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The Slytherin first-years had just got out of Herbology, so as he went into the DADA classroom Al was trying not to think about how Rosie was still ignoring him, as opposed to watching out for crazed professors making enraged leaps at them. This turned out to be a mistake.


Score crumpled to the ground like a rag doll, Faith barked out some angry swearing and Al’s heart missed a beat.

“Score!” Al dropped to his knees beside him.

“Is he dead?” Kitty asked, in a thin, terrified voice. Al shook his head without looking up. There were instructions in the Auror Handbook for treating Stunned people - the best thing to do was ‘wake them up’ but Al wasn’t very good at that spell. What else was there? Clearing the airway? Al didn’t know how to check unconscious people for concussions.

Rennervate!” Professor Brand said, sounding very amused by the whole thing, and for a second Al hated him so much it was hard to breathe. Score twitched and opened his eyes.

“Are you all right?” Al and Kitty asked together. Score sat up and nodded curtly.

“As you can probably tell,” Professor Brand said in his usual cheerful sing-song, “today we’re studying Stunning Spells. These are troublesome little things because it’s very easy to surprise someone with them and once surprised, the victim is totally incapacitated. Malfoy, I’d like you to help me demonstrate further.”

Kitty squeaked, Score climbed grimly to his feet and Faith forgot everything Al had told her about please not assaulting the staff especially not when they’re trained Aurors and started towards Professor Brand with murder in her eyes. Al grabbed her robe.

“Don’t start a fight, you’ll lose us house points,” he ordered quietly, standing on tiptoe to hiss in her ear. “You’re the tallest out of all of us. Go stand behind Score and catch him or he’ll get seriously hurt.” That was a total exaggeration, but since it worked Al didn’t really care. It wouldn’t be any fun if Score wasn’t going to fall on his face, would it?

Faith stomped to behind Score as he dropped his book bag and squared up ready to get Stupefied again, and held out her arms.

“What are you doing?” Professor Brand asked, cocking his head to one side.

“I don’t know, head injuries are bad or some crap,” Faith said, and kicked irritably at the floor. Score glanced at her, then at Al, and then just looked blank.

Professor Brand didn’t show any signs of irritation that Al could pick up on, but he only demonstrated the Stunning Spell once more as opposed to the twenty-seven times he’d demonstrated the Disarming Charm before splitting them up to practise on each other. Al decided to count that as a victory, even if Score didn’t seem happy about it.

Faith, though, clapped Al hard on the back and nearly knocked him over. “Nice one, Potter. I wouldn’t have thought of that.”

Score looked at Al like he was trying to figure out what he was thinking, but with slightly less suspicion or blankness than usual, which was good.

All in all, Al decided, things were going well, and he kept thinking that right up until he saw the Daily Prophet the next day.

Victoire’s most famous cousins, however, are undoubtedly Harry Potter’s two sons, James and Albus. But tragedy may have struck this little family. While James is a Gryffindor, a Quidditch enthusiast and a Defence Against the Dark Arts prodigy, Albus was recently sorted into Slytherin, and has been seen associating with relatives of Death Eaters that his father helped to imprison. It remains to be seen whether Albus will learn to follow in his father’s heroic footsteps.

Al thought this must be what being hit in the face with a Bludger was like, and from the moment he saw that paragraph at the bottom of the Daily Prophet’s articles on the Champions, he was certain it was going to get even worse. Like when his dad was trying to capture someone really dangerous, or the couple of times he’d ended up in St Mungo’s, this awful shaking, twisting fear that something worse was coming and there was absolutely nothing Al could do about it. He tried not to think about it, he tried to throw himself into his classes, but it was like the idea had filled up his brain and all the lectures on Potions and Herbology and whatever else it was they’d had just drifted over his head.

Rosie was still ignoring Al and his housemates in Herbology, and so were the other Ravenclaws. Al tried not to wonder if they’d all seen the bit in the Prophet. Score had tried to talk to Phineas Whitby, that boy he’d talked to before about brooms, but Phineas had just flung him a contemptuous look and moved to the other end of the table.

Al tried to convince himself that everything was fine, or everything would be fine, and that his dad would never be scared of newspapers saying nasty things about him, but it didn’t work. Most of his housemates seemed to think it was all very funny; Lia had renamed him Lord Aldemort by dinnertime and Faith had gone into peals of laughter and immediately copied her.

Al barely slept that night and dawdled on the way up to breakfast - just delaying the inevitable, he knew - until Faith threatened to drag him up to the Great Hall by his intestines. Once he’d got there, though, he wished he’d stayed in the Slytherin common room (or maybe under the bed) forever.

