“Ah, yes, this is nice and cozy.”
Harry’s been shoved into enough cupboards in his time (well, mostly the one cupboard) that it doesn’t even occur to him to protest, like it maybe should have when Skeeter declared she was getting an interview from him. She didn’t ask, but that didn’t surprise Harry; adults rarely ask if he wants to do anything in the first place.
Anyway, he allows Skeeter to shove him into a broom cupboard and close the door, but she doesn’t get any further than pulling out and lighting some candles before someone knocks on the door.
That’s weird. What’s weirder is that the knocking doesn’t let up. Skeeter gets out a notepad and a quill and sits ready to start her interview for about a minute, before she finally gives up and opens the door.
There’s another student out there - a girl, Slytherin, older than Harry. Maybe the twins’ year?
“Did you need something?” Skeeter says, sneering. The girl pales a little, but she stands her ground.
“I was just wondering why you dragged Potter into a broom cupboard, is all.”
“He’s giving me an interview. So if you’ll excuse me--”
“In a closet? Did he consent to be interviewed?” Slytherin or not, this girl might be Harry’s new hero; he catches her eye and shakes his head no while Skeeter’s distracted with sputtering. “And even if he did, why not use an empty classroom? God knows there are plenty of them in this hallway alone.”
“Well,” Skeeter huffs. “If you know so much, perhaps you’d like to give me a statement instead?”
“No, thank you. I’d like you to stop sitting in a closet with an underage student who didn’t agree to be here with you.”
Skeeter gives up, dousing and packing up her candles with a wave of her wand before stalking out of the cupboard. Harry waits until she’s gone before he gets up; the girl casts a spell he doesn’t recognise, muffling the sound around them.
“Did she hurt you?” she asks.
“What? No, I - she just said she wanted a statement for the paper. She didn’t even get that before you got there.”
The girl sighs. “She’s not going to give up, either. She’s too much of a tabloid journalist for that. Is there anyone of age you can ask to stick with you when she circles back around?”
Harry just kind of shrugs helplessly. In Hogwarts, there isn’t really anyone - maybe if Professor Lupin were still here, but he’s not. Sirius can’t exactly turn up to advocate for him without being arrested on sight. For the purposes of this conversation, the Dursleys might as well not exist.
The silence stretches out for several tense moments before she sighs again, heavier this time. “Oh, what the hell. My birthday’s in a few weeks, I’m nearly old enough to count. Would you like me to help you?”
Harry blinks. “You - what? Why?”
“Because if anyone else had actually looked at your face the night they announced the Champions, they’d know you didn’t put your own name in. Besides, she dragged you into a broom closet to interview you without your consent. If no one else is willing to stand up for you, I might as well do it.”
Something about the way she keeps circling back to the cupboard sits funny with Harry, but he can’t put his finger on it. Still, nobody offers him something for nothing. “What’s the catch?”
“Just… try not to die in this stupid tournament, if there’s really no way to get you out of it.”
“Okay. I mean, that was my plan anyway.” Harry hesitates. “I don’t - I don’t know who you are, though.”
“...Right. That would have been helpful. Adele Greenwood.”
“I - well, you know who I am.” The entire school knows who Harry is, much as he wishes they didn’t, most days. “And thanks. For helping.”
Greenwood smiles a little. “I’m pretty sure knowing your name and knowing who you are are two different things, but you’re welcome.”
Potter’s name comes out of the Goblet of Fire after three Triwizard Champions have already been named, and Adele immediately knows this entire tournament is buggered before it can even begin.
She was glad for the age restriction, not least because it meant she had a valid reason not to put herself forward - not that she couldn’t handle anything the tournament might throw at its participants, but she’d rather not advertise like that. The fact that someone tried to circumvent it just to give that poor kid more trouble than he already attracts is… well, it’s stupid, and she’d like a word with whoever thought that was a good idea.
She doesn’t know why everyone thinks Potter is the one who cheated, either. The look on his face when his name was called was dread and resignation - not the reaction of someone who actually wants to be part of a potentially deadly tournament where no one’s officially allowed to tell you anything until you’re doing it. It is the reaction of someone who thought he’d have a year off from being the center of everyone’s attention.
Adele expects that to be the end of her thoughts on the matter. But then she has a free period while the wand thing is happening, and sees Rita Skeeter shove Potter into a broom cupboard, enter it herself, and shut the door behind her.
Alarms go off in her head. She’s moving before she realises it (it’s her responsibility to make sure nothing like this ever happens again), but no one else seems interested in figuring out why a reporter just shoved an underage kid into a closet. She knocks on the door.
There’s no answer, not right away. Adele only hesitates for a second before she decides it’s time to be a complete Hufflepuff about this. She can’t let the matter drop until she knows he’s safe.
Potter looks surprised that anyone cared to step in on his behalf, which is just depressing, but also pretty normal in Adele’s experience. He more or less confirms that by shrugging when she asks if there’s an adult he can keep around for when - not if - Skeeter circles back around to try hitting up the Boy Who Lived for an interview. At the very least, he should feel like he can turn to Professor McGonagall for that as his Head of House; she wonders what breach of trust happened there.
Her parents would tell her to back off and leave it at that, that it’s none of her business. Her parents would have told her it wasn’t her business in the first place. Her parents would tell her not to associate with a Half-blood troublemaker.
Whose life will you be living, Adele Greenwood? Yours, or theirs?
She sighs, and offers Potter a choice. From the way he reacts, she may be the first person older than him to do that in far too long (also pretty normal, in her experience).
After he accepts, Adele drops the privacy charm and continues on to the library like nothing happened. Once she gets there, she starts reworking her extra study schedule to squeeze in as much as she can about the Triwizard Tournament, and spare moments to make sure Potter actually gets in there with some useful skills under his belt.
She’s still no good at speaking up for herself, not after the disaster that happened when she was ten, but she can damned well speak up for someone else.
Harry Potter, the youngest and easily most famous Triwizard Champion, refused an interview. Next time, dear readers!
Harry rolls his eyes and puts the newspaper aside. He doesn’t want there to be a next time, even if Skeeter probably will try again. Also he’s pretty sure Viktor Krum would have a thing or two to say about that ‘easily most famous’ bit. Harry might have the edge within Britain, but Krum’s the one who was just in the Quidditch World Cup.
Greenwood waylays him at lunch to ask when his free periods are, and then teaches him the privacy spell she used when she rescued him from that would-be interview. “Use it everywhere,” she says. “I don’t care how alone you think you are. Skeeter has a way of getting scoops no one should logically have been around for. I don’t trust her as far as I could throw her.”
“I - all right.” Not that Harry has many people to talk to right now, especially since Ron’s being a prat about the Goblet. Still, he’s not going to deny its usefulness.
“Let’s meet Friday afternoon. You can bring your friends, if you want. I’m trying to find - well, frankly, a way to get you out of this stupid tournament, but failing that, as many useful ways to keep yourself alive as I can.”
Harry’s breath catches in his throat. He really doesn’t understand why Greenwood’s going to this much trouble for him when they barely know each other. “You think you can get me out?”
“I’m not making any promises, but there’s got to be some kind of loophole for people who were entered against their will. I honestly don’t know why everyone else is taking it for granted that there isn’t one.” Greenwood sighs. “The Triwizard Tournament is ancient - possibly older than Hogwarts - and would’ve been a great way to dispose of a political enemy if there’s no restrictions on entering someone else.”
“But there’s no sense in not preparing for that loophole not being there,” Harry says, trying not to sound as glum as he feels. There probably isn’t a loophole, not the way his luck goes. “Wait, isn’t NEWT DADA on Friday afternoons?”
“I’ve been getting better and more effective Defense lessons from one of the portraits in our common room since my first year. Well, Professor Lupin might’ve been about equally effective. Considering the stories I’ve already heard about this year, I have no regrets in not sticking to the official class.”
That’s… that’s remarkably sensible, really. Harry kind of wishes he wasn’t obligated to deal with Professor Moody at this point.
“It’ll probably just be me,” he says. “Maybe Hermione, if I can drag her out of the library. Ron’s… being stupid about the whole thing.”
“Sometimes people are like that. Either he’ll get over it, or he won’t.”
“Thanks, I think.” She probably meant it to be comforting advice, and maybe it even would be, if Ron’s jealousy hadn’t picked the absolute worst time to rear its ugly head.
The twins flank him at dinner. “Interesting lunchtime kidnapping you had,” the one to Harry’s left says (he’s pretty sure it’s Fred).
Harry shrugs. “Yeah, well. She offered to help, so.”
George nods sagely. “You could do a lot worse. She can be bloody terrifying. Definitely better to have Greenwood and her knife collection on your side than against it.”
“Knife collection?” Somehow he doesn’t squeak that.
“She put one in Lockhart’s shoulder, round about Halloween that year,” Fred says.
“And told him to keep his distance if he didn’t want a matching set. Somehow I don’t think she got much detention for it.”
“Right,” Harry says, feeling a bit faint. He’s definitely inclined to agree that someone with a knife collection is a better ally than enemy, but he’s also wondering what he got himself into.
Written information about the Triwizard Tournament is dry as dust.
It’s also mostly in dead languages, but for Adele that’s not a problem. She can read Latin - both the regular version and the school-spells version, which she’s more and more certain is a magical dialect that everyone’s forgotten isn’t the original language. It’s a matter of not falling asleep over the texts. At least no one’s looking at her work closely enough to notice the abrupt new rabbit hole; all of Slytherin is used to her weird academic fixations by now.
