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Chapter 9 : Going Home
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We have all heard of the ‘new threat’ to our society, a Mr Lord Alpha. In a recent Daily Prophet article, Mr Potter, Head of the Auror Department, mentioned that Mr Alpha could just be “some nutter who likes scaring people”. This is more likely than not, as recent studies have discovered the severe illness named LVS, or Lord Voldemort Syndrome.
To be diagnosed with LVS, you must want power, at any cost, like snakes and think you are immortal. Somebody with the mental disability LVS will wear dark cloaks and have a large group of cronies around them at all times. Mr Alpha’s ‘Next Generation Death Eaters’ certainly fit the description.
Studies show that one in twenty-eight people will have LVS, ranging from mild cases to severe. In Mr Alpha’s case it is extremely severe and also incurable. (All previous cases of LVS have been cured by making the patient stare at a picture of Harry Potter for two hours. However Mr Alpha has not yet brought himself forward for treatment and experts say he might never.)
So, have you got LVS? If you are worried and want to find out more, you can order a pamphlet from the back of this magazine. If you think you do have LVS, contact your local Healer/visit the nearest hospital/send in the form on the next page as soon as possible. If you hurry, we may just be able to stop you ending up like Mr Voldemort.
“This is the kind of stuff people need!” Severus exclaimed as he read Luna’s article out loud for the hundredth time. “This is how to make people stop worrying and forget about the threat! ‘Lord Voldemort Syndrome’. Luna’s brilliant I tell you. Utter genius.”
“If only it wasn’t a threat,” Albus muttered darkly.
“Lighten up, Al,” said Dillon. “Sev, if by ‘utter genius’ you mean ‘good at making up illnesses’, then I’ll agree with you.”
It was a week before the Christmas holidays. A festive cheer had spread through the whole school and every student was looking forward to the holidays, their minds on presents and Christmas pudding and no more lessons for a few weeks…
…every student’s mind except Albus’s, that is. He was still focused on the Lord Alpha/Omega Gaunt mystery, although he had stopped bringing it up around his friends. They had made it clear some time ago that they did not share his suspicions, or his wish to investigate. Albus forced himself to think about other things, but his mind was still working on it subconsciously. Sometimes he woke up with a brilliant idea as to what Lord Alpha was up to, who he had been trying to kidnap, only to forget it within seconds. It was possibly the most frustrating thing Albus had ever come up against.
“Anyway, I’ve got the official dates for the Annual Weasley Christmas Dinner,” Rose told them. “I know that Al and Sev are going, but can you two make it? It’s starting on the twenty-third and going until the twenty-sixth or seventh, but you could just come for Christmas Day if you wanted.”
Daegan sighed. “I wish I could, but I have to stay with my aunt and uncle this year, remember the journalist ones I told you about? I’m staying with them all the way til New Year, so there’s not much chance of me being able to come. Besides, my mum hates me having sleepovers with people she hasn’t met, even when they were in my class at Muggle school.”
Rose turned to Dillon. “What about you?”
“I was actually planning on staying here at Hogwarts this Christmas,” she said. “My mum and stepdad are going on their honeymoon so yeah, I’d love to come.”
“You can stay with me until we all go to The Burrow,” Rose said, beaming. “It’d be good to have another girl round – there’s not even any Muggles around for miles.”
Dillon nodded. “Thanks.”
“Aw, Daegan, are you sure you can’t come?” Severus moaned, putting an arm around the boy’s shoulder.
Daegan nodded. “Yup. Mum was pretty fierce about going to visit my aunt and uncle, seeing as how we haven’t seen them for five years.”
“Oh, right,” Albus said. “Well, that’s fine. Family reunion and all that.”
“Mm.” Daegan nodded but he looked slightly uncomfortable. “I er, have to go to the bathroom.” He sped out of the common room and Rose watched him. Her face was blank, but she was re-tying her hair, and Albus knew that meant she was thinking. It was her tell.
“What are you thinking, Rose?” he asked her quietly, “and what does it have to do with Daegan?”
Rose shook her head slightly. “I’ll tell you at Christmas.” Then she added, to the whole group, “I need to check something at the library.” She dashed off and left the three of them on their own.
“She’s bonkers,” Severus said. “I mean, it can’t be healthy, spending so much time in a library. And if Madame Pinch catches a cold or something, with all the down-your-neck-breathing she does Rose will be first to get it from her."
“Why first?” Dillon asked as she unrolled her Transfiguration essay.
