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2022-09-25 13:09:39

Disclaimer- I don't own Harry Potter.

Albus spent most of the days preceding Christmas at Rose's house. James was determined to use all of his spare time for Quidditch practice, and he had to go to Rose's house for that. Albus usually went with him and he and Hugo would help James practice while Rose read.

Harry had to practically separate James from his broom by magic on Christmas Eve so they could go to Godric's Hollow. James wanted to stay at Rose's house and keep practicing, but Harry refused to let him. The trip was quiet since James was rather sullen the entire time.

“Professor Patil says I'm a natural at Transfiguration,” Lily bragged to Albus as they walked towards the Burrow afterwards.

“That's good,” Albus replied.

“Yeah, so I'm going to become an Animagus eventually. I want to be a cat.”

“You don't get to choose what kind of animal you transform into,” Albus told her.

“Oh,” Lily said, “But I think I'll become a cat.”

Albus nodded as Lily began to describe in great detail what kind of cat she would transform into.

Everyone else was already at the Burrow and Albus felt an immediate warmth come over him as he stepped inside. It had nothing to do with the fact that it was so cold and snowy outside, either. There was something so comforting about being at the Burrow surrounded by all his family. He was able to forget all the issues with the Quidditch tournament and Professor Killigan. All he could think about was how ravenous he was and how good some of his grandmother's cooking would be right about then.

Rose sat down next to Albus as he tucked into a large bowl of onion soup with a side of homemade bread.

“Uncle Charlie and Aunt Katherine are going back to Romania this summer,” Rose announced.

“To tame more dragons?” Albus asked. His uncle and aunt hadn't done that since Stanley started Hogwarts, but they often talked about how they wanted to go back.

“Yeah,” Rose nodded, “They might stay even after the summer's over, but Heather and Mark will come back to go to Hogwarts.”

“They get to go, too?”

“Yup. Stanley and Eddie are going, too. Stanley's quitting his job for it. He's definitely staying in Romania after the summer's over. He wants to get into dragon training.”

“Wow,” Albus replied, “They're lucky. I guess it's good that Stanley decided what he wants to do.”

Stanley had been working at the Magical Menagerie since he finished Hogwarts, but knew he didn't want to do that his whole life. He just didn't know what he did want to do.

“I wish our parents would take us to some other country,” Albus sighed.

“Me, too,” Rose agreed, “Imagine the history we could learn.”

Albus personally had enough of History from Professor Binns, but he supposed learning history by traveling would be fun.

“Christmas Quidditch tomorrow?” Teddy asked as he sat down next to Rose.

“Definitely,” Albus grinned.

“I wouldn't count on it, Teddy,” Molly said as she handed Albus another hunk of bread, “We're supposed to get the snowstorm of the decade tomorrow. The Muggle electricity is already out in town.”

“Is it really?” Arthur popped his head into the room, “Fascinating! I may have to go see it tomorrow!”

“You'll do no such thing!” Molly shouted, “It's near impossible to Appparate during such a storm. Not to mention the fact that it's Christmas and you should be here.”

“We don't need electricity to play Quidditch!” Teddy exclaimed, “It'll be perfect training conditions! If you can catch a Snitch in the middle of a blizzard, you can catch one in any weather. It's not like Kendrick ever calls off Quidditch because of snow.”

“We'll see tomorrow, Teddy,” Molly sighed.

Albus finished his soup and he and Rose went into the den, where they were greeted by a loud chorus of 'Odo the Hero', sung by George, Alicia, Charlie, and Ron. Bill and Fleur were laughing while Hermione shook her head. Albus had a feeling the only reason why Fleur approved was because the singing was drowning out Celestina Warbeck.

“So then I said, I'm not paying seven Sickles for that!” Percy said to Katherine, who was only sort of paying attention, “And the bloke looked at me like I was mad. I say he's mad, charging that much for a tour of a questionably historic old building. There really should be regulations on such things. It's one thing I'll change if I'm ever Minister.”

Albus stifled a laugh. His Uncle Percy had been talking about running for Minister for the past ten years, but still hadn't done it. Most of his uncles and aunts got sick of hearing him talk about what he would and would not change.

“Hey, Albus, Rose,” Victoire waved at him from across the room.

“Hi Victoire,” Albus made his way over to her, “How is Healer training?”

“Exhausting,” Victoire sighed, “And I have to figure out which part of the hospital I want to do the rest of my training in by September. We've been rotating throughout all the floors, but now we have to pick one. I'm nowhere near decided.”

“You have until September,” Albus shrugged. It seemed like a long time to him.

“I know,” Victoire replied, “But Amy's known where she wants to finish training since we were in fourth year.”

“You're not in Amy's situation,” Teddy appeared and put his arm around her, “And I think you'll do great anyplace you decide.”

“Thanks, Teddy,” Victoire smiled, “I'm thinking either the Maternity ward or Spell Damage.”

