Chaos in the Castle - finding_truth_amongst_the_fiction - Harry Potter (2024)

Chapter 1: Spinners End, A Surprising Destination & A Place Called Home

Chapter Text

They arrived with a pop in a dank and smelly alleyway between rows of rundown terraced houses. Snape rushed Ava out of the shadowy lane and down the foreboding street. She could see the remains of an old industrial chimney in the distance; hear the barks of vicious dogs and the drunken laughter of men from the tired-looking pub they passed. Rubbish littered the floor and broken furniture was left rotting in the street; the whole place felt depressing and unloved. As much as she appreciated Snape taking her in, she wasn’t looking forward to spending the next two months in this damp and dreary place. It was devoid of colour, the rows of houses coloured black with soot and the yards bare of anything green. She wondered how Snape had survived his childhood in such a place and was curious as to how far away Lily Potter had lived.

They soon arrived in front of a thin terraced house made from cream-looking bricks that had stained grey over the years. It had a battered black wooden door and thin, tall windows. There was nothing that made it stand out against the other houses, and nothing implied it belonged to a wizard. There was an old mustard-yellow Ford Escort parked on the road outside the house squeezed between even older battered cars. The old-style cars (well old to her) made her time-travel reality really sink in. Spending a year at the old castle had somewhat taken her away from the fact she was nearly twenty years in the past, but seeing the old cars brought her new reality crashing down. Playing with her ribbon bracelet, Ava took a deep breath to help ground her and slow her racing heart, trying not to think of her son who she felt was getting further and further away from being real. She worried he would eventually slip from her mind and cease to exist.

“Just a quick stop Ava,” Snape said as he led her into the house, distracting her from her depressing thoughts.

“We’re not staying?” She asked confused, pushing her wavy, chocolate-brown hair behind her ear.

“Heavens no! I wouldn’t let you stay in this dump. I’m just picking up a few personal belongings and some books then will drive to our home.”

“Drive? You can drive?” Ava said in disbelief.

“Yes I can drive,” he said sarcastically. “My home is unplottable and I don’t like to risk apparition to somewhere nearby in case someone manages to tail me; old habits from the war. Plus I like to drive, it’s relaxing and I can make sure no one’s following me on the way. It’s not as if many wizards use Muggle transport.”

Snape left her in the tiny sitting room; it was dark and ominous, with an air of neglect like it hadn’t been lived in in sometime. The walls were covered in bookcases that were full of old dusty books and the only other furniture was a brown sofa that was faded and worn. Snape returned swiftly as she was glancing over the book titles, moving around the room quickly as he pulled at least a dozen books off the shelves seemingly at random. He placed them in an old, small duffle bag where they disappeared as if they had never existed.

“Ready to go?”

Ava nodded and was led back out of the house to the old Ford Escort.

“This is yours?” she asked disbelievingly.

Snape fumbled with the key in the lock. “Yes.”

Ava scrutinised the paintwork. “Couldn’t have picked anything less…yellow?” she said sarcastically. It was like someone had taken a massive tub of mustard and thought it was a good idea to paint a car with it.

“I happen to like the colour,” Snape said seriously.

Ava looked up in pure disbelief. “Really?”

“No – of course I don’t like mustard yellow. It was cheap and I wanted a car.”

Ava rolled her eyes as she dumped her trunk in the boot and got into the passenger seat. The inside was just as garish as the exterior; with tan colour seats and light brown trim. However it was clean and tidy, and purred softly when Snape started the engine. “You got any music?”

“In the glove box.”

She found a couple of cassette tapes; Michael Jackson, Queen, The Rolling Stones, a couple of mix tapes, and…

“ABBA? Really?” Ava said with a quirk of her eyebrow.

“That was Lily’s.”

“If you say so.” She placed in the Queen tape as Snape drove the car out of the depressing town and on to country lanes as she sang along to the familiar music.

Ava sat quietly, her fingers drumming on her thigh in time with the beat; her eyes fixed on the passing trees. She had never been very good at small talk, and Severus... well, Severus didn’t really do small talk at all. Their usual conversations were either about something serious, school or her causing chaos, and they were usually both happy to sit in comfortable silence. But as the silence stretched out, Ava found herself growing more and more anxious. She had excitedly agreed to come and live with him, to let him take care of her. But now, as the reality of the situation set in, she couldn’t help but feel a flutter of nerves. She turned the music up to distract her wandering thoughts, singing along to Bohemiem Rhapsody.

“Come on Uncle Sev, sing with me.”

Snape looked over, his face stoic with one eyebrow raised. She didn’t think he would join in but he surprised her. As soon as she finished singing ‘I see a little silhouetto of a man,’ he bellowed “Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the Fandango? Thunderbolt and lightning, very, very frightening me.”

“(Galileo) Galileo, (Galileo) Galileo, Galileo Figaro, magnifico,” they chorused.

Snape sang, “I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me.”
Before Ava cut in with, “He's just a poor boy from a poor family; spare him his life from this monstrosity.”

They took in turns singing along dramatically to the song until after ‘Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me, for me, for me’ when they started head-banging like they were the stars of Wayne’s World. The irony being that the film would have only just been released that year if memory served her right. She laughed so hard her ribs hurt as she watched Snape bobbing his head along to the music. It was actually a shame he no longer had long hair as the whole effect would have been even more hilarious; she had been surprised he’d not grown it back out.

What would it be like, living with Severus Snape? She thought as she watched him sing along to one of the greatest hits of all time. She had a hard time imagining him in a domestic setting, him fussing over breakfast and tidying up the living room. It was almost laughable. Would he be more relaxed than at school? Would he joke around with her, teach her other things outside school subjects? But as the car turned down a narrow lane, Ava’s thoughts were interrupted. They were heading down a large meadow covered in wildflowers with nothing but fields and a small wood surrounding them. It reminded her of the meadow she had once created in the Room of Requirement.

“Where are we?” she asked looking curiously out the window.

“Home,” he answered. “Severus Snape lives at Clevers Cottage.”

A small stone cottage, the roof thatched, and the windows gleaming in the sunlight appeared as if out of thin air. Smoke drifted lazily from the chimney, and a small garden bloomed in front covered in large pink flowers.

Ava felt a surge of surprise. This wasn’t at all what she had expected. She had pictured something dark and foreboding, something that matched Severus’ usual aesthetic, a bit like Spinners end but less depressing. But this... this was charming. Cosy even. It looked old, but it was clearly well cared for and made her think of the Cotswolds.

Severus got out of the car, his movements stiff as always. “Well,” he said neutrally, “this is it.”

“It’s beautiful, where are we?”

“Near Ashford-in-the-water, just out of Bakewell in Derbyshire. If you walk through those woods it brings you to a lane that heads down into the village.”

Ava followed him, her eyes taking in the details. The garden was beautifully kept, covered in pink rose-like flowers that left an aroma of sweet strawberries in the air. She bent to smell them.

“They’re called Bozkatafra, they’re edible,” Snape said answering her unspoken question. “They are a type of rose.” She looked closely at the enormous heads, the many petals overlapping to create a beautiful ruffled effect. “You can put them in cakes, and drinks.”

“Wow, I’ve never heard of them before,” she said in awe, wondering if they were magical.

As Severus led her inside, Ava felt a sense of wonder. The cottage was tiny, but it was perfect. There was a small cosy sitting room containing an open fire, with squishy sofas and an enormous bookcase that took up one wall. There was a quaint bright yellow kitchen with a small table, a small bathroom, and Severus’ bedroom on the ground floor, with an attic space above that had been converted and split to create two small bedrooms. Everywhere, there were touches of Severus. His books, his potions ingredients, his familiar black robes hanging by the door.

“This is... it's lovely,” Ava said truthfully.

Severus just shrugged, his eyes scanning the room. “It is... adequate,” he finally said.

But as he showed her around, Ava saw a flicker of something in his eyes. Pride, maybe. Or perhaps even... affection. There was a small garden out back, full of the herbs he used in his potions. And a workroom that looked as if it used to be some sort of outbuilding, set up with all his equipment. He showed her one of the attic bedrooms, where a small double-bed with a brass metal frame was neatly made with white cotton sheets, along with an antique wardrobe and writing desk.

As the tour went on, Ava found herself feeling more and more at ease. This wasn’t the dark and foreboding place she had imagined. This was... home. She felt warmth envelope her, like her subconscious was recognising the beautiful place. As they settled in the sitting room, a cup of tea in hand, Ava felt a sense of peace wash over her. Maybe, just maybe, this would work after all. Maybe living with Severus wouldn’t be a disaster waiting to happen. As she glanced over at him, she saw that he was watching her, his eyes narrowed.

“You are comfortable?” he asked gruffly.

Ava nodded, feeling a small smile spread across her face. “Yes, I am. How long have you had this place?”

