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PostPosted: Wednesday 23 December 2009 5:35:46pm 
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Chapter 15: Answers

When Albus walked into the Great Hall, he stopped in his tracks. The room had been completely transformed. There were huge jack o' lanterns everywhere, lit up by candles. Realistic looking spider webs were draped across every surface. The four House tables had disappeared and were replaced by spindly round wooden tables. Fake spiders were crawling around the floor. Fake bats were flying around. Tables of food were set up everywhere. Cauldrons were smoking on top of them, emitting all sorts of different colored smoke.

The professors were all milling about and talking with each other. Kendrick was dressed up as Merlin or Dumbledore, Albus couldn't tell which. Neville was dressed as Godric Gryffindor, Patil as Rowena Ravenclaw, and even Slughorn was dressed as Salazar Slytherin. Polo was not dressed as Helga Hufflepuff, a fact John was quick to point out. He was probably dressed as some other famous Hufflepuff, but Albus had no idea who it was.

In fact, nearly all the professors were dressed up. The only one who wasn't was Balladanis. He was wearing his usual pristine black robes with the intricate silver fastenings. He was wearing a grim look as he brushed past Albus and his friends. His eyes narrowed a little at John but he quickly looked away. Albus thought this was odd, but didn't dwell on it.

As the room gradually filled with more and more students, Albus noticed that there were an alarming amount of them dressed up as his father. Most were first years. Albus just kept staring as eleven-year-olds with plastic glasses and fake scars on their faces walked past. He thought it was really really odd.

"We're surrounded by your dad," John laughed as another miniature Harry Potter walked by.

"This is just weird," Albus muttered, shaking his head.

"It's kind of funny," John laughed even harder.

"Bet you wouldn't think that if everyone was dressing up as your dad," Albus replied.

"And that kid's dressed up as your uncle!" Kaden announced, pointing to a red-haired boy who could've easily passed for a Weasley. In fact, he didn't really look like he was dressed up at all, but Albus figured he was his Uncle Ron.

"Uncle Ron would like that," Albus smirked.

"He would," someone said from behind Albus.

Albus turned around and saw the real Harry Potter with a plate of biscuits in hand. "Hi, Dad!"

"This has got to be the strangest party ever," Harry said, "I've never seen people dressed up as me before. It's rather odd."

"Yeah," Albus agreed. He didn't really like that so many people were dressed as his dad.

"Too bad Ron is on duty tonight," Harry sighed, "He would've liked to see a kid dressed as him. Where's Rose?"

"Er...."

Harry gave Albus a curious look. "Is everything all right?"

"Um, yeah," Albus mumbled, "I guess."

"Well, you know I'm always here if you need to talk," Harry replied, "I like your costumes, by the way."

"Thanks," Albus grinned, "Kaden's idea."

"So far I haven't seen any other Muggle costumes," Harry pointed out, "I've got to go talk to Kendrick, so I'll see you soon."

Albus nodded. "See you later."

Once Harry left, Albus and his friends wandered over to one of the food tables. They loaded up plates with chicken and potatoes and various other stuff and went to find seats.

"Look, Albus," Matt pointed to the door, "The girls are dressed as Muggle witches."

Albus looked up and saw Rose, Amanda, and Linda strolling into the room dressed as the Muggle version of a witch. All three of them were wearing plain black robes, black witch hats, and had painted their faces green.

Albus caught Amanda's eye and they gave each other weak smiles as the girls walked into the room.

"Guess they couldn't come up with any other ideas," John muttered.

"We did agree on costumes before they stopped speaking to us," Albus pointed out.

"I guess," John said.

"Looks like they're coming over here," Matt groaned.

Albus set down his plate and watched as the girls progressed towards them. Rose's face was still stony, even in green. Amanda was leading them, so Albus figured she wanted to say hi, not Rose.

"Hi, Albus," Amanda greeted them, "Matt, John, Kaden. Great costumes."

"Thanks," Albus smiled, "You, too."

Nobody else said anything. Albus stood awkwardly with Amanda and looked around at the group. Rose was glaring at Matt and vice versa. John and Kaden were shifting nervously around. Linda was staring at John, but not in a loathing way. It was more of a combination between curiosity and revulsion, which Albus thought was kind of odd.

"This is just so stupid!" Amanda finally exclaimed, "Do you lot want to keep fighting for the rest of the year?"

"Not really," Albus muttered.

Rose sent a withering look at Amanda and then turned around and left in a huff. Amanda sighed and followed her. Linda shook her head and then ran after Amanda.

"Well, that was awkward," Kaden announced a few seconds later.

"Is this really what the rest of the year is going to be like?" Albus asked, looking pointedly at Matt, "Because I think I'll go mad if it is."

"Well, Rose started it," Matt muttered.

"You both started it," Albus snapped, "And you both had better finish it."

"It's not that simple, Albus," Matt sighed.

"It isn't?" Albus asked, "What am I missing, then? I was there. You two fought over whether Linda should be in the Room or not! And we all said no, but Rose is still upset over it! I just don't understand it."

"Told you it wasn't simple," Matt said in barely more than a whisper.

"They're girls. Nothing is simple with girls," John groaned, "And do you know why it's not simple, Matt?"

Matt shifted uncomfortably and looked away for a few seconds. "Yeah, I do," he whispered.

"Care to explain?" Albus asked, now thoroughly confused.

"Not here," Matt said, "Come on, let's go to the room."

Albus followed Matt out of the Great Hall with John and Kaden on either side of him. None of them said a word until they reached the Marauder's Den. They went inside and sat down on the furniture. Matt stood up as soon as he sat down and then began pacing around. It reminded Albus of the time he explained about the Hallows back in their first year.

"All right, what's up with the girls?" John asked after Matt paced for a few moments.

Matt stopped pacing and stood in front of them. "Ok, here it goes. What do you know about vampires?"

"Wait, what?" Albus shook his head. What in the name of Merlin did vampires have to do with the girls?

"What do you know about vampires?" Matt repeated.

John laughed. "They vant to suck your blood!" he exclaimed in a bad Transylvannian accent. He opened his mouth and leaned towards Kaden's neck.

"Ew," Kaden moved away, "Vampires are afraid of garlic and they can't see themselves in mirrors. They can't go out during the day and they turn into bats. Oh, and you have to kill them with a wooden stake to the heart."

"Er," Albus began, "I don't really know much besides the whole blood sucking thing."

"You know," Matt began, "You know nothing about vampires, yet you knew enough about werewolves to figure out that I was one."

"That was Rose," Albus reminded him.

"Right, anyway, Kaden, those are the vampires as Muggles see them. They're not like that."

"Oh," Kaden said.

"What do vampires have to do with this anyway?" John asked, "I just want to know why Rose is so stubborn."

"It's just the way she is," Albus muttered.

"Vampires," Matt continued, "In the wizarding world, are the undead. They're dead, but they're still around, obviously. Vampires feed on human blood, but if they don't suck a human completely dry, the victim becomes a vampire themselves."

"Sort of like werewolves," Kaden pointed out.

"Yeah, I guess," Matt replied, "But not really. Anyway, they basically die but they don't. They become immortal and stop aging. Someone could be bitten when they're twenty and still look twenty two hundred years later. Their hearts stop beating and they run out of blood. That's why they turn pasty white. Then, they need to feed on blood in order to survive. They can either use human or animal blood. The vampires that like to integrate into human society prefer to use animal blood. All they need to survive is blood. They don't need food. But they eat it to pretend they're human. They don't need to sleep either."

"Really?" Kaden asked, "That is weird."

Albus never knew any of that. Now the vampire unit in Defense class was going to be incredibly easy.

"How often do they drink blood?" Albus asked.

"Depends on the vampire. Most need to drink it every couple of weeks or so."

"What happens if they don't?"

"They get weak," Matt explained, "Vampires are exceptionally strong and fast, but if they haven't had any blood recently, they feel weak and sick."

"Like you do before the full moon," Kaden pointed out.

"Yeah," Matt nodded, "Sort of like that."

"Can they go out during the day?" John asked.

"There's a potion that they take so they can go out in the sun. The sun hurts them. Kind of like the moon for werewolves."

"But what's this got to do with Rose?" John asked impatiently.

"I'm getting there," Matt said as he began pacing again, "Anyway, vampires are fast and strong so they can catch their prey. But they are also more beautiful than regular humans. That way people are attracted to them. They're also really really charismatic. When you meet one, you're naturally attracted to them. It's hard to explain, you're just drawn to them. It doesn't even matter if they're a boy or a girl or if you're a boy or a girl."

Albus suddenly remembered the day the foreign students arrived and he first laid eyes on Linda. She was beautiful. Albus hadn't been able to take his eyes off her. But she didn't seem particularly charismatic. After hearing Matt's description of a vampire, Linda did sound like one, except for the charismatic part. She hardly said a word.

"So if a vampire walked through the door, I'd immediately want to to go over to them?" John asked.

"Pretty much, yeah," Matt said.

"How do you know all this?" John asked.

"Remember the library at my house? There are loads of vampire books there because of my dad's job. I've read a few of them."

"Well, you'll do great on whatever test Balladanis gives us on vampires when we get to that unit," John laughed.

"Wait," Kaden looked at Matt curiously, "Muggles believe that vampires and werewolves hate each other, and didn't you say that's real?"

"Er, yeah," Matt said quietly, "That's pretty much it. But mostly the big rivalry is between werewolves and vampires who live away from wizards. There are packs of werewolves and covens of vampires who fight over territory and stuff. That doesn't happen as much as it did years ago, but it still does occasionally, mostly in other countries."

"So, you don't really hate all vampires?" Kaden asked.

"I've never really met one," Matt shrugged.

"And what in the name of Merlin does this have to do with Rose rowing with us?" John asked exasperatingly.

Albus was getting a bit impatient as well. Sure, he liked hearing about vampires. They were kind of interesting, but he mainly wanted to know what Matt knew about Rose.

"Linda is a vampire," Matt said simply.

The room was silent for a few minutes. Albus stared at Matt. Linda was a vampire? It was possible. She did fit some of the characteristics, but it was still hard to grasp. Albus had never met a vampire before, let alone one that was his age.

"When did you figure that out?" Albus asked.

"As soon as she walked past the Gryffindor table," Matt answered.

John looked at him in awe. "Wow, that's impressive. You ought to go into the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures."

"Now that would be even more ironic than my dad working there," Matt laughed, "But I would have known she was a vampire even if I didn't know so much about them. Werewolves and vampires can instantly recognize each other."

"How?" Albus asked.

"Smell," Matt said, "Vampires have a distinctive smell, but regular wizards can't tell. Werewolves can, though. And vampires can smell werewolves."

"And you didn't tell us?" John asked incredulously.

"I didn't see the point, until now."

"Didn't see the point? There's a vampire at Hogwarts and you didn't think to tell us?" John shook his head, "There's always a reason to tell us that kind of stuff."

Matt shrugged. "Well, you know now."

Albus was still processing the information. Linda was a vampire. Matt knew Linda was a vampire from the start. Werewolves can smell vampires. Vampires can sense werewolves. That meant-

"Wait," Albus began, "Linda knows you're a werewolf, doesn't she?"

Matt sighed. "Yes, she probably does."

"Then why does it matter if she gets to go in the Marauder's Den?" John asked, "Not that I want to let her in."

"It's the principle of the thing!" Matt replied, "I just don't see why Killigan let her go to his school but he wouldn't let me! I know it's stupid to avoid her because of that because it's not her fault, but I just don't get it."

Albus hadn't even thought of that. Matt was right; it didn't make sense. How was letting a vampire into a school any different from letting a werewolf?

"But if you had been let in, you wouldn't have moved here," John pointed out.

"I know, and I'm glad we moved, but it's just not fair," Matt sighed.

"So," Kaden said loudly, "There's a vampire at Hogwarts. Who's blood is she sucking?"

“That, is actually a good question," Albus said.

"I have no idea," Matt replied, "I'm guessing she's sucking animal blood. Probably hunts in the forest."

"What about the whole 'vampires are charismatic' thing?" Albus asked. Even if Linda did want to suck human blood, he had no idea how she'd manage to lure a human towards her. She seemed to avoid as many people as possible.

Matt smiled wryly, "That's where it gets interesting. The three of you don't see her as charismatic, right?"

"Yeah," Albus said. John and Kaden nodded.

"That's what I thought. It's because you're friends with me."

Albus turned to look at John and Kaden. Both of them looked as confused as Albus felt.

"Wait, what?" John asked.

"Even way back when there were more packs of werewolves and covens of vampires running about, it was possible for humans to affiliate with one or the other. Occasionally, a pack of werewolves would sort of 'adopt' a human and the human would live with the pack. I mean, the human would leave for the full moon, but live with the pack the rest of the month. But if the human came upon a vampire, the human would be completely undesirable to a vampire because they were affiliated with werewolves."

"And we're affiliated with you, so Linda wouldn't want to suck our blood, even if she did suck human blood?" Albus asked.

"Exactly," Matt replied, "Remember how everyone seemed to flock around Linda when she first came here? Everyone except us. Even Rose disliked her back then."

"But she doesn't now," Kaden reminded him.

"I know. That's because as Rose started spending more time with Linda, she spent less time with us, with me. She became less affiliated with me, so to speak. And then when we had that row, well, now she's just affiliated with Linda. She's completely under Linda's charisma."

Rose was affiliated with a vampire? Did this mean there was no hope of her reconciling with Matt? Albus groaned inwardly. He really didn't like Linda now. She was putting a huge rift into their group.

"Is it possible for a person to be friends with both a werewolf and a vampire?" Albus asked quietly.

"I think so," Matt sighed, "But Rose won't even talk to us."

"I think the only way she will is if we agree to let Linda into the Marauder's Den," Albus muttered, "She's just so stubborn."

"But we don't want to let her in here," John groaned.

"No, we don't," Matt agreed.

"Do you think Rose knows she's a vampire?" Albus asked. Rose was smart, but if she had found out Linda was a vampire, she probably would have told him. She told him Matt was a werewolf, after all. Unless of course she discovered Linda was a vampire after the row.

"No idea," Matt shrugged, "Do you know if she knows anything about vampires?"

"Probably not much," Albus answered.

"Then she might not. Linda's obviously trying to conceal that she's a vampire. I bet she'll find out when we do the vampire unit in Defense, though."

"Unless we tell her first," Albus said quietly.

"Are we going to?" John asked.

"Would she even listen?" Matt asked.

"I sort of think we should at least try to tell her," Albus said, "And Amanda, too."

"I suppose," Matt sighed, "But they're always around Linda."

"We'll just have to wait until she's at Quidditch practice. I think the Australian team practices on Mondays, so I guess we'll wait until then," Albus said.

The room descended into silence for a few minutes. Linda had definitely spiked Albus's curiosity. He was mostly curious about why Linda had been allowed to go to the Australian School of Sorcery but Matt hadn't. What was the difference in letting a vampire attend than a werewolf? Even if Linda did suck animal blood, there was still the potential for her to suck human blood.

"Bloody hell," Kaden let out a low whistle, "A vampire at Hogwarts."

Albus nodded. Kaden pretty much summed up what Albus was thinking. Linda being a vampire had shocked him more than Matt being a werewolf. He wasn't sure why, but maybe it was because Teddy's dad had been a werewolf and he attended Hogwarts, but as far as Albus knew, no vampires had ever been there.


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PostPosted: Monday 28 December 2009 10:59:21pm 
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Love this so far. In fact love all your ablus stories. can't wait for the next chapter.


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PostPosted: Wednesday 30 December 2009 5:18:36pm 
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Thanks, Dawn! :grin:

Chapter 16: The First Match

The atmosphere at Hogwats the next day reminded Albus a lot of what it was like the day of the Quidditch Final. It was the day of the first Quidditch match of the Inter-School Competition. Australia would be playing New York. Albus was excited, but not as excited as he would have been if Hogwarts was playing. He didn't particularly care who won this match. He was curious about Linda's seeking skills, though.

"Hi, Al," someone said from behind Albus as he walked down to the pitch with Matt, John, and Kaden.

Albus turned around and saw his dad. "Hi, Dad! Here to see the match? Or are you on duty?"

"Just to see the match," Harry grinned, "I'm hoping to be able to see them all, especially the ones you and James get to play in."

"I don't really get to play in any of them," Albus pointed out.

"You never know," Harry said, "Well, I'm sitting with Neville, so I'll see you after the match."

"Bye, Dad," Albus waved as he ran ahead of them.

The boys found decent seats and waited for the match to begin. The weather was particularly nice, especially for a late October day. The sun was out and there was only a slight breeze in the unseasonably warm air.

"It's kind of odd to not be rooting for Gryffindor," Matt said.

Albus agreed. Nobody was segregated into House sections like they usually were during Quidditch matches. "I don't know who to root for."

"Me either," John lowered his voice, "I mostly just want to see how Linda plays. Never seen a vampire play Quidditch before."

"She must be good. She's only a second year and she's on the team," Albus pointed out.

"But she's immortal," Matt reminded them, "So she's probably decades older than us at least."

Albus still found that aspect of vampires very strange. He sighed to himself and focused on the pitch, where a few people were milling about. Albus could make out Professors Kendrick, Roberts, and Killigan, along with a few other people Albus didn't recognize.

"Welcome, students, staff, and guests to the first Quidditch match of the competition!" Kendrick shouted over the crowd a few minutes later, "This will work exactly like regular Quidditch matches. Ludo Bagman of the Department of Magical Sports will referee this match. And now, I give you the Quidditch teams of the Adirondack Academy of Magic and the Australian School of Sorcery!"

The New Yorkers were dressed in blue Quidditch robes and the Australians were dressed in green. Both teams entered the pitch with brooms in their hands. Albus watched as each of their captains shook hands. Bagman blew a whistle and all fifteen of them rose into the air.

"And they're off!" Todd Smith, who was apparently the commentator for the inter-school matches, shouted, "Haberino of New York catches the Quaffle and is flying to the Australian goal posts...."

It was a very fast paced match. The Quaffle passed back and forth between players faster than Smith could announce. Albus was very impressed. He also doubted he could fly as well as them and was sort of glad he wasn't playing.

Albus knew he should pay the closest attention to the Chasers, but he couldn't help but gawk at Linda as she flew around the pitch. She was noticeably faster than the rest of the players. Her form was practically a blur every time she darted in between the rest of the players.

"Merlin, she's fast!" Albus exclaimed as Linda went from one end of the pitch to the other in mere seconds.

"I don't think I've ever seen anyone fly that fast!" John gaped, "And I've been to loads of Puddlemere matches!"

"Well, that would explain it," Matt smirked.

"Puddlemere has plenty of fast fliers!" John shouted, "It's you who's probably never seen anyone fly fast, what with you being a Cannons fan...."

Matt rolled his eyes. "She's fast because of what she is."

Albus nodded. He kind of figured that. It didn't seem fair, though. None of the other teams had a vampire for a Seeker. James obviously wasn't a vampire and Albus doubted the New York Seeker was one either. He was a lot slower than Linda. It seemed like there should be some sort of rule that would prevent Linda from being on the Australian team. Although, Albus wasn't sure Kendrick and Roberts knew Linda was a vampire.

"New York scores!" Smith shouted, "40-20 New York!"

Linda may have been fast, but New York seemed to have better Chasers. Their style of playing reminded Albus of how he played with his cousins. When Albus played with Heather and Fred, it was almost like they shared a brain.

All of a sudden, Linda shot across the pitch, from the Australian goals to the bottom of the New York goals. Albus stood up and watched the New York Seeker flew after her, but was meters behind. Linda dove for the ground and flew back into the air clutching something in her hand.

"Is that?" John began.

"The Snitch?" Kaden gaped.

"It is," Albus stared as the two teams descended to the ground. It had only been fifteen minutes since the match started!

"Linda Morales of Australia has caught the Snitch!" Smith announced, "Australia wins 170-40!"

"That was the quickest game of Quidditch I've ever seen," John said.

Everyone agreed. Albus had never seen anyone catch the Snitch that fast before. If the other matches were like this one, Australia was going to have the competition in the bag.

"I'm guessing this match won't be followed by a party in the common room?" Kaden asked as the boys got up from their seats.

"Probably not," Albus laughed, "Hogwarts didn't play, so we've really got nothing to celebrate."

"Linda's in Gryffindor, though," John pointed out.

"Yeah, but I'm betting most of the Gryffindors are going to be a bit upset at Linda's seeking skills. I mean, James is good, but even he's going to have problems going up against Linda. I think she'd even give Teddy a run for his money," Albus pointed out.

"James can beat her," John said confidently as they began the journey back to school, "He's a brilliant Seeker."

"But she's faster," Albus sighed.

"She's bound to slip up eventually," Kaden said hopefully.

Albus certainly hoped so. Maybe the Beaters could just constantly pelt her with Bludgers throughout the whole match so she wouldn't have a chance to find the Snitch.

They continued to walk alongside the forest on their way to the castle. The hair on the back of Albus's neck bristled and he looked quickly over his shoulder. It felt like someone was watching him. He stopped in his tracks and looked into the forest. He saw a dark figure jump behind a tree. Someone was in there.

"Why'd you stop, Albus?" Kaden asked.

"There's someone in the forest," Albus whispered.

"Hagrid?" Matt asked.

"No," Albus shook his head, "Too small to be Hagrid."

"We should go find out who it is," John announced.

"Are you mental?" Matt said, "Whoever's in there could be a murderer or something!"

Albus wasn't sure about that, but he was sure that he was curious. He wanted to know who was lurking about the forest after a Quidditch match.

"Maybe we should," Albus said.

Matt sighed. "Albus, you're supposed to be the sane one."

"I want to go see who it is," Kaden said.

"It's the Forbidden Forest!" Matt groaned, "Forbidden! If we get caught, we'll be in huge trouble! Look at everyone walking around. Someone is going to catch us."

That was a good point. But at the same time, Albus really wanted to know who it was. He couldn't just stand there and not go find out who the mysterious figure was....

"Al," a voice said from behind him.

Albus jumped and turned around. His dad was standing there, looking at him curiously. "Oh, hi Dad."

"What are you doing?" Harry asked.

"Er, there's someone in the forest," Albus replied.

Harry peered into the forest and then turned back to Albus with a grim look on his face. "Thanks for letting me know, Al. I'll check it out. I want all four of you to go back to the castle and go straight to Gryffindor Tower."

"Who do you think it is?" Albus asked. His dad seemed rather worried.

"I have a few guesses," Harry replied, "If it's anyone important, I'll let you know."

Albus nodded and started to walk back to the castle with his friends. He glanced back at his dad and saw his Patronus running in the opposite direction. A few people were pointing at it and whispering.

"Who do you think it is?" Kaden asked.

Albus shrugged. "Dunno. I mean, the only people I can think of are Washburn and Willinson, but they haven't been sighted in months."

"It's got to be one of them," John said, "Why else would your dad get so worried about it?"

"But he couldn't even see who it was," Matt pointed out, "It might turn out to be nothing."

"Scary, though," Kaden shivered, "One of them coming back. I mean, I've never met either of them, but if they're anything like Quinton...."

"Don't worry," Albus assured him, "We'll just go back to the common room and we'll be fine."

The boys hurried back into the castle and up to Gryffindor Tower. Most of the people around them were talking about the match, but Albus overheard a few people talking about his dad's Patronus.

The Gryffindor common room was packed when they entered it. There was a very large group of people in the middle shouting about Quidditch and Albus had no doubt that Linda was in the middle of it, even if she didn't want to be. Albus didn't see Rose or Amanda anywhere and figured they were with Linda. Albus had a fleeting thought that he needed to tell them about what he saw, but decided not to since Rose wasn't speaking with him. He just didn't feel like telling her anything important while she was still giving him the silent treatment. He was starting to feel a bit dejected that it had been going on so long.