Potter’s first question on Friday manages to surprise her. “Fred and George said you stabbed Lockhart.”
“I hope you’re not going to say he didn’t deserve it,” she says. She had been sorely tempted before he got overly familiar, just for his blatant lack of qualifications.
“Oh, no, I’m sure he absolutely did. I just - I guess I was wondering why you stabbed him instead of hexing him.”
“He got into my personal space. At that point, it was a reflex.”
Adele expects a quip about appropriate social distance, or something. What she gets is another surprise: Potter just looks at her for several moments, then says, “Did someone hurt you?”
“He’s no longer a concern,” she says, once she finds her voice again. They both know it means ‘yes.’ “Anyway, about the tournament. I’m still working my way through the old rules - I don’t think they’ve changed much, but it’s better to be certain - and in the meantime, we have to figure out what the first task even is if you want half a shot at preparing for it.”
“Easier said than done when none of the teachers are allowed to tell me anything about it.”
“None of the teachers. That leaves an entire school and bits of two others to pick up gossip from. Have you heard anything unusual lately?”
“Well, people accusing me of seeking attention or causing trouble isn’t exactly unusual.” Potter sighs and leaves it at that for a while. “Oh, but Fred and George also said their brother Charlie wrote and said he’s going to be here for a while.”
“Charlie, Charlie… he was Gryffindor’s Seeker my first two years of school, but we didn’t really talk. All I know about his career is he left the country for it.”
“Yeah, Romania. He works at a--” Potter breaks off abruptly, and his face goes ashen. “At a dragon preserve. It’s dragons.”
Oh God, the people running this tournament are even more insane than Adele thought.
They spend the rest of Friday afternoon trying to think of literally anything the first task might involve but dragons, but Harry thinks it’s a lost cause from early on in the brainstorming session. If it were most other types of magical creature, they could just leave Hagrid in charge of it and not bring in outsiders. There’s no other reason for Charlie to be coming to Hogwarts for the first task.
In the end, Greenwood sighs and agrees with him. “Fireproofing spells first,” she says. “We can worry about how you’re going to outrun a dragon once we’re sure you won’t burn to death in the process. The rest is probably going to be a mystery until the day of, but at least we can work with this much.”
Harry finds Cedric and tells him about the dragon thing before dinner; it doesn’t feel right leaving him in the dark. Cedric looks troubled, but thanks him anyway.
Ron keeps trying to get Hermione’s attention all through dinner. She ignores him until it’s nearly dessert time, and even then he doesn’t get any further than, “Tell Harry--” before she stops him.
“I’m not an owl, Ronald, and Harry’s right here. If you want to tell him something, tell him yourself.”
Ron turns red and scowls at his plate for so long that Harry thinks he’s not going to say anything after all. “Charlie wrote,” he finally mutters, still not looking up. “He’s gonna be visiting at the end of the month.”
“Yeah, I know,” Harry says. “Fred and George mentioned it.”
Maybe he should be glad Ron still cares enough to say something about it, too, and on one level he is. But mostly, Harry’s still annoyed. Ron can’t even look him in the face to say it. If Ron really wants to be any kind of help, he’s going to have to get over himself and apologise first.
Hermione’s eyes nearly bug out of her head when she hears that, though, and so Harry’s not at all surprised when she drags him to the library the next morning. She parks Harry at a table, goes to the card catalog, disappears into the stacks, and returns with an armload of books. “If Charlie’s visiting, it’s got to be--”
Harry stops her long enough to get the privacy spell up. He doubts he’d really need it in the library of all places, but Greenwood said not to take any chances, so he isn’t. “Dragons, I know. I worked that out yesterday. Is that fireproofing spells or ‘how to outrun a dragon’?”
“A bit of both, but mostly fireproofing. I think your best bet for getting away is going to be flying.”
“They won’t let me take my broom in. They already said we only get to start with our wands for the first task.”
“Start with your wand,” Hermione says, sounding remarkably like Greenwood did when she pointed out the usefulness of the school’s gossip network. “That doesn’t mean you can’t call your broom to you from the arena. You’d have to get very good at the Summoning Charm very quickly, but with dedicated practice I think you could do it. And where did you learn that privacy spell? I’ve never seen it before.”
…Well, this was going to come up eventually, and it’s probably better here than just about anywhere else in Hogwarts. “Greenwood. She - I’m still not really sure what happened, but she asked the other day if I wanted a nearly-adult in my corner.” He mostly said yes because she asked, rather than assuming he’d be okay with whatever she did.
(He’s also more sure of what happened after yesterday - he froze up when Skeeter decided a closet was a good interview spot, and she didn’t want to let anything inappropriate happen if she could do something about it - but that’s Greenwood’s personal information. She’d probably stab him if he said anything about it. Besides, he’s still not convinced he’s actually worth the trouble.)
“Oh, is that where you went yesterday? I was worried that you weren’t taking this tournament seriously.”
Harry snorts. “I don’t think I’ve ever taken anything this seriously in my life. I don’t care about winning, but dying doesn’t sound like a fun time.”
“All right, good. You’re sure you can trust her?”
“As much as I can trust anyone right now, yeah.”
Hermione nods, hands Harry a book, and leaves it at that.
The first book isn’t very useful; it’s potion-based fireproofing, and Harry would really rather not steal ingredients from Snape if he doesn’t have to. (Hermione breaks into giggles when Harry questions the existence of powdered hen’s teeth, of all things, but she doesn’t explain why.) The next few books aren’t much better, but they do find a few promising spells.
As Hermione’s copying them down, Harry says, “You should come along next time I go meet with her.”
“I - are you sure I’d be welcome?”
“She already said as much. Besides, between the two of you, I’d have a terrifying and efficient practice schedule inside of an hour. We both have Monday mornings, Wednesdays for an hour after lunch, and the end of Friday afternoon free.” He’d wanted to do more on the weekends, too, but Greenwood said they should both take a little time for their homework.
Sure, like he’s going to be able to concentrate on that at all.
“I can’t on Wednesdays, that’s Arithmancy. But I can do Fridays and most Mondays, if I don’t have homework I need to work on.”
Harry laughs. “Hermione, by that point you don’t need to work on your homework - you’re just doing it because you can’t bear to leave anything out.”
“Is that such a problem?”
“Not in the slightest.”
On Monday, Potter has company with him.
That’s not a surprise, since Adele said he could bring his friends along; it’s also no real surprise that Weasley’s apparently still being too much of a prat to help. As seems to be standard with Potter, the surprise comes from an unexpected corner, in this case the rushed introduction he gives as soon as the privacy spell is up.
“Wait a second,” Adele says, as Potter’s hauling out the notes he and Granger brought along. “And - before I start, this is not a failing on either of your parts, but on the school’s. I’m not shocked your friend doesn’t know how to do a more formal introduction, but I am surprised no one bothered to teach you.”
Potter shrugs. “Non-magical relatives, remember? If Aunt Petunia ever knew, she definitely wouldn’t talk about it. The teacher I talk to the most is Hagrid, and I don’t think he’s exactly an etiquette authority. Otherwise, no one’s offered.”
“You’d think there would be a class on magical culture,” Granger adds, looking every bit as miffed as she sounds. “Instead, they just dropped the lot of us in to sink or swim! I wonder how many Muggleborns have given up on the magical community after they finish school, since they weren’t taught the cultural rules but are expected to follow them anyway.”
The answer, Adele’s willing to bet, is more than zero. While there’s no school-wide class, those lessons quietly circulate in the Slytherin common room, making sure every year’s handful of Muggleborns can blend in successfully by Halloween. It works so well that Adele, still deep in her parents’ beliefs in her first year, didn’t even notice there were Muggleborn Slytherins until they started teaching the batch that came in in her second year.
Well, she can make up for her past stupidity now. “Do you want to know how to do the thing properly?”
“Yes,” Granger says, with all the fervor of a fellow academic. Potter just nods, but he does look interested.
“All right then. To properly introduce someone, you slow down long enough to give as much of their name as you know, for one thing, and usually the reason why you’re introducing them. There are people who say that blood status should be a factor in determining the order of introductions, but it really doesn’t matter. If anyone still had their titles, that would be another story.”
Potter frowns. “There are magical families with titles?”
“There used to be, but since the Statute of Secrecy went into effect they haven’t been acknowledged. My family used to have one in Yorkshire. I don’t know if the Potters ever did, but Somerset certainly used to fall under a magical title.”
Given that Potter’s already looking at Adele like she gave him a gift - God, she may have just given him more useful information about his family than anyone’s ever bothered to, if ‘I don’t know about this’ can be called useful - she decides to leave off the fact that one of those title holders, as far as she can tell, was Godric Gryffindor.
Then Potter squares his shoulders, smirks a little, and immediately puts the lesson into practice. “Greenwood, this is Hermione Jean Granger,” he says, probably deliberately introducing Granger first. “She’s the smartest person I know and one of my best friends. Hermione, this is Adele Greenwood. She offered to be a nearly-adult in my corner for this mess.”
Adele smiles; Potter pretty well nailed it on the first try, once he had the tools in hand. “Pleased to meet you, Granger.”
“You as well,” Granger says, and then her eyes narrow. “Nearly adult?”
