“RUMOR HAS IT”
The Hogwarts Express huffed slowly out of the station. The steam covered the platform like a cloud and the sound of the whistle strong and steady. Harry and Ginny, Dudley and Edward stood waving each lost in their own thoughts. The steam dissipated but the sound of the whistle lingered from a distance.
Dudley took a lollipop out of his pocket and with some ceremony unwrapped it and put it in his mouth. Edward chugged some raisinettes straight from the box. Harry and Ginny watched in amusement.
“Well”, Harry said after a while, “I guess that’s that.”
Dudley glanced over at him from under the brim of his cap.
“What do I do now, Harry. I’m wantin’ to stand on this bloody invisible platform ‘till he comes back.” Harry laughed a little. But he knew Dudley was scared for Brian, never having had the boy out of his sight.
“Dudley, Brian couldn’t be safer. You can send him an owl in a day or two, alright.” Harry reassured him.
“Why in thee world, Harry Potter, would I send me son a filthy owl of all things.” Dudley shouted and threw his arms up almost knocking the lollipop right out of his mouth. Harry walked over to Dudley who was visibly shaking. Harry put his arm around his cousin and spoke quietly and reassuringly.
“We use owls, Dudley, to send messages back and forth. Don’t you remember my owl, Hedwig?” Harry hadn’t thought about Hedwig in a while and it brought a smile to his face.
“Yeah,” Dudley said, “you kept him in your room I never knew he was good for anything.” Dudley said sadly.
“We’ll pick out a nice one for Brian and send a message.” Harry explained to him. “Then Brian can send a message back.” Harry said. Dudley nodded and shoved his hands in his pocket and kicked a pebble with his foot, the lollipop rolling around in his mouth. This big, powerful man was lost. Amazingly, it broke Harry’s heart.
The train ride on the Hogwarts Express was fascinating for Brian, so many things going on. James left the group almost at once to join his friends. He was, after all in his last year and was looking forward to being with his friends and enjoying his time at Hogwarts. Brian settled in a car by himself for a while. He noticed most everyone had an owl. He would have to see what that was about. After a time Lily Potter walked passed, stopped and peered into the car. “Hi Brian, can I sit with you?” she asked.
“Oh yeah, sure. Thanks.” Brian answered.
Lily and her friend Patty sat across from Brian. “Great train isn’t it Brian? Lily asked.
“Oh yeah sure.” Brian said.
“Oh by the way this is my friend Patty Flanagan.” Lily said by way of introduction. “Patty, this is my cousin, sort of, Brian Dursley.”
“Hello Brian – sort of cousin – Dursley”. Patty replied. The girls laughed and Brian thought it would be a good idea if he did as well.
Albus peeked his head in just then. Lily scowled and rolled her eyes but Patty was just fine with this visit.
“Oh Albus, come in a sit for a while. We’re just getting to know Brian who must be your cousin “sort of” too now that I think of it.” Patty said.
It was really the last thing Albus wanted to do but seeing the look of desperation on Brian’s face Albus accepted the invitation. Albus was a popular boy. Almost as sought after as his brother James. Albus was more reserved, however. James took after his name sake quite well. He was usually in some sort of trouble that he knew how to emerge from unscathed and with admired style. He was a good wizard as well and would probably end up at the Ministry as an Auror like his dad. Harry could see James had the talent for it; but it could be dangerous as well.
Albus on the other hand was quieter and more analytical. He was interested in a position in the Department of Muggle Technologies and Media, or “iMinistry” as it was jokingly called, a rather new field. It was determined only a few years earlier that Muggle electronic devices such as computers, all sorts of mobile phones, games and telecommunications were fascinating and it would be most likely advantageous to study and collect such things as a sign of the times if nothing else. Also some of the devices, such as satellite based phones had picked up on wizarding activity. Although unbeknownst to the Muggles- “No service” areas, unexplained interruption in service, catching ‘paranormal’ images were just a few effects of the wizard and muggle worlds colliding. The“ iMinistry Department” was called upon to investigate.
