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Al took a couple of quick steps backwards, mind buzzing, until he got behind a tree and out of sight of Teddy and Victoire. What should he do? The Aurors’ Handbook said that a field agent should immediately notify their commanding officer (who was Al’s dad) if they received intelligence of a crime in progress (not that they always did) and his dad had told him to tell him if he saw anyone doing anything illegal. If his dad knew, he could pull her in for questioning.

On the other hand… wouldn’t his dad be a bit embarassed if Al had to ask him for help? If the books were right and he’d really beaten Voldemort in first year all by himself, Al shouldn’t need his help to deal with a journalist. And it’d look better if he could handle it by himself, anyway.

Al pulled the Cloak off, rolled it up tight and stuffed it into his bag, and then sauntered casually out from behind the tree.

“Hi, Teddy! Hi, Victoire!”

Teddy and Victoire had started snogging energetically in the fifteen seconds Al hadn’t been watching them, but as soon as they realised he was there they were suddenly seven feet away from each other and inspecting the scenery like they were contemplating a landscape painting.

“Al! Hi!” Teddy said, while Victoire hastily straightened her blouse and brushed grass off her skirt. “Did you see the task all right? Your not-so-ickle firstie friend told me you’d gone to the loo.”

“Oh good, that’s what I told her,” Al said. “Yeah, I could see fine. I thought you did really well, Victoire,” he added, with a sunny smile, although he actually hadn’t been close enough to see how many points everyone had got. Still, Victoire looked happy about that.

“I was sitting near the Gryffindors,” Al lied, since they’d been closest to the exit. “Where were you?”

“With the Slytherins again. I was looking for you,” Teddy said.

“Speaking of Gryffindor, James been giving you any more trouble?” Victoire asked. “I can have a word with Louis, if you want, get him to distract James with something shiny.”

“I saw James today, actually,” Teddy said to her. “He said he hadn’t done anything to Al lately. That right?” he added, to Al.

Al nodded agreeably because except for last week when James had spent a whole lunchtime observing him through Spectrespecs (presumably that had made sense in James’s head, though Al didn’t think it would in anybody else’s) and Faith had charged over and tried to shove them down his throat, he’d barely seen James at all.

“He said he didn’t get why everyone was so mad at him, either,” Teddy said, sitting back down on the grass. Victoire moved to stand closer to him. “Still, that’s James for you. Can’t say I appreciated his comments about your Malfoy pal, either.”

“What’d he say about Score?” Al asked. Probably just the usual blah blah Death Eaters blah.

“Blah blah Death Eaters blah, essentially,” Teddy said. “Said relatives of Bellatrix Lestrange shouldn’t be allowed at Hogwarts.” He scowled.

“He didn’t mean you, Teddy,” Victoire said. “Just the Malfoys. He doesn’t even know you’re related to her, does he?”

“…wait, what?” Al said.

“That’s true, but that’s not the sort of opinion you should be able to just… switch around, depending on whether you like someone,” Teddy said, and made a helpless little gesture. “You know what I mean, right?”

“Of course I do,” Victoire said, slipping her hand into his.

“Wait, what?” Al said, a bit louder.

“Oh, sorry, Al,” Teddy said. “You know my nan was a Black before they disowned her, right? Well, so was Bellatrix. Twin sisters. And Scorpius Malfoy’s nan was their youngest sister.” He shrugged. “Illustrious parentage I’ve got there, Death Eaters on one side and werewolves on the other.” But he changed his eyes to bright Weasley brown, to show he was just being silly.

Al was quiet, thinking. Mostly wondering if all the nice people he knew were secretly (or not so secretly) related to Death Eaters. Kitty probably wasn’t.

Teddy stretched and sighed. “I could tell James, I guess, but he’d probably just pitch a fit about it and declare war on me.”

“James has fits, yeah,” Al agreed absently - mostly to fill in the conversation while he thought, since he doubted James would ever declare war on Teddy - and then brightened up. “Someone should tell Rita Skeeter horrible things about James. Then he’ll know how it feels.”

Teddy looked at him and very slowly raised one eyebrow.

“Not me, obviously. I wasn’t saying I’d do that. Just that… it would be nice if someone did,” Al said, looked down at the ground and scuffed a shoe through the dirt. Right, time to change the subject. “Anyway, I was going to lunch?”

