A/N: Well folks, here is finally the second chapter of The Later Years. Believe me, it wouldn't have taken so long if it was entirely up to me. But, seeing as I have many many events going on lately - what with the loss of a few folio pages of writing for this chapter - this was immensly delayed. But all's well that ends well, and I've finally finished :D WOOT!

Anyway, this is a typical, light chapter in the mood of this fic which I hope you like. Suggestions and comments are very welcome, even if it's just a word or two.

A huge thanks to the 15 people who reviewed, and all the others who put the story on alert! I live for your reviews... (well, almost).

I assure you that the next chapter will come sooner :) For any of you who are interested, deadlines I have set myself for the next chapters (not only for this fic) can be found on my profile page.

Sorry for the long A/N. Without further ado, Enjoy!

Chapter 2:

Albus was walking along a thin path, which was swirling and turning ahead of him, tall prairie grass all around. He could hear pleasant twitters of birds, and a distant sound of running water. A bag of books was slung carelessly over his shoulder, his wand held loosely in his hand. The scene changed. Ahead of him, a huge castle loomed suddenly into view, its many turrets mounting high above the tallest tree tops, its windows reflecting the bright mid-afternoon sun. At every step he took towards Hogwarts, more people could be seen, and many of them smiled and waved at Albus, who they obviously knew. Heading for the lake, Albus took from his bag a heavy book which he had been looking forward to reading. He made his way to the giant beech tree on the edge of the lake and sat down, opening his book-

BANG!

Albus woke up suddenly, thrown back brusquely to reality by the loud noise. He wondered what had woken him up.

It appeared upon closer (or not so close) inspection, that James had burst into Albus's room with his usual gentleness, yelling 'Good morning sleepyhead!'

'Mmm…' Albus muttered sleepily, pulling his blanket higher up and turning towards the wall.

'Common Al', geddup!' James shouted, yanking the cover off and jumping on Albus's bed.

'JMZ! Lemme sleep!' Albus said grumpily, slamming his pillow onto his face and burying himself deeper in the bed, trying hopelessly to get back to sleep.

'No, come on Al' I mean it! There's something I really want to show you!'

'Wazzit?'

'I think it might be one of those Grindydogs you were on about the other day!'

'Grindylow.' Albus corrected automatically, sitting up at the word, his interest in all magical things getting the better of his want for sleep.

'What do you mean a Grindylow? They live underwater!' he said, frowning.

'Yeah but I think it might have been washed up to the shore of the lake behind our house during the storm! Hurry up!' James implored impatiently. 'It looks hurt, it's barely breathing!'

Albus, all signs of sleepiness gone in face of this emergency, pulled on his boots and raced downstairs after James.

'What time is it anyway?' he asked, panting, as they sped through the living room.

'Around 11… you overslept!' James called.

Albus sighed. Once again he had stayed up late, reading, and he hadn't fallen asleep until after 2 o'clock

He followed James into the yard at a run and shouted 'So where's the Grindylow?!'

'Right over here, come quick!' James yelled. He had already turned at the corner of the house and Albus couldn't see him. Gasping for breath, he edged across the lawn—

'SUPRISE!'

Albus jumped about a foot in the air, startled. All his friends and relatives were standing around him, throwing confetti, holding colorful magic sparklers and grinning broadly.

He had forgotten his own birthday!

He grinned and looked around. Ron, Hermione and their kids Rose and Hugo were there, as they were at every birthday. Mom and Dad were there of course, and so was Lily. James, looking very pleased with himself, was standing breathlessly in the middle of the group. Uncle George was there too, with his wife Alicia and their twins Samantha and Timothy; Percy and Penelope with little Fred were present as well, same as Bill and Fleur with Victoire and Lorien; Charlie, with his wife Joy and their children Demi, Phil and Lilac; Teddy Lupin, standing very close to Victoire; and lastly Granddad and Grandma Weasley, presiding the lot of many red-heads and smiling fondly at him.

