Disclaimer- I don't own Harry Potter.
Matt didn't return to the common room until Sunday afternoon. Albus and his friends had spent most of the weekend doing homework and playing rounds of Exploding Snap. Kaden made himself scarce and Albus hardly saw him at all. Albus vaguely wondered where he was, but he didn't really think about it much. All that mattered was that Kaden wasn't hanging around Albus anymore. Albus and his friends didn't get a chance to tell Matt about what Kaden told Malfoy while he was in the hospital wing because it had been very crowded that weekend. Apparently, quite a few students had decided to practice their dueling for the upcoming match while they were unsupervised in the corridor. This caused Madam Pomfrey to have an awful lot to do. She looked very frazzled when Albus and the others visited Matt on Saturday.
Albus was sitting in the common room with the others, doing homework, when Matt returned from the Hospital Wing. He still looked a bit tired and the cuts on his face weren't completely healed yet, but he looked much better than he had on Thursday. Albus closed his book and glanced at his friends when Matt came through the portrait hole.
"What's with you lot?" Matt asked, "You're awfully quiet."
"We've, er, got to tell you something," Albus replied quietly, "Let's go to the Room." Albus got up and left the common room. His friends all followed, not saying a word. Albus led them down the seventh floor corridor until they reached the painting of Barnabas the Barmy. Albus paced three times in front of it and opened the door that appeared. It looked just like it did whenever Albus or his friends asked for a place where they could be alone. There were a few squashy armchairs and couches, a fireplace, and it was decorated in scarlet and gold.
"Ok, so what's this all about?" Matt asked immediately, once the door was shut.
"Why don't you sit down?" Rose suggested.
Matt sat down on one of the couches and looked nervously at the others. "You look like my parents did when they told me I couldn't go to school in Australia."
"Well, we're obviously not going to tell you that," Albus gave a half-hearted laugh as he sat down on a chair. Rose, John, and Amanda sat down as well.
"Well, get on with it," Matt said.
"All right," Albus began, "You've probably noticed that Kaden isn't around."
"Yeah, I thought that was a bit odd," Matt commented, "What's he done now?"
Albus sighed, "I don't really know the best way to say this. Kaden, er, for some reason was talking to Scorpius Malfoy-"
"Malfoy?!" Matt interrupted with a look of shock on his face.
"It gets worse," Albus continued, "You know how I told Kaden that you get sick every once in a while, so he would shut up last month?"
"And I made him promise not to tell anyone," Albus said quickly, "But for some reason he told Malfoy."
Matt sank back into his chair and his face went chalk white. Albus was glad Rose told him to sit down, because if he hadn't have been sitting he probably would have fainted. Albus watched as Matt processed the information. After a few moments he asked very quietly, "What did he tell Malfoy?"
"That you've got some kind of wizard disease that Madam Pomfrey can't cure," Albus answered. "And Malfoy put two and two together and figured out that you don't visit your sick gran."
"Oh, no," Matt closed his eyes and started rubbing his head, "This isn't good. Malfoy can't find out, he just can't."
"We're going to try and make sure he doesn't," John said adamantly.
"But you can't really stop him! All he's got to do is a bit of research and he'll know everything," Matt moaned.
"Maybe he'll be too lazy to bother," Amanda suggested.
"There's another thing," Albus started, "Kaden may have also told him about the Whomping Willow."
"No, he can't have, he just can't," Matt whispered.
"We don't know for sure," Albus reminded him, "I'm watching the Marauder's Map and if we see Malfoy anywhere near the tree, we'll go hex him or something."
Matt nodded, "You know, if Malfoy finds out and tells anyone, chances are I'll have to leave."
"No, you won't," Rose assured him.
"How do you know?"
"Rose is right," Albus agreed, "When the Marauders were in school, Snape found out about Teddy's dad and he still got to stay in school. Dumbledore made him promise not to tell anyone. I'm sure Kendrick would do the same thing."
"I sure hope so," Matt sighed, "What about Kaden?"
"Rose had to stop me and John from hexing him," Albus explained, "But I yelled at him quite a bit. Haven't seen him much since and I don't really want to."
"But he's your cousin," Matt said.
"Doesn't matter," Albus assured him, "I hardly saw him at all until he started coming here. I told him not to tell anyone and he did, so I can't trust him anymore. And no one's going to convince me to apologize this time."
"All right," Matt replied. "Let's stay here for a while. I think if I saw Kaden right now I'd have to hex him."
Rose groaned, "What is with boys? Do you always have to hex people to solve your problems?"
"It's a proven fact that hexing works best when dealing with Slytherins," John grinned.
"Kaden's not a Slytherin," Rose commented.
"What he did was a pretty Slytherin thing to do," Albus replied. Nobody argued with that.
The weekend before Halloween was a very exciting one for the students at Hogwarts. There was the first Hogsmeade visit on Saturday, which the older students were very excited about. Albus, of course, wasn't allowed to go since he was a second year. James made sure to lord this over him at every moment possible during the week preceding the visit. James would be going on his first Hogsmeade visit, and Albus was sure that Hogwarts would be treated to a variety of pranks following. When James and his friends returned from Hogsmeade, they ran into the common room with their bags bulging with what could only be Weasley's products, and quickly stowed it all in their dormitory. Sure enough, at dinner that night, the student body was treated to a very entertaining meal. Somehow, James and his friends had managed to sneak a potion into the Slytherins' food that caused their hair and fingernails to turn scarlet and gold. The rest of the school laughed hysterically as the Slytherins tried to figure out how to turn their hair and nails back to normal.
"Nothing will change it," James informed the Gryffindor table in between fits of laughter, "Uncle George told me it will wear off within 24 hours, though."
"Too bad it's not permanent!" John laughed.
"I was going to save it for the day of the Quidditch match," James explained, "But I just couldn't wait."
"I can't blame you," Albus grinned. He looked up at the staff table and saw his dad trying to stifle his laughter, but he wasn't succeeding. The other members of the staff were smiling slightly, except for Slughorn, who was looking a bit distraught at the sight of his house decked out in Gryffindor colors.
The following day was the first dueling tournament for the junior dueling club. The older students had already had their first tournament the previous weekend. Albus's cousin Stanley's team had won. The tournament was to take place immediately following lunch, at one o'clock, and the second, third, and fourth years were filled with excitement about it.
"What if we have to duel each other?" Albus said worriedly at lunch. "I really don't want to duel you lot."
"I don't either," John agreed, "But we might have to. It'll be all right. None of us know any spells that could do any lasting damage. I'm just hoping I get to duel Malfoy."
"Me, too," Matt agreed.
"I almost wish first years could join the dueling club, so I could duel Kaden," Albus commented, "I wouldn't mind beating him in front of the entire school."
"I'm probably just going to lose, no matter who I duel," Amanda sighed, "The only thing I can do is disarm someone, and I'm not even that good at that."
"Sure you are," Albus assured her, "And if you duel a second year, or even a third year, you'll have a chance at winning. Fourth years, on the other hand, I'm not sure any of us have got a chance at winning a duel with one of them. They probably know all sorts of spells we don't."
"Albus," Rose began, "Remember that the teams have people from all years on them. I don't think any team has an advantage over another."
"I guess," Albus agreed, "But I still wish there were House teams. I don't like being on the same team with Malfoy."
"Me neither," Amanda said.
"We wind up practice dueling with each other every meeting," Albus explained, "And neither of us has really won any of them."
"You're both really good duelers," Amanda replied. "You're going to beat anyone you're up against, Albus."
"I'm not sure about that," Albus said.
"Attention!" Professor Kendrick stood up, "The junior dueling tournament will commence shortly. Please make your way to the dueling chamber."
Albus stood up, "Well, good luck everyone." Albus's friends all wished each other good luck as they got up and left the Great Hall. It was a bit odd being on separate teams, Albus thought. He wished his friends good luck, but he wanted his own team to win.
Albus and Amanda quickly lost the others in the sea of students filing into the dueling chamber near the Great Hall. They found Kate at one of the tables that had been set up for each team to wait at. Their team name, The Dueling Dragons, was written on a piece of parchment that was stuck to the table. There was a realistic looking dragon breathing fire drawn on it. Scorpius Malfoy was sitting scowling at one end of the table, his hair still bright scarlet and gold. Albus and Amanda stifled their laughter and sat down on the opposite end. A few minutes later, once everyone on their team had arrived, Kate began to speak.
"Attention!" she shouted and the table became quiet, "Thanks. The tournament will start in a couple minutes. I'm sure we'll do great. Everyone remember what you've learned within the past month and you'll do fine. Just do your best and even if you don't win today, there's still next time. I know this inter-house team thing is hard, but I think everyone here has really come together to work as a team, and I'm proud of all of you for that. So, with that, good luck!" Kate sat back down and started talking to one of the other fourth years on the team.
A minute later, Professor Kendrick stood up at the front of the room and raised his hands for quiet. The room fell silent and he began to speak. "Welcome to the first Dueling Tournament for the Juniors Dueling Club. This is the first of six qualifying tournaments of the year. At the end of the year, the top two teams will face off in a final tournament. There will be two duels going on simultaneously, with Professors Potter and Longbottom presiding over them. Every student will duel twice today. The winner of each duel will be awarded one point. At the end of the tournament, the team with the most points will be declared the winner. The points will role over to each tournament, after the sixth tournament, the two teams with the most points will face off in the final. Now, each captain was given a list of duels for today, so I will give you a few minutes to get organized and for the captains to inform their teams of the schedule. Good luck to all."
Kate quickly went over the schedule with her team. Albus's first duel was about halfway down the list and his second was the third to last. The only thing he could do now was wait until his turn came. Albus was growing steadily more nervous as time wore on. What if he lost? Malfoy would never let him live that down. Albus watched the first couple of duels while talking with Amanda. After a few duels, James's turn came and he lost to a Ravenclaw fourth year. Rose was up next and she easily beat her third year Slytherin opponent. Quite a few of Albus's teammates had dueled by now and most of them had won. Before long, Amanda's turn was up. Albus wished her luck and she went nervously to the dueling ring that Neville was watching over.
Amanda was up against a second year Hufflepuff and the first part of the duel consisted of each of them mostly dodging the spells sent towards them. Eventually, Amanda managed to disarm her opponent and won. She came back grinning ear to ear. Kate congratulated her as she sat back down next to Albus.
"Great job!" Albus smiled, "Told you you could do it."
"Thanks," Amanda grinned.
Matt was up next against a Slytherin fourth year. The duel hardly lasted two minutes before the Slytherin used an advanced spell that caused Matt to slam into the wall behind him. Harry quickly disarmed the Slytherin and disqualified him. Professor Cedonia took Matt to the hospital wing while Harry assigned the Slytherin a couple detentions.
"What a git," Albus growled, "I hope Matt's ok."
"He'll be fine," Amanda assured him, "I think he just cut his arm a bit."
"Yeah, but still," Albus continued, "That Slytherin knew he couldn't use spells like that."
"I could have blocked it," Malfoy announced.
"No you couldn't," Albus shot back. "And how's the hair?"
Malfoy scowled and turned away from Albus. A moment later his name was called and he was off to duel a fellow Slytherin. It was a very fast paced duel. Both of them were excellent duelers, but Malfoy won in the end. Albus was not sure whether to be happy about this or not. He didn't have long to dwell on it, though, because a minute later, he was called.
Albus walked nervously to the dueling ring where Neville was and he faced his Ravenclaw opponent. He was dueling Carter Eubert, a fellow second year.
"Both of you know the rules," Neville said to them, "You can start when I let out red sparks."
Albus and Carter bowed to each other and took a dueling stance. Neville's wand shot out red sparks and the duel began. Albus sent out a disarming spell, but Carter easily blocked it. Carter then sent one at Albus, but Albus was able to block it as well. This went on for five minutes, each of them sending spells that the other blocked. Eventually, Albus managed to hit Carter with a tickling hex that had him bent over in laughter. Albus took advantage of this and disarmed him easily. He had done it! He won!
"Point goes to Potter," Neville announced. Albus and Carter shook hands and went back to their teams.
"Good job, Albus!" Kate grinned as Albus sat down.
"Thanks," Albus replied.
"That was amazing dueling, Albus," Amanda greeted him, "Carter's good, too, but that tickling thing was great. He could hardly move."
"I'll have to remember that if I ever duel him again," Albus said.
The afternoon wore on and Albus found himself getting a bit bored with watching the dueling. It was taking all afternoon. John dueled Albus's cousin, Cedric, and lost. Albus wasn't surprised by this, as Cedric was an excellent dueler. Rose and Malfoy each won their second duels, while John and Amanda lost theirs. Matt returned from the hospital wing in time for his second duel, but wound up losing to his third year Ravenclaw opponent. Albus dueled a third year Gryffindor in his second duel and narrowly won. His opponent did not look happy about this. Malfoy also won his second duel, which was against a third or fourth year Hufflepuff; Albus wasn't sure which.
Eventually, all the duels finished and Professor Kendrick stood up once again. "Great dueling, everyone! You all did a wonderful job. Now, to announce the winner. I am pleased to announce that the Flying Phoenixes, captained by Barty Heath of Slytherin have come in first place with 23 points! Thank you, everyone. The next tournament will take place at the end of November or beginning of December. Your captains will be informed of the exact date as it comes closer."
"We'll win next time," Kate assured her team as they got up. "See everyone at practice on Wednesday."
Albus and Amanda made their way out of the room, but realized they would never find their friends in the crowd. "We'll meet them in the common room," Albus said as they started up the stairs.
When they got to the common room, it was already full with students rehashing parts of the duel. Albus noticed Kaden listening to James's account of his duels. James had won his second duel and appeared to be very proud of it. Albus and Amanda ignored Kaden and found John and Matt sitting at their usual table. Albus and Amanda sat down and a few moments later were joined by Rose, who was glowing.
"Congratulations!" Albus announced as his cousin sat down. The others echoed his word.
"Thanks," Rose replied, "I wasn't sure we were going to win. Heath isn't the greatest captain. I think we just have naturally good duelers on our team. Carter is amazing, although not as good as you, Albus."
"I'm just glad I beat him," Albus grinned, "Malfoy wouldn't have shut up about it otherwise."
"Glad I'm not on his team," John muttered, "Can't believe I lost both my duels."
"You'll do better next time," Albus assured him.
"At least you didn't wind up in the hospital wing," Matt commented, "I'm the only one that did. Figures."
John laughed a bit at this, "I think you've got some kind of attraction for that place."
"Oh shut it," Matt replied.
"That wasn't your fault, though," Rose pointed out, "That Slytherin wasn't supposed to use that hex on you."
"You're ok now, right?" Amanda asked.
"Oh, yeah, I'm fine," Matt assured him, "Madam Pomfrey healed my arm in an instant, but she was fretting over me as usual. Professor Cedonia convinced her to let me go back for my second duel."
"Good," Amanda said, "I like Professor Cedonia. She reminds me of the teachers I had in primary school."
"And no exams!" John grinned. Albus liked this as well. So far, the only grades they had in that class were from essays they had been assigned as homework. Cedonia had not given them a single in class test.
"I'm not sure I like that," Rose sighed. The four other students looked at her like she was mental.
"Are you mad?" Albus asked.
"How is she supposed to know if we've mastered the charms if she doesn't test us?"
"She watches us in class to see if we've improved," Albus replied.
"And those essays for homework," Matt commented.
"But those aren't at all what the O.W.L.s will be like," Rose reminded them, "We've got to get used to taking exams in charms."
"Those are three years away!" John sighed.
"Two and a half," Rose corrected him, "And it's better to start preparing early."
"All I know is that I've learned more charms this year than last year," Albus said.
"Well, I'm going to ask her about it on Tuesday," Rose replied.
"No!" Albus and the others shouted at the same time. Albus liked Cedonia's style of teaching and he didn't want her to start giving them exams like the other teachers did. Without charms exams, Albus had less to worry about. Hopefully, Cedonia would ignore Rose's pleas for exams and continue the way she had been.
A/N: Thanks to my beta, Dancer_of_Starlight! Thanks as well to XDNLxtlz99, sinwillys822, potterfan89, Luke, Denas, ladymblack, and Moonylupin for their reviews!
Disclaimer- I don't own Harry Potter.
Albus was helping himself to some pumpkin juice when the post arrived on Tuesday morning. He looked up and noticed a small brown owl flying towards him. He immediately recognized it as Victoire's owl. "Victoire's sent me something," Albus announced as the owl landed next to his plate. Albus took the letter and gave the owl a piece of toast before it flew off.
"Look, it's addressed to all of us," Rose commented as she glanced at the letter.
Albus turned the envelope over, wondering what it could be about. Victoire had sent him a couple letters so far this year, most of them sent along with Amy's letters to Matt. These usually arrived a couple days after the full moon, as Amy always wanted to know how Matt was. Since the full moon had been a few weeks ago, Albus was curious as to what Victoire had to tell them. He opened the letter and began to read it. Rose, Matt, John, and Amanda read it over his shoulder.
Dear Albus, Matt, Rose, John, and Amanda,
How have you been? I hope you're enjoying classes and not making too
much trouble. Congratulations on your successes in the dueling tournament,
especially you, Rose. I hope there are many great victories to come. Good
luck in your first Quidditch match, Albus. We hope to be able to attend, but
it depends on work and healer training schedules.
Training has been going well. We've been attending classes in the morning
and training at St. Mungo's in the afternoon, like always. Teddy has been
very busy with Auror training as well.
By now you're probably wondering why we're writing to you now, as it's not
our usual time to write. We're not sure if you read the Prophet regularly,
which is why we're telling you this in a letter. Quinton Willinson was
Albus immediately stopped reading the letter and glanced at his friends. As Albus fell back into his school routine, he had almost forgotten about Washburn and the Willinsons. He felt his fear come back as soon as he read that Willinson had been spotted. Albus returned his eyes to the letter without saying anything.
He was spotted in a Muggle village in Southern England, quite far from Hogwarts. The Aurors are already on his tail and are tracking him this very
minute. Teddy heard about it while he was at training, and we decided to
give you a heads up. Uncle Harry will probably tell you as well.
Don't worry about it too much. He can't get into Hogwarts and Uncle Harry
has it under control. Good luck with Quidditch, dueling, and classes, and we
hope to see you soon.
Victoire, Teddy, and Amy
"I'd nearly forgotten about Willinson," John said darkly after they'd finished reading the letter.
"Me, too," Albus agreed.
"It explains why Professor Potter isn't here," Matt commented.
Albus looked up at the staff table and noticed that his father was missing. "Guess so."
"Don't worry," Rose said, "I mean, it's kind of good that someone spotted him. Before they had no leads, and now they sort of know where he is."
"I suppose," Albus replied. He hadn't thought of that. But what about the other two? Were they with Quinton or had they parted ways? Albus just hoped his dad and the other Aurors managed to capture him.
"Could I see the Prophet?" Rose asked one of the older students who was sitting across from her. The girl nodded and handed her the paper. "Let's find the article." Rose scanned the front page and found a short article on the left side of the page. She read it aloud.
"'Eighteen-year-old Quinton Willinson was seen near the Muggle town, Hythe, in Southern England early yesterday morning. A wizard who prefers not to be named in this article saw him and immediately informed the Ministry. Willinson has been wanted by the Auror department since his attack on Head Auror and Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Harry Potter, last Spring. Five underage Hogwarts students were also attacked. Willinson, along with his father, Jaret Willinson, and the former Charms professor, Jameson Washburn, attacked Potter and the five students on the grounds. Potter declined comment for this article. The Head Auror has informed the wizarding public that all three men are dangerous and not to attempt to fight them. If any of them are seen, people are requested to inform the Ministry immediately. Ministry Aurors responded to the sighting and are currently investigating.'"
"Wow," Rose said once she'd finished reading the article, "I hope they catch him soon."
"Me, too," Albus agreed, "I'm glad he's so far away, though."
"But they're going to come back," Rose sighed, "To find the, you-know-whats."
"Well, hopefully Professor Potter will catch them before they get the chance," Matt replied, "Anyway, I hope Amy and Victoire come to the Quidditch match. I haven't seen Amy in ages."
Albus looked over and saw that Matt was looking a bit sad. Albus knew he and Amy were very close, but hadn't really thought about how different it must be for Matt this year. Albus didn't think Matt had ever gone this long without seeing her. "They'll probably come," Albus assured him, "And if they can't, they'll visit when they can."
"Yeah," Matt gave a half-hearted smile.
"We'd better get to Charms," Rose announced. The five second years got up from the table and made their way out of the Great Hall. Albus noticed that Kaden was sitting next to James, talking animatedly about something. James didn't appear too happy about this and had the look of someone pretending to listen, but not really listening. Albus almost felt bad about James having to deal with Kaden, but not bad enough to make up with his cousin.
Professor Cedonia spent the first half of class teaching the charm for tying shoes, and during the second half, the class practiced. Unlike last year, Albus thoroughly enjoyed practical lessons in Charms. Professor Cedonia did not mind them talking with each other as they practiced, and although she watched their progress, she didn't hover like Washburn had done.
"Excuse me, Professor?" Rose announced shortly after she succeeded in charming her shoes to tie themselves.
"Rose, don't," Albus whispered. He knew she was about to ask if they were going to have any tests.
"Yes, Rose?" Cedonia walked over to her desk and immediately spotted her perfectly tied shoes. "Oh, wonderful job!"
"Thank you, Professor," Rose replied. "But I was just wondering, are we going to have any exams in this class?"
Everyone in the entire room stopped what they were doing and looked over at Rose. Most of them looked horrified, but a few appeared to also be wondering if they would have any exams. Since they had Charms with the Ravenclaws, this didn't really surprise Albus.
"Ah," Cedonia smiled, "I was wondering if anyone would ask. I, unlike the other teachers at this school, do not believe in testing students in the conventional way. I prefer to assign essays that are done outside of class, where you are free to use your books, to assess your knowledge of theory. As far as practical exams go, I prefer to assess your progress in class. If I have any belief that you are not mastering the task at hand, I will give you extra help until you can master it. However, in accordance with Hogwarts tradition, there will be a practical exam at the end of the semester. The theory exam will be an essay that you can complete using your book, in class."
"Oh," Rose said. She looked a bit stunned. "All right."
"If you'd like an exam, I will create one for you, but no one else will have to take it unless they want to," Cedonia announced.
"No, that's all right," Rose replied.
"Excellent. I assure you, Rose, that you will have a perfect understanding of second year Charms by the time the year is up, and you will be in excellent shape to move on to third year."
