Chapter 2 : Harry's Gift
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The woman was beautiful, smooth pale skin, with flowing black hair and sparkling eyes, her slim form robed in a silky tunic and black cloak. When she spoke her voice was deep and soft, the words of the incantation slipping off her tongue as she chanted the intricate spell. Then she started to sing. The rhythmic notes of the melody rose high over the fire and the flames began to dance in excitement, sparks flying everywhere and the heat blowing to and fro. “This is it,” breathed the beautiful woman. “It is time.”
And the fire burned brighter.
Albus woke, sweating. He was scared. It was the same woman as his last dream... her pale face was still etched in his mind, lit only by flickering firelight. Albus swung his legs shakily out of bed and pulled the curtains a little so that a shaft of moonlight fell in the middle of the room.
Twinkling star after twinkling star dotted the inky black sky. Shivering slightly, Albus tugged the heavy curtain back across the window and flopped back on the bed, drawing his knees up to his chin and closing his eyes.
The dream replayed itself in his mind, the woman floating in and out of his vision. What did it mean? Who was this woman? It couldn’t mean anything, surely...Pondering endlessly, there he sat until morning.
Albus strode over to the curtains, flung them open and rolled back onto his bed, watching his roommates stirring around him. Jonny Marvell was quiet as a mouse, face down on his pillow, not moving a muscle. Quiet Winston Peakes was waking slowly. Loud, rasping snores were emitting from pompous Robert Cadden’s four-poster.
“Guys!” Albus whispered, to which only Winston glanced up. “We’re late for breakfast!”
Full of a bowl of steaming, syrupy porridge, the day’s lessons went quickly and before long he was snuggling back down in his bed again.
It was only then that he remembered the last night’s dream; it came to back to him in flashes of dark memory but he pushed it out of his mind. Determined to have a good night’s sleep, he settled down and closed his eyes.
Albus couldn’t sleep. The pale, strange woman kept sidling back into his vision. He sat up slowly, ran a hand through his hair and swung his legs to the side, out of bed. He opened his chest of drawers and got out a quill and sheet of parchment.
He sat cross-legged on his bed and carefully placed a pot of ink on the table.
Dear Mum and Dad
It’s great here. Absolutely fantastic. I almost don’t want to go home but I miss you a lot, of course. Yes, Alana Longbottom is great. She is really clever!! She was the only person to get the Expelliarmus spell right, and she got a prize for being first in Herbology. But guess what??? So did I! I got some stewed airgrass! The boy is called Jonny Marvell. I didn’t know who he was but he’s great, really funny, a bit like you when you were younger, Dad.
My new teachers are good, Professor Longbottom for Herbology, Professor Abercrombie for Potions and Professor Flowmouth for Defence Against the Dark Arts. Flowmouth is a nice teacher, but she seems mysterious. Professor Longbottom is a great teacher too. I haven’t had Abercrombie yet. Is that okay now, Mum?
What’s the surprise?
P.S. Hope the sprouts were okay.
Albus folded the letter and slid it carefully into an envelope. Then he sealed it and hugged himself for a second, imagining his parents opening it at home. He would take it to the Owlery tomorrow.
It was then that Albus realised how late it was. He packed away his quill and ink as quietly as possible, trying not to wake the others, and glanced over at Jonny’s bed. The four-poster was empty.
“Jonny?” whispered Albus. Where was he?
Albus got up and padded over to Jonny’s bed, pulling back the covers. There was definitely nobody lying there. He circled the bed and spied a foot protruding from under the bed.
“Jonny!” he said quietly, ducking down. Jonny was lying under the bed, staring up at the mattress above him. Albus squeezed in there too- it was dark, cramped and dusty, but Jonny didn’t seem uncomfortable. He lay there stiffly, unmoving, staring with glassy eyes up and the bottom of his mattress.
“Jonny. Answer me.” Albus said, prodding him.
“What?” A hoarse whisper escaped Jonny’s lips.
“What are you doing down here?”
“I always sleep down here.”
