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The Writing on the Wall. by MargaretLane

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Format: Novel
Chapters: 26
Word Count: 85,476
Status: COMPLETED

Rating: 15+
Warnings: Mild Language, Mild Violence, Substance Use or Abuse, Contains Spoilers

Genres: General, Mystery
Characters: Harry, Ron, Hermione, McGonagall, Trelawney, Albus, James (II), Rose, OC, OtherCanon
Pairings:

First Published: 09/15/2012
Last Chapter: 04/02/2014
Last Updated: 10/13/2014

Summary:




When Albus Potter and Rose Weasley begin their first year at Hogwarts, they're targeted by what seem like malicious practical jokes involving the name of the Dark Lord.  Even after nineteen years, who would joke about a man who caused so many deaths?  The magical world must once again face the issues which still exist and may again prove divisive.

Thanks to SiriuslyLupin for the banner and MrsJaydeMalfoy for helping with the summary


Chapter 1: The First Night.
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 Disclaimer:  The  characters,  settings  etc.  of  this  story  are  the  property  of  JK.  Rowling.  No  copyright  infringement  is  intended.

His father’s words had helped to reassure Albus, but he still felt a flicker of nervousness as he lined up to try on the Sorting Hat.

The silence in the Great Hall didn’t help. He and Rose had travelled together on the Hogwarts Express, chatting enthusiastically about the upcoming year and the journey across the Great Lake with Hagrid had been punctuated with excited chatter and exclamations as Hogwarts came into view, making it easier to forget the upcoming ordeal. Now he felt alone, with nothing to distract him.

What if he and Rose were placed in different houses? What if she was in Gryffindor and he in Slytherin? 

James was already in Gryffindor, as were all of his cousins, except Lucy. As far back as anybody could remember, Weasleys and Potters had been Gryffindors. What would people say if he wasn’t?

He turned around to glance at Rose, who looked perfectly composed near the back of the line. Busy whispering to the girl beside her, she didn’t even appear to notice his glance. For some reason, that made him more nervous.

Standing by the three legged stool, a tiny wizard Albus recognised as Professor Flitwick called out, “Adams, Nathan.”

Nathan placed the hat on his head. An age seemed to pass before it finally cried “RAVENCLAW.”

The thought of waiting so long was terrifying, and Albus was relieved when the hat barely touched Rasmus Bagshot’s head before also declaring him a Ravenclaw. It looked as if the waiting time varied.

“Bones, Glynis,” Professor Flitwick called.

She joined the Hufflepuffs who cheered more loudly, it seemed, than any other  house. Albus watched them greet her cheerfully, and tried not to think about how far away P was. It must be even worse for Rose, who was right at the end of the alphabet.

Time seemed to stand still as the Bs, Cs and Ds were slowly sorted into their respective houses.

“Fletcher, Abric.”

“SLYTHERIN”, the house decided.

“Fudge, Leona.”

There was a pause before the house shouted “HUFFLEPUFF.”

“Griffin, Fionnuala.”

“RAVENCLAW.”

Eventually, the hat reached the Ms.

“Malfoy, Scorpius.”

Albus looked up. This one was worth hearing.

To his surprise, the hat seemed to pause. He’d expected it to shout SLYTHERIN immediately.

Moments passed before it finally called out “SLYTHERIN”.

“Nottingham, Dora.”

“RAVENCLAW.”

Albus was coming closer to the head of the line. He was no longer so sure he wanted his turn to come.

“Peacock, Melina.”

“GYFFINDOR.”

“Potter, Albus.”

Albus froze and his heart jumped into his mouth. Somebody nudged him from behind and he walked slowly forward.

“Hmmm,” the hat whispered, as he placed it on his head. “This isn’t an easy one. There’s plenty of ambition here; perhaps more than you realise yourself.”

“Please don’t place me in Slytherin,” Albus thought, wondering how exactly one was supposed to plead with a hat.

“That’s what your father said as well.” The hat sounded smug, as if it had expected his response. “He was a difficult one too, I remember. Like him, you have courage. But you have other traits too. I see intelligence here and curiosity; a willingness to learn. So I think you’re suited to RAVENCLAW!”

Albus jumped. He had been so worried about being placed in Slytherin and so anxious for Gryffindor that he hadn’t even thought of the other houses.

He stole a quick glance at the Gryffindor table where James and his cousins were staring open-mouthed.

Across the Hall, the Ravenclaws cheered madly.

Stunned but not entirely dissatisfied, Albus headed for the Ravenclaw table and sat down beside the only one of his cousins already sitting there.

Lucy grinned. “Finally! Another Weasley who’s not in Gryffindor.”

He didn’t bother to remind her he was a Potter. He knew what she meant.

Professor Flitwick got up from the staff table and headed towards the Ravenclaws to try and calm them down so the sorting could continue.

Albus found himself anxious for it to do so. He still didn’t know what house Rose was in, after all. Was it possible she might be placed in Ravenclaw too? She was by far the smartest of the cousins, after all. But Hermione was supposed to be one of the smartest witches in the Ministry and yet she’d been a Gryffindor.

His fingers were tightly crossed. He really, really wanted her to be a Ravenclaw.

But what if she wanted to be a Gryffindor? After all, her father had threatened to disinherit them if they weren’t. Albus knew he’d been joking, but he still thought Ron would take it a lot worse than his father would if his child wasn’t placed in Gryffindor. 

The nervous feelings were welling up in his stomach again.

The sorting continued, and Thompson, Derek joined the Ravenclaw table. Albus strained across to take a look at him. This was somebody he’d be sharing a dormitory with, as well as classes and a common room.

Eventually, Flitwick called Rose to try on the hat.

Far more quickly than it had sorted Albus, it called out “RAVENCLAW.”

Albus leapt to his feet, cheering more loudly than he ever had before in his life. Rose came towards him and he hugged her, lifting her off her feet.

“Idiot.” She slapped him lightly.

“I never even thought of Ravenclaw, did you?” he asked.

“Yeah, I did, actually. Mum said that the hat took a long time to decide between Ravenclaw and Gryffindor for her and I kind of thought I could be here, but Dad said, ‘no way’. Weasleys were always in Gryffindor.” She laughed. “Well, that’s proven him wrong, anyway. I told him it wasn’t certain. I said ‘look at Lucy,’ but he said…well…” She trailed off, glancing over at Lucy.

“I can guess.” Lucy put in drily. Ron, like Albus’ mum, found Percy’s manner extremely irritating.

“Uncle Ron won’t be pleased though. Neither of us being in Gryffindor.”

“Oh, he’ll get over it. Could be worse. We could be in Slytherin. Imagine his reaction then.”

Albus shivered, remembering the hat’s words to him. He reminded himself it had said the same thing to his father.

“I suppose Slytherins can’t be all bad,” he said. “After all, Dad named me after one.”

“Dumbledore wasn’t a Slytherin.”

“I meant my middle name.”

Before she could answer, Professor McGonagall was calling for attention from the staff table.

“I’m sure you are all hungry, so I don’t mean to detain you too long,” she began. “However, there are one or two things I wanted to say. Firstly, I want to remind all students that the Forbidden Forest, is, as the name suggests, forbidden to all students, unless accompanied by a teacher.” Her gaze seemed to fall on James and Albus smothered a laugh. His brother had been caught there the previous year.

“Mr. Filch has also asked me to remind you that all items from Weasleys Wizard Wheezes are banned, as are a number of other items. The full list can be viewed in his office. And first years should be aware that magic in the corridors is not permitted.

“On a more positive note, I’d like to welcome our new Professor of Transfiguration, Professor Blackburn.” 

A tall, dark-haired witch in her early twenties stood up and a perfunctory cheer momentarily filled the Great Hall. Albus noticed that some of the older Ravenclaws look worried.

 “I do hope she’s a good teacher,” Lucy muttered. “I’ve my O.W.L.s next year, after all and Dad won’t be pleased if I do badly.”

Albus glanced at Rose nervously. Two years seemed like a lot of time to prepare for an exam to him. If his fellow Ravenclaws all took their studies so seriously, he felt certain he would never keep up.

Rose, however, seemed to think Lucy’s concern a perfectly reasonable one.

“Are the teachers here generally good?” she asked.

Lucy didn’t have a chance to answer as Professor McGonagall was clapping her hands.

“Our start-of-term feast will now begin.”

Every type of food seemed to appear before them.

Albus loaded his plate with chips, sausages, peas and bacon and ate hungrily. He didn’t want to eat too much however. James had told him the deserts were absolutely delicious and the last thing he wanted was to be too full to even taste them.

Sure enough, once the first course was eaten, the plates filled with ice-creams and cakes. 

Albus grabbed a chocolate éclair and two doughnuts.

As James had said, they were absolutely delicious.

Finally, the last of the food disappeared and McGonagall stood up again.

“Now, it’s late and I’m sure you are all tired after your journey. And don’t forget that classes start tomorrow morning and we expect you all to be wide awake and ready to begin. So please return to your dormitories now. I ask our prefect to show the first years where to go. First years, please obey the instructions of your prefects.”

Albus and Rose followed their prefects up to Ravenclaw tower.

The prefects paused at the top of the long staircase.

“And now, we face one of the most interesting and occasionally irritating parts of being a Ravenclaw.”

Rose and Albus exchanged glances, neither knowing what the prefect was referring to. None of their new classmates seemed sure either.

“When you knock on the door with this knocker, the eagle will ask us a question. If you answer correctly, the door will open. It can be difficult sometimes, which makes sneaking out of Ravenclaw Tower at night a very bad idea, but I think between us, we ought to figure tonight’s question out.”

He rapped on the door.

“What dragon has no flame?”

The question reminded Albus of a story from his father’s first year at Hogwarts.

“One in an egg,” he practically whispered.

“Good answer”, replied the eagle and the door swung open.

The prefect turned to Albus. “Well done. Looks like you’re definitely in the right house.”

Albus squirmed. Remembering Hagrid and his dragon’s egg had been pure luck, not wisdom or intelligence or whatever else Ravenclaws were supposed to have. He doubted he’d find future questions so easy.

The prefects paid him no further attention. They led the first years into the tower, where boys and girls parted company and were shown to their dormitory by a prefect of their own gender.

“A word of warning. We’re not allowed in the girls’ dormitories, though they can enter ours. Why that is, I’ve no idea, but those are the rules. Have any of you any questions? Not just about the dormitory rules; about anything.”

The younger boys exchanged glances, but nobody spoke.

“OK then, I’ll leave you to get the good night’s sleep Professor McGonagall recommended. If you need to ask anything over the next few weeks, come and see me or one of the other prefects.”

He left and Albus glanced around at his new classmates, more interested in them than the dormitory itself.

“Say, what do you think of the set up here?” Derek asked.

“You mean Ravenclaw? Or Hogwarts in general?”

“Hogwarts, I suppose. The whole thing. I’ve never seen anything like it. Are, you know, your parents wizards too.”

Albus smiled. It wouldn’t be long until the boy found out about his father, he supposed, but he saw no need to enlighten him yet. “Yeah, they’re a witch and a wizard. How about yours?”

Derek shook his head. “My dad’s in the police and my mum works in computers. I’ll miss modern technology actually. They say it doesn’t work at Hogwarts. I’m Derek, by the way.”

“Albus.”

“He’s Albus Potter,” one of the other boys put in.

Derek looked blank.

“Haven’t you heard of his dad?”

“He’s Muggleborn,” the fourth boy put in. “How could he have? I’m Rasmus, by the way and the reason we’re all so pleased to have Albus in our house is because his dad defeated the most dangerous wizard in about half a century.”

“Not on his own,” Albus said.

“Well, I know that, but still it’s interesting, you know?”

Albus sighed. “I suppose so.” He turned to the only boy who hadn’t introduced himself yet. “Sorry, I’ve forgotten your name.”

Truthfully, he wasn’t even sure he’d noticed it in the long list called out during the sorting, but saying he’d forgotten sounded more polite.

“Nathan.”

“Are you…um, I mean are your parents a witch and wizard?” Derek asked.

Nathan nodded.

Albus suddenly realised why Derek was asking. 

“Don’t worry about it,” he said. “My aunt was Muggleborn. Her parents are dentists. And she got the best results in her year. She got my dad out of some pretty sticky situations too. Nobody looks down on Muggleborns anymore.”

“Did they before?” 

Albus wrinkled his nose. “Some did. People like the wizard my dad fought. It was all rubbish anyway.”

Nathan and Rasmus nodded.

“But the rest of you have to have an advantage. I mean, I didn’t even know dragons existed. How am I supposed to know whether or not they have flames?”

“You’ll figure everything out pretty quickly,” Albus said. “My dad said my aunt practically learnt Hogwarts: A History off by heart.”

“I think I’ll do the same.”

Albus laughed, but he was slightly worried.  The other Ravenclaws seemed so intelligent. Like Rose. Albus didn’t see himself as all that exceptionally intelligent. Was the Sorting Hat always right? Or might it have made a mistake?

There wasn’t much time to wonder that night. Although he’d been certain that he wouldn’t sleep at all, he was tired after the journey and fell asleep almost as soon as his head hit the pillow.  


Chapter 2: A Magical Education
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Disclaimer:  I  do  not  own  any  of  the  settings,  the  characters  you  recognise  or  any  mentioned  on  Pottermore  or  in  interviews  with  JK  Rowling  or  anything  of  Harry  Potter.  No  copyright  infringement  is  intended.  Rose's  comment  about  repeating  history  is  paraphrased  from  Santayana.  Credit  is  his.

The next morning Albus headed automatically towards the Gryffindor table for breakfast.

Rasmus pulled him back.

“Hey, we’re Ravenclaws, remember?”

Albus blushed. He hadn’t realised he already thought of Gryffindor as his house, but he’d been seeing James in red and gold for the past two years and Victoire, Dominique, Louis and Lucy even before that and his mum and dad still took an interest in Gryffindor’s Quidditch team. It would be weird to start thinking of blue and bronze as his house colours.

Rose was already seated at the Ravenclaw table and he took a seat beside her thankfully. He’d have hated if they were separated.

“We get our timetables after breakfast,” she told him. “I’m looking forward to seeing them, aren’t you?”

He supposed he was. Learning magic would definitely be more interesting than sitting at the kitchen table, learning reading and sums from Grandma Weasley.

“There's so much to learn,” Rose continued. “Defence Against the Dark Arts, Transfiguration, Herbology. What are you looking forward to most, Albus?”

“Oh, Defence of course. How about you?”

“I can’t decide. Defence is really important, of course, but Astronomy sounds really good as well. And Transfiguration. And Potions.”

Albus shuddered. He’d heard his dad’s stories about Potions often enough. Of course, he knew Slughorn was teaching it now and James said  he wasn’t too bad, but he still thought it sounded difficult.

Derek was listening to their conversation and something approaching alarm crossed his face.

“Defence? Has this something to do with that evil wizard fellow you were telling me about?”

Albus shook his head. “I don’t think so. I think it was always part of the curriculum. It’s supposed to be quite interesting. We’ll learn defensive spells, like how to protect yourself if anybody hexes you or anything.” Derek was looking even more apprehensive now. “Oh, most of it is just for fun. My brother thinks it’s really funny to give me jelly-legs and stuff, when nobody’s looking, so I’ll be glad to know how to defend myself. And we learn about vampires and werewolves and all that stuff.”

“You mean they seriously exist?"

“Oh yes. Rose’s mother works in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement and she’s very concerned with making things fairer for other magical beings. There’s a lot of discrimination.”

Rose rolled her eyes. “Oh, stop. I’ve been hearing this all my life. Not that it’s not true or anything, but there comes a time when you get tired of hearing about it. It’s not as if I make the laws, you know.”

“Gosh, I really have a lot to learn.”

“We all do,” Rose said. “Underage witches and wizards aren’t allowed to perform magic except in class.”

Derek turned to Albus. “But you said your brother… Or is he of age?”

Albus shook his head. “No, he’s in third year, but James doesn’t exactly always follow the rules. My gran says he’s just like my Uncles Fred and George. And George owns a joke shop now, if that tells you anything.”

“What does your Uncle Fred do?”

“He died.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.”

“It was before we were born. Back in the war. Those were pretty awful years, I guess. People don’t really like to talk about them too much.”

“Mum says they should, though,” Rose put in. “She says those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. So we should pay attention in History of Magic, no matter how boring Binns is.”

Albus sighed. “Dad says your mum’s probably the only person ever to pay attention in History of Magic in the history of the school.”

A prefect cut their conversation short by standing up and announcing that everybody was to finish eating quickly and go to get their timetables.

“Come on.” Rose pulled Albus to his feet.

The other Ravenclaws followed them, all anxious to find out what class they’d first.

“Is everybody here?” Professor Flitwick glanced around. “All right, I have your timetables here.” He passed them around.

Albus was pleased to see that the Ravenclaws had Defence Against the Dark Arts first, though less pleased to see it was with the Slytherins. Despite what his father had said about his nakesake, he wasn’t exactly pleased at the thought of making a fool of himself in front of Scorpius Malfoy

“Come on, Albus,” Rose said. “We can’t be late for our first class.”

“Good morning,” a middle aged witch greeted them as they entered the classroom. “My name is Professor Jones and over the course of your years at Hogwarts, I will be teaching you to defend yourselves from a vast number of Dark Creatures and many different varieties of Dark Magic.”

A dirty looking Slytherin boy raised his hand. “Professor.”

“Yes, Fletcher.”

“Is it true you were in the Order of the Phoenix in the last wizarding war?”

“Yes, Fletcher, that is true. So I can fairly safely say that I have seen some of the worst examples of Dark Magic in at least the last half century. However, I am far from the only one, as I’m sure you know. Your own father was a member and of course, all of the wizarding world is aware of the part played by the parents of Potter and Weasley.” She paused for a moment. “How many of you here are Muggleborn?”

Only two students raised their hands; Derek and a girl Albus had noticed at the Ravenclaw table that morning.

“Only two of you. And do either of you know anything about the second wizarding war?”

“Um, Albus and Rose told me a little about it this morning,” said Derek. “And some of the boys were talking about it last night. They said there was this wizard who didn’t like Muggleborns and stuff, and that he was extremely dangerous.” He trailed off.

“That is true. You’ll be learning more about it in History of Magic. I don’t want to frighten either of you, but I think you, all of you, should be aware of the worst we’ve had to fight against. Wizards like Voldemort,  or “He-Who-Must-Not-be-Named” as many still call him, are thankfully rare, but the fact they exist at all makes what you will learn in this class extremely important. Your parents will be able to tell you there was a time when the Ministry wasn’t too happy about young boys and girls learning practical defensive magic. Thankfully, that is not true today. However, it will be a while before you are attempting anything too exciting, I’m afraid. Firstly, you need to be aware of what it is you will be facing.”

She outlined the course they would be following for the rest of the year and then dismissed them.

“She’s great, isn’t she?” Nathan said. “I mean, she really knows what she’s talking about.”

Between James and his cousins, Albus was already familiar with most of the teachers’ reputations and knew that Professor Jones was very highly regarded.

Professor Blackburn, who they had next, was rather more of an unknown quantity. However, her greeting to the class seemed pleasant enough.

“Transfiguration has a reputation for being one of the more difficult subjects,” she told them. “But I personally consider it one of the most important. And one of the more interesting, as well. The introductory material might not seem that way, but remember that it’s Transfiguration which allows people transform into animals.”

Dora Nottingham raised her hand.

“Yes Miss Nottingham.”

“Are you an Animagus, Professor?”

The teacher laughed, a little uncomfortably. “I’m afraid not. However, you do have a highly accomplished Animagus here at Hogwarts, as some of you may be aware. Professor McGonagall, who taught Transfiguration before becoming Headmistress, can transform into a cat."

“Are we going to learn to become Animagi?” Dora continued.

Professor Blackburn laughed again. “I’m afraid not, Dora. Becoming an Animagus is extremely difficult and many witches and wizards can never accomplish it. Also, our Ministry keeps detailed information as to who has the ability, as it’s a skill that could easily be misused. However, if you chose to continue with Transfiguration to N.E.W.T. level, you will learn Human Transfiguration, which is the first step for those who wish to become Animagi.” She smiled. “I’m sure that seems a long way off for all of you and there is quite a lot to be learnt in the intervening years, but if you concentrate now, you’ll find the work in later years so much easier.

“And now, if there are no more questions…” She paused and glanced around the classroom. “Then I’d ask you to take out your textbooks and we’ll take a look at some of the basic principles. Don’t worry if it seems confusing. It will make more sense as you get more used to it. And I want you all to feel free to ask me if you have any questions or are finding anything difficult.”

“She seems nice,” Albus said after class. “We’re doing well with teachers so far, aren’t we? And we’ve Neville later.”

“We’re to call him Professor Longbottom at school,” Rose reminded him.

“Yeah, I know.”

He hoped he’d remember. It would be really embarrassing to call him “Neville” by accident in front of the whole class.

Actually, it could be embarrassing having one of your parents’ friends as a teacher, he thought, remembering them telling him to give Neville their love. He’d look a right idiot doing that anyway.

Neville smiled at them as they entered Greenhouse One.

“Hello Albus. Hello Rose.”

“Hello, um Professor Longbottom.”

“Looking forward to Herbology?”

They both nodded politely and Neville turned his attention to the rest of the Ravenclaws and Gryffindors gathered before him.

Unlike their previous classes, Neville had prepared some practical work for them.

“We’re going to begin by planting some Bouncing Bulbs,” he told them. “These can grow quite large, even reaching the size of the door over there. At that size, they can be very difficult to handle. However, the ones we’re working with are only babies, so you have nothing to worry about.”

It was an entertaining class. The students chatted and laughed as they tried to keep hold of the bouncing plants. A couple of Gryffindor boys started bouncing the bulbs on the floor of the greenhouse.

“Stop that at once,” Neville called. “Or it’ll be twenty points from Gryffindor and I’m sure you don’t want to lose your house points on your very first day.” He turned to face the entire class, as the boys picked up the bulbs they’d been playing with. “One of the most important things I hope to teach you is to treat the plants with respect. That means not harming them and taking care that they don’t harm you…”

His speech was interrupted as Nathan stumbled, dropping the bulbs he was carrying. He tried to pick them up, but they bounced out of his reach. Already off balance, he stumbled again and a bulb bounced on the back of his head.

“Flipendo,” Neville shouted and the bulbs flew back.

"Sorry Sir.” Nathan’s face was bright red. “I just lost my balance. I didn’t intend to.”

Neville smiled. “Not to worry. So long as you’re not hurt, that’s the main thing. Now, let’s gather up the bulbs and continue on with our task.”

They quickly gathered up the bulbs, but Nathan remained subdued.

At the end of the class, Albus noticed Neville take him aside and say a few words to him.

“Did he tell you off?” Albus asked as they headed back to the castle.

“No. He said not to worry about it; that anybody could lose their balance and he’d done a lot worse when he was a student here.” Nathan didn’t sound convinced. “God, I’m such a klutz sometimes.”

“Nev…Professor Longbottom is right though. That could have happened to anybody. I was sure I was going to drop them actually. They’re so…bouncy.”

“And just after he said we were to be careful we didn’t let the plants hurt us.” Nathan seemed to be following his own train of thought.

“He was talking about people mucking around deliberately; not genuine accidents,” Albus pointed out.

Rose came up behind them.

“Oh, don’t worry about it, Nathan,” she said briskly. “I’m sure we’ll all make fools of ourselves before the week is out. Some of the things our parents got up to…well, simply dropping some bulbs doesn’t even begin to compare. Isn’t that right, Albus?”

“Yeah. Our dads arrived by flying car for the start of their second year, Nathan. You can imagine the trouble they got into.”

Nathan stared at him. “You’re not serious!”

“I am. They missed the train. And…well, it’s a long story and we’d better get to History of Magic, so I’ll tell you later, OK?”

They hurried to class, getting there moments before Professor Binns floated through the blackboard.

Derek stared in amazement.

“Wow, this looks like being an interesting class.”

Albus stifled a giggle.

“You must be joking. Professor Binns is the most boring teacher in the history of Hogwarts, possibly the world! Wait until he starts lecturing. Then you’ll see how interesting it gets.”

Binns didn’t even bother calling for silence. He simply introduced himself quickly and then started into his lecture.

“We are going to begin with the events leading up to the signing of the Statute of Secrecy in 1689. Prior to that time, witches and wizards had lived semi-openly among Muggles. However as persecution from Muggles continued apace, more and more wizards chose to live in secret.”

It should have been interesting. Binns was talking about violence and persecution. However, he seemed to glance over anything remotely interesting in favour of dwelling on exact dates and minute details. Ten minutes into the class, Albus was already nearly asleep.

“Why exactly is he still teaching?” Rasmus demanded after the class. “He’s a rubbish teacher. He just managed to make some of the most significant events of our history sound utterly meaningless.”

“I’m lost,” Derek said. “I don’t even know what the Statute of Secrecy is.

“Me either,” the girl who’d raised her hand when Professor Jones had asked who was Muggleborn said.

“It’s basically the law that says we’re not allowed to let Muggles know about us,” Rose explained.

The girl looked puzzled.  “But my mum and dad know about us. And my sisters and brothers. Professor Flitwick explained it all to them. Not sure how much they took in, but…”

“That’s different, Angie,” Rose said and Albus stored away the name for future reference. “Our parents can know, even if they’re Muggles and if you marry a Muggle, you’re allowed tell him. Things like that. The Muggle Prime Minister knows as well.”

“I didn’t know that,” Albus said.

Nor did Nathan or Dora.

“Well, he does. But they are all people who have a reason to know. We can’t just tell anybody we want to or perform magic publicly where anybody can see. Who is and isn’t allowed know is complicated. That’s why there’s a statute, to set it all down in black and white, so that the entire wizarding world is in agreement about who is and who isn’t.”

“But what if somebody finds out?” Derek asked. “Somebody who isn’t meant to know, I mean.”

Rose, Albus, Dora and Nathan exchanged glances.

“It depends,” Rose said. “If it’s judged to be a risk, the Ministry has Obliviators who modify their memories so they won’t remember what they’ve seen or heard.”

“Wow,” Derek said. “It’s like science-fiction or something. You know, all those conspiracy theories about alien landings being covered up by the Government.”

Everybody except Angie looked blank.

“Sounds like something they’d publish in The Quibbler,” Dora said.

The Quibbler?” Derek asked.

“It’s a paper,” Albus said. “It belongs to the father of one of my mum’s friends.” He glared at Dora. “And my mum’s friend sometimes writes for it.”

“Your mum’s friends with the Lovegoods?” Dora said.

“Yes. My sister’s middle name is Luna, after Luna Lovegood. OK, the Lovegoods have their own ideas on things, but Luna is really nice. And unusual.”

“I’ll believe she’s unusual. OK, I’m sorry Albus. But honestly, the Lovegoods…well, they’ve a reputation for being odd.”

“So What?” said Rose. “Being different isn’t necessarily bad. And Luna was a Ravenclaw, you know.”

“OK, OK.” Dora sound more as if she was bored with the argument than really convinced.

“Hey, is there any school library or anything here?” Derek changed the subject. “I want to look up some stuff.”

“Of course there’s a library.” Rose sounded shocked at the thought of not having one. “I think I can find it. Mum gave me directions.”

“Only Aunt Hermione would give directions to the library.”

“Actually, I’ll come too, if you don’t mind,” Rasmus said.

Albus decided he might as well tag along with them. It would be worth knowing where the library was anyway.

Hermione’s directions were good ones, which was hardly surprising, considering the amount of time his father said she’d spent in the library in their schooldays.

“Wow.” Derek glanced at the books in amazement.

The librarian looked up.

“Quiet, please.”

“Are you looking for anything in particular?” Albus whispered to Derek, as Rose and Rasmus wandered off together

“Um, just something to give me some idea what the wizarding world is like. Do you know where you’d find that book your aunt used to read?”

Albus shrugged. “We could probably find it, if we looked."

Searching the shelves, they eventually stumbled upon Recent Wizarding History.

Derek flicked through it.

“This will do, I guess.”

They headed for the door of the library. Rose and Rasmus were still scouring the shelves.

“Should we wait for them?” Derek asked.

“I suppose so.”

They waited outside the library, chatting, until Rose and Rasmus joined them, both carrying armfuls of books.

“Find what you wanted?” Rose asked Derek.

“Yeah.”

“No need to ask if you did,” Albus said.

Rose laughed. “There’s some interesting stuff there. I don’t suppose we’ll have that much time to read once classes really get started, but these’re worth taking a look at anyway.”

Their journey back to Ravenclaw Tower was interrupted by a ghost floating towards them.

“Albus Potter,” he said.

Albus looked up.

“I must say I was hoping you’d be in my old house, young man.”

“It’s Nearly Headless Nick,” Albus informed Derek excitedly.

“Why does everybody always call me that?” The ghost sounded mildly annoyed. “My name is Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington.”

“Sorry, em, Sir Nicholas,” Albus said. “I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to.”

“Oh, I’ve got used to it.” The ghost was smiling now. “Don’t suppose I’ll ever be anything but Nearly Headless Nick in this school. I do prefer ‘Sir Nicholas’ though.”

“I’ll try to remember,” Albus promised.

“What’s wrong with Ravenclaw anyway?” Rose burst out.

“Oh, nothing, nothing, but I was fond of this young man’s father, you know. Still am, as a matter of fact. And I was rather hoping to have his sons in my house. His daughter too of course.”

“You have James,” Rose reminded him.

“Yes, yes, of course. Oh well, one can’t have everything and I’m sure I’ll see plenty of you around the school. I don’t confine myself to Gryffindor Tower, you know.”

“I hope so,” Albus said shyly.”

“We really need to be getting back now,” Rose reminded him. “We don’t want to risk being locked out.”

“Um, who kept us waiting at the library? We really do have to go, though,” he told Nearly Headless Nick.

“I’ll accompany you as far as Ravenclaw Tower.”

Nearly Headless Nick had a number of interesting stories to tell about previous events at Hogwarts and all four students were sorry when they reached Ravenclaw Tower and he floated away.

“Still, he said we’d see him again,” Albus said.


Chapter 3: The Slug Club.
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Most of the Ravenclaws wrote home that evening and the next morning, a flurry of owls arrived at the breakfast table.

Albus let out a sigh of relief. James had had him convinced letters from home were a rarity at Hogwarts, but it seemed as if Angie was about the only first year Ravenclaw who hadn’t received at least one letter.

He’d received two, one from his parents and one from Lily. He tore them off his owl’s leg eagerly. Too eagerly. Not impressed by such rough treatment, Wendelin nipped his hand.

“Ouch.”

“Are you all right?” Rose looked up from her letter.

“Yeah, she just nipped me.” He scowled at the owl.

“Well, you shouldn’t have grabbed her so roughly.”

He ignored her and turned to read his letters.

Dear Albus,

Ravenclaw? That’s a surprise, although it shouldn’t be, since we both know how smart you are. I hope your brother hasn’t given you a hard time about not being in Gryffindor. Don’t mind him, if he does. You know how he likes teasing you and he can be quite defensive of his house.

Glad you met Nearly Headless Nick. He was a good friend to me when I was at Hogwarts. Did I ever tell you about the time Ron, Hermione and I attended his 500th Deathday party? If I didn’t, remind me to sometime. We missed the Halloween feast because of it, which was a pity, but it meant a lot to Nick to have us there and I think Hermione found the experience interesting. I think you’d have enjoyed it actually.

I’m glad you’re enjoying your classes so far and that you aren’t finding things too difficult. I must say I’d have liked to see what happened in Herbology.

Has Slughorn tried to induct you into the Slug Club yet? If he hasn’t, he will. I hope you enjoy it, but I’m not holding my breath. He does give some good parties at Christmas and other times though so it’s not completely a dead loss.

Your mother wanted to write this, but I insisted on doing so, reminding her that she wrote the first letter to James when he started. She says hi though and she’ll write tomorrow.

Enjoy the term and we’ll see you at Christmas.

Your loving Dad.

Albus bit his lip. He couldn’t start crying at breakfast. He’d look a complete baby. He choked back a sob and opened his sister’s letter.

Hi Albus,

Are you having a good time at Hogwarts? Are the teachers nice? Why are you in Ravenclaw? Gryffindor is the best house. I’m going to be in Gryffindor like James. I miss you. It’s boring here. I only have Hugo to do lessons with. And Fred, but he doesn’t count because he’s only a baby. I wish it was Christmas.

From Lily

“Albus, come on,” Rose said, as he read through the letter a second time. 

“Oh, oh right. Was that from your mum?” He nodded at the letter she was folding neatly.

“Yes. She thinks it’s great I’m in Ravenclaw. But she says Dad’s refusing to start cheering for Ravenclaw in the Quidditch Cup and that’s he’s been telling Hugo he’d better be in Gryffindor when he gets here.”

She laughed. 

Albus joined in, a little less certainly.

“He doesn’t really mind, does he?”

“No, he was only joking. Though I think he will be torn if we end up playing Gryffindor in the Quidditch final. At least I don’t plan on trying out for the team, or he’d be in a real dilemma.”

“You might change your mind and start playing.”

“I don’t think so.”

Having played Quidditch with his parents and siblings as long as he could remember, he could never understand how Rose could remain so indifferent to it.



Harry’s predication about the Slug Club turned out to be correct. Professor Slughorn stopped them in the corridor later that day.

“Albus Potter and Rose Weasley! Just who I hoped to see. You will do me the honour of joining me at a little party in my office this evening, won’t you? Just a few select students. Your brother is coming, Albus and some of your cousins.”

Rose and Albus exchanged glances.

“Um, yes Professor, we’ll be there.”

“Good, good. This is my last year teaching, you know. I’m retiring at the end of the year, but I wouldn’t have wanted to miss out on the chance to teach you two. I’m hoping you’re going to be as bright as your mother , young lady. And as for you…” He stared at Albus for a moment. “Your grandmother was one of my favourite students. So talented with her potions. It broke my heart when she died so young. I’d have loved to have you in my house. Ah well, maybe your sister will be, though I won’t be here to see it.” He sighed.

Albus hoped not, but he didn’t say so. He couldn’t help thinking that Slughorn seemed just as irritating as his father and brother had indicated.

“At least we’ll only have one year of his parties,” he said, after the teacher departed.

“You’d never know, Albus. They might actually be fun.”

“I doubt it. James says they’re really boring and so did Dad. And your dad rolls his eyes whenever they’re even  mentioned.”

“My dad wasn’t even a member. And Lucy enjoys them.”

“Well, you know Lucy. She and Molly practically learnt “networking” as their first word.”

“Not that Molly seems too enthusiastic.”

“She’s only nine. By the time she’s fourteen, she’ll probably be planning her N.E.W.T.S. too.”

“Lucy’s not that bad.”

Albus had to admit she wasn’t. It was her father who insisted on shoving her achievements down all their throats. She didn’t boast about them at all. She did take her studies rather seriously, but then, so did Rose and he didn’t mind that.

He still didn’t expect to enjoy Slughorn’s little meeting though.

To his surprise, James did appear to be looking forward to it when they met outside Slughorn’s office that evening.

“I thought you said these things were boring,” Albus commented.

“They are, but…well, Brian Burgess has been invited and he’s…well, he’s the captain of the Gyffindor Quidditch team.”

Suddenly Albus understood. His brother was determined to get on the team this year.

“But you don’t have to worry about befriending him. You’re brilliant at Quidditch.”

“Still didn’t get on last year, did I? But Adam was captain then and he’s left, so…”

“I doubt it’ll matter who’s captain,” Rose said severely. “If you’re the best, you’ll get on the team; if you’re not, you won’t. Simple as that.” 

“What do you know about Quidditch?” James asked rudely.

“Now, now, we’re not arguing, are we?” Slughorn had appeared behind them. “I like to see my Slug Club getting along.”

‘Yeah, because you want them favouring each other over everyone else in later life,’ Albus thought.

“Just a minor difference of opinion,” Rose assured him.

He barely seemed to be listening.

“Come inside, come inside.” He opened the door to his office, which seemed so large that Albus wondered if he’d bewitched it.

They followed him into the study and sank into the armchairs which cluttered the room. His dad hadn’t been exaggerating when he’d said Slughorn liked his comfort.

Albus glanced around. His cousins, Victoire, Dominique, Louis and Lucy were all there, along with maybe  ten other students. Apart from his cousins, Rasmus Bagshot was probably the only student there he really knew.

He couldn’t help being a bit nervous, particularly as his brother and older cousins were taking no notice of him whatsoever. James seemed to have attached himself to Dominique and a boy about the same age as her, who Albus assumed was the elusive Brian.

Watching them, he stifled a giggle. He couldn’t hear exactly what they were saying, but it was obvious James was anxious to impress. It wasn’t like James to try and impress anybody. The Quidditch team obviously meant even more to him than Albus had realised.

Rose sniffed disapprovingly. “If this Brian is going to choose his team based on who laughs at his jokes, then he shouldn’t be captain in the first place.”

Albus very much doubted James’s sucking up would make much difference, but he could understand how his brother felt. James might be two years older than them, but compared to the two sixth years he was sitting with, he suddenly didn’t look that old.

“Ah, Albus,” Slughorn interrupted his thoughts. “I’m sure you’ll want to meet Jordan Shacklebolt here. His father’s the Minister, you know. Longest serving Minister in over a century. Though I daresay you’ve met him before. Your aunt works quite closely with his father, doesn’t she?”

“Yes, but…”

Slughorn had lost interest. He was now turning to Rose. “And how is your mother, my dear girl?”

Jordan and Albus faced each other awkwardly. Slughorn was wrong. Although Hermione did work closely with Kingsley Shacklebolt, Albus had never met his son. He wasn’t even sure that Rose had.

Jordan broke the ice. “So, settling in to Hogwarts OK?”

“Yes,” Albus said shyly.

“Surprised to see you in Ravenclaw actually. Everybody thought you’d be a Gryffindor.”

He didn’t reply.

“You’re probably tired of people saying that.”

Albus laughed.

“Not too pleased to be here either, are you?”

Albus shuffled nervously. Jordan was more perceptive than he’d anticipated.

He glanced around to see where Slughorn was before saying, “it just seems to be all about getting to know the ‘right’ people. Dad says…” He tailed off. What Harry had said was that Slughorn just wanted more people to add to his collection.

Jordan laughed. “Yeah, old Sluggy does like to be in with the right people. Keeps hinting for me to introduce him to my dad. Of course Dad has far more important things to do than lunching with Sluggy. Not that he minds meeting people, but…”

“I know.”  Meeting people was one thing, meeting Slughorn was another. Albus’s parents were never too anxious to hear from him either.

Lucy moved to sit beside them.

“Not interrupting anything, am I?”

Albus shook his head and she and Jordan struck up a conversation about their plans for the future. Not have thought much beyond starting Hogwarts, Albus lost interest.

The rest of the meeting was as boring as he’d feared it’d be, though he did have to admit the food was good.

“I always find school food so monotonous,” Slughorn said. “Do try the stuffed olives, Shacklebolt. I think you will find them most enjoyable.”

“Thank you, Sir.”

Eventually Slughorn passed around the final mugs of Butterbeer before dismissing them.

“Dear, dear, I hadn’t realised it was so late. Time flies when you are having fun, doesn’t it? Time you were all heading back to your own houses, but do feel free to call in whenever you’re passing. Good luck with your matches, Burgess. Well, apart from those against Slytherin, of course. Gwenog Jones sent me a book about Quidditch tactics actually. Call in tomorrow and I’ll lend it to you.”

“Thank goodness,” Albus muttered as they left.

“Am I to take it you didn’t enjoy it then?” Rose laughed.

“Well, did you?”

She shrugged. “Not that much, though I suppose it was a good chance to meet older students.”

Albus shrugged. Jordan Shacklebolt had been OK, he supposed, but he really doubted the fifth year was particularly anxious to befriend him. He’d just been doing his prefect’s duty by being nice to a first year.

James, however, still seemed hopeful of befriending Brian. He was tagging along behind Brian and Dominique who were chatting, probably about Quidditch tactics and apparently ignoring him completely.

“Your brother doesn’t give up too easily,” Rasmus commented as the three first years hurried back to Ravenclaw Tower.

“No, he certainly doesn’t,” Albus agreed. “Though I’ve never seen him try so hard to impress before.

“James and Albus’s parents both played for Gryffindor when they were at school here,” Rose explained. “I guess he’s anxious to carry on the tradition.”

“You both probably play brilliantly,” Rasmus said. “With your mum having played professionally and all.”

“Well, she and Dad trained us since we were little,” Albus admitted. “James is extremely good.”

“He and Lily aren’t bad either. Honestly, my dad wishes they were his kids. I don’t play. Hugo does, a little.”

They reached the top of the staircase. Albus was glad the older students had waited for them. He really didn’t fancy standing around trying to figure out the eagle’s riddle for who knew how long. He’d yet to repeat his first day’s performance.

This time Lucy answered correctly and they entered the common room, where Rose, Albus and Rasmus were surrounded by the other first years, anxious to know just what Slughorn’s party had been like.

“Pretty boring actually,” Albus said. “Just a collection of people with famous relatives or stuff.”

“I know you and Rose’s people are famous,” Derek said. “But what about you, Rasmus?”

“My great grand aunt wrote a history book that used to be on the curriculum here. Or maybe she’s my great great grand aunt; I’ve lost count. I was surprised he asked me actually. She’s been dead for years, since before I was born. And her book is hardly ever even used anymore. Out of date, you know.”

“He probably wanted to see if you’d inherited her brains,” Albus said. “Especially since you’re in Ravenclaw and all.”

“You’d think he’d have invited us all then,” Dora put in, sounding slightly disgruntled.

“You didn’t actually want to go, did you?” Albus asked. “Seriously, you didn’t miss anything.”

Dora shrugged. “It just seems a bit pointless, that’s all. Is nobody else going to bed? We do have to be up for breakfast in the morning, you know.”

Rose pulled out a watch.

“You’re right. I hadn’t realised it was that late.”

The group started to break up. 

Albus had always hated bedtime at home. It always felt as if he was missing out on something . But the novelty of sleeping in a four-poster bed in his dormitory still hadn’t worn off, so he climbed into bed cheerfully enough and fell asleep pondering on his experience of Hogwarts so far.


Chapter 4: The Gryffindor Quidditch Team.
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During his first few days at Hogwarts, James hadn’t paid much attention to Albus, even at the times of the day, such as breakfast, when they did meet.

So he was slightly surprised when James stopped him after breakfast one morning.

“Is everything all right?” he asked. 

Now that he looked closely, James did look a little pale.

“The try-outs are tomorrow. Six o’clock. Do you want to come and watch?”

“Yeah. Can Rose come too?”

James shrugged. “If she wants to, but she’s not that interested in Quidditch, is she?”

“No, but she’ll want to see you make the team.”

James grinned. “And I certainly intend to do so. I think I’m good enough.”

“Of course you are.”

“You can never be certain though. I know I’m a good player.” He smirked. “But it all depends how you perform on the day. And sometimes how the captain feels you’ll ‘fit’ with the team. That’s why impressing Brian was so important.”

“And do you think you did?” Albus couldn’t help being a little amused.

He shrugged. “I’m hoping Dominique will put in a good word for me. She knows how well I play.” 

He was definitely regaining his confidence.

And she knows I’m a team player,” he continued.

“Albus, you’ll be late,” Rose called across the Hall.

James rolled his eyes. “Better do as you’re told, little bro. But you’ll be there tomorrow?”

“I’ll be there. Good luck. Not that you’ll need it.”

He hurried across the Great Hall.

“What was that all about?” Rose asked.

“Gryffindor try-outs are tomorrow. James wanted to know if we’d like to watch him.”

She grinned. “I presume we are going.”

“Yeah. Well, unless you don’t want to.”

He really hoped she would. He didn’t fancy being the only first year Ravenclaw there.

She shrugged. “I think I can fit it in. We’re not getting that much homework yet, are we?”

He thought they were getting plenty, but he didn’t argue. He didn’t want her changing her mind. Besides, they’d reached their classroom and Professor Jones was about to begin.

Defence Against the Dark Arts wasn’t like Herbology or History of Magic, where you could often carry on with your conversation. The classes was far more intense and Professor Jones was quite strict about ensuring they all paid attention. Not that Albus minded. It was definitely his favourite class and Professor Jones was just as good as the older students had said, so he was usually far too interested to want to whisper anyway.

Herbology was interesting too, but a lot of the work was practical and unlike Professor Jones, Neville didn’t seem to mind if they chatted while they worked, so long as they paid attention when he was lecturing and didn’t get so lost in conversation that they lost track of the task in hand.

Albus was actually enjoying most of his classes, with the obvious exception of History of Magic. Professor Blackburn, like Neville, seemed fairly easy-going and in Charms, Professor Flitwick took a particular interest in the students of his own house, without actually favouring them. Slughorn was irritating, but he did at least try to make Potions fun. Not that he always succeeded, in Albus’s opinion.

The following day, however, even Defence Against the Dark Arts, seemed to drag. He couldn’t wait for the try-outs, anxious to see what the standard of Quidditch at Hogwarts was like and get an idea of whether he might possibly have a chance of making the Ravenclaw team the following year.

Not that he said that to Rose. She’d have pointed out that you couldn’t judge the standard of the Ravenclaw team by watching Gryffindor’s try-outs . He wasn’t sure he agreed. James said Gryffindor had only beaten Ravenclaw by thirty points in the Quidditch Cup the previous year, so the two teams had to be fairly evenly matched.

“Are you nearly ready?” he asked Rose, as she finished off a homework assignment that evening.

“Albus, it’s only half five. It is not going to take us half an hour to get to the pitch.”

“Actually, it’s nearly twenty to six and I know it won’t take that long, but you would want to start finishing up soon.”

“When have I ever been late for anything?”

It was actually a fair question. She was generally pathologically punctual.

He waited impatiently as she finished her work and put it neatly away.

“OK, I’m done.”

They’d barely entered the stand when Brian looked up and started towards them.

“Do you think we shouldn’t be here?” Albus whispered.

“What are you two doing here?” Brian asked.

Dominique hurried up after him.

“It’s OK. They’re my cousins. They’ve probably come to see James try out.”

“But they’re Ravenclaws. How do we know they’re not going to report back to their own team.”

Dominique laughed. “Brian, it’s a try-out. All we’ll be doing is choosing new players and the whole school will know who we choose soon enough. There’s really nothing for them to report. Besides, they’re first years. They only started last week. I very much doubt they even know who’s on the Ravenclaw team. Let them stay.”

He eyed them suspiciously. “Oh, all right.”

Albus felt like cheering. He’d have hated to have missed this. He’d a feeling though that cheering might make Brian change his mind, so he stayed quiet as Brian returned to the pitch and gathered all the potential players around him. 

It looked as if a lot of people were trying out and there couldn’t be too many places.

Albus didn’t know exactly how try-outs worked. According to his dad some captains kept the team they’d had the previous year and just had people compete for any remaining places, whereas others had everybody compete to retain their place each year. Brian seemed to be keeping at least some of the old squad, as Dominique and another girl were standing beside him.

Brian clapped his hands for silence.

“Now, listen up everybody, because I’m only saying this once. We have four places going on the squad right now. Dominique and Catríona played so well last year, with Catríona catching the Snitch in virtually every match we played, that their places are secure. So we need a Beater, a Keeper and two Chasers.

In order to make the team, you need to be an accomplished flyer, so if you haven’t been on a broom since first year, I suggest you leave now. This does not, of course, count if you are only in second year now.”

A laugh went around the pitch.

“OK, please mount your brooms and I want each of you to fly around the pitch in turn. Susan, you start off.”

He continued gesturing to different students to take off. Afterwards, he would either nod and beckon them towards him or shake his head.

“Sorry. I’m afraid that standard isn’t good enough. We need people confident enough on a broom to focus entirely on the game. You’d be putting all your effort into remaining upright.” 

A couple of students tried to argue with him, but he waved them away.

“My decision is final. Please leave the pitch.”

Albus was relieved to see his brother flew flawlessly and was beckoned to join the other possibilities back with the team.

However, only a small number had been eliminated yet. He still faced tough competition.

“I wonder are many of them trying out for Keeper?” he asked Rose.

She shrugged, keeping her eyes on the pitch, where a buzz of conversation had begun.

“SILENCE,” Brian shouted. “Now, I want all possible Chasers over here.”

Nearly half the remaining students seemed to step forward.

He divided them into groups of three.

“One, one, one. Two, two, two. Three, three, three. Four, four. OK, ones versus twos.” He released the Quaffle. “Begin.”

The potential Chasers glanced at one another for a moment. 

Then a tall, blond boy grabbed the Quaffle and headed for a hoop.

The other team’s Chasers shot after him and a game began. 

It was soon clear to Albus that at least two of those trying out were absolute no-hopers. The boy hadn’t got his hands on the Quaffle yet. Even when a teammate threw it right to him, he missed and it fell into the hands of a girl with a long dark plait, who seemed about the best of the players.

After about ten minutes, Brian called a halt. He didn’t comment on anybody’s performance, but sent the threes and fours onto the pitch. There were only two fours, so Dominique flew out to join them.

She was good. In Albus’s opinion, only one boy even approached her standard, but Brian allowed them continue playing as long as the first teams had. Then he gathered all the potential Chasers around him and announced that the long-haired girl and the boy who’d played so well against Dominique would join the team.

Some of the others left the pitch, but most retired to the stands to watch the other players being chosen

Brian called the Beaters forward and this time, divided them into two equal teams.

“I’m going to release the Bludgers now. Your aim is to keep them away from your team and knock them towards the other team. Begin.”

He released the Bludgers and the Beaters began batting them back and forth.

To Albus’s amusement, some of the players were even more useless than any of the potential Chasers. One ducked every time the Bludgers came anywhere near him and another just stared at them, as if expecting them to disappear of their own accord.

He laughed.

“That’s not funny, Albus. He could have been hurt.”

“It is when he’s trying out for the position of Beater.”

James had to be getting nervous. The turn of the Keepers had to be coming soon.

Eventually, Brian chose a Beater and gathered the Keepers around him.

“I’m afraid you guys are going to be trying out individually,” he said. “Let’s see how many goals each of you can save.”

Brian, Catríona and Dominique lined up and each took three turns at trying to score past the first candidate, before allowing her to step down and calling the next possibility.

James was fourth and saved every goal aimed at him.

Albus and Rose jumped up and down, cheering.

James flew towards them, both his thumbs in the air. He’d been the only one so far to save all nine goals.

“Well done, well done,” they called.

A blonde girl took her turn at the hoops , saving five goals. Six. Seven. Eight. Nine.

Albus turned to Rose.

“Did she get them all?”

Rose nodded tightly.

“We have a tie,” Brian called. “So I want James and Claire to approach the hoops again.”

Albus could see the tension on his brother’s face. He wanted this so badly.

“Rounds of three. I want you each to take a turn and we’ll each try to score past you. If you both save all three, we’ll do another round and so on until one of you wins. James, you first. Don’t worry. If you miss in a round, Claire will still have to get all three that round in order to beat you.”

The battle commenced. They went one round, two, without a goal passing either of them.

“They’re really good,” Albus muttered.

He wasn’t sure if Rose even heard him. Her eyes were fixed on the fierce competition taking place.

Claire was now taking her place at the hoops for the third time. James still hadn’t let a goal pass him.

She saved Dominique’s shot, then Catríona’s.

Brian aimed the Quaffle. She reached for it…and missed. It sailed past her, through the hoop.

Disappointment crossed her face and a look of jubilation crossed James’s.

Rose and Albus rushed down onto the pitch in time to see James and Claire shake hands.

“Hard luck,” James was saying. “It was awfully close.”

Claire forced a smile.

“Well done. You deserved it.”

Brian pushed past Albus and Rose to them. 

“Well done, James. Welcome to the team. I’m really sorry Claire, but don’t give up hope. You played fantastically and I won’t forget that the next time we’re short a player. Quidditch injuries are common, as are badly timed detentions. Can you play any other positions?”

James, Albus and Rose moved a little aside to allow them continue their conversation.

“I did it!” James announced. “I am now officially the Gryffindor Keeper!”

“We noticed,” said Rose.

He was hardly listening.

“I can’t wait to write Mum. And Dad. They’ll be so pleased. You’ll have to make your team next year, Albus. Then all the Potters will have played for their house. Well, all those who’ve attended Hogwarts.”

“Mum and Dad won’t know who to cheer for when we play each other then.” 

“Me, of course,” James said matter-of-factly. “They were both Gryffindors after all.”

“That doesn’t mean they’d favour you over Albus,” Rose put in hotly.

Dominique interrupted what looked like being a quarrel.

“Congrats, little cuz. Knew you’d make it. Although it was beginning to look touch and go, there, wasn’t it?”

“Yeah. Why couldn’t Claire have been trying out for another position? She was my only real competition.”

“Well, you’re in now. Come and meet the team.”

Rose and Albus glanced at one another uncertainly.

“Suppose there’s no point in us hanging around here any longer,” Rose said.

“Suppose not.” 

He’d have liked to remain for a while. The atmosphere was incredible. But James was busy meeting his new teammates and seemed to have forgotten them completely and everybody apart from the new Gryffindor team seemed to be melting away. It was time to go.

“Wasn’t that brilliant?” he said as they left the pitch. “I’m so glad James made the team. I can’t wait to try out next year. Such a pity first years can’t try out, but I suppose I wouldn’t have much hope yet anyway.”

He continued babbling as they crossed the grounds, not entirely sure Rose was even listening.

They entered the castle, where Slughorn appeared to be just leaving Blackburn’s office.

“Thank you for that, Horace.”

“Not a problem in the least, my dear lady.”

Rose grabbed Albus and pulled him back behind a suit of armour. The corridor was narrow and Slughorn wasn’t exactly slender.

To Albus’s relief, he passed without appearing to notice them and they stepped out into the corridor.

Blackburn glared at them.

“What are you two doing here?”

“We were just coming back from the try-outs, Professor and it’s quicker to come this way,” Rose explained.

She eyed them suspiciously. “Isn’t it Gyffindor who are trying out this evening?”

“Yes, Professor, but…”

“Then you had no business being there. Detention, Saturday morning at eleven o’clock.”

She slammed back into her office.

Rose and Albus stared at each other in amazement. 

Albus knew detentions were commonplace at Hogwarts. Last year James’d seemed to get about one a week, but he’d generally done something to earn them and admitted himself that most of them had been deserved. All they’d done was walk down a corridor. It wasn’t fair. 

Rose was seething at the injustice of it.

“We didn’t even do  anything. Just walked past her. She can’t give us detention for that.”

He shrugged. “She’s a teacher. I suppose she can do what she likes. But I thought she was going to be one of the nice ones.”

All the good had gone out of the day. He’d been so excited about James making the team, and now all he could think about was Saturday and what they’d have to do. James had once had to accompany Hagrid into the Forbidden Forest. 

Albus shivered. He knew Hagrid wouldn’t let any harm come to them, but the thought of the Forest still scared him. And he didn’t even know they’d be with Hagrid. They might have to help Filch or something. That would be even worse.

He couldn’t admit he was nervous. Not even to Rose, who would never laugh at him. But the truth was, he kind of was. He was not looking forward to Saturday.


Chapter 5: Mysteries.
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Disclaimer: Everything you recognise, including Hogwarts itself, many of the characters, the potions and sweets mentioned belongs to J.K. Rowling. No copyright infringement is intended.

For  the  first  time  since  he’d  started  Hogwarts,  Albus  felt  apprehensive  when  he  saw  an  owl  fly  towards  him  the  following morning.  He  half-expected  it  to  be  carrying  a  Howler  from  one  of  his  parents.

“BARELY  AT  HOGWARTS  A  WEEK  AND  ALREADY  YOU’VE  A DETENTION!”

He  wasn’t  sure  even  James  had  managed  that.

“Albus,  are  you  OK?”  Rose  asked.

“What  if  they’ve  sent  me  a  Howler?”

He  couldn’t  even  look  at  the  owl.

“Albus,  it  is  far  too  large  a  package  for  a  Howler.  Besides,  they’re  red.”

She  reached  over,  removed  the  package  and  handed  it  to  him.

“Open  it.”

With  shaking  hands,  he  did  so.  He  couldn’t  help  thinking  it  was  going  to  be  unpleasant.  People  expected  trouble  from  James;  he  could  get  away  with  it,  but  Albus  couldn’t.

Slowly  he  extracted  the  contents  and  gazed  at  them  in  amazement.  A  box  of  chocolate  cauldrons  was  the  last  thing  he  expected.

The  knot  of  tension  in  his  stomach  began  to  abate  and  he  reached  absent-mindedly  for  a  chocolate.

As  soon  as  he  bit  into  it,  he  felt  a  swelling  in  his  mouth.  The  insides  of  his  cheeks  were  puffing  out  and  his  tongue  seemed  to  have  swollen  to  twice  its  usual  size.

Rose  and  Derek  stared  at  him  in  concern.

“Are  you  all  right?”  Rose  sounded  worried.

“Bleugh.”  His  mouth  was  so  swollen  he  couldn’t  form  words.

“You’d  better  go  to  the  hospital  wing,”  she  said.  “Wait,  I’ll  come  with  you.”

He  shook  his  head  frantically.  They’d  Transfiguration  first.  If  they  were  both  late,  there  was  no  way  Blackburn  would  believe  they’d  a  legitimate  reason.  Not  after  what  happened  the  night  before.

“Are  you  sure?”  Despite  his  response,  she  made  as  if  to  get  up.

He  nodded  firmly  and  she  sat  back  down,  reluctantly.

Without  waiting  to  see  if  Derek  or  any  of  the  others  would  offer  to  accompany  him,  he  headed  to  the  hospital  wing.  His  whole  mouth  was  stinging  horribly.

How  he  was  going  to  explain  the  problem  when  he  couldn’t  speak,  he’d  no  idea.

To  his  relief,  he  didn’t  need  to  say  anything.  Madame  Pomfrey  seemed  to  realise  within  moments  what  was  wrong  and  handed  him  a  potion  from  her  stores.

“Drink  this  immediately,  though  what  possessed  you  to  drink  a  Swelling  Solution,  I  don’t  know.  That  potion  is  not  meant  to  be  ingested.  You’re  lucky  you  didn’t  poison  yourself.”

He  drank  the  potion  quickly  and  to  his  relief,  felt  his  mouth  return  to  normal.

“I  didn’t  intend  to  drink  it.  It  was  in  some  sweets  I  was  sent.”

She  clucked  disapprovingly.  “And  didn’t  anybody  ever  tell  you  not  to  eat  anything  if  you  don’t  know  who’s  sent  it?  I’ll  have  to  report  this  to  the  Headmistress  though;  we  can’t  have  people  sending  dangerous  potions  into  the  school  like  that.  Can  you  bring  me  the  sweets  please?”

“I…well,  yes,  I  suppose  so.”

He  was  going  to  be  even  later  to  Transfiguration,  which  was  good  in  a  way.  With  the  mood  Blackburn  had  been  in  the  previous  night,  the  less  time  he  spent  around  her,  the  better,  but  he  really  didn’t  want  another  detention  and  he  thought  being  late  would  probably  earn  him  one,  no  matter  the  reason.  After  all,  she  hadn’t  particularly  cared  about  reasons  last  night.

The  chocolate  cauldrons  were  still  lying  on  the  Ravenclaw  table  when  he  returned  to  the  Great  Hall.  He  picked  them  up  and  turned  them  over.  They  didn’t  even  have  a  label  on  them.

He  felt  rather  silly.  Of  course  he  knew  that  eating  something  without  knowing  where  it  came  from  wasn’t  very  wise.  His  father  was  an  Auror  after  all.  He’d  just  been  so  relieved  it  wasn’t  a  letter  scolding  him  for  receiving  detention  that  he  hadn’t  thought  any  more  about  it.  He’d  just  assumed  it  was  from  his  parents,  though  now  he  thought  about  it,  he  should  have  realised  it  wasn’t  his  dad’s  owl.

He  returned  to  the  hospital  wing  and  handed  the  package  to  Madame  Pomfrey.

“I’ll  bring  this  straight  to  the  Headmistress,”  she  said.  “Honestly,  eating  something  without  even  looking  for  a  label.  You  should  know  better,  Albus.  I  hope  this’ll  be  a  lesson  to  you.  You’d  better  return  to  class  now.”

He  hurried  away,  anxious  to  escape  her  fussing.  Not  that  he  was  looking  forward  to  reaching  the  classroom  either.  He  really  hoped  Blackburn  wouldn’t  give  him  another  detention.

But  when  he  entered  the  classroom,  Slughorn  was  sitting  at  the  top  of  the  room.

“Ah,  Albus,  my  dear  boy,  Rose  told  me  what  happened.  I  hope  it  wasn’t  too  serious?”

“Madame  Pomfrey  said  it  was  Swelling  Solution,  Professor.”

“Oh  dear.”  Slughorn  looked  quite  concerned.  “I  do  hope  it  wasn’t  created  in  my  class.  I  had  the  third   years  create  that  very  potion  yesterday.  Wanted  to  ensure  they  remembered  something  from  last  year.  I  suppose  Madame  Pomfrey  gave  you  a  Deflating  Draught?”

“Yes,  Professor  and  I  feel  fine  now.”

He  did.  Even  the  stinging  in  his  throat  had  vanished.

“Wonderful,  wonderful.  Now,  as  I  was  telling  your  classmates,  Professor  Blackburn  is  unfortunately  indisposed  at  the  moment,  so  I  have  the  pleasure  of  supervising  your  lesson.  Do  take  a  seat  and  we  can  carry  on.”

It  seemed  he’d  no  intention  of  doing  much  more  than  supervising.  He  didn’t  bother  teaching  them  anything.  Instead,  he  spent  the  class  time  telling  them  stories  of  some  of  the  famous  people  he’d  met  and  questioning  students  about  possible  famous  relatives.

“Dora  Nottingham?  Could  you  possibly  to  any  relation  to  Wilberton  Nottingham  who  developed  a  cure  for  Spattergroit?”

“I  doubt  it.”  Her  voice  was  harsh;  she  was  obviously  as  fed  up  with  Slughorn’s  stupid  questions  as  Albus  was. 

They  were  better  than  another  detention,  he  supposed,  but  it  was  still  embarrassing  when  Slughorn  zoned  in  on  him  yet  again.

“And  of  course,  we  all  know  who  Albus  is – the  son  of  the  Boy  Who  Lived,  the  Chosen  One.  And  we  mustn’t  forget  your  mother,  my  dear  boy.  One  of  The  Prophet’s  most  respected  reporters,  I  believe.  There  was  a  time  when  that  wouldn’t  have  been  saying  much.”  He  permitted  himself  a  little  chuckle.  “Hard  as  it  is  to  believe  now,  there  was  a  time  when  Harry  Potter -  the  great  Harry  Potter  himself -  was  practically  an  outcast  in  the  wizarding  world.  Nobody  believed  him  when  he  announced  that  You-Know-Who  had  returned.  Of  course  I  never  doubted  it.”

Albus rolled  his  eyes.  He  wasn’t  sure  he  believed  that.  Slughorn  would  have  supported  the  popular  viewpoint,  he  suspected.

The  lesson  came  to  an  end  and  Slughorn  dismissed  them,  reminding  Albus,  Rose  and  Rasmus  that  they  were  always  welcome  in  his  office.

“And  I  hope  to  see  all  three  of  you  at  the  next  Slug  Club  meeting.  Shall  we  say  next  Wednesday,  at  eight  pm?”

“Yes,  Professor,”  they  agreed.  “We’ll  try  to  be  there.”

“Is  he  always  like  that?”  Derek  wondered,  as  they  headed  for  Herbology.

“As  far  as  I  know,”  Rose  said  shortly.

Albus  glanced  at  her.

She  pulled  him  aside  and  let  Derek  and  the  others  pass  them  out.

“What  is  it?”  he  asked.

She  looked  around,  to  make  sure  none  of  the  others  were  paying  attention.

“Did  you  hear  what  Slughorn  said?”

“Um,  about  what  exactly?”  Slughorn  had  said  quite  a  lot  during  the  lesson.

“About  the  Swelling  Solution?!  The  third  years  were  revising  it  yesterday.”

“So?”

“So,  think  Albus.  Who  do  we  know  in  third  year  who’d  think  it  funny  to  send  you  chocolates  laced  with  Swelling  Solution?”

“You  think  James  did  it?”

Maybe  he  shouldn’t  have  told  Madame  Pomfrey  he’d  been  sent  the  chocolates.  He  didn’t  want  to  get  his  brother  in  trouble.  If  James  had  done  it,  it  would  have  been  as  a  joke.  He  wouldn’t  have  meant  any  harm.

“Well,  doesn’t  it  seem  like  him?  And  he  was  obviously  using  that  potion  lately.”

“I  guess,”  he  said  uncomfortably.  His  brother  did  like  to  play  jokes  on  him.

“You  wait  until  I  see  him,”  she  continued.  “I’ll  give  him  a  piece  of  my  mind.  That  was  a  really  dangerous  thing  to  do,  you…”

She  came  to  a  halt  as  they  reached  Greenhouse  One.

Neville  looked  at  her.  “Everything  OK,  Rose.”

“Yes,”  she  said  sharply.

Neville’s  eyes  rested  on  her  a  moment  longer,  but  he  didn’t  say  any  more  to  her. 

Turning  to  the  class,  he  began  to  explain  the  plants  they’d  be  working  with  that  day.

“Now,  these  may  not  seem  as  interesting  or  as  much  fun  as  the  Bouncing  Bulbs,  but  they  do  have  many  important  properties.”

The  class  was  an  interesting  one,  though  unusually  for  Herbology,  it  was  mostly  theory.

“You’ll  get  to  work  with  the  plants  again  in  our  next  class,”  he  informed  them  at  the  end.  “So  don’t  forget  to  bring  your  dragon  hide  gloves.  Class  dismissed.  Rose,  could  I  speak  to  you  a  moment?  Albus  too.”

They  headed  over  to  him.

“Are  you  sure  everything  is  OK?  It’s  not  like  you  to  be  distracted  in  my  class,  Rose.”

“Somebody  played  a  practical  joke  on  me  this  morning,  Professor,  that’s  all,”  Albus  put  in.

“I  suppose  it  would  be  too  much  to  ask  for  you  to  give  me  any  more  details?”

“Madame  Pomfrey’s  already  telling  Mc…I’m  mean  Professor  McGonagall  about  it.”

“All  right.  Then  all  I  ask  is  that  there’s  no  escalation,  OK?”

“We’re  not  going  to  prank  them  back,  if  that’s  what  you  mean,”  Rose  said.

“All  right.  I’m  trusting  you.  Better  hurry  along  to  your  next  class  now.”

They  did  as  he  suggested.

It  was  lunchtime  before  they  saw  James.

Rose  gulped  down  her  meal,  then  strode  across  to  the  Gryffindor  table.  Rather  reluctantly,  Albus  followed  her.  He  wasn’t  that  fond  of  confrontations  and  he  was  sure  he  was  about  to  witness  one.

“James  Sirius  Potter!”  she  began.  “Have  you  any  idea how  dangerous  that  was?  I  can’t  believe  even  you’d  be  so  irresponsible!  I’ve  a  very  good  mind  to  write  to  Aunt  Ginny!”

James  stared  at  her  in  bemusement.

“Would  you  mind  telling  me  exactly  what  I’m  supposed  to  have  done?”

“Don’t  even  try  to  deny  it.  You  know  perfectly  well  what  you’ve  done!  For  Heaven’s  sakes,  James,  Albus  could  have  been  poisoned!  Did  you  even  check  if  that  potion  was  safe  to  drink?”

“Are  you  suggesting  I  tried  to  poison  Albus?  He’s  a  nuisance  sometimes,  I’ll  admit,  but  not  so  bad  that  I’d  try  to  kill  him.”  James  seemed  to  find  the  whole  conversation  hilarious.

“Well,  of  course  I  don’t  think  you  were  trying  to  kill  him,  but  putting  potions  in  food  is  dangerous,  James.  All  sorts  of  things  can  happen  if  you  put  in  too  much  or  if  they’re  left  too  long  or  whatever.  Swelling  Solution  isn’t  meant  to  be  eaten  anyway.”

“You  think  I  put  Swelling  Solution  in  Albus’s  food?”

“It  was  in  some  chocolates  I  got  by  owl  this  morning,”  Albus  put  in.

“Merlin’s  beard,  Albus,  are  you  OK?”

“Yeah,  Madame  Pomfrey  gave  me  a  Deflating  Draught.  You  really  didn’t  send  it?”

“Of  course  not.  Do  you  really  think  I’d  do  that?  Rose  is  right.  That’s  dangerous.”

