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it's an uncivil war

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Little Hangleton is in Yorkshire.

Strictly speaking, it wouldn’t be Adele’s problem in any circumstance; since it’s not in the Dales, it’s the Longbottoms’ problem, or someone else’s, or not officially anyone’s from a magical standpoint (not that any of them have the full weight of their titles to back it up anyway, but that’s another matter entirely). That’s not really enough to help her stop feeling responsible, but it’ll have to do. It’s unlikely there’s anything she could have done in the first place.

But this undead bastard hurt her friend. If Adele weren’t already sure she wants nothing to do with the blood-purist movement, that would have clinched it. The real problem is that the only officially presented alternative is Dumbledore’s banner, and she doesn’t trust him as far as she could throw him - not when he’s ready to dismiss any and all Slytherins as already lost to his enemy.

Sure, some of them are, but Adele would bet that’s true of every Hogwarts House. Slytherins don’t have a monopoly on stupidity, or on blood purism. She might have gone down that path unthinkingly once, but Professor Slytherin made sure she thought better of it.

She’d keep Harry out of the fight entirely if she could, but he’d probably insist on getting involved anyway - and he is involved, has been since he was a baby, because an old man can’t leave him be for God knows what reason. She’ll just have to come up with a plan to make sure he’s ready for anything that gets thrown his way.

Aunt Fi picks her up from the train and slips them both right past her parents and into Muggle London (the last place Adele’s parents would ever look for her); once they’ve ordered dinner in a restaurant, she puts up a privacy charm and says, “So. Tell me everything.”

And Adele does, as best as she knows it. It’s partly a trade for handling the Daily Prophet, partly a trade for housing her over the summer, and partly because there’s just about no one else she’d rather plot with. She only pauses when their food is delivered, so the server doesn’t overhear anything unusual while the privacy spell is down.

When she’s done, Aunt Fi sits back in her seat and sighs. “Well. That’s a right mess you got yourself into, isn’t it?”

“It really is, and not one that’s going away any time soon. The tournament’s over, but the trouble is just beginning.”

“If you hadn’t reached that conclusion yourself, that was going to be my next point. I’d love to give your friend a safe place to stay right now, but we should wait until your parents lose their momentum about you moving out on them - I can’t see it lasting all summer, but probably most of July.”

Adele nods. “That’s fair - I let them think we weren’t talking anymore. If his friends haven’t got him out for the rest of hols by August, we can revisit it.”

“I’ll handle your parents. You’re a legal adult, you’re still staying on a family property, and really, what are they going to do? Disown you?” Aunt Fi rolls her eyes. “If they pull that card, they can’t have Neil - he’s got his own life to be getting on with.”

“I’m not so sure the Greenwood would let them get away with it if they tried. But thank you, really. I don’t… talking to them hasn’t been the same since.” She doesn’t need to say since what. They both know perfectly well.

“Of course, Adele. I promised you I’d help you with absolutely anything, and I’m not about to back down now.”

***

Harry,

Bad news first - I can’t give you refuge from your relatives yet. My parents are not pleased with my choice not to go to their house for the summer, and the last thing you need is to get caught in the middle of that. Aunt Fi thinks they’ll lose momentum before summer’s over, but they’ve been at it all week.

She doesn’t mind the idea of you staying for a bit if they stop, though, so if your other friends haven’t rescued you by August, let me know.

I’m working on useful things for you to learn in the (highly likely) event next term’s Defense professor is just as rubbish as most of the rest have been. You’ve somehow managed a decent foundation despite them, and thank God for that, but there’s no reason to pretend you won’t be in the thick of whatever’s coming down the pike.

If you’re having trouble sleeping, remember that you can use Occlumency to control your dreams - not every time, but hopefully enough to get some rest. If you really need it, I can send you some Dreamless Sleep for emergencies, but between its habit-forming nature and your relatives, it may be better not to do that often, if at all.

