Chapter 7

 

“Splendid!” John crowed as Christina hurried over to some other Gryffindors after the game. She was waving a galleon over her head. A blonde Hufflepuff with wide blue eyes, a scar down his left cheek, and an Appleby Arrows pin attached to his robes fumed as she walked away from him.

 

“We should go wait by the changing tent for Albus.” Aberforth said excitedly.

 

To Hermione’s surprise, Hogwarts didn’t have the permanent Quidditch field there was in her time. In the space between the castle and the Household Management building, wicker hoops rose into sky on long poles. Light wooden bleacher seats were reinforced with magic and raised high into the sky; small squares of earth were ripped from the ground and spiraled up to the seats in the sky.

 

The seats were windy, but with the help of a wind cancellation spell and a warming charm Hermione and Aberforth watched the game in comfort.

 

The game was exciting and dirty. There was plenty of rule breaking from both sides and Gryffindor only won because Charlotte had slightly less wind resistance than the Hufflepuff seeker. The Hufflepuffs were furious at the catch and many threw rubbish onto the field and at the Gryffindor players at the end of the match.

 

“Where did those horrible Hufflepuffs find all that rotten food?” Hermione heard a Ravenclaw girl ask her male companion as they passed by Hermione and Aberforth after the game.

 

“Probably the bits too good to send back home,” the well dressed boy laughed. He had dark hair and a fine grey silk top hat. He seemed to be performing a minor hovering charm on himself so his shoes didn’t come in contact with the muddy grass.

 

Hermione ground her teeth at the pompous pair. It was no wonder the Hufflepuffs were defensive and unfriendly.

 

“You’d think they would object to carrying around all that rotten cabbage.” The girl made a face. “The smell alone is atrocious.”

 

“When you’re used to having that many Irish in one place I’m sure you get used to unpleasant smells.” The boy chuckled at his own joke.

 

“Cabbage isn’t the only thing that smells around here.” Hermione said loudly. “But better to smell like cabbage than the pile of shite he’s spewing.”

 

Hermione steered Aberforth in a direction she hoped was the right one.

 

“Bloody brilliant.” Aberforth muttered as they bumped into a Slytherin girl in a large hoop skirt as they hurried away. “Bartelby Quinn is an arrogant blowhard and the world would be a better place if he just learned to shut it.”

 

“You don’t believe in separation of the classes.” Hermione said slowly as she looked at Aberforth.

 

“No, I don’t.” Aberforth said firmly. “I think Albus is right in wanting the houses disbanded. It causes more trouble than it’s worth.”

 

“But it’s more than that, isn’t it?” Hermione said, gauging the way he reacted.

 

“Listen,” Aberforth turned her around to face him. “I don’t know how things are in the future, but here things are pretty much written out for you from the time you’re born.”

 

“Winifred said the same thing.” Hermione insisted as she smoothed down the arms of Aberforth’s robes. “But she had plans for a career outside of her family when she graduates.”

 

“Winnie is from Muggle family, or as good as.” Aberforth shook his head and looked away. “The Dumbledore’s are powerful. But father is a youngest son and so am I. No one would risk falling out of favor with our family for me. Even the Ministry would only consider putting me in a position my family would approve of.”

 

Hermione studied his face.

 

He looked nervous and a little hopeless. “I have no superior skills with magic working like Albus. I have no savings for my own business. The best I can hope for is an allowance from the family estate and a tolerable marriage.”

 

“Petition the Blacks.” Hermione said flatly. “Rachel would have you. And she’d let you do as you liked with your life.”

 

“She hates me and I dare say she does annoy me more than she does not.” Aberforth said with a snort.

 

“Yet every time you have a disagreement she finds a reason to handle your person.” Hermione chuckled.

 

Aberforth was silent. The students were starting to file back to the castle and the outside grounds were starting to grow quieter.

 

“She would allow you to be yourself.” Hermione pointed out. “And she would be satisfied with your position. Just think about it.”

 

“You should not counsel me.” Aberforth said abruptly. “History could be changed.”

 

“You are right.” Hermione said. She was afraid she had offended him. “I’m sorry.”

 

Aberforth looked at her face. He really was quite a cute boy. Boisterous and rough around the edges. Many women would find him adorable when he got a little older.

 

“You sound like Albus.” Aberforth said with a sigh. “We went in the wrong direction. The changing tents were the other way, but to save face I think we can take a short walk to the winter gardens before rejoining the others in the castle.”

 

“It is the problem with flouncing off in a self-superior huff when one is in unfamiliar surroundings.” Hermione giggled at Aberforth as he walked her off into the direction of what looked like an isolated snowfall.

 

Hermione blinked as she looked at the small, snow covered garden behind the castle.

 

“How is this possible?” Hermione asked as her slippers crunched on frozen grass as they got closer to the garden. Small fairy lights lit the garden dimly so they could find their way.

 

“Localized weather spell gone wrong.” Aberforth smiled. “The Headmaster says it will wear off in a few years, but until then we have a bit of snow year round.”

 

When they got close to the garden, Hermione reached out with a hand and scooped up some snow. “Amazing.”

 

“There are some magical plants that only bloom in the snow, of course.” Aberforth gestured to a small sapling with small orange flowers blooming on it. “They decided to make the best of it while the effect still held-

 

Aberforth let out a loud yelp as a snowball hit the back of his head and ice ran down the back of his collar. He turned quickly with a scowl to see Hermione ducking behind a bush and heard scrabbling, as if someone were frantically scooping up snow.

 

Hermione looked up as a shadow passed over her and she saw the snow that had been settled on the bush she was hiding behind was now hovering over her head.

 

“You can’t be bloody serious!” Hermione squeaked as the snow fell with a loud WHUMP and she was coated in light snow that melted quickly under her heat charm, leaving her cold and wet.

 

Aberforth laughed uproariously as Hermione stormed out from behind the bush, dripping wet curls plastered to her head.

 

“Oh yea?” Hermione challenged. She waved her wand and the tree with orange flowers bent back away from Aberforth and snapped abruptly back, showering him in an avalanche of snow and petals.

 

Aberforth cried out as the snow hit him, being too far away from Hermione to be affected by her warming spell.

 

“What is all this?” A voice laughed merrily from the darkened grounds. Madame Church stepped out of the darkness wearing a dark brown cloak and a small, dark woven basket on her arm. She looked at the tree, now bare of blooms, and crossed her arms at the snow covered pair. “You are going to wreck my beautiful garden!”

 

“Beg your pardon, madam.” Aberforth bowed deeply. “We forgot ourselves.”

 

“Help me gather the blooms you have knocked from the tree.” Madame Church set the basket on the ground and knelt to pick the blooms up. “I came to gather them anyway. I was just coming to Accio them from the branches. Now I am afraid they will be damaged from being yanked out of a snowdrift.”