Now Lily was much like her mother, although her older brothers or “bothers” as she called them, played Quidditch they couldn’t hold a magic candle to her. Lily, in her second year, was a Seeker for Gryffindor.
Albus played for Slytherin. He was goal keeper and his Uncle Ron gave him as many pointers as he remembered. Ron and Hermione’s own children did not play Quidditch. They had two girls; both interested in research and History like their mother.
James was a beater for Gryffindor and in his last year, he was looking forward to the match with Slytherin. It would be Potter v. Potter. Everyone loved it. With Lily’s talent though as Seeker the odds were on Gryffindor’s side, although no player was getting past Albus.
Patty said “Albus, I hear your skills as goal keeper for Slytherin could possibly win the Cup this year. “
“ I know I don’t doubt it.” Lily said. “Albus is the best; but some of us are just as good.” she added.
“Well, we all know the Headmistress thinks he is absolutely outstanding.” interrupted James sticking his head in, then taking off.
Albus turned bright red and looked at the floor. “Yeah well, I mean I’ll do my best.” He said and looked up at Lily.
“You bet you will Albus, I’m looking forward to it.” Lily said and smiled. Albus was relieved that Lily was OK with him doing his best. James would also do his best to keep Albus from being successful. James had no problem trying to outsmart the talented goalkeeper. It was just then that everyone noticed Brian. He had a very anxious look on his face like he was trying hard to think of something or figure something out.
“What’s the matter, Brian?” Lily asked.
Brian did not answer but continued to be preoccupied with whatever it was he was attempting to sort out. Brian lifted his head slowly and looked at Lily but his eyes were unfocused as if he were seeing something they were not.
“Brian! What is it?” Lily asked again not a little startled. Brian again gave no answer. He appeared to be looking at them but not really.
“Brian” Albus said softly “look at me.”
Brian looked up and as if a veil had been lifted his eyes came into focus. He looked from one to the other, their faces etched with concern. He smiled at them.
“No need for worry. All is well…for now.” Brian stated.
“What?” asked Patty. You looked like death just then.”
“I assure you, it is living with which I am concerned.” Brian replied eloquently.
Everyone stared in silence with their mouths open, blinking. All that was heard was the rhythmic rattling of the train as it rattled on towards it destination.
Finally Lily put in “Well Excuuuse me, Professor.”
Everyone laughed including Brian. Albus punched him in the arm and said “Way to creep us out Dursley.” Brian made a funny face and all returned to normal.
But Brian knew that he had had an amazing experience. He was, for a time he could not estimate, transported if you will to a beautiful place. He did not see anyone, only beautiful green grass and cool forests. But he sensed a presence, benevolent and inviting. They were showing him or teaching him about his own abilities especially great perception and wisdom. He felt like he was the wind around his friends and although he could not tell what they were thinking precisely, he could feel their joy and their anxieties. Somewhere though, close by, he felt malevolence and dishonesty which caused him great sadness and he wished no longer to be in this state and he was ‘returned’ back to the train. He never felt captive. He knew instinctively that he could come and go from this place and it did not frighten him. He belonged.
Lily was talking to her friend Patty “I think there might be some new professors this year. You know how the Headmistress likes to shake things up, keep everyone on their toes.”
Patty said “I heard that a couple of years ago she heard some students were smuggling fireworks into Hogwarts. She knew just where to find them. She called a special assembly and as she was speaking about the decorum of students at Hogwarts she waved her wand and set off all the fireworks right there! “
Lily added “I heard tyhat all the students were so surprised they were screaming and running thinking it was some sort of attack.” Lily was laughing by the time she finished her description of the events.
Patty said “and the Headmistress, they say, just laughed and laughed, then ordered the students all back into the Hall and told them: “You could fool some of the people some of the time; but you can’t fool her.”
As Brian looked out of the compartment he saw the cart of sweets and cakes. A boy his age was buying raspberry caterpillars. When you put the caterpillars in your mouth they burst into butterflies and fly around your mouth spurting whatever flavors you picked. It was great.
