Disclaimer: Not mine.
Much of this chapter was written for the Hogwarts Online Forum's collaboration. It has been altered for inclusion here.
The Final Secret
Albus returned from school at the end of his sixth year with all the confidence and arrogant behaviour of every other soon to be seventh year. He had been so sure that as an adult he would have free reign to do as he pleased that he had not been in the house for more than a few hours when they sat down to tea and he informed his mother of his plans for the future.
"I am going on tour," he had said in an offhand manner.
"I see," Kendra smirked and raised an eyebrow in his direction. "And how do you plan on doing this? With whom?"
"Elphias Doge. All wizards go to the continent. My father did the same thing. You know it is…"
"I know it is done by those that can afford it," she cut him short. "You will have to be prudent this year and save your allowance. I can afford very little extra."
"There was a seventh year that said we could stay with him while in Italy," Albus said with a shrug. "If we must we can stay with him and make day trips from his home."
"You will still need a new wardrobe and transportation to say nothing about eateries that will be much more than they are here." Kendra had laid down her knife and fork and leaned back in her chair. "The Herbologist in town was looking for help. Perhaps you could see if the position is still open for the summer."
"I hardly think getting my hands dirty will bring in enough to…"
"You work or you do not go." Kendra said tersely. "Unless you think the mighty Albus Dumbledore is too good to plant, in which case you may clean the goat pen and shovel out their droppings. I am sure Aberforth could use the extra spending money."
The rest of the summer passed too quickly for Kendra and not fast enough for the boys. Albus did work for the Herbologist and Aberforth spent his time with his sister, giving Kendra a much needed break. She knew this would be the last time Albus would call this house his home. Next year he would tour the continent and not want to come back to a small dark house. He was too ambitious, she thought, too vain, too much like his father always searching for more, and not enough like his father to find satisfaction in what was in front of him.
The week before he was due back in Hogwarts she handed him his yearly spending money with the list of supplies he would need to purchase.
"You still have the crate of books you can sell," she said quietly. "They would have all been yours if your father had not done what he did, leaving me with no means of support. If you chose to sell them that is your decision."
Albus frowned and shook his head. "I will leave them here. Your will have need of them for Ariana."
"I am worried as to her," she admitted. "I have nothing to leave her but the house and a house without money to buy food…I worry as to her."
"She will be taken care of," Albus scowled. "I promised my father I would take care of her."
Kendra nodded and changed the conversation to the new catalogue she had with pages of Muggle clothing at decent prices. Suggesting that he take it and show Elphias to begin planning how much money they would need before shopping for school supplies.
The day before they were to leave for Hogwarts, Aberforthhad sat at the kitchen table, hunched over his plate, shovelling food in his mouth as his sister sat next to him, staring out the window and pouting. He would on occasion cut his eyes to her, making sure she sat still and was not twisting her hair or fidgeting, which was the first signs that her anger was bubbling over and she would soon lose control.
"How's she doing?" Albus asked as he walked into the room and poured himself a cup of tea.
"If Mum is taking you as far as Hogsmeade, what does she plan to do with her?"
Albus nodded and pulled out his watch, seeing it was time to go as the front door bell rang. "See you at school."
"Mum said you were to go with us."
"Yeah, well, this is my last year and I am going with Doge. I told her we are going to overnight in Diagon."Grinning he opened the door and stepped out with Elphias, excited to see his friend after what had seemed the longest summer of his life. Giving each other a quick hug, they finished by slapping each other's shoulders and stepped back from one another, glancing around to make sure they had gone unnoticed.
"Thought this summer would never end." Albus shoved his hands in his pockets and started down the pavement with his long legged gait. "I hate this place. Talk about back water towns."
"I've got tonnes of information on the tour. Wait until you see what I have planned."
"Got it with you?"
"Right here," Elphias said patting his breast pocket. "We can get a room at The Leaky Cauldron and go over them tonight if you want. Train does not leave until ten. Just think, in less than a year we will be in Italy, France, Russia…I wish we could just toss it all and go now."
"We should get a room in Muggle London. Never know who we may run into at the Cauldron."