“Well,  you  did  once  set  my  training  broom  on  fire,”  Albus  mumbled.  “When  I  was  on  it.”

“Yeah,  when  I  was  eight!”

Rose  was  still  looking  at  James  suspiciously.  “You  do  like  to  prank  him  though.  And  Slughorn  said  you  made  that  potion  in  class  only  yesterday.”

“Well,  yes,  we  did,  but  that  doesn’t  mean  I  sent  it.  Anybody  could  have.”

“Come  on,  James.  Who  else  in  your  year  would  even  know  Albus,  let  alone  bother  sending  him  something  like  that?”

Albus  might  have  been  starting  to  believe  his  brother,  but  it  didn’t  look  as  if  Rose  was.

“It  wouldn’t  have  to  be  somebody  in  my  year,”  James  said  thoughtfully.  “We  left  the  potions  in  the  classroom  afterwards.  At  least  I  think  so.  Anybody  could  have  come  in.”

“Slughorn  would  have  vanished  them.”

“No,  he  wouldn’t.  Not  immediately  anyway.  I’ve  just  remembered.  He  got  called  away  at  the  end  of  our  class.  Some  Slytherins  were  causing  havoc  in  Charms  or  something  and  he  went  to  sort  it  out.  He  told  us  to  just  gather  up  our  stuff  and  make  sure  we  left  the  room  as  we  found  it.  We  left  the  potions  in  case  he  hadn’t  finished  grading  them.”

Albus  felt  his  insides  go  cold.  If  James  did  it,  that  was  one  thing.  He’d  only  have  meant  it  as  a  prank.  But  the  thought  of  somebody  else  doing  it  was  sort  of  scary.  Especially  as  he  hadn’t  the  foggiest  idea  who  it  might  be.  Could  somebody  really  have  been  trying  to  poison  him?

No,  they  couldn’t  be.  He  was  only  a  schoolboy.  It  was  ridiculous  to  think  anybody’d  want  to  kill  him.

But  his  dad  had  a  lot  of  enemies,  hadn’t  he?  What  if  one  of  them…? 

He  shuddered  at  the  thought  of  being  targeted  by  some  Dark  Wizard  his  father ‘d  defeated. 

Rose  was  still  looking  a  James  a  little  suspiciously.

“You  really  swear  you  didn’t  do  it?”  she  asked.

“No,  of  course  I  didn’t.”

“Maybe  I  should  write  to  Dad,”  Albus  thought  aloud.

James  nodded.  “Yeah,  you  probably  should.  I  mean,  it’s  probably  no  big  deal.  Just  somebody  playing  a  prank.  Maybe  somebody  in  your  year  who  didn’t  know  potions  can  be  dangerous.  I  don’t  think  the  Swelling  Solution  really  is,  anyway,  but  I  still  wouldn’t  send  it  in  chocolates  without  making  sure.  If  I’d  wanted  your  tongue  to  swell  up,  I’d  have  slipped  you  a  ton-tongue  toffee.”

Albus  grinned  wanly.  That  was  exactly  what  his  brother  would  do.

They  didn’t  have  time  to  say  much  more  as  it  was  almost  time  for  afternoon  classes,  but  as  soon  as  classes  ended,  Rose  and  Albus  resumed  the  conversation.

“Do  you  think  somebody  was  really  trying  to  poison  me?”  he  asked  her.

She  shook  her  head.  “I  really  doubt  it.  Far  more  likely  to  be  some  idiot  like  your  brother,  thinking  it  funny  and  not  realising  how  dangerous  it  could  be.  I  just  can’t  think  who  else  would  want  to.”

“Maybe  Scorpius,”  Albus  suggested.  “His  dad  might  have  suggested  he  play  a  joke  on  me.”

“Maybe.”  She  didn’t  sound  convinced.

“I’m  going  to  write  and  tell  Dad  anyway.”

“Yeah,  I  think  that’s  a  good  idea.”

His  owl  was  answered  almost  immediately.

Glad  you’re  OK,  Al.  That  was  a  really  stupid  thing  to  do,  but  I’m  inclined  to  agree  with  Rose  that  it  was  probably  a  prank.  Dare  say  I  did  worse  on  occasions  when  I  was  at  Hogwarts.  And  you’ve  heard  the  stories  about  your  Grandfather  and  his  friends.  And  George  and  Fred.  And  your  brother!

I  really  don’t  think  any  Dark  Wizards  with  a  grudge  against  me  would  be  likely  to  deal  with  it  by  sending   you  chocolates  laced  with  Swelling  Solution.  It’s  far  too  hit-and-miss.  Swelling  Solution  really  isn’t  all  that  dangerous. It’s  not  meant  to  be  ingested,  I  know,  but  the  worst  it  would  be  likely  to  do  is  make  you  sick.  You’d  have  to  very  unlucky  to  be  seriously  affected.

You  were  right  to  owl  me  though  and  I  want  you  to  do  the  same  if  anything  else  happens.  It  probably  won’t,  especially  if  McGonagall  is  looking  into  this.  She’s  not  a  woman  to  be  tangled  with!  But  on  the  off-chance  it  does,  owl  me  immediately.  You  can’t  be  too  careful  and  thank  God,  you  have  more  sense  that  way  than  I had  when  I  was  your  age.

Albus  breathed  a  sigh  of  relief.  His  father  hadn’t  even  mentioned  the  detention.  And  he  didn’t  seem  to  think  a  Dark  Wizard  was  targeting  Albus. 

He  handed  Rose  the  letter.

“Well,  he’s  taking  it  seriously  anyway.  And  McGonagall  is  looking  into  it.  I  guess  there  isn’t  much  more  we  can  do  about  it.  Except  be  more  careful  what  you  eat  in  future,  Al.”

She  didn’t  need  to  tell  him  that.  He  was  quite  sure  he’d  never  again  eat  anything  sent  by  owl  without  checking  for  a  label.



Despite  everybody’s  assurances  that  it  was  probably  a  prank,  forgetting  it  was  easier  said  than  done  and  his  dreams  that  night  were  haunted  with  images  of  poisoned  foods  and  Dark  Wizards  out  for  revenge.

He  was  still  tired  when  he  got  up  the  next  morning  and  started  the  day  badly,  knocking  over  a  jug  of  pumpkin  juice.

“ALBUS,  be  careful,”  Rasmus  shrieked,  as  pumpkin  juice  splashed  his  robes.

“Sorry,”  he  muttered.

In  Defence  Against  the  Dark  Arts,  Professor  Jones  told  him  off  for  daydreaming  and  to  make  matters  worse,  when  he  entered  the  Transfiguration  classroom,  Blackburn  was  back,  sitting  at  the  front  of  the  room.

He  sighed.  With  all  the  drama  yesterday,  he’d  completely  forgotten  he  still  had  a  detention  to  face  into.  Seeing  Blackburn  though,  he  couldn’t  believe  he’d  ever  forgotten.

To  his  relief,  she  barely  seemed  to  notice  him  during  the  lesson.  In  fact,  he  wasn’t  sure  if  he  was  imagining  it  or  if  she  was  practically  ignoring  both  him  and  Rose.  She  did  call  on  Rose  once,  but  since  Rose’s  hand  was,  as  usual,  up  for  practically  every  question,  only  calling  on  her  once  seemed  odd.  She  didn’t  call  at  him  at  all.

At  the  end  of  the  class,  however,  she  asked  “Rose and Albus, could you remain behind for a moment, please?

His  heart  sank.  What  had  they  done  now? 

He  caught  Rose’s  eye  and  she  shrugged.  She  didn’t  know  either.

Professor  Blackburn  passed  her  wand  from  one  hand to the other and back again as the other students filed out of the room. She seemed to be avoiding their eyes.

Albus glanced down, not wanting to meet hers. Her fingernails were cut back so far, they looked almost painful, he thought desperately, trying to distract himself from the upcoming lecture. 

Finally,  she  spoke.

“Look  I’m  sorry  about  the  other  day.  I…I  wasn’t  feeling  very  well  and  I  overreacted.  I’m  cancelling  that  detention.”

It  was  a  moment  before  Albus  felt  her  words  sink  in.

“Thanks  Professor,”  Rose  said.

“Oh  yes,  thanks,”  he  added.

Professor  Blackburn  smiled  and  something like relief seemed to cross her face.

“You  didn’t  deserve  it  in  the  first  place.”

“Um,  are  you  OK  now,  Professor?”  Rose  asked.

Albus  wished  she’d  shut  up.  He  just  wanted  to  get  out  of  there  while  Blackburn  wasn’t  angry  with  them.  He  really  didn’t  want  to  risk  annoying  her  again.

But  Blackburn’s  smile  widened.

“Yes,  I’m  fine,  Rose.  Thank  you  for  asking.  Now,  I’m  sure  you  need  to  be  getting  to  your  next  class.  If  you’re  late,  just  tell  your  teacher  I  kept  you  and  that  they  can  ask  me  about  it  later.”

“Thanks  Professor,”  they  repeated.

Maybe  Blackburn  wasn’t  so  bad  after  all.


Chapter 6: The Flying Lesson.
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 Everything you recognise, including a number of characters, the setting, the classes and the examples of what they are doing in class, such as transfiguring matches into needles, is the property of J.K. Rowling. The instructions for flying are based on those in the chapter "The Midnight Duel" in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. No copyright infringement is intended.



Over  the  following  weeks,  Albus  opened  his  mail  warily,  but  there  were  no  more  suspicious  packages.  It  looked  as  if  everybody  who’d  suggested  the  chocolates  were  a  one-off  practical  joke  had  been  right.

And  yet,  he  still  wished  he  knew  who’d  sent  them.  He  couldn’t  help  feeling  that  this  level  of  secrecy  was  more  than  the  average  joker  could  maintain.  Nobody  seemed  to  know  anything  at  all.

He  and  Rose  discussed  every  possible  explanation,  without  getting  much  further.

“I’m  sure  it’s  not  Derek,”  he  said.  “He  looked  shocked  when  my  mouth  started  to  swell  up,  don’t  you  think?”

“I  didn’t  really  notice.  But  he’s  a  Muggleborn  anyway.  He  probably  wouldn’t  know  what  Swelling  Solution  was.  The  same  goes  for  Angie.  Though  I  suppose  Derek  could  have  read  it  somewhere.  He’s  always  reading  those  books  about  our  world.”

“I  don’t  think  he’s  read  much  about  potions,”  Albus  said  quickly.  He  didn’t  want  to  believe  Derek  was  lying  to  him,  insisting  he  knew  nothing  when  he’d  done  it  himself.  He  didn’t believe  his  friend  would  do  that.

“You  want  it  to  be  Scorpius,  don’t  you?”  Rose  said.

He  shrugged.  He  supposed  he  did  really.  It  was  better  than  believing  some  Dark  Wizard  was  out  to  torment  him  or  even  that  one  of  his  own  dormitory  mates  would  keep  silent  when  he’d  begged  them  to  tell  him  if  they  knew  anything.

Rasmus’s  reaction  had  been  similar  to  Rose’s.

“If  I’d  known  anything,  I’d  have  warned  you.  Messing  about  with  potions  like  that  is  dangerous.  I  can’t  imagine  who’d  be  so  stupid.”

“Rose  thought  my  brother  might  be.  But  he  says  he  didn’t  and  I  believe  him.  Neither  of  you  know  anything?”  He  turned  to  Derek  and  Nathan.

They  both  shook  their  heads.

“I  wish  I  did,  mate,”  Derek  said  sympathetically.  “But  the  first  I  heard  of  Swelling  Solution  was  when  you  told  Slughorn  that  was  what  was  in  the  chocolates.  I’ve  been  paying  attention  to  see  if  anybody’s  mentioned  it  since,  but  if  they  have,  I  haven’t  heard  it.”

“Thanks  anyway,”  Albus  said.

Rose  reported  similar  comments  from  the  Ravenclaw  girls.

“Fionnuala  said  she  didn’t  even  notice  you  leave  the  table.  I  think  that’s  kind  of  suspicious  actually.  Everybody  was  asking  what  happened  and  she  says  she  didn’t  hear  any  of  it.”

He  shook  his  head  doubtfully.  “I  think  Fionnuala  is  always  that  vague.  She  nearly  missed  Charms  the  other  day.  Didn’t  notice  us  all  leaving  the  Great  Hall  or  something.  I  suppose  it  could  be  put  on.”

“Why  though?  Just  to  play  a  joke  on  you?  I  can’t  imagine  she’d  go  to  that  much  trouble.”

“I  suppose.  What  about  Dora  and  Angie?  What  did  they  say?”

“Dora  thinks  we’re  not  going  to  solve  it.  She  says  we  don’t  even  know  it  was  somebody  at  Hogwarts.  Which  is  true;  we  don’t.  The  third  years  making  Swelling  Solution  the  day  before  might  just  be  a  coincidence.”

A  shiver  went  down  Albus’s  spine.  He  really  didn’t  want  to  think  of  it  being  somebody  from  outside.

“Angie  didn’t  really  have  any  ideas,”  Rose  continued.  “She  said  she  doesn’t  understand  half  the  stuff  we  talk  about  -  Quidditch  and  all -  so  she  probably  wouldn’t  have  noticed  if  somebody  had  a  potion  or  talked  about  a  potion.”

“Could  she  have  been  avoiding  the  question?”  Albus  asked  eagerly.  He  didn’t  know  much  about  Angie.  She  seemed  to  keep  herself  to  herself.  Maybe  she  had  something  to  hide.

“I  doubt  it  really.  Where  would  a  Muggleborn  learn  about  potions?  Or  any  other  wizarding  world  stuff?”

“She  could  have  wizarding  relations,  like  aunts  or  cousins  or  stuff.”

“I  suppose  so.  But  honestly,  I  get  the  impression  she’s  just  a  bit  lost  here  really.  It  can’t  be  easy  adjusting  to  a  whole  new  world.”

“She  never  does  talk  about  her  relations  though.  Or  her  home  or  anything.”

“Nor  does  Dora.”  Rose  shrugged.  “Some  people  just  don’t.  Maybe  she’s  just  not  that  close  to  them  or  something.”

“I  suppose  so.”

He  sighed.  They  really  weren’t  getting  very  far.  Not  that  he’d  expected  they  would  really.  There  was  no  real  reason  any  of  the  first  year  Ravenclaws  should  know  anything.

He’d  have  loved  to  have  questioned  Scorpius,  but  finding  an  opportunity  to  do  so  wasn’t  easy.  Especially  since  he  really  didn’t  want  to  remind  Scorpius  of  the  incident.  Guilty  or  innocent,  Albus  suspected  he’d  find  the  whole  thing  hilarious.  He  didn’t  want  to  set  himself  up  to  be  laughed  at.

Not  that  he’d  any  reason  to  believe  Scorpius  would  laugh  really,  other  than  what  his  dad  and  Ron  had  said  about  the  Malfoy  family.  Scorpius,  like  Angie,  seemed  to  keep  himself  to  himself.  He  didn’t  even  seem  to  have  any  close  friends  among  the  other  Slytherins.

Still,  there  was  no  way  he  was  just  going  to  go  up  to  him  and  ask  if  he  knew  anything.

“Honestly,  Albus,  I  think  we’ll  just  have  to  let  it  drop,”  Rose  said.  If  anything  else  happens,  we’ll  start  worrying  again,  but  it’s  beginning  to  look  unlikely.  After  all,  it’s  been  over  a  week  now.  Maybe  it’s  time  to  forget  it  and  just  accept  we’ll  never  know.”

“Easy  for  you  to  say,”  he  said  quietly.

She  looked  at  him  in  silence  for  a  moment.

“OK,  yes,  you’ve  a  point.  It  wasn’t  me  they  were  targeting.  But  if  you  think  it’s  easy  for  me  to  stand  back  and  do  nothing  when  somebody  could  have  hurt  you,  then  you’re  wrong.   I  want  to  find  out  who  did  it  too.  I’m  just  not  sure  we  can .”

He  had  to  admit  she’d  a  point.  Despite  all  their  discussions,  they  knew  no  more  than  they’d  known  a  week  ago.  Maybe  it  was  time  to  give  up.

It  was  getting  harder  to  concentrate  on  sleuthing  anyway,  as  other  aspects  of  life  at  Hogwarts  began  to  demand  their  attention.  Having  given  them  some  time  to  settle  in  and  grasp  the  basics  of  magic,  the  teachers  were  now  beginning  to  demand  more  of  them.  Not  that  Albus  really  minded.  After  spending  what  felt  like  forever  on  the  introductory  material,  he  was  pleased  to  move  on  to  something  more  interesting.

In  Transfiguration,  all  of  the  class  had  finally  succeeded  in  turning  their  matches  into  needles.

Professor  Blackburn  congratulated  them.

“That’s  the  first  task  completed,”  she  said,  smiling.  “And  the  first  one  is  always  the  most  difficult.  There’s  still  a  lot  to  learn  or  we  wouldn’t  be  spending  almost  another  five  years  on  the  subject,  or  seven,  if  you  continue  to  N.E.W.T.  level.  But  you’ve  all  managed  your  first  transfiguration,  so  well  done.  Fifteen  points  to  Ravenclaw.” 

To  Albus’s  relief,  her  irritation  with  him  and  Rose  after  they’d  returned  from  James’s  try-out  seemed  to  be  completely  forgotten.  In  fact,  Transfiguration  was  one  of  the  more  relaxed  classes  on  their  timetable,  as  Professor  Blackburn  rarely  seemed  to  give  detentions  or  dock  points  and  encouraged  them  to  ask  any  questions  they  might  have.

Neville  too,  went  out  of  his  way  to  help  any  students  who  were  having  problems  and  appeared  particularly  fond  of  Nathan,  who  was  appalling  bad  at  his  subject.

Any  subject  with  a  practical  element  stumped  Nathan,  though  when  it  came  to  theory,  he  could  often  equal  Rose  and  Rasmus,  who  were  undoubtedly  the  two  brightest  in  their  year.

In  Potions,  he  could  list  off  the  ingredients  needed  for  a  particular  potion  and  the  order  in  which  you  added  them,  but  when  faced  with  making  the  actual  potion,  he  would  stumble  and  drop  an  ingredient  in  too  soon  or  simply  knock  the  whole  thing  over.  In  Charms  and  Transfiguration,  he  knew  the  magic  words  perfectly,  but  couldn’t  seem  to  manage  the  hand  movements  necessary.  At  one  point,  he  set  his  match  alight  instead  of  transfiguring  it.

Albus  had  glanced  up  anxiously,  wondering  how  Blackburn  would  react,  but  she’d  simply  quenched  it  with  a  wave  of  her  wand  and  handed  Nathan  another.

When  the  first  flying  lesson  was  announced,  he  sighed.

“I  hate  flying,”  he  said  plaintively.  “I  tried  it  once  on  my  cousin’s  broom  and…well,  let’s  just  say  it  didn’t  end  too  well.  I’ve  never  been  on  a  broom  since.  I  know  I’m  going  to  make  a  complete  fool  of  myself.”

“You  don’t  know  that,”  said  Albus,  who’d  spent  most  of  his  childhood  on  a  broom  and  was  actually  feeling  pretty  confident  about  this  class.

“Yes,  I  do,”  Nathan  replied.  “In  fact  I’ll  be  lucky  if  making  a  fool  of  myself  is  the  worst  I  do.  Knowing  me,  I’ll  probably  fall  and  break  my  ribs  or  something.”

Angie  and  Derek  looked  almost  as  nervous  as  he  was.

“Flying  looks  cool,”  Derek  said.  “But  I  think  I’d  rather  watch  it  from  a  safe  distance.  You  know?  Especially  since  we’re  with  the  Slytherins.  From  what  everybody  says,  it  sounds  like  they’d  find  it  very  funny  watching  Muggleborns  struggle.”

Albus  couldn’t  argue  with  him  on  that  point. 

“But  you  mightn’t  struggle,”  he  said.  “My  dad  was  raised  by  Muggles  and  he  was  a  fantastic  flyer,  right  from  his  first  lesson.  He  was  so  good  McGonagall  immediately  recruited  him  for  the  Gryffindor  team.”

“I  thought  first  years  weren’t  allowed  to  play?”

“That’s  what  was  so  amazing.  He  was  so  good  they  changed  the  rules  for  him.  For  all  you  know,  you  might  be  as  talented.”

“I  wish,”  he  muttered,  but  he  looked  a  little  less  worried.

Like  most  purebloods  and  halfbloods,  Albus  wished  they  were  allowed  bring  their  own  brooms,  rather  than  using  the  school  ones  which  were  old  and  looked  pretty  uncomfortable.

Scorpius  seemed  particularly  dissatisfied.

“I  don’t  see  why  we’ve  to  use  these  things  when  I’ve  a  perfectly  good  broom  at  home.  And  my  dad’s  promised  me  a  Golden  Arrow  for  Christmas,  provided  my  grades  are  satisfactory.  I’ve  a  good  mind  to  sneak  it  in  to  school  somehow.  It’s  ridiculous  we’ve  to  leave  them  at  hope  just  because  we’re  first  years.”

Dora,  who  was  standing  next  to  him,  rolled  her  eyes.

“Of  course,  you’d  have  a  Golden  Arrow.  The  Malfoys  always  have  everything,  don’t  they?  Everybody  knows  what  your  family  did  in  the  past,  but  apparently  that  doesn’t matter.  Enough  gold  can  get  you  out  of  anything,  I  guess.  What  did  they  do?  Bribe  the  Wizengamot?”

Scorpius  glared  at  her  and  fingered  his  wand.

“Don’t  talk  about  my  family.”

“That’s  enough.”  Madame  Chang  strolled  onto  the  field  and  stared  at  them  both,  until  they  stopped  talking.

“Now  if  you’ve  all  quite  finished  chattering,”  she  continued,  “we’ll  begin.  It’s  very  important  you  pay  attention  to  me,  as  flying  can  be  dangerous  if  you  don’t  follow  the  rules.  Anybody  causing  trouble  will  leave  the  lesson.  You  have  been  warned.

“The  first  thing  I  want  you  to  do  is  to  reach  out  your  arms  over  your  brooms.”

Even  Scorpius  and  Dora  stopped  glaring  at  each  other  and  did  as  she  said.

“Now,  say  ‘up’.”

“UP”  they  all  called.

Albus’s  broom  leapt  into  his  hand  immediately. 

He  glanced  around  and  saw  that  both  Rose’s  and  Scorpius’s  had  done  likewise,  but  a  number  of  others,  including  Nathan’s,  Angie’s  and  Derek’s  didn’t  appear  to  have  budged.

“Quite  a  few  of  you  need  to  try  again,”  Madame  Chang  said.  “Say  ‘up’  again.”

A  few  more  brooms  flew  into  their  owners’  hands.

Nathan,  whose  broom  was  still  lying  on  the  ground,  glanced  around  anxiously,  but  he  needn’t  have  worried.  He  certainly  wasn’t  the  only  one  still  unsuccessful.  Derek  was  staring  down  at  his  pleadingly,  as  if  willing  it  to  obey  him.

Scorpius  sighed  impatiently. 

Albus  glared  at  him.  Some  people  were  using  brooms  for  the  first  time.  So  what  if  it  took  them  two  or  three  tries?

Once  everybody  had  hold  of  their  brooms,  Madame  Chang  called  for  attention  again.

“Now  I  will  demonstrate  how  you  mount.  Up,”  she  ordered  her  own  broom.

It  flew  into  her  hand.

“You  catch  the  broom  here  and  climb  on  carefully.  Watch  where  my  hands  are.  It’s  very  important  not  to  let  go.”

She  climbed  back  off  her  broom  and  instructed  them  to  try

“Yes,  that’s  correct,  Albus.  Nathan,  you  need  to  relax  your  grip  a  little.  It  may  seem  counterintuitive,  but  you’ll  be  far  more  secure  that  way.  Scorpius,  that’s  excellent.  Could  you  step  forward,  please.”

A  smile  crossed  Scorpius’s  face  and  he  did  as  he  was  told.

“I  want  you  all  to  pay  attention  to  how  Scorpius  is  sitting,  how  he  grips  his  broom.  That’s  what  I  want  you  all  to  aim  for.  Angie,  see  how  Scorpius  is  leaning  forward,  just  a  little.  Try  and  imitate  that.  Sitting  perfectly  straight  may  be  good  for  your  posture,  but  it  doesn’t  allow  you  enough  control  over  your  broom.”

Finally,  she  allowed  them  to  kick  off  from  the  ground  and  fly  a  mere  couple  of  feet.

CRASH!

All  eyes  turned  to  Nathan  who  was  sitting  in  surprise  on  the  ground,  his  broom  floating  just  above  him.

“Whoops,”  he  said.

“Well,  I  didn’t  mean  you  to  relax  your  grip  quite  that  much,”  Madame  Chang  said  sarcastically.

“Sorry  Madame  Chang.”

Albus  bit  his  lip  to  keep  from  laughing.  Nathan  did  look  funny  just  sitting  there.  Many  of  the  other  students  were  openly  laughing.

Madame  Chang  turned  on  them. 

“I’m  sure  Nathan  won’t  be  the  only  one  to  fall  off  a  broom  before  our  series  of  lessons  are  over.  This  is  how  we  learn.  Nathan,  you  need  to  get  back  on  now  and  try  again.”

He  tried  awkwardly  to  mount  the  broom  in  the  air.

She  shook  her  head.

“Grasp  the  broom  first.  Take  control  of  it.  The  broom  is  under  your  control,  Nathan.  Don’t  let  it  rule  you.  The  same  goes  for  all  of  you.  It’s  only  a  broom  after  all.”

Doing  as  she  said,  Nathan  managed  once  again  to  mount  his  broom.  She  showed  him  again  how  to  sit  and  hold  it  correctly  and  this  time  he  managed  to  balance  rather  precariously  until  she  called  the  lesson  to  an  end.

“Good  first  attempt,  all  of  you.  I’ll  see  you  again  next  week  and  we’ll  try  to  improve  on  this.”

“Did  you  hear  the  way  Scorpius  was  going  on  about  that  fantastic  broom  his  dad’s  going  to  buy  him?”  Dora  said  scornfully,  as  the  class  headed  back  towards  the  castle.

Albus  turned  automatically  to  look  at  Scorpius.  To  his  surprise,  he  had  turned  away  from  his  classmates  and  was  heading  away  from  the  castle  rather  than  towards  it.

“Where  do  you  think  he’s  going?”  Albus  asked  Rose.

“Who?  Scorpius?”

“Yeah,  what  would  he  be  doing  outside  at  this  time?  Let’s  follow  him.”

She  grinned.  “OK,  but  we’d  better  not  take  too  long.  I  still  have  homework  to  finish.”

At  a  safe  distance,  they  followed  him to  the  Black  Lake.

“What  is  he  doing?”  Albus  asked.

He  didn’t  appear  to  be  doing  anything.  As  far  as  Albus  could  see,  he  was  simply  standing  there.  While  they  watched,  he  picked  up  a  small  stone  and  threw  it  into  the  lake.

“Come  on,”  Rose  said.  “Let’s  go  back  to  the  castle.”

“All  right.”  There  wasn’t  much  point  in  watching  if  he  wasn’t  going  to  do  anything.

“I  wonder  how  his  family  has   kept  their  gold  actually,”  Albus  wondered  as  they  walked  back.  “I  thought  the  Wizengamot  stripped  the  families  following  Voldemort  of  most  of  theirs  after  the  war.”

Rose  shrugged.  “They  did,  but  the  Malfoys  turned  against  Voldemort  at  the  last  moment  and  I  guess  the  Wizengamot  had  enough  to  do  with  those  who  still  supported  him.  It  was  all  pretty  messy,  I  think.  Remember  Voldemort  had  taken  over  the  Ministry  so  lots  of  people  were  forced  into  pretending  to  support  him.  Some  were  even  working  against  him  secretly,  but  still  giving  the  impression  of  loyalty.  Then  there  were  people  who  were  Imperiused.  Trying  to  figure  out  who  was  acting  of  their  own  accord  and  who  was  Imperiused  or  forced  into  it  must  have  been  quite  a  task.  The  trials  took  well  over  a  year,  I  believe.  I  doubt  punishing  the  Malfoys  was  top  priority.”

Albus  stared  at  her.  “How  do  you  know  all  that?”

“Mum.  Like  I  said,  she  thinks  it’s  important  we  learn  history.  So  we  know  what  not  to  repeat.  Hugo  and  I  have  had  the  wizarding  war  shoved  down  our  throats  since  we  were  little.”

“So  the  Malfoys  got  no  punishment  whatsoever?”

“Not  as  far  as  I  know.  Not  after  the  war  anyway.  I  think  Lucius  Malfoy  might  have  spent  time  in  Azkaban  before  that,  but  I  don’t  know  why.”

It  didn’t  seem  right.  Albus  didn’t  know  as  much  about  the  war  as  Rose  seemed  to,  but  from  what  he  did  know,  it  sounded  like  the  Malfoys  were  right  in  the  thick  of  it.  How  could  they  just  say  “oh  sorry,  we  changed  our  minds”  and  walk  off  without  even  losing  any  of  their  vast  fortune?

And  even  though  Scorpius  hadn’t  actually  done  anything  that  evening,  Albus  still  found  his  behaviour  rather  odd.  The  sun  had  been  going  down  by  the  time  their  flying  lesson  finished  and  the  evening  had  been  getting  cold.  It  wasn’t  the  time  Albus  would  have  chosen  for  a  walk  by  the  lake.

He  couldn’t  imagine  what  it  had  to  do  with  the  chocolates  he’d  received,  but  all  the  same,  he  thought  he’d  keep  an  eye  on  Scorpius. 


Chapter 7: Ravenclaw v. Gryffindor.
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All  Albus  learnt  about  Scorpius  over  the  next  couple  of  weeks  was  that  he  was  an  amazing  flyer.  As  Madame  Chang  gradually  allowed  them  to  fly  higher  and  longer,  his  skill  became  ever  more  apparent.

Nathan,  on  the  other  hand,  seemed  absolutely  incapable  of  getting  the  hang  of  it  and  generally  ended  up  either  on  his  bottom  or  hanging  by  one  hand  from  his  broom  as  it  flew  crazily  through  the  air.  It  was  a  wonder  he  hadn’t  injured  himself  yet,  but  that  was  probably  due  to  Madame  Chang’s  vigilance.  Not  only  was  she  constantly  ready  with  her  wand  to  intervene  if  anybody  got  into  any  difficulties,  but  she’d  taken  to  standing  by  Nathan’s  broom  at  take-off,  supervising  and  talking  him  through  the  process.

“I  wish  flying  classes  were  optional,”  he  complained  after  their  third  lesson.  “I  mean,  it’s  not  as  if  I’m  going  to  try-out  for  the  Quidditch  team  or  anything  anyway.”

“But  you  never  know  when  you  might  need  to  be  able  to  fly,”  Rose  said.  “There  are  times  when  it’s  not  possible  to  Apparate  or  use  Floo  powder.  After  all,  there’s  not  always  a  fireplace  available  and  there  are  many  places,  like  Hogwarts,  that  you  can’t  Apparate  to  or  from.”

Albus  stopped  listening.  It  was  years  before  they’d  be  allowed  to  Apparate  anyway.

Unlike  Nathan,  he  loved  flying.  Making  the  Ravenclaw  Quidditch  team  the  following  year  would  be  a  dream  come  true,  though  if  the  older  students  were  even  better  than  Scorpius,  he  didn’t  much  fancy  his  chances.

He’d  no  reason  to  believe  they  were  though,  he  reminded  himself.  Older  didn’t  have  to  mean  better  and  after  all,  the  Gryffindor  hopefuls  hadn’t  seemed  particularly  impressive.

He  was  looking  forward  to  seeing  Ravenclaw  play.  He’d  get  a  much  better  idea  of  their  standard  then.

To  his  dismay,  however,  the  first  team  they  were  to  play  was  Gryffindor.

“Well,  it  could  be  worse,”  Rose  said.  “They  could  be  playing  each  other  last,  with  whoever  wins  taking  the  Cup.  At  least  the  first  match  of  the  year  doesn’t  decide  anything.”

“But  it’s  James’s  first  match  playing  for  Gryffindor.  He’ll  be  really  disappointed  if  it  goes  badly.  But  if  it  goes  well  for  him,  then  we  lose  and  I  don’t  want  that  either.”  He  sighed.  “I  was  really looking  forward  to  seeing  my  first  Quidditch  match  too.”

“Your  parents  have  taken  you  to  Quidditch  matches  before.”

“I  meant  my  first  Hogwarts  Quidditch  match.  Seeing  my  own  house  play.  Now  I  don’t  even  know  who  to  cheer  for.”

“Couldn’t  you  hope  James  saves  more  goals,  but  we  catch  the  Snitch  when  they’re  less  than  a  hundred  and  fifty  points  ahead.  That  way  everybody  wins.”

“I  suppose.”

Without  such  dilemmas,  the  other  first  year  Ravenclaws  counted  down  the  days  ‘til  the  match  excitedly.

“I  really  can’t  imagine  it,”  Derek  said.  “A  sport  played  on  brooms,  with  four  balls  and  I  can’t  remember  how  many  hoops.  It  sounds  like  some  mad  combination  of  basketball,  football  and  I  don’t  know  what  else.  Polo  or  something.  I  bet  it’s  way  more  exciting  than  ordinary  sports.  Muggle  sports,  I  mean.”

Angie  stared  at  him.  “No  way  it’s  better  than  football.  I  mean,  have  you  seen  Manchester  United  lately?”

He  shook  his  head.  “Nope.  And  I’ve  no  great  desire  to  either.  Football  sends  me  to  sleep.  Bunch  of  guys  running  around  a  pitch  after  a  ball.”

She  looked  at  him  as  if  he’d  committed  blasphemy.

“How  can  you  say  that?”

“Wait  until  you’ve  seen  a  Quidditch  match,”  Albus  said.  “Then  you’ll  see  what  a  real  sport  is.  My  dad  took  me  and  James  to  a  football  match  once.  It  really  doesn’t  compare  with  Quidditch.”

“Am  I  the  only  sane  person  here?”  Angie  demanded.

“In  Ireland,  people  sometimes  play  Aingingein,”  Fionnuala  put  in  unexpectedly.  “But  the  wizarding  population  isn’t  large  enough  for  a  professional  league.  Quidditch is  too  popular  anyway.”

“Aingingein?”  Rose  said.

Albus  thought  for  a  moment.  “I  think  it  was  one  of  the  forerunners  of  Quidditch.”

“It  was  very  popular  in  ancient  times,”  Fionnuala  said.  “It’s  still  played  sometimes,  but  mostly  just  for  fun.  Quidditch  is  the  most  popular  sport  now,  especially  since  we  won  the  World  Cup  back  in  the  ‘90s.”

“My  parents  were  at  that,”  Albus  said.  “Rose’s  were  too.  They  say  it  was  really  exciting,  with  Krum  catching  the  Snitch  and  all.”

“Aingingein  is  exciting  too,”  Fionnuala  said.  “It’s  a  pity  we  can’t  play  it  here.”

Nobody  was  really  listening  to  her.  They  were  far  too  focussed  on  the  upcoming  match  and  the  closer  it  got,  the  more  focussed  they  became.  The  day  before  it  was  to  take  place,  it  was  almost  the  only  topic  of  conversation  in  the  common  room.

Albus  wished  they’d  shut  up.  They  were  all  so  anxious  for  a  Ravenclaw  win  that  he  felt  slightly  disloyal.  But  completely  supporting  Ravenclaw  felt  disloyal  too.  He  knew  how  much  winning  his  first  match  would  mean  to  his  brother.

“We’re  going  to  hammer  you  today.”  James  came  over  to  the  Ravenclaw  table  the  morning  of  the  match.

“Don’t  be  so  sure  of  yourself,”  Derek  said.

“What  do  you  know  about  it?”  James  asked.  “Have  you  ever  even  seen  a  Quidditch  match?”

“No,  but  Albus  has  been  telling  me  all  about  it.  And  everybody  says  we’d  a  good  team  last  year.”

“Gryffindor  still  won,”  James  said.  “Anyway,  that  was  last  year.  Gryffindor  have  me  now.”

“And  you  can  see  how  modest  he  is,”  Albus  said.

“You  don’t  get  anywhere  in  life  being  modest,  little  bro.  And  I’m  promising  you,  we  are going  to  win  today.” 

“Well,  good  luck.”

“He’s  going  to  need  it,”  one  of  the  older  Ravenclaws  put  in.  “Go  back  to  your  own  table,  Potter.  You’ll  need  all  the  sustenance  you  can  get  later  on.”

James  laughed.  “Keep  telling  yourself  that.”

They  couldn’t  have  had  a  better  day  for  the  match,  Albus  thought,  as  he  took  a  seat  in  the  stands.  A  bright,  cool  autumnal  day,  perfect  for  flying  in.

Perhaps  that  was  why  the  stands  were  so  packed,  not  only  with  Ravenclaws  and  Gryffindors,  but  with  what  appeared  to  be  most  of  Slytherin  and  Hufflepuff  too.

Jordan  Shacklebolt  was  standing  beside  McGonagall,  preparing  to  commentate.

“Both  teams  are  arriving  on  the  pitch  now,”  he  began.  “A  few  new  faces  to  be  seen  for  Gryffindor,  most  notably  that  of  James  Potter,  whose  parents’  Quidditch  careers  are  the  stuff  of  legend.” 

There  was  a  pause.

Albus  looked  up.  McGonagall  seemed  to  be  whispering  something  in  Jordan’s  ear.

“All  right,  so  the  Gryffindor  team  consists  of  Brian  Burgess,  Dominique  Weasley,  Catríona  Davis,  James  Potter,  Nancy  Walters,  Luke  Miller  and  Tony  Smith.  Facing  them  for  Ravenclaw,  we  have  Hilda  Bagshot,  Christopher  Jones,  Jason  Blake,  Mark  Turner,  Kate  Campbell,  Martin  Williams  and  John  McFadden.

“Madame  Chang  is  releasing  the  balls  now  and  they’re  off.  Ravenclaw  in  possession.  Bagshot  passes  to  McFadden,  who  passes  back  to  Bagshot,  who  passes  to…no,  Weasley’s  intercepted  it  and  she’s  going  for  goal.  Oh,  Campbell’s  saved  it.  Good  save.”

All  around   Albus  people  were  cheering.  He  joined  in  enthusiastically.  Dominique  had  been  on  the  team  for  years.  She’d  nothing  to  prove.

“Williams  is  in  possession.  He  passes  to  Bagshot.  She  passes  to  McFadden.  Back  to  Bagshot.  She’s  heading  for  the  hoops.  Can  she  give  us  the  game’s  first  score?  No,  Potter’s  saved  it.”

James  was  grinning  right  across  his  face,  as  he  held  the  Quaffle  aloft.

Albus  cheered  again.  What  a  way  for  James  to  start  his  first  game!

Suddenly,  he  noticed  that  the  older  students  nearby  were  glaring  at  him  and  his  cheering  died  down.  Beside  him,  Rose  stifled  a  giggle.

The  match  continued,  with  both  teams  struggling  to  score.

“What  a  match,”  Jordan  said.  “Fifteen  minutes  into  the  game  and  it’s  still  nil  all.  Both  teams  have  come  really  close  to  scoring  a  number  of  times,  but  the  two  Keepers  are  just  too  good.  Of  course,  we’re  all  aware  just  how  good  Campbell  is  and  it  looks  as  if  she’s  got  some  competition  in  Potter.  Not  that  that  should  come  as  a  surprise  to  anybody  familiar  with  his  mother’s  impressive  career.  Oh!  Bagshot  is  going  for  goal  now.  Can  Potter  save  it?  NO!  That’s  the  first  goal  to  Ravenclaw.  Ten-nil.”

Albus  knew  he  should  be  pleased,  but  he  could  practically feel  his  brother’s  disappointment.  He  couldn’t  see  James’s  face  from  the  stands,  but  he  could  picture  it  so  clearly.  It  seemed  mean  to  cheer.

It  wasn’t  a  dilemma  he  was  faced  with  again  for  some  time.  James  seemed  determined  not  to  let  any  more  goals  past  him.  The  next  two  scored  were  by  Gryffindor.

“Twenty-Ten  to  Gyffindor,”  Jordan  announced.

The  scores  crept  up  slowly.  An  hour  passed  and  neither  Seeker  caught  the  Snitch.  The  score  was  now  Fifty-Forty  to  Gryffindor.

All  around  Albus,  the  Ravenclaws  were  roaring  at  Christopher.  James  was  so  good,  they  couldn’t  count  on  goals.  They  needed  him  to  catch  the  Snitch.

Albus  yelled  with  the  rest  of  them.  As  Rose  had  said,  if  Gyffindor  got  more  goals,  but  Ravenclaw  got  the  Snitch,  then  everybody  won.  Everybody  Albus  cared  about  anyway.

Suddenly,  both  Seekers  went  into  a  dive. 

Watching  them  closely,  Albus  completely  missed  Ravenclaw  shoot  for  another  goal,  only  realising  what  had  happened  when  he  heard  Jordan  say  “and  Potter  saves  again,  so  the  score  is  still  fifty-forty.  But  wait,  it  looks  as  if  the  Gryffindor  Seeker  has  caught  the  Snitch.”

Sure  enough,  Catríona  was  rising  into  the  air  triumphantly,  her  arm  held  aloft.

“So  that’s  two  hundred  points  to  forty.  Bad  luck  Ravenclaw,  but  congratulations  to  Gryffindor.  Both  teams  played  amazingly  well,  I’m  sure  you’ll  all  agree…”

Nobody  was  listening  to  him  anymore.  The  crowd  was  streaming  down  to  either  congratulate  or  commiserate  with  their  team.  Ravenclaw  had  played  really  well,  Albus  thought.  It  was  a  pity  they  lost  by  so  much  in  the  end.  It  had  been  close  all  along.

He  wasn’t  sure  whether  to  be  pleased  or  disappointed.  Much  as  he  wanted  Ravenclaw  to  win,  it  was  hard  to  be  completely  disappointed  when  James  had  played  such  a  fantastic  first  match.  Nobody  could  doubt  his  right  to  be  on  the  team  now,  if  they  ever  had.

“Let’s  wait  for  James,”  he  said  to  Rose.

“I  doubt  we’ll  get  to  talk  to  him,”  she  said.  “He’ll  probably  be  surrounded  by  teammates.”

He  shrugged.  “I  at  least  want  to  see  him  pass.”

She  was  right.  The  Gryffindor  team  came  past  in  a  group,  accompanied  by  other  members  of  their  house.  James  didn’t  have  time  to  stop  and  chat,  but  he  raised  both  his  thumbs  to  them  as  he  passed.

“Two  hundred  to  forty,”  he  called.

Rose  rolled  her  eyes.

“Well  done,”  Albus  called  back.

They  let  the  team  pass  and  then  followed  them  up  to  the  castle,  where  Slughorn  was  waiting  at  the  main  entrance.

“Ah,  Rose  and  Albus.  Good  to  see  you  both.  I’m  planning  a  little  party  tonight,  to  celebrate  the  Quidditch  success  of  some  of  the  members  of  the  Slug  Club.  You  will  join  us,  won’t  you?  I  know  you’re  Ravenclaws,  but  after  all,  I’m  the  head  of  Slytherin.  We  won’t  worry  about  house  divisions,  will  we?”  He  turned  as  another  student  headed  towards  them.  “Rasmus,  you’ll  join  us  tonight  too,  won’t  you?”

“Pardon,  Sir?”

“As  I  was  just  telling  our  two  friends  here,  tonight  the  Slug  Club  is  celebrating  Gyffindor’s  victory.  You  will  join  us,  I  hope.”

“I  don’t  think  I  should,  Sir.  My  sister,  you  see.”

“Oh  dear,  that  is  a  pity.”  He  turned  back  to  Rose  and  Albus.  “I  hope  you’ll  both  attend.”

Albus  shrugged.  He  supposed  it  would  give  him  an  opportunity  to  congratulate  his  brother  properly.

“OK  Sir.

“Do  you  think  we  should  tell  the  others  we’re  going,”  he  whispered  to  Rose  as  they  walked  down  the  corridor.

“If  they  ask.  I  don’t  see  why  we  should  lie  to  them.”

The  reaction  was  one  of  surprise  rather  than  disapproval.

“He’s  crazy,”  Derek  said.  “If  it’s  a  party  for  the  Gryffindor  team,  shouldn’t  it  just  be  them  who’re  invited?  Is  he  even  going  to  invite  all  their  team?”

Albus  shrugged.  “I  don’t  know.  I  doubt  it  though.  I  imagine  it’ll  be  just  the  Slug  Club.”

“The  chosen  few,”  Dora  said.

“Hey,  I  just  want  to  see  my  brother.  I  know  it’s  our  team  they  beat,  but  I  still  want  to  say  ‘congratulations’.  You  know?”

“So  would  I  if  my  sister  played  for  them,”  Rasmus  said.  “I’m  glad  we’re  in  the  same  house,  so  I  don’t  have  to  worry  about  cheering  for  the  team  she’s  playing  against.”

Albus  smiled  at  him  gratefully.  “Yeah,  I  sometimes  wish  James  and  I  were  in  the  same  house,  but  then  I  think  I  wouldn’t  want  to  be  anywhere  else  but  Ravenclaw.”

“Of  course  you  wouldn’t,”  said  Rasmus.  “It’s  by  far  the  best  house.”

Albus  had  to  agree.  He  couldn’t  imagine  better  people  to  share  a  dormitory  with  than  Derek,  Nathan  and  Rasmus.

His  guess  about  the  party  had  been  right.  The  only  members  of  the  Gryffindor  team  there were  Brian,  Dominique  and  James,  all  of  whom  had  been  at  every  one  of  Slughorn’s  parties  so  far.

In  fact,  the  only  way  this  party  differed  from  the  others  was  that  Slughorn  began  it  with  a  toast  and  a  bit  of  a  speech.

“I  realise  we  all  represent  different  houses  here  and  some  of  us  may  be  quite  disappointed  by  today’s  result,  but  I  just  want  to  congratulate  James,  Brian  and  Dominique  on  their amazing  performance  earlier.  I  assure  you,  I  am  dreading  the  day  you  play  Slytherin.  So  would  everybody  please  raise  your  glasses  to  our  three  superb  Quidditch  players.”

The  Slug  Club  did  as  he  said,  some  more  reluctantly  than  others.

“And  of  course,  I  also  want  to  praise  Jordan  here,  who  commented  so  impressively  that  even  an  old  fogey  like  me  could  understand  what  was  going  on.”

The  following  toast  was  even  less  enthusiastic.  Although  Jordan  was  popular,  commentating  was  hardly  a  skill  that  generated  much  excitement.

“And  without  further  ado,  I  urge  you  to  enjoy  the  party.” 

“Thank  God  he’s  shut  up,”  James  muttered.

“Yeah,  right,”  Rose  said.  “You  love  the  attention.”

“It  wasn’t  the  attention  I  minded.  It’s  having  to  wait  for  him  to  finish  before  I  can  sample  the  food.” 

Hastily,  he  filled  his  plate.

Albus  laughed  and  followed  his  example.  As  always,  the  food  was  delicious.  It  almost  made  up  for  listening  to  Slughorn’s  rather  boring  stories  and  his  questions  about  everybody’s  relations.

“Pity  he  doesn’t  bring  any  food  into  class,”  Albus  said,  as  they  headed  to  Potions  the  next  day.

“Um  hmm.”  She  was  rooting  through  her  backpack  and  didn’t  appear  to  be  listening  to  him.

“Is  something  wrong?”  he  asked.

“I  can’t  find  my  scales  and  I’m sure  I  put  them  in  my  bag  last  night.”

“It’s  not  like  you  to  forget  anything.  Do  you  want  to  walk  back  and  see  if  they’ve  fallen  out  somewhere?”

She  continued  examining  her  bag.  “I  suppose  I’d  better,  but  I  really  don’t  see  how  they  can  have.  There  isn’t  a  tear  in  it  or  anything.  You  don’t  have  to  come  with  me.  I  don’t  want  to  make  you  late.”

“It’s  all  right.  It  won’t  take  us  that  long.”

There  was  no  sign  of  the  scales  anywhere  between  the  classrooms  and  Ravenclaw  Tower.

Rose  glanced  at  the  knocker.  “How  I  wish  we  just  had  a  password!  Maybe  I’ll  have  a  go  anyway.  See  if  it’s  an  easy  question  for  once.”

She  rapped  quickly  on  the  knocker.

“Where  are  you  most  likely  to  find  a  vampire?”

They  glanced  at  each  other  in  confusion.

“Any  ideas?”  Rose  asked  hopefully.

He  shook  his  head.

She  sighed.  “Oh  well,  we’d  better  get  to  class,  I  suppose.  We’re  going  to  be  late  as  it  is.”

They  hurried  to  the  dungeon  classroom,  arriving  just  minutes  after  the  class  began.

“Sorry  Sir,”  Rose  said.  “It  was  my  fault.  I  couldn’t  find  my  scales.  Albus  was  just  helping  me  look  for  them.”

“Dear,  dear.”  He  shook  his  head.  “And  where  were  they?”

“I  don’t  know,  Sir.  Probably  in  my  dormitory  or  common  room,  but  we  couldn’t  answer  the  question  to  get  into  the  tower.”

“I’m  shocked.  A  question  one  of  Hogwarts’  brightest  students  couldn’t  answer.  That  can’t  happen  often.  I’m  sure  I’ve  some  spare  scales  in  the  cupboard  you  can  use  for  today’s  class.  I  do  hope  you  find  yours  soon.”

“Thank  you,  Sir.”

She  got  a  spare  scales  out  of  the  cupboard.  It  was  old  and  slightly  scratched.

“I’m  not  sure  this  is  weighing  things  correctly  at  all,”  she  whispered  to  Albus.  “The  potion  doesn’t  look  right.”

“You  can  always  share  mine  if  you  want.”

He  pushed  his  scales  towards  her.

She  shook  her  head.  “It  would  be  too  awkward  trying  to  share  one.  That’s  why  Slughorn  wanted  me  to  borrow  one  from  his  stores.  I  really  think  it’s  overestimating  what  I’m  weighing  though.  Do  you  think  I  should  stick  a  bit  extra  into  the  potion,  to  be  sure.”

“I  don’t  know,”  he  said.  “What  if  it  was  right  after  all?  You’d  be  putting  too  much  in  then.”

“I  know.  That’s  what  worrying  me.  I  really  hope  my  scales  turns  up  this  evening.  You  know, I  really  did  think  I’d  put  it  in  my  bag  last  night.”

“Well,  even  you  can  make  a  mistake,  you  know.”

“I  suppose  so.  I  can  tell  you  this  though.  I’m  not  letting  it  happen  again.  I’m  triple-checking  everything  in  future.”

She  turned  her  attention  to  her  potion,  which  didn’t  seem  to  be  turning  out  as  well  as  hers  usually  did.  Albus  guessed  the  scales  really  were  slightly  off.

“Not  quite  up  to  your  usual  standard,  Rose,”  Slughorn  said  jovially,  when  he  checked  them  at  the  end  of  class.

“Um,  she  wasn’t  sure  the  scales  were  working  properly,”  Albus  put  in  nervously.  He  didn’t  like  contradicting  a  teacher,  but  he  knew  Rose  would  stand  up  for  him  if  their  positions  were  reversed.

“Ah  yes,  that  would  explain  it.  Some  of  the  items  in  my  cupboard  have  been  there  quite  a  long  time.  Do  you  know,  young  man?”  He  turned  to  Albus.  “Your  father  actually  found  Severus  Snape’s  old  Potions  book  in  that  cupboard.  His  own  teacher’s!  Of  course  Severus  wasn’t  teaching  him  Potions  that  year;  I  was,  but  he  was  teaching  Defence  Against  the  Dark  Arts.  Wasn’t  that  quite  the  coincidence?”

“Em,  yes  Sir.”

“Well,  young  lady,  I  hope  you  find  your  own  scales  soon,  so  that  you  can  amaze  us  all  with  your  brewing  skills  once  again.  I’m  afraid  that  today  Rasmus  takes  your  usual  position  at  the  top  of  the  class.”

“Don’t  mind  him,”  Rasmus  said,  as  they  filed  out  of  the  classroom.  “Everybody  knows  you’re  the  champion  brewer.”

She  smiled.  “Yeah,  well,  you’re  too  busy  topping  the  class  at  Charms  and  History  of  Magic.  You  can’t  be  best  at  everything,  you  know.”

Despite  her  light-heartedness,  Albus  could  see  she  was  still  distracted.

“It’s  not  that  big  a  deal,  is  it?”  he  asked.  “If  you  don’t  find  them,  you  could  just  owl  your  mum  to  send  you  some  new  ones.”

“I  know  that,  but  I  don’t  know  when  she’ll  get  to  Diagon  Alley  and  I  really  don’t  want  to  be  stuck  with  those  stupid  spare  ones  another  day.  I  wish  I  could  think  where  I’d  left  mine.”

“They’re  bound  to  be  back  in  the  dormitory.  Or  the  common  room.  You’ll  probably  find  them  with  your  dragonhide  gloves  or  something.”

“I  suppose  you’re  right.”

But  the  scales  weren’t  with  her  gloves  or  by  her  bed  or  any  of  the  other  places  she  thought  they  might  be.

“I  don’t  know  where  else  to  look,”  she  said  finally.  “I’ve  checked  absolutely  everywhere.”

“Maybe  they’re  somewhere  you’ve  already  looked,”  Albus  suggested.  “That  happens  sometimes.”

 “I  don’t  know.”

They  returned  to  the  common  room.

“Has  anybody  seen  a  set  of  scales?”  she  called  desperately.

One  of  the  older  students  nudged  another  and  the  other  student  looked  up.

“What  is  it  you’re  looking  for?”

“My  scales.”

“Oh,  yeah,  I  found  a  set  here  in  the  common  room  earlier  today.  I  meant  to  hand  them  in  to  one  of  the  teachers  if  nobody  claimed  them  and  then  I  forgot.  I’ll  just  go  get  them  now.”

Albus  could  feel  Rose’s  relief,  but  it  was  short-lived.  There  was  a  huge  dent  on  one  side  of the  scales.

“Oh  great.”

“What’s  wrong?”  the  student  who’d  found  them  asked.

“They’re  dented.”

“Oh,  that’s  easily  fixed.  Let  me.”  She  took  the  scales  from  Rose.  “Reparo.”

The  scales  mended  instantly.

Rose  smiled.  “Oh  thank  you.  Thanks  so  much.”

“No  bother.”



Just realised I'd a couple of characters saying "soccer" when they should have said "football." *laughs* To me, "football" is a game in which you can handle the ball, there are points as well as goals, three points making a goal, there are goalposts shaped like giant Hs and counties play for the All-Ireland.


Chapter 8: Hallowe'en.
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Disclaimer: Harry Potter does not belong to me. No copyright infringement is intended.



 With  the  year’s  first  Quidditch  match  over,  thoughts  started  to  turn  to  Hallowe’en. 

Albus  couldn’t  wait.  Hallowe’en  was  one  of  the  most  exciting  times  of  the  year  at  Hogwarts  and  he  was finally going  to  experience  it  instead  of  just  reading  his  brother’s  letters  or  listening  to  his  parents’  stories.

“There’s  usually  entertainment,”  he  explained  to  Derek.  “Last  year,  they’d  this  Veela  band.  James  said  they  were  excellent.”

“Veela?”  Derek  sounded  confused.

“There’re  like  really  beautiful  women,  except  they’re  not  fully  human  at  all  really.  My  cousins – Victoire,  Dominique  and  Louis – their  great-grandmother  was  a  Veela.  It’s  why  Victoire  and  Louis  are  so  good-looking.  Poor  old  Dominique  got  the  Weasley  genes.  Anyway,  James  was  utterly  enchanted  with  the  band.  Mum  said  he’s  just  like  Uncle  Ron.  She  sounded  annoyed.”

“Why?”

Albus  shrugged.  “I’ve  no  idea.  My  mum  has  six  brothers.  With  a  family  that  size,  there’s  a  story  about  everything.  You  just  learn  to  go  with  it.”

“It  sounds  like  fun.  All  those  cousins.”

“Sometimes  it  is.  Other  times,  well,  it  just  feels  as  if  whatever  you  do,  somebody’s  beaten  you  to  is.  You  know?  And  God  help  you  if  you  mess  up!  It’s  not  just  Mum  and  Dad  I’ve  to  answer  to,  but  Grandma  and  Grandpa  and  Aunt  Hermione  and  often  Teddy  as  well.”

“Who’s  Teddy?”

“He’s…sort  of  an  honorary  big  brother,  I  guess.  His  parents  died  in  the  Battle  of  Hogwarts.  His  dad  was  my  grandfather’s  best  friend.  My  other  grandfather,  who  died  when  my  dad  was  a  baby.  And  my  dad  is  Teddy’s  godfather.  It’s  all  a  bit  complicated.”

 “It  sounds  it.  You  must  know  just  about  everything  that’s  ever  happened  at  Hogwarts.”

Albus  laughed.  “Yeah,  pretty  much.  Someone  in  my  family  was  here  for  most  things.”

“I  wish  I’d  even  one  relative  who  went  here.  It  was  so  weird  starting  here,  knowing  absolutely  nothing.”  He  sighed.  “I  can’t  believe  we  don’t  get  a  half-term.”

“What’s  half-term?”

“Well,  Muggle  schools  get  a  week  off  half-way  through  each  term,  to  break  it  up  and  give  us  a  bit  of  a  rest.  It’s  a  long  way  until  Christmas.”

It  was.  Much  as  Albus  loved  Hogwarts,  he  did  miss  his  parents,  his  sister  and  his  home.  It  would  have  been  nice  to  go  home  for  a  week.

"But  we'd miss  out  on  Hallowe’en,”  he  pointed  out.  “Honestly,  Derek,  wait  until  you  see  the  Great  Hall.  It’ll  be  beautifully  decorated  and…”

“I’d  still  rather  a  week  off  classes.  Learning  magic  is  cool  and  all,  but  boy  do  we  work  hard.  They  could  at  least  give  us  Hallowe’en  off,  when  it’s  such  a  big  deal  here.  But  no,  it’s  classes  as  usual.”

The  classes  weren’t  quite  as  usual.  A  holiday  atmosphere  pervaded  the  school  and  most  of  the  teachers  didn’t  even  try  to  continue  with  the  normal  curriculum.

In  Defence  Against  the  Dark  Arts,  Professor  Jones  told  them  how  in  ancient  times,  Muggles  believed  spirits  could  pass  through  to  our  world  most  easily  at  Hallowe’en  as  it  was  the  time  the  spirit  world  was  closest.

“You  mean  like  ghosts?”  Rasmus  asked.  “Are  Muggles  afraid  of  ghosts?”

“Well,  we’ve  a  couple  of  Muggleborn  students  here.”  Professor  Jones  gestured  towards  Derek  and  Angie.  “Why  don’t  you  ask  them?”

“Do  they?”  he  asked.

Derek  raised  his  hand  awkwardly.  Usually  Professor  Jones  was  pretty  strict  about  hand-raising,  but  that  day,  the  rules  seemed  to  be  relaxed.

“Go  ahead  Derek.”

“Well,  some  of  them  do,  but  a  lot  don’t  even  believe  ghosts  exist.”

There  was  a  sharp  intake  of  breath  among  the  other  students.  It  was  hard  to  imagine  people  not  believing  in  ghosts.

“Hey,  they  don’t  believe  in  witches  and  wizards  either,  you  know.”

“That’s  because  of  the  Statute  of  Secrecy,”  Professor  Jones  said. 

She  tapped  the  board  with  her  wand  and  the  words  “Statute  of  Secrecy”  appeared  on  it. 

“Who  can  tell  me  what  that  is?” 

Rose  raised  her  hand.

“Yes,  Rose.”

“It’s  the  set  of  rules  that  keep  our  world  secret  from  Muggles.”

“Very  good.  Five  points  to  Ravenclaw.  Do  you  have  something  more  to  add?”  she  asked  Derek,  whose  hand  was  raised  again.

“Well,  I  was  just  going  to  say  some  Muggles  even  think  witches  are  evil.  Not  wizards  so  much  though.”

“That’s  probably  because  they  don’t  understand,”  Professor  Jones  said  seriously.  “People  often  fear  what  they  don’t  understand.  In  our  world  too.  That’s  something  else  we’ll  be  discussing,  later  this  year  and  in  more  detail  next  year.  How  do  we  distinguish  between  creatures  that  are  really  evil  and  those  we  simply  have  a  troubled  history  with?  There  has  been  a  lot  of  debate  about  giants  lately  for  example – whether  it  is  truly  in  their  nature  to  be  violent  or  if  it’s  simply  due  to  the  way  they’ve  been  treated  by  wizards  and  their  exclusion  from  our  society.”

Some  of  the  Slytherins  rolled  their  eyes.  Albus  glanced  over  at  Scorpius, who, to his surprise, looked merely thoughtful.

“I  realise  many  of  you  have  grown  up  with  a  very  fixed  idea  of  giants,  but  views  about  them  are  changing.  It’s  probably  too  late  though.  Who  can  tell  me  why?”

Rose’s  hand  went  up  again.

Professor  Jones   glanced  around  the  classroom,  apparently  hoping  somebody  else  would  know.

“Yes,  Rose,”  she  said  finally.

“They’re  dying  out.”

“Yes,  there  are  very  few  giants  left  in  the  world  today.  Of  course,  a  lot  of  people  would  say  that’s  a  good  thing.”

“Do  you  think  so,  Professor?”  Dora  called  out.  She  didn’t  bother  raising  her  hand.

“It  isn’t  very  polite  to  interrupt,”  Professor  Jones  scolded,  but  mildly.  “I  think  it’s  a  pity  we  didn’t  make  more  effort  to  see  if  giants  could  learn  to  live  in  our  society.  Of  course,  it  might  not  have  worked  and  the  outcome  might  have  been  the  same  anyway,  but  that’s  something  we’ll  never  know.  We’ve  created  quite  a  few  of  our  own  enemies.”

Tentatively,  Scorpius  raised  his  hand.

“Yes  Scorpius.”

“Um,  is  it  true  there’s  a  giant  living  by  the  Forbidden  Forest?”

To  Albus’s  surprise,  he  didn’t  sound  scornful.  He  seemed  genuinely  interested.

“Yes,  that  is  true  Scorpius.  His  name  is  Grawp  and  while  he  generally  remains  apart  from  wizarding  society,  he  has  a  very  good  relationship  with  Professor  Hagrid  and  when  he  does  choose  to  interact  with  wizards,  he  is  now  perfectly  appropriate.  He’s  one  of  the  reasons  some  people  believe  all  giants  could  have  integrated  into  our  society  had  they  been  given  the  opportunity.”

Scorpius  nodded,  as  if  satisfied.

“I  know  that  class  was  meant  to  be  ‘a  break’,”  Derek  said  afterwards.  “But  I  actually  learnt  quite  a  lot.”

Albus  nodded.  “It  was  really  interesting.  I  wish  Professor  Jones  would  tell  us  more  stuff  like  that  and  about  her  time  in  the  Order  during  the  war.”

They  hurried  to  Potions,  where  Professor  Slughorn  had  prepared  a  quiz.

“Ravenclaws  versus  Slytherins,”  he  said.  “Forty  points  to  whichever  house  wins.”

With  Rose,  Rasmus  and  Nathan,  who  excelled  at  theory,  all  in  Ravenclaw,  their  house  won  easily.

Nathan  was  ecstatic.

“I  wish  class  was  always  like  that  and  we  never  had  to  actually  make  the  potions.  I’d  do  all  right  then.”

A  few  of  the  Slytherins  glared  at  them.

“It’s  not  fair,  putting  us  up  against  the  brainbox  house,”  Abric  Fletcher  muttered  in  annoyance.

He  hadn’t  managed  to  answer  even  one  question.

“At  least  you  do  actually  know  the  theory,”  Rose  whispered  to  Nathan.  “I  don’t  think  Abric  knows  anything  at  all.”

“Except  how  to  steal,”  Dora  put  in.  “I’d  say  they  can’t  leave  anything  down  for  a  minute  in  Slytherin  with  him  around.”

“Ah,  Abric’s  all  right,”  said  Albus. 

“So  long  as  it’s  somebody  else  he’s  stealing  from,”  Dora  muttered.

Albus  didn’t  bother  arguing.  She  had  a  point,  he  supposed.

Transfiguration  began  with  Professor  Blackburn  turning  their  textbooks  into  bats.

A  gasp  ran  around  the  classroom.  She  laughed  and  turned  them  back  into  textbooks.

“Will  you  teach  us  how  to  do  that?”  Angie  asked  in  amazement.

“If  you  continue  on  with  Transfiguration  to  N.E.W.T.  level,  you  will  eventually  learn  spells  like  that,  but  I’m  afraid  it  would  be  a  little  beyond  your  ability  at  the  moment.”

“Do  it  again.  Please.”

She  waved  her  wand  and  the  textbooks  started  to  flap  their  wings  again.

Fionnuala  screamed  and  skidded  her  chair  backwards  as  the  bat  flew  towards  her.

Professor  Blackburn  raised  her  wand  again.  The  bat  turned  back  into  a  book  and  landed  gently  back  on  her  desk.

“Sorry  Fionnuala.  Are  you  all  right?”

“Yes,  Professor.”  Fionnuala  started  to  giggle.

Albus  suddenly  realised  how  amusing  the  situation  was  and  began  to  laugh  as  well.  Soon  the  whole  class  was  laughing.

Once  they  calmed  down,  Professor  Blackburn  demonstrated  how  some  other  classroom  items  could  be  transformed  into  Hallowe’en  decorations.

“It’s  like  Cinderella,”  Angie  commented.

“Cinderella?”  Dora  stared  at  her  in  confusion.

“Yeah,  you  know,  the  fairytale.  Except  it’s  the  other  way  ‘round  in  Cinderella.  The  fairy  godmother  transforms  the  pumpkin  into  a  carriage.  My  little  sister  loves  that  story.”

They  began  comparing  fairytales.

“I  must  get  a  copy  of  The  Tales  of  Beedle  the  Bard,”  Angie  said.  “My  sister’d  love  them.  That’s  if  she  hasn’t  grown  out  of  fairy  tales  by  Christmas.”

They  continued  talking  as  they  headed  to  Herbology.  Neville  always  allowed  a  certain  amount  of  chatter  and  it  wasn’t  long  before  the  conversation  turned  to  the  upcoming  feast.

“I  wonder  what  they’ve  planned  for  entertainment,”  Rasmus  said.  “Hilda  says  somebody  usually  finds  out  in  advance,  but  I  haven’t  heard  anything.  Have  any  of  you?”  He  glanced  around  the  greenhouse.

Albus  bit  his  lip.  “James  says  he  heard  there  wasn’t  going  to  be  any.  I  think  he  was  joking,  but…”

“Please  pay  at  least  a  little  attention  to  what  you’re  doing,”  Neville  called,  but  he  was  smiling.

As  they  left,  he  beckoned  Rose  and  Albus  over  to  him.

“Looking  forward  to  the  feast  tonight?”

“Definitely,”  Albus  said.

Neville  smiled  at  them.  “It  should  be  a  good  one.  I  know  you’ve  been  particularly  looking  forward  to  it,  Albus.  Your  dad  was  telling  me  how  you  used  to  play  at  Hogwarts  Hallowe’en  feasts  back  when  you  were  little  and  Teddy  was  here.”

Albus  smiled  at  the  memory.  “They  always  sounded  so  much  fun.”

“Well,  go  on,  now.  You’d  better  not  be  late  for  your  last  class.”

Albus  wasn’t  sure  he’d  have  minded  being  late  for  History  of  Magic.  He  doubted  Binns  would  even  notice.

Unlike  the  other  teachers,  Binns  didn’t  even  seem  to  realise  it  was  Hallowe’en.  He  treated  them  to  an  extremely  boring  lecture  on  wizard-goblin  relations  which  felt  about  as  long  as  all  their  earlier  classes  put  together. 

Albus  didn’t  think  he’d  ever  been  so  relieved  to  have  a  class  end.  It  was  almost  time  for  the  feast  to  begin.

He  was  so  excited,  just  getting  to  the  Great  Hall  seemed  to  take  forever.

“Come  on  Rose.”

“Albus,  it’ll  start  when  it  starts.  Rushing  won’t  make  it  start  any  earlier.  It  just  means  we’ll  be  waiting  in  the  Great  Hall  instead  of  Ravenclaw  Tower.”

“Ah,  Albus,”  Nearly  Headless  Nick  interrupted  before  he  could  answer.  “Heading  for  the  Hallowe’en  feast?”

