Chapter 20 : The most beautiful thing in the world
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The Most Beautiful Thing in The World
On Monday morning, when the whole Ravenclaw third year walked out of the Nest, they looked at the hourglasses that were hanging in the Entrance Hall. They exchanged smiles to see that the Slytherin one was almost empty, as the House was now more than two hundred points behind any other one.
They entered the Great Hall, and looked around. Many students from the Houses were already settled. Most of them acted as if they hadn't realized anything. But most of Slytherins were not here. Ian grinned lightly. When the Slytherins showed up, they were exchanging stupefied looks. They didn't understand what could have possibly happened, for the House to lose Three hundred points. Macke and Venansius were curiously missing. Ian wondered if prefects were already aware of what had happened.
Some late Gryffindors walked in the Hall, and ran to discuss excitedly under their breath with their classmates. The rumour spread to the other tables. And soon, everyone was looking at the Slytherin, who began to shoot back hostile looks to everyone. The results were now quite known. But apart from the Ravenclaw third year, and Macke and Venansius, not one student knew what was the cause of Slytherin's fall.
A tap on Ian's shoulder made him turn on his bench. Terry was here, looking embarrassed.
"Hi," said Ian.
"Hi," replied Terry. "I wanted to say I'm sorry… about what I said the other night. It's just that…"
"You had lost a hundred points," said Ian.
Terry nodded vigorously.
"They have been quite tough with me," he said, nodding to the Gryffindor Table.
"You didn't tell them it was my fault?" asked Ian, sincerely surprised.
"Well, I didn't really mean it, back then, so... I couldn't really spread that around, could I?" admitted Terry. "Anyway, now, thanks to Alwena's persuasion, I'm apparently forgiven. But, out of the blue, Slytherin isn't in the lead anymore, Merlin knows why."
"And Ian knows why, as well," said Alba, grinning.
Terry shot an intense look at Ian, who smiled cunningly.
"You did this? How? You can't have tricked the hourglass!" he whispered.
"Much simpler," said Ian, with feint haughtiness. "I trust you remember this plan of Macke's."
"Kinda hard ot forget, given the amount of trouble I got into, because of it," said Terry, wincing.
"We made him fail," said Ian. "And it was such an epic failure that Macke and Venansius got caught. It was Venansius that was preparing all the traps and the Potions. Professor Potter took the points from them, right in front of Snape. That was priceless. Actually, I wish you'd been there to see it," he added, as a last offering of peace.
Terry was now looking impressed and he smiled.
"Wow! I take back all I said on you not being able to manage on your own," he said. "You've done better than any of the Gryffindors this year."
"Team work," said Ian, with a look around to his friends.
"You guys rock!" said Terry. "Just wait until the whole Gryffindor House learns about this! Er… this is no secret, is it?"
"It's all crystal clear," said Kieran. "The teachers know, and I even got a detention for being in the corridors again."
"You say this like it's good news," said Terry.
"Macke and Venansius got two whole months," said Ian with a wink.
"Oh, you're good, Malcolm," said Terry, delighted. "You're very good. Just wait, I'll make a hero of you, mate."
He strode back to the Gryffindor table, where he sat between two fifth years. Then a short moment later, he moved and went to sit next to the Seventh years. And he went on. Ian began to chuckle. This time, he wouldn't mind the rumour to spread. Let the whole school know that he got his revenge on Macke!
Terry Longwand took a seat between Will and Rob, looking pretty excited. Kenneth threw him an interrogative look.
"What's up?" he asked.
Despite Alwena's speech, a few people still resented Terry for the points debacle, but this morning, some thing had changed. The Hourglasses had shown it clearly. Slytherin wasn't in the lead anymore, and Gryffindor had its chances back to get the Cup after all. The whole House was wondering how it could be. Terry seemed to have found the answer.
"Ian just corrected our mistake," he said.
"What do you mean?" asked Kalindra, sitting beside Kenneth.
"Well, you remember that I got punished because I was trying to prove that Macke and Venansius were willing to set up a joke on Professor Potter?"
"You told that maybe a hundred times," said a fourth year coldly, from the distance.
