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Dragonflames

By starian_nightzz

Drama / Romance

The Road Ahead

Summary:

Extreme AU. Hilda is three years older than canon. The war never happened, and Tom Riddle never became Voldemort. Determined to become the world's top curse breaker due to her parents' deaths, Hilda Potter had to juggle life, work and a long distance relationship with Charlie Weasley while handling the domineering Weasley matriarch. Charlie/Fem!Harry

I had this sudden idea with all the 'what-ifs' running around my head—that what will happen if Tom Riddle had never became Voldemort, and the war had never happened. Basically, while it isn't such a perfect world, it is much better than the canon world.

Anyway, this story is extremely AU. This is a story where the war had never happened, and hence, no prophecy or Boy-Who-Lived (or Girl-Who-Lived). Hilda is three years older than canon, and is best friends with Percy along with a few original characters. As a result, Percy won't be quite so pompous in this story, as I did like him as a character.

The war never happened, hence, Alice and Frank Longbottom are still sane. But Lily and James Potter are dead—but not due to what happened in canon. Sirius raised Hilda as his own with his wife after the deaths of his best friends. Peter will be portrayed quite differently in this story, with a wife and two kids, as there isn't any reason for him to betray his friends.

Hermione, Ron and Ginny won't play so much of a central role in this story as they are way younger than Hilda and her friends, though Ron will be pretty much portrayed as the 'bad guy' here. Narcissa Black was forced into a marriage with Lucius Malfoy—but after years of abuse even after the birth of her only child, she fled to her sister and cousin for help with her baby where Lucius Malfoy was then charged with abuse and sentenced to life imprisonment. Narcissa remarried about a year after that—to Remus Lupin. Also, while I like the Weasleys, a few of them won't be portrayed in a positive light.

Whatever AU events that had happened in this story will be explained down the road—don't worry. I like to take things slow, but everything will be explained. The story will start during Hilda's seventh year (which in canon is the year when Sirius escaped from Azkaban).

Hilda will be much more intelligent and magically powerful in this story, as her clique of friends are all an earnest and studious bunch—as compared to 'friends' like Ron in canon who hates studying.

Also, in case you'd missed the note—there will be quite a number of OCs in this story. Some of Hilda's best friends and even her younger brother (Sirius' son) will be OCs. Most people generally disliked OCs as they normally turned out as 'flat characters'. I won't make any promises here, but whatever OCs that appeared in this story will be developed.

Hilda's relationship with Charlie begun during Charlie's seventh year. She is three years younger than him—in Percy's year. And as Bill and Charlie never really appeared much in this story, I am writing them based on what I know. And as stated, Percy will be different in this story due to the influences of Hilda and his friends in his life.

The schooling years for Hilda will only last a few chapters in this story. This story focuses on 'adult life' after Hogwarts, and I definitely don't remember ever reading a story like that before in this fandom. Also, while I do take a few things from my Different Beginnings story, this takes place in an entirely different universe as compared to that story.

Now that you had some idea of what this story is going to be like, I hope you enjoy it. I never did like sticking a story so close to canon. In my opinion, if you want canon, go and read the books or watch the movies. Also, my advice here: please read the author notes before leaving a review asking questions that had already been answered or even complaining about things that have already been explained. It is freaking annoying having to answer the same questions over and over again.

Anyway, now that you know what to expect, on with the story!

Pairings: Charlie/Hilda. Percy/Penelope. Possible Joshua/Alexis.

Warnings: Extreme AU. Nicer Percy. Quiet and nicer Draco. Slight Ron and Molly bashing. Hilda is three years older than canon. OCs.

Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter and any of the characters, but the OC characters belongs to me

Chapter One: The Road Ahead

Seventeen-year-old Hilda Potter could only roll her eyes as she exchanged exasperated looks with her best friend, Alexis Longbottom, even as the two girls stood there listening to the list of instructions that their individual parents were heaping on them—as well as on their younger siblings.

Or in Hilda's case, her godfather Sirius Black and his wife, Marlene McKinnon (now Black)—seeing as both her parents have passed when she was about three, and the couple have then taken her in and raised her as their own after that.

Not one of them—Hilda, Sirius, Marlene and even Sirius' son, Christian liked to talk about how the adoption had come to pass. Along with Remus Lupin (Aunt Cissy's husband and Draco's stepfather), Uncle Peter, Uncle Frank and Aunt Alice, Sirius and Marlene have been very close friends with Hilda's parents throughout their years at school, and even after that. When the couples have married right out of school, all of them have bought houses near each other so that they could go over and visit if they want to, especially when their individual wives got pregnant.