“Yes,  aren’t  you?”   He  was  puzzled.  The  ghost  seemed  to  be  going  in  the  opposite  direction.

“Not  this  year,  I’m  afraid.  It’s  my  five  hundred  and  twenty-fifth  Deathday  and  we  ghosts  are  having  a  party  in  the  dungeon.”

“Oh,  my  dad  told  me  he  was  at  your  five  hundredth.”

“He  was  indeed.  As  were  your  parents,  Rose.”

“Yes,  Mum  told  me.  She  really  enjoyed  it.”

“So  the  ghosts  aren’t  providing  the  entertainment  this  year?”  Albus  asked.

He  really  hoped  James  had  been  joking.

“Oh,  I  think  they’ve  something  a  bit  more  original  than  formation  gliding  planned.”

“So  you  know  what  it’ll  be,  Sir  Nicolas?  Oh,  please  tell  us.”

Nick  smiled.  “My  lips  are  sealed.  You’ll  find  out  soon  enough.  Now  go  inside  and  prepare  to  enjoy  yourself.”

“Enjoy  your  party.”

“I  intend  to.”

The  Great  Hall  was  decorated  in  orange  and  black.  Candles  lined  the  tables,  lighting  up  the  room  and  thousands  of  bats  swooped  overhead.

“I  wonder  whose  textbooks  they  were.”  Rose  giggled.

“What’s  so  funny?”  James  appeared  behind  them.

“In  class  today,  Professor  Blackburn  turned  our  books  into  bats,  so  we  were  just  wondering  if  those  were  once  books  too.”  She  laughed.  “Fionnuala  did  scream  when  the  bat  flew  at  her.”

“Oh,  to  be  back  in  first  year,”  James  said.  “Once  you  get  to  third  year,  there’ll  be  no  time  for  fun  classes  like  that.”

“Yeah,  because  you’re  working  so  very  hard,”  Rose  said  sarcastically.

“Well,  no,”  James  admitted,  after  a  moment’s  thought.  “But  I’m  supposed  to  be.”

“Don’t  mind  him,”  Rose  told  Albus.  “I  doubt  they  did  much  more  today  than  we  did.”

He  didn’t  really  care.  Third  year  was  ages   away.

He  took  his  seat  at  the  Ravenclaw  table  and  filled  his  plate  from  the  food  that  magically  appeared.

Once  they’d  eaten,  a  ghost  appeared  at  the  top  of  the  room,  dressed  in  a  top  hat  and  suit  and  carrying  a  cane.

“Good  evening  boys  and  girls.  My  name  is  Sammy  the  Spook.”

He  tossed  the  cane  into  the  air.

Some  of  the  students  started  cheering  already,  obviously  familiar  with  Sammy.

“That’s  the  spirit,”  he  called.  “Or  rather  I’m  the  spirit.”

A  groan  ran  around  the  Hall.

“Not  too  fond  of  that  one,  eh?  Would  you  rather  hear  how  I  met  my  untimely  death?”

He  launched  into  a  long  story  involving  an  band  of  angry  trolls,  a  Manticore,  and  an  Acromantula.

“And  then,”  he  concluded,  “I  fell  off  my  broom.”

The  students  laughed.

“I  was  trying  to  do  a  somersault.  A  piece  of  advice,  do  not  try  this  at  home.  Just  standing  up  on  the  broom  is  difficult  enough.”

He  glided  up  into  the  air  and  placed  one  foot  in  front  of  the  other,  as  if  trying  to  balance  on  something  very  narrow.

They  laughed  again.

“And  the  broom  wobbling  beneath  me.”

He  extended  his  arms  and  swayed  slightly  from  side  to  side.

“So  I  crouched  down  and  then…the  broom  shot  out  from  under  me.”

He  jerked  backwards  and  tumbled  to  the  floor,  landing  on  his  head.

The  routine  continued  for  quite  a  while  before  Sammy  finally  stood  up  and  took  his  final  bow.

“And  now  I  wish  you  all  a  very  happy  Hallowe’en.”

“Happy  Hallowe’en,”  they  called.

“A  ghost  comedian,”  Derek  said.  “I  think  I’ve  seen  everything  now.”

“No  wonder  Nick  knew  what  was  happening,”  Rose  said.  “Sammy  was  probably  calling  in  to his  party  first.”

“I  hope  they’d  as  good  a  night  as  we  did,”  Albus  said.

His  first  Hallowe’en  at  Hogwarts  had  definitely  lived  up  to  his  expectations.  The  feast  had  been  fantastic  and  all  of  his  classes  except  History  of  Magic  had  been  fun.  It  was  a  pity  they  weren’t  like  that  every  day.

The  following  day,  they  were  back  to  normal.  Professor  Jones  even  told  them  to  “settle  down.  Hallowe’en  is  over  now,  you  know.”

“Anything  else  happening  between  now  and  Christmas?”  Derek  asked  hopefully  after  class.

“Just  Quidditch  matches  and  stuff.”

Derek  sighed.

“Well,  at  least,  that’s  all  that’s  expected,”  Albus  said.  “But  this  is  Hogwarts.  You  never  know  what’ll  happen  here.” 

He  described  the  Triwizard  Tournament  and  other  events  that  had  broken  the  monotony  of  school  life  over  the  years.

“So  you  just  never  know,”  he  concluded. 

On  Saturday,  Nathan  arrived  into  the  common  room  with  a  message  for  Albus.

“I  found  this  just  outside,”  he  said.  “Someone  must  have  dropped  it.”

“Thanks  Nathan.” 

He  tore  it  open.

My  dear  Albus,

I  hope  you  enjoyed  the  Hallowe’en  feast.  I’m  planning  a  little  post-Hallowe’en/pre-Bonfire  night  breakfast  party  myself  for  tomorrow  morning.  I  do  hope  you’ll  be  able  to  attend.  And  Rose  too,  of  course.  Hope  to  see  you  both  in  my  office  at  7:30  Sunday  morning.

Yours  sincerely,

Professor  H.  Slughorn.

P.S.  Congratulations  to  Ravenclaw  on  winning  our  little  quiz  last  Tuesday.

After  reading,  he  passed  it  to  Rose.

She  stared  at  it  for  longer  than  he  would’ve  expected.

“Don’t  you  think  it’s  a  little  odd?”

“What?”  he  asked.

“7:30  in  the  morning.  So  far,  all  the  Slug  Club  meetings  have  been  in  the  evenings.”

“So  maybe  Slughorn’s  got  plans  for  tomorrow  evening.  Or  maybe  it’s  ‘cause  we’d  have  to  get  up  for  class  the  next  morning.”

“Never  bothered  him  before.  Anyway,  he  could  have  had  it  tonight.  Or  last  night.”

Albus  shrugged.  “He  didn’t  think  of  it  until  today?  You  know  what  Slughorn’s  like;  he  seems  to  decide  these  things  at  a  moment’s  notice.”

“Yeah,  I  suppose  you’re  right.  It  just  seemed  odd,  that’s  all.  Are  we  going?”

“Suppose  we’d  better.”

He  wasn’t  particularly  enthusiastic.  The  Slug  Club  parties  were  pretty  boring  and  getting  up  at  the  crack  of  dawn  on  a  Sunday  morning  for  one  wasn’t  exactly  his  idea  of  fun,  but  it  was  a  bit  late  to  refuse  the  invitation  now  and  Slughorn  wasn’t  always  the  easiest  person  to  refuse  anyway.

“Do  you  want  to?”  he  asked  Rose.

She  shrugged.  “Don’t  particularly  care.  We  might  as  well.”

The  dormitory  was  silent  when  Albus  woke  the  next  morning. He noticed Rasmus was still asleep and wondered if he should wake him. But, of course, he didn't even know for sure he'd been invited. He just assumed he had, because he'd been to all the others. Or maybe  he just  hadn’t  wanted  to  give  up  his  Sunday  morning  lie-in.  If  that  was  the  case,  Albus  didn’t  blame  him.  He  wished  he’d  been  brave  enough  to  ignore  the  invitation.  Now  that  he  thought  about  it,  he  could  probably  have  just  pretended  he  hadn’t  got  it.  Whoever’d  been  supposed  to  deliver  it  obviously  hadn’t  done  so.


He  pulled  on  his  robes  and  headed sleepily  for  the  common  room,  where  Rose  was  waiting  for  him.

“Rasmus  not  coming?”

“Doesn’t  look  like  it.  I  was  wondering  if  I  should  wake  him,  but  then,  Slughorn  didn’t  actually  say  it  was  the  whole  Slug  Club,  did  he?  Or  maybe  Rasmus  just  didn’t  want  to  get  up  this  early.”

“It’s  not  all  that  early,  Albus.  I’m  often  up  at  this  time.”

“You’re  about  the  only  one.”

It  did  seem  that  way.  The  school  corridors  were  quieter  than  Albus  had  ever  seen  them.

“This  must  have  been  what  it  was  like  when  our  parents  were  sneaking  around  the  corridors  at  night  when  they  were  at  school,”  he  whispered.

“Um,  why  are  you  whispering?  There  aren’t  any  dormitories  around  here.”

“I  don’t  know.  It  just  feels  like  I  should.”

They  reached the dungeons, where Slughorn's office was situtated.

“Albus,  look.” 

She  pointed  at  the  wall  near  Slughorn’s  office,  where  letters  a  foot  high  were  daubed.

Albus  hurried  forward  and  gaped  at  them  in  horror.

Mudbloods  bewareThe  Dark  Lord  is  returning.

The  words  themselves  were  horrifying  enough,  but  what  really  made  Albus’s  blood  run  cold  was  that  they  appeared  to  be  written  in  blood.



Happy  Hallowe'en  to  everybody  reading!



Chapter 9: Caught Red-Handed.
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Disclaimer: The book The Dark Arts: A Guide to Self-Protection, the gargoyle and staircase to McGonagall's office, the eagle knocker at the entrance to Ravenclaw Tower, Hogwarts itself and everything else you recognise belongs to J.K. Rowling. No copyright infringement is intended. 



Rose  let  out  an  audible  sigh  of  relief.

“Oh  God,  for  a  moment  there,  I  thought  it  was  blood.”

“Isn’t  it?”  he  asked.

She  shook  her  head.  “It’s  ink,  Albus,  red  ink.  They  must  have  used  an  entire  inkwell.  Touch  it.”

“I’ll  take  your  word  for  it.”

There  was  no  way  he  was  touching  it.  Even  if  it  wasn’t  blood,  the  words  themselves  repelled  him. 

Voldemort’s  very  name  was  still  spoken  in  whispers.  Though  the  war  seemed  a  very  long  time  ago  to  Albus,  those  who’d  lived  through  it  hadn’t  forgotten.  He’d  heard  how  adults  voices  changed  when  they  spoke  of  it,  heard  them  stumble  over  Voldemort’s  name,  resort  to  euphemisms.  He  knew  what  the  war  had  cost  people,  knew  that  because  of  that  man  and  his  followers,  Teddy  had  grown  up  without  his  parents  and  Albus  himself  would  never  know  his  paternal  grandparents  or  one  of  his  apparently  most  amusing  uncles.

And  wasn’t  “the  Dark  Lord”  a  Death  Eater  term?

He  shivered  at  the  thought.  Surely  there  couldn’t  be  Death  Eaters  at  Hogwarts.

Almost  unwillingly,  he  glanced  at  the  message  again.  What  could  it  mean  by  saying  he  was  returning?  Voldemort  was  dead,  wasn’t  he?  Nobody  could  return  from  the  dead.  It  was  impossible.

But  wasn’t  he  supposed  to  have  died  before,  when  his  father  had  been  a  baby?  And  then  he’d  come  back  and  nobody  had  believed  his  father  except  Dumbledore.  And  some  of  his  friends,  of  course,  but  nobody  else  in  authority  had  believed  it.

He  wished  he’d  paid  more  attention.  The  stories  were  old  and  confused.  Nobody  really  seemed  to  like  talking  about  those  times,  except  Aunt  Hermione,  who  insisted  it  was  important  to  remember,  that  it  was  the  only  way  to  ensure  nothing  like  it  ever  happened  again.

He’d  never  taken  her  seriously.  The  war  had  happened  long  ago,  before  he  was  even  born.  Nothing  like  that  could  happen  nowadays,  surely.  But  perhaps  she’d  been  right.  Perhaps  he  should  have  listened  more  carefully.

Something  hit  him  on  the  back  of  his  head,  jolting  him  out  of  his  thoughts.

He  turned  around.  Peeves  was  floating  overhead,  grinning  manically  and  firing  pieces  of  chalk  at  them.

“Oooh,  writing  on  the  walls.  Naughty,  naughty,  ickle  firsties.  I  think  I  should  call  Filch.  He  won’t  be  pleased  though.”  Peeves  shook  his  head  virtuously.  “The  mess  you’ve  made  of  his  nice  clean  wall.  Peevsie  really  should  tell  him.”

“NO,  PEEVES,”  Rose  said  firmly.  “We  didn’t  do  this.  We  just  found  it.”

“ Tell  it  to  the  Order,”  Peeves  replied,  blowing  a  loud  raspberry.

He  floated  off,  calling  “Mr.  Filch,  Mr.  Filch,  look  what  the  firsties  have  done.  Mr.  Filch.”

Albus  blanched.  “We’d  better  get  out  of  here.”

Rose  grabbed  his  arm.

“No!  Peeves  knows  who  we  are  and  he’s  bound  to  tell.  And  even  if  he  doesn’t,  they  could  find  out  who  we  are  easily  enough.  Between  the  portraits  and  the  ghosts  and  everybody  else  around  this  castle,  we’re  bound  to  have  been  seen  by  somebody.   Our  best  bet  is  to  wait  and  tell  our  side  of  things.  There’s  absolutely  no  proof  we’ve  done  anything  wrong.”

Albus  doubted  Filch  would  care  about  that.  Just  seeing  them  there  would  be  proof  enough  for  him. 

But  she’d  a  point.  He  was  going  to  catch  them  whatever  they  did. 

He was  terrified.  This  was  the  second  time  he’d  been  in  trouble  since  starting  Hogwarts  and  it  made  the  earlier  incident  pale  into  insignificance.  Even  if  Professor  Blackburn  hadn’t  retracted  the  detention,  it  had  only  been  a  detention.  That  has  worried  him  enough,  but  he  dreaded  to  think  what  Filch  would  do  to  them.

Filch  was  muttering  angrily  as  he  came  towards  them. 

“That  flaming  poltergeist  had  better  not  have  called  me  out  on  a  wild  goose  chase.  Oh,  if  only  I  still  had  my  Mrs.  Norris  the  first.  She’d  have  alerted  me  to  this  immediately.  Where  is  that  stupid  cat  of  mine  anyway?  Sleeping  again,  I  suppose.  Mrs.  Norris  the  first  never  slept.”

He  glared  at  them  and  then  at  the  wall.

“So,  this  is  the  mess  you  make  of  my  nice  clean  wall!  Have  you  any  idea  how  much  work  I  put  into  trying  to  keep  this  place  looking  respectable?  And  every  time,  every  time  I  think  I’m  finished,  you  flaming  students  mess  it  up  all  over  again.  Well,  don’t  think  you’re  getting  away  with  this!  It’s  detention  for  you.  Pity  McGonagall  has  forbidden  the  old  methods,  but  once  she’s  seen  what  you’ve  done…”

“Once  I’ve  seen   what,  Argus?”

Albus  didn’t  know  whether  to  be  relieved  or  terrified.  McGonagall  arrived  in  the  corridor, presumably  having  heard  the  disruption  Peeves  was  still  making  around  the  castle.

“Look  at  this!  Just  look  at  it!”  Filch  ranted.  “I  had  all  the  walls  in  this  castle  spick  and  span  yesterday  evening  and  these  two…two  juvenile  delinquents  come  and  mess  it  all  up  while  I’m  sleeping.”

McGonagall  glanced  quickly  at  the  graffiti.

“Oh,  do  be  sensible,  Argus.  Do  you  really  believe  that  Harry  Potter’s  son  would  be  gloating  about  the  return  of…of…”  Words  seemed  to  fail  her.  “Of…You-Know-Who,”  she  finally  whispered.

“They  were  caught  red-handed.  I  saw  them  myself  standing  right  there.”

“And  did  you  see  them  actually  writing  anything?”

“Well,  they  weren’t  going  to  do  in  right  in  front  of  me,  were  they?”  He  sounded  quite  affronted  at  the  idea  of  any  student  having  such  a  nerve.  “It  was  Peeves  who  alerted  me.”

“Peeves?  Of  course.”  McGonagall  sounded  slightly  sarcastic.  “I  think  he’s  alerted  the  entire  castle.  It  doesn’t  prove  these  students  have  done  anything  wrong.”

“But…but...I  demand  punishment!  At  least  that  they  be  made  clean  it  off.  Without  magic!  I’m  sick  and  tired  of  having  to  clean  up  the  messes  made  by  these  infernal  students.”

“You  won’t  have  to  worry  about  that  for  a  while.  I  shall  want  to  examine  it  closely  before  it’s  removed.”  She  turned  to  Rose  and  Albus.  “Could  both  of  you  accompany  me  to  my  office,  please.”

Albus  felt  frozen  to  the  spot.  If  McGonagall  really  believed  they  were  innocent,  why  was  she  bringing  them  to  her  office?  Maybe  she  didn’t.  Maybe  she’d  just  been  trying  to  shut  Filch  up.

If  she  didn’t  believe  them,  they’d  be  expelled!  He  just  knew  it.

“Come  on,  Albus,”  Rose  whispered.

His  legs  felt  weak  as  they  followed  McGonagall  to  the  gargoyle  which  marked  the  entrance  to  her  office.

“Montrose  Magpies,”  she  said  briskly.

The  gargoyle  moved  and  she  led  them  up  the  stairs  behind  it.

“Sit  down,”  she  said,  when  they  entered  the  office.

“Professor,  we  didn’t  write  on  that  wall,”  Rose  said  earnestly.

McGonagall  raised  a  hand  to  silence  her.  “I  don’t  believe  you  did.”  She  gave  them  a  tight  smile.  “Honestly,  Harry  Potter’s  son  and  Ron  and  Hermione’s  daughter  hoping  for…”  She  paused  again.  “Voldemort’s  return.  Ridiculous.  However,  I  do  want  to  know  exactly  what  happened  this  morning  and  what  you  saw.  I  am  sure  you  both  realise  this  must  be  cleared  up  as  quickly  as  possible.”

“Yes,  Professor,”  they  replied  in  unison.

“So,  perhaps,  Miss  Weasley,  you  could  enlighten  me  as  to  what  you  know?”

“We  don’t  know  anything  really,  Professor.  We  were  just  walking  down  the  corridor….”

“Before  we  go  any  further,  I’d  like  to  know  why  you  were  walking  down  that  particular  corridor.  It  isn’t  on  your  way  to  the  Great  Hall  and  anyway,  it  was  a  little  early  for  breakfast.”

“We  got  a  message  from  Professor  Slughorn.  Well,  Albus  did. Last  night.  It  said  to  come  to  his  office  this  morning  for  a  meeting  of  the  Slug  Club.”  She  paused  and  turned  to  him.  “Albus,  there  was  nobody  else  there!  Not  even  Professor  Slughorn.  I  said  there  was  something  odd  about  the  timing!  Sorry,  Professor.  It’s  just,  I  just  realised  the  message  mightn’t  have  come  from  Professor  Slughorn.”

“Very  probably  not,  I  would  think,”  Professor  McGonagall  replied.  “Would  you  wait  here  for  two  minutes  while  I  send  a  message  to  Professor  Slughorn?  I  am  placing  you  both  on  your  honour  not  to  touch  anything  or  even  move  from  your  seats.”

Albus  had  no  intention  of  moving.  They’d  been  very  lucky  to  have  been  believed  so  far.  There  was  no  way  he  was  risking  any  further  trouble.

It  was  just  as  well  they  did  what  they  were  told,  as  Professor  McGonagall  returned  within  moments.

“Hopefully,  Professor  Slughorn  will  be  with  us  soon.  While  we  are  waiting,  perhaps  you  could  give  me  a  bit  more  information.  You  received  a  message,  Albus?”

“Yes,  Professor.”

“Who  brought  it  to  you?”

“Nathan,  Professor,  but  he  just  found  it.  Outside,  he  said.  I  assumed  he  meant  outside  Ravenclaw  Tower,  but  I’m  not  sure  now.  I  mean…”

“Understandably,  you  weren’t  that  interested  in  where  he’d  found  it.”

“Yes,  Professor.”

“Now,  Rose,  perhaps  you  could  tell  me  what  you  meant  when  you  said  you  thought  the  timing  was  odd.”

“Just  that  the  ‘Slug  Club’  meetings  are  usually  in  the  evenings.  7:30am  seemed  a  rather  unlikely  time  for  Professor  Slughorn  to  hold  one.”

“You  should  pay  more  attention  to  your  instincts,  Rose.  Ah,  it  looks  as  if  Professor  Slughorn  is  here  to  join  us.  Albus,  do  you  still  have  the  message  you  received?”

“I  think  so,  Professor.”  He  was  doubtful.  He  didn’t  remember  throwing  it  out  and  he  didn’t  think  he  would  have.  He  usually  kept  things  like  that,  in  case  he  needed  to  double-check  the  time  or  something.  But  he  couldn’t  remember  actually  putting  it  away  anywhere  either.

“Could  you  go  and  get  it  for  us?  And  ask  Nathan  to  join  us  also.  I  imagine  he’s  still  in  the  Great  Hall.”

“Yes,  Professor.”

He  didn’t  dare  tell  her  he  wasn’t  totally  sure  where  he’d  left  the  message.

He’d  go  to  the  Great  Hall  first,  he  decided.  If  he  sent  Nathan  to  the  office,  that  would  be  at  least  one  of  his  tasks  completed  and  he  could  always  ask  Nathan  to  tell  McGonagall  he  was  looking  for  the  message.

Nathan  was  chatting with Rasmus and Derek at the breakfast table when Albus entered the Great Hall.

“Nathan,”  he  said  breathlessly.

“Hi,  Albus.  Where  were  you?  Did  you  hear  about  the  graffiti  outside  Slughorn’s  office?”

“McGonagall  wants  you  in  her  office.”

“WHAT?”  Nathan  went  pale.

“Oh,  you’re  not  in  trouble.  It’s  about  the  graffiti.  Well,  not  exactly.  It’s  about  the  note  you  gave  me  last  night.”

Nathan  stared  at  him  in  confusion,  as  did  some  of  the  other  Ravenclaws.

Albus  took  a  deep  breath.  “The  note  was  from  Slughorn - or  it  said  it  was  from  Slughorn - asking  me  and  Rose  to  go  to  his  office  for  a  Slug  Club  meeting  this  morning.  So  we  did,  but  nobody  else  was  there  and  the  graffiti  was  up  on  the  wall.”  He  paused.  What  else  did  he  need  to  say?  “So  McGonagall  wants  to  talk  to  you.  Oh,  and  will  you  tell  her  I’m  not  exactly  sure  where  the  note  is,  so  I  need  to  look  for  it?”

“What  do  you  think  she’s  going  to  ask  me?”  Nathan  asked  nervously.

“Probably  where  you  found  it  and  maybe  if  you saw  what  it  said.  I  don’t  know.  I  have  to  go  try  and  find  that  note  now.”

He  wanted  to  get  off  as  soon  as  possible.  The  sooner  he  found  the  note,  the  less  time  he  kept  McGonagall  waiting.  Somehow  he  didn’t  think  she’d  appreciate  having  to  wait  for  him,  but  he  wasn’t  sure  what  he  could  do  about  that.

Nathan  got  up.   “But  do  you  think…?”

“I’ve  really  got  to  go,”  Albus  said.

He  rushed  off  to  Ravenclaw  Tower  and  rapped  on  the  knocker.

“What  never  ends  and  yet  everybody  wants  more?”

He  stared  at  it  blankly.  If  something  didn't  end,  you  couldn’t  want  any  more,  could  you?  It  made  no  sense.

He  raised  a  hand  to  his  eyes.  He  needed  to  get  inside  and  he  needed  to  do  so  immediately.  He  didn’t  know  how  long  it’d  take  him  to  find  the  stupid  note.  If  he’d  known  it  would  be  so  important  he’d  have  taken  better  care  of  it,  but  he  didn’t  and  he  hadn’t,  so  he  needed  all  the  time  he  could  get  to  look.  He’d  already  wasted  enough  time  talking  to  Nathan.

“Can’t  you  ask  another  question  or  something?”  he  asked  desperately.  “I  really  need  to  get  in.”

“What  never  ends  and  yet  everybody  wants  more?”  the  eagle  repeated.

He  felt  like  crying.  The  day  had  been  stressful  enough  already  and  they'd still no  idea  who’d  written  the  graffiti  or  what  it could  mean.  Could  Voldemort  still  be  alive?

He  couldn’t  think  about  that  now.  He  needed  to  focus  on  the  question.  What  was  it  again?  What  goes  on  forever  and  yet  everybody  wants  more?

He  sighed.  He  just  couldn’t  think.  Not  when  there  could  be  Death  Eaters  in  the  school  and  the  evilest  wizard  in  history  might  still  be  alive.

“Hey,   what’s  the  question?”  a  voice  asked  from  behind  him.

He  turned  around.  A  group  of  older  students  were  standing  there,  obviously  back  from  breakfast.  He  breathed  a  sigh  of  relief.  Half  of  Ravenclaw  would  be  returning  soon.  Between  them,  they  were  bound  to  figure  it  out.

He  repeated  the  riddle  as  closely  as  he  could  remember  it.

“Something  that  doesn't  end  but  we  all  want  more  of  it?”  one  of  the  older  students  repeated  thoughtfully.

“I  know,”  a  seventh  year  announced.  “Time.  It  never  ends  and  yet  we  all  need  more.  Especially  with  the  N.E.W.T.S.  coming  up.”

“Good  answer,”  the  eagle  replied.

Albus  raced  through  the  common  room  to  his  dormitory.  He  usually  stuck  notes  into  one  or  other  of  his  books,  so  they  wouldn’t  go  missing.  Hopefully,  he’d  find  the  note  if  he  flicked  though  them.

He’d  probably  have  put  it  in  one  of  the  books  on  top,  he  thought,  relaxing  now.  It  shouldn’t  be  too  difficult  to  find  if  he  just  thought  about  it  logically.

The  Dark  Arts:  A  Guide  to  Self-Protection  lay  on  top  of  his  pile  of  textbooks.  Actually,  he  thought  he  did  remember  opening  that  the  previous  evening.

Quickly,  he  skimmed  the  pages,  but  found  nothing.

“Oh ,  come  on,  come  on.”

He  picked  the  book  up,  turned  it  over  and  shook  it.  Nothing  fell  out.

Well,  OK,   maybe  he  hadn’t  put  it  into  his  Defence  textbook.  It  must  have  been  one  of  the  others.  He  flicked  through  each  book  and  shook  them  in  turn.  Nothing.

It  had  to  be  somewhere,  he  thought  frantically.  Think!  Where  else  could  he  have  put  it?

Maybe  he’d  dropped  it  under  his  bed.  Or  it  could  have  fallen  out  of  the  book.

He  lay  down  on  his  stomach  to  search  under  the  bed.

It  wasn’t  there  either,  so  he  quickly  scoured  the  rest  of  the  dormitory  and  then  the  common  room.

 Still  unable  to  find  it,  he  asked  Derek,  Rasmus,  Dora  and  Angie  if  they’d  seen  it.

“A  piece  of  parchment?”  Rasmus  asked.  “Seriously,  Albus,  have  you  any  idea  how  many  pieces  of  parchment  are  lying  around  this  place?  You  don’t  really  expect  me  to  remember  if  I’ve  seen  a  particular one  or  recognise  it.”

Tears  sprang  to  Albus’s  eyes  and  he  turned  away  quickly.  He’d  look  a  complete  baby  if  he  started  crying.  Oh  God,  what  was  he  going  to  do?

He  returned  to  the  dormitory  and  flicked  through  his  textbooks  again,  more  frantically  this  time.  It  had  to  be  in  one  of  them.  It  just  had  to  be.

What  would  Professor  McGonagall  think  if  he  returned  to  her  without  the  note?  She’d  think  they’d  made  the  whole  thing  up  to  cover  the  fact  they’d  written  the  graffiti.  She  was  bound  to.

But  she  was  questioning  Nathan.  He’d  seen  the  note.  He’d  tell  her.

But  he  hadn’t  read  it.  Albus’s  heart  fell.  Anyway,  McGonagall  had  sent  him  to  tell  Nathan  he  was  wanted.  For  all  she  knew,  Albus  could  have  asked  him  to  say  he’d  found  the  note.

He  was  getting  desperate  now.  He  needed  to  find  it  and  he  needed  to  find  it  quickly.

He  paced  the  dormitory,  checking  everywhere  he  could  think  of,  then  did  the  same  in  the  common  room.  Nothing.

He’d  have  to  return  to  the  office,  he  decided.  He  didn’t  really  have  any  choice.  He  just  hoped  McGonagall  would  believe  he  couldn’t  find  it.  He  didn’t  know  why  she  would.  He  didn’t  think  he’d  believe  it,  if  he  were  her.

Rose  and  Nathan  were  coming  back  from  the  office  as  he  hurried  towards  it.

“Did  you  find  it?”  Rose  asked  him.

He  shook  his  head.  “She’s  going  to  think  we  made  it  up.”

For  a  second  she  looked  worried. 

“I  doubt  it,”  she  said  after  swallowing.  “What  do  you  think,  Nathan?”

“I  don’t  know.  I  don’t  suppose  so.  After  all,  you’re  Harry  Potter’s  son,  right?”

Neither  of  them  sounded  certain.

“What  happened  anyway?”  Albus  knew  he  was  wasting  time,  but  he  needed  to  know  McGonagall  believed  them.

“Slughorn  said  he  hadn’t  sent  any  message,  that  he  hadn’t  even  thought  about  a  Hallowe’en-Bonfire  Night  party,  though  it  sounded  like  a  good  idea  and  Nathan  said  he  found  the  note  outside  the  door  to  Ravenclaw  Tower,  right  Nathan?”

“I  thought  somebody  had  dropped  it  while  trying  to  figure  out  the  riddle.  You  know?”

Albus  nodded  miserably.

“I  suppose  I’d  better  face  her.”  He  turned  to  the  gargoyle.  “Montrose  Magpies.”

After  he  said  it,  he  wondered  if  he  should  have  waited  for  McGonagall  to  come  and  get  him.

He  climbed  the  stairs  to  the  office  and  entered  slowly.

“Ah,  you’re  back,  Albus.  May  I  see  it?”

“I  don’t  actually  have  the  note.  I’m  really  sorry,  Professor.  I  didn’t  make  it  up,  I  promise.  I  just  can’t  find  it  now.  I  searched  everywhere.  The  dormitory  and  the  common  room,  but  it  just…it  doesn’t  seem  to  be  anywhere.  I’m  really  sorry.”

“And  you’re  quite  certain  you  didn’t  throw  it  out?”

He  shook  his  head.  “No,  Professor,  I’m  not  certain.  I  don’t  think  I  did.  I  think  I’d  have  been  afraid  to.  In  case  I  had  the  time  or  date  or  something  wrong.  But  I’m  not  sure.  I….”  He  took  a  deep  shuddering  breath.  It  was  all  he  could  do  to  keep  from  crying.

“I  see.  Well,  if  you’re  not  certain,  that  doesn’t  help  us  much,  does  it?”

He  stared  at  her.  He  had  absolutely  no  idea  what  she  was  talking  about.

She  didn’t  enlighten  him.

“Can  you  remember  what  it  said?”  she  asked.  “The  exact  wording,  I  mean.”

He  struggled  to  remember.

“It  said  he  hoped  I’d  enjoyed  the  Hallowe’en  feast  and  that  he  was  planning  a  post-Hallowe’en/pre-Bonfire  Night  breakfast  party  in  his  office  and  he  hoped  I  could  be  there.  And  Rose  too.  It  said  that  afterwards.  I  mean,  it  added  her  on  afterwards.”

“So  it  was  addressed  just  to  you?”

“Yes,  Professor.”

“Anything  else?”

“YES!”  He  just  remembered.  “There  was  a  P.S.  at  the  end,  saying  congratulations  to  Ravenclaw  on  winning  the  quiz.  We  had  a  quiz  in  class  on  Hallowe’en,”  he  explained.  “Us  against  the  Slytherins.  And  we  won.”

“I  assume  this  is  Potions  class  you’re  talking  about.”

“Yes,  Professor.”

“I  see,”  she  said  thoughtfully.  “All  right  Albus,  that’s  all  I  wanted  to  know.  If  the  note  does  turn  up,  I  want  you  to  bring  it  straight  to  me.  I  don’t  really  expect  that  it  will,  but  if  it  does,  I  want  to  see  it.  All  right?”

“Yes,  Professor.”

“You  may  return  to  your  common  room  now.”

He  didn’t  need  to  be  told  twice.  He  hurried  down  the  stairs,  almost  tripping  in  his  haste.  He  really  didn’t  want  to  answer  any  more  questions.


Chapter 10: The Chamber's Echo.
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Rose  and  Nathan  were  waiting  for  Albus  when  he  returned  to  Ravenclaw  Tower.

“Did  she  believe  you?”  Nathan  asked  worriedly.

He  nodded.  “Yeah,  thank  goodness.”

“What  did  she  say?”  Rose  asked.

“She  asked  if  I  was  sure  I’d  kept  it  and  I  said  I  wasn’t,  but  I  thought  I  had.  Then she  said  there  wasn’t  much  we  could  do  if  I  wasn’t  sure,  but  that  she  wanted  to  see  it  if  I  ever  found  it.  Oh,  she  also  asked  if  I  could  remember  exactly  what  it  said.”

“I  guess  she  wanted  to  see  if  there  were  any  clues  as  to  who  sent  it,”  Rose  said.

“I  guess.”  He  hadn’t  really  thought  of  that.  He’d  just  assumed  she’d  wanted  him  to  prove  it  existed.  “Oh!  I  should  write  and  tell  Dad  what  happened.  He  said I should  if  anything  else  odd  happened.  Remember?”  He  turned  to  Rose.

She  nodded.  “Are  you  going  to  do  it  right  now?”

“Yeah.  I  don’t  want  to  forget  anything.  Will  you  both  help  me?  You  know,  remind  me  if  I  forget  to  mention  anything.”

“Of  course,”  Nathan  said.

Albus  glanced  around  the  common  room.  There  was  no  way  they’d  have  any  privacy  there.

“Let’s  go  to  our  dormitory,”  he  said.

It  wasn’t  that  easy  to  slip  out  unnoticed.  Peeves  had  made  such  a  racket,  the  whole  school  seemed  to  have  seen  or  heard  of  the  graffiti.  Since  many  of  the  Ravenclaws  had  heard  what  Albus  said  to  Nathan  at  breakfast  or  seen  McGonagall  lead  Albus  and  Rose  to  her  office,  it  was  obvious  they  knew  something  and  everybody  was  anxious  to  know  what  it  was.

“Did  you  find  that  note  you  were  looking  for?”  Derek  asked. 

“Is  it  true  you  were  actually  there  when  the  graffiti  was  done?”  Dora  asked.

“No,  I  didn’t  find  the  note  and  no,  we  weren’t  there,”  Albus  said  tiredly.  “We  just  saw  it  afterwards,  that’s  all.”

“How  come  McGonagall  wanted  to  see  you  then?”  a  second  year  asked.  “I  saw  it  too  and  McGonagall  didn’t  call  me  to  the  office.”

“She  wanted  to  know  about  some  note,  didn’t  she?”  another  second  year  replied.  “I  heard  them  talking  about  it  at  breakfast.”

Please,  let’s  get  out  of  here,”  Albus  muttered.

Rose  turned  to  the  group  of  students  surrounding  them.

“Yes,  it  was  about  a  note.  Albus  got  one  yesterday,  asking  us  to  go  down  there  this  morning  and  McGonagall  wanted  to  try  and  find  out  who  sent  it,  in  case  they’d  written  the  graffiti.  That’s  all.”

“I  thought  Peeves  said…”

They  hurried  out  of  the  room  before  the  sentence  was  finished.

 “Would  people  ever  just  mind  their  own  business?”  Albus  said.

“At  this  school?”  Rose  said.  “Not  very  likely!  Come  on,  let’s  make  a  start  on  this  letter.”

Dear  Dad,  Albus  began.

You  asked  me  to  write  to  you  if  anything  else  strange  happened  here.  Remember,  you  said  that  when  I  told  you  I’d  been  sent  the  chocolate  cauldrons?

Well,  last  night,  Nathan  found  a  note  outside  Ravenclaw  Tower.  It  was  from  Slughorn,  or  at  least  it  said  it  was  from  Slughorn  and  it  invited  me  and  Rose  to  a  party  in  his  office  this  morning.  When  we  got  there,  there  was  nobody  there,  but  “Mudbloods  beware,  the  Dark  Lord  is  returning”  was  written  on  the  wall  in  red  ink.  It  looked  like  blood  at  first.

Peeves  caught  us  and  of  course,  he  called  Filch  and  told  him  we  did  it,  but  we  didn’t  get  in  any  trouble  because  McGonagall  arrived  and  told  Filch  we  wouldn’t  do  that.

Dad,  is  it  ABSOLUTELY  certain   Voldemort’s  dead?  Didn’t  you  say  everybody  believed  him  dead  before  and  that  the  Ministry  or  somebody  covered  it  up  when  he  returned?  Could  something  like  that  be  happening  again?

It  called  him  the  Dark  Lord.  Wasn’t  that  what  the  Death  Eaters  called  him?

He  paused  and  looked  up.

“Do  you  think  there  could  be  a  Death  Eater  at  Hogwarts?”  he  asked  quietly.  They  were  alone  in  the  dormitory  but  he  couldn’t  help  worrying  somebody  outside  might  overhear.

“I  really  doubt  it,”  Rose  said  thoughtfully.  “After  all,  it  would  have  to  be  one  of  the  staff,  right?”

“I  suppose  so.”

“Well,  Blackburn’s  the  only  new  teacher  this  year  and  she  is  way  too  young  to  have  been  a  Death  Eater.  I  doubt  she  was  even  at  Hogwarts  when  Voldemort  was  defeated.”

“It  wouldn’t  have  to  be  somebody  new,  though.  They  might  have  been  hiding  it  all  along,  until…”  He  trailed  off,  not  wanting  to  say  “until  they  knew  Voldemort  was  ready  to  return.”

“I  still  don’t  really  see  who  it  could  be.  Think  about  it.  Jones,  McGonagall  and  Hagrid  were  all  in  the  Order  during  the  last  war.  Flitwick  and  Slughorn  helped.  And  the  idea  of  Neville  being  a  Death  Eater  is  just  ridiculous.  Those  are  just  the  teachers  we  know,  but  I  doubt  the  others  are  much  more  likely.  Most  of  them  have  been  here  years.  It  must  be  hard  to  hide  something  that  long.  Something  huge,  like  allegiance  to  Voldemort,  I  mean.”

“I  suppose  so.” 

He  turned  back  to  the  letter,  really  hoping  she  was  right.

Rose  thinks  it’s  unlikely  there’s  a  Death  Eater  here,  he  continued.  She  says  most  of  the  teachers  have  been  here  years  and  probably  wouldn’t  have  been  able  to  hide  it  so  long  if  they  were.  Do  you  think  she’s  right?

Please  write  back  soon  and  tell  us  what  you  think.

Lots  and  lots  of  love,

Albus.

It  had  taken  them  a  long  time  to  write  the  letter,  as  they  kept  thinking  of  things  they’d  forgotten  to  include  and  changing  parts.  When  he  finally  finished,  Albus  read  through  it  again,  then  passed  it  to  Rose.

“Are  you  sure  we’ve  included  absolutely  everything  important?”  he  asked  her.

“Albus,  it’s  nearly  lunchtime.  If  we  don’t  send  it  off  now,  we’ll  have  to  leave  it  until…”

“No  way!  I  am  not  leaving  it  lying  around  where  anybody  can  find  it.  Besides,  I  want  him  to  get  it  as  soon  as  possible.”

“Then  you  need  to  send  it  off  right  now.  If  we’ve  left  out  anything,  he  can  write  back  and  ask  us.”

“Just  read  it  through  quickly  first.  Please.”

She  sighed.  “All  right.”

She  skimmed  through  it  quickly.

“It  sounds  fine.”

“Are  you  sure?  You’re  not  just  saying  that  so  I  won’t  be  late  for  lunch?”

“No,  I’m  not  just  saying  it,  but  honestly,  Albus,  we  already  missed  breakfast.  We  do  need  to  eat.  And  this  does  seem  to  cover  all  the  main  points,  so  let’s  go  to  the  Owlery  now  and  send  it  off.”

“Just  the  main  points?”

“It  covers  everything.  Look,  the  important  things  are  the  letter  and  what  the  graffiti  said  and  you’ve  included  all  that.  Come  on!”

He  folded  the  letter  carefully,  ignoring  her  impatience.

“Are  you  coming,  Nathan?”

He  shook  his  head.  “You  two  go  on.”

Wendelin  hooted  happily  when  she  saw  them.

“Sorry,  I  didn’t  come  up  earlier,  Wendy.  I’ve  a  really  important  letter  for  you  now.  Will  you  take  this  straight  to  my  dad  and  bring his reply back as  quickly  as  possible?  I’ve  a  treat  here  for  you  and  I  bet  Dad  will  give  you  another  one  when  you  get  home.  Or  Lily  will.”  He  grinned.  Lily  was  mad  about  Wendelin  and  just  a  little  jealous  she  hadn’t  an  owl  of  her  own  yet.  She’d  made  up  for  it  by  spoiling  Wendelin  rotten  the  last  couple  of  days  before  he’d  left  for  Hogwarts.

Wendelin  reached  out  a  leg  and  he  tied  the  note  to  it,  then  handed  her  the  treat,  which  she  took  before  flying  off.

“See,  we  won’t  be  late  for  lunch,”  he  said.

She smiled.  “All  right.  I’m  sorry  if  I  rushed  you,  but  honestly,  you’d  have  spent  the  rest  of  the  day  on  it,  given  the  chance.”

“I  just  wanted  to  be  sure  we  covered  everything.  Dad  might  have  some  idea  what’s  going  on  here.”

Once  everybody  had  assembled  in  the  Great  Hall,  McGonagall  stood  up  at  the  staff  table  and  flicked  her  wand.  A  ringing  noise  emerged,  silencing  the  chatter.

“Before  you  begin  eating,  I  need  to  speak  to  you  about  something  quite  serious.  As  many  of  you  may  know,  graffiti  was  discovered  on  one  of  the  castle  walls  this  morning.  Under  normal  circumstances,  this  wouldn’t  be  such  a  serious  issue.”  Her  mouth  tightened.  “I’m  afraid  to  say  graffiti  is  a  regular  problem  in  this  school  and  is  quite  a  source  of  annoyance  to  Mr.  Filch,  who  goes  to  a  lot  of  trouble  to  keep  the  castle  presentable.

“The  reason  I  am  speaking  to  you  so  seriously,  however,  is  that  this  graffiti  was  of  a  particularly  concerning  nature.  It  referred  to…”  She  took  a  deep  breath.  “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.  I  am  aware  that  none  of  you  were  alive  during  his  reign  of  terror,  which  is  something  you  should  all  be  thankful  for.  However,  those  of  you  from  wizarding  families  should  be  aware  of  the  atrocities  he  and  his  followers  committed.  Some  of  your  own  families  suffered  losses  at  their  hands  and  those  of  us  old  enough  to  remember  could  list  countless  names  who  should  be  with  us  today,  but  are  not.  This  is  not  something  to  joke  about.  Doing  so  is,  at  best,  very  hurtful  to  those  among  us  who've  lost  family  and  friends.”

She  glanced  around  the  hall.

“I  would  like  to  believe whoever  wrote  it  was  acting  out  of  thoughtlessness  and  ignorance  of  our  past  rather  than  malice.  However,  if  that  is  true,  it  cannot  be  allowed  to  continue.  Both  Professor  Jones  and  Professor  Binns  will  be  covering  the  history  of  the  war  with  all  years  over  the  next  couple  of  weeks  and  I  hope  you  will  all  treat  it  with  the  seriousness  that  it  deserves.

“I  can  also  assure  you  that  I,  and  the  other  teachers,  will  be  making  every  effort  to  find  out  who  wrote  this  and  I  am  advising  the  culprit  right  now  to  come  forward  and  admit  it  to  me  or  one  of  the  other  teachers.  You  can  do  this  in  complete  confidence  and  if  you  do, I  will  be  far  more  inclined  to  assume  it  was  simply  thoughtlessness  and  treat  it  leniently  than  if  I  am  left  to  find  out  by  other  means. 

“I  would  also  ask  that  if  anybody  knows,  or  even  suspects,  anything  at  all,  to  come  and  tell  one  of  the  teachers.  Again  it  will  be  in  complete  confidence  and  you  needn’t  worry  about  getting  anybody  innocent  in  trouble.  None  of  us  are  going  to  leap  to  conclusions.”

“Filch  would,”  Albus  muttered.

“But  McGonagall  wouldn’t  let  him,”  Rose  said.

McGonagall  looked  around  seriously.  “That’s  all  I  wanted  to  say.  You  may  begin  your  meal.”

The  room  was  silent  as  they  ate.  Her  words  had  reminded  everybody  of  a  far  more  frightening  time,  a  time  most  of  them  could  barely  even  imagine  and  didn’t  want  to.

Albus  wished  his  father  would  reply  to  his  letter  and  reassure  him.  The  thought  of  a  return  to  those  days  terrified  him.

“I  wonder  where  Blackburn  is.”  Dora’s  voice  finally  broke  the  silence.

Albus  looked  up.  “What?”

His  eyes  turned  to  the  staff  table.  Sure  enough,  Blackburn’s  place  was  empty.

“She  wasn’t  at  breakfast  either,”  Dora  said.  “Not  that  you’d  probably  know  that,  since  you  were  with  McGonagall.”

“Maybe  she’s  questioning  somebody  about  the  graffiti  or  something." Nathan sounded nervous.

“Maybe.”  Dora  didn’t  sound  convinced.

Albus  lost  interest.  She’d  probably  just  gone  home  for  the  weekend  or  to  visit  friends  or  something.  Neville  was  often  absent  at  weekends,  preferring  to  spend  them  with  his  wife  and  young  son  than  at  Hogwarts.  He  didn’t  really  care  where  she  was anyway.  Not  when  Voldemort  might  be  returning.

“Do  you  think  Dad  would  have  my  letter  yet?”  he  asked  Rose  quietly,  as  they  returned  to  their  common  room.

She  shrugged.  “I  doubt  it.  London’s  a  long  way  away.”

“I  suppose  so.”

The  common  room  was  almost  as  silent  as  the  Great  Hall  had  been.  Nobody  seemed  inclined  to  laugh  or  joke  as  they  usually  did  at  weekends. 

It  was  late  in  the  afternoon  when  Wendelin  returned.  Albus  grabbed  her  leg  too  quickly,  earning  himself  a  nip  on  the  hand.

“Ouch,”  he  said,  almost  automatically.  His  focus  was  on  the  letter  in  front  of  him.

Dear  Albus,

Before  I  say  anything  else,  I  want  to  reassure  you  on  one  point:  Voldemort  is  definitely  dead.  I  saw  him  die  myself,  saw  his  body  laid  out.  There  is  absolutely  no  doubt  on  this  point.

Albus  breathed  a  sigh  of  relief  and  reread  the  first  paragraph.  “Voldemort  is  definitely  dead.” 

‘Thank  goodness,’  he  thought.

He  read  on.

What  happened  when  I  was  a  baby  was  completely  different.  Voldemort  disappeared  back  then.  He  didn’t  die.  It  was  a  very  complicated,  and  thankfully  rare,  situation,  but  completely  different  from  what  happened  at  the  Battle  of  Hogwarts.  After  that,  there  is  absolutely  no  way  he  can  return.  That  isn’t  something  we  need  to  worry  about. 

That  said,  I  don’t  like  this.

You’re  right  that  “the  Dark  Lord”  is  what  the  Death  Eaters  called  Voldemort.  I  do  not  believe  there’s  a  Death  Eater  at  Hogwarts.  I  wouldn’t  say  it’s  impossible,  unlike  Voldemort  returning,  but  I  would  go  so  far  as  to  say  it’s  highly  UNLIKELY.  For  one  thing,  as  Rose  said,  it  would  be  hard  to  hide  it  completely.  All  the  teachers  were  vetted  carefully.  I’m  not  going  to  say  that  vetting  is  foolproof – not  after  some  of  the  teachers  I  had  at  Hogwarts – but they’d  have  to  have  a  good  cover  story  as  to  what  they  were  doing  at  the  time  of  the  war  and  then  avoid  giving  anything  away  in  all  the  years  that  have  passed  since.  It  could  be  done,  but  it  wouldn’t  be  easy.

And  if  somebody  did  succeed,  if  they  were  cautious  and  cunning  enough  to  evade  suspicion  for  so  long,  I  doubt  they’d  put  their  freedom  at  risk  simply  to  send  you  chocolates  laced  with  Swelling  Solution  or  write  a  message  on  a  wall.

However,  I’m  not  prepared  to  write  it  off  as  a  simple  prank.  The  use  of  the  term  “Dark  Lord”  and  the  similarities  with  the  time  the  Chamber  of  Secrets  was  opened  in  my  second  year  indicate  the  involvement  of  somebody  far  older  than  a  Hogwarts  student – probably  somebody  who  was  at  Hogwarts  or  who  was  aware  of  what  was  happening  there  in  1992.

It  may  still  be  a  student  who  did  it;  it  probably  was,  but  somebody  older  gave  them  the  information.

I  can’t  remember  how  much  I’ve  already  told  you  about  the  Chamber  of  Secrets,  so  I’ll  explain  it  briefly  here.  A  Basilisk  was  released  and  used  to  attack  Muggleborn  students.  I’m  not  going  to  go  into  details  about  exactly  what  happened  and  I  want  to  ask  you  not  to  bring  any  of  this  up  with  your  mother.  It  was  a  very  upsetting  year  for  her.

The  important  point  is  that,  at  Hallowe’en,  graffiti  appeared  on  the  wall,  warning  that  the  Chamber  had  been  opened.  Ron,  Hermione  and  I  were  coming  back  from  Nick’s  Deathday  party  and  stumbled  upon  it  and  also  on  Mrs.  Norris’s  petrified  body.  Filch,  of  course,  was  demanding  punishment.

“Just  as  he  did  with  us!”  Albus  looked  up  from  the  letter.

“WHAT?”  Rose  asked.

“Dad  was  just  talking  about  Filch  insisting  he  and  your  parents  be  punished.  You  can  read  it  as  soon  as  I’m  finished.”

“Well,  hurry  up,  then.”

He  returned  to  the  letter.

Of  course,  the  magic  was  far  too  complicated  for  second  years  to  perform.  Dumbledore  realised  that  immediately,  so  we  weren’t  blamed,  at  least  not  officially.  Some  of  my  fellow  students  were  far  more  inclined  to  blame  me! 

I’m  glad  you  didn’t  get  into  trouble  either,  though  I’m  not  surprised.  McGonagall  might  be  strict,  but  she’s  always  fair.  Don’t  ever  be  afraid  to  go  to  her  if  something  happens  and  you  can’t  contact  me  quickly  enough.

But  I  really  doubt  it’s  a  coincidence  that  you  and  Rose,  our  children,  were  the  ones  who  were  caught  standing  there.  Whoever  did  it  obviously  intended  that  to  happen,  possibly  hoping  you’d  be  blamed  or  possibly  just  to  mirror  the  events  of  1992.

I  don’t  want  to  frighten  you  here.  I'm  not  suggesting  for  a  moment  that  the  Chamber  has  been  opened  and  even  if  it  had  been,  it  wouldn’t  matter.  The  Basilisk  is  as  dead  as  Voldemort.  I  killed it  myself,  so  that  again,  is  something  I  have  absolutely  no  doubt  about.

What  worries  me  is  the  idea  of  somebody  remembering  those  attacks  on  Muggleborns  as  a  good  thing  and  either  commemorating  them   with  this  graffiti  or  gloating  about  them  to  their  son  or  daughter  or  niece  or  nephew  or  younger  brother  or  sister.  It’s  not  a  good  sign.

Keep  me  informed  of  anything  else  that  happens  and  don’t  worry  too  much,  but  be  careful  about  checking  who  sent  any  messages  or  parcels  you  receive. 

Your  loving  dad.

He  passed  the  letter  to  Rose  and  waited  impatiently  as  she  read  it.  He  really  wanted  to  discuss  it  with  her.  Having  to  wait  made  him  nervous.

“How  much  do  you  know  about  the  opening  of  the  Chamber?”  she  demanded  after  she  finished  reading.  “Apart  from  what  he’s  said  here,  I  mean.”

“Not  much.  I  mean,  I  know  there  was  a  Basilisk  down  there  and  that  my  dad  defeated  it  and  that  Lockhart…”

“I  thought  so,”  she  interrupted.  “My  parents  have  told  me  quite  a  bit  more.  Your  mum  was  bewitched  into  opening  it.”

“WHAT?”  That  was  possibly  the  most  startling  thing  he’d  heard  in  his  life.  His  mum  had  released  the  creature  which  could  have  killed  his  aunt.

She  nodded.  “It  wasn’t  her  fault.  Lucius  Malfoy  gave  her  this  diary  Voldemort  had  when  he was  at  school  and  he  somehow  appeared  out  of  it  and  bewitched  her.”

“Lucius  Malfoy,”  he  said  thoughtfully.  “This  has  to  be  Scorpius!”

“I  suppose  it  could  be.”

“His  father  was  at  school  with  Dad.  He’d  know  exactly  what  happened  and  of  course  he’d  be  gloating  about  what  his  granddad  did.  Lucius  Malfoy  is  probably  still  saying  what  a  pity  it  was  he  couldn’t  kill  any  of  them.”

Or  that  he  couldn’t  make  Albus’s  mother  kill  them.  Just  thinking  that  gave  Albus  a  funny  feeling  in  his  stomach.

What  would  have  happened  to  her  if  somebody  had  been  killed?  Would  she  have  been  sent  to  Azkaban? 

He  kind  of  wished  Rose  hadn’t  told  him  about  it.

She  seemed  to  be  still  thinking  about  what  he’d  said  about  Scorpius.

“It’s  a  pity  we  don’t  have  your  dad’s  map,”  she  said.  “It  would  make  it  so  much  easier  to  keep  an  eye  on  him.  We  haven’t  really  done  too  good  a  job  of  it  so  far.”

“I  know.”  He bit  his  lip.  He  felt  quite  sure  it  was  Scorpius,  but  he  doubted  they’d  ever  be  able  to  prove  it.

And  if  they  didn’t,  he  and  Rose  would  remain  under  suspicion,  just  as  their  parents  had  been.  Hadn’t  his  dad  said  that  some  of  the  other  students  had  blamed  him?

“There  has  to  be  some  way  of  catching  him  out,”  Rose  said  in  frustration.  “If  it  is  him,  that  is.  Leave  it  with  me.  I’ll  think  of  something.”


Chapter 11: Suspecting Scorpius.
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Binns’  class  on  the  war  was  just  as  boring  as  all  his  other  classes.  Albus  couldn’t  help  wondering  if  that  was  why  McGonagall  had  asked  Jones  to  teach  them  about  it  in  Defence  Against  the  Dark  Arts  too,  because  she  knew  nobody  would  listen  to  anything  Binns  taught.

“I’d  hoped  History  of  Magic  might  be  interesting  for  once.”  Derek  looked  at  Albus  apologetically  after  saying  this.  “Sorry,  I  know  it  must  have  been  awful  for  your  dad  and  everybody,  but  it  sounded  more  exciting  than  the  laws  and  dates  Binns  usually  reels  off.”

“I  know  what  you  mean,”  Albus  said.  “I’ve  already  heard  enough  about  the  war  to  last  me  a  lifetime,  but  I  still  think  it’ll  be  interesting  to  hear  what  Professor  Jones  has  to  say  about  it.  She  was  actually  involved,  you  know.  She  escorted  my  dad’s  uncle,  aunt  and  cousin  into  hiding.”

“Your  dad’s  relatives  had  to  go  into  hiding?”  He looked  amazed.

“Yeah.  It  was  a  war,  you  know.  And  they  were  Muggles,  so  they’d  have  had  absolutely  no  way  of  defending  themselves  against  magic.”  He  paused.  “I  don’t  really  know  much  about  what  happened  to  them.  My  dad  isn’t  close  to  them.  We  get  Christmas  cards  from  his  cousin,  but  that’s  about  it.  I’ve  never  met  them.”

“I’ve  just  thought  of  something,”  Rose  interrupted.

“WHAT?”  Albus  and  Derek  asked  in  unison.

She  looked  at  Derek  for  a  moment  before  saying  “let’s  go  back  to  your  dormitory.  I’ll  tell  you  both  there.”

Thankfully,  it  was  empty.

“What  is  it?”  Albus  asked.

She  paused  for  a  moment.

“Well,  you  know  how  we  were  thinking  about…well,  finding  something  out.”  She  turned  to  Derek.  “Albus  and  I  were  talking  about  the  graffiti  and  how  we  could  figure  out  who  did  it  and  well,  Albus’s  dad  said  it  reminded  him  of  something  that  happened  when  he  was  at  school.”

“Something  to  do  with  Voldemort?”  Derek  asked  nervously.

“Yes.  But  Albus’s  dad  says  he’s  definitely  dead,  so  we  don’t  have  to  worry  about  him  being  involved  in  this.  The  thing  is  Scorpius’s  grandfather  was  also  involved  and  he’s  still  alive.”

Albus  fidgeted  nervously.  He’d  been  the  one  to  suggest  the  connection,  but  now  he  couldn’t  help  thinking  his  mother  had  also  been  involved.  If  people  knew  that,  would  they  suspect  him  for  the  same  reasons  he  suspected  Scorpius?

Not  that  it  was  really  the  same  thing,  he  told  himself.  His  mother  wasn’t  Lucius  Malfoy.  She  hadn’t  chosen  to  be  involved  and  she  certainly  wouldn’t  use  words  like  Mudblood  or  Dark  Lord.  She  didn’t  speak  about  the  incident  at  all  and  his  dad  had  made  it  clear  she  really  didn’t  want  to.

But  he  still  hoped  Rose  wouldn’t  tell  Derek  that  part  of  the  story.

She  didn’t.  All  she  said  was  “so  I  think  we  should  watch  Scorpius  pretty  closely  during  Defence  class  and  try  and  talk  to  him  afterwards,  if  we  can.”

“Do  you  think  he  did  it?”  Derek  asked.

“We  don’t  know,”  Rose  said  quickly.  “But  he  might  know  something,  either  way.”

 “So  what  are  you  suggesting  we  do?”  Albus  asked.

“I  want  you  to  watch  him  as  closely  as  possible  in  class.  Try  and  sit  so  you  can  see  his  face.  I’ll  try  and  ask  some  questions  that  might  get  a  reaction.  Professor  Jones  wasn’t  teaching  back  then,  of  course  and  anyway  the  class  is  meant  to  be  about  the  whole  war,  not  just  what  happened  at  Hogwarts,  but  I’m  sure  I  can  think  of  something.”

“I’ll  watch  him  too,”  Derek  said.

Rose  smiled.  “Two  pairs  of  eyes  are  better  than  one,  I  guess.”

But  she  sounded  uncertain.




 “I  hope  it  wasn’t  a  mistake,  talking  about  that  in  front  of  Derek,”  she  said  afterwards.

Albus  shrugged.  “Why  would  it  be?”

“I  don’t  know.”  She  started  pacing.  “I  guess  even  if  he  was  involved,  I  didn’t  say  anything  that  could  do  any  harm,  right?  After  all, he  thinks  we  suspect  Scorpius,  so  that  might  be  good  if  it  was  him.  It’d  put  him  off  the  scent.”

“Why  would  Derek  be  involved?  He’s  a  Muggleborn,  Rose.  He’d  hardly  be  using  words  like… well,  you  know,  what  the  graffiti  called  them.  And  anyway,  my  dad  thinks  whoever  did  it  knows  all  about  the  Chamber  of  Secrets.  Where  would  Derek  have  heard  about  that?”

“In  a  book?”  she  said  doubtfully.  Not  many  books  would  include  details  like  Harry,  Ron  and  Hermione  seeing  the  graffiti  first.  She  sighed.  “I  just  can’t  help  thinking  it’s  a  mistake  to  trust  anybody  except  ourselves  here.”

“We  already  talked  to  Nathan.”

“That’s  different.  We  didn’t  tell  him  anything  he  couldn’t  find  out  anyway.  What  your  dad  wrote  is  different.  I  mean,  it’s  information  not  everybody  is  going  to  have.”

“I  really  don’t  think  Derek  is  involved,”  Albus  said  firmly.

“Nor  do  I,  really.  I’m  just  not  certain he  isn’t.  When  you  think  about  it,  Albus,  we’ve  no  idea  at  all  who  could  have  done  this.  All  we  can  say  is  they  probably  knew  somebody  at  Hogwarts  in  1992.  It’s  not  really  much  to  go  on.”

“I  really  don’t  think  we’re  going  to  find  out  anything  at  all,”  Albus  admitted.  “Even  if  it  was  Scorpius,  I  can’t  see  how  we’ll  prove  it.  If  anybody  finds  out,  it’ll  probably  be  the  teachers.”

If  it  was  Scorpius,”  Rose  teased.  “I  thought  you  said  it  had  to  be.”

He  squirmed.  He  didn’t  want  to  admit  he’d  been  thinking  people  could  blame  him  if  they  knew  what  his  mother’d  done  and  they’d  be  wrong,  so  mightn’t  he  be  too?

“Do  you  want  to  find  out  if  it’s  him?”  She  seemed  to  have  mistaken  the  reason  for  his  silence.

“Yes.  Yes,  of  course  I  do.  I  just  don’t  think  we’re  going  to  succeed,  that’s  all.”

“Well,  I  think  we’ve  got  to  try,”  she  said  seriously.  “Think  about  it.  There’s  somebody  at  this  school  who  thinks  attacks  on  Muggleborns  are  something  to  laugh  about.  Maybe  the  teachers  will  figure  out  who  it  is,  but  maybe  they  won’t.  And  we’ve  some  advantages  they  don’t.”

“Like  what?”

“Your  dad,  for  one.  He’s  an  Auror.  He  knows  things  teachers  probably  wouldn’t.  And  we’ll  hear  things  teachers  wouldn’t.  They  still  don’t  know  your  brother  nicked  those  fanged  Frisbees  from  Filch’s  office,  after  all,  but  I  think  every  student  in  the  school  knows  it.”

Albus  grinned  at  the  thought  of  his  brother’s  daring.

“Okay,  you’re  right.  We  should  try.”

He  still  wasn’t  convinced  they’d  succeed,  but  if  all  he  had  to  do  was  look  at  Scorpius’s  face,  he  was  willing  to  give  it  a  go.




It  wasn’t  quite  as  easy  as  he’d  expected.

“Albus  Potter,”  Professor  Jones  said  sternly,  about  ten  minutes  into  the  lesson.  “Please  stop  staring  across  the  classroom  and  look  up  here  at  the  board.”

“Yes,  Professor.”

“You,  of  all  people,  should  understand  the  importance  of  what  we’re  learning  today.”

“I  do,  Professor.  I’m  sorry.”

Rose  shot  him  a  sympathetic  look  across  the  room.

It  wasn’t  hard  to  focus  on  what  Professor  Jones  was  saying.  The  class  was  actually  really  interesting.  She’d  begun  begun  by  telling  them  of  Voldemort’s  disappearance  back  in  1981.

“As  those  of  you  from  wizarding  families  certainly  know,  and  even  you,  Derek  and  Angie,  have  probably  heard,  he  disappeared  after  failing  to  kill  Albus’s  father,  Harry  Potter.  For  years,  nobody  understood  exactly  what  had  happened  and  all  kind  of  theories  emerged.  However,  these  could  be  broadly  placed  in  two  categories:  those  who  believed,  or  wanted  to  believe,  that  Voldemort  was  gone  for  good  and  those  who  feared  he’d  return  some  day.”

Dora  raised  her  hand.

“Yes,  Dora.”

Albus  tried  to  sneak  a  glance  at  Scorpius  while  Professor  Jones  focussed  on  her.

“If  he  returned  after  everybody  thought  he  died  back  then,  couldn’t  he  do  it  again?”

Professor  Jones  shook  her  head.  “Everybody  didn’t  think  he’d  died  back  then.  Some  people  thought  he’d  died.  Harry  was,  and  still  is,  the  only  person  known  to  have  survived  the  Killing  Curse,  so  it  was  impossible  to  say  how  the  caster  might  be  affected.  And  of  course,  people  wanted  to  believe  him  dead  because  there  was  a  lot  of  fear  out  there.  That’s  what  we’re  trying  to  impress  upon  you  with  these  classes.  The  war  was  a  truly  horrifying  time  for  so  many  people.”

“But  that’s  what  I  meant.  If  people  wanted  to  believe  him  dead  so  much,  mightn’t  they  have  believed  it  even  if  he  wasn’t?”

Professor  Jones  looked  at  her  sternly.  “I  believe  I’ve  spoken  to  you  before  about  interrupting  when  others  are  speaking,  Miss  Nottingham.  In  my  class,  if  you  have  something  to  say,  you  raise  your  hand  and  wait  until  I  call  on  you.”

“Sorry,  Professor.”

“Voldemort  was  definitely  killed  at  the  Battle  of  Hogwarts.  Numerous  witnesses  saw  his  body.  Voldemort  was  a  talented  wizard.”  A  gasp  went  around  the  room.  “It’s  true.  Being  evil  doesn’t  prevent  somebody  from  being  talented  magically.  Unfortunately.  He  was  a  talented  wizard,  but  he  cannot  return  from  the  dead.  Nobody  can  do  that.”  She  paused.  “We  were  speaking  of  his  disappearance.  Does  anybody  know  what  happened  when  he  returned?”

She  glanced  in  Albus’s  direction. 

Realising  she  expected  him  to,  he  half-raised  his  hand.

“Yes,  Albus.”

He  took  a  deep  breath.  “It  was  during  the  Triwizard  Tournament.  My  dad  and  this  other  boy  won  and  they  grabbed  the  cup  at  the  end.  It  was  a  portkey  and  it  transported  them  to…to  where  Voldemort  was  waiting.  He…he  just  killed  the  other  boy,  because  well,  it  was  my  dad  he  wanted.”

She  nodded.  “Exactly.  He  killed  a  young  boy,  only  a  few  years  older  than  you  are  now,  not  because  he  opposed  him  or  threatened  him  in  any  way,  but  simply  because  he  wasn’t  needed.  That’s  how  callous  Voldemort  was.  Albus’s  dad  was  lucky  to  survive.  Had  things  happened  only  a  little  differently,  Albus  would  not  be  sitting  among  us  today.”

A  shiver  went  down  his  spine.  He  really  didn’t  like  being  reminded  how  easily  his  father  could  have  died,  how  easily  he  and  his  brother  and  sister  could  never  have  existed.

“And  Albus  isn’t  the  only  one.  Your  father,  Scorpius,  was  threatened  with  his  own  death  and  that  of  his  whole  family.”

“I  know  that,”  Scorpius  croaked.

Albus  glanced  at  Rose  in  amazement.  He  hadn’t  known  the  Malfoys  had  been  threatened.  Judging  by  the  look  on  her  face,  Rose  hadn’t  either.

But  he  was  supposed  to  be  watching  Scorpius.  He  turned  quickly  to  glance  at  him.  Scorpius  looked  pale  and  distracted,  as  if  he,  like  Albus  was  realising  just  how  close  he’d  come  to  never  being  born.

Albus  looked  away.  Suddenly  watching  him  seemed  slightly  wrong.

“It  wasn’t  only  deaths  either,”  Professor  Jones  continued,  apparently  oblivious  to  their  interplay.  “Once  Voldemort  took  power,  Muggleborns  were  rounded  up  and  forced  to  prove  they’d  at  least  one  wizarding  relative.  If  they  couldn’t,  they  were  placed  in  Azkaban  and  subjected  to  the  Dementors.

“During  the  year  he  was  in  control,  Muggleborns  were  banned  from  attending  Hogwarts.  Not  that  the  students  who  did  attend – the  purebloods  and  half-bloods – were  having  a  particularly  easy  time  either.  Death  Eaters  were  appointed  as  teachers.  They  taught  students  to  use  the  Dark  Arts  and  encouraged  them  to  practice  them  on  students  who  misbehaved.”