 

Hermione and Aberforth sheepishly helped their teacher gather the blossoms.

 

“What on earth were you doing?” Madam Church asked them as the basket began to fill.

 

“Avoiding Mr. Quinn and his big mouth.” Aberforth said simply. Hermione laughed.

 

“That is not very gracious, Mr. Dumbledore,” reminded Madame Church.

 

“What he said was not very gracious, either,” Aberforth complained as he dropped a handful of blooms into the basket. “Even if it was about the Hufflepuffs.”

 

“What happened?” Madame Church brushed the snow off her hands and straightened up. She watched Hermione and Aberforth gather up the last of the blooms.

 

Aberforth relayed the story and Madame Church frowned.

 

“I will talk to Mr. Quinn about how a gentleman conducts himself in public.” Madame Church scowled. “His father would not be pleased to find he is acting like a buffoon.”

 

“Ha! I had forgotten he was involved in the Young Gentleman’s program!” Aberforth picked up the filled basked and handed it to his teacher. “How fortunate!”

 

“However, Miss Dumbledore is as well and her language was shocking.” Madame Church raised an eyebrow at Hermione.

 

“He was acting like a barbarian.” Hermione insisted with a light French accent. She was hoping reminding Madame Church she was a foreigner would help get her off.

 

“Still, a lady has other ways of voicing her disapproval rather than resorting to vulgarities.” Madame Church raised a steel grey eyebrow at Hermione.

 

“Yes, Madame Church,” Hermione said.

 

“And you will take care not to destroy my garden with any more of your antics.” Madame Church rounded on Aberforth.

 

“Of course, Madame Church.” Aberforth said brightly.

 

“Now, up to the castle with you.” Madame Church shooed. “Your house mates are sure to be missing you at their party.”

 

“Thank you, Madame Church!” Aberforth took Hermione by the arm and they ran through the snow filled garden as they made their way to a side entrance of the castle.

 

“And no more mischief this evening!” Madame Church called after them.

 

Hermione and Aberforth laughed as their feet crunched through the frozen snow. They were both out of breath when Aberforth pulled the side door open and he and Hermione hurled themselves in.

 

“We must look a fright!” Hermione laughed as she took in Aberforth’s appearance.

 

He was drenched. His hair was wet and tousled. His fingers were blue from scrabbling around in the snow for blooms and his cheeks were red from both the cold and the run to the castle.

 

“I don’t think your hair is supposed to be doing that.” Aberforth tilted his head as he looked at Hermione.

 

She turned and tried to catch her reflection in the breastplate of a suit of armor. From what she could see her hair was wet, the loose curls were plastered to her head and her gentle tower of curls tilted to one side. Thankfully she hadn’t lost any of her combs in the snow. “Oh my.”

 

Aberforth and Hermione dried themselves off with drying spells and Aberforth tried unsuccessfully to fix Hermione’s hair.

 

“Don’t worry,” Hermione assured him. “There were several girls in the stands who had their wind resistance spells fail. I will not be the only one with mussed hair.”

 

Aberforth and Hermione hurried down corridors until they reached the Great Hall. Aberforth took Hermione by the arm and they straightened their clothing before walking in.

 

“What on earth has happened to your hair?” Christina bustled up to them quickly. She took Hermione by the arm and quickly pushed her back out into the corridor.

 

Amanda poked her head out into the hallway to see what all the fuss was about. “Good heavens!”

 

“It cannot be as bad as all that!” Hermione protested as Amanda hurried into the hallway, her heavy, light blue skirts sweeping the floor. She and Christina pulled their wands out and began working on Hermione’s head.

 

“What happened?” Christina demanded. “Were you accosted on your way back to the castle? Was it the Hufflepuffs?”

 

“Snowball fight in the winter gardens with Aberforth.” Hermione muttered as Amanda fussed over the way the ivory combs were arranged in Hermione’s hair.

 

Christina sighed. “Next time use a shielding spell.”

 

“I will remember that.” Hermione said as Amanda pulled a black cameo out of her robes and transfigured it into a mirror so Hermione could see her reflection. “Thank you.”

 

“Now let us not dally any longer while our party is going on!” Amanda said excitedly. “Your cousin is entertaining some of the village girls with tales of the game.”

 

“Village girls?” Hermione asked as she watched Christina press Aberforth’s robes with her wand, removing all the wrinkles.

 

“Some of the families that have settled in Hogsmede come to see the game and to let their children mingle with the students.” Amanda smoothed down Aberforth’s hair and gave it a satisfactory pat. “Not everyone goes to Hogwarts.”

 

“Of course.” Hermione followed the others into the hall and let Aberforth take her arm again.

 

They walked into the Great Hall and Hermione noticed for the first time that all the decorations were in burgundy and gold. There were streamers and flags from the invisible ceiling. Lace table runners in delicate burgundy and metallic gold threads were draped over the long wooden tables lining the walls. The fine porcelain plates people had food on were decorated with small burgundy flowers with gold centers. Even the small foods and pastries for people to nibble on were decorated in Gryffindor colors.

 

Hermione spotted Albus in a corner. He smiled confidently at the small crowd before him as he seemingly told them a story. By the way he was moving his hands, Hermione assumed he was describing the match. There were several girls smiling flirtatiously at him. When he swooped one of his hands quickly down as if describing a dive, one of them, a plump blonde girl with overly rouged cheeks, actually swooned and had to be steadied by a tall black haired boy with a large gap in his front teeth and a slightly rumpled black jacket.

 

Aberforth steered her to a long table covered in food and offered to help her with her plate.

 

“I can manage,” Hermione assured him as she reached for a plate for herself. She filled it with some small pieces of fruit and finger sized sandwich pieces. She did allow Aberforth to assist her getting punch and help her to a small white table near a window.

 

After Albus had finished his story and those around him had clapped and fawned appropriately he excused himself and made his way to Hermione and Aberforth, stopping here and there to say hello to other people.

 

“Does that ever get tiring?” Hermione asked Aberforth before Albus ever got to the table.

 

“He hates it.” Aberforth said chuckling as he popped a strawberry in his mouth. “But he is the eldest son and is expected to be making alliances. You don’t do that by sitting in the library.”

 

“I suppose not.” Hermione nibbled at a peach slice as Albus sat down at their table.

 

“Did you see the Smyth girl?” Albus chuckled. “I’m certainly glad Mr. Landon was there to catch her. I certainly wasn’t going to.”

 

“That’s not very nice!” Hermione laughed.

 

“Pretending to faint so one can press their body against an unwilling person is not very nice, either,” Albus complained as he swiped a finger sandwich from his brother’s plate.