This was because James ambushed them the moment they came in, yelling “Faith Harper!”

“What?” Faith snapped. “Push off, git.”

“I know your name now,” James told her cheerfully, and waved a copy of the Daily Prophet at her. Oh, no. Oh no oh no oh no –

“So?” Faith demanded. “It’s not like a secret, Potter, you idi-”

“Can I see that?” Al interrupted. James handed it to him, open to an article titled


“It’s brilliant! I’ve had people coming up asking me to autograph it for them-”

Al’s heart sank like an anvil. Two huge pictures, one of James sitting on the grass outside the greenhouses surrounded by Gryffindors - telling them a joke, from the hand gestures - and one of Al and Faith stopped on the way back from Herbology, talking to Score. Al glanced at the caption - Albus Potter talking to Scorpius Malfoy and Faith Harper on the Hogwarts lawns.

“You’re in this,” he told Faith, scanning the article itself.

“What?!” Faith said. “That’s where that pillock got my name from? The Prophet?”

“Yeah!” James said. “Clever, right? Ha ha.”

“We have all the same classes, you berk,” Faith snapped. “You could have asked any of the teachers if you wanted to know that. Did you seriously not think of that? Idiot.”

“I thought of that!” James yelped. “I just…chose not to do it because…it would have been too easy. It would have been beneath my standards.”

Faith laughed at him. Al tried to ignore them both and kept reading - it was quite a bit longer than the one yesterday, even if, most of it was the photographs, but it seemed to mostly be the same stuff that had been in Victoire’s profile the day before - James the perfect miniature Dad and Al lurking in dark corners with a cloak on and cackling maniacally. Except for -


Faith stopped threatening to bludgeon James to death with a chair. “What?”

“The paper says you’re ‘a hulking girl whose ineptitude in classes is matched only by her belligerence’. Sorry.”

James bayed with laughter.

“Whatever,” said Faith, and went straight back to the threats and the bludgeoning. How could she be so calm about this? They had to look good! How was Al supposed to convince everyone Slytherins were nice people when the papers were saying he was evil?

-seen consorting with relatives of infamous Death Eaters
such as Lucius Malfoy, Augustus Rookwood and the Averys-

What? Al glanced over at the Slytherin table. He couldn’t see Avery, but Lia was Transfiguring peoples’ bowls into paper planes and throwing them around the room while shrieking with insane laughter. That was normal behaviour for her, though. Al knew neither of them had problems with Muggleborns, either. If the prefects could be related to Death Eaters and not be seriously evil, did that mean Score wasn’t going to be evil either? Except that Score was all vague and confusing and the prefects weren’t.

He looked back at James, who was happily reciting quotes from the article and oblivious to Faith’s increasingly-horrible threats, and realised why he hadn’t seen Avery before; because he was standing behind James, holding a copy of the Prophet, staring down at James and apparently just waiting for him to realise he was there.

“-boil you into soup and - Hi, Avery!” Faith said, and ruined it. James nearly leapt out of his skin.

“Hello, Potter,” Avery said to Al over James’s head. “How are you?”

“Er, fine!” Al said. “I’m great!”

Avery very obviously didn’t believe him.

“I’ve just remembered,” James announced, with a dramatic arm gesture that was probably meant to demonstrate the suddenness of the remembering, “I have to be in…a different place…right now, so I’d best be off.” He sauntered nonchalantly away.

“Yeah! Run, you wuss!” Faith hollered after him, and cackled like a loon.

“Really, I’m fine,” Al promised. “Er…as fine as possible…” He didn’t think there would be anything even Avery could do about this.

“Back to our table now, please,” Avery ordered, and Al obeyed, scanning through the rest of the article as he slid onto the bench between Faith and Kitty.

“Rookwood, could you please look at the last paragraph?” Avery asked, handing over his copy of the Prophet. Lia flipped it open and Al skipped straight to the last couple lines.

Of course, while all our readers no doubt hope that Harry Potter’s younger son will find his way back to the side of the light, how much hope can there be for a boy already nicknamed ‘Lord Aldemort’ by his fellow Slytherins?

Lia made a very high-pitched noise. “What? Bwuh? Huh? What?”

“My thoughts exactly,” Avery agreed.

“Boss!” Lia protested. “You know I wouldn’t tell any newspaper people bad stuff about any of us! It’d be against house solidarity! You’d kill me!”

“Stop having hysterics, Rookwood,” Avery ordered. “I know it wasn’t you. You have an alibi, and since I’m that alibi I’m inclined to trust it. You were with Grimalkin and me for the entirety of yesterday evening, if you remember.”