Rose nodded and Cedonia walked back to the front of the room. Albus turned to John and grinned. "Yes, no exams!" he said.
"Brilliant," John agreed, "I really thought Rose was going to convince her to test us."
"Well, I suppose she kind of is testing us," Matt explained, "Just in a different way. I've never had a teacher like her before."
"Me, neither," John said.
Albus nodded. All of his teachers in primary school had been like the ones at Hogwarts, with conventional exams and homework. "I went to a Muggle school and all of the teachers gave us exams. Rose went to the same one."
"Same here," John replied, "Normal Muggle school."
"Not me," Matt announced, "I was home-schooled. You can probably guess why. Amy went to Muggle school, though."
"All the teachers were like Cedonia at my school," Amanda turned around to talk to the boys. "We didn't have exams or grades or anything like that. It was fun. I really liked going to school. Except when I made strange stuff happen. People thought I was weird. Turns out I was, but in a good way," she laughed.
"I suppose this will work," Rose sighed, "She is assessing us, just in a different way. At least she's nice. Everyone seems to like her."
"We don't really have any mean teachers this year," Albus commented.
"I hadn't really thought about that," John said, "But you're right."
"Who knows about next year, though," Matt replied, "We'll start new subjects and who knows what those teachers will be like."
"Hagrid teaches Care of Magical Creatures and he's great," Albus told them.
"What kind of magical creatures?" John grinned at Matt.
"Don't even go there," Matt grinned back. "Amy says the Ancient Runes teacher is nice."
"Trelawney's kind of strange, but nice enough," Albus commented. "She teaches Divination."
"No way am I taking that," Matt announced, "I don't want to know what my future holds."
"Arithmancy sounds really interesting," Rose said, "And Georgia told me the teacher is strict, but not mean."
"Well, good," Albus replied, "But we've got months before we have to decide what new subjects we'll take."
"I wish I could take them all," Rose sighed.
"You could," Albus laughed, "But I don't think it would turn out well." Albus and Rose shared a laugh that the others didn't really understand. Albus saw their confused faces and decided to tell them about Hermione's third year schedule sometime soon.
Harry was back at Hogwarts in time for Albus's Defense class on Thursday. Harry called Albus up to his desk after class. Albus had been anxiously waiting the whole class to see if Harry managed to catch Quinton Willinson. Albus had a feeling he hadn't because there wasn't any mention of it in the Prophet that morning.
"Hi, Al," Harry gave Albus a hug once all the other students left. "I'm guessing you know why I left?"
"Yeah," Albus replied, "Victoire sent us a letter and I read it in the Prophet, too."
"Good," Harry sighed, "I'm glad Victoire told you before you read it in the Prophet. I had to leave very abruptly and was afraid you wouldn't know what happened."
"Well, did you catch him?" Albus asked. The suspense was killing him and he didn't want to wait any longer.
Harry sighed again and put his hand around his son's shoulder. "I'm sorry, Al. He got away. We got some more leads, though. Talked to a few Muggles and a wizard who were around when Quinton showed up. I still haven't heard anything about Quinton's father or Washburn. But we're still searching and it's only a matter of time."
Albus's face fell and he became more worried as he realized that not much progress had been made. He had been so sure that his dad would get Quinton this time. But he hadn't. Washburn and both Willinsons were still out there. How long would it be until they went back to Hogwarts? "What if they come back here?" he asked quietly.
"I'm not going to deny it. They probably will come back here. But there is a large amount of protection around the school. Last year, it was easy for them to be on the grounds since Washburn was a professor and Quinton was a student here. They don't have that going for them now. And I don't think any of them could step foot in Hogsmeade without someone alerting me or the Ministry."
Albus thought about this for a moment and felt a bit better. "All right. Are you leaving again?"
"Not unless one of them is seen," Harry explained, "The other Aurors have it under control."
"Good," Albus smiled. He felt a lot better knowing his dad was at the school.
"Well, we'd better head to the Great Hall," Harry gave Albus another hug.
"Yeah," Albus agreed, "If we don't hurry, John will eat all the food." Harry laughed and the two of them left the room together.
Albus wandered sleepily into the common room the next week completely tired out from Quidditch Practice. The first match, against Slytherin, was on Saturday and Georgia was having them practice every evening. It had been a drizzly evening and Albus's robes were soaked. He went up to his dormitory to put away his broom and change. Once he was done, he grabbed his books and went back to the common room to do his homework. When he got there, he couldn't find his friends anywhere. Albus sighed. Where could they be? They weren't in the dormitory, Albus had just been up there.
Albus squeezed his way through the crowded common room until he found Bilius and Ethan studying at a nearby table. "Have you seen John and Matt anywhere?" Albus asked.
"Oh, hi Albus," Ethan looked up from his book. "How's practice going? We're going to beat Slytherin, right?"
"'Course we are," Albus gave a tired grin, "They're pathetic."
"Excellent," Bilius replied, "I think John and Matt left an hour or so ago. I'm not sure where."
"Yeah," Ethan agreed, "Rose and Amanda were with them. Matt didn't look so good. Maybe they went to the hospital wing."
Oh, yeah! Albus had completely forgotten that the full moon was the next night. They must have gone to the Room of Requirement. Albus had also momentarily forgotten about the Room due to the fact that Kaden was always hanging around them, and they did not want him to know about the Room.
"Thanks," Albus replied, "I think I know where they are now." Albus waved to Bilius and Ethan and left the room.
Albus walked down the corridor as fast as he could without actually running. He slowed down as he reached the portrait of Barnabas the Barmy, as there was a prefect roaming nearby. Albus loitered until the prefect turned a corner and then he started pacing in front of the wall. Three paces later, the door appeared and Albus walked in.
"There you are!" Albus announced after he shut the door. "I thought you'd be in the common room."
Rose, John, and Amanda were all furiously scribbling on pieces of parchment and they looked up as Albus came in. Matt was sleeping on a nearby chair and didn't notice Albus.
"We were," Rose said, "But it was awfully loud in there. Plus, now that Kaden has left us alone we thought we'd start coming in here again."
"Sounds good," Albus agreed. He grabbed a chair and sat down next to John. "What are you lot working on?"
"Transfiguration," John groaned, "Eight inch essay due tomorrow. I've got four inches so far."
"History of Magic," Amanda said, "Also due tomorrow."
"I finished those a while ago," Rose commented, "Now I'm doing Herbology."
"I still have the History of Magic stuff to do," Albus said as he pulled out his history book. "How long has he been asleep?" Albus pointed to Matt.
"Since we got here," John answered. "Probably just as well since before that he was just rambling about how Malfoy's going to explore the Whomping Willow tomorrow night."
"Why would Malfoy do it at night?" Albus asked, "He'll get in more trouble if he's out past curfew."
"That's what we told him," Rose explained without looking up from her book. "I think he gets kind of delirious and doesn't think straight at this time of the month."
"You're probably right," Albus agreed, "But can you blame him?"
"No, not really," Rose sighed.
Albus started to leaf through his History of Magic book, but he couldn't concentrate. It wasn't past curfew now; what if Malfoy was exploring the tree right now? Albus closed his book and started rifling through his bag. He pulled out the Marauder's Map and set it down on the table.
"What are you doing?" Amanda asked.
"Looking for Malfoy," Albus replied. Everyone looked up from their work and watched Albus. "I solemnly swear that I am up to no good," Albus pointed his wand at the map.
Albus searched the map for a few moments before his eyes rested on Malfoy's dot. He breathed a sigh of relief as he saw that Malfoy's dot was currently residing in the Slytherin common room. "He's in his common room."
"Oh, good," Rose smiled. "I really don't think he's going to investigate that tree."
"Why's that?" John asked skeptically.
"He'll get in big trouble if he gets caught," Rose reminded him.
"So? That probably wouldn't stop me," John laughed.
Albus was relieved that Malfoy wasn't currently trying to get into the Whomping Willow, but he did agree with John that Malfoy would eventually try. The thing was, what were the chances of it happening while Albus was looking at the map? Not very high. And what would Albus do if he did see Malfoy near the tree? Albus had no idea. He sighed as he whispered, "Mischief managed." Albus watched as all the ink disappeared from the map. He still didn't want to do his homework, but he had to. He started to put the map back in his bag, but the sight of a small mark on one of the corners made him stop.
Albus slowly lifted the map back out of his bag and stared at the corner. He had never seen any marks on the map after he wiped it clean before. But this mark was so small it could have easily been missed. He peered at the tiny marking until he noticed what it was. It was four paw prints. A wolf, dog, stag, and rat print. It obviously meant the Marauders. Albus knew he had seen it somewhere before, but where? He continued to stare at the paw prints, wracking his brain to try and remember why it seemed so familiar.
"Albus," Rose was watching him. "What are you doing?"
Albus looked up at the sound of her voice, "Oh, there's something on the map. I never noticed it before. It's a wolf, dog, stag, and rat foot print. Here, look."
Rose, John, and Amanda all leaned in to look at the mark. Rose furrowed her brow and tilted her head as she looked at it. "Why did the Marauders have this thing stay on the map? All the other ink disappears. Now it's just a random piece of parchment with these paw prints on it."
Suddenly, Albus remembered where he'd seen the paw prints before. The piece of parchment that fell out of the photo album in the attic of Grimmauld Place! Albus had completely forgotten about that during the course of the school year. The symbols were exactly the same. They must mean something, Albus thought. He jumped up from his seat. "I've seen it before! Remember when we were exploring the attic at my house, John?"
John nodded his head. "Yeah..."
"And the photo album we found in that box?" Albus continued, "And the piece of parchment that fell out of it?"
Realization dawned on John's face. "Oh! I'd forgotten about that! Do you still have it?"
"Yup!" Albus shouted excitedly, "In my trunk. I'll go get it!" Albus ran out of the room, leaving a very excited John and a thoroughly confused Rose and Amanda.
A/N: Sorry for the cliffhanger, but the next chapter is long and I had to split it up somewhere.
The idea for Cedonia's teaching style and the school Amanda used to go to came from a school that used to be near where I live. It recently closed due to lack of funding. But the students didn't have tests or receive grades. They also got to choose whatever they wanted to study. It was a really interesting idea and it worked well until it closed. I never went there, but I always thought it was neat.
Thanks to my beta, Dancer_of_Starlight as well as potterfan89, Denas, XDNLxtlz99, sinwillys822, Luke, and Moonylupin for their reviews!
Be on the lookout for my newest story, Life Is Good, which is a prequel to Secrets Within that chronicles how Albus, Rose, Matt, John, and Amanda received their Hogwarts letters. I'm hoping to post the first chapter sometime next week, as I have Spring Break.
Disclaimer- I don't own Harry Potter.
Albus ran all the way to the Gryffindor common room, narrowly avoiding another prefect. He went to his dormitory, dug through his trunk, and found the parchment. He was so glad he hadn't left it in the attic. He knew it meant something! Albus ran back through the common room, ignoring the strange stares he was receiving from his fellow classmates. When he got back to the Room, John was in the process of explaining to Rose and Amanda about what they had found in the attic. "I've got it!" Albus shouted. He ran back to the table and spread the parchment out on the table.
"You're right!" Rose grinned, "Exactly the same mark."
"But it's just a blank piece of parchment," Amanda reminded him.
"I know, but there's definitely something mysterious about it. Why would the Marauders put this symbol on it if it meant nothing?"
"I think you're right, Albus," John agreed, "I don't know much about the Marauders, but from what you've told me, there's no way this is just a random piece of parchment."
Rose looked from the map to the new piece of parchment and back. "Hmm, I wonder if this is like the map? Do you think we have to say something to get it to work? Maybe it's an extension of the map, Hogsmeade perhaps?"
Albus thought for a moment. That kind of made sense. The Marauders frequented Hogsmeade quite a bit, during their full moon jaunts. Maybe they wanted a map of the village as well. "There's only one way to find out," he grabbed his wand and tapped the piece of parchment, "I solemnly swear that I am up to no good."
Ink spread across the map and Albus's heart jumped. It had worked! Albus and the others leaned over the table and watched the ink. But there was something different about it. It wasn't forming a map, it was forming words. Once they were formed, Albus stared at them.
'Nice try. Mr. Padfoot would like to congratulate you, as you have obviously found the Marauder's Map and figured out how to use it. However, he assures you that the Marauders would not use the same incantation for this particular item.'
Albus and Rose burst out laughing. This piece of parchment was sort of like the map! There was something magical about it, but it obviously wasn't the same as the map. John smirked and shook his head.
Amanda stared wide-eyed at the parchment. "B-but, I thought h-he was dead? How can he be talking through parchment?" she stammered.
Albus grinned at her. He still often forgot that she was muggle-born. "It's magic. The marauders either found or invented some kind of charm that enabled the Marauder's Map to communicate with people who try to use it and they've done the same thing with this." Albus pulled the Marauder's Map in front of him and tapped his wand to it, "Watch this. I, Albus Severus Potter, demand you to show yourself."
Ink appeared across the map, but it wasn't the usual ink. John and Amanda stared in awe, as they had never seen the map do this before. Albus and Rose had done this on occasion and they thought it was extremely funny.
'Mr. Moony would like to would like to tell Mr. Potter to keep his dirty hands off the parchment.
Mr. Wormtail agrees with Mr. Moony and would like to add that despite the fact that Mr. Potter shares a first name with the headmaster, it does not give him the authority do what he pleases.
Mr. Padfoot agrees with Mr. Moony and Mr. Wormtail and would like to add that Mr. Potter's middle name has got to be the most disgraceful name he has ever heard.
Mr. Prongs agrees with Mr. Moony, Mr. Wormtail, and Mr. Prongs, and would like to be able to insult Mr. Potter's last name, but feels he is unable to do so.'
Amanda and John started laughing hysterically after they finished reading the map. "Does it do that to anyone?" John asked.
"Yup," Albus laughed.
"I didn't know Kendrick's first name was Albus," Amanda commented.
"It's not," Albus explained, "When the Marauders were in school, Albus Dumbledore was headmaster. And the Marauders hated Snape, so they always insult my name. Except my grandpa, he's never able to manage it."
"That's pretty impressive magic," John said.
"Yeah," Albus agreed.
"You know," Rose began, "If the Marauders didn't want anyone else reading that map, they would have just put a charm on it that prevented anyone except themselves to read it. I reckon they hoped someone would eventually find out how to read it."
Albus contemplated that for a moment. Rose was probably right. The Marauders were always pranksters, and they would probably want others to find the map and use it for mischief.
"But," Rose continued, "Do you think they might have wanted another item that only they could read?"
"What are you getting at?" Albus asked.
"That other piece of parchment. Maybe it's something that the Marauders didn't want anyone to be able to read."
"But then we couldn't read it," Albus sighed. It did kind of make sense that the Marauders wanted something to be private. But then why did they put the same mark on both parchments?
"There's got to be a way," John said adamantly.
"We don't even know if Rose is right," Amanda argued.
"Even if only the Marauders could read it, would they still have to say something to look at it?" Albus asked.
"I'm not sure," Rose replied, "I mean, there's probably some kind of magic that only enables a few people to read it. Kind of like a Fidelius Charm for books or something."
Albus grabbed the parchment and pointed his wand at it. The only way to find out if something would reveal it was to try. "Hmm, I am going to make trouble." Nothing happened. "I want to make mischief. I am going to pull a prank on someone. I promise I will make trouble." Albus tried many different variations on the incantation for the Marauder's Map, but nothing worked.
"It won't work, Albus," Rose said after a while, "You ought to just do your homework."
Albus didn't want to do his homework. He wanted to make the parchment work. Right now, he didn't care about anything else. "There's got to be something."
"If it's something only the Marauders can read, then you've got to be a Marauder to read it," John sighed.
"That's it!" Albus shouted. He had been thinking the incantation was like the Marauder's Map, but it must be something that would prove you're a Marauder. "I solemnly swear that I am a Marauder." Nothing happened. Albus sighed. He had been so sure that that would have worked.
"Maybe you have to say which Marauder you are," John suggested.
"Oh come off it!" Rose shouted, "There's going to be some sort of charm on it to see if he really is a Marauder. Just saying so isn't going to work."
Albus kind of agreed with Rose at this point, but he was willing to try anything. But which Marauder? Prongs. It had to be. Prongs was his grandfather. If this was going to work for anyone, it would work for him. He was related to one of the Marauders. Albus pointed his wand at the parchment with his heart beating fast. "I solemnly swear that I am Messr Prongs."
Albus held his breath as he watched the parchment. John, Rose, and Amanda watched as well. Albus's eyes bugged out as he saw ink appearing across the parchment. "It worked!" he whispered. His friends nodded, but didn't say anything. Albus began to read as the words formed completely.
'Messrs Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs welcome you to the Marauder's Map, Second Edition.'
"Second map?" John looked up, "I thought there was only one."
"So did I," Albus replied. He stared at the parchment as more words appeared across it. John, Rose, and Amanda all watched with him, no one saying a word.
'Mr. Prongs disagrees with you and insists that you are not Prongs.'
"Merlin," Albus sighed. It hadn't worked. The parchment could recognize different people.
"Wait," Rose pointed at the parchment. "It's not done."
'However, you could be the second Prongs.'
"What?!" Albus looked up in confusion. Was this some kind of joke? How could there be another Prongs? And how could Albus be that second Prongs?
"What is this parchment?" John asked curiously.
"Either it's a joke or a highly advanced magical object," Rose remarked. The four friends continued to watch as more writing appeared.
'When four boys, who are Gryffindors, are linked together through friendship and mischief, they may present themselves as the next generation of Marauders.'
"The what?" Albus stared at the parchment. The next generation of Marauders? What had his grandfather and his friends done?
"This is incredible," Rose whispered.
'These four friends must each represent one of the Marauders, for if even one is missing, this map will not work. Before this goes any further, you must prove that you know the secrets of the Marauders. Prove that you know, and you may continue along the path of discovery.'
'The path of discovery? I never knew you were so poetic, Mr. Prongs.'
'Oh, believe me, Mr. Padfoot, I am not. Mr. Moony came up with that whole thing.'
'Then I pay my compliments on the wording to Mr. Moony.'
'Mr. Moony advises that whomever is reading this ignore Mr. Prongs and Mr. Padfoot and start proving that they know the Marauders.'
'Mr. Padfoot agrees with Mr. Moony and also advises that if whomever is reading this has no idea who the Marauders are, that they quit while they're ahead.'
'The Marauders wish you good luck.'
The ink disappeared from the parchment and Albus looked up at his friends. "What in the name of Merlin is this?"
"I think it's something the Marauders invented to ensure that they would never be gone from this school," Rose said in awe, "It's amazing."
"I'll say," Amanda grinned, "Probably the best magical thing I've seen yet."
"And I don't think we've even discovered the most of it," Albus commented.
"How are we going to find out the rest?" John asked.
"Well, I think we've somehow got to prove that we know who the Marauders are and that we know their secrets," Albus explained.
"We already know their biggest secrets," Rose said, "But how would we prove it to a piece of parchment."
"I've got no idea," Albus told her, "I mean, I doubt we can just tell the parchment."
"Why couldn't we?" John asked.
"Seems too simple," Rose said.
"It's worth a try, though," John argued. "Albus?"
Albus didn't think it would work, but he didn't think it could really harm anything either. "Worth a shot." Albus picked up the parchment and stared at it. This seemed really silly when he thought about it. He was about to talk to a piece of parchment. "Here goes nothing. Let's see, Moony is a werewolf. Prongs, Padfoot, and Wormtail are all illegal animagi. Prongs is a stag, Padfoot is a dog, and Wormtail is a rat."
Albus and the others watched the parchment. A few words appeared on it. Could it have actually worked?
"I told you it wouldn't work," Rose smirked, "It's got to be more subtle than that."
"We'll just have to think on it," Albus replied. He had no idea how they were to prove to the new map that they knew the Marauders' secrets, but he had to find out. This parchment was perhaps even more interesting and magical than the Marauder's Map, and he was going to figure it out.
"What are you lot doing?" Matt sat up and was looking around with a confused look on his face. "What time is it?"
Albus looked up when he heard Matt's voice. Albus had practically forgotten that he was there during the excitement of the new map. "It's about 8:30. We've got a half hour until curfew. As for what we were doing, well, we've got a new mystery on our hands."
Albus, John, Rose, and Amanda spent the next few minutes explaining about the new map to Matt. They told him about how Albus had noticed the symbol on the Marauder's Map, how he had gotten the new map to show the writing, and how they had to prove that they knew the Marauders' secrets. Then they showed him the new map.
"That is brilliant," Matt commented.
"Yup. And we're going to figure out how to work it," Albus grinned. "Maybe we are the new Marauders."
"Well, I know what we can do while we're trying to figure it out how to prove we know the Marauders," John announced, "We've got to figure out who we're going to represent."
"Oh, yeah," Albus said, "I guess we each have to be one of the Marauders."
"I think it's obvious who I am," Matt said tiredly. "I'm definitely Moony."
"I'd say so," John laughed, "I'll be anyone except Wormtail."
"Me, too," Albus's face fell as he realized that someone was going to have to represent Wormtail. Nobody was going to want to be him.
"You're obviously Prongs," John replied, "I mean, you're his grandson. Plus, you're a chaser, just like he was."
"That makes sense," Albus agreed, "How about you?"
"He's Padfoot," Matt yawned, "He's got to be. He's loyal like a dog. Remember that detention last year in the trophy room, when he yelled at Washburn?"
John grinned sheepishly, "I could be Padfoot."
"Good," Albus agreed, "We've got Moony, Padfoot, and Prongs. But what about Wormtail?"
Everyone groaned. "I'm not going to be him," Rose said disgustedly.
"You don't have to," Albus told her, "The map clearly said four boys, four Gryffindor boys to be specific."
"So Amanda and I don't get to be involved?"
"Hey, it's not our fault the Marauders wanted it to be boys," Albus shrugged, "But you can help us figure the whole thing out."
"Right now, we've got to find a Wormtail," Amanda said. "Who else are you three good friends with?"
"No one, really. Just Bilius and Ethan," John explained, "And whomever is Wormtail is going to find out about Matt."
The friends all looked at Matt, whose face had paled at hearing this. Albus hadn't thought about that. He didn't want anyone who resembled Peter Pettigrew finding out about Matt. If that's what it took to find out the secrets of this map, then the map would just stay secret.
"We're not doing it," John said adamantly, "No one like Wormtail is going to find out that Matt is werewolf."
"And that's why you're Padfoot," Matt yawned. "Thanks."
"No problem," John smiled.