“I... don’t like beds. I always sleep either here or on the windowsill. I pretend to go to sleep in the bed, then when you’re all sleeping I get out. It’s none of your business. Go back to bed.”
“Surely it’s uncomfortable down here?”
“But why don’t you like beds? They’re warm and much more comfy than this.”
Suddenly Jonny found himself blurting out the whole story. It was as if all this was bottled inside him and had been for so long.
“When I was little, I had a little cot by my mum and dad’s bed. They used to go to sleep every night in each other’s arms. They loved each other that much.
One day, they were sleeping peacefully, but I was awake. I was bored and restless- not tired at all. Somehow, I managed to climb out of my little cot and drop to the floor. I had crawled over the bed and tried to snuggle up with my mum and dad, but I couldn’t pull myself up. All of a sudden, I heard the front door bang open and harsh, loud voices. I started to cry, I think. I ducked down and went to the first place that came into my head- under the bed. It was nice down there, dark, and quiet.”
It took a while for Albus to realise that Jonny had stopped because tears were streaming down his face.
“Keep going, Jonny. It’s okay.”
“Well, there were footsteps coming in the room. My parents woke up and I could hear my dad trying to protect Mum. ‘Don’t take her, she hasn’t done anything, please don’t take her.’ He said. There was a really loud bang, like a firework, and a flash of red light. I remember curling in a ball, because I somehow knew if I cried, they would take me too. Then I could hear my mum- ‘Where’s Jonny? Where’s Jonny! No! He’s gone!’ she was sobbing. Then there was a scream. And another bang and another red flash.”
Jonny had closed his eyes tightly as if he could block out the memory.
“Then it was all silence, everywhere. Dark and silent. I crawled out and I saw their bodies in the bed, very still. They still had their arms round each other. Their murderers were gone.”
Albus fought hard to stop tears welling in his own eyes. He started to say something, but Jonny carried on. “The next day, I was just lying there on the floor, dazed, I think. I was very hungry and dirty too. I think people from the Ministry must have picked me up and fed me and cleaned me. They took me to an orphanage in Hogsmeade. I’ve lived there since then, but I don’t have friends. They call me Weird Boy and Jonny No-Mates. I found out later it was Death Eaters who killed my parents. Bastards. They didn’t have to die.”
Jonny’s voice was filled with pure fury.
Albus struggled to put an arm round Jonny in the dark. He couldn’t think of anything to say.
“You keep sleeping down here if that’s what you want. And now you have a friend. You have me,” Albus said at last. He wished he had said something more thoughtful and sympathetic, but the words wouldn’t come. He crawled out from under the bed and fell down onto his own mattress in a state of shock. Poor, poor Jonny.
Morning came too early. The light that streamed into the room was not pleasantly warm and sunny- it was unwelcome and blinding. Albus rolled over and tried not to think about last night. He opened his eyes a crack and saw Jonny sitting on the windowsill. He wondered if Jonny would be any different with Albus now Albus knew his secret.
Winston Peakes and Robert Cadden had already left for breakfast. At last, it was Saturday- it had felt like a long week. Albus had enjoyed every moment- except the dreaming... and Jonny’s dreadful tale.
“We should go eat, Jonny,” Albus remarked, not looking at the windowsill.
“I know,” murmured Jonny.
“I know,” he repeated.
Albus suddenly grinned.
“You’re an idiot.”
“I kn- hey!”
Albus fell about laughing and dressed quickly, making Jonny do the same.
“You can’t laze about all day.”
“Why not?” Jonny was back to being in a playful, Jonnyish mood, but sometimes Albus still caught him staring into space or rocking gently in his seat. He didn’t comment on it now he knew why.
After a sumptuous breakfast, they strolled round the grounds, basking in the sun or absently watching birds swooping around. They soon got too hot and bored of this so they scooted up to the common room. Jonny still had loads of Chocolate Frogs and Every Flavour Beans stuffed in his trunk, so they gorged themselves.
Albus picked up a greenish bean and bit into it.
“Watermelon,” he told Jonny, laughing. Jonny had been convinced it was bogeys.