Alice Longbottom and Lily Potter have gotten pregnant a couple of months after their marriages, and they along with all their friends and husbands have joked that they should engage their children together once they're old enough. When it is discovered that they both have daughters as their first-borns, the two women have then declared that their daughters will be like sisters.

Hilda was just a little past three when Sirius and Marlene have both adopted her—even with Marlene expecting her first child then. She had been a complete mess then, and barely spoke a word to anyone, not even to Alexis—Frank and Alice's daughter, and almost like Hilda's sister. And after seeing her own parents die in front of her like that, it is enough to traumatise any child.

It is bad enough that the Potter couple have passed away overseas when they have brought their only child on their first overseas holiday—thus forcing the barely three year old child to cope with her parents' deaths by herself. It was nearly two days after the deaths of the Potter couple before Sirius, Marlene, Frank and Alice could head to Egypt where the Ministry authorities have been caring for the traumatised child ever since the deaths of her parents.

Sirius and Marlene have quickly adopted the child, raising her as their own. And with Alice's suggestion, Sirius had approached his favourite cousin—Andromeda Tonks nee Black who is a certified Healer and therapist to help his goddaughter.

The therapy sessions had helped, as Hilda had started talking again, much to the relief of the adults, but she had been much quieter than before. Despite that, Alexis had stuck by the side of her best friend, never pressuring her to talk. It had gotten better after Sirius and Marlene's son, Christian was born. Hilda was delighted to be an older sister to the child, and doted on him, often helping to give Marlene a break when Hilda had helped to babysit the child. Frank and Alice's second child was born around that time as well, and it seemed to be what Hilda needed to smile once more, and laugh like she had before her parents' deaths.

"Now you three, stay out of trouble this year!" Marlene said sternly, directing the set of directions more towards Christian than the other two third years. "I don't want to receive another letter from Professor Dumbledore or Professor McGonagall about finding you in the Forbidden Forest again!"

Christian is almost a carbon copy of his father—from his black hair to his blue eyes, and much to Marlene's dismay and Sirius' delight, is quite a mischievous one. Fortunately for Marlene however, he didn't inherit his father's love for pranks, but that didn't stop him from dragging his best friend and cousin—Neville Longbottom and Draco Lupin-Black into trouble all the time. If it hadn't been for Hilda and Alexis who have kept an extra pair of eyes on them all the time—as the two were in Gryffindor House along with Neville and Christian whereas Draco was sorted in Ravenclaw along with their muggleborn best friend, Hermione Granger—the trio of troublemakers would have detentions littering their school records. Marlene had already lost count of the number of times when she'd received a letter from Hogwarts' Deputy Headmistress, Minerva McGonagall, telling her what her little troublemaker is up to this time.

The worst had to be the year before last when the trio of boys were dared to go into the Forbidden Forest as a 'show of bravery' by the boys in their year—Hogwarts' annual tradition or something, as Marlene definitely remember this happening to the boys when she was in school. Unfortunately for the first years at that time, they failed to take into account that the fifth year Gryffindor Prefects (Percy and Hilda) had the job to make sure that every single member of their House is in their dorms and asleep by curfew, and when they have seen the empty beds, they have sounded the alarm.

Hermione was the one to tell the older students where their missing siblings are, as Percy, Hilda and Alexis' Ravenclaw best friends and also fellow Prefects (Joshua Lieben and Penelope Clearwater) have also sounded the alarm upon discovering Draco's empty bed in the Ravenclaw Tower. Accompanied by their DADA professor, Professor Tom Riddle—Headmaster Dumbledore's adopted son, the four Prefects have headed straight into the Forbidden Forest to retrieve their wayward siblings.

The trio of first years have received a month long detention scrubbing cauldrons under the watchful eye of their potions professor, Professor Myrtle Riddle—Tom Riddle's wife, or even writing a fifty foot long essay on the dangers of the Forbidden Forest, and even what they would find in there under Tom's stern eye.

Their parents were none too pleased about it either, and have actually came up to the school to give their children a private scolding in the offices of their individual heads of houses.

While Christian was sulky that both his parents have taken his broom away for a month once the holidays begun, he felt guilty at having caused his sister so much panic. Christian had even heard from Neville and Draco that Percy, Penelope, Alexis and Joshua have to bodily restrain her from marching into the Forbidden Forest alone before Professor Riddle could join them—having been the teacher on patrol duty that night.