 

A tinkling and sighing of instruments being tuned and warmed up came from a red silk screen in one corner.

 

“Blast!” Albus swore. “They’re starting the dancing already and I am famished.”

 

“Then eat.” Hermione pushed a piece of apple at him.

 

“Thank you.” Albus chewed it quickly. “But I am obligated to give several ladies a turn before I am allowed to have my person to myself again.” He grabbed another sandwich and a couple grapes from Aberforth’s plate as he hopped up from the table. “I will return.” He sprinted off in the direction of a pale girl with dark tight curls and a blood red hoop skirt and bodice, her breasts pushed up so high Hermione wondered how she managed to breathe.

 

“Good grief.” Hermione exclaimed as she looked at the other girl.

 

“Indeed,” said Aberforth, who was still looking at his decimated plate. There was a lone shrimp left. He looked up at Hermione. “Sorry, what?”

 

Hermione nodded at Albus and his dancing partner, who seemed to be leaning forward so Albus could see as much as he possibly could.

 

“Good heavens!” Aberforth exclaimed. “When did they get here?”

 

“Who is that?” Hermione asked.

 

“Madame Poole!” Aberforth exclaimed. “Patrick must be overjoyed! And Albus got her first dance! Excellent!”

 

“She is Patrick’s mother?” Hermione asked. “She looks our age!”

 

“She’s much older than that.” Aberforth said as he ate his shrimp. “Our great-grandfather was one of her suitors.”

 

“Really?” Hermione watched, fascinated.

 

“Of course, she didn’t look like that back then,” Aberforth went on as he drained his cup of punch. “And the bosoms are new.”

 

“What?!” Hermione spluttered.

 

“Forgive my rudeness!” Aberforth apologized hastily. “It was uncalled for-“

 

“I mean: how?” Hermione asked. Albus seemed to be nodding politely at something Madame Poole was saying.

 

“Master and Mistress Poole are Summoners.” Aberforth said.

 

Hermione’s hand jerked and she knocked her cup of punch over. Aberforth quickly waved his wand and cleaned up the spill.

 

“Summoners?” Hermione whispered in awe. “Are you serious?”

 

“The last in Europe, from what I understand.” Aberforth remarked. “I suppose you’ve just read about them. It’s a lost art. Patrick wants to work for the Ministry so he’s not likely to continue his family’s work.”

 

Hermione shivered. She had heard rumors that a few Summoners worked for the Ministry in her time, but no one could ever prove it. No one could even prove they existed anymore. With the decline of religious fanaticism in the UK, there was also a decline in the requirements required to raise demons.

 

To start, you needed to find a person who was deeply religious, but had committed atrocities. Then you preformed some sort of ritual and a demon came out of the sacrifice, killing them. The years the sacrificed would have lived if their life had not been cut short go to the Summoner to be kept for themselves or given to someone else for healing or to regain their youth.

 

“But summoning just keeps you young.” Hermione frowned. “You can’t tell me they go through all the preparations required for a summoning just to freshen up their looks.”

 

“Master Poole has figured out how to take a corpse apart and make it’s pieces live again in another.” Aberforth whispered excitedly. He waved his wand and some sandwiches slipped off the large table and zipped to his plate. An older, dour looking witch all in black frowned at him.

 

“Are you telling me she’s been pieced together with bits of other people?” Hermione whispered, horrified.

 

“The good bits!” Aberforth said defensively.

 

“One could argue that a husband should love his wife and think she is a beauty, even when her youth has faded.” Hermione said testily.

 

“Makes it a lot easier when she has bosoms the size of pumpkins.” Aberforth said, his eyes glued to Madame Poole as he bit into his sandwich.

 

Hermione gave Aberforth a dirty look as Albus finished his dance. He bowed to Madame Poole and turned to see an eager looking brown haired girl in layers of pink brocade and wide swaths of lace waiting for the next dance.

 

Madame Poole seemed to be looking for someone in the crowd and her eyes skimmed over Hermione and Aberforth for a moment. Hermione watched as Madame Poole’s eyes snapped to Hermione’s and she immediately made a beeline for their table. Aberforth looked alarmed.

 

Madame Poole drew her wand and pointed it at Hermione. “What are you and how did you get here?” She spoke with the same strange dialect Patrick had.

 

“I beg your pardon?” Hermione said, her voice quavering. To come this far to get killed randomly seemed so unfair.

 

“You have no aura.” Madame Poole said sharply.

 

Hermione looked around. No one seemed to have noticed them. Even Albus was unaware, although he looked as if he was having some difficulty of his own. His dancing partner kept pretending to trip so she could mash her chest into him.

 

“Maybe because I’m not going to be born until 1980 and I have no familial link to channel an aura yet.” Hermione said testily. She was tired and now someone was getting accusing her of… something. “And I’m having a rotten enough time of it as it is without everyone pointing out that I am different.”

 

Madame Poole looked sharply at Aberforth.

 

“I would swear it on my grandfather’s grave!” Aberforth said raising his hands. “She’s telling the truth! Don’t curse her!”

 

Madame Poole poked Aberforth once with her wand. “Your grandfather was a good man. Do not abuse his memory so.”

 

“Yes, madam,” Aberforth said, embarrassed.

 

“How did you get here?” Madame Poole demanded as she sat down and placed her wand on the table. She sent Aberforth off for refreshments as she interrogated Hermione.

 

“I am an advanced student at Hogwarts in my time.” Hermione explained, keeping an eye on Madame Poole’s wand. “We have an invention called a Time Turner that the school had let me use so I may take two or more classes during the same hour. Only a few students have one. There was a fight in the corridor and my Time Turner was broken. When I woke up I was here.”

 

“Here in the castle?” Madame Poole asked. Hermione noticed the tip of her finger was still on her wand.

 

“I was found in the forest by a class doing research.” Hermione said. “But technically I shouldn’t have been in the forest. I should have been in the same corridor.” Hermione thought for a moment. “That’s strange.”

 

“I would say many things are strange about your arrival.” Madame Poole pursed her lips at Hermione.

 

“And I know, I could disrupt the flow of time and the repercussions could be destructive.” Hermione said miserably. “But I don’t know how to get home and I don’t really see many choices.”

 

“How many people know about you?” Madame Poole asked, her eyes cold.

 

“Aberforth, Albus, their father, their uncle, the real Hannah, and, I would imagine, Headmaster Dumbledore from my time.” Hermione babbled. “Unless someone saw me disappear in the hallway.”

 

“Headmaster Nigellus does not know?” Madame Poole asked.

 

“He did not inspire my confidence.” Hermione said. From the corner of her eye she saw Aberforth grab Albus after his dance had completed and was whispering frantically into his ear.

