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Chapter Ten: A Warm Welcome

"Welcome to Hogwarts," he said, smiling graciously, his arms held out as though blessing them all. "And may I add how nice it is to see you all happy and healthy, though a trifle windswept, perhaps. I hope you have all had a good summer, and have returned ready to learn.

"The first year students who are to be sorted shall be through in a few moments after Professor McGonagall has welcomed them properly to the school, but until then, I'm afraid I shall have to bore you all silly with a few start of term notices. Some I am no doubt you will be delighted by, and some that I know a lot of you would rather I not tell you about. One such thing is the most important, and I wish to be completely serious when I tell you this, so I implore you all to listen well.

"Lord Voldemort." A shiver spread through the school at this, and Dumbledore paused to let people settle once more, then continued. "You are all now fully aware of his return. To my knowledge, there have been five deaths in wizard kind - the latest only this summer."

Harry glanced across the hall at the Slytherin table. Malfoy sat apart from everyone else, huddled over the table with his shoulders up, as though terribly cold. Harry felt a shiver as he realised he could see every button on the other boy's spine through his cloak, such was the extent of his weight loss. A lot more people were turning to look at Malfoy too, but he made no sign to acknowledge he was aware of them watching him, and continued to trace a finger around the rim of his goblet, a weary, hollow look in his eyes.

Dumbledore coughed once to draw their attention away, and began to speak once more. "It would be foolish of me to tell you there shall be no more lives lost, for there will, and as much as some of you will not want to hear this, it could be any one of us sitting right now in this hall. Voldemort is very much alive, and as dangerous as he ever was.

"For this reason, new defences are being brought into Hogwarts. They have been rigorously tested, several times, and I think that now would be a good time to go through the safety drills with you all." He smiled, clapped his hands twice, stretched out his fingers, flicked his hands and then -

Everybody yelped and clapped their hands over their ears as the most horrible, high-pitched wailing noise filled the hall. Harry cringed as it continued, whining right inside his head, wavering up and down like the air-raid sirens of World War Two.


The noise died, and everybody sighed with relief, rubbing their foreheads painfully.

"If you hear this noise, then try your best to get to your house common room," said Dumbledore. "If not, any professor's office or this hall will do - except if danger is in any of these places. Do not run into trouble if you can avoid it. Precisely thirty seconds after this noise has been initiated - "


Everybody jumped and a few people screamed as massive iron gates slid down covering every single possible entrance to the hall. The doors, the windows, the stormy ceiling being pattered with rain overhead, holes in the walls, portraits, everything was barred with the heavy black iron poles. Dumbledore smiled. "That happens. Please, please do not linger in doorways after you hear the siren. I do not need to explain what will happen if you do." He clicked his fingers, and the metal gates slid back into whatever places they were hiding. Everybody was very on edge now, clearly wondering what dangerous "defences" Dumbledore would conjure next.

"Also," he said. "Panic buttons have been placed in every classroom, common room, office, dormitory, and at regular intervals down corridors. To activate one properly, it must be pressed three times. This, I hope, will stop any accidental setting-offs of the panic button. Pressing one of the buttons will initiate the siren and also alert every teacher to where you are and that you are in severe trouble. These buttons are to be used only in the most dire situations, where the castle is under attack and you need help very quickly."

Above them, a flash of lightning struck across the sky and filled the hall with a white flood for a moment. Everybody nodded silently, all wide-eyed and still worried about anything else he might spring on them.

"There are some other defences in place," he admitted. "Though I do not wish to reveal every single one of my secrets to you just yet. If the time arises when they must be used, you shall find out everything, though hopefully that day will never come.

"Moving onto slightly lighter notes, I am pleased to inform you that due to the removal of Dolores Umbridge from my school, all rules she made have been destroyed completely. I want to see as many people as possible reading The Quibbler, starting up clubs and enjoying yourselves. Speaking of afterschool activities, it has come to my attention that during last year, Mr Harry Potter took matters of Defence Against The Dark Arts into his own hands and started a secret organisation which quite some number of you were involved in." He smiled pleasantly at Harry over the top of his half-moon spectacles. "Harry has kindly agreed, with the help of various staff members, to carry on his good work. Dumbledore's Army is now every Friday after school and I hope to see as many of you there as possible."

