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   Albus managed to sit up right before the hexes started flying.  Realizing that he dropped his wand when Lubar and Jarrett hexed him, he groped about for it on the ground.  Not finding it, he crawled behind a nearby bush and watched.

    Jarrett didn't stick around long.  He sent one pathetic Stunner at Harry, who easily deflected it, and disappeared on the spot.  Harry immediately disarmed Lubar before he could do the same. 
    Once Lubar was defenseless, Albus left the safety of the bush and shakily stood up.  He reached the fire and was able to see who the other two wizards next to Harry were.  What he saw made him dizzy with shock all over again.

    The shorter of the two was Matt's dad.  He was staring stony faced at Lubar.  Albus had never seen anyone glare at anyone else with such hatred and loathing as Matt's dad glared at Lubar.  And that included when his Uncle Ron talked about the Malfoys, or his mum when somebody mentioned Vernon and Petunia Dursley.

    It was the other wizard that nearly caused Albus to pass out in shock.  He was none other than Professor Balladanis.  What in the name of Merlin was he doing there?  It looked like he was actually with Harry and Matt's dad.  But why?  Didn't Matt's dad hate Balladanis?

    “Eckerton, what a pleasant surprise,”  Lubar smirked.

    “Lubar, if we weren't in the presence of an Auror and a Presuler I'd rip you limb from limb, Muggle style,”  Mr. Eckerton growled.

    Albus was slightly stunned by Mr. Eckerton's choice of words, but remembering what Matt had told him at the beginning of the year, all surprise left him.

    “Lucky for me Potter and Balladanis are here, then,”  Lubar replied and snatched Washburn's wand off the ground.

    Harry, Mr. Eckerton, and Balladanis all sent different spells at Lubar at the same time, but it was too late.  He was already gone.  Mr. Eckerton swore loudly. 

    “Two ain't bad,”  Balladanis muttered as he gestured to Washburn and Quinton, the latter of whom was still conscious but not completely aware of his surroundings.

    “That's the glaring difference between you and I,”  Mr. Eckerton muttered as he moved swiftly past Quinton and Washburn to reach Matt.

    “Dad!”  Albus shouted.

    Harry looked up from Kaden's unconscious form and raced towards Albus.  Albus threw his arms around his dad and the two of them hugged each other tightly.

    “Al, thank Merlin,”  Harry said.

    “Dad, what's Balladanis doing here?”  Albus asked immediately,  “And Lubar, what's going to happen to him?  And Willinson?”

    “I'll explain it all once we get you back to Hogwarts,”  Harry assured him.

    Balladanis had a firm hold on both Washburn and Quinton and was fiddling with a broken plastic cup.  A few seconds later, all three of them disappeared.

    Harry turned to Mr. Eckerton, who was standing up with Matt in his arms.  “Can you take John, too?  I'll get Kaden and Al will come with me.”

    Mr. Eckerton nodded and grabbed hold of John's arm before pulling his own broken plastic cup out of his pocket.  They disappeared.

    Harry pulled Kaden up and took Albus's arm.  Albus was still thoroughly confused, but did not have time to ask his dad anymore questions before feeling the familiar jerk behind his naval that signified he was traveling by Portkey.

    Albus landed with a thud in the middle of the Hospital Wing.  The question of how they managed to Portkey inside the Hogwarts grounds was the least pressing question on his mind.

    Looking around, Albus saw that the others had arrived as well.  Mr. Eckerton was laying both Matt and John on the nearest beds while Madam Pomfrey was shouting and gathering potions.

    “Look at the state of them!”  the nurse exclaimed,  “Always this lot, too! You're a bad influence on them, Harry, I swear!”

    Harry looked slightly sheepish as he set Kaden down on the bed next to Matt's and then turned to Albus.

    “I've got to speak with Professor Kendrick and go to the Ministry-”  he began.

    “But Dad!”  Albus interrupted,  “What was Balladanis doing there?”

    “I promise I'll tell you all of that and more,”  Harry replied,  “But I need to tell everyone you and the others are ok.  When I get back, I'm going to need you to tell me everything that happened.”


    “No buts!”  Madam Pomfrey cut in,  “Bed, Albus, bed!  You need rest!”

    Albus, who had barely registered the fact that his head was bleeding and he was still quite dizzy, felt that the last thing he needed was rest.  He needed to know what was going on.

    “I'll explain once you've gotten some sleep,”  Harry assured him.

    Albus muttered under his breath and got into bed.  Once Madam Pomfrey had given him a Sleeping Draught, Harry left, leaving Albus to unsuccessfully try to fight off the sleep he knew was coming.