A  gasp  went  around  the  classroom.

“The  Cruciatus  Curse  was  routinely  used,  as  were  other  Dark  spells,  like  Sectumsempra.”

She  paused  for  a  moment,  allowing  them  to  digest  what  she’d  just  said.

Rose  raised  her  hand.

Jones  let  a  moment  pass  before  saying,  “Yes,  Rose.”

Rose  nodded  slightly  to  Albus  and  said,  “Professor,  what  happened  to  the  Death  Eaters  after  the  war?”

He  knew  this  was  his  cue.  He  needed  to  watch  Scorpius  carefully,  as  Professor  Jones  answered  this,  but  he  wasn’t  sure  he  wanted  to.  The  last  time  he’d  looked,  it  was  as  if  he’d  witnessed  something  very  private,  something  he  should  never  have  seen.

But  he  knew  he  had  to  do  it,  and  quickly.  He  couldn’t  miss  Scorpius’s  immediate  reaction.

Professor  Jones  paused  a  moment,  allowing  him  to  finish  arguing  with  himself  and  turn  his  head.

“That’s  a  complicated  question,  Rose.  A  lot of  them  went  to  Azkaban.”

Scorpius’s  expression  didn’t  change.

“The  Dementors,  of  course,  were  removed.  Can  anybody  tell  me  why  that  was?”

Scorpius  looked  up  and  seemed  to  catch  him  watching.  He  glared  at  him  and  Albus  quickly  looked  away.

Rasmus  had  his  hand  up.

“Yes,  Rasmus.”

“They  supported  the  Death  Eaters.”

“Yes.  That’s  why  there  are  no  Dementors  guarding  Azkaban  today.”  She  smiled  at  Derek  and  Angie.  “I  realise  I’m  using  a  lot  of  terms  you  may  not  be  familiar  with.  You’ll  learn  about  Dementors  in  more  detail  in  your  third  year.  For  the  moment,  suffice  it  to  say  they  are  Dark  Creatures  that  feed  on  human  emotion.  If  a  Dementor  appeared  in  the  classroom  right  now,  all  of  the  happiness  would  be  sucked  out  of  it.  We’d  be  forced  to  relive  some  of  the  worst  memories  of  our  lives.”

Albus  shivered.  He  didn’t  think  he  had  any  memories  that  were  all  that  horrifying,  but  the  thought  of  every  happy  thought  he  had  being  sucked  out  of  him  was  horrible.  He  remembered  his  father  telling  him  he’d  feared  them  more  than  Voldemort.

“I’ve  just  remembered  I  also  mentioned  some  spells  you  might  not  be  familiar  with.  The  Cruciatus  Curse  is  one  of  the  most  terrible  spells  in  existence.  It’s  a  form  of  torture  that  causes  almost  unbearable  pain  to  those  who  experience  it.  There  have  been  cases  of  people  being  tortured  into  insanity.”

Again  she  paused,  allowing  her  words  to  sink  in.

“I  would  not  normally  speak  to  you  so  seriously  when  you  are  so  young,  but  Professor  McGonagall  believes,  and  I  agree  with  her,  that  it’s  important  you  realise  just  what  your  parents  and  other  older  people  in  our  society  lived  through.  It  may  seem  a  long  time  away,  but  the  day  will  come  when  all  of  you  in  this  classroom  will  be  among  those  responsible  for  the  future  of  our  world  and  I  hope  you  will  continue  to  work  for  a  better  world,  just  as  we  have  been  doing  for  the  past  nineteen  years.  It’s  not  so  very  long  ago  that  prejudice  and  violence  almost  tore  our  world  apart  and  your  generation  has  to  be  as  vigilant  as  ours  must  be  to  ensure  that  such  a  thing  is  never  allowed  to  happen  again.   

“Can  anybody  tell  me  how  our  world  responded  to  Voldemort’s  return?”

Albus  raised  his  hand,  as  did  Rose  and  Rasmus.

“Albus?”

“Opinions  were  split.  Dumble…Professor  Dumbledore  believed  my  dad,  but  a  lot  of  other  people,  including  the  Ministry,  didn’t.  They  started  interfering  at  Hogwarts  and  trying  to  silence  Professor  Dumbledore  and  my  dad.”

She  nodded.  “As  I  said,  a  lot  of  people  had  faced  horrors  none  of  you  can  even  imagine  the  first  time  Voldemort  attempted  to  seize  power  and  many  couldn’t  face  the  idea  of  those  times  returning.  It  was  understandable,  but  it  made  things  even  more  difficult  for  those  who  were  trying  to  defeat  him,  as  we  had  to  work  in  secret.  Professor  Dumbledore  revived  an  old  organisation  called  the  Order  of  the  Phoenix  to  organise  resistance.”

Albus  felt  himself  begin  to  relax.  This  was  the  enjoyable  part,  hearing  about  the  Order  and  its  heroics,  rather  than  about  the  torture  and  murder  of  students.  However,  Professor  Jones  didn’t  seem  inclined  to  dwell  on  that  part.

“This  is  why  you  need  to  remain  vigilant  and  why  that  graffiti  caused  such  concern  to  those  of  us  who  lived  through  those  dark  times.  Words  may  seem  harmless  but  a  person’s  words  reflect  their  thoughts  and  it  was  thoughts  like  those  that  allowed  the  Death  Eaters  to  rise,  not  once,  but  twice.

“I  want  to  impress  upon  you  all  very  strongly  that  decent  witches  and  wizards  do  not  use  slurs  like  the  one  we  saw  on  that  wall.  Being  Muggleborn  is  nothing  to  be  ashamed  of  and  should  never  be  spoken  of  in  those  terms.”

Albus  turned  to  see  how  Scorpius  responded  to  this.  He  was  looking  down  at  his  desk.  Albus  wondered  if  he  was  ashamed.  Maybe  he  had   written  it;  maybe  they’d  been  right.

But  he  wasn’t  certain  anymore  and  he  didn’t  know  why  that  was.

Rose,  however,  seemed  determined  to  continue  with  their  plan.

“Come  on!”

She  led  him  over  to  Scorpius  after  they  left  the  classroom.   

“Hey  Scorpius.”

He  looked  around  warily.

“Yeah?”

“What’d  you  think  of  that  class?”

“What  do  you  mean  what  did  I think  of  it?”

“Learn  anything  interesting?  Or  did  you  know  it  all  already?”

Scorpius  exploded.  “Oh,  just  leave  me  alone!  I  know  exactly  what  you’re  hinting  at.  I’m  a  Malfoy;  I’m  probably  doing  Dark  rites  to  bring  back  the  Dark  Lord  or  something.  That’s  what  you  think,  isn’t  it?”  He  glared  at  Albus.  “Don’t  think  I  didn’t  see  you  watching  me  in  class!  What  did  you  think  I’d  be  doing?  Rubbing  my  hands  in  glee  at  the  thought  of  Death  Eater  murders?  Never  mind  that  my  dad  and  grandparents  could  easily  have  been  among  them!  You  probably  think  I’m  the  one  who  wrote  that  graffiti  too,  don’t  you?”

Albus  looked  away.

“You  DO  think  that.  Well,  let  me  tell  you,  I  have  never  used  that  word.  Why  would  I?  I  don’t  care  what  blood  anybody  has.  And  I  certainly  don’t  want  the  Dark  Lord  coming  back!  My  dad  still  has  nightmares  about  him.  I’ve  heard  him  and  Mum  talking  about  it.  But  what’s  the  point  of  telling  you  any  of  that?  You’ve  your  minds  made  up  already,  haven’t  you?  Just  like  half  of  our  stupid  world.  You  know,  sometimes  I  wish  I  was  a  Muggle.  At  least  then,  nobody’d  know  who  my  family  are  and  what  they  done.”

He  stormed  off,  without  waiting  for  an  answer

Albus  and  Rose  stared  at  one  another.  Albus  didn’t  know  about  Rose,  but  he  was  feeling  rather  guilty.  Scorpius  wasn’t  far  wrong  about  what  he’d  been  thinking.

“We’d  better  get  to  Charms.”   Rose  broke  the  silence  awkwardly.

“Oh,  yes,  yes,  of  course.”

They  didn’t  see  Scorpius  again  that  day.  Albus  wasn’t  sure  whether  to  be  relieved  or  worried.  He  didn’t  know  what  he’d  say  when  he  did  see  him,  but  until  he  did,  he  wouldn’t  know  how  much  he’d  hurt  him.

“Is  everything  all  right,  Albus?”  Neville  asked  after  Herbology.

Albus  scuffed  his  shoe  against  the  greenhouse  floor.

“Professor,  what  if  you’d  just  done  something  you  now  think  might  have  been  really  stupid?”

Neville  looked  at  him  in  confusion.  “I’d  need  a  bit  more  information  before  I  could  give  you  any  advice  on  that  one,  I’m  afraid.”

He  paused  for  a  moment.  He  wasn’t  sure  how  much  he  could  tell  Neville  without  getting  in  serious  trouble.

“Well,  I  said  something  to  someone…well,  not  exactly,  but  sort  of.  Anyway,  they  knew  what  I  meant  and..and  I  think  it  upset  them.  And  now  I  think  I  might  have  been  wrong.”  He  sighed.

Neville  smiled  and  shook  his  head.  “Oh,  Albus,  if  I’m  understanding  you  correctly,  you  are  just  like  your  father.”

Suddenly,  things  didn’t  seem  so  irredeemable.  If  there  was  one  thing  Albus  wanted,  it  was  to  be  like  his  father.

“He’d  a  habit  of  jumping  to  conclusions  too,”  Neville  continued.  “It  sounds  to  me  as  if  you  owe  somebody  an  apology.”

“But  what  if  they  won’t  listen?  I  really  don’t  think  he’s  going  to  want  to  hear  anything  I’ve  to  say.”

“Just  do  your  best.  Not  everybody  is  going  to  like  you,  Albus  and  not  everything  can  be  solved  immediately,  but  you’ll  never  know  until  you  try.”

“OK,  I’ll  try.  Thank  you,  Sir.”

“You’re  welcome.” 

Apologising  to  Scorpius  wasn’t  something  he  was  looking  forward  to,  but  Neville  was  right;  he  had  to  at  least  attempt  it.

The  thought  of  what  he’d  say  played  on  his  mind  all  evening,  but  he  woke  up  next  morning  very  little  the  wiser.  It  was  starting  to  worry  him.  They’d  Potions  with  the  Slytherins  third  lesson.  He’d  have  to  say  something  then. 

“Albus.”  Rose  nudged  him  at  breakfast.

“What?”

“Wendelin  is  waiting  there  with  a  letter  for  you.  Have  you  suddenly  gone  blind  or  something?”

“Oh,  right,  thanks.”

He  slowly  removed  the  letter.

It  was  from  his  dad.

Dear  Albus,

I  know  you’re  probably  busy,  particularly  now  the  term  is  moving  on  and  if  I  remember  correctly  from  my  own  days  at  Hogwarts,  the  classes  are  probably  getting  a  little  more  difficult,  but  your  mother’s  been  wondering  why  you  haven’t  written  to  her  yet  this  week.  I’m  not  scolding  you  here,  but  if  you  could  drop  her  a  line,  she’d  be  really  pleased.  She’s  starting  to  worry  there’s  something  wrong  and  I  know  that’s  not  true,  because  you’ve  obviously  been  able  to  write  to  me  and  Lily!

All  right,  lecture  over.  Life  is  pretty  boring  here.  Even  at  work. Being  an  Auror  sounds  exciting,  but  there’s  an  awful  lot  of  paperwork  and  routine,  which  as  you  know,  aren’t  exactly  my  favourite  parts  of  the  job.  I  suppose  I  should  be  grateful  though.  At  least  it  means  all  is  reasonable  well  in  the  world,  or  our  little  part  of  it  anyway.

Hope  you’re  having  a  good  time  and  not  worrying  too  much  about  that  graffiti  and  what  I  wrote  to  you.

Your  loving  father.

Albus  buried  his  head  in  his  hands  and  sighed.  He  seemed  to  be  doing  absolutely  everything  wrong  lately.  Whatever  about  Scorpius,  he  certainly  didn’t  want  to  hurt  his  mother.

“What  is  it?”  Rose  sounded  concerned.

He  passed  her  the  letter.

“Ah,  Albus,  why  haven’t  you  written  to  her?”

It  was  too  hard  to  explain.  His  father’d  asked  him  not  to  remind  her  of  the  Chamber  of  Secrets  and  just  about  everything  he  was  most  focussed  on  was  likely  to  do  so.  If  he  couldn’t  bring  up  the  graffiti,  then  he  couldn’t  talk  about  their  suspicions  of  Scorpius  or  yesterday’s  Defence  Against  the  Dark  Arts  class  or  McGonagall’s  serious  talk  to  them  on  Friday.  And  leaving  all  of  that  out  made  any  letter  he  tried  to  write  seem  like  a  fake.

“I’ll  write  to  her  this  evening,”  he  mumbled,  which  seemed  to  satisfy  her.

He’d  worry  about  what  he  was  going  to  write  later.  First  of  all,  he’d  an  apology  to  make.

He  stopped  Scorpius  in  the  corridor  after  Potions.

“Um,  Scorpius.”

Scorpius  folded  his  arms.  “What  now?”

“Um,  I  just  wanted  to  apologise…to  say  sorry,”  he  amended,  thinking  that  the  latter  sounded  more  genuine.  “You’re  right.  I  shouldn’t  have…well,  assumed  you  were  doing  anything  wrong.”

“Um,  thanks.”  Scorpius  sounded  surprised.

“OK,  well,  that’s  all  I  wanted  to  say.”

“OK.”

They  glanced  at  each  other  for  a  moment  longer  before  parting.

“What  was  that  all  about?”  Rose  asked.

“I  figured  we  owed  him  an  apology.  After  yesterday.”

She  thought  for  a  moment.  “Yeah,  you’re  probably  right.  If  you  told  me,  I’d  have  done  it  with  you.”

He  shrugged.  “Well,  it’s  done  now.”

“Yeah.”

Now,  he  just  had  to  write  to  his  mother.

“What  am  I  going  to  say  to  her,  Rose?”  he  asked  when  he  sat  down  to  write  the  letter  that  evening.

“She’s  your  mother,  Albus;  it  shouldn’t  be  that  difficult.”

“Yeah,  but  Dad  says  I  shouldn’t  remind  her,  you  know,  of  the  Chamber  of  Secrets  and  all,  so  that  doesn’t  leave  much  I  can  say.”

She  thought  for  a  moment.

“Write  about  Potions  and  how  Nathan  melted  his  cauldron.”

Albus  laughed  at  the  memory.  He’d  hardly  paid  any  attention  at  the  time,  as  he’d  been  so  busy  worrying  about  what  he  should  say  to  Scorpius,  but  now  he  thought  about  it,  it  had  been  pretty  funny.

“Slughorn  looked  so  utterly  disdainful.”  Rose  laughed.

That  was  just  why  Albus  didn’t  really  like  Slughorn.  If  a  student  wasn’t  talented  or  well-connected,  he  wasn’t  interested.

Dear  Mum,  he  began.

Sorry  I  haven’t  written  to  you  in  a  bit.  We’ve  been  pretty  busy  here.  The  teachers  are  piling  on  the  work.  I’ll  be  glad  to  get  home  for  Christmas.

That  paragraph  wasn’t  entirely  true.  He  had  been  busy,  but  it  wasn’t  only  with  class  and  nor  was  it  the  reason  he  hadn’t  written.  He  stifled  his  guilt  and  carried  on  writing.

Wait  until  you  hear  what  happened  in  Potions  yesterday.  I’m  not  sure  what  Nathan  did,  but  his  cauldron  suddenly  melted  and  the  potion  spilled  out  all  over  the  floor.  There  was  chaos  as  everybody  near  it  got  out  of  the  way.  Slughorn  looked  at  Nathan  like  he  was  stupid  or  something.  And  he’s  not.  He  knew  how  to  make  that  potion  perfectly.  He  didn’t  have  to  check  his  notes  once,  unlike  me!  I  don’t  think  Slughorn  likes  Nathan  much.

Once  he’d  started,  the  letter  wasn’t  so  difficult.


Chapter 12: What the Portraits Saw.
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Disclaimer: Everything you recognise in this story, including the portraits, the ghosts, the main characters, Hogwarts itself, etc is the property of JK Rowling. No copyright infringement is intended. 


 “But  if  it  isn’t  Scorpius,  who  could  it  be?”  Albus  wondered.

Rose  shrugged.  “We  don’t  actually  know  it  isn’t  Scorpius.  We  just  don’t  know  it  is.”

He  waved  the  distinction  aside.  He  wanted  to  know  it  was.  Scorpius  was  a  first  year  who  hadn’t  the  magical  ability  to  do  him  much  harm  and  probably  wouldn’t  even  really  want  to.  Even  if  he  was  a  Malfoy,  Albus  couldn’t  imagine  Scorpius  trying  to  kill  him.  Besides  just  knowing  who  to  blame  was  reassuring.  Having  absolutely  no  idea  who  could  be  sending  him  poisoned  chocolates  and  threatening  Voldemort’s  return  was  far  more  frightening.

Not  that  they  even  knew  the  two  things  were  connected,  but  he  really  hoped  they  were.  Otherwise  there  might  be  two  people  at  Hogwarts  who  hated  him.

“Whoever  wrote  it  probably  sent  those  chocolate  cauldrons  as  well,  right?”  He  hoped  she’d  reassure  him.

She  thought  for  a  moment.

“It  seems  likely,  but  I  don’t  think  it’s  certain.  That  could  just  have  been  some  idiot’s  idea  of  a  joke,  you  know.”

“Don’t  you  think  they’d  have  given  themselves  away  by  now,  if  it  was?  It’s  not  like  it’s  easy  to  keep  anything  secret  in  this  place.”

“That’s  true,”  she  said  thoughtfully.  “Not  just  about  the  Swelling  Solution,  but  the  graffiti  as  well.  Somebody  must  have  been  out  and  about  pretty  early  to  have  written  it  before  we  got  up.  You’d  think  somebody’d  have  noticed.  Unless  they’d  an  invisibility  cloak.  I  know  they’re  rare,  but…”

Something  occurred  to  him.

“Remember  when  Peeves  called  Filch  and  you  said  that  if  he  didn’t  tell  Filch,  somebody  else  would,  because  the  portraits  or  the  ghosts  would’ve  seen  us?”

“Yes.”

“Well,  maybe  that’s  what  we  should  do – question  the  portraits  near  Slughorn’s  office  and  maybe  the  ghosts  as  well.”

“That’s  not  a  bad  idea.”  She  thought  for  a  moment.  “Though  McGonagall  has  probably  already  done  it.”

He  sighed.  “I  suppose  so.”

“Still,  it  is  worth  a  try,  especially  since  we’ve  no  better  ideas.  Oh,  except  I’m  going  to  look  up  the  Chamber  of  Secrets  in  the  library,  see  what  I  can  find  out.”

“Why?”  He  was  alarmed.  “Dad  said  he  doesn’t  think  it’s  been  opened  again  and  the  Basilisk  is  dead  anyway.”

“I  know,  but  something  about  it  might  give  us  a  clue.  Somebody  seems  to  have  gone  to  a  lot  of  trouble  to  copy  it.”

“You  think  there’s  a  reason  for  that?”

“I  don’t  know,  but  at  the  very  least,  we  might  get  some  information  about  who  was  there.  Or  just  who  to  rule  out.  I  think  anybody  who’d  relatives  petrified  is  pretty  unlikely,  don’t  you?  I  mean,  you  wouldn’t  make  a  joke  of  something  that  could  have  killed  your  mother  or  somebody  like  that.”

“No,  I  suppose  not,”  he  said  quietly.  He  guessed  she  was  thinking  of  her  own  mother.

McGonagall  was  right.  There  was  nothing  funny  about  Voldemort  or  the  war.  If  he’d  had  his  way,  Albus  and  many  of  the  people  he  knew  would  never  have  even  existed.

There  was  silence  between  them  for  a  moment,  before  he  asked,  “so  what  are  we  going  to  do  first?”

 “Well,  the  easiest  thing  would  be  to  ask  Nick  or  the  Grey  Lady,  but  I’m  not  sure  they’d  know  anything.  The  portraits  would  probably  be  more  helpful.”

“I’m  not  asking  the  Bloody  Baron’s  anything,  though,”  he  said,  remembering  how  close  his  portrait  was  to  the  Potions  classroom  and  Slughorn’s  office.

She  shivered.  “Me  neither.  We’ll  have  to  do  without  his  input,  unless  Nick  would  ask  him  for  us.”

“I  doubt  it.  I  think  he’s  as  scared  of  him  as  we  are.  Dad  said  so  sometime.”

She  laughed.  “We’ll  just  forget  him,  so.  I  doubt  he’d  help  us  anyway,  but  there  must  be  other  portraits  that  might  have  seen  something.”

“We  should  talk  to  Nick  and  the  Grey  Lady  too.  Even  if  they  don’t  know  anything,  they  might  be  able  to  find  out.  They’d  hear  things  from  the  other  ghosts.”

“True.  We’ll  talk  to  them  as  well,  but  I  think  we  should  start  with  the  portraits.  We  could  go  right  now?”

“OK.”

He  didn’t  usually  even  notice  the  Bloody  Baron’s  portrait,  but  now  that  he’d  thought  of  it,  it  made  him  nervous.  What  would  the  Baron  think  of  their  questions  if  he  overheard  them?

Rose  seemed  to  have  no  such  anxieties.

“Ms.  Burke?”  she  addressed  one  of  the  portraits.

A  haughty  looking  woman  glanced  down  at  her.

“Yes?”

“We  were  just  wondering  if  you  knew  anything  about  the  graffiti  that  was  painted  here  a  week  or  so  ago.”

“And  why  should  I  know  anything  about  that?”

“Well,  just  because  you’re  here  in  the  corridor.  We  thought   you  might  have  seen  somebody  pass.  Or  heard  something.”

“If  I  had,  it’d  be  your  teachers  I’d  tell  about  it,  not  a  mere  student  and  probably  a  first  year  at  that.”

Rose  didn’t  reply.  Albus  guessed  she  didn’t  want  to  confirm  the  woman’s  impression.

“That  is,”  Elizabeth  Burke  continued,  “if  I  chose  to  tell  anybody  at  all.”

“But  surely,  whoever’s  insulting  Muggleborns  and  talking  about  Voldemort’s  return  should  be  stopped.”  Rose  was  scandalised.

“That  rather  depends  on  your  point  of  view,  doesn’t  it?  Our  world  hasn’t  always  been  so  obsessed  with  Muggleborns  and  their  supposed  ‘rights’.”

Rose  glared  at  her  and  strode  purposefully  down  the  corridor.

“Come  on,  Albus.  She’s  obviously  a  bigot.”

He  hurried  to  catch  up  with  her.  Behind  them,  Elizabeth  Burke  laughed.

“Can  you  believe  that,  Albus?  Muggleborn  rights  weren’t  always  an  obsession?  What’s  obsessive  about  thinking  people  should  be  treated  as  actual  human  beings  regardless  of  what  abilities  their  parents  had?  Ugh,  that  is so  horrible.”

“I  know,”  he  replied  quietly.

He  hadn’t  liked  Elizabeth  Burke  either.  If  she  hadn’t  been  a  portrait,  he  thought,  she’d  make  a  pretty  good  suspect  herself,  but  as  it  was,  he  guessed  she  was  in  the  clear.

“Do  you  think  she  knows  something  though?”  he  asked.  “I  think  she’d  probably  help  the  person  if  she  could.  I  know  she  can’t  leave  the  frame,  but  she  could  have  kept  an  eye  out  or  something.”

“It’s  possible.  But  if  she  did,  I  really  don’t  think  she’ll  give  the  person  away.  Unless  we  could  trick  it  out  of  her.”

“We  couldn’t,”  he  said  glumly.  “She’s  had  centuries  of  practice  at  hiding  things  and  we  don’t  have  much  at  catching  people  out.”

“Always  the  optimist,  aren’t  you?”

He  didn’t  reply.

“Ah,  come  on,  Albus.  I’m  only  teasing  you.  Let’s  forget  Elizabeth  Burke  for  a  while.  There  are  other  portraits  to  talk  to.

They  walked  the  corridor  and  some  of  the  adjoining  ones,  asking  the  same  questions.  Some  of  the  portraits  saw  nothing,  some  refused  point-blank  to  answer,  saying  they’d  already  told  the  teachers  what  they  knew  or  that  they’d  no  intention  of  answering  the  same  questions  for  the  tenth  time.

Finally,  however,  a  portrait  of  Circe  responded,  “well,  I  saw  you  two,  but  I’m  guessing  you’re  interested  in  what  happened  before  that.”

“Yes,  it’s  earlier  we’re  wondering  about.”

“I  can  tell  you,  but  I  doubt  it’ll  help  you  much.  Whoever  it  was  had  a  hooded  cloak  on.”

“And  the  hood  was  pulled  up?”  Rose  asked.

“Yes.”

Albus  shivered.  Images  of  hooded  Death  Eaters  and  Dementors  filled  his  head.

He  knew  Rose  would  say  he  was  being  ridiculous. 

“Of  course  they’d  wear  a  hood,”  she’d  say.  “Obviously,  they  wouldn’t  want  to  be  recognised.”

“And  they  were  heading  towards  Slughorn’s  office?”  she  asked  now.

“Well,  I  can’t  say  exactly  where  they  were  going,  of  course,  but  yes,  they  definitely  turned  into  that  corridor.”

“I  suppose  there’s  no  point  in  asking  anybody  else  now,”  Albus  said  dispiritedly.  “If  they’d  a  hood  up,  nobody’s  going  to  recognise  them.”

“You  never  know,”  Rose  said.  “Even  with  a  hood  up,  you  can  tell  a  certain  amount  about  a  person.”  She  turned  back  to  Circe.  “Were  they  tall  or  short?”

“Shortish,  I’d  say.  I  didn’t  really  pay  much  attention.  If  they  hadn’t  had  a  hood  up,  I  doubt  I’d  have  taken  much  notice  of  them,  although  it  was  rather  early  for  anybody  to  be  around.  I  assumed  it  was  a  student,  up  to  no  good,  because  of  how  they  were  hiding  their  identity.”

Rose  sighed.  “That’s  the  problem.  People  are  always  acting  suspiciously  in  school,  so  nobody  pays  any  attention.  I  don’t  suppose  you  could  tell  whether  it  was  a  girl  or  a  boy?”

“I’m  afraid  I  couldn’t.  Like  I  said,  I  didn’t  pay  all  that  much  attention,  beyond  wondering  what  mischief  they  might  be  contemplating.”

“One  last  question.  Do  you  remember  what  time  this  was?  Was  it  long  before  we  passed?”

She  thought  for  a  moment.  “It  was  a  while,  but  I  wouldn’t  say  all  that  long.  Less  than  an  hour,  I’d  say.  I  remember  thinking  there  was  a  lot  of  activity  for  a  Sunday  morning.  Sorry  I  can’t  be  any  more  specific.”

 “Thanks  anyway.” 

“You’re  welcome.”

“So  it  was  a  student,”  Albus  said,  once  they  were  out  of  earshot.  He  was  relieved.  At  least  a  student  was  unlikely  to  be  a  Death  Eater  or  an  enemy  of  his  father’s  out  for  revenge.

“Well,  probably,”  Rose  said  thoughtfully.

He  glanced  at  her.  “Do  you  think  she  might  be  wrong?”

“I  think  she  saw  a  cloaked  figure;  that’s  all.  She  thought   they  were  shortish,  but  people  see  what  they  expect  to  and  she  was  expecting  a  teenager.  Shortish  is  pretty  vague  anyway.  A  lot  of  adults  are  shortish.  Look  at  Flitwick!”

“But  you  don’t  think…”

“No,  I  don’t  think  Flitwick  goes  around  daubing  pro-Death  Eater  slogans  on  walls!  And  I  think  she’d  describe  him  as  short,  rather  than  just  shortish,  but  she  was  pretty  vague.  I’m  not  sure  what  she  said  helps  us  at  all,  really.  Except  to  confirm  that  the  graffiti  was  very  likely  for  our  benefit  and  the  note  already  told  us  that  really.”

“You  mean  because  it  was  done  shortly  before  we  got  there?”

She  nodded.  “They  obviously  wanted  to  be  sure  nobody’d  see  it  before  us,  but  still  wanted  to  make  sure  they  were  gone  before  we  arrived.  Come  on,  let’s  ask  a  few  more  questions.”

“Who’ll  we  ask  now?”

“Let’s  try  some  of  the  portraits  on  the  main  staircase.  They  might  be  able  to  give  us  some  indication  which  way  the  hooded  figure  came.”

They  didn’t  find  out  much  more.  A  couple  of  other  ground  floor  portraits  had  seen  the  hooded  figure,  but  none  could  say  for  sure  which  way  it  had  come.

“Maybe  we  should  ask  the  Fat  Lady,”  Albus  suggested.  “She  might  be  able  to  tell  us  if  it  was  a  Gryffindor.”

“Good  idea.  Let’s  go.”  She’d  already  started  off  in  the  direction  of  Gryffindor  Tower.

The  Fat  Lady  eyed  them  suspiciously.

“Don’t  even  try  to  convince  me  you’re  Gryffindors.”

“We  weren’t  going  to,”  Rose  assured  her.  “We  just  wanted  to  know  if  a  hooded  figure  left  Gryffindor  Tower  on  Sunday,  the  fifth  of  November.”

“A  hooded  figure?  No,  certainly  not.  Why  would  you  think  that?”

“We  were  just  wondering.  One  was  seen  in  the  main  school  building.  Were  any  Gryffindors  out  of  their  tower  that  night?”

“Now  that  I  couldn’t  tell  you.  Students  are  sneaking  in  and  out  virtually  every  night.  I  can’t  keep  track  of  them.”

“This  would  have  been  about  six  or  seven  in  the  morning.”

“Not  really  night  time  then?”

“I  suppose  not,  but  surely  an  unusual  time  for  students  to  leave  on  a  Sunday  morning.”

“I  don’t  know.  The  Quidditch  team  are  sometimes  up  that  early  to  practice  and  your  brother  has  slipped  out  at  a  few  strange  hours,  young  man.”

“I’m  not  surprised.  But  you  can’t  tell  us  anything  at  all  about  that  night?”

“I’m  afraid  not.”  She  sounded  a  little  impatient  and  he  figured  she’d  said  all  she  was  willing  to.

“OK.  Thanks  for  your  help,”  he  said.

She  inclined  her  head  graciously  at  them,  but  said  no  more.

He  felt  dispirited.  She  hadn’t  even  helped  them  rule  out  the  Gryffindors.  Just  because  they  hadn’t  a  hood  up  when  they’d  left  didn’t  mean  they  couldn’t  pull  one  over  their  head  later.

“There’s  still  the  ghosts  to  talk  to,”  Rose  reminded  him.  “And  I need  to  look  up  the  Chamber  of  Secrets.”

“Yeah,  you  do  that.”  He’d  no  enthusiasm  whatsoever  for  that  task.  He  couldn’t  imagine  what  information  they’d  get,  reading  about  the  events  of  twenty-five  years  ago,  especially  when  they  didn’t  even  really  know  what  they  were  looking  for.  “It’s  like  looking  for  a  needle  in  a  haystack,”  he  added  on.

“What  do  you  mean?”

“All  this  hunting  for  clues.  We  don’t  really  know  what  we’re  looking  for.  We’re  just  asking  questions  and  looking  up  information,  hoping  something  will  help  us.”

She  sighed.  “I  guess  you’re  right.  Whoever  is  doing  this  has  hidden  their  tracks  pretty  well.  But  they’ll  have  to  slip  up  sooner  or  later.  People  always  do.”

He  wasn’t  so  sure.  Did  every  mystery  get  solved  eventually?  He  rather  doubted  it.  And  he  was  beginning  to  think  this  might  be  one  of  those  that  wasn’t.

Not  that  he  intended  giving  up.  They  hadn’t  spoken  to  the  ghosts  yet.  Maybe  they’d know  something  useful.

He  saw  Nick  in  the  corridor  the  following  day  and  hurried  to  speak  to  him.

“Um,  Sir  Nicholas?”

“Albus,  good  to  see  you.  How  are  you?”

“Fine.  Um,  can  I  ask  you  something?”  he  said  quickly.

“Go  right  ahead.  I  can’t  guarantee  I’ll  be  able  to  answer,  of  course,  but  I’ll  do  my  best.”

“Well,  you  remember  the  graffiti  on  the  fifth  of  November?”

“It  wouldn’t  be  easy  to  forget  it.  Professor  McGonagall  has  spoken  to  us  ghosts  more  than  once  about  what  we  saw  that  night.”

“And  what  did  you  see?”  he  asked  eagerly.  “If  you  don’t  mind  telling  me,  that  is.”

“Well,  I  didn’t  see  anything  myself,  I’m  afraid,  but  we’ve  discussed  it  a  little  among  ourselves…”

“And?”

“It  isn’t  much.  The  Grey  Lady  said  she  saw  a  hooded  figure  passing  early  that  morning,  but  she’s  not  sure  exactly  when  and  a  couple  of  ghosts  claim  to  have  heard  someone  in  Professor  Blackburn’s  office  that  morning.”

The  first  piece  of  information  was  old  news,  but  the  second  he  hadn’t  heard  before.

“Is  that  unusual?”

“Well,  it  was  Sunday  morning.  Your  teachers  look  forward  to  a  break  as  much  as  any  of  you,  you  know.  It’s  certainly  not  unheard  of  for  them  to  catch  up  on  some  correcting  at  the  weekends,  but  I’d  say  first  thing  Sunday  morning  is  a  little  unusual.”

“What  do  you  think,  Ni…I  mean  Sir  Nicholas?  Do  you  think  she’s  involved?”

The  ghost  shook  his  head.  “I’d  need  a  little  more  evidence  than  that.  It’s  a  coincidence,  probably  nothing  more.”

“But  it  could  be  something  more,  couldn’t  it?”

“Well,  it  could,  but  I’d  say  it’s  unlikely.  I  really  don’t  think  Professor  Blackburn  goes  around  scribbling  messages  on  walls.”

“And  yet  you  told  me  about  it.”

“Because  I  don’t  know.  Like  I  said  I  don’t  think  she’d  do  that,  but  how  can  I  be  sure?  Stranger  things  have  happened  at  Hogwarts  in  the  past.”

“So  you  think  there  is  something  serious  going  on  here,  not  just  a  prank?”

“I  don’t  know,  Albus,  honestly.  I  know  your  teachers  are  very  concerned  about  it  and  I  understand  why.  Personally,  I’d  guess  it  was  done  by  the  kid  of  some  pureblood  fanatic,  but  I’ve  been  wrong  before.  You  don’t  get  to  my  age  without  learning  to  reserve  judgement.”

“Thanks  Sir  Nicholas.  You’ve  been  a  great  help.”  He  spoke  without  enthusiasm.  What  Nick  had  said  was  helpful.  It  could  prove  to  be  the  key  to  the  whole  mystery.  He  just  wasn’t  sure  he  liked  it.  If  Blackburn  was  involved,  this  was  more  than  a  joke  or  even  somebody  trying  to  scare  them.  He  wasn’t  sure  what  her  motivation  could  be,  but  it  was  bound  to  be  something  serious.

Nick  smiled  at  him.  “Any  time.  Your  father’s  always  been  a  good  friend  to  me  and  if  I  can  help  his  son  in  any  way,  I’m  more  than  happy  to.  All  you  have  to  do  is  ask.”

“Thanks  again,  Ni…Sir  Nicholas.”

Albus  hurried  away.  He  had  to  find  Rose.  For  the  first  time  in  ages,  he  actually  had  some  relevant  information  and  she  hadn’t  been  there  to  hear  it.

He  found  her  in  the  library.

“Rose,”  he  whispered  urgently. 

She  looked   up.

“What  is  it?”

“I  need  to  talk  to  you.  Right  now.”

Rose  glanced  at  the  librarian,  Madame  Pince.

“Well,  we  can’t  really  talk  here.  Come  on.”  She  closed  the  book  she  was  reading.

“I  was  looking  up  some  information  about  the  Chamber  of  Secrets,”  she  said  as  they  left  the  library.

“I’ve  found  out  something  too.”  He  glanced  around  for  somewhere  private  they  could  talk.  “Do  you  think  we  could  use  the  Charms  classroom?”

“I  don’t  see  why  not.  You  know  Flitwick.  So  long  as  we  leave  the  place  tidy,  I  don’t  think  he’d  mind  us  talking  in  there.”

They  entered  the  classroom  and  sat  down.

“I  was  talking  to  Nick,”  Albus  began.

“Yeah?”

 “He  says  some  of  the  other  ghosts  heard  somebody  in  Blackburn’s  office  the  morning  the  graffiti  was  done.”

Her  eyes  widened.  “But  Dora  said  Blackburn  was  away  that  morning.  You  don’t  think…no,  I  don’t  suppose  so.”

“WHAT?”

“I  was  just  wondering  if  it  might  have  been  somebody  else  in  her  office.  I  just  can’t  think  why  anybody  else’d  be  in  there.  Unless  whoever  did  the  graffiti  was  nearly  seen  and  had  to  hide.”

“Or  maybe  Professor  Blackburn  wasn’t  away  that  morning  at  all!”

She  nodded.  “In  which  case,  we’ve  got  to  ask  why  she  wasn’t  at  breakfast.”

“She  might  just  have  had  a  lot  of  correcting  to  do  or  something,”  he  said  doubtfully.  “It’d  explain  why  she  was  working  so  early  and  maybe  even  why  she  missed  breakfast.”

“And  lunch?”  Rose  was  sceptical.  “It  must  have  been  an  awful  lot  of  correcting.  I  suppose  she  might  have  been  away  Sunday  and  wanted  to  get  her  correcting  done  first  or  something,  but  I  think  we’ve  reasonable  grounds  to  be  suspicious.”

He  grinned  at  her  serious  tone.  “But  what  can  we  do  about  it?  I  mean,  she’s  a  teacher.  We  can’t  follow  her  or  ask  her  questions.  We’d  get  in  awful  trouble.”

“Depends  how  we  did  it.  I  agree  we  can’t  follow  her,  but  that  doesn’t  mean  we  can’t  find  anything  out.  I’ll  check  some  more  books  for  a  start.  See  if  I  can  find  any  connection  between  her  and  past  events.  And  Slughorn  might  know  something.”

“Slughorn?”

“He  knows  who  everybody  is  and  he  likes  to  talk  about  them.  And  if  she  was  at  Hogwarts  herself,  he  probably  taught  her  and  maybe  her  parents  too.  He’s  old  enough.”

“I  suppose  so.”  He  remembered  the  research  she’d  been  doing.  “Did  you  find  anything  out  about  the  Chamber  of  Secrets?”

“I’ve  been  making  a  list  of  the  victims.  I’m  going  to  continue  on  with  it,  but  right  now,  I  think  your  information  is  more  helpful.  It  might  mean  nothing  of  course,  but  it  definitely  bears  looking  into.”

Doing  so,  however,  turned  out  to  be  easier  said  than  done.  Much  as  Slughorn  liked  talking  about  the  people  he  knew,  even  he’d  probably  get  annoyed  if  they  just  went  up  to  him  and  asked  “hey  did  you  teach  Professor  Blackburn  when  she  was  at  school  or  do  you  know  her  parents?”  It  required  a  rather  more  subtle  approach.

As  a  result  November  passed  without  their  finding  out  any  more.  Rose  continued  her  research  into  the  Chamber  of  Secrets  and  she  also  began  searching  for  any  information  on  the  Blackburn  family,  but  the  latter  came  up  blank.

“If  any  Blackburns  have  been  involved  in  anything  unsavoury,”  she  told  Albus,  “they’ve  done  a  pretty  good  job  of  keeping  it  quiet.”

He  hadn’t  really  expected  her  to  find  anything.  As  he’d  said  before,  they  were  really  looking  for  a  needle  in  a  haystack.


Chapter 13: The Empty Inkwell.
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Dislaimer: Hogwarts, many of the characters, the Slug Club and everything related to Harry Potter belongs to J.K. Rowling. Alice in Wonderland and the underlined quote from it belong to Lewis Carroll. No copyright infringement is intended.

The  mystery  continued  to  occupy  much  of  Albus’s  attention  into  December.  Between  that  and  his  schoolwork,  he  hardly  noticed  Christmas  approaching  until  James  visited  the  Ravenclaw  table  after  breakfast  one  Saturday  morning.

“Bet  you  wish  you  were  in  third  year  today,  little  bro.”

Albus  stared  at  him.  “Why?”

“Last  Hogsmeade’s  trip  before  Christmas!  All  the  girls  are  planning  on  getting  some  Christmas  shopping  done.”  He  rolled  his  eyes.  “Hope  you’re  not  expecting  me  to  get  your  present.  I’ve  far  more  interesting  plans  for  my  time.”

“It  wouldn’t  kill  you  to  get  him  something  decent,”  Rose  put  in.  “He  went  to  a  lot  of  trouble  finding  that  Quidditch  annual  for  you  last  year  and  I  know  for  a  fact  it  was  your  parents  bought  those  chocolates  you  gave  him  and  Lily.  You  could  get  her  something  today  too.  You  know  she’d  love  something  from  Hogsmeade.”

“You  know,  Rose,  you  may  be  only  twelve,  but  sometimes  you  sound  like  somebody’s  mother.  Lighten  up  for  God’s  sake.”

“And  get  owls  home  for  blowing  up  other  people’s  cauldrons  in  Potions.  We  all  know  how  Slughorn  favours  our  family.  You  must  have  been  causing  major  chaos  to  get  in  trouble  with  him.  I’m  surprised  your  mum  didn’t  send  you  a  Howler.  Mine  definitely  would’ve.”

James  shrugged.  “It  was  worth  it.  That’s  your  problem,  little  cousin;  you  take  life  way  too  seriously.”

He  sauntered  off.

She  exhaled  loudly  with  irritation.

 “Honestly,  Albus,  your  brother!”

“Never  mind  him,”  he  said,  hoping  to  change  the  subject.  Rose  and  James  had  never  been  able  to  spend  more  than  five  minutes  together  without  bickering  and  he’d  no  intention  of  getting  involved.  “I  hadn’t  realised  just  how  close  Christmas  was.”

“Yeah,  our  first  term’s  almost  over.  I  suppose  they’ll  start  decorating  the  castle  soon.”

Overhearing  them,  Derek  leaned  across  the  table. 

“What’s  a  wizarding  Christmas  like  anyway?”

“Well,  I  guess  it  depends,”  Albus  replied.  “As  you  know,  our  family  is  huge,  so  we  spend  the  morning  with  our  own  families,  then  we  all  head  over  to  my  grandparents  for  our  Christmas  dinner.”

“Then  we  end  up  starving  because  somebody’s  late  and  Grandma  insists  we  can’t  eat  until  they  get  there.”

“And  nine  times  out  of  ten,  it’s  Uncle  George  and  his  family  who  hold  us  up.”

They  laughed.

“And  Uncle  George  always  says  they’re  late  because  the  children  were  playing  up  or  something,  but  then  Angelina  tells  us  what  really  happened  is  that  he  got  carried  away  playing  with  one  of  Fred’s  toys  or  one  of  the  presents  he’s  bringing.”

“I’d  say  his  presents  are  worth  waiting  for,  though,”  Rasmus  put  in.  He  glanced  around  at  the  other  first  year  Ravenclaws.  “Their  Uncle  George  runs  Weasley’s  Wizard  Wheezes,  you  know.  It’s  a  joke  shop.”

“Yeah,  he  does  give  good  presents,”  Albus  said.  “What’s  your  Christmas  like?”

“A  lot  less  exciting  than  yours  sounds.  My  family’s  a  lot  smaller  than  yours  for  one  thing.  We  often  go  away  for  a  few  days  after  Christmas,  usually  somewhere  of  historical  interest  or  something.  But  on  Christmas  day,  we  just  exchange  presents,  listen  to  the  Christmas  programmes  on  the  wireless  and  have  a  really  delicious  meal.  The  adults  drink  elf-made  wine  and  Hilda  and  I  have  Butterbeer.  We  don’t  have  too  many  relatives  around  though.”

“I  can’t  imagine  Christmas  without  television,”  Derek  said  thoughtfully.  “My  family  doesn’t  watch  that  much  on  Christmas  day  itself,  but  we  spend  most  of  Boxing  day  in  front  of  the  box.  And  the  couple  of  days  after  that.”

“There  are  a  lot  of  special  Christmas  programmes,  aren’t  there?”  Rose  said.  “We  always  go  to  my  Muggle  grandparents  on  Boxing  day  and  Hugo  and  I  love  watching  television,  though  I  can  never  understand  why  the  pictures  on  television  move  and  ordinary  Muggle  photographs  don’t.”

“In  Ireland,  the  day  after  Christmas  is  called  St.  Stephen’s  day,”  Fionnuala  said.  “Or  sometimes  Wren  day.”

“Wren  day?”  Rasmus  looked  confused.

“Yeah,  it’s  sort  of a  tradition  we  have.  All  my  family  gets  together  that  day  and  the  adults  conjure  wrens.  If  we  can  catch  them  and  bring  them  back  before  they  disappear,  we  get  a  Galleon.  It’s  good  fun.”

“Sounds  weird,”  Derek  said.

“No  weirder  than  a  world  where  people  fly  in  huge  contraptions  that  don’t  even  have  magic  to  hold  them  up,”  Fionnuala  responded.

“You  say  that  when  you  fly  on  broomsticks!”  Derek  was  incredulous.

“Oh,  stop  arguing,”  Rasmus  said.  “I  want  to  hear  more  about  Muggle  Christmases.  I  haven’t  any  Muggle  relatives.”

“There  isn’t  that  much  to  tell,  really.  We  watch  the  Queen’s  Speech  on  television,  because  my  grandmother  insists  on  it.  Oh,  I  guess  another  difference  would  be  the  presents  we  get.  I  don’t  suppose  wizards  get  stuff  like  computer  games  or  DVDs.”  He  sighed.  “I’m  looking  forward  to  playing  on  my  computer  again.”

“I  can’t  figure  how  you  Muggles  can  get  computers  to  work,”  Rose  said.  “My  grandparents  let  me  and  Hugo  play  with  theirs  one  year.  We  couldn’t  get  the  hang  of  it  at  all.  I  think  we  lost  some  things  my  granny  had  saved  actually.”

Nathan  grimaced.  “I’ve  seen  those  things  Muggles  call  computers.  I  don’t  think  I’d  dare  go  anywhere  near  one.  It’s  already  a  joke  in  my  family  that  I’ve  usually  broken  at  least  one  present  by  the  time  Christmas  day   is  over.”

They  all  laughed  and  Albus  gave  Nathan  a  sympathetic  look.

It  was  fun,  hearing  about  everybody’s  Christmases.  Only  Dora  and  Angie  seemed  to  remain  apart,  resisting  all  efforts  to  include  them  in  the  conversation.

“I  suppose  there’ll  be  a  Christmas  party  for  the  Slug  Club  too,”  Rose  said,  as  they  finally  got  up  from  the  table.  “Didn’t  your  dad  say  something  about  that,  Albus?”

“Oh,  don’t  remind  me.”  He  sighed.

Rose,  however,  seemed  to  have  thought  of  something.

“Let’s  not  go  back  with  the  others,”  she  said  quietly,  grabbing  Albus  by  the  arm.  “Something’s  just  occurred  to  me.”

“OK.”   He  wondered  what  she  wanted  to  tell  him.

The  Charms  classroom  was  empty  again,  so  they  slipped  inside.

“You  know  how  we  were  looking  for  a  chance  to  ask  Slughorn  about  Blackburn?”  she  said.

“Yeah,”  he  said  doubtfully.  He  still wasn’t  sure  it  was  such  a  good  idea.

“Well,  the  party’ll  be  the  perfect  time  to  ask  him.  You  know  Slughorn;  he’ll  be  full  of  the  joys  of  Christmas,  maybe  even  have  a  couple  of  drinks  taken.  He’ll  probably  be  too  relaxed  to  get  suspicious  no  matter  what  we  ask.”

Albus  bit  his  lip  thoughtfully.  He  supposed  it  could  work.  He  couldn’t  say  he  was  looking  forward  to  it  though.



The  following  week,  Slughorn  started  issuing  invitations.

“I  thought  the  last  Saturday  before  the  Christmas  holidays,”  he  announced  expansively  after  Potions  class.  “I  do  hope  you’ll  both  be  able  to  join  us.”

“Yes,  sir,  we’ll  be  there,”  Rose  said.

“And  of  course,  if  you’d  like  to  invite  anybody  else,  they’d  be  most  welcome.  I  always  allow  my  Slug  Club  bring  guests  to  the  Christmas  party.  It’s  one  of  my  favourite  parts  of  the  holiday  season  and  being  my  last  one,  well,  I’m  planning  something  rather  special.  Just  between  you,  me  and  the  wall…”  He  tapped  his  nose  and  grinned  at  them.  “I’ve  a  few  rather…well,  rather  distinguished  guests  invited.  Your  brother  should  be  pleased,  Albus.”  Perhaps  you’ve  an  interest  in  Quidditch  yourself?”

“Yes,  Sir.”

“Ah,  well,  I’ve  a  treat  in  store  for  you,  so.  Not  that  you’ll  get  me  to  say  anymore.  Wouldn’t  want  to  spoil  the  surprise,  would  I?  You’ll  find  out  soon  enough,  my  dear  boy.”

“Spoil  the  surprise!”  Rose  burst  out,  once  they  were  out  of  earshot.  “He’s  pretty  much  given  it  away  already.  I  think  we  can  fairly  safely  guess  he’ll  have  some  well-known  Quidditch  player  there.”

Albus  laughed.  “I  suppose  so.  Hope  it’s  somebody  from  the  Holyhead  Harpies.”

“As  if  you  haven’t  met  all  of  them  a  hundred  times  already!”

“They’re  the  best  team  though.”

She  laughed.  “And  of  course  the  fact  your  mum  played  for  them  has  nothing  at  all  to  do  with  this  completely  unbiased  opinion.”

“Mum  playing  for  them  just  proves  they’re  the  best  team.  She  wouldn’t  play  for  them  otherwise.”

It  wasn’t  often  he  got  the  better  of  his  cousin,  but  this  time,  she  gave  in.

“True  enough,  I  suppose.”

Albus  grinned.  If  there  was  going  to  be  a  Quidditch  star  there,  maybe  this  party  wouldn’t  be  as  boring  as  he’d  expected.

Many  of  the  rest  of  the  Slug  Club  seemed  to  have  the  same  opinion  and  excitement  grew  as  the  party  drew  nearer. 

As  they  were  allowed  bring  guests,  it  wasn’t  only  the  Slug  Club  that  were  excited.  Everybody  who’d  an  interest  in  Quidditch  seemed  to  be  hoping  they’d  be  invited.

Knowing  Derek  had  never  met  any  Quidditch  players,  Albus  asked  him  if  he’d  like  to  go.

“It  probably  won’t  be  much  fun.  But  Slughorn  was  hinting  there’d  be  a  well-known  Quidditch  player  there  or  something,  so  might  be  worth  attending.”

“OK,”  Derek  agreed.  “I’d  love  to  come.”

Rose  wasn’t  too  pleased  when  he  told  her.

“We’re  supposed  to  be  focussing  on  getting  information  from  Slughorn.  Having  other  people  around  won’t  make  that  any  easier.”

“Oh,  come  on,  what  harm’s  Derek  going  to  do?  You  already  told  him  about  one  of  our  plans.  He  can  always  chat  to  Rasmus  for  a  while  anyway.”

“I  suppose  so.”  She  didn’t  sound  satisfied.

A  larger  crowd  than  usual  gathered  outside  Slughorn’s  office  before  the  party.

“Come  in,  come  in.”  Slughorn  was  expansive.  “Great  to  see  you  all.  Brian,  Dominique,  Hilda,  James,  I  know  you’ll  all  be  particularly  anxious  to  meet  Demelza  Robins,  who  played  for  the  Applyby  Arrows.  She  tells  me  she  played  with  your  father  at  Hogwarts,  James.  Oh,  Albus,  come  over  here  and  join  us.”

Demelza  laughed.  “It  was  your  father  who  chose  me  for  the  team.  If  it  wasn’t  for  him,  my  Quidditch  career  might  never  have  got  off  the  ground  in  the  first  place.  I played  with  your  mother  too,  and  then  against  her  when  we  both  played  professionally.”

“What’s  it  like  playing  professionally?”  Dominique  asked  shyly.

“The  most  important  thing  to  remember  if  you’re  thinking  of  a  career  in  Quidditch  is  that  there  aren’t  that  many  jobs.  No  matter  how  good  you  are  here  at  Hogwarts,  once  you’re  out  there,  you’re  likely  to  be  competing  with  others  who  are  just  as  good  or  better.  And  there  are  so  many  things  that  can  derail  your  career.  A  minor  injury  at  the  wrong  time  could  be  enough  to  lose  you  a  place  on  the  team  of  your  choice.  Nor  are  the  salaries  quite  as  high  as  you  might  imagine.  I’m  not  trying  to  discourage  any  of  you  who  may  be  considering  it.  I  just  want  to  make  you  aware  of  the  reality.  It’s  always  best  to  have  a  good  education  behind  you,  so  you’ve  other  options  if  it  doesn’t  work  out.”

Dominique  nodded  seriously.

For  a  moment,  Albus  allowed  himself  to  dream  of  playing  professionally;  catching  the  Snitch  for  England  in  the  final  moments  of  a  World  Cup  final.  He  knew  it  was  highly  unlikely  to  happen  though.  He  really  doubted  he  was  that  good  a  player.

A  leprechaun  band  started  up  on  the  other  side  of  the  office  interrupting  his  thoughts.

“Wow.”  Derek  stared  in  amazement  as  they  played  the  first  of  a  number  of  old  tunes  on  fiddles,  bodhráns,  tin  whistles  and  a  tiny  harp.

Some  of  the  older  girls  started  pulling  boys  out  onto  the  floor  to  dance.  Slughorn  stood  at  the  side,  smiling  beneficently.

Rose  waited  to  be  sure  Derek  was  completely  distracted  by  the  band  and  then  beckoned  to  Albus  to  follow  her  across  to  Slughorn.

“Sir,”  she  began.

“Ah,  Rose.  And  Albus.  I  hope  you’re  both  enjoying  the  party.”

“It  was  great  to  meet  Demelza,”  Albus  replied  honestly.

“Ah,  of  course,  of  course.  Did  you  get  her  autograph  yet?  If  not,  then  do  come  over  with  me  now.  I’m  sure  she  won’t  object  if  I  ask  her  to  do  you  a  favour.”

He  permitted  himself  a  little  chuckle.

“Did  you  teach  her  when  she  was  at  Hogwarts,  Sir?”  Rose  asked  before  Albus  could  reply.

“I  did  indeed.”

“You  must  have  taught  nearly  everybody  in  the  wizarding  world.  All  the  younger  people  anyway.”

“And  a  lot  of  the  older  ones  too.”  Slughorn  chuckled  again.  “I’m  quite  an  elderly  man  now,  you  know,  but  I  have  to  say,  I  still  know  pretty  much  everybody  there  is  to  know  in  the  wizarding  world.  As  you  say,  I  taught  most  of  them.  Ha,  ha.  The  stories  I  could  tell  you  about  some  of  them.  You  wouldn’t  believe  me  if  I  did.”

“I  suppose  you  even  taught  some  of  the  other  teachers  here.”

“Oh  yes,  I  taught  quite  a  few  of  them.  Let’s  see,  I  taught  dear  Sybil,  of  course.  Never  could  get  her  to  recognise  the  beauty  of  a  freshly-brewed  potion.  Between  ourselves,  I  think  there  was  only  one  type  of  potion  she  was  interested  in,  if  you  get  my  drift.”  He  nodded  in  the  direction  of  the  wine  on  the  table  before  him.

“And  what  about  Professor  Blackburn?”

Slughorn  nodded.  “I  taught  her  too.  An  extremely  bright  girl.  Expected  to  get  all  Os.  Such  a  pity…”  He  trailed  off.

“What  was  a  pity?”  Rose  asked  eagerly.

“None  of  your  business!”  Slughorn  frowned,  then  suddenly  smiled  again.  “But  of  course,  this  is  just  a  casual  conversation,  isn’t  it?”

“Of  course,  Sir.”

“Nothing  to  worry  about  then.  Now,  didn’t  you  want  Demelza’s  autograph?”  He  smiled  at  Albus.

“Um,  yes  Sir.”

“Well,  let’s  go  and  get  it  so.”  He  hurried  across  to  her  and  they’d  little  choice  but  to  follow  him.  “Demelza,  my  darling,  Albus  here  is  extremely  anxious  to  get  your  autograph.  Great  fan  of  yours.

“Um,  I  don’t  have  any  parchment,”  Albus  said  awkwardly.

“No  problem  at  all  my  boy.  Accio  parchment.”  Slughorn  waved  his  wand  and  a  pile  of  parchment  flew  towards  them.

“Thank  you,”  Albus  said,  after  she  signed  a  piece  for  him.  “And  thank  you,  Sir.”

“No  bother  at  all,  my  boy.  And  now,  if  you’ll  excuse  me…”

He  disappeared  into  the  crowd.

Rose  looked  extremely  puzzled.

It  was  clear  she  wanted  to  talk  to  Albus  when  the  party  finally  ended,  but  was  unwilling  to  do  so  in  front  of  Derek  and  Rasmus.

“I  can’t  believe  I  met  a  real  professional  Quidditch  player,”  Derek  said.  “It  was  kind  of  embarrassing  though,  because  I’d  absolutely  no  idea  who  she  was.  I’d  never  even  heard  of  the  Appleby  Arrows.  And  as  for  that  band…oh  my  God,  why  did  nobody  ever  tell  me  leprechauns  existed?  I  honestly  can’t  believe  they’d  a  band.  My  parents  are  not  going  to  believe  any  of  this  when  I  talk  to  them  next  week.”

“A  year  ago,  they  probably  wouldn’t  have  believed  in  magic,”  Albus  reminded  him.

“That’s  true.  They’ll  soon  be  experts  at  believing  six  impossible  things  before  breakfast.  I  think  I  already  am.”

Six  impossible  things  before  breakfast?”  Albus  stared  at  him  in  confusion.

Alice  in  Wonderland?”

That  didn’t  help  clear  it  up.

“It’s  a  Muggle  children’s  story,”  Rose  explained.  “My  mum  had  a  copy,  so  I’ve  read  it,  but  it’s  not  well-known  in  the  wizarding  world.”

“You’ve  read  everything.” 

She  laughed.  “Not  quite  everything.”

“Close  enough.”

It  was  late,  so  they  hurried  back  to  Ravenclaw  tower,  continuing  to  chat  happily.  Rose,  however,  looked  distracted  and  the  following  morning,  she  woke  Albus  early.

He  squinted  in  the  darkness.

“Rose,  it’s  Sunday.  This  is  far  too  early  to  be  up.”

“I  need  to  talk  to  you  and  once  everybody’s  awake,  we’ll  get  no  privacy.  Come  on  down  to  the  common  room.”

“Well,  give  me  a  chance  to  get  dressed  first.”

After  she  left,  he  dressed  hastily  and  then  followed  her  downstairs.

She  was  pacing  the  empty  common  room.

“I  wish  I  knew  what  Slughorn  meant  was  a  pity.  It  must  be  something  pretty  major  when  he  wouldn’t  explain  it.  After  all,  he’d  just  implied  Trelawney  was  an  alcoholic!”

“It  was  a  bit  weird,”  he  admitted.  “But  Slughorn’s  been  here  forever.  You  said  yourself  nobody  could  hide  anything  that  long.”

“I  didn’t  exactly  say  that,  but  I’m  not  suggesting  he  was  a  Death  Eater  or  anything  anyway.  Just  that  he  seems  to  know  something  mysterious  about  Blackburn’s  past.”

“But…”  He  paused,  trying  to  articulate  what  he  was  thinking.  “If  he  knew  something  bad  about  her,  wouldn’t  he  have  told  McGonagall  not  to  hire  her.”

She  thought  for  a  moment.  “It  mightn’t  be  something  bad  exactly,  but  he  definitely  knows  something  and  it  just  might  be  significant.”

He  glanced  at  her  warily.  “You’re  not  going  to  suggest  we  question  him  again.”

She  shook  her  head.  “Not  yet  anyway.  If  he  didn’t  tell  us  last  night,  I  doubt  he’s  going  to.  Oh,  I  wish  I  knew  who  else  might  know  something.  Do  you  think  Neville  might?

“Maybe,”  he  said  doubtfully.  “But  I  doubt  he’d  tell  us  either.”

She  sighed.  “Everything  we  find  out  seems  to  lead  us  into  yet  another  brick  wall!”

At  that  moment,  he  didn’t  really  care.  With  the  Christmas  holidays  only  days  away,  all  his  concerns  about  what  was  happening  at  Hogwarts  suddenly  seemed  less  important.  Soon  he’d  be  home  where  weird  parcels  and  mysterious  graffiti  didn’t  trouble  him.

“Can’t  this  wait  until  after  Christmas?”  he  pleaded.  “I  mean,  we’re  not  really  going  to  find  out  much  this  week  anyway,  are  we?”

“Maybe  you’re  right,”  she  admitted.  “I  don’t  suppose  your  dad  would  know  any  more,  do  you?  Maybe  we  should  ask  him  what  he  thinks  over  Christmas.”

“OK.” 

Privately,  he  suspected  his  father  would  have  told  them  if  he  knew  any  more,  but  if  it  would  allow  them  forget  the  mystery  for  a  while  and  concentrate  on  getting  ready  for  the  holidays,  he  wasn’t  going  to  argue.



Deciding  what  to  take  home  for  Christmas  and  what  to  leave  at  school  was  more  difficult  than  he’d  expected.  He  supposed  he  could  leave  his  spare  set  of  school  robes  behind.  And  his  schoolbooks,  unless  they  got  homework  to  complete  over  the  holidays,  of  course.  He  wouldn’t  put  it  past  Binns.

Piling  his  belongings  on  his  bed,  he  pulled  down  his  trunk  and  opened  it.  Right  at  the  bottom  was  an  empty  inkwell.

Albus  stared  at  it  in  surprise  for  a  moment.  He  hadn’t  opened  his  trunk  since  he’d  unpacked  when  he’d  first  arrived  at  Hogwarts  and  he  certainly  hadn’t  brought  an  empty  inkwell  with  him.  His  trunk  had  been  brand-new.  It  couldn’t  have  been  there  all  along.

He  picked  it  up  and  examined  it  closely.  The  sides  were  stained  with  a  small  amount  of  red  ink,  the  same  colour  as  the  graffiti  he’d  seen  outside  Slughorn’s  office  over  a  month  before.

Realising  this,  he  gave  a  start  and  almost  dropped  the  inkwell.

He  needed  to  talk  to  Rose  right  away. 

He  really  hoped  she  wasn’t  in  her  dormitory.  What  idiot  had  designed  Hogwarts  so  that  the  girls  could  enter  the  boys’  dormitories  but  not  the  other  way  ‘round?  It  made  it  so  difficult  when  you  needed  to  talk  to  a  girl  urgently.

He  passed  the  inkwell  back  and  forth  in  his  hands,  trying  to  decide  what  to  do  with  it.  Should  he  bring  it  downstairs  where  somebody  might  see  it  and  ask  him  awkward  questions  or  leave  it  in  the  dormitory  where  it  could  disappear  as  quickly  as  it  had  appeared?

He  could  put  it  straight  back  into  his  trunk,  pretend  he  hadn’t  seen  it.  But  that  was  exactly  where  the  person  who’d  hid  it  there  would  expect  it  to  be.  What  if  they  decided  to  move  it  and  plant  it  somewhere  it’d  be  sure  to  be  found  on  him?

He  glanced  around  frantically,  before  finally  deciding  to  stuff  it  under  one  of  his  jumpers,  which  he  then  stashed  under  the  bed.  Surely  nobody’d  think  of  looking  there. 

He  glanced  around  the  room,  to  be  sure  nobody  was  watching,  then  raced  down  to  the  common  room.

Rose  was  sitting  in  a  corner,  chatting  with  Rasmus.

Normally,  Albus  didn’t  like  interrupting  people,  but  on  this  occasion,  that  didn’t  even  occur  to  him.

“Rose,  I  need  to  talk  to  you.”

She  gave  him  a  curious  look.  “What  is  it?”

“It’s  kind  of  private.”

Rasmus  got  up.

“No,  I  need  you  to  come  upstairs  anyway,  Rose.  To  my  dormitory.”

Rasmus  looked  intrigued,  but  he  didn’t  say  anything.

Outside  the  dormitory,  Rose  glanced  around  her  before  asking  again,  “what  is  it?”

“Come  inside.”

He  reached  under  the  bed.  Thankfully,  the  jumper  was  still  there  and  he  could  feel  the  inkwell  under  it.  He  pulled  it  out.

“Look  at  this.”

“What  is  it…OH!  Where  did  you  find  it?”

“In  my  trunk.”

“WHAT?”

“Yeah.  I  was  just  packing  to  go  home.”  He  gestured  at  the  pile  of  his  belongings  still  on  his  bed.  “I  opened  my  trunk  and…there  it  was.  Whoever  is  doing  this…they’re  obviously  a  Ravenclaw.”

He  paled  at  the  thought.  Whoever  had  sent  him  a  fake  note  from  Slughorn,  painted  slogans  supporting  the  Death  Eaters  on  the  wall,  planted  an  inkwell  in  his  trunk  and  possibly  sent  him  chocolates  laced  with  Swelling  Solution  was  somebody  he  sat  at  the  same  table  as  at  mealtimes  and  shared  the  common  room  with  every  evening,  somebody  who  could  sneak  into  his  dormitory  at  will  and  plant  anything  they  wanted  there.

“Not  necessarily,”  Rose  said  thoughtfully.  “After  all,  anybody  can  enter  Ravenclaw  Tower,  if  they  get  the  question  correct.”

He wasn’t  convinced.  The  eagle’s  questions  often  took  ages  to  puzzle  out.  Surely  somebody’d  notice  a  non-Ravenclaw  waiting  outside. 

But  he  supposed  somebody  could  be  lucky.  Or  really  smart.

Suddenly,  he  remembered  what  Slughorn  said  about  Blackburn.  “An  extremely  bright  girl.  Expected  to  get  all  Os.”

He  said  as  much  to  Rose.

She  nodded.  “Yeah.  We  can’t  rule  her  out.  But  right  now,  I  think  we  have  to  go  see  Flitwick.”

“Flitwick?”

“Yeah,  the  staff  need  to  know  about  this.  I  think  he’s  the  best  person  to  tell.”

It  would  be  better  than  having  to  face  McGonagall,  Albus  supposed,  so  reluctantly,  he  picked  up  the  inkwell  and  they  headed  for  Flitwick’s  office.

Outside  the  door,  he  froze.  What  if  Flitwick  didn’t  believe  him?  He  and  Rose  had  already  been  caught  standing  beside  the  graffiti.  What  would  Flitwick  think  when  he  turned  up  with  the  inkwell  in  his  hands.

Rose  knocked  sharply  on  the  door  and  it  flew  open. 

Flitwick  was  sitting  at  his  desk,  his  wand  pointed  at  the  door.

“Come  in.”  He  smiled  at  them.  “Take  a  seat.  Now,  what  can  I  do  for  you?”

They  sat  down  awkwardly.

Albus  glanced  at  Rose.  He’d  no  idea  what  he  should  say.

“Show  him  what  you  found,”  she  said.

He  placed  the  inkwell  on  the  desk  in  front  of  them.

“This…was  in  my  trunk.”

Flitwick  raised  his  eyebrows. 

“I  take  it  it  shouldn’t  have  been?”

“No  sir.  I  haven’t  opened  that  trunk  since  I  got  here  and  the  ink…it’s  the  same  colour  as  the  graffiti  outside  Slughorn’s  office  that  time.”  He  came  to  an  abrupt  stop.

Flitwick  frowned.  “I  see.  Strange.  Well,  thank  you  for  bringing  this  to  my  notice.  I’ll  let  Professor  McGonagall  know.  And  don’t  worry  about  it.  Most  likely,  whoever  wrote  the  graffiti  just  wanted  to  get  rid  of  this  as  quickly  as  possible  and  shoved  it  in  the  nearest  trunk.”

