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The Rise of the A.W.L. by MargaretLane
Chapter 15 : The Hallowe'en Feast.
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 4

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Disclaimer: Everything you recognise belongs to J.K. Rowling.

It was clear Professor Jones had also noticed the change in Remus’s memorial. She paused for a moment, apparently examining it, before turning to McGonagall and saying something to her.

McGonagall’s lips grew very thin.

She turned to the memorial and waved her wand. The smirk receded and the bronze head again took on the kindly countenance more typical of Remus Lupin. As she did so, Fairfax's eyes scanned the room, as if he were trying to ascertain the culprit from the look on their face.

McGonagall clapped her hands for silence.

“I apologise for the interruption. I know you are all looking forward to our feast, so I’m not going to say too much right now. Unfortunately, disrespect has been shown to the war memorial behind me. I don’t think I need to explain why that concerns me and the other members of staff. All of you from wizarding families and even those of you from Muggle families who’ve been at this school a few years are doubtlessly aware of what these people did for us and the reasons they gave their lives. We owe them a debt of gratitude and I will not have their memorials ill-treated.  I’m not going to say any more at the moment, but if anybody has any information about this, then please come to me or to another member of staff either tomorrow or tonight after the feast and tell them what you know. We will find out who did this and I can assure you, I am extremely displeased with whoever they are.”

Rose wondered why she even needed to ask. In her opinion, it was perfectly clear who’d done it. Everything about it echoed last year’s graffiti. It was even done at the same time of year, for God’s sake.

There was only one thing that made her pause. Last year’s antics had all been fairly simple to arrange. Few had involved magic at all. This would be rather more difficult. Rose wasn’t even sure what spell had been used. Some form of transfiguration, she supposed.

But Dora could always have looked the spell up. All it would take was some library research. It might take a while if she wasn’t sure where to look, but that would really be the only difficulty she’d face. The spell was hardly dark magic; it probably wasn’t even that exceptionally advanced. A second year could easily find it if they put their mind to it.

And of course Dora would be far more likely to use magic now than the previous year. They’d all progressed enormously in the last year or so, so much so that it was hard to imagine now how they’d ever found their early lessons so difficult.

And yet, she wasn’t entirely satisfied. Flint and his mates hadn’t had much success when they’d tried hexing the memorial earlier in the year and it seemed unlikely a second year would succeed where a number of fourth years had failed. Of course, she doubted any of those fourth years were exactly Dumbledore, but all the same, she’d have expected them to produce some effect if the memorial wasn’t magically protected in some way.

Could Dora overcome protective spells fourth years couldn’t? With a bit of research, maybe. Or her father could have given her some advice. He’d probably love to see Remus’s memorial defaced.

But she supposed she shouldn’t really rule out Flint and his mates either. They’d already tried hexing the memorial. Maybe they’d decided to try again, after figuring out how to overcome any protective spells.

She turned to Albus.

“Looks like we’ve another mystery to solve.”

He looked doubful. “The teachers will probably find out who did it pretty quickly.”

“Yeah, they probably will,” she admitted. “But there’s no harm in our taking a look into things either, is there? We didn’t do too badly last year.

He shrugged. It was clear he wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about the idea. Albus liked a quiet life. The only reason he’d been anxious to solve last year’s mysteries was because he’d wanted to know who was targeting him and why. Since this didn’t involve him in any way, she couldn’t help feeling he’d prefer to stay out of it.

But she wanted to know. If Dora was up to her tricks again, she wanted her caught. She might have already been punished for what she’d done last year, but that didn’t mean Rose would be sorry to see her in trouble again. Nothing was punishment enough for what she’d done to Albus. And, as far as Rose knew, she hadn’t been punished for revealing Blackburn’s secret to the media. There might not be any proof she’d done that, but Rose had absolutely no doubts about it.

And for that, Rose doubted she’d ever face punishment. Even if it could be proven, which would be difficult, she probably hadn’t even broken any rules. It wasn’t as if they’d been told to keep it secret.

So really, she was getting away with enough. There was no way Rose was going to see her get away with this too. Not if she could help it.

And if, by any chance, it was anybody else, she wanted them punished too. Mocking any of their war heroes was bad enough, but somehow it was even worse when it was Remus Lupin. She remembered what Teddy’d said during the summer holidays; his father had been treated appallingly in life. He deserved better than to be disrespected after his death.

The doors of the Great Hall opened, distracting her from her thoughts. As far as she knew all of the staff and students were present in the Hall and it was surely far too early for the entertainment to arrive. The food hadn’t even appeared on the plates yet.

She squinted through the fog, trying to see who it was, but it wasn’t until the large figure approached the Ravenclaw table that she recognised it as Slughorn.