“A long time, I acquired it during the war. It’s my place of refuge. No one knows about it and it’s under fidelius. There is a house elf called Pippie that comes a few times a week to keep the place maintained.”

“You have a house elf?”

“Not quite, he came with the house. His magic is tied to the cottage, but he likes to go visit his family when he can.”

“That’s nice.” She thought back to her many conversations with the Hogwarts elves and wondered if any of them were connected to the cottage’s elf.

She looked around at the cosy room, it already felt like home. Maybe her home in the future was similar and that’s why she felt comfortable there.

“Is it possible that I’ve been here before?” She asked.

Snape busied himself pouring another cup of tea. “Maybe but I highly doubt it, I’ve never invited anyone here before.”

“Not that you can remember,” Ava said thinking of the shock they both had when they found out Snape was her godfather.

“True, there is the slight possibility that I can’t remember you being here before.”

Ava sipped on her tea and grabbed a biscuit. “More than slight I’d say.”

“If you did, you would have been a baby. How old were you when your grandmother took you in?”

“She always said two but I’m thinking a bit younger.”

Snape frowned. “Why do you say that?”

“Well if we go by our theory that I was placed with her due to the war, then the likelihood it was around the time Harry defeated Moldy, probably just before. He would have been about fifteen months old and I’m less than a month older than him.”

He nodded thoughtfully. “That makes sense.”

“Do you think I would be able to ever remember anything from then? From being a toddler?”

“Possibly. The average age our earliest memories can be recalled from is about two and a half, but that is a Muggle belief. Out magical cores can pull on memories from the minute we are born if under the right circ*mstances.”

“What do you mean?”

“A certain smell or a sound, maybe a face, or even a word can bring forward a long-forgotten memory, and our magical cores have a way to retain all of them; even our earliest ones. We just need the right pull to draw them out.”

“So if the circ*mstances are right I might be able to visualise my parents. See when I was given to my grandmother, or maybe remember a conversation as to why?”

“Maybe, but don’t dwell on it Ava, it’s not something that can be easily manipulated and you could spend years looking for a trigger.”

Ava nodded in understanding, remembering that if Harry were to come into contact with a dementor then he would remember the night his mother died. She desperately wanted to figure out what had happened to her; why she was given away, and how she had ended up in the past, but she wasn’t going to go hunting for a dementor in hopes of reliving something. She just wished she knew more about time travel and whether it was at all possible to go back years rather than hours. Not much was written on the subject that was publically available; even Snape’s darker books hadn’t revealed anything. Most secrets locked up with the Department of Mysteries. That was another item on her to-do list – get hold of that damn prophecy. She didn’t think she would get there anytime soon or figure out a way to do it. It was on the back burner for now, she had another three years before it factored into Harry’s life.

***

As the first rays of sunlight peeked through the gap between the curtains, Ava squirmed beneath the weight of her cozy blanket, reluctant to leave the warmth of her bed. It was her twelfth birthday, and she couldn't help but feel a mixture of anticipation and apprehension. This was the first birthday she'd spent in her new reality. She couldn’t remember the first time she had turned twelve, and she had no idea what to expect. She wasn’t really one for celebrations and truth be told she wasn’t sure any of her new friends actually knew when his birthday was. She would be quite content to let the day pass like any other. She had been at Clevers Cottage for only a few days since school ended and had been enjoying her time with her godfather. She had spent time brewing potions with him, learning about the different plants growing in the back garden, and exploring the woods and fields nearby. She had written to her friends but needed to find a way to send them as she didn’t have an owl.

She pushed herself out of bed, heading down to the kitchen to start on breakfast but found Snape already standing at the stove, a spatula in hand.

“Good morning Ava, happy birthday.”

She smiled at him in surprise. “Thank you.”

"Breakfast is ready; I trust you'll find it to your liking." He gestured towards the table, where steaming plates of eggs, bacon, and toast awaited her. Ava could smell the delicious aroma wafting through the room, and her stomach growled in anticipation. She smiled gratefully at Snape who was watching her with a fond expression.

They ate in companionable silence, the only sound the occasional clink of silverware against china. Ava couldn't help but feel grateful for this unexpectedly cosy birthday celebration, only a few months ago she was trying to figure out where to go for the summer.

Snape passed over a very large box, covered in bright green paper and red bow. “For you.”

“Uncle Sev, you really didn’t have to. It’s enough that you have taken me in for the summer.”

“I know I didn’t but I wanted to. Open it,” he said eagerly.

Ava tore off the paper to find a brown cardboard box with nothing to indicate what was inside. Hesitantly she lifted a lid to find a guitar case. Eyes wide in shock she looked over towards Snape. “You bought me a guitar?”

“I did, I remember you saying you used to play. I thought it might help trigger some memories.”

She opened the case and found a beautiful black and brown Yamaha guitar with an intricate floral design etched into its body and a smooth, sleek finish that seemed to beg to be touched. Ava's heart skipped a beat as she picked it up, feeling an odd sensation in her chest that she couldn't quite put her finger on. She turned it over in her hands, marvelling at the craftsmanship, and the attention to detail. Instinctively, she ran her fingers along the strings, plucking them softly, and was instantly rewarded with a rich, warm sound that filled the room. She closed her eyes, lost in the music, and for a brief moment she forgot about her birthday, her memory loss, and her current situation. In that moment, she knew that this guitar was more than just a present; it was a gift, a passion, a returned memory.

She played a few cords, muscle memory coming into play before playing Smoke on the Water, the first song she had ever learned.

“This is brilliant,” she said. “Thank you, Uncle Sev.” She gave him a beaming smile before working her way through a number of songs. She couldn’t believe she could remember how to play, although she had been quite young when she had started to learn, around eight or nine.

“You’re welcome, you are really good. Who taught you to play?”

“My grandmother.” A memory assaulted her of being sat next to her grandmother on a bright blue sofa whilst her bony fingers sat on top of Ava’s small ones, guiding her to the correct cords. There wasn’t much more to the memory, but the room looked small and cosy, full of mismatched knitted blankets and old battered furniture. The memory made her feel warm and loved, and she could recall her grandmother beaming down at her with a brilliant smile.

There was a tap at the window bringing Ava out of her memory, a parliament of owls was fluttering outside waiting to be let in.

“I believe your friends have remembered your birthday,” Snape said as he opened the window.

There was a flurry of feathers as a pile of presents and cards were dropped onto the table. Ava dug in as Snape gave the owls some treats before they flew off.

Hermione has sent her some gorgeous perfume, the twins a big box of their prank prototypes which she quickly hid from Snape; she was planning on pranking him at some point. Draco had bought her a gorgeous navy blue cloak, lined in pale blue silk and had invited her over to stay at some point over the summer. Theo had gifted her a beautiful floral hairclip with a letter that read:

Dear Ava,

Happy Birthday. The hairclip was my mother’s; it was one of the few possessions I managed to hide before my father destroyed all of her things. I saw it and thought of you, it’s charmed to keep your hair in place, and in whatever style you choose to do. I’m not really sure how it works but one of the other Slytherin girls will surely know.

I miss you, I hate being back here. So far my father has left me alone, which I’m grateful for but it does get rather lonely here with only the house elves for company. I hope to go spend some time with Draco soon but it all depends on whether his parents can persuade my father to let me go. I never thought I’d say this but school can’t come quick enough. Can we meet soon? Maybe in Diagon or Malfoy Manor? Draco said he was going to invite you over.

Hope to hear from you soon.

Theo

Ava’s heart broke for her friend, she wished there was something she could do for him. Maybe he could run away and come and live with her and Snape. She received a few cards and small trinkets from the Slytherin girls, Padma and Susan, plus a dragon tooth hooked on a piece of leather cord from Charlie that she tied around her wrist next to her other two bracelets. She had never felt so loved and content.

“Is there an owl we can use? I’d like to send my letters and thank everyone for my gifts.”

“You can pass them on to Pippie and he will be able to sort them for you.”

“Brilliant.” She grabbed her presents, gave Snape a chaste kiss on the cheek and rushed back to her room. Quickly adding thank you to her letters, she called Pippie. He arrived with a loud pop.

“What can I do for you, Miss?”

“Please could you send these letters for me?”

“Of course Miss, I will head to the local owlrey right away.”

“Thank you.” She hoped Harry would be in touch soon, she was worried about him. She had the feeling she was forgetting something vitally important about his summer. She knew the Weasleys rescued him in the original timeline but she hadn’t been able to remember anything about his summer holidays.

Later that day after spending the morning baking a cake with Snape using the edible roses (and making a lot of mess) they walked down into the village. Ashford-in-the-water was beautiful and quaint, with limestone cottages, immaculate gardens, and a handful of bridges, crossing a flowing river. It was idyllic, quiet and Ava could see herself walking into the village regularly to sit by the river with a book and watch the world go by. They ate in a pub called the Ashford Arms; eating steak and kidney pies and sticky toffee pudding, whilst laughing about the chaos of school.

