Chapter 16 : Return to Hogwarts.
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Lily’s delight in tormenting her dolls became more and more irritating over the following days. At least one of them was usually moaning in pain, while she watched in amusement. She never seemed to get tired of listening to them, but the rest of the family certainly did.
“Not again,” James said, barging into the sitting room, where one doll was apparently suffering dragon pox and the other from the flu. He stared at Albus. “Where is she?”
Lily was nowhere to be seen.
Albus shrugged. “She just ran upstairs. I hope she’s gone to get their medicine.”
She’d hidden the medical case to stop the rest of the family intervening when the dolls’ cries got too irritating.
“She’d bloody better have,” James said grimly.
Lily skipped back into the room with the potion for dragon pox and laughingly placed it to the wrong doll’s lips.
“Oooh, that’s not right. I feel even worse now. Achoo, achoo, achoo.”
James snatched the medicine from her hand roughly and pressed it to the lips of the other doll who was complaining loudly about the itching.
“Thank you. I feel much better now. Do you want to play again?”
“Oooh, I need my medicine,” the other doll complained. “I feel all dizzy and my throat hurts. Achoo, achoo.”
James grabbed the doll by a leg and ran upstairs.
Lily and Albus raced after him.
“Give her back,” Lily demanded.
Up in his bedroom, he dangled the doll out of the window.
“Either give her the correct medicine or I drop her,” he said.
Lily lunged towards him. “Give her back!”
“I’m going to drop her,” he jeered.
“James, stop it,” Albus said weakly. He was annoyed by the dolls’ constant complaining too, but it wasn’t fair to risk breaking them.
Their mother entered the room.
“James Potter, give your sister back her doll!”
“But she’s driving me crazy with them.”
“I’m surprised you haven’t driven us all crazy by now, but we don’t go around taking your things. Now, give it back to her.”
Sulkily, he did as he was told.
“And Lily, please can you give them a rest occasionally?” their mother continued. “I think we could all do with a break from them for a day or two now. Go out and play in the yard with your brothers or something.”
“Oh, all right,” Lily said. She turned to James. “You owe me a go on your new broom.”
He stared at her.
“How do you work that one out?”
“Well, you could have broken my doll, so the least you can do is let me have a ride.”
Albus thought James was going to argue with her, but he just sighed.
“Oh go on, then.”
They spent the rest of the afternoon taking turns on the broom. It really was a good one, Albus thought, especially compared with the ones they used in flying class.
“Yeah, those school brooms are terrible,” James agreed when he said what he was thinking. “I spent most of first year dreaming of bringing my own one.”
“A couple of people in my year were joking about sneaking theirs in.”
“Oh, believe me, I tried that. When I first went to Hogwarts, I tried slipping it into the car and putting my trunk in on top of it, but Mum found it and made me leave it behind.” He sighed.
Lily swooped down on James’s broom.
“Let’s practice some Quidditch shots.”
“OK,” James said. “I’ll be Keeper and you two try to score past me. You can use my old broom, Lily.”
They played until they could no longer see the Quaffle, then Albus challenged his mum to a game of wizard’s chess while James and Lily set up Albus’s Quidditch game.
The rest of the holidays passed enjoyably. Teddy visited regularly and Albus’s grandparents called over twice.
Unfortunately Dark Wizards didn’t take Christmas off, so his father had to go back to work the day after Boxing day. His mother, however, was able to take longer holidays, as Christmas was a quiet time for the Daily Prophet and there was only one day both his parents had to work .
“Dominique’s coming over to keep an eye on things,” their mum told them. “Be good.”
“Mum!” James glared at her. “I’m almost fourteen. I do not need a babysitter.”
The last word was said in utter disgust.
“And Lily’s only nine,” his mother replied calmly. “Anyway, you like Dominique.”
“Yeah, as a cousin and a teammate, not as a…a….” He didn’t seem to be able to bring himself to use the word ‘babysitter’ again.
“It’s not up for debate, James. I’m not leaving the three of you home alone. God knows, there probably wouldn’t be a house to come home to. Teddy and Victoire apparently have plans, so it’ll have to be Dominique.”
James stormed off to his room in annoyance, but returned when Dominique arrived. Albus smiled to himself. His brother might be appalled at the idea of being babysat, but he still wasn’t going to miss out on spending time with arguably the best player on the Gryffindor team.
Dominique grinned at him. “Hey, James.”
“How about some Quidditch practice?” she suggested. “Girls against boys.”
The two sides were fairly evenly matched. Lily, though good for her age, was, after all, only nine years old. Her lack of experience, however, was more than compensated for by Dominique’s skill. James too was extremely good. Albus himself was a competent player, better than Lily, but not as good as James or Dominique.
The game was a long one and when it finally finished, Albus and Lily had had enough of Quidditch for one day. James, however, wanted to play on.
“We can practice some shots, if you’d like,” Dominique said. “You two won’t get up to any mischief, will you?”
Albus shrugged. “I’m just going inside to read.”
