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In the weeks following Burke’s death Albus’s life seemed to reach an uneasy state of equilibrium. He hesitated to call it “normal,” but for the first time that year nothing huge hovered over him. Kaden gradually came to terms with Burke’s death and while he never spoke about his former mentor, he slowly returned to his usual excitable self. James gained no additional hand function, but he didn’t lose any either. He still had a great deal of trouble recalling spells, but he began spending more time with his friends and less time wallowing in the library.

Albus had heard nothing for weeks about the secretive investigation of Sheldon’s murder, which was both unsettling and a relief at the same time. He wanted to ask Dawlish about it every time he saw him at Auror Headquarters, but knew any attempts would be fruitless. By telling Dawlish about Elsie and the cave, Albus had done everything he could save for going back to the cave, which if he did so would be dangerous and stupid. Not that that had stopped him in the past, but something held him back this time. Perhaps he was simply growing up.

It was a relief when the last Quidditch match came and went without much fanfare. The general mood of the team was much more subdued than normal, but Albus didn’t take it personally. Nor did he take it personally when they lost by 80 points and were thus out of the running for the Cup. Instead, Albus felt like a huge weight had been lifted off his shoulders. The Quidditch season was over, and most likely his stint as captain was over as well. He had yet to broach the topic of his not returning as captain next year to James, but at this point he doubted anyone could convince him to continue.

John popped his head into the captain’s office after the match, his hair drenched with sweat and a trace of mud across his left cheek. “You coming back to the castle, Al?”

“In a bit,” Albus said. While the Gryffindors wouldn’t be throwing a party after the loss, Albus didn’t feel much like sitting in the crowded common room, no matter how subdued it was.

John nodded. “See you up there.”

John disappeared and soon the quiet chatter of the rest of the team disappeared as well. Albus heard the door to the changing rooms close and then he was left in silence. The silence felt good; it was something he hadn’t experienced in a long time.

Albus wasn’t sure how long he sat lost in thought, but the sound of the door opening and closing jolted him out of his thoughts. He craned his head to see outside the captain office and saw James walking through the changing room.

“It’s not your fault the team lost,” James said as he walked into the office and leaned against the desk. Over the past few weeks James had regained a bit of his color and had put on a few of the pounds he’d lost after the accident. He wasn’t back to normal, but it was a start.

“I know it’s not,” Albus said.

“Come on,” James said as he stood up straight again. “I want to go fly.”

Albus snapped his head up and stared at his brother. “You what?”

“I want to fly. The pitch has emptied out. Let’s go.”

Albus didn’t move. “But…you’re not allowed to fly.”

“I’m not allowed to play Quidditch,” James said, with a gleam in his eye Albus hadn’t seen in months.

“But-“ Albus began, thinking back to the time he found James flying alone at night shortly after the accident.

“The weather is perfect. You will be with me. And I can fly one handed when the conditions are decent. I need to fly, Al. Plus, Healer Norlam said I need to do things that make me happy. Flying makes me happy. You can come with me or you can sit here and wallow.”

“I’m not wallowing,” Albus said as he stood up. “I swear.”

“Then why are you sitting in the captain’s office after the team lost, assuming the position of so many team captains before you?”

Albus didn’t say anything, but followed James out to the pitch. On the way, he grabbed his broom. James had his own broom with him, which meant this was a plan he had thought out at least since this morning before the match.

Once they were on the pitch, Albus waited while James mounted his broom and gripped it tightly with his left hand, his right held tight against his chest. He then kicked off the ground and soared into the air with more grace than most people with two working hands. It was a shame, Albus thought, that James’s Quidditch career was ruined. He was a fantastic flyer.

Albus quickly mounted his own broom and caught up with James near the far end goal posts. He had to tell James he wasn’t going to captain next year and somehow this seemed like the right moment.

“I’m going to resign as captain,” Albus said once he reached James. “That’s what I was thinking about in the changing room.”

James said nothing for a full minute. Then he turned to Albus, his expression unreadable. “Is this because Gryffindor lost today?”

“No,” Albus said quietly. “It’s because this was never my thing. It was your thing, and I finished out the year for you because you asked me to. And I’m glad I did, but I can’t keep doing it next year. Not with N.E.W.T.s and not with captaining the dueling team.”