“My birthday’s not until after the first task, but… well, no one else seemed to be stepping up, and Skeeter tried dragging him into a broom cupboard to interview him.” Maybe Skeeter really didn’t have any truly untoward motivations - not that Adele can really bring herself to believe that - but the resulting interview would have been a load of rubbish at best and outright libel at worst. “If I can get him out of the tournament entirely, that’s the ideal plan, but in the meantime there’s no sense in not making sure he’s prepared.”
Granger nods. “We found a few fireproofing spells in the library, though I’m not really sure which one is going to be easiest, and I think the best way for Harry to keep himself safe from a dragon otherwise is going to be Summoning his broom.”
“People better appreciate that I’m going above and beyond the expected curriculum for my age here,” Potter says, finally handing Adele the notes. “These are all OWL-level spells. I should’ve had another year before I needed to know this.”
“You should have,” Adele agrees. “But just in case, we’ll make sure you’ve got them down in the next couple weeks.”
Between Hermione and Greenwood, Harry has a workable practice schedule figured out before he goes to his first class of the week - and a bonus inkling that something dire happened to Wizarding Britain’s Latin, if the argument over the correct form of the Summoning Charm is any indication. The parts of the argument that he can make any sense of are interesting, but he’s lucky if he understands half of it. Languages aren’t really his thing, unless there are snakes involved.
On Tuesday, he sees some of the Slytherins - Malfoy and his usual cronies, mostly - sporting badges in support of Cedric. That’s fine; he also supports Cedric. ‘The True Hogwarts Champion’ is a little unnecessary, though, and the ‘Potter Stinks’ animation is - look, Harry can laugh at himself with the best of them, but he prefers being in on the joke.
By Thursday, the badges are gone, and Malfoy looks incredibly sheepish about something. He considers asking Greenwood what that’s all about, but decides against it. There’s only two weeks until the first task, after all. He has bigger things to worry about.
Like not being eaten or roasted by a dragon while doing… whatever it is the tournament people want him to do. For all he knows, not being eaten or roasted is the entire objective. The judges would probably think that was too easy, though.
Greenwood double-takes when she joins them in the spare classroom they’ve grabbed for practicing on Friday. “Wait, are you two dating?”
Harry blinks. “What? No. Why?” He’s not even sure whether he’s interested in girls romantically or not, but Hermione’s the closest thing he’s ever had to a sister.
“It’s just - in magical circles, leaning on each other like that is usually taken as intent to snog. It’s beginning to fade out of practice, but a lot of people still won’t get that close unless they’re actively courting.”
Hermione doesn’t quite spring away from Harry, but she does shift so that she’s not leaning directly on him anymore. Then she frowns. “...Is that why half the common room thinks we just had a messy break-up with Ron?”
“Probably.” Harry sighs. “Nice of him to bloody well tell us that.”
“He really should have done, yes,” Greenwood agrees. “Then again, I’m terrible at noticing when someone’s flirting with me myself, so it’s possible he just hasn’t done due diligence on knowing how not to give the impression that he is.”
“I can’t see Mrs. Weasley not telling him.”
Hermione rolls her eyes. “I absolutely can see Ron deciding it wasn’t important and tuning the lecture out, though. Anyway, I asked Fred and George about what kind of dragons the preserve Charlie works at has on site, and I think you’ll need to practice two fireproofing charms, just in case. They’ve got at least one Chinese Fireball, and Asian and Polynesian dragon fire can cut through the charms that work on most European breeds.”
“Great, double the work, my favorite.” At least they can take the fireproofing spells for African and American dragons off the list, but that doesn’t mean Harry has to be happy about it. “If we knew exactly what they were bringing, we could just plan for me to face off against whichever one has the worst temper, but I doubt we’ll know that before the task starts.”
“Not unless we stumble across wherever they keep the dragons until the task,” Greenwood says. “How’s the Summoning Charm coming along?”
Harry sighs. “Terribly. I can’t get my head around the actual-Latin term, but accio sounds too much like I’m sneezing. I think it’s breaking my concentration.” He’s even tried to do it non-verbally, but that’s extremely shaky; he’d rather not bet his life on getting that right when he’s in front of a dragon.
Greenwood’s quiet for several moments. “You could try convocar. It’s Spanish.”
“Would I have to do the rest of the spell in Spanish too? I don’t have time to learn another entire language for this.”
“No, or no one in Britain would be able to Summon anything. But that’s at least something to try that doesn’t sound like sneezing.”
“And remember to be specific with what you’re summoning,” Hermione adds. “You can’t just say ‘broom’ or you’ll get the useless school brooms out of the storage shed long before your Firebolt.”
Harry rolls his eyes - that’s not the part he was struggling with - but thanks her anyway. The fireproofing spells turn out to be ridiculously easy to get his head around, and the Spanish variation of the Summoning Charm helps immensely.
When the task finally comes around, Harry’s not even surprised when he does end up with the dragon with the worst temper. He wants to be, but he isn’t. Hermione sneaks into the tent to wish him (and Krum, apparently) luck before they go out, which he appreciates more than he can say.
He’s the last competitor, leaving him with nothing to do but look at his tiny model dragon and try not to have a panic attack while he’s listening to the others’ progress. He can do this. He thinks. He can probably at least get out without dying, and that’s really all he cares about. He doesn’t care if he loses the whole tournament - he didn’t even want to be in it in the first place!
If having to outrun a dragon doesn’t snap Ron out of his jealous snit, there’s probably nothing that will. That’s almost more depressing than the rest of this, but Harry can’t help holding out a little hope.
When he’s called out, Harry takes as deep a breath as he can manage and steps into the arena. Fuck, but he hopes he’s not about to cast the wrong fireproofing charm - he’s blanking on which one is for European dragons - but even a wrong fireproofing charm should help some. Then he Summons his Firebolt, hops on, and gets himself in the air before considering the situation.
Take an egg from a nesting mother. Yes. Sure. Nothing could possibly go wrong. Greenwood’s going to stab whoever came up with this ludicrous task the second she thinks she can get away with it, Harry’s sure.
But then he thinks: No one said he had to get close to the dragon to take the egg. And he can see the glint of gold down among the less shiny natural eggs. What if he just… Summons the golden egg? The dragon’s not even touching it.
So he does, and gets the hell out of there as quickly as he can. Somehow that leaves him tied with Krum for first place, which he doesn’t understand in the slightest; everyone else’s performances sure sounded a lot more dramatic than his.
Gryffindor throws him a party that evening, which Harry would feel a lot better about if most of them hadn’t spent the last month convinced he cheated the goblet for a shot at glory. He just smiles and nods and pretends it’s a Quidditch party; those are for something he at least wants to be doing.
The only good part of the party is when Ron finds him. “Harry, I - I’m sorry. I just… I’m sorry. I got stuck in my own head and I wasn’t thinking right.”
Harry closes his eyes in relief. “I forgive you, Ron. But you’re going to have to get your head around the fact that one of the two people who actually helped me get ready for this was a Slytherin and you’re going to have to do it fast, because I’m not going to stop talking to her now.”
Ron splutters, and Harry might have backed down in their first year, or last year, or even before the tournament started. But he can’t back down now. Greenwood made sure he got through that alive, along with Hermione. She asked if he wanted her help, and he doesn’t think she would’ve been offended if he’d said no. He’s not going to let go of a useful ally, and possible friend, just because Ron has a bias.
“I’m tired of fighting with you,” he says. “I want my best friend back, but I’m tired of changing to suit other people, too.”
Ron sighs. “I’ll try. You and Hermione can deck me if I’m a prat about it, all right?”
Harry lets out a breath he hadn’t realised he was holding, and laughs. “All right.”
Adele stares at the page of tournament rules she just read. She reads it again, just to make sure she has it right.
Then she drops her head down onto her arms, resting on the table, and screams.
“Is everything all right over there?” Professor Slytherin says from his portrait, in the tone that means he knows damned well everything isn’t all right but it’s Adele’s choice whether she wants to elaborate. She glances around the common room to see whether anyone else is around and finds it blissfully empty, then packs up her books and moves over to the sofas by the fireplace. After that nasty shock, she’s not going to get any more work done tonight anyway.
“I just found the thing that could have got Potter out of competing in the Triwizard Tournament - at literally any point before yesterday. But now he’s actually competed, which means he’s acknowledged as proxy for whoever did enter him into the tournament in the first place, so now it actually is his magic on the line if he backs out.” Adele sighs. “Happy fucking birthday to me, I guess.”
She has a momentary flash of guilt about swearing in front of a teacher, portrait or no, but Professor Slytherin only raises an eyebrow. “I hadn’t realised you were so close to Potter, but I’m glad someone’s trying to help him with this disaster in the making. I wish you’d mentioned this research path sooner, though. I read the tournament’s rules once, for… something. Can’t recall what.”
“Would you have remembered that without prompting, though?” Adele says, trying to keep the bitterness out of her voice. Professor Slytherin’s memory issues aren’t his fault - he suspects poor preservation charms or perhaps a painter with malicious intent. And even with that problem, he’s one of the most effective teachers she’s ever had.
That doesn’t mean it’s not frustrating, but right now Adele’s frustration is reserved for the tournament rules. Well, no, it’s reserved for the headmaster, who’s the one who really should have looked for this information on Potter’s behalf. She hasn’t even been a legal adult for 24 hours yet. This shouldn’t have been her job in the first place.
“Perhaps not,” Professor Slytherin allows. “But you don’t have to do this alone any more than he does. How did you get mixed up in all this to begin with?”
