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Ever since Albus’s last day at the Auror Headquarters he’d been obsessively checking the Prophet for news of Boone’s release from Azkaban, but even almost two weeks later there was still nothing. Nor did Elsie Willinson seem any different. She still went about Hogwarts as quiet as she could be, but with much more confidence than she’d had as a first and second year. Albus hadn’t approached her since chances were slim she’d say anything to him if he questioned her.

Albus hadn’t told any of his friends about seeing Elsie and her mum at the Auror Headquarters. As far as they knew, he had dropped his suspicions of Elsie. Albus couldn’t wait until Boone was released and he could tell them everything that had been going on. He’d be able to give Rose the biggest ‘I told you so’ yet, which would be extremely satisfying.

Kaden was now two days into his O.W.L.s and James had his first N.E.W.T. exam the following day. Exams wouldn’t start for the rest of the students until the following week. The library was the most popular place after dinner and Kaden continued to use the Marauders’ Den instead. Albus and the rest of his friends chose the library rather than be subjected to Kaden’s endless shushing. It was strange how exams had changed Kaden’s view on revising.

That night Albus sat in the library with James, Rose, Amanda, and John. It was a full moon and Matt had been in the hospital wing since before dinner due to a high fever that refused to break. Albus, John, and Amanda were all working on the final Transfiguration essay of the year. Rose, who had already finished the essay, was quizzing James on incantations.

“The spell for turning an animal into a goblet,” Rose said as she showed James the proper wand movement.

James mimicked the wand movement with his new wand in his left hand and screwed up his face in thought. “Er…haven’t the slightest.”

“Veriverto,” Rose said quietly. “I’ll give you an easier one. Summoning charm.”

“Oh, come on, I know this one,” James said as he furrowed his brow. “I swear I know it. It’s there, but I just can’t….” He sighed and sat back against his chair. “This is hopeless.”

“I told you this would be pointless,” Rose said. “And it’s Accio.”

James groaned. “Accio! Why can’t I even remember Accio?”

“It’s not your fault,” Rose reminded him. “You have brain damage. And pushing yourself like this is only going to make it worse. You have to let it come back naturally. Didn’t Healer Murdock mention that?”

James nodded. “Yeah, a few times. But my Charms exam is tomorrow.”

“I think the best thing you can do is turn in early,” Rose said. “It’s nine now. Don’t stay up much later.”

“Quiz me a little longer,” James said. “If I could just get…dammit! The summoning charm. That one…to stick.”

“Accio,” Rose said quietly. “And no, James. It’s not a good idea. Go to bed.”

“Fine,” James said, resigned. “Good night.” He closed the binder, hoisted it into his arms, and walked slowly out of the library.

“He’d be better off just sitting the theory,” Rose muttered once he was out of earshot. “Attempting the practicals is just going to leave him dejected.”

“He’s only doing them at all because Mum and Dad want him to,” Albus said. “He doesn’t really care.”

“If he really didn’t care, he wouldn’t be trying to memorize incantations he knows he can’t,” Rose pointed out.

Albus sighed. “You’re probably right. But I don’t think there’s anything we can do. In two weeks he’ll be graduating and that’ll be it.”

“And that’s when it’ll get really hard,” Rose said quietly. “I still can’t think of any jobs that don’t require him to have at least basic incantations memorized. The only one that comes close is a stock boy at a shop and that would require him to have full range of motion in his hands. And even most shop boys have to do basic cleaning spells.”

“Uncle George will hire him,” Albus reminded her.

“I know that, but that takes all the choice out of it,” Rose said.

“Maybe he can work there a while until his memory comes back.”

“Al, I’m not sure it will,” Rose said, barely loud enough for Albus to hear.

“It might,” Albus said, not wanting to think about what would happen if it didn’t. “You don’t know.”

“Neither do you,” Rose said.

It had to come back, Albus thought, because otherwise what would James do? He’d be a fully qualified wizard dependent on a binder of incantations.

“Er, Albus,” John said, pointing to a spot just to Albus’s right, a funny look on his face.

Albus turned and saw Felix Willinson standing just behind him. The boy looked apprehensive and exhausted. His dark hair was a mess and sorely in need of a cut, and judging by the bags under his eyes he hadn’t slept much the past few days.