Albus and his friends found a table and sat down. They were quickly joined by Lily, Hugo, and Ashtyn.

"Can you believe she caught the Snitch that fast?" Lily asked.

"That was incredible," Albus agreed, "But she's going to make it hard to beat Australia."

"I'll say," Hugo sighed, "Everyone is trying to figure out how she's so fast. Fred thought she had some sort of special broom, but she denied it."

"Well, she obviously wouldn't admit to that," Ashtyn rolled her eyes.

"Maybe Rose could ask her," Lily suggested.

"I doubt Rose would do that," Albus muttered.

"Are you still rowing with her?" Lily asked.

"Er, yeah," Albus said.

"Why? Nobody's told me what your row was even about," Lily huffed.

"It's not your business, Lily," Albus sighed.

"Come on," Lily whined, "I'm your sister."

"And I don't tell you everything," Albus said, "So give it a rest."

"Can I have everyone's attention?" someone shouted from the portrait hole.

Albus looked up and saw Neville standing there. Everyone immediately quieted down. Teachers rarely went into the common room. In fact, the only time they did was when something bad happened or when Gryffindor had a spectacular Quidditch win.

"I don't want anyone leaving the common room for now," Neville said in an unusually strict tone.

"What's going on?" Georgia asked.

"Someone was spotted near Hogsmeade and in the forest," Neville replied.

"Who?" Fred asked.

"The Aurors don't want us to disclose that information yet," Neville said, "I'll be back when we know more."

Neville left and the common room erupted into whispers. Albus turned to his friends, who had all turned a few shades lighter after hearing Neville's announcement.

"It's got to be," Matt whispered, "They wouldn't shut us in if it wasn't someone dangerous."

Albus nodded and swallowed hard. He knew he was perfectly safe in the common room, but couldn't help feeling a bit scared.

"I bet it's Washburn!" someone shouted from across the common room.

"Who's Washburn?" one of the first years piped up.

"Evil Charms teacher," someone replied.

"Yeah!" Ashtyn said, "He tried to kill my brother!"

"Mine, too!" Lily put in.

"And he tried to kill my sister," Hugo added.

Lily, Ashtyn, and Hugo started telling the other first year what had happened to Albus and his friends. Albus groaned and shook his head as all four eleven year olds watched him.

"Wish we could go to the room," Albus muttered.

"Let's go to the dormitory," John suggested, "I'll bet it's empty."

The boys left the common room (much to the dismay of Lily, Hugo, Ashtyn, and their growing group of on-lookers) and went up to Albus's dormitory, which was thankfully empty.

Albus, Matt, and John all sat on their beds and Kaden sat on the foot of Albus's. None of them said a word. Albus supposed that deep down in his mind he knew Washburn would come back, but he tried not to think about it. He figured Washburn was after the Resurrection Stone. That meant he wouldn't try and break into the castle, didn't it?

No, it didn't. Albus's gaze fell upon his trunk, where the Invisibility Cloak resided. If Washburn still wanted to unite the Hallows, he'd need that cloak. Albus gulped. Washburn was going to try and break into the castle. Albus didn't know when, but he knew it would happen at some point.

******

Harry never returned to the castle to tell Albus what had happened. Neville came back to the common room an hour or so later and told everyone they were free to leave if they wanted to, but he didn't disclose any details. Albus and his friends stayed in the common room, hoping Harry would eventually find Albus, but he never did.

The Great Hall was filled with much more chatter than was normal on Monday morning. Albus and his friends sat down at the Gryffindor table and James immediately passed Albus a copy of the Daily Prophet.

"They didn't catch him," James said as he tossed Albus the paper.

Albus took it and all four boys read the front page article at the same time.

Washburn Sighted in Hogsmeade; Mysterious Man Sighted in Forest

Jameson Washburn, wanted for torturing underage
students and the illegal use of Legilimency on an
underage student, was sighted by an anonymous witch
in Hogsmeade yesterday afternoon.

The sighting took place a few hours after the first
Quidditch match in the tournament between Hogwarts,
the Australian School of Sorcery, and the Adirondack
Academy of Magic. The anonymous witch stated that
'a man ran from behind the Hog's Head up towards the
hills. He looked like Washburn.'

Harry Potter, Head of the Auror Department, was on the
Hogwarts grounds at the time and reported quickly to
the scene. No signs of Washburn were found and Potter
is sure he had Disapparated quickly.

Potter had previously been investigating the Forbidden
Forest, after receiving a tip from a student that
someone had been lurking around. Nobody was found.

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry went into
lock down after the supposed sighting of Washburn.
Students were not informed about the situation. The
Auror Department has not said whether additional
protection will be given to the school. Currently, an
Auror is assigned to the school at all times, after the
kidnapping of a student by Quinton Willinson (currently
residing in Azkaban) last Spring.

'We don't want people to worry. We're not even sure
whether either sighting was actually Washburn or not,'
Potter told reporters.


Albus set down the paper and turned to look at his friends. There was no doubt in his mind that that man in the forest had been Washburn. He had gotten away again. For someone who seemed incompetent at just about everything, Washburn certainly was good at escaping.

"I wonder where he's hiding," John said, "I mean, he's probably somewhere around here, you'd think?"

"I bet he Apparated someplace far away," Albus replied, "He's not going to want to stick around and get caught."

"Yeah, that's true," John said, "But I bet he'll be back."

"Probably," Albus agreed, "Willinson might even go with him. I wonder where he is."

"I hope he's far away from here," Matt said, "We'd better get to class."

Albus was happy that they had Care of Magical Creatures first because he would be able to continue talking about Washburn as they observed firecrabs.

"You don't think they'll cancel the Hogsmeade trips, do you?" John asked once they had walked a safe distance away from the Slytherins.

"I dunno," Albus shrugged, "They didn't cancel them when Sirius escaped from Azkaban."

"I hope they won't," John said, "They could just have Aurors patrolling the village. That'll keep Washburn away."

"There are already Aurors patrolling the school," Matt pointed out, "So I'm sure they'll be patrolling Hogsmeade now, too."

"Just as long as they don't bring any dementors here, I'll be happy," Albus shivered. He had never actually seen a dementor, but he knew enough about them to fear them.

"Well, that didn't exactly work out well when Sirius had escaped, did it?" John replied.

"I know, but still...." Albus's voice trailed off.

"Dementors don't even guard Azkaban anymore, so I don't see why they would get sent here," John said as he stopped his firecrab from escaping.

"I wonder where they went," Albus pondered, "I've never seen one."

"Me neither," John shook his head, "But that's a good point. What did happen to them all?"

"That's one thing my dad never told me," Albus shrugged.

"I've never seen one either," Matt shivered, "But my dad has. He's had to deal with them at work-"

"So he knows where they were sent?" John interrupted.

"No," Matt shook his head, "He dealt with them in Australia. There are a lot of them on the outback. There's hardly anyone living around there, so every once in a while, they'll descend on some tiny town they come upon. Then some witch or wizard reports it and my dad or someone else from his office would have to go clear them out."

"That would be a horrible job," John said quietly.

"He hated it," Matt replied, "He'd come home all shaky and depressed and Mum would feed him loads of chocolate. Then they'd go talk by themselves. He refused to tell me and Amy what he hears when he comes across dementors, though. Amy asked loads of times, but he never told."

"My dad won't tell me what he hears either," Albus said, "It's got to be awful."

"Neither of my parents have ever seen dementors," John said, "I think my parents lead relatively normal lives compared to yours."

"No one in my family leads a normal life," Albus laughed.

"Mine either," Matt agreed.

"Well, hopefully your dad will catch Washburn and Willinson and then you can have a somewhat normal life, Albus," John said.

"Maybe," Albus shrugged.

"As for me, I like a little excitement in life," John grinned.

"You can have all of mine," Albus laughed.

"Mine, too," Matt smirked.

"Nah," John shook his head, "I'll make my own."


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PostPosted: Wednesday 6 January 2010 8:34:28pm 
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Chapter 17: The Anamatek

In all the excitement of the possible sighting of Washburn in Hogsmeade, Albus nearly forgot about talking to Rose that evening. He was sitting in the common room trying to read his Defense Against the Dark Arts book when John prodded him.

"What?" Albus looked up at John.

"Linda just went to Quidditch practice," John gestured to the portrait hole, which just closed behind someone, "We can talk to Rose now."

Albus nodded and closed his book. He had to admit that he was a bit nervous about telling Rose that Linda was a vampire. He had a feeling she wouldn't take it well. They were going to have to break this to her very nicely.

It wasn't that Albus was worried that Rose would be upset that Linda was a vampire. Albus knew that wouldn't bother her in the slightest. It was the fact that Albus was the one who figured it out that he was worried about. Albus fully expected Rose to deny that Linda was a vampire for the sole reason that she hadn't figured it out herself.

"I guess we'd better," Albus said as he got up. He glanced around the common room and his eyes rested on the table Rose and Amanda were sitting at.

Albus walked over to her table with Matt, John, and Kaden following. The two girls looked to be working on homework.

"Rose," Albus sat down next to her, "We need to talk to you about something."

Rose put down her quill and looked up. "Is it about Washburn? If you're worried about him coming back, don't be. He can't get into the castle."

"It's not about him," Albus sighed, although he had a feeling Washburn could get into the castle if he wanted.

"Then what?" Rose said shortly.

"It's about Linda-"

"Then I don't want to hear it," Rose interrupted.

"Rose, it's important," Albus insisted, "Just come talk to us."

"No," Rose said a bit louder, "I know you lot don't like her, but I do. And I don't need you telling me who I can and can't be friends with."

"That's not what we're going to tell you," Albus groaned, "There's just something about her you should know."

"Just talk to them, Rose," Amanda said, "To be honest, I'm sick of you ignoring them."

Rose looked a bit taken aback. "All right, fine." She shoved her books into her bag a bit harder than necessary and stood up.

Albus said nothing but lead everyone out of the common room. Nobody said a word until they were in the Marauder's Den. Rose sat in one of the chairs and folded her arms across her chest.

"What?" she asked, "What do you possibly have to tell me?"

Albus glanced at Matt, who nodded. Albus took a deep breath. "Linda is a vampire," he said quietly.

Rose's mouth fell open and then she burst out laughing. "Are you bloody insane? How in the name of Merlin did you possibly come up with that stupid idea?"

Albus groaned. "It's not a stupid idea. It's true. And Matt told us."

Rose rolled her eyes and glared at Matt. "Of course. You're the one who hates Linda the most."

"Rose, it's true!" Matt insisted, "Do you honestly think that I would just randomly claim someone was a vampire? For all the differences between vampires and werewolves, they both get discriminated against."

"Oh, I don't know. Maybe because you want me to stop being friends with her?" Rose shouted.

"Well, that would be stupid of me because I know you wouldn't stop being friends with her because of that," Matt said quietly, "After all, you're friends with me. Or at least you used to be."

"I still am," Rose whispered.

Albus smiled to himself. That was promising. Maybe their friendship wasn't totally destroyed.

"But don't you lot think that if Linda was a vampire, I would have figured it out?" Rose asked, "I mean, I was the only one to figure out that Matt's a werewolf."

"How much do you know about vampires, Rose?" Albus asked.

"Er, not much, I guess," Rose said sheepishly, "But still, how do you know?"

Albus opened his bag and pulled out his Defense book. He tossed it at Rose. "Read the bit about vampires."

Rose caught the book and opened it up. She began to read it with Amanda reading over her shoulder. A few minutes later, Rose set the book down. Her face was pale.

"You're right," she whispered and then turned to Matt, "Is that why you don't like her?"

"Sort of," Matt shrugged, "It's not the fact that she's a vampire. It's the fact that she knows I'm a werewolf."

"Oh," Rose nodded, "And she's from Australia and Killigan doesn't like werewolves. I get it. But, wait, how come Killigan lets Linda go to school but he wouldn't let you?"

"No idea," Matt sighed, "It's a mystery."

The room descended into an awkward silence and Albus looked at all of his friends. Rose still looked a little shocked and Amanda did as well.

"So," Albus began, "Are you going to keep ignoring us, Rose?"

"Are you going to let Linda come in here?" Rose asked.

"No way," Albus, Matt, John, and Kaden said at once.

Rose sighed. "Fine. I've missed you lot, but I am still going to spend time with Linda. I guess I'll just split my time, then."

Albus grinned. "Good. But next Hogsmeade trip, you're coming with us."

******

Over the next couple of weeks, Rose and Amanda began spending more and more time with Albus and the other boys. Albus was thrilled about it, especially since after a few days passed, it was like Rose and Matt hadn't rowed at all. Nobody ever brought up the topic of Linda, though. Rose and Amanda both spent time with Linda, usually in the library, but Albus didn't particularly mind. He kind of liked having time to spend just with Matt, John, and Kaden.

John and Kaden found it increasingly difficult to pull pranks due to the fact that Hogwarts was being patrolled by more Aurors since the Washburn sighting. Teachers, prefects, and the head boy and girl were also patrolling more often than they used to. Albus was secretly happy about this since he had an increasing fear of Washburn breaking into his dormitory to steal the Invisibility Cloak. John and Kaden, on the other hand, came back to the common room ranting about how they couldn't pull off some prank or the other due to an Auror or prefect finding them. Matt didn't seem to have an opinion on the subject and Albus suspected he would be happy so long as Killigan stayed away from him.

The next Quidditch match was in the beginning of December, and although that was still a month away, Wood increased practice to three days a week instead of two. Wood was especially tough on James since the next match would be between Hogwarts and Australia. Wood was determined to beat Australia and that meant James would have to try and fly faster than Linda. Teddy was working with him one on one during all the practices.

The next junior dueling tournament was coming up as well and Albus was determined to actually duel during this one. He didn't care if both his legs were broken, he would still go.

Between his various practices and classes, Albus didn't have much time for anything else. All his teachers were increasing the work load, especially Balladanis. He started packing more and more into each lesson and had begun assigning weekly essays. And since all the lessons were practical, Albus had to read the book to do the essays. There were no notes from class to use.

Albus and the rest of the students no longer bothered taking their books and parchment out at the beginning of class. In fact, the majority of Albus's class didn't even bother sitting down. Albus wondered why Balladanis even bothered to put the desks back at the end of class, since he had yet to hear of any of the years having an actual lecture in that class.

Due to this, Albus was completely shocked when Balladanis told the class to sit down at the beginning of Defense in the beginning of November. Albus turned to Matt and John, who looked equally surprised. Balladanis, on the other hand, was acting like this was perfectly normal.

Albus sat down in between Matt and John amongst the whispering of the rest of the class.

Balladanis stood in front of his desk and looked out at the students. There was a large trunk in front of him which reminded Albus of the first day of class. But why would Balladanis bring a Boggart back to class? Matt told Albus that Balladanis wasn't even using Boggarts in his help sessions anymore.

"Today's lesson will be part lecture," Balladanis announced, "The reason for this being that the particular creature we are studying today is not in your text book."

The class erupted in more whispering and Albus distinctly heard Rose gasp.

"Settle down," Balladanis said, "The creature is not in your book because it is extremely rare and most wizards will go their entire lives without ever encountering one. Because of this, it is not normally in a third year curriculum. The creature is usually studied in advanced N.E.W.T. Defense Against the Dark Arts only. I however, believe this creature is extremely beneficial to third year defense and am adding it in, despite the fact that it is not in your book."

Albus was on the edge of his seat now. He was staring directly at the trunk in front of Balladanis, where the creature probably resided. It couldn't be that dangerous, could it? Otherwise, Balladanis wouldn't have brought one. Although, there wasn't much that Balladanis could do that would actually surprise Albus. He was a very odd teacher.

"The creature I am talking about is an anamatek," Balladanis said as he began pacing back and forth in front of the trunk. He stopped in front of Rose, Amanda, and Linda's table. "Does anyone know what an anamatek is?"

Albus had never heard of one in his life. Rose didn't put her hand up either. The only hand in the class that went up was Linda's.

"Yes, Miss Morales," Balladanis said.

"An anamatek is a shape-shifter, but it is different from a boggart. anamateks are forced to change into whatever form the wizard controlling them wants," Linda explained.

"Correct," Balladanis began pacing again, "anamateks are very strong and powerful creatures. It takes a very strong and powerful witch or wizard to control them. Not many are able to do so. But if a witch or wizard can, the anamatek must transform into whatever form the wizard wants.

"This of course is very dangerous if a dark wizard gets hold of one. Can you imagine if Voldemort had been able to control a few anamateks and had them transform into chimaeras?"

The entire room was silent. Albus shivered at the thought of an army of chimaeras, especially in the hands of Voldemort.

"Luckily for us, anamateks are extremely rare and the majority of wizards can't control one, let alone an army of them. The few anamateks that exist in the world reside in warm climates and they prefer to stay hidden amongst trees or bushes. Anamateks are rarely sighted in Britain and I would guess that there aren't more than four or five in the entire country. They are a bit more common in warmer climates such as the Southwestern United States, Latin America, South America, Africa, and Australia. However, you could search all of these countries extensively and never come across one.

"Anamateks do not like wizards because they do not want to be controlled. Not only can wizards control what the anamatek turns into, they can also make it do whatever they please. When they are not controlled, they can turn into whatever they like and usually choose a particularly dangerous creature in order to dissuade wizards from capturing them. They cannot, however, turn into humans, for the most part. There are exceptions to that. Certain powerful witches and wizards have had success turning them into humans, but they do not act like humans. No anamatek can turn into a human on its own."

Balladanis paused and stopped next to his trunk. "I have captured an anamatek. I captured it many years ago and it has been under my control ever since. Having an anamatek at my disposal provides a great learning opportunity for all of you. Can anyone guess why?"

Rose's hand shot into the air. "Yes, Miss Weasley," Balladanis said.

"You can have it turn into whatever we're studying and we can learn to fight it instead of having to fight a real one. That way, you can control what its doing and none of us will get hurt," Rose answered.

"Correct," Balladanis said, "Before class, I performed a spell which caused the anamatek to turn into a kappa, which I hope you are all aware that we are currently studying. When I say so, get up and form a line in front of my desk. You will be performing the spell you learned last class to try and repel the anamatek, which is going to look and act exactly like a kappa."

"Sir?" Malfoy raised his hand.

"Yes, Mr. Malfoy?"

"Sir, are you going to tell us the spell to bring an anamatek under a wizard's control?"

"No, Mr. Malfoy, I am not," Balladanis said darkly, "First, it's not just one spell, it is a set of extremely difficult spells, beyond N.E.W.T. level. Second, there is much debate as to whether the spells are Dark Magic or not. Third, it would be pointless since none of you would have the capability of performing such magic and will likely never have the opportunity to perform it. Fourth, the headmaster would not be happy if I did so. I will also not sign any notes to admit any of you into the Restricted Section of the library to research the spells."

Malfoy scowled at this and Albus stifled a laugh. It didn't surprise him in the slightest that Malfoy would want to learn the spells. Albus was extremely curious as to how Balladanis managed to perform them, and how he had come across the anamatek in the first place. Albus doubted that he would tell that story, though. Balladanis never talked about his past.

"Everyone get up!" Balladanis shouted.

Albus hastily stood up and watched as the rest of the class did the same. Rose and Linda shoved their notes into their bags, but nobody else had bothered to take notes. The thought hadn't even crossed Albus's mind. He was so used to not taking notes in Defense.

Balladanis moved the tables to the sides of the room and Albus joined the queue forming in front of the trunk. He stood on his tip-toes and peered around John to try and catch a glimpse of the anamatek when it emerged from the trunk.

Balladanis pointed his wand at the trunk and it shot open. Nothing happened for a few seconds and then a slimy, scaly kappa crept up over the top of the trunk and climbed out. It stretched out its webbed hand and started towards Janie Creevey, who was first in the line.

Janie held up her wand and muttered the spell. The kappa was shot back towards the trunk and Balladanis nodded at Janie. She stepped to the side and Karina walked forward as the kappa recovered.

The queue moved forward and Albus was able to get a good look at the anamatek. It looked exactly like a kappa. If Albus didn't know any better, he would say that it was a real kappa.

Balladanis made everyone perform the spell until they could do it successfully. Rose and Linda got it on their first tries, but Amanda had a bit of trouble. Albus had a feeling she would be working with the anamatek in her next extra help session. John managed to have success on his first try and he stepped to the side and Albus stepped forward.

The anamatek crept towards Albus, who held up his wand. Kappas didn't really scare him in the slightest, yet his heart had begun pounding faster. The anamatek is what scared him a bit. The thing had the potential to change into something dangerous like a chimaera at any moment. How much control did Balladanis really have over the thing?

Albus shouted the spell and the anamatek was thrown back against the trunk and landed with a loud crack.

"Very good, Mr. Potter," Balladanis smiled ever so slightly, "A few of the rest of you might wish to take note of the force Mr. Potter put behind his spell. A determined kappa would have been able to recover very quickly from most of your spells. Mr. Potter, on the other hand, would have been able to escape if this had been a real kappa."

Matt's turn was next and Albus stood next to John to watch him. The kappa was only slightly deterred by Matt's first spell and he had to try about three times to get it to work.

"Now I know what Balladanis is going to have me do tomorrow night," Matt whispered to Albus as they watched Malfoy take on the kappa.

Malfoy sent the kappa slamming into the trunk with almost as much force as Albus had, earning him a slight smile from Balladanis as well.

"Where in the name of Merlin did Balladanis get that thing?" John exclaimed after they'd left the classroom.

"No idea," Albus shrugged, "But I wish he'd tell us."

"He won't," Matt sighed.

"I know, but I still want to know," John said, "And what did he do for a living before this? I mean, I don't think teachers normally come upon anamateks."

"Probably not. I don't think my dad has ever seen one and he's an Auror," Albus pointed out.

"They are extremely rare in Britain," Rose ran up next to Albus, "I bet Balladanis lived in some other country before he started teaching here. Africa or Australia or one of those places where anamateks are more common."

"Yeah, but they're not exactly common in those places either. My dad hasn't seen one either and he worked with magical creatures in Australia for years," Matt said.

"I'm surprised Kendrick lets him have that thing in the school," Amanda said.

"I doubt Kendrick knows about it," Albus replied.

If Kendrick hadn't known about the anamatek before, he most likely did by the end of the day. The entire school was buzzing about it. Apparently Balladanis had not only shown it to his third years, but second and fourth through seventh years as well. The common room was filled with chatter about it after dinner, as well as extremely jealous first years. Lily, Hugo, and Ashtyn whined about not being able to see it.

"Are you ready for Quidditch practice, Al?" Georgia said to Albus as Lily and her friends left.

Albus looked up. Georgia's face was white and she looked more than a little scared. Albus stared at her curiously.

"Yeah. But, Georgia, are you ok?"

"I'll be fine," she assured him, "Balladanis had that anamatek thing turn into a dementor during class right before dinner. We spent the entire class trying to cast Patronuses against it. Let me tell you, that anamatek was just like a dementor." Georgia closed her eyes and shuddered.

"You should have some chocolate," Albus told her and pulled a chocolate frog out of his bag. He tossed it to her.

Georgia caught it and ripped it open. "Thanks. Let's go find James."

Albus said goodbye to his friends and went to go find James with Georgia. He felt a bit unsettled that Balladanis had used the anamatek as a dementor. Having it turn into a kappa was one thing, but a dementor? They were really dangerous. As far as Albus knew, the Patronus charm wasn't actually practiced on dementors until Auror training. Part of Albus hoped that Kendrick would ban the anamatek from the school before he started learning the Patronus charm in seventh year.