    The ward was quiet when Albus woke up.  It was completely dark outside, although Albus didn't have the slightest clue as to what day it was.  John, Matt, and Kaden were either still unconscious or sound asleep.  Albus was betting on the latter since Madam Pomfrey was no where to be seen.

    Mr. Eckerton was still there and he had been joined by his wife.  Both of them were nodding off in chairs next to Matt's bed.  It didn't look like Mr. Eckerton had even left.  He was wearing the same Ministry robes he had been wearing before.

    Albus sat up and put his hand to his head.  There was a bandage on the back of it.  Another bandage was wrapped around his right arm, although he couldn't recall when he had injured it.  Besides that, he just felt exhausted. 

    The door to the ward opened, letting in a small flood of light from the corridor.  A figure stepped inside and began walking towards Albus's bed. 

    “Hey, Al,”  they said.

    “Dad,”  Albus replied, recognizing his father,  “Are you going to tell me about Balladanis now?”

    “Yes,”  Harry chuckled,  “Perhaps we ought to go to the Room of Requirement.”

    Albus shook his head, remembering something he had been debating for the past year.  He had waited long enough.  It was time.

    “No,”  Albus said,  “I know someplace better.”

    Without saying a word, Albus got out of bed and lead his dad out the door and up to the fifth floor corridor.  Harry did not ask a single question as Albus pulled the arm down on the appropriate knight and turned to face the opposite wall.

    Albus located the paw prints and touched his hand to them, turning it into a doorknob.  He opened the door and stepped inside.  Harry followed, letting out a gasp as he did.

    “Remember that map from last year?”  Albus asked as he shut the door.

    Harry nodded, apparently at a loss for words.

    “There was more to it.  Instructions on how to get into this room.  It was theirs, the Marauders'.  Their secret common room,”  Albus said quietly.

    Harry didn't respond.  Instead he walked slowly around the room.  Albus stood near the door and waited.  He wasn't sure how long he stood there, watching as his dad investigated the room that had once belonged to his grandfather.

    “This,”  Harry began,  “This is just incredible, Al.  How long have you known about it?”

    “About a year,”  Albus said quietly.

    “And you spend time here?”  Harry asked.

    “Probably more than we do in the common room,”  Albus answered.

    “Then it is the perfect place to talk,”  Harry said as he sat down on one of the couches.

    Albus sat down next to him.  “So why was Balladanis there?”

    “I'll tell you that,”  Harry said,  “But first I want you to explain to me what happened.”

    Albus took a deep breath and told his dad everything.  Starting with when they saw Lubar in the castle and ending with throwing the Resurrection Stone into the Outback.  He explained how they had first gone to a forest in Australia, how they had Portkeyed to the Outback, the dementors, the almost Patronus he had managed to make, the duel, the fact that the Resurrection Stone didn't work to bring Voldemort back.

    “Why didn't it work?”  Albus asked,  “I mean, I'm glad it didn't, but why?”

    Harry thought for a few minutes and then looked at Albus.  “There are a few reasons that might explain it.  The Resurrection Stone brings back people we love, but it does not bring them back completely.  It's almost as if their soul is coming back.”

    “Like a ghost?”

    “Not exactly,”  Harry said,  “But similar.  It's possible that since Voldemort split his soul so many times, he can't be brought back with the Stone. The Stone may need the soul to be intact to work.”

    Albus nodded.  “That makes sense.”

    “It could also be that only loved ones can be brought back with the Stone. Washburn and the Willinsons did not love Voldemort; they did not know him.  They wanted to bring him back for their own agenda,”  Harry explained.

    “Is there any way to find out which it is?”  Albus asked.

    “No, I don't think so,”  Harry said,  “Especially now that the Stone is once again gone.  Which is something I'm very grateful that you did.”

    “Well, I figured you left it out in the Forbidden Forest for a reason,” Albus shrugged.

    “Yes, yes I did,”  Harry replied, “I think it best if nobody had that Stone.”

    Albus nodded. “Yeah, that makes sense.  But what was Balladanis doing there?”

    Harry laughed.  “You're not going to let that go, are you?”

    “Nope, you said you'd tell me,”  Albus said.

    “I will,”  Harry replied,  “Albus, do you know what a Presuler is?”

    “Yes,”  Albus nodded,  “And I know that Balladanis is one.”

    “You do?”  Harry looked impressed.

    “He told me during one of those dueling lessons he gave me,”  Albus explained.

    “Well, that makes my explanation easier,”  Harry said,  “A little over a year ago, shortly after Quinton kidnapped Kaden, the Ministry decided to hire a Presuler to help find Washburn and Jarrett Willinson.”

    “Seriously?”  Albus gaped at him.

    “Yes,”  Harry muttered,  “The Minister believed the Aurors needed some help.”

    Albus thought he heard bit of contempt in his dad's voice.