“Rita Skeeter thought a closed broom cupboard was an appropriate place to interview an unaccompanied minor. I can’t - I didn’t let her. And then I asked if he wanted someone to help.” What she really wants is to introduce Potter to a competent Defense professor, but Professor Slytherin can’t leave his portrait, and she probably can’t bring Potter into the common room without starting a riot.
“They’re not even supervising his interactions with the press?” Professor Slytherin mutters something under his breath that Adele strongly suspects is swearing, but her Spanish isn’t quite that good. “This is an even bigger mess than I thought.”
“You’re telling me. Why is it so much easier to advocate for someone else than it is for yourself?”
“Because your parents raised you to believe your needs come second to their wants. If they were any kind of decent people, they’d know it works the other way round. Instead, they taught you that your concerns will never be taken as seriously as they deserve to be, so there’s no point in raising them in the first place.”
Adele sighs, but she knows he’s right. Her father dismisses her problems outright, and her mother expects her to fix them on her own. That does remind her she needs to write to her aunt and make preparations, in case Skeeter decides Adele’s involvement with Potter is gossip-worthy enough to write about. Her parents aren’t going to like that at all, and if worse comes to worst, she’d rather have a safe place to retreat to.
A safe place where she has a door that she can fucking well lock, and no one will barge into her space unless she invites them.
Potter finds her on the way to breakfast the next morning, and hands her a wrapped package. “I know your birthday’s sometime around now, so happy birthday. I would’ve gone for a book, but for all I know you already have everything I could get in Hogsmeade. And that reminded me of you for some reason, so.”
Adele opens the package to find a bottle of shimmery purple ink - one she’s had her eye on for a while now, but couldn’t quite justify the expenditure - and can’t help smiling. “Oh, thank you, Harry.” Then the smile drops away as she realises her faux pas. “I’m sorry, was that - did I overstep?”
“No? It’s fine, I don’t really… I mean. I’m just Harry.”
“Well, I’m just Adele, then.” She double-checks the privacy charm before continuing; might as well rip off this particular bandage now. “My birthday was yesterday. And I also found the clause that could have gotten you out of the tournament if I’d found it before you actually competed. But since I didn’t, I’m afraid you’re stuck in the thing until it’s over now.”
To her surprise, Harry laughs. “Well, doesn’t that just figure. Thank you for trying, Adele, really. It means a lot that somebody did.”
They took Friday off so Harry had a chance to actually recover from outrunning a dragon, so on Monday morning, he cracks the golden egg open for the first time, and immediately regrets it.
“That was Mermish,” Adele says, once Harry’s ears stop ringing from the god-awful screeching. “I can try asking the merfolk if they know anything, but no promises. In the meantime, stick that thing under water if you want any hope of actually understanding it.”
Hermione frowns. “The second task is at the end of February. They’re not really going to make everyone go for a dip in the Black Lake in February, are they?”
“Anti-hypothermia charms.” Adele starts a list as Harry tries not to panic. He doesn’t know how to swim; the Dursleys were hardly going to waste money on lessons for him. Would it have been that hard for whoever set up this stupid thing to at least double-check that?
“Later,” he finally manages to say. “I’ll worry about the egg later. I’d rather just panic about the Yule Ball for now - I’d just as soon not go at all, but apparently I have to.” Apparently he has to lead the first dance, which also means he needs a date. Why this.
Adele winces in sympathy. “In that case, I’d say go, put in whatever appearance you’re obligated to, and get out as quickly as you can.”
“Yeah, just… find someone willing to put up with me shoving them under the spotlight for the first dance and then disappearing on them. That’ll be easy.”
“Easier if you explain the situation rather than letting them build up the expectation in their own mind of something you can’t actually deliver.”
“True.” Harry sighs. “Hermione, I don’t suppose you’d be willing to?”
Hermione blushes furiously. “I - if Viktor hadn’t already asked me, I would,” she says, “just so you had some company that understands the situation.”
“Krum?” Once the initial shock fades, though, Harry can kind of see it. Krum probably likes being able to talk to someone who doesn’t care about his fame as much as Harry does. “Well, good for you. That’s going to be entertaining when Ron finds out.”
“And if he has anything rude to say about it, I’ll hex his bollocks off.”
“I’d recommend a spell for that if it wasn’t permanent,” Adele says. “And no, Harry, you don’t want me on display with you. I don’t do well with large crowds, and I don’t think the school’s ready for quite that much inter-House unity yet.”
“As entertaining as Malfoy fainting over it would be, you’re probably right.” Besides, Harry doesn’t want to be on display himself, so he’s hardly going to make her do it.
“Start within the dorm,” Hermione says. “We can put out feelers with the Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs from there, but I think Neville or Parvati would understand the situation, if you’re up front about it. If you’re not, you fully deserve whatever vengeance you get.”
Adele knows Rita Skeeter isn’t one to give up without getting her interview. Even if what she writes usually bears no relation to what anyone actually said, she prefers twisting people’s actual words to inventing remarks out of whole cloth.
Her tournament coverage has gotten more and more snide about Harry’s ability to dodge sitting down for an interview, even as she throws in terribly invasive commentary about the other three participants. Adele takes that as confirmation that Harry’s being diligent about using the privacy spell, and she’s glad for it. But it doesn’t change the fact that Skeeter still has eyes, and considers anything she sees to be newsworthy.
Knowing Skeeter was going to strike back doesn’t make it any easier when the blow finally arrives on Wednesday morning.
Instinct, or maybe Professor Slytherin would call it untapped Divination potential (but she sure won’t be asking Professor Trelawney about it any time soon), tells Adele to open the paper before the letter that arrives with it. She probably would have done anyway; the letter’s from her parents, and they rarely have anything to say that leaves Adele feeling good about her life.
Skeeter’s chosen to write about Triwizard Tournament relationship drama in the run-up to the Yule Ball, including quite a bit of speculation about the “love triangle” between Harry, Granger and Krum. The article all but makes Granger out to be a complete slag, which Skeeter can sadly get away with more easily because Granger’s family isn’t established in the magical community - but the real kicker is what she threw in at the very end.
Harry Potter has also recently been seen in the company of the youngest member of the Greenwood family. Who knows what intentions that young lady has for Wizarding Britain’s hero!
Adele’s appetite completely deserts her.
She makes herself at least eat a piece of toast, rather than face her morning classes on an empty stomach, and watches across the Great Hall as a snowy owl descends toward the Gryffindor table. It’s Harry’s owl, she knows that - the whole school knows that - but she hasn’t really thought about what that means before. If the whole school knows Harry Potter owns an incredibly distinctive owl, it’s safe to say the rest of Wizarding Britain does too, which means it’s a bloody miracle if no one’s ever tried to steal Harry’s mail before.
Before going to her first class of the day, Adele scans her parents’ letter, only reading deeply enough to confirm they didn’t believe Skeeter’s implied accusation of impropriety. Other than that, the article left her with enough wiggle room to avoid true trouble from them, though she’s glad she already decided to stay at Hogwarts over winter break for the ball.
Her aunt’s owl finds her at lunchtime, restoring both her spirits and her appetite. She doesn’t need to worry about summer, to the point of Aunt Fi promising to come pick her up from the train station; she doesn’t need to worry about the few prized possessions she can’t justify keeping in her Hogwarts trunk, as they’ll safely move houses over Christmas. But the true relief is in the postscript: I’ll handle the paper.
That gives Adele the fortitude to properly tackle her parents’ letter, which she’s in the middle of doing when Harry finds her after lunch. “I love how a reporter I’ve never talked to knows more about my dating life than I do,” he says as he sits down. He pulls up the privacy spell before he says anything else, but then he frowns in Adele’s direction. “Are you all right?”
“I barely came up in that article, Harry.”
“That didn’t answer the question. Besides, Hermione said Skeeter was basically accusing you of…” He leaves the thought unfinished, for which Adele’s thankful. Skeeter’s willingness to stoop to that kind of speculation doesn’t make her feel any better about the broom cupboard incident at all.
“I’ll be fine. My parents - I don’t intend to do as they say, mind you, but my parents want me to stop associating with you.”
Harry goes quiet, and Adele looks up to find him suddenly on the verge of a panic attack. She can’t think why, but that’s not important; what’s important is that it’s happening.
How is she supposed to snap him out of it? She doesn’t want to touch him, solely because she’d react poorly to someone touching her in that state. She doesn’t have any Calming Draughts on hand and isn’t sure Harry would trust one from Professor Snape regardless. Getting him to the infirmary would require touching him, but she’s also not sure it’s that bad yet.
“Harry? What’s wrong?” she settles on saying. Even if he can’t or doesn’t want to explain, it should at least remind him he’s not alone in his own head.
He draws in a sharp breath. “I don’t - I don’t want to get you in trouble.”
“With my parents?” Harry nods, and Adele only doesn’t roll her eyes out of long habit. “Harry, the useful adults in my life are my aunt, Professor Snape, and a portrait. The kindest thing I can say about my parents is that they did not knowingly allow me to be assaulted. Besides, the article doesn’t say that we’ve met more than the once - I can tell them the truth about why I got you out of that broom closet, and they’ll let it drop from there.”
Of course, she doesn’t plan on responding one way or another to their demand that she stop talking to Harry. They’ll take the lack of response as meek obedience, probably right up until she goes to Aunt Fi’s house for the summer hols.
“I’m not worth it, though,” Harry says, so quietly that Adele wouldn’t have heard him if not for the privacy spell.
“Would you be saying that if your relatives told you not to talk to me?”
“No! But - that’s different, and my aunt and uncle will probably never find out you exist.”
