Thank you again to my wonderful beta, Arpad Hrunta. I don't know what I would do without him!

Arpad actually made me aware of something that may offend some of my readers. As you know by now, Mathiew is gay and he is very very confortable and proud of it. That is why he has no problem using what we would call 'negative words' to describe himself. If that offends you, don't let it as it surely amuses Mathiew more than anything else... think of is as they do in Queer as Folks.

Chapter 5 - The Surprise

It was early Christmas morning and Marcus, who missed his little sister and Genna terribly, was sitting on the bench outside by the lake. Everything was calm and the only sound came from the wind through the trees.

He hated Christmas. It always reminded him of what his parents wanted him to become, especially when they entertained and he had had to behave like a small model of his father. In fact, all he ever wanted to do was stay in his room and be himself. Now that he had the choice, he just stayed away from the entire charade by remaining at school. The hard thing was to leave his sister behind.

He was still lost in his thoughts when something landed on the back of his bench. Marcus looked towards it and saw a flamboyant orange bird with a majestic crest. Marcus could not believe his eyes. He had seen pictures of such a creature before but never a real one: it was a phoenix.

"Hey, pretty, what are you doing here?" he asked gently.

Looking at him more closely, Marcus noticed how very dreadful he looked.

"You look dreadful, my sweet. Is something wrong?"

Marcus extended his arm and to his surprise, the bird climbed on it, then made his way to Marcus's shoulder.

"Listen, I do not know how to help you but Professor Noël will."

With the bird perched on his shoulder, Marcus stood up and made his way to the Care of Magical Creatures teacher's hut. He knocked on the door and Professor Noël opened it.

"Oh! Dear! Merlin!" said the Professor when he saw the phoenix on Marcus' shoulder.

"Professor, Fawkes here is in a sorry shape and I don't know how to help him," said Marcus.

"Marcus, how did you know his name?"

"I – I don't know, Professor," answered Marcus surprised.

He hadn't even realised he had said the bird's name but somehow, he just knew it.

"Well, Mr Tyler, it seems to me this phoenix has decided you are worthy of him," said Professor Noël, admiring the bird. "He would not have told you his name otherwise. And you are right; he does look dreadful. I think your phoenix is about ready to combust."

"Professor, if he chose me, it means I'm to keep him, right?" asked Marcus. "Professor, where will I put him? The dorm is not really suited for him; it's too small. And the owlery seems like an insult to me."

"Well, young man, if your friend would allow, you could keep him here," offered Professor Noël. "And I think I got what he need right in here somewhere."

Professor Noël rummaged in his cupboard and retrieved a bird perch. He then went to the kitchen and got a tin round plate, which he set below the perch. Once everything was set close to the fireplace, Fawkes flew to it and rested his head under his wing.

"Wow," said Marcus, taking a good look at the phoenix.

"Wow, indeed," agreed Professor Noël. "Come and sit, Mr Tyler. There are a few things I need to teach you about phoenixes."

ghghghghghghghghgh

"Genna! Are you listening to me at all?" asked Audrey frustrated.

Ever since they had entered the train on their way back to school after the Christmas holiday, Genna had been distracted and fretting. She had spent a great time with her dad, mostly working at the store, and talking to him about Marcus. She had greatly feared her father's rejection of the man she loved and his acceptance had opened the floodgate. Now, on the way back to St. Leandre, Genna realised her father had probably heard more about Marcus than he ever wanted to.

"Yes, I'm listening," answered Genna to her friend.

Marcus, like every Christmas before, had stayed at St. Leandre. He had said he did miss his little sister horribly but he couldn't stand playing the perfect son to impress his parents' guests. It was a relief for him to think that next year, his sister would finally get away from them and join him at school.

"Oh, yeah?! If you were listening, what was I talking about?" challenged Audrey.

"Eh... Okay, you're right, I wasn't listening. I'm sorry," apologised Genna.

"I was telling you that I have a boyfriend," said Audrey with a huge smile.

"No way!" said Genna surprised.

"Way!"

"Who? Someone I know?"

"Well, yes," answered Audrey and remained silent.

"Enough already! Spell it out! Who?"

"Stephane," answered Audrey.