    “When I realized that Washburn and the Willinsons were most likely working with Ralph Lubar, I had to contact Balladanis and let him know.  He came with us, and I have to admit that he was very helpful.  We would not have found you as fast if he wasn't there,”  Harry explained.

    “But why was he teaching here?”  Albus asked.

    “The Minister, Professor Kendrick, and I believed it would be good strategy to have him stationed at Hogwarts, where we all believed Washburn and the Willinsons would return to.  Balladanis agreed,”  Harry said,  “Of course, none of us realized that Balladanis would not be able to handle teaching.

    “This is all quite secretive, Al.  I'd prefer you didn't tell anyone.  I will be telling Matt, John, and Kaden, because I feel they have the right to know, but I don't want anyone else knowing about it.”

    “What about Rose and Amanda?”  Albus asked.

    “I suppose I'll tell them as well, otherwise Kaden is sure to tell them,”  Harry said.

    “What's going to happen to Lubar?”  Albus asked,  “Is Balladanis going to be after him now?”

    “No,”  Harry shook his head,  “That's going to be tricky situation.  Lubar isn't a British citizen.  We can't do a thing while he's in Australia.  It's up to the Australian Ministry to either put him on trial or give him to us to put on trial.  And since he's one of their officials, we're not sure they'll do either.”

    “But that's not fair!”  Albus stood up angrily,  “Look what he did! Look what he's done!”

    “I know,”  Harry sighed,  “I'd like nothing more than to give him a life-long stint in Azkaban, but unfortunately the laws don't work that way.”

    “He and Balladanis get along anyway,”  Albus said,  “Balladanis probably wouldn't want to go after him.”

    “I don't know about that,”  Harry said,  “Balladanis likes people to pay for what they've done.  However, being a Presuler and having no Ministry affiliation, he does not have to take a case if he's offered it.”

    “He told me I'd make a good Presuler,”  Albus said quietly as I sat back down,  “Malfoy, too.”

    Harry sighed.  “What do you think about that?”

    “I don't know,”  Albus shrugged,  “I mean, I like dueling, but I don't really want to decide what I want to do right now.”

    “You don't have to,”  Harry replied,  “And I don't want to tell you what to do, but I am going to tell you something.

    “Being a Presuler is a hard job and often a lonely one.  You have no coworkers.  You work with various Ministries, but rarely get to know anyone.  You travel a lot, which can make it difficult to have a family.  It's not an easy path to go down.  Not one I'd choose for myself.”

    Albus hadn't even thought about that.  He didn't think he'd want to rarely ever see his friends and family.

    “There's plenty of other things you could do that would put your dueling skills to use,”  Harry told him,  “And you're only 13 so no need to decide now.”

    “I know, I don't plan to,”  Albus replied.

    “Well, you should probably get back to the Hospital Wing before Madam Pomfrey notices you're gone,”  Harry smirked,  “And thanks again for showing me the room.”

    Harry stood up and gave his son a hug.  They left the room and walked back to the Hospital Wing, both lost in their thoughts.


    As it turned out, Madam Pomfrey had already noticed that Albus was missing. When he returned to the Hospital Wing with his dad, she was running about the ward shouting at the top of her lungs.  Matt, John, and Kaden were all awake, staring at her.

    “There you are!”  she shrieked,  “Where have you been?”

    “Er,”  Albus began.

    “I had to talk to him in private,”  Harry answered for him.

    “You should have asked me first!”  Madam Pomfrey exclaimed as she ushered Albus back into bed,  “He needs rest!”

    “I'm his father,”  Harry said incredulously.

    “I don't care if you're the Minister of Magic!”  Madam Pomfrey replied,  “I'm the one with the nursing degree!”

    “How long has she been shouting?”  Albus whispered to Matt as he got back in bed.

    “Fifteen minutes or so,”  Matt answered.

    Madam Pomfrey returned to her desk and Harry strode over to where the Eckertons were sitting.

    “Could I have a word in private?”  Harry asked Mr. Eckerton and then turned to Madam Pomfrey.  “Do I need your permission for that?”  he grinned.

    “Very amusing,”  Madam Pomfrey muttered.

    Albus drifted back to sleep a little while later and when he next woke up it was light out and Madam Pomfrey was bringing them all breakfast trays. 

    “Er, what day is it?”  Albus asked as Madam Pomfrey set his tray down.

    “It's Sunday, dear, but it's afternoon,”  Madam Pomfrey replied,  “I figured you'd prefer to have breakfast.”

    “Only Sunday?”  Albus asked.  It felt like it had been far more than twenty-four hours since he had met up with Lubar before the Quidditch match.

    “Time zone changes are difficult to adjust to,”  Madam Pomfrey explained,  “Australia's quite a few hours ahead of us.”

