Chapter 13 : Operation Classroom Flip
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Albus nudged John awake and the two of them changed quietly so as not to disturb Bilius and Ethan, who were dead to the world. They then found the girls and Kaden in the nearly empty Great Hall eating lunch.
“Anything specific anyone wants to do today?” Albus asked.
“We have to get pranking supplies,” John said. “James put us in charge of that, since he’s got a date.”
“James has a date?” Rose asked.
Albus nodded. “That prefect, Meg Johnson, the one with a crush on him. He told us yesterday when you were patrolling.”
“Oh, God,” Rose muttered.
Albus hoped they wouldn’t encounter his brother in Hogsmeade. He was sure seeing James snogging Meg Johnson wouldn’t be any better than seeing him snog Gabby Ellis.
The five finished eating and set off for Hogsmeade. The weather was mild, with just enough wind and cloud cover to provide a somewhat spooky setting. It was Halloween, after all.
“I like that Hogsmeade is actually on Halloween this year,” John commented as they walked down the path to the village. “It’s fitting.”
“And there’s a full moon tonight,” Kaden said as he gazed at the sky. “Spooky. I mean, it sucks, but it fits with Halloween.”
Albus nodded, but he couldn’t really see full moons as anything but horrible ever since befriending Matt in first year. Sure, they went along with Halloween nicely, but he’d still prefer they didn’t exist.
“We should get back early enough to visit Matt,” Rose said.
Albus glanced at his watch. It was nearly two. “That’ll give us almost four hours.”
Everyone agreed that would be enough time. Once they arrived, John and Kaden took off for Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes to stock up on pranking supplies while Albus chose to go with the girls to Honeyduke’s. They agreed to meet at the Three Broomsticks in an hour.
“Look, there’s Lily, Hugo, and Ashtyn,” Albus said as they approached Honeyduke’s. The three third years were just exiting the shop, all clutching bags bursting with sweets.
“Albus!” Lily exclaimed as they drew nearer. “I was wondering when we’d see you lot.”
“We just got here,” Albus said.
“Really?” Hugo asked. “We got here hours ago.”
“Where’s John?” Ashtyn asked. “And the rest of your crew?”
“John and Kaden are at Weasleys’,” Albus answered. “And Matt’s ill.”
“I shouldn’t have even asked,” Ashtyn said. “Of course John’s at Weasleys’.”
“That sucks, being ill on a Hogsmeade day,” Hugo said, letting out a low whistle. “Well, we’re off to the Shrieking Shack. See you lot later.”
Lily and Ashtyn waved goodbye and took off after Hugo, who seemed to be their Hogsmeade leader. Usually Lily seemed to take charge of their little group, but apparently Hugo was the most enthusiastic about Hogsmeade.
“I miss third year,” Amanda mused as they walked inside, dodging two other third years as they went. “Everything seemed so easy then.”
“Up until Balladanis went insane,” Albus pointed out. “I’m surprised he hasn’t destroyed the Department of Magical Law Enforcement yet.”
Rose shuddered. “I think it’s weird we haven’t heard about him doing anything with it yet.”
“But things were easy, even with Balladanis,” Amanda said. “No O.W.L.s, Hogsmeade was new and exciting, the future seemed very much in the future. We get career advice this year, remember.”
Albus did remember that, and he still had no idea what he wanted to do. He was kind of jealous of Rose, who already knew she wanted to become a psychiatrist. But it was so obvious that Rose would make a good psychiatrist. There weren’t any glaringly obvious careers for him.
“Come on, let’s just buy some chocolate and forget about all of that for the day,” Albus said as he led the girls to a large display of cauldron-shaped chocolates.
“I like that plan,” Amanda said as she grabbed five of the cauldrons.
By the time they left Honeyduke’s all three of them had very impressive collections of chocolate. Rose bought a few extra chocolate frogs for Matt. They still had a half hour before they had to meet John and Kaden at the Three Broomsticks, so they set off up High Street to wander.
“I wonder if James is at Madam Puddifoot’s,” Rose said as they walked past the sickeningly pink tea shop.
“Walk faster,” Albus said as he sped ahead of Rose and Amanda. “Let’s not risk it.”
Rose laughed. “Just wait until you’re the one getting dragged there. I’ve seen the way Marina looks at you during class.”
Albus blushed. “She does not.”
“She does,” Amanda said, grinning. “You just haven’t noticed.”
Amanda was right; Albus hadn’t noticed. But he wasn’t sure he wanted to. Sure, Marina was very pretty, but what would happen after they broke up? Class would be very awkward, not to mention dueling practice.