“There's a busy ward,” Teddy grinned, “Spell Damage. You'll get all the funny injuries there.”

“That's not a good reason to pick a specialization,” Victoire groaned.

“Good a reason as any,” Teddy shrugged.

The time grew later and after Albus played numerous rounds of Exploding Snap with his cousins, his grandmother announced that it was time for bed. Everyone argued, but there was really no point. Everyone, including the other adults, knew that arguing with Molly Weasley was useless.

Albus trudged up the stairs to the highest bedroom that he shared with James, Ben, and Cedric. He climbed into bed and then realized just how big this impending blizzard was. The wind was howling louder than he'd ever heard before.

The wind was so powerful that Albus could feel it through the gaps in the window. Every once in a while, the house would creak and shake. Albus sighed and put his pillow over his ears to try and drown out the howling.

Albus didn't manage to drift off to sleep until after Cedric got out of bed, swore loudly, and disregarded the no magic outside of school rule to put a silencing charm on the room.


Albus was awoken by his annual Christmas wake-up call, Lily. She breezed through the door shouting about how they all needed to wake up and open their presents.

“And there's three feet of snow outside,” Lily said as she left the room, “I checked.”

“Merlin!” James jumped off the top bunk and looked out the window, “There is! And it's still coming!”

“Whoa, you can't see anything!” Cedric added.

“We could build the world's biggest snow wizard later,” Ben suggested.

“We could build an entire snow wizard army,” Albus said.

“Presents first,” James said as he located his pile of presents.

Albus descended upon his own pile of presents and began opening them. There were the usual sweets and Weasleys' products from his aunts and uncles. Another Weasley sweater, this one scarlet and gold striped. He pulled it on over his pajamas and opened the rest of the presents from his aunts and uncles. His Aunt Hermione had gotten him a few books he'd probably never read, including one about the history of house elves at Hogwarts.

Albus saved his parents' present for last, although he doubted they could top last year's. There really wasn't anything in the world that was better than the Invisibility Cloak.

“Al, did you open Mum and Dad's yet?” James shouted.

“I'm opening it now,” Albus said as he ripped the paper off the small box.

“You'll never guess what they got us!”

Albus opened the box and saw two tickets. Two tickets for the Quidditch World Cup that was taking place this summer!

“Whoa!” Albus shouted, “World Cup tickets!”

“I didn't even know they were on sale this early!” James said.

“You two get the best presents,” Cedric said.

“Hey, I got two tickets,” James replied.

“Yeah, two,” Ben sighed, “You can only pick one of us to go.”

Albus suddenly realized he had the same problem. Two tickets. Five friends he would want to take. Who was he going to choose? Not Rose. They may have been friends since they were babies, but she just didn't have a passion for Quidditch. Neither did Kaden. He was another to cross off the list. John and Matt were the Quidditch fans. He'd have to choose between them. Amanda liked Quidditch well enough, but she didn't follow a team or anything.

“Those are limited edition tickets,” Ben said, “They don't know who's playing yet, so they don't sell very many tickets ahead of time.”

“They're for the top box, too,” James said in awe.

Lily burst into the room with a big grin on her face. She was holding two tickets as well. “Did you get Quidditch tickets?”

“Yeah,” Albus and James said at the same time.

“This is going to be brilliant,” Lily said and then ran out of the room.

Albus's parents were already in the kitchen by the time Albus went downstairs. They were sitting at the table eating breakfast. Albus gave them each a huge hug and then sat down.

“How did you get the tickets?” he asked.

“They were a gift from the Minister,” Harry replied, “The Cup is in Canada this year and he's good friends with their minister. Got him a lot of free tickets.”

Albus grinned as he began to eat breakfast. Somehow his parents had come close to topping last year's present. Now not only was he going to get to see the World Cup, he would get to travel to a different country.

Rose came downstairs a little while later and was impressed with the tickets. She had no desire to go to the Cup and had no suggestions on how Albus was going to choose between John and Matt.

“Anyone up for Quidditch later?” Teddy announced as he sauntered into the kitchen.

“Not under my watch!” Molly shouted, “You can't see a foot in front of you out there! And it must be close to 15 below!”

“Maybe after lunch, then,” Teddy shrugged.

Molly shook her head and sighed as she set a few more platters of eggs and toast onto the table.

There was a knock on the door that could only just be heard over the howling wind. Molly glanced at Arthur, who shrugged and got up to see who it was. Albus followed, very curious to see who would visit on Christmas morning in the middle of a huge blizzard.

“Xeno, is that you?” Arthur shouted outside.

“Yes!” Xenophilius Lovegood shouted back. Arthur stood aside as the man walked in and then shut the door behind him. “Quite the storm we're having! Just thought I'd stop by and see if this place was still standing.”

“Quite the storm, yes,” Arthur agreed, “I heard the Muggles lost electricity. Fascinating. I wonder what they do without it. But yes, the house is still standing.”