So far, Albus had got watermelon, chicken, caramel, salt, broccoli and chilli. The last one made him feel like steam was coming out of his ears- he had run down the stairs, fanning his mouth, and took a long gulp of water. Jonny had guffawed all the while.
Albus had also gathered quite a few Chocolate Frog cards, too many to name. At last, too full of sweets to eat, they skipped lunch and messed about in the dormitories.
“Oh, see you in a minute, I need to go to the Owlery,” Albus told Jonny, remembering.
The Owlery was Albus’ favourite room, apart from the Great Hall and Gryffindor common room. He spied Hedwig II amidst all the dull tawny and barn owls, a white angel in a flock of sparrows.
She swooped down to perch on his hand almost at once, nipping him affectionately. Albus tied the letter to her ankle and gave her a stroke. He watched her fly off happily.
“Well, well, well,” came a sneering voice. “People everywhere are saying you’re Harry Potter’s son.”
“That’s because I am. And who are you?”
“Scorpius Malfoy. I would say I’m pleased to meet you, but I’d be lying.”
Albus wondered why the boy was looking at him with loathing.
“Dad’s told me all about wonderful Harry Potter.”
“How he was cocky and aggressive and ignorant.”
“What, even more than you?” Albus shot back without thinking. He had half a mind to clap a hand over his mouth.
“Careful, Potter,” Malfoy replied silkily. “I’d advise you not to get on the wrong side of me and my father. He’s taken Grandfather’s place on the Board of Governors, you know. And he’s extremely powerful within the Ministry.”
“Your Grandfather’s Lucius Malfoy?”
“Of course. Never even met yours, have you?”
“My dad sent Lucius Malfoy to prison! You’ll go the same way if you don’t stop threatening me,” Albus said, sounding more confident than he felt.
“Temper, temper!” Malfoy tutted. “See you around, Potter.” Then Scorpius Malfoy swaggered off proudly, hands in pockets.
Albus was still fuming as he climbed the stairs. Harry Potter was ten times the man Draco Malfoy would ever be. He was sure of it.
He wanted to hear his parents’ voices. It was only now that he realised how much he missed them. Hugging himself, he climbed the stairs to the Fat Lady.
“Password?” she asked.
“Bezoar,” said Albus dully.
The Fat Lady swung open, revealing the empty common room. Albus wondered where Jonny and Alana were. He wanted to tell them about Malfoy.
“There you are, Al!” Alana smartly stepped through the portrait hole. “Dinner’s about to start. Jonny’s waiting in the Great Hall. Where have you been all this time?”
“In the Owlery.”
“That must have been a long letter.”
“No, I met Draco Malfoy’s son in there. Scorpius. He’s a nasty piece of work. He kept badmouthing my Dad...”
“Never mind, tell us at the table. Come on!”
They hurried down to dinner where Jonny had saved them seats. Albus quickly explained about Scorpius Malfoy. When he was finished, Jonny stared menacingly in the direction of the Slytherin table.
“Git,” was all he said. McGonagall clicked her fingers and food appeared in all of the gleaming plates and bowls. Today it was a plateful of tender chicken, sprinkled with peas and carrots, fluffy mashed potato and lashings of gravy. They made sure to leave room for blackberry and apple crumble topped with warm custard.
Jonny belched and laughed. Alana looked at him with an expression of disgust and finished the last of her crumble delicately. Albus felt like he had never tasted such good food.
At last, the crumbs vanished and McGonagall stood.
“I hope you all enjoyed that,” she said, surveying them all through her glasses. “You may leave. Off you go!”
Soon Albus was lying again in his four-poster, musing about the day’s events. Scorpius Malfoy, Hedwig II and Jonny’s parents, lying asleep, chased each other around his brain. How was he going to fall asleep? He tried to think about his parents at home. Perhaps they were lying in bed in the same position as Jonny’s.
A terrible thought struck him. What if his parents died in the same cruel way?