"Stephane? As in Stephane Hudon? As in my cousin Stephane Hudon?"

"Yes, yes, and yes," answered Audrey, making each 'yes' a distinct answer.

Genna's cousin had graduated St. Leandre the year before. He was now working at the Ministry in the Magical Creature Department, on the unplottable reserve north of Lac St-Jean.

"How did you manage that?"

"Well, he came to St-Leon during the Christmas holiday and we got to hang out. One thing led to another and at midnight on New Year's Eve, he just happened to kiss me senseless. So we started dating."

"Wow! Who would have thought you would have ended up with my own cousin?"

"Well, you have about forty of them! So it wasn't so unexpected that I would end up with one of them, don't you think?," said Audrey.

"Come on!" exclaimed Genna. "They are all at least five years older than us except for Stephane and Maude, and most of them are married!"

"Oh yes, there is that," said Audrey, suddenly finding her nails highly interesting. "But I only needed one, didn't I?"

Genna laughed while Audrey looked up at her with a grin.

By the time they reached Leandry, Genna knew more about her cousin, including his kissing abilities, that she had ever wanted to know.

The train had barely stopped when she heard a voice yelling her name from the platform. She opened the window and looked down the platform to see Marcus frantically looking through the windows of the train.

"Over here!" she called.

A few moments later, he was running into the train and barged into her compartment. He took her in his arms and kissed her thoroughly.

"Baby, I missed you so much," he said, his head resting on the top of her head.

"Funny, you could have fooled me," said Audrey sarcastically.

"Mathiew was nice to stay with but he is a poor substitute for you," added Marcus, ignoring Audrey.

"I heard that," said Mathiew, walking into the compartment. "Happy New Year, Audrey!" he said, kissing her loudly on both cheeks. "And to you too, Genna!"

He pulled her from Marcus and kissed her also.

"Now, you big monkey, help the lady with her luggage, will you!" he ordered Marcus seriously.

He turned to Audrey and helped her with her own.

"Did anything happen while you were with your father?" asked Marcus worriedly, once they were walking behind the returning students.

"No, everything was fine. We stayed at the store mostly; then we went to see my family on my mum's side. Everything was quiet. What about here?"

"Well, I heard there will be an announcement at dinner. The teachers are all very excited, especially Professor Shield. I wonder what it is. Other than that, everything was very quiet... Headmaster Flynn did disappear for twenty four hours though. It seemed to have worried the other staff."

"I wondered if it is when he checked on me," said Genna thoughtfully. "He did come for breakfast between Christmas and New Year's Day."

"May have been," said Marcus with a shrug.

An hour later, they were all sitting in the Great Hall waiting to begin the New Year's Feast when a smiling Headmaster Flynn stood and walked to the podium.

"Dear students, Happy New Year!

"I would like to take this occasion to announce something very exciting for this semester. At the end of March, beginning of April, we will receive the visit of a renowned guest who has agreed to come and give you all lectures on his experience with Defence Against the Dark Arts. We will be receiving the visit of none other than Harry Potter and his lovely wife Ginny."

The Headmaster's words were greeted with stunned silence which suddenly turned into a deafening cacophony of comments from around the Hall.

"Did he say Ginny Potter?" asked Genna to her best friend, stunned.

Ginny Potter was by far Genna's favourite Quidditch player even if Ginny was a Chaser, not a Seeker. In fact, she had a poster of her on her dorm wall.

"I think so," answered Audrey with a grin.

"Oh-Merlin-oh-Merlin-oh-Merlin!" said Genna. "Do you think we're going to meet her?"

"Better yet," said Audrey. "Don't you have a game against Air that first weekend of April? I bet you they're still going to be here."

"What?! No! They can't see me play! I'll embarrass myself!" protested Genna.

"Don't be ridiculous!" said Audrey. "You'll dazzle them!"

When the food appeared on the table, Genna didn't know if she could swallow anything. The only thing she could think of was falling from her broom during that Quidditch game.

ghghghghghghghgh

It was early morning on the last Sunday in March when Harry and Ginny arrived in Headmaster Flynn' office at St. Leandre by Portkey. Headmaster Flynn was waiting for them with a warm smile on his face.

"I'm so glad you're finally here!" said the Headmaster. "The students are all so impatient to meet you."

