1. Chapter One
"Dad, why are you doing this?"
"Can't a father live vicariously through his favorite son?"
"Yeah, if I was a professional Quidditch player instead of leaving next week for my first year at Hogwarts! I know you went through a lot there, but it's pretty weird you want me to start school while also secretly plotting to take over the whole place!"
"Got to work your way up easy, Albus. The other kids, not to mention the staff, should be gullible enough for you to practice on them."
"This is just because you want me to write home regularly, right?"
2. Chapter Two
*Okay, collect your first minion, like dad said in private before he and mum waved James and me off goodbye. Here's the train compartments…no, no, maybe, no- Perfect! Recent growth spurt, knuckles dragging on the floor, empty-headed stare, hint of drool. Can't be anyone else but-*
"Hi! I'm Albus Potter. Who're you?"
"Uhhhh… Vinnie. Vinnie Goyle."
"Great! Want to be the really thick guy with a five-year-old's brain I tell all my nefarious plans in advance so any plot holes will be fixed before we carry them out?"
"Want to hang out?"
3. Chapter Three
Mariposa Silva suspiciously watched the firstie who had just barged into her train compartment search through the pages of the notebook he was holding. This muggleborn witch also starting Hogwarts began to think that boy was about to play some sort of practical joke on her.
Mariposa then heard from the opposite seat a cleared throat: "Ahem…as per the Evil Overlord List, I promise not to require the high-ranking female members of my organization to wear a stainless-steel bustier. Whatever that is."
Two seconds later, after absorbing those incredible words, Mariposa leaned forwards and slapped Albus. Hard.
4. Chapter Four
In their Hogwarts boat, Mariposa eyed a sheepish Albus with Vinnie solidly sitting on his left. "Your dad wants you to be an Evil Overlord? What'd your mother say? I can't believe Hermione Potter would allow this!"
Albus shrugged. "He promised to tell her when they got home. Since a Howler didn't catch up with me on the train or here, I guess she's fine with it."
At the Potter mansion's main bedroom: "Let's recap, Harry. Albus stays safe, I get the house library tripled, and you use that marvelous Parselmouth tongue on me every night, starting now."
5. Chapter Five
Headmistress McGonagall felt an intense headache beginning to develop, at a level she hadn't experienced since the Weasley twins a generation ago. But then, not even those two redheaded terrors had ever made the Sorting Hat abruptly fall off the head of the first-year student she'd placed this headgear onto just a moment before. Making things even more bizarre was how the Hat continued to lie upon the Great Hall's floor while uproariously guffawing at the top of its non-existent lungs.
Giving McGonagall his most apprehensive smile, Albus Potter and the entire castle then heard a delighted, "HUFFLEPUFF!"
6. Chapter Six
*Great, he was a 'Puff,* thought Albus as he trudged towards this awaiting house table. What did that mean for his plans to be an Evil Overlord, like Dad wanted? Well, according to Potter family stories, Gryffindors were brave, Slytherins were sneaky, Ravenclaws were smart, and Hufflepuffs were…loyal and hard workers.
That had definite possibilities.
Reliable subordinates were exactly what you needed while subjugating the wizarding world rather than treacherous, brainy, berserkers. Plus the house colors of black and gold and a badger mascot were really cool.
Albus nodded. *Hufflepuff don't give a shit, Hufflepuff takes what it wants.*
7. Chapter Seven
Mariposa felt a scruffy hat being put on her head by the old lady running the school who was now looking pretty much frazzled.
A mental voice then spoke to her in a very amused manner, *Just like Mister Goyle, you've already chosen to follow the standard of Approaching-Murkiness Lord Potter. Why not, when the advisor's post of the Evil Overlord's trusted lieutenant is already yours? Yes, I know about the list. It'll still be a lot of fun to watch, Miss Silva, much less getting involved in the thick of things for the next few years. So-*
8. Chapter Eight
"One, two, three…four."
"Dad really hates the name, Vinnie. But, check."
"Oh. We don't use V-V-Voldemort either, Al?"
"Nope. Anyone tries that password to open our trunks, we'd better watch him closely. We don't need any Dark Lord competition for real. I'm going to the bathroom. You stay and think up some more totally obvious passwords, just like you've been doing great the last couple of minutes, Vinnie."
Vincent Goyle now felt a rare, inner warm glow of actual achievement at hearing this honest praise from his Evil Overlord.
9. Chapter Nine
In her dorm bed, Mariposa thought about today. So far, her introduction to magical society had been nice enough.
Of course, there was also the moment of genuine lunacy when a boy invited her to join him in his secret campaign to become a villainous wizard from a million fantasy stories. Dozing off, Mariposa smirked just a bit. Honestly, there was no way she'd pass up this chance to join in and do things right this time.
It was just as well, though, that Albus hadn't included in his proposition the words 'black leather', or she would've really hit him.
10. Chapter Ten
"Dear Mum and Dad, arrived at Hogwarts. It's as great as you said. On the train, enlisted my first underlings. Vinnie has more muscles than brains. He's still okay. Mariposa slapped me hard when I made the offer, but we worked things out. What's a bustier, anyway? Got sorted into Hufflepuff. Will start recruiting my Legion of Doom there tomorrow. So far, no sign of any spoilsport hero. Love, Albus. Well, sounds like he's having fun. I just hope he'll provide a little more information in his next letter."
"Silence, slave. Commence removing my bustier with your teeth!"
11. Chapter Eleven
"What's the world coming to?" fumed a cranky Evil Overlord to the pair of children with him in the otherwise deserted Hogwarts corridor after their first day of classes. "This whole place is full of talented, sympathetic, dedicated teachers! Where's a sarcastic git like Snape, an useless Lockhart, or a dangerous impostor named Moody? I need a perfectly vicious school archenemy in authority to battle and crush without mercy!"
Trading the identical baffled glances they'd use many times for the next several years, Mariposa and Vinnie had the unsettling thought that their glorious leader was taking this far too seriously.
12. Chapter Twelve
"Mr…Potter…," tried Professor Longbottom, not sure how he should address his godson. Taking a deep breath, he started again. "It's true that the Hufflepuff traditions have this house dress in yellow and black, but you needn't paint those colors in wide horizontal stripes on your robes so as to resemble a giant bee. Please change into something less…vivid."
While they watched Neville walk off shaking his head, "Told you," unsympathetically muttered Mariposa to Albus. She glanced over, only to suddenly become wary at his current maniacal grin.
"Bright and cheery confused him, just like the list!" crowed Albus.
13. Chapter Thirteen
"We're not gonna shoot him, are we?"
Albus and Mariposa looked up from their homework at this worried question from across the study table in the castle's library. They stared with puzzlement at where Vinnie shifted in his chair under their gazes. Mariposa then told him kindly, "No, Vinnie."
"Good," grunted the junior Goyle. "I like Professor Longbottom. He doesn't talk down to me in Herbology."
