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Chapter 1: September 2015
September couldn't have come faster. Molly couldn't wait to get back to Hogwarts. Finally, she could start attending classes again, and she wouldn't have to listen to her little sister's whining anymore. It wasn't Molly's fault she was older than Lucy. Lucy would just have to wait another year. Molly couldn't understand Lucy's desire to start school already. Lucy hated the idea of learning and studying, and yet all she wanted was to go to Hogwarts. She should be enjoying this last year. It didn't make any sense.
Molly had insisted that her mother and sister stay home that morning instead of seeing Molly off to school. There was no need for heartfelt goodbyes at the train station – goodbyes could be just as heartfelt at home. Though her mother had protested at first, her father had calmed her down and assured her that he was perfectly capable of seeing his daughter to the train station.
"Well, have a good term," Percy said, hovering by the train door, which Molly was itching to enter. "I suppose I'll see you at Christmas."
"Is there no way I can stay at Hogwarts over the holidays?" Molly begged.
"No," her father shook his head. "No, your mother would kill me if I let you do that."
Molly sighed heavily. "Fine," she muttered. "I suppose I'll make it work."
"You ought to be more excited to see your family," Percy frowned.
"Not when it prevents me from studying," Molly said. "Anyway, I should get on the train and get settled before it starts moving."
"Of course," Percy nodded, waving for Molly to get on the train. "Goodbye."
"Goodbye," Molly returned, grabbing her trunk and wheeling it down the hallway without a second glance. This is what she liked about her father. There were no unnecessary emotions with him. It was so ridiculous, how so many people got so emotional when their children left for school. As if they'd never see them again!
Molly made her way towards the middle of the train where she and her friends had agreed to meet. It didn't take long before she spotted Julie and Sarah, sitting across from each other in a compartment, each absorbed in one of their brand new second-year textbooks.
"What have you got there?" Molly asked, dragging her trunk inside and removing a textbook of her own before shoving it under her seat.
"Transfiguration," Julie said, showing Molly the cover. "The theory this year is so much more complicated than last year, I still don't think I've grasped it. Hopefully I'll sort it out today though."
"I've got Herbology," Sarah volunteered, gesturing to her own textbook. "There's so many new plants in here, I'm having trouble remembering all their names."
"Maybe it'll be easier once we have the plants in front of us," Molly suggested.
"Probably," Sarah agreed. "But I'd like to have them organized in my mind before that happens."
"What about you Molly?" Julie asked. "What are you working on?"
"History of Magic," Molly replied. "I've read it twice so far, and I've got the chronology, but I'm having trouble with the dates. It might just be a matter of making some flash cards for myself, so I've brought some smaller pieces of parchment with me in case I decide to do that."
"And where's Debbie do you think?" Sarah wondered.
"I'm here!" Debbie exclaimed, bursting into the compartment, looking a little disheveled. "Sorry, my sister was being ridiculously slow this morning and took forever in the shower! We only just made it on time."
"You have a sister?" Molly frowned. She hadn't realized that. "Older or younger."
"Older," Debbie replied. "And an older brother as well."
"You learn something new every day," Julie said. "What subject are you going to work on today Debbie?"
"Definitely charms," Debbie said. "I've been trying out the new wand movements – without a wand of course, just to get the feeling of them in my wrist.
The rest of the train ride went smoothly as the four girls studied their respectively chosen subjects, with occasional interspersed chatter to break up the day. They arrived at Hogwarts without incident and retired to their dorms as soon as they could, eager to get a good night's rest before classes the next day.
Molly slept fitfully that night, dreaming that her first day of second year was a disaster – she didn't understand anything her Professors were saying and couldn't perform any spells, including those she'd learned in first year. Everyone laughed at her and then Headmaster Slinkhard told her it would be better if she took first year over again. It was humiliating.
When Molly awoke, she reminded herself that she was smart, that she'd read all the textbooks at least twice, and that there was no way she would have to retake her first year. They would have told her much sooner, after all, and made her go to summer school. As it was, she'd gotten O's in all her classes last year. She had nothing to worry about.
