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Rose and Nathan were waiting for Albus when he returned to Ravenclaw Tower.
“Did she believe you?” Nathan asked worriedly.
He nodded. “Yeah, thank goodness.”
“What did she say?” Rose asked.
“She asked if I was sure I’d kept it and I said I wasn’t, but I thought I had and she said there wasn’t much we could do if I wasn’t sure, but that she wanted to see it if I ever found it. Oh and she also asked if I could remember exactly what it said.”
“I guess she wanted to see if there were any clues as to who sent it,” Rose said.
“I guess.” He hadn’t really thought of that. He’d just assumed she’d wanted him to prove it existed. “Oh! I should write and tell Dad what happened. He told me to if anything else odd happened. Remember?” He turned to Rose.
She nodded. “Are you going to do it right now?”
“Yeah. I don’t want to forget anything. Will you both help me? You know, remind me if I forget to mention anything.”
“Of course,” Nathan said.
Albus glanced around the common room. There was no way they’d have any privacy there.
“Let’s go to our dormitory,” he said.
It wasn’t that easy to slip out unnoticed. Peeves had made such a racket the whole school seemed to have seen or heard of the graffiti. Since many of the Ravenclaws had heard what Albus said to Nathan at breakfast or seen McGonagall lead Albus and Rose to her office, it was obvious they knew something and everybody was anxious to know what it was.
“Did you find that note you were looking for?” Derek asked.
“Is it true you were actually there when the graffiti was done?” Dora asked.
“No, I didn’t find the note and no, we weren’t there,” Albus said tiredly. “We just saw it afterwards, that’s all.”
“How come McGonagall wanted to see you then?” a second year asked. “I saw it too and McGonagall didn’t call me to the office.”
“She wanted to know about some note, didn’t she?” another second year replied. “I heard them talking about it at breakfast.”
“Please, let’s get out of here,” Albus muttered.
Rose turned to the group of students surrounding them.
“Yes, it was about a note. Albus got one yesterday, asking us to go down there this morning and McGonagall wanted to try and find out who sent it in case they’d done the graffiti. That’s all.”
“I thought Peeves said…”
They hurried out of the room before the sentence was finished.
“Would people ever just mind their own business?” Albus said.
“At this school?” Rose said. “Not very likely! Come on, let’s make a start on this letter.”
Dear Dad, Albus began.
You asked me to write to you if anything else strange happened here. Remember, you said that when I told you I’d been sent the chocolate cauldrons?
Well, last night, Nathan found a note outside Ravenclaw Tower. It was from Slughorn, or at least it said it was from Slughorn and it invited me and Rose to a party in his office this morning. When we got there, there was nobody there, but “Mudbloods beware, the Dark Lord is returning” was written on the wall in red ink. It looked like blood at first.
Peeves caught us and of course, he called Filch and told him we did it, but we didn’t get in any trouble because McGonagall arrived and told Filch we wouldn’t do that.
Dad, is it ABSOLUTELY certain Voldemort’s dead? Didn’t you say everybody believed him dead before and that the Ministry or somebody covered it up when he returned? Could something like that be happening again?
It called him the Dark Lord. Wasn’t that what the Death Eaters called him?
Albus paused and looked up.
“Do you think there could be a Death Eater at Hogwarts?” he asked quietly. They were alone in the dormitory but he couldn’t help worrying somebody outside might overhear.
“I really doubt it,” Rose said thoughtfully. “After all, it would have to be one of the staff, right?”
“I suppose so.”
“Well, Blackburn’s the only new teacher this year and she is way too young to have been a Death Eater. I doubt she was even at Hogwarts when Voldemort was defeated.”
“It wouldn’t have to be somebody new, though. They might have been hiding it all along, until…” He trailed off, not wanting to say “until they knew Voldemort was ready to return.”
“I still don’t really see who it could be. Think about it. Jones, McGonagall and Hagrid were all in the Order during the last war. Flitwick and Slughorn helped. And the idea of Neville being a Death Eater is just ridiculous. Those are just the teachers we know, but I doubt the others are much more likely. Most of them have been here years. It must be hard to hide something that long. Something huge, like allegiance to Voldemort, I mean.”
“I suppose so.”
He turned back to the letter, really hoping she was right.
Rose thinks it’s unlikely there’s a Death Eater here, he continued. She says most of the teachers have been here years and probably wouldn’t have been able to hide it so long if they were. Do you think she’s right?
Please write back soon and tell us what you think.
Lots and lots of love,
It had taken them a long time to write the letter, as they kept thinking of things they’d forgotten to include and changing parts. When he finally finished, Albus read through it again, then passed it to Rose.
“Are you sure we’ve included absolutely everything important?” he asked her.
“Albus, it’s nearly lunchtime. If we don’t send it off now, we’ll have to leave it until…”
“No way! I am not leaving it lying around where anybody can find it. Besides, I want him to get it as soon as possible.”
“Then you need to send it off right now. If we’ve left out anything, he can write back and ask us.”
“Just read it through quickly first. Please.”
She sighed. “All right.”
She skimmed through it quickly.
“It sounds fine.”