"You know," Rose began, "When this map was made, Wormtail hadn't betrayed Albus's grandparents. He was a Marauder. They trusted him. All we've got to do is find someone who you lot are friends with, not necessarily someone who was like the Wormtail we've heard of. We just need someone who is even slightly like Pettigrew."
Albus thought about this. It could work. But could they really find someone they could trust enough to reveal Matt's secret? Or, did they even have to reveal it? Was it possible to do this without telling the fourth person? "Let's just keep our eyes out for someone who is anything like Pettigrew and we'll think about it. Who knows, we might not even have to let them know about Matt, at least not for a while. Is that all right, Matt?"
Matt had fallen asleep again and jerked his head up when he heard his name. "Huh? Oh, yeah, that's all right."
"Sounds like a plan, then," John said.
"We'd better get back to the common room," Rose looked at her watch, "It's almost curfew."
Albus and the others left the Room and walked back to Gryffindor Tower. Albus thought about the new map and what it could possibly hold. It was obviously a more involved map than the Marauder's Map. Albus could only imagine what was actually on it. The prospect of finding out excited him, but he was wondering if they would even find out. What were the chances of them finding someone who would be willing to represent Wormtail? And if they did find that person, could they figure out the map without telling that person that Matt was a werewolf? Albus hoped so, but he doubted it.
A/N: Thanks to my beta, Dancer_of_Starlight. Thanks as well to Luke, Moonylupin, TheAlbusPotterCritic, potterfan89, sinwillys822, Denas, and XDNLxtlz99 for their reviews!
The prequel to Secrets Within, Life Is Good, has been posted and the first chapter is up. I'll be updating it weekly, most likely on Tuesdays.
Disclaimer- I don't own Harry Potter.
Over the next few days, Albus constantly thought about the new map. He kept it in his bag all the time and found himself looking at it whenever he got the chance. He read the clues again and again, hoping to find something he missed before that would tell him how to prove that he knew the Marauders' secrets. Albus found that he couldn't really concentrate on anything else. He was sure he failed his Potions test on Friday because he had so much trouble settling down to study the night before.
His school work wasn't the only thing suffering, either. Albus was also having a difficult time paying attention during Quidditch practice. Seeing as the match against Slytherin was on Saturday, this couldn't have happened at a worse time. Georgia had to yell at him at least five times during practice on Friday, and he dropped the Quaffle quite a bit.
"Albus," Georgia said once practice was over and everyone was starting to go back to the castle, "Stay here for a second, I need to talk to you."
Albus trudged over to Georgia. She had a grim look on her face that made Albus feel awful. He knew he had played horrible during practice, but he just couldn't get the map out of his head. "What is it?" he asked, knowing perfectly well what Georgia wanted to talk to him about.
"Albus," Georgia began, "I know you're a terrific Chaser. That is why I chose you to be on the team. It was not because you are my cousin. If one of the other people who tried out played better than you, they would have gotten in. You know perfectly well that I do not play favorites."
This was true. Georgia was ruthless about Quidditch. She was even more so than Samantha Meyers, which was saying something. Albus knew full well that if he continued playing this badly, he would get kicked off the team.
"You play wonderfully with Fred and Heather, which is why I chose you. You've had experience working with them, and I thought that would help us. I think I know why your playing has declined over the past few days," Georgia softened her gaze, "You're nervous."
Albus glanced up when his cousin said this. To tell the truth, Albus hadn't even thought about being nervous. But he was more than willing to blame his awful playing on nerves. "Er, yeah, a bit."
"I understand that. I was extremely nervous during my first match as well. But you are going to do fine. We're going to crush Slytherin tomorrow. And we'll prove all those people wrong who thought I was favoring my family," Georgia grinned.
Albus gave a half-hearted smile. He had to stop thinking about that map, if only just for tomorrow. If not, it could cost him his place on the team. "Thanks. I'll try to calm down a bit."
"Good," Georgia replied, "Now let's get back to the castle."
Despite Albus's lack of nerves the past few days, he was certainly making up for it on Saturday morning. He woke up with butterflies in his stomach and couldn't manage to eat anything for breakfast. Worse yet, he was still thinking about the map. Albus had to concentrate on this match. His place on the team rested on it.
"Are you ok, Albus?" Matt asked. He had returned from the Hospital Wing the previous evening and was looking much better. Judging by his tone of voice, Albus suspected that Matt looked better than he did.
"Yeah, just nervous," Albus mumbled. He hadn't told any of his friends about Georgia's talk last night.
"Well, you'd better win," Gabe Bourne, the fourth-year who Albus had beat during try-outs was glaring at him. "If not, Georgia made a big mistake in choosing one of her cousins over me."
"Shove off, Bourne," Bradley sat down across from Albus and glared at Gabe. Gabe turned to glare at Bradley and then stalked off to the other end of the table. "Don't worry about him. He thinks he's best at everything. We'll show him."
Albus nodded, but didn't say anything. Albus wasn't nearly as confident as Bradley was. But he knew they had to win that match. If they didn't, Albus would have to deal with Bourne, and he did not want to do that. Albus never thought so much would be resting on one match of Quidditch, let alone his first match.
Soon enough, Georgia announced that the team needed to go to the changing room. Albus's friends wished him luck as he left with the team. The majority of the Gryffindor table cheered as they left, with Bourne and one of his friends glaring at Albus, but not clapping. Albus changed into his Quidditch robes in silence while the rest of the team talked animatedly around him. It seemed like Albus was the only one who was nervous about this match.
"Time to go, everyone!" Georgia announced.
Albus grabbed his broom and followed the rest of the team out onto the pitch, with his heart pounding fast. He gazed up at the crowd, never realizing before how many people actually attended Hogwarts. It was one thing to play Quidditch during practice, but in front of everyone? Albus was sure he'd fall off his broom and humiliate the entire team.
"Here is the Gryffindor team!" Albus heard the familiar voice of Todd Smith booming over the pitch. "Ryan O'Malley, Albus Potter, James Potter, Bradley Weasley, Fred Weasley, Georgia Weasley, and Heather Weasley! Georgia is the new captain this year, and Albus Potter has replaced Samantha Meyers as Chaser. Will he be able to live up to her legacy? Only time will tell."
Albus gulped when he heard that. Why did Todd have to say that? Albus felt as if every eye in the stadium was focused on him. Albus stood next to James as they waited for the Slytherin team to come onto the field. James sent him a supportive smile that Albus returned nervously.
"And here are the Slytherins! Ferris Fielding, Talan Flint, Lance Goyle, Peyton Hughes, Garth Octavius, Hailey Odele, and Jackson Naiser! The Slytherins have replaced their Seeker since last year. Garth Octavius is the new Seeker."
Albus remembered Georgia telling them this. Glenna Dabney, the Slytherin Seeker from last year, had been utterly incapable of catching the Snitch. Albus hoped that Garth would be just as inept, but he doubted it.
"Mount your brooms," Professor Oteski announced, "Ready, go!"
Albus soared into the air on Oteski's whistle. He took a few deep breaths to clear his head and tried to block out the crowd's cheering and booing. He glanced around the pitch and saw that Fred had the Quaffle. Albus flew towards the other side of the field in order to get away from Odele, who was flying right next to him. With his faster broom, he was away from her in no time. He could do this, Albus thought.
Albus dodged a Bludger and both Slytherin Beaters as he made his way down the pitch. He got nearer to Fred and Fred passed him the Quaffle. Albus grabbed it and flew towards the Slytherin goal posts. He was almost there when a Bludger collided with his arm. "Ouch!" he shouted as he dropped the Quaffle. He swore and examined his arm. It didn't appear to be broken. It was just a little painful. Albus looked around and saw that Haines had the Quaffle.
Albus flew after him, but he had already managed to make it past both Bludgers and was heading straight towards Georgia. He threw the Quaffle and it sailed into the left most hoop.
"Score! Slytherin scores the first goal of the game, making it 10-0 Slytherin," Todd announced.
Albus groaned and flew towards the Gryffindor end. He zigzagged through the other players, dodging both the Bludgers. Albus was very good at maneuvering his broom and avoiding other players. He saw that both Heather and Fred were covered by Slytherin Chasers as everyone waited for the Georgia to throw the Quaffle back into play. Georgia faked to the right and then threw the Quaffle to the left. Albus immediately flew towards it, and with his fast new broom, grabbed the Quaffle just as Fielding tried to catch it.
Albus turned his broom around and sped like lightning towards the other end of the pitch. He looked all around him, noticing that the Slytherin Chasers were closing in, while the beaters aimed both Bludgers at him. Albus flew straight up and avoided all of them.
"Albus Potter is really flying now! He's got that brilliant Firebolt 2000 that Georgia has. I believe they are the only two in the school to have one," Smith called out.
Albus ignored Smith's commentary and continued flying. He passed James, who gave him a thumbs up. Fielding was hot on his tail now. Albus looked around, he needed to pass the Quaffle. Heather was open and Albus gave the Quaffle a hard toss. Heather caught it and brought it down to the Slytherin goal posts. She threw it at the middle hoop and it sailed through.
"Score!" Smith announced, "Heather Weasley has scored, making the game tied with 10 points each."
Albus grinned at Heather and flew to the Slytherin goal posts. He waited for Goyle to toss the Quaffle back out, and let his mind wander to the map. Albus hadn't really thought about it at all so far, which was good. Who could they get to represent Pettigrew? Albus found himself thinking about this all the time. Every person he passed in the halls made Albus wonder, could he be the one? No, he couldn't, Albus always told himself. Because they'd never find anyone. Albus, John, and Matt were destined to just be a group of three friends, and that wasn't going to work for the new map. Why wouldn't it just accept Rose or Amanda? Albus thought bitterly. Of course, neither girl would agree to representing the traitor that was Peter Pettigrew anyway.
"Albus!" A loud voice jerked Albus back into the match. He looked up and saw that Heather was glaring at him. He shook his head and started flying again.
During the remainder of the match, Albus found his mind drifting more and more towards the map. He dropped the Quaffle more than a few times, earning disapproving looks from Georgia. Although he hadn't scored a single goal, he did help Heather and Fred score a few each. Unfortunately this wasn't enough, and soon Slytherin was ahead.
"Another goal for Slytherin!" Smith shouted, "Making the score 120-80 Slytherin!"
Albus groaned and looked around at his teammates. Georgia looked tense, Heather and Fred looked determined, Bradley and Ryan looked angry, and James looked like he was concentrating hard on finding the Snitch. Odele currently had the Quaffle and Albus followed her towards the Gryffindor goal posts. Fred intercepted it as Odele tried to score.
"Albus!" Georgia shouted, "You can do this! Just concentrate!"
Albus nodded and sped down the pitch. He could do this. He just had to get his mind off the map. There would be plenty of time to figure it out later. Quidditch, Quaffle, scoring goals, that was what he had to think about now. Fred passed him the Quaffle and he continued flying towards Goyle. Fielding was on his tail again and he passed the Quaffle to Heather, who was open.
All of a sudden, James whooshed past Albus, heading straight for Ryan. Albus looked over quizzically and realized that James must have seen the Snitch. Garth Octavius followed James but he wasn't quick enough. James grabbed the Snitch, which was idling near Ryan's arm, and pulled out of the dive. He held it up with a triumphant grin.
"Potter has caught the Snitch!" Smith announced happily, "Gryffindor wins with 230 points!"
Cheers erupted in the stands, with the Gryffindors storming the pitch. Albus landed happily next to James. It was over, his first Quidditch match was over. He breathed a sigh of relief. They had won, Albus was not going to be kicked off the team. He stood there grinning with the rest of the team as their fellow Gryffindors clapped them on the backs and high-fived them. Albus had never been a fan of this sort of thing before, but he didn't really mind it right now.
"Great job, Albus!" John broke through the crowd, followed by Matt, Rose, and Amanda.
"Excellent," Matt grinned.
"You were awesome," Rose agreed.
"Good match," Amanda added.
"Thanks," Albus smiled, "But I didn't even score any goals."
"Doesn't matter," Matt replied, "You had quite a few assists, and we won so it's all good."
"Party in the common room!" one of the older students shouted. Everyone else cheered and the crowd started to move slowly to the castle.
"Hi, Al." Albus turned around to see his dad wearing a huge grin. "You did great!"
"Thanks, Dad," Albus smiled as his dad gave him a hug, "But I'll do better next time."
"Of course you will. The first match is always the most nerve-wracking," Harry replied.
"Yeah," Albus agreed, although nerves were only a part of why he hadn't played one hundred percent that day.
"Well, I've got to owl mum and let her know you're all right," Harry laughed, "She gets so worried about Quidditch."
Albus laughed to himself as his dad left. His mother did worry a lot, although she did have a good reason. His family always seemed to attract trouble, and he was mildly surprised that he escaped his first match with only a minor bruise from a Bludger.
Albus walked to the common room with his friends and when they got there the common room was already filling up. Everyone congratulated Albus as he entered, telling him what a great job he did that day. Albus smiled at them and thanked them, but he broke into a huge grin when he saw Victoire and Amy sitting at one of the tables.
"You made it!" Albus shouted over the noise. "Did you see the match?"
"Sure did!" Victoire replied. "You were an excellent chaser."
"Definitely," Amy agreed.
"Thanks," Albus said, "I didn't see you on the pitch."
"We left right after James caught the Snitch to go to Hogsmeade to get party supplies," Victoire gestured to the large amount of food and butterbeer.
"What did you do to your arm?" Amy grabbed the arm that had been hit with a Bludger early in the match.
"Bludger," Albus answered, "It doesn't hurt much anymore."
Amy reached into her robes and pulled out her wand. "I'll heal it for you." Amy muttered an incantation and Albus's arm immediately felt better.
"Wow," Albus grinned, "Doesn't hurt at all now."
"Good," Amy smiled, "We're able to heal minor cuts and bruises right now, although most of the stuff we've learned is theoretical. It's all quite fascinating, though."
"I'm glad you like it," Albus said. "How long until you're Healers?"
Victoire laughed, "Not for another two years. It's a long process."
"Although not nearly as long as Muggle doctors," Amy told them, "They've got to go through eight years of schooling after secondary school."
"That is mad," John shook his head, "Why would anyone want to be in school that long?"
"I wouldn't mind," Rose grinned.
"Of course you wouldn't," John laughed.
"We've learned a bit of Muggle medicine," Victoire told them, "Just in case we ever have to treat Muggles. Magical healing doesn't have much of an effect on them."
"I much prefer Magical healing," Matt announced, "Muggles use too many needles. Incantations and potions are much better."
"If Muggles use needles, then I agree," John said.
"It's not that bad," Amanda laughed.
"I think I'd rather have someone wave their wand than have someone stick me with a needle," Albus shook his head. Sometimes he just didn't understand the things Muggles did.
"Ever hear of stitches?" Matt grinned mischievously.
Albus, Rose, and Victoire laughed. They had all heard the story of their grandpa's experiment with Muggle stitches. "My grandpa had them once," Albus grinned, "Didn't turn out too well."
"What are stitches?" John asked.
"They sew your skin together," Matt explained.
"Sew?" John had a disgusted look on his face, "Like what they do with clothes? That's mental."
"Bloody painful, too," Matt commented, "I had them once. I'll tell you that story sometime."
"Albus!" James walked over to their table with a butterbeer in his hand. "Great first match!"
"Thanks," Albus replied, "Excellent catch."
"Thanks," James grinned, "Can't believe Octavius didn't see it. It was glittering in the sunlight. Oh, well, better for us if their new Seeker can't see the Snitch."
"Can't argue with that," Albus laughed.
"Listen," James lowered his voice and glanced around him. "What did you do to Kaden?"
Albus was startled by the change in conversation. He hadn't really thought about Kaden much the past few days. He assumed that Kaden just realized that Albus did not want to be around him anymore and found his own friends. Albus had not really paid much attention to his little cousin since he told Malfoy that Matt gets sick every month. "Er, Kaden?"
"Yes, Kaden," James sighed, "He said you were mad at him. Are you still mad at him?"
"Uh, yeah," Albus glanced around at his friends, who were all paying close attention. Victoire and Amy were also listening.
"Ugh," James groaned, "Are you ever going to forgive him for whatever he did? What did he do anyway?"
"Er," Albus looked at Matt and then back at James, "He kind of told someone something that I told him to keep quiet about."
"Well, whatever that was, you should make up with him," James replied, "He's been moping around me for the past month and it's getting on my nerves."
"What do you want me to do about that?" Albus asked coldly.
"Be friends with him again!"
"I wasn't really friends with him to begin with," Albus commented, "He just started hanging around us. I thought he found his own friends since I stopped talking to him."
"Nope, he hasn't," James groaned, "Oh, look, here he comes."
"James!" Kaden said, "There you are!" Kaden looked around at Albus and the others. "Oh, hi Albus."
"Kaden," Albus replied.
"Good job on the match."
"Well, see ya later, Albus," James stood up. Albus and the others said goodbye. Kaden followed James like a puppy dog.
"Didn't think he'd start annoying James," Rose commented.
"Makes sense, though," Albus said.
"I take it you're not going to apologize?" Matt asked.
"Nope, I told him not to tell and he did anyway," Albus said adamantly.
"I'm guessing you wouldn't tell us what he did?" Victoire asked curiously.
"Actually," Albus lowered his voice, "I would, if you'd come to the Room."
"It's been so long since I've been in here," Victoire smiled as she looked around the Room of Requirement.
"I know," Amy agreed, "It's strange. I was getting used to not being here anymore, but now that we're back, I'm starting to miss it."
"Me, too," Victoire said, "But if someone told me that you'd miss Hogwarts back when you first came here, I'd never have believed them."
Amy laughed, "I know, but I got used to it."
Albus watched them as they reminisced about Hogwarts. He had never imagined that Amy would have disliked Hogwarts. "Why's that?"
"Well," Amy began, "When I first came here, I missed my old school and my old friends. Little did I know that I would come to love this place even more and make even better friends."
"All right," Victoire threw herself down on one of the couches, "What's this about you and Kaden?"
Albus sat down next to her, while his friends and Amy took seats on various other chairs and couches. "Have you ever met Kaden?" Albus asked his cousin.
"Once, I think," Victoire answered.
"Well, he's very annoying, to say the least. He thinks everything about the magical world is wonderful and that magic can solve everything," Albus explained.
"I'm guessing you've tried to tell him otherwise?" Victoire asked.
"Yeah, but he didn't seem to understand," Albus replied, "Anyway, he latched himself onto me and started following us around everywhere. It got very irritating, but we tolerated it. Then, the day of the first full moon, Kaden got sick and Madam Pomfrey gave him some potion and he was better instantly. This really amazed him and he came back to the common room praising Madam Pomfrey and her potions. He came over to where we were sitting and he noticed how ill Matt looked."
"Oh, Merlin, I can see where this is going," Amy sighed and looked at Matt, who was looking a bit uncomfortable.
"Yeah, he insisted that Matt go see Madam Pomfrey. I tried to explain that magic couldn't fix everything, but he just wouldn't listen. We told him to stop going on and on about healing potions, but he wouldn't. Matt left because he had to go to the Hospital Wing, and I yelled at Kaden. However, the fight didn't last long because we all agreed that Kaden didn't know about Matt, therefore he had no idea that what he said was hurtful. I explained to Kaden once again that there were things that magic couldn't solve, and that Matt had a disease that magic couldn't solve-"
"You didn't tell him, did you?" Amy asked Matt anxiously.
"Of course not," Matt assured her, "He's still got no idea."
"After that, we just kind of accepted that Kaden would be around us all the time and got used to him," Albus continued, "But then he decided to investigate the Whomping Willow."
"What?!" Victoire and Amy shouted at the exact same time. Amy's face lost all color as she stared at Albus.
"He did. We were lying around the grounds after Quidditch practice and Kaden wanted to investigate it. We told him numerous times not to, but he did anyway. He got hit a couple times, but eventually he wound up inside the tunnel."
Amy turned to her brother with a look of fear on her face. "Did he follow it?" she whispered.
"He wanted to," Albus answered, "But I went in after him and persuaded him not to. We got out and Filch caught us. He gave us three exhausting nights of detention, which you already know about."
The girls nodded their heads. Albus had owled Amy and explained about the detention on the Astronomy Tower, but had not told her why they were in detention.
"Right after we got out of Filch's office, we took Kaden up to our dormitory and persuaded him not to ever look for that tunnel again or to tell anyone about it. He said he wouldn't," Albus continued, "Just like he said he wouldn't tell anyone that Matt had a disease that couldn't be fixed by magic."
"Oh, Merlin," Victoire sighed, "I'm guessing he told someone?"
"You're right," Albus said darkly, "He did. For some strange reason, known only to my stupid cousin, he decided to tell Scorpius Malfoy that Matt gets sick every once and a while, and tell him about the Whomping Willow!"
"What?!" Both girls shouted and stood up with looks of anger on their faces.
"And Malfoy has been trying to find out where I go every month and now he's got more clues. Up until now we've been telling him that I have to visit my sick gran, but that won't work anymore," Matt explained. "It's only a matter of time before he finds out."
"We won't let him," Amy said adamantly, then she turned to Albus, "So this Scorpius Malfoy knows about the tunnel under the Whomping Willow?"
"Er, we think so, yeah," Albus said quietly.
"Not good, this is not good," Amy started pacing, "Have you told any of the teachers?"
"No," Matt answered.
"You've got to. He can't go exploring that tree, he just can't," Amy told them. "We'll go tell Kendrick now. Come on, Matt."
Matt stood up, his face as pale as Amy's. "All right." He reluctantly followed his sister out of the Room.
"And you've been ignoring Kaden ever since," Victoire said, not as a question, but a fact.
"Yeah," Albus confirmed, "It's been over a month now."
They all sat in silence for a few moments, all lost in their own thoughts. Albus hadn't really given Kaden much thought the past few days. He'd been much too busy thinking about the map. But now, the incident with Kaden was back in the front of his mind. What was Kendrick going to do about Malfoy? What if he decided that Matt couldn't stay in school anymore now that people knew about the tunnel? Albus shuddered at the thought of his friend being kicked out of school because of what Kaden had done.
"Albus," Victoire said quietly, "I know what Kaden did was horrible. Hell, I'm mad at him now and I don't really know him. But I really think there is more to this than meets the eye. I don't know why he told Malfoy, but I don't think he just randomly decided to tell Malfoy. I really think you ought to think about forgiving him, or at least asking him why he told Malfoy."
