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Unassuming Hufflepuff

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Mum turns up the day before the other schools are set to arrive, Saturday morning on 29th October. Uh doesn’t know anything about it until someone comes to fetch them from their dormitory, gives them a scrap of paper, and tells them to go to the Headmaster’s office.

Ugh. Uh would rather jump out of a tower than go up there, but it’s the Headmaster, so they go.

Harry meets them at the bottom of the stairs in front of the weird gargoyle statue. “Do you know what’s going on?”

“No idea.”

Mum is standing next to the hearth, arms folded, looking very pleased with herself. Dumbledore is twinkling like the star in the nursery rhyme, giving Uh a headache. Harry flinches a bit, as if he picks up on it, too.

Legilimency. The Headmaster wants to know if they know what Mum is up to. Uh is not impressed, but the Carnahan urge to tell the Headmaster to sod off is tempered by their mother’s presence.

“Madam Lin has asked permission to take the two of you to the Ministry today. I’m told you’ll be meeting Sirius there, Harry,” Dumbledore says. When Harry stares at him, Dumbledore seems to sigh before continuing. “I’m not certain why Mx. O’Connell’s presence is also necessary, but as it is not a school day, I see no reason to deny the request.”

“How kind of you,” Uh says, and they mostly manage to keep the sarcasm out of the words. “Hello, Mum. You could’ve warned me.”

“I did not feel the need.” Madam Lin waves her hand and turns the flames in the fireplace Floo Green without using the powder. It creeps out Western wizards, which is funny. Dumbledore simply looks fascinated. It’s legitimate, too, not his weird twinkly thing. “Come along, both of you.”

Harry shrugs. “Ministry of Magic?”

Mum nods. “Yes, Harry.”

“Great. I hate the Floo,” Harry mutters under his breath, but he steps into the fireplace and vanishes. Uh loves the Floo, because it’s one of the most interesting sensations ever, so they hurry into it and announce their intended destination with far too much glee.

When Uh arrives in the Ministry atrium, Harry is picking himself up off the floor. “I hate the bloody Floo!” he declares in a growl.

“If that’s how you come out of it, I don’t really blame you,” Uh grants him. Harry isn’t clumsy. Maybe the twisty parts don’t agree with him? Dad always says the Floo gives him vertigo…

“Ah, you’re both ready. Let’s go,” Mum says from behind them.

“When do we learn what we’re doing here?” Harry asks. Uh just follows their mum; they know from experience that they’ll find out eventually.

“Not yet, please,” Mum requests, and Harry falls silent.

They get their wands measured and tagged and proceed to the lifts. Not-a-Dog is waiting there, hands crammed into the pockets of denims instead of trousers. He probably wore them just to upset any Pure-bloods they might walk past in the Ministry.

“Hey, kiddo,” Sirius says quietly. “I’m sorry about…things.”

Harry bites his lip. “Is this progress, or is this I want to talk to my godson?”

“Bit of both. More the latter, really,” Sirius admits.

“Thanks for being honest about it, then,” Harry says, and a lot of the tension between them drops away. Uh lets out a relieved sigh, glad that the two of them managed to figure out Feelings on their own this time.

The lift takes them down, down, down—sideways for a bit—and then down some more. Mum doesn’t lead them out until the lift announces that they’re on the floor for the Department of Mysteries.

Uh tries not to light up in delight. The Department of Mysteries is one of the only places they would consider trying to work for in the Ministry. They’re the ones with all of the fascinating magical secrets that they won’t bloody share. It would really be nice to know if Uh is getting somewhere with their thoughts about how magic actually works.

Or maybe they’re about to discover that the Department is a load of bollocks. Either way, today has just officially become awesome.

“Why’re we down here?” Harry asks as they follow Sirius and Madam Lin.

“You are here to view a prophecy,” a robed and cloaked figure says. Uh glares at them for the melting-out-of-the-wall trick. British wizards are so bloody dramatic. “Your legal guardians have requested you be allowed to access this prophecy, as you and one other are the only two beings allowed to do so.”

Harry looks bewildered. “Prophecy? Okay. Uhm—why’s that? The last part, I mean.”

“Because the prophecy is about you, of course,” the possible Unspeakable replies. Uh is just making guesses, since Dramatic Cloaked Arsehole didn’t bother to introduce themself.