“Good, but if you feel it's too rickety, just let me know and I'll go get some of my Jutispy Plants. The leaves do wonders on old buildings. Makes them like new. I just put a bunch into my place and it's a good thing, too. Of course, they tend to attract Nargles...” Xenophilius's voice trailed off.

“I'll keep that in mind,” Arthur smiled, “Are you spending the holiday alone?”

“Yes, yes,” he replied, “Luna and Rolf are with his family this Christmas.”

“Then you must stay here a while. Molly's cooked far too much food, like usual,” Arthur lead Xeno into the kitchen.

Albus followed them. He always found Xenophilius Lovegood to be an interesting wizard, if not a little mad. Always going on about Nargles or Nom-Noms or something.

Molly was more than happy to provide Xenophilius with a large platter of breakfast and he settled down to discuss the storm with the adults.

Albus spent most of the morning playing Exploding Snap, Wizard's Chess, and Gobstones with his cousins. They tried to play hide and go seek, but the house was too crowded to play it properly.

Teddy and James kept looking out the window, willing it to stop snowing. Both of them were just itching to go play Quidditch. Albus would have gladly gone and played if it would stop snowing so much. He was dedicated to the game, but not enough to play in this storm.

Lunchtime came and the snow was still falling. George went outside to measure it and came back with the news that it was three and a half feet.

Teddy went upstairs after lunch and came back decked out in three jumpers, a thick cloak, and a pair of boots. Under one arm was his broom and under the other was a box of Quidditch balls. James was right behind him, dressed the same.

“Theodore Remus Lupin!” Molly shouted, “I suppose I can't stop you from going out there and catching death of a cold, but I will not let you drag James with you!”

“He's not dragging me, Grandma,” James rolled his eyes, “I want to go!”

“Just let them, Molly,” Harry said, “They'll get cold soon enough and come back inside.”

“Fine,” Molly replied and went back into the kitchen.

“Excellent,” Teddy grinned, “Anyone care to join us?”

Georgia, Fred, and Heather suited up in warm clothes and joined Teddy and James. Albus decided against it. Quidditch was fun, but he didn't want to freeze when he could stay inside and be warm.

The Christmas Quidditch lasted a half an hour. Teddy, James, Georgia, Heather, and Fred all stumbled back into the house shivering with their faces red and covered in snow and ice. Molly immediately descended upon them with mugs of hot chocolate and dry clothes.

“Told you, Molly,” Harry grinned.

“C-can't find the Sn-Snitch,” Teddy muttered.

Harry laughed. “That doesn't surprise me. You'll find it when the storm calms down. You put the charm on it to stay in the yard, right?”

“Y-yeah,” Teddy replied.

Christmas dinner came and went in its usual chaos. Xenophilius stayed for it and James snuck sneezing powder into his soup, which he found incredibly funny. Molly was not as impressed and gave James quite the scolding. How she found out it was James was beyond Albus.

The storm continued throughout the night and Cedric had to put the silencing charm back on their room in order for any of them to get any sleep.


Nobody left the Burrow until two days after Christmas. That was when the snow finally let up. It topped out at around four and a half feet, which was a new record for Albus's lifetime. The Burrow's yard had been decorated by dozens of snow witches and wizards, along with hippogriffs, owls, and a variety of other magical creatures.

When Albus found out what his family was doing after they left the Burrow, he wished the snow would have kept coming. They were going shopping for dress robes for the New Year's party.

“Why can't I just wear my old dress robes?” James whined as they walked down Diagon Alley towards Madam Malkin's.

“Because they're five inches too short,” Ginny replied, “They're even too small for Al.”

“Yeah, Hugo's the lucky one,” James muttered. Hugo was wearing James's old dress robes to the party and therefore did not have to go shopping.

“Mummy, I want purple robes,” Lily announced.

“If they have any,” Ginny replied.

Albus wanted to buy the first pair of dress robes he found, so long as they weren't pink or purple. The sooner they were done robes shopping the better.

Rose and Lily made a beeline for the girls dress robes as soon as they walked in the door. Albus stood awkwardly next to James while their mother found various robes for them.

“Here, try these on, Al,” Ginny handed him a pair of emerald green robes.

“Very Slytherin,” James snickered.

“Shut it, James,” Albus muttered.

“They'll bring out your eyes, Al,” Ginny told him, “Now go try them on.”

Albus reluctantly tried on the Slytherin colored robes and then left the dressing room for his mother to see.

“Too short,” she announced, “But the color is perfect. I'll find a bigger size.”

James wound up with a navy blue pair of robes, which Albus would have preferred. Lily found her purple robes and Rose got a sky blue pair.

“Next time you're getting green robes,” Albus muttered to James, who was still making fun of the color of Albus's robes.

“No I won't. I don't have green eyes,” James grinned.

“Then we'll get you a nice red set,” Ginny said, “They'll clash horribly with your hair.”