"I know, Mum!" Christian cried out at last. "Stay out of trouble and all that! I'll stop getting dragged straight into trouble, okay?"

His cousin, Draco Lupin-Black rolled his eyes in annoyance, whilst Neville Longbottom chuckled nervously. With his parents tied up that day, Sirius and Marlene have offered to take him to London that day for the train. "You don't get dragged into trouble, Chris," he grumbled, arms crossed over his chest. "You jump straight into trouble, and dragged the rest of us along for the ride!"

Draco Lupin-Black, formerly known as Malfoy had actually been Hilda and Christian's cousin, with his mother Narcissa being Sirius' cousin.

Like all pureblood families, Narcissa's family had promised her to the Malfoy family when she was barely three years old, and she had married Lucius Malfoy right out of school. But that's when the trouble begun, as Lucius Malfoy is an abusive husband, and had often hit Narcissa. Her own family didn't even try to help her, merely telling Narcissa to keep her head down and all that. The abuse got even worse even after her son was born. Finally, after Draco had turned a year old, Narcissa could take it no more and had fled straight to her older sister, Andromeda Tonks who was disowned by her family after marrying a muggleborn, Ted Tonks, who had been a highly sought after lawyer in both worlds—the muggle world and the magical world.

Andromeda was furious at seeing all the bruises on her sister and nephew's bodies, and had contacted her cousin, Sirius Black immediately. Sirius had been an active Auror alongside Frank, Alice and James Potter after Hogwarts, and even after his marriage to Marlene, had still remained on the frontlines. He had quickly became one of the top Aurors in the force, second only to Alastor Moody.

The cousins, along with Ted Tonks have immediately filed abuse charges with Madam Bones, the head of the DMLE in the Ministry of Magic, with Ted digging out every single bit of dirt on the Black family and Lucius Malfoy. The end result is that Lucius was found guilty of abuse, and was sentenced to life imprisonment in Azkaban. In Magical Britain, the abuse of one's spouse and child is a serious crime, as there are barely enough magical children as it is, and hence, abuse of a magical child is a life sentence at Azkaban.

As for the Black family, they have a reputation for the dark arts as it is, and it isn't too difficult to dig out their crimes. Whatever members that aren't sent through the Veil for their horrendous crimes were sent to Azkaban as well, but they likely wouldn't survive long in there.

Hence, as the Black lord, Sirius could easily dissolve Narcissa's marriage to Lucius Malfoy, and free both her son and her from the invisible chains that shackled them to the Malfoy family. Remus Lupin had been the one to help Narcissa with her life after that, often helping her to care for Draco when Narcissa, with her sister's encouragement, had decided to pursue her dreams of being a Healer, even joining her sister at her private Healer practice when she had gotten certified as a Healer. Narcissa and Remus have then gotten together as a couple not long after that, and had gotten married when Draco had turned two with their family and friends' blessings.

With their parents being such close friends with each other, Christian, Draco and Neville have grown up with each other—just like their older sisters, and shared an almost brotherly friendship with each other. One that stayed strong even when they have entered Hogwarts, with Draco being sorted into Ravenclaw, and Christian and Neville being sorted into Gryffindor.

The three boys knew that there are going to be problems when they first started at Hogwarts. Their parents have sat them down when they have turned nine, and explained Draco's situation to them. The scandal involving Draco, Narcissa and even the entire Malfoy and Black families were all over the Daily Prophet when Sirius, Andromeda and Narcissa have decided to press charges against Lucius Malfoy for abuse.

Even though things aren't as bad in Britain now as during their time, with Cornelius Fudge becoming the Minister and trying to clean the corruption and the discrimination in the Ministry, there will still be people in Hogwarts who feels that just because Draco is Lucius Malfoy's biological son, he is dark. People have left Christian alone mainly because of who his parents are, and that Hilda had been a popular Prefect and student in Hogwarts.

Draco had been lucky that he was sorted into Ravenclaw, as that house is quite neutral, and he had even befriended a muggleborn witch who was the first one to talk to him on the first day of school, and had sat with him in classes. Hermione Granger had later joined the trio of boys, and was vital in keeping them out of trouble, and making sure that the trio actually studied.

The adults laughed at Draco's grumbles.

"Honestly, you three. Give Hilda and me a break this year at least, could you?" Alexis asked, rolling her eyes. "We have NEWTs to be worrying about this year—we don't need more to worry about. And I'm starting to wonder how Hilda is going to manage all her duties this year."

