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Albus Potter and the Sway of Felicis by Gryffin_Duck

Format: Novel
Chapters: 12
Word Count: 43,998
Status: WIP

Rating: 15+
Warnings: Contains profanity, Strong violence, Scenes of a mild sexual nature, Substance abuse, Sensitive topic/issue/theme

Genres: Drama, Mystery, Action/Adventure
Characters: Harry, Ron, Hermione, Albus, James (II), Lily (II), Rose, Scorpius, Teddy, OC
Pairings: Harry/Ginny, Ron/Hermione, Teddy/Victoire

First Published: 07/29/2017
Last Chapter: 10/31/2017
Last Updated: 10/31/2017

Summary:


Lovely banner by nancy drew.@TDA!
In the wake of two wrongful convictions of innocent people, the Auror Department and the Minister are facing inquiries. Britain is growing suspicious of the Minister, her officials, and her policies. Amidst these suspicions grows an underground movement to support werewolf rights. Inside Hogwarts's walls, Albus, Rose, and their friends face their seventh and final year of school. Reality is facing them and come June, they'll have to face it, whether they're ready or not.


Chapter 1: Owls
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Albus Potter watched out his bedroom window as two owls flew closer and closer, finally soaring down to the living room window below him. He recognized the them as two of the Hogwarts school owls and had a feeling one of them was carrying his book list for his upcoming seventh year. The other most likely held James’s N.E.W.T. results. As the smell of something delicious wafted up from the kitchen, Albus hurriedly changed into a pair of trousers and an old Gryffindor Quidditch shirt before leaving his room in search of his letter.

On the landing, Albus paused outside James’s bedroom. Its door was shut tightly, as it had been for most of the month and a half of the summer holiday. Albus brought his hand up to knock, then thought better of it and slowly descended the stairs. James was either asleep or wallowing and every other time Albus had knocked, James had responded sharply. It was obvious he did not want company. Nor, Albus suspected, did he want to see his N.E.W.T. results.

Lily’s bedroom door, however, was wide open and Lily was no longer inside. The previous summer Lily had spent much of her time holed up in her bedroom, but this summer was much more cheerful and social. Albus wondered if perhaps he’d missed his chance to have a summer spent cooped up in his bedroom, but couldn’t imagine ever doing it.

In the living room the two owls sat on the open windowsill, letters still attached to both of them. Albus detached one letter addressed to James from the first owl and two letters, one addressed to Albus and the other to Lily, from the other. With satisfied clicks of their beaks, they both took off once more.

Albus continued to the kitchen, not bothering to open his own letter, where he found his mother serving Lily warm cinnamon buns.

“Morning, Al,” Mum said as she grabbed another empty plate and returned to the stove. “Cinnamon buns?”

“Yes, please,” Albus said as he sat down next to Lily. He set the letters on the table in front of him. “Post from Hogwarts.”

Lily picked up her own letter and ripped it open. “Nothing weird this year. Just the usual books.”

“Your aunt Hermione will get you a study planner,” Mum said as she brought Albus his plate. “And you, too, Al. O.W.L. and N.E.W.T. years. Bloody hell, you two make me feel old.”

Albus laughed as he picked up his letter. James’s was beneath his, with an official stamp from the Ministry Department of Education on it.

“Is that…?” Mum asked, her voice trailing off.

“I think so,” Albus said as he opened his letter. He scanned it briefly. Just like Lily’s, it contained nothing unusual.

Mum sighed and shook her head as she sat down across from Albus. “Was he still sleeping when you got up, Al?”

Albus shrugged and swallowed the bite of cinnamon bun he’d been chewing. “I think so, but I didn’t knock and find out.”

Mum nodded and picked up the envelope. Albus knew it was taking all her restraint to keep from opening it herself.

Toward the end of last term Albus had thought James was getting better in terms of his emotional state. He’d seemed to come to terms with the fact that he wouldn’t be playing professional Quidditch and his memory wouldn’t be back to normal anytime soon or ever. But all that progress had disappeared as soon as James returned home from Hogwarts. He spent his days in his room doing who knows what, wallowing in self-pity and being upset over his lack of Quidditch career. Albus knew his parents were very hesitant to force James out of his room because they didn’t want to make anything worse. Because of this, James hadn’t done a single chore since coming home and only occasionally joined the family for meals. Usually Mum brought him food two or three times a day.

Albus knew his parents stayed up late worrying about James. He’d heard them whispering. Mum wanted to start making James get up by a certain hour and give him small tasks around the house that didn’t require him to remember spells. Dad didn’t want to push him and said as long as James was going to his healer appointments (both the neurologist and the psychiatrist), he should be allowed to be alone. Mum then pointed out that Dad was rarely home and didn’t truly understand what was going on.

“Did Dad already leave?” Albus asked.

“Yes. He left a few hours ago,” Mum said quietly.

For someone who was no longer employed by the Ministry of Magic, Albus’s father had certainly been spending a lot of time there over the past month and a half. Apparently Johnson had brought him back as a “consultant” to the Paul Willinson case and this required a lot of time spent at Auror Headquarters. From what Dad let slip at the dinner table, the Auror Department and the Ministry in general was a bit of a mess at the moment.

It seemed that everyone and their brother were facing inquiries. Johnson was facing an inquiry for his shoddy detective techniques that had led to two people being wrongfully imprisoned. At the same time, Dawlish was facing an inquiry for disobeying Johnson’s orders and sharing information about an ongoing investigation with someone not employed by the Auror Department (Dad), despite the fact that his disobeying and sharing of information had led to the capture of the actual murderer. Balladanis was facing an inquiry for the same thing. Albus found it rather odd that the two of them could face inquiries for sharing information with Dad while Johnson could take Dad on as a “consultant” at the same time. And finally, the Minister herself was facing an inquiry for all of this happening right under her nose. Albus had a feeling someone was going to get sacked over it, but wasn’t sure who.

“Well, I suppose we can take a trip to Diagon Alley this weekend,” Mum said, forcing a smile. “If either of you want to invite any friends to come over and spend a few days after, feel free. I’m sure Mrs. Brickston would appreciate sending a few of her children here for a few days.”

Albus smirked as he continued to eat his breakfast. His friend John Brickston had three younger sisters and a host of younger cousins whom his mother often watched during the week. Their house was chaotic at best and downright insane at worst. And if Albus was remembering right, John’s youngest sister would be starting Hogwarts this year.

“Well,” Mum said as she stood up. “I suppose I’ll go give James his results.”

“Good luck,” Lily muttered.

Mum lingered at the bottom of the stairs for a minute or so before sighing and walking up to James’s room. After she left, Albus and Lily finished their breakfasts in silence.

“I keep thinking about last summer,” Lily said as she put her dirty plate in the sink. “When James ran off to Teddy’s place.”

Albus nodded. He’d been thinking a lot about that, too. Things had changed so much in just a year. “No one saw this coming. Even if James had come up with a second option if Quidditch didn’t work out, that second option would be useless with his memory problems.”

“I guess the only thing he can do is work in Uncle George’s shop,” Lily said.

Uncle George had come over a week into the holiday to offer James a job at the Hogsmeade branch (which, with the exception of Hogsmeade visit days, was the quieter of the two shops). James had said he’d think about it, but hadn’t mentioned it since.

“I’m pretty sure Mum would settle for him coming out of his room more than just to use the loo,” Albus pointed out.

Lily nodded. “Well, I’ve got to send an owl to Gemma.” She drank the remainder of her pumpkin juice, put the glass in the sink, then hurried upstairs.

Albus cleared his dishes and followed Lily. He had a few owls of his own to send.

***


Albus left his door open as he composed letters to Matt and John so that he’d know when Mum was done talking to James about his results. On his way up the stairs Albus had heard mumbling coming from James’s room but hadn’t been able to make anything out. He felt odd about using an Extendable Ear on such a terrible situation, so he decided wait until after Mum left and go ask James about it instead.

After checking to see when August’s full moon was, Albus invited both Matt and John to come over Saturday after the Diagon Alley trip and stay into the following week. He’d heard from both Matt and John a few times so far and knew that Matt would just be returning from a trip to Australia and John’s family had a holiday in France scheduled for late August.

Albus felt a slight thrill as he sealed the envelope with magic. He’d only been seventeen for a month and a half and the excitement of doing magic outside of school had not yet worn off. His friends (with the exception of Rose, whose birthday was at the end of August) had all been of age for months now.

Just as Albus sent the letters off with Pollux, James’s bedroom door opened. Albus climbed onto his bed and put his head as close to his door as he could without revealing that he was there. But it was pointless because Mum didn’t say anything. She just shut James’s door and went back downstairs.

Albus waited a few minutes before going across the hall and knocking on James’s door. There was no answer for a full two minutes and Albus wondered if James had gone to sleep, but just as Albus was turning around to go back to his own room, the door opened. James stood in the doorway, still dressed in pajamas, his wrist brace on his right arm, glasses askew, and his expression unreadable. He met Albus’s gaze, then turned around and went back into the room.

The door remained open, so Albus took that as a sign he was welcome to enter. He shut the door afterward and sat down in James’s desk chair, letting his eyes adjust to the dimness. The only light in the room emanated from a small lamp on the bedside table. The room itself was shockingly neat, which was a clear sign James wasn’t himself. Mum had been tidying the room all summer. If the task had been left to James, the room would’ve been disheveled, with clothes and other paraphernalia scattered everywhere.

James was sitting against the wall on his bed, squeezing some sort of therapeutic play dough in his right hand. Albus noticed a partially folded up letter on the bedside table, which was most likely James’s N.E.W.T. results.

“Well?” Albus began, deciding to be blunt.

“See for yourself,” James mumbled, gesturing to the letter with his foot.

Albus picked the letter up off the table, unfolded it, and read it.

Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Tests Results
James Sirius Potter

Charms - P
Defense Against the Dark Arts - P
Herbology - A
Transfiguration - D

Albus folded up the paper once more, but held it in his lap rather than return it to the bedside table. He looked at James, who was focused on the therapy play dough and not meeting Albus’s gaze.

“You passed Herbology,” Albus pointed out. “And you know these results have got nothing to do with how smart you are. It’s only because of your brain injury that you failed three.”

“That’s what Mum said,” James muttered. “But I’ve got to live with this brain injury. It doesn’t matter whether I would’ve passed without it because I’ve got it. Nothing can change that.”

“No,” Albus agreed. “Nothing can. But you can change what you do with it.”

“Now you sound like my psychiatrist,” James said.

“Look,” Albus said, leaning forward, “you don’t need N.E.W.T.s. The professors all tell you you do and before your accident Mum and Dad would’ve told you you do, but you honestly don’t. Look at Uncle George. He didn’t even take his N.E.W.T.s. So you’ve got one more than he does.”

“But Uncle George has got a working memory and right hand,” James pointed out.

“You’ve got two ears,” Albus countered.

James laughed. It was quick- practically over before it even started, but it was a laugh. “Good one. But you still can’t compare me to Uncle George.”

“Okay, fine,” Albus said, sighing. “But only if you stop beating yourself up over your N.E.W.T.s.”

“To be honest, Al, I’m not,” James said quietly. “I really don’t care about them.”

Albus was inclined to believe him. James didn’t seem anymore upset than he normally was. “What did Mum say?”

“That it’s not the end of the world, there’s plenty you can do with only one N.E.W.T., I can retake them, they don’t show how smart I really am, blah, blah, blah,” James answered.

“Why haven’t you given Uncle George an answer?” Albus asked.

James gave the dough one more squeeze, then tossed it onto the bedside table, where it landed on the edge and then fell off onto the floor.

“You shouldn’t feel weird about it,” Albus went on. “Half our cousins and Teddy worked there for a bit.”

“It wouldn’t just be for a bit,” James muttered. “Teddy worked there while he was figuring out what he wanted to do.”

“Maybe you’ll do that, too. Maybe you’ll just work there until your memory gets better,” Albus suggested.

“It’s been over six months, Al. You and I both know chances are it won’t come back. Not like normal, anyway,” James said quietly.

“Stranger things have happened,” Albus said. “You know, like Dad surviving the killing curse. Twice.”

“Dad’s Dad,” James said. “I’m not him.”

“But you’re his son,” Albus said. “I’m not saying you should be unrealistic, but it’s good to have hope.”

“I guess…” James began as he smoothed a few wrinkles on his comforter, “I guess it just feels like Uncle George is only offering for me to work in his shop because I’ve got no other options. I mean, no other shop would hire me.”

“That’s probably true,” Albus agreed. Mum probably would’ve argued that and said other shops would hire James, but Albus wasn’t in the business of sugarcoating things. “But so what? At least you know Uncle George will understand what you’re going through. He’ll get it if you have to miss work because you’ve got a migraine or something.”

“You sound like my psychiatrist again,” James muttered.

“Just think about it,” Albus said.

“Fine. But I don’t want to talk about it anymore. Mum said you and Lily got your book lists?”

Albus nodded. “Yeah. We’re going to Diagon Alley on Saturday. You should come.”

“Maybe,” James said. “It’ll be weird going and not getting stuff for Hogwarts.”

“It’s weird that this is my last year,” Albus said.

“Yeah, next year you’ll be going to the Auror Academy. Continuing the Potter Legacy,” James said with a smirk.

“I haven’t gotten in yet,” Albus pointed out. “I haven’t even applied.”

“They’d be stupid not to take you. Plus, you’re a Potter. I mean, I’m a Potter and they’d never take me, but you’re a Potter with two working hands. They’ve pretty much got to take you.”

Albus laughed. Rationally, he knew he had a pretty good shot at getting into the Auror Academy, but every time he thought about it a little bit of doubt crept in and made his stomach churn.

***


Friday evening Albus finally decided to start the homework he’d been neglecting since the start of the summer. He figured there wasn’t a chance he’d do it while Matt and John were visiting (both said they would come) and after they left there would only be a few weeks left. The summer, which was Albus’s last real summer off, was flying by.

Albus settled himself in the living room with his Defense book and a roll of parchment. His father had assigned one essay for the summer and Albus figured it’d be the easiest of all his assignments. Lily, who’d also been neglecting her homework, was settled in the chair opposite Albus’s and was working diligently on a Potions essay. James, who had begun spending a bit more time out of his room ever since his results came back, was sprawled out on the couch, falling asleep while studying Rose’s binder of spells. Albus figured this was a good sign, even if studying the binder of spells wouldn’t help James’s memory at all.

Suddenly the fireplace lit up green and Rose slid out of it, crashing into the ottoman that was sitting too close to it, which caused Albus to spill his newly opened bottle of ink all over his Defense book. Lily shrieked and dropped her book on the floor, while James jolted awake and let out a string of expletives that would’ve resulted in a long telling-off from Mum if she’d heard it.

“Was that really necessary, Rose?” Lily asked icily as she picked up her book.

“Seriously,” James muttered. “Look, you freaked me out so much my arm is shaking.”

Albus snorted and looked at James, who was trying hard to suppress a grin as he held up his right arm.

“That’s right up there with Uncle George’s ear jokes,” Lily said.

“Sorry,” Rose said, although the smile on her face told them she was anything but. “Here, Al, let me do that.” She pulled her wand out of her sleeve and began siphoning ink off Albus’s book. “I’ve just been practicing Apparition with Mum. She’s sure I’ll pass the test. I got them all spot on and didn’t splinch anything.”

Albus glared at her. Even though he’d known for months Rose was far better at Apparition than he was and that she’d pass her test on the first go around, it still bothered him that there was a chance she’d pass her test first. Albus had failed his test, which had taken place on his own 17th birthday. He had another one scheduled for the week before they left for Hogwarts, the same day as Rose’s.

“You’ll pass next time,” Rose assured him. She finished cleaning Albus’s book and sat down at the end of James’s couch. “Nice to see you’re out of your room.”

James groaned. “I’m tempted to go back up there now.”

“Mum was ready to physically drag him out,” Lily said, not looking up from her Potions book. “But Dad said he needed time and space. They argued about it every night.”

“Could you not talk about me like I’m not even here?” James muttered. “Mum and Dad do enough of that already.”

“Yeah, it’s really taking the pressure off me,” Lily said. “Thanks for that. I haven’t had one question about what I’m going to do after Hogwarts and that usually starts summer before fifth year.”

“You’re welcome,” James said, closing his eyes. “Now if you’re all done, I’m trying to sleep here.”

“You coming to Diagon Alley tomorrow?” Albus asked Rose.

“Yeah. Amanda is coming, too.”

“Good. Both Matt and John are meeting us there. And Mum said Kaden and Bethany are getting dropped off here in the morning,” Albus said.

“Kaden owled me the other day,” Rose said. “Wanted to brag about his O.W.L. results.”

Albus grinned. “He sent me the same letter. All Exceeds Expectations and one Outstanding in Potions. And an Acceptable in Divination. Very impressive.”

“He doesn’t give himself enough credit,” Rose said.

“His aunt Marge must be so proud,” Albus said, laughing.

Lily snorted into her Potions book. “I just hope Mum and Dad don’t expect me to get that many O.W.L.s.”

“Any amount will look good compared to my N.E.W.T.s,” James mumbled.

“Thought you were trying to sleep,” Rose said.

“Can’t. Not with you lot being so loud. I thought you were doing homework,” James said.

“They’ll do their homework,” Rose said. “Not much time left to do it.”

“I suppose you’ve done yours?” Albus asked.

“Yes, of course,” Rose said as she picked her wand up off the table where she’d set it. She pointed it at the bookcase across the room and a mystery novel came floating toward her. Plucking it out of the air, Rose settled back into her spot on the couch.

“Show off,” Albus muttered. “And you’re not supposed to do magic outside school yet.”

Rose grinned. “No one will know.”

“Still,” Albus said. “It’s the principle of the thing.”


A/N: I know it's been a while. But it's fitting I'm posting this now, because ten years ago Deathly Hallows was published which means ten years ago I started this series. At the time I had no idea where it would go, no idea it would ever make it to seven stories, and hadn't even heard of HPFF. Albus, Rose, and their friends have come a long way since then. Thank you to those who have stuck with them over the past ten years, and I hope you enjoy the final installment of their adventures.

Chapter 2: The Protest
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The following morning began with an argument between Mum and James. James, who had decided he would go to Diagon Alley with them, wanted to Apparate and meet everyone else at the Leaky Cauldron. Mum wanted him to Floo with everyone else since he’d just taken a large dose of pain potion to quell the headache he’d had since the previous night. James insisted Flooing made his headaches worse. Eventually James won this argument after pointing out that he was eighteen and he’d do what he liked. Albus suspected it was less this fact but more that Mum didn’t want James to change his mind on going to Diagon Alley that swayed her.

Mum was already out of patience because Dad had been called to the Ministry early that morning and would no longer be able to go to Diagon Alley. Mum had been looking forward to having a normal family outing, something they hadn’t had much of lately. She found it ridiculous Dad had to go to the Ministry so much when he wasn’t even employed by them any longer.

“You’d think saving the wizarding world once would be enough for them,” Mum muttered as she grabbed the Floo Powder off the mantel. “They’re never satisfied.”

“He said he’d meet us for supper,” Albus reminded her.

“Yes, dear, I know,” Mum said. “Here, Bethany, you go first.”

Bethany took a handful of Floo Powder, tossed it in the fire, then stepped in and disappeared.

“I’ll meet you there, Mum,” James said, then disappeared with a crack.

Mum sighed and shook her head, then offered the Floo Powder to Kaden, then to Lily. Albus went next, wishing very much that he could’ve Apparated with James, not because he disliked Flooing, but because of what it would’ve meant.

The Leaky Cauldron was bustling when Albus arrived, unsurprising since it was the first Saturday after Hogwarts book lists went out. The clientele was disproportionately parents with Hogwarts aged kids and the usual day crowd were mostly gathered at the bar. Albus waited at a table with James, Lily, Kaden, and Bethany, figuring he ought to wait for his mother to arrive before going off to meet his friends.

When she did arrive, Mum looked slightly calmer than she had in the kitchen at Grimmauld Place. “Everyone got their book lists?” she asked.

“Yeah,” Albus said. Kaden and Bethany both nodded.

“Good. Al, I assume you and Kaden are meeting your friends?”

“In about ten minutes at Flourish and Blotts,” Albus said.

“And Lily, are you meeting Ashtyn and Hugo?”

Lily nodded. “Yes.”

“Good. Here, take some money,” Mum said as she gave Al and Lily a few Galleons each. “Kaden, did your dad give you money?”

Kaden pulled out a wad of ten pound notes. “Just Muggle money.”

Mum smiled and shook her head. She handed Kaden a few Galleons. “Give me that and I’ll take it to Gringotts.”

“Me, too, Aunt Ginny,” Bethany said, holding up her own stack of Muggle money.

“Here,” Mum said, handing Bethany a few Galleons. “You can stay with me, Bethany. Now, James, I don’t know what you were planning on doing, but I will feel a whole lot better if you’re not wandering around on your own. I recognize that you’re of age and you’ll do as you wish, but as your mother I will always worry. And I would appreciate you do the me the courtesy of either hanging around Al and Kaden or finding one of your other cousins.”

James nodded. “I can walk around with Al and Kaden.”

“Thank you,” Mum said. “Let’s meet back here in three hours for an early supper. Bring whatever friends you want.”

Albus, James, and Kaden set off for Flourish and Blotts. Outside, the air was cool and crisp, signaling the autumn season to come. Kids ran up and down the street, their excited chatter echoing off the old brick buildings. Parents ambled more slowly, their own excited chatter breaking through every so often. It was clear they were ready for their kids to go back to school.

Albus couldn’t help but feel nostalgic for his own first year shopping trip- a time that had been riddled with as much anxiety as there had been excitement. James had planted such a seed of doubt in Albus that he wouldn’t be sorted into Gryffindor but instead Slytherin. Looking back, Albus knew it had been silly for even if he had been in Slytherin he would’ve done just fine. Well, except for sharing a dormitory with Scorpius Malfoy. That alone made him grateful he wound up in Gryffindor. Plus, if he hadn’t, he likely wouldn’t have befriended Matt, John, and Amanda.

Flourish and Blotts seemed to be the busiest of all the shops, which made Albus realize it was a stupid meeting place. If Matt, John, Rose, and Amanda were somewhere inside it’d be nearly impossible to find them. They should’ve met somewhere less busy such as Gringotts or the apothecary. As they neared it, however, Albus noticed Matt and John loitering outside the doorway.

“Hey,” Albus said as he dodged a small child carrying a pygmy puff in a cage. “Have you been waiting long?”

“Not long,” Matt said. “Rose and Amanda are inside. They’re buying our books so I don’t have to go in. There’s hardly room to breathe in there.”

“You’d think someone was doing a signing,” Albus said as he peered into the doorway. “I suppose Kaden and I will have to venture in. James, do you want to wait out here?”

“Yeah,” James said. “I don’t need any books.”

“Then I’ll go in with you,” John said. “Rose and Amanda might need help carrying all the books.”

“Since when did you become so chivalrous?” Kaden asked.

“Since when did you learn the word chivalrous?” John smirked.

“Hey, I got more O.W.L.s than you,” Kaden pointed out.

“Well, I’ve got a bit of news, too,” John said as he headed into the shop.

Albus and Kaden followed. “What?” Albus asked.

“I’ve been made Quidditch captain,” John said, beaming.

“You didn’t mention that in your letter!” Albus exclaimed. “Congratulations, mate.”

“Only found out yesterday,” John explained. “Professor Longbottom asked Janie first, you know, out of seniority and all. But apparently she turned him down.”

“I figured she would,” Albus said. “She’s got so much else going on.”

“That’s what Longbottom said. Then he offered it to me, and of course I took it,” John said as he attempted to squeeze past a large witch toting a shopping bag that was leaking something nasty onto the floor.

“Come around this way,” Kaden said, darting around a bookcase. “I see Rose and Amanda in the queue.”

It took them another three minutes to make it to the end of the queue, where Rose and Amanda were standing, each with an impressively large stack of books.

“There you are,” Rose said. “Here, yours are on top, John. Al, yours are just below his.”

“You got mine, too?” Albus asked.

“Yeah, and yours, Kaden,” Amanda said. “Here. They’re on top.”

“Thanks,” Albus said as he took his books. “It’s a madhouse in here.”

Rose nodded. “I’m fairly certain everyone at Hogwarts decided to come to Flourish and Blotts at once. Is Matt still outside?”

“Yeah,” Albus said. “I left James with him.”

“James came?” Rose asked, raising her eyebrows.

Albus nodded. “I was surprised, too. He didn’t even complain when Mum asked him not to wander around alone.”

“Wow,” Rose said. “Then again, he did tend to stick around you at the end of term.”

That was a fair point, Albus thought. It also made him wonder what James would do once Albus returned to Hogwarts. He’d be alone, with their parents. He needed to take that job at Weasleys’.

It took a few minutes, but they eventually managed to squeeze their way out of the shop, which was somehow more difficult than squeezing their way in, as if Flourish and Blotts didn’t want to let anyone leave.

“Whose bright idea was it to get the books first?” Kaden asked as he stuffed his books into the bag he’d brought. “Now we’ll have to carry them all afternoon.”

“If we’d waited much longer they might’ve sold out of some,” Rose pointed out. “And did anyone else notice what the new potions book is?”

“It’s not Advanced Potion Making?” Matt, who’d dropped Potions after fifth year, asked.

“Other than that,” Rose said. “We’ve already got that one from last year. There’s a new one, and it’s…” her voice trailed off.

Albus glanced at Kaden, who had busied himself with the zipper on his bag. “It’s Burke’s book,” Albus said quietly.

“The new professor must be a fan,” John said. “It’s not Amy again, is it?”

“No,” Matt answered. “She can’t keep teaching Potions and continue with her training.”

Kaden still hadn’t said anything and was taking what appeared to be a very long time zipping his bag. “So, where to next?” Albus asked, in an attempt to change the subject.

“Weasleys’,” John and Kaden said simultaneously, a manic grin on each of their faces. “Being my last year and all, the pranking needs to be good this year,” John added.

Rose sighed. “I could stop you, you know.”

“But you won’t,” John said, “because my pranks are harmless. I know where to draw the line. And I’m sure, as Head Girl, you’ll have more important things to worry about.”