Uh is smiling until they see the look on Mum’s face…and that Mum is sharing that too-serious expression with Not-a-Dog. That means the prophecy Professor Snape told Mum about probably isn’t a nice one.

Dramatic Cloaked Arsehole escorts Harry into a room filled with glass globes lining endless shelves. That’s all they’re allowed to see of the room before the door is shut in their faces. Uh rolls their eyes and huffs out an annoyed sigh.

When Harry comes back, he’s holding a small cloth sack with a rounded shape sitting at the bottom of it. “You said there was a private room where I could view this thing,” Harry says to Dramatic Cloaked Arsehole. “Show me to the room, please. Also, they’re all coming with me.”

“Only you are meant to view this prophecy,” Dramatic Cloaked Arsehole declares.

Harry scowls. “It’s my prophecy and they’re my family, so I say they stay with me. Or I just drop this sack and shatter the stupid prophecy so you don’t have a copy of it anymore. I don’t really care which.”

Dramatic Cloaked Arsehole makes a grindy sort of noise. “Very well, then.” He shows them to a private room, one with cushioned chairs surrounding a table with a divot in it. “Do not let any of the others touch the prophecy globe. It is cursed to all but you, and the other of whom the prophecy speaks.”

“Cursed globe, don’t touch. Got it,” Sirius says, and then shuts the door in Dramatic Cloaked Arsehole’s face. Uh approves.

Now will someone tell me what the hell is going on?” Harry asks. Uh takes a step sideways. Harry and Patience apparently do not get on well when Hallowe’en is only two days away.

If I knew my Dad died on Hallowe’en, I’d probably be tetchy, too, Uh thinks, but doesn’t offer sympathy. Even their terrible grasp of Feelings knows that it’s the wrong time for it.

“And what’s with this legal guardians, plural?” Harry adds. “Because I heard that, and I thought we’d all agreed that I would be part of those kinds of decisions.”

“I’m sorry, kiddo. We had to push it through in a rush before anyone got any ideas.” Sirius sits down next to Harry, even though Harry is still standing. “You’re still my kid, even if you’re angry with me right now. Rightfully angry, probably. But You-Know-Who is alive, and that means the last war never bloody ended. Something could happen to me, and I won’t leave you without a family again, Harry. I won’t let anyone leave you to fend for yourself, or worse, think it a grand idea that you go back to the Dursleys.”

“You are already part of our family,” Madam Lin says to Harry, “even if it was not a legal adoption. Sirius Black arranged for Rick, Evelyn, and myself to be your legally binding guardians if he is incapacitated or killed due to You-Know-Who’s future actions, but we are also now your secondary guardians if Sirius is unavailable to act on your behalf.”

“Which means that Uh is kind of your sibling now,” Sirius adds.

Uh’s eyes widen. “What?”

Harry glances at them and grins. “Okay, surprise and me being horrified about the idea of Sirius dying aside, the expression on your face right now is hilarious. Seriously, is the idea that horrifying?”

“There are already rumors that we’re dating, Harry. If anyone finds out that you’re legally sort-of-family, those rumors are going to get creepy.”

Harry pulls a face. “Okay, yeah, good point. So, skipping that, going back to this prophecy thing. Neither of you look happy about it.”

“We were told of the prophecy by a new ally,” Mum says, which Uh automatically takes to mean Snape. Given the expression Harry develops a moment later, he’s caught onto that part, too. “It is a very unkind prophecy in regards to those born at the end of July in 1980. We are here to listen to the original to be certain we have been told the truth.”

“Do you think you were told the truth?” Harry asks curiously.

Mum tilts her head as she considers the question. “Our ally spoke the prophecy he knew of to me, and believed he was being truthful. He was not trying to hide anything regarding its words or its nature. If there is further information to be had, it is information he does not hold.”

“Okay. Good enough. Let’s hear the bad news, then.” Harry upends the bag over the table, letting the prophecy globe fall into the table divot with a loud thunk. Then he reaches out and lays his finger on the globe, which seems to be the thing’s signal to start talking.

The fact that it’s Trelawney’s ghostly green head to rise up out of the lit-up globe is just…annoying. Harry scowls, but before he can comment, ghost-Trelawney opens her mouth and starts croaking out words.

The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches. Born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies. The Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not. Either must die at the hand of the other, for neither can live while the other survives. The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies…

Harry yanks his finger away from the globe when ghost-Trelawney starts repeating herself. “I thought she was a charlatan.”

