Title:The Phoenix Cycle
Disclaimer:None of the characters and properties of Harry Potter belong to me, nor am I making any money off this fic.
A.N:Some of the speeches in this chapter have been borrowed from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, and tweaked a bit to fit the setting.
Book 1: The Road to Fire
"There was great controversy at Hogwarts on the day my class arrived for our first year. Many of you know of what I speak, though perhaps you are unaware that you know. It would have been hard not to have heard about the events that happened that day, but, for the sake of the younger generation, I will go into further detail..."
-- Excerpt from The Phoenix Cycle: An Autobiography
"Be good, darlings," Jamila Gabriel told her dark-eyed children, a fond smile teasing her lips as unexpected tears welled up in her eyes.
It was hard to believe that her little babies were eleven-years-old now, and would spend seven years at Hogwarts, away from home. Of course, there was always holidays and summer, but as the Hogwarts Express loomed over her twins, the prospect seemed far too meager.
As if reading his wife's thoughts, Keith smiled and took up her hand, squeezing it gently. She sniffled, took a deep breath, and forced herself to shake it off. She reached for her daughter to give a farewell hug and kiss, and Areta submitted to the somewhat embarrassing treatment with good grace.
"Don't worry, mum," the young girl said. "We'll be all right."
"I know," Jamila smiled, painfully. She released her daughter and turned for Athan, who did not back away, exactly, but leaned back with a horrified look on his youthful face.
"Mum!" he hissed, eyes darting around Platform 9 and ¾. He would die of embarrassment if anyone caught his mother kissing him goodbye as if he were still a baby, for crying out loud.
Keith laughed, saying, "Now, Jamila. The children are far too old for such treatment."
"I'm not," Areta protested, sending a dirty look towards her brother.
"Of course," Keith agreed, solemnly, and knelt down to hug his little girl. "And I can trust you to keep your brother in line?"
Areta beamed in answer, while a sputtered protest issued from Athan's lips. "I'm older!"
"Only by a few minutes," Areta countered.
Before the twins could fall into a squabbling match, Keith placed a restraining hand on Athan's shoulder and continued, "And I'm counting on you to protect your sister."
Athan puffed up his chest and agreed with great dignity that, of course he would look out for his annoying little sister, to which Areta frowned mightily.
"I'm not annoying," she scowled. "And you're only older by a few minutes!"
"Details, details," Athan waved a careless hand in the air. "Older is older."
Pouting, Areta bestowed on him her most disdainful glance, spun on her heels, and wordlessly boarded the Express, where their trunks and pets had previously claimed an empty compartment earlier. Athan was about to follow, when his mother stopped him with a firm hand on his shoulder. He almost groaned aloud in distress. She wasn't going to...was she?
Smiling formally, Jamila extended a hand to her young son. "Mr. Gabriel."
Rolling his eyes, Athan glanced around quickly, darted under the outstretched hand to give his mum a quick hug, then all but ran into the train.
Teary once more, Jamila leaned on her husband as they waited for the Express to take off with their children. She wished she could keep them, for just a bit longer, but, having gone to Hogwarts herself, knew it was an experience they could not miss.
"They'll love it," Keith said, knowing his wife's line of thought. "We did."
"Mmm," Jamila nodded. "I know. It will be the best time of their lives." Her face clouded abruptly as she added, "Especially now."
Growing somber, Keith searched for the compartment that held his children, and waved when he saw them peer out the window. "There's no place safer than Hogwarts," he said, partly to himself, partly to his wife. "No place."
He could see his own quiet worry reflected on the faces of many of the other parents seeing their own children off, and knew that it was what connected them all. A parent's love for his or her child encompassed all else, was a language that every parent in the world understood, and the limits were boundless, the worries endless.
Logically, he knew that Hogwarts was the one safe haven in the world, excepting perhaps Gringotts, of course. But with the threat of another Dark Wizard, only a few decades after the fall of the first...
"Dumbledore will take care of them," Jamila whispered, grasping her husband's hand. "He'll never let anything happen to his students."
Keith nodded silently. It was the one comfort he had; though he and his wife (thereby their children) were pureblood – though not the oldest of families – it was no hidden fact that he did not support what the self-proclaimed 'Lord', Voldemort, was attempting to do.
And although the wards at Hogwarts were supposed to be the best, but they were just a vague notion to him, unlike Dumbledore, who was real and powerful. He'd met the man once, at the Ministry, and that small visit had been enough to convince him that the wizard who'd bested Grindelwald was mighty indeed, not just in power, but in character.
