Chapter 18 : Family
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Isaac glanced up from his game of Exploding Snap with Theo. ‘Read what?’
‘This,’ Lucas repeated. ‘The Ministry of Magic and the Second Rising: 1995-1998.’
‘Oh, yeah,’ Isaac chuckled, ‘bedtime reading, every night.’ He rolled his eyes, turning back to the cards in front of him as one exploded in his face. ‘Oh, crap...’
Lucas laughed. ‘That teaches you to take the piss, Isaac!’ He leaned forwards. ‘Look at this page, in particular. Aurors involved with the Ministry during the Imperius years – there,’ he pointed a finger into a list of names. ‘John Dawlish.’
‘So...?’ Isaac brushed the soot from his face.
‘What do you think, Zac!’ Theo exclaimed. ‘Look at his name – Dawlish! After all the shit he’s given us, and it turns out he’s the one with Death Eaters in his family.’
‘It doesn’t say he was a Death Eater, does it?’ Greg looked up from his own homework. ‘Or that he’s even related to Spencer?’
‘Well... no...’ Theo was forced to admit that his friend was correct. ‘Just think about it, though. What are the chances?’
‘That doesn’t mean we start acting like he does,’ Greg warned. ‘That’s the last thing we’re ever gonna start to do.’
Theo nodded, brushing the fringe of his hair away from his eyes and behind his ears. ‘Yeah, I know. You’re right.’
‘It doesn’t stop us asking, though,’ Lucas added. ‘What have we got to lose by finding out?’
‘Hey, look,’ Spencer Dawlish saved the Slytherin boys the difficulty of starting conversation the following Monday. ‘It’s the little snakes! Come to give up on the Quidditch Cup yet?’
‘It’s not over yet, Dawlish,’ Theo’s eyes narrowed. ‘You’ve still got to beat Ravenclaw.’
The spiky-haired Gryffindor exaggerated a yawn. ‘You beat Ravenclaw. I bet we’ll do it in five minutes.’
‘We’re not giving up until the last snitch gets caught, Dawlish,’ Greg backed up his friend. ‘You never know.’
Dawlish laughed as the Slytherins tried to hold their stares. ‘In your dreams, little snakes. In your dreams,’ he sneered.
‘How’s your History essay going, by the way?’ Isaac changed the subject, daring to mention the topic that Lucas had researched the previous week.
‘What?’ The Gryffindor blinked.
‘Your History essay,’ Isaac repeated. ‘It’s just that we found this guy called John Dawlish who worked for the ministry...’
‘Shut up!’ Dawlish flared, striding across towards Isaac and reaching out to grab hold of the neck of the Slytherin’s robes.
‘Watch out,’ Theo teased, ‘you don’t want to lose any more points after last week, do you?’
The Gryffindor relaxed his grip, but refused to back down. ‘Just shut up,’ he threatened, repeating himself. ‘It’s none of your business.’
‘I didn’t say anything,’ Isaac refused to be dissuaded. ‘We just wondered if he was related to you.’
‘Looks like he is,’ Theo concluded. ‘I guess that’s a good thing about being a muggleborn,’ he took his time over his words. ‘No embarrassing family history to worry about.’
‘Well,’ Dawlish glared at Isaac, ‘at least it’s not all of your family who think I’m embarrassing.’ He blushed furiously, turning his attention to Isaac’s sister, Holly, and throwing his arms around her waist. ‘Is it, Holls?’
Isaac shut his eyes as the two Gryffindors embraced. ‘Oh, bloody hell...’ he grimaced.
‘Do your research into that,’ Dawlish smirked as he pulled away from Holly, following the other Gryffindors into their Herbology lesson and leaving Isaac to fume silently.
‘Ignore it, Zac,’ Greg consoled his friend.
‘Yeah,’ Theo agreed, ‘he’s just trying to piss you off, and get away from the fact that he’s the one with Death Eaters in the family.’
‘Dawlish wasn’t a Death Eater,’ Lucas corrected the other Slytherin, ‘but I bet he won’t be so quick to mention it again any time soon.’
‘He better not,’ Isaac muttered. ‘Merlin,’ he shook his head. ‘Easter’s going to be shit.’
‘It could be worse,’ Greg offered, as the four boys watched Ciaran Abercrombie traipse forlornly after his housemates. ‘You could be him.’
The rafters of the Great Hall trembled with the arrival of a flock of owls on a daily basis, but the first-year Slytherins’ upward glances came more through bored habit than any expectation of receiving post.