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PostPosted: Wednesday 13 January 2010 7:07:10pm 
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Chapter 18: Advanced Lessons

Much to Albus's surprise, the anamatek was still sitting in Balladanis's classroom the next class. Albus really thought Kendrick would have made him get rid of it. The class continued practicing on it and after a few sessions with it, Albus got used to the fact that it was an anamatek. As long as it didn't turn into a dementor or a chimaera or something else really dangerous, Albus didn't mind.

Practicing on the anamatek was a lot like practicing dueling anyway. That's how Albus saw it. Defense classes were beginning to be a lot like dueling practice. Albus was very happy about this, especially since the next dueling tournament was quickly upon him. It took place on a Saturday in the middle of November, the day before the second inter-school dueling tournament.

"Nice to see that you actually showed up today, Potter," Malfoy smirked as Albus and Amanda sat down at their team table.

"Shut it, Malfoy," Lynley Anderson said as she walked past Albus, "Or you won't duel in the next tournament."

Malfoy scowled and Albus smiled to himself. He sat down and looked to the front of the room. The usual dueling rings were set up and Neville was standing in front of one. Balladanis was standing in front of the other one. He must have been chosen to be the other professor in charge of the dueling club since Albus's dad left.

The tournament began a short while later and Albus sat back to wait for his turn. As much as Albus loved dueling, he couldn't stand having to wait while everyone else dueled. He couldn't wait until he was a fifth year and could try out for the regular dueling club. The teams were much smaller for that and Albus would get to duel more during each tournament. If he made the team, that is.

"Albus Potter and Kaden Dursley," Balladanis announced.

Albus looked up and stared at him. Kaden? Albus turned to gape at Amanda, who shrugged. Albus was going to have to duel Kaden? Albus had yet to duel any of his cousins.

Albus got up and walked towards the ring. Kaden was already there when he arrived. Albus and Kaden bowed to each other and then raised their wands.

"Begin," Balladanis said.

"Expelliarmus!" Albus shouted and pointed his wand at Kaden while silently apologizing to him. He really didn't want to duel Kaden.

Kaden's wand flew from his hand and Albus caught it. Albus looked up at Balladanis. Balladanis was looking at Albus with his piercing stare and Albus quickly looked away.

"Point to Potter," Balladanis said without taking his eyes off Albus.

Albus handed Kaden back his wand and went back to his team's table. Lynley and Amanda congratulated him and he sat back down.

"I can't believe they had you duel Kaden," Amanda giggled.

Albus shrugged. It hadn't been much of a fight. Albus rarely had trouble dueling anyone during the tournaments. The only person who Albus ever had difficulty dueling was Malfoy, and he was on Albus's team.

Albus wasn't really thinking much about having to duel Kaden. He couldn't get the look Balladanis had given him out of his mind. It was sort of like the looks he'd received in class, only more intimidating. There was a hint of curiosity mixed in with something Albus couldn't describe. It was almost like he was trying to read Albus's mind, but Albus had had enough experience with that to know that Balladanis wasn't doing it.

Malfoy was up next and he dueled James. It was a very fast-paced and exciting duel. In the end, Malfoy managed to disarm James. Albus had no idea how he felt about this. Part of him was happy that his team got the point, but on the other hand, the thought of his brother losing to Malfoy was rather unsettling.

James had a mutinous look on his face as he grabbed his wand out of Malfoy's outstretched hand. He stormed back to his table without a second glance at Malfoy or Balladanis.

Albus looked back to Balladanis and saw him giving Malfoy the same odd look he had given Albus earlier. Albus had no idea what to make of that. Balldanis hadn't looked at anyone else like that.

The next person Albus dueled was a bit more challenging, but Albus still disarmed her within three minutes. She was a fourth year Ravenclaw who had the reputation of being the smartest of all the fourth years.

Balladanis gave Albus the same strange look as he awarded him the point. Albus quickly gave the girl back her wand and went back to his table.

Albus's team narrowly won the tournament. Lynley congratulated everyone and said the entire team had improved greatly since the last tournament. Albus and Amanda got up and joined the throngs of people leaving the room. They headed up to the common room, where they had agreed to meet their friends after the tournament.

"Good job," John said as he sat down next to Albus.

"Thanks," Albus smiled.

"Yeah," Kaden agreed, "I mean, you beat me pretty quickly."

"Albus is the best dueler out of all of us," Matt said as he joined them.

"Balladanis was certainly interested," John said, "What was up with him looking at you like that?"

"I dunno," Albus said, "It was really odd."

"He was looking at Malfoy like that, too," Rose said as she and Linda sat down.

"I'll bet it's because you're both such good duelers," Matt replied, "I hate to admit it, but Malfoy is really good."

"Did you see James's face after Malfoy beat him?" John laughed, "That was pretty funny."

"I don't think James would agree with you," Albus smirked.

"Well, we should probably do some homework," Rose said.

Everyone groaned but nobody disagreed. Albus went up to his dormitory and returned with his books. He cracked open his Herbology book and started an essay that was due on Tuesday.

"You're from Australia, aren't you?"

Albus's head snapped up. Linda was staring curiously at Matt, whose eyes were darting about. Everyone else was now staring at Linda. Albus didn't think he had ever heard her talk outside of class.

"Er, why do you think that?" Matt asked nervously.

"The other day after Defense, you mentioned that your dad hadn't seen an anamatek even though he worked down there," Linda explained.

"Oh, yeah," Matt muttered, "I did used to live there."

"Why did you move?" Linda asked.

"My dad's job," Matt said.

"Oh," Linda replied, "Well, if you hadn't, we could have gone to school together."

Matt mumbled something under his breath.

"What?" Linda asked.

"Nothing," Matt said and closed his book, "I'm, er, going to the library."

Albus closed his own book and got up to follow Matt, but he had already left. Albus sighed and looked at Rose, who was slowly shaking her head. That was exactly why Matt had wanted to stay away from Linda and Albus couldn't blame him.

The rest of the afternoon was spent in silence in the common room. Albus managed to finish his Herbology essay just before dinner. He had no idea if Matt actually went to the library, but found him in the Great Hall at dinner. He made no mention of what Linda had said, so Albus didn't bring it up. Albus only had enough time to eat a quick dinner anyway, because he had Quidditch practice afterwards.

******

"All right, that's enough for today," Balladanis announced as the bell rang the following Tuesday, "Leave your essays on my desk on your way out."

Albus stowed his wand in his robes and rummaged around in his bag for his essay. For some reason, Balladanis always collected essays at the end of class. Albus had no idea why. All the other teachers collected them at the beginning, presumably to prevent students from frantically scribbling their essay during class the day it was due. That would be impossible in Balladanis's class, though.

"Potter, Malfoy!" Balldanis shouted, "Please see me before you leave."

"Looks like you're getting extra help, too," John laughed, "Welcome to the club."

"Somehow I doubt that," Matt replied, "Albus was the only one to cause that anamatek to fly halfway across the room today. Well, besides Malfoy."

Albus shrugged and muttered that he'd meet them in Herbology. His heart started beating a bit faster as he placed his essay on the pile and stood in front of Balladanis's desk. Why did he want to see him anyway? Could Balladanis really think he needed extra help?

Malfoy tossed his essay onto the pile and then leaned up on Balladanis's desk as he watched the rest of the class leave.

"Stand up, Malfoy," Balladanis said as he shut the anamatek's trunk and walked over to his desk.

Malfoy jumped and quickly stood up straight. Albus stifled a laugh and turned to Balladanis, whose face was expressionless.

Balladanis walked over to the door, shut it, and returned to his desk. "I couldn't help but notice that both of you won both of your duels last Saturday."

"I always win both of my duels," Malfoy said pompously.

"I thought so," Balladanis replied, ignoring Malfoy's less than respectful tone, "I'm assuming the same goes for you, Mr. Potter?"

"Yes, sir," Albus nodded.

"Have either of you ever been defeated in a duel before?"

"I've disarmed Potter during practice," Malfoy smirked.

"And I've disarmed you, Malfoy," Albus rolled his eyes.

"Any other times?" Balladanis asked.

Albus opened his mouth, but Balladanis interrupted him.

"During the dueling tournaments, Mr. Potter. I have heard about your altercation with Jameson Washburn, Jarret Willinson, and his son."

"No other times," Albus replied.

"I could have defeated Washburn," Malfoy announced.

"I sincerely doubt that," Balladanis said, much to Albus's delight, "But that is not what I have asked to discuss with you. I have noticed, both in class and during dueling tournaments, that the two of you seem to possess exceptional skill when it comes to dueling. You're dueling skill appears to be much higher than the third or even fourth year level.

"Therefore, I would like to train both of you privately. There is only so much you can learn in a large group with those whose skill is less than your own. I will be able to teach you spells you wouldn't normally learn until fourth or fifth year. Are either of you interested?"

"Of course," Malfoy said immediately.

Albus couldn't believe it. His family and friends always told him he was an excellent dueler, but somehow having Balladanis tell him meant more. Balladanis was incredibly hard to please, and not only did he think Albus was a great dueler, he was offering to teach him more advanced spells. That was incredibly exciting. Albus would be able to learn spells that James hadn't learned yet.

"Yes, I'd like that," Albus grinned, thinking it would be brilliant to beat James in a duel.

"I shall see you on Friday at eight, then," Balladanis told them, "After I am done tutoring the less skillful in your class." He pulled out two pieces of paper and scribbled onto both of them. "Give these to your teachers, as you are quite late to class by now. Get out of here."

Albus took his note and left the room feeling that Friday was an incredibly long time away. Private dueling lessons. He couldn't wait. Sure, they'd be with Malfoy, but Albus was willing to put up with him in order to learn advanced spells.

Albus hurried to Herbology, but the class was already well into that day's lesson by the time he arrived. He handed his note to Neville and then sat down next to Matt, who was shoveling dirt into an empty pot.

"What did Balladanis want?" Matt asked.

"You're never going to believe this," Albus said as he pulled on his gloves, "Balladanis wants to give Malfoy and me private dueling lessons. He wants to teach us advanced spells that we wouldn't normally learn until fourth or fifth year."

"You're kidding," Matt said in awe.

"Nope," Albus grinned.

"But why?" Matt asked, "Did he say why he's teaching you?"

"Just because he thinks we're good duelers, I guess."

"Well, you are a good dueler, Albus," Matt agreed, "When do you start?"

"Friday at eight. Right after your help session, actually," Albus answered.

"I'm not going to the help session this week," Matt lowered his voice, "And you'll be having loads more fun than me."

"Oh, right," Albus whispered, remembering that the full moon was Friday night, "I'll let you know how it goes, though."

After Herbology was over, Albus told John, Rose, and Amanda about Balladanis's dueling lessons and then had to repeat it to Kaden when they ate lunch. All of them were excited about it, especially Kaden. Albus suspected he was a bit jealous, too.

The remainder of the week seemed to creep by at a flobberworm's pace. It wasn't like Albus didn't have anything to keep him busy, but he just couldn't think about anything other than the dueling lesson.

"Albus, you've got to stop tapping your quill," Rose said shortly, "It's driving me mad."

Albus and his friends were in the Marauder's Den. It was Friday evening and dinner had just ended. Albus was trying to concentrate on homework, but it wasn't working. Rose and Amanda were both reading. Linda had mysteriously disappeared after her last class and Rose and Amanda had been with Albus and the other boys ever since. John and Kaden were discussing a prank that involved charming gobstones to follow the Aurors and prefects around as they patrolled the corridors. Rose had already advised against this, but John and Kaden didn't listen. Matt was laying on the couch with his eyes closed, but he wasn't asleep. John and Kaden kept asking him things and he'd respond with very short answers.

"Sorry," Albus muttered and dropped his quill.

"So where's Linda tonight?" John asked.

"I dunno," Rose shrugged, "She didn't look that great today, though."

"Then she's probably sucking some animal's blood in the forest," Matt announced.

"Well, there's a lovely picture," Kaden said loudly, "Linda biting the neck of some helpless animal and sucking the life out of it. Think of all the blood. It must get all over her face and neck. That's pretty gross."

"Thanks for that image, Kaden," Matt replied.

"It's better than her sucking human blood," Rose pointed out.

"That's true," Kaden agreed, "So, should we fill the gobstones with stink sap before we charm them?"

"Of course!" John grinned.

"And that's my cue to leave," Matt sat up slowly and rubbed his head, "I'll see you lot tomorrow, probably."

"Yeah, we'll see you in the morning," Albus assured him.

"Have fun," Kaden said.

"Fun," Matt muttered on his way out, "That's a word I've never used to describe it."

"We'd better go, too," Amanda said.

"Yeah, time to go sit through an extra Defense lesson," John groaned as he stood up.

"I thought you didn't mind them," Rose said.

"I don't. They just get old after a while," John sighed as he and Amanda left.

Albus worked on his homework for the next hour, mainly because there wasn't anything else to do. Rose was working on her own homework and didn't seem to want to do anything else. The hour dragged by at an incredibly slow rate, but eventually Albus packed up his books, said goodbye to Rose, and left for Balladanis's room.

The door was half-way open when Albus arrived. He took a deep breath, suddenly overcome by nerves, and knocked lightly. There was no answer. Albus pushed the door open and walked very slowly inside.

The room was dim. The only light stemmed from a few torches lit on the walls. It was obviously the same classroom he had Defense class in, but it looked completely different in the evening.

There wasn't anyone left in the room from the extra Defense lesson earlier. Albus had passed John and Amanda in the corridor. They both wished him good luck.

Albus looked around the room and saw the trunk that contained the anamatek sitting unnaturally still in front of Balladanis's desk. Balladanis himself was also sitting unnaturally still at his desk. He stared directly into Albus's eyes and Albus, remembering the Occlumency lessons he received two years prior, quickly averted his own eyes and began to close his mind.

"You know Occlumency, Mr. Potter," Balladanis said not as a question, but as a statement.

Albus nodded as Balladanis slowly rose from his chair and walked around to the front of his desk. Albus took a step back and nearly collided with the front table. He swallowed nervously and kept his eyes off of Balladanis.

Albus had always been a little wary of Balladanis, but now he had to admit that he was a bit scared. The only way for Balladanis to know that Albus had been practicing Occlumency was if he had actually been performing Legilimency. Albus had enough experience with teachers performing Legilimency on him and he didn't want to do go through that again. The only thing Albus was thinking about then was how he could leave the room without Balladanis getting suspicious. He wished he had a Puking Pastille or something in his pocket.

"Who taught you?" Balladanis asked.

"My Aunt Hermione," Albus muttered. He wondered where Malfoy was. That had to be the first and probably only time he would ever wish Malfoy to be present.

"Hermione Weasley," Balladanis mused, "Yes, she is one of the most accomplished Occlumenses of her generation."

Albus's head snapped towards the door as he heard footsteps enter the room. He breathed a sigh of relief and had to stifle a laugh at the fact that he was happy Malfoy was in the room.

"Mr. Malfoy, you're late," Balladanis said.

"Sorry, sir," Malfoy muttered.

"Sit down," Balladanis pointed to the front table.

Albus turned around and sat as quickly as he could in one of the chairs. Malfoy took his time in sauntering over and sat in the chair next to him.

"Mr. Potter. Mr. Malfoy," Balladanis began to pace in front of them, "By now I am sure you are both aware of my stance on the Dark Arts. If not, I suggest paying a bit more attention in class.

"You may also be aware of my devotion to helping the students who are struggling in my classes. I hold extra help sessions every single day after dinner. However, I also wish to help those who are truly talented to reach their true potential.

"You two are the most talented duelers in the third year," Balladanis paused and looked at each of them in the eye, "I would argue that you are the most talented duelers amongst the students below fifth year. I would even wager that you could give a couple of the sixth years a run for their Galleons."

Albus stared at Balladanis. He didn't think he was that good of a dueler. He knew he could beat most of the students in the Junior's Dueling Club, but sixth years? They were doing N.E.W.T. Defense classes. They knew spells Albus had never even heard of.

"I wouldn't go picking fights with sixth years, though," Balladanis continued, "They know spells you do not. What I mean is that you have the talent to learn spells that the sixth years are learning. The spells I am currently teaching in class are incredibly simple for the two of you. What I hope to do is teach you spells that are more at your level. Now, stand up, the both of you. Let's see what you can do."

Albus stood up and pulled out his wand. He had no idea what Balladanis wanted him to do. Would they be practicing on the anamatek?

Balladanis waved his wand and the desks moved to the sides of the classroom. Another wave and the light increased. "I would like you to duel each other. Use any spell that you have learned in school. Do not use any spells you have picked up elsewhere. Madam Pomfrey would not be happy with me if I sent the two of you to the Hospital Wing with missing limbs. Keep going until I say to stop."

Albus couldn't believe it. He was getting to duel Malfoy! He had been wanting to do that ever since Kendrick had first announced the dueling club. The little practice duels they did weren't really what he had wanted to do, though.

Albus raised his wand and stared at Malfoy. Malfoy was smirking and pointing his wand at Albus. The two of them bowed and Albus took a step forward.

"Petrificus Totalus!" Albus shouted and pointed his wand at Malfoy.

Malfoy easily dodged the spell and sent a tickling hex at Albus. Albus threw up a shield and then tried to disarm Malfoy. Malfoy jumped onto a nearby desk and the spell collided with a chair which collapsed.

The duel continued in this matter for quite some time. Albus tried as hard as he could to actually hit Malfoy with a spell, but Malfoy kept dodging and blocking them. It was driving Albus mad. He kept thinking of everything Malfoy had done to him in the past two years and how much he wanted to beat him in this duel. If he beat Malfoy, he'd have something on him for the rest of the year.

"Expelliarmus!" Albus shouted for what must have been the tenth time.

Malfoy dodged it and sent the same spell at Albus. Albus jumped and the spell hit Balladanis's desk.

"That's enough!" Balladanis shouted.

Albus lowered his wand and glared at Malfoy. Albus shoved his wand back in his robes and looked around to find a chair that remained intact. He found one and collapsed into it. That duel had been exhausting.

"Well, that was certainly interesting," Balladanis gave a rare smile, "Not a scratch on either of you but my classroom has been destroyed. It seems that I was not premature in my judgment of your dueling skills.

"Have either of you thought about what you want to do when you get out of Hogwarts?"

Albus stared curiously at Balladanis. That was an abrupt change in conversation. Albus had never thought about life beyond Hogwarts. He was only thirteen. He never thought there was any need to think about it yet.

"Er," Albus began, "Not really. I mean, I always thought being an Auror would be interesting."

"Indeed it would," Balladanis said, "Your father certainly is happy with it. How about you, Mr. Malfoy?"

"No idea," Malfoy replied.

"There are many things you can do with dueling skills such as yours. I would suggest looking into it," Balladanis said.

"But sir, we're only third years," Malfoy scoffed, "Isn't it a bit early?"

"I already knew what I wanted to do at thirteen," Balladanis said quietly.

"And what is that exactly?" Malfoy asked.

Balladanis gave Malfoy the strangest look Albus had ever seen. It was a combination of sadness, anger, and pride.

"I do not wish to discuss that," Balladanis said, "Perhaps you will find out someday. For now, I think it best we call it a night. If you wish to learn advanced spells, return at this time next week and we will begin."

"I'll be here, sir," Malfoy said as he walked out the door.

"Thanks, Professor," Albus said as he followed.

"Mr. Potter," Balladanis said, "Please tell Mr. Eckerton that it will not do for him to skip his extra help sessions."

"But sir," Albus looked at him incredulously, "You know what tonight is. He couldn't possibly have gone."

"The moon didn't rise until after the session was over. I do not take excuses."

Albus sighed to himself as he left. Balladanis had been teaching him for over two months and he still surprised Albus all the time. Albus had seen a different side of him that night. He did truly hate the Dark Arts, that was something Albus did not doubt. But he had also performed Legilimency on him. Albus didn't think he could ever trust a teacher that did that. Not after his experience with Washburn.


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PostPosted: Wednesday 20 January 2010 3:50:17pm 
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Chapter 19: The Unbeatable Seeker

"What did Balladanis teach you?" was the first thing Matt asked Albus when he went to see him the following afternoon.

Albus had given every little detail about the evening to his other friends once he returned to the dormitory afterwards and they were impressed. John's first reaction had been that perhaps Albus would be able to find out what Balladanis did before he began teaching.

"He didn't really teach us anything," Albus explained to Matt, who looked exhausted but was paying rapt attention. "I dueled Malfoy."

"Wow," Matt looked impressed, "How was that?"

"Neither of us won," Albus sighed, "Balladanis made us stop because we pretty much destroyed his classroom."

"I wish I had seen it," John chimed in, "Bet the look on Balladanis's face was priceless."

"He just looked impressed. He wasn't angry or anything," Albus told them, "Then he asked us what we wanted to do with our lives."

"Like what kind of job you want to get?" Matt raised his eyebrows, "You're only thirteen."

"Yeah, I thought it was strange," Albus shrugged, "But he said I should think about doing something that would put my dueling skills to use."

"Like an Auror?" Matt asked.

"I don't think so. I mentioned that and he kind of made it seem like that wouldn't put my dueling skills to use."

"I can't think of any other job that you'd duel more than that," Matt replied.

"I have no idea what I want to do with my life," Kaden announced.

"Me either," John said, "I say we've got plenty of time to figure it out."

"I'll say," Madam Pomfrey stuck her head in between the curtains, "And you certainly do not have to figure it out now. It's time for you lot to leave."

Albus, John, and Kaden reluctantly left the hospital wing, lamenting the fact that Madam Pomfrey hadn't let them stay very long. They had no idea why the nurse had shortened visiting time so much, considering that Matt hadn't seemed worse than usual, but they never understood why Madam Pomfrey did most of the things she did.

******

Albus's week could be easily summed up in two words. Quidditch and homework. Normally he would only complain about the latter, but Oliver Wood was like a Muggle drill sergeant when it came to Quidditch. Since the match was on Saturday, Oliver was insisting on daily practices. Albus and the other alternates had to be at every practice because according to Oliver, 'you never know when someone will get sick or hexed right before a match.'

In fact, Oliver even wanted them to practice on Friday night, the night before the match. Albus wasn't too happy about this since he had his lesson with Balladanis at eight. That was the same time Quidditch practice let out, so he had to run to the Defense classroom still completely covered in mud from practice.

He ran into the classroom ten minutes late, heart pounding with worry about what Balladanis was going to say.

"Mr. Potter, you're late," Balladanis said as Albus entered the room. He and Malfoy were sitting at the front desk.

"Sorry, sir," Albus said as he joined them, "Quidditch practice."

"So I gathered," Balladanis eyed Albus's muddy robes, "I was just telling Mr. Malfoy about the responsibilities that come with learning advanced dueling spells."

Balladanis pulled out his wand and pointed it at Albus. Albus's robes were clean and dry and he muttered a thank you to the professor. Malfoy was smirking to himself.

"The most important responsibility is that you cannot and I repeat, cannot, use the spells I teach you here in the junior dueling tournament. It would give your team an unfair advantage and you could inadvertently injure your opponent. The spells I teach you are not to be used outside this classroom, unless I instruct you otherwise.

"You are not to duel your fellow students in the corridors with these spells. Nor are you to use them against your siblings and cousins," his eyes rested on Albus.

"I also feel the need to warn you that these spells are more exhausting than the ones you have been learning. They use a lot of magical energy and do not be surprised if you feel as though you have just run a marathon," he turned to Albus again, "Or played in a very long Quidditch match."