That  wasn’t  much  consolation.  It  would  mean  somebody  in  his  dormitory  was  probably  involved.  And  besides,  it  didn’t  explain  the  note.  Or  the  Swelling  Solution.

“Somebody  sent  me  chocolates  laced  with  Swelling  Solution  at  the  beginning  of  the  year,”  he  blurted  out.

Flitwick  frowned  again.  “I  see.  Does  Professor  McGonagall  know  about  this?”

“Yes,  Sir.  Madame  Pomfrey  told  her.”

“All  right.  Well,  thank  you  again  for  letting  me  know.  If  you  have  any  more  information  or  anything  else  like  this  happens,  come  straight  to  me.”  He  glanced  from  one  of  them  to  the  other.  “And  do  try  not  to  worry  about  this,  Albus.  We  will  get  to  the  bottom  of  it.” 

“Thank  you  Sir,”  said  Rose.

“Yes.  Thank  you,  Sir.”

It  hadn’t  been  so  bad,  Albus  supposed.  At  least  Flitwick  had  seemed  to  believe  him.  But  he  really  didn’t  like  the  thought  that  somebody  in  Ravenclaw  could  be  targeting  him.



The Wren day traditions described are very loosely based on real Wren day traditions in Ireland. The Muggle version was far more like Hallowe'en, with children dressing up and going door to door, collecting money in this case, rather than sweets, but originally, it did also involve catching a wren.


Chapter 14: Home for Christmas.
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Disclaimer: Harry Potter belongs to J.K. Rowling. No copyright infringment is intended. 

Albus  couldn’t  help  feeling  relieved  the  term  ended  that  Friday.  Knowing  somebody  had  access  to  his  dormitory  and  all  he  owned  made  him  uneasy  and  he  spent  the  last  couple  of  days  checking  obsessively  that  nothing  had  been  taken  and  nothing  had  been  planted  on  him.

If  only  he  knew  a  spell  that  would  tell  him  if  anything  had  been  interfered  with.  He  knew  such  spells  existed,  but  he  hadn’t  yet  learnt  to  perform  them.

Before  he  left  to  catch  the  Hogwarts  Express,  he  checked  the  items  in  his  trunk  and  those  he  was  leaving  behind  one  last  time.

“Albus!”  Rose  admonished  him.  “What  are  doing,  messing  with  your  trunk  at  this  time?  We’re  leaving  in  less  than  an  hour.  You  don’t  have  time  to  take  everything  out  and  start  packing  all  over  again.”

He  stuffed  everything  back  in  messily  and  closed  the  trunk.

“I  just  wanted  to  be  sure  nobody’d  slipped  anything  into  it.  Or  taken  anything  out.  Somebody’s  already  been  in  here,  interfering  with  my  stuff.  How  do  I  know  they  won’t  do  it  again?”  He  glanced  around  at  his  schoolbooks  and  the  other  items  he  was  leaving  behind.  “Do  you  think  I  should  take  everything  home?”

“No,  I  don’t,  Albus.  Honestly,  you  can’t  possibly  keep  everything  hidden  for  the  next  seven  years.”

“I  was  hoping  that  over  the  holidays,  I  could  learn  a  spell  to  protect  them  when  we  got  back.”

She  sighed.  “The  chances  are  whoever’s  doing  this  is  going  home  today  anyway.  I  don’t  think  that  many  people  are  staying  here.  Angie’s  the  only  one  I  can  think  of.”

He  looked  up.  “Angie’s  staying  here?”

“Apparently.  I  saw  her  owling  The  Tales  of  Beedle  the  Bard  to  her  sister  and  asked  how  come  she  wouldn’t  be  seeing  her  over  the  holidays  and  she  said  she  was  staying  at  school.”  She  shrugged.  “She  didn’t  explain.”

He  wasn’t  sure  whether  that  information  should  make  him  suspicious  or  if  he  should  just  feel  sorry  for  her.  He  couldn’t  imagine  spending  Christmas  away  from  his  family.  Of  course  his  father  had  spent  practically  every  Christmas  at  Hogwarts,  but  then  he’d  only  had  his  aunt,  uncle  and  cousin  and  they  really  hadn’t  been  close.

He  stifled  a  shiver  and  lifted  his  trunk.

“I  suppose  we  should  get  going.”

“There’s  a  bit  of  time  left  yet.  Let’s  go  down  to  the  common  room.”

The  common  room  was  in  chaos.  The  first  years  in  particular  were  so  excited  about  going  home  that  they  were  absolutely  unable  to  sit  still  and  students  from  all  years  raced  around  trying  to  find  items  they  wanted  to  take  home.

 “Has  anybody  seen  my  jumper?”

“Who’s  taken  my  chocolate  frogs?  I  was  saving  those  for  the  train.”

“I  can’t  find  my  mum’s  Christmas  present!”

Even  the  seventh   years,  normally  so  serious  and  mature,  seemed  to  have  forgotten  their  upcoming  N.E.W.T.S.  amidst  the  excitement  of  Christmas.

And  finally,  finally,  it  was  time  to  board  the  train  for  London.

Albus  could  hardly  sit  still  on  the  journey.

“You  do  realise  that  jumping  up  to  look  out  the  window  every  five  minutes  isn’t  going  to  get  us  there  a  moment  sooner,”  Rose  said  caustically.  She  was  sitting  beside  him,  reading  and  seemed  completely  unexcited  by  the  thought  they’d  soon  be  seeing  their  parents.

Of  course  he  knew  it,  but  he  couldn’t  help  checking  to  see  how  close  to  home  they  were.  The  train  seemed  to  be  travelling  at  a  snail’s  pace.

After  what  seemed  like  an  age,  it  reached  London.  Albus’s  face  was  glued  to  the  window,  hoping  to  catch his  first  glimpse  of  his  parents  and  Lily, as  they  stood  on  the  platform  waiting  for  him.

He  wasn’t  the  only  student  doing  so  and  as  soon  as  the  train  came  to  a  stop,  they  crowded  out  onto  the  platform,  trying  to  push  through  the  crowds  to  their  families.

Albus  finally  saw  his  and  raced  towards  them.

“God  Almighty,  Albus,  I  swear  you’ve  grown  at  least  another  three  inches  since  you  left  us  last  September.”  His  mother  pulled  him  into  a  tight  hug.

Lily  pushed  her  way  in  to  join  the  hug.

“Tell  me  everything  about  Hogwarts,”  she  demanded.

Before  he  could  even  begin  his  reply,  James  sauntered  over  to  join  them.

“Merry  Christmas  everybody.”

Lily  lost  all  interest  in  waiting  for  Albus’s  answer  and  ran  to  hug  him.

He  pushed  her  away.

“Not  in  front  of  everybody.”

Albus  and  his  parents  began  to  laugh,  but  Lily  looked  crushed.

“I’ll  hug  you,  Lily.”  Albus  raced  over  to  grab  her. 

He  began  to  tickle  her  and  she  slapped  his  hand.  The  two  of  them  squirmed,  trying  to  tickle  and  push  each  other  in  the  middle  of  the  station.  He  hadn’t  even  realised  how  much  he’d  missed  his  sister.

“Albus  and  Lily  Potter,  stop  that  at  once,”  his  mother  called.  “Gosh,  the  boys  aren’t  back  five  minutes  and  already  we’re  holding  up  the  entire  station.  Come  over  here  right  now  and  let’s  try  and  get  home  without  any  further  incident.”

“Considering  James  has  barely  opened  his  mouth  yet,  I’d  be  utterly  amazed  if  that  happened,”  their  father  said.

“Hey,  I’m  the  only  one  behaving  and  I  still  get  criticised.”  James  was  incredulous.

“I  know  you  of  old,”  his  father  said.

Albus  and  Lily  joined  the  rest  of  their  family  and  the  family  crowded  into  their  car  to  complete  the  journey.

Their  father  piled  their  trunks  and  their  owls’  cages  into  the  boot. 

“It  was  hard  enough  getting  all  James’s  stuff  packed,”  he  said.  “And  this  year,  we’ve  twice  as  much.”

Finally,  everything  was  packed  and  James  and  Albus  competed  to  tell  their  news  as  they  drove  across  London.

“And  then  we  won  the  match.  My  first  match  for  Gryffindor.  It  was  so  brilliant.  Brian  even  said  I  was  a  fantastic  Keeper.”

“Derek  wants  me  to  come  and  visit  him  at  home  sometime  next  summer  and  he  says  he’ll  teach  me  to  play  computer  games.”

Their  mother  sighed.

“Can  we  avoid  worrying  about  the  summer  until  we  at  least  get  Christmas  out  of  the  way?  Please!”

“Can  I  get  a  new  broom  for  Christmas,  now  that  I’m  on  the  team?  My  old  one  is  absolutely  ancient  and  I’m  sure  I’d  play  ten  times  better  if  I’d  a  Golden  Arrow.  Can  I  please?”

Their  parents  exchanged  glances.  Golden  Arrows,  while  not  absolute  top  of  the  range,  were  expensive.

“Well,  I  got  a  Firebolt  when  I  was  your  age,”  their  father  began.  “And  that  was  an  international  standard  broom,  so  I  suppose  a  Golden  Arrow  isn’t  that  unreasonable.  What  do  you  think,  Ginny?”

“Well,  if  you  do  get  it,  you  won’t  be  getting  anything  else.  Not  from  us,  anyway.  Is  that  OK  with  you?”

James  nodded.  “It’s  all  I  want,  Mum  and  Dad.  Please.  I  promise  I’ll  take  good  care  of  it  and  I  won’t  ask  you  for  another  broom  for  years  and  years.”

“We’ll  have  to  talk  about  it,”  their  father  said.

“If  James  is  getting  a  new  broom,  can  I  get  that  Healer’s  set,  with  the  dolls  you  really  have  to  diagnose?”  Lily  asked.

“We’ll  see,”  their  mother  said.  “We’ll  all  go  to  Diagon  Alley  tomorrow  and  try  and  get  the  Christmas  shopping  completed.”

“Great,”  said  Albus.  “I  haven’t  done  any  at  all  yet,  because  we’re  not  allowed  into  Hogsmeade.”

“Ever  heard  of  owl  order?”  James  teased.

“At  least  your  brother  doesn’t  have  to  be  nagged  repeatedly  to  buy  presents,”  their  mother  said.  “I  don’t  suppose  you’ve  done  any  either  and  you  were  allowed  into  Hogsmeade  this  year.”

“Ah,  that’d  be  telling.”  James  grinned.

They  reached  home  and  Albus  rushed  up  to  his  room.  It  had  new  curtains  and  a  new  bedspread.  He  ran  downstairs  again.

“Wow,  Mum.  I’ve  just  seen  my  room.  Thanks.”

She  smiled.  “I  saw  those  and  thought  you’d  like  them.  Got  some  from  your  brother  too,  but  I  don’t  suppose  he’ll  even  notice.”

She  rolled  her  eyes  and  they  both  laughed.

Lily  raced  into  the  room.

“Can  we  make  biscuits,  now  that  James  and  Albus  are  home?  You’ll  help,  won’t  you,  Albus?”

“Sure.”

Their  mother  grinned  and  got  out  the  dough.  The  biscuits  were  made  magically, but  Albus  and  Lily  always  decorated  them  by  hand.

“Where’s  Dad?”  Albus  asked.

Their  father  always  helped  with  the  biscuits.  He’d  once  told  them  that  when  he’d  been  a  child  growing  up  they’d  never  had  homemade  biscuits  and  his  cousin  ate  all  the  biscuits  they  bought,  so  he  rarely  got  any.

When  they’d  heard  that,  both  Albus  and  Lily  had  immediately  offered  him  half  their  biscuits.

“He’s  just  getting  the  tree  ready,”  their  mother  said.  “I’m  sure  you’ll  want  to  help  decorate  that  too.”

For  a  moment,  they  forgot  about  the  biscuits  and  raced  into  the  sitting  room,  where  their  father  was  struggling  with  a  seven-foot  tree.

“Wow,”  Lily  whispered.

“Dad,  we’re  about  to  make  biscuits.  Well,  Mum  is  making  them  now,  but  we’re  going  to  decorate  them  in  a  while.  Do  you  want  to  help?”

“Do  I  want  to  help?”  His  tone  was  jovial.  “Of  course  I  do.  I’ll  be  out  as  soon  as  I  have  this  monster  up  and  once  we’ve  the  biscuits  done,  we’ll  come  back  in  here  and  start  decorating  this.”

“I’ll  get  the  decorations  while  we’re  waiting  for  Mum  to  finish,”  Albus  announced.

“I’ll  help  you.”

Lily  ran  after  him  and  together,  they  carried  in  the  decorations,  before  hurrying  out  to  the  kitchen  to  decorate  the  biscuits.

James  entered  the  kitchen  as  they  were  working  on  them  and  snatched  a  biscuit  out  of  Albus’s  hand  to  eat  it.

“Really,  Albus,  you’re  not  still  ‘cooking  with  mother’,  are  you?  Don’t  you  know  cooking  is  a  girl’s  job?”

“It  is  not.”  Lily  placed  her  hands  on  her  hips.  “Mum  says  there’s  no  such  thing  as  girls’  jobs  and  boys’  jobs,  that  everybody  should  know  how  to  do  any  job  they’re  able  to.  And  so  does  Aunt  Hermione.  So  there!”

“Yeah,  but  Mum  and  Aunt  Hermione  are  both - get  this – girls.” 

James  reached  out  to  tickle  his  sister  and  she  pushed  him  away,  knocking  over  a  plate  of  biscuits  as  she  did  so.

Their  mother  reached  for  her  wand  and  sent  them  flying  back  onto  the  table  just  before  they  hit  the  ground.

“James  and  Lily  Potter,  be  careful.  I  have  enough  to  do  over  the  next  couple  of  days  without  clearing  up  biscuits  from  the  floor.”

“Sorry  Mum,”  they  both  said.

“It  was  my  fault,”  James  continued.

“What’s  this  about  only  girls  being  allowed  decorate  biscuits  anyway?”  their  father  asked.  “I  like  preparing  biscuits  for  Christmas  and  I’m  pretty  sure  I’m  still  male.”

“Oh,  don’t  start  them  off  again,  Harry!”

“Don’t  worry,  Gin.  I’ll  tidy  up  any  mess  they  make.”

“You  always  say  that,  but  somehow  it’s  always  me  who  ends  up  doing  most  of  the  work.”

But  she  was  smiling  as  she  said  it.

Once  the  biscuits  were  finished  and  James  had  pinched  another  couple,  it  was  time  to  decorate  the  tree.  James  had  apparently  decided  he  was  now  too  mature  to  take  part  in  the  task  and  flopped  down  on  the  couch,  watching  them  and  surreptitiously  causing  items  to  float  out  of  their  grasp,  until  their  mother  snatched  his  wand  from  him.

“You’re  not  seventeen  yet,  you  know.  Do  you  want  to  be  expelled  from  Hogwarts?”

He  shrugged.  “They’re  not  going  to  know  unless  you  tell  them.”

“Exactly  how  badly  do  you  want  that  Golden  Arrow?”

James  sat  up  properly.  “Sorry  Mum.  I  won’t  do  any  more  magic,  I  promise.”

She  smiled  grimly.  “Just  to  be  sure,  you  can  have  your  wand  back  at  the  end  of  the  holidays  and  not  before.”

He  sighed  but  didn’t  argue.

It  was  great  to  be  home,  Albus  thought.



The  following  morning,  their  mother  took  down  the  Floo  Powder  and  the  family  Flooed  to  the  Leaky  Cauldron,  then  stepped  out  into  Diagon  Alley.

The  street  was  beautiful  at  Christmas.  Lanterns  lined  both  sides  of  the  street,  lighting  it  up  and  magical  snow,  that  was  neither  cold  nor  wet,  fell  from  the  sky,  covering  the  pavements.  Fairies  fluttered  in  the  lamplight  and  witches  and  wizards,  dressed  in  their  warmest  cloaks  hurried  up  and  down,  laden  down  with  parcels.

“Let’s  go  to  the  Quidditch  Supplies  store,”  James  said  immediately.  “I  want  to  choose  my  broom.”

“No,”  whined  Lily.  “Let’s  go  to  Weasleys’ Wizard  Wheezes.”

“We’ll  split  up,”  their  mother  said.  “Harry,  will  you  take  James  to  choose  his  broom  and  I’ll  take  these  two  to  Weasleys’.”

“YES!”  Lily  jumped  up  and  down  excitedly.

Albus  stifled  his  disappointment.  He’d  wanted  to  go  to  Flourish  and  Blotts,  to  see  if  he  could  get  James  a  book  on  Quidditch  tactics.  Still,  Weasleys’  was  always  worth  seeing  too.

Being  so  close  to  Christmas  and  with  Hogwarts  on  holiday,  the  shop  was  packed  and  they  had  to  push  their  way  inside.

“Ah,  my  favourite  niece  and  nephew,”  George  said.  “Where’s  James?”

“He  and  Harry  have  gone  to  the  Quidditch  Supplies  store.”

“Oh,  of  course.  I  must  congratulate  him  on  making  the  team.  As  for  you,  young  man,  what  are  you  doing  in  Ravenclaw?  Percy  and  Hermione  have  filled  this  family’s  quota  of  geniuses.  We  don’t  need  anybody  else  getting  an  abnormal  number  of  O.W.L.S.,  thank  you  very  much.”

Their  mother  scowled.  “Leave  him  alone,  George.  Just  because  you  couldn’t  even  complete  your  education.”

“It’s  not  doing  me  too  much  harm,  though,  is  it?  I  can  hardly  keep  up  with  the  orders  here.  Now,  Lily,  I  know  you’ll  appreciate  these.”

He  showed  them  a  pile  of  notepaper.

“What’s  special  about  them?”  she  asked  excitedly.

“We  call  them  Unnoticeable  Notes.  If  you  write  a  name  at  the  top,  then  only  that  person  will  be  able  to  read  it.  The  page  will  look  completely  blank  to  anybody  else.”

Albus  waited  until  Lily  and  their  mother  had  moved  on  before  grabbing  two  sets.  One  would  do  for  Lily’s  Christmas  present.  George  was  right.  She’d  love  it.  And  he  wanted  a  set  for  himself  too.  It  could  come  in  very  handy  for  passing  messages  to  Rose.

Actually - he  changed  his  mind – he’d  get  a  third  set  and  give  it  to  Rose  for  Christmas.

He  grabbed  a  third  set  and  hurried  to  the  counter  to  buy  them,  along  with  self-inking  quills  for  Teddy  and  his  mother,  both  of  whom  had  to  do  a  lot  of  writing  at  work. 

When  he  got  back,  Lily  was  pleading  for  a  pygmy  puff.

“Oh,  all  right,”  their  mother  said.  “But  you  have  to  take  proper  care  of  her  now.  She  may  be  little,  but  she’s  still  a  living  thing.”

“I  promise,”  Lily  said.

Once  they’d  made  their  purchases,  they  headed  to  Flourish  and  Blotts,  where  Albus  bought  a  copy  of  How  to  Succeed  at  Quidditch:  Tips  from  International  Stars  for  James  and  a  book  on  Muggle  sports  for  his  grandfather.

Now,  all  he  had  to  get  was  a  Celestina  Warbeck  record  for  his  grandmother  and  something  for  his  father.

He  really  wanted  to  get  his  father  something  he’d  love,  but  the  perfect  present  was  hard  to  find.  He  saw  things  he’d  like,  but  nothing  that  was  really  right  for  him.

“Your  father  will  love  whatever  you  get  him,”  his  mother  reassured  him.

But  he  didn’t  want  his  father  to  love  it  just  because  he’d  given  it  to  him.  He  wanted  him  to  love  it  because  of  what  it  was.

And  finally,  he  found  it.  A  small  shop  he’d  never  noticed  before  had  a  tiny  model  of  Hogwarts  in  the  window.  His  father  always  said  how  happy  he’d  been  when  he’d  started  Hogwarts  and  Albus  knew  he’d  never  forgotten  what  the  school  meant  to  him.

Without  even  stopping  to  tell  his  mum  where  he  was  going,  he  raced  inside.

“How  much  is  that  model  of  Hogwarts?”

“Ah,  the  paperweight.  Seventeen  Sickels.”

Albus  carefully  counted  up  his  money.  He’d  nineteen  Sickles  and  twenty  Knuts.

“I’ll  take  it.”

The  shopkeeper  wrapped  it  and  Albus  smiled  as  he  left  the  shop.

“All  done  now?”  his  mother  asked.

“Yes.”

James  and  Lily  had  already  finished  their  shopping,  so  they  returned  to  the  Leaky  Cauldron  for  mugs  of  Butterbeer  before  returning  home.


Chapter 15: Gifts and Games.
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Disclaimer: Harry Potter, Hogwarts, the Burrow, the Weasley family and everything else you recognise belongs to JK Rowling. No copyright infringement is intended.



As  usual,  Teddy  visited  the  Potters  on  Christmas  Eve  for  an  early  Christmas  celebration.

Albus’s  grandparents  would  have  willingly  welcomed  him  at  the  Burrow,  but  it  was  generally  agreed  it’d  be  unfair  to  expect  his  own  grandmother  to  share  him  with  the  entire  Weasley  clan  on  Christmas  day.  He  was,  after  all,  her  only  remaining  family  member.

Teddy’d  never  minded.  It  just  meant  he  got  two  Christmases  each  year.

“I  bet  he’ll  have  great  presents  for  us  this  year,”  Lily  speculated.  “Now  that  he’s  working  with  Aunt  Hermione.”

The  door  opened  and  she  ran  to  open  it,  followed  more  sedately  by  James  and  Albus.

“Do  you  have  presents  for  us?”  she  demanded.

Their  mother  followed  them  into  the  hallway  and  glared  at  her.

“Lily!”

“It’s  all  right,  Ginny.  It’s  Christmas.  She’s  allowed  to  be  excited.”

He  took  out  a  number  of  parcels  and  handed  them  around.

“Thanks  Teddy.”  Albus  grinned  to  see  a  new  wizard’s  chess  set.

“Yeah,  thanks  Teddy.”  James  held  up  his  broomstick  servicing  kit.  “This  was  exactly  what  I  needed.”

Lily  put  on  her  new  earrings  and  twirled  around  excitedly.

“Have  they  turned  purple?”

They  were  apparently  supposed  to  match  whatever  you  were  wearing.

“They  certainly  have,”  Teddy  assured  her.

“I’ve  something  for  you  too,  Teddy,”  Albus  shouted  and  raced  upstairs  to  get  his  present.

“Thanks  Albus.  This  will  come  in  so  handy.  My  quills  are  always  running  out  of  ink.”

“I  thought  it’d  be  useful,”  Albus  said  quietly.  “What’s  it  like  working  for  Aunt  Hermione  anyway?”

Teddy  laughed.  “Honestly?  It’s  a  revelation.  There’s  been  so  much  inequality  in  our  world.  I  always  knew  that,  of  course,  but  until  I  started  working  in  the  Ministry,  I  never  realised  just  how  much  opposition  to  change  there  is  out  there.  Hermione’s  really  been  up  against  it.  That  she’s  achieved  so  much  already  is  just  amazing.  She’s  drawn  up  a  whole  code  as  to  how  house-elves  should  be  treated.”

Albus’s  father  nodded.  “As  Kreacher’s  official  ‘master’,  I  had  to  sign  a  contract,  guaranteeing  him  those  rights.  Even  though  he  works  at  Hogwarts,  I’m  still  legally  responsible.”

“The  code  is  great,  but  it’s  still  largely  ignored  by  some  of  the  old  pureblood  families,  the  ones  that  stick  to  the  old  ideals.”  He  sighed.  “It’s  hard.  We  can’t  go  around  to  the  houses  of  everybody  who  owns  a  house  elf  to  ensure  they’re  treating  them  correctly  so  we’re  dependent  on  the  house  elves  themselves  filing  complaints  and  for  the  most  part,  they  don’t.  They’re  too  loyal  to  their  families.  And  of  course,  there  are  those  even  within  the  Ministry  who’d  rather  they  weren’t  even  aware  of  their  right  to  do  so.”

“Change  can  be  a  long  time  coming,”  Albus’s  father  admitted.  “But  it’s  definitely  a  very  different  world  from  the  one  I  grew  up  in.”

“I  know  that.  I  think  we  are  very  lucky  to  be  growing  up  today.  I  just  wish  my  dad  had  lived  to  see  it.”

“So  do  I.”

Albus  shifted  uncomfortably.  Even  now,  the  events  of  the  past  could  still  draw  a  shadow  over  the  warmest  gatherings.  Rose  was  right.  They  really  did  need  to  find  out  who  it  was  that  seemed  to  want  to  draw  them  back  into  those  days.

“Teddy?”  he  began.

“Yes.”  Teddy  turned  to  give  him  his  full  attention.

“I  don’t  think  I  told  you  this – maybe  Dad  did – but,  somebody’s  been  writing  stuff  about  the  past  on  the  walls  at  Hogwarts.”

“WHAT?”  His  mother  spun  around  to  stare  at  him.  “You  never  told  me  that.  What  were  they  writing?”

“Oh,  just  stuff  about  Voldemort,”  Albus  said  uncomfortably,  remembering  he  wasn’t  supposed  to  remind  her  of  the  Chamber  of  Secrets.  “That  he  was  about  to  come  back  and  stuff.”

“He  can’t,”  his  mother  and  Teddy  said  in  unison.

“Yeah,  I  know,  but  it  sounded  like  the  person  writing  it  wished  he  could.”

His  mother  frowned.  “You  should  have  told  me  about  this.”

“That  was  my  fault,”  his  father  interrupted.  “Albus  mentioned  it  to  me,  but  I  was  in  the  middle  of  one  of  our  usual  crises  at  the  Ministry  and  I  must  have  forgotten  to  pass  it on.  Albus  probably  assumed  I’d  told  you.”  He  winked  at  his  son.

“I’d  say  there  are  some  people  who’d  like  to  return  to  the  days  of  Voldemort’s  reign,”  Teddy  said  slowly.  “Some  of  the  families  who  lost  their  money  and  position  in  the  aftermath,  for  a  start.”

“I  really  don’t  think  this  is  the  time  to  be  discussing  this,”  Albus’s  father  said.  “We’re  trying  to  celebrate  Christmas,  after  all.  And  Ginny’s  gone  to  a  lot  of  trouble  over  the  meal.  Albus,  Lily  and  I  decorated  the  biscuits.”

“The  easy  part,  you’ll  notice,”  his  mother  said,  smiling.

They  never  had  turkey  Christmas  Eve,  since  there’d  be  plenty  of  that  the  following  day,  so  they  sat  down  to  salmon,  followed  by  ice-cream  and  mince-pies.

“You’re  a  fantastic  cook,  Ginny,”  Teddy  said  appreciatively.

“Thank  you,  Teddy.  If  only  everybody  else  was  as  polite.”  She  glanced  around  the  table.

Albus  got  up  and  kissed  her.  “Thanks  Mum.”

“Yeah,  thanks,  Mum.”  Lily  came  over  to  kiss  her  as  well.

“You’re  absolutely  wonderful,  the  best  wife  in  the  world  and  I  promise  to  do  more  next  year.”

“Oh  well,  you  got  the  tree  organised  and  I  know  how  busy  you  are  at  work.”

“You’re  busy  too;  don’t  think  I  don’t  consider  your  career  important.”

“I  don’t  have  the  same  pressures  you  do,  though.  Being  Head  Auror  must  be  about  the  most  stressful  job  there  is.”

“It’s  not  as  bad  now  as  it  was  when  I  started.  I  pity  Robarts.  He  had  a  difficult  time  of  it.”

“The  reason  it’s  easier  now  is  because  you’re  doing  such  an  amazing  job.  There  are  still  Dark  Wizards  out  there.  You’re  just  keeping  on  top  of  them.”

“Long  may  we  continue  to  do  so.”

The  conversation  continued  into  the  night.  It  was  after  eleven  before  Teddy  finally  left.  Lily  was  already  asleep  on  the  couch  and  Albus’s  own  eyes  were  beginning  to  close.

Their  father  took  Lily  in  his  arms  and  carried  her  up  the  stairs.

“It’s  time  you  two  were  getting  to  bed  too,”  their  mother  said.  “Or  Father  Christmas  won’t  come  to  you.”

“Right  Mum.”  James  rolled  his  eyes,  but  got  to  his  feet  anyway.

Despite  getting  to  bed  so  late,  Albus  woke  early  the  next  morning.

He  rushed  downstairs,  where  Lily  was  already  tearing  at  one  of  her  parcels.

“Shouldn’t  we  wait  for  James  and  Mum  and  Dad?”  he  said.

She  sighed.  “I  suppose  so.”

She  tried  to  glance  in  through  the  small  tear  she’d  made.

Albus  laughed.

“I’ll  go  and  call  them.”

James  staggered  down  the  stairs  looking  sleepy.

“Is  it  morning  already?”

“Aren’t  you  excited  to  open  your  presents?”  Lily  asked.

“I  already  know  what  I’m  getting,  remember?”

Their  father  got  out  his  camera,  as  Albus  and  Lily  finally  tore  into  their  presents.

Albus  got  books,  clothes,  a  working  model  of  the  solar  system  and  a  small  Quidditch  game  that  worked  in  a  similar  way  to  wizard’s  chess,  with  miniature  players  you  had  to  direct.  Since  Albus  loved  both  Quidditch  and  wizard’s  chess,  he  couldn’t  wait  to  try  it  out  and  he  and  James  immediately  set  it  up  to  play  a  game.

The  difficulty  immediately  became  clear.  It  was  virtually  impossible  to  direct  your  Seeker  to  find  the  Snitch  without  alerting  your  opponent,  but  that  only  made  the  game  more  hilarious.

“It’s  over  there,  by  the  third  hoop.  Our  one.  Go  and  get  it.”

“You  heard  him.  Get  after  it.”

Lily  shoved  the  dolls  from  her  Healer’s  set  aside.

“I’m  playing  next!”

“OK,  winner  plays  Lily,”  James  declared.  “For  Merlin’s  sake,  GET  THAT  SNITCH!”

James  finally  won  the  game  and  the  players  returned  to  their  starting  places  so  he  could  play  Lily.  He  beat  her  easily  and  punched  the  air  in  excitement.

“I  am  the  champion!”

She  sulked  a  little.

“Come  on,  Lil,  it’s  Christmas.”  Albus  reached  out  to  tickle  her.

“Stop  it,”  she  said,  giggling.

“Hey,  don’t  your  Mum  and  I  get  a  game?”  their  father  asked.  “The  winner  plays  James.  All  right?”

“Yeah,  great,”  Albus  said  vaguely.  He’d  just  realised  he’d  forgotten  all  about  the  presents  he  had  for  his  family.

While  his  parents  set  up  the  game  again,  he  ran  up  to  his  room  to  get  the  presents  and  brought  them  down.  He  passed  James  his  book  and  Lily  the  notes.  He’d  keep  his  parents’  presents  until  they  could  focus  their  full  attention  on  opening  them.

“Oh!”  Lily  jumped  up  and  ran  out  to  get  her  presents  also.

James  opened  his  present.

“Wow,  thanks  Albus.  This’ll  be  a  great  help.”

“Open  these!”  Lily  placed  parcels  beside  each  of  her  brothers,  then  turned  to  open  the  notes.  “These  are  fantastic.”  She  lowered  her  voice.  “Hugo  and  I  will  be  able  to  pass  each  other  all  kinds  of  messages  when  Grandma  is  boring.”

James  and  Albus  unwrapped  wonky  looking  scarves,  one  in  the  red  of  Gryffindor  for  James  and  the  other  the  blue  of  Ravenclaw  for  Albus.

“I  made  them  myself.”

James  and  Albus  exchanged  looks,  trying  not  to  laugh.  It  was  perfectly  clear  she’d  made  them.

“We’ll  wear  them  to  the  Burrow  this  afternoon,”  Albus  said.

James  glared  at  him.

Their  mother  finally  beat  their  father  at  the  Quidditch  game  and  they  both  stopped  to  open  their  presents  from  their  children.

“I  need  a  break  before  I  play  James  anyway.”

James  tisked.  “See,  you’re  out  of  practice.  You  haven’t  a  hope  against  me.”

“Out  of  practice,  I  may  be,  but  don’t  forget  I  played  professionally.  You  won’t  have  it  all  your  own  way.”

He  didn’t.  She  beat  him,  two  hundred  and  ninety  points  to  sixty.

Albus  and  Lily  laughed.

“Come  on.  Let’s  play  again.  I’ll  beat  you  this  time.”

“We  haven’t  got  time,”  their  mother  said  gently.  “We  need  to  be  heading  for  the  Burrow  soon.”

“Oh,  do  we  have  to?”  James  collapsed  back  down  on  the  couch.  “It’s  so  boring.  I’d  rather  stay  here.”

“I  don’t  really  care  what  you’d  rather,”  she  replied.  “We’re  going  and  that’s  that.  Your  grandparents  would  be  really  disappointed  if  we  didn’t.”

 “It’s  not  fair.  There’s  nobody  my  age  there,  except  Lucy  and  Louis.”  He  scowled,  emphasising  what  he  thought  of  them.

“You’re  only  two  years  older  than  me  and  Rose,”  Albus  said.  “You  could  hang  around  with  us.”

He  didn’t  see  what  James  was  complaining  about.  There  wasn’t  anybody  his  age  at  home  either.

James  wrinkled  his  nose.  “Yeah,  right,  little  bro.  Two  years  is  a  lot  when  you’re  only  eleven.”

“I’m  twelve!”

“Barely.”

“That’s  enough.  Don’t  speak  like  that  to  your  brother,  James  and get  up  off  that  couch.”  Their  mother  reached  out  to  straighten  the  creases  in  his  clothes.

He  got  up  reluctantly.  “Oh,  all  right,  but  don’t  expect  me  to  enjoy  it.”

“Fair  enough,  but  I  do  expect  you  to  behave  with  some  courtesy.  Being  bored  is  no  excuse  for  being  rude.”

“Can  I  bring  my  dolls,  Mum?”  Lily  gestured  to  the  Healer’s  set.

“I  don’t  see  why  not.  But  hurry  up.  We  don’t  want  to  be  late.”

James  shrugged.  “What  does  it  matter?  You  know  Uncle  George  won’t  be  there  for  at  least  another  couple  of  hours.”

“That  isn’t  the  point.  Your  Grandma  might  need  some  help  with  dinner.  I  don’t  know  what’s  got  into  you,  James.  You  were  playing  perfectly  happily  a  hour  ago.”

Playing!”  he  said  disgustedly.  “Anyway,  isn’t  it  obvious?  I  was  enjoying  myself  until  you  decided  it  was  time  to  go!”

Their  father  glared  at  him.  “I’ve  had  enough  of  this,  James.  Apologise  to  your  mother.”

For  a  moment,  it  looked  as  if  he  was  going  to  refuse,  but  one  glance  at  their  father’s  face  and  he  seemed  to  think  better  of  it.

“Sorry,  Mum.”

“Apology  accepted.”  She  took  down  the  Floo  Powder  and  handed  it  around.

Lily  struggled  with  it,  trying  to  hold  both  dolls  and  the  case  of  bandages,  medicines  and  other  accoutrements  that  came  with  them.

“Here,  give  one  of  those  dolls  to  me,”  Albus  said.

James  had  gone  ahead  of  him  and  laughed  as  he  stepped  out  of  the  Burrow’s  fireplace  holding  the  doll.

“Oh,  I  wish  I  had  a  camera.”

At  least  his  good  mood  seemed  to  have  been  somewhat  restored.

Their  Grandma  rushed  forward  to  greet  them.

“I’ve  got  a  present  for  you  here,  Grandma,”  Albus  said.  “Where’s  Grandpa?”

“Did  I  hear  somebody  taking  my  name  in  vain?”  He  appeared  behind  her.

“This  is  for  you,  Grandpa.” 

Albus  handed  them  both  their  presents.

“And  this  is  from  me  and  Harry  and  this  is  from  James,”  their  mother  said.

“Sorry,  I  left  your  present  at  home,”  Lily  said.

“Oh,  don’t  worry.  It  looks  like  you  had  enough  to  carry,”  said  their  grandmother.  “And  we’ll  see  you  again  before  the end of the holidays,  I’m  sure.”

Rose  and  Hugo  ran  into  the  room,  followed  at  a  more  sedate  pace  by  their  Uncle  Charlie,  who  was  carrying  a  pile  of  parcels.

Uncle  Charlie always  gave  fantastic  presents.  He’d  no  children  of  his  own,  so  he  tended  to  spoil  his  nieces  and  nephews.  Uncle  George  gave  brilliant  presents  too,  because  of  his  joke  shop.  Their  other  uncles  and  aunts  gave  smaller  gifts  as  they’d  their  own  children  to  buy  for  and  didn’t  have  shops  full  of  items  to  give  away.

Albus  glanced  at  him  hopefully  for  a  moment,  before  turning  to  Rose  and  handing  her  her  gift.

She  tore  the  paper  off  them.

“These’ll  come  in  handy.”  She  winked  at  him.

Both  their  grandmother  and  Uncle  Charlie  handed  them  their  gifts.  Albus  knew  what  his  grandmother  would  give  him – a  Weasley  sweater.  It  was  a  family  tradition  at  this  stage.

This  year,  both  his  and  Rose’s  were  navy  blue,  for  Ravenclaw.

From  Charlie  he  received  a  book  on  dragons  and  a  small  toy  egg.

He  glanced  at  the  latter  in  confusion.

“Place  it  in  fire  and  a  toy  baby  dragon  will  fly  out  of  it,”  Charlie  explained.  “If  you  care  for  it,  it’ll  grow  and  eventually  be  able  to  fly.  You’ll  be  able  to  direct  it  with  your  hands.”

“Aw,  cool,”  Albus  said.

“I’ve  got  one  too.”  Lily  lifted  it  up  to  show  him.

In  Albus’s  opinion,  James  got  the  best  present  of  all,  a  Snitch  signed  by  the  Romanian  Keeper.

“Wow,”  he  breathed.

“His  cousin  worked  with  us  for  a  few  months,  so  I  asked  if  he  could  get  him  to  sign  it  for  you.  Sorry  guys.”  He  glanced  around  at  the  rest  of  the  kids.  “I  couldn’t  really  ask  him  to  sign  twelve  of  them,  so  I  just  got  them  for  James  and  Dominique,  as  they’re  currently  playing  for  their  houses.”

“Did  I  hear  you  mention  my  daughter?”  Bill  stepped  out  of  the  fireplace.

“Oh,  I’ve  just  got  a  pretty  special  present  for  her,”  Charlie  said.

It  was  now  only  George’s  family  who’d  yet  to  arrive  and  as  James  had  predicted,  there  was  still  no  sign  of  them  almost  an  hour  later.

Their  grandmother  was  not  happy.

“The  turkey  will  be  burnt  if  they  don’t  arrive  soon.” 

Their  grandfather  slipped  an  arm  around  her.  “It’ll  be  fine.”

“It  won’t  be  fine.  Every  year,  he  does  this  to  me.  Believe  me,  he’s  getting  a  piece  of  my  mind  when  he  finally  does  arrive.”

Albus  and  Rose  slipped  out  of  the  room.  Their  grandmother  could  fuss  for  England  when  she  put  her  mind  to  it.

“You  know  who  we  should  talk  to  when  we  get  back  to  school?”  Rose  began.

“There  you  are!”  Lily  raced  into  the  room,  followed  by  Hugo  and  they  both  plonked  themselves  down  before  their  older  siblings.  “You  could  have  told  us  where  you  were  going,  instead  of  leaving  us  to  listen  to  Grandma  complaining  about  Uncle  George.”

“Did  it  occur  to  you  that  maybe  we  wanted  some  privacy?”  Rose  sounded  irritated.

“You  sound  like  James  now.”  Lily  frowned.

“It’s  OK,”  Albus  said.  “Of  course  we  don’t  mind  you  joining  us.”

“I  wanted  to  show  you  what  you  can  do  with  the  Healer’s  set,”  Lily  said.  “Me  and  Hugo  tried  it  earlier.”

She  waved  the  toy  wand  at  one  of  the  dolls. 

The  doll  sprang  to  life  and  clutched  it’s  stomach.  “Oooh,  I  feel  ill.  I’ve  a  pain  in  my  tummy.”

Lily  removed  the  jar  entitled  “Pepper-Up  Potion.

“That’s  wrong,  Lily,”  Albus  said.  “That’s  for…”

She  shook  her  head  and  placed  the  jar  to  the  doll’s  mouth.

 “Oooh,  that’s  not  right,”  the  doll  moaned.  “I  feel  even  worse  now.  I’ll  need  lots  and  lots  of  medicine.”

“Well,  you’re  not  getting  it.”  Lily  giggled  and  closed  the  Healer’s  set.

The  doll  continued  to  moan.  A  greenish  tinge  crept  across  its  face.

 “I  feel  so  sick.”

Albus  couldn’t  bear  it.  He  knew  it  was  only  a  doll  and  couldn’t  really  feel  anything,  but  leaving  it  moaning  in  pain  seemed  cruel.

He  grabbed  the  Healer’s  set,  extracted  the  correct  medicine  and  placed  it  to  the  doll’s  lips.

“Thank  you,  but  I  still  feel  sick.  I  think  I  need  some  more  medicine.”

“That’s  because  I  gave  it  wrong  stuff  the  first  time,”  Lily  said.  “If  you  give  them  the  wrong  medicine,  it  makes  them  more  ill  and  you  have  to  give  them  the  right  one  twice.”

Hugo  started  to  laugh.  “The  other  doll  had  a  cold  a  few  moments  ago  and  we  gave  it  the  wrong  medicine  and  it  started  sneezing  over  and  over  again.  It  was  like  this:  ‘achoo…I  feel  worse  now…achoo,  achoo…please,  can  I  have…achoo…some  medicine...achoo,  achoo,  achoo.”

Albus  gave  the  doll  its  medicine  again.

“Thank  you.  I  feel  much  better  now.  Do  you  want  to  play  again?”

“I  wanted  to  see  if  it’d  throw  up  if  you  left  it  long  enough  with  a  tummy  ache,”  Lily  complained.  “Maybe  if  I  gave  it  the  wrong  medicine  twice.”

 “You’re  sadistic,”  Rose  said.

“What  else  can  be  wrong  with  them?”  Albus  asked.  “Apart  from  colds  and  stomach aches.”

Lily  thought  for  a  moment.  “Broken  bones,  burns,  dragon  pox,  flu,  fevers,  spattergoit.  I  think  that’s  everything.” 

Their  grandmother’s  voice  interrupted  their  conversation.  “ALBUS!  ROSE!  LILY!  HUGO!  Where  are  you?”  She  sounded  irritated.

“Uh  oh,”  said  Albus.

“We’re  coming,”  Rose  called.

They  returned  to  the  kitchen,  where  George,  Angelina  and  their  children  were  removing  their  coats.

Their  grandmother  was  fussing  with  the  turkey.

“I’m  sure  it’ll  be  dry.”

“I’ll  tell  you  what  happened,  Mum,”  George  began.  “Fred  got  a  new  train  set  for  Christmas  and  we’d  the  devil  of  a  time  getting  him  away  from  it.”

Angelina  rolled  her  eyes.  “What  actually  happened  is  that  somebody  set  off  some  kind  of  a  firework  under  it  to  derail  the  train  and  we  spent  the  next  half  hour  reassuring  Fred  his  precious  train  wasn’t  broken.  And  Roxanne  started  screaming  because  the  noise  terrified  her.”  She  glared  at  her  husband.

“It  wasn’t  a  real  firework,  Angie.  Not  one  that’d  do  any  harm.  It’s  a  new  product  from  the  shop.  All  the  noise  of  a  firework  without  the  sparks.”

“It  did  enough  harm  to  derail  his  train!”

“The  train  was  fine,  though,  wasn’t  it?.”

“George  Weasley!”  his  mother  began  in  scandalised  tones.  “Are  you  seriously  telling  me  that  the  reason  you’ve  kept  us  all waiting  and  caused  the  dinner  to  be  absolutely  ruined  is  because  you  were  busy  tormenting  that  poor  misfortunate  boy  of  yours.”

Far  from  looking  in  any  way  misfortunate,  Fred  seemed  to  be  thoroughly  enjoyed  the  drama  he’d  helped  cause.

“Hey.”  George  glanced  around  at  his  nieces  and  nephews.  “Am  I  a  horrible,  cruel  father?”

“NO,”  Hugo  replied.  “You’re  the  coolest  uncle,  and  father  ever.”

Mrs.  Weasley  sighed  and  continued  to  pass  around  the  food,  which  was  far  from  ruined.  His  grandma  was  the  best  cook  Albus  knew.  Even  better  than  his  mother.

“Honestly,  George,”  Percy  began.  “You  could  have  more  consideration.  You  know  how  much  trouble  Mum  goes  to  for  Christmas  and  it  really  is  awfully  good  of  her  to  have  us  all,  you  know.”

Their  grandfather  raised  a  hand.  “That’s  enough.  We  won’t  say  any  more  about  it.  The  dinner  is  absolutely  delicious,  Molly.”

“Absolutely,”  Bill  and  Charlie  agreed.

Their  grandmother  waved  the  praise  aside,  but  she  looked  pleased.

“You  know  how  much  I  love  having  you  all  here.  And  your  children  too.  We  don’t  get  the  whole  family  together  nearly  as  much  as  I’d  like.  And  who  knows  where  Victoire  and  Dominique  will  be  in  a  few  years  time.”  She  sighed.

“I’m  sure  you’re  studying  hard  for  your  N.E.W.T.S,  Victoire?”  Percy  put  in.  “Lucy’s  already  thinking  about  her  O.W.L.S.,  aren’t  you  dear?”

“I’m  sure  nobody  wants  to  hear  about  that  now,  Dad,”  Lucy  muttered.

“I  certainly  don’t,”  James  whispered  to  Albus.

Albus  looked  down  at  his  plate,  trying  not  to  laugh.

“Of  course  they  do,”  Percy  said.  “Everybody’s  very  proud  of  you,  my  dear.  Two  hundred  and  ninety-five  percent  she  got  in  her  last  Arithmancy  test,  you  know.”

If  Percy  wasn’t  boasting  about  his  career,  it  was  Lucy’s  stellar  performance  at  school.  He  rarely  mentioned  Molly. 

Albus  wasn’t  sure  which  he’d  hate  more – having  his  father  constantly  boasting  about  him  or  having  his  father  constantly  boast  about  a  sibling  and  ignore  him.  Thankfully,  his  father  did  neither.

When  everybody  was  finally  full,  all  the  cousins  gathered  around  George,  anxious  to  see  what  he’d  brought  thim.

“Hmm,  you  know,  I  think  we’ve  forgotten  the  presents.  Did  we  Angelina?”

He  continued  the  jest  for  a  while,  pretending  to  search  in  his  pockets  and  under  the  chairs  before  finally  taking  pity  on  them  and  handing  around  the  packages.

“A  decoy  detonator,”  squealed  James,  finally  forgetting  to  be  a  moody  teenager.  “I’ll  get  plenty  of  use  out  of  this.”

“A  reusable  hangman.”  Rose  grinned.  “This  should  be  fun.”

Albus  got  Extendable  Ears  and  a  Headless  Hat.  He  put  it  on  and  his  head  disappeared.

Everybody  laughed.

He  pulled  it  off. 

“What  did  you  get,  Lily?”

“Some  supplies  for  Penelope  Purple.”  She  turned  to  Hugo.  “Did  I  tell  you  I  got  a  Pygmy  Puff  as  an  early  Christmas  present?”

“And  she  called  it  Penelope  Purple,”  James  scoffed.

“Because  she’s  purple,”  Lily  explained.  “And  I  think  Penelope  is  such  a  lovely  name.”

James  rolled  his  eyes.

“Isn’t  it  a  nice  name,  Victoire?”  Lily  pleaded.

“Of  course  it  is,  honey.  Don’t  mind  your  brother.  He  loves  to  tease.”

People  began  to  move  out  of  the  kitchen.  At  Molly’s  insistence,  they  managed  to  squeeze  around  the  magically  enlarged  kitchen  table  to  eat,  but  once  the  meal  was  over,  they  spread  out,  giving  themselves  more  comfort  to  chat  and  relax.  None  of  the  rooms  were  really  big  enough  to  hold  the  entire  family.

It  was  late  in  the  evening  and  Albus  was  sitting  in  the  living  room  with  George,  Angelina,  Rose,  Victoire,  Dominique,  Lucy,  Molly  and  Ron,  when  James  rushed  in.

“Aunt  Angelina,  I  think  Roxie’s  ill.”

A  grin  crossed  Albus’s  face  as  he  guessed  what  his  brother  was  doing.  At  least  he  hoped  so;  he  hoped  she  wasn’t  really  ill.

“She’s  crying,”  James  continued  seriously,  “and  she  says  her  tummy  really  hurts.”

Angelina  tutted.  “That’s  all  the  chocolates  she’s  eaten  since  dinner.  Come  on,  where  is  she?”

Albus  and  Rose  jumped  up  and  followed  James  and  their  aunt  and  uncle  up  to  what  used  to  be  Albus’s  mother’s  bedroom.

“Oooh,  I  feel  awful.  I  think  I’m  going  to  be  sick.”

Inside,  Roxanne  was  cradling  one  of  Lily’s  dolls  in  her  arms  and  grinning  broadly.  Albus  wasn’t  sure  how  much  of  the  joke  she  really  understood,  but  she  loved  to  be  included.

“Oh!”  Angelina  glanced  around  in  irritation.

George  left  out  a  massive  guffaw  and  clapped  James  on  the  back.  “Well  done.  That  was  a  brilliant  joke.  And  without  even  the  use  of  a  Puking  Pastille.  You’re  carrying  on  the  tradition,  all  right.  Where’s  Fred?  This  is  what  I  want  him  to  live  up  to.”

The  doll  was  still  clutching  its  stomach  and  moaning.

Albus  picked  up  the   case  that  was  lying  on  the  floor  and  gave  it  the  correct  medicine.

“Thank  you.  I  feel  much  better  now.  Do  you  want  to  play  again?”

“It  took  me  a  while  to  get  the  right  complaint,”  James  told  his  uncle.  “It  first  started  complaining  about  a  broken  arm  and  then  dragon  pox  or  something  and  then  it had  a  fever.  I  thought  it’d  never  get  it  right.”

“It  was  worth  it  though.  You  really  got  us  good.”  He  glanced  around  at  his  daughter  and  niece  and  nephews.  “A  good  joke  often  takes  work.  It’s  worth  putting  in  the  time.”

Albus  and  Rose  exchanged  glances.  He  made  it  sound  like  a  military  campaign  or  something.  Then  again,  he  had  made  a  career  out  of  jokes,  so  maybe  it  wasn’t  as  frivolous  an  enterprise  as  it  seemed.

Mrs.  Weasley  bustled  into  the  room.

“Is  this  where  you  all  are?  Percy  and  his  family  are  leaving.  I’ve  been  looking  all  over,  trying  to  find  everybody  to  say  goodbye.”

“We’re  just  coming,”  Angelina  assured  her.

Uncle  Percy  and  his  family  were  almost  always  the  first  to  leave.

“I’m  awfully  sorry  everybody,”  he  said,  when  they  reached  the  sitting  room.  “But  it’s  almost  this  young  lady’s  bedtime.” 

He  indicated  Molly,  who  was  the  same  age  as  Lily.

Lily  certainly  wouldn’t  be  going  to  bed  for  some  time,  but  Percy  was  always  a  stickler  for  the  rules  and  even  Christmas  wasn’t  allowed  to  interfere  with  them.

He  tossed  the  Floo  Powder  into  the  fire  and  stepped  into  it,  followed  by  Molly,  Lucy  and  Aunt  Audrey.

With  their  departure,  the  evening  began  to  draw  to  a  close  and  people  began  leaving  in  dribs  and  drabs.

“I  suppose  it’s  time  we  went  too,”  Albus’s  mother  said  finally.  She  got  up  to  kiss  both  her  parents.  “Thank  you  very  much  for  having  us.  You  must  call  and  see  us  in  the  New  Year.”

“We  certainly  will.”

Albus  was  looking  forward  to  it.



Hope all my readers had a wonderful Christmas.


Chapter 16: Return to Hogwarts.
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Lily’s  delight  in  tormenting  her  dolls  became  more  and  more  irritating  over  the  following  days.  At  least  one  of  them  was  usually  moaning  in  pain,  while  she  watched  in  amusement.  She  never  seemed  to  get  tired  of  listening  to  them,  but  the  rest  of  the  family  certainly  did.

“Not  again,” James  said,  barging  into  the  sitting  room,  where  one  doll  was  apparently  suffering  dragon  pox  and  the  other  from  the  flu.  He  stared  at  Albus.  “Where  is  she?”

Lily  was  nowhere  to  be  seen.

Albus  shrugged.  “She  just  ran  upstairs.  I  hope  she’s  gone  to  get  their  medicine.”

She’d  hidden  the  medical  case  to  stop  the  rest  of  the  family  intervening  when  the  dolls’  cries  got  too  irritating.

“She’d  bloody  better  have,”  James  said  grimly.

Lily  skipped  back  into  the  room  with  the  potion  for  dragon  pox  and  laughingly  placed  it  to  the  wrong  doll’s  lips.

“Oooh,  that’s  not  right.  I  feel  even  worse  now.  Achoo,  achoo,  achoo.”

James  snatched  the  medicine  from  her  hand  roughly  and  pressed  it  to  the  lips  of  the  other  doll  who  was  complaining  loudly  about  the  itching.

“Thank  you.  I  feel  much  better  now.  Do  you  want  to  play  again?”

“Oooh,  I  need  my  medicine,”  the  other  doll  complained.  “I  feel  all  dizzy  and  my  throat  hurts.  Achoo,  achoo.”

James  grabbed  the  doll  by  a  leg  and  ran  upstairs.

Lily  and  Albus  raced  after  him.

“Give  her  back,”  Lily  demanded.

Up  in  his  bedroom,  he  dangled  the  doll  out  of  the  window. 

“Either  give  her  the  correct  medicine  or  I  drop  her,”  he  said.

Lily  lunged  towards  him.  “Give  her  back!”

“I’m  going  to  drop  her,”  he  jeered.

“James,  stop  it,”  Albus  said  weakly.  He  was  annoyed  by  the  dolls’  constant  complaining  too,  but  it  wasn’t  fair  to  risk  breaking  them.

Their  mother  entered  the  room.

“James  Potter,  give  your  sister  back  her  doll!”

“But  she’s  driving  me  crazy  with  them.”

“I’m  surprised  you  haven’t  driven  us  all  crazy  by  now,  but  we  don’t  go  around  taking  your  things.  Now,  give  it  back  to  her.”

Sulkily,  he  did  as  he  was  told.

“And  Lily,  please  can  you  give  them  a  rest  occasionally?”  their  mother  continued.  “I  think  we  could  all  do  with  a  break  from  them  for  a  day  or  two  now.  Go  out  and  play  in  the  yard  with  your  brothers  or  something.”

“Oh,  all  right,”  Lily  said.  She  turned  to  James.  “You  owe  me  a  go  on  your  new  broom.”

He  stared  at  her.

“How  do  you  work  that  one  out?”

“Well,  you  could  have  broken  my  doll,  so  the  least  you  can  do  is  let  me  have  a  ride.”

Albus  thought  James  was  going  to  argue  with  her,  but  he  just  sighed.

“Oh  go  on,  then.”

They  spent  the  rest  of  the  afternoon  taking  turns  on  the  broom.  It  really  was  a  good  one,  Albus  thought,  especially  compared  with  the  ones  they  used  in  flying  class.

“Yeah,  those  school  brooms  are  terrible,”  James  agreed  when  he  said  what  he  was  thinking.  “I  spent  most  of  first  year  dreaming  of  bringing  my  own  one.”

“A  couple  of  people  in  my  year  were  joking  about  sneaking  theirs  in.”

“Oh,  believe  me,  I  tried  that.  When  I  first  went  to  Hogwarts,  I  tried  slipping  it  into  the  car  and  putting  my  trunk  in  on  top  of  it,  but  Mum  found  it  and  made  me  leave  it  behind.”  He  sighed.

Lily  swooped  down  on  James’s  broom.

“Let’s  practice  some  Quidditch  shots.”

“OK,”  James  said.  “I’ll  be  Keeper  and  you  two  try  to  score  past  me.  You  can  use  my  old  broom,  Lily.”

They  played  until  they  could  no  longer  see  the  Quaffle,  then  Albus  challenged  his  mum  to  a  game  of  wizard’s  chess  while  James  and  Lily  set  up  Albus’s  Quidditch  game.

The  rest  of  the  holidays  passed  enjoyably.  Teddy  visited  regularly  and  Albus’s  grandparents  called  over  twice. 

Unfortunately  Dark  Wizards  didn’t  take  Christmas  off,  so  his  father  had  to  go  back  to  work  the  day  after  Boxing  day.  His  mother,  however,  was  able  to  take  longer  holidays,  as  Christmas  was  a  quiet  time  for  the  Daily  Prophet  and  there  was  only  one  day  both  his  parents  had  to  work .

“Dominique’s  coming  over  to  keep  an  eye  on  things,”  their  mum  told  them.  “Be  good.”

Mum!”  James  glared  at  her.  “I’m  almost  fourteen.  I  do  not  need  a  babysitter.”

The  last  word  was  said  in  utter  disgust.

“And  Lily’s  only  nine,”  his  mother  replied  calmly.  “Anyway,  you  like  Dominique.”

“Yeah,  as  a  cousin  and  a  teammate,  not  as  a…a….”  He  didn’t  seem  to  be  able  to  bring  himself  to  use  the  word  ‘babysitter’  again.

“It’s  not  up  for  debate,  James.  I’m  not  leaving  the  three  of  you  home  alone.  God  knows,  there  probably  wouldn’t  be  a  house  to  come  home  to.  Teddy  and  Victoire  apparently  have  plans,  so  it’ll  have  to  be  Dominique.”

James  stormed  off  to  his  room  in  annoyance,  but  returned  when  Dominique  arrived.  Albus  smiled  to  himself.  His  brother  might  be  appalled  at  the  idea  of  being  babysat,  but  he  still  wasn’t  going  to  miss  out  on  spending  time  with  arguably  the  best  player  on  the  Gryffindor  team.

Dominique  grinned  at  him.  “Hey,  James.”

“Hi.”

“How  about  some  Quidditch  practice?”  she  suggested.  “Girls  against  boys.”

The  two  sides  were  fairly  evenly  matched.  Lily,  though  good  for  her  age,  was,  after  all,  only  nine  years  old.  Her  lack  of  experience,  however,  was  more  than  compensated  for  by  Dominique’s  skill.  James  too  was  extremely  good.  Albus  himself  was  a  competent  player,  better  than  Lily,  but  not  as  good  as  James  or  Dominique.

The  game  was  a  long  one  and  when  it  finally  finished,  Albus  and  Lily  had  had  enough  of  Quidditch  for  one  day.  James,  however,  wanted  to  play  on.

“We  can  practice  some  shots,  if  you’d  like,”  Dominique  said.  “You  two  won’t  get  up  to  any  mischief,  will  you?”

Albus  shrugged.  “I’m  just  going  inside  to  read.”

Lily,  however,  had  no  intention  of  allowing  him  to  do  so.  She  perched  herself  beside  him  and  quizzed  him  continually  about  what  he  was  reading,  what  he’d  learnt  at  Hogwarts,  what  the  teachers  were  like,  did  he  think  her  Quidditch  had  improved?

Albus  didn’t  mind.  It  was  good  to  spend  time  with  his  sister.  He’d  missed  her  while  he’d  been  at  Hogwarts.

It  was  a  good  day.  He  suspected  even  James  had  enjoyed  it,  though  he’d  never  have  admitted  it.  In  fact, the  entire  Christmas  holidays  had  been  good.

All  too  soon,  it  was  time  to  return  to  school  and  James  and  Albus  were  dispatched  to  their  rooms  to  pack. 

This  turned  out  to  be  a  more  difficult  task  than  Albus  had  expected,  as  it  meant  deciding  what  to  leave  behind.  He  definitely  wanted  to  take  his  wizard’s  chess  game  and  the  Quidditch  game  and  the  model  of  the  solar  system  and  some  of  his  new  books.  It  was  a  good  thing  Rose  had  convinced  him  not  to  bring  everything  he  owned  home  with  him.  There  was  no  way  he’d  be  able  to  fit  it  all  in  his  trunk  along  with  the  new  items  he  wanted  to  bring.

“I  don’t  know  how  we’re  going  to  get  all  your  stuff  home  at  the  end  of  the  year,”  his   mother  fussed,  when  she  saw  how  much  he’d  packed.

“Oh,  he  can  always  send  some  of  it  on  ahead,”  his  father  said.  “Don’t  worry  about  it,  Gin.”

Albus  sighed  with  relief.  He’d  been  afraid  she’d  say  he  had  to  leave  some  of  it  at  home.  It  was  all  stuff  he  needed,  but  parents  didn’t  always  understand  that.  At  least  his  mother  didn’t.  His  father  usually  seemed  to  appreciate  how  important  his  children’s  possessions  were.

They  loaded  everything  into  the  car.

“Come  on,  James,”  their  mum  shouted.  “We  don’t  want  to  be  late.”

“I’m  coming.”

He  placed  his  new  broom  carefully  on  top  of  the  trunks  before  getting  into  the  car.  Albus  grinned.  He’d  rarely  seen  his  brother  take  such  care  with  anything.

“I  wish  I  was  going  too.”  Lily  pouted  as  she  got  into  the  car.

Albus  sighed.  Returning  to  Hogwarts  wasn’t  as  exciting  as  starting  had  been.  He  hadn’t  realised  just  how  hard  it  would  be  being  away  from  his  family  for  months  at  a  time.  Of  course,  they  wrote  regularly  and  he  loved  receiving  their  letters,  but  it  wasn’t  the  same  as  being  with  them.  And  then  there  was  all  that  stuff  about  the  graffiti  and  finding  the  inkwell  in  his  trunk.  He’d  been  able  to  forget  it  while  he’d  been  at  home,  but  now  that  he  was  returning  to  school,  he  couldn’t  help  feeling  worrying  that  his  things  might have  been  tampered  with  in  his  absence.

Of  course,  Rose  was  probably  right.  Nearly  everybody  had  gone  home  for  Christmas,  so  the  odds  were  that  nobody’d  have  the  opportunity  to  tamper  with  them,  but  you  never  knew.

He  turned  to  look  out  the  window.  He  couldn’t  cry.  James  would  never  let  him  live  it  down.

King’s  Cross  station  was  as  busy  as  it  always  was  when  Hogwarts  students  were  returning  to  school.

James  raced  across  the  platform  to  greet  his  friends,  but  Albus  hung  back,  still  trying  to  cling  to  the  last  few  moments  of  the  holidays

“Albus,”  his  father  said  quietly.

“Yes.”

“Are  you  all  right?”

He  nodded.  “Yeah.  It’s  just…I’ll  miss  you.  You  and  Mum  and  Lily.”

A  strange  look  crossed  his  father’s  face.

“We  miss  you  too,  Albus.  And  James.  We  miss  you  every  day.  But  you  know  what  I  tell  myself?”

“What?”

“That  we’re  lucky  to  have  people  we  love  enough  to  miss  them  so  much.”

Tears  filled  Albus’s  eyes  and  he  glanced  around,  worried.

“Don’t  worry.”  His  father  smiled.  “James  isn’t  paying  any  attention  to  us.”

“I  love  you,  Dad.”

His  father  hugged  him.  “I  love  you  too.”

“HARRY,  ALBUS,  hurry  up,”  his  mother  called.  “The  train  will  be  leaving  shortly.”

“Sorry  Gin.”

His  father  grinned  at  him  and  slipped  an  arm  around  him  as  they  strolled  onto  Platform  9  and  3/4s.

He  knew  he  didn’t  have  to  ask  his  father  not  to  tell  anybody  he’d  been  upset.  He  could  trust  him  with  that.  In  fact,  he  could  pretty  much  trust  his  father  with  anything.

James  was  already  standing  in  the  doorway  to  the  train.

“Where  on  earth  were  you?”

“Oh,  we  were  just  having  a  little  private  conflab,  right  Albus?”  His  father  grinned.

“Hey,  what  were  you  telling  him  and  not  me?”  James  sounded  insulted.

Lily  grabbed  Albus  tightly.  “I  don’t  want  you  to  go  away.”

“I’ll  miss  you  too,  kiddo.”  He  bit  his  lip  hard  to  keep  from  crying.

“Go  on,  Albus.  The  train  is  boarding,”  his  mother  said.

“I’m  going.  Bye  Mum.”

“Bye  honey.  Have  a  great  term.  Don’t  forget  to  write.”

“I  won’t.”

She  gave  him  one  last  hug,  before  he  finally  boarded  the  train.

James  had  already  disappeared,  but  Albus  remained  at  the  window,  waving  to  his  family  until  they  faded  from  view. 

It  wasn’t  that  he  didn’t  like  school.  His  dormmates  were  cool,  he  liked  most  of  his  teachers  and  it  was  great  to  be  finally  learning  magic.  Plus  he  was  hoping  he  might  someday  make  the  Ravenclaw  Quidditch  team.  It  wouldn’t  be  easy  though.  They  were  a  pretty  good  team.

It  was  just  hard,  knowing  he  wouldn’t  see  his  family  again  until  Easter.  Letters  were  all  very  well,  but  it  wasn’t  the  same  as  being  able  to  talk  to  his  parents  immediately  when  he  needed  them  or  spending  time  messing  around  with  his  sister.

“Is  this  where  you  are?”  Rose  appeared  behind  him.  “What  on  earth  are  you  doing?”

“Just  thinking.”

“And  you  couldn’t  do  that  sitting  down?  I’ve  been  waiting  ages  for  you.  Rasmus  asked  me  to  join  him,  but  I  said  no,  because  I  wanted  us  to  talk  privately.”

“Sorry,”  he said  quietly.

“Oh,  it  doesn’t  matter.  Just  come  on  now.  We  need  to  find  somewhere  quiet.”

It  wasn’t  easy  to  find  a  compartment  now  the  train  was  moving.

Rose  huffed  impatiently  and  he couldn’t  help  feeling  guilty.  If  he’d  just  gone  to  join  her  immediately…

“Finally!”  she  said,  opening  the  door  to  an  empty  compartment.  “Sit  down  now.  Gosh,  I’ve  been  waiting  for  a  chance  to  talk  to  you  since  Christmas.”

“You  could  have  owled  me.”

“I  suppose  so,  but  it’s  not  the  same  as  being  able  to  talk  about  something.  You  know  what’s  occurred  to  me?”

“Em,  no.”

“Well,  think  about  it.  It’s  so  obvious  when  you  do.  Who  else  might  know  what  Slughorn  was  talking  about  when  we  asked  him  about  Blackburn,  somebody  who’d  probably  tell  us.  And  would  know  all  about  both  times  the  Chamber  was  opened.”

He  stared  at  her  blankly.  “No  idea.”

“Hagrid,  Albus.  He’s  been  here  forever  too.  He  probably  taught  Blackburn.  And  you  know  he  was  accused  of  opening  the  Chamber  of  Secrets?”

He  shook  his  head.  “I  didn’t  know  that.”

“Well,  he  was.  Back  the  first  time  it  was  opened,  he  was  at  school  with  Lord  Voldemort  and  Voldemort  framed  him,  ‘cause  of  the  way  Hagrid  loves  monsters.”

“He  framed  Hagrid?”  Albus  was  indignant.  He  knew  Voldemort  was  evil  and  that  nothing  he’d  do  should  surprise  him,  but  the  idea  of  somebody  setting  somebody  as  kind  as  Hagrid  up  to  take  the  blame  for  something  he  didn’t  do  appalled  him.

“Yeah  and  then  when  it  was  opened  the  second  time,  people  thought  it  might  be  Hagrid  again.”

“But  it  wasn’t  him  the  first  time.”

“Well,  of  course  not,  but  they  didn’t  know  that.”

“You  mean  people  thought  he  was  guilty  for  years?

She  shrugged.  “I  guess  so.”

“How  could  anybody  think  Hagrid  would  hurt  people?”

She  shrugged  again,  but  when  she  spoke,  it  wasn’t  to  answer  his  question.

“I  can’t  believe  we  didn’t  talk  to  him  sooner.  He’s  bound  to  be  able  to  tell  us  something.  And  he  would;  I’m  sure  he  would.  He  isn’t  like  other  adults.  He  doesn’t  treat  everything  as  if  it’s  a  State  secret.”