He was one of Alwena's year mates, and he hadn't like being told off by the honey blonde girl. Terry ignored him and Alwena, who had been sitting next to him delivered a sounding slap at the back of his head.
"Well, they were still planning to carry it on," he said. "But Ian got them."
"What does that mean?" asked Jennifer, now fascinated.
"He made the plan fail and Macke has been caught with his accomplice. They have lost Slytherin three hundred points and they got two months of detention. So now, we're back in the game."
"He did it all by himself?" asked Kenneth.
"Well, Kieran and the other have helped him, apparently," said Terry. "Still, the result is the same."
"But why did he persist?" asked Julie. "I mean Ian. After he lost so many points to Ravenclaw, you would think he would have played a low profile."
"Except that Macke and Ian are at war. Macke and us, as a matter of fact. And so far, Macke always got away from the consequences of his actions."
"Stop speaking like some book, Terry," said Rob. "What consequences?"
"Macke has made the Potion that had caused Ian's accidents," said Terry.
"What?" said Julie, outraged.
"How?" asked Kenneth.
"Well, it seems like Venansius is extremely gifted and very well documented," said Terry. "I don't know how, but it was him."
"These scumbags should be expelled!" said Julie, fuming. "This was an awful thing to do to Ian."
Since he had saved her life, Julie had become the most fervent supporter of Ian against anyone who would wish to cause him trouble.
"Trouble is that they have been caught only for the trap they were setting for Potter. They are not proved guilty for the Potion," explained Terry. "But the very next mistake they do, and they're out of here. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to spread the word that my friend Ian is our hero."
He stood up and went to sit next two seventh years. He then began to tell his story again.
"Why is he so anxious to tell this?" asked Kalindra.
"He's making his amends to Ian," said Kenneth. "Apparently, they had a fight over their punishment. So, he's trying to compensate."
"Oh, here come the stars," said Will, pointing to Macke and Venansius, who were sneaking the most discretely possible into the Great Hall.
The Gryffindors all smiled widely. Julie then saw Robert enter the Great Hall, looking absolutely furious. He spotted Macke and Venansius and swooped on the two third years. Even in the distance, all the Great Hall could catch his good morning.
"WHAT IN BLAZES WERE YOU THINKING OF? I JUST CAN'T BELIEVE THIS…"
There was light chuckle among the Ravenclaw third years. Although she felt sorry for Robert, Julie couldn't help but smile. Ian had made a huge score on this one. This was amazing.
After this, the speed at which the rumour spread was impressive, considering Ian had nothing to do with it personally. Soon, both Ian and Terry weren't shunned by their classmates anymore. In fact, Ian was something of a hero again, not unlike the time after he had rushed to protect Julie. At least among the three Houses of Gryffindor, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff. Many students were waving friendly at him, when they crossed path with him. Ian couldn't say that he didn't like that. But still he didn't like being treated like a hero. But his Ravenclaw friends had turned his adventure into an epic drama, with betrayal, and justice in his revenge. So the hundred points were forgotten.
Ian, however was sure that there was a mean to fill the loss of points. That's why he nicked the Ear from Kieran, and carried it to Alexander. As he had guessed it, Alexander was highly impressed by the device.
"And you say that she has made it in only three days?" he asked.
Ian nodded vigorously, smiling broadly.
"As it is delicate matter, I thought I could show it to you," he said. "And maybe you could find a way that Kieran is rewarded for this, without getting into trouble."
"Did she ask for it?"
"You know Kieran, of course she didn't," said Ian. "She believes it's not right to build a spying device. She did it out of necessity. It focuses on the conversations with the Word "Potter" in it, but I think it can be enhanced to all kind of uses."
"I don't even think that Hermione could have done this, back in her third year," said Professor Potter from behind Ian.
Ian winced. Potter walked to the other side of the desk, smiling widely. He bent over the device, very interested.
"This is very clever," he said, examining the device. "Relax, Ian. there won't be any trouble. But I did wonder how you could have known that Macke and his accomplice were about to act. Now, I get it. Flitwick will just love that thing."
"Er… Sir? As professor Flitwick is our House Head, maybe he'll have things to say about this kind of spying device."
"You turned it over on your own," said Potter. "You created it only to get Macke, didn't you?"