“These are great fun, don’t you think?” Ned Turner said looking through the compartment window at Brian.
“Yeah, brilliant” Brian responded but the boy was gone before Brian finished speaking.
Everyone was seated in the Great Hall. The Sorting was about to begin. The Headmistress was not at the podium however. She was in the back of the Hall walking slowly between the tables, her hands behind her under her robes. Her blond hair was tied back in a high ponytail under a black baseball cap that read “Headmistress For Real”. She looked from student to student then stopped at a Ravenclaw table where the 7th years were seated. She beckoned with her hand and the student turned over three pieces of Weasley trick candy. The Headmistress rolled them in her hands, juggled them expertly in the air then before they hit the ground she made them disappear into thin air. “Let me say this to you all. I can smell Weasley stuff a mile off, so you would all do well to stay away from it.”
At this Catherine and Elizabeth Weasley, Hermione and Ron’s daughters winced. Their Uncle George and Percy had made Weasley Joke Shop into a global business and they were asked, a lot, to bring in anything they could. But Catherine and Elizabeth were not Jokesters. They were studious and serious and although they loved their uncles dearly they were about as different from the Weasley family as…well a Granger!
The Headmistress was strict, smart and sensitive. “I have nothing against the creativity of the Weasley name.” At this she nodded in the Weasley sister’s general direction. “You should all be so successful. I know first-hand how the Weasley twins achieved their success. I ask simply for discipline; and I shall have it. Agreed?” At this question the Headmistress cupped her ear with her hand and all replied in unison: “YES HEADMISTRESS.”
By this time the Headmistress had made it up to the podium. She changed her hat with a flick of her wand into a wide brimmed proper “witch’s hat.” The fact that it was green and gray plaid was not important.
“I will be brief.” the Headmistress began, “ I know that is always best. I am your Headmistress, Professor Pansy Parkinson. There are just a few changes this year in our faculty: Defense Against the Dark Arts will be taught by Professor Niles Nefario.”
Professor Nefario stood up. He was tall, with a crew cut and square jaw, he was imposing to look at. The students were impressed. After brief applause Headmistress Parkinson introduced Professor Oscar I. Apple who would teach Muggle Technology. He was medium build and height. He wore big black glasses and bowed theatrically as the students applauded with approval.
“Now we shall proceed with the sorting.” the Headmistress said.
Brian sat perfectly still. He heard names being called. Then he heard Dursley, Brian. Brian walked up gingerly and sat on the stool as he saw the others do. The sorting hat was placed on his head. Brian closed his eyes as the hat fell down over his ears.
“To Slytherin with you, and may you have success in all that you do.” The hat whispered softly.
Professor Hilltop, who was the Headmistress’ assistant removed the hat. Brian walked over to the Slytherin table to great applause, mostly encouraged by his Potter cousins.
“Now that we’ve all been sorted,” Headmistress Parkinson said “I have just a few last things to note before we enjoy this wonderful feast. “ First of all, welcome to all our first years. I am sure that they will have a productive and beneficial year.”
It was here that the Headmistress glanced over to the Slytherin table and caught Brian’s eye. The boy sitting next to him poked him and Brian looked at him and shrugged. The boy laughed quietly.
“My name’s Rudy Spice” he shook Brian’s hand vigorously.
“I’m Brian Dursley.” Brian said feeling as though the handshake was going to land him right on the floor. Rudy was large for his age. He had shaggy brown hair and laughing brown eyes. He was like a friendly bear and Brian trusted him and liked him immediately. Professor Parkinson droned on about this and that and Rudy said “Have you met the Headmistress before? Seems like she knows ya.”
“Nah” Brian answered looking up at his new friend, “Probably thought I was someone else.”
Rudy laughed and made a snorting sound and said “Well she is partial to Slytherin, being she was in Slytherin House herself.”
“Was she?” Brian asked.
