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The winter holidays were over way too early for Albus’s liking, but he left the Burrow feeling very cheerful. It was a very enjoyable holiday. He got presents, played Quidditch, saw relatives, and best of all, gained a close bond of trust with David that wouldn’t break for a very, very, long time.

His mood was dimmed a bit the morning of his departure; however, since he didn't see his dad that morning as there had been something at work. But the rest of his family was there, and his mood brightened considerably when he saw the ruby red of the Hogwarts Express, with its steam rising up through the station. Hogwarts was his home away from home, and he couldn't wait to see his friends, mainly Art, again.

Albus, David, and Rose boarded the train, dragging their luggage (with some difficulty) behind them, and found a compartment for themselves. It was another ten minutes before Art finally found them, and after they greeted one another, Albus told him, “David told us.”

“He did?” Art said, his grin broadening. Art glanced back and forth between Albus and David's faces. “David, did you tell them everything?”

David nodded. “Yes. They even know about the playgroup from when I was younger.” Art seemed delighted, and hugged each of them in turn.

“And, I believe we have to give a very Happy Birthday to Mr. Arthur Gambeski, who is thirteen today,” Albus said, in his best newscaster voice. “May his birthday be met with happiness and fortune.”

“Cheers!” All four of them shouted at once, and mimed clinking glasses.

“Break was incredibly long this year,” Rose noted.

“Yes it was,” Albus said. “So what, shall we do for your birthday?”

“Anything from the trolley?” a woman asked, on perfect cue. Albus turned to everyone with a wicked smile on his face. They needed some way to celebrate Art’s birthday. This was it.

“We’ll take the lot,” Albus said, fishing out his money in his pocket. They all cheered.

The train ride passed quickly, probably because they were all partying and “time flies by when you’re having fun”. A decent sized party erupted in their tiny compartment. Marc and Rob both partied with them for a while, since they were his fellow Gryffindors. Nicole, a fellow Gryffindor, and her best friend Raven (who, ironically, was a Ravenclaw) stopped by to celebrate as well. Albus didn’t know them too well, only in classes, but Nicole seemed to know Rose. He suspected that Raven and Nicole were only there because of the candy, but they seemed nice enough.

Lindsay Jones and a friend of hers also joined their compartment for a while. Lindsay and Art knew each other pretty well from hanging out at the greenhouses with Professor Longbottom frequently, so as they celebrated, Albus got to talk to her some more.

“Do you know anything about Global Warming? Do you even know what it is?” Lindsay asked him after they talked for a short while.

“Erm, no,” Albus said, feeling a bit like an idiot. This was clearly something he was meant to know about.

“See? Wizards! Completely ignorant!” Albus awkwardly scratched his head, feeling a bit like an idiot but trying not to show it. He did know some stuff about the world… just nothing about this, evidently.

“I keep telling her she should stop offending every pureblood she meets, but so far it isn’t working,” Lindsay’s friend said. He was tall, taller than both Lindsay and Albus, with light brown complexion and a shaved head. His robe showed that he was a Hufflepuff student, and Albus vaguely remembered seeing him in his Herbology class.

“What’s your name again?” Albus asked politely.

“Oh, sorry, it’s Garrett, Garrett MacMillan,” he said, and the two of them shook hands.

“You’re Albus Potter, right?”

“Yeah,” Albus replied. He always felt a bit odd when people knew his name but he didn’t know theirs, and that was almost always the case as he was recognizably the son of his very famous father. But he was glad that Garrett didn’t automatically assume his name was Albus, choosing to instead confirm that it was the case, which immediately put him in a good place in Al’s book.

"Lindsay's very passionate about a lot of things," Garrett said.

Albus laughed. "I gathered."

"You do realize I'm standing right here, don't you?" Lindsay said, but she was grinning.

"What's your Quidditch team?" Garrett asked him.

"Oh, probably the Harpies. My mum played for them," Albus said.

"Rats, mine are the Arrows. It's hard-pressed to find fans of them these days."

