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We Gryffies by gryffindorseeker
Chapter 13 : The Fraudulent Magician
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 90

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Previously on We Gryffies:

Tegan tried to pull me a bit closer, into a proper hug, and I conceded. But soon I heard a deep voice coming from my right, and I whipped my head ‘round to investigate.

A tall, dishevelled man stood twenty feet away from me and Tegan, smirking and pulling the black cape he wore tightly around his body. He couldn’t have been much more than thirty and he was slightly balding, but I couldn’t help but feel immensely threatened by this stranger in a dark alleyway. I suppose my instincts are in order.

‘Riddle me this, homeskillets,’ said the odd man with a twinkle in his eye. ‘How is a trick like an illusion?’

‘Cousin Huw?’ exclaimed Tegan, quickly letting go of me and running to give the man a small hug.

‘For the love of Suetonius, McTegan, keep the proclamations of my name on the low down!’ hissed Huw, his eyes darting around.

‘So you really escaped from Azkaban?’ asked Tegan brightly, though she lowered the volume of her voice.

‘Yeppers,’ said Huw, in a rather loud whisper. ‘I’m on the lam. And you haven’t answered my riddle!’

Tegan looked quickly to me, a bit unsure, and I stepped forward. ‘There is no difference between a trick and an illusion,’ I said carefully. ‘They are one in the same.’

‘What?’ spat Huw. ‘Oh no—dear, sweet Agrippa, no—McTegan, who the hell is this poseur?’

‘Don't yell at him,’ said Tegan sternly. ‘He’s my boyfriend.’

‘James Potter,’ I said, apprehensively sticking out my hand to shake.

But Huw slapped it, like a low five. ‘Sorry, mate. Oi, where've I heard your name before?’

I crossed my arms. ‘Well, it was my granddad's name, but—’

‘Shh!’ said Huw, holding up a finger. ‘I know this!

I glanced to Tegan, but she shrugged. Huw shut his eyes and scrunched his forehead in Deep Thought.

I counted 713 seconds before interrupting. ‘Er, it’s not really important how you know my name—’

‘You're that bloke, yeah?’ Huw suddenly burst. ‘The nutty fascist who’s hell-bent on exterminating the Muggle-borns? He has these…followers, right!...and this cold piercing voice…and he tried to kill that wee baby…yes, that nutterbutter’s called Potter and I’m ninety-nine per cent certain that he’s related to you!’

‘Okay?’ I mumbled, wanting to put a stop to Huw's Deep Thoughts before he hurt himself.

Huw tapped the side of his odd-shaped head. ‘Still got it, I do. But you have yet to correctly solve my riddle!’

‘You and your riddles!’ said Tegan playfully, but in her slightly condescending way. ‘If I may speak for James, I think you’ve stumped us.’

‘You may speak for me,’ I added. ‘Tell us the solution to this conundrum.’

Huw jumped up and screeched a little bit. ‘Do not utter my name!’ he cried. ‘The Snatchers are after me!’

I debated informing this insane Welshman that all Snatchers had been removed upon the defeat of the man he thought was called James Potter many years ago, but I decided against it.

Huw crossed his arms and smirked. ‘I’ve stumped you, then. Here’s the answer: a trick is something a dog does for liver treats.’

Tegan and I quickly looked to each other, squinting oddly in the idiom in which we nonverbally communicate, then faced Huw once more.

‘How clever, Huw,’ said Tegan, slightly detached. ‘You’ve outdone yourself once again.’

Huw smirked even wider. ‘I wasn’t in Ravenclaw for nothing.’

I shot Tegan one of my Adorable, Incredulous Looks. They’re a specialty of mine.

She coughed. ‘So Hu—you,’ Tegan recovered, ‘what brings you to this remote alley behind the second most vile eatery in Hogsmeade?’

I assumed she ranked Café Paragon above Madam Puddifoot’s, but below the Hog’s Head. The Three Broomsticks is #1, obvi.