“Can we head into Bakewell?” Ava asked. “I want to see if they have a bookstore.”

“Is there something in particular you would like to look for?”

“Anything on Moirai, or the fated.”

“Ava, you can’t let what the centaurs said worry you. Nothing they say makes any sense to humans, and I really wouldn’t dwell on it.”

“I know – I’m just curious that’s all. I’m sure I’ve heard of it before.”

“Well, then we can humour your curiosity. Bakewell has a few bookshops.” Snape paid for their meals and they headed into the local town. After browsing the aisles Ava eventually asked the shop assistant for help, and the kind old lady led her to a section on Greek mythology. There wasn’t a big selection, but Ava found a few that looked promising.

Once back at the cottage Ava and Snape read through the books they had bought; Ava skimming chapters until she finally found something relevant.

Listen to this,” she said. “In ancient Greek religion and mythology, the Moirai, often known in English as the Fates—were the personifications of destiny. They were three sisters: Clotho (the spinner), Lachesis (the allotter), and Atropos (the inevitable, a metaphor for death).

The role of the Moirai was to ensure that every being, mortal and divine, lived out their destiny as it was assigned to them by the laws of the universe. For mortals, this destiny spanned their entire lives and was represented as a thread spun from a spindle. But according to a Latin verse, their roles and functions were somewhat different: ‘Clotho, the youngest of the sisters, presided over the moment in which we are born, and held a distaff in her hand; Lachesis spun out all the events and actions of our life; and Atropos, the eldest of the three, cut the thread of human life with a pair of scissors.’ Generally, they were considered to be above even the gods in their role as enforcers of fate, although in some representations, Zeus, the chief of the gods, is able to command them.”

Ava snorted, “Yeah the centaurs are nuts. I’m clearly not some harbinger of destiny.” She threw the book down onto the coffee table and disappeared to make them both cup of tea, unimpressed by what she had read. Snape on the other hand read vigorously; wanting to absorb all the information from various ancient histories that mention Moirai – just in case.

***

Nearly two weeks had gone by since leaving school and Ava was getting extremely worried that she still hadn’t heard from Harry.

“What’s wrong Ava?” Snape asked one morning, noticing her looking anxious and ignoring the book on defence she was meant to be reading.

“Somethings wrong; I should have heard from Harry by now. I’m missing something or forgetting something.”

“Okay.” Snape set his book aside and leaned forward; his elbows resting on his knees. “Go through what you remember about the start of his second year from the books.”

“Okay, right. Well, I know the Weasleys rescue him with a flying car and they end up heading back to Hogwarts in it at the start of term. They end up crashing it into the Whomping willow.”

Snape snorted and mumbled ‘dunderheads’ under his breath. “Yes, I remember your timeline. Can you remember why that happens? Why they don’t get the train? You never wrote the reasons as to why.”

“Erm.” Ava thought for a moment. “They can’t get through the barrier at Kings Cross, and they are idiots who thought it would be easier to steel Mr Weasley’s car rather than wait for someone to come get them.”

“Any ideas as to why the barrier was closed?”

Why had the barrier been closed? Why had the twins felt it necessary for them to rescue Harry? She had been more focused on the snake and diary when writing her timeline than his time before Hogwarts. There was something about a floating pudding and a rogue Bludger.

“DOBBY!” she shouted making Snape jump.

“Who or what is a Dobby?”

“Bloody Malfoy's house elf. He tries to stop Harry going back to school. Also tries to hurt him with a Bludger thinking if he was injured he would have to leave school.”

“Why on earth would the Malfoy's house elf want to stop Harry from returning to school?” Snape scoffed.

“Because of that damn diary. He must overhear Lucius discussing it or something, and for some reason wants to protect Harry. I’m guessing Draco has been talking about him a lot…We need to go get him,” Ava said anxiously as she paced the room; her hair getting wilder by the second as she continuously ran her fingers through it.

“Ava we can’t just waltz up to the house and kidnap him,” Snape reasoned.

“Says who? That’s exactly what the Weasleys twins end up doing.”

“Well we should leave it to them; sounds like they will have it in hand.”

“Not a chance, I can’t remember how long they leave him there for. Plus if we go we can document his living conditions; you have a camera right?”

“I do” Snape frowned; his eyes hardening and lips pursed. “What about his living conditions?”

“Well, you know about his cupboard?”

“Yes,” Snape said angrily through gritted teeth.

“Well, this summer his uncle places bars on his window and locks Harry and Hedwig up so they can’t get out; puts loads of locks on his door and adds a cat-flap so they can pass food to him, and that’s only when they feel like it.”

“WHAT?” Snape exclaimed shooting to his feet.

“Exactly. We need to get him out.”

“Okay – Okay tonight. We’ll go when it starts to get dark; I can’t be seen loitering around his home. We’ll drive into Bakewell then apparate. Do you know where he lives?”

“Four Privet Drive, Little Whinging. It’s in Surrey I think.”

“Okay, I have some maps somewhere so can figure out the best place to apparate to,” Snape said. Ava could tell his analytical brain had gone into planning mode by the way his brow furrowed and immediately went riffling through drawers in search of a map.

“Do you have any polyjuice?” Ava asked.

“Yes, why?”

“I think it would be best if we disguise you just in case anyone sees us. Plus Petunia would probably recognise you and Arabella Figg works for Dumbledore.”

“The Squib?”

“Yes, she lives near Harry; reports back to Dumbledore I think. She occasionally looked after him when he was younger.”

“So Dumbledore definitely knew the condition Harry was in?” Snape said furiously.

“Yes,” Ava hissed.

Snape looked furious. “Okay, I’ll snag some hair off a Muggle when we go into town.”

Chapter 2: Rescuing Harry, Bumping into the Weasleys, and a Visit to the Burrow

Chapter Text

Once the sun started to set, they apparated into an empty carpark of a local supermarket after leaving the car in Bakewell. Snape had polyjuiced into a middle-aged man, with a mop of brown hair, blue eyes, and a round-turned belly. He could have passed as one of Ava’s relatives. The streets were fairly quiet, the only noise coming from a nearby pub. Snape navigated them through the town, ending on a housing estate that contained identical looking houses. It was all very generic, with no character or individuality. By the time the stars had come out, they were hidden in the shadows opposite number four.

“How do you want to do this?” Ava whispered. “We can’t use magic, Harry gets in trouble with the Ministry because of Dobby using his magic to levitate a pudding over a Muggles head.”

“What? That should never happen. Elf magic is different to ours; it can’t be registered or traced by the Ministry.”

“Maybe because it was in front of a Muggle?”

“Maybe, but I don’t know how they would have known. Only an underage magical person has the trace on them. You can technically do magic in magical households, the Ministry leaves it up to the families to keep control of anyone underage. It’s usually only flagged when used in Muggle areas.”

“So I could technically do magic at home?” Ava asked curiously.

“Yes you can,” Snape said like it was obvious.

“Awesome. Will you teach me over the summer?”

“Of course, I had planned on to.” Ava beamed at her godfather.

The two of them crept into the back garden, their black clothes blending into the shadows. Snape pulled out two thin metal sticks and started jiggling them around in the lock. It opened with a satisfying click. They quietly entered the dark room, keeping their footsteps soft and movements slow, before suddenly being assaulted by a bright light.

Vernon Dursley stood gormlessly in the doorway to the kitchen, one hand on the light switch.

“Who are you?” Vernon bellowed, “What are you doing in my house?

“Where’s Harry?” Ava yelled back.

“What do you want with that freak?” he spat viciously making his many chins wobble.

“He is no freak you disgusting pig of a man. Now where is he?” Ava barked into the man’s face before Snape spoke.

“DURSLEY - are you aware of the egregious maltreatment to which you have subjected Mr. Potter?”

“What? You talking about that freak? He's nothing but trouble.”

“Your brutish behaviour is beyond tolerable. You have deprived him of adequate nourishment, confined him to a cupboard, and verbally and physically abused him,” Snape sneered at the man, his voice calm but deadly.

“He deserves it! He's a waste of space.”

Ava could see her godfather clench his fist and take a step towards him. Vernon, caught off guard, sneered at Snape, likely underestimating the man's strength and resolve. With a look of disgust and to Ava’s surprise, Snape swiftly raised his arm and landed a sharp, powerful punch directly into Vernon's face. The force of the impact knocked the heavy man off balance, sending him stumbling backwards into the door; his nose bloodied and his eyes wide with shock. Snape, with a look of satisfaction, straightened his posture and narrowed his gaze at the now-dazed Vernon who could only stare back in shock.