"I didn't create it!" protested Ian.
"Who did, then?" asked Potter.
"Miss McDougall," said Alexander, helpfully.
"Oh! That's no surprise, then," said Potter. "Anyway, since this device was only made to catch rule-breakers, its goal can be considered as noble, and the fact that you handed it right after its use shows your good faith. So I guess that Professor Flitwick won't have anything to say against it."
"It's just that I don't want Kieran to go into any trouble," said Ian.
"Trust me, Ian, she won't," said Alexander., with a smile.
Two days later, as they were doing their homework in the Nest's Common Room, Flitwick entered the room, trotting enthusiastically.
"Miss McDougall," he said, friendly. "Could I have a word with you, please?"
Kieran nodded nervously and followed him out of the Common room, sending interrogative looks to her friends, who were just as surprised as she was. Well, except for Ian, who faked it very well. He had a cunning smile when the door closed. All his friends' eyes turned to him.
"What's up with that?" asked Joel.
"I gave the Ear to Alexander," said Ian, very calmly.
"Relax," said Ian. "It will be alright."
"I'd like to have your confidence," said Gina.
Silence fell back on the table, as they went all back to their essays about Potions. Snape, after the utter downfall of his House, had been in very foul mood. Well, in an even fouler mood than before, anyway. So they were all eager to hand out their essays without any incident.
Suddenly, maybe ten minutes later, the Hourglass in their Common room made the familiar sound of sapphires moving. They all raised their eyes and saw new gems fall into the Hourglass. A quite good amount of them.
"But there isn't any lesson going on!" said a sixth year in one corner of the Common Room. "Who can have gained us so much points at this hour? It's past seven!"
"That would be Kieran," said both Ian, Joel and Mark at the same time.
All eyes of the room focused on them. But at this moment, Kieran walked back into the room. She ran to their table, looking flushed and joyful. She suddenly kissed Ian on the cheek. She sat back.
"You could have told me that you nicked the Ear from me!" she said, feigning a frown. "I thought I would die out of fright when Flitwick told me about it!"
"I knew you wouldn't like the idea," said Ian. "So did he like it?"
"He says it's an incredible work! He wants us to work on stuff like the Ear during private lessons. He says he never saw something like that! He gave me forty points!"
"See?" said Ian to the rest of the room. "I told you it was her!"
"Ian!" protested Kieran, blushing madly now. "Why make such a fuss about it?!"
"Because you deserve it," said Ian. "You're a genius, Kieran, and without you, I would still be struggling with my gifts, and Macke would have played his joke on Professor Potter. So I guess I wanted the whole Nest to know about it."
"I'm not a genius, Ian Malcolm, don't talk nonsense!" said Kieran, going even redder.
"No? How come you can create this kind of artefact out of scratch?" pointed out Ian, with a sarcastic smile.
"I had one real ear plug, to start from…"
"Kieran," said Ian, patiently. "You have bewitched it on your own, using only books and your brains. This is a work worthy of a full-grown wizard! You are gifted! So stop hiding it. Now, does Flitwick want this to be regular lessons?"
"Yes," said Kieran, smiling widely. "We will start by enhancing the Ear, and then we will try some other things. He said that Professor Weasley would work with us on this, from time to time."
"That's great!" said Ian.
"But who will help me with my homework?" moaned Diana Jones-Stickley.
"I can do it," said Edwin, with a smile.
Diana went suddenly as red as Kieran, seconds earlier. She lowered her eyes. Ian knew she liked Edwin for a long time now.
"Thanks, Edwin," she mumbled shyly.
The whole common room gathered to hear about Kieran's story, and, as they all were Ravenclaw, they all marvelled at Kieran's achievement. Ian was glad to see that despite her embarrassment, Kieran was enjoying some attention.
Of course, it had been Ian's goal from the very beginning. Kieran had always been too discreet. To push her into the spotlight would do her some good, and meanwhile, people would focus less on him.
This was a very, very good day.
Kieran's recognition as a genius wasn't the only side effect that Ian's success over Macke had. The fact that Harry hadn't hesitated one second before to strike down the whole Slytherin House for the sin of two of them had shown the entire school, that despite his young age, he was a serious fellow, when he was forced to.