‘Well, McTegan,’ said Huw haughtily, swishing his cape about, ‘I don’t know if you’ve read any newspapers recently, but I have succeeded in escaping from the formidable, impenetrable Azkaban Prison.’

‘It wasn’t in the Prophet, Huw,’ said Tegan matter-of-factly. ‘They’ve been focusing more on Celestina Warbeck’s divorce trial.’

Huw tried to recover. ‘To be honest, I hoped that I’d generate a bit of press, at least. “The Handsome But Wayward Son of the Late, Great ‘Dangerous’ Dai Llewellyn Makes Daring Escape from the Infamous, Historical, and Aesthetically-Unpleasing Prison Those of Weaker Constitutions Refer to as Azkaban.” You know, a headline along those lines.’

I stifled a laugh and nodded my head.

‘But now I find myself on the lam,’ continued Huw. ‘I don’t quite understand that expression: “on the lam.” I have yet to encounter any lambs during my traversal of the country in my quest for freedom. And you know what? I could really go for a leg of lamb right now!

‘Indeed, I made my way across this wonderful isle of ours, encountering no lambs, until I snuck into St Mungo’s via an abandoned chimney flue.’

Tegan regarded her barmy cousin and blinked. ‘May I ask why you snuck into St Mungo’s?’

‘Excellent question, McTegan,’ said Huw brightly. ‘I had heard news that my grandfather was on his deathbed—my mam’s father, not our Taid, Tegan, he’s already dead—and I wanted to pay my final respects before he bounced to the other side of the veil. To apologise for all the gold that I stole from him over the years, do you know what I mean? And so I snuck into Grandfather Wronski’s room, unseen by the foolish medi-witches, and after I confessed a number of my sins to my bedridden granddad, I noticed the certificate of death upon his night table. Hieronymus Ulrich Wronski was dead.

‘Acting quickly, I did what any bright young man stuck in my pickle would do: I snatched the certificate of death, ran to the clerical desk down the corridor, and created the most incredible illusion of my career! I let loose my store of Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder, which my prison buddy gave me for my birthday, and while the helpless medi-witches were temporarily blinded, I filched all of Grandfather Wronski’s paperwork!’

Huw stood up very tall and smiled proudly. Understandably, I was clouded in confusion.

‘Why?’ I inquired.

‘We live in a bureaucracy, Lord Potter,’ said Huw darkly. ‘Huw Vercingetorix Llewellyn is a wanted man, doomed to be captured and dragged back to prison kicking and screaming! And I refuse to serve the punishment for a crime I am completely guilty of! But Huw Vercingetorix Llewellyn is no longer! I am now…Huw!’

There was a heavy silence for several seconds, until Tegan said, ‘Huw is exactly the same as your old name, Huw.’

‘Silence!’ shouted Huw. ‘For the love of all that is good and pure in this word, do not utter my true name! Let me reiterate: I am Huw! Haitch, You, Double-You. H.U.W.!’

‘Hieronymus Ulrich Wronski,’ I mumbled.

H.U.W. snapped his fingers at me gleefully. ‘It is true what they say about you, Lord Pottermort. You are as clever as the field of divination is hippogriff excrement. And so I have assumed the identity of my deceased grandfather, the 110-year-old Snitch-manufacturing magnate, and under my new alias of H.U.W., the Ministry will never find me!’

‘H.U.W.,’ began Tegan delicately, ‘I think there’s a flaw in your plan.’

‘They’re not different enough,’ I muttered.

‘Why don’t you go by Hieronymus?’ suggested Tegan.

H.U.W. scoffed. ‘McTegan, I’ve already thought of that. But the problem is that whenever anyone would call me Hieronymus, I forgot that’s my name. I mean, who’s called Hieronymus anymore? And loads of people go by their initials, so there is no chance of the Snatchers finding me if I go by H.U.W.’