‘Another morning without any letters,’ Theo observed as the noise of wingbeats began to die down, replaced instead by agitated squawks that demanded reward for their deliveries.
‘I wouldn’t be so sure,’ Lucas remarked, watching a thin, gray bird aiming for their end of the Slytherin table. ‘Does anyone know whose owl that is?’
‘That’s Nero,’ Isaac jolted, recognising the plumage, ‘he’s my Mum and Dad’s...’ He reached for the envelope within the owl’s talons, and had begun to read through the letter within, when the attention of the whole room was distracted towards the Hufflepuff table.
‘CAMERON OLLERTON!’ A shrill woman’s voice stunned the Great Hall into silence.
‘It’s a Howler...’ Lucas whispered to the two muggle-born Slytherins, as they stared, dumbfounded, across the room.
‘I ASKED YOU TO DO ONE THING AT THIS SCHOOL, AND ONE THING ALONE, AND THAT WAS TO STAY AWAY FROM SLYTHERINS,’ the voice announced, asking a rhetorical question, ‘AND COULD YOU EVEN MANAGE THAT?’
‘I DON’T CARE HOW MANY HOUSE POINTS IT WAS WORTH,’ the message continued as Cameron sunk ever deeper in his seat. ‘NOTHING, I REPEAT NOTHING, IS A GOOD ENOUGH REASON FOR YOU TO ASSOCIATE WITH THAT SCUM. THEY’LL STAB YOU IN THE BACK AS SOON AS LOOK AT YOU. YOU HAVE TWO CHOICES, CAMERON: FIND YOURSELF SOME DIFFERENT FRIENDS, OR FIND SOMEWHERE ELSE TO STAY FOR EASTER.’
‘Shit...’ Theo filled the silence on the Slytherin table, watching Glyn try forlornly to comfort the smaller boy as the letter dissolved into its ashes on the table in front of him.
‘How do you think his Mum found out?’ Greg asked. ‘He wouldn’t have told her. He said himself that she wouldn’t like it during that Charms lesson...’
‘Well he won’t be the only one trying to find somewhere to spend his Easter,’ Isaac looked up morosely from his own letter, before reading out a paragraph to the other first-years. ‘As Holly has found somewhere to spend her holidays, your father and I thought we would take the chance to have some time together on our own. You are welcome to stay with a friend, or else at the Castle...’
‘Shit,’ Theo swore again, ‘I wish it had been another morning without any letters.’
‘I’ll see if you can stay with us if you want,’ Greg offered, ‘I don’t know if we’ll have space for someone else, though.’
‘Who else is staying?’ Lucas glanced up from his half-eaten breakfast.
Greg rolled his eyes. ‘You are, you daft git!’ He laughed. ‘Unless you want to spend some more time with Kevin, instead?’
The redheaded boy blushed and beamed at the same time. ‘Thanks, Greg, I...’
‘Don’t worry about it,’ the other boy smiled. ‘No one deserves to have to spend their holidays with him,’ he paused. ‘Maybe Dawlish.’
Lucas returned the other boy’s laughter, before breaking off as he noticed movement from the neighbouring table. ‘Glyn’s coming,’ he pointed out, ‘and so’s Cameron.’
The four first-year Slytherins turned to meet the other boys’ approach, as Cameron shuffled along behind Glyn, hiding in the Welsh boy’s shadow.
‘Sorry, Cam,’ Greg offered, weakly.
‘It’s okay,’ the smaller boy muttered, his eyes barely leaving the flagstones of the hall floor. ‘It’s not your fault.’
‘Professor Sprout said she told his Mum; she said she thought she’d be proud that he’d earned twenty points...’ Glyn explained.
‘I don’t think she was,’ Isaac observed, wryly.
‘Which choice are you going to take, Cameron?’ Greg ignored his friend’s sarcasm.
‘Somewhere else to stay,’ Cameron whispered, barely loudly enough for Glyn to hear.
‘He’s coming to stay with me,’ the Welsh boy repeated. ‘In fact, you can all come and stay if you want to.’
‘Wow.’ Uncharacteristically, Lucas was the first to respond. ‘Cool,’ he smiled. ‘Thanks, Glyn.’
‘Yeah, thanks,’ Isaac echoed his friend. ‘I suppose that solves my problem, too.’
