Disclaimer: JK Rowling created Hogwarts. I used some places, names, and ghosts from the Harry Potter series, but if you are looking for the primary characters from those stories you need to look elsewhere. Some readers of my other stories suggested I try original fiction, I see this as approximately original fiction.

I outlined this story after the 3rd original novel, but didn't write it for years so it may not reflect canon from Rowling's later novels.

A Quiet Family Dinner

"Lizzy, tell me again how Slytherin will win the quidditch cup this year," Mr. Gray requested as the deaf maid cleared plates from the table. It was a topic of endless pleasure for both father and daughter.

"Well, after Hufflepuff won the cup last year, it became evident that…" Elizabeth looked at her mother. "Sorry. I don't mean to insult Hufflepuff, but if they can win the quidditch cup then it should be easy to recruit a Slytherin team able to defeat them and win the cup."

Mrs. Gray smiled, "Actually, I don't mind hearing that at all. 'Hufflepuff won the quidditch cup last year.' 'Hufflepuff won the quidditch cup last year.' I think I could listen to you say that all day."

"Pay no attention to your mother," her father suggested with a laugh, "it will be Slytherin who wins the house cup this year."

"Yes, if Hufflepuff can win then I'll have no trouble recruiting a better team. Slytherin already has the finest keeper at Hogwarts, if I can say that without sounding immodest."

"That is certainly true," her mother admitted with a smile. Her father nodded.

"Mr. Lennox is the finest beater at the school, and Miss Applington does a credible job as his second."

"I notice you say nothing about chasers or seeker," Mrs. Gray pointed out.

Elizabeth smiled, "I have a plan for our chasers. I think Slytherin will be fine in that position. As for seeker… Well, no house has a returning seeker this year, and Slytherin has potential. Aloysius Whisp, the younger brother of our last seeker, is mad about the game."

Her father looked thoughtful, "Whisp… The broom-making family?"

"Yes, one of the finest. He does almost nothing but talk about the game and is very knowledgeable."

"I don't mean to discourage you, Lizzy," her mother interrupted, "but Hufflepuff will return most of the team which took the quidditch cup last year. Doesn't that make you at all apprehensive – the need to recruit a new team able to beat the team which took the cup?"

"Robin is a perfectly good beater, but the twins are only average as chasers. He also needs to fill both the seeker and keeper positions and I didn't see anyone of great potential at Hufflepuff for either position and I can't imagine a first year stepping in."

There was a brief pause as the next course was served. Then her father encouraged Elizabeth to continue. "But there are two other teams to consider in the equation. Won't both Ravenclaw and Gryffindor be in the position of Slytherin – attempting to recruit new teams able to take on Hufflepuff?"

"Ravenclaw," Elizabeth scoffed. "It is possible that Miss Fowler is the best chaser at Hogwarts, but one chaser does not make a team!"

"Although, at the moment, Slytherin doesn't have a single chaser," her mother reminded her.

"I've got a plan," Elizabeth reminded her mother. "I'm certain Slytherin is in a better position than Ravenclaw for a winning team. And, as for Gryffindor, those four straight years when they completely dominated quidditch play discouraged the other houses. It was hard to recruit players when you knew that Gryffindor would humiliate any team they played."

"What about their team prospects," her father asked.

"Mr. Potter is a good beater, almost as good as Mr. Lennox since his unfortunate first game—" Elizabeth admitted grudgingly.

"Is he the one who had his nose broken?" her mother asked.

"Yes, badly. Gryffindor collapsed entirely after they lost the players who had made their team so effective. I predict another year of discouragement for them, with Mr. Potter being unable to recruit a solid team."

As they ate a large raven flew in the open window and perched on the back of Mr. Gray's chair. "There is a seagull out there with a message for you," he informed the owner of the home.

"Tell him to wait."

"A seagull. Damn thing is dumber than an owl – and you have a tree full of them waiting for you as well."

Mrs. Gray had long since given up any hope of Munin becoming more temperate in his language.

"We will eat as quickly as we can," Mr. Gray promised.

"Oh, and he expects a large reward for his delivery.

Mr. Gray sighed. "Don't worry," his wife told him. "Lizzy and I will handle it." She moved her chair back from the table, "Lizzy, come with me."

The two headed for the kitchen. "We're reduced to stealing from ourselves?" Elizabeth asked. "Father should have never purchased the estate."