“I don't care. They'd be Gryffindor colored,” James laughed.

A/N: Thanks to my beta, Dancer_of_Starlight, as well as all the awesome people who have read and reviewed this! Also, for anyone who read In Moonlight's shadow, the first chapter of the sequel, Beyond the Shadow, is now up!

Disclaimer- I don't own Harry Potter.

The party was at the Minister's Mansion, the house where all the Ministers of Magic had lived. Albus had been there a few times before, but not in a couple years. Usually all the parties the Minister held were while Albus was at Hogwarts.

A few hours before the party, Ginny made Albus, James, and Lily all take showers and comb their hair properly. She spent a good fifteen minutes trying to get James's hair to lie flat and another fifteen minutes putting Lily's up in some sort of elaborate bun type thing. Albus was very happy his own hair was far too short for that sort of thing.

Before they left, Albus's parents sat him, James, and Lily down on the couch and proceeded to tell them the rules for the evening.

“Absolutely no making trouble!” Ginny stared at James as she said this, “None at all! This is the Minister's house! I will not have you wreaking havoc in it.”

“We're trusting you to keep yourselves occupied during this. I'm going to have to mingle with everyone and we won't be able to watch you every second,” Harry added, “You're all at Hogwarts now. You're old enough to not be glued to us for the evening.”

“Don't worry,” James said, “I know when mischief isn't appropriate.”

“Let's hope so,” Ginny sighed.

Albus and his family Apparated to the Minister's house, which meant side-along Apparition for Albus. He hated side-along Apparition. It felt like he couldn't breath. It was worse when the person who was Apparating him was also Apparating another person, which was always the case in his family. It was the curse of being the middle child. He was either with James or Lily. This time it was with Lily and Harry was Apparating them.

When Albus had regained his ability to breath properly, he looked around at where they had landed. He was standing on the front lawn of what was the most extravagant mansion he had ever seen. It couldn't be considered a house; it was just too monstrous.

A long and winding sidewalk, framed with bushes and lights on either side, lead up to the front door. Albus's parents started walking up and Albus followed.

The mansion seemed to get bigger as they got closer. It was painted brown with a black roof and reminded Albus of a castle. It wasn't nearly as big as Hogwarts, of course, but it was still huge.

Harry rang the bell when they arrived at the door and it was answered by the Minister himself. “Harry!” he shouted, “Come in!”

Minister Langston Hartwell was the third minister since the fall of Lord Voldemort. He was a tall, rotund man with very little hair left on his head. He did sport a rather large mustache, which caused Albus to think of him as a much taller version of Professor Slughorn.

Hartwell was one of those very educated wizards who spoke using very large words that Albus couldn't really understand. He was long-winded and most of his speeches could be condensed down into a few sentences, according to Harry, that is. He was a very nice man, though.

“Right this way,” Hartwell motioned for them to follow him.

Hartwell lead them through the house, which was just as immaculate as Albus remembered, and into what could only be described as a grand ballroom. It was the same ballroom all the parties Albus had been to were held.

The room was decorated with silver and black and was already filling up with people. Albus spotted Rose and Matt in the back of the room and left his family in the doorway to go see them.

“Some place, huh?” Albus said once he reached them.

“This is the biggest house I've ever seen,” Rose agreed, “I see you're wearing your Slytherin robes.”

Albus rolled his eyes. “Shut it.”

“What do you think, Matt?” Rose turned to Matt, “His mum says they match his eyes, but James says they're Slytherin robes.”

“Slytherin,” Matt said immediately.

“Then yours are Ravenclaw,” Albus pointed out, gesturing to Matt's blue robes.

“I don't care,” Matt shrugged, “So, did you just get here?”

“Yeah,” Albus replied.

“I've been here for two hours already,” Matt said, “We were the first ones here. Dad keeps introducing me to people and they all think I'm a first year.”

“Bet that's fun,” Albus laughed, “Do you know most of these people?”

“Some,” Matt said, “That's the bloke Dad's taking over for,” he gestured to a very large wizard, “McVicar.”

“Right,” Albus said, “I've heard of him. Dad's always said he would never retire.”

“Dad never thought he would either,” Matt laughed, “Then we've got your Uncle Percy, I think you probably know him. Those people are a few of Dad's colleagues,” Matt gestured to a few more witches and wizards, “Then there's a bunch of people from other departments, but I don't remember any of their names.”

“Looks like it's going to be a fun night,” Albus said sarcastically.

“Oh, it will be,” Matt grinned, “When I was really little, we went to parties like this a few times a month. You make your own fun.”

“Like what?” Albus asked.

“Charming alcohol out of the wine and champagne. It'll still taste exactly the same,” Matt grinned mischievously, “By the time midnight rolls around, everyone will be wondering why they're not drunk. It'll be funny.”

“You've done this before?” Rose raised an eyebrow.

“Amy has,” Matt said, “She's here somewhere and she's going to do it soon.”

