James usually took advantage of his free afternoon on Tuesday to spend time with Marion or sneak into the village to see his cousin Fred at the Hogsmeade branch of Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes.
Today, however, he had an appointment with his head of house to discuss his post-Hogwarts plans, so once he finished lunch, he headed out to the greenhouses.
The door to the room that served as Professor Longbottom’s office was open when he reached it, and Neville was standing in front of the table that ran along one of the walls and examining what James recognised as aconite. When he cleared his throat, Neville looked up.
“Hello, James. Come in.” He backed away from the table, which was strewn with a variety of potted plants, and settled himself behind his desk. “You’re still decided on Beast Division?” he asked without preamble. Neville was well-acquainted with James’s career plans; if he hadn’t gathered it before, having to suffer sitting next to James and Victoire during the previous year’s Christmas dinner had certainly done the trick.
“Yes, sir.” James closed the door behind him before sitting down. “I heard from a little bird that Beast Division is where all the fun is at. That cinched it.”
Neville picked up the small pile of papers lying on his desk. “I haven’t seen anything in your recent marks that should be a problem with that,” he said as he flipped through them quickly to refresh his memory. “Defence Against the Dark Arts is obviously the most important subject for the field, and Professor Goldstein has nothing but good things to say about you.”
James smiled faintly, and Neville set the papers aside.
“You also have high marks in Care of Magical Creatures, Charms, and Transfiguration, and while I don’t believe that you actually require Herbology or Potions for that field, your work in my class continues to be exceptional, and Professor Dorny has no complaints.” He leaned back. “And all of that with Quidditch and frequent, illegal visits to Hogsmeade. Very impressive.”
James felt his face get hot. “Madam Abbott told you, huh?”
“That you regularly stop into the Three Broomsticks when you should be in the castle? Yes, Hannah has mentioned it.” James shifted uncomfortably. He’d known that going into the Three Broomsticks was pushing it, given that Neville’s wife worked there, but Roxanne and Rose had overridden his common sense on a fairly regular basis. “Let me guess,” Neville continued. “You’ve been using your father’s old invisibility cloak.”
James hesitated, but Neville’s reaction did not seem to indicate that he was about to place James in detention. “Yes. If you knew, why didn’t you…”
“Give you detention?” Neville laughed. “I typically don’t put students in detention for breaking rules that I couldn’t manage to follow when I was a student.”
“You snuck into Hogsmeade?”
Neville just smiled. “It also seems a little unsporting to put you in detention based in part on information I only have because I’ve been friends with your parents since we were in school. But since you’ll be leaving in less than two months, I thought I’d call you on it now.” He leaned back. “Did you use the cloak to sneak into the Forest to find the acromantulas, or did you manage that without it?”
“How do you know about that?” James asked, astonished.
“When I asked the class last year about how best to obtain acromantula venom, you answered the question in a way that was a bit too specific to be something you simply learned out of a book.”
James sighed. He knew he’d been careless, but when Neville hadn’t mentioned anything, he’d thought that he might have gotten away with it. “Without it,” he admitted. “We used – er – I mean, I snuck –“
“You used your map?” Neville supplied. Not for the first time, James felt a rush of relief that the professor who was best acquainted with all the ways his father had broken the rules while they were at school had never been especially inclined to use his information to stop the next generation of troublemakers – though in this particular case, James suspected Neville would have stuck them in detention for a year if he’d known about the incident at the time rather than years after the fact.
“Yes, sir,” he admitted, expecting Neville to press who exactly “we” entailed. Thankfully, he didn’t seem interested in that particular line of questioning, presumably because he knew full well who the offending party was likely to be.
“Well, at least you know what you’re getting into,” Neville said after a moment.
“Yeah, I do,” James said. He knew he sounded a little defensive, but that was only because he felt a little defensive. A not-insignificant number of students in every year tended to treat their classmates entering a department in Beast Division or joining the Aurors or Hit Wizards as rather naïve and misguided children who wouldn’t be able to handle what it was really like.
This continued to occur despite the fact that almost no one James could remember had ever backed out.
Most of their yearmates knew better than to patronize James, in part because he was popular but mostly because being Harry Potter’s son seemed to give him a little extra credibility. However, Bridget Hopkins had received a fair bit of it for being bound for the Aurors, even from their fellow Gryffindors.