Albus thought about this for a second. The last thing he wanted to do was talk to Kaden, let alone forgive him. Kaden might be the reason one of his friends is forced to leave the school! If that happens, Albus decided, no way would he ever forgive Kaden. Sure, what Victoire said might be true. There might be some kind of underlying reason why Kaden told Malfoy, but the fact remains that he told him. And that couldn't be changed.
"I kind of agree with Victoire," Rose whispered, "I don't think he really meant to give Malfoy clues about Matt's lycanthropy."
"I know that!" Albus shouted, "Kaden doesn't even know about it! But I told him not to tell and he didn't listen. We can't trust him with anything! Everything I've told him not to tell, he's told someone, and it was Malfoy of all people! You realize that if I forgive him, he'll start following us around again. He'll get more suspicious about Matt and eventually he's going to find out. And what do you think he'll do then? We'll tell him not to say anything, and he will. He'll probably tell Malfoy."
"I agree with you, Albus," John said.
"Me, too," Amanda replied.
"Fine," Rose snapped.
"Just think about it, Albus," Victoire said as she got up. "I've got to be going. Teddy should be home by now and I want to go visit him."
"Where is he?" Albus asked. He had been wondering where Teddy was.
"He had some kind of Auror training thing today," Victoire responded, "Training is pretty intense. And it's at all kinds of crazy hours. I guess they're preparing him for what it'll be like when he's a fully trained Auror."
Albus nodded. He knew what that was like. Harry was always leaving at random times, only to return in the dead of night. Aurors had some of the strangest hours he had ever heard of.
"Of course, my hours won't be much better when I'm a Healer," Victoire commented, "With our hours, we're never going to get to see each other. Well, I'll see you soon, Albus and Rose. I'm not sure when, but I'll definitely see you at Christmas."
A/N: Thanks to my beta, Dancer_of_Starlight and Denas, Jen, sinwillys822, XDNLxtlz99, Luke, and Moonylupin for their reviews!
Disclaimer- I don't own Harry Potter.
Albus and his friends sat around the Room of Requirement for the next half hour, waiting for Matt to come back. Nobody said much, but Albus could tell that they were all worried about what was going to happen. Albus certainly was. Albus looked up sharply as he heard the door to the room open. "What happened?" he asked immediately.
Matt ran over to his friends with a smile on his face. "Not much."
"You don't have to leave?" Rose asked.
"Nope!" Matt grinned. "Kendrick said he'd take care of it and no one's going to be able to get into the passageway anymore."
"That's great!" Albus replied. He was very relieved. It would not have been fair for Matt to have to leave Hogwarts just because of Kaden's stupidity.
"Yeah. Kendrick said I should have just told him immediately, though."
"We didn't really think of it at the time," John commented.
"I know, and Kendrick understands. He's not giving me detention or anything," Matt told them.
"Good," Amanda replied.
"So," John said tentatively, "Nobody can get into the passageway now?"
"Pretty much. Kendrick didn't really explain, but he told me no one would be able to get in," Matt explained, "Just me and Madam Pomfrey, I think."
"Oh," John said, "I was kind of hoping we could go explore it some time."
Matt turned and glared at him, "Are you insane? There's no way I'd take you into the Shrieking Shack."
"It could have been like our own common room," John continued.
"No way. Nope. Not going to happen," Matt said flatly.
"All right, fine," John sighed, "Would've been cool, though."
The next day at breakfast, Albus was still thinking about the new map. He kept wondering what made it so different from the original Marauder's Map. Albus was hoping that it would show Hogsmeade, along with everyone who was in Hogsmeade.
"Who's that old lady up there?" Amanda pointed to the staff table. There was a short old witch with a patched and frayed hat sitting where Professor Longbottom usually sat.
Albus looked up and watched her. For some reason she looked rather familiar, but he couldn't put his finger on it.
"Yeah, and where's Professor Longbottom?" Matt asked.
"Dunno," Albus shrugged. He looked up towards the ceiling as the post owls started to arrive. Rose's family owl made a beeline for her and stood waiting for her to take the letter off.
Rose took the letter and gave her owl a piece of toast. She opened the letter and read for a few minutes before reemerging from behind it with a huge grin on her face. "Professor Longbottom's wife has had her baby! Her name is Lucy Augusta. That explains why Professor Longbottom isn't here."
Albus smiled. "That's great." Albus hadn't seen Hannah since the summer, and she'd been quite pregnant then.
"You know, I never really think about the teachers having families," Matt commented.
"Well, we met Professor Longbottom's wife at the Leaky Cauldron over the summer," John pointed out.
"I know, but I don't really remember her that well," Matt explained, "I didn't feel too great that day."
"Oh, yeah," John remembered, "And Professor Potter obviously has a family." John grinned at Albus.
"He does?" Albus opened his eyes wide in a look of fake shock. "I never knew!"
Matt laughed, "I wonder about the other teachers, though."
"I think Patil is married," Rose told them, "Slughorn isn't, but I'm not sure about the others."
"May I have your attention?" Kendrick stood up and banged his spoon against his goblet. "Thank you. I have two announcements this morning. The first one is that it has come to my attention that a few of you have not heeded my warnings about staying away from the Whomping Willow. I must tell you again how dangerous it is."
Albus stole a glance at Kaden, who was steadily turning more pink. Albus glared at him and this made him turn a bright shade of red.
"As an added precaution, I have put a few wards around it that will inform me when someone disregards my rules. There will be severe punishment for anyone who is caught around the tree," Kendrick said sternly.
"On a lighter note, I'm sure you all have noticed that Professor Longbottom is not here today."
Most of the other students started whispering among themselves, no doubt wondering why this could be considered a 'lighter note'.
"Yes, yes, no need to worry. Professor Longbottom's wife has had a baby girl and he will be gone for a few weeks. Professor Sprout, who taught here years ago has offered to take his place until he returns," Kendrick gestured to the older witch.
That's where he knew her from, Albus thought as Sprout stood up and waved. Albus had met Sprout once when he was much younger.
"I believe that is all. I hope everyone has a good Sunday and is well rested for classes tomorrow," Kendrick sat back down.
"I hope Sprout is nice," Matt said as he and the others wandered around the grounds after breakfast. It was a very mild day for November and most of the students were outside enjoying the weather.
"She is," Albus assured him. "My parents had her. So did most of my aunts and uncles."
"Mine, too," John said.
"I've met her a few times," Rose commented, "I like her."
"Good," Matt smiled, "It seems like we haven't got any mean teachers this year."
The group spent the morning wandering around the grounds, putting off the homework they should have been doing. They talked some more about the map, but nobody had any ideas as to how to get it to work or who could represent Wormtail. Albus also thought a lot about what Victoire had said. He was beginning to wonder if he should just forgive Kaden. It would certainly be a whole lot easier than trying to avoid him, like he had been doing the past month and a half.
"I don't think we're going to be able to ignore Kaden forever," Albus announced as they were laying underneath a beech tree near the lake.
"You've just realized this?" Rose asked, smirking.
"Well, I'd been hoping we could just ignore him," Albus told her.
"You can't, Albus," Rose sighed, "He's your cousin, whether you like him or not."
"I know," Albus replied, "I'm getting sick of having to avoid him all the time."
"I still don't like him," John said adamantly, "I mean, maybe if he'd learn how to shut his mouth, I'd like him better."
"Maybe there's some kind of spell we can use to get him not to talk about things he's not supposed to," Amanda laughed.
"That'd be nice," Albus agreed. "So, you think we should forgive him?"
"We probably should," Matt replied quietly. "No one can get into the tree now, and Malfoy's going to find out eventually," he sighed, "It's only a matter of time. He'll find out whether Kaden gives him clues or not. He's smart. Kaden won't figure it out until someone tells him, but Malfoy will find out on his own. It's only a matter of when."
Albus stared at his friend. Albus did not think Matt would ever be friendly with Kaden again, but what he said actually made sense. Malfoy was going to find out. "It's all right with you if I forgive him?"
"Yeah," Matt said, "He's your cousin. If I had any cousins, I'd want to be friendly with them."
Albus sighed. He knew the right thing to do was to just forgive Kaden. Albus knew that as soon as he made up with Kaden, Kaden would start hovering around them again. He just wished Kaden would find his own friends. But it didn't look like that was going to happen anytime soon. Every time Albus saw Kaden, he was either alone or with James.
"Want to go back to the castle?" John asked a little while later. It was starting to get windier and clouds were rolling in. It would probably rain soon.
"Sure," Albus agreed.
"I've got to find Slughorn," Rose announced as she stood up. "I need to talk to him about that last essay. Want to come, Amanda?" Amanda nodded and the two girls took off for the castle.
"Bet she thinks she lost a point on it," John laughed.
"Probably," Albus grinned as the three boys started walking back to the castle. They joined the large group of students now running towards the castle as it got darker outside.
"What do you want to do?" John asked as they climbed the stairs.
"Want to go to the Room?" Matt suggested.
"Sounds good, maybe we can figure out how to work the new map," Albus said. "After all, once I talk to Kaden, we won't be able to sneak off there without him wondering where we are."
"I hadn't thought of that," John groaned. "Maybe you shouldn't talk to him."
"I've got to, John," Albus sighed. "He's my cousin."
"How are you going to keep him from knowing about the map?" Matt asked.
"No idea. I guess we'll just have to mess with it while Kaden's in class."
The boys continued their journey up to the seventh floor corridor. They were halfway down the sixth floor corridor, heading towards the stairs, when Matt stopped in his tracks. Albus stared at him quizzically, wondering why he had stopped. "What's wrong?" he whispered.
Matt said nothing but pulled his two friends into a nearby empty classroom. He shut the door and turned to face his friends. "There's people whispering just around the corner."
"What?" Albus asked. He hadn't heard anything in the corridor. It had seemed completely deserted.
"Are you mad?" John stared at him, "We were the only ones out there."
"I'm serious!" Matt said.
"No you're not," John laughed, "I'm supposed to be Sirius. You're Remus."
Matt groaned, "You know what I mean! But I definitely heard something. My hearing's better than yours."
"Oh, right," Albus replied, remembering that werewolves did have superior hearing. "Well, what was it?"
"There's at least two people out there and one sounds scared," Matt explained.
"Do you think they're students?" Albus asked, immediately thinking of the Willinsons and Washburn. Had they come back to find the Hallows?
"Yeah, definitely students."
Albus breathed a sigh of relief. It couldn't be Washburn or either Willinson, if they sounded like students.
"Let's go investigate," John said mischievously.
Albus was undecided if he wanted to go see who was whispering around the corner or not. He was definitely curious, but he didn't want to get hexed. Eventually, his curiosity beat out his fear. "All right."
"Hold out your wands," Matt instructed as he opened the door. The boys crept quietly out into the corridor and walked to the corner. As they got closer, Albus could start to make out bits of conversation.
"Come on!" an icy voice seethed, "You know more. Just tell us and we won't hex you."
"I swear, I told you everything!" someone croaked. He sounded like he was shaking.
Albus quickened his pace. Someone was going to hex someone. He had to stop them! Albus vaguely recognized both the voices, but he couldn't quite place them.
The boys rounded the corner and Albus saw why he recognized the voices. Scorpius Malfoy and Felix Willinson were standing with their wands pointed at Kaden, who was leaning on the wall, his hand shakily holding his wand out in front of him. Albus stopped in his tracks, and John and Matt did the same. Neither Malfoy, Willinson, or Kaden had noticed them yet.
"Just tell me what's beyond the tunnel, Dursley," Willinson snarled.
"I don't know!" Kaden repeated.
"Liar," Malfoy raised his wand a little higher.
That was it. Albus couldn't bear to watch Malfoy interrogating his cousin like that. All his bitter thoughts toward Kaden flew out the window the moment Albus saw Kaden's terrified face. Albus ran forward and shouted, "Expelliarmus!" Malfoy's wand sailed out of his hand and landed on the floor a few feet down the corridor. John ran forward and grabbed it.
Albus and Matt stepped forward as Malfoy and Willinson turned around. "Well, if it isn't Potter," Malfoy spat. "What can you possibly want?"
"Quit threatening my cousin," Albus growled. He pointed his wand at Malfoy's chest.
"That can be arranged," Malfoy replied, "If you tell us where the tunnel under the Whomping Willow goes."
Albus didn't break eye contact with Malfoy, but he knew Matt had gone white next to him. "Why would you think I know where it goes?"
"The Mudblood told us," Willinson smirked. "But he claims he's got no idea where it goes. I think you do."
"Don't call him a Mudblood!" Albus shouted.
At the same time, John shouted, "Expelliarmus!" and Willinson's wand sailed neatly into John's hand.
"Looks like you've got your cousin's dueling skills," Albus commented. "Quinton Willinson is your cousin, right?"
"Sure is," Willinson confirmed. "Now, will one of you tell us where the tunnel goes? I'll let your Mudblood cousin go if you do."
"I said don't call him that!" Albus shouted, "And no, we won't tell you where it goes."
"Fine," Malfoy smirked, "Guess your cousin will get hexed."
John burst out laughing, "Good luck with that, seeing as I've got your wands."
Apparently both Malfoy and Willinson had forgotten about that and they stared at each other. Kaden, realizing that neither Slytherin could hex him, stumbled over to where Albus and the others were standing.
"Dueling in the corridors," a panting voice behind them said. "That's against the rules."
Albus jumped as he heard the voice and turned around to meet it. It was Filch. Albus groaned inwardly. Why did Filch always have to be around? He, Matt, John, and Kaden all exchanged glances as Filch grinned at them all.
"Follow me, all of you," Filch said gleefully.
"But, Sir," Malfoy replied sweetly, "Felix and I don't have our wands. Clearly these four Gryffindors attacked us."
"If I've learned anything over the years," Filch growled, "It's that Slytherins are never innocent."
Albus stifled a laugh as he followed Filch down the hallway. Nobody said anything as Filch led them into his cramped office. It was very difficult for the six boys to fit inside and everyone was too close for comfort.
Filch went through his usual routine of filling out forms and filing them in the correct cabinet. He smirked as he filed Albus's form. "Seems you'll have a file nearly as big as your father and grandfather's by the time you graduate."
Albus said nothing as Filch continued to fill out and file his forms. After what seemed like an hour, but was probably only a few minutes, Filch finished. "You'll have two night's detention. Tonight and tomorrow night. Meet me here. Now get out."
Albus didn't have to be asked twice. He was the first one out the door, followed quickly by Matt, John, and Kaden. After the two Slytherins left and started heading towards the dungeons, Albus began to lead his friends up the stairs. No one said much as they walked towards Gryffindor Tower. Kaden stuck to them like someone had affixed a permanent sticking charm on him, but Albus didn't mind. He needed to talk to Kaden anyway. Why were Malfoy and Willinson threatening him? Was this the reason he told Malfoy about the passageway in the Whomping Willow?
When they got to the common room, it was packed. There was hardly any room for them. Albus wordlessly lead them up to his dormitory and shut the door behind them. John and Matt sat down on Matt's bed, but Albus and Kaden remained standing.
Albus wasn't sure where to begin. Should he just tell Kaden that he forgave him? Or ask him what was going on with Malfoy and Willinson? But before Albus could decide, Kaden started the conversation.
"I'm sorry," Kaden whispered quietly.
Albus did a double take. Kaden was sorry? "For what?" Albus asked. Kaden hadn't done anything wrong recently. Not since he talked to Malfoy over a month ago.
"For telling Malfoy," Kaden explained. "I know you're mad at me and I'm sorry," his voice cracked. "And I'm sorry for landing you lot in detention, again."
"Kaden, this one wasn't your fault," Albus insisted, "It was Malfoy and Willinson's fault. Speaking of them, want to tell us what's been going on?" Albus hadn't paid an ounce of attention to his cousin since their big fight over a month ago, but Albus was sure that this wasn't an isolated incident with the Slytherins.
"They cornered me," Kaden whispered, "Over a month ago. They knew I hung out with you, and they wanted to know if I knew anything about Matt's, er, illness."
Albus nodded. That's why Kaden had told Malfoy. The Slytherin weaseled it out of him. "Go on."
"And I'm sorry, Albus," Kaden's eyes watered, "I really am. They just both pointed their wands at me, and I don't know any good hexes, and I just got scared, and I know Gryffindors are supposed to be brave, but they told me they'd hex me if I didn't tell them what I knew. So I did, and before I realized it I mentioned the Whomping Willow."
So that was it, Albus thought. He should have just listened to Victoire. There was a reason Kaden had told Malfoy. Kaden hadn't just willingly given him the information.
"And it was too late," Kaden continued, "They were going to hex me if I didn't tell them. So I told them there was a tunnel but I didn't know where it went. They didn't believe me, though. They've been trying to get me to tell them about once a week and I get hexed every time. Madam Pomfrey fixes it, though."
Albus sighed, "I told you to tell me if they were bothering you again."
"But you were mad at me," Kaden's voice wobbled, "I figured you didn't care anymore."
"Kaden, sometimes you do things that I just don't understand," Albus explained, "But I'll always care about you. You're my cousin and nothing can change that."
"I know, and I'm really sorry about everything," Kaden replied, "I wanted to keep it all a secret, but-"
"It's all right," Albus cut him off. Kaden was obviously sorry about what he had done. Albus was starting to feel really bad that he had ignored his cousin for so long, especially when he was being threatened by Slytherins. "And I'm sorry I didn't listen to you before."
Kaden nodded, tears starting to spill out of his eyes. "You're not mad at me anymore?"
"No," Albus answered, "Just tell me next time they do that. And try not to tell anyone the things I tell you in private anymore."
Kaden nodded and turned to John and Matt. "Are you two still mad at me?"
John and Matt looked at each other and then shook their heads. "No, we've been mad at you long enough," Matt told him.
Kaden smiled through his tears and looked back at Albus. "I don't suppose you'd tell me where the tunnel goes now?"
"Not a chance," Albus grinned. Even after all that, Kaden was still his usual curious self, forever optimistic that Albus would actually tell him all of Hogwarts's secrets.
"Didn't think so," Kaden replied, "But it was worth a shot. Anyway, I haven't had a chance to tell you, but I still think football is better than Quidditch."
"Are you mad?!" John and Matt shouted at the same time. Both of them had looks of disgust on their faces.
Kaden grinned sheepishly, "I just think it's better. You can't kick the Quaffle around like they do in football."
John turned his gaze from Kaden to Albus. "We've got to fix this," he said solemnly.
"We'll take him to the Cup," Matt decided, "No matter where it is. We'll go and prove to him that Quidditch is best."
"It won't change my mind," Kaden replied.
"Once you see the Cannons play, you'll change your mind," Matt told him as he stood up.
"The Cannons?" John laughed and walked over to the door, "Are you the insane one now?"
"Not at the moment, no," Matt smirked. John and Albus burst out laughing at John's choice of words and Kaden looked at them confusedly.
"Another thing I don't get to know?" Kaden asked.
"Yup," the three other boys said at the same time.
"Anyway," John continued as they left the room, "The Cannons are the worst team, you don't want to see them play. It's not like they'll make it to the League Cup."
Matt punched him playfully in the arm, "Don't insult my team like that. It's not like Puddlemre United is doing much better."
This time it was John's turn to punch Matt in the arm. "Puddlemere is better than the Cannons can ever hope to be."
John and Matt continued their argument all the way down into the common room, with Kaden paying rapt attention. Albus smiled as he watched them. Maybe Kaden could fit in with their group after all.
A/N: Thanks to Dancer_of_Starlight for betaing for me! Thanks as well to Denas, sinwillys822, XDNLxtlz99, Rebekah, Moonylupin, Luke, and lilausty for their reviews!
Disclaimer- I don't own Harry Potter.
It didn't take long for Kaden to fit himself back into Albus's group of friends. By the end of the week, Albus, Kaden, and the others got back to their usual routine of doing homework in the common room after dinner. Of course, that did not start until after the boys served their detention with Filch. The caretaker had them clean almost every bathroom in the entire castle. This was a tense affair due to the fact that Malfoy and Felix Willinson were serving the detention alongside them. Albus was quite happy when the detention was over.
All in all, school was going well for Albus. He was doing well in all his classes and Quidditch and the Dueling Club were going well, too. Albus managed to shove aside his thoughts of the new map during Quidditch, which pleased Georgia greatly. The downside to having Kaden back was that Albus and his other friends couldn't really sneak off to the Room of Requirement anymore, unless they wanted to bring Kaden. They all liked Kaden well enough, but none of them really wanted the younger boy to know about the Room yet. That, and they didn't want Kaden to know about the map. He didn't even know about the regular Marauder's Map. So, Albus had no choice but to just think about the map, rather than mess around with it.
As November turned into December, snow fell upon the grounds and students of all ages flocked to them to have snow ball fights. Albus and his friends took part in quite a few, usually being crushed by the older students. Albus enjoyed these fights immensely, but thoughts of the new map were always in the back of his mind. He just wished they could have some time away from Kaden to investigate it some more. The opportunity to do just that arose one day in the beginning of December. Kaden was not doing too well in Transfiguration and one of the older Ravenclaws had offered to tutor him and a few other first years in the library.
Albus immediately shut his Charms book after Kaden left the common room. "All right, he's gone. Let's go to the Room."
"You're awfully eager for him to leave," John smirked, "I thought you didn't mind him so much now."
"You know I don't, John," Albus replied, "I just want to mess around with the map."
"Do you think you know how to work it?" Matt asked.
"I've got an idea," Albus said.
"Let's go," Rose announced.
The group left the crowded common room and followed the familiar path to the Room. Once there, they took their usual seats and waited for Albus tell them his idea.
"Well," Albus began. He took the map out of his bag and spread it out on the table. "I think we should try writing on it. You know, remember what I tried to tell the map last time? I think I should write that on the map."
"Are you out of your mind?" John exclaimed, "What if you ruin it?"
Matt and Amanda stared at Albus in shock, but Rose didn't appear fazed at all.
"No, listen," Albus continued, "Remember the diary Horcrux? Well, my mum and dad wrote in that and the ink just disappeared into it."
"But this isn't a Horcrux!" John said.
"Have you got any better ideas?" Albus asked.
"Er, no, but-"
"Then we should just try it!" Albus insisted.
"I agree, Albus," Rose announced.
"Thank you, Rose."
"At least write it really small," Matt suggested, "That way if it isn't the right way, it won't mess it up."
Albus nodded. That made sense. "All right." He took a deep breath. "Here it goes. I solemnly swear that I am Messr Prongs."