“Albus?” Felix asked hesitantly. “Can I…er…speak with you? In private?”

“Er…” Albus began. He turned to Rose, who looked just as confused as he felt. Albus hadn’t spoken to Felix in years. Not since the incident in the Chamber of Secrets at the end of fourth year.

“Please,” Felix pleaded.

Albus nodded. “Okay. There’s an empty classroom next door.”

“Thank you,” Felix said quietly.

“If you’re not back in ten minutes I’m going after you,” Rose warned. She looked very uncomfortable with the idea of Albus going off with Felix.

Albus led Felix to the empty classroom, his mind racing. The only thing this could possibly be about was Elsie. Albus thought back to the conversation he overheard in the cave, where Felix tried to convince Elsie not to do something stupid.

“Well, what is it?” Albus asked as soon as he shut the door behind Felix.

Felix sat on the nearest table and stared at Albus. He looked utterly terrified. “I’m sorry, Albus, for everything. Back when I was a first year, and then again in third year. I was stupid, really stupid and-“

“Forget about it,” Albus said. “It was years ago. Yeah, it was stupid, but it’s done. What’s going on now?”

“It’s my sister,” Felix said, barely above a whisper. “She’s done something stupid this time. Something even stupider than what I did. And she’s terrified of you finding out, but I need you to find out because I think your dad and the other Aurors are the only people who can help.”

“My dad’s not an Auror anymore,” Albus said.

“Your dad will never stop being an Auror, no matter what the Ministry says,” Felix said.

He had a point, Albus thought. “Okay. What did Elsie do?” He had a sneaking suspicion this had to do with the person who actually did murder Sheldon.

Felix wrung his hands together, not unlike the way Matt did when he got really anxious. “We have a cousin…Elsie and I. Quinton’s older brother, actually, and he’s….he’s a squib. My parents would kill me if they knew I was telling you. No one’s supposed to know…pureblood family and all. But that isn’t the point. The point is…that cousin, my squib cousin…he killed Michael Sheldon.”

Albus’s eyes grew wide, even though he knew something like this was coming. “And you knew this? All along?”

Felix nodded.

“And you let Boone go to Azkaban, knowing this?” Albus shouted.

Felix flinched. “It wasn’t just me. It was my family. You don’t understand. I would’ve been disowned if I told anyone.”

Albus groaned. He knew pureblood family dynamics were something he’d never truly understand, but he didn’t think there was any way of rationalizing the sending of an innocent man to prison. “A squib. That’s why Sheldon’s throat was sliced. What about the Quidditch player?”

Felix nodded. “That was my cousin, too.”

“And what exactly is Elsie up to?”

“She’s hiding him in the cave near Hogsmeade. He got there tonight That’s why I had to find you, so you can tell your dad.”

Something about this didn’t sit right with Albus. Why was Felix coming clean now? Why was he so worried about Elsie? Why did he no longer care about protecting his family’s secrets? “Wait…why are you telling me all this? I thought your parents wanted you to keep this secret.”

“They do,” Felix said.

“Then why?”

Felix took a deep breath. “Aren’t you curious why my cousin would murder seemingly random people?”

“Well, yes,” Albus said.

“He’s not well,” Felix said. “He hasn’t been for as long as I can remember, but he refuses to get help. Nothing he says is rational. He’s paranoid all the time. He’s dangerous. I don’t want him alone with Elsie, but she won’t listen. She thinks she has to help him because he’s family. She buys into the pureblood sanctions more than I do.”

“Then why was it always you hovering over her? And her not doing much of anything or hanging out with anyone other than you until this year?”

Felix sighed. “I’m her older brother. Much more than that, I can’t tell you. But you have to trust me on this. Get your dad and tell him to go to the cave. I’m heading there now.”

“Are you sure-“

“I have to go now. She’s my little sister. I have to. Just get your dad.” Felix hopped off the desk and hurried out of the room.

Albus stood frozen for a full minute, trying to process everything he’d just heard. Then he hurried to his dad’s study, wondering why, year after year, he always wound up involved with something like this at the end of term.

***


It took Albus’s father almost five full minutes to answer the door when Albus knocked. He would’ve barged right in, but the door was locked. When Dad finally did answer, he looked exhausted and not ready to go capture a murderer.

