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The Writing on the Wall. by MargaretLane
Chapter 3: The Slug Club.
Disclaimer: Anything you recognise, including Hogwarts and most of the characters belongs to JK Rowling. No copyright infrigement is intended.
Most of the Ravenclaws wrote home that evening and the next morning, a flurry of owls arrived at the breakfast table.
Albus let out a sigh of relief. James had had him convinced letters from home were a rarity at Hogwarts, but it seemed as if Angie was about the only first year Ravenclaw who hadn’t received at least one letter.
He’d received two, one from his parents and one from Lily. He tore them off his owl’s leg eagerly. Too eagerly. Not impressed by such rough treatment, Wendelin nipped his hand.
“Are you all right?” Rose looked up from her letter.
“Yeah, she just nipped me.” He scowled at the owl.
“Well, you shouldn’t have grabbed her so roughly.”
He ignored her and turned to read his letters.
Ravenclaw? That’s a surprise, although it shouldn’t be, since we both know how smart you are. I hope your brother hasn’t given you a hard time about not being in Gryffindor. Don’t mind him, if he does. You know how he likes teasing you and he can be quite defensive of his house.
Glad you met Nearly Headless Nick. He was a good friend to me when I was at Hogwarts. Did I ever tell you about the time Ron, Hermione and I attended his 500th Deathday party? If I didn’t, remind me to sometime. We missed the Halloween feast because of it, which was a pity, but it meant a lot to Nick to have us there and I think Hermione found the experience interesting. I think you’d have enjoyed it actually.
I’m glad you’re enjoying your classes so far and that you aren’t finding things too difficult. I must say I’d have liked to see what happened in Herbology.
Has Slughorn tried to induct you into the Slug Club yet? If he hasn’t, he will. I hope you enjoy it, but I’m not holding my breath. He does give some good parties at Christmas and other times though so it’s not completely a dead loss.
Your mother wanted to write this, but I insisted on doing so, reminding her that she wrote the first letter to James when he started. She says hi though and she’ll write tomorrow.
Enjoy the term and we’ll see you at Christmas.
Your loving Dad.
Albus bit his lip. He couldn’t start crying at breakfast. He’d look a complete baby. He choked back a sob and opened his sister’s letter.
Are you having a good time at Hogwarts? Are the teachers nice? Why are you in Ravenclaw? Gryffindor is the best house. I’m going to be in Gryffindor like James. I miss you. It’s boring here. I only have Hugo to do lessons with. And Fred, but he doesn’t count because he’s only a baby. I wish it was Christmas.
“Albus, come on,” Rose said, as he read through the letter a second time.
“Oh, oh right. Was that from your mum?” He nodded at the letter she was folding neatly.
“Yes. She thinks it’s great I’m in Ravenclaw. But she says Dad’s refusing to start cheering for Ravenclaw in the Quidditch Cup and that’s he’s been telling Hugo he’d better be in Gryffindor when he gets here.”
Albus joined in, a little less certainly.
“He doesn’t really mind, does he?”
“No, he was only joking. Though I think he will be torn if we end up playing Gryffindor in the Quidditch final. At least I don’t plan on trying out for the team, or he’d be in a real dilemma.”
“You might change your mind and start playing.”
“I don’t think so.”
Having played Quidditch with his parents and siblings as long as he could remember, he could never understand how Rose could remain so indifferent to it.
Harry’s predication about the Slug Club turned out to be correct. Professor Slughorn stopped them in the corridor later that day.
“Albus Potter and Rose Weasley! Just who I hoped to see. You will do me the honour of joining me at a little party in my office this evening, won’t you? Just a few select students. Your brother is coming, Albus and some of your cousins.”
Rose and Albus exchanged glances.
“Um, yes Professor, we’ll be there.”
“Good, good. This is my last year teaching, you know. I’m retiring at the end of the year, but I wouldn’t have wanted to miss out on the chance to teach you two. I’m hoping you’re going to be as bright as your mother , young lady. And as for you…” He stared at Albus for a moment. “Your grandmother was one of my favourite students. So talented with her potions. It broke my heart when she died so young. I’d have loved to have you in my house. Ah well, maybe your sister will be, though I won’t be here to see it.” He sighed.