Rose had gotten the letter telling her she’d been made Head Girl earlier in the summer. Apparently those letters got sent out weeks before prefect notifications. The entire family had been ecstatic, but none more than Nana Molly, who’d thrown a party in her honor. Rose had pretended to be embarrassed by the whole thing, but Albus could tell she loved the attention. Albus, on the other hand, had not been made Head Boy and couldn’t have been happier about it.

Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes was, if possible, even busier than Flourish and Blotts. Matt and Rose decided not to go inside and instead went Eeylops to look at the owls and pick up owl feed for Matt’s parents. The rest of the group made their way inside, John and Kaden each grabbing baskets and piling them high with what seemed to be half the store.

Albus could only wave at his uncle George, who was toward the back of the store doing a demonstration of a new extended release Nosebleed Nougat that had been developed because teachers had gotten suspicious of students who developed nosebleeds shortly after eating sweets. The extended release sweets were to be eaten an hour before the class that needed skiving off.

“How many classes are you planning to skive off?” Amanda asked John, who’d placed five Skiving Snackboxes into his basket.

John shrugged. “No idea, but I like to have options.”

“Options being selling them to first and second years,” Kaden pointed out.

“What?” Amanda asked.

“Thought of it this summer,” John said. “First and second years can’t get to Hogsmeade and buying them right in the common room is easier than owl order.”

“Genius!” James said, more excited than he’d been in weeks. “Wish I’d thought of that.”

“I plan on seeing how it goes over the first month,” John said. “Then I’ll stock up during the October Hogsmeade visit.”

“Is that even allowed?” Albus asked, thinking of Rose.

John shrugged. “I don’t see why not. No different than them getting them through owl order.”

“I suppose,” Albus said. He pulled out his wand and levitated one Skiving Snackbox off the shelf and caught it. He wasn’t one to skive off class, but liked having a few Nosebleed Nougat around just in case. “You might not want to parade it in front of Rose, though.”

“Think being Head Girl will go to her head a bit?” John asked as he put three value packs of Extendable Ears into his basket.

“Most likely,” Albus said, eyeing John’s already overflowing basket. “Where are you getting the gold to pay for all that?” John’s mum certainly wasn’t one to fund Hogwarts pranks.

“I’ve been doing a bit of tutoring,” John said, grinning wryly.

“No, seriously,” Albus said, rolling his eyes.

“Flying lessons,” John explained. “I’ve been teaching a few of Mum and Dad’s friends’ kids how to fly. Plus some of my younger cousins.”

“Really?” Albus asked, impressed.

John nodded. “Yeah. I want to save up some gold so I can get my own flat once seventh year is over. I really don’t want to live with Mum and Dad next year.”

Albus hadn’t given much thought to where he’d live after Hogwarts. Mostly he’d been focused on his Auror Academy application, which was due on the first of October. He supposed it would be nice to move out and live on his own, though.

“We should get a flat together,” John added. “Especially if it’s in London. Rent is a nightmare in London.”

“I’ll have to live in London,” Albus said. “If I get into the Academy, that is.”

“Which you will,” John assured him. “You think Matt would want to come live with us? Rent would be even cheaper three ways.”

“I don’t know,” Albus said. “I think he’d want to…but I don’t know if he could.”

“Yeah, true,” John agreed quietly. “Well, I’ve got to go pay for all this. I don’t know where Kaden, Amanda, and James got off to.”

John joined the long queue at the till and Albus stood on his tiptoes and tried to peer over the crowd to find James, but his brother was nowhere in sight. Sighing, and thinking about how livid his parents would be if he lost James in Diagon Alley, Albus followed John into the queue. Once they’d both paid, they left the shop, figuring Kaden and Amanda would join them when they were done. Outside, they saw Amanda had already left and was sitting on a bench across the street.

“You didn’t see James in there, did you?” Albus asked as they joined her.

“Not since we got there,” Amanda said.

Albus groaned. “Mum’s going to kill me.”

“Does he really need watching?” John asked skeptically. “I thought he was better.”

“Mostly. He still gets confused some of the time, but it’s not as bad as before,” Albus said. “Mum’s just being Mum. She’s always worried since he can’t do much magic. But honestly, does he really need to do magic to buy something in a shop?”

“There he is,” John said, pointing vaguely toward Weasleys’. “Kaden’s with him.”

Kaden’s bag was stuffed nearly as full as John’s. James hadn’t purchased anything. He walked a few paces behind Kaden, his hands stuffed into the pockets of his trousers. Albus breathed a sigh of relief.

“Where to next?” Albus asked. “Apothecary?”

“We should wait for Rose and Matt,” Amanda reminded him. “I think I see them coming now.” She pointed down the street, toward Gringotts.

Albus craned his head to see around a large witch accompanied by two screaming children and saw the vague outlines of Matt and Rose coming their way. Once they reached the bench, Albus noticed they both looked out of breath, Rose looked extremely excited, and Matt looked apprehensive.

“You’ll never believe what’s going on down there!” Rose exclaimed.

“Is Gringotts giving away free gold?” John asked, his eyes widening.

“Of course not,” Rose said. “There’s a protest going on! Right outside of the Daily Prophet offices.”

Albus stood up and tried to peer through the crowd to see, but they were too far away. “Why? Did they print something awful again?”

“No, they aren’t protesting the paper,” Rose explained. Her face was practically glowing. “They’re demanding Laurentis and Johnson be sacked!”

“Then why wouldn’t they protest in front of the Ministry?” Kaden asked.

“Because of the Muggles,” Amanda said, her voice nearly as excited as Rose’s. “The Ministry is underground. They’d have to protest above it and that’s Muggle London. And the Ministry wouldn’t let them protest inside, of course.”

“Could Laurentis and Johnson be sacked?” Kaden asked.

“Yes,” Rose answered. “Depending on the outcome of the inquiries. If they’re found to have falsified evidence or that they knew full well Boone couldn’t have done that murder, then they could face a fine or get sacked or even prison. That’s if they don’t resign before the inquiry is over. They’re also demanding justice for Boone. He’s suing the Ministry.”

“He’s what?” James asked. “Can you even sue the Ministry?”

“Of course you can,” Rose said. “You can sue anyone you like. Whether you’ll win is another story. But I think he’s really got a chance.”

“What’s he suing for?” Albus asked. “Wrongful imprisonment?”

“He can’t really sue for that,” Matt said, in between worried glances in the direction of the Daily Prophet offices. “The did have a reason for jailing him. The Wizengamot found him guilty, even though he was innocent. He’s suing the Auror Department for mistreatment and discrimination during the investigation. He’s also suing Azkaban for not giving him the proper medical care while he was there. Dad says he’s got a really good attorney, too.”

“The same one he had for the trial?” Albus asked.

“No,” Matt answered. “And this one, according to Dad, wants to turn the whole case into a spectacle for werewolf rights.”

“So this is only the start,” Rose said. “This protest and everything. It’s only going to increase from here.”

“Probably,” Matt said quietly.

“This is a good thing,” Rose pointed out, eyeing Matt carefully.

Matt shrugged. “It’s just a lot…a lot of attention on…well, you know.” He stole a quick glance at James, but James was preoccupied, staring at something in the opposite direction.

“What time did Mum and Dad want us back?” James asked.

Albus looked at his watch. “In about an hour. Why?”

James gave Albus a withering look. “Well, you lot are going to go to that protest.”

“We aren’t-“ Albus began.

“Oh don’t even bother,” James interrupted. “I know you want to.”

Albus looked back down the street, toward the protest, and then back to James. He did really want to go have a look. It would be good for him to keep tabs on what was happening with the Auror Department since he was applying for the Auror Academy.

“If Mum and Dad ask, I’ll say I wanted to go off on my own and you tried to keep me here,” James said. “I swear I won’t tell them you left me. But there’s no way in hell I’m going to that protest.”

“I’ll stay with you,” Matt volunteered. “I don’t want to go back to it.”

Albus chewed his lip and glanced at Rose, who looked all too ready to ditch James and Matt and go back to the protest.

“Okay,” Albus said. “Let’s go.”

Without another word, James and Matt set off toward the the Leaky Cauldron. Albus didn’t think the two of them had ever spent time together alone, but they could bond over their dislike of large groups of strangers.

Albus had never in his life seen a protest, but he knew without a doubt when they reached it. He, Rose, John, Amanda, and Kaden stopped a few feet away and stared at the growing number of people stationed outside the Daily Prophet offices.

“There’s even more now,” Rose said.

It was an eclectic mix. All were overage, but that was where their similarities stopped. The youngest looked hardly older than Albus himself, whereas the oldest looked as old as Aberforth Dumbledore. There were men and women of various races and, based on their outfits, various economic statuses. About three-quarters of them brandished signs that they held high above their heads. Most bore some variation of “Sack Balladanis”, “Jail Johnson”, or “Justice for Boone.” These slogans were also being shouted in unison.

Based on the editorials in the Prophet and the general lack of interest from the Hogwarts population, Albus never would’ve guessed Stuart Boone had this much support. But here were two dozen people who were all on his side.

“What did Matt do when he saw this?” Amanda asked quietly.

“He froze and just stood there, staring,” Rose answered. “We watched for about five minutes, and then he wanted to leave. I think it freaked him out a bit.”

“But this is a good thing,” Amanda said. “Like you just pointed out. I mean, this means people care, that people want change, and they’re willing to work to get that change, even if they themselves aren’t being affected by the discrimination.”

“I know,” Rose agreed. “But the problem is, the people on the other side, the people who don’t want change, they aren’t going to stay quiet, either. It might be good in the long run, but right now? This is going to put lycanthropy in the front of everyone’s minds.”

“And that’s the last thing Matt wants,” Albus said quietly.

“Exactly,” Rose said.

The five of them stood watching the protesters, not joining in, but none of them making any move to leave, either. Part of Albus wanted to drop his shopping bags and march alongside them, but the other part of him wanted to hang back, to disappear into the crowd that had formed, because he knew if one of the Daily Prophet photographers looked out their window and saw Albus Potter participating in a protest, it would be front page news the next day. And so Albus stood in the middle, not protesting, but not leaving either, and certainly not ignoring it.


A/N: For now, Tuesday will be the update day. That could change once the school year begins and I go back to work.

Chapter 3: The Test
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Albus’s second Apparition test was scheduled for the last day of the summer holiday, which meant it was the same day as the annual Weasley family pre-Hogwarts dinner. This made Albus feel even more apprehensive about it because even though both his parents swore they hadn’t told any of the aunts and uncles about it, Albus knew the news had somehow gotten out and thus his results would be the focus of everyone’s attention.

The good news was that Rose was taking her test the same day, since she had only just turned seventeen. She would pass and everyone would congratulate her while Albus lurked by the broom shed, trying to stay out of the way, and not wallow too much in his inevitable failure. He also half hoped one of his cousins would make some huge announcement and distract everyone. Georgia was usually good for that. Or, perhaps everyone would be focused on James.

“You’re going to psych yourself out, Al,” Rose said as they waited by the fire in Grimmauld Place for the time to arrive for them to floo to the Ministry.

“That’s impossible, since I’m going to fail again anyway,” Albus said. “You have to be able to Apparate to psych yourself out and I can’t-“

“Oh, shut it,” Rose interrupted, rolling her eyes. “You’re better than you think.”

“What do you think the record is for most failures of the Apparition test?” Albus asked.

Rose groaned. “I don’t know.”

“Yes, you do,” Albus said. “I know you looked it up.”

“Fine. It’s 76. You won’t beat that.”

Albus winced. “Of course I won’t. I’ll give up long before that, resigned to use the Floo Network for the rest of my life.”

“Oh, give it a rest,” Rose said shortly. “Gabriella failed three times. You’ve got a ways to go before you can complain.”

Albus said nothing, but instead checked his new watch for the tenth time. They had ten minutes before Rose’s test. Albus’s was right after Rose’s.

“We should go,” Albus said.

“Isn’t Aunt Ginny going with us?” Rose asked.

“I’m here!” Mum said as she hurried into the room. “Sorry. James needed help with opening his potion bottles. Ready?”

“No, but I haven’t got much of a choice,” Albus muttered as he reached his hand into the pot of Floo Powder.

A few dizzying minutes later Albus emerged in the atrium at the Ministry of Magic. Rose and Mum were right behind him. They had their wands checked with the wizard manning the sign-in desk, then joined a small queue at the lifts. The Apparition Test Center was located on the sixth level.

Albus grew steadily more nervous as the lift descended lower into the Ministry. Rationally, he knew plenty of people failed their test, even failed it twice, but he didn’t want to face his entire family later that day without passing. For some reason it felt like everything was riding on this test and even though he was already seventeen, it felt like he wouldn’t be a qualified wizard until he passed.

The doors opened on the sixth level and Albus followed Mum and Rose into the corridor. He realized his hands were shaking and shoved them into his pockets. There was no way he’d Apparate successfully if he was this nervous, but that thought only made him more nervous. How had Matt remained so calm for his test? He was nervous for everything else.

“You’ve got to look confident or they’re going to fail you on a technicality,” Rose muttered as they neared the Test Center.

That didn’t help. Albus nodded numbly, but didn’t say anything. He felt like he needed to vomit, even though he hadn’t eaten anything for breakfast.

Mum opened the door to the Test Center and held it for Albus and Rose. Albus followed Rose in and signed in on the clipboard at the front desk after her, then joined her in the waiting area. The fact that he’d done this before and knew what to expect wasn’t helping at all.

A tall witch wearing her hair in a bun who reminded Albus of Professor McGonagall emerged from the door behind the front desk, carrying her own clipboard. She glanced down at it, then looked up. “Miss Weasley?” she asked.

Rose stood, grinned at Albus, then followed the witch through the door.

“Take a few deep breaths,” Mum advised Albus.

Albus did and his heart seemed to settle down a bit, but he still felt jittery. “If…if I fail,” he began, “and have to wait until Christmas to take it again, I’m going to get rusty.”

“Dad will take you to Hogsmeade to practice,” Mum assured him. “Don’t worry about that now. Just focus on staying calm.”

That was a lot harder than it seemed, Albus thought. He tried to take a few more deep breaths, but kept getting distracted by the witch behind the desk, who was scratching her quill on parchment louder than seemed necessary.

Just when Albus thought he was going to crawl out of his skin with nerves, Rose returned, the grin on her face even larger than before.

“I passed!” she exclaimed. “I mean, I knew I would, but there was a tiny part of me that knew there was a slight possibility that I wouldn’t. But I did! And oh, now I can drive James mad with constantly Apparating in and out of rooms like he did last summer!”

The witch with the bun, whom Albus had assumed was strict, smiled a bit at that, and shook her head as she handed a piece of parchment to the witch behind the desk. The desk witch then stamped the parchment with something, and handed it to Rose, who beamed.

The door to the corridor opened and Emily Rhodes from Ravenclaw walked in, followed by a wizard who looked so much like her he could only be her father. She looked nervous, but not nearly as nervous as Albus felt. His stomach churned, now realizing he’d have to face Emily Rhodes after he failed as well. He didn’t know her well, but knew enough that she was very rational and would most likely pass.

Emily signed herself in, then sat next to Albus. She seemed unable to sit still, bouncing her left leg up and down. It was very close to Albus’s right leg, which gave him a very different set of nerves. Her father sat down on her other side.

“Hi, Albus,” Emily whispered. “Rose.”

“Hi, Emily,” Rose said, still beaming. “I just passed.”

“Congratulations,” Emily said, without any excitement.

Albus was unable to say anything. He was afraid if he opened his mouth, he’d vomit.

“Didn’t you turn seventeen months ago?” Rose asked as she poured herself a glass of water from the pitcher on the counter. “Yeah, I remember you showing everyone the earrings your parents got you for your birthday in February.”

Emily’s cheeks turned red and she stared down at the floor, her curly brown hair obscuring her face. “Er, yeah. I…I already took the test.”

Albus’s eyes grew large. Emily Rhodes failed her Apparition test? But she was one of the best in the year. Albus chanced saying something. “I failed, too. In June.”

Emily looked up and offered Albus the tiniest of smiles. It made his stomach do another flip.

“Mr. Potter?”

The witch with the bun had returned. She did the usual double take when she read his name.

“You can do this, Al,” Rose assured him.

“And it’s not a big deal if you don’t pass,” Mum said as she squeezed his shoulder.

Albus nodded and shakily rose from his chair.

“Good luck,” Emily said quietly.

“Thanks,” Albus said thickly.

Albus followed the witch with the bun through the door behind the desk and into the testing room. It was deceptively large and set up to look like a fake street. There were fake shop facades, benches, cars, garbage bins, and even fake people. Most of it looked like Diagon Alley, but there was a bit on the far end that looked like Muggle London (that’s where the fake cars were). Albus knew from last time that he would be asked to do a general Apparition and then the witch would give him specific parts of the room to Apparate to.

“Begin when you’re ready,” the witch said. “Start with a general Apparition to anywhere in the room.”

Albus nodded and took another few deep breaths. He’d done this part successfully last time. Like last time, he chose to Apparate to the second bench. He closed his eyes, thought about the three Ds, and focused until he felt the uncomfortable sensation of being squeezed through an impossibly small hole. When it stopped, he opened his eyes and saw the bench in front of him.

“Good,” the witch said as she peered down at the spot where Albus had previously stood, checking for bits of him left behind. “Next I’d like you to Apparate to the pub facade, right in front of the fake door.”

Albus nodded. This was the part he screwed up on last time. He hadn’t focused enough and left his left pinky finger behind. The evaluator (last time it had been a wizard) had to reaffix it to his hand. The test was then over. He hadn’t been given a chance to redo it.

“Take your time,” the witch said.

The three Ds, Albus thought. Destination, determination, deliberation. He closed his eyes and saw the fake door of the fake pub in his mind’s eye. Determined to get there (and not leave any body parts behind), Albus Apparated.

He opened his eyes and checked for his fingers. They were all there! Smiling slightly, and breathing a huge sigh of relief, Albus turned to the witch, who made a note on her clipboard.

“Excellent,” she said. “Two more to go. Next, you need to Apparate onto the green square in front of the fake bank.”

Albus craned his neck, but couldn’t see the green square. He supposed that was what made it difficult. Closing his eyes, he pictured the fake bank and imagined a green square in front of it. A few seconds later, he reappeared with a crack in front of the bank. He hesitated, then opened his eyes and looked down at his feet, which were planted in the exact center of a green square.

“Beautiful,” the witch said. “Last one. You need to Apparate into the alley between the office building and the hospital, and far enough back that the fake Muggles on the street can’t see you.”

This was it. One Apparition stood between him and having his Apparition license. Regardless of the outcome, he’d at least made it to the end of the test this time. Albus closed his eyes once more and envisioned the far back end of the alley. With a crack, he disappeared.

When he reappeared, he stumbled a bit and had to catch himself on the wall of the fake office building. The cobblestones in the alley were very uneven. He hoped the witch hadn’t seen that.

“Good,” she said as she entered the alley. “I don’t take off points for clumsiness. So long as you’ve got all your fingers and eyebrows, I don’t care how you land. I am going to qualify you for an Apparition license.”

Albus nodded, his cheeks reddening. “So…I passed?”

“Yes, you passed,” the witch said.

Albus felt like he was floating as he followed the witch back into the waiting area. He’d never have to take another Apparition test again, and now he could Apparate whenever he liked.

Mum and Rose stood as soon as Albus returned, both looking nervous.

“Passed,” Albus said, grinning.

“I knew it!” Rose shouted. “I knew you’d get it this time!”

“Congratulations, Al,” Mum said as she pulled him into a hug.

“Mum!” Al said, glancing at Emily. He didn’t need to be hugged by his mother in front of Emily Rhodes.

“Congratulations, Albus,” Emily said, smiling. She was still bouncing her left leg up and down.

“Well, let’s go!” Rose said. “Al and I can Apparate home now. And I can bug James.”

“Rose,” Mum began, “I don’t know if that’s the best…” she sighed, “oh, forget it. After last summer, you can bother him as much as you like.”

Rose laughed. “Good, because I was going to do it regardless.”

Mum opened the door and Rose followed her out. Albus hung back, looking at Emily, who was now chewing her lip nervously.

“Good luck,” Albus said quietly. “And…let me know…if you pass.”

“Thanks, Albus,” Emily said. “And I will. I’ll see you on the train.”

Albus nodded and followed Rose and Mum out of the center, thinking about Emily…and how she wanted to see him on the train.

***


“Auror? Well, can’t say I’m surprised,” Uncle Percy said as he and Albus stood in the garden of the Burrow a few hours later. He’d already answered questions about his post-Hogwarts plans from numerous aunts and uncles and had had enough of it.

“Er, yeah,” Albus said, nodding. He took a sip of his pumpkin juice in the hopes that Uncle Percy wouldn’t continue the conversation.

“Can’t say I’d like to see you working under Auror Johnson,” Uncle Percy continued, “‘course, I suspect he’ll be gone by the time you’ve qualified as a Junior Auror.”

That got Albus’s attention. “Have you heard anything?”

“Nothing I can tell you,” Uncle Percy said pompously. “Let’s just say things aren’t looking good for him. He used some shady tactics while investigating those deaths. And the interrogation tactics he used on Stuart Boone.” Uncle Percy shuddered. “Mind you, I’ve just heard rumors, but all rumors have a bit of truth to them, don’t they.”

Albus nodded. He needn’t have been worried about his family’s reactions to his Apparition test. Only one or two of them had inquired about it and most were far more interested in what Albus was planning on doing after he left Hogwarts. Most of them knew he’d been thinking of applying to the Auror Academy, but they all were very impressed now that he was actually going to do it.

“Well, I’d best find out what Samantha and Lindy are up to,” Uncle Percy said, then downed the last gulp of his beer. He set the empty bottle on a nearby table. “Make sure they haven’t broken anything inside.”

Albus nodded again, grateful for his twin cousins’ tendency to make trouble. Otherwise, he could’ve been stuck discussing Ministry politics with Uncle Percy all night. He wouldn’t have minded if Uncle Percy were likely to let something slip, but he never did. All he did was discuss what was widely known.

Setting down his now empty glass, Albus meandered across the garden, stopping to say ‘hello’ to various family members as he went. He wasn’t sure where Rose had gone. They had arrived together, Apparating to the nearby empty field, but she’d disappeared once they reached the Burrow.

“Oi, Albus!”

Albus turned and saw his cousins Bradley and Cedric sitting with James at a table near the broom shed. Deciding he would find Rose later, Albus sat down next to James. Their table was littered with bottle caps and empty bottles, the three clearly taking advantage of the fact that they could drink legally.

“Did you pass this time?” James asked.

“Yes,” Albus confirmed.

“I knew you would,” James said. “And have you seen Rose?”

“No, not since I got here,” Albus answered.

James groaned. “She’s been Apparating right next to me for the past half an hour and it’s driving me mad. But she’s disappeared. I think she’s trying to lull me into a false sense of security.”

Albus laughed. “She’s only getting you back for last summer.”

“I know,” James muttered. He took a swig of his drink and set the empty bottle down.

“Another?” Bradley asked. “Al, can I get you something?”

Albus suddenly realized he could now drink legally as well. He hadn’t drank beer since Teddy’s stag night and that hadn’t been enjoyable. But this was different. He was surrounded by his family. But he wasn’t sure what his parents would think.

“Mum and Dad won’t care,” James said, grinning slightly. “And yeah, I could go for another.”

“Allow me,” Bradley said as he picked up his wand from the table. With a quick flick of his wrist, he jabbed his wand toward the house and thirty or so seconds later, four bottles came soaring through the air, high above everyone else’s heads. They landed on the table with three distinct thuds. Bradley then distributed them.

“Nice,” Cedric said as he tapped the cap with his own wand, causing the cap to jump off.

Even though Albus had been of age for two months now, he still got a thrill every time he got to do magic outside of school. Smiling to himself, he pulled out his wand and removed the cap from his own beer, successfully managing to do the spell silently.

“See, Al?” Bradley said. “Isn’t being of age grand?”

“Yeah, it really is,” Albus said before taking a swig. The beer was good. It had a hint of chocolate, which was something that definitely would’ve improved the beer he’d had at the Muggle club months earlier.

“Al,” James said, holding his beer out to Albus.

Excited once again to use wordless magic, Albus removed the cap from James’s beer as well.

“To being of age,” Cedric said as he lifted his beer.

“To being able to drink at family functions,” James said.

“To being done with school,” Bradley added.

“To almost being done with school,” Al amended.

The four cousins clinked their bottles and drank.

There was a loud crack and Rose appeared right next to James. James, who had been mid-drink, choked, spat out his sip, and dropped his beer on the table. It landed with another dull thud and fizzing beer spilled out of it, dripping onto both James and Albus.

“Watch it!” Albus exclaimed, glaring at Rose. “Haven’t you had enough of that?”

“Sorry!” Rose said. “I didn’t mean to do that. Here.” Rose drew her wand and pointed it at James’s wet t-shirt. It dried instantly.

James glared at Rose. “Seriously? Can you be done with that now?”

“We’re even now,” Rose said. “And I’m sorry. I’ll go get you another drink.”

Rose disappeared into the crowd. Albus dried his own shirt and looked back at Cedric and Bradley. They were both grinning. James still looked pissed off.

“Rosie, Rosie, Rosie,” Bradley said, shaking his head. “Always thought she was smarter than us. But she just went off to fetch drinks, rather than summon them.”

“You know, most people get up and get their drinks,” James pointed out. “Hardly anyone summons them.”

“I think we deserve a night of laziness,” Cedric said. “It’s been an exhausting week.”

“How’s training going?” Albus asked. Cedric started training to become a Magical Law Enforcement officer at the beginning of the month.

“Good,” Cedric said. “But tiring. More tiring than homework.”

“And what have you been doing?” Albus asked Bradley.

Bradley shrugged. “Avoiding Dad, mostly. He wants me to work in the shop if I can’t find anything else, but I really don’t want to.”

“What do you want to do?” Albus asked.

“No idea,” Bradley said, then took another swig of his drink. “Dad doesn’t think that’s acceptable.”

James, who had begun peeling the label off his now empty bottle, looked up. “Let’s change the subject. Al, how do you think Gryffindor are going to fare in Quidditch this year?”