 

“That was probably a wise idea.” Madame Poole seemed to be trying to look through Hermione.

 

Suddenly Hermione felt as if she were being pulled away by a portkey. Suddenly her life was whirring before her eyes.

 

Her third birthday where her cousin Randal had turned the sprinklers on while they sat on white plastic chairs in her parents’ small yard, passing cake around. She was seven and sitting in a sandbox: an older boy was trying to make her eat worms, but when he touched her he burned his fingers and started to cry. Meeting Harry and Ron on the train for Hogwarts, how Ron had that ridiculous smudge on his nose that refused to come off. Voldemort. Waking up near the lake during the Tri-Wizarding Tournament. The Yule Ball. Searching for what Horcruxes were. Professor Snape. Catching Ginny snogging Michael Corner in the dungeons. Hearing the twins snore as she tried to sleep on Ginny’s floor at the Weasley’s. Her first patronus at a DA meeting. Kissing Viktor Krum. A fight in the hallway of the school. Something seized onto that memory. Someone was being shoved at her in her memory. Her shoulder smashed into the brickwork and she opened her mouth to cry out… then the stone seemed to yield to her shoulder. She was falling through space.

 

Suddenly her world stopped spinning and she found herself back at the victory celebration and Albus was standing behind her. She swooned in her seat, disorientated from the sudden stop.

 

“Fascinating.” Madame Poole said as her eyebrows raised and she tucked her wand into a fold of fabric near her waist. “How do you know about aura construction?”

 

“It was part of the Transfiguration class I took as a 6th year.” Hermione said, placing a hand on the table to steady herself. “My parents were born in 1959 and 1961. My Grandparents were born in the 20’s and 30’s. I don’t even know where my family line is right now. As far as I know they’re all Muggles.”

 

“Really?” Madame Poole asked, genuinely surprised. “You were researching quite advanced texts for a peasant child.”

 

“Peasant?” Hermione said, her eyebrows knitted.

 

“They call them Muggles now.” Albus said gently.

 

Aberforth approached the table with a bowl of fruit and several cups of punch trailing behind him through the air as if supported by invisible strings.

 

“You must be an exceptional study.” Madame Poole said as she selected a strawberry and nibbled it delicately. Aberforth sat in the third chair at the table and began digging into a full plate of food. Albus tried to take a shrimp and Aberforth slapped his hand.

 

“I do my best.” Hermione said simply as she tried not to huff. For a peasant.

 

“So what do you do now?” Madame Poole asked her.

 

“Pray and wait.” Hermione said. “Reason tells me that since the Dumbledore in my time knows where I am I have to wait until he can figure out how to retrieve me.”

 

“Unless you cannot get back and you end up spending the natural course of your life here.” Madame Poole said. She smiled and nodded politely at a well dressed couple strolled by. “Then what of the real Hannah Dumbledore?”

 

Hermione and Albus both looked at Aberforth.

 

“It was the best story I could come up with at such short notice.” Aberforth said, visibly annoyed. “I am not used to creating falsehoods. I am not good at it.”

 

“Neither am I, I’m afraid,” Albus admitted with a blush to his cheeks.

 

“Do not apologize.” Madame Poole waved off their excuses. “It is not something one should want to excel at.”

 

Albus took an orange from the bowl on the table and started unpeeling it.

 

“Please go get some real food, Mr. Dumbledore,” Madame Poole said. “That was quite an exciting game you played. You must be famished.”

 

Albus quickly excused himself and hurried over to a table full of food.

 

“I would like to keep in contact with you.” Madame Poole said to Hermione earnestly. She turned to Aberforth. “I will be contacting your father as well. Perhaps we can be of assistance in his search for a solution.”

 

“Of course,” Hermione said quickly.

 

“We are pleased to think you would be interested in any project we have undertaken.” Aberforth inclined his head towards Madame Poole.

 

“I do not see any other choice.” Madame Poole shook her head. Her dark hair bobbed charmingly. “If the fabric of reality had been damaged in any way it becomes our business quickly. Your father should have thought to contact us.”

 

“Apologies, Madam,” Aberforth said. “Obviously we were not aware of the seriousness of the situation. With your counsel we can proceed with more forethought.”

 

“I don’t suppose the man you know as Dumbledore in your time ever hinted at anything like this ever happening to someone? There are no protocols for time travelers?” Madame Poole asked Hermione.

 

“No, Madame.” Hermione said. “We are usually limited to travel of only a few hours. As far as I know, this is unprecedented.”

 

“Perhaps it is time for us to draw up something for the Ministry before it is needed.” Madame Poole said speculatively. “It would not be the first time.”

 

“You have dealt with time travelers before?” Aberforth asked curiously.

 

“No, we have spoken to demons that have told us of prophecies and promises.” Madame Poole said simply. Aberforth went pale.

 

Hermione looked at the woman before her. She was the last of her kind, an art and a science would cease to be when her and her husband went. Hermione wanted to capture the memory of her forever.

 

“You are not afraid of me.” Madame Poole said to Hermione.

 

“You aren’t pointing a wand at me anymore! As for your career: probably only because of naiveté.” Hermione said. “Summoners practice an ancient science that combined religion, magic, and superstition.” She sounded as if she were quoting a textbook.

 

“Superstition?!” Madame Poole spluttered.

 

“But it is known you don’t go after people indiscriminately. Only certain people for certain reasons. What purpose would I serve for you?” Hermione asked as she reached for a bunch of cherries in the bowl.

 

“One can never have too many Inferi.” Madame Poole chided. Hermione choked. “What else has been reported incorrectly in your time? Bili keeps impeccable records! We are required to with all of the prisoners!”

 

“I have no idea.” Hermione was bewildered. Why didn’t they have more information? Inferi? Prisoners!? “Perhaps that information is now classified.”

 

“Perhaps.” Madame Poole thought for a moment. “There is a dark wizard in the future. I can see why they would hide the information away.”

 

Albus hurried over to the table with a tower of food on a very small plate. Madame Poole jumped up.

 

“I could not take your seat,” Albus protested as he kicked Aberforth in the shin to get him to relinquish his seat.

 

“It has been quite informative, talking to you all,” Madame Poole said with a small smile. “But I must get back to my husband and son. They are sure to be wondering where I have been off to. I will be in contact with you.”

 

“Thank you, Madame.” Albus gave a small bow and a grape plunged from his over stuffed plate and fell to the floor.

 

“Well, that could have gone worse.” Aberforth let a breath out as Madame Poole floated out into the crowd to search for her family.

 

“Indeed.” Albus said as he settled into the seat near Hermione and tore into a ham sandwich. He looked at Hermione. “And perhaps the Pooles have insight to what sent you here. Then we can work on getting you back home.”

