Prompt: "All was well" - nineteen years after the final battle, strange things are happening at Godric's Hollow and Harry has started speaking Parseltongue again. His friends and family seek help but Harry's demons are not going to be easy to exorcise.
Inspired by the quote: "People say that God is dead, but how can they think that if I show them the Devil?" from The Exorcism of Emily Rose.
AN: This is slightly off canon. Rose Weasley is a year younger than Albus and is not attending Hogwarts yet. Neville does not work at the school. Victoire has already graduated with Teddy, as has Percy’s eldest, Molly. His youngest, Lucy is still in attendance.
The only 2nd gen characters seen are James, Albus, Scorpius, and Lucy. Also: although McGonagall might not have it in her to be headmistress for 20+ years I have put her in the seat, anyway.
The Final Sacrifice
“Come on!” James whispered at his little brother. “We’ll be gone all night at this rate!”
“You know your way! I don’t!” James could hear the scowl in Albus’ voice as he followed the sounds of his older brother.
“Well, I know my way around and you’ve still got me turned about!” Another irritated voice called out in the darkness.
“That’s the point, isn’t it?” James sounded smug. “This is in your area of the castle and you don’t even know it’s here!”
“We might if we knew where we were going,” Albus growled.
“We’re in the place that the boats land when they bring in the first years. Can we get a light now?” The third voice said grouchily.
A light flared up and James’ face was lit up and scowling. “Scorpius Malfoy you are absolutely no fun at all!”
Scorpius rolled his eyes. “Where else is there water in the castle? Besides the swamp in the entrance hall. And rocks to climb over?”
Albus clamored down from the rocks and onto the even ground.
“You’ll be right back up again,” James said warningly. “It’s how I found it!”
“What were you doing up there?” Albus asked.
“Harold Burser claimed he got it together with Siobhan Connors and threw her unmentionables up here,” James said lasciviously.
“Why would he do that?” Scorpius asked, still clinging to the rocks.
“Because he’s an idiot, but I ended up finding something better! It’s back here!”
Albus grumbled as he climbed the rocks again. There was a depression at the top of the rocks and his brother was climbing towards it. “If this is a pair of knickers I’ll never forgive you.”
“I know you never thought you’d hear it from me, but it’s better!”
“Better than Siobhan Connors knickers? Narnia better be up there for the trouble we’re going through.” Scorpius snorted.
“You two can go slithering back to your common room for all I care, but you’ll miss knowing one of the castle’s secrets.” James said casually.
The pair of Slytherins scowled as James reached the depression, but their faces turned to shock when James pulled himself through and disappeared.
“Are you completely mad?!” Albus exclaimed. “What if you’d gotten stuck?”
“Well, I didn’t.” James voice sounded very hollow.
Scorpius squirmed through the opening and when Albus reached the opening he saw it was a mostly blocked-off doorway. Age and nature had caused the rock to crumble and the opening had started to reemerge.
Albus tied to wriggle through the opening, but was jarred as James pulled him through and set his feet on the floor. Scorpius and Albus lit the tips of their wands and looked around them.
“Where are we?” Scorpius breathed.
“Do you have the bags and things?” James asked the younger boys. They pulled out rubbish bags and paper masks and waved them. “Right, then. Put them on and hold out the sacks.” The boys did so and James did the same. “Now close your eyes.”
He waved his wand and all of the dust in the room began to swirl like a tornado, buffeting against the boys before the funnels swirled into the sacks and sucked all of the dust into them.
“It’s clear,” James said. Albus and Scorpius opened their eyes, expecting them to sting, but they didn’t. James had summoned a gold orb of light and the boys looked around.
“What is this place?” Scorpius breathed.
“I think it’s part of the original castle,” James said sagely. “I’m not sure anyone remembers it’s here.”
Albus’ eyes swept the room. “How can you tell?”
“It’s reinforced by magic, but it’s mostly made of wood,” James said proudly.
“Wood?” Scorpius asked.
“Well they had to use something before they figured out how to cut stone, didn’t they?” James pointed out.
Scorpius grabbed the leg of an overturned table and squeezed it. It crackled under his grip.
“Well, don’t damage it!” Albus squeaked. “That may be a historically important table.”
Scorpius just rolled his eyes.
“It goes down further,” James said excitedly, as he gestured towards a doorway.
“How far?” Scorpius asked.
“I have no idea,” James admitted. “I was afraid of getting lost.”
“So this isn’t on the map?” Albus asked in wonderment.
“Where no Potter has gone before!” James said excitedly.
“And Malfoy.” Scorpius added.
“You’re family’s so old and pure-blooded there’s probably some ancient old ghost you’re related to down here to act snotty to visitors.” Albus snickered.
“So, what do we do now?” Scorpius asked.
“We explore and try to figure out how to add areas to the Marauder’s Map.” James said with a serious look on his face.
“What have you been up to?” Lucy Weasley narrowed her eyes at her cousin James. “You three seem to be slipping off more and more often lately. And why did you want that wood renewal spell? What did you break?”
“Nothing. This time.” James said with both his hands up. “I swear it. Now pass the eggs.”
“You know I’ll get it out of Albus eventually,” Lucy said with a grin.
“Maybe you used to, but it’s hard to bully someone in another House. You can’t even mess with him while he’s sleeping.” James snorted. “We’ve been exploring the lower levels of the castle. Lots of half-rotted furniture.”
“Seriously?” Lucy asked.
“Seriously. Ask Albus or Scorpius. Told you it wasn’t exciting.” James smirked at her.
“I suppose it’s suitably dirty and disgusting.” Lucy sniffed.
“Albus swore he saw a bookworm the size of a snake, but I still think it was just a shadow.” James chuckled.
“Well, if you find something worth fussing over, come get me. Third year spells can only go so far,” Lucy reminded him.
“Having a seventh year would give us an edge,” James speculated.
“But not until you clean up and have something to show me,” Lucy reminded him. “I’m not getting all mucked up for nothing.”
“I’ll let you know if we need you.” James quirked a corner of his mouth at her.
“Our cleaning is going well, but I have a feeling you’ve gone down farther that where we’re working,” Albus frowned at his brother.
“Oh, I have.” James grinned. “There’s more the further you go. Old labs and classrooms and chambers and stuff, but I still haven’t reached the bottom.”
“Anything interesting?” Scorpius asked.
“Plenty,” James said mysteriously.
“Should we owl Uncle Bill?” Albus asked and James gave him a sharp glance.
“Have you seen any hexes?” James asked him.
“Well, no,” Albus admitted.
“What good would he be, then?” James asked reasonably.
“As long as we don’t damage artifacts,” Scorpius said as he waved his wand over a decaying chair, “what’s the problem? We’re going to tell someone at some point, won’t we?”
“Exactly,” James said soothingly. “Imagine McGonagall’s face when we tell her about this place and she comes down to find it’s already been restored!”
Scorpius giggled. “She might wet herself.”
“She might have a heart attack when she thinks of everything that could have been destroyed and then haunt us forever.” Albus pointed out.
“Have we messed anything up yet?” James groaned as he applied a thin layer of oil to a chair.
“We were lucky everything’s made of organic material. We can regrow the fabric.” Scorpius said.
“As opposed to what?” Albus laughed. “Ancient wizards swishing around in polyester robes and platform shoes?”
“We’re lucky it’s been charmed against pests,” Scorpius said as he nodded at James. “It’s a miracle you didn’t rip everything to shreds when you cleaned up.”
“It’s a specialized spell. I got a fifth year to teach me,” James admitted.
“If we do anything wrong, I’m blaming you.” Scorpius scowled.
“Well, have a look, then,” Albus said. “I’m sick of cleaning. Let’s go for a walk.”
James shrugged. “Suit yourself, but it’s more of the same thing for a couple levels.”
“Where does it get interesting?” Albus demanded, wondering when his brother was going to tell him this.
“Come on,” James grinned. “I’ll show you.”
James summoned a floating orb of golden light as they all got to their feet and dusted themselves off.
They walked through the level they had been working on and James led them to a set of stairs descended. They had previously explored the next level, and the next after that, so they made their way through the familiar territory until they got to a stairway with a ribbon across it.
“I marked how far I’d gotten familiar with,” James admitted.
“Is that the sash Lucy’s been looking everywhere for?” Albus peered at the ribbon.
“It looked stupid on those robes, anyway,” James sniffed. “She’ll thank me for it later.”
“Somehow I doubt that,” Scorpius whispered to Albus as James undid the ribbon.
They went down the staircase and instead of rooms full of broken furniture, the staircase ended in a large, open room with ancient-looking wood carvings on the walls.
“We’re not touching these,” James warned them. “They’re too delicate.”
“No, they’re not!” Scorpius snorted, and he placed the tip of his wand lightly on the edge of one of them.
Both James and Albus squeaked in terror, but Scorpius shook his head at them as the wood seemed to expand under the layers of dust. After that, he wiped the remaining dust off the carving and stood back.
“What was that?” Albus breathed.
“Something one of the house-elves taught me.” Scorpius shrugged. “It’s not furniture. It doesn’t need the stability to hold the weight of a person, it just needs to be rejuvenated, so I oiled it.”
“You hang out with your house-elves often?” James teased Scorpius.
“When they’re cleaning out a section of the basement I’m not allowed to be in, I do,” Scorpius snickered.
“What was in it?” Albus asked excitedly, expecting Scorpius to tell him about hidden laboratories and rooms of torture.
“Bunch of old portraits. There’s so many at this point they get rotated each season so no one’s left out,” Scorpius shrugged. “Found one hidden in the back with a batty old witch in it singing about butterflies and bottoms. Couldn’t fix the portrait, but we spruced her frame up. Seemed to make her happy. Tried to get dad to put her in the guest bathroom, but he wouldn’t hear it.”
James choked back a laugh. “Wonder why.”
Albus’ gaze was fixed upon the carving. “What is it?”
Scorpius and James studied the carving for a few moments before James looked at his little brother. “I have no idea.”
The cleaning had been going well, and they even had a shaky schedule to go by, but Albus couldn’t help but feel suspicious. He knew James had been further down that he was letting on, even though he denied it.
Albus had one day to prove it.
“You have to go!” Albus nearly whined. “For the sake of us all!”
“Lucy can bring back candy from Hogsmede as well as I can!” James laughed.
“She’ll get the list all wrong,” Albus said with a pout. “If she bothers to read it.”
James rolled his eyes, but Albus knew he was right and that he had won.
“Do you really want to end up with five pounds of peanut brittle again?” Albus asked, crossing his arms.
“All right, all right!” James conceded. “I’ll go!”
Albus and Scorpius wrote up their lists for James, and Scorpius poured a small sack of coins into James’ hand.
“How much candy do you think I’m bringing back?” James asked, bewildered.
“We’ve got a plan,” Albus said quickly. “We keep a stock in an enchanted box, and when someone wants a bit of candy, and Hogsmede is far in the distance, we can turn a profit enough to pay for our personal candy next time!”
“And we get our money back.” Scorpius nodded firmly.
James rolled his eyes. “Trying to be the modern day version of Uncle George and his twin?”
“Nothing wrong with making a bit of money,” Scorpius huffed.
“Hmmm,” James said, considering this. “What if you eat up your stock?”
“We won’t!” Albus rolled his eyes. “If we need sweets we’ll just pop off a note to Gran and she’ll send us a pie or something.”