Albus reassured them all, "My godfather won't get treated exactly as outlined in Rule Four of the list. He's a…neutral opponent that we're only plotting to dethrone!"
Vinnie seemed much happier hearing that.
14. Chapter Fourteen
"Harry, here's a quick note about your children. James is settling down fine, with the same for Albus. He's made two friends. One is Vincent Goyle, Gregory's son who unfortunately appears to take after both Greg and the other Vincent as regards to intelligence. He does enjoy Herbology, though. The other friend is Mariposa Silva, a girl who definitely reminds me of Hermione. Incidentally, could you explain why Albus whispered to them after I told the class about Nagini, "See? No changing into snakes!"? Hope this finds you well. Poor Neville. He's doomed."
"Who cares? Bring that snaky tongue here!"
15. Chapter Fifteen
"Guys, I've gone through Hufflepuff, and there's no proper hero here for us to scheme against. We need to check the other houses. I'll do Gryffindor, Vinnie, you try Slytherin, and-"
"Hold it!" snarled Mariposa, glaring at a surprised Albus. "How come you're absolutely sure there isn't a heroine in the castle who'll defeat you?"
Albus thought a moment, before saying, "Look, it'll probably all end with me and my destined adversary dueling to the death on a rickety walkway over a lava pit, right?"
"So," Albus finished with Vinnie fervently nodding in agreement after, "Boys don't hit girls."
16. Chapter Sixteen
"How'd it go at the Ravenclaw dorms, Mariposa?"
"Carefully. Enough muggleborns there would instantly recognize the EO list. Though, Hogwarts' wards make sure the Internet won't work here, with some geeks already complaining about missing Facebook and Angry Birds."
Albus knew a lot about the mundane world due to his parents, but that didn't mean he'd understood everything she'd just said. Shrugging, Albus asked, "Any sign of a hero?"
"No, but I think we should instantly enlist any 'Claw developing serious mad scientist tendencies. That place can't help producing at least one enthusiastic monster-maker, right out of Girl Genius."
17. Chapter Seventeen
"Vinnie," patiently said Mariposa, waving Albus quiet. "Why are you certain there's no hero with the Slytherins?"
Both of the first-year students in their private section of the library stared at where Vinnie blinked guilelessly a few times before he understood he could talk now.
Vinnie explained, "Walked down, got inside, and then dared everybody to a fight. None of 'em took me up on it, so there isn't one brave guy there."
Albus choked, "Just because of that?"
Bringing together oversized hands, Vinnie cracked his knuckles once. This sound left distinct echoes in the air.
"Okay, fair enough."
18. Chapter Eighteen
"Am I good or what?" Albus cackled. In his smuggest tone, the young wizard continued boasting, "Where else would we find our hero except in Gryffindor? Not to mention he's got girls following him everywhere, is more handsome than Merlin, was awarded a Prefect badge and made captain of his house Quidditch team, probably doesn't pee in the shower-"
Mariposa sarcastically overrode this exaggerated description, "Just tell us who he is, all right?"
"Oh, fine," pouted Albus. "Our supreme enemy is a fifth-year called Beowulf Moosefoot."
Reaching up to pinch the bridge of her nose, Mariposa sighed, "Of course."
19. Chapter Nineteen
Deciding to see for herself, Mariposa went searching. Eventually, she found nobody else but Beowulf Moosefoot, possible hero. Standing several yards from this swaggering teenager plus his gang of sycophants laughing together and coming her way, Mariposa wondered if Albus was wrong about him-
In the middle of her thoughts, the Evil Overlord's lieutenant then heard and underwent something unforgivable.
After "Hello, little girl" was said, a careless masculine hand then reached out and patted Mariposa on the top of her head.
Gawking after the departing group, an enraged witch instantly vowed to investigate the viability of lava-resistant piranhas.
20. Chapter Twenty
Vinnie didn't like it, Mariposa being mad. This massive boy couldn't understand most of her yelling, but he got the idea. A friend had just been made fun of, something Vinnie knew about. Before Hogwarts, a clumsy, excessively strong child had also been taunted, but now he could do something regarding this.
A rant was interrupted by, "You want me to make him kiss his elbows, Mariposa?"
Mariposa looked over at Vinnie, and saw he meant it. Promptly hugging the surprised lad, she then told Vinnie, "No! He'll still suffer, but thanks for offering!"
Vinnie liked being hugged by Mariposa.
21. Chapter Twenty-One
Dear Uncle George:
I don't know if Dad's told you, but I'm supposed to be an Evil Overlord overthrowing Hogwarts. Only him, Mum, and my new friends here know about it, so keep it a secret, will you? We went looking for the hero who'll contend against me in a battle for the ages, and found him, some guy named Beowulf Moosefoot. That jerk made Mariposa upset, so he needs to pay for it. Can I use my shop account to buy anything you've got in the testing stages? Thanks! Albus.
*Harry, you better have a good explanation for this…*
22. Chapter Twenty-Two
An awed George Weasley looked up from the sheets of paper in his hands. "The muggles invented this list?! If we knew about it beforehand, the war might've ended sooner!"
Accepting a cup of tea from Hermione who then joined the men at their dining table, Harry nodded, "Rule 34 has to be the best one, in either version."
George checked the Evil Overlord list again. "No turning into snakes, agreed. What's the other rule?"
A loud snigger uttered by Hermione resulted in Harry smirking at his wife before answering, "You'll need some privacy with your new laptop for that, George."
23. Chapter Twenty-Three
"Exactly what're you planning to send Albus?" asked Hermione, uneasily eyeing the chortling maniacs at the other end of the table regarding with a satisfied air the catalog of joke items they'd chosen to start Albus' devious campaign against a certain Beowulf Moosefoot.
"Nothing much," a cheerful George replied. "Squealing Candy to high-pitch the voice, Truth Soap for his friends to broadcast everything embarrassing they know, and for the topper, Flatulence Drops which'll work within ten feet of any girl."
"Harry! It's too cruel for any young man-"
"He belittled Mariposa, 'Mione. Remember how Malfoy acted?"
"Triple the lot!"
24. Chapter Twenty-Four
Walking through the Potter Manor gardens, George wanted to know, "Admit it, Harry. Just why do you want your boy to wind up as Hogwart's latest Dark Lord?"
"An Evil Overlord, George. There's a real difference, and I'm hoping my son learns this. What we had to survive years ago was the result of two arrogant arseholes trying to force their viewpoints onto everybody in our society. I want Albus to think for himself, show some common sense, and get people working together without anyone dying."
"And numerous pranks in between will only be a happy accident, right, Harry?"
25. Chapter Twenty-Five
An odd squeaking sound distracted Vinnie at lunch, with this also heard by every other firstie in the Great Hall. Nobody else, including the Hogwarts staff, reacted to whatever noise was coming from somewhere close by.
However, the teachers did notice when Beowulf Moosefoot shot up from the Gryffindor bench and opened his mouth in a silent scream. Well, not nearly silent, since each individual there next felt as if sharp knives were stabbing into their ears.
