The Many Faces of Adira Potter 43

“The Many Faces of Adira Potter: Chapter 43”
By = Fayanora

Chapter Forty-three: Going Home

Note 1: Text in 'Italics and British quotes' is Parseltongue.

Note 2: Once more, I apologize for the bits and pieces of canon dialogue/narration here and there. But some canon scenes are just too good to change much. There's a lot of those in this one, but don't skim through or you'll miss things.

Note 3: I have different styles for the internal speech of each of the people in the Potter collective, but the note was causing formatting issues on other sites somehow, so if you need a reminder of what formats mean who, you can go back to a previous chapter for the note.

Note 4: All hail Our Lady Of Harry Potter, J. K. Rowling!

*FAYANORA*

Alastair was deeply annoyed, aggravated, irritated. He wasn't used to being Out so long. He preferred to let Adira, Iliana, Chandra, or literally any of the others be in control. He preferred, most of the time, to hang out in the background, watching and commenting on things to try to amuse the others. He was the grumpy and sarcastic comedy relief, and he liked that role. Being Out all the time now was hard; it was strangely difficult to let someone take over like this, more of a struggle than just being in the driver's seat, so he was basically forced to either feel like he was a buoy being held underwater, or just to float there on the surface against his desires.

Instead of sitting around and moping, though, he had Hermione bring him some pen and paper so he could plan out what he wanted to do about the Voldemort thing, or to let Hypatia plan things. She still had the power to push the others aside or put them into a sleep, even though such things no longer triggered transformations. Both were, of course, powerless to do any actual magic except maybe potions. Which led Iliana to take turns writing plans, trying to think of how to use potions against the Death Eaters.

From updates he was getting from Sirius, the Ministry was getting worse about pushing the anti-werewolf legislation. Sirius and Andromeda Tonks were fighting it in the Wizengamot, but irritatingly, they were having a hard time getting Dumbledore to join them, for all his claims to be on the side of the light, werewolves were considered dark creatures, and while Dumbledore was all for letting a werewolf be a student and then a teacher, in order to gain the man's loyalty in later years, he didn't seem to be willing to help out others with Remus's condition. Al decided that he was going to take over Dumbledore's spot on the Wizengamot some day to put things right.

Bored in the hospital wing, he read books that he had Hermione get for him, books about the history of anti-werewolf legislation, and wizarding law in general. One of these instances, he'd gone into a screaming fit of anger after reading that Newton Scamander, the author of the definitive book on magical creatures in the wizarding world, had been the one to push for the werewolf registry. He had thrown the book across the room, too, startling Hermione and Javier both. Hermione had needed to repair the book with her wand, and Javier had needed to try to calm Al down.

Al also was thinking about trying to get the assistance of some reporter who would be willing to tell the truth about the Potters and to tell their side of things. But he only knew one reporter. Rita Skeeter had been strangely silent after the debacle at the Triwizard Tournament's final task, and it was making him anxious. It wasn't until he confessed this worry to Hermione that she revealed to him, putting up privacy wards first, that Skeeter was an unregistered animagus, her animagus form that of a fat beetle. Al had laughed for a solid fifteen minutes when she told him she'd captured Rita and had her trapped in an unbreakable glass jar.

~ ~

Al finally returned to Griffindor tower after being in the hospital wing for over a whole 24 hours, in the evening. He found out from Ron, Hermione, and Luna that Dumbledore had told the school to not pester Al and Cedric with questions right now, and that Cedric had stood up and said that people could pester him – Cedric – for questions, he didn't mind. And so it seemed the story was spreading via Cedric, which was good; Cedric had credibility that Al himself didn't have, and the Ministry couldn't shut them up while they were at school.

He'd been expecting a lot of furtive looks and more people calling him crazy after Skeeter's last article, but thanks to Cedric, there wasn't as much of that sort of thing as he'd feared. Some people were still convinced that they were crazy, and probably always would, but Cedric was verifying their latest crazy tale about Voldemort, at least. Al suspected the Ministry was going to have a lot harder time than they thought at keeping this under wraps.

That evening, a familiar owl tapped its beak on their window. Hypatia had gotten a letter from Draco Malfoy. She immediately pushed Al to the back and took over control of the body, reading it. But the parchment appeared to be empty at first. She stared at the empty parchment at first, then left their room, found Ron in his, and told him to put his wand on it and try several password possibilities for her. It finally worked upon Ron saying “Hypatia Williams,” the ink of a letter suddenly appearing on the parchment. Hypatia was actually rather surprised that had worked.

Dear Hypatia,

Hi, it's me, Draco. Haven't heard from you in a while, and I was worried. I mean, I get it, you have to hide who you really are, but according to Diggory, the dark lord is back. I wrote Father about it, and while nobody reading his letter without knowing the family code would be able to tell, he confirmed the rumor for me. You're a half-blood, right? Well, I'm pretty sure you're against the dark lord, so I'm recommending you keep quiet about being against him, so he doesn't have reason to target you. He won't come out into the open yet, not with the Ministry trying to keep it under wraps, but Father doesn't know how long that's going to last. I have to agree; the whole school knows, so all their parents and family are soon going to know as well, if they don't already from all the owls that have been flying around lately. Fudge may be powerful, but this isn't going to stay quiet for long, no matter how hard he tries.

