It was a rather cool day for September. As we pulled up to King's Cross, I saw that it was in its normal state of commotion.
"I knew we should have left sooner, Oliver; it's nearly eleven," My mother said absentmindedly as she opened my car door. I stepped out into the crisp air and stretched a bit while Dad set my trunk on the ground. Felix, my hopelessly dim-witted cat, gave an indignant cry as I pulled his cage out from the back seat.
"Don't worry, Darling," My father comforted, and then locked the car. "Now, stay put. I'm going to get a luggage cart." Mum looked worried, but she nodded nevertheless. Once he had walked off, she turned to face me.
"And you're sure you've got everything?" She asked, looking me in the eyes.
"Yes Mum, I've got everything," I answered patiently. She quickly glanced at her watch, and then in the direction Dad went.
"Be sure to write us. We'll be at all of your Quidditch matches this year, I'm sure," Mum said with a mock sigh. Both of us knew how much Dad admired the sport.
"Just make sure he doesn't get too excited," I laughed. If anyone could possibly be too excited at a Quidditch match, it was my father. An amused smile crossed my mother's face as she pulled me into a hug.
"Be careful, Charlotte," She said. I stepped back and put my hands on her shoulders.
"You know I will," I replied with a grin. She smiled, but then her expression drooped.
"I can't believe you're going into your sixth year already," my mother said as she stroked my long hair. For a moment, I thought a tear was about to roll down her cheek, but then Felix meowed loudly. I turned to see my father returning quickly with a luggage cart.
As soon as we stepped onto Platform Nine and Three Quarters, excitement came over me. Summer had been dreadfully long and dreadfully boring, and I needed something exciting for a change.
"Alicia, look," I heard Dad say. I followed his gaze, and I saw Mrs. Katie Reynolds intently fixing her small son's dark hair; after racking through my brain, I remembered that she had played Quidditch with my parents when they were in school. As soon as she saw her, Mum weaved through the crowd towards her old friend. I kept pushing my cart through the herds of witches and wizards with Dad right behind me.
"CHARLOTTE WOOD!" I heard someone yell at the top of her lungs. I quickly spun around and saw a girl with flaming red hair poking out of a window. Smiling widely, I turned the cart around and ran towards her.
"Rose!" I exclaimed as I neared the train car. When I got closer, I realized that Annie was squeezed into the window beside her.
"Are you deaf, woman? Here I am, screaming my head off, and you walk by as if I'm some kind of mental case!" Rosie ranted as Dad took my trunk on the train. I shrugged innocently.
"If I hadn't known better, I would have thought you were a mental case," I said with a mischievous grin. Annie and I laughed, and Rose couldn't help but smile a bit.
"She's more like her father everyday," Someone sighed from behind us. I immediately recognized the voice as Mrs. Weasley's.
"Mrs. Weasley!" I said as I hugged her tightly.
"Hello, Dear. Good summer?" She asked after pulling away. I answer her with a very annoyed look. "I see. Well, I'm sure school will be more interesting. You better get on board, though; the train will be leaving soon."
"Yes, Ma'am," I answered politely. I then turned to my father, who had somehow managed to find Mum and separate her from Mrs. Reynolds.
"Now, be sure to study hard and turn your homework in on time. Quidditch is important, but don't let it interfere with your grades," Dad lectured, but then gave a quick wink.
"Let us know if you need anything."
"I will, I will," I replied. I gave them both a quick hug, and then boarded the train. I had got on just in time, because just as I walked down to the other end of the car, it slowly lurched into movement. When I walked into our compartment, Rose and Annie both ran at me and gave me the tightest hug I had ever experienced in my life.
"We've missed you so much!" they squealed as I returned the embrace.
"I've missed you, too! Summer was unbearable, all alone. How about you all? Good holiday?"
"Eh, nothing special," Rose replied. "We helped Grandpa tinker with some muggle stuff, but besides that, it was pretty dull."
"Same here. Though, I dobelieve Cassie's summer was a tad more interesting than ours," Annie said with a giggle. Cassandra, who had been engrossed in a book, quickly looked up. Her face was brick red.
"Really now?" I questioned in a severely exaggerated tone. Simultaneously, Rose and I slid in next to her.
"Would she like to elaborate on this 'interesting' summer?" Rosie pried in a voice not unlike my own.
"How did you know?" Cassandra whispered loudly to Annie.
"He's my twin brother. How could I not know?"
At the word "he," Rosie and I both began to squeal like first years.
"I always knew you had something for Andrew! Ever since third year!" Rose exclaimed. She seemed quite pleased with her successful prediction.