"Your father loves this place," her mother reminded her as they went down the steps to the kitchen. "Or perhaps he simply loves the idea of owning an estate. It is rather the same. Last week he learned that some of the tenants call him squire. Compliment him when he tells you, he says it means nothing but I know it pleased him very much."

The cook was startled to see the mistress of the house enter the kitchen. "Is anythin' wrong, m'lady?"

"Not at all Betsy, I—"

"One of them maids not serving right? Lord, with them being deaf and all I—"

"Everything is fine, but I remembered Mr. Gray expressing a desire for something special for breakfast tomorrow."

"Tell me, mum. I'll have it ready for him."

As her mother gave directions to the cook Elizabeth slipped into the cool larder. Several freshly caught trout waited a family meal on the morrow and she wrapped one up in a napkin. She managed to conceal it in the folds of her dress and joined her mother as they returned to the dining room.

"I fear Betsy will think I'm quite scatter-brained," Mrs. Gray sighed as she resumed her place at the table.

"I'm curious who will be blamed for the missing fish," Elizabeth wondered. "Will the cook blame one of the maids – or the fish monger? She might even decide someone else on the household staff nicked it. Will you use a memory charm on her?"

"Only if I must. Too many memory charms and muggles begin to worry about the gaps in their past. And the maids! I know the villagers think us very benevolent to hire deaf girls, but planting false memories if they see something is exceedingly difficult."

"But your mother manages," her father assured Elizabeth. "First in charms every year at Hogwarts."

The last course having been served, and the maid returned to the kitchen until the signal to clear the table, Mr. Gray gave a sign to the raven. A minute later a seagull landed on the table. Mr. Gray removed the message from its leg and presented the bird with the trout. The gull swallowed it whole and left a large pile of poop on the table before flying out the window.

A parade of owls followed the gull, each politely leaving its message and returning to its home. When the last of the owls departed the raven returned. He looked with distaste at the souvenir left behind by the gull. "I know I'll be blamed for that."

"Sorry, Munin," Mr. Gray apologized. "Gulls have no manners, but I suspect it was a business letter, and probably important."

Curiosity compelled the raven to remain on the back of the chair as Mr. Gray passed letters to his wife and daughter. He suspected the gull's message was bad news and left it on the bottom of the pile so that it would not interfere with any happier news.

Mr. Gray first opened the letter concerning Hogwarts business. While most of the information appeared routine, "Bad new, I'm afraid, Lizzy."

"What is it?"

"I fear your Miss Applington will not be returning to school."

"Is she all right?"

"The letter doesn't say. But her family has informed the school of the fact."

The disappointment was obvious on Miss Gray's face.

"What's the matter?" her mother asked, "Worried about the quidditch team?"

"Oh, if Mr. Bulstrode is even half as good as he boasts we should be fine. I simply hope there is nothing wrong with her."

"If I get more details I will inform you," her father assured her.

Anne Gray opened one of the notes her husband passed to her with especial delight. "It is from your brother," she told her daughter.

"What's the Evil Weasel up to?" Elizabeth inquired.

"Edward William," her mother told her firmly, "is having a wonderful time at Mr. Wells' home," Mrs. Gray read further in the letter. "There seem to be a number of students from Ravenclaw there." She turned to her daughter, "What did you say was the name of the Ravenclaw quidditch captain?"

"Fowler, Rose Fowler."

"She is among the guests. Edward William says he plans to head directly to Hogwarts from the Wells. Oh, dear. He will miss seeing my parents and Pearl."

"I hope he's made all his purchases for school," her husband said absent-mindedly as he read another business report.

"It would have been nice if the whole family could have been together for a time," she sighed. "Every time we turned around one of the children was gone somewhere. And with Basil and Pearl being with my parents, Edward William being with the Wells, and Lizzy being with Miss Cornelius the last fortnight it has been almost as if we had no children at all.

Mr. Gray laid down the letter he had been reading and looked at his wife, "And was the time before we had children really so unbearable that you couldn't stand being alone with me the last few weeks?"

"I suppose not," she laughed. "And Pearl will come home with us after we take Basil to school."

Although the news of losing one of her beaters and a friend in the fall stayed in her mind Elizabeth still found pleasure in her letters. Besides a note from her friend, Mary Cornelius, who had finished Hogwarts in the spring, there had been two notes on a subject dear to her heart. She folded them carefully for the trip to her own final year at Hogwarts.

"Damn!" Mr. Gray cursed as he finally opened the last note and read the contents.

"George," his wife chided him. "Your language."

"Bad news. The Swallow is at the mouth of the Thames, and young Ripley reports failure in the China trading."