Something else you should know about; father doesn't know where Rita Skeeter is. It seems strange that she disappeared as the dark lord rose, but reading between the lines of father's letter, he doesn't think the two things are directly connected. He's reasonably sure the dark lord would tell him if he'd had Skeeter eliminated, and there wasn't any reason for him to go after her. So it's a mystery.

Father is more upset than he wants to admit, I can tell by the way he wrote his letter. When he's upset, he lets little things slip into his writing. I don't think he knows I can read so much into his writing, so I believe he's genuinely upset. From the clues I gleaned from his letter, the dark lord is angry that Potter and Cedric survived, and also at the fact that one of the Death Eaters was killed in the fight, as Cedric said. I'm not sure, but I think the man who was killed in the fight was Vincent Crabbe's father. Crabbe isn't going to be happy his father died, once he gets over the shock. Potter will have a hard time from Crabbe next year because of it, I think. Crabbe was taken away at breakfast and nobody's seen him return, which is why I think it was his father who died. Goyle isn't saying anything, but I think Goyle knows Crabbe went home.

Al thought as Hypatia read the letter. He felt mildly bad for Crabbe losing his father, but the man had made the choice to join Moldyshorts, and to then return when his Dark Mark burned.

Anyway, I'm guessing the dark lord isn't in a very good mood, with people knowing he's back and one of his few free remaining followers dead at Potter's hand. Which I have to say, I'm rather impressed with despite myself. Given Father's tone of shock, whatever Potter did was impressive enough that Father is still upset about it. Makes me kind of curious, actually. Not like Potter is ever going to tell me, though.

Well, if you can let me know somehow that you're alright... I have no reason to think you're not, but I just need the reassurance anyway, with Skeeter gone under mysterious circumstances, and the dark lord back. So please, let me know you're alright? Even if I don't get to see you, just hearing back from you in your handwriting would make me feel better.

Yours sincerely,
Draco

PS = Blank the page again by saying my full name with your wand touching the parchment.

At the end of the letter, Draco had drawn a sad-faced dragon.

“Huh. He really fancies Hypatia, doesn't he?” Ron asked.

“Yes, he does seem to fancy me,” Hypatia said. Ron looked confused a moment, since they were still stuck as Al, then shook his head.

“Right, should've known it'd be you reading the letter, Hypatia.”

She nodded, still looking at the letter. “His full name is Draco Lucius Malfoy,” she said.

“Right,” Ron said, blanking the letter for her with his wand and the name.

She rolled up the letter and put it in her pocket. “I've got somewhere to go later tonight, around midnight. Don't try to follow me.”

“Where are you going? Or, er...”

“It's fine. The less you know, the better. I just need to retrieve something I want to take home with me over the summer.”

“Right. Gotcha. Are you gonna be able to get there without your magic?”

“The invisibility cloak still works. And I already changed the password weeks ago, once I knew I could.”

“Password? To what?”

She sighed. “Fine. I've been hiding some of my stuff in the Chamber of Secrets. And I changed the password. It's no longer 'open' in Parseltongue. It's now the Parseltongue equivalent of... something much longer. An entire sentence, one Voldemort won't be able to guess.”

“Don't say the name!” Ron snapped. When he calmed down a little, he added, “Are you gonna be able to say a Parseltongue password without your magic?”

“I don't know.”

She concentrated. Then she said a bunch of hissing and spitting, a long string of it. Aqua poked her head up out of her enclosure. Hypatia guessed she was saying something in Parseltongue, but she couldn't understand it. She said something else to the snake. The snake tilted her head as though confused, but then slunk back down to curl around her warm rock.

“What did you say to Aqua?”

“Well, I was trying to say 'I can Speak but not Understand right now.' But I have no idea if I managed it. I've never actually said that before. I had to piece it together from other memories. I can hear the differences between different Parseltongue words in my memory, and I can remember what they meant, but I'm not sure I managed to say that right. Anyway, I'm going to go to my own room now.”

“See you later,” Ron said.

When she got back to her room, she took out a new piece of parchment and wrote Draco a letter.

Dear Draco,

I'm fine. Hiding again, as you guessed. Sorry, I don't think I'll be able to meet you in person before school gets out, nor over the summer. I wish I could. I miss you. I miss working with you. I look forward to doing that again next year, if we're both still coming here.

Thanks for the information. Not sure what to do with it, but thank you anyway. You aren't going to go after Potter, are you? He was just trying to survive, it's not his fault that Crabbe's father got killed in the process. That man made his choice to work with the dark lord, it's his own fault if he got caught in the crossfire. Sorry, I don't mean to sound unsympathetic, it is pretty sad that Vincent lost his father. I just hope you don't blame Potter for defending themselves. Can you really say you wouldn't do the same if you were in their position?

