Fifth Year

First Day of School

The next morning, I was up and dressed before any of my friends. The only reason I was able to walk down to breakfast with Lynne, Lanie and Shawnee was that I had to (quietly) unpack.

At breakfast, both Lanie and I helped ourselves to large bowls of porridge; Lynne, who was never hungry at breakfast-time and instead ate large lunches and dinners, nibbled on a fried tomato; Shawnee piled her plate with sausages and toast and set about making two breakfast sandwiches.

Schedules were handed out, and my day was booked full- Charms, double Herbology, lunch, double Potions and finally Transfiguration. I had a reputation to uphold, as a Prefect, of being on time to classes, so I left breakfast early, meaning to get to the Charms classroom and the newly crowned Ravenclaw Head of House Professor Brocklehurst’s cheery domain. However, as soon as I left the Great Hall, I bumped into Austin Wood.

He steadied me. “Whoa there!” Then he saw who it was, and a grin spread over his face. “Hey, Aly. I actually needed to talk to you- must’ve been fate.”

“I can’t be late to Charms,” I told him.

“No, of course not,” he agreed, shaking his head. “It’s just that the Captains’ meeting is tonight. After classes. In the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom.”

“Before or after dinner?”

Austin smiled. “Before. Nick and Kayla already know, so...”

“I’ll be there,” I promised, heading off to Charms.

And I was, after an exhausting afternoon with the new Potions teacher, Professor Burton, and the tall, sly, French Professor Descoteaux of Transfiguration. I slouched into the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, straightened up briefly to bid good-bye to the short, potbellied Professor Gedding, and collapsed into a chair off to the side, bone tired.

Kayla Strait, new Hufflepuff Quidditch Captain, entered after me and we had a lovely rendezvous. We were discussing Kayla’s twin sister Ana, a cheerful girl who was fascinated with Muggles, when the door opened once again.

“Ah! Kayla, Aly!” Austin said pompously as he entered, as if he hadn’t expected to find us here. “And... if you don’t know him already, may I introduce-”

“Nick Justice of Gryffindor,” said Nick, striding into the room. “New Captain. Hey, Kayla. Hey, Aly.”

We both knew him already, of course- the tall, cocky, handsome Gryffindor boy with the ever-tousled caramel hair and laughing blue eyes.

“What were you talking about before we came in?” inquired Austin.

Kayla shrugged. “Ana’s hair,” she said bluntly. Over the summer, Ana and Kayla had gone to America to visit their aunt, and Ana had returned one night with half of her hair shaved down to a light fuzz of brown. They had then decided that the best thing to do was dye it, so Ana had come back to Hogwarts with the shaved side of her head colored pink with purple swirls, and the tips of what hair was still long colored yellow, blue and green. Not many people could have pulled it off, but Ana did, with a stylish confidence that accompanied her in everything she did.

“But we’re done now,” I added.

“Perfect,” Austin said, sitting with us. “When were you thinking of holding your tryouts, everyone?”

“I was thinking the first Saturday of October,” Nick replied before either of us girls could say anything. “I think that’s the first?”

“I was thinking that too,” Kayla said quickly after him, “but I could hold my tryouts on the day after- Sunday the second.”

“I want mine done before September ends,” I put in. “Maybe Austin and I could do our tryouts the weekend before- me on the twenty-fourth and him on the twenty-fifth. Then you guys could do yours on the first and the second. How does that sound?”

“Sounds good to me,” Kayla said with a smile.

Nick shrugged.

Austin pounded the table with a fist. “Then it’s settled!” he boomed, standing. “Good luck to all of you.”

“Good luck,” we echoed as he strode out, followed by Kayla. This left me and Nick standing alone in the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom.

Nick turned to look at me, and there was a short awkward silence where we just regarded each other before he said, “Quidditch Captain, Prefect, and school heroine, huh?”

“Yeah,” I said quietly.

“Congrats,” he offered. “How do you manage it all?”

I saw a playful glint in his eyes, and so responded playfully, “By winning the Quidditch Cup, and after that, the House Cup. Oh, and getting a bunch of O.W.L.s.”

He laughed. “What, do you want to be Minister of Magic or something?”

I shrugged. “Old Kingsley Shacklebolt is doing a pretty good job of it, himself.”

“Yeah, but the Daily Prophet says he’s going to retire in ten years,” Nick began.

I cut him off with a laugh. “You read the Daily Prophet?” My mum worked at it, so I didn’t hate it (not like some purists from Harry Potter’s time did), but I hadn’t pegged Nick for a newspaper reader.

Nick raised his hands in fake surrender. “My mum does... and anyway, he said himself that he’s going to retire in ten years, Aly,” he pointed out. “Imagine that- youngest Minister of Magic ever! Twenty-five-year-old Aly Salinger!”

I pushed him, playfully. “Are you plotting against the Ministry, Nick?”

He gasped in mock horror, putting on an exaggerated accent just to make his words even funnier. “Aly Salinger, I can’t believe you would say such a thing!” Then he stood up, walked to the door and walked out, but poked his head back in to say one last thing in his normal voice. “Oh, and by the way, you’re not winning the Quidditch or House Cups. I am.”

Then he was gone, and I stood up and walked to dinner in a considerably better mood, chortling to myself.


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