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There are, I’ve decided, entirely too many Weasleys.
Standing in the middle of the Prefect Carriage of the Hogwarts Express, you would think there couldn’t possibly be that many Weasleys in the vicinity. But no.
“Weasley!” the fearsome figure of Professor Astoria Malfoy, Charms professor, head of Slytherin House and my boyfriend’s mother, looms in the doorway leading to the teachers’ carriage. I whip around to face her; so does my little brother Hugo, my cousin Dominique, my other cousin Lucy, and two Potter cousins who aren’t Weasleys but are so closely associated with us that they turn around anyway.
I realise almost immediately that there wasn’t any need for me to turn around; I’ve been dating Professor Malfoy’s son for a good two years now. I’ve had dinner at their house. I’ve experienced Professor Malfoy coming into Scorpius’ room in her pajamas ready to defend my honour.
We’re on a first name basis.
As it turns out, Astoria is in fact after Dom, who became her year’s Ravenclaw prefect for the sole reason that she bossed people around far more than her main competition, Antigone Islington. Dom is smartarsed, rebellious and swears like a trooper. We get along brilliantly.
“So Rose,” Dom begins conversationally after Astoria has left. “What’s the difference between me and you now you’re Head Girl? In terms of power, influence, ability to abuse the above?”
“Absolutely nothing,” I reply honestly. “As far as I know. I just get a bigger, shinier badge than you and my name is known and revered throughout the school.”
“Dunno about revered,” Dom snorts. “But your name is already known throughout the school, Rose Weasley.”
“Correction, my ancestry is known throughout the school. And it’s just gonna get worse from here, now that Mum’s running for freaking Minister of Magic.”
“Not that you’re doing anything to stop yourself following in her footsteps.”
“Excuse me,” I protest, indignant. “I did not pass all but one of my OWLs with Outstanding. I did not start studying for OWLs in November—”
“No, you started in December.”
“And you in January,” I shoot back. “Furthermore, unlike my mother, I play Quidditch and am actually going to my seventh year.”
“Small details,” Dom replies with a shrug. “Where’s your lover-boy at?”
“Over yonder in the fifth carriage,” I reply, jerking my head in the vague direction of said carriage.
“Over yonder?” Dom repeats, to my amusement and gratification. “What the hell kind of mangling of the Queen’s English is that?”
“Similar calibre to yours. Mum decided to acquaint me with some Muggle literature over the holidays. Ever heard of To Kill A Mockingbird?”
“If it’s Muggle, then no.”
“Rose?” my brother asks, somewhat timidly.
“I’m going to go do my patrols now,” he informs me, gesturing to the carriages behind him and inching towards the door.
“Knock yourself out,” I reply, waving my hand. “And don’t come back.”
Slowly the prefects disperse. My minions, I note, somewhat satisfactorily. Figures of authority in the school, and they answer to me. This power will corrupt me.
“So,” the Head Boy, Riordan Carter of Gryffindor, begins, breaking the silence. We’re now the only ones left in the carriage, and it strikes me that I’ll have to make small talk with this guy for the duration of the journey, whereas when I was just a plain old prefect I could hive off to my friends’ carriage.
“So,” I echo. “Responsibility, eh?”
“Yeah, some responsibility, sitting in a near empty carriage. Heard your mum’s going for Minister.”
The entire wizarding world’s heard that. “Yeah, she is. Could be an interesting election.”
“Especially against Percy Weasley,” Riordan continues. “Any relation? Wait, ignore that, that was a stupid question. What relation?”
“He’s my uncle, and he’s a git.”
“What are her policies? Your mum's, I mean.”
“Equality. Equality, equality, equality. I’ve heard that word so many times I have it coming out my ears. Equality for purebloods, half-bloods and Muggleborns, equality between wizards and Muggles, equality between wizards, goblins and house-elves…”
“Bout time,” Riordan offers. “Blood purism’s been steadily fading since the fall of Voldemort, I’ve met hardly any people who are proud purebloods.”
“Yeah, but you’re in Gryffindor,” I point out. I don’t need to say any more; most of the population of Hogwarts are under the impression I’m bitterly disappointed I wasn’t sorted into Gryffindor and wish with all my heart I had been, so the moment I mention houses they tend to steer the conversation away.
Riordan is no exception. “Yeah. So what subjects are you taking this year?”
“DADA, Charms, Transfiguration, Potions, Muggle Studies, History of Magic and Arithmancy. You?”
“Charms, Potions, Transfiguration, Herbology, Ancient Runes and Muggle Studies.”
“You’re not taking the best subject!”
“I got an E in DADA in fifth year,” Riordan explains. “I decided I couldn’t be bothered continuing with it if I couldn’t get Outstanding. A shame, I enjoyed it.”
“You dropped something because you got an E?” I ask. “Why aren’t you in Ravenclaw?”
“I’d ask you the same question,” Riordan replies.
“Hell, if my mum wasn’t in Ravenclaw, that’s proof enough there are nerds in other houses. Anyway, I might go check up on those young prefect things,” I say, standing and making for the doorway. “You don’t have to sit there,” I add over my shoulder. “We make the rules.”
“But Professor Malfoy said—”
“Astoria likes me,” I say dismissively, pulling the door open.
“You. What’s your name?”
The cocky little first-year I just cornered peers up at me through sandy blonde hair.
“Right, Stephan, do you know who I am?”
“Lily Potter,” Stephan says, and a look of wonder seems to cross his face.
I ignore this statement. “I’m one of the prefects at Hogwarts. Can you explain what you were doing running up and down the carriage screaming like a banshee?”
“Is Harry Potter really your dad?” the kid asks.
“Who my dad is is irrelevant. What were you doing?”
Something in my stern tone seems to have an effect on the kid. “Just excited,” he mutters, staring at his feet.
“Let me give you some advice. You run around the carriages on the Hogwarts Express yelling, you’re breaking school rules. Doesn’t matter how excited you are to be here, you follow the rules, or soon, you won’t be excited to be here. You’ll be spending more time in detention than in your house common room. Understood?”
“Yeah,” Stephan mutters, turning and walking slowly back to his carriage. I can hear him yelling as he enters it: “I just got told off by Lily Potter!”
“Wow,” my cousin Rose comments, coming up behind me. “That’s…wow.”
“You’ve never had that before?” I ask, turning to face her.
“Can’t say I’ve had first years excited to have a telling off from me, that’s just weird. You joining us for the rest of the trip?”
“Abandoned your post, have you?” I ask.
She shrugs. “Riordan’s still there, as far as I know. I think he’s scared of Astoria.”
“And yeah, I think I might,” I continue. “What carriage are you in? Five as usual?”
“No idea,” Rose replies. “I assume so, that’s where I told Scorpius to park his butt anyway. Where’s Lorcan?”
“Patrolling down the back, as far as I know. I’ll go find him, and meet you in carriage five.”
“As long as snotty little first years haven’t taken it over,” Rose says with a grin. “Though I don’t think they’d dare, it belonging to fearsome senior Slytherins and all.”
“You’re dead fearsome, Rose Weasley.”
I leave Rose behind, striding through the corridors of the Hogwarts Express and waving to the friends and acquaintances in various carriages. The back carriages are peppered with either well-established groups who have been travelling in the same carriage for years, or little first-years with nowhere else to sit. They sit in awkward, forced groups, thrown together by mutual inability to mingle with the other kids.
“Hey,” Lorcan greets me, backing out of a carriage full of first-years. “Do we want to find a carriage?”
“We’ve been invited to five.”
Carriage Five, known as a “Slytherin carriage,” is really one of the most integrated carriages on the Express. There are the four Slytherins, of course: Rose, Scorpius, Alyssa Rutherford and Jeremy Nott. The Gryffindors: my brother Albus and I, and the Ravenclaws: Lorcan and my cousin Dom.
“Afternoon, lovebirds,” Dom greets Lorcan and I.
I ignore this statement. “Scoot over, Rose.”
“Who’s up for some Exploding Snap?” Jeremy asks, holding up a deck of cards.
“That’s a first years’ game,” I point out, before grinning. “I’m in!”
We play Exploding Snap and other such games for three hours, at which point Rose reluctantly concedes she has to go back to the Prefects’ Carriage.
“And you lot too,” she adds, waving a hand to encompass the three of us who are also Prefects.
“If I take my badge off, does that mean I can stay here?” Lorcan asks.
“Get up, lazy ass,” Rose says, jerking her head in the direction of the Prefects’ Carriage. “Lily, if you start walking, maybe he’ll follow you.”
“I’m not a carrot!”
“Your hair’s orange enough though,” Jeremy contributes. “Ow!”
I glance satisfactorily at the quill I had just hurled at his head.
“Just kidding,” Jeremy says hastily, “Rose’s is more orange. You can’t throw stuff at me, you’re Head Girl!” he adds in desperation as Rose turns on him.
“I am the law,” she says ominously, walking out of the carriage and snapping her fingers. “Come hither, my minions.”
I have to stop myself smirking when, having changed into my robes, the little first years stare at my Slytherin finery and murmur amongst themselves.
“Rose Weasley’s a Slytherin!”
“But her parents fought Voldemort!”
“Is she evil?”
“Yes,” I say, poking my head into a carriage of a bunch of them. “I’m evil through and through. If you don’t stop gossiping about me, I’ll Crucio your sorry asses.”
The Hogwarts Express comes to a halt outside Hogsmeade Station and I recruit the assistance of numerous prefects to shepherd the young ‘uns off the train and towards old Hagrid, who is bellowing his age-old “Firs’ years! Firs’ years over here!” and frightening the poor little things witless.
“Rose!” Scorpius yells, leaning out the doorway of one of the carriages lined up to trundle us to the castle. “Move your arse in this general direction or Albus’ll steal your spot!”
“Moving,” I call back, firing a glance back at the train I’m disembarking. There are no kids left on board, only Riordan, still gathering his belongings for a dignified exit. My duties here are done.
“NEWT year, huh,” Alyssa, my best friend in Slytherin, begins.
“Oh, joy,” Scorpius mutters. “Nice knowing you all.”
“Come on, it won’t be that bad,” I point out.
“Says Hermione Weasley’s daughter,” Jeremy comments.
“I’m going to kill you, Jem.”
“I was merely pointing it out.”
“Playing this year, Rose?” Alyssa asks, changing the subject.
“Of course. You?” I ask. For the past two years Alyssa’s been our Seeker, and she’s a good one.
“Yep,” she confirms.
“Uh-uh,” Scorpius interrupts. “You have to get through tryouts first.”
“Oh please, Scorp,” Jeremy says, rolling his eyes. “You going to replace us with first-years?”
“You never know, there could be some kickass first years out there,” he says with a perfectly straight face.
“So when are tryouts?” Alyssa asks, getting down to business.
“We haven’t even entered the castle yet, and you’re pestering me about tryouts?” Scorpius asks. “Hold your Hippogriffs, I’ll have to talk to Mum about booking the pitch.”
If I thought I have it bad with my mum’s election campaign all over the Daily Prophet, it’s nothing compared to Scorpius. His mum, not only his Charms teacher but his Head of House. Poor boy.
“Do we know any of the midgets this year?” Jeremy asks, flitting over to a new subject.
“My brother Ben,” Alyssa offers. “Reckon he’s Hufflepuff material though.”
“That’s not nice,” Jeremy admonishes.
“Neither is insinuating that Hufflepuff is an insult,” I say crisply. “I’m sure there are some lovely people in Hufflepuff. I just don’t know them, is all.”
The carriage comes to a halt outside the Entrance Hall and I drink in the sight of the majestic, stately castle and its towers reaching up to pierce the heavy, rain-laden clouds.
“I’m home,” I say reverently.
“Yes, you are,” Scorpius agrees, taking my hand and towing me into the castle. “And food is waiting.”
We gain a few nondescript kids during the Sorting, and, as predicted, Alyssa’s little brother Ben goes straight to Hufflepuff. Professor McGonagall stands to give her welcome speech; the only part I pay attention to is “I would now like to take the opportunity to make known our Head Boy, Riordan Carter of Gryffindor…” [applause, Riordan stands] “and Head Girl, Rose Weasley of Slytherin…” [applause, I stand.]
McGonagall waves her hands in dismissal and instantly the feast appears on the table.
“Yeah!” Jeremy says enthusiastically, launching forward and piling his plate high.
“Geddoutofit,” Scorpius growls at a fifth-year kid who’s just attacked the bowl of potatoes he was eyeing up.
“Boys and their food,” Alyssa comments, shaking her head.
“Anyone notice the Hat’s song tonight?” Jeremy asks, gulping down pumpkin juice. “Mm, we need to mish it to Hogsmeade sometime for Butterbeer. Anyway, was it just me or was it a little less cheerful than usual?”
“You mean the ‘troubled times are on their way, so listen clearly to what I have to say’ bit?” Scorpius asks.
“Yeah,” Jeremy agrees. “Or the ‘In times of darkness there’s no hope of light, if we fall divided and lose the fight.’ That was a bit negative too.”
“According to my dad the last time it was full of warnings like that was when Voldemort was rising to power,” I comment. “Wonder what’s happening now, we haven’t heard anything about an evil Dark wizard, have we?”
“Not as far as I know,” Scorpius agrees. “’Less Grandad reverts to his old ways.”
Lucius Malfoy was one of the most notorious Death Eaters in his day. Rumour has it, though, that for the most part of the Second Wizarding War he wasn’t actually evil or loyal to Voldemort, he was just backed into a corner. “No excuse,” Scorpius has proclaimed on many occasions, and he generally refuses to talk to Lucius.
“Lily Potter, my star Seeker!” Niall Prewett, Quidditch captain, greets me jovially in the common room after the feast. “Listen, I’ve already talked to Longbottom, and I’ve booked the pitch for Wednesday, five o’clock for tryouts. Can you make it? If you can’t, I don’t care, you’re cancelling everything else and you’re there.”
“I can make it,” I confirm. “What positions do we need to fill?”
“A Beater and two Chasers, that is, providing everyone else keeps their positions, and I don’t see why they wouldn’t.”
“That shouldn’t be too hard,” I comment, nodding. “What do you reckon our chances are of winning the Cup?”
“One hundred percent,” Niall says emphatically. “Because you see, Lily, I’ve been captaining this team since fifth year when your brother left, and it’s my last chance to win the Cup. I should warn you now, kiss goodbye to your grades because you’re going to be living on the pitch.”
“You’re going to have mutiny on your hands about three weeks in,” I point out.
“Mutiny I can deal with,” Niall says confidently. “You a morning person, Lily?”
“At times,” I say cautiously.
“Good. Coz we’re going to be having five o’clock starts in the not too distant future.”
Deciding not to dignify this prospect with anything that could be interpreted as agreement, I walk away and take a seat in front of the fire, reflecting on my parents’ comments about Quidditch.
“Wait till your captain’s in his seventh year. They’re horrible in their seventh year. It’s their last chance, you see.”
Thanks, Dad. Never would have guessed.
“You get up at seven for practice before school? Whoop-de-doo, Lily, in the middle of the season I’m down at the Harpies’ pitch at five and I’m there till nine at night sometimes, count your blessings.”
Yeah, Mum, but you play professionally, this is just the Gryffindor team, for Merlin’s sake. I’m not you.
“Guess what?” Cameron Harper begins, seating himself beside me.
“I’m trying out for the team,” he says, grinning. “Fred just convinced me to.”
“For what position?” I ask, though I already have a feeling I know what it is, if Fred had anything to do with it.
“Beater,” he says, confirming my suspicions. “I played a few games with him over the holidays, got some practice in…reckon I’ll make it?”
“I don’t know, Cam. Never seen you fly. If you do get in, though…hope you like mornings.”
“I’d get up at five every morning if it meant I could be part of the Gryffindor Quidditch team,” Cameron says enthusiastically. “You’re so lucky, having parents who play. Bet you’ve been on a broomstick since you were yay high. Bet they buy you the latest model of broom—”
“Cameron,” I say sharply, cutting him off. “I haven’t had a new broom since I made the team in second year. It’s as much a blessing as a curse, anyway.”
“It doesn’t matter.”
A nervous-looking first-year approaches, eyes alighting on the Prefect badge pinned to my robes.
“Excuse me,” she begins, and I turn to her, dismissing Cameron.
“My friend’s locked out,” she says in a small voice, gesturing towards the portrait hole down the stairs. “And I can’t tell her the password, because I can’t remember it either.”
“The password is Firenze, but remember, if you tell anyone from another house that’s a password reset, twenty house points from us, ten points from the other house and a detention for you, so you better make sure your friend’s a Gryffindor.”
“She is,” the girl says earnestly before bolting down the stairs.
As usual, I’m the first one up the following morning, entering the Great Hall as the first of breakfast is brought out by the house-elves and the early risers are the only students sitting at the various tables.
“Good morning, Lily,” Professor Longbottom greets me, handing me a slip of parchment. “Your timetable. I’m glad to see you’re continuing with Herbology.”
“Of course,” I say, taking my timetable and scanning it.
“I was extremely pleased with your OWL results,” Professor Longbottom continues. “Outstanding for both theory and practical! You’ll do well with NEWT Herbology, I’m sure.”
“Thank you, Professor.” I pull up a seat at the Gryffindor table and reach for a slice of toast. Lysander Scamander is the only other person at the table, and he offers me a cheery good morning.
“Morning,” I return. “What subjects are you taking this year?”
“Charms,” he begins. “Charms, Herbology, Astronomy, History of Magic, Care of Magical Creatures, Muggle Studies and Ancient Runes.”
“I’ll see you in Charms and Herbology then.”
“What else are you taking?”
“Defence Against the Dark Arts, Transfiguration, Potions and Arithmancy. I was taking Muggle Studies as well, but I dropped it.”
Lysander nods. “Lorcan’s doing eight subjects.”
“I know. But he’s a Ravenclaw, and that’s what Ravenclaws do.” Apart from Dom, that is. Last I heard, she only took six subjects last year.
“How did you go for your OWLs?” Lysander continues.
“Um…Outstanding for Herbology, Defence, Charms and Transfiguration. E for Potions, Arithmancy and History of Magic, A for Astronomy and Muggle Studies.”
“You didn’t fail anything?” Lysander seems almost disappointed.
“No. What about you?”
“Outstanding for Care of Magical Creatures and Herbology,” he recites. “Exceeds Expectations for Charms, History of Magic and Muggle Studies. Acceptable for Astronomy, Ancient Runes and Transfiguration. Poor for Potions and Defence Against the Dark Arts.”
Listening to this recital, I feel sorry for Lysander. With both parents and a twin brother in Ravenclaw, Lysander’s always felt inferior, and OWLs would have made matters worse. Like most Ravenclaws, Lorcan was disappointed with his three Exceeds Expectations. I told him to shut up; his results were better than mine.
“Oh well,” Lysander says, suddenly brightening a little. “Your dad failed some of his OWLs, right?”
“I think so.”
This seems to make Lysander feel better and he sits in happy silence, crunching his toast. He’s so sweet and childlike, Lysander. He doesn’t seem to worry about anything, has an almost doglike devotion to his friends and family. Lorcan, on the other hand…There’s a fire inside Lorcan, something that sets him apart from anyone I’ve ever met. He’s brilliant; intelligent, perceptive, with a razor-sharp wit—no trace of the Lovegood dreaminess. He’s his own person. He’s managed to do what I haven’t—break away from the expectations of his parents.
“It’s—” Sock in face.
“A—” Another sock in face.
“Really—” Jumper in face.
“Bad—” Pillow in face.
“Look—” Robes in face.
“I’m awake, Alyssa!” I yell, swatting clothing and pillow away from my face. “You were saying?”
“It’s a really bad look for the Head Girl to be late to the first class on the first day of term,” Alyssa says calmly. Through my sleepy haze I now realise she’s fully dressed with her schoolbag slung over her shoulder.
“What time is it?” I ask, alarmed.
“Half past eight…you dick.”
“And classes start at quarter to nine…shit!”
“There we go, the moment of realisation. You taking Transfiguration this year?”
“’Course,” I grunt, heaving myself out of bed and scrabbling for my robes.
“We have it first,” Alyssa informs me.
“Good,” I call from behind the curtain I’ve just pulled. “Excellent. Teddy won’t care that I’m late—I mean, Professor Lupin.”
“Being a Weasley has its perks, I suppose.”
“I missed breakfast, didn’t I?”
“I brought you toast.”
I hurriedly pull on my socks, leaving them horribly scrunched in the foot, make a halfassed attempt to tie my tie, throw on my robes and yank back the curtain. “You’re the best friend in the world, did you know that?” I ask, descending from the bed and shoving the proffered toast into my mouth. “An’ I wuff you.”
“You know, with you in a position of authority, the school is screwed,” Alyssa informs me as I finally gather my books and depart the dungeons. “I think you and Riordan were meant to have a meeting with McGonagall at some point today, by the way.”
“News to me.”
“Yeah, she announced it at breakfast.”
I make a guttural noise in my throat. “Let’s hope it’s not first period, then.”
Alyssa and I make it into Transfiguration seconds before the bell rings and Teddy/Professor Lupin enters the room.
“Holy Hippogriffs, Rose Weasley, did you get dragged backwards through a bush this morning?” he asks by way of greeting.
“She woke up fifteen minutes ago,” Alyssa explains.
He nods, turning to the class. “Good morning and welcome to hell—I mean, the business end of NEWT Transfiguration. As you may have gathered by me calling it hell, this year’s class is going to be tough. Very tough. So tough you’re going to be sitting in class thinking your parents had it easy when they were fighting Voldemort. Take a look at the person at either side of you.”
I glance at Alyssa, and across the aisle at Niall Prewett from Gryffindor.
“Now, chances are one of the people sitting beside you will not survive this year’s course.”
Many of the students exchange glances.
“I’m kidding,” Teddy says. “But one of those people will be turned into a mouse. Or a duckling, or a weta.”
“What’s a weta?” someone asks.
“A surprisingly hideous insect from New Zealand that is, in fact, the size of a mouse. Don’t ask me how one could turn one’s classmate into a weta if one has never seen them before, but I tell you now, stranger things have happened in NEWT Transfiguration. It’s going to be crazy, folks. But it’s also going to be fun, and you will enjoy it. Even if the only thing you enjoy is passing your exam at the end of the year, at least you’ll enjoy something. Now, without further ado, get out your Transfiguration textbooks. As a nice warm up and a tribute to our friend Rose here, we’re going to do some simple Transfiguring of your quills into hairbrushes.”
“Oh, I hate you, Teddy Lupin,” I mutter under my breath as I rummage through my bag, withdrawing my book and quill.
“I forgot how fun Transfiguration is,” Alyssa says enthusiastically, already waving her wand above her quill and muttering incantations.
“I hope he realises half the girls in the room are just going to sit here doing their hair for the rest of the lesson,” I comment, Transfiguring my quill and dragging the result through my unruly orange mane.
“Yeah, like you,” Alyssa says, watching me.
“Nope. I’m done.” I pull my hair into a ponytail and take the opportunity to glance around the room. Sure enough, a selection of girls are now brushing their hair, including Dom.
“Now, ladies, if you’re going to do this properly,” Teddy continues, “You’ll be wanting to Transfigure your textbook into a mirror. Let’s see it, then.”
“What do the guys do?” Al asks.
“I’ll show you,” Teddy says, and with a few very quick waves of his wand he’s Transfigured his copy of the textbook into a dartboard, his quill into a dart, and sent the board across the room to hang on the opposite wall.
“No fair!” Dom yells. “The boys get to play darts? Sexism!”
“All right, all right,” Teddy calls, holding up his hands in surrender. “The girls can do the dartboard thing as well. Merlin’s beard, I hope you can turn your textbooks back, guys, I don’t want your parents’ Howlers asking me why they’ve had to buy you a new copy of Advanced Transfiguration.”
“You’ll turn mine back if I can’t, right?” Alyssa asks anxiously.
“No problem,” I say confidently.
We spend the next twenty minutes playing darts, at the conclusion of which I remember my mission and pull Riordan aside.
“Alyssa told me we have a meeting with McGonagall today.”
“Interval, in her office.”
“Do we have the password?”
“She’ll meet us outside.”
At interval, I make my excuses to my friends and hurry to the entrance of McGonagall’s office, where Riordan is also waiting.
“She should be here soon,” he comments, and sure enough, McGonagall arrives, mutters the password under her breath, and ushers us through into her office.
“I’ve called an assembly for all the seventh-years,” she begins. “It is, mainly, to sort out the logistics of election day, because all our seventh-year students, being seventeen or over, will be eligible to vote for the next Minister of Magic.”
“Oh yeah,” I say.
“One would think, Miss Weasley, you of all people would remember election day.”
“I did, I mean, I do, it just didn’t register that we would be voting at school.”
“Where else would you vote?” McGonagall doesn’t seem to want an answer because she continues immediately. “I would like you two to run the assembly. There will be polling stations set up in the Entrance Hall, surrounded by an Age Line. You would be too young to remember the Triwizard Tournament—”
“By a generation.”
“The same measure was in place then that will be in place now. In addition, you will be given Truth Quills to fill out your voting form, so there can be no forgery. Voting will be open from midnight on election day, which is the sixteenth, until eleven fifty-nine p.m that evening. Though I would wish to impress upon you that I do not want to see students out of bed to vote that early or that late.”
“What about the sixth-years who will be seventeen?”
“There are very few of them,” McGonagall says, “And I’m sure they will be filled in on procedure by seventh-year friends and housemates. Voting forms will be sent by OWL to each student eligible to vote by the fourteenth of September.”
“Why can’t you run the assembly?” Riordan asks. “I mean, you have all the information.”
“Head Boy is not just a title, Carter,” McGonagall says sternly. “Surely you’re up to standing in front of your classmates and relaying the information I’ve just given you?”
“We are,” I cut in before Riordan can say anything. “Have you scheduled the assembly?”
“Tomorrow morning, instead of first period in the Entrance Hall. Now, unless I’m mistaken, that was the bell. Off to classes, please.”
“Seventh-years are getting information about voting tomorrow in assembly,” Al informs me as he passes me in the corridor. “I’m gonna spend the next two weeks convincing everyone in the castle to vote for Aunty Hermione.”
“Do you even agree with her policies?” I ask. “And I’m pretty sure you’re not allowed to campaign at Hogwarts.”
“Never said anything about campaigning,” Al says. “Just conversation, that’s all. Lighten up, Lily. This is going to be quite exciting, I think.”
“For you. I don’t even get the chance to vote. I’m not old enough.”
“Oh, yeah,” Al says. “Sucks to be you. Well, I’m off.”
“Bye,” I mutter after him. What if I could vote? I don’t think I would go for Aunt Hermione. The more I think about it, the more I realise I’m sick of following my family, sick of being everything they want and expect me to be. Lily Potter—even my name isn’t my own. It first belonged to Dad’s mum, and I’ve had to try and live up to her legacy my whole life. Smart, powerful, talented, funny, sweet, kind…the list is neverending, but I’ve always strived to fulfill everything. Lily Luna Potter, the darling of Gryffindor. Seeker, consistent Es in my classes, friendly to everyone, Prefect. Sometimes I wonder if there’s a cliché of ‘perfect student’ that I haven’t fulfilled. And where has it got me? A false identity, a shell of a person, nothing but a carefully moulded, sculpted outline.
I envy Rose. She’s her own person. Completely, totally. The moment she looks like she takes after her parents in something, bam! She deviates from the path again. She’s in Slytherin, for Merlin’s sake. I don’t even know what house I’m meant to be in; I just went under the Sorting Hat chanting ‘Gryffindor, Gryffindor, Gryffindor’ over and over in my head. Gryffindor like my parents and brothers and namesake.
“Lily!” Lorcan calls. “You okay? You look lost.”
“Fine. What do we have now?”
“Defence Against the Dark Arts. What did Al want before?”
“Bragging about how he gets to vote,” I say dismissively.
“It would be interesting to vote,” Lorcan agrees. “Though I don’t think I would vote for your aunt. No offence,” he adds hastily, “But I don’t agree with her policies. My family does, of course.”
“What don’t you agree about them?”
“I don’t know. I just think the wizarding world could be heading in some strange directions the way she’s going. Equality between wizards, house elves, goblins, what’s next? Do we open the Hogwarts doors to them?”
“I think it’s more just giving them a better deal, but yeah, someone more conventional would be good. The wizarding world’s gone from strength to strength since the defeat of Voldemort, we don’t need any radical changes. No point fixing something that isn’t broken.”
“Exactly!” Lorcan says, his eyes lighting up at the prospect of political discussion. “Now, Percy Weasley’s dry and dull as they get, but his policies are sound. It’s a shame that he’s the only real competition, though, I get the feeling people will vote for Hermione just to avoid Percy. He’s not an inspiring leader, and say what you will about Hermione’s policies, her speeches are more stirring than Percy’s.”
“To be honest, I don’t really care who we get, so long as we don’t share DADA with house elves.”
DADA has always been one of my favourite subjects. Even now, it doesn’t bother me that Dad is perhaps the best practitioner of DADA in the world; it’s always been my domain, maybe because James never cared about anything but Quidditch and Al’s proven himself talented at Potions. Professor Bones never compares me to my father or my namesake. She compares me to the other kids in the class, or the other kids she’s taught, and I always come out top of the list. I’m powerful, and DADA is where I get to use it. There’s something thrilling about casting a spell so powerful it can throw someone backwards; something captivating about magic used in combat, streaks of light flying, firing, whirling in a kaleidoscope of colour, fizzling and crackling with sheer energy and power.
Of course, I keep that passion hidden away. I joined the duelling club in my third year, but after it was disbanded, no matter how many people told me I should take over the leadership of it, I declined. I can’t teach Defence. I’m not my father. I can’t teach anything. I’m selfish, like I want to hold the magic as close to me as possible and never let it go. Like if I teach others, it will dilute my own power. It’s something I never talk about; to value power is too often seen as heading towards Dark magic, thanks to Voldemort’s proclamation to my dad about how there’s no good and evil, only power and those too weak to seek it. No, you can’t value power. You can’t be proud of power. You can’t want to use it. It’s one of the only things that is wholly mine, but it means nothing.
Quidditch tryouts take place at the end of the first week, by which time election excitement is in full swing. I’m getting sick of politically-minded Ravenclaws accosting me in the corridors asking, “Hey Rose, what are your mother’s thoughts on…?” or “Rose, do you think you could OWL your mum asking a few questions about…?” I’ve reached the point where the moment I hear the words “your mum,” I’ll turn around and walk away, leaving them standing there talking to thin air. It’s strangely satisfying.
“Quidditch pitch is booked,” Scorpius informs me when I manage to track him down in the common room for nearly the first time all week. “Oh, and it’s good to see you, of course. I’ve missed you.”
“Reckon you’ve missed your SwiftSeeker 350 more,” I comment mildly.
“I saw that this afternoon. Anyway, how’ve you been?”
“Driven bonkers by the politically minded. If I hear one more word about ‘my mother’s policies’ I’m going to pull a FredAndGeorge Weasley and fly the hell out of this place.”
“Your father would be proud.”
“And my mother would kill me.” I sit heavily on the velvet green couch beside Scorpius and he casually flings an arm around my shoulders.
“You smell,” I inform him, carefully detaching his arm.
“I just came off the pitch.”
“You should have just had Ancient Runes.”
“Skipped it,” Scorpius says unapologetically. “What’re you going to do, deduct points from me?”
“Sure, if I wanted to shoot myself in the foot. When’s tryouts?”
“At five. Gryffindors had theirs the other day, they have a strong team.”
“We have a stronger team.”
“There was no question about that. It’ll be nice to have some competition though, they haven’t been quite on form since old James Potter left.”
I decide not to point out that Gryffindor beat us last year; in fairness, Alyssa was sick for the final.“Al tells me Niall Prewett’s being an absolute Nazi.”
“Eh? I suppose he’s a seventh-year, it’s to be expected.”
“You’re a seventh-year too.”
“I’m perfectly aware of that, Rosie my love. I’ve been talking to Al myself, actually. The Gryffindor team are planning to book out the pitch every morning from five a.m, starting in October.”
“We’re booking the pitch every evening till eleven.”
“That’s after curfew if we have anyone below seventh year.”
“And this is where you come in, Head Girl of Hogwarts. Do you have to get special permission from McGonagall, or are you powerful enough to override it?”
“Powerful enough,” I admit with a grin. Even if it’s being blatantly abused by Scorpius, I do enjoy using my powers as Head Girl. “But wait,” I add, remembering the original problem. “I don’t know if you’ve heard of this concept, Scorpius, but apparently—and here’s where it gets really crazy—human beings have to get a certain amount of sleep to function.”
“Sleep is for Hufflepuffs.”
On impulse I lean over and kiss him hard, grinning at the surprised look on his face when I pull away.
“I’m not complaining, but what brought that on?”
“You,” I inform him. “You’re absolutely bat shit crazy, and I love you.”
In my humble opinion I thought we flew well during tryouts, but apparently Scorpius disagrees. Having selected the team, he calls us all into the changing rooms for a meeting.
“You flew abysmally,” he begins.
Wow, this is gonna be one hell of a fun year.
“You’re kidding,” Jeremy says flatly.
“No, I’m not, unfortunately. You’ve gotten sloppy over the holidays, your turning and your braking is far too slow, you’re not getting up to speed, and Danny, you’re missing half the Quaffles we throw at you.”
“Gotten rusty over the holidays,” Danny says unapologetically.
“Right. I wasn’t intending to start serious training until later, but it seems we need to get back into it. So, for the next week, I want you down on the pitch every afternoon from four till six. No exceptions or you’re off the team.”
“You’ve gone mad with power!” I blurt, throwing my hands in the air and departing from the changing room. “And the sad thing is, you don’t even have that much power!”
I’m subjected to scowls and glares from the love of my life for the rest of the evening, for ‘undermining his authority.’
“Undermining your authority? I was saving the team. We’re not going to be able to beat Hufflepuff if we’re a team of worn out corpses on broomsticks.”
“If we’re a team of worn out corpses on broomsticks, Gryffindor will be a team of corpses so intensely schooled in technique their post-mortem nervous twitches will send the Quaffle through the hoops and catch the Snitch!”
“If Gryffindor can beat us as corpses maybe they deserve the Cup!”
“If Gryffindor can play as corpses we can beat them as corpses!”
“Why are we being so hypothetical?”
“Because the conversation just progressed like that!”
“Good night, Scorpius.”
“Hey, Lily,” my cousin Roxanne greets me. “Thought you might be interested in something I just saw on the noticeboard.”
Intrigued, I follow her out of the dorm and down into the common room, where a small group has gathered around the noticeboard.
DUELLING CLUB REVIVAL!
We decided it was high time to revive the Duelling Club days, and are opening up a new Club for all interested members on Wednesday nights in the Entrance Hall, beginning at 8pm. Due to the complexity of possible spells and for safety reasons, the club is at this point only open to students 3rd year and above. If you are interested please see Rose Weasley, Scorpius Malfoy, Jeremy Nott or Alyssa Rutherford of Slytherin to put your names down.
“Excited?” Al asks, elbowing me as he extracts himself from the crowd. “Even if it is run by a bunch of Slytherins?”
“Don’t be such a hater, Al,” Molly admonishes. “The Slytherins are all right.”
“Try telling him that before a Quidditch match,” Roxanne comments. “Move along, people, breakfast closes in twenty minutes.”
I’ve been looking forward to the duelling club all week, though as the time draws closer I begin to have second thoughts. I’ve been relatively safe entertaining the notion that I’m one of the more powerful witches at Hogwarts, but that could all be blown out of the water in a matter of minutes if I’m defeated. Don’t duel anyone until you’ve learned how, was my father’s sage advice to Al, and I can’t help remembering it. I know how to duel, or at least, I did in third year, against other third years.
What the hell, Lily, I tell myself furiously. You have a chance to do something you’re good at, something you enjoy, and you’re ruining it with self-doubt.
“Evening,” Rose greets me with a grin when I reach the Entrance Hall. I’m nearly ten minutes early and it’s already milling with people; there must be at least seventy here already, and I make my way through the crowd to find my friends. Lorcan, Lysander, Cameron, Roxanne and the twins, Molly and Lucy, are standing in a corner curiously eyeing everyone who comes in.
“Glad you could make it,” Cameron greets me. “Should be fun, eh?”
“Definitely,” I agree.
“Especially when I curse your butt off,” Lysander declares, showing a surprising amount of enthusiasm and spirit at the concept.
“Curse my butt off?” Cam repeats. “You’ll have to get to it first, no easy task with my impenetrable shield charms.”
“Expelliarmus,” I say swiftly, and Cam’s wand goes flying. “You were saying?”
“I was unprepared,” Cam protests, turning pink.
“In a real battle, you’re unprepared, you’re dead,” I say, reciting one of Dad’s most famous duelling edicts.
“Can I have your attention, everyone?” Alyssa calls, rapping her wand sharply on the doorway. A few people turn around, but the majority continue talking.
“OI!” Rose bellows, and there’s a loud bang from her direction. She grins in satisfaction as everyone whips around to see what happened. “That’s better. Welcome to the duelling club, which will, Jeremy assures me, have a much better name by the end of this session. I want you all to split away from your little cliques. Don’t act like you’re not in one. You lot, the fifth-year Hufflepuffs over there. Yeah, you lot. Weasley clan in one corner. Other Weasley clan in the other corner. You shady characters lurking over the far side. You’re all in cliques. I want you all, everyone in this hall, to line up single file in alphabetical order by surname.”
A gaggle of voices erupts once more and eighty students swarm around the hall, trying to work out where they fit in the line. I slot between Al and Niall and await further instruction, wondering where the hell Rose is going with this.
“Now we’ve got you segregated a little bit,” Rose begins, “I want you to turn around and find the first person behind you born in the same month as you. Then I want you to stand beside them, so we should have two lines happening.”