"It's called time management, Alexis." Hilda said matter-of-factly. "Go and look it up in a dictionary somewhere. I'm sure the meaning of the word is in there."

"Haha. Very funny." Alexis deadpanned whilst digging her elbow into her best friend's side, and both girls laughed.

"Right, you two." Alice Longbottom turned towards the two girls. "I realise that you both have NEWTs this year, and you need high scores for it due to your future career aspirations."

As Alexis wants to be an Auror like her parents, she requires high scores in DADA, Potions and Charms for it. Whereas Hilda is aiming to be a warder and a curse breaker for Gringotts, and despite her already going through a kind of summer internship with the curse breakers at the Gringotts' England branch for the past two years with the help of Bill Weasley, she still requires high scores for it, as she is aiming to be an international warder and curse breaker.

"Even still, I want you both to take proper breaks, and eat when you need to." Alice continued, knowing that the two girls will overwork themselves if no one stops them.

"Don't worry, dear." Frank Longbottom laughed, wrapping an arm around his wife's waist. "Joshua will at least make sure that they take breaks. He's also aiming to be a warder, isn't he, Hilda?" He asked Hilda who nodded. "All right. That's enough for the lectures, I think. It's time to board the train."

"Hilda, come here." Sirius Black wrapped an arm around his goddaughter's shoulders and led her away from the group as they started to load their trunks onto the train. "Are you sure that you want to be a curse breaker?" He asked anxiously. "It's a dangerous job, you know?"

Hilda rolled her eyes. "Sirius, we've already been through this," she said with a groan. "I know how dangerous it is. Bill sent me a pretty detailed letter about the dangers of the job when he heard from Charlie that I wanted to be a curse breaker and a warder. It's what I want to do with my life."

Sirius was silent. He had a pretty good idea why Hilda wanted to be a curse breaker. "…Did Charlie say anything about it?" he asked, knowing that despite Charlie being three years Hilda's senior, and working in Romania on the dragon preserve right now, the two have still managed to maintain a long distance relationship with each other ever since Charlie's seventh year and Hilda's fourth year.

Hell, the only people not aware of their relationship are probably the Weasley matriarch and the two youngest Weasley siblings. Sirius could understand why the teenage couple wanted to keep it from Molly Weasley as well. She had never really liked Hilda all that much—probably because she is too much like Alexis, Marlene and Alice—being extremely headstrong and stubborn and wanting to do a job that had more guys than females. In other words, she isn't exactly that feminine, and doesn't act like how society thinks a 'proper witch' should act.

"He understands, Sirius." Hilda reassured him. "Working with dragons isn't exactly that safe either. Every job had its own risks. I'll be fine."

"Sirius! Hilda! It's time to board the train!" Marlene called out to them.

"All right. Time to go." Sirius said, kissing her forehead. "I'll see you and Chris at Christmas. Don't overwork yourself. And keep an eye on your brother. I don't need another letter from Dumbledore or McGonagall, telling me that Chris had poked his nose somewhere where it doesn't belong again."

"I will." Hilda promised before hurrying towards the train.

Even as Sirius watched her go, he couldn't help but marvel where the three-year-old that he had raised to a teenager had gone. She just looks so much like her mother—like Lily. Sure, she had her father's colouring—with the black hair—though thankfully minus the untidy factor as Hilda's hair had always been silky, being kept at shoulder length, with her mother's green eyes. For some reason however, Hilda had always been really petite and small for her age.

"You would be proud of her, Lils, Prongs." Sirius whispered beneath his breath even as he watched the scarlet Hogwarts Express pull out of the station with a loud whistle, with the kids waving to their parents. "She's grown up well. I just wish that you could be here to see her."

XXXXXX

"And for goodness sake, stay out of trouble! I don't want any prefect coming into our compartment, complaining that my little brother and his band of friends have set up a Dungbomb under their seats or something!" Alexis Longbottom ranted even as Hilda dragged her best friend down the hallway of the Hogwarts Express after finding their younger siblings an empty compartment, dragging their trunks after them.

"WE GET IT ALREADY!"

"Honestly, I swear those imps are worse than the Weasley twins." Alexis groaned, rubbing her forehead. "I heard from Mom that Uncle Sirius and Uncle James used to be like that."

"Well, they're at that age." Hilda shrugged. "They'll soon grow out of it. Aunt Marlene said so." She then spied Penelope, Percy and Joshua sitting in the compartment that they're standing outside of. "Hey, the boys and Penny are in here." She then slid the compartment door opened, and the three Seventh Years inside looked up. "Hey guys. Sorry we're late."