Shoving an entire meat pie into his mouth, Vinnie grinned nastily around the morsel. *Mariposa must've used it all at once. Good girl!*
26. Chapter Twenty-Six
Inside the Herbology greenhouse, Albus kept his back to the Gryffs scrubbing away at the classroom sink while tidying his table. He watched the reflections in the glass wall. Albus discovered earlier they were always first to the sink after class, and his discreet switch of the soap there would surely-
"Beowulf," declared a friend, "Good to see you washing your hands! You never do that after taking a really long shite!"
"Yeah!" agreed another Gryffindor. "It makes me sick when you pick your nose anyway!"
Among the horrified pause there, Albus inwardly expressed a fitting *BWAH-HA-HA-HA!*
27. Chapter Twenty-Seven
"Wow, Mariposa. Remind me to thank Uncle George later. Quidditch got even better when the Slytherins figured out pairing up Moosefoot today with two of their female Chasers would nearly send him into orbit."
"Why am I not surprised how even in the wizarding world, boys are totally obsessed with farting?"
"Quit being insolent to your Evil Overlord like that! Any more impertinence and I'll lay Rule 151 on you, avoiding setting myself up as a god and instead sticking you with this perilous position."
"If I was a goddess, I'd be glad! That way, I could escape the smell here!"
28. Chapter Twenty-Eight
"BWAH-HA-HA-HA!" delivered Albus in his best excessively zealous villain mode. Drawing a breath for another bout of mirthful gloating, this young Evil Overlord started off with, "Yes! Now that we've ruined the hero's reputation, our path is clear! With none to block us, it shall be simple to fully recruit the Legion of Doom! BWAH-HA-"
At Mariposa's signal, Vinnie leaned over and gave the back of Albus' head a fairly negligible cuff.
"Ow! What was that for?!" yelped Albus.
Mariposa gritted, "Rule 20, idiot! Don't indulge in maniacal laughter, especially with multiple exclamation points included. Ever."
29. Chapter Twenty-Nine
Albus rubbed his aching head and glared at Mariposa coolly staring back. He indignantly huffed, "Fine, I'll soft-pedal it, but now that Moosefoot's been taken care of, how are we going to enlist our loyal army without somebody blabbing?"
The witch suggested, "We check which firsties are trustworthy and might go along, before jokingly bringing up the subject. Or… In a fantasy story, our next recruit will show up there right now." Mariposa pointed at the currently empty space past their library table.
The boys looked, but when Albus quit, Vinnie kept watching since nobody told him not to.
30. Chapter Thirty
The slender blonde presently entering the library was more than she seemed, being a perfect example of the 'I Am Not My Mother' trope. It was definitely a struggle, though, given her name, ancestry, and appearance.
Nonetheless, as long as she could remember, Oort Lovegood yearned to be normal instead of…well…her usual life before Hogwarts.
Normal people didn't have mothers who only smiled beatifically when asked about Oort's paternal unit.
Normal people didn't bring Oort along while questing after imaginary beasts.
Oh, and Oort was going to messily slaughter the next person who described her as an 'elf.'
31. Chapter Thirty-One
Searching for the correct magical volume for today's assigned homework, Oort stood near the end of a bookshelf. A boy's voice drifting from somewhere ahead caught her attention: "Okay, why should we recruit only the firsties? More people might be needed for my Legion of Doom."
A very startled Oort then listened to someone else declare, "Albus, the older the student, the bigger risk they'll either snitch or try to take over. I think we can find enough deformed mutants and oddball psychotics in our own year to conquer the wizarding world ourselves."
"Fine, Mariposa, Rule 55 it is."
32. Chapter Thirty-Two
Vinnie was still looking past the library table when a girl he didn't know walked around the bookshelf. Unsure of whether to interrupt Al and Mariposa, Vinnie beadily eyed this approaching stranger, who didn't seem fazed by the surly look she was being sent her way. Instead, this teeny girl with pointed ears, ash-white hair braided down to her waist, and an intent expression stopped at the end of the table, all done so silently his friends didn't notice her. Maybe she was a ghost, or...?
An infrequent thought surfaced inside Vinnie's uncrowded mind. "You some kinda Hogwarts elf?"
33. Chapter Thirty-Three
Hearing that, Mariposa and Albus simultaneously snapped their heads around to gape at where…
Well, this was different.
Flat on his back and still occupying his knocked-over chair, Vinnie was lying there with an unknown girl dressed in Ravenclaw robes kneeling upon his chest. Both of the 'Claw's strangling hands steadfastly clamped onto Vinnie's throat were unable to completely encircle around this thick mass of muscle, but that girl's pressed thumbs were even now sinking an admirable distance into the boy's flesh.
Growling into Vinnie's purpling face, the girl intoned with utmost malevolence, "Don't…call…me…elf."
34. Chapter Thirty-Four
Let's see, what was he going to put in his next letter home? This might work…
Dear Mum & Dad:
Today, we got ejected from the library because a new girl who looks kind of familiar tried to tear off Vinnie's head. We're in one of the castle courtyards now, where she's chasing him around and yelling that he should stop running so his spine can be extracted and used for xylophone practice. Look, I'm NOT making it up! Anyway, got to go save one of my faithful lackeys from a horrible death. Love, Albus.
P.S.: Thanks for the chocolate frogs!
35. Chapter Thirty-Five
"Hey, don't I know you?"
Oort skidded to a stop from her fanatical pursuit of that panting berk who now tried to hide behind the other girl there in the courtyard. Paying no attention to a scene resembling an elephant attempting to conceal himself in a forest composed of a single skinny palm tree, Oort glared at the boy who'd said that.
He went on thoughtfully, "Yeah! Oort Lovegood, you visited the summer before last! You wouldn't leave our bathroom for anything-"
"Listen, I spent the last three months camping wild in the Amazon! Fungus was growing on my teeth!"
36. Chapter Thirty-Six
Oort carefully considered what she'd just been told:
An Evil Overlord list by which three children were attempting to secretly dominate Hogwarts.
Albus Potter, heir presumptive to master villainhood.
Mariposa Silva, trusted lieutenant.
Vincent Goyle, strong back and weak mind who'd learned today to never again utter the word 'elf.'. Much less any other coherent statement.
Compared to this absurd trio, while sharing both their company and their goal, Oort Lovegood would actually be…normal.
A terrifying smile now upon her lips, Luna's daughter declared to the cowering universe, "I'm in!"
Somewhere from the background, Vinnie whimpered with sudden dread.
37. Chapter Thirty-Seven
Standing before the rear wall, Albus knew he was facing his first serious leadership crisis.
In their unused, gloomy classroom, Vinnie huddled in one corner as far away as he could get from Oort. This blonde was herself seated with Mariposa, sharing the same front desk. Both girls were icily regarding the other, as if about to settle here and now their pecking order within the group.
Muttering "Lumos!", Albus held the tip of his lit wand under his chin.