“Begging off Gran Weasley so you won’t have to deplete your stores?” James shook his head. “Shameful.”
“Gran called it ‘innovative,’” Albus said coolly, but James only rolled his eyes at him.
Albus and Scorpius waved the rest of the Weasley clan on as groups of students began leaving for Hogsmede.
“Don’t forget to stick to the list!” Albus yelled as James started down the little path that led to the small town outside Hogwarts gates.
When James turned around and started to ignore them Albus and Scorpius became tense for a moment before slipping away from the window.
“That was easier than I thought,” Scorpius admitted as they hurried from the classroom and made their way down into the dungeons of Hogwarts. They slipped through the hole into the old castle and practically jogged to the staircase where James had tied Lucy’s sash.
They hurried down and stopped in the room of wooden wall carvings. All of the carvings had been cleaned and oiled, but the pictures on them still confused the boys. The carvings were so old they had lost most of their details and the carvings didn’t seem to follow a pattern. The boys decided someone else would know what to do with them when the time came to reveal their findings.
They explored further down, finding things James had neglected to mention. A small room full of bottles, a dark residue caked at the bottom of them. A room full of different types of knives and saws, a giant table at its center and an enormous diagram of the human muscle system painted on one wall. The figure looked unnervingly cheerful.
As they went down, the walls began to look charred, darkening the further they went. The boys finally stopped when they encountered a stone door. It was unmarked, although the ceiling and walls around it looked as if it had survived some sort of fire or blast.
“Why would they seal this part up?” Scorpius asked.
“Something must have happened!” Albus said excitedly. “Something big! That’s why this area’s been buried for so long!”
“You’re probably right,” Scorpius said. “We should leave it.”
“Are you insane?” Albus looked at him incredulously. “This could be the find of a lifetime and we’ve found it!”
“I bet James found it first,” Scorpius snorted as he pointed at the floor. There were broad sweeps in the dust, as if the door had been opened recently.
“Then why didn’t he tell us?” Albus asked. “Why keep it a secret?”
“No clue,” Scorpius admitted. “But why wouldn’t he tell us? What’s he hiding?”
“I bet it’s cool!”
“I bet it’s dangerous.”
“Same thing,” Albus waved Scorpius off.
“Not really.” Scorpius raised an eyebrow.
“Oh, where’s your sense of adventure?” Albus asked as he felt around the seams of the door for a groove. When he found none he knocked on the door. Nothing happened.
“He probably opened it with magic,” Scorpius said, his arms crossed. “We don’t know spells strong enough to move it yet.”
“Maybe you don’t,” Albus scoffed as he pulled his wand out.
Scorpius took several steps back. “How do you know the whole thing isn’t going to cave in?”
“James got it open and it doesn’t look any worse for wear,” Albus said as he pointed his wand at the door. He began muttering and looked as if he were concentrating very hard.
“What spell are you using?” Scorpius asked as the heavy door began to move,
“Saw gran use it to move a piano,” Albus said, as he took a short break. The door had moved several inches, but still wasn’t open. “It’s working.”
Scorpius nodded as Albus continued working at the door. It inched open slowly, a flickering light behind it hinting at the edges of the door. Finally, it was open far enough for the two first years to wriggle through.
They were at the top of a staircase. It curled around the edges of a large room, finally settling on the floor in front of a giant stone pedestal. Far above them, a glass orb was set into the top of the stone. Something had settled at the bottom of it and was pulsing with a low, green light.
“What is it?” Scorpius asked Albus.
“No idea,” Albus admitted. He brushed his fingers over the stone pedestal, uncovering more worn carvings.
“Do you think we can climb it?” Scorpius asked.
“Probably,” Albus said firmly. “But I don’t think we should.”
“Why not?” Scorpius asked him.
“Because I have a pair of omnioculars and we can see just fine from the stairs,” Albus said as he shrugged. “Save us the trouble.”
Scorpius agreed and the pair began climbing the stairs again, settling on a spot that overlooked the whole room. Albus pulled the omnioculars out of his robes and pressed them to his eyes.
“Looks like a flat balloon.”
“Let me see!” Scorpius scrabbled for the omnioculars and peered through him. His shoulders sagged. “It does. Why is it glowing?”
“Maybe it’s some sort of lamp?” Albus offered. “It’s big enough to have lit up the whole room.”
“Then why make a pedestal for it instead of hanging it from the ceiling?” Scorpius asked. “It must have taken forever to carve!”
“They still had magic,” Albus said with a patronizing sigh.
“Not this kind,” Scorpius said as he scanned over the dusty pedestal. “Stone carving like that didn’t happen until much later than the founding of Hogwarts.”
“How do you know it was an original room?” Albus insisted. “It could have been made hundreds of years later. Mom says stuff changes around the castle all of the time.”
Scorpius nodded as he handed the omnioculars back to Albus. “So why is James keeping this such a secret?”
“Well, it’s a really dramatic place, isn’t it?” Albus looked around. “He was probably saving it for when we started to get used to it down here. Something new to shock us.”
“Eh, you’re right,” Scorpius said as he got to his feet and brushed off his robes. “Well we’ve upset that plan of his, haven’t we?”
Albus snickered. “Serves him right, keeping secrets. Come on, let’s get out of here.”
The boys wound their way back up the staircase and back to the familiar rooms they had been restoring. They made sure the sash looked like it had when they had found it, and made their way to the small hole they used to wriggle in and out of the hidden place.
“I got everything on the list.” James sighed as they settled down at one of the tables in the Great Hall. Dinner had started and the boys had piled their plates high before bidding good-bye to their House mates and scurrying off to a less populated area. “They were having a sale so I had a little extra. I got you some ‘Sniffling Whispers.’”
“What are they?” Albus asked as James handed them a heavy sack of sweets.
“Little chocolate drops that make you go all whispery and quiet. Great when dealing with a loudmouth.”
“There are only so many times Lucy will fall for that, you know,” Scorpius pointed out as the Potters snickered conspiratorially.
“How did you know that’s what we were thinking?” Albus demanded.
“I’m not even related to her and even I want a pocketful for emergencies,” Scorpius said as he reached for the bag. He pulled out a box of sugar mice and began prying it open.
“I thought these were to sell?” James asked him.
“Not all of it!” Scorpius snorted as he grabbed the mouse before it could get out of the box. He smiled down at it and gave it a fond pat. When it stopped wriggling, he bit into it.
“Why don’t you just buy a rat when your father isn’t looking?” Albus asked him.
“He’s allergic. He doesn’t have to see it to start getting hives.” Scorpius snorted.
“Hey,” James said conspiratorially, causing the other boys to lean in closer. “I have to show you something. Down below.”
“You better not let anyone catch you saying that.” Scorpius snickered. “They might take it the wrong way.”
Albus hit him on the shoulder and James rolled his eyes.
“What is it?” Albus asked, satisfied that Scorpius was scowling at him.
“I think it might have been the library,” James said, taking the Slytherins by surprise. “It’s really small.”
“It would have been.” Scorpius raised his eyebrows. “Not many books back then. Are the books still there?”
“Yea, but they don’t look all crumbly like everything else. I think they have protections on them.” James said in a low voice.
“Well, what do they say?” Albus asked excitedly.
“I haven’t touched them yet,” James admitted. “I wanted to get a second opinion first.”
“We can’t do it tonight,” Scorpius pointed out. “People will be crawling all over the castle with banned items, trying to find a quiet place to play with them.”
Albus burst out laughing and the other two looked at him.
“Sorry,” he gasped, trying to keep his voice quiet. “Just thinking about Siobhan Conner’s knickers.”
Scorpius laughed and James rolled his eyes.
“Well, stop,” James said with a smirk. “We have bigger things to think about.”
The younger boys just laughed harder.
The next morning they set out early. No one would be awake that early on a Sunday, they were certain of that.
James set off from Gryffindor Tower and wound his way towards the dungeons, only being stopped once by Professor Flitwick to ask what he was doing.
“Having an adventure!” James had announced cheekily and the professor let out a mock groan before shooing the boy off in the direction of the Slytherin common room with a warning not to break anything too valuable.
James finally came to the hidden entrance and tapped a series of times. Finally, an orange-haired boy answered it.
He was small, even for Hogwarts and when he grinned he was missing a few of his teeth.
“I’m looking for my brother,” James said politely.
“I know,” the boy said, as if he had a secret. “Come in.”
James hesitated for a moment before going in. There were several students milling around, to James’ surprise.
“A bit ragged around the edges.” A Sixth year girl in a corner with two younger students fawning around her pursed her lips. “But I suppose we can’t be choosy.”
James gave her a strange look before Albus burst out a door yelling ‘WELCOME!’
James closed his eyes for a moment fighting back a headache. It was far too early in the morning for that. “What are you doing?”
“You’re our first official visitor for three hundred years!” the orange haired boy cheered.
Suddenly the sixth year girl’s comment made sense to James and he scowled at her, which made both of her friends giggle.
“Same to you, Siobhan,” James sniffed. Better late than never, his mother always said.
She just snorted at him, but her eyes had twinkles in them.
“So, what’s the procedure for a guest?” James asked warily.
“We chop off your toes and use them to trade with the mermen for fantastical magical items!” Scorpius said as he joined the others in the room. He was pulling at his collar and his hair was wet.
“Or tea,” a dark-haired boy smirked. “I prefer biscuits to blood.”
“Oh, that sounds lovely,” James said honestly. “Especially if this one keeps yelling.” He nodded at Albus.
James had thought there was a box sitting on a low table near an overstuffed sofa, but Albus grabbed at it, revealing it was just cloth sewn into a cube covering a silver tea service.
“It keeps the cups warm.” Scorpius rolled his eyes.
The trio and the other Slytherins began helping themselves and soon everyone had a cup and a seat and James’ headache was beginning to subside.
“So what are you doing today?” Siobhan Connors asked them.
“Exploring the dungeons,” Scorpius said shrugging.
“You’re not going near that old well, are you?” The dark-haired boy looked impressed.
“Doesn’t matter if they are,” Siobhan scoffed. “Flitwick put a charm on it ages ago. If you jump in a gust of wind will pick you up and blow you right out again.”
“Really?” The orange-haired boy asked excitedly.
“Samuel Burrows, you are NOT to use the old well as a form of entertainment!” Siobhan gave him her best icy stare, but the small boy just rolled his eyes.
“Even if I charge a knut per jump?”
She seemed to think about this for a moment before regaining her senses. “No!”
He pouted for a moment before grabbing a biscuit.
“You’ll tell us if you find anything interesting, won’t you?” One of the girls that had been flitting around Siobhan looked hopeful.
“We will,” James said. “I promise.”
“Where are we going?” Albus asked as they veered off into a little hallway Albus and Scorpius didn’t know was there.
“It’s almost impossible to find. I think they were trying to hide where they put it,” James said wisely.
“Then how did you find it?” Scorpius asked.
“Door was broken when I found it the first time. It was easy to find.” James shrugged. “But I fixed the door and now it’s back to being hard to locate.”
They abruptly stopped in the hallway and James turned to his left. There was a wooden relief of several dozen medieval-looking animals that looked as if they were locked into battle.
James pressed hand against the owl and there was a loud ‘CLICK.’
“It must have been quieter way back when,” James said deductively.
The three boys walked into the room and James lit the area with another glowing orb.
Scorpius turned in a circle as he took in the whole room, his mouth open. “You know this could be worth millions of galleons?”
