The Sugar Quill
Author: Arya and BeatriceEagle  Story: A Different Kind of Weasley  Chapter: Chapter 3 -- Sorting Things Out
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A Different Kind of Weasley

Disclaimer:  Only Lierin, Ophi, the various Weasley grandchildren, and the infamous Misty Clearwater belong to us.  All other people, places, and names are property of J.K. Rowling.

Arya’s Note:  This chapter had absolutely no purpose until Bea added on the ending.  So I guess I'll thank her.  And continued thanks to Whimsy for being an awesome beta, as well as to Lierin for letting us steal her soul and put it in character form.

Bea’s Note:  Someday, I may get tired of constantly thanking Whimsy, but today's not that day.  In addition, I thank Arya for catching some errors in the meter of the Sorting Hat song, and whoever it was who came up with the brilliant function that turns the word "love" into a heart on Microsoft Word.  Actually, there’s quite a bit of love in this chapter…  Maybe it has something to do with the day we submitted it on.

 

A Different Kind of Weasley

Chapter Three

 

"Bloody brilliant, that's what it was.  Absolutely brilliant.  Wasn't it, George?"

"Absolutely.  You should have seen the size of their...what's that place called again, Fred?  They had some weird name for it, not a Ministry but a..."

"Hell if I know.  Anyway, Margot.  This place was huge.  Twice the size of ours.  Of course, America's a bit bigger than Britain.  Wizards and witches running everywhere, popping up right in front of you.  They were rude, too.  One witch Apparated right on top of me and didn't even apologize!  I still have a bruise from that, too.  Look, it's huge."

Margot made a protesting noise as Fred lifted up the left leg of his trousers, showing his hairy shin.  She could see the remnants of a fairly large bruise. 

"Lovely," she remarked.  "So was it anything other than huge and rude?"  She leaned back in the living room chair and regarded the twins.  Both were covered in freckles and their ears were bright red from the sun.  Fred wore an obnoxious t-shirt that proclaimed, in bright red letters, "I ♥ NY," while George had found a new set of robes that changed colors every five to ten minutes.  She couldn't help but feel a bit left out.  It sounded as though they'd had a wonderful time.

Fred frowned and glanced over at George.  "Well," he began with a sly smirk, "there was that woman in New Orleans...she was interesting, wasn't she, George?"

George turned bright red, while Fred fell into a fit of laughter.  Margot shook her head and waited for them to continue.  She wondered if they would ask about her summer.  Even if they did, she wasn't sure how much she would tell.  It wasn't as if much had happened.  Leona had returned from France a week ago, and her cousins had come back from camp two days ago.  Her visit to the Auror office was fresh in her mind, the most exciting - if that was the proper word for it - day of the entire holiday, but she wasn't sure if she wanted to share it with her fathers.  How would they react if she were to tell them Bellatrix's words?  What would they say?  She didn't want to see the looks on their faces and imagine the thoughts running through their minds.  Those looks had been in her dreams since that day.  She'd briefly considered talking to Aunt Ginny, but decided she didn't want to trouble anyone with her problems. 

"So, you get your letter yet?" George asked as Fred's laughter died down. 

Margot nodded.  "I bought my books with Leona and Nahid yesterday," she said.  "I'm all ready to go back to school."  She couldn't wait to see her friends, wondering what Lex and Pepita had been up to all summer.  Ophi had sent her a few letters, but they'd been short and mostly about his family's trip to Italy.  Emerson had only managed to send one letter, by Muggle post; his father hated owls.  Pepita and Lex, generally decent at sending letters, had been oddly quiet this year. 

"Excellent," Fred remarked, standing.  "We need you in the shop for the rest of the week, before you leave for school.  Verity is ill and Fred and I have a few business matters to deal with at the Ministry, so we can't be at the shop very often."

"We'll pay you, of course," George said with a smile.  "Same amount as Verity.  You'll be able to use it in Hogsmeade...you get to go this year, don't you?"

Margot stood up quickly, remembering the other thing that had been in her letter.  "Oh!  You have to sign my form for me!"  She hurried to her bedroom, where her trunk lay mostly packed.  She hadn't bothered unpacking much besides her clothes and books, deciding it'd be easier to live out of her trunk for a few days than unpacking and repacking within a week.

Her form was on her bedside table, next to her stack of brand new Hogwarts books.  She paused for a moment to look at her Arithmancy book.  It looked the most interesting of all her books.  She'd already read a third of it and was terribly excited about the subject.  She was a bit sorry she hadn't signed up for Ancient Runes, especially after seeing Lierin's teacup, but Care of Magical Creatures and Muggle Studies looked interesting enough. 