Certain he was showing the appropriate dramatic shadowed visage, this Evil Overlord then proclaimed, "People, we need a proper…lair!"
38. Chapter Thirty-Eight
"Albus," an annoyed Mariposa ordered him, "Put the lights back on, will you?"
A moment later, when the classroom torches flared into life once more, she studied the scowling boy. Mariposa then doubtfully asked, "Are you serious? You mean, a bad guy's hideout like that shown in, oh, every Bond film ever made?"
Oort added her own sarcastic contribution, "Why don't we use this place?" She sardonically waved a hand around at an ordinary castle classroom. "I think the sheer dullness here will really inspire us soon enough to raze Hogwarts to rubble and rebuild our own Fortress of Might."
39. Chapter Thirty-Nine
Sighing under his breath when Oort and Mariposa glared at each other again, Albus was aware he had to get the girls cooperating together (along with Vinnie) or their fun of sneaking around and pretending to take over the wizarding world would be finished. So, this better work.
"You're both right."
Good, that had their attention.
"Yes, Mariposa, I think I know the perfect hideout here. And Oort, you were right, too. We can't plot in peace and quiet where anyone else could discover us."
An unexpected interruption came from Vinnie, "Nope, Al. Nobody can use the Room of Requirement."
40. Chapter Forty
Trudging forward from his corner to heavily seat himself at the desk opposite where Mariposa and Oort were staring at him, Vinnie kept his hangdog gaze lowered to the floor. The massive boy muttered, "My dad, he told me when I asked him about who I was named after, that place never worked again. Not after his best friend set loose the Fiendfyre which burned up everything in the Room of Hidden Things."
There was an uncomfortable silence throughout the classroom. Even a generation after the second wizarding war, many painful memories occasionally arose among the survivors and their descendants.
41. Chapter Forty-One
Albus felt both uneasy and embarrassed when Vinnie looked up to steadily stare at the smaller boy. These emotions increased even more due to Vinnie continuing, "Dad also said how your own mum and dad got him out of there safe. That's why when I wrote to him about meeting on the train, he said it was okay for us to be friends, if I wanted. Uh…are we friends, Al?" finished Vinnie in a honest appeal.
Swallowing hard, Albus then declared, "Yeah, Vinnie. We're friends."
Hearing that, a wide grin appeared on the usually vacant face of Vincent Goyle.
42. Chapter Forty-Two
Oort was experiencing a rare mood of genuine abashment. In short, she was feeling a little ashamed. Maybe this Vinnie guy could be let off with only a few minor injuries-
Next to Oort, Mariposa seemed the same. In her gentlest voice, she told their presumed Evil Overlord, "So, I guess we can't use the Room of Requirement then."
Albus just shook his head. He mentioned to the confused group, "I wasn't talking about it, anyway. No, we've got to find a certain girls' lavatory."
Oort promptly reverted to type, asking warily, "There something you need to explain first, Potter?"
43. Chapter Forty-Three
Discovering at last about her new society's unlovely trait of mass absentmindness, Mariposa reacted as might be expected.
"You mean, everyone basically forgot about the dead monster in the basement?" asked an incredulous girl.
Standing by a lavatory sink, Albus shrugged. "I've been told the castle was pretty much a madhouse back then. I guess there were more important things to think about than a basilisk. Mum and Dad also decided to stay quiet about the Chamber of Secrets their last year here, when it was the only private place they had for some snogging after their engagement was announced."
44. Chapter Forty-Four
"Wait," frowned Oort. "Didn't Ron Weasley write he got into the Chamber to destroy one of Riddle's horcruxes? How'd that happen? I thought nobody but a real Parselmouth could open the secret entrance," she finished, waving her hand at the sink Albus had led the group to several minutes before.
A very disgusted Albus responded, "You mean, Our Ron: One-Man Army, that book? It's a complete pack of lies which finished off his friendship with Mum and Dad. No, they were the ones who actually did it and told the Weasel afterwards, who still took full credit for everything."
45. Chapter Forty-Five
Glowering at his surprised minions learning first-hand concerning one of the wizarding world's biggest scandals, Albus decided to get everyone back to the reason they were in a girls' lavatory. "Stay there, okay? The last time this worked was when James started here and Dad sneaked off with him on Parents' Day."
In an abrupt change of mood, Albus smirked at a especially fond sibling rivalry memory. "Even then, James couldn't do it. Dad had to say the word, like this."
Drawing himself up in a definite Evil Overlordish attitude, Albus next hissed in Parselmouth towards the sink:
46. Chapter Forty-Six
The group watched in mutual fascination as the lavatory sink and other parts of the girls' bathroom shifted to finally produce a yawning cavity leading downwards into inky darkness. Beginning to move forward in unison, Albus, Mariposa and Vinnie suddenly froze in their tracks due to hearing an ominous, "Nobody move!"
Glancing over their shoulders, this startled trio of children saw behind them where Oort was threateningly pointing her drawn wand at Albus. Next, all there listened to the small blonde say with definite intimidation lurking in her calm tone, "Take another step, anyone, and I'll hex your toenails off."
47. Chapter Forty-Seven
"What's going on, Oort?" Albus cautiously tried. For this, he received a look of absolute disbelief from that same girl.
Still pointing her wand at somebody who must surely be having her on, Oort paused while trying to put her thoughts in proper order to make them understand. "Are you all nuts? Let's just go over this logically. Today, four kids in a magical castle are about to start off their latest escapade by entering without a second thought a mysterious, pitch-black tunnel which might contain anything. You know what this reminds me of? An actual adventure, you idiots!"
48. Chapter Forty-Eight
Now, it was Mariposa's turn. "And it's a problem, because…?"
"Because I've got a mother who airily regards the mere concept of sanity at the same level of those board game rules dealing with the really daft situations which only happen once in a million years! Ever since I can remember, she's dragged me along on lots of dumb adventures! You want to know what I've learned about it all, guys?"
There was quite a long pause in the lavatory before Vinnie finally got the message that he was up this time.
"Adventures should happen to someone else!"
49. Chapter Forty-Nine
"Well, then, why are you here in the first place?" impatiently grumbled Albus towards Oort.
She sniffed right at him, "Just because I loathe adventures, it doesn't mean we can't at least make them less stupid! For instance, did it even occur to you to leave a note with somebody telling them where to come looking for us if we weren't back for dinner at the Great Hall?"
Albus inwardly admitted numerous clichéd children's boarding school novels sure would've been much shorter if this exact safety precaution had been followed by Mary, Peter, little Jack, and their dog Twoobles.
50. Chapter Fifty
"Oh, that's easy," Mariposa interrupted. "We write a note for Professor Longbottom and order one of the house-"
Oort's wand twitched right at Mariposa, who didn't miss a beat. "-supernatural workers if we don't ask for it again in a couple of hours, they should deliver the note to him."
Lowering her wand, Oort grudgingly approved, "Good thinking. Before we go down, though, I want to collect some stuff to bring with us."