Dumbledore would keep their children safe.
Inside the train, their faces pressed against the window, Areta and Athan were blissfully unaware of the turmoil that lived in their parents. All they knew was that it was the first time they were leaving home for so long, and they had been looking forward to this particular rite of passage for many years.
The whistle sounded, and stragglers struggled with their trunks and scrambled on board, waving frantically to family members overseeing their departure.
Areta began to struggle with the window, "Help me with this, Athan."
He would have given a belligerent answer had he not known the purpose of his sister's request; it was like that often with them, one knowing the other's thoughts without speech, as it was with many twins around the world.
Together, they managed to force the window open enough to push their arms through. "Bye!" they cried in unison, joined with dozens of other voices and arms from the other compartments of the train. "Bye!"
They waved until the figures of their parents mingled with those of strangers, until the colors of the platform could not be discerned. Then, silently, almost sullenly, they returned to their seats, surveying their compartment with an air of bewilderment. What were they to do now?
As if in answer to their silent question, their compartment door slid open a tad, and a mousy-haired boy with a pointed nose peeked in, looking much too small to be eleven. But he was, and his face brightened in recognition and relief.
"Hullo, Pete," Areta smiled briefly. "All right?"
"No complaints," he said cheerily, opening the door all the way, revealing a large trunk behind him. "How was your year?"
"Boring," Athan interjected, getting up to assist the smaller boy with his luggage. "Yours?"
Smiling in thanks, the mousy boy shrugged his shoulders. "Not too bad, I suppose. Still wish I could have gone over to your place, though."
Athan agreed, "Yeah. But mum said it was the family's last year together, so..."
Pete, as the twins called him, was more commonly known as Peter Pettigrew, and was their first cousin, their mother being his father's older sister. The three of them had practically grown up together, communing from the two Manors every so often during the course of their lives. Peter and Athan, being boys, sometimes excluded Areta from their antics as they grew older, but she had learned early on that it was not entirely a bad thing to avoid the scrapes they managed to get into.
Even now, the two boys settled down to playing a game of Exploding Snap, leaving Areta to her own devices. She took out a book from her carryon, and her cat Taffeta padded over to curl up daintily by her mistress for a small nap.
About thirty minutes after twelve, there was a loud noise in the corridor just before their door slid open, a smiling woman peering in this time. "Would you like anything off the cart, dears?"
Peter immediately abandoned the game of Wizarding Chess he and Athan had long moved on to, and eagerly looked over the selections on the trolley. Ignoring the indignant clamor that arose from the chess pieces on the board, Athan, too, paid attention to the demands of his growling stomach.
"Get me some Chocolate Frogs, would you?" Areta asked absently, turning a page in her book. "And some Licorice Wands."
Athan complied, tossing over a handful to the empty seat next to his sister, and chose some Cauldron Cakes and Cockroach Clusters for himself. He liked the former well enough, but he loved the latter, if only for their uncanny ability to disgust Areta to no end. Whenever he got them, he took special care to eat them in clear view, chewing loudly and sometimes with his mouth open.
He didn't do this now, because he was eleven, and starting his first year at Hogwarts. It was high time for such nonsense to stop.
And then a grinning Peter held up some of Droobles Best Blowing Gum, and Athan's resolve wavered, his eyes flickering to Areta and back.
Eventually, the Droobles Best bested him.
Areta was entirely unaware of the exchange, something she came to regret when a peculiarly large bubble, bluebell-colored, drifted into her hair. She shrieked in surprise, disrupting Taffeta, instinctively batting it away, then realized that the entire compartment was filled with the bubbles, as well as two snickering boys chewing madly away.
"Athan!" she complained, setting down her book to pick up an arm full of distressed cat. "Look at what you've done! And the bubbles! These things don't pop for at least a day!"
"Aw, she'll get over it," Peter defended. It had been his idea, after all. "Besides, it's just bubbles. The house elves at Hogwarts will have no trouble with them."
Eyeing the boys disgustedly, Areta silently chewed on her Licorice Wands and finished off her Chocolate Frogs for the rest of the trip, cooing over Taffeta every now and then.
It was only when a voice boomed through the train – "We will be reaching Hogwarts in five minutes time. Please leave your luggage on the train, it will be taken to the school separately." – that she stopped glaring at the boys.