“…oh yeah,” Lia said, relaxed, and tensed up again. “Someone did, though. That’s what you’re thinking, right?”

Avery was looking at the rest of the Slytherins as if he was working out which of them had alibis. Lia and Grimalkin traded glances and suggested, in perfect unison, “Let’s kill everyone in Slytherin except us and Potter, and we’ll see if that helps?”

Avery didn’t even bother to answer that. Al looked at his housemates. None of them looked like they would want to tell anyone nasty things about him.

Maybe no-one would believe Rita Skeeter, even if she was writing about him all officially in a newspaper. And maybe she’d been told about it from a Hufflepuff who’d overheard Lia, or something like that. Al hoped that was true. Why would anyone want to say things like that about him anyway? He hadn’t done anything yet.

It really couldn’t get any worse, at least, he decided, as he was leaving the Great Hall a few steps behind Faith and Kitty. Rosie immediately barrelled up to him and whacked him across the head with a newspaper.


“Al! I told you not to talk to Malfoy!”

“I didn’t! That photo’s made up!” Al lied instantly. Rosie hit him with the newspaper again.

“Stop lying! I asked Violetta Harbringer and she said you’d been all friendly with him at Charms Club!”

Oh, so this was what the Auror’s Handbook meant when it talked about a suspect’s web of lies collapsing around them.

Rosie tried to hit him with the paper again. Al ducked.

“I was only a bit friendly! There’s nothing wrong with that!”

“Everyone told you not to talk to him!” Rosie shouted. “See what happened? You’re in the papers being called the next Dark Lord! I told you this would happen!”

“Rosie, no-one’s going to believe anything Skeeter’s said! It’s all completely ridiculous!”

Rosie carried on as if she hadn’t heard him.

“Why would you want to be friends with a Malfoy anyway?”

“…Professor Flitwick said our houses would be like our families here?” Al guessed, and probably the only reason Rosie didn’t hit him with the Prophet again was because she was too shocked. “I just thought it was important to get on with my-”

Rosie spun on her heel and stormed off.


She didn't wait. Al rubbed his hands across his face and let out a heartfelt groan.

Hermione hopped out of the lift, struggling with her boots - the high heels helped her to look imposing, but they stopped her moving any faster than a brisk totter. She hissed a Severing Charm at the laces, yanked the boots off and threw them aside as she ran for the Auror’s offices. Harry’s office door was still closed when she flung the great oak doors to the offices open and for a second she thought she would get there before he could read the -

Then the door to Harry’s office blew off its hinges, skidded several feet, and crashed into Ron’s cubicle wall.

So much for that, then.

“Harry!” Ron yelped, leaping to his feet with his wand drawn, along with the rest of the Aurors.

“Harry,” Hermione gasped, hurrying towards him and clutching at his arm. “Ron, help me get him back into-” The assembled Aurors realised their stalwart commander was just throwing another strop and went back to work.

“Harry, mate,” Ron said, advancing cautiously and taking Harry’s other arm. “I dunno what’s going on-”

Harry made strangled furious noises, shook Hermione off and brandished the Prophet at Ron far too fast for him to actually read it.

“That’s awful,” Ron agreed, with a helpless glance at Hermione.

“Harry,” Hermione said as quietly as she could. “Murdering her won’t help, we have to make a plan-” Together she and Ron steered Harry back into his office, and as Harry threw himself down in his chair, Hermione reattached the door with a flick of her wand and cast an Imperturbable Charm. Ron mouthed Blimey at her.

“We don’t need a plan,” Harry said, in a very controlled voice. Ron seemed to take this as a sign he’d calmed down. Hermione was rather less sure. “I’ll tell Shacklebolt - or the Prophet, or the Wizengamot or - or anyone - and then she’ll go to Azkaban. No problem.”

Ron looked at Hermione over Harry’s head and mouthed what? Hermione looked pointedly at the newspaper Harry was still clutching. Ron sidled around behind him, read the headline and the byline and mouthed a word at Hermione that she decided was another Blimey.

“Say something!” Harry barked.

“Harry,” Hermione said carefully. “You can’t just turn Rita in right now - don’t shout at me - because the Wizengamot will want to know when you found out she was breaking the law - it’s been twenty-three years, Harry, they’ll want to know why you never said anything before!”

“We couldn’t have sent her to Azkaban then, it was full of Dementors! Dementors, who were going to join Voldemort!”

“I know, Harry, but then we didn’t tell anyone after the war, either-”

“After the war we had to rebuild Wizarding Britain! And Azkaban! And capture the Death Eaters and toerags like Umbridge!”

“Yes, we know, we were there - but it still won’t look good! It’ll be a scandal, you could lose your job!”