Albus agreed for them all, "Sure." It probably wouldn't take long, would it?
Actually, it took two weeks and enough emergency equipment to mount a polar expedition.
51. Chapter Fifty-One
Watching Oort entering the girls' lavatory, a fed-up Mariposa inquired, "Got enough rope there, Oort?"
She was referring to the enormous coil of rope Oort was carrying. Dropping the rope onto the crowded floor among the other exploration supplies crammed throughout the room, Oort calmly explained, "If we don't have any rope along, we'll really need it. So, bringing it means we'll never have to use it."
Albus couldn't help asking, "You know this from personal experience, right?"
Oort gave them all a very cynical look. "Somewhere far away, there's an actual Cliff of Insanity named after my mother."
52. Chapter Fifty-Two
After two weeks of delays, Albus felt just as exasperated as Mariposa over how a simple visit to the Chamber of Secrets was taking so bloody long. Except, Oort flatly refused to help the others in investigating their potential lair unless they planned for every possible contingency. However, today was the day, once Vinnie had been shaken awake from his nap on one of the spare clothes bags.
With everyone ready to go, Albus opened his mouth-
"Al! What're you doing? You're not supposed to be here!"
In the doorway, James Potter glared at the four firsties he'd caught trespassing.
53. Chapter Fifty-Three
*Shite!* inwardly cursed Albus. *Just what we needed!*
Now convinced his younger brother and that same sibling's friends were up to no good, a haughty James swathed in the dignity granted to him by the two extra years he had upon everyone there eyed Albus plainly trying to think his way out of this. A triumphant sneer beginning to appear on his lips, James enjoyed the foretaste of the trouble he was going to get them all into: Albus, that great lump of suet looking remarkably vacant, some brunette girl glowering at him, and the other girl-
"Who's the elf?"
54. Chapter Fifty-Four
It took all three of them to pull Oort off James, but when Albus let the others hold her down, he'd already thought how to head off any revenge by his big brother.
Guiding a weaving James to the corridor beyond, Albus spoke right into a dazed face with a developing black eye which promised to be spectacular: "James, go away and stay quiet, or every house here learns you got seriously duffed up by a firstie girl. If you still tattle to mum and dad, my next letter home will tell them where your Playwizard collection is. Got that?"
55. Chapter Fifty-Five
A very nervous Vinnie pressed both immense hands onto Oort's squirming shoulders to keep her there while she attempted to edge closer towards the lavatory doorway. Mariposa had the rope bundle uncoiled and a loop at one end ready to lasso Oort in case she escaped. They all paused in these actions when Albus strutted back into the room. His victorious mood was also quite evident in a proud announcement.
"Settle down, people. I took care of James. He decided not to mention we were here, but in return, nobody contradicts his story about a Quidditch accident. So, Oort, behave."
56. Chapter Fifty-Six
"Fine," Oort huffed, casting a cold eye at Vinnie which made him snatch his hands away. "But I'm not going to put up with any more foolishness when we visit the Chamber."
Tidily rewrapping the rope bundle, Mariposa looked up with sudden interest at hearing this. "What do you mean?"
Ticking off her fingers, Oort stated, "Don't touch anything glowing, don't read aloud any inscriptions especially those with artwork involving surgical removal of body parts without anesthetic by high priests holding big knives, don't get in the path of huge rolling boulders, and that's just for the first five minutes!"
57. Chapter Fifty-Seven
"Well, you can't say it isn't atmospheric," offered Mariposa. She peered around to then ask, "Where's the basilisk?"
From where they were gawking at the long, dimly lit chamber with its stone pillars and flooded sections, Albus absently replied, "Dad said he traded it to Gringotts as payment for wrecking their bank. Apparently, well-aged reptile is a goblin delicacy, and a thousand-year basilisk had them drooling at the mere sight of it. When they started tucking napkins under their chins and bringing out knives and forks, my parents left them to it. Afterwards, there weren't even any bones."
58. Chapter Fifty-Eight
"Let's see now, one dozen, two dozen, three dozen snake carvings," counted Oort. Standing by Mariposa, the pair of girls were examining the large statue of Salazar Slytherin with its gaping mouth jutting from the far wall of the Chamber of Secrets. Mischievously glancing over at Mariposa, Oort said in her best deadpan, "And of course, according to all the stories, an absolutely enormous serpent came out of that wizard's mouth…"
Remaining a couple of steps behind the girls, Albus and Vinnie looked at each other in bafflement how their female friends then went into gales of mutual derisive giggles.
59. Chapter Fifty-Nine
Mariposa listened to Albus and Oort argue over his idea of putting two rows of posts with flaming bowls atop these along the main Chamber corridor, both for better lighting and to make things even more dramatic there. About to contribute the words 'patio heaters' and also just where they were going to get them in the first place, Mariposa saw Vinnie come wandering up while using a robe sleeve to rub dry an object carried in his other hand.
"Hey, guys," greeted Vinnie. "Found something interesting." He then proudly displayed in cupped hands a large, reddish egg to everyone.
60. Chapter Sixty
"You went off alone, didn't you?" moaned Oort in her hollowest tone. She began backing away, leaving behind, "A monster's going to burst out of your chest, or you led a serial killer with a mask fetish to us, or something even worse will happen two seconds from now…"
Ignoring the shocked looks Al and Mariposa were sending this prophet of doom, Vinnie beamingly regarded his oval prize. He rumbled, "Found it at a pool edge. Funny, it feels kinda warm-"
In an unexpected burst of flame, the egg exploded, leaving behind a tiny bird covered with downy scarlet feathers.
61. Chapter Sixty-One
Unharmed by this latest bit of pyrotechnics, Vinnie stared down slack-jacked at what was now resting within his cupped hands. A hatched chick with a swaying, outsized head and protuberant eyes goggled back at the human holding it. For a few moments, all was silent in the Chamber, until the bird clicked its beak several times and then uttered a happy chirp.
Right after they heard that, every child there felt a delightful inner chime shiver throughout their bodies. The others had their own reactions to this, but Vinnie responded by crooning to his new familiar, "Whosa pretty boy?"
62. Chapter Sixty-Two
"A phoenix familiar," Oort whispered. "There hasn't been one here since Dumbledore and Fawkes!"
Mariposa tore her fascinated gaze away from where Vinnie was gingerly rubbing with a fingertip the top of a bird's head which was plainly enjoying this gentle massage. She asked Oort, "You mean, that's the same phoenix who rescued Harry Potter?"
"No," corrected Oort. "Newborn phoenixes come out of the egg only once, then burn the rest of their lives. It must've been laid by Fawkes before leaving Hogwarts."
Albus frowned. "Dad said Fawkes was, um, a male."
Oort raised her eyebrows. "What, he personally checked?"
