And here's the sixty eighth chapter of "A Year Too Soon"! Enjoy!

* Review Response:
DarkRavie, griffin blackwood, Luiz4200, magitech, Yaw613, Tbone696, EP (guest), Guest, Yaw6113, rayhawkins10, thank you for your reviews, folks!
orion0905, lol.
BMS, my bet is on him using the Sticking Charm to permanently attach it to his head.
Brockster550, it is certainly quite baffling that absolutely no one - not just Dumbledore, but also teachers and parents - had any problems with unkillable, soul-sucking depression-spreading monsters being stationed around the school full of children, with maybe ten people on the grounds even theoretically capable of casting the Charm that can drive them away. That whole setup just screams of a tragedy waiting to happen. Also, yes Crouch's and Pettigrew's plan to bring Voldemort back will fail, but that doesn't mean their plan won't cause problems for everyone before it does fail.
Tsukikageshi, perhaps, though probably not to a significant degree. But I don't plan on exploring that in this story.

* AN: This chapter has not been beta-read.

Disclaimer: I DO NOT own "Harry Potter" franchise. No profit is being made. Same goes for any books, video games, anime or manga I may or may not use for ideas.

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A Year Too Soon
Chapter LXVIII: The First Day as a Prefect

The rest of the summer flew by quickly and soon it was September the first. And that meant going back to Hogwarts. Keeping his new duties as a prefect in mind, Harry arrived at the platform 9¾ early in the morning. And he was already wearing his school robes, with the prefect's badge prominent on his chest.

Once the Hogwarts Express was brought to the platform, he quickly claimed a nice compartment for himself and his friends. Then he cast a modifier Notice-me-not Charm on himself, to make those without Magic see him as nothing but yet another normal man waiting for his train. Then he left the train and made his way through the 'portal' archway to the Non-Magical side of Kings Cross.

It wasn't long before a family with a first-year showed up, looking for the platform 9¾. The they boy spotted him and, recognizing his clothes as Magical, approached him with a question:

"Ah, excuse me, Mister." The boy addressed him. "Do you know where I can find platform 9¾?"

"You need to walk right through the middle of this separator." Harry replied, nodding towards a seemingly-brick wall to his side. "It is enchanted to remain solid if you think it's actually a wall, but lets you pass through if you believe that it is just a passage to platform 9¾."

"Thank you, young man." The boy's mother said. "The Professor who had told us about Hogwarts and the train the students take there, they didn't explain very well how to actually access the platform we need. I was afraid we'd have to stumble about looking for it for a long while. Glad to see that the school puts a guide there to help us."

"They actually don't." The young Potter said. "I remember that it wasn't exactly easy for me to find the entrance to the platform back when I first started Hogwarts, so I decided to maybe spare others from the same struggle."

"I see…" The woman said then. "Please accept our gratitude then." And then she followed her son and her husband through the 'portal'. Well, she tried to, as making yourself believe that a brick was a fake when a life-time of experiences tells you that it should be completely solid and impassable is not quite that easy. Still, on the second attempt she did manage to pass through the 'portal' successfully.

Over the next half an hour another dozen and a half of Hogwarts students, usually accompanied by their parents and families, passed by him. Most of those students were not firsties and, thus, already knew their way onto platform 9¾. The few that were actually starting their Magical education this year did appreciate their help.

And then, about twenty minutes to eleven, Harry saw the Gryffindor - now seventh year - prefect, whose he unfortunately, and much to his shame, couldn't recall.

"Potter? What are you doing here?" The older wizard said. "Also, congratulations on getting the badge. Of all Slytherins, you are one of the few none of the Houses would mind being a prefect." He added upon seeing the Prefect's badge on Harry's robes.

"I remember having troubles finding the entrance to platform 9¾ back when I just started Hogwarts, so I decided to do some good and help this year's firsties out."

"Good idea." The other boy said. He paused for a moment, before adding: "Actually, do you want me to take over?" Harry nodded: his friends should have arrived by now and he certainly would like to spend more time with them before he inevitably has to attend the Prefects' meeting and then do the rounds on the Express.

"Alright." The Gryffindor said. "Let me drop my things on the train and I'll be back."

And after maybe five minutes he was. Thanking him for taking over this 'job', Harry made his way back to platform 9¾ and the Hogwarts Express.

Flora and Hestia had already arrived and settled in in 'his' compartment. The rest of the Clique wasn't there yet, however. After exchanging a greeting kiss with the twins - and then a few more just because it was fun and felt good - the young Potter took a seat between his girlfriends.