“At least.” James smirked.
Albus went to a shelf and examined what was on it. “You’re right. These books are in really good condition. Should we do the dust spell?”
“What do you think?” James asked Scorpius, who looked decidedly nervous.
“Well… they do look impeccable. And the dust spell didn’t rip up all the fabric on the chairs, which would be in worse condition.”
“Why don’t we just try one book?” Albus said as he began pulling one off the shelf.
James and Scorpius both looked shocked as Albus removed the book, but nothing seemed to be harmed and it made a solid ‘WHUMP’ when he plopped it onto a small table.
“I don’t know how to do a localized spell!” James spluttered. “Just a whole area!”
“Well, this could be troublesome,” Scorpius quirked a corner of his mouth.
“Hey, I have an idea,” James said sarcastically before bending over the book and blowing on it like it was a birthday cake and he was a reasonably old person.
The other two boys began coughing and hacking as Albus made some feathers sprout out of the tip of his wand to use as a feather duster.
“Where’d you learn that trick?” Scorpius wheezed.
“Gran made us learn a whole bunch of household spells before leaving for Hogwarts.” Albus nodded firmly.
“I didn’t think she meant for you to kill us with it,” James hacked, but Albus pooh-poohed him.
“That wasn’t magic, it was just stupid,” Scorpius pointed out as he drew a monogrammed handkerchief out of his pocket and blew his nose into it before choking some more.
“Well?” James asked impatiently. “What is it?”
“I… have no idea,” Albus confessed. “The letters are weird.”
“Should have thought of that,” James confessed. “English wasn’t always so cut and dry.”
“Could we use a translation spell?” Scorpius asked, as he wiped his eyes.
“I don’t know how to do one properly,” James admitted.
“I do,” Scorpius confessed. “But the results have been rather permanent. I don’t know if we’d get in trouble later for damaging an antiquity.”
“Oh, do it anyway,” James encouraged. “I’m sure there’s a way to reverse it, you just don’t know it.”
Albus shrugged. “Makes sense, I suppose.”
Scorpius looked at them warily before he opened the book and muttered an incantation. The letters began vibrating before they all puddled together in the center of the page, a big spot of dark ink.
“Is it supposed—“ James began, but the ink started moving and cut him off.
It swirled around, almost seeming to rise from the page as a mist before being brought back to it, the letters seemingly burning themselves back onto the page.
“That was cool,” Albus said as James took steps towards the book. He picked it up and started reading from the center of it.
“Fourteen geese, sixty chickens, six swans, and forty-seven deer.” James raised an eyebrow. “Five hundred pounds of turnips, Three hundred pounds of apples, two hundred pounds of salt.”
“What is that? A recipe book?” Scorpius laughed as James turned the page.
“Third Wednesday of August, the year of the owl.” James went on. “Paid in full to the good Lord Remington, although he offered it as a bounty. We shall not reinforce beliefs that the non-magical should pay us tribute in exchange for not harming them.”
“How progressive of them,” Scorpius said with a pompous look at Albus, who mimicked it.
James turned another page. “It’s a ledger of supplies and payments. Interesting, but not very exciting.” He frowned down at the page.
“What is it?” Albus asked.
“Four hundred pounds of gunpowder, two hundred pounds of sulfur, two thousand stripped skeletons of small rodentia, twenty quarts of dragon’s blood, three hundred human ears.”
“Ew,” Scorpius said as he furrowed his brow.
“How are you going to get three hundred human ears?” Albus asked curiously.
“People died all the time,” James shrugged. “Find a place where they’re burying a mass grave and take what you want.”
Scorpius seemed to think this was reasonable enough and James continued.
“Twenty pounds of acorns, fifty rabbits, four hundred bolts of cloth. Paid in full to Lu Buwei, plus travel expenses.”
“Huh,” Scorpius said. “I wonder what that was all about.”
“I’m guessing they had to import a lot of potion ingredients. This might be a year’s supply?” James closed the book.
“Ready for the next one?” Albus asked eagerly.
This time, Scorpius demanded the whole thing be dusted with the feathers instead of blowing on the book and Albus sheepishly complied.
James opened the book and looked at it quizzically. “It doesn’t have any writing in it!” He flipped through it, but when he came to a page, he stopped and stared down at the page.
“What is it?” Scorpius asked.
James looked up for a moment before a shot of green light came from the pages of the book and hit James right in the chest.
He gasped for a moment and his eyes rolled back in his head.
“James!” Albus cried out, not knowing what to do.
James stood there for a moment before the light went out and he collapsed to the floor.
There was light and sound. It was muffled, but it was there. It started making more sense and he recognized his brother’s voice.
“We have to get him out of here!”
James groaned and stirred.
“Not so fast,” Scorpius said. “Just stay there for a while. You hit your head pretty good.”
“Just help me outside,” James said laboriously. “Lay me at the foot of the rocks. Tell them I fell.”
Albus and Scorpius nodded. After a few moments they tried to move James. He gagged as if he was going to vomit, but he didn’t.
It felt like it took them ages, but they finally got him to the small hole that led to the boat landing area.
It took some doing, but they finally decided on petrifying him and lightening his weight, since they didn’t know how to perform a levitation spell properly.
Finally, they set him on the shore and lifted the spells. James turned onto his side and threw up.
“Run!” Albus screamed to Scorpius, who took off so fast he was nearly a blur.
“Hang on James!” Albus said urgently, rubbing one of his brother’s hands. “You’ll be fine!”
“I know!” James laughed before wincing and putting a hand to his head. “It’s a concussion, Albus. It’s not like my brains are spilling out. I won’t even have to go to the hospital. Promise.”
James was as good as his word. When help arrived a few moments later, Madam Pomfrey waved her wand over James’ head a few times. Blood rolled out of his ears and Albus cried out in fear.
He felt a hand on his shoulder and swallowed when his eyes met the Headmistresses. She kissed him on the top of his head like she had when he was little. “He’ll be just fine. That was just the runoff from the damage. All better.”
Albus looked around and was happy to see that the only witness to this display was Madam Pomfrey.
He felt a lump in his throat grow and he felt tears begin to spill out over his cheeks. The headmistress put her arms around him and he cried great, wracking sobs.
“Oh, for the love of Merlin! You’ll give me a headache with all that racket!” James snorted. Albus turned around and flung himself on his brother.
A murmur from above turned into a cacophony of worried voices as students began flooding down to the landing area, Scorpius in the lead.
“I thought you were going to go down to the dungeons?” Siobhan Connors asked, her eyes narrowed.
“We were looking for your knickers,” Scorpius blurted out suddenly. “We didn’t find them.”
“Why would they be up there?” she asked, her eyes narrowing.
“Bursar said he tossed them up there after you got it together,” Albus piped up.
“WHAT?!” Siobhan shrieked, her eyes wide and her face red. “I never!”
“And we just proved it,” James added. “See, we were just saving your reputation.”
Siobhan turned around and glared at the crowd, most of whom had never heard this rumor. She scanned it before pushing her way back through and heading back up the stairs. A good amount of students followed her. Since they had missed all the excitement down below, they were more than happy to cheer on a well-deserved beating.
“Did Mr. Bursar actually make such claims?” McGonagall asked Scorpius sternly.
“He really did,” James assured her. “There were quite a few wild claims made that night. I… may be implicated in the theft of a stuffed saber-toothed tiger.” He tried to give her a charming smile, but it came out crooked.
She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She opened them and stormed up the stairs, a stern look affixed on her face.
“Come get a potion after dinner,” Madam Pomfrey said gently as she helped James to a sitting position and handed him a handkerchief to wipe the blood away from his ears. “It will help you sleep tonight.”
“Will do,” James assured her as he got to his feet. “Sorry I almost knocked my brains out.”
“It wouldn’t be the same if one of you didn’t try to kill yourselves at least once a month.” Madam Pomfrey sighed. “I better follow. Merlin only knows what’s about to happen to Mr. Bursar.”
“We’ve got him,” Albus assured her, putting a hand on James.
With that, the remaining crowd shuffled upstairs to find out the fate of the unfortunate Mr. Bursar.
“What was that?!” Scorpius hissed.
“I think it was a grand example of a stunning spell,” James said, shaking his head experimentally. “They sure knew how to make them, didn’t they?”
“I think we’d better be more careful from now on,” Scorpius said seriously.
“No objections from me.” James smiled ruefully.
“There he is!” Albus squeaked.
Scorpius looked up to see James approaching. “How you feeling?”
“I slept like a crazy person last night.”
“Madam Pomfrey told you to stop by,” Albus chided his brother.
“I know. I regret not doing it,” James sighed.
“We going back down today?” Scorpius asked. “This time we won’t go poking through books in a secret library.”
“We can do some more cleaning,” Albus added. “You can even teach us a proper levitation spell so we don’t have to touch anything.”
“Well, there’s a good idea,” James said with a quirk to his mouth. “I wasn’t sure I was going to survive you moving me.”
Albus made a face at him.
“Well then, let’s get going,” Scorpius said, a smile growing on his face.
They had cleared several areas and had discovered some things that had surprised them. The biggest being a large pile of dust that transformed into an enormous round table.
“Do you think this is… you know, the table?” Scorpius asked in barely a whisper.
“Whoa,” Albus breathed.
“Honestly, there have always been round tables,” James assured them. “Since the first caveman took a slice of tree, put a couple pegs on the bottom and whacked it into the ground.”
“Is that what you think the first table looked like?” Scorpius looked amused.
“Where would they have gotten the saw?” Albus asked.
“They had wooden wheels, didn’t they? How hard would it have been to put on its side?” James asked.
The younger boys shrugged and went to work restoring the room. Soon several chairs were around the table, fresh rushes were on the floor, and they had uncovered several more wall carvings.
James studied them even longer than the last time, trying to make something of them. He touched them with his fingertips and tried to run them over the grooves, trying to see if his fingers could patterns his eyes could not see.
“Figure out anything?” Albus asked him.
James jumped at his brother’s voice and turned around. “Wish I could.”
“Well, someone will figure them out.” Albus shrugged.
“Yeah,” James said, glancing back at the carving. “I’m sure they will.”
Harry Potter turned over in his bed. It was so warm he felt as if he could stay in it all day. He reached for his wife and frowned when she was not there.
“Rise and shine!” She called out, altogether too cheerfully. “Tea’s ready and the yard is waiting!”
Harry groaned. If there was anything he hated, it was wrestling back the garden Molly had insisted upon planting. As beautiful as it was, they didn’t keep it up as well as they should and once in a while Harry found himself dragged out to wrestle back the weeds and brambles.
“Coming!” Harry called out. He sat up, relieved his wife hadn’t been around to hear him groan.
When he made his way to the kitchen he couldn’t help but notice the back door was open and his wife was nowhere in sight. A cup of tea and gardening gloves were waiting for him.
He sipped at the cup, savoring the taste and slowly waking up.
“There you are!”
He was pitched forward as Ginny popped her head in the back door and hit him with a charm that changed him out of his pajamas.
“Overalls?” Harry asked with a sigh. “Really?”
“Come on Farmer Potter, let’s go!” And as quick as that, she was gone again.
Harry just shook his head and pulled the gloves on. When he got out into the yard he winced at the sun before picking up a pair of sunglasses that were sitting next to a set of pruning shears.
Ginny had already tackled the small beds of flowers: places where the ground was soft and the weeds were easy to get at.