"Well, we are impatient to meet them too," said Ginny, shaking his hand warmly.

"Come, come," invited the Headmaster, walking up his staircase. "Let's have tea before I show you to your quarters and you meet some of the students. Our house-elves will take care of taking your luggage to your room."

They followed the Headmaster up the stairs and found themselves in his sitting room. No sooner did they enter, the Headmaster cast privacy charms on the room.

"This room doesn't have any portrait, painting, or photo for a reason," he said seriously. "It's pretty much the only place in the entire school where there's no ears or eyes of any kind. I also took the liberty to remove the paintings from your assigned quarters. It looks pretty plain but due to the circumstances, I don't know who to trust and that includes the paintings."

Harry, who was also of an overly cautious nature, could only appreciate the Headmaster's gesture.

"As you suggested, I've asked my Head of Houses to join us for a meeting here tomorrow night after dinner," continued the Headmaster. "I trust Professors Murray, Carlisle and Noël with my life. They have been here with me for a long time.

"Professor Shield, who I've also invited, joined us three years ago. He has been getting very suspicious that something is wrong since Professor Lormier, his predecessor and friend, disappeared over the summer. I think we can trust him also."
"Headmaster, I think you'll find that to be correct," said Harry, taking the teacup the Headmaster was offering him. "It seems to me, from my experience at Hogwarts, that teachers tend to unite when circumstances are dire. It's not to say that one cannot be corrupted but I think the bond of teaching is relatively strong.

"Did any other incident happen since Christmas?"

"Well, two but I was able to deflect them. Actually, nobody but some of the paintings know about them."

"What happened?" asked Ginny.

"The first one was at the end of January. Somebody had switched Genna's toothpaste for a very poisonous substance. That worries me because boys cannot get in girls dormitories. The paintings saw the switch but didn't see who did it. Whoever she was, she was well hidden. It also makes me suspect that someone from Genna's own House may be involved as the passwords are generally well-guarded and frequently changed. And that worries me even more.

"The second incident happened at the middle of February. Somebody tampered with her broomstick, but I got to it before she did and fixed it.

"I really want to find out who's doing this to her. We're lucky these happened within the school walls. If something happens while she's outside, we may not be able to prevent it."

"Headmaster, she may not be as defenceless as she seems," said Ginny.

Harry smiled at her. She certainly knew what she was talking about, since in her sixth year, she had shown the world what she was capable of.

"Oh! She is something to behold when she duels," said the Headmaster with a smile. "But she's no match for poison, or tempered broomsticks."

"And what about the prophecies? Do they still point towards her?" asked Harry.

Harry wasn't fond of prophecies. After all, one had brought about his parents' death, and nearly his own.

"I'm afraid so," answered the Headmaster. "She and Mr Tyler are definitely getting closer every day. It brings a lot of hope among the staff. Most of them know there hasn't been cross-cultural dating in living memory, however I doubt they know there hasn't been any since the founding of the school."

Harry finished his tea and put his cup on the coffee table.

"Let me show you around. If we're lucky, we may come across them. Usually, they spend their Sunday mornings with Mr Tyler's phoenix by Professor Noël's hut."

"He's got a phoenix?" asked Harry surprised.

"Oh, yeah," answered Headmaster Flynn. "The sorry little fellow arrived on Christmas morning on the verge of combusting. It's a good think he found Marcus when he did otherwise he would have combusted outside in the cold... and who knows what would have happened to his ashes if it had been windy."

The Headmaster showed them their quarters and gave them a tour of the inside of the school. Once they were done, the Headmaster took them to the lake.

"Do you have merpeople, Headmaster?" asked Ginny, looking over the lake.

"Oh! Yes!" he answered. "But they're quite shy. They don't often venture close to the school."

Ginny pulled on Harry's sleeve to get his attention and pointed towards the ground with her chin. Harry looked in the direction she indicated and saw a young man with a phoenix on his right shoulder accompanied by a young lady with crutches.

"Ah!" said the Headmaster. "Our two youths."

Harry was marvelling at how similar to Dumbledore's phoenix the bird was when it looked in his direction. All of the sudden, he heard a beautiful music in his head, a music that made him feel happy as if he was meeting with a good friend he hadn't seen in a very long time.