It was rather irritating, and not everyone could laugh it off like his cousin Louis.
James wasn’t well-acquainted with everyone who went in for Beast Division, the Aurors, or Hit Wizards, but he certainly wasn’t going in blind, and he suspected that many of them weren’t, either.
Even if most of them probably had not picked fights with acromantulas in their fourth years.
He looked up at Neville and grinned. “How many times d’you think Mum and Dad would kill me if they knew all that?”
Neville shrugged. “I don’t know that they would be. They gave you the cloak, and there aren’t many wholesome ways to use an invisibility cloak.”
“No, not really,” James admitted for a minute. He and Roxanne had actually tried to think of some before, but they’d always come up empty.
Neville got up and began examining the aconite again. James had had enough meetings with Neville at this point to know that him going back to examining a plant was not a sign that he was being dismissed. It just meant that the conversation was probably about to get more informal.
“Have you decided where in Beast Division you want to end up?”
James leaned back in his seat and put his arms behind his head. “Dangerous Creatures.”
Neville glanced over at him. “I’m sure they’ll be able to use you,” he said mildly, but James could see a faint crease between his eyebrows. “They’ve been busy lately.”
James nodded. “I heard there might be quintapeds on the mainland,” he said offhandedly, and Neville looked at him again. This time, he made eye contact and held it for a few seconds before looking back at his plant.
“That hasn’t been reported in the Daily Prophet,” was all Neville said, and from his mild tone, one would think that they were discussing something as simple as the weekend’s Quidditch results, not the next great threat to the wizarding world. “Which of your cousins went into Dangerous Creatures? Victoire?”
James felt a slight smirk making its way across his face as he nodded. Victoire had been letting more and more information about the department slip recently – nothing classified, of course, but there were plenty of things that weren’t classified that also weren’t common knowledge. “She’s part of the team heading up to investigate it,” he said. “Why couldn’t the damn quintapeds have waited a few months?”
“They wouldn’t send a trainee to deal with them, anyway,” Neville pointed out, and James made a face. He didn’t like to think about the fact that it might take months once he joined the D.C.B. before he did anything really fun, even though it almost certainly would be. “You take after your parents,” Neville said after a moment. “They were always spoiling for a fight, too.” He gave a slight shrug. “For that matter, so was I at your age.”
“Why did you stop being an Auror, sir?” Neville certainly told stories about the Second Wizarding War and his time as an Auror, but James had never heard him say why he’d left to become a professor, and he’d always wondered about it.
Neville looked up from the plant. “I’d had my fill of it,” he said simply. “Some people, like your father, might never have their fill of it. But I was ready to be move on.”
James grinned. “I’ll never have my fill of it, either,” he said.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if that was true.” Neville looked back at the plant. “And that might be a good thing. The D.C.B. needs the recruits. Go on. I’m sure you have better things to be doing with your afternoon.”
As he left the room Neville called after him, “Professor Goldstein would know more about the quintapeds than I do. Why don’t you go talk to him? I think he’s free right now.”
James turned. “Thank you, sir.”
Neville smiled and looked back at the plants on the table as James left the office and made his way back toward the castle.
He had been planning on either going into Hogsmeade or finding Marion after the meeting. Tuesday was the only day in which he had the entire afternoon free, and he’d been making the best of it since returning to Hogwarts in September. He'd been sneaking into the village to see his cousin Fred at the joke shop at least a couple times a month for the past few years, and it had begun to hit him that next year, he would be lucky if he saw Fred once every few months. Fred was one of his favourite cousins, and he would miss the frequent visits.
If he was being honest with himself, he didn’t really have time to sneak into the village that afternoon, anyway. Scheduling a practice for both Sunday and Monday had left him far too exhausted to do any work when the team had returned to the common room the evening before. He had a Charms assignment he needed to do, and a Herbology essay he probably should do.
Of course, that didn’t preclude spending a little time with Marion. She was making the effort, and he probably should, too. Roxanne had been exceedingly obnoxious when she’d laid into him after Potions the day before, but she’d also been right; he did need to stop avoiding the issue and pretending that he didn’t care, especially since he was doing such a poor job of convincing himself or anyone but Marion that it was true.