Now it was up to Harry to trim back the wild berry bushes that tried to strangle the yard. He walked to an especially thorny area and began working. Maybe if he got a thorn in his thumb Ginny would stop on this mad crusade to fix the garden and just hire a gardener like everyone else.
’Watch it pal!’ Harry jumped at the voice and looked around.
“What is it?” Ginny asked, standing up and wiping her forehead.
“Did you say that?” Harry asked, knowing full well she didn’t.
“Say what?” she asked, her eyebrows furrowing.
’Just give me a minute and I’ll be out of your way!’
Harry jumped at the peculiar little voice that sounded nothing like your run of the mill garden gnome.
He looked down to see a small snake near his feet. He felt himself get light headed.
“Did you say that?” he asked, picking it up gingerly.
The snake wound itself around Harry’s hand and flicked it’s tiny tongue at him. ’If you could just put me on the other side of the wall I’d be grateful! I could do it myself, but there’s a rather angry mouse that lives beneath and I’d rather avoid her.’
“How do you know I’m a Parselmouth?” Harry asked. “Or do snakes talk to everyone and we just don’t know?”
Ginny went white and approached Harry and his new friend.
“You smell like a snake.”
“Have I always smelled like a snake?” Harry asked, his eyes darting to Ginny.
’No.’ it wriggled around his wrist and looked at her.
Is that the wife? Hubba hubba!
Harry burst out laughing and he was sincerely glad Ginny could hear none of it.
“I’m sorry I wrecked your house,” Harry said apologetically.
’There’s another nest not too far from here, but it’s on the other side of the wall,’ it hinted.
“Right then,” Harry said with a small smile. He walked out of the garden and placed the snake under some looking shrubbery. “Good luck!”
’See you later!’ the snake squeaked.
Harry returned to the garden. Ginny’s face was ashen.
“If he’s back we’ll get him again,” Harry said grimly. Then he went and put his arms around her. They stayed like that for a very long time.
“My dad wants to know if anything strange has been going on.” Albus turned the parchment over but there was nothing on the other side.
“Besides us cleaning out the basement?” Scorpius asked. “Not that I know of.”
“Maybe James has been implicated in the Great Knicker Caper,” Albus snickered.
“Tell him there’s a distinct lack of fresh pies.”
“I think we’ve done enough,” James said with a twinkle in his eye as he up righted a newly repaired chair. “I have something to show you.”
“What?” Albus stopped trying to repair an old tapestry.
“It’s something awesome,” James said solemnly. “Follow me.”
Albus and Scorpius exchanged looks as James led them from the room they were working and encouraged them to follow him deeper below, until they came to the enormous room with the giant glass orb on a stone pedestal. The balloon-looking thing inside was inflated a little more than when Albus and Scorpius had last seen it.
“What is it?” Scorpius asked, as if he had never seen it before.
“I think this was some sort of gathering place,” James said nodding.
“We already found the dining hall,” Scorpius said.
“And if it were for displaying things wouldn’t there be seats all around it?” Albus added. “Like a coliseum.
“Maybe it’s a ball room?” James offered.
“Maybe it was for a ceremony,” Scorpius said. “I don’t think we should mess with it.”
“Good point.” Albus nodded. Something about the room made his skin crawl.
“We should try to climb it!” James said excitedly.
“Count me out!” Albus said flatly.
“Oh, come on,” James said. “We can see it better up close.”
“Would you like to borrow some omnioculars?” Scorpius asked sweetly.
“Where did you get those?” James asked, astonished.”
“Special pockets. My gran sewed them on the insides of all my sweaters.” Scorpius shrugged.
“What else have you got in there?” Albus asked curiously as James took the omnioculars.
“Couple books,” Scorpius admitted. “Half a sandwich.”
“You still can’t see what it is!” James growled as he strained to see with the omnioculars.
“Let me see,” Albus said as he took them from James.
It looked more like a deflated ball now, but Albus wasn’t going to note any changes to his brother. He reported as if it were the first time seeing it.
“Deflated honeydew melon?” Albus offered.
“Ooh, maybe it makes breakfast!” Scorpius added hopefully.
Albus snickered at him, but James just snorted.
“I’m going to figure out a way to get to it,” James muttered.
“You go ahead,” Albus sniffed. “But you’re doing it without me.”
James looked at Scorpius. “What about you?”
“I’m sure the omnioculars will be fine enough for me,” Scorpius admitted. “If someone fell in here we’d <i>really</i> have to get help.”
“I’ll think of something,” James said vaguely.
“What do you think it means?” Ron asked in a serious voice.
“I have no idea,” Harry admitted. “But it’s got to mean something.”
He looked around the table at the other members of the Order of the Phoenix. He hadn’t called a meeting, but he couldn’t help but remembering they were all members of Dumbledore’s Army. Ginny had called Hermione for an answer, but she hadn’t had one so she called Ron and they had all rallied to the Potter’s household.
“He can’t possibly be back, could he?” Hermione asked nervously.
“I’m getting sick of this,” Ron said grouchily.
“I’m sorry,” Harry said in an annoyed tone. “At least it isn’t happening in<i> your </i>head.”
Hermione took in a breath and let it out. Then he shook his head. “We’re getting too old for this.”
“I agree,” said Ginny. “But what else is there to do?”
“Squash it out before it begins,” said Harry gravely.
Minerva McGonagall sat behind her desk, her hands clasped tightly on the polished surface. “Are you sure?”
“Sure as tomorrow’s dawn,” the small man said. “As soon as they saw what it was they sent me to see you straight away.” He looked up nervously.
“But… Dementors? After all this time?” McGonagall acted as if the words themselves were bitter.
“Maybe it’s a rogue flock?” he offered. “It just came out of nowhere.!”
“I hope so,” McGonagall agreed. “Thank you, Gibson. We’ll double up security for now and request extra guards from the Ministry until they know what all this is about.”
McGonagall nodded and the man knew a dismissal when he heard one.
A tremendous bolt of lightning struck and Albus could swear the whole castle shook. He looked at the windows and they were all obscured by sheets of rain and grey weather. He always loved storms. Part of him was sad that he wasn’t high in Gryffindor Tower, where James swore it swayed if the storms were strong enough.
The windows in his room lit up when lightning hit the lake, but most of the rest was muffled.
He wound his way towards the dungeons, trying not to think about the essay he had due the next day on Tadpoles: For Potions or Pets for his Care of Magical Creatures class. He had just spent the last two hours shoveling out the hippogriff pens and was in no mood to do one more thing for Professor Singsong.
James blinked at the red-haired boy in front of him. “I had detention. I have no idea.”
“He said he was going to help me with Transfigurations.”
“No idea,” Albus said, holding both of his hands up.
“For the love of Merlin what is that stench?” Siobhan Connors stormed up to Albus. “You’re smelling up the whole common room!”
“I’d already be in the bathing pools if people didn’t keep stopping me,” Albus said grouchily.
Just then, Scorpius stumbled in behind him and instantly started gagging.
Albus growled and stormed to the staircase that would take him to the bathing pools. The stairs were so narrow and curved you ended up almost dizzy at the end. They opened up into an enormous, dark underground cavern peppered with generously-sized pools of water that glowed from some hidden light source. Albus chose one in the back, as not to offend any other late bathers with his stench. He really wasn’t in the mood to deal with anything else.
He stripped off his clothing and stretched, and then he jumped into the water with an enormous splash and settled on one of the stone ledges that had been carved out hundreds of years ago.
’Think of the thousands of naked bottoms that have been here, Albus!’
Albus chuckled and shook his head. It was no wonder they had become best friends so easily.
As if on cue, a bright green privacy curtain suddenly popped around the pool Albus was in.
“It’s just me!” Scorpius’ voice called out, as if on cue. Albus heard his footsteps getting closer. “What happened to you?”
“I never want to think about what comes out of the hind end of a hippogriff ever again,” Albus groaned.
“Well, you’d better think about that essay due tomorrow or she’ll have you doing it again,” Scorpius pointed out as he took his clothes off and settled in the pool with Albus. He knocked on the ledge three times and a pipe rose up out of the water in the center of the pool. Different colored faucets sprang forth from it like a bouquet of flowers.
Albus hit a blue faucet with his foot and sweet-smelling bubbles started pouring out.
“We’re going to smell like girls!” Scorpius protested.
“I don’t care what I smell like, as long as it isn’t hippogriff,” Albus said grumpily. “And it’ll wear off fast enough. Where were you, anyway?”
“With James in ‘the dungeons,’” Scorpius said, making quote marks with his fingers.
Albus gave him a look halfway between amusement and horror. He peeked underneath the privacy curtain, but they were alone. “All right, Captain Obvious. Find anything interesting?”
“Your stupid brother still wants to climb that thing.” Scorpius shook his head before dunking it underwater and resurfacing. “I just agreed to help clean it.”
“That’s probably an excellent idea,” Albus said. He paused for a moment. “Was it my imagination or is that thing getting bigger?”
“It’s not just you, and if James found it before we did, he knows as well.”
“Wonder why he didn’t mention it?” Albus pondered.
“Maybe he knows something we don’t. Maybe it’s one of those magical items that runs on human energy. No one’s been down there for a while so it wasn’t charged up.” Scorpius shrugged.
“You could be right,” Albus admitted. “But I get the feeling it isn’t just a light fixture.”
“Why not?” Scorpius asked. “It was the dark ages and they could have had an indoor sun. That would have been impressive.”
There was a noise like stone sliding on stone and the boys stopped talking. To their knowledge nothing in the room moved, the only visible fixture was the stairs leading up.
“Hello?” Albus called out warily.
“Albus?!” an astonished voice called out. The Slytherins whipped back the privacy curtain, making sure they were still at least waist deep in water.
“James?!” Albus said as his brother stepped out of a shadow. The sound of stone against stone happened again and James whirled around. He seemed to be patting the wall behind him.
“Where did you come from?” Scorpius asked, his face a mask of complete bewilderment.
“I found a passageway!” James said. “But I guess it only goes one way!”
“You’re lucky you didn’t get lost or trapped, exploring without a partner!” Albus chided him. “Remember what dad said?”
“Where am I?” James asked, looking around, his eyes darting from the glowing pools to the dark walls.
“In the bathroom,” Albus explained.
“I thought you were going back to the tower!” Scorpius exclaimed.
“Why are you taking a bath together?” asked James curiously, ignoring Scorpius’ question.
“We always all bathe together. You’re lucky it wasn’t earlier or half the House would have been in here,” Albus snickered.
“What? The girls, too?” James looked shocked.
“Don’t be silly,” Albus waved him off. “Their pools are over there.” He gestured towards what looked like a little cove.
James shook his head for a moment, as if he were trying to get the distraction out.
“We’ll have to smuggle you out,” Scorpius said. “Can’t let everyone start searching the Slytherin area for hidden passages. They’d tear it pieces.”
“You’ll have to show us how you got in later,” Albus said as he began climbing out of the water. “Come on; let’s get you out of here.”
Harry sat at his desk at the Ministry of Magic, pouring over folders and marking spots on a large map he had pinned to the wall behind him. He was frowning.
There was a quick knock and the door opened. Ron stuck his head in and went to say something, but stopped when he saw Harry. “What are you doing?”
“There have been some strange things going on lately, I’m trying to see if there’s a pattern.”
“Like what?” Ron stepped in and closed the doors.