Feeling happy but still shaking a bit from the fright, Albus proceeded to greet everyone, making his way around the patio to distribute and receive hugs.

There was a mounting wave of chatter as the guests, released from the "tension" of the pre-surprise, started catching up with each other's latest news and achievements.

Albus had just started talking to Sam and Tim, who were telling him about their new pet, a cat of a rare metamorphagi race that they had named Season, when Ginny clapped her hands a few times and called loudly over the ruckus: 'What do you say we move inside everyone? It looks like it's going to rain!'

Albus looked up at the sky as the commotion began to move inside. The sky had indeed become a thick pearly grey with solid grey clouds hanging low above them, and the air sported the heavy scent of before a drizzle.

As he followed everyone inside, Rose came up to him and engaged him in eager conversation after wishing him a Happy Birthday.

'So, only one more year for us 'till we enter Hogwarts!' she said excitedly.

'Yeah,' Albus agreed, 'to tell you the truth, I can't wait! I wish we could start this year... lucky James,' he said, glancing jealously at his brother who stood not far away.

'I know,' Rose answered wistfully, 'so do I. Oh well!' she said, brightening up all of a sudden, 'at least we get to go to the platform on September 1st and see them off!'

Albus perked up too. 'I hadn't thought of that!' he said eagerly. 'And we get to see the Hogwarts Express and everything!'

'Uh-uh!' Rose said, beaming. 'It'll be almost as if we were going too!'

Albus sobered up. 'Almost…'

'Cheer up!' Rose implored impatiently. 'It's your birthday after all! Hey, speaking of which, I didn't know what to get you, but I remembered that there was this book you wanted, so I thought I'd ask you exactly which one and get Dad to get it for me when he goes to work!'

'You don't have to-' Albus started, but Rose cut him off with a very Hermione-ish glare.

'I want to,' she said stubbornly. 'You got me that really cool Magic Drawing Pad that I wanted for my birthday last year, and I've been saving up for your birthday present since. And I mean to get you that book.'

Albus grinned at his closest cousin. 'Thanks,' he said.

Meanwhile, James was bombarding Teddy and Victoire - who, being respectively in their 7th and 6th year at Hogwarts, were considered extremely well informed among the younger kids - with questions on everything Hogwarts-related, from detentions to Professors to Peeves and the Giant Squid; he had to know everything. Teddy and Victoire, laughing, answered his questions as best as they could.

'So remind me again what's the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher's name?' James was asking Teddy.

'Professor Gatehorn. Strict, middle-aged-'

'-witch, but she's fair and experienced,' James recited. 'Ok then. So we don't have to know anything from the text books on the first week right?'

'No. Except the little book-worms who can't help themselves,' Victoire answered, 'everyone know as much - or as little - as you do. Some kids know even less since they don't come from wizarding families. Oh, remember to watch out for Mrs. Norris. With your genes, you're bound to try some adventurous little trick. Just try not to get yourself in detention on your first week ok?'

James grinned. 'We'll see about that. Although I don't think I can resist to give that nasty old cat a good kick on the first opportunity.'

Teddy gave a short laugh. 'You do that, you get yourself not a week, but a whole term of detentions with Filch. Plus, he'll remember you and torment you for the rest of your Hogwarts-days. Believe me, many have tried to get away with kicking that immortal old cat and none have succeeded.'

Albus and Rose in the meantime, had slid to the subject of the houses.

'What house do you think you'll be in?' Albus was asking Rose.

'Probably Gryffindor,' Rose answered pensively. 'Both my parents were there after all.'

'I don't think that matters so much you know,' Albus said doubtfully. 'I remember Dad told me that there were twins in his year that weren't in the same house. Identical too.'

Rose looked uncertain. 'Well, if I'm not in Gryffindor, most chances are I'll be put in Ravenclaw. I'm always told that I think like my mum, and she told me that the Sorting Hat seriously considered putting her there.'

'Hm…from what I've heard, I do think Ravenclaw would suit you. Maybe we'll both end up there,' Albus said, laughing. 'The truth is, I don't especially care if I'm not in Gryffindor, as long as I'm not in Slytherin,' he said with a small shudder.

'Yeah,' Rose said with a morose look. 'Imagine being put in a house from which so many Dark Wizards have come…'

Albus nodded. 'Although, I don't think I'd be very pleased if I ended up in Hufflepuff either,' he said. 'It's not nearly as bad as Slytherin, but I heard that the people in there are the people who the Sorting Hat doesn't know where to place. Meaning they're neither brave and intelligent nor ambitious and cunning.'

Rose looked skeptic this time. 'I don't know. I've heard that Huffelpuffs are hard working and always lend a hand, and that they're actually much underestimated. I think that it might be just because they don't have a blatantly obvious quality that people assume that they're just the "leftovers".'

Albus shrugged. 'I don't know. Maybe you're right. But anyway, I'd still rather be in Gryffindor.'

Rose grinned. 'Dad is always saying that he'll disinherit us if we're not in Gryffindor. And then Mom gives him "the look", and he adds 'I'm joking, I'm joking.''

Albus laughed, but just at that moment the lights went out. There were a few squeals from the younger girls, but as he looked around, Albus noticed that the room was beautifully decorated with festive ornaments of Ginny's making that had not been visible when the room had been lighted.

There were a few gigantic banners on the walls, emitting a soft light, and written on them in colorful, glittering letters was the inscription "Happy 10th Birthday Albus!". There were also several balloons bobbing up and down on the ceiling, a number of luminous garlands strung across the furniture, and even a couple of intricately designed candles made of a special kind of wax that swirled and glittered endlessly. All in all, the room had such an enchanting and mystical impression that Lily, who had just snuck back into the room with Hugo after having disappeared in the first five minutes - probably to search for some little-known creature - gave an audible 'wow' as she entered the sitting room.

All of a sudden, Albus saw a larger light appear on the far side of the room. Into view came an enormous Birthday Cake, shaped like a giant book. There came quite a few 'yum's as everyone saw what it was made of: The inside of the book was made of a warm chocolate fudge cake, the pages iced in white icing, and the cover made of chocolate icing with Butterscotch writing saying "Happy Birthday Albus". It was obviously one of Mrs. Weasley's famous cakes. Then Harry, who was carrying the cake, came into view. He smiled widely at Albus while putting the cake on the table in the center of the room. Some of the younger children huddled around the cake, trying to spot if a bit of the cake had fallen off and could be quietly smuggled off. Suddenly, Uncle George's voice boomed, leading everyone into a series of Birthday songs, the first of which was an old wizarding classic called "Squibbity-sqwak on your special day" that everyone joined in to happily.

"'Ho-ho-ho,'

The garden gnomes all go!

For 'it's your special day,' they say

While by the bush they dance and sway.

'Hoot-hoot-hoot,'

The snowy owls root,

'for it's your birthday - yes siree!

So be as wise as you can possibly be!'

And all together they will sing

In marching bands, through fire rings:

' 'tis your special day today,

So all will gather - no delay!

To watch you grow

As the years by flow

And help you through

if you are blue!'

'Qwak-qwak-qwak,'

The Hippogriffs will swak,

'May you be proud - but not too loud!-

As year by year pass on a cloud!'

And all together they will sing

In marching bands, through fire rings:

'So our dear friend,

Our hand we'll lend!

If ever you're in need;

And on this special day we say:

May you have a Happy Birthday!'"

The song ended in a chorus of cheers and applause, for it was a joyful and gay tune that was very popular among wizarding birthdays. They then sung a few more Birthday songs, until Lilac and Lorien appeared at Albus's side, each bearing a parcel wrapped in colorful wrapping paper.

'Al', Al'!' Lilac piped up shrilly. 'Open up my present first!'

Albus laughed and took the gift as the singing died away into chatter and laughter. It weighed light in his hand and seemed to be a garment. He tore the wrapping paper off patiently and let out a short laugh as out came a soft black Hogwarts scarf embalmed with the coat of arms and houses of Hogwarts.

Phil laughed. 'Demi and I got it for you from Hogsmeade… we didn't think you could stand another year without something from Hogwarts.' He grinned teasingly. 'Besides, they started selling some outside school uniforms too.'

Albus grinned and thanked Phil, Demi and Lilac with a hug.

Now Lorien pushed her way forward and handed Albus her parcel solemnly, her long silvery-blond hair surrounding her small and serious face.

Albus took the parcel, which felt heavy and familiar to him. He opened it and saw the corner of a large leather-bound book. He ripped off the rest eagerly, and in his hand stood a big royal-blue covered book with the title "Curse-Breaking for Beginners" inscribed in gold letters on it's cover.

Albus gave a shout of joy and almost jumped on Uncle Bill's neck, so grateful was he.

Bill laughed and ruffled Albus's hair. 'You're welcome, kiddo,' he said, grinning. 'Thought you'd like it, what with you asking me a hundred questions every time I see you. This book might give you even better answers than me.'

Next came Sam and Tim with a large square box in the Weasley Wizard's Wheezes packaging. In it Albus discovered an assortment of the store's best sweets, games and pranks that made all the kids 'Ooh' and 'Aah'.

After thanking Uncle George and the others profusely, Albus received another series of presents which were all better than the other and largely beat the record of the most birthday presents he had ever gotten. A boxed set of "Wizarding Lexicons" from Percy and Penelope with thousands of descriptions on everything from wand-wood to dragon-claws; the ever-lasting thick woolen jumper with a large green A on it from Mr. & Mrs. Weasley with an assortment of home-made pies and sweets; a large box of sugar-free treats and a book on Muggle dentistry with an apology card from Mr. and Mrs. Granger, (who were unfortunately on a vacation in Spain) with whom Albus had always gotten on very well, being interested in the Muggle world too; a funny moving cartoon book from Teddy with a jokingly added string from the carpet of the Gryffindor common room; from Victoire, her safely kept notes from first-year Charms lessons that she had promised Albus and a bag of his favorite sweets. From Ron and Hermione, a beautiful wooden chest set of Ron's that Albus had always admired and 2 books on transfiguration and magical creatures that he had spotted a while ago. Hugo presented him with a personally decorated, moving black and white photograph of Albus, James, Rose and Hugo taken on last Christmas. James - who debated on whether Albus's love for books or his indifference for Quidditch would win - had gotten him the new edition of "Quidditch through the Ages" and lastly, in a black velvet case carefully carried and wrapped, the violin that Albus had wanted for so long, offered to him by Harry and Ginny.

Albus almost cried with joy as he opened the case, revealing a stunning, highly polished wooden violin. He thanked his parents a million times, running from them to the violin in ecstasy. He had gotten involved in music a little more than a year ago, and since then had hoped for an instrument on which he could learn, although his secret yearning was for a violin, an instrument he adored.

After thanking everyone again, Albus with the help of his cousins placed all the presents in a corner of the room and they all settled down to eat the delicious birthday cake - much to the relief of the sweet-tooth inclined children.

That night, after everyone had gone home, Albus climbed into bed, feeling exhausted from the tiring afternoon of playing but immensely happy about his 10th birthday celebration.

Turning toward the wall where all his presents were piled up, he spotted his beloved books and fell into a sweet slumber full of wonderful dreams.

A/N: Well, here was chapter 2! Hope you guys enjoyed it :). Reviews are the only payment fanfic authors receive, so even if it's just a word or two, leaving a review lets me know you've passed this way. I'd appreciate it :)

p.s. - what do you think of the song? I had a lot of fun making it up :D