“Albus, my dear boy,” he boomed as he approached them “And Rose. So good to see you both again. Topping the class again, I hope, Rose? Or has Rasmus managed to beat you? Rasmus? Where are you, Rasmus, m’boy?”

“Here, Sir.” Seated a few seats away from them, Rasmus waved to their old teacher.

“Ah, good to see you. Hope you’re keeping up the good work, eh?”

“Yes Sir.” Rasmus grinned.

“Well done, my dear boy, well done. And I hear you’ve made the Ravenclaw Quidditch team, Albus. Not many second years make the team, I believe. Such an achievement!”

“Thank you, Sir.”

“Beaten your brother to it even. Speaking of which, I really must go and speak to James. I haven’t had the opportunity to do so yet. I do hope you’ll all come up and speak to me later in the evening. But I don’t want to be accused of ignoring anybody, so please excuse me for dashing off.”

Rose, Albus, Derek, Angie and Rasmus burst out laughing.

“Good old Slughorn,” Derek said. “Wonder what he’s doing back here.”

“Seeking out his old favourites as usual, I’d say.” Rose shrugged. “Probably wants to make sure he’s not forgotten.”

Across the table, Dora snorted. “And we’re all left in absolutely no doubt as to who his favourites are, are we? Says he doesn’t want to be accused of ignoring anybody when he’s just ignored most of the table.”

For once, Rose had to admit she’d a point. Slughorn certainly didn’t make any attempt to hide his favouritism. It hardly mattered now that he’d retired, though and anyway, she wasn’t exactly in the mood to agree with anything Dora said. Not when there was a good chance she’d just vandalised a memorial to a man who’d died in the fight for freedom.

Having finally greeted all those he’d wanted to, Slughorn finally joined the staff at the top table. McGonagall, Hagrid, Flitwick, Cavendish, Vector and Jones each rose in turn to greet him.

As they did so, food finally appeared on the tables and Rose filled her plate with pork chops, baked pumpkin, mashed potatoes and carrots.

Once they’d eaten, a wizarding band arrived to provide the entertainment.

“Old students of mine,” Slughorn informed Rose, when he paused again at the Ravenclaw table later in the evening. “I told Professor McGonagall I was sure I could persuade them to come and perform here. Well, of course, I had to come and see them myself.” He lowered his voice. “Not really my kind of music, if I’m entirely honest, but then, I’m old-fashioned. I still enjoy Celestina Warbeck. I’m sure you youngsters think she’s hopelessly outdated, but an old man can’t be expected to keep up with all the latest fashions. Still, I’m always pleased to see my old students doing well and I couldn’t possibly miss out on an opportunity to meet up with them again. And all of you, of course.”

“How are you enjoying your retirement, Sir?” Rasmus asked.

“Oh, I’m getting along, I can assure you. I’ve plenty to keep me occupied, plenty. Only last week, I met up with an old friend, Hector Dewhurst. Recently retired from the Ministry of Magic, you know. I’m sure your mother must know him, Rose.”

She shrugged. She knew who he was, of course. Before his retirement, he’d been Head of the Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes. But she really knew no more about him than the rest of wizarding Britain. If her mother knew him, and Rose suppose she must, she’d never said much about him. Not that Rose remembered anyhow.

Slughorn, thankfully, didn’t really seem to expect a response and launched into a long and convoluted story about his trip to the Alps with Dewhurst and a number of other notables of wizarding Britain.

“Ah, well, I’ll leave you to enjoy the music now,” he concluded finally. “Do let me know if you’d like any autographs. Their lead singer never refuses me anything. Was in a position to help her out one time, but well, I suppose I shouldn’t mention that here. Personal matter, you know.”

He winked significantly and turned towards the Gryffindor table.

Derek sighed with relief.

“Boy, can he go on. I have to admit, I sort of miss him in class though. Potions was so much more relaxed when he taught it.”

“Fairfax is a way better teacher though,” Rasmus argued.

“Slughorn wasn’t so bad.” Rose felt she should be fair.

“I guess not, but he spent way too much time rambling on about his famous friends instead of actually teaching. Fairfax never lets anything distract him.”

“That’s for sure!” Derek replied. He didn’t sound as if he necessarily thought it a good thing.

“Fairfax is tough,” Nathan said thoughtfully, “but I think he’s fair. He doesn’t have favourites.

Derek laughed. “I’m honestly not sure he thinks of us as separate people at all. It’s like we’re just one mass of Potions students. ‘Good day to you.’” He imitated Fairfax’s usual way of ending a class.

“You can’t deny we’ve learnt a lot from him though.” Rasmus looked faintly disapproving.

“I suppose so,” Derek agreed reluctantly.