“I have to admit, that's really creative,” Rose giggled, “What else?”

“Mostly stuff with the food. Charm the chocolates to taste like vanilla, charm the serving utensils to move every time you go to pick them up, that sort of stuff,” Matt explained.

“My parents gave us this speech about how we can't play pranks here,” Albus said, “She was saying it mostly for James, but I think she should've given it to you.”

“My parents never say that stuff to me,” Matt laughed, “They never suspect me of anything. The minute they find out the alcohol's been charmed out of the drinks, they'll find Amy.”

“She is the one who's going to do it,” Rose pointed out.

“It was my idea, though. She wasn't originally going to do it at this party,” Matt explained.

“Alcohol's gone,” Amy said quietly as she came up behind Matt, “This is going to be interesting.”

“What exactly happens when you use this charm?” Rose asked.

“Oh, it's great,” Amy grinned, “First, only a couple people notice and they make a very quiet mention to another person and then that person agrees that there's something wrong with the drinks. Then it just snowballs from there until it's all they're talking about. Then someone will test the drinks, discover the alcohol's been charmed away, replace it, and then everyone will cheer. But some of them will act drunk because they think there's alcohol in the drinks.”

“Aren't your parents going to be upset?” Rose asked.

“They might tell me they wish I hadn't done it, but there's not much they can do,” Amy shrugged, “That's why I'm doing it and not Matt.”

“I couldn't see your parents yelling at you anyway,” Albus laughed.

“You never know,” Matt shrugged.

“I bet James and Cedric are going to do something,” Albus said as he scanned the crowd. James and Cedric were sitting at one of the tables, heads close together like they were plotting something.

“I'd be shocked if they didn't,” Rose smirked, “Aunt Ginny has no hope of stopping James.”

“And I'd bet my last Galleon that Georgia and Bradley are talking about Quidditch,” Albus gestured to his other two cousins, who were standing near the buffet.

“That's all they talk about,” Rose said, “And Lily looks bored. Five Sickles says she's over here in about ten minutes or so.”

“I wouldn't bet against that,” Albus said, “And Samantha and Lindy will sneak out of the room the next time Aunt Corrine looks away.”

Albus's Aunt Corrine was talking with two witches Albus didn't know and his twin cousins were chasing each other around the room.

“Are any of your other cousins coming?” Amy asked.

“Nope,” Albus shook his head, “None of my other aunts and uncles work for the Ministry.”

“Let's go get something to eat,” Matt said.

Albus and Rose agreed. Amy left to go talk to someone else and the three friends walked over to the buffet. There was already a small queue in front of it.

“There go Samantha and Lindy,” Rose said as they waited. The twins ran out one of the doors and Corrine quickly followed.

The queue moved quickly and soon Albus was in front. He grabbed a plate and piled it high with just about everything. There was always the best food at this sort of party.

They found an empty table far enough away from James and Cedric. Albus didn't want to be anywhere near them when they did whatever they were planning on doing.

“I don't even know what half this stuff is,” Matt said as he began eating, “But it's good.”

More and more people arrived as Albus ate his dinner. He recognized a few of them, but didn't remember any names. He also noticed that nobody was acting strangely due to Amy's charm. They were all acting perfectly normal for adults who had had a few drinks.

Albus, Matt, and Rose wandered around the room once they finished their food. A few adults stopped to exclaim how big they'd gotten and to inquire what year they were at Hogwarts. Lily joined them because she didn't want to be associated with James and Cedric's mischief.

“Hello, everyone!” Minister Hartwell shouted from the podium at the front of the room.

Everyone quieted down and turned to watch him. Albus, Rose, and Matt were somewhat close to the podium.

“Thank you,” he smiled, “I assume you all know why I've thrown this party, and it's not just to unload the large amount of wine I was given for Christmas!”

The adults all chuckled at Hartwell's attempt at a joke and then quieted down once again.

“Yes, yes, well, this party is in honor of none other than Walter Eckerton, whom I have appointed to the position of Head of the Department of Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. There is no one else whom I would trust with such a job....”

Hartwell's speech soon descended into one of his usual speeches, which Albus could not understand. It was long, drawn-out, and Albus could've sworn he saw his dad yawn at one point.

Albus clapped loudly when Hartwell finally finished and turned the podium over to McVicar.

“Thank you, Minister,” McVicar began, “That was quite an interesting speech. I, too, would like to congratulate Walter Eckerton on his promotion.

“I am sure at least half of you were quite surprised to hear that I was retiring. I myself was surprised. In fact, I probably wouldn't have done it if it weren't for the fact that my wife has been begging me to for the past ten years.

“However, the main reason for my lack of an earlier retirement was because there was not a single person employed in the Ministry whom I would have trusted with this job. Nobody had the capabilities to carry out this position in the way I would like. Like they always say, if you want something done right, do it yourself. That was my motto up until five years ago, that is.

