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An Improbable Fiction by Aiedail
Chapter 10 : With a Flourish
 
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With a Flourish


“Backup?” Uncle Harry said, looking as though he rather disagreed and would have had it out with Ron if he hadn’t been amongst present company. Hugo, in a kind gesture, took the act of reprehension upon himself, and said,

“Dad, Harry Potter runs this place,” with a rather pointed look in his father’s direction. To Hugo’s confusion, his father merely appeared amused and stared dreamily at the greenhouse ceiling, which was beaded with condensation and misted over, blocking the view of a black night sky.

Hugo noticed that though there was a great number of people stuffed into a greenhouse, it did not much feel like class time. There was not enough screaming or smoke in the air for it to have been class, and yet, there was enough movement in the room, though on a small scale, to suggest some overarching theme or motivation; Marjie pushed her glasses up repeatedly, though they kept slipping off her nose; Rose shifted her weight from foot to foot anxiously; Scorpius scratched his neck, then his cheek, his arm, or nose; Professor Neville swung forward and back on his feet; Aunt Muriel made strange and obtuse gestures with her ring-laden fingers; Uncle Percy cleared his throat repeatedly, which made his adamant apple rather bouncy; Amos Diggory ran a hand through his wild, grey hair repeatedly; Flitwick hummed as he swayed back and forth; and Ghost Cedric, looking particularly concentrated, focused on causing the hem of his ghost robes to ruffle in a continuous wave around his feet.

“Well, if we’re going to be particularly literal, it’s more of a nominal control,” Harry Potter said, stepping fully into the Greenhouse and closing the door behind him. “Well, quite cozy, isn’t it. Let’s spread out, give the old man a bit of breathing room.”

“I am not old,” Percy began, but Ron held out an arm with a knowing look.

“He’s talking about me,” he said as if to answer Percy’s query.

“Maths!” Muriel screeched. Ron dragged her chair over to a spot by Percy’s seat at a potting bench.

Now it looks a lot like class, Hugo thought. N.E.W.T.s are always sort of a motley crew. Just like home. He smiled serenely at the thought.

“I’m interested as to these services,” Hugo said, surprising everyone with a relatively normal statement. This dip into normal waters was short lived, however, as he began to bring up the pre-ingestion digestion again.

Marjorie Barrows, always prompt and reassuring and most of the time, Neville reflected, to the point, stepped forward then, and bowed slightly as she and Rose came to stand facing the Minister. Ghost Cedric looked particularly unimpressed, more interested in his ruffling hem. Marjie and Rose, however, were not a duo easily dissuaded. With the air of preparing for a bookstore presentation, Marjie cleared her throat and began, as was her custom more and more lately, an informative speech.

“Dear Minster,” she began, and Rose smiled openly. Scorpius shifted uncomfortably. Perhaps, Neville thought, he noticed how much Rose Weasley’s smile could, at times, resemble closely a leer.

“You’ll have heard by now, of course, through Percy Weasley’s channels--”

and Percy sat up straighter upon hearing his name mentioned--

“That controversy has erupted in France over our decision--our, I mean, in the sense of the nation, not our as in a small underground group working in the midnight hours to restore tradition to its rightful place--to reinstate the TriWizard Tournament. You’ll also know that Muriel Weasley has written to the French equivalent of The Daily Prophet--”

Le Héraut,” Rose intejected.

“Yes, Le Héraut. Muriel has written to them and asked to contact Madame Maxime directly. Muriel--er, Muriel believes--”

“Don’t question me!” Muriel croaked from her perch. She peered evilly at Marjie, who backed down respectfully, and resumed, unhindered, speaking.

“Muriel possesses the--er--necessary information to take care of our French controversy. However, it’s come to our attention that--”

“One moment, please,” Ghost Cedric said. “What do you mean by necessary information?”

“Cedric, we can’t afford to hear the answer to that question,” Amos Diggory said, eyeing Aunt Muriel warily. The woman stared back, almost approvingly. “Continue, please, Miss Barrows.”