 

“So, how was your first day so far?” Aberforth smirked as he snatched a ham sandwich from his brother’s plate.

 

“Exhausting.” Hermione admitted. “Disorienting. Strange. Your uncle sent me bloomers.”

 

“What?!” Aberforth exploded. Albus choked.

 

“And a bicycle transfiguration kit.” Hermione added, flustered.

 

“Brilliant!” Aberforth laughed. “I want a turn!”

 

“You can barely stay on a broom!” Albus coughed, tears filling his eyes. “He really sent you bloomers?”

 

“Yes, and I daresay it will be a scandal by the end of the week.” Hermione huffed.

 

“What color?” Aberforth asked curiously.

 

Albus smacked him in the shoulder.

 

“Blue.” Hermione said. “They’re actually fairly fetching, but the other girls acted like he sent me a can-can outfit.”

 

“Did you empty the whole trunk?” Aberforth asked. Albus smacked him again. “What? Uncle has a peculiar sense of humor. There could be one in there.”

 

Albus muttered something about propriety, but seemed defeated as Hermione giggled.

 

Christina and Amanda bustled up to their table.

 

“Was that Madame Poole over here?” Christina’s eyes were wide. “She was talking to you?”

 

“She was once engaged to our great-grandfather.” Albus said with a wave of a cocktail shrimp. “She asked us to give our regard to our fathers for her.”

 

“Of course she was just Miss Penelope Clocker back then.” Aberforth added as he gestured to the bowl of fruit to the two girls.

 

“Of course.” Christina smiled uncomfortably.

 

“Say, Christina, is your dance card full?” Aberforth asked. “I should get in a turn or I’ll never hear the end of it from mother.”

 

“I am afraid it is,” Christina apologized. “Mr. Long should be seeking me out soon.”

 

“He is quite handsome.” Amanda remarked with a blush to her cheeks.

 

“I daresay he would like to ask you for a dance, Hannah, but I think he may have been discouraged by what happened earlier.” Christina teased Hermione.

 

“Good. I don’t know how to dance.” Hermione said firmly. “Please let him know so he does not ask me and I am not embarrassed.”

 

“I will make sure to do so!” Christina exclaimed. “You don’t know how to dance? How does that happen?” Amanda pinched Christina hard. “Ow!”

 

“We will make sure that is remedied quickly.” Amanda reassured Hermione. “Then you will be able to dance with your cousins, at least.”

 

Across the dance floor Hermione spotted Madame Poole standing next to a bald, stern looking old man with a long white braided beard and black fuzzy eyebrows. He was wearing ancient grey dress robes trimmed in layers of wide white lace and a frown.

 

His eyes snapped to Hermione and she felt faint. She felt her mind being violated once again.

 

This time she got a vivid picture of Ron during one of his rare visits to her parents’ house. They had gone to work for the day and Hermione and Ron sat on the worn, comfortable purple loveseat in her sitting room watching a movie. Ron was laughing at theatrical magic and the strange costuming.

 

He smiled at her.

 

Then they were kissing. Hermione was peeling off his shirt and reveling in the musky smell of teenage boy. She pushed him to a reclining position and dove for his neck, biting gently as her fingers slipped down his chest.

 

Hermione suddenly snapped back to herself as Master Poole cut off access to her memories. She paled in realization of what she had just unwittingly shown him, but he just raised an eyebrow at her and gave his wife a curt nod.

 

Hermione felt her anger begin to rise after she had regained herself. What kind of people went around parties poking about in other people’s heads, anyway? When did the laws about that take effect?

 

“Good evening, Hannah,” a voice said from behind her. She jumped and turned quickly to see Michael Long.

 

“Oh!” Hermione started. “Good evening.”

 

“I’m sorry to have frightened you,” Michael apologized as the others chuckled at her. “I can see how you are still on edge. That was a most exciting game!”

 

“It was a most exciting game!” Amanda echoed Michael. “We may even have a chance to win this year!”

 

“Over Slytherin?” Michael smirked. “Hardly likely, though I do appreciate the win, Albus. I won a galleon from that damnable Timothy Owens.”

 

“You as well?” Christina paled. “How much money did he lose tonight?”

 

“He deserves it.” Aberforth snorted as he swiped a bit more food off Albus’ plate. “He makes a fortune off all the betting pools he has going.”

 

“He sends that money to his family, Aberforth.” Amanda said, looking slightly disappointed in him.

 

“Then he shouldn’t be gambling it away like that,” Aberforth snapped.

 

“Either way, he isn’t going to be happy about this.” Michael looked decidedly uncomfortable.

 

“I’ll get in a fight with Miss Black tomorrow at breakfast.” Aberforth said cheerily. “I’ll finally slap her and he will finally win the bet he’s had going since our first year and win all his money back.”

 

“Aberforth!” Christina laughed.

 

“What other choice do I have?” Aberforth asked sadly. “If things are to be put to rights it is Miss Black that will have to suffer.”

 

“You are not slapping Rachel because you have a halfway decent excuse.” Albus said to Aberforth with a sigh.

 

“Well, then there’s nothing we can do.” Aberforth said resignedly.

 

“Except stay on our toes and hope Mr. Owens does not blame his misfortune on us.” Christina said nervously.

 

“What on earth could he do?” Hermione reasoned. “He shouldn’t be gambling money he can’t afford to lose. That is common sense.”

 

“Accidents seem to happen around people that cross Mr. Owens,” Michael said darkly.

 

“I see.” Hermione squeaked. “Well, no one crossed him. It was just a regular bet, wasn’t it?”

 

“That is one way of looking at it.” Amanda said coughing politely.

 

“One can only hope that is the way he sees it.” Albus said wistfully as he poked at the remnants of food on his plate.

 

“Well, you two just watch yourselves over the next week.” Aberforth warned.

 

“We shall take care, especially on the dance floor tonight,” Michael assured him. “Miss?” He offered his arm to Christina.

 

“Why thank you, sir” Christina smiled prettily at him as she laid one white gloved hand on his arm and allowed him to lead her off.

 

A third year Ravenclaw came and asked Amanda to dance. She smiled in amusement at him as she allowed him to lead her out onto the floor.

 

“We had better get you back to the common room before anyone asks you to dance.” Aberforth muttered.

 

“I think we can solve that problem,” Albus wiped his mouth on a cloth napkin with the Gryffindor crest on it. “You will dance with me once, now, and then will retire with Aberforth.”

 

“Did you miss the part where she cannot dance?” Aberforth asked, an annoyed tone to his voice.

 

“I believe if we use a small levitation spell and pick wisely there will not be a problem.” Albus said as he rose to his feet. “This one will do.” He looked around as if he were analyzing the music.

