Luckily the Saturday before Halloween was nice and sunny, and James came back with a large shopping bag from Weird Wizard Wear, the fancy dress shop in Hogsmeade. Albus had a grey top, grey trousers and even a tail. Daegan, who was the best artist of them all, painted whiskers on Albus’s face, a black nose and large canines curling over his lips. Severus, as a vampire, was going for the Muggle-style vampire. He had a large black cape with a big red collar and he already had black robes. Daegan gave him fangs and blood dripping down his chin. He also painted Severus’s entire face white, which made him look dead. Albus supposed that was the idea, but it gave Albus the shivers every time he looked at his twin.
Rose, as a china doll, was also painted white, with black cracks all over her skin. James got an old-fashioned dress and she actually looked pretty realistic. Daegan had painted patches all over Dillon’s face and arms, and Dillon was wearing a large coat with a fraying hem and a couple of patches. Altogether, the costumes had cost them five Galleons, fifteen Sickles and twenty Knuts. Rose called it ‘budget shopping’.
Now they all stood in the common room, saying goodbye to Daegan. “I’ll probably be two or three days,” he said. “You know how it is, um, visiting relatives.”
“I hope your Gran gets better soon,” said Dillon.
Daegan nodded. “Well, um, bye then. And the teachers know I’m going by the way, so you don’t need to explain to them about me going to visit my aunt.” Pause. “Did I just say my aunt? Sorry, I meant my Gran.”
Daegan rushed off down the stairs. Albus watched him go. He went down the first flight of stairs, then the next, and then he took a left turning, which was odd. The fastest way to get to the Entrance Hall would be to turn right. Albus quickly thought of what was down the left corridor: The DADA department and the hospital wing. From there you had to go down a long and completely unnecessary corridor and a few more stairs before getting to the Entrance Hall. Why would Daegan go that way?
Albus shrugged and turned to his friends. “The feast starts in fifteen minutes,” he said. “Who wants a game of Exploding Snap?”
The four played Exploding Snap (Dillon won) until seven o’clock, when every Gryffindor simultaneously rose from their chairs and trouped down into the Great Hall. Standing in the doorway, Albus saw that about two thirds of the hall was in costume. Almost none of the Slytherins were dressed up.
Albus and his friends sat down to what turned out to be a great feast, however Rose reminded them not to eat too much as they were going to get loads of sweets afterwards.
“Yes,” said Albus. “Dillon and I will listen to you, Rosie. Severus you can just keep eating because you are never ever full.”
“Yeah, yeah,” said Severus, grinning. “Shut up, werewolf.”
After the last bits of dessert had disappeared, Dwyer stood up. “I know you’re all looking forward to guising around the castle,” he said, “but first I must set down some rules. All the usual rules apply, and there will be Prefects patrolling to make sure there is no bad behaviour, but I would ask you not to eat too much sweet things tonight. Madame Pomfrey has no cure for things like that, and if she does her supply is limited, and we really don’t want people to be sick all over the castle on what is going to be a great night. Also I am going to ask you all to wait in the Great Hall for a few more minutes while the staff and Prefects get in their positions.” Dwyer gave a short nod and the Prefects and staff rose from their chairs. Albus watched them go and grinned. He had never gone – what had Dwyer called it – he had never gone guising before, and he was looking forward immensely. Part of the fun was seeing everyone else’s costumes.
Albus waited with his friends for ten minutes – a horse Patronus came to tell the students that the Prefects and staff were ready – and then they raced up to Gryffindor tower to get their bags. Once they emerged, Molly stopped them, grinning.
“Well, aren’t you going to ask for a sweet?” Molly asked. “Nice costumes, by the way.”
Severus shrugged. “Thanks. Can we have some sweets please?” He put out his hand expectantly. Molly laughed.
“No, you have to do something for it. Tell a joke, sing a song, I dunno, juggle! You have to earn your sweets, Potter. Don’t get all American on me.”
“All right, fine,” said Severus. He turned to Albus, Rose and Dillon. “Anyone got any jokes?”
“I’ve got one,” said Dillon.
“So do I,” offered Rose.
“I know a riddle; do you think that’s OK?” Albus asked.
Severus nodded. “OK, let’s go.”
He turned back to Molly. “OK, Weasley, we’re ready. What do you get when you cross a vampire and a teacher?”