“There haven’t been any incidents yet, but there have been a few Dementor sightings trickling in. When we go to talk to the neighbors, if there are any other magical folk in the area, most of them admit they thought they were seeing things. How many of these aren’t we hearing about? How many other places have people just thought they were ‘seeing things?’ Why is this going on?”
“I can’t tell you, mate,” Ron admitted, his eyes widening. “How far do these go back?”
“A couple of months,” Harry said.
“Then why haven’t we heard about them?” Ron asked incredulously as he picked up a folder.
“They were mostly written off, if there weren’t any other witnesses,” Harry shook his head. “Lately, they’ve been in more populated places.”
“Well, that isn’t good,” Ron breathed. “We haven’t had a Dementor problem in almost twenty years. Is anyone still here from the last time?”
“I think we have a couple people in desks that used to be field agents,” Harry said thoughtfully. “It might be time for another briefing.”
“Do you think it’s that bad?” Ron asked. “It’s going to scare a lot of people.”
“Better we get at least a handle on it before the <i>Prophet</i> starts reporting it,” Harry said.
Ron looked at the folders on the desk and nodded bleakly.
“You could have gotten in trouble—hello, boys.” Lucy Weasley stopped lecturing James for a moment and turned to Albus and Scorpius. “When you’re on your little adventures can you be sure to get Slytherin docked at least as many points as Gryffindor to level the playing field a bit.”
The younger boys’ eyes went to the great hourglasses that kept track of house points and their jaws dropped in shock.
Albus whirled on James. “What did you do?!”
“He broke curfew,” Lucy snapped. “And we’re going to have to do oodles of stuff to get it all back.” She glared at Albus and Scorpius.
Scorpius held his hands up. “I don’t know what you think we can do.”
“If I hear one of you has been clever in class before we’re at least up forty points I’ll come looking for you,” she threatened in a low voice before standing up and straightening her robes. “Have a nice day.” She went in the direction of her friends, who looked happy to see her, unlike the boys.
“How are we supposed to do that?” Scorpius asked as he sat down.
“Not a clue.” James shook his head.
“You weren’t that late!” Albus protested. A glance from James told him otherwise. “What did you do!? You didn’t go back there, did you?”
“I couldn’t sleep,” James said huffily.
“You’re out of your mind,” Scorpius said flatly. “At least I was just going from the landing to the dungeons. You have to track through the whole castle and dodge Peeves.”
“I wish Nearly Headless Nick was as good as scaring off poltergeists as the Bloody Baron is,” James grumbled.
“It’s a perk,” Albus shrugged.
“So what are we doing today?” Scorpius asked. James opened his mouth, but Scorpius interrupted him. “No cleaning! I’m sick of cleaning!”
James closed his mouth, but scowled at Scorpius.
“I think we’ve been down there too much,” Albus said. “You’re starting to look like you’re spending too much time with no sun and little sleep.”
“Which makes sense, because you are.” Scorpius snorted.
James took a breath and let it out. “Oh, I suppose you’re right. It’s not like we have a deadline.”
When Ron got home Hermione was up waiting for him.
“What’s wrong?” he asked, when he saw the look on her face. She held up a newspaper for him to look at.
Muggle Baiting Preceded Dementor Attack!
“What?” Ron’s face went white as he locked the door behind him and took the paper from her. “What’s all this?”
“Didn’t you know?” Hermione asked him.
“I’ve been down in Sheffield all day looking at a case of carnivorous sheep,” Ron said. Then he glanced at her. “Um… you didn’t hear that from me.”
“Classified.” Hermione said, quirking a corner of her mouth at him. “Got it.”
Ron’s eyes poured over the article. “They were <i>lured in?!”</i>
“Apparently,” Hermione said helplessly. “What are we supposed to do?”
“Well,” Ron said slowly. “We made the bunker for a reason.”
“So are we to stay inside until all this gets sorted out?” Hermione asked him, her eyes full of fear.
He frowned and set down the paper. “Here now.” He held his arms out and she slid into them. “That isn’t like you. Letting a little Dementor attack get in the way of the shopping.”
Tears had been slipping from her eyes, but she couldn’t help but chuckle. “I can work from home—“
“I know you can.” Ron smiled at her.
“We didn’t have kids last time,” Hermione whispered to him, almost ashamed.
“I know,” Ron whispered back. “My mum had six that kept running into the thick of things.”
“I have no idea how you didn’t give your poor mother a heart attack,” Hermione said, hitting him on the shoulder.
“It was destiny,” Ron said. “Had to survive to marry you, didn’t I?”
“Oh, I see,” Hermione laughed. “It was all so we could get married.”
“Well,” Ron started out. “Who else would put up with your bossy—“ He made happy grunting noises as Hermione began smacking him around the head and shoulders.
There was a soft knock at the door and Hermione and Ron both looked at each other. They both drew their wands before she flattened herself against the wall and he opened the door.
“So, I see you’ve heard the news.” A familiar voice rumbled and Ron opened the door wider. Hermione relaxed and slid her wand back into her pocket.
“Hi, Dad,” Ron said as Arthur Weasley shuffled into the room.
“You should come stay with us,” Hermione blurted out, but Arthur just waved her off.
“And bring all the animals? I’m sure your neighbors would love the pigs,” Arthur chuckled. “Don’t you worry about us. This isn’t our first time dealing with terrorists.”
“You sound a lot calmer than last time,” Ron commented.
“This time you all aren’t likely to run into the thick of it with all those little feet pitter-pattering around.” Arthur looked pleased.
“Didn’t stop you,” Ron snorted.
“If we didn’t have all of you to look after, do you think we would have? Because I don’t rightly know, to tell you the truth,” Arthur said, shaking his head. “Just the two of us? We could have gone to South America. Carved out a little life for us in the jungle where no one would find us.”
Ron seemed stunned at this, but Hermione wasn’t. “Ron, we started fighting at eleven. We aren’t like other people. We’re child soldiers trying to make the best of what’s left of our lives, and if the call comes again we run towards it because that’s the way we’ve been trained. They had normal lives. Like normal people.”
Ron’s shoulders sagged. “I don’t know what to do.”
Arthur drew himself up. “You follow your orders and protect your family.” He brushed off the shoulders of Ron’s robes. “And if all else fails, go to Hogwarts.”
Ron nodded solemnly, as if his mind were in another place.
“Just like we always do,” Hermione said firmly.
“Draco Malfoy, are you lying to me?”
There was a newspaper being waved in Draco’s face and he wished it would stop.
“I’m not lying!” He snatched the paper from his wife and straightened it out. “I didn’t have anything to do with this and neither did anyone we know. As far as I know. Nott has been a bit grouchy lately.”
“Do you really think Theo would do this?” Astoria asked him, her hands on her hips.
“What? Make an effort without a guarantee of something fabulous at the end? Not likely.” Draco snorted.
For a moment she looked truly afraid. “But what if—“
“He’s not coming back,” Draco said firmly. “And Scorpius is safe at Hogwarts. There’s no better place for him to be.”
“But he’s a Slytherin!” Astoria squeaked. “They sent you away last time!”
“You saw my parents in the thick of it. What were they doing?” He tapped his toe patiently.
“Looking for you.” Astoria took a deep breath and let it out.
“Would they have been doing that if we’d really been tossed out? They were right outside the door!” Draco pointed out.
“I know,” Astoria said, shaking her head. “Your dad shoved me out of the way when he ran in.”
Draco was quiet for a moment. “You never told me that.”
“What’s the point? He probably doesn’t remember it. I hadn’t even turned twelve yet.” Astoria folded her arms. “So what do we do now?”
“We stay quiet,” Draco told her. “Listening and waiting. I’m not going to pull Scorpius out of school until we know what’s going on.”
“What about your parents?” Astoria asked him.
He paused for a moment. “Can you make up the spare room?”
James and Lucy were pressed up against the same window of Gryffindor tower, fighting each other for more room. Outside dark clouds were gathering over the Forbidden Forest. It had come up suddenly and the teachers weren’t taking any chances with the recent Dementor sightings. Classes had been cancelled and everyone had been ordered to their common rooms. Food had been promised later, but no one was complaining about it.
“You can hardly see anything from here!” Lucy complained.
“Is there a way we can get to the roof?” A black-haired boy asked.
“Don’t even think about it,” Lucy warned him.
“How do we know if it’s Dementors?” James asked her.
“Dad said everything gets really cold and then you get really sad, like the worst things that have ever happened to you are happening all over again at the same time,” Lucy said knowledgably.
“How can you tell it’s getting cold with the stove going?” a blond first-year asked.
“It’s supposed to get really cold,” a brown-haired girl said. “Cold enough to put the fire out, even.”
“Oh, I doubt that,” Lucy assured them. “There are all sorts of spells and protections on the castle. Even when our parents were here they were only allowed on the outskirts. They once made it as far as the Quidditch pitch, I heard.”
“But the last time they were supposed to be here,” squeaked a tiny second year girl. “This time they can do whatever they want.”
“They tried to do whatever they wanted last time and they didn’t make it that far,” James assured her.
There was a crack of lightning and it started pouring. Everyone let out a collective sigh.
“See,” Lucy said, smiling at the other children. “I told you it was probably nothing.”
Just then there was a thunderclap so violent it shook the tower. Several of the younger students screamed.
A black mist began gathering in the storm outside and a third year pointed at it fearfully. Suddenly, everyone was fighting for look. It swirled and pulsed in the air, reaching out tendrils of darkness exploring the air around it. Although it had no eyes, and the tower was not close, it seemed to turn at them.
Several of the small students screamed and ran for cover, but Lucy frowned. “What is that?”
“I’ve never heard of anything like it,” a seventh year squinted through a clear spot under Lucy’s arm.
It started rushing towards them and everyone jumped back from the window. More than a few people drew their wands.
It hit the window with a ’SMACK’ , and then the rain started washing it away, as if were nothing but a thin spray of black mud.
“What the bloody hell was that?” A seventh year girl growled. “Keep alert.”
“Are you going to get McGonagall?” A brown-haired girl asked.
“I think we’d better,” the seventh year nodded. She spoke to a few other older students in a low voice before going out of the portal and into the castle, her wand still drawn and flanked by two sixth years.
“What do we do until then?” James asked Lucy.
“We wait,” Lucy said. “There’s nothing else to do.”
“Except your homework?” a fifth year looked at them suspiciously.
“Chess?” Lucy asked James, completely ignoring the other student.
“Might as well.” James grinned.
“And then what happened?” Albus and Scorpius were sitting on the edge of their seats.
“Nothing!” James said, looking as surprised as the Slytherins. He grabbed a piece of toast and buttered it. “That was it!”
“What do you think it was?” Scorpius asked as he eyed a plate of eggs suspiciously. “Did you owl your dad?”
“I don’t want to worry him,” James said.
“What about Auntie Luna?” Albus asked. “This sounds like her sort of thing.”
“I’m pretty sure McGonagall already has,” James said.
“So what’s left?” Scorpius asked.
“Apparently nothing.” James shrugged. “It might have been some weird weather thing that picked up some loose dirt from the forest and flung it at the castle.”
“That’s not what it sounded like,” Albus shifted uncomfortably.
“We’ll just have to wait,” James said as he bit into his toast.
Albus didn’t think James sounded nearly as worried as he should be.
“Is that thing getting bigger?” Albus asked, as if he didn’t know the answer.
“I’m not sure,” said James, although it clearly had.
