sexstories.com


Introduction:

harry potter
________________________________________
Disclaimer- I don't own Harry Potter.
Weasley Family Tree is in the Author's Note at the bottom.
________________________________________

Molly Weasley didn't dare serve dinner until after the Quidditch match had been completed because even she didn't have the ability to drag Weasleys away from Quidditch. Teddy secured a win for his team by practically stealing the Snitch out James's grasp and then everyone was off their brooms and sitting at the large crowd of tables in record time. After all, Quidditch was one of the best things one could do to develop a big appetite. Albus was certainly quite hungry and in a very good mood as he had been on Teddy's team.

Albus and Rose sat next to each other in the middle of the group of tables and unfortunately Percy sat directly across from them. Early experience had taught them never to sit near Percy due to his habit of talking politics during dinner, something that even bored Rose. The two of them looked at each other as Percy sat down and Albus readied himself for political conversation rather than Quidditch talk.

“I'm telling you,” Percy said to no one in particular as he served himself some carrots, “something's going to happen. I guarantee it. It's been too quiet in the Ministry lately. Personally I thought things would get a bit riled up last year when Walter Eckerton took over for MacVicar, but I suppose the two of them had similar views. More similar than I expected anyway...”

Leave it to Percy to try and find something wrong with the Ministry when all was fine, Albus thought. He reached over Rose to grab a steak and kidney pie and served a heaping portion onto his plate.

“What do you think, Harry?” Percy turned to Albus's dad, who happened to be sitting next to him. “Any stirrings in the Auror department that I may not have heard about?”

“Things are pretty calm, Percy,” Harry replied.

“Of course they are. I would've heard if they weren't,” Percy decided.

Albus wasn't exactly sure what his uncle Percy actually did at the Ministry. He knew it had something to do with the Minister, but his actual title was so long and complicated that Albus never bothered to remember it.

“Well, it's an election year,” Percy pointed out. “Things never stay calm during election years. Party announcements come first week of September and after that things will be chaotic around the Ministry. Loads of work to do. Let me tell you, when I run for Minister-”

“Oh, here we go again!” Ron said loudly. “When Percy runs for Minister. It's never gonna happen, Perce. Honestly.”

“I would vote for you, Percy,” Molly assured him. “You would make a wonderful minister. But this dinner is supposed to be about the kids. James! And Ben and Cedric! This is your O.W.L. year! You three are going to do so wonderfully but you must calm down a bit and study.”

“Gran, really,” James muttered. “We're going to be hearing this from the teachers. Uncle Percy, why don't you tell us more about your running for Minister?”

“Well, as a matter of fact.” Percy stood up. “I have a rather exciting announcement to make and I feel I must tell my family first, before the rest of the Wizarding World.” He paused, presumably for dramatic effect. “I will be formally announcing on Monday, September second that I will be running for Minister for April's election.”

There was absolute silence for about five seconds before a whole lot of things happened at once. Ron, George, and Charlie burst out laughing. Hermione raised her eyebrows as far as they could go. Ginny, Bill, and Arthur all shouted loudly “Seriously?!”. Molly shook her head slightly and then jumped up from her chair, running towards Percy and finally enveloping him in a large hug and kissing him squarely on the forehead.

“Oh, Percy!” she exclaimed. “I'm so proud of you! You've been talking about it for years and I think it's high time you actually did it. I always wanted a son who was this successful!”

“Mum!” Ron groaned. “It's not like your other sons haven't done anything. I'm an Auror for Merlin's sake!”

“And you're a fine good one, Ronald, but I can't ever see you being Minister. You just don't have the ambition Percy does,” Molly said as she patted him on the shoulder.

Gold was exchanging hands at the other end of the table. Cedric was grinning madly, so Albus assumed he had won some sort of bet involving when Percy would run for Minister. That bet must have been in the works for years.

Albus was personally stunned. He of course had been on the receiving end of many a Percy rant about what he'd do when he ran for Minister, but he had always believed Percy wouldn't ever do it. If Albus was honest with himself, he didn't really want Percy running. His family was famous enough without having an actual Minister in it.

“Honestly, Mum, do you think he's really going to win?” Ron exclaimed. “I mean, don't get me wrong, Percy, I'll vote for you, but what about the rest of the wizarding world?”

“Percy, do you really think you're cut out for this?” Harry asked skeptically.

“Why wouldn't I be? I've been involved with the Ministry for decades!”

“I think what Harry's trying to say is that you're all bark and no bite,” Bill pointed out.

“I am not!” Percy shouted. “And I would've expected more support from my own family.”

“We are supporting you,” Molly assured him.

“Boys,” Arthur warned. “Percy's right. If he wants to run for Minister he can without any of us making it difficult for him. You don't have to vote for him, but I won't have you arguing during dinner. You'll upset your mum.”

Everyone resumed their seats but Albus doubted they stopped talking about Percy running for Minister. They just continued to do so in lower voices. For once, Albus was happy he had chosen a seat near Percy.

“Do you know who else is running?” Hermione asked.

“Not sure,” Percy replied. “Hartwell's not running again, if that's what you're getting at. He's had enough. But I've got his support. After all, I am the Senior Undersecretary for the Drafting and Editing of Laws to the Minister.”

So that's what Percy's title was, Albus thought. He had no idea if that was a position that had a lot of power or not, but apparently it was enough to receive support for a Minister run.

“Hey, Dad,” Georgia shouted from a little ways down the table. “I figure this is as good a time as any to tell you that I'm moving out tomorrow.”

Percy choked on whatever he was eating. “You're what?”

“Moving out. You know, leaving the nest. I've got a flat with a friend closer to the pitch. It'll be more convenient, for work.”

“Work,” Percy muttered. “If Quidditch can be considered work.”

“Look, I know how these elections work. You're going to want to make yourself look like a family man, so you're not going to want to consider me your crazy daughter who only plays Quidditch and has no job. So you'd better start thinking of me as your daughter who's the newest reserve Keeper for the Kenmare Kestrals. It'll sound better to the press.”

Percy stared at her with his mouth agape. He shook his head slightly and resumed eating, without another word to Georgia. Georgia looked smug, so Albus assumed she had won that little argument.

Albus turned to Rose and grinned. Georgia certainly knew how to make Percy's running for Minister work to her advantage.

“Rose, have you heard from Linda yet?” Albus asked, deciding not to join the rest of his family in political conversation.

“Not yet.” Rose shook her head. “Her mum might have wanted her to wait a bit after they settled in Canada, though. Have you heard anything about what the Ministry's doing about Lubar?”

“If anything's changed Dad's being really quiet about it,” Albus answered.

“It's so wrong, though, that he can completely get away with what he did,” Rose muttered. “It's like I could go to France, rob a bank, get back to England, and I'd get away with it.”

“You're robbing a bank?” James shouted.

“Of course not,” Rose replied. “It's none of your business.”

Albus and Rose didn't risk talking about Lubar for the rest of the evening. Sure, the rest of their family knew about what had happened but neither of them wanted to discuss their theories with any of them.

The rest of the evening was rather out of character for usual Weasley family dinners. All the previous years' dinners had consisted of talk of Hogwarts and the adults exclaiming how big everyone had gotten and how everyone was growing up. Usually whomever was starting Hogwarts for the first time would get a fair bit of attention, but this year Angie, who was starting, seemed to be forgotten. Instead all of the attention was focused on Percy. The adults were talking politics and Albus's older cousins were placing bets on whether he'd win or not.

Stanley was the first to leave as he had to go back to Romania the following morning. Charlie and Katherine had finished their year in Romania and had returned to England permanently the previous month. Victoire and Teddy left shortly after that since they both had to work the next day.

Percy was still discussing campaign tactics with Corrine, who was smiling and nodding the way Albus did when his cousins were smaller and he had to pretend he was interested in what they were saying, when Albus's parents decided it was time to leave. For the first time in his life, he was actually happy to leave and get back to Grimmauld Place. The before school dinner was supposed to be about everyone who was at Hogwarts, a time to have fun all together before school started, and this time it hadn't been that. It had been about Percy.
******


By some stroke of luck or miracle that had never descended upon the Potters before, James had packed his trunk the night before they left for school. Albus was sure that some sort of apocalypse was going to arrive soon because Percy running for Minister and the Potters arriving early for the Hogwarts Express were two events that nobody ever thought would happen. Albus didn't question it, though. Instead he just used the opportunity to his advantage.

Kaden, who had met Albus at Platform 9 ¾ prior to going through the barrier, was not early, so the Potters went through without him. Rose and her family were already there of course, so Albus said a quick goodbye to his parents before getting on the train to find Rose. With any luck his friends wouldn't be there yet and he could talk to Rose alone. Usually there was nothing he wouldn't talk to his friends about, but the strange feeling he had had about his family was something he only wanted to talk to Rose about.

Rose was alone in a compartment about halfway down the train, reading one of her new textbooks. It was Arithmancy and Albus didn't have the slightest idea what any of the symbols in it meant. He chose the seat next to her and waited for her to be done reading whatever it was she was deciphering.

“I'm witnessing a miracle, apparently,” Rose said after setting her book down.

“James packed last night,” Albus answered.

“Again, I'm witnessing a miracle.” She laughed. “Your mum is lucky if James packs earlier than five minutes before you leave.”

“It's definitely odd,” Albus agreed. “Listen, do you get the feeling things are changing?”

“Changing? Like what's happening with Willinson and Lubar and their lot? Yeah, I think so. It's been over three years, Al, and they still haven't gotten all of them in Azkaban at the same time. I know they're really stupid when it comes to dueling but I think they're smarter than anyone's giving them credit for. Things are going to change, Al. The world's getting scarier,” Rose said quietly.

Albus swallowed hard. That was in the back of his mind of course, but he had never voiced it before. Nor was it what he had set out to talk to Rose about.

“I guess,” Albus replied. “But I wasn't really getting at that. I was thinking about our family.”

“Oh,” was all Rose said. Both cousins sat quietly for a minute before she continued. “I know what you mean. What was up with that dinner at Gran and Gramps's? It was all Percy. O.W.L.s were mentioned once and no one said anything about Angie starting Hogwarts.”

“I know. It was odd. It just seems like everything's changing. There are less of us at Hogwarts now so I guess that's what's going to happen-”

“There's still a lot of us here,” Rose interrupted. “And Eddie and the twins haven't even started yet. Plus it's not like we even talked about Teddy, Victoire, Stanley, and Georgia. We talked about Percy for Merlin's sake!”

“What do you think will happen if he wins?” Albus asked.

“I don't know. I don't think things will change political-wise but I think it's going to be really weird for Georgia and Bradley and Cedric. Even the twins will probably be effected. I mean, having your dad be the most important person in the wizarding world has got to be stressful.”

“Tell me about it,” Albus muttered. “Can you imagine if my dad ran for Minister?”

“Percy wouldn't stand a chance.”

“Dad'll never run, though,” Albus pointed out. “I just think that things are already different from last year. Everyone's going to be focused on Uncle Percy's campaign.”

“Things never stay the same, Al,” Rose said.

“What's not staying the same?” John asked as he entered the compartment, followed by Kaden. “I'm hoping you're talking about my Divination mark, Rose, because my parents nearly murdered me this past summer when they saw it.”

“I think we'll just have to deal with your murder, John, because that mark is not getting any higher,” Rose replied.

“Seriously, what were you talking about?” Kaden asked as he sat down across from Rose.

“Nothing,” Rose said quickly.

“I'll tell you once Matt and Amanda get here,” Albus said, figuring he'd tell them about Percy running for Minister.

“This is going to be the best year ever!” Kaden said excitedly as he pulled a piece of parchment out of his bag. “Look, it's my Hogsmeade permission slip!”

“Excellent,” John replied. “Now I don't have to buy your dungbombs for you.”

“Do you really have to buy dungbombs this year?” Matt asked as he entered the compartment. “They're so nasty.”

“Just for the Slytherin common room,” John assured him. “Our goal is to figure out how to get a few in there.”

“Not going to work,” Amanda said as she entered and sat down on the other side of Rose. “You can't get into someone else's common room unnoticed.”

“That's what Albus's cloak is for,” Kaden said.

“Not if it's going to smell like dungbomb after,” Albus said.

“Told you we should have just asked for his cloak without telling him what we were doing with it,” John told Kaden.

Kaden shrugged. “All right, everyone's here. Tell us what you and Rose were talking about before any of us got here.”

“Fine.” Albus took a deep breath. “Well, my Uncle Percy's running for Minister.”

“Seriously?” John replied.

“Cool!” Kaden exclaimed.

“Why?” Matt asked.

“Isn't he the one who's been talking about doing that for years?” Amanda asked.

“Yes,” Albus answered. “He's seriously running, it's not that cool, I'm honestly not sure why, and yes he's been talking about it for years.”

“Why doesn't your dad run?” Kaden asked.

Albus and Rose both burst out laughing. “Because that's the last thing he'd ever want to do. He wouldn't want anymore power than he's already got. Whereas Percy, all of my uncles have always said is kind of power hungry,” Albus replied.

“Do you know who he's running against?” Amanda asked.

“Haven't a clue,” Albus said. “They're supposed to be announcing the candidates on the second.”

“What's that got to do with everything changing?” Kaden asked.

“It's our family,” Rose said quietly. “Uncle Percy is so focused on the election and it hasn't even really started yet. Georgia's got it all figured out. Percy's going to pretend he's completely happy with her Quidditch playing just to make himself seem like a family man, which he's really not. He's always been focused on work.”

“That's stupid,” John said. “Georgia's not going to like that.”

“She's the one who brought it up,” Rose pointed out.

“He's right, you know,” Amanda said.

“What do you mean, he's right?” Albus stared at her. She had a knowing smile splayed across her face.

“You, Rose, and Matt aren't the only ones of us who have family in politics,” Amanda said.

“But you're a Muggle,” John replied.

“I never said the Ministry of Magic, John. I meant the Muggle Ministry. My uncle's the prime minister.”

Albus continued to stare at her. Amanda was always rather quiet and rarely talked about her family. He always figured that was because she was so quiet and never guessed that it might be because her family was just as influential in the Muggle world as his was in the wizarding world.

“Michael Smythe, that's my uncle. He's my mum's brother,” Amanda elaborated. “Imagine my mum's surprise when she told him that I was a witch only to find out that he already knew about the wizarding world.”

“So if Percy wins...,” Albus began, his voice trailing off.

“He'll meet my Uncle Mike,” Amanda finished. “But as I was saying, Georgia does have it all figured out. If word gets out that Percy and her rowed about her Quidditch playing, it's going to come off wrong in the press and lose him votes. So, he'll keep it to himself and will be in the front row of every single one of her matches, pretending to be a huge Kenmare Kestrals fan.”

“Wow, that seems so wrong,” Rose muttered.

“It's politics from the other side. The public wants people in power to have a certain image.”

“Still, it's like lying,” Rose went on. “Just another reason I am not getting into politics.”

“My cousin Leanne went a little wild at university her first year, our first year at Hogwarts, and the Ministry hushed it all up. She was out partying and the paparazzi got a photo of her and put it on the cover of some tabloid, but that was the only one. I know she partied more, but it was all hushed up.”

“But it's not like Georgia's partying. She's got Quidditch skills and is using them to make an honest living,” Rose pointed out.

“I'm not saying that's bad. I'm just saying your uncle won't want the public to know he's not happy with her career choice so he's going to make himself look like a devoted father.”

“See, everything's changing.” Albus sighed. “Sometimes I just wish I had a normal family.”

“It's not all it's cracked up to be,” John said. Kaden nodded.

“It's true, Albus,” Matt said. “Amanda's completely right. It's the whole reason why my dad got sacked. The public didn't like that I was a werewolf, which is part of why the Ministry hushed it up. When it got out, nobody wanted him in politics anymore.”

Albus nodded, but didn't say anything. He never really thought about that before, but Matt was right. Amanda was, too, but he never really put two and two together before Matt mentioned that. And now the same thing was happening with his family. Percy was going to pretend and while that didn't really directly effect him, how long would it take before the public didn't like the image he and the rest of his cousins were presenting?
________________________________________

A/N: From now on, updates for this will happen on the first of every month and updates for Beyond the Shadow will happen on the 15th. That way they'll be spread out. Thanks to everyone who has read and reviewed this!

Here's the Weasley-Potter Family Tree!

Bill-Fleur
Victoire- 20
Gabriella- 18
Ben- 5th year

Charlie-Katherine (witch)
Stanley- 19
Heather- 7th year
Mark- 6th year
Eddie- 8

Percy-Corrine (Muggle)
Georgia- 18
Bradley- 6th year
Cedric- 5th year
Samantha & Lindy (twins)- 9

George- Alicia Spinnet
Fred- 7th year
Angie- 1st year

Ron-Hermione
Rose- 4th year
Hugo- 2nd year

Ginny-Harry
James- 5th year
Albus- 4th year
Lily- 2nd year

*All in Gryffindor*

________________________________________
Disclaimer- I don't own Harry Potter.
________________________________________

There was no mention of politics or Ministers throughout the remainder of the train trip. Amanda didn't say anything else about her uncle being the prime minister and how it had affected her family, but Albus was still really curious about it. How had she managed to keep that a secret for three years? Judging by Rose's reaction, she didn't even know about it. Matt hadn't even managed to keep it a secret that he was a werewolf for a year. Granted, Albus and the others had figured it out, but still. Maybe Amanda was the best secret keeper in their group.

The talk lightened considerably as they made their way to Hogwarts, soon turning to the familiar subject of Quidditch and then to fantasizing about the new Defense teacher. John was hoping for someone who let them do whatever they wanted whereas Rose wanted someone who would actually teach, and not teach like Balladanis had. Albus didn't really care, so long as the new teacher didn't wish to harm his students, physically or emotionally.

As the train neared Hogsmeade station, Albus and his friends changed into their robes and prepared to exit the train for the bumpy carriage ride up to the school. The journey was now so routine that they did so with little chatter and transferred to the carriages with none of the fanfare of the previous two years. They were fourth years now and Hogwarts was familiar territory. As fourth years, they were well on their way to being the older students of the school.

The Great Hall was filled with laughter and excitement as the students found their seats at their house tables. Albus and his friends quickly found seats together at the Gryffindor table and all five glanced up to the staff table to find the new face that would be their Defense teacher. However, instead of the one unfamiliar face they expected, there were two unfamiliar faces.

“Which one's the Defense teacher?” Kaden asked.

“Haven't the slightest,” Albus replied.

There were two new wizards sitting at the table. One was deep in conversation with Professor Kendrick and the other was glancing around at the room, his eyes never resting on the same thing or person for more than a few seconds. The former was wearing what looked to be Ministry robes, which made Albus wonder if he was an Auror, but then he noticed one of the Aurors from last year standing off to the side in his usual spot. The second new wizard was dressed in plain black robes and had nearly no hair atop his head, but instead had a large beard and mustache, as if he was trying to compensate.

“I think the one talking to Kendrick is from the Ministry,” Albus said.

“That's not a good sign,” John replied. “What's the Ministry doing here on the first day?”

“It's not necessarily a bad thing,” Rose pointed out. “Maybe they just want to make sure everything is back to normal after the competition last year.”

John opened his mouth to reply but was silenced by the doors opening and Professor Patil entering with the new first years. They looked scared and tiny, far smaller than the previous year's first years. It was weird how they seemed to get smaller every year.

As with the previous year, Albus didn't pay any attention to anyone's sorting unless their last name was Potter or Weasley. This year, of course, there was only Angie entering Hogwarts from Albus's large family. She ran up to the three-legged-stool with as much enthusiasm as the rest of the family had and jammed the hat onto her head.

It remained there for all of three seconds before shouting “Gryffindor!” Angie ran from the stool to the excited shouts of the Gryffindors, her brother Fred's whistling ringing over the rest. Everyone at Hogwarts would have bet money on Angie being a Gryffindor, but everyone still liked to cheer.

For once Albus wished that Kendrick would make announcements before the feast was served just so he could find out why there were two new wizards at the staff table, but like usual, Kendrick waited until after the feast. Thus, the duration of the feast was spent speculating.

“The Ministry's sent someone to observe,” James said confidently. “Look at the past three years. Every single one at least one of Al and his friends have gotten kidnapped by insane wizards. Clearly the Ministry doesn't think the teachers can protect us enough.”

“That's what the Aurors are for,” Rose pointed out. “What's some Ministry bloke going to do that an Auror can't do? I really don't think that bloke is another Auror.”

“I bet he's here to recruit people for the Ministry,” Fred suggested. “You know, spend a year with us seventh years and try to convince us that we should take on boring Ministry jobs. Bet Uncle Percy's the reason for it. Probably doesn't want anymore of his kin to take up Quidditch professionally.”

“That's ridiculous,” a seventh-year girl replied. “He's probably just the new Defense teacher.”

“Then who's that other bloke?” Matt gestured to the bald man sitting next to Slughorn.

“Slughorn's long lost twin?” Kaden suggested. “Seriously, shave his beard and he'll look just like Slughorn.”

“Maybe Kendrick just wanted to invite someone to the Welcome Feast,” Amanda pointed out. “It could be as simple as that.”

Albus doubted it. Nothing was ever simple when it came to life at Hogwarts. Finally, after what seemed like ages, the puddings disappeared and Kendrick stood to give his usual start of term speech.

“Welcome back to Hogwarts. I give a warm welcome to our new first years and hope you have enjoyed your first Hogwarts feast. I'll remind everyone that the forest is out of bounds as well as the Whomping Willow. Those wishing to try out for their House Quidditch teams can give their names to their head of house. Now, you may have noticed that there are two new staff members this year even though only one position is vacant. The first is simple to explain and the second is a little more complicated.

“First, I would like to welcome Professor Elliot Young to Hogwarts. Professor Young is going to be taking over the Defense teacher position.” Kendrick gestured to the man with the beard, while scattered applause was received from the students and other professors.

“Professor Ancient if you ask me,” John muttered.

“Many of you may be aware and quite a lot of you I'm sure are not aware that this is an election year for the Ministry of Magic. Tomorrow the candidates running for Minister of Magic will make their speeches announcing their candidacy, which will begin a seven month campaign period. At the beginning of April, anyone who is of age will vote and the winner shall be announced. The fact that this is an election year is a wonderful educational opportunity and I wasn't about to let it pass us by. Therefore I have decided to add another class to the curriculum. It will meet once a week and in it you will learn the ins and outs of our political system and its history.

“This is Professor Richard Embry.” Kendrick gestured to the bloke sitting next to him, who then stood up. “He is from the Ministry and has agreed to teach this new class that we have designed. The class will appear on your schedules that you will receive tomorrow. Now, I suggest all of you turn in early as classes begin bright and early in the morning. Prefects, please escort the first years to the common rooms.”

Kendrick and the Ministry bloke both resumed their seats while Albus and his friends rose. The joined the mob of students making their way out of the Great Hall and towards the main staircase. The Hufflepuffs and Slytherins broke away from the pack to descend to their dormitories and then the Ravenclaws left for their tower. Soon, Albus and his friends were only amongst fellow Gryffindors.

The common room was abuzz with discussion about the new professors when they arrived. Most of the younger students had gone to bed, but the older students were making no move to do so. Fred was posting a sign-up sheet for Quidditch try-outs on the notice board while Heather watched. Albus predicted that the two of them would act more like co-captains since there was no way Heather was going to let Fred make all of the team decisions this year.

“So now we have another class,” John muttered as they sat down at a table near the fire. “More homework. More exams.”

“It's only once a week,” Rose pointed out.

“But still, since when has anyone at Hogwarts had to take a class about politics?” John asked.

“Never,” Albus replied.

“Muggles take classes on politics,” Amanda pointed out. “My sister took one last year and my cousins have taken them. I really don't think it's going to be that difficult.”

“Yeah, it's not like there's going to be an O.W.L. for it,” Rose said. “Can you believe that we'll be taking O.W.L.s next year?”

John groaned. “Do we really have to talk about them already?”

“Seriously,” Matt agreed. “They're a long way off.”

“Well, I think I'm going to turn in,” Rose said as she stood up. “Classes start tomorrow.”

“You sound like Kendrick,” Albus said, but he was feeling slightly tired himself.

Rose and Amanda left for the girls' dormitory a little while later. Albus and the other boys stayed up a while longer, but soon realized they were quite tired. They said goodnight to Kaden when they reached the third years' dormitory and then continued on to their own. It had been a long day and Albus was ready to go to sleep, just so he wouldn't have to think about politics or the election anymore.
******


“Well, we've got one of the new teachers today,” John said at breakfast the following morning. “We start off the day with Herbology and then have Defense right before lunch.”

“When do we have that politics class?” Matt asked as he scooped a heap of oatmeal onto his plate.

“Tomorrow, right before dinner,” John replied. “Merlin, that would've been free time if we didn't have that bloody class.”

“It could be fun, John,” Rose said.

“I haven't got it until Friday morning,” Kaden lamented. “I think it will be fun. Muggle politics are boring but magic makes everything better.”

“Bad news is we have it with the Slytherins,” Albus said.

“Of course,” Matt muttered. “Wouldn't expect anything different. And we've probably got potions with them again, right?”

Albus glanced at his schedule. “Yes.” They had had potions with the Slytherins every year now. Surely that couldn't be accidental. Albus would have preferred they have no classes with the Slytherins, especially after what had happened in Defense the previous year. The last thing he and Matt needed was more contact with Scorpius Malfoy.

“Good news is that we've got Defense with the Hufflepuffs this year,” Amanda pointed out.

“Bet Kendrick did that on purpose after last year,” John said. “He'd have to be an idiot to give us that class with the Slytherins again.

Everyone nodded in agreement. After the scene that had developed between Albus, John, and Scorpius Kendrick would probably never have the three of them in Defense class together again. Albus was grateful. He'd spent the last few weeks of his third year avoiding Malfoy and was fully prepared to avoid him for the remainder of his Hogwarts career. Unfortunately the Slytherin was on his dueling team.

The group hurriedly finished their breakfast and then parted ways with Kaden before heading down to the greenhouses for Herbology. Herbology was one of those predictable classes where they never had to worry about anything awful happening when it came to subject matter or teachers. Neville was a fair teacher who made classes interesting. Albus never had to worry about anything odd happening while in the greenhouses, unlike potions and Defense.

Everyone was slightly wary of the new Defense professor and thus the seats in the back of the room were in high demand. Unfortunately the Hufflepuffs had had Transfiguration beforehand and had a much shorter walk, so they claimed all of the far seats. Albus, Matt, and John had the misfortune of having to sit at one of the front tables and all three boys were on edge.

The professor ambled into the room just as class was scheduled to start. He had a very large stack of parchment, which he set on the desk before beginning to call roll.

“I am Professor Young,” he began after he finished with roll. “And welcome to fourth year Defense Against the Dark Arts. This year we will focus on Dark curses, hexes, and general spells, all of which are detailed out in your textbook. You can take your books out now if you haven't already done so.”

Albus rummaged in his bag and set his book on the table. Professor Young picked up the stack of parchment and began passing it out to the students. Albus feared that it was a quiz, as he glanced down at its fill-in-the-blank questions and short answer questions.

“Please read the first chapter of your books and complete the worksheet by the end of the class,” Young said as he walked back to his desk. He said nothing more and began to read what appeared to be a novel while stroking his beard.

Albus glanced at John and Matt, unsure of whether Young would yell at him if he spoke in whispers to his friends. Actually, Young might not even hear him. He did appear to be quite old. But it was just so odd that Young assigned them reading and a worksheet on the first day of class. Wouldn't a lecture make more sense? Albus couldn't remember a time when a professor hadn't lectured on the first day of class.

Everyone else seemed thoroughly confused as well. For the next five minutes everyone sent each other confused looks and glances before finally cracking open their textbooks, having realized that Young wasn't going to do anything besides read his novel.

Albus began to read the first chapter, which was dreadfully boring. It was about the most mundane of Dark hexes, if a Dark hex could be considered mundane. The chapter didn't even mention unforgivable curses, which while horrible, were far more interesting than the basic principles of what made a curse Dark.

Albus finished his worksheet a few minutes before Young put down his novel. “Leave your worksheets here on my desk. There isn't any homework.”

“That was the strangest class ever,” Albus said once they had left the room. “Who gives a worksheet on the first day of class?”

“Someone who just wants to read their book all day,” John replied. “Works for me, since he didn't give any homework.”

“Still, it was horribly boring,” Albus replied.

“Honestly, I'm happy it's boring after dealing with Balladanis last year,” Matt said.

“Somehow I don't think this bloke is going to be bringing any Anamateks to class,” Albus said.

“An Anamatek would probably finish him off,” John replied. “I don't think he could handle one.”

“Not many people could,” Albus pointed out.

When they arrived in the Great Hall, they were surprised to see Georgia hurrying Bradley and Cedric out of the room.

“What's wrong?” Albus asked, extremely confused as to why Georgia was at Hogwarts.

“Dad wants us there when he makes his big announcement.” She rolled her eyes. “We're supposed to be there supporting him or something.”

“What time is it happening?” Albus asked.

“One,” Georgia replied. “Which means we're already going to be later than Dad wants. It'll be in the Evening Prophet.”

“There is no way Georgia's going to be able to pretend everything is fine between her and Uncle Percy for the whole election,” Rose said once Georgia and her brothers had left. “She looked annoyed already and he hasn't even announced he's running yet.”

“She probably has to miss practice for it,” Albus replied. “I just want to know who he's running against.”

“Wish we could go watch,” Rose said. “I bet our parents are there.”

“Of course they are,” Albus agreed. “Matt's dad is probably there, too.”

“He is,” Matt said. “Hasn't got a clue as to who's running, though.”

“Guess we'll find out tonight,” Albus said.
******


Albus didn't see Bradley or Cedric until dinner. He had been hoping to catch one of them in between classes, but either their schedules didn't permit them to cross paths or the announcement had gone until dinner. The noise in the Great Hall wasn't any louder than it usually was when Albus arrived, but then again he wasn't quite sure how much the rest of the students cared about the election. However at the Gryffindor table, all of Albus's cousins were clustered at one end of the table, their heads leaned in to one another.

“Looks like a family meeting or something,” Albus said.

“We'll see you in the common room after dinner, then,” Amanda said as she pulled John and Kaden towards the other end of the table, Matt following.

Albus followed Rose to the far end of the table, where everyone else had already gathered. Albus squeezed his way in between Hugo and James while Rose found a seat next to Lily.

“Finally, you're here,” James said. “Bradley and Cedric won't say a word until everyone's here.”

“Otherwise we'd just have to tell the story over and over again,” Bradley muttered.

“Well, go on,” Fred encouraged.

“It was basically a huge fancy party with a bunch of boring speeches,” Bradley began. “A bunch of Ministry people and their wives or husbands and Dad was the center of attention, of course. Everyone knew he was running even though he hadn't made his official announcement yet. It didn't get interesting until Dad and the witch he's running against made their announcement-”

“Dad's was pretty boring,” Cedric cut in. “Talked about how he's seen the Ministry through so many changes and how we need strong leadership to keep the magical community together and loyal. Mentioned Uncle Harry and Voldemort, of course. Then everyone clapped politely and the opposition stood up.”

“The witch who's actually running looks like she was a hawk in a former life. Her nose is as pointy as a nose can get and she's got this sleek black hair that was done up in a bun. She stood up there with a crowd of people who she introduced as her campaign team,” Bradley said. “But it was her speech that got the crowd riled up. She kept putting holes in everything Dad said. Dad mentioned about how the wizarding world was a strong united front but she talked about how rifts are forming and the Ministry is slipping and change is needed again. She made all these subtle mentions of how the Aurors aren't as on top of things and how if we don't do something the magical world will fall apart.”

“That's ridiculous!” Fred said. “The magical world is fine.”

“I thought they were just making their announcements that they were running,” Rose said. “Speeches don't start yet.”

“Neither of them are going to waste an opportunity to get votes,” Heather pointed out. “So do you two have to make anymore appearances?”

“Yeah,” Bradley answered. “Dad wants us all there for his first speech this weekend and he said there are going to be some debates here, so we have to sit up front with Mum at those.”

“And the Prophet wants to do a huge article on our family,” Cedric added. “They're doing one on the witch, too.”

“What's her name?” Rose asked. “And what does she do in the Ministry?”

“Patricia Laurentis,” Cedric replied. “She's some sort of adviser to the current Minister. Her title's just as confusing and long as Dad's.”

“Weird that both the candidates were working under the current Minister,” Rose said.

“Well the parties chose them.” Cedric shrugged. “I should get going, though. Have to go see Slughorn about what I missed earlier.”

“Me too,” Bradley said as he stood up. “Patil probably won't be pleased that I missed the first lesson.”

Cedric and Bradley left, leaving the rest of the cousins to talk about what they had just been told. Albus mostly listened while pushing his food around his plate. What he had learned about Patricia Laurentis unnerved him a little and it was mostly because part of him thought she was right. Things weren't as perfect as his Uncle Percy thought. Willinson was still on the loose and not to mention the issue with Lubar was still unresolved.

But Albus's dad and the other Aurors were doing all they could, weren't they? What could Patricia Laurentis do if she got elected? There would still be the same Aurors working at the Ministry.

“Maybe Uncle Percy is the right person to be Minister,” Heather said quietly. “The Ministry has been working the same way since the Final Battle, hasn't it? And there haven't been anymore Voldemorts trying to gain power.”

“But things can't always stay the same,” Rose pointed out.

“Do you really think the Ministry needs to change that much?” Heather asked.

“I don't know,” Rose said quietly. “I just don't think people are as united as Uncle Percy thinks.”

“I'm going to the common room,” Albus said as he pushed his plate away. He wasn't hungry anymore.

Footsteps behind him told him that Rose was following, just like he hoped she would. “What were you getting at? People not being united?” he asked once they were in an empty corridor.

“Not everyone agrees on everything, Albus,” Rose said. “Far from it. I think Uncle Percy's slightly delusional about that. And remember what you told me about that odd bloke who gave your dad a warning at the Quidditch World Cup?”

“That bloke?” Albus laughed. “He was insane!”

“I'm not denying that, but he did have a point. In an election year everything matters. Uncle Percy's aligned his beliefs with the current Minister's, which means if he's elected he's going to continue doing things the same way. The Ministry hasn't caught Willinson for good in the three years they've been searching and he's slipped out of their grasp numerous times. It's not going to be difficult for that Laurentis lady to convince people we need to change tactics, even if her tactics aren't great either.”

Albus said nothing for a few moments. “How do you know all of this?”

“I've talked to Amanda more than you have,” Rose replied. “She knows how all of this works, and it's really not that different in the Muggle world.”

“So you think Laurentis is going to win?” Albus asked.

Rose laughed. “I never said that and it's far too soon to tell. They haven't even debated yet. All I'm saying is, Uncle Percy needs to open his eyes a bit.”

Albus didn't reply. He knew that his Uncle Percy's political views were slightly different than the rest of his family's, but they were still quite similar. If what Rose was saying was true, that meant that his whole family needed to open their eyes and Albus wasn't sure how he felt about that.
________________________________________

A/N: Sorry about the late update. There were some site issues. See the forums for more details about that. Thanks to everyone who has been reading and reviewing!

________________________________________
Disclaimer- I don't own Harry Potter.
________________________________________

“You know, this politics class is taking away from our free periods,” John said the following morning at breakfast. He shook his head as he loaded his plate high with scrambled eggs and bacon.

Albus nodded and waited for Rose's reply about how they needed to take advantage of any learning opportunities, even if they meant less free time, but it didn't come. Albus turned to look at her, thinking she might be ill. She wasn't. Instead she was piling her own plate high with eggs and toast. Albus raised his eyebrows at her.

“What?” she demanded. “Girls get hungry, too.”

“Not that,” Albus replied. “John just complained about having another class and you didn't groan and tell him off.”

“I kind of agree with him.” Rose shrugged.

“Are you ill?” Albus asked as he felt her forehead.

Rose pushed his hand away. “Stop it, Al. I'm not saying I won't enjoy the class. I'm just saying that we're fourth years and O.W.L.s are closer than ever and we need all the time we can get to study. Not that John would use the time to study, mind you.”

“There's the Rose we all know.” John grinned as he stuffed his face with bacon.

“I think it'll be a nice change,” Matt put in. “Something different. Notice they gave us History of Magic on two consecutive mornings. Wonder who the idiot was who did that.”

“Same one who always gives us classes with the Slytherins, I'll bet,” John said. “Double Potions this morning and I'd bet my right arm and both my legs we'll be with the Slytherins.”

“Why not both your arms and legs?” Amanda asked.

“On the off-chance that I'm wrong, I'll need some sort of limb to get around with,” John answered.

“I only had one class with the Slytherins last year,” Kaden said. “You lot must have terrible luck. I'd better be off. Defense this morning.”

“Good luck. That professor is weird,” John said.

“Can't be worse than last year,” Kaden replied as he got up and left.

Albus, Matt, Rose, and Amanda waited for John to finish his pile of eggs before setting off for the dungeons. When they arrived the door was already open and Albus saw that they were indeed wit the Slytherins again. Scorpius Malfoy was sitting at one of the front tables, looking rather smug. Albus averted his eyes and continued to the back of the classroom, where he sat down in between Matt and John.

“Wonder what he's so happy about,” Albus muttered as the rest of the students entered the room.

“I don't know. But I don't like it,” John said.

Slughorn chose that moment to waddle into the room so Albus and John could not continue their conversation. “Welcome, welcome! Ahh, my two favorite houses together again! What luck. Well, well, welcome to fourth year Potions. This is the year that things get difficult since you'll be sitting your O.W.L.s next year...”

“Why is it they're talking about O.W.L.s this year?” Albus whispered. “They're still over a year off.”

“...Since today is a double class I thought we'd set about brewing the first potion in your textbook and see where your skills lie after a summer of lounging about. Unless some of you happened to read your text books over the summer!”

Albus glanced at Rose, who was sitting next to Amanda at one of the front tables. She seemed to sit up higher in her seat.

“Let's get started, then. You can work in pairs of your choosing. The pair that produces the best potion will win a bar of Honeyduke's chocolate.”

John set off to work with Janie Creevey who lacked a partner while Albus and Matt set up a cauldron at their table.

“Remember your gloves,” Slughorn announced. “If you touch the finished product your hand will immediately freeze.”

“Does it seem odd to you that we have to concoct a Freeze Solution with fire?” Matt asked as he stuck his wand under the cauldron to light the flame.

“Very,” Albus agreed. “So now that we've had Slughorn for three years, have you noticed that he always starts the year with a contest?”

“Yeah. I bet he uses the same curriculum every year,” Matt added. “Can't imagine that much changes in terms of potion brewing.”

“I bet our parents brewed the same potions,” Albus said.

“I wonder if it's possible for this potion to explode,” Matt mused as he tossed a few pieces of chopped beetroot into the cauldron.”

“Well, I suppose we'll find out,” came a drawling voice from behind them. Albus turned around and saw Malfoy, carrying a few bottles he must have gotten from the supply closet. “I'm sure you two will manage it, if it's possible.”

“Shut it, Malfoy,” Albus replied.

Malfoy glared at him and then stalked off towards his own table. Albus was slightly surprised that he had left so quickly. It was strange.

“Weird of him to leave so soon,” Matt said, as if reading Albus's mind.

“Yeah, if you ask me, he's afraid of you now.”

Matt let out a laugh. “Yeah, right. If anything he's finally realized you're a better dueler than he is and he's got to watch out. Speaking of which, you think you're going to be captain of your dueling team this year?”

“It's either going to be me or Malfoy,” Albus said.

With everything else that was going on that year, the last thing Albus needed was to be captain of his dueling team, but he did not want Malfoy as captain either. He'd take the extra work if just to keep Malfoy from being in charge. Malfoy needed power like a blast-ended skrewt needed a flame thrower.

Albus and Matt did not blow up their potion by the end of the class. In fact, their potion had the same consistency that it was supposed to and while it was slightly off-color, it did manage to freeze the quill Slughorn stuck in it. Rose and Amanda won the chocolate, which was no surprise to anyone.

Rose and Amanda shared their chocolate with the boys as they walked up to the Great Hall for lunch. Albus and Matt told the girls and John about Malfoy's bizarre behavior and Rose told them that they should just be happy he's backing down, rather than analyze his motives.

The Great Hall was buzzing with activity when they entered it a few minutes later. Albus sat down at the Gryffindor table and no sooner had he grabbed a roll did Heather toss a copy of the Prophet onto his plate.

“What's this?” Albus asked as he lifted up the paper.

“This morning's Prophet. The owls were late delivering it. Something about a storm in London,” Heather explained.

Albus set down his roll and opened the paper. There on the front page was a picture of his Uncle Percy, smiling wide, in elaborate robes, shaking hands with a very tall woman, who was also smiling wide and wearing elaborate robes. Above the picture was the title, “Candidates for Minister of Magic Announced.”

By this point Rose and Matt had crowded on either side of Albus, while Amanda and John hovered behind him, all trying to read the article. Albus's eyes traveled down the page so he could do the same.

In front of the entire Ministry of Magic,
Minister hopefuls Percy Ignatius Weasley and
Patricia Leigh Laurentis announced their
candidacy on September 3rd, 2029. Both
candidates work under Minister Hartwell, yet
are running against each other for opposite
parties.

Weasley, Senior Undersecretary for the
Drafting and Editing of Laws, has been
chosen to run for the Merlinus Party,
which is the party that current Minister
Hartwell represents. Laurentis, Senior
Advisor to Law Enforcement and Azkaban
Official has been chosen to run for the
Paracelsus Party.

A large crowd turned out for the announcement,
which is only the first of many appearances
by both candidates. The first debate is
scheduled for September 8th, at the
Ministry of Magic.

“So that's who your uncle's running against,” Matt said.

“Guess so,” Albus replied.

“She looks a little like this maths teacher I had before I came to Hogwarts,” Amanda said. “She was a scary lady. I remember once I forgot to do my homework so I spent the entire morning in the loo before someone came looking for me.”

“You can tell they both hate each other,” Matt said as he gestured to the picture. “Sure they're shaking hands and acting nice but clearly they both want to hex each other.”

“It's just weird that she works for Hartwell if she's the opposite party he is,” Rose mused. “Why would Hartwell have hired her?”

“Maybe she switched parties?” Amanda suggested. “It happens in the Muggle world.”

“Maybe,” Rose said. “It just seems fishy. Her switching parties and hinting at all these radical changes. It just seems like something big is going to happen.”

Albus couldn't help but have the same feeling. But all he could do was hope that his uncle won the election and Laurentis would not have the chance to change everything.

“Hey, Al, done with that paper?” James called from down the table.

Albus nodded and passed the Prophet down, then settling in to eat lunch. There was no point worrying about the election now. It was months away. Plus, the politics class was later that day and Albus was incredibly curious about it.

Transfiguration seemed to drag by since it was the same as it was every year. Professor Patil explained about that year's curriculum and how they needed to start thinking about O.W.L.s and the increased workload. It was all rather monotonous and all Albus wanted to do was get to politics since it was something new.

Finally Transfiguration was over and Albus and his friends hurried to the fifth floor to the classroom where politics was held. They slowed down when they reached the room as none of them wanted to be the first to enter.

“We better not have this with the Slytherins,” John muttered as they neared the doorway.

Albus peeked in the door. “Nope, Hufflepuffs.”

John let out an audible sigh of relief and Albus pushed the door open as they entered. Only a few Hufflepuffs were there, seated towards the back, and the professor was nowhere in sight. Rose immediately claimed a desk in the front and Amanda chose one next to her, while Albus and the other boys headed to the group of Hufflepuffs in the back.

“Do you think there will be homework in this class?” John asked as they sat down.

Albus raised his eyebrows. “Is that a serious question?”

John shrugged. “Well it's not like there will be an O.W.L. We probably won't even have this class next year. So why would there be homework?”

“Because it's a class and this is Hogwarts,” Albus replied. “I guarantee there will be homework.”

The rest of the class filed in, filling in the seats that remained in the middle of the classroom. As the bell rang, Professor Embry entered, walking with an air that this class would be all work and no play.

“Good afternoon,” Professor Embry began as he shuffled a few papers on his desk. “Welcome to Basic Wizarding Politics. I am Professor Embry and you will address me such.”

Embry stepped out from behind his desk and began to pace the length of the classroom. “I understand that most of you know absolutely nothing about politics and assume that the Minister of Magic is born the Minister and laws just magically come into existence. A select few of you,” his eyes rested on Albus, and then on Matt, and on two Hufflepuff girls, “have parents in the Ministry and may have slightly more knowledge than the rest, but that would be rather generous of me to assume.

“Hogwarts has not put much stake in political education before now, something that I feel is lacking in today's education and wish to rectify this year. The curriculum will include history of how our government came to be the way it is today as well as how the government is currently run.”

The class let out a collective grown at the word history. Albus glanced at Rose, who was on the edge of her seat.

“But sir,” a particularly brave Hufflepufff boy announced, “we've already learned the history. We take History of Magic.”

Embry let out a short laugh. “With Professor Binns? If I may be frank, that man died before most of the history happened. Along with that, he'll put a rock to sleep.” Embry chuckled. No one in the class dared to laugh. “I'm going to give you a proper history of our modern government, starting with a brief overview of what the government was like before the reign of Voldemort and a more comprehensive overview of what it is like today.

“I will also devote a class period each to the way the government is run in France, the United States, and Australia. Now, since you were not aware that this class would take place, you have not acquired books. Therefore I have purchased them for you. You are to treat them as library books and return them to me in similar condition at the end of the year. Lest your parents be billed.”

Embry flicked his wand and stacks of books flew out of a nearby cupboard. They landed softly in front of the students. Albus glanced down and read the title. Politics and Government in Modern Wizarding Britain by Beatrice Holden. It looked about as dull as the cupboard it had come out of.

“Very good. Now, get out parchment and quills. I'm not going to let the rest of this class period go to waste,” Embry said as he tapped his wand on the board. Notes immediately appeared on it.

Embry lectured for the remainder of the class about how the first government was formed in Britain. It was incredibly dry. The only reason Albus stayed awake was because he had to take notes. Literally had to. Embry caught a John not taking notes and threatened him with detention this Saturday if he didn't start.

“That's all for today,” Embry said after the bell rang. “Next class we'll fast forward in time and learn about the government pre-Voldemort. Read the first chapter for homework and come up with three thoughtful questions to pose to the rest of the class. Dismissed.”

“How does Hogwarts attract the most bizarre teachers?” Albus asked once they were out of earshot of the classroom.

“Kendrick must put it on the list of job requirements,” John replied. “Must be out of your freaking mind to take this position.”

“I think he's professional,” Rose piped in. “It seems like we'll really learn stuff.”

“Why bother?” John asked. “It's not like we're old enough to have a say in the government anyway.”

“But we will one day,” Amanda pointed out. “And to be honest, I'd be a bit afraid if everyone our age felt like you do, John. Muggles get politics classes in school. It makes sense that we should, too.”

“She's got a point, mate,” Matt said. “Who has the power in your country matters. If you elect the wrong people, things can go horribly wrong. Not everyone gets to elect their leaders, either. We don't even get to do that fully. The positions that Albus's dad has and my dad have? In the United States, those are elected positions. Not here.”

“And before Voldemort, we didn't even elect our Minister,” Rose said.

“How do you lot even know this stuff?” John asked as they drew closer to the Gryffindor common room.

“Parents.” Amanda shrugged. “It's amazing what you pick up when your parents think you're too young to care to eavesdrop.”

“Wait.” John stopped in the middle of the corridor and looked at his friends. “Wait. Now that we know about your uncle, you lot all have family involved with the Ministry, wether it's the magical ministry or the Muggle ministry.”

Albus grinned sheepishly. “Guess so.”

John groaned. “This is insane. Why couldn't I have picked normal friends?”

“Normal is highly overrated,” Matt said as they reached the Fat Lady.

******


The rest of the week went by fairly quickly, in Albus's opinion. Everyone, students and teachers, fell back into their usual Hogwarts routines and by the time Friday arrived Albus had a stack of homework as high as his bed and was more than ready for a few days off. But when he saw the notice board in the common room when he got back from Charms on Friday afternoon, he knew that would not be entirely possible.

Fred had scheduled Quidditch practice on Saturday at eight in the morning.

“Eight!” Albus exclaimed. “In the morning? Is he thoroughly insane? It's the first week back! Even Georgia wasn't crazy enough to do that.”

“Tough luck, mate,” John said as he tossed his bag onto a nearby couch. “Eight in the morning. Let's see, I'll be snuggled up in bed. What about you, Matt? What will you be doing at eight in the morning? Flying through the rain? Trudging through the mud to the pitch?”

“Course not.” Matt grinned. “I'll be cozy in bed, having an amazing dream where I'm playing for the Cannons. In perfect conditions of course.”

“The Cannons are the only team you'd ever have hope of playing for,” John replied.

Albus threw himself down on the couch. Fred was insane. That was all there was to it. Well, he could apply for a professor position once he graduated. He'd meet the insanity requirement.

“Speak of the devil,” John said as Fred entered the common room.

“You!” Albus shouted as he got up. “Why in the name of everything Merlin owns did you schedule practice at eight in the morning on a Saturday? Not everyone's a seventh year taking four classes. We can't all sleep in every bloody day.”

Fred shrugged. “Had to. Pitch is booked solid all weekend except for Saturday morning and evening. All the other houses are having try-outs. We can't even hold our Keeper try-outs until next weekend because of it.”

“Why not the evening then?”

“Bradley's got to make an appearance at Uncle Percy's speech.” Fred rolled his eyes.

“Then why have practice at all? We don't need to train anyone new until we get a new Keeper,” Albus pointed out.

“It's been a whole summer. We're rusty. We've got to start training early. I want that Quidditch trophy.”

“We've been playing Quidditch all summer,” Albus said flatly.

“Look, Al, I'm not changing it. Just deal with it,” Fred said as he continued up to his dormitory.

Albus spent the rest of the evening fuming about practice and cursing Fred under his breath, until Rose suggested they all go to the Room after dinner. Albus reluctantly agreed, knowing that if they went to the Room he'd be up half the night and would only get a few hours' sleep.

In the end he was glad Rose suggested it. They spent the evening playing Gobstones and Exploding Snap and listening to John and Kaden think up new ways to prank the Slytherins, and more specifically, Scorpius Malfoy. Eventually, Albus decided to call it a night and headed back to his dormitory, leaving his friends to continue discussing whether it would be better to turn Malfoy's hair red or purple.

Only a few short hours later Albus found himself sneaking quietly out of his dormitory at an hour of day that was only meant to be seen on weekdays. He grabbed his broom and went to meet his teammates in the common room.

No one looked happy. James was nodding off on the couch while Ryan attempted to tie his shoes without opening his eyes. Heather's hair was sticking up at odd angles while she tried to tame it into a ponytail. Bradley was sulking in an armchair. Even Fred looked a little worse for wear. But they trudged through the castle, only seeing Peeves loosening a few door hinges and Filch's cat skulking behind a suit of armor.

The weather was at least nice and the four hours they spent on the pitch went by relatively fast. Albus and his teammates landed on the ground as the Slytherin Quidditch team made their way onto the pitch. Albus glared at them as they passed.

Without going up to his dormitory to change, Albus headed into the Great Hall hoping there would be something good for lunch. Having skipped breakfast, he was starving. He spotted his friends halfway down the Gryffindor table and after stowing his broom underneath the bench, he sat down and grabbed the nearest dish.

“You could at least shower first, Al,” Rose said. “You stink.”

“Too starved,” Albus replied.

“Albus!” Lily called from down the table. She got up and headed over to him. “Mum and Dad sent this earlier.” She handed him a piece of parchment. “They want us to go to the debate tonight since it's the first one and all. We're expected to Floo from Kendrick's study to the Ministry at five.”

Albus groaned as he read the letter. “That gives me about four hours to relax and possibly do homework.”

“Are you going to have to go to every debate?” Rose asked.

“Hope not,” Albus replied in between bites. “You don't have to go?”

“Haven't gotten anything about it. Dad probably doesn't even want to go himself so he won't make us. And Mum probably expects that it would just take away from my studies.”

“This says I have to wear dress robes,” Albus muttered.

“At least you can tell us if anything good happens,” Matt said.

“And what about you? Your dad's high in the Ministry. Why aren't you going?” Albus asked, desperate to find someone else who could keep him company.

“He already told me over the summer that I'll only have to go to ones at Hogwarts. And then whatever parties the candidates will throw for the officials. Doesn't think an election should have much effect on my life,” Matt explained.

“Lucky,” Albus replied.

Albus made the most of the rest of the day. He and his friends took homework down to the lake, but it sat ignored under a beech tree while they sat by the edge of the lake and dangled their feet in. Kaden swore the Giant Squid tried to eat his foot, but nobody believed him. Rose and Amanda took a walk by themselves along the edge of the forest, insisting that none of the boys follow.

Kaden pulled a Fanged Frisbee out of his bag once the girls left and the boys began tossing it around. This was great fun until the Frisbee decided it had had enough of being thrown and took out a section of Kaden's hair, leaving his head bleeding rather profusely and Albus, John, and Matt having to rush him to the hospital wing. By the time Kaden's head had been bandaged up and all four had received a lecture on the dangers of Fanged Frisbees (Madam Pomfrey somehow figured out that that was the cause) it was time for Albus to head back to Gryffindor Tower to get ready for the debate.
________________________________________

A/N: Sorry for the lack of a May update. School was insane. But I only have a year left! I'm now home for the summer and am having issues getting my Internet to cooperate with HPFF. Things take a long time to load and I cannot reply to reviews. I will still read every review, but responses will take a while since I have to be at the library to reply to them.

Since I last updated I've had some issues with people plagiarizing my stories. I really hate that I have to tell you guys this, but it is against the rules to take anyone's stories from here and put them on other sites. It's also against the rules to take plots, characters, etc without permission. I do not give my permission for anyone to take my plots or characters. I'm really happy that you guys like my stories, but please don't take them.