“Yes and no,” Mum answers. “Sybill Trelawney has a genuine gift for prophecy, but she does not know how to properly utilize it. She most certainly does not understand how to teach it. What you have witnessed is most often referred to as Casandra’s Fate, and it is a rare gift. You could read about it in books, but none would do the actual event justice.”

“Cassandra, more properly Κασσανδρα, was a Trojan Princess, a Greek prophetess whose prophecies were always true, but no one believed her,” Not-a-Dog says, though he looks visibly disturbed. “The bit about Cassandra’s Fate isn’t an accurate name because it got mixed up with the tale of the first Oracle of Delphi. Everyone did believe her, but she never remembered her prophecies after she spoke them. If they were naming it right, they’d call it the Oracle’s Curse, but that’s Wizarding Britain for you.”

Harry stares at Sirius. “Okay. I believe you about the swot bit, now.”

Sirius shrugs. “I took Divination, too. No talent for it, but I liked the subject enough to read more about it. It was Professor Thorn in those days, not Trelawney. Complete charlatan—I mean entirely talentless—but the library was always more useful than Thorn was, anyway.”

“Okay, so…summarizing, here,” Harry says. “Trelawney gave a prophecy that I’m assuming was meant for me, Neville, and Uh, since we’re the only Hogwarts kids born in July.”

“The only ones. No others at all?” Mum frowns. “I knew that only the three of you were born at the end of that month. I didn’t know the rest of the month was barren of other births.”

“It was the war,” Sirius says. “A lot of people were too busy fighting for their lives to have kids. It’s why Hogwarts has so few students right now. Give it another few years and that post-war population boom will be crowding the halls.”

“I hope we’ve graduated by then,” Uh mumbles, because Nope. Hogwarts already has too many people. They don’t want to deal with more of them.

“You-Know-Who picked me, which means Neville and Uh were safe after that.” Harry frowns, brow furrowing the same way it does when he’s yelling at his Arithmancy to bloody well make sense already. “Except that can’t be entirely true. Death Eaters went after Neville’s parents. Why didn’t they kill Neville when that happened?”

“Neville gave you very few details of his parents’ fate, as discussing it makes him feel the weight of failure that his grandmother expects of him. Yes, that is the reason why your grandmother despises Augusta Longbottom,” Mum says to Uh, who shudders. No wonder Neville believes he doesn’t have a spine. “Neville’s parents were excellent Aurors who fought during this isle’s most recent magical war, which he himself admitted to you,” Mum explains. “Frank and Alice Max Longbottom were friends of your parents, and of Sirius and Remus, among many others. They were attacked after your infant self ‘defeated’ You-Know-Who, early in November. At that point, it was not about prophecy. It was about revenge. The only reason Neville did not suffer their fate, or worse, is because his parents were still wisely sheltering their son within Longbottom Manor, which one does not approach without direct invitation unless one wishes to die.”

“Neville said that they were in permanent hospice care,” Harry whispers. “What did the Death Eaters do to them?”

“Cruciatus Curse,” Sirius answers in a flat voice. He isn’t looking at anyone, his jaw clenched in distress. “Not just once. Not just twice. My fucking nutter cousin tortured them with that curse until it broke their minds.”

Harry takes that in quietly before asking, “Your cousin?”

“Bellatrix Black Lestrange, spouse of Rodolphus Lestrange, sister-in-law of Rabastan Lestrange. They’re all still enjoying the hospitality of Azkaban.” Sirius swallows with a clicking sound that echoes in the small room. “Cousin Bellatrix is the second-most dangerous person on the isle of Britain—and yes, that means Madam Lin is in first place, and she’s got second. You-Know-Which-Twit is in third place compared to my cousin, and that’s saying something.”

“Yeah. It’s saying something bloody terrifying, is what.” Harry glances at Uh. “Did anyone go after your family? Your grandparents said that your whole family participated in the last war, especially after what happened to the Bones family. Did you fit the thrice-defied part, too?”

“We did,” Lin answers for Uh. “But I knew of no danger from any sort of prophecy. Even if the other person who knew the prophecy had known I was pregnant, I doubt we would have been told.”

“Too well defended,” Sirius states, his voice still flat. “If you’re right about…things.”

“Yeah, but that wouldn’t have stopped Death Eaters from finding out,” Harry says. “Right?”

Uh shakes their head. “You remember the curse I told you about?”