This revelation had led the Slytherin to adopt a low profile from this moment. They were now respectful of him in his lessons, and in the halls. Many troubles that wouldn't have calmed before when he walked into the place were now stopping dead as soon as he appeared.
As he was more respected, his lessons were going quite smoother.
He was discussing this with Hermione, at dinner.
"At least, these events have helped me to settle things right with the Slytherins. Now, they have understood that they shouldn't be respectful only to Snape," he said.
"Well, the students in my class are now far too busy to be disrespectful," said Hermione. "Most of them have started revisions for their exams."
"Seems like it pleases you, Honey," said Ron, on a reproving tone.
"Well, I'm glad that they're serious," said Hermione.
"Oh, I was afraid you enjoyed the torture you were plunging them into," said Ron, with a wink at Harry.
"Honey, may I remind you how arithmancy looked like back in your school years? You were falling asleep over your books in third year," said Ron.
"I was making triple hours with the time turner, Ron," said Hermione, patiently.
"And your student don't even have this chance," wept Ron sympathetically.
Harry laughed and Hermione threw her husband an unconvinced slap.
"It so happens that students are complaining more on the amount of Homework Harry gives them," interfered Professor Sprout with a smile.
Harry took the most innocent face possible.
"These children must be prepared properly," he said pompously, winking at the herbology teacher, who chuckled.
"Oh, no, Harry, not you too!" moaned Ron.
They all laughed at that. Harry then noticed that Alexander was not at the table.
"Where is Alex?" he asked.
"Phyllis cannot really get down the stairs for any reason, by now. They eat in their apartment, until the baby's here," said Hermione.
"I see," said Harry. "So, I heard you found a genius in your house, Professor," he told Flitwick.
The little man smiled broadly.
"Indeed, indeed, Harry," he said. "Of course, we all knew that Miss McDougall was brilliant."
"How true," said Hermione, somewhat mournfully. "She's a nightmare for a teacher."
"Why is that, Hermione?" asked Ginny.
"I can't teach her anything," said Hermione. "She already knows everything."
"It does ring some bell," mumbled Ron.
"I'm serious, Ron," said Hermione with a smile. "The way I see it, she's even worse than me. I sometimes wonder why she needs to attend Hogwarts in the first place."
"You exaggerate, Hermione," said Professor McGonagall. "Miss McDougall needs training and, no matter what we may think, she still needs to learn some theory. Besides, Hogwarts isn't only about knowledge acquired in the classroom. It's also about what goes on in the corridors, the dorm rooms, and the common rooms."
"Is that so, Professor?" said Ginny, with a twisted smile. "Then why would you spend so much time trying to convince us that knowledge was everything, back in the days?"
"It's a posture I have to take, Ginevra," said McGonagall, with a mocked stern expression. "Students do need to focus on studies, if only a little."
Ron laughed brightly at that.
"So, the kid is brighter than you, love?" he asked Hermione, without any teasing, but seriously interested.
"She solves all my equations without a blink," said Hermione. "This girl is like a machine! No, she's smarter than a machine. I land traps for her and she avoids them as if they were set up for a child. And it only gets worse, because she still learns in my lessons, so she progresses everyday. Soon, I'll have to give her OWLs subjects to train, or she will get bored."
"You'd think she could turn bad?" asked Harry. "Such a thirst for knowledge could deviate in something dangerous," he explained, remembering too well the thirst for knowledge that Tom Riddle had demonstrated in his youth.
"I wouldn't worry about that," said Hermione, seriously. "Kieran is a sweet girl. She doesn't push too hard. When she's through with her homework, she helps her classmates."
"You mean her seventh year classmates?" said Ron, grinning.
"No, she's not there, yet," said Hermione, with an amused smile. "She's often working with Diana Jones-Stickley, who has some difficulties with probability maps."
"Who hasn't?" whispered Ron.
"How come Diana is in Ravenclaw?" asked Harry. "She a little behind of her classmates in my lessons, as well."
"Yes, but she's eager to learn," said Flitwick. "And she's a living encyclopaedia in History. She always gets full marks with Professor Binns."
Harry nodded in understanding.