Hang in there,
Adele

 

Greenwood,

I hate to put you in the middle like this, but my hands are tied and everyone else I would ask to step in is in the same position I am.

I had already planned to spend the summer with the Weasleys instead of on holiday with my parents; however, shortly after I arrived at their house, their plans changed. I am still staying with them, but it’s a complicated situation, and upon arrival, Professor Dumbledore made us all promise not to tell Harry anything until he’s here himself.

I have promised not to tell Harry that we’re staying in Sirius Black’s childhood home (Harry told Ron and I before we left school that you know Sirius is innocent). I cannot be more specific than that even if I wanted to, as there’s a Fidelius Charm in play. I have promised not to tell Harry that the adults are re-forming a wartime organisation to counter Voldemort. (Mrs. Weasley is of the firm opinion that none of us count as ‘adults,’ which is going over rather like a lead balloon, especially with Fred and George - honestly, we’re already in the midst of this, and we can’t plan properly if we don’t know anything!) I have promised not to tell Harry that there’s a plan in the works to collect him from his aunt and uncle’s house the week after his birthday.

We have, in short, been backed into promising not to tell Harry anything useful. I’m not content with the platitudes and vague reassurances that leaves me able to send him, and I doubt he is either. Even Ron’s unhappy about it, and he’s not much of a writer. We’re not even supposed to hint that we may be leaving things out!

Since we can’t talk about where we’re staying, we also can’t talk about what we’re doing here, which is primarily attempting to clean the house. No one’s actively lived here except for an ancient and extremely cranky elf for nearly a full decade, and the decor was quite somber even before that. There are still blackout curtains on the ground-floor windows - surely those haven’t been truly necessary since the Blitz - and overall it wouldn’t look out of place as the Addams Family’s home. The useful DADA lessons we’ve had are getting a good workout, I can say that much.

I hope you’re having a more restful summer.

Hermione Granger

 

Granger,

Message received and understood. No wonder you didn’t Sort Slytherin - you’re practically a professional at that bit already.

What is a lead balloon, and who is the Addams family?

 

Greenwood,

A lead balloon is a metaphor for something that shouldn’t function, so named since lead is significantly heavier than air.

The Addams Family started as a series of American newspaper cartoons, and recently got a couple of film adaptations. The family cares for each other very much, but they’re very… dark. When I described it to Sirius, he said his childhood was all of the terrible bits and none of the good ones.

 

Adele,

Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you for passing Hermione’s message on. I was wondering what was going on that they weren’t saying. This summer would be so much more miserable without your help.

I already don’t sleep much, so the nightmares aren’t that big of a difference in the grand scheme of things. I did try your advice, though, and it helps sometimes.

Since Sirius and Dumbledore have some kind of rescue plan in place, I think I’m just going to wait here for it. It won’t be that long after my birthday, I’m sure, and they’d just freak out if I was suddenly in Yorkshire for no apparent reason. I appreciate the offer, though, I really do.

Too bad they can’t just have you teach DADA. You’d probably be pretty good at it (you’d probably be better at it than most of the teachers we’ve had, anyway, even if that’s a depressingly low bar).

I can survive from here to August, and then it’ll be better. I’ll see you at school.

Harry

***

And that would have been fine, if Harry hadn’t fucking well vanished from his relatives’ house on the night of his birthday.

Granger’s able to fill in some of the gaps for Adele - he’s not at Sirius Black’s house, and he’s not being held somewhere by Voldemort. The Daily Prophet is worse than useless, taking a day off from smearing Harry’s reputation to panic about the Wizarding Savior going missing… which might be more impactful if they didn’t go right back to the smear campaign.

He wasn’t taken by Death Eaters, and that’s definitely good news, but it’s not nearly enough to stop Adele from worrying. He’s a smart kid, way smarter than he gives himself credit for, but he’s frankly undertrained, and far too public of a figure to not be accounted for.