"Here," Margot said when she returned to the living room.  She handed the form to Fred, who conjured a bright orange quill and signed it with a flourish. 

Fred stood and stretched.  "Bit of a long day," he said, yawning.  "I think I may go sleep."

George stuck his head out from in the kitchen.  "Have fun dreaming of Misty Clearwater," he teased. 

"She's not related to Aunt Penelope, is she?" Margot asked, recognizing the name.

George burst into laughter as Fred's eyebrows shot up.  "Merlin's beard, I hope not.  Goodnight."  He left the room, shaking his head. Margot laughed quietly and folded her form back up.  She'd nearly forgotten that third years were allowed to go to the village.  The thought made her grin; she'd visited Hogsmeade a few times with Fred and George, who'd spent most of the time debating whether or not they had enough gold to purchase the old Zonko's building.  The trips had been fun, but not nearly as fun as they would be with Lex and Pepita. 

"We did miss you, you know," George called from the kitchen.  He stepped into the living room, sandwich in hands.  "Fred couldn't get the ironing spell right and we had to buy three new pairs of dress robes."

Margot smiled.  "I don't know how you two survive when I'm at Hogwarts," she remarked. 

George put a finger to his lips.  "Don't tell a soul, but Mum still likes to do our laundry."  He winked and disappeared back into the kitchen to finish his sandwich.  Margot closed her eyes and tried to clear the images that Fred had conjured in her mind. 

Though it wasn't very late, Margot found herself yawning.  She'd wanted to look through her Muggle Studies textbook before going to bed, but as she sat on her bed flipping through the pages, her mind began drifting, imagining going to Hogwarts with Pepita, Lex, and Ophi.  She smiled as she thought of Ophi, wondering how his summer had been.  She'd have to ask him on the train...

A Look into the Other World fell from Margot's hands, startling her.  She'd nearly fallen asleep just sitting there.  With a sigh and a slight smile, Margot set the book on her nightstand and began getting ready for bed, her thoughts still on Ophiucus Blanc.

*

"WAKE UP WAKE UP HOGWARTS TIME HOGWARTS TIME!"

Margot's hand shot out from the warm cocoon of blankets and hit the top of her alarm clock.  She moaned and curled back up, wanting more sleep.  She would kill George for setting her alarm for this early.  It did not take six hours to get to King's Cross. 

"WAKE UP NOW OR YOU'LL BE LATE!  MARGOT PERSEPHONE WEASLEY WAKE UP NOW!"

Startled to hear her grandmother's voice, Margot sat up in bed and looked around, her eyes still bleary from sleep.  A burst of laughter exploded in the hallway, and her door opened.  Fred and George, fully dressed in purple robes, were doubled over in laughter.  Margot growled and threw a stuffed Crup at them. 

"That's not funny," she muttered, falling back down on her bed and pulling the covers over her head.  It was five in the morning, and earlier than she had woken up all summer.  If Fred and George thought she was going to get out of her warm bed and go help them at the shop, they were insane.

Something tugged at the blanket around her, but Margot held tight.  They wouldn't dare. 

"Come on, Margot, or we'll be late to open the shop!"

Margot growled from under the covers and held fast to the blanket.  She wasn't going to go without a fight. 

Ten minutes, four bruises, and a large bump later Margot sat on the floor surrounded by her stuffed animals, blankets, and pillows.  Fred was sprawled across her bed, while George sat cross-legged on the floor across from Margot.  Glaring at both of them, Margot stood and jabbed Fred's shoe with her foot.

"If you want me to go, you'll have to leave," she informed them.  "I have to put my robes on."

Fred groaned and sat up, rubbing his side.  "That didn't hurt when we did it to Ronnikins," he moaned, standing.  He held his hand out to pull George up.  "Darling brother, we aren't...old are we?"

George shook his head feverishly.  "Never, Fred, never.  We are and always will be deadly handsome sixteen-year-old boys."

"Tell that to Angelina," Fred muttered.  He turned to Margot, who was trying not to giggle.  "If you aren't dressed and in the kitchen in five minutes, we'll be back in here and repeat the whole process.  You wouldn't want to cause your dads pain, would you?"  He put on his best pitiful face, and Margot almost felt like kicking him again. 

