Chapter 18 : The Party at the Mansion
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The attic of the Burrow was similar to an archaeological site. It contained layers of Weasley family history and if you dug deep enough you could even find pictures of Uncle Bill when he was a baby. It used to house a ghoul, but the ghoul died years before Albus was born. Albus didn't go up in the attic much anymore, but when he was little it had made an excellent hiding spot.
“I never realized how alike Gabriella and Georgia were,” Albus said once they'd shut the attic door.
“I never realized how alike Uncle Percy and Uncle Bill were,” Rose replied. “I never thought Uncle Bill would react like that.”
“Me either,” Albus agreed. “Let's not talk about it. I just want to do something fun.”
“Let's play Monopoly,” Amanda said. “It's a Muggle game. I brought it from my house.”
Albus and Rose readily agreed and soon the three were playing Monopoly in the attic. It took Albus and Rose a little while to get the hang of the money, which was based on Muggle money, but once they did, it was very fun. Albus's favorite thing about it was how long it took. They spent hours on one game and by the time Amanda beat him and Rose, almost all of his family was asleep.
By breakfast the next morning nearly everything had blown over. Half of his aunts and uncles had left because they had to go to work and the other half were in the process of getting ready to leave. Some of his cousins were still there, but quite a few had left. When Albus went downstairs he noticed his uncle Bill and aunt Fleur having a talk with Gabriella over platters of sausages. Albus paused in the doorway, waiting for them to finish.
“We don't want you to think we aren't supportive of your art,” Bill said. “We are. Both of us. I just want to know you're going to be okay.”
“I am, Dad,” Gabriella said. “I'll be staying with Grandmere and Grandpere.”
“That's reassuring,” Bill said. “And I did overreact last night.”
Fleur snorted. “Yes, I'd say you did.”
“I certainly don't want you to think I'm anything like your uncle Percy,” Bill whispered. “I'd never try and stop you from pursuing your dream.”
“Well, painting in France is my dream for now,” Gabriella said adamantly.
“Then we'll support you,” Bill said. Fleur nodded in agreement. “I'm sorry for overreacting last night. I think we were all on edge from the reporter.”
“Thanks, Dad,” Gabriella said.
“When were you planning on leaving?” Fleur asked.
“After that Ministry party. Can't miss that or Uncle Percy would go insane.”
“The weekend after that, then,” Bill said. “We want to help you move.”
Gabriella nodded. “Thanks.”
Bill stood up and gave his daughter a hug. “I've got to get to work, but I'll see you at home later. I love you, Gabby.”
“Love you, too, Dad,” Gabriella said as she hugged him back.
Albus walked into the kitchen as his uncle left, grabbing a few sausages and a cinnamon bun on his way to the table. He was relieved that Uncle Bill and Gabriella came to an agreement, especially one that involved Gabriella still moving to France. He wanted his cousin to be happy and he still wanted to think of Bill as his cool uncle.
Albus returned to Grimmauld Place later that day and it only took him a few hours of boredom to start his holiday reading. Rose and Amanda had returned to Rose's house, so without them, he was forced to be productive. In fact, Albus was actually looking forward to the Ministry party for the sole reason that he'd get to see Rose and Matt.
The few days in between Boxing Day and New Year's Eve were fairly uneventful, especially compared with Christmas day. Georgia and Uncle Percy still hadn't made up and Georgia came over for a heart-to-heart with Albus's mum the day before the party. Albus often forgot that his mum used to play professional Quidditch and would be the perfect person for Georgia to seek advice from.
Albus attempted to listen in on their conversation via Extendable Ear, but his mum must've put an interperbabble charm on the kitchen door because he couldn't hear a thing. Dejected, he put away his Extendable Ear and returned to reading his Transfiguration book.
Shortly after Georgia left James walked in the back door with a grin on his face.
“What are you so happy about?” Albus asked.
“Mum forgot to put the charm on the window,” James said. “I heard everything.”
“Well, tell me what you heard!” Albus said as he closed his book.
“I don't know....”
“Come on, James,” Albus said. “If you do I won't tell Mum and Dad what you're planning on doing to the punch at the party tomorrow.”
“Fine,” James muttered as he sat down. “Basically, Georgia's still mad at Uncle Percy and doesn't want to go to the party tomorrow. Mum convinced her that she needs to take the high road and be supportive of Uncle Percy even though he isn't being supportive of her. And she said there's no secret to getting him to recognize Quidditch as a valid career. He just has to realize it on his own and all Georgia can do is be the best player she can and support herself and not ask him for money. But then she reminded Georgia that Gramps was very supportive of her Quidditch career.”