Snape gripped the man’s shirt and pulled until their noses were nearly touching. “Touch Harry again and my fist will be the least of your problems.”

“You can’t threaten me, he’s my nephew; I can do what I like with him.”

Snape sneered, his dark eyes narrowing with pure hatred. He whipped his wand out, pressing it painfully into the now cowering man’s neck. “That was no threat Dursley, now where is he?”

Before Vernon could answer that was an almighty crash from upstairs. Ava rushed past the disgusting man, shoving her pointy elbow into his ribs, and raced up the stairs, bumping into a terrified-looking Petunia and a scowling Dudley.

“Move bitch,” she shouted at the horse-faced blonde woman.

“How dare you? Who are you? Why are you in my home?”

Ava whipped out her wand in answer, causing the mother and son to cower, before they edged around her to rush down the stairs, screaming for Vernon.

“Harry?” Ava shouted.

“Ava?” Harry shouted back.

She took stock of the numerous locks on a door at the end of the landing, and the cat-flap crudely placed in the bottom – it was clearly Harry’s room.

“Harry, you okay? What was that noise?”

“Is that our Chaos Queen I can hear?” said the unmistakable voice of Fred.

“Fred? You’re rescuing Harry?”

“That we are,” he said smugly.

“Uncle Sev,” she shouted. “I need your help.” Snape rushed up the stairs at her shout.

“What is it?”

She gestured at the door, pointing at the numerous locks that housed one side like they were trying to contain a wild beast. Snape looked murderous.

“Stand back Ava,” he demanded pushing her behind him.

“Wait – give me the camera.”

She hastily took some photos of the door, focusing on the locks and the cat flap before Snape blasted the locks away. “The Ministry can go f*ck themselves if they dare try to blame any magic on Harry,” Snape said with a wicked grin.

Ava smirked back; she was really rubbing off on his godfather with her potty mouth. “His trunk is in the cupboard under the stairs, I’ll get him out. Meet me at the Weasleys in a few hours. Stay polyjuiced,” she said quickly throwing the camera at him. “Get as much evidence as you can.

Ava rushed into Harry’s room, pulling the anxious boy into her arms. “Come on we need to go,” she said pulling him to the window where she could see a few bars still attached crudely to the window and a few hanging off a piece of rope that was attached to Arthur Weasley’s Ford Angelia. Ron was sat in the driver’s seat whilst George looked about ready to squeeze himself through the bedroom window.

“Ava!” they both shouted in surprise.

“We have to go.”

“But my trunk, it’s locked up in the cupboard downstairs,” Harry exclaimed as he tried to turn back.

“Don’t worry my uncle is here, he will get it.”

Harry’s eyes widened in disbelief but didn’t voice his thoughts. As far as he was aware none of the Weasleys knew about Snape being her godfather.

“He’s polyjuiced,” Ava whispered before saying, “he’ll meet us at the Burrow. Come on.”

Harry grabbed Hedwig’s cage, pushing it towards George’s waiting hands before throwing himself through the window into the back of the car followed swiftly by Fred. Ava had her foot on the windowsill ready to follow when Petunia banged her way into the room.

“You will not leave this house,” she shouted.

Ava smirked; her lip curling menacingly up to one side. “What’s a stupid bitch like you going to do about it?”

Petunia launched herself towards the window as Snape suddenly appeared behind her. But before he could interfere Ava clenched her fist and landed a punch on Petunia’s pointy nose with a sickening crunch. Blood gushed down her face and into her mouth, staining her teeth red. Ava giggled manically, exaggerating her voice to sound like a witch’s cackle causing the bloodied Petunia to cower in fright.

Abracadabra,” Ava shouted pointing her finger at the terrified woman, who dropped into a dead faint.

“Did you just AK her?” Ron said in disbelief, a note of fear in his voice as Ava clambered into the back of the car, landing awkwardly on top of Fred and nearly kneeing him in the gut.

“What? No of course not,” Ava said distractedly as she tried to detangle her limbs from Fred’s.

“But I heard you say Avada, and she – she dropped to the floor.”

Ava snorted. “I said Abracadabra, and then she fainted. It’s a pretend spell Muggle magician’s use. It doesn’t do anything – at least I don’t think it does,” she said shrugging. “Anyway, I pointed my finger, not my wand so no harm done.”

“Why are you here anyway?” Ron asked not unkindly just curious.

“I imagine the same reasons you are. When I didn’t hear from Harry I knew something was wrong. Although I’m surprised to see you here too.”

“We didn’t want to wait weeks,” Fred said. “Two was long enough before conducting a rescue mission.”

Harry smiled shyly. “It’s not been that bad, but I was surprised when I didn’t receive any letters.”

“We sent letters Harry,” Ron said turning to look at his friend.

“I know; some house elf had been stealing them.”

“What?” the Weasleys all shouted.

“Yeah called Dobby, I knew something was wrong so was planning on escaping; get Hedwig free somehow, and get a letter to Ava. But then he appeared; told me I shouldn’t go back to school and a load of other nonsense that I didn’t quite understand. Not sure what he was referring to, to be honest; kept banging his head against the bedpost. Anyway, he went and dumped a pudding over Vernon’s head. It was bloody hilarious but I got a warning letter from the Ministry for use of underage magic even though it wasn’t me, so my uncle locked me in my room.”

Ava sat quietly as the Weasleys tried to figure out who the house elf belonged to, she wasn’t going to admit she knew it belonged to the Malfoys, not after the truce they had called at the end of last term. She was positive Harry’s timeline of events had moved forward too, as she was sure the pudding had been dumped on a work colleague of his uncles, not Vernon’s, and possibly around Harry’s birthday. It worked out better for him though if he got to spend the rest of his holidays and his birthday with the Weasleys.

They drove through the night and by the time they arrived at the Burrow the stars were starting to disappear; the sky beginning to lighten.

“We’re a little way outside the village,” said George. “Ottery St Catchpole.”

They landed next to a tumbledown garage in a small yard and Ava looked out for the first time at the Weasleys home. It didn’t look like a pigsty at all; the ground floor was made of large round stones, with many different-sized windows, the upper floors spanned in all directions like they had been added on as the family expanded. It was slightly lopsided but it made it look quirky and unique. There was a handful of chimneys sticking out a red roof, a yard full of chickens, a vegetable patch, and a large lawn that was in need of cutting. There were woods and a large pond in the distance. It looked like an amazing place to grow up in.

“It’s not much,” she heard Ron say as she got out of the car.

“It’s brilliant,” Harry replied.

“So what do you think?” Fred asked Ava.

“It’s awesome, I’ve never seen anywhere like it.”

The Weasleys made plans to sneak in the house and pretend Harry and Ava had shown up in the night but before they could get halfway to the door Mrs Weasley came marching across the yard, scattering chickens and metaphorically spitting feathers.

“So,” she said.

“Morning Mum,” said George sheepishly.

“Have you any idea how worried I’ve been?” Mrs Weasley said in a deadly whisper before the boys cowered at her rage as she shouted at them, “Bed’s empty! No note! Car gone…could have crashed…out of my mind with worry…did you care?... Never as long as I have lived…you wait until your father gets home, we never had trouble like this from Bill or Charlie or Percy…”

“Perfect Percy,” Fred muttered causing Ava to give him a swift elbow to the ribs.

“YOU COULD DO WITH TAKING A LEAF OUT OF PERCY’S BOOK,” bellowed Mrs Weasley causing them all to jump. “You could have died, you could have been seen, you could have lost your father his job!”

Mrs Weasley yelled for what seemed like hours, the teenagers not daring to speak or move for fear of it being directed solely at them, or accidentally being hit with the wooden spoon she was wafting around. She finally ran out of steam and seemed to realise two of the children weren’t hers.

“Harry, Ava - I’m very pleased to see you both,” she said. “Come in and have some breakfast.”

Ava gently held Mrs Weasley's wrist to stop her from going back to the house. “Can I just say something Mrs Weasley?”

“Of course dear.”

“I know you are angry with the boys and for good reason, but they did a good thing tonight. Harry’s relatives had locked him up, were practically starving him. It was a good thing they got them out when they did.”

What?” Mrs Weasley shouted, turning towards Harry and giving him a once over. Her expression went from a mixture of shock, to concern to downright anger. “How dare they! Wait until I tell Dumbledore.”

“He already knows, “Ava said.

Mrs Weasley turned back to Ava. “You’ve already spoken to him?”

“No… I mean, he was the one who placed Harry there, he knew the type of people they were and what kind of living conditions he was in. He just….just….didn’t care,” Ava said making her voice break intentionally.

“Is this true Harry?” Mrs Weasley said, her sad eyes turning back to him.

Harry nodded miserably in confirmation.

Mrs Weasley's eyes turned steel; her voice hard with anger, “What do you mean by living conditions?”

Harry just shrugged.