The rest of the Easter term passed without any major incident. With Lucas’ research effectively putting a stop to Spencer Dawlish’s “Death Eater” jibes, the Gryffindors seemed keener to devote their energies into making Ciaran Abercrombie’s life miserable. As February became March, school life settled back into a rhythm of lessons, homework and Quidditch practice as the boys counted down the days to a holiday on the Jones family’s estate near the Welsh coast.
Castell Fach nestled between two summits as the slopes that would become Snowdonia rose up from the Irish Sea, peering down over the town of Harlech that stood on the shoreline. It was an old stone building, which had – according to Glyn, at least – once been a farmhouse before it passed into the Jones family.
Now, however, the insides bore much more of a resemblance to the ‘Little Castle’ that its Welsh name translated as: vast, spacious and comfortable rooms that, when Greg stopped to think about it, shouldn’t have been that much of a surprise given that its current owner was an International Quidditch player.
For the gathered first-years, however, the best thing about Castell Fach lay hidden away amongst a bowl of pine trees, at the foot of a valley deep in the heart of the estate. Rain or shine, the Jones family’s own full-size Quidditch pitch was where the children chose to pass their free time.
‘Merlin, Glyn...’ Isaac shook his head as eight children landed their brooms, bringing to end a furious game of four-against-four. ‘You grew up with this in your back garden, and your Mum playing for Wales, and you never got good at Quidditch?’
‘I had no-one to play with,’ the Welsh boy muttered, getting off his own broomstick.
‘Your brother’s not bad,’ Greg offered, gesturing needlessly towards a boy who shared Glyn’s gentle tan and dark brown hair, but stood a full foot below the first-year.
‘Yeah, I know,’ Glyn nodded, and the younger boy smiled broadly as he heard his brother’s agreement, ‘but Iestyn’s only just eight; he hasn’t been flying long.’
‘He’ll be great by the time he gets to Hogwarts, then,’ Cameron smiled. ‘I hope we get him in Hufflepuff.’
‘Which House do you want to be in, Iestyn?’ Lucas asked the eight-year-old. ‘It’s three years until you go to Hogwarts, right?’
‘I don’t know,’ the smallest of the boys shrugged. ‘Glyn says it doesn’t matter, that all the Houses are good, but...’ he swallowed, realising the older boys had all turned to face him. ‘He also said some of the Gryffindors are real jerks, so I don’t want to be like them.’
Theo laughed aloud, once at Iestyn’s brutal honesty and then again as Greg threw his arms around the stunned boy.
‘That’s the best thing I heard anyone say about Houses, ever.’ He ruffled the eight-year-old’s hair, even as Iestyn struggled to ask why.
‘We’ll tell you when you’re older,’ Glyn helped his little brother free, ‘but even then, I hope you never understand... not like we do.’
‘Hey, Iestyn,’ Jai stood up as the younger boy opened his mouth to repeat his questioning. ‘Let’s go and play catch. You bring the quaffle.’
‘Alright,’ the eight-year-old agreed, excitedly, leaving the four Slytherins alongside Glyn and Cameron.
‘One day,’ Greg mused, ‘one day everyone will see the Houses like your brother does.’
‘I hope so,’ Cameron agreed, despondently, ‘then my Mum might want to look at me again.’
‘We’ll get there,’ Glyn insisted, ‘we know that being in Slytherin doesn’t mean what it used to.’
Isaac nodded, forlornly. ‘I’m waiting to see the one of the other Houses support us during a Quidditch match. Then we’ll know that they’re just treating us the same as everybody else. That’s all we want.’
‘It’s like the Tornados,’ Cameron smiled, wryly. ‘Everyone wants them to lose every week in the League... but we still support them in the Champions League.’
‘I don’t think some people would even support us against Durmstrang,’ Lucas observed.
‘Like in South Africa...’ Theo mumbled, leaving five other boys to turn to him in surprise.
‘South Africa,’ the blond boy repeated, ‘and the Rugby World Cup in 1995. After Apartheid.’ He paused, noticing the blank looks on the other children’s faces. ‘Apartheid,’ he explained, ‘was when the blacks and whites in South Africa were forced to live separately. It had finished by then, but the blacks still wouldn’t support the rugby team, because it was basically all white.’
‘South Africa hosted the Rugby World Cup that year,’ he continued, ‘it was the first time they had been allowed to play in it, after Apartheid was over. Their new president managed to convince everyone to support the team, and they won the final.’
‘It’s the same when the football World Cup’s going on,’ Greg remarked, ‘for a few weeks in summer, when it feels like England have got a chance, everyone’s in it together.’