Lily, however, had no intention of allowing him to do so. She perched herself beside him and quizzed him continually about what he was reading, what he’d learnt at Hogwarts, what the teachers were like, did he think her Quidditch had improved?
Albus didn’t mind. It was good to spend time with his sister. He’d missed her while he’d been at Hogwarts.
It was a good day. He suspected even James had enjoyed it, though he’d never have admitted it. In fact, the entire Christmas holidays had been good.
All too soon, it was time to return to school and James and Albus were dispatched to their rooms to pack.
This turned out to be a more difficult task than Albus had expected, as it meant deciding what to leave behind. He definitely wanted to take his wizard’s chess game and the Quidditch game and the model of the solar system and some of his new books. It was a good thing Rose had convinced him not to bring everything he owned home with him. There was no way he’d be able to fit it all in his trunk along with the new items he wanted to bring.
“I don’t know how we’re going to get all your stuff home at the end of the year,” his mother fussed, when she saw how much he’d packed.
“Oh, he can always send some of it on ahead,” his father said. “Don’t worry about it, Gin.”
Albus sighed with relief. He’d been afraid she’d say he had to leave some of it at home. It was all stuff he needed, but parents didn’t always understand that. At least his mother didn’t. His father usually seemed to appreciate how important his children’s possessions were.
They loaded everything into the car.
“Come on, James,” their mum shouted. “We don’t want to be late.”
He placed his new broom carefully on top of the trunks before getting into the car. Albus grinned. He’d rarely seen his brother take such care with anything.
“I wish I was going too.” Lily pouted as she got into the car.
Albus sighed. Returning to Hogwarts wasn’t as exciting as starting had been. He hadn’t realised just how hard it would be being away from his family for months at a time. Of course, they wrote regularly and he loved receiving their letters, but it wasn’t the same as being with them. And then there was all that stuff about the graffiti and finding the inkwell in his trunk. He’d been able to forget it while he’d been at home, but now that he was returning to school, he couldn’t help feeling worrying that his things might have been tampered with in his absence.
Of course, Rose was probably right. Nearly everybody had gone home for Christmas, so the odds were that nobody’d have the opportunity to tamper with them, but you never knew.
He turned to look out the window. He couldn’t cry. James would never let him live it down.
King’s Cross station was as busy as it always was when Hogwarts students were returning to school.
James raced across the platform to greet his friends, but Albus hung back, still trying to cling to the last few moments of the holidays
“Albus,” his father said quietly.
“Are you all right?”
He nodded. “Yeah. It’s just…I’ll miss you. You and Mum and Lily.”
A strange look crossed his father’s face.
“We miss you too, Albus. And James. We miss you every day. But you know what I tell myself?”
“That we’re lucky to have people we love enough to miss them so much.”
Tears filled Albus’s eyes and he glanced around, worried.
“Don’t worry.” His father smiled. “James isn’t paying any attention to us.”
“I love you, Dad.”
His father hugged him. “I love you too.”
“HARRY, ALBUS, hurry up,” his mother called. “The train will be leaving shortly.”
His father grinned at him and slipped an arm around him as they strolled onto Platform 9 and 3/4s.
He knew he didn’t have to ask his father not to tell anybody he’d been upset. He could trust him with that. In fact, he could pretty much trust his father with anything.
James was already standing in the doorway to the train.
“Where on earth were you?”
“Oh, we were just having a little private conflab, right Albus?” His father grinned.
“Hey, what were you telling him and not me?” James sounded insulted.
Lily grabbed Albus tightly. “I don’t want you to go away.”
“I’ll miss you too, kiddo.” He bit his lip hard to keep from crying.
“Go on, Albus. The train is boarding,” his mother said.
“I’m going. Bye Mum.”
“Bye honey. Have a great term. Don’t forget to write.”
She gave him one last hug, before he finally boarded the train.
James had already disappeared, but Albus remained at the window, waving to his family until they faded from view.
It wasn’t that he didn’t like school. His dormmates were cool, he liked most of his teachers and it was great to be finally learning magic. Plus he was hoping he might someday make the Ravenclaw Quidditch team. It wouldn’t be easy though. They were a pretty good team.
It was just hard, knowing he wouldn’t see his family again until Easter. Letters were all very well, but it wasn’t the same as being able to talk to his parents immediately when he needed them or spending time messing around with his sister.
“Is this where you are?” Rose appeared behind him. “What on earth are you doing?”
“And you couldn’t do that sitting down? I’ve been waiting ages for you. Rasmus asked me to join him, but I said no, because I wanted us to talk privately.”
“Sorry,” he said quietly.
“Oh, it doesn’t matter. Just come on now. We need to find somewhere quiet.”
It wasn’t easy to find a compartment now the train was moving.
Rose huffed impatiently and he couldn’t help feeling guilty. If he’d just gone to join her immediately…
“Finally!” she said, opening the door to an empty compartment. “Sit down now. Gosh, I’ve been waiting for a chance to talk to you since Christmas.”
“You could have owled me.”