"Isn't it the same every year ever since your younger brothers have started their first year?" Penelope Clearwater smiled, even as Percy and Joshua Lieben helped the two girls to heave their trunks onto the luggage compartments above their heads.

Joshua Lieben is a half-blood—borne to a wizard father and a witch mother, with his father having hailed from one of France's pureblood houses. There is even a rumour that he is descended from French royalty—during the time when France was ruled by a king. As such, he had rather exotic features—having silky dark hair that is so dark that it looks almost purple, with blue-purple eyes.

Much like how Hilda and Alexis have met Percy and Penelope, the two have met Joshua on the train on their first day to school, having rescued him from a group of girls that were trying to entice him into their compartment. The five have became firm friends after that, despite being in different houses—with Hilda, Alexis and Percy being sorted into Gryffindor, and Penelope and Joshua being sorted into Ravenclaw. Hilda, Percy, Penelope and Joshua have even been named Prefects of their individual houses during their fifth year, whereas Alexis was named dorm leader.

It was a change brought about upon the prefects' suggestions during a prefects' meeting held a few years ago when the head boy had commented that there are so many students in Hogwarts—all with their own problems, and the heads of houses as well as the prefects couldn't exactly help every student. Thus, the position of dorm leader is created—with their main job being to make sure that every student is in bed and in the tower after curfew, and to assist the students with their problems. The prefects helped in that aspect too, but if serious enough, they would bring it to the attention of the professors.

"How time flies." Percy commented, glancing out of the window at the scenery before looking towards his friends, a small smile on his face.

When he'd first started Hogwarts, he had never expected to have a group of friends that he could trust with his back. Hilda and Alexis have lived near him in Ottery St. Catchpole—and he had sometimes seen them doing their shopping in the nearby muggle village whenever it was his turn to do the shopping for his mother. But until he'd met them on the train to Hogwarts, he had never even spoken to them. For some reason, his mother had never liked either one of the girls or their families, thinking that they're too tomboyish or something along those lines.

He had ignored his mother's disapproval, continuing his friendship with Hilda, Alexis, Joshua and Penelope. His father and two older brothers on the other hand have actually supported Percy, saying that if he really wants to continue being friends with them, go on ahead. His friends have actually helped to ground him—making him see that there is more to life than rules and books. In that regard, his brothers have helped too.

"Yeah, tell me about it." Penelope agreed, a small sad smile on her face. "This is going to be our last train ride to Hogwarts—not counting the return trip after the Christmas holidays. It's our final year at school. Has it really been seven years?" she wondered. "It feels much shorter than that."

"Well, it's NEWTs year this year." Joshua sighed, stretching his arms out in front of him. "We're in for a tough year. I do believe that I did nothing but study these holidays. I did take the weekends off to relax though. Though seriously, I'll be glad once the NEWTs are over—and here I thought that our OWLs year is tough."

"A repeat of our OWLs year then, I guess." Alexis sighed. "I guess we would be using one of the study rooms then. Trying to use the common room to study for our NEWTs is an exercise in futility, with how rowdy our housemates are."

With how many complaints there are from the older students every year that trying to study in their common rooms or the library is almost impossible, the professors have used a few of the empty classrooms in the school as study rooms, leaving various reference books as material for their studies. It also serves as a chance to deepen the house ties, having students from various houses interacting with each other.

"Enough with the study talk." Percy said suddenly, and he then turned towards Hilda with a grin that is so reminiscent of the Weasley twins. "Charlie sent me a letter during the holidays. He's settling down well at the preserve, and he is hopeful that he can finish his apprenticeship in six months."

Hilda gave a soft smile at the mention of her boyfriend. "Yeah, he sent me a letter weekly ever since he'd gone to Romania," she said. "He's settling down well at the preserve. He did mention something about being burned on the arm by a frightened Welsh Green when he was ready to handle the dragons. He did say that his letters might cease in the coming months though—as he had been doing intensive handler training, and we have our NEWTs preparation to worry about."

"Yeah, he told me specifically not to let Mom know, or she'll be on another of her tirades to quit his job at the preserve." Percy sighed, remembering the loud arguments that his two oldest brothers have with their mother when she'd discovered their job aspirations. Honestly, he isn't all that surprised that his brothers have left the country for their jobs.

"So you still wrote to each other then?" Joshua asked with interest. "I was wondering how you both are going to maintain your relationship—Merlin knows that it is a task in itself to get you two together!"

His friends laughed.