63. Chapter Sixty-Three
Disregarding a blushing Albus, Oort glanced at where Vinnie was still bonding with the phoenix. Coming up beside Oort who seemed to know all this stuff, Mariposa asked her friend, "So, what happens now? Is there going to be a big fuss about Vinnie and his new pet?"
Oort had to agree, "It'll certainly get everyone's attention. Before that, though…" Trailing off, Oort called, "Vinnie!"
Oort patiently advised, "Vinnie, you have to name your familiar to seal the bond. Make it quick, will you?"
"Oh," Vinnie blinked. He stared at the crimson chick trustingly looking back. "How about…Red?"
64. Chapter Sixty-Four
"I heard you, all right? Just like the last sixteen times."
"Mariposa, he named it RED! One of the most magical creatures in the wizarding world, and Vinnie came up with that?!"
"Albus, please stop whining. You'll hurt their feelings, and- Oh. I know, you're jealous."
"I am not! It's because…Red…deserves a more, um, majestic name."
"Well, live with it. Oort said so, in between her laughing fit minutes ago downstairs. It can't be changed, ever."
"Knock off the Evil Overlord sulking, or I'll special order a dozen fluffy white cats for you."
65. Chapter Sixty-Five
Vinnie's new familiar swiftly resulted in a summons to McGonagall's office. Several minutes into her interrogation, the elderly headmistress was developing another severe headache.
"Where'd you find your phoenix, Mr. Goyle?"
"I meant, where in Hogwarts?"
Vincent grimaced in thought, causing forehead wrinkles to clash like shifting continental plates. After an evident tremendous mental struggle, he confessed, "Uhhhh… I forgot."
Temples throbbing, McGonagall waved for silence. "Never mind, just follow the school rules regarding familiars. That's all. You may go."
Vinnie waited until he was down the office stairs before grinning. There were advantages to being considered stupid.
66. Chapter Sixty-Six
"She actually gave up?" Albus marveled as they walked together to the Great Hall.
Patting Red perched on his shoulder, Vinnie looked smug. "You said to play dumb, and I did."
Trading amused glances with Mariposa, Oort suggested, "We still better lay low until people get used to having a phoenix around. That means staying away from the Chamber and no other Evil Overlord stuff for now."
Glumly nodding, Albus then stopped dead in his tracks in the Hall doorway at receiving a very mistrustful glower from his older brother James at the Gryffindor table.
"Oops. This might be trouble."
67. Chapter Sixty-Seven
Dear Mum & Dad:
Is there any chance I could keep James anonymously imprisoned in a forgotten cell of the Hogwarts dungeons? I know it's against the Evil Overlord rules, but even if there's no throne to be usurped, he knows too much including where we must've found Vinnie's phoenix. Can you believe it? Vinnie named this beautiful bird 'Red'! Will write again soon. Love, Albus.
"Harry, the mail's here. By the way, did you ever tell Albus about muggle telegrams, where they charged by the word?"
"Not that I remember, 'Mione. Why?"
"Just read this for yourself, please. You idiot."
68. Chapter Sixty-Eight
"Isn't he ever going to give up?"
Mariposa's exasperation resulted in Albus craning his neck to see. Yes, the broom and its rider flying over the quidditch pitch had just paused to make another check of four kids on the edge of the Forbidden Forest. At this distance, James couldn't actually see anything except the fact that Albus and his friends were still there, but the spying was just as annoying as ever.
Ever since the Chamber last month, James somehow managed to keep track of them all. How he was doing it-
A sudden weight hopped onto Albus' head.
69. Chapter Sixty-Nine
From where he was sprawled out on his back in the heather, Albus didn't move save for tilting his eyeballs rearwards. As expected, an upside-down feathered face was examining him at close range from where Red the phoenix was now perched atop Albus's skull. This bird's talons gently prickled the skin of his forehead.
"Vinnie," a resigned Hufflepuff said, "Why does he keep doing that?"
Muffled snickering came from the other boy close by but out of sight. Finally, Vinnie offered a reason for his familiar's odd behavior, "Maybe Red thinks your messy hair is perfect for a nest?"
70. Chapter Seventy
Oort decided to join in the conversation. "It could explain the whole friendship between Fawkes and Harry Potter. Their family hair is famous for being unmanageable, but nobody's ever studied its' suitability for avian homes-"
"Not funny," Albus grumbled, even when Red let out a pleased chirrup. "Get him off, will you?"
Vinnie amiably called, "Here, Red."
With beating wings, the phoenix took flight. Albus rolled over to watch how this bird awkwardly alighted with a couple of resulting bounces in front of the other seated children. Considering Red had started flying just last week, the landing wasn't too bad.
71. Chapter Seventy-One
Albus addressed his minions. "Speaking of family, has anyone figured out yet how James can find us everywhere in Hogwarts?"
Oort shook her head. "I've checked. We don't have tracking charms on us, and that spell doesn't get taught here until fifth year in any case."
"So why do you know it?" a curious Mariposa inquired.
The blonde girl sighed. "Let's just say, after the fourth time Mother disappeared into an enchanted wardrobe or down a rabbit hole, I learned it on my own. No wonder the term 'magical' land gets described as ancient Greek for 'pain in the butt.'"
72. Chapter Seventy-Two
Contemplating for a short while Oort's life before Hogwarts, Mariposa eventually brought up again their original discussion. "Albus, has your dad mentioned anything different lately about you and your brother?"
A scowling Albus replied, "No. He just wrote it's between me and him, and I'm not allowed to do all the fun stuff he and Mum and the Weasel got up to during their time here. No Polyjuice potion, or imperiusing James, or anything beyond 'the usual low-level intensity sibling conflict minimizing civilian collateral damage,' what Mum said."
Hearing that, the children shared an identical thought: *Parents ruin everything!*
73. Chapter Seventy-Three
The group's resentful mood was abruptly shattered by Red uttering a discordant squawk to then flutter into the air. The young phoenix hovered for a moment and next flew forward a foot off the ground with all the speed he possessed, directly towards the Forbidden Forest.
Appalled, Vinnie shouted, "RED! Come back!" while scrambling up onto his feet. This hasty order from his master was totally ignored by that familiar, who now gained the treeline. Dodging around a woody trunk, Red vanished into the forest.
Without a second thought, Vinnie dashed after Red, followed just as unthinkingly by the others.
74. Chapter Seventy-Four
A minute later, James Potter stopped his broom in midair. Taking a quidditch break, he stared at where his annoying brother and firstie friends were enjoying probably the last fine fall weekend.
Except, nobody was there. The heather where Albus plus the rest had been hanging out was completely deserted of anyone, despite it being impossible for them to return to the castle since the last time James had looked. In person, that is. The Marauder's Map he'd pilfered from Dad's desk before term started only worked inside Hogwarts-
The bludger hit his way nailed James right in the face.
75. Chapter Seventy-Five
Albus wasn't thrilled about heading deeper into the Forbidden Forest. Even though it was a lot less dangerous now than years ago, that didn't make it completely safe. He nervously scanned the ancient trees around him while following Vinnie on the trail the other boy had found. Mariposa and Oort were right behind them, so everyone burst into the small clearing ahead at the same time.