"Failure? The voyage a total loss? Will we lose very much?"

Mr. Gray glanced briefly at the letter. "The exchange of muggle goods was normal. We will make a profit from the voyage, but without wizard goods the voyage will not show as much profit as usual. Some investors will not be happy with their return. I have a reputation to uphold."

After dinner the Grays moved to the drawing room after dinner. Anne wrote letters and Elizabeth read a book on herbology as George paced and tried to decide what to do about the China news.

George Gray, a large man, came from a family in which displays of affection had been unknown. His love for his wife had helped him overcome some of that limitation, but he remained stiff and formal with his children. He expected them to realize his love towards them by the money he spent on them. He had made his fortune through trade with both the muggle and the magic worlds. While he scorned the muggle world he had friends as well as business partners among them and had picked up more of their values than he would admit – hence his need to demonstrate his status by the purchase of an estate two years earlier.

His petite wife, Anne Gray, née Fletcher, came from an affectionate family. She needed family and friends around her for her own happiness, but her disposition assured her of a steady supply of friends. A portion of each day was spent in correspondence with her family, and with London friends during their time in the country. She had already made close acquaintances among the muggles living near the estate, and established herself as a woman with healing abilities which brought visitors to their door begging for her assistance.

Elizabeth, their oldest child, was very much her father's daughter. She had resigned herself to never being a beauty. Elizabeth was too tall to be stylish, with an athletic rather than a willowy frame. She kept her chestnut hair cut unfashionably short to stay out of her eyes while she played keeper for the Slytherin team.

Edward William, known to his sister as Evil Weasel, would begin his fourth year in Ravenclaw in less than three weeks. To his father's despair his oldest son was slight in frame, like his mother. Mr. Gray found the characteristic, so becoming of a wife, less attractive in a son. Basil, their second son, would begin Hogwarts this year. Although only ten, the ungainly boy showed signs of growing to his father's stature. It would be two more years until the youngest child of the family, Pearl, would enter Hogwarts. The little girl with dark blonde hair and blue eyes showed promise of being a great beauty some day.

Mr. Gray stopped his pacing, "I know what I need to do." His wife looked up from her letter, and his daughter from her book. "I need to go to the city. The Guild will want a report on a new dark wizard. And I want to question Ripley in greater detail, and I may need to answer to the stockholders for smaller profits this voyage."

"Can anything be done about a dark wizard in China?" his wife asked. "It will be bad for business."

"I'm hoping there is no dark wizard."

"But the letter-" Elizabeth began.

"Ripley is new. He doesn't know how to bargain. I'm hoping that T'ieh-Kuai Li was simply trying to get more favorable terms. The old beggar is crafty and Ripley may not have understood how to do business. The Fair Wind will probably return next. I'll have a better idea then."

"Should you wait until then to inform the Guild?" his wife wondered.

He shrugged, "Perhaps. I may make a laughing stock of myself if I report a dark wizard when there isn't one, but I'll face greater censure if I don't make a report and there is one."

"And if there is a dark wizard?"

"Very little we can do, I fear. Profits will be down but there will be profits."

"You wouldn't sell opium, would you?" his wife demanded.

"No dear. I promised your father I wouldn't. It also means the Chinese government gives us a favored status. And T'ieh-Kuai Li has always made it clear the Chinese wizarding community opposes the practice. But the muggle stockholders may try and force the issue - and if trade in magical goods is cut off their demands will be difficult to refuse."

"When will you leave?"

"I'll leave tomorrow morning. It may take a week before all my business is concluded."

Mrs. Gray frowned, "You won't be able to go with us to visit my parents?"

"I'm afraid not, dear. I will join you as soon as I'm able… Oh, bad news, I'm afraid. Since I leave in the morning you will need to deal with Mr. Mulliner in the afternoon."

"Coward," his wife charged in an accusing tone.

"Who is Mr. Mulliner," Elizabeth asked.

"Estate manager," Mrs. Gray explained to her daughter. "A man with talents, but without the ability to stop talking. Once his verbal claws are in you, you would gnaw off your own leg in order escape the trap."

"I thought father had suspended rents for two years, why do you need an estate manager?"

"Trust me, Lizzy," her father answered, "there is far more to running an estate than collecting rents. I don't know how the former owner could mismanage it so badly. I suspended rents so the tenants could improve their lands and houses. They were afraid I would use the increased value to raise the rents on them. Mulliner got things running as they should."