"I'll be there in ten," she retorted, turning to her trunk as the two departed, moaning over-dramatically about their aching backs.  Shaking her head, she began the search for her black robes.  She had five sets of them, but it seemed that they had all gone missing since last term.  She vaguely remembered putting them in her trunk at the beginning of the summer.  Frowning, she began unpacking her trunk.

"You do know you're supposed to be packing, not unpacking," a voice remarked from the door. 

Margot looked up and saw George leaning against the doorframe, a chocolate muffin in hand.  She sighed as she rummaged through the bottom of the trunk.

"I can't find my robes," she admitted.  "I swear I put them in here, but-"

George was grinning far too broadly.  Margot stopped searching and frowned at him.  Putting her hands on her hips, she stood and looked him in the eye.  He was over a foot taller than her, but she'd gotten quite good at staring people down.  It came with being friends with Lex.  Smiling sheepishly, George reached behind him and handed her a bag.

"Ginny thought your robes needed mending," he explained.  "She forgot to tell you, and Andrea hid them in her room.  She found them last night and brought them over."

Relieved, Margot took the bag from him and closed the door so she could change.  She would have to repack her trunk again, but she needed to fit in at least ten more books anyway.  She'd made the mistake of going to Flourish and Blotts with Leona the other day, and had come back with more books than she would be able to read in a term.  But they'd been on sale, and she got a discount for working at Fred and George's shop...it wasn't something she could easily resist.

Trunk fully repacked, Margot pocketed her wand and took one last look around her room.  Her bed was made, her bookshelf was empty, and her floor was clean.  It looked just the same as it had at the beginning of the summer.  Satisfied that she hadn't forgotten anything, Margot grabbed the handle of her trunk and pulled it out of her room.

"So why are we up so early?" she asked Fred, who was in the kitchen flipping blackened pancakes with his wand while reading Witch Weekly.  "I think those are done, by the way."

Fred looked at the pancakes, startled, and hurriedly pulled plates out of the pantry.  Margot frowned at him and walked over to examine the magazine.

"Since when do you read Witch Weekly?" she asked, turning it over and looking at the front. 

"Since Angelina Johnson was featured in an article," George remarked with a smirk.  He grabbed a plate and picked through the pile of pancakes to find the least burnt one.  "He reckons if he reads it enough times, he'll figure out why she keeps saying no to his marriage proposals.  How many times have you asked her now, Fred?  Eight?  Nine?"

Margot sniggered as Fred's face turned bright red.  He stuffed the magazine under the sugar jar and busied himself with buttering his pancake.  Amused, Margot took her own plate to the kitchen table and sat down to eat.

"So you never answered," Margot said as she covered the black pancake with butter and syrup.  "Why are we awake at five in the morning?"

"Because that's when your alarm went off," George told her with a smirk.

Margot made a face at him.  "Very funny.  I'll have you know that waking a girl up three hours early does not generally produce good results."

"Mum wants us all at the Burrow by nine," Fred explained, sitting down next to Margot.  "Ariel, Portia, Molly, and Lily are all first years this year, and she wants us to all go to King's Cross together."

"If she wants us there by nine-" Margot began.

Fred swallowed his pancake and made a face.  "Shop opens at six this morning."

"Why?" Margot exclaimed.  "No one's going to be awake then!"

George put his fork and knife down, apparently too disgusted by the burnt pancakes to continue eating.  "Sure they will," he replied.  "Don't you read the newspapers?  Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes is having a sale...all Hogwarts students get 50% off their purchase of 5 or more galleons."

Fred looked at his watch.  "We should probably get going unless we want to deal with angry twelve-year-olds," he said, standing. 

Margot looked at the two of them.  "Aren't you taking me to King's Cross?" she asked.  "How are you going to get me there if you have a sale going on at the shop?"

Fred rolled his eyes.  "Silly, the sale's only for Hogwarts students.  It'll be over by ten, because everyone will be going to King's Cross.  We'll meet you at the Burrow at ten.  Delia is coming in at nine thirty to take over for us.  We're not going to miss taking you to the station.  Now hurry up, it's nearly five thirty."

George gathered the dishes, while Margot scavenged the house for her shoes.  Within five minutes, the dishes had been cleaned to Margot's satisfaction, and her shoes were safe on her feet.  Standing in front of the fireplace, Margot took a pinch of the Floo Powder and disappeared into the flames, coming out a moment later in a brightly lit, familiar room. 