After that, it was pointless trying to fall asleep. His brain was too active, his thoughts too worrying, his body too restless. He tried to think about the surprise in his mum and dad’s next letter. Maybe it would be some sweets- Every Flavour Beans, maybe, or Honeydukes chocolate. His mouth watered at the thought. Maybe it would be treats for Hedwig, or a set of wizard chessmen. He hoped for the latter... he could play Jonny and perhaps even win! Albus settled down and closed his eyes. Despite his worries, he fell asleep fairly quickly.
Albus almost jumping out of his seat when the post arrived the next morning. He felt he would never get used to the flock of owls which suddenly streamed across the room, circling the Hall until they saw their owners. He looked excitedly for a flash of white, and saw Hedwig II up by the greyish, cloudy ceiling. She recognised him and swooped down , dropping a letter by Albus’ pumpkin juice, and settled on his shoulder. Albus stroked the back of her neck gently and opened the letter, hands fumbling.
It’s great to hear from you. I know you will have been looking forward to the surprise, but Dad won’t tell me what it is. Let me know when you get it, I’m curious. I’m almost sure I won’t approve!
I laughed when I saw your P.S. The sprouts were fine, actually!
Your teachers seem great. Neville Longbottom’s such a nice man, and Professor Flowmouth seems okay too. Hope your new Potions teacher is up to scratch.
Love from Mum xx
Your teachers seem nice. Snape’s a good man, but he was horrible in his Potions lessons. I still haven’ t quite forgiven him for all those detentions and points off Gryffindor, but in the end he was truly faithful. Have you made any new friends?
Ridden a broomstick yet? It’s the best feeling ever, I just know you’ll love it.
I know, the surprise. I sent it down with me and Mum’s owls. DO NOT OPEN IT AT THE TABLE. Luckily Mum doesn’t know about it- DO NOT TELL HER! It contains... well, find out for yourself and use it wisely.
Sure enough, Harry’s handsome snowy owl (father to Hedwig II) Remus and Ginny’s fluffy barn owl Minerva were swooping down, carrying a large packet between them. It was wrapped tightly in brown packaging and when Albus felt it, it was squashy and soft under his fingers. People all down the Gryffindor table were looking curiously at Albus’ parcel, so he decided it was time to leave. Remus and Minerva both touched him affectionately with their wings and flew off again.
“Go on, Hed. Up to the Owlery,” Albus prompted, and then he, Alana and Jonny all set of for the common room.
Alana decided to go and see her dad in the greenhouses, and Jonny needed to finish an essay, so Albus headed up to the dormitories alone. He sat on the bed with the parcel on his lap and gently tore it open.
A silvery, slippery object spilled out of the parcel.
It was his father’s Invisibility Cloak. Albus could barely contain his excitement. He jumped to his feet and wrapped the Cloak around him, looking down and yelping with delight. His feet and torso had disappeared.
This was one thing that couldn’t be kept quiet. He stuffed the Cloak under his pillow, tossed the wrapping in the bin and hurtled down the stairs. Jonny was sighing and fiddling with his quill in the common room, obviously having trouble with his homework. Albus barely said hi to the other Gryffindors in the common room before he had pulled Jonny to his feet and wordlessly tugged him along. In hushed whispers, up in the dormitory, he explained about the Cloak. When he had finished Jonny’s eyes were wide.
“Think how valuable this is!” Jonny said. “Can I hold it?” Jonny’s eyes were even wider, if possible, when he felt the strange, liquid-like garment slip through his fingers.
“Wow...” breathed Albus.
Throughout the night, Albus kept getting up, slipping the Cloak over his head and walking round the dormitory, just revelling in the fact that nobody could see him. His mind was whirring away, goggling at the possibilities. He could go anywhere, and nobody would be any the wiser.
And the next day, all he could think about was what he could get up to in that Cloak. Monday was always a boring day for anybody, wizard or Muggle, because for most people it meant going back to work early. But today was the best Monday in Albus’ life. Not only did he have the thought of the Cloak to sustain him, but today was his first ever flying lesson. Unlike Harry, Albus had grew up with Quidditch. One of his favourite toys had been a small toy broom which hovered a few inches above the ground. He used to love slowly flying forward, trying to chase butterflies, imagining he was a world-class international Quidditch player.