“What’s going on, Al?” Dad asked as he stepped aside for Albus to enter. “Is James okay?”

“Fine,” Albus said quickly. “This isn’t about James. Dad, are you okay?”

Dad nodded. “Just tired. Haven’t been sleeping well. What’s happened?”

“It’s Elsie Willinson,” Albus said. “Her brother thinks she’s in trouble.” Albus quickly explained everything Felix had told him and by the time he finished, Dad no longer looked ready to fall asleep. He was wide-eyed and alert. What Felix said was true: Harry Potter would always be an Auror.

Dad strode over to the fire, grabbed a handful of Floo Powder, threw it into the flames, then stuck his head in while shouting “Auror Headquarters!” He remained there for a few minutes, then pulled his head out and turned back to Albus.

“Stay here,” Dad said.

“Are you going to the cave?” Albus asked.

“Yes,” Dad said as he took his cloak off a nearby chair and put it on. “Dawlish and Johnson are on their way. I can no longer arrest anyone, but since students are involved I need to get there as quickly as possible.”

“I’ll go with you and show you where the cave is,” Albus said. “There are a lot of caves up there. I swear I’ll stay out of the way.”

Dad sighed. Albus could tell he was torn. “I’ll be of age in two weeks,” Albus pointed out.

“And that doesn’t make a difference when you’re my son,” Dad said. “But you’re right about the cave. I don’t know which one it is. Do you have your Invisibility Cloak?”

“Yeah,” Albus said as he pulled it out of his bag. He’d taken to carrying it around with him all the time.

“Put it on. Do not take it off for any reason,” Dad said quietly. “Leave your bag here. And Albus, you must do whatever I tell you to do. No questions.”

“Yes, sir,” Albus said.

“Let’s go,” Dad said.

It was strange walking alongside his father while wearing the Invisibility Cloak. They passed a few older students on their way to the Entrance Hall, all of whom said, ‘hello, Professor Potter,’ but didn’t even realize Albus was there. Other than those few students, the corridors were deserted, which made sense since it was nearly 9:30.

Outside, the weather was perfect. It was warm, with only a slight breeze, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Millions of stars dotted the inky blackness and the big, bright full moon lit up the entire grounds. Seeing it reminded Albus that Matt would be in the Shrieking Shack at that very moment.

“Light your wand,” Dad muttered once they reached the path to Hogsmeade.

Albus did as he was told and they continued down the path. The village itself seemed closed for the night, with only the Three Broomsticks still showing signs of life. As they walked past, a man stumbled out of the pub and into the alley, where Albus heard the unmistakable sound of retching. Other than that, the only noises were owls hooting and a faint howling that Albus pretended not to hear.

As they neared the Shrieking Shack, the howling grew louder and Albus could no longer ignore it. He swallowed hard and stared at the ramshackle building as they passed. Albus hated thinking about Matt’s transformations and how horrible they were.

They turned to take the winding path up to the mountain. Albus picked up his pace, holding his wand toward the ground to try and keep himself from stumbling. As they neared the top, Albus could see faint light emitting from the cave where he spied on Elsie and Felix in December.

“Is that it?” Dad asked.

“Yeah,” Albus confirmed.

Dad stopped once they reached the mouth of the cave, gesturing for Albus to crouch down out of the way. Albus could hear whispering coming from inside the cave. He watched as his father drew his wand, pointed it at the cave, and muttered a spell under his breath.

“Anti-apparition spell,” Dad explained. “The moment I walk in there, he’ll try and escape. I’m going in. You stay here and stay out of the way. Do not inform Dawlish or Johnson of your whereabouts when they arrive. Keep your wand out. You have my permission to do whatever spell you feel necessary, if something happens.”

“He’s a squib,” Albus reminded his father. “He can’t apparate.”

“All we have is what Felix Willinson told us. We don’t know if he’s been truthful.”

Albus hadn’t thought of that. He needed to start thinking like an Auror.

Dad stood, held his wand out in front of him, and walked into the cave. As soon as he was gone, Albus shifted positions so he could see into the cave. Next, he reached into his pocket, pulled out an Extendable Ear, and inserted one end into his own ear.