The familiar ink appeared on the parchment, telling Albus that he needed to prove he knew all the Marauders' secrets. He looked up at his friends, who were all wearing looks of anticipation. Albus grabbed a quill and an ink pot. He poised his quill over the parchment and wrote in very tiny letters,
'Moony is a werewolf. Prongs, Padfoot, and Wormtail are all illegal animagi. Prongs is a stag, Padfoot is a dog, and Wormtail is a rat.'
Albus put the quill down and stared at the parchment. Everyone watched in complete silence. The ink disappeared into the map and Amanda let out a gasp. A few moments later, new words appeared.
'Close, but not quite.'
Albus let out a loud groan as the words dissolved. "I really thought that would be it!"
"We're never going to figure this out," John sighed.
"Doesn't matter anyway, we don't have a Wormtail," Matt pointed out.
"I think that would have been too obvious anyway," Rose explained, "It's got to be something more subtle."
"How do we subtly tell a piece of parchment that we know the Marauders' secrets?" Albus wondered aloud.
"Well," Rose began, "We've got to remember that these are the Marauders. And I'm sure they wanted to make it difficult for whoever found this map."
"Good point," John said.
"This most likely holds more information about Hogwarts than the Marauder's Map did, and possibly Hogsmeade as well," Rose continued, "So we've got to think about this the way they would've."
Albus hadn't thought of that. Of course the Marauders wouldn't have just had them write something on the map. It was too easy. "Right, so they liked getting in trouble. They would probably want us to do something that might get us in trouble."
"And most likely dangerous," Rose added.
"Dangerous?" Amanda repeated, staring at Rose.
"Definitely," Albus confirmed. The more he thought about it, the more it made sense. The Marauders spent their Hogwarts career causing trouble and doing dangerous things. They obviously would want people just as daring to be the next Marauders.
"How can it be dangerous to prove that we know their secrets?" John asked.
"No idea," Albus sighed, "And it's got to be something we can put on this parchment."
"What can we put on parchment that shows they were all animagi and a werewolf?" Matt asked.
"We could draw paw prints on it," John laughed.
Rose's face lit up. "John, that's it!"
"Drawing paw prints?" John stared at her, "How's that dangerous?"
"No, not that. But the paw print idea," Rose grinned mischievously, "We've got to get a werewolf, stag, dog, and rat paw print onto the map."
The idea sounded ridiculous to Albus, but it did seem like the kind of thing the Marauders would do. It would definitely be dangerous to get the paw prints, and difficult as well. Not many people would actually be able to get them all. It was subtle as well. No one would have any idea what the paw prints would mean unless they knew the Marauders' secrets. The only thing he didn't like about it was the idea of a bunch of animals trampling the map.
They all stared at Rose, who was looking quite happy with the idea. Eventually, Albus spoke. "Are you sure?"
"Not positive," Rose answered, "There's only one way to find out. What do you lot think?"
"I think that might be it," Albus replied, "It seems very Maraudery."
"Is that a word?" Rose laughed.
"Probably not," Albus grinned, "But I like it."
"Good idea, Rose," John agreed.
"Sounds like it might work," Amanda said.
"Makes sense," Matt replied.
"So it's settled," Rose announced, "We shall put paw prints on the map."
"Wait," Albus said, "I really don't like the idea of animals stepping on the map. What if it gets ripped accidentally."
"Good point," Rose sighed. Everyone thought about this for a few moments, then Rose had another idea. "What if we use different pieces of parchment and then use a transference charm to put them on the map?"
"Brilliant," Albus grinned. Sometimes, he loved how smart his cousin was. "Anyone know how to do one?"
They all stared at each other and shook their heads. "Er, that might be a problem," Albus sighed, "I'm pretty sure that charm is well past O.W.L."
"I'll learn it," Rose told him, "I'm sure I can find it in the library somewhere."
"We're lucky you're such a book worm, Rose," John laughed.
"All right, so we're going to try this," Albus said adamantly. He was up for trying anything. Even if it didn't work, they would still be making progress. "Rose, you start figuring out the transference charm, and the rest of us will get the paw prints."
"The dog will be easy," Amanda announced, "I've got a dog, remember?"
"Oh, yeah!" Albus replied, "So you can get the dog print over Christmas."
"Sure," Amanda grinned, "It'll be easy."
"Christmas?" John sighed, "I thought we'd have it done before that."
"It might take me a while to figure out the charm anyway," Rose commented.
Albus had wanted to figure out the map before Christmas as well, but considering the fact that there weren't any dogs in Hogwarts, that wouldn't be possible. "I think we can find a rat somewhere in the castle. Probably near the dungeons."
"Great, Slytherin territory," John groaned.
"I've seen them in the Potions classroom," Rose said, "All we've got to do is cast Petrificus Totalus on one during Potions and sneak it up here. Who wants to do it?"
Albus glanced around at his friends. He wasn't real fond of rats and would prefer not to have to carry one around in his bag all day.
"I'll do it," John said after a while, "It shouldn't be that hard. I just hope the spell lasts until I can get it up here."
"It should," Rose replied, "Just try and get up here as soon as possible."
"Good," Albus said, "We've got the dog and the rat covered. Next is the stag. That'll be a bit more difficult."
"There are probably stags in the forest," Amanda suggested, "But we'd get in trouble."
"That's what the Marauders would have wanted," Albus told her.
"We don't have to go to the Forbidden Forest," Rose announced, "We've just got to go to a forest. I live right near a forest, Albus and I can try and get the print over Christmas."
"That is a brilliant idea, Rose," Albus smiled. He did not really want to go wandering around the Forbidden Forest and not just because it was out of bounds. It would be very dangerous to go in there. "And that just leaves-"
"The werewolf one," Matt whispered. Albus and the others turned to look at Matt. He had been very quiet over the past few minutes and Albus noticed that he was paler than usual. Albus could understand why. The werewolf paw print could possibly be the most dangerous one to get.
"You know," Rose said quietly, "This is why the paw print thing makes so much sense to me. I highly doubt a regular wolf print is going to work. And if this really is the way to get the map to work, the only way to get a werewolf paw print would be if a werewolf was at Hogwarts."
Albus thought about this and it made perfect sense. This would be one way for the Marauders to make sure that the new Marauders would have at least one similarity to the originals. "But how do we get it? We obviously can't go into the Shrieking Shack the night of the full moon."
The room fell quiet as everyone tried to think of a way that they could safely get a werewolf's paw print. Albus had no idea. They couldn't exactly try and stun Matt while he was transformed like they were planning on doing with the rat and the stag.
"All right," Matt sighed after a few minutes. "I've got an idea."
Albus and the rest of his friends said nothing but watched as they waited for Matt to elaborate. Albus could tell that Matt really didn't want to do this, but they had to. How else would they get the map to work?
"We go down to the Shrieking Shack a couple days before the full moon and stick a few pieces of self-inking parchment to the floor. Hopefully I'll step on one of them and we'll have a paw print," Matt explained quietly.
"That could work," Albus said slowly.
"But we can't let anyone see us," Matt told them, "So we'll have to go at night."
"We'll get caught," Rose said.
"Not if we use my dad's invisibility cloak," Albus grinned. "I'll sneak into his study sometime when he's in class and borrow it."
"Really?" Matt half-smiled. "That would be great."
"We won't all be able to fit underneath, though," Albus told them, "Probably just two of us, three at most."
"You three can go," Rose gestured to Albus, Matt, and John, "You're going to be the new Marauders anyway."
"Hang on," John interrupted, "I thought Kendrick put up wards on the Whomping Willow. How are we going to get in without him knowing?"
"I know how to deactivate them," Matt explained, "Otherwise I wouldn't be able to get in."
"When's the next full moon?" Albus asked.
"Next week," Matt sighed, "Are we doing it that soon?"
"Might as well," Albus replied, "I'll try and get Dad's cloak tomorrow. He's got classes in the afternoon but we don't. Then we can sneak down to the Shrieking Shack this weekend."
"Perfect," Rose grinned, "And I'll start searching the library for the charm. Hopefully we'll have it figured out right after Christmas."
"Hope so," Albus replied. He was excited. They were close to figuring this out; he could feel it.
"Well, I've got homework to do," Rose announced as she pulled out a few books from her bag.
Albus sighed, "I do, too."
The group worked silently on their homework for a while, only talking when they needed to ask questions about it. Albus tried his best to concentrate on his Transfiguration essay, but his mind kept wandering back to the map. He wished they could get the paw prints faster. Albus was very anxious to find out what this map had in store for them. Of course, they still had to find someone to be Wormtail, but Albus tried to push that thought from his mind.
"It's so quiet," John said, tapping his quill on his book.
"Nice, isn't it?" Rose smiled.
"Not really," John replied, "It's too quiet. I've kind of gotten used to Kaden's loudness."
"It is kind of strange not having him around tonight," Albus agreed. He had kind of gotten used to Kaden's constant presence over the past few weeks. Albus would even go so far as to say that he was starting to become friends with his cousin.
"He's always around us, though," Matt laughed, "He kind of follows us around like a puppy dog."
"He looks up to Albus," Rose explained, "To him, Albus can't do anything wrong."
That's it! Albus dropped his quill and stared at Rose. Of course! Why hadn't he realized it before? Kaden did follow them around and practically worship the ground they walked on. Kaden was Wormtail.
"Albus?" Rose asked. "Are you all right?"
Albus shook his head and looked at Rose. "I'm fine. Better than that, actually," he grinned. "You've just given me an idea as to who can be Wormtail."
"Who?" John asked anxiously.
"What?!" John, Matt, Rose, and Amanda shouted at once.
"You're kidding, right?" Rose asked.
"No, I'm not," Albus replied. He didn't see how they couldn't understand it. It made perfect sense to him. "You don't see it?"
"Not really," John said.
"Just listen," Albus sighed. "First, we've got to remember what the map said when I told it I was Prongs. It said 'four Gryffindors connected by friendship and mischief'. The three of us are obviously connected through both." Albus gestured to John and Matt. "But we need a fourth person. Since they have to be somehow connected through us, we can't just pick a random student. Can you think of anyone besides Kaden that we have gotten in trouble with?"
"Not really," John said after a few moments silence.
"Right," Albus continued, "And I'd say we're friends with him now. Would you?"
John and Matt nodded. "Yeah, I think so," Matt agreed. "I see what you're getting at. But how is he like Wormtail?"
Albus looked at his friends for a moment before responding. Albus talked the least about Wormtail than all the other Marauders. Obviously, Albus felt a deep hatred for Peter Pettigrew, and this resulted in him not wanting to talk about him. So Albus's friends really didn't know a whole lot about him. Just the parts that had to do with him betraying Albus's grandparents. "Well, we've got to remember that when the Marauders made this map they were friends with Wormtail. He hadn't betrayed them yet. He did have good qualities, as much as I hate saying that," Albus said grimly.
"So what are these qualities?" John asked skeptically.
"Er, I'm not sure exactly," Albus confessed, "I mean, all the Marauders were dead by the time I was born, so there's not really anyone to tell me what they would be. But my dad has told me some stuff, and it sounds a bit like Kaden. He told me that Wormtail practically worshiped Sirius and my grandpa."
"Like Kaden does with you three," Rose commented, a look of realization appearing on her face.
"Exactly," Albus said, happy that someone was finally understanding, "And he used to do whatever they wanted."
"Sounds like Kaden," Matt agreed.
"Definitely," John replied.
"You know," Rose began, "Wormtail obviously caved under threats and Kaden did, too."
Albus had realized this as well, but he really didn't want to think about it. Albus didn't ever think his cousin would betray anyone like Wormtail had done. "Well, I guess we've found our Wormtail."
"When are we going to tell him?" John asked.
"I dunno," Albus hadn't gotten that far. There were still parts of him that wanted to keep the map a secret from Kaden, but he obviously couldn't do that if Kaden was supposed to be the new Wormtail. "I'm not sure how to tell him. I'm not sure he'll be that thrilled about being Wormtail."
"Oh, I don't know," Rose said, "I think he won't mind as long as he gets to be a part of this."
"The map's not the only thing we're going to have to tell him, is it?" Matt said quietly, "He's going to find out what I am."
This was the part that Albus had tried to avoid thinking about ever since he first realized what they had to do to work the new map. Whoever was going to represent Wormtail was going to find out that Matt was a werewolf, there was no avoiding it. It was part of the reason that Albus hadn't really thought about who would be Wormtail. Albus knew Matt didn't want anyone else to find out. He never even really told Albus and the others. They had found out on their own. Albus knew Kaden would never find out on his own; he was just too oblivious. He needed to know, though, if he was going to be a part of this. Otherwise, he couldn't really be one of the new Marauders. Albus just had a gut feeling about that. But was it worth it to tell him? Especially when he already told Malfoy everything Albus had told him to keep secret? Albus sighed, "I think so. If we're going to do this, Kaden will have to know."
"We can't do it then," Matt said adamantly, "I can't tell him. I just can't. He'll tell Malfoy and then the whole of Slytherin will know and then soon the whole school will know and they'll tell their parents and they'll complain and Kendrick will have to kick me out. But then it won't matter anyway because all of Wizarding Britain will know and no one will want to be around me or my family again and it will be just like Australia-"
"Matt," Albus cut him off. He was getting hysterical. "Calm down, that's not going to happen."
"How do you know?" Matt whispered in a shaky voice.
"Because Kaden won't tell anyone," Rose interjected.
"Not if I don't tell him," Matt replied, "And I'm not going to tell him. You lot can't either, you promised."
"We won't," Albus reassured him, "Not unless you want us to."
"I don't," Matt said in a slightly louder voice.
"Just listen to me for a minute," Rose said loudly. "Remember what Amanda said about a spell to keep Kaden from giving away anymore secrets?" Everyone nodded. "Well, I'm pretty sure there is a spell like that," Rose grinned.
"Really?" Amanda stared at her, "Magic just gets better and better."
"Yes. I vaguely remember reading about it in a book. I'm sure if I went to the library I could find it," Rose explained. "I'll just look for it when I'm researching the transference charm."
Albus's hopes soared high again, "Excellent! Would you be willing to tell him if Rose found this spell?"
Albus held his breath as he watched Matt think about it. "I," Matt paused, "Suppose that could work.... But, only if we try out the spell with a less important secret first."
Rose nodded, "Yeah, I could do that."
Albus grinned. They were onto something, he could feel it. They would unlock the secrets of this new parchment. Albus was so thrilled with the prospect of finally discovering what the new map held, he could hardly sleep that night. He wasn't the only one, either. Albus heard Matt and John tossing and turning all night, over the sounds of Ethan and Bilius's snoring. Although, Albus suspected Matt's sleepless night was more due to nerves than excitement. Judging by the look on his face as they went back to the common room that evening, he was still reluctant to let Kaden in on his biggest secret.
A/N: Thanks to my beta, Dancer_of_Starlight. Thanks as well to Denas, XDNLxtlz99, Luke, Moonylupin, Lily meet Ginny, and drownzer for their reviews!
Disclaimer- I don't own Harry Potter.
When Albus woke up the next morning, he found that he was overcome with nerves about stealing his father's Invisibility Cloak. Albus had been so caught up in the excitement about the map the night before that he hadn't really given it a second thought. But now that the idea had simmered overnight, he realized that the plan might go horribly wrong. What had he been thinking? Stealing the Invisibility Cloak? That was exactly what Washburn had been trying to do the previous year. Of course, Albus was technically only borrowing the Cloak, as he intended to sneak it back right after he was done with his late night stroll to the Shrieking Shack, but still. What if his dad discovered it missing? Was that even likely? Albus had no idea how often Harry used his cloak nowadays. He probably didn't have much use for it at Hogwarts because teachers could roam around wherever and whenever they wanted.
Albus didn't even know where his father kept the cloak. He was planning on just trying a summoning charm as James had done to retrieve the Marauder's Map. Albus just hoped that the cloak attempt would go just as smoothly. Harry still hadn't noticed that the Map was missing. Either that or he knew James took it and was just letting him keep it. As Albus's thoughts went to the original Marauder's Map, he remembered that he still hadn't given it back to James.
Albus remained distracted throughout his morning classes and by the time lunch came, he was almost as nervous as he had been for the first Quidditch match. Nobody said much as Albus picked at his food, well nobody except Kaden. Kaden rambled on about his morning classes until he had to leave for Potions a short while later. Once he was gone, Albus was free to talk about their plan. "I'm not sure if this is going to work."
"It worked for the Marauder's Map," Rose reminded him.
"I know, but still...."
"It's got to work," John insisted, "How else will we sneak down to," he lowered his voice, "you know, without being caught?"
"There isn't any other way," Matt replied, "We'll get caught if we don't have the cloak."
"We might get caught when we're trying to steal it," Albus commented.
"No we won't," John assured him, "And even if we do, we'll just be caught by your dad. It's not like we'll get in trouble with Filch or anything."
"But we'll get caught by Filch if we try to sneak out at night without the cloak," Matt whispered.
"Right," John agreed, "So we're off to steal the cloak."
Albus groaned, "Doesn't anyone else think this might not work?"
"Trust me, Albus," Rose said, "It'll work. We'll sneak the cloak back before Uncle Harry even knows it's gone."
"He's leaving now," Amanda pointed to the staff table, "We'll just wait a couple more minutes."
"I don't think we should all go," Rose announced, "It'll look suspicious if we all go into his office. I think just me and Albus should go."
"Good idea," Matt agreed, "No one will think anything of it if the two of you go into his office."
Albus nodded. That was probably the best way to do it. If all five of them went, chances are they would make enough noise to attract another teacher. Albus was relieved that Rose was going to go, though. She was much better at summoning charms than Albus was.
"We'll wait for you in the Room," Matt stood up. John and Amanda followed suit. "See you in a bit."
"Bye," Rose grinned at them. She and Albus loitered a few minutes longer at the Gryffindor table before Rose gestured that it was time to go.
Albus and Rose had lingered long enough at the table that the corridors were practically empty, save for a few straggling students who were much more intent on making it to class than giving Albus and Rose a second glance. They quietly made their way to Harry's office, narrowly avoiding Peeves near Moaning Myrtle's bathroom. Judging from the loud cries that were emitted from the bathroom, Peeves had just finished making fun of poor Myrtle.
The corridor that Harry's office was in was entirely deserted when Albus and Rose descended upon it. Albus was very happy about this. Maybe they would get away with it. Albus tried to open the door, but it was locked. "Merlin!" he shouted and looked at Rose.
Rose didn't look in phased in the least. "Just use Alohamora."
Albus looked at her skeptically. Why would Harry bother to lock his door with a charm that anyone could open?
"Just do it," Rose insisted, "He's got a charm on there that recognizes his magical signature. Yours will be close enough to his that it'll open for you, too. It worked with James last year. It won't work with me, though. I tried. James thought it was incredibly funny."
"All right," Albus replied and pointed his wand at the lock. "Alohomora." The lock clicked and Albus turned the handle. It opened. The cousins quietly crept inside, carefully shutting the door behind them.
Harry's office looked much like it had the last time Albus had been in it. Parchment, books, and other miscellaneous objects were strewn around all over the place, cluttering up the desk, couch, and chair. The bedroom door had been left open and Albus could see that that room was just as messy, with robes laying on the bed and copies of the Prophet on the floor.
"Does he ever clean up?" Rose asked disgustedly, "I mean, really. This is worse than James's room."
"James gets it from Dad," Albus laughed, "Mum makes both of them clean up but Mum's not here, so Dad can just do what he wants."
"I'll bet it's somewhere in there," Albus pointed to the bedroom and started walking towards it. Rose followed and soon they were in the tiny bedroom. Albus guessed that the cloak was either in Harry's trunk or the wardrobe.
Rose must have been thinking the same thing. She wrenched the trunk open and pointed her wand at it. "Accio Invisibility Cloak," she shouted. Nothing happened.
"Great," Albus groaned, "It's not here."
"Wait," Rose said as she crept closer to Harry's trunk, "I'm pretty sure Uncle Harry mentioned that you can't use a summoning charm on the cloak."
Albus thought for a moment and then remembered his dad telling him that once. "Oh, yeah. Well, now what are we going to do?"
"We'll do it the hard way," Rose sighed, "You take the wardrobe, I'll take the trunk."
Albus shook his head as he stepped over to his dad's wardrobe. This was going to take forever. They would certainly get caught before they found it. Albus carefully weeded through his dad's stuff, being careful to put it all back exactly as he found it.
"Got it!" Rose announced, "Bottom of the trunk!"
Albus felt an immense relief as Rose held up the cloak. They did it! They actually found the cloak! Nothing was stopping them now. They were going to find out the secrets of the second map.
"There. Told you we'd get it," Rose grinned, "Now let's get out of here."
Albus nodded, happy to do as Rose said. He certainly didn't want to get caught in his dad's office with the Invisibility Cloak. Rose handed him the cloak and he stuffed it into his robes. Once Albus and Rose were certain that the room looked just as it had when they got there, they quietly left. Neither of them said a word as they walked quickly to the Room of Requirement.
Relief washed over Albus when he made it into the Room a few minutes later. They hadn't been caught! Albus's heart still beat fast with adrenaline as he ran into the Room and grinned at his friends. The thrill of what he and Rose had done was starting to hit him. He had taken the Invisibility Cloak. It was the first Marauder-like thing he had done. He knew this was exactly what the Marauders had wanted him to do. To break rules and not get caught.
"Did you get it?" John ran over with a glimmer of excitement in his eyes. Matt and Amanda were right behind him sporting identical grins on their faces.
"Sure did," Albus smiled and pulled the silvery cloak out of his robes.
"It was incredibly easy," Rose laughed. "I found it right in Uncle Harry's trunk."
"Can I hold it?" Matt asked in awe. Albus handed him the cloak. "This is incredible," Matt whispered. "I'm holding one of the Hallows. I wish I could tell my dad about this."
"You'll be able to eventually. My dad just wants to get to know him first."
Matt put the cloak on and disappeared from view. He reappeared a few seconds later. "That is so cool."
"Let me try," John took the cloak and wrapped it around himself. They spent the next few minutes passing the cloak around and trying it on.
"You three ought to see if you fit," Rose announced.
Albus nodded and took the cloak back from Amanda. John and Matt stood next to him as he threw the cloak over their heads. Albus had been under the cloak with James, Lily, and his cousins before, so he was used to how cramped it was, but his friends weren't.
"Watch it," John snapped as Matt stepped on his foot.
"Sorry," Matt muttered. "This is going to be difficult."
"Can you see us?" Albus asked.
"Nope," Rose said, "Walk around the room a few times."
The boys walked slowly around the room, making sure not to expose any of their limbs. John and Matt started to get the hang of it after a few minutes of practice and they were soon able to go a little faster.