“Maybe we can talk about this later,” Ava said softly, noticing Harry looked anxious, “after breakfast.”

“Of course dear, let’s get you kids fed.”

She turned and walked back into the house with determination as Harry looked over nervously at Ava. She grabbed his hand, squeezing it gently as they followed the other boys into The Burrow as the sun crept over the horizon; its golden rays dancing through the trees, painting the landscape in hues of pink and orange.

It was a peaceful morning once the excitement of Harry’s rescue had receded and Mrs Weasley had calmed down enough to actually praise her sons for getting Harry out of that dreadful home, even if they had gone about it the wrong way. They sat munching on piles of toast, eggs, bacon, and sausages; Mrs Weasley determined to fatten Harry up. In the two weeks they had been out of school Harry had already noticeably lost weight. Ava wore a contented smile, grateful for the warmth and safety that welcomed them. She glanced over at Harry, who looked equally relieved and overwhelmed. His eyes were red from exhaustion, but there was an air of ease about him as he looked around the quirky house.

As Ava began her second cup of hot coffee a soft pop could be heard in the distance.

“Who could that be?” Mrs Weasley said, glancing at her unique clock. Arthur’s still said work Ava noticed. The sound of footsteps crunching across the yard announced the approach of an unknown person before a soft knock came from the door. Mrs Weasley approached the door hesitantly, wand in hand before opening it.

“Can I help you?” she asked to the unfamiliar man. It was Snape, still disguised, looking uncharacteristically cheerful with Harry’s trunk in held in one hand.

"Ah, good morning,” he said, offering them a warm smile. "I’m Ava’s godfather, I believe she is here?"

“Oh yes, she is, arrived with Harry and my boys a few hours ago. How did you know she was here?”

“I was with her, looks like Ava and your boys both had the same idea to rescue Harry. I stayed behind to gather his belongings and photograph some evidence,” he said waving a pile of photos at her.

Mrs Weasley invited Snape in, who introduced himself as Sebastian, Seb for short in case anyone ever heard Ava calling him Uncle Sev; it was close enough to not arouse suspicion. Neither of them had discussed how much they could or couldn’t trust the Weasley parents with their ties to Dumbledore, so for now they were keeping them in the dark.

Over strong tea, Snape filled Mrs. Weasley in about what he had discovered at the Dursley property, showing her the photos he had taken. She was reeling from the revelation and had threatened to murder Dumbledore on more than one occasion.

"It's unthinkable, Sebastian," Mrs. Weasley said, her voice low and angry. "That wretched old man, allowing Harry to be kept locked up like an animal! And those bars on the window, the locks on his door! It's nothing short of abuse!" She paused, looking away for a moment, her hands clenched into fists. "And that cupboard under the stairs, where he used to sleep!" Her voice broke as she looked at the silent boy, and had to take a deep breath before continuing. "How could Dumbledore have known about it and not done something?”

Snape remained silent for a moment, his expression unreadable. "I am afraid that Dumbledore's intentions are not clear, Mrs. Weasley," he said finally. "He seems to have his own agenda, and Harry's welfare seems to have been sacrificed in the name of it." The Potions Master leaned forward, fixing Mrs. Weasley with his steely gaze. "It is a tragedy that such a powerful boy was subjected to such treatment. We can only hope that the truth comes out and justice is served.”

Mrs. Weasley nodded, tears welling up in her eyes. "I just don't understand how he could have let it happen," she whispered. "I mean, he was supposed to be Harry's guardian, wasn't he? He was supposed to protect him."

“We are uncertain about Harry’s true guardianship, but it seems that Dumbledore had his own ideas about what constituted protection, Mrs. Weasley. I’d like to think that in his eyes, perhaps, locking Harry away and keeping him ignorant of the outside world was a form of protection in itself. But either way, if he knew the extent of the abuse then Dumbledore should be liable alongside Harry’s relatives."

"Wait until I get hold of him," Mrs Weasley angrily yelled.

“I think it is best to keep Dumbledore in the dark about all this for now,” Snape said. “I plan to pass this information on to the relevant authorities and help get things in motion for Harry to live with his rightful guardian.” Mrs Weasley nodded in understanding but Ava could tell she wanted to give Dumbledore a piece of her mind.

Harry spoke up at the revelation. “If Dumbledore knew I lived in such conditions, why didn’t he ever do anything about it?” Harry said bitterly. “He’s meant to be the most powerful wizard alive; he could have done something to stop them.”

“Honestly Harry, I have no idea what Dumbledore’s motivations were. But it ends now. Ava’s told me some of what you have been through, and even if your godfather is still not well enough to take you, there are other provisions that can be put into place.”

“That’s right Harry, you can stay with us as long as you need,” Mrs Weasley said giving him a warm smile.

“Or with us,” Ava added. She reached out and took his hand, wanting to offer him some comfort “Plus I plan to go see Charlie this summer, I was hoping you would come too.”

“You know my Charlie?” Mrs Weasley asked curiously.

“Oh yes, he helped with a dragon problem at school.”

“A dragon problem?” she asked in astonishment.

“Yep. Hagrid got hold of an egg. Tried to keep it secret, thought he could raise the damn thing. We found out, so I contacted Charlie and got Snape involved. We’ve kept in touch ever since.”

“That’s my Charlie, always one to help,” Mrs Weasley said proudly.

“Yeah, he said we could go visit over the summer, like on an apprenticeship for a week or two.”

“That would be awesome,” Harry said enthusiastically.

“I’m not sure how safe that would be, the two of you gallivanting off with a bunch of dragons?”

“We wouldn’t be gallivanting,” Ava said rolling her eyes. “Sev- Uncle Seb will be with us. Won’t you?” she added turning to Snape, giving him the best puppy dog face she could manage.

“Yes,” he said sighing. “I will accompany you.”

“Great I’ll write to Charlie today to organise dates,” she said giving him a huge cheesy grin.

“I’m going to regret this aren’t I?” Snape said pinching his nose. “I must get on, there are people I need to contact,” he added giving Ava a meaningful look. They had discussed sending any evidence to Amelia as soon as they procured it, keeping numerous copies for themselves just in case. “Come along Ava.”

“She can stay here if she would like?” Mrs Weasley said kindly. “No point in her being alone if you have important things to attend to. She can bunk in with Ginny.”

“Can I please?” Ava begged. “Just for a few days?”

“Fine, I’ll send some of your things over with Pippie.”

“Thank you,” Ava said standing to give Snape a warm hug.

“Thank you, Mrs Weasley, if she causes any problems you can contact me here,” he said passing over a note. Ava wasn’t sure of what was written on it, but she was positive it wasn’t CleversCottage.

Ava led Snape out into the garden and out of earshot of the Weasleys, their heads bowed together. “I’ll contact Amelia; send the photos I took and a memory vial.”

“Won’t that risk exposing you?”

“I trust Amelia – she’s fair; I’ve helped her with some potions cases over the years. I plan to meet up with her somewhere secure.”

“You think that’s wise?” Ava asked, worry evident in her voice.

“Dumbledore won’t find out I helped, nor any of Moldy’s followers. I’ll make sure she takes a vow or something. I feel we are going to need someone within the Ministry on our side in the near future and you’ve already gained her trust. Just trust me on this. She will be able to contact Black too, find out what condition he is in and where the hell he is living.”

“Okay Uncle Sev, I will, come get me if anything major happens. You best go, you’re polyjuice is wearing off.”

She gave him another quick hug before he swiftly left The Burrow’s boundaries and disapparated.

***

Life at the Burrow was as different as possible from life at Clevers Cottage. Whereas the cottage was peaceful and calm, with everything neat and tidy, The Burrow was pure chaos with noises coming from every direction, whether it being the twins pranking one of their brothers, their father tinkering with one of his Muggle contraptions or even an object yelling something as Ava walked past. The mirror over the fire liked to shout at her scrutinising her appearance, usually quite rudely, the ghoul in the attic banged noisily just as the house seemed to quieten down and the garden gnomes were always trying to sneak their way into the house.

The first day Ava stayed with them she tried to get to know all the Weasleys living at the Burrow. She had spent an hour that morning with Mrs Weasley who taught her how to make a treacle tart after Ava had told her it was Harry’s favourite. After she accompanied Percy into living room to discuss how the Wizengamot worked.

“Perfect Percy, with his perfect books, and his perfect possessions,” George scoffed as he entered the room.

“Don’t spend too much time with him Ava,” Fred added, “his geekiness will start rubbing off on you.”

“What the f*ck is your problem with Percy?” she shouted to the twin’s surprise. “So what if he likes to study, you don’t take the mick out of Hermione so why the hell should you do it to one of your brothers? One day you might just need Percy’s help and if he told you go stick your wands up your arse rather than help then I will fully support him,” she yelled. “And why the hell is it a bad thing that he keeps his belongings and bedroom neat and tidy? Did it ever occur to you that it’s because it’s his safe space away from all of you terrorising him, you’re pranks aren’t always funny and they can be damn right hurtful. Plus maybe he’s keeping his belongings in good condition because…I don’t know; maybe they will be passed on to one of you.”