 

Hermione stood up and felt her feet leave the ground as she took Albus’ arm. He led her to the floor and smiled at her. “Hold on.”

 

“What?” Hermione asked as he grabbed her.

 

Albus held Hermione tightly around the waist and whisked her around the dance floor in complicated whirls that changed direction often. She held onto him tightly and tried to look as if she were smiling and not grimacing in fear.

 

Hermione caught Christina’s eye as she whirled by with Michael. Christina looked down and gave Hermione a slightly alarmed look as Albus gave Hermione a rather enthusiastic twirl that almost caused her to knock into a pair of dancing Ravenclaws.

 

Thankfully, they managed to finish the dance without any injury and Albus scuttled Hermione off to Aberforth, who had positioned himself near a side door.

 

“I will be up after a few more dances.” Albus looked weary. “Father wants me to try to get close to the Hardings and the Burns and they both have daughters.”

 

Aberforth pulled a tarnished brass pocket watch out of his robes and clicked it open. “It is almost eleven. Will we be seeing you before midnight?”

 

“You will see me within a half hour if I manage it.” Albus said as he pulled a lace handkerchief out of his sleeve and he patted the sweat from his brow. “I would like to get in a decent nights sleep before facing Transfigurations tomorrow.”

 

“We will start a kettle,” Aberforth assured his brother. “And get a basin going.”

 

“Thank you.” Albus smiled and bowed shortly to them before turning and trying to seek out the girls he was supposed to dance with.

 

“What’s the basin for?” Hermione asked Aberforth as they made their way back to the tower.

 

“His shoes don’t fit right and he’s been putting off going out and getting a new pair.” Aberforth chuckled as they rounded a corner. “He’ll be lucky if he can walk tomorrow.”

 

“Foolish.” Hermione shook her head. Their feet echoed on the bare stone of the corridor. Small torches helped illuminate the castle at night. “He should know better.”

 

“For someone who is so smart he does not have much common sense.” Aberforth admitted as they climbed the moving staircases.

 

Hermione was thankful for wearing the ‘old-fashioned’ dress. She couldn’t imagine trying to do this in a bell shaped skirt. “Some people have to learn things the hard way. He’s lucky he has you to look after him.”

 

Aberforth blushed and looked sideways at Hermione. “I suppose so.”

 

A breeze passed over them and Aberforth froze.

 

“What was that?” Hermione whispered. On the edge of her hearing there seemed to be whispering in the dark.

 

“With any luck, Peeves.” Aberforth whispered back. He had taken her hand in his and had drawn his wand.

 

There was only silence and the air was still.

 

“I think we’d better go quickly.” Hermione suggested as she drew her wand out of her cloak.

 

“I think you are correct.” Aberforth muttered as they scurried to Gryffindor tower.

 

Aberforth tinkled out the melody to open the portrait and they climbed into their common room. Hermione wasn’t surprised to see it was empty. Since the match and the party were going on curfew had been extended until half past midnight for all the students.

 

Aberforth hurried over to a corner and picked up a worn tea kettle. He approached an engraving of a rampaging lion and pushed its paw. Water streamed out of its mouth and Aberforth caught it with the kettle.

 

“Has that always been there?” Hermione asked, surprised.

 

“As far as I know,” Aberforth chuckled.

 

“Huh.” Hermione thought she’d have to look for it if she ever managed to get back. There was no drain in the floor. Perhaps an accident had caused it to be disconnected.

 

She watched as Aberforth put the kettle on a heavy iron hook in the fireplace and stoked the flames with a few puffs of air from his wand.

 

“What would your normal evening be like?” Aberforth asked Hermione as he pulled a tin basin out from behind an overstuffed burgundy chair sitting by the fire.

 

Hermione found herself too tired to care about propriety. “I would normally be studying. Ron would be playing Wizard’s Chess with Ginny, Harry, or Seamus. I have a cat.” Hermione said, her voice catching in her throat. “His name is Crookshanks. He would be lying on my lap. I hope Ginny is seeing to him.”

 

Hermione felt embarrassed as she felt a tear run down one of her cheeks. She swiped at it in annoyance.

 

Aberforth hurried to her and took one of her hands. “I am sorry. I could not imagine what it is like for you.”

 

“It’s just frustrating.” Hermione said as she patted his hand in reassurance.

 

“Just know, that even if we cannot get you back, we are responsible for this and we will make sure you are taken care of.” Aberforth said as he brought one of her hands to his mouth and kissed it firmly.

 

Hermione found that this did make her feel a bit better. “Thank you.”

 

Of course someone was looking after Crookshanks. Even if everyone else was clueless, he would bother Harry once and Harry would take him in out of pity. He really was quite a sweet kitty once you got to know him. Even Sirius enjoyed his company.

 

“And our lives here are not so bad.” Aberforth stretched out on the couch. Hermione still felt his kiss burning on the back of her hand. Cousins kissing the hand of other cousins was totally acceptable here, wasn’t it? “I think you find our classes challenging, and since the Ministry has started hiring more and more women you need not be dependent on us if you do not want to be. Of course, we will always welcome you.”

 

“You are very kind.” Hermione smiled at him.

 

He opened his mouth as if to say something when the portal behind them burst open and the sound of someone wailing filled the room.

 

Hermione and Aberforth jumped up to see Amanda guiding Christina into the room. Christina had a large chunk of hair missing from the right side of her head and her face and dress were splashed with what looked like thick dark ink.

 

“Good heavens, what happened?” Aberforth ran to the girls and tried to figure out where to start with Christina.

 

“We were coming back to the tower when someone jumped out at us!” Amanda said. She was as white as a sheet. “They threw something on Christina and then grabbed some of her hair and cursed it off! It was horrifying!”

 

“Did you jinx them?” Hermione asked quickly. “Are they still out there?”

 

“They were away before I was able to get my wand out.” Amanda said guiltily. “It was like they disappeared.”

 

“Looks like someone’s found a secret passage.” Aberforth said darkly. “Damn burrowers.”

 

“You don’t know it was the Hufflepuffs.” Hermione said as she looked at Christina who was sobbing her eyes out.

 

“Who else could it be?” Amanda asked as she tried to wipe some of the ink off Christina’s dress with a delicate white lace handkerchief. She frowned as it smeared around. “Oh! This is awfully sticky!”

 

“You are not walking down to the dungeons to bathe,” Aberforth said flatly. “We will draw you a bath up here.”

 

“We already have a kettle on,” Hermione said quickly. “Amanda, are there any towels or washcloths or anything around?”

 

“We do have some washcloths.” Amanda said. Christina’s sobs had subsided to hiccups.