I looked to Tegan for the billionth time in the last few minutes, bewildered, and she shrugged for the billionth time, unfazed. It appeared that H.U.W. was just this mental when he entered Azkaban.

‘What brings you to Hogsmeade, H.U.W.?’ piped Tegan. She kept asking her cousin questions and I kind of wanted to run away from him, but I stuck by my fair lady’s side.

‘Oh right,’ said H.U.W., as if just remembering where he was and why he was there. ‘I’ve got to pick up some supplies for my act. From that one-eared shopkeep.’

‘At Weasley Wizard Wheezes?’ I inquired. ‘What act?’

‘Didn’t I tell you?’ asked H.U.W. disbelievingly. ‘I work as a magician now. Birthday parties, bar mitzvahs, that sort of thing. I’ve even joined the guild, see?’

He dug a green card out of his pocket: The Magician’s Guild of Britain. Member: Hieronymus Ulrich Wronski. It had a photograph of his wry, smirking mug…hold on, what kind of photograph stays still like that?

‘A Muggle magician?’ asked Tegan. ‘H.U.W., you were arrested for illegally using magic and now you’re performing it in front of Muggles? You’re jeopardizing our whole world!’

‘Frick, McTegan,’ grumbled H.U.W. ‘All the good magicians are wizards. And I’m a great one.’

‘What’s a magician?’ I asked helplessly.

‘Sort of is what it sounds like, Lord Pottermort,’ explained H.U.W. ‘You perform illusions, the Muggle children think you’re doing real magic, their parents think you’re faking it, but you actually are doing magic. I find the authenticity really keeps me competitive in the magician industry. ‘Specially since I’m a newbie.’

‘If you’re caught, H.U.W., they’ll have your wand for this,’ said Tegan severely.

H.U.W. gave an earnest sort of smile. ‘I love it, McTeg,’ he sighed. ‘I am ninety-nine per cent certain that I have discovered my true calling: duping Muggles and pretending to saw them in half. You won’t turn me in, will you?’ he asked gravely. ‘I know that I’ve made mistakes in the past, but you shouldn’t punish a man for following his dream, yeah?’

Maybe you should if his dream includes identity theft and performing magic in front of Muggles, I pondered.

Tegan sighed, clearly unhappy with what she was about to say. ‘Fine. I won’t report you to the Ministry. But you owe me, H.U.W. I’m always doing things for you, but you’ve never done anything for me.’

‘You won’t regret this, McTegan!’ proclaimed H.U.W. gleefully, enveloping her in a bear hug. ‘I’ve truly turned a corner, I have! I’ve got a real job and I’m making almost legal money, and you can count on me now!’

He let go of her and turned to me, grinning madly. ‘And you, Lord Pottermort,’ H.U.W. grabbed me and squeezed me tight, ‘you won’t snitch either, right? Course not! You’re a stand-up chap, I can tell! I’m sure all those rumours about your nefarious ways are nonsense!’

‘No sir, not me,’ I mumbled as he crushed my lungs.

H.U.W. lessened his grip on me, but held onto my shoulders. ‘I like you. I really do.’

‘H.U.W.,’ said Tegan from off to the side, and her cousin finally let me loose, ‘do you remember when my mam was pregnant, perchance?’

He clicked his tongue and looked to be in Deep Thought once more. ‘Hmm, no, can’t say I do.’

‘You would have been at least twenty,’ said Tegan dryly.

H.U.W. crossed his arms and continued to Think. ‘Eleni pregnant…I simply can’t recall. Granted, that was before the second time I went to rehab, and most things from that time are foggy.’

‘You don’t remember any affairs she had?’ asked Tegan. ‘Any gardeners, heirs to sheikhs, that sort of thing?’

‘No,’ mused H.U.W. ‘What’re you implying, McTegan? Your mam would never have an affair!’

‘She’s had five that I know about,’ said Tegan. ‘You don’t have to protect me if you know the truth, H.U.W.’