"Better than the Cannons," Albus said, grinning, and they shared a laugh. They continued talking about Quidditch for a bit, as they both followed the professional league. Poor Lindsay looked a little lost, and she went over to talk to Art.

"We should probably get going," Garrett said a little while later,

“I’ll hopefully figure it out soon. See you Albus! See you Art, and Happy Birthday!”

Albus felt rather jolly himself. It was now 2019- a brand new year. One with no secrets, and hopefully just peace.

But Albus’s utopia didn’t last long. Near the end of the week (a day before his birthday!), Albus spilled pumpkin juice all over himself. The newspaper headline worried him. It summed up hell in ten words: FORCE OF ‘AT LEAST’ A THOUSAND DEMENTORS MASS IN ENGLAND.

Albus combed the article with his eyes. This was bad. Very bad.


Late Thursday evening, Head Auror Harry Potter stated in a press statement that “at least a thousand” dementors were massed together in a currently unknown location somewhere in England.

“Over the past few months, we’ve been given some peculiar reports about unusual activity among the dementors. However, it wasn’t until yesterday until we have had proof: the dementors within England are banding together and massing for the first time in decades. It is with great regret that I tell the wizarding world this news.

“Before anyone asks, I believe this is linked with the escape of the King Dementor. In his time, under the reign of Emeric the Evil, he was able to rally dementors together and create an army no one could fight. The patronus charm at that time was undiscovered, so it seemed impossible to fight the dementors. Today, however, we now have much more experience with combating dementors, and I am confident that we will be able to contain this threat.”

When asked how Britain’s wizarding community could protect themselves from potential attacks, Potter replied, “First of all, learn how to learn the patronus charm, if you have not learned the spell already. The Minsitry will be holding training sessions for any adult wizard who wishes to learn. More details will come soon. If you do know the spell, practice it. Sometimes a patronus will not be as strong if you haven’t cast it in years. Second of all, especially if you do not know the spell, work out a way to contact friends or family quickly who know how to cast a patronus so they can asisst you in times of need. In the meantime: stay calm and stay safe. I am confident that we will get through this crisis.”

Stay tuned to the Daily Prophet Wizarding Wireless for further developments.



Albus held the newspaper worriedly. The only plus seemed to be that this news came after the holidays, so it didn’t damper anyone’s holiday spirit. But that was a minor plus, especially considering that his birthday was the very next week. This would put a damper on it, he was sure.

So where in England were the dementors gathering? In order to hold a large number of dementors, it must be outside somewhere, in a huge open area. Or perhaps hidden? Underground, or on an island, or perhaps feigning as shadows in a forest? Suddenly, the task of finding dementors seemed much more difficult. He couldn't cover everyone. Regardless, Albus decided to try. Albus went upstairs to the dormitories, thinking quietly to himself, and took out his crystal ball that he got for Christmas. He zoomed in on open fields that would accomadate a large population of dementors. Nope, nope, nope…

Curious, Albus focused in on Azkaban. He knew Dementors hadn't been back there in years, but still, he had to check. He had never seen Azkaban before, not even from the outside, and even without dementors it looked foreboding. There was a thunderstorm, despite it being the middle of winter, and the fortress rose like a grey knarled tower, chucks of stone decaying and vines climbing up the walls. The little ground there was on the island was just a soggy, swampy mess. From the outside, all looked peaceful.

Albus zoomed in, trying to see if he could get inside. Surprsingly he could- the image slipped right through the bars, and Albus glanced around. The inside of the prison was even more decrepit than the outside and was filthy. On Azkaban, the color itself of the place seemed to be dulled, almost like it was in one of the black-and-white muggle films. (James showed him the old verision of muggle Dracula once, which was rather terrifying.)

The guards, however, were wearing blue uniforms that stood out starkly in the monotone grey of everything else. Albus only saw a few guards, and they were staring off into the distance, looking extremely bored.