“A little over five years ago, a man came into the Ministry looking for a job in the Department of the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. He applied for a job in Werewolf Support Services, a position that had been open for well over a year. I was ready to hire anyone who walked through the door at that point, but I had no idea what was to come when I hired Walter Eckerton.

“Some of you may know that Walter has experience in this field. He was the Head of the Department of Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures in Australia for three years before leaving the position in order to move to England.

“Walter revolutionized Werewolf Support Services as soon as he started. The ideas he had were ones that even I hadn't thought of. In five short years, he has bettered life for those plagued with lycanthropy more than anyone else in the department have in their entire careers.

“It took only six months for me to realize that I wanted Walter to take over for me when I retired. Not only does he have the experience and intelligence for the job, but he also has dedication that I have never seen before. I even have to admit that his dedication surpasses my own. I have never seen anyone fight as hard for werewolf rights as he has.

“The only thing left for me to do was convince myself it was time to retire,” McVicar chuckled, “And yes, it did take the better part of five years to do that. But now, I feel very confident as I hand the reins over to Walter.”

Everyone clapped as McVicar stepped away and Matt's dad took the podium. “That was quite the speech,” Albus muttered to Matt.

“I'll say,” Matt agreed, “And McVicar doesn't usually praise people like that.”

“Well,” Matt's dad began, “Thanks for your vote of confidence, Rob. I certainly hope I can live up to your expectations.

“I have to begin by saying how unexpected this was. I really had no intentions of becoming the head of the entire department again, no matter which country I was living in. Werewolf Support Services has been such a great place to work these past few years. It truly is my passion.

“However, when Langston and Rob approached me about taking over when Rob retired, I found it difficult to say no. In the end, I said yes because I want to make more of a difference.

“Of course, I could not have gotten to this place without the help of my wife, Julie,” he gestured to Matt's mum, who was standing near the podium, “And my daughter, Amy, and my son, Matt.

“I'm not one for long speeches, so I'll just say that I look forward to starting the job and I truly hope I can be at least half of the head of the department Rob has been.”

“I just hope none of them find out why my dad's so dedicated,” Matt whispered.

“They're too drunk to think much on it,” Rose smirked.

“They're not really drunk,” Albus reminded her.

“They're certainly acting like they are,” Rose pointed out.

A good portion of the adults were acting very drunk. In fact, if Albus hadn't known about Amy's charm, he would say they all really were drunk. The weird thing was that everybody was acting drunk. There didn't seem to be anyone who was thinking there was something wrong with the drinks.

“Let's go ask Amy about it,” Matt suggested.

Amy was standing nearby, so Albus, Matt, and Rose squeezed their way through the crowd to get to her.

“Amy,” Matt whispered, “Why's everyone acting normal?

“I don't know,” she whispered back, “Let's go look at the drinks.”

James and Cedric were also standing near the drink table, looking nearly as confused as Albus felt about this charm. That was kind of strange.

Amy grabbed a glass of wine and tried it. “Well, it tastes fine, but it's supposed to.”

“You'll have to drink a lot more than that to get properly drunk,” Matt grinned.

“I'm not doing that,” Amy rolled her eyes.

“Actually,” James grinned mischievously, “That might get you drunk.”

“What did you do?” Albus groaned.

“Cedric and I added some extra alcohol to that wine,” James whispered.

Albus, Rose, Matt, and Amy burst out laughing. Albus could not believe it. All of their pranks had backfired. The wine was now perfectly normal.

“What's so funny?” Cedric asked.

“Amy pulled a prank, too,” Albus said.

“I put a charm on all the wine to remove the alcohol, while keeping the taste,” Amy explained, “I did it right when the party started.”

“So much for that prank,” James groaned.

“Now you won't get in trouble,” Albus pointed out, “Mum's been watching you two.”

“I know,” James muttered, “That's why we can't do it again.”

“What do you want to do now?” Albus asked as James, Cedric, and Amy left.

“Want to explore the Minister's Mansion?” Matt suggested.

“Is that allowed?” Rose asked skeptically.

“I don't see why not, I mean, this is my dad's party,” Matt pointed out, “Plus, we'd just be walking around.”

“Let's go,” Albus said and lead them out of the ballroom.

It was much quieter in the rest of the house. They started wandering through any rooms that had open doors.

“This place is so bloody fancy,” Albus said.

“It reminds me of my grandparents' house,” Matt said.

“Their house is this big?” Rose asked.

“Nearly,” Matt replied, “They've got a ballroom and everything.”

The three friends wound up in a very large living room filled with antique furniture. There was an oriental carpet on the ground and oak tables and bookshelves around the perimeter. Atop the tables were fancy vases of flowers and crystal sculptures.

“We'd better be careful in here,” Rose said as she walked into the room, “If we break any of this stuff, our parents would murder us.”

“Cinda's got one of these,” Matt pointed to a crystal swan.