It had been three years since they'd moved from the flat, but to Margot it still felt a bit like home.  Boxes and crates were piled all around the kitchen and down the hallway.  The flat now served as a storeroom for the shop, though Margot knew the twins occasionally spent the night in the back bedroom with their "lady friends." 

Two pops indicated Fred and George's arrival, and before Margot could become immersed in memories she found herself being carried downstairs to the shop.  She twisted to see who her captor was, and giggled.  Fred had never been good at keeping a perfectly straight face. 

"Margot!  Fred!  Merlin's beard, I thought you'd never get here!"

Fred put Margot down on top of the counter as Verity rushed up to them.  She looked as though she'd been awake for hours, though Margot suspected she'd been to the new coffee shop down the road.  Run by a family of Muggle-borns, they claimed to use absolutely no magic in their coffee.  Margot doubted it was true; what else could wake someone up so quickly? 

"They've been at the door for nearly twenty minutes," Verity said.  She put down the crate she'd been carrying and pointed out the window.  Margot twisted to see what she was talking about, and nearly fell off the counter.  Close to three dozen people were standing outside of the shop, waving their arms and looking quite eager.  Most of the shoppers were students, though many of them were accompanied by parents who looked just as excited as their children.

Verity knelt on the floor and began unpacking the crate, as Fred went over to the shelves and began straightening.  Every few minutes, he turned and smiled to the people outside, who then waved back.  Margot shook her head. 

"Is...George here?" Verity asked, her eyes on the love potions she was carefully unpacking.  Margot noticed a slight pink tinge on her neck, and grinned. 

"I think he's upstairs bringing more things down," she said.  "Do you want me to go see?"

Verity shook her head and stood suddenly.  "No, I can do it," she said a bit too quickly.  Margot slipped off of the counter and watched as Verity hurried up the stairs, looking quite eager to see George. 

Fred returned to the counter and picked up a few of the love potions.  "We're nearly out of edible Dark Marks," he remarked, "and we're completely out of Smart-Answer Quills.  I didn't check, but I imagine we're low on the Daydream Charms...when I was here last night, we sold nearly half our stock.  Could you go make sure George gets all of those down here?"

"Verity just went up," Margot informed him. 

"Ah," Fred said, a smile tugging at the sides of his mouth.  "Well.  They'd better be quick about it.  Shop opens in ten minutes.  Hurry and get these love potions out there.  I'll go up and grab a few boxes of the Daydream Charms."

Relieved, Margot gathered the bottles and carried them over to the love section.  As she put them onto the shelves, she snuck a glance out the windows.  Instantly her cheeks turned bright red.  In the midst of the crowd of shoppers, wearing his Hogwarts robes, was Ophi.  She looked away, unsure why her heart was pounding so hard.  Why was it that whenever she thought about him, her heart started beating like this?  It was absolutely ridiculous.  She'd never be able to get anything done at school if she kept this up.  Determined not to look out the window again, Margot ignored Ophi's waving and quickly filled the shelves with the bottles of love potion.  When she'd finished, she joined Fred at the counter.  He was watching the clock carefully, counting down the minutes. 

"Did you get the stuff from upstairs?" Margot asked. 

Fred shook his head.  "I...er...they were talking in the kitchen," he said in a feeble attempt to explain.  Margot snorted, knowing perfectly well what Verity and George were doing.  She'd walked in on Fred with Angelina plenty of times.  She wasn't an innocent first year anymore. 

"Two minutes," Fred said.  "They'd better get down here..."

"I can handle the till," Margot reassured him.  "I've done it plenty of times.  Remember last Christmas?  Everyone was in here exchanging things.  It'll be fine, Fred.  Stop worrying."

Fred looked down at her, an amused look on his face.  "I can't decide if you sound more like your aunt Hermione or your grandmum," he remarked.  "The resemblance to both is uncanny."

Margot shrugged.  "What can I say?  I'm a Weasley woman.  One minute."  Her heart thumped rapidly.  If she was at the till, she would have no choice but to talk to Ophi if he bought something.  And knowing him, he would buy enough jokes to last the entire year.  She took a deep breath to calm herself, and smiled at Fred.

"I'll go unlock the door," he said, grinning.  Margot braced herself as he walked quickly toward the door and opened it up.  A blast of cool morning air filled the room, followed by a stampede of students dressed in a mixture of Muggle clothes, home robes, and Hogwarts uniforms. 