"No," Albus muttered, looking at Doge from the corner of his eye. "I just can't afford the gossip right now. You know how my Mum is."
"So we'll be careful." Elphias shoved his hands in his pockets, keeping his eyes on the pavement, matching his strides to Albus. "Come on, lighten up. We can have a last night in Diagon before Headmaster Black gets his teeth unto us again."
"We have to be careful this year. That old codger will use any excuse to get us tossed out on our arses."
"Me maybe," Elphias said laughing. "Not his great star pupil Mr. Dumbledore. My Merlin man, you give him bragging rights. I bet he already has your future laid out."
Albus could not help but feel a flush of pride at Elphias' comment. The Headmaster had indeed spoken to him about his future and what further studies he might consider. An unusual thing for the average Wizard to contemplate as most professions required an apprenticeship, not formal study for which he would have to travel to either Greece or Russia.
Albus had been further confused that as a member of the Gryffindor house Headmaster Black had singled him out over the Slytherins that he preferred. It had not taken long for the Headmaster to turn the conversation to Albus' father, a known Muggle hater and Azkaban prisoner that had died rather then give in to the Ministry's pressure. Albus had recognised the honour it gave his name in one house, while in his own the name Dumbledore was still a name of fear and loathing.
"You have a bright future ahead of you young man. Yes, yes, a bright future if only you can throw off the yoke of family ties. Your mother...she is not from around here?" The Headmaster had asked as he smiled and waved Albus to a chair.
"Her father was Welsh." Was all he had offered, keeping Kendra's secret.
Albus had only looked up from under his brows, letting the question hang in the air as Headmaster Phineas Black had moved quickly to his desk and began rifling through his papers, knowing that he really was not looking for an answer and only talking to fill silence.
"Here it is. A school in Piter." He smiled widely and handed Albus the literature. "A fine city…the capital…so much to see…so much awaits you."
"Russia? Sir, my Russian is weak at best, and abyssal for study." Albus had tried to explain only to have Phineas wave his hand to silence him. Albus now remembered the feeling of pride and the worry that he could not master the language without a tutor, unwilling to admit such a thing aloud.
"I did learn Russian," he laughed and slapped Doge on the shoulder. "Even if I don't go to school there it should come in handy for our trip."
The two seventh years students made their way to the local pub, from which they flooed to The Leaky Cauldron. Once there, Albus stepped out to the back while Doge paid for a room and pocketed the key. Ginning as he joined Albus he tapped a brick wall with his wand and stood back as the stones realigned themselves to an open doorway.
"I never get tired of watching that," Albus said with a grin. "Where first?"
"We need dress robes."
"You can waste your money. I don't plan on going to any …"
"You have to," Elphias said quietly. "I hear that Black has had this planned since last year's event. Durmstrang is coming."
"I don't care if Merlin himself is there. I need to buy luggage. We won't be able to floo on tour."
"You could do something better," Doge laughed, pointing to a window display of old world Wizard's garb. "He always says he likes the old ways."
Albus lowered his chin to his chest and looked up under his brows, wondering what Headmaster Black would do if he showed up wearing flowing satin robes in blues and yellows. He started to grin and nodded his agreement then walked into the shop to find the most outlandish colours he could, while still dressing as a proper wizard.
They spent the rest of the day sauntering through the Alley, visiting shops they had not been in for a year, Doge making several purchases, Albus being selective and saving his money for the bookshop. Hearing Doge's stomach grumble Albus laughed and started toward The Leaky Cauldron where they had a late dinner, lingering over a glass of mead before they headed up to their room.
Morning came too quickly. Albus hurried through his bath, wrapped a towel around his waist and began to pull his school uniform out of his trunk as Elphias started his own daily toiletries. Muttering under his breath when someone knocked on the door, he stood and quickly slid his legs into his trousers, not taking the time to do the buttons or put on undergarments, and threw it open, ready to berate an early housekeeper.
"Mum?" he said, the air rushing out of his lungs.