Harry smiled back at Professor Dumbledore, even grinning around at a few people in the crowd watching him, before the headmaster started to talk again, drawing their attention.

"Also, I am sorry to tell you that our caretaker of several decades, Argus Filch, has left the school due to... ah... personal reasons."

Everybody burst into applause, and Dumbledore chuckled merrily.

"Now now, I'm sure the loss of Mr Filch isn't quite as much a call for celebration as that," he said, though he was smiling as much as everybody else. All the teachers were. Harry could swear there was even the slightest, tiniest upturn of the corners of Snape's lips. Dumbledore's eyes twinkled as the last few claps died out. "Thankyou. However, this does not mean that you are allowed to bring any banned objects into school. I do not wish to see any maces, or battle axes or longswords, thankyou very much.

"Onto the next notice... and I know that my waffling has gone out a bit today, I must apologise, but these things are important. As you all know, the age required to do magic has been lowered by a year. This means that students in the sixth and seventh year are allowed to perform sorcery out of school, though I must remind you not to overdo it and alert muggle attention other than your family, for those of you who are muggleborn. This has been done to give you all sufficient practice at magic in the real world, for practicing sorcery inside school is one thing, and performing out there for real is quite another." He smiled around at all of them, then said, "Next item I wish to draw to your attention... the Quidditch Cup this year has been cancelled."

Harry's face fell. Again? He had been looking forward to playing Quidditch all summer. He wasn't the only student who chorused, "Why?", up at Dumbledore.

"But," he said. "And there is a but. The cup has been cancelled BUT Quidditch will continue. A new system for Hogwarts Quidditch matches has been introduced, so please, do not throw any cutlery at me until I am completely finished.

"To strengthen alliance between the houses, I've decided that a Quidditch League will be in place. Teams are of the usual seven members, and matches are as normal, except that a team can consist of players from any house, mixed together, and there are an unlimited number of teams. The more teams we have, the more games, and I'm sure that everyone will want to join in the fun with their friends. If we get more than twenty teams, I will be delighted to organise a staff vs students game."

Ron's eyes lit up. "We have to get a team!" he said to Harry. "Absolutely have to! Imagine it, we could both play Beaters for once and chase Snape around the pitch!"

Harry smiled weakly, the butter fingers hex creeping into his head again. Snape seemed to have been reminded of this as well. He had looked away from Dumbledore and was pretending to study his goblet, though Harry could see the bitterness in his face.

Dumbledore called for quiet, and when everybody had settled down, he said, "Thankyou all for your enthusiasm and your attention throughout this old man's blathering, and I promise I shall never bore you like this again. In a few moments - "

The doors of the Great Hall opened at that moment, cutting him off in mid-sentence. The wind and rain roared outside, and another flash of lightning tore through the hall, illumitating two figures in the door way, before the doors slammed shut again, taking the howling wind with it. Two men stood before them in the torchlight.

One was Professor Lupin, looking rather bedraggled and dishevelled in a tattered grey cloak. He held his briefcase with the familiar peeling gold letters, and over all, he looked quite a state with his greying hair all over his face, windswept and ruffled.

But the man behind him...

"Who's that?" Parvati Patil whispered down the Gryffindor table, her eyes wide, seemingly transfixed.

A lot of people in the hall were whispering the same question, watching this new visitor with wonder in their faces.

At first he glance, he looked to have fallen right out of a story about the smooth, slick smugglers of olden times, sailing the high seas and burying treasure on desert islands somewhere on the horizon. He was young, less than thirty, and tall, strikingly so, well built, clothed in black riding trousers, a red wine coloured tunic and the black boots normally associated with pirates. Compared to Professor Lupin, he looked like the definition of attractive and sophisticated. Several of the girls were craning their necks to get a better look.

"Ah, gentlemen," Dumbledore said, with a gracious smile. "So glad you could join us."

Lupin brushed his hair out of his eyes. "Apologies, Headmaster... there was a problem with our carriage."

"That's quite alright, Remus. Please sit down, make yourself comfortable." Dumbledore smiled pleasantly as Lupin and this mystery man made their way up to the high table. Everybody was interested now. When he turned his back, his dark brown hair was revealed to be swept gently into a sleek ponytail, tied with a black ribbon. He looked completely untouched despite the raging storms that had turned Lupin pale and scruffy.