"I want that one, Mum.  That pink one, the cute one that keeps falling over!" a girl who looked to be a first year exclaimed, pointing.  Her mum reached into the basket of Pygmy Puffs and pulled out the desired pet.  The girl grabbed it from her mum's hands and hugged it tight.  "Her name is Penelope Anne," she said decidely. 

The girl's mum smiled and led her daughter to the till. 

"Just the Pygmy Puff?" Margot asked, pulling a cardboard box from under the counter. 

The woman nodded, looking tired.  "She saw the ad in the paper and just had to come down here to get her Pygmy Puff before she went off to school."

Margot smiled politely as she punched in the code.  "That'll be one gallon, one sickle, and eighteen knuts.  If you spend four more gallons, you'll get your entire purchase fifty percent off."

The girl bounced up and down, the pink Pygmy Puff clutched between her hands.  "Oh, please Mum, please?  Let me get a few jokes, all the other kids will have them!"  She put on a truly incredible pout, and Margot had to smile as the woman gave a sigh and nodded. 

"But you're only spending four more gallons, Beth!" she called out as her daughter scurried back into the hoard of customers.  She turned back to Margot, who had set the box aside.  "I'm sorry, we'll be back in a few minutes..."

Margot nodded and turned to the next customer.  It would be a long morning, but at least she'd be able to nap on the Hogwarts Express.  That is, unless Lex's summer had been exciting as the previous year.  Margot yawned, remembering the long train ride to Hogawarts.  Lex had talked the entire time about her trip to Spain, and how exciting it had been to meet real bullfighters.  Pepita had fallen asleep within an hour, and Ophi...

A blush rose to her cheeks as she looked across the shop.  Ophi and his parents were standing in front of the sweets display, looking at one of the new products.  He'd grown over the summer, she saw, and was nearly taller than his mother.  She wondered how tall he would be.  As he was an orphan like her, it was hard to know. 

"Oi."  George appeared at Margot's side, looking a bit out of it.  His hair was rumpled, and there was a smudge of pink lipstick on his chin.  Margot raised her eyebrows and pointed. 

"Did you get the boxes?" she asked.  "Fred said we're out of several things, you might want to go and check with him.  I think he's in the back." 

Wiping his chin, George nodded.  "I'll go see," he said.  He glanced back at the stairs and ran his hand through his hair, then hurried off.  Margot shook her head, wondering if he'd mentioned Misty Clearwater to Verity. 

"Hey, Margot."  A familiar voice returned Margot to the till that she was supposed to be using.  Lierin stood at the front of the line, several products in her arms.  Margot smiled at her and began to ring everything up. 

"How was the rest of your summer?" Lierin asked.  "Your uncle said you spent most of it reading." 

Margot nodded.  "Aunt Ginny had some books I hadn't read before," she explained.  "What happened with Bellatrix?  Uncle Harry never told me, and it wasn't in the paper."

Lierin glanced around, before leaning in, the sleeves of her dark blue robes brushing up against the counter.  "We interrogated her for nearly three hours," she said in a low voice.  "Didn't admit to anything except killing a few Muggle-borns during the war, and we already knew about that.  We even tried Veritaserum, but she must have used some sort of counter against it."

"So is she in Azkaban?" Margot asked as she stuffed Lierin's items in a bag. 

Lierin bit her lip and shook her head.  "No.  Escaped an hour later.  No clues as to how.  That room was locked with every locking charm we know, and it's got Anti-Disapparation wards.  But I didn't tell you, okay?  We had to practically bribe the damn Prophet not to put it in.  She's a real danger to the community, and if it gets out..."

Margot nodded and handed her the bag.  "Of course," she said.  "Have a good day." 

"Have a good term!" Lierin said, taking the bag and leaving, her robes swishing on the floor behind her.  Margot shuddered as she began to ring up the next person.  Bellatrix escaped...the thought frightened her. 

"They make you work over the summer?"

Margot's face flushed as she turned to her next customer.  Ophi leaned his elbows against the counter, looking at her curiously.  Her stomach did a half-turn, and she managed a nervous smile. 

"J-just this week," she told him as her heart thumped pathetically under her robes.  "I-I was at my aunt and uncle's house m-most of the summer."

Ophi nodded, and put his selections on the counter.  Her face turned a deeper shade of red as she saw the bottle of love potion lying next to a pot of pimple vanisher, a pack of Muggle playing cards, and an edible Dark Mark.  Ophi noticed her stare and turned an equally deep shade of red.

"It's for my mum," he explained, jerking his head back to where she stood gossiping with another witch.  "She's too embarrassed to buy them herself...I don't know why she likes them so much.  Dad's already in love with her..."