‘I don’t know anything, McTegs,’ insisted H.U.W. ‘I was addicted to forget-me-nows until you seven. Three, if my counsellor asks—though she probably doesn’t know about the identity theft...I really hope she’s doing well… But you do look like Uncle Rhys, if this is bothering you. Hell, you look more like him than Eleni.’

Tegan weakly smiled. ‘Thanks, H.U.W. I’m not exactly certain whose word is more credible—yours or Eleni’s—but I can be sure that you’re telling the truth as best as you remember it.’

‘It’s so nice to hear that you’re starting to have faith in me,’ said H.U.W. brightly and without a trace of sarcasm. ‘I definitely do owe you—and you too, Lord Pottermort—so feel free to take me up on that at any time. Or whenever our paths cross again. But I’m afraid, children,’ he reached into his cloak, ‘that I must…be off!’

He threw a handful of dark powder into the air and a cloud of thick smoke exploded into the alleyway. Tegan coughed and I started to rub the soot out of my eyes as the smoke began to dissipate, and I noticed that H.U.W. was gone.

Tegan waved the remaining smoke away from her face as her coughing subsided. ‘He certainly knows how to make an exit, doesn’t he?’

‘Quite the wondrous illusion,’ I remarked.

She looked to the ground for a moment, like she was staring at something really hard, but also like she was staring really hard at nothing, and then looked back up. ‘So you’ve met my cousin as well as my mam!’ Tegan laughed nervously, but the kind of laughter that sort of sounds like crying.

While a more callous boy than I would run before he had to meet anymore of her clinically insane relatives, I smiled as kindly at my Tegan as I could manage. ‘And next I get to meet your dad.’ Stupid stupid stupid, get out while you still can! ‘Sounds like he really is your dad, after all.’

‘My parents used to tell me that H.U.W. was doing humanitarian aid work in Africa when he never came to Christmas at our house when I was little,’ said Tegan casually. ‘I always suspected they were lying.’

I nodded. ‘We should probably get out of this alley before we run into any more magicians.’

‘Yeah,’ she agreed.

I placed my hand in hers, vowing never to return again to this accursèd place, and we vacated the dodgy alleyway.

‘We’re going to try a new kind of therapy today, James,’ said Dobby Longbottom, Psychological Healer Extraordinaire. He sat in his usual examining chair in the common room during my appointment later that week, pushing his lens-less specs further up his short nose. He wears them whenever he analyses me, you see.

I clutched my pink, unicorned Imagination Journal tightly to my chest. ‘But these are my private thoughts,’ I said softly, feeling most vulnerable. ‘I write them down under the pretence that no one will ever see them.’

‘I do not wish to invade your privacy, James,’ said Dobby carefully. ‘Would you feel more comfortable selecting which portions you’d like to share with me and then reading them aloud?’

‘I don’t know,’ I mumbled, glancing down.

‘James, this is a safe space,’ he said, ever the epitome of reason. I looked over to the Gryffie section of the common room, where Freddie and Micah were blowing bogey bubbles out their noses and giggling madly.

‘I’m over here,’ said Dobby dryly, and I quickly snapped my attention back to the littlest Longbottom. ‘Something is not sitting well with you, and I believe this has been the case since last Saturday. I just want to know what the problem is so that I can help fix it.’

I nodded, impressed by how clever and perceptive this young man was. Well, I had been acting a bit more skittish since that fateful Hogsmeade visit, and most of the lustre was gone from my eyes. Only most, though.

‘Okay,’ came my concession, and I cast the incantation to undo the security spell I’d put on my Imagination Journal. ‘Will the entry from Saturday night do?’

Dobby smiled warmly. ‘Yes. Whatever you wish to share with me.’

I flipped to the correct page, took a deep breath, and began to read. ‘Dear Imagination Journal:

‘I had a really sucky day today, and it isn’t even because Snorky Scamander is probably going to strike and my mates will never be able to play Quidditch again and it’s all my fault. I met Tegan’s mum today. I thought it would be fun, like meeting a blonder version of my mum. But I was wrong.