Lupin took the seat on Dumbledore's right, sinking into it as though he was about to faint. The other man sat graciously next to Professor Snape, who shot him a rather contemptuous sideways sneer.

"May I introduce our Defence Against The Dark Arts teacher, Professor Lupin," Dumbledore addressed the students, pulling their attention away from the other man. "Some of our older students will remember that he taught the subject here a few years ago, and it is my great pleasure to welcome him back with open arms."

Lupin gave a weak smile and murmur of thanks, and then Dumbledore leant forward to smile down the table at the new man.

"And some of you may be curious as to who our new guest is," he said to the school, who were watching attentively. He smiled. "This year at Hogwarts, a new subject shall be taught within these walls, one which I have no doubt will be of great use to you in further years. It is my pleasure to introduce our new Pure Arts teacher, Professor Alrister."

Professor Alrister smiled with the corner of his mouth, a very roguish, slick sort of smile. A lot of the girls sighed softly.

"You may well be wondering exactly what the Pure Arts are," said Dumbledore. "Indeed, I spent most of my life practising the subject without even knowing what it was called. Ah, Professor Alrister, would you care to explain to the students just what wonderful work you do?"

Alrister smiled again, and stood up gracefully, his palms resting flat on the table as he looked around at them all. Harry had the strangest feeling that Alrister was looking directly at him, then again, the rest of the hall seemed to think so too. The Gryffindor sixth year girls were all gazing at him as though they'd never seen a man before.

"Thankyou, Headmaster," he said, in a deep sort of voice, then addressing the hall, he smiled slightly again. "My subject is the Pure Arts, sometimes commonly known as raw magic - sorcery without a wand. Of course, a lot of you may presume that Pure Arts is merely charms but minus the wand, but my subject is far, far more complex than that. I presume you all had to test several wands before you found the right one?"

Everybody nodded, as though they were having a conversation one-on-one with the new professor. He smiled, and continued.

"That is because, as you know, the right person has to match the right wand. A falty wand, or one that does not like you, will not perform as well as your one, true match. Without the correct wand, the magical power inside you is not focused well enough to produce controlled magic. Often, an angry or upset wizard will perform violent, tempered bursts of magic even without a wand, because it is uncontrolled."

Harry knew exactly what the professor was talking about. Up until the age of eleven, when he'd started his education at Hogwarts, whenever he was distressed, he'd become a magnet for accidents. Indeed, just before his third year, he'd inflated his aunt marge after she drove him insane with her complaints about his parents.

"My job is to teach you how to control that unfocused magic," Professor Alrister continued, in his calm, level voice. "I have no doubt that with practice most of you here will be able to perform vital magic without your wands - of course, only when necessary. It takes many years of work to achieve the level where you can discard your wand. It will be a pleasure to teach you all, and if you're willing to try, we'll get on marvellously, I think."

Dumbledore smiled, and started to clap politely. The school burst into applause. Several of the seventh year Hufflepuff girls whistled. Professor Alrister smiled graciously and sat back in his chair. Through clapping mildly, Harry glanced at the other professors' reactions to this speech. Professor Snape was not amused, tracing a pale finger idly around the rim of his goblet as though in a particularly boring lesson. Professor Sprout, Madam Pomfrey and Madam Hooch were all clapping particularly hard and grinning at each other.

"Thankyou, Professor Alrister," said Dumbledore, nodding graciously. "Now, I believe - "

The siren suddenly went off and everybody screamed, ducking and grabbing their ears.


"TURN IT OFF, JUST LET THEM GET ABDUCTED BY DARK WIZARDS!" Ron yelled, though his voice was lost completely in the siren's wailing. "MY EARS ARE GOING TO EXPLODE!!!"

The horrible whining stopped, and everybody sighed, rubbing their heads again.

"Why does it have to hurt so much?" Ron groaned from next to Harry.

Harry was blinking, trying to get his vision to focus again, though across the table Hermione was still very blurry. She stared at him. "What?"

"The siren's just turned everything fuzzy, give it a minute," he said, going cross-eyed.


The gates came down with a loud crash, and everybody screamed again. Snape jumped so much his goblet clattered to the floor, and he scooped it up, looking angry. Harry noticed that Lupin's face was turned towards Snape, and Snape shot him an absolutely vile look as he slammed the goblet back on the table.