"Anyway, Kieran McDougall is well on her way to become top of her year once more. We must be careful. Such a brilliant mind shouldn't be neglected. She must be kept busy," said McGonagall.
"With our new lessons, she should be," said Hermione. "This listening device she created is amazing. We're lucky she's not a prankster."
"Why?" asked Ron.
"Because she would put your brothers out of business," said Hermione. "The Charms she's used on that are incredibly clever. We have a lot to experiment. She has a mind for this. I'm sure that soon, she'll create her own spells."
"Can you imagine this?" said Flitwick. "There hasn't been a Spell Writer in Hogwarts in a Century."
"Is it that rare?" asked Harry. "I thought new spells were created each year."
"Yes, but they often result of experiments on old rituals, or adapting the magic of other cultures. The new spells created in the Ministry are mostly derivations from existing ones, even if the ancient one can go back to Merlin's days. But to create an entire new spell requires brains and inner strength."
"Well, that fits Kieran," said Hermione.
"We'll have to follow this," said Dumbledore. "Still, it is refreshing to have such interesting wizards these years."
"Wizards?" asked Ron.
"Well, if you consider that Mr Malcolm could become more powerful than his mentor, that Mr Lionheart is one of the most precocious Wandmasters of the age, that Miss Carteret is a descendant of an Atlantean High Warlock and that soon, Miss McDougall could very well write new pages in our spell books, I consider this is a very interesting generation of students."
"Well, yeah… put together that's very impressive. Imagine they create a Club?" said Ron.
"The League of Extraordinary Wizards?" offered Harry, grinning, which made Hermione, Ginny and Ron burst into laughing.
"That's catchy," said Flitwick, thoughtfully.
"You've seen that movie, Professor?" asked Ron, bewildered.
"A movie? What is it?"
Harry began to explain the whole notion of cinema to the Head of Ravenclaw, who found the ide fascinating. Flitwick asked about this group of heroes he was referring to, and Harry, with a sigh, began to explain the plot of the movie. He hadn't planned on this to become the subject of the conversation. He had found the movie a little pushy, for his part. Ron had loved it, but Ron loved almost every movie he had seen with Hermione. Cinema was amazing for him. He still couldn't understand how the directors could be filming spaceships without magic, when he knew for a fact they didn't exist in the muggle world. Harry and Hermione had given up the hope to make him understand the concept of CG images.
Julie opened her eyes, with a sudden gasp. She quickly looked around, to find out what time it could be. She could tell it was still dark, and thankfully, she hadn't woken her room-mates with a scream. She sighed deeply, leaning back into her pillow, trying to recall what she could have dreamed. It came to her easily, this time. It was a recurrent dream. When she didn't dream of the hooded strangers who came for her, she dreamed of this room full of fire, and of Kenneth fighting for his life in a wand duel. She didn't know what it meant, but it felt significant, somehow. She couldn't help but worrying about this. Gloomily, she tried to get back to sleep, knowing this was nearly a lost cause.
This was the third night in a row that she was startled awake by one of her dreams. And it was each time very difficult to get back to sleep. She was doing her best not to mention it to the girls, because she didn't want them to worry about her. But, on the morning, she realised that it must have started to show, because Kalindra pointed it out right away.
"Goodness, Julie, you look like hell," she said. "What's the matter?"
"Bad dreams," said Julie, with a defeated huff. "They kept me awake almost every night this week."
"Dreams? About what?" asked Kalindra.
"It's not clear," said Julie. "I mean, there are these hooded bastards that are after me, but there are some other scenes."
"Such as?" asked Kalindra, waiting on purpose while Marion, Jennifer and Mandy got out of the room for their showers.
Julie pondered for a while what to tell her. And then she decided that, as a friend of Kenneth's, she was entitled to know.
"I dream of Kenneth, if you must know," she said.
"Oh," said Kalindra. "Seriously? So those are a 'good' kind of lost sleep?" she added, with a glint in her eye.
"What?" said Julie. "No! No, it's not like that!"
"It would be perfectly understandable for you to dream about Kenneth that way, you know," said Kalindra, still smiling. "I mean, it's not like he's ugly or like you're married to Donahue, so..."