Of course, first-years weren’t allowed brooms, so each child stood beside a school broom waiting for Madam Hooch. Some were trembling, looking positively terrified, but some (like Albus) were raring to go.
Madam Hooch finally appeared. She showed them how to stretch out their hand and say ‘Up’. Albus’ broom flew smartly into his hand and he bubbled inside with excitement- could he have the same talent as his father? Others were not having as much luck- Jonny’s had hovered about a foot and then dropped to the ground again. Alana’s had rolled over lazily.
“Never mind, never mind,” Madam Hooch said patiently. “Try again.”
When at last everybody had their brooms safely in their hands, she explained how to swing one leg over and sit on the broom, keeping it hovering there.
Albus was once again delighted as his battered school Comet Two Seventy did exactly as he asked. All the students managed this and soon Madam Hooch was giving them instructions on how to point the nose of the broom, keep it steady, rise higher, go lower... Albus thought his head would burst, but he just wanted to get flying.
They were finally allowed to fly. “Okay, I want you all to rise a couple of metres in the air and come straight down again.”
Albus did as he was told. The Comet was responding a little slowly, but it was an old broom. His father now rode a Firebolt 4, the fastest, most sensitive broom ever invented. Once Albus had ridden it himself, just around the garden. It was the best broomstick ride of his life.
A few weeks on, they were progressing quickly in Quidditch, now learning more advanced flying and using the Quaffle too. Sometimes they even let the Snitch out. Nobody had caught it yet, but Albus had once scored four goals in one lesson and left glowing with pride.
This was the one thing Alana didn’t seem to excel at- her flying was wobbly and unsteady, and she couldn’t pluck up the courage to take any hands off her broom to catch the Quaffle. She just sat, rigid, holding on tightly.
Jonny was a little better, flying around quickly, making sharp turns, but he went to pieces when he tried to shoot. Sometimes the Quaffle flew metres wide, sometimes he flung it far too high, and once he chucked the red ball right in an unsuspecting Gryffindor’s face by accident.
Either way, Quidditch was definitely Albus’ favourite lesson.
Ginny Potter gasped. She had to restrain herself from slapping Harry round the face.
“You sent him your Cloak? Are you mad?” she shrieked. Harry stood there with a sheepish look on his face.
“He’s not stupid... he won’t use it like I did... don’t be mad, love...”
“Don’t be mad? You’re the mad one! That’s just encouraging him to break rules!”
“Rules are there to be broken-”
“No they’re not! Don’t give me that rubbish!”
“Sorry, love. He can’t do that much harm, surely?”
Ginny threw her hands up in exasperation, but then shook her head, sighing.
“You’re lucky I didn’t give him the Marauder’s Map...” Harry started cheekily.
Albus sat down at the desk. His Defence Against the Dark Arts essay was due tomorrow, but he didn’t have a clue what to write. He had underlined the title-
Why Werewolves Should be Given a Second Chance- discuss
He opened a book- A Study Of Werewolves and Their History- and scanned the contents. Picking a likely page, he flicked through the book and read it, frowning.
Werewolves have often been considered highly dangerous by wizards, but is this a fair assumption? On one hand, werewolves have been known to run riot on a biting spree, unable to control their actions, but the argument is just that- the poor creatures themselves cannot be held responsible for what they do whilst transformed, yet we still blame them and make them live away from respectable society. Furthermore, the recent invention of the Wolfsbane Potion means that werewolves are no longer dangerous at full moon.
Albus dipped his quill in ink and started writing. As he wrote, his mind strayed to Remus Lupin, the nicest werewolf his dad had ever met. Anyway, Teddy Lupin was fine- good fun to be with- and he was part-werewolf.
He had just finished writing about the Wolfsbane Potion when his candle flickered out. Deciding he would do the rest in the morning, Albus gave a huge yawn and staggered up to bed. He noticed Jonny was not in bed again; he must be lying underneath it, but his brain was too tired to think much about it. He fell into bed and almost straightaway sank into sleep.