Three days in, she tries the Greenwood. Her parents don’t pay the property outside of the house much mind, so they’re unlikely to notice her Apparition there - and of course, once she’s in the woods proper, she’s perfectly safe from them. It’s the fact that she mentioned that safety to Harry that has her wondering if he fled there on his own, maybe hoping it’d provide him the same kind of shelter.

It probably would. She just has to hope it wouldn’t also hide Harry from her. She’s watched her parents walk right past her on more than one occasion, when she didn’t want to be found.

Please. He’s my friend, and I don’t want to leave him in danger. If he’s here, just - please tell me where.

The Greenwood doesn’t answer, which Adele had half expected. This was kind of a long shot.

She lets Granger know that as far as she can tell, Harry’s not in Yorkshire - it’d be so much easier to be certain if she properly held the family’s title - and with that, she’s done all she can.

As the Muggleborns have taken to saying, it sucks.

***

25 November 990

Happy birthday, Adele.

I’d planned to get you a better birthday present than ‘bought it last-minute in Hogsmeade’ for this year. Whenever I got to Diagon Alley for my school books, I was going to duck into Muggle London, go to Waterstones, and find a good art history book for you, one with a lot of pictures. It’s something you’d have a hard time finding on your own, and I know you’d appreciate it.

But, well. Clearly I never made it to London before being seriously derailed.

Instead, assuming I can find a way to actually get this letter to you, I’m going to give you your other favorite thing in the world: information. The most interesting thing I’ve learned about since getting shoved a thousand years back in time, other than half a dozen languages just to be able to talk to more than two people.

(All right, it’s more like the most horrifying thing, but someone in 1995 needs to know about this - someone who’s actually able and likely to do something with the information, since I’m more and more certain Dumbledore knows and is just sitting on it.)

It’s even related to some of the stuff you were teaching me at the end of spring term. You know how you were wondering why and how I was having Creepy Baby Voldemort dreams when he was halfway across the country and shouldn’t have been able to get into my head? I found out why, and that you were on the right track with how to disrupt them, but Mind Magic alone wouldn’t have been enough. Not when there’s literally a slice of the bastard’s soul in my head.

I promise the next letter, if there’s another one, won’t be this depressing, but this is important, especially if he’s managed to do this to someone else in the meantime, so: Today you get to learn All About Horcruxes, Why You Shouldn’t, And What To Do If Someone Did.

***

Going back to Hogwarts doesn’t really help matters.

If Umbridge does one thing very well, it’s that she reinforces Adele’s certainty that she was right not to take NEWT Defense; the impressive bit is that she does it simply by clearing her throat. Adele doesn’t object to the general notion of Dumbledore’s welcoming-feast nonsense being interrupted, but when the person doing so is stating her intent to actively place the student body in danger by leaving them even more untrained than the average Defense professor, it’s a problem.

She spends a lot of that first night weighing the pros and cons of trying to get away with stabbing a teacher whose class she’s not taking. She doesn’t make an active plan until people start coming back from Umbridge’s detentions injured, but even that active plan is only a last resort. Surely even Dumbledore can’t overlook this, Ministry-sanctioned teacher or no.

Granger finds her in the library on the first Saturday after classes start, puts up a privacy spell, and proceeds to go on a right tear about how utterly useless Umbridge is. “She has us reading from the textbook the whole time,” she says, “and for doubles, she has us reading from the textbook for two hours! It’s a rubbish book, she refuses to entertain the notion of practical demonstrations, and as far as I can tell she’s been sent here to repeat Fudge’s party line that we’re not in any danger. She takes points and hands out detentions for disagreeing with her. Even if we really weren’t in any danger, it’s my OWL year - none of us can afford to fall behind like this.”

“No, you really can’t.” Adele’s OWL year was stressful enough, with the constant rumors about Sirius Black, but at least they had the only competent Defense professor she’s seen the school hire this entire time to balance it out. “What do you say we dust off the study group? I’m not sure I could convince anyone other than you and the Weasleys to do it, but I did plan some things to teach Harry, and there’d be nothing stopping you from teaching others.”