Rose and Amanda began to whisper to each other, giggling every so often. Albus turned away from them as they walked, not wanting them to see that his cheeks were still red. Maybe he should’ve gone with John and Kaden.
The girls continued their secretive conversation, which probably revolved around Marina’s possible crush or their own desires to go to Madam Puddifoot’s, as they reached the outskirts of the village. Albus gazed at the Shrieking Shack as they walked, and since it was daytime it looked completely innocent, although still vaguely spooky given its general unkemptness. As they neared it, Albus noticed three people crouched near its door. He turned and walked toward the fence, trying to figure out who they were.
“Albus, where are you going?” Rose shouted after him.
“Shh!” Albus said as Rose and Amanda met him at the fence. “Someone’s up there.”
“It’s Lily, Hugo, and Ashtyn,” Rose said flatly. “Do you need glasses?”
Albus squinted and now realized that the people were in fact his sister, cousin, and John’s sister. “Let’s go see what they’re doing.”
“They’re probably just exploring,” Rose said. But she and Amanda followed anyway.
Albus ran up the hill toward his sister. “What are you doing?” he shouted.
Lily, Hugo, and Ashtyn jumped and turned around. “Trying to figure out how to get in,” Hugo said.
Albus’s jaw fell open and he quickly closed it again. The three of them didn’t know anything about the Shrieking Shack and it made sense that they were curious, but still.
“Ever been inside?” Hugo asked excitedly. “We’ve been trying ever since we left Honeyduke’s, but none of our spells are working.”
“No,” Albus answered, hoping Lily wouldn’t be able to tell he was lying. “And you can’t get in. It’s sealed shut.”
“But there’s got to be some way in,” Lily said. “I wonder why no one’s done anything with it. It hasn’t been used in ages.”
Albus exchanged glances with Rose and Amanda. “Hogwarts owns it,” Rose said. “Maybe they think they’ll use it for something some day. But it’s really dangerous to go inside because it’s so old. No one’s done any sort of repairs on it. So that’s why it’s all locked up. Even if you could get in, you’d probably get really injured.”
Thank God for Rose, Albus thought. She always knew what to say under pressure.
“Oh,” Hugo said, deflated.
“You know what you should do,” Rose continued, “is explore that cave up there.” She pointed to the cave that lurked partway up the mountain next to the village. “That’s where Sirius Black lived in Mum and Dad’s fourth year. It’s really cool.”
Hugo grinned. “That sounds awesome!”
Lily and Ashtyn readily agreed and the three took off running for the cave.
“That was close,” Albus said after they left.
Rose nodded. “I don’t think they could’ve actually gotten inside, but Hugo is very determined.”
“He reminds me of Kaden,” Amanda said, giggling.
“He does,” Albus agreed. “We’d better get going to the Three Broomsticks.”
The group spent the remainder of their time in the Three Broomsticks, drinking Butterbeer, eating a variety of fried foods and enjoying the fact that they were out of the castle. Rose and Amanda told John and Kaden about Marina’s possible crush on Albus, which had them laughing for at least ten minutes, something Albus didn’t appreciate. Albus then told John and Kaden about seeing Lily, Hugo, and Ashtyn at the Shrieking Shack and the whole group agreed not to tell Matt, as it would worry him for no reason.
They headed back to the castle shortly after five and bypassed dinner in the Great Hall since all five of them were stuffed with Butterbeer, chocolate, and chips. Instead, they went straight to the hospital wing to visit Matt.
The hospital wing was quiet, as it usually was the day of Hogsmeade visits. The little things that often sent students to see the nurse during class somehow didn’t bother them on days they were allowed to go to Hogsmeade. Only one bed was occupied, but the curtains were open and Madam Pomfrey was sitting in a chair next to it while its occupant slept.
Madam Pomfrey stood up as Albus and the others walked toward her. “Did you have a good time in Hogsmeade?” she asked.
Albus nodded. “Yeah. We wanted to get back before Matt had to leave, though.”
Madam Pomfrey checked her watch. “You’ve got about a half hour.”
Albus walked over to the bed, the others following. Once he arrived and sat down in Madam Pomfrey’s vacated chair, Albus noticed that Matt wasn’t actually asleep. Instead, he was just staring at the ceiling.
“Hey,” Albus said quietly. “We got you some chocolate frogs.”
“Thanks,” Matt said, not looking away from the ceiling. “Hogsmeade was good?”
Albus nodded. “Nothing special. You didn’t miss much.”
Matt sighed. “But even when it’s nothing special it’s still fun. Especially the Halloween one. Have you been to the feast?”
“Not yet,” Rose said. “We wanted to see you first. How are you?”
