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Apologies for the delay in getting to this story.
Staying with Derek was a lot less daunting now Albus was a little more familiar with the Muggle world's wide range of technologies, ideas and traditions, which until last summer, he'd rarely even heard of outside Rose's stories of visits to her Muggle grandparents.
Now he'd stayed in a Muggle home and seen the TV shows, some of which were like photographs, others more like drawings that actually moved. He'd used the internet, which according to Rose, contained information on practically every aspect of Muggle life, but which he and Derek preferred to use for games or music or watching films.
It was just a pity you couldn't play Quidditch on it.
"I said that to Mum," Derek agreed when he mentioned it, "but she doesn't think it'd sell too well. After all, wizards don't usually use computers. Well, most of them don't." He laughed.
"Couldn't Muggles play it to? They wouldn't have to know it was real. I mean they've games like that one you showed me with the dragons, right?"
"Yeah, but she said Quidditch is a bit complicated. If it were just sort of basketball on brooms, it'd be different, but with the Snitch and Bludgers and all..." He trailed off. "And she said people might think the Bludgers a bit violent, though that seems pretty silly, when you think of some of the stuff out there."
Albus glanced at him questioningly and Derek shrugged.
"I'm not allowed to play the really graphic stuff, but I'm pretty sure it's not just about knocking people off brooms. More like killing loads of people or torture or stuff. I don't know."
Albus shuddered. Torture and violence made him think of the war and all the half-stories he'd heard about that. The stories were bad enough. The last thing he'd want was to have to see it.
"Muggles play games about that?"
"Some do." He shrugged again. "There are games about nearly everything."
"It looks that way." Albus glanced through the rows of games that lined the room.
They were just choosing one when Derek's father entered the room.
"Don't tell me you're still staring at that computer!" He shook his head disapprovingly. "The sun is shining outside, you know. You should go out and have a kickabout or something."
"Daad," Derek complained, rolling his eyes. "You know I hate football."
"Well, what about cricket then? You didn't use to be too bad at that. Unless you've forgotten it all after a couple of years at Hogwarts."
"Of course I haven't." He glanced at Albus. "I don't suppose you're too familiar with cricket, are you?"
Albus shook his head. He'd a basic understanding of football and tennis and had at least heard of rugby and golf, but cricket was a new one.
"Really?" Derek's dad sounded surprised. "Well, we'll have to rectify that. Of course, we'd need a lot more people than this for an actual game, but we can at least teach him some of the basics, don't you think, Derek?"
"Do you mind?" Derek glanced at Albus apologetically.
"Of course not. Anyway, Grandpa Weasley would kill me if I missed a chance to learn about the Muggle world. He's really interested, you see," he added shyly to Derek's father.
"Well, we'll give you something else to tell him about. Come on out now. Better for you than staring at a computer all day anyway. You know, they say it's the cause of a lot of this obesity crisis."
The game actually seemed like rather good practice for being a Seeker, he decided. Of course, catching a ball on the ground was very different from tracking the tiny Snitch through the air, but it was the closest you could probably manage in a Muggle area and it certainly replicated the need for a good eye and quick reflexes.
There were bats too, though apparently these weren't used for the protection of the players.
"Muggle games aren't quite as dangerous as wizarding ones," Derek explained laughing. "That's why Mum said the Bludgers seemed so violent. After all, without magic, it really wouldn't be a good idea to have people falling hundreds of feet or hitting heavy objects at each other."
"Even with magic, I can't say I'd miss the Bludgers too much if they were removed from Quidditch," Albus admitted. He loved Quidditch, but the Bludgers were intimidating.
"Yeah, I'd be more inclined to try out if it wasn't for them," Derek agreed.
They continued playing a while longer, before returning to Derek's room to watch a film.
"I can't believe you've never seen this before." Derek sounded amazed.
"Well, wizards don't usually watch TV much. Unless they're Muggleborn or something. Dad did grow up in the Muggle world, but I don't think he got to watch much TV, so I guess he just never really got into it. You know?"