"Fawkes?" asked Harry, beginning to make his way towards Marcus and Genna.

The two were also making their way in Harry's direction.

The music intensified and Harry felt such an intense happiness that he thought he would cry.

"Fawkes?" he asked again, once he was a few feet away from Marcus and Genna.

The phoenix flew from Marcus shoulder to his.

"It's you, old friend," said Harry, scratching its head affectionately. "I see that you've come a long way."

"You – you know Fawkes, sir?" asked the youth in front of him surprised.

"Oh, yes! Fawkes was Headmaster Dumbledore's phoenix," answered Harry still scratching its head. "He is the one who gave the feather core of my wand."

"Wow!" said Genna.

"So he's yours then," said Marcus sadly.

"Oh, no!" answered Harry with a smile. "Fawkes flew to you. He's yours now... or rather, you're each other's."

The bird flew back to Marcus shoulder, still singing a happy but less intense song.

"He's the one singing, isn't he?" asked Marcus with a grin.

"Yes," answered Harry. "Oh! With all this, I forgot my manners! I'm Harry Potter," he said, offering his hand.

"Nice to meet you," said Marcus, shaking his hand with a smile. "I'm Marcus Tyler and this is my girlfriend, Geneviève Hudon."

"You can call me Genna," said Genna, shaking Harry's hand.

"This is my wife, Ginny," introduced Harry.

She and the Headmaster had joined him while Marcus was making introductions.

"Nice to meet you," said Genna with a wide smile at Ginny.

"I heard you're quite the Quidditch player," said Ginny to Genna who blushed furiously. "I brought my broom. Maybe we can fly around the pitch sometimes this week."

"I would be honoured," said Genna sincerely. "I could use all the advice I can get."

"Don't sell yourself short, baby," said Marcus, putting and arm around her shoulders and looking at her fondly. "You're the best Seeker this school has seen in ages!"

Genna looked up at him with as much fondness in her eyes.

"It will be lunch soon," said the Headmaster. "Let's go inside and get ready. The Professors will be waiting to meet you in the Professor's lounge beforehand."

ghghghghghghghgh

"She did what?!" exclaimed Audrey.

Audrey and Genna were in their dorm, getting ready for lunch.

"She asked you to go and fly with her? You're kidding, right?"

"No! No!" said Genna. "Ask Marcus! He was there. Oh, and Harry Potter knows Marcus' phoenix. Apparently, it was Albus Dumbledore's phoenix and Mr Potter's wand core contains one of Fawkes' feathers."

"No way!" said Audrey visibly impressed.

"Way!" squeaked Genna. "Awesome, isn't it?"

"Remind me again why I decided to study instead of going with you on the grounds?" said Audrey envious of her friend. "You just met 'the' most known wizard in the world, who happens to know your boyfriend's phoenix, who has one of its feathers in his wand, and whose wife, who happens to be a star Quidditch player, wants to go fly with you! All that in one morning! I hate to think of what you may come up this afternoon! What, with the way this day has been going, you'll win the wizard raffle on five continents and you'll be made the saviour of the world yourself!"

"Well, let's not get over-excited," said Genna. "They are quite... regular people, you know."

"Says you!" exclaimed Audrey.

A few minutes later, they exited the Fire Common Room, and found Marcus and Mathiew waiting for them.

"Genna, Genna," said Mathiew extravagantly. "You got yourself a flying date with Ginny Potter! Oh, to be straight! I would envy you!"

"Why? Wishing you weren't gay now?" asked Audrey sarcastically.

"Why? Oh Merlin no!" answered Mathiew, pretending to be offended. "Harry Potter is such a delightful cutie! Talking about delightful cuties," he said, taking Genna arm in arm, effectively immobilising her. "Genna dear, we're friends, right?"

"Yes," answered Genna.

"And friends share things, right?" he pushed.

"Well, yes," answered Genna suspiciously.

"Then I was thinking: while you're flying around with Ginny Potter, can I have Marcus for a date? It's rather lonely with no other gay boys around here," explained Mathiew with a fake pout.

"Not a chance!" exclaimed Genna, laughing. "I love him too much to share him with anyone! Besides, I think he prefers girls... No offence, of course!"