And he would find her. Once he’d talked to Goldstein. After all, this was his career they were talking about.
When he entered the castle, however, he found Marion and his brother Albus sitting on one of the benches on the far side of the Entrance Hall, deep in conversation with Bridget. At the sound of his footsteps, they looked up.
“Hey,” he called out as he approached them. As he neared them, he saw the look on Bridget’s face. “Bridge, what’s wrong?”
She shook her head wordlessly, and Marion looked away from her and said, “Bethany and Caroline were bothering her over lunch about how she was sure to lose her nerve and fail at Auror training.”
Bridget took a deep, shuddering breath that told him that she had been crying. “Usually it wouldn’t bother me,” she said. “It’s Bethany and Caroline. They’re airheads. But part of me is afraid that they’re right. I don’t have any real experience. What if I just choke?”
“Oh, is that all?” James sat down with them. Marion sent him a warning look, but he ignored it. She was clearly expecting him to say something insensitive and dismissive, and he had no intention of doing anything of the sort. “Look, I know a lot more about being an Auror than Bethany or Caroline, and I think you’ll be excellent. Don’t worry about them. They don’t know anything.”
She sighed, slumped back against the wall, and closed her eyes. “I know. It’s just that I was already worrying about it and just generally having a bad day, and them having a go at me just made it worse.”
“Aren’t they going into something completely worthless? Magical Transportation or something?” he scoffed. “They’re disgraces to the house. You’re not. You can’t get much better than being an Auror.” He grinned and nudged her. “Unless it’s Dangerous Creatures. You know—”
“Yes, James, we all know about the quintapeds on the mainland,” Albus snapped, and James looked at him in surprise. His brother had been perfectly cheerful and friendly at lunch. What was James supposed to have done since then to bother him?
Bridget looked at him. “I didn’t,” she said with interest. “There are quintapeds on the mainland?” James gave a noncommittal shrug, and she cocked her head to one side. “Is it just me, or have dark creatures become more of a problem lately?”
James chose not to get into a discussion about semantics and whether or not they were really dark creatures or just dangerous creatures, especially since Albus was glaring daggers at him. “It’s not just you,” he said, and stood up. “I was on my way to Goldstein’s. I’ll see you all later. Feel better, Bridget. Ignore them. You’ll do fine.”
Marion rose too. “I’ll walk with you,” she said.
He waved goodbye as they walked away. As soon as they’d turned the corner, he asked, “What’s his problem?”
She sighed and shook her head in exasperation. “James, just once, can you stop talking when I tell you to? I know you understood why I was shaking my head.”
He looked at her in surprise. “You thought I was going to be insensitive. I wasn’t going to be, so I didn’t think I had to.”
“Oh, James.” She rubbed her forehead in consternation. “You’re really stupid sometimes. That wasn’t why I wanted you to shut up.”
“Then what was?” he demanded, coming to a stop.
Marion hesitated for a heartbeat before saying, “Albus had it covered—and he is the one becoming an Auror next year.”
James had no idea what that had to do with it. “But Albus barely knows her. I’m her friend. Isn’t it more convincing coming from me?”
She just shrugged and changed the subject. “You need to meet with Goldstein?”
“Well, I don’t need to,” he said. “I just want to. Longbottom suggested it.”
“Okay.” She leaned up to kiss him on the cheek. “Come find me when you’re done? We can go for a walk or something, the weather’s beautiful.”
“Yeah, sure,” he agreed. “You’ll be in the common room?”
“Probably.” As she turned to leave, he caught her hand. She looked back questioningly, and he leaned to brush his lips against hers. When he pulled away, she smiled. “I’ll see you then.”
He nodded, and continued on to Goldstein’s office. The door was open, and Goldstein looked up as James poked his head in.
“James. Come in.” He put the paper he’d clearly just finished marking aside. “Didn’t I just see you in class?”
“Yes, sir,” James said as he sat down in one of the chairs across from Goldstein’s desk. “But I had to meet with Professor Longbottom, and we got to talking about the quintapeds. He suggested I come talk to you.”
“Well, going into the D.C.B., I can see why you would be interested in that,” Goldstein said. “Did you hear about it from your cousin? I know it hasn’t been mentioned in the press.”
