Rodolphus Lestrange smirked at his nephew. "I mean, it is possible," he said with a shrug. "Hogwarts is a confusing place since you've never been there. But I think you'll manage. You can always say you don't know where the Hufflepuff Basement is because you haven't had reason to go there before."
Rigel nodded slightly. "I should have set up somewhere to meet her, but I wasn't thinking."
"Women make it difficult to think straight," Rodolphus cautioned the boy. "I don't have to tell you to be careful out there."
"I will," Rigel said as the door burst open and his sister fell into the room, giggling. "Belle, what are you doing?"
"I did it," Bella giggled. "I turned Andromeda into a canary, and she tried to hex me."
"You were supposed to do it for the amusement of all of us," Rigel told her, though he couldn't help laughing.
Bella shrugged, grinning at her brother. "It didn't happen the way I expected, but she chased me down the hall. As a giant yellow bird."
Rodolphus glanced between his niece and nephew. "You aren't going to try that with me, are you?"
"No," Belle said, giggling again.
"I bought her some things when I was out last time," Rigel explained. "I dared her to slip one to Andromeda."
Rodolphus merely smirked, and Bella said, "Well, if you hear me yell, she got me." The girl turned and left the room just as quickly as she had entered it.
Rigel turned to look at his uncle, but Rodolphus held up a hand. "I don't need to know what you bought her. You don't answer to me." The man smirked slightly. "Though perhaps you children wouldn't cause your parents so much anxiety if you were accountable to me."
"We wouldn't talk to you," Rigel pointed out. "And we can hardly be trusted to counsel ourselves."
"Obviously," Rodolphus chuckled. "Why else would you be asking me how to sneak into Hogwarts to visit a girl you don't know?"
The boy's ears turned red, and Rodolphus added, "But don't let an old man discourage you-be it me or your father."
Rigel laughed and nodded, then got to his feet. "Thanks," he said, then left just as quickly as his sister.
It seemed easy enough. At least when Rodolphus had been telling him how to get there. The young man sighed to himself, knowing that he had brought all the difficulties on himself. He had chosen to arrive at Hogwarts earlier in the day so that he wouldn't be considered weird for going down to the Hufflepuff Common room at night.
The problem was that he had managed to get himself turned around and he had no idea where in the castle he was. He was concerned that if he tried to ask around about how to get places, it would seem suspicious or make him look like an idiot. Almost no one gave him a second look, though he caught a frown from a couple Slytherins. He supposed that they wondered if they knew him and couldn't place him.
He had morphed, used the same morph as when he'd met Lyra before, though he had done his best to make himself look roughly sixteen or seventeen. It had seemed only days ago that he'd been an awkward teenager, but somehow he'd managed to stop looking like one and had had to figure it out again.
In spite of all Rod's talk about how simple the secret passageways were, Rigel was disinclined to believe him. If he couldn't remember the way to anywhere, and he couldn't remember the passwords to whatever shortcuts his uncle told him, he'd be stuck in Hogwarts until he was discovered by a teacher.
Rigel stopped as someone crashed into him, then immediately stepped away and turned to look at him. She was glaring at him, her blonde hair tied up in a Slytherin Quidditch ribbon. "Why don't you watch where you're going?" she hissed at him.
"Well now," Rigel said in a tone he would have used on his sister, "you ran into me, so you really shouldn't be upset with me, should you, little missy?"
She stared at him for a split second, then reached for her wand, a curse on the tip of her tongue. Rigel raised his hand, not even reaching for his wand as he attempted to disarm her. To the girl's credit, she was able to keep her grip on her wand for a little longer, though it dragged her across the space between her and Rigel and dropped her on the floor at his feet when she tripped.
Rigel stepped aside to give her room when she fell, her wand in his hand. "Oh dear," he said softly as she clenched both of her fists and began to get to her feet. "Such a clumsy child, aren't you? My mum was like that too, though she's mostly grown out of it...oops."
He let her wand slide through his fingers and clatter loudly to the floor as she stood there facing him, her face flushed with anger and embarrassment. He turned to walk away and realised that there were several students around them, watching.
"Loved the way you put Goyle in her place," a boy only slightly shorter than Rigel laughed, falling into step with him. "She's a difficult one."
"Oh, is that who she is," Rigel mused but didn't risk a glance backwards at the witch. He couldn't help chuckling along with the kid now walking at his side.
"I'm Jonathan," the boy introduced himself. "Fourth year. Gryffindor, obviously."
"I'd never have known," Rigel smirked. "I'm Robert."
"Robert," Jonathan nodded. "What House?"
"Well," Rigel shrugged, "Slytherin."
The boy frowned. "Oh."
Rigel raised an eyebrow. "Didn't expect that? Sometimes we don't like each other, either." He interrupted as the boy was about to speak. "You know, I was in a bit of a hurry earlier, but I forgot to ask someone how to get to the Hufflepuff Common Room. I'm supposed to meet someone there."