“Nothing too exciting, then,” Albus said.
“Nope, not really,” James agreed. “Going to make for an interesting party, though.”
“That's for sure,” Albus said.
“Is the Minister's Mansion glowing blue?” Albus asked as he followed his parents up the winding path to the mansion.
It was New Year's Eve and the Potters were slightly late for the party, as usual. This time James had not been the reason; they were late because Ginny had had to lengthen Albus's robes last minute.
“It looks that way,” Harry answered. “Wait until you see the inside. The election New Year's Eve party at the Minister's Mansion is one of the grandest occasions the Ministry puts on, only beaten out by the party that will take place for the winner of the election. It's going to be far fancier than the party for Mr. Eckerton last year.”
Albus nodded. As they drew closer to the mansion Albus noticed that the blue light seemed to stem from the ground, illuminating the house as it went upward, but he could not see where the light came from. It looked to just appear out of the ground. The path itself was lined with silver candles.
The door was already open when they reached the end of the path. A man dressed in a full tuxedo with tails stood in the doorway and he took Ginny and Lily's wraps while another man led the Potters into the grand ballroom.
The ballroom was already filled to capacity and Albus noticed that nearly half of the people in attendance were his aunts, uncles, and cousins. The ballroom itself was lit by silver candles similar to the ones that lined the path outside. The windows were draped in heavy navy curtains tied with silver ropes and matching linens dressed the tables and chairs scattered throughout the room. Larger tables containing platters of food stood in the center of the room, each one holding an ice sculpture. The sculptures were of various historical buildings in wizarding Britain, including one of Hogwarts.
Waiters dressed in the same tuxedos as the wizards by the door walked throughout the room carrying plates of food and drink. After taking a look at some of the food they carried, Albus wondered if there was anything normal or if it was just fancy hors d'oeuvres.
“Before you all take off to find your cousins,” Harry began, staring more at his sons than at Lily. “James, absolutely no pranks. Albus, no sneaking off to other parts of the mansion or going outside this year. Promise me, both of you.”
“I promise,” Albus and James each mumbled.
“All right, you may go,” Harry said. “And keep an eye out for your younger cousins. Make sure they're not getting into trouble.”
Albus nodded and then slipped into the crowd in search of Matt, Rose, and something to eat that did not resemble something his aunt Fleur's mother would make. He finally wound up at the dessert table where he found both a large piece of chocolate cake and his friends.
“Albus, there you are!” Rose said. “We've been here for an hour already.”
“Mum had to lengthen my robes,” Albus said in between bites of cake.
“I'm not surprised. You grew a foot in the past year,” Rose commented.
“Seriously, you've got to stop,” Matt said. “You make me look like a second year.”
“Is everyone else here?” Albus asked as they walked over to a mostly empty table. Its only occupant was a very old man who seemed to be taking a nap.
Rose nodded. “Even Georgia showed up. But I did find out that the only reason we were all invited was to make Uncle Percy look like more of a family man.”
“Really?” Albus asked. “I thought it was just because families of the candidates were always invited.”
“No. Usually it's only immediate family members, plus all the Heads of departments and top Ministry officials and their families. So not all of us were going to be invited at first. It's to make us look like a very close knit family.”
“You are a close knit family,” Matt said. “It's like you're all brothers and sisters rather than cousins.”
“But Uncle Percy never really involved any of us in his Ministry career before,” Albus pointed out. “Anyway, Matt, how was your Christmas?”
“Good,” Matt said. “Rose already told me about yours. Sounded much more interesting than mine. My grandparents came to visit and they went home yesterday. Mum and Cinda argued over the fact that we don't visit them enough anymore and then Mum and Amy argued over the fact that Amy never comes home except for holidays. Dad, Richard, and I just stayed out of it. I swear, those three could argue over nothing.”
“Sounds like yours was interesting then,” Albus said.
Matt shrugged. “Honestly, it's been rather boring at home.”
“I'm ready to get back to Hogwarts,” Albus said. “Is Amy here?”
“Yeah, she's off with Victoire and Teddy,” Matt said.
“Oh, by the way, don't drink the punch,” Albus warned them. “James is planning to put something in it.”
“What?” Rose asked.
“I don't know, but it'll probably be gross,” Albus said.
“If your uncle wins your cousins will get to live here,” Matt said as he gazed around the room. “Weird to think about. This place looks bigger than my old house.”
“It probably is,” Rose said. “And you're right, that is weird to think about.”