Matt shrugged. “Madam Pomfrey gave me a lot of potions, so it could be worse. Blue moons are always bad, though. Everything’s worse. The days before, the actual transformation, and the days after.”
“Don’t psych yourself out,” Rose said.
“They’ve always been worse, Rose,” Matt replied. “Even when I was little and didn’t understand what psyching yourself out meant.”
“Still, it could be a completely normal full moon.”
“But it probably won’t be. Although, this means I won’t be suspected for John and Kaden’s prank. I’ll be stuck here, without any way of pranking anything.”
“Our prank is going to be brilliant and you should be pissed off you’re going to miss it,” John said. “James thinks it’ll be the best prank Hogwarts has seen since the one Fred and George Weasley did right before they left school.”
“Then you can just tell me all about it,” Matt said, wincing. “I think you should probably go now, though. I can’t really talk much in the hour before the moon rises.” He squeezed his eyes shut and started breathing heavily.
“Okay,” Albus said. “I hope it’s no worse than usual.”
“Thanks,” Matt whispered.
“We’ll visit tomorrow afternoon,” Rose assured him.
Madam Pomfrey rushed over once more, with another potion, as they left. She pulled the curtains around the bed and disappeared behind them. Albus paused at the door, but with the curtains drawn, there was no way of knowing anyone was in pain behind them.
When Albus and his friends arrived at the hospital wing late Sunday afternoon they found Professor Burke pacing up and down the aisle in between the two rows of beds, while Madam Pomfrey stood next to Matt’s bed with her arms crossed on her chest. She looked frazzled and upset at the same time. Professor Burke’s hair was at an all-time high level of craziness and Albus wondered how it even managed to stay sticking straight up. Only Matt’s bed was occupied.
Burke didn’t seem to notice the group’s entrance, but Madam Pomfrey turned her gaze from the pacing professor to them and gave them a slight smile. She let her arms fall to her sides and walked over to Albus and his friends.
“Matt is sleeping,” the nurse told them.
“Is he okay?” Albus asked.
Madam Pomfrey sighed. “He had a rough night. I imagine he’ll sleep through until tomorrow morning.”
“Oh,” Albus said. He’d been hoping the blue moon wouldn’t be as bad as Matt had been expecting.
“What’s Professor Burke doing here?” Kaden asked as he walked further into the wing.
Madam Pomfrey frowned, her brows knitting together in the process, and glared at Burke, who was now walking toward them.
“If I could just speak with him for five minutes!” Burke argued, throwing his arms up in the air. He ran his left hand through his crazy hair and Albus figured this was why it was sticking straight up.
“Absolutely not!” Madam Pomfrey shouted. “As I have told you for the past two hours, Matt is my patient and he is not to be woken up for any reasons not pertinent to his health!”
“This is pertinent to his health,” Burke insisted. “I can’t figure out where I went wrong with the potion unless I hear firsthand how it affected him.”
“Pertinent to his immediate health,” Madam Pomfrey clarified. “And that means not interrupting his sleep, which he so obviously needs.”
Professor Burke was not going to win this argument, Albus thought. No one ever won arguments against Madam Pomfrey.
Burke sighed and glanced at Albus and his friends, as if he just noticed them assembled next to Madam Pomfrey. “What’s this lot doing here?”
“They came to visit Matt,” the nurse explained. “Just like they do every month.”
“And will you wake him up for them?” Burke asked.
Madam Pomfrey laughed. “Of course not.” She stepped closer to Burke and furrowed her brow. “And they know better than to ask.”
“Professor,” Kaden began, “can I come help you brew tomorrow evening?”
Burke ran his hands through his hair and nodded. “Yes, yes, I suppose. Mr. Potter and Miss Weasley, will you be joining him?”
Rose shook her head. “I have to patrol.”
Albus shrugged. “Sure. I’m free.” It was, in fact, Albus’s only free night that week. The first Quidditch match (Gryffindor versus Ravenclaw) was scheduled for Saturday and Bradley had them practicing Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday. Thursday he had dueling practice.
Burke nodded. “Perfect. I’ll see both of you tomorrow.” He turned to Madam Pomfrey. “If you won’t let me wake him, when do you suppose I’ll be able to speak with him?”
“I don’t know,” Madam Pomfrey said quietly. “No earlier than tomorrow afternoon, certainly. But even when he does wake up, I do not know whether he’ll wish to speak with you right away. I imagine he’ll be feeling pretty awful.”
“Which is exactly why I need to speak with him!” Burke exclaimed, throwing his arms in the air.
“Quiet!” Madam Pomfrey hushed. “If you can’t keep your voice down I insist you leave.”