"Is that how you dress to answer your door? I explicitly told you that you were not to come here," Kendra snapped as she pushed him aside and stormed into the room. "I would have come yesterday but couldn't leave your sister. Do you remember your sister? The one that is in tears because you did not so much as…"
Kendra stopped as Elphias opened the door to the loo and started to walk into the room, only a towel held in front of him to save his dignity. Spinning back toward Albus, she saw the set of his jaw and the lift of his chin that exposed a small purple mark on his throat, knowing in that moment what was happening.
"You will come home with me at once," she spat.
"No," Albus said evenly. "I…we…are taking the Hogwarts Express."
"I forbid it!"
"You are in no position to forbid anything. I am of age."
Kendra turned to the door, fumbling with the knob, unable to open it as she felt her eyes well with tears. Suddenly, Albus was behind her, his hand rested on hers as he helped her turn the rusty handle.
"I love you, Mum, but this is who I am," he whispered in her ear.
She turned and studied his face and looked over his shoulder to Elphias who stood toeing the floor, his chest flushed and a hint of colour rising up his neck.
"Albus." she sighed and laid her hand on his cheek. "Are you sure? Do you know how hard this will be? You know what will happen if…"
"Promise me…promise me…"she stammered, unable to continue.
"I promise I will write Ariana a letter. You can read it to her."
"I don't mean that."
"I know. However, it is the only thing I will promise you right now."
She had to stand on her toes to reach his neck as she threw her arms around him and hugged him as tightly as she could, feeling his arms hesitantly slide weakly around her. "I love you, Albus. No matter what happens, I love you. I just want you to be safe and this…this will make you a target…you have to know that. You have to know how this world…and the Muggle world…frowns on this sort of thing."
"More than having a sister such as Ariana? More than having a father who died in Azkaban? I am quite the master at keeping secrets. You have taught me well."
"I don't understand it," she whispered.
"There is nothing to understand. You either accept it…or I leave."
"I have to go," she said uncomfortably, unable to meet his eyes, and unable to acknowledge the young man that obviously meant more to her son that she was able to grasp.
"Should I come home for the holidays?" Albus asked, waiting for her answer, knowing it would define the rest of his life.
"Yes, of course," she said with her voice shaking, then paused and visibly stiffened her back. "Elphias? You are of course welcomed as well."
Albus held the front of his trousers closed as he leaned out of the door and watched Kendra walk down the hall, feeling relief wash over him and a sense of family and love he had never experienced before, not knowing that he would never feel it again. Turning back to Doge he let his tears fall, seeing the look of surprise and wonder on his friend's face.
That term seemed endless to Kendra, so worried was she about her eldest son and his path in life. When he first arrived home in the early summer, she had been hesitant to leave him from her sight. She did his laundry, starching and pressing his cuffs and collars, showing him how to pack them for his trip to the continent and supplied him with a money belt to hide under his clothing as well as letters of introduction to those business associates of his father that she thought may not have heard of his crimes.
She hired a carriage and told Aberforth to take them to the train. Making sure that he understood to come directly home and tell her that they had been safely delivered. As he and his friend prepared to walk out of the door, laughing at her insistence that they arrive so early for the departure, she grabbed his hand, turned it over and kissed his palm before searching his face.
"Tell me you will always be there for Ariana."
"Of course I will," he said, confused at her sudden outburst, so unusual for her. "Have I given you reason to doubt?"
"You have a hard time ahead of you. You have power in your hand, a power it will take you too long to find and I fear you will loose your way," she said softly.
"Divination and nonsense, Mother," he said with the arrogance of youth.
She closed the door behind him, seeing Ariana pulling back the sitting room curtains her face a mask of rage. Slapping the glass with her open hand she called to Aberforth, demanding that he come back, that he not leave her alone.
"Ah, child," Kendra cooed, "he is only driving the carriage. He will be back in no time."
Kendra saw the radiating light that came unbidden from Ariana's hand and saw the look of incomprehension on the child's face. She did not feel the blast of magic or her life as it fled her. She felt only the warmth of Percival's arms as they engulfed her and heard his whispered words of love in her ear.
A/N: Piter is the old name of St. Petersburg.
It would be nice to hear what you think of this story as it is a departure from what I normally do. Thanks in advance.