“Professor Zabini?” asked Molly. Albus laughed.
“No-o, a gift-wrapped bat,” said Severus.
“What do you call a kind, helpful monster?” asked Rose. “A failure.”
“What the difference between a thunderstorm and a lion with a broken leg?” asked Dillon.
“What’s a lion?” Albus asked.
“It’s a big cat – you know, golden-brown, mane, lives in Africa?” Dillon shook her head. “You’ve never heard of a lion? Gee whiz. Anyway, the answer is that one pours with rain and the other roars with pain.”
“Oh, because it rains in a thunderstorm and the lie-own has a broken leg,” said Severus after a second. “Dillon, you really need to learn some wizard jokes.”
Rose laughed. “Okay, my turn. What do you call two men standing on a window sill? Kurt ‘n’ Rod.”
“Nice,” said Molly. “What’s yours, Potter?”
“I have a riddle,” said Albus. “So you’re standing in a dark room with a match. There are some coals, a lamp and a pile of wood in the fireplace. Which do you light first?”
Molly frowned and bit her lip. “Um, can I get three guesses?”
“You can have two,” said Albus, smiling. He was fairly confident that not even Rose would think of the right answer.
“Okay then. Is it the pile of wood because you can then see everything else?” asked Molly.
“Nope,” said Albus, grinning.
“The lamp because then you can carry it around with you,” said Rose.
“Nada,” Albus grinned. “That’s your two guesses up. The first thing you light is… the match!”
Molly and Rose groaned. “Of course! I can’t believe I didn’t get that,” said Rose.
“Okay, you can all have your sweets now,” said Molly, holding out a pumpkin-shaped basket. “Take two each and Al gets three for having such a good riddle.”
Albus, Severus, Rose and Dillon grinned and put the sweets in their bags. They went around the whole castle, stopping at each department staff room and each house common room, and none of the staff and Prefects solved Albus’s riddle. By ten o’clock they had gone around everyone, and they headed back to Gryffindor tower to eat their sweets.
On the fourth floor, however, Albus turned to his friends, still hyped up from the excitement of guising. “I’ll race you back. Come on Sev. Boys versus girls. Potter versus Weasley.”
“And Reece,” Dillon pointed out. “You’re on. We’ll go left, you go right.” Albus nodded, turned on a heel and sprinted down right-hand corridor, his twin brother not far behind.
Al, behind this tapestry! Severus thought. It’s quicker.
They ducked behind a tapestry of several trolls walking in lines to find themselves in a narrow spiral staircase. “Lumos!” whispered Albus and his wand tip lit up. He didn’t know why he whispered; it felt like a whispery sort of place and time.
Sweetie bags banging against their backs, with only enough light to see two steps ahead of them, Albus and Severus sprinted up the spiral staircase until they came to the top. Ducking under another tapestry, they emerged into the corridor – and came face to face with Malfoy and Gaunt.
Neither of them were in Halloween costume. They were leaning against the far wall and Gaunt had his left sleeve pulled up, pointing at something on his forearm. When he saw the Potters, he pushed his sleeve back quickly.
“Well, Potter, you’ve shown up again like a bad penny,” drawled Malfoy. Albus noticed that although his Weasley cousins all called him Potter too, they said it with fondness, whereas from Malfoy’s mouth it sounded ugly, like an insult. “And, for Merlin’s sake, you’re dressed up too. A werewolf? Really?”
“Yes, Malfoy, it’s called a Halloween costume,” Severus said coolly. “Halloween, in case you didn’t know, is a night for having fun. I can’t imagine you’ve had too much of that, what with you parents being boring old pieces of scum-”
“Don’t you insult my parents like that Potter!” snarled Malfoy, whipping out his wand and pointing it at Severus. “You’ll regret it, I swear. My father showed me another little spell, one he said I wasn’t to use, ever, but I don’t think you’re important enough for anyone to care-”
“Get away from my brother!” yelled Albus, pointing his own wand at Malfoy. Thanks Al, thought Severus. “How about we all go our separate ways and just forget about this, yeah?”
Malfoy’s eyes narrowed. “No, Potter, I don’t think we can. You two can’t just walk in on our private business and expect to get away with it Scot-free. No, Potter, I think we’ll have to teach you both a little lesson. Don’t you think, Omega?”