________________________________________
Disclaimer- I don't own Harry Potter.
________________________________________

If there was one thing Albus hated it was getting dressed up for Ministry events. He had always been slightly uncomfortable with his dad's fame and Ministry position because he hated the attention. James had always been the type who would bask in the attention, enjoying when all the Ministry officials proclaimed how big he was getting and how he was sure to be the star of Gryffindor's Quidditch team. Lily was rather indifferent towards it. She never really expressed emotion about the attention one way or another. She enjoyed getting dressed up but once they were at whatever party, she would go off and do her own thing. Albus just did not like it. He did not like getting his cheeks pinched by old ladies and did not like random people telling him how tall he was getting. As he got older, he did not like it any more.

But it was a fact of life and so Albus found himself once again forcing himself into a set of emerald green dress robes. They were wrinkled, but he didn't know any sort of ironing charm so he let them be. It's not like anyone would be focused on him anyway. This was his Uncle Percy's night and it seemed like this entire year was going to be his Uncle Percy's year.

Albus tamed his hair with a bit of water and then met James, Lily, Bradley, and Cedric in the common room. James looked suave and perfectly comfortable in his blue dress robes, whereas Bradley and Cedric looked like they were being force fed rotten fish in their matching grey robes. Lily was wearing a purple dress and as usual, didn't seem to have an opinion about going to the debate.

“So you three got roped into this, too?” Bradley asked as they made their way to Kendrick's study.

“Yeah, Mum sent us a letter this morning,” Lily explained. “I guess Dad thinks we should be at the first one.”

“At least you don't have to go to all of them,” Bradley muttered.

The rest of the trip to Kendrick's study was silent. When they arrived they saw that Kendrick was in dress robes as well and was apparently escorting them to the Ministry and would stay to watch the debate. He handed them each a bit of Floo powder and let them go first.

Albus stepped into the Floo after James and soon found himself in the Ministry of Magic's entrance hall. The place was far quieter than it was the last time he had been there, the following year, when he went with Matt to tell his dad about Lubar being at Hogwarts.

Kendrick led them to the lifts and down to the court rooms. “The only place big enough to accommodate everyone witnessing the debate. Even still, it's an invitation only event. It's being broadcasted over the wireless, however. Kendrick stopped in front of court room ten and opened the door. The room was about half full. Albus spotted his mother's bright red hair in the first row of seating. He followed Kendrick down the stairs.

Albus's Aunt Corrine was sitting with his parents, along with a rather sullen looking Georgia and the twins, who were both reading books. Kendrick began to speak quietly to Harry as Albus and the others filed into the row. James, Bradley, and Cedric immediately began to speak of Quidditch and Albus listened in. They were speculating on who would show up for Keeper try-outs the following weekend. Georgia immediately perked up and began giving the boys advice on who they should keep an eye out for.

It soon became obvious that the left side of the front row of the seating was reserved for Percy's family. They were joined by all of Albus's aunts and uncles, as well as Victoire, Teddy, and Stanley. In fact the only one of his older cousins that was not there was Gabriella. Albus wanted to ask Victoire where she was but she was too far away.

Albus assumed that the first row on the right side was reserved for Laurentis's family, although Albus didn't recognize a single one of the people in that row. He turned around and focused on the people filing in. He recognized a few of them including Matt's parents and a few other Ministry officials he'd met before. Matt's parents sat down behind Albus's parents, next to Professor Kendrick. Albus briefly wished that Matt had been forced to go, but quickly erased that thought because what kind of friend would wish their best friend had to attend a political debate?

The chatter in the room immediately subsided when Minister Hartwell entered followed by a few of his closest advisers. Behind them were Percy and Laurentis, both wearing Ministry robes. Hartwell and his advisers sat along a table at the front of the room while Percy and Laurentis stood behind podiums, also at the front of the room. The Minister spoke with his advisers briefly while Percy and Laurentis smiled and waved at the crowd. Then one of the advisers rose from his seat.

He was a portly man, whose robes stretched very tightly across his middle. He was completely bald and had no beard, but a very wide mustache. Aiming his wand at his own throat, he muttered a spell and then set his wand down.

“Welcome,” his voice boomed over the audience, “to the first debate of the 2020 election for Minister of Magic. Our two candidates, Percy Ignatius Weasley and Patricia Leigh Laurentis, join us tonight for an introductory debate on a variety of issues. My name is Wendell York and I am the head of the Department of Magical Transportation and will serve as moderator for tonight's debate. I will pose the topic and each candidate will get five minutes to reply, then two minutes for a rebuttal.

“The first topic is how our world is concealed from Muggles. Do you think the current Ministry is doing an adequate job? What changes would you evoke? Mr. Weasley, you may go first.”

Albus yawned. Why couldn't it be an exciting topic like catching Dark wizards? Or at least something relevant to his life, like the lack of good Defense professors at Hogwarts. Now that would be a debate he'd be interested in. Albus turned towards Percy and realized he hadn't even been paying attention to much of his uncle's response.

“...current laws do a satisfactory job of concealing our world from Muggles. Magic sightings by Muggles are low in number and when they do occur Obliviators do an excellent job of altering the memories of our Muggle neighbors...” Percy droned on.

Albus turned to James who rolled his eyes. Could they have come up with a more boring topic? Albus seriously doubted it. Except perhaps cauldron bottom thickness, which was a report Percy had done when he first started at the Ministry, according to Harry. Albus glanced at his dad. He was paying attention, but in that certain way of paying attention that meant he was really bored but was trying to fake it. Even Corrine looked slightly bored.

“Thank you, Mr. Weasley,” Wendell York said. “Ms. Laurentis, your turn.”

“I disagree with Mr. Weasley,” Laurentis began. “One sighting of our kind by Muggles is too many. Each time a Muggle catches sight of an act of magic puts our entire world at risk, and not only Britain's wizarding world. We have a responsibility to the world that we keep our magic under wraps. According to last year's statistics we were in the top five countries in terms of numbers of sightings. That's not good...”

Laurentis went on and on about various laws that could be enacted to ensure that Muggles did not see acts of magic until Wendell York cut her off. He then let Percy have his two minute rebuttal, during which he went on about how it was an impossible goal to try, to achieve no magic sightings by Muggles. Laurentis's rebuttal was basically just a re-statement of her previous argument.

Albus tuned much of the debate out, focusing instead on what he wanted to do during the current school year. He was a fourth year, which meant he was no longer one of the younger kids. He'd been on the Quidditch team for two years and now he was hoping he'd be able to have some say in how practices went and how matches were played. Then there was the Dueling Club. Each of the eight teams had a captain and the captains were fourth years. Professors, mostly Neville, picked the captains. Albus knew it would be down to either him or Scorpius and as much as he did not really want the responsibility of being captain, he did not want Scorpius to have power over him. He would use that to his advantage.

The debate wore on and Albus continued to not pay attention until he heard the words 'education' and 'Hogwarts'. That got his attention. It was Laurentis's turn to go first.

“I think educational reform is the best way to go. Hogwarts has been ran the same way for generations and while no one can deny that Headmaster Kendrick runs a wonderful school, we also cannot ignore that changes could be made to benefit the students. The world is a constantly changing place and education needs to keep up in order for our students to be better prepared.

“The class choices for example. It is my understanding that a new class has been added this year about politics, which I think is greatly beneficial to students. But other than that the same classes are offered now as have been offered for decades. New classes need to be phased in while old ones that either no longer interest students need to be phased out. Obviously I am not talking about core classes such as Potions and Charms, but electives.

“Teachers also need to be kept up to date with recent findings in their fields. They should not be teaching the same information I or my opponent learned at Hogwarts. They should be teaching the newest valid information available-”

“Thank you, Ms. Laurentis, but your time is up. Mr. Weasley.”

“My opponent brings up an interesting point, but even she admits that Headmaster Kendrick is running an excellent school. I believe that some government regulation is necessary, example being last year's incident with Professor Balladanis, but we as government officials do not have the training nor experience needed to properly run a school. I, as well as my opponent, would be kidding ourselves if we believed we could do a better job running Hogwarts than Professor Kendrick.

“Just as professors most likely believe it best to leave law making and the running of the country to those such as my opponent and I, I believe it best to leave the running of Hogwarts to Professor Kendrick and the other professors. In conclusion, I believe that Hogwarts is fine as is and if the headmaster thought he needed government assistance bringing about change in curriculum he would ask.”

“Thank you, Mr. Weasley,” the moderator said. “Ms. Laurentis, your rebuttal.”

“I in no way stated that I am trying to run Hogwarts. Nor do I think I would do a better job of it than Professor Kendrick. I am merely stating that the students would benefit from more government intervention. If the Ministry had been more involved with teacher selection, for example, we could have possibly avoided hiring Professor Balladanis last year.”

“Mr. Weasley.”

“My opponent is speculating. There is no way for anyone to say whether government officials would have found Professor Balladanis to be an inappropriate professor during his interview. In fact, I would lean towards the opposite, considering that neither I or my opponent have ever hired a professor before.”

Both Percy and Laurentis were red in the face. Albus was surprised a Ministry sponsored debate could get so heated. He craned his head and turned around in order to see what Kendrick's reaction to all this was, but found that Kendrick was hiding his emotions far better than either Percy or Laurentis. It also seemed that everyone in the room was paying rapt attention, including James and Lily. The only two people who weren't were Samantha and Lindy.

There was one final question about law making that Albus didn't really understand, nor did he care to understand. He was far more interested in the Hogwarts question. Percy's argument was far better, in his opinion. Hogwarts was fine the way it was. Why did Laurentis want to change everything? What sort of changes was she talking about, anyway? He supposed the topic would be explored more specifically at the education themed debate which was scheduled to take place at Hogwarts the following month. But one thought that Albus could not get out of his head was that if Laurentis won, what would happen to Hogwarts?
******


“The only change I want to see at Hogwarts is less homework and fewer exams,” John said as he walked with Albus and the rest of their friends to the Great Hall.

A week had passed since the first debate and students were still talking about the possible changes to Hogwarts. A very large full page spread had appeared in the Daily Prophet the day after the debate, proclaiming that Laurentis wished to change Hogwarts. This had both students and professors up in arms and things were only beginning to calm down. The professors had been on edge the previous week, snapping at students for nothing and assigning extra homework. This resulted in the students being very unhappy. Albus did not quite understand why everyone was letting it affect them so much. It's not like Laurentis had won. Yet.

It was early on Saturday morning and Albus and his friends were heading to the Great Hall for the first Junior's Dueling Club meeting of the year. Albus's nerves were on end. It was at this first meeting that the captains would be announced.

“If Scorpius gets captain I'm going to murder something,” John muttered as they entered the Great Hall.

“You're not even on his team,” Rose said.

“I am and I couldn't stand it if he won,” Amanda pointed out.

“If he's captain, tournaments are going to be awful,” John countered. “Plus, I'm Al's friend.”

The Great Hall was in mass chaos, as it always was during the first meeting of the year. Two teams were congregated at each table and much to Albus's disdain, his team was holding court at the Slytherin table. He weaved his way through the confused second years who had yet to be assigned a team and stood next to his team. Scorpius was seated across the table from him.

“Well, Potter, ready to be under my captaincy?” Scorpius greeted him.

“I could say the same to you,” Albus replied. “What makes you so sure you'll get it?”

“I'm the better dueler, obviously.” Scorpius smirked.

“Quiet, quiet everyone!” Neville shouted.

Albus turned away from Scorpius and swallowed the desire to make a come back and paid attention to Neville instead. Professor Patil stood next to him. Albus supposed the new Defense professor had not had a desire to help with the Dueling Club. Somehow, Albus was not surprised.

“Thank you,” Neville said. “First I'd like to announce that Professor Patil has graciously agreed to help me sponsor this year's Dueling Club. As a reminder, all teams must have a professor present during practices and it is up to the team captain to coordinate practice times and locate a professor to sit in. The professor does not have to be myself or Professor Patil. However, this year we are allowing seventh year Dueling Club members to supervise as well. So as an alternative, you may ask a seventh year to supervise.

“First order of business is this year's second years. I've already assigned you to teams and shall now read off the list.”

Albus let his mind wander while Neville read off the list. The only second years he knew were his sister, and she was assigned to Matt's team, as well as Hugo, who was assigned to John and Kaden's team. A crop of shy looking second years had congregated at his own team's spot and he smiled at them, encouraging them to take seats next to the older students. There were five of them. Two boys and three girls. Three Ravenclaws, a Slytherin, and a Hufflepuff. No Gryffindors, but Albus could live with that.

“And now, what I am sure all the fourth years have been waiting for, captain announcements! Let me remind you that I, as well as the other professors who have been involved with this club have been watching you over the past two years and have chosen not only exceptional duelers, but exceptional leaders. Without further adieu.

“The captain of Team One is Marina Jordan-Bell.”

Cheers erupted for Marina, mostly from the Hufflepuff table, where her team was seated. Albus grinned. Marina was very nice and would make an excellent captain.

“The captain of Team Two is Harvey Tucker.”

John and Kaden's team. Harvey was a Ravenclaw and all Albus knew about him was that he knew every answer in every single class.

“The captain of Team Three is Peter Smith.”

A Hufflepuff. His father had attended school with Albus's parents and they hadn't liked him much.

“The captain of Team Four is Lydia Thompson.”

A rather snobby Slytherin whom was often seen with Scorpius. Scorpius grinned and clapped loudly for her.

“The captain of Team Five is Jace Johnson.”

Rose's team. Jace was a Hufflepuff who didn't seem to ever be not happy. It was kind of bizarre, actually.

“The captain of Team Six is Raisha Sweeney.”

A Hufflepuff that Albus didn't know well. He swallowed hard. Team Seven was next and that was his team.

“The captain of Team Seven is Albus Potter.”

John's whistling could be heard above everyone's cheering. Albus grinned. His entire team (save for Scorpius and his friends) were clapping hard. He'd done it. He'd made captain! All the uncertainties he'd had over the summer about it had disappeared. He, Albus Potter, was the new captain of Team Seven.

“The captain of Team Eight is Dayton Coons.”

Matt's team. Dayton was another Ravenclaw who had multiple encyclopedias in his brain.

“That's all for today. Captains, please figure out a time for your first practice, which should take place during the next two weeks. Once you have a date, please see me to get a classroom. Then find a professor or seventh year to supervise.

Scorpius did not say one word as Albus talked with the rest of his team and figured out a practice time that did not interfere with four different Quidditch teams, Gobstones Club, and Chess Club. Eventually he settled on the following Thursday evening. Neville assigned them to an empty classroom on the sixth floor. Albus figured he'd ask a seventh year to supervise rather than a professor. It was less intimidating for his first practice.

Albus's friends joined him at the door to the Great Hall. Scorpius brushed past them, but did not say a word. He looked like he was ready to murder someone. Albus thought he looked far too angry over a lost captaincy. It was just the Junior's Dueling Club anyway.

“Did Malfoy say anything to you?” John asked on their way back to Gryffindor.

“Not a word,” Albus replied.

“Don't think about him,” Rose said. “What's the point? You made captain and that's all that matters.”

Albus grinned. “Most of the captains are pretty decent, too. I mean Lydia's kind of irritating, but the rest aren't bad.”

“It's going to be a good year for dueling, that's for sure,” Matt agreed.

The six friends discussed dueling all the way back to the common room. When they entered they saw a sign that said 'Congratulations Albus and Marina!' Unopened butterbeers cluttered one of the tables and all of Albus's cousins were cracking them open. Marina was surrounded by her friends and Albus was accosted by his cousins as soon as he entered. Someone thrust a butterbeer into his hand and patted him on the back. He smiled as he looked out at the common room, at the party that his cousins had thrown together for himself and Marina. Matt was not only right about the fact that it would be a good year for dueling. It was going to be a good year in general.
________________________________________

A/N: So I bet you're all confused about the name change! Well, I've been doing some thinking and a plot change was needed. The chapters that are already posted won't be affected. The change only affects what I haven't written yet. But the old title wasn't going to work with the new plot, so I had to change it. I like the new one better anyway. And don't worry, Percy will still run for Minister. Actually, the new plot focuses more on that.

To answer in advance, because I know this will come up, I won't tell what the old plot was going to be. I'd rather people not compare the old plot with the one that will actually be written.

If any of you are on the forums, you'll know about the tragedy we had last week. Liza_Potter on the archives (and lizzacc on the forums) has died. She was a fan of my Albus series and told me once that they were the first stories she ever read on HPFF. She will be missed. I am dedicating this story to you, Liza.

________________________________________
Disclaimer- I don't own Harry Potter.
________________________________________

The next day Albus found himself on the Quidditch pitch staring at all of the new Gryffindor Keeper hopefuls. There were a lot of them. Try-outs were scheduled to begin in fifteen minutes, yet the pitch had been packed since before lunch. Albus speculated that some hopefuls, including Hugo, had not even taken a break for lunch. Poor Hugo needn't have bothered skipping his meal since even an extra half hour of practice would not have helped him.

Students from second through seventh year were hoping for a spot on the team, including Janie Creevey. Albus recognized most of them, but there were a few older students whom he did not. Along with the Gryffindors, there were representatives from other teams, surely there to check out Gryffindor's new Keeper.

Albus stood on the pitch a few meters from the crowd, with his team. Fred was holding a clipboard and Heather was standing next to him, gazing out at the students hoping for a spot. James, Bradley, and Ryan were laughing about something.

“Quiet, please, everyone!” Fred shouted. The Gryffindors immediately settled down. A few flew back down to the ground and dismounted, some not very gracefully. “Thank you. We only need a Keeper this year. And if you can't Keep, you're not going to get on the team. If you're hoping to get in as Keeper and then take another's spot when they graduate, you might as well not waste your time.”

Wow, Albus thought to himself, Fred was channeling both Georgia and Samantha Meyers. Usually he would joke around at try-outs, but Albus supposed since he was now in charge, things had changed.

A few of the younger students walked slowly off the pitch and into the stands, looking clearly disappointed.

“All right then, I'm going to have you fly around the pitch to assess your basic flying skills. If you're not up to par on that, you'll be eliminated. Then we'll move on to guarding the goal posts.”

Albus stood back while Fred had the hopefuls fly laps around the pitch. Quite a few could not even manage to fly straight or execute turns properly. About a quarter of them were eliminated during the first ten minutes. Half of the remaining Gryffindors were eliminated within the first ten minutes of goal keeping, including Hugo. He hung his head as he walked to the stands, broom trailing behind him. Albus felt bad for him.

The rest of the of the students took longer to eliminate. After about an hour the amount had been narrowed down to ten and they all seemed to be similar in skill.

“I think the only fair way to do this is to eliminate anyone who misses a save. Last one standing, er, flying, gets the spot,” Fred announced.

It took another half hour to finish the try-outs. To Albus's surprise, the winner was Janie Creevey. Albus had had no idea that she even played Quidditch until he saw her at the try-outs. She grinned as she dismounted from her broom and accepted the congratulations from the rest of the team.

“Nice to have another girl,” Heather said. “I thought I'd be the only one after Georgia left.”

“I thought your cousin Hugo would get picked,” Ryan replied. “Who knew he was the only Weasley who can't play Quidditch?”

“Have you seen Rose on a broom?” Albus asked.

Janie grinned. “I've played since I was little. So happy to have won the spot. When's first practice?”

“Right now,” Fred said. “We've got the pitch all afternoon.”

Albus sighed. Fred was turning into Georgia. But Albus enjoyed Quidditch and it was a bright and sunny day, so it wouldn't be bad.

Practice lasted a few hours and Albus was thoroughly exhausted by the time it was over. He immediately went back to his dormitory to take a shower and then set off to locate his friends. Dinner would be served shortly and Albus was starved.

Albus's friends were in the Marauder's Den, just where he had predicted when he didn't see them in the Gryffindor common room when he had traipsed through after practice. John and Kaden were playing chess and Kaden was trouncing John, like usual. Rose and Amanda were sitting on the couch discussing an essay that Cedonia had assigned the previous week. Matt was not there since the full moon had been the previous night.

“Albus!” John exclaimed after Al had shut the door. “So, who's the new Gryffindor Keeper?”

“You're never gonna believe it, but Janie Creevey,” Albus answered as he collapsed onto a nearby chair. “Apparently she has been playing Quidditch for ages and was just waiting for the Keeper position to open.”

“Seriously?” John asked. “She never mentioned it all these years that we've been brewing potions together.”

“She's probably too busy making sure you don't blow anything up,” Rose replied.

“Hey, I'm better than Al and Matt are,” John muttered.

“Speaking of Matt, have you lot been to see him today?” Albus asked.

“Yeah, but he was asleep so Madam Pomfrey didn't let us stay. Figured we'd go after supper,” John answered.

“Let's get going now,” Albus said, standing up. “Should be starting soon.”

Everyone nodded in agreement and they set off towards the Great Hall. The corridors were filled with students who had spent the day outdoors and Albus felt very content walking alongside his friends, despite how every single one of his muscles ached from practice.

“Shhhh, look!” John seethed as he grabbed the back of Albus's shirt and pulled him into a doorway. Kaden, Rose, and Amanda followed, all looking curiously at John.

“What is it?” Rose asked.

“Shush!” John whispered. “It's Scorpius and Willinson's cousin. What was his name again?”

“Felix,” Kaden muttered. “Slimy git.”

“Who's that with them?” Amanda asked.

Albus craned his head around the door frame. Scorpius and Felix were standing next to a few suits of armor, heads leaned in towards each other. There was a girl about a head shorter than Scorpius with them. She and Felix had the same color hair, except hers was long and curly.

“She's a first year. I remember seeing her a the Sorting but I don't remember her name,” Rose answered.

“I have half a mind to save her from the two of them,” John muttered. “She'd be better off not getting mixed up with the likes of them.”

“She's a Slytherin,” Amanda pointed out. “She could be just like them for all we know.”

Scorpius began walking down the corridor and Felix and the girl followed. Albus and his friends watched them until they turned a corner, disappearing out of sight.

“Weird,” Albus said as they began walking to dinner once more. “I've never seen Malfoy befriending first years, except for Willinson when he came here.”

“You're paranoid,” Rose said. “They were just talking and they're in the same house. Maybe she had a question or something.”

“He's Malfoy,” Albus responded. “He's up to something.”

“Oh Merlin.” Rose let out an exasperated sigh. “Two weeks into the term and you're already picking a row with him.”

“Remember last year?” Albus asked. “I'm only trying to avoid something like that again.”

“Fine. But I'm not getting involved,” Rose muttered.

Albus walked in silence the rest of the way to the Great Hall. Rose may have been right. Albus may have just been being paranoid, but deep down he had a feeling that Malfoy and Willinson weren't just talking about homework.
******


Matt returned from the hospital wing two days later and the month wore on in its usual way. The professor were assigning more and more homework and it took longer and longer to complete.

Once October arrived excitement began to brew when the first Hogsmeade weekend was announced. The visit was scheduled for the Saturday before Halloween and Kaden in particular was very excited. He never did manage to make it to Hogsmeade under the Invisibility Cloak the previous year.

Albus's first dueling practice had gone particularly well. Albus had been pleasantly surprised. Even Scorpius had cooperated and done what Albus had told him to do, although that may have been solely because Professor Cedonia had been present during the practice. His team was shaping up well and he had high hopes for them winning many tournaments. Quidditch had been going equally as well. Janie had fit seamlessly into their team.

Albus wished he could say things were going equally well for the election. Ever since the first debate various magazines and radio shows had been latching onto Percy's statements about education and his lack of willingness to change, as they had put it.

“Dad's really stressed,” Bradley said one night at dinner. The Weasleys and Potters were all eating together in order to discuss the election. “Doesn't write us as much and when he does it's always about the election.”

“Not to mention the five page spread that Wizards magazine is doing about our family,” Cedric muttered as he gnawed on a turkey leg. “That's sure to fuel the fire.”

“When is that?” Albus asked.

“Tomorrow,” Bradley answered. “Only good part is we got permission to miss all of our classes.”

“Is it really going to be five pages?” James asked. “What are they going to put in it?”

“Dad's life story,” Cedric answered. “Plus a few paragraphs on each of us and Mum about our lives. Just a happy article about how we all love each other and Dad's a family man. That's what his campaign manager wants to portray him as seeing that Laurentis doesn't have any kids.”

“And Uncle Percy has a whole lot,” James pointed out.

“Hey, you lot better watch out. When Dad told us about this he mentioned that they're going to do another on the entire Weasley-Potter clan,” Cedric announced.

“Did he say when?” James asked.

“Around Christmas, I think. Adds to the happy family atmosphere,” Cedric explained.

“Then they ought to interview Uncle George when he's had a bit too much eggnog.” James laughed.

“When's the next debate, anyway?” Albus asked. “Must be coming up soon.”

“This weekend, actually,” Bradley replied. “At the Ministry again. I think this one's focusing on law creation and enforcement or something equally as boring.”

“Do we have to go to it?” Lily asked.

“I don't think so,” James answered. “Dad said we just had to go to the ones at Hogwarts from now on.”

“Speaking of elections, what does everyone think of that politics class?” Albus asked.

“Professor's very intense,” James said in between bites. “But it's not nearly as awful as the other classes. There's no O.W.L. in it so it's my current favorite.”

“Yeah and I think we're at an advantage,” Cedric said. “With our parents being in the Ministry and stuff. A few of my friends have absolutely no idea about anything to do with the Ministry so they're having a hard time.”

Professor Embry seemed to be teaching the class in chronological order and thus was currently lecturing on how the Ministry was organized prior to the fall of Voldemort. Albus thought it was a little boring but he had a feeling it would get more interesting once Embry started on the fall of Voldemort.

“And that's why the class is necessary,” Rose said. “Think about it. No class like this has been taught before, so where did the current Ministry officials learn the history of the Ministry? Where did they learn about politics? They learned it as they went, but didn't know much when they started. That's a little scary. People should know how their country is run.”

Albus thought about what Rose had said as he chewed on his roll. She had a good point. Where had they learned it? Had his Uncle Percy really known nothing about the Ministry when he started? No, he couldn't have. Percy's own father had been in the Ministry as well. Still, it was weird to think about.

Albus mostly listened during the rest of dinner. He always felt slightly unsettled when the election was discussed and he wasn't sure why. Nor could he figure out whether he wanted Percy to win or not. Either way, life would be drastically different after Election Day, and Albus liked things the way they were.
******


“Now she wants to change Azkaban?” Albus asked at breakfast a few days later. The law enforcement debate had taken place the night before and the entire front page of the Prophet was devoted to it. “Isn't changing Hogwarts enough?”

Ministry hopefuls Percy Weasley and
Patricia Laurentis debated law creation
and enforcement last night at the Ministry
of Magic. Like the previous general debate,
sparks flew in this one, with each candidate
speaking passionately about the topic.

'I've worked in law creation for years,'
Weasley began with. 'Since the defeat
of Voldemort, I think we can all agree that
things are running smoothly. I intend to
ensure that things keep going the way they
are, with enforcement of laws that benefit
the entire wizarding community.'

Laurentis took a more radical stance, in
her response to Weasley's opinions.

'Sure, the laws we have now are sufficient.
I'm not denying that. But I think we need
to take a good hard look at how they are
enforced, or rather, not enforced. The
statistics are clear. Far more criminals
are being acquitted and even more are
being released from Azkaban. In my work
at the prison, I see many criminals being
released whom I do not think should be.
Not to mention the break-outs. There are
far too many. Law enforcement needs to change.'

Without a doubt, things are only going to
heat up. The candidates seem to have
completely different opinions on everything
from education to laws. The next debate,
which will be on education, will take place
at Hogwarts on Saturday, November the 9th at
two in the afternoon.

“Doesn't she run Azkaban?” Matt asked, taking the paper from Albus. “So why hasn't she changed it already?”

“Probably doesn't have the power,” Rose answered. “The Minister has to sign off on most things, unless all representatives and officials disagree with him or her.”

“So clearly there's people who don't agree with her,” Matt replied.

“Think they'll ever agree with each other?” Albus asked.

“Doubt it,” Amanda said. “It's like this in the Muggle elections, too. They're usually complete opposites. What I don't understand is how she's working under Hartwell when he and your uncle agree on everything.”

“Me either,” Rose agreed. “Guess we're watching the next debate.”

“Yeah, it'll be here,” Matt said. “Embry will probably make us do an essay on it, too.”

“It won't be bad,” Rose said. “That will be the debate that will directly impact us. The election's in April which means we're going to have over three years of Hogwarts under whichever candidate is elected. If it's Laurentis, all those changes are going to affect us.”

Bradley sat down next to Albus and threw a copy of Wizards magazine onto the table. “Article's out.”

“That was fast,” Albus said.

“They wanted it to be out right around the debate,” Bradley muttered. “You really ought to read it. It's awful.”

“Rita Skeeter didn't do it, did she?” Albus asked.

Bradley shook his head. “This lady's almost worse. Trust me.”

Rose, Amanda, John, Matt, and Kaden crowded around Albus as he flipped through the magazine. The article was in the middle, with the two pages being a full color photograph of Uncle Percy, Aunt Corrine, and their kids. Percy and Corrine were sitting on their living room couch, with Georgia in between them. All three were smiling and waving. Bradley and Cedric were leaning on either side of the couch and the twins were sitting in front of it. Albus flipped the page and saw a very lengthy article, interspersed with various pictures of his family and boxes about each of those five cousins. The article finished up on the following page.

Upon entering the home of Minister of Magic
candidate Percy Weasley's Southampton home
I am surprised to see that it does not look
like the home of a Ministry candidate. It is
not filled with piles and piles of papers and
Weasley's campaign manager is nowhere to be
found. Instead, the floor is cluttered with
toys belonging to the youngest Weasley children,
nine-year-old twins, Samantha and Lindy. A
plate of warm cookies sits upon the coffee
table and Weasley's wife, Corrine, bustles
into the room carrying a tray of tea. Percy
enters as well, followed by the five Weasley
children.

'I prefer to keep the campaign at the Ministry,'
Percy explains after I ask where his campaign
materials are. 'The campaign is work. It is my
job. The house is for my family.'

“Really?” Rose raised her eyebrows. “She should've seen his study. That's where all his campaign stuff is.”

The article went on to discuss Percy and his fathering skills. Albus grew more and more disgusted as it went on. Percy had and always would be a workaholic, but the article was painting him to be father of the year. No wonder Bradley had not been pleased when giving Albus the article.

'I could not be more proud of Georgia,'
Percy said, speaking of his eldest daughter,
who currently plays as Reserve Keeper for
the Kenmare Kestrals. 'I've been to a
number of her matches and it is clear
that she could have a long career in
Quidditch.'

“What a load of dung!” Albus exclaimed. “Uncle Percy has never once agreed with Georgia's Quidditch career.”

“Did he actually say that or was that reporter just saying he did?” Matt asked.

“Oh he said it,” Bradley, who had taken a seat a short ways down the table, answered. “Not that he really thinks it.”

Albus had had enough of the main article. His eyes glanced across the page and rested upon the small box that discussed Georgia.

Georgia Weasley, the eldest daughter
of Percy and Corrine, is 18 and
currently plays Reserve Keeper for
the Kenmare Kestrals. 'I love
Quidditch,' Georgia said when the
topic was brought up. 'It's freeing
and I look forward to playing for
Kenmare as a full Keeper one day.'
Georgia's dream is to play for England.

Next to Georgia's box there was one for Bradley.

Bradley Weasley, the eldest son of
Percy and Corrine, is currently in
his sixth year at Hogwarts. He plays
Beater on Gryffindor's Quidditch team.
'I like Quiditch, but I don't want to
play professionally like Georgia. I
want to work for Gringotts some day.'

Then there was one for Cedric.

Cedric Weasley is in his fifth year
at Hogwarts and is the prankster of
the family. 'Every Weasley family
has to have someone who will play the
jokes. It's like a rule or something.
I come up with the best ideas when I'm
with my cousin James [Potter].' Upon
asking Cedric what he wants to do after
Hogwarts, he replied, 'Haven't got a clue.
I think I'll focus on getting through
my O.W.L.s first.'

The final box was for both Samantha and Lindy.

Samantha and Linda (Lindy) Weasley are
nine years old and attend a local
primary school for Muggles. Both twins
can't wait to enter Hogwarts in two
years. 'I'm going to be in Gryffindor,
just like my sister and brothers,' says
Samantha. 'I don't care what house I'm
in, just as long as I can play Quidditch.
Well, okay, I don't want to be in Slytherin.'

“That,” Albus began as he set down the magazine, “was the worst article I've ever read in my life.”

“I shudder to think what the one about our entire family will be like,” Rose muttered.

“Nah,” John said. “That one will be better because they won't have to make as much up. Albus's dad saved the whole wizarding world. They'll just play that up.”

“It wasn't only him,” Albus pointed out. “Are people really going to believe all this?”

Amanda nodded. “Yeah, they will. They know nothing about your uncle's family. Sure, they know all about your dad, but really, how much do they know about Percy? Not much. They're going to want to believe it and why shouldn't they? They have no idea Percy doesn't approve of Georgia's Quidditch career. It's the same as in the Muggle world.

“It would be nice if people voted on candidates who shared their same views, but it honestly comes down to who presents the best campaign. People aren't going to want someone in power who has issues with his own family.”

“That's stupid,” Kaden replied. “Glad my family's not involved with politics.”

“My family is your family,” Albus pointed out.

“But I'm not related to your Uncle Percy.”

“You still call him Uncle Percy,” Albus said.

“Because he basically is. He's just not my blood uncle.”

“Well, I can honestly say my family's not in politics and I'm very glad about that,” John said.

Albus could not imagine life without having family involved with the Ministry, but suddenly he felt slightly jealous of John. What would it have been like to have parents who weren't famous?
________________________________________

A/N: Thanks to everyone who has read and reviewed this story! You guys are all amazing. Just as another reminder, I can't reply to reviews while I am home for the summer, but I read every single one. If you have some sort of question that you need answered about my stories, please use my Ask the Author page at the forums or send me a PM there.

I have another chapter ready to go so that should be up shortly after I return from vacation next week. Hope everyone enjoys Deathly Hallows 2 this week!

________________________________________
Disclaimer- I don't own Harry Potter.
________________________________________

The following week brought a storm so long and so intense that Herbology and Care of Magical Creatures had to be canceled for the second half of the week. It was thoroughly impossible to walk outside without being doubled over by the wind and the younger students could not walk without being blown away. The rain was also so heavy that one would become soaked within two minutes. The students secretly rejoiced, for the extra free periods were helpful to all.

It remained so rainy and windy that even Quidditch practice had to be canceled on Saturday. Not that Fred would have canceled it himself, but Kendrick announced a ban on going out of doors until the storm let up. Fred lamented this fact all of Friday evening and contemplated holding a strategy session in the common room instead, but Heather convinced him just to let it go.

Albus decided to take the opportunity to spend the day at the library, something that John and Kaden reluctantly agreed with. Matt and Amanda joined them as well, for they had plenty of homework as well. Rose had mentioned something about tutoring a younger student and run off shortly after breakfast.

The library was absolutely packed with students, most likely due to the weather and not a burning desire of the Hogwarts population to study, and it took a good five minutes for Albus and his friends to locate an empty table. It was a lot louder than usual and Madam Pince was glaring at each table of students in turn.

Albus set his pile of books down and got to work on a Potions essay that was due the following week. He hadn't started it, of course, but he had a few days to do it. He thought he was ahead of the game anyway since he'd normally be at Quidditch practice and not even thinking about homework.

John and Kaden, as usual, were unable to get started on their homework right away and were scolded by Madam Pince twice before finally opening their books. Amanda immediately set to work on the same essay Albus was working on. Matt cracked open his Charms text but stared at the same page for five minutes before Albus noticed that his eyes had glazed over. The October full moon was the following night, so Albus was not surprised.

“This is dead boring,” John muttered after they'd been studying for an hour. “Politics back before Voldemort is pointless. It's completely different now, so why do we need to bother reading it?”

“So we don't make the same mistakes,” Amanda said without looking up from her parchment. “Simple, really.”

“You're channeling Rose now,” John stated.

“Someone has to when she's not here,” Amanda said.

“Would you rather do my Divination predictions?” Kaden asked.

“Yeah!” John exclaimed. “Let's see, how about you get blown away by the wind while you're ignoring Kendrick's rule against going outside?”

“Perfect. That'd be something I'd do,” Kaden said as he scrawled it down. “And then I can come down with a nasty cold after being outside in the rain so long.”

Albus rolled his eyes. The two of them had been insane to take Divination in the first place, but at least they seemed to enjoy making up their fake predictions. Albus grinned to himself as John and Kaden snorted into their parchment, laughing over some ridiculous prediction.

An hour later Albus had finished his essay, as had Amanda. The two of them had moved on to Transfiguration reading. John and Kaden had given up on homework and were planning an elaborate prank that involved a chicken, birdseed, and the Slytherin common room. Matt had been dozing on his Charms book. Albus prodded him awake.

“How's Charms?” Albus asked, grinning.

“Oh, er...” Matt glanced at his book and quickly wiped it with the sleeve of his robes. “Great, really. Think I'll head to the Den, actually.”

Albus nodded. “I'll be there in a bit. Want to get some of this reading done.”

John and Kaden rose to join Matt. They'd been yelled at two more times and figured they'd do better to plan in the Den.

“Wait,” John said when he was only a few feet from the table. “Is that Rose?” He pointed to a head of bushy red hair at a nearby table. “Who's she with? Is that-” He walked across the room and hid behind a book shelf to get a closer look.

Albus craned his head. Rose was sitting with a small girl. John returned a few seconds later.

“I thought so. It's that girl we saw with Malfoy and Willinson a few weeks ago.”

“Wait, that Slytherin first year?” Albus asked. He'd nearly forgotten about her, finally deciding that Scorpius probably wasn't up to anything that involved her.

“Yeah, that's her all right,” John said. “What's Rose doing with her?”

“She's tutoring someone. Must be her,” Albus pointed out.

“Weird. Tutoring a Slytherin,” John replied.

“What's it matter?” Matt snapped. “No point in standing here watching them. I'm going to the Den.” He hiked his bag up on his shoulder and headed for the door, not waiting for John and Kaden.

“What's with him?” John asked.

“You know what's tomorrow. And honestly, what's it matter if she's tutoring that girl?” Albus asked.

“You thought it meant something that she was with Scorpius but this you don't care about?”

“It's the Hogwarts tutoring program. I don't think you get to control who you tutor,” Albus explained.

“I suppose.” John sighed. “Well, see you in a bit.”

“See you,” Albus said as John and Kaden left.

Albus and Amanda studied for another hour before joining their friends in the Marauder's Den. John and Kaden were having a serious discussion on how they were going to obtain a chicken and Matt was sound asleep on the couch. Albus and Amanda settled down with a deck of Exploding Snap and played round after round while listening to John and Kaden.

“I still say it'll be easier to have an older student transfigure something into a chicken,” Kaden said a full twenty minutes later. “I'll bet one of Albus's cousins will do it.”

“Yeah, but I want this to be our prank. We could just go take one of the chickens from Hagrid's chicken coop,” John replied.

“More chance of getting caught. No one's going to suspect if one of Al's cousins is practicing their transfiguration. But sneaking a chicken into the castle? They're fairly loud with their squawking.”

“Where's the fun in no chance of getting caught?” John asked.

“There will be plenty of chance of getting caught when we're getting into the Slytherin common room. Merlin only knows how we're going to manage that.”

The door opened and Rose walked in. “Why are you lot trying to get into the Slytherin common room?”

“You don't want to know,” Amanda said. “One of their pranks.”

Rose rolled her eyes and sat down next to Amanda, picking up a few cards to join in on the next round.

“How was tutoring?” John asked, abandoning the topic of chickens.

“Fine,” Rose answered. “Same as always.”

“How did you even get into tutoring?” John replied.

“Why? You want to tutor?” Rose smirked.

John laughed. “Definitely not. Just curious.”

“Professor Longbottom contacted me over the summer. Fourth years and above can be in the tutoring program. The professors match you up with younger students and I've been tutoring a first year for a few weeks now.”

“Yeah,” John said as he got up and walked over to where Rose was sitting. “We saw you earlier. That girl you're tutoring? That's the same girl that Malfoy and Willinson were talking to a few weeks ago.”

“Wait, that one time that you and Al thought they were up to something?”

“Yeah that time. I was just wondering who she was.”

Rose sighed. “She's Willinson's little sister. Her name's Elsie. She's really nice, actually. Quiet, doesn't seem much like a Slytherin to me but her whole family's been in Slytherin.”

“Oh,” John said. “Guess that's why she was with Willinson and Malfoy. What do you tutor her in?”

“Bit of everything,” Rose answered. “You lot want to go to dinner?”

Everyone, except Matt, who just wanted to sleep, agreed and they headed down to the Great Hall. Rose had been right. Nothing suspicious about Willinson's sister tagging after him and Scorpius. Albus's instincts had been wrong on that occasion.
******


Never in Albus's life did he ever think there would be a professor who could top Professor Binns in terms of boring classes. But Professor Young had done the impossible. Twice a week Albus and his friends traipsed to Young's classroom to work on a single worksheet. Young did nothing else, except hand out worksheets. Said worksheets did not even take an entire class period to complete, resulting in students using the remaining time to catch up on other homework, something that Young neglected to notice. The only good part about the class was that Young never assigned homework.

“You think he'll last the year?” Matt asked as they were leaving Young's classroom.

“Don't see why not,” Albus answered. “Unless Laurentis is elected Minister and deems him unfit to teach.”

“He doesn't really teach,” Rose pointed out.

“But still, he's better than Balladanis,” Matt reasoned.

The rest of Albus's classes were decent, although most assigned too much homework for his liking, but that was not anything new. As the end of October drew nearer, Albus became very excited about the first Hogsmeade visit of the year. It would be the first time that all of Albus's friends would get to go together and possibly the last, given how busy everyone was this year.

Albus nearly did not get to go to Hogsmeade when the day finally arrived. Fred had sprung an extra Quidditch practice on that day in order to make up for the missed practices due to the storm. However, the entire team was outraged and Heather threatened to hex Fred if he did not rescind the practice. Albus was very relieved as it was a nice day and perfect for Hogsmeade.

“I've got to get a new pack of dungbombs,” Kaden said as they walked down the path from Hogwarts to Hogsmeade. “Used them up ages ago.”

“That the pack I sent you over the summer?” John asked.

“Sure is. Didn't last too long.”

“I need another Skiving Snackbox,” John announced. “And loads of other stuff from Weasleys'.”

“And we need to go buy bird seed if we're going to do that prank,” Kaden reminded him.

Albus and Matt exchanged looks. John and Kaden had finally agreed to ask one of Albus's older cousins to transfigure them a chicken that they would then somehow sneak into the Slytherin common room. The birdseed was to scatter throughout the place in order to irritate the Slytherins even more.

“You two enjoy that,” Rose said. “And don't come complaining to us when you get a month of detentions, because there's no possible way you can sneak into the Slytherin common room without getting caught.”

“We'll have Albus's cloak, obviously,” Kaden said.

“When are you going to do it?” Albus asked.

“Around Halloween,” John answered.

“Idiots,” Rose muttered.

Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes was packed with students. Being the first Hogsmeade weekend, most students had a serious lack of pranking products and needed to stock up. George was behind the counter ringing up purchase after purchase and waved at Albus as he walked in with his friends. They quickly scattered, each heading towards the display that contained what they needed.

Albus wandered towards the Skiving Snackboxes and grabbed two, figuring that he would need to get out of Defense at least once and History of Magic a few times a month. John and Kaden each had about five boxes and Matt watched with a disgusted look on his face. Since he missed at least a day or two of classes a month due to his lycanthropy, he never understood why anyone would make themselves ill to do so.

“Should've gone there last,” John said as he lugged his bags to the Three Broomsticks.

“Yeah, must remember that for next time,” Kaden agreed. “But now, off to have a Butterbeer!”

Albus smiled. His cousin had had Butterbeer before when people snuck it back to the Gryffindor common room, but he'd never had it in Hogsmeade before.

The Three Broomsticks was crowded, but Matt managed to grab a table in the back. Rose set off to get them all Butterbeers. They had been there for about fifteen minutes before Scorpius showed up, followed by Garth Octavius, Xavier Goyle, Felix Willinson, and Elsie Willinson. Scorpius surveyed the room and his eyes rested upon Albus. Smirking, he sauntered over towards them.

“Potter,” Malfoy greeted him. He nodded to each of Albus's friends, glaring at Matt, and then turned back to Albus. “I expect you lot are ready to duel next weekend.”

“Course we are,” Albus answered. “The team's plenty prepared. Last practice on Thursday.”

“I'll be there,” Scorpius replied. “And I'll be ready to carry the team on Saturday since the rest of our team couldn't win a duel against a first year.”

“Shut it. Our team is fine,” Albus said coldly.

“Maybe if they had a decent captain...” Scorpius's voice trailed off. “But the professors love anyone whose last name is Potter or Weasley, just like everyone else in the world.”

“They chose based on skill,” Albus replied, staring him in the eyes. “Not name. Rose didn't make captain and she's a Weasley.”

“But you're a Potter and you get everything because your dad is the Boy Who Lived,” Scorpius spat, ignoring Albus's comment. “But I've got news for you. Not everyone in the world likes that your entire family runs the wizarding world and that nothing gets done without one of them signing off on it. Not everyone's going to vote for your uncle, you know.”

“Obviously,” Albus replied. “And just so you know my family may be involved with the Ministry but it's only because they want to help people. And they're only there because people voted for them.”

“No one voted for your dad,” Scorpius muttered. Then he turned to Matt. “Or yours.”

“People voted for Hartwell, who appointed them,” Albus said. “And your dad works in the Ministry, too.”

“That's not the point.” Scorpius took a step closer to Albus. “The point is that your family might not be running this country much longer. So you'd better watch out.”

Scorpius turned to leave and his friends followed. “My family doesn't run the world!” Albus shouted after him.

Albus resumed his seat after Malfoy left, not even realizing that he had rose from it in the first place. “He's just so stupid!” Albus exclaimed. “My family doesn't run the country.”

“He's just jealous,” Amanda said. “You got made captain of our team and he hates that. Your dad's famous and he's jealous of that.”

“His dad's famous too,” Albus said darkly. “Just for the wrong reasons.”

“And Scorpius probably wishes his dad was famous for the right reasons,” Amanda replied.

“Don't see why. Having a famous dad isn't always a good thing,” Albus muttered.

“Just ignore him,” Rose said. “He's just trying to get you angry with him.”

“Clearly Kendrick's threats have worn off,” Matt said quietly. “I liked it in September when he just sort of ignored us.”

“It doesn't mean he's going to tell anyone,” Rose whispered. “He's just looking for a fight.”

“It doesn't matter what he's looking for. One slip of the tongue is all it takes and my life at Hogwarts is done.”

“And so would his,” Albus reminded his friend. “Being at Hogwarts, becoming a certified wizard, is everything to a Malfoy. He'd be nothing more than a Squib if he were expelled.”

“I guess.” Matt sighed. “What do you think he meant by your family not being in charge of the wizarding world much longer?”

“Probably thinks Laurentis is going to win.” Albus shrugged. “But that won't mean much. My dad will still be in charge of the Auror department.”

“No,” Rose whispered. “Haven't you been paying attention in Politics?”

“Mostly,” Albus said, staring at her. “What do you mean?”

“Okay, I guess Embry hasn't really discussed it yet but I read ahead in the book. New Ministers can appoint new heads of the departments if they want to. Most don't because so many new people makes for a bad transition period, but it's happened a few times. If Laurentis wins, she could replace Uncle Harry,” Rose explained.

“Wait, seriously?” Albus's mouth fell open.

Rose nodded. “Seriously.”

“And my dad, too,” Matt said.

“Yeah, yours, too,” Rose replied.

Albus stared at his half-finished Butterbeer. Having a new Minister was one thing, but having new heads of all the departments? The Ministry would be run in a completely different way. Nothing would stay the same. Nobody would replace Harry Potter as Head of the Auror department, though, would they?

“No.” Albus shook his head. “No one would replace my dad. He's a great Auror.”

“He's a great Auror, that's true,” Rose agreed, “but great is an opinion. Hartwell thinks he's a great Auror. Uncle Percy undoubtedly thinks he's a great Auror. But if Laurentis gets elected, none of that will matter. All that will matter is whether she think he's a great Auror. And the question is, does she?”

Albus swallowed. “But that would mean my dad would be out of a job.”

“No, he'd just go back to being a regular Auror,” Rose said. “Look, you don't need to worry about it. I'm sure Uncle Harry knows this.”

“They don't do that in Australia. All the heads have terms like the Minister. When their term is up, the current Minister can replace them or keep them, but they can't get replaced when their term isn't up. Unless there's a scandal and they have a hearing. Like with my dad.”

“Doesn't seem fair,” Albus said.

“It works both ways. If Uncle Percy wins he'll get to replace who he wants and he'll no doubt replace Laurentis,” Rose pointed out.

“I'm surprised Hartwell hasn't done that,” John said.

“She's probably kept quiet about her opinions so she could keep her position while running,” Amanda replied.

“So why doesn't he replace her now?” John asked.

“It would look bad. Remember, half of politics is how you look to the public,” Amanda said. “Which is why according to the Muggle Ministry, I attend a secluded boarding school in the United States, just in case anyone asks why the Minister's niece disappears for most of the year. Which they haven't. Yet.”

Albus shook his head. “It's so confusing. I don't know how anyone keeps track of it.”

“Luckily we don't have to,” Kaden said. “Let's go to Honeyduke's. I think we could all use with some chocolate.”
________________________________________

A/N: Thanks to everyone who has read and reviewed this! Also big thanks to darkladyofslytherin and onestop_hpfan18 because this chapter is the result of word wars with them. You two are awesome! HPFF now loads properly on my Internet and I am able to respond to reviews, so I'm slowly working through them. Keep a look out for responses!

________________________________________
Disclaimer- I don't own Harry Potter.
________________________________________

“I say we do it on Halloween,” Kaden said adamantly while inspecting individual Bertie Bott's Every Flavor beans and tossing the nasty ones into a pile on the floor.

“That's stupid,” John countered. “Everyone's going to be expecting a prank on Halloween. We should do it the day before.”

“Why not Saturday?” Albus suggested, glancing up from the last minute essay he was working on. “Maybe it'll rattle them enough that they'll lose the match.”

The first Quidditch match of the season, Gryffindor versus Slytherin, was scheduled to take place on Saturday, two days after Halloween.

“Again, the Prefects and professors will be expecting it,” John said.

“Why?” Albus asked. “We've never pranked them before a match before, have we?”

“You know, I really can't remember.”

“Clearly a sign you've pranked them too much,” Rose pointed out.

Albus and the rest of his friends were in the Marauder's Den, attempting to decide on a day to put the chickens and chicken feed in the Slytherin common room. They'd been arguing for a half hour and hadn't agreed on anything. Albus and Matt, who had been leery on whether to participate in the prank at all, had decided that they would serve as look-outs while John and Kaden snuck into the common room.

“I think Wednesday would be a good option. Wednesday night. We've got to do it really late, though. The first years have Astronomy on Wednesdays, so we have to wait until they're back in their dormitories,” John explained. “Night before Halloween-”

“By the time you manage to do it after Astronomy, it'll technically be Halloween,” Amanda pointed out.

“But not Halloween night,” John said. “Pre-Halloween.”

“Mischief Night,” Amanda said.

“What?” Albus asked.

Kaden threw another bean onto his pile and started laughing. “You're right!”

“Mischief Night,” Amanda repeated. “It's a Muggle thing. It's when Muggles pull pranks and cause mayhem. It's traditionally the night before Halloween or the night before Guy Fawkes Day, so if you pull this on Wednesday night or early Thursday morning, it'll be on Mischief Night.”

John grinned. “Perfect. Wizards don't do that, so no one will be expecting a thing.”

“Mostly it's Americans and Canadians who celebrate before Halloween, though,” Amanda explained.

“I'd rather do it before Halloween,” John said. “We have Astronomy on Tuesdays so the night before Guy Fawkes Day would be harder.”

Everyone nodded in agreement, except Rose, who rolled her eyes.

“Do you have everything you need?” Matt asked.

“Not yet, but we have plans. Tonight I'm going to lurk by the Slytherin common room under the Invisibility Cloak to hear their password. Wednesday evening we'll ask Bradley to transfigure us a few chickens. Then, Al and Matt will stand guard while Kaden and I let them loose in the common room,” John explained.

“How in the name of Merlin are you going to keep the chickens calm while you bring them to the dungeons?” Rose asked.

“Stun them, of course,” Kaden answered. “By the time they wake up, we'll be long gone.”
***


Wednesday brought with it a huge thunderstorm which Albus saw as a rather ominous omen for Operation Slytherin Chickens as the prank had been dubbed. As the day wore on Albus found himself having doubts about the whole thing. Previous pranks had been harmless and had not broken any major school rules, but this one broke at least ten. This could get them worse than a few detentions.

John and Kaden seemed to have no such reservations. Both of them were particularly gleeful the entire day and John even returned from Divination with a smile on his face, which never happened. Matt seemed indifferent to the whole thing and acted as usual.

“You do realize we'll be getting three hours of sleep, tops, tonight,” Matt said after dinner, while they were attempting to do homework in the Marauder's Den. “And that we have History of Magic tomorrow morning.”

John sighed. “All right, maybe that wasn't the best bit of planning.”

“Clearly not,” Matt agreed.

Albus had a very difficult time getting any homework done while they were waiting for the time to arrive. He found himself drawing awful pictures of chickens in the borders on his Transfiguration essay. No one else was having much luck either. John and Kaden were playing chess and Matt was taking a nap. Rose and Amanda had holed away in the library, neither one wanting to be associated with the boys that night. “We need alibis,” she had told Albus earlier. “Want to be seen by as many people as possible so there's no chance anyone will think we were with you.”

At one in the morning the boys left the Marauder's Den and headed back to the common room, where Bradley would be waiting for them. They encountered no one on their way back and only two or three lingering students were in the common room. All of them went to bed within fifteen minutes and the boys were soon alone with Bradley.

Bradley pulled three pillows out from under one of the couches and set them on a table. “Three chickens going to be enough?”

John nodded. “I don't think we'll be able to handle any more.”

“You lot are either incredibly brave or incredibly stupid,” Bradley said as he pulled out his wand. “Even James hasn't gotten into the Slytherin common room.”

“According to Rose, we're incredibly stupid,” John said. “But I think it's brilliant. Has anyone ever gotten into the Slytherin common room?”

