Harry always wondered why his summers seemed to go by so slowly and yet so fast. It was almost as if nothing ever happened to him for months after arriving at King's Cross, but it took years to get through it.
But he shoved his wondering aside. He was back at Hogwarts, eagerly awaiting the welcome feast and the Sorting.
The doors to the Great Hall opened, and Harry turned, expecting to see a line of first-years. To his surprise some 700 students, already sorted judging by the badges on their chests, walked in and took seats at the suddenly enlarged house tables.
Puzzled, Harry turned to Hermione. "Who are they?"
"Honestly, Harry, don't you ever pay attention? Those are the graduate students. Since our classes only have ten students and there are a thousand students at Hogwarts we have to have them. Luckily they have a separate faculty, too, or our teachers would never have time to wander the corridors, much less correct our homework."
Harry shrugged. He supposed that made sense.
Another group of students was forming up at the front of the hall. A number of them were holding very large frogs.
Harry was about to ask Hermione who they were when Dumbledore stood up.
"Welcome! Welcome to another year at Hogwarts. Isn't this a lovely new podium? Now let us all sit back and enjoy the choir!"
There were a number of whispers racing through the hall. Neville tentatively raised his hand. "Ah, Professor Dumbledore? When did Hogwarts get a choir?"
Dumbledore looked stern. "I'm surprised at you, Mr. Longbottom! Who do you think sings the school song every year?" Harry was puzzled – he only remembered singing the school song once. Dumbledore continued. "We have always had a choir at Hogwarts. Everyone repeat after me: we have always had a choir at Hogwarts."
"We have always had a choir at Hogwarts."
"We have always been at war with Eurasia." Dumbledore intoned.
"We have always been at war with Eurasia."
"Very good. Let the feast begin!"
As food appeared on the tables, Pig came fluttering down from the roof.
"Bloody owl can't even learn when to deliver mail," Ron muttered. He snatched the little owl out of the air and grabbed the message. Pig hooted excitedly, which wasn't surprising given how little screen time he got compared to Hedwig.
"Who's it from?" Harry asked, as he helped himself to the mashed potatoes.
"Charlie," sighed Ron. "He wants me to ask Hermione why the birth date on his Wizard Driver's License keeps changing. He says now it's suddenly telling him he's so young he would have graduated Hogwarts the year before we arrived!"
"Isn't Bill a curse-breaker? Why doesn't he ask him?"
"Yeah, but his keeps changing too. I mean, a few years ago it showed he was so young he would have started Hogwarts after Ginny was born!"
"I think Marcus Flint had that problem too – no one believed him, and he had to do a whole year over," put in Ginny.
"Right! Like I'm going to ask a Slytherin for help," Ron snorted.
"Oh, some of them aren't so bad to look at," Ginny replied dreamily.
"Ginny!" gasped Hermione. "Surely you're not saying you like someone in Slytherin!"
"What?" Ginny looked up, startled. "No! Never! I'd rather date a goblet than Draco!"
"So would he," Seamus muttered.
"Insulting my family again, Weasel?" Draco drawled, suddenly appearing behind Harry.
"How does he do that?" Harry muttered angrily as he turned to face his nemesis.
"No, we were just wondering whether you've told that goblet how you really feel," Seamus snapped.
Draco glared at him. "Just you wait! Someday I'll be a prince among wizards! And half-blood scum like you will polish my shoes!" He stormed off.
"Bastard," Ron growled.
"Ron! Watch your language," Hermione admonished.
"I meant it literally," Ron protested weakly. "Wouldn't it be ironic if he were actually a half-blood himself?"
Harry really wanted to change the subject. "Hermione, you never told me how many O.W.L.s you got."
"Thirty-six," she answered absently.
"Thirty-six? But that's impossible! There aren't thirty-six subjects!"
"Well, if Percy can get twelve O.W.L.s despite the fact that I'm the only student since Dumbledore to take all twelve classes, I don't see why I can't get thirty-six O.W.L.s!" Hermione sounded a bit shrill.
"Alright, Hermione," Harry replied soothing, making patting motions with his hands.
"By the way, Harry, did you meet any slightly suspicious adults you've never heard of before this summer?" Hermione asked.
"Now that you mention it, I did. I guess that's not really a surprise, is it? I mean, I hardly know anything about the Wizarding World."
Ron looked puzzled. "Mate, you've lived here for five years now."
"Sure, but I need something basic explained to me every year! I mean, look I'd never even heard of Portkeys until fourth year, and they're everywhere."