But then one shouted. Once of the guards, some dark-haired man, had turned his head, and he seemed to be looking straight at Albus. Al wondered if there was maybe someone behind him, out of his current view. Al, still sitting comfortably in his dorm, used his finger to spin around 360 degress. No. There was no one else in this hallway besides him and the guards.

Albus couldn't tell what the guard had shouted- the globe didn't portray sound- but then Albus locked eyes with it. The guard was most definitely staring at him, and he was drawing his wand.

How? How was this happening? As the auror ran towards him through the crystal ball, his wand drawn and outstretched, Albus zoomed out in a panic until he was simply looking at the globe as a whole. He watched the swirling white of the clouds aboved the continents and tried to calm himself down. His heart was beating rapidly.

How had the auror sensed him? How did this ball work anyway? Suddenly, this globe seemed to good to be true. How could you spy on locations all over the world? Wouldn’t it be a security breach? What type of magic could do this? It was… unnatural.

What was this thing?

Albus wrapped it under some clothes so it wouldn’t break. Then he placed it at the bottom of his trunk, where hopefully it could lay there, forgotten and unbroken.

At least until he figured out what it was.


 

On Albus’s birthday next week, his “unnatural” crystal ball was still on his mind. Nevertheless, he smiled, pretended to enjoy his birthday, and snuck looks at the Daily Prophet. He operated under a facáde of cheerfulness, but inside he was withering with confusion. Was he and the auror locking eyes just some sort of illusion, maybe a trick of the light? Could he have imagined it?

Feigning happiness at the arrival of his thirteenth birthday was easy: he was excited for it, after all, it just wasn’t the most important thing on his mind right now. So Albus was surprised when Art confronted him as he played exploding snap with David. “What is up Albus?” Art said.

“Oh, you know,” Albus said, placing down another card, “I’m feeling great, like I’m on top of the world.”

Art let out a big, drawn out sigh. “No, I mean what is actually up Albus. You haven’t been yourself all morning. Or yesterday, for that matter.”

“What blew it?” Albus asked.

“Simply your acting skills. They’re terrible. That and your space-y eyes. It obvious your mind isn’t on your birthday, that’s for sure.”

“It’s that globe crystal ball thing I got for Christmas,” Albus said, and he proceeded to explain about what he had seen at Azkaban, as well as his nasty doubts taking ahold of his mind. He noticed Rose and David listening in, but he didn’t particularly care.

“But Uncle Harry and Aunt Ginny gave it to you, right?” Rose said. “Surely they would have thought about the same things you did?”

“But they never had any reason to doubt anything when they gave it to me,” Albus said.
“Write your dad a letter,” Rose suggested. “Tell him what you saw at Azkaban. Listen to him.”

“Alright,” Albus said, surprised he hadn’t thought of that early. His parents had even mailed him a letter with presents this morning, and he still didn’t think of that!

Albus finished up his game, and then went back up to the dormitory. He dipped his quill into his ink, and put on his thoughtful composure. What should he write? Albus started scratching words onto his piece of parchment.


Dear Mum and Dad,

Thank you so much for the birthday presents! I really like those keeper gloves you gave me. They’ll come in useful when I sub in for Peakes at practices, since I always have to borrow his pair.

I was using the crystal ball thing yesterday, just exploring, really, and I kind of stumbled on Azkaban. All I was doing was just exploring, and I thought no harm would be done, but then I saw in auror guard hrough the globe and I swear he looked right at me and drew his wand. Which then brings up the question: how does this magic that allows me to see different places in the world work? It doesn’t make much sense. I was wondering if you guys knew, since you’re the ones who bought it.

Love,

Albus



There. That looked satisfactory. Albus climbed up to the Owlery, where he found Godric hooting happily at seeing him.

“Hey, buddy,” Albus said, rubbing its head. “How are you?” Albus got a happy hoot in reply. He placed the letter in its beak. “Have fun on your trip,” Albus said, watching as it swooped up and down, above the glittering frozen lake. Time seemed to be in a stand-still, as Albus just gazed peacefully. He stared and stared, until a laughter from the grounds broke the moment. He took one glance back at the trees softly creaking in the chilly breeze, and Albus left.