No,  Hagrid  definitely  wasn’t  like  other  adults.  Rose  had  a  point.  If  anybody’d  be  likely  to  tell  them  what  they  knew,  it  was  him.

“We  haven’t  been  to  see  him  in  a  while,”  he  said  slowly.

“So  let’s  go  down  to  his  cabin  during  the  week.  Before  we  get  too  busy  with  schoolwork.”

For  the  first  time  since  leaving  home,  Albus  smiled.  Visiting  Hagrid  was  always  fun.  Even  if  they  found  out  nothing,  it  was  definitely  time  to  go  and  see  him.

“OK,”  he  said  to  Rose.

The  conversation  turned  to  other  things.  Rose  hadn’t  seen  most  of  his  presents  yet  and  he  hadn’t  seen  hers.  She  probably  wouldn’t  be  that  interested  in  the  Quidditch  game,  but  she  enjoyed  wizard’s  chess  almost  as  much  as  he  did  and  he  knew  she’d  like  the  model  of  the  solar  system.

They  were  still  talking  when  the  train  pulled  into  the  station.

“So  what  were  two  discussing  that  was  so  private?”  Rasmus  caught  up  with  them  on  the  platform.

“Oh,  that’d  be  telling.”  Rose  winked  at  him.  “I  think  we  travel  by  the  coaches  this  time.”

“Can’t  say  I’m  too  sorry  about  that,”  Rasmus  said.  “One  trip  in  those  boats  was  enough.”

“Oh,  come  on,  they  weren’t  that  bad,”  Rose  said.

“You  weren’t  the  one  who  nearly  fell  out.”

Albus  smiled  and  glanced  around  the  platform,  trying  to  find  Derek.  Maybe  going  back  to  school  wasn’t  so  bad  after  all.

Back  in  the  common  room,  the  Ravenclaw  first  years  compared  their  holidays.

“I  heard  you  stayed  here  for  Christmas,”  Albus  said  shyly  to  Angie.  “What’s  that  like?”

She  shrugged.  “Christmas  day  was  fun.  The  rest  of  the  time,  the  place  was  pretty  quiet,  you  know?  Not  much  to  do.  I’m  sure  your  Christmas  was  much  more  interesting.”

“My  dad  used  to  stay  at  Hogwarts  most  Christmases.”

Rose  glanced  from  Angie  to  Albus.

“Anybody  want  a  game  of  hangman?”  she  asked,  changing  the  subject.  “I  got  one  from  my  uncle  for  Christmas.”

She  pulled  out  the  reusable  hangman  game.

“I’ll  play  you,”  Rasmus  said.  “I’m  pretty  good  at  hangman.”

Nathan  grinned  enthusiastically.  “I  wouldn’t  mind  a  game  either.”

Albus  left  them  to  it,  looking  up  only  when  he  heard  a  resounding  crash.

“Sorry,”  Nathan  said.

He’d  managed  to  knock  the  entire  thing  over.

“It’s  all  right,”  Rose  said.  “I  can  set  it  up  again.”

Laughing,  Albus  turned  back  to  the  Quidditch  game  he  was  attempting  to  play  against  Derek.  It  was  an  easy  and  fun  way  of  teaching  his  friend  some  of  the  techniques  of  Quidditch.  Unfortunately,  Derek’s  players  had  figured  out  he  wasn’t  too  familiar  with  the  game  and  tended  to  ignore  or  argue  with  many  of  his  instructions.

“That  happens  with  wizard’s  chess  too,”  Albus  said.  “If  they  think  you  don’t  know  what  you’re  doing,  they  won’t  obey  you.  When  you  get  better,  they’ll  pay  more  attention  to  what  you  say.”

“Well,  I  am  completely  confused,”  Derek  said.  “Between  the  conflicting  instructions  and  all the  different  balls,  I’m  not  sure  I’ll  ever  fully  understand  this  game.”

Albus  flopped  back  down  on  the  floor. 

“Well,  the  most  important  thing  to  know  is  that  Ravenclaw  is  playing  Slytherin  at  the  end  of  the  month.  And  we  should  win.  At  least,  that’s  what  everybody  says.  James  says  Slytherin  were  appalling  last  year.”

“Will  that  make  up  for  the  way  Gryffindor  beat  us?”

“Depends  how  much  we  win  by  and  on  the  other  results.  It’s  all  pretty  complicated.”

“It  sounds  it.  Do  you  think  we  can  win  the  cup?”

“Well,  it’s  between  us  and  Gryffindor.  I’d  say  it  could  go  either  way,  really.”

He’d  only  half  his  mind  on  the  conversation  because  he  was  also  wondering  about  the  way  Rose  had  changed  the  conversation  so  abruptly  earlier.  It  was  like  she  wanted  him  to  stop  asking  Angie  about  Christmas  at  Hogwarts,  but  he  couldn’t  imagine  why  she  would.

He  asked  her  about  it  that  evening.

“I  just  got  the  impression  she  didn’t  really  want  to  talk  about  it,”  Rose  said.  “You  know  what  Angie’s  like.  She  doesn’t  seem  to  really  like  talking  about  stuff  like  that.”

“I  suppose  that’s  true,”  he  said  thoughtfully.

He  couldn’t  help  wondering  why  that  was.


Chapter 17: Hagrid's Memories.
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It  was  Saturday  before  they  got  a  chance  to  visit  Hagrid.

“I  can’t  believe  Binns  gave  us  a  two-foot  essay  our  first  week  back,”  Albus  said.  “And  Jones  has  been  piling  on  the  homework  too.”

“I  guess  we’ve  got  to  start  working  harder  now  we’re  in  our  second  term,”  Rose  said.  “Actually,  I  think  some  of  those  disputes  Binns  was  talking  about  could  be  pretty  interesting.”

“Maybe,  if  we’d  anybody  else  teaching  about  them.”

“That’s  what  the  library  is  for,  Albus.  So  we  can  look  up  all  the  stuff  he  doesn’t  bother  telling  us.  If  we’ve  time  after  we  leave  Hagrid,  I’m  going  to  do  some  research.”

“OK.”  He  supposed  he  should  do  some  himself.  He  wanted  to  do  well  in  the  end  of  year  exams,  after  all,  but  it  was  so  boring.

He  caught  sight  of  a  large  group  of  first  years.

“Hey,  what’s  going  on  over  there?”

“You  think  we  should  check  it  out?”  Rose  asked.

He  thought  for  a  moment.

“I  guess  so.  It’s  not  like  Hagrid’s  expecting  us,  after  all.”

Hagrid  had  said  they  were  welcome  to  visit  any  time,  so  they’d  just  decided  to  chance  turning  up  without  telling  him.  It  wasn’t  like  he  was  often  away  during  term  time.

They  joined  the  large  group  of  students  they’d  noticed.

First  years  from  all  four  houses  seemed  to  be  represented  in  the  crowd.

Albus  glanced  around,  hoping  to  see  one  of  his  dorm  mates.  Unable  to  find  them,  he  turned  to  Dora,  who  was  standing  at  the  edge  of  the  crowd.

“What’s  going  on?”  he  asked.

She  rolled  her  eyes.  “Malfoy’s  somehow  managed  to  smuggle  a  broom  into  school  and  all  this  lot  think  it’s  the  coolest  thing  anybody’s  ever  done.”  She  waved  a  hand  around  the  circle.

He  stared.  “He  is  going  to  be  in  so  much  trouble!”

She  shrugged.  “He’s  a  Malfoy.  He’ll  probably  get  away  with  it.  Daddy’ll  give  the  school  a  donation  or  something  to  get  him  off,  even  if  he  does  get  caught.”

“He  couldn’t  do  that.  Could  he?”  He  turned  to  Rose.

“It’s  possible,”  she  said.  “Stuff  like  that  used  to  happen  all  the  time,  Mum  says.  The  rich  pureblood  families  used  to  have  a  lot  of  influence  and  could  basically  buy  themselves  out  of  a  lot  of  sticky  situations.  The  Ministry’s  changed  a  lot  over  the  last  fifteen  or  twenty  years  though,  so  I  don’t  know  if  it’d  happen  today.”  She  sounded  doubtful.

“Well,  I’ve  no  intention  of  standing  around  here  gawping  in  admiration,”  Dora  said.  “Golden  Arrows  aren’t  that  unusual,  for  all  the  fuss  he’s  making  about  it.”

“We  should  go  too,”  Rose  said  quietly  to  Albus.  “Might  as  well  get  talking  to  Hagrid.”

“OK.”

Albus  wasn’t  sorry  to  be  leaving.  He  really  didn’t  want  to  be  there  when  a  teacher  turned  up.  Besides  Dora  had  a  point.  There  was  nothing  that  exciting  about  somebody  bringing  a  broom  to  Hogwarts.  All  the  older  students  had  them,  after  all.  Sneaking  one  in  in  first  year  was  kind  of  silly,  when  you  thought  about  it.  It  wasn’t  as  if  you’d  get  much  chance  to  use  it.  It  was  just  looking  for  trouble  unnecessarily.

“James  says  he  tried  to  sneak  a  broom  in  when  he  was  in  first  year,”  he  said.

Rose  rolled  her  eyes.  “James  would.”

“He  says  Mum  caught  him  and  made  him  leave  it  home  though.  Hey,  do  you  think  Scorpius’s  parents  know  he’s  brought  his?”

“Probably.  I  don’t  know.”

They  reached  Hagrid’s  cabin  and  Albus  reached  up  to  knock  on  the  door.

Hagrid  opened  almost  immediately  and  beamed  at  them.

“All  righ’  Albus?  Rose?”

“Hi  Hagrid.  Can  we  come  in?”  Albus  asked.

“Yeh  don’  have  to  ask  tha’.”  Hagrid  sounded  shocked.  “O’  course  yeh’re  always  welcome.  But  firs’  come  round  the  back.  Something  I  want  ter  show  yeh.”

The  followed  apprehensively.  When  Hagrid  had  something  he  wanted  to  show  people,  it  usually  meant  some  kind  of  dangerous  beast.

“Isn’  he  beau’iful?”

Standing  in  front  of  them  was  a  chestnut  coloured  winged  horse.

“Oh  wow,”  Rose  said,  but  she  approached  cautiously  all  the  same.  “Is  he  the  same  as  those  horses  Madame  Maxime  had?”

She  grinned.  According  to  their  parents,  Hagrid  had  a  crush  on  the  Headmistress  of  Beauxbatons.

Hagrid  shook  his  head.  “They  were  Abraxan  horses.  He’s  an  Aethonan.  Name  is  Jupiter.”

“Is  it  safe  to  stroke  him?”  she  asked.

“So  long  as  yeh’re  gentle.  Don’  like  rough  handling,  Aethonans  don’.”

Tentatively,  she  reached  out  to  stroke  him.

“Um,  Hagrid.  We  wanted  to  ask  you  a  few  questions.”

“Oh,  yeh  did,  did  yeh?”

“You  don’t  mind,  do  you?”

He  shook  his  head.  “No,  I  don’  mind.  Go  righ’  ahead.”

“Well,  it’s  about  the  Chamber  of  Secrets.”

“Ah.  Well,  come  inside  firs’  and  have  a  cup  o’  tea.”

They  exchanged  glances.  He  didn’t  seem  particularly  anxious  to  discuss  it.

“Yeh’re  parents  changed  me  life,  yeh  know.  Yeh’re  dad.”  He  nodded  at  Albus.  “And  yeh’re  mum  and  dad.”  He  nodded  at  Rose.   “I  had  this  Acromantula,  yeh  see,  when  the  Chamber  was  firs’  opened.  And  when  they  found  him…”

“When  Voldemort  told  them  about  him,  you  mean,”  Rose  said  indignantly.

“So  yeh  know  abou’  that?  Yeah,  he  told  them.  And  they  thought  he  was  the  monster  that’d  bin  attackin’  people.  But  Dumbledore,  he  said,  even  if  it  had  bin,  I  wouldn’  ha’  meant  it, like,  so  I got  to  stay  on  here  as  Gamekeeper.  He  was  a  great  man,  Dumbledore.  I’m  sorry  yeh  never  met  him.  Best  Headmaster  the  school  ever  had.  Aragog’s  descendents  are  still  in  the  forest.”  He  changed  the  subject  rather  abruptly.  “But  they  aren’  as  friendly,  like.  Yeh  wouldn’  want  to  get  to  close  to  them.”

Albus  shuddered.  He’d  no  intention  of  getting  too  close  to  a  giant,  unfriendly  spider.

“But  before  all  that  happened,”  Rose  began  tentatively.  “We  were  wondering  what  it  was  like  when  the  Chamber  was  actually  opened  and  when  people  started  being  attacked.”

Hagrid  thought  for  a  moment.  “There  was  a  lot  o’  fear.  A  girl  died,  yeh  know.  She  wasn’t  tha’  well-liked.  Used  to  get  bullied,  yeh  know.  I  think  people  felt  sort  o’  guilty  abou’  tha’.  But  mostly,  people  were  just  scared.  Worried  they’d  be  next,  like.”

“So  nobody’d  really  want  to  remind  people  of  what  happened?”  Albus  said  thoughtfully.

Hagrid  shook  his  head.  “Can’t  see  why  anyone  would.  ‘Cept  You-Know-Who,  o’  course  and  he’s  dead.  Some  o’  the  Death  Eaters  might  have  bin  pleased.  Well,  they  weren’  Death  Eaters  then.  They  were  just  his  friends.  You-Know-Who’s,  I  mean.”

“Can  you  tell  us  anything  about  his  friends?”  Rose  asked.

Albus  couldn’t  see  how  that  would  help.  Surely  most  of  them  would  be  ancient  by  now.  Well,  OK,  they  probably  wouldn’t  be  much  older  than  Hagrid,  but  they  were  still unlikely  to  be  hanging  around  Hogwarts.  Even  their  grandchildren  had  probably  left!

Hagrid  paused  once  again.  “A  lot  o’  them  were  members  o’  that  club  Slughorn  has.  Slytherins  mostly,  o’  course,  like  most  Dark  Wizards.  Could  never  like  tha’  house  meself.  Have  to  be  civil  when  I’m  teachin’  them,  o’  course,  but  I  still  don’t  like  them.”

“But  Slughorn  liked  them?”  Albus  asked.  “I  mean,  he  liked  Voldemort  and  his  friends.”

A  rather  scary  idea’d  just  occurred  to  him.  Slughorn’d  liked  Voldemort  when  he  was  at  school.  Slughorn’s  third  year  class  had  made  the  Swelling  Solution  just  before  he’d  received  chocolates  laced  with  it.  And  the  graffiti  had  appeared  just  outside  Slughorn’s  office.

Albus  didn’t  like  Slughorn  much.  He  found  him  irritating  and  fawning,  but  the  thought  of  the  genial  wizard  plotting  to  send  him  possibly  poisonous  potions  or  threatening  the  return  of  Voldemort  seemed  beyond  horrible.  Slughorn  might  be  annoying,  but  Albus  had  always  assumed  he  was  harmless.  Now  he  wasn’t  sure.

“Well,  he  was  a  good  student,  yeh  see,”  Hagrid  said.  “Not  like  me.  Never  tha’  great  at  the  magic,  I  wasn’.  Me  and  me  dad,  we  wondered  if  it  migh’  be  because  o’  me  mum.  Her  not  bein’  a  witch,  yeh  know.  Slughorn  always  liked  the  brigh’  ones.  No  time  for  us  dunces,  he  hadn’.  Not  that  you  two  would  have  ter  worry  about  tha’.  Bright  as  buttons  you  two  are.”

“You’re  not  stupid,  Hagrid.”  Albus  was  indignant.  “You  know  more  about  magical  creatures  than  just  about  anybody  else  in  the  world.”

Hagrid  beamed.  “I  wasn’  any  good  at  potions  though  and  tha’  was  what  Slughorn  cared  abou’,  I  suppose.  I  don’  blame  him.  Nice  man,  Horace.  Came  to  Aragog’s  funeral  and  all,  he  did.  Said  he  was  always  int’rested  in  unusual  creatures.  I  never  knew  tha’  when  I  was  at  school.  Strange  what  yeh  don’  know  abou’  your  teachers,  isn’t  it?”

“I  suppose  it  is,”  Albus  said  nervously.  That  wasn’t  something  he  wanted  to  think  about.

“Don’t  think  abou’  them  much,  I  suppose.  Didn’  stop  to  think  how  worried  they  must  have  bin  when  the  Chamber  was  opened  either.  Or  abou’  what  they’d  do  if  Hogwarts  was  closed.”

“Closed?”  Albus  and  Rose  said  in  unison.

Hagrid  nodded.  “They  were  talking  abou’  closing  it  if  the  attacks  weren’  stopped,  like.  If  I  hadn’  bin  expelled,  I  expec’  they  would’ve,  but  they  thought  tha’  ended  it.”

Remembering  how  hard  returning  to  Hogwarts  after  the  holidays  had  been,  Albus  couldn’t  help  wondering  if  there  might  be  a  motive  there.  Maybe  somebody  was  so  homesick  they  wanted  Hogwarts  closed,  so  they’d  have  no  choice  but  to  return  home.

If  that  was  the  motive,  it  was  probably  a  first  year.  In  Albus’s  experience,  the  older  students  seemed  far  more  relaxed  and  at  home  in  the  castle.  It  was  definitely  better  than  thinking  it  might  be  a  teacher,  particularly  a  Potions  teacher  who  had  access  to  goodness  knows  how  many  poisons.

He  thought  of  Scorpius,  complaining  that  everybody  at  Hogwarts  judged  him  just  because  he  was  a  Malfoy,  Nathan,  staring  dismally  at  his  broom  when  Madame  Chang  insisted  he  try  to mount  it  for  the  fifth  time  that  lesson,  Derek,  missing  the  technology  of  the  Muggle  world.  He  thought  of  Angie,  staying  at  Hogwarts  over  Christmas.  Had  she  wanted  to  do  that  or  had  she  had  to?  Maybe  her  parents  had  been  going  abroad  or  something  and  wouldn’t  be  able  to  if  Hogwarts  closed  and  they’d  nowhere  to  leave  her?

Would  any  of  them  really  go  to  such  lengths?  It  seemed  excessive,  but  it  was  about  the  only  possible  motive  he  could  think  of.  Why  else  would  somebody  sneak  out  in  the  middle  of  the  night  to  threaten  Voldemort’s  return  and  why  then   try  to  blame  it  on  Albus?

Not  that  this  explained  the  latter  action.  Wouldn’t  the  school  be  less  likely  to  close  if  they  knew  who’d  done  it  or  thought  they  did?

He  shivered  at  the  thought  of  being  expelled  like  Hagrid  was.

“There’s  one  other  thing  we  want  to  ask  you  about?”  Rose  said.

“Go  righ’  ahead.”

“You’ve  been  teaching  here  a  long  time,  right?  So  you  probably  taught  Professor  Blackburn?”

“Well,  I  didn’  really.  I  mean,  I  was  teachin’  here  when  she  was  at  school,  but  she  never  took  Care  o’  Magical  Creatures,  so  I  never  knew  her  all  tha’  well.  Seemed  a  nice  girl,  though.”

“What  house  was  she  in?”

“I  don’  know  if  I  remember.”  He  thought  for  a  moment.  “Oh,  I  do  now.  She  was  a  Ravenclaw,  tha’  was  it.  Just  like  the  two  o’  you.”

They  exchanged  glances.  After  seven  years  of  answering  the  eagle’s  questions,  doing  so  might  become  second  nature,  so  it  was  just  possible  she  could  have  answered  quickly  and  snuck  into  the  tower.  They  couldn’t  rule  her  out  after  all

“Professor  Slughorn  hinted  that  something  bad  happened  to  her  when  she  was  at  school,”  Rose  said.

“Tha’s  none  o’  your  business!”  Hagrid’s  tone  was  sharp  and  Albus  jumped.  “Oh  well,”  he  continued  more  gently.  “Your  parents  were  always  ferretin’  out  myst’ries,  so  I  suppose  it’s  hardly  surprisin’  if  you  do  the  same.  But  there  are  some  myst’ries  that  shouldn’  be  solved, because they hurt people.  Tha’  young  woman’s  bin  through  some  hard  times  already.  It’s  not  righ’  to  be  prying  into  her  affairs.”  He  smiled  at  them.  “Now,  do  you  want  another  cup  o’  tea.”

“No,  thanks,  Hagrid,”  Rose  said.  “We’d  better  get  back  to  the  castle.  We  could  come  down  again  next  weekend,  if  that’s  all  right.”

“O’  course  it’s  all  righ’.  Always  glad  to  see  yeh.  Yeh  can  help  me  feed  Jupiter.”

“I’d  like  that,”  Rose  said.  “Bye  Hagrid.”

 Albus  added  his  goodbyes  and  they  left  the  cabin.

“Even  Hagrid  won’t  tell  us!”  Rose  said  in  frustration.

“But  it  sounds  like  all  the  teachers  know,  so  they’d  probably  guess  if  it  had  anything  to  do  with  well,  everything  this  term.”

“Maybe,  but  she  is  the  only  new  teacher  this  year  and  there  is  a  mystery  there;  you  have  to  admit  that.  And  she  was  in  Ravenclaw.”

“Yeah,  I  thought  of  that  too,” he  said.   “She’d  probably  be  used  to  answering  the  questions  by  now.  But  there  are  other  possibilities  too,  don’t  you  think?”

She  glanced  at  him  questioningly.  “What  possibilities  have  you  thought  of?  Let’s  see  if  our  ideas  match.”

He  wanted  to  say  it  might  be  a  homesick  first  year.  That  was  the  idea  he  liked  best,  the  one  he  wanted  to  believe.  It  was  much  less  worrying  than  the  others.  But  when  he  thought  of  saying  it  aloud,  it  sounded  stupid.  She’d  probably  laugh  at  him.

“Slughorn,”  he  said  instead.  “Hagrid  said  he  liked  Voldemort  and  had  him  in  the  Slug  Club  and  all.  And  when  you  think  of  it,  Slughorn  could  have  done  a  lot  of  this.” 

He  reminded  her  that  the  note  was  supposed  to  have  come  from  Slughorn,  that  the  graffiti  was  found  outside  his  office  and  that  his  class  had  made  the  Swelling  Solution  just  before  Albus  had  received  it.

She  nodded.  “Yeah,  I  was  thinking  much  the  same  way,  although  I’d  forgotten  his  class  made  that  potion.  It’s  not  very  likely  though,  is  it?  I  mean,  he’s  been  here  so  long.  If  he’d  been  supporting  Voldemort,  surely  somebody’d  have  figured  it  out.  Besides,  I  can’t  exactly  imagine  him  sneaking  into  your  dormitory.  He  was  never  a  Ravenclaw,  after  all  and  even  if  he  could  answer  the  question,  I  doubt  he’d  get  in  unnoticed.  He’s  rather  distinctive.”

“He  could  have  done  it  while  everybody  was  in  class,”  Albus  said  doubtfully.  “Or  he  could  have  an  Invisibility  Cloak.”

She  wrinkled  her  nose.  “I  suppose  it’s  possible.”

But  she  obviously  didn’t  think  it  very  likely.  Albus  didn’t  really  either.  He  couldn’t  imagine  Slughorn  wandering  around  Ravenclaw  Tower  or  rifling  through  his  trunk.

“Do  you  suspect  Blackburn,  so?”  he  asked.  “Or  do  you  have  any  other  ideas?”

She  shrugged.  “It  could  be  just  about  anybody  really,  couldn’t  it?  We  don’t  seem  to  have  found  out  anything  really  conclusive.  Let’s  review  what  we’ve  got  for  a  moment.  The  person  was  able  to  get  into  Ravenclaw  Tower.  And  they  could  find  your  dormitory  and  your  trunk.  That  probably  counts  against  Slughorn  too.  He  wouldn’t  be  likely  to  know  his  way  around  Ravenclaw  Tower,  whereas  Blackburn  probably  would.”

“I  hadn’t  thought  of  that,”  Albus  admitted.

“Circe  said  she  thought  the  person  was  short,  but  that  doesn’t  help  us  much  since  she  wasn’t  sure.  And  the  person  seems  to  have  some  knowledge  about  the  second  time  the  Chamber  of  Secrets  was  opened,  so  they  probably  know  somebody  who  was  at  Hogwarts  at  that  time.”

“Somebody  who  probably  wasn’t  attacked,”  Albus  reminded  her.

“That’s  true.  And  probably  not  Muggleborn  either,  because  they  probably  wouldn’t  want  to  be  reminded  of  Muggleborns  being  attacked.”

Albus  shuffled  awkwardly,  wondering  how  to  phrase  what  he  hadn’t  said. 

“Um,  you  know  how  Hagrid  said  they  thought  about  closing  the  school?”

She  nodded.

“Do  you  think  that  might  be  a  reason?”

“You  mean  somebody  might  want  Hogwarts  closed  now?”

“Yeah.”  He  didn’t  add  on  his  idea  that  it  might  be  somebody  homesick.  That  did  sound  stupid.

She  thought  for  a  moment.  “I  really  doubt  it’d  work.  It’d  take  more  than  graffiti  and  a  few  practical  jokes.  The  time  Hagrid  was  talking  about,  a  girl  died.  It’s  not  the  same  thing,  you  know.”

“Somebody  might  think  it  worth  a  try  though.”

She  grinned.  “So  we  should  be  suspecting  O.W.L.s  students.? I’ve  heard  them  complaining  the  amount  of  work  they’ve  to  do  this  year  is  horrific.”

“I  hadn’t  thought  of  them.”

“I  was  mostly  joking.  I  don’t  think  you’d  try  and  close  a  school  down  just  because  you  were  getting  too  much  homework.  But  somebody  might  have  some  kind  of  grudge.  Now  I  really  wish  I  knew  what  happened  to  Blackburn!”

“You  think  something  bad  might  have  happened  to  her  here  and  she  came  back  to  try  and  get  the  place  closed  down  out  of  revenge?”

“Well,  it’s  possible,  isn’t  it?”  Then  she  shook  her  head.  “No,  that’s  pretty  weak.  A  teacher  would  surely  know  they  wouldn’t  close  the  school  down  that  easily.  Somebody  who  got  expelled?...But  they  wouldn’t  still  be  here.  Oh,  I  don’t  know!”

Albus  shuddered  at  the  thought  they  might  never  find  out.  He  didn’t  think  he  could  face  seven  years  of  not  knowing  when  he  might  find  something  hidden  in  his  trunk  or  a  potion  added  to  his  food.  There  had  to  be  something  they  could  do.

But  he  hadn’t  the  slightest  idea  what  it  might  be.




This is the first time Hagrid has had much to say in any of my stories, so please let me know if I've made any mistakes with his accent. Thanks.


Chapter 18: The Golden Arrow.
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Disclaimer: Anything you recognise in this chapter belongs to JK Rowling. No copyright infringement is intended.

The  fact  that  Scorpius  had  smuggled  a  broom,  and  a  Golden  Arrow  at  that,  into  Hogwarts  became  the  talk  of  the  school.  Even  the  older  students  seemed  to  have  heard  of  it  and  their  reactions  varied  from  admiration  to  disapproval.

“The  nerve  of  first  years  nowadays.  We’d  never  have  dared  smuggle  a  broom  into  school  when  we  were  first  years.”

James  stopped  by  the  Ravenclaw  table  to  give  his  opinion,  a  few  mornings  after  Albus  had  seen  the  broom.

“Can  you  believe  Scorpius’s  dad  got  him  a  Golden  Arrow  in  first  year?  He  can’t  even  try  out  for  the  team  until  next  year!”

Albus  shrugged.  “I  wonder  if  his  parents  know  he’s  brought  it  to  school  with  him.”

“I’d  say  so.  You  know  what  the  Malfoys  are  like!  Dad  says  Scorpius’s  grandfather  bought  brooms  for  the  whole  Slytherin  team,  so  his  father  could  make  the  team.  They  don’t  care  about  rules.  Bet  that’s  why  his  dad  got  him  the  broom  too.  Hoping  a  good  broom  will  make  him  a  good  player.”  He  scoffed.

“Scorpius  is  a  brilliant  flyer  though,”  Albus  said  reluctantly.  “We’d  flying  with  the  Slytherins  and  he  was  the  best  in  the  class.”

“That  doesn’t  mean  he’d  be  any  good  at  Quidditch!  There’s  more  to  it  than  just  flying,  you  know.”

“Yeah,  I  know  that.”

He  didn’t  really  care  how  good  Scorpius  was  at  Quidditch.  It  wasn’t  as  if  he’d  be  competing  for  a  place  on  the  Ravenclaw  team.  Of  course,  if  he  did make  the  Slytherin  team  and  Albus  made  the  Ravenclaw  one,  they  could  end  up  playing  each  other  some  day,  but  that  wasn’t  exactly  something  that  bothered  him  yet.  He  had  to  get  on  the  team  first.  Then  he’d  worry  about  who  he  was  playing.  If  he  ever  did  make  it,  that  was.  He  wasn’t  certain  he  would.

“Anyway,”  James  continued,  “I  can’t  see  a  Malfoy  being  good  at  Quidditch.  It’s  a  team  game  and  they  only  care  about  themselves.”

“Maybe.”  Albus  shrugged  again.  It  wasn’t  worth  arguing  about.  Neither  of  them  knew  Scorpius  well  enough  to  judge  anyway.

“You’re  only  jealous,”  Rose  put  in.  “Albus  told  me you  tried  to  sneak  a  broom  in  when  you  were  in  first  year.”

“I  didn’t  have  a  Golden  Arrow  then,  though,  did  I?  It  was  hard  enough  to  convince  my  parents  to  get  me  one  now.”

“Only  ‘cause  they  already  got  you  a  broom  last  year,”  Albus  said.

James  glared  at  him,  but  didn’t  respond,  instead  turning  to  Rose.

“Don’t  tell  me  you’re  OK  with  rule  breaking  all  of  a  sudden.”

“I’m  not,”  she  said.  “I  think  he’s  an  idiot.  But  I  think  you   were  an  idiot  too,  to  try  it  two  years  ago  and  it’s  a  bit  hypocritical  of  you  to  criticise  him  now.”

“I’m  not  criticising  him  for  breaking  rules,”  James  defended  himself.  “Anyway,  it  was  harder  for  me.  I  don’t  have  parents  who  let  me  do  whatever  I  like.  I  bet  his  do.”

He  turned  away  before  either  of  them  could  reply.

Albus  was  surprised  none  of  the  teachers  had  found  out  about  the  broom  yet.  Not  only  were  the  students  constantly  talking  about  it  or  sneaking  out  to  ride  on  it,  but  the  prefects  must  have  heard  about  it  and  he’d  have  thought  they’d  be  expected  to  report  it.

Many  of  the  first  years  seemed  to  think  a  classmate  having  a  broom  at  Hogwarts  was  the  most  exciting  thing  ever  and  Scorpius  was  inundated  with  pleas  for  rides  on  it.  To  be  fair  to  him,  he  seemed  more  than  willing  to  share  and  was  constantly  offering  to  let  his  classmates  ride  it.

Albus  didn’t  dare  take  him  up  on  the  offer.  He  just  knew   a  teacher  would  appear  and  demand  to  know  what  he  was  doing,  if  he  so  much  as  thought  of  mounting  it.  He  wasn’t  entirely  sure  the  offer  applied  to  him  anyway  after  the  argument  he  and  Scorpius  had  had  earlier  in  the  year.

Lots  of  his  classmates  seemed  willing  to  take  the  risk  though.  Over  the  next  few  weeks,  Fionnuala,  Angie  and  even  Rasmus  had  flown  on  it.  Albus  was  surprised  by  Rasmus.  He’d  thought  he’d  agree  with  Rose  that  smuggling  a  broom  into  Hogwarts  was  stupid.

“Hilda’d  be  disappointed  if  I  didn’t  take  every  opportunity  to  practice,”  he  explained.  “She’s  hoping  I’ll  try  out  for  the  team  next  year.  Not  that  I’ve  much  hope.  She  got  all  the  Quidditch  talent  in  the  family.” 

“You  never  know,”  Albus  said.  “You  could  improve  a  lot  over  the  next  year.”

“And  there  are  better  ways  of  doing  it  than  by  sneaking  illegal  rides,”  Rose  said  sniffily.

Nathan,  of  course,  was  far  too  scared  to  mount  a  broom  without  a  teacher  present  and  Dora  too,  refused  to  even  think  about  it.

“He’s  getting  more  than  enough  attention  already,”  she  said.  “I’m  certainly  not  giving  him  any  more.”

Rose  grinned  at  her.  “At  least  we’re  playing  Slytherin  next  week.  I  don’t  usually  think  house  rivalry  a  good  thing,  but  at  least  it  might  get  people  talking  about  something  other  than  this  stupid  broom.  And  it’s  stupid,  talking  about  it  so  much.  The  teachers  are  going  to  hear  something  sooner  or  later.  I’m  amazed  they  haven’t  noticed  everybody  slipping  out  into  the  grounds  every  few  minutes  yet.”

“Serve  them  right  if  they  do  get  caught,”  Dora  said.  “And  you  know,  Scorpius  is  stupid  enough  to  have  his  name  engraved  on  it  in  gold  writing.  So  it’s  not  like  they’ll  have  any  difficulty  tracing  it  back  to  him.”

For  a  moment,  Albus  chuckled.  Then  he  felt  guilty.  Scorpius  had  never  done  anything  to  him.  Well,  not  unless  he  was  the  one  who’d  sent  the  Swelling  Solution  or  hidden  the  inkwell  in  his  trunk.  He’d  no  reason  to  want  to  see  him  in  trouble  and  it  wasn’t  fair  to  judge  him  just  because  he  was  a  Malfoy  or  a  Slytherin.

One  of  the  men  he’d  been  named  after  was  a  Slytherin,  after  all  and  by  all  accounts,  Sirius’s  family  had  been  as  bad,  if  not  worse  than  the  Malfoys  and  he  knew  how  good  Sirius  had  been  to  his  father,  seen  his  eyes  fill  with  tears  on  the  anniversaries  of  his  death.

No,  he  didn’t  particularly  want  to  see  Scorpius  in  trouble,  he  decided.

It  did  look  pretty  inevitable  though,  if  he  wasn’t  more  careful  about  keeping  his  broom  hidden.

As  the  match  between  Ravenclaw  and  Slytherin  approached,  the  Ravenclaw  first  years  seemed  a  little  more  reluctant  to  plead  for  a  turn  on  Scorpius’s  broom,  but  Albus  had  no  idea  how  often  first  years  from  the  other  houses  were  continuing  to  use  it.  After  all,  this  match  meant  absolutely  nothing  to  Gryffindors  or  Hufflepuffs. 

It  wasn’t  even  a  particularly  interesting  one,  as  it  was  taken  for  granted  that  victory  would  be  Ravenclaw’s.

Perhaps  that  was  why  the  stands  were  less  than  half  full  the  day  of  the  match,  or  perhaps  it  was  because  it  was  a  horribly  cold  day.

Even  Rose  had  refused  to  attend.

“It’s  on  the  verge  of  snowing  out  there,  Albus,”  she  said.  “Besides  I’ve  got  homework  to  catch  up  on.”

It  seemed  like  Albus,  Rasmus  and  Derek  were  the  only  Ravenclaw  first  years  to  brave  the  cold  weather.  There  was  a  somewhat  larger  contingent  of  older  Ravenclaws  and  Slytherins  and  almost  no  Hufflepuffs  or  Gryffindors.

To  Albus’s  surprise,  however,  James  appeared  behind  him.

“What  are  you  doing  here?”

“It’s  always  worth  watching  all  matches,  Brian  says.  It’s  a  chance  to  pick  up  tips.  And  to  examine  other  teams’  tactics.  Not  that  I’m  worried  about  Slytherin.  We’ve  played  our  most  difficult  match.  And  we  beat  you.”

“If  we  win  this,”  Albus  asked,  “will  it  make  up  for  that?”

He’d  been  trying  to  figure  it  out.  Quidditch  scoring  was  complicated.

James  shrugged.  “Depends  how  much  you  win  by.  And  how  the  other  matches  go.  Brian  says  we  shouldn’t  assume  we’ve  won  yet.  You’ve  a  good  team,  he  says  and  you  could  make  it  up,  if  things  go  well  for  you.”

At  that  moment,  Madame  Chang  blew  her  whistle,  signalling  that  the  match  was  about  to  begin.

Albus  snapped  to  attention.  He  really  wanted  Ravenclaw  to  win.

“Bagshot  in  possession,”  Jordan  began.  “She  passes  to  McFadden.  Back  to  Bagshot.  Passes  to  Williams.  He’s  going  for  goal.  Can  Higgs  save  it?  No,  it’s  Ten-Nil  to  Ravenclaw.”

This  time  Albus  had  no  conflict  of  interest.  He  stood  and  cheered  with  the  rest  of  his  house.

“Jones  has  a  dilemma  today,”  Jordan  announced.  “Ravenclaw  needs  a  definitive  win  to  make  up  for  their  loss  to  Gryffindor.  Catching  the  Snitch  too  soon  could  count  against  them  in  the  overall  Cup,  but  leave  it  too  late  and  the  Slytherin  Seeker  might  beat  him  to  it.  It’s  his  last  year  at  Hogwarts,  so  he’ll  surely  be  hoping  for  the  Cup…oh,  Bagshot’s  scored.  Twenty-Nil  to  Ravenclaw.”

He  seemed  to  be  right  about  Christopher,  who  appeared  to  be  focussing  on  distracting  the  Slytherin  Seeker,  Pallantia  Borgin,  rather  than  on  actually  catching  the  Snitch.

“He  wouldn’t  want  to  leave  it  too  long,  though,”  James  said  from  behind  Albus.  “If  it  starts  snowing,  finding  the  Snitch  will  get  much  more  difficult.”

“Will  they  call  the  match  off  if  it  does?”  Derek  asked.

Albus  and  James  looked  at  him,  incredulously.

Albus  shook  his  head.  “They  don’t  cancel  Quidditch  matches  just  because  of  a  little  snow.  James  is  right.  Their  best  bet  is  to  try  and  get  the  match  finished  before  it  does.  Oh,  we’ve  scored  again.”

He  and  Derek  cheered  madly.

The  score  increased  quickly.  Albus  could  see  why  so  many  people  wrote  Slytherin  off.  Higgs  let  the  Quaffle  in  just  about  every  time  the  Ravenclaw  Chasers  shot  for  one  of  the  hoops.

But  the  Slytherin  Chasers  were  getting  just  enough  points  that  if  Ravenclaw  caught  the  Snitch,  it  would  be  only  slightly  better  than  Gryffindor’s  victory  in  the  previous  match.

“The  score  now  is  Sixty-Ten  to  Ravenclaw,”  Jordan  announced.  “If  they  catch  the  Snitch  now,  they’ll  win  by  Two-Hundred  and  Ten  points  to  Ten.  Oh,  Slytherin  score.  It’s  now  Sixty-Twenty.  Bagshot  has  the  Quaffle.  She’s  going  for  goal.  Seventy-Twenty.”

The  sky  was  getting  even  darker  overhead.  If  the  match  didn’t  end  soon,  visibility  was  going  to  become  a  problem.

“Jones  has  gone  into  a  dive,”  Jordan  announced.  “He’s  seen  the  Snitch.  And,  he’s  caught  it.  Ravenclaw  wins,  Two  hundred  and  Twenty  to  Twenty.”

Albus  practically  jumped  out  of  his  seat.  He  knew  the  Slytherin  team  wasn’t  supposed  to  be  much  good,  but  that  was  still  a  huge  victory.  It  would  have  to  help  compensate  for  their  loss  at  the  hands  of  Gryffindor.

“We  did  it,”  he  announced  to  Derek.

They  continued  talking  about  their  victory  as  they  filed  out  of  the  pitch  and  hurried  towards  the  school.  Exciting  though  the  match  had  been,  Albus  looked  forward  to  getting  into  the  warm  common  room.

“Hey,  there’s  something  going  on  over  there  by  the  Whomping  Willow,”  Derek  said.

Albus  glanced  across  the  grounds,  wondering  what  would  bring  people  out  on  such  a  cold  evening. 

“Should  we  go  see  what’s  going  on?”  he  asked

“Yeah,  let’s.”

A  large  crowd  of  students  surrounded  Flitwick  who  was  trying  unsuccessfully  to  disperse  them.

“OK,  there’s  nothing  more  to  see  here.  The  other  teachers  and  I  will  be  looking  into  this,  but  right  now,  I  want  you  all  to  return  to  the  castle.”

“But  what  happened  to  it,  Sir.”

“Whose  broom  is  it?”

Flitwick  was  holding  a  battered  broom,  bent  in  the  middle,  it’s  twigs  twisted  this  way  and  that.  It  looked,  in  Albus’s  opinion,  beyond  repair.

There  was,  however,  little  doubt  as  to  who  owned  it.  Across  the  handle,  the  gold  lettering  that  used  to  say  “Scorpius   Malfoy”,  though  scratched  and  damaged,  was  still  visible.

“How  on  earth  did  it  get  over  here?”  Albus  whispered  to  Derek.

He  shrugged.

They  both  knew  where  in  the  grounds  Scorpius  had  hidden  the  broom  and  it  was  nowhere  near  the  Whomping  Willow.  Maybe  somebody’d  been  flying  it  and  had  gone  off  course,  but  if  that  were  the  case,  Albus  doubted  they’d  have  escaped  injury.  Unless  they’d  jumped  off  in  time.  He  supposed  that  was  possible.  They  probably  wouldn’t  be  too  anxious  to  own  up  to  having  ridden  it.

He  wanted  to  find  Rose,  tell  her  what  had  happened  and  ask  what  she  thought,  but  if  they  went  in  now,  they  might  miss  something.  He  didn’t  think  Derek  would  want  to  leave  anyway.

“What  happened,  Professor?”  somebody  else  asked.

“We  don’t  know  what  happened  yet.”  Professor  Flitwick  sounded  slightly  annoyed,  which  was  unusual  for  him.  “I  will  need  to  talk  to  the  other  Heads  of  Houses  before  I’ll  be  able  to  say  anything  more  and  even  then,  it’ll  be  between  us  and  any  students  involved.”

“But  what  if  somebody’s  hurt,  Sir?  If  they  flew  into  the  Whomping  Willow…”

Nobody  is  hurt.  Now,  I  am  about  to  return  this  to  the  castle.  There  is  no  point  in  continuing  to  ask  these  questions  because  I  can’t  tell  you  any  more  and  even  if  I  could,  I  probably  wouldn’t.”

“But  Sir…” 

Some  of  the  older  students  hurried  after  him,  continuing  to  ask  questions.  Albus  wouldn’t  have  dared  do  that.  He  was  pretty  sure  Flitwick  was  about  to  start  docking  points  any  moment  now.  If  it  had  been  McGonagall  or  Jones,  they’d  already  have  done  so.

He  turned  to  Derek.  “Will  we  go  back?”

Derek  shrugged.  “Suppose.  There’s  not  much  else  to  see  here.  It’s  sort  of  weird  though,  isn’t  it?  I’d  have  thought  Scorpius  would  take  better  care  of  his  broom.  He  seemed  so  proud  of  it.”

“What  if  somebody  else  did  it?”  Albus  asked,  thinking  aloud.

“You  mean  somebody  flew  it  into  the  tree  deliberately?  Or  just  used  the  broom  without  his  permission?”

“I  was  thinking  deliberately,  but…”  He  shrugged.  He  was  probably  just  being  paranoid.  There  was  no  reason  at  all  to  believe  this  had  been  done  by  the  same  person  as  the  graffiti.  Or  the  Swelling  Solution.  He  had  to  stop  assuming  everything  that  happened  at  Hogwarts  was  part  of  one  big  conspiracy.

His  thoughts  were  interrupted  by  the  beginning  of  a  fall  of  sleet.

“Ugh,  it’s  freezing,”  Derek  said.

They  both  started  running  towards  the  castle.

It  was  at  times  like  this  Albus  hated  the  eagle’s  questions.  Waiting  outside  Ravenclaw  tower  when  you  were  dripping  wet  and  couldn’t  change  until  you  got  in  definitely  wasn’t  his  idea  of  fun.

At  that  moment,  he  really  didn’t  care  what  potion  you’d  never  know  you’d  taken  or  however  it  was  the  eagle  had  phrased  it.

“Have  you  any  ideas?”  Derek  asked  desperately.

He  shook  his  head.  “You?”

“No.  I  mean,  if  you’d  taken  a  potion,  you’d  know  it,  wouldn’t  you?  Unless  somebody  slipped  it  to  you  or  put  it  in  your  food  or  something.  But  they  could  do  that  with  any  potion,  so  it  doesn’t  help.”

Albus  thought  for  a  moment.  “You’d  know  it,”  he  said  slowly,  “unless  you’d  forgotten.”  Suddenly  it  hit  him.  “A  Forgetfulness  Potion.”

“Well  done.”  The  door  swung  open.

Derek  shook  his  head.  “Sometimes  I  wish  I  wasn’t  Muggleborn.  I  never  even  heard  of  that  potion.”

Rose  wasn’t  in  the  Ravenclaw  common  room  when  they  entered.  Great!  Where  was  she  now?  For  a  moment,  he  debated  going  to  look  for  her  before  changing,  then  decided  he  couldn’t  bear  the  wet  robes  much  longer,  particularly  since  it  could  take  a  while  to  find  somebody  in  Hogwarts.  The  school  was  huge  and  the  fact  that  stairs  changed  places  and  doors  sometimes  refused  to  let  you  through  didn’t  help.

He  hurried  to  his  dormitory  and  changed  his  robes  quickly,  then  left  before  Derek  could  ask  where  he  was  going.  Not  that  it  was  a  secret  or  anything,  but  he  knew  Rose  preferred  discussing  some  things  in  private. 

Not  that  he  even  knew  there  was  a  mystery  here,  let  alone  if  it  was  part  of  theirs.

And  Derek  couldn’t  be  involved  anyway,  he  realised.  They’d  been  together  the  whole  time.

Unless  the  broom  had  been  there  since  before  the  match,  but  that  seemed  unlikely.  Somebody’d  have  noticed  it  on  their  way  to  the  pitch.  At  least,  he  supposed  they  would.

When  looking  for  Rose,  the  library  was  always  the  first  place  you  should  check  and  sure  enough,  there  she  was,  working  on  a  long  essay.

“Rose,”  he  whispered.

“Oh,  hi.”  She  put  down  her  quill.

He  sat  down  beside  her.

“Wait  until  you  hear  what  happened!  We  were  coming  back  from  the  Quidditch  match,  right?  Me  and  Derek.  And  there  were  a  load  of  people  gathered  by  the  Whomping  Willow.  It  looks  like  Scorpius’s  broom  had  been  flown  into  it  or  something.  Anyway,  it  was  all  battered  and  damaged.  Nobody  was  hurt  though,  at  least  not  as  far  as  we  know.  And  how  could  you  fly  into  the  Whomping  Willow  without  hurting  yourself?”

“Are  you  sure  someone  flew  it?”

“Well,  no,  I  suppose  not,  but  how  else  could  it  get  there?  It  hardly  flew  itself.”

“Somebody  could  have  used  a  Summoning  Charm.  Or  levitation.”  She  paused  to  think  for  a  moment.  “Or  they  could  have  just  thrown  it,  I  guess.”

He  liked  the  sound  of  the  Summoning  Charm  better.  That  could  be  somebody  just  trying  to  sneak  a  ride  on  it,  whereas  throwing  it  into  the  Whomping  Willow  would  have  to  be  malicious.

“It’s  more  likely  somebody  just  summoned  it,  right?”

“I  don’t  know.  It’s  a  difficult  enough  charm.  We  won’t  learn  it  until  fourth  or  fifth  year,  I  think.”

And  anybody  that  old  would  have  their  own  broom.

“So  you  think  somebody  was  deliberately  trying  to  damage  it?  Why  would  anybody  do  that?”

He  knew  it  was  a  stupid  question.  People  did  a  lot  of  things  that  didn’t  seem  to  make  sense.  But  he  was  sick  of  mysteries.  He  wanted  something  to  have  a  simple,  harmless  explanation.

“I  don’t  necessarily  think  anything  yet.  But  there  are  odd  things  happening  around  here;  we  both  know  that.”

He  spotted  a  flaw  in  that  logic.

“But  whoever  wrote  that  graffiti  was  pro-Death  Eater.  So  why  would  they  want  to  get  Scorpius  in  trouble?  His  family  are  Death  Eaters .”

“Maybe,”  Rose  said  thoughtfully.

“What  do  you  mean?”

“Oh,  well,  there’s  probably  no  connection.  This  is  a  school.  Like  Circe  said,  people  sneaking  around  and  doing  things  they  shouldn’t  isn’t  that  unusual.  There’s  no  reason  to  think  everything  is  connected.  But  I  was  just  thinking  about  how  Scorpius  said  he  didn’t  care  what  blood  anybody  had.  Wouldn’t  that  make  him  a  blood  traitor?”

Albus  shivered.

“So  you  do  think  there’s  a  Death  Eater  here?”

“No!  No,  I  don’t.  Not  really.  But  the  Death  Eaters  aren’t  the  only  ones  who  care  about  blood  purity,  you  know  and  there  are  definitely  bigots  at  Hogwarts.  But  there’s  no  point  in  jumping  to  conclusions  yet  anyway.  For  all  we  know,  Scorpius  might  have  been  messing  with  his  broom  himself  and  just  chucked  it  away  when  he  saw  a  teacher  coming  or  something.  Let’s  wait  until  we  hear  a  bit  more  about  it  all  before  making  any  decisions  about  what  we  think  happened.”



Thanks to Pheonixpotioneer for reminding me that levitation should have been mentioned.


Chapter 19: The Malfoy Dynasty.
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 “I  got  a  week  of  detentions  for  having  a  broom  in  the  first  place,”  Scorpius  complained  as  they  waited  for  Slughorn  to  arrive  for  Potions  the  following  day.  “And  they  docked  twenty  points  from  Slytherin.  But  do  they  care  who  actually  took  my  broom  and  broke  it?  Oh,  no,  that  doesn’t  matter  at  all,  apparently.”

“It  serves  you  right,”  Dora  said.  “You  broke  the  rules;  you  got  punished.  Get  over  it.”

He  glared  at  her.  “It’s  a  stupid  rule.  Why  shouldn’t  first  years  have  brooms  if  we  know  how  to  fly  them?  I’ve  been  flying  a  broom  longer  than  a  Muggleborn  third  year  and  they’re  allowed  brooms.”

“Thought  you  didn’t  care  if  people  were  Muggleborn,”  Rose  said.

“I  don’t.  I’m  not  saying  Muggleborns  shouldn’t  have  brooms.  I’m  just  saying  it’s  silly  to  assume  first  years  aren’t  good  enough  to  even  try  out  for  the  school  team  or  just  have  a  broom,  just  because  we’re  first  years.  Some  of  us  have  been  flying  since  we  were  tiny,  but  now,  apparently  just  flying  a  broom  is  a  bigger  crime  than  breaking  somebody’s.  Not  that  you’d  care  about  that.  One  of  you  probably  broke  it.”

He  glared  around  at  the  Ravenclaws  in  the  room.

“Oh,  for  goodness  sake,”  Rose  began,  “just  because  I  think  bringing  a  broom  to  school  is  stupid  doesn’t  mean  I’m  going  to  go  around  breaking  it.  Why  would  I  do  that?”

“Let’s  see.  Maybe  because  your  whole  family  hates  me.  You  and  Albus  already  thought  I  was  trying  to  poison  him  or  something.  Maybe  you  were  trying  to  get  your  own  back.”

“We  wouldn’t  do  that!”  Rose  sounded  appalled.

“Well,  I’ve  only  your  word  for  it.  And  as  for  you…”  He  turned  to  Dora.  “You’ve  been  taunting  me  for  ages  just  because  I  have  a  Golden  Arrow.  Like  I  should  be  ashamed  my  parents  are  rich  or  something.”

“That’s  not  why  you  should  be  ashamed,”  she  said.

What  she  thought  he  should  be  ashamed  of,  they  never  found  out,  as  Slughorn’s  arrival  stopped  her  saying  any  more.

“Settle  down  now,  settle  down,”  he  said.  “What’s  going  on  in  here?”

“It’s  not  fair,  Sir,”  Scorpius  said.  “What  are  the  staff  doing  to  find  out  who  broke  my  broom?”

“We’ve  already  discussed  that,  Scorpius.”

“Yes,  and  you  gave  me  detention  and  docked  twenty  points,  but  you  didn’t  do  anything  about  whoever  broke  it.”

“We’re  looking  into  it.  When  we  find  out  what  happened,  then  we’ll  deal  with  it  fully,  but  at  the  moment…”

“I  think  I  should  be  refunded  the  cost  of  the  broom.”

“Now  listen!”  Slughorn  sounded  uncharacteristically  stern.  “You  had  no  right  to  even  have  that  broom  at  Hogwarts.  It  doesn’t  give  anybody  the  right  to  break  it,  that’s  true,  but  you  have  to  accept  a  share  of  the  blame  too.  The  reason  this  happened  is  because  you  broke  the  rules  and  hid  your  broom  where  anybody  had  access  to  it.  If  you  want  to  discuss  this  further,  we  can  do  so  after  class.  Right  now,  we  have  potions  to  study.”

He  launched  into  the  lesson.

Scorpius  folded  his  arms  sulkily  and  didn’t  even  attempt  the  potion  they  were  supposed  to  be  making.

“He’s  going  to  be  in  trouble  when  Slughorn  checks  our  potions  at  the  end  of  class,”  Albus  whispered  to  Rose.

Slughorn,  however,  simply  glanced  at  his  empty  cauldron  and  made  a  note  with  his  quill.  He  didn’t  ask  any  questions  and  Scorpius  didn’t  offer  any  excuses.  He  just  waited  until  Slughorn  had  finished  pacing  the  classroom,  then  he  stormed  out  of  the  room  and  off  in the  opposite  direction  to  the  rest  of  the  class.

“Where’s  he  going?”  Albus  wondered.  “Don’t  the  Slytherins  have  a  class  now?”

Rose  shrugged.  “I’m  sure  they  do.  Who  knows?”  She  lowered  her  voice.  “We’re  going  to  have  to  find  out  what’s  going  on,  you  know.”

“Why?”  he  asked.

“Why  now”  was  what  he  really  meant.  He  knew  it  was  important  to  find  out  if  somebody  at  Hogwarts  was  a  Death  Eater  but  he  didn’t  see  how  Scorpius’s  broom  being  broken  made  it  any  more  urgent.

“There’s  way  too  much  bad  feeling  here.  We’re  all  looking  at  each  other  and  thinking  ‘did  you  do  that?  Does  he  hate  me?’  It  can’t  go  on.”

“What  can  we  do  about  it  though?”

“I  don’t  know,  but  I’m  going  to  do  my  level  best  to  think  of  something.”

Albus  felt  himself  relax.  Rose  was  the  smartest  of  the  Weasley  family,  apart  from  her  mother,  of  course.  If  she  put  her  mind  to  it,  she  was  sure  to  think  of  something.

“And  maybe  I  should  write  to  my  dad,”  he  said.  “He  said  to  tell  him  if  anything  else  happened.  This  is  something  else,  isn’t  it?”

She  chuckled.  “I  doubt  it’s  the  something  else  he  meant.  A  broom  being  broken  is  hardly  in  the  same  league  as  adding  Swelling  Solution  to  your  food.  But  you’re  right.  There’s  no  harm  in  asking  him.  Things  like  this  might  be  normal  at  Hogwarts,  but…”

“I  don’t  think  so.  James  never  mentioned  things  being  damaged  like  that.”

“Still,  that  doesn’t  mean  it  hasn’t  happened.  All  it  would  take  was  a  spell  going  wrong.  I  mean,  somebody  might  have  taken  the  broom  to  practice  levitation  or  something  and  then  ran  off  when  it  got  damaged.  Not  that  practicing  levitation  by  the  Whomping  Willow  would  be  a  good  idea,  but  people  do  stupid  things  sometimes.  Or  it  could  have  been  a  prank.  A  pretty  malicious  one,  but…”

Albus  didn’t  think  he  liked  that  sort  of  prank.  Damaging  other  people’s  things  wasn’t  funny,  in  his  opinion.

A  picture  of  James  dangling  Lily’s  doll  out  the  window  entered  his  head.  No!  Threatening  to  do  something  was  very  different  from  actually  doing  it.  James  might  have  been  annoyed  Scorpius  managed  to  sneak  a  broom  into  Hogwarts  when  he  hadn’t,  but  he  wouldn’t  do  this.

He  decided  not  to  even  mention  that  thought  to  Rose.  She  was  already  inclined  to  blame  James  for  just  about  anything.  He  didn’t  want  to  give  her  ideas.

He’d  have  liked  to  hear  any  other  ideas  she  had  though,  but  they  reached  the  Transfiguration  classroom  before  he  got  a  chance.

To  their  surprise,  Neville  was  sitting  at  the  top  of  the  room.

He  smiled  around  at  the  class.

“Yes,  I’m  afraid  Professor  Blackburn  is  absent  today.  I’m  sure  you’re  all  very  disappointed.  She’s  asked  that  you  finish  reading  chapter  seven  and  complete  the  questions  at  the  end  and  she’s  assured  me  it  should  keep  you  occupied  for  the  entire  lesson  if  done  properly.  If  you’ve  any  questions,  just  raise  your  hand  and  I’ll  be  happy  to  help  you.  Otherwise,  please  concentrate  on  your  work.”

For  a  moment,  Albus  considered  beginning  his  letter  to  his  father  or  passing  a  note  to  Rose,  asking  if  she  really  thought  Scorpius’s  broom  had  been  damaged  deliberately  and  whether  it  had  been  done  by  the  same  person  as  everything   that  had  happened  the  previous  term,  but  one  look  at  the  amount  of  work  they’d  been  left  convinced  him  not  to.  Otherwise,  he’d  be  working  on  homework  all  evening.

He  just  about  managed  to  complete  the  questions  by  the  end  of  the  lesson. 

“Great!  No  Transfiguration  homework,”  he  commented  to  Rose  as  they  left  the  classroom.  “That  gives  me  a  bit  more  time  to  write  to  Dad.”

“You  write  to  your  parents  practically  every  evening,”  she  pointed  out.  “You  always  manage  to  find  time.”

“Yeah,  but  I  want  to  take  extra  care  over  this  letter.  I  want  to  know  what  he  thinks  about  what  happened  to  Scorpius’s  broom.”

“Well,  just  ask  him  what  you  want  to  know.  It  shouldn’t  be  that  difficult.”

The  difficult  part  was  knowing  exactly  what  it  was  he  did  want  to  know.  What  he  really  wanted  was  reassurance  that  whatever  was  happening  at  Hogwarts  wasn’t  serious,  but  he  wasn’t  sure  he  wanted  his  dad  to  know  just  how  worried  he  was.

He  sighed  as  he  picked  up  his  quill  that  evening.  It  wasn’t  easy.  He  supposed  he  should  begin  by  describing  what  had  happened  and  then  decide  just  what  he  should  ask  about  it.

Dear  Dad,  he  began.

I   was  coming  back  from  the  Quidditch  match  against  Slytherin  last  night  and  we  saw…

He  tore  the  page  up.  He  should  mention  they’d  won  the  match.  That’d  interest  his  parents  and  he  hadn’t  written  to  them  the  previous  evening.  It  had  taken  all  his  time  to  get  his  homework  done  after  he  and  Rose  had  finished  discussing  what  he’d  seen.

He  began  again.

Dear  Dad,

Yesterday  was  the  match  against  Slytherin  and  we  won  by  two  hundred  points!  Everybody  says  their  team  is  rubbish,  but  that’s  still  pretty  good  and  should  make  up  for  Gryffindor  beating  us.

On  our  way  back  from  the  pitch,  Derek  and  I  saw  a  group  of  people  gathered  by  the  Whomping  Willow.  Apparently,   it  had  damaged  Scorpius’s  broom.  I  don’t  think  it  can  be  fixed.

I  think  I  told  you  Scorpius  snuck  a  broom  in  to  school  and  he  was  hiding  it  on  the  grounds,  but  not  anywhere  near  the  Whomping  Willow.  He  says  he  didn’t  break  it  himself,  so  we’re  wondering  who  did  and  if  it  could  have  anything  to  do  with  the  other  stuff  that  happened  last  term.

The  Malfoys  were  Death  Eaters,  right?  So  somebody  who  supported  them  probably  wouldn’t  want  to  get  him  in  trouble,  would  they? 

But  Rose  says  Scorpius  might  be  considered  a  blood  traitor  because  he  says  he  doesn’t  care  whether  people  are  pureblood  or  not.

What  do  you  think?

Albus.

Just  sending  the  letter  made  him  feel  better.  His  dad  would  know  what  they  should  do.

It  was  the  following  morning  that  a  reply  arrived.

Dear  Albus,

That’s  great  about  the  match.  Well,  not  for  James,  I  suppose.  I  know  he’d  love  to  win  the  Cup  his  first  year  on  the  team  and  your  mum  and  I  would  love  him  to  do  it.  Plus,  we’re  a  bit  biased  in  favour  of  Gryffindor  anyway,  when  it  comes  to  Quidditch.  But  we  wish  your  house  luck  too.

Now  we  can  be  proud  whichever  of  your  houses  win!

About  Scorpius’s  broom,  I  wouldn’t  jump  to  any  conclusions.  Pranks  are  pretty  common  at  Hogwarts  and  there  have  been  some  pretty  mean  ones  over  the  years.  I’ve  never  heard  of  anybody’s  broom  being  broken,  but  I’ve  heard  of  things  that  were  equally  nasty.  Even  your  grandfather  and  his  friends  did  some  pretty  mean  things  on  occasion.  I’ll  tell  you  some  day  how  I  can  be  so  sure  about  that!

However,  and  I  don’t  want  you  to  worry  about  this,  but  there  are  reasons  why  the  Death  Eaters  might  not  be  too  pleased  with  the  Malfoys,  even  apart  from  what  Scorpius  said.  I  think  I  told  you  Draco  couldn’t  bring  himself  to  kill Dumbledore  when  Voldemort  ordered  him  to  and  later  on,  during  the  Battle  of  Hogwarts,  Scorpius’s  grandmother  lied  to  Voldemort,  saying  I  was  dead;  at  that  point  she  just  wanted  to  know  her  son  was  all  right.  So  it  is  possible  somebody  might  blame  the  Malfoys  for  my  survival  and  therefore  Voldemort’s  defeat.

Again,  though,  I  want  to  repeat  that  I  think  it  highly  unlikely  there’s  a  Death  Eater  at  Hogwarts.  What  is  more  likely  is  that  somebody  might  have  a  parent  or  other  relative  who  was  a  Death  Eater  or  even  just  supported  Voldemort  and  they  may  have  heard  this  relative  criticising  both  the  Malfoys  and  our  family  and  decided  to  play  a  few  pranks  on  our  children.

I  don’t  like  the  idea  of  a  young  person  being  raised  with  those  ideas,  but  I  really  don’t  think  the  person  is  likely  to  be  a  serious  threat,  at  least  not  at  this  stage.

And  that  is  assuming  this  has  anything  to  do  with  the  Malfoys  past.  It’s  quite  possible  it  doesn’t  and  that  it’s  just  a  prank  that  went  too  far.

One  thing  I’ve  learnt  over  my  years  as  an  Auror  is  never  to  make  decisions  before  you’ve  the  full  facts.  I  did  it  quite  a  few  times  during  my  years  at  Hogwarts  and  there  were  times  when  it  ended  quite  badly.  Keeping  an  open  mind  is  usually  the  better  option.

And  on  that  note,  I  don’t  want  you  taking  any  risks  just  because  I  said  I  doubt  there  is  anybody  dangerous  at  Hogwarts  at  the  moment.  I  feel  fairly  sure  of  that.  If  they  meant  to  harm  you,  they’ve  had  opportunities  to  do  so.  However  “fairly  sure”  is  not  certainty  and  it’s  better  to  be  cautious.

As  a  Ravenclaw  though,  you  should  know  that  better  than  us  Gryffindors.

Albus’s  heart  fell.  Was  his  father  saying  he  wasn’t  brave  because  he  didn’t  get  into  Gryffindor?

He  passed  the  letter  to  Rose.

“Do  you  think  Dad  thinks  I’m  a  coward?”

“WHAT?”

“At  the  end  of  the  letter,  he  makes  a  comment  about  me  not  being  a  Gryffindor.”

“Well,  let  me  read  it  first,  but  I  really  doubt  your  dad  would  say  you’re  a  coward.”

She  skimmed  the  letter  quickly  and  shook  her  head,  laughing.

“Albus,  being  cautious  isn’t  a  bad  thing.”

“Isn’t  it?”  He  didn’t  think  James  would  see  it  that  way.

“Of  course  not.  Your  dad  just  said  it  was  a  good  thing  in  the  line  above.  He  just  meant  Ravenclaws  usually  think  things  through,  rather  than  rushing  in  and  doing  something  stupid.”

“Do  you  think  so?”

“I  know  so.”  She  sounded  so  certain  he  felt  himself  relax.  “Now,”  she  continued,  “I  think  we  should  talk  to  Scorpius.”

“What?”  The  sudden  change  of  subject  confused  him.  “Why  should  we  do  that?”

“He  might  be  able  to  tell  us  some  more  about  what  happened  to  his  broom.  He  might  even  have  some  idea  who  broke  it.”

“Yeah,  us,”  he  muttered.  “That’s  what  he  thinks.”

“Perhaps,  but  if  he  thinks  about  it,  he  might  remember  something  more  useful.  It’s  worth  asking  him  anyway.  We’ve  nothing  to  lose.”

He  wasn’t  so  sure  about  that.  Scorpius  was  unlikely  to  be  too  anxious  to  talk  to  them  and  the  last  thing  Albus  wanted  was  another  row.  Rose  wouldn’t  care  though,  not  if  she  thought  there  was  a  chance  of  learning  something  useful.

To  his  relief,  however,  finding  an  opportunity  to  talk  to  Scorpius  wasn’t  that  easy.  Practically  they  only  times  they  saw  him  were  in  Potions  classes  or  at  meals,  when  there  were  too  many  other  people  around.

But  Rose  wasn’t  prepared  to  give  up  that  easily. 

“We’ll  corner  him  after  lunch,”  she  said  on  Saturday  morning.  “If  we  sit  where  we  can  see  him,  we  can  follow  him  as  soon  as  he  gets  up.”

“What  if  he  won’t  talk  to  us?”  Albus  protested  weakly.

“Well,  there’s  only  one  way  to  find  out,  isn’t  there?”

“I  suppose.”

Scorpius  ate  his  lunch  quickly,  and  got  up  to  leave  the  Great  Hall  immediately,  which  surprised  Albus.  On  Saturdays,  most  people  sat  around  for  a  while,  chatting  with  their  classmates.

“Come  on,”  Rose  said.

Reluctantly,  he  did  as  she  said.

To  his  surprise,  Scorpius  seemed  to  be  heading  out  of  the  castle.  It  was  freezing  cold  and  his  broom  was  no  longer  out  there,  so  what  on  earth  was  he  doing?

They  followed  him  to  the  Black  Lake.

“Hey,”  Rose  called,  as  he  stood  there  staring  out  across  it.

Scorpius  turned  around  somewhat  warily.

“What  do  you  want?”  He  didn’t  sound  particularly  friendly.

If  he’d  been  alone,  Albus  would  have  been  tempted  to  say  “nothing”  and  just  leave,  but  he  knew  Rose  wouldn’t  let  him  do  that.

“We  just  wanted  to  talk  to  you,”  she  said.

“Yeah,  right,”  Scorpius  muttered.

“You  know  how  somebody  sent  Albus  Swelling  Solution  laced  chocolates?”

He  rolled  his  eyes.  “I  already  told  you,  I  didn’t  do  it,  so  if  you’re  going  to  start  accusing  me  again,  you  can  just  save  your  breath.”

“I  wasn’t  going  to.  But  there’ve  been  a  lot  of  odds  things  happening  recently,  between  that  and  the  graffiti  outside  Slughorn’s  office,  remember?  And  then  your  broom.  We – Albus  and  I – were  wondering  if  it  might  all  be  connected  and  then  Albus’s  dad  suggested  that  maybe  somebody  might  hate  both  your  families.”

Everybody  hates  my  family,”  Scorpius  said  morosely.

Albus  realised  this  was  probably  true.  If  the  Death  Eaters  thought  they’d  betrayed  them  and  the  rest  of  the  wizarding  world  mistrusted  them  because  they’d  been  Death  Eaters  in  the  first  place,  they  couldn’t  have  many  friends.  He  suddenly  felt  pretty  sorry  for  Scorpius.