The twins looked sheepish and significantly cowed, along with Ron who had entered to the room with Harry unnoticed by Ava. “Sort your sh*t out. You should be proud of your brother for becoming a Prefect; I bet you didn’t give Bill this much sh*t!” she barked at them. “Come on Percy, I’m sure your room is perfectly acceptable.”

Ava dragged Percy to his bedroom to his astonishment, ignoring the other three red heads who were staring it her in shock. She heard Mrs Weasley chastise them and make them go clean out the chickens and de-gnome the garden.

“You okay Percy?” she asked after she made herself comfortable on his neatly made bed whilst Percy sat at his organised desk.

“Yeah – er – thanks….only Bill and Charlie ever speak up for me when it comes to my brothers, but they are rarely home.”

“Well, your parents should too.”

“I guess, although usually mums yelling at the twins about some explosion they have caused so don’t think she notices half the time.”

“Well start sticking up for yourself, or at least prank them back. I’ll help.”

“You will?”

“Of course. You know I like to cause chaos when it’s warranted.”

Percy laughed, “I take it you were involved with the twins at the end of term,” he said clearly thinking about the twin's attempts to get Quirrell’s turban.

“Of course,” she said with a wicked grin. “How are you doing with the whole rat animagus thing? I keep meaning to ask Ron.”

“Honestly, I’m trying not to think about it. I’m just grateful I kept him in a cage downstairs as he was too noisy. Ron however kept it in his room.”

“You should ask to speak to someone about it. It’s disturbing for a grown man to be living as a child’s pet. Talk to Ron too, it’s something you both have in common.”

“Yeah maybe, although I wouldn’t know who to go to.”

“Maybe contact Madam Pomfrey, or at least see her when you arrive back at school. She could definitely help or put you in contact with someone who can.”

Percy nodded in agreement before a tawny owl flew into the open window dropping a letter on top of Percy’s desk before flying swiftly out again. Percy went bright red when he scanned the letter.

“Girlfriend?” Ava said grinning.

“Don’t tell my brothers, they will never let me hear the end of it.”

“I won’t but tell them to sod off if they give you any sh*t. Clearly girls are attracted to intelligence as well as looks,” she said giving him a wink. “I’ll leave you to it.”

She left Percy’s room in the hope of finding Harry; the Weasley boys can sod off until they apologise to Percy, but bumped into the littlest redhead first.

“Hi you must be Ginny?” Ava said kindly

“Yes. Who are you?” she asked briskly, throwing Ava off guard at her unfriendly tone.

“Ava, I’m friends with your brothers and Harry.”

You’re friends with Harry? Harry Potter?” she sneered, she could give Draco a run for his money.

“Er – yeah,” Ava answered, confused by the girl's attitude.

“Yeah right, as if the great Harry Potter would be friends with the likes of you.”

“The likes of me?” Ava said slowly narrowing her eyes at the youngest Weasley.

Ginny didn’t answer, just stormed off down the stairs. Ava followed with a sigh but promptly bumped into the girl who was standing frozen at the entrance to the living room, staring wide-eyed at Harry.

“Excuse me,” Ava said nudging past her gently towards Harry. “Fancy playing exploding snap Harry? You can join us if you like Ginny.” But the girl scurried off back up the stairs with a squeak.

“Weird,” Harry said confused. Ava just snorted as she set up the cards.

That afternoon Ava and Harry spent a couple of hours with Mr Weasley in his cluttered shed discussing Muggle things.

“What exactly is the purpose of a rubber duck?” he asked showing them his collection.

“Erm – do they have a purpose?” Harry asked Ava.

“Not really, I suppose they are bath toys for children. They float. Some villages have duck races in the river too.”

“Do they really?” he asked, grabbing a bowl and conjuring some water to fill it. “Ah, would you look at that,” he said excitedly as he placed his various ducks into the water, where they bobbed around bumping into each other.

“What about batteries?”

“Well, you use them to power things, like torches and remotes, or anything that requires power that doesn’t need to be hooked up to electricity.” That answer opened up a whole heap of other questions that kept them occupied for the next hour.

“So you use electricity with a plug that attaches to a wall socket? Is that right?”

Ava nodded.

“Interesting, I have some plugs here,” he said grabbing a box. “Although a few are a bit different, I’m not quite sure how they are used compared to the others.”

Ava opened the box thinking she would find some European or American plugs but instead, she got the shock of her life. There, stood prominently in the centre of the box surrounded by generic-looking electrical plugs and adapters, were two plastic anal plugs; one, small and pink with diamantes around the base, the other rather large, coloured blood-red. Ava let out a little squeak prompting Harry to look over into the box with concern. He clearly had no idea what they were going by the frown on his face. But Ava definitely did, she didn’t know how she knew but she definitely knew a hole in the wall was not where they were meant to go. She shoved the lid back onto the box quickly, her face heating up, clearly having turned bright red.

“Erm,Mr Weasley.”

“Yes, Ava?”

“Those two – distinguished-looking plugs.”

“You mean the ones that I imagine rockets look like,” he said seriously. “I can’t figure out how they would ‘plug’ into anything like the other ones though.”

Ava couldn’t help but choke out a snort. Oh you sweet, innocent man.

“Mr Weasley,” she said seriously. It was taking all her willpower to not burst out laughing. “Those two items are for … how should I say this….they are designed to be used in your rear.”

“Your rear?” he said confused.

“Your butt… They are used for sex, they go up your… hole,” she said making a rude gesture with her hands. “I suggest you throw them out; you don’t know where they have been.”

She pulled Harry by the arm, leaving Weasley looking extremely confused before Ava’s word sunk in, making his face flush as bright as his hair. Ava ran as far as she could away from Arthur’s shed before bursting into hysterical laughter. Tears streamed down her face as she clutched her sides, Harry laughing along with her.

“Is that true?” Harry said in disbelief. “Or were you winding him up?”

“So true Harry,” she said with an undignified snort.

“Why would anyone want to stick something up their arse?” he said innocently.

Merlin, she was not expecting to be having this conversation on a random Wednesday in the middle of the afternoon.

“For pleasure Harry. Apparently it’s meant to be good, especially for guys; how do you think two blokes have sex?”

Harry’s face fell. “What do you mean? My aunt and uncle said two men being together is disgusting and a sin; that they should be locked up and shot.”

What the hell. Harry, it’s not a sin to be attracted to someone of the same sex. It’s perfectly okay. In fact, it’s perfectly okay to be attracted and love someone no matter how they identify. If anyone has a problem with that then it’s their problem, not yours. As long as you’re not hurting anyone and everyone consents then do what you bloody well please, with whoever you want. You should know by now not to believe anything those vile people say,” Ava spat.

Harry looked like he was reassessing his whole life. “So that’s perfectly normal; for two men to be together?”

“Yes Harry,” she said softly but firmly bucking no argument. “But like I said always ask for consent. If someone says no, then stop. The same goes for if you say no. Understand?”

“Yes, I think so.”

“If you want to know anything about like relationships and stuff, just ask. I know we are only young but it doesn’t hurt to be prepared for when we are older. You don’t have to ask me or anything, but someone you trust. It’s not something you have to be embarrassed about,” Ava said gently. It wasn’t a conversation she had expected to have, but the more Harry knew the better. His family no doubt had left him with outdated beliefs, and he probably had no idea about hormones and stuff.

“How do you know about all this stuff anyway?” Harry asked shyly.

“My grandmother, I was well aware of the mechanics of how a baby is made by the time I was ten. I was also very curious so asked a lot of questions. I’m sure Percy would talk to you if you wanted a guy to talk about this stuff with, and he definitely wouldn’t take the piss or anything. Or maybe Charlie – he’s an excellent pen pal.”

“Yeah I might,” Harry said nodding his head.

“There’s also your godfather Harry; I’m sure he would tell you anything you wanted to know.”

The next few days at the Burrow were extremely pleasant, even if she couldn’t look Mr Weasley in the eye anymore. Ava spent one afternoon attempting to fly and hit a ball with a beater's bat; she had a powerful swing….when on the ground… but up in the air she wasn’t very good, and more often than not nearly fell off her broom. Harry had taken to flying underneath her just in case.

Ginny had mostly ignored her or gave her nasty looks, even though Ava was sharing a room with her no matter how often she tried to engage her in conversation. The twins had apologised to Percy, seeming to have taken Ava’s words to heart and lessened on the pranks. Even Ron had followed their lead.