“I don’t care!” Harry shouted. “I don’t know why I took this stupid job any-”

“You took it so that you wouldn’t be as likely to die before your children had even started Hogwarts,” Hermione snapped. “If you want to lose your job, you’re welcome, but please try to hand it on to Ron before you go.”

Harry fell silent, glaring at the desk. Ron mouthed Rosie? at Hermione. She shook her head. Al was the easiest target right now; Rita would start on Rosie and James properly soon. Probably Rosie first - Hermione’s heart constricted.

“We need to stop her as soon as possible,” she said.

“Oh, do we, Hermione? That’s a surprise, I thought we could wait a while, have some tea,” Harry spat.

“Calm down, mate, Hermione’s got a plan,” Ron said, and waited for Hermione to tell them what her plan was. This would have been easier if Hermione had one.

“We need a good excuse to be suspicious of her,” Hermione told them. They weren’t at Hogwarts and they didn’t have a Death Eater with a magical eye around; where were they supposed to get that from? “Once we’ve got that, it should be simple-” except that Rita would tell everyone they had already known as soon as she was brought in for questioning. How were they supposed to get around that?

“Can’t Ginny do something?” Ron asked hopefully. “Maybe she can talk to the editor?”

Personally, Hermione doubted Ginny would be able to help. There were a lot of retired professional players trying to get into Quidditch journalism; simply put, Ginny was more expendable than Skeeter. “I’ll owl her immediately,” she promised anyway, because Harry or Ron would probably miss out the vital advice not to just murder Skeeter outright.

“I need to write to Al,” Harry said, scrabbling for parchment and a quill. “He’ll be upset- Lord Aldemort, what sort of moron would come up with that?”

Someone who had never met Al, Hermione guessed. He was a sweet boy, and earnest, and - though of course she loved Al as her nephew and she would never mention this in front of Harry, she had seen his marks from primary school – he was a little dim. Al could no more be the next great Dark Lord than he could learn to fly.

“Did I tell you what he’s been doing?” Harry asked, uncapping an inkpot. His hands were shaking, and ink splashed over his desk. Hermione cleaned that up with a wave of her wand.

“Panicking,” Ron guessed. Hermione shot him a look over Harry’s head.

“No. You remember I told him Slytherins weren’t all bad so he’d stop fretting?”

Ron and Hermione nodded.

“He decided that the Slytherins were an oppressed minority and he had to save them from the oppression,” Harry said wearily, and put his head down on the desk.

Ron and Hermione exchanged near-identical confused stares.

“That’s mental,” Ron said in a hushed voice. “You let Hermione babysit too often, Harry, it’s the only explanation.”

“That’s very, er, sweet of him,” Hermione said.

“Sweet!” Ron said. “What if he starts wanting to be friends with Scorpius Malfoy or someone like-”

Harry opened the paper to show him the photograph. Ron’s jaw hit the desk. His eyebrows hit the ceiling.

“That’s got to be taken out of context, Ron,” Hermione said exasperatedly. “They were probably having an argument.”

“It’s faked,” Harry said grouchily. “Al wouldn’t go near Scorpius Malfoy. I very specifically told him not to.”

Ron looked only slightly convinced. Unfortunately, Harry noticed.

“Al hasn’t done anything wrong!”

“I know, I know, I’m not having a go at Al,” Ron said. “I’m just saying, Al is a bit-”

“A bit what?” Harry demanded.

Hermione stifled a sigh. “We all have work to do right now,” she pointed out before everyone could start arguing about things Al was and wasn’t. “Let’s just think about ways to destroy Skeeter for now and meet in the cafeteria for lunch?”

“Brilliant idea, Hermione,” Ron said fervently. Harry muttered agreement and stared at his hands. Hermione could see he was embarrassed about getting so wound up, so hopefully he’d have calmed down by lunchtime.

Ron and Hermione left Harry to stew over his letter to Al and then, to Hermione’s surprise, Ron grabbed her arm and pulled her into the hallway to the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts cupboard.

“Look, Hermione,” he said abruptly. “If any of us has to take a fall - getting a new Head for the department would mess everything here up, and you’ve got your oppressed house-elves to look after, so-” He broke off and made a frustrated gesture.

“Ron,” Hermione said quietly, and stood on tiptoe to kiss him. He stooped to meet her. “We can handle this. We’ve handled far worse than irritating journalists. Can you keep an eye on Harry? Try to stop him if he’s doing something stu - impulsive.”

“Harry? Doing something stupid? Nah, couldn’t happen,” Ron said. They kissed again and Hermione headed back to her office, deep in thought.

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