The three of them, forgetting everything else, recalled the excitement they were supposed to be feeling, and pulled on their robes as hurriedly as they could, tripping out into the corridors as the train skidded to a full stop. They shivered in the night September air of Scotland, milling about uncertainly as the older students scurried away with confidence they couldn't help but envy.
And suddenly there was a pinprick of light, and a loud, booming voice calling, "First years, first years! First years, over here!"
Relieved, Areta let go of her death hold on Athan's arm and made for the large man who held the light – he looked ferocious, especially in the dark, but he was calling them and they had nowhere else to go.
"Any stragglers, first years? All right then, follow me, first years, follow me – and mind your steps!"
With that, the giant man set off through the dark, followed uncertainly by a gaggle of children barely half his great height. He led them down a steep, narrow path, and most of them slipped at least once before they were suddenly at the edge of a giant, black lake.
"Oooo," came the chorus of stunned eleven-year-olds, as they caught their first glimpse of the castle that would be their second homes.
The large man pointed to a fleet of small boats waiting for them and yelled, "No more than four in a boat!"
Areta, Athan, and Peter got in one boat, joined by a round-faced girl who introduced herself as Alice before clambering in.
"Everyone in a boat?" the voice boomed from somewhere to their right, but Areta could not see the large man anymore. "Right then...FORWARD!"
The boats all took off at once, at a respectable speed, cutting effortlessly through the water, though none of the students-to-be noticed at all. They were too busy staring at the castle, looking so wonderful and welcoming, and Areta vaguely thought that it could not look more beautiful than it did at that moment.
It was a short ride, and a shorter walk to the oaken doors that were the front entrance of the castle. A stern looking witch met them, dismissing the large man with a brief nod, and the troop of first years followed the black-haired woman willingly into the warm castle.
They were halted in a small chamber, where they could hear a clamor of voices nearby. The woman turned to them, ran her sharp eyes over the crowd, and waited until the last of them had trailed in nervously.
"Welcome to Hogwarts," she said briskly. "I am Professor McGonagall. The start-of-term banquet is ready to begin - all that is left to do is for you lot to be sorted into one of the four Houses here. The sorting is a very important ceremony, as the House you are sorted into will be something akin to your family for the duration of your years here at Hogwarts. You will take classes with the members of your House, sleep in the House dormitory, and spend your free time in the House common room. The four Houses are Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin. While you are here, you may earn points for your House, and you may also lose points for your House. The House with the most points at the end of the year will win the House Cup, which is a great honor. I hope each of you will do your very best to become a credit to your House, and Hogwarts."
She paused a moment, and her eyes fell on few of the more raggedly looking youngsters. "The Sorting Ceremony will take place in a few minutes, in front of the school. Please wait quietly until I return."
With that, she strode out of the room, leaving the eleven-year-olds trying vainly to improve on their appearances. Some attempted to rub mud off their black robes, others ran fingers through hair that had somehow mussed during the trip.
So involved were they in this that they almost failed to see Professor McGonagall return until she spoke again: "Now form a line, and follow me into the Great Hall."
The trooped obediently behind her in no particular order, and found themselves confronted with hundreds of faces of varying ages. The scrutiny, however, took less precedence than the ceiling of the Great Hall, which even marveled the most purebred of them all, as well as the floating candles, which startled quite a few muggle-borns.
Areta stopped gaping at the ceiling in time too see Professor McGonagall placing a tattered wizard's hat on a small, four-legged stool. After a moment, everyone else was staring at the hat as well, which drew the attention of the amazed first years.
There was a moment of silence before a rip near the brim of the hat widened, and the hat began to, unbelievably, sing.
Preparing you for trials ahead,
Some light on you may Hogwarts shed.
Four Houses there are, each different in turn,
Now Sort you I will, and much you will learn.
Fearless as lions at heart,
Rarely do these folk give a start.
For Gryffindor House is full of the brave,
Undaunted by tasks that others do waive.
Purer of heart are some of you,
In Hufflepuff House, well you'll do.
Never afraid to do their very best,
These folk are hard working, living with zest.
If books do dance across your mind,
Your home in Ravenclaw, you'll find.
Knowledge is the strength they value the most,
Impartial they are, and calmness they boast.
Last, but not least, the House of green,
You'll find their eyes are sharp and keen.
Cunning and quick are those of Slytherin,
And you will find the ambitious within.
Step up to the stool; fear me not,
I'll only peek, to find your lot.