“Lunch sounds good, actually,” Victoire said, stretching.

“Whatever you say, lovebiscu-,” Teddy started.

“No!” Madam Zeller barked, storming out of the tent. “Weasley stays until the checkup is finished!”

“So how long will that be?” Victoire asked.

“Until I say it’s done,” Madam Zeller snapped, grabbing Victoire’s arm and hauling her back into the tent while muttering something about abductions and ignoring medical advice from trained professionals.

“No! No, you can’t take her away from me!” Teddy said, watching placidly as Madam Zeller took Victoire away from him.

“If she’s not done soon then bring me a sandwich!” Victoire shouted back, and vanished back inside the tent.

Teddy gazed after her forlornly for a few seconds, then squared his shoulders and said “If my Vicky wants sandwiches, then sandwiches she will have. To the Great Hall!”

He marched off resolutely. Al followed him, at a trot because Teddy had a much longer stride than he did.

When they were heading across the lawns, as the last stragglers drifted out of the arena and the lines of Beauxbatons and Durmstrang students wound out of the gates, someone shouted “Teddy!” and then a blur hit him in the gut like a Bludger.

“Oh God my intestines,” said Teddy.

“Ooops. Sorry, Teddy,” James said, and added an absentminded “Hi, Al.” Fred and Louis were with him. Fred looked as fed up as he ever did, while Louis had his usual air of standing well back with a tub of popcorn.

“Hi, James,” Al said, calculated the chances of Teddy killing him and decided they were pretty small, and asked “So did you know?”

“Of course I do!” James said. “Um. Know what?”

“Teddy’s Bellatrix Lestrange’s grand-nephew too,” Al explained.

Teddy looked at him sharply. James goggled, literally staggering back a foot, mouth open and gaping like a fish’s.“That’s not true!”

“Learn to lie better, Potter,” Fred suggested sourly. Al was watching Teddy out of the corner of his eye. He’d stuck his hands in his pockets, and his face had scrunched up. Louis scanned Al, Teddy and James quickly and, as usual, settled on saying what James would prefer to hear, which was “Al’s mental. Probably the Slytherins are contagious.”

“That is not true,” James got out, and regained his composure with some effort. “Look, you can’t just magically create great-aunts for people, Al.”

“Nope, it’s true,” Teddy said, sounding resigned. “I’d probably have photos to show you of me and dear Great-Aunt Bella if she hadn’t been such a raving lunatic.”

“…Well, sod off then,” Fred said. Louis thumped him on the arm.

“So Teddy’s got to expel himself from Hogwarts, right?” Al asked. "Sorry, Teddy."

“Teddy’s not going to expel himself from Hogwarts!” James protested.

“He’s the grand-nephew of a Death Eater, so if Score has to then Teddy has to as well,” Al pointed out. “Sorry.”

“Yeah, but… then you’re the god-grand-nephew of a Death Eater, so you expel yourself first!” James snapped.

“James, we’re brothers,” Al said.

“Oh yeah. Crap,” James said, ran a hand through his hair, and gazed distractedly into the distance. “My honour has been besmirched. I will have to go on a quest to regain it. Except Al besmirched his honour worse than I did so he has to do it first.” He brightened up. “Mind you, if I go on a heroic quest I won’t have to do that Transfig test. Fred, what do you think?”

“I think you’re an idiot with the attention span of a gnat,” Fred said, at exactly the same time as there was a distant cry of “Potter’s an idiiooooot!” and Faith came hurtling towards them across the lawns, with Score behind her but at a much more dignified pace.

“What’s going on?” she demanded, skidding to a stop next to Al, and then doubling over and panting. “I saw Potter talking to Potter so I came to tell him he was a moron. What’s he doing now?”

“I’m not doing anything, he started it!” James protested.

“No, you’re stupid, shut up,” snapped Faith, mistress of the witty comeback. “Potter - not you, jerkface - what’s going on?”

Score sauntered up behind her, glancing sharply between the assembled Weasleys, Potters and Lupins, looking mostly blank but also partly annoyed that there were so many of them.

“Teddy’s evil because he’s Bellatrix Lestrange’s grand-nephew and James is trying to figure out what to do about it,” Al explained.