“Oh yeah, sure” Rudy said. “But that was back when Slytherin had a kind of bad rep you know, Voldermort and all.”
Brian pretended to understand. “Oh well sure. Yeah. that’s right” Brian said nodding realizing he would have many questions for his cousins.
That night Brian ended up in a room with Rudy Spice, Ned turner and Justin Longbottom. They were all pretty overwhelmed.
Brian recognized Ned as the boy who bought the candy. “Enjoyed your candy?” Brian asked.
Ned looked at him “Oh yeah, I saw you on the train, that’s right.” Ned said.
Just then Justin said and he was putting his pillow into its case “You know my dad says he is very glad that I was sorted into Slytherin House. He thinks a lot of good things are going to come out of Slytherin.”
“How does your dad know where you ended up? We haven’t even had time to send owls.” Ned asked.
“Oh, well, don’t you know? My dad is Professor Longbottom. He teaches Herbology!” At that Rudy threw a pillow at him.
“You puttin’ us on or what? That’s too much” Rudy said and fell on his bed rolling with laughter. Soon they were all throwing pillows at one another and laughing, even Ned Turner who hardly ever laughed.
The next morning at breakfast Brian was happy to see Albus , Lily and James. James actually came over to him and spoke to him to the astonishment of Rudy, Ned and Justin.
“How’re you getting along, Brian?” James asked.
“Very well, James. I’ve met some great friends already.” Brian answered. Nodding to his new friends sitting with him.
“Good.” James said as he bent down closer to Brian. “ Now stay out of trouble you hear.” and he tossled Brian’s hair and gave him a reassuring wink, walking away with his robes flowing perfectly and every girl’s eyes on him.
“Holy cow, Brian, how do you know James Potter, of all people… I mean wizards!” Rudy asked with a mouth full of food.
“Oh well, don’t you know?” James Potter is my cousin…of sorts, really a second cousin I think, anyway his grandmother Lily and my grandmother Petunia were sisters you see?” Brian said matter of factly.
Ned dropped his cup and spilled pumpkin juice all over the table. No one really noticed since Brian had once again managed to reduce the whole table into silence. Rudy broke the silence with a raucous laugh. Slapping Brian on the back he said “You’re full of surprises Brian old bean.” Everyone slowly got back to their breakfast. But there was one of them who knew he had found what he was looking for.
Just then an owl landed in front of Brian and dropped an envelope addressed: Brian Dursley, Breakfast Table, Great Hall, Hogwarts. Brian stared blankly. Rudy laughed and took the envelope from the owl which promptly departed.
“Here” Rudy said “Looks like a letter for you.”
Brian looked at the envelope Brian Dursley, Breakfast Table, Great Hall, Hogwarts. “But how does anyone know..” Brian began to ask when Justin interrupted him “Oh just open it up, for pity’s sake.” Justin said.
Brian opened the letter. It read: “ Dear Brian, I hope you are OK. We miss you already but don’t let that bother you. You have a good time and study hard and all that. Uncle Harry helped me with the owl. We’ll get you one at Christmas. Be a good little wizard and we’ll see you soon. Luv, Daddy, Mum and Edward.”
Brian folded the letter up and put it in his pocket. He never went anywhere without it from that moment on.
“Everything OK, Brian” Ned asked.
“Everything is fine, thanks.” Brian answered. “But one of you has to show me how to send an owl”
“No problem.” Don’t worry, it’s easy.” “For sure.” They all answered.