‘Tegan’s mum thinks I’m a poof! That was the exact word she used! And then Tegan yelled at her, like: “Grr, you suck, Mam. My boyfriend’s as straight as a centaur is ornery.” But then her mum was like: “Blaaah, I’m Eleni Richelieu-Llewellyn, the most evil Mugglephile to ever walk the earth.” And she kept trying to trick me into admitting I swing the way that I don’t!

‘And Tegan just kept getting angrier and angrier with her, especially when she said something about Tegan’s dad not being her dad. But he is her dad, and I’ll get to that part of the story later.

‘And then Tegan was all: “Growl, I will not stand for this anymore. You are full of H.E.” Only she used the real words! Tegan, who used to Scourgify me and my mates’ mouths when we used profane language! I know, right?

‘But then she kissed me in front of everyone at Café Paragon, but it wasn’t a nice kiss at all. Then she stormed out and I followed her, cos what was I supposed to do? Make more small talk with Eleni? So then I found Tegan outside and she was all: “Ahh, I’m sorry you had to see me like that. My mam makes me a crazy person.” And I lied to her and said it was okay and it didn’t bother me. We went into an alleyway and talked more about our feelings, which is really hard for Tegan but never for me, except today when I couldn’t help but lie to her, and then this icky man who smelled like rotten eggs and goose down cornered us and asked us what the difference between a trick and an illusion is.

‘Turns out it was Tegan’s cousin Huw, who escaped from Azkaban a little while ago. I thought I was being clever and said they were the same thing, which I still think they are, but he was like: “Gah, you are incorrect, sir.” Only he called me a poseur instead of sir.

‘Then Tegan defended me to the second member of her family today and Huw thought either me or my granddad (on the Potter side) was Voldemort. Anyways, we learned what the real difference between a trick and an illusion allegedly is and Huw told of us his exploits whilst on the lam, encountering no lambs and apparently not showering and being a Muggle magician who uses real magic. Oh, and stealing his dead grandfather’s identity. So now he’s H.U.W., not Huw, which anyone who hasn’t gone mad from too many forget-me-nows (whatever those are) knows is not the best pseudonym. For someone already named Huw, you see.

‘So H.U.W. likes me much more than his auntie does, but he also thinks I attempted to murder my own dad when he was one year old. Perhaps he prefers to have criminals for company.

‘Is that mean to say? If it is, I’m sorry I said it. But I’m not sure if H.U.W. is as reformed as he insists he is. But at least he sort of confirmed that Tegan is her father’s daughter. The best sort of confirmation Hieronymus Ulrich Wronski can give. I consider myself fairly eccentric and open-minded, but H.U.W. is simply the battiest little maniac I’ve ever encountered.

‘A number of things concern me, and not just the worry that Tegan might pass on these psychotic genes to our children. Well, Eleni and H.U.W. aren’t actually blood relations, but if H.U.W. received his insanity from his dad (may “Dangerous” Dai rest in peace), then Tegan’s dad might have it too, and then our children will be doomed. Mine and Tegan’s, not mine and Tegan’s dad’s. I am not a poof! And I’m not sure how two blokes would go about having children anyways.

‘But it’s not just that Tegan’s mum has evil genes that might be hiding in Tegan, all recessive and menacing. I don’t like the way that she treats me, or how much Tegan looks like I imagine Grendel’s mother to look when she’s around Eleni. Tegan, I mean, not Grendel’s mother. Frick, I am not constructing clear, concise sentences right now!

‘I’m just so confused, IJ. Obviously I love Tegan and will love her forever, but I don’t love her family nearly as much as I assumed I would. Well, I suppose that isn’t fair to say yet, cos I haven’t met Mr Llewellyn. But anyone who could stay married to Eleni without being bribed or coerced CANNOT be a normal human being. I don’t care if his brother was the greatest Seeker since Josef Wronski. Something is not right with this family. Dare I say: something is quite wrong.