Gaunt’s face was unreadable. His eyes were narrowed as he stared at Albus. “Did you see what we were doing?” he asked.
“No,” said Albus, confused. “What does it matter?”
Seemingly satisfied, Gaunt turned back to Malfoy. “Come on, Scorpius. They didn’t see it. They don’t know anything. It’s fine.”
Malfoy rounded on him. “No, Omega, it is not fine. These idiots have just come up here and insulted my family and you expect me to-”
“You insulted their family too, Scorpius,” said Gaunt in a bored way. “Stay here if you like, but I for one have better things to do than spend every night in detention.” With that, he squeezed past Albus and Severus and walked down the spiral staircase. Scorpius was staring after him, stupefied. Albus took the opportunity to turn his wand on Malfoy.
“I might not know many spells yet, but I do know how to poke this in your eye, Malfoy,” he said. “Go on, follow your friend. I know you want to.”
Malfoy glared at them and pulled Albus’s bag off his shoulder as he passed, spilling the sweets everywhere. It took Albus and Severus a good ten minutes to pick them all up. “Slimy git,” said Severus darkly.
When they got back to Gryffindor tower, Rose and Dillon were sitting by the fire, talking to Maya. Rose saw them first and laughed. “Took you long enough!” she said. Then, seeing their matching expressions, “What is it? Did something happen?”
“Malfoy,” said Albus. He didn’t need to explain.
“Don’t worry about it,” said Rose reassuringly. Then she bit her lip, as if wondering whether she really ought to say what she was going to say next. “He’s a piece of scum and he’s not worth it.”
Dillon rubbed her eyes and pinched herself with exaggerated movements. “Am I dreaming?” she asked. “Did Rose Weasley just insult someone?”
“You bet I did,” said Rose grimly. “And I’ll do it again: Malfoy is a piece of scum.”
Albus and Severus roared with laughter. Rose always knew what to say, and by acting completely out of character she had cheered up both he and Severus.
“What I want to know is this,” said Albus. “When we walked in on them, Gaunt was showing Malfoy something on his arm. And then he asked if we’d seen it. We didn’t so he walked away and Malfoy followed. It was weird, though. Like all he cared about was us not seeing the thing on his arm.”
“Oh for goodness’ sake, Albus,” said Dillon. “Can you just drop this fascination with Gaunt? It could have been anything. A scratch. A tattoo. A-”
“Yes!” said Albus excitedly. “Yes, that’s what it is, a tattoo! Gaunt’s dad is Lord Alpha and Alpha’s branded him with the new Dark Mark! You know, the eye and MIM. That’s what he was showing Scorpius, it has to be.”
Now it was Rose’s turn to be annoyed. “Listen, Al, it’s probably nothing.”
“Which makes it even more important if it is something!” said Albus. “Don’t you guys get it? Don’t you want to know?”
“I’m going to, er, go to bed,” said Maya awkwardly. She, of course, had no idea what they were talking about.
Maya got up and left the four in a cloud of awkwardness. Albus was staring defiantly at Rose and Dillon. Rose and Dillon were glancing around the common room, eyes everywhere and nowhere. Severus was watching them all, staying out and wondering where this would end.
Feeling like he had to explain himself, Albus continued. “It’s – I can’t really explain it. It’s like something I have to do, something I need to do. It’s part of who I am, the whole Harry Potter thing. Omega Gaunt is linked to Lord Alpha, and maybe if I figure this thing out then I can solve the next mystery, and the next one, until it ends up with me facing Lord Alpha. I know that sounds crazy and delusional, a bit nuts, and maybe a bit attention-seeking, but it’s like…” Albus struggle to find the words. “It’s just something I have to do. Like my destiny, or fate or whatever. Solving this just feels – right. Sorry I can’t explain it better.”
Albus got up and walked to his dormitory. He glanced back over his shoulder and saw Rose watching him, with something that looked like a mix of fear and pity on her face.
Well, screw her. Screw them all. Albus knew what he was talking about, even if they didn’t. Maybe he should find a dictionary or a thesaurus and use that to find the right words to make them understand.
A/N: I don’t mean to offend anyone when Molly says ‘don’t get all American on me’. I just wanted to show the difference between Scottish/British guising and American Trick-or-Treating. Points for people who guessed the answer to the riddle :). And shoutout to MissesWeasley123, The Great Bean and HPreader for my first three reviews. You rock!