“Yes, sir.” James hesitated for a moment, and then added, “Two summers ago, I overheard her talking to my father about the D.C.B. being really busy and overworked, and how dangerous creatures were becoming a bigger problem than dark wizards. Since then, I’ve been paying attention, and it seems like attacks are getting more common.”
“That’s because they are.” Goldstein put his elbows on his desk and leaned forward. “You know that I’ve been insisting that fifth-years learn to cast a proper Patronus for the last few years, even though it’s N.E.W.T. level. There’s a reason for that.”
“I kind of figured.”
“I don’t know whether there really are quintapeds on the coast,” Goldstein said. “However, I do know that in general, there has been a disturbing increase in the populations of dangerous creatures and attacks.”
“Why are they becoming so much of a problem now?”
“The short answer is that we’re not quite sure.”
“Well, what’s the long answer?” James pressed.
Goldstein considered him for a moment, and then got up to close the door. When he sat back down, he seemed to be choosing his words very carefully. After a moment, he said slowly, “The long answer is that we have had a lot of bad luck as far the monsters are concerned, and unfortunately, they have taken full advantage of it.”
“How so?” James’s heart was suddenly starting to beat harder, and in that moment, the idea of being stuck at Hogwarts for another two months felt like pure torture.
“Why don’t you tell me what you think?” suggested Goldstein.
James thought for a minute. “Everyone was too focused on dark wizards after the Second Wizarding War to pay attention to monsters?” he posited, and Goldstein nodded.
“But how could people just forget about them that easily?” James demanded. He just didn’t understand the concept of being so afraid and focused on anything that one could just manage to forget about dragons and werewolves and banshees.
Goldstein shook his head. “James, it’s very difficult to explain to anyone who wasn’t actually there what it was like. When Kingsley relaxed the requirements to become an Auror for anyone who had fought in the Battle of Hogwarts, a lot of us were happy to join up.
For us, dark wizards were the enemy. We’d been struggling against them for years. We’d been tortured by them. We’d all had friends murdered by them.” His gaze settled on a framed photograph that had been sitting on his desk since the first time James had ever been inside his office, and he sighed. “We jumped at the chance to help finish them. And they needed the help; war with dark wizards has a tendency to diminish an Auror population rather rapidly.”
James frowned. “But how could you just forget about—”
Goldstein cut him off. “Nobody forgot. It just wasn’t foremost in anyone’s mind. Kingsley Shacklebolt was clearly thinking about it, of course; the Dangerous Creatures Bureau wasn’t always called that. Do you remember what proceeded it?”
“The Committee for the Disposal of Dangerous Creatures,” James answered promptly. “But that wasn’t really the same thing at all, was it?”
“No. It wasn’t.” Goldstein gave a disgusted snort. “Not even remotely. The Minister recognized the need for a real task force to deal with magical creatures, not just a few glorified executioners who killed more inconvenient creatures than dangerous ones in the first place.”
“Well, why are they so busy? Why didn’t people join?”
“Some did,” Goldstein said calmly. “But the war was over, and once people started to leave the Aurors and Magical Law Enforcement, they were ready for boring desk jobs in the Department of Magical Transportation or writing up human interest pieces for the Daily Prophet, not continuing to risk their lives on a danger that was dwarfed by the more immediate danger of dark wizards.”
James swallowed hard. He knew that it wouldn’t be especially helpful for him to call everyone in his father’s generation short-sighted idiots, especially since Longbottom and Goldstein were his favorite professors, but it was a little tempting. “Which creatures are causing the biggest problems today?” he asked instead.
“Well, I don’t need to tell you that if quintapeds really have come over to the mainland, that could into a nightmare in a hurry.”
“Do you it’s likely that they have?”
Goldstein gave him what James liked to call his ‘Professor-Goldstein-sees-a-teaching-opportunity-and-must-take-advantage-of-it” look. Goldstein was the sort of professor who never let up; if you asked him a question, he was more likely than not to push you to come up with the answer yourself.
James appreciated that in a professor.
Sure enough, Goldstein asked, “What do you think?”
James looked up at the ceiling as he mulled over the question. “Well,” he said slowly, “I didn’t even think they could leave the island, but assuming they did manage it somehow, why wouldn’t they have done it before? If there are quintapeds on the mainland, something must have happened to make them want to leave.” He looked back down. “What could have happened?”