Also, if you could avoid goading Potter in general, that would be nice. I don't want to think what I'd do if they hurt you in retaliation for something you said to them. If they try to goad you, you should try to be the bigger man. It'll make you look more impressive in the end, and make Potter look petty. Your brash tendency to mouth off to them is far more Griffindor than Slytherin, I suggest you work on that. What can they really do to you anyway, in the long run? All they have are sharp words. You're far cleverer than they are, except when you let your temper control you.

Anyway, I hope you have a safe summer. I'll try to keep writing as much as possible. I'll come up with a more secure communication method than this, one I can actually afford and feel comfortable with. Don't you get any ideas on that front, I have to hide my true self at home, too. Don't send me anything else until I send you what I've come up with, okay?

Yours sincerely,
Hypatia

Later that night was... difficult. She got to the Chamber fine under the cloak, but it took 10 tries to get the password right, and she'd had to argue with Moaning Myrtle between attempts 4 and 5, slowing her down. But she finally got it. She hadn't told Ron the password because she didn't want him knowing she had a sense of humor, but the new password was the Parseltongue equivalent of “Lord Voldemort eats his mother's short shorts and sorts sports equipment in forts for money of sorts, of course.” It was not only memorable and something he'd never guess in a million years, it was also a bit of a tongue twister in both languages, even worse in Parseltongue than English. The thought of Voldemort saying it made her giggle as she slid down the cleaned slide into the Chamber. She giggled, as well, at the thought of the look on his face when he found the password had been changed. Clearly he hadn't thought to do it himself, the thought of other Parselmouths in the school apparently never occurred to him.

The rest of the night went well. She got her things, the Basilisk stayed asleep (she'd told it to hibernate the last time she'd been there, and it had), and she made it back to Griffindor tower without getting caught. As she made her way back, she wondered if Moody had gotten his eye and pegleg back, or if Crouch Junior had taken them. If he'd taken them, that would be a problem, not just for Moody. She made a note to have one of the others---no, she changed her mind. She'd ask him herself. It's not like he'd know who she was.

Moody was still in the hospital wing the day before the Leaving Feast. It was difficult talking to him, because he was more paranoid than ever, and only let her ask him questions after Madam Pomfrey confirmed she was powerless for two months. He glared knowingly at her, but she didn't know if he'd been told or he'd guessed as to why she was mundane for now.

As it transpired, Crouch had indeed stolen the eye and the leg. That was going to be a problem. Crouch was an expert at pretending to be Moody. She and the real Moody, therefore, established a password for the next time they met. Moody looked proud of them for that, but also a bit mixed up inside, since the fake Moody had been the one to teach her that kind of paranoia.

Another change was that Moody had used his wand to shave his own head, burn the hair, and attach a wig to his head in its place. It wouldn't stop Crouch Junior if he still had Polyjuice with Moody's hair in it, or if he'd taken more of Moody's hairs with him before escaping, but it would prevent future hair stealing. Moody had even burned his own eyebrows off, was trying to work out if he could manage without eyelashes, and recommended to Al that he do the same. Moody was also wearing an eye patch over the empty socket his magical eye had been in, to protect others from losing their lunches.

At the leaving feast, Al saw Madame Maxime and Hagrid had made up. Well, he'd known that after visiting Hagrid recently, but this was proof.

Al looked around the room more. This year's inter-House championship had been very close, but in the end Hufflepuff had won. Al liked this turn of events. One of theirs had tied with Al for the Triwizard Tournament, had faced Voldemort and lived to tell about it, and now they'd won the inter-House championship. It was a good year for Hufflepuff.

Dumbledore stood up. “The end of another year,” he said. “Congratulations to Hufflepuff for winning the inter-House championship for the first time in many years. It is well deserved, and long overdue.

“By now, you have no doubt thoroughly interrogated Cedric Diggory about what he and Alastair Potter experienced in the graveyard they were transported to during the Triwizard Tournament. But for those who haven't yet heard, these two brave boys faced Lord Voldemort---” he paused for the gasps and shouts to subside, “they faced the dark lord and managed to survive by working together and thinking quickly on their feet. There is other evidence of this as well. One of the Death Eaters was killed in the fight, and by now most of you have probably heard that Mr. Vincent Crabbe's father has been reported dead. I wish this were a coincidence, but it is not. Please try to remember, next year, not to bother Mr. Crabbe about his loss. Or sooner, if you happen to see him over the summer. Vincent is not his father, he does not deserve to be punished for the mistakes of his father.

“The Ministry of Magic does not wish me to tell you any of this. It is possible that some of your parents will be horrified that I have done so — either because they will not believe that Lord Voldemort has returned, or because they think I should not tell you so, young as you are. It is my belief, however, that the truth is generally preferable to lies.”