Having decided on a course of action Mr. Gray sank into his favorite chair. "There was a Board of Governors meeting while I was gone, wasn't there?" Elizabeth asked her father.

"Yes," he sighed.

"Any good news? Will Hogwarts be rid of Mrs. Pilton so we can have a real headmaster?"

Her father leaned back in the chair and stared at the ceiling. "Meetings of the Board of Governors are pointless quarrels moving nowhere. Wilson and his two toadies want to ruin the school. I have Black and Bookbinder firmly behind me. With all the chaos in the world today Hogwarts must preserve its values. Cruikshank, Finster, and O'Brian… Spineless incompetents. Sometimes they side with me, sometimes they side with Wilson. Nothing good will happen with the Board of Governors until we're rid of Wilson."

"So, Mrs. Pilton…?"

"She has accepted the offer as another year as interim head. She has now served as interim longer than the tenure of three of the shorter heads of the school."

"Did you find a new professor for potions?"

That actually brought a laugh from her father, "Yes, and no."

"I don't understand."

"The man we hired to teach potions has taught the subject before at Hogwarts."

Elizabeth's brow wrinkled in thought, "But Professor Clamp must have been there for twenty years. I thought the witch who taught it before him had died."

"She has."

"This is the wizard who taught before her?"

"I really don't know when Mr. Flamel taught potions. But he—"

"How old is he?"

"Very old indeed. Sadly, he only accepted the position for a year—"

"I hope he'll live long enough to finish the year."

"Don't worry, Lizzy, I think Mr. Flamel has any number of good years left."

"It sounds like Hogwarts will not be much different this year from last," his wife remarked.

"No. Fortunately I'm there to block Wilson's plans. Unfortunately he blocks all of mine. A strong Head would help break the impasse, but there seems no chance the Governors will find a candidate that enough of us can agree on."

"Were there any definite plans made in regard to Hanover?"

"Yet another topic without a decision, I fear. Hanover has not been persuaded to recognize Victoria when William dies. They will crown Ernest Augustus as king. I would hope the Germans would continue to be welcome at Hogwarts, but others say it represents a drain on British resources. I've heard the Hanover Wizard's Guild is divided also, with a number favoring Durmstrang. I predict that in a decade it will be rare to find a German at Hogwarts."

His wife looked up from her letter, "Do you have the second sight now?"

"Not a prophecy," he laughed. "I read the newspapers. Prussia has a lean and hungry look, we may see the Germans united in our lifetime."

Mr. and Mrs. Gray discussed plans with Elizabeth before the family retired. Mr. Gray would leave for London in the morning. Mrs. Gray and Elizabeth would take the carriage to visit Anne's parents in two days. Mr. Gray would join them at the Fletchers, when he could.

"Lizzy," her father suggested, "would you like to take the carriage to Hogwarts? You can leave from your grandparents' - ask some of your friends to travel with you, if you wish."

"But how will the two of you bring Basil?"

Her father smiled, "I don't believe your mother and I are so helpless that we won't be able to reach Hogwarts without the carriage."

"I know Vivien would be delighted. Charlotte may come, but I suspect she has already have made her travel plans… I fear Kitty would find it harder to travel to the Fletchers than Hogwarts."

"I can't tell," her mother asked, "are you saying you would like to take the carriage or that you don't because your friends can't travel with you?"

"I'd love to take the carriage. It might just be Vivien with me, however."

"You could ask Miss Honig to travel with you," her father suggested.

"She's only a third year!"

"Yes, but her father and I do a lot of business together and I would take it as a great favor if you made the gesture."

Elizabeth shrugged, "I will send an invitation to her also," she promised.

As the family discussed plans Mrs. Gray remembered something, "Dear?"


"When you are in the city, don't be too tidy."

"What do you mean?"

"I'm not certain, but I three days ago I found a room so spotless that I can't imagine any of the muggles cleaned it. I fear that Noddy or Pris might be tired of the city house - there is so little to do while we're in the country - and may be sneaking out here to clean."

With their plans set as well as possible with the uncertainly of the China news the family retired. Elizabeth placed the two notes she had received that evening with the one which had already arrived and went to bed confident that the quidditch cup would belong to Slytherin at the end of the school year.

Yes, the English were smuggling opium into China, and went to war with China when the Chinese government protested. Google "Opium Wars" for the full story.

England and Hanover shared a common ruler beginning with George I. Hanover did not recognize women in the line of succession, however, and with the death of William IV went with another son of George III rather than accepting Victoria as queen.

Prussia created a united Germany after the Franco-Prussian war.