I can see what Rose is doing now: she’s mixing everyone up, making sure nobody will be just clinging to their own little friendship circles.
“January,” I call, slowly shuffling down the line. “January. January? Anyone for January?”
I get down to the very end of the line before someone responds.
“You January?” he asks. I have to stop myself jumping backwards in trepidation. The guy addressing me is an easy six foot, built like a Beater, with dark skin and eyes to match. There’s a slight flicker of distaste as he recognises who I am; I have no idea who he is, but his robes and badge identify him as a seventh-year Slytherin. Just my luck.
“Lily Potter,” he says flatly.
“Yes,” I reply, determined not to show any sign of discomfort around this intimidating Slytherin giant. “You?”
“Damascus Zabini,” he says.
“All right, folks!” Rose calls, waving her arms for quiet. “The person you’re now standing next to is your opponent for the night. Now I know this may have resulted in some disparities. If you’re a seventh-year and the kid standing next to you is thirteen years old, you’re not going to go easy on them as such, but you’re going to help them, mentor them, iron out any kinks you see in their spellwork. I don’t want you cursing your opponent’s arse off because you can. There’s a purpose behind this that goes beyond mindless warfare. With that in mind, go forth and duel!”
“Follow me, Potter,” Damascus mutters, ducking between numerous students and making his way to a clear patch of hall.
Feeling more than a little bit annoyed at his use of ‘Potter,’ I reluctantly follow, turning to face him.
“Done any duelling before?” Damascus asks.
“Plenty,” I respond, meeting his challenging stare and feeling my determination return at the slightly patronising look on his face.
“We’ll see,” he says simply, raising his wand in a salute, which I return, and from that moment on, everything else in the world fades away; every sense is attuned towards Damascus, watching him, reading the signs of when he’s about to cast a spell—
The first one catches me by surprise with its speed and ferocity; and I react instinctively with a hastily yelled Protego.
Slack, I admonish myself. Don’t give him any clues.
Damascus has me on the defensive; I’m on my back foot and I know it, continually dodging and parrying the spells he sends at me, thick, fast and unknown, and I know without being told that the effects of being hit by one are not worth finding out. I’m struggling to regain the upper hand and I hate it, but the beginnings of frustration on Damascus’s face as none of his curses hit home gives me extra strength and I catch him unawares with a spell that sends him staggering backwards momentarily. He bounces back instantly, but the damage has been done; I’m no longer on the defensive, attacking and shielding in equal proportions; spinning, whirling, not a single word spoken as spell after spell erupts forth at a flick of my hand, my concentration never wavering, spells increasing in intensity and complexity as the duel heats up and the very air around us seems to crackle with energy.
At the very back of my mind something registers that Rose is yelling, but I ignore it, as does Damascus, and if anything the duel just seems to intensify, until a flash of white light explodes in front of me, throwing me backwards. Startled, I struggle to my feet. Opposite me, Damascus is also getting up off the stone floor, and my mind slowly registers that there are now eighty students staring at me.
“Next time,” Rose says mildly, “You stop duelling when I tell you to, that was getting a bit intense.”
She turns to address the rest of the students and I sneak a glance at Damascus, who’s eyeing me with the beginnings of respect.
“You can fight,” he notes.
“I told you,” I reply simply, and I feel the sweet thrill of success as I turn my attention back to Rose.
“I would like—” I begin, raising a glass of Butterbeer, “To proclaim that a success.”
“Hear hear!” Jeremy says enthusiastically, as he, Scorpius and Alyssa clink their glasses with mine. We’re relaxing in our corner of the Slytherin common room, having sent the duelling club back to their houses twenty minutes previously. True to his word, Jeremy had come up with a new name for the group.
“I’m playing off the proud traditions and history of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry,” he begins dramatically. “The club will encourage initiative, leadership, ingenuity and learning through practical, applicable experience. Run by students for students, the duelling club is the latest frontier in continuing innovations in magical education, while still acknowledging the age-old roots of magic itself. Therefore, the name must incorporate aspects of the traditional wizarding world and of history, whilst also ushering in a new beginning for wizarding education.”
“You’re full of shit, Jem,” Scorpius says. “What’s the name then?”
“As a nod to our fathers—or more, the fathers of the likes of Rose—the name will be abbreviated to D.A, which stands for Dragons Awakening—taken from the translation of our thousand-year-old school motto and showing that we, the next generation, are rising up, and awakening.”
“You put too much thought into this,” I decide.
“You have too much spare time,” Alyssa concludes.
“I can fix that,” Scorpius offers.
“So long as it doesn’t involve the rest of us,” Alyssa says swiftly. “Specifically, so long as it doesn’t involve the rest of us, broomsticks, and a Quidditch pitch.”
“Now, Alyssa, where’s your team spirit?”
“Up your ass, Scorpius Malfoy.”
“Moving away from what’s up Scorpius’s ass,” Jeremy says smoothly, “You didn’t give me any feedback on the name.”
“We told you you have too much spare time,” Alyssa says.
“It’s a good name, bro,” Scorpius says. “Not sure if we got that across.”
“It was there,” Jeremy assures him. “I can read between the lines, see.”
Despite McGonagall’s warnings, I’m sitting up in the Entrance Hall at quarter to twelve on the evening of the fifteenth, surrounded by a number of other students for whom the sense of occasion was too appealing to pass up. We haven’t been sent away by any teachers—Professor Rochester, the Potions master, came past looking as though he was about to send us to bed—then pulled his voting form out of his robes and sat down with us. I’ve checked and double-checked my form and now content myself with crinkling and smoothing out the edges over and over again.
“Nervous?” Niall asks, watching me.
“Me? Nah. Glad I’m not around Mum at this point in time though.”
“Five minutes to go!” Al announces, pulling out his voting form as if preparing to shove it through the slot will take the full five minutes.
“You know we don’t actually accomplish anything by posting straight after midnight?” Scorpius asks.
“Then why are you here?” Alyssa asks.
“For Rose,” he replies simply, and I would be touched, except the minute hand has just passed the twelve and I leap to my feet like a scalded cat.
“I call first!” I yell unneccessarily, leaping across the Age Line in one motion and stuffing my voting paper through the slot. There’s applause from some of the waiting seventh-years as they get to their feet and squeeze into the circle around the box.
“Voting for your mum, Rose!” several people call to me as I escape the circle.
“So what now?” Scorpius asks, and in seconds Alyssa and Jeremy have caught up as well. “Raid the kitchens for some food? Hold a night-long vigil beside the box? Get some sleep?”
I glance back at the box, balling my fists in determination. “Writing Transfiguration essays,” I declare.
“Oh yeah,” Jeremy mutters. “How could we forget. Number one cure for stress is writing essays.”
“Shut up,” I tell him. “It’s due tomorrow morning.”
“Nobody’s gonna care,” Alyssa says. “It’s election day, and your mum’s going to win easily. Percy’s a git.”
“True,” I concede. “But I’m still writing essays. Or at least, I’m writing one essay then figuring something else out to do that’ll keep my mind off it all because I can’t sleep.”
“Lucky for you we planned for this,” Scorpius comments, holding up a tiny bottle.
“Wakefulness Potion, I brewed it up last week with this in mind. I’m sure you’ll get by on pure adrenaline, but the rest of us are gonna need it.”
“You’re pulling an all-nighter with me?” I ask, feeling genuinely touched.
“Yes. Now, I propose we go for a midnight fly,” Scorpius says. “And no, I don’t have an ulterior motive, I just like flying, and I’m sure you lot do as well.”
“As long as you don’t start commenting on our technique, I’m in,” Jeremy says.
“Likewise,” Alyssa agrees. “Though if you do, Scorp, I will hex you and you will fall off.”
“You wouldn’t do that,” Scorpius says immediately.
“On the contrary, I would,” Alyssa replies. “Think about it, our mission is to keep Rose’s mind off the election, and I’m sure half-dead boyfriend lying on the ground would work as quite a nice distraction.”
“Enough with the threats,” I interrupt. “Let’s just get out onto the pitch. If anyone asks—”
“We have a Head Girl, a Prefect and a Quidditch Captain, I think we’re good,” Scorpius finishes. “And an Alyssa, but she’s not important.”
“All right,” Alyssa says. “I won’t come to our first game, then. Good luck winning on goals alone.”
“Hit him where it hurts, that’s the spirit,” Jeremy says approvingly.
We spend a good three hours flying around the grounds of Hogwarts, having fun tapping on the windows of Gryffindor and Ravenclaw Towers and swooping down out of sight before the bleary-eyed students can see us. I have a feeling they’re going to be comparing notes about strange dreams come morning.
By mid afternoon, every student at Hogwarts and the majority of the staff have voted, and McGonagall informs us the results will be out by tomorrow morning.
“You’re not going to pull another sleepless night on us, are you?” Scorpius asks me that evening as the voting closes.
“No. But I’m going to be up at six in the morning to watch the results come in, I don’t care that it’s Saturday.”
“I didn’t expect any less.”
By quarter to six, I think half the school is in the Great Hall, sleepily gnawing on slices of toast the house elves have brought out for the occasion, dressed in pajamas and attention focused on the large screen set up on the wall above the staff table.
“Good morning, witches and wizards, and welcome to our coverage of Election 2024. The votes have now all been counted and the announcement of who will be the next Minister of Magic will be made shortly by outgoing Minister Kingsley Shacklebolt. As you are all aware, Minister Shacklebolt has been in the position ever since the fall of Voldemort twenty-five years ago and is now headed for a well-earned retirement. This year’s race has been a close one, with siblings-in-law Hermione and Percy Weasley going head-to-head in this election campaign. While we wait for the Minister’s announcement, our political reporter Helena Hunter reflects on the challenges facing the new Minister. Helena?”
“Yes, 2024 has proved to be a landmark year for wizarding politics in Britain. The new Minister will instigate a massive change; this has been the only handover of power since, of course, the fall of Lord Voldemort twenty-five years ago. Minister Shacklebolt’s are extremely big robes to fill, so it’s fair to say the biggest challenge facing the new Minister will be to fill those robes. The wizarding community has experienced arguably the best twenty-five years in recent history, and it will be up to the new Minister to ensure this continues.”
“Thank you, Helena, now it’s six a.m, and the Minister of Magic himself has just come out to the Atrium—you can see him there—surrounded by a number of his associate ministers and, of course, Percy Weasley and his wife Audrey, and Hermione Weasley and her husband Ronald. Of course, both minister hopefuls have children, but they’re at Hogwarts, so we won’t be seeing them this morning. Minister Shacklebolt has just stepped up to the podium—let’s hear what he has to say.”
“Good morning, wizarding Britain. It has been my humble pleasure and honour to serve you all as your Minister of Magic for the past twenty-five years, and even more so my honour to announce my successor. The election has been close and both candidates have proved themselves worthy, committed to the office of Minister, committed to making the big decisions, committed to progress, but most importantly committed to you, the people of wizarding Britain. I extend my thanks to both candidates for making the effort to campaign and put your names forward, however there can only be one Minister of Magic. Without further ado, it is a great honour to step aside and name as my successor, Minister of Magic-Elect Hermione Weasley!”
“WHOOO!” I scream, leaping up from my chair and pumping my fists. All around me, students are clapping and cheering, getting to their feet and letting off bombs of confetti and streamers. Jeremy raises a large bottle of Butterbeer to the ceiling as a large crowd swarms around me, shouting and hugging and manically waving Mum’s election flags in my face. I turn to look at the screen; the reporter’s gotten a close up of Mum smiling and wiping away tears.
“Rose, Hugo,” she says to the camera, “I know you’re watching, get to the Atrium now.”
“I’m in my jammies!” I shout at the screen, but my friends are already shoving me in the direction of the dungeons.
Rose and Hugo left amid much fanfare about half an hour ago; we watched them emerge from the Floo in the Atrium. Hugo looked overwhelmed but Rose was lapping up the attention, grinning at the cameras, answering questions and talking to us through the reporters.
“Now, students,” McGonagall calls, approaching the front of the hall. “It may be a Saturday, but you are still out of bed and in the Great Hall, and while I made exceptions for the announcement of the election results, that is over now, and you will not be permitted in the Great Hall in your nightwear from this point. You are still at school and while you are still at school you will wear your uniform robes.”
“Pretty exciting,” Lysander comments as he, Cameron and Molly join me on the way back to Gryffindor Tower.
“Yeah,” Molly mutters.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” Lysander says quickly. “Your father lost.”
“I’m aware,” Molly says. “Though I suppose I knew he would lose, knew that ever since his first speech. Dad could make Wizarding War II boring—and he does—even though he fought in it.”
“You said it, not me,” I comment. I can’t help but agree—Uncle Percy’s idea of a fascinating conversation is regulations regarding the safe transportation of Bowtruckles. I had that conversation with him last Christmas, before Molly saved me by asking her father for money.
“I wonder what Hermione’s going to do as Minister,” Cameron muses. I have to stop myself relaying the conversation I had with Lorcan about sharing our classes with house elves.
“We’ll find out soon enough,” I say instead. “Dragons Awakening tomorrow night—you guys coming?”
“Wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Cameron says emphatically.
“Who were you paired with, Cam?”
“Dominique Weasley,” he says dreamily.
“What?” Cameron asks defensively. “She’s hot!”
“She’s my cousin, shut up. What about you, Lysander?”
Lysander raises his eyebrows. “We were in alphabetical order and had to find someone with the same birth month as us.”
“Think for a moment, Lily. Just a moment.”
Oh wow, I’m stupid. “Lorcan.”
Molly scowls. “Yeah, and I had to go with Lucy. Sucks having a twin, eh?”
“What about you?” Cameron asks. “Who was that creepy-looking Slytherin you got paired with?”
“And kicked his ass?” Molly adds.
“Damascus Zabini, and I didn’t kick his ass, Rose kicked us both.”
“That was some intense magic,” Cameron continues. “I had no idea you could fight like that, Lily. Why did I have no idea you could fight like that? You’re bloody powerful, you know that?”
“I had no idea I could fight like that,” I say modestly, though inside I’m swelling with pride at his words. “I just got lucky, I guess. A fluke, Dad always says it comes down to mostly luck.”
“If you say so. Shame there are no wars going on, you’d be handy to have on our side.”
“Thanks, but as I said, it’s luck, not skill.” I’m lying now. I know I’m skilled, I know I’m powerful, and that knowledge is slowly eating away at the confines of expectation on my life. I’m a duellist. My mother was not a duellist, my father was not a duellist, my brothers are not duellists. It’s an identity I can own, and own I will.
“There’s even more of you!” are Rose’s opening words at DA the next Wednesday evening. “Damn, and I thought making you duel with strangers would scare you off a bit. Seeing as that was so popular, I’ll do another mix-up. Anyone who got an O in their Defence Against the Dark Arts OWL, step forward. See what I’m doing here, you’re more likely to be evenly matched! Now, out of you lot, I want you to duel with the first person you turn to with the same colour eyes as you.”
I turn around; beside me is a brown-eyed, black-haired girl I’ve seen on occasion around the school; all I know about her is that she’s a seventh-year Slytherin. Out of school hours she’s taken some liberties with the uniform; her eyes are rimmed with kohl and brushed with smoky eyeshadow; she has an intense look about her which gives the impression of power.
She doesn’t say a word to me; simply nods in acknowledgement and steps back, a movement that automatically seems to clear the area around us. I can’t believe I don’t even know her name; she obviously has a reputation, and the beginnings of fear cloud my mind.
My first assumptions are right; from the moment we begin to duel I’m kept on my toes, casting and blocking spells with a speed I never knew I possessed and even then struggling to keep up with her. She’s a whirlwind, darting back and forth and flinging spells with an almost reckless abandon that would have still hit me had I not blocked them. Not a sound has been uttered by either of us; proficient at non-verbal spells, we duel in an intense, concentrated silence and I can tell that this, like the duel with Damascus last week, will not reach a conclusion until Rose calls time. Until then, I decide, I’ll focus on surviving.
Time seems to drag on; I’m getting tired and I know my reflexes are becoming slower and slower but I press on, loathe to show any sign of weakness on my face. The girl shows no signs of slowing; flinging curses at me with as much speed as when we first started, and my attack dwindles down to almost nothing; I’m spending all my time blocking now, and I’m aware that half the DA is now watching us. Spurred on by this audience, I send a plethora of hexes at the girl, one after the other, catching her by surprise; she’s allowed her defence to drop. As she staggers backwards, I follow through immediately with expelliarmus and accio and stand triumphant, holding the girl’s wand as the hall erupts into applause.
“Damascus was right,” the girl says, holding out her hand, and I pass her wand back. “You can duel.”
She walks away, disappearing into the crowd. I still don’t know her name.
Rose dismisses the DA.
I have to say, I’m surprised by Lily. Twice in a row she’s been paired with what we’ve dubbed The Darkies due to their suspected affinity to that branch of magic, and twice she’s held her own.
“Wow,” Scorpius says as we meet as a group in our usual corner of the common room. “Lily defeated Natalia Dolohov? I wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes.”
“Neither,” Alyssa chimes in. “She’s never seemed the duelling type. Lily, I mean.”
“She was all right when we had the duelling club way back in the day,” I say. “She was only versing kids her own year though, so I didn’t really think much of it when she won. But she’s held off Damascus Zabini for an hour, and defeated Natalia.”
“Pretty impressive,” Jeremy agrees. “Though lucky for her, I suppose, if some of those curses had hit her she’d probably be in the hospital wing.”
I shudder. “Dark magic, you reckon?”
“I can recognise it,” Jeremy says quietly, and I regret raising the subject; like Scorpius, Jeremy’s parents and grandparents were involved in the Dark Arts and it’s something he’d rather forget about.
“We have to put a stop to that,” I say determinedly. “Dark magic anywhere is bad, but at Hogwarts? In a duelling club? Against my little sixteen-year-old cousin?”
“You’re telling them,” Jeremy says immediately.
I roll my eyes. “Man up, Jeremy.”
“You’re the Head Girl, it’s your job.”
“It’s not my job, it’s the job of Astoria, or McGonagall, or even the Aurors, but it’s not mine.”
“Then you’re telling Mum,” Scorpius says. “Though she’s probably already aware of it.”
“She hasn’t been to any of the DA meetings,” Alyssa points out. “Anyway, you could always talk to Lily, see what she thinks it was.”
“I don’t think she’d know,” Jeremy points out. “It’s not like she got hit or anything, thank Merlin.”
“And they were both duelling completely non-verbally,” Scorpius adds. “That’s what makes it hard. We can’t accuse them of using Dark magic unless we’re certain of it, and we can’t be certain if we didn’t hear the incantations or see the effects, no matter how highly tuned your intuition is, Jem.”
Jeremy grunts. “No harm in having a word to them, I’m sure.”
“And when was the last time you talked to any of the Darkies?” I ask.
“Talked to Damascus yesterday,” Jeremy says. “Asked him if he was going to be long in the bathroom, coz I wanted a shower.”
“That doesn’t count.”
“Sure it does,” Jeremy says earnestly. “A bit of general co-habitation conversation, shows we’re comfortable conversing with each other…”
“Then you can go ask Damascus very nicely to keep his duelling club magic legal,” I tell him.
“I’m all right,” Jeremy says. “Wouldn’t want to push the relationship, see.”
“And that’s why none of us are in Gryffindor,” Scorpius notes.
To say that Scorpius, Alyssa, Jeremy and I have avoided the Darkies for the past seven years is a bit of an exaggeration. We live with them; the Slytherin seventh-years are a relatively small group and seven years is a long time to share dorms with people without forming some kind of friendship with them. But the Darkies are different, it would be lying to deny it. They keep to themselves; their families are known to have connections to Dark magic (“Not that that means anything,” Scorpius has pointed out on several occasions) and they all seem slightly macabre; Emily Burke has drawn many a Dark Mark on the wall behind her bed and on her textbooks. They seem to get a kick out of intimidating other students as well; they stride down the corridors, heads held high, eyes blazing with purpose, never stopping to talk to other students. Dark is the best word I can use to describe them, too: not only for our suspicions on their magic, but in their appearance and attitudes as well. Damascus is big and brown; Natalia is thin and willowy, with shoulder-length black hair and dark makeup; Emily is pale with dark brown hair and piercing blue eyes, not as dark as the others, but somehow she comes across as more frightening than the other two; despite themselves, Damascus and Natalia seem human. Very powerful, but human. There’s something almost otherwordly about Emily, a sense that hasn’t really gone away even though I’ve seen the girl in her pajamas stressing about OWL exams.
So it’s to Natalia that I take my concerns about DA.
“Evening, Natalia,” I greet her casually. Sitting on her bed clad in green pajama pants and top emblazoned with the Slytherin serpent with damp hair, face free of makeup and a novel open in her lap, Natalia looks comfortingly normal and unthreatening.
“Rose,” she returns, which is as much of an invitation to keep talking as I’m going to get.
“Dragons Awakening tonight,” I begin.
“I was there,” she replies mildly.
“As was I, not sure if you noticed. Your duel with Lily Potter looked intense.”
“She shouldn’t have beaten me.”
“I’m not going to pretend I wasn’t surprised by that, but what I actually wanted to talk to you about was—how legal is your duelling magic?”
Natalia finally looks up from her book. “Legal enough,” she replies briefly.
“Legal enough?” I repeat.
“Look, Rose. Nothing I do in Dragons Awakening is going to land my opponent in the hospital wing with serious, irreversible injuries, or myself in Azkaban. I’m not that stupid.”
“Can you speak for Damascus and Emily as well?”
“I would assume so.”
“Nothing further,” I inform her, and make my retreat.
“Your holiday is over,” Scorpius declares ominously. We’re standing in the middle of the Quidditch pitch in the slowly closing darkness. It’s seven o’clock, it’s cold, it’s windy, and we’re not happy to be here.
“Wasn’t aware we had one,” Jeremy comments.
“We’re playing Ravenclaw in three weeks,” Scorpius continues. “Ravenclaw aren’t much in the way of competition, but I have a challenge for you. Let’s break some records this game, shall we?”
“Closest the Captain of any team has got to being murdered by his teammates?” Jeremy suggests.
“Grow some balls, Jeremy Nott, we’ve only had five practices this year. Do you want in this team or not?”
“Yessir,” Jeremy says humbly.
“All right, with that sorted, let’s get going. Alyssa, do you have something you can work on? Good. Danny, up the other end, I want us flying into the wind today. Rose, the Quaffle, if you please. Tobias, Anton—just some simple warm ups batting the Bludger back and forth would be good, then I’ll let you know what to do from there. Let’s go!”
Scorpius claps his hands sharply and kicks off into the air with Jeremy close behind him. I take the Quaffle from the wooden box on the ground and kick off, lobbing it towards Jeremy.
We’re in the air for an hour and a half, by which time the clouds have opened and the gloom and driving rain make visibility almost impossible.
“All right, you lot, that’s enough!” Scorpius yells, and we hit the ground with a relieved thud, trudging off in the direction of the changing rooms.
“Not bad,” he concedes, leading the way, “But there’s definitely some room for improvement. Rose, if you…”
“Tell me to fly any faster in a headwind and your ass is dumped,” I mutter through gritted teeth.
He holds his hands up in surrender. “Okay, okay. Practice tomorrow, same time.”
We groan, but I don’t think any of us were expecting anything different. The season starts officially in three weeks and Scorpius’s eyes are completely fixed on the Cup that has been residing in Professor Longbottom’s office for entirely too long.
“Lily,” the girl I duelled with at DA says, passing me in the corridor. I hesitate, wondering why she’s talking to me.
“I’m Natalia,” she says. “Perhaps you should duel with us again at DA next week.”
“Sure,” I agree, slightly confused by the offer of what seems to be friendship. By all accounts, she should hate me.
“You can duel,” Natalia explains briefly. “Not many others at Hogwarts can. You’re powerful, more so than most of the other students. If we’re going to benefit from Rose’s little idea, we have to be matched to ability.”
“Makes sense,” I agree. “Who’s ‘we?’”
“My friends,” Natalia says simply. “You met Damascus. And there’s Emily as well.”
“Right. I’ll see you then.”
“What did that creepy Slytherin girl want to talk to you about?” Molly asks conversationally.
“The DA,” I explain. “I duelled her last week and her friend the week before, and she invited me to join them. Says we need to be matched to ability.”
“What fun,” Cameron says. “I don’t think she’s cracked a smile the entire time I’ve been at this school.”
“They’re good to duel with,” I point out, though I’m not sure why I’m defending these people I don’t know and probably don’t really want to know.
Cameron raises his eyebrows. “Half those spells they were firing at you would have landed you in the hospital wing with life-threatening injuries.”
“How do you know?”
“I don’t, but they seem the types.”
“Way to stereotype, Cam.” I can’t really deny his words though; I got the exact same impression from Damascus and Natalia when I was duelling them.
The next DA meeting, Rose is conspicuously absent.
“Family crisis,” Jeremy Nott explains briefly. “I’m sure you all know the drill by now. Track down some random to duel with, and go for it. No killing each other.”
I seek out Natalia and her friends, who aren’t hard to find standing in a far corner of the entrance hall.
“Hello, Lily,” the girl I haven’t met says. She has the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen, and the way they seem to be boring into me is slightly unsettling. “I’m Emily.”
I’m about to say ‘I’m Lily’ before I realise the uselessness of such an introduction and content myself with nodding.
“Shall we duel?” she continues, drawing out her wand.
Emily, I soon learn, is a very interesting duellist. She seems to be watching me more than firing off any hexes, casting shield charms before I even get a chance to cast my own spells, and catching me the moment my guard is down. For all this, however, I’m more powerful than her, and my spellwork is better. Emily tends to move slowly, and after twenty minutes I manage to defeat her with a series of twelve rapid-fire hexes.
“Emily needs to work on her speed,” Damascus explains. “Natalia usually duels with her, and she’s getting better.”
“You would have to.”
For the first time, I manage to have a good look around the hall as dozens of pairs battle it out. Everyone seems so clumsy, yelling incantations, mispronouncing incantations, being hit by stray hexes from other pairs and moving and reacting so slowly I can’t believe they’re not doing it deliberately.
“They suck, don’t they?” Natalia says dispassionately. “See why we asked you to join us.”
I can see. It seems the three of them form the elite of Hogwarts’ duellists, and now I’ve been invited to join them. A thrill courses through me at the thought; finally, I’m doing something others hadn’t predetermined that I would do.
For the next couple of weeks, I duel with Damascus, Natalia and Emily without too many questions being raised. However, this armistice is short-lived.
“You friends with those creepy Slytherins?” The inevitable question comes from Al just before DA.
“Not friends,” I correct. “They’re my duelling buddies.”
“Don’t befriend them,” Al warns. “They’re creepy.”
“You called them creepy just before, no need to repeat yourself.”
“Well, they are, and Mum and Dad wouldn’t be happy with you hanging around them.”
“For Merlin’s sake, Al, I’m sixteen years old! You are not my keeper!”
“You’re my little sister, and I’m looking out for you.”
“Don’t give me that shit, Al, you’re just one more person trying to dictate my life, and I’m sick of it.”
“What’s gotten into you today?”
“I’m on my period.”
It works. Al backs off, staring pointedly at his shoes as he retreats. I know he won’t be back for a long time, and pointedly leave the common room early to meet Damascus and Natalia on their way from the dungeons.
“I have an idea,” Natalia says at the conclusion of the evening’s DA meeting.
“Continue,” Emily says.
“We should meet more often. In the Room of Requirement. That way we can practice some more advanced magic, without rubberneckers trying to see what we’re doing.”
“Good idea,” Damascus agrees, glancing briefly at where Rose and Jeremy are overseeing things.
“You in, Lily?” Natalia asks.
I hesitate. Something tells me they’re going to practice using Dark magic, away from prying eyes. The warnings of Al, Cam, Molly and everyone else who’s warned me away from them flash through my mind.
Just another way of trying to dictate my life.
Emily’s watching me very closely, and I can almost feel the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end; she seems to be looking straight into my mind with those ice-blue eyes.
Natalia glances at Emily questioningly.
“We can trust her,” Emily says softly. “She’s a Gryffindor and a prefect, but we can trust her.”
“Trust me with what?”
“With us,” Natalia says simply.
“You go out with Lorcan Scamander, don’t you?” Emily asks suddenly.
“What’s he like?”
“Well, he’s…What are you asking?”
“Is he powerful?”
“Can he duel?”
“Would he ask questions about what we’re doing? Would he disapprove?”
“No way,” I say, shaking my head. “My brother and my cousins have told me you’re creepy and not to hang around you, but if Lorcan did that I’d dump him.”
“Bring him along, then,” Natalia says. “Emily? You agree?”
Once again she looks at me, once again I feel unnerved by her gaze.
Natalia nods. “We’ll meet you in the Room of Requirement tomorrow at seven, all right? Do you know where it is?”
“Opposite the tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy on the seventh floor,” I recite. “Dad told me.”
I get a very cryptic owl message from Mum at breakfast.
I’m about to announce something to the Daily Prophet. There may be a fallout from it at school. If you have any concerns don’t hesitate to come home, even if it means skipping classes.
“What the hell can this mean?” I demand of Scorpius, shoving the note in his face.
“It means,” Scorpius explains calmly, “She’s going to suggest a controversial piece of legislation, and there’ll be people in the school who don’t agree with it.”
“But she told me to skip class,” I point out, extremely concerned. “This is my mother, telling me to skip class. What the hell is going on?” I can hear my voice rising in panic.
“She didn’t tell you to skip class. She told you to go see her if you have any concerns, even if it means skipping class. You know your mum, she worries too much about everything.”
“She also forced me to go to school when I had appendicitis,” I point out dryly. “I was eight, and the Muggle teacher sent me straight to the hospital.”
“Maybe she’s calmed down a bit since then?” Scorpius suggests.
“Okay, if your mum told you something was going to go down, and to take classes off to see her if you had any concerns, what would you think?”
“That she’s gone off her rocker, but she’s a Charms professor, not Minister of Magic. Your toast is going cold.”
I pick up said piece of toast, take one bite of it and drop it back on the plate. “Not hungry.”
“Bullshit,” Scorpius declares. “It can’t be that bad. What does she think will happen, we’ll all go after you with torches and pitchforks because you’re the minister’s daughter?”
“They’d be more likely to go after Hugo, he wouldn’t fight back.”
“Exactly. Now eat your breakfast, quit worrying about your mum, and worry about the Potions essay we were meant to have written last night.”
“It’s half done.”
“So you’re only half dead, then. Isn’t that nice?” Scorpius pulls out a piece of parchment with the words “Properties of Veritaserum” written on the top. “Here’s my essay.”
“Hand it in, I dare you.”
“You know what will happen if I do?” he asks, pulling out a quill and bending over the parchment. “Rochester will go to Mum, Mum will restrict the hours we can practice on the pitch for, and Mum will go after me threatening to make my life a living hell in the holidays, OR threaten to expose various secrets of my personal life to second-year Charms.”
“Your mum is awesome.”
“My mum is batty,” Scorpius counters. “When do we have Potions? Second, right?”
“Yeah, and History of Magic first, so you can write it then.”
“An excellent plan. When does the Prophet come out?”
“Lunchtime, they changed the issue time because all the major announcements from the Ministry are made in the morning.”
“Understandable. Don’t go crazy before then, all right?”
“That was stupid advice.”
“I know it was, but I had to say something. Supportive is in the job description of boyfriend, last I checked.”
“I’d be interested to see that job description at some point, see how long ago I should have fired you.” I push my chair back and walk around the table to return to the dungeons.
“Love you too!” Scorpius yells after me.
Several hours later I’m in the Great Hall to collect lunch and Daily Prophet when a hundred owls come flying into the hall carrying papers for the few students who care about the world around them and not just their grades, their friends and their hormones.
An owl flies towards me, recognising me as a subscriber, and I pull the paper off its leg and send it on its way, unravelling the paper and scanning the front page.
“Holy shit!” I yelp, scrunching up the paper and sprinting out into the quadrangle where Scorpius, Jeremy and Alyssa are sitting.
“Where’s lunch?” Jeremy asks immediately.
“Who gives a shit about lunch?” I cry, throwing the paper onto the grass. “Look at this and tell me you’re worried about lunch!”
“Statute…Of…Secrecy…Set…To…Go,” Alyssa reads aloud. “You can’t be serious!”
“My mother is!” I wail, dropping to my knees and forcing myself to read the article.
Statute of Secrecy Set To Go
In a shocking move, Minister of Magic Hermione Weasley announced plans this morning to remove Britain from the International Statute of Secrecy agreement. The move would see policies of secrecy lifted across the country and the integration of various areas of wizarding and Muggle life.
“It’s high time we did away with the Statute,” Weasley said in a statement to the Prophet this morning. “Since its inception in 1692, it has led to escalating views of blood purism by wizards. In alienating ourselves from the Muggle world, we encourage elitism, ignorace, intolerance and hatred, views that threaten to destroy us. Let none of us forget that Lord Voldemort and his followers’ principal purpose was to terrorise and hunt down Muggles and Muggleborn wizards. We can only move on from this so much with the Statute of Secrecy still in place.”
Weasley intends to begin integration as early as next year, saying, “We will, of course, enlist the help of the Muggle Government. The Minister of Magic has always made himself or herself known to the Muggle Prime Minister, and I have talked to him on a number of occasions. We will no longer have to regulate the playing of Quidditch, the transportation and keeping of magical creatures, or the use of magic in front of Muggles. We will coexist with them, in their cities, in their schools, in their universities and workplaces, and build a culture of integration, tolerance and friendship. It will no longer be a case of us and them, but us.”
“She’s serious,” I manage in a hollow voice. “She’s dead serious.”
“Wow,” Scorpius articulates.
“This,” Alyssa says, picking up the paper, “Is not going to be popular. Jeremy and Scorpius, you’re now Rose’s bodyguards.”
“I really don’t think that’s necessary, Alyssa,” Jeremy says wryly. “If anyone’s going to go after anyone, they’ll go after Hugo.”
“That’s what I told Scorpius this morning,” I agree.
I take a look around the quadrangle; a few people are coming back from the Great Hall with their papers, running towards their friends and yelling. I can’t see a single person holding a paper who seems calm, and a sense of foreboding settles over me. Oh Mum, what have you done?
“What the hell is this shit?” a Hufflepuff yells at me as he runs past, waving the Prophet.
After a long silence, Scorpius clears his throat. “So, ah, what are our thoughts on this?”
“I need time to think,” I say flatly.
“I think we all do,” Jeremy agrees, “Though I’m leaning towards a negative reaction, myself.”
“Likewise,” Alyssa says, nodding. “No offence to your mum, Rose, but this…”
“She’d be lucky if she survives the night,” Jeremy finishes.
“Jeremy!” Scorpius says angrily, and I look at him in surprise. He hardly ever raises his voice in anger, and certainly not to Jeremy.
“It was a joke, man,” Jeremy says hastily.
“It’s not funny,” Scorpius says, his voice shaking. “Because there are wizards out there who would do that, Jem, wizards out there who would do anything in their power to stop this from happening…I know, my grandfather’s friends with them. My grandfather would agree with them for all I know.”
“Scorpius, stop it,” I say quietly. “I don’t want to talk about this, I don’t even want to think about this.” Terrifying images of wizards in masks breaking into my house flood my mind, and I fight the urge to break down or run away.
“I’m sorry,” Scorpius mutters. “I didn’t stop to realise you’d hear that.”
No I’m sure your mum will be fine, I’m being paranoid I’m sure. Just you weren’t meant to hear that. The fact that Scorpius, always so calm, analytical and sensible, confirmed my fears makes me feel sick to my stomach. I know I’m prone to overreacting, but for Scorpius to agree…
“Come with me,” Scorpius says suddenly, seeing my face and pulling me to my feet. “Let’s go for a walk.”
We walk in silence down to the Great Lake, holding hands and waiting for the other to speak.
“Are you scared, Rose?” he asks finally.
“For Mum, yeah,” I say at length. “You’re right…there are wizards who would stop at nothing…The best thing to happen would be if she gets kicked out of office now, at least she won’t have any deadly enemies…”
“She won’t be kicked out,” Scorpius says simply. “She can’t be. Maybe if there’s no support behind it, it won’t get off the ground. It’ll be time to worry if there’s a group of supporters big enough to make it happen. Then she’ll have enemies. Rose, no matter what I said to Jeremy, we’ve come a long way since the days of Voldemort. There’ll be opposition, but the Death Eaters…they’re in Azkaban or they’re dead. They’re the only ones likely to go to extremes. I’m not trying to offer you meaningless words of comfort. The shit might not hit the fan at all, but if the shit hits the fan, I’m here and I always will be.”
I turn to him, burying my face in his robes. “Thank you,” I mumble into his chest.
“I haven’t done anything yet,” he points out, wrapping his arms around me.
“You’re here. That’s all I need.”
Lorcan and I meet Damascus, Natalia and Emily in the Room of Requirement that evening. Damascus, to my slight surprise, immediately steps forward and extends his hand towards Lorcan. “I’m Damascus,” he says.
“Lorcan,” he returns, shaking Damascus’s hand.
“I take it we all saw the Prophet today,” Natalia begins.
“Yes,” Lorcan says coolly.
“What are we thinking?”
Emily’s watching Lorcan again. I get the feeling he’s almost being tested.
“It’s unthinkable,” Lorcan says flatly. “There’s a reason that Statute was established in the first place. Just because a few hundred years have passed doesn’t mean we’re going to be any more accepted now than we were then.”
“If Hermione wants to be burnt at the stake by a bunch of angry Muggles that’s her problem,” I add. “But to condemn us all?”
“I’m glad we’re on the same page,” Natalia says. “The wizarding world has gone from strength to strength since the Statute was put in place.”