“I forgot about dueling,” James said. He sighed. “Thanks…for finishing out the year.” James turned his broom and began to slowly drift toward the stands.

Albus followed. “Are you upset?”

“No. I know Quidditch isn’t your life. Janie will make a good captain.”

They flew in silence for a while. Albus hadn’t realized how worried he was about telling James his plans to resign until now that he’d done it. But now that was one less thing to think about. And with only a little over a month left of the year, he’d have to tell Professor Longbottom soon.

“Do you know what you’re doing yet, for N.E.W.T.s?” Albus asked.

James stopped flying and turned to look at Albus. “The Ministry has agreed to extra time and letting me use a self-writing quill for the theory. I have to take them in a room by myself because of that. They’re getting me my own proctor. No one knows what to do about the practicals. I won’t be able to do Charms or Transfiguration or Defense because I can’t remember the spells. And Herbology generally requires two hands. I might be able to do a bit of that. Not that it matters much anyway. I’m only sitting them because Mum and Dad want me to.”

“What if they gave you a list of all the possible spells and you could read it during the practical? You’d recognize them, right?”

“Yeah, it’d be like when I write them on my arm,” James said. “They’re considering that, but the Ministry has to decide whether that’s considered giving me an unfair advantage or reasonable accommodation.”

“They’ve got to see that it’s reasonable accommodation,” Albus said.

“As I said, Al, I don’t really care,” James muttered. “I’ll wind up working at Uncle George’s shop either way. There’s not much else I could do.”

Albus tried to think of another job that wouldn’t require James to do incantations on a regular basis, but he couldn’t. Every job in the wizarding world, from a waiter straight up to the Minister of Magic required magic.

“Maybe Rose could think of something,” Albus suggested.

James shook his head. “This is too big a problem even for Rose. It sucks, but it’s my life now. Nothing to be done.”

Albus hated that that was true.

***


The final week of May brought the final week of internships. It was sprung on the sixth years that they would have to submit an essay to their head of house explaining how their internship experience would help their career decisions the following year, due in a week. Albus had a feeling this was an essay all of them except for Rose would save for the night before it was due.

Albus spent his last day at Auror Headquarters hoping Dawlish would walk in. He’d decided since it was his last day of his internship he would ask Dawlish about the murder investigation. What did he have to lose? But the older Auror was nowhere in sight. Johnson wasn’t there either. Thus Albus was spending his last day sorting through paperwork supervised by Teddy, who was writing up late reports.

“I can’t believe you’re going to be a seventh year,” Teddy said as he handed Albus another stack of files. “When did that happen?”

Albus shrugged. “It just did.”

Teddy laughed. “So, are you going to join the ranks and become an Auror?”

“Going to try,” Albus said. “I want to wind up in the Department of Mysteries, though.”

Teddy let out a low whistle. “Harry’s going to be so proud.”

Albus felt his cheeks redden. He knew his father was already proud of him, just for his aspirations, but that put a lot of pressure on him as well. And he knew it wasn’t logical, but he now felt even more pressure now that James’s future was uncertain.

There was a sudden commotion in the doorway. Albus looked up and saw not only Dawlish walking into Headquarters, but Johnson as well. Behind them were a tall, blonde woman and none other than Elsie Willinson, looking terrified.

“Is this whole ministry incompetent?” the woman demanded. “My daughter’s done nothing wrong. Someone needs to tell me why we-“

“As I mentioned no less than five times, we will explain once we are in private,” Dawlish said.

Daughter, Albus thought. Daughter. The woman was Elsie’s mum. And if they were here to speak with Dawlish and Johnson, did that mean Elsie’s false testimony was finally coming to light?

Dawlish and Johnson led Elsie and her irate mother through the sea of cubicles, right past Teddy’s, and into Johnson’s study.

“What is that about?” Teddy asked. “Isn’t that the girl who witnessed the Sheldon murder? The one who wasn’t supposed to be in Hogsmeade?”

“I don’t know if she witnessed the actual murder, but she claims she saw the murderer fleeing the scene. She claims she saw Professor Young fleeing the scene, but that was really Boone.”