Albus shrugged. "I don't think his aunt and uncle treated him very well. I don't really know the details, but they're not close. He doesn't really talk about it much."
"Yeah, I think it was." He shrugged again, unsure if he should say anymore. It was his father's personal business after all.
Derek seemed to understand. Or perhaps he was simply uncomfortable with the topic. Either way, he turned on the film and the rest of the evening passed peacefully.
The week was a fast one and it seemed like no time until Friday, when Albus's father came to collect him.
"Did you have a good time?" he asked.
"Yeah." Albus grinned. He'd missed his family, of course, but it was fun to spend some time with Derek.
"Thank you so much for having him." Albus's father shook hands with Derek's mother.
"You're welcome." She smiled. "Have you a moment to come inside? My husband was looking forward to meet you and sharing a few experiences."
"I'd be delighted. You don't mind, do you, Albus?"
He shook his head and he and Derek followed his father through to the kitchen.
"Ah, good to meet you again." Derek's father rose to shake his hand and the two men settled down to a long discussion, comparing law enforcement in the Muggle and magical worlds.
"Does it make things more difficult that the entire population is essentially armed?" Derek's father was asking.
Albus's father thought for a moment. "I'm not sure. The sort of criminals we deal with would probably have access to weaponry in just about any world, I think. After all, we're not dealing with the ordinary housebreaker or cases of domestic violence. Those sort of things come under the jurisdiction of the ordinary Magical Law Enforcement Patrol. Those we are dealing with would be closer to our equivalent of terrorists or criminal gangs. And of course we have the benefit of being able to use wands ourselves. I'd imagine unarmed policing requires a good deal of diplomacy."
"I think any form of law enforcement does. After all, you never want force to be the first response, do you?"
"Not harmful force, no, but wands can be used for a good deal more than Muggle weapons can, you know. Disarming for example is a spell I've always found particularly handy. And of course, the summoning spell can be rather useful when it comes to searches."
"What are the rules about that, actually?" Derek's father asked. "Do you need some kind of warrant to use it?"
Albus tuned out. He'd no doubt Rose would find it fascinating, but he'd had enough of mysteries. Not that his second year had been too bad, he supposed. It had been Rose who'd faced Fairfax and Dora and while it had been scary to think of somebody tampering with the Wolfsbane, it hadn't really affected him directly.
But it would be nice to have a year when nobody was hiding anything significant, a year when nobody proved themselves untrustworthy. Especially with Lily starting Hogwarts in September. He wanted her to have a good time there, not to have to wonder if somebody was targeting her or if a teacher or classmate could be trusted.
He was still pondering what her first year might be like when his father's voice interrupted his thoughts.
"Ready to go home?"
He jumped to his feet.
"Yeah, I'm ready. See you in a few weeks, Derek."
"Don't forget to owl," Derek reminded him.
"I won't. You don't either, OK?"
They said their goodbyes and then Albus and his father headed to a quiet place from where his father could escort him home by Side-Along Apparition.
"You might find the house a bit full when we get back." His father grinned at him as they approached the house.
Albus sighed. He'd been hoping to spend some time alone with his family. He hadn't seen them for a week after all. Not that that was so long, but it was a good chunk out of the holidays when he spent most of the year at Hogwarts.
His father laughed. "Don't look so disappointed. I don't think you'll mind so much."
"Who is it?" he asked.
"Well, to be honest, I'm not even sure if they're still there. I spent rather longer than I'd intended chatting to Mr. Thompson."
"You did." Albus grinned at him.
"But before I left, Hermione arrived with Rose and Hugo."
Albus felt himself relax. Hermione and her family didn't count as company. They were family.
"Hey," Rose greeted him as he entered the house. "Did you have a good time? How's Derek?"
"He's fine. He's off to Spain with his family next week. Though Dad spent so long talking to his father about Muggle policing, I thought they'd miss their flight."
"I wasn't that long," his father interrupted.
"Well, my mum's out in the kitchen going on about this new werewolf employment legislation. Don't get me wrong, I think it's a great idea and all, but I've heard about virtually nothing else since we got our holidays."