Granger’s face falls a bit when Adele mentions Harry, but she rallies quickly enough. “That’s not a bad idea. And… what would you be wanting in trade?”

“This isn’t about trade, it’s about making sure you’re prepared. The trade is you tell me if you hear anything about Harry, and I’ll do the same if I happen to learn something.” Adele’s not exactly holding her breath on that count, but she can’t rule out the possibility.

By complete chance, Adele does learn something about Harry’s whereabouts first.

She’s up late in the common room one night when Professor Snape stalks in and sends her to bed - he’s probably right that she should, but she’s so close to finishing this stupid essay and was trying to talk through the conclusion with Professor Slytherin. She’s learned over the years that he’s fond of talking to Professor Slytherin himself, even if he only ever seems to do so when no one else is around.

The next morning, Adele stops by his office for the promised Restorative; she’s about to leave when Professor Snape says, “One more thing, Miss Greenwood.”

“Yes, sir?”

“I do not know why you involved yourself with Potter last term, nor do I plan to ask. However, since you did, you may wish to know that I confirmed his safety last night.”

Adele only doesn’t drop the Restorative on the floor because she’d already put her hand into her robe pocket. “You - how? Where is he?”

“I wasn’t given a location, only the knowledge that he’s safe.” Professor Snape says nothing about how he learned this, but Adele hadn’t really expected him to; the fact that he tried to find something out is reassurance enough. “Go to breakfast, Miss Greenwood. Even a Restorative is no fit substitute for a good meal.”

“Understood. Thank you, sir.” And she goes, already plotting how to pass the word along to Granger.

***

28 February 991

Help, I’ve appointed myself Useful Nearly-Adult to a kid who desperately needs one. Is this how you felt last year?

It’s not exactly the same. She’s seven and someone attacked her parents. But it’s similar enough that I’ve wanted the energy to write this down for days now (horcrux is gone, that is exhausting work). She needs someone to be in her corner, and - I gave her the choice, of course I gave her the choice, but so far she seems to be choosing me.

Technically my birthday is tomorrow, because of when it was when I got here. Sixteen is not nearly old enough for this.

***

The Halloween feast is unusually somber, in a way Adele thinks it could maybe stand to be a little more often now that she knows more of the war’s history.

Voldemort made a sport of attacking entire families on Halloween - and Imbolc, apparently, but she’s not sure what it was about late winter that would have appealed to him. The attack on Potter Manor is within Adele’s lifetime, if not quite within her memory. There are students in Hogwarts - Harry was only the most prominent one - who lost family in those attacks. For God’s sake, she’s found references to people calling it Atrocity Day!

It’s one thing to hear Professor Slytherin complain about magical Britain’s short memory, and quite another to see it in action for herself. The fact that people have only bothered to be solemn about the holiday because Harry’s still not accounted for only makes it worse.

The mood even persists into the Slytherin common room, possibly because the worst of the blood-purist lot don’t linger upstairs. The people lingering are mostly the ones capable of a little empathy - of considering the fact that Harry is their age and missing, or the fact that they’re possibly on the verge of being boxed into taking actions they really don’t want to take. (That doesn’t account for everyone in the common room, but she’d bet it doesn’t account for everyone in any of the four.)

Adele’s barely set up her books at her usual table when someone exclaims, “What the--” and a bright light catches her eye from above the fireplace.

Oh no. “Someone go get Professor Snape, now,” she says, throwing a Shield Charm up over the gathered students. She doesn’t know what else to do.

She wouldn’t have had time to do more than that, since no sooner is Draco on his way out of the common room than the light intensifies and something - rips? Shatters?

As the light fades, Pansy says, “I stand by that ‘what the.’ You can drop the shield now, I think.”

Adele does so, but even once she blinks away the afterimages, it takes her a bit to process what she’s seeing. The portrait’s frame is still hanging over the fireplace, though it can’t be called much of a frame anymore. The canvas is in tatters all over the common room floor, and the sofas nearest the fire.