The old man let out a snort and woke up. His eyes darted around until they rested on Albus, Rose, and Matt. “Who are you three?” he demanded.
“Er, I'm Albus Potter and that's Rose Weasley and Matt Eckerton,” Albus said.
His face softened. “Oh, nice to meet you! I'm Gregory Laurentis. My daughter's running for Minister. Could not be prouder, but I suppose she's running against your uncle. Albus Potter, Merlin's beard! I told Patty, I told her she was nuts to run against Percy Weasley what with him being related to Harry Potter himself, but her party picked her to run so I suppose there was nothing I could do about it. And she couldn't turn down that opportunity....”
Albus glanced at Rose and Matt while Laurnetis's dad continued to rattle on about how proud he was of his daughter, yet marvel at her stupidity for running against someone related to Harry Potter. He was rather funny, Albus thought.
“This place is too damn fancy,” Gregory Laurnetis muttered as he fingered the tablecloth. “And the food, my God, what I wouldn't give for some bangers and mash....”
Albus stifled a laugh, but he did agree with the old man. “I think I hear one of my cousins calling me,” Albus said. “We'd better go.”
“Oh, right, right,” Gregory Laurentis said. “I don't hear anything, but then again my hearing's so bad these days. Well, good luck to your uncle, then. Not that he'll need it!”
“Good luck to your daughter, too,” Albus said as he stood up.
All three burst out laughing as soon as they were out of earshot of Gregory Laurentis. A few Ministry officials looked at them strangely as they did so, but Albus didn't care.
“Albus!” Matt suddenly whispered. “Is that Balladanis over there?” Matt pointed to the far back corner, where a man in plain black robes stood with his arms folded across his chest.
Albus peered at the man for a few moments. “Yeah, I think it is.”
“What's he doing here?” Matt asked.
“Probably in case of an attack,” Rose said. “Every prominent Ministry official is in this room right now. There's probably Aurors stationed at every door outside, too.”
“Don't let him see us,” Matt said as he grabbed both Albus and Rose and pulled them behind a large group of people. “Can we just go somewhere else?”
Albus glanced at Balladanis and then back at Matt, who looked more than a little nervous. Albus didn't blame him. After last year's scandal with Balladanis, it was no wonder Matt never wanted to see the man again. Albus thought briefly of what his dad told him when they got there, but pushed the promise from his mind. If Matt didn't want to be in the same room as Balladanis, then Albus was just going to have to break his promise.
“Come on,” Rose said before Albus could reply. She took Albus and Matt's hands and pulled them through the crowd. She let them go once they reached the corridor.
The corridor was much quieter than the ballroom. Albus hadn't even realized just how loud the ballroom was until now. Between the music and people's voices, it was a wonder he'd even been able to think in there.
“Thanks,” Matt said quietly. “He just gives me the creeps.”
“No problem,” Rose said. “Where should we go?”
“We could try and find that library again,” Albus suggested.
Rose and Matt nodded and the three set off down the corridor. It took them fifteen minutes and three wrong turns to find the library and once they got there, they saw that it was already occupied by none other than Georgia, Bradley, and Cedric.
“We've got to stop using the same hiding places,” Georgia said with a laugh as they entered. “Just joking. Come on in.”
Rose shut the door behind them and they joined Georgia, Bradley, and Cedric on the other side of the room.
“Sick of the party?” Georgia asked.
“We saw Balladanis,” Matt said quietly as he sat down. “Didn't want him to notice us.”
Georgia shuddered. “Don't blame you there, especially since your dad is the reason he got sacked.”
“I kind of liked him,” Bradley said.
Matt looked at him like he was insane. “Are you kidding?”
Bradley shrugged. “Nope. I'm not terribly upset he's gone, but he was kind of cool.”
“You're mad,” Matt said.
“What about you three? What drove you to the library?” Albus asked, wanting to stave off an argument between his best friend and cousin.
“Decided to explore the house,” Cedric said. “If we're going to have to live here, we wanted to see what we'd be getting into.”
“And what do you think?” Rose asked.
“Living here wouldn't be so bad,” Cedric said. “Bradley and I wouldn't have to share a room. Neither would Samantha and Lindy, for that matter.”
“I told you, one of you can have my room,” Georgia said.
“Dad won't let us,” Bradley replied. “Says you're going to come back when Quidditch stops paying off.”
Georgia groaned. “Really, the faith he has in me is incredible.”
“We met Laurentis's dad,” Albus said.
Georgia burst out laughing. “Seriously?”
Albus nodded and told the story. All three of his cousins were laughing by the time he finished.