“I suppose so, but it’s not the same as being able to talk about something. You know what’s occurred to me?”
“Well, think about it. It’s so obvious when you do. Who else might know what Slughorn was talking about when we asked him about Blackburn, somebody who’d probably tell us. And would know all about both times the Chamber was opened.”
He stared at her blankly. “No idea.”
“Hagrid, Albus. He’s been here forever too. He probably taught Blackburn. And you know he was accused of opening the Chamber of Secrets?”
He shook his head. “I didn’t know that.”
“Well, he was. Back the first time it was opened, he was at school with Lord Voldemort and Voldemort framed him, ‘cause of the way Hagrid loves monsters.”
“He framed Hagrid?” Albus was indignant. He knew Voldemort was evil and that nothing he’d do should surprise him, but the idea of somebody setting somebody as kind as Hagrid up to take the blame for something he didn’t do appalled him.
“Yeah and then when it was opened the second time, people thought it might be Hagrid again.”
“But it wasn’t him the first time.”
“Well, of course not, but they didn’t know that.”
“You mean people thought he was guilty for years?
She shrugged. “I guess so.”
“How could anybody think Hagrid would hurt people?”
She shrugged again, but when she spoke, it wasn’t to answer his question.
“I can’t believe we didn’t talk to him sooner. He’s bound to be able to tell us something. And he would; I’m sure he would. He isn’t like other adults. He doesn’t treat everything as if it’s a State secret.”
No, Hagrid definitely wasn’t like other adults. Rose had a point. If anybody’d be likely to tell them what they knew, it was him.
“We haven’t been to see him in a while,” he said slowly.
“So let’s go down to his cabin during the week. Before we get too busy with schoolwork.”
For the first time since leaving home, Albus smiled. Visiting Hagrid was always fun. Even if they found out nothing, it was definitely time to go and see him.
“OK,” he said to Rose.
The conversation turned to other things. Rose hadn’t seen most of his presents yet and he hadn’t seen hers. She probably wouldn’t be that interested in the Quidditch game, but she enjoyed wizard’s chess almost as much as he did and he knew she’d like the model of the solar system.
They were still talking when the train pulled into the station.
“So what were two discussing that was so private?” Rasmus caught up with them on the platform.
“Oh, that’d be telling.” Rose winked at him. “I think we travel by the coaches this time.”
“Can’t say I’m too sorry about that,” Rasmus said. “One trip in those boats was enough.”
“Oh, come on, they weren’t that bad,” Rose said.
“You weren’t the one who nearly fell out.”
Albus smiled and glanced around the platform, trying to find Derek. Maybe going back to school wasn’t so bad after all.
Back in the common room, the Ravenclaw first years compared their holidays.
“I heard you stayed here for Christmas,” Albus said shyly to Angie. “What’s that like?”
She shrugged. “Christmas day was fun. The rest of the time, the place was pretty quiet, you know? Not much to do. I’m sure your Christmas was much more interesting.”
“My dad used to stay at Hogwarts most Christmases.”
Rose glanced from Angie to Albus.
“Anybody want a game of hangman?” she asked, changing the subject. “I got one from my uncle for Christmas.”
She pulled out the reusable hangman game.
“I’ll play you,” Rasmus said. “I’m pretty good at hangman.”
Nathan grinned enthusiastically. “I wouldn’t mind a game either.”
Albus left them to it, looking up only when he heard a resounding crash.
“Sorry,” Nathan said.
He’d managed to knock the entire thing over.
“It’s all right,” Rose said. “I can set it up again.”
Laughing, Albus turned back to the Quidditch game he was attempting to play against Derek. It was an easy and fun way of teaching his friend some of the techniques of Quidditch. Unfortunately, Derek’s players had figured out he wasn’t too familiar with the game and tended to ignore or argue with many of his instructions.
“That happens with wizard’s chess too,” Albus said. “If they think you don’t know what you’re doing, they won’t obey you. When you get better, they’ll pay more attention to what you say.”
“Well, I am completely confused,” Derek said. “Between the conflicting instructions and all the different balls, I’m not sure I’ll ever fully understand this game.”
Albus flopped back down on the floor.
“Well, the most important thing to know is that Ravenclaw is playing Slytherin at the end of the month. And we should win. At least, that’s what everybody says. James says Slytherin were appalling last year.”
“Will that make up for the way Gryffindor beat us?”
“Depends how much we win by and on the other results. It’s all pretty complicated.”
“It sounds it. Do you think we can win the cup?”
“Well, it’s between us and Gryffindor. I’d say it could go either way, really.”
He’d only half his mind on the conversation because he was also wondering about the way Rose had changed the conversation so abruptly earlier. It was like she wanted him to stop asking Angie about Christmas at Hogwarts, but he couldn’t imagine why she would.
He asked her about it that evening.
“I just got the impression she didn’t really want to talk about it,” Rose said. “You know what Angie’s like. She doesn’t seem to really like talking about stuff like that.”
“I suppose that’s true,” he said thoughtfully.
He couldn’t help wondering why that was.
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