Professor Slytherin is lying in a crumpled heap on the floor, looking rather more three-dimensional than any of them are used to.

He did say he’d been feeling unusually restless for the last week or so, but Adele doubts he expected this to be the end result.

She shakes off her shock long enough to approach and make sure he’s all right - not that she knows if she should be looking for anything other than human-standard, but it’s better than nothing. “Professor?”

He does stir briefly, but only enough to blink blearily at Adele. “Who put the painting on the floor?”

“Er. Technically I think you put yourself on the floor, sir.”

“Well, that was stupid of me,” he mumbles, then passes out again - but Professor Snape comes in and shoos everyone off to bed before Adele can do anything about that. It’s probably just as well; if Professor Slytherin needs medical attention, Professor Snape will get him to the hospital wing.

Not that she actually goes to bed. She’s far too curious about what happened to give up on finding out for the night just yet. Besides, someone’s got to clean up all those stray bits of canvas, and Adele doesn’t think that occurred to anyone else.

She knows the right spot on the dormitory stairs to hear conversations in the common room without being seen (it’s a good way to gauge whether she wants to set up shop in there, decamp to the library, or just go back to her room), and can’t help a small gasp when Professor Slytherin says he’s sitting in the common room again.

Again?

There’s only one conclusion that presents itself, as ludicrous as it is obvious: He was never really a portrait to begin with, was he?

It’s not until the weekend that Adele gets a chance to follow up with Professor Slytherin himself, and by that time, she knows her theory was right. She also doesn’t need to keep her plan to get rid of Umbridge so close at hand, though she’d still happily stab her if granted an opportunity. (She would have done that for the shoddy Defense classes alone; that Umbridge resorted to outright torture in detentions is only more reason.)

She goes looking for Professor Slytherin on Sunday, finally tracking him down on the seventh floor, of all places; she could have sworn there wasn’t anything up here, and yet there he is, readying a classroom for use. The door is propped open, but she knocks anyway.

“Adele! Come in.” Professor Slytherin smiles. “What can I do for you?”

“Well, I wasn’t sure if you’d want this or not,” she says, handing over the bag of canvas scraps she’d cleaned up on Tuesday night. “But it was your portrait, and I don’t have any use for it.”

“You never know when something like this might come in useful. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. I didn’t know there was anything up here.”

Professor Slytherin rolls his eyes. “My classroom was hiding for some reason. I still haven’t worked that one out myself. I did remove the curse from the classroom you’re familiar with, but I see no reason not to use mine again.”

“That’s fair. Maybe I should have stuck with NEWT Defense after all.”

“Adele, if there’s one student in this school that I trust to defend themselves and others in any situation, it’s you. When you noticed the lack in the teachers you were given, you sought help in remedying it.”

Adele blushes. “In fairness, three-quarters of the school couldn’t have asked you before this week. You really think I’m that good?”

“You are quite literally the only member of the student body whose progress in my subject I’m not worried about. I certainly won’t turn you away if you have the time, but I know you know what you’re doing. Besides, if you’d stayed enrolled in the class, you would have been entirely fed up with Dolores after the first week, and it’s better if you don’t kill a teacher on school grounds.”

“...Okay, that’s probably true.”

It’s not until dinner that Adele realises something: Now that he’s out of the portrait, Professor Slytherin’s facial profile is weirdly familiar. She can’t place it, though, so she stops worrying about it.

***

25 November 991

Happy birthday again. It looks like this is going to be a thing for the foreseeable future, so I might as well keep in the habit.

There are a lot of candidates for ‘most interesting thing I learned this year.’ Two of them I’m still learning about, and one of those I’m not prepared to really talk about yet. Stay tuned for next year, or maybe the year after.

This year’s winner is Magical Adoption, How It Works, And Why You Should Be Really, Really Careful If You’re Renaming Someone. (I don’t mind the new name, and the one I showed up with really should not be allowed to make its way into the historical record since that way lies temporal paradox, but I can’t lie about my own name anymore and we didn’t figure that out until after the contract had dissipated.

