loved ones around you so I see no other choice but to sort you into GRYFFINDOR!" The hat bellowed out to the hall.
Light swept into his eyes as McGonagall took off the hat. As he made his way to his siblings, he wanted to smile but he controlled himself. Even then, the corners of his mouth were lifted a bit. Down a few seats sat Edward, his face staring at him. The moment their eyes meet, the other boy turned away to talk to a dark skinned boy with dreadlocks.
Professor Dumbledore stood up. "Welcome to a new year here at Hogwarts to our old and new students. Now let the feast begin!" Shyamal blinked. The empty dishes before him were suddenly filled with massive amounts of food. Plates of mashed potatoes, buttered corn, steaming peas and carrots, bowls of beef stew, jugs full of pumpkin juice, and plates of bread and stuffing.
I don't think I'll ever get used to this. Shyamal thought as he helped himself.
A blur of black sat down right next to him. "So all four of you made into the House of the Lions!" A grinning Ron said. "I thought at least one of you might go to another House or something."
"Maybe it's in our blood." Cosmas said, winking at Shyamal. "Now that we know what House we're in, maybe it will be easier to prank someone."
Ron covered his ears. "Don't tell me." He pointed at the badge on his chest. "I've been made prefect this year so as Hermione said to me, there are certain lines that I cannot cross."
"Ah bugger then." Cosmas muttered.
Shyamal glanced at Ron. "Where is she? You said you'd be introducing us when we were at the feast."
"She's talking to the first years. That way they'll know that they will have to follow us after the feast so we can teach them the path to get to the Gryffindor common room." Ron took a look down the table. "Here she comes now."
Sure enough, the girl with bushy brown hair was walking up the table in their direction, a prefect badge on her chest. The twins huddled together to make room for her. "Hey Ron. I've just finished with the first years."
"Mates, this is Hermione Granger, fifth year prefect, brilliant student, and my only friend." Ron introduced. "This is Shyamal, Damian, Cosmas, and Hala. I meet them with Ginny when we went shopping to Diagon Alley."
"Please to meet you." Hermione shook hands with Shyamal. "What do you think of Hogwarts?"
Shyamal traded glances with Damian who shrugged as he got more food. "Well it's more medieval than what we thought it was. The grounds are beautiful and I'm waiting until the time we can go swimming in the lake next summer but other than that I can't really say. Ask me at the end of the week and I'll let you know."
"Man, doesn't your mom feed you or something?" Cosmas asked as Ron helped himself to the food.
"Cuf, se doesh. Jus hung'y, oo no." Ron said around a mouthful. Hermione elbowed him and he swallowed. "I've always had a big appetite."
"He probably has a really fast metabolism or something." Damian got some more mashed potatoes.
Hermione leaned toward the twins. "You might have to be careful though. Potter's mom and Sirius Black are now professors here. I think the reason they took up Muggle Studies and DADA was because of last year, during the Tournament."
Shyamal's interest kicked in. "What happened? The Daily Prophet just said that he appeared in the middle of the maze and that Dumbledore had to retrieve Cedric's remains later that night."
"Yeah, must people believe what the Ministry has been printing, that it was just a bunch of rogue Death Eaters and stuff. They're claiming that Potter is lying and just wants more attention. It's not that hard to believe as Potter's is always trying to be in the center of attention and throws a tantrum when he's not. He's like Malfoy that way." Hermione explained.
Ron snorted angrily. "The git is worse the Malfoy, 'Mione. The only reason why he can get away with things is because of who he is. How many times would he have died now if it wasn't for other people?"
"What do you mean?" Damian asked, his fork halfway up to his mouth.
Hermione shook her head. "When we first came here, the three of us were friends you know. Not particularly close mind you but enough. In the first year, there was this professor who turned out to be the willing host for the You Know Who's spirit. We were able to piece together what he was here for and went to go stop him as none of the teachers believed us. In the end, Potter decides to go and act the hero but almost gets himself killed. Luckily, Professor Dumbledore was able to step in and Voldemort fled, leaving his supporter behind to die. We got points for that but the second year was the worst." Hermione glanced at Ron who just glared at his plate. "Voldemort came back and was controlling Ginny through a diary. He released a basilisk on the students who were getting petrified left and right. It was so bad that the Board was going to close the school down. Finally, we were able to piece together that it was a snake and where it was located. Through some luck, Edward was able to speak parseltongue enough to get into the Chamber. But I knew better so I went to get Professor McGonagall and Snape who went down there and helped to kill the thing. But after that, Potter believed that Ginny's was his to date. The following year, he basically harassed her."
Hala huffed angrily. "Please tell she did something." Ron and Hermione laughed.
"Oh, my sister may be the youngest but she does have a temper. She bat-boogeyed him. Took a while for Flitwick to get rid of the hex. After that, we ended our friendship. So now there's a mutual hate between the Potter family and the Weasleys." Ron admitted. "Good riddance."