At breakfast, Molly waited eagerly for Professor Longbottom to come around with her schedule. She and Sarah had sat separately from Debbie and Julie this morning, since it was important to be at their own house tables when the Professors came around with timetables.
As soon as she received it, Molly began to study her schedule intently. Astronomy had been moved to Wednesday nights instead of Thursdays, she noticed. That was fine, though she wondered how tired she would be for classes by Friday morning. She still had all her other classes for the same amount of time as she had last year, though they'd been moved around. Molly was dismayed to see that the classes weren't as well distributed this year – she had defence Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and then not at all for the next four days. She would have to make sure to study a bit of defence each weekend so as to keep it fresh in her mind.
As it was a Wednesday, the second years had history of magic first, followed by defence, and then charms and potions in the afternoon. They would also be having their first astronomy class that night, and Molly was immediately glad she'd gone to bed so early the previous night.
Being back in class was glorious. In first period, Molly was absolutely thrilled when Professor Binns drifted into class through the chalkboard just like every other day and immediately jumped into his lecture. By the end of the day though, Molly was dismayed. Every one of her Professors had decided to start the year off with review of the previous year. Molly hadn't learned anything new all day! She could only hope Professor Brunwell would have the good sense to show them a star chart or something, or else she was going to go crazy.
When their last class was over, Molly and her friends debated where to go to get started on their homework. As promised, Headmaster Slinkhard had opened an inter-house lounge on the third floor where students of all ages and from all houses could spend free time together. The girls new this would be a terrible place to study though, and instead decided to try the library.
The library, though worth trying, was a disaster. Madam Maxwell had her hands full running after students who had overdue books from the year before and had no time to police the volume in the library. There were barely any students there either – just a smattering of sixth and seventh year N.E.W.T. students and a particularly boisterous group of third years. That was all it took though, for Molly and her friends to realize that the library was no different than last year and as such, completely unsuitable.
"What are we going to do?" Sarah wondered.
"Did anyone come up with any alternative ideas over the summer?" Julie asked.
"I say we just put our study room back and deal with Headmaster Slinkhard later," Debbie volunteered that. "We'll tell him we tried the inter-house lounge, and we tried the library, but that there's simply nothing for it."
"Is there no other option?" Molly asked, not exactly thrilled with the thought of defying their Headmaster.
"Not unless you want to spend the year studying with your hands over your ears," Sarah said.
So the girls were agreed. They immediately headed to the fifth floor to reclaim their study space, only to find themselves face-to-face with Professor Longbottom.
"Headmaster Slinkhard had a feeling you girls would head up here this afternoon," Professor Longbottom said.
"We – we were just – " Molly stammered.
"I know exactly what you were doing," Professor Longbottom replied. "The inter-house lounge did nothing to assuage the volume levels in the library and you've come to reclaim your study space."
"We didn't mean to – It's just that – " Debbie began.
"If you girls wouldn't mind coming with me," Professor Longbottom said. "Headmaster Slinkhard is expecting us."
Molly felt like a child who'd been caught with her hand in the cookie jar. Heads bowed, the girls followed their Deputy Headmaster up to Headmaster Slinkhard's office, following him inside reluctantly and taking seats in the chairs offered.
"I was expecting you an hour ago," the Headmaster commented. "Where did you go after last period?"
"We went to the library," Julie replied. "We at least wanted to try it out before going back to the fifth floor."
"I see," Headmaster Slinkhard nodded. "And can I assume that it was not to your satisfaction?"
"The library isn't the problem," Julie said. "It's the students. They don't appreciate a silent study space the way we do."
"I see," the Headmaster said with a sigh. "I had hoped – but I suppose students will be students."
"Perhaps… if Madam Maxwell had help in the library…" Sarah spoke up.