The glowing green ball in the glass orb still looked deflated, but it resembled a raisin more than anything.
“It’s gotten bigger,” said Scorpius as he coughed.
“The cold really gets to you, doesn’t it?” James said in a teasing tone.
“Mum says Malfoys are delicate. Wishes I could be as hearty as her brothers.” Scorpius rolled his eyes and sniffled.
“She should have married someone different,” Albus snorted.
They walked down the set of stairs that curved around the room and ended up at the pedestal.
“I don’t want to touch it,” Scorpius said.
“Well, then don’t,” James said. “Use your wand to blow away all the dust.”
Everyone put their masks in place and began working.
What Albus had thought was decoration was really writing, but of a sort that he had never seen before. His fingers traced some of the patterns from a place he had cleared. Suddenly he perked up.
“I know what they are!” He exclaimed.
“Know what what is?” Scorpius asked.
“The carvings upstairs! They aren’t pictures! They’re signs!” Albus began to get excited in a way he never had before. The thrill of a true discovery that could change the world. He stood there for a moment in awe.
“What do you mean?” James asked, his voice tight. He choked suddenly and coughed as he accidentally breathed in some dust.
“The shapes are the same,” Albus said. “This is all orderly, so you can see all the separate letters, but the ones upstairs have been woven together. It’s probably some sort of fancy lettering.”
James came around the side of the column and looked at the spot Albus had cleared off. “Good job, little brother.”
There was a sudden spark of purple light and Scorpius dropped his wand. He shook his hand and looked annoyed.
“What was that?” Albus asked.
“No idea,” Scorpius said as he bent down to pick it up. “It shocked me.”
James frowned. “I’ve never heard about a wand needing a tune up before.”
“Then you’ve never heard any of Uncle Ron’s stories,” Albus snorted.
“Have you ever heard about anything like it?” McGonagall’s nervous gaze went from Luna to Harry and back.
Harry looked at Luna, but she just shook her head. “If you had some residue for me to analyze…”
“I’m so very sorry about that,” McGonagall said. “It had all washed away before we got there.
“I told Ginny this was the safest place for them,” Harry nodded. “So we’ll just have to make sure it is. I want to assign a guard to the castle—“
“Do you truly think that’s necessary?” McGonagall sighed. She sounded tired.
“None of us are as young as we used to be and I don’t want to think about James and Albus doing any sort of fighting.” Harry shook his head as if to get the image out. “Oh, by the way, Hermione wants to use the library. She’s pleading for unrestricted access to everything including the archives.”
“She can have it,” McGonagall looked, surprised. “All of it? Does she have any idea what that means?”
“I think she might suspect,” Harry said grimly.
Albus looked up and over his shoulder at the figure that had just swept by him in the hall.
“Auntie Mine?” Albus asked. Then his cheeks darkened at the nickname. He looked around to see if anyone had heard. Scorpius looked delighted. Albus scowled at him. “Shut it, you.”
She turned to grin at him. “I didn’t know if you were willing to talk to me with everyone around.”
He turned even redder and a couple of passing third year girls giggled at him. “What are you doing here?”
“Trying to solve a mystery,” she said dramatically.
“What’s that?” Scorpius asked.
Hermione looked at him for a moment, the corners of her mouth twitching. Then she burst out laughing. Scorpius scowled as Hermione choked out something about ‘Malfoy Mini Me.’
“Get a hold of yourself, Auntie,” Albus said in a tone usually reserved after for the adults polished off a bottle of sherry on Christmas.
“I’m sorry,” she laughed. She looked at his brooding face and started giggling all over again.
“Have you been drinking?” Albus said in a low, scandalized voice.
“Your headmistress did it,” Hermione said, trying to regain her composure. “If you want a laugh you’ll find a reason to go up to her office.”
Albus tried to shake away the images that were flooding his mind. “You came here to get tipsy and walk around?”
Hermione snorted. “I wish. I have to run through some books to see if a storm like that had ever happened at Hogwarts before and what it meant. Pretty boring stuff.”
“Good luck,” Albus said, and he meant it.
“You could help me if you like,” she said temptingly. “I’m sure the archives hold all sorts of nonsense.”
“Mmm… I think I’ll pass,” Albus said, as if he had actually considered it.
She grinned at them. “Right. Run along, and don’t get into too much trouble!”
“Define ‘too much,’” Albus said with a twinkle in his eye.
“So, where did that passage come from, anyway?” Albus asked James suddenly. The pedestal was almost completely cleaned and the stone underneath all the grim seemed to gleam more every day.
“What passage?” James asked.
“The one where you found us in the bath,” Scorpius said, wheezing. It seemed like the damp was getting to him so much that even the masks weren’t helping very much.
“Oh!” James said, remembering. “From further down! It starts to get really damaged down there, I don’t want to really touch it. I had to climb most of the way to get to your bathroom. It was a real pain.”
“Anything interesting down there?” Scorpius asked.
“Bunch of broken stone.” James shrugged.
“Well, that doesn’t sound very interesting,” Albus said grumpily. “Does that mean we’re nearly done?”
“This place is a lot smaller than I expected it to be,” Scorpius said admittedly. “I mean, this place is huge, but the rest of it isn’t so big, is it?”
There was a faraway sound of stone on stone and the boys froze. They waited a long time, but they didn’t hear anything else.
James motioned to the boys and they followed him to hide under the stairs beneath the doorway they used to come in.
Still there was nothing.
After some time, they crept from the place, wands drawn and jumping at shadows, but they saw nothing.
“What’s that?” Albus asked as Scorpius emptied his pockets out on his bed.
“Rock,” Scorpius said simply. “I thought it looked neat.”
It sparkles,” Albus said as he turned it over in his hand.
“Lots of rocks sparkle,” Sam Burrows said, his shock of orange hair sticking out in all directions.
“I didn’t say it was special,” Scorpius said hotly. “I said I thought it looked neat.”
“Where’d you find it?” Sam asked curiously.
“Unused classroom,” Scorpius shrugged.
“Did Hogwarts teach geology at one point?” Albus asked wonderingly.
“Not according to my dad, and he thinks we need it,” Sam nodded.
“Your da just wants more trained people to work at his stoneworks,” Scorpius snorted.
“It’s steady work and not everyone wants to wear a suit every day,” Sam countered. “It’s peaceful, you know? Just you and your wand and the rock.”
“I’ll take your word for it,” Albus chuckled.
“Going up for a last cup of tea?” Sam asked them as he pulled on his bathrobe.
“I’ll pass,” said Scorpius as he sniffled pitifully.
“Might make that cold go away,” Albus suggested.
“I just steamed my head in the bath.” Scorpius shook his head. “I’m going to make an early night of it.”
“Suit yourself.” Sam shrugged and motioned for Albus to follow him. “But if you’re up in an hour hacking and making a cup anyway I’m going to tease you.”
“What? Like there’s a way to make you stop?” Scorpius asked with mock surprise. “Could have fooled me.”
McGonagall was sitting at her desk when the knock came.
“It’s just me,” Hermione said as she peeked her head around the corner.
“Did you find anything, or is this another excuse to open another bottle of port?”
“I’m never doing that again.” Hermione winced. “My teeth still hurt.”
“Then I’ll have to assume you found something.” McGonagall folded her hands on her desk.
“I’m not sure,” Hermione admitted. She walked in and several piles of books followed her. “Have you ever seen these before?”
“What are they?” McGonagall looked over the tops of her glasses at Hermione.
“Books,” Hermione said and McGonagall gave her a withering look. “But I’m not sure where they came from.”
“What do you mean?” McGonagall asked, her interest piqued.
“Well, at first I started going through what was on the shelf in the archive room, but there were volumes missing.”
“Some of them have been lost or destroyed through the years,” McGonagall admitted.
“Well, I decided to use a shelving charm,” Hermione explained. “They taught us how to use it when we were looking for things people had borrowed from the Ministry archives.”
“What happened?” McGonagall asked, peering at the stack of ancient books.
“Well, I found a few of them,” Hermione nodded happily. “I have no idea where they were hiding, but I swear, one was covered in pond sludge.”
“Are these the ones you found?” McGonagall asked.
“Not exactly,” Hermione said uncomfortably. “About a half-hour after I preformed the spell these came floating in.” They settled on McGonagall’s desk. “I’m not sure what to make of it.”
McGonagall pointed her wand at the pile of books and several volumes glowed. She avoided those and chose a plain one. She opened it and her eyes scanned the page.
“Where on earth were these hidden?” McGonagall breathed. She tapped the page with her wand and the letters rearranged themselves into modern English. She scanned the page. “These are amazing!”
“But they may be part of the problem,” Hermione said grimly. She put three volumes in a separate pile. “These were already clean. One was already translated.”
McGonagall’s face went white. “What are you saying?”
“That someone’s been reading these and doing Merlin-only-knows-what with them,” Hermione said, her mouth a thin line. “And I’m not even sure what they do!”
“We’ll have to find out.” McGonagall got to her feet and went over to a small writing desk. She pulled out very official-looking stationary out of a drawer and began writing.
“Who are you owling?” Hermione asked.
“The Ministry and the Goblin Ambassador,” McGonagall said. “Some of that writing is in ancient Gobbledygook.”
“Yes.” A goblin stood on a stool and examined the ancient text. “I remember hearing about this when I was just a young thing squalling at my mother’s knee.”
“You know it?” Harry exclaimed. “This has happened before?”
The goblin chuckled at this as if it were a joke. “Just once, when the Heart was corrupted.”
“What ‘Heart?’” McGonagall asked him. “What is all this?”
“Well, of course you know, the goblins build Hogwarts—“
“Everyone claims to have built Hogwarts at one time or another.” Hermione crossed her arms.
“Be that as it may, we actually did.” The goblin sniffed and pointed at the page. “List of supplies right there. Even a baby can see it!”
“Maybe a baby that speaks ancient Gobbledygook,” Hermione grumbled.
“This one was already translated.” The goblin pointed at a book. “No excuse.”
“Obviously we have lost much of our building technology,” McGonagall said, trying to diffuse the situation. “We didn’t know what all this was for.”
“Maybe if you had known to begin with we wouldn’t have had to build the school for you.” The goblin seemed to think about this for a moment. “Hmmm.”
“So what happened?” Hermione encouraged him.
“When the castle was originally built it held a mighty source of trapped raw magic. It was supposed to protect the castle, but the wizards were foolish and thought they could bend it to their will.” The goblin paused. “They failed.”
“After many years of fighting with it, it became wild and unpredictable and threatened everything around it. Your ‘Forbidden Forest’ grew quickly and magical creatures no one had ever seen before populated it. The land became twisted and the wizards had to do something.”
“What did they do?” Hermione asked.
“Goblins are made for working with raw magic.” He grinned at her, a feral look full of sharp teeth and beady, black eyes. “Humans are too weak. Their systems cannot hold it. They burn up.”
“And?” Harry asked, wishing the goblin would get on with it.
“One day it struck out at those that would use it for their own gain. We rescued you. We buried it under rock and earth and drained most of magic from it, creating the castle from the runoff.” The goblin grinned. “Looks as if you’re going to have to change your history lessons.”
“So this isn’t the first castle?!” Hermione squeaked.
“Hogwarts, A History miss something?” Harry teased. She just glared at him.
“Your dungeons used to be the main castle,” the goblin said, obviously happy to have the wizards at a disadvantage. “The workshops were below. The Heart lies within them.”