Stunned and frightened, every face in the Hall was turned toward Dumbledore now. Even Draco looked worried. Al didn't think he was any less of a blood bigot than he'd been before, but the former Death Eaters had been doing pretty well for themselves, infiltrating the government and influencing its policies in relative safety after Voldemort fell from power. Al thought they had as much to fear from his return, if not more. But they would follow him anyway, because they were scared. Whether for themselves or the children they now had, but still scared. Fear was a powerful motivator, sadly.

“Going back a little,” Dumbledore said, cutting through the continued mutters, “as I said, Cedric and Alastair survived by working together and thinking on their feet. I commend this attitude. We will all need to bind together in teamwork and fellowship to get through the coming war and defeat Voldemort once and for all.

“The Triwizard Tournament’s aim was to further and promote magical understanding. In the light of what has happened — of Lord Voldemort’s return — such ties are more important than ever before.”

Dumbledore looked from Madame Maxime and Hagrid, to Fleur Delacour and her fellow Beauxbatons students, to Viktor Krum and the Durmstrangs at the Slytherin table. Krum, Al saw, looked wary, almost frightened, as though he expected Dumbledore to say something harsh.

“Every guest in this Hall,” said Dumbledore, and his eyes lingered upon the Durmstrang students, “will be welcomed back here at any time, should they wish to come. I say to you all, once again — in the light of Lord Voldemort’s return, we are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided. Lord Voldemort’s gift for spreading discord and enmity is very great. We can fight it only by showing an equally strong bond of friendship and trust. Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open.

“It is my belief — and never have I so hoped that I am mistaken — that we are all facing dark and difficult times. Some of you in this Hall have already suffered directly at the hands of Lord Voldemort. Many of your families have been torn asunder. Already we have lost two Ministry officials at Voldemort's hand, Bertha Jorkins and Bartemius Crouch Senior. We almost lost Alastair Potter and Cedric Diggory to him as well. I pray we do not lose anyone else to Voldemort. And the most certain way to help bring that wish to fruition is to tell your parents and other family members that Voldemort has returned, warn them to be wary of strangers and to take measures to guard against Death Eaters disguised as loved ones with Polyjuice Potion. As my good friend Alastor Moody says, 'Constant vigilance!'

“So go forth and spread the word. Show the Ministry that the truth will out. For the faster we can admit the truth and begin to fight Lord Voldemort, the faster we can end this war, and the more lives we can save. For he will not yet be ready to make his move. He will need time to regroup, to gather his forces, and that job will be made much more difficult for him if everyone is on their guard, if everyone is informed and vigilant.

“Keep those words in mind this summer, whatever the newspapers may say. And with that, I wish you all a safe summer, until next school year.”

Al's things were packed, Hedwig in her cage and Aqua in her enclosure. He, Ron, and Hermione were waiting in the crowded entrance hall with the rest of the fourth years for the carriages that would take them back to Hogsmeade station. It was another beautiful summer’s day. He was going back to Sirius's house for the summer, not staying at Hogwarts at all – unable to transform, the Philosopher's Stone was stuck inside of them, so there was no point to staying behind. And anyway, Sirius had a Fidelius Charm on the flat. But according to his godfather's latest mirror-call message, they weren't going to stay there long. There was another Fidelius over a house Sirius had inherited from his family, and as soon as it was cleaned out, they were going to move there.

“Alastair!” came a French-accented voice from behind him.

He looked around. Fleur Delacour was hurrying up the stone steps into the castle. Beyond her, far across the grounds, Al could see Hagrid helping Madame Maxime to back two of the giant horses into their harness. The Beauxbatons carriage was about to take off.

“We will see each uzzer again, I ’ope,” said Fleur as she reached him, holding out her hand. “I am ’oping to get a job ’ere, to improve my Eenglish.”

“It’s very good already,” said Ron in a strangled sort of voice. Fleur smiled at him; Hermione scowled.

“Eez eet true?” Fleur asked. “You are stuck een your current form?”

Al scowled. “What are they saying about that?”

“Just zat you 'ave not transformed seence ze Third Task. Zere are many, ah, possible reasons said for why. Each more ridiculous zan zee last.”

“Oh,” he said, his face relaxing. “Okay. Well, write me a letter about it, telling me what they're saying, will you?”

“Yes, Alastair, I weel do zat.”

“Oh and uh... your owl might not be able to find me now. I'll send Hedwig, she'll be able to find me. I'll wait a week or two before sending her, to give you plenty of time.”

She nodded. “Sounds good to me.”

“Good. Bye, Fleur.”

Au revoir, Alastair,” said Fleur, turning to go. “It ’az been a pleasure meeting you!”

“You too,” he said, meaning it.

They met Krum, finding out from him that Karkaroff had nothing to do with steering or running the ship, so the fact he ran away wouldn't stop them getting home. He then took Hermione aside for a private word.

When Krum returned, he got Al's attention.

“I have spoken vith Diggory. He does not blame me for vhat happened in the maze. He has alvays been good to me that vay, even though I was with Durmstrang. Vith Karkaroff.”