"You can't tell anyone, understand?" Cassie said sternly. "We didn't want anyone to find out, so he can't know that you heard."
"Oh, a secret romance!" I sigh dramatically, throwing my arms around Cassandra. "You'll be a living Romeo and Juliet!"
All of us were now laughing and going on about how simply wonderful the "secret romance" was. After settling down, though, the inevitable girl train-ride conversation started.
"So, Rosie. Is there anyone in particular you have your eye set on this year?" Annie asked as she opened up a chocolate frog. Rose remained quiet for a moment, obviously thinking, and then shook her head.
"Nope. At least, not yet," She said with a wink, which was returned wit a lot of giggles.
"What about that Scorpius boy?" Cassie asked. "He seems to have a thing for you."
Rose just shuddered at this. "I can't stand him, Cass. You know that."
"You never know, Dear," I said, pitching my voice high. "People change over the summer."
"Yeah, and he's as far from a person as you can get," Rose countered.
"You're just saying that because he likes you. Plus, I think your Dad's talk about Mr. Malfoy has gotten to your head," Annie reasoned. And she was partly right; I had heard Mr. Weasley talk about Mr. Malfoy when I stayed over at Rosie's.
"Maybe it has, maybe it hasn't," Rose said reluctantly. "Either way, I'm not going to be all friendly with him just yet." And with that, she chomped hard into licorice wand.
"What about you, Annie?" Cassandra asked cautiously. She was answered with a roll of the eyes. In her fourth year, Annie had a pretty good relationship with a Hufflepuff named Dresden Lightfoot. Right after that Christmas, though, he broke her heart. She hadn't dated since.
"Well, that leaves you, Charlie," Rose said. "Is there anyone?"
"When I find someone that's worth my time, I'll let you know," I answered with a small laugh. "Right now, I'm just going to focus on school."
"Aw, you're no fun," Annie joked as she shoved me a bit.
"Hey, watch it!" I poked her side, and she squealed loudly. Annie then delivered a hard kick to my shin, and a full out brawl would have ensued if it hadn't been for what happened next.
A group of familiar faces appeared at our compartment door. The gang was unmistakable- the counterpart to our sixth year class.
"May I ask what you lot are doing here?" I asked suspiciously. I couldn't help but look at Andrew, whose gaze was occasionally flicking towards Cassie. It was Luke Fletcher who answered.
"'Our lot' was just going to ask you to quiet down. We're trying to have a civil conversation in our compartment."
"Why do I find that hard to believe?" Annie questioned as she stood behind me. "I never pictured you as the civil type."
"Ah. I suppose you're right, Annie dear," Nicholas started as he passed by Luke. He walked right up to her, and I could see that she was uncomfortable- even if Nick was messing around. "I must say, though… Most girls find it charming."
"Nick," Andrew said sternly. Nicholas quickly looked back towards his friends, and then returned to them.
"Well, if that's all, you may leave now," Rose encouraged a bit condescendingly. Luke and Nicholas bowed as they left, and the other three just shook their heads.
"This should be an interesting year," I huffed after they left, and my friends sighed loudly in agreement.
Shortly after the boys had left, I went to change into my school robes. All my friends thought I was being ridiculous for changing so early, but I didn't mind. As I was walking back, though, I ran straight into something. Someone, rather- Albus Potter, another member of the sixth year class.
"Charlotte!" He cried out as I ran into him.
"Oh, Albus, I'm really sorry- I should have been watching where I was going-" I began. However, I was cut short.
"No, it's alright," he began to laugh. "People run into me all the time."
"Oh, well… That's a bit strange, actually," I admitted, and he chuckled some more.
"About earlier- I'm sorry. I told them not to annoy you all, but they didn't listen."
"Oh, it's alright," I stuttered slowly. An apology? What? Was he actually being reasonable?
Albus took a deep breath, as if he were relieved, before he spoke. "Good. Well, I guess I'll see you at the feast then."
"Alright," I replied, and then turned to go back to my compartment.
"And Charlotte?" Albus said before I got out of earshot. I turned to him and raised my eyebrow. "Watch where you're going." He flashed a smile, and then started to walk the other way.
As he left, I felt a strange feeling in my chest. I quickly waved it off as shock, since one of the most unruly boys in Hogwarts just apologized for something he was hardly a part of. When I got back to our compartment, though, and when we got off the train, I kept thinking it wasn't just shock. Maybe… respect? I don't know, and I never thought on it long enough to figure it out, but it didn't go away.
Something was different about Albus. I guess people really did change over the summer, after all.