Albus jumped on the subject, all too happy to distract James from his lack of employment.


A/N: Sorry this is a couple days late! I was out of town without my laptop. Thank you for all the reviews so far! If you haven't already seen it, take a look at the awesome banner I now have for this story, made by nancy drew. @ TDA!

Chapter 4: Head Girl
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Albus awoke the next morning with a distinct feeling of nostalgia. His year of “lasts” was about to begin, starting with his last September 1st journey from Platform 9 3/4. He was simultaneously excited and sad about it. As he finished off his last minute packing, he wondered what he’d be doing this time next year. Would he be in the midst of Auror training? Or, if he didn’t get in, would he be working in Uncle George’s shop?

Mum was uncharacteristically quiet as she served bacon and eggs to Albus and a half-asleep Lily. Dad was reading the Prophet, sighing and shaking his head every so often. Albus attempted to read the back of it, but it was too wrinkled to read it properly. The back of the page Dad was reading contained the MLE Blotter, which was always good for a laugh.

“What is it, Harry?” Ginny asked as she sat down with her own plate.

Dad sighed, folded the paper, and set it down next to his mug. “Nothing good. Two more members of the Wizengamot have resigned in protest over the Boone disaster. But if they keep resigning at this rate we’ll only be left with the crazies.”

“Why are they resigning now?” Mum asked. “Boone was convicted months ago.”

“Guilty conscience?” Dad suggested. “Either that or they truly had no idea of the discrimination out there against werewolves and they’re just now learning about it.”

“What about the bloke who actually did it?” Lily asked. “The Squib?”

“He’s under house arrest,” Dad explained. “No one’s sure whether it’s legal to hold a Squib in Azkaban since Azkaban is a wizard prison. At least, that’s what his attorney keeps insisting, and since it doesn’t specifically say Squibs are to be kept in Azkaban if they’ve broken the law, the Aurors can’t keep him there. It’s a huge mess. I don’t imagine it’ll go to trial for months.”

“Well, does the law specifically state werewolves are to be in Azkaban?” Lily asked.

Dad grinned. “Excellent point, Lily. You might have a future in law.”

Lily screwed up her face. “No thank you. It’s dead boring.”

“So, it wasn’t legal for Boone to be in Azkaban in the first place? I mean, aside from the fact that he was innocent?” Albus asked.

“No one’s sure, Al. When the law was written, wizarding Britain was very wizard-centric. I’ve told you about the old statue in the Ministry, right? So the laws only specified wizards and witches, not Squibs, goblins, house elves, vampires, giants, trolls, ghosts, poltergeists, or werewolves. Later on, all of them, save for Squibs, were categorized into beings, beasts, or spirits, hence those divisions in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures.”

“And werewolves are considered beasts,” Albus interjected.

“Exactly. So, technically, Boone probably couldn’t be legally held in Azkaban, regardless of whether he was innocent or guilty, because he’s not considered a “being.”

“Well, that’s not right,” Lily said.

“No, it isn’t,” Dad said, pausing to take a sip of coffee. “And their status has gone back and forth for centuries. Last change was in the 1940s if I’m remembering right. It can only be a worldwide change, it has to go through the International Confederation of Wizards and not all countries were in agreement.”

“What about goblins and house elves and the others?” Lily asked.

“Goblins are considered beings, but since they’ve got their own magic and rules and morals, they don’t particularly care how wizards organize their government. House elves, thanks mostly to your aunt Hermione, were granted being status when you were all very little. As for trolls and giants, well, they don’t particularly care either way. Vampires have campaigned for a change a few times. Ghosts and poltergeists will always be spirits because that’s a fact.”

“But-“ Lily began.

“We’ve got to go,” Mum interrupted as she stood up. “The train leaves in forty-five minutes.”

Albus was surprised at how much interest his sister was showing in the categorization of beasts, beings, and spirits, especially for someone who claimed to find the law boring. He found the entire thing vaguely sickening. Werewolves and vampires were human, so shouldn’t that in itself cause them to be considered “beings” in the eyes of the law?

“Is James up?” Dad asked.

“His door was shut when I came down,” Albus said as he brought his empty dishes to the sink. “I don’t think he’ll want to go to the station. Too many people staring.”

“Can’t say I blame him there,” Dad said.

***


Albus felt extremely grown up Apparating by himself to King’s Cross. As he pushed his trolley through the throngs of younger students, he felt another wave of nostalgia, unable to believe that it had been six years since his first journey to Hogwarts. He could easily pick the first years out of the crowd. They were the ones standing close to their parents, gazing at the scarlet engine with equal parts apprehension and excitement.

Rose, Albus was confident, was already on the train. Being Head Girl, she had probably been the first one on the platform. She was probably mentally rehearsing her speech that she would give the prefects in half an hour’s time. Rose had been preparing to be Head Girl since she was five.

“I want both of you to make sure you study hard this year,” Mum said. “O.W.L. year is not a year you can slack off, Lily. And Al, I know you know that the Auror Department will rescind your acceptance if you don’t get the required N.E.W.T.s.”

That was something Albus had been trying not to think about.

“But, Al, we’ll love you whether you’re accepted or not,” Mum added.

“Yeah, no pressure, Al,” Lily said, grinning.

No pressure. That’s what everyone had been telling him all summer. No pressure except all the pressure from all of his family members.

“I better go find Hugo,” Lily said. “Bye, Mum.”

Mum gave Lily a hug and then she was off, disappearing into the crowd.

“I’m serious about the no pressure thing,” Mum said once Lily was gone. “The Academy is nearly impossible to get into. We’ll support you no matter what. And if you need any help with your application, Dad will help.”

Dad had stayed behind with James, who had woken up with a migraine. Albus knew already he wouldn’t ask for any help with his application. He wished he could apply anonymously, so he’d know whether it was his skill or his name getting him in.

“Oh, I can’t believe you’re a seventh year,” Mum said. Her eyes were glistening.

Albus knew he had to make this quick or else she’d be sobbing all over him. “Yeah, I know,” he said. “But I’ve got to go. Rose will kill me if I’m late to her meeting.”

Mum laughed. “Yes, yes, you’re right. Goodbye, Al. Keep me updated on your application.”

“I will,” Albus said.

“I love you, Al,” she said.

“Love you, too, Mum,” Albus replied as the train whistle blew.

Albus grabbed hold of his trolley and hurried to the train. He wouldn’t have time to stow his trunk; he’d have to bring it to the prefect meeting, in addition to being the last one there.

The train started to move just as Albus climbed on. He hoisted his trunk onto its side and began dragging it down the corridor, then realized he was allowed to magic whenever he wanted. With a flourish of his wand, he cast a locomotion spell on his trunk (verbally, as his nonverbal spells were iffy at best), and wondered whether it would be possible to Apparate on a moving train. He decided against this, but with the locomotion spell he made it to the prefect compartment much faster and earned admiring gazes from a few dozen younger students on the way.

With a stroke of luck, Rose had not yet begun the meeting, but Albus was unable to slip in without her noticing due to his trunk. She glared at him as he sat down in between Ashtyn Brickston (the only of John’s sisters who ever had a chance of becoming a prefect) and a boy he vaguely recognized who must’ve been the other new Gryffindor prefect. He released the trunk and it landed on end in between his feet with a soft thump.

“Now that Albus Potter has decided to join us, let’s get started,” Rose said as she handed a stack of parchment to Justin Brink, who stood next to her. Justin began passing out the parchment. “I’m Rose Weasley, Head Girl this year. Justin Brink is Head Boy. Justin is handing out September’s patrol schedule. You’ll patrol in pairs….”

Rose’s speech was not all that different from speeches in years past and Albus let his mind wander. He gazed around the compartment until his eyes fell on Emily Rhodes. He’d forgotten she was a prefect. She hadn’t noticed him, appearing caught up the patrol schedule Justin just handed her. Her curly hair blocked most of her face and Albus was unable to read her expression. Just seeing her caused Albus’s stomach to do a flip. He wanted to ask her if she passed her Apparition test.

“Albus,” Ashtyn said as she elbowed him in the side.

Albus jolted out of his daydreaming and looked up to see that Justin was attempting to hand him a patrol schedule. Blushing, Albus took the schedule, muttered “thanks,” and forced himself to stare at it. Rose had scheduled him for the last train patrol, which was the worst one because everyone was in and out of their compartments trying to change into their robes and there was a lot of pent up energy and excitement. He was also scheduled to tutor DADA on Wednesday evenings, which wasn’t bad, and he had approximately three patrols a week, which was manageable. With Quidditch practice twice a week and dueling once a week, he wouldn’t have any free evenings.

“Please see myself or Justin if you can’t do a patrol,” Rose said. “Or if you have any questions. The common room passwords are written on your schedule. Remember your train patrol. I’d like to have another meeting at the end of September to see how things are going. We’ll put notices up in the common rooms.”

Everyone began to get up and leave the compartment. Albus hung back, one hand on his trunk, and watched as Emily Rhodes laughed at something the girl sitting next to her said. Dimples formed on her cheeks when she smiled. She turned and met Albus’s gaze. Albus felt his cheeks redden again and hoped it wasn’t noticeable. Emily gave him a little wave, then left the compartment with her friend. Albus felt slightly dejected. Hadn’t she wanted to see him on the train?

“Al,” Rose said.

Albus turned to Rose. The compartment had emptied. The door shut behind Justin Brink, leaving Albus and Rose alone.

“Why were you late?” Rose asked.

“I wasn’t late. I was right on time,” Albus corrected.

“You were not,” Rose said, opening the door.

Albus charmed his trunk once more and directed it out into the corridor. “I was on the train at eleven. Mum kept trying to assure me there’s no pressure about the Auror Academy. And then she was crying about this being my last year. Did your mum do that?”

Rose shook her head. “No, but Aunt Ginny’s probably emotional about James and it came out over you. Never mind that. I got us a compartment just down here.”

Rose led the way into the next car and opened the door to the second compartment on the right. Matt, John, Amanda, and Kaden were all inside and no one’s little sisters were there. Albus levitated his trunk up onto the shelf above one of the benches and sat down in between Matt and John.

“So, your sister’s a prefect,” Albus said, smirking.

“Don’t remind me,” John said, shaking his head. “Mum was awful about it. Kept going on and on about how proud she was of Ashtyn, all the while giving Gemma and me funny looks. And after she got the letter, Ashtyn wasn’t made to do any chores for the rest of the summer. Plus, Dad bought her a new broom, even though she’s not on the Quidditch team.”

“Weren’t they at all happy you got made Quidditch captain?” Albus asked. “I mean, that comes with most of the perks of being a prefect without all the work.”

“They were, but not as proud as they were of Ashtyn.”

“You can’t be jealous, are you?” Rose asked. “I mean, you didn’t stand a chance.”

“I know that,” John said. “I never wanted to be one. But my parents could stand to be less obnoxious about it. Ashtyn doesn’t need a bigger ego. Still, Mum about lost it on the platform with this being my last year. Between that and Amelia just starting, she didn’t stand a chance.”

“Mine did, too,” Albus said.

“And mine,” Matt added. “She’s been moping about it all summer.”

“My parents want me to go to university,” Amanda said. “We’ve been arguing about it all summer.”

“Muggle university?” John asked.

Amanda nodded. “It’s usually what’s expected in my family, but I’m the weird one.”

“My grandparents think once I’m done with the ‘silly magic stuff,’ I’ll go to university and work at Grunnings,” Kaden said with disgust.

“What the hell is that?” John asked.

“A company that makes drills,” Kaden said. “It’s about as exciting as it sounds.”

“Does that ever happen?” John asked. “Do Muggleborns ever go back to the Muggle world?”

“I suppose occasionally,” Rose said. “And Professor Longbottom is very helpful. We’ve got to meet with him a few times this year so he can help us get ready for what we’re doing after Hogwarts.”

“We do?” Matt asked apprehensively. “But we already did career advice in fifth year.”

“That was just to get you thinking,” Rose explained. “You’ve got to have a real plan by the time you leave and your head of house helps. They’re usually the best to go for for letters of recommendation, too.”

Albus wondered what the Auror Academy would think of him sending a letter of recommendation from his godfather. But who else would do it? Certainly not his father. Maybe Hagrid.

“Oh,” Matt said quietly.

“Professor Longbottom would give you a good recommendation,” John assured him. “Unless you’re going into studying mandrakes.”

Matt gave him a weak smile. He hadn’t been able to withstand mandrake cries, even with earmuffs.

“Are any of you doing a second internship?” Kaden asked.

“I might,” Albus said. He’d been considering the idea of interning at the Auror Department again, for the sole purpose of gathering information about Boone’s lawsuit, the inquiries on Johnson and Laurentis, and the impending Paul Willinson trial.

“Don’t be silly, Albus,” Rose said. “You’ll be too busy revising for N.E.W.T.s. And aren’t you the dueling captain?”

“Marina and I are co-captains,” Albus clarified.

“Plus you’ve got Quidditch practice and patrol and tutoring,” Rose added. “And…whatever else…comes up.” She gave him a significant look.

Albus raised his eyebrows. What was she getting at?

“Oh, come on, Al,” Rose said, rolling her eyes. “Everyone saw you staring at Emily Rhodes during the prefect meeting. Everyone except Emily Rhodes.”

“Emily Rhodes?” John asked. “Nice.”

Albus glared at Rose. He hadn’t been that obvious about it. Rose was just annoyingly perceptive about that sort of thing.

“I was just…curious…whether she passed her Apparition test,” Albus said weakly.

“No one’s buying that,” Rose said. “And you could certainly do worse. She’s very nice and quite smart. You should ask her to the first Hogsmeade trip.”

“Can’t we go to Hogsmeade whenever we like?” John asked. “Now that we’re seventeen?”

“If you get permission from your head of house, yes,” Rose said. “And only on weekends. Not that that’s stopped you before.”

John grinned. “Maybe I’ve decided to change my unlawful ways.”

Rose snorted. “That’ll be the day.”

They were interrupted by the trolley witch and everyone bought large amounts of sweets. The conversation then moved from future careers and seventh year to a game of “would you rather” with the nasty flavors of Bertie Botts Every-Flavor Beans and Albus was glad that they had one more year of this.

***


Albus could’ve cursed Rose for assigning him the last patrol of the trip. He’d originally thought said patrol would end once the train arrived, but it didn’t. It also involved making sure all the first years got to the boats and everyone else made it onto the carriages. According to Rose’s schedule, Justin Brink and Emily Rhodes were doing this same task, but Albus hadn’t seen them.

“Is that your cat?” Albus asked a young boy in Ravenclaw robes, who was prodding a cat with his wand. The cat hissed at him with every prod.

“No,” the boy replied as he continued prodding.

“Then leave it alone and find a carriage,” Albus said. “Get on then. Go on.”

The boy scowled, but abandoned the cat and climbed into the nearest carriage. Albus couldn’t remember he and his friends ever not going directly to the carriages from the train, but there were quite a few younger students loitering between the two.

“Al!” someone shouted from a nearby carriage.

Albus looked up and saw John leaning out of the window of a carriage.

“Are you going to be much longer?” John asked.

“You’d better just go,” Albus said. “Rose is down by the boats.”

“Okay. Could I get the common room password? For Matt?”

“Yeah,” Albus said. He walked over and whispered the password into John’s ear. “See you at the feast.”

John disappeared into the carriage and shut the door a moment later. Albus returned to his task of getting the younger students into the carriages, wondering if it would be frowned upon to use a herding charm. Fortunately there weren’t many left and it didn’t take long to get them into the remaining carriages. Soon, it was just him and Justin Brink left on the platform, and only one carriage remained.

“So,” Justin said, shoving his hands into his robes, “seventh year.”

“Yeah,” Albus replied, nodding. “Congratulations on Head Boy.”

“Thanks,” Justin said. “Oh, here come the girls.”

Rose and Emily walked side by side up the platform, both holding their robes tightly around themselves against the chill of the wind. Albus was suddenly faced with the fact that he would be riding up to the castle in the same carriage as Emily. His heart thudded faster in his chest and he took a few deep breaths to try and slow it, but it didn’t work.

“First years are off,” Rose said. “We’d better go or we’ll miss the sorting.”

Albus nodded and made a sudden dash to the carriage, so that he could hold the door open for Emily. Unfortunately Justin got there before Emily and took the door from Albus, ushering him in as he did so. Albus awkwardly climbed in. Rose followed, then Emily, and finally Justin. Albus was only slightly disappointed when Rose sat next to him and Emily had to take the seat across from him.

“Well, at least it wasn’t raining,” Rose said as the carriage began to move.

“The second years are awfully cheeky this year,” Justin muttered. “One of them insisted on flying his broom to the castle. And four of the girls, Gryffindors I think, were trying to put charms on their carriage. God only knows what the charms were for.”

Albus exchanged a look with Rose. “Er, were two of them twins?” Albus asked.

“I think so. Bright red hair and they looked exactly alike,” Justin said.

“They would be our cousins, Samantha and Lindy,” Albus said. “And the other two were probably Bethany Dursley and Gemma Brickston.”

“John’s sister?” Justin asked. “I should’ve known.”

“She’s worse than him, with making trouble,” Rose said.

Albus couldn’t believe that he was riding in a carriage with Emily Rhodes and the current topic of discussion was John’s sister.

“Well, N.E.W.T.s this year,” Justin said, changing the subject. “I’m going to start my revision schedule this weekend.”

“I’ve already started mine,” Rose said pompously. “It’s never too early.”

“Right you are,” Justin agreed.

And now they were discussing N.E.W.T.s. Or, rather, Rose and Justin were discussing N.E.W.T.s. Albus and Emily weren’t saying anything. Albus chanced a glance at Emily, who happened to be glancing at him at the same time. She gave him a small smile and a slight eye roll in the direction of Rose and Justin. Albus smiled back, stifling a laugh.

Albus’s stomach gave another flip. Maybe he would ask Emily to the first Hogsmeade weekend after all.


A/N: Thanks for all the reviews!

Chapter 5: Aconite
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The Entrance Hall was empty when Albus, Rose, Emily, and Justin arrived. There was a great deal of chatter in the Great Hall, which told Albus the sorting hadn’t started yet even before they walked in. Emily and Justin hurried to the Ravenclaw table while Albus and Rose found the seats their friends had saved at the Gryffindor table.

John and Kaden were having a whispered conversation while Amanda chatted with the Jordan-Bell twins. Matt was staring at the staff table, a confused look on his face. Albus followed his gaze and saw there was a new professor, but all the usual professors were there as well. The new one looked about the same age as Albus’s grandparents. He wore generic black robes, which were stretched tightly across his ample middle. He had more hair on his face than on his head, although not nearly as much as Aberforth Dumbledore.

“Here come the first years,” Rose said.

Albus craned his neck and spotted his cousin Eddie, the youngest of the Weasley cousins, toward the front of the line. A few yards behind him was Amelia Brickston. Professor Patil stopped the line at the front of the hall, where the Sorting Hat sat on its usual three-legged stool.

There was a pause and the Hat burst into song. It was a slightly different variation from the previous year’s, but its sentiment was the same. After it finished Professor Patil called the first name and a tiny blonde haired boy stumbled forward. He tripped over his robes, recovered, then climbed onto the stool.

“He reminds me of you,” John said to Matt.

“A bit, yeah,” Matt agreed. “But I managed to not trip over my robes.”

The small boy was sorted into Ravenclaw and the next name was called. A girl almost a foot taller than the small boy was sorted into Slytherin.

“Brickston, Amelia!”

John’s youngest sister hurried forward and jammed the hat onto her head, a large grin on her face. It barely rested upon her head before calling out, “Gryffindor!” Amelia quickly took the hat off and joined the Gryffindor table, sitting a few seats down from Albus and his friends.

Albus’s stomach growled progressively louder with each name. About halfway through John began to drum his fingers on the table.

“You realize this is our last sorting,” Rose pointed out to him.

“I do, but my last meal was hours ago,” John said. “I’m starving.”

“It won’t be much longer,” Rose said.

Albus’s gaze had returned to the new professor, whom Matt was still glancing at every so often.

“Do you know who he is?” Albus whispered to Matt while ‘Travers, Norah’ was being sorted.

“He looks really familiar,” Matt whispered back, “but I can’t place him. And I can’t figure out why he’s here. None of the professors are missing, are they?”

Albus took another scan of the staff table. “I don’t think so.”

“Weird,” Matt said. “I’ve got an uneasy feeling about him and I’ve no idea why.”

“Kendrick will explain,” Albus said. “Don’t worry yet.”

“I’m trying not to,” Matt said.

“Weasley, Edward!”

Eddie, the second to last first year remaining, ran forward and slammed the hat on its head. Rather than shout out ‘Gryffindor’ immediately as the hat had with all of Albus’s other cousins, the hat simply sat there. Albus turned to Rose, whose brows were furrowed.

After what felt like a full five minutes, the hat’s brim opened and shouted, “Ravenclaw!”

Albus let out an audible gasp. Whispers erupted from not only the Gryffindor table, but the other tables as well. Eddie slowly stood up, removed the hat from his head, and walked slowly to the Ravenclaw table. His eyes were wide.

“I suppose it was bound to happen,” Rose said. “And if it were anyone, it would be Eddie.”

“Yeah, I suppose so,” Albus agreed. Eddie had always been the odd one out, being so much younger than his older brothers and sisters and most of the cousins. According to Uncle Charlie and Aunt Katherine, he hadn’t exactly been planned.

“He’ll be fine with it,” Rose added. “If anything he’ll be excited because of all the attention he’ll get.”

“Quiet!” Professor Patil shouted. “We’ve got one more. Zebbins, Monica.”

The last first year, a heavyset girl with pigtails rushed forward, put on the hat, and became a Hufflepuff. Professor Patil removed the stool and the Sorting Hat.

“Welcome!” Professor Kendrick said as he stood up. “As usual I have quite a few announcements, but I shall save them for after the feast.”

By magic, food appeared on all the gold platters and the golden carafes filled with pumpkin juice and water. John seized the nearest platter of roast chicken and served himself what looked to be six birds’ worth of drumsticks.

“Save some for the rest of us, won’t you?” Matt asked, taking the platter from John.

“So, first Ravenclaw Weasley, right?” Amanda asked.

“First Weasley who’s not a Gryffindor,” Rose added. “I think Eddie will do well in Ravenclaw. He’s always gotten on well with the Scamander twins and they were just sorted into Ravenclaw, too.”

“I forgot they started this year,” Albus said. He must’ve missed their sortings while he was talking to Matt.

“I saw them on the train,” Rose said. “I can’t believe they’re old enough for Hogwarts.”

“Me either,” Albus agreed. He still saw the Scamander twins as the little kids who spilled all the contents of the kitchen pantry onto the floor at Grimmauld Place once when Mum was babysitting them.

“So,” John said in between bites. “Anyone know anything about that new professor up there? The one who looks like he swallowed a beach ball?”

Rose raised her eyebrows at John, who had already polished off half his drum sticks. “And you’re one to talk?”

John shrugged. “Well? Do you think Binns finally left? Everyone else is up there. Well, except Trelawney, but she doesn’t go to meals much, does she.”

Albus exchanged a look with Matt. He hadn’t thought about Binns. Binns never went to meals, presumably because he couldn’t eat them.

“Even if he did stop teaching, I don’t think he could leave,” Rose said. “Ghosts tend to stick around somewhere that’s meaningful to them and don’t venture far.”

“Is that why Myrtle never leaves that loo?” Kaden asked.

“Myrtle can go other places in the castle. She just chooses not to,” Rose said. “And I really doubt Binns is going to stop teaching.”

“Then who is he?” Amanda asked, staring at the staff table.

The new professor was deep in conversation with Professor Kendrick, who seemed to be his usual jolly self. Whoever this new professor was, Albus doubted he’d been appointed by anyone other than Kendrick, which was a good sign. The two seemed to know each other already.

Since no one knew anything about the new professor, the conversation turned to other topics, such as the upcoming Quidditch season, N.E.W.T.s, and how to best take advantage of their privilege to go to Hogsmeade any weekend they liked. By the time they’d exhausted those topics, the food had dwindled and even John had slowed down. The remains of dinner disappeared and were instantly replaced by dessert.

“Excellent,” John said.

The desserts were as good as the dinner itself and Albus realized this was his last welcome back feast. There were still quite a few feasts left in the year and they usually had the same food, but it was still slightly jarring to realize.

Once the desserts were gone, Kendrick stood to begin his usual announcements. Albus turned to face him, eager to find out who the new professor was.

“Welcome, once more, to another year at Hogwarts,” Professor Kendrick began, smiling. “Let’s start with a round of applause for our house elves, who prepared another fantastic feast.”

Kendrick paused while staff and students alike clapped. Kendrick waited for it to die down completely before foraging on.

“I have a number of announcements that will sound familiar to those who have been here before and a number that will be new to us all,” Kendrick continued. “First, the Forbidden Forest and the area immediately surrounding the Whomping Willow are out of bounds to students. Hogsmeade may only be visited by those in third year and above, with parental permission. If your house’s Quidditch team has a vacancy, you may sign up for trials with your house captain.”

John sat up a bit taller at the mention of Quidditch captains. The Gryffindor team, however, did not have any vacancies.

“Our Head Boy this year is Justin Brink from Ravenclaw and Head Girl is Rose Weasley from Gryffindor.”

Rose beamed and sat up even taller than John.

“Mr. Filch would like me to remind everyone that anything purchased from Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes is not allowed in the castle and if anyone would like to see the full list of banned items, it can be located at the circulation desk in the library.

“We will be continuing the internship program this year, mandatory for sixth years, optional for seventh years. All sixth years and interested seventh years are required to attend the information session tomorrow at 4:15 here in the Great Hall.

“Lastly, I am very excited to announce a new course, International Magical Relations, which will be taught by a very good friend of mine, Professor Thaddeus Clements, who has decided to join us during his sabbatical from the Australian School of Sorcery.”

Albus turned away from Kendrick to look at Matt, whose eyes had nearly doubled in size. John, Rose, Amanda, and Kaden had all turned to look at Matt as well.

“That’s why he looks familiar,” Matt whispered.

“Anyone interested in signing up for this course should see their head of house. Once we have an idea of interest, we will schedule meeting times. The course is not mandatory and is open to all years. It is not, however, an O.W.L. or N.E.W.T. course so it will not count for mandatory classes. Any questions, please see your head of house.”