“Are you saying she didn’t?” Teddy asked quietly.

“She’s protecting someone,” Albus said, figuring it was okay to tell Teddy this since he was an Auror. “I don’t know who, but I think they’re related to her. And I think that person might be the real murderer.”

“I hope she cracks soon,” Teddy said. “Anyone with half a brain knows Boone couldn’t have murdered anyone.”

“You don’t seem surprised.”

“I knew there was something more to that murder. And the Willinson family? They’re dark. They’re dark and they’ve got secrets. So no, I’m not surprised.”

“I wish I knew what they were saying,” Albus said.

As if on cue, the door to Johnson’s study burst open and Elsie’s mum came storming out. “Elsie! Come with me. Now.”

Elsie, still silent, joined her mother.

“Mrs. Willinson-“ Johnson began.

“I will not have you interrogating her without my attorney present!” Elsie’s mum said. “You’re going to have to wait.”

“A man is in Azkaban!” Dawlish shouted. “Wrongfully accused, because of your daughter’s testimony!”

“Back down, Dawlish,” Johnson growled. “She’s right. She can have her attorney present. You’ve got half an hour, Mrs. Willinson.”

Mrs. Willinson and Elsie stormed out of the room. Johnson and Dawlish returned to Johnson’s study, shutting the door behind them.

“What will happen to Elsie?” Albus asked Teddy. “Assuming they find out she lied?”

“She won’t go to Azkaban, if that’s what you’re asking,” Teddy said. “She’s underage. Her parents will probably have to pay a huge fine and she might have to do some community service hours.”

“That’s it?” Albus asked, outraged. Boone spent months in prison because of her.

“A lot of things slide when you’re underage,” Teddy said. “I’m not saying it’s right-“

“What if she’s also harboring a fugitive? The real murderer.”

Teddy’s eyes grew wide. “What do you know, Albus?”

“Nothing I haven’t already told Dawlish,” Albus said. He briefly told Teddy about the cave in Hogsmeade and what he overheard there back in December.

Teddy shook his head once Albus finished. “You’re always tied up in these things, aren’t you? I don’t really know what will happen to her if it turns out she is hiding the real murderer.”

Albus set down the file he was holding. He looked at his watch. It was five o’clock. His time as an intern in the Auror Headquarters was over.

“Looks like you’re done,” Teddy said. “You survived. Congratulations.”

Albus smirked. “I think Johnson forgot about me. Should I tell him I’m leaving?”

“Probably,” Teddy said. “Just knock on his door.”

Albus did as he was told. A minute later the door opened and Albus walked in. Johnson was seated behind his desk and Dawlish was pacing in front of him. He stowed his wand, which he must’ve used to open the door, in his robes.

“I’m done, sir,” Albus said as he walked toward the desk. “Today was my last day, and it’s five….”

Johnson nodded. “Right. You did an excellent job, Potter. I mean that. I’ll look forward to seeing your application to the Auror Academy.” He stood and shook Albus’s hand.

“Thank you, sir,” Albus said.

“I’ll walk Potter out,” Dawlish said.

Once they were outside Johnson’s study, Dawlish turned to Albus and gave him a wry smile. “You’ve done good, kid.”

“Thanks,” Albus said. “I, er, couldn’t help but notice-“

“Elsie Willinson?” Dawlish said. “Yeah, we got her. Had to clue Johnson into what’s been going on to make it official. With any luck we’ll have Boone out of jail within the next few weeks.”

“What about the cave?” Albus asked.

“Nothing yet, but we’re searching it on a regular basis,” Dawlish said. “Just remember, Potter, stay out of trouble and let us handle this. You’ll have your chance soon enough.”

Albus nodded, and for the first time it felt like he would have his chance soon. One more year at Hogwarts and then it would be him at the Auror Academy, helping to solve crimes.

***


“I wonder how many people are going to try and go into the same field as their internship,” Amanda mused as they sat in the library working on their internship papers the night before they were due. “Other than us.”

“I’m not,” Matt said. “Mr. Weasley already told me there’s no chance of the Ministry hiring him an assistant.”

“Would you want to?” Amanda asked.