‘Yeah,’ Glyn nodded, only for Isaac to cut him off before he could say anything else.
‘You’re Welsh! How would you know? When was the last time you even looked like you might qualify for something?’
‘Oh, piss off,’ Glyn rolled his eyes, picking up his broomstick and swinging it around to gently knock the side of Isaac’s head. ‘Come up with something new sometimes...’
‘Okay,’ Isaac grinned, mischievously. ‘Are there any sports that Wales have ever been good at?’
‘Yes!’ It was Theo’s turn to interrupt. ‘Rugby! In the 1970s. My coach always said that they were the best team he’d ever seen. They passed and ran and attacked from everywhere...’
Glyn stuck his tongue out as Isaac blinked in disbelief at Theo’s revelation.
‘That’s like the Brazil football team,’ Greg added, ‘that’s how they played, and Holland when they were great as well. “Total Football”, they called it. Everyone could do everything.’ He paused. ‘Who’s been the best Quidditch team of all time? I bet they played the same way.’
The four magically-raised looked at one another, before answering together as one. ‘Ireland.’
Isaac smiled. ‘I saw them play England a few years ago. Their chasers passed the quaffle so fast I could hardly see it...’
‘Have you seen the photos of that Moran goal in the World Cup?’ Lucas put in. ‘After 53 passes between the chasers...’
‘Yeah,’ Glyn chimed in, ‘that was the year they won it, in 1994, wasn’t it?’
Lucas nodded. ‘That goal was in the semi-final, against Peru. They beat Bulgaria in the final, despite Victor Krum catching the snitch.’
‘There was a goal Brazil scored just like that, too,’ Greg compared the sports. ‘Carlos Alberto, I think... but he was a defender. Everyone in that team could do everything,’ he repeated himself. ‘Has that ever happened in Quidditch? Can beaters score?’
‘Well...’ Lucas managed, before slipping into an uncertain silence. ‘I guess there’s nothing that says they can’t, but...’
‘But what?’ Theo asked, impatiently. ‘My rugby coach always said that it’s important that everyone can pass and catch and run and tackle. What’s the difference?’
‘They just... don’t do it,’ Cameron broke the quiet. ‘I guess it’s too difficult to catch the quaffle and hold your bat at the same time.’
‘Who says they have to be holding the bat?’ Theo insisted. ‘Can’t you build something on the side of the broom to stick your bat in whilst you catch the quaffle?’
‘Or you could use a sticking charm...’ Lucas suggested, catching on to his friend’s ideas. ‘So long as you can get it off again without using your wand...’
‘Could you do that?’ Greg asked, intrigued. ‘Like Velcro shoes?’
‘I suppose so...’ the redhead offered, tentatively. ‘There aren’t any rules saying that only chasers can touch the quaffle, are there?’
‘No,’ Glyn shook his head. ‘There’s a rule that says only the seeker can touch the snitch, and I know each team is only allowed two bats on the pitch at once.’
‘So you could have four chasers and one beater?’ Theo flicked the strands of his blond fringe out of his eyes. ‘If he was carrying both bats?’
‘Well...’ Glyn echoed Lucas’ earlier uncertainty. ‘I guess so, but how would one person carry two bats? They’d have no hands left for the broom!’
‘Oh, yeah,’ Theo realised. ‘He could stick one of his bats to the broom and give it to someone else if they needed it.’
‘That’s brilliant!’ Greg pushed himself up to his knees, his voice filling with excitement. ‘So everyone could have his broom ready to carry the bats, and take it in turns being chaser and beater. The other team wouldn’t know what hit them!’
‘Just as long as we work out a charm that can do that,’ Lucas cautioned.
‘Yeah, I guess,’ Greg had to agree, ‘but that doesn’t stop you and Theo doing some chaser practice now, does it? Come on,’ he grinned, ‘back on your brooms!’
‘I can’t wait to try these moves out when we get back to Hogwarts,’ Theo announced as he joined his friends around the long table in the kitchen at Castell Fach that evening, muddy and exhausted but nonetheless still smiling broadly. ‘I’m going to be the first beater to score in a Quidditch match at Hogwarts since... oh, I don’t know...’
‘I bet Dan Buckley will,’ Isaac pointed out, much to the other first-years’ amusement. ‘Then Beretta will punch him...’ Another round of laughter followed. ‘Hufflepuff aren’t going to stand a chance!’
‘Did I hear that right?’ The boys’ fun was interrupted as Glyn’s mother overheard Isaac’s bold statement. ‘Hufflepuff won’t stand a chance? I thought you were a badger, Glyndwr?’