"We don't have the funds for a second librarian," Headmaster Slinkhard shook his head. "Besides, two librarians would hardly be any better than one. There are far too many students at this school to be controlled in that way. Perhaps… if we expanded the inter-house lounge…"
"There are always going to be students in the library," Julie said. "No matter how big you make your lounge. I honestly don't think that's the answer."
"And your solution would be what?" Headmaster Slinkhard demanded. "For me to allow you to take control of a classroom for another year? How long before all the students are asking for them?"
"We wouldn't tell anyone," Julie assured him. "You didn't have any problems last year, did you?"
"No," Headmaster Slinkhard allowed. "No, I suppose I didn't."
"Because we were discreet," Julie said. "We kept to ourselves. Nobody had to know about it then, and nobody has to know about it now."
"I suppose as long as you can remain discreet about it…" Headmaster Slinkhard said slowly. "You are all excellent students, and I would hate to compromise that."
"So we can keep it?" Debbie asked, excitedly.
"For one more year," Headmaster Slinkhard determined. "During which time, Professor Longbottom and I will come up with an alternative solution."
"Thank you, Headmaster," Julie said graciously, standing up and shaking his hand. "We are much obliged."
Once the girls were back in the main corridor, they found themselves running eagerly back to the fifth floor to get started. The room was still relatively clean, so they didn't feel the need to clean it as thoroughly as last year. Molly did a quick wipe of the floors and walls while her friends removed all the old, broken furniture, and then they brought in their old desks and chairs, positioning them once again in the pattern they had so come to love.
"I feel like I'm finally home," Sarah said, sitting back in her chair and closing her eyes, a smile on her face.
"I feel like I can finally get some proper studying done," Julie said, spreading out the few books she had with her to make her desk feel more like her own again. "All summer it was 'put your books away Julie' and 'come outside with me Julie'. My mother just does not understand how much work goes into being a perfect student."
"Tell me about it," Molly agreed. "My mother is a nightmare. At least my father is decent."
"Neither of my parents understand," Debbie said next. "They look at my grades and they look at my brother and sister's grades and they shrug and decide that I'm just naturally smarter than them. They don't realize that I worked for these grades. Worked hard."
"Hey Molly," Molly's cousin Louis greeted her one afternoon a few days later.
"Hey Louis," Molly smiled. "How're you settling in?"
"Alright," Louis shrugged. "Classes are harder than I thought they'd be."
"Really?" Molly asked in surprise. Her first month at Hogwarts had been a breeze.
"I'm enjoying Astronomy though," Louis said. "Except for the fact that it's on Thursday nights. How am I supposed to go to class Friday morning after being up half the night?"
"You'll get used to it," Molly assured him. "Try going to bed early on Thursdays and setting an alarm to wake you up just before class. That way you've rested a bit before hand and then you can sleep some more after."
"That's a good idea," Louis nodded. "Do you have any other tricks?"
"Don't wait until the last minute to study for your exams," Molly instructed. "Start now."
"When are we going to start learning?" Julie groaned the following week. The girls were all together in their study room working on their most recent potions assignment. "I mean, I get that some people don't study much over the summer, but that should be their problem, not ours!"
"We have to be almost done," Molly said. "We've almost covered everything from last year."
"This is such a waste of time," Sarah agreed. "I just want to move on from this and be done with it. I know how to brew a forgetfulness potion by now, I don't need to keep going over it."
Suddenly, there was a knock at the door, and the girls immediately fell silent. Molly felt herself go cold. Headmaster Slinkhard had been very clear that they weren't to let any other students know about their private study room. As she was closest to the door, Debbie hurried forward and flipped the lock so as to keep whoever was on the other side out.
"What'd you do that for?" Julie hissed as quietly as possible. "What if it's Professor Longbottom?"
"What if it's a student?" Debbie countered.
"What if they know how to do magic?" Sarah pointed out, gesturing to the door. The lock was magically turning itself back into the unlocked position and the door was slowly being pushed open.
"Victoire?" Molly frowned when her older cousin walked inside. "What are you doing here?"