“It has,” Damascus agrees. “That, and how, exactly, are we going to integrate? Our worlds are entirely different. There’s no middle ground. It’s always going to be an us and them. Hermione Weasley’s asking us to throw away our culture, our heritage, our lives by throwing away the Statute, and I won’t stand for it.”
“Well said,” Lorcan agrees, and Damascus smiles at him.
“Now, what we’re here for,” Natalia begins. “Does anyone have any ideas on what we want to work on?”
“Start off with some extra power in the standard spells, perhaps,” Damascus suggests. “We can get into the heavier stuff later, but stuff like stupefy can be much more effective if we can cast them strong enough. I heard of a wizard who could knock people out for days with his stunners.”
“Good idea,” Natalia agrees. “The standard ways of casting spells more powerfully are, of course, related to intent, concentration and natural ability. For example someone like myself or Lily would naturally cast a stronger Stunning spell than someone like Emily.”
“Granted,” Emily says softly.
“We won’t actually stun anyone as yet,” Natalia continues. “We’ll just practice casting the spells at the walls for now. You should be able to sense the extra power in your spellwork. Eventually, we’ll choose a guinea pig, and we’ll get some pillows.”
We spend the next half an hour practicing our stunning spells on the walls, and slowly I can feel myself improving; my aim is better, but more importantly I can feel the power running through me, almost buzzing; a strength beyond what I’ve felt before. It’s almost intoxicating.
By the time we decide to start practicing the spells on the others, the Room of Requirement has supplied us with a large pile of cushions.
“That almost looks fun to fall into,” Damascus observes. “You can Stun me first.”
“With pleasure,” Natalia replies, and in seconds she’s whipped around and fired the curse towards Damascus, who’s thrown off his feet and flies several metres across the room to land on the pile.
“Rennervate!” Emily calls, and Damascus flounders to the top of the cushion pile, glancing at his feet and across the room to where he was, an expression of respect forming on his face.
“Nice work,” he tells Natalia. “You sent me flying.”
“I think we should extend the crash zone a bit,” Natalia says. “That wasn’t my best work, and you nearly went off the edge.”
“Good thinking,” Damascus agrees, shifting the pillows around.
“Lily’s turn,” Natalia says, waving me forward.
I summon all my power, concentrating hard on sending Damascus flying across the room.
Like a detonator, the word goes off in my head and the spell explodes from my wand, striking Damascus hard and flinging him high into the air. We watch in awe as he comes to a rest at the very edge of the extended crash zone.
“We were right about you, that’s for sure,” Natalia observes.
I’m buzzing for the rest of the evening, long after Lorcan and I have left the Room of Requirement and slowly started making our way back to our respective towers.
“It’s brilliant, isn’t it?” Lorcan asks quietly. “Having that much power, and being able to use it. I never knew I could cast a stunner with that much force. Those three are intense.”
“They are,” I agree. “It’s rewarding, do you feel that? Like you’re just drunk on your own power. I’ve never noticed it before, but now that I have…well, it’s like flicking on a light switch, isn’t it? The magic we learn at school barely scratches the surface of what we’re capable of.”
“That’s exactly it,” Lorcan says enthusiastically. “Breaking down the barriers of what’s expected.”
“You’ve never had a problem with that,” I comment, though my words come out more bitter than I intended them to be.
“I have,” Lorcan counters. “I just choose to rise above it. I don’t have to go out of my way to be different. I just am. Mum, Dad, Lysander…they’ve all got their heads in the clouds. I don’t want to be like that. I want to have a purpose-driven life…to strive for something and achieve it, to know who I am, what I’m doing and everything that’s happening around me. That’s just me. I didn’t just wake up one morning and pull my head out of the clouds.”
“But that’s just it,” I say. “I don’t know who I am. I’ve been living out of other people’s expectations of me for sixteen years.”
“You do know who you are,” Lorcan says. “Either that, or I know better than you know yourself. Maybe that is the case. But the real you, Lily—the real you is what I see in DA and what I saw this evening. The real Lily is a powerful and capable witch. The real Lily commands respect.”
“What do you think?” Lorcan asks, turning to me. “You don’t really need me to confirm that, do you? You already know. You know because ever since DA started and you began duelling with a higher calibre of wizard, it’s like a fire’s been lit inside you.”
“You do know me better than I know myself,” I say finally. Every word that Lorcan’s just said resonates within me. He’s right. He knows the real me. So do Natalia, Damascus and Emily. My parents, brothers, cousins, friends—they don’t.
Three days after Mum’s announcement, the mutterings around the school begin to take shape. As if I didn’t already know it, people are saying how the issue has created a major rift within the wizarding community, and groups are beginning to form. By the time the pro-removal group has formed as an organisation called Unity, I’ve made my decision.
I agree with the idea.
I know it’s absolutely crazy, but I agree. The longer we keep the Statute in place, the longer the wizarding world has to become intolerant and elitist. It took only three hundred years before Voldemort took over, and if it continues, it will only get worse.
“What are your thoughts?” I ask Scorpius hesitantly, walking along the edge of the Great Lake as the sun sinks behind the hills to the west.
“On the Statute?” he asks, eyes fixated on a clump of weeds at the edge of the water.
“No, on purple Pygmy Puffs.”
“I think…” he begins cautiously, and immediately my stomach drops; he’s going to be on the opposite side of this, and the prospect of disagreeing with him on something so major holds no appeal. Sure, we fight, we argue, he’s had pumpkin juice poured over his head in the Great Hall and my nerdytendencies have been insulted, but to disagree over something so fundamentally important? What will that do to us?
“I think your mum has a point,” he says in one breath. “I think she’s right, I think if we don’t lift the Statute pureblood families like mine will just get worse.”
“You agree?” I blurt in surprise before I can stop myself.
“I’m a Malfoy, Rose,” he points out curtly. “There are people who still look at me like dirt on the bottom of their shoe because of what my father and grandfather did in the Second Wizarding War. There are still Malfoys who look at me like I’m dirt on the bottom of their shoe because I don’t subscribe to their beliefs. I know what blood purism can do, and I’m fucking sick of the legacy.”
I don’t know what to say to that, but Scorpius doesn’t seem to expect an answer. He stops, picking up a stone from the shore and skimming it across the lake’s surface. He does that when he’s thinking. Some people drum their fingers on tables, some people run their fingers through their hair, some people just stare into space. Scorpius throws things.
“What about you?” he asks finally, talking to the lake.
“I agree with Mum,” I say, coming alongside him. “She’s right about the elitism. And you’re right about the elitism. Much as I hate to be seen as the Minister’s-daughter-of-course-she’s-going-to-agree, I think…it’s time for change.”
“Jem and ‘Lyssa probably won’t agree,” he says, addressing the hills on the far side of the lake. “They’re against it, I can tell already. And that could be an issue.”
“They’re our best friends, Scorp,” I say quietly. “Do you really think any idea of my mother’s could change that?”
“Your mother’s the most powerful and influential witch in Britain! This is huge, Rose, and you know it. I’m not stupid enough to believe you don’t realise that.”
“I realise it, I just don’t want to believe our friends will stop being our friends over this.”
“Wars have been started over far less.”
I glance sharply at him. “You think we should be worried about war?”
“I’m not going to say anything about war. But what I will say is this: You heard the Sorting Hat this year. ‘Troubled times are on their way. In times of darkness’ et cetera. Can you foresee a better catalyst for times of trouble than the restructuring of the entire wizarding world and everything we know?”
“No, not when you put it that way.”
Approximately three weeks later the official anti-my-mum’s-idea organisation is established and takes root within Hogwarts.
“DOWIAH,” Riordan explains, pinning a red badge with the word stamped across the front to his robes.
“And what’s that in English?” I inquire.
“It’s an anagram. D-O-W-I-A-H. Stands for Defenders of Wizarding Integrity and Heritage.”
Riordan raises one eyebrow. “You have a problem with the name, or the cause? Because the cause is absolutely worthy, and the name reflects the cause.”
“You’d be better off naming it Impenders of Progress.”
“And I’d be proud to, if destroying the wizarding world is your mother’s idea of progress!”
“Destroying?” I challenge. “Tell me, then, how is lifting the Statute destroying the wizarding world? Who’s dying? And how, dare I ask, are we going to avoid another Lord Voldemort if we keep promoting the idea that wizards are separate, superior and all-powerful by refusing to allow integration? Explain that to me, Riordan Carter.”
“How do you expect this to benefit us?” Riordan shoots back. “We go back to being persecuted and hounded. Muggles left, right and centre asking us to help them. Religious groups wanting to kill us. Does the word jihad mean anything to you?”
“Times have changed!”
“And they’ve changed from Voldemort’s time as well! Muggles are accepted amongst wizards, Muggleborns are respected, there are systems in place to prevent anti-Muggle hatred from taking root. We do not need to integrate our lives with them!”
“If Muggles are so accepted amongst wizards, why are so many of you parading around wearing badges to protest against interacting with them on a daily basis?”
“That’s not what we’re protesting against…”
“Yes it is, and you know it, no matter how you try to sugarcoat the issue. I’m going to History of Magic.”
“Yes, Weasley?” the ghost asks in a monotone, lazily gliding over the top of his desk.
“What are your thoughts on the lifting of the Statute of Secrecy?”
“The Statute of Secrecy!” Binns proclaims, and something almost resembling life seems to flood into his translucent face. “The Statute! I was there when it was signed! A marvellous, marvellous document, saved more lives than could be counted. Some say the Statute oppressed us, forced us into hiding, but no. No, I was there, when it was signed and in the days before. We were already in hiding, students, in hiding from the Muggles that endlessly hunted us, particularly the women—we lived in secret, in fear, yes indeed. But the Statute freed us, it did not entrap us or ensnare us! You of course all know the Statute lead to the creation of the Ministry of Magic, and from there our entire world sprang forth! Diagon Alley took off, the entrance to Gringott’s was made visible, the finest of witches and wizards were sourced and trained by the Ministries to cast anti-Muggle charms on whole villages such as Hogsmeade—we were no longer persecuted or made to live in fear. Students, the Statute of Secrecy is why you’re sitting here right now, why wizards did not die out in Britain hundreds of years ago.”
“The ghost has spoken!” someone calls, and I turn around to see Antigone Islington of Ravenclaw grinning with a DOWIAH badge pinned to her robes.
“Professor Binns!” I call, not wanting to let Antigone win. “What about today, does the Statute have any significance?”
“Of course it does!” Binns near thunders. “Didn’t I just tell you it’s saved your life and that of your ancestors?”
“Yes,” I say patiently, “But you haven’t left Hogwarts in four hundred years, Professor. The world outside has changed a lot.”
“Hmph!” Binns says. “Next you’ll be telling me they don’t burn or stone witches here anymore!”
“Well…you see…they don’t,” I explain. “There are laws in place. Nobody hunts witches anymore.”
“You’re the Minister’s kid, aren’t you?” Binns asks. “I may be old and I may never leave this castle but I still know a thing or two! Don’t you try to fool me!”
“She’s not lying,” Scorpius calls.
“No respect for your elders!” Binns bellows. “It kills me to know you’re just going to get worse and worse and here I am stuck for eternity teaching you disrespectful little waifs! Ten points from Slytherin!”
“Disrespectful?” Scorpius asks. “Professor Binns, it’s you being disrespectful, not to mention closed-minded and ignorant.”
“Twenty points from Slytherin!” Binns thunders, his features contorting in anger. “Four. Hundred. Years, and I have never had such rude, deceitful students! The Statute of Secrecy is our saving grace, and that Minister Weasley is out to destroy us!”
“If that’s what you think,” I say, getting to my feet, “Then let me give you another first in your four-hundred-year teaching career.” I walk out of the classroom, pausing briefly to call back, “And History of Magic is a load of bullshit anyway!”
Scorpius joins me seconds later, firmly closing the door on a blustering Binns and a classroom full of seventh-years struggling to comprehend seeing their Head Girl walk out of a lesson and swear at a teacher.
“You okay?” he asks.
“They’re. So. Stupid,” I manage, though my voice is shaking with anger. “It’s propaganda he’s teaching, outright propaganda, he hasn’t set a metaphorical fucking foot outside this castle in four hundred years, how dare he think he’s qualified to teach anything, to pass comment on anything that’s taken place outside these walls?”
“It’s one extreme or the other,” Scorpius says simply, leading me towards the library. “Because if the school tries to regulate what he teaches, sooner or later someone’s going to cry censorship. And that really is the last thing the Ministry needs, any accusation of propaganda, or the wizarding community will be on them like a ton of bricks.”
“Then just get the hell rid of him!” I cry. “He’s four hundred bloody years old, surely he’s due for retirement? Maybe some new blood? Maybe somebody with blood? Or some body, for that matter?”
“It’s an unfortunate situation,” Scorpius concedes. “Hogwarts is stuck with him, just like we’re stuck with Moaning Myrtle and the Baron and Peeves and all those other banes of our existence.”
“You missed a few,” I point out.
“Oh, some of them are all right. Nearly Headless Nick, he’s friendly enough. The Fat Friar, likewise for him. The Grey Lady minds her own business. The others, though? The Baron’s been a poster boy for clincial depression for a thousand years, and for some horrible reason we’re landed with him as our house ghost.”
“We’re also landed with Salazar Slytherin as our Founder, and he was the Dark Ages’ answer to Adolf Hitler,” I point out wryly.
“Morning,” Jeremy greets us as we enter the library.
I give him a quizzical look.
“Correspondence,” he explains, holding up a booklet of Muggle paper printed with various symbols and lines.
I’m fairly sure Jeremy Nott is the only Hogwarts student in history to successfully request a Muggle correspondence course in Calculus.
“So what are you doing in here?” he continues. “Shouldn’t you be in class? Skipping’s not a good look for the Head Girl.”
“Better than swearing at Binns and walking out of the classroom,” Scorpius says, “Which is what she did.”
“He was spreading propaganda about the Statute of Secrecy,” I explain. “And my mum. Jem—” I say, cutting myself off abruptly at the flash of red on his robes.
Jeremy fiddles with the DOWIAH badge. “I figured you’d know where my loyalties lie,” he says, staring at his shoes. “I’m sorry, Rose, but I don’t agree with lifting the Statute.”
“You’re holding a booklet for fucking Calculus by correspondence!”
Jeremy tosses said booklet onto a table behind him. “A few Calculus booklets are a far cry from lifting the Statute of Secrecy, Rose.”
“You’re a hypocrite,” I tell him angrily, turning on my heel and marching back out of the library, regret crashing in around me before my words have stopped echoing.
I’m not keen on proclaiming myself a member of DOWIAH yet, and remain neutral for weeks as Lorcan and I continue our duelling sessions with the Slytherins. They’ve slowly morphed into something less of a duelling session and more of a joint lesson in more powerful magic, and I’m enjoying it more and more each week as my skills improve and I learn more ways of using my power.
“Got something interesting lined up here,” Natalia says when we meet in the Room of Requirement again. “The Imperius.”
I feel my eyes widen in shock. The Imperius? An Unforgivable Curse?
“Calm down, my young one,” Natalia says, laughing at the expression on my face. “You’re a sixth year, a Gryffie, a Prefect and a Potter, so we’ll forgive you for looking so horrified at the thought of an Unforgivable. The Imperius shouldn’t even be an Unforgivable, but we won’t get into that. The fact is, Lily, what is darkness? Darkness is the absence of light. And what is light when it comes to magic? There is none. Even the little hexes you learn in first year can cause damage or harm to someone. Dark magic is misnamed; there is no light and there is no dark, and those who think there is are afraid of their own power.”
“Couldn’t have put it better myself,” Damascus says cheerfully. “Relax, Lily, we’re not about to go out and take over the Ministry of Magic with this stuff.”
I glance at Lorcan, but his eyes are alight at the prospect of learning the Imperius, and I have to admit I’m curious as well. To control someone else’s mind…It’s hard to believe that’s even possible, and I feel the urge to rise to the challenge.
“We can kill two birds with one stone here,” Natalia says. “Some of us will practice casting, the others practice blocking, which is of course an intensely difficult mental task in itself. Emily, I proclaim you teacher, because you’re good with the mind stuff.”
“You have to make a connection with the other person,” Emily begins, stepping forward and twisting her wand in her fingers. “Eye contact. Always use eye contact. Visualise the person doing what you want themn to do the entire time the curse is in place. When you’re casting, visualise them being under your control. And be purposeful. If you’re reluctant to take over their mind, it won’t happen. Lorcan, if you wouldn’t mind.” Emily gestures for him to step forward. “I’m just going to get you to walk around a bit. Imperio.”
I watch nervously as Lorcan walks in large circles around Emily, with glazed eyes and a relaxed, docile expression that reminds me of a mindlessly loyal puppy, and a shiver runs down my spine at the thought of being controlled like that.
“Teach me how to block it,” I say urgently, causing Emily and Natalia to turn to me in surprise. “I don’t want that to happen to me. Teach me how to block it.”
“It’s about willpower, once again,” Emily says, and I notice the almost ethereal tone is gone from her voice as she explains. “You have to focus, all the time, on what you want to do. The moment you listen to the internal voice of the caster, you’re gone. You have to know what you want to do, picture it in your head, never for a moment entertain the thought of obeying the voice, because that’s how they gain power of you and you can’t regain it.”
“Right,” I say determinedly.
“Shall I cast it on you?” Emily asks.
“As long as you promise not to do anything horrible to me.”
“It’s your job to make sure I don’t,” Emily says, before grinning at the nervous look I send her way. “Relax, I won’t make you do anything more than Lorcan. Imperio.”
I stiffen in nervousness. Don’t listen, don’t listen, don’t listen, I chant in my head over and over again. Think, what do you want to do? Even now I can feel my thoughts slowing down, as if my mind is thick with mud and they have to labour to get anywhere. Nobody said anything about this.
Step back, I tell myself, the moment I hear Emily’s voice in my head telling me to step forward.
No, but the idea of resisting seems to take so much effort, and obeying Emily’s command is so much easier…My mind is tired, it’s so tempting to just let go…
“Fight it, Lily,” Lorcan’s words break into the fog of my mind, and with renewed determination I force myself to step backwards.
Forward, Emily’s voice resonates in my mind, and suddenly the fog is thicker; my own thoughts and decisions are barely shadows in the distance, but still I fight it. Another step back. And another. Turn around. I’m fighting it, but how do I break it?
All of a sudden the fog seems to clear and I spin around to face Emily, my senses coming back to me in a rush.
“Not bad,” she observes. “I took it off for you, you may have noticed, but you managed to fight it.”
“How do I throw it off properly?” I ask. “I don’t want to have my senses impaired for the entire time someone’s trying to control me.”
“You may have to deal with that,” Emily says matter-of-factly. “It depends on the strength of the curse whether you’ll be able to throw it off at all or just keep fighting it. Most Imperius curses cast aren’t that strong, and continued resistance will eventually wear it down until you can throw it off. A weak curse will wear off without any resistance over time, but a strong curse…A strongly cast Imperius requires Occlumency to throw off or even resist, and that’s a whole new skill.”
“What was the strength of yours?” I ask.
“Average to start you off. I can cast much stronger than that.”
“I don’t doubt it,” I murmur.
Lorcan and I walk in silence back from the Room of Requirement. We’ve taken to walking in an almost full circle of the castle after our sessions in the RoR, though usually we’re full of excited chatter. I can’t help but feel the idea of the Imperius Curse has unsettled Lorcan, and I refrain from asking for fear of a massive disagreement with him.
Wait a minute. Does that mean I’m condoning the use of the Imperius Curse? Does that mean I’m not, in any way, shape or form, unsettled by it?
“Lorcan,” I say uneasily, breaking the silence.
“Is it worrying that I don’t have a problem with what we did back there? Is it worrying that I find it interesting, intriguing even, more so than anything else we’ve done so far?”
“Don’t ask me questions like that,” he replies abruptly, and I look at him in surprise. “I want to be powerful, I want to learn this magic, and I don’t want to question myself about whether this is right or wrong. If we were being asked to kill people, that would be a different story. But as it is, it’s harmless and I honestly do not give a shit whether it’s Unforgivable or not.”
“I’m glad we agree.”
That’s pretty much the only way I can summarise the way things are going right now. Half the school are swanning around with DOWIAH badges, Scorpius’ Dad is co-producer of DOWIAH’s official newspaper, The Voice of Reason, I have to try and lead a divided school alongside Riordan, a member of DOWIAH, and worst of all, Jem and Alyssa are no longer talking to me. A large percentage of the wizarding community have backed Mum—enough to get the Statute lifted, and DOWIAH have gone from an almost laid-back organisation to an active protest group, picketing the Ministry, coming to school, mass producing The Voice of Reason, in some cases even boycotting the businesses of Unity members. The Ministry itself is divided and the abuse is getting to Mum; Dad’s called me home in a panic twice in the last month because Mum’s had panic attacks and can’t cope. It’s becoming harder and harder to believe the change is worth it.
But I have to believe that it will be.
“Good morning, Rose,” Astoria greets me at the breakfast table. “A note from Professor McGonagall.” She drops a cream coloured envelope on the table in front of me and walks away, and Scorpius watches her go with an expression of slight dismay. Both Astoria and Draco are badge-wearing, placard-carrying members of DOWIAH, and Astoria’s attitute towards me has cooled significantly since I made it known I was a member of Unity.
I open the envelope and scan the brief note inside.
Please meet me in my office immediately.
Professor McGonagall, Headmistress.
Scorpius peers over my shoulder at the note. “What does she want?”
“I have no idea,” I say worriedly, folding the note and slipping it into my robes. “I’ll see you in first period, whatever it is.”
“Potions,” Scorpius supplies. “I hope it’s nothing too serious.”
At his words my heart skips a beat. What if something’s happened to Mum? I scramble out of my seat but Scorpius seizes my wrist. “Are you okay?”
“Fine,” I mutter, pulling free and bolting from the Hall. The corridors are empty, nobody around to wonder at my panicked sprinting through the castle. Skidding to a halt outside McGonagall’s office I manage to gasp out the password—Creevey—and continue up the stairs with no change of pace.
“Professor,” I announce, arriving in the doorway.
“Goodness, Weasley,” McGonagall says slightly disapprovingly, peering over her glasses at me. “There was no need to run.”
“You said immediately,” I explain lamely, feeling embarrassed but relieved; it can’t be anything serious.
“Immediately being as soon as you could get here moving at a dignified walking pace,” McGonagall says. “Take a seat.”
I do so, trying to read the expression on McGonagall’s face; no more or less severe than usual.
“There have been concerns about your loyalty, Rose,” she begins.
“My loyalty?” I ask, my voice rising in panic. I don’t know why, but I feel accused, and a horrible sense of foreboding comes over me.
“Yes, your loyalty,” McGonagall continues. “You’re the Minister’s daughter and a well-known member of Unity. There have been concerns that this may affect your ability to lead the school with impartiality.”
“What?” I explode. “My ability? Give me one example of when I’ve used my position as Head Girl to push my own agenda! Give me one way how I am somehow more of a threat to impartiality than Riordan Carter who coordinates the distribution of The Voice of Reason to every bloody student in the school!”
“Sit. Down,” McGonagall says, her voice icy. Seething, I force myself back onto the chair I just leapt out of. “You will not react like that in my office.”
“Excuse me, Professor.”
“I am aware of Mr Carter’s political activities,” McGonagall continues coolly, “However you are the Minister’s daughter. Riordan Carter’s family is in no way associated with DOWIAH or the Ministry of Magic, and he stands to gain nothing from his support of DOWIAH. The wizarding community is concerned that having Hermione Weasley’s daughter as Head Girl of Hogwarts is creating an imbalance.”
“An imbalance?” I ask, my voice shaking with anger. “How is there an imbalance, when Riordan is doing more canvassing for DOWIAH than I’ve ever done for Unity? I made sure that even during my mother’s election campaign I conducted myself with absolute impartiality and I’m sure you and the rest of the school are aware of that. I’ve done everything in my power, Professor, to keep my thoughts and views to myself. I don’t even wear a Unity badge.”
“I recognise that, Rose, but the wizarding community doesn’t,” McGonagall says apologetically, and it’s that tone of apology that tells me everything.
“You’re telling me,” I begin shakily, “That I have to step down as Head Girl?”
I. Will. Not. Cry. I. Will. Not…
“Who’s going to replace me?” I ask, my voice cracking on the final words.
“Don’t do this,” I whisper, hating the pleading in my voice even more than the tears in my eyes. “Professor, I’ve poured my heart and soul into this…”
“It’s not my decision, Rose. It’s the last thing I want to do.”
Silently I unpin the Head Girl badge on my robes and drop it into McGonagall’s outstretched palm. I had no idea something so simple could hurt so much. Turning away, I pick my bag off the floor and hastily leave the office, keeping my eyes fixated on the floor as I walk down to the dungeons, wishing with all my heart to run into Alyssa to have a shoulder to cry on…
I curl up on my bed, pulling the curtains closed around me. I’ve never felt so alone.
I miss Potions and History of Magic, which I’ve walked out of anyway. At interval Alyssa comes through the dormitory, and I have to fight the urge to break down again after her brief, dismissive glance in my direction. We were best friends for six years, how did it get to this in three short weeks?
I watch her as she rummages through her trunk, pulling out a few crumpled pieces of parchment and turning to leave.
Don’t go, my mind is screaming at me. Don’t go, I need you, you’re my best friend, please…
But she walks out without a backward glance, leaving unspoken words behind her, hanging in the air.
“Where were you?” Scorpius asks the moment I see him in the common room. “I went to the library instead of History of Magic hoping I’d see you there, what did McGonagall want?”
“I was in the dorm,” I reply, choosing to respond to only one of his questions.
He frowns. “Where’s your badge?”
That’s all it takes to set me off again, and I bury my face into his shoulder, crying uncontrollably.
“Rose, Rose, Rose, what’s going on?” He places his hands on my shoulders and pushes me back, forcing me to look him in the eyes. I attempt to duck away and hide in his robes again, but his grip on my shoulders is firm. “Tell me.”
You’re being stupid, Rose. Head up, shoulders back, be strong. “I’ve been stood down as Head Girl,” I tell him as calmly as I can before dissolving into tears again. This time he pulls me close and I cling to him as if my life depends on it.
“Rose, listen to me,” he says, addressing the back of my hair. “You’re not defined by your official title or the badge you wear on your robes. I’ve heard thirty-two people this year comment on how you’re the best Head Girl they’ve seen at Hogwarts, and that’s not going to change. I don’t care if you have a badge saying Head Girl or a badge saying Squib, you’re the leader of this school, more so than Riordan Carter, more so than any tramp they bring in from another house, more so in some respects than many of the teachers. You’ve lost the badge, but you don’t need to lose the position or the respect.”
“You’re amazing,” I mumble into his robes.
“I do try,” he replies. “Get back to your dorm, clean up, show up to Charms and prove you’re still Head Girl no matter who wears the badge. Who is wearing the badge?”
“That? Oh dear, sweet Merlin, McGonagall’s off her rocker.”
I grin in spite of myself and head for the bathroom, feeling slightly better. I’m not suited to wallowing in self-pity.
“You hear Rose’s been stood down as Head Girl?” Molly greets me first thing in the morning.
“Heard it from Lysander who heard it from Lorcan who heard it from Antigone Islington that Rose’s been stood down and Antigone’s taking her place.”
“Head Girl?” I repeat. “That whiny, up herself little shit?”
“Yeah,” Molly says.
“I dunno,” Molly shrugs. “I can’t imagine Rose doing anything wrong, can you? She’s like, the best Head Girl this place has seen.”
“Yeah,” I concede, pulling the curtains around my bed and getting dressed. “Bet Antigone’s even more full of it than she normally is.”
“Lorcan says she’s unbearable.”
“I can believe that.” I scramble down from the bed. “Breakfast?”
“Sounds good to me,” Molly agrees. “Voice of Reason comes out today.”
I glance at her. “Where do you sit with this whole thing anyway?”
“I don’t know,” Molly replies hesitantly. “I mean, it’s a good idea, I can see where they’re coming from, unity between Muggles and wizards, but…there are better ways of doing it. It’s going to ruin…no, I don’t want to say ruin, it’ll…”
“You can say it’ll ruin the wizarding world if you want to,” I offer. “I mean, I agree with you. Don’t look at me like that, do I have to agree with my parents on everything?”
“Good point,” Molly says, looking relieved. Now she knows where I stand, she loses her inhibitions and begins ranting about the proposal—well, ranting as much as Molly Weasley can rant, which isn’t much.
“It’s a terrible idea,” she says vehemently. “What’s going to happen to the jobs, to the Ministry, to everyone whose job it was to uphold the Statute—that’s a good several thousand jobs gone in one fell swoop, what happens if a bunch of Muggles take objection to us, the religious groups and stuff? That and what happens to our traditions, our history? We preserve the past and the Muggles just destroy it…”
“Exactly!” I cry, seizing Molly’s last point. “You look at their buildings, they’re horrible and modern, eyesores really, and what about their old buildings? Crumbling ruins. I don’t know about you, but I want to write my essays on parchment with a quill, not a computer. Even things made ten years ago are obsolete in the Muggle world.”
“It’s about history,” Molly agrees, nodding furiously. “And preserving it. Preserving our way of life.” She nods firmly to herself. “I’m going to track down Riordan Carter and ask for a DOWIAH badge this morning. What about you, Lily?”
“I don’t know,” I say hesitantly. Why am I unsure about this? I haven’t seen Natalia, Emily or Damascus wearing DOWIAH badges, and unless they start, I don’t want to wear one either. I don’t know why. They’re different, maybe DOWIAH is too “following the crowd” for them, and if I join DOWIAH they’ll see it as just following the crowd. About half the school is split into rival camps of Unity and DOWIAH, and it seems half of the badge-wearers are just following what their friends think. Maybe if there was another organisation similar to DOWIAH, I would join.
“Morning,” Lorcan greets us, skipping slightly to walk beside me. “Merlin’s beard, am I glad to be out of the common room.”
“Antigone?” I ask.
“Oh yeah. She’s been parading around Ravenclaw Tower with her nice shiny badge and a couple of her minions, putting on all these airs and…ugh. Dom took her down a peg or two though, took five points from her for bragging and calmly pointed out that because Antigone’s never been a prefect, Dom has the power to take points from her. It was worth losing the five points to see the look on her face, I assure you.”
“You guys are coming last anyway.”
“Exactly. Are we meeting up with the Slytherins tonight?”
“I think so, yeah.”
There’s pandemonium in the Great Hall when we enter it. The Voice of Reason is out, and the headline on the front page grips me with fear.
SUPPORT FOR MINISTER’S PROPOSAL ENOUGH TO PASS
“Shit!” I yell, shoving the newspaper in Lorcan’s face. “This can’t be happening.”
“Hold up,” Lorcan says. “It doesn’t say they’ve passed it. They’ve said there’s enough support for it to pass, but it can’t, not when nearly half the wizarding world is dead against it. Hermione wouldn’t be that stupid. Right?”
“I don’t know,” I say, panicked. “But it could happen, the Statute could be gone by lunchtime!”
The noise in the Great Hall swells as more and more students arrive for breakfast and see the Daily Prophet; I’ve never heard it this loud before. Nobody’s eating, a few students including Antigone are trying to organise a student rally to the Ministry in fifteen minutes; a mob of about fifty forms in front of her, jostling and pushing and throwing their fists in the air. Into this pandemonium strides Rose, looking more confident and authoritive than I’ve ever seen her before. Casting a Sonorous Charm as she walks, she steps onto a chair at the front of the hall.
“SILENCE!” she bellows, and a hush slowly descends over the hall. “What’s going on? What do you think a mass riot at Hogwarts is going to achieve? Kids in the hospital wing?” There’s an uncomfortable shuffling and to my astonishment a couple of juniors are helped to their feet from the floor with bloody noses and tear-streaked faces.
“You have no right to be standing up here!” Antigone yells at Rose, making her way towards her.
“Do I not?” Rose challenges. “You may have the badge, Antigone, but it means nothing if you’re in the midst of an angry mob, spurring it on instead of taking some leadership. I never want to see riots in the Great Hall over politics again,” she says angrily, turning back to the crowd. “Nothing will be done about lifting the Statute today or tomorrow or in the near future. Sit the hell down, all of you, and count yourselves lucky you didn’t cause any more serious injuries. Your priority is school, and I can assure you anyone who goes and pickets the Ministry during first period will lose fifty house points each.”
There’s an almost dead silence following Rose’s words and I watch as she steps down from her chair and returns to the Slytherin table. I don’t know what to make of the situation; it amazes me how quickly things got out of hand, and no matter how much I disagree with Rose’s viewpoint I can’t help but admire her leadership. Removing her from her position was a stupid thing to do, realistically. Both our Head Prefects are now members of DOWIAH and it’ll take next to nothing to stir the school into a mob again. But at the same time, I can’t help but look forward to an opportunity to do something, to stand up and fight for the wizarding world, and the thought of the school being stirred to fight alongside holds an appeal I can’t deny. This is going to get ugly, I can tell, but I for one am ready to stand and fight.
“We need to discuss something.” Natalia’s voice is low and almost ominous when we meet that evening in the Room of Requirement. “This morning showed that we need to take drastic measures to secure the future of the wizarding world. We could fall. We could lose all we have, all our ancestors have achieved, if this goes ahead. I don’t need to remind you how high the stakes are. So I ask you all, are you willing to do whatever it takes? Would you be willing to, if it comes down to it, give your life for this cause?”
Her words send a shiver up my spine, but at the same time I feel a stirring in my heart: Yes. We can fight, we can do something about this. We can stop the Statute from being lifted and preserve the wizarding world.
Around me, Emily, Damascus and Lorcan nod determinedly, and I nod as well.
“There is an organisation,” Natalia continues, and her voice drops to just above a whisper. “An organisation committed to preserving the wizarding world the way it is. To protecting our heritage and our integrity. To keeping us safe from persecution and oppression at the hands of Muggles. An organisation that is not afraid of the measures required to protect us. An organisation that I’m asking you all to be part of, with me. An organisation called the Honour Guard.”
The midwinter sun shone down on the houses lined along the quiet, suburban street. Voices burbled through open windows, birds fluttered among the bare branches of trees that stood starkly against the cloudless blue sky. Halfway down the street one house lay silent; built of red brick and half-hidden by an overgrown garden spotted with colour, it was indistinguishable from the others around it. As the postman made his way up the cobblestoned path, a sense of unease fell upon him. Everything seemed so silent and still; no bees buzzed through the garden; no birds perched in the branches of the trees. Peering curiously through a window as he passed, he saw no signs of life within, just an elderly dog asleep in a patch of sun coming through the window.
He knew the dog; every day without fail it would bark three times as he pushed the mail through the slot, and he waited for the sound as he slid three envelopes through into the hallway.
The dog didn’t bark.
Confused, the postman returned to the window, tapping on the glass. Still the dog didn’t stir. Was he dead? If so, where was Erin, the owner of the house? It was midmorning, and just as sure as the dog barked every day, so Erin called a cheerful thankyou through the mail slot.
It’s probably nothing, the postman told himself, but he couldn’t shake his sense of unease, and after he’d finished his round, he went past the house again. There were still no signs of life, and he knocked hesitantly at the front door. No answer. He peered through the mail slot and recoiled; at the foot of the stairs lay a dead cat, the carpet around it stained red with blood.
“Hello? My name is Andrew Norton, I’m the postman for…No, of course. There’s something unusual about one of the houses on my round…Very unsettling, I’d appreciate if someone could come around and have a look…Seventeen Winchester Drive…Well, you see, the lady at the house is always up and about when I deliver the mail, and her dog always barks, but this time it was dead silent, and…Yes, I understand that, officer, but you see, I peered through the mail slot, worried about her I was…No I wouldn’t normally, officer, but there was a cat at the foot of the stairs…looked like it had been slaughtered, blood all over the carpet…Yes, that would be fantastic if you could have a look, I’ve tried knocking at the door and no response…The car’s here and everything…Thank you, officer, see you in a bit.”
His anxiety slightly relieved, the postman sat down on the edge of the footpath to await the police. The weather had turned; the sky was now an ominous grey, clouds heavy with rain, and a chilly wind swept through, rustling the plants in the garden.
A single patrol car pulled up beside him and he scrambled to his feet, shaking the constable’s hand and repeating his observations from the morning. “…And there’s a dead cat on the stairs, officer, nasty business indeed.”
“Thank you, sir,” the constable said. “According to our records Miss Erin Bickerman lives alone, no kin living close by…It’s the observations of people such as yourselves that help us discover when something’s wrong. I’ll take a look inside, there’s likely to be nothing amiss, but thank you for your call anyway.”
Constable Joshua Parkinson dismissed the postman, logging the details of the callout as he approached the front door. There was something unusual about the place, but he doubted he would find anything out of the ordinary inside.
“Miss Bickerman?” he called, knocking on the door before falling silent, straining to hear a reply. None.
“Miss Bickerman, it’s Constable Joshua Parkinson from the London Police, is everything all right in there?” He tried again.
Still no response, and Constable Parkinson tried the door; it was locked, as expected. He took out a laser pen and seared the lock off, swinging the door open and stepping inside.
The smell of death hit him; the cat the postman had described was lying at the foot of the stairs, blood spattered for several metres around it. Feeling uneasy, Parkinson took out his iContact, preparing to call for backup if necessary, and proceeded through the house. “Miss Bickerman?” he called again, walking through the kitchen. It was immaculate; Erin Bickerman must have cleaned up last night before going to bed, and she hadn’t been up since then. Parkinson saw the dog the postman had mentioned; it was dead, but it appeared to have passed peacefully in its sleep; it was certainly not a young dog. But two animals dead, and no sign of the owner…It was too much of a coincidence for Parkinson, and he called the station as he strode up the stairs.