“Are you sure? You’re not just saying that so I won’t be late for lunch?”
“No, I’m not just saying it, but honestly, Albus, we already missed breakfast. We do need to eat. And this does seem to cover all the main points, so let’s go to the Owlery now and send it off.”
“Just the main points?”
“It covers everything. Look, the important things are the letter and what the graffiti said and you’ve included all that. Come on!”
He folded the letter carefully, ignoring her impatience.
“Are you coming, Nathan?”
He shook his head. “You two go on.”
Wendelin hooted happily when she saw them.
“Sorry, I didn’t come up earlier, Wendy. I’ve a really important letter for you now. Will you take this straight to my dad and bring back his reply as quickly as possible? I’ve a treat here for you and I bet Dad will give you another one when you get home. Or Lily will.” He grinned. Lily was mad about Wendelin and just a little jealous she hadn’t an owl of her own yet. She’d made up for it by spoiling Wendelin rotten the last couple of days before he’d left for Hogwarts.
Wendelin reached out a leg and he tied the note to it, then handed her the treat, which she took before flying off.
“See, we won’t be late for lunch,” Albus said.
Rose smiled. “All right. I’m sorry if I rushed you, but honestly, you’d have spent the rest of the day on it, given the chance.”
“I just wanted to be sure we covered everything. Dad might have some idea what’s going on here.”
Once everybody had assembled in the Great Hall, McGonagall stood up at the staff table and flicked her wand. A ringing noise emerged, silencing the chatter.
“Before you begin eating, I need to speak to you about something quite serious. As many of you may know, graffiti was discovered on one of the castle walls this morning. Under normal circumstances, this wouldn’t be such a serious issue.” Her mouth tightened. “I’m afraid to say graffiti is a regular problem in this school and is quite a source of annoyance to Mr. Filch, who goes to a lot of trouble to keep the castle presentable.
“The reason I am speaking to you so seriously, however, is that this graffiti was of a particularly concerning nature. It referred to…” She took a deep breath. “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. I am aware that none of you were alive during his reign of terror, which is something you should all be thankful for. However, those of you from wizarding families should be aware of the atrocities he and his followers committed. Some of your own families suffered losses at their hands and those of us old enough to remember could list countless names who should be with us today, but are not. This is not something to joke about. Doing so is, at best, very hurtful to those among us who have lost family and friends.”
She glanced around the hall.
“I would like to believe that whoever wrote it was acting out of thoughtlessness and ignorance of our past rather than malice. However, if that is true, it cannot be allowed to continue. Both Professor Jones and Professor Binns will be covering the history of the war with all years over the next couple of weeks and I hope you will all treat it with the seriousness that it deserves.
“I can also assure you that I, and the other teachers, will be making every effort to find out who wrote this and I am advising the culprit right now to come forward and admit it to me or one of the other teachers. You can do this in complete confidence and if you do, I will be far more inclined to assume it was simply thoughtlessness and treat it leniently than if I am left to find out by other means.
“I would also ask that if anybody knows, or even suspects, anything at all, to come and tell one of the teachers. Again it will be in complete confidence and you needn’t worry about getting anybody innocent in trouble. None of us are going to leap to conclusions.”
“Filch would,” Albus muttered.
“But McGonagall wouldn’t let him,” Rose said.
McGonagall looked around seriously. “That’s all I wanted to say. You may begin your meal.”
The room was silent as they ate. Her words had reminded everybody of a far more frightening time, a time most of them could barely even imagine and didn’t want to.
Albus wished his father would reply to his letter and reassure him. The thought of a return to those days terrified him.
“I wonder where Blackburn is.” Dora’s voice finally broke the silence.
Albus looked up. “What?”
His eyes turned to the staff table. Sure enough, Blackburn’s place was empty.
“She wasn’t at breakfast either,” Dora said. “Not that you’d probably know that, since you were with McGonagall.”
“Maybe she’s questioning somebody about the graffiti or something,” Nathan said, a little nervously.
“Maybe.” Dora didn’t sound convinced.
Albus lost interest. She’d probably just gone home for the weekend or to visit friends or something. Neville was often absent at the weekends, preferring to spend them with his wife and young son than at Hogwarts. He didn’t really care where she was. Not when Voldemort might be returning.
“Do you think Dad would have my letter yet?” he asked Rose quietly, as they returned to their common room.
She shrugged. “I doubt it. London’s a long way away.”
“I suppose so.”
The common room was almost as silent as the Great Hall had been. Nobody seemed inclined to laugh or joke as they usually did at weekends.
It was late in the afternoon when Wendelin returned. Albus grabbed her leg too quickly, earning himself a nip on the hand.
“Ouch,” he said, almost automatically. His focus was on the letter in front of him.
Before I say anything else, I want to reassure you on one point: Voldemort is definitely dead. I saw him die myself, saw his body laid out. There is absolutely no doubt on this point.
Albus breathed a sigh of relief and reread the first paragraph. “Voldemort is definitely dead.”
‘Thank goodness,’ he thought.
He read on.