“Got a new headmaster yet?” Al asked.

Krum shrugged. He held out his hand as Fleur had done, shook Al's hand, and then Ron’s. Ron looked as though he was suffering some sort of painful internal struggle. Krum had already started walking away when Ron burst out, “Can I have your autograph?”

Hermione turned away, smiling at the horseless carriages that were now trundling toward them up the drive, as Krum, looking surprised but gratified, signed a fragment of parchment for Ron.

Sirius and Remus appeared then, before they could get on the thestral-pulled carriages. Al looked at them curiously. They had their wands drawn but their hands down at their sides. Al resisted the sudden urge to run; he was getting as bad as Moody. When they were close enough, he stopped them.

“Stop. Password?”

Sirius looked both sad and proud all at once. “'Avani Maznah,'” Sirius said. “Not that it would've mattered if we were Death Eaters. You're powerless right now, and we have wands.”

Al nodded, turning to Remus. “Password?”

Remus sighed. “'Tall red and black warmth that clicks,'” he said.

“Good. So you two are my bodyguards?”

“Yes. You're vulnerable on the way home, especially now. We'll be with you the whole way. Sorry, pup.”

“It's okay, Sirius. I'm glad for it, actually. Um... should we bring Cedric as well?”

“He can defend himself. He's of age.”

“Yeah, but we're talking about Moldyshorts here.”

“True. But he'd be mad to attack the train. Even attacking the station would be mad. Fudge is trying to suppress the truth. It won't last long, but should last long enough that Voldemort would be mad to attack the station.”

Al shrugged. “Whatever.”

Sirius and Remus went with them not just to the train, but on it as well, saying it would be easier than Apparating to Platform 9 and 3/4ths and waiting. More secure, too, since they wouldn't have to do the 'password' thing all over again.

When they got on the train, Sirius and Remus joined Al, Ron, Hermione, and Luna in a compartment, but Sirius said he and Moony could go wander the corridors.

“It's fine,” Al said. “Fine by me, anyway. Anyone else object?”

Nobody objected, so Al shrugged, leaning back. He looked out the window, annoyed by the bright, sunny day. It was so much unlike an omen of doom that it was almost an omen anyway, like the calm before the storm.

Cedric opened the door, looking apologetic.

“Mind if I join the honor guard?” he asked.

“Password?”

“'Mighty Mouse.'”

Al smiled. “Come on in, Cedric.”

Cedric came in, closing the door behind him.

“Sirius, if you could ward the door? I'd like anything we say here to remain private.”

Sirius nodded, and did as asked.

Once the compartment was warded, Cedric spoke. “So I figured, with your magic being out for the next couple of months, that I'd help protect you. Since we helped each other in the uh, um... the graveyard.”

“Excellent. Still in school and already I have a minion. Don't worry, I am a benevolent leader.”

Cedric chuckled at that, as did several other people. Luna smiled serenely.

“Hmm... you know, I think we're going to need a better system than this password business. Maybe some kind of potion or spell or something that detects Polyjuice Potion use.”

“The Goblins have something The Thief's Downfall,” Moony said. “I know of it, but I don't know how it works. It's one of those closely-guarded Goblin secrets.”

“What does it do?”

“Washes away enchantments, undoes Polyjuice Potion's effects.”

Al blinked. Then he frowned. “So why the bloody hell doesn't the Ministry hire the Goblins to install a Thief's Downfall at every entrance to the Ministry?”

Sirius snorted. “Because it's bloody inconvenient. Soaks you to the bone, that's what you said, Moony? Right. Great idea in times of war, if you can get the Goblins to cooperate, but it's not happening until Fudge gets booted out or pulls his head out of his arse, whichever comes first.”

“Fudge's head is implanted so firmly up his arse that he can probably see what he had for lunch.”

When the laughter died down, Al continued. “I'm not letting the fact I can't use my magic stop me from working to fight Voldemort. I'm going to have to stay indoors all summer anyway, so I'm going to use every spare minute I have working on stuff to fight him. Iliana has her potions, Hypatia has her arithmancy and rituals, and Zoey's no slouch, either. She's working on her own list of things to work on. Then we've got the Weasley twins. They're dead clever, I bet they could turn their minds toward the war effort.”

He had a sudden brilliant idea. He dug through his trunk until he found what he was looking for. When he found it, he said, “I'll be right back, gotta find the twins.”

Bolting through the door through the slight pressure of the spells on the door, Al went looking for Fred and George. As he did, he passed Malfoy in the corridor. The blond boy sneered at him, but said nothing. Al sneered back, saying nothing as well, even though he'd just come up with a really good insult to throw at Malfoy. Instead, he continued on.

Al found the twins with Lee Jordan, of course.

“Fred, George. Can I talk to you two in private?”

“Sure thing, Al. Lee, we'll be back soon.”

“Sure thing,” Lee said, still smiling.

Al led the twins into an unoccupied compartment.