The slim woman was running, running as if her life depended on it, but gracefully, her black hair flowing behind her, her robes flapping gently and slowly like a butterfly’s wings. She was laughing, a soft, high laugh, and it rang around the countryside. She seemed to be flying now... gliding along the grassy hills and climbing mountains without pausing or losing her breath.
She seemed to have reached her destination. She slowed to a halt, and pointed a slender wand at her own face, transforming it, until she resembled a blonde, middle-aged witch. Her eyes were shining in anticipation and excitement. Then she turned on the spot and disappeared into thin air.
Albus woke up with the hair sticking to his forehead. Why was this dream so foreboding and creepy? He pushed his fringe away from his sweaty forehead and realised he had tangled all the covers around him. Extricating himself, he tried to slow his breathing to normal sat up dizzily.
He wondered who the woman was, and why she had disguised herself. It was peculiar- it was just a dream, yet Albus felt it all so vividly.
Morning came as a relief. Albus had been tossing and turning, awake for the rest of the night, unable to rid the witch from his mind. He shook his head vigorously and opened his chest of drawers, sorting through the stuff until he found his crumpled wizard’s robes. He slipped them on. The other three boys were fast asleep; it was very early still.
Albus opened the door silently and darted out into the corridor. It was too dark to see much.
“Lumos,” he muttered to his wand, and a shaft of light from the tip of his wand fell onto the floor in front of him. He descended into the common room, where even at night the fire was blazing.
“Nox.” He put out his wand and sat in one of the comfy armchairs by the fire. He supposed he would get in trouble for being out of his dormitory. He wasn’t sure of the rules. But he definitely didn’t want to have a run-in with Filch after all his father had warned him about.
“He’ll get you for bringing in a speck of dirt inside the castle, Al, mark my words. He has a freaky cat, you know.”
Albus grinned as he remembered his father’s words and then a light clicked inside his head.
Had he not just acquired a rare, valuable mischievous tool? Hadn’t he just been sent an Invisibility Cloak?
He shot upstairs like a bullet and rummaged through his stuff trying to find it. At last his hand brushed against the silvery material in the dark and he tugged triumphantly before wrapping it round himself. He shivered. It felt strange, coarse, fluid and cool all at once.
After a check in the mirror to check it wasn’t just a dream, and after swearing, awestruck, under his breath when he saw nobody reflected there, he once again went down to the common room.
“Bezoar,” he whispered to the Fat Lady, who swung open, suspicious of the invisible Gryffindor.
“Who’s there?” she said, frowning.
Albus decided not to answer and crept along the corridor.
It was then that he realised it was not such a good idea, because he still couldn’t find his way around the colossal castle. He walked uneasily down long passages and winding staircases before resigning to the fact that he was lost.
He fought to keep from panic rising inside him. What if Filch found him here? He would get detention... Would he even be expelled? He wished he was back in bed.
Trying to stay calm, he scanned the walls for any familiar pictures, or doors, or anything. He saw a picture of a few monks sitting among crates of mead. Hadn’t he seen that somewhere before? A lightbulb came on in his head. He remembered staring at this picture... when was it? The other day... after... breakfast! Which meant that somewhere over here would be the door to the Great Hall.
Sure enough, Albus beamed as he took in the familiar surroundings. He could find his way back from here, he was sure of it. He managed to navigate back to the Fat Lady, feeling very pleased with himself, and had only just managed to safely hide the Cloak before the other boys woke up.
He wolfed down his breakfast of crispy bacon and glistening eggs, but just as he was leaving, the post arrived. He couldn’t see a familiar flash of white, but of course he hadn’t written back yet, so there would be no reply. He watched as Scorpius Malfoy received his usual package of cake and boxes of sweets. Then his eye was caught by something else.
A newspaper was lying on the table. Students were crowding round it, muttering and chattering excitedly. Albus somehow elbowed his way in and stared down in dismay.
The black-and-white face leering up at him was familiar. Very familiar.
It was the blonde-haired witch from Albus’ dream.
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