What happened when I was a baby was completely different. Voldemort disappeared back then. He didn’t die. It was a very complicated, and thankfully rare, situation, but completely different from what happened at the Battle of Hogwarts. After that, there is absolutely no way he can return. That isn’t something we need to worry about.
That said, I don’t like this.
You’re right that “the Dark Lord” is what the Death Eaters called Voldemort. I do not believe there’s a Death Eater at Hogwarts. I wouldn’t say it’s impossible, unlike Voldemort returning, but I would go so far as to say it’s highly UNLIKELY. For one thing, as Rose said, it would be hard to hide it completely. All the teachers were vetted carefully. I’m not going to say that vetting is foolproof – not after some of the teachers I had at Hogwarts – but they’d have to have a good cover story as to what they were doing at the time of the war and then avoid giving anything away in all the years that have passed since. It could be done, but it wouldn’t be easy.
And if somebody did succeed, if they were cautious and cunning enough to evade suspicion for so long, I doubt they’d put their freedom at risk simply to send you chocolates laced with Swelling Solution or write a message on a wall.
However, I’m not prepared to write it off as a simple prank. The use of the term “Dark Lord” and the similarities with the time the Chamber of Secrets was opened in my second year indicate the involvement of somebody far older than a Hogwarts student – probably somebody who was at Hogwarts or who was aware of what was happening there in 1992.
It may still be a student who did it; it probably was, but somebody older gave them the information.
I can’t remember how much I’ve already told you about the Chamber of Secrets, so I’ll explain it briefly here. A Basilisk was released and used to attack Muggleborn students. I’m not going to go into details about exactly what happened and I want to ask you not to bring any of this up with your mother. It was a very upsetting year for her.
The important point is that, at Hallowe’en, graffiti appeared on the wall, warning that the Chamber had been opened. Ron, Hermione and I were coming back from Nick’s Deathday party and stumbled upon it and also on Mrs. Norris’s petrified body. Filch, of course, was demanding punishment.
“Just as he did with us!” Albus looked up from the letter.
“WHAT?” Rose asked.
“Dad was just talking about Filch insisting he and your parents be punished. You can read it as soon as I’m finished.”
“Well, hurry up, then.”
He returned to the letter.
Of course, the magic was far too complicated for second years to perform. Dumbledore realised that immediately, so we weren’t blamed, at least not officially. Some of my fellow students were far more inclined to blame me!
I’m glad you didn’t get into trouble either, though I’m not surprised. McGonagall might be strict, but she’s always fair. Don’t ever be afraid to go to her if something happens and you can’t contact me quickly enough.
But I really doubt it’s a coincidence that you and Rose, our children, were the ones who were caught standing there. Whoever did it obviously intended that to happen, possibly hoping you’d be blamed or possibly just to mirror the events of 1992.
I don’t want to frighten you here. I am not suggesting for a moment that the Chamber has been opened and even if it had been, it wouldn’t matter. The Basilisk is as dead as Voldemort. I killed it myself, so that again, is something I have absolutely no doubt about.
What worries me is the idea of somebody remembering those attacks on Muggleborns as a good thing and either commemorating them with this graffiti or gloating about them to their son or daughter or niece or nephew or younger brother or sister. It’s not a good sign.
Keep me informed of anything else that happens and don’t worry too much, but be careful about checking who sent any messages or parcels you receive.
Your loving dad.
He passed the letter to Rose and waited impatiently as she read it. He really wanted to discuss it with her. Having to wait made him nervous.
“How much do you know about the opening of the Chamber?” she demanded after she finished reading. “Apart from what he’s said here, I mean.”
“Not much. I mean, I know there was a Basilisk down there and that my dad defeated it and that Lockhart…”
“I thought so,” she interrupted. “My parents have told me quite a bit more. Your mum was bewitched into opening it.”
“WHAT?” That was possibly the most startling thing he’d heard in his life. His mum had released the creature which could have killed his aunt.
She nodded. “It wasn’t her fault. Lucius Malfoy gave her this diary Voldemort had when he < was at school and he somehow appeared out of it and bewitched her.”
“Lucius Malfoy,” he said thoughtfully. “This has to be Scorpius!”
“I suppose it could be.”
“His father was at school with Dad. He’d know exactly what happened and of course he’d be gloating about what his granddad did. Lucius Malfoy is probably still saying what a pity it was he couldn’t kill any of them.”
Or that he couldn’t make Albus’s mother kill them. Just thinking that gave Albus a funny feeling in his stomach.
What would have happened to her if somebody had been killed? Would she have been sent to Azkaban?
He kind of wished Rose hadn’t told him about it.
She seemed to be still thinking about what he’d said about Scorpius.
“It’s a pity we don’t have your dad’s map,” she said. “It would make it so much easier to keep an eye on him. We haven’t really done too good a job of it so far.”
“I know.” Albus bit his lip. He felt quite sure it was Scorpius, but he doubted they’d ever be able to prove it.
And if they didn’t, he and Rose would remain under suspicion, just as their parents had been. Hadn’t his dad said that some of the other students had blamed him?
“There has to be some way of catching him out,” Rose said in frustration. “If it is him, that is. Leave it with me. I’ll think of something.”
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