    Albus nodded and dug into his breakfast.  Suddenly he was ravenous.  When he thought about it, it must have been at least a day since he'd eaten anything. 

    “I wonder how the Quidditch match went,”  Kaden mused as he shoved toast in his mouth.
    Albus choked on his eggs.  He'd forgotten about the match!  “I doubt we won,”  he sighed.

    “Is your dad going to tell us why Balladanis was with him when he came to save us?”  John asked,  “I mean, he's had plenty of time.”

    “He will,”  Albus said,  “He already told me.  You lot were asleep.”

    The doors to the Hospital Wing banged open and Rose and Amanda came running in.  Madam Pomfrey made a move to get up from her desk, but then sat back down, shaking her head.

    “Tell us what happened!”  Rose demanded as she skidded to a halt in front of Albus's bed,  “When did you get back?  Where did you go?”

    “Who won the Quidditch match?”  Albus asked.

    “Quidditch?  Quidditch?”  Rose groaned,  “I'm not saying a word about Quidditch until the four of you tell me what in the name of Merlin's saggy left-”

    “Miss Weasley!”  Madam Pomfrey shouted,  “If you don't lower your voice, you'll have to leave!”

    “Sorry,”  Rose turned back to Albus,  “But you lot have got to tell us what happened!”

    Albus launched into the entire tale, which took the better part of a half hour to tell.  Neither Rose or Amanda interrupted once during the whole thing. Both of them looked absolutely shocked by the time Albus concluded.

    “But, but why was Balladanis there?”  Rose asked.

    “My dad's going to tell you,”  Albus said,  “He's already told me.  He'll probably tell the rest of you today.”

    “Merlin, Albus,”  Rose sighed,  “How much trouble can you get into?”

    “It's not my fault,”  Albus shrugged,  “Now can you tell us about the match?”

    Rose exchanged glances with Amanda, who sighed.  “It was quite the match, let me tell you,”  Amanda said.

    “Nobody won, Al,”  Rose said.

    “What?”  John interrupted,  “How can nobody win?”

    “About forty-five minutes into the match, Fred and Heather ran onto the pitch-”

    “The match lasted that long?”  Matt asked.

    “Yes,”  Rose said,  “I don't know why.  Anyway, Fred and Heather ran right up to Ludo Bagman and started talking to him.  Nobody could hear what they were saying.  Then Bagman blew his whistle and they went into a time-out.

    “Bagman left the pitch and had a really long talk with all the headmasters and captains.  Then Kendrick announced that the match was called off and told everyone to return to their common rooms.

    “Everyone was really angry of course.  Amanda and I were already worried because you lot hadn't shown up yet.  We thought something bad had happened and that was why they called it off.”

    “Why did they call it off?”  John asked.

    “I'm getting to that,”  Rose said,  “We got back up to Gryffindor and everyone was gathered around Fred and Heather.  Linda wasn't there, and neither were any of her teammates who were Gryffindors.

    “We pushed our way to the front of the crowd and heard what Fred and Heather were talking about.  They were claiming that Australia had been cheating the whole time-”

    “Well, they were,”  Matt muttered.

    “I know,”  Rose agreed,  “And apparently so did Fred and Heather.  I'm sure they figured it out just recently or else they would've told someone sooner.  They found out Linda's a vampire and now the entire school knows.”

    “How did they figure it out?”  Albus asked, completely shocked.  Linda hid her secret quite well.  Fred and Heather were sixth years, they wouldn't have heard Balladanis's vampire lecture.”

    “They've been trying to figure it out all year,”  Rose explained,  “And since they're smart, they figured it out.”

    “But what about the match?”  Albus asked.

    “I think they're going to cancel the tournament, Albus,”  Rose said quietly.

    “Cancel the tournament?”  Albus gasped,  “Cancel the tournament?!  They can't do that!  We've spent the whole year on that tournament!  Do you know how much time I've spent on the Quidditch pitch this year?  More time than I've spent in class, probably!  And now they're going to cancel the bloody tournament?”

    “I don't know, Al,”  Rose said shortly,  “And if they do it's not my fault.”

    “Sorry,”  Albus mumbled,  “It's just a little aggravating.”

    “I know,”  Rose replied.

    “Where's Linda?”  Matt asked.

    “Gone,”  Rose sighed,  “Without a word.  I haven't seen her or any of the Australians since the match.  Killigan's gone, too.”

    “Wow,”  Matt replied,  “Can't say I blame her, though.”

    “I guess,”  Rose said,  “Anyway, they'll probably make an announcement about the tournament at dinner.”

A/N:  Thanks to my beta, Dancer_of_Starlight as well as all of the awesome people who have read and reviewed this!  There is only one more chapter left!

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