Balladanis stood up and gestured for the boys to do the same. Once they did, Balladanis moved the desks aside and stood in between where Albus and Malfoy stood.

"I am going to have you work on your shield charms first-"

"I already know how to do a shield charm," Malfoy announced.

"I am well aware of that, Mr. Malfoy, and I do ask that you not question my teaching style," Balladanis said darkly, "The shield charms you have been using are relatively weak and fade away after only a few spells are cast against them.

"With a fair bit of practice and mental concentration, one is able to keep the shield up for long periods of time in order to block multiple spells. Really skilled duelers can even keep the shield up while casting other spells. That is quite useful, as you can imagine. It is also possible to shield a great many people with just one person's shield charm, which is also very useful. Some shield charms can even protect one against magical creature attacks," Balladanis lowered his voice and averted his eyes at this, which Albus thought was odd.

"It takes a lot of concentration to maintain hold of a shield charm for so long, which is why the charm can be difficult. I doubt either of you will produce a long term shield charm tonight, so don't be disappointed. Wands out, both of you, and we'll see how long you can hold the charm, without any spells hitting it."

Albus held up his wand and muttered the incantation for the shield charm. He had practiced this charm numerous times before, usually with someone else trying to hex him at the same time. It was quite easy to just hold it there and even kind of boring. He and Malfoy just stared at each other and Albus doubted that either of them were going to drop their shields. It would be like admitting defeat to the other.

After what must have been at least ten minutes of holding the shield charm, Albus found he was getting tired. His arm ached from holding his wand up and from throwing so many Quaffles at practice earlier. Malfoy had the advantage since he didn't have Quidditch practice. Much to Albus's dismay, he noticed his shield starting to fizzle. He wasn't going to be able to hold it much longer and Malfoy's still looked strong.

Balladanis looked at his watch. "Let the shields go," he instructed, "Wands down."

Relieved, Albus lowered his weary hand and then sat down in a chair. Balladanis was right when he said advanced shields were exhausting.

"Very good," Balladanis said, "Stand up again. Now I'll see how many spells each of your shields can withstand."

Albus and Malfoy both put their shields up again and Balladanis sent disarming charms at both of them. Albus could feel his shield faltering after the first charm and didn't think it would last as long as Malfoy's.

Albus's shield fizzled out after three charms. Malfoy's dismantled after four. He had the biggest smirk on his face afterwards, but didn't say anything. He probably didn't want to gloat in front of Balladanis. Albus knew he'd hear about it the next time they had a class together, though.

If only he hadn't had Quidditch practice! Then Albus would have beaten Malfoy. Or at least tied with him.

"That's enough for tonight," Balladanis said as he eyed Albus. Albus had a feeling that he looked absolutely exhausted.

"Looks like I'm the better dueler," Malfoy said once they were out of the room.

"That's not what it meant," Albus muttered, "We didn't even duel each other. I could beat you in a real duel."

"And I could beat both of you," a Slytherin Prefect, who was making his rounds, said as he walked by, "So get to your dormitories."

Albus had no idea if he could beat the Prefect or not but he didn't want to stick around to lose house points. Plus, it was a good excuse to stop talking to Malfoy.

******

The excitement that filled the Great Hall the next morning reminded Albus yet again of the previous year's Quidditch finals. Only this wasn't a final. It was the Hogwarts versus Australia match, the first match Hogwarts was going to play in.

The Hogwarts team did not sit together at breakfast or lunch. There was considerable argument at practice the previous night about this. Oliver Wood, Tyler Pike, and Teddy all wanted the team to sit together in order to squeeze in last minute strategizing, but nobody could agree on which table to sit at.

In the end, Teddy sat with the Gryffindor players at the Gryffindor table, Tyler sat with the Ravenclaw players at the Ravenclaw table, and Oliver walked from table to table giving out last minute advice. Albus thought this worked out fine since Oliver didn't seem to be able to sit still for more than a minute.

Albus was kind of relieved that nobody on the Hogwarts team came down with Spattergroit or lost a finger in potions class because he didn't really want to play. He loved Quidditch, but so much was at stake. He wanted to merely watch the first match that Hogwarts participated in. Then, if right before the next match, one of the Chasers came down with a cold and Madam Pomfrey forbid them from playing, Albus would gladly take their place.

The excitement only increased as Albus and his friends walked to the pitch. Rose and Amanda were there, although Linda wasn't. Albus thought this was only fitting since Hogwarts was playing against Australia in this match.

“Welcome, everyone!” Todd Smith's voice boomed over the crowd, “Hogwarts is playing its first match in the Cup and they are up against Australia! The Hogwarts team is captained by Oliver Wood with help from Ted Lupin and Tyler Pike!

“The team is comprised of Georgia Weasley as Keeper; Damien Waverly, Anna Reilly, and Ferris Fielding as Chasers; Andy Kaper and Allie Davis as Beaters; and James Potter as Seeker.

“The biggest excitement in this match is whether James Potter will be able to beat Australian Seeker Linda Morales, who shocked everyone with her speed and agility in the last match. Potter, of course, is the son and nephew of legendary Gryffindor Seekers Harry Potter and Charlie Weasley. He is also being coached by Gryffindor's other legendary Seeker, Ted Lupin, and is on his way towards becoming another legend in the house of Gryffindor.”

“Not being very modest about James, is he?” Rose muttered to Albus.

“No, not really,” Albus replied, happy that he wasn't in James's position.

“The captains shake hands,” Smith continues, “And they're off!”

All fourteen players, half in emerald green Australian robes and half in black Hogwarts ones, rose into the air. Whoever decided on the colors must not have been thinking about visibility. If it was a rainy, snowy, or foggy day, you wouldn't be able to tell the difference between the two colors.

The match was fast-paced like the first one had been. All of the Hogwarts players were superb and as far as Albus could tell, equally matched against Australia.

The teams were tied fifteen minutes into the match, each with 120 points. The Quaffle exchanged hands so often that Albus had a hard time keeping up. Rose had already given up and was talking to Amanda about something. Matt, John, and Kaden were all trying to keep up with the match.

It happened so fast that if Albus had blinked, he would have missed the whole thing. Linda had been hovering above the Hogwarts goal posts and then she shot down towards the ground, pulling out of her dive with the golden Snitch in her grasp. James had been next to her and was a few metres above her when she caught it. Just like that, in a matter of seconds, the match was over.

“Linda Morales has captured the Snitch, which means Australia wins 270-120,” Smith announced less than enthusiastically.

“She caught it?” John gaped, “But she was above the goal posts two seconds ago!”

“No one can fly that fast!” Albus agreed.

“It can't be over!” Matt exclaimed, “It just started twenty minutes ago!”

Everyone around Albus was talking about how fast Linda flew to the Snitch. Albus and his friends descended onto the pitch and Albus quickly lost them in the sea of people. He pushed his way through the crowd until he found his team.

“They've got to be cheating!” Andy Kaper shouted to Teddy, “They've rigged her broom or something!”

“All the brooms were fully checked before the match,” Teddy reminded him.

“Well, check it again!” Andy exclaimed, “There's a speed charm on that thing, I guarantee it.”

“We'll have it checked again,” Wood assured him.

“I want a rematch,” Georgia muttered, “They've got to be cheating. Even a Firebolt 2000 can't fly that fast.”

“We're only going to get a rematch if there is something wrong with that broom,” Wood sighed.

“I want an unofficial flying competition between her and James,” Damien Waverly said, “There's no way she's a better flyer than he is.”

James was the only one not talking. He appeared to be in shock. The entire team was shouting around him, but he didn't seem to hear any of it.

“James?” Albus asked tentatively.

James jumped and looked at Albus without saying a word. Then he trudged off to the changing room. No one else noticed that he left.

No one had noticed Albus show up either, so he joined the crowd of people going back up to the castle. He figured it would be easier to talk to the James once he returned to the common room.

The common room was ominously silent when Albus walked through the portrait hole. Most people were sitting, staring into space, and not talking to anyone. It was a scene more fitting to someone just dying than a lost Quidditch match. None of the Australians who had been sorted into Gryffindor, including Linda, were there. Albus briefly wondered where they were going to go, now that they'd probably be chased out of every common room.

Albus's friends were sitting at their usual table and Albus joined them. Rose and Amanda were whispering to each other, but John and Matt were silent. Kaden was rifling through a stack of chocolate frog cards.

The match had been the definition of anti-climactic. Hogwarts had spent weeks preparing for it, working every day well past when the sun set. Homework had been ignored and studying put off. All so Hogwarts could beat Australia. Then, Linda Morales had caught the Snitch twenty minutes into the match. Linda Morales, the only one who had managed to best James Potter at Quidditch.

“You know,” Kaden set down his cards, “If James and Linda had a kid, he or she would be the best Seeker in the world.”

Nobody responded. Albus thought it would be more likely to become best friends with a chimaera than James and Linda to get married and have a kid. Not to mention the fact that vampires couldn't bear children. Kaden probably didn't know that, though.

“I just don't get it,” John mumbled, “She must've cheated.”

“You just don't want to admit that Hogwarts might not have the best Quidditch players in the world,” Rose muttered.

“Let's go to the Marauder's Den,” Matt whispered as he stood up.

Albus didn't know why Matt wanted to go there, but considering how depressingly quiet the common room was, he wasn't about to object.

They passed no one except an Auror on their way to the room. Everyone must have been lamenting the Quidditch loss in their common rooms.

“Finally,” Kaden said as he collapsed onto one of the couches in the room, “Now we can actually talk. The common room is depressing.”

“What do you expect?” John groaned, “We lost our first mach. We're in last place.”

“No, we're not,” Rose said, “New York lost to Australia with only 40 points. They're in last place.”

“Doesn't matter,” John shook his head, “We still lost.”

“No one's ever going to beat Australia,” Albus sighed.

“You're probably right,” Matt said darkly, “Remember the last match? How quickly she caught the Snitch? I knew she'd be fast, but I thought maybe she'd slow down to even things up a bit. This match proves that wrong. She's using the fact that she's a vampire to her advantage.”

“That's completely unfair!” John shouted, “Why would Kendrick let her do that?”

“He obviously doesn't know,” Rose sighed.

“So, she is cheating,” Albus said.

“Technically, she's not,” Matt replied, “She's just really skilled at Quidditch. Vampires, and werewolves, have really keen eyesight in order to,” he paused, “Catch prey. She's better at seeing a Snitch than any human.”

“Then why don't you play Seeker against her!” Kaden exclaimed, grinning at the idea, “That would be more fair.”

Matt burst out laughing. “You didn't see me at flying lessons in first year. I'm an awful flyer. Sure, I could see the Snitch, but I'd fall off my broom trying to catch it.”

“Oh,” Kaden deflated.

“Plus she's super fast,” John pointed out, “And Matt's not. No offense or anything.”

“None taken,” Matt said.

“So, what are we going to do about this?” Albus asked, “If she doesn't stop, Australia's going to win this competition.”

“I think Rose should talk to her,” John suggested.

“Why?” Rose asked.

“Because she likes you and you like her,” John said, “Just tell her to fly a little slower.”

“Yeah, right,” Rose rolled her eyes, “Believe it or not, she's about as fanatical about Quidditch as you lot are. No way is she going to agree to that.”

“It's true,” Amanda agreed.

The room descended into silence. The only other thing Albus could think of to do would be to tell Kendrick that Linda was a vampire. That would get her off the Australian Quidditch team for sure. However, Albus didn't really want to do that. Rose would hex him to next century and she'd probably never speak to him again. It would be a lot like if Rose told someone Matt was a werewolf and if that happened, Albus would have the same reaction. Not that Rose would ever do that.

They stayed in the Marauder's Den until dinner. Dinner was much more subdued than normal and James never made an appearance. Linda was sitting at the far end of the Gryffindor table with only fellow Australians near her. That kind of surprised Albus since he had never once seen her interact with anyone besides Rose and Amanda.

“Albus,” someone put their hand on Albus's shoulder.

Albus turned around and saw his dad, wearing the same forlorn look all the students were wearing.

“Dad,” he said, “Were you at the match?”

“Yeah, I was sitting with Lily,” Harry nodded, “Have you seen James?”

“Haven't seen him since right after the match. He went into the changing rooms. Actually, I haven't seen Teddy either. Maybe he's with James.”

“Merlin, I hope so,” Harry ran a hand through his hair, “I've checked everywhere I can think of. Makes me wish I hadn't given him the map.”

“You can use mine,” Albus suggested, “But I want to go with you.”

“All right,” Harry said, “Let's go.”

Albus said goodbye to his friends and walked up to Gryffindor Tower with his dad. He ran up to his dormitory once he was there and retrieved the map. The dormitory was empty, so Albus and his dad looked at it there.

They scoured the Hogwarts section of the map for nearly five minutes before coming to the conclusion that James was no longer in the school.

“Bloody hell,” Harry muttered, “Where did he go?”

Albus pressed the number two in the corner of the map with his wand and the map of Hogsmeade appeared. This one was a bit more difficult to search than the Hogwarts one had been. Most of the Hogwarts students had been in the Great Hall. Everyone was spread out in Hogsmeade.

Two dots made Albus freeze. Two dots were in the Shrieking Shack. A closer look told him they were Teddy and James. Albus gasped. Why were they there? How did they get in for that matter?

“Dad,” Albus pointed to the Shrieking Shack.

“The Shrieking Shack?” Harry shouted and stood up.

Albus followed him out of the dormitory and then out of the common room. “How'd they get in?” Albus asked once they were walking through the corridors.

“Teddy knows the counter-charm for those wards,” Harry muttered.

“Why?”

“Everyone who goes through Auror training learns a very large variety of counter-charms. One of them was bound to work on that tree. Now, he wasn't supposed to use them outside of training, so I really have no clue what he was thinking,” Harry explained

It had gotten cold and windy outside since the match, which really made Albus wonder why Teddy and James would go to the Shrieking Shack of all places. The decrepit old building had no heat, for Merlin's sake.

Albus dodged a branch from the Whomping Willow as they neared it. Harry aimed his wand at the bottom and muttered the counter-charm. Then he froze the tree. Albus hurried after him into the passageway.

The walk to the Shrieking Shack was brisk and silent. Albus, who had been on the receiving end of many a lecture from his dad, knew that both Teddy and James were going to get one once they made it to the Shack.

Harry carefully opened the door and walked into the quiet old building. Hushed voices could be heard from the back room. Albus followed his dad back there.

Teddy and James were both sitting on the floor. James looked a complete mess, still wearing his muddy Quidditch robes and his face was all blotchy. Teddy didn't look much better, although his robes were a bit cleaner.

“Teddy. James,” Harry said sternly when he entered, “What in the name of Merlin's pants are you doing in this place?”

Both boys snapped their heads up at the sound of Harry's voice.

“Trying to convince James not to make the biggest mistake of his life,” Teddy muttered.

“That sounds a bit overdramatic,” Harry said.

“He wants to quit the Quidditch team,” Teddy said dryly.

“That is the most idiotic thing I've heard,” Albus shouted, “You can't do that!”

“Albus,” Harry warned.

Albus shut his mouth, but he still thought the very idea of James quitting the team was mental. They'd have no hope of ever beating New York, let alone Australia, without James.

“Twenty minutes, Dad,” James said in barely more than a whisper, “Twenty minutes.”

“We've all had our bad matches,” Harry said quietly as he sat down next to James, “I fell off my broom in my third year and lost a match.”

“Because of the dementors,” James muttered, “There weren't any dementors at this match.”

“James, I'm afraid everyone has made you out to be the unbeatable Seeker. Todd's commentary today proved that. The stakes are set so high with you that when you do lose a match, it completely shocks everyone. It's kind of unfair, actually, because nobody can win every match,” Harry replied, “You're not the unbeatable Seeker, I'm afraid. And running away will get you nowhere.”

“I suppose,” James sighed.

“You're playing New York next,” Harry reminded him, “They lost to Australia sooner than we did. I think you have a chance at catching the Snitch then.”

“I guess,” James replied.

“So you won't quit?” Albus asked, unable to keep quiet any longer.

“No,” James said.

“Good. Because Lisa Galivant is nowhere near as good as you. You're the best Seeker Hogwarts has got,” Albus told him.

“Thanks, Al,” James gave him a half-smile, “Too bad Australia's got a better one.”

Albus nodded, wishing that he could just tell James why Linda was so good. But he had sort of promised Rose he wouldn't.


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PostPosted: Thursday 21 January 2010 12:24:02am 
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Loving this story, wish I could have waited to read today's posting till the weekend since these chapters are a highlight of my leisure time. But I could not resist reading it as soon as I saw it posted. Keep up the good work. You are an amazing story teller, thank you for sharing your talents with us.


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PostPosted: Wednesday 27 January 2010 4:00:51pm 
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Aw, thanks Watcher! I'm glad you like them! :grin:

Chapter 20: The Investigation

On their way back to the castle, Harry gave Teddy and James that lecture Albus had been expecting him to give. Albus walked a little ways behind them. Far enough to make them think they had privacy, but close enough that Albus could hear what they were saying.

Harry made it clear that he was not impressed that Teddy was taking advantage of the charms he was learning in training. In fact, Harry said if he caught Teddy doing it again, he'd have to report it.

Then he told James that the Shrieking Shack was well out of bounds and that if he went in there again, he'd report James to Professor Longbottom. Albus doubted either of them would set foot in the place again.

“Why didn't you just go to the Room of Requirement if you wanted privacy?” Harry asked before leaving James and Albus in the Entrance Hall.

Teddy and James looked at each other and then laughed. “It was otherwise occupied,” Teddy grinned, “Fred's got himself a girlfriend. They were enjoying the privacy of the Room of Requirement.”

Harry smiled and shook his head. “Next time, just ask Neville if he'll let you talk in his study. I'm sure he will. I'll see you boys after term is over, then.”

Albus and James said goodbye to their dad and Teddy and then walked back up to Gryffindor Tower in silence. James was obviously still upset over the match and Albus didn't want to say anything to make it worse.

“They're doing a full investigation of Linda's broom!” Rose announced when Albus found them in the common room. James had gone directly up to his dormitory.

“Yeah, Wood's just told us,” John continued, “Stripping it down, plus they're interviewing the Australian captains, headmaster, and everyone on the team, including Linda.”

“Wow,” Albus was impressed. They wouldn't find anything, of course, but it was still nice that they were taking this seriously, “Wish it would actually help.”

“Me, too,” John agreed, “So where was James?”

“The Shrieking Shack,” Albus whispered.

Matt dumped his ink bottle all over his homework and swore. “How'd he get in?”

“He was with Teddy and Teddy knows the counter-charm from Auror training,” Albus said quietly, “But he wasn't supposed to use it outside of training, so my dad told him if he does it again he'll get in trouble. Don't worry, neither of them will go in there again.”

“Still, of all the places they could've gone...” Matt's voice trailed off.

“Why were they there?” Rose asked as she siphoned the ink off of Matt's homework.

“James was thinking of quitting the team,” Albus whispered, “Don't worry, he didn't,” he said quickly when he saw the disgusted look on John's face.

“Well, thank Merlin for that,” John said.

******

It must have been a slow news day the next day. One of those days where the front page article of the Prophet was about a young wizard who had graciously volunteered his time in the closed ward at St. Mungo's or an elderly witch who passed away, leaving her fortune to her cats.

That is, if it weren't for the fact that the Department of Magical Games and Sports and the Department for International Magical Cooperation doing an all out investigation on the Australian School of Sorcery's Quidditch team, Linda Morales and her broom in particular.

Albus was quite shocked to see the lengthy article by Rita Skeeter on the front page. He hardly ate any breakfast as he read it out loud to his friends before classes.

The Australian School of Sorcery: Did They Cheat?

In a competition of Quidditch and dueling, which reminds
many a witch and wizard of the thrilling and slightly
more dangerous Triwizard Tournament, accusations came
yesterday of whether the team from Australia cheated.

A match was held between the Hogwarts and Australian
teams yesterday afternoon and was over in twenty minutes.
The score was 270-110, in favor of Australia. Linda
Morales, 13, of Australia, caught the Snitch in what
some people believe to be an impossibly fast speed.

“It was like one minute she was flying above the pitch
and I blinked and then she was on the ground with the
Snitch in her hand,” one Hogwarts student said.

Many other students and a few staff members recalled
the same thing. The many witnesses of this near
impossible flying have fueled the investigation.

If it is discovered that Australia used any charms,
potions, curses, hexes, or anything else deemed
unacceptable by International Quidditch standards,
a rematch will be played between Hogwarts and
Australia.

“We don't know what we're going to find,” Ian
Herkimer, of the Department of Magical Games and
Sports, said late yesterday, “On the one hand, it
is nearly impossible for a thirteen year old girl
to fly that fast on the broom she was using. On
the other hand, all the brooms used in this
competition were extensively searched for charms
before the match. It could very well be that young
Linda Morales is just an exceptionally good
Quidditch player. If that is the case, then scouts
from professional teams may wish to pay attention
to this competition.”

Perhaps the most intriguing part of this story is
that the Hogwarts Seeker is none other than James
Potter, son of the legendary Gryffindor Seeker
Harry Potter. James Potter, 15, has lived up to
his father's reputation in the past and has never
lost a match this quickly before. Neither James
or his father were available for comment.

Is Linda Morales a cheater? Or is she merely the
next greatest Quidditch star?


“Great,” Albus set down the paper, “First she's going to win this competition and then be drafted to play for Puddlemere United.”

“We don't have to worry about her playing for the Cannons,” John smirked, “That would get rid of their awful reputation.”

“That would be a bad thing because...?” Matt said.

“I wouldn't get to make fun of them anymore,” John grinned.

“Not a bad thing,” Matt replied.

The entire school was talking about the article all day long. Everywhere Albus went, someone was discussing it. Most likely due to this, James spent the day in his dormitory.

“Why'd Skeeter have to stick James in that article,” Albus lamented as he, Matt, John, and Kaden wandered the corridors. Rose and Amanda had gone to find Linda, to see if she knew anymore details about the investigation.

“Because she's Rita Skeeter,” John said, “She never writes an article without sticking your dad in it somehow.”

“I know. Rita Skeeter's horrible,” Albus said.

“There are a few reporters in Australia who could give her a run for her money,” Matt muttered.

“So irresponsible!” a hushed voice said from a classroom they were passing.

Albus stopped. He didn't recognize the voice and it didn't sound happy. He gestured for his friends to stop as well and paused to listen.

“We're already skating on thin ice!” the man was saying, “First she catches the Snitch ten minutes into the first match and now she flies too fast for people to see and beats James Potter? Now there's an investigation for Merlin's sake!”

“I didn't know she was going to do that!” another man said, “I made it clear to her that she could only fly slightly better than the other players!”

“Told you they were cheating,” John whispered.

“We weren't the ones arguing with you,” Albus replied, “That was Rose.”

“The bloke doing the yelling is the Australian headmaster,” Matt said.

“The other one's probably the captain, then,” Albus said.

“Well, you must not have told her enough because now she's on the front page of the Prophet and the Ministry is investigating! Do you have any idea what's going to happen if anyone finds out?” the headmaster raised his voice.

“Of course I do!”

“Let me refresh your memory anyway. We'll both be fired and Australia will be out of the competition. Hell, we'll be lucky to get away with fines and no jail time!”

“That wouldn't be a bad thing,” John muttered.

“You hear that?” the headmaster barked, “Someone's out there.”