“But  anybody  in  particular?”  Rose  continued.  “Especially  anybody  who  might  know  about  the  Chamber  of  Secrets?”

I  don’t  know.  I’m  not  exactly  keeping  records.  And  what  has  the  Chamber  of  Secrets  got  to  do  with  anything ?”

“What  do  you  know  about  it?”  Rose  asked.

Scorpius  shrugged.  “The  same  as  most  people,  I  suppose.  There  was  some  kind  of  beast  there  that  attacked  students  here  a  couple  of  times.  I  think  some  girl  was  supposed  to  have  died  or  something.  I  don’t  see  what  it  has  to  do  with  somebody  breaking  my  broom.”

“Not  with  your  broom,  no,  but  when  it  was  opened  the  second  time,  there  was  graffiti  announcing  it  had  been  opened.  My  parents  and  Albus’s  dad  were  the  ones  who  found  it,  so  it  seems  like  somebody  was  trying  to  copy  that  by  having  us  find  this  graffiti.  Your  dad  would  have  been  at  school  at  the  time.”

“So?”

“So  it  might  be  somebody  who  knew  all  our  parents  back  then.  Somebody  who’d  a  grudge  against  them  for  some  reason.”

“I  don’t  know  much  about  my  dad’s  schooldays.  He  doesn’t  like  to  talk  about  them.”

“Lots  of  people  don’t,”  Rose  said.  “ What with  the  war  and  all.  That’s  what makes  it  all  so  difficult.  Of  course  there  are  loads  of  books  about  the  war  and  all,  but  they  don’t  tell  us  the  kind  of  things  we  want  to  know.  We  don’t  want  dates  of  battles  or  lists  of  deaths.  What  we  want  to  know  is  the  personal  stuff,  who  might  still  harbour  a  grudge  twenty-five  years  later.  And  so  many  people  don’t  want  to  talk  about  it.”  She  sighed.

Scorpius  paused  for  a  moment,  looking  out  over  the  lake.

“Well,  if  you  think  you  can  catch  whoever  broke  my  broom,  I’ll  tell  you  whatever  you  want  to  know.  If  I’d  the  slightest  idea  where  to  start,  I’d  have  gone  after  them  myself.  They’ve  got  me  in  so  much  trouble.”

“Why?”  Albus  asked.

Scorpius  grinned.  “So  you  do  speak?  I  thought  you  were  going  to  just  stand  there  in  silence  listening  to  us.”

“Rose  is  better  at  this  stuff.”

“At  what?  Talking.”

“At  knowing  what  to  say  to  people.  Are  your  parents  going  to  be  very  angry?”

“Well,  they  won’t  be  pleased.  My  mum  didn’t  want  me  to  bring  it  in  the  first  place,  but  I  begged  my  dad,  promising  him  I’d  take  care  of  it  and  he  backed  me  up.  He’ll  say  I  let  him  down  now.”  He  sighed.

“It’s  not  your  fault  somebody  else  broke  it.”

“They’ll  say  I  shouldn’t  have  shown  it  to  everyone,  that  I  was  just  showing  off.”  He  kicked  a stone  that  was  lying  by  the  lakeside.  “Do  you  really  think  you  can  find  out  who  did  it?”

Albus  didn’t  really.  Every  time  they  tried  to  find  out  anything,  they  hit  a  dead  end.

“I  think  we  have  to  at  least  try,”  Rose  said.  “Otherwise  everybody’s  going  to  carry  on  suspecting  and  blaming  each  other  and  worrying  whether  it’s  safe  to  take  their  eyes  off  their  stuff  for  a  moment.  It  can’t  continue.”

Scorpius,  however,  didn’t  seem  to  be  able  to  shed  any  light  on  the  subject.

“I  don’t  know  any  more  than  anybody  else,”  he  said.  “I  last  used  it  the  day  before.  Abric  wanted  a  ride  on  it,  so  we  snuck  down  about  nine  pm  and  messed  about  on  it  for  a  while.  Then  I  put  it  back  where  I’d  been  keeping  it  and  the  next  I  saw  it  was  when  Slughorn  brought  me  down  to  Flitwick’s  office.”

“Were  you  at  the  match?”  Rose  asked.

“Of  course.”

“Who  knew  you  were  going?”

He  shrugged.  “I  didn’t  tell  anybody,  but  I  guess  anybody  could  have  seen  me  going  to  the  pitch.”

“I  suppose  so,”  Rose  said.  “Especially  if  they  made  up  their  mind  to  find  out.”

Scorpius  started.  “You  think  somebody  was  watching  me?”

“You  never  know.  If  it  is  the  same  person  who  did  the  graffiti,  they  put  a  lot  of  thought  into  that.”

They  talked  a  while  longer  but  didn’t  learn  any  more.

“I  wish  you  luck,”  Scorpius  said  as  they  parted.  “With  a  bit  of  luck,  they’ll  be  expelled.”  He  scowled.


Chapter 20: Piecing the Jigsaw Together.
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“Well,  we  have  quite  a  few  pieces  of  the  jigsaw,”  Rose  said  thoughtfully.  “What  we  have  to  do  now  is  put  them  together.”

Albus  stared  at  her.  “How  do  we  do  that?”

“Well,  we’re  looking  for  somebody  currently  at  the  school,  with  a  grudge  against  you,  or  more  likely  our  families  and  also  against  the  Malfoys,  or  possibly  just  Scorpius,  who  has  some  connection  with  somebody  who  was  here  in  1992.  They  have  pro-Death  Eater  views,  hate  Muggleborns  and  are,  possibly,  though  not  definitely,  a  Ravenclaw.”

She  made  it  sound  as  if  their  being  in  Ravenclaw  was  the  only  uncertainty  when  the  truth  was  they’d  no  real  certainties  at  all.  They  didn’t  even  know  the  same  person  wrote  the  graffiti  and  broke  Scorpius’s  broom. 

He  didn’t  point  this  out,  however.  He  just  asked  “how  does  that  help  us?”

He  couldn’t  think  of  anybody  who  fit  those  criteria.

“What  we  need  to  do,”  she  said,  “is  find  out  as  much  as  we  can  about  the  students  who  were  here  in  1992,  their  names,  if  they  took  part  in  the  war,  how  they  got  on  with  your  dad  and  Scorpius’s  and  then  match  them  with  the  current  students,  beginning  with  the  Ravenclaws.”

“How  do  we  do  that?”  he  asked.  “They  mightn’t  even  have  the  same  names.”

“They  mightn’t,  but  we  start  with  those  who  do.  Then  we’ll  work  from  there.  And  if  we  do  find  a  Ravenclaw  whose  father  or  uncle  or  something  attended  Hogwarts  in  1992  and  later  joined  the  Death  Eaters,  they  become  our  top  suspect,  right?”

“OK,” he said doubtfully.  It  sounded  like  a  lot  of  work  for  possibly  very  little  reward,  but  it  wasn’t  as  if  he’d  any  better  ideas.

“So  what  we  need  to  do  now  is  to  write  to  our  parents.  I’ll  get  Mum  to  send  me  a  list  of  the  students  in  their  year  and  any  other  names  she  can  remember  and  you  get  your  dad  to  tell  you  who  was  on  the  Gryffindor  Quidditch  team  that  year  and  if  he  can  remember  any  of  the  names  of  those  he  played  against,  particularly  the  Slytherins.  Tell  him  anything  else  he  can  tell  you  about  them  would  be  helpful  too,  particularly  if  he  didn’t  get  on  with  any  of  them  or  they’d  any  reason  to  resent  him.”

He  bit  his  lip.  “All  right.

As  soon  as  the  letters  came  back,  Rose  set  about  cross-referencing  them  with  every  list  of  current  students  she  could  find.

“There’s  a  Flint  in  3rd  year,”  she’d  say.  “But  he’s  a  Slytherin,  so  I  think  we  can  afford  to  put  him  aside  for  a  moment.  I’ll  make  a  note  of  him,  just  in  case  though.  And  of  course,  there’s  Glynis  Bones.  She’s  a  first  year  Hufflepuff.  I  think  we  can  rule  her  out  though,  don’t  you?  I  doubt  a  first  year  from  another  house  could  get  into  Ravenclaw  unnoticed.”

He  nodded.

“Although  the  names  Bones  is  familiar,”  she  continued.  “I  think  Mum  mentioned  it  at  some  point  or  something.  I  must  ask  her.”

She  turned  back  to  the  pile  of  books  and  lists  in  front  of  her.

Albus  tried  to  help,  but  he  just  got  confused.  How  did  she  know  which  book  to  read  first  or  which  list  to  check?

“You  just  have  to  go  at  it  systematically,”  she  said when  he  asked  her.  “Your  problem  is  you just  skim  down  a  list,  then  get  bored  with  it  and  try  another  one.  You  have  to  go  through  each  name  on  it  and  see  if  it  matches  with  anything.  This  is  the  list  your  dad  gave  of  students  who  played  Quidditch  that  year  and  this  is  Mum’s  list  of  everybody  she  could  remember  in  their  year  and  these  are  all  the  current  Quidditch  teams  and  these  are  this  year’s  first  years.”

He  felt  his  eyes  begin  to  glaze  over.

Shaking  himself,  he  tried  again  to  compare  them,  but  after  going  through  ten  names  without  finding  a  match  and  accidentally  comparing  the  current  Quidditch  teams  with  the  current  first  years,  his  mind  began  to  wander.

“Oh,  I  forgot!”  Rose  interrupted  his  thoughts.  “I  need  you  to  write  to  your  mum  and  ask  her  for  a  list  of  the  students  in  her  year.  I  can’t  believe  we  forgot  that.  And  I’ve  written  to  Uncle  George  and  I’ll  write  to  Uncle  Percy  tonight.  I  think  we  should  talk  to  Neville  too.”

He  shifted  awkwardly.  “Why  will  we  say  we’re  asking  him?”

It  was  one  thing  writing  to  his  parents  or  Uncle  Ron  or  Uncle  George.  His  dad  knew  exactly  why  they  wanted  to  know  and  Albus  got  the  impression  he  thought  they  were  doing  the  right  thing.  And  of  course,  Uncle  Ron  and  Uncle  George  were  never  averse  to  a  bit  of  mischief.  Uncle  George  in  particular  didn’t  ask  too  many  questions.

But  Neville  was  a  teacher  and  Albus  was  sure  he’d  think  they  should  leave  things  to  the  staff.

Rose  seemed  to  agree  with  him,  because  she  didn’t  even  suggest  telling  the  truth.

“Give  me  a  minute,”  she  said  instead.  “I  know!  We  tell  him  we’re  going  to  surprise  your  parents  by  making  a  collage  of  photographs  from  their  time  on  the  Quidditch  team  and  we’re  short  of  examples  from  your  dad’s  first  two  years  on  the  team,  so  can  he  tell  us  who  was  at  Hogwarts  then  so  we  can  write  and  ask  for  some?”

He  wasn’t  at  all  convinced  Neville  would  believe  them.  It  sounded  a  bit  convoluted. 

To  his  surprise,  however,  Neville  gave  no  indication  of  doubting  them  when  they  approached  him  after  Herbology.

“Who  might  have  pictures  of  your  Dad’s  first  two  or  three  years  playing  Quidditch?  Well,  the  obvious  answer  would  be  Colin  Creevey,  but  he  died  in  the  Battle  of  Hogwarts.”

There  was  an  awkward  pause.  Albus  really  wished  they  hadn’t  reminded  him  of  the  war.  He  knew  how  upsetting  it  was  for  those  who’d  lived  through  it.

“His  brother,  Dennis,  might  have  them  now;  I  don’t  know.  You  could  ask  him.  Colin  hero-worshiped  Harry.  I’m  sure  he’d  want  him  to  have  them.”

“Can  you  think  of  anybody  else  who  was  at  school  then  though?”  Rose  asked.  “In  case  he  doesn’t  have  them.  I  mean,  older  students,  mostly.  My  parents  can  contact  most  of  your  classmates.”

Neville  thought  for  a  moment.  “I  doubt  I  can  be  much  help  to  you.  Your  parents  knew  a  lot  more  people  than  I  did,  what  with  your  dad  being  the  Boy  Who  Lived  and  all.  Everybody  wanted  to  befriend  him.”

“Thanks  anyway,  Sir.”  Rose  smiled  at  him.

“It  doesn’t  really  matter,”  she  told  Albus  later.  “Between  our  parents  and  aunts  and  uncles,  we’ve  a  fairly  long  list  anyway.  And  it  would  probably  be  somebody  they’d  remember,  don’t  you  think?”

“I  suppose  so.”  An  idea  occurred  to  him.  “Hey,  I  know  you  said  we  could  leave  Victor  Flint  aside,  but  I  was  just  thinking,  if  Marcus  Flint  was  head  of  the  Slytherin  team…”

“Yes?”

“Well,  he  might  have  had  something  against  Scorpius’s  dad,  mightn’t  he?  Because  of  the  way  he  got  on  the  team?  He  might  have  objected  to  being  forced  to  take  him  in  order  to  get  the  new  brooms.  And  my  dad  played  against  him,  so…”

He  trailed  off.  It  was  pretty  weak.  You  didn’t  go  around  breaking  somebody’s  broom,  because  your  dad  was  basically  bribed  into  accepting  his  onto  a  school  team  or  sending  someone  Swelling  Solution  because  their  dad  might  have  beaten  yours  in  a  match.

“I  guess  it’s  not  very  likely,”  he  said  finally.

“It’s  a  connection  though.  We’ll  keep  Mr.  Victor  Flint  in  mind.  He  might  have  reasons  we don’t  know  about.  And  you’re  right.  We  shouldn’t  forget  Scorpius’s  broom  was  broken.  If  somebody  was  annoyed  at  the  Malfoys’  history  of  using  their  money  to  buy  themselves  whatever  they  want,  including  a  place  on  the  Quidditch  team,  that  could  well  have  aggravated  them.  I’ll  tell  you  what.  You  should  have  a  word  with  James.  See  if  he  can  tell  you  anything  about  him.  And  find  out  if  they  have  Potions  with  the  Slytherins.  Not  that  it  matters.  Slughorn  probably  made  the  same  potion  with  all  his  third  year  classes  that  week.”

 “OK.”

It  sounded  like  an  easy  task.  Talking  to  James  was  certainly  less  stressful  than  trying  to  question  Slughorn  or  even  Neville. 

But  when  he  actually  approached  the  Gryffindor  table  after  dinner  that  evening,  he  realised  it  wasn’t  quite  as  easy  as  he’d  expected.  James  was  surrounded  by  a  group  of  third  year  Gryffindors  who  probably  wouldn’t  appreciate  being  interrupted  by  a  mere  first  year.

He  should  have  anticipated  this.  Apart  from  the  odd  occasion he  came  over  to  the  Ravenclaw  table,  specifically  to  talk  to  Albus,  James  was  always  surrounded  by  friends.  He  attracted  people  far  more  easily  than  Albus  did.

“Um,  James,”  he  said  quietly.

James  turned  around.

“What  do  you  want?”

It  felt  as  if  all  the  eyes  at  the  table  turned  to  stare  at  him.

Suddenly,  what  he  wanted  to  say  sounded  ridiculous,  like  a  kid  playing  detective.  He  really  wished  he’d  found  a  better  time  to  approach  James,  a  time  when  he  wasn’t  surrounded  by  friends.  James  laughing  at  him  would  be  bad  enough.  Half  of  Gryffindor  laughing  at  him  would  be  unbearable.

He  knew  though,  that  there  was  no  such  time.  James  wasn’t  the  sort  of  person  to  be  found  reading  quietly  in  the  library  or  wandering  the  grounds  by  himself.  Well,  not  unless  he  was  up  to  something.

“You  know  Victor  Flint?”

James  rolled  his  eyes  and  exchanged  a  look  Albus  couldn’t  quite  read  with  his  best  friend,  Robin,  a  small,  blond-haired,  angelic  looking  boy,  who  was  nowhere  near  as  angelic  as  he  looked.

“Flinthead?  Oh  yes,  I  know  him.  Why?  Has  he  been  hassling  you?  If  he  has,  we’ll  sort  him,  won’t  we,  Robin?”

“Oh  yes.”  He  sounded  as  if  he  was  looking  forward  to  it.

“Sorry  to  disappoint  you,”  Albus  found  himself  saying,  “but  I  haven’t  spoken  to  him  at  all.  His  name  just  came  up  and  I  was  wondering…” 

He  let  his  voice  trail  off.  It  wasn’t  a  very  convincing  explanation  but  the  other  boys  didn’t  seem  to  notice.

“Well,  keep  out  of  his  way,”  James  ordered.  “He  tried  to  curse  me  once,   remember?”  He  turned  to  Robin.

“Yeah,  that  was  because  you’d  just  vanished  the  caterpillars  he  was  about  to  add  to  his  potion.”

“Oh  yeah,  I’d  forgotten  that.  Wasn’t  the  look  on  his  face  hilarious?”

They  both  laughed.

“So  he’s  in  your  potions  class?”

“Yeah,  Potions  with  the  Slytherins.  Great  fun,  isn’t  it,  Robin?  It’s  the  same  for  you,  isn’t  it,  Albus?”

He  turned  back  to  his  brother,  without  waiting  for  Robin’s  agreement.

“Yeah,”  Albus  said.  “Some  of  them  are  OK,  though,  even  Malfoy  really.”

“He’s  another  one  you’d  want  to  watch  out  for,”  James  said.

“Why?” 

Did  James  know  something  he  didn’t?

James  shrugged.  “He’s  a  Malfoy,  isn’t  he?  And  that  trick  with  sneaking  his  broom  in  here…  Bit  of  a  slippery  customer,  I’d  say.”

“Hey,  you  know  there  was  a  Flint  played  against  Dad  when  he  was  on  the  Quidditch  team  here?”

Albus  knew  he  was  changing  the  subject,  but  he  couldn’t  think  how  to  bring  it  up  subtly.

“Was  there?”

“Yeah,  he  was  on  the  Slytherin  team.  You  don’t  know  if  they’re  related?”

“I  don’t  know  or  particularly  care.  Why  would  I  be  interested  in  old  Flinthead?  How  do  you  know  anyway?”

“That  a  Flint  played  against  Dad?  Dad  told  me.  I  mean,  he  mentioned  it  one  time.”

“Oh,  right.” 

James  turned  back  to  his  dinner  and  Albus  realised  he’d  been  dismissed.

He  couldn’t  tell  Rose  what  he’d  learnt  at  the  dinner  table,  not  in  front  of  Derek,  Rasmus  and  Nathan,  but  they  managed  to  slip  away  from  them  on  the  way  back  to  Ravenclaw  Tower.

“Learn  anything?”  she  asked.

“Maybe.  I  mean,  he  and  James  don’t  get  on,  so  I  guess  that  could  be  a  reason  to  pick  on  me,  right?”

She  nodded.  “It’s  definitely  possible.”

“And  they  do  have  Potions  together,  so  if  Slughorn  left  at  the  end  of  class,  it’d  be  easy  for  Victor  to  bottle  some  Swelling  Solution.”  He  shifted  a  little  awkwardly.  “I  don’t  think  we  should  try  questioning  him  though.  James  says  we  should  stay  out  of  his  way.”

“Why?  Just  ‘cause  he  doesn’t  like  him?”

“I  don’t  know,  really.  I  kind  of  got  the  impression  he  was  a  bully.”

She  smiled.  “All  right.  We  won’t  approach  him  directly.  Not  yet  anyway.  Let’s  just  see  what  Scorpius  has  to  say.”

“Scorpius?”

“Yeah,  we  need  to  run  the  lists  past  him  anyway.  See  if  any  of  our  possibilities  have  had  any  run-ins  with  him  or  his  dad.  And  Flint’s  in  his  house.  He  should  know  more  about  him  than  we  do.”

“OK.”

It  was  definitely  a  better  idea  than  approaching  Flint.

“We’ll  wait  a  few  days  though.  I  still  need  to  go  through  your  Mum’s  class  and  Uncle  Percy’s.  See  if  we  find  any  possible  connections  there.”

 “Do  you  think  we  will?”

“Probably  too  many.”  She  sighed.  “Most  pureblooded  families  are  related  and  I  think  we  can  pretty  much  assume  the  person  we’re  looking  for  is  pureblood,  or  maybe  halfblood.  It  means  the  chances  of  a  surname  match  are  pretty  high.”

“So  is  this  going  to  help  us  at  all?”

“Oh,  I  think  so.  We  just  need  a  little  more  than  a  surname  match,  that’s  all.  That’s  why  we  need  to  talk  to  Scorpius.”  She  paused  for  a  moment,  before  adding,  “I’m  also  going  to  do  some  research  on  the  Death  Eaters.  See  if  there  are  any  surnames  that  come  up  in  all  three  places  or  if  any  of  the  older  students  from  1992  went  on  to  join  the  Death  Eaters.  The  seventh  years  could  have  been  as  old  as  twenty-three  by  the  Final  Battle,  you  know.”

“I  guess.”  He  hadn’t  really  thought  of  that.

“But  one  thing  at  a  time.  First  I’ll  go  through  the  lists  we  have,  then  we’ll  talk  to  Scorpius.  Researching  Death  Eaters  can  wait.”

As  she’d  predicted,  they’d  quite  a  long  list  of  possibilities  by  the  time  she’d  finished  going  through  the  lists.

They  met  Scorpius  down  by  the  Black  Lake.  It  seemed  to  be  his  usual  hang-out  for  some  reason.

He  stared  at  the  list  of  names  before  him.  “Where  did  you  get  all  these  from?”

“Just  people  at  school  now  with  the  same  surnames  as  people  here  in  1992  that  we  thought  were  possibilities  for  various  reasons.  Most  of  them  probably  aren’t  really.  I  mean  I’ve  included  pretty  much  any  Ravenclaws  I  could  find.”

“Why  Ravenclaws?”

For  a  moment,  neither  of  them  answered.

Finally,  she  said,  “OK,  don’t  tell  anybody  this  now,  but  somebody  hid  something  in  Albus’s  trunk.  It’d  be  kind  of  hard  for  somebody  from  another  house  to  do  that.”

He  skimmed  the  list.

“Why’s  Flint  on  it,  so?”

“Because  his  dad  played  Quidditch  with  yours  and  against  Albus’s  and  apparently  he  and  James  don’t  get  on.”  She  shrugged.

Scorpius  actually  laughed.  “He  doesn’t  get  on  with  anybody.  It  would  take  him  forever  to  get  back  at  them  all.”

“But  the  graffiti  did  threaten  a  lot  of  people,”  Rose  reminded  him.  “Anybody  who’s  Muggleborn  and  even  the  rest  of  us,  really,  because  it  also  threatened  that  Voldemort  would  return.”

Scorpius  shuddered.

“Oh,  don’t  tell  me  you’re  one  of  those  who  doesn’t  like  to  hear  the  name.  He  died  years  ago.”

“Yeah,  and  my  dad  nearly  died  because  of  him.”

There  was  an  awkward  silence.

“I’m  sorry,”  she  said  finally.  “But  this  is  exactly  why  we  need  to  figure  out  who’s  doing  this.  After  all,  that  man  did,  all  the  people  he  hurt,  there’s  somebody  here  at  Hogwarts  who  still  seems  to  think  it’d  be  really  cool  if  he  returned.”

Scorpius  glanced  down  at  the  ground  and  dug  his  foot  into  the  wet  mud.

“OK.  What  do  you  want  from  me?”

“Could  you  find  out  how  your  dad  and  Flint  got  on  when  they  played  Quidditch  together?  Or  if  there  was  anybody  who  hated  him  and  Albus’s  dad  when  they  were  at  Hogwarts?”

“I  can  try,”  he  said  doubtfully.  “But  like  I  said,  Dad  doesn’t  really  like  to  talk  about  his  time  here.  And…he’s  not  too  pleased  with  me  at  the  moment.”

“Because  of  your  broom  getting  broken?”  Albus  asked.

He  nodded.  “I  might  be  able  to  bring  it  up  over  the  Easter  holidays.”

“That’s  ages  away,”  Rose  complained.

“It’s  the  best  I  can  do.  I  can  hardly  just  write  to  him  and  say  ‘hey,  Dad,  who  hated  you  at  Hogwarts?’  when  he  doesn’t  even  talk  about  his  time  here,  can  I?”

“All  right.  It  doesn’t  look  like  we’ll  have  found  out  much  by  then  anyway.  Not  at  the  rate  we’re  going.  Oh,  one  other  thing.”

He  eyed  her  suspiciously.

“Albus  and  I  are  going  to  keep  an  eye  on  some  of  the  Ravenclaw  possibilities.  Can  you  do  the  same  with  Flint?”

“I  am  not  getting  too  close  to  him!”

“You  don’t  have  to,”  she  assured  him.  “Just  take  note  of  whether  he’s  in  the  common  room  in  the  evenings  and  stuff.  If  you’re  there,  I  mean.  We  can’t  spend  all  day  every  day,  sitting  around  watching  people.  But  if  you  do  notice  he’s  not  around,  keep  it  in  mind,  in  case  it  turns  out  something’s  happened  that  evening.”

“I  can  do  that.  Who  are  you  keeping  an  eye  on?”

“Well,  like  I  said,  we  were  focussing  on  Ravenclaws,  so  there’s  quite  a  lot  of  them.  I  knocked  a  few  out,  because  they’d  family  members  who  died  in  the  war  or  were  part  of  the  Order  or  something,  but  that  still  left  a  lot  of  people  I  knew  nothing  about.  So  we’ll  probably  focus  on  people  there’s  actually  something  against.  Like  Eleanor  Lockhart.”

Both  boys  stared  at  her.

“Why  her?”  Albus  asked.

“It  only  occurred  to  me  just  before  we  came  down  here.  All  along,  we  were  focussing  on  students,  but  what  about  Gilderoy  Lockhart?  His  family  could  well  blame  our  parents  for  the  way  he  lost  his  memory  and  well…”

She  gave  Scorpius  an  awkward  look.

“You  might  as  well  say  it,”  he  said  sourly.  “She  could  blame  my  granddad  for  getting  the  chamber  opened  in  the  first  place.  Granddad  didn’t  know  what  the  diary  did,  but  nobody  believes  that.”

 “Well,  it’s  possible,”  she  muttered.  “That’s  if  she’s  even  related  to  him.  We  don’t  know  that  for  sure.”

Scorpius  turned  away  and  stared  back  out  over  the  lake.

“Well,  we’ll  talk  to  you  again,”  she  said.  “Let  us  know  if  your  dad  tells  you  anything,  OK?  Or  if  Flint  does  anything  suspicious.  And  we’ll  let  you  know  if  Eleanor  or  any  of  the  others  do.”

“Yeah.”

He  didn’t  turn  around.

“Do  you  think  Lucius  Malfoy  knew  what  that  diary  did?”  Albus  asked  Rose  once  they  were  out  of  earshot.  He  knew  it  wasn’t  really  important,  but  he  wanted  to  know.  It  was  his  mum  who’d  been  bewitched  after  all.

She  shrugged.  “I  dunno.  He  must  have  known  it  did  something  dodgy.  Otherwise,  why  give  it  to  her?  And  even  if  he  didn’t  know  exactly,  you’d  think  he’d  have  figured  it  out  once  people  started  getting  attacked.  I  wouldn’t  imagine  he’d  have  cared  about  Muggleborns  being  attacked  anyway.”

Albus  shivered.  “Imagine  having  a  grandfather  like  that.”

He  thought  of  his  own  grandparents,  who  were  probably  the  most  loving  people  he  knew.  They  certainly  wouldn’t  just  sit  back  and  let  it  happen  if  they  suspected  they  knew  what  was  causing  people  to  be  attacked.  


Chapter 21: Eleanor Lockhart.
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Sorry for the  delay with this chapter. I was kind of stuck on it.

Disclaimer: Everything you recognise in this chapter, including the book Year with the Yeti is the property of J.K. Rowling.  (The quote from it isn't from canon though.) No copyright infringement is intended.





The  rest  of  February  passed  without  incident.  Soon  it’d  be  Easter  and  they’d  still  no  more  idea  who  was  behind  the  incidents  than  they’d  had  in  September.

Rose  spent  every  spare  moment  rechecking  her  lists  and  researching  the  Death  Eaters,  but  she  wasn’t  getting  very  far.

“The  thing  is  most  people  who’d  family  members  in  the  Death  Eaters  are  in  Slytherin,”  she  said.  “And  even  Flint,  one  of  the  few  suspects  we  have  who   is  a  Slytherin  doesn’t  seem  to  have  any  Death  Eater  connections.”

“It  he  did it,  it’s  probably  not  because  of  Death  Eater  connections  anyway,”  Albus  reminded  her.  “It’s  probably  to  get  back  at  James  or  because  of  something  that  happened  when  our  fathers  played  Quidditch.”

“But  most  people  who  weren’t  Death  Eaters  suffered  under  Voldemort  and  would’ve  told  their  kids  how  awful  they  were.  Whoever  wrote  the  graffiti  seemed  to  think  Voldemort  coming  back  would  be  a  good  thing.”

“Well,  maybe  there  were  some  people  who  didn’t  suffer  too  much.

“Maybe.  I  suppose  they  can’t  have  gone  after  everybody.  But  all  the  same…”  She  sighed.  “I  just  wish  I  could  find  a  definite  connection  somewhere.  I’ll  keep  trying.”

She  was  doing  more  than  her  fair  share  of  the  work.  Albus  knew  that,  but  he  just  couldn’t  bring  himself  to  go  through  all  those  lists  again.  The  mere  thought  of  it  gave  him  a  headache.

He  did,  however,  take  part  in  researching  the  Death  Eaters.  He  and  Rose  sat  in  the  library,  flicking  through  some  of  the  many  books  on  the  war  and  noting  down  the  names  of  any  Death  Eaters  or  supporters  they  hadn’t  heard  of  before.

It  was  pretty  interesting  in  a  way  and  yet,  it  was  awful  to  think  that  his  parents  had  lived  through  those  days,  that  those  things  had  happened  to  people  he  knew.

“Rose,  listen.”

She  looked  up.

“Yes?”

He  read  out  a  graphic  description  of  how  the  Carrows  had  punished  students  who  misbehaved.

Neville  must  have  experienced  that.  And  my  mum.  I  guess  Dad  was  lucky  he  wasn’t  here  that  year.”

“They  were  on  the  run,  at  constant  risk  of  being  arrested  and  tortured  or  killed.  I  don’t  think  anybody  was  very  lucky.”

He  shivered.

“Look  Albus,  dreadful  things  happened;  we  already  know  that.”

“Well,  yeah,  but…”

His  parents  always  sort  of  played  it  down.  Of  course  he’d  known  Voldemort  had  repeatedly  tried  to  kill  his  father,  that  Muggleborns  had  been  rounded  up,  that  his  mum  and  her  fellow  students  had  faced  dreadful  punishments  for  stepping  out  of  line,  but  somehow  it  seemed  worse  when  written  down  in  black  and  white.  The  books  didn’t  pause  when  things  started  getting  upsetting  and  say  “well,  that’s  enough  for  now.  It  was  all  a  long  time  ago  and  thankfully,  you’re  living  in  a  much  better  world  today,  the  one  we  fought  to  leave  to  you.”

“We’re  lucky  to  live  when  we  do,  aren’t  we?”  he  whispered.

She  nodded.

They  were  silent  for  a  moment,  both  contemplating  what  it  would  be  like  to  have  grown  up  when  their  parents  were  young. 

Albus  really  didn’t  think  he  could  have  faced  it.

Rose  probably  could  have  and  James  definitely  could.  They  were  all  so  much  braver  than  he  was.  Braver  and  more  capable.  Even  now,  it  was  Rose  who  was  making  all  the  plans,  who  was  doing  the  lion’s  share  of  the  work.  He  really  hadn’t  contributed  all  that  much.

Well,  that  was  going  to  change.

He  stood  up.

“Hey,  aren’t  you  going  to  check  for  any  more  Death  Eater  names?”  Rose  asked.

“Later.  I’ve  some  other  stuff  to  do  first.”

Exactly  what  that  other  stuff  was,  he  wasn’t  sure,  but  he  was  going  to  figure  it  out.  For  once,  he  wasn’t  just  going  to  wait  for  Rose  to  tell  him  what  to  do.  He  was  going  to  use  his  own  initiative  and  get  back  to  her  with  some  information  she  hadn’t  even  been  expecting.

Deep  in  thought,  he  headed  back  towards  Ravenclaw  tower.

“Hey.”  Derek’s  greeting  broke  into  his  thoughts.

“Oh,  hi,  Derek.”

“Don’t  tell  me  you’ve  been  in  the  library  again.  Hanging  around  with  Rose  must  be  rubbing  off  on  you.”

“Oh,  I  wasn’t  studying.  I  was  looking  up  some  stuff  about  the  war.”  He  paused,  wondering  if  he  should  say  any  more.  Rose  was  always  wary  of  letting  anybody  else  into  their  confidence.  But  Derek  already  knew  they  were  trying  to  figure  out  who’d  done  the  graffiti  and  it  wasn’t  as  if  they’d  found  out  anything  new  anyway.  Plus  he  was  quite  certain  Derek  couldn’t  be  involved.  Apart  from  anything  else  ,he’d  been  with  Albus  when  Scorpius’s  broom  was  damaged.  “We  were  trying  to  figure  out  if  anybody  at  Hogwarts  now  had  relatives  in  the  Death  Eaters  or  anything.”

“And  did  they?”  Derek  sounded  enthusiastic.  Being  a  Muggleborn,  the  war  was  nowhere  near  as  real  to  him  as  it  was  to  Albus.

“Well,  yeah,  but  that  doesn’t  necessarily  help  that  much.  Purebloods  intermarried  a  lot – they  wouldn’t  have  been  able  to  keep  their  blood  pure  otherwise – so  they’re  all  pretty  much  related.”  He  sighed.  “It’s  like  looking  for  a  needle  in  a  haystack  really.”

“Could  any  of  your  cousins  help?  You’ve  so  many  of  them;  surely  one  of  them  would  know  something.”

“Derek,  you’re  a  genius.”  Albus  practically  jumped  with  excitement.  “None  of  us  are  in  Slytherin,  but  Lucy  should  know  something  about  the  older  Ravenclaws,  shouldn’t  she?  She’s  shared  a  common  room  with  some  of  them  for  four  years.”  He  thought  for  a  minute.  “She  wasn’t  in  the  library  when  I  left  it,  so  she’s  probably  in  the  common  room.  Are  you  coming?”

“Yeah,  but  I’ll  let  you  talk  to  her  yourself.  She’s  your  cousin,  after  all.”

“You’re  not  scared  of  approaching  Lucy,  are  you?”

“She’s  a  fourth  year,”  he explained.  “And  everybody  says  she’ll  probably  be  a  prefect  next  year.”

“Well,  yeah,  she  probably  will  be,  but  so  what?  Lucy’s  cool.”

It  was  actually  easier  to  approach  her  than  James,  as  she  wasn’t  surrounded  by  a  large  number  of  friends,  but  was  sitting  in  a  corner  of  the  common  room,  reading.

“Hey,  Lucy,”  he  said  tentatively.

She  put  down  the  book  she  was  reading.

“Oh,  hi,  Albus.”

He  scuffed  his  foot  against  the  floor,  wondering  how  to  begin.  He  looked  around  at  Derek,  who  was  standing  a  couple  of  feet  behind  him  and  who  looked  away  immediately.

“Um,  I  was  wondering  if  you  knew  Eleanor  Lockhart?”

“Not  really.  She’s  a  fifth  year,  you  know.”

“Yeah,  I  know,  but  you’ve  lived  with  her  for  the  last  four  years,  pretty  much,  so  I  thought  you  might  know  something.”

“She’s  way  too  old  for  you.”

“WHAT?  I  don’t  fancy  her!”

“You’re  about  the  only  guy  at  Hogwarts  who  doesn’t,  so.  Come  on,  you  must  have  noticed  how  pretty  she  is.”

“I  suppose.”

In  truth,  he  hadn’t  taken  much  notice.  Girls  weren’t  much  on  his  radar  yet,  certainly  not  in  any  romantic  sense.  And  Eleanor  had  to  be  at  least  fifteen,  practically  grown-up.

Lucy  smiled.  “I’ll  tell  you  what  I  know,  but  I  have  to  warn  you,  it’s  not  much.  This  is  going  to  sound  awfully  mean,  but  to  be  completely  honest,  I  don’t  think  there  is  all  that  much  to  know  about  her.  All  she  ever  seems  to  do  is  preen  in  front  of  the  mirror  and  chat  up  older  boys.  She  doesn’t  seem  to  have  any  interest  in  any  one  of  them  in  particular  though.  Or  maybe  they’re  not  interested  in  her.  I  don’t  know.”

“You  don’t  happen  to  know  if  she’s  related  to  Gilderoy  Lockhart?”

“That  guy  who  taught  here  when  our  parents  were  at  school?  I’ve  no  idea,  but  I  could  try  and  find  out  if  you  wanted.  I’m  friendly  with  a  couple  of  the  girls  in  her  class.  They  might  know.”

“That  would  be  great,  thanks.”

“I  don’t  suppose  you’re  going  to  tell  me  why  you  want  to  know.”

He  paused  for  a  moment.  “It’s  just,  if  she  is,  then  she  might  have  a  grudge  against  Dad.”

“I  can’t  imagine  her  bothering  to  pay  off  an  ancient  grudge,  to  be  honest  with  you.  She  seems  like  somebody  who’s  very  focussed  on  the  present.  But  I’ll  let  you  know  if  I  get  any  information.”

“Thanks  Lucy.” 

It  was  over  a  week  before  she  got  back  to  him.

“Sorry  I  couldn’t  give  you  an  answer  sooner.  I  asked  Leona,  who  said  she  wasn’t  sure,  but  she  could  ask.  And  apparently  the  answer  is  that,  yes,  Gilderoy  Lockhart  was  her  uncle.  Is  her  uncle,  I  suppose.  I  don’t  know  what’s  happened  to  him.”

“Thank  you  so  much.” 

He  couldn’t  wait  to  tell  Rose  what  she’d  told  him. 

“Well,  that  does  give  her  a  motive,”  she  said.  “It  probably  doesn’t  mean  anything,  but  it  might  be  worthwhile  having  a  word  with  her.”

Albus  stared  at  her.  “We  can’t  do  that!  She’s  a  fifth  year.  She’s  not  going  to  answer  to  a  couple  of  first  years.”

“You’re  right.  We’re  going  to  have  to  be  smart  about  this.”  She  thought  for  a  moment.  “I  think  I  have  an  idea.”

She  sent  an  owl  order  to  Flourish  and  Blotts,  ordering  a  copy  of  Year  with  the  Yeti  and,  to  Albus’s  surprise,  set  about  reading  it.  He’d  assumed  it was  going  to  be  used  as  some  kind  of  prop. 

Though  he  supposed  Rose  was  incapable  of  leaving  a  book  unread.

“Any  good?”  he  asked  tentatively.

“It’s  absolutely  hilarious,  but  I’m  not  sure  he  meant  it  to  be.  So  far,  there  hasn’t  even  been  a  mention  of  the  Yeti.  Look,  here,  he’s  talking  about  his  favourite  colours  and  how  he  bought  a  beautiful  lilac  robe.

“’People  have  asked,’”  she  read  aloud,  “’how  I  maintain  my  style  and  good  grooming  while  tackling  Dark  Creatures  of  all  kinds  in  some  of  the  most  uncivilised  corners  of  the  earth.  My  response  is  always  that  style  comes  second.  While  I  naturally  take  pride  in  my  appearance,  I  am  always  aware  of  the  great  responsibility  that  lies  upon  me  as  an  honorary  member  of  the  Dark  Force  Defence  League.  People  depend  on  me  and  if  that  means  I  occasionally  have  to  neglect  my  personal  grooming,  it  is  a  sacrifice  I’m  willing  to  make.’”  She  cracked  up  laughing.  “Can  you  believe  people  took  this  stuff  seriously?”

He  couldn’t.  “What  are  you  going  to  do  with  this  anyway?”  He  gestured  towards  the  book.

“Use  it  to  strike  up  a  conversation  with  Eleanor.  I  don’t  know  if  it’ll  work,  but  I think  I  can  pull  it  off.  I’ll  have  to  do  it  alone  though.”

“All  right.”  He  felt  a  little  disappointed.

“Well,  you  can  be  there.  We’ll  probably  be  in  the  common  room,  so  you  can  listen,  as  long  as  you  don’t  make  it  too  obvious.  It’s  just  meant  to  be  a  casual  conversation,  so  nobody  should  be  taking  any  particular  interest. “

“I  could  have  a  game  of  Wizards  Chess  or  something  with  Derek  nearby.”

“Yeah,  that  would  work.  She  shouldn’t  be  paying  much  attention  anyway.  Not  if  I  do  it  right.  The  only  thing  is  you  mightn’t  get  much  time  to  set  up  a  game.  The  more  spontaneous  this  is,  the  more  convincing  it’ll  be.”

He  shrugged.  “Well,  I’ll  try  to  find  an  excuse  to  move  closer  if  I  see  you  talking  to  her.”

“If  you  can’t,  it  doesn’t  really  matter.  I  can  tell  you  anything  I  find  out  anyway.  But  it  would  be  helpful  to  have  another  set  of  ears.  Sometimes  it’s  easier  to  remember  everything  if  you’re  not  taking  part  in  the  conversation.”

A  couple  of  days  later,  Rose  entered  the  common  room,  carrying  her  copy  of  Year  with  the  Yeti.

Strolling  casually  towards  the  fire,  she  suddenly  veered  off.

“Come  on,”  Albus  said  to  Derek,  with  whom  he’d  been  playing  Exploding  Snap.

“What?  Why?”

“Just  gather  up  the  cards  and  come  with  me.  Please.  We  can  continue  the  game  when  we  get  there.”

Though  he  wondered  if  Exploding  Snap  was  the  best  idea  if  he  wanted  to  pay  attention  to  the  conversation.

Rose  appeared  to  have  cornered  Eleanor  by  a  mirror.  Albus  grinned,  remembering  how  Lucy’d  described  her.

“Let’s  sit  here,”  he  said,  choosing  a  spot  a  few  feet  from  them.

“Oh,  but  when  I  heard  you  were  his  niece  I  just  had  to  speak  to  you,”  Rose  was  saying.  “He  writes  so  wonderfully  and  yet  nothing’s  been  heard  from  him  in  so  long.”  There  was  a  slight  hint  of  a  question  in  her  last  words.

Eleanor  shrugged.  “Dad  doesn’t  really  talk  about  him.  I  asked  once  when  I  realised  how  famous  he’d  once  been  and  all  Dad  said  was  that  he  suffered  some  sort  of  a  nervous  breakdown  and  spent  years  in  St.  Mungo’s.  I  believe  he  was  released  eventually,  but  I  don’t  think  he  ever  fully  recovered.  It  all  sounded  pretty  sad  to  me,  but  I  don’t  think  he  and  Dad  were  ever  particularly  close.  He’s  pretty  good-looking,  isn’t  he?  Maybe  Dad  was  jealous.”  She  tossed  her  own  wavy  blonde  hair.

“Maybe,”  Rose  agreed.  “You  look  a  bit  like  him  actually.”

Eleanor  preened.  “I’ve  been  told  that  before.  Mostly  by  older  witches.  I  think  they  all  had  crushes  on  him  or  something.  A  bit  pathetic,  don’t  you  think?  People  that  old  having  crushes.  As  if  they  were  still  teenagers  or  something.”

Rose  shrugged.  “I  guess  they  were  young  once.”

“A  lot  of  them  are  older  than  Dad.  They  must  have  been  old  enough  when  they’d  a  crush  on  him.  Still,  I  suppose  it’s  nice  I  remind  them  of  him.”  She  tossed  her  hair  again.

Albus  decided  he  didn’t  like  her  much.  She  seemed  far  too  full  of  herself.

She  hardly  seemed  to  know  her  uncle  though,  so  he  supposed  it  was  pretty  unlikely  she  was  involved.

“I  don’t  know,”  Rose  said  thoughtfully,  when  he  said  that  to  her  later.  “It’s  hard  to  believe  she  really  knows  that  little  about  him.  He  was  a  well-known  writer,  after  all  and  his  fall  from  grace  was  fairly  well-publicised.”

“Maybe  she’s  just  not  that  interested.  She  seems  pretty  focussed  on  herself.”

“You’re  biased.  By  what  Lucy  told  you.”

“Don’t  you  think  she  is?”

She  shrugged.  “I  guess  so,  but  I  would  have  expected  her  to  be  interested  in  a  celebrity  uncle  she’s  supposed  to  look  like.  To  tell  you  the  truth,  I  expected  her  to  be  suspicious  about  my  claim  I  didn’t  know  anything.  I  was  just  hoping  she  wouldn’t   connect  me  with  your  dad.”

“So,  do  you  think  she’s  lying?”

“I  don’t  know.  Somebody  certainly  is.  Remember,  we’re  dealing  with  somebody  who  faked  a  letter  from  Slughorn  and  planted  that  inkwell  in  your  trunk.  Whoever  this  is  isn’t  stupid  and  they’re  well  able  to  fool  people.”

A  shiver  ran  down  his  spine.  Put  like  that,  they  sounded  a  formidable  opponent.  But  of  course,  they  were.  Even  McGonagall  hadn’t  managed  to  find  out  who  they  were.

“I  just  don’t  think  we  can  afford  to  take  what  anybody  tells  us  at  face  value,”  she  continued.  “About  themselves,  I  mean.  I  think  we  can  believe  what  people  like  our  parents  say.”  She  grinned.

“I  guess  you’re  right,”  he  said  dismally.

“So  we  continue  keeping  an  eye  on  her.  OK.”

“OK.”




They  met  with  Scorpius  one  last  time  before  the  Easter  holidays,  but  he  didn’t  have  any  new  information  either.

“I’ll  talk  to  my  dad  over  the  holidays,”  he  promised.  “If  he  tells  me  anything  important,  I’ll  let  you  know.”

Albus  rather  doubted  he  would  hear  anything  important.  So  far  it  seemed  like  every  thread  they  followed  ended  in  a  dead  end.  Why  should  this  time  be  any  different?

 


Chapter 22: Easter.
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Angie was once again the only first year Ravenclaw remaining at Hogwarts for the Easter holidays.

“I think there's a larger number of older students staying this time though," said Rose. “Probably to study. The O.W.L.S. and N.E.W.T.S. are getting close now and a lot of people find it difficult to study at home. Lucy said Uncle Percy suggested she should stay.”

“But her O.W.L.S. aren’t until next year.” Albus was confused.

“He thinks she should treat this year’s exams as a trial run, so she'll have some idea what she needs to focus on next year. Mum thinks he has a point about that. She says we shouldn’t leave all the preparation for fifth year.”

Albus paled. “I’m not looking forward to fourth and fifth year.”

“Well, we’ve years to go yet,” Derek said. “No point in worrying about it now.”

“I suppose not.”

But he didn't feel entirely reassured.





The following day, however, all thoughts of school, exams and even the mysteries he and Rose had spent so much of the term worrying about left his mind, as he and the other Hogwarts students piled onto the Hogwarts Express.

This journey passed rather more quickly than the journey home for Christmas. He, Rose, Rasmus, Derek and Nathan shared a compartment and spent their time chatting, eating sweets from the trolley and playing Exploding Snap or with Albus's Quidditch game.

Since it was Easter, the trolley sold tiny chocolate eggs, filled with surprise fillings. Unlike Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans however, there were no nasty surprises like vomit or bogey flavour.

“Oh, my parents would like to meet yours if they’ve time,” Derek told Albus as the train pulled into King’s Cross station.

“Why?” He was slightly alarmed.

“To invite you to come and stay with us in the summer, of course, you idiot. They’re worried about contacting them.”

“We’ve a box office number for Muggles to write to us. Dad thought it would be easier, especially when James started Hogwarts, but he had it even before that. I don’t know why exactly. Probably in case he needed to contact Muggles for his job. You know, if Dark Wizards were targeting them.”

“They’d still like to meet them.”

“OK,” he said distractedly, as he glanced around for his parents.

Seeing them, he rushed off the train, pushing past the students and parents crowding the platform.

Derek hurried after him.

“My parents are probably out on the main platform,” he said uncertainly. “I don’t think they can get through the barrier.”

“Mum! Dad!” Albus called.

Lily raced towards him.

“ALBUS!”

“Hi Lils. This is my friend, Derek. I’m just going to introduce him to Mum and Dad. His parents want to meet ours.”

“Hi Derek,” Lily said. “Are you in Albus’s class? Are you in Ravenclaw? I’m going to be in Gryffindor like James. But it’s OK Albus got in Ravenclaw.”

Albus tuned her out and headed over to his parents.

“This is Derek. His parents want a word with you, if you’ve time. They’re out on the main platform. They’re Muggles, so they can’t get through the barrier.”

“That’s all right,” Harry said. “We’re in no rush, are we Gin?”

“Well, I’m not, but I thought you wanted to get back to the office.”

“Before the day is out, yes. But a few minutes won’t make much difference. There’s no great urgency.”

Albus glanced at him questioningly.

“Oh, don’t worry. It’s nothing serious. Just need to get Phillips’s reports from him. I’ve been hearing excuses from him all week. The guy hates paperwork.” He laughed. “I’m not too fond of it myself. I don’t think any of us are. But it has to be done and it does make our lives easier in the long run.”

“What does?” James asked, catching the tail end of the conversation.

“Paperwork. I was just saying I’ll have to call into the office for a few minutes this evening to get the reports from one of my Aurors.”

James rolled his eyes. “If I was an Auror, I’d never do paperwork. I’d be too busy tracking down dangerous criminals.”

“Which would be a lot more difficult to do if we didn’t have the reports to refer to,” his father said.

Albus remembered Rose’s endless lists. Maybe they’d eventually yield up a result too.

“My dad says stuff like that too,” Derek said shyly. “He’s a policeman. Though of course all their reports are on computer nowadays.”

“Computers would be a great help in our job, I think,” Harry said. “But the Ministry has the same problem as Hogwarts. Too much magic interferes with technology. And of course, the purebloods would have no idea how to work them anyway. I’m afraid there are still a lot of people in our world who can’t even contemplate the idea that Muggles might be ahead of us in some areas.”

They strolled out through the barrier.

“Mum! Dad! OVER HERE,” Derek called.

A tall dark-haired man and a smartly dressed brown haired woman walked towards them.

“You must be Mr. and Mrs. Potter,” the woman said, reaching out a hand. “I’m Judy Thompson and this is my husband, Edward.”

“Pleased to meet you.” Ginny shook her hand. “You must call me Ginny and my husband is Harry.”

“We’ve been looking forward to meeting you,” Judy said. “Derek is very anxious to have Albus come and stay over the summer holidays.”

“Of course. And Derek must come and stay with us too.”

The two boys exchanged pleased glances.

“I’ll give you our post office box number,” Albus’s father said. “It’ll probably be easier for you than owl post. And we can arrange the dates.”

The adults continued talking, while James, Albus, Derek and Lily waited impatiently. Why did adults always take so long about things?

“I’d love to hear more about how your world is policed,” Derek’s father was saying. “We must discuss it sometime when we have more time. I think the kids are anxious to be home.”

Albus looked up, hopefully.

“Is Derek your only child?” Albus’s mother asked.

It looked like the conversation would continue a while longer.

Eventually, however, the adults said their goodbyes and both families made for their cars.

“Bye, Derek,” Albus called.

“Bye. See you next week.”

After spending so long waiting in silence, both James and Albus launched into detailed accounts of the term that had just ended.

Their mother sighed. “Any chance you could speak one at a time?”

“Well, we could if Albus would just wait for me to finish,” James said.

“Or you could wait until I’m finished,” Albus argued weakly.

“Sure, little bro! I’m the eldest. That means I get to go first.”

He continued with a minute by minute account of his last Quidditch practice. Albus liked Quidditch as much as anybody, but not when he’d so much else he wanted to talk about.

“OK,” his mum said, after what felt like forever. “How about you give Albus a chance now?”

“I’m doing well in all my classes,” Albus said. “Professor Blackburn says I should get a really good grade in Transfiguration if I carry on as I’m doing.”

“Boring!” James said. “Honestly, I can’t believe you’re my brother sometimes. Two terms he’s been at Hogwarts now,” he announced to the car at large. “And not even one detention yet.”

Albus shifted awkwardly. “Well, I kind of got one from Professor Blackburn at the start of the year.”

“That was cancelled; it doesn’t count. You’ll have to try harder next term. You can’t possibly go a whole year without a single detention.”

“I think you’ve had enough for the two of you,” his mum said sternly. “How many is it so far this year? About eight.”

“About that," he replied, sounding proud of this achievement.

She sighed. “Actually, I’ve changed my mind. That’s enough for all three of you. So you needn’t think of following in his footsteps either, young lady.” She turned around to give Lily a warning glance.

Lily just giggled, promising nothing.

It was great to be home, Albus thought, great to be able to just hang out with his sister or his parents, great to sleep in his own bed and to eat his mother’s cooking and would only have been better if his father hadn't been so busy at work.

“Unfortunately, criminals don’t take Easter off,” he told them. “And I have to set an example. A lot of the Aurors have children or younger brothers or sisters at Hogwarts and want time off during their holidays. I couldn’t justify denying them the time and then taking it off myself. But I’ll definitely be free Easter Sunday. Unless there’s a mass breakout from Azkaban or something.”

“And if there is, I’ll personally box the ears of the criminals who deny you your day off,” Albus’s mum said fiercely. 

“Wonder what we’ll get from the Easter bunny,” James teased Lily.

“I’m not a baby.” She placed her hands on her hips and glared at him. “I know there’s no Easter bunny.”

“So who brings our Easter eggs then?”

“Mum and Dad, obviously.” She glanced at her mother.

“Don’t mind James, Lily. You know what he’s like. James, could you please refrain from teasing your siblings and let us have a peaceful Easter?”

James cocked his head to one side, pretending to think.

“Nope. It’s too much fun.”



On Easter morning, Albus came downstairs to find three Easter eggs sitting on the kitchen table.

“But they’re not to be eaten until this afternoon,” their mother warned. “I don’t want you spoiling your lunch.”

On Easter Sunday, the entire Weasley family had lunch at Grandma and Grandpa Weasley’s. It had been the tradition for as long as Albus could remember and this time, even James didn’t object.

“Can we just open them?” Lily pleaded. “I promise I won’t eat any.”

She tore the box open and her brothers followed suit. They were large Honeydukes eggs, filled with magical surprises.

“I can’t wait to see what’s in mine,” Lily said excitedly.

Albus couldn’t either. Of course, the items included were always cheap rubbish really, but it was fun when you broke the egg and it whistled or crackled or boomed out loud and glitter and smoke flew up in the air. Then you reached into the egg to remove the sweets and small toys it contained, some too large to really fit in the egg but magically resized to fit.

He fidgeted with the box, wishing he could start eating. Not that he wanted to seem too eager. James was already tucking into the large breakfast their mother'd just dished up and appeared to have lost all interest in his egg. Albus would look like such a kid if he seemed too excited.

The morning passed lazily and eventually, it was time to leave for their grandparents.

“I bet Grandma will have delicious Easter eggs for us,” Lily said. “Do you think Charlie will bring us some from Romania?”

“If he can make it,” their mother said. “It’s a long journey back just for one day.”

“He’ll want to see us though, won’t he?” Lily said.

“Of course he’ll want to, but we don’t always get what we want in life, my dear. Not by a long way.”

“Very optimistic this morning, aren’t you?” Their father leaned over to kiss her.

She took down the Floo Power and they each stepped through the fireplace and into their grandparents’ living room.

“Good to see you.” Their grandmother bent to kiss them.

“Have you Easter eggs for us, Grandma?" Lily asked, bouncing up and down on her heels.

“I’m afraid not,” she said seriously.

Lily’s face fell.

“But I have these instead.” She handed them each a chocolate bunny, that twitched their noses and bounced in their hands as if trying to escape.

“I don’t think they want to be eaten, Grandma.” Albus laughed.

“I’m sure they don’t.” She smiled at her grandchildren, then turned to greet her daughter and son-in-law. “So good to see you again, Ginny. And Harry. I really wish you could make it more often.”

“I’m sorry, Molly,” he said. “I’m afraid we’ve been quite busy in the department lately. Oh, nothing serious. Our world is still reasonably safe. Just the ordinary Muggle baiting and that sort of thing.”

“Not that that isn’t serious.” Grandpa Weasley entered the room.

“I totally agree with you,” Albus’s father said. “But unfortunately, it’s a daily issue in our job.”

“How many are here?” Albus’s mother interrupted them.

“Percy, of course and all his family. Percy’s always punctual.” Their grandmother smiled. “And Bill and his family. Charlie’s been delayed, but he says he hopes to be here within the hour. He just sent an owl. And…”

Before she could finish the sentence, Hugo bounded out of the fireplace.

“Hi Grandma. Have you any Easter eggs for us?”

Albus’s mother laughed. “You’re just like Lily.”

Rose appeared in the room and glared at her little brother. “Don’t tell me he’s been begging for Easter eggs. Mum’ll kill him.”

“Who am I going to kill now?” Hermione stepped out of the fireplace.

“Oh, nobody.” Rose started to laugh.

Their grandmother took out two more chocolate bunnies and handed them to Rose and Hugo.

“Thanks Grandma,” Rose said.

“Yeah, thanks,” Hugo echoed.

Rose was obviously anxious to talk to Albus privately, but there was little opportunity. Not when their grandparents and aunts and uncles wanted to hear all about their first year at Hogwarts. Albus didn’t mind, not even when Uncle Percy decided to launch into a long lecture on “how to get the best out of your years at Hogwarts.”

Albus and Rose tried hard to look as if they were listening and to ignore James, who was rolling his eyes and mimicking Uncle Percy behind his back.

After about forty minutes, Uncle Charlie arrived, full of apologies for the delay. “I had to get a Portkey and there was some delay. It was supposed to go at ten this morning, but they changed it. I don’t know why. I’m really sorry. I hope I haven’t delayed lunch or anything.”

“Not at all,” Grandma Weasley said. “Your brother and his family still haven’t shown any signs of arriving. At least you sent an owl.” She looked at him fondly.

“No need to ask which brother that is,” Charlie said. “We should just start without him. That’d teach him to be constantly holding us up.” He grinned.

“Oh, we couldn’t do that, dear. Especially not on his birthday."

“No, I suppose not." For a moment, conversation paused and Albus shifted awkward, aware the adults were remembering the other man who should have been celebrating with them, the man who'd never had the opportunity to age beyond twenty. It was Charlie who broke the silence. "Anyway, where are all my favourite nieces and nephews?" he asked. "I’ve something here for you.”

All the children gathered around him, Lily and Hugo pushing to the front. He handed each a chocolate egg, which morphed suddenly into a chocolate dragon and then back again.

“No eating them now, mind,” Grandma Weasley called. “You’ll spoil your lunch.”

James, Albus and Lily began to laugh.

“That’s just what Mum told us this morning,” Albus explained to Rose.

Almost another two hours passed before Uncle George and his family arrived, by which time Grandma Weasley was fussing over the dinner, Lily and Hugo were pleading to be allowed start their Easter eggs and Molly was glancing at the chocolate wistfully.

“Thank goodness you weren’t any later.” Grandma Molly said, wrapping her arms around her son. "How are you, dear?"

"I'm fine, Mum. It's Easter, let's just enjoy the chocolate. I'm sure Fred would want us to."

Six year old Fred seemed oblivious to the undercurrents. “Grandma, can I have an Easter egg?”

“You can have them after lunch,” she said. 

“I don’t want any lunch. I’m not hungry.”

“I think they’ve eaten enough already,” Angelina said apologetically. “They’ve been gorging on chocolate all morning.”

“If you’ve room for another Easter egg, you’ve room for your lunch,” Grandma Weasley told Fred sternly. "Sit down now. I'm about to dish up."

Neither Fred nor Roxanne did more than pick at their meal and George too seemed to have little appetite. Despite his insistence that Fred would want them to enjoy the day, he seemed unusually quiet and distracted. The other adults too seemed somewhat quieter than usual.

Albus tried to ignore the atmosphere and concentrate on the food. Grandma Weasley was the best cook ever. But he couldn't help heaving a sigh of relief when the meal was finished and he and Rose could finally slip away by themselves.

“I got a letter from Scorpius,” Rose said.

Albus almost choked on his chocolate bunny. “WHAT?”

She gave him a shove. “About his dad and Marcus Flint, of course. What did you think?”

He shrugged. “I don’t know. I just couldn’t imagine him writing to you, that’s all. Or anyone. He’s not exactly…I don’t know.”

“He doesn’t seem too anxious for friendship, you mean. But this is different. He really wants to know who broke his broom.”

“And what did he say?”

“He asked his dad if he remembered a Marcus Flint at school and his dad said he did, that they’d been pretty friendly at the time or as friendly as two schoolboys could be when one was five years older than the other, but that he hadn’t heard from him since. He didn’t think Flint had done particularly well for himself and he didn’t move in the same sort of circles as the Malfoys.”

“So maybe the Flints are jealous,” Albus suggested.

“It’s possible.” She sighed. “There was nothing really conclusive, but at least he’s doing his best. Scorpius, I mean. We could do with all the help we can get.”

“So is it all right if I tell Derek what we’re doing? If it comes up, I mean.”

“I suppose so. After all, he was with you when Scorpius’s broom was damaged, right?”

“Right.” He breathed a sigh of relief. It was good to feel he could trust somebody in his dormitory.

James burst into the room. “Come on outside. We’re just about to have a Quidditch match.”

“OK.” 

They followed him outside.

Harry, Ron, James, Albus, Rose, Lucy and Lily formed one team and Charlie, Ginny, Victoire, Dominique, Louis, Molly and Hugo the other. Fred and Roxanne were considered too young to play.

“It’s not fair.” Fred threw himself on the ground in the beginning of what looked like being a full-scale tantrum. “I want to play too.”

“Tough luck,” Hugo said. “You’re too little.”

“Don’t make things worse!” Ron dragged his son away, while Angelina moved to comfort Fred.

The two teams were fairly equally matched, so the game was a long one, but finally, Charlie caught the Snitch, ensuring his team’s victory.

“Let’s play again,” James said.

“Better not,” his father said. “If the next game takes as long as this one, it’ll be dark before we finish.”

“And the younger ones need to get home by their bedtimes,” Percy said.

“Ah, Lily’ll stay up a little later tonight,” Albus’s father said.

Percy looked disapproving. “Routine is very important for children, you know.”

Albus’s father laughed. “I don’t think one night will do much harm.”

Albus smiled. He’d even missed listening to Uncle Percy pontificating, he realised.

Unsurprisingly, Uncle Percy’s family were the first to leave, with Charlie following soon afterwards. 

“I’ve to catch another Portkey back, I’m afraid.” He sighed. “I should have more free time in the summer.”

“I do wish you’d get a job closer to home, dear,” Grandma Weasley fussed. “We all miss you so much, you know.”

“I miss you all too, especially all my lovely nieces and nephews, but I’m afraid there’s a shortage of dragons to be studied in Britain.”

“You could do something else.”

“No, he couldn’t,” Grandpa Weasley interrupted. “Charlie loves his work and you know how few people can truly say that. Would you really want him back here, working in an office or something and hating every minute of it?”

“I suppose not.” She sighed.

“Of course you wouldn’t. Bye Charlie. Great to see you, son.”

The rest of the family started to leave shortly afterwards. Albus would have hated to see the day end, if he hadn’t had Teddy’s visit the following day to look forward to.



“Teddy’s brought us Easter eggs,” Lily announced excitedly, when she opened the door to him the next day.

“Oh, Teddy, you really shouldn’t have,” their mother said. “They had quite enough yesterday.”

He grinned. “Now I’ve an income, I might as well spend it, and how better than on your family?”

He handed Lily an Easter egg with a chocolate heart on the front and James and Albus eggs with Snitches on them.

“Thanks Teddy,” said Albus.

“Yeah, thanks,” said James and Lily.

“When are we going to have your birthday tea?” Albus added. “We will have it before me and James go back to Hogwarts, won’t we?” He looked around at his parents anxiously.

“Of course we will,” his father said. “Next Friday OK, Ted?”

“Next Friday’s fine.”

Albus grinned to himself. He’d sent off by owl order for a new gramophone record of Teddy’s favourite skeleton band. He couldn’t wait to give it to him.

Although Teddy’s birthday wasn’t until mid-April, they’d celebrated it during the Easter holidays for as long as Albus could remember, ever since Teddy had started Hogwarts.

“I’ll have to go in to work in the morning,” Albus’s father was saying. “But I should be finished around three. So if you come over around two, I won’t miss much of it.”

“You’d better not,” Teddy teased him.

“Unfortunately, I do have to head in now though. I’m running a bit late actually. But if you’re planning on staying for the day, we can chat when I get home.”

“All right.”

It was another perfect day. In fact, the entire holidays were almost perfect. Other than his dad’s work schedule, the only problem was that they ended far too soon and before Albus knew it, he was packing to return to Hogwarts.



Hope all my readers have/had a happy Easter (if you're celebrating).

And thanks to water_lily43175 for her advice on British Easter traditions.


Chapter 23: The Destruction of the Universe.
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 Disclaimer: Harry Potter is the property of J.K. Rowling. No copyright infringement is intended.



Returning to Hogwarts after Easter wasn’t as difficult as returning after Christmas had been, Albus decided. Maybe it was because it was now the final term of the year and summer didn’t seem so far away or maybe he was just getting more used to being away from home.

Of course, it was still hard, saying goodbye to his parents and sister, knowing he wouldn’t see them again for months. And listening to Lily whine about how much she’d miss him didn’t make it any easier.

“I hate being the youngest. It’s so boring at home when you and James are at school. And you get to learn magic, while I have to learn stupid long division and grammar rules.”

“I miss you too, Lils, but it’s not too long now ‘til you’ll be able to come too.”

“It’s a year and five months. That’s ages.”

“It feels that way. I thought it was forever when James started too, but it passes really quickly, honestly it does.”

He didn’t add that after waiting for so long for your chance to come, when it did, you suddenly felt the time had gone too quickly and you weren’t ready to leave yet. He couldn’t tell her that, even though it was pretty much the truth.

He wished she’d stop complaining. It was hard enough to leave her, without seeing her almost in tears because of it.

“Not fast enough,” she said dismally. “I really, really, miss you.”

“I know, Lils.” He hugged her.

“Hurry up, Albus,” James called. “The train’ll be leaving soon.”

“I’m coming. Bye Lily. I have to go.”

She accompanied him to the door of the compartment, followed by their parents.

“OK, Lily, it’s definitely time to say our final goodbyes now,” their father said. “Bye Albus, James? Where is James?”

“I think he’s gone to look for his friends,” Albus said doubtfully. James had seemed to disappear while he’d been saying goodbye to Lily.

“Well, off you go and find yours. We’ll write this evening.”

“Bye Mum. Bye Dad.”

“Bye love,” his mother called.

The train started to pull out of the station.

He should go and find his classmates, he supposed.

He hated walking through the Hogwarts Express though. The older students always made him nervous, particularly the prefects. He kept expecting to be asked to account for his presence and even though he knew he wasn’t doing anything wrong, he worried they wouldn’t believe him.

Slowly, he began to walk through the carriages, glancing into the compartments to see if he could find any of his classmates.

“What are you looking at?” A wand pointed into his face.

He looked up and saw the face of Victor Flint.

“Nothing…I mean…sorry…I was just looking for…” He began to back away.

“Squirt,” one of Flint’s friends called.

“Filthy little blood-traitor.”

Albus practically ran from the compartment.

To his relief, Derek was sitting about two compartments away.

“I was wondering where you’d got to, mate. I didn’t know whether to go look for you or if you’d be with your cousin.”

“You could have joined us if I was, but no, I was just trying to find you. Walked into Flint and a couple of mates on the way.”

“Flint?”

“I don’t think you know him. He’s a third year. My brother warned me about him. They started yelling at me for interrupting them.”

Derek scowled. “I hate the way some of the older students look down on us like that, don’t you?”

“Do you think we’ll be like that?” Albus asked tentatively. He couldn’t imagine it himself, couldn’t imagine ever dismissing Lily and her friends just ‘cause they were younger than him, but then, a couple of years ago, he’d have said James would never ignore him either.

Derek screwed up his face in thought. “I don’t think so. They aren’t all like that, after all. Let’s make a decision right now that we never will be.”

“OK,” Albus agreed.