Sal should probably just not be allowed to write contracts on his own. I don’t plan on ever letting him live this down.)

***

Things at school return to business as usual, at least for most of November.

The study group isn’t as urgent, but Adele, Granger, and the twins still keep at it - even if the twins become suddenly less available when Professor Slytherin realises they’re just as capable in Defense as she is. Most of the student body can’t decide what to make of Professor Slytherin, though they’re generally happy about the prospect of learning something useful for a change.

She can tell the moment Professor Slytherin utterly loses his patience with the House divisions, and isn’t at all surprised to hear he chose to drive his point home via combat. It’s probably the only way some of them are ever going to learn, at this stage.

Slytherin’s united front begins to crumble after that, as it becomes safer to associate with the other Houses and declare loyalties that will matter after school. Adele’s inclined to think that’s for the best, in the long run; it’ll help break the mindset in the other Houses that Slytherins can only be bothered to look after their own.

That’s not untrue, but ‘their own’ can be more broadly defined.

The study group expands a little. Adele invites Ona to join them; Granger pulls in Lovegood; the youngest Weasley turns up one day as though she’d always been there, and no one’s fool enough to question it. Where she goes, Astoria Greengrass and Edward Black aren’t far behind. There’s a pretty steady rotation of people from all four Houses, after a while.

In January, not long after all the house-elves make their dramatic return to Hogwarts, Adele gets an invitation to drop by Professor Slytherin’s office hours - and since she’s not enrolled in NEWT Defense, she’s too intrigued not to. When she arrives, Professor Slytherin takes her into his office, waves for her to take a seat, and says, “How would you like to reclaim your family’s magical title?”

Adele’s jaw drops. “I’d love to, but why - no, the war mage thing, you have to present yourself to the seated monarch, don’t you… but you don’t need anyone else present to do that. Do you just not want to suffer alone?”

Professor Slytherin laughs. “That too, but that’s not all. The Wizengamot was never meant to have the kind of power it’s accrued, and the easiest way to dismantle that will be from the top down. Until that proves possible, it’ll be that much harder for them to ignore properly titled nobility among their ranks.”

“That’s true.” She can’t help thinking of Granger’s continued ire about the fact that Wizengamot seats come with a price tag; actually holding her family’s title might give her some leverage to put an end to the practice. “Who else are you asking?”

“Sirius Black, for one.”

Adele’s eyebrows go up, but only for a moment. “I suppose it does stand to reason that his family would’ve picked up a title at some point.”

“They didn’t pick it up; they were born to it. You’re not worried about his reputation?”

“That… came up at the end of last term. I don’t know the exact details, just that the official story isn’t the true one.”

Professor Slytherin nods. “Remus Lupin is insisting on tagging along as a ‘voice of reason,’ and working on the documentation to back up his claim. Sal’s planning to transfer his citizenship and title from Spain to the UK. Severus doesn’t have a title, but he’ll be there as well. As for students, that would be yourself, Draco, Daphne, and Blaise, if they’re all amenable.”

“Those are all solid choices.” She wouldn’t have said that about Draco at the beginning of the year, but he’s grown a lot in the last two months; now, she’d call it a safe bet that he’d want to reclaim his family’s title for the right reasons, not his father’s scheming. Daphne will appreciate having the title to fall back on while negotiating her own marriage and making sure Astoria’s not trapped. As for Blaise, he’s complained more than once about his family’s loss of title just because they immigrated and liked their new country. “And with Black and Professor Lupin along, people will be able to see this isn’t just a Slytherin thing - we’re just the only students you know well enough to make that judgement about right now.”

“Exactly. It’s easier to be sure of your motives, and to concoct a cover story for the outing.”

“Count me in. Aside from the political angle, it could be useful when the war picks up again.”

And if it happens to actually make her parents proud of her for once, that certainly won’t hurt, either. Adele wouldn’t say she’s holding her breath, but it’s harder to give up on her parents’ approval than she’d like it to be.