 

“Don’t bother with the dress.” Hermione said flatly. She shook her head sadly. “There’s no hope for it. We need to worry about the ink soaking into her skin. Her hair is going to look strange enough tomorrow without her being purple.”

 

Christina started sobbing again.

 

“Oh, now,” Aberforth took both her hands in his, not minding that he was getting smeared with black ink. “Do not fret. You won enough money to have the dress fixed and we will fix your person. Francis is going to go absolutely mad.”

 

“Where is Francis?” Hermione frowned at Amanda. “Why wasn’t he escorting you back?”

 

“He was congradulating the McGonagalls on the birth of their daughter,” Amanda said. “They are distant cousins and they have not seen each other in quite a while. They were catching up on some family things.”

 

“He was foolish to let you come back alone,” Aberforth snapped. “It could have been worse. I shall have a talk with him about this.”

 

By the stern look on his face, Hermione had a feeling she’d better be around for the confrontation. It would be a pity if Francis was so disoriented by a punch in the nose he didn’t understand what was being yelled at him.

 

The kettle on the fire began to whistle. Aberforth hurried over to get it and Hermione took Christina’s hands.

 

“Don’t worry. We’ll put more water on and we’ll transfigure the basin big enough for you to bathe in.”

 

“Thank you.” Christina said in a croaky voice.

 

“Take her to our room. I’ll finish the basin and bring it up when it’s full.” Hermione told Amanda. “Try to get her dress off without staining everything.”

 

Amanda helped Christina up the stairs to the girls’ dorm and Hermione went over to Aberforth.

 

He had transfigured the basin into a tub large enough to bathe in and had poured the small bit of water into it. Then he had made the kettle bigger so he could fill the tub with heated water quicker. Hermione pointed her wand at the kettle as it floated through the air and heated it with magic. Aberforth waved his wand and the steaming water poured out into the tub.

 

They were on their third pot of water when there was a crack near them and Tibby the House Elf appeared.

 

“Someone summoned me, Sir and Miss?” Tibby curtseyed.

 

“Amanda must have done it,” Aberforth said as the pot poured out into the tub.

 

“Miss Weasley was the victim of an attack and seems to be covered in ink.” Hermione explained to the elf. Tibby’s jaw dropped in shock.

 

“Her hair was also shorn,” Aberforth added as the kettle refilled under the small spout.

 

“We need some soap at the very least.” Hermione said to the little elf. “Any potions you can think of that would help will also be appreciated.”

 

“Tibby will be right back!” Tibby had a determined look on her face as she snapped her fingers and disappeared.

 

Hermione and Aberforth filled the tub together and Hermione had just levitated it to carry upstairs when Francis and Albus came through the portrait hole, laughing over some shared joke. Albus was carrying his shoes in his hands.

 

“You picked a marvelous night to let Christina walk back to the tower alone.” Aberforth snapped at Francis.

 

“He didn’t know about the wager.” Hermione sharply said. “You can’t blame him for this.”

 

“What happened?” Francis went pale. “Where is Christina?”

 

He went to run up the stairs to the girls dorms and bellowed in frustration as they tipped and he slid back down to the common room.

 

“Someone threw ink on her.” Hermione said as she waited for the steps to reset themselves.

 

“And cut her hair.” Aberforth winced.

 

“Has her person been harmed?” Francis asked, his voice just above a whisper. “Besides her hair?”

 

“Besides possibly being purple later, she is just scared.” Hermione assured him. The steps started shifting back to their normal position with the grind of stone on stone.

 

“Who did this?” Albus asked, his face dark.

 

“It was dark and they ran.” Hermione shot Aberforth a look before he could say anything.

 

“We have our suspicions.” Aberforth told Francis and Albus, ignoring Hermione.

 

“What wager is this?” Francis asked Aberforth sharply.

 

Hermione excused herself before the water cooled too much and made her way to the dorms.

 

Christina was sitting on the edge of her bed wearing a heavy linen dressing gown. She had purple streaks on her face and hands. A splash above her eyes had dyed a lock of her pretty red hair a dark, shiny black.

 

“Francis has gotten back to the tower.” Hermione said to her as the tub of water settled on a well worn burgundy throw rug on the floor. Christina rose and took her dressing gown off.

 

Hermione’s eyes took in the deep red welts streaking her form. Places where the wire of her underthings had bound and contorted her figure.

 

Hermione frowned. Proper fitting corseting shouldn’t do this. Her things were purpously being bound too tightly and kept on for too long.

 

Christina sank into the water and started trying to scrub the ink from her body with a washcloth.

 

“Just soak for a moment.” Hermione said as she stopped her. Amanda was bustling about, hanging a bit of curtain rope between two beds and hanging a sheet over it so Christina could have a bit of privacy. “You can scrub in a moment. Tibby will be back with soaps and things.”

 

“I am afraid even if it comes off my skin, it will not come out of my hair.” Christina reached up to pull down the lock of black over her eyes and her other hand went to the shorter hair on the right side of her head. “My hair…”

 

“Do not fret over it,” Amanda assured her. “We can see what we can do with it when we have calmed down.”

 

The door to the room flew open with a bang and everyone jumped as Winifred, Matilda, and Charity burst into the room calling out to Christina.

 

“Over here!” Amanda called from behind the hung sheet.

 

Winifred whipped back the curtain and Hermione wondered why the sheet was nessisary if everyone was just going to burst in.

 

Winifred’s face contorted with rage, a face Hermione was familiar with on Professor Snape of her time. “Who did this?”

 

Tibby trotted in after the girls and proceeded to dump a thick blue liquid in the tub. She waved her long brown fingers and bubbles rose out of the tub and a sweet smell filled the bathing area.

 

“We did not see.” Amanda admitted.

 

“Did they steal your galleon?” Matilda asked.

 

“No.” Christina smiled. “One good thing at least.”

 

“You can afford to get your hair fixed.” Charity said, trying to sound optimistic. “And I have many head coverings you can borrow, if you wish.”

 

“The school will contact your parents.” Winifred looked at Christina with wide eyes. “What will you do?”

 

“Write your father.” Hermione said quickly. “Now. Someone get her a quill while she soaks.” Matilda went to her bed and started rummaging around in the trunk that lay at the foot of it. “Fathers tend to be much more understanding than mothers when it comes to Quidditch wagers as a matter of honor. He can intercept the school owl for you. You are sure to be punished, but you have been through enough.”

 

“Upon my honor,” Christina vowed as she raised a hand. “I shall never gamble again.”

 

Christina dictated a letter to Matilda as Tibby started scrubbing. Hermione slipped away as the other girls fussed over Christina.