“What?” said Score.

 “It’s really hard so please don’t distract him,” Louis said.

“Eh? Him? Evil?” Faith repeated, and looked at Teddy. “Meh, Cook likes him so I bet you he’s not.”

“Thank you very much, um… Al’s shouty friend,” Teddy said.

“Al should expel himself first!” James said.

“I’ll expel myself if you do,” Al offered. “I’ll help you pack.”

James flapped his hands at him. “It doesn’t count anyway, God-nan Andie got expelled. From the Blacks! Not from Hogwarts.”

“What,” Score said, again.

“If being expelled from the Blacks counted how come Dad gave Teddy Grimmauld Place? He said it was his rightful inheritance and everything,” Al pointed out.

“What!” Score yelped, and seemed terribly put out that nobody was paying attention to him, which Al was sorry about but couldn't really help with just then.

James scrunched his face up and thought about it, and then looked a bit panicky when he couldn’t think of anything. “Well, it doesn’t matter who Teddy’s related to! He’s not evil!” He folded his arms and stuck his chin out like he was daring the whole world to start telling him Teddy was evil.

“Oh. Thanks, James,” Teddy said, looking much happier.

“Well, then how come Score’s evil?” Al asked.

James broke off mid-sentence, and his forehead creased up in sudden deep thought. Al watched hopefully.

“…who?” James asked.

“Him,” Al explained, and pointed at Score, who didn’t seem to appreciate the attention but said “Hullo,” in a voice that sounded like “I’m surrounded by imbeciles.”

James‘s face cleared up instantly. “Oh yeah, him. He’s evil.”

Al sagged. It was exactly like talking to a brick wall.

“Al, you’re completely mental,” James said, in a kindly tone. “He’s a Slytherin, you know. That's just how it works. Teddy was a Hufflepuff. They’re pretty cool, for comic relief.“

“Oh. Thanks, James,” Teddy said again, except this time with more sarcasm, which James didn’t notice.

“And he’s got a pointy face-”

Score twitched.

“-and you must have noticed that Scorpius Malfoy’s a pretty evil-sounding name,” James concluded.

Score twitched again and burst out with “I hope you become an Auror, Potter! No criminal will be safe with you on the prowl!”

“Er, cheers.” James turned back to Al and said “Plus he’s mental. Mental people are always evil.”

“Aunt Luna,” Al said absently.

“Mental people are usually evil,” James amended loftily, like he’d meant to say that all along. “Seriously, Al, what’s with the whole Slytherin love fest thing? Did you forget about Voldemort? And all the Death Eaters? And they cheat at Quidditch-”

“No we don’t, we’re just better than you,” Faith said. “Probably.”

“Speaking as a Hufflepuff, the Gryffindors usually think they’re the same thing,” Teddy said.

“-and Rookwood and Grimalkin are insane and Avery’s creepy and there’s this bloke in my year called Nott who laughs whever I mess up a potion, that’s pretty evil,” James concluded.

Faced with James’s impenetrable defenses of smug, Al decided to drop it and try again later. Maybe he’d be lucky and James would actually think for once in his life. And then maybe pigs would fly.

Al stuck his hands in his pockets and turned away, and therefore came face to face with Score, who was standing there with a face on him like the facial equivalent of “What.”

“Oh yeah,” Teddy said, and scrubbed his hands across his face. “I can explain that-”

No, thank you,” Score bit out, turned on his heel and stalked off towards the castle.

Al followed him, at a distance, with Faith and Teddy bringing up the rear (Faith making rude gestures at James as she went.)

“What’d be the point of having a mind-reading hat if we weren’t using it to sort out the evil people?” James hollered after them plaintively. “Al, you aren’t making any sense!”

Al ignored that. He’d just have to try again later. It was a pity mind-controlling potions were morally wrong. That would have really helped.

When they got up to the Great Hall, lunch had already begun. Teddy made a beeline for the Hufflepuff table and, presumably, Victoire’s sandwiches, while Al and Faith headed for the Slytherin table. Score was already there, sitting arms folded and glaring acidic hatred at the parsnips.

Al decided to let him fume in peace and tucked into his lunch, turning over the Rita Skeeter thing in his mind. He was pretty sure it was Animaging, but he’d never actually seen one do it. It shouldn’t be hard to check.