Sending off the letter had calmed his mild panic, and thoughts of the crystal ball faded from his mind for now. Now he could finally focus on his thirteenth birthday.

The rest of the day was spent in celebration, and Albus didn’t even bother to do homework. He was elated he didn’t have any classes today, since it was Saturday. James was nice enough to give him some Honeydukes chocolate, from the last Hogsmeade visit.

“Thanks James,” Albus said as he bit into the chocolate. A second later, his head started shrinking.

“You’re welcome,” James said, smirking slightly. Albus shook his miniscule head, which was now the size of a snitch.

He was so going to get James.

 

With winter break behind him, schoolwork began to pick up quite a bit in January. The monday after his birthday was possibly one of his worst days yet, as he had three assignments due that day, and Professor Dire was as sour as ever.

"Mr. Potter, what is the incantation to turn an animal into a goblet?

Albus had his head on his desk and barely raised his eyes as he murmurred, "I don't know, sir." He prepared himself for the inevitable, disappointed look that Professor Dire gave him.

"Very well. Ms. Moyer?"

"I'm not sure, sir," she said. Raven Moyer was a Ravenclaw student who was picked on as often as Albus was. It rather, surprised him when he first met her, because he thought all the Ravenclaws were book-smart like Rose, but that simply didn't seem to be true.

"This material was on the required textbook reading for today," Professor Dire, his gaze flickering from Raven to Albus. Well, Albus didn't do the textbook readings for today, so he wasn't going to know. He was tempted to shout at Professor Dire to call on someone else, as most of the Ravenclaws and Rose all had their hands up. But like usual, Albus didn't say anything.

"Ms. Chandler?"

"Er, I believe it's Vera Verto, sir," Nicole said, looking a bit pale.

"Yes, that is correct," Professor Dire said as Nicole breathed a sigh of relief.

Albus was relieved when Transfiguration class was finally over, and he could finally go to lunch. He moodily bit into his sandwich, barely listening to David and Art talking next to him. Across from him, Rose was barely paying attention to her food, instead she was re-reading her Transfiguration book.

"Do you really have to read that thing five times a day?" Albus asked. He knew that it was a bit of an exaggeration, and he sounded a bit grouchy, but he didn't really care. Rose put the book down and gave Albus a stony book.

"You should pick up a book yourself, Albus," she said. "Honestly, most of the questions Professor Dire was asking were central topics in the textbook. They weren't difficult."

"I've given up on Transfiguration," Albus said. "I don't even know why Dire bothers to call on me. He knows I don't know it."

"And that's exactly why he calls on you all the time," Rose said. "He calls on people he knows, or think he knows, don't know the answer. It's what he does. So, if you don't want to be called on all the time, try reading the book for once." Rose closed A Beginner's Guide to Transfiguration and passed it across the table to Albus.

"I told you, I've given up. Professor Dire hates me."

"He doesn't hate you, Albus. Don't you realize what he's doing? By calling on you, he's trying to push you into reading and learning more. He's hoping you'll try harder in order to not get called on. That's what the rest of us do. I study more for Transfiguration than any of my other classes simply so I don't go under his wrath. But you know what? I now know Transfiguration better than any other subject."

"Fine," Albus said, and he opened up the book to beginning reading the chapter that they had to read for Wednesday. He began reading, his eyes ocassionaly glazing over the page. It wasn't his fault that Transifugration was a boring subject to begin with. He wished it was like Potions.

After a few minutes of this, a welcome distraction came, quite literally, flying in. Godric was back, with a letter. After softly petting his owl, Albus finally unraveled the letter from his parents about the strange globe.


Dear Albus,

First of all, you're welcome for the keeper gloves! I'm glad you find them useful.
I asked Ginny where she bought the globe from, and apparently she bought it from one of the peddlers in Diagon Alley. So I'm afraid there's not really any way of tracking its origin. If you want, you can send the globe to me, and I can look over it for you. But I must warn you, examining complex magical objects isn't my speciality.