 

She heard voices as she slipped down the stone steps to the common room. It had begun to fill up with younger Gryffindors who were considering themselves lucky they made it back to the tower unharmed.

 

“They’ve gone too far this time, Albus!” Francis rumbled. He was still wearing his Quidditch uniform and he looked like he was in fashionable padded leather armor as he paced the common room. His cape swooshed as he turned.

 

“You still do not know if it was a Hufflepuff. Christina is a lovely girl. Some could be jealous or harbor petty feelings towards her.” Albus put his hand on Francis’ shoulder. “Professor Watson will be back tomorrow and Alfred and Thomas are running back to the party to find the Headmaster. Since we got here unscathed we can only assume whomever they are, they went back to their common room.”

 

“There were quite of lot of people in the castle tonight from the village.” Hermione interjected as she stepped into the room. “We don’t know it was even a student.”

 

“That is a very good point.” Patrick said darkly. “My mother has often remarked about the lax security at Hogwarts during Quidditch gatherings.”

 

“Your mother runs a prison sanitarium.” Charlotte rolled her eyes from her seat near the fire. The kettle was back on and Hermione saw the tea set had been pulled out and was sitting on a brass wheeled cart near the fire. “I can’t imagine what she considers adequate security.”

 

Patrick smiled darkly. “You should see the new cross breed she’s working on now. Quite extraordinary.”

 

Charlotte shuttered and poked at the fire with her wand.

 

“What do you think, Hannah?” Aberforth asked. “You’ve been up there with her. Has she remembered anything?”

 

“She’s badly shaken.” Hermione shook her head. “More worried about her hair than anything.”

 

“Short hair’s getting to be a popular think among Gryffindor women,” James said with a smirk. “She’s just more up on fashion than the other girls.”

 

“Be sure to tell her that tomorrow.” Hermione told him. “It may make her feel better.”

 

“What is she supposed to do with her hair the way it is?” Francis fussed. “We are supposed to be married in June.”

 

“I think she should cut it and dye it black,” Hermione flatly said. Francis’ eyes widened in shock. “Oh, come off it! It’s been hacked to hell and there’s a black streak that isn’t coming out. Best thing to do is pretend she’s taking the Greek fashion revival seriously and piss off whomever did this.”

 

The men stared open mouthed at her, except for Aberforth and James, who beamed as if Christmas had come early.

 

“Do all French women speak so plainly?” James asked, his eyes sparkling.

 

“Only when it’s nearing midnight on a night improperly wasted on frivolity and trauma when it could have otherwise been spent studying.” Hermione said testily.

 

“Accio broom!” Francis said suddenly and his broom whisked across the common room, causing a third year to squeak in terror and jump out of the way. Francis hopped on his broom and slowly rode above the steps to the girls dormitories.

 

Shortly after he had floated up and out of sight the screaming started.

 

“I will see her!” Hermione heard Francis bellow.

 

“Hasn’t the poor girl been traumatized enough without being burst in on in the bath by a madman?” Charlotte snickered.

 

The portal opened and Victoria Moss stepped into the common room. Her arms were full of books and her eyes shot around the room, settling on the staircase where the shrieks were coming from.

 

“What on earth is going on?” She demanded.

 

“Someone attacked Christina, cut her hair, and doused her with ink.” James ticked off items on his fingers. Victoria looked appalled. “Francis just flew up the staircase on his broom to attend to her.” If it were possible, Victoria looked even more appalled. “And I think he’s about to die.”

 

Just then, Francis tumbled and bounced down the staircase, which hadn’t made it to slide form quite yet, and landed at the foot of the stairs. His broom bounced down after him and smacked him in the head before clattering to the floor beside him. He scowled over his shoulder as a heavy wooden door slammed shut somewhere up the staircase. Muffled laughter came after that.

 

“Of all the nerve!” Victoria fumed as she stepped around Francis, ‘accidentally’ kicking him as she passed.

 

“What did you expect?” James asked with a twinkle in his eye. “Her to greet you with open arms wearing a babble bath and a smile? Don’t you think the poor girl’s been through enough?”

 

Francis blushed deeply as the other Gryffindors laughed at him. “Of course not.” He picked himself up from the floor and brushed himself off. “I just wanted to rush to her side in her time of need.”

 

“Of course you did.” Albus quirked a smile at him. “When given some time to think it over I’m sure she will think of you as quite thoughtful and not brutish at all.” He turned and walked up the stairs to the boy’s dorms.

 

“Come on Francis,” Charlotte called out from near the fire. “Have a cup of tea. I’ll take one up to Christina and convince her to come down to see you.”

 

Francis nodded reluctantly and sat down near the fire. Charlotte pushed a heavy white cup and saucer into his hands.

 

There was a heavy knock before the portrait portal swung open and Madame Church climbed into the room.

 

“The Headmaster sent me to investigate the incident that happened tonight.” She looked around at the concerned faces in the common room. “Where is Miss Weasley now?”

 

“We drew her a bath and put it up in our room.” Hermione said. “Tibby the house elf is assisting us in trying to remove the stain from her skin.”

 

Madame Church shook her head and looked at the teacup in Charlotte’s hand.

 

“I was just taking her a bit of tea,” Charlotte said quickly. “You should come with me.”

 

“Thank you, Charlotte,” Madame Church said warmly. “I brought a potion with me that might calm her down.” She turned to the Gryffindors milling around the common room. “She is lucky to have so many friends that care about her.”

 

Madame Church and Charlotte disappeared up the staircase to the girls’ dorms and there was a wave of murmurs through the common room.

 

“He didn’t even bother to come?” Francis seemed stunned. “Why isn’t the Headmaster here?”

 

“Perhaps he is in the dungeons catching the perpetrators as we speak!” Alfred suggested excitedly. “Surely the person who did this is being tracked through the castle.”

 

“That must be it.” Aberforth reassured Francis. “He is probably organizing a search right now.”

 

Francis looked up at Aberforth for a moment before nodding and taking a sip of his tea.

 

Albus came back down the stairs with a brown pouch in his hands. He looked up the stairs to the girls’ dorms before making his way to the fireplace. He opened the top of the pouch a little and a small glass spout poked out.

 

Give me your cup.” Albus motioned to Francis and took the cup of tea from him. He poured a bit of amber liquid into the cup and handed it back to him. “Now, don’t you go thinking I have a lot of that. It is what was left over from the World Cup celebration last summer.”

 

Francis chuckled appreciatively and drank from his cup. He grimaced. “I think this may be more suited for Christina than with me. This is strong enough to make one forget all their woes.”

 

“Hannah will go up and convince her to come down soon.” Albus said to Francis soothingly. “Then you can comfort her.”

 

“Until then,” John Sterling said darkly, “what to do about the Hufflepuffs.”