“You guys know privacy wards?”

“Yeah. Why?”

“Cast every one of them you know.”

One of the twins nodded. As he did so, the other one looked curiously at Al. In that moment, Al suddenly missed his heart-reading and their empathic gift, which wasn't working because those took magic. He'd been missing it ever since the graveyard, but it was especially noticeable now, because Iliana had figured out how to tell the twins apart by their empathic fingerprints. Now, he didn't know which was which.

“What's with all the privacy, mate?” said one twin.

“Yeah Al. And why didn't you do the wards yourself? I know you can,” said the other.

Al narrowed his eyes. “What gift did you send me in first year, after Quirrell?”

The twins looked at each other, confused, but then smiled. “A toilet seat I think it was, Gred.”

“Quite right, Forge. A fine toilet seat it was, too. Classic. Dignified. A throne worthy of a king.”

“Good. Not many know that, and even fewer would remember it. So okay, first of all, it's complicated and I don't want to go into details, but my magic is kaput for a couple months.”

The twins looked shocked. “You can't do magic?”

“For two whole months?”

“Like, even if your life was in danger?”

Al shook his head. “Don't spread it around. I don't think Moldyshorts even knows.”

“Who else knows? Dumbledore, I'm betting.”

“Yes. Remus and Luna and Sirius were there when I told the story too. Cedric knows. And then Ron and Hermione know, of course. Now you. Nobody else.”

“Fair enough. But I get the feeling you didn't call us in here to tell us that.”

“You're right, I didn't. Here,” he said, handing them the bag of gold. “I'm investing in your company, on the condition you use some of your resources and brains to help think of weapons to use against Moldyshorts.”

“There must be 500 galleons in here! We can't accept this much money!”

“It's an investment. I have a feeling we're going to need some humor in the future. And anyway, like I said, I want your help thinking of weapons even someone whose magic is gone for two months can use against Death Eaters and against Moldyshorts.”

“You're sure about this?”

“I'm a bloody millionaire, guys. And so is Sirius. Between the two of us, we're probably richer than the Malfoys. Five hundred galleons is nothing to us, and everything to you. I want Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes to thrive. So if you run out, I can get more.”

The twins looked at each other, then at Al. “Well if you're sure, then we accept your terms. Will you be visiting us, or will we be visiting you? Or something else?”

“Not sure. I'll have to ask Sirius. So we have a deal?”

“Yes, we have a deal.”

“Thanks, you two. I look forward to seeing what you two cook up over the summer.”

With that sorted, Fred and George soon took their money and left. Al went back to the compartment with the others, flatly refusing to talk about what he'd been up to. He got out a pen and paper and started writing out more ideas of their own. Luna sat next to him and leaned her head against his shoulder. He sighed faintly, knowing she wanted to be close to Iliana, not himself. He let her stay there.

After another hour, during which everyone but Al and Luna were talking about this and that, Luna finally moved her head from his shoulder and blew gently on his cheek to get his attention.

“Yes?” he asked, looking at her.

“I hope you don't mind me reading what you were writing, but given what I read there, I thought I should remind you that daddy owns a magazine, called The Quibbler.”

“Yes, I know that. What about it?”

“Oh, it's just that Fudge can put a lot of pressure on the Daily Prophet, especially now that Rita Skeeter has vanished. If he can, he'll try to use it to tell lies about you. Daddy would be honored to publish an article about what happened to you and Cedric, to get it out there.”

Hermione snorted. They turned to look at her.

“Sorry, it's just... nobody's going to believe the story if it's in The Quibbler, Luna.”

“Some might not believe. Others will, though,” Luna said.

“Not nearly enough, I'm afraid. He should try Witch Weekly before The Quibbler. More people read it, and more people will believe what it says.”

Luna shrugged. “Well, it's an option at least.”

“Yes, we can reach out to Witch Weekly. Hell, let's see if we can get the Prophet before Fudge does.”

“Oh Al, he's had days and days to lean on them. They'll be on his side by now, I'm sure,” Luna said. “Besides, 'Witch Weekly' is owned by the same people as The Daily Prophet.”

“Wouldn't hurt to try. Thanks for your offer, Luna, I'll take it under advisement. If we can't find somewhere else to print it, we'll try the Quibbler.”

“The circulation of the Quibbler is still an issue,” Hermione said. “The only real way to make that work is to spread the word. Besides which, you don't need to do that at all. The whole school already knows the story, they'll be telling their parents.”

“The game of telephone,” Al said.

Hermione blinked. “Oh. Yes, that's a problem too, I guess. Well we could minimize the degradation of the story by printing it, I guess. But who would write it?”

“I can write it,” Luna said. “Daddy says I write very well. Not as good as my paintings, but well enough for a newspaper or magazine.”

“Yeah, I don't doubt you're a better writer than Skeeter,” Al said.

Hermione looked like she wanted to say something else, but she didn't.

Al was suddenly very tired of being Out. He asked Hypatia to push him down and replace him with Iliana. She sighed, but did as asked.

