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The Writing on the Wall. by MargaretLane
Chapter 24 : Rose's Plan.
 
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Disclaimer: Everything you recognise, including all the plants mentioned, Greenhouse One, etc, belong to J.K. Rowling. No copyright infringement is intended.



At the beginning of May, Neville gathered both his first year classes into Greenhouse One and announced it was time to begin their end of year assessment.

“I’ve a list of plants here and in a moment, I’ll ask you all to choose one. Don’t worry, they’ll all be ones we’ve studied this year. Your assignment will involve observing and helping to care for the plant you’ve chosen. Marks will be allocated both on the care you give to the plant and the records you keep. I’ll give you more detailed information once you’ve chosen your plant.”

He smiled at the Ravenclaws, who were frantically trying to note down all his instructions.

“I’ve a pile of handouts here, explaining exactly what you’ll need to include for each plant, so don’t worry about noting down everything I’ve said. However, I do want to stress the importance of this assignment. It will count for ninety percent of your grade. You’ll also have a short end of year exam, just be sure you’re familiar with the other plants, but most of the marks will be allocated for this project.

“Now, I’m going to pass around a list of the possibilities. Read through them quietly for a moment and decide which you’ll choose. Try and have a second choice if possible, because I’m restricting the number of people who can choose each plant to five.” He waved his wand and a wizard’s hat not unlike the Sorting Hat appeared front of him. “Any time more than that raise their hands, the plant will be allocated to the first five names to emerge from the hat. The others will have to choose again.”

Albus scanned the list of plants in front of him. He was actually looking forward to this project. It sounded a good deal more fun than a written exam.

Derek leaned over to him.

“What are you going to choose?” he whispered.

“Not sure. Maybe the Leaping Toadstools.”

“I might do the same.”

“ABYSSINIAN SHIVELFIG?” Neville called out.

Seven or eight students raised their hands.

Neville tapped the hat with his wand. It shook, flipped over and what looked like a gold ribbon began to wind its way out of it, eventually forming  itself into the words “Glynis Bones.” Four more names followed, including that of a Slytherin student, “Danica Ravensdale”.

Neville handed them the sheets of instructions before calling out the next plant.

“BOUNCING BULBS?”

Four or five students raised their hands, including Angie.

“FANGED GERANIUM?”

Rose and Rasmus were the only two to raise their hands, which didn’t surprise Albus. It was probably the most difficult plant on the list.

“FLUTTERBY BUSH?”

“HONKING DAFFODILS?”

“LEAPING TOADSTOOLS?”

Albus and Derek both raised their hands, as did four other students.

“We’re back to the hat again,” Neville said.

Albus watched anxiously as the names emerged. Derek’s was second, then came two Hufflepuff students. It was now between him and Melina Peacock.

The ribbon formed the name “Albus Potter” and he and Derek shared a triumphant grin.

Neville handed them the list of instructions and Albus glanced through his as Neville called out the following plants.

The instructions included listing the potions Leaping Toadstools were used in, making note of how many were growing in Greenhouse One, helping to collect any Slughorn needed for the potions cupboard and making note of when he did so, how many were used and any difficulties he encountered in collecting them. He’d also have to draw them and make note of their size and their various parts.

It was a detailed assignment, but not a particularly difficult one, as far as he could see.

Neville’d come to the end of assigning the plants and he clapped his hands for attention.

“Some of you will have seen that your assignment includes keeping the potions’ stores supplied. I’ll be letting Professor Slughorn know who’s responsible for each plant and either he or I will let you know if any are required. If, for whatever reason, you’re unable to collect what’s needed, you may ask one of the others who’s chosen the same plant to do so. If this happens, both students should make note of what has happened in their notes, the first noting what they were asked for, why they were unable to collect them and who actually did so and the second noting which student asked them, when they collected what was necessary, in what quantity and so on.

“If any student fails to collect what they’ve been asked for, without asking another student to replace them, they’ll lose marks. Equally, any student whose instructions include keeping their plant pruned or watered will lose marks if this has not been done.