Hugo wasn’t sure, but he thought by now Marjie looked rather annoyed at having been interrupted so many times. He wasn’t sure but perhaps something could be done about it--perhaps he could! It seemed, alas, that Uncle Harry had come to that conclusion at around the same time and had spoken sooner than Hugo could.

“Marjie, I’m sorry, but this will be the last interruption,” he said, and Marjie seemed to realize what he was doing, so stood back and pushed her glasses up, an expression floating across her face that seemed reminiscent of relief. “If we want the short version of this story, we’re going to need Marjie to be able to explain it, in full, without any interruptions. Once you’ve all heard what’s happening, then you’ll ask questions, but I think Marjie will be able to anticipate many of the one’s you’ll have. Really, have a bit of faith, breathe some, and wait patiently while Ron brews you all some tea.” He folded his arms and went about looking stern. Hugo felt mildly nervous and a lot like shouting but I never interrupted her! only, he couldn’t quite remember if that were true and, he didn’t like to cross Uncle Harry.

“Hey,” Ron said, “if I go brew tea how am I supposed to know what’s going on?”

“If you’d paid attention on the way over while I explained everything to you, you’d already know,” Rose said, rolling her eyes. “Anyway, I love the sound of my own voice, so I’ll tell you again when we break off into our respective sects.”

“Sects! This is getting to sound quite--”

“Ron, it’s a bit chilly in here, mind getting us that tea we talked about?” Harry said with a faint smile, patting his best friend on the shoulder mildly. Ron took a moment to look disgruntled then went, streaming a low-toned peal of unusual metaphors under his breath.

“There’s water on in my office,” Neville said, and then seemed to realize that he’d left a fire on in his wooden building. “Oh, Merlin, this is bad, very bad, this isn’t good at all...”

Things settled down after Ron had left and shut the greenhouse door, so Marjie, before anyone else had a chance to think of something to say, or add, stepped up onto a table, pushed her glasses up on her face, tucked her dark hair behind her ears and proceeded as though giving a speech to a Muggle Studies class--

“You’ll have noticed we called in Aurors. Specifically, Mr Weasley and Mr Potter. This may look troubling, especially because Madame Maxime does not appear to be the kind of person to resort to Dark Magic under stress. I’d like to assure you,” Marjie said as a trilling gasp spread throughout the room, “that this is not the case! And, well, it’s not even that Dark Magic is even directly involved, to tell you the truth. But, when I was helping Rose research for an article she’s writing for the DP. Ordinarily I wouldn’t give details of Rose’s research before she’s published her writing to anyone, but I believe under these circumstances, we both think it’s important that people hear about what we found.

“Now, as you know, I work at Dervish and Banges, whose basement is full of a lot of old, and sometimes one-of-a-kind manuscripts, essays, books, pulp fiction novels.”

At this point, Hugo was sorely tempted to shout out “Orange!” but, remembering the look on Uncle Harry’s face, he thought it best not to intervene with relevant facts. He repositioned himself on his potting bench--everyone had taken a seat without quite realizing, and it was as if Marjie was on a stage or platform. Preach, sistah.

“This will seem to be a tangent, what I’m about to say. I realize that, but please bear in mind that I have been planning this speech in my head since I realized I would have to make it. Have faith in my...” Marjie faltered briefly, scratched behind an ear and pushed her glasses up. “Preparedness. Anyway. It may be news to some of you, but with the reinstatement of the tournament, Cedric has volunteered to be a mentor for the Hogwarts Champion. This would seem an unfair advantage if the Champions of the other two schools were denied similar aid. The Auror department, in league with the Department of Mysteries, has agreed to take up the search for--well, there’s no polite way to say it--other ghosts who’ve died in the Tournament.”

At this news, there was a faint murmur that rippled through Marjie’s small crowd and eventually grew to what sounded like wracking sobs. Neville turned to look in the direction of the noise and was not wholly surprised to find it was Hugo, attempting not to cry.

Marjie had also noticed Hugo’s reaction and was looking unsure. On the one hand, Neville thought, it would probably pass. Ron hadn’t come back yet with the tea, and that would cheer Hugo up when it showed up. But, on the other, it was such a strange reaction that her curiosity was probably overwhelming. Just as Neville was coming to the conclusion that, in her position, he would pause to ask Hugo what the trouble was, and was about to scoot closer to the end of the bench to where Hugo was seated on his, to the left, Marjie turned towards him and said,

“Hugo, what’s wrong?”