"Teddy's had a lot to say about it too," Albus said, laughing. "I guess it is kind of important though. I mean..." He trailed off.
"Yes, I know," she agreed. "It could change people's lives completely. I just wish they could iron out the loopholes."
"Politics tends to be like that," Albus's father said. "I don't know if we'll ever completely rid the world of injustice. Anyway, come on. I'm sure your mum wants to see you again, Albus."
They entered the kitchen and his mother beckoned Albus towards him.
"How are you?" she asked.
Hermione smiled at him. "I hope you'd a good week."
"Yeah, I did."
She turned to his father. "I was just telling Ginny about my meeting with Neil Callaghan from the Irish Ministry. He's very interested in our Werewolf Employment Legislation. He wants to introduce something similar in Ireland, but he's not having much luck, I'm afraid. Apparently many of his colleagues feel it would be 'too controversial'." She rolled her eyes.
Albus's father shrugged his shoulders. "Well, smaller community, more of an interest in social cohesion."
"Too small sometimes," she said. "They're always like this. To hear them talk, you'd think there was no blood prejudice over there either. Now, I'll admit they may have less of a problem with that. The magical community there is so small that purebloods can't really isolate themselves as they do here and of course, the country doesn't have the same history of witch trials, so that's made a difference, but they talk as if the issue doesn't exist at all and that is not true."
"There's prejudice everywhere," Albus's father agreed. "But you've introduced legislation that's being discussed internationally. That's got to be a good start."
Albus sighed with impatience. He'd been looking forward to talking to his parent and telling them all about his week at Derek's, but it looked like there wasn't much chance until Hermione left.
He got up.
"Do you know where James and Lily are?" he asked Rose quietly.
She shrugged. "Outside, I think. I don't know."
"Let's go and find them."
James, Lily and Hugo were sitting outside in the garden.
"Shut up," Lily yelled at James. "I'm not listening and I don't believe you anyway."
"Suit yourself." He grinned. "You'll find out soon enough."
"Albus!" Lily called him to them. "What happens if you get a detention at Hogwarts?"
"Well, I haven't got any yet," he said and James rolled his eyes, "but I think you usually have to do some task for the teachers, like helping them clean their classrooms or maybe helping Neville with some plant or something."
"SEE!" She turned to James triumphantly. "I knew they wouldn't make students fight dragons."
"No, you didn't," he crowed. "Otherwise, you wouldn't have had to ask him."
Rose glared at him. "Leave her alone! You'd Albus absolutely terrified when he started Hogwarts and it's not fair. Ignore him, Lily. He just likes scaring people."
"I know that," she said defensively.
Albus sat down beside her. She'd been looking forward to starting Hogwarts ever since James's first year, but he knew it could still be frightening when the time actually came. And it wasn't easy to admit to being scared, not when your parents had fought in the last war and taken on the most evil wizard since Grindelwald.
"Most of the teachers are pretty nice really," he told her. "They don't give detentions that often."
"Not to you anyway," James scoffed. "How on earth could I have a brother who went two years without a single detention? Even Rose got one last term."
"Did you?" Lily glanced at her in surprise.
She shrugged. "I hexed somebody who'd been really asking for it. For a long time."
Hugo got up and headed for the house.
"Where's he going?" Albus glanced after him. He'd been very quiet since Rose and Albus had joined them.
"Probably fed up with the Hogwarts talk," Rose said. "He really wishes he was starting this year too. After all, if his birthday had just been a couple of weeks earlier."
"Poor Hugo," Albus said.
"He'll get over it." She shrugged.
"I sort of wish he was starting this year too," Lily said.
Albus imagined starting Hogwarts without Rose. It didn't bear thinking about.
"It's only one year," he said awkwardly. "And you will have fun."
He started to tell her all the good stuff about Hogwarts, the Quidditch matches and the feasts at Hallowe'en and the start of term. He told her about some of the things they learnt and about the nicer teachers.
It wasn't hard to think of things to say, because life at Hogwarts was fun. After two years there, he could now definitely admit that.
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