“I’m on my way out anyway,” Burke muttered. “Arguing is a waste of time.”
“I couldn’t agree more,” Madam Pomfrey said dryly.
Burke muttered to himself as he left the hospital wing, but unfortunately Albus was unable to hear anything he was saying.
“You didn’t hear this from me, but the school governors were mad to approve him,” Madam Pomfrey muttered as she hurried over to the potions cupboard. “Mad! The man’s a genius, but he’s got no common sense and no idea how to speak with children.”
Albus sort of agreed, but Kaden looked outraged. He opened his mouth to speak, but Madam Pomfrey cut him off as she walked to Matt’s bed with smoking goblet of potion.
“Come back tomorrow, Albus, everyone,” she said. “Afternoon, preferably just after classes end, before Professor Burke has a chance to come back.”
Albus laughed to himself as they left the hospital wing. Madam Pomfrey’s ranting and raving never ceased to amuse him.
“Except with any luck,” John whispered as they walked down the corridor, “there won’t be any classes tomorrow.”
Operation Classroom Flip (as the prank had been named) was set to begin at ten-thirty, a half hour after the fifth through seventh years were supposed to be in bed, and fifteen minutes after the last prefect patrol ended. Each person participating had been assigned a classroom and was to sneak into that classroom before their respective curfew. Due to this, the younger participants were to have a lot of sitting around time in their assigned classrooms. With any luck, the prefects on patrol wouldn’t check the classrooms. Albus figured they wouldn’t, since the only time he ever checked classrooms was when he heard strange noises coming from one.
Albus had the earlier patrol with Celeste Yeardley, which meant it would be a boring patrol but not unpleasant. Celeste, a Slytherin in his year, was very quiet and Albus hadn’t exchanged more than a few words with her over the years.
Albus spent the entirety of his patrol thinking about the prank, and what he actually knew about it. There were twelve classes at Hogwarts, not counting flying or apparition lessons. Herbology only took place in the greenhouses, so Albus doubted John, Kaden, and the other pranksters would switch the greenhouses with anything. That left eleven classrooms, and some of them were very elaborately decorated, such as the Divination room and the Potions dungeon. Even if there were eleven people (one for each classroom) participating, it would still take hours to transport and set up everything. And Albus doubted they’d managed to find nine other people to help.
Their problem would be the portraits. This was the sort of prank in which Kendrick would want to find out who did it, and surely he’d go to the portraits for help. The only way to ensure none of the portraits saw them, would be for all of them to wear invisibility cloaks. Albus did lend his to John for the night, but one wouldn’t cover all of them.
Albus returned to the common room after patrolling and found Rose and Amanda each curled up in one of the armchairs in front of the fire reading. Both seemed absorbed in their books, so Albus ran up to his dormitory and retrieved a half-finished History of Magic essay that was due the next day. He found an empty table and set to work on it, but instead of working, he gazed around the common room to try and figure out who else was doing the prank.
John, Kaden, James, Cedric, and Ben were missing, of course. They were the ones in charge. James’s friend Nathan would surely be with them. Hugo, Lily, and Ashtyn were also nowhere to be found. Albus wasn’t surprised that the three of them were participating in the prank. Lily had been tagging along after James in his pranks ever since they were little, and Ashtyn seemed to take after her brother in more than a few ways. With the third years, there were nine people, two fewer than there were classrooms.
Part of Albus wanted to stay up and wait for John and Kaden to return from the prank before going to bed. He remained in the common room long after Bilius and Ethan went to bed, and long after Rose and Amanda went up to their own dormitory. By the time he finished his History of Magic essay, the only other people in the common room were a few seventh year girls, who were laughing about something in front of the dying fire. But when the clock near the notice board chimed two in the morning and a few portrait occupants began snoozing in their frames, Albus decided to call it a night.
It was just after three when Albus awoke to the sound of someone entering the dormitory. He sat up in bed and peeked through the hangings.
“Albus?” John whispered. “Are you awake?”
Albus yawned. “I am now.”
“Sorry. I always forget you don’t sleep like the dead.”
“Nope, that’s just Matt,” Albus said. “Did you finish?”
“Sure did,” Kaden answered. “It’s brilliant. You’ll see in the morning.”
Albus said good night to John and Kaden and got back under his blankets. He listened to the two boys whispering and to Kaden’s footsteps a few minutes later as he left the dormitory for his own. Despite the fact that he hadn’t wanted to participate in the prank, he was quite excited to see the outcome. As he drifted back to sleep, he wondered if perhaps he shouldn’t have bothered working so hard to finish his History of Magic essay.
A/N: Thanks so much for all the reviews!
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