Dumbledore snapped his fingers, grinding the gates back into place, smiling. "I believe that's quite enough of that, now, we have some new students who need to be Sorted and join our school." The door opened, and the first years all filed in, looking around nervously. Clearly, having iron gates zooming from the walls wasn't a good first impression of the school for them.

Professor McGonagall shook out her long roll of parchment, and read, "Astor, Kimberly!"

All the way through the Sorting, Ron sat next to Harry muttering darkly. Every now and then, Harry caught a phrase like, "I am so hungry..." or "oh, come on, just put them all in Hufflepuff!" or "now that's a Slytherin, just look at that ratty face". However, it seemed that Ron was the only one watching the Sorting at all apart from the professors. All the older students were grumbling to their neighbours about how hungry they were, and all the girls were watching Professor Alrister fixedly, even though he was just observing the Sorting. Harry couldn't help but catch the scathing looks Snape kept throwing at Alrister, the way he sat leaning as far away from the new teacher as possible, as though worried of developing some terrifying disease.

"Oh come on," Ron groaned, as the last student came forward and plonked the hat pleasantly on her head. "Hurry up." He put a hand over his mouth and muttered, in a low voice that fooled nobody, "Hufflepuff. Now let's eat."

Hermione gave him a reproving look as the hat announced, "Ravenclaw!", and the girl skipped off, the Ravenclaw table applauding her and welcoming her. Ron was cheering too.

"Yeah, great, she's a Ravenclaw, feed us!" he called.

Dumbledore heard him and chuckled. "Yes, as Mr Weasley says, I think it's about time to eat." He looked around at all of them with his twinkling eyes, lifted his hands and clapped twice. The dishes and plates and bowls up and down the long house tables all filled instantly with food, succulent meat, crisp vegetables and salads arranged in delicate patterns, great boats of rich gravy, trays of chips and chicken nuggets, hamburgers, buttered potatoes. It all looked marvellous.

Harry loaded up his plate hungrily, his stomach growling. Ron wasn't bothering with cutlery and was tucking into a large slice of gooey cheese pizza, his eyes closed, as though all his dreams had come true. "I needed that," he sighed.

Hermione delicately started to cut into her chicken, frowning as Ron wiped his fingers on the tablecloth. "Not one for manners today, are we?"

"I'm hungry, it's not my fault! Pass us one of those hamburgers, Harry."

Harry handed it over, absent-mindedly glancing up the table to where Professor Alrister sat. He was talking to Madam Pince, toying with a piece of pasta on the end of his fork, more interested in what she was saying. Madam Pince looked rather pink in the face and kept missing her soup with the spoon.

"What do you think of that new professor?" Harry asked, as he poured himself a goblet of pumpkin juice.

"He certainly looks good," said Hermione. She stammered, and said, "I mean, looks to be a good professor. Oh Ron, don't look at me like that, you know what I meant."

"What do you think, Harry?" said Ron through a mouthful of hamburger, grinning. "Lockhart two? Return of the good-looking prat?"

"I don't know," said Harry. "He seems to know his stuff."

"Oh, don't tell me you fancy him as well!" said Ron.

Hermione snapped, "I do NOT fancy him, Ron!"

Ron smirked. "I never said you did, Mione."

Hermione blushed and looked down into her chicken, though as she ate, Harry caught her sneaking glances at the dashing Professor Alrister every few moments. In a way, the professor's good looks and obvious charm did remind Harry of Professor Lockhart, though there was something else there. Something a little darker, wiser, humbler. Plus, the way he was talking to Madam Pince. All the female professors had hated Lockhart's guts. He was arrogant, cocky and big-headed, convinced he was God's gift to women, but Madam Pince was now blushing to the tips of her fingers and he was talking to her politely, letting her reply. And he looked interested in what she was stammering from behind her hands, oblivious to the fact she was ladling soup onto her plate for no reason.

Harry then spotted Snape, and never had he seen Snape looking so utterly bored. He had one hand supporting his head, gazing out into space with a hollow-cheeked expression as he picked vaguely at a bread roll. Harry noticed that there was no cutlery anywhere near Snape, and all the hot dishes were conveniently at the other end of the table. As much as he loathed Snape, he couldn't help but feel slightly sorry for him. After all, the rest of the teachers had steak, chips, fresh meat, noodles, pretty much everything the students had - and Snape had a bread roll. And even then, there was no butter on it because he didn't have a knife.

