Chapter 4

The great hall never failed to impress, It was hard to believe there was a ceiling there at all, and that the Great Hall didn't simply open on to the heavens. Professor McGonagall led the first-years up to the front so that they came to a halt in a line facing the other students, with the teachers behind them. The hundreds of faces staring at them looked like pale lanterns in the flickering candlelight. Dotted here and there among the students, the ghosts shone misty silver. The fifth years sat towards the back end of the table. Ines sat in the middle of Lily and Marlene, who sat next to Emmeline, Dorcas, and Mary respectively. Across from them sat Remus, James, Sirius, and Peter, in that order. Ines hadn't eaten since she downed a package of sugar quills.

A pink-faced girl with blonde pigtails stumbled out of line, put on the hat, which fell right down over her eyes, and sat down. After a moment's pause "HUFFLEPUFF!" shouted the hat. The table on the right cheered and clapped as the girl went to sit down at the Hufflepuff table. Ines saw the ghost of the Fat Friar waving merrily at her. "HUFFLEPUFF!" shouted the hat again, and a boy named Marcus scuttled off to sit next to the girl. "Lockhart, Gilderoy!" "RAVENCLAW!" The table second from the left clapped this time; several Ravenclaws stood up to shake hands with Gilderoy as he joined them. "Laskey, Alexander" became the first new Gryffindor, and the table on the far left exploded, Ines, Sirius, and James stood and cheered. "Striver, Millicent" then became a Slytherin.

Once every new student had been sorted, Dumbledore stood from his seat at the high table and silence ensued. "Welcome," he said. "Welcome to a new year at Hogwarts! Before we begin our banquet, I would like to say a few words. And here they are; Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak! Thank you." He sat back down. Everybody clapped and cheered until the food appeared in front of them.

James and Sirius honored their usual tradition and hit forks before diving in. Ines scooped as much mashed potatoes on her plate as she could and ate. Nobody spoke for a whole as the food was too good not to savor every bite. Marlene took a sip out of her goblet, fixed her hair, and pulled down her shirt. Ines rolled her eyes, catching the attention of Lily and Remus who gave a knowing smile to each other. "Sirius," Marlene called. She caught him mid swallow, making him pause and pull a quite unflattering face. Ines struggled to stifle a laugh, but Marlene continued. "How was your summer! Do anything exciting?"

He saw this as a simple question, but Ines knew that Marlene had been hyping herself up to say it since the train. "Didn't do much?" he said, in-between shoveling chicken wings from alternating hands into his mouth. "Spent most of it at home, Narcissa's engagement party." He threw a wink at Ines whom he had seen there, which saddened Marlene enough to ignore Sirius for the rest of the night and talk to Emmeline, Dorcas, and Mary. Sirius hadn't noticed and continued to eat his food, occasionally chatting with his surrounding classmates. The rest of the meal was quite nice, the group of kids spoke much about the upcoming year. The heavier end of the conversation was held by Remus and Lily, both of whom had already begun some necessary reading for their exams. But James, Sirius, and Ines (with occasional unwanted comments from Marlene) about how they were going to handle their exams on top of all they planned for this year.

Once the meal had ended, Lily and Remus attended to their new prefect duty of escorting the first years, and the rest left to walk on their own. The walk was quite nice, Ines had missed the castle dearly. She was lucky to say she lived in a very nice home, similar to that of Hogwarts. But her own home couldn't mimic the feeling that being at Hogwarts gave her. She was able to wear her house colors with pride instead of fear and could be with people who appreciated her.

Once back in the common room, James, Sirius, Ines, Peter, and the girls lounged on the couch by the ever-present fire. They commonly sat here, and much of Gryffindor knew not to occupy the area. They held a normal conversation for a while until the group slowly started to thin out. Emmeline and Dorcas went up first, wanting to unpack their trunks. Mary left not long after, held up in a conversation with Peter. The latter left next once Remus had returned, hoping that he would speak to him more than the rest would. Lily had sat for only a while but claimed to leave due to wanting to get some sleep, but James' constant unwanted conversation was definitely a factor. Marlene tried to cling onto the conversation, trying to pull Sirius from it numerous times, all of which were failed attempts. She left out of frustration, once Sirius had given her a soft 'yeah' to her question regarding if he used Fleetwood's High-Finish Handle Polish on his broom.

Ines watched her walk away with pity. She was so desperately obsessed with Sirius, but she would have to get in line. Numerous girls tried to strike up a conversation, even before they had reached the common room. One had accidentally walked through a ghost, not having paid attention to where she was going as she was too busy staring into Sirius' eyes. Now that the room was mostly empty Ines threw herself on the large couch, took off her tie, and put her feet up on the ottoman. The conversation had progressively gotten deeper, initially of what Dumbledore had been wearing, regarding their true worries about the upcoming year.

Ines had wanted to become an Auror for quite some time, ever since the second year. Twins Fabian and Gideon had told her of the career meeting they had had with McGonagall and gave her a ministry pamphlet regarding what she would have to do in order to become an Auror, as they were looking into the same profession. She had held onto the pamphlet for years. Her family's house elf Bobky had claimed to of thrown it out by accident, but she was sure that her mother had asked him to dispose of it and told him to lie.

James and Sirius had been debating who the replacement Seeker for the Chudley Cannons would be, when James yawned and announced he was going to head up to bed, leaving Sirius and Ines in the common room. Sirius took one last sweep of the room and turned fully to face Ines. "It was nice seeing you this summer, I don't know what I would have done if I had to sit with my parents the whole night" He mumbled. Ines' breath caught in her throat, she had no clue how to respond. She and Sirius had always had a good relationship, they were able to understand things about each other that their closest friends couldn't. As much as James and Lily tried to be empathetic, they would never understand the pressure of being the only Gryffindor in a mainly Slytherin pureblood family. But these moments were few and far between, as they generally tried to bury their issues.

"Yeah," she whispered "I'm quite surprised we weren't caught. I swear that old Yaxley bloke was watching the whole room like a hawk. I'm surprised he didn't catch you charming the chocolate fountain to sputter." The two laughed, Sirius had caused the fountain to spurt chocolate at random intervals whenever someone was using it. When they weren't laughing at the fountain, they were hidden in the extensive Malfoy manor library. The spiraling staircase and catwalks made for plenty of fun, as the manor made them exempt from the non-magic statue of secrecy laws. "What did you tell your family once we came back?"

He smirked a bit, toying with the hem of his robe. "I told them I had a nasty stomach ache and had asked the house elf Dobby for a remedy, which took all that time to make. You?". "I told them I had gone to the bathroom and had mistakenly walked into a room I got trapped in." They smiled, getting very tired at this point. "Oberon saw right through it". "Regulus did too". Ines yawned, she was quite tired. The night before was spent packing, as she had procrastinated for quite some time. "I think I'm gonna head up" she whispered, slowly getting up. Sirius nodded, looking like he could doze off any second as well. "I think I'll head up in a bit too, in a few". Ines mumbled 'ok' and turned to give Sirius a quick hug, whispered 'goodnight' and went up to the girl's staircase. Once she reached the dormitory, she tried to be as quiet as possible as to not wake her sleeping friends. Lily sat up only slightly, giving Ines a small, and somehow knowing, look before lying back down on her pillow.