“My dad and Uncle Ron,” Albus said. “But not to pull a prank.”

John, Matt, and Kaden turned to look at Albus. “I'll explain later,” Albus said.

Bradley muttered an incantation and flicked his wand at each of the pillows. All three turned into chickens. One brown one, one white one, and one large black and brown rooster. The rooster opened its mouth to crow and Bradley immediately silenced all three.

“Figured a rooster would be helpful,” Bradley said. “Want me to stun them for you?”

“Sure,” Albus said.

“Should last about a half hour and then you'll have to re-stun them,” Bradley told them. “I'm going to take off. Remember, if you get caught, I didn't get the chickens for you. Can't afford another detention.”

“Got it,” Albus assured him. Bradley took off to the dormitories and Albus turned to his friends. John was holding the rooster and Kaden was holding the two chickens. “Back to the Den?”

The boys spent the next two hours in the Marauder's Den, playing Exploding Snap and re-Stunning the chickens every half hour. Shortly after three in the morning Albus re-stunned the chickens one more time and then threw the Invisibility Cloak over all four of them.

It was very difficult for all four boys to walk under the Invisibility Cloak.
Being fourth years, they were all a lot larger than they had been in second year when Albus had first received the Cloak. In fact, Albus couldn't even remember the last time all four of them had gone under it at once. Albus in particular had grown quite a few inches over the summer and was now as tall as John. The two of them had to walk with their knees bent to ensure their feet wouldn't show.

The walk was uneventful. The boys did not even see Peeves or any of the ghosts out for a night time stroll (or float, which would probably be the more appropriate term). Matt tripped going down the stairs once and nearly dropped a chicken, but since the corridors were empty, no one heard the sound.

Once they had reached the entrance to the Slytherin common room John and Kaden slipped out from under the Cloak and scurried over to the door. John whispered the password and it opened. Both boys slipped inside and shut the door behind them.

Albus and Matt stood against the wall a little ways down the corridor, giving them a view of the stairs as well as the corridor. Neither of them said a word while John and Kaden were pulling their prank because Filch's cat had turned up and was pacing in front of them.

The next five minutes felt like an eternity and Albus was very relieved when John and Kaden exited the common room and hurried back under the Cloak. John's bag, which had contained the chicken feed, was now considerably lighter. Neither boy said a word to Albus and Matt as they walked back to Gryffindor Tower, for fear that someone would hear them.

They were walking down the second floor corridor when Albus heard footsteps behind him. He turned and saw Professor Young walking slowly towards them, staring at the ceiling as he went. He appeared to be in deep thought about something but then stopped and stared right where Albus and his friends were. They weren't being quiet enough.

All four boys froze and looked at each other. Kaden grabbed all three of their jumpers and pulled them through the nearest door, while Young happened to be looking the other way. Once inside, Albus noticed that they were in a loo. A girl's loo. And the floor was soaked.

“Merlin,” Albus muttered. “We're in Moaning Myrtle's bathroom.”

As if on cue, there was a splash and then Albus felt the unpleasant sensation of a ghost floating through him.

“I know you're there.” Myrtle giggled. “Harry Potter had one of those cloaks, too. You might as well take it off.”

Albus reluctantly took off the Cloak. Young wouldn't be going into a girl's bathroom anyway.

“Ooo!” Myrtle shrieked. “Harry Potter's son! What brings you to my toilet?” She giggled again and batted her eyelashes.

“Er...” Albus muttered, feeling very uncomfortable.

“We were just leaving,” John announced as he threw the Cloak over all four of them once more.

Thankfully Professor Young had left by the time they exited the loo. The remainder of the journey back to Gryffindor was as uneventful as the trek down to Slytherin.

The common room was deserted when they returned under the disapproving glare of the Fat Lady, who had not been pleased when they woke her up. John and Kaden immediately started laughing when they took the Cloak off.

“Epic!” Kaden exclaimed. “There was no one in the common room and we spread the feed and put the chickens each on their own couch and left. The Slytherins are going to have a rude awakening in a few hours.”

“So are we,” Matt said as he looked at his watch. “Almost four. We'll get three and a half hours sleep if we're lucky.”

The boys headed back to their dormitories, but Albus was not tired yet. Adrenaline was still racing through his system. They hadn't gotten caught. Yet. Would there be any way to trace the chickens back to the four of them? Only if someone saw them, but if anyone had seen them they would have gotten them in trouble right then and there, wouldn't they have? Albus pushed the thought from his head. He settled into bed and thought about the reactions from the Slytherins the following morning.

Bilius's alarm clock woke Albus up at eight the next morning and he rolled over and went back to sleep. He woke up once more with twenty minutes left until History of Magic and had to skip breakfast. Albus woke Matt and John up and the three of them ran through the corridors in order to make it to class on time.

They arrived with two minutes to spare and the room was filled with laughter and chatter. The Hufflepuffs and Gryffindors were clearly excited about something and Albus had a feeling he knew what it was.

Albus sat down and Bilius turned around in his seat, grinning at Albus. “You three missed breakfast. Too bad. The Slytherins are all upset, fuming about chickens and muttering about getting revenge. Turns out someone snuck a rooster and two chickens into their common room last night and spread chicken feed around. Apparently their common room was a mess and it took all of their Prefects to Stun the chickens and bring them to Hagrid. Wish I knew who pulled it off.”

Albus attempted to feign shock and excitement. “Seriously? That's brilliant. Does anyone know who did it?”

“Nope,” Bilius answered. “All they know is that it wasn't a Slytherin.”

“They'll never figure it out then. That's three-quarters of the school to go through.”

“And that's what makes it so brilliant.”

Professor Binns floated through the chalkboard and began to drone on about some sort of goblin rebellion. Albus rested his head on his hand and began to doze off. Binns wouldn't even notice.

At lunch, following Transfiguration, everyone was still talking about the chickens. The Slytherins were sullen and were glaring at all the other house tables. The teachers didn't seem at all upset about the whole thing, probably because the chickens hadn't done that much damage. Nothing that couldn't be easily repaired with the flick of a wand.

“Six in the morning!” Albus overheard a Slytherin mutter as he walked past the Gryffindor table. “Can you imagine? And the morning after we'd been on the pitch for three hours.”

Albus smirked behind his forkful of stew. If the prank had messed with the Slytherins' training schedule, all the better. Albus had finally begun to relax. It didn't seem like they were going to get in trouble after all.

As Albus walked to the dungeons with John, Matt, Rose, and Amanda he realized that his nap in History of Magic was most definitely wearing off. He was feeling the exhaustion and was very happy for the free period after potions. But he didn't dare skip potions because he was quite excited to hear Malfoy talk about the chickens.

During this particular class they were finishing up an engorgement solution that they had started on Tuesday. While Shrinking Solution was a rather simple potion that they had learned in their first year, its counterpart was more difficult and required simmering for forty-eight hours before the final ingredients could be added.

Albus retrieved all the necessary ingredients while his partner, Limbert, located their potion in the cupboard. Limbert, who was usually very nonchalant about everything, was scowling and glared at Albus as he joined him at their table.

Just as Albus was beginning to chop his celery root, Malfoy appeared in front of the table. Albus looked up from his plant and looked Malfoy in the eye.

“Potter,” Malfoy muttered. “You wouldn't happen to know which idiot Gryffindor put chickens in our common room, do you?”

Albus snorted. “Chickens, Malfoy? I'd heard something about that.”

“Bloody birds,” Limbert muttered as he began to pulverize the rat spleen they were supposed to put into their cauldron. “Crowing at six in the bloody morning. Eating chicken feed all over the common room. Getting their feathers and other stuff everywhere....”

“What he said,” Malfoy replied. “Point is, one of your lot got into our common room and I want to know who.” He folded his arms across his chest.

“Wasn't any of 'my lot' as you say,” Albus answered, hoping that Malfoy couldn't hear his heart pounding in his chest. “We can't get into your common room. Don't have the password. And even if we did, why would we want to? It's probably covered in snake slime.”

“Well it wasn't a Slytherin if that's what you're implying. And I doubt it was a Ravenclaw or a Hufflepuff. A Ravenclaw wouldn't do something that stupid and a Hufflepuff wouldn't be able to figure out how-”

Albus rose from his chair. “That's rude. I know plenty of Hufflepuffs that are smarter than you, Malfoy. And they're decent people, too.”

“Boys, get to work now. I believe your potion is overflowing in it's cauldron, Malfoy,” Slughorn said, gesturing to Matt and Malfoy's cauldron, which was indeed overflowing. Matt was frantically waving his wand at it, trying to get it to stop.

“Oh for Merlin's sake,” Malfoy muttered and stalked off towards his own table.

Albus breathed a sigh of relief and continued to chop his celery root. Limbert retrieved another rat spleen, as the one he had been using was now hopelessly destroyed. He didn't talk to Albus for the remainder of the class except for the occasional “pass the knife” or “turn down the flame”.

Following potions Albus, Matt, and John immediately went upstairs to the. Marauder's Den to take a much needed nap. Rose went to Muggle Studies and Amanda went to the library. Albus fell asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow and did not wake up until John swatted him with a pillow when it was time for dinner.

The Slytherins were still complaining about the chickens during dinner and Albus and his friends giggled every time they heard something about them. About halfway through dinner, Professor Kendrick rose from his seat. Albus turned to look at Matt, who shrugged. Kendrick rarely made dinner speeches when it wasn't the start or end of term.

“Just a few announcements,” Kendrick said once the Great Hall quieted down. “First, I am sure you are all aware of the prank that took place in the Slytherin common room last night. I, nor do any of the teachers, have any idea who is responsible, but if we do find out, be aware that those responsible will be punished. Entering another house's common room is not tolerated and all students should take this as a warning, in case they have been inclined to do so themselves. Slytherins, please be advised that your password has been changed. If you are not aware of it, please see a Prefect.

“Second. Next weekend Hogwarts will host a few Ministry officials including the Minister of Magic, the Head of Magical Law Enforcement, the Head of the Auror Department, the Head of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, as well as a few of the Minister's closest advisors. In addition, both candidates for Minister will be here as well. They will arrive Friday night and stay until Sunday morning. Saturday they will be debating education here in the Great Hall.

“All students will have the chance to watch the debate by a random drawing since we cannot accommodate all of you in addition to the Ministry officials and members of the general population that will be attending. The rest will listen via wireless in a few classrooms. All students are required to listen or watch. More information about that, such as how to find out if you've been selected to watch and what assignments you will have on the debate, will be distributed by Professor Young in your politics class.

“I expect you all to behave yourselves and demonstrate to our Ministry that this is a place of learning. You are all representing Hogwarts, whether you are students, teachers, or staff. You will not pull pranks, especially not like the one that was pulled last night. You will respect the Ministry representatives. I will give you further information next week. In the meantime, start thinking up a few questions to ask our candidates in case they have time to do a question and answer session.” Kendrick resumed his seat.

“Blimey, I've never seen Kendrick act so serious,” John said quietly.

“Can you blame him?” Rose asked. “Remember what Laurentis said about Hogwarts? She all but said he wasn't running the school properly. If she wins, chances are he's out of a job. He's got to put on a good show next week if he's got any hope of staying here if she wins.”

“That's insane!” Albus shouted. A few first years looked over at him and he lowered his voice. “I mean, Kendrick took over as Headmaster when McGonagall left and even before that he helped rebuild the place. How can she sack someone who helped rebuild Hogwarts?”

“She can't if she's not elected,” Amanda said. “We just have to hope your uncle wins.”

“Never thought I'd say it, but I agree,” Albus replied. “Georgia and Bradley and Cedric won't be happy but can you imagine what Hogwarts would be like if Laurentis won?”

“I can't,” Matt said. “No one can because no one knows what she wants to do to change it.”

“Guess we're going to find out next Saturday,” Amanda said. “Think any of us will get to watch it?”

“We will,” Albus answered, gesturing to Matt and himself. “Our dads are two of the representatives, so I bet we'll have to sit with our families.”

“I hope I get to,” Amanda said. “It's really fascinating, wizard politics. In some ways it's completely the same as Muggle politics, only with magic involved. Really shows that we're all people.”

“Me too,” Rose agreed.

“You can have my ticket if I get one,” John told her. “It's going to be harder to doze off if I'm in the same room.”

“Same here,” Kaden said.

Rose rolled her eyes. “You lot done eating? Anyone up for spending the evening in the library?”

The boys reluctantly agreed. They had neglected their homework the previous night due to the prank and had multiple assignments due the next day that they had not even started on. Albus thought longingly of his bed in Gryffindor tower and then resigned himself to the fact that he'd be in the library until curfew.
________________________________________

A/N: Thanks to all who have read and reviewed this! You guys are awesome. Big thanks to all my writing friends that I word war with. There are now too many to name individually, but they are awesome.

________________________________________
Disclaimer- I don't own Harry Potter.
________________________________________

The day after Halloween dawned with a violent thunderstorm, one that Albus hoped would pass before Saturday, when he would have to face Slytherin on the Quidditch pitch. Albus was feeling much better after a decent night's sleep, although he was dreading having to go to History of Magic first thing in the morning again. Whose bright idea was it to give them that class two mornings in a row?

The post owls arrived as Albus was serving himself some eggs and he scanned the air for his family owl. He didn't see it and resumed piling his plate with food. His parents only occasionally sent him post now that he was in fourth year and no longer needed a letter from them every other day. However, Albus did see his Uncle Percy's screech owl making a beeline towards Cedric, who was sitting across from Albus. Cedric set his fork down and untied the letter from the owl's leg. The owl dipped his beak in Cedric's juice and then took off.

Albus watched as Cedric read the letter and saw his face go from vague curiosity to slight horror and then finally extreme disgust. Percy's letters were always interesting and it seemed as this one was no exception.

“Unbelievable!” Cedric shouted.

“What is it?” James asked as he snatched the letter out of Cedric's hands. “Is he making you sit next to him while he debates next week?”

“Worse!” Cedric exclaimed. “He thinks I was the one who put the chickens in the Slytherin common room!”

“Seriously?” James asked as he settled down to read the letter. “Let's see... Seriously disappointed in you...taught you better than this...stunts like these could hurt my chances for a win in April...must learn to think about the consequences of your actions...fifth year is for studying for your O.W.L.s...time to grow up...”

“See?” Cedric said as he stabbed his bacon with a bit too much force. “He really believes I did it. And with no evidence!”

“Oh now he's bringing up your bit from that article. The part where you mentioned that you like pulling pranks. Oh and now he's brought me into it... Oh wait, hey! He's going to tell my parents that I was in on it too!” James slammed the letter down. “No way they'll believe him without proof though.”

“Which he has none of. Did you get to the part where he's owling Kendrick, too?” Cedric asked.

“Kendrick can't do anything without proof,” James said.

“Yeah but our records aren't exactly clean,” Cedric pointed out. “Merlin, I wish I'd thought up this prank. It was history worthy. I mean getting into the Slytherin common room? I've been dreaming about doing that since before first year.”

“I wish we knew who did it. I'd like to get some tips,” James added. “They're going to go down as Hogwarts legends.”

Albus hoped that his furious blushing wasn't noticeable. He could not believe that Percy actually believed Cedric pulled the prank without any evidence. Cedric couldn't get in trouble without evidence, could he? If he did, Albus would feel terrible. He already felt awful that Percy had even had the nerve to accuse Cedric for something that Albus and his friends did, something Cedric had no part of.

“We've just got to figure out who did it,” James decided. “To clear our names.”

Cedric nodded. “Won't be that hard. No prank can be done without evidence left behind. It's impossible to do in this place. We'll look for clues around our own common room because I think the Slytherins are right. It was a Gryffindor.”

“We should talk to the ghosts, too,” James said. “They wander at all hours.”

“Right,” Cedric agreed. “Best be off to class now, though.

Albus turned to John after his brother and cousin had left the table. John and Matt had both been sitting close enough to Cedric and James to hear the entire conversation. Both boys were paler than usual and Albus was sure he was as well.

“Myrtle saw us,” Matt whispered. “We'll be number one on their suspect list.”

“D'you think your own brother would turn us in?” John asked.

Albus laughed. “Of course he would. He's my brother.”

“Good point,” John muttered. “What are we going to do?”

“Hope Myrtle doesn't say anything,” Albus said.

“That's it, we're doomed.” Matt sighed.

“On the plus side, we'll be Hogwarts legends,” John said.

“Tell that to my parents,” Matt replied.

Albus thought about James and Cedric's quest to figure out who pulled the chicken prank during the entirety of History of Magic. They hadn't left any traces behind except for talking to Myrtle. And even that only proved that they were out of bed at four in the morning, not that they'd left chickens in the Slytherin common room. Sure, there might have been random chicken feathers in the common room that morning but the house elves would have already cleaned them up. Then there was Bradley.

Bradley. Albus's stomach dropped. Would Bradley rat out Albus in order to save his own brother from possible trouble? Albus liked to think not, especially since doing so would incriminate Bradley as well. But it was possible that Bradley would request Cedric to leave him out of it when he told Kendrick in return for the information in the first place. Albus rubbed his forehead. It was all so confusing and there were too many possibilities.

Matt and John looked equally disturbed by the possibility. Both boys were sitting completely still, staring at Professor Binns but not looking at him. Matt was absentmindedly doodling in his notebook. John was twirling his quill around in his hand and had splattered ink all over himself and his History of Magic book.

Albus was grateful that they had Care of Magical Creatures next, despite the steady downpour. They would be able to talk. Hagrid was currently teaching them about unicorns and this particular lesson he had an actual unicorn for them to observe and interact with. Luckily for Albus, John, and Matt, unicorns did not like boys and thus had an excuse to hang back and talk.

“The only way they're going to find out is if they talk to Bradley and Bradley tells them,” Albus said as they pretended to take notes on the unicorn, which was currently surrounded by the girls of the class.

“Or if they talk to Myrtle and put the clues together,” Matt pointed out.

“What clues?” John asked. “We didn't leave anything behind.”

“Not that you know of. But they were right when they said nothing can be done at Hogwarts without someone knowing about it. For all we know there was another ghost lurking by the Slytherin common room while we were there that we didn't notice,” Matt explained. “Or the fact that we weren't in the common room last night-”

“We're rarely in the common room,” John said. “Not since we found the Marauder's Den.”

“True. They could also talk to Bilius or Ethan and find out that we got back at four in the morning. Ethan woke up when we got back and asked what we were up to, remember?” Matt said.

“That wouldn't tell them anything more than Myrtle would,” Albus replied as he scrawled a few notes about how the unicorn was pawing at the ground.

“What if they find feathers or chicken feed or something?” Matt asked.

“That will have all been cleaned up by now. The house elves clean everyday,” John said. “I think Albus is right. The only way they'll know is if they talk to Bradley. Or if they just assume and ask us about it. Al, are you going to be able to lie to them if they ask you?”

“Er...” Albus's voice trailed off. He knew how much of a rotten liar he was. “To be honest? Probably not.”

Nobody said anything for a few minutes. Each boy pretended to be absorbed in taking notes on the unicorn.

“There's nothing we can do, then,” Matt finally said. “We can't stop them or tell them not to investigate because that would look suspicious. All we can do is wait and hope they don't figure it out.”

Albus nodded. Matt was completely right, of course. But what Albus didn't say was that James and Cedric would figure it out. They were the school pranksters and for the first time they'd been out-pranked. The two were the school's prank experts and could easily follow the trail that would lead them right to their own brother and cousin.
******


The fierce thunderstorm that had plagued Hogwarts the day before cleared up by Saturday morning and the conditions could not have been better for Quidditch. It was sunny, with slight cloud cover and little wind. The temperature was mild for November. Weather would not be a factor in this Quidditch match. No, the team that won would win solely based on their skill.

The Hogwarts population, both students and professors alike, were very excited for the match. House Quidditch had been suspended the previous year in order for the Quidditch and Dueling competitions with the schools from New York and Australia, although the final match in the Quidditch event had been a disaster. Everyone at Hogwarts was ready for things to go back to normal and that included House Quidditch.

Normal also included the taunting that went on between the Gryffindors and Slytherins at breakfast right before the match. Malfoy informed Albus that he needed to watch out else he find himself in the Hospital Wing for days. Albus ignored this because Malfoy wasn't even on the Slytherin team and didn't possess enough Quidditch skill to be on a children's team. He tried his best to ignore the taunting from the actual Slytherin team as well, but still found his stomach was a bit too queasy to eat much more than toast.

The team gathered around Fred in the changing room shortly before the match, ready to hear his first team speech.

“I fully believe we can win this,” Fred began. “Our practices have gone very smoothly and it feels like Janie has played with us for years rather than only a few weeks. Slytherin plays dirty, though, so watch yourselves. They also have two new players, a Chaser and a Beater, whereas we only have one. The new Chaser is a second year and the new Beater is a third year, so I don't think we'll have much issue there. I've seen them practice and they still don't work as a seamless team like we do. Just go out there and play like we did two years ago and we're sure to win.”

The team stood up and followed Fred out onto the pitch. The ground was soft beneath Albus's feat, but not too muddy, which would make for a good kick off. He stood in between Heather and James while Fred went to shake hands with Fielding, Slytherin's captain.

Oteski shouted his desire for a clean match and then the two captains crunched each other's hands. Oteski released the Bludgers and Snitch and then tossed the Quaffle into the air. Albus kicked off from the ground and flew towards the Quaffle, which had unfortunately been caught by Fielding.

“And they're off!” Todd Smith announced. “First House match in two years due to the break last year, during the competitions with the other schools. Both teams have some new faces this year. Slytherin has a new Chaser, second year Marshall Belby, and a new Beater, third year Devon Wright. Gryffindor has a new Keeper, fourth year Janie Creevey....”

Albus tore his attention from Smith as the fellow Gryffindor began to announce the names of the rest of the players. Leaning forward on his broom, Albus soared to the other side of the pitch, where Fielding was attempting to throw the Quaffle into one of Gryffindor's goal posts.

“Spectacular save by Creevey!” Smith shouted. “Looks like she's going to be an excellent Keeper for Gryffindor. Gryffindor now in possession. Heather Weasley in possession, passes to Albus Potter....”

Albus caught the Quaffle, wedged it under his arm, and sped down to the other side of the pitch. He dodged two of Slytherin's Chasers but was hit by a Bludger sent from Wright and dropped the Quaffle. It was intercepted by Peyton Haines.

Albus swore loudly and tailed Haines as he turned around and headed towards Gryffindor. Fred managed to catch the Quaffle after Haines was hit by a Bludger and tossed it back to Albus.

This time Albus made it to the Slytherin goal posts and feigned right before sending the Quaffle soaring through the left hoop.

“Score!” Smith announced. “Albus Potter scores the first goal of the match. Ten points to Gryffindor!”

The remainder of the match continued in the same fashion, with the Quaffle continuously exchanging hands, rendering it very difficult for Smith to keep up with the commentary. Gryffindor maintained a near constant score of twenty points ahead of the Slytherins. Albus scored two more goals and assisted on five more. The Slytherin Chasers looked more and more disgusted as the match wore on.

An hour and a half into the match Albus saw James abandon his position above the rest of the players and fly towards the ground. Hunter Pucey, Slytherin's Seeker, followed.

“Looks like Potter has seen the Snitch!” Smith exclaimed.

Albus watched while flying the Quaffle to the Slytherin goal posts. James had his arm outstretched towards a glittering object when Devon Wright slammed her Beater's bat towards a nearby Bludger. But the Bludger suddenly soared upward, leaving nothing in between the bat and James's leg. Devon's bat collided with James's leg, sending him sprawling onto the ground. Albus stopped where he was.

The entire crowd gasped, with the exception of the Slytherins, who were cheering. Pucey was flying around the pitch holding the struggling Snitch in his outstretched hand. Albus ignored this and flew directly to James, who was clutch his leg on the ground.

Albus abandoned his broom once he landed and hurried towards James. He was surrounded by Madam Pomfrey, Professor Oteski, Professor Kendrick, Professor Longbottom, the rest of the Gryffindor team, and surprisingly, Devon.

Albus paused to look at the girl. She was small, like most second years are, but muscular. Her dirty blonde hair was in a messy bun and her face was streaked with tears. As Albus got closer, he could hear that she was whispering “I'm sorry” over and over again.

“Foul!” Heather shouted. “That's a foul! I want a rematch!”

“Let's get James to the Hospital Wing and then we'll worry about a rematch,” Neville said as Madam Pomfrey conjured a stretcher.

“Finally, someone with some sense around here,” Madam Pomfrey muttered. “All of you, out of the way!”

The crowd quickly dispersed as Madam Pomfrey guided the stretcher towards the castle, followed by the gathered professors. After a few minutes, Professor Patil ordered the rest of the students to get back to their common rooms. Albus walked back to the castle with his team, who were heading straight to the Hospital Wing.

James was resting once they got there, his leg bandaged but no longer broken. He no longer looked to be in pain, but looked like he wanted to hex the entire Slytherin team. Madam Pomfrey appeared in front of them before they could reach James's bed.

“Ten minutes,” she said. “That's all.”

“Are we getting a rematch?” was the first thing out of James's mouth. “No one will tell me anything.”

“They haven't said anything yet,” Fred replied. “How's the leg?”

“Fine, now. Just a little painful. Madam Pomfrey said I can leave tomorrow afternoon,” James told them. “We better get a rematch. That was a foul. I was two seconds from catching the Snitch when that new Beater went and hit me with her bat! Who does she think she is? Doesn't she know the rules of Quidditch? Or is that how Slytherin's training their players these days?”

“She was going for a Bludger,” Albus explained. “You probably couldn't see it because she was behind you, but there had been a Bludger. It flew up at the last second and she accidentally got your leg.”

“How do they know that?” James asked. “She might've made that up.”

“Everyone saw it,” Albus said quietly.

“It's true,” Heather agreed. “I don't know if they'll give us a rematch.”

The doors to the Hospital Wing opened, revealing the Beater in question. She walked tentatively inside and stopped when she saw the entire Gryffindor team. Madam Pomfrey greeted her and they spoke in voices too quiet to overhear before she walked slowly over to James's bed.

“I know you probably hate me and I don't blame you,” she whispered. “But I really am sorry. It really was an accident. I swear it. It was my first match.”

Albus glanced at the rest of his team. Their looks of confusion mirrored his own thoughts.

“Er, well, thanks for the apology, I guess,” James said.

“Is your leg ok?” she asked.

“It's fine now,” James replied.

Devon reached into her robes and pulled out a bar of Honeyduke's chocolate. She handed it to James, her eyes staring at his bed and not meeting his glance the entire time. “Here,” she whispered.

“Er, thanks,” James said as he took the chocolate.

“Um, I'm going to go now. Bye,” Devon said and turned to run from the ward, before any of the Gryffindor team had time to respond.

“That was strange,” James muttered after the doors had slammed shut. “Anyone fancy some chocolate?”

“She's got a crush on you,” Ryan announced.

“Does not,” James argued.

“Have we ever had a Slytherin apologize for injuring one of us before, let alone give us chocolate?” Fred asked. “I'm with Ryan on this one.”

“Well clearly some of them have consciences,” Albus replied. “But yeah, she likes you.”

“She's twelve,” James said flatly.

“Girls mature faster than blokes.” Heather smirked. “So, actually, she should be just about right for you.”

“Shut up,” James muttered. “Not sharing my chocolate anymore.”

“Ten minutes are up!” Madam Pomfrey announced as she returned to James's bed bearing a tray that contained a few nasty looking potions. “And these are for you, James.”

Albus and the rest of the team bade James goodbye and left the Hospital Wing. They walked up to Gryffindor Tower together, but parted once they entered the common room. Albus found his friends at a table near the door to the dormitories and sat down to explain the entire Devon Wright thing.

“So she was actually upset that she had broken James's leg?” John asked.

“And she apologized?” Matt added.

“And gave him chocolate?” Kaden continued.

Albus nodded. “Strange, isn't it?”

“Very,” John agreed. “I'm surprised she's on the team. Isn't it a requirement for the Slytherin team to be a fan of violence?”

“She might not be on much longer, right?” Matt asked.

“It was an accident,” Albus said. “I already said that. The rest of the team saw it and so did half the professors. So there's probably not going to be a rematch either.”

“That's not fair,” John muttered.

“It's only the first match,” Albus pointed out. “Plenty more time to gain those points back. And their Seeker is awful anyway. He couldn't have caught that Snitch if James hadn't have been hit.”

Albus, Matt, and John spent the remainder of the afternoon discussing Quidditch and Gryffindor's chances of winning the Quidditch Cup. They factored in the skill level of all the players on all the houses and the points earned so far, along with the possible weather hinderances that were surely to come. Kaden paid attention, but didn't contribute much except for the occasional comment about how something was different in football. Amanda did the same, save for the football comments. Rose sighed and dug a book out of her bag and read it until they had finished.

Professor Oteski was at supper that night, which was a rare occurrence due to the fact that he has a wife and young children in Hogsmeade and normally was only at the castle for classes and Quidditch matches. Towards the end of the meal he rose, rendering the entire Hall silent.

“The other professors and I have reviewed the events at today's match,” Oteski began. “We've taken into account a few select students' observations-”

“He interviewed me,” Fred said.

“-along with the professors'. I have come to the conclusion that the act of a Slytherin Beater hitting Gryffindor's Seeker with her Beater's Bat was an unfortunate accident. No disciplinary action will be taken against her, nor will a rematch be taking place.” He resumed his seat.

All of Gryffindor groaned while Slytherin rejoiced. Albus glanced over at their table and saw that Devon Wright was the only Slytherin not shouting in excitement. Instead she had her head on her hand and was picking at her dinner. She was a very odd Slytherin, that was for sure.

“I really didn't think there'd be a rematch,” Fred said. “But listen, we can still win. Losing the first match doesn't mean we'll lose the Cup.”

“Someone's going to have to tell James,” Heather replied. “He won't be pleased. I'm fairly certain he can count the number of times he hasn't caught the Snitch on one hand.”

Albus thought back to the time James had lost a match against Linda the vampire and hid in the Shrieking Shack. Luckily his brother had come a long way from that and would not feel the need to hide after missing the Snitch.
________________________________________

A/N: Thanks to everyone who has read and reviewed this! I'm back at school now, so I won't be writing as much. But I have a few chapters saved up, so I'm hoping to update frequently for the next month at least.

If you are enjoying this story (or any of my stories), head over to the forums and nominate one for a Dobby award! Be sure to read the rules before posting. :)

________________________________________
Disclaimer- I don't own Harry Potter.
________________________________________

Albus was very relieved that he was not given the task of telling James that there would not be a rematch. Fred, being the captain, took that job for himself and the rest of the team merely went with him. James was understandably upset, but didn't take the news nearly as badly as Albus would have expected. Perhaps he was maturing, if even a small amount. On Sunday, James was released from the Hospital Wing and life at Hogwarts returned to normal if only for a few days.

After a double class of potions and single class of Transfiguration on Tuesday, Albus and his friends had politics and this was the day where they would find out who would get to sit in the Great Hall during the debate on Saturday. The Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs were understandably more talkative in the minutes before Professor Embry began class. Most of the students hoped that they would get to attend the debate, with the exception of John and a few of the Hufflepuffs. Albus and Matt would be attending it either way, so they doubted either of them would be picked. Rose had also found out that since she was Percy's niece, she would also get to attend no matter what.

“Settle down, settle down,” Embry said once the clock struck three. He smiled and then quickly took attendance. “I'm very happy to see how excited you are for Saturday's debate. It's very exciting to see young people so interested in politics. Since I know none of you will pay attention during class unless I announce who gets to attend before I begin, I will announce them now.”

The class immediately began whispering until Embry located a piece of parchment on his desk and cleared his throat. “Now, a few of you are able to attend the debate without being chosen. Matt Eckerton and Albus Potter, since both your fathers are heads of departments at the Ministry you will be able to attend. Rose Weasley, since you are related to one of the candidates, you may attend as well. And not to worry, everyone else, they will not take away spots from the regular student body.

“One boy and one girl were picked randomly from each year, for each house. So eight students from each year were chosen total. For Hufflepuff the lucky two are Olivia Price and Ronald Bones.”

“Yes!” Ronald shouted. He was a rather loud, blonde haired boy, who reminded Albus a lot of Kaden. Olivia just smiled. She was quiet, but as one of Hufflepuff's Beaters, was quite forceful.

“And for Gryffindor we have Ethan Kesse and Marina Jordan-Bell,” Embry continued.

Both let out ecstatic shouts and the rest of the class clapped before everyone settled down. All four winning students were still grinning when Embry began speaking once more.

“Congratulations to all four of you. This will not be the only debate to take place at Hogwarts and for the next one, different students will be chosen. Now, on Saturday, you are to report to the Great Hall at ten o'clock in the morning. The debate will begin at eleven. You will give your name to whichever professor is waiting by the doors and then a Prefect will show you to where you are supposed to sit. Same goes for you, Matt, Albus, and Rose.”

Embry set the parchment down on his desk and smiled as he walked closer to the tables of his students. “Now, what Professor Kendrick has not told you yet, because it has only just been finalized, is that both candidates will be hosting two joint question and answer sessions. These will be for students and Hogwarts staff only. The same students chosen to attend the debate will be able to attend the question and answer session. It will take place at three in the Great Hall. Please arrive at two-thirty.

“Everyone else will be listening to the debate on the wireless. Fourth year Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs will be in the Transfiguration classroom. Please report there by ten-thirty. Everyone, no matter whether they are attending the debate or listening on the wireless are expected to write a foot long essay on which candidate you thought was more successful in making their point. It will be due at the beginning of next week's class.”

The entire class groaned at the mention of the essay. Embry ignored this and began his lecture. They had finally made it into the twentieth century, but were still far from learning about how everything in the Ministry changed after Voldemort was defeated.

The rest of the week passed very slowly. The Hogwarts students were getting very excited at the prospect of the candidates arriving for their debate, with the exception of Bradley and Cedric. Even John and Kaden, neither of whom were going to attend the debate, were catching a little bit of excitement. Albus was rather shocked at how the majority of the students were getting involved with the election. Being someone who had grown up with politics and the Ministry of Magic, he was not quite as thrilled with the prospect, especially when reporters from the Daily Prophet showed up on Friday morning.

“Want to take bets on how quickly they find you?” John asked as they passed two reporters on their way to Care of Magical Creatures.

Albus glanced at the reporters. One was a very tall and lanky man, with messy brown hair and considerable stubble on his face. He was frantically writing down questions that the other reporter, an equally tall woman with huge red lips and black hair, was asking an uncomfortable looking first year.

“Walk faster,” Albus nudged John as they neared the oak doors.

Albus had absolutely no desire to appear in any issues of the Daily Prophet. Neither of his parents liked reporters and that was a trait they had passed down to Albus. He made a mental note to warn Bradley and Cedric about them the next time he saw his two cousins.

In an effort to avoid the reporters, Albus, Matt, and John spent their free period after charms in the Marauder's Den. With any luck when the Ministry officials arrived the reporters would give up trying to interview random Hogwarts students. Although Albus knew it was not random at all. At lunch, after Care of Magical Creatures, he found out that no less than four of his cousins, along with Lily, had been interviewed that morning.

The officials were arriving just as Albus and his friends were heading to the Great Hall for dinner. They paused on the grand staircase while the blue-robed witches and wizards entered the Great Hall, gracefully avoiding the reporters that were standing next to the entrance to the Great Hall. Albus recognized nearly all of them, including his dad, Uncle Percy, and Matt's dad.

The Staff table had been magically elongated enough to offer seats for all of the Ministry officials, who had at sat down and began speaking with the professors. Albus and his friends all found seats at the Gryffindor table, near all his cousins. Cedric was scowling while reading a letter. He then crumpled it up and then set fire to it with his wand.

“Dad still thinks we pulled that prank, James,” Cedric muttered. “Says he's going to make time to speak with me before he leaves.”

“We'll find out,” James said. “We still haven't talked to all the ghosts.”

“All except Moaning Myrtle.” Cedric shuddered. “I don't fancy talking to her.”

“She's our last hope,” James said. “We're going to find her. After all this debate stuff is over.”

Albus let out a sigh of relief. He had two more days. In all honesty, he'd nearly forgotten about Cedric and James's quest to find out who put the chickens in the Slytherin common room. But apparently his brother and cousin had not.

Kendrick rose from his seat once the Great Hall was full. “On behalf of myself, the rest of the Hogwarts staff, and the Hogwarts student body, I'd like to welcome our Ministry representatives to Hogwarts. Before we eat, I'd like to introduce everyone.

“First, our candidates,” Kendrick gestured to Percy and Laurentis, who were both sitting immediately to his left. “Percy Weasley and Patricia Laurentis.” Kendrick then gestured to the tall, rather portly man on his left. “Our current Minister, Langston Hartwell.”

The rest of the officials were interspersed amongst the professors. Kendrick gestured to a grey haired witch sitting in between Professors Patil and Cedonia. “Head of Magical Law Enforcement. Reena Barnes.” Next, Kendrick gestured to Matt's dad who was sitting next to Albus's dad and Professor Trelawney. “Head of the Department for the Control and Regulation of Magical Creatures. Walter Eckerton.”

Half the Gryffindor table turned and looked at Matt, who gave a smile and shrugged. Never one to talk about his family, most of Gryffindor was unaware of who Matt's dad was.

“I'm sure you all remember Harry Potter, head of the Auror Department,” Kendrick said as he gestured to Albus's dad. He received louder applause than anyone else had.

Kendrick then introduced three of Hartwell's other advisors, who had titles that were just as long and confusing as Percy's current job title. Then, finally, Kendrick waved his hands and food appeared on all the tables.

During dinner Fred announced that he had reluctantly canceled Quidditch practice for the next day since it was scheduled for the same time as the question and answer session. The rest of dinner was spent figuring out which Gryffindors, besides the large amount that were related to Percy, were going to attend the debate. Both John's little sister, Asthyn, and James's best friend, Nathan, were getting to attend.

After dessert had been served and consumed, Kendrick reminded everyone of the time of the next day's debate and suggested they all turn in early. Albus wondered whether the ministry officials would be staying in the castle or Apparating back to their own homes for the night. Cedric took off for the common room as soon as he had finished eating, in order to avoid his father.

Albus and his friends decided to stay in the common room that night since everyone was so lively and the excitement was catching. John brought a deck of Exploding Snap down from his trunk and the six friends sat around a table playing for at least an hour. Kaden had just had the cards explode in his face when the door to the common room opened and someone gasped.

Everyone glanced over and the common room went silent. Percy was standing in the doorway, looking very awkward and uncomfortable. His eyes landed on Cedric, who had been organizing his stock of Skiving Snackboxes with James and Nathan. Cedric went as pale as Moaning Myrtle.

“Cedric,” Percy said quietly. “I need to speak with you.”

“I didn't do it, Dad!” Cedric exclaimed. “I swear it!”

Albus shifted uncomfortably in his seat, glancing at his friends. Rose was giving him a disapproving look while Matt, John, and Kaden looked equally uncomfortable. Amanda had raised her eyebrows. This was ridiculous. Why couldn't Percy let it go or believe his son? Or at least deal with it privately? It was unfair of him to storm into the Gryffindor common room and call out his own son like that.

Percy shook his head. “Cedric, you've pulled pranks like this ever since you were little. This one has you written all over it. You, too, James.”

“But Dad-”

“No buts,” Percy said. “This is not acceptable. Now I'd like to speak with you privately.”

Cedric didn't budge. Albus swallowed hard and looked at Matt, John, and Kaden each in turn. Pranks were all in good fun, but not when innocent people were punished for them. And Albus had no doubt that Percy would punish Cedric whether he had proof or not. Cedric's past betrayed him and Percy was too focused on winning the election to give his son the benefit of the doubt. Albus did not like his cousin taking the fall for something he and his friends did. It just was not something he was comfortable with.

Matt gave a slight nod of his head. John and Kaden both shrugged and Albus took that to mean “do what you have to do”. Albus sighed and stood up. “Wait, Uncle Percy.”

“Albus, this is none of your concern,” Percy said. “Cedric has to face his consequences.”

“But he didn't do it!” Albus exclaimed. “It was me. I did it.”

James burst out laughing. “You, Al? That's nice and all of you to try and keep Cedric out of trouble, but really? You couldn't get into the Slytherin common room.”

“It wasn't only him,” John said, standing up. “Kaden and I did most of it. Al was just a look out.”

“I was, too,” Matt announced. “It was the four of us.”

Fred and a few of his friends suddenly jumped up from their seats and bowed in front of Albus, Matt, John, and Kaden. “Masters! You are the kings.”

The entire common room exploded in applause and whistles. Albus couldn't help but grin despite the fact that he knew he was going to be in trouble. James gave Albus an odd look before breaking out in a wry grin himself. A few first years ran up and high-fived them. Hugo was practically rolling on the floor laughing.

“Enough, enough!” Percy shouted. “Albus, you'd better come with me. You three as well.” He gestured to Matt, John, and Kaden.

Albus and his friends reluctantly followed Percy out of the common room to Kendrick's study. On the way there Albus couldn't help but notice that his uncle didn't really walk. He strutted, almost like he owned the place. Albus supposed he was remembering back to his Head Boy days. Head Boy was probably now well out of reach for Albus, as was becoming a Prefect. Not like he really wanted to become a Prefect anyway.

Upon entering Kendrick's study Albus was horrified to see that all of the Ministry officials were there, including his own father. Matt had paled considerably on seeing his father as well. This was bad.

Kendrick glanced at the boys and then looked questioningly up at Percy. “I think we need a moment of privacy,” Kendrick said to the officials, “except Harry and Walter.”

The rest of the officials left the room, whispering to themselves as they went. Kendrick then resumed his seat behind his desk and conjured enough chairs for the remaining people. Albus took a seat in between Matt and Kaden.

“What's going on, Percy?” Kendrick asked.

“I went to Gryffindor to have a chat with my son about that prank last week and as it turns out he was telling the truth.” Albus was pleased to see that Percy looked slightly ashamed. “As I was asking Cedric for a private talk, my nephew and his friends announced that they were the pranksters.”

“They what?” Harry exclaimed, looking at Albus. “Is this about the chickens in the Slytherin common room prank?”

“Yes,” Percy confirmed. “These four just confessed to it.”

Matt's dad let out a sigh and shook his head.

“Is this true, boys?” Kendrick asked.

“Yes, sir,” Albus replied.

“I'm very disappointed in you, Albus,” Harry said. “This is the sort of thing I expect from James, not from you.”

“As am I in you, Matthew,” Walter added. “You've never been one to pull pranks.”

“It was our idea,” John said, gesturing to himself and Kaden. “All they did was keep a look out while we were in their common room.”

“Nevertheless,” Kendrick said, folding his hands on his desk. “All four of you broke school rules and you will be punished. Fifty points from Gryffindor-”

Kaden gasped.

“-each,” Kendrick finished. “And detention. As much as I'd like to start your detention tomorrow we have other matters happening in this castle and none of the staff is free to supervise. You will start your detention on Monday evening and you will have it for a week.”

“But sir-” Albus and Matt said at once.

“No buts,” Kendrick said. “You blatantly broke multiple school rules.”

“But Quidditch and dueling! That's the week before the first tournament-”

“Your teams will have to hold practice without you, Mr. Potter,” Kendrick said shortly. “You should have thought about that before you participated in this mischief.”

“Sir?” Matt asked quietly.

Kendrick sighed. “Yes?”

“The, er, full moon is Tuesday,” Matt muttered.

“Right,” Kendrick replied. “Attend the detentions that you can and whichever ones you miss can be made up once you are better.

“Thank you,” Walter said, “for being understanding about that.”

“Not a problem. Matt's situation is vastly different from missed Quidditch practice.”

Albus felt his cheeks reddening. It had been a valid point for him. Fred would murder him in his sleep when he found out Albus would miss at least two practices for detention. He certainly wouldn't be applauding and bowing anymore.

“You'll report to Filch's office on Monday at seven. He'll give you further instructions on what your detention will entail. Now, get back to Gryffindor Tower,” Kendrick said.

Albus rose from his seat. Harry did the same. “Al, you realize I'm going to have to tell your mother about this.”

Albus nodded. “Yes.”

“She won't be pleased. But I do want to tell you that I'm proud of the way you owned up to this when you realized Cedric was wrongfully accused. As disappointed as I am that you pulled that prank, I am very happy to have such an honest son. I'll see you tomorrow. Have a good night and remember, I always love you,” Harry said and gave Albus a hug.

“Love you too,” Albus said quietly.

Matt was having what was surely a similar talk with his own father and once they were finished, the four boys left Kendrick's study and went immediately back to Gryffindor Tower.

“Seven detentions,” John muttered as they walked up a set of stairs. “Seven. This is worse than that time in second year when we were caught near the Whomping Willow.”

“Not to mention the points,” Albus replied.

“And detention with Filch no less,” Matt said. “I'll be doing at least two of them on my own, too.”

Kaden shrugged. “Still seems worth it.”

John grinned. “Most definitely worth it.”

Albus and Matt gave each other looks that clearly meant they disagreed. No, 200 points from Gryffindor, seven detentions with Filch, and no Quidditch practice for a week was not worth it.
***


In true Hogwarts fashion by the next morning at Breakfast the entire school knew that it had been three Gryffindor fourth years and one Gryffindor third year that had managed to sneak into the Slytherin common room and deposit two chickens and a rooster, as well as cover the entire place in bird seed. Hufflepuff was especially excited about this because Gryffindor's loss of 200 points put them in the lead for the House Cup. Gryffindor was now dead last and the other Gryffindors were torn between their awe of Albus and his friends and their horror that the prank had cost them so many points.

Rose and Amanda had burst out laughing when the boys told them their fate the previous night. They were angry about the loss of points, though. Rose was especially disgusted by John and Kaden's lack of remorse.

All the ministry officials were at the staff table, whereas the house tables were not nearly as full as the previous day. It seemed that some students had not heeded Kendrick's suggestion about going to bed early.

There was a whoosh of wings and Albus looked up to see that the post owls had arrived. His heart started beating faster and he swallowed hard upon seeing his mother's owl holding a red envelope in its mouth.

“Oh no,” Albus whispered as the owl grew closer. His friends glanced up and saw the howler just as the owl was preparing for landing. It landed in front of Albus's plate of eggs and he took the howler in his hand before quickly running out of the Great Hall for the nearest bathroom.

The envelope was already hot when he arrived in the thankfully empty loo. He reluctantly opened it and the room was soon full with Ginny's high pitched shouting.

“ALBUS SEVERUS POTTER, WHAT HAS GOTTEN INTO YOU? I AM ABSOLUTELY SHOCKED TO HEAR THAT YOU WERE IN THE SLYTHERIN COMMON ROOM AND PUTTING CHICKENS IN THERE NO LESS. I DO NOT CARE THAT YOU WERE ONLY THE LOOK OUT. YOU MAY AS WELL HAVE BEEN IN THERE YOURSELF. YOU WERE BLATANTLY BREAKING MULTIPLE SCHOOL RULES INCLUDING BEING OUT OF BED AFTER HOURS.

I AM VERY DISAPPOINTED. THIS IS THE SORT OF THING I EXPECT FROM JAMES, BUT EVEN JAMES KNOWS WHEN NOT TO CROSS THE LINE. AND YOU DIDN'T JUST CROSS THE LINE. YOU JUMPED WAY OVER IT. AND TO HAVE PERCY FIND OUT ABOUT THIS WHILE HE IS AT HOGWARTS FOR A DEBATE?! YOU KNOW WE HAVE TO KEEP UP APPEARANCES IN ORDER FOR HIM TO HAVE A CHANCE AT THIS ELECTION AND THIS DOES NOT HELP.

I HIGHLY APPROVE OF THE DETENTIONS AND LOSS OF POINTS. I CANNOT SAY I WOULD BE DISAPPOINTED IF YOUR ENTIRE HOUSE WERE ANGRY WITH YOU OVER THIS. I EXPECT YOU WILL NOT DO THIS AGAIN. IF YOU DO YOU WILL HAVE MORE THAN JUST PUNISHMENT AT SCHOOL.”

The letter exploded with a brief puff of smoke. Albus stood there staring at it for a few seconds. His mother had not even mentioned how his confession had saved Cedric. There was no mention of how she was proud about his honesty, like his dad had been.

Albus heard a short laugh from behind him. He turned around and saw none other than Scorpius Malfoy leaning on one of the sinks, smirking.

“I knew it was one of you Gryffindors,” Malfoy said. “Just didn't expect it to be you lot. Didn't think you'd be smart enough to figure out our password.”

“Just shut up, Malfoy,” Albus muttered as he pushed his way past the Slytherin on his way out of the loo.

“Loved the howler, by the way.” Malfoy gave another laugh.

Albus groaned inwardly. He hoped Malfoy hadn't heard much of it, but highly doubted it. Albus took a deep breath and walked back to the Great Hall. Perhaps with the debate coming in an hour, the rest of the students would forget about the prank and the loss of points and find something new to discuss.
________________________________________

A/N: Big thanks to my Skype writing group. You guys are all awesome! Thanks for all the amazing reviews! The new banner was done by violet ephemera at TDA. There's a little under a week left to nominate stories for the Dobby Awards, so if you like this story, head over to the forums and nominate it! Just remember to read the rules first.

________________________________________
Disclaimer- I don't own Harry Potter.
________________________________________

There was a long queue of students waiting to get into the Great Hall after everyone left once breakfast was over. The Great Hall had been completely emptied in order for the professors to prepare it for the debate. Albus craned his head in attempt to see it. As far as he could tell it looked the same except the long house tables had been replaced by rows of seating. He, along with Matt and Rose, were only a few students away from the front of the queue.

Once they made it to the front they gave their names to Professor Longbottom and then were lead inside by one of the Ravenclaw Prefects. Adults were milling about talking with each other and students were already seated. The first few rows were cordoned off with rope and the Ravenclaw Prefect lead Albus, Rose, and Matt to the third roped off row. He lifted the rope and told them to file all the way in, to the very end of the unoccupied row. Albus sat in between Rose and Matt. It appeared that the roped off rows were reserved for Ministry officials and their families. Albus noticed that his mum was sitting in the front row along with the rest of his aunts and uncles. Georgia was also in the front row and was handing out coloring books and crayons to Samantha and Lindy.

James, Ben, Lily, and Hugo filed in next to Rose a few minutes later. Albus saw that Cedric and Bradley, who had walked in with his siblings, were being lead to the front row. Fred, Angie, Heather, and Mark finished out their row five minutes later. Albus gazed around the room and spotted Victoire and Teddy sitting across the aisle. Stanley walked in with Gabriella and took seats next to Victoire and Teddy. Albus had to admit he was surprised to see them there. Last he heard she was in France and he was in Romania.

The room soon became packed with the students who had won seats as well as other witches and wizards who had chosen to come. Albus recognized a few who worked in shops in Hogsmeade including Madam Rosmerta. He turned to the front of the room and noticed that the staff table had also disappeared and had been replaced with two podiums and a small table, just like the set up in the courtroom at the Ministry.

At exactly eleven o'clock the doors to the Great Hall were shut and people began to sit down. Professor Kendrick entered the room from one of its antechambers, followed by the Minister, Albus's dad, Matt's dad, and the Head of Magical Law Enforcement, Reena Barnes. The other Ministry officials were seated in the front row.

Kendrick lead them to the small table near the podium. All five, with the exception of Kendrick, sat. Kendrick walked to the front of the podiums and the audience quieted.

“Welcome to the third debate. I welcome all of you to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Today's debate will be on education. I'd like to introduce today's moderator, the Head of the Department for the Control and Regulation of Magical Creatures, Walter Eckerton.”

The audience clapped and Albus whispered to Matt, asking him if he knew his dad was moderating. Matt shook his head no and the two looked back to the front.

Kendrick had taken his seat and Matt's dad had rose. “Now I'd like to welcome our two candidates. Percy Weasley and Patricia Laurentis.”

There was more clapping as Percy and Laurentis walked out of the antechamber and took their places behind the podiums. Once the clapping subsided, Matt's dad began to speak.

“Today's debate will run similarly to past debates, with five minute responses and two minute rebuttals. All questions and prompts will be about education. The debate will run for an hour and a half. After it is over, the room will be cleared and then lunch will be served. After lunch there will be a short break and then the student question and answer session will take place in this same room. Without further adieu, the first question. Mr. Weasley, you will answer first.

“How do you feel about the Hogwarts physical environment? Do you feel it is adequate and conducive to learning or do you feel changes should be made?”

Percy took a step forward and smiled at the audience. “I believe that the Hogwarts castle is very conducive to learning. Being in a secluded area provides little in the way of distraction to the students. Yet the proximity of the castle to Hogsmeade village gives students in third year and above a much needed break. The only changes I think need to be made are to update what needs to be updated and repair what needs to be repaired.”

“Thank you, Mr. Weasley,” Matt's dad said. He turned to Laurentis. “Ms. Laurentis.”

“I agree with Mr. Weasley. The Hogwarts castle is very conducive to learning and I see nothing wrong with it the way it is. All of Mr. Weasley's points are very valid.”

Albus turned to Matt and shrugged. That was odd. They actually agreed on something. Matt's dad seemed a little shocked by this as well, because he did not say anything for a few seconds after Laurentis quieted.

“All right. Since you two agree, I see no need for rebuttals. Moving on to the next question. Ms. Laurentis, this time you will go first. How do you feel about the current Hogwarts curriculum? Do you feel the classes adequately prepare today's young people for living in British wizarding society? What changes, if any, do you feel need to be made?”

“The Hogwarts curriculum has not been updated in decades. In fact, the only new class that has been introduced is this year's class on politics. Curricula is something that needs to change with the times and be re-evaluated at least every other year. The world is a constantly changing place and what students learn needs to change with it. New classes should be offered and outdated classes should be removed. Curricula for classes that are kept needs to change in order to keep up with today's research. Potions, for example, should not be taught the same way now as it was forty years ago, but unfortunately, that seems to be the case.”

“Thank you. Mr. Weasley.”

“The core curriculum of Hogwarts is similar to that of magical schools all over the world. The classes taught here offer basic and advanced instruction in topics that wizards need in order to function in society. We cannot stand here and advocate getting rid of Charms or Transfiguration in favor of some new subject that may or may not teach our students anything. Yes, the world is constantly changing, but the basic spells remain the same. Students forty years ago used 'Alohomora' to open doors and the spell remains the same today,” Percy argued.