"He's in a battle," said Julie, firmly. "In my dream, he's in a battle."
Kalindra dropped the smile and sat back on her bed.
"Oh," she said. "What kind of battle?"
"I'm not sure," said Julie. "The dream keeps coming back, but it's still hazy. I see a room with deep chasms in it and there's lava below, and fire is bursting from the ground. Kenneth is fighting someone in that room. I can't see the other one, but I can tell the duel is intense."
"And it keeps coming back?" asked Kalidnra.
"Yeah," said Julie. "I'm starting to think it could be a warning of some kind."
Kalindra seemed thoughtfull.
"You should tell Kenneth about it," she said.
"Are you serious? I mean, I just tell you I had a dream of a duel, and you want me to..."
"We are witches, Julie," said Kalindra. "Our dreams can bear serious meaning. And since you dreamt of these guys after you all your life, despite your memory being wiped, I'd say your dreams are pretty important. They could be visions."
"And you want me to warn Kenneth?" said Julie.
"He should know," said Kalindra. "You don't know him the way I do. He's... he's a bit of a hothead, sometimes. I know he has kept out of most of the silly adventures that take place during school years, but when it gets serious, he has a knack at getting involved. I mean, last year, there was a spell that went haywire in one of our classes. It was heading straight at Teddy. Kenneth plunged to push him out of the way. Didn't hesitate for a second. He's like that. Just like when he went after that intruder in the forest, the other day. If he needs to be careful or on his guards, he should be warned."
"I see your point," said Julie. "I'll talk to him."
"How are things between you two, now?" asked Kalindra. "I know you're back on speaking terms, but really..."
"I think we're okay," said Julie. "I mean, he'll listen if I talk to him."
"Good," said Kalindra. "And if you still can't sleep, I'll drag you myself to Madam Pomfrey and I'll have her force feed you a vile tasting potion," she added with a smile.
Julie smiled back.
When she went down, after showering and dressing for the day, Julie spotted Kenneth pretty quickly. Actually, he looked kind of stuck, Kalindra preventing him from leaving the common room. Julie sighed and shook her head. When that girl had an idea...
Kenneth looked puzzled when, upon seeing Julie, Kalindra just waved good bye and left the common room, which was deserted, as most students were gone for their breakfast. Julie had an apologetic smile.
"Sorry about that," she said. "She's convinced I'm supposed to talk to you."
"Has something come up?" asked Kenneth. "Any lead on the guy I found?"
"Not that I know of," said Julie. "But... this is going to sound silly. I'm having a dream, these days. It's recurrent. I... I think it means something, so I told Kalindra and She told me I should warn you about it."
Kenneth's eyebrows shot up in suprise.
"Because your dreams are... so fascinating?" he offered.
"Because this one is about you," she said.
"Oh," said Kenneth, a little shocked.
He then blushed only a little, or did Julie imagine that? But the dream was still too vivid for her to think about Kenneth's probably imaginary feelings about her.
"in the dream, you're fighting someone," she said. "It's... It's pretty intense. I think it's a duel to the death, Kenneth. I mean it."
"Okay," said Kenneth, once more shifting his attitude in a second.
She was still amazed of how he could do that. One moment he was a regular teenager, able to blush and joke, and the next, he was focused as an Auror or something...
"The room is weird, too," said Julie, reassured that he was paying attention. "It's ancient, and deep chasms run through it. There's lava below, and fire everywhere. I... I just can't shake the feeling that it is relevant."
"A room full of fire," said Kenneth, thoughtfully. "I can't say it rings a bell. What do you think it means?"
"I don't know," admitted Julie. "But Kallie told me about the way you can sometimes jump into action, whenever someone is in danger. The dream is insistent. At least, I think you should be careful or..."
"On my guards?" offered, Kenneth, seriously, this time.
"Something like that," said Julie. "I'm sorry, it's silly, I'm sure, but..."
"But you're losing sleep over this," said Kenneth.
"How...?" she began to ask, shocked that he could know that.
Had Kalindra told him about her restless nights? What would he think of it?
"You do look tired," said Kenneth, with a real touch of concern in his voice. "It's not obvious, but I can see it."