It was a simple question but it quieted the boy, who, seemingly, had not realized that his anguish had been broadcasted to present company. Neville sneaked a look around the greenhouse--with the exception of at Quidditch matches, Hugo hardly ever spent his time amongst so many cohabitors. Neville was specifically interested in Amos Diggory’s reaction, but the Minister looked so tired and so ready to fend off potentially shocking news (that, Neville thought, kept getting delayed) that his eyes were glazed over. If anyone looked interested in Hugo’s outburst it was Harry, who was looking concerned and also, if Neville guessed right, mildly amused.

“Well,” Hugo said in a wavering voice, then cleared his throat, adjusting to his audience. “I was just thinking, that sounds a bit like an adventure and, well--I probably wouldn’t get to go.”

“Oh--well--” And Neville felt his stomach sinking like a rock at the look that Marjie exchanged with Percy, one that said, and Neville wasn’t sure Hugo recognized it, should we tell him?

“Well, I’ll just continue on with my story,” Marjie said and shifted a bit from foot to foot. Scorpius noticed that Rose was looking very impatient and on the verge of speaking up. If he knew from experience and, well, he did, she was about to shout, and that wasn’t something anyone wanted. With his wand he tore a bit of fabric from the sleeve of his robe--it was just for the Greenhouses anyway, and a very unflattering shade of puce--balled it up and sent it flying at Rose’s head. She looked his way with murderous intent before realizing why he’d done it. She sent him a fleeting smile before turning back to Marjie, who had rambled on a bit more at this point.

“The Aurors with the Department of Mysteries have both decided to go hunting for--departed--souls--to bring back from...well, where ever they are, really. There are a lot of guesses as to that, so for now, I’ll leave the theory out of it and just say that the D.O.M. has been working on traveling between realms for a while now, and think they have what is needed to get--well, you know, alive people back and forth from here to there.

“Now, before you can ask, these groups of people will be largely unknown to the public. This kind of knowledge is such that needs to be kept very secret or it could obviously have horrific implications. Governments sending the undesirables out of life and into the afterlife in quiet, non-violent ways, new sins, new murders, new motives...I won’t get too into it.” Scorpius was glad when Marjie paused--he saw how excited she had become about the possibilities. He understood, in a way. While she talked about horrible things, newness, novelty, was always slightly fascinating. The possibilities for good uses were multiple, too, but it seemed that in this particular case, danger overrode the possibilities. This--this was a familiar narrative.

At the same time that Marjie alit with fascination she appeared to withdraw, to some distant safe part of herself. Scorpius was not sure but he felt very ill about what was about to be said, what should be required of this motley group of ex-war heroes and Aurors, unicorn lovers, political powers and Hogwarts crew.... Whatever it was that could quell Marjorie Barrows was something to be wary of, indeed.

“However--and here is where--well, I’m not quite sure how to say this, I mean, there’s no easy way, but here is what I came upon researching Rose’s paper--The ADJHFI ERUISFHAL.” She paused a moment. Scorpius almost laughed when he realized she’d been completely serious--literal--by way of not knowing how to say it.

Hugo, only having been mildly interested up to this point in Marjie’s narrative, perked up considerably. The Ajeefee Erooys-fall? That was quite interesting, that was!

“Er, you’re all wondering what that could be. And probably how it’s spelled, but I won’t get into that, I guess. Anyway, believe it or not, this is a linguistic separatist group. In our brand of English, their name means ‘Save English.’ At this point, I’m going to open up the forum to questions, because this will get--a bit--er. Well.” Marjie shrugged, and looked at Rose, almost in want of assistance, but Rose simply shrugged back. Rude! Hugo thought in his sister’s direction. So unhelpful.

But Marjie cleared her throat and continued, seeing no questions amongst the crowd. Hugo tried to think of one.

“I’ve never heard of them,” he said, being very helpful. Marjie looked slightly bolstered of spirits, Hugo noticed, satisfied.