“And someone has woken it up,” McGonagall said, her face turning white. “Do the goblins have the original plans?”
“I can’t say for certain—“
“Yes, you can!” Hermione barked out, startling the goblin into falling off his stool. “Goblins keep records for thousands of years. You still have the plans from the pyramids, I’ve seen them, don’t you lie to me!”
The goblin looked startled, and McGonagall looked at Harry, who looked as if he was trying to retain his composure.
“You’re going to tell us anyway, so stop playing around I am not in the mood!” She growled at him and he began to look concerned.
“Can you imagine what she’s like as a mother?” Harry whispered as an aside to McGonagall, who bit the insides of her lips.
“I’m pretty sure I heard that last bit out of Severus more than once,” the headmistress managed to squeak out before trying desperately trying not to giggle.
“The Heart was throwing off so much magic they started channeling it into creating protections for the castle,” the goblin said nervously, completely unaware of anything besides the angry witch in front of him. “I would hazard a guess that the incident with the storm is one of those protections.
“But why would it turn on the students?” Harry asked.
“It might not have been.” The goblin looked surprised that no one else was seeing it like he was. “It was probably attacking the new castle because it wasn’t attuned to it. It thinks the castle itself is siege machinery. It might just be trying to attach itself to leylines that don’t exist anymore. That would explain the Dementor sightings. They always congregate where they think they might be able to siphon a little power. Magical townships were usually built on ley lines”
“Then the Muggle-baiting might be totally coincidental.” Harry rubbed his face with his hands. “So what do we do?”
“First we have to find out who’s been reading these books,” Hermione said grimly.
“It might help if you knew where they came from,” the goblin pointed out.
James and Scorpius were feeling along the walls in the Slytherin bathing room and bickering back and forth.
“There’s no law that says a passageway has to go both ways,” Scorpius argued. His cough echoed through the underground cavern.
“But I can’t even find a seam!” Albus said, shaking his head. “I know we heard the rock move!”
“What are you doing?”
The voice made them jump and they turned around to see Siobhan Connors looking at them suspiciously.
“Nothing!” They both said quickly.
She arched a perfect eyebrow at them. “It doesn’t look like nothing.” Albus and Scorpius both looked very guilty as she crossed her arms and stared them down. “Out with it!”
“There’s a passageway back here. We’re trying to find it.” Albus admitted.
“There is no secret door to the kitchens!” She sighed. “It’s just a story to drive first years mad—“
“No, really,” Scorpius said. “Someone came through it.”
“What?” she asked sharply. “Who?”
The boys exchanged glances.
“Where does it come from?” she pestered.
“We don’t know, exactly…” Albus said.
“Somewhere further below,” Scorpius admitted.
“How much ‘further below?’” she asked, putting her hands on her hips.
“I have no idea,” Albus admitted. “He didn’t tell us.”
“So someone just pops into the Slytherin bathroom and you don’t say anything?” She narrowed her eyes and thought for a moment. “Because you knew who it was, didn’t you? It was James, wasn’t it?”
The boys looked startled.
“We knew you had to have found something!” she declared. “What was it?”
“Just some old rooms.” Albus shrugged. “Really.”
“Then what was so special that it kept luring you down there?” she asked suspiciously. “You’d better tell me.”
There was a strong rap on McGonagall’s office door and all that were inside turned to look.
“Enter,” McGonagall called out.
The door swung open and Albus and Scorpius were pushed unceremoniously through. It looked as though they were interrupting a meeting.
“What is the meaning of this?” McGonagall demanded.
Albus looked up and turned white. “Uh… hi, dad.”
“Talk!” Siobhan ordered them, her face furious.
McGonagall folded her glasses and set them on her desk. “Miss Connors, if this has anything to do with the rumors—“
“Ask them what they’ve been doing below the castle!” Siobhan snapped, having no patience left.
Albus watched his father’s face turn white. “What have you been doing?”
“Cleaning!” Albus said defensively.
“Cleaning what?” Siobhan prodded.
Both of the boys turned red.
“What did you boys find?” Hermione always had a softer touch when it came to extracting information.
“Well, it all started with Siobhan’s knickers—“ Scorpius started and he was rewarded with a slap to the back of his head. “Well, it did!”
“We went to see if a rumor was true, and it wasn’t,” Albus added emphatically, ducking just in case. “And there was a hole there where her knickers were supposed to be.”
Siobhan let out a squawk of outrage as several of the adults tried to keep their composure. Now she was turning red.
“And on the other side there was a bit of the castle that looked like it had been blocked up,” Scorpius added quickly.
“Did you boys think there was a reason why that part of the castle was off limits?” Hermione asked as Albus’ father slapped his forehead.
“Well, it was all wood, and they made castles with that before stone, right?” Albus said reasonably. “We just figured they built on top of the old one when technology got better.”
“Have you been reading these books?” McGonagall gestured to a small pile near her.
“Yeah!” Scorpius exclaimed. “There was a ledger, and then there was the one that stunned James—“
“What?” Harry asked sharply.
“You said he fell while climbing!” McGonagall was beginning to look angry.
Albus and Scorpius exchanged looks.
“You need to tell the truth to people about how you get injured!” Albus’ father said sternly
“Like Uncle Ron did when he got bit by that dragon you were hiding in Hagrid's Hut?” Albus challenged.
“What?” McGonagall asked, her eyes going to Albus’ father.
“Where is James now?” Harry asked, clearly trying to change the conversation before it went any farther in that direction.
“Well, we were in the bathroom looking for the passageway when she found us and stormed up here,” Scorpius jerked his head at Siobhan. “He wasn’t in there with us.”
“What passageway?” McGonagall asked sharply.
“James came through it once,” Albus admitted. “Said it was from deep below and he had to climb out.”
His father’s face went white and he looked at Albus’ Aunt Hermione. Her face was ashen. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”
“I think it might be a good thing you’re talking to snakes again,” she said, her voice barely above a whisper.
The Slytherins exchanged worried looks.
McGonagall opened a small box on the edge of her desk and rang a small brass bell. A house-elf popped into view and McGonagall leaned down to tell it something before it disappeared again.
“You should have told us, Albus,” his father said softly.
“We were just trying to make it look nice before we showed people what we found.” Albus sounded very small.
“What did you find?” Hermione asked curiously.
The boys were more than happy to tell her everything, from how they figured out how to restore the furniture down to figuring out the wall carvings were actually signs.
“Really?” His father took in a deep breath and snorted it out. “I can’t get you two to clean your rooms and you’re out restoring castles? Really?!”
“Don’t tell mum,” Albus pleaded.
“He’s not in his common room, mistress.” The little elf bobbed his knobby head as soon as he appeared again. “He’s also not in the library, the Great Hall, or any of his classes.”
“Thank you, Justice,” McGonagall said, not unkindly. She looked at the others in the room. “We’ll have to start a proper search.”
“I doubt it,” Scorpius pointed out. “There’s only one other place he’s been going lately.”
“I’m not so sure about that,” Harry said grimly.
Albus’ Uncle Ron chuckled at the view, in spite of himself.
“It’s not funny!” Harry said, his voice both muffled and cranky.
“I think you should have just waited for the goblins, dad,” Albus said, turning his head to the side. There was the noise of footsteps and several other people entered the boat launching area.
“Are you stuck?” Albus heard his mother ask. He turned around to shrug at her as if to say: <i>’I couldn’t stop him.’</i>
“He looks like Winnie-the-Pooh.” He heard his uncle Ron laugh.
“I can fix that,” said a gravelly voice. The rock beneath Albus’ father began melting away and there was a mighty thud as he fell into the secret part of the castle.
“Are you all right?” Albus’ mother called out.
There was a light from the darkness that grew as the stone melted away at the goblin’s command.
“Are you effing kidding me?!” Albus heard his father exclaim, and he winced. He sincerely wished his mother wasn’t there.
“I still don’t understand how this was going on for so long—“ Scorpius’ father stopped talking to McGonagall when his eyes lit on his son. They went to Albus and back.
Scorpius suddenly wished his father had a job like everyone else’s father and wasn’t quite so easy to hunt down.
“What did you two do?” he thundered in a way that reminded Scorpius of his grandfather whenever his favorite horse lost.
Scorpius opened and closed his mouth for a moment before deciding his best bet was to step behind Albus.
“Don’t you try to hide!” The eldest Malfoy looked furious, his hands on his hips. “Do you have any idea how terrified your mother has been?!”
Scorpius looked like he was about to cry.
“And I can’t get you to pick up your socks?!”
Albus winced as he heard his mother’s voice from inside the secret area.
Scorpius’ father was temporarily distracted by this and Scorpius breathed out a sigh as his father went to investigate.
“Headmistress, I think we need you,” Harry said seriously.
“Come along,” McGonagall prodded them. “Show us what you’ve been doing.”
Albus and Scorpius walked them through, hanging their heads sheepishly as they showed the adults all of the things they had done. The goblin representative was especially excited to see the wooden carvings on the wall.
“They’re warning signs,” he explained. “Telling everyone to keep out.” He peered at one. “Not this one.”
“What’s that one?” Scorpius asked.
“A little rhyme about keeping your teeth clean.” The goblin shrugged. “But it’s different wood than the others. Probably left over from before the castle was buried.”
“We didn’t notice,” Albus admitted, feeling more and more embarrassed.
“Where was the library?” Aunt Hermione asked him.
“Down here,” Albus explained. He showed them the little room that was hidden behind the elaborate carving. The door was open, leftover from when Hermione had retrieved the archives, but the boys showed them the proper way to open it.
“McGonagall’s eyes scanned the carving and she exchanged looks with Hermione.
“What is it?” Albus’ father asked.
“This might confirm some theories about the founding of Hogwarts,” Hermione said slowly.
“Like what?” Ron asked.
“See, there are the symbols of the Hogwarts houses,” Hermione pointed out.
“What are all the others?” Albus father asked. “What’s going on?”
“They’re all fighting for dominance,” Hermione said, her fingers running over the carving. “Ow!”
She pulled her hand back and scowled at a drop of blood welling at her fingertip.
There was a rumble from below and for a moment, the carving gleamed like gold. Ron pulled her away from the relief and the rumbling settled.
“How much blood magic went into the original founding of the school?” McGonagall asked the goblin.
“It wasn’t called blood magic back then,” the goblin seemed offended. “It was called divine magic.”
“Because it was a sacrifice,” Hermione murmured.
“Exactly!” The goblin seemed surprised that Hermione understood.
Scorpius coughed hard and he held a handkerchief to his mouth. When he took it away there were red spots on it.
“How long has this been going on?” Draco demanded.
“Couple of weeks,” Scorpius admitted. “It’s just the damp and my allergies—“
“That is not a normal sickness,” the goblin said firmly. “That is sickness caused by exposure to raw magic.”
“How do you know?” Scorpius demanded.
“I can smell it.” The goblin’s nostrils flared and it wrinkled its nose.
“But I haven’t been down here that much!” Scorpius reasoned. He swung around on Albus. “Not any more than you!”
“You’ve been down here with James before, without me!” Albus exclaimed.
“No, I haven’t!” Scorpius said defensively.
“Yes you did,” Albus insisted. “When I had detention with the hippogriffs!”
“We both had detention with the hippogriffs, if you remember right.” Scorpius snorted.
Albus was very quiet for a moment. “Scorpius, I did that detention alone.”