“Oh god, I'm putting this stuff back,” she said. She shoved it into a pocket and turned to Luna.

“Iliana?” Luna asked.

“Yeah, Al got tired.”

“Oh good, I'm glad you're back. Even if I can't see your usual form.”

Luna leaned her head against their shoulder again, and Iliana took Luna's hand in theirs. Ron looked strangely at the two of them, muttering that it looked weird to see Al's form getting cozy with a girl.

“God, I can't believe how much I've taken this transformation stuff for granted,” Iliana said. “This, this is what it's like for most people with our condition. One form, all the time. And I'll bet they have a hard time finding people who believe them about being multiples. And an even harder time dating.”

“You're welcome,” Luna said.

“What?”

“Oh, I just took that as you saying 'thank you, Luna, for being my friend and girlfriend, and for not finding it too weird to cuddle you when you're in a boy's body.'”

“Ah,” Iliana said. “Yes, thank you for that.”

“You're welcome, Iliana.”

They spent the rest of the train ride leaning against one another, holding hands. They even fell asleep that way. Iliana's sleep was restless, but not as much as it would have been without Luna. Their sleep had been plagued by more nightmares ever since the graveyard incident; part of her mind was awake enough to appreciate Luna's presence.

It was the giggling that woke them up. Lots of giggling, and some of Hermione’s chiding as well. When Iliana opened her eyes, she saw Hermione glaring at Sirius. Remus was rolling his eyes, and Ron was struggling to not laugh so he didn't wake them up. Cedric looked amused as well.

“What's going on?” Iliana asked, thrown for a moment by hearing Al's voice instead. She still hadn't gotten used to that.

“Oh honestly,” Hermione said. “Sirius, undo it.”

A little more awake now, Iliana glared at Sirius. He lost control and barked with laughter, many great guffaws, laughing so hard his face was turning red.

“What did he do?”

“Oh, here,” Hermione said, handing her a mirror.

Iliana looked in the mirror, once again thrown by seeing Al's face there. Then she immediately noticed the large handlebar mustache and neck beard Sirius had given them. She sighed, glaring at Sirius. Luna woke up then, and Iliana saw she had a great curly mustache as well, with a curly goatee. Ron lost control along with Sirius at this point, and Iliana showed Luna herself in the mirror. Even Hermione was laughing now.

Luna laughed. And laughed. And laughed. She fell over in her seat, having a full-blown laugh attack, as red in the face as Sirius. She didn't stop, either, so much as pause now and then when she ran out of air, starting back up again when she caught her breath.

Iliana was laughing along with her, too, Luna's laughter having set her off. She was on the floor of the compartment, wheezing, her side in pain as the muscles there cramped up. She had to stop, completely winded, but Luna just kept on going. By now, even Sirius stopped, looking concerned.

“Iliana? Luna? Are you two okay?” he asked.

Luna, who had been pausing to catch her breath, started back up again and laughed so hard she passed out in the middle of a laugh that was more like a wheezing exhalation. She lolled there on the ground, and Remus moved forward to check her vitals.

“She's alive. She just passed out from lack of oxygen,” Remus said. “She should be fine.”

Luna passing out had put an end to the laughter, but knowing she was fine didn't chase the smiles away.

“Okay, Sirius, you'd better undo it. If she wakes up and sees either of us with mustaches, she might go off again, and her dad'll have to carry her home. Or to Saint Mungo's.”

Nodding, though still half-grinning, Sirius used his wand to remove the unwanted facial hair he'd given them. When he was done, Remus woke Luna up with his wand.

When she sat up and saw Iliana, with Al's face now free of the mustache and beard, she burst into laughter all over again.

“So much for that idea,” Iliana said.

“Why's she laughing now?” Ron asked.

Iliana sighed. “Probably got reminded of the facial hair by its absence.”

Luna did, thankfully, recover from her laugh attack in time to change into street clothes before the train stopped. It was a good thing that she only had to pull off her robes to do it, though, because she was still giggling now and then, and it was messing with her coordination.

Since Sirius and Remus wanted to Apparate directly to the flat from the station, they all said their goodbyes on the train. Iliana promised her friends she'd write often, especially Luna.

“Ready, pup?” Sirius asked when her friends were leaving the train.

“Yes, we're ready now.”

Sirius took her hand, they walked off the train together, he led her to the Apparition point, and with a spin and a crack, they Apparated onto the stoop of their flat. An unfamiliar witch walked by, prompting Sirius to raise a wand at her, but the woman took no notice of him at all.

“Good, that means the Fidelius Charm is well and truly working,” Sirius said. “No way she wouldn't have screamed if she'd been able to hear that.”

Sirius opened the door and poked his head in.

“Seems okay. Come in, pup. Remus should be on his way soon.”

No sooner had she stepped forward than Remus appeared with a crack on the stoop. Al took over long enough to demand the new password, which Remus gave. Remus then cast a charm, hominem revelio. A moment later, he nodded.