From out of nowhere, Red swooped directly at Mariposa. Seizing in his beak a lock of her hair, the phoenix urgently tugged along a yelping girl towards the unicorn lying in the clearing's midpoint.
76. Chapter Seventy-Six
Mariposa stopped protesting, instead dashing forwards at seeing the horned mare's obvious pregnancy and also the exhausted signs of a colt's delivery gone wrong. Red barely let go of her hair before he would've been dragged after the sprinting girl. Wings flapping, the phoenix settled on the ground by the unicorn's head and began trilling a reassuring song.
At the other end, Mariposa sat down, rolled up her robe sleeves, grabbed and held aside the tail, and with her other hand, she-
Both Albus and Vinnie promptly spun around to keep from watching further. Oort sneered at those two cowards.
77. Chapter Seventy-Seven
Joining her friend at where she was busy, Oort observed how Mariposa now had her entire arm inserted up to the shoulder while feeling around. Oort calmly asked, "Want me for something? Though, you already seem to pretty well know what to do…"
A distracted Mariposa responded, "I spent vacations at my uncle's farm in Spain helping out during lambing and in the stables, picking up a lot of stuff. Where's the guys? They can't come closer in case they spook her and make things worse."
Oort glanced behind them. "Not a problem. They'd rather be anywhere else."
78. Chapter Seventy-Eight
Oort's head snapped around at hearing that very alarmed sound. She looked right into Mariposa's frantic expression, with the Hufflepuff firstie next blurting, "We've got huge trouble! I can't deliver her baby until she lays on her other side! But there's no way this mare can move on her own! She's too weak after hours of labor, which keeps her from rolling over much less getting up!"
The two girls stared at each other with mutual dismay. They then looked at the half-ton unicorn lying limply on the ground, before a pair of panicky female voices screamed:
79. Chapter Seventy-Nine
Albus and Oort poured as much power as they could manage with their adolescent magical cores into the Wingardium Leviosa charm being cast. Mariposa straightened out a colt's tangled limbs inside its mother. Now, if only the guys could lift-
The entire body of the unicorn upon her wrong side shifted, and then jerkily ascended no more than an inch or two into the air. Praying it'd be enough, Mariposa shouted, "Go, Vinnie!"
Even a boy already as muscular as most men could almost break his back tipping over a thousand pounds of flesh using nothing but sheer brute strength.
80. Chapter Eighty
Four exhausted but content Hogwarts students sprawled out in the clearing enjoyed watching how the pure golden colt was suckling from his presently upright mother also regarding this with maternal pride, neck craned.
To one side, Mariposa's robe now completely ruined from a thick, silvery substance and other body fluids coating the garment was folded and ready for disposal.
Seated besides that girl in her blouse and pants, Red perching there on the grass was looking quite smug. This was a nifty trick, given how someone with an actual beak would normally be unable to pull off that specific expression.
81. Chapter Eighty-One
Glancing up at the darkening sky, Albus announced, "Guys, we better return to Hogwarts before we miss dinner."
Urged by this, along with the realization it'd been a long and very busy time for them all since lunch, the humans stood up. Mariposa tentatively waved a hand towards her stained robe. "How do I explain why I need new clothes? Do we even tell anybody about today?"
A strangely meek voice came from Vinnie, "Nah, no point."
The rest followed Vinnie's gaze.
Across the clearing, there were a dozen centaurs stretched out along the treeline. None of them appeared happy.
82. Chapter Eighty-Two
Dear Mum & Dad:
Today was interesting. We learned centaurs with four feet means they run away twice as fast when the unicorn we helped have her baby chased them off. The little guy is really cute. I've got some questions, though.
"Wonderful. I'd been hoping my talk with him could wait another year."
"Just keep reading, dear."
Everyone worked great together. Vinnie used his muscles, Oort stayed calm, and Mariposa was totally impressive. I'm still not going to shake hands with her for a while. Will write again soon. Love, Albus.
"All right, Harry, next Parents' Day, we're both going."
83. Chapter Eighty-Three
Oort knelt down to open her trunk placed at the foot of the bed. Seeing this, Mariposa demanded, "Why are we here, anyway? I'm hungry!"
Nodding at the deserted Ravenclaw girls' dorm save for themselves, Oort explained, "We need privacy. Dinner afterwards, I promise. Now, your own trunk's the regular kind from Diagon Alley, right?"
"Thought so," declared Oort. "Pass me your ruined robe I said to bring from the forest. The specialized stasis spells Mother put on her old trunk will keep the unicorn blood from spoiling. Basically, your robe's now worth more than a solid gold one."
84. Chapter Eighty-Four
After leaving the owlery where Albus had sent off his latest terse missive, he and Vinnie joined up with their female friends outside the Great Hall. They both noticed right away Mariposa appeared to be pale with shock, and uncertainly stared in unison at a smirking Oort. That blonde snickered, "I just told our unicorn friend how valuable her newest present is."
Albus had to grin at this. "Some people might've wanted a lot more getting that really rare honor, including being touched on their forehead with the horn. I don't think it's ever happened to a Muggleborn before, Mariposa."
85. Chapter Eighty-Five
Taking a steadying breath, Mariposa glowered at her amused Evil Overlord. "All you wizarding world natives are so full of yourselves! Fine, go ahead, laugh at us newcomers falling flat on our faces!"
Feeling sympathetic, Vinnie reached over and patted Mariposa's shoulder. Buckling slightly under the weight of Vinnie's hand, Mariposa then heard him rumble, "Hey, you did good and that lady horse knew it. She gave you a proper reward, which you deserved, every bit of it."
Perched upon Vinnie's own shoulder, Red uttered an approving chirp. Mariposa saw the others smile with equal accord, and her annoyance vanished.
86. Chapter Eighty-Six
Becoming busy for the next few weeks in studying for the upcoming school tests, Albus and the others temporarily put on hold establishing his Evil Overlord reign unto a trembling populace.
Well, they'd be trembling if these unfortunates knew what was coming. Except that Sybill Trelawney had been firmly retired for years, along with the derided foretelling course she'd incompetently taught. The last Hogwarts had heard of this divination professor, she was still pickling her liver with sherry at a wizarding enclave hidden somewhere on the Costa Del Sol.
Albus assured his forces they'd start again after the winter break.
87. Chapter Eighty-Seven
Surveying the room, Headmistress McGonagall was pleased this morning by the eager buzz running throughout the Great Hall filled with students about to start the Hogwarts winter break. Many would leave following lunch with their parents who'd be joining them for that meal after touring the castle and talking over old times with the other magical wizards and witches. The mundanes visiting for the first time would still be in their usual daze, naturally.
McGonagall was particularly excited about today's arrival by the same person who'd thought up Parents' Day years ago. Hermione Potter would of course be most welcome.