“I may have to go back out there just so I can meet him,” Georgia said, still laughing.
“He sounds like a very interesting bloke,” Bradley said.
Matt got up from his chair and began wandering around the library. He paused by the door, as if listening.
“What are you doing?” Albus asked.
“I heard something,” Matt whispered. “Shut up, all of you.”
Georgia immediately stopped laughing and all five of them stopped talking. Matt's eyes grew big and he hurried back over. “Someone's coming!”
“I don't hear any-” Bradley began.
“Sshhh!” Albus said as he jumped up. “Trust him on this. We've got to hide.”
“There's a closet,” Rose said as she hurried to open the door. “It's not very big-”
“Doesn't matter,” Matt said. “Hurry, get inside.”
Albus just started hearing the voices as they hurried inside the closet. It was a very tight squeeze and Rose was stepping on his left foot, but he said nothing as he shut the door. Two seconds later he heard the door to the library open.
“It's not working!” a woman said. Her voice was muffled; Albus could barely make out what she said, let alone who she was.
“I can't hear anything,” Cedric whispered. “Is this door solid mahogany or something?”
“Shut up!” Matt seethed. He had his ear pressed to the door.
“The one time I don't bring any Extendables with me,” Cedric muttered.
Albus pressed his ear up against the door. The voices were still muffled, but he could hear.
“I told you they'd eat up the whole family man thing,” another voice said. This one was male. “Not to mention he's Harry Potter's brother-in-law for God's sake!”
“Harry Potter is an incompetent idiot and you know it,” the woman replied. “He's famous for something he did as a child and the general public is stupid to still think of him as the hero of the wizarding world. He's gone soft.”
“It's Laurentis!” Matt said.
“How can you tell?” Bradley asked. “This door is so bloody thick.”
“I just can,” Matt said.
Albus couldn't tell that the voice was Laurentis's, but based on what she was saying, Matt was right.
“Well, what am I supposed to do about it?” the man said.
“We've got to think of something,” Laurentis said. “The Azkaban debate is in a week. I'm sure you can think of something to do for that.”
“I think that's her campaign manager,” Matt said.
“She sounds awful,” Albus said.
“It shouldn't be that hard. All we have to do is expose Weasley for what he really is and get everyone to realize Potter's not the hero they all think he is,” Laurentis said.
“And who is Weasley, then?”
“A pompous idiot!” Laurentis exclaimed. “You don't really buy the whole fact that he supports his daughter's Quidditch career, do you? I've seen the way she looks at him and there's no way that's real.”
“You can't really know that-”
“I can,” she interrupted. “I can read people, Pierce. That's why I got into politics. It's all about reading people and figuring out the lies from the truths. See what you can dig up. We'd better return to the party. I left my father alone with Minister Langston. That won't turn out well.”
“Yes, Ms. Laurentis,” Pierce replied.
Albus heard the sound of high heels on hardwood floor, the door creak open, and then click shut again. He waited two full minutes and then opened the door to the closet. Everyone hurried out.
“What was that?” Matt demanded. “What is she up to?”
“How did you catch all that?” Bradley asked. “Do you have super human hearing or something?”
“Or something,” Matt muttered, “but never mind that. Laurentis knows your dad's putting on an act and is going to try to expose him.” He turned to Albus. “And she is going to try and turn the wizarding world against your dad.”
“She's insane!” Albus exclaimed.
“You've got to tell your uncle-” Matt began.
“No way,” Georgia said loudly. “Trust me, all he'll do is blame me for not playing my part well enough. This isn't leaving this room.”
“But she's going to sabotage his campaign,” Albus said.
“Georgia's right,” Rose said. “It won't help anything. Campaigns are half about digging up dirt on the other candidate. Anything she says about Uncle Harry, no one will believe it unless they're an idiot. Anyone with half a mind knows he runs the Auror Department well.”
“If anyone says anything he'll just get mad at us for spying,” Bradley added.
“Not to mention we're not technically allowed in here,” Cedric pointed out.
“Oh, right,” Albus said. “My dad did make me promise not to leave the ballroom.”
“No one's saying anything,” Georgia said. “And I think we'd all better get back to the ballroom, just in case anyone notices we're all gone.
Thanks for all the reviews! Remember to keep them 12+. Props to all who caught the 'mahogany' Hunger Games reference. Credit for that goes to Suzanne Collins. If any of you are members of the forums (and if you're not, you should be, link on the right side of the page!), feel free to check out my Meet the Author page! It's linked on my author page. Please ask me questions on my MTA page since I love answering them!
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