Albus turned in panic to his friends and before he could run, the door opened all the way and Albus was staring at who he assumed to be the Australian Quidditch captain. The man was tall and lanky, the perfect build for a Chaser. His hair was messy in a way that reminded Albus of his father, but this man's hair was light brown.

The headmaster appeared behind the man, along with a surly looking boy who must've been around Teddy's age. Albus assumed he was the assistant captain.

“Well, who have we here,” the headmaster smirked.

Albus was frozen in place. The back of his mind said to run, but he couldn't get his legs to work. He was staring the bloke who was so prejudiced against werewolves that he refused to let Matt attend his school in the face.

“You're the Potter boy,” the headmaster continued, “The younger one.”

Albus forced himself to nod only because he didn't really want to be mistaken for James at the moment.

“That means...” Killigan's eyes moved from Albus to John, Kaden, and then Matt, “That one of you is probably,” his eyes rested on Matt and then he smiled, “The Eckerton boy. I was told you were here.”

Albus turned to look at Matt, who was now almost as white as Professor Binns. Albus shook his head, grabbed Matt's arm, and took off running. The footsteps behind him told him that John and Kaden were following.

Albus didn't stop running until he made it to the Marauder's Den. He completely ignored the Prefect who told him not to run in the corridors and Filch's new cat.

“Bloody hell, how did he manage to figure out which one of us you were?” John asked Matt once they shut the door, “He hasn't seen you in years!”

“Lucky guess,” Kaden shrugged.

Matt shook his head. “No. None of you lot have blonde hair.”

“But still, how does he know I'm friends with you?” Albus asked, “Of all the blonde haired students here, he picked you. He somehow knows we're friends. Remember, he said 'you must be the Potter boy', which isn't abnormal. Everyone knows who I am. But then he said 'which means you must be the Eckerton boy.' Someone's telling him about you.”

“So much for trying to ignore him,” Matt groaned, “Now he knows who I am. Merlin knows what he's going to try to do now.”

“Why does he even care?” Kaden asked, “I thought he didn't want you at his school. If he hates werewolves so much, wouldn't it make more sense that he ignore you?”

Kaden had a point. Albus hadn't really thought about it before, but it was kind of strange that Killigan would be so interested in Matt. But then, why would he let a vampire attend his school?

“That actually makes a lot of sense, Kaden,” Matt said, “Why does he care?”

Albus didn't know, but something told him it meant nothing good. Whatever Killigan was doing here, it went deeper than just trying to win a Quidditch tournament by having a vampire for a Seeker.

******

It took the Ministry three days to complete the investigation. During this time numerous Ministry officials appeared at the school and held interviews with Killigan, the Australian captains, and the Australian players. They even interviewed James, Oliver Wood, Todd Smith, and Professor Kendrick. Albus heard that every broom on the Australian team had been stripped and checked for illegal magic.

The results were announced before Rita Skeeter wrote another article. A Ministry official read them at dinner Wednesday evening.

“Upon close inspection of all the Australian broomsticks as well as extensive interviews with everyone involved, the Ministry is able to say that Linda Morales's capture of the Snitch was a result of pure talent and nothing illegal. I thank you all for your cooperation during this time,” he said and then resumed his seat next to Kendrick.

The Great Hall erupted in angry shouts. Everyone was staring at Linda and it looked like she wanted to disappear. Rose and Amanda were sitting on either side of her and Rose was whispering to her.

Albus and his friends weren't expecting anything different, but they had to act angry for appearance's sake and it was not difficult to do so.

Kendrick eventually had to stand up and tell everyone to quiet down. It worked, but nobody stopped talking about the results.

It was still possible for Hogwarts to win the competition. If they won every match from now on and continued doing well in dueling. The competition wasn't even half over, so there was plenty of time to pull ahead. However, the chances of doing so were low so long as Linda was playing Seeker for Australia.

The rest of the week passed with continual Quidditch discussion. James was still abnormally subdued and sat quietly with Ben, Cedric, and Nate every evening in the common room. Albus was hoping it would blow over during the holiday. It was strange seeing his brother so quiet.

There was a Hogsmeade visit that Saturday and true to her word, Rose went with Albus and his friends instead of Linda.

It was a particularly cold and blustery winter day with a steady snowfall that had already dumped six inches on the grounds. This wasn't nearly enough snow to keep people out of Hogsmeade and all the shops were full to capacity.

Kaden had begged Albus to give him the map so he could sneak in, but Albus refused. The Hogsmeade visit before Christmas seemed too risky. Too many students went on that one. The Valentine's Day one would be better, when the other students were too absorbed in their love lives to notice a second year in Hogsmeade.

“Let's go get Butterbeer first,” Amanda suggested as they made their way into the village, “I'm already frozen solid.”

“Me, too,” Albus agreed.

The Three Broomsitcks was already packed, but they managed to find a table and Albus went to get five Butterbeers. When he returned, everyone was talking about what they were doing for the holidays.

“My mum has decided she wants one of my aunts to do Christmas this year,” John said, “She's done Christmas at our house since she and my dad got married and it's finally worn her out. The funny thing is that none of my aunts really know what to do, so my mum is doing as much work as she always does.”

“I can't imagine Christmas not being at the Burrow,” Rose said.

“Me either,” Albus replied as he set down the Butterbeer, “The Burrow is just so Christmasy.”

“Believe it or not, but I'm not going to Australia for Christmas this year,” Matt announced.

John spit out his Butterbeer. “What?” he coughed, “You always go to Australia.”

“I know,” Matt said, “Never had a Christmas anyplace else.”

“Why?” Albus asked.

“Well, you know how my dad's going to be the new Head of the Department of the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. He officially starts on January second. But the Ministry is throwing a fancy party for him on New Year's Eve. He didn't really want it, but they insisted. So, we've got to go to that. Hopefully it'll be better than the parties my grandparents have.”

“Rose and I will probably go to that, too. My dad's always invited to those things since he's head of the Auror Department. My whole family goes to them. There's always something to do, especially if James is feeling particularly mischievous. Rose's parents get invited, too. So does my Uncle Percy,” Albus explained.

Matt grinned. “Well if you lot are there it won't be bad.”

“This party's going to be anything but boring,” Albus grinned.

“Never thought I'd wish I was going to a fancy party,” John sighed, “How about you, Amanda? Any parties?”

“Nope,” Amanda laughed, “Just spending time with my family.”

They finished their Butterbeer and went back out into the snow. Honeydukes was their first stop, where Matt proceeded to buy enough chocolate to feed all of Gryffindor. His excuse was that it was for Christmas presents, but Albus doubted as to whether the chocolate would ever make it home.

Honeydukes was really too crowded to stay in very long, as were most of the other shops. They wound up just wandering up and down High Street until they got to the Shrieking Shack.

After a very brief snowball fight Rose suggested they just go back to the school and spend time in the Marauder's Den. Nobody argued since they were all cold and wet from the snow.

******

The next two weeks went by in a blur for Albus. It seemed like he just went from one Quidditch practice to another, with dueling practice and lessons with Balladanis thrown in. Albus had started making progress with his shield charms, but so had Malfoy and neither of them were better than the other.

At their last lesson of the term, Balladanis reiterated how important it was for them not to practice while at home. He then told them to have a good holiday and be ready to work even harder when they returned.

Linda's amazing catch of the Snitch had already started to blow over before term ended. Everyone seemed much more focused on getting a few weeks off from school than a lost Quidditch match. This helped return James to his normal self and he finished off the term with his usual pre-holiday prank.

This one was a little less harmless as he just charmed the suits of armor to sing Christmas carols at random times of the day. Of course, the carols were alternated with 'Hogwarts will win the Cup' and 'Hogwarts is better at Quidditch than Australia' and 'Hogwarts will beat New York in the next match'. James was never caught, though.

Eventually the carols wore off as did the pro-Hogwarts messages and everyone packed and got ready to go home. Albus wondered for a moment what it would be like to stay at school over the holiday. He knew his dad had done nearly every year, but Albus couldn't imagine not being with his family for Christmas.

Albus and his friends found a compartment towards the back of the train and settled in for the long journey.

“What are the Australian and American kids doing for Christmas?” Kaden asked.

“Dunno,” Albus shrugged.

“Some of them are going home, but most are just staying at Hogwarts. Linda's staying,” Rose told them.

“I bet it was Linda,” John muttered absentmindedly.

“What?” Albus asked.

“Linda. I'll bet every Knut in my pocket that she's the one who told Killigan who Matt was,” John explained.

“You're just mad at Linda for winning the match,” Rose rolled her eyes, “She did not tell Killigan.”

“Why not?” Albus asked, “He's her headmaster. Why wouldn't she tell him?”

“I don't know. I just don't think she did,” Rose muttered.

“Even that doesn't explain why Killigan wanted to know,” Amanda pointed out.

“Which means we have to find out,” Albus said.

“Find out what?” Matt asked sleepily. The full moon was that night and he had fallen asleep as soon as they got on the train.

“Why Killigan was so interested in you that time we spied on him,” Albus explained.

“Oh,” Matt said as he leaned his head against the window, “How are we going to do that?”

Albus didn't know. All he knew was that it could be problematic and there was a big chance of them getting in trouble. An unsettling silence fell upon the compartment. No one knew how they were going to get answers.

“Do you think Linda's teammates know she's a vampire?” Kaden asked towards the end of the journey.

Albus, who had been drifting off to sleep, lifted his head up. “Good question.”

“They don't,” Rose answered, “They just think she's really good.”

“Interesting,” Albus said, “I bet she wouldn't be allowed to play professionally.”

“She wouldn't,” John confirmed, “Vampires can't play professional Quidditch. It's unfair to the rest of the teams.”

“I'd pay a lot of money to see two teams of vampires playing Quidditch against each other,” Albus grinned.

“You wouldn't be able to see them,” John laughed, “They'd be flying too fast.”

“I'd like to see vampires play football,” Kaden announced.

“Of course you would,” John rolled his eyes.

The boys spent the rest of the trip discussing vampire Quidditch while Rose and Amanda played Muggle card games. Before long they were in London.

All of their parents were standing together on the platform. Albus said a quick goodbye to Matt before his parents hurried him out of the station.


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PostPosted: Wednesday 3 February 2010 4:12:53pm 
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Chapter 21: A Christmas Blizzard

Albus spent most of the days preceding Christmas at Rose's house. James was determined to use all of his spare time for Quidditch practice, and he had to go to Rose's house for that. Albus usually went with him and he and Hugo would help James practice while Rose read.

Harry had to practically separate James from his broom by magic on Christmas Eve so they could go to Godric's Hollow. James wanted to stay at Rose's house and keep practicing, but Harry refused to let him. The trip was quiet since James was rather sullen the entire time.

“Professor Patil says I'm a natural at Transfiguration,” Lily bragged to Albus as they walked towards the Burrow afterwards.

“That's good,” Albus replied.

“Yeah, so I'm going to become an Animagus eventually. I want to be a cat.”

“You don't get to choose what kind of animal you transform into,” Albus told her.

“Oh,” Lily said, “But I think I'll become a cat.”

Albus nodded as Lily began to describe in great detail what kind of cat she would transform into.

Everyone else was already at the Burrow and Albus felt an immediate warmth come over him as he stepped inside. It had nothing to do with the fact that it was so cold and snowy outside, either. There was something so comforting about being at the Burrow surrounded by all his family. He was able to forget all the issues with the Quidditch tournament and Professor Killigan. All he could think about was how ravenous he was and how good some of his grandmother's cooking would be right about then.

Rose sat down next to Albus as he tucked into a large bowl of onion soup with a side of homemade bread.

“Uncle Charlie and Aunt Katherine are going back to Romania this summer,” Rose announced.

“To tame more dragons?” Albus asked. His uncle and aunt hadn't done that since Stanley started Hogwarts, but they often talked about how they wanted to go back.

“Yeah,” Rose nodded, “They might stay even after the summer's over, but Heather and Mark will come back to go to Hogwarts.”

“They get to go, too?”

“Yup. Stanley and Eddie are going, too. Stanley's quitting his job for it. He's definitely staying in Romania after the summer's over. He wants to get into dragon training.”

“Wow,” Albus replied, “They're lucky. I guess it's good that Stanley decided what he wants to do.”

Stanley had been working at the Magical Menagerie since he finished Hogwarts, but knew he didn't want to do that his whole life. He just didn't know what he did want to do.

“I wish our parents would take us to some other country,” Albus sighed.

“Me, too,” Rose agreed, “Imagine the history we could learn.”

Albus personally had enough of History from Professor Binns, but he supposed learning history by traveling would be fun.

“Christmas Quidditch tomorrow?” Teddy asked as he sat down next to Rose.

“Definitely,” Albus grinned.

“I wouldn't count on it, Teddy,” Molly said as she handed Albus another hunk of bread, “We're supposed to get the snowstorm of the decade tomorrow. The Muggle electricity is already out in town.”

“Is it really?” Arthur popped his head into the room, “Fascinating! I may have to go see it tomorrow!”

“You'll do no such thing!” Molly shouted, “It's near impossible to Appparate during such a storm. Not to mention the fact that it's Christmas and you should be here.”

“We don't need electricity to play Quidditch!” Teddy exclaimed, “It'll be perfect training conditions! If you can catch a Snitch in the middle of a blizzard, you can catch one in any weather. It's not like Kendrick ever calls off Quidditch because of snow.”

“We'll see tomorrow, Teddy,” Molly sighed.

Albus finished his soup and he and Rose went into the den, where they were greeted by a loud chorus of 'Odo the Hero', sung by George, Alicia, Charlie, and Ron. Bill and Fleur were laughing while Hermione shook her head. Albus had a feeling the only reason why Fleur approved was because the singing was drowning out Celestina Warbeck.

“So then I said, I'm not paying seven Sickles for that!” Percy said to Katherine, who was only sort of paying attention, “And the bloke looked at me like I was mad. I say he's mad, charging that much for a tour of a questionably historic old building. There really should be regulations on such things. It's one thing I'll change if I'm ever Minister.”

Albus stifled a laugh. His Uncle Percy had been talking about running for Minister for the past ten years, but still hadn't done it. Most of his uncles and aunts got sick of hearing him talk about what he would and would not change.

“Hey, Albus, Rose,” Victoire waved at him from across the room.

“Hi Victoire,” Albus made his way over to her, “How is Healer training?”

“Exhausting,” Victoire sighed, “And I have to figure out which part of the hospital I want to do the rest of my training in by September. We've been rotating throughout all the floors, but now we have to pick one. I'm nowhere near decided.”

“You have until September,” Albus shrugged. It seemed like a long time to him.

“I know,” Victoire replied, “But Amy's known where she wants to finish training since we were in fourth year.”

“You're not in Amy's situation,” Teddy appeared and put his arm around her, “And I think you'll do great anyplace you decide.”

“Thanks, Teddy,” Victoire smiled, “I'm thinking either the Maternity ward or Spell Damage.”

“There's a busy ward,” Teddy grinned, “Spell Damage. You'll get all the funny injuries there.”

“That's not a good reason to pick a specialization,” Victoire groaned.

“Good a reason as any,” Teddy shrugged.

The time grew later and after Albus played numerous rounds of Exploding Snap with his cousins, his grandmother announced that it was time for bed. Everyone argued, but there was really no point. Everyone, including the other adults, knew that arguing with Molly Weasley was useless.

Albus trudged up the stairs to the highest bedroom that he shared with James, Ben, and Cedric. He climbed into bed and then realized just how big this impending blizzard was. The wind was howling louder than he'd ever heard before.

The wind was so powerful that Albus could feel it through the gaps in the window. Every once in a while, the house would creak and shake. Albus sighed and put his pillow over his ears to try and drown out the howling.

Albus didn't manage to drift off to sleep until after Cedric got out of bed, swore loudly, and disregarded the no magic outside of school rule to put a silencing charm on the room.

******

Albus was awoken by his annual Christmas wake-up call, Lily. She breezed through the door shouting about how they all needed to wake up and open their presents.

“And there's three feet of snow outside,” Lily said as she left the room, “I checked.”

“Merlin!” James jumped off the top bunk and looked out the window, “There is! And it's still coming!”

“Whoa, you can't see anything!” Cedric added.

“We could build the world's biggest snow wizard later,” Ben suggested.

“We could build an entire snow wizard army,” Albus said.

“Presents first,” James said as he located his pile of presents.

Albus descended upon his own pile of presents and began opening them. There were the usual sweets and Weasleys' products from his aunts and uncles. Another Weasley sweater, this one scarlet and gold striped. He pulled it on over his pajamas and opened the rest of the presents from his aunts and uncles. His Aunt Hermione had gotten him a few books he'd probably never read, including one about the history of house elves at Hogwarts.

Albus saved his parents' present for last, although he doubted they could top last year's. There really wasn't anything in the world that was better than the Invisibility Cloak.

“Al, did you open Mum and Dad's yet?” James shouted.

“I'm opening it now,” Albus said as he ripped the paper off the small box.

“You'll never guess what they got us!”

Albus opened the box and saw two tickets. Two tickets for the Quidditch World Cup that was taking place this summer!

“Whoa!” Albus shouted, “World Cup tickets!”

“I didn't even know they were on sale this early!” James said.

“You two get the best presents,” Cedric said.

“Hey, I got two tickets,” James replied.

“Yeah, two,” Ben sighed, “You can only pick one of us to go.”

Albus suddenly realized he had the same problem. Two tickets. Five friends he would want to take. Who was he going to choose? Not Rose. They may have been friends since they were babies, but she just didn't have a passion for Quidditch. Neither did Kaden. He was another to cross off the list. John and Matt were the Quidditch fans. He'd have to choose between them. Amanda liked Quidditch well enough, but she didn't follow a team or anything.

“Those are limited edition tickets,” Ben said, “They don't know who's playing yet, so they don't sell very many tickets ahead of time.”

“They're for the top box, too,” James said in awe.

Lily burst into the room with a big grin on her face. She was holding two tickets as well. “Did you get Quidditch tickets?”

“Yeah,” Albus and James said at the same time.

“This is going to be brilliant,” Lily said and then ran out of the room.

Albus's parents were already in the kitchen by the time Albus went downstairs. They were sitting at the table eating breakfast. Albus gave them each a huge hug and then sat down.

“How did you get the tickets?” he asked.

“They were a gift from the Minister,” Harry replied, “The Cup is in Canada this year and he's good friends with their president. Got him a lot of free tickets.”

Albus grinned as he began to eat breakfast. Somehow his parents had come close to topping last year's present. Now not only was he going to get to see the World Cup, he would get to travel to a different country.

Rose came downstairs a little while later and was impressed with the tickets. She had no desire to go to the Cup and had no suggestions on how Albus was going to choose between John and Matt.

“Anyone up for Quidditch later?” Teddy announced as he sauntered into the kitchen.

“Not under my watch!” Molly shouted, “You can't see a foot in front of you out there! And it must be close to 15 below!”

“Maybe after lunch, then,” Teddy shrugged.

Molly shook her head and sighed as she set a few more platters of eggs and toast onto the table.

There was a knock on the door that could only just be heard over the howling wind. Molly glanced at Arthur, who shrugged and got up to see who it was. Albus followed, very curious to see who would visit on Christmas morning in the middle of a huge blizzard.

“Xeno, is that you?” Arthur shouted outside.

“Yes!” Xenophilius Lovegood shouted back. Arthur stood aside as the man walked in and then shut the door behind him. “Quite the storm we're having! Just thought I'd stop by and see if this place was still standing.”

“Quite the storm, yes,” Arthur agreed, “I heard the Muggles lost electricity. Fascinating. I wonder what they do without it. But yes, the house is still standing.”

“Good, but if you feel it's too rickety, just let me know and I'll go get some of my Jutispy Plants. The leaves do wonders on old buildings. Makes them like new. I just put a bunch into my place and it's a good thing, too. Of course, they tend to attract Nargles...” Xenophilius's voice trailed off.

“I'll keep that in mind,” Arthur smiled, “Are you spending the holiday alone?”

“Yes, yes,” he replied, “Luna and Rolf are with his family this Christmas.”

“Then you must stay here a while. Molly's cooked far too much food, like usual,” Arthur lead Xeno into the kitchen.

Albus followed them. He always found Xenophilius Lovegood to be an interesting wizard, if not a little mad. Always going on about Nargles or Nom-Noms or something.

Molly was more than happy to provide Xenophilius with a large platter of breakfast and he settled down to discuss the storm with the adults.

Albus spent most of the morning playing Exploding Snap, Wizard's Chess, and Gobstones with his cousins. They tried to play hide and go seek, but the house was too crowded to play it properly.

Teddy and James kept looking out the window, willing it to stop snowing. Both of them were just itching to go play Quidditch. Albus would have gladly gone and played if it would stop snowing so much. He was dedicated to the game, but not enough to play in this storm.

Lunchtime came and the snow was still falling. George went outside to measure it and came back with the news that it was three and a half feet.

Teddy went upstairs after lunch and came back decked out in three jumpers, a thick cloak, and a pair of boots. Under one arm was his broom and under the other was a box of Quidditch balls. James was right behind him, dressed the same.

“Theodore Remus Lupin!” Molly shouted, “I suppose I can't stop you from going out there and catching death of a cold, but I will not let you drag James with you!”

“He's not dragging me, Grandma,” James rolled his eyes, “I want to go!”

“Just let them, Molly,” Harry said, “They'll get cold soon enough and come back inside.”

“Fine,” Molly replied and went back into the kitchen.

“Excellent,” Teddy grinned, “Anyone care to join us?”

Georgia, Fred, and Heather suited up in warm clothes and joined Teddy and James. Albus decided against it. Quidditch was fun, but he didn't want to freeze when he could stay inside and be warm.

The Christmas Quidditch lasted a half an hour. Teddy, James, Georgia, Heather, and Fred all stumbled back into the house shivering with their faces red and covered in snow and ice. Molly immediately descended upon them with mugs of hot chocolate and dry clothes.

“Told you, Molly,” Harry grinned.

“C-can't find the Sn-Snitch,” Teddy muttered.

Harry laughed. “That doesn't surprise me. You'll find it when the storm calms down. You put the charm on it to stay in the yard, right?”

“Y-yeah,” Teddy replied.

Christmas dinner came and went in its usual chaos. Xenophilius stayed for it and James snuck sneezing powder into his soup, which he found incredibly funny. Molly was not as impressed and gave James quite the scolding. How she found out it was James was beyond Albus.

The storm continued throughout the night and Cedric had to put the silencing charm back on their room in order for any of them to get any sleep.

******

Nobody left the Burrow until two days after Christmas. That was when the snow finally let up. It topped out at around four and a half feet, which was a new record for Albus's lifetime. The Burrow's yard had been decorated by dozens of snow witches and wizards, along with hippogriffs, owls, and a variety of other magical creatures.

When Albus found out what his family was doing after they left the Burrow, he wished the snow would have kept coming. They were going shopping for dress robes for the New Year's party.

“Why can't I just wear my old dress robes?” James whined as they walked down Diagon Alley towards Madam Malkin's.

“Because they're five inches too short,” Ginny replied, “They're even too small for Al.”

“Yeah, Hugo's the lucky one,” James muttered. Hugo was wearing James's old dress robes to the party and therefore did not have to go shopping.

“Mummy, I want purple robes,” Lily announced.

“If they have any,” Ginny replied.

Albus wanted to buy the first pair of dress robes he found, so long as they weren't pink or purple. The sooner they were done robes shopping the better.

Rose and Lily made a beeline for the girls dress robes as soon as they walked in the door. Albus stood awkwardly next to James while their mother found various robes for them.

“Here, try these on, Al,” Ginny handed him a pair of emerald green robes.