“Don't touch it!” Rose hissed.

“I wasn't,” Matt assured her, “I broke Cinda's once, but Mum fixed it.”

“Look at all these books,” Albus gazed up at one of the bookcases, “Madam Pince would love to get her hands on these.”

“They're all about politics, though,” Matt pointed out, “Pretty boring.”

“Mum would like them,” Rose said

“I wonder how old this furniture is,” Matt said as he looked at a rather uncomfortable looking armchair.

“Probably older than Aberforth Dumbledore,” Albus replied.

“Hey, Albus, Matt, come here,” Rose said as she looked out the window.

Albus and Matt walked over to the window and leaned over the table that was in front of it.

“What is it?” Albus asked.

“Look, there's-”

Matt leaned farther over the table and knocked one of the crystal sculptures off. Rose gasped and managed to catch it before it crashed onto the floor.

“Merlin,” Rose whispered as she set it back on the table, “Be careful.”

“Sorry,” Matt replied, “What were you saying?”

“There's someone sneaking around out there,” Rose said.

Albus peered out the window into the darkness. He could just barely make out a shadow lurking around the bushes. It didn't look like the person was walking up towards the house to go to the party. Plus, why would he show up three hours late?

“There's definitely someone out there,” Matt said.

“Let's go find out who it is,” Albus said. He didn't have a clue as to who it was, but he wanted to find out. There was no reason for someone to be sneaking around the Minister's Mansion at this time of night.

“Albus Severus Potter, are you bloody insane?” Rose exclaimed, “I think you are!”

“Look, I just want to go see if we can find out who it is. I'm not saying we should go duel them. Plus, there's a whole room full of Ministry officials in case whoever is out there is someone bad,” Albus said.

“That's a good point,” Matt replied, “Why would someone sneak around a house that's full of Ministry officials, especially when the two top Aurors are inside?”

“I don't know,” Albus said, “But I want to find out who it is.”

Rose reluctantly agreed and followed Albus and Matt, muttering under her breath. They found the nearest door and went out into the cold night, drawing their wands as they did so.

“If we aren't killed, we'll freeze to death,” Rose muttered.

Albus ignored her and started looking around. He stayed close to the house and tried to keep himself concealed in the bushes as he looked for the figure. However, he couldn't see or hear anything.

“Do you hear anything?” he whispered to Matt.

“No,” Matt replied, “It's like they disapparated or something.”

“Good,” Rose muttered, “Now let's go back inside.”

“They could've just moved,” Albus pointed out, “Let's keep going.”

Albus continued creeping around the house, with his wand out in front of him. His heart was beating fast and his hands were sweaty despite the cold. He didn't want to stop, though. Figuring out who this bloke was was exciting and nerve wracking at the same time.

“Don't move!” someone shouted and all of a sudden there was a bright light in Albus's eyes. Wand light.

Rose screamed and grabbed hold of Albus's arm. Albus held up his own wand, his hand shaking.

“Who are you?” the person shouted.

“Wh-who are y-you?” Albus stammered.

“He sounds familiar,” Matt whispered, “Hang on. Bloody hell, that's Professor Balladanis!”

Albus thought for a second and the voice did sound a lot like Balladanis. But why would he be sneaking around the Minister's Mansion?

“Albus Potter, is that you?” the man shouted.

“Er, yes,” Albus replied.

The wand light lowered and Albus heard the man step through the snow towards him. Albus saw that he was indeed Professor Balladanis. He breathed a sigh of relief as Rose let go of his arm.

“Mr. Potter,” Balladanis said and then waved his wand around, “And Miss Weasley, Mr. Eckerton. Oh, I suppose this party is for your father, Mr. Eckerton?”

“Y-yes, sir,” Matt replied.

“What are the three of you doing sneaking around outside in the dead of night? I thought I'd taught you better than that. You're just asking for trouble,” Balladanis said sternly.

“Told you,” Rose whispered to Albus.

“Er,” Albus began, “We saw someone lurking around out here and went to investigate. I guess that person was you....”

“And you're lucky it was me,” Balladanis barked, “The three of you could have been dead if that person had been a dark wizard. Now, I'm taking all three of you back inside.”

Albus nodded and followed Balladanis through the snow and towards the door. “Sir,” Albus said, “If you don't mind my asking, what were you doing outside?”

“If you must know, the Minister asked me to check the grounds in order to make sure nobody was lurking around,” Balladanis replied.

That did nothing but spark Albus's curiosity even more. He knew better than to press further, though. Balladanis was not one to explain his motives.

A/N: Thanks to my beta, Dancer_of_Starlight, as well as everyone who has read and reviewed this!

Disclaimer- I don't own Harry Potter.

It was nearing midnight when Albus, Matt, and Rose re-entered the building, escorted by Professor Balladanis. Albus had been hoping the professor would just see them to the door and then continue his search of the perimeter, but instead he went back to the ballroom with them and marched them right up to Harry.