Goldstein shook his head. “That I couldn’t tell you. What other creatures do you think are wreaking havoc in the country right now?”
There was some distant memory surfacing. “Victoire and Dominique were visiting us over Christmas a few years ago, and I remember Mum asking her how all of her friends had done adjusting to not being in school. She mentioned that her friend Holly was finding Werewolf Support Services much busier than she’d expected.” James felt a sudden chill, despite the warmness of the day. “Are there more werewolves running around then there used to be?”
“You have a very good memory,” Goldstein observed.
James shrugged. “Only when I find it interesting,” he muttered.
When he cared, he did have a good memory. He might even have a better memory than Louis, who could never seem to manage to forget anything.
But that was only when he cared, and if people knew that he had that good a memory at all, he was fairly certain they’d start expecting a lot more of him than he wanted to give, and “I didn’t feel like it” typically wasn’t acceptable as an excuse.
“At any rate,” Goldstein was saying, “yes, werewolves are more common now than they were when I was your age.” He stopped to consider his next words. “Or, at least, we hear about them more.”
“I don’t understand.”
Goldstein sighed, and in that moment, James could see the weight of the war and everything that had come after it resting on one of his favourite professor’s shoulders. He couldn’t usually, but there were times that it was very, very apparent in the people he knew best who had lived through the war. Every time it did, he was grateful that whatever happened, at least he hadn’t been there for that.
James didn’t like dark wizards. He could deal with creatures – he liked the idea of dealing with creatures – but the idea of having to fight evil wizards day in and day out and not being able to trust almost anyone made his blood run cold.
Goldstein started to talk again. “When I was your age, most people assumed that werewolves were flat-out evil. There’s still a lot of prejudice these days, but it’s much better. It’s possible that more people are admitting to it, not that the numbers are actually increasing.”
“But you don’t think that,” James said flatly.
“No. I don’t.” He wore a slight frown on his face. “There were a lot of werewolf attacks during the war, and I know for a fact that a lot of them weren’t reported because I knew people who didn’t report them. Now more people are admitting it, but it’s been a slow process, and even those with the best intentions…” He paused. “… can make mistakes.” He looked back at James. “What else?”
“Dementor attacks are on the rise.”
“Yes, they are, and most people don’t even have the ability to perform a Patronus in a sunlit room, let alone when being attacked.” Goldstein sighed. “When control of Azkaban was taken away from the dementors, they started looking for their supply of human despair somewhere else.”
“Nothing is ever easy, is it?” James asked.
“No,” Goldstein said. “Unfortunately, it isn’t.” He glanced at the clock. “I have a class in a few minutes.”
“Oh, okay.” James got up and headed toward the door. “Thank you, professor.”
“Oh, and James?” James looked back. “I would recommend being very careful with who you repeat any of this information to. This isn’t exactly classified information, but it’s not being widely reported for a reason.”
James nodded. “Right.”
He didn’t have any intention of shouting about dementors from the rooftops, though he did feel that he should probably tell Rose about it, given that at this time next year, she’d be getting ready to join him and Victoire in the D.C.B.
At the moment, however, he was more interested in mulling through this new information. He probably could have figured most of it out for himself, but Goldstein had a way of really getting you to analyze the situation.
The werewolves didn’t actually apply to him. They were handled by people specifically trained to deal with werewolves, because disabling without maiming or killing a werewolf mattered, where doing so with a manticore or a dragon was hardly a priority.
James found it highly interesting, anyway.
And all of this business with quintapeds and dementors and who-knew-what-else was definitely indicative of a bigger problem.
All of this really added up to two things:
First, he had definitely made the right decision when he’d decided to go into Dangerous Creatures.
Second, he could not wait to graduate and join the fun.
A/N: I'm sorry - I meant to update this every week, but it's taken me a bit longer than I anticipated to edit this chapter. I hope you enjoyed it! :)
Why exactly Albus was so irritated with James is probably fairly obvious, even if James is ridiculously oblivious, but if you want to read a bit more about that backstory, you should check out my story 'Albus Potter and the Worst Excuses Ever,' which touches on it.
Thank you so much for reading and as always, I would love to hear your thoughts on it if you have a minute.
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