“I’m sneaking out,” Matt whispered. “See you in the Den? After you’re done with the first years?”

Albus nodded. “I’ll be there as soon as I can.” He was very interested to hear what Matt knew about this Professor Clements.

***


Rose insisted on waiting around the common room until all the first years had gone upstairs to their dormitories, so by the time she and Albus got to the Marauders’ Den everyone else had been there close to forty-five minutes. It had been a long day and Albus was more than ready to relax.

“Do you think I should’ve stayed?” Rose asked as she followed Albus into the Den.

Albus groaned. “For the fifth time, no, Rose. None of the past Head Girls or Boys have ever hung around the common room waiting on first years.”

“They just seem so young,” Rose said as she shut the door. “Younger than we were.”

“That’s because we’re six years older than them,” Albus pointed out.

“There you are!” John exclaimed. He and Kaden sat at the table building what looked like an elaborate card castle aided by magic. Matt and Amanda sat on opposite ends of the couch reading.

“That’s because Rose wanted to make sure all the first years were okay,” Albus explained as he sat down at the table. The cards didn’t move when he jostled it, confirming Albus’s magic theory.

“Tiny things this year, aren’t they?” John said as he added another card.

“No smaller than we were,” Amanda pointed out. “Weird, though, that we’re now the oldest people here.”

“Weirder that we can do magic legally,” Rose said as she sat in between Matt and Amanda.

“Speak for yourself,” Kaden muttered.

“And I’ve been of age for almost a year,” John reminded them. “Anyway, now that you two are here Matt can tell us about this new professor and whether we should take his class.”

Rose raised an eyebrow. “Would you actually take his class?”

John laughed. “Fair point. But I’m still curious.”

Albus looked at Matt, who was purposefully not looking up from his book. It didn’t much matter for Albus what this new professor was like since he’d be taking the class regardless. International Magical Relations would most definitely be useful for an Auror.

“Well?” John prompted.

Matt sighed and set down his book. “You lot do realize I moved here when I was eight, right? And that not every Australian knows every other Australian?”

Rose’s, who had been looking on with as much curiosity as John, cheeks turned pink. “Well, of course not-“ she stammered.

Matt smirked. “But my dad knows all the professors there so I’ll send him an owl.”

“You don’t think he’s one of the professors who didn’t want you going to school, do you?” Amanda asked quietly.

“I don’t think Kendrick would’ve taken him on if he was,” Matt said. “But I’m not taking his class so it doesn’t much matter.”

“Maybe you should,” Rose said slowly. “It might be useful…you know, to have something else to make you stand out-“

“It’s the standing out that’s the problem,” Matt interrupted.

“I didn’t mean it like that,” Rose said. “I just meant…you know what I meant. And your course load is small.”

“It’s small for a reason,” Matt pointed out. “Remember last year?”

“It’ll probably only be once a week. Just think about it.”

“Okay. I’ll think about it.” Matt resumed reading.

Rose suddenly sat up very tall. “And the rest of us…we’ve got to be on top of things this year. Application deadlines, revising schedules, when to apply for jobs, that sort of thing. June is going to sneak up on us fast-“

“June?” John exclaimed. “Did you seriously mention June, Rose? Can’t we just enjoy seventh year?”

“Of course! But we’ve also got to be practical. None of us are going to want to be stuck with nothing come June but that’s exactly what will happen if all you think is that June is far away.”

Matt lowered his book, staring at Rose. “Can we please not talk about it? Please?”

“Fine,” Rose said, sighing. “But you can’t put it off forever.”

Albus looked at Matt, who looked like that was exactly what he wanted to do.

***


The following morning Albus found himself walking to the Herbology greenhouses with John, Rose, and Amanda, reveling in the fact that term started on a Friday this year, which gave the feeling that term hadn’t started at all and they were merely visiting with Professor Longbottom. They walked past the Quidditch pitch and got a good look at a group of first years having a flying lesson with Professor Oteski. Seeing them gave Albus another pang of nostalgia and he hoped that wouldn’t happen the entire year.

“Just think,” Rose said as they watched, “they could be the future Gryffindor Quidditch team.”

Albus snorted as one of the first years slid off the back of his broom. “I certainly hope not.”

“Yeah, that would be a fine legacy we’d leave,” John added.

“You two are ridiculous,” Rose said. “At one point, the two of you were just learning to fly.”

“But not at age eleven,” John muttered.

“They could be Muggleborn!” Rose pointed out.

“Classy, both of you,” Amanda added.

Albus hadn’t thought of that. They probably were Muggleborn. “Sorry,” he muttered.

“Still…” John said wistfully as he took one last look at the flying lesson.

Professor Longbottom was waiting for them in front of Greenhouse Four. Greenhouse Four was only ever used by sixth and seventh years and held the more violent plants Professor Longbottom owned. Even the previous year they’d only ever gone in a few times.

“Well,” Professor Longbottom said as he clapped his hands. He was grinning quite widely for someone about to deal with violent plant life. “This year we’ll be spending most of our time in here dealing with my more challenging plants.”

“That’s one way to put it,” John muttered. “Challenging.”

“Follow me,” Professor Longbottom said as he unlocked the door with his wand. “And mind your fingers.”

Albus obediently shoved his hands into his pockets as he walked in with the rest of the class. Missing fingers wouldn’t help him in his quest to become an auror.

Greenhouse Four was quite a bit smaller than the other greenhouses and once inside, Albus saw why. It didn’t have nearly as much work space at its center than the others. There was only one table, just large enough for ten or so students to crowd around. The rest of the room was taken up by plants of various sizes and colors, most of which were moving around as if their branches, stems, and trunks were arms and legs. A particularly spiky looking one jabbed Albus hard in the back and he had to jump away for it to leave him alone.

“Over here,” Professor Longbottom called from the table.

Albus slid past a fern that was slithering along like a snake and secured a spot at the table in between John and Rose. On the table sat the most innocent looking plant Albus had ever seen in his life. It was housed in four long planters and its purple flowers weren’t more than six inches tall. Albus frowned at it, wondering when it would suddenly gain sentience and attack everyone.

“It’s aconite,” Rose whispered.

Aconite? Why would aconite be housed in Greenhouse Four?

Professor Longbottom was still smiling. “I know, doesn’t look too harmful, does it? If you haven’t already figured it out, this plant is aconite, also known as monkshood or wolfsbane. The reason it’s in Greenhouse Four is because this greenhouse is about ten degrees cooler than the others. The cool temperature keeps the more…active plants from getting out of control, and I have a few plants that prefer a cooler temperature, aconite being one of them.”

John looked slightly disappointed.

“Don’t worry. We’ll get into more dangerous plants later. For today, my aconite needs repotting. It’s getting too big for these planters. But before we begin, I’d like to talk a bit about what we’re doing this year. Can I get a show of hands as to who is taking potions this year?”

Albus raised his hand, along with most everyone else. Very few Hogwarts students tended to continue with just herbology or just potions. The two went hand in hand.

“Excellent,” Longbottom said. “This year you are going to harvest ingredients in herbology that you will then use in potions. Professor Callahan and I agree that you will learn best if you can start from the beginning- growing your own ingredients and then using them to create potions.”

Albus eyed the aconite, wondering what they would possibly use it for. The only potion he knew of that required aconite was Wolfsbane and he knew they wouldn’t be brewing that.

Rose raised her hand.

“Yes, Rose?”

“Professor, what will we be using aconite for?” Rose asked.

Professor Longbottom smiled again. “That is for Professor Callahan to explain when you have potions. For now, you are repotting this aconite and then planting new aconite seeds in the small pots.”

Rose nodded and Albus would bet every last Galleon in his trunk that after transfiguration that afternoon, Rose would be in the library, researching every last potion that required aconite as an ingredient.


A/N: Thanks for all the reviews!

Chapter 6: Felix Felicis
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Professor Longbottom kindly did not give them any homework on their first day back, but Professor Patil assigned an essay later in transfiguration. Neither Albus or any of his friends worked on the essay that night, choosing instead to treat themselves to one more night of freedom before they truly had to begin N.E.W.T. work later on in the weekend. Even Rose, who had been ready to jump into seventh year, didn’t begin the essay. But, she was still Rose, and instead she spent her time perusing the Encyclopedia of Potions searching for every potion that contained aconite.

“You’ll find out on Tuesday,” John said as he tossed a small rubber ball at the wall in front of him, caught it, and threw it again. “You’ll never be able to narrow it down. What’s the point?”

“The point is I’m curious,” Rose said, without looking up. “It’s not a commonly used ingredient in student-made potions.”

“We used it before,” Matt pointed out. “Remember? I had to leave class.”

“Yes, but that was the only time,” Rose said.

“I suppose it’s good I dropped potions and herbology,” Matt said.

“And transfiguration and all those other classes you dropped,” John said. “How was your holiday today?”

Matt smirked. He now had Fridays off from class. “Quite nice, thanks.”

“Did you see the notice in the common room?” Amanda asked, looking up from her book. “Longbottom wants to meet with us next week about our career plans.”

John groaned. “Already? It’s the first day back.”

“He’s intending to meet with us once a month,” Amanda said.

“That’s a bit much,” Kaden said.

“It’s a good thing,” Rose said. “He doesn’t want us missing deadlines or anything. My application is due the second week in November.”

“Mine, too,” Albus said.

“Well, I haven’t got any applications to do. At least not like yours,” John pointed out. “I want to work in Quidditch.”

“You’ll have to apply for those jobs,” Rose reminded him.

“Yes, but not yet,” John said. “Speaking of Quidditch, Al, I’m calling first practice Sunday afternoon.”

Albus grinned. “Excellent. You won’t even have to do trials. Lucky.”

“Albus, did you decide if you’re doing an internship again?” Rose asked.

“I want to,” Albus told her. “I think it would be good for me to be in the department as I’m applying.”

Rose sighed. “That’s a good point. But if you do I’ll have to give you fewer patrols. You aren’t going to have time to revise.”

Fewer prefect patrols and more time at Auror Headquarters? Albus failed to see the downside. Plus, as far as he knew, none of the current sixth years were intending to become aurors. He wouldn’t even be competing with anyone for the internship.

“Matt, I think you should do another internship,” Rose announced.

Matt, who’d been staring at the same page in his book for the entirety of the conversation, looked up, his face paler than normal. “Er, why would I do that?”

“Well…because…” Rose trailed off.

“Because I’m not going to be able to find a job?” Matt supplied. “I know, Rose, and an internship isn’t going to help with that.”

“That’s not what I meant,” Rose said quickly. “I just mean since you aren’t taking a lot of classes it’ll give you something else to make you stand out. Either that or take the new international relations class.”

“Maybe,” Matt said. “It depends on what my dad says about the professor.”

“Well, if he’s one of those nutters who thinks werewolves shouldn’t go to school none of us are taking his class,” John said.

Matt smiled. “I just want to enjoy seventh year. It’s going to go too fast and then who knows.”

“Things are changing,” Amanda said quietly. “Did you see the Prophet this morning? People are still protesting.”

“Dad said all the attention is good for Boone’s case,” Matt said. “He said the more media attention it gets, the better.”

“Trial by media, I suppose,” Rose replied. “Just like before. Weird how the public’s view can change so much.”

“I don’t think it has. It’s just different people speaking out,” Albus said.

“If Boone wins this, it’ll be the best thing for werewolf rights since the anti-discrimination law that went into effect after the war,” Amanda said.

Matt let out a short laugh. “That law was a bandaid. It may have helped short term, but nothing’s going to change unless werewolves are reclassified as beings. If that happens, any and all discrimination will be illegal and there wouldn’t be any need for any individual laws against it.”

“If Boone wins the case it’ll change the public’s opinion. Or at least start to,” Amanda explained. “The Ministry will feel the pressure and they’ll start the motion-“

“And none of that matters because it’s up to the International Confederation of Wizards,” Matt interrupted, slamming his book shut. “Unless three-quarters of them agree on it, it won’t happen. And that won’t happen because Australia has half the Confederation wrapped around its fingers, promising them all sorts of deals on imported magical substances from the Australian outback. All of wizarding Britain could be in favor of changing werewolf classification and it wouldn’t matter.”

“That is so screwed up,” Amanda said quietly.

“Yeah, I know,” Matt muttered, standing up. “I’m going to bed.”

No one said a word until after Matt disappeared out the door.

“He isn’t wrong, you know,” Rose said, returning to her book. “The classifications haven’t been changed in ages. It’s more likely Boone’s case will result in better anti-discrimination laws.”

“But as Matt said, those don’t help as much as they should,” Amanda said.

The room descended into silence. John continued throwing his ball against the wall, Amanda returned to her book, Rose continued skimming the encyclopedia, Kaden pulled out a deck of cards and began building a tower, and Albus stared at the ceiling, thinking about where they’d all be next year.

Rose let out a gasp and everyone paused to turn to her. “What is it?” Albus asked.

“Aconite is in Felix Felicis,” she said. “You don’t think…no, we wouldn’t make that. Would we?”

“It’s damn near impossible to make,” John said.

“And it takes six months,” Rose added. “It can’t be what we’re making.”

“If it is, you’ve got to save me some,” John said, grinning.

Albus met Rose’s gaze. She had that look in her eyes that told him even if Professor Callahan wasn’t going to let them brew Felix Felicis, she was going to try on her own.

***


Albus signed up for one of the first meeting slots with Professor Longbottom, since he knew exactly what he wanted to do the following year. He figured he’d let his fellow classmates who didn’t have any ideas take the later slots to give them more time to come up with something. Matt, for example, had signed up for a Friday slot. In fact, Rose was the only one whose meeting slot was before Albus’s.

When Albus went to Longbottom’s study Monday for his appointment, Rose was still inside. Albus sighed and settled himself down on the floor to wait. He wasn’t surprised Rose’s meeting went overtime. He pulled out a book of defensive spells, one he was considering using for dueling this year.

Albus had scheduled the first dueling practice of the year for Friday and he was more nervous about it than he cared to admit. He’d thought being dueling captain would be less nerve wracking than being Quidditch captain, but apparently that was not the case.

The door opened and Albus scrambled to his feet. Rose stepped out into the corridor, looking excited. Her eyes were sparkling the way they did when she found out she did particularly well on an exam.

“Good meeting?” Albus asked.

Rose nodded. “I’m on track to get my application in on time. All I need to do is my essay and get three letters of recommendation. Professor Longbottom said he’d write one and I figure I’ll ask Professor Patil and Madam Pomfrey for the others.”

“Excellent,” Albus said. “I’ll see you at dinner.”

“Good luck,” Rose said.

Albus entered Professor Longbottom’s study, closing the door behind him. The study was cozy, with various plants set up in pots both on the floor and on every book shelf. It was cluttered, but not overly messy. Professor Longbottom sat behind his desk in a squashy red chair. Two identical chairs sat opposite the desk and Albus sat down in one and set his bag down on the other.

Professor Longbottom smiled and opened a file folder. Albus glanced at it and saw it was his own file. “Good afternoon, Albus,” Longbottom said.

“Hi, Professor,” Albus said.

Longbottom grinned. “It’s just us, Al. You can call me Neville.”

“Er, okay,” Albus said. He’d spent the first 11 years of his life referring to Longbottom as ‘Neville,’ but now had gotten into the habit of calling him Professor Longbottom and it seemed weird to switch back.

“I assume you’re still interested in becoming an auror?” Neville began.

Albus nodded. “Yeah, and I want to join the Department of Mysteries.”

“Let’s start with getting you into the Auror Academy,” Neville said, chuckling. “I’m sure you already know, but it’s a vigorous process.”

Albus nodded again. “My dad’s already told me about it. Application first and if that gets accepted, the rest of it.”

“Right,” Neville said. “Then it would be a physical test, mental health testing, and an extensive interview. The entire process takes months.”

“Dad said I won’t find out until spring, assuming my application gets accepted,” Albus added.

“Which is why many applicants often choose a second option so they aren’t left scrambling in the spring if they aren’t accepted. I have every faith in you and I’d be shocked if you weren’t accepted, but it’s something to consider.”

Albus chewed his lip. He hadn’t considered that. For the past few years, all he’d thought about was becoming an auror. What else did he like to do?

“Perhaps a regular MLE officer, just as a backup?” Neville suggested. “They recruit three times a year. Once in January, once in May, and once in September. You’ll know by May whether you were accepted to the Auror Academy.”

“Yeah, that could work,” Albus said, even though he had no desire to be a regular MLE officer.

“Good,” Neville said as he flipped through the file. “Your marks are excellent and should not be a problem, assuming you keep up the same work this year and do well on your N.E.W.T.s. You’ll need four letters of recommendation, which will be more difficult.”

Albus swallowed. He’d assumed getting letters of recommendation would be easy. All he’d have to do is ask people, right?

“It’ll only be difficult because they can’t be from anyone you’re related to,” Neville explained. “And since I’m your godfather, I can’t write you one, either. Most people ask professors, but since you interned in the Auror Department, I suggest asking one of the aurors you worked with.”

“You mean Johnson?” Albus asked.

Neville winced. “No, I wouldn’t ask Johnson. Not with what happened between him and your father, not to mention the inquiry he’s facing.”

“What about Dawlish?” Albus asked, thinking of the only other auror he worked closely with, other than Teddy and Uncle Ron.

“Hmm,” Neville said, drumming his fingers on the desk. “He’s facing an inquiry, too, right?”

“No, they dropped his,” Albus said. “Just Johnson and Balladanis.”

Neville nodded. “Okay, there’s a good start. And I think any of the professors here would be more than happy to write you a recommendation. Except myself and your father, of course.”

“Right,” Albus said.

“So,” Neville said, straightening the file. “By next month, when we meet again, I’d like you to have the application filled out and have asked for your letters. They should be sent directly to the Auror Academy in sealed envelopes. I’d also like a draft of your application essay.”

“Okay,” Albus said.

“You’re in good shape, Al,” Neville said, standing up. “I can’t believe you’re old enough to apply for the Academy.”

Albus smiled as he stood up. He never knew what to say in response to when adults commented on how old he’d gotten. Time just sort of passed. He had no control over it.

Neville laughed. “Well, you’d best get to the Great Hall. If you have any questions about anything before next month’s meeting, let me know. And, Albus?”

“Yeah?” Albus asked, pausing on his way to the door.

“Tell Matt not to worry about this,” Neville said quietly. “I’m only going to help. I noticed he signed up for the last possible slot on Friday.”

“I don’t think it’s the meeting he’s worried about,” Albus said. “But what comes after.”

Neville sighed. “I suppose you’re right. You’re very insightful, Al. That’ll be useful when you’re an auror.”

***


The potions classroom was filled with a thin, gold mist when Albus, Rose, and Amanda walked in on Tuesday morning. It seemed to be emanating from a tiny cauldron on Professor Callahan’s front table. A small, but roaring fire burned beneath it and the air smelled of something sweet Albus couldn’t put his finger on.

“She’s not serious,” Rose whispered as they walked to their usual table.

“What?” Amanda asked.

“Felix Felicis!” Rose hissed. “That’s what’s in that cauldron. I’d bet my entire savings on it. It’s the only potion that emits gold mist and smells like sugar toffee.”

That’s what the smell was. It made Albus’s stomach growl even though he’d just eaten lunch.

“But you said that’s one of the most difficult potions to brew,” Amanda said.

“And it takes six months,” Rose said.

The rest of the class trickled in, but none seemed to recognize the potion the way Rose had. Everyone else gave it a glance and took their seats, continuing conversations from the corridor. Albus would’ve done the same had it not been for Rose. They’d all gotten used to strange potions and their continuous presence when they were taught by Professor Burke.

“Welcome, welcome,” Professor Callahan said after the bell rang. “Welcome to your final year of potions at Hogwarts. N.E.W.T. year. I don’t think I need to reiterate how important revision is this year. I daresay my colleagues have covered that over the past few days.”

There was a snort from the back of the room and Albus was sure whoever it belonged to was thinking of Professor Patil’s 20 minute lecture on the importance of revision.

“I’d like to jump right into this year’s curriculum,” Callahan continued. “Now, I believe everyone here is taking herbology this year?”

There was a murmur of ‘yeses’ and nods of the head. Professor Callahan smiled. “Good. Professor Longbottom told you about how this year I want you to grow your own potions ingredients as often as possible. By doing this, you will learn the properties of each ingredient as well as what they can do in various potions. Now, who can tell me what plant you worked with last week in herbology?”

Rose’s hand shot up into the air and Callahan called on her. “Aconite,” Rose answered excitedly.

Callahan smiled. “Yes, aconite. Otherwise known as wolfsbane or monkshood. Aconite is most famous for its role as the active ingredient in the Wolfsbane potion, but it is a very common ingredient in other potions as well. But we only ever use the flowers. Why is this?”

“Because the leaves are poisonous,” Rose answered.

“Indeed they are, but only if ingested. Touching them will not affect you. Unless, however, you happen to be plagued with lycanthropy. Lycanthropes are deathly allergic to all parts of aconite and merely being in its presence is enough to elicit a reaction. However, once it is combined with the other ingredients in the Wolfsbane potion, it allows a lycanthrope to retain their human brain during a transformation. It truly is amazing how the reactions between ingredients can result in completely different effects.

“Now, we will not be brewing Wolfsbane in class this year. Not because it is an extremely difficult and finicky potion, but because it is of absolutely no use to anyone here. I believe students learn best when they are learning and creating something that they will directly benefit from. Unfortunately we cannot do that all the time, but as seventh years, we have a bit of freedom.

“Because of that, we will begin a year long project to create something coveted by many and useful beyond your imagination,” Callahan said as she gestured to the tiny cauldron. “It is every bit as finicky and difficult as Wolfsbane, but if you’ve done it correctly, you will be able to use it.”

Rose’s eyes were as wide as saucers. She was still the only one in the room who had any idea what the potion was, other than Albus and Amanda, judging by the hesitant looks on their classmates’ faces.

“Does anyone know what this potion is? Yes, Miss Weasley?”

“Felix Felicis!” Rose exclaimed, breathless. “Liquid luck.”

There was a collective gasp from the room and everyone began whispering at once.

“Settle down, settle down,” Professor Callahan said. “Yes, Miss Weasley is correct. This is Felix Felicis.”

“So we’re brewing that?” Justin Brink called out.

“Yes, Mr. Brink.”

Rose raised her hand again. “But Professor,” she began. “Isn’t Felix Felicis a Class B non-tradeable substance?”

Professor Callahan nodded. “That is correct. But we will not be selling nor trading it nor distributing it in any way. I did have to obtain a special permit to brew it and to teach you to brew it, but it was not difficult since this is an educational setting. Assuming you brew it correctly, you will be held to the same regulations as anyone else who takes the potion. Does anyone know what those regulations are? Miss Weasley?”

“It’s banned in all organized competitions, like Quidditch,” Rose answered. “It’s also banned during exams, elections, and any other type of competition.”

“What about job interviews?” Scorpius Malfoy asked.

“Well, Mr. Malfoy,” Callahan began. “I certainly don’t believe it moral to take it before a job interview, but we all have different morals, don’t we? Many businesses and all government entities have written into their contracts that you did not use any sort of magical persuasion during your interview and it’s grounds for termination if you’re found out.

“Some wizards are opposed to Felix Felicis on a moral ground and believe it out to be banned outright, like Polyjuice. They believe it’s nothing more than deception. Others believe we should be allowed to use our magical abilities to reach our highest potential. We’ll get more into the morals and ethics of Felix and other potions later on in the year.

“Right now I’d like to explain a bit about Felix. It takes six months to brew and can go wrong at any step. Something as simple as a two degree change in the temperature in the room can be enough to render it ineffective during the brewing process. You won’t get it right the first time. I can guarantee that. But if you figure out your mistakes and keep trying, it’s possible a few of you might succeed come June.”

“And we get to keep it if we do?” Amanda asked.

“Yes,” Professor Callahan answered. “It will be yours to do what you’d like with, assuming you follow the law.”

Albus glanced around the room. Every single person was paying rapt attention and every single person had a look of excitement in their eye. Malfoy, however, looked slightly anxious as well as excited. That didn’t sit right with Albus. Why would Malfoy be nervous about creating a luck potion? To Albus, this was just fun. Felix Felicis wasn’t something he needed and certainly wasn’t something he’d expect to get, so if he succeeded, it would be a bonus. Why did Malfoy look like he absolutely had to succeed?


A/N: Thanks for all the lovely reviews! As of right now, I am updating at a quicker pace than I'm writing, so if I keep that up I'll have to go down to an every other week update. Hopefully that won't happen!

Chapter 7: Careers
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Amanda returned from her meeting with Professor Longbottom on Thursday looking excited. She hadn’t been gone long. The meetings were scheduled for a half hour, but Amanda’s had only lasted fifteen. Even Rose had taken a little more than half an hour. Matt was scheduled for after Amanda and she got back to the Marauders’ Den so early Matt hadn’t even left yet.

“What? Did Longbottom tell you you ought to run for Minister?” John asked as Amanda set down her bag.

“No,” Amanda said, still grinning. “He told me there’s no reason why I can’t work for the Ministry and go to university.”

“You want to go to university?” John asked. “But you’re a witch, and I thought it was just something your parents wanted.”

“That doesn’t mean continuing my education is useless,” Amanda said. “Especially since I want to work in Muggle relations. Professor Longbottom said it would be useful.”

“What part of the Ministry?” Rose asked.

“Department of International Magical Cooperation, most likely,” Amanda said. “Or that’s what I’m hoping. A lot will depend on whether there is an opening. I could work for the International Confederation of Wizards, too.

“How are you going to get into university with a Hogwarts degree?” Kaden asked, looking skeptical. “You haven’t done any A-levels or GCSEs.”

“Professor Longbottom said Professor Kendrick will make up a fake diploma and fake A-levels and GCSEs based on my O.W.L. and N.E.W.T. scores. It’s been done before.”

Kaden shook his head. “You’re mad. I don’t ever want to go back to the Muggle world.”

“I’m not going back, exactly. Think of it as research for my job at the Ministry, assuming I get one,” Amanda explained.

“I get it,” Albus said. “I’d never do it, but I get it.”