On the third afternoon of her visit, Mrs Weasley told Harry his godfather was due to visit the following day much to their surprise, leaving the boy an anxious mess for the rest of the day. Ava and the Weasley boys did everything they could to distract him; flying, playing games, or telling jokes, but his smile never quite reached his eyes. Ava snuck into his room that night knowing he wouldn’t be sleeping, crawling into his bed to give him some comfort like he had for her when they had found the mirror of Erised, much to Ron’s chagrin when he woke up to find her passed out; drooling on Harry’s shoulder whilst he read Quidditch Through the Ages.

Chapter 3: Meeting the Godfather, Harry’s New Home and the Reading of the Wills.

Chapter Text

Ava stood outside the Burrow with Harry, her heart pounding with anticipation. It had been an anxious morning, filled with uncertainty about how Harry’s first interaction with Sirius would go. But today, everything was about to change as he would finally come face to face with his godfather; Sirius Black, the man who had been wrongfully imprisoned in Azkaban for the past decade having been freed with the exposure of one very alive Peter Pettigrew.

“Come on Harry let’s get inside, he will be here soon,” Ava said taking his hand.

He nodded and let her lead her back into the house. As the two friends sat in the Burrow's cosy living room, they couldn't help but feel a mixture of excitement and nervousness. Ava knew that Sirius had suffered greatly during his time in prison, so she was unsure of what to expect. She wasn’t sure if Harry had learned of the conditions of Azkaban or not, and she hadn’t wanted to tell him less it made him lose faith in living with him. The most important thing was that Harry knew that Sirius was innocent, and that had given him hope. Hope that he had family. Hope that he would find somewhere else to call home.

“Are you okay?” Ava asked gently.

“Just nervous I guess. What if he doesn’t like me?” Harry asked whilst chewing on his lip, his eyes bright with worry.

“He will Harry, he will love you. He’s your godfather and will do anything to protect you. There’s more to godfather bonds than a simple title.” Snape had told Ava about how guardianship bonds work, how there’s magic embedded in the bonds to always protect, to nurture, and to teach.

“Doesn’t mean he will like me though.”

“Oh Harry, he will,” she answered putting her arm around his waist; giving it a squeeze. “What’s not to like?”

There was a faint knock at the door startling them both from their thoughts. They could hear the soft voice of Mrs Weasley before she came through.

"Harry, dear, your godfather is here, as well as Remus Lupin." she announced softly." They have been anxious to meet you."

Harry nodded, before standing up from the couch. Ava gave him an encouraging smile as a dark haired man entered the room who could only be Sirius Black, along with a haggard looking man wearing shabby clothes - Lupin. But where his appearance screamed poor, his face with lit up into a brilliant smile. Sirius on the other hand looked frail and weakened, his eyes filled with a mix of confusion and hope. He was far too thin; his face gaunt and tired. He was clean and tidy though; neatly shaven and his long hair tied back at the nape.

"Harry," Sirius whispered his voice barely audible. "Is it really you?"

Harry nodded, tears welling up in his eyes. "Yes, Sirius, it's me."

As if unable to contain himself any longer, Sirius hastily crossed the room and embraced Harry tightly. It was a hug filled with years of missed memories and untold stories, a hug that conveyed more than words ever could.

Ava stood transfixed for a moment, as the two lost souls stood there in each other's arms, sharing a bond that could never be broken. And then, as they slowly pulled away, Sirius’s piercing grey eyes looked into Harry's and smiled. It was a smile of gratitude and hope, a smile that promised a brighter future. Ava was overcome with emotion. Even if she never found out the reasons for being in this magical world, this here, this right here, seeing Harry reunite with Sirius as a free man would make everything worth it.

“I’ll leave you two alone Harry,” Ava said gently as she made to leave the room. “Shout if you need anything.” She walked towards the door where Lupin was lingering, clearly not sure whether to stay with Sirius or not.

“Lupin. A word,” she said firmly bearing no argument.

He followed her dutifully out into the gardens, passing Mrs Weasley on the way who was bustling around the kitchen preparing dinner.

“I’m sorry, I don’t believe I know who you are,” the man said politely.

“Ava Morgan.”

“You’re the girl who spoke to Madam Bones; the one who captured Pettigrew.”

“The one and only,” she said sarcastically. “Well, technically the twins captured him.”

“Thank you. You have no idea how grateful I am. I’ve been wa…”

“I don’t want your thanks Lupin,” she said firmly holding up her hand, interrupting him. “I want to know where the hell you have been for the past decade.”

Remus, who had been quietly staring at her in awe and gratitude, looked surprised at her question. But she noticed him brace himself; his posture stiffening and his face filling with remorse. Before Ava could let him answer, she continued, her voice rising in anger, “Where were you when Harry needed you the most? Where were you when he had no one to turn to when he was living with the Dursleys, being treated like a house elf?”

“Ava, I understand how you feel,” he said sighing, “but you must know that it wasn’t an easy decision for me. I had my reasons for staying away, for keeping myself distant from Harry. It wasn’t because I didn’t care, but because I believed it was for his own safety.”

Ava scoffed, her eyes welling up with tears. “Safety - That’s what you’re going with? Harry was in constant danger living there, and it wasn’t from bloody Moldy or his idiotic Death Eaters, and you thought it was safer to leave him alone? Left him with a family who hated magic, who neglected him, made him feel worthless.”

Remus fidgeted, his face filled with regret. “Ava, I had no idea. Dumbledore told me he was living with relatives. That he was safe. He wouldn’t tell me who, said I couldn’t visit given my – well for health reasons.”

“And you believed him? You didn’t question him? I think James would be rolling in his grave that you up and left his son with bloody Petunia.”

“Petunia? Lily’s sister?” Lupin said, his face draining of colour.

“I see you are well aware of the type of woman she is. Her husband and son are no better.”

“I can’t believe Dumbledore put him there. He knew Lily and James would never have agreed to that. Why would he do that?” Lupin said rubbing his hands over his face.

“You tell me Lupin. I’ve been asking myself the same question. He left Harry there the day after his parents died – explain how that happened? From what I gather Sirius didn’t catch up to the rat until a few days later, so there was no reason to put Harry with the Dursleys so quickly. And why was he never taken to St Mungo’s? He’d just had a curse to the head; he should have been kept for days if not weeks to make sure he was okay.”

Lupin started pacing, his hands tearing down his face like the beast within was fighting to get out. “I don’t know Ava, I don’t know anything. I tried to see him after I found out about James but Dumbledore just told me he was safe and that I should go live my life.”

“Live your life?” Ava said in disbelief. “Unf*cking believable. You had just lost every single one of your friends in one way or another, and he tells you to go live your life,” she added sarcastically. “I swear to Merlin I’m going to kill that man.”

“I’m sorry,” he said stopping to look at her; his eyes full of regret. “I honestly thought I was doing what was best for Harry. My condition could have endangered him.”

Ava looked at him blankly. “Don’t give me that sh*t Lupin. One day of the month you could potentially hurt him. One f*cking day which I’m sure you could have found someone to help you with.”

What?” Lupin said in shock. “I…I…I don’t know what you mean.”

“You don’t know you’re a werewolf?” she deadpanned. “Good one Lupin.”

His eyes widened. “How…how could you know that?”

“I know a lot of things …that’s just the tip of the iceberg.”

“Did Snape tell you? You’re a Slytherin, aren’t you? That snivelling little bastard.”

Ava flicked him in his ear. “I suggest you keep those opinions to yourself if you know what’s good for you,” she said threateningly. “Snape did not tell me anything about your furry little problem. I have my own way of finding out things. All you need to know is that I have Harry’s best interests at heart,” she snapped at the cowered werewolf.

Ava took a deep breath, trying to calm herself. “I get that you thought it was better to stay away Remus, and I know you would have been grieving, I really do. But Harry deserved to have someone there for him, someone to help him through those difficult years, someone who knew his parents. And you could have found a way. You could have fought harder to be a part of his life.”

Remus nodded, his gaze filled with remorse. “You’re right, Ava. I should have fought harder; I should have found a way. I let my fear and self-doubt get the better of me, and for that, I will forever regret not being there for Harry.”

Ava’s anger began to subside, replaced by a mix of sadness and understanding. She knew that Lupin carried the weight of his choices for years, and she could see the pain in his eyes. “Remus, I know you cared for Harry, and I know you did what you thought was best at the time. I just hope that someday you can find a way to make it up to him.”

Remus nodded, a tear slipping down his cheek. “I will spend the rest of my life trying to make it right, Ava. I will do whatever it takes to show Harry that I care, even if it means sacrificing everything.”

“No Remus, you don’t need to sacrifice anything,” she said firmly. “You’ve done enough of that for the so-called ‘greater good.’ Just be there for Harry, and for Sirius, they are going to need all the support they can get. Just don’t trust Dumbledore blindly.”