“Now, I’m sure you’re all anxious to get to dinner, so I’ll let you go. If you have any further questions, feel free to approach me at any time, but please read through your instructions first. I won’t be pleased if I’m asked something that’s clearly stated on your handouts.” He smiled as he said this, taking the sting out of the words.

Nathan looked worried, even though he’d chosen the Honking Daffodils, one of the easiest plants on the list.

“I know I’ll do something terrible like killing them all,” he said.

“You won’t,” Albus reassured him.

Rose tapped him from behind.

“WHAT?” He swung around to face her.

“Hang back a moment,” she whispered.

He’d be late for dinner, but he supposed that didn’t really matter. Not if Rose had something important to discuss with him.

“I think I’ve figured out my plan,” she said when they were alone.

“Really?”

“Yeah. The only thing is it’ll probably be a while before we can carry it out.”

“How come?”

“We’ll have to complete these first.” She nodded towards her list of instructions for the Herbology project. “Or not necessarily complete it, but we’ll need to have enough done to make it worth destroying.”

“Destroying?” He was appalled. “But it’s worth ninety percent of our Herbology mark!”

“Oh, don’t worry, we won’t really let anybody destroy it. We just want to give them the opportunity to try. Then we lie in wait, ideally under your dad’s Invisibility Cloak…”

He stared at her. This plan was becoming more and more unfeasible.

“And how exactly do we get hold of that?”

“We ask him,” she said simply. “Or rather you do. The worst he can do is say no.”

He thought about this for a moment.

“I suppose so,” he said finally. After all, his dad had seemed to think they were doing the right thing by investigating. Maybe he would let them use his most prized possession. Maybe. Albus didn’t think it very likely.

He wouldn’t ask him just yet, he decided. The plan still seemed utterly fantastic to him. It might never really come off at all.

Instead he concentrated on his Herbology assignment, determined to get the best grade possible. Since he also had his regular class schedule and his ordinary homework to contend with, it didn’t leave much time for anything else.

He’d been working on it for nearly two weeks, when Slughorn stopped him after class.

“Ah Albus, Professor Longbottom tells me you’re the man I need to come to when I need some Leaping Toadstools.”

“Yes, Professor.”

“We seem to be running a bit short at the moment and I need them for my fourth years next Monday. Could you gather a few up for me?”

“Of course, Sir. How many do you need?”

“Oh, a couple of basketsful.” He waved a hand dismissively. “I’m sure you’ll bring me what I need.”

“I’ll try, Sir.”

“Modest, just like your father. Oh, that reminds me, I’m planning a rather special end of year party for the Slug Club. It’ll be my final farewell to Hogwarts. Though I daresay we’ll meet again, won’t we, my dear boy?”

“Of course, Sir.”

“And you’ll be at the party, of course. I know the end of the year is a particularly busy time for a lot of people, so shall we say Saturday the twenty-fifth? That’ll give you all plenty of time to knuckle down afterwards, won’t it?”

“Yes Sir.”

“So you’ll be there? Splendid. And Rose too, of course. I’ll be sending her an invitation, but do let her know too. An old man like myself is liable to be forgetful, you know.”

“I’ll tell her.”

“Splendid. I know you’ll both have a wonderful time. I’ve a few surprises planned.” He tapped his nose intriguingly. “And you won’t forget those Leaping Toadstools, will you?”

“No Sir.”

“Bring them to my office tomorrow. Or the day after, if you can’t manage that. We’ll have a chat then too, make some plans for the party.”

“Yes Sir.”

He was anxious to get away. There was only so many times you could say “yes Sir” and “no Sir”. Not that Slughorn really listened anyway. He just ploughed away with whatever it was he had to say regardless.

And wasn’t much help when it came to the things you really needed to know, like how many Leaping Toadstools he wanted.

Albus was going to have to try and figure that one out himself.

He’d collect them straight after dinner, he decided and bring them to Slughorn immediately if he could. That way, if there wasn’t enough, he could easily get some more.