“Well, that’s hardly surprising, is it?” Marjie said. “It’s probably a bit hard to get people to join your cause if they can’t understand the language you use to platform it. Anyway,” she continued, briefly surveying her audience, “they believed in this secret society from--well, a long time ago. Called the Translator’s Guild.”

Like the Unicorn Appreciation Guild! Hugo thought happily.

“The Translator’s Guild supposedly contains every modern-speaking--that is, English-as-we-know-it-speaking--translator of Old and Middle English. The Eruisfhal-ians think that the members of the Guild conspired to evolve the language into something it was never intended to be. Needless to say--well, the translators aren’t the ones really responsible for the evolution of the English language into its modern form, so, you can see, in addition to being promoted in a made-up language, the Eruisfhal also has the course of history working actively against it.”

Marjie paused. The greenhouse was completely silent save for the hooting of an owl and creak of tree branches outside.

“I have a question,” the Minister for Magic said wearily. His voice sounded gravelly and booming in the small, warm space. Marjie dipped her head respectfully, but Neville rather thought that the Minister’s tone bordered on the petulant. “What, exactly, does this Eros-Fail have to do with anything?”

“Well--” Scorpius thought for an alarming moment that Marjie bordered on telling the Minister for Magic off for impatience, impertinence, other big words she kept at her beck and call. “Well, you see, in this article I found, an Eruisfhal-ian representative who disclosed one of the aims of the ADJHFI ERUISFHAL--which is, well, to figure out a way to the Afterlife in human form.”

There was a brief silence. Hugo was terribly confused. “Why would they want to do that?”

“To see--it’s rather, er, stupid though--to see if they could get the opinion of Shakespeare on their interpretation of the English language.”

“Shakespeare’s in the afterlife?” Ghost Cedric spoke up.

“Where else would he be?” Rose asked, turning around from her seat on a potting bench to glare at Cedric over her shoulder. Hugo saw Scorpius move to intervene, and deduced this was because both Cedric’s ghost and Rose had fiery tempers that could flare without warning. Although glares were kind of like warnings, weren’t they?

“Well, it’s not like I saw him there--”

“And I doubt you traveled to every corner of it! Ever think of that, ghost-boy? How do you even remember, anyway, you hardly remember anything about Ghostland!”

“That’s part of it’s charm! It’s so miserable it makes you forget it when you’re back in the physical realm!” Cedric was standing now, staring at Rose intently. The Minister for Magic had his face buried in his hands. Flitwick seemed to be taking bets.

“Who wants tea?” a voice from outside shouted and Hugo felt a bit relieved to hear him. It had been a rather long time he spent trying to prepare it although, Hugo reasoned, there were several more people here than he was used to preparing tea for. A moment later, however, and a resounding clash could be heard from outside. Everyone was standing now, leaning towards the source of the crash, besides Uncle Harry, whose stony face was turned down towards a parchment in his lap, onto which he was scribbling quickly with a featherless quill. It must have been self-inking, as Hugo didn’t see any inkwells around. It would be almost weird to have inkwells in a greenhouse, haha!

Reparo,” Ron’s voice said. “Oh, bugger, that pattern doesn’t match the stem--what--can somebody--?” Rose, rolling her eyes, walked to the door and out of the greenhouse to help her dad clean up his mess. Hugo noticed that Professor Neville was looking slightly nervous, perhaps also slightly annoyed. He opened his mouth to say something, but Rose had already snapped the door closed. He folded his arms tersely, looking displeased.

“So,” Marjie said, and everyone turned back towards her. Ghost Cedric sat down, stroking the curl of a very pink plant coming out of a pot on the wall near him, reaching through his father’s head. The Minister did not seem to enjoy this, and moved his head around in circles to try to get it out of Cedric’s arm, which gave the effect of a large, human-shaped snake dancing to bad music. Hugo, feeling compelled, charmed perhaps, mirrored the Minister’s movements until his neck was sore, but nobody seemed to pay him any attention.