“Well,” Matt said as he got up from the couch. “I guess it’s my turn now.”

“You’re going to be fine,” Rose assured him. “All Professor Longbottom wants to do is help. He might have ideas you haven’t thought of before.”

Matt nodded. He looked like he had after he found out he had to testify at Boone’s hearing. His face was gaunt, as if he hadn’t slept in days, and his hands were shaking. Part of that was due to the fact that the full moon was the following night, but the hand shaking was nerves.

“I’ll walk with you,” Albus said. “I need to send an owl to Dawlish anyway.”

In actuality, Albus had sent an owl to Dawlish two days ago, but he wanted to make sure Matt was okay and didn’t want him to think that’s the only reason Albus was going with him.

The corridor was quiet as Albus and Matt walked toward the stairs. The last class of the day was still in session, although none of the seventh years had class at that time. They passed the Bloody Baron on the staircase, but other than that, it was just them and the portraits on the walls.

“Have you thought about what you’re going to tell Longbottom?” Albus asked quietly.

Matt shook his head. “Not really.”

“What would you want to do, I mean, if you could do anything?” Albus asked.

“You mean if I wasn’t a werewolf?” Matt whispered.

“Yeah,” Albus said.

Matt nodded, but didn’t say anything for a few minutes. “I haven’t thought about that, either, because I’ve been a werewolf since I was five. When I was five I wanted to be a dragon tamer.”

“That you might be able to do,” Albus said. “My uncle Charlie is one and so is my aunt Katherine. And Stanley. Dragon tamers aren’t regulated by the Ministry and they’re all a little out there.”

“Al,” Matt said. “I don’t want to be a dragon tamer. Could you really see me as one?”

Albus sighed. “I suppose not. I bet my uncle George would hire you.”

“I don’t want to work in a shop,” Matt said. “At least, not a shop that’s as busy as Weasley’s.”

“Right,” Albus said, nodding. “Well, you’re great at nonverbal spells. Maybe there’s something with that.” As he said it, Albus realized being an auror was something that would benefit from nonverbal spells.

“Other than being an auror?” Matt said, clearly realizing the same thing. “Even if the Department didn’t have a ban on werewolves I’d never pass the mental health tests.”

That was true, Albus thought, but he didn’t want to say it.

“Look, no one is going to hire someone who’s out sick at least three days a month. And until lycanthropy is seen as a disease in the eyes of the law, nothing is going to change that.”

Albus tried to think of something reassuring to say, but they reached Neville’s study before he managed to do it. The door was open, since Amanda’s meeting had been the most recent one.

Matt paused in the doorway and Albus wasn’t sure whether he was going to go in or turn around and run. “Do you…do you want me to go in with you?” Albus asked.

“No,” Matt said, shaking his head. “Go send your owl. I’ll meet you at dinner.”

Albus nodded, but didn’t leave until Matt worked up the courage to go inside, shutting the door behind him.

***


Matt didn’t meet them at dinner. Albus spent half of the meal turning around and glancing at the door, unable to keep his mind on his food or on his friends who were there. They were all discussing their own meetings with Longbottom. John, whose meeting had been the previous evening, hadn’t had a chance to talk about his yet, as they’d had Quidditch practice immediately following dinner.

“Al!” John shouted.

Albus startled and turned away from the door. “What?”

“I said Puddlemere is going to have a strategist opening in August,” John said.

“That’s great,” Albus said, unable to work up the enthusiasm.

“Rumor is, two of their strategists are going to go work for England,” John continued.

Albus tuned out John and let his gaze wander around the room. It fell on the Ravenclaw table, where he suddenly found himself looking for Emily Rhodes. He’d seen her in class a few times since the first day, but they hadn’t done more than exchange smiles. Still, every time he met her eyes, his stomach gave a flip-flop. There she was, sitting with two of her friends. She was too far away to notice Albus looking at her.

“You ought to just ask her to Hogsmeade,” Rose said, interrupting Albus’s thoughts.

“Who?” Albus asked.

Rose groaned. “Emily. She knows you like her.”

“She does?”

“Of course she does. You stare at her like a lovesick puppy every time you have a class together,” Rose said.

Albus felt his cheeks redden. He hadn’t meant to stare at her. He only meant to glance at her every so often.

“Oh, lay off him,” John said.

Albus stuffed one more biscuit into his mouth, then stood up. “I’m going to see if I can find Matt before dueling practice.”

“He’s only leaving because he wants us to stop mentioning Emily,” Amanda said with a wicked grin.

“No,” Albus said quickly. “No. I want to make sure Matt’s okay.”

“Yes, but that’s only part of it,” Rose said, smiling. “But seriously, Al, I think you and Emily would make a cute couple.”

Albus didn’t want to discuss it further. Without so much as a nod at Rose, he turned around and left, hoping his cheeks would return to their normal color by the time dueling practice started. The last thing he needed was to be flushed for his first practice as co-captain.

Albus set off up the stairs in search of Matt. Wanting to check on him wasn’t just an excuse to leave dinner early; Albus was worried. With the full moon the following night, whatever anxiety Matt was feeling over his meeting with Neville would be magnified. Albus had about 45 minutes until practice and hoped that would be enough time to find Matt and calm him down.

The first place Albus checked was the Marauders’ Den, but Matt wasn’t there. Nor was he in the common room or dormitory. Groaning as he checked his watch, Albus took off down the corridor toward the Room of Requirement. It was either there or the hospital wing.

Albus reached the room and paced quickly in front of it, hoping whatever magic kept the room hidden would allow him to enter. A few moments later, the door appeared. Albus hesitated briefly before opening it, then walked in.

The room was small and contained a fireplace and a few squashy armchairs. It resembled a miniature version of a den or parlor room. Matt was curled up in one of the armchairs, staring into the crackling fire, which was the only light in the place.

Quietly, Albus tiptoed in and took a seat in the chair next to Matt. He said nothing for a few minutes and Matt didn’t even seem to notice his presence.

“I’ve got dueling in twenty minutes, but wanted to make sure you’re okay,” Albus finally said.

Matt still said nothing, but did glance at Albus before returning his gaze to the fire.

“What did Professor Longbottom say?” Albus asked.

“Nothing I didn’t already know,” Matt muttered.

Albus picked at a loose thread on the arm of the chair. He’d been hoping Professor Longbottom would have some idea Matt hadn’t thought of, but now that he thought about it, would Neville really have a better idea of what life was like for a werewolf than Matt himself?

“I can ask my grandpa Arthur if there’s any chance he can hire an assistant,” Albus suggested.

“Won’t matter. The Ministry doesn’t hire werewolves,” Matt said, sighing. He sat up. “I guess it was a bit of a miracle I even got to go to school in the first place.”

“There’s got to be something,” Albus said. “We’ll keep looking.”

“That’s what Professor Longbottom said,” Matt replied. “Look, Al, I’m exhausted. I’ve got a splitting headache. I don’t really want to talk. That’s…that’s why I came here instead of the Den.”

“Right,” Albus said, nodding. “I’ve got to get to dueling anyway.”

Matt didn’t respond. Instead he resumed his curled up position and went back to staring at the fire. Without saying anything else, Albus got up and left the room, closing the door quietly behind him.

Albus thought about it the entire way to dueling practice, and he refused to believe there was nothing Matt could do after Hogwarts. There were other werwolves in the country and they all must be doing something. Matt and Boone weren’t the only ones. It was just a matter of figuring out what they were doing.

***


Albus realized halfway through the first dueling practice of the year that he enjoyed being co-captain of the dueling team much more than he enjoyed being Quidditch captain. There was significantly less pressure since dueling wasn’t as big of a deal at Hogwarts as Quidditch was. It also wasn’t a team sport per-se. Each house had a team, but everyone competed as individuals and earned points for the team. Each player had to hone their own skills without worrying about the rest of the team, which meant Albus felt like he was coaching five individuals rather than a team. It was much easier.

Having Marina Jordan-Bell as his co-captain certainly didn’t hurt either. Whereas Albus was more likely to take a soft approach with his teammates, Marina had no problem telling people what they were doing wrong. She wasn’t harsh or mean, but she got the point across.

But the biggest difference between dueling this year and the previous years was that Lily was now on the team. Albus had had no idea she was a decent dueler, but after seeing her at practice, he realized she was. He wasn’t sure how she’d managed to hide it over the past few years, but she was good.

“I told you and James I’m not a little kid anymore,” Lily pointed out after her shield charm held up more jinxes than everyone else’s.

“B-but,” Albus stammered. “Where did you learn to do that?”

“You realize we both have the same father,” Lily said, giving him a withering look. “I learned it the same way you did.”

“You didn’t have private lessons from Balladanis,” Albus reminded her.

“True,” Lily said. “But Dad taught me. It’s easy to fly under the radar when your eldest brother is a Quidditch star and your other brother is poised to become an auror.”

“Sorry,” Albus muttered. “I didn’t mean- and I’m sure James didn’t either-“

“It’s fine, Al,” Lily interrupted. “I like it this way. With Mum and Dad so focused on James they’ve got no idea I haven’t got anymore of a clue as to what I want to do with my life than James does. You’re the only one with any direction, Al.”

Albus hated when Lily reminded him of this. His parents were always stressing there was no pressure about the Auror Academy, but how could there not be when James’s Quidditch career had ended before it even started? Mum’s Quidditch legacy wouldn’t continue and Albus was the only one who could continue Dad’s auror legacy. But if Lily was a good dueler…

“Lily…you know you could be an auror,” Albus suggested.

Lily burst out laughing. “I might do a good shield charm, but I have no desire to be an auror. All Dad does is work. I want a life, thanks. Plus, I’m likely to fail my potions O.W.L.”

“Have Kaden tutor you,” Albus suggested.

Lily groaned. “That would require me to spend more time on potions.”

“Yes, yes it would,” Albus said. “That’s sort of the point.” He turned to the group. “All right, good work tonight. It’s about time to wrap it up.”

“Good job tonight!” Marina called out. “We’ll meet again this time next week.”

***


The following day was unseasonably warm for the middle of September, so Albus took advantage of it and headed outside to train for his fitness test for the Auror Academy. Even though he’d slept in until ten-thirty, both Matt and John had been asleep when he left. Albus assumed he wouldn’t see much of Matt that day, due to the full moon, but hoped John would eventually rouse himself and come outside.

In additional to the physical health and mental health exams Albus had to pass for admission to the Academy, he also had to pass a physical test. It wasn’t a complicated test. All he had to do was run two miles in under sixteen minutes, do 35 push ups in two minutes, and do 47 sit ups in two minutes. Assuming he got into the Academy, he would then be put through intense physical training along with magical training.

Albus knew he wasn’t in poor shape, but Quidditch didn’t provide cardio training unless the team captain required it. James did some, but when Albus became captain they hadn’t done much. Albus had been too focused on trying to keep the team together without James. He wasn’t worried much about the sit ups or push ups, but he wasn’t sure if he was fast enough to run two miles in less than 16 minutes.

Figuring he’d start out slow, he jogged a lap around the grounds before picking up the pace for his two mile run. He’d found a handy spell that kept track of his distance and shot yellow smoke rings out of his wand once he’d done two miles.

The grounds were were crowded for a Saturday morning and Albus figured everyone else was taking advantage of the weather as well. Halfway through his first lap he noticed a game of pick-up Quidditch had begun on the pitch and quite a few other students sat in the stands, watching. Small groups of kids sat around the grounds, doing homework or messing around. He saw Lily, Hugo, and Ashtyn sitting under the beech tree by the lake, as well as Rose and Amanda, who were both reading a few yards away from the greenhouses.

The first mile had been easy, but by the time Albus was partway through the second he had a stitch in his side and he was breathing hard. Still, he pushed through and tried to run even faster. He noticed both John and Matt emerge from the castle and watched as they made their way to the lake, where they sat beneath a tree a few yards away from Lily, Hugo, and Ashtyn.

Albus’s gaze then fell upon someone else. Emily Rhodes sat alone on a large rock just outside the Whomping Willow’s reach. She looked up at the same time Albus did and their eyes met. Albus felt his heart speed up and turned toward her. Partway there, smoke rings signaled the end of his two miles. He slowed and checked his watch. Eighteen minutes. That was better than he’d been expecting.

Emily, who had been writing in some sort of diary, closed it when Albus neared. She smiled and waved. Albus suddenly realized how sweaty he was. Was there any way for him to turn around and not have it be rude or noticeable? Probably not.

“Hi, Albus,” Emily said.

“Hey,” Albus replied. Hey? That was the best he could come up with?

“What are you running for?” she asked.

“Auror Academy,” Albus answered, trying to catch his breath. “I have to run two miles in less than sixteen minutes.”

Emily’s eyes widened. “Wow. I’m glad I’m not applying.”

“You’d just have to practice,” Albus said. “So…what are you up to?”

“Just waiting for my friends,” Emily said.

As if on cue, three other Ravenclaw girls walked up, giggling to each other. Albus felt his cheeks redden, which was impressive considering they were already red from running.

“I’d, er, better go,” Albus said, gesturing to nothing in particular.

“Okay. I’ll see you tomorrow, Albus,” Emily said.

“Tomorrow?”

“We’re patrolling together tomorrow night,” Emily said.

“Oh. Right,” Albus mumbled. “See you then.”

Albus nodded, then walked off toward the lake. He looked over his shoulder once and saw Emily and the three other Ravenclaw girls were all whispering about something. Albus realized they were probably whispering about him and groaned to himself. Why couldn’t he have thought of something better to say?

Once he reached the lake, Albus set off on the path toward where Matt and John were sitting, hoping they’d be able to take his mind off Emily. Matt appeared to be asleep, however, and John had a large piece of parchment spread out on the ground and was frowning at it.

“What’s that?” Albus asked as he sat down next to John.

“Map of the pitch,” John answered. He pointed his wand at the map and it prodded a few roughly drawn Quidditch players toward one of the goal posts. “I’m coming up with strategy for this year. Why do you look like you’ve been running for your life?”

“I’m training for the Academy,” Albus answered. “I’ve got to get faster if I have any hope of passing the fitness test. Any chance you could work running into Quidditch practice?”

“I was going to anyway,” John said. “The whole team needs to be in better shape. Professional Quidditch players work out everyday. We need to be running every practice.”

“Good,” Albus said. Now he at least wouldn’t have to find extra time to run. “How’s Matt?”

John glanced at Matt, who was in fact fast asleep on the ground next to him. “Bit cranky, really. I’m glad he fell asleep.”

“I don’t think his meeting with Professor Longbottom went well, although he didn’t say much,” Albus said.

“I’m not actually asleep, you know,” Matt mumbled.

“Sorry,” Albus said.

“Yeah, sorry,” John echoed. “But you are a bit cranky.”

“You would be too if you were turning into a wolf in eight hours,” Matt said.

“Fair point,” John said.

“And I’ll tell you about my meeting with Longbottom if it’ll make you shut up about it,” Matt added.

“Go on, then,” Albus said. “I’ll shut up about it.”

“Good,” Matt said. “Anyway, it went horribly, if you must know. I think Professor Longbottom has moved beyond his ‘always look on the bright side’ bit and has become a realist.”

“What do you mean?” John asked.

“He told me he’s not going to sugarcoat anything because that isn’t going to help me,” Matt continued. “He told me I can try applying to anything I’m qualified for since the law doesn’t prevent me from applying, but the chances of me actually being hired are small. And then the chances of me keeping the job are even smaller.”

“I don’t see why you can’t just not tell employers you’ve got lycanthropy,” John said.

Matt sighed. “You know about the Werewolf Registry, right?”

“Yeah,” John said.

“That list is public,” Matt said. “Anyone can request the names of overage werewolves anytime. My dad wrote a law last year to change that to overage wizards who are out of school, mostly because of me. So once I’m out of Hogwarts, that’s it. Anyone can find out, including employers. If I don’t disclose it myself and they find out themselves, that’s grounds for getting sacked.”

“That is insane,” John said.

“It’s reality,” Matt muttered. “Point being, I have to tell anywhere I apply to and well…you know how that goes.”

Albus nodded. He knew Matt’s greatest fear was telling people about his lycanthropy and the mere idea of it was one of his biggest triggers for panic attacks.

“But if people can know anyway, once you’re out of school…” John began, his voice drifting off. “Shouldn’t that make telling people easier?”

“You’d think, wouldn’t you?” Matt said. “But not really.”

“Okay, so you can’t tell anyone,” Albus said. “So you’ve got to work for someone who already knows and who doesn’t care.”

“So, basically us?” John said. “Or one of the professors? Madam Pomfrey? I don’t think you can be a professor right out of Hogwarts.”

Matt smiled. “No, I don’t think so.”

“Well, you could work for any of Al’s family,” John said. “Even if they don’t already know they wouldn’t care. And a bunch of them already know, right?”

“Just my parents and grandfather. And Victoire and Teddy,” Albus said. “And I already suggested Weasley’s.”

“I can’t work for Weasley’s,” Matt said. “I need to work somewhere quiet.”

Neither Albus or John said anything. Albus thought to himself, trying to figure out somewhere quiet that was somehow connected with somebody who already knew about Matt’s lycanthropy.


A/N: Thank you for all the reviews! Sorry I haven't been responding to them quickly. The school year has started and I'm quite busy. But I read and appreciate all of them!

Chapter 8: International Relations
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The following morning Albus and Rose took a trip to the hospital wing after lunch to visit Matt while John, Kaden, and Amanda headed outside to enjoy another unseasonably warm day. They all knew Madam Pomfrey would have their heads if they all visited at once so soon after the full moon. Albus normally would’ve waited until the evening, but Matt had received a letter from his dad at breakfast and Albus wanted to get it to him quickly. It was most likely a response to Matt’s inquiry about the new professor.

When they arrived at the ward, they found a surprisingly cheery Madam Pomfrey applying bandages to the Scamander twins, who sat sheepishly next to each other on one of the beds. The curtains were drawn around Matt’s usual bed and Albus hoped he wasn’t asleep.

“You know, it’s called the Forbidden Forest for a reason,” Madam Pomfrey said as she plastered a bandage onto one of the twins’ arms.

“Our great granddad says they’re not usually violent,” one of the twins said.

“And who is your great granddad?” Madam Pomfrey asked.

“Newt Scamander,” the other twin answered.

Madam Pomfrey burst out laughing and had to wait until it subsided before responding. “Newt Scamander would say that, wouldn’t he.”

“He’s showed us lots of creatures,” the first twin said. “He told us to go visit Professor Hagrid because he has all sorts of creatures he can show us while we’re here.”

“Best you wait until you’re healed before talking to Professor Hagrid,” Madam Pomfrey said as she stood up. “There, you’re good as new. Go on, then. But no more playing in the forest!”

The second twin sighed. “We weren’t playing. We were studying.”

“Fine, whatever you want to call it,” Madam Pomfrey said.

The twins got up from the bed and ran out of the room. Albus had a feeling they’d go straight back into the forest and judging by the look on Rose’s face, she thought the same thing.

“Go on back,” Madam Pomfrey said as she put away her bandaging supplies. “He might be asleep.”

Albus nodded and he and Rose walked to Matt’s bed. Rose slowly pulled back the curtains and they slipped inside. Matt had his eyes closed like he was asleep, but Albus knew from experience that Matt often pretended to be asleep after full moons to avoid interacting with people.

“You awake?” Albus asked as Rose cast Muffliato nonverbally.

“Yeah,” Matt mumbled, not opening his eyes.

“How do you feel?” Rose asked.

“Like dragon dung,” Matt answered. “I think the wolf hit his head on something last night because mine feels like someone’s hitting it with a hammer.”

“We can come back later,” Albus said as he pulled the letter out of his pocket. “But you got a letter from your dad and I wanted to give it to you.”

“It’s probably about Professor Clements,” Matt said. “You can open it and read it. I don’t think I could right now.”

“Okay,” Albus said as he ripped open the letter.

“Dear Matt,

I’m sorry it has taken me so long to get back to you. I was in Australia earlier in the week for a meeting with a half dozen other Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures head of departments (or at least their equivalents) from other countries. A few have been making waves about possibly making changes to the beast, being, and spirit designations. If anything is going to happen, it’s a long way off, but this is a start. I won’t bore you with the details.

Onto your question about Thaddeus Clements. I don’t know him well, but I’m surprised he took a job here during his sabbatical. I doubt he will cause much of a problem for you and I would be very surprised if he was discriminatory against people with lycanthropy. Professor Kendrick wouldn’t have hired him if he was. Amy might remember him. Are you planning on taking his class?

I hope the first few weeks of class went well and if you get this before the moon, know that Mum and I are both thinking of you.

Love,
Dad”

“Wait, is that all it says about the meeting?” Rose asked, grabbing the letter from Albus.

“Um, yeah,” Albus said. “Why?”

“Well, it’s got to be in response to what’s happening here,” Rose said. “Boone and the protesting and all that. Why else would half a dozen people from other countries be meeting about it? This must mean the government wants change, too.”

Matt snorted. “Don’t get your hopes up, Rose. These meetings happen every few years and nothing ever changes.”

“Because before, no one outright wanted things to change,” Rose pointed out. “Now it’s obvious. People will support this.”

“But not everyone,” Matt said. “Even Dad would tell me not to get my hopes up.”

“Moving on to Professor Clements,” Albus said loudly. “He sounds all right. I’m going to take his class.”

“Me, too,” Rose said.

Matt sighed. “I suppose I will, too. I guess it can’t hurt, can it?”

***


In the end, everyone except John and Kaden signed up for the international relations class. The seventh year class was scheduled for Friday afternoon, immediately following lunch, which was the only time all the interested seventh years all had free. The first class took place on the last Friday of September.

Albus, Rose, Matt, and Amanda queued outside the classroom early before class, hoping to get a good glimpse at who else had signed up and get the good seats in the middle of the room. Unfortunately the door was locked and Professor Clements was nowhere in sight, leaving them to wait outside the room.

“Maybe we’re the only ones,” Amanda said as they waited.

“We’re still five minutes early,” Rose pointed out.

Sure enough, over the next five minutes, more and more seventh years queued up behind them. None of them surprised Albus. Both Justin Brink, and to Albus’s delight, Emily Rhodes showed up. Elaine Asterly, Parker Wayland, and Ronald Bones from Hufflepuff were there. From Slytherin, Leigh Montague and Scorpius Malfoy were the only two.

“Malfoy?” Matt whispered.

“He’s probably hoping to get a ministry job like his father,” Rose said.

The door opened, revealing Professor Clements, still dressed in robes that didn’t quite fit him any longer. He said nothing, but stepped aside so everyone could follow in. Albus led the way, enabling him to claim the table in the middle of the room. Rose, Matt, and Amanda took the remaining three chairs at it and they waited while everyone else came inside.

Malfoy brought up the rear and Albus was surprised that he walked past their table without so much as a glance, then sat by himself in the back. Leigh Montague joined Justin and Emily at one of the tables in the front.

“Everyone stand up,” Professor Clements announced.

No one stood. Albus turned to Rose, who looked just as confused as he felt. Everyone else was turning around and looking at each other as well.

“It’s not a joke,” Clements said. “Stand up.”

Albus shrugged, then stood. He’d had some bizarre first lessons before, but this was turning out to be the strangest. The rest of the class murmured amongst themselves as they stood up. Professor Clements smiled, then took a few steps toward them.

“Now, I’d like you to arrange yourselves in order of height, from shortest to tallest, along that wall,” he said, pointing to the wall to their left.

There was more murmuring and confusion, but everyone did as Professor Clements told and arranged themselves by height. Albus was third in line. Parker Wayland was first, followed by Justin Brink. Rose was next, and then came Justin Brink. Leigh, Scorpius, and Emily were all very close in height, but Leigh beat the other two by a fraction of an inch and stood on Justin’s other side. Scorpius stood in between the two girls. Amanda came next and Elaine was the only one shorter than Matt, although only by an inch.

Professor Clements put his hands behind his back and walked over to them. On his way there, his stomach collided with a chair and it nearly fell over. He saved it and pushed it under the table without missing a beat.

He walked right up to Leigh and Scorpius and looked at them. “Everyone from this young man over, take a step to your right. And everyone from this young lady over, take a step to your left.”

They did as they were told, no one meeting Clements’s gaze. Quite a few, especially Matt, Leigh, and Scorpius, looked like they regretted signing up for this class.

“The taller six may take seats at the front two tables,” Clements announced. “While the shorter six may sit at the back two tables.”

Albus and the others waited for Clements to explain, but he did no such thing. Instead, he returned to his desk and then gestured to the tables in front of him. Albus hesitated, then walked toward the front tables and took a seat. Rose followed, sitting next to him. Then the rest of the class sat down. Leigh joined Albus and Rose.

“The taller students will have no homework tonight, while the shorter students will have to complete an essay on wizard-muggle relations since the war,” Clements said.

“That’s not fair!” Scorpius shouted.

“No, it isn’t,” Rose agreed.

It was probably the first time in history that Rose and Malfoy had agreed on something, Albus thought. But he also agreed. What was Clements getting at?

Professor Clements leaned back against his desk, crossed his arms over his ample stomach, and smiled. “And that, my seventh years, is your first lesson in equality. I split you into two groups based on something arbitrary. Your height is something you have no control over, correct?”

“Correct,” Rose said.

“And how did that feel?” Clements asked, consulting his attendance list. “Mr…Eckerton?”

Albus turned to look at Matt, whose face had gone white. Clearly this new professor had missed the memo that Matt didn’t like being called out in class when he hadn’t raised his hand.

“Well?” Clements asked.

Without saying a word, Matt picked up his bag and left the room. Albus realized with a sickening jolt that this lesson may have hit a little close to home.

Professor Clements, however, didn’t seem fazed. “Throughout history,” he began, “groups of people have been ostracized, discriminated against, even brutally murdered based on arbitrary things like race, religion, gender, disability, magical ability, and more. It’s not just wizards who have done it, either. It’s muggles, too. Wizards against wizards, muggles against muggles, wizards against muggles, the list goes on.

“It’s hard for you to imagine what it’s like being on the receiving end of discrimination, which is why I split you up, to give you a bit of a feel. In the past, this little experiment has been done over many days or even weeks, but Professor Kendrick didn’t like that idea.