"None taken!" answered Mathiew with a huge smile and letting go of her arm. "You know, a gay guy's got to try... However, I have got to admit, none of the girls have let me borrow their boyfriends yet."

"You're such an impossible... an impossible..." began Audrey, searching for the right word.

"Gay? Fag? Queer?" offered Mathiew amused.

"Yes! Yes! All of the above!" exclaimed Audrey.

"Oh! Audrey!" he said, taking her by the arm. "Good thing I'm gay," he said, beginning to walk towards the main part of the school. "Otherwise, I would have to date you! Speaking of which: is there a male version of you? Preferably very gay?"

Marcus, completely amused, looked at Genna and rolled his eyes.

Lunch was a euphoric affair. To everybody's surprise, Harry and Ginny mingled with the students after they were done eating. Consequently, there were still a fair amount of students sitting at the tables in the middle of the afternoon. However, by that time, the plates and food were replaced by books and quills as students did their homework while hoping to be visited by their famous guests. After getting their school bags, Marcus and Mathiew joined Genna who was waiting on Audrey to come back with her own bag.

"That cold and humidity are killing me," said Genna to her boyfriend when he sat next to her. "I think it'll snow."

"Why do you say that?" he asked with a frown. "How do you know?"

"It makes my foot hurt," she said to his ears only.

"Give it here," said Marcus, pointing at his lap. "I'll see what I can do."

Genna removed her shoe and doubtful that he could do anything more than the dozens of Healers she had seen before, put her leg on his lap. Marcus took his wand and focus stone, and began to discretely work on Genna's foot.

"What are you doing there?" asked a curious Mathiew who hadn't been privy to the exchange and who couldn't see what was happening under the table.

"Healing," answered Marcus.

To Genna's surprise, the pain in her foot was replaced by a warm glow and it gradually disappeared. After ten minutes, Marcus put his stone and wand on the table.

"Is it better now?" he asked, caressing her foot.

"Yes," answered Genna with a genuine smile. "Wow!"

"Is what better?" asked Audrey, arriving and setting Genna's bag in front of her.

"My – my foot is better," answered Genna. "Marcus, what did you do? I mean how? No Healer has been able to do this before."

"Well, unfortunately, it's temporary," said Marcus sadly. "But it should hold for a couple of hours. I sorta kinda numbed the pain."

"Well, I'll take two hours right about now!" said Genna.

"You know, if it gets to be too much sometimes, just ask me and I'll do it again. It is not really hard but I have to admit that before I got my stone, I had a mighty hard time to focus my energy right."

Genna kissed her boyfriend to thank him, and put her shoe back on. They had been doing homework for about half an hour when Ginny came by. They had been talking for a few minutes when Ginny leaned towards Genna.

"Does the flight invitation still stand? I could really do with a breath of fresh air right now."

"Oh! Sure!"

"Okay. Let me go tell Harry and get my broom and put some warmer clothes on."

"Okay. I'll wait in the Entrance Hall if I'm ready before you are."

Ginny nodded and left.

Genna began to put her books back in her backpack.

"What was that all about?" asked Audrey curious.

"She asked to go fly," answered Genna with a smile.

"Lucky you!" said Mathiew. "Wish I could fly worth a damn."

"That's okay, Mathiew," said Audrey, tapping his hand. "You still have me," she added, batting her eyelashes.

A few minutes later, Genna was sitting on her broom, waiting for Ginny in the Entrance Hall. Due to her handicap, Genna was allowed to fly from her Common Room down to the Entrance Hall when she wanted to go fly. Usually, Audrey would simply bring her broom along but today, Audrey wasn't coming with her.

Ginny arrived a few moments after her.

"Ready?" she asked.

Genna nodded with a big smile.

A few minutes later, they were flying over the grounds and Genna was showing Ginny the numerous lakes on the property.

"We have a beaver on this lake," explained Genna, pointing at a lake further away. "That little thing is very determined. It tried three times to settle on the lake in front of the school and it took the Headmaster quite a while to find the right repulsion spell."

"Why would it have been a problem?" asked Ginny.