“Your rebuttal, Ms. Laurentis.”

“I am in no way insinuating that we should get rid of Charms or Transfiguration.” She looked offended at Percy's accusation. “All I am saying is that we need to look at the electives that are offered. The basic core classes should obviously be kept, although they should be updated. Today's professors are using the same textbooks they used thirty years ago, which is ridiculous considering how much has changed in their fields-”

“Your time is up. Mr. Weasley.”

Percy seemed to puff out his chest a bit. “Those textbooks still teach the basics! How is a textbook written last year going to be any better at teaching a student how to stir a cauldron? Additionally, older textbooks have more used copies available making it more affordable for students from lower income families to purchase their books.”

It seemed to Albus that they had gotten slightly off topic from the proposed question, but neither candidate seemed to notice or care.

“Next question. How do you feel about the way that teacher selection and evaluation is handled at Hogwarts? Do you feel any changes are needed?” Mr. Eckerton asked. “You may go first, Mr. Weasley.”

“Traditionally, the Ministry has taken a very hands-off approach to teacher selection and I believe this has worked well. Ministry officials do not have the expertise to choose teachers and leaving this up to the Hogwarts staff has resulted in a very educated and well-rounded staff at Hogwarts. Following the reign of Voldemort, a small education department was founded in the Ministry to oversee things and while it is still very hands-off, I believe the small amount of regulation has served Hogwarts well,” Percy explained.

“Ms. Laurentis.”

Laurentis smirked and then began. “Teacher selection, along with curriculum changes, is the the aspect of Hogwarts that needs the most radical change, in my opinion. While Professor Kendrick is a fine headmaster, I think more guidance is needed when it comes to choosing professors. For the past four years, Hogwarts has been unable to secure a Defense Against the Dark Arts professor for more than two years. One only lasted a year. Other professors have been here for decades and yet others have remained even beyond their own death. There is nothing wrong, of course, with older teachers, but Hogwarts appears to have no way of evaluating these staff members. They remain here, teaching, year after year, whether or not they are actually successful in providing students with an education.”

“Your rebuttal, Mr. Weasley.”

Percy's face had gained some color that was not always there. “I hardly think it is appropriate to blame Professor Kendrick for the fate of previous Defense professors. Upon interviewing them he had no way of knowing what would happen in the end. As for the other professors, if you would look at the statistics of the O.W.L. and N.E.W.T. results of the past few years you'll see that the majority of students are passing. Might I add that those are regulated by the Ministry.”

“Ms. Laurentis.”

“I would agree that the Headmaster should not be held responsible for one or two professors who should not have been hired in the first place, but Hogwarts has seen more than its fair share of inadequate professors in the past few years. Clearly something is wrong. More people need to be involved with curriculum and teacher selection.”

“Next question,” Mr. Eckerton said. “Do you feel that the security at Hogwarts is adequate? If not, what should be changed? Ms. Laurentis, you may begin.”

If Albus was not mistaken, he could have sworn he saw Laurentis sigh and give a slight eye roll before beginning. “Let's just call it what it is, why don't we? Lack of security at Hogwarts! The security here, if you can call it that, is sorely lacking. Might I bring up the fact that for the past three years there had been a severe breach in security here? Three years ago, a group of first years dueled the Charms professor, a seventh year, and that seventh year's father on the grounds for a significant period of time before the professors stepped in. The following year, another first year was kidnapped by that same seventh year, who had then graduated. Last year, those same students were kidnapped and taken to Australia of all places! I think we could forgive one incident, but three-”

“Your time is up,” Matt's dad said. “Mr. Weasley.”

Percy was looking more and more disgruntled. His face now resembled his hair. “Might I remind my opponent that following the incident three years ago, Aurors were stationed at Hogwarts and none of the following incidents resulted in any lasting damage to any of the students. Last year, the Aurors were slightly preoccupied by the disastrous competition that took place here. Hogwarts is protected by many enchantments and all the professors are capable of protecting the students. Last year's incident was an extremely unfortunate accident-”

“One that nearly resulted in student deaths!” Laurentis shouted.

“Ms. Laurentis.”

Albus felt like the entire room was staring at himself and Matt. Glancing around, he saw that this was true.

Laurentis ignored Mr. Eckerton. “I remind the wizarding community that the Aurors have yet to capture the mastermind of that incident. Which by the way was not the only incident last year. Last year's Defense Against the Dark Arts professor kept a highly dangerous animal in the castle for months before anything was done. And by the time it was discovered, it took Walter Eckerton stepping in to have it removed! Then, the professor was allowed to stay, despite the fact that later on it was discovered that he had been terrorizing and humiliating students in his class all year, not to mention the fact that his curricula were not appropriate. Following that atrocious breech in security, regarding the animal, the same professor proceeded to divulge information that could compromise the life of another student-”

“That is enough, Ms. Laurentis!” Mr. Eckerton shouted. “You are speaking out of turn.”

Albus was unsure whether Matt's dad was cutting her off because her time was up or because she was getting dangerously close to talking about Matt. Come to think of it, how did she even know about that? She couldn't possibly know about Matt's condition, could she? Albus glanced at Matt, who was looking extremely pale.

“I believe we are out of time,” Mr. Eckerton continued. He looked quite flustered. “Please exit the room while lunch is set up. You may return in a half hour.”

Albus stood and waited for his turn to leave the room. The entire crowd was whispering amongst themselves and pointing at Albus and Matt every so often. He was tempted to skip lunch all together, except he was extremely hungry.
***


Albus managed to avoid speaking to any reporters before and during lunch, which proved difficult because they seemed to have multiplied during the debate. All seemed keen on interviewing him, Matt, John, and Kaden in particular due to their having been kidnapped the previous June. Albus was quite relieved when the food in front of them vanished and the majority of the people in the room left in order for the question and answer session to take place.

Both candidates seemed to have regained their composure during the meal because Percy's face was no longer beet red and Laurentis had fixed her hair and was wearing a smile. The reporters had been banned from the room for the duration of the session, much to their dismay. Matt's dad also looked better and was standing in the front of the room in front of the podiums, waiting for everyone to sit down.

The room was much emptier now, considering that only the students chosen to listen to the debate and the professors were allowed in the room. Albus and Matt managed to get a few seats in the front row. James and Lily joined them.

Once the doors had been shut and everyone had sat down, Mr. Eckerton stepped forward. “Welcome to the question and answer session. It will run for an hour and the candidates will answer as many questions as they can during that time. Please raise your hand if you have a question.” Nothing about the outbursts during the debate was mentioned.

Albus could not think of anything to ask. He had absolutely no desire to speak to Laurentis and anything that he would want to ask Percy he could just ask at Christmas or send him an owl. Not that he really had any questions for his uncle, either.

A tall Ravenclaw boy raised his hand and Mr. Eckerton pointed to him. “This question is for Ms. Laurentis,” the boy began. “How exactly do you propose to make Hogwarts more secure? I'm nearly positive that the most advanced spells are already used.”

“That is very true,” Laurentis answered. “I believe that we need to look outside the world of spells and give professors basic training in defense against intruders. I think a program, similar to very basic Auror training, would benefit all staff greatly.”

A Hufflepuff in pigtails had a question for both candidates next. “Would either of you change the O.W.L. and N.E.W.T. exams if you were elected?”

“Only to fit better with any possible curriculum changes,” Laurentis replied. “The changes would come later. Not for at least two years.”

“Most likely, no,” Percy said. “The statistics prove that they work well as they are.”

The question and answer session continued in the same way, proving itself very different from the debate. It was quite the opposite, actually. Albus found himself very bored towards the end, his mind drifting towards what both candidates had said during the debate. He was very curious about what the Prophet would say about it the next day.

“We have time for one more question,” Mr. Eckerton finally said.

Albus let out a sigh of relief. A glance at Matt told him that his best friend was feeling the same way, since he was leaning back in his chair, his eyes nearly closed.

Mr. Eckerton pointed to a girl sitting in the far back. Albus didn't recognize her, but she had Ravenclaw robes on.

“This is for both of you, if either of you know anything about it. Ms. Laurentis, you were talking about Professor Balladanis in the debate and you mentioned something about him giving students information that they could use to endanger another student. Is that really true? And what exactly happened?”

Albus prodded Matt in the side and whispered to him what the question had been. Given Matt's reaction, which was a look of utter panic, he almost wished he hadn't bothered to wake him up.

Mr. Eckerton stared at the student before turning to the candidates. “You may answer the first part of the question and that part only.”

“It is true,” Laurentis said just as Percy had been opening his mouth to respond. “Professor Balladanis was not cut out for teaching and did not understand the fact that there is a line between teaching to spread knowledge and teaching to endanger others.”

“Does it have to do with the Anamatek?” a Slytherin boy asked.

“Yes,” Percy said. “The situations were related.”

“This is why I believe teachers need to be evaluated so we can avoid this type of situation,” Laurentis explained.

“But what kind of information could endanger someone? Was it in the curriculum?” the Ravenclaw who had originally asked the question said. “Knowledge is power.”

“It was not,” Laurentis answered. “Which is exactly why it will be good for professors to have curricula that they stick to.”

“I just don't understand,” the Ravenclaw went on. “If people are kept in the dark they just blindly follow authority. I've always believed that people should be taught everything possible.”

Matt and his dad were both wearing similar expressions. Both looked extremely uncomfortable and his dad was fiddling with a clasp on his robes. Matt looked like he wanted his chair to swallow him up.

“We're all out of time,” Mr. Eckerton said. “Thank you all for coming. The professors have requested that you all return to your common rooms and that you are free to decline comment to the reporters that are waiting outside.”

There was a shuffling of chairs as people got up and exited the room. Matt grabbed Albus's arm without saying anything, leading him directly to his father, who was speaking to both the candidates.

“Dad,” Matt said quietly, not waiting for him to finish his conversation with Laurentis and Percy.

Mr. Eckerton turned around and his face became sympathetic. He turned back to Laurentis and Percy. “Excuse me. My son. I believe you can head up to Kendrick's study and I will be there shortly.”

Albus, Matt, and Mr. Eckerton left Laurentis and Percy, who had now begun to argue about something, in the Great Hall and entered one of its antechambers. The room was furnished with a few couches and chairs. Albus chose an armchair while Matt and his dad sat down on a couch.

“I'm really sorry, Matt,” Mr. Eckerton said quietly. “I did not expect last year to be brought up during this debate.”

“It's not your fault,” Matt replied as he picked at a loose thread on the couch. “It's just the way she, Laurentis, was talking, I thought that maybe she.... Does she know, Dad? She seemed to know an awful lot about what Balladanis did.”

“She doesn't know,” Mr. Eckerton said immediately. “The only people at the Ministry who know are in my department. However, she and the rest of the Ministry did have to know why I was filing a report on Balladanis last year. I had to give reasons as to why I wanted him investigated on that report.”

“Did you list exactly what he did, with the Anamatek and his werewolf lessons?” Matt asked.

“No.” Mr. Eckerton shook his head. “There are laws protecting minors in this sort of situation and I was not legally required to mention your name. All I had to say was that an anonymous student had felt threatened by a certain lesson that Balladanis taught. That was all that was needed to launch the investigation. That alone would not have gotten him sacked, but enough evidence was found through interviewing students about his teaching methods that nothing else was needed. It wasn't even mentioned that it was a third year class in my original report.”

“But she seemed to know so much,” Matt said.

“She doesn't. Politicians embellish what they know in order to get elected. You don't have to worry. I suppose if she really wanted to she could look at the curriculum for Defense for that time of year and research and figure it out, but it would take a lot of work. And trust me, she does not have the time for that. Nor does she really have any reason to care what lesson it was or why a student was threatened or who that student was.”

“But she said my life had been at risk,” Matt said.

“Again, that's her embellishment.” Mr. Eckerton half-smiled. “The only ones who are really curious are your fellow students and this will blow over. They have no way of finding out.”

“Good,” Matt replied, finally smiling a bit.

“I'd better get to the headmaster's study,” Mr. Eckerton said as he stood up.

Albus waited while Matt said goodbye to his dad and then the two boys headed back to Gryffindor tower. The reporters had either scattered or had found students willing to be interviewed, for the boys came across no one but Prefects and a few first years setting off dungbombs on their way back to the common room. Albus was very glad to hear that Laurentis did not know the specifics about what had happened with Balladanis the previous year, but he wished neither her or Percy would ever bring it up again in a debate. Somehow, though, Albus doubted that it wouldn't be.
________________________________________

Sorry for the late update! Time has gotten away from me. Thanks to all who have read and reviewed. Big thanks to my Skype writing group; you guys are amazing!

I have a new Meet the Author thread on the forums. There's a link to it on my Author page. Please check it out and ask me questions!

________________________________________
Disclaimer- I don't own Harry Potter.
________________________________________

The article in the Prophet on Sunday proved to be just as outrageous as the actual debate had been. It took up the entire front page and was ripe with quotes from both candidates and a few students, although none of Albus's cousins had been quoted. The Ravenclaw who had asked the question about Balladanis at the question and answer session had not only been interviewed, but she had received her own article located on the second page. Albus groaned when he opened the page and saw it, complete with a picture of the Ravenclaw in question. His friends quickly crowded around the paper to read it over his shoulder.

CENSORSHIP AT HOGWARTS?

Yesterday's newsworthy debate at Hogwarts
School of Witchcraft and Wizardry proved
not only to be a time to learn about the
candidates' true opinions on magical
education, but possibly uncovered an issue
of censorship that had been looked over
last year.

Following the debate a question and answer
session was held for those lucky few
Hogwarts students who had gotten to sit
in the Great Hall during the debate. The
last question was asked by sixth year
Ravenclaw Elizabeth York. During the debate
Patricia Laurentis brought up the topic
of the investigation of Professor Tethys
Balladanis, previous Defense Against
the Dark Arts professor (see article on
front page). York then questioned what
information had taught that according to
Laurentis “endangered a student's life.”

'I just wonder what information was being
taught because I'm a firm believer that
students should never be denied
information. If it was bad enough
to endanger someone's life, then sure,
it should not be taught, but no one is
saying what the information was.' York
said in an interview following the
session.

After the question was asked, debate
moderator and Head of the Department for
the Regulation and Control of Magical
Creatures Walter Eckerton told the
candidates that they could not say
what the information was, just confirm
that the incident had happened. Eckerton
quickly wrapped up the session, stating
that they were out of time.

It is interesting to note that Eckerton
is the wizard who filed the complaint
thus launching the investigation of
Balladanis. When asked for a comment,
Eckerton said 'I'm the Head of the
Department for the Regulation and Control
of Magical Creatures. He had an Anamatek.
I was informed of the situation and had
to take action.'

The situation provided more questions
than answers and it will be interesting
to find out whether this incident plays
a further role in April's election.

Albus set down the paper and pushed away his half-eaten breakfast. Why did the Prophet have to print that? It didn't seem relevant to the election. Balladanis had been sacked and was long gone. It was in the past.

“Your dad's right,” Amanda said to Matt later on when they were in the Marauder's Den. “She's just trying to make things into a bigger deal so she can win more votes. Politicians turn the simplest things into huge deals.”

“I know, but still,” Matt said as he picked through a pile of Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans. “It's like none of them realize that it's my life they're making a big deal of.”

“Honestly, I don't think it's actually the information that people want,” Rose said, looking up from her Potions textbook. “Think about it. If someone were to leak the information, and say that Balladanis was teaching so much about identifying werewolves that people could figure out you were one, they'd have nothing else to talk about-”

“Yeah, because they'd be talking about how there's a werewolf at Hogwarts,” Matt said.

“No, that's not what I meant,” Rose replied. “They're interested in the bigger issue. The fact that there might be censorship at Hogwarts. They don't care what the information is that's been censored. They just care that something's been censored. And I think that if they really knew what it was, they'd all agree that Balladanis had gone over the top.”

“I guess,” Matt said. “But that's the thing, no one's going to really know what it is.”

“It'll all blow over soon enough,” Albus said. “Next debate's on law enforcement. Aurors, Azkaban, that sort of thing, and Laurentis runs Azkaban.”

Albus spent much of Sunday afternoon on the Quidditch pitch, which was a welcomed relief from discussing the debate and the election and Percy and Laurentis. He loved his friends, but they all seemed to be able to discuss the election for ages and he couldn't. Fred would have had them on the pitch longer, but Hufflepuff had reserved it for the evening.

The discussion of the censorship article seemed to calm down the next day, if only because a good majority of the professors had all scheduled exams that day and everyone was busy with last minute studying. Albus had exams in both Herbology and Defense Against the Dark Arts, although the latter was really no different from the usual worksheets. Luckily there was no exam in Care of Magical Creatures and then Albus had a free period.

Matt slept the entire free period and up until dinner in hopes that he would be able to attend that night's detention. He had no desire to do detention on his own, so he was hoping that he'd be able to get away with just missing the next night's. He still looked absolutely exhausted even after the nap.

“If we're doing anything outside I'll have to leave,” Matt said as the four boys made their way to Filch's study. “Merlin I hope it's not outside.”

“Me, too,” John said. “Ground's horribly muddy after last night's storm.”

“Bet the team will love that.” Albus said They had practice that night and Albus was missing it.

The boys continued their way through the castle until they made it to Filch's study. Albus knocked three times and then stood back, waiting for the ancient caretaker to open the door.

Filch was holding his cat, Josie, in his arms when he appeared in the doorway. He was scowling, the wrinkles on his face showing more than ever, and looked thoroughly disgusted at having to supervise the boys' detention. He let the cat down on the ground and she took a swat at Kaden's robes before darting behind a nearby suit of armor.

“You lot again,” Filch muttered as he shut the door behind him, despite the fact that the four boys hadn't had a joint detention with Filch since second year. “You're scrubbing the 2nd floor girl's bathroom. With toothbrushes, of course.” Filch reached into his pocket and pulled out four grubby toothbrushes.

“That's Moaning Myrtle's bathroom,” Albus whispered to his friends as they distributed their cleaning implements and followed Filch down the corridor.

Filch shooed them into the bathroom and leaned against the door, his arms across his chest, and scowled at them as they began. Albus squatted down and began to scrub the floor, John and Kaden doing the same. The three had agreed to make the detention as easy as possible for Matt and thus left him the sinks.

Albus hadn't been scrubbing for more than two minutes when he heard a splashing behind him and a girlish giggle. He turned around and saw Myrtle, smiling and winking at him. She floated over until she was hovering over the section of floor that Albus was scrubbing.

“Albus Potter.” She giggled again. “You're back to my toilet. Oh, but this time you've been in trouble, haven't you?”

“Er, yes,” Albus muttered.

“This isn't for what you did to the Slytherin common room, is it?” Myrtle asked. “Your brother asked me about that. I told him that you'd been in here that night, hiding under your Invisibility Cloak.”

Albus flinched when she said the words “invisibility cloak” and hoped that Filch had had some hearing loss in his old age. The last thing Albus needed was for the caretaker to know he had an Invisibility Cloak.

“I didn't know you were pranking the Slytherins, though,” Myrtle continued. “I like boys who pull pranks, you know.” Myrtle giggled again and floated closer to Albus, so close that his hand was now inside her arm. He moved it away.

“You know, some years I hardly get any boys coming in here,” Myrtle said as she floated towards John. “And this year there's so many. I think you should come visit me more often. It gets lonely in here, you know.”

“Yeah, I imagine it's quite lonely, being dead,” Kaden said.

Myrtle let out an ear-piercing shriek and started wailing. She sped past Albus and into one of the stalls, where she plunged herself into the toilet.

“Sensitive type, isn't she?” Kaden said.

There was another loud splash and Myrtle was suddenly right in front of Kaden. “You would be too if you were dead!” she shouted.

“But couldn't you leave the loo?” John asked. “The other ghosts float about the castle all the time.”

“Leave the loo?” Myrtle repeated. “Leave the loo?” She said a bit louder. “But this is where I died! I find it's best to think about my death right here. Right where it happened.”

“Wouldn't it be less lonely with the other ghosts?” John asked as he began to scrub one of the stall doors.

“The other ghosts don't understand,” Myrtle lamented. “They're all satisfied being dead. Even the Grey Lady and she's always seemed slightly miserable. But no, none of them are as miserable as me.” Myrtle seemed proud about that.

“Weird,” John muttered under his breath.

“Quiet!” Filch shouted. “You're in detention. No talking.”

Myrtle resumed floating above the boys, letting out a loud wail every so often. Kaden and Matt continued to scrub the floor while John scrubbed the stalls. Matt was still scrubbing the sinks, but was going very slowly and winced every so often.

“You look miserable!” Myrtle exclaimed as Matt's hand slipped and he dropped his toothbrush. He bent down to pick it up and leaned on the sink, squeezing his eyes shut. Myrtle floated down to hover just above the sink next to him and smiled.

Matt said nothing and turned from Myrtle, to get started on the sink on the other side. Myrtle followed. “You know, I'm miserable here all the time. I just sit here and contemplate my death...” Myrtle continued.

Myrtle continued to follow Matt around the bathroom while he was clearly trying to ignore her and put as much distance between them as possible. He had no luck with this since he was exhausted and Myrtle was a ghost. Albus caught John's eye as Myrtle giggled for the twentieth time and the two shared a silent laugh.

After they'd been scrubbing for nearly two hours Filch finally told them they could stop. Albus's knees and hands were raw and he had a feeling he smelled strongly of cleaner. John and Kaden looked equally miserable and Matt looked as bad as he did the morning after a full moon, only without the cuts and bites. Myrtle looked delighted at their misery.

“Visit me again soon!” she shouted after them as they left. “Especially you,” she added to Matt with another giggle.

“Someone has a crush on you,” John said to Matt as soon as they were out of earshot of Filch.

“Shut up,” Matt muttered.

“Matt and Myrtle, what an adorable couple you'd make,” John continued. “You should go visit her. She seemed to be happier knowing that you were miserable.”

“I said shut up about it!” Matt shouted.

“Fine, was only making a joke,” John replied.

The boys walked in silence the rest of the way to Gryffindor Tower. They did not come across anyone else, which Albus was grateful for since he was uncertain as to whether it was past curfew or not. Once back in Gryffindor, Matt immediately went to the dormitory without saying another word to Albus, John, or Kaden.

“Hope it's not cleaning tomorrow,” John muttered as he sat down on the nearest chair and pulled up his pant leg. “Look at that. My knee's all red.”

“Matches my fingers,” Kaden added.

Albus would gladly suffer through another day of Muggle cleaning if it meant the rest of the detentions would be called off. He was missing two Quidditch practices and the last dueling practice before the first duel. Some captain he was, missing the last practice before their first tournament. Their final practice was Thursday evening and Albus would be off in detention, doing who knows what. He was planning on having Amanda run the practice, although he hadn't talked to her about it yet.

The door to the common room opened and the Gryffindor Quidditch team, minus Albus of course, trouped in. They all looked muddy, exhausted, and sweaty and Albus felt a pang of guilt as he watched them head up to the dormitories to shower.

“Missed you, Al,” Fred said as he passed. “You're missing on Wednesday, too, aren't you?”

“Yeah,” Albus muttered. “Sorry.”

Fred nodded. “Just don't do it right before a match.”

That was at least fortunate, Albus thought. They wouldn't be playing in another Quidditch match until after the holidays, seeing as the next match was Hufflepuff versus Ravenclaw. However, he couldn’t help but feel that missing dueling practice right before a tournament was worse than missing Quidditch practice right before a match.
***


Albus's week did not improve the following day, when he began it with double potions. Matt, feeling too ill to brew potions all morning, stayed in the dormitory to sleep, leaving Scorpius Malfoy without a partner to brew that day's Wart Removal Potion. Even worse, Albus's partner was also not in class. Slughorn saw this as the perfect opportunity to pair Albus with Malfoy.

Albus set up his cauldron while Malfoy stalked off to the potions cupboard to get the ingredients. He returned a short while later and began to chop a shrivelfig into perfectly sized pieces. Albus took the rat spleen, dumped it into the cauldron, and began to stir it.

“Word is you and your friends got a week's detention for that prank,” Malfoy said, not looking up from his shrivelfig.

“Yes. Not that it's any of your business,” Albus responded.

“Oh, but it is.” Malfoy smirked, finally looking up. “You didn't by chance get Thursday off from detention, did you?”

“No,” Albus muttered. He took a few deep breaths, trying to calm himself down. He was stirring the cauldron far too quickly.

“That's dueling practice,” Malfoy said, as if it had slipped Albus's mind. “Our own captain, missing practice because of detention. I don't suppose you've found someone else to run practice, have you?”

“If you're angling for the job you're out of luck,” Albus said as he threw another rat spleen into the cauldron with more force than was necessary. “Amanda already said she'd do it.” That wasn't necessarily true, as Albus had slept too late that morning to see Amanda at breakfast before they'd had to go down to the dungeons.

“Tagger?” Malfoy scoffed. “I think the captain ought to have at least some skill at dueling.”

“Why does it matter so much?” Albus asked. “It's one practice! It's not like one practice would make you captain.”

“When the professors see what a better job of it I do-”

“One reason, Malfoy,” Albus interrupted. “Give me one reason why you should do it over Amanda.”

Malfoy's face broke out in a malicious grin. “One reason? The moon's going to be in an interesting phase tonight.”

Albus lowered his voice. “You wouldn't. You can't. Kendrick would expel you.”

“Only if he knew it was me who spilled the beans,” Malfoy pointed out.

Albus felt the blood drain from his face. Why had he never thought of that? Of course there were ways Malfoy could let it slip without anyone knowing it was him. “Fine,” Albus muttered. “Fine. You captain the team on Thursday. But just that day. I don't have detention on Saturday afternoon.”

“Fair enough,” Malfoy said, clearly satisfied at how things had turned out.

Albus took a parsnip and began to chop it with as much force as he could muster, imagining Malfoy's smirking face upon the vegetable's surface. Luckily, Malfoy did not say another word to Albus throughout the entire class, which gave Albus the restraint not to hex him into next century after they left Slughorn's room.

The day continued in a downward spiral when Patil had them work on transfiguring rats into teacups and Albus's teacup ran across his table and crashed onto the floor. Politics was no better because Professor Embry had the class discuss the past Saturday's debate, something Albus just wanted to put behind him. He couldn't help but feel as if the entire class was staring at him for the whole hour since Embry brought up the topic of his kidnapping and the sacking of Professor Balladanis.

Kendrick sent Albus, Matt, John, and Kaden an owl at dinner informing them that their detention would take place in Greenhouse Two, where Professor Longbottom needed help transferring his dragon dung fertilizer from a huge pile outside to various pots inside.

“Disgusting!” John exclaimed upon reading the note. “I get enough of that in Herbology.”

“At least we're with Longbottom and not Filch,” Albus pointed out. “Matt will be missing this one, obviously.”

John nodded. “Where is he, by the way? Haven't seen him all day.”

“Probably still in the dormitory. He was sound asleep when I went up there to grab my Transfiguration book at lunch,” Albus said.

Kaden glanced at his watch. “We're not even going to have time to go back there before detention. It's six-thirty.”

Albus set his fork down. He had been picking at his beef stew, but not really eating it. He still hadn't told his friends that Malfoy was going to be running his dueling practice later that week. Add that to the fact that now he wouldn't get to see Matt before the full moon and it was just turning out to be an awful evening.

Rose seemed to read Albus's mind. “We'll go check on him after dinner,” she said. Amanda nodded.

John and Kaden polished off the rest of their meals and then the three boys set off for the greenhouses. The sun was just beginning to set as they walked across the grounds and Albus knew that meant that Matt would be heading to the Hospital Wing soon. He hoped Rose and Amanda would manage to see him before he did.

Neville was waiting for them when they arrived, bearing four shovels and four sets of gloves.

“Matt can't come tonight,” Albus said once they reached Neville.

Neville glanced at the sky. “Oh, right. I'd forgotten.” He handed the boys the shovels and gloves. “All of this,” he gestured to a large pile of manure, “needs to be moved into the pots in Greenhouse Two. You can leave once you're finished.”

Albus groaned inwardly as he looked at the pile. It must have been at least six feet high and as big around as the broom shed near the Quidditch pitch. It would take them at least an hour. He sighed as he pulled on his gloves and began to shovel the manure.

With all three boys working steadily it took them an hour and a half to move all the manure. When they finally finished all Albus wanted to do was go up to Gryffindor Tower and take the world's longest shower. He felt worse than he did after a Quidditch practice in the pouring rain.

“Two down, five to go,” John said after Neville parted ways with them on the second floor. “I'd never thought I'd say this, but I'd really like some lines.”

“I just wish they'd cancel Thursday's,” Albus muttered.

“Oh, right, what are you doing about your dueling practice?” John asked.

Albus felt anger boiling up in him again just thinking about it. “Malfoy's taking over for the practice.”

“Wait, seriously?” John exclaimed. “But Amanda's on your team. She could have-”

“It's complicated,” Albus muttered. For some reason he didn't want to get into why Malfoy was going to be captain for the night. “And it's only for a night.”

John gave Albus a strange look. “I guess, but still... Malfoy? It's going to go to his head.”

“I know!” Albus exclaimed. “I know, all right? It's not like I wanted to have detention on Thursday and miss that practice. I'll remind you that this prank was yours and Kaden's idea. Not mine.”

“I know,” John said. “But Malfoy...” his voice trailed off.

Albus spent a good half hour in the shower once he returned to Gryffindor and then collapsed into bed, wishing that he could wake up and find out that the day had been an awful dream. Instead, he dreamed that Professor Kendrick decided to take away Albus's captaincy and give it to Malfoy.
________________________________________

A/N: Thanks to everyone who has read and reviewed! This will be the only update this month as I am currently working on NaNoWriMo.

________________________________________
Disclaimer- I don't own Harry Potter.
________________________________________

John got his wish the following evening when the boys spent an hour doing lines with Professor Young, which was slightly pointless since Young paid absolutely no attention to them. After they were released, Albus, John, and Kaden immediately went to the Hospital Wing, as they had been unable to visit Matt earlier in the day.

Madam Pomfrey was refilling potion bottles when they arrived a short while later. The curtains were drawn around Matt's usual bed while all the other beds remained empty.

“Hello, boys,” the nurse greeted them. “I'll let you visit for ten minutes, but curfew's very soon.”

Albus nodded and led John and Kaden to Matt's bed, where he pulled back the curtains and entered the small area. Matt was laying in bed with a bandage around his left arm and another on his forehead.

“How are you feeling?” Albus asked.

“Awful,” Matt replied. “But I don't want to talk about it. What's new with you lot?”

“Just did an hour of lines,” John said. “And last night we had to shovel manure for Longbottom. You're lucky you missed that one. I swear I still smell like dragon dung.”

“But now I have to do two detentions by myself. Possibly three,” Matt lamented.

“Three? You're not going to get out of here tomorrow?” Kaden asked. Usually Matt got out of the Hospital Wing two days after the full moon.

“I will, but it just depends on what the detention is. If it's lines then I can go but if it's cleaning again then I'll have to skip it. Madam Pomfrey wants me to rest tomorrow.”

“Can't think of what else they'd have us do,” John said. “Guess what else? Albus is having Malfoy run his dueling team's practice tomorrow since he'll be in detention.”

“You're what?!” Matt exclaimed. “That's mad, Albus.”

Albus sighed. “It's one day. One practice. It's not like I'm giving him my team.”

“Yeah, but there are other people on your team,” Matt pointed out. “One of them could have captained it.”

“As I told John and Kaden, it's complicated,” Albus said. “And it won't happen again.”

Matt shrugged, but he didn't seem convinced. The last thing Albus wanted to do was tell him the real reason why Malfoy was going to run the practice. Matt didn't need that on his plate.

“Time's up!” Madam Pomfrey announced as she brought a tray of potions to Matt. “Hurry back to Gryffindor. The last thing the three of you need is another detention.”

As it turned out, there were other things that the professors thought of for the boys' detentions. Thursday evening they cleaned cauldrons without magic in Professor Slughorn's classroom, something that Madam Pomfrey forbade Matt from doing, insisting that he turn in early instead. Albus spent the entire detention thinking about what Malfoy was doing with his dueling team and counting down the minutes until he would be able to ask Amanda about it.

“He was really nasty,” Amanda said once the boys were back in the common room after detention. Amanda had gotten out of dueling practice before they'd finished detention. “A few of the second years were cursing him afterward. I heard them. Not that I blame them since he all out yelled at them for not being able to perform a Jelly-Legs Jinx.”

“What does he expect?” Albus replied. “They're second years!”

“I tried to tell him that, but he didn't care,” Amanda said. “He even yelled at a Slytherin.”

“Seriously?” Albus said. “Wow.”

“I'm really glad Longbottom made you captain and not him,” Amanda continued. “I think I'd quit otherwise.”

“I would've quit if he was on my team, period,” John said.

“He wouldn't last as captain anyway,” Amanda pointed out. “Professor Cedonia was supervising and she had to tell him to tone it down about five times and then once one of the second years was close to tears, she called an end to the practice.”

Albus couldn't help but feel a bit of satisfaction that Malfoy made such a bad captain, despite the fact that he did feel bad for his teammates. He doubted Malfoy would stop insisting that he should have been made captain, but Albus doubted anything would stop that.

Saturday brought with it a loud thunderstorm that rendered it nearly impossible to hear what anyone was saying in the Great Hall at breakfast. Albus was quite happy that Fred had not scheduled a Quidditch practice for that day, but hoped that the storm would calm down by the time the tournament began since his team would need to be able to hear each other speak.

Malfoy was already seated at Team Seven's spot at the Hufflepuff table when Albus arrived later that afternoon. He was pleased to see that the rest of the team was giving him a wide berth, including a few of the younger Slytherins.

“Albus!” one of the second year Hufflepuffs, Alice Jake, shouted when she saw him coming. “So glad you're back.”

“Me, too.” Albus grinned as he sat down in between her and another Hufflepuff. “You lot ready?”

There was a chorus of “yes's” and a few nods of heads from Albus's team. The last few duelers ran into the room and snagged the last few seats, which were unfortunately next to Malfoy.

Albus glanced at his watch. Five minutes until the tournament began. He felt like he should make some sort of speech, like all of his Quidditch captains did before matches. But what was he supposed to say?

“Er, well, here we are. The first tournament,” Albus began. “You are all excellent duelers, each and every one of you. We've all been practicing hard and you've all made great improvements. We're going to do great, but remember, just have fun. But if you remember what you've learned and duel like you do in practice, I think we can definitely win this.”

The rest of his team (sans Malfoy) gave a hearty cheer and then turned to Professor Longbottom, who had just called for attention. Albus's team immediately quieted down.

“Welcome to the first dueling tournament!” Neville announced. “It will run as it has in the past, with two duels happening simultaneously. Professor Cedonia is coming around with the tournament schedule, which will be given to each captain. Please pay attention and know when you are to duel. Everyone will duel twice. Professor Cedonia and I will each preside over a dueling circle and will announce the winners. The first person to disarm their opponent will be given a point. Remember, you are only allowed to use spells you have learned in your classes. The first duels will start momentarily.”

Professor Cedonia handed Albus a piece of parchment and he set it down while his team crowded around him. “I think it'll be easier for me to let you know when you're to duel. I'll tell you two duels before you're scheduled. Alice and Tucker, you're first.”

Albus glanced down the list and noticed that he was the tenth duel in Neville's ring and the seventeenth in Cedonia's. That would give him plenty of time to get used to organizing his team. It was slightly overwhelming, having to constantly be paying attention to the list and figuring out when everyone should be dueling. After a few duels, he managed to get the hang of it.

“Malfoy,” Albus said. “You're up in two duels, in Cedonia's ring.”

Malfoy nodded, but didn't say anything. He had not said a word the entire tournament, which was very uncharacteristic, and the rest of the team seemed to be set on ignoring him.

Albus handed the list to Amanda and headed to Neville's dueling ring, where he was set to duel John. Two Hufflepuffs from other teams were currently battling it out and Albus was next. The shorter of the two Hufflepuffs finally managed to disarm his opponent.

“Point to Team Four!” Neville shouted as the two Hufflepuffs left. “Albus Potter versus John Brickston.”

Albus and John gave each other apologetic smiles before bowing and raising their wands, waiting for Neville's okay.

“Ready, duel!” Neville shouted.

Albus immediately sent a leg-locker curse at John, who easily deflected it. John sent the same at Albus who also avoided it. Albus continued sending spells at John, who kept avoiding them, until he finally got hit with a Jelly-legs Curse and nearly lost his footing. In the time it took him to perform the counter-curse, Albus was able to hit him with Petrificus Totalus.

“Expelliarmus!” Albus shouted as John fell over. He caught John's wand in his right hand and then turned to Neville, who was smiling.

“Point to Team Seven!”

Neville performed the counter-curse on John and the two boys left the ring. Albus headed back to his table, where Malfoy was just heading to Cedonia's dueling ring.

Malfoy dueled a second year and won within two minutes. He was smirking as he walked back to the Hufflepuff table, but he returned to mediocre applause. It seemed that the rest of the team was still bitter about Thursday's practice.

The rest of the tournament went well. Both Albus and Malfoy won their second duels, although Malfoy had a lot more difficulty since he dueled a fellow fourth year.

“Attention, I'd like to announce the winner!” Neville shouted a short while after the final duel. The entire room immediately quieted and looked up at Neville. “Thank you. In third place with 44 points is Team Four!”

Cheers erupted from the Ravenclaw table, where Team Four was currently seated. Once they quieted down, Neville spoke. “In second place with 52 points is Team Seven!”

The rest of Albus's team began to shout and cheer, but Albus was too stunned to do much of anything. He couldn't believe it! His first ever tournament as captain and his team had gotten second place! A few people slapped him on the back and he broke out into a grin.

“And in first place, with 55 points is Team Six!” Neville announced.

There were cheers from the other end of the Hufflepuff table, but Albus ignored them. He was still shocked that his own team had done so well.

“Great job, everyone!” he said once he regained his composure. “I knew we could do it!”

The table was filled with excitement and chatter and it continued even after they got up and began to leave the room. Albus was anxious to get back to Gryffindor tower where he could celebrate his near win with his friends.

“Nice going, Potter,” Malfoy spat as soon as they left the Great Hall. “I bet if I were the captain we would've won.”

“We got second,” Albus replied. “That's really good.”

“First would've been better,” Malfoy muttered. “I'm amazed we even got second considering how awful you are at practices.”

“Better than you,” Albus said. “No one liked your practice on Thursday. Did you notice how no one talked to you today? They hated it.”

“They're just too used to you coddling them,” Malfoy said, taking a step closer to Albus.

“Well it doesn't much matter because I'm the captain and you're not,” Albus said as he toyed with his wand, which he was still brandishing in his left hand.

“For now,” Malfoy replied, eyeing Albus's wand. “If you keep getting in trouble I bet they'll replace you.”

“C'mon, Albus.” Matt had appeared next to Albus. “Let's get back to the common room.”

“Better listen to him.” Malfoy gave a short laugh. “You'd think it'd the other way around, though. Him attacking me rather than you. But I suppose that would only be in a certain time of-” Malfoy glared knowingly at Matt.

“Shut up! And take that back,” Albus seethed, raising his wand.

“Seriously, Albus, let's go!” Matt grabbed the back of Albus's robes and pulled him towards the staircase.

“Evil git,” Albus muttered, looking back at the crowd in the Entrance Hall. Malfoy was already gone. “Why does he always have to bring it up like that?”

“It doesn't matter,” Matt said.

“Of course it matters!” Albus said indignantly. “It's insulting!”

“I'm used to it,” Matt said quietly.

“So what?” Albus exclaimed. “That doesn't mean you should have to spend the rest of Hogwarts having him bring it up every day.”

“And you hexing him would have solved everything?” Matt asked. “You just would've gotten another detention.”

“Would've been worth it,” Albus muttered.

“No, it wouldn't have,” Matt argued. “You've just got to ignore him. I ignore him.”

“I really hope that next year he's not on my dueling team,” Albus said.

“I don't think he will. Didn't they go back to House teams for dueling for fifth through seventh years this year?” Matt asked.

“Did they?” Albus asked.

“That's what one of the sixth years said,” Matt answered.

“Good,” Albus said. “Then I just have to suffer through this year.”

Albus and Matt were the last of their friends to get back to Gryffindor, where it appeared that no one was doing homework. James had set a few fireworks off out the window and everyone was watching them while eating platters upon platters of biscuits.

“What are you lot celebrating?” Albus asked James as he took a biscuit.

James shrugged. “Just the fact that we've got a Saturday with nothing to do. Well, Cedric, Ben, Nathan, and I that is.”

“Where have you two been?” Rose asked as she walked up to Albus and Matt. John and Kaden were behind her, a biscuit in each hand.

“Al nearly got into a duel with Malfoy in the Entrance Hall,” Matt explained.

“Albus!” Amanda exclaimed. “You can't get anymore detention!”

“I know, but he said something really vile,” Albus said and turned to John. “You would've hexed him.”

“What did he say?” Rose asked.

“He said that he was surprised I wasn't attacking him,” Matt said quietly.

“You're right,” John growled. “I would've hexed him.”

“See?” Albus said.

“And I told you that it wasn't worth detention over,” Matt repeated.

“But if it continues,” Rose said, “you've got to tell Kendrick.”

“I'm not telling Kendrick,” Matt insisted. “I think he's got enough to worry about with the possibility of the entire school getting changed if Laurentis wins this election.”
***


“Why in the name of Merlin are we doing detention in the forest?” Kaden asked at breakfast the following morning.

“Seriously,” John agreed. “That's not really detention, is it? The forest is cool. I've always wanted to go in there.”

“Are you two insane?” Amanda asked. “There's all sorts of creatures in there.”

“My sister did detention in the forest once,” Matt said. “She had to harvest these plants Slughorn needed and they could only be harvested the night of the full moon.”

“Well that's one detention you'll never have to do.” John laughed.

“Maybe we have to harvest some other kind of plant?” Matt suggested, ignoring John's comment.

“Dunno.” Albus shrugged. The letter they'd received had not gone into specifics. It just stated that they were to meet Hagrid near his hut at three that afternoon.

“At least you're not going at night,” Rose pointed out.

The few hours Albus and his friends had until detention went by rather quickly. They spent the hours in the common room alternating doing homework while participating in very large rounds of Exploding Snap with nearly all of Albus and Rose's cousins. Everyone was covered in ash by the time three o'clock rolled around and the boys had to run up to their dormitory to wash their faces before heading down to Hagrid's hut.

Albus liked Hagrid. He had known the half-giant since he was little and was slightly confused as to how detention with Hagrid could possibly be considered detention. Perhaps Professor Kendrick was unaware that Albus and his friends visited Hagrid every so often and enjoyed spending time with him.

Hagrid was already outside when Albus and the other three boys arrived, armed with his crossbow and Fang by his side. Albus swallowed hard upon seeing the crossbow. Did Hagrid really think they would need that?

“'Ello, boys!” Hagrid greeted them. “Fairly simple detention today. We'll be collectin' unicorn tail hairs.”

“Like getting them from unicorns?” Kaden asked. “I thought they didn't like boys.”

Hagrid gave a booming laugh. “No, no, Kaden. It'd be a crime to take 'em right from the unicorn, wouldn' it. No, we'll be gettin' 'em from bushes and trees. As the unicorns run past they get snagged. Let's get goin'.”

Fang let out a loud bark as they made their way to the forest. Collecting unicorn hair. That wasn't bad at all. But still, it was the forest and that was where Washburn and Willinson had spent a lot of their time the previous year. They wouldn't be back there, would they? Obviously Washburn and Quinton Willinson were in Azkaban, but what about Quinton's father? Where was he?

“What do we need unicorn hairs for?” John asked as they entered the forest. “No one here makes wands.”

“Used for a lot more'n wands, aren' they,” Hagrid answered. “Potions, mostly. Tha's what we need 'em for. Seventh years are brewing somethin' that needs unicorn hairs so Professor Kendrick volunteered you four to collect 'em. Slughorn's too old to do it himself.”

“That's for sure,” John muttered to Albus.

It was very dark in the forest, despite the fact that it was day. All four boys lit their wands and Hagrid's pink umbrella was providing more light than two wands combined. Hagrid had told them that they wouldn't find any hair until they were at least fifteen minutes into the forest since unicorns rarely ventured near the edge.

The forest was very dense and it was difficult for them to walk next to each other. Soon, they were forced to walk single file through a very small path that was riddled with tree branches and rocks. Albus stumbled every so often and Matt managed to fall over three times before anyone found any unicorn tail hair. Galloping hooves could be heard in the distance and Albus figured they were centaurs. His dad had told him that there was a herd of centaurs in the forest, although Albus had never seen one before.

“Here we are,” Hagrid said after what had been at least a twenty minute walk. He gestured to a nearby bush. “Jus' have a look around here and I'm sure we'll find plenty. This is a known area where unicorns live. Don' wander too far.”

Hagrid had provided them all with buckets in which to collect the hair. Albus set off for the nearest bush and found a few hairs snagged in the branches.

“Last detention,” John said as he worked alongside Albus. “Thank Merlin.”

“Speak for yourself,” Matt called out from a tree a few meters away.

“Do you know what you have to do for your next ones?” Albus asked.

“Lines, all three nights,” Matt said. “Easier, I suppose, than coming up with anything else when it's just me.”

“Better than cleaning bathrooms again. Or digging up dragon dung,” Kaden said. “Whoa, I just found a whole clump of hair.”

After they'd been working for a half hour Hagrid decided that they'd collected enough. They set off re-tracing their steps through the forest. Albus found it a little less scary on the walk back and he wasn't sure whether it was because he had gotten used to the noises or because he could see the sunlight at the edge. He was very relieved to find that he did not see Jarrett Willinson anywhere in the forest, although now that the detention was passed he realized that Willinson wouldn't go back there now that the Resurrection Stone was no longer there. No, Willinson was most likely still in Australia, where no one was looking for him. At least, Albus hoped he was.
________________________________________

Thanks to everyone who has read and reviewed! You guys are awesome! Sorry for the lack of updates lately. NaNo gave way to a frantic finishing of all the papers I'd neglected during November. But I won NaNo and classes are over so I'm hoping to get a good bit of writing done within the next month.

________________________________________
The last few weeks of November provided the Hogwarts students and staff with a much needed period of calm. The next election debate would not take place until December and the the censorship at Hogwarts topic seemed to have died out, with the Daily Prophet no longer publishing articles on it. Both Quidditch and dueling tournaments were over for the term, leaving the students with a bit more time to devote to their studies. The next Hogsmeade visit was scheduled for the second Saturday in December, a week before term ended.

Albus enjoyed the monotony of those few weeks. His days were filled with homework, Quidditch practice, and dueling practice. Team Seven was very happy to have Albus back as their captain and most continued to ignore Malfoy during practice. Malfoy still reserved a special glare of hatred for Albus and his friends, but he did not attempt to start anymore duels in the corridor, like he had after the dueling tournament.

December arrived with a snow storm that caused the Ravenclaw Quidditch team to cancel two of their practices. This gave Fred the opportunity to book the pitch for two extra practices, something that earned him a healthy dose of U-No-Poo in his morning pumpkin juice courtesy of James and Bradley. Albus was happy to see that the job of school prankster had been rightfully returned to James and his friends. The week of detentions had certainly dissuaded Albus from planning anymore pranks. The same could not be said for John and Kaden, who were plotting something, although Albus did not know what.

Albus, Matt, and Amanda spent the first Saturday of December ignoring their homework in the Marauder's Den. The Slytherin team had the pitch for the entire day, which gave Albus a much needed break from Quidditch. John and Kaden's location would probably only be found with the Marauder's Map and Rose was tutoring in the library.

There was a loud squawk from outside the room, which was Rose's signal that she was outside and wished to be let in. Albus got up from his game of Gobstones and let her in. She dropped her bag unceremoniously on the floor and flopped down on the couch.

“I'm worried about Elsie,” Rose said.

“Elsie...” Albus prompted.

“Elsie Willinson!” she exclaimed. “The first year I've been tutoring all year.”

“Oh yeah, the one with the idiot for a brother and a cousin and uncle who want to bring back Voldemort. Yeah, I'd be worried, too,” Albus said as he returned to his game.

“No, I'm not worried about her stupid brother. I'm worried about her.”

“What, is she still failing all her subjects?” Matt asked.

“No, she's actually doing much better,” Rose said. “She's just very quiet. She never talks about anything other than homework-”

“Sounds like you.” Albus turned around and grinned at his cousin. “Although you're not quiet.”

“I'm serious, Albus,” Rose said flatly. “Her brother walks her to the library for our sessions and then picks her up when we're done. I never see her with anyone other than him and occasionally Malfoy. I've never seen her eat with anyone other than them, either.”

“That is kind of strange,” Amanda said.

“See?” Rose said. “Amanda thinks it's weird.”

“So she's shy.” Albus shrugged. “I just don't see what it's got to do with you.”

“It doesn't really,” Rose said quietly. “But if she's having issues. We all know about her family. If her brother's keeping an eye on her there must be a reason.”

Albus hadn't thought about it that way. What if Felix Willinson was trying to keep an eye on his sister? “If she's doing something her family doesn't like I bet she's going against something they want.”

“That's what I thought,” Rose agreed. “Which means she's trying to do something good. Or he's trying to make sure she doesn't spill family secrets.”

“You think they have more family secrets than just wanting Voldemort back?” Matt asked.

“Of course they do,” Rose said. “We only found out last year that they were related by marriage to Lubar. I mean, you never would've guessed that in first or second year.”

Matt shuddered. “Probably a good thing that I didn't. I probably would have refused to come to Hogwarts.”

“Most pure-blooded families like them have dark secrets,” Albus said as he fiddled with a Gobstone. It squirted him in the face and he rubbed the liquid on his robes. “The ones that want the blood to remain pure and stuff. Like the Malfoys.”

“And I'd bet my last Galleon that Elsie Willinson found out one of those secrets and wants to tell someone,” Rose stated.

“You think it's got to do with what they're trying to do?” Albus asked.

“I'm sure it does.”

“The only problem for them is that Jarrett's on his own now,” Amanda said. “With the other two in jail, what's he going to do?”

“You're forgetting about Lubar,” Matt said darkly.

Rose got up and started walking around the room. “To be honest, I don't know how much he's going to be involved, especially if this going to take place in Britain. Think about it, last year he had the excuse of the tournament to be here. He's got no excuse this year. He's a Ministry official. A horrid one, but still a Ministry official. It's not in his best interest to be trying to bring back Voldemort.”

“That didn't even work,” Albus cut in. “They can't bring him back, even a ghost of him, with the Resurrection Stone.”

“Jarret Willinson was a Ministry official,” Matt pointed out.

“He was a secretary for the Obliviator office. That's a little different from a Head position,” Rose explained. “Lubar has more to lose.”

“I say we try and figure out what Elsie's keeping secret and I bet it'll have something to do with what Willinson is planning now. Because I guarantee he's planning something,” Albus decided.

“How are we going to do that?” Amanda asked. “She's always with Felix.”

“Not when Rose is tutoring her.” Albus turned to Rose. “You think you could try and get her to open up?”

“Well she's not going to just come out and tell me. I can try, but it'll take a while,” Rose said.
***


Albus told John and Kaden about the conversation about Elsie later that night. John proclaimed that he knew something had been weird about that girl from the moment they had seen her at the beginning of the year. Both boys agreed that they needed to find out what it was she was keeping secret. Albus then asked them what prank they were planning, but John and Kaden mysteriously went quiet as soon as Albus brought the topic up.

Albus laid awake that night for a long time thinking about Elsie Willinson. He could not shake the image of her with Felix and Malfoy in the beginning of the year from his mind. She had looked so timid and innocent, far too innocent and young to be involved with anything like what her family was involved with. In fact, she reminded him a bit of Lily, although he wasn't sure why since Lily was anything but timid.

Morning arrived shortly after Albus had fallen asleep and despite the fact that he'd only gotten a few hours sleep, he got up around six and decided to get a bit of reading done in the common room. He knew he wouldn't be able to fall back asleep.

Upon arriving in the common room, Albus thought he was still dreaming. He rubbed his eyes and pinched himself to try and wake up, but it was no use. He was in fact awake. The image before his eyes was real, and it was painful to look at.

The Gryffindor common room was no longer red and gold. It was now decked out in green and silver. The comfy couches and chairs were gone and had been replaced instead with standard classroom chairs. Various banners were hung up in the room that depicted snakes. In fact, the Gryffindor common room now looked exactly as Albus imagined the Slytherin common room to look, except for it not being under the lake.

However, the sheer Slytherin-ness of the common room was not the weirdest change, by a long shot. The strangest new addition to the Gryffindor common room was a grey and white goat. It was standing in the middle of the room, its head down and buried in a book. The thing about goats, though, was that they did not enjoy books the way people did. Goats ate books. This goat was currently munching on The Standard Book of Spells: Grade Two. Albus's eyes drifted from the goat and around the room again, where he now noticed remnants of other books, quills, homework, and even a cloak.

The goat looked up and stared at Albus. It let out a bleat and then went back to the book. Albus crept a little closer and noticed that a sign was affixed to the goat. It said 'The Gryffindor Goat: Gryffindor's new mascot. Gifted by the Slytherins. Next time, think twice about putting chickens in our common room.'

Albus stood in the middle of the room, his stare alternating from the goat to the note and back again. A goat? That didn't even make any sense. Not only that, they were clearly trying to copy John and Kaden's prank. And changing the room into a Slytherin room? It was horrifying, absolutely horrifying.

Albus tore his eyes away from the goat and ran back up the spiral staircase until he got to his own dormitory. He flicked on the lights and Ethan, the lightest sleeper of the bunch, rolled over and groaned.

“Everyone get up!” Albus shouted. “Up, get up!”

“What?” Ethan asked shortly. “It's like six in the morning!”

“I know it's six in the morning!” Albus replied. “Get up and go down to the common room. Now.”

Ethan slowly got out of bed and went over to Bilius's bed to get him up. Albus woke John up and then the two of them woke Matt up while Bilius and Ethan went down to the common room. Their shouts of anger could be heard all the way in the dormitory.

“What is it?” John asked as he and Matt followed Albus back down the stairs.