Margot hurriedly rang up his purchases, trying not to look at him.  She pursed her lips together, trying to get her heart to slow down.  It was ridiculous that she could hardly speak to him without stuttering like a fool.  He probably thought she was stupid or something. 

"I suppose I'll see you on the train, then?" Ophi asked as she handed him the bag.  She nodded curtly, attempted a smile, and turned to her next customer, feeling like an utter fool. 

The morning passed rather quickly, which was surprising.  After the first hour or two, the rush of frantic students died down quite a bit.  Outside, the sun had come out, and Margot could see that the students were now hurrying from shop to shop, picking up last minute items before the train left for Hogwarts.  She checked her watch every now and then, not wanting to miss the train.  She didn't know how she'd get to Hogwarts if she missed the train.  She had, of course, heard Uncle Harry and Uncle Ron's tale of flying to Hogwarts in Grandpa's Ford Anglia, but her aunts and grandmum had made it quite clear that she was not to follow suit.  The Anglia, which had been rescued from the Forbidden Forest some years ago, now rested in the garage at the Burrow.  Grandpa was forbidden from doing anything more than playing with it and starting the engine every other week. 

"Nearly nine," Verity announced as Margot said goodbye to a woman who had just bought the rest of their Daydream Charm stock.  "George just Apparated back to the house to see if there were any more crates of the Daydream, and Fred is explaining how Muggle cards work.  I can take over the till, if you like." 

Margot nodded and took a seat on the ground.  She was exhausted, and ready to sit down on the seats in the train and listen to Lex drone on about her summer vacation.  The train wouldn't leave for two hours, but knowing the Weasley family, it was a good thing to leave early. 

George appeared with a pop, causing Verity to knock over the edible Dark Mark display.  Muttering an apology, she hurried to pick them up.  George's cheeks turned bright red as he coughed and attempted to compose himself.  Margot rolled her eyes. 

"You ready, Margot?" George asked.  Margot nodded and grinned. 

"Delia should be here soon," Verity remarked.  She moved over to stand next to George, whose eyes seemed to be wandering.  "She popped in earlier and said she'd be a bit late."  Margot watched curiously as Verity's hand drifted toward George.  "If you want to leave now..."  She looked up at George, who bit his lip, torn. 

"It's five to nine!" Fred yelled, breaking the moment as he ran toward the group.  Margot shook her head at him as he grinned like a four-year-old child.  Fred simply grinned back gleefully as Verity and George jumped apart, their faces bright red. 

"You're so mean sometimes," Margot remarked.  She glanced around the shop.  It seemed that most of the students had gone elsewhere, or were preparing to leave for King's Cross.  Most of those left in the shop were the usual morning customers - the young woman who worked at Madam Malkin’s and spent her spare change on love products; the elderly man who frequented the Leaky Cauldron; a strange and silent woman who had only ever purchased Muggle playing cards.  Strange as it was, these people were as much of a family as Fred and George, though she had hardly spoken more than a hundred words to each of them. 

"Shall we go, then?" Fred asked.  "Mum'll want us there for the madness."

"Madness?" George asked as they began up the steps to the flat.  "All she does is give them all a Hogwarts scarf and tell them she'll love them no matter what house they're in.  She did just the same thing with us..."

Fred laughed.  "Yes, but I doubt they'll tell her what we did..." George joined him in laughing as they came to the top of the steps.  Margot instinctively went to the fireplace and grabbed the pot of Floo Powder. 

"What did you tell her?" she asked as she reached in for a pinch. 

The two laughed loudly. 

"We were terrible," George began with a grin. 

"We told her we'd try our hardest to get put in Slytherin-"

"-and that if we were put in Hufflepuff, we'd still keep in touch."

"Send a toilet seat or two, for old time's sake."

Margot frowned.  "What'd she say?"

George shrugged.  "The usual.  Swatted us over the head and told us she loved us no matter what House we were in.  And Dad gave us a lecture about family members who'd been in Hufflepuff and Slytherin all the way to the platform."

"But we did send her a toilet seat," Fred remarked, tilting his head as he remembered.  A smile crossed his face.  "Ah, good times.  How many Howlers was it that year, George?"

George frowned and counted on his fingers.  "At least four...maybe five?  It's been a while."