“So,” Harry Potter repeated, standing up. His command settled over the crowd immediately. Flitwick, subdued, handed people back their little bronze Knuts, Hugo and the Minister fell still, Ghost Cedric stopped petting the plant, Scorpius and Neville settled back at their seats, unconsciously mirroring each others’ movements, and Percy who, apparently, had been taking a nap on the ground at the feet of Auntie Muriel, sat up, scratched his head, and looked to Harry expectantly.

“So, now you have all the information, this will make better sense. I’m sorry, Marjie, but I’m going to take over from here.” His eyes darted briefly to the greenhouse wall as a stream of profanities drifted towards them in the cool night air, but Marjie looked almost pleased that someone with established authority had taken over and seemed to have a plan. Because that, Hugo was sure, was what that parchment was. A game plan! Hugo liked those, he was good at them for Quidditch. This could be like a big exciting match.

“Hugo, we came to you because--and the secret’s out, old boy,” Harry interrupted himself to look almost pityingly at Hugo, who felt his stomach drop--oh, no, they know Herbert’s not a boy!-- “we know you can keep a secret.”

Oh. That.

It was quiet. Hugo tugged at his collar, pulled down the sleeve of his jumper over his palm. “YES,” he said loudly, because nobody would say anything. “STOP LOOKING AT ME.”

“Secret?” Flitwick asked, looking curiously at Harry. “I love secrets!”

Harry stared at Flitwick for a moment, seeming to think of something else, then snapped his head in the direction of Hugo’s hair. The rest of him had retreated into his grey jumper, apparently, to the safety of hidden places. Ron and Rose reentered the greenhouse then, looking disheveled and Ron smelling distinctly of darjeeling. They took their seats on a potting bench near the door.

“Hugo, don’t you want to know what we need you to do?”

Slowly, the boy poked his face out of the neck of his woolen uniform, which had left him red-faced and very disheveled. The hair of his eyebrows was pointed in several different directions.

“Oh,” he said, sounding petulant, like a child being appeased with a licorice wand or hunk of Honeyduke’s chocolate after a particularly frightening radio broadcast of The Creaking Castle: Hogwart’s Unexplored and Mysterious Tapestries and Corridors Alive in the Night.

“Well, yes.”

Harry nodded, looking pleased. Neville felt himself occupy the skin of a much younger self, who had looked to Harry in similarly ambiguous periods of time, though darker, more dangerous, who had risen to challenges at ages too young for the realities against which they took arms. This was not quite the crew that had signed up to join the D.A., but, he felt, they would soon eventually form the same kind of bond as well. Which was a bit of a shame; Neville had really never taken to Percy Weasley.

“You’ll remember that the return of the Triwizard Tournament was accompanied by several requisites”--and here a furtive glance at the Minister who appeared to be having trouble staying out of the way of the coldness of his son’s ghost body, and was shifting strangely on his seat all the while-- “and one of these is to allocate Cedric to the Hogwarts Champion, to act as mentor to him or her and help him or her plan for the tasks. A sub-requirement of this requirement is that we also find mentors for the Champions of Durmstrang and Beauxbatons. I’ve discussed this at great length with several other Ministry players--members--and Pickwick Hornby, Head of the Department of Magical Games and Sports, and I have agreed that the only way to keep this fair is to find other--deceased, since passed on, etcetera--Tournament members. It would be an unfair advantage if one of them or any of them had won and survived.”

“I’m confused,” Hugo offered. Harry nodded.

“Understandably,” he said and Marjie laughed under her breath, though Hugo couldn’t be sure why. “You’re all here because collectively we make up the team tasked to bring the Tournament back to Hogwarts smoothly.”

The group murmured, shifted, seemed to spring to life. Harry held his hands up, looking almost amused, and the group fell silent and still immediately.

“Now, ordinarily this scope of organization isn’t necessary. I hardly need to say this is an unprecedented requirement and the strangest task force the Ministry has ever been faced with keeping together. But you each have a specific skill set that will be integral in this process.

“I’ve divided us up into sub-groups. Percy, you’ll keep good relations with the Minister of Greenland, for, you know, later. Introduce him to Hornby. Get things moving in the right direction for peace.”

Percy nodded eagerly.

“Muriel, you’ll work with Maxime Olympe and Heinrich Von Brautwurst. Get them to agree with us.”