"I'm fine," said Julie. "I just lost a few nights sleep, in the last days. I'll go to Madam Pomfrey if it goes on."
"You should do that," said Kenneth. "With everything happening to you, you need to preserve your health."
The comment was not a command or a condescending advice. He was just expressing concern for a friend. Julie smiled at that. He could be very sweet, when he meant to.
"In the same line of thinking," said Kenneth. "You shouldn't skip breakfast. How about we head down, now?"
Julie nodded eagerly. She was starving.
The walk between the Gryffindor Tower and the Great Hall was silent, but it wasn't an uncomfortable kind of silence. Kenneth seemed deep in thought, probably digesting what she had just told him. There was still this intensity in him. But something in his eye suddenly shifted and he had a smile.
"May I recommend bacon and orange juice?" he said. "It's a good combination, when you haven't slept well."
"You speak of experience?" she asked.
"I still have a few shivers at the thought of these giant spiders," said Kenneth, with a wince.
"I still can't believe you went to explore the forest on your own," said Julie. "That was incredibly dangerous."
"It shouldn't have been," said Kenneth. "They don't come so close to the Castle, usually, according to Professor Hagrid. But at least, we found how they managed to come inside the grounds."
"These guys are really determined," said Professor Potter. "Tonks has sent back an owl. The ritual used to breach the defences of the Hogwarts grounds is pretty vicious. The guy didn't just die. His life was ripped from his body."
His voice was clearly worried.
"Where does that leave us?" asked Alexander. "Do we need guards around the grounds?"
"I'm not sure this would be so easy," said Professor McGonagall. "To ask the Aurors for protection would need approval from the Wizengamot. Now that the Order of the Phoenix has a status similar to the Auror office, that would also need to be validated. Wouldn't that draw too much attention on Julie and expose her as a target?"
"That's a good point," said Potter, darkly. "Tonks has offered to watch over Hogsmeade and patrol around the grounds, with her team. She says she has some days of leave to take."
"That could help," said Alexander. "I think..."
He stopped suddenly. Something was ringing strangely in the office.
"The coin," said Potter, excitedly.
"What coin?" asked McGonagall, puzzled.
"Hermione has bewitched this coin as a signal for anyone, when we were fighting Devin Stiller's faction," explained Professor Potter. "She modified it recently. What colour is it, Alex?"
"Blue," said Alexander, his voice very weak, now.
"So it has started," said Potter, brightly. "You should hurry."
"What?" asked McGonagall, sounding completely puzzled.
"Phyllis is about to deliver the baby," said Potter.
There was sudden confusion. Alexander was standing up quickly from behind his desk. And it sounded like he was running to the door.
Ian moved quickly out of the way, and hid in the dark corner he was always using when he was spying on his mentor's meetings. Alexander passed by him without noticing. He ran to the West Tower. Professor Potter and Professor McGonagall walked out of the Office more calmly. They were both smiling.
"A birth here," said McGonagall, moved to tears. "That has to be a first."
"He will be impossible after this," said Potter, wisely.
"Poppy may need help," said McGonagall. "I'll go check on this."
"I'll be up in a minute," said Potter.
McGonagall walked away quickly, and Potter stood there for a long moment, apparently waiting for her to be out of sight. When she turned the corner, Potter suddenly turned to the spot where Ian was hiding. He was smiling lightly. Ian closed his eyes, shaking his head in disbelief, and let out a groan.
"Don't feel bad, Ian," said Potter, with a chuckle. "I always know when I'm watched. In this case, I should say listened to. It seems you don't lose old habits."
"They die hard," said Ian, walking out of the shadows.
"In a way, it's better that you know about this situation," said Potter. "I want you to keep an eye out. If these people can break into the grounds like that, we must make sure that no one will sneak out in the forest."
Ian suddenly realized that the most famous wizard of this decade was thinking that he, a young third year, could be a help for him!
"But, be careful, Ian," said Potter. "This isn't a matter of rumour."
"Of course not, Sir," said Ian, nodding again.
"Don't tell anyone about this," said Potter, before to go away.
"Oh, Sir?" Ian called after. "When it will be over, you'll present my congratulations to Phyllis?"
"Why don't you?" asked Potter.