She’s about to leave when something hits her. “Wait. Your brother’s coming along?”

***

2 October 1,017

Setting aside for a moment the fact that you’re very likely to get all of these at once, you’ll simply have to suffer the indignity of this year’s birthday letter being written a bit early, for reasons related to this year’s most interesting revelation.

It’s another one that isn’t easy or kind, if not quite as horrifying as the first: Perhaps it’s a good thing I never met your mysterious portrait professor after all, since that was apparently myself. Is going to be? Tenses are complex enough when there’s not time travel involved. In any case, it’s the only safe means of traveling forward that we could discern. You never mentioned a connection between the portrait and myself that I can recall, but I don’t know whether that’s simple discretion on my part or a sign that something went wrong. I suppose it doesn’t matter much, in the grand scheme of things.

I cannot overstate how much I do not want to do this. On the other hand, the task of slicing Voldemort to shreds will no longer fall upon a child.

If there is one final piece of advice I can give you from this side of the circle, let it be this: You are not responsible for what was done to you as a child. You are not responsible for preventing a repeat incident. That duty fell upon the people who brought you into the world and thus took it upon themselves to care for you properly, and they failed you. They continue to fail you every time they refuse to acknowledge the delightful young woman you are.

They had best pray to whatever gods hold their devotion that I never meet them in the flesh.

***

Adele hadn’t planned on leaving the audience with the Queen with two titles instead of one, but she has no regrets. There was a need; she’s capable of filling it.

Her parents are furious, but she’d half expected that (the half that wasn’t hoping they’d be proud for a change). Aunt Fi is proud of her, and that’s the opinion that matters. Besides, now that she holds the family’s title over the land, her parents can’t do a damned thing to her. She holds all the power - she can banish them from the Dales entirely if she wants.

She’d rather not leave them homeless, but that’s on them, at this point.

And then Professor Slytherin approaches her with an invitation to help untangle a puzzle - and insists the discussion leading up to that be done on a first-name basis. “We’re both war mages, so we’re of equal rank. I’m just Nizar.”

“All right,” Adele says, trying to shake off the sudden feeling they’ve had that part of the conversation before. They haven’t. She’s pretty sure they haven’t, anyway.

In any case, she holds off on her other questions until they’re in a safe location and Nizar has had a chance to begin explaining himself. The fact that he forgot his entire childhood is frankly horrifying, and suggests far worse things than someone merely moving the painting (and she has to wonder, for a moment, about Nizar recovering his son’s body and holding a funeral out of nowhere, but that would be far too much of a distraction).

“Who were you before the adoption, then?”

Nizar passes her a photo, to get around wording difficulties in the magical adoption contract tying him to the Deslizarse family.

Adele looks at the photo, then back at Nizar, then back at the photo.

His facial profile looked weirdly familiar, once he was out of the portrait.

“Oh God.” She feels a laugh bubbling up, and she’s not sure if it’s hysterical or not. “Then who sent you - how did - oh God, how did Professor Snape take it?”

“He blew up a table,” Nizar says, and it’s close to a full minute before Adele can catch her breath again.

It’s only then that she realises she started crying, and it’s not all brought on by laughter. “Last term - you were my responsible adult and I was yours at the same time. That’s almost poetic.”

“I’d thank you for it, if I could remember any of it. Though you do have a stack of letters in the trunk that was in storage in Burgos, so it’s very possible I did.”

“But they’re not addressed to you, so you can’t say for sure?” He nods, and Adele somehow musters up a smile. “Don’t give them to me until after this mysterious meeting, or I’ll likely sidetrack everyone with all my questions.”

“You probably would. I’d be happy to answer them, provided I remember the answers, when there’s less pressing business to attend to.” Nizar looks at her for a moment. “I know I’ve just dropped a major revelation on you, especially in light of where last term took you. Would you like a hug?”

This time, Adele knows they’ve had this conversation before, but she just nods.