He stayed quiet through lunch, but about five minutes before it finished - Hogwarts feasts took a long time, but after a while you got a feel for when the end was approaching by how many people had gone into food comas - he let his head hang down and poked absently at his empty plate.

“A problem, Potter?” Avery asked.

Al poked some imaginary food around for a few seconds longer before looking up and asking, too casually to be actually casual, “So what did you think of the judging?” Up at the staff table, Professor McGonagall stood up to make her usual speech before dismissing the students. However, Al had other stuff to do and it was Slytherin tradition never to listen to those anyway, so he didn’t pay much attention.

“It was terrible,” Grim assured him promptly. “All those points when nobody even got seriously injured? McGonagall’s getting old. Losing her marbles.” Lia did a cheerful imitation of Professor McGonagall trying to Summon her marbles back.

Al frowned at them. “I don’t think that can be true. Professor McGonagall’s very clever. Wouldn’t she have an awful lot of marbles to lose?”

Lia and Grim went off into a debate over whether lost marbles were measured in number lost, number remaining, or as a percentage. Al turned to Faith and told her “Professor McGonagall really is very clever, you know.”

“Eh?” Faith said blankly.

Well, Al might as well not have bothered with the believable lead-in then. Up at the staff table, Professor McGonagall had finished her speech – Professor McGonagall’s speeches were never very long – and was leading the other two headteachers and the Hogwarts staff off the dais.

“Did you know she’s an Animagus?”

Faith continued staring at him blankly.

“Professor McGonagall,” Al clarified.

Faith’s face lit up. “Really? Cool!”

“What’s an Animagus?” Kitty asked, forehead creasing up.

Faith grabbed her wrist, scrambled over the table and clattered across to the doors of the Great Hall, just as the headteachers got there. “Hey, Professor!”

Everybody in the Great Hall turned to stare at her. Professor McGonagall turned and inspected her severely over the tops of her glasses.

Huh. Al hoped Faith wouldn’t get detention for this.

“Are you really an Animagus?” Faith asked brightly, oblivious to the atmosphere of impending doom.

“I don’t know what’s going on, she dragged me over here,” Kitty put in apologetically.

Al knelt up on the bench to see better. He’d never had much to do with Professor McGonagall, but he’d heard a lot about her from his dad and Hagrid and most of his older cousins, and he was pretty sure that in a normal situation Faith would just have lost Slytherin a lot of points.

On the other hand, Professor McGonagall obviously couldn’t resist showing off in front of the other headteachers. Her outline rippled and twisted, then shrank down to the floor, just like when Skeeter had transformed. Al let out a relieved sigh and settled back onto the bench. He couldn’t see Professor McGonagall any more because the Hufflepuffs were in the way, but he already knew she turned into a tabby cat. Kitty squeaked. Faith let out a whoop of delight.

McGonagall transformed back, with a faint smile.

“Very impressive, Minerva,” Kohut said, in a glacial tone, with a glance across the Great Hall at the Durmstrang students as if he was personally offended by their failure to be Animagi.

“Thank you, Konstantin,” Professor McGonagall replied, and looked down at Faith and Kitty. Faith gave her a big grin and a thumbs up - “Awesome, Professor!” – and dragged Kitty back to the Slytherin table.

“That,” Faith announced, flinging herself back onto the bench, “was cool.”

“Professor McGonakitty!” Kitty chirped, with a happy little coo and beaming uncontrollably. “That must be really hard, right?”

Faith thought about that, with a faintly speculative expression. “Eh, how hard can it be?”

“It’s really hard,” Al said. Well, except that his dad’s dad and a whole bunch of his friends had done it in fifth year.  “You’d have to be really good at magic. Like, doing fourth-year spells now good.”

“Huh. I bet I could do that."

“Um,” Al said. “Have you tried any spells like that? The Summoning Charm’s fourth-year. Can you do that?”

“I dunno, I’ll find out,” Faith said, and pointed her wand at a jug of pumpkin juice. “Accio!”

The jug didn’t get Summoned even a little bit.

“Okay, it needs a bit of practice.”

“I’m not sure it’ll work,” Al said.