"Perfect," Amanda announced after the fourth time they circled the room. "I'm still amazed by that cloak."
"What night should we do this?" John asked after they took the cloak off.
"I say Saturday because I've got Quidditch practice that morning and I'm going to have to get some sleep Friday night or Georgia will spend the whole time yelling at me to wake up," Albus explained, "That good with you two?"
"Sure," John agreed. Matt nodded.
"Then we're set," Albus replied, "Saturday night, we sneak into the Shrieking Shack."
"You're turning into quite the trouble maker, Albus," Rose laughed, "The Marauders would be proud."
The next day Rose decided to start her research on the transference charm. Albus and the others went with her and it didn't take long to find the right book. Rose found it in a copy of Advanced Charms and after she read a bit about the charm she decided that it was going to be difficult but not impossible for her to do. She decided to master that charm before trying to find the charm to keep Kaden quiet. That one was going to be harder to find since they didn't even know the name of it. Rose checked out the Advanced Charms book under the menacing glare of Madam Pince. It looked to Albus like she was just burning to demand what they were up to and deny them the book. But, she couldn't since the book wasn't in the Restricted Section.
Rose spent the next few days trying to figure the charm out. There wasn't much Albus could do to help her, so he just did his homework and watched her. Albus thought the charm looked incredibly complicated and he was glad that Rose had volunteered to learn it. Rose was having a bit of difficulty mastering the charm, though. By the time Saturday night rolled around, she still hadn't managed to reproduce much of anything. Albus kept reassuring her that she would eventually get it. The charm was well beyond the O.W.L. level and it stood to reason that it would be hard for her. This did not suit Rose well and she was quite frustrated by it. If there was one thing that drove Rose mad, it was having trouble learning something.
"Why don't you take a break?" Albus suggested while they were in the common room on Saturday night. "You've been at it for days."
"Maybe you're right," Rose sighed. She had been trying for the past hour to reproduce her name onto another piece of parchment. "I'll just relax for a while." She pulled out her Transfiguration book and opened it to one of the later chapters.
"I don't know how you can consider that relaxing," John screwed up his face in disgust.
"What are you doing anyway?" Kaden asked loudly, looking up from his Herbology essay.
"Extra credit charms homework," Rose lied.
"Oh," Kaden looked vaguely shocked that Rose would need extra credit.
"I'm doing it for the fun of it," Rose explained.
"You'll get it eventually," Kaden told her, "You're smart."
"Thanks, Kaden," Rose smiled at him.
Albus had no doubt that Rose would figure the charm out eventually. It was just taking her longer than she expected. Albus was in no rush because the charm would be useless until they got all the paw prints they needed. That wouldn't happen until after Christmas. John hadn't managed to find a rat in Potions on Friday, but he was keeping his eyes peeled.
The group stayed in the common room for another couple hours, waiting until it was completely empty. Albus thought Kaden would never go to bed, but shortly after eleven he finally gave in to his fatigue and went up to his dormitory. Eventually, Albus and his friends were the only ones left.
"Ready?" Albus asked. John and Matt nodded. Albus rummaged in his bag and pulled out the cloak. "I've got the parchment in my robe. I think we're set."
"Let's do it," John stood up.
"Good luck," Amanda said as the three boys pulled the cloak around themselves. "We'll be waiting."
"See you in a bit," Rose told them as she held the portrait open for them to leave. "Don't get caught."
"We won't," Albus assured her. "I've got the Map." Albus wasn't nearly as nervous about sneaking out of the castle as he had been about stealing the cloak. And clearly he was breaking more rules this evening than he had the other day. He figured it had something to do with the fact that stealing the cloak was something his father would be disappointed in, whereas sneaking out would just get him in trouble with another teacher.
Whatever the reason, Albus felt almost excited about this evening. The only time he had really snuck out after curfew was when he had his first Occlumency dream the previous year. Tonight's escapade was a much better circumstance. Besides, Albus was a bit excited about following the tunnel to the Whomping Willow and seeing the inside of the Shrieking Shack. He felt kind of guilty about this because he knew Matt didn't want them to and was only agreeing to this for the sake of the new map.
Albus motioned for them to stop before they started down the stairs. He took out the Map and scanned it for a couple minutes. Filch was currently striding along the third floor corridor. They would have to be careful about that. They could easily run right into him. Peeves was flitting around a classroom on the fourth floor, no doubt wreaking havoc for one of the teachers to fix in the morning. Luckily, all of the teachers were in their offices. All they had to worry about were Filch and Peeves. Albus wondered when Filch slept. It seemed that he was always patrolling the corridors.
Albus, John, and Matt continued their cautious trek down to the Entrance Hall, with Albus glancing at the Map every few minutes. The boys made it down to the third floor corridor without trouble, but Albus immediately noticed Filch creeping along the corridor, muttering about insolent children. Albus gave his friends a worried look as they quietly moved towards the nearest stair case. Albus held his breath as Filch passed them. Filch continued on his way without even noticing the three invisible boys. Albus was very happy when they made it onto the second floor and even happier when they got to the front doors and found that Filch left them unlocked. That was the one thing that could have gone wrong with their plan. Rose had tried to teach him a few more complex unlocking spells but he wasn't very good at them and was hoping he wouldn't need to use them.
"Made it!" John let out a huge breath once the castle doors were shut.
"Not quite," Matt replied.
"Yeah, but at least we can talk now. I wish this cloak would cover up noise, too. Reckon we can take the cloak off?"
"No," Albus answered immediately. "What if one of the teachers is looking out the window? Or if Hagrid is wandering around?" Albus loved Hagrid, but he wouldn't want to have to explain why he was sneaking down to the Whomping Willow in the dead of night if the lovable half-giant caught them.
The three boys continued along the path that lead them through the grounds. There was about six inches of snow on the ground and the air was bitingly cold. Albus was glad he remembered his cloak, but was still a bit chilly. He continued to check the Map every couple of minutes, but so far the grounds were deserted. Albus had hoped they would be able to walk faster once they were on the grounds, but he had been wrong. It was still awkward for the three of them to stay concealed under the cloak and it was even harder now because Matt was slowing down. "Are you all right?" Albus asked after the cloak almost slipped off of him.
"Fine," he panted. "Just the moon. Let's keep going."
Albus looked from his friend's tired face to the sky. The almost full moon was shining down on the ground, illuminating it enough that Albus hadn't bothered to light his wand. "We should have done this earlier in the week," Albus commented, remembering the disastrous detention with Filch the other month.
"No, I'm fine," Matt assured him, "It won't be full until Tuesday."
Albus looked at him skeptically but didn't say anything else. He and John slowed down their pace to match Matt's, although Albus thought it would be better for them to speed up in order to reach the tree faster. Eventually, they reached the Whomping Willow. The three boys paused just beyond the reach of the branches and Albus and John looked to Matt for instructions.
"We're not going to be able to get into the hole wearing the cloak," Matt explained. Albus nodded and took it off, stuffing it into his robes. "All right," Matt continued, pulling out his wand. "I'll just disable the wards." He muttered something quietly and pointed his wand at the tree. Albus strained to listen to the spell but he couldn't hear it.
"Now what?" John asked, jumping out of the way of one of the branches.
Matt walked around to the other side of the tree with Albus and John following. Matt bent over, searched through the snow, and picked up a long stick, stumbling and shivering a little as he stood up. He pressed his hand to his head, wincing a little. "Headache," he answered to Albus and John's questioning stares. He dodged one of the tree's branches and stuck the long stick into the tree's trunks. The branches immediately froze and the Whomping Willow looked just as tame as any of the other trees on the grounds. "Quick, before they start again," Matt stumbled towards the tree and disappeared down the passageway.
Albus, who had already been in the tunnel once, gestured for John to go first. Albus followed his friends and made it into the hole just as the branches started flailing again. Albus and John lit their wands and looked around the cramped tunnel while Matt put the wards back up.
"Let's go," Matt announced once he was done.
"This is honestly pretty cool," John said in awe as they started down the passageway, "Kinda spooky, but cool." Matt sent him a dirty look. "I mean, besides the whole werewolf thing," John replied quickly.
Albus could see what John meant. It was kind of a neat tunnel, although very dark and sort of damp. The good thing was that it was slightly warmer than outside. The ceiling was low and Albus had to crouch down a little in order to walk. There were rocks and roots along the path, but the whole atmosphere was quite exciting. Albus loved wandering through secret passageways and this one wasn't any different. He was excited about finally being able to follow it. His dad had told him about this tunnel and the Shrieking Shack numerous times, but always said no when Albus asked if he could go explore it. Now he was finally getting to do it. Granted, he was breaking about a dozen school rules to do it, but it was worth it.
They followed the tunnel for what felt like at least a half hour. The thrill of it was beginning to wear off as Albus got colder. The month of December was not a convenient time to be doing this. By the time they reached the Shrieking Shack, Albus was ready to crawl into his warm four-poster bed and go to sleep. John's excitement had waned as well and he was looking disgruntled from the long, chilly walk. Matt, despite the fact that they were no longer being pelted by the moonlight, didn't look much better than he had earlier. He looked incredibly exhausted and was breathing as heavily as if he'd just run a marathon.
"How do you possibly make it here before the full moon?" John asked, out of breath. "You're practically falling asleep by the time you go down here."
"I'm...not really...sure," Matt replied in between breaths, "Madam Pomfrey...helps."
"Well, next time I can't sleep I'll just walk up and down this a few times," John joked.
"In. Here," Matt panted as he opened an old looking door that creaked as he opened it. Albus and John quietly followed him through it, into a very decrepit looking room.
Albus was shocked at what he saw. Broken furniture lay everywhere, a lot of it covered in dried blood. There wasn't anything that remained unbroken. Pieces of tables, chairs, and couches were all over the place with bite marks on them. There was a staircase nearby that looked like it had been gnawed on numerous times. Albus swallowed as he realized that his friend was the one who caused all the damage.
"What did all this?" John asked slowly.
Matt glared at him. "Use your brain," he snapped.
John looked from him to the broken furniture and back again. "Oh," he said quietly, "Sorry."
"It's all right," Matt sighed and sat down on the floor near the fireplace. He leaned his head against the wall. "See why I didn't really want you to come here?"
"Yeah," Albus and John nodded.
"It's one thing for you to know what I am," Matt continued, "But another to see what I actually do, what I could do..." his voice trailed off.
Albus knew what he wanted to say, but couldn't. What he could do if he wasn't in the Shrieking Shack during the full moon. "But you're not really you then. You're the wolf."
"I guess," Matt said quietly.
"You know what we could do, though," John replied, "Become Animagi."
"What?!" Albus and Matt shouted at the same time.
"Become Animagi," John repeated, "If we're trying to become the next Marauders, we might as well do it properly."
A/N: Bit of a cliffy! But I had to start a new chapter somewhere. Thanks to my beta, Dancer_of_Starlight. Thanks as well to XDNLxtlz99, potterfan89, Moonylupin, smirkyhaha, Denas, myself, and Luke for their reviews!
Disclaimer- I don't own Harry Potter.
Albus had to admit the thought did cross his mind every once in a while. But really, it wasn't very realistic. Yes, the Marauders had done it, but they were lucky it had worked out all right. There was a reason that hardly anyone could become an Animagus and why you had to be registered with the Ministry. Plus, they were only second years. The Marauders hadn't done it until their fifth year. They were exceptionally smart, too. Well, three of them were. Albus didn't think he was anywhere near good enough at Transfiguration to pull it off. Rose was probably the only one of them who had a chance at succeeding. And even though Rose did not hesitate to break rules when she needed to, there was no way she would agree to this. "Oh come on, John, we can't be Animagi."
"Why not?" John asked, "The Marauders did it."
"They were really smart," Albus explained, "I'm definitely not that smart. And what did you get on your last Transfiguration test? A 50 or something?"
"55, thank you," John corrected him, "And we'd figure it out. Rose could help us."
"But this isn't as simple as figuring out a spell for class!" Albus shouted, "It's dangerous. What if we can't change back? What if we get stuck halfway? Rose doesn't know everything. Even she would have trouble with this."
"It's worth the risk," John said adamantly, "I don't care if I mess up a few times. I'll just try again."
"That's the thing. Sometimes when you mess up, you don't get the chance to try again. My dad explained this all to me over the summer. He talked to me about becoming an Animagus as soon as school was over last year because he knew the thought would cross my mind. He'll know if I try and he won't let me do it. I'd consider trying when we're older, but definitely not right now."
John sighed, "It would be great if we could, though. I mean, we would be the ultimate new Marauders then. Imagine if we could even change into the same animals the Marauders were. I fancy myself as a dog."
"I could see that," Albus agreed, relieved that John seemed to accept the fact that Albus wasn't going to budge on the issue. "I don't know if I'd be a stag, though. Maybe a fox or something, I dunno."
"Can you see Kaden as a rat?" John asked, grinning.
Albus smirked, "Not really. He'd probably be one of those yappy dogs, not a big cool dog like you'd be, but a tiny chihuahua or something that's always barking and jumping."
"Definitely," John laughed, "It couldn't hurt to research Animagi, though. I mean, if anyone asks we could say it's for extra credit."
"My dad would see right through that one," Albus told him.
"Doesn't matter," Matt said quietly. He had been exceptionally quiet ever since John had first mentioned the idea. "You can't become Animagi with me on the full moon."
"Why?" John asked. "We know it's dangerous. I don't care."
"It's not that. You think I haven't thought about you lot becoming Animagi? That my parents haven't thought about doing it? Amy? They have. My parents have ever since we found out Wolfsbane didn't work for me. Amy has ever since she first saw me after a transformation. My parents actually started working on it. But then they decided to have me do the Wolfsbane study instead. You see, if anyone is with me as an Animagus on the full moon, I won't hurt myself and it'll seem like the potion actually worked. It'll mess up the study big time. My parents decided it would be better for me to find a potion that would work than to have to rely on other people's Animagus abilities. They even forbade Amy from trying it; she wasn't very happy."
Albus hadn't thought about that. He was actually a little relieved. He didn't want to become an Animagus behind his dad's back. It was one thing to steal the Invisibility Cloak for a couple days, but to sneak around as an animal every full moon? That was just too secretive for Albus's liking. He hoped that John would give up on the idea now.
"But if the study ever ends without finding me a potion that works, I won't stop you from trying."
"Sounds fair," John replied, "How long does the study go?"
"No idea. Probably at least another two years. It all depends on how many different forms of Wolfsbane people come up with," Matt closed his eyes and leaned his head against the wall again.
"Headache still there?" Albus asked. Matt nodded without opening his eyes. "Let's hurry up, then. Where should we put the parchment?"
"Room behind the stairs," Matt shakily stood up. "That way Madam Pomfrey doesn't see it."
"We'll do it. You stay here," John gently pushed his friend back onto the floor. "How much parchment should we put down?"
"How much did you bring?"
"About a half roll," Albus pulled a partially used roll of parchment out of his cloak.
"All of it, then. Chances are most of it will get ripped."
Albus nodded and stood up. He walked over to the stairs with John following and saw the small room Matt was talking about. It was also filled with various broken pieces of furniture. "We shouldn't have done this tonight. I didn't even think about the moon."
"Me neither," John shook his head as he bent down to move some of the furniture aside. "But it's not as bad as the time with the detention. I think he'll be ok."
"Yeah. He can sleep all tomorrow if he wants," Albus commented as he ripped pieces off the roll of parchment.
"Him and me both," John yawned. "Wasn't expecting the tunnel to be that long."
"Me neither, but it is a long way from the grounds to Hogsmeade, so it makes sense."
Albus finished ripping the parchment and the two boys each took a stack to affix to the floor. It took them a few minutes and once they were done, the room was covered in pieces of parchment.
"I can see why he didn't want Madam Pomfrey to see," John laughed as he re-lit his wand.
"It would definitely raise some questions," Albus lit his own wand. "Let's just hope this works. I can't see any other way to safely get a werewolf's paw print."
The two boys took one more look at the parchment coated room and then went back to the large main room. Matt was right where they left him, leaning against a partially broken chair. Albus nudged him awake.
"Finished?" Matt yawned.
"Yup, let's get back to the castle," Albus helped his friend up and the three of them left the shack.
The trip back through the tunnel took a lot longer than when they were going to the shack. All three boys were incredibly tired and the thrill had worn off for Albus and John. Albus glanced at his watch as they neared the end of the tunnel and saw that it was nearly 1:30. He was very glad they had done this on a weekend.
"It's harder getting out than getting in," Matt said tiredly as he removed the wards. "Whoever goes first has to dodge the branches and then push the knot on the trunk for the other two."
Albus and John looked at each other, for both of them knew Matt was too exhausted to be able to dodge the branches properly. "I'll do it," Albus told him, "I'm making you get the rat." Albus climbed up the wall and crawled out of the hole. He was immediately hit in the shoulder with one of the flailing branches. "Ouch!" he shouted as he groped the trunk for the knot. His hand made contact with it and the branches immediately froze. "You can come out now," he whispered through the passageway.
Albus stood aside and pulled the Invisibility Cloak out of his cloak. Matt appeared out of the hole first and shuddered as the moonlight hit him. John was right behind him and the two of them got under the cloak with Albus once Matt re-set the wards.
"You ok?" John asked Albus once they were back on the path leading to the castle.
"Yeah. Just got me in the shoulder," Albus replied. His shoulder stung and he could feel some blood dripping down his arm, but he couldn't go see Madam Pomfrey. She would know immediately what gave him the wound and would no doubt insist on knowing what they were up to.
The boys trudged along through the cold night air. Albus looked up to the sky and saw that thick clouds were moving in. It would probably snow soon. Of course, Albus would be much too tired the next day to enjoy it, so it didn't much matter. It was worth it, though. Within a few days they would have one of the four paw prints needed to unlock the secrets of the new map.
A little while later they reached the castle doors. Albus glanced quickly at the Map and saw that Filch was up on the sixth floor and Peeves was in Moaning Myrtle's bathroom. No one else was wandering around. Albus grasped the handle of the door and pushed. It did not budge. He tried again, but no luck. "Filch must've remembered to lock it!" Albus muttered.
"Try one of those spells Rose taught you," John suggested.
Albus nodded and pointed his wand at the handle. He muttered a spell but the door remained locked. He tried a few more, but none of them worked. "I think we're locked out!" Albus said in a panicked tone.
"We're locked out?" John questioned and pushed the door himself, "What do we do now?"
"What do you mean we're locked out?" Matt groaned, "It was just unlocked a couple hours ago!"
"I know it was," Albus replied anxiously, "Filch must've locked it!"
"We can't stay out here all night!" Matt's voice cracked, "We'll freeze!"
Albus swallowed hard as panic filled his body. What were they going to do now? Albus had been worrying mostly about getting out of the castle and into the tunnel without getting caught that the thought of being locked out hadn't even crossed his mind. I mean, what were the chances of the doors being unlocked when they left and locked when they came back? But what would they do? They couldn't stay out here, it was freezing and would snow soon. All three of them were shivering. "Any chance either of you knows how to conjure a Patronus?" Albus asked, thinking of the only way he knew to contact Rose and Amanda.
"Are you mad?" John asked. "We're only second years."
"Well, have you got any bright ideas on how to tell Rose and Amanda we're locked out?"
John thought for a minute before answering, "You could break into the broom shed and steal a broom. Then fly it up to Gryffindor Tower."
"Now you're mad. I'll get seen by someone. What if one of the professors is looking out their window? Or one of the students?"
"Wear the Invisibility Cloak," John replied.
"Then you two will get seen. And if I'm wearing the Cloak then Rose and Amanda won't see me."
"Oh, right," John sighed. "How about Hagrid?"
"Then we'll get in trouble," Albus reminded him, although unless they didn't think of something else soon, they would have to go to Hagrid's.
"Well, we've got to think of something soon. He's got to get away from the moon," John gestured to Matt who was leaning against the door and breathing heavily.
"The moon's almost covered by clouds," Albus pointed out, "But then we'll have to worry about being snowed on."
"Wonderful," John groaned. "Maybe we can curl up in piles of snow like wolves do and keep warm that way."
"Very funny," Albus said flatly. He was really starting to get worried now. What would happen if they did go to Hagrid's? They'd surely get in trouble, but how much? Would they just get detention or would it be worse? Points would be taken away for sure, and that would not go over well with the other Gryffindors.
"Hey, wait!" John's face brightened a bit, "What about the Shrieking Shack? We could just go back there and spend the night. Then we'll sneak back in tomorrow morning after Filch has unlocked the doors again."
"That's...that's," Albus thought about this for a moment. "Not actually a bad idea. We'll be inside and we won't get caught."
John grinned. "Let's go," he poked Matt in the side.
"What?" Matt opened his eyes.
"We're going back to the Shack," John explained.
"Great," Matt said sarcastically, "I get to spend another night there. You two couldn't come up with a different idea?"
"Nope," John answered, "I'd say it was pretty brilliant myself, so unless you've got a better one, we're going."
Matt sighed, "Oh, fine. But we're not making a habit of this."
"Me and Albus aren't," John laughed, "But you already do."
"Oh, shut it," Matt groaned, "Let's just go."
Albus couldn't help but feel a tiny bit excited about spending the night in the Shack. It would definitely be the worst thing he had ever done, as far as breaking rules was concerned. He also felt nervous about it. What if they did get caught? What if Rose and Amanda started to get worried and told someone about their plan? Albus pushed that thought out of his mind. Rose wouldn't do that, would she? She would if she thought they were in trouble. But they weren't in that big of trouble. The three of them would spend the night in the shack and that would be that. When morning came they would sneak back into the castle and no one would be the wiser. This might actually be kind of fun; it was thrilling and a tad bit dangerous. Something the Marauders would have done. Who knows, maybe they even had done it on occasion.
The trip back to the shack, though exhausting, was uneventful. John, like Albus, had a look of excitement in his eyes when the three of them entered the shack once more. Matt looked like he didn't care where they were, as long as there was some place he could sleep.
"This is pretty cool," John grinned, "Spending the night in Hogsmeade."
"It's going to be cold, though," Matt shivered, "There aren't any heating charms in here."
"Warmer than outside," Albus commented as he stowed the cloak back in his robes. "Are there any lights in here?"
"Nope," Matt replied. "We'll just have to keep our wands lit."
"What do you want to do now?" John asked with a look of mischief on his face, "So many possibilities in this place...."
"How about we go to bed?" Matt suggested sarcastically.