"I have to agree. Potter really believed that Ginny should be his property after so called saving her?" Shyamal shook his head in disgust. "I never thought fame could inflate a person's head so bad."
"Tell me about it. Of course, to save face, he spread rumors about Ginny being a whore and a scarlet woman. I got detention for the rest of my third year after hexing him myself." Ron stated.
"If he talks about my sister like that, I'll do it the next day."
"Just hope you do it in front of McGonagall. I did it in front of Snape and Gryffindor lost the House cup that year."
Cosmas sputtered, his drink spraying everywhere. "And how are you a prefect?"
"Ignored Potter in our fourth and tried to help the rest of the students that were getting bullied on. Not good as I share dorms with him." All of the Suhas winced.
"It doesn't matter. I'm proud that Ron grew up." Hermione gave the red head a smile who blushed. The rest of the group laughed. At that moment, the Weasley twins arrived, Cosmas and Damian getting closer to them so they could speak in low voices without being heard.
"You do have to say that Edward will have an interesting year." Shyamal smirked.
"If they get away with it, it'll be bloody brilliant, especially now that his mom is here." Ron restated, tilting his drink over to the red-haired woman sitting next to McGonagall. "The Potters are very protective."
Shyamal gave a small smile before eating again.
A half an hour later, the tables was wiped clean of the remains of the dessert as Dumbledore climbed back to his feet, all of the chatter between the students ending almost immediately. "Well, now, for some last words before you all head to your beds. As the older students know, the Forbidden Forest is off limits to all students. Mr. Filch has kindly asked me to remind you that the list of banned items has been updated which can be found on his office door. Also, magic is forbidden between classes in the corridors.
"This year we have a few changes in our staff here at Hogwarts. Please welcome Professor Lily Potter who will be taking over Muggle Studies and Professor Sirius Black who will be taking up the Defense Against the Dark Arts classes. Madam Delores Umbridge has been stationed here to oversee the ongoing business here at our school so please give her a warm welcome. Tryouts for the House Quidditch teams will be held two-"
"Hem, hem." All eyes went to the toad-looking woman who sat down a little from the Headmaster, already climbing to her feet. Shock filtered on professors' faces even though Professor Dumbledore's had changed to one of rapt attention. Shyamal glanced over at Ron and Hermione to see shock and disgust on theirs.
His eyes flicked back to the woman as she started to speak. "Thank you, headmaster for that kind introduction." Shyamal took the time to study her. Though she was standing, her height had barely gotten any higher. The pink cardigan seemed highly offensive against the mass of black and the darker colors of the professors. Umbridge continued in her high girlish voice. "How good it is to be back at Hogwarts. I'm sure by the end of this year, we'll be very good friends.
"As you all know, the Ministry of Magic prides itself on helping the students of Hogwarts on reaching their potential within the hallowed grounds of this school. Traditions that have been passed down through the generations of wizards and witches before you must be passed on to the next generation lest they be forgotten. A balance, however, must be forged between the traditions of the old and the innovations of the new lest we fester in stagnation and decay." Shyamal faded out, looking over at his brothers. Cosmas had laid his head on the table on his arms, eyes closed. Damian was still trying to pay attention but was losing at the battle as his fingers tapped out a rhythm on the table top. Hala was playing with a goblet, rolling it back and forth between her hands.
Sputtered clapping sounded, causing Shyamal to realize the speech had ended. Professor Dumbledore climbed back to his feet. "Thank you, Madam Umbridge for that illuminating speech. Now, Quidditch practices will be held two weeks from now. Rosters will be tacked on the Houses' respective boards to where team hopefuls will be able to apply for positions on the House Teams-"
"Hermione, I don't get what you're saying." Ron said, hunched closer to his friend.
Shyamal leaned closer to hear Hermione's reply. "What it means, Ron, is that the Ministry is interfering here at Hogwarts. Dumbledore has been sacked from the Wizengamot and the International Confederation of Wizards-"
The screeching of tables and the thundering of hundreds of feet signaled the end of the feast. Catching Damian's eye, Shyamal nodded toward Hermione and Ron who were also getting to their feet.
"Hermione, since we don't know the password for Gryffindor Tower, we'll stick with you."
The bushy haired girl nodded. "Just stick close." She turned toward the moving mass of red and gold. "First years! First years please follow me!" She called out, waving her hand as she moved toward the rest of the prefects. She elbowed the tall red head who quickly caught on.
"First years! Hey, midgets!"
Ron led the three brothers up to their dorms. The circular staircase wounded itself up through the center of the tower, leveling out onto wide landings before spiraling up again. Each landing circled the width of the staircase, connecting the five or even six doors that lead to the dorms on that landing. As they climbed, Ron explained to them about the House. "Every year has about 30 students. Each dorm has about 5 or 6 students bedding together." They walked out onto the fifth year landing. "You're lucky. Fifth year had about 28 kids so the last dorm has four kids."