Faith glowered at him and went back to practicing. She practiced for the rest of the day, which lost Slytherin fifteen points in DADA and got her a reproving look in Herbology, and by the end of Herbology she could just about make a flowerpot wobble.

“Still not going so well?” Al asked.

“Shut up, it’s getting better,” Faith said, and kept trying.

She was still practising late into the evening, despite Al’s attempts to convince her to give it a rest and Kitty’s attempt to distract her with cartoons of Professor McGonakitty. At the point when Kitty and Score had decided to pack up and go to bed, she could just about get a cushion to hop towards her across the floor. Unfortunately she’d been at about that point for about three hours now.

“Do you think it might be a good time to take a break?” Al asked hopefully. “Since it’s…you know… gone eleven.”

Faith shot him a filthy look, pushed her hair out of her face and advanced on the cushion with grim determination in her eyes.

Al sighed and looked back down at the Potions essay he was working on. Well, pretending to work on. He’d finished it about an hour ago, after working as slowly as he could, so now he was just checking it through for about the fiftieth time.

“Why are the pair of you still awake?” Avery inquired politely, suddenly appearing out of nowhere as he usually did.

“I’ll go to bed when I’ve got this right,” Faith said, without looking at him.

“I’m… um… checking this essay,” Al said.

“As you have been for the past hour?”

Al squirmed. Avery switched his attention back to Faith and said “Harper, you’re not using the proper wand motion.”

“Eh?” Faith said blankly.

He wrapped his hand around hers, flicked her wand and said “Accio!” The cushion zoomed into his hand. “Like so.”

Faith made an impressed noise and tried it herself, on another cushion, which bounded a little further through the air towards her than the other ones had. Faith made an annoyed noise.

“It’s more of an upwards flick,” Avery said. “In addition, it tends to work better if you name the target. Observe. Accio cushion!”

“Look, can I keep the ones at this end?” the fourth-year sitting on the sofa they were stripping bare asked plaintively, and budged up right into the corner.

Faith was wiggled her wand about, trying to duplicate the motion, and flicked it at Al’s quill.

Accio Potter’s quill!”

That was a definite improvement, Al thought, in that the quill didn’t give up and fall out of the air until it was about a foot from her.  Faith laughed maniacally and had another go. Avery appeared to approve. It was hard to tell sometimes.

“Why didn’t you do that earlier?” Al asked, retrieving his quill.

“Because I had my own work to do and I wanted to see how well she would do alone.”

“Oh. All right, then.”

Faith Summoned another cushion, which sailed gracefully into her knee, and cackled like a loon until it got a little disturbing.

“Go to bed now,” Avery commanded.

Faith stopped laughing. Her mouth set into a mulish line.

“Harper,” Avery said, in a tone that would tolerate no arguments.

Faith looked as if she was about to argue anyway, before something occurred to her. “Can’t. Got a Potions essay or something to do for tomorrow.”

“…you what?” Al said. “Do you want to copy mine?”

“So despite having actual work due in for tomorrow morning, you thought it would be a good idea to spend your evening practising a spell which you will not actually need for another three years,” Avery said.

“Yeah, that sounds about right,” Faith agreed.

Avery let out a weary sigh and turned back towards his chair by the fire, adding over his shoulder “Don’t help her, Potter. This is how children learn efficient time management.”

Faith looked like she was considering making a rude face at Avery behind his back before realising that would be simultaneously high treason, blasphemy, and bloody ungrateful.

“Sorry,” Al said.

“Eh, who cares?” Faith said, and flopped down on a sofa before fishing a length of parchment out of her bag with one hand and Summoning Al’s Potions book with the other. It hit her in the stomach. She seemed to consider that a  success. Al went to bed. 

Faith never managed to do the same, though, as Al found out when he came down for breakfast the next morning and found her asleep face-down on the sofa, sprawled across her Potions essay and drooling gently into the seat cushions. He poked her experimentally in the ribs.

“Mrf! Wha?” Faith said, hit him with one of her many accumulated cushions and tried to go back to sleep.

“Faith, it’s morning,” Al said. No response. “You’ll be late for class.” Again, no response. Al thought for a second and hazarded “Breakfast?”

 Faith shifted, propped herself up on her elbows, and broke into a radiant grin.