Luna wandered over. "Harry, are you ready to meet your new family?"
Harry's jaw dropped. This was far out even for Luna.
"Well, it's time, isn't it? You know the cycle – first year is a traitor, second year a mysterious plot and a rescue mission, third year is a family friend you never heard of. Three is a very powerful number."
Harry hesitated. "But Luna, there are seven years at Hogwarts. Why would there be a three-year cycle?"
Harry was distracted when Hermione laughed loudly. He turned and saw that she was talking to two Gryffindor girls of about his age. They looked vaguely familiar.
"Ron?" he whispered, "Who are those girls?"
Ron looked at him as if he'd suddenly started speaking in Parseltongue. "That's Mary and Sue, Harry. They're in our year." He grinned. "Good-looking, aren't they?"
Harry had to admit that both girls were attractive, exotic, and seemed to be almost as smart as Hermione. However, this summer he'd decided he had a thing for redheads, which was a little creepy since his mother and Mrs. Weasley constituted two-thirds of the female redheads he knew of.
However, the problem had a simple and not-at-all-creepy solution. "Ginny, are you seeing anyone?"
"Oh yes," she answered casually. "I'm dating Seamus."
"What? I thought you were dating Dean!"
"Oh no, I broke up with him last week. Why do you ask? Did you want to ask me out?"
"Well, if you're seeing Seamus then you've dated every other boy in my room that you're not related to. Care to give me a try?"
"Well, I was trying to date one per year, so really I should wait until your seventh year, but I suppose I could try it out," she said dubiously.
"No, that's alright, I can wait until seventh year," Harry assured her.
Dean's head snapped up. "Did you hear that?"
Harry listened for a moment, but heard nothing. "No, what was it?"
"I could have sworn that I heard millions of voices suddenly cry out in terror," Dean said slowly.
"And be suddenly silenced? Do you feel something awful has happened?" Harry prompted. Not even the Dursleys were cruel enough to prevent him from seeing Star Wars, though they had made him watch Episode I, as well.
"No," Dean shook his head. "They're still screaming. Something like… 'just snog her already, she's been in love with you for a third of her life.'"
"Any idea who they're talking about?" Ron asked.
"Not a clue." Harry answered.
"Hold on, the screams just got louder."
"Eh, what can you do?" Ron shrugged it off. "By the way, mate, are you thinking of trying to get back together with Cho?"
"No, I think I'll ask Mary. She looks like my type – she has luxurious red hair." Harry smiled dreamily at the object of his affection.
"Anyone have any ear plugs?"
"Good choice, mate; I'm going to ask Sue to go to Hogsmeade with me. That sensual mane of blond hair and striking blue eyes are just too good to pass up." Ron wiped some drool off his chin.
"Bloody hell! What's wrong with all these people!?" Dean pressed his hands over his ears.
"A'righ', there, Harry?"
"Oh, hello, Hagrid!" Harry grinned. It was always good to see Hagrid, especially when he wasn't accompanied by something with large, pointy teeth.
"Harry, I've got somethin' I need t'tell ye." Hagrid said heavily.
"What's that Hagrid?"
"We'el, I was t' one who picked ye up from yer parents house the nigh'… the nigh'… well, the nigh' yer parents died."
Harry nodded gravely. Somehow, it didn't surprise him.
"Well. Ye have to understand, it was quite a shock, that. Well, Dumbledore wanted me to bring ye to yer Aunt an Uncles house, though if I'd a known then wha' they'd do to yer. Well. The truth of the matter is, I didn't get there till the next nigh', and I suppose you might be wonderin' why."
Hagrid took a deep breath. Harry was excited – a chance to learn something about his past!
"What happened, Hagrid?" Hermione prompted.
"Well, I forgot."
"What?" Harry asked. He couldn't believe his ears.
"I jus' forgot, an' that's all there is to it. Dumbledore sent me an owl the day after I picked ye up to remind me, and that night I flew ye to Surrey."
Dean had pulled his cloak over his head. "Good lord, there must be a hundred million of them! Now they're screaming 'oh, come on!'"
Author's Note: As fanfic authors, we stand on the shoulders of a giant – Jo herself, in my case. If I occasionally poke some fun at the giant, I always remember where I'm standing.
And no, I don't think Draco is the HBP; Voldy's already filling the role of non-pureblood-who-hates-his-own-kind quite nicely. But it sure is amusing to think about, isn't it?