Before that, though, he supposed he should tell Rose about the Slug Club party.

“That’s IT!” she announced excitedly.

“It’s what?” he asked in confusion.

“That’s when we’ll carry out the plan.” She glanced around to be sure nobody was listening to them and lowered her voice. “Everybody will expect us to be at the party, we’ll leave our Herbology projects somewhere, make sure everybody knows we’re doing so, then lie in wait and see what happens.”

He bit his lip. “So what’ll we say to Slughorn?”

“We tell him we’re coming. You know what he’s like; he’s bound to let it slip, or even change the date, if we say anything to him. We can always think up some reason why we didn’t show up afterwards.”

“OK.” He was still doubtful. “But what if Dad won’t let us borrow the Cloak?”

“Then we come up with another way of keeping an eye on things, hide behind a suit of armour or something.” She shrugged. “But let’s see what he says first.”

“All right.”

He couldn’t help being nervous. Even apart from the question of whether his father would let them use the Cloak, there was so much that could go wrong. He wasn’t a good liar, for one thing. He was bound to let something slip to Slughorn when he brought him the Leaping Toadstools.

And it wasn’t as if there was any reason to believe the person would have any interest in damaging their projects. What was done seemed so haphazard - sending him Swelling Solution laced chocolates, writing graffiti on the wall, hiding the inkwell in his trunk, breaking his model of the solar system, damaging Scorpius’ broom - that he really couldn’t see any way of guessing what would or would not attract their attention.

All this went through his mind as he was collecting the Leaping Toadstools for Slughorn.

He really should concentrate  on the task in hand, he supposed. Not that it was particularly difficult or required that much concentration in itself, but he needed to make note of how many toadstools he collected in his notes. If he didn’t pay attention, he’d end up with pretty obvious discrepancies.

Sighing and trying to put all thoughts of Rose’s great plan out of his mind, he concentrated on counting the number of toadstools he’d collected. Sixty-three.

Would that be enough? he wondered, as he jotted it down on his parchment.

“Ah, Albus.” Professor Slughorn opened the door of his office to him when he returned from Greenhouse One. “Good to see you. You’ve brought me those toadstools already? How efficient! I really must tell Professor Longbottom you deserve the highest grade possible!”

“Thank you, Professor. Um, will this be enough?”

“Oh, plenty, plenty.”

He wasn’t even looking at the baskets. Would Albus get in trouble if there wasn’t enough, even though Slughorn’d said there was?

“Now, my dear boy, did you inform your delightful cousin of our little party?”

“Um, yes Sir.” He scuffed his shoe against the floor.

“I do hope she’ll be able to join us.”

“Yes, Sir,” he blurted out, rather too quickly.

Slughorn didn’t seem to notice.

“Wonderful, wonderful. Of course, I daresay Rose doesn’t have to worry too much about studying, does she? Got her mother’s brains. I can’t tell you how pleased I was to think I’d be teaching the daughter of Hermione Granger, one of the brightest young witches I’d ever taught. And the son of Harry Potter too. Two for the price of one, as you might say. Of course, I couldn’t possibly think of retiring before I’d had a chance to teach you both.”

“Thanks Sir.” Albus couldn’t help feeling a little guilty. Slughorn was praising him to the hilt, when he’d just lied to his face.

“I thought about staying on for your sister, but after all, we all have to retire sometime. And I must say I’m looking forward to the relaxation. Don’t let anybody tell you teaching is an easy job, Albus. Of course it’s wonderful to have the chance to connect with you young people, but I miss the days when I could lie in until lunchtime and then eat a hearty lunch without worrying about returning for my next class.”

“I hope you enjoy your retirement, Professor,” he said rather awkwardly.

“Oh, I intend to, Albus, I can assure you of that. I’ve plenty planned. A fishing trip with the Head of the Department of Sports and Games is first on my agenda. He’s a personal friend of mine, you know. I’ve a photo here somewhere…”

Albus listened politely, as he launched into a long description of his friends and acquaintances, digging out photographs to illustrate his stories wherever possible.