“I did it! Look!” She pointed her wand at the cushion she’d bludgeoned Al with and said “Accio cushion!” The cushion obediently flew into her face. Al wondered exactly how tired Faith must be to have forgotten she’d already shown off to him.

“I’m a gen-” Faith said happily, broke off into an enormous yawn, and finished “-ius.”

“You’re making us late for breakfast,” Score corrected, retrieving the length of parchment from under her and frowning at it. He, Al and Kitty were all already ready to go.

“Not my fault, Potter dared me,” Faith said, through another yawn, and made a vague attempt at straightening her clothes before clambering to her feet and following them out of the common room.

“I didn’t,” Al said. “I just said you might not be able to do it.”

Faith shrugged dismissively and frowned at Score, who was now looking at her Potions essay as if it was a giant millipede crawling on him.

“Would this be the Potions essay you’re supposed to hand in for the first lesson? Concerning the uses of ground adder stones?”

“Yeah, think so,” Faith said. “Why?”

“It’s… very interesting,” Score said. “Out of morbid curiosity, Harper, what mark did you get for your last Potions essay?”

“Didn’t. Got a note at the bottom saying ‘this is very bad’,” Faith said, with a sleepy chuckle.

“I… I can’t actually say I’m surprised,” Score said.

“Faith!” Kitty squeaked. “You didn’t tell us you were doing that badly! We could help,” she added hopefully, looking at Score. “How bad is she?”

“Oi! I’m right here, you know,” Faith said, mildly enough.

“‘Plus if you stick the adder stone bits in with double-ended-newt spit you get this really awesome explosion, so I guess you could use them to blow up someone you didn’t like’,” Score read out, completely deadpan.

“What’s wrong with that?” Faith asked. “You could. You’d have to run away really fast, mind.”

“Also, ‘cauldron’ has a ‘u’ in it,” Score said, reading on, with an expression of sick fascination on his face. “And you can’t use phrases like ‘bung in’ in an essay.”

“Who says?”

“Everybody says. Everybody sane says,” Score said. “Not that anyone could call you overburdened by sanity. Harper, there are-” He made exasperated hand gestures as he tried to think of the right words. “In an essay, you have to write in a certain way. A certain way which does not include phrases like ‘bung in’ or ‘really awesome explosion’. It’s improper.”

“You know, whenever you start banging on about this decorum stuff I just hear blah blah blah blah blah,” Faith told him cheerfully, at which point Score gave up.

“That’s unsurprising, considering that it’s the precise opposite of your entire personality,” he said, and looked sourly down at the parchment as they came up into the Entrance Hall. “The next time you intend to hand in work of this quality, kindly show it to Cook or me first.” 

“Oh. Cheers,” Faith said.

“So that we can burn it,” Score added. Faith thumped him on the shoulder.

“So how’d it go?” Lia asked as they sat down. She sounded very interested. It was a little suspicious.

“Oh yeah, watch this,” Faith said proudly, and pointed her wand at a jug of orange juice. “Accio jug!” The jug smashed into her forehead. Faith toppled slowly backwards off the bench and landed on the floor.

“Damn you, Harper,” Grim said, and passed Lia a handful of Knuts.

Masterful,” Score drawled, as the last of the orange juice dripped out of the jug onto Faith’s jumper, and offered her a napkin (fastidiously, at arm’s length.)

“I was up all night, I’m tired,” Faith protested, from the floor.

“Could you remind me why exactly you didn’t sleep last night?” Score asked. “It’s strange, but I could have sworn it was of your own free will.”

“Potter dared me, I told you,” Faith pointed out, trying to mop up her face and jumper and basically her entire body with the napkin, which didn’t go so well.

“I hope that nobody ever wants you dead. ‘Hey, Harper, I bet you can’t survive decapitation!’” Score said.

“I’m not stupid,” Faith said grumpily, scrambling back onto the bench.

 “You would hand them the axe,” Score told her, trying to get some of the orange juice out of her uniform with his wand.

Al leant over and caught at Score’s sleeve.

“Hi!”

Score looked at him as if he was trying to think of a decorous way to say ‘Potter, you are wrong in the head and don’t touch me.’

Al gave him his sweetest, sunniest smile. “Can you help me with something?”




James may need some editing. You know, to make him less of a prat. Thoughts?

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