“Hunter? Parkinson here. I’m at an address belonging to a young woman living alone, just looking for her now but there are two animals dead at the address, bit too creepy for my liking. I’d like you to have a couple of patrol cars and an ambulance on standby in case I find something…Oh my holy God.”
“Potter!” Dean Thomas called, striding into the Auror Office. “Bad news, I’m afraid. Do you remember a young woman called Erin Bickerman?”
Harry squinted at Dean. “Late twenties, living alone, half-blood witch working as a primary school teacher at a Muggle school?”
“That’s the one,” Dean confirmed. “She’s just been found dead in her home.”
“Very.” Dean’s voice dropped as he gave the details of the case. “No sign of forced entry, the house was still locked, except for an unlocked back door. We’ve got a dog dead of apparent natural causes—”
“We all know what that means,” Harry muttered.
“Yes, but it doesn’t seem as clear-cut as that. The dog was old. Very old. There was a cat slaughtered on the stairs—stabbed—and the woman was stabbed as well. Name me one case involving Dark wizards where they killed with a knife, Harry.”
“They left the knife in the room.”
“What other details are there?”
“Her bedroom door was closed, and she was inside. On the door was a large wooden cross. Nailed. Carved into it were the words ‘God Has Judged.’”
Harry sucked in his breath. “That’s even worse than Dark wizards. How did they know she was a witch?”
“I don’t know,” Dean said, spreading his hands in confusion, but Harry was already striding out of the office.
“Find your Muggle police uniform and meet me back here in twenty minutes.”
An hour later Dean and Harry climbed out of a ‘borrowed’ police car outside Erin Bickerman’s address. A number of police officers were at the scene and an ambulance has just left.
“Good evening, constable,” Harry greeted the first officer, extending his hand. “Detective Inspector Harry Potter, and this is my assistant, Constable Dean Thomas.”
“Constable Joshua Parkinson, sir. I was the one who discovered the body.”
“What do we know?” Harry asked conversationally, strolling alongside the constable as they followed the cobblestoned path to the front door.
“Looks like the work of a religious cult. There was a wooden cross nailed to the door of the room that contained the deceased, engraved with the message “God Has Judged.” The deceased appears to have died of multiple stab wounds, and the knife we believe to be the murder weapon was left on the floor.”
“Tell me about the dog,” Harry said.
“A dog that appears to have died of natural causes?”
“Oh, yes, the dog. We haven’t done an autopsy of it, but the most likely explanation is that it died in its sleep before the murder took place.”
“May I see it?”
Seeming a little confused, the constable led Harry and Dean through into the kitchen where the dead dog lay.
“If you’ll excuse us,” Harry said, and the constable left the room.
“You don’t want to see the body?” Dean asked in a low voice.
“Not yet. It seems pretty clear-cut, apart from this dog. Would you say it looks like an Avada Kedavra?”
“Could be,” Dean conceded, peering at the dog, “Mind you, it’s a pretty weird position for a dog that’s just been cursed to be in. He looks like he’s just fallen asleep. It could be a coincidence.”
“Could be,” Harry agreed, glancing over his shoulder, taking out his wand and quickly casting a spell. “But Dumbledore told me when I was sixteen that Dark magic leaves traces.”
“And nothing,” Harry muttered, frustrated. “Nothing. The dog died naturally. There’s no trace of Dark magic. Which means our work here is done, and a report will have to be made to the Ministry. A hate attack on a wizard by a Muggle—we haven’t had one of those in two hundred years.”
The next issue of The Voice of Reason nearly causes another riot in the Great Hall, and my stomach drops when I read the headline.
“This is bad news,” I mutter, passing the paper to Scorpius. “Really bad news.”
“Hate killing by extreme Muggle cult,” he reads. “This just backs up DOWIAH’s chief argument. Merlin’s beard, it’s creepy…stabbed her, stabbed her cat, nailed a cross to her door. How in the name of all that is magical did they find out she was a witch? How many wizards do we have living as Muggles anyway?”
“Forty-eight,” I reply. “Unity’s systematically interviewing the lot of them—well, I suppose it’s forty-seven now, isn’t it?”
“I guess this is that the Hat meant,” he comments. “This is getting bad.”
“What, you think they’re interrelated?”
“How could they be? The Auror Office investigated, went to the crime scene, and declared it the work of a cult, and there’s nothing in the world Harry Potter would overlook when it comes to a case like this. If he says it’s the work of Muggles, it’s the work of Muggles. But it’s bad news at any rate, especially for our cause. It’s going to do nothing but fan the DOWIAH flame.”
“That’s what I’m worried about,” I agree. “Support for Mum hasn’t decreased, but opposition has increased, and more importantly, it’s increased in intensity. I have a terrible feeling there’s going to be a picketing of the Ministry tomorrow, and half the school will be missing from class.”
“Are the head prefects organising it?”
“If they are they’re doing a shit job of being head prefects,” I growl, my resentment flaring up again. “And if they are Antigone’s going to wake up tomorrow with no face. I have nothing to lose.”
Scorpius cocks his head in curiosity. “How are you going to manage that?”
“When there’s a will, there’s a way,” I say airily.
“Maybe so,” Scorpius agrees. “What do you think about starting a student branch of Unity? I’m pretty sure there’s one for DOWIAH, either that or Mum’s been holding large meetings with fifty plus students in her classroom in the evenings for shits and giggles.”
“Good idea,” I say, nodding. “So long as we can track down a teacher to support us—it’ll have more weight that way.”
“We don’t need a teacher,” Scorpius points out. “We’re born leaders, we are.”
“Granted. What do you think we should do about Dragons Awakening? Try and revive it?”
“If you want to add fuel to the fire,” Scorpius says, shrugging. “I can see a Unity member and a DOWIAH member facing off in a duel and someone ending up in the hospital wing, but that’s just me. That, and good luck getting Jem and Alyssa back on board.”
“Don’t remind me.”
“But yeah,” I say, returning to the topic at hand, “Teddy might be interested.”
“Good thinking. And we can borrow his classroom, the Room of Requirement’s a bit too clandestine.”
“See, that’s why I wanted to find a teacher. Shall we ask after Transfiguration? I assume he’s part of Unity.”
“Of course not, he’s a placard-waving member of DOWIAH.”
“Hey, Teddy,” I begin, hanging back as the rest of the class files out of Transfiguration.
“You talking to someone, Rose?”
I roll my eyes. “Professor Lupin.”
“Yes, Rose, how may I help you?”
“Are you a member of Unity?”
“Course, you had to ask?”
“I was just making sure. Would you want to be involved in a student branch of Unity?”
“Gee, I’d love to, Rose, but I’m not a student.”
“A Hogwarts branch then, if you want to be pedantic.”
“Are you sure this is legal?”
“If it’s not, then half the school including the Head Boy, Head Girl and Ast—Professor Malfoy are breaking the law, because there are weekly meetings of DOWIAH.”
“Count me in. Do I have to lead anything?”
“I’ll take care of that.”
“I thought you would. What do you need me for? My sparkling personality? My classroom?”
“Both would be great.”
“When are you planning to hold this meeting?”
“Uh…Wednesday night. Why not Wednesday night? Okay, Wednesday night. Seven o’clock. Here.”
I don’t bother posting notices about Unity in the Slytherin common room, but recruit minions from Gryffindor, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw to put posters up in their common rooms, and by 7pm on Wednesday night about sixty students have squeezed themselves into Teddy’s Transfiguration classroom.
“Welcome to the first meeting of the student branch of Unity,” I begin. “Next week, we’ll move it to somewhere bigger, but for now you can all pack in like sardines. Nothing like suffering for the cause, am I right? No? It’s okay, I brought freebies for you all.”
I pass out dozens of copies of Progression, the official Unity newspaper, and allow fifteen minutes for people to flick through them while I observe who’s here. Albus, Fred, Molly, Roxanne, Lysander, little brother Hugo and a great many people I’ve never met before.
“Right,” I begin, clapping my hands for attention and fishing behind myself for a pile of parchment and quills. “Who found that ever so slightly dull and boring?”
There’s a general murmur of assent and I pass around the parchment. “Good, because the first thing we’re going to do is send in things to make it better. Letters, essays, cartoons, anecdotes, anything, and I’ll owl it off to Mum tonight. That’s right, I have connections. So hop to it.”
“With the cartoons,” Fred begins, “Can we draw insulting pictures of various DOWIAH members suffering varying degrees of humiliation?”
“It depends what DOWIAH members you’re talking about,” Scorpius says warily.
“The Head Prefects.”
“By all means!” I say emphatically. “Not that I have anything against them or anything, I’m sure they’re lovely…No they’re not, they’re arsewipes. It probably won’t get published, but it’s worth a try.”
“It’s for our own gratification,” Fred explains. “Doesn’t need to be seen by anyone else.”
For the next hour and a half we work together on articles, essays, letters, cartoons and creative writing tasks about integrating with Muggles, and by the end of it I feel like I’m walking on air, having spent so long having fun and spending time with people who don’t want my mother dead. It’s refreshing.
“Good work, Rose,” Teddy says as Scorpius and I stay behind to help clean up. “You planned that well.”
“Thank you,” I say, scooping up a particularly well-drawn depiction of a Hippogriff defecating on Antigone’s head and tucking it into my robes. “I should go owl these contributions.”
“I’ll come,” Scorpius volunteers, and Teddy frowns at us.
“Don’t let me catch you two going at it on the floor of the Owlery,” he warns.
“Oh please. The Owlery?”
“We have a bit more class than that.”
“The Room of Requirement’s a great thing.”
“We’re kidding, Teddy!”
“Room of Requirement, seven pm tonight,” Natalia whispers as she and Damascus pass me in the hallway on the way to breakfast.
I track down Lorcan to pass on the message. “Wonder what that’s about.”
“Possibly the Honour Guard,” he whispers, eyes alight at the thought. “I can’t wait to find out more about it. And to do something to stop the Statute being lifted. Something huge, I gathered from Natalia’s speech the other night.”
“That we can be part of,” I add, sharing in Lorcan’s excitement. “But for now, we’ve got Defence Against the Dark Arts. Kind of a delicious irony, isn’t it?”
“Maybe we could demonstrate to Professor Bones how to cast a good Imperius,” Lorcan continues, eyes twinkling. “I love that one. I shouldn’t, but I love it.”
“Good evening.” Natalia’s voice is smooth and cool. “Glad you could make it.”
The Room of Requirement looks significantly different to usual; today it’s a small, bare room with stone walls and stone floor, like an extension of the corridors. At Natalia’s feet lies a copy of Advanced Potion Making.
“Been studying?” Damascus asks, raising an eyebrow at the book.
“This,” Natalia says, picking it up from the floor, “Is a Portkey, and it’s leaving in thirty seconds. Good thing you were prompt.”
“Where’s it going?” Lorcan asks.
“Headquarters,” Natalia replies, holding it out. “Of the Honour Guard.”
“Which is where?” Damascus asks.
“You’ll find out in twenty seconds, now put your hand on the book.”
I glance at Lorcan, who shrugs and places a palm on the front cover.
“Ten seconds,” Natalia warns, and I quickly seize a corner of the book.
“Ever used a Portkey before?” Damascus asks.
“Thought so, you’re gonna have to hold it tighter than that!”
Heart racing, I grip the book harder as the room seems to spin out of control, blurring into nothing, and I feel something yanking at my stomach. I’m falling; falling through time and space, collapsing in a heap on a cold wooden floor.
“Gerroff me,” Damascus growls at Natalia.
We struggle to our feet, coming face to face with one of the most commanding witches I’ve ever seen.
She’s tall, taller even than Natalia, with long, dark hair tinged with red that flows as a river down her back. Her eyes are dark with unflinching authority; she stands proud and regal, dressed in an almost medieval dark red gown and a black cloak fastened at her chest with a gleaming silver brooch embossed with the Slytherin serpent.
On either side of her stand two men; one clearly much older, but whose shoulder-length brown hair and goatee show no signs of grey. His eyes glitter with malice; gaze raking over us in a manner which sends shivers down my spine.
The other man is younger, unflinchingly still and regarding us with ill-disguised contempt through wisps of black hair. He stands apart from the others, coldly emanating power.
“Welcome,” the woman says at length, strolling around us and revealing another three men behind her. “The Hogwarts students. You are willing to join our cause?”
“Yes,” Natalia replies with unwavering confidence, looking the woman in the eye.
“I’m glad to hear it, Natalia,” she says softly, and her voice makes me think of an eagle—swooping silently with talons outstretched. “Now…what do we have here? This is a curiosity.” She stops her pacing, coming to stand face to face with me, her eyes searching mine.
“Lily Potter, if I am not mistaken.” She whirls around, snapping her fingers and striding away. Without a word spoken between them, the younger man steps forth, wordlessly raising his wand. A wave of panic washes over me—what’s he going to do? Is he going to kill me? Torture me? I don’t dare speak, simply watch the man. He utters no incantation, but immediately my mind begins racing, memories and thoughts flying through my head, as if they’re being sifted through.
I refuse to show my fear, standing defiantly as the man flicks through my memories. I have nothing to hide.
Lowering his wand, the man steps forward. “Daughter of the Chosen One,” he begins with a slight sneer, “You are willing to join us.”
“A delicious irony,” he observes, and I remember saying the exact same thing to Lorcan only hours before. “You enjoy power, Lily.”
“So, it would appear, do you.”
“I do not recall asking you to analyse me. However, entirely correct. Everyone in this room has power, Lily Potter, and is willing to use it. We use any means possible to achieve our goals. You understand this concept?”
“Shall we introduce ourselves?” the woman asks. “Natalia, you and your friends first, if you will.”
“Natalia Dolohov,” she says briefly. “Emily Burke. Damascus Zabini. Lily Potter. Lorcan Scamander.”
“Scamander?” the woman repeats, raising her eyebrows. “Any relation to Luna?”
“She’s my mother,” Lorcan replies stiffly.
“Another one,” the woman notes. “But I digress. My name is Medea Avery. Octavian Prince—” she gestures to the Legilimens—“Rabastan Lestrange—” to the older man beside her, “And behind me, Adrian Rosier, Emerson Montague and Cadmus Lestrange.”
She steps aside and, as if in a rehearsed move, the three men behind her step forward. One of them, Adrian, looks maybe twenty-five, the others look like they’ve just left Hogwarts in the last couple of years. I thought Damascus, Natalia and Emily were powerful, but standing in this room the very air seems charged with magic and a shiver of excitement runs through me; I know without having to see them in action that any one of these wizards standing before me could take on Dad in a duel and win
“Shall we get down to business, then?” Medea asks. “You young ones will need training. Natalia, I can imagine you’re the leader of this little group, what have you taught them?”
“Just the Imperius, casting and blocking. It was more Emily teaching them, though.”
“Ah yes. Emily Burke, you’re very accomplished at mind games, aren’t you? Are you a match for Octavian?”
“Easily,” Emily replies, turning her gaze to Octavian. “You doubt me. You think I can’t penetrate your mind, and you look forward to proving me wrong. As I speak, you panic, because you realise I have. Too late, you start to build your walls, and attempt to convince me they’ve been there all along.”
“Non-verbal Legilimency,” Octavian says curtly, nodding at Emily. “Wandless, too, I assume?”
“Naturally,” Emily replies calmly.
“Their other talents?” Medea asks, turning to Natalia.
“Lorcan’s very good at focused, complex magic. Lily’s a duellist, Damascus has powerful combat skills, but he’s not as good at one-on-one.”
Medea nods. “Good. A good selection. Our next…mission will be in three weeks time, and I would like to take a few of you. Lorcan Scamander, I want you to work with Adrian; there’s some very complex magic required and I need to know you can do it. Emily Burke, you’re working with Octavian. Lily Potter, work with Cadmus, he’s a duellist. Natalia, you’re with me, which leaves Damascus with Rabastan. Emerson, what can we do with you? Go with Lorcan and Adrian. When is curfew at Hogwarts?”
“Ten for seventh-years, nine for sixth-years.”
“Sixth-years?” Medea repeats, glancing at us. “Who’s a sixth-year?”
“Us,” I reply, gesturing to myself and Lorcan. “But we’re prefects, so we have the same curfew as the seventh-years.”
“Good,” Medea says. “Because I don’t want anyone nosing around why you weren’t back in time. Do I need to tell you this is a top-secret organisation? We get found out, we go to Azkaban. Even you kids.”
“I hate Christmas,” I grumble, stomping through the common room and pulling a piece of red tinsel from the walls. “What the hell is this? We’re Slytherins! We don’t DO Christmas cheer! Especially not when it comes in Gryffindor colours!”
“Like you have anything to complain about,” Scorpius mutters, pulling down some golden tinsel. “I see what you mean about the Gryffindor colours. I asked Mum if I could be the prefect-in-charge over the holidays—Didn’t stand a chance, of course.”
“Yeah, it would help if you were a real prefect and not just Quidditch captain.”
“We’re still allowed to be prefects-in-charge over Christmas. But no, Jem got in first.”
“Damn,” I comment. “Would have been nice to have some authority again—not that Astoria would leave me in charge, she thinks I’m the devil incarnate.”
“I wouldn’t go that far. Just corrupting me into betraying my whole family. Like I said, Christmas is gonna be fun.”
“Bout as fun as mine, our house has a fifty percent chance of being broken into by Dark wizards and my family being murdered.”
“Your mum would let you come home with that threat?”
“Yeah. Her exact words: ‘If we die, we die together.’ She’s gone fucking mental.”
“We knew that a long time ago,” he says with a grin, and I punch him on the arm. “Oh, shitballs. Voice of Reason comes out today.”
“What can it say that it hasn’t already said?” I ask.
He contemplatively tosses a wad of tinsel at the wall. “Heard Mum sending off a thousand Patronus messages—”
“She knows how to do that?”
“Oh please. She’s not Charms professor for nothing. It was after the Prophet came out, she’s been in the Auror Office’s back pocket…”
“Don’t tell me.”
“The Muggle cult strikes again,” he mutters. “So there’ll be rioting in the Great Hall in approximately ten minutes.”
We hear the beginnings of mutiny long before we get near the Great Hall, and around us students break into a run at the sound of the uproar. Scorpius and I exchange glances and bolt towards the hall, where the noise swells to a crescendo. It’s pandemonium in the Hall; students have leapt up onto tables shouting, copies of The Voice of Reason are being hurled everywhere, as I watch Riordan and Antigone clamber onto a table, joined almost immediately by a number of DOWIAH members; they’re shouting something and slowly but surely hundreds of students take up the chant: “Muggles Are Murderers! Muggles Are Murderers! Muggles Are Murderers!”
“This is going to be bad,” I mutter with rising trepidation.
“Enough is enough!” Antigone shouts, waving her arms for silence. “It’s time for ACTION! Who’s with me?”
Seeing red, I stride towards the table; she’s going to make things worse, stirring people up; there are a thousand students in this hall and a stampede or a riot could be fatal—
The crowd screams in agreement and surges forward.
“No!” I shout, but Antigone’s waving her hands, pumping her fist, shouting something.
“Get out of the crowd, Rose, you’ll get crushed!” Scorpius yells at me.
I raise my wand.
“Stupefy!” I bellow, and a jet of red light hits Antigone full on; I watch as she falls, first to the table and then to the stone floor behind it. “Impendimenta!” at Riordan and he stumbles, and hundreds of faces turn to me.
“Rose!” Scorpius yells, panicked, and time seems to stand still as the crowd surges towards me.
“Impendimenta!” I cry desperately, and a panic floods through me as the students hit by my spell stumble and fall in front of the rest of the crowd. “Scorpius, help me!”
“Accio broom!” he shouts, and I wheel around. “Moneo extremus!” I yell, firing the spell at the Hogwarts crest high above the points hourglasses; instantly a loud klaxon blares throughout the castle.
“We’re going to the Ministry!” someone screams from the middle of the crowd, and they surge forward once again. Scorpius leaps onto the broom he summoned, dragging students from under the feet of the crowd and flying out of the hall.
“Someone’s going to get killed!” I yell, desperately trying to calm the crowd.
“Someone already has!” a voice calls. “By Muggles!”
A deafening roar comes from this statement and four hundred students push forward once again. This time I’m swept into the crowd, fighting and gasping to stay on my feet.
“Your mum’s going to kill us all!”
“She’s destroying us!”
“We’re not interested in your shit!”
Panic rises like bile in my throat as I’m carried further into the heart of the crowd; I’m being crushed, I can’t breathe, I pray that the teachers will come soon but even then I don’t know what they could do…
The crowd rears back suddenly; a barrage of curses has just hit the outer edges and the atmosphere turns to panic; I’m thrown to the ground and roll instantly into a ball, casting a Shield Charm around myself and watching in horror as the crowd turns into a stampede; curses fly everywhere and my heart nearly stops when I see a flash of green.
No, I tell myself. No, this is Hogwarts, that would never happen, oh God…
Hermione and Ron Weasley stood as one to face the barrage of reporters crowded into the Entrance Hall at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The Great Hall now lay silent and dozens of sombre photos had been taken of the scene of the tragedy. Now the cameras flashed over and over again, capturing the tears on the Minister’s face and the haunted look on her husband’s.
Ignoring the shouted questions, Hermione raised her head to meet the crowd, and her eyes blazed with burning passion.
“We are treating the murder of our son Hugo as an act of war.”
“Lily!” I hear Natalia’s voice carrying clearly from outside the portrait hole. “Lily Potter!”
“Who’s that?” Roxy asks.
“Friend of mine,” I reply briefly, making my excuses to the group and hurrying down the stairs.
“What’s up?” I ask through the portrait hole.
“Something that we won’t discuss here,” she replies briefly. “Now get your arse out here before I blow the portrait to pieces.”
“Excuuuuuse me!” the Fat Lady protests.
I clamber out of the hole, meeting Natalia, Damascus and Emily outside. “You’re getting Lorcan,” Damascus says. “We’ll meet you outside the Room of Requirement. Don’t be any more than eight minutes.”
They hurry off, leaving me slightly confused as to what’s going on. The school seems quieter somehow as I cross the castle towards Ravenclaw Tower; there are few students around, and the ones I do see are striding past with their eyes fixed on the ground, or walking in silent groups. The incident in the Great Hall this morning left everyone shaken, and I myself am struggling to comprehend how the situation escalated so quickly.
“What came first, the chicken or the egg?” the bronze knocker asks me.
“That can only be answered by people present at the beginning of time.”
“A fair point,” the knocker concedes, and the door swings open. I hurry up the stairs, hesitating in the doorway of the common room. There must be seventy students in there, but it’s dead silent.
Hugo. Of course.
I scan the room for Lorcan, spotting him leaning against a far wall. I catch his eye and he quickly crosses the room, pulling me halfway down the stairs before speaking.
I shrug. “We’re meeting the Slytherins in the Room of Requirement in about four minutes.”
“Right. Any idea what it’s about?”
“Judging by the exact time frame Damascus gave me, I’m thinking we’re going to Headquarters again, or at least taking a Portkey to somewhere.” I usher him quickly though the door and we set off for the Room of Requirement at a brisk pace. “What the hell happened this morning?”
“Don’t remind me about this morning,” Lorcan says swiftly. “All I know is that seventeen kids are at St Mungos, thirty-three are in the hospital wing, and Hugo Weasley’s dead.”
“I hope you don’t mind my calling an emergency meeting,” Medea begins, sauntering to the front of the room and idly tapping her wand on her palm, “But I thought it was necessary.”
“Without a doubt,” Octavian agrees.
“As you may be aware,” she continues, “Minister of Magic Hermione Weasley declared the murder of her son Hugo this morning as an act of war. We are at war, ladies and gentlemen, and we have been asked by DOWIAH’s leaders to form the elite segment of the army. Along with this, we will continue our…underground crusade. Seeing as the name of Honour Guard will now be known to the wizarding world, we need a way to differentiate between activities. Therefore, what we have been doing up until now will continue, under the codename Operation Crusade. Everything else will be standard Honour Guard procedure.”
“Will the members of the Guard be known?” Cadmus Lestrange asks.
“I will be the spokesperson, should the need arise,” Medea says smoothly. “For the rest of you, your identities will remain secret. You may wish to formally join DOWIAH, you may wish to remain unaffiliated. What you do with your lives is your business. But when you are needed, I will contact you, and we will meet here by Portkeys arranged by myself. There is already an anti-Apparition charm on the building and surrounds, as well as a Fidelius Charm. You are all Secret Keepers, and, in order to safeguard the integrity of our location, Octavian will spend the next hour teaching Occlumency to all those who are unaccomplished at it. Which, I imagine, is our students, excluding Emily.”
“Occlumency means blocking your own thoughts, your own emotions from invasion,” Octavian begins. “It is one of the most advanced forms of magic in the world and if you are not up to the challenge you are out of the Honour Guard, am I clear?”
“Yes,” Natalia says, speaking for all of us.
“Step forward, Natalia. When I cast the spell for Legilimency, you must allow your mind to go blank. You must envisage an empty blackness, you must focus on that blackness with all your strength. Are you ready?”
Natalia gives a determined nod.
“Legilimens!” Octavian calls, and Natalia stiffens.
“Got anything to hide?” Lorcan asks me in a low voice.
“Not from them,” I reply.
“What do you mean by that?”
“Well, there’s plenty I’d hide from my parents.”
“Ever planning on telling them?”
“Yeah, come home for Christmas, ‘Hey, Lily, what have you been up to at Hogwarts?’ ‘Oh, nothing much, just joined a secret group of Dark wizards, turkey smells good.’”
“Going to tell them you’re not part of Unity?”
“Hopefully, they won’t ask. If they do, I’ll just say I’m part of DOWIAH, they can suck it up, James joined two weeks ago. You?”
“Knowing Mum, she’ll just smile, say ‘that’s nice, it’s good that you can think for yourself’ and space out again. I’m not anticipating any problems.”
“Lily!” Octavian barks, and I turn my attention to him. “Legilimens!”
Immediately my mind starts racing again, but I know what to expect; I have nothing to hide, and as my initial panic subsides I focus on emptying my mind, concentrating on a dark, empty nothing. Block, block, block, I tell myself, and gradually the darkness takes over, the memories and thoughts fading until I’m no longer aware of them.
“That’s enough,” Octavian says at length, lowering his wand. “Very basic, but sufficient for now.”
“Did you manage it?” Lorcan whispers as I pass.
“Yeah. It’s tricky though.”
It’s not till I go and sit down beside Natalia that I realise something.
Dad never mastered Occlumency. He was taught for months by the best Occlumens the wizarding world had ever seen, Severus Snape, but he never mastered it. And he’s the Chosen One who defeated Lord Voldemort, Head of the Auror Office, the famous Harry Potter.
And I can do something he can’t. Maybe only in one way, but I’m more powerful than my father.
“Rose?” The voice is soft, timid. Sitting up from the bed where I’ve been curled for the past several hours, I pull the curtain around it aside.
Alyssa stands over me, looking awkward, like she doesn’t know what to say. “I’m sorry,” she says at length. “About…you know…Hugo.”
“Thanks,” I mutter, picking at a thread on my duvet. There are no words left to say, yet at the same time the things unspoken are swirling around in my head, begging to escape. “Alyssa—”
And then the words come spilling out from both of us, emotions bubbling over as tears fall, slowly dissolving the walls built up between us.
“I’m sorry too—”
“I’ve been an idiot—”
“I can’t believe how trivial I was—”
“It’s only politics—”
“I’ve missed you—”
“You’re my best friend—”
“Will you ever forgive me?”
“Only if you forgive me.”
And now we’re laughing, and crying, clinging to each other like we never want to let go. It reminds me of a sunshower—a patch of light that warms you even as the rain pours down.
Two days later, Uncle Harry shows up through a Floo in McGonagall’s office, strides through the castle, bribes the gargoyle guarding the door to the dungeons, and waltzes into our common room in all his Gryffindor glory.
“Lovely,” he comments, rocking on his heels and watching a Grindylow glare at him through the skylight that looks up into the lake. “Haven’t been here since second year. Hasn’t changed much.”
“What were you doing here in second year?” I ask, getting off the couch to stand beside him.
He nods at Scorpius. “Spying on his dad, to be honest.”
“No wonder he hated you,” Scorpius comments matter-of-factly.
“Oh, I think we’ve buried the hatchet now,” Harry says comfortably. “Anyway, Rose, I was wanting to talk to you.”
“I gathered,” I say mildly. “Unless you just felt like going for a stroll through our common room.”
“Not that there would be anything wrong with that. How’s my favourite niece?”
“Flattered. What’s this about?”
“I’ll tell you in a moment. Scorpius, care to join us?”
“Sure, why not,” Scorpius shrugs. “As long as I’m not volunteering for anything unwittingly.”
“Unwittingly, no.” Harry takes a seat on the couch I just vacated, waving briefly at a group of awed first-year students playing Gobstones behind it, and beckons us to join him.
“Muffliato. Are you aware of something called the Honour Guard?”
“Haven’t heard anything.”
“Right. Well, the Honour Guard is the name for DOWIAH’s ‘elite’ army group. I’m not going to pretend to know more than I do, but Medea Avery has been named as spokesperson for the group, so she’s likely the leader as well. Heard of her?”
Scorpius and I shake our heads again.
“To put it simply, the Auror Office has been tracking Medea for years. We’re almost certain she’s Dark as Dark can be, but we’ve never been able to pin anything on her, she’s too smart to be caught. In short, a dangerous enemy. Unfortunately for us, the declaration of war means a lot of civil laws and procedures have had to be suspended. And that includes the cessation of prosecution of Dark wizards. If she’s got a group of Dark wizards under her command, all we can do now is fight back, and throw them in Azkaban without trial to be held as prisoners of war. If we can catch them, that is.”
“What does this have to do with me?”
“I was getting to that. We’re going to need an army ourselves. Would you be prepared to join the Unity army?”
I hesitate for a moment; a moment where I see the chaotic Great Hall, the flash of green light, the lifeless body of my sweet, shy little brother, the look on Mum’s face when she announced we were at war, and I nod.
“Good,” Harry says. “Because you’re going to be running the student branch of it.”
“I’ma what now?”
“The student branch of the Unity Army,” Harry repeats patiently. “You’re running it. Teddy’s told me you’re running Student Unity as it is, and you used to run a duelling club called Dragons Awakening, if I’m correct.”
“What do I do?”
“You train. You also come up with a better name than Unity Army, because that’s a bit dull.”
I remember Mum’s words the other night: “We stand as one. We fight as one. If we fall, we fall as one.”
“One,” I say simply. “Just One.”
Arrangements to get students home are complex, particularly for those of us classified as ‘high risk.’ Scorpius and I are classified as ‘Extreme Risk’ because my mum’s the Minister and Scorpius’s dad is leader of DOWIAH, and apparently there’s a high likelihood of assassination for both of us.
“Charming,” I comment when McGonagall fills us in on this.
“You, Rose, will Floo to the Atrium at the Ministry,” McGonagallexplains. “From there, you’ll be met by Auror Harry Potter, who will Apparate with you to an undisclosed location. At this undisclosed location you will take a Portkey to your house, which is protected by anti-Apparition jinxes and the Fidelius Charm. You will be asked security questions upon arrival at the Atrium and at your home to ensure nobody can steal your identity by Polyjuice Potion. Scorpius, you and your mother will travel by Floo to the office of the Voice of Reason, and from there will take a one-way Portkey to your home. Normally I wouldn’t give you these details in front of each other, however I have been assured you have considerable…affection for each other and have no desire to see the other killed.”
“One could argue that,” I agree.
“So, when is this war actually starting?” Scorpius asks. “After Christmas? Terribly British, isn’t it?”
McGonagall just glares at him and I stifle my urge to laugh.
“You would do well, Mr Malfoy, to remember the situation and the peril you are in,” she says sternly. “Especially if you are to join the student Unity army, as Harry Potter informs me you will be.”
“One,” I correct. “Not Unity Army, One. And this branch of it is One Hogwarts.”
“I stand corrected, Miss Weasley. Now, go and pack your trunks ready for departure, you will meet Professor Malfoy in the common room at ten o’clock tomorrow morning to use the Floo network in her office.”
The other students will be slowly fed through the Floo Network during the afternoon, but Scorpius and I are leaving early from Astoria’s fireplace, along with the Potters from Professor Longbottom’s.
“Nice knowing you,” Scorpius mutters as I stand beside the fireplace with a handful of Floo Powder. Something in his tone stops me; a hint of sincerity, a hint of worry that maybe, just maybe we won’t see each other again, and on an impulse I wheel around, throwing my arms around him and kissing him. I know Astoria’s standing behind us glaring daggers into my back, but I don’t care. I don’t want to let him go.
“Rose.” Astoria’s voice is cold. “Get off my son.”
Feeling stung, I pull away and hurl the Floo Powder into the fire with such force half of it billows back into my face in a green cloud. “The Atrium!” I choke, and a whooshing sound fills my ears as the flames engulf me.
Astoria hates me. All because of politics.
I stumble out of the Floo at the other end, brushing soot from my face and tears from my eyes, and am met by a barrage of cameras going off in my face.
“Rose!” someone shouts. “Rose Weasley! What do you think of your brother’s death?”
“Rose, how do you feel about your brother’s killer?”
“Fucking fantastic!” I snap. “Is your IQ even lower than your levels of journalistic integrity? Get the fuck out of my face.”
They scatter, apart from one determined reporter who runs alongside me as I stalk through the Atrium, shouting questions at me: “How are you coping with your brother’s death? What has the response been like at Hogwarts? Why, exactly, were you stood down as Head Girl? What do you make of the allegations of misconduct? Is it true you’re having an illicit affair with the son of Draco and Astoria Malfoy?”
Something inside me snaps, and before the reporter can react I whip out my wand and stun him.
“In answer to your questions,” I yell at the unconscious figure on the floor, “You can tell your douchebag colleagues this: I was stood down because little fuckers like yourself decided I was biased towards the Ministry, and in my place appointed a fanatical DOWIAH member named Antigone Islington who started the riot in the Great Hall! You can tell your readers their kid is in St Mungo’s because of her, and any credible witness will tell you I tried to stop it! So you can shove your allegations where the sun don’t shine, and furthermore, there is nothing illicit about my relationship with Scorpius Malfoy!”
Someone seizes my arm and tows me away.
“Just keep walking,” Uncle Harry says through gritted teeth. “And hopefully we’ll get you out of here before anything else happens.”
He spins in place, and with a resounding crack I’m pulled into nothingness alongside him, feeling the horrible sensation of pressure threatening to squeeze me to death.
The moment we arrive at our destination, Harry’s pulling me up a flight of stairs and I trip and stumble up them, wondering why the hell we have to move so damn fast.
As Harry shoves me into a room at the top of the stairs, I begin to recognise where I am; one of the boarding rooms in the Leaky Cauldron. Hannah Longbottom smiles at me in greeting, a smile that quickly changes to one of concern.
“Rose, are you okay?”
“She had a go at a Prophet reporter,” Harry reports tiredly. “Going to be all over the headlines tomorrow, Rose, if they don’t edit it, it’s going to make for some interesting reading.”
“Don’t give a shit,” I mumble.
“Rose, what’s gotten into you?”
“I’m a troubled teenager, leave me alone. Want me to pull out the angst? Because I can.”
“Save it for when you get home,” Harry says. “Then Ron can deal with you.”
“Gee, thanks,” I mutter. “So, Portkey.”
“Here it is,” Hannah says, sliding a small lamp across the bedside table to me. “It leaves in thirty seconds.”
“You lot don’t believe in margins of error, do you?”
Harry shoves the lamp into my hands. “Go home.”
“Lily, sweetheart!” Mum engulfs me a hug the moment I step out of the Floo, before stepping back and shaking her head as if to rid herself of sentimentality. “How’s the school year going?” she asks briskly, moving my trunk aside to clear the way for Al, who’ll be following soon.
“Pretty good,” I reply. “Exceeds Expectations level for most of my subjects.”
“And the Quidditch?”
“Haven’t had our first game yet.”
“They’re starting the season late,” Mum observes.
“Yeah, we’re playing Slytherin in January.”
“That’s always a good match.”
“Yeah, Niall’s got us on a pretty strict training schedule though.”
“Well, he would, he’s a seventh-year. Albus!” She hurries forward again.
“How are you, love?”
“I’m all right.” Al kicks his trunk out of the way, leaning casually against a wall. “When’s James getting here?”
“When he’s finished his shift, which should be in a few hours or so. He’s rostered off for the next three days.”
“Good on him,” Al observes. “Go put our stuff away, eh Lily?”
“Sure,” I agree, somewhat nervously. Al wants to talk to me alone. I really hope he’s not going to start asking questions.
“You’re not Unity, are you?” Al asks in a low voice as we climb the stairs.
“More or less.”
“More or less?”
“I’m not heavily involved, but it’s where my loyalties lie, yes.”
“And James is as well,” Al says heavily. “From what I heard he’s planning to spring that on Mum and Dad sometime tonight. Best do it at the same time.”
“They can’t hold it against us,” I say defensively. “We’re allowed to have our own opinions.”
“Yes, I know,” Al says impatiently, “But look at the divide it causes. I just don’t want that happening to our family.”
I feel a brief pang of guilt, but quash it immediately. I’m doing the right thing, by fighting. I’m being a true Gryffindor. I may be on a different side to my parents, but it’s not like the first and second wizarding wars. There is no right or wrong side.
“Evening, family!” James calls jovially, coming through the fireplace just before dinner.
“James!” Mum says happily.
“Mum,” James greets, bestowing a hug on her; “Al,” he acknowledges, clapping him hard on the back; “Lil sis,” he says, squishing me into a bear hug; “Dad,” he concludes, seizing Dad’s hand and pumping it vigorously.