I think it's more likely, however, that you simply imagined the auror was looking at you. According to reports that I just dug up, one of the aurors spotted a dementor at Azkaban sometime last week, so maybe you were there around that time. I wouldn't worry.

Hope all is well,

Dad



Albus contemplated his father's letter. He didn't exactly want to send his father the globe, because, as his dad said, examining magical objects wasn't his speciality. In addition, if his mum, who was perhaps a better expert than anyone when it came to enchanted items didn't think the globe was suspicious when she gave it to Albus, then he doubted they would find anything. No, better it stayed with him than with them.

Yet looking back, he now thought he didn't imagine the auror staring at him, and there definitely hadn't been a dementor around. Albus had looked all around him in all directions. No, the auror had somehow seen him. But he hadn't reported it. Why? Why wouldn't he report it?

Albus left the Great Hall still deep in thought when he was on his way to Potions with Professor Fawley. Luckily, Albus could probably make potions in his sleep, and so he was able to still make the Potion that they were making today, which was ironically sleeping draught. He thought about his crystal ball or globe-like contraption (he really needed to think of a better name for it) as he crushed lavendar in the mortar. As he scraped the lavender paste out and dumped it into his cauldron, he made his decision.

"Rose," he whispered across the table. "I need your help. I want us to go to the library and see if there has ever been anything made like my globe before." Albus quickly explained the situation under his breath.

"Okay," Rose whispered back as Professor Fawley came around to their table.

"Albus, you're letting this stew too long," he informed him.

"Oh, sorry sir," Albus said, and thoughts of the globe quickly faded as he worked to rectify the situation. For the rest of the class he focused on creating his Sleeping Draught, which after he fixed his mistake, he got full marks on. Like usual. After making an incredibly difficult potion in his free time last year, the Invisible Poison, Potions was now the easiest subject at Hogwarts.

At the end of the day, Rose and Albus finally headed off towards the library to see if there had been anything similar to Albus's globe ever made.

"What are you guys doing?" David asked as Albus and Rose headed off after Defense Against the Dark Arts. Albus quickly explained the situation to both him and Art.

"Are you sure that your dad's not right? That it really is nothing?"

"I locked eyes with the auror," Albus said. "I can't make that up."

"Okay then," Art said. "Lead the way, Albus."

They started by looking through Top 100 Magical Artifacts. Rose knew the library better than any of them, so she searched the shelves for anything that might help them, and Albus, David, and Art read. Try as they might, none of them could find a description that even resembled the globe that Albus had.

"It's probably one-of-a-kind," Art suggested.

"But there has to have been some sort of similar object, imbued with similar magic," Rose argued. "We'll find something that is close."

By the end of the day, they still hadn't found anything. Try as they might, it seemed like Albus's globe really was one-of-a-kind.

"I'm sorry, Albus," Rose told him. "I can look through more books over the next few weeks."

"It's fine," Albus said, smiling at her. "It's not the first time we've come up short, is it?" Last year they had searched every issue of the Daily Prophet in recent history for the name Lord Zajecfer, and they hadn't found anything. Albus still didn't know why.

"We'll figure out it out, Albus, sooner or later. Maybe your dad can take a look at it over Easter break, since you'll be home anyway."

"Easter is forever away, but alright. That's not a bad idea."

"Just keep it safe, Al, and don't use it," Art suggested.

"Yeah, it's buried at the bottom of my trunk at the moment," Albus said.

With that, the rest of them didn't have much to say to each other. David cracked jokes with them on the way back up to the dormitories, and Al was grateful for the attempt to lighten the mood. After a brief argument about the Wimbourne's Wasps chances in the Quidditch match against the Falcons, Al finally headed to bed.

He fell asleep, dreaming confusedly of dementors on broomsticks peering through crystal balls. He had to catch the quaffle… it was right in front of the dementor…

When he woke up, he barely remembered the dream at all.

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