Harry and Ginny were at the Ministry of Magic meeting with Hermione and Ron. They were in Hermione’s conference room in the Department of Historical Research. The conference room held shelves of books both animated and plain, orbs, penseive recepticles, and original manuscripts. Included were writings by Voldermort when he was a child that had been discovered shortly after his death at the orphanage where he first spoke to Albus Dumbledore. The writings were a missive of that meeting and their value was beyond any price. Hermione also had first editions of “The Adventures of Harry Potter” ; Harry James Potter: an Unauthorized Biography” by Rita Skeeter; The Dynamic: Voldermort and Harry Potter by Professor Eugenie Holmes; and the definitive tome entitled “Potter Unplugged” by Hermione Granger the only book written that included the direct participation of Harry himself. Its sales were second only to “The Testimony of Harry James Potter” of which Hermione had the one and only original and complete transcript. Signed by Harry himself and dated as well. It was kept sealed in a bewitched glass case that could not be accessed and would leave the person who the thief loved most, a victim of irreversible disfigurement. It was called the Mulrooney curse named after the witch who perfected it and it was generally outlawed by the Ministry except in extreme cases. This was one.
The curse could be temporarily reversed by a counter spell, a complicated counter spell. It required two people. Each had knowledge of only half the spell and one did not know the other’s spell. The two people who had the Spell were Emmaline Mulrooney and Hermione Granger, but now rumor had it that there may be another way to access the case.
The reason for all the security was that the original manuscript, it seemed, contained some details edited out of the published book that was released several years before. Not a lot of details, just those that would make it possible to reconstruct places and times that should never be reconstructed.
The case was inconspicuous in the room but Harry knew it was there and he always avoided looking at it, even now, so many years later.
“How is your cousin getting along Harry?” Hermione asked.
“Dudley? He’s dealing with it all, you know. He misses Brian and he and Edward are very careful who they deal with. We sent an owl this morning. Brian should get it at breakfast. “I’ve explained to him that Brian may still be a target, though.” Harry said.
“He very well may be a target, Harry.” Hermione said “that’s why I’ve asked you both to meet with Ron and myself. Harry and Ginny looked surprised.
“He’s at Hogwarts, Hermione, I think we can breathe some sigh of relief.” Harry said.
Hermione continued cautiously, it was clear that Harry did not know what had been surmised by the Ministry.
“ The rumors about the Key turned out to be quite accurate, Harry and while the box and diamond are safe at Gringotts, and the great Wisdom and Knowledge of the mysterious Magi cannot be mistreated, or used for someone’s vain advantage.” Hermione stopped speaking and looked at Ron.
“Harry it’s become clear to the Ministry that a rumor that has been circulating may very well be more than just a rumor.” Ron spoke slowly and softly “It seems the original “The Testament of Harry Potter, the book locked in that case” Ron glanced over at the case, “ where you give detailed information about where you dropped the Resurrection stone, where you threw the Elder wand, and that you or members of your family have access to the Cloak of Invisibility may be accessed by a certain Key, without consequence of the Curse.” Ron let Harry and Ginny think a minute then he continued “No one can have that information in that manuscript Harry. The Deathly Hallows have to remain buried along with everything else of Voldermort’s time.”
Harry stood up and asked “Is that what this is all about?”
“This is ridiculous. First, I broke the wand and threw it from the bridge, you all know that. Hermione, Ron you were there. You saw me.” Harry began to talk faster and faster. The thing he feared was beginning. His thoughts and memories were travelling back to those times.
“Another thing, I threw the Elder Wand within the walls of Hogwarts. No one could get into Hogwarts to look for it. No one.” Then it occurred to Harry. Brian was at Hogwarts, Brian and the Key. He looked at Ginny, Ron and Hermione.
“The Key can only work if Brian wields it.” Harry said leaning on the table with both hands.
“He could be tricked, made to use the Key if he was convinced that someone he cared for was in danger.” Ron said quietly trying to calm Harry.
“But no one knows what information is in the book.” Harry insisted.
“Harry you must realize that the rumors surrounding the original manuscript are as rampant as the rumors that surrounded the legend of the Key. It is possible to gather the Deathly Hallows. That’s why the manuscript is protected the way it is.” She said pointing to the case to emphasize her point and exasperation. “ Certain wizards and witches who dabble in these legends are ready to go to any lengths to open this case and their victory is at Hogwarts with Brian.”
Hogwarts: where Brian was supposed to be safe from all harm could be the very place he may be in the greatest danger.