Yours truly,
James Sirius Potter

I gently shut my Imagination Journal and slowly looked up at Dobby (for dramatic effect, you see), but his eyes were narrowed and his jaw was hanging slightly.

‘I’ve got to admit, James, that I don’t know how you don’t explode with all those emotions galloping around in your head,’ admitted Dobby, pushing his specs up his nose. ‘You’ve always been a complicated case—no offence—but you’ve outdone yourself.’

‘What’s wrong with me?’ I moaned. ‘Fix it, Dobster!’

Dobby swallowed and jotted a few notes on the parchment before him. ‘Nothing,’ he said finally. ‘There’s nothing wrong with you. You just met two of the most disturbing people you’re ever likely to meet, and you want to run.’

‘That’s it?’ I said too quickly. ‘I already knew that, Dobby! Psychoanalyse me, tell me something insightful that I never realised about myself, and tell me how to fix this!’

Dobby looked shell-shocked and helpless. ‘I’m sorry, James. Granted, I met your parents years before I became Lily’s boyfriend, but I don’t think Harry and Ginny would ever act like Eleni. I doubt they even could act like she did. And that H.U.W. fellow—I probably know more about forget-me-nots than you do, and they can’t make someone that barmy.’

I sat up. ‘No, Dobby. Do not give up on me now! You can do this, mate! Make with the insight!

He gulped, looking terrified for the first time since he became my Psychological Healer. Now that Dobby knew all my deepest, darkest secrets, he usually exuded nothing but confidence and poise. But he decides that now is the perfect time to start being afraid of me, like any normal little sister’s boyfriend would?

‘W-w-well,’ said Dobby shakily, ‘it comes as a shock to you to discover that you don’t like Eleni and H.U.W. as much as you hoped you would.’

‘I knew that as well,’ I said, uncharacteristically rude. Frick, is Eleni rubbing off on me, too?

‘You’re disappointed!’ Dobby said a bit more forcefully. ‘You love your family and fit in well in your family structure, and you’re surprised and disappointed that you don’t like Tegan’s family!’

‘Okay,’ I grumbled.

‘You assumed that you’d fit seamlessly into her family!’ said Dobby more and more quickly, so much so that he might have been on the verge of an Epiphany. ‘You thought you’d get along perfectly with them, if Tegan was truly destined to be your soul mate! And given that the previously stated conditions are true, that family is essential to you and you are incompatible with Tegan’s family, you are currently fighting a life or death psychological battle within your subconscious over whether or not Tegan is your soul mate!’

He released his knuckles, which had been tightly gripping the arms of his chair, and sat back with a loud exhale. I mulled his hypothesis over for a minute, weighing its validity.

‘Interesting theory, Dobby,’ I said distantly.

‘Is it right?’ he cried, gnawing on his fingernails.

‘Maybe,’ I whispered, though loud enough for Dobby to hear. ‘No—I can’t be doubting—’

‘You have a very fragile psyche,’ Dobby interjected, regaining a bit of the colour in his face. ‘Someone more thick-skinned might simply be disturbed by these encounters and continue on his way, but you’re different.’

‘For the love of Ambrosius Aurelianus,’ I mumbled, my little mind racing.

‘It all comes down to love,’ added Dobby, more collected. ‘You haven’t met many loveless people, as far as I know. Your family has shown you nothing but love, even Al in his customary 15-year-old’s difficult phase. Your friends also feel nothing but love for you, even though they want to physically harm you at the moment for indirectly endorsing Snorky Scamander. And let’s face it, Snorky lacks the attention span to hold a grudge for any length of time, and no one knows what Neville did to him that’s so terrible…anyways, you’ve given nothing but love, James, and you’ve received it in return. But love doesn’t seem to be in Eleni’s emotional vocabulary, and naturally this shocks you. I’ve never met him myself, of course, but it sounds like H.U.W. loves you too, in his own way.’