As they chatted, his homesickness began to abate. Of course he’d miss his parents and sister and Teddy, but he was looking forward to seeing his classmates again too. And while he couldn’t say he was exactly looking forward to the exams, it would be good to see how he was doing.

At that thought, a shiver ran down his spine. What if he didn’t do as well as he expected, as well as everybody expected. He was a Ravenclaw; he was supposed to be smart. Everybody was going to expect him to do well. What if he couldn’t?

OK, so James never did particularly well in his exams, but that was different; he didn’t care. And everybody always said how smart he was and how he could do so well if only he put a bit of effort in. Albus was putting the effort in, so if he didn’t do well, it meant he was just stupid.

Derek gave him a searching look. “Hey, what’s wrong?”

“Just thinking how close we’re getting to the end of year exams.”

“Oh God.” Derek looked worried. “I know I’m going to make such a mess of them.”

“Why should you? You’ve done fine so far.”

“I suppose. I just keep thinking you guys have such an advantage, you know.” He grinned. “At least my parents don’t know anything about the grading here, so I can tell them everybody else did worse.”

Albus laughed. “I don’t think I’d get away with that.”

“You’ve nothing to worry about. I mean, OK, so your cousin shows everybody up, but you’re doing well in all our classes, right?”

“I guess.”



There were already a number of students in the common room when they returned to school and not all of them looked too pleased  at the noisy return of their fellow Ravenclaws.

“There are people trying to study, you know,” Albus heard one of the older students mutter.

Angie, however, hurried over to join her classmates.

“Easter was boring. What have you all been up to?”

“I spent half the holidays catching up online,” Derek said.

“Online?” Nathan looked at him in confusion.

Derek launched into an explanation of the internet. “Don’t you miss it?” He turned to Angie.

“Sorta, but I always sort of felt behind, you know, because we don’t have a computer at home. And I didn’t have a smartphone or anything. At least here, we’re sort of meant to be lost. If we’re Muggleborn, I mean.”

It was probably the most she’d ever said about her life before Hogwarts.

As if realising she’d said too much, she glanced around. “Anyway, how’d the rest of you spend the holidays?”

Albus found himself describing his holidays in detail. “And on Friday, we’d Teddy’s birthday tea,” he concluded. “His birthday isn’t until next week, but since me and James won’t be home then, we had it early.”

“Wonder what he’ll do for his actual birthday,” Rose said. “He won’t be able to celebrate with Victoire either.”

“I’m sure he has his own friends,” Dora said.

“Well, yeah, but if I’d a boyfriend, I’d want to be at his birthday celebrations, wouldn’t you?”

“How do you know I don’t? Have a boyfriend, I mean.”

And with that enigmatic comment, Dora left the room.

“Do you think she does have a boyfriend?” Fionnuala seemed to snap out of whatever daydream she’d been in to ask rather incredulously.

Rose shrugged. “Doubt it. It’s not anybody at Hogwarts anyway, or we’d know. So unless she met somebody over Easter…”

“We don’t know everything going on here.” Albus didn’t know why he was even bothering to argue. It wasn’t as if he cared if Dora was dating. It just seemed kind of ironic to imply there were no secrets at Hogwarts when somebody was obviously hiding something far more serious than who they were dating.

Rose grinned. “That’s true, but I still think we’d know if two of our classmates were dating, don’t you think?”

I think so,” Rasmus said. “Hilda said that when she started dating Justin, half the school seemed to know almost before she did.”

“But what if…”

The conversation veered off into speculations as to how students might hide their relationships and which of their classmates was most likely to start dating first. Albus tuned out. Even James hadn’t had a girlfriend yet, at least not as far as he knew, so it was surely OK if Albus didn’t.

He supposed he would know if James had a girlfriend. From what everybody else was saying, it certainly sounded that way, but if anybody could keep something like that secret, it’d be James.

Albus didn’t think it very likely he did though. James still seemed more interested in pranking girls than in dating them.

Deep in thought, he didn’t notice the group begin to split up until Rasmus stood up and announced he was going to the library.

“Anybody coming?”

Rose got up. “I will. What about you, Albus?”

He shook his head. He wasn’t quite in the mood to get back into study mode yet.

Once she left, he settled back into an armchair, half-heartedly watching some of their suspects. Eleanor left the common room about six and seemed to be gone some time.

Perhaps he should have followed her, he thought, but then he wouldn’t be able to watch anybody else. And he’d no reason to think she was doing anything significant anyway. She was probably just going to the toilet or something.

He chuckled a little to himself, knowing there was no way he’d risk following anybody anyway, let alone a fifth year. It seemed to work so well in books, but if he tried, he knew he’d bungle it and honestly, what excuse could you give for following somebody around the school? They’d think you were crazy.

“How about a game of wizard’s chess?” Derek’s voice interrupted his thoughts.

“Oh, yeah, right, OK.” He glanced around for his set. “I think I left the set in our dormitory. Give me a minute to find it, all right?”

He hauled himself up out of the chair.

However, all thoughts of his chess set were driven out of his mind when he saw his model of the solar system lying in pieces by his bed.

Scooping it up, he raced downstairs again.

“Did you find it?”

“What?” For a moment, he wasn’t even sure what his friend was referring to. “Oh, the wizard’s chess set. I didn’t really look. See what’s happened.”

He held out what had once been his model solar system.

“God, what happened to that?”

He paused for a minute.

“I don’t think it could have been an accident,” he said finally.

“How do you know?”

“I haven’t even been up in our dormitory since before we got back. You know that. I can’t remember where I left this, but it wouldn’t have been on my bed or lying beside it, I’m quite sure of that.”

“Maybe somebody else took it out to look at it or something.”

Who though? Nobody from our dormitory stayed at school over Easter and I doubt anybody would have gone in just to look at it.”

“I suppose not.” Derek bit his lip.

“I need to tell Rose.”

“Why?”

“I need to hear what she thinks. Are you coming?”

“Yeah, all right.”

The hurried down to the library, where Rose and Rasmus were sitting opposite each other, poring over what looked like volumes on wizarding history.

“Rose, I need to talk to you,” Albus stage-whispered.

“What is it?”

She got up and he held the damaged object out to show her.

Looking at it, she moved slightly further away from the table she’d been working at.

“Where did you find this?”

“In the dormitory, by my bed. Eleanor Lockhart left the common room maybe half an hour or so beforehand.”

Her lips tightened. “But this could probably have been done at any time since we left for the Easter holidays. Or did you see it since we got back?”

He shook his head. “But hardly anybody stayed here over Easter. At least, hardly any of our suspects...I think.”

Derek gave a snort at the word “suspects”.

“We don’t know for sure it was one of them,” Rose said quietly. “And that still leaves all of today.” She was silent for a long time, fingering the broken solar system. “You know, I think I’ve the beginnings of a plan.”

“What?” Albus asked eagerly.

She shook her head. “It’s only half-formed yet, not even half-formed. I can’t really even explain it. I’ll tell you when I’ve figured it out properly. All right.”

“All right.” He couldn’t help being disappointed. He wished she’d confide in him properly.

“Look, Albus, as soon as I know what I mean, I’ll tell you, but so far, all I’m thinking is that, well…” She trailed off. “Anyway, we should try and get this fixed.”

“How do we do that?”

She looked him incredulously. “Find a teacher, obviously. It shouldn’t be too hard for an adult wizard, let alone a teacher. Come on.”

She stopped in her tracks, then turned around.

“Oh, Rasmus.”

“So you’ve remembered I exist,” he said, but he was smiling, so Albus didn’t think he was really angry.

“Sorry, it’s just…I don’t know how much you heard, but Albus’s solar system model has been broken, so we’re going to see if we can find a teacher to fix it.”

“All right.” He looked a little bemused, possibly as to why it would take three of them to do that.

But Albus was glad of the company, because he wasn’t sure he’d have the courage to approach a teacher. Except for Neville, of course, but there was no sign of him.

Rose knocked on the door to Professor Blackburn’s office.

The door opened.

“Rose.” She glanced around. “And Albus and Derek. Is everything all right?”

“Yeah, just Albus’s model of the solar system had a bit of an accident and we were wondering if you could fix it?”

“Of course. Come inside for a moment.”

They followed her into the office and placed the solar system on the desk.

“This is actually a charm you’ll probably learn before the end of the year. I’m sure Professor Flitwick is planning to teach it to you soon, although the damage done to this might take a bit more than a first year’s skill to repair.” She examined it closely. “It looks as if somebody stepped on it or something.”

Albus shrugged, wondering if she expected an answer. “I just found it like that. I don’t know what happened to it.”

“Well, anyway, it won’t do you any harm to watch. Reparo.”

“Thanks Professor.” Albus grinned as it returned to its former condition.

“You’re welcome. Take care of it now. It looks a good one and I’m sure it comes in handy for Astronomy.”

“It does, Professor. Thanks again.”

As the days passed, Albus waited for Rose to tell him more about the plan that had apparently occurred to her, but she said nothing.

Finally, he asked her.

“Honestly, Albus, like I said, it’s still forming in my mind. I just think there has to be some way of catching whoever’s doing this in the act.”

He glanced at her. He’d been racking his brains, trying to think who’d left the common room, wondering if this meant Flint and any other non-Ravenclaws were in the clear or if it would have been possible for somebody smart enough to answer the eagle’s question to sneak in.

If they could catch the person in the act, none of that would matter.

“But how?” he asked.

“That’s what I don’t know yet,” she admitted. “But it will come to me. At least I hope it will. And as soon as it does, I promise, I’ll explain fully.”

And with that, he had to be satisfied.



With the Quidditch final approaching, he quickly forgot about her plan anyway. Ravenclaw were currently second to Gryffindor and if they won this match by a significant enough margin, they could end up as victors.

Albus wasn’t the only one excited. As the match got closer, Quidditch fever engulfed the castle. Only Slytherin appeared immune. Having lost all their matches, they were almost certain to finish bottom of the table no matter who won.

Enthusiasm in the three other houses however, was running so high that Professor Jones had started docking points from anybody who mentioned Quidditch during Defence Against the Dark Arts and Professor McGonagall announced that, due to complains from teachers, she was limiting the number of weeknights either team would be allowed practice to three and practices could not exceed three hours. Apparently team members from both houses had been turning up to class with no homework done as a result of excessively long practices.

Rasmus, of course, was inundated with questions from his fellow Ravenclaw first years as to what Hilda thought their chances were.

“She says it should be possible,” he reported, “but it won’t be easy. We need to win by at least a hundred and thirty points and Hufflepuff might not be the best team in the school, but they’re not bad either. She’s hoping for a short game. The pressure will  be on Jones to catch the Snitch before Hufflepuff can pull ahead by more than twenty points.”

“The Hufflepuff Seeker is good, though,” Albus said.

Hufflepuff had recently won a surprise victory against Gryffindor, catching the Snitch when they were one hundred and thirty points behind.

“Yes, but they’ll be hoping for a long game, Hilda says. They need to win by over two hundred points in order to come out on top, so she’ll probably have been told to hold back and let the Chasers secure a good lead.”

“Do you think they can?”

Rasmus shrugged. “What do I know? Hilda’s the Quidditch expert in our family. Their Chasers didn’t do too well against Gryffindor, but then that was with your brother blocking their hoops and Hilda says he was everywhere, that it would have taken a miracle to get the Quaffle past him.”

Albus felt a stirring of pride, mixed with apprehension. How could he ever hope to live up to a brother like that?

The day of the match, the stands were fuller than Albus had ever seen them. Students from the three houses with a hope of winning crowded every inch of them.

Not many Slytherins bothered to attend, but to Albus’s surprise, Scorpius was there, standing a few feet away from him.

“Um, do you want to join us?” he found himself calling.

Derek stared at him. In his short few months at Hogwarts, he had quickly learnt of Slytherin’s reputation.

“He’s all right,” Albus whispered uncomfortably.

Scorpius came over.

“Em, thanks,” he mumbled.

“What an exciting match this should be,” Jordan Shacklebolt called out, his voice magically amplified. “If Ravenclaw win by one hundred and thirty points or more, they take the cup. Win by less than that and Gryffindor wins, with Ravenclaw in second place. If Hufflepuff wins by less than two hundred and ten points, then Gryffindor wins and they come second and if Hufflepuff wins by more than that, then they’ll emerge victorious. The Gryffindor team must be more on edge than anybody, knowing that their chances of victory are now completely out of their hands and depend on the performances of two other teams.

“Both teams are coming out onto the pitch now and the captains are shaking hands, cordially, considering the circumstances, but you can see the determination on both their faces. Both want a victory today. You can be certain of that.

“Madame Chang had just released the Quaffle and both teams are off.”

Scorpius leaned forward, his attention focussed on the players.

“Um, who are you supporting?” Albus asked him.

“What?”

“Who are you supporting?”

He shrugged. “Doesn’t make much difference to me, really. We’ll be last either way. I think you should win though.”

“Really?”

He nodded. “You’ve a more consistent team.”

“Hufflepuff beat Gryffindor though. And that isn’t easy.”

“That was a fluke. Their Seeker was lucky. She’s good; don’t get me wrong, but so is Jones and your Chasers are much better. I don’t think Hufflepuff will get ahead without catching the Snitch and they won’t want to catch it while they’re behind.”

He turned back to the game.

Albus hoped his analysis was correct, because Ravenclaw weren’t showing any sign of achieving the short match they apparently hoped for. The scores crept up, with Ravenclaw remaining ahead, as Scorpius had predicted, but the gap was a narrow one and the Snitch remained tantalisingly out of reach.

“The Hufflepuff Seeker, Saunders is going into a dive,” Jordan announced. “Has she seen something Jones hasn’t? He seems to think so. He’s overtaking her…and there’s nothing there. Brilliant ruse by Saunders.”

Even from the stands, Jones looked furious. Albus couldn’t see his face, but he was quite certain he’d be scowling.

He was flying faster now.

In front of Albus, Scorpius shook his head.

“He needs to calm down and concentrate on the game. He’ll never spot the Snitch, moving at that speed.”

Albus had the uneasy feeling he was right.

The Ravenclaw Chasers, however, didn’t appear in the least discomfited by the longer match and were taking full advantage of the greater opportunity to score. They now had seventy goals to Hufflepuff’s forty. It would be the perfect time to catch the Snitch.

“Come on, Christopher,” Albus called in frustration.

It seemed like all of Ravenclaw were cheering him on, but it wasn’t making much difference.

The match continued. Ravenclaw scored again, then Hufflepuff scored twice, then Ravenclaw again. The score was now ninety to sixty.

As the Chasers dominated the match, Jones seemed to calm down.

The Hufflepuff team, on the other hand, appeared to be getting nervous. In order to have any hope at the Cup, they needed to be significantly ahead and so far, they’d failed to even equalise.

Albus wondered what Saunders would do if she spotted the Snitch while they were still behind. Would she wait it out, hoping their scoring would improve or would she decide second place was better than third and grab for it? He hoped she’d choose the former, but he wasn’t sure. Hufflepuff’s chances of pulling into the lead were rapidly decreasing. Their Chasers were panicking now and missing even easy shots.

Ravenclaw pulled further ahead. The score now stood at 120 – 60.

“Jones has gone into a dive,” Jordan announced. “And Saunders is prevaricating. Will she follow him or not? Dixon aims a Bludger at him. He’s ducked it, but he seems to have lost sight of the Snitch.”

An audible groan filled the stadium.

“But he appears to have seen something. He’s flying upwards. Dixon is flying towards the Bludger…but he’s too late. Jones has caught the Snitch. And victory goes to Ravenclaw. Two hundred and seventy points to sixty. This means Ravenclaw takes the Cup.”

The cheers from the Ravenclaw supporters were matched by the groans of both Hufflepuff and Gryffindor.

Derek was grinning from ear to ear.

“I can see why Quidditch is so popular.”

“It’s a great game, isn’t it?” Albus said. “I can’t believe we’ve won the Cup. And I think this puts us ahead in the House Cup too, doesn’t it?”

It did and the celebrations in the Ravenclaw common room went on into the night.

Somebody had apparently sneaked into Hogsmeade and brought back a huge variety of sweets and a crate of Butterbeer.

“I’m not even going to ask where that Butterbeer came from,” a seventh year prefect announced. “But I want to remind everybody that we’re currently leading in the House Cup.”

A cheer filled the common room.

“So let’s not jeopardise ourselves. For the rest of the year, and it’s really only a matter of weeks now, I want everybody, and I mean everybody to concentrate on winning this for us. We’re the smartest house, after all, so the exams should be no trouble to us. That’ll get us another couple of points. This is our best chance in years, people. Let’s do it.”

Another cheer filled the room, but Albus had the feeling they were responding to the atmosphere and not with any great determination to be on their best behaviour for the rest of the year.

Still, the prefect was right. They’d already won the Quidditch Cup and, with a lot of students predicted excellent results in their exams, there was every reason for optimism.

Unless, of course, one of the staff decided to question where the Butterbeer came from.

But no teacher interrupted their party and that night Albus dreamed of the Great Hall festooned in blue and bronze and McGonagall announcing he and Rose had gained Ravenclaw an extra two thousand points for proving Filch had written the graffiti.


Chapter 24: Rose's Plan.
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Disclaimer: Everything you recognise, including all the plants mentioned, Greenhouse One, etc, belong to J.K. Rowling. No copyright infringement is intended.



At the beginning of May, Neville gathered both his first year classes into Greenhouse One and announced it was time to begin their end of year assessment.

“I’ve a list of plants here and in a moment, I’ll ask you all to choose one. Don’t worry, they’ll all be ones we’ve studied this year. Your assignment will involve observing and helping to care for the plant you’ve chosen. Marks will be allocated both on the care you give to the plant and the records you keep. I’ll give you more detailed information once you’ve chosen your plant.”

He smiled at the Ravenclaws, who were frantically trying to note down all his instructions.

“I’ve a pile of handouts here, explaining exactly what you’ll need to include for each plant, so don’t worry about noting down everything I’ve said. However, I do want to stress the importance of this assignment. It will count for ninety percent of your grade. You’ll also have a short end of year exam, just be sure you’re familiar with the other plants, but most of the marks will be allocated for this project.

“Now, I’m going to pass around a list of the possibilities. Read through them quietly for a moment and decide which you’ll choose. Try and have a second choice if possible, because I’m restricting the number of people who can choose each plant to five.” He waved his wand and a wizard’s hat not unlike the Sorting Hat appeared front of him. “Any time more than that raise their hands, the plant will be allocated to the first five names to emerge from the hat. The others will have to choose again.”

Albus scanned the list of plants in front of him. He was actually looking forward to this project. It sounded a good deal more fun than a written exam.

Derek leaned over to him.

“What are you going to choose?” he whispered.

“Not sure. Maybe the Leaping Toadstools.”

“I might do the same.”

“ABYSSINIAN SHIVELFIG?” Neville called out.

Seven or eight students raised their hands.

Neville tapped the hat with his wand. It shook, flipped over and what looked like a gold ribbon began to wind its way out of it, eventually forming  itself into the words “Glynis Bones.” Four more names followed, including that of a Slytherin student, “Danica Ravensdale”.

Neville handed them the sheets of instructions before calling out the next plant.

“BOUNCING BULBS?”

Four or five students raised their hands, including Angie.

“FANGED GERANIUM?”

Rose and Rasmus were the only two to raise their hands, which didn’t surprise Albus. It was probably the most difficult plant on the list.

“FLUTTERBY BUSH?”

“HONKING DAFFODILS?”

“LEAPING TOADSTOOLS?”

Albus and Derek both raised their hands, as did four other students.

“We’re back to the hat again,” Neville said.

Albus watched anxiously as the names emerged. Derek’s was second, then came two Hufflepuff students. It was now between him and Melina Peacock.

The ribbon formed the name “Albus Potter” and he and Derek shared a triumphant grin.

Neville handed them the list of instructions and Albus glanced through his as Neville called out the following plants.

The instructions included listing the potions Leaping Toadstools were used in, making note of how many were growing in Greenhouse One, helping to collect any Slughorn needed for the potions cupboard and making note of when he did so, how many were used and any difficulties he encountered in collecting them. He’d also have to draw them and make note of their size and their various parts.

It was a detailed assignment, but not a particularly difficult one, as far as he could see.

Neville’d come to the end of assigning the plants and he clapped his hands for attention.

“Some of you will have seen that your assignment includes keeping the potions’ stores supplied. I’ll be letting Professor Slughorn know who’s responsible for each plant and either he or I will let you know if any are required. If, for whatever reason, you’re unable to collect what’s needed, you may ask one of the others who’s chosen the same plant to do so. If this happens, both students should make note of what has happened in their notes, the first noting what they were asked for, why they were unable to collect them and who actually did so and the second noting which student asked them, when they collected what was necessary, in what quantity and so on.

“If any student fails to collect what they’ve been asked for, without asking another student to replace them, they’ll lose marks. Equally, any student whose instructions include keeping their plant pruned or watered will lose marks if this has not been done.

“Now, I’m sure you’re all anxious to get to dinner, so I’ll let you go. If you have any further questions, feel free to approach me at any time, but please read through your instructions first. I won’t be pleased if I’m asked something that’s clearly stated on your handouts.” He smiled as he said this, taking the sting out of the words.

Nathan looked worried, even though he’d chosen the Honking Daffodils, one of the easiest plants on the list.

“I know I’ll do something terrible like killing them all,” he said.

“You won’t,” Albus reassured him.

Rose tapped him from behind.

“WHAT?” He swung around to face her.

“Hang back a moment,” she whispered.

He’d be late for dinner, but he supposed that didn’t really matter. Not if Rose had something important to discuss with him.

“I think I’ve figured out my plan,” she said when they were alone.

“Really?”

“Yeah. The only thing is it’ll probably be a while before we can carry it out.”

“How come?”

“We’ll have to complete these first.” She nodded towards her list of instructions for the Herbology project. “Or not necessarily complete it, but we’ll need to have enough done to make it worth destroying.”

“Destroying?” He was appalled. “But it’s worth ninety percent of our Herbology mark!”

“Oh, don’t worry, we won’t really let anybody destroy it. We just want to give them the opportunity to try. Then we lie in wait, ideally under your dad’s Invisibility Cloak…”

He stared at her. This plan was becoming more and more unfeasible.

“And how exactly do we get hold of that?”

“We ask him,” she said simply. “Or rather you do. The worst he can do is say no.”

He thought about this for a moment.

“I suppose so,” he said finally. After all, his dad had seemed to think they were doing the right thing by investigating. Maybe he would let them use his most prized possession. Maybe. Albus didn’t think it very likely.

He wouldn’t ask him just yet, he decided. The plan still seemed utterly fantastic to him. It might never really come off at all.

Instead he concentrated on his Herbology assignment, determined to get the best grade possible. Since he also had his regular class schedule and his ordinary homework to contend with, it didn’t leave much time for anything else.

He’d been working on it for nearly two weeks, when Slughorn stopped him after class.

“Ah Albus, Professor Longbottom tells me you’re the man I need to come to when I need some Leaping Toadstools.”

“Yes, Professor.”

“We seem to be running a bit short at the moment and I need them for my fourth years next Monday. Could you gather a few up for me?”

“Of course, Sir. How many do you need?”

“Oh, a couple of basketsful.” He waved a hand dismissively. “I’m sure you’ll bring me what I need.”

“I’ll try, Sir.”

“Modest, just like your father. Oh, that reminds me, I’m planning a rather special end of year party for the Slug Club. It’ll be my final farewell to Hogwarts. Though I daresay we’ll meet again, won’t we, my dear boy?”

“Of course, Sir.”

“And you’ll be at the party, of course. I know the end of the year is a particularly busy time for a lot of people, so shall we say Saturday the twenty-fifth? That’ll give you all plenty of time to knuckle down afterwards, won’t it?”

“Yes Sir.”

“So you’ll be there? Splendid. And Rose too, of course. I’ll be sending her an invitation, but do let her know too. An old man like myself is liable to be forgetful, you know.”

“I’ll tell her.”

“Splendid. I know you’ll both have a wonderful time. I’ve a few surprises planned.” He tapped his nose intriguingly. “And you won’t forget those Leaping Toadstools, will you?”

“No Sir.”

“Bring them to my office tomorrow. Or the day after, if you can’t manage that. We’ll have a chat then too, make some plans for the party.”

“Yes Sir.”

He was anxious to get away. There was only so many times you could say “yes Sir” and “no Sir”. Not that Slughorn really listened anyway. He just ploughed away with whatever it was he had to say regardless.

And wasn’t much help when it came to the things you really needed to know, like how many Leaping Toadstools he wanted.

Albus was going to have to try and figure that one out himself.

He’d collect them straight after dinner, he decided and bring them to Slughorn immediately if he could. That way, if there wasn’t enough, he could easily get some more.

Before that, though, he supposed he should tell Rose about the Slug Club party.

“That’s IT!” she announced excitedly.

“It’s what?” he asked in confusion.

“That’s when we’ll carry out the plan.” She glanced around to be sure nobody was listening to them and lowered her voice. “Everybody will expect us to be at the party, we’ll leave our Herbology projects somewhere, make sure everybody knows we’re doing so, then lie in wait and see what happens.”

He bit his lip. “So what’ll we say to Slughorn?”

“We tell him we’re coming. You know what he’s like; he’s bound to let it slip, or even change the date, if we say anything to him. We can always think up some reason why we didn’t show up afterwards.”

“OK.” He was still doubtful. “But what if Dad won’t let us borrow the Cloak?”

“Then we come up with another way of keeping an eye on things, hide behind a suit of armour or something.” She shrugged. “But let’s see what he says first.”

“All right.”

He couldn’t help being nervous. Even apart from the question of whether his father would let them use the Cloak, there was so much that could go wrong. He wasn’t a good liar, for one thing. He was bound to let something slip to Slughorn when he brought him the Leaping Toadstools.

And it wasn’t as if there was any reason to believe the person would have any interest in damaging their projects. What was done seemed so haphazard - sending him Swelling Solution laced chocolates, writing graffiti on the wall, hiding the inkwell in his trunk, breaking his model of the solar system, damaging Scorpius’ broom - that he really couldn’t see any way of guessing what would or would not attract their attention.

All this went through his mind as he was collecting the Leaping Toadstools for Slughorn.

He really should concentrate  on the task in hand, he supposed. Not that it was particularly difficult or required that much concentration in itself, but he needed to make note of how many toadstools he collected in his notes. If he didn’t pay attention, he’d end up with pretty obvious discrepancies.

Sighing and trying to put all thoughts of Rose’s great plan out of his mind, he concentrated on counting the number of toadstools he’d collected. Sixty-three.

Would that be enough? he wondered, as he jotted it down on his parchment.

“Ah, Albus.” Professor Slughorn opened the door of his office to him when he returned from Greenhouse One. “Good to see you. You’ve brought me those toadstools already? How efficient! I really must tell Professor Longbottom you deserve the highest grade possible!”

“Thank you, Professor. Um, will this be enough?”

“Oh, plenty, plenty.”

He wasn’t even looking at the baskets. Would Albus get in trouble if there wasn’t enough, even though Slughorn’d said there was?

“Now, my dear boy, did you inform your delightful cousin of our little party?”

“Um, yes Sir.” He scuffed his shoe against the floor.

“I do hope she’ll be able to join us.”

“Yes, Sir,” he blurted out, rather too quickly.

Slughorn didn’t seem to notice.

“Wonderful, wonderful. Of course, I daresay Rose doesn’t have to worry too much about studying, does she? Got her mother’s brains. I can’t tell you how pleased I was to think I’d be teaching the daughter of Hermione Granger, one of the brightest young witches I’d ever taught. And the son of Harry Potter too. Two for the price of one, as you might say. Of course, I couldn’t possibly think of retiring before I’d had a chance to teach you both.”

“Thanks Sir.” Albus couldn’t help feeling a little guilty. Slughorn was praising him to the hilt, when he’d just lied to his face.

“I thought about staying on for your sister, but after all, we all have to retire sometime. And I must say I’m looking forward to the relaxation. Don’t let anybody tell you teaching is an easy job, Albus. Of course it’s wonderful to have the chance to connect with you young people, but I miss the days when I could lie in until lunchtime and then eat a hearty lunch without worrying about returning for my next class.”

“I hope you enjoy your retirement, Professor,” he said rather awkwardly.

“Oh, I intend to, Albus, I can assure you of that. I’ve plenty planned. A fishing trip with the Head of the Department of Sports and Games is first on my agenda. He’s a personal friend of mine, you know. I’ve a photo here somewhere…”

Albus listened politely, as he launched into a long description of his friends and acquaintances, digging out photographs to illustrate his stories wherever possible.

“But I promised we’d discuss the party,” he eventually announced in horror. “And we haven’t even touched upon it yet. I’m sure you’re dying to know exactly what little treat I have in store for you.”

“Oh yes, Sir.”

Slughorn didn’t seem to notice his lack of enthusiasm and by the time Albus escaped his office it was almost bedtime, far too late to think about writing to his father. That would have to wait until the following day.

“How much should I tell him anyway?” he asked Rose, as he prepared to begin the letter.

She shrugged. “However much you want. You don’t think he’ll object, do you?”

“I don’t think so, but you never know with parents. He might think it’s too dangerous or something.”

“Well, that’s why we need the Cloak. Anyway, look at what he and my parents got up to when they were here. We’re not taking anything like the risks they did.”

“I don’t think they’d see it that way though,” he muttered.

“No, you’re probably right. Mum would have a fit if I did anything like that – fought Dark Wizards or started illegal organisations – but we’re not going to do anything like that. We’re just going to watch and see what happens. And your dad said himself he didn’t think this person was particularly dangerous.”

“I suppose so.”

But he still wondered if it might be best to leave things a little vague. He could always explain in more detail if his dad asked.

Dear Dad,

All’s going well here. Ravenclaw are still leading the House Cup. I really think we’ve a good chance of winning. Gryffindor won nearly every year when you were at school, didn’t they? I’d love if we could do that.

Nothing else mysterious has happened since my solar system was broken at the start of the term, but Rose sort of has a plan to catch the person who did it and I’ve a bit of a favour to ask you. Could we possibly borrow the Invisibility Cloak?

I’m working hard at my Herbology project and it’s going pretty well so far. I hope I get a good mark.

Lots and lots of love,

Albus.

His father usually replied to his letters almost immediately, but on this occasion, two days passed before he received a reply.

“I know he’s going to say ‘no’,” Albus said, as he untied it from the leg of his father’s owl.

“You don’t know that until you read the letter,” Rose pointed out. “And don’t read it at the dinner table.”

“OK.”

He stuffed it into his pocket and after they’d eaten, he took it out onto the grounds.

Now that summer was getting closer, students regularly sat out in the evenings. Albus and Rose glanced around, looking for somewhere private.

“Over here.” Rose pointed at a quiet corner and they sat down and took out the letter.

Dear Albus,

Sorry I didn’t reply sooner. I’ve been giving your request a lot of thought and my decision is that, yes, you can borrow the Cloak, but there are some conditions!

Firstly, I want you to be sure and take good care of it. You know how important it is to me, not just because of its sentimental value, but also for my job. It’s been invaluable more often than I could possibly tell you, so I don’t think I need to stress what a loss it would be to me.

Secondly, I don’t want you taking unnecessary risks. This is one of the reasons I’ve decided you can use the Cloak in the first place. I’d rather you had its protection if you get into any difficult situations. I don’t think you will. As I’ve already said, I really doubt this person is any great threat. I’ve a number of reasons for feeling this way, not least that if they’d intended to harm you, I suspect they would have tried by now. However, I’ve been wrong before and I really don’t want you taking that to heart too much. If the person you face is much older than James, then I don’t want you taking them on personally. Remain beneath the Cloak and go and get a teacher. Something I should have done a few times, I can tell you!

I’m not going to forbid you from breaking any rules, as I know from bitter experience that sometimes it isn’t possible to carry out a plan without doing so and quite honestly, if it comes to a choice between breaking a rule and putting yourself at risk, I’d rather you did the former. However, I am going to insist you don’t break any unnecessary rules. I don’t want you thinking that because you have the Cloak, you can sneak out into the Forbidden Forest or something!

Not that I think you’d do that. If I did, I wouldn’t be lending it to you. But I wanted to stress it just in case.

And this brings me to the final condition. Don’t tell your brother. If I lend it to you, it’s just between you and me. All right?

Write back and let me know if you agree to these conditions. If you do, I’ll bring it to you.

Your loving dad.

“It sounds like he’s going to come to Hogwarts!”

He passed the letter to Rose, who skimmed it.

“You’ve got to agree to the conditions first.”

“There’s nothing there we don’t agree to, though, is there?”

She paused to read it more closely, then shook her head. “Nope.”

Albus wrote back quickly, telling his father he agreed to the conditions and when he would need the Cloak. He couldn’t entirely believe it was actually happening. A part of him had almost hoped his dad would say no. Then he wouldn’t have to worry about what they’d planned to do.

The Sunday before the Slug Club party, Harry arrived at Hogwarts.

“ALBUS!” Derek ran into the common room. “Your dad’s downstairs. Everybody’s talking about it.”

Albus rushed out of the common room and down the stairs from Ravenclaw Tower.

James, unfortunately, had reached the castle entrance before him and was standing there, talking to their father. Albus paused. What were they going to do now?

“ALBUS,” his dad called. “Over here.”

He strolled over to join them.

“Dad was on a job in Hogsmeade,” James told him. “And he called in to see us on the way.”

“I certainly did. Nothing serious. Turned out to be a bit of a false alarm actually.” He gave Albus a slight wink. “But you know we have to follow up every lead, even when it’s an elderly witch who quite clearly has too much time on her hands.”

“What were you investigating, Dad?” James asked.

“Oh, just the usual. Thankfully, there are no major threats facing us at the moment.”

“You would tell us if there were, wouldn’t you?” James said.

His father nodded. “I would. I was your age once, remember and I know what it’s like to have important information kept from me. It only made me take more risks than I needed to. So, yes, if there were any major threats, I would tell you, but hopefully, there won’t be. We’ve been at peace a long time now.”

The conversation turned to Hogwarts, the House Cup and the upcoming exams.

“I notice you haven’t mentioned much about the exams in your letters, James. Albus has been telling me all about his.”

“Well, that’s why he’s in swotty Ravenclaw, isn’t it?”

His father gave him a stern look. “There’s no need to be insulting.”

“Ah, he knows I’m only teasing, don’t you Albus?”

Their father listened to their descriptions of the Quidditch final, Albus’s Herbology project and James’s plans as to how Gryffindor could win the Quidditch Cup the following year before saying, “I’d like a private word with Albus now, if you don’t mind, James. We’ll be back in two minutes.

James looked a little aggrieved as they withdrew into an empty classroom.

Harry pulled the Cloak out from his briefcase and Albus stuffed it under his robes.

“Take care of it now.”

“I will, I promise. And I’ll keep all your other conditions too.”

His father smiled. “I trust you. Now, you get that back to Ravenclaw Tower, while I have a private word with James to make things fair. I’ll still be here when you get back.”

For a moment, Albus panicked. He’d have to be careful to hide the Cloak really well. If somebody could find his model solar system, they could find the Cloak too.

He hurried up to his dormitory, looking around to be sure nobody was watching, then placed the Invisibility Cloak in his trunk and threw a load of clothes in on top of it. Then he locked the trunk, something he’d been doing since Christmas and raced back downstairs.

His father and James were standing by the front door, James looking much happier than he had before Albus had left.

His father beckoned for Albus to join them.

“We’ve just finished our private discussion, haven’t we James?” He winked at his elder son.

“Yup.”

“I’m afraid I’d better be going now. Still have some paperwork to complete back at the office. And it won’t be long now until the summer holidays.”

“Bye Dad,” said James.

“Bye Dad.” Albus reached out to hug him.

“Best of luck in your exams, both of you. And please try and put in a little study, James. You could do so well, if only you tried.”

“Yeah, yeah. Bye Dad.”

They followed him down as far as the main gates and watched as he spun on the spot and Disapparated.



As you may have guessed, things will begin to be revealed soon. I'd love to hear your theories. About anything. Who you think is behind everything, what their motivations might be, any other secrets you think any characters may be hiding, even if you think Ravenclaw can maintain their lead in the House Cup. 


Chapter 25: Questions and Answers.
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Disclaimer: Everything you recognise belongs to J.K. Rowling. No copyright infringement is intended.

“I bet Dad just answered that woman’s call so he’d have an excuse to check up on us.” James rolled his eyes.

“Why would he do that?” Albus asked nervously. He really didn’t want James wondering why their father’d really come to the castle.

“Well, think about it, why would the head of the Auror department respond to some crazy old conspiracy theorist? Surely he has lackeys to do boring stuff like that. And he knows the exams are coming up. Probably just wanted to call in and remind us to study.” He snorted. “He’ll be lucky.”

“Maybe he just wanted to see us.”

“Well, of course he did. Who wouldn’t? But mark my words, it’s no coincidence it was just before the exams he turned up.” He paused, suddenly seeming to remember he was actually spending time with his uncool younger brother. “I’m sure you can find your own way back to Ravenclaw Tower now.”

“Of course.” Albus attempted a jaunty tone. He didn’t want to give the impression his brother’s dismissal bothered him.



When he returned to the common room, Rose pulled him aside.

“Did you get the Cloak?”

He nodded. “It’s in my trunk. What do we do now?”

“Nothing until Friday. Then we ask Blackburn if it would be OK to leave some work in her classroom. We’ll tell her Slughorn invited us to his party and we don’t want to leave it lying around the common room all evening.”

“Why her classroom?”

“Well, we never did entirely rule her out did we? So let’s make sure she knows it’ll be lying there, completely unprotected as well as everybody else.”

Another stumbling block occurred to him.

“And how do we make sure everybody else knows?”

“That’s one of the harder parts,” she admitted. “If we make too big a deal of it, they’ll probably suspect a trap. I don’t think we’re going to be able to make sure absolutely everybody knows, but the odds are high it’s a Ravenclaw, so let’s try and draw as much attention to ourselves as possible when we’re leaving the tower. And maybe express some concern about where we’ll leave them while at the party.” She paused. “You could bring it up with Rasmus.”

He stared at her in confusion.

“He’ll probably be at the party too, so act like you’re really worried about leaving your project lying around all evening. What if somebody knocks it over messing around or takes it to copy it or something? Ask him if he’s just going to leave his in the dormitory or common room? You know the kind of thing. Just make sure Nathan and Derek hear you.”

He bit his lip. “You don’t think it’s any of them, do you?”

“No, I don’t really. Rasmus was with me at the time your solar system was probably broken. And Derek was with you. And I don’t think Nathan would do anything like that. But I don’t know. I suppose one of them could possibly have slipped back into the dormitory as we were leaving for the holidays.”

“Derek was with me when Scorpius’s broom was broken too,” he pointed out.

She nodded. “But the more people who hear the better anyway. You know how quickly news spreads around this school. We just need to start getting it out.”

“Do you really think anybody'd talk about where we leave our Herbology projects?”

“There are situations where they might. Like ‘will we put this in the Transfiguration classroom?’ ‘Better not. I think Albus and Rose have already left their Herbology projects in there.’ Or ‘you know Albus and Rose have asked Professor Blackburn if they can leave their Herbology projects in her classroom while they’re at the Slug Club party. Maybe we should ask a teacher if we can leave ours in their classroom too.’”

“Yeah, but…” He trailed off. No point in saying those were pretty unlikely.

And he wasn’t really sure how to approach Rasmus without sounding like a complete and utter idiot. He hated drawing attention to himself and this was bound to.

“Um, Rasmus,” he attempted as they headed up to their dormitory that night.

“Yeah.”

“I was just um wondering…erm, did you get an invitation to Slughorn’s last party thing on Saturday?”

“Yeah, I did. Rose said you did as well. I suppose you’re going?”

He fidgeted. “Um, yeah. I was just…well, I don’t really like leaving my Herbology project lying around, you know. Who knows what could happen to it? I was wondering what you’re doing with yours?”

“During the party?” Rasmus let out a shriek of laughter and Albus wilted. “Just leave it with my textbooks, I guess. Why? What do you think’s going to happen to it?”

“I dunno. Just…what if somebody tries to copy it or something?” He used the excuse Rose had given him.

Rasmus paused. “Yeah, I guess I don’t have to worry about that, since Rose is the only other person who chose the Fanged Geranium, and I really don’t think she has any need to copy anybody, does she?”

“No, definitely not,” Albus agreed.

“But I think it’d be obvious if anybody copied anyway. I mean we have to include stuff like when we watered the plants and two people could hardly be doing that at the same time.”

“I suppose. It’s just…we’ve worked so hard on them, you know, and they’re worth so much of our grade.”

“I wouldn’t worry about it. Would you Derek?”

Derek turned around. “The Herbology project? Nah. We can’t watch it constantly, can we? If somebody wanted to copy it, they’d probably have found an opportunity.”

“But odd things have been happening,” Nathan put in. “Look at Scorpius’s broom.”

“That was months ago,” Rasmus argued.

“But they never figured out who did it. And there was that graffiti at the start of the year as well.”

“What’s that got to do with anything? Graffiti and copying are two completely different things.”

“I know,” Nathan said. “But still, it’s like…like people can get away with anything here. I wouldn’t like to leave anything lying around where people can get their hands on it.”

“Maybe I’ll ask one of the teachers if I can leave it in their classroom.” Albus hoped he sounded as if the idea had just occurred to him. “At least it’d be less likely to be knocked over or anything.”

Rasmus shrugged. “If it makes you feel any better. I doubt it’ll make much difference personally.”



On Friday, Rose approached Professor Blackburn after class.

“Um, Professor?” She raised her voice slightly and some of the other students looked around.

“Yes?”

“Professor Slughorn’s invited me and Albus to his party tomorrow evening and we were wondering if it’d be OK for us to leave our Herbology projects here while we’re at it. Things tend to get knocked around a bit in the common room.”

Blackburn smiled. “Of course, Rose. That’s no problem.”

“Thanks Professor.”

“That’s no problem,” Dora mocked as they left the classroom. “Bet she wouldn’t say that if it was anybody else asking.”

“Um, why not?” Angie asked.

“Well, the Potters and Weasleys are famous.” Dora shrugged. “War hero families and all that. And you must have noticed Rose and Rasmus manage to top just about every test ever given between them.”

Albus supposed she'd a point. His family were given rather special treatment, and he supposed it wasn’t entirely fair. He hadn’t even been alive when his dad had defeated Voldemort.

But he rather doubted it was why Blackburn let them leave their projects in her classroom.She'd probably do that for anybody. Wouldn't she?

Do you think she only agreed because of who we are?” he asked Rose later.

“No.” She sounded certain. “I’m not saying people don’t favour us sometimes, but that’s ridiculous. Anyway, who cares why she let us? What matters is she did. All we’ve got to do now is make sure everybody knows it and Dora might’ve even helped with that.”

Maybe that’s what was worrying him really. The closer they came to implementing their plan, the more nervous it made him. He couldn’t believe that the very next day, they could be facing the person who’d tormented him all year.

Of course he wanted to know who they were; he just wished somebody else would do the confrontation part.

Rose, however, seemed to be in her element.

“Now, stuff the Invisibility Cloak up under your robes,” she instructed him the following evening. “It'll ruin everything if people know you've got it.”

He did as he was told.

“Good. Now, gather up your project.”

They headed down to the common room.

“Are you going down to the party already?” Rasmus asked.

Rose shook her head. “We just need to drop this stuff off in the Transfiguration classroom first.”

“Honestly, I still think you’re both taking this way too seriously. I’d expect it of Albus, but not you.”

Albus wondered what he meant by that.

“Well, you can’t be too careful, can you?” Rose grinned at him.

“I’ve just thought of a problem,” Albus muttered to her, as they moved away. “Won’t Rasmus notice if we’re not at the party.”

“So?” She shrugged. “He won’t know where we are, will he? There isn’t really much he can do about it.”

“I suppose.”

Suddenly, she tripped, dropping her rolls of parchment on the floor.

“OH NO!” she called out.

All the eyes in the common room seemed to turn towards them.

Albus cringed. He knew this was what she wanted, but he hated everybody watching him.

“Help me pick it up, Albus,” she wailed. “This is just what I didn’t want to happen, why I was bringing it downstairs in the first place.”

He picked up a roll of parchment and passed it to her, but she wouldn’t take it from him.

“Check the photographs haven’t fallen off, will you? I’ve put so much work into this. I can’t bear the thought of it being damaged.”

“Oh, get a grip,” he heard one of the second years mutter.

He unrolled the parchment awkwardly.

“They’re fine,” he mumbled. He knew he was supposed to speak loudly, to draw attention to them, but he just couldn’t bring himself to do so. Anyway, he doubted it mattered. Rose had gotten them all the attention they were likely to need.

“Well, everybody in Ravenclaw should have heard what we’re doing,” she said, when they’d left the tower. “For the rest, we’ll have to trust to the grapevine. I asked Scorpius to try and bring it up in Slytherin, but I don’t know if he got a chance or not.”

In Blackburn’s classroom, they spread the projects out on the tables, then Albus pulled out the Invisibility Cloak and threw it over them.

“Our feet aren’t showing, are they?” Rose asked.

He shook his head. “No.”

“You’re sure?”

He checked again.

“Yes.

The following hour was probably the longest of his life. It had never occurred to him how inherently boring it was just standing around waiting for somebody who might never come.

“Can we sit down?” he whispered after they’d been standing for what felt like a lifetime, but was probably no more than quarter of an hour.

She didn’t answer immediately.

“We could try, I suppose,” she said quietly. “We need to make sure we’re completely covered though.”

It wasn’t easy sitting comfortably while making sure they remained completely hidden. They needed to sit very close together and avoid stretching their legs or it would slip off.

They tried sitting cross-legged, but it quickly became uncomfortable as did kneeling. Eventually, they stood up again and just leaned against the wall.

“How long should we wait?” Albus asked.

“I don’t know. Let’s just wait and see what happens.”

“OK.”

It wasn’t the answer he’d hoped for. He’d have liked to at least have a time to count down to. Somehow when you didn’t, the wait felt even longer.

If they could talk, it mightn’t be so bad. They could whisper the odd sentence, he supposed, but any more than that and they risked being overheard. They wanted people to think the room was empty.

He wasn’t sure if he hoped something would happen or not. The thought of confronting the person terrified him. He wasn’t good at confrontation at the best of times and he felt certain this would be far more scary than arguing with a classmate or his siblings. But at least after that, the vigil would be over. In his heart of hearts, he knew that if nothing happened, they’d be there until curfew. There was no way Rose would leave while there was still a chance of something happening.

“What do we do if somebody does come in?” he asked suddenly. “I mean, they could just be getting a book they left here or something.”

“We’ll have to let them get as far as our projects,” she said. “And probably let them attempt something. Don’t worry. Even if they do any damage, it’ll hardly be held against us, once everybody knows what’s happened. They shouldn’t have time to do much anyway.”

“What if they say we’re lying when we tell what happened? It’ll be our word against theirs.”

He couldn’t believe he’d only thought of that now.

“Why should anybody doubt us? It’s not like we’ve any reason to lie. Besides there are two of us and presumably only one of them. And if they do do any damage, that’ll be evidence, won’t it?”

“I suppose.”

The lapsed into silence again.

He couldn’t help worrying the teachers wouldn’t believe them. Then the whole thing would be for nothing. It might make things even worse, because it would give the person yet another reason to target them.

He was at least as nervous as he’d been waiting to face the Sorting Hat at the beginning of the year and the longer he waited the more nervous he became.

After what seemed like an eternity, the door opened and Dora entered the room.

His heart jumped into his mouth.

Maybe it was just a coincidence, he reminded himself. She could have plenty of other reasons to be there. Maybe she was meeting that boyfriend she’d hinted she had or looking for something she’d lost. Or…

She was heading towards their projects. Oh God, what should they do if she did attempt something?

She stopped by the projects and removed what looked like a small jar from her pocket.

Without warning, Rose flung the Invisibility Cloak off them.

“Stop that right now.”

Dora jumped and dropped the jar she’d been opening. The inkwell smashed on the desk and green ink splashed the parchment.

A smile of bitter satisfaction crossed her face.

“Well, that worked anyway.”

Albus was almost in tears. After all his hard work, his project looked ruined. He wished he’d never let Rose talk him into this plan.

“What are you doing?” he asked, choking back tears. “I mean, why? What did we ever do to you? What did I ever do to you?”

Dora glared at him, almost disdainfully.

“It’s not so much what you’ve done,” she said finally, “as what your father has. Look at you. I don’t know why you’re not at Slughorn’s party now. One of his little favourites, aren’t you? You think you’re so special. Just because your dad ruined things for a whole lot of people. 'What did you ever do to me?' Maybe you should be asking what I ever did to him?"

He stared at her.

“When did you even meet my dad?”

“I didn’t. That’s the whole point. Big hero, wasn’t he? Defeating those nasty Death Eaters.” Her voice took on a babyish tone, before growing hard again. “Never stopped to think of their families, did he? We didn’t matter.”

“Your parents were Death Eaters?” Rose’s voice was as hard as Dora’s, accusatory.

“No, but my grandfather was Nicodemus Nott.” She raised her head proudly. “He’s dead now, but my family’s still lost everything. Unlike the Malfoys, we didn’t get to keep our fortune. My dad was at school with your parents, but that didn’t bother them. Why should the great Harry Potter care, so long as he got his glory?”

A tall shadow appeared in the doorway behind her. Professor Blackburn!

Albus was about to speak, to tell her what Dora’d just said or at least call her attention to them, but Rose laid a hand on his arm and shook her head slightly.

“So that’s why you’ve been targeting us,” she said. “Sending Albus Swelling Solution. It could have poisoned him!” Her voice rose angrily. She seemed to have forgotten the other infractions in her indignation.

“A pity it didn’t.”

Rose reached for her wand.

“That’ll do.” Professor Blackburn’s voice interrupted them.

Dora spun around in surprise.

“Perhaps you’d better explain exactly what’s been going on here. Or no, maybe you’d better wait until we reach the Headmistress’s office. Then you can explain everything to her.”

A strange gloating smile crossed Dora’s face.

“You’re not going to report me to the Headmistress. In fact, you’re going to back me up when I say this pair are complete and utter liars. After all, we both know I’m not the only person in this room with something to hide.”

All the colour drained from Blackburn’s face.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” she said, but her words sounded forced. “And even if I did, it wouldn’t make any difference. Minerv…Professor McGonagall will have to hear about this. Please come with me. Albus and Rose, if you could come too, please.”

Albus noticed her wand arm was shaking.

“You’ll regret this,” Dora practically spat at her.

She didn’t respond.

The short walk to McGonagall’s office was a tense one. Albus couldn’t bring himself to even look at Dora and Blackburn seemed to be avoiding eye contact with any of them.

He realised he’d never expected to actually solve it.

 They reached the gargoyle which marked the entrance to the Headmistress’s office and Blackburn muttered the password.

It moved to the side and they proceeded up the stairs.

McGonagall was sitting at her desk, a quill in her hand.

“I’m sorry to bother you, Headmistress,” Blackburn's voice still sounded strained. “But…” She paused and took a deep breath. “It appears that Dora has been playing some nasty tricks on Albus and Rose. And possibly other students.”

Dora folded her arms defiantly.

“Prove it,” she said, but her voice had lost its confidence. She seemed to know she’d been defeated.

“You admitted it,” Rose burst out. “She did, Professor. She even said it was a pity the Swelling Solution hadn’t poisoned Albus!”

McGonagall raised her eyebrows. “I think we’ll let Dora explain the rest. Dora?”

There was silence.

McGonagall put down her quill.

“Do you want me to call for Professor Slughorn?” she asked quietly. “I could ask him to bring some Veritaserum.”

“What do you want me to tell you?” Dora spat out.

“Well, firstly, I expect you to speak a little more respectfully when you address me. You are in serious trouble here, Dora. Try not to add to it. I presume it was you who wrote graffiti on the wall by Slughorn’s office at the beginning of this year? And broke a classmate’s broom?”

“So what if it was?” she mumbled.

“I think you’ll find we take that kind of behaviour quite seriously here at Hogwarts.” She turned to Professor Blackburn. “Is there anything else I should know?”

“No, Headmistress.”

“All right. Then perhaps, I could speak to Dora privately.”

“Oh! There is one thing.”

Professor McGonagall nodded.

“Dora said something about her grandfather being...well, Nicodemus Nott.”

“I see.” McGonagall turned to Rose and Albus. “Dora’s parents particularly asked that she be registered as Dora Nottingham and not Theodora Nott, because of the stigma often faced by the families of Death Eaters. Regardless of what has happened, it must remain her decision who she wants to reveal this information to. I would not be at all pleased if it were to ‘slip out’ in retaliation. Is that understood?”

“Yes, Professor,” they said in unison.

“Not that she wouldn’t deserve it, if we did give her away,” Rose muttered, as they descended the stairs from her office.

She glanced around at Professor Blackburn, anxiously, but the teacher didn’t seem to be paying them much attention. She still seemed rather pale and distracted.

“Oh, I left the Invisibility Cloak in the Transfiguration classroom,” Albus burst out suddenly. “And our projects are completely ruined.”

Professor Blackburn glanced at him.

“We’ll return to the classroom now,” she said. “I’m sure the Cloak will be fine. And if it’s only ink on your projects, it can be easily removed.”

He hoped she was right. His father would kill him if anything'd happened to the Cloak. What if somebody had taken it? Oh, how could he have been so stupid as to leave it lying around like that?

To his relief, however, the Cloak was lying exactly where he’d left it. He gathered it up quickly.

“Um, Professor, is it all right if I package this up and send it off to my dad now. It’s…it’s pretty important, you know.”

She nodded. “Of course.”

Once the Cloak had been packaged up and Wendelin was delivering it safely back into his father’s hands, Albus returned to the classroom, where Rose was waiting for him.

“Blackburn removed the ink from our projects,” she told him.

He picked his up and examined it. It seemed to have been completely restored to its former condition.

Rose grinned at him.

“Can you believe we actually did it? You were brilliant, by the way. The way you got her to admit everything…”

“It wasn’t deliberate,” he admitted. “I didn’t even think about what I was saying.”

“Well, whatever you did, it worked. So what do we do now? There’s still time to call into Slughorn’s party if you’d like to.”

He shook his head. “I think I’ve had enough excitement for one night. Let’s just return to Ravenclaw tower.”


Chapter 26: Farewell Slughorn
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Dora's punishment wasn't made public, but parts of it, at least, quickly became known.

 “Though I don’t know why I’m telling you this,” Scorpius said. “It’s not like you told me your plan was successful. The first I heard was when I was called to McGonagall’s office to hear Dora apologise.”

“Sorry,” Rose said. “We weren’t sure how much we were allowed tell. McGonagall basically told us to keep quiet. Erm, how much were you told?”

“Nothing really. McGonagall just sent for me, which was a bit scary, let me tell you. I was wondering what I was supposed to have done this time. But when I got there, Dora was waiting and she apologised to me, pretty ungraciously; you could tell she was only doing it because McGonagall said she had to. Not that I care.” For the first time since Albus had known him, he grinned. “She promised to pay for my broom.”

“That’s great,” Albus said.

It wasn’t much of a punishment though. No twelve year old could possibly afford to pay the cost of a Golden Arrow. It’d be her parents doing that. Then again, if they’d raised her to support Voldemort, maybe they deserved as much punishment as she did.

Scorpius didn’t care anyway.

“I’ve written to my parents,” he said. “And they say I can spend the money however I want to, since it was my Christmas present after all. So I’m going to get a new broom and come September, nobody’ll be able to stop me bringing it with me.” He sounded triumphant.

“Are you going to get another Golden Arrow?” Albus asked.

“I think so. But I’m going to check out the broom shops first. Maybe there’ll be something even better on offer.” He shuffled his feet awkwardly. “I’m really glad your plan worked, you know. It was a good one.”

“It was all Rose,” Albus said. “I just did what I was told.”

“Don’t mind him,” she said. “He was the one who got her to confess.”

Scorpius shrugged. “Well, whatever you did, I’m glad of it. You know?”

Their fellow Ravenclaws were less pleased. Between Dora's various transgressions, she’d lost them almost two hundred points, leaving them in last place. The twenty-five points each Albus and Rose had received for solving the mystery seemed paltry in comparison.

Everybody seemed to know who’d lost them the points. Not only had Scorpius been telling everybody who’d listen about being able to replace his broom, but Dora, Albus and Rose had been seen heading to McGonagall’s office with Professor Blackburn the previous evening and as Dora’d been going around with a scowl on her face, casting baleful looks at Albus and Rose ever since, it probably wasn’t difficult to fill in the blanks.

Albus cringed every time she looked at him. Even though he knew she’d deserved it, he couldn’t help feeling slightly awkward about getting her in so much trouble.

And he dreaded to think what she might do next. She’d more reason than ever to torment them now.

At least he wasn’t the one who had to share a dormitory with her. If he did, he thought he’d be afraid to ever go to sleep. He’d be constantly worrying what she might do when he did.

“I’m not afraid of her,” Rose said, when he raised the topic tentatively. “What can she do to me anyway?”

He didn’t answer, although a long list occurred to him. He didn’t want to worry her.

“Don’t worry about her, Albus,” she continued. “She’s a coward. She won’t dare do anything now we know who she is.”

“I hope you’re right,” he said quietly.

She grinned.

“I usually am.”

The exams were approaching and all of Ravenclaw seemed even more determined than ever to get the highest grades possible.

The same prefect who’d encouraged them to make every effort to win the House Cup addressed them once more.

“All right, we’ve just suffered a major disappointment.” It seemed as if all eyes in the common room turned to Dora, who turned and stormed out of the room. “But we can’t give up now. We’re the smartest house in the school, right? We know that. So let’s play to our strengths and try and get top marks in every single subject in every single year and regain as much as possible of the ground we’ve lost.”

A cheer went up, but it sounded hollow. Everybody knew it wasn’t really possible to make up nearly a hundred and fifty points in the few weeks left in the year.

“Let’s do the best we can, though,” Rose said, when she, Albus, Derek, Rasmus, Nathan, Fionnuala and Angie gathered in the library to study. “We’ll show everybody the rest of the first years aren’t a disgrace to Ravenclaw.”

Nathan looked down.

“I know I’m going to make a mess of things,” he mumbled. “I’m sure I’ve failed Herbology anyway.

“Why? What’d you do?” Angie asked in amusement.

“I knocked over the bush when I was watering it,” he admitted. “And I’m not sure I put it back properly. Professor Longbottom called me out afterwards and asked me what happened. He was very nice about it, but he’s bound to fail me after that, isn’t he?”

“Not necessarily,” Albus said. “I don’t think he’d fail you because of one mistake, do you Rose?”

She shook her head.

Madame Pince, the librarian, glared at them.

“Quiet, please. People are trying to study.”



The following day, Neville collected their projects.

“I wonder if I should dock you a few marks for basically using them as bait,” he teased Albus and Rose.

Albus’s face fell.

“Don’t worry. I’m only joking. In fact, Professor Slughorn specifically mentioned how quickly you collected those Leaping Toadstools he asked for. He was very impressed.”

Albus breathed a sigh of relief.

The exams were actually turning out to be rather less difficult than he’d feared. He might not be as smart as Rose or Rasmus, who he knew would be competing for their year’s top marks, but he’d worked hard in all his subjects and found most of the exams manageable.

Even the History of Magic exam wasn’t as impossible as he’d expected it to be, thanks to Rose and Rasmus, who’d started explaining the lessons afterwards to their classmates. Rasmus in particular had a knack of making historical events sound really interesting, causing Albus to wonder why they sounded so boring in class.

Nathan was almost as good as Rasmus and probably better than Rose at History of Magic, but nobody would ever have asked him to explain anything. He was almost as confusing as Binns.

“It makes sense when I write it down,” he’d said once, “but when I try to explain it, I just get confused.”

It was, however, one of the few exams he left smiling.

“I’m pretty sure I did well on that one,” he said. “And I think I did OK in Defence Against the Dark Arts too. I completely messed up the spell, but Professor Jones did say the majority of marks were going for the written exam, didn’t she?”

“She did,” Albus and Rose confirmed simultaneously.

“I wish Slughorn would,” he said worriedly. “I can’t believe he’s not giving us a written exam at all. And I’m so completely useless at Potions. I know I’m going to make an absolute mess of it.”

Although he’d never say so, Albus couldn’t help thinking he probably would. Nathan’s potions were abysmal. It wasn’t unusual for his cauldron to melt or his potion somehow explode.

“Oh dear,” he’d say miserably. “I’ve no idea how that happened.”

Slughorn would then impatiently fix whatever damage he’d done. Unlike Neville, he never reassured Nathan.

Potions wasn’t Albus’s best subject either, but unlike Nathan, he found it easier to actually make the potions than to answer questions on them. It was so much easier to remember what ingredients to use and what order to add them to your potion in when it was all right in front of you.

A certain amount of cheating took place in the Potions exam, as Slughorn never supervised too closely. Instead he walked around, chatting to various students and complimenting the more successful ones on their work.

“Oh, wonderful work, Rose, wonderful. That’s well on its way to gaining you full marks, I’d say. Still what should I expect from the daughter of Hermione Granger?”

Across the room, Abric slipped his Potions book onto his lap.

Albus couldn’t imagine cheating. Apart from anything else, he was absolutely certain he’d be caught if he tried and that would be even worse than failing.

Just watching Abric made him nervous.

Slughorn, however, didn’t appear to notice or if he did, he gave no indication of it.

“Well, I thought that was fairly easy,” Rose said, as they left the classroom. “Didn’t you?”

“Not really,” Albus mumbled.

He’d found it one of the more difficult of their exams.

“Well, I made an absolute mess of it,” Nathan said miserably. “My potion turned green. Green! They were meant to be silver. I can’t think what I did wrong. I suppose I must have knocked something into it when I stumbled that time.” He sighed.

“Well, there’s nothing we can do about them now,” Derek said sensibly, “so there’s no point in worrying. We’ll find out how we did soon enough anyway.”

In fact, Neville returned their Herbology projects that very evening.

“Good work, Albus,” he said, smiling.

Albus flicked his project open and grinned broadly. He’d got ninety-three percent.

“How did you do?” Rose leaned over to see his mark. “Oh, well done.”

“How’d you do?” he asked.

“Ninety-seven percent.” She grinned. “Pretty good, eh?”

Their other results were equally satisfactory. Rose got the highest marks in the class in Potions, Astronomy, Defence Against the Dark Arts and Transfiguration, with Rasmus topping the class in History of Magic, Charms and Herbology.

In addition to Herbology, Albus had also done particularly well in Defence Against the Dark Arts and Transfiguration.

“Well done, Albus.” Professor Blackburn turned the sides of her mouth upwards in an attempt at a smile as she handed his test back to him. She looked tired.

“Um, thanks Professor.”

“Excellent work, Rose,” she continued. “Highest mark in the class.”

She paused for a moment and the class applauded politely.

“Thanks,” Rose said. “Erm, are you all right, Professor?”

“I’m fine, Rose, thanks. I’m just tired. Exams mean a lot of work for us too, you know.”

She moved on to hand back the rest of the tests.

Rose turned to Albus and shrugged.

He didn’t know what she expected. Professor Blackburn was a teacher. She was hardly going to tell them her business. He wasn’t even sure he’d want to know anyway.

Once they’d received the last of their results, all that was left of their first year was the end of year feast.

“Can you believe we’re almost second years?” he asked Derek as they sat down.

“God, I hadn’t even thought of that. When we come back in September, we won’t be the new kids any more, will we?” He paused. “It’ll be fun to see the Sorting, knowing what’s going to happen.”

Their conversation was interrupted by Professor McGonagall clapping her hands for silence.

“Another year is coming to an end. I hope it’s been a good one for all of you, particularly those of you for whom it’s your last. I’ll be talking to you specially later, but for now, I’d like the school to give you one last cheer before you say your final goodbyes.”

A cheer went up around the Hall. Albus glanced across to the Gryffindor table in an attempt to catch Victoire’s eye, but she was surrounded by James and her younger siblings, who were obviously congratulating her on completing her years at Hogwarts.

Once the excitement died down, Professor McGonagall began to speak again.

“Now, before I continue, I should probably announce the results of the House Cup.”

Around the Ravenclaw table, faces fell. They’d succeeded in gaining a little of the ground lost, passing Slytherin in the process, but it was still disappointing to have lost after they’d been so close to winning.

“In fourth place, we have Slytherin, with three hundred and seventy-five points. In third place, Ravenclaw, with three hundred and eighty-seven. In second place, Hufflepuff with four hundred and forty-two. And our winners are Gryffindor with four hundred and ninety points.”

The Gryffindor table erupted with cheers, as McGonagall waved her wand and the Hall was instantly decorated in red and gold.

She allowed the cheers to continue for a while, before clapping her hands for silence. She was still smiling, however, and Albus remembered she’d been Head of Gryffindor before becoming Headmistress.

“We’ve said goodbye to our seventh years, but there’s one more person leaving us this year, somebody who’s given more years to Hogwarts than most of us can even imagine. I’m sure you are all as sorry as I am that Professor Slughorn has finally decided to retire.”

Professor Slughorn rose from his seat.

“If I may be permitted to say a few words.” He glanced at McGonagall.

“Of course, Professor Slughorn.”

She sat down.

“I began my career at Hogwarts in nineteen-twenty-seven, long before any of you or your parents or even many of your grandparents were even thought of. And I spent fifty years, educating numerous generations of young witches and wizards in the fine art of Potions, before I finally decided the time had come for me to retire.”

“He retired before?” Derek leaned over to Albus, looking confused.

Albus nodded.

“To be entirely honest, I had no real intention of ever returning to teaching,” Slughorn continued. “The years following my retirement were good ones. I was regularly visited by old students, expressing their gratitude for certain little favours I’d been able to do them over the years. Some of them even said they owed their careers to me.” He permitted himself a little chuckle. “I went on hunting expeditions, fished, attended Quidditch matches and dinners. Life was good. But then, as you know, the war came and Albus Dumbledore, who was Headmaster here at the time, began to have some difficulty replacing teachers he’d lost. We’d worked together for many years. He was a very old friend of mine. So when he asked me to return, I agreed to do him a favour.

“I only intended to remain here a couple of years, just until my dear friend, Albus could find a replacement, but then he died, as did another Headmaster - Severus Snape, a war hero and probably the best Potions student I ever taught.”

The atmosphere in the Hall began to get uncomfortable.

“Of course I couldn’t desert the Headmistress then, not when I was obviously needed to help return Hogwarts to its former glorious reputation and after that, there was always another reason to delay retiring - a class about to take their N.E.W.T.S. or a new student I’d taken an interest in and wanted to help succeed. At regular intervals, I’d say ‘once all the current Slug Club have graduated, I’m definitely retiring’, but then another student with promise would arrive and I’d think ‘I just have  to see how he or she progresses’.

“Even now, there’s a part of me that regrets leaving. There are so many of you I’d like to get to know better and so many students due to arrive over the coming years, I’d love to teach. But, as in nineteen-eighty-one, I know the time has come. I’m an old man now, have been for a long time. It’s time to return to my comfortable retirement.

“I hope you’ll all come to see me and if I can help you in any way, particularly my old friends in the Slug Club, don’t hesitate to get in touch.”

He sat down and a cheer went up around the Hall. Slughorn could be irritating, but there was a genuine fondness for him, nonetheless.

Professor McGonagall stood up again.

“Thank you, Professor Slughorn. I know I speak for everybody here when I wish you a long and happy retirement. And now, I think we’ve had enough speeches. Time for the feast to begin.”

A variety of delicious foods appeared on the dishes at the centre of the tables and the students wasted no time in tucking in.

The feast continued on late into the evening and the following day, students prepared to return home for the holidays. As his parents had predicted, Albus had more belongings than would fit in his trunk and he had to send some lighter items on ahead by owl post.

Eventually, however, he was packed and ready to leave.

“Well, I guess that’s our first year at Hogwarts over,” Rose said, as they waited to board the Hogwarts Express. “I wonder what adventures next year will bring.”

“Hopefully, none at all,” Albus said. “I could do with a nice, peaceful year, thank you very much.”

But even as he said it, he realised how unlikely that was. A peaceful life didn’t seem to exist at Hogwarts.




Thanks to everybody who's followed this story from the beginning. I hope you've enjoyed it.

Special thanks to everybody who's reviewed, particularly Pheonix Potioneer and water_lily43175, who've reviewed so consistently. But you've all been magnificent. I've loved hearing all your thoughts and views and your constructive criticism has been really helpful.

I hope you'll all join me for year 2, which is now also posted under the title The Rise of the A.W.L.


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