“Very Slytherin,” James snickered.

“Shut it, James,” Albus muttered.

“They'll bring out your eyes, Al,” Ginny told him, “Now go try them on.”

Albus reluctantly tried on the Slytherin colored robes and then left the dressing room for his mother to see.

“Too short,” she announced, “But the color is perfect. I'll find a bigger size.”

James wound up with a navy blue pair of robes, which Albus would have preferred. Lily found her purple robes and Rose got a sky blue pair.

“Next time you're getting green robes,” Albus muttered to James, who was still making fun of the color of Albus's robes.

“No I won't. I don't have green eyes,” James grinned.

“Then we'll get you a nice red set,” Ginny said, “They'll clash horribly with your hair.”

“I don't care. They'd be Gryffindor colored,” James laughed.


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PostPosted: Tuesday 9 February 2010 11:30:07pm 
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Muggle

Joined: Monday 21 December 2009 10:56:44pm
Posts: 4
Location: England
Loved these last few chapters can’t wait to read what happens next.

Just wondering though whether you could post your Weasley family tree because I can’t work out which of the 19 grandchildren have who for parents, apart from the obvious 5.


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PostPosted: Wednesday 10 February 2010 3:46:13pm 
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Ambassador to the Land of Ducks.
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Joined: Thursday 28 December 2006 6:45:34pm
Posts: 2538
Location: Going through LeakyCon withdrawal
Thanks, Dawn! I'm glad you like it!

Here's the family tree-

Bill-Fleur -------- Charlie-Katherine (witch)---Percy-Corrine (Muggle)
Victoire, 19 ------- Stanley, 18--------------Georgia, 7th year
Gabriella, 7th year--Heather, 6th year---------Bradley, 5th year
Ben, 4th year------ Mark, 5th year-----------Cedric, 4th year
----------------- Eddie, 7 years old--------Samantha & Lindy (twins), 8 years old

George-Alicia Spinnet----Ron-Hermione-------Ginny-Harry
Fred, 6th year-----------Rose, 3rd year-------James, 4th year
Angie, 10 years old------Hugo, 1st year-------Albus, 3rd year
------------------------------------------Lily, 1st year

Dudley-Christina (Muggle)
Kaden- 2nd year
Bethany- 8 years old

*all in Gryffindor*

Chapter 22: The Party

The party was at the Minister's Mansion, the house where all the Ministers of Magic had lived. Albus had been there a few times before, but not in a couple years. Usually all the parties the Minister held were while Albus was at Hogwarts.

A few hours before the party, Ginny made Albus, James, and Lily all take showers and comb their hair properly. She spent a good fifteen minutes trying to get James's hair to lie flat and another fifteen minutes putting Lily's up in some sort of elaborate bun type thing. Albus was very happy his own hair was far too short for that sort of thing.

Before they left, Albus's parents sat him, James, and Lily down on the couch and proceeded to tell them the rules for the evening.

“Absolutely no making trouble!” Ginny stared at James as she said this, “None at all! This is the Minister's house! I will not have you wreaking havoc in it.”

“We're trusting you to keep yourselves occupied during this. I'm going to have to mingle with everyone and we won't be able to watch you every second,” Harry added, “You're all at Hogwarts now. You're old enough to not be glued to us for the evening.”

“Don't worry,” James said, “I know when mischief isn't appropriate.”

“Let's hope so,” Ginny sighed.

Albus and his family Apparated to the Minister's house, which meant side-along Apparition for Albus. He hated side-along Apparition. It felt like he couldn't breath. It was worse when the person who was Apparating him was also Apparating another person, which was always the case in his family. It was the curse of being the middle child. He was either with James or Lily. This time it was with Lily and Harry was Apparating them.

When Albus had regained his ability to breath properly, he looked around at where they had landed. He was standing on the front lawn of what was the most extravagant mansion he had ever seen. It couldn't be considered a house; it was just too monstrous.

A long and winding sidewalk, framed with bushes and lights on either side, lead up to the front door. Albus's parents started walking up and Albus followed.

The mansion seemed to get bigger as they got closer. It was painted brown with a black roof and reminded Albus of a castle. It wasn't nearly as big as Hogwarts, of course, but it was still huge.

Harry rang the bell when they arrived at the door and it was answered by the Minister himself. “Harry!” he shouted, “Come in!”

Minister Langston Hartwell was the third minister since the fall of Lord Voldemort. He was a tall, rotund man with very little hair left on his head. He did sport a rather large mustache, which caused Albus to think of him as a much taller version of Professor Slughorn.

Hartwell was one of those very educated wizards who spoke using very large words that Albus couldn't really understand. He was long-winded and most of his speeches could be condensed down into a few sentences, according to Harry, that is. He was a very nice man, though.

“Right this way,” Hartwell motioned for them to follow him.

Hartwell lead them through the house, which was just as immaculate as Albus remembered, and into what could only be described as a grand ballroom. It was the same ballroom all the parties Albus had been to were held.

The room was decorated with silver and black and was already filling up with people. Albus spotted Rose and Matt in the back of the room and left his family in the doorway to go see them.

“Some place, huh?” Albus said once he reached them.

“This is the biggest house I've ever seen,” Rose agreed, “I see you're wearing your Slytherin robes.”

Albus rolled his eyes. “Shut it.”

“What do you think, Matt?” Rose turned to Matt, “His mum says they match his eyes, but James says they're Slytherin robes.”

“Slytherin,” Matt said immediately.

“Then yours are Ravenclaw,” Albus pointed out, gesturing to Matt's blue robes.

“I don't care,” Matt shrugged, “So, did you just get here?”

“Yeah,” Albus replied.

“I've been here for two hours already,” Matt said, “We were the first ones here. Dad keeps introducing me to people and they all think I'm a first year.”

“Bet that's fun,” Albus laughed, “Do you know most of these people?”

“Some,” Matt said, “That's the bloke Dad's taking over for,” he gestured to a very large wizard, “McVicar.”

“Right,” Albus said, “I've heard of him. Dad's always said he would never retire.”

“Dad never thought he would either,” Matt laughed, “Then we've got your Uncle Percy, I think you probably know him. Those people are a few of Dad's colleagues,” Matt gestured to a few more witches and wizards, “Then there's a bunch of people from other departments, but I don't remember any of their names.”

“Looks like it's going to be a fun night,” Albus said sarcastically.

“Oh, it will be,” Matt grinned, “When I was really little, we went to parties like this a few times a month. You make your own fun.”

“Like what?” Albus asked.

“Charming alcohol out of the wine and champagne. It'll still taste exactly the same,” Matt grinned mischievously, “By the time midnight rolls around, everyone will be wondering why they're not drunk. It'll be funny.”

“You've done this before?” Rose raised an eyebrow.

“Amy has,” Matt said, “She's here somewhere and she's going to do it soon.”

“I have to admit, that's really creative,” Rose giggled, “What else?”

“Mostly stuff with the food. Charm the chocolates to taste like vanilla, charm the serving utensils to move every time you go to pick them up, that sort of stuff,” Matt explained.

“My parents gave us this speech about how we can't play pranks here,” Albus said, “She was saying it mostly for James, but I think she should've given it to you.”

“My parents never say that stuff to me,” Matt laughed, “They never suspect me of anything. The minute they find out the alcohol's been charmed out of the drinks, they'll find Amy.”

“She is the one who's going to do it,” Rose pointed out.

“It was my idea, though. She wasn't originally going to do it at this party,” Matt explained.

“Alcohol's gone,” Amy said quietly as she came up behind Matt, “This is going to be interesting.”

“What exactly happens when you use this charm?” Rose asked.

“Oh, it's great,” Amy grinned, “First, only a couple people notice and they make a very quiet mention to another person and then that person agrees that there's something wrong with the drinks. Then it just snowballs from there until it's all they're talking about. Then someone will test the drinks, discover the alcohol's been charmed away, replace it, and then everyone will cheer. But some of them will act drunk because they think there's alcohol in the drinks.”

“Aren't your parents going to be upset?” Rose asked.

“They might tell me they wish I hadn't done it, but there's not much they can do,” Amy shrugged, “That's why I'm doing it and not Matt.”

“I couldn't see your parents yelling at you anyway,” Albus laughed.

“You never know,” Matt shrugged.

“I bet James and Cedric are going to do something,” Albus said as he scanned the crowd. James and Cedric were sitting at one of the tables, heads close together like they were plotting something.

“I'd be shocked if they didn't,” Rose smirked, “Aunt Ginny has no hope of stopping James.”

“And I'd bet my last Galleon that Georgia and Bradley are talking about Quidditch,” Albus gestured to his other two cousins, who were standing near the buffet.

“That's all they talk about,” Rose said, “And Lily looks bored. Five Sickles says she's over here in about ten minutes or so.”

“I wouldn't bet against that,” Albus said, “And Samantha and Lindy will sneak out of the room the next time Aunt Corrine looks away.”

Albus's Aunt Corrine was talking with two witches Albus didn't know and his twin cousins were chasing each other around the room.

“Are any of your other cousins coming?” Amy asked.

“Nope,” Albus shook his head, “None of my other aunts and uncles work for the Ministry.”

“Let's go get something to eat,” Matt said.

Albus and Rose agreed. Amy left to go talk to someone else and the three friends walked over to the buffet. There was already a small queue in front of it.

“There go Samantha and Lindy,” Rose said as they waited. The twins ran out one of the doors and Corrine quickly followed.

The queue moved quickly and soon Albus was in front. He grabbed a plate and piled it high with just about everything. There was always the best food at this sort of party.

They found an empty table far enough away from James and Cedric. Albus didn't want to be anywhere near them when they did whatever they were planning on doing.

“I don't even know what half this stuff is,” Matt said as he began eating, “But it's good.”

More and more people arrived as Albus ate his dinner. He recognized a few of them, but didn't remember any names. He also noticed that nobody was acting strangely due to Amy's charm. They were all acting perfectly normal for adults who had had a few drinks.

Albus, Matt, and Rose wandered around the room once they finished their food. A few adults stopped to exclaim how big they'd gotten and to inquire what year they were at Hogwarts. Lily joined them because she didn't want to be associated with James and Cedric's mischief.

“Hello, everyone!” Minister Hartwell shouted from the podium at the front of the room.

Everyone quieted down and turned to watch him. Albus, Rose, and Matt were somewhat close to the podium.

“Thank you,” he smiled, “I assume you all know why I've thrown this party, and it's not just to unload the large amount of wine I was given for Christmas!”

The adults all chuckled at Hartwell's attempt at a joke and then quieted down once again.

“Yes, yes, well, this party is in honor of none other than Walter Eckerton, whom I have appointed to the position of Head of the Department of Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. There is no one else whom I would trust with such a job....”

Hartwell's speech soon descended into one of his usual speeches, which Albus could not understand. It was long, drawn-out, and Albus could've sworn he saw his dad yawn at one point.

Albus clapped loudly when Hartwell finally finished and turned the podium over to McVicar.

“Thank you, Minister,” McVicar began, “That was quite an interesting speech. I, too, would like to congratulate Walter Eckerton on his promotion.

“I am sure at least half of you were quite surprised to hear that I was retiring. I myself was surprised. In fact, I probably wouldn't have done it if it weren't for the fact that my wife has been begging me to for the past ten years.

“However, the main reason for my lack of an earlier retirement was because there was not a single person employed in the Ministry whom I would have trusted with this job. Nobody had the capabilities to carry out this position in the way I would like. Like they always say, if you want something done right, do it yourself. That was my motto up until five years ago, that is.

“A little over five years ago, a man came into the Ministry looking for a job in the Department of the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. He applied for a job in Werewolf Support Services, a position that had been open for well over a year. I was ready to hire anyone who walked through the door at that point, but I had no idea what was to come when I hired Walter Eckerton.

“Some of you may know that Walter has experience in this field. He was the Head of the Department of Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures in Australia for three years before leaving the position in order to move to England.

“Walter revolutionized Werewolf Support Services as soon as he started. The ideas he had were ones that even I hadn't thought of. In five short years, he has bettered life for those plagued with lycanthropy more than anyone else in the department have in their entire careers.

“It took only six months for me to realize that I wanted Walter to take over for me when I retired. Not only does he have the experience and intelligence for the job, but he also has dedication that I have never seen before. I even have to admit that his dedication surpasses my own. I have never seen anyone fight as hard for werewolf rights as he has.

“The only thing left for me to do was convince myself it was time to retire,” McVicar chuckled, “And yes, it did take the better part of five years to do that. But now, I feel very confident as I hand the reins over to Walter.”

Everyone clapped as McVicar stepped away and Matt's dad took the podium. “That was quite the speech,” Albus muttered to Matt.

“I'll say,” Matt agreed, “And McVicar doesn't usually praise people like that.”

“Well,” Matt's dad began, “Thanks for your vote of confidence, Rob. I certainly hope I can live up to your expectations.

“I have to begin by saying how unexpected this was. I really had no intentions of becoming the head of the entire department again, no matter which country I was living in. Werewolf Support Services has been such a great place to work these past few years. It truly is my passion.

“However, when Langston and Rob approached me about taking over when Rob retired, I found it difficult to say no. In the end, I said yes because I want to make more of a difference.

“Of course, I could not have gotten to this place without the help of my wife, Julie,” he gestured to Matt's mum, who was standing near the podium, “And my daughter, Amy, and my son, Matt.

“I'm not one for long speeches, so I'll just say that I look forward to starting the job and I truly hope I can be at least half of the head of the department Rob has been.”

“I just hope none of them find out why my dad's so dedicated,” Matt whispered.

“They're too drunk to think much on it,” Rose smirked.

“They're not really drunk,” Albus reminded her.

“They're certainly acting like they are,” Rose pointed out.

A good portion of the adults were acting very drunk. In fact, if Albus hadn't known about Amy's charm, he would say they all really were drunk. The weird thing was that everybody was acting drunk. There didn't seem to be anyone who was thinking there was something wrong with the drinks.

“Let's go ask Amy about it,” Matt suggested.

Amy was standing nearby, so Albus, Matt, and Rose squeezed their way through the crowd to get to her.

“Amy,” Matt whispered, “Why's everyone acting normal?

“I don't know,” she whispered back, “Let's go look at the drinks.”

James and Cedric were also standing near the drink table, looking nearly as confused as Albus felt about this charm. That was kind of strange.

Amy grabbed a glass of wine and tried it. “Well, it tastes fine, but it's supposed to.”

“You'll have to drink a lot more than that to get properly drunk,” Matt grinned.

“I'm not doing that,” Amy rolled her eyes.

“Actually,” James grinned mischievously, “That might get you drunk.”

“What did you do?” Albus groaned.

“Cedric and I added some extra alcohol to that wine,” James whispered.

Albus, Rose, Matt, and Amy burst out laughing. Albus could not believe it. All of their pranks had backfired. The wine was now perfectly normal.

“What's so funny?” Cedric asked.

“Amy pulled a prank, too,” Albus said.

“I put a charm on all the wine to remove the alcohol, while keeping the taste,” Amy explained, “I did it right when the party started.”

“So much for that prank,” James groaned.

“Now you won't get in trouble,” Albus pointed out, “Mum's been watching you two.”

“I know,” James muttered, “That's why we can't do it again.”

“What do you want to do now?” Albus asked as James, Cedric, and Amy left.

“Want to explore the Minister's Mansion?” Matt suggested.

“Is that allowed?” Rose asked skeptically.

“I don't see why not, I mean, this is my dad's party,” Matt pointed out, “Plus, we'd just be walking around.”

“Let's go,” Albus said and lead them out of the ballroom.

It was much quieter in the rest of the house. They started wandering through any rooms that had open doors.

“This place is so bloody fancy,” Albus said.

“It reminds me of my grandparents' house,” Matt said.

“Their house is this big?” Rose asked.

“Nearly,” Matt replied, “They've got a ballroom and everything.”

The three friends wound up in a very large living room filled with antique furniture. There was an oriental carpet on the ground and oak tables and bookshelves around the perimeter. Atop the tables were fancy vases of flowers and crystal sculptures.

“We'd better be careful in here,” Rose said as she walked into the room, “If we break any of this stuff, our parents would murder us.”

“Cinda's got one of these,” Matt pointed to a crystal swan.

“Don't touch it!” Rose hissed.

“I wasn't,” Matt assured her, “I broke Cinda's once, but Mum fixed it.”

“Look at all these books,” Albus gazed up at one of the bookcases, “Madam Pince would love to get her hands on these.”

“They're all about politics, though,” Matt pointed out, “Pretty boring.”

“Mum would like them,” Rose said

“I wonder how old this furniture is,” Matt said as he looked at a rather uncomfortable looking armchair.

“Probably older than Aberforth Dumbledore,” Albus replied.

“Hey, Albus, Matt, come here,” Rose said as she looked out the window.

Albus and Matt walked over to the window and leaned over the table that was in front of it.

“What is it?” Albus asked.

“Look, there's-”

Matt leaned farther over the table and knocked one of the crystal sculptures off. Rose gasped and managed to catch it before it crashed onto the floor.

“Merlin,” Rose whispered as she set it back on the table, “Be careful.”

“Sorry,” Matt replied, “What were you saying?”

“There's someone sneaking around out there,” Rose said.

Albus peered out the window into the darkness. He could just barely make out a shadow lurking around the bushes. It didn't look like the person was walking up towards the house to go to the party. Plus, why would he show up three hours late?

“There's definitely someone out there,” Matt said.

“Let's go find out who it is,” Albus said. He didn't have a clue as to who it was, but he wanted to find out. There was no reason for someone to be sneaking around the Minister's Mansion at this time of night.

“Albus Severus Potter, are you bloody insane?” Rose exclaimed, “I think you are!”

“Look, I just want to go see if we can find out who it is. I'm not saying we should go duel them. Plus, there's a whole room full of Ministry officials in case whoever is out there is someone bad,” Albus said.

“That's a good point,” Matt replied, “Why would someone sneak around a house that's full of Ministry officials, especially when the two top Aurors are inside?”

“I don't know,” Albus said, “But I want to find out who it is.”

Rose reluctantly agreed and followed Albus and Matt, muttering under her breath. They found the nearest door and went out into the cold night, drawing their wands as they did so.

“If we aren't killed, we'll freeze to death,” Rose muttered.

Albus ignored her and started looking around. He stayed close to the house and tried to keep himself concealed in the bushes as he looked for the figure. However, he couldn't see or hear anything.

“Do you hear anything?” he whispered to Matt.

“No,” Matt replied, “It's like they disapparated or something.”

“Good,” Rose muttered, “Now let's go back inside.”

“They could've just moved,” Albus pointed out, “Let's keep going.”

Albus continued creeping around the house, with his wand out in front of him. His heart was beating fast and his hands were sweaty despite the cold. He didn't want to stop, though. Figuring out who this bloke was was exciting and nerve wracking at the same time.

“Don't move!” someone shouted and all of a sudden there was a bright light in Albus's eyes. Wand light.

Rose screamed and grabbed hold of Albus's arm. Albus held up his own wand, his hand shaking.

“Who are you?” the person shouted.

“Wh-who are y-you?” Albus stammered.

“He sounds familiar,” Matt whispered, “Hang on. Bloody hell, that's Professor Balladanis!”

Albus thought for a second and the voice did sound a lot like Balladanis. But why would he be sneaking around the Minister's Mansion?

“Albus Potter, is that you?” the man shouted.

“Er, yes,” Albus replied.

The wand light lowered and Albus heard the man step through the snow towards him. Albus saw that he was indeed Professor Balladanis. He breathed a sigh of relief as Rose let go of his arm.

“Mr. Potter,” Balladanis said and then waved his wand around, “And Miss Weasley, Mr. Eckerton. Oh, I suppose this party is for your father, Mr. Eckerton?”

“Y-yes, sir,” Matt replied.

“What are the three of you doing sneaking around outside in the dead of night? I thought I'd taught you better than that. You're just asking for trouble,” Balladanis said sternly.

“Told you,” Rose whispered to Albus.

“Er,” Albus began, “We saw someone lurking around out here and went to investigate. I guess that person was you....”

“And you're lucky it was me,” Balladanis barked, “The three of you could have been dead if that person had been a dark wizard. Now, I'm taking all three of you back inside.”

Albus nodded and followed Balladanis through the snow and towards the door. “Sir,” Albus said, “If you don't mind my asking, what were you doing outside?”

“If you must know, the Minister asked me to check the grounds in order to make sure nobody was lurking around,” Balladanis replied.

That did nothing but spark Albus's curiosity even more. He knew better than to press further, though. Balladanis was not one to explain his motives.


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PostPosted: Wednesday 10 February 2010 5:21:15pm 
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Wow, love the two different pranks on the wine. Can’t wait to read the next chapter.

Thanks for posting the Weasley family tree; I had been having trouble working out where Mark and Angie fitted in so thanks.


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PostPosted: Wednesday 17 February 2010 6:36:20pm 
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Thanks Dawn! So glad you're enjoying it! :grin:

Chapter 23: All in Good Time

It was nearing midnight when Albus, Matt, and Rose re-entered the building, escorted by Professor Balladanis. Albus had been hoping the professor would just see them to the door and then continue his search of the perimeter, but instead he went back to the ballroom with them and marched them right up to Harry.

“Potter,” Balladanis interrupted the conversation Harry had been having with some wizard Albus didn't know, “I found your son, your niece, and their friend wandering around outside.”

“Albus,” Harry groaned, “I thought we made it clear that you were to stay inside.”

“I'll leave them with you,” Balldanis said, “Happy New Year.”

“Happy New Year,” Harry replied, “And thanks.”

Balladanis disappeared into the crowd and Albus shifted uncomfortably as his dad stared at him for a few moments.

“Care to explain?” Harry raised an eyebrow.

“We were just, er, exploring,” Albus muttered.

“Don't do it again,” Harry sighed.

“We won't,” Albus assured him.

Harry went back to his conversation and Albus lead his friends back to the buffet.

“I hope you've learned your lesson,” Rose muttered, “I am not doing that again.”

“We won't do it again. Not tonight, that is,” Albus grinned.

“10!” someone shouted.

Albus looked at the nearest clock and saw that it was almost midnight. Everyone else joined in the countdown, holding their glasses of champagne in the air. Amy joined Albus, Rose, and Matt.

“3, 2, 1, Happy New Year!” Albus shouted along with everyone else.

The crowd began to thin out a little while later. Most of the people Albus didn't know left, along with his Uncle Percy, Aunt Corrine, and his cousins. Albus's parents didn't look like they were in any hurry to leave, so he got a plate of the leftover desserts and at them with his friends.

Rose's family and Amy left, and then it was just the Potters, Matt, his parents, the Minister, and his wife left. All the adults were talking, James was teasing Lily about something, and Albus and Matt were finishing off the last of the desserts.

“Do you think there's any way for Hogwarts to win the Quidditch tournament?” Matt asked as he polished off a piece of chocolate cake.

“Only if Linda's sick the day of one of the matches,” Albus sighed.

“Maybe that'll happen,” Matt said, “You never know.”

“Al, we've got to go,” Ginny tapped him on the shoulder.

“Ok, Mum,” Albus replied and then turned back to Matt, “I'll see you soon.”

“Yeah, see you on the train,” Matt said.

Albus waved goodbye and then joined his mum, dad, James, and Lily. They all said congratulations to Matt's dad and then left the Minister's Mansion. Albus peered into the bushes as he left, but there was no sign of Professor Balladanis.