"Harry, will you stop staring at that new guy?" said Ron. "You're like Hermione, honestly."

Hermione choked on a piece of chicken. "Ron, will you stop being so childish?"

Harry chuckled into his food, quickly covering it by putting a chip in his mouth, so Hermione couldn't accuse him of laughing.

When their plates were all cleared, the platters and bowls up and down the tables refilled with dessert. Ice creams, trifles, eclairs, rice pudding, chocolates, sticky toffee pudding, pavalova, shortcake, spongecake, fruitcake, chocolate cake, fondant fancies, fairy cakes, sundaes, brandy snap... the list went on and on. The house elves had really outdone themselves this year. Harry eagerly helped himself to hot chocolate cake and ice cream, while Ron tucked in to pretty much everything. Hermione took a slice of apple tart and lathered it in whipped cream. She didn't even tell Ron off for slopping ice cream all down his front, and she joined in happily with the discussions about Pure Arts flitting up and down the table.

"I've heard that it can be quite dangerous stuff," said Lavender Brown, taking another spoonful of her cherry sundae. "I hope he knows what he's doing."

"I think he will," said Seamus. "What's the worst that could happen?"

Ron savaged a bite from his donut, licking all around his mouth to remove the sugar. "Somebody might blow something up or something. They'll probably have some sort of precaution though, I mean, he won't just let us loose and tell us to do magic, will he?"

"I hope not," said Hermione. "That would be very irrensponsible of him."

"Yeah, and also pointless," said Harry. "He's going to teach us how to control it, like he said."

"I dunno how you're supposed to control stuff like that," said Ron, shrugging vaguely. "It just comes naturally, doesn't it? And only when we're scared or angry or something... is he going to annoy us just so we can participate in class?"

"It's not necessarily bad emotions," said Hermione, promptly, spooning some tart into her mouth and then continuing. "It can be good memories. That's what makes the patronus work - it's raw magic, channeled into the wand and released."

"Who cares?" said Ron. "It's Learning How To Blow Stuff Up lessons, I bet you."

Harry smiled and helped himself to another curl of brandy snap, breaking it into bits and crunching a piece absent-mindedly. "As long as he doesn't give us too much homework."

"Yeah," said Ron, nodding vigorously, nearly splattering custard all over the tabletop. "I mean, especially for you, you're running the DA after school too. Hey, I've got my prefect duties. I can't be doing homework when there are first years to be helped, can I?"

"Every other prefect manages, Ron," said Hermione, frowning.

"I was joking," said Ron, a smile crossing his face. "Honestly, Hermione, couldn't you tell?"

"Excuse me?"

They all looked up. Professor Alrister stood nearby, smiling down at them all, his height even more impressive from this angle.

"Are you done with the cream? We've run out at the staff table," he said, in that deep voice.

Hermione went scarlet, and after a moment, she gabbled, "Yes, thankyou. I mean... yes... yes, we have... you can have it."

He smiled gratefully. "Thanks." Leaning forward, he picked the jug up by the handle. Ron raised his eyebrows at the black velvet hawking gloves that the new professor wore, emblazoned with a gold family crest on the back of the palm, but before any of them could register the crest properly, Alrister had taken the jug away to the staff table, his boots clinking on every step.

Hermione was still crimson in the face, apparently struck dumb. Lavender Brown was goggling at her as though she'd just been given the treat of a lifetime. "He talked to you," she whispered.

Ron snorted. "Big deal."

"How cool is he?" Lavender gushed, pretending not have heard Ron. "He's not like a teacher... did you hear the way he said 'thanks'? He sounds more like one of my big brother's friends... he is so cool..."

"He's just some good looking prat," said Ron, scowling. "A good looking prat who has now stolen our cream, I might add. Thanks so much Hermione."

"Haven't you had enough?" she said, raising an eyebrow. "You've had about half a plate of everything now. You'll be sick."

"No I won't," Ron said, doggedly, taking another shovel of plum pudding and turning round to steal the Hufflepuffs' cream.

"I warned him," she said, coolly, cutting out another slice of her apple tart. "And he can't say I didn't."