Adele smiles. “I don’t think it’s all that different. Let me decide what risks are worth taking, all right?”
After a very long pause, Harry nods. “Okay. I - okay.” Then he gathers himself enough to look at Adele’s pile of books. “What did you bring to read?”
“Animal-safe glamour charms. If I know you own the only snowy owl in the school, so does everyone else, and it’s not far from them telling their parents. Or, say, a nosy reporter who can’t get dirt on you any other way.”
Harry manages to get even paler, which is impressive, since he’s still bouncing back from that panic attack. “Oh. Shit. I hadn’t even thought of that. I don’t think Hermione’s even thought of that.”
“Well, has someone tried to get into your post before?”
“Not that I’ve ever noticed. Which… is probably why Hermione hasn’t thought of it. I’m pretty sure that’s not legal in Muggle Britain, so it might not have occurred to her that someone could try.”
Adele smiles. “Well, it’s a bit of a detour from tournament stuff, but you already said you’d rather panic about that after the ball. Let’s make Skeeter’s job more difficult for her.”
The next morning’s paper includes a small, grudging retraction of any implications that might have been made about the Greenwood family’s intentions toward certain Triwizard Tournament participants. Adele resolves to get Aunt Fi the best Christmas present she can afford as thanks.
“Let me make sure I’ve got this right,” Parvati says, narrowing her eyes in a way that makes Harry feel like he’s been pinned under a microscope. “You want me to go with you to the Yule Ball, but only for the first dance, after which you plan to flee for the hills?”
Harry nods. “I’d go by myself or skip it entirely, but they want the Champions to all lead the first dance.”
“It’s really unfair that they won’t let you go alone when you didn’t even ask for this. That’s a lot of pressure to put on a girl, you know.”
“I know. If you don’t want to, I understand--”
“Who said I didn’t want to?” Parvati says, before Harry can completely lose the plot. “I’ll do it, but you owe me big for this. We’ll figure out the terms after the tournament’s over.”
Harry sags in place with relief. “Thanks, Parvati, really. And feel free to get yourself a backup date for the rest of the party or something, I really don’t mind.”
On Saturday, Ron gets a package from his mum that he refuses to open at the table. “It’s probably dress robes,” he says, sounding awfully glum about it.
“Everyone’s been getting those, though. It can’t be that bad, can it?”
“Easy for you to say. You bought ‘em new. Even Fred and George had the money to buy something for themselves. Mum’s raided whatever we have around the house, and I don’t know how old it is or even who owned it first. For all I know, it’s one of Great-Aunt Muriel’s Victorian nightmares.”
Hermione winces. “Wizarding Victorian might be more in line with Baroque monstrosities.”
“I could swap with you,” Harry says, but Ron’s already shaking his head.
“Not with how much taller I’ve gotten, mate. Besides, you’re the one who’s gonna be on display, so you might as well know you have something flash for it, as opposed to whatever this is.”
Harry still doesn’t think it’s fair, but lets it drop for now. “Who are you even going with, anyway? Do you have a date lined up?”
“Not yet, I haven’t…” Ron trails off, then brightens and turns to Hermione. “Wait! ‘Mione, you’re a girl!”
“Very astute observation, Ronald,” Hermione says, icily enough that Harry could swear the temperature at the table actually dropped.
“Well, we could go together!”
“It so happens I already have a date lined up, but even if I didn’t, I don’t think I’d be entertaining that pickup line. And why should I, when you’ve evidently already dumped the both of us?”
“Both of - wha - wait, Hermione!” But before Ron’s even halfway done sputtering, Hermione’s already stalked off from the table. Harry drops his head into his hands, so he’s at least not laughing in Ron’s face outright - but Ron kind of deserved that.
Parvati takes pity on him. “I’ll ask Padma if she has a date yet,” she says, “but if she’s up for it you’d better treat her like the queen she is. Got it, Weasley?”
Ron nods frantically. “Yes ma’am! Understood, ma’am!”
On Monday morning, Harry drags Ron to his meeting time with Adele, mostly because he hasn’t stopped complaining about the dress robes Mrs. Weasley sent all weekend. The robes are pretty hideous, but Harry still thinks there’s got to be a better solution than just trying to make the most of it. Hermione tags along as well, bringing one of her knitting projects. They’re not talking about tournament stuff until after the ball, partly because Harry doesn’t know where to start other than ‘the Black Lake in February, sounds brilliant,’ but it’s still a useful time to catch his breath with people who don’t care that he’s famous.
After she hears about the problem, Adele gives Ron a blank look. “So… transfigure them? Unless they’re cursed to prevent it, but your family doesn’t strike me as the type to do that.”
“Oh, right.” But as quickly as that suggestion lifts Ron’s spirits, he deflates again. “No, they’re not cursed, but I’d probably muck up the transfiguration. Mum would kill me if I buggered it up so badly it couldn’t be fixed.”
“Hmm,” Hermione says, without looking up from her knitting. “If only you had a friend who was good at clothing transfiguration. Perhaps if you were to ask this person nicely, and apologise for what you said at breakfast on Saturday, they might even be willing to help you.”
“All right, all right, I - we’ll talk later, okay?”
Hermione nods, and they settle into comfortable, quasi-academic silence for a while. Adele passed Harry some notes about glamour charms for Hedwig when he got there, and now that he knows his mail is in that much danger, he’s determined to get the charms down.
It’s nearly time for them all to head to their first class of the day when Adele finally notices what Hermione’s been doing this whole time. “I didn’t know you’d taken up knitting.” She eyes the mostly-formed hat for a moment, then adds, “Gift for a young family member?”
“What? Oh, no - well, it’s a gift, but there’s no one in my family small enough for this. It’s for the elves.”
Adele goes still in the middle of packing her bag. “The… house-elves?”
“Not the house-elves here?”
“Well, it’s not as though I can get these to anyone else’s elves.”
Adele buries her face in her hands and sighs. When she looks back up, she says, “Please tell me you didn’t just state your intent to break the bond between the school’s elves and the only home they’ve ever known.”
“But - you can’t possibly be justifying this! They’re - it’s slavery!”
“Calm down, Granger, I haven’t justified a bloody thing. Do you want the magical-culture perspective on this, as best as I can give it?”
Hermione’s outright sulking now, but trying to finish a row of stitches anyway; Harry wonders how far she’ll get before she decides to pull this out and start over. “That depends. Does your family have an elf?”
Ron snorts. “Not bloody likely, ‘Mione. The Greenwoods are about as broke as my family, just with less kids to try to keep afloat.”
“No, Father’s just busy paying for the Wizengamot seat instead,” Adele says. “Anyway, Weasley’s right - if the family ever did have an elf, it was well before I was born, probably before my grandparents’ time. I can definitely agree that most families take very poor care of their house-elves, which is stupid for multiple reasons. But I’ve never seen any sign that Hogwarts is that bad, and - well, you’re taking Care of Magical Creatures, right? What’s Hagrid told you about the Green Folk?”
“That… that they can get very attached to a place they call home,” Hermione says. “Magically attached, not just emotionally.”
“Exactly. That’s why giving them clothes is a last resort - breaking that attachment is traumatising. It’s disorienting. And I wouldn’t be surprised if most of Hogwarts’ elves were born here. They likely have literally nowhere else to go. If you want to help, this isn’t the place to start or the way to go about it.”
That explains so much about Dobby, really. Harry thinks he must have wanted to get the hell away from the Malfoys for a while - and really, who wouldn’t? - and might have been banking on being given clothes once his attempts to ‘help’ Harry came to light.
And then suddenly, the thing that’s really been bugging him about this whole SPEW thing since Hermione started it clicks into place, and he thinks he knows how to tell her. “Hermione? Has your mum ever complained about someone trying to help her but not actually asking what she’d want from their help?”
Hermione drops her knitting, the empty needle clattering across the floor. “Oh. I’m - she would be so - I need to talk to the elves first.”
“That’d be a much better start than…” Adele frowns. “What were you planning to do with those, booby-trap your common room?”
“Yes,” Ron says, rolling his eyes. “Dunno how you’re going to find a house-elf to talk to them, either, since they hide all the time.”
Harry shrugs. “Maybe Dobby can help. I… don’t think he’s the only one you’d want to talk to, but he might know if some of the others would be up for it.”
Hermione nods, and finishes packing up her stuff, Summoning the stray knitting needle and stuffing it into her bag. Then when they’re nearly out the classroom door, she stops in her tracks.
“Greenwood, did you say your father is paying for your family’s seat in the government?!”
Adele goes to the Yule Ball alone, rather than give anyone the wrong idea. Granted, there’s a chance she’s giving people an entirely different wrong idea, but she’d vastly prefer everyone assume she’s married to academia than available for their pursuit. At least her parents have accepted her steadfast refusal of any kind of marriage - whether it’s her choice or theirs - until she’s done with her studies.
She’s not sure she wants to get married, really. She’s definitely far too light of a sleeper to ever share a bed with anyone, and that’s been true since she was ten. But unless she can unearth information on how magical adoption is supposed to work, she’s not sure she’ll have another option. Luckily, she has time to figure out all of those things.
Harry asked one of the Patil twins to accompany him for the first dance, during which he manages not to trip on anything or step on his partner’s toes. After that he disappears so effectively that he’s either got an invisibility cloak or he’s left the party entirely, and Patil finds another boy to pass the time with.