“The one where no one—oh.” Harry’s eyes widen. “The one where people wouldn’t or couldn’t notice you. That sounds like a safeguard more than a curse.”

“It was meant to be a safeguard, but those who used such magic should have consulted with me before doing so,” Mum says crossly. “They still live because they cast that curse out of love for Alexandra-Ji’s family, and because they agreed to lift the curse at once the moment I explained that it had become a hindrance instead of a boon.” She breathes in a slow breath and releases it, but Uh notices it doesn’t do anything to make Mum appear less upset. “There is a tag attached to that prophecy globe. I dare not get close enough to pick it up to read it, but I would like to know what it says. Would you please read it, Harry?”

“Yeah, sure. I’m kinda worried about that whole bit about You-Know-Who and us killing each other, though.”

“It does not mean that. It means one of you must kill the other.” Mum reaches out to pat Sirius’s shoulder. “Calm yourself. This room has space enough for only one of us to be this angry.”

“I have a really bad temper,” Sirius snaps back. “Someone warned James and Lily, and Frank and Alice, that they had to go into hiding because of when their kids were born. That someone had to know the entire fucking prophecy, Lin.”

“I am very much aware of this, Sirius. But you cannot lose your temper within this Ministry,” Lin warns him.

Sirius hisses out a breath. “Yeah. You’re right. But I want to break something when we get back to the manor.”

“Please make certain it is repairable.”

“Uh…” Uh’s head whips back around. Harry sounds like he’s choking, and is suddenly very pale. “This says…S.P.T. to A.P.W.B.D. Dark Lord. And there’s a question mark next to my name.”

“Sybill Patricia Trelawney to Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore. I imagine the question mark was placed there before the Dark Lord chose you as his prophesized target.” Mum presses her lips into a thin line of displeasure. “I knew I did not like that man. Now I wish to dispose of him.”

“You think it’s on purpose,” Uh says while Harry puts the tag back on the prophecy globe with a shaking hand. “You think the Headmaster…is he using Harry as bait?” They’re offended by the very idea.

“Why not?” Harry asks in a hollow voice. “I mean, Dumbledore’s been doing that this entire time. Why stop now?”

Sirius has to sit and breathe for a few minutes before he can say whatever he’s reaching for. “Lin. Is Albus using my godson as bait so that Harry can defeat the Dark Lord? Is Albus using Harry as bait so that he can defeat the Dark Lord, just like he did Grindelwald? Or is Albus using Harry as bait so that Harry’s death fulfills this stupid prophecy and somehow makes You-Know-Who vulnerable?”

“Those are very good questions,” Lin responds. Her expression and voice are both bland, hiding the depths of what is definitely a huge mountain of Mum Rage. “I would ask them of Dumbledore myself, but I know from past experience that he will not answer me. Whatever his purpose, he prefers to keep it to himself.”

Uh watches Harry swallow, his Adam’s apple bobbing up and down like he just tried to eat an entire apple at once. “What’s this power I’m supposed to have that You-Know-Who doesn’t know about? What are we going to do?”

“It could be the sacrificial magic attached to you. Lily’s…Lily’s intent to protect you,” Sirius replies. “It worked the first time. There’s no reason why it should stop working.”

“There are ways,” Lin murmurs, but she seems to be thinking. “I will do my best to discern what this prophecy refers to, Harry. In the meantime, you will do just what we have asked of you: learn.”

“Learn how to not die.” Harry swallows again. “Okay. Yeah. I’ll keep on that.”

Bloody hell, Uh thinks. What else is going to go wrong this school term?


*          *          *          *


Uh finds out what else could go wrong this school term in grand fashion, on Hallowe’en, as the Goblet of Fire starts spitting out names. They had no desire to participate in the stupid Tournament, and stayed far away from the goblet’s blue flame. That is old magic, and it does not give a blasted buggering fuck about age lines. If someone really wanted to get through that line and participate—truly, absolutely wanted it—then that age line won’t matter at all.

Of course, they can’t avoid hearing who the Triwizard Champions are going to be. It’s dead silent in the Great Hall until each name is read. Then it gets loud as the individual schools celebrate.

“Viktor Krum!” is called out, and Durmstrang loses their minds.

“Fleur Delacour!” is called, and Beauxbatons bursts into enthusiastic, polite applause. (And a few wolf whistles. Rude.)

“Alexandra O’Connell.”