“The Slytherins have had their revenge,” Albus said, handing John the note.

Albus took a detour to the third year's dormitory to get Kaden up. Kaden's roommates got up as well and soon there was a large crowd in the common room. By the time Albus entered the room again, the first, second, and sixth years were all there. The seventh and fifth years were right behind him.

The common room was in chaos. James, Cedric, and Nathan were inspecting the goat. The prefects were all congregated in one spot, clearly trying to figure out what to do. A quarter of the students were standing frozen, with looks of horror on their faces. Another quarter were laughing, despite the fact that the prank had happened in Gryffindor. Hugo was wrestling the goat for the copy of the Standard Book of Spells: Grade Two, which evidently was his.

The girls' dormitory door opened and all the Gryffindor girls flooded out of it. Rose and Amanda made their way over to Albus and the rest of the boys, who were receiving numerous stares and glares from their fellow students. Clearly a few of them were blaming Albus and his friends for the Slytherins' need for revenge.

“What in the name of Merlin happened?” Rose asked.

John handed her the note. “The Slytherins have had their revenge.”

“Malfoy?” Amanda asked.

“No way to know, is there?” Albus replied.

“It's got to be, though,” John said. “No one else hates us like he does.”

“I bet a lot of Slytherins wanted revenge,” Rose said.

“All right, quiet everyone!” Albus's cousin, Mark, shouted over the crowd. He was one of the sixth year Prefects. “You're all to get back up to your dormitories. I'm going to fetch Professor Longbottom. Who's the one who first saw this?”

“I did,” Albus announced.

Mark sighed, as if thinking he should have known. “Al, stay down here. The rest of you, back upstairs.

Rose handed Albus the note back and she and the rest of Albus's friends turned to go back to their dormitories. There was a general muttering and whispers as everyone left. Soon, the common room was empty except for Albus, the goat, and the six Prefects. Mark left in order to go get Professor Longbottom.

The Prefects whispered amongst themselves while Mark was gone. Albus stood off to the side, as he did not know the Prefects very well. He recognized a few as friends of his cousins.

Mark returned ten minutes later with Professor Longbottom in tow. The herbology professor froze in mid-step when he entered the room. His gaze shifted from the new furniture to the goat to the banners and back to the goat.

“Albus discovered it,” Mark said.

Longbottom turned to Albus. “And it looked like this when you found it?”

“Mostly,” Albus answered. “The goat had been chewing on one of Hugo's books so he took that. And someone's cloak had been here, but it was a Gryffindor cloak.”

Longbottom sighed. “All right, Albus, you can go back up to your dormitory.” He turned to the Prefects. “Let's go through all this and see if we can find any clues to figure out who it was.”

Albus reluctantly went back up to his dormitory, where he found not only all of his roommates but Kaden as well, discussing the prank. They all turned to Albus when he entered.

“Find anything out?” John asked.

“Nope,” Albus answered. “The Prefects are helping Professor Longbottom go through everything for clues.”

The boys whiled away the time until breakfast by trading Chocolate Frog cards, playing rounds of Exploding Snap, and discussing the Quidditch season. Matt fell back asleep after defending the Cannons to everyone else, but no one else was able to go back to bed.

Mark knocked on their door a few hours later and told them they were free to get up and go to breakfast. Albus woke Matt up and the boys went back down to the common room. It looked normal once more. All remnants of the Slytherins were gone and the goat was nowhere in sight. The classroom chairs had disappeared and the regular comfy couches were back. Albus was relieved to see their common room back to its usual state, although that did nothing to satisfy his curiosity about who had done it.

“Wonder what they did with the goat,” Kaden said as they walked down tot he Great Hall.

“Probably gave it to Aberforth,” Matt said.

“Aberforth?” Kaden asked.

“Dumbledore's brother. He owns the Hog's Head in Hogsmeade. Keeps goats in his pub. Weird bloke,” Matt answered.

“He keeps goats? In his pub?” Kaden repeated. “Do they just wander around?”

“Yeah,” Matt said.

The Great Hall was populated only by Gryffindor students, which did not surprise Albus in the slightest given the early hour and the fact that it was Sunday. The professors were all up having breakfast and were whispering amongst themselves. No doubt that Longbottom had told them about the prank. Slughorn in particular looked unnerved.

Rose convinced the rest of the group that it would be a good idea to head to the library after breakfast to take advantage of the fact that it would be empty. Albus had a few essays that he'd neglected and John and Kaden needed to make up some new predictions for Trelawney.

After a few hours of studying Albus felt his attention start to wander. The library had filled up since they had arrived and Madam Pince was watching over the place like a hawk. The doors opened and Albus was surprised to see Elsie Willinson walk in, followed by her brother and Scorpius. Scorpius's eyes met Albus's and he veered from his little group in order to waltz over to Albus.

“How's your common room?” he asked with a smirk.

“Is that a confession?” Albus replied as he stood up.

“Of course not. It's all over the school. Everyone knows that your common room looked like an extension of mine this morning. And that goat, I heard it ate a few books. Serves you right after what you lot did to ours,” Malfoy said.

“We know you did it, Malfoy,” John said. “Just waiting for the professors to prove it.”

“If I did do it, and I'm not saying I did, I wouldn't have left any evidence like you idiots obviously did.”

“We didn't,” John said flatly. “Albus confessed to save his cousin and brother who had been wrongly accused.”

“How noble.” Malfoy laughed.

“Just tell me one thing,” Albus said. “How did you get into the common room?” That was what had been bothering Albus the most. He and his friends had used the Invisibility Cloak to figure out the Slytherin password, but how had Malfoy done it? As far as he knew he did not have an Invisibility Cloak.

“I didn't,” Malfoy said. “And if I did I wouldn't tell you how I did it.” With one more glare at Albus, the Slytherin walked away towards the table that Felix and Elsie had found.

“How did he get into our common room?” Albus asked as he sat back down.

“No idea,” Matt said.

“I'm betting he threatened a first year into telling him what it was,” John said. “Wouldn't put it past him.”

“You don't know it was him,” Amanda pointed out.

“They're never going to find out who it was, either,” Rose said. “Not unless they confess like you did. Otherwise no one would've found out it was you.”

“Guess it doesn't really matter at this point.” Albus sighed. “They've had their revenge.”

“Which means it's time for ours,” Kaden said as he grinned at John.

Rose groaned. “Really? It's just going to turn into a huge prank war if you have revenge.”

“That's the point,” John replied.

If John and Kaden were trying to start a prank war Albus didn't want any part of it. He had had enough detentions for a lifetime and did not desire spending anymore of his Hogwarts career scrubbing bathrooms or doing lines. Albus sighed and returned to his reading. John and Kaden got up and left the library, presumably to work on their next prank.

Later that day at dinner Professor Kendrick gave a very stern lecture to the entire school about breaking rules, especially the rules about not entering common rooms that were not yours. It was very similar to the lecture he gave after the chicken prank, except this time Albus could tell that the headmaster was even more angry. Albus kept glancing at Malfoy during the speech but the Slytherin boy did not look guilty at all. In fact he seemed disinterested in Kendrick's speech.

The talk of Gryffindor's Goat (as the prank had now been dubbed) died down by the middle of the week. Most of the castle was excited about the upcoming Hogsmeade trip and then the winter holidays. Professor Longbottom sent around a sign-up sheet for those students who wished to stay home during the holiday, although none of Albus's friends signed it.

“I've always wondered what it would be like to stay,” John said as Professor Longbottom passed by.

“Me too,” Albus agreed. “But my parents already said I can't this year since there's some big Ministry Christmas party we've got to go to. For the election and all.”

“Same here,” Matt said. “We're not even going to Australia because of it.”

“Wow, that's the second year in a row,” Albus replied.

Matt nodded. “My grandparents are coming here and then we're visiting them over the summer.”

“I think we should all stay next year,” Kaden said. “Then I can go a whole school year without seeing my grandparents. Or Aunt Marge.”

Albus agreed that that was a good reason to stay at Hogwarts over the holiday. “Yeah, that would be fun. My dad says the castle's great at Christmas.”

“It would be interesting to see what Christmas is like,” Amanda said. Amanda's family was Jewish and celebrated Hanukkah.

“You're welcome to come to our grandparents' house for Christmas this year,” Rose suggested.

Amanda grinned. “I'll ask my parents. I'm sure they'll say yes since Hanukkah was early this year and I've already missed it anyway.”

“Rose, you've got post,” Albus said, gesturing to Rose's family's owl, which had just landed on the table.

“Oh, good!” Rose said as she ripped open the letter. She scanned it for a moment before smiling widely. “I won't be going to Hogsmeade with you.”

“You won't be?” Albus gave her a quizzical look.

“No. Mum and Dad are taking me to the debate that's that day. I owled them a few days ago to see if I could go and they said yes!”

“You want to go to another one?” John asked.

“I'd go to all of them if I could. They're just so fascinating.” She scanned the letter again. “I'm supposed to to to Kendrick's study at ten on Saturday to floo home.”

“What's this one on?” Albus asked.

“Law enforcement. The Auror Department. How it's run and and how trials are run. I think it's going to be the most interesting one since both Uncle Percy and Laurentis have already hinted at their views on that topic.”

That was for sure. This debate would probably be even more explosive than the one on education. “You'll have to let us know all the details,” Albus said.

“Oh I will,” Rose replied. “It's why I wanted to go. I'd rather not learn everything second hand from the Prophet.”

She had a point there, Albus thought. Although he was glad that Rose was the one going and not him. As much as he thought the election was interesting, he'd rather be in Hogsmeade with his friends than sitting in a courtroom listening to politicians all day.
________________________________________

A/N: Thanks to everyone who has read and reviewed this so far! I'm almost done with school (forever!) so I'm hoping to update more often.

________________________________________
The week leading up to the Hogsmeade trip dragged by very slowly. Albus was certain that Wednesday in particular was at least twice as long as a normal day and by the time Friday finally decided to make an appearance Albus was sure he would go insane from all the homework he had to complete. Tuesday had been the full moon, but luckily Matt left the hospital wing Thursday afternoon and had been cleared by Madam Pomfrey to go to Hogsmeade.

When Saturday arrived there was a welcomed break in the blizzard that had blanketed the Hogwarts grounds in two feet of snow. Albus and his friends slept late and by the time they woke up Rose had already left to go to that day's debate. Albus, Matt, and John quickly dressed and met Kaden and Amanda in the common room.

Fred accosted Albus as he was about to leave. “Albus! Glad I found you. I booked the pitch for today at three since there's a break in the storm.”

“But Fred, it's Hogsmeade today,” Albus pointed out. As much as he loved Quidditch, Hogsmeade trips were rare occasions and he had Christmas shopping to do.

“Exactly!” Fred exclaimed. “So none of the other teams have booked the pitch. It's booked solid the rest of the week and we need another practice in before break starts.”

Albus sighed. Fred was right, of course. He glanced at his watch. It was noon, so if they hurried through lunch he would still have a good two hours in the village. “All right. I'll see you at three.”

“Excellent,” Fred said. “Just have to find James....”

Amanda snorted and started laughing. Fred, who had turned to leave, stopped and looked back at her. “What?”

Albus, John, Matt, and Kaden also looked questioningly at Amanda.

“Oh, I guess I forgot to tell you,” Amanda began. “Rose and I were in the library last week and overheard James asking some Hufflepuff fifth year out. They're going to Hogsmeade together today.”

Fred burst out laughing. “Wait, James has a date?”

“James asked a girl out in the library?” Albus joined Fred in his laughter.

“Don't tell him that Rose and I overheard him,” Amanda said. “He'd murder us if he knew it was us who told.”

“Bet he's already in Hogsmeade, then,” Fred said, still laughing. “They better not be in Madam Puddifoot's because I don't fancy going in there to tell him about practice.”

Albus was still laughing about the idea of James asking a girl out in the library of all places. He wondered who the Hufflepuff was. Maybe he'd manage to catch a glimpse of them in Hogsmeade together.

“He's not actually going to leave her to go to Quidditch practice,” Amanda shouted after Fred as he left the common room.

“He will if the date's going poorly,” Fred shouted back and disappeared into the corridor.

“Well let's hurry up and get to Hogsmeade,” Albus said. “I want to see if I can figure out who this girl is.”

Albus hurried out of the common room followed by his friends. They ate a very rushed lunch in the Great Hall and then ran outside and down the path to Hogsmeade. As they neared the village Albus kept his eyes peeled for his brother.

“Where to first?” Matt asked.

“Weasleys',” John and Kaden said together.

Albus and Matt shared a glance. They should have known. They followed John and Kaden as the two mischievous boys led the way to Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes.

The shop was packed to capacity as it always was on Hogsmeade weekends. Albus waved to his Uncle George who was behind the counter ringing people up as fast as the till would let him. Teddy was working that weekend and was restocking a shelf of Skiving Snackboxes. John and Kaden each grabbed two as the boys passed.

Albus grabbed a few Extendable Ears as his seemed to have disappeared and a box of Deluxe Whizbangs for James for Christmas. He joined the long queue at the till and was joined by John and Kaden who each had arms overflowing with products. Matt and Amanda weren't buying anything and were playing with a few Pygmy Puffs that were in a cage in the front of the store.

“Neither of you have seen James, have you?” Albus asked.

“Nope,” John said. “Bet they're at the Three Broomsticks.”

“Or that place that Fred mentioned. Madam whatever?” Kaden put in.

“Madam Puddifoot's,” Albus said. “Horrifying place. Covered in frilled things, and pink stuff.”

“Let's not go there,” Kaden said.

Albus and John both agreed. They would look for James, just not at Madam Puddifoot's. The queue moved relatively quickly and soon Albus, John, and Kaden had their supplies.

The next stop was Honeyduke's where everyone stocked up on candy and Albus bought a Christmas present for Lily. Then they made their way to the Quaffle Shop and then the Three Broomsticks. Albus had yet to see James, but his time was quickly running out. He had a half hour before he had to head back to the castle for Quidditch practice.

John went to the bar to get five Butterbeers while the rest of the group found a table. Luckily Scorpius Malfoy was nowhere in sight. Albus gazed around the bar until he spotted his brother's familiar red hair. Unfortunately the girl he was with was facing away from Albus's table so all he knew was that she had very long, very straight brown hair.

“There they are,” Albus whispered to Matt, Kaden, and Amanda. “Any of you know who the girl is?”

“That's Gabby Ellis,” John said as he returned with the Butterbeers. “My cousin knows her. She's one of the fifth year prefects.”

“Wait, so James not only asked her out in the library, but she's also a prefect?” Albus exclaimed.

“Guess so.” John shrugged. “I'll never ask out a prefect. Now he's going to have to watch his step.”

“You realize that there's a good chance one of us might be a prefect next year,” Amanda pointed out.

“Nah, they'll pick Bilius or Ethan,” John said. “They'd never pick me, Al, or Matt after that prank.”

“Well Rose is obviously going to be a prefect,” Amanda said.

“We'll just have to sneak around more next year,” John said. “Can't have a prefect knowing about our pranks.”

“Dervish and Banges is still unoccupied,” Matt said, changing the subject. “Don't you think that's kind of odd?”

Albus hadn't really thought about it. “Yeah, but no one's going to want to buy a shop where someone was murdered.”

“Still, it's just strange,” Matt said as he sipped his Butterbeer.

“Someone might still own it,” Amanda pointed out. “They might not want to do anything with it or sell it.”

“Guess that's a good point,” Matt said.

“Look, James and the girl are getting up,” Kaden said.

Albus turned and saw that James was indeed rising from his chair. Gabby did as well and the two of them walked side by side out of the pub. Gabby was pretty, Albus had to admit. Her eyes were bright and her cheeks were pink. James was grinning. Neither of them noticed Albus or the others on their way out the door.

“Think he'll show to Quidditch practice?” John asked.

“If he values his life,” Albus replied. “Speaking of that, I should probably get going.”

Albus said goodbye to his friends and headed back out into the cold. The sun was out and there was no wind, but it was still bitingly cold. He trudged his way through the snow and back up to the castle, where he ran up to Gryffindor tower to drop off his purchases and change into his Quidditch robes.

The rest of the team was already on the pitch when Albus arrived. Fred was arguing with James about something while the rest of the team stood off to the side.

“She's not even on their team!” James shouted. “She's not going to steal any of our plays.”

“But she's still a Hufflepuff and this is a closed practice!” Fred argued.

Albus glanced over to the stands and saw Gabby sitting there, wrapped in a very large Hufflepuff blanket. She smiled and waved at Albus, who gave a slight wave back.

“I couldn't just leave her. I promised we'd spend the day together.”

“And she wants to watch you play Quidditch?” Fred asked. “Fine, fine. She can stay. Let's just get going. We're wasting time.”

Fred and James joined the rest of the group. “All right!” Fred shouted. “Let's fly around the pitch a few times to get warmed up.”

Albus mounted his broom and soared into the air. He joined the rest of the team in their flight around the pitch and lost himself in flying. It was nice to just fly and forget about everything else that was on his mind.

The practice went incredibly well. It was their best practice in weeks since the weather was cooperating. The Gryffindor team did not have any issues with playing, but the weather was usually awful whenever they practiced. Fred insisted this was a good thing since it would help them learn how to play in matches with bad conditions but no one else agreed. Albus was very happy to have a practice where the conditions were ideal. It made Quidditch so much more enjoyable.

James and Gabby hurried off as soon as practice ended and the rest of the team walked back to the castle together. They were nearly back to Gryffindor tower when Rose, Matt, John, Kaden, and Amanda came running towards Albus, all five looking slightly terrified.

“What's wrong?” Fred asked.

“It's nothing,” Rose said. “We just need to talk to Albus.”

“Meet us in the room after you stash your broom,” Matt whispered and the five of them hurried off.

Albus hurried into the common room and up to his dormitory. He had absolutely no idea what was going on, but it must have just had to do with his friends because everyone else in the common room was acting normally. Albus quickly put his broom away and ran back out to the corridor.

It didn't take him long to reach the Marauder's Den. All his friends were sitting quietly and looked up at him when he entered.

“What in the name of Merlin is going on?” Albus asked.

“Two things,” Rose began. “One, the debate. It was...well...insane is the only word to describe it, really. And two, I'll let everyone else explain that first.”

“Malfoy was lurking near the Shrieking Shack,” Matt said. “After you went to Quidditch practice we walked around the village and noticed him. It looked like he was trying to get in.”

“Did he?” Albus asked.

“No, he can't,” Matt said. “There's wards. It's just odd. He was alone.”

“Does he know that that's where you go?” Albus replied as he sat down next to Rose.

Matt shook his head. “I'm not really worried about it, either. It's just very weird.”

“Malfoy is friends with Felix Willinson so anything weird that he does needs to be remembered,” Albus said darkly.

“That's what I said,” John replied.

“He's not the first one to be curious about the Shrieking Shack,” Matt pointed out.

This was different, Albus thought. He would have expected Matt to be the one worried about this, not John.

“But he's Malfoy! It's not good that he's trying to get in,” John said.

“Well he can't get in. And he already knows what I am,” Matt countered. “Let's just forget about it for now. What Rose has to say is far worse.”

Albus turned to look at Rose, who looked upset and slightly scared. That was strange in itself since Albus could hardly remember a time when Rose was scared.

“The debate was on law enforcement,” Rose said quietly. “She wants to completely change the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. She wants to investigate every single Auror and reorganize the department because she doesn't think things are working as they are. She...well...she basically called your dad incompetent.”

Albus stared at his cousin. He could not believe what he was hearing. Albus's dad had been in charge of the Auror department for years and there had never been any complaints. How could Laurentis just insult him like that?

“Which means she's going to lose,” John said confidently. “No one's going to vote for someone who insults Harry Potter.”

“No,” Rose whispered. “They will. There's been editorials in the Prophet for weeks about how the current Ministry isn't working. She has support.”

“That's insane,” Albus said. “What did Uncle Percy do?”

“Argued with her,” Rose said. “Talked about all the good your dad has done, but she argued right back.”

“What about everyone there? Did they clap for her?” Albus asked.

“Everyone clapped for everyone. They were all polite about it and there was no way to tell who supported who,” Rose said. “If you ask me, I think she's going to replace all the Heads of departments who don't agree with her. She's going to want people in power who are on her side.”

“Which means my dad will be gone,” Albus said. “Everyone knows he supports Uncle Percy. It's obvious.”

“So that leaves what, Matt's dad's job, Head of Magical Law Enforcement, Head of Magical Transportation, and what else?” John asked as he counted on his fingers. “There's got to be more.”

“There are,” Rose said as she stood up and began pacing around the room. “International Magical Cooperation, Magical Accidents and Catastrophes, Magical Games and Sports, and then the Department of Mysteries.”

“Do you know anything about the Heads of those departments?” John asked.

“The lady who's Head of Magical Law Enforcement was here during the debate. She's really old and Dad says Mum is a shoe-in for her job when she retires,” Rose said. “But I don't know much about the others. The bloke in charge of Magical Transportation moderated the first debate.”

“That's eight positions,” Matt said quietly, “and she could replace all of them. That would wind up being an entirely new Ministry.”

“Essentially, yes,” Rose said as she sank into an armchair. “That's why it's so bad. There's a reason most newly elected Ministers don't replace everyone. It's too much upheaval. But if she wants immediate change, it would be the easiest way to get it done.”

“What's the next debate on?” Amanda asked.

“Azkaban,” Rose said. “Originally they were going to debate Azkaban with law enforcement, but Laurnetis requested a separate Azkaban debate. She's in charge of it, so I'm not surprised.”

“And when is it?” Amanda replied.

“Just after the new year,” Rose answered. “Once we're all back in school. Then February's debate is on magical creatures-”

“Oh that's going to be good,” Matt said. “Guess that's when we'll find out if my dad keeps his job after the election if she wins.”

“And then in March they debate International Magical Cooperation. Then it's the election at the beginning of April,” Rose continued. “That one is going to take place here. So is the Azkaban one.”

“I still don't think anyone's going to vote for her,” John muttered. “Anyone who sacks Harry Potter wouldn't get enough votes.”

“You'd be surprised, John,” Amanda said. “It sounds like she's playing to everyone's fears. I mean, I haven't been in the magical world long, but it seems like everyone fears another Voldemort. If she makes it seem like the current Ministry and Auror department are too lenient and hints at the possibility of another war, and then claims that she could squash it before it became a war, she would easily get the vote. People are easily persuaded.”

“That's exactly it,” Rose agreed.

The room descended into uncomfortable silence. At the beginning of the school year, none of them had much interest in the election or the Ministry in general, but now, just a few months later, Albus and his friends were learning just how much the outcome of the election would affect them. The possibility of drastic changes to both Hogwarts and the wizarding world did not sit well with Albus, especially if it meant both his and Matt's dads were out of a job.
***


The remaining week of school went by quickly. With the looming holidays and break from school, hardly anyone in the castle was focusing on homework or the election. Instead, the chatter that filled the Great Hall during meals was about Christmas and snowball fights and spending time with family. Albus was sucked into the Christmas cheer as well, but the election was still on the back of his mind.

For Albus, Rose, and the rest of the Weasley/Potter clan, the Christmas holiday would be wrapped up in the election. A New Year's party at the Minister's Mansion was scheduled for New Year's Eve, for all of the high-ranking officials and their families, as well as Percy, Laurentis, and their families. All of Albus's extended family would be attending. But perhaps the most bizarre aspect of the holidays was the fact that Uncle Percy was going to allow a reporter from Wizards magazine to follow him for not only the Ministry party, but Christmas at the Burrow as well.

“This is just weird!” Cedric exclaimed at breakfast the last day of term. “A reporter? At the Burrow? And it says she's going to be staying with us.”

Cedric handed the letter back to Bradley, whom it had been addressed to. Bradley pulled out his wand and burned it, which seemed to be his new way of dealing with post from his father.

“Did Gran agree to this?” James asked as he loaded his plate with bacon.

“She must've,” Bradley said. “Anything to get Dad elected, probably.”

“I kind of agree with her,” Albus said. “I don't want that Laurentis woman to win.”

“Neither do I, but I don't want some reporter staying with us at the Burrow,” Cedric said adamantly.

“Guess you won't be getting the real Weasley Christmas experience,” Albus said to Amanda, whose parents had given permission to stay with Rose for Christmas.

Amanda shrugged. “Not a big deal. With your family, it's bound to be interesting.”

“You have no idea,” Albus said. “We'd better get to History of Magic.”

Albus got up and his friends followed. Despite the fact that it was the last day of term, Professor Binns still gave a lecture. Nobody paid him an ounce of attention. The rest of the professors didn't bother teaching any new material as they figured the students would just forget it over the break. Professor Cedonia set them a practical lesson, but didn't scold them when they stopped charming their teacups to dance and instead talked about Christmas. Hagrid had a large bonfire going to keep them warm, but didn't teach anything. Instead, he told the story of Norberta and bawled about how much he missed her. In Ancient Runes, there was an exam.

The following morning Albus and his friends climbed aboard the Hogwarts Express for the trip back to London. On the Hogwarts Express, Albus felt weirdly immune to everything that was happening in the wizarding world. He felt safe from Jarrett Willinson and somehow the election didn't seem as big a deal. The train was like its own little world with only students and sweets from the trolley; on the train, nothing bad could happen.
________________________________________

Long hiatus! I apologize for that. I am now working on this for the second half of June's Camp NaNoWriMo, so I'm hoping to get a bunch of chapters written so I can go back to weekly updates. Thanks so much for all the reviews!

________________________________________
“Remember, don't say anything in front of her you don't want printed in the article,” Harry said as they walked toward the Burrow.

“Will she really print anything?” Lily asked.

“Yes,” Harry said.

It was Christmas Eve and Albus and the rest of the Potters had just Apparated to the field behind the Burrow. Albus was a bit nervous about being in the presence of a reporter from Wizards magazine and was not at all keen about being in an article. He was relieved they were late, as usual, because by now the reporter would probably be involved in listening to somebody else's conversation and might not even notice Albus.

“And James, don't even think about slipping something into her soup,” Ginny said sternly.

Harry, who had just put his hand on the doorknob, turned around and stared at James. “Seriously, James, absolutely not.”

“I wasn't going to!” James said. “I swear!”

Harry sighed. “Empty your pockets.”

“But I wasn't going to-”

“James Sirius Potter, listen to your father,” Ginny said.

Albus put his hand over his mouth to hide his laughter while his brother pulled a handful of Ton-Tongue Toffees and a vial of Weasleys' Itchiest Itching Powder out of his pocket. Ginny took them and incinerated them with her wand. She brushed the ash onto the ground and James stared at it longingly.

“Shut up, Albus,” James muttered as Harry opened the door.

That just made Albus laugh even harder, earning him a punch in the shoulder from James. Albus returned the punch while Lily rolled her eyes.

“Boys, cut it out,” Ginny scolded.

“Ginny! Harry!” Molly exclaimed as they stepped inside. “Happy Christmas!”

“Happy Christmas, Mum,” Ginny said as the two hugged.

Albus slipped past after giving his grandmother a quick hug, grabbing a handful of biscuits on his way to the den. The first thing he noticed was that the reporter was sitting on a stool in the corner. She stuck out like a Weasley at a Malfoy gathering, in her black skirt, flowery top, high-heeled shoes. Who wore heels to the Burrow? Weird, Albus thought. Her jet-black hair was done up in some sort of bun and her lips were smeared with bright red lipstick.

The second thing Albus noticed was just how clean the Burrow was. He hadn't noticed it in the kitchen, what with the many pots and dishes full of warm, steaming food, but out in the den, it was very noticeable. The Burrow was never dirty, exactly, but it wasn't immaculately neat like Matt and Kaden's houses were. Instead it merely looked lived in, Albus always thought. It was cluttered with piles of books and stacks of board games and various Muggle and magical devices. Blankets and pillows were thrown haphazardly onto couches and chairs, never being folded or stacked neatly. But today, everything was neat. The stacks of books had been shelved and the blankets folded. The sheer amount of stuff seemed to have been moved or vanished because Albus didn't see a single Muggle electronic device half-taken apart on the floor or table. It was bizarre. The Burrow didn't look like the Burrow without its clutter. You never knew what you'd find at the Burrow and Albus liked that.

Shaking his head slightly, Albus carefully stepped around a few of his cousins and walked over to where Rose and Amanda were sitting on the floor. They had a large platter of food in front of them, making Albus realize how hungry he was.

“So, what have I missed?” he asked in between bites of roll. “I see someone cleaned.”

“Gran did. Said she wanted to make a good impression. Uncle Percy's been bragging loudly to the reporter about all the laws he's helped pass,” Rose said. “But all the reporter wants to do is interview the rest of us. I guess her article is all about where Uncle Percy came from and what his family is like.”

“Who's she talked to so far?” Albus asked.

“Aunt Corrine, Gran, Gramps, Uncle Bill, Uncle Fred, both of my parents, Victoire, Samantha, and Lindy,” Rose said.

“Wow. Already?”

“She hasn't wasted any time,” Amanda said.

“There's a photographer around here somewhere,” Rose said as she glanced around the room. “Oh there he is.”

Rose indicated to the stairs, where Percy was leading a scrawny bloke back into the den.

“Is he wearing-”

“Dress robes?” Rose said. “Yeah, he's been wearing them all night.”

“Let's get a few shots of you playing a game with the twins,” the photographer said as he and Percy walked past Albus, Rose, and Amanda.

“Wonderful idea!” the reporter exclaimed as she hopped off her stool.

“How did she hear that?” Albus whispered to Rose.

“Harry Potter's son!” the reporter said as she grabbed Albus's arm, causing him to drop the biscuit he was holding. “Let's get him in the shot, too. Hmm...” she glanced around the room, her eyes finally coming to rest on Amanda. “We'll need a shot with you and Percy as well. Candidate plays Exploding Snap with the Prime Minister's niece! Perfect! I could not have planned this better.”

“How did she know that I'm the Prime Minister's niece?” Amanda asked.

“She knows everything,” Rose said darkly. “Creepy, really.”

Albus soon found himself playing a staged game of Exploding Snap with Uncle Percy, Samantha, and Lindy. The whole thing was very ridiculous since none of them were photographed with ash on their faces. Then it was Amanda's turn, but she was posed with a set of Wizard's Chess, “for variety.”

“Now that's something Laurentis won't have,” Percy said jovially after the photographer finished. “Photograph with the Prime Minister's niece.”

“But nobody knows I'm the Prime Minister's niece,” Amanda said once she, Rose, and Albus escaped into the kitchen. “It's supposed to be a secret.”

“Maybe it won't get printed,” Albus said.

“God, I hope not,” Amanda muttered. “So is this what Christmas Eve is usually like?”

“Mostly,” Albus said as he walked over to the doorway. He peered into the den and took stock of what his family was up to.

His uncles Fred, Ron, Bill, and Charlie, were closest to the kitchen and were singing 'Odo the Hero.' All four had mugs of eggnog in hand. Gran was listening to Celestina Warbeck while Aunt Fleur glared at the wireless. It seemed to be distracting her from the conversation she was having with Aunt Katherine and Aunt Hermione. Most of his cousins were eating or laughing about one thing or another. Samantha and Lindy were playing Exploding Snap for real now, along with Eddie and Angie.

In fact, the only one who seemed to be acting any differently was Uncle Percy, who was talking with the reporter and the photographer. Aunt Corrine was as well, but none of their older children were anywhere in sight.

“Have you seen Bradley, Cedric, or Georgia anywhere?” Albus asked Rose.

“Actually, no,” Rose said. “Let's go find them.”

Albus and Amanda followed Rose out of the kitchen and up the stairs. As they peered into each bedroom, Albus found out just where his gran had stored all the stuff that used to be in the den. Every single room had a pile of random stuff in it. They eventually found their three cousins hiding out in Uncle Ron's old bedroom at the top of the house. They were sitting on one of the beds and were deep in conversation.

“What's going on in here?” Albus asked as they shut the door.

All three startled, but then seemed relieved to find it was only Albus, Rose, and Amanda.

“We're avoiding the reporter,” Georgia said, “and talking about how much it will suck if Dad gets elected.”

“But Laurentis is bloody insane,” Albus said as he stepped over a typewriter and sat down on the opposite bed. “Uncle Percy has to win.”

“Well, I don't want him to,” Bradley said. “Do you realize how much life will change if he does?”

“I've got a bit of an idea,” Amanda said, sitting down next to Albus. Rose sat on his other side.

“Before his campaign started no one really knew what Dad did,” Bradley said. “Or even who he was. I mean, if they heard his name they would know him, but he was just Percy Weasley. Do you know what I mean?”

“He'll be Percy Weasley, Minister of Magic. Not just Percy Weasley, your dad,” Amanda said. “Minister isn't a just a job. It's not something he'll leave at the office at five. It's more a lifestyle.”

“Exactly!” Bradley agreed.

“And you'll always be the Minister's son,” Amanda said.

“How do you know all this?” Cedric looked at Amanda strangely.

“My Uncle's the Prime Minister,” Amanda said casually.

“Of Britain?” Bradley exclaimed. “And you've kept this secret for four years?”

“Yeah. It won't be for much longer since that photographer just took a picture of me with your dad,” Amanda said. “Anyway, you're right that your life won't be the same if he gets elected. And even after his term is up you'll still always be the Minister's son.”

“And we'd have to move into the Minister's Mansion,” Bradley said.

“You wouldn't. You're going to graduate in June,” Cedric pointed out. “And Georgia already moved out.”

“You'll be in Hogwarts most of the year,” Georgia pointed out.

There was a knock on the door and then it swung wide open. Percy stood in the doorway flanked by the reporter and photographer. Percy had changed out of his robes and was now wearing a green Weasley jumper with a red 'P' on the front. In his arms was a stack of what appeared to be more Weasley jumpers.

“There you lot are,” Percy said. “We're doing a picture of the whole family in our jumpers.” He tossed one to each of his children and then one each to Albus and Rose. “Get changed and get downstairs.”

“Are they all initial jumpers this year?” Georgia asked as she held hers up. It was grey with a purple 'G.'

“Must be,” Albus said as he yanked off the jumper he was wearing and pulled on his new one. It was blue with a gold 'A.'

“Bet it's to make us look like a cheesy family,” Bradley muttered as he changed.

Once they'd all changed Albus and Rose followed their cousins back down to the den. Amanda followed as well, but she lingered on the stairs, clearly not wanting to be dragged into anymore photographs.

Albus's entire family was posed in half the den. The photographer was running around making small adjustments, which Albus thought was pointless. There was no way he was going to get thirty-two people to all look at the camera and smile nicely at the same time.

The photographer noticed Albus, Rose, Georgia, Bradley, and Cedric and shoved Albus in between James and Lily, who were sitting right in the middle, on the floor.

“Lovely!” the photographer exclaimed a few minutes later. He ran to the other side of the room and stuck his head behind the camera. “Everyone smile! Beautiful!” He took dozens of pictures and Albus soon grew tired of sitting still and smiling.

“Wonderful!” the reporter shouted once the photographer finally finished. “I think we've got what we need. I wish you all a happy Christmas. The article should be out just after New Year's.”

“I thought she was staying for tomorrow, too,” Albus whispered to Rose.

Rose shrugged. “Maybe she got enough from just one night. Either that or she got overwhelmed.”

Percy walked the reporter and photographer out of the Burrow, thanking them profusely as he did so.

“Bedtime, everyone!” Molly shouted.

No one objected. It had certainly been the strangest Christmas Eve gathering the Weasley family had ever had and Albus was very much looking forward to tomorrow, when things would get back to some semblance of normal. Albus walked up to bed with Rose and Amanda, wishing them both good night when they reached Uncle Charlie's old bedroom, where the two would be staying. James, Ben, Cedric, and Bradley were already in Uncle Ron's old room when Albus arrived.

“Quidditch tomorrow?” James asked as all four boys climbed into their beds.

“You're going down, Potter,” Bradley replied.

“Is that a challenge, Weasley?”

“Sure is,” Bradley said.

Yes, tomorrow would be a lot more normal, Albus thought. Quidditch was a Christmas tradition for his family and nothing, even his uncle running for Minister, was going to prevent it.
***


“And that's how we do it in Kenmare!” Georgia exclaimed, having just saved a goal by spinning in midair and hitting the Quaffle back into play by the end of her broom. “Kenmare Krazy Keeper move!”

“You're still going to lose!” Bradley shouted as he hit one of the Bludgers toward Albus, who dodged it and caught the Quaffle. “We've got Teddy!”

“If Teddy were a real Seeker he'd be playing for a League team and not studying to be an Auror!” Georgia shouted back.

“He's still not as good as James,” Bradley said.

“Yeah, I taught James everything he knows!” Teddy said as he flew past, heading toward Georgia's left goal post. “And that's game!” he shouted, returning with the Snitch clutched in his hand. “Aurors have to have constant vigilance, just like Seekers.”

Albus flew to the ground, still holding the Quaffle. It had been a good game, even though his team had lost, but the temperature was dropping and the clouds were rolling in. It was a good time to head back inside for Christmas dinner, especially since the scent of roast turkey and potatoes had been drifting outside for the past half hour.

Tables, already covered in numerous dishes of food, had been set up in the kitchen extending into the den while they played. Albus hurried upstairs to change and when he returned, everyone was drifting toward the tables. Albus hurried to the seat Rose and Amanda had saved him, which thankfully was nowhere near Percy.

“How was Quidditch?” Rose asked.

“Good,” Albus said. “We lost, but Teddy's pretty much unbeatable, so I wasn't surprised.”

“I'm surprised he didn't play professionally,” Amanda said.

“He thought about it,” Albus explained. “And he had offers, but he deferred them for a year because he wasn't sure. Then he just decided to join the Auror Academy, because of his parents, you know.”

“Makes sense,” Amanda said.

“I'd like to make a toast,” Percy announced after everyone was seated. He held up his glass of pumpkin juice. “I just want to say thank you, to all of you, for putting up with the reporter yesterday, and for everything you've done for the campaign. We only have three months to go, so let's make the most of it. Keep up all the great work. Here's to a win in April!”

Albus clinked glasses with Rose and Amanda and then served himself a large helping of turkey. This was what he enjoyed the most about Christmas at the Burrow. As he he ate, he listened in on the conversations his cousins, aunts, and uncles were having.

To Albus's left, his aunt Hermione was giving James, Cedric, and Ben study tips for their O.W.L.s. The boys were nodding as if they were listening, but Albus knew they weren't. Victoire and Teddy were holding hands under the table, which was kind of funny because Victoire was having to eat with her left hand, a skill she clearly did not possess. James, Bradley, and Georgia were discussing Quidditch with Uncles George and Ron. Eddie was showing the twins, Lily, and Hugo just how many peas he could fit into his mouth at once. Percy was, of course, discussing the gritty details of his campaign with his wife and parents. Fred and Mark were telling Angie about the secret passageway that lead into the basement of Honeyduke's. The rest of his family was too far away for Albus to hear what exactly they were saying, but everyone seemed happy.

“This is what it's really like,” Albus told Amanda. “Usually there are a few pranks.”

“You missed one earlier,” Rose said while Amanda laughed. “James put one of those wind-up Pygmy Puffs in Gran's biggest pot, so while she was chopping vegetables it jumped out and started screeching. Aunt Ginny knew it was James, too. He got chewed out while you were upstairs changing.”

“She had no proof!” James cut in. “It could have been Cedric.”

“But it wasn't,” Rose said. “It was you.”

“James, did you hear me?” Hermione asked. “I was just saying how you need to start with your weakest subject first. Honestly, you should've started preparing last year. Albus, Rose, Amanda, are you listening? You should start revision now.”

“I started weeks ago, Mum,” Rose said.

Hermione smiled. “That's my girl.”

“She'll be lucky if James starts revising a month before,” Albus whispered to Amanda.

“That would be stupid,” Rose said. “What does he want to do after Hogwarts? He'll need certain O.W.L.s to get into the right N.E.W.T. classes.”

“He's got no idea,” Albus said, “except he wants to play Quidditch.”

“He'd better get going,” Rose said.

“Oh, and I suppose you've got it all figured out, Rose?” James asked.

“As a matter of fact, I'm thinking of getting into psychiatry,” Rose said. “Get my healing degree, specializing in psychiatry.”

“Fine, then,” James muttered.

“Really?” Albus asked.

Rose nodded. “I've been thinking about it since summer and it's really want I want to do.”

“Don't you think you're a bit young to have decided that?” Albus asked.

“Matt's sister had it all figured out in fourth year and look where she is now,” Rose pointed out.

She did have a point there, Albus thought. Matt's sister was well on her way to getting both her healing and brewing degrees, with only two and a half more years to go. Albus didn't even want to think about what he would do after he graduated from Hogwarts. It was too far away.

“I have an announcement to make!” Gabriella said as she stood up.

The room quieted and everyone turned to look at Gabriella. She wasn't usually one to make speeches or announcements during family dinners. In fact, she was one of the quieter of Albus's cousins, certainly not coming near to the level of boisterousness of Bradley, James, or Georgia.

“Thanks,” she said. “None of you know this yet, since I figured I'd just tell you all at once today. I've decided to move to France.”

The room was silent, much like it was after Percy announced his intent to run for Minister at the before school dinner. Then, as happened after Percy's announcement, everyone began to talk at once.

“You're what?” Bill exclaimed.

“Gabriella, honey!” Fleur shouted, dropping her glass of wine. “What prompted this?”

“The political climate in France is very unsteady,” Percy said. “I wouldn't recommend moving there.”

“What are you going to do there?” Heather asked.

Albus wasn't at all surprised. Gabriella had spent a few weeks in France that fall and seemed to enjoy it. He wasn't sure why her parents seemed so surprised.

“If everyone could just let me talk!” Gabriella shouted. The room quieted one more. “I've already cleared it with Grandmere and Grandpere. They're going to let me stay with them until I get on my feet. When I painted there this fall it just felt so right. My paintings there were so much better than the ones I've painted here-”

“But what will you do for money?” Bill asked. “You know I could still get you that internship. This is crazy.”

“Dad, it's what I want to do. I don't want to spend everyday in an office and miss out on life. No offense. Painting is what I love. I want to try this.”

“But Gabriella, it's not practical-” Bill began.

“Bill,” Molly said quietly. “She's just rebelling a bit. You did the same when you were her age. Remember the earring? The hair?”

Bill's face reddened. “It's not the same, Mum. I had a job. I wasn't learning the finer points of being a starving artist!”

“Dad! I'm a good artist! I'm not going to starve!”

“You know my parents would never let her starve,” Fleur said.

“That's not the point. The point is that she should be doing something productive. When Victoire was her age-”

“I'm not Victoire!” Gabriella exclaimed. She turned and left the room, running up the stairs. A few moments later a door slammed.

Bill made to get up, but Victoire put her hand on his shoulder, forcing him back into his seat. “Dad, I'll go.”

The room lapsed into uncomfortable silence after Victoire took off after her sister. Albus was slightly shocked at his uncle's dislike of Gabriella's plan. Albus had always thought of Bill as his cool uncle, the uncle who would be supportive of whatever his kids wanted to do. But now he was acting just like Percy had about Georgia's desire to be a Quidditch player.

“I support you, Bill,” Percy said pompously. “Artist is not a career. You've got to fight this. Went through the same thing with Georgia-”

“Really, Dad?” Georgia asked. “After the past few months of going to my games and making the press think you're supportive of my dreams, you still don't think I should play Quidditch?”

“Quidditch, like painting, is a hobby,” Percy said. “It's not a career.”

“You're unbelievable!” Georgia exclaimed. “The support, the cheering, it's all fake, isn't it?”

“Georgia-”

“You know what, Dad? Don't even bother.” Georgia stood up and left the table in a similar manner to Gabriella.

“This,” Albus whispered to Amanda, “is not normal.”

“I thought Gabriella liked Uncle Percy's fake support,” James muttered.

“Well, she did at first but she probably thought there was no way he could fake it for so long and not begin to come around. She surely thought it was real by now,” Rose said.

“You're going to make a good psychiatrist,” Albus said.

“Yeah, you can start with Uncle Percy,” James said.

“Does anyone want pudding?” Gran asked.
________________________________________

A/N: Thanks for all the reviews!

________________________________________
Never before had Albus experienced such an awkward Christmas dinner, and that included the time his Aunt Katherine went into labor with Eddie at the table. After Gabriella and Georgia stormed out, Gran served pudding to the remaining family members, but everyone ate in silence. Albus, Rose, and Amanda ate as fast as they could and then escaped to the one place they didn't think anyone else would go- the attic.

The attic of the Burrow was similar to an archaeological site. It contained layers of Weasley family history and if you dug deep enough you could even find pictures of Uncle Bill when he was a baby. It used to house a ghoul, but the ghoul died years before Albus was born. Albus didn't go up in the attic much anymore, but when he was little it had made an excellent hiding spot.

“I never realized how alike Gabriella and Georgia were,” Albus said once they'd shut the attic door.

“I never realized how alike Uncle Percy and Uncle Bill were,” Rose replied. “I never thought Uncle Bill would react like that.”

“Me either,” Albus agreed. “Let's not talk about it. I just want to do something fun.”

“Let's play Monopoly,” Amanda said. “It's a Muggle game. I brought it from my house.”

Albus and Rose readily agreed and soon the three were playing Monopoly in the attic. It took Albus and Rose a little while to get the hang of the money, which was based on Muggle money, but once they did, it was very fun. Albus's favorite thing about it was how long it took. They spent hours on one game and by the time Amanda beat him and Rose, almost all of his family was asleep.

By breakfast the next morning nearly everything had blown over. Half of his aunts and uncles had left because they had to go to work and the other half were in the process of getting ready to leave. Some of his cousins were still there, but quite a few had left. When Albus went downstairs he noticed his uncle Bill and aunt Fleur having a talk with Gabriella over platters of sausages. Albus paused in the doorway, waiting for them to finish.

“We don't want you to think we aren't supportive of your art,” Bill said. “We are. Both of us. I just want to know you're going to be okay.”

“I am, Dad,” Gabriella said. “I'll be staying with Grandmere and Grandpere.”

“That's reassuring,” Bill said. “And I did overreact last night.”

Fleur snorted. “Yes, I'd say you did.”

“I certainly don't want you to think I'm anything like your uncle Percy,” Bill whispered. “I'd never try and stop you from pursuing your dream.”

“Well, painting in France is my dream for now,” Gabriella said adamantly.

“Then we'll support you,” Bill said. Fleur nodded in agreement. “I'm sorry for overreacting last night. I think we were all on edge from the reporter.”

“Thanks, Dad,” Gabriella said.

“When were you planning on leaving?” Fleur asked.

“After that Ministry party. Can't miss that or Uncle Percy would go insane.”

“The weekend after that, then,” Bill said. “We want to help you move.”

Gabriella nodded. “Thanks.”

Bill stood up and gave his daughter a hug. “I've got to get to work, but I'll see you at home later. I love you, Gabby.”

“Love you, too, Dad,” Gabriella said as she hugged him back.

Albus walked into the kitchen as his uncle left, grabbing a few sausages and a cinnamon bun on his way to the table. He was relieved that Uncle Bill and Gabriella came to an agreement, especially one that involved Gabriella still moving to France. He wanted his cousin to be happy and he still wanted to think of Bill as his cool uncle.

Albus returned to Grimmauld Place later that day and it only took him a few hours of boredom to start his holiday reading. Rose and Amanda had returned to Rose's house, so without them, he was forced to be productive. In fact, Albus was actually looking forward to the Ministry party for the sole reason that he'd get to see Rose and Matt.

The few days in between Boxing Day and New Year's Eve were fairly uneventful, especially compared with Christmas day. Georgia and Uncle Percy still hadn't made up and Georgia came over for a heart-to-heart with Albus's mum the day before the party. Albus often forgot that his mum used to play professional Quidditch and would be the perfect person for Georgia to seek advice from.

Albus attempted to listen in on their conversation via Extendable Ear, but his mum must've put an interperbabble charm on the kitchen door because he couldn't hear a thing. Dejected, he put away his Extendable Ear and returned to reading his Transfiguration book.

Shortly after Georgia left James walked in the back door with a grin on his face.

“What are you so happy about?” Albus asked.

“Mum forgot to put the charm on the window,” James said. “I heard everything.”

“Well, tell me what you heard!” Albus said as he closed his book.

“I don't know....”

“Come on, James,” Albus said. “If you do I won't tell Mum and Dad what you're planning on doing to the punch at the party tomorrow.”

“Fine,” James muttered as he sat down. “Basically, Georgia's still mad at Uncle Percy and doesn't want to go to the party tomorrow. Mum convinced her that she needs to take the high road and be supportive of Uncle Percy even though he isn't being supportive of her. And she said there's no secret to getting him to recognize Quidditch as a valid career. He just has to realize it on his own and all Georgia can do is be the best player she can and support herself and not ask him for money. But then she reminded Georgia that Gramps was very supportive of her Quidditch career.”

“Nothing too exciting, then,” Albus said.

“Nope, not really,” James agreed. “Going to make for an interesting party, though.”

“That's for sure,” Albus said.
***


“Is the Minister's Mansion glowing blue?” Albus asked as he followed his parents up the winding path to the mansion.

It was New Year's Eve and the Potters were slightly late for the party, as usual. This time James had not been the reason; they were late because Ginny had had to lengthen Albus's robes last minute.

“It looks that way,” Harry answered. “Wait until you see the inside. The election New Year's Eve party at the Minister's Mansion is one of the grandest occasions the Ministry puts on, only beaten out by the party that will take place for the winner of the election. It's going to be far fancier than the party for Mr. Eckerton last year.”

Albus nodded. As they drew closer to the mansion Albus noticed that the blue light seemed to stem from the ground, illuminating the house as it went upward, but he could not see where the light came from. It looked to just appear out of the ground. The path itself was lined with silver candles.

The door was already open when they reached the end of the path. A man dressed in a full tuxedo with tails stood in the doorway and he took Ginny and Lily's wraps while another man led the Potters into the grand ballroom.

The ballroom was already filled to capacity and Albus noticed that nearly half of the people in attendance were his aunts, uncles, and cousins. The ballroom itself was lit by silver candles similar to the ones that lined the path outside. The windows were draped in heavy navy curtains tied with silver ropes and matching linens dressed the tables and chairs scattered throughout the room. Larger tables containing platters of food stood in the center of the room, each one holding an ice sculpture. The sculptures were of various historical buildings in wizarding Britain, including one of Hogwarts.

Waiters dressed in the same tuxedos as the wizards by the door walked throughout the room carrying plates of food and drink. After taking a look at some of the food they carried, Albus wondered if there was anything normal or if it was just fancy hors d'oeuvres.

“Before you all take off to find your cousins,” Harry began, staring more at his sons than at Lily. “James, absolutely no pranks. Albus, no sneaking off to other parts of the mansion or going outside this year. Promise me, both of you.”

“I promise,” Albus and James each mumbled.

“All right, you may go,” Harry said. “And keep an eye out for your younger cousins. Make sure they're not getting into trouble.”

Albus nodded and then slipped into the crowd in search of Matt, Rose, and something to eat that did not resemble something his aunt Fleur's mother would make. He finally wound up at the dessert table where he found both a large piece of chocolate cake and his friends.

“Albus, there you are!” Rose said. “We've been here for an hour already.”

“Mum had to lengthen my robes,” Albus said in between bites of cake.

“I'm not surprised. You grew a foot in the past year,” Rose commented.

“Seriously, you've got to stop,” Matt said. “You make me look like a second year.”

“Is everyone else here?” Albus asked as they walked over to a mostly empty table. Its only occupant was a very old man who seemed to be taking a nap.

Rose nodded. “Even Georgia showed up. But I did find out that the only reason we were all invited was to make Uncle Percy look like more of a family man.”

“Really?” Albus asked. “I thought it was just because families of the candidates were always invited.”

“No. Usually it's only immediate family members, plus all the Heads of departments and top Ministry officials and their families. So not all of us were going to be invited at first. It's to make us look like a very close knit family.”

“You are a close knit family,” Matt said. “It's like you're all brothers and sisters rather than cousins.”

“But Uncle Percy never really involved any of us in his Ministry career before,” Albus pointed out. “Anyway, Matt, how was your Christmas?”

“Good,” Matt said. “Rose already told me about yours. Sounded much more interesting than mine. My grandparents came to visit and they went home yesterday. Mum and Cinda argued over the fact that we don't visit them enough anymore and then Mum and Amy argued over the fact that Amy never comes home except for holidays. Dad, Richard, and I just stayed out of it. I swear, those three could argue over nothing.”

“Sounds like yours was interesting then,” Albus said.

Matt shrugged. “Honestly, it's been rather boring at home.”

“I'm ready to get back to Hogwarts,” Albus said. “Is Amy here?”

“Yeah, she's off with Victoire and Teddy,” Matt said.

“Oh, by the way, don't drink the punch,” Albus warned them. “James is planning to put something in it.”

“What?” Rose asked.

“I don't know, but it'll probably be gross,” Albus said.

“If your uncle wins your cousins will get to live here,” Matt said as he gazed around the room. “Weird to think about. This place looks bigger than my old house.”

“It probably is,” Rose said. “And you're right, that is weird to think about.”

The old man let out a snort and woke up. His eyes darted around until they rested on Albus, Rose, and Matt. “Who are you three?” he demanded.

“Er, I'm Albus Potter and that's Rose Weasley and Matt Eckerton,” Albus said.

His face softened. “Oh, nice to meet you! I'm Gregory Laurentis. My daughter's running for Minister. Could not be prouder, but I suppose she's running against your uncle. Albus Potter, Merlin's beard! I told Patty, I told her she was nuts to run against Percy Weasley what with him being related to Harry Potter himself, but her party picked her to run so I suppose there was nothing I could do about it. And she couldn't turn down that opportunity....”

Albus glanced at Rose and Matt while Laurnetis's dad continued to rattle on about how proud he was of his daughter, yet marvel at her stupidity for running against someone related to Harry Potter. He was rather funny, Albus thought.

“This place is too damn fancy,” Gregory Laurnetis muttered as he fingered the tablecloth. “And the food, my God, what I wouldn't give for some bangers and mash....”

Albus stifled a laugh, but he did agree with the old man. “I think I hear one of my cousins calling me,” Albus said. “We'd better go.”