“Because she’ll be the only one in the library!” Albus and Severus exclaimed together. Apart from their telepathy, they shared a sense of humour and so could usually figure out the other’s punch lines.
The last day of term came and Albus was already packed, having put the last random items into his trunk the night before. Finally there was something he could do on time without having to wait for James. He stood in the common room in front of his bed, grinning as he watched his twin brother scrambling around for a quill he couldn’t find.
“Couldn’t we just go have breakfast already?” Albus asked. “I’m hungry and there are quills everywhere. You can buy another one from Diagon Alley. And anyway, didn’t you already pack five?”
“Yes,” Severus said testily, his voice muffled as his head was stuck under his bed. “But this quill is special. It’s a peacock quill, and they don’t make them anymore. It could be one of the last ones in existence! We could sell it for loads of money and, you know, get rich…” Realising the stupidness of what he was saying, Severus tailed off.
“Yes, because we’re not rich and famous enough already, and a quill could sell for so much money!” Albus said drily. “Anyway, there’ll still be some shops that sell them. Please, Sev, I’m hungry.”
Severus crawled out from under the bed and held up a long peacock-feather quill. “Found it!” he said triumphantly. “Now I’ll come.”
Severus jumped up, stuck the quill on top of the pile of clothes in his trunk and slammed the lid shut. “Come on, Al, let’s go to breakfast already.”
They left their trunks in the dormitory to be collected and put on the train by the same unseen being that had put them year at the beginning of the year. The twins walked quickly down the stairs and through the corridors until they came to the Great Hall. Light streamed in from the windows and the ceiling and the Hall was filled with chattering students. Albus and Severus made their way to the Gryffindor table and sat with their friends, who all looked excited at the prospect of leaving the school. Hogwarts was a very enjoyable school, there was no doubt about that, but everybody needs a break (and a lie-in) sooner or later.
After breakfast the five of them lined up in the Entrance Hall with every other Gryffindor who was going home for Christmas. The Hufflepuffs filled the rest of the space and the Ravenclaws stood on one of the marble staircases leading up. The Slytherins were huddled on the stairs that led to the dungeons and also, Albus guessed, their common room.
The Gryffindors filtered past Neville, who was checking their names off a list of people leaving the school, and walked down to Hogsmeade station before boarding the Hogwarts Express for the second time that year. They found the compartment with their trunks in and sat down, breathing sighs of relief to be free of homework, at least for a week. Albus cast a last glance at the castle where he had spent three and a half months, knowing he would both miss it and be happy to be home at the same time.
“Wow,” said Daegan. “I can’t believe it’s Christmas already.”
“I know!” said Dillon. “It feels like the first term went by in the blink of an eye.”
“But it felt like forever when it was happening,” Albus laughed. “I feel like I haven’t seen my house in ages.”
“I know,” agreed Rose. The five of them spent the rest of the train journey talking about their friends and family back home, what they missed most about being in their own houses. As far as Albus was concerned, it was being in his own room. In the Gryffindor dormitory, where he was only two or three steps away from Severus, whenever his twin had a particularly emotional dream Albus was transported into his head and forced to watch the dream. It was a scary experience, and he was pretty sure it worked vice-versa. Once he’d had an almost-nightmare (it hadn’t woken him up but it definitely creeped him out) and all the way through it he’d felt a presence – a faint figure at the edge of his vision. At the time it had only made the dream creepier, but when Albus thought about it he became surer that it was Severus. Albus hoped the thick walls at Number 12 Grimmauld Place would put a stop to this dream-switching.
When the skyline changed from rolling hills and fields to tall buildings and London landmarks, Albus and his friends changed into their Muggle clothes and pulled down their trunks from the overhead racks. Septimus, in his cage, had slept through the train journey and opened one round yellow eye when Albus lifted him off the table. “Come on, buddy,” Albus said happily. “We’re going home.”
On the platform, it took Albus a few minutes to locate the Potters. Daegan found his family immediately – Albus noticed they were all blonde-haired, which struck him as odd for a second before he realised that Daegan’s black hair could easily come from a grandparent. “Mum, Dad, these are my friends from school. Al, Sev, Rosie and Dillon.”
Daegan’s parents waved and smiled. “Hello,” said Daegan’s dad, holding out a hand to Albus. “I’m Daegan’s father.”
Albus shook his hand. “Albus, but everyone calls me Al.”
“I’m Severus!” chimed in Severus. “You can call me Sev.”
