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   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."


A/N:  Thanks to my beta, Dancer_of_Starlight, as well as everyone who has read and reviewed this!

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