Weasley managed to do something to make his dress robes less hideous, or more likely sufficiently make up for whatever blunder Granger was so upset about that she did it for him. He’s with the other Patil twin; Adele can’t tell from this distance if the date is going well, but he looks like he would’ve been more comfortable if he’d come alone.
Did anyone tell him he didn’t have to bring a date? It’s only the third-years who were required to show up on someone else’s arm if they wanted to be here.
Adele considers the fact that at least one of Weasley’s eldest brothers has fled the country for gainful employment, and that Fred and George spent most of September grumbling about their mother forcing them to throw out prototypes and supplies for their business venture - that they bought with their own money - and decides that if anyone did tell him, it probably wasn’t Molly Weasley.
At least Granger looks to be enjoying herself in Krum’s company, so that’s one of the three wayward Gryffindors she’s found herself stuck with having a good night.
Adele sticks to the edges of the Great Hall, wandering outside to the courtyard when the noise gets to be too much and back inside when she gets too cold. At one point she passes Hagrid and Madame Maxime having a private conversation, but she’s no eavesdropper, so she leaves them be and thinks nothing else of it.
She returns to the common room ahead of everyone else, and the lower years are all already in their dorms for the night, so she takes the granted opportunity to flag down one of the merfolk passing by outside the window and ask them about the tournament. They don’t know much, but she does learn that the Ministry negotiated use of the Black Lake for the task, and that the merfolk don’t intend to harm any of the Champions.
If the scowl on her conversation partner’s face is any indication, the same definitely does not hold true for whoever designed the task and thought the lake was the best place to carry it out.
“How was the party?”
Adele nearly jumps out of her skin; Professor Slytherin hadn’t been in the front-facing room of his portrait when she came in. “It was all right,” she says. “Definitely not the worst formal event I’ve ever been to.”
Now she can shift her focus to getting Harry through whatever horrors the tournament’s going to throw at him next.
When Cedric tells him to take his golden egg to the Prefects’ Bathroom and have a good soak, Harry feels like his face is going to catch fire, but he thanks Cedric for the tip. He’s not even sure why he blushed like that.
Not until he spends half the night trying and failing not to think about the fact that Cedric must have already done that himself, anyway.
He takes Cedric’s advice three days after the Yule Ball, mostly as a distraction from Rita Skeeter’s horrendous article about poor Hagrid. Harry walked right past that private conversation, and Skeeter was nowhere nearby - there certainly weren’t good human-sized hiding places; he would’ve had trouble himself if he hadn’t taken the Invisibility Cloak to the ball with him. Hermione got an odd look on her face when Harry asked if Skeeter had bugged the courtyard somehow, but wouldn’t explain any further, and it’s usually best to let her stew on that kind of idea until she’s ready to implement it.
They’d all agreed to take the week after the ball off from strategy meetings, but Harry brings a written copy of the clue to the first one of the new year. He passes it to Adele and Hermione, and sits back while they pick it apart.
“In the lake, but we already suspected as much,” Hermione says. “A one-hour time limit to collect - whatever this is, so you’ll need a way to breathe underwater.”
“I’ll need a way to not drown,” Harry counters. “It sure would’ve been grand if they’d made sure all their Champions knew how to swim before they picked this.”
“You can’t - no one ever taught you?”
“My aunt and uncle would have had to spend money on me for that.” And generally care whether Harry lives or dies if presented with a life-threatening situation, but Hermione knows that they don’t, and he’s pretty sure Adele suspects it.
“Ask one of your Herbology-inclined friends to get you some gillyweed,” Adele says absently, still looking at the clue. “I’ve heard it’s a disaster to chew and swallow, but it’ll take care of both problems - along with the gills, it’ll give you enough instincts to keep moving while it’s active.”
Hermione nods. “Two hours’ worth, then, in case something goes wrong. Now there’s just the problem of ‘what we took.’”
“I don’t have a lot of stuff that I can’t replace.” There’s the photo album of Harry’s parents, and the Marauders’ Map, and… really, that’s about it. His Firebolt would hurt to lose, but Sirius would probably just buy him another one. At least this time Hermione wouldn’t insist on kidnapping it because a Wanted Criminal sent it.
Adele frowns at the clue. “That’s the thing, though. They said ‘what,’ but I really wouldn’t put it past them to mean ‘who.’”
Hermione gapes at her, and Harry can’t blame her one bit, since he’s doing the same. “Is that even legal?”
“Allowed within the scope of the tournament’s base rules, yes. Acceptable by the current standards upheld by the various magical governments involved in the tournament… that I’m not so sure about. I did ask, and the merfolk don’t intend any harm to the Champions - I’d hope that reassurance extends to any potential hostages, but the way this riddle is written, it’s better to act like it doesn’t.”
“Right. Harry, we’re teaching you some basic BSL, just in case.”
Harry nods, trying to think about anything other than Ron or Sirius or Hermione or - hell, even Adele, at this point, getting dragged into trouble because of him. Not that he thinks any of them would make it easy for whoever wanted to stick them in the lake, especially Adele. That’s not the point, though - the point is he doesn’t want to get anyone else in trouble.
He’s not worth it.
Other than making sure Harry can survive the temperature of the lake and somewhat communicate with the merfolk, there’s not much they need to do to prepare him. Professor Lupin covered the Black Lake’s native creatures and wildlife and how to defend against them, and Adele trusts him to have done the job properly. On top of that, while Hagrid has his flaws as a teacher from everything she’s heard, his knowledge about magical creatures isn’t one of them.
He seems relieved to have an easier time with the parameters of the task, at least, even if they’re all still worried about what exactly it is he’ll be tasked with rescuing from the merfolk. Adele’s trying not to think about it. If anyone tries to drag her out of her bed, they’ll learn the hard way that she keeps more knives in close reach when she’s in bed than she carries on her person.
After all, it’s her responsibility to make sure it never happens again.
Between the fact that there’s less work to do and the amount of time remaining until the second task, the strategy meetings are a lot less frantic than the ones they had in November. Granger tags along to as many as she can, especially since Adele keeps uncovering bits of magical culture neither of them are familiar with; Weasley turns up far less frequently. Harry just seems relieved to have a few days a week where the pressure is as off him as they can get it.
Usually, Adele’s glad her parents only ever had her. They’ve done enough of a number on her head that she would’ve spent her first years at Hogwarts too worried about what was happening in her absence to function. With Harry, though, she’s starting to wonder if having a younger sibling might not have been so bad.
(Of course, it probably helps, for a given definition of ‘help,’ that they were fucked up by different people.)
Everyone is strongly encouraged to go outside and watch the second task unfold. If she hadn’t gotten involved in making sure Harry survives this mess, Adele might not have bothered because it’s too bloody cold to hang around outside for over an hour - but she did, and she wants to be there for his sake if nothing else, so she goes, taking a seat near the edge of the area the Slytherins have staked out for themselves.
That’s all the warning she gets before the Weasley twins slot in on either side of her, flanking Adele but not touching or trapping her. She’d been hoping to be left alone, but if there’s anyone in their year she trusts to actually hold their own if there’s a problem, it’s Fred and George.
“You seen Ronniekins this morning?” George (she thinks) asks. “It’s not like him to miss breakfast.”
“You’d have a better idea than I do.” Adele humors them anyway, and thinks back on the glances she got at the Gryffindor table this morning. “But you’re right, I didn’t see him there… or Granger, for that matter.”
Then they announce the exact nature of the second task, and Adele groans. “Oh no.”
Harry’s only going to have to rescue one of them - most likely Weasley, since Granger’s also in Krum’s good graces - but the fact of the matter is, not only were they right about the worst-case scenario for this stupid task, but Harry was left to face his nerves before it without either of his best friends to comfort him. She might be more upset about that than the rest of this disaster in the making.
Fred winces. “Oh, Mum’s not going to be happy about this.”
“Surprised she’s not already down there tearing them all new arseholes, really.”
“She will soon enough, I bet. Soon as she realises the clock says ‘Mortal Peril.’”
Adele has no idea what clock he’s talking about, but the implication of that exchange is very clear. “That just means they likely didn’t ask people’s guardians for permission to drug them and stick them in the lake.”
George laughs, but not in a pleasant way. “Mum never would’ve given it. She’d wrap us all in blankets and keep us in the house forever if she could. Why d’you think Bill and Charlie fled the country as soon as they graduated?”
“Percy only didn’t because he actually wants the Ministry job she thinks we should all be lining up for. You know, never mind that the Ministry’s no safer than anywhere else and he’s the only one of us who’d be at all happy there.”
Adele sighs. “I knew the tournament was a mess, but this is just ridiculous. ‘Go antagonise the merfolk in the middle of winter’ was bad enough, but now they’ve basically kidnapped people for unnecessary drama.”
“What do the merfolk think of all this, anyway?”
“They don’t intend to harm the Champions. I’d hope that extends to the hostages, but I’m not certain. It didn’t seem like they were very happy with whoever asked to use the lake for the task, either.”
“Doubt they asked if they could so much as told the merfolk they would be,” George says. “I wouldn’t be very happy with them, either.”
At the edge of the lake, the Champions make their preparations and dive in… and it quickly becomes apparent that no one thought about this challenge from a spectator’s perspective. There’s no magical broadcast of the events under the water, and Adele’s not sure how that would have practically worked out anyway; the Champions are only going to be wherever the hostages are being held for a short amount of time. Most of the trouble they’re likely to have is on the way down or back up.
“Well,” she says, “this is going to be positively thrilling, isn’t it?” and Fred laughs.