“Good to see you, James,” Dad says, taking his place at the table. “Good shift?”
“Not bad,” he replies, piling food onto his plate. “Over student food though. So how’re you guys? How’s Gryffindor going in the Quidditch?”
“We haven’t started the season yet,” Al replies, mouth full. “Playing Slytherin in January. They beat Ravenclaw two weeks ago.”
“Slytherin!” James says with relish, rubbing his hands together. “Always a good game, if you lose I disown both of you.”
“Only fair,” I agree. “I mean, I’ve disowned you multiple times.”
“If you’re referring to what I think you’re referring to, I was protecting your honour.”
“I get asked out in third year, ten minutes later the guy’s got a whole lot of boils on his—”
“All right, Lily,” Dad interrupts quickly.
“Which reminds me,” James begins, “How’s that Scamander treating you? I forget which one.”
“Very well, don’t hex him.”
“How long have you two been going out?”
“Six months, must we discuss my love life?”
“No,” Mum says.
“Yes,” James replies.
“Just coz you don’t have one,” Al says dismissively.
“Yeah, who’d want to go out with you?”
“I’ll have you know I’m very popular amongst the ladies,” James replies.
“…In your dreams,” Al finishes.
“In real life,” James replies earnestly. “Especially among the members of DOWIAH.”
There is a very long silence.
“DOWIAH?” Dad repeats at length.
“DOWIAH,” James confirms.
“You joined DOWIAH?”
“When?” Dad asks, a resigned tone in his voice.
“A few weeks ago.”
“You didn’t tell us?” Mum asks, voice rising. “You just throw it casually into conversation, that you’re betraying the family—”
“Ginny,” Dad says sharply.
Mum glares at him.
“He’s not betraying anyone,” Dad says carefully. “He’s entitled to his own opinions, he’s a grown man, and none of us are to take it personally. However, James, your mother’s right, you should have told us.”
“I didn’t want to turn it into some big confession,” James replies. “I’m not betraying anyone, it’s not like I’ve joined the Honour Guard—”
“Lily, you okay?” Mum asks, suddenly turning her attention from James.
I look up, meet James’s eyes, and turn back to her. “I’m part of DOWIAH too.”
“Lily!” Mum rocks backwards, eyes wide. “No! You can’t!”
“And why not?” I ask, anger flaring.
“Because you’re my daughter!” she cries, pushing her chair backwards and getting to her feet.
“And James is your son!” I argue, standing as well. “But you’re not telling him what he can and can’t do—”
“You’re sixteen years old, you’re still at school, you’re not even of age yet—”
“How old were you when you fought Death Eaters at the Ministry again?”
“This is different!”
“How old were you when you fought at the Battle of Hogwarts?”
“This is different! Harry, help me out here—”
Dad seems at a loss for what to do. “Lily, listen to your mother.”
“Do you agree with her?” I ask, turning to him. “I’m entitled to my own opinions, aren’t I?”
“We’re not discussing this now. Sit down, both of you.”
“Don’t tell me what to do, Harry Potter!” Mum yells. “Lily, you are my daughter and while you’re living under this roof you will not go against us—”
“I’M NOT YOU!” I scream.
Mum stares at me in shocked silence.
“And if I can’t be part of DOWIAH when I’m living under this roof, I guess I’m leaving!”
I wheel around, running through the house and out into the street.
“Lily!” Mum screams after me, but I ignore her, picturing Lorcan’s house with all my might and spinning on the spot. James taught me to illegally Apparate last summer, and the crack resounds in my ears, the squeezing sensation threatening to suffocate me.
Heart still pounding, I arrive outside the Scamanders’ house, making my way up the path leading to the front door.
“Oh, hello Lily,” Luna greets me, looking at me with a puzzled expression on her face. “Shouldn’t you be at home?”
“Left,” I reply briefly.
“Joined DOWIAH. Mum took objection.”
“That’s odd,” Luna muses, ushering me inside. “She’s usually quite reasonable. Lorcan told me he joined, too. It’s good he can think for himself.”
I follow Luna through into the kitchen, where the rest of the Scamanders are sitting around the dinner table.
“Lily,” Lorcan says, getting up from his chair. “Why are you here?”
“She had a fight with Ginny,” Luna answers for me, seating herself down. “How long will you be staying?”
I love Luna. She’s so laid back and accepting.
“I have no idea,” I reply honestly, returning the hug that Lorcan bestows on me.
We’ll be home by 9pm or so. Sorry we couldn’t be around to welcome you home. There’s some Muggle money on the table, buy yourself some takeaways.
And the keys to the car are there as well, you’ve driven it with me a couple of times, you’ll be fine. If all else fails, confundus charm.
Oh, this is going to be interesting. Grateful that at least I have some time to calm down before my parents are home, I go into the bathroom, clean my face and consider my options. For a half-blood, I have shamefully little experience with Muggle purchasing, especially when it comes to food.
I glance at the time. Half past five. So, by the time I get into the car, drive around the street several times before I have the guts to tackle an intersection, drive around, find a place to get food, park somehow, get there, work out how to order said food, order it, count the money, wait for the food, get back in the car, remove car from park, get home and eat, it’ll be nine o’clock and I would have successfully killed all my home-alone time.
Let’s do this.
I take the money, shoving it into the pocket of my robes. Wait a minute. Robes among Muggles is weird. I could go in my school uniform without robes. Good idea, Rose.
I walk out into the street, locating the old red car, a Toyota Corolla, and fiddling with the keys to unlock it. Here we go. I climb into the car and try to orientate myself. What did I do when I went with Dad? I pulled this belt thing across, and it clipped in somewhere…here? No, uh, here? Yes! I think. And I put the key in this little slot, wait, what did Dad say? Make sure you push down one of the pedals before you turn the key…the left one, I think. So I’m doing that, and now I turn the key…Yes! It’s making a continuous noise! This is a good sign. Now, this big stick lever thing here, I push it up, I think. I do so, take my foot off the pedal, and the car lurches forward several times and lies silent. Shit! I broke the car!
Okay, okay, Rose. Think. You’ve done this before. How did Dad tell you to fix it? Turn the key! And push that infernal pedal down again. Now, the stick thing has to be in the top left corner, the position marked 1. That makes sense. I’m remembering! Yay! And then press down the pedal on the right, easing off the one on the left…I’m moving! I’m MOVING! Not very fast, but I’m moving and that’s good enough for me. Who needs Apparition? I’m driving a car!
I pootle out to the end of the street, making a snap decision to turn left. Now, what’s a food place some of the Muggleborn kids have mentioned? McDonalds, yes, McDonalds, I’ve heard Mum say it before as well. There are a whole lot of cars behind me, tooting. Dad always toots at people he knows, but I don’t know them. Maybe they’re just being friendly. I wave.
Ooh! Here’s the McDonalds! Now how do I get there? I turn right sharply, narrowly missing oncoming traffic, and drive around the carpark, wondering how people get out of the parks—there are other cars in front of every car. Maybe you go backwards. I’ll worry about that later.
I nose into a spot, hesitating. What do you do when you leave the car? The stick thingy was in the middle when I got in the car, so I return it to that position. I turn the key, and the car is silent.
I did it! I drove here! Seventy million points to Slytherin!
I take the money, lock the car, and enter the building. The aroma of fried something hits me, and I approach the end of what I assume to be the line, looking at the unbelievably bright pictures of burgers and wondering what on earth is in them. There seems to be a lot with chicken in the names. That’s good, I like chicken. What’s the difference between these damn things? I try to sneak a peek at other people’s trays, but their burgers are hidden by colourful cardboard boxes. The chips look good though. I’ll order some chips. And a burger. That seems to be the done thing.
“Can I help anyone?” a girl calls, looking bored.
“Me,” I call, scurrying forward to the counter. Now what? Do I just list what I want? “Uh, I want to order some chips and a burger.”
“Something with chicken in it.”
“A McChicken, then?”
“Yeah, if you say so.”
She gives me a strange look. “Small, medium or large fries?”
“Fries?” I repeat.
“Yes, some of those would be great.”
“Small, medium or large?” she asks slowly, as if my IQ is in the negatives.
“You have different sized chips? Well, I’ll just have normal then.”
“So, a McChicken and medium fries? Would you like that as a combo?”
“A combo?” I repeat blankly.
“Are you, like, on drugs or something?”
I figure it would just be easier to nod, and look like I know what she’s talking about.
“Hi, Rosie,” Mum says, coming through the Floo Network closely followed by Dad. “Get dinner all right?”
“I won’t pretend it wasn’t a mission.”
“Did you crash?” Dad asks.
“Well done!” he says enthusiastically. “Hermione, she didn’t crash! She drove by herself and she didn’t crash!”
“I’m pleased,” Mum says mildly.
“But…it’s a massive accomplishment,” Dad says, looking confused. “You don’t seem impressed.”
“Oh, I am,” Mum assures him in a tone that suggests otherwise. Dad shrugs, seemingly happy with her response.
“So what’s happening at the Ministry at the moment?”
“We’re hoping the Honour Guard doesn’t try anything until after Christmas,” Mum says. “A number of Aurors have declared their allegiance to DOWIAH, so we’ve let them go. I hate the prospect of effectively giving DOWIAH some of our finest wizards, but it can’t be helped. I don’t think they’ll join the Honour Guard, not with our suspicions of their darkness. But the DOWIAH army, definitely. Harry and Dean are co-ordinating One. Harry tells me you’ve agreed to coordinate the Hogwarts branch of it.”
“Yeah. I have no idea what I’m doing, but that shouldn’t be an issue.”
“You’ll work it out,” Mum says, a hint of pride in her voice.
“Where are we spending Christmas?” I continue.
“The Potters’. We were going to stay here but with just the three of us…” Mum’s voice falters and she chokes back a sob.
I don’t want to remember that there’s only three of us. It’s easier to pretend Hugo’s at a friend’s house, or staying on at Hogwarts for Christmas, being the duty prefect for Ravenclaw…Don’t cry, Rose.
The fireplace suddenly glows green, and Mum and Dad wheel around to face it, wands drawn. They lower them immediately when Aunt Ginny becomes visible, and a look of alarm crosses their faces.
“Ginny? What’s wrong?” Mum asks quietly.
Ginny hurries across the room into Mum’s arms, and Dad and I exchange panicked glances. Aunt Ginny’s one of the strongest people I’ve ever met, what’s wrong?
“I can’t stand it any more, Hermione,” she sobs into Mum’s hair.
“Can’t stand what?”
“Lily’s run away!” she cries. “She’s run away and it’s all my fault, I yelled at her and I don’t think she’s ever coming home…”
“Where is she?” Dad asks.
“I don’t know, you haven’t seen her, have you?”
“No, we haven’t. Rose, have you seen her?”
“Not since Hogwarts.”
Ginny steps back, furiously wiping her eyes. “She’s probably with the Scamanders…Don’t go after her, Ron…”
“Gin,” Mum says gently, “What happened?”
“She’s joined DOWIAH,” Ginny sniffles, “And I got upset, I told her she couldn’t go against us while she was living at home…And she just left, she Apparated, Hermione, she fucking Apparated, she’s never even had lessons…”
Wow. I’m a good eighteen months older than Lily and I only got my licence last week.
“Lily joined DOWIAH?” Mum asks.
Ginny nods. “And James too.”
Mum nods. “I’ll tell you what I can do. I’ll go and pay Luna and Rolf a visit, see if Lily’s there. I won’t talk to her, but if it’ll put your mind at ease…”
“She’s too smart to do something stupid, she’ll be there…But she won’t want to come home, she’ll be gone for Christmas…” Ginny starts crying again.
“Rose, can you go to the Scamanders?” Mum asks, guiding Ginny to the couch. “I’ll stay here with Ginny.”
“Sure,” I agree, taking a handful of Floo Powder from the tin beside the fire.
“Somebody’s in the fire,” Luna observes serenely as the fire glows green, picking up her wand and pointing it at the fire in a manner of curious expectation.
Rose appears in the fire, holding up her hands in surrender. She spots me, offers a wave, and turns to leave again.
“Hello, Rose,” Luna says.
“Evening, Luna. Just checking to see if Lily’s here.”
“Why?” I ask.
“Because your mum’s sitting in our kitchen crying her eyes out over you,” she says matter-of-factly. “Well, I best be off.”
“Great,” I mutter once she’s left. “Now Rose hates me.”
“But she was smiling,” Lysander says, puzzled.
“She’s good like that.”
“Maybe you should go home,” Luna suggests. “Ginny misses you.”
I snort. “She doesn’t miss me. Mourns the loss of her mini-me, maybe.”
Luna looks at me with a trace of sternness in her soft blue eyes. “I miss my boys when they’re at Hogwarts,” she says, “And I know they’re coming home. I love my boys whether they believe in the same things as me or not, whether they join me in looking for Wrackspurts or stand aside thinking I’m insane. I love my boys even when they hate me. And Ginny is no different.”
“I’d love to believe that,” I say softly, staring at the fireplace as the flames flicker and dance. “But I don’t.”
“What would your mum say if she knew?” I ask Lorcan, idly playing with a piece of his hair. We’re sitting on his bed in pajamas, me snuggled up to him to ward off the December chill.
“The Honour Guard.”
“I don’t know,” he replies, “And I don’t want to think about it, so can we talk about something other than the Honour Guard?”
“Okay…What do you want for Christmas?”
“I’m already here,” I point out, resting my head on his shoulder.
“Not what I meant.”
My eyes widen and I pull away instinctively. “You can’t be serious.”
“Why wouldn’t I be? Don’t look at me like that, Lily. I’m not asking you to do anything.”
“You’re suggesting it.”
“Suggesting, not asking. If you don’t want to, then I won’t mention it again.”
“...I don’t know.”
When I first think about it, the idea is unthinkable. But why? Why, because that’s what the old Lily’s reaction would have been. The old, innocent Lily who did exactly what everyone expected of her. And the more I think about it, the more I want to. To prove that I’m somebody other than Ginny Potter’s daughter and Lily Evans’s namesake. To prove that I’m not governed by other people’s definitions of perfection.
And, I mean, I love Lorcan, so why not?
“All right,” Lorcan says, resignation in his voice, and I suddenly want him to ask again, to keep talking about it, so I don’t have to broach the subject. I may be a Gryffindor, but I’m a coward.
“Do you want to go to bed?” he asks, not quite meeting my eyes. He’s embarrassed; embarrassed for asking, and embarrassed by my reaction.
“No. Not yet.”
“I didn’t offend you, did I?” he asks suddenly, looking at me with earnest blue eyes. I love those eyes. “Because if I did I’m sorry…I’m a guy, and I love you. I had to say something.”
“You didn’t offend me,” I tell him, heart pounding, the apology in his voice only making me fall for him more. “I’m glad you brought it up.”
I point my wand at the door, swinging it closed and locking it shut.
“This is why.”
“Merry Christmas, Lily.”
I awake in confusion at the voice, momentarily forgetting where I am and how I got here, but as Luna standing in the doorway comes into focus everything comes back in a rush—the argument with Mum, Apparating, Lorcan…
Wow, Lorcan. Did that really happen?
Luna has apparently decided I’m incapable of speech, and drifts off to wake the boys in the same manner.
Shaking my head, I crawl out of bed, wrapping a blanket around myself and padding out to the kitchen.
“Merry Christmas,” Rolf says from the sink, pausing briefly at the end of the sentence as if trying to remember my name before deciding it’s not important. He then puts a hat on and departs out the back door. I think he’s scared of me.
I seek out Lorcan and find him in his room shrugging on blue robes.
“I don’t have your Christmas present here,” I say apologetically.
He comes over, kisses me softly and says, “You already gave me it.”
So we did. Good to know.
I’ve never spent a Christmas away from my family, and it’s strange to hear the conversation about various real and/or imaginary creatures as opposed to Quidditch and insults. Lorcan and Lysander don’t start a food fight with the gravy, and Luna doesn’t threaten them with ingenious hexes of her invention.
“Do you miss your family?” Lysander ventures to ask halfway through dinner.
“If I did, would I be here?” I ask. “I was just thinking how refreshing it is to have a Christmas dinner where people don’t end up wearing the food.”
“We’ve been there, done that,” Lorcan comments, grinning at Lysander. “It was a few years ago now.”
“That was a good Christmas,” Luna says happily. “Oh, look, it’s snowing.”
“I propose a war,” Lorcan declares. “Gryffindor versus Ravenclaw, who’s in?”
“Unfair!” Lysander protests. “You get Mum and Dad!”
“Oi, Lysander. Forgetting someone?” I ask pointedly.
“Yeah, but there’s still only two of us.”
“You underestimate my power,” I say ominously, relishing the words even in a joking context.
“I may sit this one out,” Rolf says, and disappears behind a bumper Christmas edition of the Quibbler that claims, among other things, that Aunt Hermione has a degree in political science from a Muggle university.
“She didn’t go to Cambridge,” I offer, peering at the headline.
“So Mum, you in for a snowball fight?” Lysander asks.
“Of course,” Luna replies, eyes lighting up at the prospect. “To the battlefield!” Out of nowhere she conjures a Ravenclaw flag and runs out of the house with Lorcan in hot pursuit.
“Tell me you can conjure a flag,” Lysander says, looking slightly desperate.
“I can give it a go,” I reply, leading the way out of the house and waving my wand. Yes, here we go.
“It’s a little small,” I say apologetically, handing the resulting Gryffindor flag to Lysander.
“No matter. Engorgio.”
We plant the flag in the snow about fifty metres away from the Ravenclaws and immediately set to work building a defence wall. Luna and Lorcan aren’t attacking yet; they’re focusing on building their base.
“Let’s do this. While we have the element of surprise.”
“Good idea. The wall should hold up all right. If not, it doesn’t matter.”
We begin firing snowballs at Lorcan and Luna, who protest and begin throwing more in defence. Within ten minutes our defensive wall has been destroyed, and we run forward for almost hand-to-hand combat; Lorcan and Lysander only inches apart, hurling snow into each other’s faces, down each other’s backs, into each other’s hair.
“Change of plan!” Lorcan yells suddenly, seizing my wrist and pulling me to him. “Lily and I against you two!”
“Challenge accepted,” Lysander says with relish, and he and Luna begin flinging snow at us with reckless abandon.
“Back it up,” Lorcan mutters, placing a hand on my shoulder as he steps back. I watch in awe as he raises his wand, and with a look of intense concentration draws up a swirling whirlwind of snow. The tornado grows, stretching up towards the sky, and as Lorcan brings his wand down in a sweeping arc so the tornado forms a ring around Lysander and Luna, spraying flakes of snow.
I had no idea he could do that.
With a low boom the spinning ring of snow explodes and Luna becomes visible, wand still outstretched, her eyes fixated on Lorcan.
“Rose. Minerva. Weasley.” Mum storms into my room in a dressing gown, almost hurling a Daily Prophet at my face. “What is this?”
“The Daily Prophet?”
“Read it.” Mum’s standing over my bed, arms folded and hair sticking out at crazy angles.
Oh, shit. Don’t tell me.
MINISTER’S DAUGHTER ABUSES REPORTERS, CLASSMATES
Rose Weasley, daughter of embattled Minister of Magic Hermione Weasley, lashed out at reporters in the Ministry’s Atrium yesterday afternoon whilst travelling home from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
The former Head Girl furiously denied allegations saying she was stood down from her position due to misconduct, saying, “I was stood down because little f***ers like yourself decided I was biased towards the Ministry, and in my place appointed a fanatical DOWIAH member named Antigone Islington who started the riot in the Great Hall…So you can shove your allegations where the sun don’t shine!”
Weasley was also seen to attack a Prophet reporter with a Stunning Spell, and was swiftly escorted from the building by Head Auror Harry Potter.
In response to the claim she started the riot in the Great Hall, Acting Head Girl Antigone Islington said, “Rose Weasley is, understandably, emotionally unstable due to the recent death of her brother, and as the murderer is still unknown, she naturally looks for a scapegoat. I would like to assure the wizarding community that I did everything in my power to stop the riot from happening, and would venture a suggestion that her attacking myself and Head Boy Riordan Carter with Stunning Spells just prior to the riot did not help matters.”
“But wait, there’s more,” Mum says icily, throwing something else onto my bed. “I don’t want to hear your excuses right now, Rose.”
Heart racing, I pick up the magazine she’s just thrown at me: a copy of Witch Weekly, with my furious-looking face gracing the front cover along with the headline “Minister’s daughter tells all.”
“What the fuck?” I yell furiously. “I didn’t tell them anything!”
I flick through the magazine furiously, coming to a two-page spread featuring a large photo of me storming through the Atrium and an inset of Scorpius looking overly pompous standing with Draco and Astoria.
“YES, WE ARE TOGETHER!”
After months of speculation, Minister of Magic Hermione Weasley’s daughter Rose confirmed her relationship with Scorpius Malfoy, the son of DOWIAH leaders Draco and Astoria. In response to reporters’ questions about the relationship, Rose said, “There is nothing illicit about my relationship with Scorpius.”
However, there are many who would disagree with the statement. “There has always been animosity between the Weasleys and the Malfoys,” says a source. “And to have the parents on opposing sides means both families will have a sense of betrayal.”
Scorpius’s parents are reportedly unhappy with the relationship, particularly after his joining Unity, the official support organisation for Minister Weasley’s proposition to lift the Statute.
“He’s betraying them,” says a friend of the Malfoys, “And as far as Draco and Astoria can see, it’s all because of Rose. He’s madly in love with her, which means he’ll do anything she asks of him, including joining Unity.”
I don’t bother to read any more, instead hurling the article across the room, trembling with fury. “How dare they?” I whisper through gritted teeth. “How dare they?”
“Rose, calm down.”
“Calm down?” I repeat incredulously. “You’re telling me to calm down? After all this garbage they’ve written about me? After all this…all this bullshit?” I hear my voice rising but I don’t care; I’ve given up trying to keep control.
“Rose, dealing with the press is just something you’ll have to learn to do. Preferably before another tirade like the one you unleashed in the Atrium makes Prophet headlines. How many times have I told you to watch what you say to reporters?”
I ignore her, pointedly yanking clothes out of my wardrobe, and she leaves. In seconds I’m dressed, having hastily thrown on green and silver Slytherin Pride robes for Christmas with my all-Gryffindor extended family. I’m in an antagonising mood today.
Not bothering to do anything about my hair, I march out of the house and down the path that leads from the front door.
“Rose!” Mum calls after me. “You haven’t had breakfast yet—Don’t you leave this house, you could be killed—ROSE WEASLEY, WHERE ARE YOU GOING?”
“Be right back,” I yell, Disapparating with a sharp crack and arriving outside a foreboding wrought-iron gate. I rap it sharply with my wand, and a house-elf’s squeaky voice greets me.
“Who visits the house of Master and Mistress Malfoy?” the elf asks, having just appeared behind the gate.
“I’m Scorpius Malfoy’s girlfriend.”
The elf nods furiously. “Locky remembers Master Scorpius’s lady friend. Young master will be pleased to see miss. Miss must follow Locky.”
Surprised that Draco and Astoria haven’t given Locky specific instructions to bar the house should I show up, I follow the elf up the sweeping path and into the elegant entrance hall. At this point the elf disappears, and I stride down the hallway, not knowing exactly what I’m doing here.
“Rose!” Scorpius nearly barrels into me, looking extremely startled and more than a little bit alarmed at the sight of me. He’s wearing nothing but pajama pants, and it strikes me that I haven’t seen him topless since he whipped off his shirt in victory after a particularly good Quidditch practice. It’s not a bad sight.
“Scorpius,” I return calmly.
“What are you doing here?”
“Your parents in?” I ask, ignoring the question.
“Yes,” he replies quietly, sneaking a furtive glance towards the massive dining room.
“Good, because I need to talk to them.”
He stares at me incredulously. “Why?”
“Shit went down that you don’t know about. Come with me?”
“I have no shirt on,” he hisses, looking extremely embarrassed by this.
“Oh, please, you weren’t born clothed, your parents have seen worse.”
“Not for ten years.” He casts me a brief appraising look. “Slytherin colours were a good choice,” he comments, before bolting up the stairs.
He returns fully clothed and robed, fastening a button as he descends the stairs, and offers me his hand. “I’m not going to pretend to know what this is about, but you know the first thing they’re going to think when we come in is that you’re pregnant.”
“I’d love to know how that would have happened.”
“Yeah, but they don’t know that. Merry Christmas.”
We push open the doors leading to the dining room and approach Draco and Astoria.
You could cut the tension with a knife in the seconds where nobody speaks, until Draco finally breaks the silence. “What’s she doing here, son?”
“Um,” I begin, not sure how to explain, considering I don’t know myself. “Well…”
Astoria eyes me with the beginnings of suspicion. “Rose,” she says sharply, “You’re not pregnant, are you?”
I toy with the idea of saying yes, just to see the reaction.
“No!” Scorpius says swiftly. “No, no, we haven’t…” He coughs and studies the floor.
Draco studies the silverware on the table. “Good to know.”
“Why are you here, Rose?” Astoria asks.
“You don’t read Witch Weekly, do you?”
“As a general rule, no.”
“There’s an article in it. Focusing mainly on how much you hate the fact Scorpius and I are together.”
Another long, uncomfortable silence.
“Sit down, Rose,” Astoria says quietly.
I take a seat at the table as Scorpius hovers almost nervously beside it.
“Are you waiting for an invitation?” Draco asks him pointedly. “You do live here.”
“What did the article say?” Astoria asks.
“It said a lot of things. My personal favourite was the bit about how I’m a manipulative bitch who has Scorpius wrapped around my finger and that’s why he’s in Unity. Or words to that effect.”
“I can assure you we never said anything along those lines.”
“It was an unattributed source. But that’s not why I’m here.”
“At last, we find out,” Draco comments.
“Do you think that?” I ask baldly. “Do you think it’s my fault? Do you think Scorpius is just following me around like a blind puppy?”
“We didn’t know,” Astoria says quietly. “We didn’t get a chance to talk to Scorpius about it, all we could see was that you’re the leader of Unity Hogwarts, and Scorpius suddenly joins without a word to us. Personally, I’ve tried to reserve judgement on the matter until we hear from Scorpius himself.”
I want to ask how she cares to explain the general coldness towards me over the past several months, and the ‘Get off my son’ comment the other day.
“All right,” Scorpius says. “Rose, do you love me?”
“I would bloody well hope so.”
“And what’s more likely,” Scorpius continues, “Your dad having a heart to heart with the portrait of Severus Snape, or you falling in love with someone who follows you like a blind puppy?”
“Has to be the Dad and Snape man-love.” I see what he’s doing.
“You could never fall in love with someone who can’t think for himself?”
“And you’re in love with me?” This boy could be a lawyer.
“Last time I checked.”
“Nothing further. Mum, you know I love you, right?”
“If you say so,” Astoria replies, the beginnings of a smile on her face.
“And in your experience, have you ever known me to follow your instructions if I deem them contrary to my interests?”
“Then you would say that my affection for you has no impact on my obedience to instructions.”
“Therefore, applying the same logic, my affection for Rose would have no impact on the likelihood of my joining Unity, and for me to do so would insinuate that it is not contrary to my own interests.”
Silence from Draco and Astoria.
“I rest my case,” Scorpius says simply, standing and walking out of the room.
“Lily, my favourite sister!” James swans out of the Scamanders’ fireplace, waving a brief greeting to Luna and flinging himself into an armchair beside me. “Merry Christmas for yesterday.”
“No demanding to know why I’m here?”
“I figured you’re about to tell me. Unless it’s to try and convince me to come home, because I’m not keen.”
“No, you’re too stubborn for that,” James replies. “I thought I should make contact, seeing as we’re in the same boat here.”
“With the exception that you ran away, and I don’t live at home anyway,” James concedes. “Does Hogwarts have a DOWIAH group?”
“Yes, but it’s run by pricks.”
“The Head Prefects. Riordan isn’t too bad, but Antigone is just too full of herself. Lorcan and I just meet up with some friends every week or so, and we get The Voice of Reason.”
“That’s a good system,” James agrees, nodding. “But what I really wanted to talk about was…” He glances around, seeing Scamanders watching us and pretending not to. “Screw it, Muffliato. As I was saying, what happens when it comes to war?”
“We’re already at war.”
“I know, but…the fighting. The actual battles. Fighting against Mum and Dad and Al…Lily, we can’t do that. We can’t.”
“You’ve chosen your side,” I point out. “You can either fight for it, or you can sit on the fence pretending that you have an opinion, pretending you believe in the cause. What’s it worth if you can’t follow it up with action?”
“They’re our FAMILY, Lily!”
“I’ve heard enough about the damn family! Family doesn’t come into it!”
“Family doesn’t come into it? Who are you and what have you done with my sister?”
“Just another person who can’t cope with the idea that I can make my own decisions, are you?”
“This isn’t about your damn quest for identity, Lily, it’s bigger than that! It’s about life or death! Don’t you understand that?”
“I understand perfectly,” I reply coldly. “Do you understand that I’ve found a cause I’m willing to risk everything for?”
“Including the lives of Mum, Dad and Al,” James finishes grimly. “Right, I get it.” He stands, walking out of the lounge and into the Floo.
I stay at the Scamanders’ for the rest of the Christmas holiday, and Luna asks if I want to stay over Easter break as well.
“I love Mum, but she can be incredibly oblivious sometimes,” Lorcan whispers the night before we return to Hogwarts.
“Well, it’s not like I’m waking up in your bed every morning.”
“Even if you were, I don’t think she’d cotton on.”
“Don’t underestimate her.”
“It’ll be nice to get in touch with the Honour Guard again,” he comments, ignoring my statement. “Do you ever feel like you’re getting too comfortable at home?”
“Well, I haven’t been home for a while.”
“You know what I mean.”
“Yeah, I do. I get the feeling things will be really intense soon.”
“Do you think they might let us go on Operation Crusade soon?” he asks quietly, almost trembling at the thought.
“Do you want to go?”
“Yes. Do you?”
“Yes. Being part of something…Something real that the Guard does, rather than just visiting Headquarters learning curses and Occlumency…”
“It’s all preparation. But when we get back, we’re going to put that preparation into action.”
“There’s a meeting tonight at half seven, you look like shit,” Natalia informs me.
“Thanks,” I mutter. I feel like shit, too. Trust me to fall sick now.
“Seen old Pomfrey?” she continues. “Because you’ll want to be at your peak.”
“Why, what are we doing?”
Natalia arches an eyebrow. “Same thing as we always do, I imagine. When was the last time you were sick and tried to perform Dark magic?”
“I have,” she says. “Once. It doesn’t work.”
“I’ll bear that in mind.”
“Portkey leaves at twenty-five past on the dot,” she continues. “Meet in the Room as usual, and pass the message on to Lorcan.”
I make my way to Charms, sliding into a seat beside Lorcan. “Room of Requirement, Portkey leaves at twenty five past seven.”
“I’ll be there. Are you okay? You look half dead.”
“I feel half dead. I blame food poisoning. Or a virus. I don’t know, but I’m not enjoying it.”
Professor Malfoy enters the classroom, turning to us and clapping her hands together. “Good morning. How was Christmas break for everyone?”
There’s a chorus of “good” and “all right.”
“Anyone study Charms over the holidays?”
“Disappointing. However, I do have something I hope will get you excited about Charms all over again. Let me show you something.” With a flick of her wand, a wispy silver eagle materialises, swooping across the room.
“Patronus Charms,” she says, and the eagle vanishes. “Used to repel Dementors, Lethifolds, and sometimes even as a messaging system.”
There’s a general gasp of awe at the sight. I exchange glances with Lorcan; after what we’ve been learning at the Honour Guard, Patroni are nothing.
“The interesting thing about Patroni,” Professor Malfoy continues, “Is that Dark wizards cannot cast them.”
“Wouldn’t that make an Auror’s job easy then?” someone asks.
“Not necessarily,” Malfoy says. “There’s always a possibility that the wizard in question just doesn’t know how to cast a Patronus and to convict anyone on Dark magic, you need evidence that they committed it, not just that they have the inclination towards it. The Patronus is a complex piece of magic that requires high concentration. The incantation is Expecto Patronum, but what makes the Patronus tricky is that it is a manifestation of positive thoughts. The easiest way to cast a Patronus, especially for when you’re just starting out, is to focus on your best memory. If you suffer from clinical depression, I suggest taking a happy friend with you if you expect to encounter Dementors.”
After this kindly suggestion, the class stands and begins to practice casting the spell.
“Expecto Patronum,” I say confidently. Dad taught me the Patronus a few years ago, mine takes the form of a fox.
“Expecto Patronum,” I repeat, and still there’s no sign of the Patronus.
Dark wizards can’t cast Patroni. For one brief, fleeting second, the realisation that I have become a Dark wizard threatens to overpower me with panic and fear, and I feel faint.
“Lily?” Lorcan asks, alarmed. “Lily? Are you okay? Professor!”
“Yes?” Malfoy comes hurrying over, and my eyes blur as she approaches. “Lily? Are you not feeling well?”
I shake my head.
“Lorcan, take her to the hospital wing, would you?”
“Of course.” Lorcan slips an arm around my shoulders and helps me out of the classroom. I feel weak, and I hate it.
“Told you you looked half dead,” is all he says as we make our way to the hospital wing.
“Lily Potter!” Madam Pomfrey exclaims when we arrive. “Had your father in and out of here all the time when he was at school, your mother too—Quidditch players, I tell you, they make up half my workload…” She helps me over to a bed and turns sternly to Lorcan. “Back to class, young man.”
“No buts. No healthy student is allowed in the hospital wing during classtime. Now off you go.”
She shooes him off and bustles over to me. “Potter, Potter, Potter,” she mutters to herself. “Did you have enough to eat for breakfast this morning?”
“Plenty, Madam Pomfrey.”
“Eat anything bad last night?”
“Have you been vomiting?”
She looks me over with a practiced eye. “Now, I know this is a silly question to ask you, but it’s policy that I have to ask. You’re not sexually active, are you?”
Oh, Merlin. Kill me now.
“One could say I am,” I admit, and as the heat rises to my cheeks I’m comfortable in the knowledge I’m no longer deathly pale.
Pomfrey’s reaction is limited to a raising of the eyebrows and a slight tutting. “Not in the school, I hope.”
I really, really am not enjoying this conversation.
Pomfrey’s now waving her wand over me and muttering an incantation that I imagine would be the Latin translation for ‘diagnose.’ Still feeling somewhat gross, I stare at the ceiling and hope I’ll be better by the Honour Guard meeting tonight.
“It appears you are pregnant.”
“All right, guys,” I begin at the first meeting of Unity after the Christmas holidays. “We’re at war. And war means fighting. Please raise your hand if you are willing to fight for the cause.”
About thirty people raise their hands, and I can’t help smiling. I was half expecting Scorpius and I to face DOWIAH on our lonesomes.
“Good. I now pronounce those of you with your hands raised as faithful members of One Hogwarts. Please come forth and sign your name on this piece of parchment.”
“That was straightforward,” Scorpius comments.
“No need to be overly complicated about such things. We need to start thinking about how to train this army.”
“We re-establish Dragons Awakening, of course. Open only to One Hogwarts.”
“You’re a genius.”
“I do try. Professor Lupin, can we use this classroom for an extra night a week?”
“You’d be better off in the Room of Requirement,” Teddy replies, “And I’ll meet you there when I can, help you out.”
“Done. We’ll meet tomorrow night…Hey guys!” I call, addressing everyone who put their hands up for One Hogwarts. “Tomorrow night at seven for the first meeting, in the Room of Requirement!”
“I hate that room,” someone comments. “It seems far too complex.”
“It’s not. The default place for the door to show up is the seventh-floor opposite Barmy Barnabus’s tapestry, but it can move around if it’s required to—you know, because it’s a Room of Requirement…But we won’t need it to. Just walk past the spot, thinking “Man, I’d like to see the meeting place for One Hogwarts” or something along those lines.”
“So it’s not going to move around or anything trippy like that?”
“It shouldn’t. In fact, we’ll require it to stay in one place.”
“What about security?”
“We’ll ask it to only admit members of One Hogwarts. It’s the Room of Requirement, it can do anything.”
“And it’ll hold them out? DOWIAH and such?”
“You want to hear about what the Room can do, ask Professor Longbottom,” I tell them. “He and other members of Dumbledore’s Army hid from Death Eaters in there for weeks during the second Wizarding War. Gave them beds, a bathroom, access to food, you name it.”
“Did your parents hide in there?” someone asks.
“My parents?” I repeat. “My parents were too cool for that. They spent seventh year hunting Voldemort’s Horcruxes.”
The following evening, thirty people make it safely to the Room of Requirement, which takes the form of a long hall equipped with cushions and spellbooks. I can’t help but wonder if it looked like this for Dumbledore’s Army in my parents’ day.
“All right,” I call, and the chattering slowly subsides. “Everyone made it all right? I just realised I completely forgot something. Anyone who is not of age, please raise your hands. I don’t care if it’s your birthday tomorrow or next Monday or your mum says you’re as mature as a seventeen year old or you’ve been illegally Apparating for years, I want your hands in the air. Okay, you three, back to your common rooms. Sorry.”
The three sixth-years get up from the floor, muttering amongst themselves, and I watch them depart.
“Glad I remembered that,” I comment. “Don’t want kids fighting in battle. Now, I want to ask you all a serious question.”
Scorpius shoots me a disbelieving look.
“Don’t be ashamed to put up your hand. In fact, I would be surprised if you didn’t. It’s a reflection of human nature. Please, raise your hand, anyone who has ever sat in Defence Against the Dark Arts and asked either yourselves or the person next to you, or, even more impressively, your professor, that age-old question, ‘When are we ever going to use this in real life?’”
Half the assembled group raise their hands.