Albus, although excited about spending the night in the shack, was extremely tired and all he wanted to do was sleep. "Are there any beds here?"
"One," Matt answered. He led Albus and John up the stairs and into the only bedroom. There was one large bed and a wardrobe, both surprisingly still intact. "They're charmed to be indestructible," Matt answered Albus's questioning look.
John hopped onto the bed and started jumping on it. "Now we're talking! This bed is excellent for jumping."
"Can't say I've ever tried it before," Matt joined him on the bed and started jumping as well. "You're right, it is quite nice for jumping."
Albus jumped up with them and agreed. The bed was good for jumping. Even better than James's. James, Albus, and Lily had spent many hours jumping on James's bed, always to be interrupted and yelled at by their mother. The boys continued jumping on the bed and goofing off for a couple minutes. Albus smirked to himself as he remembered a story his Aunt Hermione had told him about monkeys jumping on a bed.
"What's so funny?" John asked.
"Just wondering who'll be the first to fall off and break his head," Albus laughed.
"What?" John asked and Matt started to laugh as well.
"It's a Muggle story," Albus explained and proceeded to tell John the story of the monkeys.
"It's amazing what Muggles come up with for stories," John shook his head and jumped off the bed, landing on his feet like a cat. "I don't think any of us are going to break our heads."
"Mine feels like it's broken," Matt announced as he jumped off the bed. He didn't land as gracefully as John and fell on his arm. "Ow!"
Albus jumped down next to him. "You ok?"
"Yeah," Matt pointed his lit wand at his arm. "No blood."
"Good," John replied.
"We should probably go to bed now," Albus suggested, "We've got to be up early so we can sneak back in before a lot of people wake up."
"There's more blankets in the wardrobe," Matt yawned as he got back on the bed and curled up beneath the blanket that was already on the bed.
Albus and John each grabbed a couple blankets and got into the bed alongside Matt. It was a good thing the bed was so big, Albus thought. It was much bigger than the four-poster beds in Gryffindor.
"He's already asleep," John commented as he lay down.
"Good," Albus replied, "Maybe his headache will go away. Good night."
Albus woke up the next morning to slivers of light shining through the boarded up windows. Boarded up windows? There weren't boarded up windows in the dormitory. Albus's eyes shot open and he glanced around at his surroundings. Oh, right. The memories of the previous night flooded Albus as he realized that he was in the Shrieking Shack. Albus sat up and yawned. He felt more tired this morning than he had the previous night. One look at his watch told him why. It was only seven o'clock, he had only gotten about four hours of sleep. Just as well, Albus thought. They had to get back to the castle quickly anyway, if they wanted to sneak back in without anyone noticing.
Albus nudged John awake and winced. He pulled up the sleeve of his robe and saw that the cut from the Whomping Willow looked thoroughly disgusting. It was probably infected and would require a trip to the hospital wing. Albus shook John with his uninjured arm. "John, wake up!"
"No, lemme sleep," John groaned and turned away from Albus.
"Get up or we'll get caught," Albus pushed him again.
"Don't care," John murmured.
"I'll push you out of bed," Albus warned. John muttered something incoherent and didn't move. "You asked for it," Albus muttered and rolled John over to the edge of the bed. He gave him one final nudge and John fell off the edge of the bed with a loud thump.
"What the hell?" John shouted, sitting up with a dazed look on his face.
"I told you to get up," Albus leaned over the bed and laughed. "We've got to get back to the castle or someone's going to see us come out of the tree."
"Oh, fine," John grumbled, "But I'm going back to bed once we get back."
"You and me both," Albus agreed and got out of bed. He picked up the spare blankets and stowed them back in the wardrobe so Madam Pomfrey wouldn't get suspicious.
"You going to push him off the bed too?" John pointed to Matt's sleeping form as he stood up.
"No," Albus replied simply.
"Where's the justice?" John muttered.
Albus grinned and shook Matt awake. "We've got to get back to the castle. We'll sleep more there."
Matt groaned and got out of bed. "I think I'd rather just stay here."
"I wouldn't suggest it," John responded, "Albus pushed me off the bed when I didn't get up. Can you believe that?"
Matt laughed and looked from John to Albus and back again. "Yes."
The boys left the shack quickly and started the long journey back to the Whomping Willow. All three of them were dragging and Albus was very glad that he didn't have any classes today. He had homework, but he wasn't even going to think about that until he got at least another six hours of sleep. One quick check of the map told him that the coast was clear before they emerged from the tree.
The three of them donned the Invisibility Cloak as soon as Matt was finished warding the tree and they set off for the castle. Since it was still early, the only one on the grounds was Hagrid. There were several more inches of snow and by the time they boys were back at the castle doors, their robes were wet and they were shivering. Halfway to the castle, it had started sowing again.
"Rose and Amanda are in the Great Hall," Albus pointed to their two dots on the map. "But hardly anyone else is, and no one's in the Entrance Hall, so I think we're good." Albus pushed the doors open and the three invisible boys slipped inside. Albus immediately pulled the wet cloak off of them and hid it in his robes. "We should probably go talk to Rose and Amanda."
"I've got to go see Madam Pomfrey sometime," Matt told them, "My arm still hurts, look." He pulled the sleeve of his robes up and showed them his black and blue arm. "I don't think it's broken, but it still hurts."
"My shoulder still hurts," Albus replied, "I guess I'll have to go, too."
At that moment, Rose and Amanda left the Great Hall and stopped a couple feet away from the boys. John pointed to where they were and Albus turned around. Both girls had a combination of relief and anger on their faces. Rose was fuming by the time she stomped over to Albus. "Where. Were. You," she demanded.
"Er," Albus mumbled. He never liked being on the receiving end of his cousin's anger.
"Room, now," Rose seethed and stalked off towards the stairs with Amanda at her side.
Albus, John, and Matt followed wordlessly. All ideas of going to the Hospital Wing were driven from Albus's mind. Of course, after seeing Rose, he would much rather have been bombarded with questions about his shoulder than going to the Room with his cousin.
Nobody said a word until they were in the Room. Albus, John, and Matt sat side by side on the couch, but Rose and Amanda remained standing in front of them. "Explain yourselves!" Rose shouted.
"We-" Albus began.
Rose cut him off, "You know what? I think I'll tell you about our night first! We were plenty worried about the three of you sneaking off to the Shack in the middle of the night, but it had to be done. What other choice did we have? It was safer than the alternative. How else were you going to get the paw print? I thought the plan would work. We had it all set. You three would sneak down there and put the parchment on the floor and then sneak back up. Simple." Rose stopped and began to pace around the room.
"There were all kinds of things that could've gone wrong," Amanda picked up where Rose left off. "Filch, for one. Or one of the teachers. Peeves, even. Or how about when you got onto the grounds? There are all sorts of animals wandering around at night. Not to mention the Whomping Willow itself."
"So what were we supposed to think when you three never showed up?!" Rose raised her voice even higher, if that was possible. "If you had been caught by Filch or a teacher, you would've came back to Gryffindor eventually! BUT YOU NEVER DID!"
"But Rose-" John pleaded. Albus sent him a warning look. He knew it was never good to interrupt Rose when she was on a rampage.
"Shut up, John! We thought some kind of animal had you! Or even worse, that Washburn had come back for the Hallows and found you and kidnapped you or something! Then you sneak back into the castle this morning, looking like you've just been at a party or something!
"You kept us up all night worrying, when you probably just decided to have some fun last night. You know I was this close to telling Uncle Harry this morning. I wanted to last night, but Amanda convinced me to wait until morning. Of course now I wish I hadn't waited. Maybe a couple detentions would teach you not to stay out all night!"
"Rose," Albus said tentatively, "Just let us explain."
"Go ahead, Albus," Rose glared at him. "Convince me that what you did last night wasn't just stupidity."
"We got locked out," Albus explained, "The doors to the castle weren't locked when we left, but Filch must've locked them after we were out of the castle. I tried all the charms you taught me, but none of them worked. So we decided to spend the night in the Shrieking Shack. And you're right, it was kind of fun."
Rose and Amanda stared at him, dumbstruck. Neither of them said a word for the next minute. Albus and the other boys didn't dare say a word either. "Well," Rose said quietly, "Er, that does explain things. I'm, uh, sorry I yelled at you."
"It's all right," Albus assured her.
"But Albus?" Rose began, "You could've just gone to the Owlery and sent me a quick note telling me that you were locked out. Then we would've at least known what was going on."
Albus, John, and Matt turned to look at each other. Albus felt his cheeks turning red. Of course! Why hadn't he thought of that? The only means of communication Albus had thought of was a Patronus. But the answer was there all along, a simple owl. He could have just made a quick trip to the owlery before they went back to the Shack.
"We're idiots," John muttered softly.
"Yes, but you're our idiots," Rose laughed. "Now, are you going to tell us about your little adventure?"
Albus, John, and Matt spent the next half hour relaying every detail of their trips to the Shrieking Shack the previous night. Rose and Amanda both found it very entertaining, especially the part about Albus pushing John off the bed.
After they were done telling the story, all five of them went to the hospital wing so Albus and Matt could get their wounds healed. Madam Pomfrey was sitting at her desk when they arrived and the ward was completely deserted of other patients. She took one look at the Gryffindors and came bustling out from behind the desk. "You lot again? What have you gotten yourselves into this time?"
"Just these two," John pointed at Albus and Matt.
Madam Pomfrey took one hard look at Matt and announced, "You were outside last night. Was someone giving you detention?"
Madam Pomfrey looked at him for a few seconds longer and sighed, "Go sit down on a bed, both of you."
Albus and Matt sat down on one of the beds and Madam Pomfrey returned a few moments later with a tray laden with potions. She told Matt to drink them all, which he did. "My arm's all bruised, too," Matt pulled up his sleeve, "I tripped over a book."
Madam Pomfrey clucked her tongue and pulled out her wand. She had his arm healed in an instant. "I trust you'll get some sleep today? Or do I have to make you stay here?"
"I'll sleep, I promise," Matt replied quickly.
"What about you?" the nurse turned to Albus.
"Hurt my shoulder," Albus answered, not elaborating on the subject. He pulled up his sleeve to reveal his injured shoulder.
Madam Pomfrey studied it for a moment, then she cleaned it. Albus winced as the potion she used on it stung. The nurse looked at the injury for a little while longer and she looked from Albus to Matt and back again. "I know how you got that," she replied.
"Er," Albus stuttered. Great, after all that, they were still going to get in trouble.
"Whatever you boys did last night, don't do it again," Madam Pomfrey said sternly, looking Albus and then Matt in the eye, "I won't tell Professor Longbottom this time, or your father," she said to Albus, "But next time I will."
Albus breathed a sigh of relief as Madam Pomfrey healed his shoulder with one swift wave of her wand. He'd have no trouble keeping his word to the nurse. There was no way that he was going to repeat last night. Well, unless they needed to for the map. But he'd try hard not to get hit by the Whomping Willow next time.
"You're all set," Madam Pomfrey announced, "Now go get some sleep, both of you."
Albus nodded as he stood up. He would have no problem doing that. He was practically falling asleep as he walked. The group went back to the common room and the boys immediately headed for their dormitory. Albus changed into his pajamas and climbed into his warm four-poster bed, feeling very satisfied that they hadn't been caught at all.
A/N: Thanks to my beta, Dancer_of_Starlight! Thanks as well to XDNLxtlz99, sinwillys822, Denas, Alex, Luke, smirkyhaha, Moonylupin, and hermionieforever for their reviews!
Disclaimer- I don't own Harry Potter.
By the time Albus woke up it was already dinner time, which was good because he was starving. John and Matt woke up shortly after Albus did. All three of them were feeling much better now that they'd gotten a decent amount of sleep.
"Ready to do that again?" John asked as he was putting on his shoes.
Despite the fact that Albus did have fun on their adventure last night, he did not want to repeat it. "Are you mental?" Albus glared at him.
"Kidding, kidding," John laughed.
"You do realize that we'll have to go get the paw print," Matt reminded them.
Albus and John looked at each other. The truth was, Albus really hadn't thought about that. "Er, can't you just bring with you back to the castle?"
"I'm usually unconscious," Matt replied, "But I can try."
Albus really hoped Matt would be able to get the paw print. What were the chances that they'd be able to sneak down to the shack again and not get caught? Surely Filch wouldn't forget to lock the doors twice. Plus, what would happen if they get locked out again?
"Albus!" a loud voice shouted as soon as Albus, John, and Matt descended into the common room. Kaden came running over to them with his usual look of excitement in his eyes.
"Hey, Kaden," Albus greeted him. "We're just going to dinner."
"Me, too. I'll go with you," Kaden fell into step alongside Albus. "Where have you lot been all day anyway?"
"Uh, sleeping upstairs," Albus replied.
"Really?" Kaden asked skeptically, "Because I asked Rose if you were in your dormitory and she said you weren't."
"I assure you we were," Albus laughed.
"Hmm, well, I wonder why she told me you weren't."
"Who knows? She's a girl, they do strange things," John said.
"Why were you sleeping, though. It's the day."
"We were tired," Matt answered simply.
"Stayed up late doing homework last night," John lied, "We've got a ton of it and there's still more to do tonight. It's what happens after first year. They bombard you with even more homework."
"Guess I've got that to look forward to," Kaden sighed, "Oh, well."
The boys did spend their entire evening doing all the homework they hadn't done the night before. Kaden stared at them the whole time, no doubt thinking of next year, when he would have to spend his whole weekend doing homework. Albus felt kind of bad that they told him that and he was now kind of dreading his second year, but he'd find out soon enough that that wasn't true. What else could they have told him, though? They couldn't say a word about the new map until Rose found the charm to keep him quiet about it.
The day of the full moon came quickly and Albus couldn't concentrate on any of his classes. He could only think about the map, and how they would be one step closer to revealing it after tonight. He would also soon know if another trip to the shack was going to be necessary. Of course, it may be that more than one more trip would be needed, if they didn't get the footprint tonight. There was the possibility that all the parchment would be destroyed. Albus didn't want to think about that, though. He just clung to the idea that they would be able to get a paw print tonight and that Matt would be able to bring it back the next morning.
Matt skipped his afternoon classes and spent the time sleeping in the Room of Requirement. Once Albus and the others had finished dinner and snuck out of the Great Hall before Kaden noticed, they went up to the Room. They didn't have much time before Matt had to go to the hospital wing and all four of them wound up taking him there.
"Now that I know how long that tunnel is, I feel even sorrier for him," John said quietly on their way to the common room.
"I know what you mean," Albus replied, "I don't know how he does it. He could barely get to the hospital wing."
"Hi, guys!" Kaden shouted once they entered the common room. Albus, John, Rose, and Amanda went over to the table Kaden was sitting at, which was strewn with parchment and book, and sat down. "Where's Matt?" Kaden asked.
"Sick in the hospital wing," Albus told him.
"Oh," Kaden said, "Because of that disease I wasn't supposed to tell anyone about?"
"Right," Albus confirmed. His cousin could be so dense sometimes. Albus pulled out a few of his books and tried to concentrate on his homework. Kaden kept babbling on and on about some potion that he was going to be brewing the next day, which he was very excited about. Albus tried to tune him out, but he couldn't. Albus had a feeling even if Kaden wasn't running a streaming commentary about his potions class he still wouldn't be able to concentrate. His whole mind was consumed with thoughts about the map. He sighed and closed his book. None of his homework was due tomorrow anyway. "I don't really feel like doing homework tonight."
"I never do," John muttered and continued writing his DADA essay that was due the next day.
"Hey, Kaden?" Albus suddenly got an idea that would occupy both his and Kaden's evenings. "Ever played chess?"
"Yeah. My mum taught me."
"Ever played Wizard's Chess?" Albus grinned at him.
"What?" Kaden's face lit up, "Wizards have their own chess?"
"Sure do," Albus replied, "I'll teach you. Be right back." Albus ran up to his dormitory and rummaged around in his trunk until he found a chess board, his chessmen, and an old set of chessmen for Kaden. When he got back, Kaden was looking even more excited than when Albus left him.
"What are we going to do?" Kaden asked excitedly.
"Play chess. It's pretty much like Muggle chess, but with some differences. You remember how to play Muggle chess?"
"Well, with Wizard's Chess everyone has their own chessmen. These are mine," Albus held up his white chessmen. "You'll see why when we play. You can use this spare set. I think it used to belong to my Uncle Percy." Albus handed Kaden the set of black chessmen.
"Are you any good at chess?" Kaden asked, "Because I'm not."
"I'm all right. Not as good as James, and not nearly as good as Rose. My Uncle Ron, Rose's dad, is the best at it. No one's ever able to beat him."
"Do we just set them up like normal?"
"Yeah," Albus replied as he set up his own pieces. "White goes first. Oh, and you don't move your pieces. Just tell the pieces which space to move to."
"Tell them?" Kaden repeated, "What do you mean, tell them?"
"Just watch," Albus put down his final piece and muttered instructions for his pawn to move two squares ahead.
"Whoa!" Kaden stared in awe as the white pawn moved by itself. "They'll do that if I tell them, too?"
"They're supposed to. But they might not want to since they're not used to you. Try it."
Kaden told one of his pawns to move forward two squares and it did so without hesitation. Kaden was completely shocked by this. "This is way better than regular chess."
The game continued for a few more minutes and then one of Kaden's pawns wound up in the path of Albus's castle. Albus commanded the castle forward and it completely smashed Kaden's pawn.
"Whoa!" Kaden shouted so loudly that half the common room turned around to look at him. "Your castle killed my pawn! That's mental! How do you use them again?"
"There's a spell to repair them," Albus explained.
"Will my pieces kill yours?"
A few turns later, Kaden got the chance to order one of his pieces to kill one of Albus's. Kaden's face was full of glee as his bishop smashed one of Albus's pawns. The game continued and Albus started to get the feeling that Kaden just liked watching the pieces destroy each other. This became especially apparent when Kaden only had his king, a knight, his castles, and three pawns left. Albus was only missing one castle, both bishops, and five or so pawns. Kaden's chessmen were not very happy about this and his king and knight actually got into what appeared to be a heated argument about whether or not they were going to continue to listen to Kaden. Eventually, his king flat out refused to move and Albus won by default. Nevertheless, it was one of the most amusing games of chess Ablus had ever played. John, Amanda, and even Rose gave up on their homework and watched the last part of the game.
"I think you need your own chessmen," Albus told Kaden as he repaired the broken pieces. "I'm not sure if these will be willing to listen to you anymore."
"Well it's no wonder," Rose commented, "All he did was tell them to walk right into death traps."
"It's funny to see them get crushed," Kaden explained.
"Maybe next time you'll actually try and win," Rose smirked.
"Maybe," Kaden shrugged. "I think I'll ask for chessmen for Christmas."
"That would be a good idea," Albus replied. "I only hope that you treat them better than these ones."
Albus didn't sleep very well that night and he was very tired the next morning. All he could think about was the paw print and whether or not their plan worked. Luckily Albus only had two classes that day and then he would be able to go see Matt.
"We're going to the hospital wing after this, right?" John whispered to Albus during a mind numbing History of Magic lesson. Binns was currently droning on about the history of the enslavement of House Elves. Rose was the only one paying attention, although Albus had no idea why she bothered. Both of them already knew everything about the history of House Elves, having been lectured about it by Rose's mother.
"Yeah," Albus said back, "Do you want lunch first?"
"Of course I do. This is me you're talking about. But let's make it fast."
"I shouldn't have bothered asking," Albus laughed.
"How much longer until this is over?" Amanda turned around and looked at Albus. She was sitting at the desk in front of him and John, with Rose.
Albus glanced at his watch. "Fifteen minutes. But it'll feel like thirty."
"Why do we need to know about House Elves anyway?" John asked
"They're an important part of wizarding history!" Rose replied impatiently and returned to her notes.
"It's boring, though," John responded and flicked a piece of parchment at the Hufflepuff sitting at the desk next to him. "We should learn about something more exciting. Like the Giant Wars."
"Binns'll make even that boring," Albus pointed out.
"Anything's better than this."
"Even the history of cauldrons and their effects on wizarding society?" Amanda laughed. That lesson, which had taken place the previous year, had been the worst one yet. Albus was sure everyone, including Rose, had fallen asleep during it.
"Never mind," John groaned. "I don't even want to think about that one. Or the 14 inch essay we had to write on it."
"Mr. Beeton, Mr. Pewter, and Miss Torker," Binns said monotonously, "Is there something you'd like to share with the class?"
"No, sir," John replied.
"Good, good," Binns continued, "And in 1866, British House Elves started to have contact with the American House Elves, which resulted in a kind of House Elf unity...."
"Kill me now," John muttered.
"Five more minutes..." Albus sighed.
"I think Binns was around during all this House Elf stuff," Amanda whispered.
John snorted, "That's probably why he likes history. He was there when it happened."
"This is worse than maths in Muggle school," Amanda told them.
"I hate maths," John agreed, "I'm glad we don't have to take them here. Mum taught me some and it was horrible."
"I take it you two won't be doing Arithmancy next year," Albus grinned. He was not planning on taking that class either.
"No way," John shook his head, "I'll bet Kaden would like it, though."
"He likes everything," Albus laughed, "He probably even likes this class."
"He does. He told me the other day," Amanda announced.
"Likes everything except Quidditch," John sighed, "There's something wrong with that kid."
"Twelve inch essay about the Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare for next class," Binns droned a minute before the class was over.
The moment the bell rang, Albus and his friends shot up out of their chairs and ran out the door. "This'll be cake," Albus laughed, "An essay on Spew!"
"It's S.P.E.W.!" Rose laughed as she caught up with him.
"Good, you can do mine!" John told him.
"Sorry, one boring essay per night, yours would put me over my limit," Albus faked an apologetic look. "Oh, come on, you know all about Spew."
"I know, it's just not how I'd like to spend my time."
"Mine either," Amanda agreed, "But I'll do it over the weekend, probably."
"Let's go eat," Albus suggested, "Then we can go see Matt."
The Gryffindors joined the sea of students that were flooding into the Great Hall. Luckily, Kaden was eating at one end of the Gryffindor table and Albus and the others were able to shovel down food at the opposite end without him noticing them. Once they were done with their hurried lunch, they ran up to the hospital wing. "I hope he was able to get the paw print," Albus whispered as they pushed open the doors.
"Me, too. I don't fancy walking through that tunnel again," John agreed.
The curtains were pulled around Matt's usual bed at the far end of the ward. Nobody was in any of the other beds. Madam Pomfrey was busy preparing potions when the group of Gryffindors walked in. She heard them enter and went over to greet them. "Oh, it's you lot. I figured you'd be showing up soon. He's sleeping right now, I'm afraid you'll have to wait."