The band finally finished playing and the students began to applaud. Some of the Hufflepuffs began to rise to their feet. Grinning, some of the older Ravenclaws followed suit and soon the entire Hall were on their feet, clapping and cheering.

“All right.” McGonagall rapped on the staff table for silence as the band began packing up.

“So much for getting their autographs,” Rose muttered to Albus.

Not that she’d had any attention of doing so anyway, but it was typical of Slughorn to make promises without even wondering if they’d have time.

“I hope you all enjoyed the evening,” McGonagall continued, “but it’s getting late now and as you all have classes tomorrow, it’s time you began returning to your respective houses. Goodnight.”

The students rose from their seats somewhat reluctantly. Just going to bed after the evening they’d had was rather an anticlimax.

And Rose had another reason to be reluctant. She still wasn’t sure whether or not she should confront Dora with her suspicions in the dormitory that night. Alerting her to her suspicions might not be the most advisable, but on the other hand, seeing Dora’s reaction when she accused her might give her a pretty good idea if she really was responsible. It wouldn’t prove anything, but at least if she was certain Dora was to blame, she wouldn’t have to worry about suspecting anybody else.

Albus glanced at her. “You’re still wondering who did that to the memorial, aren’t you?”

She nodded. “It’s got to be Dora. Doesn’t it remind you of what she did last year?”

“I suppose so.” He paused. “Except it doesn’t seem like she’s tried to get anybody else blamed.”

Rose shrugged off the point. “She’s hardly going to do the exact same thing again. That’d be way too obvious.”

“I suppose so.”

“I just wish there was some way to get her to admit to it. Like we did last year. But we’d the Invisibility Cloak then. I don’t think your dad would lend it to us again. Not just because of one incident.”

Albus shook his head. “He wouldn’t. Last year was different. I mean, things kept happening. This is just a one-off.”

“It’s only Hallowe’en. Plenty of time for more to happen.” She regretted it as soon as she’d said it. The last thing she wanted was to worry Albus and he would worry if he thought worse would happen.  “Not that I’m saying anything else will happen, just that we don’t know yet.”

They reached Ravenclaw tower where an older student had already figured out the response to the riddle, allowing the waiting students to crowd into the common room. Many of the older students, and even some of the second years, settled down to finish off their homework or just relive the evening. Rose and Albus, however, headed for their respective dormitories. It was late and McGonagall was right; they’d be exhausted in class tomorrow if they didn’t get to bed fairly soon.

Not that she was likely to sleep before Dora returned. Not with the question of what she was going to say to her playing on her mind.

Before she could make any decisions, Angie entered the room and flopped down on her bed.

“That was fun, wasn’t it? I never heard that band before.”

“Really?” Rose raised her eyebrows. “They’re pretty popular.

Angie laughed. “I’m Muggleborn, remember? We don’t exactly have much exposure to wizarding bands. I grew up with One Direction and groups like that.”

“One Direction?” Rose asked. “The name is familiar. I think my grandparents got me a notebook or something with that name on it when I was little.”

“They were pretty popular. Not sure if they still are. Gosh, I’m losing touch with Muggle culture.”

They both laughed.

They were still chatting when Dora entered the room.

Rose paused mid-conversation. She really wasn’t sure what to say.

“We’re just discussing the Hallowe’en feast,” she began tentatively.

Dora looked faintly surprised. Rose didn’t usually include her in her conversations.

“Oh yes?”

Rose thought there was a slight sneer in her words, but it was possible she was imagining it. At this stage, she’d come to assume everything Dora said was accompanied by a sneer.

“Yeah, we were wondering about that change to Remus’s memorial.” Now it was Angie’s turn to look slightly surprised. The issue hadn’t come up at all in their conversation. “I don’t suppose you’d know anything about that,” Rose continued.

Dora shrugged. “Maybe I do and maybe I don’t.”

Rose sighed with exasperation. That told her less than nothing.

“What exactly is that supposed to mean?”

“Just that I’d hardly tell you if I’d done it, now would I?” She smirked.

“Does that mean you did?”

“How would I know how to perform that spell? We didn’t learn it yet, did we?”

“It’s possible to know spells we haven’t learnt in class yet.”

“I suppose it is. Doesn’t necessarily mean I know that one though.

“No, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t either.”

Dora grinned. “Obviously.”

Angie sighed. “Oh for God’s sake, do you have to make such a mystery out of this, Dora? Either you did it or you didn’t, and honestly, I don’t think you did. I’m starting to think you just like winding us up.”

“Is that what you think?”

Angie rolled her eyes and didn’t answer.

Rose wasn’t so sure Dora was just winding them up. She was capable of it, that was certain, but she was also more than capable of vandalism. She’d already proved that.

She really wasn’t sure what to think.

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