I don't make mistakes, or fall short and flat,
Remember my name: I'm the Sorting Hat!
At the end of the song, the Hall filled with tremendous applause, and the hat, even more impossibly, moved on its own to bow towards each of the four tables. Areta clapped until her hands tingled, somewhat relieved that all she had to do to be sorted was try on that hat. Apparently, Peter felt the same, for he was clapping enthusiastically as well, beaming at everyone.
"When I call your name, you will sit on the stool and put on the hat," Professor McGonagall instructed, holding a long roll of parchment. "Ackerley, Christopher!"
A rather tall, blond-haired boy stepped out of his place in line and made his way forward, grinning nervously at the audience of older students. He seemed to be trying not to notice the hundreds of pairs of eyes that followed his every movement as he sat on the stool and put on the battered hat.
There was a long moment of silence, then the hat called out, "RAVENCLAW!"
Immediately, the table second from the right wall burst into cheers, and, flushed with nervous energy, Christopher Ackerley made his way to the fellow members of his new House.
"Avery, Joseph!" Professor McGonagall read loudly.
A burly first year pushed his way to the stool, a grim smile on his face as he jammed on the hat. He didn't seem as eager to find out where he was to live seven years of his life, and, as the brim of the hat descended over his eyes, his gaze flickered a moment to the table at the far right.
The pause was considerably shorter this time: "SLYTHERIN!"
Taking off the hat with a pleased look about him, Joseph Avery went to join his new Housemates as they cheered at his arrival.
It was a young girl this time, one with a cool expression on her pert face as she stepped elegantly up to the stool. Her eyes were piercing, and she gazed about the older students as if they were her servants and she, the queen of them all, and not just a mere eleven-year-old.
The hat had barely touched her head when it, again, shouted, "SLYTHERIN!"
Allowing a pleased smile to come upon her face, Narcissa Black took her seat at the Slytherin table, met by two very pleased looking older girls, the oldest a brunette, the younger black-haired. The three of them shared the same pert features, though not the same coloring, and it was obvious they were related to one another.
Areta glanced at the black-haired boy, then at the fair-haired girl who had gone before him, wondering if they were twins, like she and Athan. There was a similarity in their features, but it was distance, and their coloring was drastically different, though from the way Narcissa gazed intently at Sirius, there was a family connection somewhere in the line.
The hat was silent for a while; Sirius Black began to tap his feet nervously on the legs of the stool, and Narcissa began to glower at the boy, joined by her sisters, though the brunette looked more worried than angry.
"GRYFFINDOR!" the hat pronounced, after a full minute, and a hush fell over the crowd, instigated by the oldest students and spreading to the youngest.
A quick glance around assured Areta that it was not just she who was confused by the poor welcome this first year received; as the black-haired boy stumbled his way to the Gryffindor table on the far left, there was only a smattering of applause from his House. There were stunned expressions on all the students in Slytherin, as well as on some of the Professors at the high table.
Even Professor McGonagall was watching the boy make his way, a shocked look on her face, and it took her a moment to regain her bearings. "Boot, Kyle!"
He was sorted into Ravenclaw, as did Loraine Calbert and Emmett Davies, while Erica Branstone, Alice Carbone, and Amos Diggory went into Hufflepuff. Areta's breath caught in her throat as Lily Evans, a tiny redhead with large green eyes was sorted into Gryffindor, with Benjy Fenwick going into Ravenclaw, and then...
It was her turn.
Taking in a deep breath, Areta threw a short, nervous glance at her brother before she walked up to the stool. She could feel the intensity of many gazes on her, and heat rushed to her face as an involuntary reaction to the scrutiny. Reaching the stool seemed to take forever, and she knew now for a fact that she did NOT like being the center of attention. With trembling hands, she picked up the hat, perched on the stool, and placed the Sorting Hat on her mop of dark brown curls.
"My, my, my,"a strange voice said in her ear, and Areta jumped a tad - who was that? "A predicament, quite a predicament. You'll do quite well in more than one House; not as clear cut as some of the others..."
Fighting the urge to fidget, Areta bit her lip, realizing that it was the Sorting Hat's voice that she heard, though she hadn't seen it talk to anyone else before. Yet the voice was very quiet, very small, so perhaps only she could hear it?
"Very good,"the Sorting Hat praised. "Now, where to put you?"