Genna looked at her puzzled and then it occurred to her.
"That's right! You don't have beavers in England! Well, beavers like to build dams, very sturdy ones at that. If it had taken residence on the school lake, it would have flooded the basement and the Water House dorms."

"Oh!" said Ginny. "That wouldn't be good."

"Not really," agreed Genna with an amused grin.

"Genna, where did the avalanche happen?"

"Oh! You heard about that?" asked Genna surprised.

"Of course we heard," answered Ginny. "It's not every day that somebody can Apparate within school grounds, you know."

"That was Marcus' doing," said Genna with a smile.

"You remind me of me at your age," said Ginny, smiling also. "You love him, don't you?"

"Yes, I do," answered Genna, directing their flight towards the cliff. "I think he loves me too. And honestly, being in my situation is somewhat of a turn off for most guys."

"Your handicap, you mean?"

"Yeah," answered Genna. "Guys always seemed to be repulsed by it. But not Marcus," she added with a smile. "Marcus just... just loves me, I think."

"Good!" said Ginny approvingly.

They flew over the cliff and Genna pointed to where the accident happened. Everything was covered in snow.

"Have you ever seen Red Nose Deer?" suddenly asked Genna.

"They – they exist?!" asked Ginny surprised.

"Yes!" answered Genna. "Come! Let me show you."

ghghghghghghghgh

"Come on in, Professor Shield. We have been waiting for you," said Headmaster Flynn jovially, looking at his newest staff member walking into his private conference room.

Surrounded by Professors Noël, Murray, Carlisle, LaFeuille, and the Potters, he looked at Professor Shield, hoping he had judged the younger man after their discussion about the disappearing retired teachers.

"Take a seat, Professor," he invited with a smile.

Professor Shield took the empty seat on Headmaster's Flynn left, sitting across from Harry and Ginny.

"My dear friend, you must be wondering why I have asked you to come," said the Headmaster to Professor Shield.

"Well... yes, I am," answered Professor Shield slowly.

"Do you remember the conversation we had the other day regarding Professor Lormier?"

Professor Shield raised an eyebrow for response.

"Well, I think it's time for you to know we are worried too."

Professor Shield eyebrow rose higher.

"We think the disappearances are not coincidences and someone is disposing of our retired Professors on purpose."

A flash of worry crossed the Professor's eyes.

"What do you mean?" he asked the Headmaster hesitantly.

"Cautious, I see," said the Headmaster with a smile. "And rightly so. I hope you will not mind that we are, too," he added, turning to look at Harry.

Harry who had been keeping his hand under the table for the entire conversation, brought them on the table. He was holding what looked like a small sneakoscope and put it on the table. He looked up at the Headmaster and nodded.

"See, Professor," began the Headmaster, "we weren't sure if you were sincerely worried about the disappearance or if you were here to uncover what we know. Mr Potter's brother-in-law provided us with this modified sneakoscope which can detect deception. We're happy to say, there is no deception in this room tonight," he added with a grateful smile.

Professor Shield was a little annoyed he had been scrutinised so, but he understood the need as he would have probably done the same.

"Back to our disappearances then," said the Headmaster, smiling at the rest of his assembled guests. "Professor," he said to Professor Shield. "We believe our society is divided by a vampire..."

And Headmaster Flynn repeated the story he had told a few months earlier when he had been in England, however he did not mention the second prophecy.

"So, you think Professor Lormier may be the one who gave up the prophecy?" asked Professor Shield.
"That or he was captured for more information," answered the Headmaster. "Remember that three of our retired colleagues disappeared in the last few years. It could have been any one of them."

Professor Shield and the other guests remained silent for a while, thinking about what Headmaster Flynn had just said. Except for Professor Shield, they had all heard the story before but hearing it again did not make it any less sobering.

"So, what's the plan?" asked Professor Shield. "How do we even fight vampires? I'm the Defence teacher and even I don't know," he said frustrated. "Quite a teacher I make!"

"It's not your fault, Professor," said Professor Carlisle. "This vampire has made darn sure we wouldn't know how."

"That's true," said Headmaster Flynn. "And that's why we have visitors from Britain with us right now. Mr Potter, has Mrs Weasley found anything?"