"Yeah, we'll be quiet, too," John commented, "You can throw us out if we're not."
"You know the rules," the nurse replied sternly, "If he's sleeping you have to come back later."
"I'm not asleep!" a hoarse voice came from behind the curtains.
"Now you've woken him up!" Madam Pomfrey walked briskly over to the bed and opened the curtains, "You know he needs to rest!"
"Well, he's awake now, so we can stay," Albus said as he walked over to the bed. Everyone else followed him.
"Fine," Madam Pomfrey reluctantly agreed, "Only for a short while." She left them alone and went back to her potions.
"Sorry for waking you up," Albus said as he closed the curtains again. "How are you?"
"I'm all right," Matt replied. He looked much like he usually did after a full moon, with various bandages all over. "You didn't wake me up, though. I was pretending to be asleep."
"Why?" Rose asked.
"You'll never guess who was here."
"Who?" Amanda asked.
"What? Did he come to see you?" Albus told Kaden not to go visit Matt unless he said it was ok, but with Kaden there was no telling what he'd do.
"Not intentionally, I don't think. Felix Willinson's potion exploded in class and he and Kaden got covered in it. Willinson got the brunt of it and while Kaden was waiting for his turn to get antidote, he kept asking who was in my bed. Madam Pomfrey wouldn't tell him, but I think he knew it was me. He knows I went here last night. Madam Pomfrey came to give me potion while they were here and Kaden saw me. Then he asked if he could see me, so I pretended to be asleep."
"So Willinson knew you were here?" Amanda asked.
"Yeah, he's going to tell Malfoy."
"Malfoy already knows you're here since you weren't in Transfiguration this morning," Rose pointed out.
"True. I guess it really doesn't matter then."
Albus was just itching to know if Matt had managed to get the paw print. He had thought Matt would bring it up right away, but the Kaden thing must've made him forget about it. "Did you get the print?" Albus whispered.
"You're in luck," Matt smiled, "I did manage to get it and stow it in my cloak before I passed out. It's right there," he gestured to the cloak sitting on the bedside table.
Albus grabbed the cloak and pulled out a rather torn piece of parchment. But in the middle was a very large paw print consisting of a mixture of ink, mud, and blood. "Whoa, that's pretty big. And kind of gross, too," Albus grinned and stuck it in his bag. "Perfect."
"One down, three to go," John commented. "We're almost there."
"And the other three are a bit easier." Albus was feeling very good about their plan now. The hardest paw print was done and soon they would have the other three.
"And the charm is working much better now," Rose announced, "I started to get the hang of it last night. I'll probably have it done before Christmas."
"Excellent," Albus grinned, "Then we can start looking for that charm to keep Kaden from blabbing."
"When do you get to leave?" Amanda asked.
"Either tomorrow evening or Friday morning, probably," Matt told them, "But if I leave tomorrow I have to skip Astronomy."
"What a shame," John faked a look of sadness.
"I know. I'll definitely be suffering while you four spend an hour looking at stars."
"We'll be sure to get all the homework for you," Rose told him.
"Oh don't worry about it," Matt laughed. "What did I miss in class yesterday and today?"
"Not much," Albus began, "We re-potted mandrakes again in Herbology. We started transfiguring spoons into forks in transfiguration. And we learned all about the history of House Elves in History of Magic. It was one of the most boring classes yet."
"Sounds like it," Matt agreed.
"Was not," Rose argued.
"What are you lot going to do tonight while I'm stuck here?"
"Albus and I have dueling practice," Amanda said. "The next duel is Saturday."
"Oh, right, I'd completely forgotten about that," Albus confessed. He had been so caught up in getting the werewolf print for the map that the dueling club had slipped his mind.
"Looks like it'll just be you and me tonight, Rose," John grinned at her.
"And Kaden," Rose smirked, "Can't forget him."
"You should challenge him to a chess match," John decided, "It'll be fun to watch."
"I'll beat him in two minutes flat," Rose laughed.
"Kaden plays wizard's chess?" Matt asked.
"Albus taught him last night. You've got to watch it sometime. It's hilarious," Amanda grinned, "He likes to watch the pieces get smashed so by the end of the game, his pieces refused to listen to him."
"You know what else we should do?" Rose changed the subject, "Take back Uncle Harry's cloak now that you don't have to sneak back into the shack."
Albus really didn't want to give back the cloak. He liked it. But he knew he had to. "I guess."
"We'll do it after we get kicked out of here," John suggested.
"Which is right now," Madam Pomfrey pulled back the curtains and set a tray of potions down on the bedside table. "Time for you four to leave. He needs to sleep."
"See you tomorrow, hopefully," Albus said.
"Yeah, tomorrow," Matt waved.
"Let's go put the cloak back," Rose whispered as soon as they'd shut the door to the hospital wing.
Albus nodded and started to walk to his dad's office. The corridors were almost deserted. There were a few students wandering around, but no one paid much attention as Albus unlocked the door to Harry's office and lead his friends inside.
"Looks like my house," John, who had never been in Harry's office before, announced, "A complete mess. My whole family is messy."
"My mum's a neat freak. She'd have a cow if she saw this," Amanda laughed.
"A cow?" John gave Amanda a weird look.
"Guess it's a Muggle expression. Means she'd go mad."
"Oh, like 'have a hippogriff'."
Albus carefully stepped over the various stuff and went over to the bedroom door. He pushed it open and went inside, with his friends following. The trunk was just where it had been the week before and Albus lifted the lid. He pulled the cloak out of his bag and looked at it one more time before folding it and placing it exactly where he'd found it. "Well, that's it. We got away with it."
"Sure did," John replied as he gazed around the room. "Wonder what else we could find in here?"
"John..." Albus warned. "We're not stealing anything else."
"Look at this!" John leaped over a pile of books and picked up a picture that was sitting on top of the wardrobe. "Aww, it's Albus when he was an ickle toddler."
Albus grabbed the picture out of John's hand and looked at it. Sure enough, it was a picture of Albus, James, and Lily, right after Lily was born. James, who must have been three or four, was holding a tiny baby with a large amount of red hair. Albus, who was two, was holding Lily's hand and making her wave.
"You were an adorable little kid, Albus," John smirked. "So was James."
"I'm sure you were, too," Albus said as he put the picture back. "Now let's get out of here before my dad gets back."
A/N: Thanks to my beta, Dancer_of_Starlight. Thanks as well to Denas, XDNLxtlz99, sinwillys822, Luke, hermionieforever, Moonylupin, drownzer, and Aleks for the reviews!
Disclaimer- I don't own Harry Potter.
Saturday was soon upon them and with it came a howling snow storm. Albus was very happy that there was a dueling tournament and not a Quidditch match. He had played Quidditch in snow before, but never in conditions that prevented him from seeing his own hands in front of him. Today's storm was so bad that Kendrick forbade anyone from going outside, but he needn't have bothered since no one wanted to go outside in the first place.
After lunch, half the school migrated into the dueling room and waited for the tournament to begin. Albus and Amanda said goodbye to their friends and sat down at the table they had been at the previous tournament.
"Hi Albus, hi Amanda!" Kate greeted them energetically.
"Hi Kate!" Albus grinned. He sat down at the only remaining seat, which happened to be next to Malfoy. Amanda had managed to snag a seat next to Kate. "Malfoy," Albus said politely.
"Potter," Malfoy muttered.
The tournament commenced much as it had the previous time, only this time everyone knew what they were doing and it went smoother. There was still a lot of sitting around time and Albus was very happy that Amanda was on his team so he had someone to talk to. So far, there were still tensions between the Slytherins and everybody else. Kendrick's plan to have everyone get along was not working.
After about a half hour, it was finally Albus's turn to duel. Malfoy had just completed his first duel and beat his Ravenclaw opponent. Albus congratulated him as he went up to the dueling area. He was up against a Hufflepuff third year. Albus and the other boy bowed and the two of them started dueling. The Hufflepuff sent two jinxes at Albus, but Albus blocked them both. Albus hit the boy with a trip jinx and then disarmed him. The whole thing took about a minute.
"Point to Potter!" Neville announced.
"Good job, Albus!" Kate and Amanda said in unison once Albus returned to his seat.
"Hardly counts," Malfoy commented, "You dueled a bloody Hufflepuff. A first year could've beat that one."
"Shut up, Malfoy. You'll duel a Hufflepuff eventually and I doubt you'll say the same thing."
"Your short friend is up," Malfoy pointed to the dueling area that Harry was presiding over.
Albus looked up and saw that Matt was about to duel one of the other Hufflepuffs.
"I'll bet that Hufflepuff beats him," Malfoy laughed, "He doesn't look that good."
Albus personally thought Matt looked all right, considering he had just gotten out of the Hospital Wing the day before.
"Where's he been anyway?"
"He was sick."
"Oh, right," Malfoy grinned, "With that disease he's got. The one your stupid cousin told me about. If there's anyone who should've been a Hufflepuff, it's that cousin of yours."
"Don't call him stupid. And the Hat knows better than you do about where to put him," Albus snapped. He didn't tell Malfoy that he had thought Kaden would have been a Hufflepuff.
"Whatever you say. I wonder if your cousin's got anymore information that I'd like to know."
"Don't go near my cousin," Albus growled.
"Cut it out, you two!" Kate interrupted. "In case you haven't realized by now, you're on the same team."
Albus glared at Malfoy and then turned to watch the rest of Matt's duel. It took him a while, but Matt did eventually beat the Hufflepuff. He looked worn out, but happy. "Told you he could beat him," Albus muttered.
"Lucky shot," Malfoy whispered back.
Albus and Malfoy didn't talk to each other for the rest of the tournament. Both boys won their next duels, Malfoy against a Slytherin and Albus against a Ravenclaw. Amanda lost her first duel and won her second. John won his first and lost his second. Matt lost his second one and Rose managed to win both of hers. But despite their best efforts, none of their teams won the tournament. It didn't really matter though because the points were so close. The final tournament was still very up in the air and any of the teams had a chance of making it.
The remaining days until the end of term went by very fast for Albus. Albus was especially excited about the Christmas holiday this year because it meant that Albus and his friends would acquire two more of the paw prints needed for the map. Rose had just perfected the transference charm and had already started searching for the charm to keep Kaden quiet. After Christmas, the only thing left to do would be to get the rat print. Albus thought it was quite funny that the smallest and theoretically easiest print to get was taking the longest. John had yet to manage to catch a rat during potions class and was getting frustrated about it.
"Every time I see a rat, one of the bloody Slytherins is looking!" John vented the evening before their last day of classes. The group of Gryffindors were in the Room of Requirement, enjoying some peace and quiet while Kaden was being tutored by one of the Ravenclaws.
"Try luring one over to your desk with cheese or something," Amanda suggested, "Then just stun it below the desk."
"Hadn't thought of that," John muttered, "I'd been trying to stun them across the room."
"I wonder why anyone would notice that?" Rose said sarcastically.
"Shut it, Rose."
"Well, you've got plenty of time to get it," Albus reminded him, "We still haven't got the dog or the stag prints."
"We'll get them soon," Rose replied, "Amanda will get the dog and we'll get the stag, Albus. You can come over to my house after we leave the Burrow."
"Sounds good," Albus agreed, "I'm not staying at the Burrow the whole holiday anyway."
"Oh, yeah," Rose smirked, "Gran and Granddad are going on holiday together. Alone."
"That's not something I really care to think about, Rose," Albus groaned. His grandparents had decided to go to Scotland together a few days after Christmas and spend new year's alone. "Moving on. What are you lot doing for the holiday?"
"The usual," John said immediately, "All my cousins coming over at various times. Should be crazy as always."
"I've really got to go to your house sometime," Albus grinned, "You always say your cousins are mad, but I really don't think your family is as insane as mine is."
"I'm sure it is. My great-great grandpa is coming this year. He's hilarious, especially after he's had a couple firewhiskeys."
"Your great-great grandpa drinks firewhiskey?" Matt laughed, "That's something I've got to see."
"He sure does. Then he starts telling ridiculous stories about 'back in my day'."
"Sounds like we should hook him up with Auntie Muriel, eh Rose?" Albus winked at his cousin.
"That would be the funniest thing ever," Rose grinned.
"Your great-great grandpa sounds like our Auntie Muriel. She's 127 and loves to gossip," Albus explained.
"I wish I had mad relatives," Amanda commented, "My family sounds pretty normal compared to yours."
"But you celebrate Hanukkah, so that makes up for it," John replied, "I mean, who wouldn't like eight days of presents? I wish I celebrated both, that would be the best thing ever."
"Amy has a Muggle friend who celebrates both. But she doesn't get presents on every night of Hanukkah," Matt told them.
"I get small presents each night and then one big one on the last night," Amanda explained.
"That's still cool," John said, "So, Matt, do you have to go visit your grandparents this year?"
"Ugh, don't remind me," Matt groaned, "Of course I do. But only for five days this year. We're leaving right before new year's. Amy has to be back at St. Mungo's a few days before term starts."
"That's good," Albus smiled. "At least you don't have to be there as long."
"It'll still be boring. The only thing to do down there is homework or read. It's not like I can play Quidditch or anything."
"What day are you coming back? Maybe you can come over to Rose's house with me. Then we can play Quidditch," Albus offered.
"The 28th. I'll ask my parents."
"Great. You should come too, John and Amanda," Albus suggested.
"I'll ask, I'm sure my parents will let me," John replied.
"I can probably only stay a day or so," Amanda told them, "Hanukkah is late this year and starts on Christmas, so it'll still be going on on the 28th. I'll have to be home by the evening."
"That'll work. Maybe we can all get the stag print together," Albus said.
"Good idea," John grinned and everyone else nodded.
"I should probably tell you now, just in case I don't get to go to Rose's house," Matt began quietly, "I'm not coming back to Hogwarts on the train with everyone else."
Albus stared at his friend, who was looking a little forlorn. "Why not? Everything ok?"
"I guess. It's just that I'm starting that new potion I told you about at the beginning of the term. The full moon's on the 9th and someone has to observe me once I start taking it a few days before. Then I've got to go to St. Mungo's the morning after and stay a couple days."
"Oh," Albus wasn't really sure what to say. He wished more than ever that someone would just discover a potion that would work for him.
"Look on the bright side," John said, "At least you don't have to transform at your grandparents house again."
"And if I have my way I'll never have to do that again," Matt shook his head, "But let's talk about something else. Did you see in the Prophet that the Cannons almost won that game against the Fitchburg Finches? You know, that American team they were playing for practice."
"Didn't the Finches beat them by 50 points?" Albus asked.
"Yeah, but that's close!" Matt grinned, "They're making a comeback, I just know it!"
"Well, with a name like 'Finches', what do you expect? It wouldn't have surprised me if the Cannons beat them," John laughed, "Well, maybe a little. But seriously, who names a team the 'Finches'?"
The term ended the next day with a bang, literally. James and a few of his friends thought it would be funny to put a few Weasley fireworks into the suits of armor and charm them to go off at certain times during the day. After the tenth explosion the teachers gave up trying to teach anything and just let their students do what they wanted during class, within reason of course. Unfortunately for James and his friends, Professor Cedonia spotted them refilling the armor on the second floor corridor with fresh fireworks and gave them one of her rare detentions. For this one, they had to clean every single suit of armor on the second floor corridor that evening. James said it was worth it, though.
"We really ought to come up with a few good pranks," John decided as they were traveling through the hills on the train. "That's what the Marauders did, was prank people, so we should, too."
Albus shrugged. He really wasn't very good at coming up with pranks. That was James's area of expertise. Plus, if the result of such pranks was cleaning suits of armor, Albus really didn't want to pull a whole lot of pranks. "Maybe a few minor ones, that don't get us in huge trouble."
"I'm sure we could do some of those. There's loads of stuff we could do to the Slytherins."
"Yeah, like that one James did before the first dueling tournament," Matt laughed.
The rest of the train ride went quickly and soon Albus and his friends found themselves at King's Cross. Albus climbed off the train and saw his parents standing with Rose's parents and Lily and Hugo.
But before Albus could go over to see them, John grabbed his arm and steered him in another direction. "C'mon, you can meet my great-great grandpa!"
Albus saw a very frail, completely bald, old man with a long white beard standing next to John's parents. John lead their group over to the three adults.
"Johnny-Boy!" the old man shouted and gave John a tight hug, "How're things at that school? How is Professor Dippet?"
"He died years ago, Grandpa, like I told you over the summer. Like I tell you every summer," John stifled a laugh.
"Oh, right! Probably all new teachers, a bunch of young'ins I bet! Back in my day none of the teachers were under 50, and now some of em are 30! What has gotten into these new headmasters...."
"Grandpa," John shook his head, "The teachers are fine. But I want you to meet my friends. This is Matt Eckerton, Albus Potter-"
"Potter!?" John's great-great grandpa peered into Albus's eyes and grinned, "Albus Potter? Well I'll be. If it isn't Harry Potter's son! I remember back in the days of You-know-who and nobody thought he would ever be defeated, and then along comes little Harry Potter and poof! You-know-who's gone! Then he comes back and what should happen again? Harry Potter makes 'im disappear again and for good this time!"
Albus, who was used to this kind of attention but not someone shouting it at the top of their lungs, blushed and tried to ignore the stares of everyone around him. "Er, nice to meet you."
"You, too," the old man smiled, "And who are these girls? Have you got yourself two girlfriends, Johnny-Boy? I wouldn't recommend it. I did it once and wound up with no girlfriends after they found out!"
"No, Grandpa," John laughed, "They're just friends. Amanda Tagger and Rose Weasley."
"Are you sure? I could see you with the redhead. Just wait till you're older."
"He's like the male version of Muriel," Albus whispered to Rose.
"Muriel!?" John's grandpa shouted. Albus jumped. He hadn't expected that the elderly man would be able to hear him. "I used to know a Muriel! Went to school with her. Then she married some Weasley. I haven't seen her in decades!"
Albus looked at Rose. What a coincidence. "Er, Albus and I have an Aunt Muriel Weasley," Rose giggled.
"Well I'll be! I should owl her sometime."
"I'm sure she'd love that," Rose smiled.
"We're going to have to go now," John's mum announced.
"See you later," John waved.
"Bye," Albus grinned.
"Tell your dad I said hi!" John's great-great grandpa shouted.
Albus spent the next few days hanging around Grimmauld Place with James and the rest of his family. Lily was thrilled to have both her brothers and her dad home and she had been demanding to know everything that had gone on the past term.
"That way I'll know everything about Hogwarts before I'm even there!" she said excitedly at breakfast the day before Christmas Eve. "You still haven't told me how I'll get sorted."
"We're not going to tell you, Lily," Ginny smiled as she handed Lily a glass of juice, "It's a surprise."
"That's not fair," Lily whined.
"Nobody told me or Al how we got sorted, so how is it not fair for you not to know?" James asked.
"I'm the youngest. I should know everything about Hogwarts because you two have been there for a few years! And then all the Muggle-born kids will ask me questions and I'll be able to answer them."
"You'll find out soon enough, Lily," Ginny assured her.
"How much longer?" Lily asked excitedly.
"There's still 9 months."
"She's going to be a nightmare this summer," James whispered to Albus.
"Morning, everyone!" Harry descended the steps into the kitchen and pulled up a chair.
"Hi, Dad," Albus greeted him.
"Hey, Ginny?" Harry asked as he grabbed the Prophet, "Have you seen the Marauder's Map?"
James choked on his juice and sprayed it across the table at Albus, as he turned bright red.
"Ew, watch it!" Albus jumped back.
"You ok, James?" Harry looked at him curiously.
"Fine. The article on the front of the paper, it's, er, shocking," James blushed some more and pointed to the front of the Prophet, which was facing him.
"Witch Tries to Decrease Size of Her Ears, Charms Them Off Instead?" Harry read.
"Yes, very shocking. People ought to be more careful!" James sputtered. He gave Albus a look that Albus interpreted to mean 'meet me upstairs'. James excused himself and ran out of the room.
"What's with him?" Harry asked.
"No idea," Ginny shrugged.
"Er, I've got to go change," Albus jumped up and followed James. Harry had noticed that the map was gone! Now he was going to have to give it back. Albus was going to miss it, but it would only be a matter of time before he had the other one working.
"Albus!" James pulled him into the drawing room and shut the door. "He wants the map back!"
"I kind of figured that," Albus smirked, "We're just going to have to sneak it back into his room. Let's do it now."
"Wait, Albus!" James grabbed his arm, "The thing is, er, well, I..." He shuffled from foot to foot looking very nervous.
"I, er, can't find it!" James whispered. "What am I going to do? I can't have lost it...."
Albus started laughing. "It's not funny!" James insisted.
"You didn't lose it!" Albus grinned, "I've got it. I took it from you months ago and didn't want to give it back."
"You idiot!" James shouted, "Here I thought I'd lost it and you stole it from me!"
"It doesn't matter now. We've got to give it back anyway."
"You're giving it back. You're the one who stole it from me."
"Well you stole it from Dad in the first place," Albus reminded him.
"Only to get you out of trouble!"
He had a point there. If Albus hadn't have been in Kendrick's office the previous year, James never would have taken the map in the first place. "All right. I'll just go sneak it into his room. Maybe he'll think he just forgot to bring it to Hogwarts."
"Let's hope so. Go do it now."
Albus nodded and ran up to his bedroom. He knew his dad would want the map back eventually, he just hadn't given it much thought. At least he hadn't noticed it was missing at school. Albus threw open his trunk and rifled through his school stuff. He still hadn't unpacked everything or packed a bag for his stay at the Burrow. The map was inside the photo album Albus found over the summer, along with the new map. Hopefully they wouldn't need the Marauder's Map to decipher the new map. Albus pulled out the map and ran into his parents' room. He shoved the map under a pile of defensive magic books and quickly left the room.
"Done?" James asked anxiously when Albus ran back into the drawing room.
"Yup. I put it under a stack of books, with one corner sticking out."
"Perfect. You might want to go change your shirt now."
"Oh, right," Albus looked down at his juice splattered t-shirt, "Thanks for that, by the way."
"No problem," James laughed, "Come to me for all your juice spraying needs."
"I'll do that," Albus rolled his eyes as he left the room to change his shirt.
A/N: Thanks to my beta, Dancer_of_Starlight! Thanks as well to sinwillys822, Denas, Moonylupin, wolverine83, Luke, drownzer, smirkyhaha, and Miguel for their reviews!