“Well, er, we have to go now,” said Daegan’s mum. “Come on Daegan, Peter. Carla, we’re going now.”
Carla seemed to be Daegan’s sister. She looked about six or seven, thought Albus.
“Bye guys!” Daegan called over his shoulder. “Merry Christmas and see you next year!"
The Black family walked away through the crowd and Albus soon lost sight of them. However, he did see a group of redheads that could only mean one thing. “Rosie!” he called. “Dillon! The Weasleys are over there!”
The four made their way over to the Weasleys. There was Nana Molly, Grandpa Arthur, and all of Albus’s aunts and uncles, waiting for their train to arrive. The Potters were there too, and before Albus could say “Hello” Lily started demanding answers about Hogwarts.
“Calm down, Lily,” said Ginny gently, pulling Lily back off Albus. “There’ll be time for questions later. Give your brothers a chance to say hello to everyone.”
Albus laughed and hugged his mother. “Thanks mum,” he said. “Hi dad,” he added when they broke apart. “I think Rosie’s over there with Aunt Hermione and Uncle Ron. Come meet my friend Dillon.”
Harry and Ginny walked over to Hermione, Ron, Rose and Dillon. Dillon introduced herself and explained where her mother and step-father were and then the older Weasleys/Potter poured off the train, whooping and yelling and laughing with the confidence of children who have done this before. Albus hoped that he could show that confidence one day, but seriously doubted it.
Dillon looked slightly overwhelmed by the sheer amount of family, but soon she was chatting happily to Fred and Roxanne, the third year Weasley twins. The Potters said goodbye to the Weasleys (which took about ten minutes) and finally made their way out of King’s Cross Station. Their car didn’t even have a magically enlarged seat, because they’d managed to find a seven-seater Honda. Harry drove carefully through London and parked in the road in front of Number 12 Grimmauld Place. (The Fidelius Charm was no longer in place because too many people were Secret Keepers, so the house was visibly to all. The Muggles thought that someone had changed all the numbers on the street so that there was a number 12, although none of them could say when it was done or by whom.)
Albus gazed up at his house, which he hadn’t seen for three and a half months, and ran as fast as he could whilst dragging a trunk up to the doorway, eagerly waiting for Harry to come and open the door, which was locked with a spell that only Harry could undo.
Albus looked at the plaque beside the door and laughed when he saw that somebody, probably Ginny because she could draw better, had added a little bird in the corner. The Potters had named their home The Nest for two reasons: a) because Ginny’s home had been The Burrow and it tied in with that, and b) Harry and Ginny both liked flying on broomsticks and birds also fly, so it made sense to call their home after a bird’s home.
Once Albus was inside, he ran up to his bedroom and sat on the bed, gazing around at everything he’d missed. He looked at the Gryffindor flags permanently stuck to the walls and wondered, if he’d been put in Slytherin, would he had left them up or covered them over? Albus didn’t know, but it would have depended on how he’d felt. If he’d been ashamed, he would have left them up. If he wasn’t bothered, he wold have left them up but out Slytherin ones up as well. If he’d been extremely house-proud, he probably would have covered them over and replaced them, pleased, like Sirius, to be original and different.
That night Kreacher made an exceptionally good meal (he was pleased to have Severus back – for some reason the elf had taken a liking to Albus’s twin) and afterwards Teddy came around to say congratulations to Albus and Severus.
“The first term is the hardest,” he said, smiling, “and leaving at the end of the holidays is even harder. But you’ll get used to it, and just think how much you’ll be able to tease Lily after a year!”
At that point Lily started throwing fake punches at Teddy and Teddy laughed. Albus grinned, but after being teased all summer by James he knew he wouldn’t be doing any. Lily – nobody – deserved to be teased about something as important as that.
The Potters and Teddy moved into the drawing room, where stood a huge pine tree. They took out the boxes of decorations and started to hang them up manually. Soon the tree was covered in flickering candles (electric lights were out of the question), baubles and tinsel, and at the very top was a red star with tinselled edges. It sang carols every time someone walked past the tree and gave off green and red sparks as it did so. (Fun to look at but also dangerous – once a spark had landed in Lily’s hair and it had taken her three weeks to grow it back to the usual length.)
Finally, when Albus had to admit he was tired, he, Severus, James and Lily went up to bed. Albus lay on his back, staring up at the ceiling and wondering if he could hear his brother’s thoughts. He concentrated hard but no other thoughts or feelings came to him. Satisfied, he closed his eyes and thought sleepy thoughts, glad to be home at last.
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