‘Frick!’ I exclaimed. ‘I promised I wouldn’t tell anyone about Huw or H.U.W. or their escape from Azkaban!’

‘Relax, James,’ said Dobby, sounding more like his old self. ‘Everything you tell me is in confidence, remember?’

‘Right,’ I remembered. ‘The Hippopotamus Oath.’

‘It’s actually the Hippocratic Oath,’ Dobby said kindly. ‘When I took it, I sort of administered it to myself without any witnesses. Plus I think it’s intended for licensed Muggle physicians, and I’m an unlicensed Psychological Healer, so I’m not sure how legitimate the oath I took was. But James, I swear by Apollo, Asclepius, Hygieia, and Panacea that I will not cut for stone, perform abortions, or reveal any secrets you may confide in me.’

I nodded. ‘I don’t understand much of what you just said, but I thank you. If we get this whole conundrum as to whether or not Tegan is my soul mate sorted out in the preferable way, I would be honoured to have you serve as a groomsman in our wedding. Mine and Tegan’s, I mean.’

‘Wow, you really…plan ahead,’ mused Dobby.

‘You can’t be best man, for political reasons,’ I explained, ‘but I hope that you accept the offer to be a regular old groomsman.’

Dobby gave a crooked sort of smile. ‘Okay, James,’ said he, scribbling something with his quill. ‘I’ll be a groomsman. But first, I propose that we get all this sorted out.’

I jumped up, ran over to Dobby Longbottom, picked him up by his scrawny shoulders, and wrapped my arms around his tiny body. ‘Thank you,’ I whispered, hoping I wasn’t crushing his ribs. ‘Thank you for being you.’

‘No problem!’ he managed to squeak. ‘Same time next week?’

I dropped him to the ground and he steadied himself. ‘Perfect,’ I said coolly, strutting away. Strutting with attitude and arrogance is one of my many talents. It isn’t so easy to pull off, you see. Your head has to slightly bob forwards and backwards and that puts strain on your neck and upper spine, and pursing your lips together just so requires concentration and discipline. To keep in top strutting form, I often practice in front of the full-length looking-glass in my dormitory.

And so I strutted, hopefully with perfect form, towards the Gryffie corner of the common room, where Micah and Freddie had been joined by J.D. and Tegan. Micah glared at me and Tegan flicked his nose.

‘Be nice,’ she warned, business-like. ‘James did the morally right thing, what Albus Dumbledore would’ve done, so don’t shun him for having a social conscience. And we all know that Snorky will never follow through with this ridiculous strike threat. He’s probably forgotten all about it by now and is planning his search for the lost city of Atlantis.’

Micah ‘s frown contorted into something that might resemble a smile, and he offered me a nod. J.D., however, looked rather peckish, as a witty and terribly clever American might remark.

‘You didn’t even consult with us,’ said J.D., arms crossed. ‘Thought we were a Quidocracy. Thought we made decisions as a group.’

I took a deep breath. ‘I don’t know if we are a Quidocracy, J.D. All I know is that I am the cap’n, and I made a quick decision on everyone’s behalf. Maybe it was the wrong decision, but I believe that it’s right.’

‘A Quidpublic,’ said J.D. passive-aggressively. ‘But how far is it from a Quidpublic to Quirany? Are visions of Quidtators dancing in your head alongside the sugar plums?’

I swallowed and licked my lips. ‘It’s hard—’

‘That’s what she said,’ said Tegan, giggling. ‘What? I’m only human.’

I began again, ‘It’s difficult to follow what you’re saying when you’re using made-up words, but I would never, ever betray your trust and let the power go to my head and become a Quidtator. It’s me! It’s little Jamesie S. Potter! I love the Gryffies and I love Quidditch, and I would not jeopardise what we have unless there was no real threat or unless it was for a noble cause. And in this instance, both are true.’

‘You’re certain that there is no real threat of a strike?’ Freddie asked sceptically.