"A special someone?" the younger boy grinned.
"Sort of," Rigel said mysteriously. "I'd be grateful if you could show me or tell me the way."
"Sure," the boy shrugged. "I'd rather do that than an Herbiology assignment. Or that awful essay we've got for DADA tomorrow."
"Right," Rigel laughed. "It won't help you for your OWLS, though."
"I have all of next year," Jonathan replied, then motioned Rigel to follow him. "Come on: I know a shortcut."
The little Gryffindor led him through the corridors and down a few flights of stairs until they were at the base of the Grand Staircase. "Down that corridor," Jonathan pointed out, is the entrance to the Hufflepuff Basement. "You must know what it looks like. You have to knock on the second barrel from the left in the rhythm of their founder's name. Oh, the middle stack of barrels. You can't miss it."
Rigel was about to ask him to say it again when the boy waved goodbye and dashed off out into the grounds. With a sigh, Rigel walked through the Entrance Hall and down toward the lower parts of the castle. He found the stack of barrels, selected the one the Gryffindor had described and knocked on it. Helga Hufflepuff.
"Fuck!" Rigel couldn't help yelping when one of the barrels shot open, spraying him head to toe in what seemed to be vinegar. He swore under his breath as he drew his wand and attempted to clean himself off as he tried to back away into the shadows.
Rigel groaned inwardly as he was approached by the very person he had wanted to see. "Hi," he sighed awkwardly.
Lyra Scamander smiled at him kindly. "Here, let me take care of that. It works best with Scourgify." She cleaned his robes easily. "And if a Hufflepuff does it," she added. "Otherwise it could take weeks to go away."
"Uh, thanks," Rigel said, still feeling embarrassed.
"Did you come here to see me?" the witch asked him, motioning him to walk with her as she headed back toward the main part of the castle.
"Yes," Rigel said simply. "I wanted to see you again, and I was an idiot not to set up a time for us to meet."
She smiled. "I knew you would come back," she told him. "I'm proud of you for finding the Common Room, though."
Rigel grinned at the praise, keeping quiet about the help he'd had. "I wish I'd had the full Hogwarts experience," he said. "I wish my sister could have it, too."
"Oh, yes, how did she like her gifts that you picked out?" Lyra asked curiously.
"She tried using the Extendable Ears on me and our mother, but I went out of the room and told her off for it," Rigel chuckled. "Though I think she also listened in on one of Dad and his brother's conversations, and her ears turned bright red. I don't know what that was about."
"Oh dear," Lyra laughed, and Rigel was thrilled at the sound. "Were you thinking of a walk around the lake, or did you have an idea of what to do?"
"I don't know," Rigel admitted, looking at her ruefully. "Sorry that I'm a bit of a mess at the moment."
The girl tilted her head to meet his gaze, then said, "Let's go to the lake. It seems to be a favourite spot for students, though it should be almost deserted right now."
Rigel agreed, and the two walked down toward the lake. "I do have to go to the library this afternoon," she told him as they found a place to sit near the shore. "Professor Granger loves to assign us essays because she hates everyone."
"Wait—who?" Rigel asked in confusion.
"Hermione Granger—you know, the girl that helped the Chosen One against Voldemort," Lyra said.
The boy jumped in shock as she spoke and breathed, "Don't say his name!"
Lyra looked up at Rigel's face. "We needn't be afraid of a name," she said softly, and Rigel shook his head.
"It's not exactly fear, though. It's honour for the power," Rigel admitted. "Anyway, I thought the Granger M—girl—worked for the Ministry. Does she do both now?"
"No," Lyra frowned at him. "She has no history of working with the Ministry—are you okay?"
"Sorry, I must have been thinking about someone else because she's not married," he said in confusion. "How strange."
"I can't imagine her settling down into marriage," Lyra shrugged. "She's a bitch."
"I see," Rigel chuckled. "So what does she teach that she likes to make so difficult?"
"Defense Against the Dark Arts," the girl sighed. "Mum says she's turned out not unlike Snape, her old Potions teacher. I don't think anyone's got any business being that sour, though."
The young man laughed. "Unrequited love can do strange things, I've been told," he said.
Lyra shook her head. "Anyway, we have to write a two to three-page essay on the effects of Dark Magic, cross-referencing certain books and spells. The more boring, the better grade I'll get. And she seems to enjoy gloomy descriptions, too."
"I can help you write it," he said to her, "if you want."
"I'm sure you have far more interesting things to do," Lyra told him, "but I would really appreciate the help."
"Of course," Rigel replied. "I mean, I have missed the whole Hogwarts experience, so I might as well see a little of what it's about."
Lyra grinned, then pointed out into the lake. "Look: there's the Squid!"