88. Chapter Eighty-Eight
"What's the plan?" asked Harry, adjusting his robes in their bedroom while Rose impatiently waited downstairs.
Hermione gave one last brush to her hair. "When we get there, take Rose and find James. We'll meet for lunch. Before then, Albus and I will have a little…chat."
At the Hufflepuff table, a future villain paused in spooning up his porridge, announcing, "I sense a disturbance in the Force."
Mariposa pushed the sugar bowl out of Albus' reach. "I told you not to overload your oats."
Menacingly rasping a few breaths into his underling's direction, Albus went back to eating breakfast.
89. Chapter Eighty-Nine
Rose Potter tried her best to behave like a good girl, as she'd promised. She ate the delicious breakfast prepared by Winky, thanked her properly under Mummy's approving eye and as usual gave this still scandalized house elf after so many years a quick hug. They'd then all gone upstairs to dress for their trip to wonderful, wonderful Hogwarts!
Finally, Daddy came down with Mummy to the sitting room. Smiling down at the seven year old waiting for them while shivering with excitement, Daddy said with a chuckle, "Ready to go, Rose?"
A tongue-tied Potter daughter just vigorously nodded.
90. Chapter Ninety
The little girl's scrunched face straightened out after the familiar but detested sensation of traveling by magical apparition. Rose let loose of her clutch onto Daddy's left hand held behind him. Before she could move further, he stepped aside to let his daughter see what was there beyond them all.
Eyes widening, Rose gaped at the magnificent castle, dusted with December snow. She failed to notice when Mummy removed her own left hand from a diminutive shoulder, nor how both of her parents then replaced their wands into hidden holsters after one last vigilant gaze around for any possible threats.
91. Chapter Ninety-One
It was soooooo great! Everything was just as good as the stories told to her about Hogwarts before she got old enough today to visit! The Great Hall with a ceiling matching the outdoor skies, moving staircases, pictures which talked to you, and everything else-
Rose had never thought that Harrods would ever become her second most favoritest place, but she was completely falling in love with the castle!
Dragging her parents through the corridors, Rose ignored something she'd normally have giggled about, how Mummy and Daddy would look up at the same time whenever each were called "Minister Potter."
92. Chapter Ninety-Two
Eventually, Rose was reminded that Hogwarts couldn't be explored in a single hour and they needed to find her brothers. A quick 'point me' spell by Harry led them to the Gryffindor common room. Waiting there, a boy was swiftly tackled by a sisterly missile who between fervent hugs demanded that James remember his status as nothing but a lowly slave to Mistress Rose.
The family happily caught up with each other, until Hermione announced she was off to find Albus. They'd all meet at the Great Hall for lunch. After that meal, Rose could see more of the castle.
93. Chapter Ninety-Three
Outside the dorms, Hermione did another 'point me' spell while exasperatedly contemplating her husband's gleeful secrecy. It'd have been easier to use the Marauder's Map, but Harry wanted James and Albus to compete for it without any parental interference as part of their younger son's absurd Evil Overlord schemes.
On the way, McGonagall escorting a group of mixed parents from both the wizarding and mundane worlds proudly introduced to them the minister for the International Magical Office of Law. The headmistress also took the opportunity to invite the Potters for a private Hogmanay celebration, which Hermione was glad to accept.
94. Chapter Ninety-Four
In one of the castle's courtyards, Albus, Oort, Mariposa, and Vinnie were waiting until their parents picked them up. Nobody had any specific time to meet these adults before lunch, so they were using this occasion for one last get-together before coming back after New Year's Day. Albus had just now extracted a promise from the others they wouldn't talk about the whole EO bit to anyone else. In return, he'd introduce them to his mum and dad as his newest best friends.
That settled, the children started an spontaneous snowball fight, never noticing the silent figure watching them.
95. Chapter Ninety-Five
Like any mother sending her son off to school, the woman concealed in the courtyard doorway had worried about Albus not making friends at Hogwarts. Hermione was glad to see her fears were groundless, given the group she was watching were exuberantly playing with each other. Even one particular blonde girl running around there in their new game of tag showed no signs of her normal suppressed fury.
Good, this meant perhaps soon Hermione could risk telling Oort Lovegood her godmother was the one accidentally responsible for mentioning to a delighted Luna well along in pregnancy a certain cosmological name.
96. Chapter Ninety-Six
As for the others…
Hermione studied with bemusement the extremely large boy lumbering throughout the courtyard in fruitless pursuit of his dodging friends. It'd been so long ago, but Hermione could swear that someone who was clearly none other than Vincent Goyle had to be even bigger than his own first-year father. Thinking just a trifle cattily, Hermione smirked to herself, *Must be the Bulstrode influence.*
Noticing Vinnie still made sure not to hurt anybody, Hermione abruptly felt ashamed of her unkind memories. She'd be extra nice to him later when Albus and his friends joined them for lunch.
97. Chapter Ninety-Seven
Hermione next intently examined the other girl cheering Oort for somersaulting past the wide open space between Vinnie's legs when this boy halted for a grab at a ducking ash-white braid. This must be nobody else but Mariposa Silva, trusted lieutenant to a prospective Evil Overlord.
*Let's see, excellent bone structure, much better hair than mine at that age, just starting to get her hips, clear voice-*
At that point, Mariposa tackled Albus to the ground and then viciously stuffed a handful of snow down his neck.
Oh, she was definitely going to keep an eye on this one.
98. Chapter Ninety-Eight
Some seconds later, Hermione was taken by surprise at someone colliding against her own form and then giving this woman an enthusiastic hug. In between Hermione's sudden delight, she felt a brief pang at observing Albus was at least an inch or two taller than the last time she'd seen him. Plus, her growing son wasn't also that far off from bashfully refraining in the future at giving his mother such a heedless display of affection in front of his friends.
Nevertheless, Hermione lovingly embraced her child while also smiling over Albus' head at the others now gathered there.
99. Chapter Ninety-Nine
Hermione Potter sat down on the courtyard bench. She'd graciously accepted another hug from Oort, a respectful handshake from Mariposa, and a final finger clasp done with worried delicacy by Vinnie. Then, Hermione announced she wanted a private word with Albus before they all met again at lunch.
Oort and Mariposa immediately grabbed Vinnie's arms and towed him away like two tugboats escorting a battleship. The confused but compliant boy left the courtyard with his female friends, dimly wondering if Al was in some kind of trouble.
Hermione next patted the bench by herself. It wasn't done ominously. Oh, no.
100. Chapter One Hundred
He was supposed to be a heinous Evil Overlord associated with doom, destruction, and other dreadful things. Minions had been collected, a hero brought low, adventures taken, and a splendid future awaited, filled with even more fun for the rest of his first year term.
All this came with the necessity of not being entirely truthful in the letters sent home so that the old folks there would be reassured their son wasn't getting in too much mischief.
Except right now, the woman who'd changed his nappies was giving him The Look.
Gulping, Albus Potter promptly told his Mum everything.