It feels like ages before anything happens, but far too soon, Delacour surfaces - alone, and clearly angry. She charges out of the water, screaming something in French, and storms over to the judges’ table.
George snorts. “Oh look, Bagman’s had to execute the old stop, drop and roll.”
“Couldn’t have happened to a more deserving bloke,” Fred says. Adele wonders what happened there, but she’s too busy keeping an eye on the chaos to ask. It isn’t much chaos in the end, probably because Madame Maxime intervenes before Delacour’s rampage can continue.
Pity. All of the judges fucking deserved it for taking human hostages and dropping ‘too late, it’s gone, it won’t come back’ into the clue. It’s no surprise Delacour’s a bloody wreck.
The lake is quiet again after that, for another short eternity. Some time later, but still within the hour, Krum surfaces, shaking off a partial shark transfiguration (how???) and towing Granger alongside him. Diggory’s not far behind, with - Adele thinks that’s his girlfriend, anyway. She doesn’t know either of them that well, but she can’t think of anyone else who would fit the pattern.
The hour’s nearly up before Harry struggles his way to the surface. He must still be under the effects of the gillyweed, as he promptly lowers his head underwater again, but the reason for his delay is clear: He has two people with him, Weasley ginger and a tiny blonde head that Adele would bet is part of Delacour’s family.
God, no wonder she immediately went on the warpath.
“Mind if we tag along to your next strategy meeting?” Fred says.
Adele blinks; she really hadn’t been expecting that. “You’ll have to clear it with Harry as well, but I don’t see him telling you no. We’re not having official meetings next week and you two can’t make Friday afternoons anyway, so it’d depend on how often you feel like giving up your Monday mornings and Wednesday free periods.”
George grins. “Excellent.”
The problem with relying on gillyweed to help Harry swim becomes apparent as he nears the lake’s shore. He has to stay in the water until the gills wear off - and then he has to get out of the water more or less immediately, before he fucking drowns. At least by the time he feels the gills disappearing, his feet are touching the lake bed, so he can probably walk out under his own power.
The second he’s out of the water, someone drops a warm towel over his shoulders, and then Fleur pulls him into a breath-stealing hug, saying something he’s not sure he could follow even if he did speak French. He’s pretty sure there’s a ‘thank you’ in there somewhere, and he knows there’s a ‘little’ courtesy of the time Aunt Petunia tried to have him make petit-fours for a neighborhood party (and then got mad that he made them too big, when he was seven and she gave him nothing but a cookbook to work with).
“I owe you more than I could possibly say,” she finally says in English, and now Harry’s just confused.
“You… you really don’t?”
She just Looks at him. “I truly do. Thank you for doing what I could not.”
“I - you’re welcome?” It’s not that Harry doesn’t understand why she’s thanking him, but he really doesn’t think it was all that special. Anyone would have done the same, right? “I couldn’t just leave her there.”
“I mean, you could’ve, mate,” Ron says, after Fleur’s moved on to hugging - apparently her little sister. “They said when they woke me up this morning that they wouldn’t leave any of us down there even if the rescue didn’t come through in time.”
“And you just believed them?”
“Hermione went with it too! Don’t look at me like that!”
He doesn’t get a chance to ask Hermione about it until dinner, but she nods. “In light of what Greenwood said about the merfolk not intending to harm the Champions, I decided it was worth the risk. After all, harming us would have indirectly harmed you.”
“Fair enough, I guess.” Harry sighs. “But I’d really like a word with whoever wrote that stupid riddle.” Why did they imply the hostages would be dead if they weren’t rescued if there was no intention of following through with that threat? Why did they drag other people into this mess in the first place?
(Adele laughs, when Harry tells her this on Monday morning, and says Professor Slytherin - whoever that is - said the same thing when she told him about the second task.)
When the twins tell Harry they want to join the strategy meetings, he’s a little confused, but he agrees readily. They’re going to think of things no one else could think of, and he’s going to need all the help he can get with whatever it is the judges plan on throwing at him in June. He’s still baffled as to how finishing dead last and breaking the ‘one hostage rescue per Triwizard Champion’ rule left him tied for first overall.
He doesn’t want to be tied for first overall. He wants to get out of this alive, and one of the people who actually signed up for this madness to win it.
The Wednesday after the second task starts with Harry having another of those weird dreams about Creepy Baby Voldemort and his rotting mansion. He doesn’t remember any details in particular, just Voldemort being a stupidly pompous baby, but Ron complains about Harry hissing in his sleep again, not that there’s anything Harry can really do about that.
He mentions it to Adele after lunch - not a formal strategy meeting, but Harry’s not about to give up three times a week where he gets to just be himself with no added pressure - and she looks at him funny. He sighs. “Look, I know it sounds mental, but--”
“That’s… that’s not what gave me pause, Harry. Have you or Granger encountered much of anything about Occlumency?”
“Well, Professor Slytherin just calls it all Mind Magic,” Adele says. “He doesn’t understand why they were split into two separate disciplines, and I’m not really sure either, unless it was out of some kind of misplaced ethical concerns around getting into someone else’s head. Occlumency is specifically the practice of shoring up your mental defenses in order to keep other people from prying. Not that I know how a disembodied spirit who, if your account is accurate, is currently possessing a toddler can pry into your head from a distance in the first place, but that’s really not a desirable thing.”
“Not really, no. But… what if I could get some useful information out of it?”
“What if - and I find this far more likely - he uses that connection against you? All he’d have to do is convince you someone you care about is in danger, and you’d run right off into a trap.”
Harry just stares at Adele. It’s not that she’s wrong - he doesn’t want anyone to be in danger because of him, and he absolutely would drop everything to try to make sure they weren’t, and it’s not like telling adults about problems has got him anywhere useful so far. But he hadn’t even thought about it like that.
“Right,” he says. “Shutting the genocidal maniac baby out of my head it is, then. How exactly do I do that?”
“Normally, I’d tell you to start by not making eye contact with him, but given that he’s nowhere in the area… well, it’s not entirely useless advice. The whole purpose of mental shielding, though, is to make it as much of a pain in the arse for anyone who does come prying to get into your head as possible. If you really want them to stay out, then you have a second shield to reinforce that you mean business.”
“Okay, cool. How can I figure out whether I’m doing it right?”
Adele frowns. “That is a very good question. I’m not good enough at the Legilimency side of things to really test shielding, and you don’t want to ask either of the people I know of here who could. The one piece of advice from my parents I still take seriously is not to meet Dumbledore’s eyes, and Professor Snape anywhere near your mind right now would - that would end in disaster all round. But at the very least, you’d probably have less of these weird intrusive dreams.”
That’d be a good start, at least, so Harry resolves to come up with something to keep people out of his head.
Adele’s not sure whether to be relieved that it takes until March for someone in her House to actually take note of her growing collection of Gryffindors (and how is this even happening, honestly?), or profoundly disappointed in everyone else’s lack of basic observation skills. It’s probably for the best that she hasn’t had to justify her choices so far, but at the same time, that lack of attention is liable to get some of them killed.
Especially now that she’s old enough to look at the war and realise it didn’t end when the Ministry said it did, or even when they claimed all the Death Eaters were either in jail or definitely not going to cause trouble ever again, conveniently ignoring how many of them were still on the Wizengamot even after the heavy fines. It hasn’t stopped, and it stands a very real chance of roaring back to life with the slightest provocation.
Or maybe Adele’s just paranoid, but better that than dead.
In any case, she’s definitely glad it’s Ona who finally calls her on her interesting company, by way of sitting down next to her at lunch on Saturday, putting up a privacy charm, and getting right to the point. Ona didn’t grow up hearing about the House divisions, so she doesn’t care beyond the necessity of Slytherin’s united front, and she’s certainly not going to go telling tales to the people who still buy into Pureblood ideology.
“So, how’s your extra study group going?”
“I suppose that’s one name for it.” Adele sighs. “He needs the help. It just kind of… spiraled from there.”
Ona just raises an eyebrow, but otherwise doesn’t say anything about Adele’s immediate, reflexive leap to explain herself. “I doubt it’ll spiral any further. The part I find interesting is that other than Weasley the younger, you have a gaggle of very Slytherin-minded Gryffindors.”
“You think so?”
“I’m sure of it. You haven’t heard the twins talk about their joke shop as much as I have, but they’re as dead serious about it as I am about staying here. ‘Come hell, high water, or Mum’ is the official line.”
“And they’re going to need to stick to that, if September is any indication,” Adele says. Still, she can’t deny the twins are damned creative. They could probably put Zonko’s out of business if they put their minds to it, and they’ve been putting their minds to it at least since third year.
“Granger is determined to prove to everyone that she belongs here, evidently by knowing absolutely everything there is to know about magic. I think she would’ve benefited from the magical-culture lessons, but otherwise Slytherin would’ve just made her even more terrifying. As for Potter, well. I think if anyone gave him more than five minutes to plan for something, he’d outdo half of us.”
“More than five minutes to plan and time to learn actually useful information, but I think you’re right.” Summoning the golden egg rather than get into an extended chase with an angry dragon certainly backs that theory up.
Ona grins. “Exactly. So, you never answered my question - how’s the study group going?”
“Well, the twins haven’t formally joined yet, but I expect controlled chaos once they do. Otherwise… it’s going well.”
“Good. I’d ask if you wanted some in-House backup, but that would probably be pushing it. If that changes, though, you know where to find me.”
Adele’s really not sure why Ona’s offering, so she just nods and leaves it at that.