"Doing prefects' duties already, Harry?" Flora asked him. "The train hasn't even departed yet." He just shrugged in response. The three of them sat in comfortable silence for a few moments. Then he remembered that he wanted to give them something and with a quick wave of wand levitated down his trunk, before picking the furniture catalogs from the inside of it.

"Here." He said as he handed the catalogs to the twins. Seeing the silent question in their eyes, he explained: "Since the Potter manor is likely going to be your home too, one day, I think you should have some say in what furniture goes in there. So, feel free to take a look while I'm away at the meeting or doing the rounds down the train." He paused for the briefest moment, before adding: "I've already marked the sets I personally find appealing." He said while nodding towards the colored markers sticking out from within the catalogs.

"I see…" Hestia said, accepting the catalogs and placing them on the seat next to her. "We will take a look at them." Her sister nodded in agreement.

"Now then." Harry continued. "While we're still alone there, why don't we…" He said while leaning in to plant a quick kiss on Flora's lips. But before any contact could be made, the door of their compartment slid open and the Greengrass sisters and Tracey stepped inside. Giving his girlfriends a quick peck on their lips, Harry resigned himself to much more restrained showings of affections from now on.

Blaise finally joined them about five minutes before the train's departure. After another round of greetings, the teens started chatting about the latest happenings in their lives, as well as their most recent theories about what event would take place at Hogwarts during the upcoming year.

And, in a slightly-surprising turn of events, it was Blaise who had some information about the latter. Apparently, someone had confided to his mother during the Ministry gala last week that Hogwarts would be hosting the revived Triwizard Tournament. The robes were actually for the Yule Ball, which was a traditional event taking place during the tournament. On Yuletide, of course.

Harry wasn't sure what to think about that since they had previously considered such a possibility but deemed it to be rather unlikely - the few last ones ended with at least one death. And those weren't even always the Champions, either.

And before that discussion could proceed much further, the young Potter had to bow out: it was almost noon and he needed to attend the Prefects' meeting.

The meeting lasted for a little over half an hour and was led by Cedric Diggory, the new Head Boy. But thanks to his exchange of letters with Gemma Farley, Harry already knew most of the things the seventh-year Hufflepuff was saying.

About the only new thing he has learned there was the way prefects were paired up for the patrols. Namely, the fifth year prefects were usually paired with the seventh year ones, allowing them to learn the ropes from their seniors. This left the sixth year prefects to be paired with each other. Each pair had prefects from different Houses and of opposite gender. These pairs were not permanent and would change every once in a while. And no matter what an average student might believe, the prefects had a rather strict set of rules determining when they could and could not take points or assign other punishments.

In theory, this should've made the abuse of power granted by the prefect's position much harder. This system was not ideal, of course, but it did its job well enough.

Cedric then announced the first set of Prefect pairs and Harry found himself paired with a seventh year Hufflepuff by the name Amanda Harris. And they also had the 'privilege' of doing the first set of patrols on the train today.

As the final point of the meeting, Cedric shared the current password to the Prefects' bathroom.

It wasn't long before the two of them ran into some trouble. Surprisingly, the said trouble came in the form of their new Potions Master, Horace Slughorn. He was a short, mostly-bald, portly old man in an obviously-expensive set of classy robes.

"Ah, Mr. Potter, I was wondering when I will finally have the pleasure of meeting you." He said. "Would you give this humble man the honor of joining him today for the first meeting of the Hogwarts' Slug Club in many years?"

"I'd be honored but, unfortunately, as a prefect I have duties I can't abandon." Harry replied. While Mr. Slughorn was not exactly a very public figure these days, the young Potter had heard enough about him and his practice of introducing his favorite students to important people of the wizarding Britain - while reaping the benefits in the form of various gifts of gratitude from those who achieved success in their lives thanks to this networking. It was certainly in Harry's interest to be on good terms with the man.

"Of course, of course." Horace backed down a little. "But when you're not doing your patrols, don't hesitate to visit the club's meeting. I'm sure you will find many interesting people to talk to there."

"Thank you for the invitation, Sir." The green-eyed teen said. "But I'm afraid I should be going. Duty awaits." And with that he and Amanda were off to continue their patrol.

For a while things were going pretty well. Then the Weasley twins happened. And by the looks of it, the redhead troublemakers decided that they were now above using store-bought items and started inventing their own. Which, of course, needed to be tested. On their fellow students. Since the train, technically, wasn't a part of Hogwarts, the most Harry and Amanda could do was tell them to stop. Which they actually did - at least for as long as the two prefects were in the same train car.