Scorpius’ father looked scared for a moment. “What’s happened to him?”
“Sounds like someone’s modified his memory,” Harry said grimly. “What else happened that night?”
“We took a bath,” Albus remembered. “And then James came out of a corner in the Slytherin bathroom.”
“And he said he’d climbed his way out?” Albus’ father asked.
“Yes,” Scorpius confirmed. He coughed again.
“Take off your clothes!” The goblin pointed at Scorpius.
“What?!” He squeaked.
“Something is making you sick!” the goblin insisted.
“How about I just empty my pockets first,” Scorpius said in an annoyed voice as he stepped into the little library and began emptying his pockets onto a small table. Even his father had to raise an eyebrow at everything that came out of them.
“Is that half a meat pie?” He asked incredulously.
“I thought I might be hungry later tonight,” Scorpius reasoned. There was a clatter as he dropped a handful of odds and ends on the table.
“Ah!” the goblin said suddenly.
“What is it?” Scorpius’ father asked, his face worried.
“Soul stone.” The goblin picked up the small, glittering rock that Scorpius had been carrying around. “Years ago all of the students probably had these. Easier and cleaner than blood sacrifice. They’re tuned in to whatever Heart they’ve been programmed to feed. It just takes little bits of you at a time. No harm done. But this time… I bet you’re the only one holding onto one of these. It would have sucked the soul from you until you were just a husk. The closer you are, the better it works. Far away it would just be a trickle.”
“That thing could have killed you!” Draco’s father said, his voice fearful. Scorpius stepped further away from the rock.
“Wait, when you said you found it in an unused classroom, did you mean down here?” Albus asked.
“Of course I did,” Scorpius said and Albus groaned. “I thought you knew that’s what I meant.”
“You’re what’s been feeding the Heart,” the goblin declared.
“Well, it didn’t seem so strange.” Scorpius shrugged. “James grabbed one and he hasn’t been sick—“
“James has one?” Albus’ father asked sharply.
“Sometimes they make people sick in different ways,” the goblin said ominously.
“You need to find him,” Albus’ mother said, her voice full of fear. “You need to find him now.”
They hurried out of the small room and Albus and Scorpius quickly led them to the enormous pedestal and the glowing Heart of Hogwarts. It was the size of a football, with no wrinkles marring its surface. It seemed to be pulsating slowly and turning within the glass sphere.
McGonagall gasped. Hermione made a choking sound. The goblin made some kind of gesture with his hands that Albus thought looked distinctly superstitious. No one else paid it any mind.
“He’s not here,” Albus’ father said, his eyes scanning the floor beneath them.
“He got to the bathroom from further below, he said,” Scorpius reminded them.
“How far down can it go?” McGonagall asked them.
Albus’ parents, and his aunt and uncle all exchanged looks.
“I think we might know a short cut,” Ron admitted.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” Hermione looked at Harry seriously. “We can get a team—“
“It might be too late until then,” Harry reasoned with her. “Come on, you’ve done this more than I have.”
She quirked a corner of her mouth at him as Ron put a hand on her shoulder.
Harry turned his attention to the small carving of a snake on one of the taps in the girls’ bathroom. He made a hissing noise that gave both Ron and Hermione goose pimples, and things began moving.
Soon, the portal to the Chamber of Secrets was opened again.
The three of them began their descent into the darkness and whatever waited for them, the same way they had nearly twenty-five years ago.
James nearly quivered with excitement. The book had told him this was the way it should be. When he stood within the mouth of Salazar Slytherin he could feel the power beginning to flow through the castle.
He finally began to understand.
He could see the impurities in a way he never could before. So many students of magic in one place and not one of them understood what a gift they had. A divine right given to them by the great creator that put them over all of the other living things in the world. The most precious thing in the world.
And what did they do with it?
They squandered it! On candies and toys, things for being lazy or for vanity! So many pointless people in one place, and of all the places, the one they least deserve to be in. It made him feel sick.
He heard his name being called out and he looked up sharply. They had come looking for him, but it was too soon. Nothing had been put into place; his plans were just starting to form in his head.
He was James Potter, and he was the new Guardian of Hogwarts. He would do anything to defend the castle.
He rose to his feet and walked to the opening that looked out into the Chamber.
His father stood there, as did his Aunt Hermione and Uncle Ron. His mother was nowhere to be seen, although he sensed her in the rooms above. He didn’t sense Scorpius anymore, but that happened from time to time.
“James, what are you doing?” his father asked in an even tone.
“I’m fixing everything,” James said simply.
“What do you mean?” His father had his wand in his hand, but he wasn’t pointing it at anything.
“I found the old castle,” James explained. “We started fixing it up when I found the training manual.”
“What training manual?” Ron asked, in the same even tone as his father.
James began getting annoyed. “The one that showed me everything! How the castle works and how the magic flows through it! Why it must be defended and what it means to the whole of the islands!”
“James,” Hermione said gently. “It was an old manual. Technology improved. That type of energy is unstable—“
“No it’s not!” James roared. “It’s what we are! We <i>are</i> the magic, and it is us! We live life entwined with a gift that puts us above all others! It’s the way it <i>should</i> be!”
“That might be so, James, but the Heart isn’t connected to the world the same way,” Hermione sounded pleading. “You’re doing damage! Trying to force connections that don’t work anymore!”
“Damage? To who?” James sneered. “The earth changes all the time. People migrate. It is the way of things.”
“But people haven’t migrated,” Harry said firmly. “And the Dementor sightings are your fault! Your ley lines are trying to connect at junctions that don’t exist and the magic’s just flowing out!”
“You can help!” James looked excited. “You can tell me where they don’t work and I can pull out those feelers and try others! The castle isn’t nearly as powerful as it used to be! It can be so much better!”
“There’s a reason it’s not that powerful anymore, James!” Ron said regretfully.
“Because the people have lost their faith!” James raged. “We could be so much more!”
“And what is that?” his father asked him.
“Better!” James’ face broke out in a wide smile. “Purer! More at one with the magic! We should use it, we are it!”
“James!” His father looked very stern. “The magic has its hold on you! It’s bending you to its will! Be strong!”
“I am strong!” James exclaimed. “I’m stronger than I ever thought I could be!” He threw his wand away from him. “Look at me!”
James raised his hands, his fingertips crackling with power. James laughed, but his father could smell his flesh burning.
“James, stop it!” his Aunt Hermione called out, her voice high pitched and fearful. “Just put the magic down!”
“Put it down?” James growled. His eyes began taking on a strange glow.
“Stop pulling it to you!” his Uncle Ron ordered. “It’ll burn you up!”
“But don’t you see?” James shook his head and his hair began smoking. “I’m evolving! Changing into what we’re truly meant to be!”
Hermione let out a small cry as a piece of burning flesh fell off his hand. “This is <i>evil</i>, James!”
“We all must make sacrifices,” James said solemnly. “They need to believe in the magic, and I will be that sacrifice!”
“What do you mean?” his father yelled at him, his eyes wide with fear behind his glasses.
“People say that God is dead, but how can they think that if I show them the devil?” James opened his mouth and a plume of flame shot out, causing the adults to scatter. “They will fear me!”
“He’s gone, Harry!” Hermione screamed. “Whatever that is, it’s not James anymore!”
Harry couldn’t catch his breath.
The one who carried his father’s name.
And in his place stood a beast made of magic and fire, raging about divine right and sacrifice.
But he was talking to Harry Potter.
And Harry didn’t need anyone to tell him about sacrifice.
The castle shook and there was a tremendous clap of purple lightening that nearly blinded all those who happened to be looking out a window.
“What was that?” Albus squeaked.
Ginny tried to untangle herself from all of the limbs wrapped around her: Albus, Scorpius, and to her annoyance, Draco. “I have no idea.”
She went to the window and looked out. It was a clear day. The sun was shining. The birds were singing, and there were none of the ominous swirling clouds overhead.
She felt a fear growing in her heart, as if a cold wind had passed through it. She looked at Albus, who was looking at her questioningly. She went to him and put her arms around him. She refused to let him go until Harry walked into the room, his face grief-stricken and dirty, sharp tracks cut out in the dust from the tears that had been falling.
She didn’t need to hear it. Her mouth opened and she let out a primal wail that caused the hair to rise on anyone that heard her.
Ron and Hermione stumbled in after Harry, looking just as dirty and just as grief-stricken. Ron ran to his sister and put his arms around her. Her wail turned to screaming and McGonagall ran in from an adjoining room.
Her eyes went from Ginny and Ron, to Hermione, and at last, to Harry.
“We lost him,” Harry whispered.
The memorial had been intended to be small, but far more people showed up than expected. Harry and Ginny had expected their friends and family, but he hadn’t expected the Board of School Governors and the representatives from the Goblin Embassy, but they had shown up to give their deepest condolences.
Harry and Ginny had been assured that the Heart had drained considerably once Scorpius had gotten rid of his stone. Harry never asked about the stone James had taken. He assumed it had been destroyed in the fire that had consumed his son and had been the reason he could channel the magic so well.
The area below the dungeons was scourged of traps, and the room with the Heart once again sealed forever. The small amount of life left in it barely a flicker when the stones were once again put in place. The goblins had overseen the destruction of any stray soul stones left behind and had made sure every last bit of them had been cleared out from the ancient areas of the castle.
The historical society had taken over the renovations from there and had made sure the first thing that went up was a plaque for James; an engraved brass thing that stood at the entrance and lauded him for the most Significant Historical Find the Modern Wizarding World had Ever Seen.
Scorpius had suggested an honorable mention for Siobhan’s knickers and was rewarded with a slap to the back of his head by his father.
Albus and Scorpius went to see it quite a bit when it first went up, but as time went on, they stopped. They certainly never set foot in that area of the castle again. It took Albus a number of potions and several weeks until he could sleep again, including one breakdown in McGonagall’s office, begging to be switched to another House so he wouldn’t have to be near the door that led from the Chamber of Secrets.
She assured him that it had been permanently sealed, but late at night, from time to time, he could swear he heard a faint rumbling from down below.
4 months earlier
Lily Potter grinned widely as she took the small package from the owl. She scratched it behind its ear tufts and it trilled at her.
“Don’t forget to give him a treat,” Her mother reminded her as she poured three cups of tea and placed them on a simple wooden tray beside a tray of biscuits. “And write a thank-you note for your brother.”
The little girl reached for the ceramic jar of owl treats, its base making a hollow sound on the countertop and her mother took the tray out of the room.
“Oh, lovely!” Lily heard her grandmother’s voice from the other room.
Lilly fed the owl a treat and shook the box it had delivered. It rattled and she pounded towards her room so that she might open it in private. She didn’t want her mother taking it away if she didn’t think it was appropriate.
She closed the door to her room and ripped open the package and snorted. There were all sorts of candies and treats for her, including a few things from the Hogsmede joke shop that her mother would never let her have. She went through it all, sorting and cataloguing everything. When she came to a small pouch at the bottom of the box she paused for a moment before peering into it cautiously.
She wrinkled her forehead and dumped the contents into her hand.
It certainly was a pretty rock. Greenish and sparkly. It felt faintly warm to the touch.
She closed her fingers around it and it felt good. Maybe it was a good-luck stone. It certainly felt like one.
She slid it into her pocket before hiding the things her mother would try to sneak away if she knew Lily had them. Then she gathered her sweets and left her room so that she could share them with her mother and grandmother.