The plates were slowly cleaned, and by the time every last morsel was gone, it was very dark outside. Everyone was sleepy and full of food, and when Dumbledore announced that it was time for bed, the benches all creaked as the students stood up. Hermione shot up and said, "First years! First years over here!" Ron sighed and followed her dejectedly, dragging his feet, leaving Harry to make his way up to Gryffindor Tower alone.

Really, he was glad of the peace for a while, as he strolled leisurely across the entrance hall and up the great marble staircase. The various witches and wizards in the portraits waved merrily at the students they recognised, and greeted the first years, wishing them welcome to Hogwarts. Harry found himself walking behind a group of new Hufflepuffs, who were chattering happily about the day they expected tomorrow. Their prefect called at them to hurry up, and they rushed off, disappearing down a side passage, leaving Harry on his own. He wondered about the day tomorrow. NEWT classes were starting, and he knew they were different to his lessons of the past five years. Apparently, there were no set classes of Gryffindors, or just Hufflepuffs, but a mixture of all four houses. He hoped he wouldn't end up with a pack of Slytherins doing Potions, and he had the feeling that if he did, he'd forget being an auror and just join the ministry or something equally pointless.

When he got into Gryffindor Tower, Ron, Hermione and the other Gryffindor prefects were giving the welcoming talk to a knot of curious first years huddled by the fire. Harry smiled, leaning against one of the arm chairs to watch as Ron hiccuped his way through what to do if there was a fire. His various puddings were taking toll on him, and Harry couldn't help but laugh inwardly as he realised the first years didn't understand a word he was saying as he slurred vaguely about windows and water charms.

"Um... how do we do water charms?" one of the first years asked, tentatively.

Ron put a hand to his head and thought for a minute, clearly getting nowhere, then saying, "Look, just fetch an older student and tell them to do it for you."

Hermione frowned disapprovingly, and took out her wand. The first years all watched, spellbound, as she demonstrated how to do a water charm properly, and then set about teaching them. She would make a good professor, Harry thought, as she managed to show the first years their very first bits of magic. They all smiled gratefully, looking at her as though she was a grand sorceress, as she praised them all, pointed out the dormitories and sent them to bed.

Harry clapped from the back of the room. Hermione grinned. "Was that okay?"

"Great," he said, smiling. "Ron, you sound a bit drunk."

"Shurrup," said Ron, grinning bemusedly. "I'm full of sugar, I'm allowed to sound a bit drunk. Where've you been anyway? You missed the bit where I belched in the middle of the welcome speech."

"Hilarious," said Harry. He yawned widely, stretching. "I'm tired, and we've got lessons first thing tomorrow..."

"Hit the hay I think," said Ron. "Night, Hermione."

"Night," she said, disappearing up the girl's staircase.

Harry and Ron went up to their own dormitory. Neville, Seamus and Dean were already in there, sitting up in bed and debating the new defences. Harry smiled as he saw Ron shoot a nasty look at Dean, pulling the curtains around his bed to get changed.

"Hey, Harry?" Seamus called.

"What?" Harry called from inside the hangings of his four-poster.

"You're still running the DA, right?"

"Yeah," said Harry. "Why?"

"Just checking... and... is Professor Lupin helping?"

Harry pulled the hangings apart, just doing up the last button of his pajama jacket. "Of course."

"Great," said Seamus, smiling. "At least we're going to have proper Defence Against The Dark Arts this year. What do you think of that Alrister guy?"

"I don't know," Harry shrugged. "He's alright I suppose."

"No he's not," said Ron. "He's a prat. You just have to look at him. What's with all the pirate-style stuff?"

"I think he looks really cool," said Neville, enthusiastically. His face then fell as he continued, "I'm just not very good at producing any raw magic, except when I'm in real danger..."

"Hey, don't worry," said Dean. "Nobody can just do it straight off."

"But I'm really really rubbish at it," said Neville sadly. "I only managed to conjure any when my great uncle dropped me out of an upstairs window and I nearly died."

Harry got under the covers and laid down in bed, listening to them talk idly, closing his eyes. There was just something about the whole room that made him feel safe and sleepy. The last thing he thought before he drifted off to sleep was how glad he was to be back, then sleep settled over him like a blanket.


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