Margot shook her head, amazed at her fathers.  She imagined she should be used to it by now, but every now and then they managed to surprise her with tales of their adventures at Hogwarts.  She glanced at her watch and gave a start - it was ten past nine.  She threw the Floo Powder into the flames and disappeared.

As predicted, the hour leading up to their departure for King's Cross was spent listening to Grandmum tell Ariel, Portia, Molly, and Lily how much she loved them and how wonderful Hogwarts would be no matter what house they were sorted into.  Margot, Leona, and Gene sat on the couch in the living room trying not to fall asleep.  They had heard the lecture before, and didn't understand why they needed to hear it yet again.  Fortunately, the clock seemed to feel pity for the cousins, and the time passed rather quickly.  Soon, they were all gathering their trunks and following Grandpa out to the Ford Anglia, where he proudly drove it out of the garage.  It was the only time he was allowed to drive it, and Margot knew how much he enjoyed the drive. 

When they arrived at King's Cross, it was, quite predictably, ten minutes to eleven.  Grabbing trollies for everyone, Fred and George helped load all the luggage on and they rolled themselves down to Platform Nine, where several families were lined up to go through the barrier.

"Are we going to make it?" Lily asked her mum, who'd joined them at the station. 

Aunt Ginny smiled at her daughter.  "Of course.  They won't leave without us, I promise."

Margot pursed her lips and watched as the line thinned.  People were being particularly slow today, it seemed.  She wanted to get on the train and find Lex and Pepita.  If they didn't hurry, all the compartments would be full, and she'd be stuck sitting with her little cousins.  As much as she loved them, she didn't fancy the idea of spending the entire ride with four little girls who would pester her with questions about the Sorting and Hogwarts life in general. 

Five minutes later, they rushed through the barrier, entering a world of chaos.  Leona and Gene hugged their parents goodbye, while Margot waved to Fred and George, who were discussing business plans with the man who had been in line in front of them.  She sighed, then turned to find her friends. 

“Margot, could I have a word?”

            Uncle Harry hurried over to Margot.  Behind him, Lily and Molly were hugging their mother goodbye.  It seemed he had managed to get time from work to say goodbye to his children.

            “I didn’t tell Fred and George about Bellatrix,” Uncle Harry said, his voice low.  His eyes darted around, watching everyone who passed by.  “It won’t be in the paper that we captured her only to have her escape…bit of an embarrassment, honestly.  But I know you’re an intelligent girl, and you’ll tell Fred and George on your own.”

            Margot jiggled her leg, wanting to get on the train.  “I guess,” she said, not really thinking about it.  She didn’t understand the need to tell Fred and George about her experience.  It wasn’t the first time she’d met Bellatrix Lestrange, and this meeting was far less frightening than the last.

            Uncle Harry nodded.  “Well have a good term, then.  I’ll see you at Christmas.”  With a smile, he turned back to his family, and Margot hurried off to find her friends.

"Margot!  In here!  Come on, we saved you a seat!"

Margot pushed past a first year carrying a rather angry cat, and saw Lex's head sticking out of one of the windows.  Grinning, Margot waved at her and dragged her trunk onto the train.  Depositing it with the others, she hurried past several compartments that were full of first years to where Lex's head had been.

"Finally!" Lex announced as Margot collapsed onto the seat.  "We were worried you weren't going to make it!  Ophi went off for a minute to talk to a friend, and Emerson isn't here yet.  I think I saw him, but he was with his parents and they didn't look very happy, so I didn't yell."

Margot nodded, too tired to say anything.  Now that she was finally on the train, she wanted nothing more than to eat far too much sugar and listen to her friends talk about their summers.  She smiled and leaned back.  Finally, she was going home.

*

         

Margot drummed her fingers along the table.  She was hungry, she was tired, and the first years still hadn’t been brought into the Great Hall to be sorted.  On her right, Lex kept nodding off and then jumping awake, and on her left, Pepita was staring wistfully at the empty golden plates.

          “What’s taking so long?” Emerson asked, from his seat directly across from her.

          “I don’t know,” said Margot.  “Maybe someone…”

          She never finished her thought, however, because just then, the doors to the Great Hall opened, and a straggling line of first years entered, led by Professor Slughorn.

          “Finally,” whispered Lex, who’d just woken up again.

          Margot searched for her cousins.  There they were, a little cluster of Weasleys (and, okay, Potters) in the middle of the line.  She tried to pick out which House each of them would go into, but she couldn’t.  Probably there’d be at least one Gryffindor, though.

          Her thoughts were diverted as Slughorn set the Sorting Hat on its stool, and the hat began to sing.