“Okay, and the rest of you are lying,” I inform them. “Because let’s face it. We are Generation Peace. Our parents and grandparents were embroiled in wizarding wars, and they’ve done all they can to keep peace and protect us little munchkins. We sit in DADA and we think, honestly, unless we’re planning to become Aurors, we ain’t gonna need this. Am I right?”
This time, there’s quite a loud murmur of assent.
“Well, let me answer the age old question. When are you going to use this in real life? Now, ladies (And yes, I’m aware there are boys here, but I’m calling you all ladies to insinuate something and make you more motivated to be big curse-throwing manly men.) We are about 97.998% sure that the Honour Guard, the elite army of DOWIAH, is comprised entirely of Dark wizards. I hope that doesn’t alarm you.”
The faces looking back at me indeed turn to alarm. To be honest, I knew I was expecting too much from them.
“Don’t look at me like that!” I protest. “If our parents could fight Dark wizards when they were our age and younger, we sure as hell can take them on. Let me tell you all something. We’re not going into this unprepared. Professor Lupin is going to help us prepare, and Head Auror Harry Potter—yeah, you’ve all heard of him—will be coming in as well. You’re looking calmer already.”
“We’re not just a group of unprepared, unskilled students,” Scorpius says quietly. “I don’t know how much you’ve heard about me or about my family. I’d be an idiot not to think the rumours have been flying around since the Battle of Hogwarts. But it’s likely that everything you’ve heard about my family is true. We have some major skeletons in the closet. Why am I telling you this? Because there was a time when my father and my grandfather came under the jurisdiction of the greatest Dark wizard ever known. There was a time when my father and grandfather were loyal Death Eaters, and when they were Death Eaters, they learned of magic so dark you can’t imagine it.”
Scorpius’s voice shakes, and I take his hand and squeeze it. “My father was sixteen when he was forced into the Death Eaters. He was given the task of killing Albus Dumbledore, but he couldn’t go through with it. He was asked to betray friends and classmates, watch people get tortured and murdered. He saw horrors he can never forget, and heard of things so terrible we can’t even comprehend them.”
He’s trembling now, but he keeps talking. “My father has seen first hand what Dark magic does. It corrupts, it divides, it ruins, it destroys. Since I was old enough to hold a wand, he has taught me every counter-curse, every block, every way of defending myself against the Dark Arts. He has told me the effects of every curse he ever learned or ever saw, so I can recognise it, and know what I’m up against. And I tell you right now, it is possible to defeat the Dark Arts. It is possible to defend yourself. And I, and Rose, and Professor Lupin, and Professor Longbottom, and Harry Potter, will make damn bloody sure the lot of us are prepared and able to fight the worst the Dark Arts have to offer.”
“You’re, ah, joking, right?” I ask weakly.
“Would I joke about such matters?” Pomfrey asks sharply. “You, Miss Potter, are most definitely pregnant.”
“But…I can’t be.”
“I’d love to hear how,” she says tartly.
Fuck my life.
“Do you know who the father is?” she continues.
“Bloody Merlin, I’m not that much of a slut,” I say hotly. Her accusatory tone is really getting to me.
“No need for that language.” She bustles around, rummaging through bottles of potions and coming back to me. “Strengthening Solution.”
I made that stuff in Potions last week. A weird thought.
“You’ll return to class after a brief rest,” Pomfrey continues. “There are, of course, a number of procedures that must be followed when dealing with a student pregnancy. Your parents will have to be informed—”
“You can’t be planning on keeping it a secret.”
“I’ll tell them,” I say emphatically. “I don’t want them finding out from you or McGonagall or an owl casually sent out this afternoon.”
“If you say so. You’ll also have to come in every once in a while for a checkup…”
“I’d rather go to Mungo’s.”
“It’s not an option, Miss Potter. There are procedures in place. The school takes a very firm stance on issues such as this.”
“It didn’t happen at school!”
“Calm down. Where it happened is irrelevant. You are still a student of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and we hold a high expectation of behavior from our students, whether on the grounds or off.”
Listening to Pomfrey’s admonishment is the last straw. Panic is already threatening to take over; panic, disbelief, this can’t be happening, I’m trapped, what can I do? It takes me several moments to realise the loud sobbing I can hear is coming from me, but I don’t care. How could this happen? How could I have been so stupid? What’s going to happen to me now? My life is over, everything I planned to do, over. I’m sixteen fucking years old!
Pomfrey dismisses me from the hospital wing after another half hour, but I hide out in Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom instead of going to class.
“Lily Potter,” Myrtle gushes, flitting across the top of the cubicles. “What are you doing here?”
“Revelling in my fucking amazing life, obviously.”
“You’re in a mood. Did your boyfriend dump you?”
“No, he did not,” I say icily.
“Didn’t fail a test, did you?”
I ignore her. “Don’t suppose you speak Parseltongue, do you?” I ask, eyeing the snake engraved on the top of one of the taps. Going and dying in the Chamber of Secrets sounds like an appealing idea to me right now. With my parents’ history in the place, it would be oddly symbolic.
“No,” Myrtle says. “But that boy did.”
“What boy?” I ask, not really paying attention.
“The boy. He went down there once. He was very good looking. I helped him with his Triwizard Task. He was in the Prefects’ Bathroom, and I talked to him.” Myrtle lets out a high-pitched giggle. “And watched him. Bit before your time, of course.”
Oh dear, sweet Merlin, she’s talking about my dad.
“Scuse me,” I manage to mutter, “I’m going to be sick.”
“We need to talk,” I hiss to Lorcan, intercepting him as he comes out of Potions at the end of the day.
“Those are the most frightening words I’ve heard in a long time.”
I tow him through the castle to a far corner of the quadrangle, scale a tree and cast muffliato amongst its branches.
“What in Merlin’s name is this all about?” he asks.
“I’m fucked, Lorcan.”
“Because I’m pregnant.”
He stares at me, those blue Scamander eyes wide and unblinking with shock.
He shakes his head wordlessly, but his knuckles have gone white as he digs his nails into the bark. He raises one hand, runs it across his forehead and through his hair, before gripping the branch again. He’s shaking.
“Lorcan?” I ask worriedly, hearing the pleading in my voice. Say something. Anything. Please. You’re scaring me.
In one swift motion, he leaps down from the tree and strides away, leaving the branches shaking.
“Lorcan!” I scream after him, but he doesn’t hear me. I cling to the trunk of the tree, shivering and sobbing uncontrollably as an icy wind rushes through the branches. I’m alone. So alone, and no one can hear me.
“Shit,” Natalia says when I run into the Room of Requirement with seconds to spare. “We thought we’d have to leave you behind.”
“I’m here,” I mutter, lunging for the Portkey, which this time is Emily’s hairbrush. It glows brightly, and I feel the familiar jerking sensation as it spins into nothingness.
“Welcome back,” Medea says when we arrive at Headquarters. “Good Christmas?”
“Shit Christmas,” I reply.
Lorcan glances at me, then looks away. He hasn’t spoken to me at all since I told him, and his dismissal is like a kick in the guts.
“Someone’s in a good mood,” Medea drawls, raising one eyebrow at me. “Brighten up, Potter. We’ve got an interesting lesson lined up for you lot today.”
“Enlighten us,” Emily says.
“The Cruciatus,” Medea says, her eyes sparkling with excitement. “One of my favourites, because it’s so effective. Now, because I have no desire for any of us to be tortured, I’ve had to import a victim. Don’t look at me like that. I may have been on many occasions compared to the infamous Bellatrix Lestrange, however, torturing a person for no reason other than education or amusement isn’t high on my list of fun. There is one fundamental difference between myself and Bellatrix: She was stark raving mad, and I have my wits about me. Serpensortia.”
I leap back as a snake bursts out of her wand and slithers along the floor towards me. “Go away,” I yelp.
The snake pauses, eyeing me. Why?
“It’s fucking talking!” I cry, looking wildly around the room. Lorcan, Natalia, Medea, Octavian and Cadmus are staring at me.
“Well, well, well,” Octavian drawls. “A Parselmouth, like her father.”
“I’m not a Parselmouth!”
“Funny,” Octavian muses. “Because it was Parseltongue we heard from you moments ago.”
“I’m not a Parselmouth,” I say, staring at the snake, “I’ve never done that before in my life.”
“And how many snakes have you come across?” Medea asks. “Not many, I daresay.”
“No, but…I would know if I was.”
“Look at the snake, Lily.”
What am I doing here?
“Apparently, I’m lying to it,” I say, dumbfounded.
“Keep lying to it, else it’ll attack us,” Medea replies off-handedly. “Natalia, you know the incantation, I trust.”
Natalia steps forth and the snake seems to switch its gaze from me to her and back again.
What is she going to do to me?
No, I’m not doing this anymore. Just my fucking luck we have to torture a snake that can talk to me.
I turn my back on the thing, taking my place beside Lorcan.
“Going to talk to me yet?” I whisper.
“I’m sorry,” he replies, eyes fixated on Natalia and the snake. “I need…time.”
“And I need you,” I hiss back angrily. “Or did that not occur to you?”
“I said I’m sorry,” he replies in a clipped voice. “And this isn’t the time or place.”
The five of us take turns casting the Cruciatus on the snake. It never speaks again.
A/N: Sorry about how long it takes me to update, I have a number of different stories on the go. Things are getting much darker now, aren't they? Let me know what you think! And a massive thank you to nitenel for the Dobby nomination, it means so much!
Two days after the first meeting of One Hogwarts, the Daily Prophet announces the first deaths of Wizarding War III: a member of DOWIAH and two members of Unity killed in a duel.
“What was Hugo, then?” I ask angrily, throwing the paper aside. “We’re having another meeting of One Hogwarts tonight.”
“We had one two days ago,” Scorpius points out.
“If this was Quidditch you wouldn’t care.”
“I’m still bitter about that,” he replies. “Cancelling the Cup.”
“We’re at war.”
“I know,” he says, holding his hands up in surrender. “Do you have any plans for what we’re learning?”
“Fighting the Imperius, then,” he says decisively. “Which means casting it.”
“We can’t Imperius them!”
“Would you rather the Honour Guard did?” he asks sharply. “We need only cast it once, maybe twice, so everyone can learn to fight it.”
“I don’t know how to Imperius anyone. Nor do I want to learn.”
“Then I’ll do it. If it makes you feel better, call Harry in to supervise this one. It might help with the others as well, make sure they’re comfortable with it.”
I nod reluctantly; though I hate the idea of the Imperius being cast on anyone, even for defence purposes, the idea of having Harry around to supervise makes the prospect much less frightening—and illegal.
“Cover for me in Charms,” I mutter, slipping out of the Great Hall to track down Teddy.
“Ted—Professor Lupin!” I call, spotting him walking towards his classroom. “Can I, uh, borrow your office?”
“The Floo Network, I need to go to the Ministry.”
“What for?” he repeats.
“Going to ask Uncle Harry to come to tonight’s One meeting.”
“There’s one tonight?”
“I deemed it necessary. Can I borrow the office or what?”
“Technically, I shouldn’t let you…”
“Technically, we’re at war. Rules go out the window.”
Teddy chuckles. “Well said, Rose. Okay, go, but if anyone asks it wasn’t my fireplace.”
“Of course not. Thank you!”
Hoping that I don’t get accosted by reporters at the moment of my arrival, I throw a handful of Floo Powder into the fire in Teddy’s office. “The Atrium, Ministry of Magic!” I call as I step through.
I’ve barely walked five steps before a balding redhaired wizard comes charging towards me. “Rose!”
“Dad,” I return.
“What are you doing here?” he asks worriedly, glancing around. “What are you doing here by yourself? There could be members of the Honour Guard anywhere around, waiting to kill you!”
“You have such faith in your security systems,” I observe.
“We are at war, Rose. Are you skipping class? Your mother would throw a fit, you know that?”
“Well, it’s a good thing she can’t see me,” I reply. “Seen Uncle Harry?”
“No, I haven’t,” Dad blusters. “You risked life and limb to see Harry? What’s so important about seeing Harry?”
“I hardly risked life and limb. I’m going to ask him to come to the One Hogwarts meeting tonight.”
“You couldn’t have sent him an owl? A Patronus message?”
“Well, I could have, but Charms has been a bit boring lately. Thought I’d skip a lesson.”
“What about me?” Dad asks. “Couldn’t you have asked me to come to the meeting? I fought Voldemort too!”
“Yeah, well, we’re doing some intense stuff tonight, and Scorpius thought—”
“Scorpius?” Dad repeats. “You listen to Scorpius—”
“Oh, Dad, shut up about Scorpius,” I say impatiently. “You’d think after a year you’d be used to it by now. As I was saying, he thought the others would be more comfortable if we had Harry around.”
“What exactly are you going to do?”
“Uh, well, we’re…hey look, the Auror Office.” I start forward, but Dad holds me back.
“What are you doing?”
“The-Imperius-Curse-but-it’s-okay-because-that’s-why-we’re-getting-Harry-to-come,” I say in a rush.
“The Imperius Curse? You expect Harry to cast the Imperius Curse on you?”
“Not cast, just supervise.”
“And who, in the name of all that is magical, will be casting it?”
“Oh, look at the time!”
“Rose. Answer me.”
“Scorpius,” I admit, bracing myself.
“Scorpius Malfoy? The Imperius Curse? Scorpius Malfoy can cast an Imperius Curse? I knew it, Rose, I knew he was bad news, who knows what he’s capable of doing…to you! That’s it, I’m coming to Hogwarts tonight—”
“You will do no such thing,” I tell him, surprising myself with my firmness. “I trust Scorpius a hundred percent—”
“And what happens when he betrays that trust?” Dad demands.
“I am not having this conversation with you again. Scorpius is not his father, no matter how much you think he is, and I love him. Why do you insist on mistrusting him?”
“Because you’re my daughter, Rosie, and I can’t trust anyone else to protect you!”
I’m lost for words at that outburst, and glance at Dad curiously. He’s staring pointedly at the floor, his face reddening.
“You know, I think that’s the most touching thing I’ve ever heard you say.”
Dad goes even redder. “Yeah, well,” he mutters. “Yeah. So you see why I don’t like Malfoy.”
“We’ve got him,” I tell Scorpius, slipping into Arithmancy. “Harry, I mean. He’s agreed to come for an hour tonight. Seemed quite excited about the whole idea.”
“Didn’t freak out at the prospect of the Imperius Curse?”
“Nope. He thought it was a good idea. Said to keep it quiet from the Ministry, though.”
“The Ministry? He is the Ministry. Or at least, the part of the Ministry that’s meant to care.”
“His words, not mine.”
“And he was okay with me doing it?” Scorpius continues nervously.
“Yeah, my dad was a different story though.”
“You told your dad?”
“I kinda…ran into him. And he kinda…asked for the details. So yeah. You’d think you were Voldemort reincarnate, the way he reacted.”
“Your father’s such a lovely man,” he comments, rolling his eyes.
“He’s not all bad,” I reply, still thinking of his words at the Ministry.
“What do I have to do to gain his approval?” Scorpius asks, a hint of frustration in his voice. “Change my surname? Disown the family?”
“It’s nothing personal.”
“Nothing personal?” he repeats incredulously.
“Well, yeah, he’d be the same with any guy who wanted to go out with me.”
“How do you know that?”
“Coz I asked him what his problem with you was, why he seems so intent on mistrusting you, and he said he can’t trust anyone else to protect me.”
“Deep words from Ron Weasley.”
“I know, I was…surprised.”
“Perhaps I should find your dad and express my willingness to jump in front of an Avada Kedavra for you.”
“Don’t you dare ever do that. Jump in front of a curse for me.”
“Because I couldn’t live without you. Damn Dad, he got me all sentimental.”
“I’m touched, Rose.” He places a hand over his chest. “Your grudging sentimentality warms my bitterly cold, black Malfoy heart.”
“Evening, folks!” I call to the assembled One Hogwartians that evening. “Tonight, we’ve got something intense. Something scary. Something unthinkable, even. Which is why we have Head Auror Harry Potter, Boy Who Lived, Chosen One, yada yada, supervising the proceedings tonight. Everyone say hi.”
For half the group, this is the first time they’ve ever actually seen Harry in person, and a gasp rises up from the crowd. Harry waves slightly awkwardly from the wall he’s trying to inconspicuously lean against.
“Before we begin, I want you to all cast a Patronus. All of you. You should have learned this in sixth-year Charms. Excellent. See that? That means none of you are Dark wizards. Always a comforting thought, isn’t it? You’re probably wondering what the big deal is. The fact is, I told you we’re going to be fighting the Dark Arts. And to fight the Dark Arts you need to be prepared for the worst. Tonight, you’re going to learn to fight the Imperius Curse. You’re going to be put under the curse, in a controlled situation, supervised by Harry Potter and Professors Lupin and Longbottom. Scorpius will be casting the curse. Hands up everyone who saw Scorpius’s Patronus.”
“It was an owl, wasn’t it?”
“I saw it.”
“Wait, wasn’t that Rose’s? The owl?”
“Yeah, the owl was Rose’s.”
I nod to Scorpius, and we cast our Patroni at the same time. Two silver owls swoop through the Room of Requirement as thirty people watch.
“They’re the same!”
“They have the same Patronus! You know what that means?”
“Anyway,” I call, interrupting the chatter. “You saw Scorpius’s Patronus. What can you tell me about that?”
“He’s madly in love with you!” someone calls.
“He is, but what else?”
“He’s not a Dark wizard?”
“Bingo! Correct. And I just told you he can cast the Imperius. I hope that puts your mind at ease a bit. Dark magic is more often than not determined by intention. Scorpius, if you please.”
“All right,” Lorcan says. “I’m here. Talk to me.”
“I don’t know what to do,” I admit miserably. “It’s like there’s no way out.”
“That doesn’t mean there’s not a way through. We’ll talk to Mum, you can live with us, she’ll understand—”
“I don’t want to even think about that right now,” I interrupt. “I want things to go back to normal. I want to get hold of a Time Turner and go back, except my parents destroyed the lot of them in the second wizarding war.”
“Well, it was either mine, Rose’s, your mum, or Professor Longbottom.”
“Are you going to tell your parents?” Lorcan asks, bringing me back to the subject at hand.
“I don’t know how, I haven’t spoken to them in weeks. I don’t want to tell anyone, in case…”
“In case what?” he asks sharply.
“In case nothing comes of it.”
“And what’s that supposed to mean?”
“I don’t know. I need to talk to Medea.”
“Medea? Why Medea?”
“Because she’s the leader of the Honour Guard, Lorcan,” I explain impatiently. “That, and she’s not going to look at me like I’ve fallen so far from grace it’s a wonder I’m still alive.”
I stand to track down Natalia.
“Talk to Medea?” Lorcan calls after me. “You’ve barely even talked to me, and I’m the damn father!”
“You weren’t there when I needed you!” I yell back, hearing my voice crack on the final words. “I needed you, and you walked away! Don’t you dare act like you have any say in what I do!”
“Lily!” Cameron calls, puffing as he sprints to catch up with me. “McGonagall wants to see you in her office.”
Fear grips me, cutting through my anger like a knife. The Honour Guard, the pregnancy…which of my dark secrets has McGonagall found out about? Dismissing Cameron, I force myself to remain calm as I walk through the castle and hover at the door to McGonagall’s office.
“Good, you’re here,” she says crisply, beckoning me inside. I follow her up the spiral staircase, taking the seat she gestures me to as she takes her place behind her desk.
“I’ve just spoken to Madam Pomfrey.”
“Right,” I manage in a strangled voice.
“She informed me of your…condition. I don’t think I need to tell you that I am unbelievably disappointed in you, Miss Potter.”
“As you are no doubt aware, this school has not, does not, and will not tolerate sexual relations between students, whether they be of age or not. And you, Miss Potter, are not.”
There’s a very loud, very sudden coughing fit from one of the portraits on the wall.
“That’s enough from you, Severus,” McGonagall calls without turning around. “Miss Potter, your parents will need to be informed, as will the parents of the father…”
“No!” I shout, hearing the hysteria in my voice. “Don’t tell them, please.”
“What will the famous Harry Potter think, his daughter getting pregnant in her sixth year?” the portrait drawls.
“Fuck knows why Al was named after you,” I mutter, addressing the portrait. “You’re an absolute git.”
A furious McGonagall fires a curse at the portrait, and a disgruntled-looking Severus Snape falls silent.
“I will not tolerate that kind of language in my office,” she says icily. “Do I make myself clear?”
“Who is the father of the child, Miss Potter?”
“Don’t call it a child.”
“Who is the father?”
“The Ravenclaw Prefect?”
“Go and get him,” McGonagall says crisply. “Now.”
I’m not in the mood to answer the bronze Ravenclaw knocker’s riddles, instead cornering Dom on her way into the tower.
“Tell Lorcan he has to see McGonagall in her office, now,” I say flatly.
Dom eyes me. “Everything all right, Lily?”
“Fan-fucking-tastic. Just get Lorcan.”
Shooting me another concerned look, Dom retreats into Ravenclaw Tower, and I return to McGonagall’s office.
“He’s on his way,” I reply to her unanswered question.
“He knows, I assume?”
“Oh yeah, he knows.” I can hear the bitterness creeping into my voice.
“Professor?” Lorcan says, hovering in the doorway. He glances at me, and realisation seems to dawn on his face.
“Take a seat, Mr Scamander.”
He does so, pointedly ignoring me.
“I trust you know why you’re here,” McGonagall says.
“I can venture a guess.”
“Are you aware of the procedures relating to such an issue as this?”
“Can’t say I ever thought I’d need to be, Professor.”
“Are you seventeen, Mr Scamander?”
“Nearly.” He shifts around uncomfortably.
“You’re aware that under wizarding law you will be bound to pay child support from the moment you are of age.”
I can’t believe we’re discussing this. No.
“I would have anyway,” Lorcan says.
“Miss Potter,” she says, turning to me, “You will be unable to attend Hogwarts next year. You can choose to come back to complete your schooling when the child is older, or complete a NEWT-equivalent course through the Ministry by correspondence.”
Why is not having this child not an option?
“We will give you two weeks to inform your parents,” McGonagall continues. “If you have not done so, an owl will be sent. I must also ask you to hand in your Prefect badges.”
“Professor!” Lorcan protests, and I stare at her, aghast.
“Prefects are to at all times model exemplary behavior and abide by all school rules,” McGonagall says tartly. “You have done neither.”
“We didn’t break any school rules!” Lorcan says angrily. “It didn’t happen at school!”
“Where it happened is of no consequence,” McGonagall replies. “Nor do I want to hear the details. You are both students at Hogwarts, not only students, but Prefects. Students who are meant to be role models and leaders. I have been teaching at Hogwarts for seventy years, Mr Scamander, and I have never seen such shocking behaviour from our Prefects.”
“So this is worse than plotting to kill the Headmaster and bring Death Eaters into the school?” I demand hotly. “Draco Malfoy, Slytherin Prefect, we’re somehow worse than him?”
“That’s enough, Miss Potter. Your badge, please.”
This must be how Rose felt, I realise as I unpin the badge from my robes, holding it in my hand for one last time and placing it miserably on McGonagall’s desk.
“You are dismissed,” she tells us, and Lorcan and I rise in silence and depart her office.
“We’re members of the Honour Guard,” Lorcan says resolutely. “And that matters far more than a Prefect badge.”
“Natalia,” I call, spotting her up ahead and jogging to catch up with her. “I have a favour to ask.”
She hangs back, allowing Emily and Damascus to go ahead, before turning to me. “What is it?”
“I need to talk to Medea.”
“We’re going to Headquarters again tonight,” she tells me. “Emily’s already told Lorcan. Twenty five past seven, usual place. Is everything okay?”
“Yeah, it’ll be fine.”
When we arrive at Headquarters, I immediately seek out Medea, casting Muffliato as I do.
“That’s a curious little spell,” she notes.
“Invented by Severus Snape,” I reply. “It means conversations can’t be overheard.”
“What do you need to talk to me about that can’t be heard by the rest of the Guard?”
“Well, that explains a lot.”
“What do you mean?”
“You’ve been overly temperamental,” she replies. “Lorcan’s, I assume?”
“That, also, explains a lot.”
“Like the fact he’s not talking to me?”
“Precisely. That’s unfortunate.”
“You’re telling me.”
Medea sighs. “I’m sorry to be blunt, Lily, but you really are no use to the Guard pregnant.”
“That’s what I thought,” I mutter, looking up at her in trepidation. Is she going to kick me out?
“Do you intend to keep it?”
“I really would rather not.”
She considers me thoughtfully. “You’re a good duellist,” she says at length. “A powerful girl, and an asset to the Guard. You are, effectively, our secret weapon. The Ministry may guess some members of the Guard, but you will never come under suspicion.” She drops her voice, lowering her head to whisper in my ear. “I know of potions that can fix the problem. Fix it, and make it seem natural.” She straightens up. “It’s entirely up to you. I’m not pushing you in any direction. But if you want another option, an option to stay in the Guard, then that’s it.”
A/N: I'm sorry it's taken me so long to update, but I'm making this story my priority for the next couple of weeks. I finished it for NaNo last year, and I want to get it posted as quickly as possible. So expect fast updates for a while, and thanks for your patience! :)
“There’s a meeting on for all leaders of Unity,” Teddy informs me after Transfiguration, “Meaning you’re going.”
“I’m counted as a leader of Unity?”
“Definitely. And Scorpius too, I should think…Your dad got a bit vague there.”
“So, when and where are we going?”
“Oh, I’m not. You’re the Unity leader at this school, not me. You just use my classroom…And my time.”
“So, when and where do I go?”
“Tonight at six, at the Ministry, in the convention room opposite your mum’s office,” Teddy recites. “You’re to go by Floo.”
“Floo again?” I ask, allowing some exasperation to enter my voice. “What’s the point of even having an Apparition licence if you’re not allowed to use it?”
“It’s not a very practical transportation system in and out of Hogwarts, you know,” he points out with a small smile.
“I could walk down to Hogsmeade.”
“And get assassinated on the way,” he points out.
“Maybe I would believe that half the wizarding world wants me dead if I actually saw some evidence of it.”
“Evidence is not something you want, Rose. Don’t do anything stupid.”
“Who are you and what have you done with Teddy Lupin?” I grumble.
“I’ve been masquerading as a teacher too long, forgive me,” he replies. “I think I am actually becoming one.”
“Don’t,” I threaten, “Or I’ll drop Transfiguration.”
Teddy sighs. “The fact that I would care shows how ingrained this teacher mentality is. If you dropped Transfiguration, I’d tell your mother. Anyway, you better go track down Ast—Professor Malfoy and tell her you’re using her Floo. I’m not risking it a second time.”
I’m met by Dad the moment I step out of the Floo in the Ministry’s Atrium, despite the fact that the place is deserted. It’s strange seeing it like this—I don’t think I’ve ever been here when politicians, civil servants and other assorted wizards aren’t milling around, Apparating along the far wall, Flooing in or generally bustling between departments.
“No Scorpius, then?” Dad notes.
“I didn’t know he was invited.”
“I don’t think I phrased that clearly,” Dad concedes. “I did invite him. Sort of. I tried.”
“You’re making an effort,” I observe, touched.
Dad grunts. “Just don’t expect me to act matey with his father.”
“Wouldn’t have thought of it,” I tell him.
“So what’s this meeting about?” I continue, deciding to change the subject from Malfoys.
Dad shrugs. “Just to get together, discuss the next stages.”
“How many people will be there?”
“Not many, about five or ten.”
We arrive in the small conference room off Mum’s office, where an assortment of food has been laid out on a central table.
“Food!” I say enthusiastically.
“Introductions,” Mum says, clapping her hands. “In case you don’t all know each other. Head Auror Harry Potter, in charge of the One Army, Dennis Creevey, Luna Scamander and Hannah Longbottom, regional organisers, and my daughter Rose, co-ordinator of Unity Hogwarts and One Hogwarts.”
Wow, Mum makes me sound about a thousand times more impressive than I am.
I take a seat amongst these leaders of the wizarding world, quietly marvelling at the concept that I’m one of them.
“Dig in,” Dad says, waving his hands at the spread, and I lunge forward, used to having to compete with a bunch of seventh-year Slytherin boys for dinner. I explain this to the assembled group, who are now watching me strangely.
“What we really need to do,” the weedy-looking man Mum introduced as Dennis Creevey says, “Is find out what DOWIAH are up to.”
“You mean a double agent?” Harry asks, ladling potatoes onto his plate. “We’re forgetting that the real danger is not DOWIAH itself, it’s the Honour Guard. From what I can gather, it’s a very small group, possibly with no more than ten wizards, led by Medea Avery.”
“We don’t know what we’re up against at all,” Dad says. “DOWIAH could be building a massive, strong army to attack us with. The Honour Guard could be a decoy. Can you imagine them leaving all the fighting up to ten wizards, no matter how powerful or dark they are?”
“We do have an insider in DOWIAH,” Mum interrupts. “Penelope Clearwater, Professor of Muggle Studies and Head of Ravenclaw House at Hogwarts.”
“Penelope Clearwater?” Dad repeats. “As in, Percy’s girlfriend at Hogwarts?”
“So she was,” Mum says. “She joined DOWIAH a week ago, and she’ll be reporting to us as soon as she has some news.”
“Good thinking,” Harry says, nodding. “At the very least, we’ll be able to find out if DOWIAH are raising an army or not.”
“They’d be stupid not to,” Dad says gloomily.
“Which is why we need to find out as much about it as possible,” Harry says. “And step up the training of our own army, if possible. Rose, what have you covered at Hogwarts?”
I begin ticking things off on my fingers. “Disarming, Stunning, revision of Patroni, fighting the Imperius. Most of the kids were also part of Dragons Awakening earlier in the year, so they’ve had some duelling practice.”
“I’ll organise an Apparition lesson for you sometime next week,” Mum says, conjuring parchment and quill and scribbling furiously. “In case anyone can’t Apparate, and you’ll all need to be able to if there’s a need for a quick escape.”
“Get together a Potions group as well, if possible,” Harry says. “Hogwarts has the best store of Potions ingredients in the country. We may need stocks of Polyjuice, Strengthening Solution, maybe even Felix Felicis...”
“Provided we’ve got people in the group who can make those potions,” I interrupt. “They’re quite complex.”
“Rose, your mother brewed a batch of Polyjuice when she was in second year, I’m sure you can do it,” Dad says.
“I was meaning the Felix,” I reply. “And I don’t think Professor Rochester will be keen on helping a group of students prepare for war.”
“Then nick the ingredients,” Dad says. “What?” he protests at Mum’s disapproving look. “You stole stuff from Snape when we made Polyjuice!”
“You learn something new every day,” I comment mildly.
“You should also cover Petrificus Totalus, Reducto, Protego, Finite, Finite Incantatem, Confundo, Confringo, Depulso—”
“All right,” I interrupt Harry before he recites every curse or spell that can be used in battle. “We’ll have an evening devoted to just blowing things up.”
“Can I come to that?” Harry asks eagerly.
“By all means. I’ll call it for…Next Thursday, so just under two weeks away.”
“Meet me in Professor McGonagall’s office at seven.”
“What’s that sound?” Luna asks suddenly, cocking her head and calmly picking up her wand.
Everyone around the table exchanges startled glances, and a hush descends in the room. There’s a sound of mild scuffling, barely audible, coming from somewhere below us.
“The Atrium,” Mum says grimly, getting up from her chair and going to the door. “Nobody’s meant to be here at this hour. I want everybody silent and following me. Rose, go back to Hogwarts. Portus.” She directs this spell to a fork on the table, and it glows expectantly.
“Let her stay, Hermione,” Luna says calmly. “When you were her age you’d already fought Death Eaters twice.”
“A lot more than twice,” Mum mutters. “If this gets messy, Rose, I want you out of here.”
“Of course,” I lie.
Moving silently, we creep out of the conference room and towards the Atrium. Dad grips my arm, eyes darting every which way, wand at the ready.
“In there,” Mum whispers, nodding at a group of dark, cloaked figures striding past the fountain.
Almost as one, Mum, Dad, Harry and Luna fire Stunning spells at the group. You can tell they’ve fought together before.
The figures scatter, some Stunned, most not, and immediately curses begin to fly.
“Lumos Maxima!” I shout, and the Atrium explodes with dazzling light. The intruders are not only wearing cloaks, but masks as well. There’s something terrifying about fighting the faceless.
We’re outnumbered, I realise with a sinking feeling; there are seven of us and eleven of them, and only two were caught with the original Stunning spells. They’ve reformed as a group, advancing slowly towards us, and desperately I fire off Stupefy and Petrificus Totalus into the group. The first misses, the second hits, and instantly three people wheel around to face me, shooting curses in my direction.
Mum, Dad and Harry are duelling with five of the intruders, the three others targeting me, Hannah and Dennis.
“Go back, Rose!” Mum screams at me. “Go back to Hogwarts!”
“No!” I yell as a jet of green light narrowly misses me. Heart pounding, I leap aside.
“Aguamenti!” I shout, thinking fast, and a stream of water erupts from my wand, which quickly becomes a jet, then a torrent. “Duro!” and the torrent of water flying through the air turns to stone, raining down on the intruders and forming a wall between us and them.
“Good thinking, Rose!” Stunning Spell after Stunning Spell are fired over the low wall, hitting the intruders as they shelter from the falling rocks.
“Finite Incantatem!” a voice calls, and the Atrium is plunged into darkness once more; the rocks turn back to water, and with a series of loud cracks the intruders Disapparate.
“That was the Honour Guard,” Harry says grimly, waving his wand and clearing up the water and debris. “I saw Medea Avery, her mask slipped when I was duelling her.”
“What did they want?” Dad asks. “They didn’t put up much of a fight.”
“They were aiming to scare us,” Mum says. “To scare us, and to suss out our security.They shouldn’t have been able to get in. The Ministry’s meant to be protected.”
“Success,” Medea declares, whipping off her mask and pacing energetically across the front of the room. “Good thinking with Finite Incantatem, Lily, got us out just in time.”
“Doesn’t it bother you that they were beating us?” Natalia asks.
“Not at all,” Medea replies. “They weren’t beating us, Natalia. We weren’t there for a battle, we were there to show them what we can do, make them doubt their security, to intimidate. And we certainly succeeded at that.”
“The entire Ministry is made of wizards who still look back in fear at the days of the Dark Lord,” Octavian says. “You could see that in their faces tonight, and that will be our biggest advantage. We take our cues from yesterday’s Death Eaters, and that terrifies them.”
“Does the Ministry know it was us?” Emerson asks.
“Most definitely, I let my mask slip when I was duelling Harry Potter.” Medea grins. “I’m the only known member, the rest of you are absolute mysteries. Rabastan is still meant to be in Azkaban. That’s the beauty of it, and it scares them. There is nothing more frightening than the unknown.”
“Except, perhaps, the memory of wars past,” Octavian says.
“We are the perfect combination!” Medea declares, spinning on the spot with her arms outstretched. “Of mystery, of power, of history. The elite group of Death Eaters numbered the same as us, perhaps even less, and they held wizarding Britain in its entirety in their control!” She wheels around to face us, eyes sparkling. “And we can recreate their glory.”
I can’t give up the Honour Guard. Not now, when we’ve just done our first mission, when everyone’s revelling in the excitement, eagerly discussing what we can do next, to bring down the Ministry. Bring down the Ministry. The Honour Guard is huge. We may only be eleven people, but we’re huge, and with the backing of DOWIAH we can bring down the Ministry and save the wizarding world. I can barely sit still as we review the mission, and a quick glance around shows Lorcan, Natalia, Damascus and Emily are exactly the same.
“Thrilling, wasn’t it?” Medea asks with a smile. “And that’s just the beginning. Lily, can I pull you aside for a moment?”
I leap up from the table, following her into a small alcove shielded by a heavy curtain.
“Have you made a decision?” she asks quietly.
“Yes. I’ll…take the potion.”
“Good to hear!” Her face splits into a grin. “Honestly, Lily, your performance tonight was brilliant. You think on your feet, and we need you. I was really hoping we wouldn’t lose you.” She pauses. “But I don’t want to push you into anything. You’re absolutely sure this is what you want? Because it’s a big decision, I’m not going to pretend it isn’t.”
“I never wanted it anyway,” I reply. “That doesn’t sound callous, does it?”
“No, just honest. The potion takes about two weeks to infuse, I’ll get it to you then.”
“Two weeks?” I repeat. “But the deadline for me telling my parents is ten days away, otherwise Hogwarts is sending an owl.”
“Hogwarts knows?” Medea asks.
“It was Pomfrey who told me in the first place.”
“Ah, I see. But you’re estranged from your parents, aren’t you?”
The wording seems strange, extreme; I’ve never thought about it like that. “Yeah, I am,” I decide.
“Then it shouldn’t matter, should it?”
I must be unable to hide the worry on my face, because Medea bends down to look me straight in the eye. “Don’t worry about what your parents think,” she says softly. “They don’t matter, they’re not part of your life anymore. But we, the Guard, see a strong, powerful and capable girl who is going to help us defend wizarding honour. We’re not going to look down on you or judge you for a human mistake. Hell, I was in your situation once.”
Medea straightens up and sweeps out of the alcove, her words ringing in my ears.
I’m going to be okay.
I’m going to be okay, and the Guard is all that matters.
“Hey, Lily,” Molly says curiously, flinging herself onto the couch beside me, “Where’s your Prefect badge?”
I knew it would be only a matter of time before people started asking questions. And only a matter of time before the news travels through the whole school. Hopefully by then, I will no longer be pregnant and can dismiss the whole thing as rumour.
“I lost it,” I lie with a disappointed shrug. “I don’t know how or where, it just fell off my robes.”
“Have you tried Summoning it?” she asks, whipping out her wand as if to try herself.