“But I promised we’d discuss the party,” he eventually announced in horror. “And we haven’t even touched upon it yet. I’m sure you’re dying to know exactly what little treat I have in store for you.”

“Oh yes, Sir.”

Slughorn didn’t seem to notice his lack of enthusiasm and by the time Albus escaped his office it was almost bedtime, far too late to think about writing to his father. That would have to wait until the following day.

“How much should I tell him anyway?” he asked Rose, as he prepared to begin the letter.

She shrugged. “However much you want. You don’t think he’ll object, do you?”

“I don’t think so, but you never know with parents. He might think it’s too dangerous or something.”

“Well, that’s why we need the Cloak. Anyway, look at what he and my parents got up to when they were here. We’re not taking anything like the risks they did.”

“I don’t think they’d see it that way though,” he muttered.

“No, you’re probably right. Mum would have a fit if I did anything like that – fought Dark Wizards or started illegal organisations – but we’re not going to do anything like that. We’re just going to watch and see what happens. And your dad said himself he didn’t think this person was particularly dangerous.”

“I suppose so.”

But he still wondered if it might be best to leave things a little vague. He could always explain in more detail if his dad asked.

Dear Dad,

All’s going well here. Ravenclaw are still leading the House Cup. I really think we’ve a good chance of winning. Gryffindor won nearly every year when you were at school, didn’t they? I’d love if we could do that.

Nothing else mysterious has happened since my solar system was broken at the start of the term, but Rose sort of has a plan to catch the person who did it and I’ve a bit of a favour to ask you. Could we possibly borrow the Invisibility Cloak?

I’m working hard at my Herbology project and it’s going pretty well so far. I hope I get a good mark.

Lots and lots of love,

Albus.

His father usually replied to his letters almost immediately, but on this occasion, two days passed before he received a reply.

“I know he’s going to say ‘no’,” Albus said, as he untied it from the leg of his father’s owl.

“You don’t know that until you read the letter,” Rose pointed out. “And don’t read it at the dinner table.”

“OK.”

He stuffed it into his pocket and after they’d eaten, he took it out onto the grounds.

Now that summer was getting closer, students regularly sat out in the evenings. Albus and Rose glanced around, looking for somewhere private.

“Over here.” Rose pointed at a quiet corner and they sat down and took out the letter.

Dear Albus,

Sorry I didn’t reply sooner. I’ve been giving your request a lot of thought and my decision is that, yes, you can borrow the Cloak, but there are some conditions!

Firstly, I want you to be sure and take good care of it. You know how important it is to me, not just because of its sentimental value, but also for my job. It’s been invaluable more often than I could possibly tell you, so I don’t think I need to stress what a loss it would be to me.

Secondly, I don’t want you taking unnecessary risks. This is one of the reasons I’ve decided you can use the Cloak in the first place. I’d rather you had its protection if you get into any difficult situations. I don’t think you will. As I’ve already said, I really doubt this person is any great threat. I’ve a number of reasons for feeling this way, not least that if they’d intended to harm you, I suspect they would have tried by now. However, I’ve been wrong before and I really don’t want you taking that to heart too much. If the person you face is much older than James, then I don’t want you taking them on personally. Remain beneath the Cloak and go and get a teacher. Something I should have done a few times, I can tell you!

I’m not going to forbid you from breaking any rules, as I know from bitter experience that sometimes it isn’t possible to carry out a plan without doing so and quite honestly, if it comes to a choice between breaking a rule and putting yourself at risk, I’d rather you did the former. However, I am going to insist you don’t break any unnecessary rules. I don’t want you thinking that because you have the Cloak, you can sneak out into the Forbidden Forest or something!

Not that I think you’d do that. If I did, I wouldn’t be lending it to you. But I wanted to stress it just in case.

And this brings me to the final condition. Don’t tell your brother. If I lend it to you, it’s just between you and me. All right?

Write back and let me know if you agree to these conditions. If you do, I’ll bring it to you.