******

The remainder of the Christmas holiday went by very slow for Albus. He did all his homework, which was quite boring, and there was nothing to do after that. Rose was visiting her other grandparents and James was at Nathan's house. Even Kaden was busy visiting his grandparents (Vernon and Petunia). He sent Albus a letter complaining about it, since the visit was also with Aunt Marge. Albus was very grateful that he didn't have to go. Neither of his parents had mentioned anything about visiting with Vernon and Petunia again.

Finally the day to return to school arrived and the Potters made it to Platform 9 ¾ just in time. Albus found all his friends in one of the compartments and once they kicked Lily, Ashtyn, and Hugo out, they told each other about their holidays.

“Aunt Marge has got to be the most horrible aunt in the entire world,” Kaden fumed, “My dad told her about magic a few months ago and she's been awful ever since. I mean, she was always kind of horrible, but now she's worse. She just hates magic so much. She's worse than my grandparents.”

“Wow,” Albus replied, “Glad I've never met her.”

“Consider yourself lucky,” Kaden muttered, “I'm guessing you lot had better holidays?”

“We found Professor Balladanis lurking around the Minister's Mansion,” Albus announced.

“What?” John, Kaden, and Amanda shouted at the same time.

“I saw someone sneaking around outside and Albus insisted we go investigate,” Rose said, “Turns out it was Balladanis and the Minister had apparently asked him to check the grounds for trouble.”

“Did he find you?” John asked.

“Yeah,” Albus nodded, “He wasn't to happy either.”

“Told us we could've been killed,” Matt explained.

“Well, we could've,” Rose muttered.

“Weird though,” John said, “Why would the Minister think someone would be hiding around his house?”

“Doesn't he have guards around anyway?” Amanda asked, “The Muggle Minister does.”

“Again, that's why it's weird,” John replied, “He does have guards.”

“Why would he ask Balladanis anyway?” Matt asked, “Why not ask an Auror? Balladanis is a professor.”

“He hasn't always been,” Albus pointed out, “He had some sort of mysterious job before.”

“Again, weird,” John said.

“Yeah, there were a bunch of Aurors at the party, not to mention Albus's dad,” Matt pointed out.

“That settles it,” John announced, “Albus, you've got to find out what he did before he started teaching Defense?”

“Why me?” Albus asked.

“Because you've got those special dueling lessons with him. He likes you for some reason. Of course, he also likes Malfoy. But that's probably just because Malfoy's a good dueler, too,” John explained.

“I'll try,” Albus sighed, “But I really don't think he'll tell me.”

“You never know,” John said.

******

“Quiet, quiet!” Balladanis shouted the following Tuesday, their first day of Defense after the holiday.

Albus immediately stopped talking to Matt and John and turned to face Balladanis. He was really hoping that the professor would say nothing about what happened at the party and so far Balladanis was showing no recollection of it.

“I trust you all had superb holidays,” Balladanis said, “But the holidays are over and although I am sure none of you thought a bit about defensive magic during said holidays, it is now time to commence that thinking once again.

“First, I'll say that there is no time to not be thinking about defensive magic, as the dark arts do not take breaks for trivial things such as holidays.

“Second, in this term we will begin to explore creatures far more dangerous than hinkypunks and kappas. In this term we shall learn about those terrifying creatures such as acromantulas, basilisks, werewolves, dragons, and vampires.”

Albus couldn't help but glance at Linda when Balladanis said vampires. Balladanis had glanced at her as well, and he also glanced at Matt when he said werewolves. Of course, he had looked at Albus when he said basilisks, so it didn't necessarily mean anything, but Albus had a feeling it did.

“As the headmaster would find it highly inappropriate for a dragon to manifest itself in this classroom, we shall not be using the anamatek as often this term,” Balladanis continued, “But we will be using it a few times. You will find that there are more lectures in this term, much to my dislike. There is nothing I would like better than to teach you about acromantulas and werewolves with practical lessons, but there are both laws and school rules that prevent such lessons.”

Albus and Matt glanced at each other. It was official. Professor Balladanis was insane. What kind of teacher would want to teach about dragons with live dragons? Well, Hagrid would, but he wasn't the same as Balladanis.

“Take out some parchment,” Balladanis said, “We're going to begin learning about acromantulas today....”

The rest of the day went by relatively quickly. Albus actually did not have Quiditch practice that night, so everyone went to the Marauder's Den after dinner.

“Divination is such a joke,” John said as he tossed his bag onto the floor and collapsed onto a couch, “We started crystal ball gazing today. All I saw was a load of fog.”

“I told you not to take it,” Rose said as she pulled a stack of books out of her own bag.

“I didn't think it would be this bad,” John groaned, “There is no way anyone could see anything in a crystal ball.”

“Palmistry was better,” Amanda said, “And Trelawney makes the whole thing worse.”

“Trelawney could make Defense bad,” Albus replied.

“Balladanis told us that he wished he could teach us about dark creatures using the anamatek,” Rose said, “Seriously, he wanted a basilisk to appear in the middle of the classroom.”

“That would be stupid,” Kaden said as he unwrapped a Chocolate Frog, “Those can kill you with their eyes.”

“I know,” Rose said, “Balladanis is insane.”

“Do you think that anamatek could turn into a werewolf if the moon wasn't full?” John asked.

“Probably not,” Matt answered, “It would just be a wolf. I think it would just be a wolf any other time of the month, too, because there's no way it could turn someone into a werewolf by biting them.”

“That's good,” Albus said, “Because he did say that he'd use the anamatek a few times this term. Wonder if he'll have it turn into a vampire.”

“No need,” John laughed, “We've got Linda.”

“If you think of it that way, there's no point to have it turn into a fake werewolf either,” Rose pointed out.

“Good point, I guess,” John muttered.

******

The rest of the week went by quickly. Albus had Quidditch practice Thursday evening, and Wood informed the whole team that they'd gotten rusty over the holiday. He also told them that the next match was in two weeks and they'd be playing New York. If they won, they'd be in second place.

Albus had a dueling lesson with Balladanis the following evening and he had absolutely no idea how he was going to ask what Balladanis's previous job had been.

Albus arrived at Balladanis's room before Malfoy and entered to find Balladanis clearing all of the desks from the middle of the room.

“Mr. Potter,” Balladanis turned around and greeted Albus, “Is it safe to assume that you did not go wandering about late at night alone after New Year's?”

“Yes, sir,” Albus muttered as he felt his face turn red. He was quite glad Malfoy wasn't there yet.

“Mr. Malfoy,” Balladanis said as Malfoy walked into the room, “Now we may begin. I have decided that your understanding of the Protego charm is satisfactory so we are going to move on to something else.

“This particular charm, when performed correctly, manages to disarm and disorient a person at the same time. The sensation is often described as dizziness. Can either of you tell me what why this charm would be more useful than a standard disarming spell?”

“Because it's easier to duel someone who's dizzy than someone who isn't,” Malfoy said.

“More specifically than that,” Balladanis said, “Mr. Potter?”

“Er, because you can get the person tied up while they're disoriented? If they're a dark wizard you're trying to catch,” Albus replied.

“Another good reason, but not the one I was thinking of,” Balladanis began to walk slowly around the room, “Wizards who are expecting to have to duel other wizards often keep multiple wands on their person. There are spells that can be performed on these wands to keep them attached to your robes or your actual body, spells that Expelliarmus won't overcome easily. However, these spells require constant concentration.

“If a wizard is hit with the charm I am about to teach you, they will lose the concentration necessary to keep their extra wands affixed. Then, you can use Expelliarmus to get the extra wands.”

“Can you teach us that charm to keep extra wands in our robes?” Malfoy asked.

“Perhaps towards the end of the year. It takes immense concentration and magical energy to simultaneously perform that charm while dueling someone,” Balladanis explained, “For now, you will learn the charm to disarm and disorient a person at the same time.

“The incantation is 'Confundo-Expelliarmus'. A combination of Confundus and Expelliarmus. Mr. Malfoy, you will go first. When I say so, perform the charm against Mr. Potter. Mr. Potter, you may try and stop him using the Protego charm I taught you earlier.”

Albus nodded, wishing he had been chosen to perform the new charm first, and faced Malfoy. He held his wand up and muttered 'Protego' under his breath. He focused all of his concentration on holding the shield up.

“Now, Mr. Malfoy,” Balladanis muttered.

“Confundo-Expelliarmus!” Malfoy shouted.

Albus felt the charm hit his shield, but it didn't break through. He gripped his wand harder and stared at Malfoy.

“Keep going,” Balladanis said to Malfoy.

“Confundo-Expelliarmus!” Malfoy shouted again.

The charm hit Albus's shield a little harder this time. Albus could feel beads of sweat forming on his forehead.

Malfoy kept going and it took him five times to break through Albus's shield. When it happened, Albus felt his wand leave his hand and was overcome by a wave of dizziness at the same time. He felt exactly like he had when he had gotten the flu the previous year, only without the fever.

Albus didn't pay any attention to what Malfoy and Balladanis were doing. He felt like he was going to pass out and he had to sit down. He sat down right on the floor and was vaguely aware of Balladanis standing over him.

Then, all of a sudden, the dizziness was gone. Albus shook his head and then looked up and saw Balladanis and Malfoy standing in front of him. Malfoy looked impressed and Balladanis looked like he always did.

“You did quite well with that shield,” Balladanis said as Albus stood up, “And I think it's safe to assume that you couldn't have held concentration for any spells after Mr. Malfoy succeeded in breaking your shield.”

“No, sir,” Albus shook his head.

“Normally the charm's effects would have lasted longer, but I performed the counter-curse because it looked like you were ready to pass out,” Balladanis explained, “When you're ready, you can try the charm.”

“I'm ready,” Albus said as he took his wand back from Malfoy.

Balladanis gave Malfoy a few seconds to get his shield up and then nodded at Albus to perform the charm.

“Confundo-Expelliarmus!” Albus shouted. As he expected, the charm did not break Malfoy's shield.

Much to Albus's delight, he managed to break the shield on the fourth try. One less try than Malfoy had needed for Albus.

The charm hit Malfoy in the chest and his wand soared towards Albus. Albus caught it and watched as Malfoy bent over and fell to the ground, much like Albus himself had done.

Balladanis gave Albus one of his rare smiles and then pulled out his own wand. He waved it at Malfoy and Malfoy looked up.

“That was weird,” Malfoy muttered.

“It's supposed to be,” Balladanis said, “Now get up and we'll do it again.”

Balladanis kept them at it for the better part of an hour, past when Albus would have liked to quit. It was exhausting to be hit with that spell time after time while trying to hold up a shield charm. Malfoy didn't seem to be faring much better and Albus thought he was even going to ask Balladanis to stop after a half hour, but Malfoy closed his mouth, obviously thinking better of it.

The practice wasn't for nothing, though. Albus managed to hold Malfoy off longer and longer each time and although Malfoy was getting better at the shield charm as well, Albus broke through it a few more times.

“That's enough for tonight,” Balladanis finally said after he performed the countercurse on Albus for what must have been the tenth time that night, “I'll see you in class on Tuesday.”

Malfoy made a beeline for the door, but Albus turned to Balladanis instead. He might as well just get it over with. There was no good way to ask Balladanis what his previous job had been. He just had to do it.

“Er, Sir,” Albus began, “I was just wondering, what did you do before you began teaching here?”

Balladanis gave Albus the strangest look he had ever seen. It was a mixture of anger, sadness, and even regret. For a moment, Albus wished he hadn't asked. It was too personal. He should have just told John they wouldn't be able to find out.

“Now is not the time,” Balladanis said quietly, “All in good time, I will tell you.”

Albus was taken aback. That was more than he had expected. He had thought Balladanis would have told him to mind his own business and get back to Gryffindor Tower before curfew. Albus was going to find out, he was just going to have to be patient.

Albus left the room as quickly as he could in his exhausted state, before Balladanis could change his mind about eventually telling Albus about his previous career. The walk back to Gryffindor Tower seemed longer than usual and all Albus wanted to do was collapse into bed when he finally got there.

Instead, he was ambushed by all of his friends. All five of them looked shocked and Amanda looked like she was going to be sick. He looked around the common room and saw that most people looked shocked and everyone was subdued. There was no joking around going on. Even James was quietly sitting at one of the tables.

“What happened?” Albus whispered as he followed them back to their usual table.

Rose opened her mouth to speak and then closed her eyes, unable to do so. Albus turned to John and raised his eyebrows.

“You know that bloke who owns Dervish and Banges?” John asked quietly.

Albus nodded, having seen the man on numerous occasions when he was in Hogsmeade. He was slightly older than Albus's parents, with greying hair and a very intense personality. He never hesitated to make his opinions known

“Someone killed him,” John said in barely more than a whisper.

“Wh-what?” Albus turned to look at all his friends in turn. Matt nodded ever so slightly and then put his head on his hands.

“Must've just happened,” John said, “They just found him. Madam Rosmerta heard a commotion and Flooed here, to get the Auror on duty. By the time they got back, his shop was a complete mess inside and he was laying dead on the floor. Avada Kedavra. They're searching Hogsmeade, the forest, the grounds, and the school. Nobody's allowed out of their common rooms and dormitories.”

“We thought Balladanis would bring you back here when it happened,” Rose said.

“Nobody even came in to tell us,” Albus replied, still in shock.

People weren't just randomly killed in Hogsmeade. That sort of thing just didn't happen anymore. Not since Voldemort had been defeated. Well, Professor Torro had been killed back before his first year and then that one witch from the Ministry had been killed over Christmas, but their killers had never been found and nothing had happened since.

“Why would anyone kill him?” Matt wondered aloud.

“Why would anyone kill anyone?” Rose replied.

The portrait hole opened and all the whispering stopped. Everyone looked to see who came in. It was Professor Longbottom, looking worse for the wear. His robes were disheveled and his tie was askew.

“Aurors are still searching the castle and the grounds,” he told them, “I suggest you all try and get some sleep. The search will be long over by morning, so you will be free to leave the common room then.”

Albus and his friends looked at each other after Longbottom left. They wordlessly went up to their dormitories, Kaden going with Albus instead of to the second years' dorm. Nobody said anything as he curled up on the floor with one of Albus's spare blankets. Albus got into bed and stared at the ceiling. He had been so exhausted earlier, but now there was no way he'd get much sleep that night.


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PostPosted: Wednesday 24 February 2010 7:51:54pm 
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Location: Going through LeakyCon withdrawal
Chapter 24: Darker Times

Lunch was very subdued the next day. Most people had slept quite late since it was a Saturday. Every student of Hogwarts had their nose in a copy of the Prophet, be it their own or a friend's. The staff table looked the same, with every professor either reading the Prophet or whispering with another professor, no doubt about what they'd read.

Albus was reading Georgia's Prophet as she had finished with it and made a mental note to start subscribing himself. All of his friends were peering over his shoulders. Even Linda was hovering around them, a foot or so away.

HOGSMEADE SHOPKEEPER MURDERED

A disturbance in Dervish and Banges late
yesterday evening that sent one Hogsmeade
resident to Hogwarts to find the Auror on
duty lead to the discovery of the death
of a shopkeeper.

Leroy Wisander, 42, the ten-year owner of
Dervish and Banges was pronounced dead
on the scene by Ministry Aurors yesterday
evening. His shop had been broken into
and it showed signs of a struggle.
Wisander was discovered in the middle of
destroyed merchandise with his wand
laying a few feet away. Aurors confirmed
that he was killed with the killing curse.

An extensive search of Hogsmeade, the
forest, Hogwarts, and its grounds turned
up nothing despite the hours Aurors spent
searching. No fingerprints were found on
the scene.

Aurors will be devoting time to finding
Wisander's killer and a possible motive.

Leroy Wisander had owned Dervish and Banges
for a little over ten years, when he
purchased the shop from its previous owners
who retired. However, Wisander is more
known for the scathing editorials he writes
for this very newspaper.

Anyone who knew Wisander knew he was a man
of very strong opinion and did not hesitate
to let others know his opinions. His most
recent editorials have explored the subject
of werewolf, vampire, and other so called
'half-breeds' rights. Aurors have declined
comment on whether they believe Wisander's
editorials are a possible motive for his
murder. Wisander's obituary can be found
on page five.


Albus set the paper down and his friends all resumed their seats. Nobody said a word for a few minutes. Albus didn't know what to think. The article certainly made it seem like Wisander was killed because of his beliefs. However, it didn't exactly say what his beliefs were. Albus hadn't ever read any of his editorials, so he couldn't say either.

“What kind of editorials did he write?” Matt asked quietly.

“I have no idea,” Albus replied, looking at his friend whose face was quite pale, “Want to go to the room?”

“Yeah,” Matt nodded, “I'm not really hungry.”

Albus got up and was followed by all of his friends. John and Kaden each grabbed a stack of toast before leaving. Even Rose and Amanda went with them instead of going off to study with Linda.

“Have any of you read his editorials?” Matt asked as soon as they were in the Marauder's Den.

Nobody had read them. Not even Rose. Matt sighed and collapsed onto one of the couches. “I've got to find out what they were about. I don't even know which would be better, him being for or against werewolf rights. If he's for them, that means some bloke is on the loose killing people for wanting werewolf rights.”

Matt didn't even have to continue for Albus to know why that worried him. Matt's dad was possibly the biggest proponent of werewolf rights in all of Britain and everyone knew it. If someone had been killed just for writing about werewolf rights, what would happen to someone who was actually passing laws for them?

“That might not be why Wisander was killed,” Rose pointed out.

“Why else would someone have killed him?” Matt asked, “He was just a shop owner in Hogsmeade.”

“Why did someone kill Professor Torro?” John replied, “He wasn't even writing any editorials or anything.”

“To scare people,” Albus said quietly, “The Defense teacher position used to be cursed, back when our parents were in school.”

“Well, I don't think you should worry until you find out what the editorials are about,” Rose said to Matt.

“The other option isn't much better,” Matt muttered, “If he didn't write editorials for werewolf rights, then he wrote them against them.”

Albus thought Matt had a point, but he kept his mouth shut. Any way you looked at it, this murder pointed to the fact that things were changing. Aurors had been patrolling Hogwarts for months, but Albus had quickly adjusted to that and didn't really think much about it, but maybe there was more happening outside of Hogwarts than Albus was aware of.

“Let's go to the library,” Rose said as she stood up, “They'll have old copies of the Prophet there.”

Everyone agreed with this and they set off to the library. When they arrived, they were surprised to find how crowded it was. Usually Saturdays were the days everyone put off their homework and then Sundays were spent in the library.

Once they stepped inside, Albus saw that everyone was looking through old copies of the Prophet. Nearly every table had a few newspapers on it and a few students poring over them. Madam Pince was bustling about, no doubt worrying about whether the students would rip her precious newspapers.

“Might not be any left,” John muttered.

“This is good,” Albus replied, “Now it won't look suspicious for us to be investigating.”

John was almost right. There was a very small stack of newspapers left. Albus grabbed them all and then they went to a secluded table towards the back of the library. Albus, Matt, and Rose each took a newspaper while John, Kaden, and Amanda played tic-tac-toe on a spare bit of parchment.

Albus leafed through his newspaper, which was about two years old, until he got to the editorial section. In the very middle, in the biggest font, was an editorial by Leroy Wisander.

HEALERS, BREWERS TO BLAME, NOT MINISTRY OFFICIALS

As I was locking up my shop last night,
I noticed that it was a full moon. I
could not help but think of the poor
people plagued with lycanthropy
currently shut up while attacking
themselves.

Now, I know what you all are thinking.
Wolfsbane. The stuff works miracles
if taken correctly. However, it does
no good if it's sitting in St. Mungo's
and not being used by witches and
wizards with lycanthropy.

The stuff is expensive. I myself did
the calculations and discovered that
it would be extremely difficult for
anyone with a low income to afford it.

And what kind of jobs are lycanthropes
often stuck with? Menial, low-paying
ones. The jobs where they make hardly
enough money to pay the rent and buy
food, let alone purchase a potion that
could alter their lives for the better.

I am absolutely appalled that Healers
and potion brewers charge for this
important potion. They must be making
a nice profit. They can use the profits
to take extravagant holidays while the
poor witches and wizards who buy it
struggle to afford it.

There is only so much Ministry officials
can do. Head of Werewolf Support Services,
Walter Eckerton, says he would love to
give away free Wolfsbane, but there just
isn't room for it in the budget.

What do I propose? I propose that Healers
and potion brewers give it away for free.
They have the abilities to brew it, not
the Ministry. Most Healers claim to love
helping people, but often it is those who
need it most, such as those with lycanthropy,
are often forced to go without, all because
those with the abilities to brew it like
to have a little extra spending money.


“Nothing in this one,” Rose said as she shoved hers aside.

“This one's got one about vampires,” Matt said as he set his paper on top of Rose's.

“Read this,” Albus handed Matt his paper, “Wisander even mentions your dad.”

Matt took the paper and he and Rose began to read it. John, Amanda, and Kaden peered over as well. Albus sat and waited while they read.

“Let's go back to the room,” Matt said as soon as he'd finished reading it.

Albus nodded and they returned the newspapers and walked as fast as they could back to the Marauder's Den.

“Bloody Hell, that bloke must have had so many enemies!” John shouted as soon as they were back.

“I know,” Albus agreed, “And that one's from two years ago. Imagine what he's written recently.”

“Why did he have to mention my dad?” Matt groaned, “He made it sound like my dad agrees with that editorial and he definitely doesn't.”

“He was just trying to stir something up,” Rose replied, “And look where it got him.”

“Healers aren't like that. Most of the ones I've met would give away free Wolfsbane, but it's more complicated that that. The ingredients are expensive and it takes forever to brew. Not to mention how difficult it is. There aren't many Healers who can brew it and even most brewers can't brew it,” Matt explained.

“That bloke didn't know the half of it,” John agreed, “My dad's a Healer and he'd love to give away free potions. It just doesn't work that way.”

“My dad's linked with that bloke,” Matt said quietly, “And now that he's head of the entire department, he'll be passing more laws. Whoever killed Wisander's not going to be happy.”

“Your dad's a really good wizard, though,” Albus pointed out to his worried friend, “Plus he works at the Ministry, where there are loads of Aurors milling about. And your house is more protected than any other house I've seen, well, except the Minister's Mansion.”

“I know, but it's still not good,” Matt sighed.

Albus couldn't argue with that. Something was going on outside of Hogwarts. Something far more important than the Quidditch tournament and the dueling tournament.

******

Albus and his friends scoured the Daily Prophet every morning the following week. Every day there was an article about Wisander, the investigation, or both. So far the investigation had turned up nothing. The Aurors had questioned quite a few people, namely those very outspoken against werewolf and vampire rights, but the search had proved fruitless.

The articles about Wisander were far more interesting. It seemed that his editorial about Wolfsbane Potion was one of the tamer ones. Each day little pieces of his various editorials were being published. In one, he stated the reasons why werewolves shouldn't be locked up on full moons. The reasons were quite absurd, but the Prophet had printed it anyway. Another editorial talked about why vampires should be allowed access to humans to bite. He suggested using prisoners and allowing vampires to suck them dry. Thus helping vampires and reducing prison costs at the same time.

“I reckon this bloke was off his rocker,” John announced at breakfast the following Sunday. He had just finished reading an article about how Wisander spent a year living with a vampire tribe in Turkey when he was young. They were some of the few people actually up at an early hour, as Albus had Quidditch practice and John had a morning detention with Filch for putting dungbombs in the toilets in Moaning Myrtle's bathroom the previous day.

“That's a nice way of putting it,” Albus said as he served himself more eggs.

“What are you doing after Quidditch practice?” John asked.