“Oh, right, right,” Gregory Laurentis said. “I don't hear anything, but then again my hearing's so bad these days. Well, good luck to your uncle, then. Not that he'll need it!”

“Good luck to your daughter, too,” Albus said as he stood up.

All three burst out laughing as soon as they were out of earshot of Gregory Laurentis. A few Ministry officials looked at them strangely as they did so, but Albus didn't care.

“Albus!” Matt suddenly whispered. “Is that Balladanis over there?” Matt pointed to the far back corner, where a man in plain black robes stood with his arms folded across his chest.

Albus peered at the man for a few moments. “Yeah, I think it is.”

“What's he doing here?” Matt asked.

“Probably in case of an attack,” Rose said. “Every prominent Ministry official is in this room right now. There's probably Aurors stationed at every door outside, too.”

“Don't let him see us,” Matt said as he grabbed both Albus and Rose and pulled them behind a large group of people. “Can we just go somewhere else?”

Albus glanced at Balladanis and then back at Matt, who looked more than a little nervous. Albus didn't blame him. After last year's scandal with Balladanis, it was no wonder Matt never wanted to see the man again. Albus thought briefly of what his dad told him when they got there, but pushed the promise from his mind. If Matt didn't want to be in the same room as Balladanis, then Albus was just going to have to break his promise.

“Come on,” Rose said before Albus could reply. She took Albus and Matt's hands and pulled them through the crowd. She let them go once they reached the corridor.

The corridor was much quieter than the ballroom. Albus hadn't even realized just how loud the ballroom was until now. Between the music and people's voices, it was a wonder he'd even been able to think in there.

“Thanks,” Matt said quietly. “He just gives me the creeps.”

“No problem,” Rose said. “Where should we go?”

“We could try and find that library again,” Albus suggested.

Rose and Matt nodded and the three set off down the corridor. It took them fifteen minutes and three wrong turns to find the library and once they got there, they saw that it was already occupied by none other than Georgia, Bradley, and Cedric.

“We've got to stop using the same hiding places,” Georgia said with a laugh as they entered. “Just joking. Come on in.”

Rose shut the door behind them and they joined Georgia, Bradley, and Cedric on the other side of the room.

“Sick of the party?” Georgia asked.

“We saw Balladanis,” Matt said quietly as he sat down. “Didn't want him to notice us.”

Georgia shuddered. “Don't blame you there, especially since your dad is the reason he got sacked.”

“I kind of liked him,” Bradley said.

Matt looked at him like he was insane. “Are you kidding?”

Bradley shrugged. “Nope. I'm not terribly upset he's gone, but he was kind of cool.”

“You're mad,” Matt said.

“What about you three? What drove you to the library?” Albus asked, wanting to stave off an argument between his best friend and cousin.

“Decided to explore the house,” Cedric said. “If we're going to have to live here, we wanted to see what we'd be getting into.”

“And what do you think?” Rose asked.

“Living here wouldn't be so bad,” Cedric said. “Bradley and I wouldn't have to share a room. Neither would Samantha and Lindy, for that matter.”

“I told you, one of you can have my room,” Georgia said.

“Dad won't let us,” Bradley replied. “Says you're going to come back when Quidditch stops paying off.”

Georgia groaned. “Really, the faith he has in me is incredible.”

“We met Laurentis's dad,” Albus said.

Georgia burst out laughing. “Seriously?”

Albus nodded and told the story. All three of his cousins were laughing by the time he finished.

“I may have to go back out there just so I can meet him,” Georgia said, still laughing.

“He sounds like a very interesting bloke,” Bradley said.

Matt got up from his chair and began wandering around the library. He paused by the door, as if listening.

“What are you doing?” Albus asked.

“I heard something,” Matt whispered. “Shut up, all of you.”

Georgia immediately stopped laughing and all five of them stopped talking. Matt's eyes grew big and he hurried back over. “Someone's coming!”

“I don't hear any-” Bradley began.

“Sshhh!” Albus said as he jumped up. “Trust him on this. We've got to hide.”

“There's a closet,” Rose said as she hurried to open the door. “It's not very big-”

“Doesn't matter,” Matt said. “Hurry, get inside.”

Albus just started hearing the voices as they hurried inside the closet. It was a very tight squeeze and Rose was stepping on his left foot, but he said nothing as he shut the door. Two seconds later he heard the door to the library open.

“It's not working!” a woman said. Her voice was muffled; Albus could barely make out what she said, let alone who she was.

“I can't hear anything,” Cedric whispered. “Is this door solid mahogany or something?”

“Shut up!” Matt seethed. He had his ear pressed to the door.

“The one time I don't bring any Extendables with me,” Cedric muttered.

Albus pressed his ear up against the door. The voices were still muffled, but he could hear.

“I told you they'd eat up the whole family man thing,” another voice said. This one was male. “Not to mention he's Harry Potter's brother-in-law for God's sake!”

“Harry Potter is an incompetent idiot and you know it,” the woman replied. “He's famous for something he did as a child and the general public is stupid to still think of him as the hero of the wizarding world. He's gone soft.”

“It's Laurentis!” Matt said.

“How can you tell?” Bradley asked. “This door is so bloody thick.”

“I just can,” Matt said.

Albus couldn't tell that the voice was Laurentis's, but based on what she was saying, Matt was right.

“Well, what am I supposed to do about it?” the man said.

“We've got to think of something,” Laurentis said. “The Azkaban debate is in a week. I'm sure you can think of something to do for that.”

“I think that's her campaign manager,” Matt said.

“She sounds awful,” Albus said.

“It shouldn't be that hard. All we have to do is expose Weasley for what he really is and get everyone to realize Potter's not the hero they all think he is,” Laurentis said.

“And who is Weasley, then?”

“A pompous idiot!” Laurentis exclaimed. “You don't really buy the whole fact that he supports his daughter's Quidditch career, do you? I've seen the way she looks at him and there's no way that's real.”

“You can't really know that-”

“I can,” she interrupted. “I can read people, Pierce. That's why I got into politics. It's all about reading people and figuring out the lies from the truths. See what you can dig up. We'd better return to the party. I left my father alone with Minister Langston. That won't turn out well.”

“Yes, Ms. Laurentis,” Pierce replied.

Albus heard the sound of high heels on hardwood floor, the door creak open, and then click shut again. He waited two full minutes and then opened the door to the closet. Everyone hurried out.

“What was that?” Matt demanded. “What is she up to?”

“How did you catch all that?” Bradley asked. “Do you have super human hearing or something?”

“Or something,” Matt muttered, “but never mind that. Laurentis knows your dad's putting on an act and is going to try to expose him.” He turned to Albus. “And she is going to try and turn the wizarding world against your dad.”

“She's insane!” Albus exclaimed.

“You've got to tell your uncle-” Matt began.

“No way,” Georgia said loudly. “Trust me, all he'll do is blame me for not playing my part well enough. This isn't leaving this room.”

“But she's going to sabotage his campaign,” Albus said.

“Georgia's right,” Rose said. “It won't help anything. Campaigns are half about digging up dirt on the other candidate. Anything she says about Uncle Harry, no one will believe it unless they're an idiot. Anyone with half a mind knows he runs the Auror Department well.”

“If anyone says anything he'll just get mad at us for spying,” Bradley added.

“Not to mention we're not technically allowed in here,” Cedric pointed out.

“Oh, right,” Albus said. “My dad did make me promise not to leave the ballroom.”

“No one's saying anything,” Georgia said. “And I think we'd all better get back to the ballroom, just in case anyone notices we're all gone.
________________________________________

Thanks for all the reviews! Remember to keep them 12+. Props to all who caught the 'mahogany' Hunger Games reference. Credit for that goes to Suzanne Collins. If any of you are members of the forums (and if you're not, you should be, link on the right side of the page!), feel free to check out my Meet the Author page! It's linked on my author page. Please ask me questions on my MTA page since I love answering them!

________________________________________
When they returned to the ballroom Albus was pleased to see that Balladanis was nowhere in sight. Perhaps he left to patrol the grounds. Albus didn't really care; all that mattered was that he wasn't there anymore. Judging by the crowd in the room, no one else had left yet, and they all seemed a bit more boisterous, most likely due to the drinks.

Percy accosted them before they were even able to get to the desert table to reload their plates with cake. He walked with purpose, similarly to the way he had walked when he took Albus and his friends to Kendrick's study. He seemed very at home in the Minister's Mansion and it wasn't even his yet.

“Georgia!” he said. “There you are. I've been looking for you everywhere.”

“I was in the loo. Something you need, Dad?” Georgia asked.

“Er, yes, actually,” Percy replied. “I need you to take Samantha and Lindy home. It's nearly eleven and your mother and I are going to be here well past midnight. Samantha ate too much cake and feels ill. I just think it would be best for them to go home and get some sleep. They're over at that table.” Percy gestured to a nearby table, where Samantha and Lindy were sitting, both with their heads in their hands, looking extremely bored.

Georgia raised her eyebrows, as if surprised that Percy was actually going to not only let three of his children leave, but request that they do so. Albus was surprised he'd even thought about the fact that it wasn't really a party for two nine-year-olds.

“Yeah, I can take them home,” Georgia said.

“What about us?” Bradley asked, gesturing to himself and Cedric. “Couldn't we take them home?”

“I'd rather Georgia do it,” Percy said. “You don't even have your Apparition license yet, Cedric. And Bradley, you just got yours. You're not ready to side-along Apparate two people.”

“They do have fireplaces here, Dad,” Bradley muttered.

“Georgia's taking them, and the two of you are staying here,” Percy said adamantly. “Thank you, Georgia.”

“You're welcome,” Georgia said as Percy strutted off to talk to some Ministry official. “Ha!” she said once he was out of earshot. “I get to leave.”

“Shut up,” Cedric said. “I'm going to go find James.”

Georgia headed over to the table her sisters were sitting at while Bradley and Cedric disappeared into the crowd. Albus, Matt, and Rose wandered over to the dessert table, piled a plate high with the biscuits a waiter had just set out, and then set off to find another table. They found one, which Victoire, Teddy, and Amy were vacating.

“Where are you three off to?” Albus asked.

“We've got early rounds tomorrow,” Victoire said. “Five in the morning. If we're lucky we'll get four hours of sleep.”

“I don't see much point in staying if they're not here,” Teddy said. “Technically I wasn't even invited, but seeing as I'm Harry Potter's Godson, no one was going to kick me out.”

Albus laughed. “See you later, then.”

After Victoire, Teddy, and Amy left Albus sat down and his friends sat on either side. He absentmindedly chewed on a biscuit and watched the crowd.

“Do these taste funny to you?” Matt asked, holding up a partially eaten biscuit.

Albus took another bite. They did taste weird. “Yeah.”

Rose burst out laughing and started pointing at their heads. “I think James messed with the biscuits instead of the punch. Al, your hair is blue and Matt, yours is green.”

Albus and Matt both started laughing. Albus took another look at the crowd. “Look, that lady's hair is purple!” He pointed to a witch a few yards away. The bloke she was talking to was clearly trying not to stare at her head.

Over the next few minutes people gradually began to realize that their hair was turning various colors and that the biscuits were the culprit. Wands appeared everywhere, as the guests charmed each other's hair back to its normal color. Another minute later Albus spotted both of his parents walking around the perimeter of the room, clearly looking for James, but he was nowhere in sight.

“I like this prank,” Albus said. “I'm leaving my hair as is.”

“Me too,” Matt agreed. They both turned to Rose. “You should eat one.”

Rose sighed. “Might as well.” She took a biscuit and a minute later her formerly red hair was a lovely shade of pink.

The rest of the party was rather boring. Harry eventually found James and told him he'd be staying in his room for the remainder of the holiday, only being allowed out for meals. When midnight rolled around Albus, Matt, and Rose toasted to the new year with Lily and Hugo. Matt and his parents left immediately afterward and Albus and his family left a short while later. Albus was relieved to be going home since the night had been exhausting, and he still couldn't get the conversation he overheard in the library out of his mind.
***


“It's here!” James shouted the next morning at breakfast, brandishing a copy of Wizards magazine. The front cover was a picture of Albus's grandparents, his mum, Uncle Percy, Uncle Bill, Uncle Charlie, Uncle George, and Uncle Ron.

“Let me see it!” Albus shouted.

“No, I got it first!” James shouted back.

“I want to read it first!” Lily exclaimed.

“Kids, settle down!” Ginny said. “James got it first. Al can read it next, and then Lily.”

“Not fair,” Lily muttered. “I'm never first.”

That was a lie, Albus thought to himself. It was either James or Lily who got things first, never Albus. Curse of being the middle child, he figured.

Albus sat and ate his breakfast while James read the article. His brother let out groans and sighs and even laughter while he read, which made Albus even more anxious to read it. After what seemed like forever, it was finally Albus's turn. He yanked the magazine out of James's hand and opened it up to the article.

The first page (or rather, first two pages), contained the picture of his entire family. Albus had been right in guessing that there was no way the photographer could've gotten a picture that they all looked good in. Albus himself at least looked halfway decent. He was smiling and kept turning to look at Rose and then back to the camera. Lily on the other hand, was caught mid-grimace and always returned to that pose every few seconds. Across the photograph was the name of the article- 'Christmas With the Weasleys.' Albus turned the page and looked at all the other photographs that accompanied the article before reading it. There was one of Percy, Corrine, and their kids. Another featured Percy and Albus's dad. Then there was the one with him playing Exploding Snap with the twins and Percy, as well as the one with Percy and Amanda playing chess. The caption on that read 'Minister hopeful Percy Weasley challenges the Prime Minister's niece to a game of chess.' Amanda was not going to be happy, Albus thought as he turned his attention to the article.

When I first entered the childhood home of Percy
Weasley I immediately noticed the delicious smells
that filled the air. Molly Weasley, Percy's mother,
was hard at work cooking Christmas Eve dinner. The
small, but cozy, home was filled to capacity with
Weasleys, although it only grew more crowded with
the arrival of the Potters an hour later.

The Weasley family gathers for Christmas at the
home of Arthur and Molly Weasley every year.
Arthur, a retired Ministry employee, says, 'I
love having the entire family together. It's
chaotic, but I wouldn't have it any other way.'
The evening begins with a meal, although eating
seems to take place over many hours. The atmosphere
is homey and happy, with every single family
member enjoying their time with each other.

Percy Weasley, a loving father of five, joins in
on the fun and Christmas spirit by challenging
his nine-year-old daughters Samantha and Lindy,
as well as nephew Albus Potter, 14, to a game
of Exploding Snap. 'I feel it's important to
spend time with my children, as well as my nieces
and nephews,' Weasley said, 'we have such little
time with them before they go off to Hogwarts.
My eldest is already out on her own and my sons
only have a little time left at Hogwarts. The
twins are still young, so I try to spend time
with them every single day.' When asked
about their father's campaign, Samantha said,
'I want him to win. He's good at his job.'
Lindy merely shrugged, 'It would be cool if he
wins, but he'll still just be Dad to us.'

The home of Arthur and Molly Weasley is not
only open to Weasleys at Christmas time. This
year they were joined by a friend of Albus Potter
and Rose Weasley, 14. Amanda Tagger, also 14, is
a fourth year student at Hogwarts. Tagger is no
stranger to political families since her uncle
is Michael Smythe, Prime Minister of Great
Britain. 'I think it is just wonderful that
the Prime Minister's niece is a witch,' Percy
said. 'We are always trying to promote a
healthy relationship with the Muggle Ministry
and this will only help.'

Before posing for the photograph found on pages
20 and 21, the Weasley family first donned
their Weasley jumpers. Each member of the family
receives one of these jumpers for Christmas
every year. The traditional jumpers are knitted
by Molly Weasley. 'I'm not sure how it started,
really,' Molly said, when asked about the origin
of the jumpers, 'I suppose it was when Bill and
Charlie were little, before Percy was born. I
wanted to knit them matching jumpers and they
outgrew them by the following year, so I made
new ones. Then when Percy was born he needed one
so it soon grew into a yearly thing.'

If I had to choose one word to describe the Weasley
family, I would choose 'laid-back.' Spending a
Christmas Eve with this family, you would never
think that they were famous for their efforts in
the war against Voldemort. They are just so normal.
Even Harry Potter, Head Auror, is just your
average father. He spends Christmas Eve joking
around with his brothers-in-law and playing games
with his children, nieces, and nephews. I asked
him what a typical Christmas day is like in the
Weasley house and he responded with, 'Quidditch.
We live for Quidditch. No matter the weather we
get out there every Christmas and play a match or
two. Then we'll come inside and have dinner, all
of us together. It's simple, but perfect.'

There you have it. Christmas with the Weasleys
summed up in one sentence by none other than Harry
Potter himself. I thoroughly enjoyed spending
Christmas Eve with Percy Weasley and his entire
family. Next time I interview him, I really must
ask for his mother's shepherd's pie recipe. It
truly is wonderful.

“Really?” Albus asked after handing the magazine to Lily. “After all that? She interviewed half the family and only quoted a few of us?”

“I'm guessing the rest couldn't really be used for the type of article she was going for,” James pointed out. “Notice how she only included stuff Samantha and Lindy said.”

“And she made it seem like the photographer just happened to take pictures of us playing games with Uncle Percy,” Albus said. “All of that was staged.”

“That's journalism,” Ginny said. “Not good journalism, mind you, but it is fairly common practice.”

“I guess it could have been worse,” Albus said.

“Yes, it could have been,” Ginny agreed. “I think we're all just grateful she didn't stay for Christmas dinner.”

James laughed. “I wonder how she would've spun that. I'm amazed no one's figured out that Uncle Percy doesn't really like that Georgia plays Quidditch.”

“Keep your mouth shut about that, James,” Ginny said quietly.

“Anyone with half a brain could see it,” James muttered.

Albus said nothing. He still wasn't completely sure that saying nothing about Laurentis figuring that out was the right thing to do. But he couldn't exactly say anything, not when all his cousins and Matt had agreed not to.

“James,” Ginny said. “Enough. And I suggest you use the remainder of your break to study for those O.W.L.s. June is a lot sooner than you think.”

James certainly did a good job of pretending to study for the remainder of the holiday, while shut up in his room for his punishment. Albus noticed that while he always had a book cracked open nearby, to grab when one of their parents walked into the room, it was always the same book, opened to the same page. Albus was amazed neither of his parents realized that, but he supposed both of them had their minds on Percy's election. Albus finished all his homework before the weekend, leaving him with two blissful days of doing nothing. On Saturday he, along with his parents, James, and Lily, visited Kaden and his family for a late Christmas and New Year's celebration. Albus was relieved that Kaden's grandparents weren't there.

Monday arrived and it was time to go back to Hogwarts. Albus was quite happy about this because he had grown bored of staying at home and doing nothing and was sick of being in such close quarters with James and Lily. At least in Gryffindor tower they kept to their own groups of friends. But mostly, Albus wanted to get Amanda's take on the conversation they overheard at the Minister's Mansion.

“Everyone's staring at me,” Amanda said as she entered the compartment Albus, Rose, Matt, John, and Kaden were occupying. “Took me ages to find you, just because people kept wanting to talk to me. It's that stupid magazine article. Now everyone knows I'm the Prime Minister's niece.”

“It was bound to happen sooner or later,” Rose pointed out. “But I'm sorry. If I'd known the reporter was going to talk about that, I wouldn't have invited you for Christmas.”

“No, it's okay,” Amanda said as she sat down. “I'm glad I went. It's just annoying. Guess I know how it feels to be you lot.”

“Except us,” John said as he gestured to himself and Kaden. “We're normal.”

“You're normal, John,” Amanda said. “But Kaden's Harry Potter's first cousin once removed or something.”

“And that really makes me wonder how I got wrapped up in all this,” John said. “My parents just aren't nearly as ambitious as yours all are.”

“How was that party, by the way?” Amanda asked.

“Mostly boring,” Albus said. “But we did wind up in a tiny closet with my cousins Georgia, Bradley, and Cedric and overheard a conversation between Laurentis and her campaign manager.”

“You what?” John exclaimed. “And you didn't think that warranted an owl?”

“We wanted to tell you in person,” Albus said. “The conversation was really weird.”

“Tell us!” Amanda said.

Albus explained what he overheard, with help from Matt, who had been able to hear it a bit more clearly. John and Kaden looked slightly uncomfortable when they finished, but Amanda didn't seem at all surprised or upset.

“That can't be good,” John said. “What do you think she's planning?”

“That's just it, I don't know,” Albus said. “And all my cousins and Matt agreed not to say anything-”

“They're right, of course,” Amanda said. “You'd just stir up trouble. Your uncle has got to focus on convincing people he's the right one for the job, not discrediting everything Laurentis says.”

“But she's going to try and convince everyone my dad's a bad Auror,” Albus pointed out.

“Your dad isn't running for Minister,” Amanda said. “And honestly, I don't think she's going to be able to convince all of wizarding Britain that your dad's incompetent by April.”

“But what about the Georgia thing-”

“Albus,” Amanda said as she stared directly at him, “this is what politicians do. Half the campaign is spent trying to convince people the opponent is bad for the job. As much as it should just be spent on trying to convince people they're right for the job, candidates just don't do that. Trust me. My uncle's on his second term. I know how these things work.”

“I guess,” Albus said. He felt slightly better about it, now that he had Amanda's opinion, but he still felt uneasy. “Something is going to happen at the Azkaban debate, though. She wanted her campaign manager to dig something up.”

“Worst case scenario, she figures out that your uncle Percy doesn't really approve of Georgia's Quidditch career,” Amanda said. “Then he'll give an interview and say that at first he wasn't because he was worried about her future but then he saw her play and now he realizes how good she is and blah, blah, blah. It'll be fixed.”

“She's right, Albus,” Rose said. The others nodded.

“How do you know all this?” Albus asked. “I mean, seriously.”

“I'm an excellent eavesdropper,” Amanda said with a grin. “And all without Extendable Ears.”

“Amazing,” John agreed.

“It's simple, really,” Amanda said. “Be the kid in your family that goes unnoticed. My older sister is the drama queen, so everything that happens to her, no matter how small, is a huge deal. My little brother is a brat who demands constant attention. Me? I'm the quiet one. They'll have whole conversations about stuff in front of me that they'd never have in front of either my brother or sister.”

Kaden laughed. “Bet that changed when you found out you were a witch.”

“At first, but then me being a witch became normal,” Amanda said.

Matt let out a low whistle. “Wish I had that skill. I still can't even go into the same room as my parents without one of them asking me if I feel okay. Bit of an exaggeration, but still.”

“I think my parents spent too much of their childhoods eavesdropping on people to give me a decent chance at it,” Albus said. “They know all the tricks.”

“So do mine,” Rose said. “I swear my mum can sense an Extendable Ear a mile away.”

“I think I'm too loud,” John said.

“Same,” Kaden agreed.

“So, would you believe me if I said I actually wanted to go to the Azkaban debate?” John asked as he opened a box of Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans.

Rose burst out laughing. “Really, John?”

“Yes, really,” John said, popping a bean into his mouth. “Butter, weird. If Laurentis is going to do something, I want to be right there to witness it.”

“Maybe you'll get lucky and you'll get picked,” Amanda said. “I hope I get picked for one.”

“I bet they'll let you go to all of them now, being the Prime Minister’s niece and all,” John said.

“Not necessarily,” Amanda said.

“You can always take my spot, John,” Matt said as he got up to steal a handful of John's Bertie Bott's. “Full moon's on Friday, so I won't be going.”

“Maybe you can convince Madam Pomfrey, since it's educational,” Kaden said.

Matt popped a bean into his mouth and then promptly spat it out. “Ew, dirt. Doesn't matter what Madam Pomfrey says. Day after the full moon? I'll be asleep. You'll just have to take notes and let me know what happens.”

John groaned. “I'll pass on your spot if I have to take notes.”

“Someone's going to have to take notes either way,” Matt said. “I'll need them for the essay that Embry will assign.”

“Don't worry, I'll take notes,” Rose told him.

“Thanks,” Matt replied. “Now, who's wants this bean? It looks just like dirt, but it could be chocolate.” Matt held up a suspiciously brown bean.

“I'll take it!” John said. He took a tiny nibble, screwed up his face, and threw the rest of the bean back at Matt, hitting him square on the forehead. “Thanks, mate, another dirt.”

Albus laughed and took a handful of beans. The remainder of the trip was much more lighthearted than their conversation about the campaign tactics of Laurentis and Percy. They finished off John's Bertie Bott's, growing braver as the box emptied. Albus stopped after he got a vomit flavored one, but enjoyed it immensely when Kaden ate one of the same flavor. The train ride went quickly and soon they arrived in Hogsmeade station with Hogwarts, Albus's second home, just a short carriage ride away.
________________________________________

Sorry for the late update! My cousin got married on Friday so I was gone the whole weekend and didn't have my computer with me. Thanks to my sister, Linda, who in my family, is just like Amanda and can eavesdrop on everyone. She gave me the idea for that. Thanks for all the lovely reviews!

________________________________________
“This term we will focus on how the first and second wars against Voldemort shaped how the Ministry of Magic is organized today,” Professor Embry announced after the bell rang for Tuesday's politics class. “This part of the class will overlap with your History of Magic class quite a bit, although I'd hazard a guess that none of you pay attention in History of Magic, not that I blame you. I never could stay awake in that class either.

“First, we will take a closer look at exactly how the Ministry was organized prior to Voldemort's rise to power and why it was such a problem,” Embry continued. “Part of the reason why Voldemort was able to rise to power as quickly as he did was because the Ministry was susceptible to a takeover. Since then, precautions have been taken to prevent a similar situation. Does anyone know the main difference between the Ministry before Voldemort and the Ministry now?”

A few hands went up in the air, including Amanda's. Albus knew the answer, but he didn't really want to raise his hand. He preferred listening during class.

“Yes, Miss Tagger?”

“The Minister wasn't elected,” Amanda said, “which is odd because the Muggle Minister is elected, sort of. It's not like in the United States, but the public votes on which party will be in power.”

“Exactly,” Embry said. “Prior to the reorganization of the Ministry of Magic in 1998, the Minister was appointed by the Wizengamot. Can anyone tell me why that is a problem?”

Amanda's hand shot into the air once more. She was even faster than Rose in this class.

“Miss Tagger?”

“It was bad because the people had no power. Only the Wizengamot had any power in the Ministry, because they were the ones who appointed the Minister, who then appointed all the other officials. No one had any say in anything.”

“Right again. Ten points to Gryffindor,” Embry said. “The Wizengamot, prior to 1998, was a group of very influential witches and wizards, mostly purebloods, who essentially ran the Ministry of Magic. They also served as the judicial system. These witches and wizards inherited their seats on the Wizengamot from family members because each influential family in the British wizarding world once held a seat in the Wizengamot. The problems with this are obvious because it meant that only purebloods and a select few half-bloods had any semblance of power.”

Albus was scribbling furiously. He knew the basics of the political system just from overhearing his parents' conversations, but the details were hazy. Now that he was learning the gritty details, he wondered why it took so long for the Ministry to be reorganized. It seemed like it was based solely on blood status and how much money someone had, which wasn't right.

Embry continued to explain the old Ministry and the various power that each person or group of people in the Ministry had prior to Voldemort's reign. By the end of the lecture Albus had just over a foot of notes, which was good because Embry had already set them an essay.

“Before you leave, I'll announce who will be attending Saturday's debate,” Embry said after he finished lecturing. “Like last time, Albus Potter, Rose Weasley, and Matt Eckerton will be able to attend. The two Hufflepuffs who will be attending are Elaine Asterly and Parker Wayland. The two Gryffindors are Amanda Tagger and Ethan Kesse. You will report to the Great Hall at ten and wait for instructions from the prefects waiting by the doors. Everyone else will be listening to the debate via wireless in the Transfiguration classroom. I expect an essay on which candidate you feel made their point better by next class. You are dismissed.”

“I guess I won't get to go to all the debates after all,” Amanda said as they left the classroom.

“This one will be good, though,” Rose said. “You're lucky they picked you for it.”

“Wish I got picked,” John lamented.

“I'm telling you, just go instead of me,” Matt insisted. “Tell them I'm ill and you're taking my spot.”

“I really don't think they'll let-”

“Planning on being ill on Saturday, are you?”

Albus and his friends stopped in the middle of the corridor, turning around to see Scorpius Malfoy behind them, his arms crossed across his chest. He looked arrogant and vaguely annoyed as usual, but there was something else there. He looked slightly upset and for some reason, that unnerved Albus.

“Give it a rest, Malfoy,” John said, stepping closer to the Slytherin. “We get that you know. We've gotten over it.”

Scorpius stepped closer, ignoring John and turning to Matt. “How do you get into the Shrieking Shack?” he demanded.

Matt's face paled. John grabbed hold of Scorpius's robes and dragged him into a nearby classroom. John had at least four inches on Malfoy, so it didn't seem difficult. Albus and the others followed, Rose shutting and locking the door behind them.

“Why do you want to know about the Shrieking Shack?” John asked as he let go of Scorpius.

“None of your business,” Scorpius said, glancing at the locked door. He slowly drew his wand.

John drew his own wand. “Put your wand away. And it's his business which makes it all of our business.” John gestured to Matt, who had sat down on one of the desks.

“There's five of you. Like hell I'm putting my wand away. So I am right, he does transform in the Shrieking Shack,” Scorpius said with a sly grin. The look of sadness Albus thought he'd seen was gone; maybe he'd imagined it.

“John!” Matt exclaimed. “Now look what you've done!”

“Sorry,” John said. “I didn't mean to-”

“Never mind,” Matt said, getting up from the desk and walking over to John and Scorpius. “How did you figure it out?”

“Where else could you transform safely?” Scorpius asked. “I did a little research in the library and that was built the summer before Remus Lupin started at Hogwarts and everyone knows he was a werewolf. No one ever lived in it, but people reported hearing weird noises from it. Everyone said it was ghosts, but they went strangely quiet seven years later, only to reappear four and a half years ago, when we started at Hogwarts. Quite a coincidence, I thought. And now I see that I'm right.”

Albus was kind of shocked Scorpius had done all that research and put everything together. Perhaps he was smarter than Albus and his friends gave him credit for.

“Well, you can't tell anyone, just like you can't tell anyone I'm a werewolf,” Matt said. “Kendrick would expel you.”

“I don't care that it's where you transform,” Scorpius said. “The point is that it's empty except for one night of the month. How do you get in?”

“I'm not telling,” Matt said.

“Fine, I'll figure it out myself,” Scorpius said, pointing his wand at the door. The lock clicked and he strolled over to the door, opened it, and left.

“That was weird,” Albus said as soon as Scorpius was gone.

“Yeah,” Matt said, sitting down on the nearest desk. “Why does he want to get in the Shrieking Shack?”

“Clearly he needs somewhere that's empty, but the question is what is he planning on doing?” Rose asked. “And did anyone else notice that he seemed a bit sad in the corridor?”

“I thought I'd imagined that,” Albus said.

“You didn't. He's definitely upset about something,” Rose said.

Matt groaned. “He better not actually figure out how to get in there.”

“If he does, he wouldn't be dumb enough to go in there during a full moon,” Albus pointed out.

“Yeah, but still. That's my space,” Matt muttered. “I need a nap. I think I'm going to skip dinner and just go back to Gryffindor. I'll see you later.”

Matt hopped off the desk and left the room. Albus sighed. The last thing he wanted, amidst all of the election stuff and his family's drama, was another issue with Scorpius Malfoy, but it looked like things were heading in that direction.
***


The following morning when Albus and his friends entered the Great Hall for breakfast the students already eating were much louder than normal. Albus turned to Rose, who shrugged in confusion, as they walked inside. Everyone in the room, students and teachers alike, were talking ominously. Copies of the Prophet were exchanging hands faster than the Quaffle during a Gryffindor/Slytherin match.

“Albus!” James shouted once they reached the Gryffindor table. “Read this. There's been a break-out at Azkaban.”

“Again?” Albus exclaimed, hurrying over to where James was sitting. He took the paper and his friends crowded around him.

“Not like last time,” James said darkly. “High-profile prisoners and more of them. Death Eaters. There hasn't been a break-out like this in years. Not since our parents were our age.”

Albus's heart began to pound as he unfolded the paper. There it was, right on the front page. A big photo montage of five people, all gaunt and evil-looking, was right in the middle, with the words 'Five Prisoners Break Out of Azkaban' above them and an article below them. Albus's stomach churned when he recognized the picture of the middle prisoner. It was Quinton Willinson. His eyes drifted to the article so he could figure out who the others were.

Early this morning Azkaban officials
reported that five high security prisoners
escaped late last night. It is unclear how
they managed to do so. The prisoners, all
imprisoned for felonies, should be regarded
as dangerous and should not be approached.

Four of the five prisoners have been in
Azkaban since 1998, having been imprisoned
for war crimes. They are Alecto Carrow,
Amycus Carrow, Fenrir Greyback, and Dolores
Umbridge. All but Umbridge are proven Death
Eaters. The fifth prisoner, Quinton Willinson,
has been in and out of prison since 2018,
having escaped and been recaptured just last
year.

'Finding and recapturing these individuals is
our top priority,' Head Auror, Harry Potter,
said to reporters early this morning. Minister
candidate and Head Azkaban official, Patricia
Laurentis, refused to comment on the break-out.
The Auror department has asked all those with
tips to report them to the Ministry via owl
immediately.

Albus sat stunned after reading the article. Three Death Eaters, Dolores Umbridge, and Quinton Willinson had escaped from Azkaban. How did that happen? How did five high security prisoners just escape with no one stopping them? It didn't make sense.

“This is not going to make Laurentis look good,” Amanda said quietly.

“Forget Laurentis, this is bad,” Albus said. “Very bad. Umbridge is evil, twisted evil. My dad's got scars on his hand from what she did to him when she was a teacher here. And the Carrows, they were teachers, too. They taught Dark Arts. Not defense, but actual Dark Arts, and how to torture Muggles. Greyback-”

“Greyback bites people, for fun,” Matt said, his face pale white. “He's the one who bit Teddy's dad.”

“The four of them,” Albus began, “the four of them make Quinton Willinson look like a unicorn.”

“That's the weird thing,” Rose said. “The others are in prison for life for war crimes. Willinson will be in there for a while, but he'll get parole eventually and the only reason he's a high security prisoner is because he escaped before. So why did he break out with the others? Why did they let him in on it? They're up to something.”

Albus hadn't even thought of that. Why was Quinton Willinson now connected with war criminals who had been in prison since before he was born? It didn't make sense. Albus thought about it throughout all his classes that day, but didn't come up with any answers.

It was obvious that the Azkaban break-out had unnerved the entire castle. Professors spoke in low whispers when they thought students weren't around, students no longer wandered the castle by themselves, and even Scorpius Malfoy seemed a bit more subdued during dueling practice on Thursday.

All five prisoners still remained at large on Friday, when Ministry officials began arriving for the debate. Laurentis still had yet to comment on the break-out, which struck Albus as strange. Azkaban was her territory and yet she said nothing on the subject.

“Is it just me or are there even more reporters here than there were last time?” Albus asked.

“It's not just you,” Amanda said.

Albus, Matt, John, and Amanda were walking back to the castle from Care of Magical Creatures. It was slow going since the full moon was that night and Matt was exhausted, but luckily the weather was unseasonably warm for January. They'd just been passed by a group of hurried looking reporters coming up from Hogsmeade.

“There's probably more because of the break-out,” Matt said. “Laurentis is going to have to finally say something about it tomorrow since the topic is Azkaban.”

“Does anyone else think it's weird that there was a break-out three days before the Azkaban debate?” Albus asked.

“I thought of that, too,” Amanda said. “Very weird coincidence.”

“Well, it'll be good for your uncle,” John said. “Laurentis is going to look like an idiot, not being able to keep five high security prisoners in Azkaban.”

Albus nodded. He supposed that was one good thing that came from three Death Eaters escaping from Azkaban, not that there was anything good about it.

“I'm skipping Charms,” Matt said through a yawn. “And Ancient Runes.”

“I'm surprised you didn't skip Care of Magical Creatures,” John said.

Matt shrugged. “I felt okay earlier, probably because of the nap I took in History of Magic.”

John laughed. “I felt much better after my nap in History of Magic, too.”

“Very funny,” Matt said as they reached the castle.

Albus found it increasingly difficult to concentrate on anything for the rest of the day. By the time he went to Ancient Runes he was unable to think about anything besides the break-out and the fact that Death Eaters were now roaming free. Deep down he knew he was perfectly safe at Hogwarts, but it was still troubling.

Professor Kendrick welcomed the Ministry officials to Hogwarts at dinner that night and Albus thought back to the last debate, when Hogwarts had housed the Ministry officials. He was very glad that this time he wouldn't be confessing to a prank to his uncle in the Gryffindor common room. Neither John or Kaden had done their retaliation prank to the Slytherins yet and Albus sort of hoped they wouldn't.

After a fitful sleep Albus woke early on Saturday morning and contemplated visiting Matt before everyone else woke up, but figured that Matt would be asleep and thus it would be pointless to visit. He'd visit with everyone else later, after the debate. They'd have plenty of time sine there wasn't going to be a question and answer session this time.

At ten o'clock Albus, Rose, and Amanda stood in line in front of the Great Hall, waiting to be let inside. John had decided not to bother asking if he could take Matt's place, since he didn't want to attract any attention to the fact that Matt was not there.

“Albus,” Rose whispered, poking him in the side. “Look. Malfoy's here.”

Albus glanced over to where Rose was pointing and saw that Scorpius was in fact waiting in line. He looked sullen and upset again and Albus wished he knew why. It was weird seeing Malfoy, the usually arrogant prick, upset.

“Guess he won the Slytherin spot,” Albus said.

The doors to the Great Hall opened and Albus and Rose said goodbye to Amanda before they were lead to the front of the room by a Slytherin prefect. They were seated in the same row they were before, along with the rest of their Hogwarts cousins.

The Great Hall slowly filled up over the next half hour. The rest of Albus's cousins, aunts, and uncles arrived, taking spots in the front few rows. Albus caught Georgia's eye as she took her seat in the row on the opposite side of the room from him and she gave him a slight grin.

Albus wondered if Laurentis's campaign manager had actually found anything on Uncle Percy and whether she would say anything during the debate. With the break-out, he hoped she'd been too busy to dig up much dirt or even think about exposing anything.

Albus turned to the front of the room and watched a very short man accompany Professor Kendrick to the moderator's podium. He was dressed in Ministry blue robes and had very little hair on his head.

“Attention, please!” Kendrick shouted. The crowd quieted. “Thank you. I'd like to welcome all of you to Hogwarts and introduce our moderator for this morning. Victor Farleigh, Head of the Department of Magical Transportation.”

“Thank you, Professor,” the short, balding man said. “I'd now like to introduce our candidates, although I am sure you all know them. Mr. Percy Weasley and Ms. Patricia Laurentis.”

Percy and Laurentis walked into the room from one of the antechambers and took their places at each of the podiums. Percy looked as confident as always and Laurentis, despite the scandal of the break-out, looked poised and excited.

“Today we will be debating the judicial system, specifically Azkaban prison,” Farleigh announced. “The usual rules apply. Five minute arguments, two minute rebuttals.”

Laurentis inched closer to her podium, as if she was readying herself to pounce on whatever Percy said. Percy remained calm and collected, continuing to play the role of the cool politician.

“Mr. Weasley, you will respond first. Do you feel that the judicial system as a whole is fair to both the accused and victims of crimes? Are the sentences handed out by the Wizengamot fair?”

“I believe everyone is able to get a fair trial by the Wizengamot,” Percy began. “I have reviewed many cases, and while I am not nor do I pretend to be a solicitor, and I feel that the majority of the sentences handed out by the Wizengamot fit the crime. However, there is always a chance that a person guilty of a crime will go free, as there is an equal chance that someone will be wrongfully imprisoned. The judicial system works hard to make sure this happens as infrequently as possible and corrects wrongs when they do occur.”

“Ms. Laurentis?”

“I disagree with my opponent,” Laurentis said. “Most of the sentences handed out by the Wizengamot are not harsh enough. Ever since the defeat of Voldemort prison sentences have grown shorter, with the exception of those imprisoned for war crimes. And one guilty person who roams free is too many. If I am elected Minister I will work hard to ensure that no guilty people get off. Prisoners belong in Azkaban and the Wizengamot is far too lenient.”

“Your rebuttal, Mr. Weasley.”

“While a goal of not having any guilty people get set free is worthy, it is unrealistic,” Percy said. “The Wizengamot is composed of witches and wizards like you and me. They are not any more powerful than we are and do not possess the ability to know for sure that the accused are guilty. Mistakes happen and while we should work to minimize them, it is very unrealistic to say that we can get rid of them completely. Ms. Laurentis is offering false hope.”

“I am not offering false hope,” Laurentis said. “There are spells, potions, ways to find out if people are guilty that the Wizengamot does not use. If I am elected Minister I will approve use of these and they will assist the Wizengamot in ensuring that no guilty criminals are set free.”

Albus agreed with his uncle. There was no possible way Laurentis could guarantee that all criminals would be imprisoned.

“Next question,” Farleigh said. “Ms. Laurentis, you will go first. Do you feel the parole system is effective?”

Laurentis gave a wry smile before beginning. “Much like the Wizengamot, the parole system is too lenient. I have seen criminals guilty of grand larceny get paroled after a mere two years in prison. The statistics are clear, most of these criminals who are paroled early on in their sentences wind up back in Azkaban within a year, whether for breaking the rules of their parole or committing another crime. As Head of Azkaban, I am able to give my input of whether a prisoner is paroled or not, but in the end it is up to the Wizengamot.”

“Mr. Weasley.”

“As my opponent has said, many criminals are paroled too quickly. However, I do not believe that leaving them in Azkaban longer is the solution. If I am elected I will create and support a better system for integrating criminals back into society. Muggles have seen success with halfway houses and I feel we should try that in wizarding society.”

“Halfway houses?” Laurentis said with raised eyebrows. “An intriguing idea. However, Mr. Weasley lacks the experience that I have with dealing with prisoners. Most are not fit for society and many never will be. Even with halfway houses they will wind up back in Azkaban. Why spend the money on trying to rehabilitate when it won't work?”

“It's about giving people a chance,” Percy said. “Not everyone is a lost cause and should be written off so quickly. Many prisoners have made a few bad choices as a result of bad childhoods and a bit of rehabilitation will set them straight.”

“Thank you, Mr. Weasley,” Farleigh said. “Next question. Is Azkaban an appropriate place to house prisoners? Is the facility still doing its job?”

Percy shifted a bit before answering. “Azkaban is an appropriate facility for high security prisoners, but I have always felt that we need a less intimidating building to house our lower security prisoners. Right now all criminals, from those who committed petty theft or skipped bail to those who have murdered people, are all housed in Azkaban. I have been to Azkaban. Despite the fact that it is no longer in control of the dementors it is still a terrifying and high security place. It also requires a lot of money for its upkeep. If we were to build a smaller building located on the mainland to house lower security prisoners, we would be able to decrease spending at Azkaban itself. We could then increase security at Azkaban without wasting effort and money on less dangerous criminals.”

“Ms. Laurentis.”

“How is building another facility going to save money?” Laurentis asked. “Once again you show your ignorance in the judicial system and Azkaban. I believe that Azkaban is doing its job perfectly well. I am in charge of the prison, including its upkeep and it is in perfect condition. We are not spending an outrageous amount of money on the place. Further, I do not believe that less dangerous criminals deserve a lower security prison. They are all criminals and if they did not wish to be in Azkaban, they should not have committed a crime.”

“Maintaining Azkaban is expensive,” Percy said. “It is also extremely difficult to hire guards because of its location and general feel of the place, not to mention the dangerous criminals. If we housed less dangerous criminals in another building, it would be easy to find guards to work there. We could then use the guards willing to guard high security prisoners only to guard high security prisoners. We would no longer have to waste them on lower security prisoners.”

“But we will still have to maintain Azkaban, and then another building,” Laurentis pointed out. “It just makes far more sense to keep all criminals in one place and an island is a good place to do that-”

“Obviously not that good, given the escape-”

“Mr. Weasley,” Farleigh interrupted. “You are speaking out of turn. It is time to move on to the next question. In light of the recent Azkaban break-out, what do you feel needs to be done to ensure it does not happen again?”

Laurentis gazed out over the crowd. Albus felt like she was looking directly at him, but assumed she just had that ability to appear to be looking every person in the eye at once. She then turned to Percy and gave him one of those creepy smiles that seemed to have become her signature facial expression. Albus turned to Rose, who raised her eyebrows and shrugged.

“I am well aware that I have remained quiet on the subject of the break-out,” Laurentis began, “and I have done that on purpose. I see that all of the reporters in the back have their Quik-Quotes Quills poised and ready to write down my every word on this subject. Surely you're all hoping to be the first to publish my thoughts.

“You're probably all assuming I will deny that there is anything wrong with the security at the prison and that the break-out was a mere fluke and it won't happen again. I am not going to say either. There is a problem and if we do not fix it, it will happen again. Every single one of those escaped prisoners is highly dangerous and if we do not recapture them soon, who knows what will happen. When they are captured, we will need to have better security in place. After all, what is more important that the safety of our children? With those five prisoners roaming free, every person in this room, in this castle, in this country is in danger.

“Fortunately, I have a solution. It is a controversial solution, but I feel we need to go to extremes to protect our families, especially our children. That is why if elected Minister, the first thing I will do is reinstate the dementors as Azkaban guards.”
________________________________________

Sorry about the cliff hanger! I didn't want to do it but the chapter was twice as long as they normally are and there really wasn't a good place to split it. Thanks for all the lovely reviews!

________________________________________
Albus let out a gasp, as did everyone else in the room. The Great Hall was suddenly in chaos. Everyone was whispering and a few people had let out cries of outrage or excitement. Albus could practically hear the reporters' quills scratching across rolls of parchment, and Laurentis was grinning again. Percy stood behind his podium, his mouth seeming to be frozen in a wide, gaping position. Farleigh was attempting to gain order, and failing.

“That is literally insane!” Rose exclaimed. “Reinstate the dementors? Is she mad? Is she throwing the election?”

“I don't know,” Albus said. “But she must be mad. Will people actually approve of this? Will she even be able to do it?”

Rose nodded. “Whoever she gets to replace herself as Head of Azkaban will surely want the dementors back, too. Then she'll approve it as Minister and it'll pass.”

“But it would be stupid to bring them back,” Albus said.

“It would,” Rose agreed. “They're dangerous and their allegiance changes so easily. But to be honest, I'm not sure everyone will feel that way. Not with those prisoners on the loose.”

“Quiet, quiet!” Professor Kendrick shouted. The crowd finally settled down.

“Mr. Weasley, it is your turn to speak,” Farleigh said exasperatingly.

Percy shook his head to regain his composure. He'd lost his cool, calm, and collected politician look and now he looked more like he did after arguing with Georgia about her Quidditch career.

“Well, I, er, do not believe that dementors are the answer to the security problems in Azkaban,” Percy said. “What we need are more skilled guards in charge of high security prisoners as well as a revamp of the spells and enchantments currently keeping prisoners inside. It will also help to go over the organization of the guard schedule because at the time of the escape, only three guards were maintaining that part of the prison. That was surely an oversight that could have been prevented.”

“Human error,” Laurentis said. “It happens and it will happen again. Can we really risk the lives of our children in the chance that another error will occur? Dementors were proven guards who did not allow prisoners to escape. During their reign in Azkaban, before their allegiance changed, only one person managed to escape. Since their removal we have had numerous escapes.”

“Clear evidence that we need to revamp prison security,” Percy said. “But dementors are not the answer. They are dangerous creatures and as you said, their allegiance changed. What's to say that won't happen again if, God forbid, another Voldemort were to rise to power? If anyone offered those dementors a better deal than we did they'd have a whole prison of dangerous criminals at their disposal to do their bidding. It's not worth the risk.”

“Another Voldemort is not going to rise to power,” Laurentis said with a laugh. “We have learned from our history and it won't happen again.”

“You can't guarantee that,” Percy said. “Even if there is a very small chance of it happening, it is not worth risking having dementors guard Azkaban.”

“Mr. Weasley, Ms. Laurentis,” Farleigh said. “It is time to move on-”

“You are talking about a hypothetical!” Laurentis exclaimed, throwing her hands up in the air. “I am talking about what is happening now! Five dangerous criminals have escaped, four of whom were on Voldemort's side during the war, and are out there, wreaking havoc as we speak. If the dementors were guarding Azkaban this never would have happened.”

“Now look who's talking hypotheticals!” Percy shouted back, ignoring Farleigh's vain attempts to get both candidates to stop talking. “For all we know they would've escaped anyway!”

Laurentis let out a deep laugh. “Five prisoners escape when the dementors are allied with the Ministry? That's laughable. Only one person was able to do that and it was because he was an Animagus. None of the prisoners are Animagi. We test for that before admitting anyone to the prison.”

“Be that as it may, dementors are dangerous magical creatures. Not to mention the ethics of subjecting prisoners to their effects-”

“Prisoners have no rights,” Laurentis said. “They give up their rights when they commit crimes-”

“Basic human rights!” Percy exclaimed. “There are basic human rights that everyone deserves! Talk about learning from our history. History tells us what happens when someone believes they are above others. Or do you not remember the reign of Voldemort?”

“I lost my mother to that war!” Laurentis said. “Don't you tell me that I don't remember it.”

Albus was on the edge of his seat. His uncle was so red in the face that he was starting to turn purple and resemble Kaden's grandfather. Laurentis's hair was breaking free from its tight bun and there was a vein popping out in her forehead. Farleigh was still trying to get both candidates to stop talking and failing miserably, while every other person in the Great Hall sat completely still, staring at Percy and Laurentis.

“Silence!” Professor Kendrick shouted in a magically amplified voice.

Both Percy and Laurentis immediately quieted. The vein on Laurentis's forehead continued to throb, and Percy still looked like an overripe tomato.

“I think we've run out of time,” Farleigh said, in a voice barely more than a squeak. “Thank you all for coming.”

“Students, please return to your common rooms,” Kendrick announced. “Lunch will be in an hour. As a reminder, there is no question and answer session today.”

The whispering rose up immediately after Kendrick stopped speaking and since everyone was whispering the noise level rose very high. Albus, Rose, and Amanda joined the queue of people ambling to leave the Great Hall, and without even talking about it, went immediately to the Marauder's Den, where they found John and Kaden.

“What the bloody hell is she trying to do?” John asked as soon as Albus shut the door.

“She's lost her mind!” Rose shouted as she began pacing around the room. “She has legitimately lost her mind. That's the only explanation.”

“Well there's no way she'll win now,” Albus pointed out. “Dementors?”

“It's a bit convenient, don't you think?” Rose asked. “This break-out happens and then she announces she wants the dementors back? It didn't sound like a plan she'd just come up with.”

“We've got to find out if she's tried to get them back before,” Albus said. “If she has it'll be in the Prophet tomorrow.”

“Dementors...” Kaden murmured. “They're what sucked all the happiness out of us when we were in Australia last year, right?”

Albus nodded. “They're awful creatures.”

“And they used to guard the prison?” Amanda asked incredulously. “That's just wrong.”

“It is,” Rose said darkly. “That's why after Voldemort they stopped using them as guards. That and all the dementors changed allegiance and let Death Eaters escape.”

“Would they even come back, though?” Kaden asked. “I mean, if they switched allegiance so easily....”

“They'll go wherever they're offered the most humans to feed off of.” Rose shuddered. “Voldemort offered them far more than even Azkaban could offer. But right now they don't have a good source. They just travel around, feeding. They'll guard if given the opportunity.”

“Shouldn't people be against it?” Amanda asked. “It's so ethically wrong.”

“That's why it was dumb of her to announce it,” Albus pointed out.

“She wouldn't announce anything if she didn't think it would get her votes,” Rose said. “Most people our parents' age and older, who lost loved ones in the war, will have absolutely no sympathy for Death Eaters and wouldn't care if the dementors were brought back, especially if Laurentis could then guarantee no one would escape.”

Albus hadn't thought of that and apparently no one else did, either, because the room grew quiet. Albus sank onto one of the couches and started counting the number of Bertie Bott's Every-Flavor Beans that were scattered on the floor. He got to twenty-three before anyone said anything.

“I wonder what Malfoy thinks of all this,” John mused. “Wasn't his dad a Death Eater? So he shouldn't want the dementors back in Azkaban, but the way he was talking in the Three Broomsticks a while back made it seem like he's very against your uncle.”

“Of course he's against my uncle,” Albus said. “His whole family dislikes my whole family and it goes the other way, too. But his dad was never found guilty of his crimes so he never did time in Azkaban.”

“Surely his dad's got friends there,” John said.

Albus shrugged. “Probably.” To be honest, he didn't really care what Malfoy thought about Laurentis and Uncle Percy.

“We should go to lunch and then visit Matt,” Rose said. “Catch him up on all this.”

Albus had completely forgotten that Matt was still in the hospital wing, in the midst of Laurentis's announcement. He felt vaguely guilty about it, but at least Rose had remembered.

Everyone gathered for lunch in the Great Hall was talking about Laurentis's desire to bring back the dementors. Percy, Laurentis, and the Ministry officials were still there, having lunch with the professors at the staff table, and all were deep in discussion. Albus would've loved to be able to listen in on their conversations, but wearing the Invisibility Cloak in the crowded Great Hall wasn't a good idea.

“Better get used to the idea of your dad being Minister,” one of the seventh years was saying to Bradley. “No one's going to vote for Laurentis now.”

Bradley muttered something under his breath that Albus couldn't hear. Albus took a seat a few people down from his cousin and began to make a sandwich.

“She's got my whole family's votes now,” one of the other seventh years said. “Both of my grandparents were killed by Fenrir Greyback. If the dementors will catch him and keep him in there forever, it'd make all of us sleep better.”

There were a few nods from other older students sitting nearby. Albus was slightly shocked. If this many students approved of her idea, a lot of adults probably did, too. And these were seventh years; they could vote.

“Wait, the dementors find criminals, too?” Kaden asked. “I thought that's what Aurors did.”

“Only the really awful escaped prisoners,” Albus said. “My dad's Godfather, Sirius, when he escaped, the dementors were given permission to give him the Dementor's Kiss if they caught him.”

“What's the Dementor's Kiss?” Amanda asked.