 

Where lakeshore ends and wood begins,

and magic fills each space,

four sorcerers of mighty wands

set down and found their place.

They built a school, and took the youth,

who long had gone untaught,

but each had certain attributes,

which in the kids they sought.

Gryffindor loved those with heart,

whose souls were courage-filled.

For Ravenclaw, just those of wit

and knowledge fit the bill.

To Slytherin, the cunning and

ambitious were the best.

For Hufflepuff, the love of work

and justice were the test.

So each devised a House in which

to teach their favored ones,

and long they taught and toiled through

spring rain and summer sun.

But sure enough, their time did come;

no longer could they choose.

And so to me the old task falls,

to sort out whom is whose.

So step up as your name is called,

and never be afraid;

no matter where your fate is cast,

today’s your Sorting day!

          The Hall burst into applause, and the first years, looking rather nervous, began whispering among themselves.  Margot smiled, remembering her own Sorting.  In retrospect, she was happy she’d been Sorted into Ravenclaw; not only was it by far the best House, but it kind of gave all of her younger cousins a little leeway – now, if they weren’t Gryffindors, at least they weren’t the first not to be a Gryffindor.

          “Addler, Apollo,” called Slughorn.

          A short, pudgy boy with rumpled robes scurried up to the stool and put on the Sorting Hat.  It entirely covered his face.  After thirty seconds, the Hat opened the rip at its brim and called—

          “GRYFFINDOR!”

          Margot clapped politely as Apollo made his way to the Gryffindor table.  After the first few sortings, she tuned out what was going on, only coming back to reality when she heard the name “Ravenclaw,” so that she could clap loudly.  Finally, Slughorn got to the P’s, and Margot started paying attention again.

          “Potter, Lily.”

          Margot spotted Lily’s vibrantly red hair as she pulled herself out of line.  Margot liked Lily a lot; she was quiet, more like her dad than Aunt Ginny, and always an ally when Margot was trying to get the rest of the cousins to calm down.

          Lily was actually pretty tall for her age, and the Hat didn’t entirely cover her face; it only made it down to her nose.  Margot could see her smile when the Hat called out its decision.

          “HUFFLEPUFF!”

          Margot clapped as Lily stood up and went to her table, waving as she passed the Ravenclaws.  Hufflepuff was probably the perfect fit for Lily.

          “Potter, Molly!”

          Lily’s twin bounded up to the stool.  Margot guessed that she probably wouldn’t end up with her sister, but then, it was hard to tell.

          The Hat was only on Molly’s head for all of two seconds before it Sorted her into Gryffindor.  Molly hopped off the stool and found a seat at the Gryffindor table next to Leona, who patted her on the back.  Margot shook her head and smiled.

          There were two cousins left to go: Portia and Ariel.  Ariel was Gene’s little sister, and Margot knew that he was rooting for her to be in Ravenclaw with them.  As for Portia, she was the oldest of Uncle Percy’s children, so she’d probably be the one to set the precedent.

          Ariel ended up in Hufflepuff, to Gene’s obvious displeasure, and then it was Portia’s turn.  She was the last first year to be Sorted.  Sometimes it was hard to believe that Portia was Percy’s daughter; she’d taken much more after Aunt Penny, although she did look a little bit like Aunt Ginny.  Of all the first years that Margot had actually paid attention to, she was probably the calmest as she walked up to the stool and put the hat on her head.

          It seemed to Margot that the Hat took an unusually long time with her.  It was obviously impossible to know exactly what was going on in any individual Sorting, but there must have been some sort of argument or difficulty.  Finally, after almost a minute and a half, the Hat called out its decision.

          “SLYTHERIN!”

          Across the Great Hall, all the Weasley grandchildren caught each other’s eyes.  Leona was doing something frantic with her eyebrows that Margot supposed meant she was as surprised as Margot herself was.

          In fact, the only Weasley who didn’t seem surprised was Portia herself.  She merely replaced the hat, smiled slightly, and took her place at the Slytherin table.

          As the food appeared, Lex turned to Margot.  “What was up with you and your cousins?  You were giving each other looks.”

          “What?” asked Margot distractedly.  “Oh.  We’re just…surprised, I think.  With Portia being a Slytherin.”

          Lex shrugged.  “There are worse things you can be.”

          Margot nodded; it was true.  Still, she couldn’t help but wonder, as she began to pile potatoes onto her plate, how much of her family would see it that way.

//
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