Albus hoped not, but he didn’t say so. He couldn’t help thinking that Slughorn seemed just as irritating as his father and brother had indicated.
“At least we’ll only have one year of his parties,” he said, after the teacher departed.
“You’d never know, Albus. They might actually be fun.”
“I doubt it. James says they’re really boring and so did Dad. And your dad rolls his eyes whenever they’re even mentioned.”
“My dad wasn’t even a member. And Lucy enjoys them.”
“Well, you know Lucy. She and Molly practically learnt “networking” as their first word.”
“Not that Molly seems too enthusiastic.”
“She’s only nine. By the time she’s fourteen, she’ll probably be planning her N.E.W.T.S. too.”
“Lucy’s not that bad.”
Albus had to admit she wasn’t. It was her father who insisted on shoving her achievements down all their throats. She didn’t boast about them at all. She did take her studies rather seriously, but then, so did Rose and he didn’t mind that.
He still didn’t expect to enjoy Slughorn’s little meeting though.
To his surprise, James did appear to be looking forward to it when they met outside Slughorn’s office that evening.
“I thought you said these things were boring,” Albus commented.
“They are, but…well, Brian Burgess has been invited and he’s…well, he’s the captain of the Gyffindor Quidditch team.”
Suddenly Albus understood. His brother was determined to get on the team this year.
“But you don’t have to worry about befriending him. You’re brilliant at Quidditch.”
“Still didn’t get on last year, did I? But Adam was captain then and he’s left, so…”
“I doubt it’ll matter who’s captain,” Rose said severely. “If you’re the best, you’ll get on the team; if you’re not, you won’t. Simple as that.”
“What do you know about Quidditch?” James asked rudely.
“Now, now, we’re not arguing, are we?” Slughorn had appeared behind them. “I like to see my Slug Club getting along.”
‘Yeah, because you want them favouring each other over everyone else in later life,’ Albus thought.
“Just a minor difference of opinion,” Rose assured him.
He barely seemed to be listening.
“Come inside, come inside.” He opened the door to his office, which seemed so large that Albus wondered if he’d bewitched it.
They followed him into the study and sank into the armchairs which cluttered the room. His dad hadn’t been exaggerating when he’d said Slughorn liked his comfort.
Albus glanced around. His cousins, Victoire, Dominique, Louis and Lucy were all there, along with maybe ten other students. Apart from his cousins, Rasmus Bagshot was probably the only student there he really knew.
He couldn’t help being a bit nervous, particularly as his brother and older cousins were taking no notice of him whatsoever. James seemed to have attached himself to Dominique and a boy about the same age as her, who Albus assumed was the elusive Brian.
Watching them, he stifled a giggle. He couldn’t hear exactly what they were saying, but it was obvious James was anxious to impress. It wasn’t like James to try and impress anybody. The Quidditch team obviously meant even more to him than Albus had realised.
Rose sniffed disapprovingly. “If this Brian is going to choose his team based on who laughs at his jokes, then he shouldn’t be captain in the first place.”
Albus very much doubted James’s sucking up would make much difference, but he could understand how his brother felt. James might be two years older than them, but compared to the two sixth years he was sitting with, he suddenly didn’t look that old.
“Ah, Albus,” Slughorn interrupted his thoughts. “I’m sure you’ll want to meet Jordan Shacklebolt here. His father’s the Minister, you know. Longest serving Minister in over a century. Though I daresay you’ve met him before. Your aunt works quite closely with his father, doesn’t she?”
Slughorn had lost interest. He was now turning to Rose. “And how is your mother, my dear girl?”
Jordan and Albus faced each other awkwardly. Slughorn was wrong. Although Hermione did work closely with Kingsley Shacklebolt, Albus had never met his son. He wasn’t even sure that Rose had.
Jordan broke the ice. “So, settling in to Hogwarts OK?”
“Yes,” Albus said shyly.
“Surprised to see you in Ravenclaw actually. Everybody thought you’d be a Gryffindor.”
He didn’t reply.
“You’re probably tired of people saying that.”
“Not too pleased to be here either, are you?”
Albus shuffled nervously. Jordan was more perceptive than he’d anticipated.