Albus shuddered. “It's where they suck out someone's soul.”

“And they die?” Amanda asked quietly.

Albus shook his head. “No, they live without a soul. Everyone says it's worse than dying.”

“And they were going to do that to Sirius?” Kaden replied.

Albus nodded. “He was the first to escape Azkaban. He's the one Laurentis was talking about and at the time everyone thought he murdered thirteen Muggles and gave my grandparents up to Voldemort.”

“That's absolutely horrible!” Amanda exclaimed. She turned to the few sixth and seventh years who had said they'd vote for Laurentis. “How can you wish that on someone?”

“If your grandparents were murdered by Death Eaters you would, too,” one of the girls snapped.

“Albus's grandparents were murdered by Voldemort and he doesn't want the dementors back at Azkaban,” Amanda pointed out.

“Well, Voldemort's dead,” the girl said. “Maybe if Greyback were dead I'd feel differently. But he's not so I want the dementors back.”

“I don't think she's going to lose as easily as we thought,” Amanda said quietly.

“Of course she's not,” Rose said. “This is probably better for votes than digging up dirt on Uncle Percy.”

“It's absolutely barbaric,” Amanda said, shoving her plate forward. “Sucking out someone's soul? And they just suck your happy memories out?”

“Yeah,” Albus answered, thinking back to the previous June. He shuddered. “You're forced to relive your worst memories.”

“That's all you can think about?” Amanda asked. “Just the bad ones?”

Albus nodded. “My dad said it makes you go mad after a while.”

“Of course it does!” Amanda shouted. “That's just not right! Are you lot done eating yet? I can't sit here anymore.”

Albus was surprised Amanda had had such a strong reaction to the dementors, but he supposed coming from the Muggle world, where she hadn't even known such creatures existed, it would be a bit of a shock. He was even more surprised that she'd nearly gotten into a shouting match with a seventh year over them, when she was normally so quiet.

“I'm done,” Rose said.

“Me, too,” Albus said as he got up.

John and Kaden each grabbed the remaining halves of their sandwiches and followed the others out of the Great Hall. Amanda lead the way, stomping her feet a bit more forcefully than was necessary.

“It's just wrong on so many levels!” she said as she led them to the Hospital Wing. “It's torture, honestly. That's what it is. Emotional torture. Can't they just be killed off or something?”

“They don't die,” Rose said. “They can't. They just sort of...exist. Once my mum gets word of this, well, she's not going to stay quiet.”

“And she shouldn't,” Amanda said. “Can she stop Laurentis?”

“Not if Laurentis is Minister,” Rose answered. “Right now Mum's the Senior Assistant of Magical Law Enforcement, so if Laurentis tried to get this to pass now, my mum could help stop it. But Minister Hartwell would never put something like this through.”

“They're foul creatures,” Amanda continued. “Having them guard anything or anyone is a terrible idea.”

Albus decided now would not be a good time to tell Amanda that when his dad was a third year Hogwarts was guarded by dementors.

“A dementor went after my dad once,” Kaden announced as they continued to the Hospital Wing. “Albus's dad saved him with a Patronus. Then he nearly got expelled for doing underage magic in the presence of a Muggle.”

“You're kidding,” Amanda said. “God, the Ministry really was screwed up when your parents were at Hogwarts. This is the sort of thing Embry should be using as examples.”

“I doubt it's a well-known fact,” Albus said. “That the famous Harry Potter nearly got expelled.”

“It's a serious example of injustice,” Amanda said.

“You sound just like my mum,” Rose said. “It's creepy. Doesn't she?”

Albus agreed. “You do sound just like her mum.”

“Your mum has the right idea,” Amanda said as they reached the Hospital Wing.

Matt was the only patient in the ward. The curtains weren't drawn around his bed and he was sitting up and eating a bowl of soup, which was a good sign. Madam Pomfrey was sitting at her desk, working on charts, and muttering to herself about something.

“Hey, how are you feeling?” Albus asked when they got to his bed.

“Fine,” Matt said. “Three cracked ribs and a lot of nasty cuts, but I'm fine. Listen, I heard the debate. Madam Pomfrey had it on on the wireless. How insane is Laurentis?! You should have heard Madam Pomfrey ranting about her earlier.”

“You're not to repeat what you heard,” Madam Pomfrey said. “But Albus and Rose, you can tell your uncle that he's got my vote. Always thought he was a little pompous when he was at Hogwarts but at least he's not dumb enough to employ dementors as guards of Azkaban.”

“Amanda's on a rampage,” Albus said.

“It's kind of funny,” John added.

“It is not funny!” Amanda exclaimed. “It's serious.”

“It's just that you're so quiet, but you got into it with that seventh year.”

“I did not get into it with a seventh year!” Amanda shouted and turned to Matt. “John's exaggerating. She announced that she and her family were all going to vote for Laurentis because her grandparents were killed by Greyback and she wants to make sure he stays in prison.”

Matt toyed with his blanket and didn't meet Amanda's eye.

“What?” she asked. “Don't tell me you want the dementors in Azkaban.”

“I don't,” Matt said quickly. “It's not that. It's the whole Greyback thing, I can sort of see where she's coming from. It's got to be scary, knowing he's out there when he killed her grandparents.... I mean, I guess I've always been sort of lucky. The bloke who bit me is in prison and has been since he bit me.”

Albus had never heard Matt talk about the werewolf who bit him, except for mentioning that he's in prison.

“He gets out next year,” Matt said quietly. “He can get paroled.”

“Do you know much about him?” Albus asked.

“Just his name and how old he was,” Matt said. “My parents know a bit more but they've never told me and I've never asked.”

“Is the Australian prison guarded by dementors?” Amanda asked.

Matt shook his head. “No, and it never has been. And I don't think prisons should be guarded by dementors. But Greyback...he's scary. He's worse than Silas Humphrey, that was the bloke who bit me. Humphrey's attack on me, that was an accident. Greyback bit people on purpose. He'd bite people and then raise them in his pack. That's why he liked going for kids. Teddy's dad...Greyback bit him and tried to get his parents to give him up. They didn't, of course, but a lot of parents did.”

Albus swallowed hard. He hadn't known that about Teddy's dad and wasn't even sure if Teddy knew that. Teddy's dad's parents died long before Teddy was born and Albus doubted his grandmother knew that.

“How'd you find that out?” Albus asked.

“When we first moved here Amy learned about Teddy's dad when she was catching up on British History of Magic. She told me all about him and how successful he wound up being just to make me feel better. But then I decided to research other werewolves and found out about Greyback in one of my dad's books. It talked about his whole thing with biting kids. It never said Teddy's dad specifically was one of those kids but I figured he must've been.”

“That's horrible,” Albus said quietly. The others nodded.

“He had a whole pack of werewolves to do his bidding,” Matt said. “And now he's out. What if he wants to do that again?”

“Bite people and make a pack?” Albus asked.

Matt nodded. “That or find people who've already been bitten.”

Albus saw where this was going now. “He's not going to find you. Hogwarts is safe.”

“That's what everyone always says, but the past few years it really hasn't. Remember last year?”

“Technically we weren't in the castle when we got taken to Australia. We were in the Floo. So if we just stay in the castle...” Albus pointed out.

“It's still not a guarantee,” Matt said. “I wonder how many people he bit last night.”

Albus didn't answer. There was no way of knowing what Fenrir Greyback did during the full moon, just like there was no way to guarantee that Hogwarts would be safe. All Albus and his friends could do was hope that it would be safe and that the escaped Death Eaters would be recaptured soon. Albus still thought having dementors guard Azkaban was an absolutely terrible idea, but after listening to Matt talk about Silas Humphrey and Fenrir Greyback, he sort of understood why some people might want the dementors back at Azkaban and thus vote for Laurentis. She might even get elected just because of this. And that, when it came down to it, was what scared Albus the most.
________________________________________

A/N: No cliffhanger this time! Thanks for all the wonderful reviews! If you like Marauder era, please check out my newest novel, Between Here and Somewhere!

________________________________________
“I guess Laurentis has been trying to get the dementors reinstated in Azkaban for years,” Albus said the following morning at breakfast, as he set down a copy of the Prophet.

The article on the debate had been a long one, taking up nearly the entire front page. It featured a photograph of Percy and Laurentis arguing with each other, and Albus was able to see his uncle's face turning steadily more purple, despite the fact that the picture was in black and white. The article that followed detailed Laurentis's apparently years-long campaign to bring the dementors back. She had put the proposition up for vote four times and it was shot down by Minister Hartwell each time.

“Of course he shot it down,” Rose said after skimming the article. “It's a stupid idea. Oh, look, they've quoted my mum. I'll read it. 'Hermione Weasley, Senior Assistant of Magical Law Enforcement, when asked about Laurentis's proposal, said, 'It's absolutely barbaric. Everybody, including prisoners, have basic human rights that cannot be broken. I thought we'd moved past the days when the Ministry sanctioned emotional abuse of its prisoners and the thought that a woman running for Minister is proposing this is quite frankly horrifying. It is my sincere hope that the people of wizarding Britain will think long and hard about the effects this will have, not only on prisoners, but on our society as well, before they cast their votes in April.''”

“Always one to speak her mind, your mum,” Albus said.

“I couldn't agree more,” Amanda replied. “Although if Laurentis wins I bet she gets sacked.”

“She can't,” Rose said. “Her job isn't appointed solely by the Minister. If she were head of the department, then yes, but she isn't head yet. It's confusing.”

“Good,” Amanda said. “We'll need some sane people in there if Laurentis is elected.”

“What are you lot doing today?” John asked, steering the conversation away from the election. “Kaden and I are going to spend the day plotting our new prank.”

“I don't want to know,” Rose said, holding up her hands. “I'm probably going to go to the library.”

“I'll go with you,” Amanda said. “I want to research dementors and their use in Azkaban.”

“Quidditch practice,” Albus replied. “All day. We've got to get ready for the match on Saturday against Ravenclaw. After the last match, we've got to make sure we we win by a decent amount of points if we're going to takeover Slytherin's place for the Cup.”

“Oh yeah,” Kaden said. “Whatever happened with that Olivia girl? She had a huge crush on James, didn't she?”

Albus laughed. “I've no idea.”

“She sent James a box of chocolates for Christmas,” Cedric, who had been sitting next to Albus, whispered. “But you didn't hear that from me.”

“I was there when he opened his presents,” Albus said.

“She gave them to him before we went home for the holiday,” Cedric explained. “She hijacked our thestral carriage and wound up riding to the train with us.”

“How awkward was that?” Albus asked, still giggling.

“Very,” Cedric said as he glanced over his shoulder. “She stared at him the whole time.”

“Creepy,” Albus said.

“Shh,” Cedric said. “He's coming over.”

“I think I'm going to go visit Matt before Quidditch practice,” Albus said. “I'll see you later?”

“Sure,” Rose said. “You know where to find me.”

“And us!” John announced. “Marauder's Den. Prank planning.”

“I don't want to be involved,” Albus said as he got up.

John shrugged. “Suit yourself.”

Albus hurried up to the Hospital Wing and managed to get inside without Madam Pomfrey noticing, although the nurse wouldn't have minded him being there. But she was very preoccupied with two students who had somehow fused their left arms together. Matt was already awake and much cheerier than he had been the previous day, when talking about Greyback. He was pretty sure Madam Pomfrey was going to let him out that night, so they agreed to meet in the Marauder's Den just before dinner.

Quidditch practice went very well and Albus was fairly certain they would beat Ravenclaw on Saturday. No one mentioned the election or Laurentis's wanting to bring back the dementors, which was a sure sign that things were getting back to normal at Hogwarts. Albus spent the rest of the day in the Marauder's Den working on his homework with Matt while trying to avoid hearing any part of John and Kaden's new prank.

The week went by quickly since Albus spent every moment he wasn't in class on the Quidditch pitch. But the weather remained decent so it was enjoyable. The only day Albus wasn't on the pitch was Thursday, when he had dueling practice.

“When's the next tournament?” Amanda asked as she and Albus walked into the Transfiguration classroom, where they were were scheduled to practice. Heather was there to supervise, sitting in a corner. A few of the team members were there already, including Malfoy.

“Weekend after this one,” Albus said. “I think we'll do well.” Albus glanced over to Malfoy, expecting some sort of snarky comeback from him. But he wasn't even paying attention. Instead he was hunched over a long piece of parchment. “Wonder what he's doing?”

Amanda shrugged. “Last minute homework?”

Suddenly, Malfoy sat up straight and crumpled the piece of parchment. He shoved it into his pocket and stood up, staring at Albus as he did so. He looked sullen and averted his eyes after only a few seconds.

“I don't think that's homework,” Albus said.

“Weird,” Amanda said.

“Very,” Albus agreed. “Let's get started! I think we should practice blocking.” He took a sidelong glance at Malfoy, expecting him to scoff and claim that they already knew how to block, but instead Malfoy just turned to the student nearest to him and began to do as Albus said. What was even weirder was that the student he partnered with was a second year Hufflepuff. Albus blinked to make sure he wasn't seeing things and then began shooting spells at Amanda while she blocked them.

The practice session got stranger as the night went on, in terms of Malfoy's behavior. Not once did he second guess what Albus said and he didn't say one word to anyone that wasn't directly related to dueling. Heather raised her eyebrows at Albus on numerous occasions since she had supervised Albus's practices before and knew how much Malfoy usually tried to be the captain. He ran out of the room as soon as the practice was over, looking vaguely upset, as he had at the debate.

“That was the strangest thing ever,” Amanda said as she and Albus walked back to the Gryffindor common room. “And I witnessed my brother attempt to brew a potion this past summer and drink it, thinking that it would turn him into a wizard.”

Albus burst out laughing. “Was he really disappointed that he didn't get a Hogwarts letter?”

Amanda nodded. “I never thought he would but didn't tell him that. But do you have any idea why Malfoy didn't argue with you tonight?”

“I've no idea,” Albus said. “But I really hope he stays this way.”

“I bet it had something to do with whatever he was reading when we walked in.”

“I wonder what it was.”

Amanda shrugged. “No idea, but I wish I did. It's just so odd.”

“Whatever it is, I hope it keeps him like this during next week's tournament.”

“Albus! What if it's something really awful?” Amanda asked.

Albus hadn't thought about that. “Well, we don't know that it is, so I don't have to think about it.”

“Albus, I doubt anything good would make Malfoy shut up like that,” Amanda reasoned. “I'm just saying, it might be something awful.”
***


Gryffindor's tendency to play Quidditch during really bad weather came up in full force on Saturday, when the unseasonably warm temperatures decided to desert Hogwarts. In its place were freezing cold temperatures and a howling snow storm that probably should have resulted in the match being canceled. But since Hogwarts never canceled Quidditch, Albus was preparing himself for a miserable match. He wished they could have nice weather, like they had when they played Slytherin in November.

The last time Albus had played in a storm this bad he'd been in his second year and wound up in the hospital wing with the flu afterward. He certainly did not want a repeat of that so he was hoping that James would catch the Snitch sooner rather than later.

“Fred, this is crazy,” Ryan said as they stood in the doorway of the changing rooms, waiting for the match to begin. “There is literally no way to see the Snitch in this.”

“There's nothing I can do about it,” Fred snapped. Everyone could tell he was stressed about this match, since they'd lost to Slytherin. “We have to play unless Kendrick calls it off.”

Ryan was right. Albus stared out onto the pitch and all he saw was white. The snow was swirling and blowing and Albus couldn't tell if more snow was actually falling or if it was all just getting blown around. But either way, finding a Snitch in it was going to be near impossible.

“I'll catch it,” James said confidently. “Don't worry.”

“We're not going to be able to hear the commentary,” Fred said. “Just catch it as soon as you can. Don't worry about catching it after we're up a certain number of points. We just need a win at this point.”

There was a very dull, quiet roar of applause and Fred led the team out onto the pitch. The balls were released and Albus flew up into the raging storm. Soon, he didn't know which way was up or down, let alone where the Quaffle was. After about ten minutes of meandering around the pitch, not knowing where he was going, the Quaffle suddenly appeared. Albus caught it, but had no idea where the goal posts were.

Albus flew straight ahead, hoping it was in the right direction, but instead of reaching the goal posts, he reached the stands. Groaning, he turned and headed toward the goal posts. At least he now knew where they were. He managed to score, mostly because Ravenclaw's Keeper didn't see him.

The match continued in chaos, with no one knowing where anyone else was. Albus didn't see a single Bludger the whole time and assumed the Beaters were just trying to keep track of them rather than trying to get them to hit the opposite team's players. Fred had been right about the commentary; Albus couldn't hear a word of it.

It felt like he was playing a match by himself. The only other players he saw were the Ravenclaw Seeker, Fred, and Heather. They had given up chasing as a team and instead, when one of them got the Quaffle, they flew it down to the goal posts as best they could.

“Albus, Albus!” someone shouted.

Albus turned and squinted, but he couldn't make out anyone flying near him.

“Albus!”

Albus continued flying in a circle trying to figure out who it was. He didn't even recognize their voice, but it could have been distorted by the wind. Finally, he began to make out a figure flying toward him. It was Heather.

“Albus!” she shouted once she reached him. “The match has been canceled. We're all to return to our common room right now.”

Albus nodded, figuring that Kendrick finally came to his senses. It was just impossible to play a good game of Quidditch in a storm like this.

When Albus and Heather finally reached the changing room they found the rest of the team sitting in their wet Quidditch robes, their faces pale. Albus noticed that even Heather looked slightly afraid.

“What's going on?” Albus asked.

“You were flying so high, you probably didn't hear,” Fred said as Albus sat down. “The match wasn't canceled because of the weather.”

“But it's so bad out there,” Albus said. “That match was pointless.”

“One of the Ravenclaw first years,” Fred continued, ignoring Albus, “she was late to the match and on her way down she saw-” Fred paused, swallowing hard. “She saw Fenrir Greyback on the grounds.”

“What?” Albus exclaimed, suddenly feeling nauseous. “But it's so snowy. How could she possibly know for sure?”

“She can't, of course,” Fred said. “But she went running to Professor Longbottom as soon as she reached the pitch and told him. That's when they canceled the match and sent everyone back to the castle.”

As if he heard Fred mention his name, Professor Longbottom walked into the changing room, looking scared himself. “I'm going to escort you all back to the common room. Wands out as we walk.”

Albus drew his wand and followed the rest of his teammates out of the changing rooms. They were all quiet on the walk back to the castle since the storm was still raging. No one would have been able to hear anything anyone said, even if anyone felt like talking. Albus felt too ill to talk. The thought of Fenrir Greyback being loose was bad enough, after hearing what Matt knew about him, but the thought of him being here, on the Hogwarts grounds, was too awful to even think about.

As they walked up to the castle and then up to Gryffindor tower Albus kept telling himself that it was fully possible that the Ravenclaw girl hadn't seen Fenrir Greyback. She was probably just thinking about the escaped prisoners and imagined something. Albus hadn't even been able to make out his own cousin when she'd been calling his name in this storm. What were the chances of a first year being able to pick out Fenrir Greyback?

But still...what if it had been Greyback? He had to be somewhere, so why not Hogwarts?

The common room was buzzing with chatter when the team entered a short while later. Albus avoided everyone, including his friends, until after he went up to his dormitory to take a shower. He was shivering and felt awful and didn't want to talk to anyone until after he was in dry clothes.

To his surprise his friends were all gathered in his dormitory after he got out of the shower. Bilius and Ethan weren't there, and the door was shut.

“We can't go to the Marauder's Den,” Matt explained. “We're not allowed to leave our common rooms until further notice.”

“Are they doing an investigation?” Albus asked as he sat down on his bed. “And what exactly happened? Fred only explained a little before Longbottom came to take us back to the castle.”

“It was weird,” Rose said. “No one really knew what was happening because it was so snowy and the wind was so loud. We couldn't see the match, so we were just standing there using a lot of heating charms and hoping things would be over soon. But then we started hearing whisperings about Greyback on the grounds. Then, probably two minutes later, Kendrick magically amplified his voice and told us all that we're to report back to our common rooms immediately and to walk back with our wands out and in large groups.

“So then, even though Kendrick never said for sure, we knew that someone had seen Greyback on the grounds. It was so scary. Eventually we found out that one of the Ravenclaw first years thought she saw him on her way to the match and told Professor Longbottom. But besides that we don't know much. No one's told us anything for sure and we've just been hanging out here and talking.”

“But what's he doing here?” Kaden asked. “And I thought there were Aurors guarding Hogwarts.”

“It was planned,” Matt said. “Don't you see? That storm out there is so bad that no one can see three feet in front of them and the wind is so loud no one can hear anything either. It was the perfect day for him to sneak onto the grounds, and if that girl hadn't seen him who knows what he would've done.”

“So you think she really saw him?” Albus asked skeptically. “You said it yourself, no one can see anything.”

“For all we know he said something to her,” Matt said. “No one knows the full story yet.”

“But why?” Kaden asked. “Seems really stupid to me. If he escaped he should be hiding out in the mountains, not going to Hogwarts where there are Aurors.”

“Remember what I said after he escaped?” Matt asked quietly. “This just confirms it. He's going to try to create his own werewolf army again. He was insane before Azkaban; imagine how crazy he is now. They don't need dementors in prison to make people go insane.”

“And you think-”

“That he came to try and figure out how to best position himself to bite kids during the full moon?” Matt interrupted. “Yeah, I do.”

Albus shuddered. “That's sick.”

“That's what he does,” Matt said. He looked more worried than everyone else. “But what I don't get is why it seems like he's trying for Hogwarts kids. Last time he went for really young kids.”

“But we don't even know for sure that's what he's up to,” John pointed out. “I mean it makes sense, but we still don't know.”

“Still,” Matt said. “You have to promise me you won't go outside during the full moon. I don't want any of you joining me in the Shack.”

John looked skeptical. “There's other reasons why he could be here.”

“Promise me,” Matt repeated, staring directly at John. “It's not worth the risk.”

John shrugged. “Yeah, I promise.” Everyone else nodded.

“What about the rest of them?” Amanda asked. “Do you think they're working together?”

“I don't know,” Albus began. “I'm sure the Carrows are together and Umbridge might be with them. But I doubt Willinson and Greyback are with them. The Carrows were Death Eaters, but Greyback wasn't technically a Death Eater. Voldemort used him, but always thought he was scum because he's a werewolf. The Carrows probably agreed. And Willinson, he's got no connection, which is why I'm still confused as to why he broke out with them.”

“For all we know they left the door open and he followed,” John said with a laugh.

Amanda groaned. “Everyone's got their own cell in high security.”

“Oh, yeah, I suppose you're right,” John said.

“Two Death Eaters, a war criminal, a werewolf, and Willinson,” Albus said. “It's so random. Why them?”

“Sounds like the start of a joke,” John said. “Two Death Eaters, a war criminal, a werewolf, and Willinson walk into a pub....”

Matt groaned. “Don't even go there. I just really hope they catch him before the next full moon. There wasn't anything in the Prophet about him biting anyone this last full moon, but I don't think he'd go two moons without biting. And there's no way he'd go on Wolfsbane, even if he could get some.”

“I wonder where the others are,” Rose mused. “You think they're just hiding out?”

“They must be,” Albus said. “There haven't been any sightings.”

There was a knock on the door and then it opened. James walked inside and sat down on the end of Albus's bed.

“Longbottom just came to talk to us,” he said. “We'll be allowed to leave the common room for dinner, but not before that.”

“Did they catch him?” Matt asked anxiously.

“No,” James said. “But, Longbottom said the owner of Madam Puddifoot's also saw him, so the Ravenclaw girl probably did see him. They've scoured Hogsmeade and there's no sign of him, though.”

“Are they rescheduling the match?” Albus asked.

James nodded. “Next Saturday. Good thing, too, because I don't think that one would've ever ended. Don't tell Fred, but there's no way I would've seen the Snitch.”

“One upside to Greyback being on the grounds, I guess,” Albus said.

“Lucky he didn't attack that girl,” Matt said as James left. “He attacks people even when he's not transformed.”

“He did that to my uncle Bill,” Albus said.

“Really?” Matt asked.

Albus nodded. “At the end of my dad's sixth year, the night Dumbledore was killed. He doesn't transform, but he likes really rare meat. Like hardly cooked at all meat.”

“Eww!” Kaden exclaimed. “That's gross. Wait, Matt, do you like really rare meat?”

Matt grinned. “Yeah. I hardly ever get it, though. Mum refuses to let me eat it because she thinks it'll make me ill. And they don't serve it here.”

“My uncle eats it all the time,” Albus said. “Aunt Fleur likes her steaks pretty rare, too. So does Teddy for that matter.”

“I like mine well done,” Kaden said.

“Now that's what's gross,” Matt replied. “I should ask the house elves to make me rare steak.”

“They probably would,” Rose said. “They make you pretty much whatever you want.”

“Let's go tonight,” Matt said. “We haven't been down there in ages.”

Kaden groaned. “So we're going to have to witness you eating a piece of raw meat?”

“Not raw,” Matt said. “Slightly cooked, bit of blood dripping out.”

“Oh, gross!” Kaden shouted. “I'm going back down to the common room.”

Albus laughed and Matt grinned as Kaden ran out of the room. There was nothing like a trip to the kitchens to get their minds off of Greyback and the other escaped convicts.
________________________________________

A/N: Sorry for the late update! I totally forgot it was Friday. Thanks for all the wonderful reviews! Please check out my Marauders fic, Between Here and Somewhere.

________________________________________
The first year who saw Greyback on the grounds became an instant Hogwarts celebrity. By the next day her entire story had spread throughout the student body like wildfire, and every single person in the castle knew her name. She was Quinn Gregory, a tiny girl who looked like she belonged in the Weasley clan with her long red hair and spray of freckles across her face. Quinn seemed to be enjoying her newfound fame and always had a crowd of people around her, asking her to recount the story.

Albus, himself, had heard the story at least five times. Quinn had been running to the pitch, late, because she'd spent a half hour trying to convince one of her roommates to go to the match, but in the end her roommate had decided she didn't want to brave the storm. Quinn then spotted someone lurking near the greenhouses and went to investigate, but instead of finding another student, she found Fenrir Greyback. Apparently Greyback had said 'hi, little girl' to Quinn, who then took off running even faster for the Quidditch pitch. Greyback then escaped to Hogsmeade and who knows after that.

As the week progressed Quinn's story grew until it ended with her disarming Greyback after a twenty minute duel and running to the Quidditch pitch in order to warn the rest of the students, rather than because she was scared. Albus was very happy that, for once, this hadn't happened to him or one of his friends.

“Guess what I heard today,” Kaden said as he entered the Marauder's Den Friday evening, after dinner.

“What?” Albus asked, looking up from the Marauder's Map, which he'd spent the last ten minutes studying. John and Matt were in the room as well, Matt studying and John sorting Chocolate Frog cards. Rose was tutoring Elsie Willinson again and Amanda had gone with her.

“Quinn,” Kaden said as he sat down next to Albus. “She's now saying that Greyback stole her wand and she got away from him by kicking his kneecaps.”

Albus burst out laughing. “That's ridiculous. She's still got her wand.”

“She claims Ollivander's sent her an exact replica,” Kaden replied.

“But no two wands are the same,” John pointed out. “Everyone knows that.”

“She's Muggle-born,” Kaden pointed out. “She might not.”

“But still,” Albus said. “She's taken it too far. No one's going to believe her now and it's all going to die down.”

Albus laughed as he looked back at the Marauder's Map. He'd been checking it, both the Hogsmeade and Hogwarts sections, looking for Greyback every so often since last Saturday. He'd yet to find anything remotely interesting on it, least of all Greyback or one of the other escaped convicts.

“Scorpius is leaving the castle,” Albus said, noticing the dot labeled 'Scorpius Malfoy' was no longer in the Slytherin common room, but instead slowly making its way across the grounds.

“What?” Matt asked, closing his book. “But it's eight o'clock. And it's snowing.”

“It's him all right,” Albus said. “Come see.”

Matt, John, and Kaden all crowded around Albus and they watched Scorpius's dot travel further and further from the castle. There were no other dots on the grounds, except Hagrid's, and his was remaining stationary behind his hut. It didn't appear that Malfoy was meeting anyone outside, nor did anyone go with him. It was odd, especially in light of his other odd behavior.

“I wonder what he's up to,” Albus mused.

“We should follow him,” John said. “See what he's up to.”

“I agree,” Kaden said. “No one goes outside at night during a storm for no reason at all. He's up to something.”

“We'd get caught,” Albus pointed out.

“And it's freezing,” Matt added.

“We'll take your Invisibility Cloak,” John said.

“I don't think we all fit anymore,” Albus said, not taking his name off Malfoy's dot.

“Then Kaden and I can go,” John replied.

“No way,” Albus said. “It's my cloak and I don't want you having it when Filch catches you. He'll confiscate it.”

“Who says we'll get caught?” John asked.

Albus laughed and turned to look at John. “Of course you'll get caught. And then my cloak will get taken away and I'll never see it again and my dad will murder me.”

“Your dad's Harry Potter,” John said. “He's not going to murder his own son.”

“If he did Laurentis would love it.” Kaden laughed. “I can see the headline now. 'Harry Potter Murders Own Son, Clearly Unfit For Duty. Weasley Still Supports Him.'”

“Oh shut it,” Albus muttered.

“Wait,” Matt said, staring at the map. “He's going to the Whomping Willow.”

Albus looked back at the map and saw that Matt was right. Malfoy's dot was slowing down and circling the tree, giving it a wide berth. “What's he doing?”

“You don't think he's figured it out, do you?” Matt asked.

“Well now we have to go after him,” John said, standing up.

Matt nodded. “Come on, Albus, let us take your cloak.”

“Fine,” Albus said, knowing that the battle was lost. Malfoy was at the Whomping Willow, which meant that this was now personal for Matt, and therefore, for all of them. “But I still don't know if we'll all fit.”

Albus walked over to his bed and located the cloak in one of the drawers beneath it. He rarely kept it in his dormitory anymore, since he and his friends spent far more time in the Marauder's Den than they did in the common room.

“Let's try it,” Albus said as his friends walked over to him. They stood close and Albus threw the cloak over them.

“Half my body is showing,” John said, turning to look at his still visible arm.

“And all our feet are showing,” Matt pointed out.

“That's because Albus and John are giants,” Kaden asked, glancing up at the five inches of space that separated his head from the top of the cloak.

“Both of you are going to have to crouch down,” Matt said.

“But what about the fact that half my body is showing?” John asked, yanking on the cloak.

“Now I'm not under it at all,” Matt said, yanking it back.

“I wish we could do Disillusionment charms,” Albus muttered. “Too bad we don't learn those until seventh year.”

“Rose could probably figure them out,” John said. “We should have her learn them.”

“Well we don't have time for that now and we're wasting time arguing. Malfoy could be in the tunnel by now,” Matt said.

“There are wards,” Albus pointed out.

“Still...” Matt muttered.

“Fine,” John said. “Albus and Matt can go and Kaden and I will stay here.”

“What?” Kaden shouted. “Why'd you volunteer me to stay?”

“Well, Albus isn't going to let anyone take the cloak without him going and Matt has to go since Malfoy's by the Whomping Willow,” John said. “That leaves you and me. I don't think more than two of us are going to fit.”

“Let's go, then,” Matt said, yanking the cloak off of John and Kaden and repositioning it over himself and Albus. “See you in a bit.”

Albus nearly had to run to keep up with Matt and keep himself crouched down enough to stay hidden, and that was saying something since usually Albus was much faster than Matt. The two of them said nothing on their way down to the front door and weren't noticed by any of the students or professors they passed.

“Remember, we've got to be back before curfew,” Albus said once they shut the front door. “We don't want to be locked out like back in second year.”

“This is total deja vu,” Matt added. “Two years ago we caught Kaden messing with the Whomping Willow. That's when Kendrick added the wards.”

“But unlike with Kaden, I don't think we'll wind up friends with Malfoy after,” Albus pointed out.

The grounds were very quiet, the only sound being the crunching of their feet in the snow. Albus carefully vanished their footprints as they walked, while Matt led them down the path to the Whomping Willow. It was very cold and snowy, which reminded Albus even more of the time they got locked out of the castle after sneaking into the Shrieking Shack.

“Is he even still there?” Matt asked quietly when they were halfway to the tree.

Albus paused and pulled the Marauder's Map out of his pocket. Scorpius's dot was still walking methodically in a circle around the tree. “Yeah, he's there.”

Matt nodded and they continued walking. Neither of them had lit their wands, so they slowed down in order to not be hit by the Willow's large branches. Finally they reached it and stood just outside its hitting range, waiting for Malfoy to come back around.

The Slytherin boy was wrapped in a thick cloak and pacing with his head always turned toward the tree. He had his wand out and didn't seem to notice that he had been joined by Albus and Matt. Albus glanced at Matt as Malfoy walked past them, unsure of whether to call his attention to their presence. Since they were invisible, they could just stand there and watch him.

“There's got to be a way,” Malfoy muttered. “Every ward has a weak point. They don't all last forever.”

Albus could now see that Malfoy was sending various hexes and jinxes into the wards, but they were all deflecting away. As he rounded the tree once more, a hex bounced off the wards and nearly hit Albus, who had to jump out of the way to avoid it. His leg slipped out from underneath the cloak in the process, but Malfoy didn't see it.

“It's got to work,” Malfoy said. “There's no other way in....”

“Into where?” Matt mouthed. Albus shrugged.

They waited for Malfoy to make another circle around the tree and this time one of the hexes reflected off the wards and toward Matt, who jumped to get out of the way, but tripped over a partially buried tree root instead. He fell over, yanking the cloak down with him, leaving both himself and Albus exposed. Matt let out a stream of curses and a cry of pain. Albus heard a sickening crunch as he fell and hoped it was the tree root and not Matt's leg.

“Who's there?” Malfoy shouted, aiming his wand at Albus and Matt. He lit it and his face visibly paled. “What are you two doing here?”

Albus lit his own wand. Matt was still sitting in the snow. “I could ask you the same thing, Malfoy,” Albus said.

Albus pointed his wand at Matt and reached down to help him up. He was clutching his wrist and his face was as pale as Malfoy's, although for different reasons.

“I said, what are you two doing here?” Malfoy repeated, not sounding very confident.

“Following you,” Albus said simply, thinking honesty would be the best policy here. After all, all three of them were breaking the rules. Not much point in denying it or making up excuses.

“How did you know I was here?” Malfoy asked. His wand arm was now trembling, although Albus didn't know if it was from the cold or fear.

“Saw you leave the castle,” Albus said. “Figured we'd see what you were up to.”

“What do you want with the tree?” Matt demanded. His voice sounded pained.

Malfoy's mouth turned up in a sly grin. “Once again, you just confirmed my suspicions. This tree's how you get into the Shrieking Shack. I did a little more research, and turns out this thing was planted the same year the Shrieking Shack was built. The same year Remus Lupin started going to Hogwarts. That Shack's all boarded up so I figured there must be some sort of tunnel leading to it and what better way to hide a tunnel than to put a murderous tree above it? Trouble is, I can't disable the wards. Bet you can, though.”

“Why?” Matt asked. Albus heard him inhale sharply and began to wonder if his wrist was broken. “Why do you want to get in there?”

“Can't tell you,” Malfoy said.

“Well, I'm not disabling the wards,” Matt said.

“I'll figure it out eventually,” Malfoy said.

Albus wanted to ask him about his behavior at dueling practices so badly. They'd had another practice the previous day and again, Malfoy hadn't said two words to anyone. It was just strange. Bur Albus figured that even if he asked, Malfoy wouldn't answer.

“It'd be dumb, you know,” Matt said. “Going into the Shrieking Shack.”

“Well I wouldn't go in on a full moon, idiot,” Malfoy said. “Believe it or not this has nothing to do with you or your evil side. I couldn't care less that you're a filthy werewolf. I have better things-”

Albus jabbed his wand into Malfoy's chest, nearly knocking him over in the process. His heart was pounding and he could feel heat rising up in his body. “You. Take. That. Back,” he seethed.

“Albus, don't,” Matt said.

Malfoy scowled. “No. I won't, because it's true. I don't care. It was the mystery that I liked and nothing more. You don't know the half of what's going on or why I want that Shack. He only uses it one night out of twenty-eight. I want it the other twenty-seven. I don't get why that's such a huge deal.”

“What's going on over there?” a loud voice boomed over the grounds. “Eh, what're yeh doing?”

Albus quickly moved his wand and pointed it elsewhere. It was one thing to get caught on the grounds after dark but another to be caught threatening another student. He pointed his wand in the direction of the voice and saw Hagrid making his way toward them, his large Newfoundland, Fetch, at his side.

“Albus?” Hagird asked as he drew nearer. “Matt? What're yeh doing out here? And Malfoy?”

“Er, nothing,” Albus muttered.

“Well, yer breaking the rules so I'm going to have to take yeh to Longbottom,” Hagrid said and then turned to Malfoy. “And you'll have to see Slughorn.”

“Hospital wing,” Matt said. “First.”

Hagrid turned to Matt and looked at his wrist. “O' course,” he said. “What did yeh do?”

“Tripped over a root,” Matt said. “Landed on a rock.”

Hagrid nodded and clapped Matt on the back, a gesture clearly meant to comfort him but instead nearly knocked him over again. After he recovered they set off for the castle, walking next to Hagrid. Malfoy followed at a short distance. Hagrid didn't ask them what they were doing by the Whomping Willow again, although Albus had a feeling he probably knew. After all, he knew why the tree was there and the fact that Matt was a werewolf.

The castle was much emptier when they returned than when they had left. Albus only saw a few prefects doing their rounds and realized that curfew must have passed. So much for not getting in trouble.

Hagrid walked them to the hospital wing and left Albus and Matt there while he then escorted Malfoy to Slughorn's study. Malfoy had remained quiet during the entire walk, but lost the sneer he'd worn when he insulted Matt.

“I thought you lot had grown out of this,” Madam Pomfrey said as she examined Matt's wrist. “This sneaking about in the dead of night, following people. At least you didn't get locked out this time.

“Yes, your wrist is definitely broken. But I can mend it quickly.”

Madam Pomfrey took her wand out of her robes and pointed it at Matt's wrist. She muttered a spell and instantly, his wrist was healed.

“Thanks,” Matt said, bending his wrist.

“You're welcome,” the nurse replied. She hurried over to a cabinet and returned with a goblet of potion. “Take this for the pain and you'll be good as new. No need to stay the night. I know you stay here enough as it is. You're to wait here until Professor Longbottom comes to collect you.”

Matt nodded and downed the potion in one large gulp. Albus sat down next to him on the bed and they waited for Longbottom. Albus didn't think Hagrid had seen him with his wand pointed at Malfoy, so his punishment shouldn't be too bad.

“You don't think he'll make you miss Quidditch tomorrow, do you?” Matt asked.

Albus hadn't thought of that. “I hope not. Fred would kill me.”

The doors to the ward opened and Professor Longbottom walked inside. He looked tired and slightly annoyed. He sighed and shook his head when he saw Albus and Matt.

“You two again?” he asked. “Hagrid said you were on the grounds after curfew?”

“Yes, sir,” Albus replied. He always felt weird calling Professor Longbottom 'sir', but figured it couldn't hurt in this situation.

“Should I bother asking why?” Longbottom replied.

Albus shook his head, knowing that telling Longbottom why wouldn't get them any fewer detentions, nor would it stop Malfoy from trying to figure out how to get into the Shrieking Shack.

“I'll make this easy, then,” Longbottom said. “Ten points from Gryffindor, each. And you'll both serve detention tomorrow, immediately following the Quidditch match. Lines, in my office. I'll see you then.” Longbottom turned to leave. He nodded to Madam Pomfrey as he walked to the door. “Good night, Poppy.”

“Good night, Neville,” Madam Pomfrey said.

Albus and Matt said good night to the nurse and then left the ward, both automatically going back to the common room rather than the Marauder's Den. If they were caught outside of Gryffindor tower twice in one night they'd get a much worse punishment than twenty lost points and a detention. Albus thought they'd gotten off easy, to be honest. He wondered what Slughorn had set for Malfoy.

John, Kaden, Rose, and Amanda were waiting for them when they got back. John and Kaden were smirking.

“Don't say a word,” Albus muttered. “I knew whoever followed him would get caught.”

“Figured you did, seeing as you've been gone for over an hour,” John said. “What's your punishment?”

“Detention tomorrow after Quidditch and we each lost ten points,” Albus said.

“You got off easy,” Kaden replied. “If it had been me and John we would've gotten three detentions.”

“I think Longbottom took pity on us because Matt broke his wrist while we were out there,” Albus said.

John laughed. “Of course he did.”

“Shut it,” Matt said. “It really hurt. I was dodging a curse that Malfoy sent to the Willow that reflected off the wards.”

“Did you find anything useful out?” Rose asked. “Not that I approve of this.”

Albus and Matt explained what had happened, including the part where Malfoy insulted Matt and Albus nearly hexed him.

“Very odd,” Rose mused. “What can he possibly want the Shack for? And what did he mean when he said he had other stuff going on? What other stuff could he possibly have going on besides school?”

“Whatever he's got going on with Willinson?” John suggested. “Surely Felix knows what his cousins are up to and Malfoy's always involved with that.”

Albus shrugged. “Maybe. But why would he need the Shack?”

“Who knows,” John said.

“I bet it's got something to do with that letter,” Amanda said. “And why he's acting so strangely lately.”

“Speaking of acting strangely, Elsie Willinson is still acting weird,” Rose said. “I thought she would've adjusted by now, but she hasn't. She doesn't seem to have any friends.”

“Does her brother still pick her up from tutoring?” Albus asked.

“Yeah,” Rose replied. “It's very odd. I asked her if she wanted to hang out with me and Amanda until curfew, but she said she couldn't. So I said maybe another time and she said probably not.”

“That's odd,” John said. “Clearly they're up to something.”

“They're always up to something,” Albus pointed out. “I'd love to know what it is, though. I wonder if they've been in contact with Quinton.”

“They'd be stupid to be,” Rose said. “Kendrick didn't punish Felix for what happened to Kaden two years ago, telling him if he did it again he'd get expelled.”

“I still say you've got to figure out what's up with Elsie,” John said.

“I'm trying,” Rose insisted. “It's not as easy as you'd think. She hardly talks at all.”

“Just keep trying,” John said.

“Team!” Fred suddenly shouted from across the common room. “Off to bed, all of you! We've got a second chance at this and let's not ruin it by staying up all night.”

Albus didn't argue. Turning in early was a good idea and he was actually quite tired after his excursion to the Whomping Willow. He bade good night to his friends and went up to his quiet, empty dormitory. It didn't take him long to fall asleep and he dreamt of playing Quidditch with Malfoy while the two of them dodged the Whomping Willow on brooms.
________________________________________

A/N: Thanks for all the reviews! I am doing Camp NaNoWriMo again this month (probably not a good idea...), and I'm writing this for it, so hopefully I'll finish it!

________________________________________

The weather for the rematch was vastly different from the previous Saturday's weather. The sky seemed to be all out of snow and the sun was shining. Although it was still bitterly cold, there was little wind. Albus hoped the match would be a long one since as soon as it was over, he had to serve detention with Professor Longbottom.

Albus went down to the Great Hall by himself for breakfast. His early night had given way to him waking up far sooner than he normally did. It was nice being able to linger over breakfast, though, and concentrate on the upcoming match rather than interact with his friends. As he ate, the Great Hall slowly filled. He had just finished the last of his eggs when the post owls arrived.

Albus observed the owls and didn't recognize any of them. Clearly he was not receiving any post today, which was a good thing because he was fairly certain Longbottom had owled his parents about his detention. But then he noticed a very large owl holding a red envelope in its mouth; it was a howler and the owl was heading toward the Slytherin table. Albus continued watching it and saw it land right in front of Scorpius, who yanked the envelope off the owl's leg and tripped over the bench in his haste to leave the room. Albus actually sympathized with him; it was awful opening a howler in public. From the sound of it, Malfoy didn't quite make it to a loo or empty classroom. Muffled shouting could be heard coming from the Entrance Hall.

Malfoy didn't return to the Great Hall. Albus figured it must have been a particularly awful howler and was wondering what it could possibly have said when his friends sat down next to him.

“Malfoy got a howler,” John said as he started loading his plate with bacon.

“I know,” Albus said. “Saw him get it.”

“Well, we heard the tail end of it,” John said.

“It was awful,” Rose replied.

“What did it say?” Albus asked. “Who was it from?”

“His dad, I'm guessing,” John said. “It was a man's voice. We crouched down on the stairs when we saw him. Basically his dad was yelling at him for getting in trouble for stupid things when he should be studying and concentrating on his school work and keeping his head down. Then he said something about how Malfoy knows that they, meaning his parents, have far more important things on their minds than worrying about Malfoy getting in trouble in school. And how they can't worry about him at school when they're busy worrying about other things.”

“That's vague,” Albus said. “He didn't say what the other things were?”

“Nope,” John said. “But Malfoy obviously knows what they are because he was shaking and he ran for the dungeons after the howler blew up.”

“I told you the letter he read at practice was about something bad,” Amanda said.

“And now we know it's got something to do with his family,” Albus said.

“Maybe they're going to join up with Willinson and the Carrows and all them,” Matt said. “His dad was a Death Eater, wasn't he?”

“Sort of,” Albus said. “His grandfather was, but his dad sort of got caught up in it and he got off. So did his grandfather, actually. No one really knows why, but my dad vouched for them at their hearing.”

“Now that is weird,” Matt said. “Maybe his grandfather is planning on joining them.”

Albus shrugged. “Maybe, but it just doesn't sound right. Listen, I've got to get to the pitch. I'll see you after.”

“Yeah, for detention,” Matt muttered. “Going to be a blast.”

Albus's wish for a long match came true. Since the weather was cooperating, James put off catching the Snitch until Gryffindor was up by 200 points, instead focusing his efforts on faking dives to keep Ravenclaw's Seeker away from the Snitch. It worked, and three and a half hours later James caught the Snitch and won the match for Gryffindor. Albus was sorely disappointed that he'd have to miss the resulting party in the common room, but figured that's what Longbottom was going for when he scheduled detention for right after the match.

Matt was waiting for Albus in the Great Hall and the two of them grabbed a quick lunch before hurrying to Longbottom's office. They spent the next two hours writing 'I will not sneak out of the castle after dark' over and over again. By the time they were done Albus wanted to curl up and take a nap, since the Quidditch match itself had exhausted him. He and Matt decided to spend the afternoon in the Marauder's Den, just relaxing if not actually sleeping.

When they arrived they found John and Kaden in the middle of plotting their new prank. Rose and Amanda were in the library, apparently avoiding John and Kaden and their prank.

“Are you two sure you don't want to be involved with this?” John asked. “It's going to be legendary.”

“It won't be worth the detentions,” Albus said.

“Seriously,” Matt agreed. “If it's legendary it's going to mean a lot of detentions.”

“Fine,” John said.

John and Kaden lowered their voices, but Albus distinctly heard the words 'Weasleys'', 'itching powder,' 'Slytherins,' and 'alarm clocks.' At that point, he really didn't want to know. He and Matt decided to start a game of chess and attempted to tune out John and Kaden's whisperings.

“I was thinking the other night and realized if my dad loses his job when Laurentis is elected it's going to be just like Australia,” Matt said as he captured one of Albus's pawns.

“I hadn't thought of that,” Albus said. “Does that mean you'd move again?”

“I don't know,” Matt said quietly. “I really hope not. I guess I don't think so because the real reason we moved here was so I could go to school, not for Dad to get a new job.”

“Then you probably won't,” Albus replied, taking one of Matt's bishops.

“But if he does lose it, it's going to probably mean Laurentis disagrees with him on werewolf issues,” Matt pointed out. “That could be really bad.”

“You never know,” Albus said. “There's other things your dad deals with that they might disagree on.”

“But my dad's the most vocal on werewolf rights. Everyone knows that,” Matt said. “If they're going to disagree on something, that's going to be it.”

“I guess you'll have to wait until the debate,” Albus said.

“I'm thinking of going,” Matt said quietly. “It might be awful, but I want to know what she says firsthand, not from the Prophet.”

“That makes sense,” Albus said. “When is it?”

“In three weeks,” Matt said. “February 15th. That's the only thing; it's the day of the Hogsmeade trip.”

“That happened last Hogsmeade weekend,” Albus said, “when Rose went. Sucks that they do that.”

Matt nodded. “I think I'll go anyway. I mean, it is the Valentine's Hogsmeade trip. Speaking of that, is James still going out with that Hufflepuff girl? I forgot her name.”

“Gabby Ellis,” Albus said. “I've no idea, to be honest. I guess we'll find out when the Hogsmeade trip comes.”

“Just as long as Fred doesn't schedule Quidditch practice for that day again,” Matt pointed out.

Albus laughed. “He won't. None of us minded too much since the weather was so nice, but I think if he did it again the whole team would hate him.”

“That would make an awkward family dinner, considering over half the team are your cousins,” Matt said.

“Family dinners with my family have become awkward by definition,” Albus said. “Luckily the next one won't be until far after the election.”

“Only a little over two months to go,” Matt said. “You can make it.”

“I hope so,” Albus replied, as he moved his queen in the direct line of Matt's king. “Checkmate.”
***


“Rufus Scrimgeour was the last Minister of Magic to be appointed by the Wizengamot,” Professor Embry said as he strolled around his classroom. It was the first week of February and the class had finally gotten to the point where they were beginning to discuss the second war. “He was appointed quickly, after Cornelius Fudge resigned.

“Minister Fudge is commonly known as the least competent Minister ever to hold office,” Embry continued. “He refused to believe evidence that was laid out plainly in front of him, for fear of being known as the Minister who held office when Voldemort returned. Somehow, he thought that if he ignored what was right in front of him, it would just simply go away. This backfired, of course, because he is now known for being the least competent Minister.

“Scrimgeour is seen in a slightly better light than Fudge, although he was Minister when the Ministry fell to Voldemort in August of 1997....”

Albus knew all of this, of course. He'd grown up listening to his parents laugh at the incompetency of Fudge and the pointlessness of Scrimgeour being considered a minister at all. Nevertheless, he listened to Embry and took detailed notes since the essays Embry set were often long and difficult.

“The time of the second war was a time of fear and chaos,” Embry said as he reached the front of the room again. “No one knew what was going on or who to believe. Many people heartily believed Fudge and what he said, believing Albus Dumbledore to be a fraud or even senile. When this reality was shattered for them in June of of 1996, they didn't know what to do or who to turn to, or even what to believe. They'd been fooled for a full year, believing what their Ministry and newspaper told them. Now that they knew they'd been lied to for a year, what were they to do? They didn't trust anyone, let alone the Ministry. Most people's goals were to protect their family and friends and that was it.

“It was the fear and chaos that allowed Voldemort and his followers to take control of the Ministry. Without the support of wizarding Britain, the Ministry was weak and susceptible to a takeover. It was simple for Voldemort to slip in and takeover in a matter of weeks.”

“Excuse me, Professor?” Olivia Price said, raising her hand.

“Yes, Miss Price?” Embry replied. “You have a question?”

“Yes, sir,” Olivia replied. “I was just wondering, and you don't have to answer, but what were you doing during the second war?”

If Embry was surprised that Olivia asked him a question about his personal life, he didn't show it. Instead he gave a slight smile and began to walk around the classroom again.

“I don't mind answering that,” Embry said. “Many of your parents were involved with the war effort, so of course you're curious. When the Ministry fell I'd been working there for about six years. I got a job as an undersecretary in the Department of Magical Transportation when I was just out of Hogwarts and worked my way up the ranks.

“I'd received a promotion shortly before Minister Fudge resigned and worked to draft laws, but I quit after Scrimgeour got appointed because I saw that the Ministry was weak and corrupt and no longer wished to align myself with it. After Voldemort's defeat, I was approached by Kingsley Shacklebolt asking if I would like to be involved with rebuilding the Ministry, and I said yes.”

Albus was impressed. Embry hadn't mentioned what sort of job he did at the Ministry and Albus had had no idea he had been so involved with its rebuilding after the war.

“So you can see why I believe it is so important to educate all of you about the history of the Ministry and how it is organized now,” Embry finished. “Looks like we're out of time for today so please write an eight inch essay on Rufus Scrimgeour's term as Minister for homework, due next Tuesday.”

Albus packed up his bag and headed back up to Gryffindor tower with his friends. When they arrived, there was a crowd around the notice board, which was strange. The Hogsmeade weekend date had already been announced and rarely did other notices garner such a crowd around the notice board.

Albus shrugged at his friends and they squeezed through the crowd until they could read it. It was a large poster, covering the majority of the board, imposing an early curfew Sunday night. Everyone, first through seventh years, were to be back inside the castle by five in the evening, no exceptions. Below that it warned that Filch was going to lock the front doors at exactly five and that everyone was to report to their common room at five-thirty.

“That's weird,” Albus said as he and his friends retreated. “I don't think they've ever imposed a curfew so early before, and for everyone?”

“It's because Greyback hasn't been caught,” Matt said quietly. “Sunday's the full moon.”

“They must think he's going to come back,” Albus replied.

“Scary,” John added. “Do you really think he will?”

“I don't know,” Matt said. “But I'd bet my parents' whole Gringotts vault that he's going to bite someone Sunday night.”

“Wait,” Rose said. “You don't usually go to the Shrieking Shack until six or seven.”

“They're probably doing it early just to be safe,” Matt said. “In case some people don't follow it or something. It says on there that the prefects are going to do a head count. That's why we all have to come back to the common room at five-thirty.”

Rose nodded. “Then you'll have to leave later, after the doors are locked.”

“Either that or Madam Pomfrey will have me go early,” Matt replied. “I really hope not, though. I hate sitting out in the Shrieking Shack.”

“I hope not, too,” Albus said quietly.

Albus and his friends were probably the only students who knew the reason why a curfew had been imposed on Sunday. Even the prefects seemed clueless, since Albus overheard a few of them trying to figure it out. More than a few students were angry about it, although Albus had no idea why since it wasn't common for students to take a stroll on the grounds on a Sunday night in February. He supposed they liked the choice, though.