The red head opened the door opposite of the landing. Inside were six beds, Cosmas and Damian's trunks against the far wall. "This will be your room for the next three years." Shyamal and Ron left the two boys to get acquainted with their dorm-mates who had just appeared.
"In our year, there are thirty five students so you'll be bunking with me in our dorm." Ron started as they climbed to the next landing. He paused at the door and turned to Shyamal. "Just to tell you, our dorm-mates are Neville Longbottom, Seamus Finnigan, Dean Thomas, and Edward Potter."
Shyamal winced inside. His brother was his dorm-mate? Maybe he should have been sorted into Slytherin.
"Neville isn't so bad; just shy you know?" Ron opened the door and stepped in. Shyamal followed, letting his eyes take in the details.
He could see his trunk in the far side on the right hand side. A trunk covered in Chudley Cannon stickers was on the far left. Next to the door on the left was a trunk with the Potter crest, a rearing gold and red lion on a beige backfield with a laurel right above it. So he would be sleeping directly opposite of his brother. Not bad.
"Neville sleeps there." Ron pointed to the middle bed on the right. "Seamus, there." Middle left. "And Dean here." The bed closest to the door on the right. Ron climbed onto his four poster bed, smirking at Shyamal. "Good thing the classes start on Monday, huh? A whole weekend to finish our summer assignments."
"I don't have to do any since I'm a transfer but I think it would be prudent if I saw what you guys are working on before I step into class." Shyamal said, starting to disrobe. "I don't want to cost the House any points on the first day."
"You might have to watch out for Snape. The dungeon bat always takes points away from us just for being Gryffindors."
At that moment, Dean, Neville, and Seamus entered the room. They greeted Ron and introduced themselves to Shyamal who smiled lightly back. Dean started talking as he pulled off the outer black robe. "I wonder if that Umbridge person is going to be a decent professor."
Ron snorted. "Hermione thinks it's a setup from the Ministry after what happened last year. Did you guys read the articles?"
Seamus nodded but not saying anything. Shyamal shrugged. "I don't read anything that's under the firm control of the government. Most of it is political mongering between all of the parties."
The boy, Neville, spoke up. "My gran thinks so too. She even went as far as to cancel our subscription. She firmly believes Dumbledore, saying if he says You Know Who is back, then he's back."
Any further talk stopped when Edward entered the room. No one talked as he swiftly started to disrobe, pulling out his night clothes.
Shyamal saw as Dean and Ron exchange looks. "Had a good holiday, Potter?"
"What do you think, Thomas?" The raven-haired teen bit back. "Do you think I had a great holiday after all the rubbish the newspaper was printing about me?" He caught the look on Seamus' face. "Oh, please, don't tell me that you believe all that talk."
The boy continued to unpack. "My mom was thinking of having me stay at home for the year, you know. To get homeschooled."
"Your mommy didn't want you to mingle with the likes me, did she?"
Dean interrupted. "Look, mate, people are just curious as to what really happened that night. You just appeared with Cedric's body and then suddenly, the rest of the professors are suddenly talking about Professor Moody and stuff."
Edward snorted angrily. "Why don't you read the stupid paper like his mom did. You'll find out everything you need to know from there."
Seamus' eyes flared dangerously. "Don't you be having a go at my mother, Potter."
"Why shouldn't I? Your mom thinks I'm a bloody liar. You probably even read them just as she does."
"You know she's right. You are crazy."
"Go to McGonagall then and ask her to see if you'll change dorms."
"So you can go to your mummy and tell her how a Gryffindor was badmouthing you? That's all you do, Potter. Run to your parents like a cry baby. I bet the reason why your siblings are dead be-" Seamus' head snapped back as Edward's fist connected with his jaw.
Shyamal dropped his things and rushed forward with Dean to hold Edward back as Neville and Ron did the same to Seamus. Edward was vibrating with barely controlled anger. "Don't you dare talk about my siblings."
"Well it's true. They did die after your birthday. I bet you were too busy celebrating with your Death Eater brother. I wonder if you're one too." Shyamal and Dean held on as Edward lunged at the other boy, dragging him back close to the door.
Shyamal moved between them. "This is going to help anybody. Both of you just leave it and go back to unpacking."
"Tell that stupid git to take back what he said. I never killed my brothers and I'm no bloody Death Eater."
Shyamal held onto Edward. "Leave it be. Name calling isn't going to get you anywhere."
Edward brushed off Shyamal and Dean's hands, giving Shyamal a death glare. "Are you trying to get into my good graces after your sister stumbled into me at the book store?"
"No, I'm just trying to stop this from going any further."
"Oh, so someone in your family actually has brains. Your sister sure didn't seem to have any when I talked with her. Perhaps the reason you came here is because your sister is a-" Edward's next words were caught off as Shyamal's hand shot out, his fingers wrapping around the tanned throat and slamming him into the wall.