Muriel rubbed her hands together and cackled loudly. Harry looked taken aback for a moment, but bent his head to his parchment, and continued.

“Flitwick--you’ll be making preparations for the dorm expansion, deciding which houses the international students will stay with, organizing the Yule Ball, and working closely with Pickwick Hornby to get the Tasks sorted out.”

“Ahoy!” Flitwick piped, thrusting his fist into the air. His wand shot out some sparks from excitement.

“Amos--well, you’ll just work on being the Minister, won’t you? Which is a big enough job.” Harry laughed lightly. Hugo laughed, too. Marjie turned to look at him, half-exasperated, half-amused. “Ron and I will work with organizing the Aurors. We’re going to be organizing the department to act as security for Hogwarts Castle and Hogsmeade during the Tournament. We’ll also be working on hunting down the ADJHFI ERUISFHAL, see what information we can get off of them about getting to the afterlife in human form. Whatever we’re able to gather intelligence-wise we’ll get to the rest of you, who make up our last and largest group.

“Last, yes, and largest, but by far the most important. Marjie, Rose, Scorpius, Neville, Cedric, and Hugo. You’ll be working closely with the D.O.M. for a training session. You’ll study their intelligence on the afterlife, take notes that you can bring with you, gather supplies, and ultimately travel to the third realm--which is what the afterlife is called in the D.O.M., head’s up--to search for the souls of people who have died in the Tournament from each Beauxbatons and Durmstrang. You’ll also have to convince them that coming back through Ghostland into the first realm is a good idea for everyone. That won’t be easy, from what I understand of souls in the afterlife.

“Marjie, you’re going to serve as the collective information-smarts of this group. You’ll need to read up on the afterlife beforehand, research, remember everything and make sure everyone is safe. Think of yourself as the tourguide, only it’s your first time there, too. Rose, you’re going to serve as a scribe. You’ll keep a daily record of your activities, as detailed as you can.”

Both Rose and Marjie nodded, their eyes shining.

“Cedric, you’re going to serve as our human-departed-soul liaison. You’ve been to the first realm after you’ve died. You’ll be in charge of convincing the souls you find to come back with the team.”

Cedric nodded dutifully. “Yes, sir.”

“Scorpius, Neville, Hugo--our only field-rated agents,” Harry said at last, smiling cheekily. Hugo felt a swell of excitement rise up through his chest and noted that Scorpius and Neville were looking at each other a bit sheepishly. “You’ll be using your knowledge of the dangers of the field to keep everyone safe. Scorpius and Neville, your knowledge of magical plants and Hugo, your knowledge of magical creatures should go a long way in being able to translate the terrain of the third realm. We’re also aware you work well as a team. Keep the morale up, boys.

“And, lastly. Hugo, we’ve come to you specifically because you’ll be the Secret-Keeper of the portal to the third realm.”

There was a silence. Everyone’s eyes were on Hugo, who was staring, open-mouthed, at his Uncle, who himself was shining with an odd brand of pride. “I realize this is a huge responsibility, but we know you can do this. We believe in you, kid.”

When Neville thought that Hugo was on the verge of retreating into his jumper again, he patted the boy’s shoulder reassuringly. Hugo’s mouth snapped shut, and he gulped loudly.

“Yes, Uncle Harry.”

Harry clapped his hands and rubbed them together, looking pleased that things had been laid out in an organized manner at last. “All right, team. Greenhouse Seven will be our rendezvous point. Everyone, go get a night of sleep and meet back here at o-seven-hundred tomorrow morning. Meeting adjourned.”

Feeling rather wobbly, Hugo got up from the bench and followed the others out of the greenhouse, into the bright, cold late-night air, and stared up at the winking stars.

END OF BOOK I





a/n: HELLOOO. i'm alive, surviving school all right, and at long last, finished with this chapter! i still need to edit it but i wanted to get it up right away since it's been so long since I last updated. I'd like to thank justonemorefic, tenthweasley and tiger lillies for their encouragement with this fic, i'd be nowhere without y'all.

as ever, Le Hereaut/thingy = the herald!

let me know what you think! :) -lily


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