As Sunday drew closer Matt became quieter and even more closed off than he normally was. In fact, it reminded Albus a lot of the way he was in first year, before Rose figured out why he disappeared once a month. Both Albus and Rose tried to get him to open up about it, but he shrugged them off and insisted he was fine. John and Kaden didn't seem to notice any difference in Matt, and Amanda wasn't one to ask about it when he closed himself off.

Saturday's Dueling Tournament proved uneventful. Albus spent the entire few hours worrying about Matt because he had elected to skip the tournament in order to sleep, which was odd since he'd normally at least try to participate. At least Malfoy made Albus's life easy by remaining quiet throughout the tournament and not blaming Albus when the team came in third place. Albus himself won both of his duels, as did Malfoy.

On Sunday Albus and his friends spent the day in the Marauder's Den, working on homework and playing games. Matt slept for much of the day and he still wasn't saying anything. While Albus was worried, he was fairly certain the reason Matt was so quiet was Greyback. When a quarter to five rolled around, they had to return to Gryffindor to prove they were in the castle. Matt was still asleep, so Albus told everyone else go to on ahead and that they'd follow.

“Matt,” Albus whispered as he shook his friend awake. “We've got to go back to the common room.”

“This is stupid,” Matt muttered. “They're counting everyone to make sure no one gets attacked by a werewolf when they've got one living in the castle.”

“Is that why you've been so quiet this week?” Albus asked as Matt got up. He didn't reply. “You and Greyback aren't the same.”

“I know,” Matt said as they left the room. The corridor was empty, so he continued to talk. “It's just the fact that we're both werewolves. That's the same. What if they start doing this curfew thing every full moon, all because of me?”

“They won't,” Albus said. “You're not dangerous because you're in the Shrieking Shack. It's all sealed up.”

“I guess, but it's still possible.”

“You and Greyback are different because he wants to bite people. He purposely transforms near people, not on Wolfsbane, so he can infect people. You hide yourself away to protect everyone. That's a huge difference.”

“But what if he does come to Hogsmeade,” Matt continued. “He'll hear me howling and know there's a werewolf in the Shrieking Shack and he'll try to get in.”

“But he won't be able to,” Albus pointed out.

“And then if he does bite someone, and let's face it, he will,” Matt said. “It's going to look bad for all werewolves. All it'll take is a few attacks and people will start believing we should have our rights taken away. That's what happened in Australia.”

“You're getting ahead of yourself,” Albus said as they reached the common room. “Right now you don't know that any of that's going to happen. Wandering banshee.”

“You're nearly late,” the Fat Lady said as she swung her portrait open.

Albus and Matt climbed inside and found the common room the most crowded they'd ever seen it. Prefects were milling about attempting to get everyone to quiet down, but everyone was still trying to figure out why such an early curfew had been set. The room was so crowded that Albus and Matt couldn't find the rest of their friends and since being in a crowded room was not the best idea for Matt right before the full moon, they quit searching and instead sat down near the dormitory doors.

“Everyone, quiet, please!” Heather announced in a magically amplified voice. The room finally quieted down. “I know you're all upset about the curfew but they haven't even told us prefects why it's been imposed. It's not that big a deal since it's February, dark, and freezing outside. None of you would be outside anyway. Now just remain quiet while we take roll so we can all get downstairs for dinner. After we're done you'll be allowed to roam the castle until your normal curfew.”

Heather began calling out names in alphabetical order by year. It took her fifteen or so minutes to get to the fourth years and after that Albus tuned her out. Fifteen minutes after that she finished and all the Gryffindors had been accounted for. The common room emptied out quickly, since everyone wanted to get to the Great Hall for dinner. Matt had fallen asleep and after Albus prodded him awake, he went up to the dormitory to sleep until he had to go to the hospital wing.

When Albus and his friends returned from dinner Matt had already left for the hospital wing. They decided to just stick around the common room since it was fairly empty and spent the evening working on their essays for Professor Embry.

“Any chance you lot know why we're stuck inside?” James asked as he snagged the last chair at Albus's table. “Cedric, Ben, and I are asking everyone.”

Albus exchanged a glance with Rose. He supposed it couldn't hurt to tell James the reason why, just so long as he didn't tell him why they knew. Of course, as soon as he told James it would spread around the castle like dragon pox at a wizarding nursery school, but again, that wouldn't really hurt anything.

“We've got a hunch,” Albus said. “Remember how Quinn Gregory saw Greyback on the grounds during the Quidditch match?”

“Yeah,” James said.

“Well, tonight's a full moon,” Albus said. “Put it together.”

James was silent for a moment and then his eyes grew big. “You think Kendrick thinks he's going to come here tonight?”

“That's our guess,” Albus said and his friends nodded.

“Makes sense,” James said. “Can you imagine what kind of trouble Kendrick would be in if someone got bitten by a werewolf on the grounds?”

Albus didn't want to think about it. He doubted Matt wanted a companion in the Shrieking Shack.

“Scary,” James said, “thinking about Greyback transformed while wandering around the grounds. I wonder why they didn't just tell us. No one would be angry about it if they'd told us the reason.”

“Probably didn't want anyone to panic,” Albus said.

“Guess so,” James agreed. “But still, everyone's going to know now.” He grinned and then got up to go find Ben and Cedric. The fact that the curfew was due to Greyback would be common knowledge in the castle within ten minutes, Albus guessed.

Albus managed to finish his essay and decided to call it a night shortly after. He didn't feel like talking, not with the possibility that Greyback was either running around the Hogwarts grounds or setting himself on some unsuspecting village, wanting to infect small children with lycanthropy. It was awful to think about. Albus laid awake for hours, trying not to think about it, but try as he might, he just could not push the thought from his mind.

________________________________________
It was a rare occasion that Albus witnessed the sun rise. Being fourteen-years-old, Albus preferred to sleep until the very late morning or early afternoon, but this particular morning he was up before the sun. He hadn't slept much that night due to his worries about Fenrir Greyback and Matt, and decided that it was pointless to try and sleep when he'd just have to be up in an hour anyway.

Albus sat at the window and watched as the sun slowly rose over the horizon. The grounds looked peaceful, and not at all like the place where a werewolf could've been roaming just a few hours before. The moon had set and both Matt and Greyback would be back in their human forms by now. Whatever had happened was over now and there was nothing anyone could do to change it. Albus wondered just how long it would take for the Prophet to publish some sort of article on any attacks Greyback might've been the cause of.

Bilius and Ethan awoke before John did and busied themselves with talk of the Balycastle and Kenmare match that had taken place Saturday, completely unworried about Greyback. Albus wasn't surprised since neither of them had any sort of personal connection with the escaped werewolf. But they at least knew that the previous night had been a full moon, since James had spread that information around the castle.

John finally rose shortly after Bilius and Ethan left for breakfast. Albus was relieved since they could now speak freely.

“What time is it?” John asked as soon as he sat up. “Have we got time to visit Matt before Herbology?”

“Just after eight, so not really,” Albus said. “And there's no point in visiting him now as he's probably unconscious or sleeping. The moon just set two hours ago.”

“Yeah, but he might know something,” John said as he closed the hangings on his bed while he dressed. “He might've heard Greyback last night.”

“He never remembers anything about full moons,” Albus pointed out.

“It's still worth a shot,” John replied.

Albus thought it would be kind of pointless, but they didn't have time before Herbology anyway. After John finished, the two hurried out of the dormitory and down to the Great Hall for a quick breakfast before class. Rose, Amanda, and Kaden were already there.

“Anything in the Prophet?” Albus asked as he grabbed a stack of toast.

Rose shook her head and swallowed her bacon before answering. “No. Absolutely nothing, but that doesn't mean much. It could just be too soon for enough details to have emerged.”

“Well, we've got a free period this afternoon, so we can go ask Matt,” John said.

“I told you that he's not going to know anything,” Albus reminded him.

John shrugged. “You never know.”

The rest of the student body seemed to have already forgotten about the early curfew and the full moon. Albus didn't hear anyone discussing it on his way to Herbology or at lunch later that day. Since there hadn't been anything in the paper about an attack, it was old news for the Hogwarts students. Everyone that is, except for Albus, John, Rose, and Amanda.

Albus, John, and Amanda were still discussing it on their way to Care of Magical Creatures that afternoon. When they arrived they found Hagrid surrounded by cages filled with small, black, fluffy creatures.

“'ello!” Hagrid shouted. “I've got nifflers for yeh today. Can anyone tell me what makes nifflers unique?”

Albus raised his hand.

“Albus,” Hagrid said.

Albus grinned. “Nifflers find treasure. They like shiny things.”

“Tha's right,” Hagrid said. “So if you've got watches or jewelry on, take it off. I've buried a load of leprechaun gold and your job for today will be to use the nifflers to find it. Everyone pair off and then come get a niffler. Whichever pair finds the most gold gets a pack of Chocolate Frogs.”

There was a flurry as everyone hurried to take off their jewelry and find a niffler that looked like it would be a particularly treasure hunter. Albus took off his watch, shoved it into his pocket, and followed John and Amanda over to the nifflers. With Matt in the hospital wing, Albus was without a partner and decided to just join John and Amanda.

John grabbed the niffler with the longest snout and held the end of the lead while they followed it around the grounds. Every so often the niffler would stop and dig through the snow, revealing a small pile of coins. Albus collected them and shoved them into a bag Hagrid had provided.

The entire procedure was rather entertaining. Albus enjoyed watching not only his niffler, but the rest of the class's nifflers as well. They were adorable, funny creatures. At one point, Janie Creevey and Karina Jordan-Bell's niffler managed to sniff out a set of scales in Bilius's bag resulting in all three of them playing tug-of-war with the niffler.

“Why's he got his scales in there anyway?” John asked as they watched. “We haven't got potions today.”

Albus shrugged. “No idea.”

“Albus, John, look!” Amanda shouted, pointing toward the castle.

Albus turned around and saw two figures walking toward Hagrid's hut. It took a few seconds, but he soon realized that he knew both of them. One Albus recognized as a young Auror from his dad's department. His name was Newman and he'd been one of the Aurors to help when Kaden was kidnapped two years ago. The second man was none other than Matt's dad.

“What's Matt's dad doing here?” John asked.

“Yeah, and who's that other bloke?” Amanda asked.

“He's an Auror,” Albus said. “But why are they here?”

The two wizards walked past Albus, John, and Amanda without making any sort of eye contact, acting as if they'd never seen them before. By now, the rest of the class was looking at them strangely. Matt's dad and Newman kept walking until they reached Hagrid, and they began speaking with him in low voices.

“C'mon,” Albus said as he began walking toward Hagrid.

John tugged the niffler's lead and he and Amanda followed Albus. Albus stopped once they were within earshot, hiding behind a bush. John and Amanda crouched down on either side of him.

“I s'ppose I did hear some funny noises las' night,” Hagrid said. “More'n usual, that is. Always funny noises from the forest. A bit more howling than normal las' night, coming from Hogsmeade. Could've been a werewolf, but I don' know for sure.”

“And did you see anything roaming the grounds?” Matt's dad asked. His voice sounded serious.

“No,” Hagrid said. “Wasn' outside late. What's this about? Greyback?”

Matt's dad and Newman glanced at each other. “Yes,” Matt's dad said. “We have reasons to believe Greyback was in the area last night and we're looking for anyone who might've seen something.”

Hagrid shuddered. “Wish I could help yeh. But yeh know, that howling from Hogsmeade could've just been-”

“Yes, I know,” Mr. Eckerton cut him off, with a quick glance at Newman. “We've had reports of more vicious, louder howling. Howling that seems to change location.”

“Oh!” Hagrid exclaimed. “Yeah, well, again, wish I could help. I'll pay a bit more attention next full moon.”

“We'd appreciate it,” Mr. Eckerton said. “Thanks for your time.”

Matt's dad and Newman turned and left, without a second glance at Hagrid or the class. The rest of the class had long since returned to their nifflers and all had bags of gold far larger than Albus, John, and Amanda's. But Albus no longer cared about winning the Chocolate Frogs. It seemed that something did happen last night, but nobody knew exactly what.

At the end of the class, Albus, John, and Amanda came in dead last for amount of coins collected. Hagrid seemed disappointed, but said that their niffler must've just been tired. After returning it to its cage, the three hurried back to the castle, anxious to stow their bags and go visit Matt.

“If Greyback isn't on Wolfsbane shouldn't he be easy to find after the full moon?” John asked as they walked to the hospital wing. “Wouldn't he be injured?”

“Not necessarily,” Albus said quietly. “Matt only bites and attacks himself because he has nothing else to attack. If Greyback's out roaming the countryside, he can attack animals and people.”

“But what about the actual transformation?” John replied. “Even werewolves on Wolfsbane are achy the next day because of that, right?”

“I think so, yeah, but I bet if you're being chased by Aurors that's the last thing on your mind,” Albus pointed out. “I'm not sure. Matt would probably know.”

Matt was the only patient in the hospital wing and Madam Pomfrey was busy in her study, so Albus and his friends were free to discuss whatever they pleased. Albus was happy to see that Matt was awake, although he did look slightly unsettled.

“Was there anything in the Prophet?” Matt asked as soon as Albus, John, and Amanda had taken seats on his bed. “And I'm fine, so don't bother asking.”

“Er, no,” Albus said. “Why?”

“Last night was weird,” Matt said.

“Told you he'd know something,” John said to Albus.

“But I don't,” Matt replied. “It was just weird. I don't know how else to describe it.”

“What happened?” Albus asked.

“I don't know,” Matt said quietly as he pulled his hands out from under the blankets. They were completely bandaged. “Look. My hands are the only part of me that's injured. I mean, I ache all over from the transformations, but I didn't bite myself at all last night.”

Albus looked at the bandages. “But your hands. You didn't bite them? Then why are they bandaged?”

“Splinters,” Matt said. “Madam Pomfrey thinks I spent the night scratching at the door and trying to get out. I've never done that before. I never remember anything from when I'm the wolf, but I do sometimes remember feelings. Like if the wolf was really angry or something. Last night it was desperate, although I have no idea what for. I guess to get outside, if Madam Pomfrey is right.”

“And your wolfy self hasn't done that before?” Albus asked.

“No,” Matt shook his head. “I've been transforming in the Shrieking Shack for three and a half years and the wolf has never done that before.”

“I'll tell you something weirder,” John said. “Your dad was here earlier.”

“What?” Matt exclaimed. “When?”

“Just now,” John said. “During Care of Magical Creatures, he and some Auror came to talk to Hagrid. We listened in-”

“Of course,” Matt cut in.

“Your dad and the Auror, they were asking Hagrid if he'd seen or heard anything weird last night. Hagrid said he didn't see anything, but he thought he heard more noise than usual from Hogsmeade. Then he said that it may have just been you, but your dad cut him off, probably because of the Auror. Then your dad said that there had been reports of more vicious howling than usual.”

“They definitely think that Greyback was in Hogsmeade last night,” Albus said.

“What would've happened if you got out?” Amanda asked.

“Out of the Shack?” Matt asked. “Nothing good. But now he knows that I was there. He'll keep coming back until he's captured. I won't actually be able to escape from the Shack. The wards are too good.”

The door to the ward flew open and Matt's dad came striding inside, still looking as serious as he had earlier. After a quick glance around the room, he strode over to Matt's bed.

“Dad,” Matt said.

“You don't look surprised to see me,” Mr. Eckerton replied as he gave his son a hug. “How are you feeling?”

“I'm all right,” Matt said with a shrug. “Albus, John, and Amanda saw you talking to Hagrid. Well, they heard you, too. Where's the Auror?”

Mr. Eckerton let out a short laugh and then turned to Albus. “I saw you in the bushes. Next time you're trying to hide, don't hide with a niffler. They're notorious giveaways. Yours was trying to sniff out Newman's pocket watch.”

“I missed nifflers?” Matt asked, clearly disappointed.

“Yeah,” Albus said. “I bet Hagrid would let you see one after you're better, though.”

“I need to speak with you about last night, Matt,” Mr. Eckerton said quietly. “In private, perhaps?”

Matt shook his head. “I already told them about last night, so they might as well stay.”

“All right,” Mr. Eckerton said. “I need you to try and remember if you heard or saw anything strange last night. I know you never remember anything, but try.”

Matt held up his bandaged hands. “Madam Pomfrey thinks I tried to get out of the Shack last night. That never happens. Whatever was outside kept the wolf occupied all night. I didn't attack myself.”

Mr. Eckerton's eyes grew large and Albus noticed that the serious look had dissipated. It was replaced with a look Albus had seen quite often on his own father. It was a father's shock and worry.

Matt explained the rest, including the part about the wolf feeling desperate. Mr. Eckerton seemed to contemplate this for a few minutes before sighing and shaking his head.

“What's going on, Dad?” Matt asked.

Mr. Eckerton sighed once more. “I suppose it couldn't hurt to tell you. It'll be in the Prophet tomorrow anyway. Two children were attacked in Little Shingleton last night. It's a town about five miles away, on the other side of that mountain next to Hogsmeade. We've been trying to figure out whether it was Greyback or not, since he left immediately after biting them.”

“Were they Muggles?” Matt asked.

“No,” Mr. Eckerton said. “Which makes me believe that this was a carefully planned attack. Little Shingleton is a Muggle village, with these two children and their parents being the only witches and wizards in the area. It's too coincidental. And why attack both children? Most werewolves take off immediately after biting someone, their instinct telling them to get as far away as possible, as quickly as possible.”

“And did they...survive?” Matt replied.

“They're both in stable condition at St. Mungo's. Once their bites heal, they'll be fine, save for the fact that they now have lycanthropy. The bites were clean and small, not normal werewolf bites. These bites were inflicted just to infect. Another sign toward Greyback.”

“But what about Hogsmeade?” Albus asked.

“Five miles is not an impossible journey for a werewolf in a night,” Mr. Eckerton explained. “Most likely Greyback heard Matt's howls last night and followed the sound. Once there, he probably spent the rest of the night attempting to get inside the Shrieking Shack, which is impossible.”

“So you really think it was him?” Matt asked.

“I do, and Auror Newman agrees with me. I left him in Kendrick's study, after telling him I needed to visit you since we were already here. But what you've told me just solidifies it.”

“But can't you just go get him?” John asked. “He can't be that far. No offense, Matt, but if you were outside you wouldn't get very far.”

“None taken.”

“The thing that makes lycnathropy so difficult to study, and also most likely the reason why Wolfsbane doesn't work for all werewolves, is that each person's lycanthropy is vastly different from others. Its effects depend a lot upon a person's views toward their own lycanthropy. Fenrir Greyback has spent his life embracing his lycnathropy and living for that one night a month where his true nature emerges. He embraces his wolf side so much that he even attacks people when the moon is not full.

“You, Matt, on the other hand, identify most with your human side. As you should, considering you're only a wolf one night out of twenty-eight. Therefore, you resist the transformation. You fight it with your every fiber, every month. Greyback embraces it, and probably shifts a lot easier than you do. His transformations most likely do not cause him the same pain.”

“I guess that makes sense,” Matt said.

“But still,” John said. “They should be combing the forest for him.”

Mr. Eckerton chuckled. “They are. Trust me. They have the entire Werewolf Control Unit searching for him, along with six Aurors, and a handful of Junior and trainee Aurors. They don't normally dispatch Aurors to capture rogue werewolves, as that's usually the Werewolf Control Unit's job. And it's not usually my job to investigate werewolf attacks. But this is a high profile case, so they want many people on it, including people in charge. We'll get him.”

Albus wondered if Teddy was on the case. He was a Junior Auror now. Knowing Teddy, he'd want to be on the case since Greyback had turned his dad into a werewolf.

“I've got to get back to the Ministry and fill out a report,” Mr. Eckerton said as he stood up from his chair. “If you think of anything else, Matt, ask to use Professor Longbottom's Floo. Owls are easily intercepted.”

Matt said goodbye to his dad and soon the boys and Amanda were alone in the hospital wing once more. Albus didn't know what to say. Fenrir Greyback, it seemed, was up to his old tricks and somehow Matt had gotten involved.
***


Fenrir Greyback's attack on the two children took the whole front page of the Prophet the following morning. The entire Great Hall was talking about it, professors, students, and ghosts. Copies of the paper were being passed faster than platters of bacon. Albus managed to snag a copy from his cousin Ben.

FENRIR GREYBACK ATTACKS IN LITTLE SHINGLETON

Fenrir Greyback, escaped convict and werewolf,
was sighted last night in Little Shingleton,
Scotland. Little Shingleton is nearly an
entirely Muggle village, save for one
wizarding family. The family, whose
names have not been released due to the
Underage Lycanthrope Protection Law,
suffered an extreme tragedy last night,
when Fenrir Greyback attacked both of
their children. Both children are
reportedly in stable condition at St.
Mungo's.

An investigation, organized by both the
Auror Department and the Department for
the Regulation and Control of Magical
Creatures, headed by head of that department,
Walter Eckerton, concluded late yesterday.
'We've interviewed several eyewitnesses
who saw or heard a werewolf in Hogsmeade
during the full moon. Hogsmeade is only
about five miles from Little Shingleton.'
Investigators said that numerous other
clues led them to believe that the attack
was by Fenrir Greyback, despite not having
actually seen him in Little Shingleton.
'We are not prepared to disclose all details
of the investigation. But we are confident
that this was an attack by Greyback. A team
of Aurors and Werewolf Control Unit employees
are working around the clock to capture
Greyback.'

The article was followed by a recap of Greyback and the crimes that had landed him in Azkaban in the first place, along with a nasty photograph of him. Even in his human form he looked rather wolf-like, which was such a drastic contrast compared to Matt, who didn't resemble a wolf at all, save for his eyes. Albus glanced up from the article and his eyes fell on Matt's. They had a yellowish tint to them, with flecks of gold amidst their natural blue color. They were indeed the only wolf-like trait he possessed when the moon wasn't full.

“This is why people want stricter werewolf control laws,” Matt said quietly.

“Even those couldn't have stopped this,” Albus pointed out.

“People won't think about that. All they'll think about is how their children aren't safe, and they're right. It's just lousy timing. Laurentis is going to use this to her advantage.”

Albus wanted to ensure Matt that everything would be all right, that Laurentis wouldn't blow everything out of proportion, but he couldn't. He knew that Matt was right, that Laurentis would once again use a terrible tragedy to draw more support from the wizarding world. If his uncle Percy was going to stand a chance against her, he was going to have to drastically change his campaign strategy.
________________________________________

A/N: So I just realized that I uploaded the wrong chapter last Friday. This is the real chapter 25 and the one I uploaded last Friday is chapter 26. Sorry about that!

________________________________________
The thing about werewolf attacks was that they were only able to happen once a month. There was absolutely no chance of a werewolf attack during the rest of the month, so it was easy for the Hogwarts students to soon forget about Fenrir Greyback, or at least push him into the furthest corners of their minds. After the initial article about Greyback's attack on the two young children, the paper returned to its usual election coverage, although both candidates were being very quiet about the attack. Neither Percy nor Laurentis made a statement, which didn't surprise Albus. The debate on regulation of magical creatures was scheduled for Saturday, so both candidates would make statements then. There had been a few editorials in the paper written by people pushing for stricter werewolf laws, but that had been it.

Saturday was also the day of the next Hogsmeade trip, and this gave the Hogwarts students a much needed distraction from the outside world. Word spread amongst Albus's cousins that James was once again taking Gabby Ellis to Hogsmeade, and quite a few of his other cousins had dates as well. Albus himself did not, and was planning on spending the day with John, Kaden, Rose, and Amanda. Matt had arranged to attend the debate with his dad, and would miss the trip.

“Are you sure you want to go to this debate?” Albus asked Matt as they played chess in the Marauder's Den.

“What?” Matt asked, turning to Albus. He'd been staring at the wall under the guise of taking his turn for the past five minutes.

“You were zoning out,” Albus said. “I asked if you're sure you want to go to that debate Saturday.”

Matt had seemed distracted all week and whether it was from Greyback being so near during his transformation or the upcoming debate, Albus didn't know.

“Yeah, I'm sure,” Matt said. “I'd rather hear it straight from her than read it in the Prophet.”

“What about your dad?” Albus asked. “Is he going to speak out against her if she wants stricter laws?”

Matt shrugged. “I don't know. That didn't work too well in Australia.”

The door to the Den burst open and John and Kaden came barging in, both wearing identical grins. It was slightly uncanny, how similar they looked.

“We've finished,” John announced.

“Finished what?” Albus asked. He was slightly worried. It was never a good sign when John and Kaden were that happy about something.

“Our prank,” Kaden answered. “We've finished planning. We're not quite sure when to do it, though.”

“Yeah, any suggestions?” John asked. “Or are you two still being all prefecty on us?”

Albus burst out laughing and turned to Matt, who smirked. “Prefecty?” Albus repeated.

“Yeah,” John said. “Everyone knows it'll be one of you who makes prefect next year. And you're getting started early by not liking our pranks.”

“We just don't want detention again,” Matt explained. “Honestly, I couldn't care less if you prank the Slytherins. Malfoy's a git. Prank him all you want.”

“Are you sure you don't want to know what it's going to be?” John asked.

“No,” Albus said.

“Not a chance,” Matt said.

John shrugged. “All right. But when should we do it?”

“Let's just wait and see when the time feels right,” Kaden suggested. “It's not, er...time-sensitive....”

John and Kaden burst out laughing. “Sure,” John said. “Not time-sensitive at all.”

Albus and Matt exchanged a glance.

“We could tell you why that was so funny,” John said.

“Or you could just wait and see like the rest of the castle,” Kaden added.

“We'll wait,” Albus said. He was curious about it, but not curious enough to possibly wind up with another week's detention.

Whatever the prank was, John and Kaden didn't implement it before the next day. Saturday brought blue skies and bitterly cold temperatures and Albus put on two Weasley jumpers in preparation for walking around Hogsmeade.

Matt left early for the debate, Flooing from Professor Longbottom's study. Albus and John slept late and met Kaden, Rose, and Amanda in the Great Hall for a quick lunch before setting off for Hogsmeade.

The February Hogsmeade trip was always an interesting one. The village became filled with young couples either snogging passionately in front of the shops or staring awkwardly at each other across a table in the Three Broomsticks or Madam Puddifoot's. Having never been on a date before in his life, Albus found it really funny to watch. John and Kaden found it amusing as well, but Rose and Amanda seemed to stare wistfully at the couples and didn't find them at all funny.

“Where to first?” Albus asked.

“Not Madam Puddifoot's,” John said immediately, grimacing as a few love-struck couples headed toward the place.

“I plan on never setting foot in there,” Kaden said. “I don't care how many girls ask me to go there with them.”

John laughed. “You'd have to get a girl to like you first.”

“Shut up,” Kaden said. “Let's just go get some Butterbeer.”

The rest of the group agreed and they were soon crowded around one of the only empty tables in the Three Broomsticks. Albus was hoping to catch a glimpse of James because despite the fact that James had been out with Gabby Ellis before, Albus couldn't get over the fact that his brother was going out on dates. It was just weird.

After finishing their Butterbeer, the group went to Honeyduke's and Weasleys' in order to stock up on Skiving Snackboxes and Chocolate Frogs. By then it was nearly dinner time and they decided to call it a day. The wind was picking up and none of them fancied being caught in a storm.

“Albus!” John shouted just as they were setting off on the path back to the castle.

“What?” Albus asked, turning to see what John was pointing at.

“James and Gabby Ellis,” John said.

Albus squinted and just made out his brother, leaning against the outside of Honeyduke's, his mouth attached to Gabby Ellis's. They were so close that they almost looked like one person.

“Oh my God,” Albus said quietly.

“That is disgusting,” Rose added. “I could've gone my entire life without seeing someone snog James.”

John and Kaden were both laughing. “Looks like they're enjoying it,” John said.

“Oh gross!” Albus exclaimed as he turned back to the path. “Let's go.”

“I think it's safe to say they're together,” Amanda said as they walked back.

“What she could possibly see in James...” Rose muttered.

“Well, he does play Quidditch,” Amanda pointed out.

“So do over half my cousins,” Rose said. “So does Albus.”

“Can we change the topic?” Albus asked. “Please. C'mon, let's hurry up. I bet Matt's back from the debate.”

That seemed to get his friends' minds off of James's romantic life. Albus himself wanted to put the image of his brother kissing someone out of his mind forever. At least she was a Hufflepuff and he'd never have to see them kissing in the common room. If he did he may have to spend all of his time in the Marauder's Den.

Dinner hadn't started yet when they arrived at the castle, so the group decided to go find Matt first. They found him right where Albus figured he'd be, in the Marauder's Den. Albus was slightly nervous about what had happened at the debate, but Matt was sitting on the couch casually reading his Charms book, seeming hardly upset at all.

“How was Hogsmeade?” Matt asked as he set his book down.

“Disgusting,” Albus said as he sat down next to Matt. John, Rose, and Amanda pulled up chairs.

Matt raised his eyebrows. “Disgusting?”

“We saw James snogging his new girlfriend,” Rose said with a shudder. “Trust me, there's nothing pleasant about seeing the boy you remember eating a mud pie kissing a girl while pressed up against Honeyduke's.”

Matt laughed. “I haven't got any cousins, so I'll take your word for it.”

“Consider yourself lucky,” Albus muttered. “But what happened at the debate?”

“It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be,” Matt said. “Well, okay, parts of it weren't as bad as I thought they'd be. It was at the Ministry, in one of those court rooms in the basement. Mostly it was people who work at the Ministry there, but there were some other people there, too, because the room was so big.

“I'm not sure how much you know about the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, but every creature is divided into one of three categories. Beings, Spirits, and Beasts. Spirits are ghosts and poltergeists and boggarts. Beings are creatures that aren't human, but have human intelligence. Beasts are everything else. The bloke who was running the debate started by asking Percy and Laurentis how they feel about the rights given to Beings. You know, goblins, house-elves, centaurs, those sorts of creatures. They didn't have much to argue about that because neither of them think any of those creatures should have their rights taken away. And Rose's mum has worked so hard to get them rights.

“Then they moved on to the Spirit division and there wasn't much controversy with that, either, since there's not much that can be done about spirits. They're just sort of there. Ghosts don't harm anyone and poltergeists it all depends on the specific poltergeist. Laurentis brought up the topic of Peeves, which was odd, but Percy didn't seem to have an opinion on Peeves.”

Albus hadn't expected much controversy with the Being division. There had been a lot of debate back and forth about the rights of Beings back when his parents had been in school and his aunt Hermione had dedicated her work life toward giving rights to Beings, especially house-elves. Over the years she'd done a very good job with it and hadn't met much opposition. As for the Spirit division, Albus didn't think there had ever been much controversy there. Ghosts were just ghosts. They pretty much did as they pleased.

Matt paused. “Then there was the Beast division. Throughout history both werewolves and vampires have sometimes been in the Being division and sometimes been in the Beast division. Classification in the Beast division is the reason why werewolves have been stripped of their rights and how the Ministry can get away with it. If they're not seen as Beings, then legally, they don't have to be given the same rights as humans. It's a technicality, really.

“A long time ago werewolves were in the Being division, but they got reclassified in the 1950s, after a huge werewolf attack on an entire town. It was horrible. But ever since then, no one has wanted to classify them as Beings again. My dad has been an advocate for classification as Beings ever since he started in Australia.

“The thing about classification is that, for the most part, Ministries all over the world have to agree. That's why reclassification is such a time-consuming and difficult thing to do. Someone has to bring it up and coordinate negotiations between countries and it requires a lot of effort. When Voldemort came to power no one in Britain had the time or energy to put toward the reclassification of werewolves. Not to mention they couldn't spare the people to put the time into it. Since the brutal attack in the 50s happened in England, the other countries haven't wanted to touch the idea. Although I'd wager that Australia would put up a good fight if it was ever brought up again.

“So, basically, my dad has been trying to do this for ages, but he doesn't have the support. Even Minister Hartwell hasn't wanted to touch it since it's such a controversial issue and he doesn't have much time left.”

“Wow,” Albus said. “Binns didn't teach us any of that in History of Magic.”

“And he probably won't,” Matt said. “It's not a well-known issue since most people probably don't care to put in the effort to reclassify werewolves. The only people who'd want to are werewolves.”

“That's awful,” Amanda said. “But what happened at the debate?”

“The wizard in charge of the debate dodged the question of Greyback for a while, asking questions about other creatures like thestrals and dementors and the like. But he finally brought up the topic of Greyback and Laurentis basically said that it wasn't a matter of werewolf control laws, but a matter of Azkaban security-”

“Well, that's good,” Albus said. He wouldn't have expected that of Laurentis.

“Sort of,” Matt replied. “I haven't finished. Anyway, your uncle agreed with her, but he of course said that putting the dementors back would be stupid. Laurentis said that if the dementors had been there then Greyback wouldn't have escaped and those kids would've been safe. Then they started arguing about Azkaban and dementors again. But the bloke in charge cut them off.

“Then he finally brought up the fact that my dad's been pushing for the reclassification of werewolves as Beings for years and how he's got the support of Rose's mum and asked what their opinion of it was.”

“But if my mum was able to help house-elves and goblins, then why couldn't she do it for werewolves at the same time?” Rose asked.

“House-elves and goblins have always been classified as Beings,” Matt explained. “They were being denied rights that they technically already had. It was just a matter of reworking the laws and enforcing them properly. None of the werewolf rights laws can be changed unless their classification is changed-”

“But that's just stupid,” John said.

Matt shrugged. “It is, but there's nothing anyone can do about it.”

“Well, what did Laurentis say?” Albus asked.

“Laurentis said that reclassifying werewolves as Beings would render the current werewolf control laws unenforceable and that it would give the Ministry far less control over werewolves. Which is true,” Matt said. “Not that it would be a bad thing.”

“Of course not,” Albus agreed.

“Then she said that if werewolves were currently classified as Beings it would make it difficult to even catch Greyback and prosecute him for what he's done, which isn't true at all. My dad was turning purple at this point. She really knows nothing about the way his department works.”

“What about Uncle Percy?” Rose asked.

Matt didn't say anything for a full minute. “He wasn't as bad as Laurentis, but well, your uncle doesn't want to change anything. I'm sure you've noticed that he says everything's fine the way it is and we don't need to change anything, whether it's Azkaban or Hogwarts. He thought the same about werewolves.”

“What do you mean?” Albus asked. “He thinks that-”

Matt averted his gaze, looking at Kaden rather than Albus and Rose. “He thinks that 'putting energy into reclassifying werewolves as Beings would be a poor idea, given the other issues facing the greater wizarding community.' And that is a direct quote. I can't ever forget that.”

Albus wished he was surprised. He really did. But the fact remained that Uncle Percy didn't like to stir the cauldron, so to speak. If things were working the way they were, he wouldn't change them. He'd rather keep things the same then speak out openly either for or against anything, if it would cost him support or votes.

“Then he went on to explain,” Matt continued. “He said that werewolf classification doesn't affect a large number of witches and wizards and that it's very complicated and would require a lot of effort, which is true. But it's like he didn't think it was worth it, just because it wouldn't affect a lot of people.”

“It doesn't surprise me,” Rose said quietly. “The election is so soon. I don't think he's going to say anything too controversial.”

“Honestly, it was almost worse than Laurentis,” Matt said, turning back to Albus and Rose. “Sorry. I know he's your uncle-”

“Don't apologize,” Albus said, suddenly glad he wasn't of age and wouldn't have to choose between the two candidates.

“It's like he doesn't even have a strong opinion on it. He doesn't want to have a strong opinion on it,” Matt added. “Laurentis at least has a reason. Your uncle doesn't even have that. Honestly, Albus, I've no idea who my parents will vote for now. Same with Amy.”

“I don't know who I'd vote for now,” Albus said quietly.

“But either way, I don't think werewolves will get reclassified,” Matt replied. “Nothing will happen without support of the British Minister at this point.”

“That's just not fair,” Amanda said. “What exactly does the law say now? What are you not allowed to do?”

Matt averted his gaze once more. This was another topic that Matt hadn't ever spoke of before and Albus hadn't dared ask.

“Well, technically,” Matt began, “I'm not allowed to be at Hogwarts.”

“What?” Albus shouted. The rest of his friends let out similar exclamations of shock.

“But Teddy's dad-” Rose began.

“Not legal,” Matt said. “Dumbledore frequently broke the law and that was no different. Professor Kendrick follows the law a bit more but he liked the idea of allowing me to attend. It's kind of murky, to be honest. It's in the law that werewolves cannot attend Hogwarts, but at the same time, Hogwarts headmasters have complete control over who they admit. So as long as it's kept quiet-”

“But what about Malfoy?” Rose asked. “If he were to let it slip-”

“Then Kendrick would expel him,” Matt explained. “And he'd be allowed to, since it would be detrimental to another student's education for him to reveal my condition. I told you; it's very murky.”

“What else?” Amanda asked.

“The rest has mostly to do with employment,” Matt said. “Well, that and the Ministry is allowed to keep werewolves for questioning about full moon attacks without actually arresting them. Werewolves as prisoners have virtually no rights.

“But anyway, employment. I'm legally obligated to inform any potential employers of my condition. If werewolves were classified as Beings, that wouldn't be required, because lycanthropy would be seen as a medical condition and employment cannot be terminated based on a person's medical conditions.”

“That is the most confusing thing in the world,” Albus said. His head was spinning. “How do you keep all that straight?”

Matt shrugged. “It's my life. That's the other thing, Albus, your uncle really has no idea how things are run in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. He's not really qualified to say what effect the reclassification would have on everything. Because, honestly, it would only affect werewolves.”

“That seems obvious,” Albus said.

“So someone can not hire you just because you're a werewolf?” Amanda asked incredulously.

Matt nodded. “Doesn't even matter if they're on Wolfsbane or not, either.”

“What will you do after Hogwarts?” Amanda asked.

“No idea,” Matt said. “I'm trying not to think about that. But this whole pretending to be normal thing that I'm doing at Hogwarts? It's temporary. That's all there is to it.”

No one quite knew what to say after that. Albus certainly didn't. He wished more than anything that his uncle would support the reclassification of werewolves as Beings, despite the fact that it might lose him a few votes. It might even cost him a few not to have spoken up, because now, Matt's parents and Amy might not vote for him. But this had such a larger effect than just the election. Matt was right; this was his life, and Uncle Percy and Laurentis were just seeing it as a way to drum up more votes. Maybe Uncle Percy wasn't the right man for the job, after all. But Laurentis certainly wasn't, and since no one else was running, what would happen after the election?
________________________________________

A/N: Thanks for all the awesome reviews!

________________________________________
The debate on the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures did not seem to be a hot topic of discussion amongst the Hogwarts students. Unlike the debate on education, this particular debate did not relate directly to Hogwarts students, and thus there wasn't much discussion beyond a few opinions at breakfast the next day. The article on the debate was much more tame than the previous articles, most likely because Percy and Laurentis hadn't disagreed on the topic. In fact, the article mostly focused on the dementor issue.

Albus and his friends kept close watch on the Prophet in case there were any updates on the escaped prisoners, but the rest of February passed without any sightings or captures. It was kind of strange since the prisoners had to have been hiding out somewhere. Yet they'd been loose for nearly two months and the only one who had been sighted was Greyback. Willinson, Umbridge, and the Carrows were nowhere, it seemed.

In the meantime, Laurentis used the lack of captures to her advantage, by publishing a new statement every few days declaring how incompetent the Auror Department was. These statements were usually followed up with another declaration of how the prisoners wouldn't have escaped if the dementors had been in control of Azkaban.

When March arrived, the Prophet began putting a countdown until the election at the top of the front page, every single day.

“April Fool's Day,” John commented as he pointed to the countdown, which read '29 days.' “Doesn't that seem a bit weird, to do an election on that day?”

“A little,” Albus said. “But I doubt the Ministry cares.”

“We should do our prank that day,” Kaden said.

“Don't,” Rose said. “Hogwarts is a polling place. You'll mess it up.”

“No, we won't do it then,” John said as he exchanged a mischievous grin with Kaden. “Want to know why?”

“Not really,” Albus said.

“They'll find out soon enough,” Kaden said.

“Does this have anything to do with why you two disappeared all evening yesterday?” Matt asked.

“Possibly,” John said. “Oh, look at the time. We've got to get to potions.”

Kaden burst out laughing. “Oh, yes, looks like it's time for me to go to Divination.”

Albus looked at Matt and shrugged. John and Kaden had been laughing at every mention of 'time' or 'clocks' for the past few weeks, but had yet to share why. Albus could only assume that it had to do with their prank.

Albus, Matt, John, Rose, and Amanda said goodbye to Kaden and headed for the dungeons. Since it was a double class, Slughorn gave them a potion to brew and sat at his desk grading essays while they worked.

Albus and Matt partnered on their potion and worked quietly, chopping and mixing. Halfway through the second class they were chopping asphodel when Matt suddenly stopped.

“Did you hear that?” he asked Albus.

“Hear what?” Albus replied. He hadn't heard anything.

“Never mind,” Matt muttered. “Could've sworn...guess I'm hearing things.”

A few minutes passed and Matt stopped again. “I swear there's something ringing outside. It sounds like an alarm clock.”

Albus glanced around the classroom, but nobody else seemed to have heard it. Everyone was working quietly, except John, who was staring at the door for some strange reason. Then Albus heard it. The faintest ringing.

“Do you hear it now?” Matt asked.

“Yeah,” Albus said. It was becoming louder, too. The rest of the class was beginning to notice as well, and John suddenly turned around to look at them. He grinned widely and then returned to his potion.

“It's their prank,” Matt hissed. “It's got to be.”

Nobody was paying any attention to their potions now and a few of them were boiling over. Slughorn got up from his desk and left the room, without saying a word to the class. He returned a few minutes later.

“Bottle your potions as is,” he said. “It seems there is some sort of alarm going off all over the castle. After you're done cleaning up you may leave early.”

Albus and Matt worked quickly, wanting to talk to John as soon as they could. They met him, along with Rose and Amanda, outside the classroom a few minutes later, and headed to the Great Hall. John still hadn't said anything.

Kaden was already there when they arrived. “Trelawney let us out as soon as the alarms started. I think it was driving her mad. I mean, more mad than she already is.”

“Are you going to tell us what you've done?” Albus asked as he began making a sandwich.

“Yeah, we might as well,” John said. “We put an alarm clock inside every single suit of armor and charmed them to go off at five minute intervals.”

Albus started laughing. “That's brilliant!”

“That's actually really good charm work,” Rose said, clearly impressed.

“It gets better,” Kaden said. “The teachers won't be able to turn them off with one spell. We charmed them so they have to be manually turned off. It's going to take them ages.”

“I feel bad for whoever's got Transfiguration next,” James said as he sat down next to Albus. “There must be twenty suits of armor across the corridor from the Transfiguration room. It's so loud in there you can barely hear yourself think.”

“Damn,” Albus said. “We've got Transfiguration next.”

“Look, Kendrick's standing up. Bet he cancels classes.” John pointed to the staff table.

“Quiet!” Kendrick shouted. “Very amusing prank. It would seem that the alarm clocks have to be manually turned off, so I am canceling classes for the afternoon while the staff and prefects turn off all the alarms.”

There was a loud cheer as Kendrick resumed his seat. The staff table was only half-full, as the rest of them must have been already turning the alarms off.

“He doesn't seem upset,” Albus said. “This is actually kind of tame. I thought you were going to get revenge on the Slytherins.”

John grinned. “Oh, we are. That'll come another day.”

After lunch Albus and his friends went to the Marauder's Den with the intention of spending the day there, but the incessant alarms quickly grew too annoying. Despite the cold, they decided that outside would be preferable to inside. The snow had melted, so they were able to find a dry spot to sit.

“I still hear the ringing,” Matt said as they settled down under a huge beech tree by the lake. “It's like my head is an alarm clock. I think if you had done this around the full moon I would've murdered you.”

“That's why we didn't do it around the full moon,” John said.

“Really?” Matt asked skeptically.

John laughed. “No. Hadn't even thought of that, to be honest.”

“We did it today because I had a History of Magic exam this afternoon,” Kaden said. “I'm hoping Binns will forget about it.”

“It's soon, though, isn't it?” John asked.

“The full moon? Yeah, it's Monday,” Matt answered. “I've been thinking about it. About Greyback. He's probably going to come back unless the Aurors catch him before.”

“Probably,” Albus agreed.

“I had an idea,” Matt said quietly. “I think we can help catch them, using my wolfy side.”

“As bait?” Albus asked, shocked. “Then you'd be in danger.”

“No, I wouldn't,” Matt said. “I wouldn't be doing anything different. I'd just be in the Shrieking Shack like usual. Albus, the Marauder's Map labels Animagi as their human names, right?”

Albus nodded. “Yeah, of course. That's how Teddy's dad found out about Pettigrew.”

“Well, shouldn't it be the same for werewolves?” Matt asked.

Albus hadn't thought about that before. In all his time of having the second edition Marauder's Map, he'd never checked the Shrieking Shack during a full moon. “I think it should.”

“Then all the Aurors have to do is watch the new edition of the Marauder's Map during the full moon, wait for Greyback to show up, and then catch him.”

Albus thought for a few moments. It seemed so simple, almost too simple to work. “Matt...that's brilliant.”

“When did you think of this?” Rose asked.

“Few weeks ago,” Matt answered. “Greyback was there by the Shrieking Shack for nearly the entire night. It would've been easy to capture him if someone just knew he was there.”

“Wait,” Rose said, looking at Albus. “You aren't proposing that you do this, are you? Because that would be stupid.”

“Of course not,” Matt said. “It would be my dad and Albus's dad.”

“I don't think my dad's in charge of the Greyback capture,” Albus pointed out. “It's that other Auror, Newman.”

“If I'm going to go along with this and tell them my plan then it's got to be your dad,” Matt said adamantly. “He already knows I'm a werewolf. Newman doesn't. I don't know what he'd do if he knew there was a werewolf at Hogwarts.”

Albus thought back to what Matt had told them about how it wasn't clear whether admitting werewolves to Hogwarts was legal or not. “All right. That make sense.”

“But why are you so sure he's going to come back to this same spot?” Amanda asked. “If he were smart he'd transform someplace completely different.”

“He's got a hangup about werewolves pretending to be human,” Matt said quietly. “He thinks that we've all got to embrace our wolf-selves and live together in packs. I don't think he's going to give up easily on finding me. He did the same thing with Teddy's dad.”

“Then he might be transforming near those kids he attacked last month,” Rose pointed out. “They should station Aurors there, too.”

Matt nodded. “Let's go send some owls.”
***


Albus and Matt didn't say much in their letters to their fathers, wanting to save most of the details for later. Both of them replied saying they would meet the boys at Hogwarts Friday evening in order to work out the details.

The week went by very slowly and Albus noticed that Matt drew quieter and quieter as it progressed. He never said it out loud, but Albus had a feeling he was incredibly anxious about the plan and his role in it, despite his saying he would be fine. By the time Friday arrived he was completely silent, except for the few times he snapped at John and Kaden for being irritating.

“You know if this plan actually works and Greyback is captured it's going to make Uncle Harry look very good,” Rose said. “Which will be good for Uncle Percy.”

“I thought of that,” Albus said. “And since the election is only three weeks away, it's perfect timing.”

“When are you meeting your dads?” John asked.

“Seven,” Albus answered as he glanced at his watch. “We should probably go.”

Albus shoved the last bite of his cake into his mouth and left the Great Hall with Matt at his side. Professor Longbottom had leant them his study for the meeting, so Albus and Matt walked up to the fourth floor.

Professor Longbottom wasn't there when they arrived but the door was partially open. Albus led Matt inside and they sat down on a couch to wait. Albus had always loved Longbottom's study. It was filled with all sorts of exotic plants that you never wanted to touch because some of them bit. The furniture was mismatched and the whole place was pleasantly cluttered. It felt very safe.

Harry and Walter walked in a few minutes later and shut the door behind them. Both looked very intrigued and slightly confused.

“Al,” Harry said as he gave his son a quick hug. “What's going on?”

Albus glanced at Matt, who had just been let go of by his own father. This was his plan to explain.

“I know how you can catch Greyback,” Matt said quietly, and then proceeded to explain the entire plan. “See? Good plan, right?”

Harry and Walter exchanged glances. Walter looked incredibly worried. “Matt, look, I know you want to help and I know the fact that Greyback's out there scares you out of your mind-”

“I'm not that scared,” Matt interrupted, but everyone in the room knew he was. “Look, he's going to come to Hogsmeade anyway. You might as well be there waiting for him.”

Walter sighed. “Yes, I suppose you're right-”

“So what's the problem? I'll be in the Shrieking Shack with all the wards up.”

“There really isn't a problem,” Walter said. “It just sounds bad on the surface, me using my son as bait. What do you think, Harry?”

“I think it's up to you,” Harry said. “You're in charge of this search. I'm not even on it. I assigned it to Newman.”

“Newman can't be there,” Matt said quickly as he turned to his dad. “He can't be. He doesn't know about me.”

“He's right,” Walter said. “It's got to be you and me if it's going to be anyone. Whoever works this is going to find out there's a werewolf at Hogwarts.”

Harry sighed and began to pace the room. “I hadn't thought of that. But there's got to be more of us. I'll bring Ron in, and Teddy.”

“Ron?” Matt asked.

“Rose's dad,” Albus explained. “My uncle.”

Matt breathed a sigh of relief. “Oh, all right then.”

“They'd be fine,” Walter said. “Four of us should be able to handle it. What about those kids in Little Shingleton?”

“I'll assign Newman to them,” Harry decided. “And you can pick a few people form your department to go with him.”

Walter nodded. “What about the villagers? We can't hang around the Shrieking Shack all night. It'll look suspicious.”

Albus suddenly remembered the map. He pulled it out of his pocket and handed it to his dad. “Use the map. Then you can watch until he gets there.”

Harry grinned. “I'd forgotten about this.” He turned to Walter. “Map of Hogwarts and Hogsmeade, created by my dad, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, and Peter Pettigrew. It shows where everyone is, so it should show us when Greyback turns up. We can wait at the Hog's Head until then. No one there will pay us any attention.”

“And in the report? In the paper the next day?” Walter asked.

“No mention of Matt or his being in the Shrieking Shack,” Harry said. “We'll say we got an anonymous tip that he'd show up in Hogsmeade.”

“Can I wait with you?” Albus asked.

Harry laughed. “Absolutely not. You'll stay in the castle, where it's safe. I believe they're doing a mandatory early curfew again?”

Albus nodded. They'd put up posters in the common rooms a few days ago. This time, no one seemed upset about it.

“I wish they'd do it in Hogsmeade,” Walter said. “But getting something like that set up takes weeks.”

“Well, if people are smart they'll stay inside with wards up,” Harry pointed out.
***


Never before had Albus heard so many people talking about the full moon. All weekend, everywhere he turned, he heard someone mentioning either the full moon or Greyback or both. Suddenly, werewolves were the hot topic of discussion at Hogwarts.

Most people, from what Albus could gather, didn't have a strong opinion on werewolves one way or another. But a few people, most having had a relative murdered by Fenrir Greyback, told anyone who would listen how happy they were that neither candidate wanted to change the classification of werewolves from Beasts to Beings. It only took Matt overhearing one of these conversations to decide to spend the rest of the weekend in the Marauder's Den.

“It'll all be over in three weeks,” Amanda said. “Once the election takes place no one is going to care as much. But these past few weeks have certainly made me wonder if I should go into the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures.”

It was Sunday night and Albus and his friends were in the Marauder's Den, yet again, working on their homework that was due tomorrow.

“You could work with my dad,” Matt announced from the couch. “That'd be weird.”

“Well, it's just terrible,” Amanda said. “And it doesn't make sense. Why should goblins and house-elves be Beings but not werewolves? You're more human than a house-elf.”

Matt laughed. “Tomorrow night I won't be, and that's what it comes down to. House-elves aren't that dangerous. Werewolves are.”

“I don't know,” Albus began. “When my dad was a second year a house-elf charmed a Bludger to break his arm. That's fairly dangerous.”

“What about vampires?” Rose asked. “I ought to owl Linda.”

“Vampire are Beings,” Matt explained. “It's because they don't have to drink human blood to survive. It's a choice. Werewolves, when we bite someone, it's not a choice. We can't control it.”

“Except with Wolfsbane,” Rose pointed out.

“Yeah, and maybe if someone invents Wolfsbane that works for all werewolves we might get reclassified,” Matt said.

“What about vampires who bite people?” Amanda asked.

“They're put in prison,” Matt said.

“So can vampires go to school and hold jobs?” Kaden asked.

“I suppose they could. Linda went to school. But they live forever so most don't want to go to school or already have, because most vampires are older. As for jobs, they don't have to tell employers what they are, so yeah, they could.”

“It's so bloody confusing,” John said. “Doesn't make a bit of sense.”

“It really doesn't,” Matt said with a yawn. “But it's life.”

Matt slept the rest of the evening and most of the next day, not attending any of his classes. Albus couldn't blame him, what with all the werewolf talk that was going around the school. Albus himself found it difficult to concentrate on any of his classes or homework since there was the distinct possibility that Fenrir Greyback would be captured that night.

Albus and his friends reported to the common room at five, as per the curfew, and then went to dinner. Matt didn't join them. He was gone when they returned. Albus gave up on homework for the night and played a few half-hearted rounds of Exploding Snap with John and Kaden before deciding to go up to his dormitory early. He knew he wouldn't sleep, but figured it would be slightly more productive than cleaning ash off his face.

Instead of sleeping, Albus sat in the windowsill and watched the sky. It was clear, giving him a very good view of the stars. After locating a few constellations Albus watched the horizon and the faint glow that was above it. Then, the moon rose.
________________________________________

A/N: So, some of you may have noticed that I screwed up last week's update. I accidentally skipped chapter 25 (Full Moon Attacks) and went right to chapter 26 (Spirits, Beings, and Beasts). If you haven't already done so, go back and read the real chapter 25. The story will make much more sense after that.

I am pleased to announce that I have finished this story! It topped out at 37 chapters. I may start updating this twice a week, but haven't quite decided yet. A lot of you are asking in reviews when the next update will be, so I'll reiterate that I update every Friday. The exact time will vary. Thanks for all the reviews!

________________________________________
1 comments

anonymous readerReport

2013-06-26 06:52:54
Long ass story I just kept scrolling till I can finish

SUBMIT A COMMENT
You are not logged in.
Characters count: