Chapter Two: The Lost Wizard Generation
The Hogwarts Express pulled up to the railway station and Harry and his friends got off, stretching. Owing to the recent cuts made by the company who now owned the magical train, it had been standing room only from London to Scotland for the late arrivals. Harry didn't mind though, as he had just noticed who was standing on the platform.
"Ron!" he said in surprise. "How on wizarding earth did you get here? I thought you were too horribly poor to afford the new tuition fees."
"I know!" said Ron excitedly. "Listen, you can't tell anyone, but we found a way to pay the fees. You know how my dad is a wizarding civil servant? Well, he worked out that if he says I'm working for him and need the Hogwarts education then we can claim it on wizarding expenses!"
"Nice loophole," said Harry, impressed.
As the two boys walked towards Hogwarts, Harry thought he heard a strange noise behind him. He ignored it though, and headed off to the wizarding feast.
"Where have you been?" said Hermione crossly when they finally arrived. "You've missed the little song and the introductory welcome to the school for the sixth time!"
"On well," said Harry. "I think it was probably lucky. Everyone's heard the song and the welcome before, they wouldn't have their quirky charms if people had to deal with them all the time."
After their wizarding gluttony at the feast, the Gryffindor students decided to go to bed. An idea for a start-of-term party was mooted, but dismissed on the grounds of not being magical enough. As they went up the magical stairs, Harry, Ron and Hermione saw Ginny Weasley supporting a groaning Neville Longbottom.
"What's wrong with Neville?" said Ron, looking disgusted.
"Nothing really," said Ginny. "He got food poisoning at the magical feast, but there aren't enough beds in the hospital wing for him to go there. Apparently the Hogwarts students are becoming too reliant on it, so cuts were made to make sure we only go there if we're literally about to die. Neville's on a list to go on a list to go on a list to go on a list to see the nurse, but I thought I would just take him to bed."
"Good thinking, Ginny," said Hermione, and they continued up the many magical stairs.
As they entered the magical common room, Harry looked around.
"That's strange," he said. "I'm sure I keep seeing people out of the corner of my eye. It's very odd."
"I know what you mean," said Hermione. "It's very mysterious, and seeing as no one else in the entire school has noticed it I think we three should investigate. Tonight, under the cover of wizarding darkness."
Later that night the three reconvened in the Gryffindor common room, which was fortunately empty.
"Right," said Harry. "Let's put on the invisibility cloak and wander around. That usually seems to work. We're actually quite lucky when you come to think about it."
They started walking aimlessly around the many draughty corridors of Hogwarts, until they heard noises from inside one of the classrooms.
"Look who it is," said Harry in surprise. Inside the classroom were dozens of old Hogwarts students sitting around.
"Hello Harry," said Oliver Wood. "I expect you're wondering what we're all doing here. Well, as you know there are very few wizarding jobs unless you want to work in the government or Hogwarts. After all the employees died last year the new Ministers of Magic decided it would be cheaper not to replace them, so none of us can find jobs. Instead we're living here secretly, it's actually been working out really well."
"There must be some jobs around," said Hermione. "Especially with all your Hogwarts qualifications."
"Don't be stupid, Hermione," said Oliver Wood witheringly. "We've all got exactly the same qualifications. The only jobs around are for people with wizard work experience, not students with no realisation about the real wizarding world. We're just going to stay here for the next five years or so until more jobs are created."
"Well that seems fair enough," said Harry. "Come on you two, let's get off to bed."