“Potter,” Balladanis interrupted the conversation Harry had been having with some wizard Albus didn't know, “I found your son, your niece, and their friend wandering around outside.”

“Albus,” Harry groaned, “I thought we made it clear that you were to stay inside.”

“I'll leave them with you,” Balldanis said, “Happy New Year.”

“Happy New Year,” Harry replied, “And thanks.”

Balladanis disappeared into the crowd and Albus shifted uncomfortably as his dad stared at him for a few moments.

“Care to explain?” Harry raised an eyebrow.

“We were just, er, exploring,” Albus muttered.

“Don't do it again,” Harry sighed.

“We won't,” Albus assured him.

Harry went back to his conversation and Albus lead his friends back to the buffet.

“I hope you've learned your lesson,” Rose muttered, “I am not doing that again.”

“We won't do it again. Not tonight, that is,” Albus grinned.

“10!” someone shouted.

Albus looked at the nearest clock and saw that it was almost midnight. Everyone else joined in the countdown, holding their glasses of champagne in the air. Amy joined Albus, Rose, and Matt.

“3, 2, 1, Happy New Year!” Albus shouted along with everyone else.

The crowd began to thin out a little while later. Most of the people Albus didn't know left, along with his Uncle Percy, Aunt Corrine, and his cousins. Albus's parents didn't look like they were in any hurry to leave, so he got a plate of the leftover desserts and at them with his friends.

Rose's family and Amy left, and then it was just the Potters, Matt, his parents, the Minister, and his wife left. All the adults were talking, James was teasing Lily about something, and Albus and Matt were finishing off the last of the desserts.

“Do you think there's any way for Hogwarts to win the Quidditch tournament?” Matt asked as he polished off a piece of chocolate cake.

“Only if Linda's sick the day of one of the matches,” Albus sighed.

“Maybe that'll happen,” Matt said, “You never know.”

“Al, we've got to go,” Ginny tapped him on the shoulder.

“Ok, Mum,” Albus replied and then turned back to Matt, “I'll see you soon.”

“Yeah, see you on the train,” Matt said.

Albus waved goodbye and then joined his mum, dad, James, and Lily. They all said congratulations to Matt's dad and then left the Minister's Mansion. Albus peered into the bushes as he left, but there was no sign of Professor Balladanis.


The remainder of the Christmas holiday went by very slow for Albus. He did all his homework, which was quite boring, and there was nothing to do after that. Rose was visiting her other grandparents and James was at Nathan's house. Even Kaden was busy visiting his grandparents (Vernon and Petunia). He sent Albus a letter complaining about it, since the visit was also with Aunt Marge. Albus was very grateful that he didn't have to go. Neither of his parents had mentioned anything about visiting with Vernon and Petunia again.

Finally the day to return to school arrived and the Potters made it to Platform 9 ¾ just in time. Albus found all his friends in one of the compartments and once they kicked Lily, Ashtyn, and Hugo out, they told each other about their holidays.

“Aunt Marge has got to be the most horrible aunt in the entire world,” Kaden fumed, “My dad told her about magic a few months ago and she's been awful ever since. I mean, she was always kind of horrible, but now she's worse. She just hates magic so much. She's worse than my grandparents.”

“Wow,” Albus replied, “Glad I've never met her.”

“Consider yourself lucky,” Kaden muttered, “I'm guessing you lot had better holidays?”

“We found Professor Balladanis lurking around the Minister's Mansion,” Albus announced.

“What?” John, Kaden, and Amanda shouted at the same time.

“I saw someone sneaking around outside and Albus insisted we go investigate,” Rose said, “Turns out it was Balladanis and the Minister had apparently asked him to check the grounds for trouble.”

“Did he find you?” John asked.

“Yeah,” Albus nodded, “He wasn't to happy either.”

“Told us we could've been killed,” Matt explained.

“Well, we could've,” Rose muttered.

“Weird though,” John said, “Why would the Minister think someone would be hiding around his house?”

“Doesn't he have guards around anyway?” Amanda asked, “The Muggle Minister does.”

“Again, that's why it's weird,” John replied, “He does have guards.”

“Why would he ask Balladanis anyway?” Matt asked, “Why not ask an Auror? Balladanis is a professor.”

“He hasn't always been,” Albus pointed out, “He had some sort of mysterious job before.”

“Again, weird,” John said.

“Yeah, there were a bunch of Aurors at the party, not to mention Albus's dad,” Matt pointed out.

“That settles it,” John announced, “Albus, you've got to find out what he did before he started teaching Defense?”

“Why me?” Albus asked.

“Because you've got those special dueling lessons with him. He likes you for some reason. Of course, he also likes Malfoy. But that's probably just because Malfoy's a good dueler, too,” John explained.

“I'll try,” Albus sighed, “But I really don't think he'll tell me.”

“You never know,” John said.


“Quiet, quiet!”