Hilda had known Charlie Weasley mainly through Percy, as the two oldest Weasley brothers often made sure that Percy is all right and settling in fine when he was starting his first year. As Hilda had been friends with Percy, she had then gotten acquainted with the Weasley brothers. But that was all that their relationship is at that time—mere acquaintances. It wasn't until she'd started her second year before her friendship with Charlie Weasley developed when he'd become the Gryffindor Quidditch captain.

It had started when Hilda had taken to studying in the stands whenever the Gryffindor Quidditch team have their practice, being dragged there by Joshua and Alexis who were both Quidditch fanatics—but not so much that they would want to join the house team. A rouge Bludger that one of the Gryffindor Beaters had mis-hit had gone flying towards where Hilda had been, and if not for Hilda getting out of the way in time, she would likely have ended up in a coma.

That had been the start of their first meeting, and their friendship had only developed from there, as they tend to run into each other all over the school in between classes—despite Charlie being three years above her.

Their individual cliques of friends have often teased them about it, as everyone could see that Charlie had an obvious crush on Hilda. It wasn't until Charlie's seventh year when anything official happened however. He had asked her to be his girlfriend after he'd helped Gryffindor to clinch the Quidditch Cup for the sixth year in a row as his final role as the Gryffindor Quidditch Captain.

But given their job aspirations, both knew that they would have to be apart for awhile, as Charlie works in Romania, and who knows where Gringotts will send Hilda once she joined them after her graduation. Chief Ragnok, the head goblin had actually liked Hilda when Bill Weasley had pulled a few strings, arranging for a kind of summer internship for Hilda to train as a warder and as a curse breaker for the past three years. The curse breaker and warder that Hilda had trained under during the holidays were actually quite impressed with Hilda, as she had learned fast, and they have even said that if she kept up this progress once she joined Gringotts as an apprentice, she would probably be done with her apprenticeship in three months.

Hilda looked out of the window, resting her elbow on the windowsill, resting her cheek on her hand, ignoring her friends' teasing. She smiled slightly as she saw that the dark clouds have started letting up slightly, and a rainbow is visible.

Somewhere beneath the same skies, is Charlie watching the same sight that she is?

XXXXXX

Hilda wanted her final year at Hogwarts to go very slowly. So did her other best friends.

While her years at Hogwarts had its ups and downs—seeing as she's raised by Sirius Black and Marlene Black nee McKinnon, she had some great times at school. It is where she met her closest friends and it is also where she'd met Charlie. She still remembered their several midnight escapades at school during Charlie's final two years at school.

But even though Hilda wanted her final year at Hogwarts to go extremely slowly, it seems like time itself had other ideas. As before she knew it, Christmas holidays had came and went—with there being a large Christmas dinner at the Black residence, with the Longbottom, Lupin, Tonks and even the Pettigrew families joining them for their yearly routine. The Diggory family that they've been close to as they lived so close to them have joined them too, as did Penelope when she'd dropped by on Christmas morning before leaving for her own family's Christmas dinner later that evening. Dora, Andromeda and Ted's daughter who is undergoing her Auror apprenticeship seems determined to make her cousins enjoy their Christmas due to all the studying that they've been doing.

The kids have even enjoyed a game of Quidditch minus the Bludgers and the Snitch out in the Black family's backyard—just letting loose. The parents have actually enjoyed watching their kids fly and just having fun.

Christian, Draco, Neville and Hermione were unusually well-behaved that year as well, save for the occasional harmless prank played on Filch the caretaker or even some of the other students that are mean to any of their friends. Apparently, the younger kids understood that this year isn't exactly a year to test their boundaries with their elder siblings, seeing how short tempered that they've been due to all the stress that they're under due to their NEWTs preparation.

Percy had to be the worst, as he had been awfully short tempered with just about everything and everyone lately save for his best friends. His youngest brother Ron actually got a detention from Percy for talking too loudly one night in the Gryffindor common room, much to Ron's annoyance.

Regular sessions with their individual professors depending on the electives that they've taken had also been scheduled due to the thesis papers that the seventh years have to write. Hilda's thesis papers in her Arithmancy and Ancient Runes classes have been giving her sleepless nights for months as because she wants to become a warder and curse breaker, she needs high, almost perfect scores for these two subjects in her NEWTs exams.

After the Christmas holidays however, it is back to studying for the seventh years, and an air of tension is almost visible in the air of Hogwarts, as the examination dates for the NEWTs is almost upon them. Nearly every single seventh year in Hogwarts could be seen with their nose in some book nearly every hour of the day. The common rooms and the study rooms could be seen with the lights on at all hours—the rules for curfew have been temporarily lifted only for the seventh years after the Christmas holidays as routine.