“Nobody here but us. We're home now.”

“Good,” Iliana said. “It's good to be home again.

~

Severus Snape felt a burning on his left arm. Since there was no more school, he set his work down and went out the castle and down to the grounds. He'd been finishing up some work before going home to Spinner's End, but that could wait. The dark lord wanted him for something, and when he called, you ignored it at your peril.

A few minutes later, with a slight pop of displaced air, Severus was standing at the gates of Crouch Manor. Slightly smaller than Malfoy Manor, but cozier, this was the dark lord's new headquarters. The dark lord had been amused by the idea of the house of an old light-side family being used to service the dark. Barty had been pleased. Lucius had not.

Severus couldn't tell Dumbledore where it was, of course; the thing was under a Fidelius Charm. But coming here, that he could do. The dark lord had told him the secret of its location himself.

Severus rang the doorbell and waited. Soon, Goyle Senior came lumbering out to let Severus in. He was glaring at Severus as he did, complaining the whole time. Snape let the commentary wash over him. He had known they would question his loyalty. The dark lord had accepted his explanation, so he didn't really care what the others thought.

When he was let off outside the dark lord's room, Severus tapped lightly enough on the door that it wouldn't bother the dark lord if he was in the middle of something.

“Come on in, Severus,” he heard the cold voice say.

He opened the door and went inside, closing it behind him as he did. The dark lord casually warded the door without getting up off his seat. Severus, curious, watched the man very carefully. He thought he saw a slight tremor in one hand, but it could easily have been his imagination.

“Ah, Severus, my old friend. Glad you could join me today.”

“I am pleased to be here as well, My Lord.”

“Excellent. Have you any news on what the Potter freak did to Crabbe?”

“My Lord, I have been using every spare moment of my days toward the task. I can, at this point, safely say that whatever Potter did, it was... highly unusual. Some sort of ritual, of course. But of what kind, I have not yet determined.”

The dark lord glared at him, growling. Severus stood there impassively.

“How could this be?” the cold voice demanded. “How could a child, a fourteen year old freak child no less, have done a ritual powerful enough to kill Crabbe with a patronus?”

“I do not know, My Lord. I have been skipping meals and working well into the wee hours of the morning trying to discover what Potter did. I have combed through dozens of books of rituals, read all the lore about patronuses I could locate, and done extensive arithmancy. I believe I will find the answer, it is just taking a frustrating amount of work to discover it.”

The dark lord took a deep, calming breath. “I trust you, Severus. If you say you are doing your best, then I believe you. But tonight I wish you to get at least six hours of sleep. Perhaps a rested mind will aid your quest.”

Severus bowed at the waist. “As My Lord commands.”

The dark lord coughed several times into his fist, then, looking irritated with himself for the weakness of it. Severus wisely made no comment. But the man was clearly shaking a little, he could see. Something wasn't right with him. Had something gone wrong with the resurrection ritual?

“Unless you have anything else to report, that is all. You are dismissed.”

“Thank you, My Lord.” Severus turned to go.

“Wait,” the cold voice said. Severus turned back to face the man.

“Yes, My Lord?”

The snake-like face looked pensive, hesitant, for almost an entire minute. “Never mind. I spoke hastily. You may go, Severus.”

Snape bowed again and left the room, wondering all the way back to Hogwarts what was going on. He immediately went to the headmaster's office to report what he'd seen. Dumbledore would be very interested in this, he was sure.

Endnotes: I found out from a Tumblr post about Newt Scamander's role in the werewolf register, looked it up in the wiki, sure enough there it was. ( http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Werewolf_Register ) If I'd had a book to throw across the room in that moment, I would have.

“He got out a pen and paper and started writing out more ideas of their own,” is not a typo. It's a switch from singular pronouns to plural pronouns. He's writing down all the ideas of the collective, not just his own.

Also, I've decided there's going to be a lot more divergence from this point on. I hadn't really thought through the ramifications of Cedric being alive, but in retrospect I'm gonna run with it. It might end up speeding things up, but whatever. Let's see where this wild ride takes us.

Oh and yes, I've decided what to call the second half of this story, when I split it up. The second half will be titled, “The Many Faces Go To War.” Keep an eye out for that. Not sure that'll work on BigCloset, but I'll ask around.

I have a slight problem going into year 5. Until now, I've been using Word document files of the different canon books to remind myself what happened in canon and copy/paste some of the bits that can't really be left out. But I only saved books 2 through 4 on my Dropbox before my computer accidentally got Windows reset to factory settings about a year ago, and I don't know where books 5 through 7 are. I have the dead tree formats, of course, but I don't feel like typing from a book I have to hold open with bricks. (They're all paperbacks.) Probably a good thing we're going to diverge, then.



If you liked this post, you can leave a comment and/or a kudos!
Click the Thumbs Up! button below to leave the author a kudos:
up
32 users have voted.

And please, remember to comment, too! Thanks. 
This story is 8189 words long.