“After Quidditch?” Albus laughed, “You mean, I'm going to get to leave eventually? Wood won't make us practice for the next week? I thought he was going to keep going until the actual match on Saturday.”

“He's got to let you out for class,” John grinned.

“What a shame,” Albus rolled his eyes, “Anyway, I'll probably have to do homework, since practice will go until late. How about you? Any plans for after detention?”

“Thought I might earn another detention,” John grinned, “But Kaden's busy with chess club this afternoon-”

“Wait,” Albus nearly choked on his juice, “Kaden joined the chess club? Kaden? Kaden Dursley?”

“Know any other Kadens?” John laughed, “Rose said they want to teach him how to play properly, you know, like a challenge of sorts.”

“I'll tell Rose good luck with that,” Albus said.

“Yeah, so both Kaden and Rose will be busy with that. Not that Rose would want to earn detention with me anyway. And Amanda's doing something with Linda today, homework, I think. And I doubt Matt will be up for doing anything,” John continued.

“Right,” Albus said, remembering that the full moon was that night, “But you did the dungbombs on your own.”

“But it's not as fun,” John sighed, “I guess I'll just hang around the den with Matt. I can have a nice one-sided conversation.”

“You can do your homework,” Albus told him.

“Nope, I'm waiting until you get back for that,” John said.

“Well, have fun in your detention. I've got to get to practice,” Albus said as he got up.

There were a few choice words Albus had for practice that day. Long, grueling, and intense. Wood was in his finest form as he ordered the team to do drills hour after hour. He seemed to get more and more stressed as the day wore on.

James did a lot of one-on-one training with Teddy and Albus was more than a little envious. Teddy was a much more patient captain than Wood was and yelled a whole lot less. Tyler Pike mostly helped Wood.

Wood let them have a short break for lunch, making sure they knew to come back afterwards. Albus heard the Slytherins on the team talking about skipping out of the rest of practice, but they were back on the pitch at the time Wood told them to be.

The afternoon was very similar to the morning and Albus found that he could tune out Wood's yelling quite easily. It was similar to tuning out his mum's yelling.

Practice finally ended at three, when the New York team walked onto the pitch and demanded they leave, because they had booked the pitch for three o'clock that day.

“Remember, practice Tuesday evening!” Wood shouted as the whole team rushed to get off the pitch.

Albus trudged back to the castle tired and shivering. He went straight to Gryffindor Tower and took a very long, hot shower and then set off to find his friends.

Rose, Amanda, and Linda were in the common room, but the boys weren't. Albus figured they were in the Marauder's Den and set off to look for them after saying a quick hello to the girls.

John and Kaden were in the middle of a heated game of Exploding Snap when Albus walked into the Marauder's Den a few minutes later. John's face was full of ash, but Kaden's was quite clean. There was also a big grin on his face which contrasted the scowl on John's face. Matt was laying on the couch facing them, like he had been watching the game, but he was sound asleep.

“Albus!” Kaden shouted, “How was practice?”

“Grueling. Wood's ten times worse than Georgia. Five hours we were out there. Five bloody hours in the cold!” Albus groaned as he collapsed onto the other couch.

“Better than scrubbing Moaning Myrtle's bathroom with a toothbrush,” John muttered, “I don't know what was worse, the scrubbing or listening to Myrtle.”

“All three of you are so cheery today,” Kaden said, “So many complaints.”

“Can you blame us?” Albus muttered.

“No, not really,” Kaden shrugged.

“How was chess?” Albus asked.

“I got beaten by every single person in the chess club,” Kaden shook his head, “But they think I have potential.”

“Albus,” John said as the cards blew up in his face again, “Have you done that Defense essay?

“No,” Albus groaned.

“I need your help,” John said as he got up and started digging around in his bag.

Albus groaned again and fished around in his own bag for his Defense book. Balladanis wanted a foot long essay about basilisks, which were the current dark creature of the week.

John sat down at the table while Albus lay on the couch. He just couldn't bring himself to get up and do his essay. Instead, he mumbled answers to John whenever he asked a question.

“Do you hatch the chicken egg under a frog or a toad?” John asked.

“Toad,” Albus mumbled.

“You know, I could pull a Rose and tell you to do your essay,” John replied.

“Don't even bother,” Albus said. Even Rose wouldn't be able to get him off the couch.

“Quidditch seems less grueling than football,” Kaden commented, “I mean, you fly, you don't run.”

Albus lifted his head up and glared at Kaden. “Wood had us doing push-ups and running laps.”

“Really?” Kaden sounded surprised, “Why?”

“To get us into shape after the holiday,” Albus answered, “So yes, Quidditch is a lot of work.”

“Ok, ok,” Kaden muttered as he located some of his own homework.

Albus managed to get in a somewhat comfortable position on the couch and wrote his essay with his book and parchment perched on his knees. It beat sitting at the table; at least he was able to sort of lie down.

A few hours later both Albus and John had their essays completed. Kaden was still scribbling furiously on whatever homework he was working on.

“We should probably wake him up,” Albus gestured to Matt, who had not moved one muscle since Albus had came back from practice.

John got up and began to prod Matt's arm. It took a good two minutes for Matt to open his eyes.

“It's nearly six,” John told him.

“Then I should probably go,” Matt mumbled, “Oh, Albus, you're back from practice.”

“Yeah,” Albus nodded, “It was really long, though.”

“I'll go with you to the hospital wing,” John said and Matt did not object. Albus assured him they'd visit him the next day and then they left, leaving Albus and Kaden alone in the room.

John returned a little while later and the three of them went down to dinner. They returned to the Marauder's Den afterwards and John and Kaden continued working on their homework while Albus slept on the couch.

******

“Albus, get up!”

Albus mumbled something incoherently and rolled over in his bed. It felt far too early to wake up.

“Albus!” Whoever was shouting was now prodding him in the side.

Albus opened his eyes and saw Teddy standing over his bed. A glance at the clock told him that, yes, it was far too early to wake up. It was six in the morning. On a Saturday. Yes, it was the day of the Quidditch match against New York, but that wasn't until one o'clock and Albus was only a reserve player anyway.

“Albus, you'd better get up now. Wood's in the common room,” Teddy whispered.

That got Albus's attention. His eyes shot back open and he sat up. “What?”

“Fielding's sick,” Teddy told him, “You're playing today.”

Now Albus was wide awake. “Seriously? What about O'delle?” Hailey O'delle was the other reserve Chaser, a seventh year Slytherin.

“She's sick, too,” Teddy explained, “The two of them are going out, so it doesn't surprise me.”

Albus took that to mean that Teddy thought they were snogging and one got the other sick.

“I'll be down in two minutes,” Albus muttered.

Teddy nodded and left. Albus threw on a t-shirt and a pair of jeans before running down to the common room, where he found Oliver Wood pacing in front of the empty fire.

“Albus,” he said as soon as Albus stepped into the common room, “You're playing Chaser today.”

Albus nodded and sat down for what was sure to be a very long speech. Wood paused and then launched into an explanation of tactics, which Albus had already heard during practices that week. He couldn't figure out why he had to be woken up at six to be told he was playing. Wood could have accomplished the same thing at ten.

Wood and Teddy left after Wood finished lecturing Albus and Albus considered going back to bed, but as he was wide awake, it would be pointless.

Part of Wood's speech had been on the weather, which was cold and slightly snowy. Could be worse, Albus thought. At least there wasn't a blizzard. The conditions were very similar to those they had been practicing in all week.

Albus sat in the common room reading a book he found laying around until his friends got up around ten.

“There you are,” Matt, who was looking significantly better than he had a few days ago, said, “What time did you get up?”

“Six,” Albus muttered, “Teddy got me up. Wood had to tell me I'm playing Chaser today.”

“What?” Matt shouted, “That's brilliant!”

“This is great, Albus!” John grinned, “But why?”

“Fielding's sick and so is the other reserve Chaser,” Albus explained, “I'm just glad we're playing New York and not Australia.”

Albus went to the Great Hall to eat lunch with his friends, but he wasn't really hungry. He didn't think he had ever been more nervous for a Quidditch match. This was a really important match, as Wood had pointed out numerous times. If they won by a wide enough margin, they'd be in second place.

Word had gotten around that Albus was playing in the match and numerous people came over to the Gryffindor table to wish Albus luck.

“Al,” Harry sat down next to Albus.

“Dad,” Albus smiled. He hadn't been sure if his dad was coming to the match or not.

“I'll be watching the whole time. I'm sure you're going to do great. Just think of it as a match against another house. Ravenclaw, I guess, since their robes are blue,” Harry grinned, “Good luck.”

“Thanks,” Albus replied.

Albus left with the rest of the Hogwarts team a few minutes later. All his friends wished him good luck as he left the Hall.

Nobody talked much as they changed into their robes. Everyone sat down afterwards, ready for Wood's pre-match speech.

However, Wood seemed to be all speeched out. He merely said that they'd trained well and to give it their all. Albus was a little shocked by the shortness of the speech, but quickly got over it as he walked out onto the pitch.


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PostPosted: Wednesday 3 March 2010 6:03:26pm 
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Chapter 25: The Memory

Ten minutes into the match, Albus decided there were four types of Quidditch in the world. Casual Quidditch, like what he played with his cousins; school Quidditch; professional Quidditch; and then there was the type of Quidditch he was playing now.

It was a combination of school Quidditch and professional Quidditch. The crowd was louder, the players more determined, and the stakes were higher than a normal school Quidditch match.

Albus dodged one of the New York Chasers and flew up to catch the Quaffle, which had been dropped by Waverly as he had been hit by a bludger. As soon as Albus had the Quaffle, he was flanked by the other two New York Chasers.

Albus pushed his broom to fly faster and held the Quaffle tighter to his chest. Then he plunged down to the ground, where nobody else was flying. He was back up high two minutes later when he had reached the New York goal posts. After dodging a Bludger, he threw the Quaffle into the left goal post. The Keeper was too slow and the Quaffle soared through.

“Potter of Hogwarts has scored!” Todd Smith shouted, “40-30 Hogwarts!”

James grinned at Albus as he flew past. Albus smiled to himself and joined Waverly and Reilly, who were waiting for New York's Keeper to throw the Quaffle out. That had been his first goal of the match.

The Quaffle continued to exchange hands quickly as the match went on. An hour later there was still no sign of the Snitch and both teams were neck in neck as far as points went. New York was up by ten.

Albus scored a few more goals and he began to relax a little. The match began to feel more like a school match and less like a professional match, even though the stakes were still high.

Wood had repeated over and over again that they had to be up by at least fifty points when James caught the Snitch, or they wouldn't be able to overtake New York as far as overall points went.

“New York's Seeker has seen the Snitch!” Smith announced.

Albus, who had been following one of New York's Chasers (the one who had the Quaffle), turned around and saw that their Seeker was making a beeline for the top of Hogwarts' middle goal.

James noticed as well and flew straight at the hoop. He had been significantly closer than New York's Seeker and flew away from the hoop with the struggling Snitch in his hand.

The crowd roared and James held the Snitch high above his head. Both teams flew to the ground and Albus saw the pained look on Wood's face. They hadn't won by enough to be in second place overall.

“I had no choice!” James shouted to him, “She was going to get it!”

Wood nodded in agreement, but he still looked disappointed. Albus chose to ignore this and helped the rest of the team to hoist James onto all of their shoulders.

“To update everyone on the points, the Australian School of Sorcery is in first place. New York and Hogwarts are currently tied for second. The next match will take place at the end of February!” Smith told the crowd.

Albus didn't meet up with his friends until they were back in the common room. Teddy had gone to Hogsmeade and a party was currently underway in the Gryffindor common room. Teddy informed everyone that the three other houses were hosting parties as well. The students from New York who had been sorted into Gryffindor, including their Seeker, were sulking in a corner.

“I think that was your best match yet,” John said to Albus as they settled down at their usual table.

“I think so, too,” Albus agreed, “I kind of wish I could play in the next match.”

“Maybe Fielding will still be sick,” John said.

“Doubt it,” Albus replied, “Plus, I'm sure O'delle will get first dibs on the next match if any of the other Chasers get sick.”

“At least you got to play in one match,” Rose pointed out.

“Anyway, the next match you'll probably be playing Australia,” Matt said.

“Yeah,” Albus nodded, “If we win that one, it'll be a miracle. But we're not even playing in the next one. Next match is New York versus Australia.”

The party continued until dinner time, when people began to leave as nobody had snuck down to the kitchens to get food. Harry came in to congratulate Albus and James shortly before Albus and his friends left for dinner. He was also scheduled to patrol the school for the remainder of the weekend and wanted to let his kids know.

******

Life at Hogwarts returned to normal shortly after the Quidditch match. The Prophet printed fewer and fewer articles about Wisander until there were none at all. Everyone seemed to forget about his death. Everyone except Matt, that is, who was still worried about his dad.

However, the students at Hogwarts were reminded again of the unsolved murder when the next Hogsmeade trip arrived two days after Valentine's Day. A portion of the students were too lovesick to notice the boarded up shop of Dervish and Banges as they made their way to Madam Puddifoot's.

Neither Albus, John, or Matt were too preoccupied to notice the abandoned building, though. The three of them stopped to look at it for a while despite the biting wind. Rose and Amanda were spending the day with Linda.

“Who owns it now?” John asked as they looked at the empty building.

“Dunno,” Albus shrugged, “The Prophet never mentioned any family.”

“It's probably still part of the investigation,” Matt pointed out, “Plus, who would want a building that someone was killed in? I don't even want to go in it.”

Albus didn't think it was a good time to remind Matt that Severus Snape had been murdered inside of the Shrieking Shack.

“Good point,” Albus said, “But so far they haven't found anything.”

“They won't find who it was,” John said quietly, “They never found out who killed Torro.”

“I really hope they find who it was,” Matt replied.

“They will,” Albus said, “They're still focused on it.”

Albus, Matt, and John went to the Three Broomsticks a little while later because all three of them were frozen. They warmed up with Butterbeer and were just thinking about heading back to the castle when Albus heard someone whisper his name behind him.

“Albus,” they said again.

Albus turned around, but no one was there. The voice sounded familiar, though. Albus slowly reached his hand out and it touched something solid, but it looked like no one was there.

“Kaden,” Albus groaned, “Is that you?”

“Yeah,” Kaden whispered back, “I stole your cloak.”

Albus immediately stood up and motioned for Matt and John, who were both looking confused, to follow him. He assumed Kaden would follow as well. Albus lead them up High Street until they reached the Shrieking Shack. Nobody was hanging around it that day.

“Kaden!” Albus seethed, “You do realize how stupid this was.”

“Yes,” Kaden replied as he took off the cloak.

“Bloody Hell!” John shouted.

“You stole the cloak?” Matt asked.

“Kaden, you idiot!” Albus shouted, “I know I first told you this would be a good time, but there was a reason I changed my mind and told you not to sneak in today. Most of the teachers come to Hogsmeade for the February trip. My cousins told me. They want to make sure no one does anything stupid because they're in love or whatever.”

“Er,” Kaden muttered.

“How did you get in?” Matt asked.

“One-eyed witch statue,” Kaden replied, “Leads right into Honeyduke's.”

“Kaden, do you know how difficult it's going to be to get you back unnoticed?”

Kaden's face turned white and his mouth dropped open. Albus turned around to see what he was looking at and was met face to face with Professor Balladanis.

“Quite difficult, I'd expect,” Balladanis replied, “Come with me, all of you.”

Albus groaned inwardly as he followed Balladanis down the street. They had gone all year without Kaden getting them into trouble, but Albus should have known better than to think they could go the whole year.

Nobody spoke until they were shut in Balladanis's study. Balladanis sat down in his chair and looked at Kaden.

“Explain,” Balladanis said.

“They had nothing to do with it,” Kaden said quickly, “Albus was just telling me how stupid I was.”

“Then it would seem that Mr. Potter and I agree on something,” Balladanis replied, “Where'd you get that cloak?”

“It's Albus's,” Kaden said quietly, “I took it. He didn't give it to me to sneak in or anything.”

“Very well,” Balladanis said, “Mr. Potter, Mr. Eckerton, and Mr. Brickston, you may return to your common room. Mr. Dursley will join you after I arrange his detention.”

Albus, Matt, and John could not get out of there quick enough. They walked straight back to the common room, talking about how lucky they had been. It must have looked like all three of them had helped Kaden sneak into Hogsmeade. Good thing Balladanis believed Kaden.

Kaden returned fifteen minutes later, looking quite unhappy. He collapsed onto a chair and stared mutinously at the table.

“Detention every Saturday for the next month,” Kaden muttered, “Plus he gave me a lecture about how dangerous it was for me to sneak out and if I did it again I'd get a worse punishment than detention. Didn't elaborate on that, though.”

“He'd probably get you kicked out,” John commented.

“Did he say what you have to do for detention?” Albus asked.

“No,” Kaden said, “Guess it'll be a surprise.”

******

Kaden discovered what his detention was that night. Balladanis decided to have him alphabetize his private library, which was quite extensive. Kaden returned to the Marauder's Den ranting about the amount of books Balladanis had.

“He's got more books on dark creatures than your dad's got,” Kaden said to Matt.

“That's impressive,” Matt replied.

“Wish he had less,” Kaden muttered.

Kaden spent all four of his detentions alphabetizing those books. He almost didn't manage to finish and if that had been the case, Balladanis would have given him a fifth detention.

The next full moon came and went, as did the next Quidditch match. Albus was beginning to suspect that the full moons were becoming worse for Matt, although he didn't know why.

New York lost miserably to Australia in the Quidditch match. They had been doing pretty well until Linda caught the Snitch a half hour in. Wood insisted that this was a good thing, though. It meant that if Hogwarts managed to score a good amount of goals before Linda caught the Snitch in their next match, they would have more overall points than New York. Wood seemed to have lost any hope that James could beat Linda in Seeking, something James fumed about on a near daily basis.

March arrived and with it a three day rain storm that left the grounds completely flooded. Both Herbology and Care of Magical Creatures had to take place inside, which resulted in incredibly boring lessons. Wood continued to hold Quiditch practice and Albus returned to the castle completely soaked and covered in mud after each one.

All of the teachers were piling on the homework and Professor Patil had even gone so far as to mention the O.W.L.s even though they were a whole two years away. The only teacher who wasn't talking about the end of term exams was Professor Balladanis.

Balladanis conducted his lessons as if end of term exams did not exist. He changed nothing about his lessons except the dark creature they were learning about.

“We're starting vampires next week,” Balladanis announced at the end of class on Thursday, “Please read the chapter on them by Monday.”

Albus couldn't help but look at Linda before he began packing up his things. He wondered if Balladanis would be teaching them enough about identifying vampires for anyone to figure out that Linda was one.

“So,” John said as he flipped through his Defense book the following evening. Albus, Matt, John, and Kaden were in the Marauder's Den and John was just finishing the chapter on vampires. “Look what's after vampires.

Albus looked through his own book. “Werewolves,” he said quietly and then looked at Matt.

“Yeah,” Matt muttered, “It was bound to happen eventually.”

“I wonder if Balladanis is going to make you go in for extra help during that unit,” John grinned, “I'm sure you'll need loads of extra help in identifying werewolves.”

Matt rolled his eyes. “He better. It'll look suspicious if I don't go in for extra help. Speaking of extra help, we're due to go in for it in fifteen minutes.”

“We'd better go then,” John said, “See you two later.”

Albus managed to finish his Herbology homework while John and Matt were gone. Then it was time for him to go in for his dueling lessons.

The desks weren't pushed to the sides of the classroom when Albus entered. Balladanis was seated behind his desk and there was a stone basin sitting on it. Balladanis was pulling silvery strings of something out of his head and placing them in the basin.

It was a pensieve and the strings were memories, Albus realized. For a moment, he thought that maybe Balladanis had cancelled dueling and neglected to tell him.

“Sir?” Albus asked hesitantly.

“Mr. Potter,” Balladanis said quietly, “Come in.”

Albus stood awkwardly next to one of the front tables while he waited for Malfoy. Balladanis stared into the pensieve and acted like Albus wasn't there. When Malfoy arrived, he looked up and stared at the two boys for a few minutes before speaking.

“We're not dueling today,” he said, “Instead, I am going to show you something.” He motioned for them to join him at his desk.

Albus glanced nervously at Malfoy. Balladanis wasn't one for explanations, but Albus would have appreciated one right then.

“This is a pensieve,” Balladanis said, “It is used to explore memories. That is exactly what we're going to do. Albus, lean forward and put your head into the pensieve. Your body will follow. Scorpius, you will follow. I will come after you.”

Albus's pulse sped up a little bit as he leaned over the pensieve. Was this a stupid idea? He didn't even know what he was getting into. But it was just a memory. Nothing could hurt him in a memory, right?

Albus took a deep breath and plunged his face into the pensieve. He had never been in one before. He landed on the hard grass and looked around.

It was dusk and very quiet. There was a small house in the distance, atop of a rocky hill. In fact, the whole area was mostly rocky. Albus had landed on the one lone piece of grass in the whole place. It didn't look like any place in Britain.

He stood up as Malfoy landed next to him, followed quickly by Balladanis. Balladanis landed on his feet and they waited for Malfoy to get up.

“Follow me,” Balladanis said quietly.

Albus did so, but he still felt like he deserved an explanation. Where were they? Why were they there? Whose memory was this? What did it have to do with dueling?

“Excuse me, Sir,” Malfoy said, “Where are we?”

“Greece,” Balladanis replied.

This did nothing but increase Albus's curiosity. Why were they in Greece of all places? But he didn't ask. It didn't seem like Balladanis was in an explaining mood, judging by his short, one word answer to Malfoy.

They walked quietly towards the small house. The only noise was their footsteps. There weren't even any owls hooting or dogs barking. It struck Albus as very odd.

The house must have been their destination. Balladanis stopped when they arrived at the broken down wooden fence surrounding it. The house reminded Albus of the Shrieking Shack, only smaller. It was kind of broken down and didn't look like a place that would be good to live in.

Someone lived there, though. A light was on upstairs. It remained on for a few more minutes and then someone turned it off.

Balladanis made no move towards the house. Instead, he seemed focused on the forest that lay just beyond it. Albus decided the forest was as good a place as any to watch.

They watched the forest for a half an hour before anything happened. Then five hooded figures practically flew out of the forest. They were at the house before Albus even realized it. He looked at Balladanis. His face was hardened.

All was quiet for two minutes. The figures entered the house, but did not turn on any lights. Then the screams started. Albus jumped at the sound of the first one.

They were agonizing, long screams. Albus wanted nothing more than to go in and help whoever was screaming, but he knew he couldn't. It was nothing more than a memory. Instead, he looked again at Balladanis.

His professor's face showed nothing. Nothing but the same hardened look he had seen on it so many times. Malfoy on the other hand, looked horrified. He looked exactly how Albus felt.

The screaming was coming from two different people. There was a high-pitched one that must have been coming from a woman, and a lower one that must have been coming from a man.

Then, they stopped. First the woman, then the man. The hooded figures left the house as quickly as they had entered and returned to the forest.

Balladanis, however, made no move to leave. Instead he stared at the house. Two minutes later, someone fled from it.

They ran from the house, towards Albus, Malfoy, and Balladanis. As they drew closer, Albus could see that the person was a boy who looked no older than Albus himself. His face was etched with a sadness Albus had never seen before. It was too dark to tell, but Albus was sure there were tears running down his face.

The boy obviously didn't notice the three people watching him. He ran right past them, up the rocky hill in the distance. It occurred to Albus after he passed that the boy looked somewhat familiar. There was something about his face that Albus recognized, but he couldn't quite place it.


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