"What are you all doing here?" Victoire asked, looking around the room in surprise. "Do you realize that curfew was half an hour ago?"
"Wait, what?" Julie cried, reaching for her watch. When she saw the time, her eyes practically bulged out of her sockets. "Oh no!" she cried. "It is after curfew!"
"Victoire?" a male voice called out from the hall. "How many are in there?"
"Come and see for yourself," Victoire called back. Suddenly, Teddy appeared behind Victoire, his eyes widening in surprise as he saw Molly and the other three girls in their makeshift study space.
"What's all this?" Teddy asked.
"It's no big deal," Molly assured him. "We just didn't realize how late it was."
"I'm actually more concerned about this room," Teddy said. "Do you realize that taking control of an abandoned classroom like this is against the rules?"
"I actually didn't know that," Molly admitted, sharing a guilty look with her friends. "But this is fine, we have permission to be here, so if you wouldn't mind – "
"Who gave you permission?" Teddy demanded. "Why wasn't I informed?"
"Why would you be informed?" Molly frowned.
"I'm Head Boy!" Teddy cried. "Weren't you there when I announced it at the Burrow?"
"Oh yeah," Molly nodded, recalling the announcement and the celebration that had followed – both to celebrate Teddy becoming Head Boy, and also to celebrate Victoire being named a prefect. "Right, well I don't know why nobody told you, but it's really none of your concern."
"None of my concern?" Teddy said. "I'm Head Boy!"
"Listen Teddy, maybe we should all just – "
"The Headmaster didn't want anyone to know," Julie interrupted Victoire. "He thought if the students knew he was letting us use this classroom to study, then everyone would want their own private classrooms, and he couldn't have that, so he told us to keep it a secret."
"Even from me?" Teddy asked.
Julie shrugged. "You'd have to take that up with him," she said. "Though we'd appreciate it if you didn't, because if you tell him your found out, he's likely to take the room away from us, and then we'll have no place to study."
"Well I'm more concerned with the fact that you're all out past curfew," Victoire spoke up.
"We didn't realize how late it was," Molly assured her. "Normally we would never be out so late."
"This is their first infraction," Teddy added to Victoire. "Protocol is we give them a warning."
"I don't want my little cousin wandering around the castle all hours of the night," Victoire said.
"She's hardly wandering," Teddy pointed out. "She lost track of time. Give her a break."
Victoire blew out a breath. "Fine," she said. "But we're escorting you lot back to your common rooms."
"Of course," Julie nodded profusely. "And about the room…?"
Teddy sighed and exchanged a look with Victoire. "I won't say anything," he declared. "I doubt Molly would be lying about something like this. And I know there's no way she'd be using a room like this for anything other than studying, so there's really no harm being done."
"Thank you," Molly breathed a sigh of relief.
"If we catch you here after curfew again though, we're going to have to report you," Victoire said.
"We completely understand," Julie nodded. "We'll go back to our dorms now."
Teddy and Victoire escorted the girls together as far as they could before splitting up. Victoire carried on with Sarah and Molly while Teddy took Julie and Debbie to Ravenclaw Tower.
"You really didn't notice how dark it was?" Victoire asked.
Molly shrugged. "I guess not," she replied.
"We were really invested in our potions assignment," Sarah added. "Which actually… maybe I should go back and get that so that I can finish it in the common room before bed."
"Sorry, but rules are rules," Victoire said, coming to a stop in front of the Fat Lady. "You can go back for it tomorrow."
"Sorry about the trouble," Molly apologized as Sarah gave the password to the guardian of Gryffindor Tower and the portrait swung open. "Thanks for keeping our secret."
"Don't make me regret it," Victoire ordered, waiting for Molly to climb inside the common room before shutting the door behind her.
"Well that was a close call," Sarah commented, leading Molly up to their dorms.
"Yeah," Molly nodded. "Good thing it was my cousin."
"Good thing," Sarah agreed.