Elsie Willinson was perched on top of a rock, glaring at her brother, who stood in the center of the cave with his wand pointed at a tall man who looked like an older version of Quinton Willinson. The man turned around at the sound of Dad’s footsteps and Albus noticed he had the run-down look of someone who had spent weeks or months on the run.

“Who the hell are you?” he shouted. Those were probably words Dad hadn’t ever heard in his life, Albus thought.

Elsie jumped off the rock and stepped toward her brother. “You! You told Professor Potter?”

“Yeah, I did,” Felix said, his wand still pointed at his cousin. “You’re in over your head, Elsie. This has gone far enough.”

“Mum and Dad are going to kill you,” Elsie growled.

Felix paled, but stood his ground. “I don’t know, Elsie. I seem to remember them telling you not to contact Paul. I remember them telling both of us that Paul was abroad and was to stay there.”

“That was before that Boone bloke got convicted!” Elsie shrieked. “It’s safe now!”

“Are you kidding, Elsie? It’ll never be safe.” He jabbed his wand toward Paul. “He murdered two people. Boone was only convicted of one murder. And how do you know he won’t do it again?”

There was definitely something wrong with Paul Willinson, Albus thought. The man hadn’t moved a muscle since turning toward Dad and wasn’t showing any reaction to his own cousin accusing him of murder. Albus knew his father had suspicions as well, since he wasn’t making any moves toward Paul.

“And it’s not like Professor Potter can do anything,” Elsie continued. “He’s not an Auror anymore.”

Albus heard footsteps and turned to see Dawlish and Johnson walking stealthily toward the cave. Both had their wands held out and both had looks of grim determination, although Albus thought he saw a glint of excitement in Dawlish’s face.

“Luckily he’s not alone,” Dawlish said as he and Johnson stepped into the cave.

Paul Willinson snapped out of whatever trance he’d been in, yanked Elsie toward him, and held her against his chest with his right arm, while he reached into his pocket with his left. Elsie screamed just as Paul pulled a small knife out of his pocket and held it against Elsie’s neck.

“Let her go!” Felix shouted as he ran toward Paul and Elsie. “Petrificus-“

Dad blocked Felix’s spell with a flick of his wand and sent Felix falling over backward. Dawlish and Johnson, neither of whom showed any shock at what had just happened, stepped closer to Paul.

“Stay back, Felix,” Dad said quietly.

“But-“ Felix began as he stood up.

“I said, stay back!” Dad shouted.

Felix paled and backed up until he reached the cave wall. He held his wand out in front of him, his wand arm trembling violently.

Elsie was crying and shaking. All the blood had gone from her face and Albus suspected if Paul weren’t holding her up, she would’ve collapsed.

“Paul, please let me go,” she whimpered. “Please, please….”

Felix had been right. His cousin was unstable. Very unstable. Albus wasn’t surprised, considering Paul murdered two people seemingly without cause.

“The family will disown you for this,” Elsie wailed. “You have to let me go. Please, Paul.”

“They’ve already disowned me,” Paul growled, “for being a squib.”

“They haven’t!” Elsie said. “They’ve been tr-trying to p-protect you!”

Paul laughed. “They’ve been trying to protect their name. What would happen to the great pureblood Willinson name if the world found out they had a squib in the family?”

It said a lot about pureblood society that having a squib in the family was seen as worse than having a murderer in the family, Albus thought.

“Paul,” Johnson began. “Let the girl go.”

“Why?” Paul demanded. “So you can arrest me?”

“Because she is your cousin,” Johnson said quietly. “She is your family. Whatever happens, nothing can change that.

No one said anything for a full two minutes. Then, without speaking, Paul released Elsie. She slid to the ground, sobbing uncontrollably. Dad rushed forward and pulled Elsie away from Paul, taking her to the far left side of the cave and sitting her down on a rock.

With a flick of his wand Johnson relieved Paul of the knife and floated it into an evidence back which he’d taken from the pocket of his robes. Almost simultaneously, Dawlish conjured a set of handcuffs, rushed forward, and slapped them onto Paul, who put up no fight.

“Paul Willinson,” Dawlish growled. “You are under arrest for the murder of Michael Sheldon.”


A/N: Thanks for all the reviews. Two more chapters to go!

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