Time stops. It has to have, because Uh did not hear what they thought they bloody well heard. No. Not possible. No one would even think to put Uh’s name in there as a joke. They might be noticed now, but it’s not that sort of noticing.

“Alexandra O’Connell,” Dumbledore repeats, and time restarts in abrupt, panicky fashion. “I do believe you are underage.”

Uh makes a squeaking sound in response. Their fellow Hufflepuffs are staring at them in disbelief. Uh hopes the expression on their face makes it clear to their House-mates that they did not do this. The students from the other Houses and schools are muttering in disbelief, but they see more confusion than sour faces. Most of Hogwarts doesn’t really know who Uh is, and Uh liked it that way. The other schools definitely don’t know who they are.

Then the Goblet spits out another slip of paper. Dumbledore, already distracted by Uh being named by that stupid, utterly cracked fucking excuse for a Goblet, nearly misses catching it.

“Harry Potter.”

Harry chokes on his own spit as he turns shock-pale. “Bloody what?

Dumbledore’s expression has become grave and angry. “Your name has been drawn from the Goblet of Fire,” he says, which is when the other school representatives, half the staff, students, and the Ministry representatives start arguing at full volume about how Hogwarts can’t have two Champions, what is this cheating nonsense, Beauxbatons and Durmstrang won’t participate when the contest is so blatantly rigged in Hogwarts’ favor—

“We’re underage, you stupid twit!” Uh finally yells at the Beauxbatons Headmistress, who has to be part-giant like Hagrid to be that bloody tall. “We don’t know even half of what those seventh-years know.” Okay, so Uh is lying a bit about that part, but Uh and Harry are supposed to be hapless little fourth-year students. “That means we’d die if we participated in this stupid tournament, so I really don’t see how that gives Hogwarts any advantage at all!”

Uh doesn’t realize they stood up to address the chaos around them until Susan coughs and tugs at Uh’s trousers. Oh. Oh, shit. They’ve really put their foot in it…but they’re not taking it back. Not doing it. Uh is an O’Connell, and an O’Connell doesn’t put up with this sort of complete nonsense!

Headmistress Maxime looks startled, then thoughtful. “That,” she acknowledges, “is a very good point.”

Bartemius Crouch, Head of Something-Something-Nonsense in the Ministry, is waving for the Champions to join him in the room behind the staff table with an impatient expression. “It has to be all of you. Come along. This will be discussed further in private.”

Their arse, it will be. Uh straightens their spine and gestures for Harry to stay put when he stands up to obey Crouch. No. This is not going to happen. They are not going to be sacrificed on Dumbledore’s altar for the sake of a dumb prophecy uttered by a witch who can’t even use her own sodding gift properly.

“I am the Lady Alexandria Ji Yuan O’Connell, Heir to the Carnahan Estate, long-standing ally to the Ancient House of Bones, recent ally of the Ancient and Noble House of Black. I am formally calling for a lawsuit against this school—” It is absolutely grand when a number of staff flinch in reaction to the word lawsuit, “—for the intentional endangerment of underage students who did not volunteer to participate in a contest that they are not even eligible to enter!”

A vast number of people in the Great Hall are outright gaping at them, Harry included. He really does keep forgetting that part. Uh still wants a gender-neutral title, though.

Malfoy is one of the students staring at them with his jaw hanging down in shock. Okay, so maybe being noticed is a little bit worth it just for that moment alone. Not so much for this stupid Tournament, though.

Dumbledore recovers himself first and nods, though he doesn’t acknowledge the lawsuit. Stupid of him; Uh meant every single blasted word. “Mister Crouch is still correct. The Goblet of Fire is a binding contract. This should be discussed in private. If you would both join Miss Delacour and Mister Krum…?”

Uh squeezes their eyes shut for a moment. If they go into that room, there is no coming back. One look at Harry, and Uh knows that he realizes it, too. “Come on,” they say wearily. “Let’s just get this stupidity over with.”

“You really didn’t put your name in?” Finch-Fletchley asks. He looks a bit gobsmacked, as if he never realized he wasn’t the only Hufflepuff in their House who came from Old Money.

“I’m not suicidal,” Uh retorts.

“Same,” Harry says, still far too pale. He reaches out and snags Uh’s hand in a sharp-nailed, panicked grip, but Uh is clinging back just as tightly, so fair is fair.

That really isn’t going to help the dating rumors, but right now, Uh doesn’t care. They have bigger, deadlier things to worry about.