Areta thought she could feel it sifting through her mind, but that was nonsense, probably her imagination running away with her. Even if that was what the hat was doing, how could she feel such a thing, and how could she recognize the sensation if it had never happened to her before? Just her imagination, that was all, inspired by her discomfort.
"Not Gryffindor, I see,"the hat said, and she wondered if she should feel insulted. Did that mean she was a coward? "No, it simply means bravery is not your strong point, not that you have none at all. Ah, you're not suited for Hufflepuff...you'd do fine in Slytherin, but you'll only truly excel in - RAVENCLAW!"
Applause filled her ears as the hat was plucked off her head, and Areta quickly made her way to the nearest empty seat at the Ravenclaw table, barely restraining herself from running flat out. Illogically, she felt her face heating up even more now that the whole debacle was over, and she placed her hands over her cheeks in an effort to hide the blush she knew was stealing over them.
At her brother's name, she turned slightly in her seat to watch him be sorted, hoping against hope that he would end up in the same House as her. Dropping her hands from her cheeks, she clasped them together tightly, leaning forward.
There was a long pause, and then - "SLYTHERIN!"
Her heart sank in her chest as the Slytherin table exploded into cheers, welcoming their new member, and she couldn't help the frown that stole across her face. She knew enough from their parents' tales that this was the end of her time with her brother; oh, certainly they could meet during whatever free time they had, but they would live apart and, she feared, grow apart.
Athan met her eyes, and although he wore a small smile, his eyes were troubled, and she knew he was having the same thoughts as her.
Turning, Areta gave out a blank stare. "What?"
"Is he your brother? I mean, since you have the same last name...I suppose you could be cousins, but since you seemed so distressed that he wasn't in this House, I figured you were twins," the girl, Loraine Calbert, chattered lightly.
Recovering, Areta nodded slightly, saying, "Yes, we're twins."
"Don't worry about it so much," Loraine, smiled. "At least you're not in Gryffindor or something. That would be REALLY bad."
The Hufflepuff table burst into jubilation as Goldstein, Steven was sorted into their House, and Areta frowned and said above the din, "I suppose so."
Loraine smiled, and turned her attention back to the sorting of the other first years.
She has a point,Areta thought. At least we're not in rival Houses. Ravenclaw is supposed to be the neutral House after all.
It was a small consolation, but it was the only one she had. Areta turned her attention to the sorting, pushing the unpleasant thoughts out of her mind.
Gudgeon, Davey went into Gryffindor, looking ecstatic to have been placed there. Next up was a girl named Kamaria Kaye, who was sorted into Hufflepuff. Areta applauded with the rest of her House when Claire Kuhnert stumbled to their table, and the Gryffindors then did the same for a boy named Frank Longbottom.
A haggard looking boy named Remus Lupin seemed to go into shock as he was put in Gryffindor, then Areta and her Housemates cheered as Marlene McKinnon fairly skipped over to their table. Gryffindor then proceeded to gain Helena Meaders as well, and Areta was pleased to see that it was Peter's turn next.
She gave him an encouraging smile as he made his way to the stool, and, from the corner of her eyes, she saw that Athan sitting up straighter. At that reminder, Areta furrowed her brows. Before the sorting, she would have never thought the three of them would end up separated, but there Athan was, and here she was. Where would Peter go?
Probably with Athan,she thought, rather glumly. It was unfair, that Athan would have Peter, leaving her all alone with a bunch of strangers.
Snapping to attention, sure that she had missed Peter's sorting, Areta was horrified to see that it was still Peter who was on the stool. As she watched, the small boy slowly took off the hat, slid off the stool, and made his way to the cheering Gryffindor table, not looking anywhere else.
By Merlin!she thought, alarmed. It's impossible!
In her shock, she missed the sorting of Potter, James, who was the last Gryffindor of the bunch. Albert Quirke and Dean Wyrick went into Hufflepuff; Gideon Prewett, Severus Snape, and a girl named Emmeline Vance were all sorted into Slytherin.
And then the Sorting Ceremony was over, the Headmaster standing up to make a welcoming speech, but Areta heard none of it as she gazed intently at Peter, who still would not look anywhere else. Finally, long after the food had appeared on the table, she turned away from the Gryffindor table - only to lock gazes with her twin again.
Athan's smile was long gone, his lips pressed tightly together, and his eyes were more troubled than ever.
And Areta wondered how everyone could be eating so heartily when all she wanted to do was turn back time and make it so that she had never come to Hogwarts at all.