"She will need some rest after…"
Giving birth to a baby was still a notion Ian wasn't easy with. Potter chuckled.
"I'll tell her," he said, and headed to the West Tower.
"It has been very fast," explained Hermione, beaming, to a very nervous Alexander, in the middle of his living room. "Apparently, the baby was in a hurry. Madam Pomfrey was there just in time. But she needed help. So I got pulled in."
She seemed under the shock. She was smiling broadly, but still she was trembling.
"Thank you for your help," said Alexander, hugging her.
"Don't mention that," said Hermione. "This must have been one of the most intense experiences of my whole life. It was incredible."
"How is she?" asked Alexander, looking at the room's door.
"She's fine, and so is the little angel," said Hermione. "She just wanted a little time to arrange herself, before you could go in. I guess it's okay, now."
She pointed to the door, and Alexander headed to it as fast as he could. Harry chuckled behind him. He was apparently finding his attitude very funny.
I'll see you in my place, Potter, he thought.
He entered cautiously in the room, trying not to make too much noise. He walked to the bed. What he saw made him freeze on the threshold, moved to tears.
Phyllis was lying in the bed, beaming as the sunrise, with a little form in her arms. Alexander walked in silence to her, and they exchanged a marvelled look. He sat on the edge of the bed, looking at the little wonder in his wife's arms. Phyllis held it to him. He took delicately the baby in his arms, and held it against him. His child! That was an incredible thought. This was his child.
"This is our daughter, Alex," said Phyllis, tears in her throat.
"She's wonderful," said Alexander.
The baby opened her eyes, slowly, still looking sleepy. She had beautiful green eyes, like Phyllis. Alexander kissed the baby's forehead. Then, he leant closer to kiss his wife tenderly.
"Thank you," he whispered. "Thank you for giving me this."
"You're very welcome, darling," said Phyllis, grinning.
They kissed again.
"So," asked Phyllis. "How will we name her?"
The dinner was about to begin when Professor Dumbledore stood up, calling for attention. Most of the students were sure he would speak about either the Slytherin problem, which had been the most discussed subject in the Castle for the whole week, or the upcoming Quidditch game. But Ian was sure he wasn't about to mention this. He smiled mysteriously to the interrogative look of his friends.
"There have been an important event today. I'm happy to announce the birth, today, in this very Castle, of Christine Lockenburn, daughter of our Entropy teacher Alexander and his wife Phyllis. I'm sure you'll join me to drink to her arrival in our wizarding world. Her name is already written on the Hogwarts register, and she will, I'm sure, inherit the qualities I respect and appreciate in her parents. So you'll be kind enough to raise your glasses with me," he said, seizing his cup.
Ian was the first to be up, his glass in his hand. He was quickly followed by his friends of Ravenclaw. Many students of the Gryffindor Table were already on their feet. Slowly, most of the tables stood up. Professor Potter raised his glass.
"To Christine Lockenburn!" he shouted, along with Ron Weasley.
The Great Hall cheered with him, and they all drank to the new born girl. The mood was much brighter for the rest of the dinner. Maybe not on the Slytherin table, but Ian didn't care at all.
When they walked out of the Great Hall, Ian saw someone that he knew must know about what he had heard, in spite of what Professor Potter had said. He ran after him.
"Kenneth!" he called.
The fifth year turned to face him. Ian pulled him in some isolated corner, to talk to him freely. Kenneth looked puzzled.
"What is it, Ian?" he asked.
"Er… I'm not supposed to speak about this…" Ian began.
"That has never stopped you before," said Kenneth, grinning. "Go on."
"Well, it's just that, the teachers... They say that the guys that are after Julie are able to break inside the defences of the school. And, I thought that, tomorrow, there's a game. And, according to what we know, they managed to spot Julie during the Quidditch tryout and the game against Slytherin."
"You think there could be a problem?" said Kenneth.
"I don't know," said Ian. "The staff hasn't said anything, but... Just… be on your guards, tomorrow, okay?" he said.
"I'm always on my guards," said Kenneth, winking.
"Yeah, I saw that," he said.
And that's it for now! Next update very soon, I promise. the chapter is almost ready. Needs only a few tweaks here and there. See you around!
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