The house elves of Hogwarts were constantly stocking the common rooms and study rooms regularly with coffee, and Madam Pomfrey already had several stressed students coming to her for a headache reliever or even Pepper Up Potion due to sleeping at late hours because of all the studying done.

XXXXXX

It is probably close to five in the evening—just a few hours before dinnertime.

But like nearly every single seventh year lately, the group of them have chosen to forgo dinner in exchange for more study time. Thankfully, the headmaster and the professors were used to studious students going without food, and made sure that the house elves brought up food for the studying students. In fact, a few of the professors often popped by the study rooms to make sure that everything is fine—especially Professor Riddle and his wife, and even the individual heads of houses.

Percy Weasley furrowed his brow as he bit on the tip of his quill, having stared at the question in his book for the past ten minutes as if doing so can give him the answer. Finally, he gave up and nudged Hilda who is sitting beside him, with Joshua, Penelope and Alexis occupying the seats opposite them, a mountain of books in the middle of the table in the study room that they are occupying.

"…Hey Hilda?" Percy prompted, reaching for his already cold cup of coffee on the table. "Do you understand this?"

Hilda tore her eyes away from the Ancient Runes text that she is currently reading, with the long roll of parchment that is her Ancient Rune thesis in front of her. "Hmm?" She glanced at the Arithmancy reference book that Percy had checked out of the library just two days earlier for some studying. "Oh, this. Professor Vector covered this earlier in the year."

She then launched into a brief explanation whereas Percy listened intently, nodding every now and then whilst he took down notes. Arithmancy had always been one of the toughest subjects in Hogwarts, with Professor Vector having set extremely high standards for her subject. Hilda had always been really good in that subject, and hence, that had also helped her in her Ancient Runes class.

Joshua sighed, rubbing his eyes, and straightening his hair, as he had ran his fingers through his hair so many times out of frustration that his hair now looks as if he'd just rolled out of bed. "I'll never be ready for the NEWTs!" he cried. "Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Tests indeed! It is going to kill me before I could graduate!"

"Don't be so dramatic, Joshua!" Alexis said, but seeing Joshua so depressed, her face softened. As Joshua wants to be a warder as well like Hilda, he needs high grades in Arithmancy and Ancient Runes. "I think all of us deserves a break."

"Yeah, we've been staring at our books since two in the afternoon. It's time for a break." Penelope sighed, rubbing at her red eyes. She then glanced at her friends. "Anyway, you guys have your career talks already?" She enquired.

"Yeah, we had ours with McGonagall last week." Alexis said, exchanging looks with Hilda and Percy. "I guess it's just to reconfirm what we wanted to do with our lives. I want to take a bit of a break after graduation before joining the Auror Academy."

Penelope sighed. "I'm not as ambitious as you lot. I'm not aiming for the Ministry—" She looked at her boyfriend, and Percy smiled sheepishly, "and I'm not becoming a curse breaker or even a warder—" She looked at Hilda and Joshua this time, "so I don't really need such high marks for every single one of my exams. But I still need high marks for my Charms and Potions exams as I want to be a Healer." She groaned, resisting the urge to rest her head on her mountain of books, knowing that she'll go to sleep if she does—considering the fact that she had barely slept at all last night. "I'm still considering whether to take up an apprenticeship at either St. Mungo's or at a private practice."

"Well, Aunt Andy and Aunt Cissy would love to take you on as an apprentice at their practice if you want to." Hilda shrugged. "They were talking to you about it this Christmas when you came to visit, didn't they?"

Career talks have consisted of a large part of their evening during Christmas dinner. Cedric Diggory who had been a year below Hilda wanted to be an Auror like Alexis, and hence, had been listening to Dora's stories about what Auror training is like, and even listening to Sirius' stories about his chases after dark wizards. He did look a little uneasy when he'd seen how stressed and tired that the current seventh years look however—with all the preparation for their NEWTs.

Percy who had been pretty silent throughout their conversation spoke up silently. "Say Hilda?" Hilda made a non-committal noise in her throat to show that she's listening. "I've been wondering for some time now. Why do you want to be a warder and a curse breaker anyway? Not to be sexist or anything—but I don't see many witches following that route. It's after all one of the most physically demanding jobs. My brother Bill talked about it all the time when he'd just finished his apprenticeship at Egypt."