“But we have to try and understand and learn from past mistakes in order to make the world a better place. International relations is about creating peace between countries, between societies. None of that will happen if we don’t know our past and if we don’t understand our neighbors.

“I was given the opportunity to teach this class and I think the timing is crucial. I don’t know how many of you keep up with the news, but there have been tensions building over the past couple years over a particular group of ostracized people. Recent events have pushed this issue to the forefront of everyone’s minds and it’s likely it will come to a head very soon. Does anyone know which particular group of people I am talking about?”

Albus’s eyes felt like they were going to explode out of his head. Clements hadn’t been clueless when he called Matt out in class. He’d done it to force Matt from the room, so he wouldn’t have to listen to this discussion.

Rose, of course, shot her hand into the air, but so did Amanda, and Clements called on her.

“Lycanthropes,” Amanda said quietly. “And whether they should be given being status in the Ministry.”

“Correct,” Clements said. “I wish to make something clear before we continue. I am open to healthy debate in this classroom. I welcome your well-reasoned, well-researched opinions and will happily moderate and encourage differences of opinions. However, what I will not stand for, is outright discrimination. If you are spewing hate or unfounded claims, I will have to ask you to leave the room. If it continues, I have the right to remove you from the class altogether. Understood?”

“Yes, sir,” the class mumbled.

Clements smiled. “Good. What we always need to keep in mind while debating is that we don’t know about the struggles of our neighbors. Keep that in mind. Now, before we part, does anyone know why this particular issue is such a concern for international relations?”

Rose, Amanda, and surprisingly, Malfoy raised their hands. Clements called on Malfoy and Albus held his breath.

“Because the status of a…creature or being or whoever, isn’t set by individual ministries,” Malfoy answered. “It has something to do with the International Confederation of Wizards, I think.”

“Correct,” Clements said. “A ghost, for example, cannot be a spirit in one country and a being in another. Status has to be agreed upon by all countries. For the most part, this situation works well. No one is going to argue that a ghost isn’t a spirit or a dragon isn’t a beast. But lycanthropes, who were most likely not lycanthropes at birth, are classified as beasts, and much of the world views this as wrong. For next class, I’d like you to research the beast, being, and spirit divisions and jot down a few notes about what each of these mean. What rights do each of the three sections possess? What rights do they lack?”

The bell rang and Clements gestured to the door. The class was quiet as they packed their bags, but low murmurs began as they moved toward the door. It was definitely the strangest, most interesting first lesson Albus had ever had.

***


“He’s not one to shy away from stuff, is he,” John said after Albus, Rose, and Amanda explained what had happened in Clements’s class.

“Not in the slightest,” Albus agreed.

“I wonder if he’s going to do the same lesson with all years,” Rose said as she emptied her bag onto the table, quills landing on top of John and Kaden’s set up of Exploding Snap. Two of the cards ignited, leaving ash all over Kaden’s left sleeve.

“Hey,” Kaden said. “And what are you doing, anyway? It’s Friday afternoon.”

“Well, I’m going to need to spend all of tomorrow in the library doing research for Clements’s homework. So I’ve got to do the Charms essay tonight.”

“I’m surprised you don’t already know all about the different divisions,” John said as he fixed his cards.

“I know a brief overview, but it’s a very complex history,” Rose explained. “Werewolves haven’t always been classified as beasts. They’ve gone back and forth since the divisions were first created. And the most recent switch wasn’t that long ago. It was in the 1940s.”

“If they’re always switching, what’s the point in even having the divisions?” Kaden asked.

“It’s helpful for other beings,” Rose said. “Ones that aren’t human. Goblins, house elves, merpeople, centaurs. Although centaurs have generally refused to be a part of anything. They don’t want being classification. But it has a lot to do with rights and who should be allowed to have a say in government and such. At one point, trolls were considered beings and thus had a say in government.”

John burst out laughing, the force causing another one of his cards to explode. He brushed the dust off his face and turned to Rose. “Seriously?”

“It was hard for witches and wizards to decide how everyone should be categorized, which, honestly is another problem. Why should witches and wizards be in charge of this whole thing?”

John sighed. “And do you think Matt’s going to stick with this class? Where is he, anyway? Do you know where he went after he ran off?”

“He had an appointment with Healer Norlam right after class, so he probably just went straight there,” Albus answered.

“I don’t know if he’ll stick with it,” Rose said. “It sounds like Clements wants to focus on this for much of the year, since it’s become such an issue in politics.”

“And what was Malfoy’s reaction to everything?” Kaden asked.

“Honestly…he seemed a bit distracted,” Albus said. “He didn’t seem to be paying much attention, which was odd. Everyone else was paying as much attention as they normally would to a Quidditch match.”

“Something’s off about him this year,” John said. “It isn’t like him not to be in the middle of everything.”

“He hasn’t been the same since his grandfather died,” Rose reminded them. “But I guess he does seem a bit more withdrawn than last year.”

John shrugged. “I’m not complaining. Nice not to have him breathing down our necks all the time. And he seems to have dropped his grudge against Matt. Maybe Matt’s dad scared him enough during his internship last year that he won’t try anything again.”

“Let’s hope so,” Kaden said.

“Maybe he’s just worried about next year,” Rose suggested. “I’m sure he’s got a lot of family pressure.”

“Still, if Clements’ class was that intense, you’d think he would’ve had some reaction, especially since he interned last-“

John stopped mid-sentence as the door opened and Matt walked in. Everyone turned to look at him. He looked tired, but not overly anxious.

“What?” Matt said, as he walked in and sat down on the couch next to Albus. He sighed. “Fine. I know you’re going to ask. I’m going to stick it out in Clements’s class for now. Healer Norlam thinks it would be good for me.”

Albus raised his eyebrows in surprise. Even just last year no one could’ve convinced Matt to stay in a class that was directly talking about werewolf rights.

“Healer Norlam thinks I need to get used to it,” Matt said quietly. “Everything that’s going on with Boone and the Ministry…it’s not going away. Healer Norlam thinks it’s going to keep going until there’s a vote with the International Confederation of Wizards.”

“Wow,” Amanda said, shaking her head. “I mean, that’s good.”

Matt shrugged. “I guess. But it’s that whole, things have to get worse before they get better. People have strong opinions on this and they aren’t going to keep their mouths shut.”

That was true. Already there were at least two editorials in the Prophet each day preaching one side of the issue or the other. Albus knew Matt refused to read them, but if any of their classmates were staunchly against werewolves being classified as beings, Matt wouldn’t be able to avoid that.

“Also,” Matt went on, “unrelated, but Healer Norlam is starting group therapy on Friday afternoons.”

“Here?” Rose asked.

Matt nodded. “Yeah. I guess I’m not the only one who’s been seeing him.”

“Are you going to go?” Rose asked.

Matt shrugged. “I haven’t decided. Healer Norlam thinks it would be good, but I don’t know. I wouldn’t talk about why I get anxious…not in front of everyone. And then, what would be the point?”

“Maybe you don’t have to talk about that,” Rose said. “Maybe you can just talk about how you deal with it, and get ideas from other people.”

“That’s what Healer Norlam said,” Matt said. “Clearly you chose the right career.”

Rose laughed. “I hope so, anyway.”

“Well, he said it’s open to anyone…so if any of you want to go…it starts the first Friday in October at four,” Matt said, giving Albus a significant look.

Albus chewed his lip. Clearly Matt wanted him to go, probably for moral support. He’d never seen a psychiatrist before, not professionally. He’d gone to a few group therapy sessions with his family when he was a kid, mostly to help him deal with his father’s PTSD and other issues related to the war. Would it be strange, since he didn’t have any mental illness himself? Or would it be help him learn new ways to help Matt?


A/N: Not technically a late update! It's still Tuesday for another two and a half hours where I live. Thanks for all the lovely reviews!

Chapter 9: The Werewolf Registry
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The unseasonably warm weather of September gave way to a chilly, windy October. Fewer students roamed the grounds after classes and every Quidditch team returned from practice considerably more irritable than they had when they left the castle. The Gryffindor team in particular was very rundown, John proving himself to be a captain none of them had seen the likes of since Georgia Weasley had captained the team.

Albus found himself with no free time and part of him regretted agreeing to take on an internship again, but he wouldn’t admit it to anyone (he did not want to give Rose the satisfaction of being right, again) and still planned on going through with it when it started up in the middle of the month. His evenings were spent at Quidditch or dueling practice or roaming the halls while on patrol.

He had gotten so far behind on his homework that when the first Wednesday of the month brought temperatures normally reserved for December, he even considered skiving off Care of Magical Creatures in favor of the warm common room and his neglected Transfiguration essay that was due later that day. But when Rose figured out what he was up to, she gave him a scolding worthy of Nana Molly and he reluctantly bundled up in his warmest cloak and set off for Hagrid’s hut with Matt and John.

“Should you even be out in this?” John asked Matt as they shielded their faces against the wind crossing the grounds.

Matt had developed a cold the previous day and it was less than a week before the full moon. If he didn’t shake it by Sunday, the full moon would be worse than normal. “Probably not,” he said. “But I’ll be missing it Monday due to the moon. I don’t want to miss it today, too.”

Luckily, Hagrid was waiting for them with the news that class would be held inside his hut, where he had a roaring fire going. Albus had never had Care of Magical Creatures in Hagrid’s hut before, but he supposed since the class was now down to eight students, it was doable.

“I haven’t got much for yeh today,” Hagrid explained once all eight students were assembled in front of the fire. Albus, John, and Matt, having gotten there early, were on Hagrid’s massive couch. To Albus’s delight, Emily Rhodes had joined them. Justin Brink stood behind them, with Olivia Price and Scorpius Malfoy.

“It’s too cold to go into the forest, so instead I’m going to tell yeh about a trip we’ll be taking in the spring, once the weather thaws.”

Albus looked at Matt and John, who both shrugged. He’d never heard of any of the Care of Magical Creatures classes taking trips before.

“It’ll be overnigh’, so yeh will be missing a few of yer other classes,” Hagrid explained. “We’ll be goin’ to one of my favorite places. Newt Scamander’s Magical Creature Reserve in Ireland.”

Albus’s jaw dropped. “Seriously?”

Hagrid grinned. “Newt’s an old friend, so he’s goin’ to give us a tour and let yeh take care of some of the animals.”

Albus nodded. He didn’t know much about Newt Scamander’s Magical Creature Reserve, but he did know that it wasn’t generally open to the public. Albus’s uncle Charlie had been there a few times, but only for work related purposes. Newt had provided consulting services on dragons on more than one occasion. He didn’t have any actual dragons at the reserve, however.

“I haven’t picked exact dates yet,” Hagrid went on. “Newt will get back to me about that. It won’t interfere with your exams.”

Albus wouldn’t even care if it did. Going to Newt Scamander’s reserve would be amazing. Albus turned to John and Matt. John looked equally excited, Matt not nearly as much.

They spent the rest of the class discussing what sort of creatures Newt had in his reserve. There were a lot of creatures that weren’t native to the British isles, ones that Albus and his classmates wouldn’t have ever seen before.

“So, you were quiet during that,” John said to Matt as they walked back to the castle. “You’ve always liked Care of Magical Creatures.”

“I do,” Matt said. “It’s not the creatures. It’s just…Newt Scamander used to work for the Ministry. He created the Werewolf Registry.”

Albus stopped walking, suddenly unable to feel the sleet hitting his face. “Wait, he did?”

Matt nodded. “I mean, it wasn’t only him, but it was mostly him. Right after lycanthropes were reclassified as beasts. The registry is why the classification changed. You can’t make a registry of anyone classified as a being.”

“Bloody hell,” John whispered.

“I always thought Newt Scamander was this eclectic magical creature loving bloke,” Albus said. “Not someone involved with Ministry policies.”

Matt shrugged. “Well, he was then. Maybe he’s changed. Have you ever met him?”

“No, but my parents are good friends with his grandson’s wife, Luna Lovegood-Scamander,” Albus explained. “I’ve heard stories. Once, he set a niffler lose in New York City and had to go chasing after it. That’s actually how he met his wife.”

“Ohh, the Scamander twins’s parents,” John said. “I should’ve put that together. Scamander isn’t a common name. Still, it’ll be cool to visit this place. Did you see how excited Hagrid was? If this is a bloke Hagrid adores, can you imagine what sort of creatures he’s got?”

“Hagrid already said he hasn’t got any dragons,” Matt pointed out.

“I wonder if he regrets it,” Albus mused. “Creating the registry and all.”

“I suppose we could ask him,” John said. “I bet he does, though. Doesn’t seem like the sort of person to keep a bunch of random beasts safe would the the sort to be proud of creating a permanent registry of people based off a medical condition.”

“Permanent?” Albus asked. “Did they put some sort of charm on it? Couldn’t they just set fire to it if they decided to abolish it?”

“Not really,” Matt said quietly, absentmindedly rubbing his left wrist. “I could tell you the whole history, but we’d probably have to skip lunch. Although, I’m not very hungry.”

Albus and John exchanged looks. Albus was starving, but now his curiosity had gotten the better of him and he couldn’t wait until the evening to find out what had happened with the werewolf registry.

***


Ten minutes later Albus, Matt, and John were in the Marauders’ Den, joined by Rose, Amanda, and Kaden, whom they had collected from the Great Hall after returning to the castle. John also had the foresight to grab sandwiches, which he had distributed once they were all seated. Matt didn’t take one.

Albus suspected both Rose and Amanda already knew the history about the werewolf registry and were merely skipping lunch to hear Matt’s take on it. Rose in particular looked worried.

“Most wizards don’t know a whole lot about what it means to not be classified as a being by the Ministry,” Matt began, not meeting anyone’s gaze. “Most wizards don’t have to think about it. Essentially, being classified as a being secures your basic rights and gives you a say in government. Any creature classified as a being has the same basic rights as a wizard. Hags and goblins are classified as beings. Vampires are beings right now, but they go back and forth more than lycanthropes do. Merpeople and centaurs have consistently refused being status, but if they wanted it, they’d be granted it. House elves now have being status as well, thanks to the work Rose’s mum did a while back. As beings, all those creatures have the same rights as wizards in terms of employment and housing and the like. Most vampires and goblins don’t want to apply for the same jobs as wizards, but that’s not really relevant to this. The only right not guaranteed is a wand-“

“But you’ve got a wand,” Kaden interrupted.

Matt sighed. “I haven’t finished. If a hag walked into Ollivander’s and tried to buy a wand, they’d never convince the salesperson they were a witch. And that brings me to my main point. Werewolves are wizards 28 days and 27 nights out of every moon cycle. It’s just a single night that we aren’t. And that’s the big difference between lycanthropes and every other creature on that list. Even a vampire is a vampire every day of its life and needs blood every day.

“So, it was very easy for me to walk into Ollivander’s and buy a wand. Just like it’s very easy for me to go to Hogwarts and learn magic. So long as no one sees me during full moons and no one keeps too close a watch on me,” he paused, looking significantly at Albus and Rose, “no one is going to know.”

“Theoretically,” Albus said, smirking.

“If I didn’t have you lot as friends, it would probably still be as secret,” Matt muttered. “Anyway, because of all that, no one can decide where lycanthropes belong. Or at least, no one can agree. Hence we’ve been shuffled around a lot.

“Then, in the 1940s, Newt Scamander came up with the brilliant idea to keep track of werewolves. He thought it would help pinpoint attacks and figure out how best to minimize them. But it’s illegal to keep a list of anyone classified as a being based off their species. At the time, werewolves were classified as beings. Within a year, they’d been reclassified as beasts, under the guise that it would allow ministries all over the world to better keep track of werewolves and minimize attacks. The reclassification happened in 1946 and the registry was created two months later in 1947. It hasn’t changed since. People have petitioned, but it always comes back to the registry. It would be deemed illegal if we got being status.”

Albus set down his sandwich, suddenly unable to eat. “Did it minimize attacks?”

“No,” Rose answered. “Werewolf attacks are public record and quite a few wizards have compiled the data. Werewolf attacks per year remained almost exactly the same until the creation of the Wolfsbane Potion in the 80s. Since then they’ve steadily declined.”

“Then they should abolish the list!” Amanda said.

“They should, but every time it’s mentioned someone brings up public safety and then someone brings children’s safety into the mix and as soon as that’s brought in, that’s it. No amount of data can satisfy them,” Rose said.

“What exactly is this list?” Kaden asked.

“It’s kept at the Ministry,” Matt said quietly. “It’s its own small department within the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. All lycanthropes have to keep that department up to date on their address and their job. It’s sealed if you’re underage and if you’re at Hogwarts. That new bit was something my dad added last year. Anyone can go to the Ministry and ask to see the list.”

“That’s insane,” John said.

“There’s also a number,” Matt added, in barely more than a whisper. He rolled up his left sleeve. “We’re all assigned one as soon as we’re bitten. It’s so if they capture one of us, they can find out who we are after they stun us, but before we transform back. And to prevent anyone from giving a false name.”

“That’s awful,” Amanda said, her face almost as ghostlike as Matt’s.

Matt removed his wand from his robes and pointed it at his left wrist. Without uttering a syllable, black ink materialized on his pale skin.

Albus leaned closer and saw the number ‘64XF2J3847’ across Matt’s wrist. Seeing it made his stomach churn and he had to swallow hard to keep the quarter of sandwich from coming back up. As soon as he leaned away, Matt put his wand away and the number disappeared.

“They’re always on the left wrist,” Matt said. “And they aren’t removable. Even if the list is abolished and lycanthropes are given being status, that number will always be there.”

“And vampires…they didn’t have that registry?” Kaden asked.

Matt shook his head. “Vampires have done a better job at keeping away from wizards. For the most part, they want to be secluded in their covens. They’re vampires 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Lycanthropes aren’t. It’s one night out of 28.”

“I don’t even know what to say,” Amanda said quietly.

“Could your dad abolish the registry without changing the status?” Rose asked.

“Theoretically,” Matt said. “But the Minister would have to sign it into law and she wouldn’t do that.”

“And if the status is changed, the registry would be defunct?” John asked.

“Yes,” Matt confirmed.

“And then you could apply for jobs without having to tell people you have lycanthropy,” Amanda said.

“And I couldn’t be sacked for missing work because of it,” Matt added. “It would be seen as a medical issue.”

“Which it is,” Albus said.

“Then we’ve got to do everything we can to make sure the status is changed,” Rose said, turning to Albus and John, “and you lot can ask Newt Scamander what he thinks of everything that’s going on. If he comes out on record saying he regrets the registry, that’s going to help. You’ll have to try and talk to him away from everyone else.”

Albus nodded. That he could do. And he wanted to do something. In some ways, seventh year was worse than sixth in terms of feeling useless. Here he was, overage, and stuck in school unable to do anything. Never before had he related so much to his father and how he didn’t go back for his seventh year.

***


Every time Albus saw the date for the first Hogsmeade visit posted on the notice board, his stomach turned and he thought of Emily Rhodes. He knew if he was going to ask her, he would have to do so soon, because as Rose told him, doing it later would seem desperate. Exactly two weeks out, he realized he had to do it then or not at all. He and Emily were patrolling together and he made up his mind to ask her at the end of the patrol. If he did it at the beginning and she said no, the entire patrol would be awkward.

Sunday night patrols tended to be uneventful. Most students were scrambling to finish the homework they’d neglected over the weekend which meant they were holed up in their common rooms or the library. There was always the occasional first or second year who lost track of time in the library and ran to their common room fifteen minutes past curfew, but Albus rarely stopped them. He knew where they were headed.

“How did you do with your Felix the other day?” Emily asked as they rounded a corner on the 7th floor corridor.

Albus winced. The other day they’d been tasked with muddling aconite for Felix Felicis. It was a tricky process and one that wasn’t needed until late in the brewing process, but Clements had wanted them to practice it. Albus had ruined an entire fistful of aconite flowers. His last batch he accidentally spilled all over himself and he’d had to go take a shower and change robes rather than go to his next class, since Matt would’ve had an allergic reaction.

“Before or after I spilled the muddled aconite all over myself?” Albus replied.

Emily chortled. “Mine were ruined, too. At least next week we get to actually start the potion.”

“I’m sure I’ll destroy that as well,” Albus said.

“Makes you wonder who would bother going through the effort of making it,” Emily mused. “Seems easier just to work at whatever you need luck for.”

But that’s the thing about luck, isn’t it?” Albus said. “If you need luck, no amount of hard work will get you there.”

“Plus, it’s banned in most things you’d need luck for. Gambling, sports events, exams. Although I feel like if someone were to go through the effort of making it, they’d be the sort of person who wouldn’t care about that. They’d just take it anyway.”

“Not everyone who takes it has sketchy morals,” Albus pointed out. Prior to muddling, or attempting to muddle, aconite, the class had discussed the moral implication of Felix Felicis. Albus thought of his father the entire time, knowing he’d once taken Felix. And he’d used it for the greater good of helping to bring down Voldemort. Albus hadn’t brought that up in class, as he was unsure whether it was something his father wanted spread around.

“Would you take it?” Emily asked.

“If I knew it was brewed right,” Albus muttered. “Not sure I’ll take it if I brew it myself.”

Emily laughed. “But if Rose offered you some that she brewed.”

Rose had been the only one in the class to successfully muddle her aconite. “Yeah, then I might,” Albus said. “Depending on what I needed it for.” He wouldn’t be able to use it for any of his Auror interviews. The Academy required drug tests before every single interview and exam. Plus he had to sign affidavits.

“I wonder if Clements thinks any of us will actually manage to brew it,” Emily said. “Sometimes I think she gets some sort of thrill out of making us brew difficult potions.”

“I bet she does. I think she’s right about us working harder if we want the potion, though. Think about it. Have we ever brewed anything useful? I get that we have to learn the technique, but aren’t there more useful potions than potions on curing boils?”

“That’s useful if you have boils,” Emily pointed out. “But you’re right. Felix Felicis would be useful to anyone.”

The conversation lulled as they rounded another corner. He did like talking to Emily. They could have fun in Hogsmeade together. Assuming Emily would want to go with him….

Emily stopped. “Did you hear that?”

“Hear what?” Albus hadn’t been paying attention to anything other than his own thoughts about Emily.

“That,” Emily said, as there was some sort of shuffling noise coming from nearby.

Albus looked around. They were near an empty classroom, but its door was open and inside was dark. Across the hall was a broom cupboard, however.

Emily groaned. “Seriously? On a Sunday night?”

“At least it’s not the Astronomy Tower,” Albus said as he crossed the hall. Sighing to himself, he put his hand on the doorknob, but it was locked.

“Weird. No one ever remembers to lock broom cupboards,” Emily said as she pointed her wand at the knob. “Alohomora.”

The lock clicked and Albus turned the knob. The cupboard was dark, but there was a gasp, a clang, and the sound of someone tripping over a bucket.

Albus pointed his wand at the light and instantly it turned on, revealing not the third or fourth years Albus expected, but Scorpius Malfoy and a boy Albus did not recognize. Malfoy’s face was pale as a ghost, whereas the other boy’s was a deep red. He was taller than Scorpius, with shaggy brown hair, but he wasn’t in their year.

“Mafloy?” Albus exclaimed, trying to process what he was looking at. Seventh years never hid in broom cupboards to snog. They tended to take advantage of the boys’ dormitories or prefect bathrooms.

Without saying a word, Malfoy stepped out of the broom cupboard and grabbed Albus’s wrist. Albus fumbled in his robes for his wand, unsure how this would go, but Malfoy simply dragged him across the corridor to the empty classroom while the other boy ran toward the nearest staircase and disappeared.

Malfoy shoved Albus into the classroom and shut the door, leaving a bewildered Emily in the corridor. But rather than attempt to duel Albus, which was what he was expecting, Malfoy instead sat down on the nearest desk and put his head in his hands. Albus stood awkwardly for a few minutes, unsure of what he should do.

Finally, Malfoy picked up his head and whispered, “You can’t tell anyone.”


A/N: Sorry about the cliffhanger! And thanks for all the reviews!

Chapter 10: Malfoy's Secret
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Two minutes prior, Albus never thought he’d ever feel more uncomfortable than he’d felt walking on Malfoy snogging a bloke in a cupboard. Not because he was snogging a bloke, per se, but simply because it was Malfoy. Malfoy, the bloke who had spent much of their first half of Hogwarts making Albus’s best friend’s life miserable, for seemingly no reason. And Albus had walked in on him snogging someone. Albus felt awkward walking in on anyone snogging anyone awkward, but Malfoy? Even worse.

But even more uncomfortable than walking in on Malfoy snogging someone was this. Standing inside an empty classroom while Malfoy sat on a desk in front of him, an anguished look on his face, his hands shaking not unlike Matt’s did whenever he was particularly anxious about something. He wished Emily had gotten dragged into the room along with him. Then he’d at least have someone to exchange awkward looks with.

“Swear to me, Albus,” Malfoy said.

That snapped Albus out of his thoughts. Malfoy never called him anything other than ‘Potter.’

“Swear to me you won’t tell,” Malfoy whispered, not making eye contact. “I’ve kept Eckerton’s secret for years. You owe me.”

“Swear I won’t tell anyone what? That you were snogging someone in a broom cupboard? I get that’s embarrassing, but you won’t believe the amount of people I catch doing that. Sure, most of them are fourth year or below, but other prefects have caught the occasional fifth or sixth year-“

“Not that,” Malfoy interrupted. The more awkward the situation, the more Albus rambled. “Not that I was snogging someone. That I was….that I was snogging Marcus. And not…you know…a girl.”

“Oh,” Albus said, staring at his feet. “I wouldn’t tell anyone that. But it’s not a big deal-”

Malfoy let out a sharp laugh. “You wouldn’t understand. Just swear to me you won’t tell.”

“Ok, I swear,” Albus said, holding up his hands.

“And tell Rhodes she can’t tell anyone either,” Malfoy said quietly as he got off the desk. “If I find out you told…I swear to god, Al, the whole school will know Eckerton’s a werewolf by morning.”

Albus debated reminding Malfoy that if he ever told anyone about Matt’s lycanthropy he’d be expelled, but three seconds later Malfoy was out the door, running down the corridor, leaving a bewildered Emily standing just outside the door.

“Did you know he was gay?” Emily asked once Malfoy rounded the corner.