‘Mates,’ I smiled slightly, ‘this is Snorky Scamander we’re talking about. Nothing is going to happen, except that we’ll play a full season of Quidditch and beat Slytherin for the Cup.’

‘Yeah?’ asked Tegan, teasing.

‘Let’s see…we’re the best team in school and everyone knows it, plus we have two and a half black players and a Jew. We can’t lose,’ I grinned.

Micah the Jew, Freddie the Half-Black Guy, and Tegan the Ordinary White Girl grinned along with me. J.D. didn’t.

‘This better work out, J.S.,’ muttered J.D. ‘We better not stop playing Quidditch cos a small number of orators are bitching and moaning about their fair working conditions.’

I patted him on the shoulder. ‘It’s all going to work out,’ I said, feeling confident for the first time since meeting Eleni Richelieu-Llewellyn. ‘Fate will be kind to us.’

Right at that moment, a horrible, deafening sound exploded throughout the common room. Everybody covered their ears, but it didn’t help to drown out the echoing, brash noise.

But then it stopped. The entirety of Gryffindor House spun their heads ‘round to investigate the source of this offensive and curious din. I was one of the first to spot Snorky Scamander, standing on the stairs that lead to the boys’ dormitories, clasping a cylindrical can in one hand and a long piece of parchment in the other.

‘WHAT THE FRICK, SNORKY?’ bellowed J.D., positively irate.

Snorky turned his head to read the label on the orange can. ‘World’s Loudest Air Horn, Guaranteed. Found it in the Muggle section of Weasley Wizard Wheezes.’

Groucho Horowitz, one of Micah’s brothers in Al and Rose’s year, jumped up from his seat. ‘You shmok!’ proclaimed Groucho, his huge black eyebrows wiggling in anger. ‘Go be sociopathic somewhere else!’

Snorky blew the air horn for one short burst, we all screamed, and he smiled smugly. ‘I have selected this forum to present my resolution to the world,’ said Snorky proudly, holding up the piece of parchment. ‘Kindly pass on this information to the rest of the school. My first exclusive interview will be with The Quibbler, and it goes to press tomorrow.’

Nooo! my conscience screamed. Don’t let him—

‘Resolution the First,’ read Snorky, all eyes on him, ‘the Voices Of Largely Disappointed, Exploited, and Maltreated Orators Ready to Talk, from henceforth referred to as V.O.L.D.E.M.O.R.T., has reached a unanimous decision regarding its determined action against Professors Neville Longbottom, Vindictus Viridian, and Ted Lupin, all of Hogwarts School, as well as every team manager in the British and Irish Quidditch League, in addition to the executive board of the Wizarding Wireless Network, and all aforementioned parties will henceforth be referred to as The Man.

‘Resolution the Second: All members of V.O.L.D.E.M.O.R.T. have agreed to uphold and honour the conditions presented in Resolution the Third, and will not violate the terms of agreement until The Man agrees to the presented conditions.

‘Resolution the Third: V.O.L.D.E.M.O.R.T. demands total creative control for its orator members. There will be no commentation and there will be total radio silence until The Man agrees to the aforementioned terms. And as the Alliance of Hogwarts Quidditch Cap’ns, or A.H.Q.C., and the Union of British and Irish Professional Quidditch Players, or U.B.I.P.Q.P., have agreed to honour V.O.L.D.E.M.O.R.T’s conditions until The Man accepts the terms of agreement, there will be no Quidditch played anywhere in the British Isles or any programming on the Wizarding Wireless Network, if V.O.L.D.E.M.O.R.T. resolves to strike.

‘Resolution the Fourth: V.O.L.D.E.M.O.R.T. is on strike until The Man concedes.’

A/N: Wow, another cliffhanger. How uncharacteristic of me.

My hard drive died, I lost half the chapter (as well as every document, photo, or music file I ever had), and this is what I scrambled together. It’s out by March 15th (James’s birthday), as promised.

Please review. I need love.

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