"Yes, she did," answered Harry with a smile. "Vampires are considered non-magical non-human creatures by our Ministry. They live mostly in Germany and Romania but they can also be found in England from time to time, and most probably elsewhere as well.

"They're technically immortal as they do not die of old age but they can be killed. They can be killed with fire, beheading – obviously – and a wood stake through the heart. Contrarily to popular belief, the sun will make them sick and weak but won't kill them immediately. They will first show signs of first, second and third degree burns before the sun becomes fatal to them.

"Now, most vampires are not dangerous and live pretty regular lives," continued Harry. "Vampires are made by another vampire who drains the person's blood and feed him his own blood. If the person survives the transformation, the person becomes a vampire."

"So, it is not true that if you get bitten by a vampire you automatically become one?" asked Professor Noël.

"Correct," answered Harry. "To become a vampire, you basically need to be near death because of loss of blood and be fed vampire's blood."

"But if the trade-off between being immortal is to have an allergy to the sun, why aren't they more of them?" asked Professor Murray.

"Because of the blood," answered Harry. "In order to survive, most vampires need over five hundred millilitre of blood a day. Since an adult human, if he wants to remain healthy, can spare about that amount every two months or so, a vampire needs a vast range of people to feed from if he doesn't want his donors to die. Of course, some people are not stopped by the amount of blood it takes to stay alive and do not mind becoming vampires, others cannot bear the fact they could kill people while feeding," answered Harry.

"What type of powers do they have?" asked Professor Murray.

"Most of them do not have real powers to speak of. They are just normal people, if you will," answered Ginny, picking up the tale. "But there are others, in recorded history, who are incredibly powerful. It seems power is related to the age of their blood. In other words, a vampire is less powerful than the vampire who transformed him, who is less powerful than the vampire who transformed him beforehand, as so on and so forth back to the original vampire, who is the most powerful of all."

"It is also believed that vampires are very fast and very strong," added Harry.

"The original? Count Dracula?" asked Professor Shield.

"It is believed to be the case," answered Ginny. "Count Dracula was extremely powerful. He was an animagus and a wizard, and he could easily mind control people. That was how he created his army and found all the blood he needed to survive.

"Count Dracula only made four 'children', one of whom is known to have died, or rather was killed," continued Ginny. "Those 'children' were also very powerful, but not as much as Count Dracula. In turn, they made children, who made more children, and more children, each generation weaker than the preceding one. But vampires from the first seven generations are powerful in and of themselves and could do some serious damage if they have significant mind power, which most of them do. Most of those old vampires generally do not want to mingle with the population and stay hidden in Romania and surrounding countries.

"The eighth generation or younger are not so much a threat from what we found," continued Ginny, "and they're the ones we're most likely to see."

"How many vampires are they?" asked Professor Murray, visibly divided between being horrified and fascinated.

"We don't know," answered Harry. "The vampire community doesn't seem to know either, or if they do, they're not telling."

"Is Count Dracula still alive?" asked Professor Lafeuille.

"We think he is," answered Harry. "But nobody has seen him in ages."

"How did he do it? How did he become a vampire?" asked Professor Carlisle.

"We don't really know but it's speculated that he was born that way," answered Harry. "Legends also say he would have found totally by accident how to create other vampires. According to what we found, he had taken too much blood from his lover and in order to save her, fed her of his own blood, effectively creating her vampiric state.

"Vampire blood changes your genetics. That's why it cannot be cured."

Everybody remained silent, absorbing the information.

"So," said the Headmaster slowly, "the vampire we have has to be either very powerful or very charismatic, or both."

"Yes," said Harry sadly, as he knew very well how very dangerous charismatic and evil leaders could be.

"Any ideas?" asked the Headmaster suddenly, to his gathered friends.

"Headmaster, I think this vampire might not only be charismatic but also powerful," said Professor Carlisle slowly, as if trying to work something out in her mind.

"Why, Reina?"

"Because he has to deal with wizards and wizards have powers of their own."

"Headmaster, if you don't mind me asking, how did the previous Headmaster find out about this vampire?" asked Harry.

"The vampire made a horrible mistake by trying to control my predecessor's good friend who was also a very powerful wizard. He was able to resist long enough to let my predecessor know why we had such a divide in our society," answered the Headmaster seriously. "This friend had the chance to learn a lot before he could escape but we still are lacking very important pieces of information."