‘I am,’ the Welsh boy responded curtly.
‘Then... these other boys aren’t?’ Gwenog Jones was not a tall woman, but her choice of career left her in excellent shape, and her dark brown hair – no longer than Theo’s, but pulled into a pony tail – flicked around as she surveyed the table.
‘There’s no rules that say my friends have to be in the same house as me,’ Glyn muttered, without lifting his eyes to face his mother’s.
‘Their next match is against Hufflepuff,’ Gwenog paraphrased Isaac’s assertion. ‘So, unless the calendar has changed, that means...’ Her eyes widened. ‘Glyndwr!’
‘What?’ The eleven-year-old snapped his head around, glaring at his mother for the first time as it became clear where their conversation was headed.
‘I think we need a word, in private.’ She turned to the other children, a false smile hovering below her glassy eyes. ‘Excuse us.’ Gwenog led Glyn out of the kitchen, shutting the door neatly behind her.
‘No prizes for guessing what that’s all about,’ Lucas remarked caustically.
Greg shook his head. ‘Can we listen in?’ He followed Theo towards the doorway, where the blond boy had brushed enough of his fringe out of the way to press his ear against the wood.
‘All I can hear is buzzing,’ he observed, lifting his head away and allowing the long strands of his blond hair to fall back into place.
‘Muffliato,’ Cameron concluded. ‘It’s a charm,’ he explained. ‘My Dad and my Uncles use it when they don’t want anyone listening in on their meetings.’
Isaac let his head slump against the top of the kitchen table, before thumping its wooden surface in anger. ‘It’s the same thing all over again, isn’t it? he snarled. Don’t talk to the Slytherins...’
‘Zac...’ Greg cautioned, edging back to the long, wooden table to sit alongside his friend. ‘Careful...’
‘Or what?’ The freckles across the bridge of Isaac’s nose stood out over his pale skin as he lifted his head up. ‘Glyn’s never even told his Mum we were Slytherins, and you can see why. He never dared... he’s embarrassed about us.’
‘Zac,’ Greg warned again, ‘it might not be like that,’ he offered.
‘Well, what else is it going to be?’ Isaac shook his head. ‘You know it, I know it, everyone in here knows it...’
‘So what else would you have done if you were him?’ Jai challenged the Slytherin.
Isaac swallowed as the eyes of the other boys all turned towards him, only for the rattle of the kitchen doorway to burst open and break the artificial silence of the Muffliato charm.
‘I don’t care what you think!’ Glyn bellowed. ‘They were the only people who wanted to be friends with me because of who I was, and not just because my mum was famous!’
‘Did you never think there might have been another reason?’ Gwenog shoved the doorway open again moments later. ‘That they might just have been telling you that?’
‘NO!’ Glyn kicked out violently, knocking a vacant chair noisily to the ground, as the other boys timidly backed away from the confrontation. ‘Why should it? Why would they bother?’
‘Because, dear,’ his mother’s voice filled with a condescending scorn, ‘that’s just what Slytherins do.’
‘No – it – fucking – isn’t!’ Glyn screamed, his eyes burning with anger and brimming with tears. ‘You don’t know anything about it!’
‘GLYNDWR JONES,’ Gwenog returned the boy’s yell. ‘How dare you speak to me like that? How dare you use that kind of language? I suppose you learnt it from your Slytherin friends...’
‘No,’ Glyn steeled himself, starting to shake as he resolved to hold his mother’s gaze. ‘I knew it before I started Hogwarts. I heard what you said about the referee after that Wales game against Austria last year.’
A heavy silence sunk over the kitchen, and Greg edged forwards to rest a gentle arm around his friend’s shoulders. ‘Thank you, Glyn,’ he whispered, as the Welsh boy snapped away from his mother’s line of sight, burying his head against the sleeve of Greg’s rugby shirt. ‘What do I have to do,’ the Slytherin boy spoke coldly, staring back at his friend’s mother, ‘to make you trust me?’
Another cloak of quiet enveloped the room, before Iestyn’s innocent voice shrilled through. ‘I know, Mum,’ he suggested, ‘you tell us that if we lie to you then you’ll make us drink that truth potion. Greg could drink some, then you’ll know he’s telling the truth.’
‘Fine,’ Greg shrugged, ‘I’ll do it; maybe then you’ll have to believe me.’ He blinked. ‘I’ve got nothing to hide.’
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