Matt shrugged. “I don’t know. I don’t fancy working for the Ministry, but I liked working with Mr. Weasley. And it wasn’t exhausting work.”

“You should do something you’re passionate about,” Rose said as she reread her completed essay for what must’ve been the tenth time.

“You know I might not have that option,” Matt said.

“Back to my question,” Amanda said loudly. “I heard Justin Brink really liked Gringotts.”

“As long as Malfoy doesn’t go into the Werewolf Control Unit, I’ll be happy,” Matt said. “Although I really doubt my dad would ever hire him.”

“I heard he hated it anyway,” Rose said. “I’ve already started my application to the School of Healing.”

“Of course you have,” John said. Albus already knew John planned on applying to any available jobs at any Quidditch team once he finished Hogwarts. He wanted to be a strategist, but knew he’d probably have to work his way up the ranks. It was exactly the sort of thing Albus’s parents wanted James to do, before they knew about James’s issue remembering spells.

“Can you lot shut it?” Kaden asked, looking up from the pile of books and notes in front of him. O.W.L.s were only a week away and Kaden, like John the previous year, was trying to fit in a year of studying into a few days.

“It’s not just us,” Albus pointed out, gesturing to the crowded library around him. “Half the school is here. It’s not going to be quiet. Miss Walsh doesn’t demand silence like Madam Pince did.”

Kaden sighed and closed his books. “I’m going to the Den. Nobody bother me unless the castle’s on fire.”

“He’s going to be fine,” Rose said after Kaden left. “He gets good marks.”

“He’s worried because he needs so many O.W.L.s for the Brewing Academy,” Albus said.

“Who’s going to the Brewing Academy?” James asked as he slid into Kaden’s vacated seat next to Albus. He sat a large binder with color coded tabs on the table. He looked worried and his right hand, still in the smaller brace, was twitching slightly.

“Kaden,” Albus said.

“Oh, right,” James muttered as he opened the binder.

“What’s that?” Albus asked.

“Book of spells,” James said, sighing. “Every spell I’ve ever been taught at Hogwarts, compiled by Aunt Hermione. She then organized them by subject and year I learned them. It’s got what each one does and the wand movements as well.”

Albus nodded. The binder was at least three inches thick. He’d never realized just how many spells they’d learned. “Did you hear back from the Ministry about your practicals?”

“Yeah,” James said. “Yesterday. That’s when Aunt Hermione did this.”

“And?” Albus prompted. “Are they letting you use that binder?”

James let out a short laugh. “That’d be nice, wouldn’t it? Then I might have a chance of passing, but no. This is for revising and to use once I’m out of Hogwarts. The Ministry is going to give me a list of incantations for each practical, but only spells I was taught in that specific subject will be on the list. And only spells I’ve learned at N.E.W.T. level.”

“But-“ Albus began.

“I know. I haven’t a chance in hell,” James said quietly. “Spells overlap a lot at N.E.W.T. level, and they often rely on incantations from O.W.L. level. Messed up, isn’t it?”

“Very,” Albus agreed. “Do they just not get that you won’t pass if you don’t have a list of all the spells?”

“Healer Murdock wrote a letter, but they still think it’s cheating and unfair to the other students,” James muttered. “Dad said we could appeal but it wouldn’t be done in time for next week, so there wouldn’t be a point.”

“My mum said special education is really lacking in the wizarding world,” Rose commented. “It’s nearly impossible to get accommodations and even when you do get them they aren’t that great.”

“It’s true,” Matt said. “My parents worked everything out with Kendrick and didn’t bother going through the Ministry.”

“With official tests you have to,” James said. “Kendrick has no say in this.”

“What are you going to do?” Albus asked.

“Try to memorize as many as I can and hope they stick,” James said as he peered over the binder.

“Are you sure that’s a good idea?” Rose asked. “I mean, if there really is something wrong with your memory, and clearly there is, this isn’t going to work.”

“What else can I do?”

Rose sighed. “Could you appeal and then take your N.E.W.T.s next year?”

“I won’t do that,” James said. “I have two more weeks here and then I’m done. I’m not staying any longer than I have to. I just can’t do it.”

After the past few months, Albus couldn’t blame him.


A/N: Thanks for all the lovely reviews!

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