“No,” Albus said, shrugging. “He doesn’t want us telling anyone.”

Emily nodded. “I wouldn’t ever out him.”

“Me either,” Albus said. As much as he disliked Malfoy, he wouldn’t ever do that.

They continued their patrol in silence, the whole time Albus thinking about Malfoy’s strange behavior since the start of the year. The whole time he’d attributed it to Malfoy’s grandfather’s death, but maybe it was more.

***


“Well…?” Rose asked the next morning at breakfast as Albus sat down next to her.

“Well what?” Albus asked.

Rose groaned. “Emily. Did you ask her to Hogsmeade or not?”

Albus’s stomach clenched. Emily. Hogsmeade. In all the drama of walking in on Malfoy snogging a bloke Albus had completely forgotten to ask Emily to Hogsmeade. “I forgot,” he muttered.

“What do you mean you forgot?” Rose replied. “Honestly.”

“Something…came up during the patrol,” Albus said quietly.

Rose’s eyes widened. “Neither you or Emily put anything in the report.”

“You already read the report?” Albus asked, incredulous.

“Of course I did. I read them right after I get them. How else am I to stay informed? But seriously, Al, if something happened that made you forget to ask Emily to Hogsmeade, it was big enough to put in the report.”

“It wasn’t that big. Just two people snogging in a broom cupboard,” Albus said. He wasn’t lying, technically. He was just leaving out a bit of information. And he wasn’t breaking his promise to Malfoy, either.

Rose rolled her eyes. “You ought to be used to that by now. But you should go ask Emily now, before class. I just saw her at the Ravenclaw table.”

Rose was right, of course. Albus hastily shoved another piece of bacon into his mouth and set off for the Ravenclaw table where Emily sat, alone, reading a book. It was some miracle she wasn’t surrounded by all her friends.

“Er, Emily?” Albus asked.

“Oh, hi, Albus,” Emily said, looking up from her book and porridge.

“Can I talk to you? Er…outside?”

“Sure,” she said, smiling.

The Entrance Hall was empty, save for a few Slytherins on their way up from the dungeons. Albus led Emily to the oak front doors and pushed them open. There was a chill to the air, but not an uncomfortable one.

“Is this about last night?” Emily asked as they walked a few feet out onto the grounds.

“No,” Albus said, sitting down on a nearby rock. Emily sat next to him. “It’s…it’s about Hogsmeade. You know, the Hogsmeade visit coming up?” What was he saying? Of course she knew. He was an idiot.

Emily smiled. “Yes, Al, I know the Hogsmeade visit.”

“I was wondering if you wanted to…er, go with me. That is, if you’re going…?” Albus sputtered. He could feel his cheeks turning red.

“Yes, I’m going. And yes, I’d like to go with you,” Emily answered, still smiling.

“Ok. Well, should we meet around 10? In the Entrance Hall?”

“That sounds good,” Emily said, getting up. “I have to get to class. I’ll see you then, Albus.”

“See you,” Albus said.

Albus took a few deep breaths and waited until Emily was back in the castle before getting up. He’d done it. She’d said yes.

Rose had a satisfied smirk on her face when Albus returned to the Gryffindor table. “What’s so funny?” Albus asked.

“Emily looked very happy when she got back,” Rose said, gesturing to the Ravenclaw table, where Emily and a few of her friends had their heads together. “Bet they’re talking about you.”

Albus, whose cheeks had finally returned to a normal color, now felt them grow warm again. “Shut up.”

“Oh, it’s not a bad thing,” Rose said. “She’s probably talking about how cute you are.”

“Just leave it,” Albus said. “Maybe you should ask Justin Brink.”

Now it was Rose’s turn to turn red. “Shut up, Al.”

“Head Boy and Head Girl? It’d be perfect,” Albus said.

“What about the Head Boy and Head Girl?” John asked as he and Matt sat down across from them.

“Nothing,” Rose said. “We were just discussing how Al has a date for the Hogsmeade trip.”

“Emily?” John asked. “Nice. I’m going with Hannah Nottingham. You know, that sixth year Hufflepuff with the braids down to her waist?”

“When did that happen?” Matt asked, as he loaded his plate with eggs and bacon.

“Last night in the library. And before you start, Rose, yes, I was in the library. Kaden and I were researching spells for Mischief Night and Hannah came up to me and asked.”

“She asked you?” Rose said.

“Yes. It’s the 21st century. Girls can ask blokes to Hogsmeade.”

“It wasn’t that I was shocked by. It was the fact that she was asking you.”

“Hey.” John faked offense. “I’m a Quidditch player now. Girls like that.”

John wasn’t wrong. Even Albus has noticed the stares John got from girls, and a few blokes, as they walked down the corridors. He was a six foot five inch Quidditch player and captain who was just enough of a trouble maker that it was entertaining. Girls did tend to like that, Albus had noticed.

Albus, however, was not entirely sure he liked John as a Quidditch captain. They’d now had a little over a month of practices with John as captain and Albus felt he could now safely say that John was the most ruthless captain he’d ever suffered under. When he’d mentioned to Albus that they’d be running every practice, he hadn’t been kidding. They spent the first half an hour of every practice running around the pitch and then doing other exercises including crunches and sit-ups. No matter the weather.

The pleasantly chilly weather of the morning had given way to a blustery rain storm that evening. Albus gazed toward the rock where he’d asked Emily out earlier that day and could hardly believe it had just been that morning. His robes were soaked through, his hair sopping wet, and his shoes were now more filled with mud than they were with feet.

“Your brother never made us run through the mud,” Harrison Watts muttered as he caught up to Albus.

“Go, go, go!” John shouted over the wind. “One more minute and then we’ll fly!”

“We can’t fly in this!” Janie shouted. “You’re mad, John, barking mad!”

“Yeah, this is the sort of weather James crashed in!” Elias Graham added.

They converged upon the broom shed that was attached to the changing rooms. John, as always had reached the end of their running circuit first. Despite the wind and the rain, John had a grin plastered all over his face and Albus felt a strong desire to slap him. Judging from the sullen looks of his teammates, they all wanted to as well.

“It’s just a bit of rain,” John said.

“Can’t we reschedule for tomorrow night?” Janie suggested.

“I can’t. I’ve got prefect patrol,” Albus said.

“Plus, Hufflepuff’s got the pitch tomorrow,” John said. “Tonight and Thursday are the only nights we’ve got booked. Plus I managed to get Saturday afternoon, but that won’t be an every week thing.”

“Running in the rain isn’t going to make us win the Cup,” Elias said.

John sighed. “Fifteen minutes. Then we’ll call it. Go on, get up to the hoops.”

The whole team groaned, but shouldered their brooms and set off toward the middle of the pitch. John made to follow them, but Albus grabbed his arm.

“What, Al?” John snapped.

“Look, Elias is right,” Albus said quietly. “I get it. There’s a lot of pressure this year.”

John’s silence told Albus he was right.

“That’s how I felt last year,” Albus continued. “First year in fourteen years we don’t have a star Seeker. I’m sure Elias is feeling that, too. But he’s right. Running all of us ragged every practice won’t help us win. You’re going to kill all the team morale.”

John sighed. “Fine. But we’ve all got to learn to play in these conditions.”

“We know how to play in these conditions. James’s freak accident was just that. A freak accident. And I know you’re thinking about Puddlemere, but Puddlemere isn’t going to care if you win the Cup. They’re going to want to see how you pull a team together after they lost their star Seeker due to a freak accident.”

“I guess I hadn’t thought about it that way,” John said.

Albus nodded. “Now, do everyone a favor and end practice.”

“Fine,” John said, sighing again. He blew his whistle and waved everyone in, then disappeared into the changing rooms.

“Thanks, Albus,” Elias said as he walked past with his broom over his shoulder. “Whatever you said, thanks.”

Albus nodded. “He’s just feeling a lot of pressure.”

Elias barked out a laugh. “Him, pressure? Try being a Seeker who comes after Teddy Lupin and James Potter, both eldest sons of war heroes.”

“I mentioned that,” Albus said.

Elias shook his head. “Bloody hell…Seeker after James Potter. What was I thinking?”

“Try being his brother,” Albus muttered.

Elias laughed, then set off for the castle with Janie and Harrison. Albus watched the rest of the team leave, then darted inside the changing room to find John.

John was nowhere in sight, but Albus heard the shower going, so he sat down to wait. A few minutes later, John appeared, considerably dryer than he had been before and dressed in clean robes. He seemed surprised to see Albus.

“I thought you would’ve gone back to the castle,” he said as he shoved his soaking wet Quidditch robes into a bag.

“Bit early to drown your sorrows,” Albus commented.

John sat down next to him. “What if this is it, Al? What if we peak this year and everything goes downhill from here?”

“You sound like Matt,” Albus said.

“Funny, because that’s what he said yesterday when you were on patrol with Emily Rhodes. He’s just had me thinking ever since.”

“Matt’s got a good reason to think that. You don’t. You’re going to be Puddlemere’s next strategist,” Albus pointed out.

“Not if we lose this season. The whole world’s got their eyes on what Gryffindor’s captain will do the year after losing their greatest seeker this century.”

“The whole world meaning, people who follow Hogwarts Quidditch?” Albus asked, laughing. “That’s fewer people than you’d think. And with everything happening with Boone and werewolves and all that, there’s not going to be much room in the Prophet for filler articles about Hogwarts Quidditch. Not to mention the inquiry Johnson and Balladanis are facing at the Ministry.”

“What’s happening with that? I haven’t heard anything lately.”

“First week in November there’s going to be a hearing on whether they’ll be suspended from their jobs during the investigation.”

“Bloody hell. It’s been months and they’re just getting to that?”

“Dad says it’ll be months before it’s even decided whether what they did is grounds for them to be sacked,” Albus said. “He always says it’s a good thing wizards have long lifespans given the rate things move in our government.”

“Maybe that’s why things move slow,” John suggested.

“Probably,” Albus agreed as he stood up. “Now let’s go. You aren’t allowed to wallow in self-pity until after Puddlemere rejects you.”

***


Albus’s first day back at the Auror Department was the week before Halloween. Of all the seventh years, Albus was the only one doing another internship and he would only be in the Department on Mondays. They’d taken on a sixth year intern as well, a quiet Hufflepuff girl Albus didn’t know well, but she wouldn’t be there at the same time.

Unlike the previous year, Albus wasn’t greeted by Johnson when he arrived at the Ministry. Instead, Teddy was waiting for him. Albus was quite pleased by that turn of events.

“He never comes out of his office,” Teddy said after Albus inquired about Johnson while they rode the lift to the Auror Department. “I’ve only seen him about five times since the whole thing went down.”

“So who’s running the Department?” Albus asked.

“All of us,” Teddy said. “Dawlish is the one assigning missions and Uncle Ron has been doing the general overseeing. But other than that, we all know what to do. Saw Johnson’s daughter once. She came and brought him lunch a few weeks ago. She asked me about James.”

“What did you tell her?”

“Nothing, really,” Teddy said as the lift opened. “Just a generic ‘oh he’s fine.’ She didn’t press it. I think she was just asking to be polite.”

Albus nodded. “Have you seen James recently? He hasn’t answered any of my owls.” Albus had written James three times during September and all three had gone unanswered.

“I’ve been round for dinner a few times. He’s been working at Weasleys’ once a week or so, but he won’t talk about it. Your mum told me his physical therapy is at a bit of a standstill. He hasn’t made much progress since August.”

“How long will they keep doing it? The therapy, I mean?”

Teddy shrugged. “As long as your parents will pay for it. Your dad said the WHS only pays for a ‘reasonable length of time as prescribed by healers,’ but if you pay out of pocket they’ll keep it up as long as you want.”

“So, the reasonable length of time has passed?”

“I think it’s up soon, assuming he continues to not make progress,” Teddy said. “But your mum and dad are going to keep paying for it. And he’s still got the cognitive therapy. Aunt Ginny said he still gets confused a lot and can’t remember any spells.”

“Does he still mope around most of the time?”

Teddy nodded. “Yeah…I don’t blame him, though. I mean…he could’ve played for England.”

He could’ve. They all knew it. That was the worst part. Any team would’ve been stupid not to recruit James and he would’ve then been recruited by England in a few short years.

“You could’ve, too,” Albus pointed out.

“But I didn’t want to,” Teddy said as he opened the door to the Auror Department. “Sometimes I think James hates me for that. For the fact that I could’ve gone professional and gave it all up for this. I know he thinks I’m mad.”

“I don’t think you’re mad,” Albus said, following him inside. No amount of money in the world could convince Albus to play Quidditch instead of become an Auror. Not that he’d ever get recruited.

The department didn’t look any different than it had the previous year. Most of the cubicles were messy, scattered with paperwork and clippings from the Prophet. Only a few were occupied, and all by Aurors Albus only vaguely knew. Uncle Ron and Dawlish were nowhere in sight.

“Uncle Ron’s on a mission,” Teddy said, reading Albus’s mind. “Dawlish went to lunch about an hour ago. Don’t expect him back for at least another hour and a half. He comes and goes as he pleases, ever since Johnson was put on probation.”

“What’s he having me do this year?” Albus asked as they entered Teddy’s cubicle. It was messier than the rest, except perhaps Uncle Ron’s. “Shadowing the junior Aurors with the tip owls again?”

Teddy snorted. “I thought you would’ve picked up on it now,” he said, lowering his voice. “Johnson doesn’t even realize you’re here. He’s not running the show anymore. And I’d bet my last Galleon he’ll be suspended at next week’s hearing. With pay, but suspended.”

“Didn’t he have to sign off on me being here?”

“Well, yeah, but that’s all he did was sign off on it. Dawlish picked the interns and gave the form to Johnson to sign. I doubt he so much as looked at what he was signing. Dawlish said he was half a bottle of scotch in when he brought the papers for him to sign.”

“You neglected to mention that’s what he’s doing in his office,” Albus said.

“Did I?” Teddy mused. “Well…the witch who empties the bins every night let slip to Uncle Ron that there’s always one or two empty bottles in there every night.”

“Damn,” Albus whispered. “And what about Balladanis?”

Teddy snorted again. “He’s walking around like nothing’s changed.”

“Isn’t he…you know…on our side?”

“Shh,” Teddy said, glancing around. “Johnson might be drunk half the time, but he’s still got ears everywhere. And don’t put all your trust in Balladanis, no matter what he claims. The man serves no master but himself.”

“Right,” Albus said, nodding.

“I’m serious, Al,” Teddy continued. “If I’ve got one piece of advice to you, Auror to Auror, it’s that you can’t trust anyone.”

“Now you sound like Mad-Eye Moody,” Albus said.

“You’ve got to investigate everything, and everyone, yourself,” Teddy added, ignoring Albus’s comment.

“Are things really that bad here?” Albus asked.

Teddy sighed and put on the most serious look Albus had ever seen on him. “Al, the Head Auror and the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement are both likely to be sacked before the year is out. It doesn’t get much more serious than that. Just because one of them is an idiot and the other is selfish doesn’t mean their sacking won’t disrupt things. It will. And remember who’s still in charge. Laurentis. Who do you think’s going to pick their replacements?”

“Laurentis,” Albus said quietly.

“Exactly. And other than Balladanis and Johnson, who’s her righthand man?” Teddy prompted.

Albus felt all the color drain from his face. “Malfoy.”

“Now you got there. And as for what you’re doing at the department this year, well, that’s up to Dawlish. Because until Johnson is sacked and someone else is put in, Dawlish is running the show.”


A/N: Sorry for the day-late update! And thank you for all the reviews. Unfortunately I am posting faster than I am writing so I'm going to update every other week in October, which means two more chapters this month. Then it's November, which means NaNoWriMo, so I won't be working on this for much of November. So, if I can write another couple chapters before October ends, I'll keep updating every other week in November. If not, I'll have to take a break during November. I'll let you know later on in the month.

Chapter 11: Emily Rhodes
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The morning of the Hogsmeade visit dawned with a storm. It wasn’t nearly as bad as they one the Gryffindor Quidditch team practiced in the previous week, but it was enough to deter enough students from Hogsmeade that the common room was more boisterous than normal for a Saturday morning. Matt and Rose were among those choosing to stay behind, while John, Kaden, and Amanda decided to power through the rain. John had his date with Hannah Nottingham, Kaden needed to go to Weasleys’, and Amanda was running dangerously low on chocolate. Albus hoped Emily would still want to go.

Albus and John set off for the Entrance Hall at the same time, as they were both meeting their dates at the same time. Hannah was already waiting for John when they arrived and the two of them set off immediately, Hannah giggling as the rain poured down on top of them as soon as John opened the oak front doors.

Albus loitered while he waited for Emily. He watched three other couples dash out the door, setting off for Hogsmeade. Another couple took one look at the rain and turned around. A group of second years ran out the doors, laughing and shrieking, brooms in hand, clearly ready for a pick-up Quidditch match in the rain. Why they’d choose to play Quidditch in the rain was beyond Albus.

Emily arrived dressed in a rain cloak and an umbrella in hand. She smiled at him and Albus felt his stomach flipflop. “Ready?” she said.

“Yeah,” Albus said, nodding.

“Oh, we’re of age. We can cast repellant charms on ourselves,” Emily said, stopping short in front of the doors. She took out her wand, aimed it at her head, and then smiled.

“You can do nonverabal spells?” Albus asked, pausing to cast a repellant charm on himself. “That’s impressive. I still can’t.”

“I practiced quite a bit over the summer,” Emily said.

Conversation about their summers and what spells Emily practiced during it lasted them until they reached Hogsmeade. Albus felt like a bit of a slacker by the time they got to the Three Broomsticks, having only done the bare minimum of homework over the summer. But Emily was a Ravenclaw, he reminded himself.

They ordered butterbeer and sat at a table in the back, next to a group of raucous third years, who were attempting to see how much butterbeer it would take them to feel tipsy. Albus didn’t have the heart to tell them that there was such little alcohol in butterbeer that it would be impossible to drink it fast enough to feel any effects before the body had time to process it.

Emily peeled the label off her butterbeer and smiled at Albus again. Albus took a sip, and tried to think of what to say next. He’d already exhausted every detail from his summer. Emily seemed to have as well.

“So-“ Albus began, deciding he would ask her about her nursing school application.

“How’s-“ Emily began at the same time. She laughed. “You first.”

“No, you go ahead,” Albus said, picking up his bottle again.

“I was just going to ask how James is doing,” Emily said. “I was pretty good friends with Meg Johnson.”

“Was?” Albus asked.

Emily sighed. “She’s gone a bit weird since James. Although I think it has more to do with her dad being in such trouble with the Ministry. They never got on, Meg and her dad. I think half the reason she dated James was to spite her dad. We haven’t really spoken since she left Hogwarts. I sent her an owl in the beginning of summer, but she never replied.”

“Oh,” Albus said. They didn’t get on, but Meg brought her dad lunch one day at the Auror Headquarters?

“Anyway, how’s James?” Emily asked.

Albus shrugged. “He’s ok.” He wasn’t sure how much of James’s business he should be telling James’s ex-girlfriend’s ex-friend.

“I heard he’s got permanent brain damage,” Emily went on. “Is that true?”

“Well…” Albus said. “I suppose, yeah. But it’s not like he can’t feed himself or anything. He just has trouble remembering things and gets confused sometimes. He’s still James.”

“And he really can’t play Quidditch again?”

“No,” Albus said. “He can’t. If he gets hit in the head again it could be life-threatening.”

“So what’s he going to do instead? I always thought he’d play professionally. I think everyone did. We all thought they’d be calling his name out at the World Cup one day. James Potter, Seeker for England!”

Albus wasn’t sure if he was imagining it, but it seemed a lot like Emily was more excited to talk about James than she had been about anything else so far. “Er, I dunno. Not sure he knows yet.”

Emily downed the rest of her butterbeer. “Well, whatever he decides, I’m sure he’ll be brilliant at it.”

Unless it involves magic, Albus thought, then immediately regretted thinking it, even though it was true.

“Want to go to Weasleys’?” Emily asked.

Albus raised his eyebrows. “You buy stuff from Weasleys’?”

“Not all Ravenclaws hate pranks,” she said as she stood up.

“It’s not that,” Albus said. “It’s that you’re a prefect.”

“Don’t you go to Weasleys’?”

“Well, yeah, but it’s my family’s business,” Albus pointed out.

“Come on,” Emily said, grabbing Albus’s hand.

Albus felt a tingle as he held onto Emily’s hand. He must’ve imagined her fascination with James. Either that or she was a really avid Quidditch fan and that extended to tragic stories of players whose careers ended before they started.

The rain had stopped, but the cobblestone street was still slick. Albus and Emily walked down the street, slipping every so often, but managing to stay upright. Weasleys’ was doing a roaring business, although they weren’t quite as packed as usual. Albus was relieved. They’d actually have room to move around.

“Al!” Uncle George shouted from behind the counter when they entered.

“Go on,” Emily said, letting to of his hand. “I’ll get what I need and meet you back here in a bit.”

Albus nodded, then weaved his way through the crowd and displays until he reached the counter. “Hi, Uncle George. Good day so far?”

Uncle George nodded. “I think the rain kept a few people away, but it’s been steady for the past hour or so. James is in the back, grabbing more Skiving Snackboxes. Two decades later and those are still our best selling item.”

“He’s working on a Hogsmeade visit day?” Albus asked. “I thought he wasn’t going to do that.”

“Normally, no, but the bloke who was supposed to work today called in sick. Didn’t have much of a choice. He’s been in the back a while now, though. Could you go see if everything’s ok?”

“Sure,” Albus said, nodding as he walked toward the back.

The noise from the shop immediately ceased as Albus shut the backroom door and walked through the aisles of stock. He found James where Uncle George kept the Skiving Snackboxes, awkwardly grabbing boxes with one arm and stacking them onto a cart.

“Hey, James,” Albus called out.

James stacked another box, then turned to Albus. “Oh, hey, Al. Hogsmeade visit day?”

“Er, yeah,” Albus said. “Let me help you with those.”

“Thanks,” James said.

Albus started grabbing boxes and stacking them on the cart. “How are you? How’s working here?”

James shrugged. “It’s all right. Uncle George doesn’t expect much. I just help out with whatever I can.”

“And your hand?” Albus asked, zeroing in on the brace James still wore on his wrist and hand.

James shrugged again. “Still there. Still useless.”

Albus nodded. Clearly James was not going to tell him what Teddy had told him at the Auror Headquarters. “I…I talked to Teddy a few days ago. He told me the therapy isn’t working anymore.”

A box slipped out of James’s hand and he tried to grab it, but fumbled it and it landed between them with a thud. Albus picked it up, examined it, and placed it on the cart.

“I don’t want to talk about that,” James muttered. “This should be enough.” He grasped the handle of the cart with his left hand and tried to push it, but it veered to the left, banging into the shelving unit.

“Here, let me,” Albus said, taking the cart from James.

James said nothing and walked alongside Albus toward the sales floor. Albus opened the door with a wave of his wand, only to find the shop significantly more crowded than before. Turning the cart, Albus craned his neck and looked for Emily, but couldn’t find her. He hoped she was patient enough to wait because Albus couldn’t just leave James to stock the shelves in this crowd and Uncle George had a queue fifteen people deep at the till.

There was a lot of whispering amongst the students as Albus and James maneuvered their way toward the Skiving Snackbox display and Albus could tell it was making James uneasy. He wished they would just stop. What was going on with James was none of their business. Luckily the only person near the Skiving Snackbox display was John, who broke out into a huge grin when he saw them.

“James, mate!” John said. “How are you?”

“All right,” James said, shrugging, but also smiling. “How’s the team?”

“Better now that Al convinced me to ease up a bit. They all hated me for a while there,” John confessed.

James snorted. “You can’t start off too hard on them. You’ve got to get everyone to like you and trust you as a captain first and then you can run them ragged.”

“Yeah, I suppose that would’ve been a better idea,” John said. “You’ll come to the first match, right?”

“Er…” James began. “I’ll think about it.”

“The team would love to have you there,” John said.

“I’ll lend you the Invisibility Cloak,” Albus said. “And you can stay in the changing rooms and no one except the team will have to know you’re there.”

James visibly relaxed. “All right. I’ll go. But only if Al gives me the Cloak. Just…don’t tell the team. That way they won’t be disappointed if I don’t show up. I still get awful headaches.”

“Deal,” John said. “Now, does your uncle have a limit on how many Snackboxes you can buy?”

“Nope,” James said. “Are you planning on skiving off every class?”

John laughed. “I’m selling them to first and second years and it’s really taken off. I’m considering partnering with someone from each of the other houses.”

“Why didn’t I think of that? That’s brilliant,” James said.

“I’m only charging a sickle extra, so I’m not making much per box, but given the demand it’ll add up,” John said as he began taking boxes off the cart and putting them directly into his shopping basket.

“Wait, weren’t you on a date today?” Albus asked. “Were you that awful to her that she ended it early?”

John groaned. “No, Al, she just didn’t fancy a trip in here. She’s waiting for me at the Three Broomsticks. And what about you? Where’d Emily Rhodes go?”

“Right behind you, John,” Emily said, coming up behind John. “There you are, Al. Your uncle said you were in the back helping- Oh, hi, James.”

James nodded and began moving the Snackboxes from the cart to the shelves. “Hi, Emily.”

“H-how are you?” she asked quietly, moving closer to James.

James shrugged, but didn’t say anything.

Emily chewed her lip. “Er…have you heard from Meg?”

James visibly flinched and Albus willed Emily to shut up. Why had he never asked Aunt Hermione to teach him Legilimency?

Emily didn’t seem to notice James’s reaction and kept going. “Because I sent her a few owls and still haven’t heard from her.”

John saved James the trouble of stocking the rest of the Snackboxes and shoved the remaining few into his already full basket. He then turned to Albus. “Well,” he said loudly. “I’m going to join the queue and get back to the Three Broomsticks. I’ll see you later. Good to see you, James.”

James grabbed hold of the cart, nodded at Albus and John, then hurried back in the direction of the backroom. Albus watched him go, torn whether to go after him or rejoin Emily.

“Want to go walk to the Shrieking Shack? I think the clouds are clearing,” Emily suggested.

Albus turned back to Emily. “Sure, but…give me a few minutes.”