Rigel looked out over the water and saw the creature splash through the surface, then disappear beneath the waves. "I would have loved this place."
"Everyone loves Hogwarts," Lyra agreed. "I can't even begin to understand why your parents would want to homeschool you unless it was tradition?"
"Not one I'll carry on," Rigel said firmly, and Lyra nodded.
"It's nearly time for lunch," she told him. "You should come sit with me and eat."
Rigel agreed, and when it was time, the two walked into the castle and entered the Great Hall together. She couldn't help giggling at his reaction, though she slipped closer to him and grasped his hand. "Don't gawk like a First Year, Rob. I'm sure you don't want others to know."
He didn't let go of her hand as they walked to the Hufflepuff table, taking their seats as some of the other Hufflepuffs greeted Lyra. She smiled at them and introduced him to two or three before she gently hushed their inquiries, serving herself food before passing the serving spoon to Rigel.
The young man was quickly distracted by the food and didn't speak for a few minutes until he said, "Hogwarts has some very fine house elves, doesn't it?"
Lyra smiled. "The castle always looks wonderful and the food is always amazing," she said. "It's a home away from home."
A little while later, the two were finished and on their way to the library to do Lyra's essay. Rigel had reassured her that he wouldn't be missed and that he wanted to help her, so she happily allowed him to stay.
Time passed fairly quickly, and Rigel was soon reluctantly saying goodbye to the young witch as she packed up her books and papers to return to her Common Room. "Do you want me to walk with you to the gates?" she asked him.
"If you want," he replied. "Though I know a shortcut out of the castle, and I was just going to hurry off that way."
"Oh, okay," Lyra said. "Well, I guess I'll see you around, won't I?"
"I would like to see you again, yes," Rigel smiled at her, getting to his feet.
Lyra moved to get up, but accidentally bumped the table and tumbled to the floor, her things falling out of her bag. Her face burned red with embarrassment as several of the students around laughed at her misfortune.
With a single move, Rigel turned and glared at the students, hexing two or three of their mouths shut before he reached down and helped Lyra to her feet. He swished his wand and set the books and parchments flying back into her bag. "Don't mind them," he murmured to her, his hand on her back as he led her from the library.
"Thanks," she mumbled, still blushing.
They didn't say a word as he walked her back to her Common Room, the witch turning to him at the entrance. "Are you going to visit me at home this summer?" she asked him.
Rigel looked at her for a few seconds, not knowing what to say because of his family's situation. "I would love to," he replied simply. "Though it may not be easy to see you at your house because of my family. I could meet you in town, if you would like."
"Are you keeping secrets from them?" Lyra asked him in concern.
"Not really," Rigel answered.
"You're a very strange boy," she told him, and he chuckled.
"That I am," he agreed. "Shall I write you when to meet?"
Lyra tilted her head and smirked at him. "Yes," she answered. "When and where. And thanks for the lovely time."
Rigel smiled. "Thank you, Lyra," he replied, turning to leave.
She paused as the door to her Common Room swung open, then reached out and caught him by the sleeve, leaning up to kiss his cheek. "Thanks for defending me." Lyra turned and quickly disappeared into the Hufflepuff Common Room, leaving Rigel to rub his cheek and grin like an idiot.
He made his way toward the Slytherin dungeons to find his way out, looking around curiously and wondering what it would have been like to have belonged in this castle. He wasn't paying attention as he should have and his heart nearly stopped when someone grabbed him, hissing into his ear, "Lestrange!"
Rigel almost panicked, though in the next second, his captor had pushed him into a room and shut the door behind them, warding the room quickly. He turned around, half afraid to see who was there, but to his surprise,his captor was Delphi. "What are you doing here?" he said in confusion.
"I could ask the same of you," Delphi retorted. "After all, neither of us should be here."
"I'm doing what you said," Rigel couldn't help snickering. "I'm getting a girlfriend."
"Like them young, do you?" Delphi smirked. "Too much like your father, boy." Rigel opened his mouth to protest, but Delphi cut him off. "Have you noticed any changes?"
Rigel blinked. "Changes?"
Delphi huffed in impatience. "Anything different from the past?" she repeated. "Changes in history?"
"No," Rigel said, then frowned. "Well, that Granger Mudblood never became Minister...she's the DADA professor, and Lyra says she's a horrible person."
"Hmm," said Delphi, a thoughtful look on her face.
"Are you close to figuring it out?" Rigel asked her.
She looked up at him as if he'd interrupted a very important thought. "Shall I just say your father had better walk the line?" she smirked. "Now leave. I can't figure this out with you here."
Rigel rolled his eyes at her, feeling the ward crumble, and left, murmuring, "Good luck."
"Rigel Lestrange, where have you been?!"
The daydreaming young man jumped in shock and nearly tripped over the last step of the stairs. "Father! I spent the day with...a friend."