The twins formally join the strategy meetings on Monday morning, but before they can really start digging into the third task beyond three quidditch players ranting about the travesty being done to the pitch, Harry has another one of his out-of-the-blue questions.
“You said a while back that your family used to have a magical title. Have you… could you reclaim it?”
Adele sighs. “I’m not sure how. It’d have to be acknowledged by the head of the royal family, and I don’t know how one goes about getting an audience with the Queen these days. Or whether anyone’s explained the existence of magic to her before.”
“They must have done,” Granger says. “The Muggle Prime Minister’s been kept in the loop since the Ministry of Magic was formed, and that’s not even a codified position - it’s just a title conventionally granted to someone the sitting monarch thinks can lead Parliament effectively. The Queen has much more power, so it’d be a bit daft of them not to inform her.”
Harry looks startled. “The prime - really? The position doesn’t actually exist?”
“Really. I wasn’t satisfied with the overview I got in primary school, so I did some more reading.”
“Anyway, if it takes money, I’ll never convince Father it’d be a better expenditure than the Wizengamot,” Adele says. “The documentation bit’s not a concern; we’ve got plenty of that. It’s most of the other logistics that present a barrier. But… if anyone in the family could do it, I do think it would be me. The Greenwood likes me.”
All four of them look at her like she’s grown a second head, but Fred’s the one to actually say it. “Likes you?”
“It’s been in the family for a long time.” That’s enough for the twins to nod, though Harry and Granger still look confused. (Adele’s not entirely surprised; Lovegood remains the only person she’s met who got it immediately, and Lovegood’s an odd duck.) “I never get lost in there, and if I don’t want someone to find me, they can’t. It likes me.”
Harry nods, the way he does when something about magic or magical culture makes as much sense to him as any other explanation would. Then again, Hogwarts must like him, for all the horseshit he’s had to deal with so far to not have killed him yet.
“I still don’t like the fact that your family is paying for their seat on the Wizengamot,” Granger says. “You shouldn’t have to. More to the point, you shouldn’t be able to. How is anyone else’s voice meant to be heard when the people with a lot of money can just wave it about and get whatever they want?”
Before Adele can say anything, George snorts. “Bold of you to assume that’s not what they wanted in the first place. The Wizengamot didn’t always have legislative powers, but when they took that on after the Statute? They deliberately wrote the rules to keep the rich tossers in power.”
“Proven magical lineage that’s lived in Britain proper for at least six generations,” Fred adds, as Granger opens her mouth - probably to ask what the rules are. “And even then, they tend to only invite families with paler complexions - Alicia Spinnet’s family has long since qualified, for one. Greenwood’s family is probably there because the old Wizengamot couldn’t ignore their old title, and if they stop paying for the seat now, they might never get it back.”
“I - thank you, but how do you two know all this?”
“One of us would probably be due for the seat whenever Dad got tired of it, if the family hadn’t run out of the ridiculous amounts of money it costs decades ago,” George says. “Us or Bill, if he could be dragged back from Egypt.”
“Not Charlie, that’s for sure. Percy… if he thought it wasn’t a conflict of interest with his Safe Ministry Job, maybe.” Fred rolls his eyes. “It really says something that Malfoy didn’t bankrupt himself paying off the fines the unprovable Death Eaters got smacked with if they wanted to keep their seats - a lot of the others did.”
“Our money started drying up well before that,” Adele says. She wishes she could say her parents wouldn’t support the Death Eaters’ agenda so overtly, but she can’t rule it out - God knows they tried to steer her toward the proper British Purebloods. “It’s a lucky thing we have good Preservation Charms on the family home, or that would be eating into it as well. I’m going to any university that will have me, and I will bring some useful income back to the Greenwood.”
For some bloody reason, that makes Fred grin. “Come hell, high water, or your parents?”
Adele smiles, despite herself. “Something like that.”
Despite the end of the tournament looming over his head, spring feels pretty normal.
It’s not completely normal - they can’t even have pick-up quidditch games thanks to that stupid hedge maze, and there’s the whole thing with Dumbledore’s Pensieve being left out, and Professor Moody is only getting weirder as the term goes on - but for once Harry feels kind of like he thinks normal Hogwarts students must feel. He has friends to hang out with, and homework to do, and… it’s pretty normal.
They have small parties for Ron’s birthday and the twins’ birthday. The twins are surprisingly somber when they open packages from their mum that turn out to contain pocket watches, which turns into an explanation of current magical coming-of-age traditions (apparently, the watches used to belong to uncles that the twins, Ron and Ginny never met). Hermione’s losing her mind over exams already, as usual; if there’s one benefit to the Triwizard Tournament Harry will happily exploit, it’s being exempt from end-of-term exams, but she sets up a study schedule for him anyway. Adele keeps walking him through basic Occlumency, and it does cut into the frequency of those stupid Creepy Baby Voldemort dreams (they don’t stop entirely, but Harry has less of them, which he counts as a win).
It’s pretty normal. It’s normal enough that Harry actually starts to hope that maybe the end of this stupid tournament will work out all right.
He really should have known better. He can’t see past that thought once he gets out of the stupid duel and back to the cup and takes Cedric’s body back (it’s the least he can do for his family, after putting Cedric in a position to die in the first fucking place). Harry doesn’t get normal school years. Those are for other people. He gets teachers trying to kill him and a deadly enemy using him in a resurrection ritual.
He can’t see past it when Cedric’s dad joins them, when Professor Moody hauls Harry back up to the castle, when Moody turns out to not actually be Moody at all, when Fudge turns up with a fucking Dementor in tow. It’s like he maybe should be feeling something other than numb, but he can’t see past it. He should have known better. He should have been able to do something, anything, other than let things just - happen.
And then Dumbledore wants him to talk about the graveyard.
Harry really doesn’t want to talk about the graveyard. Maybe some other time (maybe never, never sounds excellent), but not now, not when it just happened. But Snape’s certainly not going to make him stop, and even Sirius backs down from Harry’s defense after a brief staring contest with the headmaster.
…Wait. Staring contest. Didn’t Adele say--
“For God’s sake, can’t that wait until tomorrow?”
Harry startles badly, and only manages not to beat himself up for it because everyone else did too. “When did you get here?”
Adele doesn’t look pleased that she made herself the center of attention, but she stays put. “I followed you from the grounds.”
“I didn’t see - never mind.” Right. Invisibility charms exist, and Adele has spent most of the last few Fred-and-George-free meetings explaining one she learned in her common room (Harry really wants to meet this mysterious portrait professor; maybe next year he can). Of course he didn’t see her, and when it turned out the DADA teacher was a Death Eater, she probably decided staying hidden was for the best.
Snape sighs. “Miss Greenwood, this does not concern you.”
“My point stands. I don’t see what more there is to learn that can’t wait. Diggory is dead and a threat to Britain is regrouping. How is making him discuss the details right now going to help anyone?” When Dumbledore tries to catch her eye, Adele glares at him until he stumbles backward. “Do not try that again, Headmaster, or I’ll let you get lost. Or through to the second layer, which you would enjoy even less. Let Harry rest. Everything else can wait.”
After a few moments, Dumbledore sighs, like he’s profoundly disappointed about something. “Very well, dear girl. You raise a good point; we could all do with a bit of shut-eye, I think. Sirius, when you head out, start alerting the old guard.”
Sirius nods, but doesn’t get up to leave when Dumbledore and Snape do - and Adele stays put, too, for which he’s grateful. After the teachers are gone, she eyes Sirius, then says, “I guess the story got a bit out of hand last year?”
Sirius huffs out a mirthless laugh. “The story got out of hand in ‘81, kid. You’re the one who’s been helping him out?”
“Someone had to.”
“And by all rights that someone should’ve been me, but… thank you.”
Adele nods, then approaches Harry’s bed (he’s already resigned himself to yet another night in the infirmary). “I shouldn’t linger too long, but would you like a hug?”
Harry almost panics, but he manages to nod. He doesn’t have many hugs to go by, but he thinks this is a pretty good one. “Thanks.”
“Of course. I’ll - I can’t make any promises, but I’ll see if I can get you out of your relatives’ place for some of the summer. Aunt Fi would probably be up for it.”
“It’s no problem if you can’t.” He still doesn’t understand why Adele is sticking her neck out for him like this, but he can’t bring himself to argue that hard, right now.
“That doesn’t mean I won’t try. You shouldn’t be alone after something like this.”
After Adele leaves, Sirius sighs and stands up, and then Harry really does start to panic. She was right - he shouldn’t be alone right now - but he doesn’t know how to ask Sirius to stay. Dumbledore gave him something to do. Making sure people outside of Hogwarts know Voldemort is back and they need to do something about it is important.
Harry doesn’t want it to be more important than he is, but… well, everything is more important than he is.
But Sirius just looks at him, shifts into his dog form, and curls up on the foot of the bed, draped over Harry’s feet. Harry’s first hysterical thought is that Madam Pomfrey is going to be so annoyed by the dog hair all over the bed, come morning.
He wouldn’t call it a restful night by any stretch of the imagination, and he’s not sure if he actually sleeps or not, but it’s a lot better with Sirius there than it would’ve been otherwise.
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.”
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,
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.”
“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.
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.
One of Adele's follow-up questions to her pile of letters is absolutely 'would Amelia Tyler be magically recognised as a governmental representative at a magical adoption, even though she has no magic herself?' Because I would also like to know that. It'd be great if she was.