***


Emily was waiting on a bench across the street from Weasleys’ when Albus emerged. He dodged a few third years who were kicking a Quaffle down the street and went to meet her. She stood when Albus reached her, setting off for the Shrieking Shack.

They said nothing for a few minutes, Albus too preoccupied with whether he ought to take her hand in his. He wasn’t about to pretend to be an expert in dating, but between Emily’s preoccupation with James and then Albus having to practically ditch her in order to help James, the date wasn’t going as well as it could’ve been. But would holding her hand make it better or worse?

“Your brother…he’s not okay, is he,” Emily said quietly as they passed the Hog’s Head.

Albus kicked a rock toward the side of the road and stuck his hands in his pockets. “Don’t…spread it around.”

While James’s injured hand, inability to play professional Quidditch, and traumatic brain injury were common knowledge thanks to the Prophet and various Quidditch magazines, no one outside the Potter-Weasley clan, Albus’s friends, and various healers knew the true extent of it. No one knew about the lasting effects of James’s brain injury or the fact that he couldn’t remember any spells. Albus was fairly certain most people thought James had made a full recovery, save from not being able to play professional Quidditch. And Albus was sure that’s how James wanted it.

“I just don’t understand how Meg could’ve dumped him after that,” Emily said.

“Technically James dumped Meg,” Albus said. “Could we not talk about James?”

“Sorry,” Emily said. “It’s just so tragic! He could’ve played for England!”

Albus cringed.

“Sorry!” Emily said again. “That was a stupid thing to say.”

“It’s just…everyone says that and it’s true, but not particularly helpful for James to keep hearing over and over again. One freak accident and he’s going to be known as James “He-Could’ve-Played-For-England” Potter for the rest of his life.”

“That’s a good point,” Emily said. “Oh, look, we’re nearly there. I swear, no matter how many times I see it, I still get freaked out.”

“Well, it is haunted,” Albus pointed out.

“But so is Hogwarts, technically. Oh, but you’ve been in there, haven’t you? Isn’t that where you found Boone? Did you see any ghosts?”

They reached the fence surrounding the Shack and Albus leaned on it before responding. “Yeah. No ghosts, but they were probably in another part of the Shack.”

“I hope Boone wins his lawsuit,” Emily continued. “It’s so awful, what the Ministry did to him. Do you know what’s happening to that bloke who really did do the murders?”

“They’re not sure they can try him by the Wizengamot, because he’s a squib,” Albus explained. “Nor are they sure they can lock him up in Azkaban, so he’s on house arrest.”

“That’s so messed up,” Emily said. “It does bring up a good question of what happens when the Muggle and wizarding worlds collide in terms of crimes. Azkaban is a prison for wizards, so is it right for a squib to get locked up there?”

“He killed wizards.”

“If a wizard kills a Muggle, they go to Azkaban, not Muggle prison,” Emily pointed out. “Look at Sirius Black.”

“He didn’t kill anyone,” Albus said quickly.

“I know that, but he was convicted of killing Muggles and he went to Azkaban for it. And if a Muggle killed a wizard, they’d go to Muggle prison.”

“But a squib isn’t a Muggle. Most squibs grow up in the wizarding world. And many of them stay in the wizarding world. There are places that will hire squibs.”

“But if you can’t do magic, is it fair for you to be in Azkaban?”

“Well, no one’s doing any magic if they’re locked up in Azkaban,” Albus pointed out.

Emily nodded. “I’ll give you that. I guess this is what everyone’s debating. Has anything like this even happened before?”

“A squib killing a wizard? Not since before we really had organized government. Rose looked it up. Last recorded case was so long ago the squib was hanged in the village square. Eye for an eye and all that.”

Emily winced. “Yikes.”

“Yeah, so they’ve nothing to go off of,” Albus said, just as thunder rumbled across the sky.

“We should probably head back,” Emily said, looking at the sky.

“Yeah, I suppose,” Albus agreed.

They set off back toward the castle, Albus once more debating whether he should hold her hand. When he finally got up the nerve to do it, Emily squeezed his hand and smiled at him. Maybe the date hadn’t gone as bad as he’d thought. But either way, the most successful part of it had been their discussion of murder and prisons while watching the Shrieking Shack. Albus wasn’t sure what that said about them as a possible couple, but he was willing to find out.

***


“So, are you going to tell us what you’ve plotted for this year?” Matt asked John and Kaden, who were whispering to each other in the Marauders’ Den.

“I don’t think they can beat last year,” Albus said, remembering to the previous year when John and Kaden had managed to put a duplication spell on everything in the Great Hall for Mischief Night.

“Not telling,” John said. “You should know by now that we never tell.”

“You’ll find out later tonight,” Kaden said.

“Or rather tomorrow morning,” John amended.

The following morning Albus and Matt walked very apprehensively into the Great Hall, unsure what they’d find. Neither of them had noticed when John returned to the dormitory late the previous night, and that was despite Albus not going to bed until one in the morning after staying up to complete a Charms essay.

“It seems normal…” Matt said quietly as they walked to the Gryffindor table.

“Too normal,” Albus said, looking around at their fellow students, who were all chatting and eating breakfast.

They sat across from Rose, whose head was buried in that morning’s copy of the Prophet. Her scones sat untouched on her plate. Amanda sat next to her, reading over her shoulder.

“What’s happened?” Albus asked as he pulled a platter of sausages toward him.

“The Ministry offered Boone a settlement,” Rose said, not looking up, “and he and his solicitor have rejected it.”

“As they should. It’s insulting,” Amanda added.

“They’re trying to avoid a nasty trial,” Rose said. “The media would have a field day with it. Not to mention at the rate members of the Wizengamot are resigning, they’ll have no one left to actually hear the trial.”

“If they want it settled out of court that badly they should’ve offered him more,” Amanda said.

“I agree,” Rose said, handing the paper to Albus.

Albus scanned the article, but it was very short and offered very little new information, other than what Rose just told him. He offered it to Matt, who shook his head.

“There’s a disgusting editorial in there, too,” Rose added. “Don’t waste your time with it. Full of myths about werewolves worthy of the early 1900s. I’ve half a mind to write my own editorial.”

“You should,” Amanda said. “Where’s John? I haven’t seen any pranks yet.”

Rose craned her neck toward the door. “I don’t see him either, but we’ve got to get to Defense.”

“Maybe the prank is no prank,” Albus said as they got up. “But that wouldn’t have kept him and Kaden out past one in the morning.”

“I could write them both up,” Rose muttered.

Albus kept his eyes peeled for anything out of the ordinary on his way to Defense, but saw nothing stranger than two monks in portraits yelling at each other across the corridor. He couldn’t help but feel vaguely disappointed as they neared the Defense classroom.

“Why isn’t anyone going in?” Matt asked as they drew near and saw the crowd of classmates blocking the doorway.

“What’s going on?” Rose asked, pushing her way through. “I’m Head Girl!”

Albus followed Rose, noticing that everyone nearby was laughing. He made it to the front of the pack, looked in the doorway, and saw John and Kaden’s prank. Every single object in the classroom was stuck to the ceiling, upside down. It was as if someone had flipped the classroom on its head.

And in the center of the classroom, on the empty floor, stood Albus’s father, laughing and shaking his head.

“I’ll have to thank Mr. Brickston when he arrives,” Dad said. “Come in, everyone. We needed the desks cleared off anyway. Today’s will be a practical lesson.”


A/N: Sorry for missing last week! By the time I realized I missed an update I figured I'd just wait until today. I'll update once more next week before nano begins. Thank you for all the reviews!

Chapter 12: Scouts
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With October behind them, most of Hogwarts was now looking forward to the start of the new Quidditch season. For the Quidditch players, the new season had started two months ago and thus November didn’t mark the start of anything, especially for Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff, who weren’t in the first match. For John, November meant the start of his year long scouting by Puddlemere. Two days before the match, he’d received a letter, informing him that they’d be sending someone to all his matches this year.

“I just don’t understand why they didn’t send this months ago!” John exclaimed as he read the letter for what must’ve been the tenth time.

“Would you have done anything different?” Albus asked, not looking up from his revised Auror Academy essay. The application was due in a week and Professor Longbottom wanted it sent off the next day. “Rose, could you look this over again?”

Rose sighed, setting down the book she was reading. “Did you actually change anything since I last read it?”

“I…I think so,” Albus muttered. “Could you just read it?”

“Fine,” Rose said. “But the next time I read it is going to be the last, and that’ll be right before you send it.”

“When’s your School of Healing application due?” Albus asked.

“Not until next month,” Rose said. “But I don’t have to do all the testing you do. Just an application and an interview.”

“Right,” Albus said. If the Auror Academy liked him enough on paper, they’d contact him within the month to schedule an interview, physical test, character evaluation, and psychological test. Once those were over, he’d have to wait until the spring to find out if he was accepted or not.

“Are you working on your essay, Rose?” John asked.

“No, I’m working on my editorial for the Prophet,” Rose answered. “I want it done before I turn in my application, so I can put it on there if it gets published.”

“What exactly is it about?” Matt asked quietly, looking up from his astronomy charts.

“I don’t have a title yet. I want people to see lycathropy for what it is. People need to start calling it lycanthropy and not call people who have it werewolves. Because it’s a disease…a disability. And I don’t meant that in a bad way-“

“I know you don’t. And you’re right. That is what it is,” Matt said.

Rose nodded. “And if people could see it for being that, for being something that affects someone’s ability to lead a typical life without modifications, then maybe people with lycanthropy will get the help they need, whether that’s government provided potions or to qualify for disability payments or whatever. I’ve been researching and someone like Boone, for example, wouldn’t even qualify for disability despite his hands, because lycanthropy is not seen as a disability and his hands are as they are because of his lycanthropy. Whereas James would possibly qualify for disability because his hand was injured due to Quidditch. I don’t know if he’d get it, but he could apply and his application would be taken seriously. Isn’t that insane?”

Matt nodded. “Dad complains about that all the time. There are a lot of people with lycanthropy who wouldn’t be able to work even if people would hire them and none of them qualify for any kind of assistance. I’d get denied if I applied on the basis of my lycanthropy-“

“But you’re fine most of the time,” John said. “So wouldn’t you get denied because of that?”

“Possibly. But when I get older and the transformations really start taking their toll, I wouldn’t qualify then, either. But if I were to apply because of my anxiety, I might get it for that.”

“Really?” John asked.

“Yeah, They started taking mental health seriously after the war,” Matt explained.

“Baby steps, I suppose,” Rose said. “And Al, your essay still looks fine. Look it over once in the morning and then send it off.”

“We’ve got practice, Albus,” John said as he stood up.

“Right,” Albus said, taking his essay and placing it carefully in his bag. “And thanks, Rose.”

“Al, could I talk to you before practice?” Matt asked. “I’ll be quick.”

“Sure,” Albus said. “I’ll meet you there, John.”

John nodded and set off for the pitch. Albus turned to Matt, who stood and followed John out of the room. Albus followed.

“What is it?” Albus asked once they were in the corridor.

Matt glanced up and down the corridor to make sure it was empty. “You know that group therapy session Norlam started?”

“Yeah,” Albus said, nodding.

“I- I think I’m going to go tomorrow. Norlam thinks it would be good…and I won’t have to say anything about lycanthropy. He reminded me that I’m not in therapy because of lycanthropy. The anxiety is related to it, but it’s not the same thing.”

“That makes sense. I hope it goes well.”

“I…I was actually wondering if you’d go with me. It’s just…I have no idea who’s going to be there and even if I’m not talking about lycanthropy I-“

“Of course,” Albus interrupted. “After class, right?”

Matt nodded. “Yeah, before dinner. And you won’t always have to go. Just…this will be the first one.”

“No problem,” Albus said. “Is this something you don’t want everyone else knowing about? I mean Rose and John and-“

“I just didn’t want Rose to go with me,” Matt said quietly. “She’s great, but she wants to do this for a living and I just thought she’d try to be Norlam’s assistant rather than….”

“Help you,” Albus finished.

“Exactly,” Matt said. “Thanks, Al.”

“No problem,” Albus said again. “I’ve got to get to Quidditch. I’ll see you later.”

***


Albus had no idea what to expect from a group therapy session. As a small child, he’d gone to a few family therapy sessions with his parents, James, and Lily due to his dad’s PTSD, but all he remembered doing was playing with the therapist’s puzzles and games with his siblings while their parents spoke with the therapist. He doubted that’s what he’d be doing at Healer Norlam’s group therapy session.

Even if Albus hadn’t known Matt since they were 11, it would’ve been easy for him to tell Matt was nervous as they walked side by side to the group therapy session. Matt wrung his hands the entire way and his face was pale the way it was before full moons. Normally Albus would try and distract him when he got anxious like this, but wasn’t the point of therapy to embrace the anxiety and figure out what was causing it?

“Maybe this was a stupid idea,” Matt muttered as they walked down the 7th floor corridor.

“You don’t have to go,” Albus said. “No one’s going to force you. But I don’t think it’s a stupid idea. It’ll be good to talk to other people who are going through what you’re going through.”

“No one else there has lycanthropy,” Matt whispered.

“No, but I bet at least one other kid there has an anxiety disorder. That’s why you’re going. No one has to know about the lycanthropy. Plenty of people have anxiety disorders without having gone through what you’ve gone through.”

“I know, I know,” Matt said.

“Look, if you hate it, we’ll leave,” Albus said.

“Okay,” Matt said, sighing. “Okay.”

They continued down the corridor, past the Room of Requirement and past the entrance to the Astronomy Tower.

“Isn’t it in the hospital wing?” Albus asked, as they passed the stairs.

“No,” Matt said. “Can’t close the hospital wing for this and it’s got to be private. It’s in a classroom, just a bit farther.”

Matt stopped in front of an open classroom door and looked at Albus. The look he gave him reminded Albus a lot of when he testified at the Boone trial.

“Okay,” Matt muttered, then slowly walked in.

Albus followed and was surprised to see that all the tables and desks had been removed from the classroom and replaced by squashy couches and armchairs. They were arranged in a circle, surrounding an oak coffee table, upon which sat a variety of sweets. Healer Norlam sat in an emerald green armchair and held a clipboard in his hands.

“Matt!” he said, smiling. “Nice to see you. And Albus, welcome. Have a seat.”

Matt nodded, stumbling over his shaky legs as he moved toward the circle. He caught himself on the back of a blue chair, then chose one of the couches. Albus sat next to him and looked around at who else was there.

Across from them, on another couch, sat a boy and a girl, neither of whom Albus recognized. They looked to be a few years younger, perhaps in Lily and Hugo’s year. They weren’t Gryffindors, but since they weren’t dressed in robes, Albus wasn’t sure of their houses. The boy eyed Albus warily, and Albus knew he was trying to figure out what sort of mental difficulties the son of Harry Potter had. He was both surprised and unsurprised to see Elsie Willinson curled up in the chair next to Healer Norlam’s, her face blank and devoid of emotion. Lastly, and the youngest of the group, was Erin Ellery, one of Hufflepuff’s Beaters.

The longer they sat waiting for the session to begin, the more nervous Matt became. While the rest of the group didn’t exactly look comfortable (save for Erin Ellery), Matt seemed by far the most anxious. Albus wasn’t sure whether that was because everyone else had already gone to these sessions or if he had been wrong in thinking some of the other group members would also have anxiety issues.

Healer Norlam checked his watch, then nodded, turning to Elsie. “Elsie, could you shut the door?”

Elsie didn’t reply, but stood up, shut the door, then sat back down in the same position she’d been in before.

“All right, time to begin,” Healer Norlam said. “Now, we have a few new faces this week, so I’d like to go over our ground rules again and then we can all introduce ourselves. The most important rule is nothing said in this room leaves this room. While I encourage all of my patients to be open about their mental illness, we all must understand that not everyone feels comfortable with that. Therefore, if someone feels comfortable enough to speak freely about it here, that doesn’t mean they want it spread around the school. We all need to respect that. Second, this is a judgement free zone. We are not here to make anyone feel bad about who they are or what they’ve done. We are here to help each other. If anyone breaks either of these rules, they will not be asked to return.

“Now, onto introductions. For the past few sessions I’ve had you introduce yourselves with your name, house, and an interesting fact about yourself. Remember, that interesting fact should have nothing to do with your diagnosis. Anyone remember why?”

“Because we are not defined by our illnesses,” Erin announced.

“Exactly. If you wish to share what illness you are struggling with as well, that is up to you. Erin, why don’t you start.”

“Erin Ellery,” she said. “OCD, since I was 5. And I can balance my wand on the tip of my nose.”

The boy who kept looking at Albus strangely went next. “I’m Franklin Matherson. I have depression. Um…and for an interesting fact…I once swallowed a chocolate frog whole, and I could feel it jumping around in my stomach.”

“Seriously?” Erin asked, her eyes huge. “How did you manage that?”

Franklin shrugged. “My brother dared me when I was eight.”

“Izzy, your turn,” Healer Norlam said.

The girl sitting next to Franklin sat up a little straighter. “Um…I’m Izzy Johnson. I, um, haven’t been diagnosed with anything…but I’ve had two panic attacks this year.”

Johnson Albus thought. Did Meg have a younger sister? Or perhaps a cousin? Then again, Johnson was a very common last name. Albus missed her interesting fact, too focused on her last name.

“I’m Elsie,” Elsie said, in a whisper so soft Albus could barely hear her. “I, um, have anxiety. And…I can’t think of any interesting facts.”

Healer Norlam nodded. “That’s okay, Elsie. Perhaps next time. Matt, you’re up.”

Matt looked like he was about to be sick, but he clasped his shaking hands and began. “I’m Matt Eckerton. I have generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. And for an interesting fact…um… I can do almost any spell nonverbally.”

If anyone was surprised at Matt’s list of disorders, they didn’t show it. Everyone except Elsie, did, however, seem impressed by his interesting fact.

“Albus?” Healer Norlam prompted.

“Er,” Albus began. He thought it was a bit ridiculous that he had to introduce himself when everyone obviously knew who he was because of his father. “I’m Albus. I don’t have a diagnosis. I’m here for Matt.”

“Thank you, everyone,” Healer Norlam said as he scrawled a note on his clipboard. “Now, if anyone would like to begin by sharing either a struggle or a success they’ve had this week, go ahead.”

Erin Ellery began, and Albus figured this was how the sessions usually went. Erin, it seemed, was very much a chatterbox. Albus paid only vague attention, however. His mind was half on Matt, who didn’t seem to be getting any less anxious as time went on, and half on Izzy Johnson and whether she had any relation to Auror Johnson.

The session continued with everyone except Matt and Elsie offering their struggles and successes, and everyone offering their comments on each person’s struggle or success. Healer Norlam said very little, and when he did, he simply prompted someone to think about why they had reacted in a certain way or done a certain thing.

Toward the end of the hour, Albus wondered why Healer Norlam ever thought this would be good for Matt. Matt hadn’t relaxed the entire time. His hands still visibly shook and there was a shiny film of sweat all over his face.

“Well, that’s all the time we have for today,” Healer Norlam said after Erin finished another story, this one about Quidditch practice. “I will hopefully see you all back here next week. Matt, if you could hang back for a moment.”

“I’ll wait for you outside,” Albus said, as he made to get up and follow everyone else.

Matt shook his head. “No, stay.”

After Izzy Johnson left, shutting the door behind her, Healer Norlam got up and sat on the coffee table, next to the chocolate frogs, and faced Matt.

“Your success,” he said quietly, “was the fact that you came here, verbalized your diagnoses, and stayed the entire time.”

Matt nodded, but didn’t say anything.

“I know that was tough. But I hope it will get easier if you keep coming back.”

“E-everyone e-else…they’re not as b-bad as I am,” Matt said quietly.

“I never compare my patients,” Healer Norlam said. “I’m not saying you have it worse off than they do. But, you have PTSD. From multiple traumatic events. PTSD is a whole other cauldron of fish. Not to mention, your emotions are heightened because of the waxing moon. If you’d like, I can look into a PTSD support group for you-“

“N-no,” Matt interrupted. “Not yet.”

“Ok. You let me know when. For now, go get some rest,” he said, pausing to pick up a handful of chocolate frogs. “And eat these. You’ll feel better.”

Matt nodded and took the frogs. He got up, and Albus followed.

Once they were outside the room and the door was shut, Matt sank down onto the floor and put his head between his legs. His breathing was hitched and he was shaking so hard it was clearly visible.

Albus sat down next to him. “Breathe,” he said. “In and out. Slowly. In…and out.”

They sat there for ten minutes, waiting out the panic attack. After it was over, Matt slowly picked his head up, his face covered with sweat and tears. “I d-don’t know if I c-can do that again.”

“You don’t have to,” Albus said. “You okay to stand?”

“I think so.”

Albus got up and stretched out his hand for Matt, who took it and stood up.

“Have you ever met Izzy Johnson before?” Albus asked, figuring the distraction would be good.

“N-no,” Matt said.

“I wonder if she’s related to Auror Johnson,” Albus said.

“Johnson’s a c-common name,” Matt said. “But I b-bet James would know.”

“Right,” Albus said. “I’ll send him an owl.”

***


The following morning at breakfast John was the one on the verge of a nervous breakdown. He sat staring at his plate of bacon and eggs as if it had all the answers in the world, or at least the ones that would enable Gryffindor to win their match against Slytherin.

“Won’t the scouts be more interested in your plays and how you unite the team?” Rose asked in between sips of tea. “Rather than whether you win?”

“Well, if we lose that’ll mean my plays and strategies weren’t good. Or at least not better than Slytherin’s,” John muttered.

“Isn’t it a bit more complicated than that?”

“Yes, but winning is still a better way to impress them than losing,” John snapped. He turned to Albus. “I’ll see you on the pitch. I’m going down early.”

Albus nodded. “I’ll be there in a bit. I told James I’d meet him in Dad’s study and give him the cloak and walk down with him.”

“Right, well, try not to be late,” John said as he got up, his breakfast still uneaten.

“He’s putting too much pressure on himself,” Rose said.

“Think of it like N.E.W.T.s,” Albus said. “You’ll be nervous for your N.E.W.T.s because the marks you get on those will either get you into the School of Healing or not. Same with the Quidditch matches this year. They’ll make teams want to hire John, or not.”

Rose looked slightly horrified at the idea of comparing N.E.W.T.s and Quidditch matches, but nodded all the same.

“I’ve got to go meet James,” Albus said, shoving the remainder of his toast into his mouth. “See you after the match.”

Albus hurried upstairs, stopping every few minutes to accept “good lucks” wished to him by various Gryffindors, while ignoring the glares of Slytherins. The Defense Against the Dark Arts corridor was empty and Albus slipped into his father’s study unnoticed. Neither James nor their father were there, so Albus wandered the room, noting how much messier it was now than it had been at the beginning of the year.

His father’s desk was extremely disheveled, with random pieces of parchment and remnants of biscuit scattered everywhere. Albus brushed the bits of biscuit off the desk, his hand resting upon a letter from Matt’s dad.

Albus glanced at the door, but the corridor outside seemed empty still. The fire still crackled orange and red, no sign of James. Hesitantly, he picked up the letter.

Harry-

I think you’re right. I think we do need continue to move
toward a change in status. Even if the motion fails (and I am
99% certain it will), it will tell the world there are people
who want equal rights for lycanthropes, and it will keep
the idea at the forefront of everyone’s minds.

But we do need support from other countries. We’ll be
laughed out of the International Confederation of Wizards
if we walk in without support. I think we can count on
Canada, France, Sweden, and a number of others, but
I think we need to make a few trips abroad to visit with
other governments. See if Kendrick will give you a week or
so off sometime in the next month. Let me know.

-Walt


The fire lit up green before Albus had a chance to process what he’d read. Quickly he set the letter back down and stepped away from the desk. James stepped out of the fire and smirked at Albus.

“I saw what you were doing there,” he said.

“I wasn’t doing anything,” Albus said hurriedly.

“As if you’d ever give up the opportunity to snoop,” James said. “You have the cloak?”

“Yeah,” Albus said, taking the cloak from where he’d left it on a table and handing it to James.

“Thanks,” James said as he wrapped it around himself. “How’s John doing?”

“He’s a wreck,” Albus said. “And I’m not talking to you while you’re under that cloak. I’ll look barking mad.”

“Fair enough,” James said.

They made it down to the pitch with plenty of time to spare, although there were a few students already in the stands. Albus led the way into the changing rooms, where the rest of the team was already huddled around John’s model Quidditch pitch. They turned toward the door as Albus and James entered.

Without saying a word, James pulled the cloak off himself and set it on the nearest bench. “Surprise,” James said.

There was a collective gasp from the team and they all abandoned John’s model to crowd around James.

“How are you?” Janie exclaimed. “How’s your hand?”

“Pretty useless,” James said, holding up his right hand, which was still encased in a brace. “But can’t say it’s any worse than it was a few months ago.”

“And your head?” Niamh asked.

James shrugged. “Better than before, not perfect.”

“It was never perfect to begin with,” Albus said, smirking.

The team laughed and James punched Albus in the shoulder. “Ow!”

“Oh, come off it, that didn’t hurt,” James said. “I punched you with my bad hand. That’s like getting punched by a baby.”

“It’s the principle of the matter,” Albus said.

“All right, enough fighting,” John said. “I’ve got to finish showing you this play.”

Having James there seemed to be a moral booster for the team and a confidence booster for John. As soon as James complimented one of John’s tactics, John seemed to lose all the anxiety he’d had that morning at breakfast.

The crowd grew louder and louder as the minutes ticked down to the start of the match. Eventually, they stopped talking tactics and simply waited for the team to be called.

“Did you see the scouts?” Albus asked.

“Yeah. They’re sitting with the professors,” John said. “It’s time.”

James donned the cloak and lined up behind the team. As they walked out onto the pitch, Albus couldn’t help but think that it should’ve been the other way around. Albus should’ve been the one watching James play.


A/N: Thanks for all the reviews! NaNoWriMo starts in less than five hours, so this is going on hiatus for the month of November. Depending on whether I finish NaNo early or not, I might update once in November. Otherwise, I'll be back in December with every other week updates since I've almost run out of chapters to post. And I know this seems like a cliffhanger, but the match was too long to fit the whole thing at the end of this chapter. Nothing earth shattering happens during it.

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