Rabastan glared at his son. "You—" he waved the boy to follow him, taking a moment to try and calm himself as he led the way to the study. "You've been gone the whole day, and no one knew where you were—look, the sun's just going down. Your mother is worried sick—didn't you even think?"
"I was perfectly safe," Rigel answered sharply. "I visited the girl at Hogwarts, and we walked around the lake, and I also helped her with a DADA essay. It was fine. I'm fine."
A laugh came from someone other than Rabastan, and Rigel looked further into the room to see Rodolphus seated on the other side of the desk. "Perfect date," he chuckled. "Helping a girl with her studies."
Rigel shrugged. "She seemed to appreciate it," he replied, deciding it was easier to ignore his father for the moment. "Besides: what did you do when you were courting Bellatrix?"
"Well," Rodolphus smirked, "I seem to remember taking her to the Dark Lord and soon going off killing and torturing. Not a perfect beginning to a lifelong relationship, but there you are."
"What about you and Mum?" Rigel asked his father.
"Those two?" Rodolphus chuckled. "All they did was shag like a couple adolescent children. They didn't even really think of marriage until Bellatrix caught them at it one day and tried to convince Nymphadora that Rabastan wasn't the best for her."
"That was only because she thought I was like you," Rabastan retorted.
"Poor Bella was right to be worried," Rodolphus mused, smirking at his brother. "I am the more loyal and tolerant of us."
"Ha!" Rabastan scoffed at him. "Perhaps you are now, but back then you were an awful man." He turned quickly, realising that his son was about to place his hand on the door handle. "Rigel, you are not getting away that easily. Come back here."
Rodolphus chuckled, "But I'm still an awful man," as Rigel turned back to them.
"Rodolphus knew I was at Hogwarts," Rigel said to his father. "Did you even ask him?"
"No..." Rabastan frowned at his brother. "He knew we were worried, though. If he knew, he should have said something."
"I said that you had probably lost track of time and for them to have faith in you," Rodolphus told his nephew. "Not enough, apparently."
Rigel sighed in annoyance. "Father. I have never gone anywhere without letting someone know at least the general area of where I'll be. If I am caught, I will stay out there, and you will hear about it in the Prophet. I would not endanger our family. Now excuse me." The boy turned and left the room without looking back.
Rabastan turned to his brother. "Why couldn't you have just told us he was meeting a girl at Hogwarts?" he demanded.
Rodolphus sighed and leaned back in his chair. "Would you have worried any less, dear brother? Would it have helped to ease Nymphadora's mind? I told you to have faith: you have to, in these matters."
"But you don't understand," Rabastan snapped. "He's our son!"
"Poor boy." Rodolphus got to his feet. "He's alive and well, and hasn't been found out. I'll see you at dinner in a little while."
Rodolphus made his way down the hall to the sitting room where Rigel was talking to his mother in a soft voice. "I'm glad you're okay," Dora said, squeezing the boy's hand. "Next time, tell us if you plan to be out all day, please."
Rigel sighed. "I didn't plan it, Mum. I just went, and it happened."
Nymphadora looked up as Rodolphus walked in, and she asked, "Do I need to go sort out my husband?"
"What do you think?" Rodolphus grunted. "Bastard hasn't changed a bit in twenty years."
The moment Nymphadora was gone, the young man glanced between Rodolphus and Andromeda. "I...saw Delphi at Hogwarts."
"Ooh!" Andromeda said in delight. "How is she?"
"Is she close to finding out how to do it?" Rodolphus asked intently, staring at the boy.
"She's getting closer, I think," Rigel answered. "She knew who I was and locked me in a room to question me. That's also why it's been so long. Anyway, she's still working on it, but she's doing well."
"Good," Rodolphus sighed in relief.
"How do you plan to go about telling your parents?" Andromeda asked Rigel.
"I was hoping you could say something to Mum, and she might tell Dad," Rigel answered. "Or," as he turned to Rodolphus "you could tell Dad, if he still wants to listen to us."
The three fell silent as Bella looked into the room. "You're back!" she yelped, running across the room and tackling her brother in a hug. "I knew they wouldn't get you!"
Rigel grinned, peeling his sister off of him. "And I saw Delphi," he told her. "She says hi, and to behave for your mother and Andromeda."
"Like she ever did," Bella scoffed. "Whatever. Is she okay?"
"She's doing great," Rigel promised her.
"Do we really want the Dark Lord back?" Bella asked, looking at the three.
Andromeda looked away from the girl, and Rigel frowned, but Rodolphus looked straight back at his niece. "The question is not whether we want him back, Belle," he said quietly. "The only proper answer is that whatever happens, we will be faithful. Do you understand?"
"Yes, Uncle Rod," she replied seriously. "It can't be all that bad, can it?"
My heart, my soul. I love Rodolphus.