And a little while later they had to deal with Malfoy harassing some Gryffindors, primarily, Hermione Granger. He wasn't happy about his 'fun' being interrupted, but didn't really argue when told to leave. And he did actually go away, presumably returning to his compartment, but not before throwing a few more scathing remarks at his primary target.

The rest of their three hours long patrol, thankfully went without further incidents. Harry still was very glad when it was finally over and he could go spend some more time with his friends.

Upon returning to his compartment, he found his friends - all of them - flipping through the furniture catalogs he had given the twins earlier this morning. He honestly hadn't expected that much interest towards the magazines, but since the Clique had been quite engaged in his quest to rebuild the Potter manor, maybe he should have.

"Muggles do have quite a lot of different furniture styles in their shops." Daphne told him almost as soon as he (re)claimed his seat between the Carrow twins.

"Indeed." Flora agreed. "Most of it looks kinda bland and simplistic, though. And comes in strange colors too. But there are also some options that are pleasing to the eye."

"Found anything interesting?" He asked his girlfriends.

"Actually yes." Flora admitted. "But it's not anything you yourself had marked." Ouch. Their tastes in furniture were different enough to make finding something all three of them liked a challenge. "But I'm sure we can reach a compromise."

And so, the rest of the train ride was spent flipping through the catalogs as the three of them - with some help from Daphne, Astoria, Tracey and Blaise - looked for furniture sets that none of them would mind seeing in their new, shared home that the Potter manor would one day.

~/ *** \

While Hogwarts students were taking their seats around the Great Hall, waiting for the Sorting Ceremony and the Welcoming Feast, a certain dog that was actually a man on the run was lying in a ditch, still trying to get over what he had witnessed earlier today.

Sirius's plan to see Harry on the Hogwarts Express had ultimately worked, even if he had been unable to get close enough to the platform to see his godson board the train. But he had glimpsed him through a window when the express was departing. Harry looked quite healthy and actually seemed to be older than he should be. And he was in a company of girls, sitting between a pair of twins who clearly liked him quite a bit.

Then Sirius processed more details of what he had seen and… Wasn't that a Slytherin coat of arms on his godson's robes? And weren't the twins on his either side the Carrows? He, admittedly, wasn't up to date with who was who in the current generation of Hogwarts' students, but… There were only so many twins in Magical Britain. And even fewer were girls of Harry's age.

What in Merlin's name had happened while he was rotting in Azkaban that resulted in his godson being corrupted and turned into a filthy, slimy snake associating with the Dark families. This was… it was just so wrong! It had to be some twisted nightmare!

But no matter what he did, still in his dog form, the reality refused to snap back to the morning and show him a happy Gryffindor Harry boarding the train together with the Weasleys or Neville Longbottom or anyone else who was a part of a Light family.

~/ *** \~

Thankfully for Harry, the prefects didn't really have anything they had to do until the end of the Welcoming Feast, so he was able to enjoy it with his friends like he usually did. And the food was great as always.

Once the feast came to an end, it was the time for the Headmaster to make the announcements. And he started with the biggest one: the Triwizard Tournament was being revived and would be hosted here, at Hogwarts, this year. Of course, most students had never heard about this tournament, so Dumbledore had to give a brief history lesson to explain that.

The excitement created by news about the tournament - even if only of-age, NEWT-level students will be allowed to participate - died down considerably with the next announcement: the annual Hogwarts Quidditch cup was canceled for this year. Even Harry, who didn't have much interest in the game, knew how important it was to many of the students. And outright canceling it because of the Triwizard Tournament looked like an unnecessarily-drastic decision. Beauxbaton and Durmstrang delegations would only arrive at the very end of October, so it should be possible to squeeze six Quidditch games into available weekends before then.

And then came the next two announcements. First being that several teams of Aurors would be patrolling the castle and surrounding grounds from mid-October and until the conclusion of Triwizard Tournament in late May. The other, meanwhile, was about the mandatory five-week-long Wizarding Etiquette course that all students had to attend, with the first class scheduled to take place here, in the Great Hall, next Monday afternoon.

This was followed by a few more mundane announcements and the yearly reminder that the Forbidden Forest on the castle's grounds was indeed forbidden and students shouldn't be trying to sneak in there. And then Dumbledore was done and it was the time for the Prefects to act, ensuring that the new students of their House managed to reach the common room and the dormitories safely.

Casting a weak Sonorus Charm on himself, just enough to be heard over the chatter in the Great Hall without having to strain his voice, Harry addressed the Slytherin table:

"First year students of Slytherin, please gather here. I will escort you to the Slytherin common room shortly." He called. Normally, this was the job for the seventh-year Prefects, but this year, for some reason, neither of them were in a big hurry to perform this duty. The sixth-year Prefects didn't appear to be willing to step and do the job instead either. Thus, Harry had to step up.