"What about a spy?" asked Harry.

"We tried but failed. This vampire, who is, by the way, a woman, is just too suspicious. We know she controls some vampires and quite a few wizards but we don't really know how and how many."

"Headmaster," said Ginny slowly. "There is a belief that the blood of the very old vampires has controlling powers, like an Imperious Curse of sorts. Now, this was never confirmed or denied but some of our eccentric wizards believe so."

"Eccentric? What do you mean?" asked Professor Carlisle.

"Well..."

Ginny turned and looked at Harry somewhat uncomfortable.

"Some of our wizards believe in rather strange things," she explained slowly. "They're usually not taken seriously however, every once in a while, they're right. That's how Harry first found out about the Deathly Hallows."

"Where would this vampire be coming from?" asked Professor Shield to no one in particular. "And what does she want?"

"From my experience, evil people want to control the world," said Harry sarcastically.

"Yes but don't they also want to get all the glory of it?" countered Professor Shield. "If they do, why is she still behind the scenes?"

"To play the hero, perhaps," suggested Professor Noël.

"I think Pierre may be on to something," said the Headmaster. "Maybe she was dividing our society so she could be the hero if she reunites it. And what may have stopped her in the past was her lack of readiness to take control but now, it could be the prophecy."

"Headmaster, is it possible there's another prophecy? One we don't know about that she may have?" asked Harry, careful not to give away that the Headmaster already knew of two prophecies.

"Hum!" said the Headmaster, inclining his head in respect towards Harry.

The idea was good, the Headmaster had to admit. And it would explain a lot of things, especially why she was not out in the open.

"Now, what are we going to do with Genna?" asked Professor Noël. "She has had more attempts made on her life this year than most wizards would get in a lifetime, and while granted she's the best duellist around, she still needs more training, training that we cannot give her."

"What about the Aurors?" asked Professor Shield. "We could ask them."

"But we can't trust them," said the Headmaster sadly. "We do not know who at the Ministry, we can trust. And while I'm willing to trust some of them with certain information or tasks, I'm not willing to trust anyone at the Ministry with Miss Hudon's life."

"What about if we were to train her in Britain?" asked Harry.

"What do you have in mind, Mr Potter?" asked the Headmaster suddenly interested.

"Well, we could offer her an internship and we could train her."

"Wouldn't only sending her be rather suspicious?" asked Professor Carlisle.

"What about four internships? One per House?" proposed Ginny. "I'm pretty sure we can manage that."

"Excellent idea, Mrs Potter," said the Headmaster. "That way, we can send Mr Tyler also."

"We need to think this very carefully," said Professor Murray. "The last thing we want is for someone to find out what we are trying to do..."

"And for us to send an untrustworthy student over there," added Professor Carlisle.

"Well, we know Genna would get an internship in Defence but what about the others? And how do we make it look convincing?" asked Professor Shield.

"Oh! Mr Tyler would certainly be well served with an internship in Healing or something along those lines," said Headmaster Flynn with humour. "He is, after all, almost as good as Nurse Feelgood."

"What about the other internships?" asked Professor Shield again.

"Well, I think we can easily arrange for Genna and Marcus," said Harry with a smile. "For the other two, I think we could definitely get someone with Herbology. We have a good friend who will be going all over Britain this summer to collect specimens for his new greenhouse at Hogwarts. I'm sure he could use the help. For the last one, it's a little harder."

"What about the Minister's office?" asked Ginny. "Percy is always complaining he needs an assistant."

"I hadn't thought of him," said Harry with an amused chuckle. "Whoever gets selected will definitely need to be efficient and, if we don't know where their loyalty lies, they would be rather well-monitored."

They discussed further how to make it look like a genuine contest and it was rather late when the details were mostly worked out.

"Are you sure Genna and Marcus will apply?" asked Harry.

"I'm sure Marcus will not pass on the chance," said the Headmaster. "But Genna, I'm not sure. Because of her disability, she may not see this as something to pursue. Besides, I think her dreams and aspirations are to play Quidditch."

"Oh! Leave her to me," said Ginny with a huge smile. "I'll make it convincing enough for her to apply."