“Underage magic outside the classroom to find a Prefect badge? Bit ironic, don’t you think?”
“Oh, yeah.” Satisfied with this answer, Molly drops her wand and settles back into the couch. She accepted that? Was I really that much of a goody-two-shoes before I joined the Guard? Bloody hell. I’m almost tempted to tell her the truth, just to see the look on her face. Almost.
“Someone broke into the Ministry last night,” she continues, eyes wide with this news. “They’re keeping it hush-hush, don’t want too many people finding out.”
Oh, did they now?
“Do they know who?”
“They’re saying it’s the Honour Guard,” Molly says in hushed, almost reverential tones. “Apparently their leader, whatshername—”
“Yeah, her, was duelling with your dad.” Molly lowers her voice even more. “And apparently Rose was there. You know, Rose Weasley. Fighting the Guard.”
Yes, she was. Nearly killed me with a river of stone, but that’s okay.
“Where did you hear all this?”
“Dad heard all about it,” Molly says with an air of triumph. “He knows everything that happens at the Ministry.”
“He wasn’t there.”
“How do you know that?”
Because I was.
“He’s not a Unity leader. They were the only people at the Ministry last night.”
“Did Rose tell you that?”
Sure, why not. “Yeah, saw her this morning.”
“And what did she say?”
“Just that there was a bit of drama at the Ministry when she went to the meeting last night.” Wow, I’m good at this.
“That’s an understatement,” Molly says. “I’ll bet it’ll be in the Daily Prophet today.”
“Probably,” I agree mildly. “We’ll see at lunchtime. Anyway, I should probably get to Herbology.”
I make my escape, envying Natalia, Damascus and Emily. They don’t have to go to extraordinary lengths to hide what they do. People just leave them alone. With me, everyone’s still under the impression that I’m good girl Lily Potter who won’t use underage magic to find her Prefect badge, when in reality I’m a sixteen year old pregnant Dark wizard.
I can’t imagine the reactions if anyone found out.
Harry Potter arrived in Professor McGonagall’s office before Rose.
“Good evening, Potter,” McGonagall greeted him. “What brings you here?”
“I’m meant to be meeting Rose, to supervise tonight’s One meeting.”
“Of course. I’ll go and get her.” Professor McGonagall bustled out of the office, leaving Harry to stroll around the office, pausing to speak to the portrait of Professor Dumbledore on the wall.
“Harry my boy, good to see you again!” the portrait called jovially.
“And you, Professor.”
“How are the preparations for war going?” Dumbledore asked, his tone turning sombre.
Harry sighed. “As well as can be expected. I learned from the best.”
“If you mean me, I am, of course, flattered,” Dumbledore replied, “Though I’d like to think I taught you more than how to prepare for a battle.”
“You taught me almost everything I know, Professor.”
“I’m glad you said almost,” the portrait beside him drawled. “Mind you, Potter, I found it particularly difficult to teach you anything.”
“Evening, Professor Snape. I see you’re in a good mood.”
“As good a mood as any, when one is an oil painting.” Snape narrowed his eyes. “I heard about your daughter, Potter. I’m not sure whether to offer my congratulations or condolences.”
Harry spun around to face the portrait. “What’s this about my daughter?” he asked sharply.
Snape’s eyebrows disappeared into his hair. “You mean you haven’t heard? My my, she’s keeping secrets.”
“What are you talking about?” Harry demanded.
“Severus…” Dumbledore warned.
“You best hear it from her, not me,” Snape replied calmly, closing his eyes as if falling asleep.
“Professor Snape, WHAT HAPPENED TO MY DAUGHTER?” Harry roared, brandishing his wand at the portrait.
McGonagall entered the office at this point, taking stock of the situation. “Severus, what have you done?” She crossed the room swiftly, glaring at the portrait.
“Professor McGonagall, he said something about my daughter, what happened to my daughter, what happened to Lily?”
“Sit down, Potter.”
“Tell me!” Harry looked wildly from McGonagall to the portrait and back, searching for an answer.
“She’s…” McGonagall cleared her throat. “She’s pregnant. With Lorcan Scamander’s child.”
“GinNY!” Harry calls, panicked, launching out of the fireplace in a cloud of soot and green dust.
“What?” I ask, startled, throwing down the book I was reading and hurrying over to him. “Is something happening at Hogwarts? Why are you back? What’s going on?”
“It’s Lily, Ginny, she’s…” His voice catches, there are tears in his eyes, and I struggle to control the overwhelming sense of panic at his words.
“She’s what, Harry? What happened to her? Is she okay? Tell me she’s okay!” My voice rises in desperation as a thousand terrifying images flash through my head. No, please…
“She’s okay,” Harry manages, but even these words aren’t enough to alleviate my fears, my panic at seeing him like this.
“What is it? What’s happened to her?” I demand. “Harry, tell me!”
“No!” I cry. “Not Lily, not my little girl, she wouldn’t do that, I know she wouldn’t, who did this to her?”
“Ginny, you have to calm down, we don’t know what happened…”
“Yes we do!” I scream hysterically. “She wouldn’t, she wouldn’t, she wouldn’t, you can’t believe she would! Who was it?”
“Ginny!” Harry yells, his voice cracking. “We don’t know if that’s what happened, McGonagall would have told me—”
“And what if McGonagall doesn’t know?” I cry. “It’s not something she’s going to talk about, she’s shy, it would kill her—”
“It was Lorcan Scamander!” he shouts. “Do you think he would do that to her?”
I don’t register the question, only the name. Lorcan Scamander! I trusted him with Lily, I thought he would look after her…Barely aware of what I’m doing, I fling open the door and run down the path, oblivious to Harry’s shouting behind me. I throw open the gate, escaping from the protective charms on the house, and Disapparate, arriving in the middle of a huge, disorderly garden.
I wheel around to face the house, striding up the rambling path and blasting the door open with my wand.
“Ginny!” Luna spins around from the kitchen bench, looking startled.
“What did he do to her?” I demand, pointing my shaking wand at her. “What did your son do to my daughter?”
“What did he do?” she asks, bewildered.
“You let it happen!” I shout, ignoring her question as the realisation dawns on me: she stayed at the Scamanders’ over Christmas, that’s when it would have happened, and another flash of anger takes over me.
“She stayed here!” I howl, bringing my wand closer. “She stayed here, I thought she would be safe with you and your family but she wasn’t, I trusted you, Luna, I trusted you with Lily!”
“Expelliarmus,” she says swiftly, coldly, and I watch my wand fall with a clatter to the kitchen floor. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she says with a ferocity I never thought she could summon, “But Lily is like a daughter to me and there is no way I would let anything bad happen to her.”
“Then explain to me this,” I say, my voice shaking with anger, “Explain to me how my daughter came to be pregnant with your son’s child.”
She stares at me, stunned. “She’s pregnant?”
She exhales slowly, turning away from me and running a hand through her dirty blonde hair.
“Well?” I ask belligerently. “Can you figure out what he did yet?”
“You’re suggesting it was against her will,” Luna says flatly.
“Of course I am, have you met Lily?”
“Have you met Lorcan?” she fires back. “Do you think he would do that to her?”
I know she’s right, but I can’t bring myself to accept the alternative.
“She’s changed, Ginny,” Luna continues. “She’s angry. She was angry the whole time she was here, though she hid it well. She probably did it to prove something.”
It’s those final words that break me; I know somehow, without a doubt, that Luna is right. I collapse in a heap on the kitchen floor, sobbing uncontrollably.
“I’ve lost her,” I manage. “I’ve lost her forever, I drove her away, I’ve failed her, she’s never going to forgive me…”
“That’s not true,” Luna says calmly, sitting on the floor and watching me with her piercing blue eyes. “You didn’t help, but she made her own choice.”
“Why are you being so understanding? I broke into your house and threatened you…”
“Oh, I knew you weren’t going to hurt me,” she replies matter-of-factly. “I’m your friend. It’s not me you’re angry at, it’s Lorcan. And Lily, and yourself. Tea?”
“We were going to have an evening of blowing stuff up,” I begin, “But Harry Potter left in a cloud of green smoke for a family emergency, so I thought we’d have another evening of blocking practice—”
A collective groan arises from the assembled members of One Hogwarts.
“Only kidding,” I say with a grin. “Professor Lupin agreed to supervise tonight, so we’re going to be covering Reducto, Confringo, Deprimo, Expulso, and of course Incendio. Who’s up for some pyromania?”
“Yes!” Fred shouts triumphantly, leaping up and punching his fist in the air. His enthusiasm is shared by Al and a large group of other boys, and I can see Scorpius rubbing his hands together in glee.
“Just to quickly go over them,” I say, “There are a few subtle differences. You would use Deprimo, for example, if you specifically wanted to blast a hole in the floor or something. This works if you’re needing a quick getaway to the floor below you, and don’t want to use the stairs. I wouldn’t recommend it to get around Hogwarts, though. Reducto works if you find yourself blocked by some impenetrable barrier. If cast strongly enough, it will destroy said barrier. Confringo will set fire to anything it comes in contact with, and more than likely explode it as well. Expulso has similar effects, but without using heat. Incendio conjures fire, but I’m sure we all know that one. Any questions?”
“What are we blowing up?”
“The room. The old furniture which I’m sure you’re aware is in the room. Anything, except each other.”
“Does McGonagall know about this?”
“Put it this way, what McGonagall doesn’t know can’t hurt her.”
The thought of blowing things up seemed popular enough, but the promise of doing it illicitly evokes an even more enthusiastic response, and I have to spend five minutes just calming everyone down enough to get them into some form of orderly line.
“We’ll start off nice and simple, with a bit of Incendio,” I say. “The useful thing about Incendio is not only will it give you a nice fire to play with, but it repels Inferi. The only thing you can fight Inferi with is fire. If you don’t know what Inferi are, it’s best not to, the thought of them gave me nightmares for weeks.”
“Do you think the Honour Guard will be using Inferi?” a Hufflepuff girl asks worriedly.
“I highly doubt it. Very highly doubt it. But it’s a useful bit of general knowledge anyway. Anyway, this chair here,” I wave my wand in its direction, “Is your target, until it gets burned to ashes, at which time I will find another one. One after the other, Fred Weasley, go.”
One by one they come to the front of the line, getting one go at setting the chair on fire. For those who manage it, I find a long table and designate it as Deprimo practice, with the kids stepping onto the table and blowing a hole in it. I’m on Aguamenti duty with the chair, Scorpius on Reparo duty with the table, and Teddy maintains a wall he proclaims as Reducto practice. We have a circuit of destruction going on, and it’s awesome.
“Time!” Teddy calls, and I glance at my watch in surprise.
“Wow. That went fast.”
“Time flies when you’re blowing things up,” Scorpius says, grinning. “Best session of One ever.”
We swarm out of the Room of Requirement, which lets us out from the normal default entrance. I’m more than a little surprised to see Natalia Dolohov and Emily Burke loitering beside the tapestry.
“Waiting for the Room?” I ask conversationally.
“More or less,” Natalia replies. “What were you doing in there?”
I tap the side of my nose. “If I told you that, I’d have to kill you.”
“I’d like to see you try.”
Does she try, or does being creepy just come naturally to her? “So what are you using the Room for?” I ask instead.
“If I told you that, I would have to kill you.”
There’s something about the way she said it that makes me think she is actually capable of killing someone, and the thought sends chills down my spine. She’s watching me with dark unwavering eyes, and I almost feel colder as something, some realisation, some thought, stirs deep in my brain, a thought that threatens to paralyse me with a fear I can’t even identify.
Emily’s watching me as well, but her gaze is more intense, a different kind of frightening. A flicker of something crosses her face; she’s watching me, but almost imperceptibly she gives Natalia some kind of signal and the pair of them turn sharply away, sweeping into the Room of Requirement without a word.
“Scorpius,” I whisper, stuttering slightly. “Something just happened there, and I don’t know what it was…”
“Dark magic,” he replies in a low voice. “They’re full of it. I don’t know how I can tell, but they are.”
“Emily’s a Legilimens,” I realise, horrified. “And she doesn’t need an incantation…or a wand.”
“You can’t perform Occlumency, can you?”
“No. Can you?”
“Dad taught me.”
“Can you teach me?”
“Definitely. We’ll borrow Teddy’s classroom—I’m sure he won’t mind. Can you remember what you were thinking about when Emily started staring at you?”
“It was something about Natalia…There’s something really creepy about her, you noticed when she said ‘If I told you that, I’d have to kill you’? There was something about her that meant it…That she could kill someone…”
“Tell me more. Tell me everything you know, everything you can remember from that moment.”
“It was something about Natalia…something terrifying, something that had already happened…green light…green light…”
Scorpius pales. “We have to get to McGonagall. Now.”
I don’t protest, just take his hand and run with him through the castle, ignoring the shouted questions from teachers and other prefects. The darkened corridors with their flickering lights, previously so beautiful and comforting, now seem menacing, as if hiding things in the shadows.
“You’re in danger,” Scorpius pants. “McGonagall better be here, if not, we’re camping out with Ravenclaw tonight. No, not Ravenclaw, Ravenclaw doesn’t have a password. Gryffindor.”
“What are you talking about?” I ask, his urgency only heightening my sense of terror. “Scorpius, what do you know that I don’t?”
I do so.
“All I know,” he manages, pulling me up a flight of stairs, “Is from what you’ve told me. And what I know, is that Natalia Dolohov is the daughter of a Death Eater and she is proficient in Avada Kedavra.”
Pulling out his wand, he blasts open the door to McGonagall’s office and sprints up the stairs, still dragging me behind him. “Professor McGonagall!” he shouts frantically. “Professor McGonagall!”
“Good heavens, Mr Malfoy, what’s going on? Did you break my door down?”
“I’m sorry, Professor, it’s an emergency.”
“It had better be.” McGonagall surveys Scorpius and I. “Whatever is the matter?”
“Rose is in danger, Professor.”
“And why is Rose in danger?”
“Are you acquainted with Natalia Dolohov and Emily Burke?”
“I am acquainted with all my students, Mr Malfoy.”
“Are you aware Emily can perform non-verbal, wandless Legilimency?”
“No, I was not aware of that,” McGonagall says.
“She performed Legilimency on Rose about fifteen minutes ago, while Rose was talking to Natalia. Rose, you can tell this better than I can.”
“I asked her what she was doing in the Room of Requirement,” I begin. “She told me if she told me that, she’d have to kill me. There was something in the way she said it that made me think…that she was capable of it. And then I started remembering something, realising something, but I can’t recall exactly what it was. All I remember is seeing green light in my mind and feeling terrified. That’s when Emily was watching me intently. She seemed to give some sort of signal to Natalia, and then they walked into the Room of Requirement.”
“Green light,” McGonagall repeats. “Do you know what this means, Miss Weasley?”
“Do you know what you are suggesting?”
“Natalia is proficient in Avada Kedavra,” Scorpius says quietly.
“And how do you know that, young man?”
Scorpius stares at the floor. “I was worried about Rose, so I…attempted Legilimency on Natalia. It was weak, but it worked, I found out all I needed to know.”
“You’re a Legilimens, Mr Malfoy?”
“I’ve never tried it before now. Dad taught me Occlumency, but never anything else.”
“All right. You say Natalia Dolohov is proficient in Avada Kedavra.”
“You say Rose had some sort of realisation or memory relating to green light, an assumed Killing Curse, and Natalia.”
“And this realisation was observed through Legilimency by Emily Burke.”
“Do you realise when the only time Rose would have seen green light from a Killing Curse was?”
“Oh, God,” I whisper, the reality of everything finally sinking in, the truth, the horrible truth.
“Mr Malfoy, you’re saying Natalia Dolohov cast the Killing Curse that killed Hugo Weasley.”
“I believe she did,” Scorpius says steadily, gripping my hand tightly.
“And Emily Burke knows that Rose, if not already aware, would have soon realised this.”
“And Emily Burke and Natalia Dolohov are close friends.”
“Where are they now?” McGonagall asks sharply. “Burke and Dolohov, where are they?”
“We last saw them going into the Room of Requirement.”
“The Room of Requirement,” McGonagall repeats grimly. “All right. I’m afraid, Scorpius, you’re in danger as well. We cannot guarantee that Miss Burke didn’t notice you using Legilimency. Expecto Patronum!”
A silver cat bursts forth from McGonagall’s wand, and she quickly speaks to it. “To Head Auror Harry Potter, I apologise for the terrible timing, but you and two colleagues are required at Hogwarts immediately.”
She sends off the Patronus with a wave of her wand. “You will not be returning to the dungeons tonight. I will get Professor Malfoy to collect your belongings from your dormitories—”
“I have socks from one side of the dorm to the other, she’s going to kill me,” Scorpius mutters.
“You will stay in Gryffindor Tower overnight,” McGonagall continues, “And we will sort out the next course of action tomorrow. We will have a group of teachers and Aurors patrolling the castle through the night if or when Burke and Dolohov return, as well as Professors Lupin and Longbottom keeping guard in the Gryffindor common room. The castle will be put into lockdown, none may enter or leave apart from Aurors and teaching staff, and only after they have sought permission from myself or Harry Potter.”
“You picked a good night to be late,” Natalia mutters to me when we arrive at Headquarters. “No, I mean it. Rose Weasley and a bunch of Unity kids were coming out of the Room when we got there. They would have asked questions.”
“Did they ask you questions?”
“Yes, not that that got them anywhere.” Natalia drops her voice. “Listen. Emily and I are getting out. We have to. We’re not going back to Hogwarts tonight, but Medea will organise a Portkey for you.”
“Why?” I ask immediately.
“The less you know, the less they can get out of you with Veritaserum,” she replies grimly. “If anyone asks, we vamoosed and you haven’t heard from us in days.”
“Veritaserum?” I ask in alarm.
“Yes. Anyway, that’s not why we’re here.”
“Operation Crusade,” Medea says with a smile. “It’s been a while. The guys are going for a separate target, I thought I’d take you girls with me.”
“Who’s the target?” Natalia asks.
“A young pureblood man who decided to leave our world behind,” Medea says with a trace of distaste. “Wears a suit, works in an office and drives a flash Muggle car. Lives on his own in an apartment complex.”
“Name?” Emily asks.
“It’s easier when they don’t have names,” Medea replies. “We’re Apparating just outside the complex. I alone know where it is, so you’ll have to Side-Along with me. Before we go, we’ll be casting Disillusionment Charms on ourselves, and remember the masks and cloaks.”
We throw on our disguises and cast the Disillusionment Charms so we appear blurry and transparent. We link arms: Medea on one side of me, Emily on the other; and with a loud crack we Disapparate.
We arrive in a darkened alleyway, where a pair of drunk Muggles stumble by, giving us a wide berth.
“Disgusting,” Medea murmurs quietly, walking out of the alleyway and climbing up the concrete steps that lead to the door of the sleek grey high-rise building. She casts a cursory glance around her and beckons us forward.
“Who wants to do the honours?”
I step forward, tugging at the door. The blinking screen next to the handle tells me to enter a code.
The lock clicks and I pull open the door, striding through into a large, gloomy foyer.
Medea overtakes me, leading us up several flights of stairs. We see the occasional Muggle, though they don’t seem to realise we’re here; the Disillusionment Charms must be working extremely well.
“Or they’re drunk,” Natalia whispers.
Medea stops outside a door, once again beckoning us forward. This time Natalia unlocks the door, and once inside Medea lifts our Disillusionment Charms.
Glowing digital numbers in the kitchen show the time as 1.43am and the room is dark, lit only by the glow from the city coming through a small crack in the thick curtains. We move cautiously, although logic tells me we have nothing to fear; four powerful witches against one wizard who doesn’t even have a wand.
A wave of nausea washes over me at the thought of what we’re here to do, but I force myself to keep walking. For the good of the wizarding world, I remind myself with every step. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
Medea pushes open a final door, and the man within stirs in his sleep.
The coverup is the most important—planting the false trail, as Medea puts it. Without it, there would be no point to what we do.
I’m given the task of the door.
“Make it look Muggle,” Medea warns me. “Use magic if you must, I can erase the traces. But make it look Muggle.”
I nod, lifting my wand to the wood of the door and beginning to carve into it. Fragments of the door fall in curling splinters to the carpet.
“Rougher,” Medea says. “Make it look rougher.”
I nod determinedly as Emily and Natalia get to work on the kitchen and Medea disappears into the room.
It takes me ten minutes to carve the cross, and another five to conjure the paint required for the words and paint them onto the door. By this point, Medea proclaims our work finished, raising her wand and murmuring an incantation I can’t hear.
“Now, we get out of here,” Medea says. “Remember, no sign of magic.”
She pauses to deal to the outside lock to the apartment room. “We opened it using alohomora,” she explains. “We need to make it look Muggle.”
She casts incendio on the door, waiting until it’s burnt just enough to be opened easily, extinguishes it with her wand and waves us forward. We stride through the hallways and down the stairs, coming across a startled-looking Muggle who blocks our way.
“Confundus,” I whisper without hesitation, and as his eyes glaze over in confusion we hurry past, through the foyer which is still dark and still, and out into the glaring lights of the street.
Medea Disapparates in moments, quickly followed by Emily and Natalia. Where are we going? Back to Headquarters? I can see a Muggle far ahead, is it safe to Disapparate with him around? What if I compromise the entire mission? I bolt into the alleyway we came from, coming face to face with three aggressive-looking Muggles.
“Confundus,” I say hastily, casting the spell again and Disapparating.
“Took your time,” Medea comments when I arrive at Headquarters. I’m shaking.
“Success?” Natalia asks quietly.
“Success,” Medea confirms. “You did well, for your first mission. Lily, I have your potion.”
She carefully extracts a small glass bottle from inside her robes and hands it to me.
“Don’t take it until you’re back at Hogwarts,” she tells me. “Portkeys, you’ll find, are less than comfortable after you’ve taken it. You’ll have to get to the hospital wing. Remember, the effects are natural.”
I almost forget that I’m travelling back to Hogwarts alone until Medea hands me my Portkey, a small scrap of paper.
“Where are you guys going?” I ask Emily and Natalia.
“To a secret location,” Medea answers for them. “I’ll be in contact, Lily.”
“This paper. It’s enchanted to show you the next Guard meeting time. It’ll also be your Portkey every time from now. Don’t let it fall into the wrong hands.”
I nod, clenching the paper into a tight ball.
“You did well tonight.”
The paper glows in my fist, jerking me back into the Room of Requirement. I slip it into my pocket, taking out the small bottle of potion. Still shaking uncontrollably, I pull the stopper off the bottle and drink it.
“I forgot to ask you last night,” a seventh-year Gryffindor girl I know only as Custard says upon waking up, “But why did you sleep on our floor?”
“Because you had no beds,” I grumble in response.
“No, I mean…why here?”
It’s a fair question. I would be confused if an ill-tempered redhead in Gryffindor pajamas was curled up on the floor of the Slytherin girls’ dorm, so I can’t really blame them.
“Because some girls in my dorm want to kill me,” I reply matter-of-factly, hauling myself into a sitting position.
Custard raises her eyebrows. “If you’re trying to change the image we have of Slytherin, you’re not doing a very good job.”
“I’m aware of that. Good thing I don’t care.”
“Why do they want to kill you?”
I shrug. “Why would anyone want to kill me? I’m a wonderful person.”
“There’s another one,” another girl who last night introduced herself to me as Becks reports, entering the dorm from what I assume was the common room; I’m a little disoriented.
“Another what?” Custard asks. Seriously, what’s wrong with the name on your birth certificate?
“Slytherin,” Becks explains, nodding at me. “Niall says Scorpius Malfoy spent the night on their floor.”
“Someone trying to kill him too?”
“That’s why she’s here,” Custard explains. “Someone in her dorm wants to kill her.”
“Not Natalia Dolohov, is it?” Becks asks. “That girl legitimately scares the shit out of me.”
“Aren’t you guys meant to be fearless?” I ask sardonically.
“I wish,” Custard says. “I still don’t know how I was Sorted.”
“Yeah, you should be in Hufflepuff,” Becks says unsympathetically. “Except, you’re a bitch.”
“Love you too,” Custard returns. “Seen my socks?”
“Knowing my luck, I probably slept on them,” I mutter, checking the floor underneath me. “Nope, we’re good.”
“So are you moving in here permanently then?” Becks asks conversationally.
“I hope not. No offence,” I add hastily. “Where do I get changed?”
“Through that door, down the stairs to the first landing you get to, and it’s on the left.”
Taking my robes from the trunk McGonagall had dumped beside me in the middle of the night, I follow Becks’ directions and find what I assume is the senior girls’ bathroom, judging by the hordes of fifth and sixth-years crammed in there.
“Scuse me,” I mutter, weaving through the crowd. “Scuse, dangerous Slytherin coming through, make way or I’ll eat your soul.”
I manage to find a cubicle and shut myself in, listening with mild interest to the chatter outside.
“Was that Rose Weasley?”
“What’s she doing here?”
“D’you reckon it’s got anything to do with all the Aurors that were hanging around last night?”
“There were Aurors hanging around last night?”
“I thought that was coz of Lily.”
“As in, Lily Potter? What about her?”
“I dunno, she’s in the hospital wing.”
This is new. I hastily finish throwing on my robes and join the throng. “What’s this about Lily?”
“She’s in the hospital wing’s all I know. Didn’t see her at all last night.”
That’s weird. Mind you, I was kind of distracted last night.
I escape from Gryffindor Tower thirty seconds later, joining Scorpius who’s sheltering just outside the portrait hole.
“That was an experience.”
“You reckon, I shared a dorm with a girl called Custard.”
We head for the Great Hall, but are intercepted by McGonagall before we get halfway there.
“My office,” she says simply.
“But breakfast!” Scorpius protests.
“There’ll be plenty of time for breakfast later,” McGonagall replies. “Didn’t I tell you not to go anywhere without a teacher or Auror with you?”
“Uh, no, you missed that one.”
“I’ve told you now,” McGonagall says. “Now move, I’ve been up all night working out what to do with you two.”
“We’re sorry?” Scorpius offers humbly.
We return to McGonagall’s office, which I realise I’ve seen a lot of recently.
“Still alive, then?” the portrait of Severus Snape asks.
“I’ve half a mind to put you in a box, Severus,” McGonagall says severely.
“What, and take away my one source of amusement?”
“If last night was your idea of amusement…” she begins.
“What happened last night?” I ask. “Other than the whole Scorpius and I having our lives threatened?”
“No matter,” McGonagall replies heavily. “We have two options. We can either have Aurors here, full time, to protect you in case Miss Dolohov returns. Or we can send you home, where you’ll be protected by powerful charms, but unable to complete your seventh year.”
“I’m not dropping out,” I say stubbornly. “Surely they won’t return? They’ll know there were Aurors here.”
“It’s possible,” McGonagall says.
“Why don’t we just change the password to the dungeons?” Scorpius asks, idly tossing a crumpled ball of parchment into the air.
“Because, Mr Malfoy, it is very easy to get a message containing the Slytherin password to someone.”
“Not if you can’t cast a Patronus,” Scorpius says, “And the only people who would give the password to Natalia would be incapable of casting one.”
“We don’t know that for sure. And that wouldn’t solve the issue of the rest of the school, unless you would like to spend the remainder of the year in the dungeons.”
“I’m not leaving Hogwarts,” I say stubbornly. “I would die of boredom and lack of intellectual stimulation at home.”
“I will never understand why you were not sorted into Ravenclaw, Miss Weasley,” McGonagall comments.
“Mum wasn’t a Ravenclaw either.”
“So,” Scorpius says pointedly, “Us. And I’m with Rose, by the way, I’m not leaving Hogwarts.”
“I’m calling in your parents,” McGonagall says. “Mr Malfoy, go and find your mother.”
He saunters off and McGonagall walks through the fireplace, leaving me in the office with the portraits of dead Headmasters.
“Why were you sorted into Slytherin, Weasley?” the portrait of Severus Snape asks.
“You know what, I’ve been trying to work that out for seven years. What did you say to McGonagall last night?”
“I said nothing to Minerva. I talked to Potter, and she took objection.”
I raise my eyebrows but don’t say anything. Apparently, Harry and Snape’s feud has continued even after the latter’s death.
“I trust you’ve heard the news?” Snape continues.
“Severus,” the portrait of Albus Dumbledore warns.
“There’s more news? I’ve had enough of news, thanks.”
“Wise words, if I do say so myself, Miss Weasley,” Dumbledore says. “And words that would indeed have saved Professor Snape from being put in a box.”
Luckily I’m saved from conversing with the professors any longer as Scorpius walks into the office with his mother, and McGonagall walks in with mine. Dad follows seconds later.
“Morning,” I greet my parents.
“Rosie, what’s going on?” Mum asks immediately.
“Your father will be here shortly,” McGonagall tells Scorpius, and Dad’s face takes on an interesting impression.
Draco Malfoy strides out of the Floo, avoiding eye contact with my parents, and stands beside Astoria, rocking slightly on his heels. “What have you done this time?”
Scorpius arches an eyebrow. “Such faith you have in me, father.”
“Based on past experience,” Draco replies. “Professor?”
“It came to my attention last night that both Rose and Scorpius are in considerable danger. There are details regarding the case that I don’t wish to disclose, Mr and Mrs Weasley, until I can speak to the pair of you privately. Suffice to say, there is a student at Hogwarts, currently missing, who poses a considerable danger to both Rose and Scorpius.”
“A student?” Draco repeats in slight disbelief. “Of considerable danger to my son?”
“She could pretty much kill me in a second if she wanted to, yeah,” Scorpius agrees.
“The natural issue we are now facing is how best to ensure the safety of the students,” McGonagall continues. “Both are adamant they will not leave Hogwarts.”
“That’s my girl,” Mum says absently.
“Who needs seventh-year?” Dad asks.
“My thoughts exactly,” Draco says, then stares at the floor once he realises he just agreed with my dad on something.
“They’re staying at Hogwarts,” Astoria says firmly.
“Hogwarts has always been the safest place in the wizarding world,” Mum says, nodding, “Particularly with you here, Professor McGonagall.”
“Haven’t changed in thirty years, have you, Granger?” Draco asks.
“Don’t talk to my wife like that!” Dad’s got his wand out.
“None of you have changed in thirty years!” McGonagall says. “Mr Weasley, put the wand away. Mr Malfoy, please refrain from your schoolboy tendencies.”
“Guess what, Dad,” Scorpius says. “You have now officially lost the right to ever comment on my immaturity.”
I bury my face in my hands.
I wake up in the hospital wing feeling like shit. I’m weak and shaky, and something lurks at the back of my memory, something dark and shadowy that threatens to overwhelm me. As my eyes adjust to being open again, the events of last night hit me like a freight train.
I close my eyes, but visions of a gloomy apartment building and a cross carved on a door fill my mind with a vividness that terrifies me.
“She’s awake,” I hear a whisper beside me, and I open my eyes to see Mum crouched beside my bed, her face strained with anxiety.
I’m shaking again, shaking and I can’t stop, as the hospital wing blurs from my view and all I can see is the apartment, the door, the glow of the city from the crack in the curtains, all I can hear is the whispers of Medea and Natalia, the muffled sound of our footsteps on the carpet, the faint stirring of the man in the next room…I can’t breathe; the panic, the fear is stifling me. I gasp for breath, but even the sound of my own breathing takes me back to the room, the room that was dimly lit with an orange glow from the streetlights outside, that flickered like fire as our shadows passed across it…
“Madam Pomfrey!” Mum screams, and I’m dragged back to a reality that seems no more real than my memories. Mum’s gripping my hand and yelling; Madam Pomfrey is running towards me, what’s wrong with me? Why am I here, what happened to me? Madam Pomfrey’s saying something, I can see her lips move, but no words penetrate through my panic. Why can’t I calm down? Why can’t I stop shaking? What’s wrong with me, what’s wrong with me?
“Miss Potter! Miss Potter! Lily, can you hear me?”
I manage to nod my head, gripping the side of the bed to stop myself from shaking. This is ridiculous. Why am I acting like this?
“I’ll give her a Calming Concoction,” Madam Pomfrey says, and tips a potion down my throat. I cough and splutter, but gradually I stop shaking and can focus on what’s going on.
“Why am I here?” I ask finally.
Madam Pomfrey nods at Mum and bustles away.
“Why are you here?” I ask, confused, I haven’t had anything to do with Mum since I left at Christmas…
She looks as though I’ve just slapped her in the face. “I got an owl at three in the morning from Madam Pomfrey saying you were stumbling through the corridors of Hogwarts pale, shaking and terrified. You’ve been out cold for eighteen hours. Why wouldn’t I be here?”
“What’s the time?”
“Half past nine.”
“How long have you been here?”
“Eighteen hours, Lily.”
I take a closer look at her. She looks exhausted; dark shadows under her weary brown eyes, her face pale, her hair limp and straggly.
She’s been here as long as I have. She hasn’t slept.
I don’t deserve this, I don’t deserve her caring about me like this, if only she knew why I’m here, what I’ve done, who I’ve become, she wouldn’t be here, sitting beside my bed all through the night and day waiting for me to wake up.
I can feel the tears begin to prick my eyes, and angrily brush them away. If I cry, Mum’s going to try to comfort me, and I don’t deserve it, I’m not worthy of anything anymore, not worthy of a Prefect badge, not worthy of respect, not worthy of Mum’s love…But I can’t stop the tears flowing, can’t stop the memories and the realisations from flooding into my mind of who I am and who I’ve betrayed, what I’ve done and the willingness with which I did it…
“Lily, sweetie,” Mum says, clutching my hand with both of hers, and I fight the urge to scream at her, to tell her I don’t deserve her being here, I’m a killer, a cold-blooded killer, and all she sees is her little girl in pain…
I curl into a ball, feeling Mum climb into the bed beside me and wrap her arms around me, as if I’m five years old again, terrified by a nightmare.
“Don’t,” I manage, as disjointed thoughts fight their way to the surface. “Don’t!” I cry louder. “You don’t know what I’ve done!”
Her grip around me tightens. “I know,” she says softly. “I know. It’s okay.”
“I killed someone!” I sob, desperate to make her see, make her realise. “I killed him…”
“Lily,” Mum says fiercely, seizing my shoulders and forcing me to look at her, “It’s not your fault you lost the baby. You didn’t kill it. It’s not your fault.”
Bile rises in my throat; I did kill the baby. I was part of a group that killed that man, but the baby…That was me, and me alone.
But I can’t say any of that. I can’t bear to say the words that will make Mum recoil away from me in horror, I can’t sit here and pretend that what she knows is the extent of my dark secrets. Struggling free of her grip, I stumble out of the bed and break into a run, forcing my shaky legs to obey. I can hear Mum following me, calling my name as I descend several flights of stairs, taking several sharp turns to lose her. I need to be alone, that’s all I know. Alone—to do what? To think? To panic all over again? To sit in the darkness and imagine everything that will happen to me—alienated from my family, hated by the school, sent to Azkaban…Azkaban…The words of Sophocles ring in my mind: You will be trodden down with fouler scorn than ever fell on man.
I take little-used routes through the castle, managing to avoid seeing anyone else and finding myself on top of Astronomy Tower. Feeling numb, I walk out to the edge, where a bitterly cold breeze whips through the air and chills the tear tracks on my face. I feel like a child again; scared of the dark.
The difference between myself and that child is now I know you don’t have to be afraid of the dark for it to destroy you.
I twist around at the sound of Lorcan’s voice, seeing him silhouetted in the doorway. I don’t want to talk to him. I don’t want to talk to anyone, but I especially don’t want to talk to him.
“Al told me you were in the hospital wing all day,” he begins cautiously, coming to lean against the battlements I’m sitting on.
I remain silent, waiting for him to continue.
“Is…is the…are you okay?” he asks awkwardly.
“I lost the baby, Lorcan,” I reply flatly.
He hesitates, as if unsure how to react, and glances at me questioningly. Slowly, realisation seems to creep across his face.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“You talked to Medea, didn’t you?” His tone is suddenly accusatory; his eyes flash with an aggression that seems alien to him. He doesn’t ever get angry. “You talked to Medea, and she told you to get rid of it, didn’t she? She told you how, didn’t she? Last night.”
Something in his words cuts through the dark, miserable guilt that clouds my mind.“And if I did?” I ask furiously, jumping down from the battlement and brandishing my wand. “You never said a word to me about it, you buried your head in the sand and left me to deal with it alone! And you have the audacity to condemn me!”
“YOU KILLED MY CHILD!”
In one swift movement, Lorcan splits the air in front of him with his wand, a spell forming on his lips.
“DON’T YOU TOUCH HER! IMPENDIMENTA!”
Lorcan’s thrown back against the battlements and I wheel around, seeing Mum bursting through the doorway with her wand outstretched. I don’t move, just do my best to shrink back into the shadows as she comes closer.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” she demands, hauling Lorcan to his feet with eyes blazing. “I can’t believe you!”
“She killed it!” Lorcan yells, his eyes not leaving me.
“She lost it!” Mum yells back, her words laced with fury. I feel sick.
“She lost it, did she?” Lorcan asks, staring belligerently at me. “Did you lose the baby, Lily? Tell your mum how you lost the baby.”
“Lorcan, stop it,” I whisper desperately, but Mum’s already turned to face me, eyes wide with shock.
I ignore her. “Get out of here,” I murmur shakily, slowly raising my wand to point it at Lorcan. “Get out of here!” I scream when he doesn’t move.
With one last, loathing stare, Lorcan turns on his heel and strides through the doorway.
Mum doesn’t say a word, instead silently crossing the tower and standing with her back to me, looking out across the grounds.
I can’t take it anymore. Hauling myself up to the top of the battlement, I stare down at the pointed roof of the castle and the Great Lake far below. It would be so easy, so easy to just slip off the edge. I stretch out a hand, as if to touch the emptiness in front of me, but I collide with a barrier; a brick wall, except I can’t see anything. I turn around to see Mum walking slowly towards me, her wand raised.