There were fourteen firsties in Slytherin this year. And about as many in the other Houses. Even more curious was the fact that all four Houses got nearly equal numbers of boys and girls. Either the traits the Sorting Hat used to determine who belongs where were so evenly distributed among the Magical youths, or the ancient artifact was actually trying to keep the Houses balanced. Interesting…

Shaking his head to banish those thoughts to the back of his mind and focus on the 'little snakes' grouping around him, Harry spoke up again, his voice still affected by the Sonorus Charm as the Great Hall has only grown even noisier now that everyone was trying to leave.

"Alright. Is everyone here?" Harry asked, already knowing the answer, as he surveyed the small crowd of eleven years old wizards and witches gathered around him. "As some of you might've recognized me, I'm Harry Potter and I was chosen as one of the Slytherin Prefects this year. I will escort you to the Slytherin common room in a few moments where our Head of the House, Professor Snape will give you his welcoming speech." He waited for a short while to let the crowd at the doors thin out a little. "Let's go."

They managed to leave the Great Hall without much problem and once they were about to enter the dungeons, the young Potter continued:

"Please do your best to memorize your way to the common room. You will be escorted to breakfast tomorrow morning, but beyond that you will be mostly on your own. I have prepared some aids to help you navigate Hogwarts…" Harry said, reaching into his robes to retrieve the maps of the castle he had prepared during the summer holidays, only to realize that he had forgotten to take them out of his trunk before getting off the Hogwarts Express and they were still there. "...that I will share with you after Professor Snape gives you his speech." He finished smoothly, hoping that no one had noticed his little slip up. "And, of course, if you find yourself in need of help, don't hesitate to ask a Professor, a Prefect or one of your housemates. Your Hogwarts House is like a second family while you are here, and Slytherin is no exception."

Of course, even after his 'reforms', many Slytherins were still not exactly nice even to their housemates, but one Snake would help the other, if only because it was the House's rule that all interpersonal problems stayed behind the closed doors. When outside of the dormitories, Slytherins were supposed to stand by each others side, and usually did - unless someone was doing something too blatantly stupid or rule-breaking.

After a few minutes of walking through the dungeons, Harry and his charges arrived at a patch of wall behind which the entrance into the Slytherin common room was concealed. Quickly explaining how to recognize this place, the young Potter then said the pass phrase - he received it in the same letter with which his badge had arrived - and led the first years inside. Once in there, he asked them to line up and wait quietly for Professor Snape to arrive.

Which took only a couple of minutes.

And once the Potions Master began his usual speech, Harry quietly slipped away to retrieve the castle maps from his trunk. That didn't take long and Professor Snape was still in the 'Slytherins stand together' part of his speech by the time Harry made his way back to the common room. He waited for their Head of the House to finish, before stepping up and addressing the first years:

"As I have promised you, here is a little aid that I had created for you." Harry said, while sending each of the firsties a copy of the castle's map with a tiny flick of his wand. "This is a map of Hogwarts that shows the general layout of the castle with the most important places and routes to reach them marked." He explained. "It was created with my own struggles during my first year here in mind and with some input from the recently-graduated Prefects, so I hope you will find it useful." Somewhere in the background, Professor Snape nodded approvingly. Then he turned around on his heels and stalked towards the sixth and seventh year Prefects, fully intent on giving them a piece of his mind for not actually performing their duties.

"Thank you." One of the firsties said after a cursory study of the map.

"No problem." Harry replied. "If you have any questions, don't be afraid to ask." Surprisingly there were none at the moment. "Also, do remember that tomorrow morning you will be escorted to the Great Hall for breakfast. So try not to oversleep." He waited for a few more minutes, but there still were no questions for him. So the green-eyed teen retired for the day and disappeared towards 'his' corner of the common room, where Flora and Hestia were already waiting for him.

"Tiresome day, Harry?" His girlfriends asked him as he dropped into a seat with a small sigh.

"Yeah." He said with a nod. "I knew being a Prefect was far from a glamorous job many believe it to be, but… it seems I still underestimated it. At least I don't have to do a post-curfew patrol tonight. That would've really been too much."

"Want us to help you unwind?" Flora offered with a wink, all three of them knowing exactly what she had in mind.

"Tempting." Harry said. "But I think I'll pass on that offer tonight." The girls seemed to be actually disappointed a little but that, but accepted it nonetheless and simply snuggled closer to him.

That's all, folks!
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