He glanced around to see where Slughorn was before saying, “it just seems to be all about getting to know the ‘right’ people. Dad says…” He tailed off. What Harry had said was that Slughorn just wanted more people to add to his collection.
Jordan laughed. “Yeah, old Sluggy does like to be in with the right people. Keeps hinting for me to introduce him to my dad. Of course Dad has far more important things to do than lunching with Sluggy. Not that he minds meeting people, but…”
“I know.” Meeting people was one thing, meeting Slughorn was another. Albus’s parents were never too anxious to hear from him either.
Lucy moved to sit beside them.
“Not interrupting anything, am I?”
Albus shook his head and she and Jordan struck up a conversation about their plans for the future. Not having thought much beyond starting Hogwarts, Albus lost interest.
The rest of the meeting was as boring as he’d feared it’d be, though he did have to admit the food was good.
“I always find school food so monotonous,” Slughorn said. “Do try the stuffed olives, Shacklebolt. I think you will find them most enjoyable.”
“Thank you, Sir.”
Eventually Slughorn passed around the final mugs of Butterbeer before dismissing them.
“Dear, dear, I hadn’t realised it was so late. Time flies when you are having fun, doesn’t it? Time you were all heading back to your own houses, but do feel free to call in whenever you’re passing. Good luck with your matches, Burgess. Well, apart from those against Slytherin, of course. Gwenog Jones sent me a book about Quidditch tactics actually. Call in tomorrow and I’ll lend it to you.”
“Thank goodness,” Albus muttered as they left.
“Am I to take it you didn’t enjoy it then?” Rose laughed.
“Well, did you?”
She shrugged. “Not that much, though I suppose it was a good chance to meet older students.”
Albus shrugged. Jordan Shacklebolt had been OK, he supposed, but he really doubted the fifth year was particularly anxious to befriend him. He’d just been doing his prefect’s duty by being nice to a first year.
James, however, still seemed hopeful of befriending Brian. He was tagging along behind Brian and Dominique who were chatting, probably about Quidditch tactics and apparently ignoring him completely.
“Your brother doesn’t give up too easily,” Rasmus commented as the three first years hurried back to Ravenclaw Tower.
“No, he certainly doesn’t,” Albus agreed. “Though I’ve never seen him try so hard to impress before.
“James and Albus’s parents both played for Gryffindor when they were at school here,” Rose explained. “I guess he’s anxious to carry on the tradition.”
“You both probably play brilliantly,” Rasmus said. “With your mum having played professionally and all.”
“Well, she and Dad trained us since we were little,” Albus admitted. “James is extremely good.”
“He and Lily aren’t bad either. Honestly, my dad wishes they were his kids. I don’t play. Hugo does, a little.”
They reached the top of the staircase. Albus was glad the older students had waited for them. He really didn’t fancy standing around trying to figure out the eagle’s riddle for who knew how long. He’d yet to repeat his first day’s performance.
This time Lucy answered correctly and they entered the common room, where Rose, Albus and Rasmus were surrounded by the other first years, anxious to know just what Slughorn’s party had been like.
“Pretty boring actually,” Albus said. “Just a collection of people with famous relatives or stuff.”
“I know you and Rose’s people are famous,” Derek said. “But what about you, Rasmus?”
“My great grand aunt wrote a history book that used to be on the curriculum here. Or maybe she’s my great great grand aunt; I’ve lost count. I was surprised he asked me actually. She’s been dead for years, since before I was born. And her book is hardly ever even used anymore. Out of date, you know.”
“He probably wanted to see if you’d inherited her brains,” Albus said. “Especially since you’re in Ravenclaw and all.”
“You’d think he’d have invited us all then,” Dora put in, sounding slightly disgruntled.
“You didn’t actually want to go, did you?” Albus asked. “Seriously, you didn’t miss anything.”
Dora shrugged. “It just seems a bit pointless, that’s all. Is nobody else going to bed? We do have to be up for breakfast in the morning, you know.”
Rose pulled out a watch.
“You’re right. I hadn’t realised it was that late.”
The group started to break up.
Albus had always hated bedtime at home. It always felt as if he was missing out on something . But the novelty of sleeping in a four-poster bed in his dormitory still hadn’t worn off, so he climbed into bed cheerfully enough and fell asleep pondering on his experience of Hogwarts so far.