Your loving dad.

“It sounds like he’s going to come to Hogwarts!”

He passed the letter to Rose, who skimmed it.

“You’ve got to agree to the conditions first.”

“There’s nothing there we don’t agree to, though, is there?”

She paused to read it more closely, then shook her head. “Nope.”

Albus wrote back quickly, telling his father he agreed to the conditions and when he would need the Cloak. He couldn’t entirely believe it was actually happening. A part of him had almost hoped his dad would say no. Then he wouldn’t have to worry about what they’d planned to do.

The Sunday before the Slug Club party, Harry arrived at Hogwarts.

“ALBUS!” Derek ran into the common room. “Your dad’s downstairs. Everybody’s talking about it.”

Albus rushed out of the common room and down the stairs from Ravenclaw Tower.

James, unfortunately, had reached the castle entrance before him and was standing there, talking to their father. Albus paused. What were they going to do now?

“ALBUS,” his dad called. “Over here.”

He strolled over to join them.

“Dad was on a job in Hogsmeade,” James told him. “And he called in to see us on the way.”

“I certainly did. Nothing serious. Turned out to be a bit of a false alarm actually.” He gave Albus a slight wink. “But you know we have to follow up every lead, even when it’s an elderly witch who quite clearly has too much time on her hands.”

“What were you investigating, Dad?” James asked.

“Oh, just the usual. Thankfully, there are no major threats facing us at the moment.”

“You would tell us if there were, wouldn’t you?” James said.

His father nodded. “I would. I was your age once, remember and I know what it’s like to have important information kept from me. It only made me take more risks than I needed to. So, yes, if there were any major threats, I would tell you, but hopefully, there won’t be. We’ve been at peace a long time now.”

The conversation turned to Hogwarts, the House Cup and the upcoming exams.

“I notice you haven’t mentioned much about the exams in your letters, James. Albus has been telling me all about his.”

“Well, that’s why he’s in swotty Ravenclaw, isn’t it?”

His father gave him a stern look. “There’s no need to be insulting.”

“Ah, he knows I’m only teasing, don’t you Albus?”

Their father listened to their descriptions of the Quidditch final, Albus’s Herbology project and James’s plans as to how Gryffindor could win the Quidditch Cup the following year before saying, “I’d like a private word with Albus now, if you don’t mind, James. We’ll be back in two minutes.

James looked a little aggrieved as they withdrew into an empty classroom.

Harry pulled the Cloak out from his briefcase and Albus stuffed it under his robes.

“Take care of it now.”

“I will, I promise. And I’ll keep all your other conditions too.”

His father smiled. “I trust you. Now, you get that back to Ravenclaw Tower, while I have a private word with James to make things fair. I’ll still be here when you get back.”

For a moment, Albus panicked. He’d have to be careful to hide the Cloak really well. If somebody could find his model solar system, they could find the Cloak too.

He hurried up to his dormitory, looking around to be sure nobody was watching, then placed the Invisibility Cloak in his trunk and threw a load of clothes in on top of it. Then he locked the trunk, something he’d been doing since Christmas and raced back downstairs.

His father and James were standing by the front door, James looking much happier than he had before Albus had left.

His father beckoned for Albus to join them.

“We’ve just finished our private discussion, haven’t we James?” He winked at his elder son.

“Yup.”

“I’m afraid I’d better be going now. Still have some paperwork to complete back at the office. And it won’t be long now until the summer holidays.”

“Bye Dad,” said James.

“Bye Dad.” Albus reached out to hug him.

“Best of luck in your exams, both of you. And please try and put in a little study, James. You could do so well, if only you tried.”

“Yeah, yeah. Bye Dad.”

They followed him down as far as the main gates and watched as he spun on the spot and Disapparated.



As you may have guessed, things will begin to be revealed soon. I'd love to hear your theories. About anything. Who you think is behind everything, what their motivations might be, any other secrets you think any characters may be hiding, even if you think Ravenclaw can maintain their lead in the House Cup. 


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