There was silence for a long time before Hilda closed the thick tome that she had opened in front of her and got to her feet.

"…Hilda?" Alexis voiced out, wondering if they'd said something to upset Hilda. She of course knew why Hilda wanted to be a curse breaker—it had something to do with how her parents have died.

"…You guys fancy a walk by the Black Lake?" Hilda said at last, looking at her friends. "I think it's high time I told you why I wanted to be a curse breaker since our first year at Hogwarts."

The sun was nearly setting when the five of them have gathered by the side of the Black Lake, watching as Hilda took off her shoes and socks and waded into the waters of the lake, only wading as deep as her ankles.

Lots of Hogwarts students often relaxed at the Black Lake whenever they do not have lessons when the weather is still warm enough. They've often done that throughout their seven years at school themselves. Hell, it is a favourite hang out spot for Hilda and Charlie when the latter was still in school.

"Hilda?" Alexis voiced out.

"It's because of my parents." Hilda said suddenly, her back facing them as she stared at the setting sun, shielding her eyes from the sun's glare. "I was really young when they passed away, so I don't really remember them much. But I do remember how they'd died."

Percy frowned. The Potters are an old and ancient house, akin in status to the Blacks, and when Lord and Lady Potter have passed away, it was all over the Daily Prophet. It was even stated in the papers that their then three-year-old daughter was adopted by her godfather.

"You know, I think I remember hearing something like that from my father when I'd mentioned that I was friends with you during our first year." Joshua said slowly. "He said something about an accident that had claimed their lives?"

Hilda turned around to face her friends, nodding her head. "…It was our first trip as a family overseas," she admitted. "On a muggle airplane, and not by portkey, as I was too young then to use magical devices to travel. We went to Egypt. According to Sirius, my mom had always been fascinated with the Egyptians and their history, and she had always wanted to visit the country at least once. I can't really remember much of what happened, and when I was older, Sirius and Aunt Marlene then told me what they knew. The ancient Egyptian wizards often use several really nasty wards and curses to protect their treasures—especially the Pharaohs. Hence why curse breakers are so revered in Egypt whenever a new dig got discovered. It is mainly the reason why Bill got certified as a curse breaker so quickly, having finished his training in Egypt." Percy nodded solemnly in agreement. "Sirius told me that my parents somehow stumbled upon a trap that unleashed an ancient curse when they were visiting a newly discovered pyramid—probably a curse that had escaped detection by the curse breakers when the diggers have uncovered the pyramid. No one was around, and they died without anyone managing to get help for them—the ancient Egyptians' curses are just that powerful and potent."

Her friends' eyes widened. Hilda's voice was monotone—almost like she's giving them a report instead of telling them the story behind her parents' deaths. The truth is that the deaths of Lord and Lady Potter have always been shrouded in mystery. Sirius, Remus and their friends have gone to great lengths to make sure that the circumstances behind their friends' deaths were never revealed to the public to protect Hilda.

"I was barely three at that time, so I didn't know any better." Hilda smiled a small sad smile. "I remember staying with my parents' bodies for hours in the pyramid before a search party was sent out early the next morning when we didn't return to our hotel. Sirius took me in after my parents died. He and Aunt Marlene were expecting Chris then, but they still willingly took me in and raised me as their own." She quickly blinked away the tears that were forming. "That's why…I wanted to be a warder and a curse breaker, no matter how difficult it is going to be. I don't want anyone else dying to an ancient curse the way my parents did."

"So that's why…" Percy mumbled.

He knew from Joshua and Alexis that Professor McGonagall had tried to deter Hilda from becoming a warder and curse breaker during the career talks during fifth year, but Hilda had been stubborn. In fact, it is all that Hilda would talk about since first year, and she even had books about curse breaking and warding. Hence why she is so good at Charms, Arithmancy and even Ancient Runes.

Hilda nodded. "That's right," she said. "Charlie and I have talked about it before he'd graduated when he was accepted by the Romania dragon preserve. We knew that we would be apart for awhile due to our career aspirations, but it is what we want to do with our lives—we can live with it."

"Hilda…" Alexis mumbled sadly.

A/N: Hmm… Can I say the first chapter is damn hard to write, and why is it so damn awkward? Anyway, as stated above, this story is extreme AU, and the main body of the story will be focused on life after Hogwarts—in other words, adult life. So expect some 'adult themes' in later chapters. Anyway, I hope that you've enjoyed this chapter and story as the start of a new year begun, and please read and review! Reviews give me inspiration to update!

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