“Don’t you dare,” she says in a low voice.
I don’t bother to reply.
“So it’s true, then.”
I let my silence speak for itself, cautiously glancing at Mum. She’s watching me, but her expression hasn’t changed from when she was sitting beside my bed; her eyes glisten with tears, but I know they’re for me, not against me.
“Tell me why,” she whispers pleadingly. “Tell me why you’ve changed. Tell me what happened to my daughter.”
“I’m sorry. I’m so, so, so sorry…”
“Lily, what have you done?”
I don’t want to do this anymore. I look up and meet Mum’s eyes, fighting the tears that threaten to overwhelm me. This, I will do. This, I will do, like the Gryffindor I am.
“I’m part of the Honour Guard,” I say steadily. “And I can’t get out alone.”
Disclaimer: The quote 'You will be trodden down with fouler scorn than ever fell on man' is from the play Oedipus Rex by Sophocles.
The Aurors stay for another two nights in the castle, and Scorpius and I experience the unusual phenomenon of having them follow us to class. The first day when we walked into Defence Against the Dark Arts with our bodyguards in tow, Professor Bones took one look at them, declared it her tea break, and left them to teach the class for the entire lesson. However, by Thursday McGonagall calls us back into her office to ‘discuss security arrangements.’ I note with slight disappointment that Professor Snape has not yet been put in a box.
“This is getting ridiculous,” McGonagall says bluntly. “We can’t spare two of the Ministry’s Aurors full-time to watch you. You’re leaders of the One Hogwarts Army, for goodness’ sake. I think you can defend yourselves.”
“Thank you,” I say emphatically. “Can we go back to the dungeons yet? My eyes are being assaulted by red and gold twenty-four seven.”
McGonagall glares at me, and I remember too late that she was the proud Head of Gryffindor for a considerable number of decades. “Not that there’s anything wrong with red and gold,” I add meekly.
“I should think not. And you may return, Miss Weasley, as soon as the password to your common room has been changed. Mr Malfoy, would you consider Damascus Zabini a threat to your safety at all?”
“Hell no, I can take him on any day,” Scorpius replies confidently. “Uh, I mean, he poses no threat to me, Professor.”
“You are not to ‘take him on,’ Mr Malfoy.”
“Of course not, Professor.”
“Miss Weasley,” McGonagall continues, “You have another meeting at the Ministry this afternoon. Security will be tight.”
“It starts in fifteen minutes. I suggest you go now.”
“I suppose I’m Flooing.”
“You are,” McGonagall confirms. “It is possible you will be asked to cast your Patronus as proof of your identity, or asked a security question.”
“They did that during the Second War,” I realise. “The security questions, I mean. Dad told me.”
“Yes, well. Polyjuice Potion is easy to make and effective.”
“So I’ve heard,” I comment mildly. Mum told me of her adventures with Polyjuice Potion once. She’s been half a cat, Uncle Harry, some woman at the Ministry and Bellatrix Lestrange. The Uncle Harry one raised a few questions. Mum told me not to ask them.
“So am I invited this time?” Scorpius asks. “To the meeting?”
“You were last time, apparently,” McGonagall says. “Professor Lupin must have just gotten confused.”
“Yes, I’m sure it was Professor Lupin,” Scorpius comments. “So we’ll see you later, Professor.” He makes for the fire.
“One moment, Malfoy. Do you wish to return to your own dormitory tonight?”
“Please,” he says emphatically.
“Very well. You are to return via my office, the password to your common room will be changed by the time you get back.”
Scorpius follows me through the Floo and into the bustling Ministry Atrium and I lead the way to the security booth in the far corner.
“Is the Gryffindor dorm that bad?” I ask quietly.
“Try sharing with Niall Prewett,” he mutters darkly. “‘Isn’t it a shame the Quidditch was cancelled this year, Malfoy? We were looking forward to beating you again.’ ‘You must be disappointed, Malfoy, the one chance you get to take the Cup before you leave, gone.’” He brightens a little. “Hey, d’you reckon, if I killed him, we could pass him off as a casualty of war?”
“It’s worth a try.”
We pass through security, where the wizard on duty checks our wands and waves us through.
“So much for added security,” I comment as we crowd into the lift with four other wizards and nineteen interdepartmental memos.
The flash of a camera behind us makes us wheel around, and I instantly draw my wand.
“Terribly sorry to startle you,” the witch holding the camera says briskly, extending her hand. “Liz Gallant, Witch Weekly.”
“Oh no you don’t.”
“What do you mean?”
“To what purpose do you intend to put that picture?” I demand.
“Rose…I can call you Rose, can’t I? Rose, our readers want to hear about you. You’re fascinating.”
I can’t curse her because we’re in a crowded lift with a bunch of Ministry wizards. Damn.
“Would you like to be prosecuted for invasion of privacy?” I ask sweetly instead.
She looks slightly nervous at this prospect, and I take advantage of it. “Under the Wizarding Information and Media Management Act 1999, section thirty-two, clause seven, any photo taken of a student currently studying at Hogwarts cannot be reproduced in popular media such as the Daily Prophet, Witch Weekly etc without express permission of the student or their parent or guardian if under seventeen. If such a photo is reproduced the publication is liable for a fine of up to 500 Galleons. Would you like to get rid of the photo?”
She does so, and the lift arrives on the floor with Mum’s office. I’m glad to leave her behind.
“That was nicely done,” Scorpius whispers.
“It was also complete bullshit. She’s going to realise it when she gets back to the office and tells her editor, but it’s okay, the photo’s gone. Mum! So good to see you!”
“She’s Polyjuiced,” is Mum’s only reply, turning to Dad.
“Your Patroni, please.”
I roll my eyes at Scorpius as we cast our Patroni, and the two twin owls fly a lap around the room. I’m glad Liz Gallant is gone, she’d have had a field day with this.
Dad watches the Patroni with an odd look on his face, glancing from them, to me, to Scorpius, and back.
“Your dad looks confused,” Scorpius comments. “Does he not know?”
“He does now.”
Mum calls us to order, and I quickly find myself a seat around the table.
“Hermione,” Ginny says urgently before anyone has a chance to speak.
“We have infiltrated the Honour Guard.”
With these words everyone around the table sits bolt upright, eyes fixated on Ginny.
“How?” Dad asks feebly.
“We have a source,” Ginny replies. “A reliable source, loyal to us yet belonging to the inner circle of the Guard.”
“Didn’t hang a portrait of Snape in their meeting place, did they?” Dad asks.
Ginny ignores him. “We have information—a lot of information, that is not to leave this room. The safety of our source is paramount, I’m sure you can agree. Harry, you’ll need to brief the Aurors.”
“Will do,” Harry confirms.
“Who is the source?” Mum asks.
“I cannot identify them.”
“You’re sure about their loyalty?”
“Then let’s hear the details,” Mum says.
“There are ten of them, led, as expected, by Medea Avery, not counting our source. Two are fugitives from Hogwarts, Natalia Dolohov and Emily Burke, two are still at Hogwarts.”
“Still at Hogwarts?”
Ginny nods. “Damascus Zabini.”
“I maintain I can still take him on in a duel,” Scorpius whispers.
“The other members are as follows,” Ginny continues. “Rabastan Lestrange, escaped convict from Azkaban—”
Mum sucks in her breath. Lestrange. I’ve heard enough of that name to know what it means.
“Adrian Rosier, son and grandson of Death Eaters, Octavian Prince, second cousin of Severus Snape, Emerson Montague and Cadmus Lestrange, recently left Hogwarts and sons of Death Eaters.”
“You said two students still at Hogwarts,” Dad says.
Ginny nibbles at her fingernails.
“Who’s the other one?”
“Ginny…” Harry says.
She sighs heavily. “Don’t go after him, please. I don’t know how he got mixed up in all of this.”
“Who is he?” Harry asks.
“Give me your word you won’t go after him.”
“Who is he?” Harry repeats.
“Your word, Harry!”
“My word,” he says.
“It’s Lorcan Scamander.”
“That’s impossible!” Harry jumps up from his seat. “Lorcan Scamander? Scamander? Luna’s son? Impossible!”
“Where is Luna anyway?” Mum asks.
“She couldn’t make it,” Ginny replies. “She doesn’t know, Hermione, just...leave Lorcan out of everything, okay? It’d break her heart.”
“You’re right, it would,” Mum says at length. “All right. What else can you tell us?”
Ginny looks gravely at us. “The Honour Guard is more than an offshoot of DOWIAH,” she says carefully, waving her wand as she speaks to once again check security.
“What is it?”
“Those wizards that have been killed by Muggles over the past few months…Turns out it wasn’t Muggles.”
“Yes, it was,” Harry says tersely. “Dark magic always leaves traces. Always. Dumbledore told me.”
“What if they didn’t use Dark magic?” Ginny asks. “What if they used normal magic? Alohomora to break in, maybe a conjuring spell or two to leave their messages on the doors of the victims, they all died of stab wounds, not Killing Curses.”
“But that dog…” Harry trails off.
“What dog?” I ask, and several of the adults glance over at me as if surprised to find me still here.
“There was a dog in the house of the first victim,” Harry says. “Elderly, died of apparent natural causes. A textbook Avada Kedavra, but Killing Curses leave traces. I know it like I know my own name, and there were no traces of Dark magic.”
“Then we’re dealing with far more powerful wizards than we expected,” Mum mutters. “And Darker, I would venture to say, than the Death Eaters, or at least Darker than the majority of Death Eaters. What they’re doing here is making it seem Muggles will kill us if we integrate with them. It’s terrorism, outright terrorism.”
“They call it Operation Crusade,” Ginny says quietly.
“Ron,” Mum says sharply to Dad, “I want a list of every wizard living in Muggle Britain. We need to contact them, put protective charms on their houses, warn them. Hopefully, the Honour Guard won’t go to great lengths to infiltrate a protected house. I want an alarm charm on each house as well that connects to the Auror Office, Harry, if you could set that up.”
“I’ll get right on it,” Harry says, pulling parchment and quill from his robes and scribbling furiously.
“Ginny, what about your source? Are they part of the Guard?”
“Will they remain part of the Guard?”
“As long as they can.”
“We’re relying on them to feed us information. They hear anything about the Guard’s activities, they tell us. Can they do that?”
“Right. Rose, Scorpius, I want you to step up your training in defensive magic. It sounds like the Guard is even more dangerous than we anticipated. Scorpius, I want you to keep an eye on Damascus Zabini for us. If he does anything suspicious, anything dangerous or threatening, send a Patronus message to myself or Harry immediately.”
“All right. You’re dismissed.”
Having dismissed the meeting, Ron and I follow Rose and Scorpius down to the Atrium. Ginny’s news about the Honour Guard and what it’s capable of has rattled me; for the first time since I declared war three months ago I’m having flashbacks to the war against Voldemort, I’m seeing too many parallels between the Death Eaters and the Honour Guard. Memories of tents, of snatchers, of Horcruxes, of Dark Marks and darker magic come rushing back to me in a flood, and suddenly as I walk through the Ministry I’m an eighteen year old girl again, Polyjuiced and looking for Slytherin’s locket.
“You okay, Hermione?” Ron asks quietly. I must look obviously scared; it’s not like Ron to notice such things unless they’re staring him in the face. He’s always been like that.
“Just remembering, that’s all,” I reply dismissively. “Though…it’s not the same. I mean, they’re completely different situations, aren’t they? I shouldn’t be comparing them…or is it normal to compare them?”
“Just say it.”
“This. Comparing this and…Voldemort.”
“Well, for one, Harry’s not got us gallivanting around the countryside looking for bits of a Dark wizard’s soul.”
“Medea Avery’s been compared to Bellatrix Lestrange.” The name still sends a shiver down my spine. I never had anything to do with Voldemort. That was Harry’s domain. But Bellatrix…The thought of her still haunts me, above all. Of her manic cackling and a Cruciatus curse on the floor of Malfoy Manor.
“So we just gotta get her to fight Mum.”
An image of warm, homely Molly Weasley flashes across my mind. Warm, homely Molly Weasley who killed Bellatrix in the Great Hall during the battle. Voldemort’s best lieutenant against my mother-in-law. The thought sends a rush of hope through me, and I turn and plant a kiss on Ron’s lips.
“Ew, Mum, get a room,” Rose calls over her shoulder.
“What was that for?” Ron asks, looking surprised.
“For knowing what to say.”
Ron shrugs, looking pleased with himself as we reach the Floo network and Apparition area.
“See you…whenever,” Rose says.
I quickly give her a hug, followed by Ron.
“I’ll see you in McGonagall’s office,” Scorpius says, turning for the Floo.
Ron clears his throat, and Scorpius hesitates, turning to face him. I glance at Ron curiously; he’s staring very pointedly at the floor.
“Well,” he says awkwardly, “I’ll see you at the next meeting, Scorpius.”
Rose and I exchange glances; I’ve never heard him refer to either Draco or Scorpius as anything other than ‘that Malfoy git.’
Ron extends his hand, and a surprised looking Scorpius takes the proffered hand and shakes it. “See you, Mr Weasley.”
He turns and walks into the Floo, and Rose turns to Ron with an astonished look on her face.
“Oh, Dad!” She throws her arms around him, turns and vanishes into the Floo.
“Didn’t overdo it, did I?” he asks awkwardly.
“No, you didn’t,” I assure him.
“She just hugged me,” Ron says, still looking slightly bewildered. “All I did was shake his hand, you’d think I’d welcomed him into the family.”
“Little gestures, Ron.” I frown, looking at the Floo. “Did you hear her say Hogwarts?”
“Didn’t hear her say anything.”
“She fucking Apparated to Hogsmeade.”
I’m not sure whether the startled look Ron gives me is in reaction to the prospect of Rose in Hogsmeade, or me swearing. Either way, he grabs my hand and we Apparate just outside the Three Broomsticks.
“How did you know?” Ron asks quietly; Rose is casually strolling up the main street.
“Mothers know these things,” I reply. “She’s bored, she’s hardly been able to Apparate anywhere since she got her licence, she’s sick of using the Floo.”
We follow behind Rose closely, unseen by her, as she makes her way towards the road that leads to Hogwarts. As she leaves the cover of the Hogs Head building, a cloaked figure steps out from the shadows and raises a wand.
Before I can react, Ron’s bolted forward. I want to scream at him, scream at Rose, but no words come out.
“Avada Kedavra!” The terrifying call comes, the jet of green light streaking towards my daughter, and now I’m screaming without hearing, screaming as Ron reaches her, and in slow motion he crosses in front of her, arms splayed, his entire being glowing with light for the briefest of moments; for the briefest of moments there’s life in his eyes as they flicker towards me, fixated on mine even as the light inside them fades and he crumples to the dirt beneath him.
A terrifying wail rises inside me, and a primeval instinct forces me to my feet; I have eyes only for the figure, and as she steps forward and the weak winter sun hits her face I recognise her, Medea Avery; and with the recognition comes a wave of hatred and fury unlike any I’ve seen before, Medea Avery, she killed him, the love of my life, lying in the dirt at her feet; hatred and fury raise my wand in her direction; too late, she notices me and turns, her face crinkling with laughter at the sight of me—
Medea is caught, silhouetted against the green light, thrown to the ground, but I’ve already forgotten about her as I fall to my knees beside Ron, wishing, begging for him to wake up, please, please, Ron, I need you, I can’t live without you, no, no, no, no….
Clutching his lifeless hand, I crumple into a ball; the world has ended, my world has ended, I’ll never again look into his eyes, never again hear his voice, never again feel his hand brush mine as we walk, never again smile at his awkward confessions of love, never again, never again, you can’t be gone…
“I’m sorry,” Rose whispers hoarsely beside me, “Dad, I’m so, so sorry…”
Wordlessly I reach out and pull her close as she sobs uncontrollably into my shoulder.
A/N: I'm going on hiatus until the end of November because of exams, so this will be the last update for a while. Please leave a review and let me know what you think :)
“The war is over.”
I glance sharply at Mum, standing in the Room of Requirement where she arranged to meet me.
“Hermione’s a broken woman, Lily. She’s lost her son, her husband…” Mum’s voice catches, but she continues. “It’s not worth it. It’s not worth dying for.”
“What happens to me?” I ask shakily. “Now that the war’s over. You’ll track down the Guard. They’ll name me. I’ll be sent to Azkaban.”
“You are not going to Azkaban,” Mum says fiercely. “The Ministry knows we have a spy in the Guard. You are that spy. You’re on our side.”
“They’ll kill me.”
“I’ll protect you.”
“They’re too powerful—”
“Lily, your pocket!” Mum cries frantically. I look down, seeing a glow coming from inside my pocket. With a terrible sense of foreboding I pull out the piece of paper Portkey inside, and almost immediately I feel it pulling me.
“Occlumency!” Mum screams as the Room of Requirement disappears.
“Medea was killed yesterday afternoon by Minister of Magic Hermione Weasley.” Octavian’s voice is flat, cold as he paces across the floor of Headquarters. “She named me as her successor. The Ministry has announced an end to the war. I say otherwise.” He turns to face us, eyes boring into ours. “We are launching an attack on the Ministry tonight at seven. The Minister will be there, along with any important Ministry officials. The majority of Aurors would have gone home, with the exception of Harry Potter. We will be attacking with Dementors, and a group of five former Death Eaters who managed a clandestine breakout of Azkaban this afternoon. Lily, you seem unconvinced.”
My heart pounds. What did I say, how did I do this, back when I believed in the cause? “What are we aiming to do?” I ask, hoping wildly that I sound convincing.
Octavian regards me coolly. Occlumency. At the back of my mind I slowly start to build walls, at the front focusing on the things that could go wrong, the proposed mission.
“We aim to avenge Medea’s death,” he replies, eyes blank and devoid of emotion. “And to discourage the Ministry from ever entertaining the notion of lifting the Statute again.”
“When are we going?” Natalia asks. I barely noticed her and Emily, hovering at the edge of the room, and avoid their gaze. I don’t want Emily trying to read me.
“We will meet back here in half an hour, all by Apparition…Potter, can you Apparate?”
“That’s the least of our worries,” he says dismissively.
“Octavian?” Damascus asks cautiously.
“We can’t Apparate out of Hogwarts.” He gestures to include myself and Lorcan in his statement.
Octavian rolls his eyes. “Portkey, then. The pieces of paper I gave you all. Make sure nobody knows where you’re going or what you’re doing.” His eyes flicker over to me.
Occlumency. Block him.
“Dismissed,” Octavian says, and the Guard either Disapparates or is Portkeyed out. Except for me.
Octavian strolls in a circle around me. “You seem nervous, Potter.”
“I’m not yet accustomed enough to battle to not be.” Calm, Lily. Breathe.
“Understandable.” He strolls closer, his pale face inches from mine, black eyes searching.
“Are you related to Severus Snape?”
“That traitor!” Octavian wheels around, resuming his pacing. “My second cousin.” He pauses, turning to me once again, stepping closer, slowly lifting his wand until the tip rests at my throat. “You won’t let us down, will you, Lily?” he asks quietly. “You won’t…betray us.”
I swat the wand away irritably. “I have proven my loyalty,” I reply, my voice cool. “I would ask you not to forget that.”
Octavian steps back, waving his wand dimissively, and the Portkey pulls me back into the Room of Requirement.
When I arrive back in the Room, it’s filled with twenty-five years of junk, slowly accumulating after Fiendfyre destroyed everything inside it in the Battle of Hogwarts. I discard the paper Portkey.
I need the Floo Network, I tell myself. I need the Floo Network. I need the Floo Network.
I have no idea if it will work, but slowly a fireplace materialises along one wall, beside it a small can of Floo Powder. I grab a handful and throw it into the fire. “The Atrium, Ministry of Magic!”
Ten minutes have already passed since Octavian dismissed us, and I’m anxiously aware of the time as I hop from foot to foot in line for the security booth.
“This is urgent!” I yell frustratedly. “Please, I have to get through!”
The wizards in front of me exchange glances, and after some consultation which sounds suspiciously like “That’s Harry Potter’s daughter” they let me through.
“Cherry wood and dragon heartstring, ten inches, firm,” the security wizard recites as I shove my wand in his face.
“Yes,” I say impatiently.
“Registered to Lily Potter.”
“We hope you enjoy your visit to the Ministry of Magic.”
The Atrium is bustling with wizards hurrying to get their final errands done before Apparating home when the Ministry closes in fifteen minutes. I throw myself into the nearest lift, punching the button for the Auror Office floor. Mum should be there. Mum’s usually in the Auror Office by late afternoon/early evening, or at least she has been for the duration of the war; what if she’s not there now that it’s over? I bolt down the corridor, pulling open the door to the office and casting my eyes around. There’s no sign of Mum.
“Lily, what are you doing here?” Dad asks, a puzzled expression on his face. “Should’t you be at Hogw—”
“Where’s Mum?” I interrupt.
“I don’t know, why?”
“I need to talk to her!”
Dad looks at me concernedly. “Why can’t you talk to me?”
“I need Mum,” I say stubbornly. Dad doesn’t know about the Honour Guard. Mum’s the only one who does. I need to talk to Mum, tell her what they’re planning—
“Lily Luna Potter, what’s going on?” Dad’s face takes on a rare severity; I suppose the last secret I kept from him was my pregnancy, that’s possibly why he’s edgy.
“You need to get everyone out of here. Out of here, or assembled for battle. They’re coming.”
“The Guard. The Honour Guard, they’re invading at seven—”
“But the war is over,” Dad says.
“Hermione killed Medea, it’s a revenge attack, they don’t care that the war is over, they’re coming, Dad, get an army.”
My words finally seem to sink in; Dad whips out his wand, casting several stag Patroni and sending them off with messages, turning to face the Aurors in the office and calling for attention.
“The Honour Guard is planning an attack on the Ministry in fifteen minutes,” he says. “I want extra security charms on the building, I want every wizard in this department ready for battle, and I want the Ministry cleared of any wizard not willing to fight.”
Dad turns to me. “I’m not going to ask you how you know this. But how many are there? What are their plans? What do you know? How did you get here?”
“I opened a Floo through the Room of Requirement. There are nine of them, as well as five escaped Death Eaters from Azkaban—”
“Has anyone heard reports of a breakout from Azkaban?” Dad yells to the Aurors. “Get onto it! Carry on,” he says to me.
“They escaped this afternoon, and they’re bringing Dementors…”
“Shit,” Dad mutters under his breath, once again raising his voice to address the Aurors. “Get One and One Hogwarts here immediately! They’ve got Dementors!” He pulls me out into the corridor. “How did you know this?”
“Does it matter?”
“Yes, it does! How did you know?”
“Trust me when I say, you don’t want to know.”
Dad’s eyes widen. “You’re the spy. You’re the source of information. You infiltrated the Guard, Lily, God, they’re going to kill you! GINNY!” he roars, setting off at a run down the corridor. Mum’s coming towards us, looking bewildered.
“What’s going on?”
“Our sixteen year old daughter is spying on the Guard?”
“I knew you’d react like this!” Mum cries.
“They’re coming, they’re attacking, in ten minutes, they’re going to kill her!” Dad says, a trace of hysteria in his voice.
“Not if I kill them first,” I cut in grimly.
Dad looks at me, startled.
“Suffice it to say, Dad, I’m not defenceless when it comes to Dark magic. So long as you promise not to arrest me for anything I do tonight, I’ll be fine.”
There are no words to describe the look on Dad’s face right now. Mum looks almost sheepish, an “I’m sorry for condoning our daughter’s education in Dark magic” expression on her face.
“All’s fair in war,” Dad says at length. “Though you didn’t hear that from me.” He disappears back into the office.
“Crisis averted,” Mum notes. “Are the Guard really coming?”
“Yes, with five recently escaped Death Eaters and an army of Dementors. In five minutes.”
A/N I know I said there would be no new updates until I finish my exams, but...that didn't happen. Hope you enjoyed this chapter, let me know what you think!
“Go go go, move your arses!” I bellow, standing at the door to the Room of Requirement as hastily gathered members of One Hogwarts file through, buzzing with nervous excitement. There are only twenty of them, I couldn’t be bothered trying to track them all down and at any rate we really don’t have enough time.
“So we’re fighting,” Scorpius says, absently waving students through the door. “Honour Guard, escaped convicts and Dementors. Should be fun.”
“McGonagall’s going to kill us,” I comment.
“She’ll understand,” he says dismissively. “Okay, no she won’t, but that’s tough. Everyone here’s of age, we’re legally allowed to fight if we want. Have we got the Professor Ls?”
“Lupin and Longbottom? Not yet, I’ll Patronus message them.”
I quickly fire off a Patronus, sending it with my message in the direction of the staff quarters.
“Weasley! Malfoy! What are you doing?”
“Shit,” Scorpius mutters as the imposing figure of Professor McGonagall looms in from the darkened corridor.
“We’re fighting,” I reply unapologetically. “The Ministry’s being invaded in three minutes and the Auror Office have asked for backup.”
“And you didn’t see fit to tell me?”
“With all due respect, Professor, we didn’t have time.”
“Nonsense,” McGonagall says briskly, striding into the Room of Requirement. “It may surprise you to learn, I can hold my own in battle.” She vanishes through the Floo.
“Did you just see—”
“Yeah, I did, and I don’t believe it either.”
Once everyone’s through the Floo, Scorpius and I close the door to the Room and hastily step through.
“Welcome,” Uncle Harry calls to the assembled masses. “We know very little of the nature of this attack, apart from the fact there are fourteen wizards and any number of Dementors. I would ask you all to do your very best in casting a Patronus and keeping it beside you throughout the battle. For those who have never faced Dementors before, they will drain your happiness. It is essential you recognise this as a Dementor attack, and not a hopeless battle situation, in order to fight the Dementors and keep your Patronus strong. We’ve been informed this is a revenge attack, and we believe specific targets will be the Minister of Magic, myself, my daughter Lily, and to a lesser extent, my wife and the other Aurors.”
“Why is Lily a specific target?” I ask Scorpius in a low voice.
He shakes his head. “No idea.”
“They’re arriving by Apparition, as far as we know,” Harry continues. “Which means they’ll be coming in from these walls. We’ve got groups of Aurors stationed at every possible entrance to the Ministry, just in case, but we decided to keep the majority of you in here. If you can immobilise the attackers, capture or restrain them without killing, please, do so.”
“Ever the pacifist, is Harry Potter,” Scorpius comments. “Dad used to call him Mr Expelliarmus.”
I can’t help but snigger at that, but quickly silence myself in view of the situation.
And then, with a loud crack, fourteen Dark wizards arrive simultaneously along the walls of the Atrium, and the air erupts with curses.
We should have beaten them within ten minutes. There are sixty of us, fourteen of them, but they have thirty-five Dementors and whenever we take down a member of the Guard the Dementors swarm forward again; they’re alternating their attacks, and as we weaken so too do our defences against the things, my Patronus is fading and I can’t fight the feeling of despair and hopelessness threatening to overcome me; every time one comes near all I can see is the green flash of light that killed Dad…
“Rose!” Al Potter yells at me, and I leap aside as a spell soars through the space I just vacated, hitting a wall behind me and bursting into flames.
I wheel around to face my attacker, a masked, cloaked figure, and instantly Al and I are drawn into a duel, cursing, blocking, cursing, blocking…
“Confringo!” I shout, and the floor behind the Guard member explodes, causing him to leap aside, distracted. Al and I fire seven Body-Binding Curses at him, and I follow through with an obscure charm that negates the effects of finite incantatem.
“Good work,” I tell him, and immediately we’re drawn back into the battle as a swarm of Dementors approach.
“Expecto Patronum!” I shout desperately, but the resulting Patronus is barely strong enough to hold them off, let alone chase them away, and Al’s not faring much better.
Another wave of despair washes over me; we’re losing, ten of our wizards are down and only one of the Guard, I haven’t seen Mum or Scorpius since the Guard invaded, I’m tired, I’ve been hit by two curses that are causing unrelenting pain, there’s no end in sight.
“Stay positive, Rose!” Al calls urgently as the Dementors approach even closer, and the green light once again fills my mind, I can’t escape it…
“EXPECTO PATRONUM!” Scorpius roars from somewhere behind me, and out of his wand burst one, two, three, four Patroni, one after the other, and the Dementors scatter. I twist around, wondering what gave him that much hope, and see Draco and Astoria Malfoy striding into the fray, firing curses at cloaked and masked figures.
“We can do this, Rose!” he says determinedly, seizing my free hand with his. It’s just the lift I need and my Patronus bursts forth, shining brightly and chasing after the Dementors, forcing them further and further back.
We continue fighting for ages, hours, minutes, I’ve lost track of time, but the Honour Guard are holding their own; there are still nine of them fighting, while thirty of us have been incapacitated; I don’t know how it’s happening, but the Guard are winning, they’re more powerful than any of us imagined…
Scorpius and I have been on almost constant Dementor attack for the duration of the battle; we’re not specific targets, and while I’m with him I can cast a Patronus; without him I’m incapable of it.
Luna’s duelling one-on-one with a Guard member; she stumbles slightly, and suddenly the cloaked figure duelling her stops dead, wand clattering to the ground. Seizing my opportunity, I summon the wand to prevent him from continuing the battle, but he seems to have no intention of it, he just stands stock still, staring at Luna.
There’s only one person that guy can be.
Tearing off his mask and throwing it at his feet, Lorcan Scamander turns on his heel and breaks into a run, vanishing with a loud crack the moment he reaches the Apparition area.
I hesitantly walk up to a stunned looking Luna, handing her Lorcan’s wand and glancing around the Atrium.
Mum, Harry and Ginny are duelling three members of the Guard; Lily’s duelling two and instinctively I break into a run, Scorpius chasing after me. As we reach them, another member of the Guard breaks away from a duel and joins ours; despite the masks and cloaks I know exactly who we’re duelling; the one with slow reflexes is Emily; the tall one is Damascus, the slight, lightning-fast one is Natalia, Natalia who killed my brother…
“Traitor!” Natalia snarls at Lily, and I take advantage of their moment of distraction to curse their masks off.
“I told McGonagall I could take you on in a duel,” Scorpius informs Damascus, firing a series of curses at him.
Natalia’s attention suddenly focuses on me and I swallow my apprehension; I’m tired, I’m injured and Natalia is the most accomplished duellist in the school, but the memory of Hugo floods my mind and gives me a new surge of energy, and I begin to duel.
I’m on the defence from the beginning; it’s all I can do to cast Protego in time and I know it’s only a matter of time before she tries Avada Kedavra, I can’t let that happen, I’m all Mum has left, and the thought spurs me on to fight back…
A flash of red light nearly burns my eyes as Lily sends Emily flying several feet into the air and turns her attention to Natalia, something venomous burning in her gaze that causes a flicker of fear to cross Natalia’s face.
“I hear you killed my cousin,” Lily says coolly, bringing her wand up to point directly at Natalia. “Crucio!”
I’ve never seen the Cruciatus curse used before, and I recoil instinctively as Natalia falls to the floor screaming. I can’t believe it’s Lily, little Lily behind the wand casting it, but at the same time I feel a perverse sense of justice; she killed Hugo, she deserves it…
Lily lifts the curse after only seconds, immediately immobilising her with Petrificus Totalus. Seeing this, Damascus turns to flee.
“Not so fast, mate!” Scorpius yells after him, and a rope shoots out from his wand, wrapping around Damascus and bringing him to his knees. Scorpius reels him in with a look of nothing short of merriment and a surge of hope floods through me. We can do it. We can win. The Guard is down to six…no, five. Five!
The Dementors surge forward again, but they don’t stand a chance against Scorpius and I; between us we cast eleven Patroni, one after the other, and drive them back again.
“I’m getting really sick of these Dementors.”
“Scorpius, turn around,” I say urgently; a member of the Guard is striding towards Lily and somehow I know he’s intending to kill.
“YOU BETRAYED US!” the wizard bellows, raising his wand—
“Piertotum locomotor!” I cry desperately, and the statues in the Fountain of Magical Brethren lurch forward, spraying water everywhere; the Guard member is shouting the incantation, Avada Kedavra—
The house-elf statue launches into the air in front of Lily, blocking the curse, and she leaps out from behind it, eyes wild and wand raised.
“I’ll show you betrayal, Octavian Prince! Avada Kedavra!”
The curse casts a green glow throughout the entire Atrium and heads spin to see the source; it seems almost surreal, Lily standing wildly with wand raised and Octavian Prince, the leader of the Guard, falling to the ground; a palpable silence descends, a silence broken the moment Octavian hits the ground. As if startled back to life, the members of the Guard struggle to their feet or take to their heels, fleeing for the Apparition area.
“Secure the premises!” Harry yells, and a sound like clanging metal rings out as the Apparition areas are sealed off, trapping the fleeing Guard members.
Stunning spells and Body Bind curses secure the Honour Guard where they stand.
“To Azkaban,” Mum says simply. “All of them.”
Three days after the battle, Hermione announces a special assembly at Hogwarts that she herself will be attending, along with various other Ministry bigwigs. Rumours abound regarding what it’s for, the most popular theory being a formal acknowledgement of the assistance of One Hogwarts in the Battle of the Atrium, as it’s been dubbed. Our side lost four wizards, two of whom were members of One Hogwarts: a seventh-year Gryffindor, Amy Goldstein, and a Hufflepuff, Ben Cattermole. A memorial service was held for them yesterday.
I haven’t spoken to Lorcan since the incident on the top of Astronomy Tower. I know he abandoned the Guard halfway through the battle; some say because he found himself fighting Luna. Lysander’s been pacing around the common room like a man possessed since the battle; he had no idea of Lorcan’s involvement and I think the thought that he could have fought his own brother haunts him.
He’s not the only one feeling haunted. Even now, I feel a wave of nausea every time I think of the months I was in the Guard, and no amount of spying, passing on information or betraying the Guard can atone for what I did as a member. I don’t say a word about it to anyone else. They’re treating me as a hero, under the impression I joined the Guard as a spy all along, and Mum’s said or done nothing to dispel that myth. There’s not a soul in the world less deserving of the title of hero. So many times I’ve just wanted to scream at people, “You don’t know what I’ve done!” I feel like a fraud, a liar, even for accepting their praise.
Dad still doesn’t know the truth. Nor do James and Al. Mum knows she’s the only one I can talk to about any of it; all I have to do is owl her and she’ll slip into the Room of Requirement and wait for me. She actually said she was proud of me, for asking for help and going against the Guard. Even after I told her I went on Operation Crusade, even after I told her everything that happened, she’s still proud of me. I can’t comprehend that.
I make my way to the Great Hall for the assembly with Lysander, who’s sought me out a few times to talk over the last couple of days, sometimes about Lorcan. To condemn his involvement with the Guard would be hypocritical; the only difference between us is that I turned my back on it forty-eight hours before he did. But I can’t forget the way he treated me, the coldness and the anger. I saw him with Antigone Islington yesterday. I wanted to punch him in the face. I still do. Lysander told me it probably isn’t the best course of action. Wise boy, Lysander.
We take our seats as Hermione stands up the front of the Hall.
“As you will no doubt be aware,” she begins, her amplified voice ringing out, “The Ministry was invaded by a group of Dark wizards known as the Honour Guard three nights ago, and a battle ensued. Fighting to defend the Ministry was a number of students, members of the One Hogwarts student army formed during the Third Wizarding War. I’m here to honour these students, who willingly came to the Ministry to assist us in defence, showing remarkable courage and determination. Receiving the Order of Merlin, Third Class: Albus Potter, Gryffindor; Fred Weasley, Gryffindor; Dominique Weasley, Ravenclaw; Lysander Scamander, Gryffindor…”
She continues through the names of everyone in the One Hogwarts army, and they file out of their seats and onto the stage, where Hermione presents them with their medals. The Hall erupts into applause as soon as all the students are on stage, and the school stands as one to its feet. It’s amazing.
“In addition to this,” Hermione continues, “There are three other students who need to be honoured. Receiving the Order of Merlin, Second Class: For leading and training the One Hogwarts Student Army and for demonstrating consistent courage in the face of Dementors, Rose Weasley, Slytherin; Scorpius Malfoy, Slytherin.”
A stunned looking Rose and Scorpius make their way onto the stage to receive their medals before turning to the crowd, their shock gone, waving enthusiastically and raising their medals in triumph. “Victory is ours! Who’re the brave ones now? Slytherin REPRESENT!”
“Also receiving the Order of Merlin, Second Class, for infiltrating the Honour Guard and passing on valuable information to the Ministry in the face of mortal peril, Lily Potter, Gryffindor.”
Oh no, she didn’t.
But a thousand eyes are watching me and I reluctantly get to my feet, focusing on the floor as I walk between the house tables and up onto the stage. Hermione shakes my hand, slipping the medal over my head, and I turn nervously to face the rest of the school, unsure of what to do.
“YEAH!” Al yells from the Gryffindor table, breaking the silence and shaking his fist. “GRYFFINDOR represent! Can I hear some agreement?”
As the table erupts into applause and cheers, I take my opportunity to duck back into my seat, watching the scene. Hermione’s smothered Rose in a massive hug on stage, which is apparently reason enough for Professor Malfoy to mount the stage as well; Scorpius’ blond hair is all that’s visible of him as she envelops him in a bear hug.
Al claps me hard on the shoulder as I resume my place at the table. “Good to have you back.”
A/N: Well, guys...one year and twenty-six chapters later, this is the end. To all of you, whether you've just started reading or whether you've been around since the beginning, I want to thank you. I never dreamed this story would be so well recieved when I first thought of it on the eve of NaNoWriMo 2010. Thank you all so much for reading and reviewing, and I hope you've enjoyed reading as much as I've enjoyed writing.