“Why not?” he asked, with a note of uncertainty in his voice.

Ava just passed over a pile of photos of the Dursley's house in answer.

“What is this?”

“Where Harry grew up, and I’m certain Dumbledore knew of this.”

Lupin looked wide-eyed at the photos, lingering on the picture of Harry’s cupboard and the hand-drawn sign that said, ‘Harry’s Bedroom.’

“That was where Harry slept until he turned eleven, and only when he started receiving his Hogwarts letters was he moved to a bedroom. The Weasleys broke him out at the start of summer. I’m surprised you’re not questioning Sirius' wrongful imprisonment given Dumbledore’s position on the Wizengamot, and questioning who actually performed the spell to make Pettigrew secret keeper.”

“I should have known something was wrong, Madam Bones contacted Sirius but she was rather cryptic; told him that Harry was here and it would be in his best interest if he saw him sooner rather than later.”

Ava nodded in understanding; Snape must have gotten in contact with her straight away. “ Just promise me one thing.”

“Anything Ava.”

“Get Harry some help.”

“Help?” he asked looking confused.

“A mind healer or a Muggle psychologist. He was abused for ten years Remus; he needs to learn what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour. He needs to know that none of it was his fault; that all of his abuse wasn’t normal and that he should have been loved and cared for. He really should talk to someone; someone who can explain what abuse and manipulation looks like. That he was a victim and a survivor; that he should have never been put in the situation he was left in.”

Remus nodded in understanding; unshed tears glossing his eyes.

With that, Ava turned and walked away, leaving Remus alone with his thoughts and his regrets. She just hoped at the bare minimum he could do something about Harry’s living arrangement. If he could achieve that, then she could forgive him.

***

That afternoon the Burrow was alive with laughter and conversation as they all sat down to dinner, Harry laughing alongside his godfather, whilst Lupin looked on fondly as Sirius regaled tales of their time at Hogwarts, making the twins respond in kind at all the pranks they had gotten up to the year before.

“What about that time we serenaded Professor Snape in the middle of the Great Hall, and the time Ava started a food fight,” Fred said laughing. “Legendary.”

“You started a food fight?” Mrs Weasley asked in disbelief.

“It was for a good cause, honest. We were trying to prove Quirrell had something on the back of his head. Damn turban was stuck solid,” Ava replied.

“Something on the back of his head?” Lupin asked curiously.

“Oh, of course it was unsurprisingly kept out of the paper. Quirrell had Moldy on the back of his head.”

“You had a teacher with mold growing out of his head?” Lupin asked whilst the Twins, Ron, and Harry just snorted.

“No, I mean old Voldy, you know the Dark Lord.”

“WHAT?” All the adults shouted their knives and forks clattering on their plates.

“Huh, I guess parents weren’t informed.” She went on to explain what happened at the end of term, with input from the twins, Ron and Harry.

“Why would Dumbledore hide a fake stone?” Mr Weasley asked in disbelief, whilst Mrs Weasley seethed with anger at how close her children had come to being hurt and Sirius had to be calmed down as accidently smashed some glasses due to his anger. Ava was just glad they had left out how close Harry had really come to dying.

“You tell me. The more I learn about that man, the more I distrust him,” Ava said giving Remus then Mrs Weasley a significant look.

“That is rather disturbing. And the fact You Know Who is still out there and we haven’t been told, especially the fact he was in the school,” Mr Weasley said looking worried.

“Well my godfather has got copies of my memories of what happened if it were to ever be investigated, which come to think of it why hasn’t it? Surely the aurors should be involved. Maybe I should contact Amelia again, it’s another thing to add to my list along with the troll,” Ava said thinking out loud.

Troll?” the adults all shouted.

“Merlin, do they tell you nothing?” So she went on to explain the troll at Halloween.

“Maybe we should send you all to Beauxbatons,” Mrs Weasley suggested looking worriedly at her children.

“Not a bad idea, as Dumbledore est une merde,” she declared making Sirius snort, whilst everyone just frowned. It was the only French phrase she knew except C’est La vie and voulez vous coucher avec moi ce soir - not exactly appropriate.

“Anyway, If Moldy was out to get Harry, why didn’t Quirrell just AK him? There would have been plenty of opportunities and no one would be any wiser as to who did it. I mean why just the stone, why not Harry too…I mean if hadn’t have gone after Quirrell he would never have gotten hurt,” Ava said giving Harry a pointed look who just looked sheepish.

“Ava!” Lupin exclaimed.

“What? I’m just stating the obvious.”

“She’s right you know,” Harry said, “I’ve wandered the castle by myself loads of times, and I should never have gone after him.”

“Well if anything else happens I’ll be pulling you all out of that school,” Mrs Weasley said firmly.

Ava looked worriedly towards her and then to Ginny, she really needed to get hold of that diary.

“So tell me more about pranking Snivellous,” Sirius sneered. “I’m glad to see he’s still a target.”

Ava scowled at him. “For what reason did you have to target him?”

“He was just – you know - there.”

“So you were a bully?” Ava said disdain oozing from her voice.

Sirius let out a snort of derision, "Oh, please. Snape was just as bad as the rest of us. He deserved everything he got!"

Ava bristled, rising to her feet to lean over the table. “Really? So he was responding in kind to a bunch of twats who got off on pranking people.”

“He was a Death Eater! That man cares about no one but himself.”

“A Death Eater - At sixteen? f*ck off Sirius and grow the hell up. Maybe he joined Moldy because of people like you,” Ava snapped, leering over the table to point an accusatory finger at Sirius. “Did it never cross your mind that some kids end up in the clutches of depraved people because no one else gives them a chance, that they get bullied to the point that they end up turning to someone who promises protection, no matter whether it’s true or not, and don’t get me started on what you did to him regarding Lupin. You had James – he had no one!”

Lupin stiffened as Sirius rose to his feet and shouted, “How the hell do you know about that? What’s he been telling you?”

“He’s told me enough,” Ava snapped back, her face inches from his.

“Why would he tell you anything? Your friends with Harry, no doubt he hates him just like he hated James.”

“Because he’s my godfather you utter twat.” She heard Mrs Weasley gasp loudly but Ava didn’t register as to why that was such a shock. “He may have hated James but he loved Lily and will do anything to protect her son. You may have spent the last decade in prison Black but if you’re going survive the next, you need to pull your head out of your arse and wise up.”

“How can you say all that when you’ve just been laughing about you pranking him,” he retorted.

“Because he was in on the joke you absolute moron… He was helping us when we were trying to expose Quirrell, and gave the twins information to help capture Pettigrew… All for your benefit I might add. He didn’t know exactly what we were going to do as we had to make it look believable.”

"Well, if you ask me," George chimed in who was clearly enjoying the drama, "Snape's not all that bad. I mean, he might be a bit... intense, but he's fair. And he's taught us some valuable lessons about potions." Fred nodded in agreement.

"Besides," Fred continued, "we didn't mean any harm by our pranks. It was all just good fun. We respected him as a teacher and a wizard. We didn't go after him personally or anything, well except that one time with the music," he added snigg*ring.

“Exactly, and he wasn’t hurt with the music prank. He’s been helping me all year, and teaching me valuable lessons, which if you must know saved Harry’s life. He even persuaded Pomfrey and Dumbledore to make it compulsory for health checks after seeing the state Harry was in when he arrived at school.”

“He did?” Harry said quietly.

“Oh course he did,” Ava said sitting back down to focus all her attention on her best friend who had been sitting quietly next to her. “He took one look at you after I shouted at him and realised exactly what kind of upbringing you’ve had.”

“What do you mean?” Sirius asked, his voice dropping in concern as he looked between the two friends.

“Show him Lupin, the sooner he knows, the quicker we can get him out of that hellhole, permanently.”

Lupin sighed but passed over the photos.

Sirius scanned through them, his eyes growing more and more concerned. “What is this?”

“It’s where I grew up,” Harry said nervously.

“And Dumbledore knew,” Mrs Weasley added.

Sirius looked like he was about to burst into tears. “Well no more Harry, we have a house sorted. There’s nothing at all stopping you living with me. The healers have given me a clean bill of health; I just have to see a mind healer twice a week but they said I was fine to have you stay with me as Moony will be there too. It was Dumbledore that convinced me otherwise.”

“No surprise there,” Ava muttered under her breath.

“Give us a few days and we will have everything ready,” Lupin said with a kind smile.

“Speak to Amelia,” Ava suggested, “She’s already aware of Harry’s situation and will be able to help if Dumbledore tries to stick his nose in. That reminds me, Harry needs to go to Gringotts too about his accounts. You don’t happen to have his key do you, Mrs Weasley?”

“No Ava, I don’t,” she said frowning.

“Then Dumbledore must still have it.”

“Why would Dumbledore have Harry's vault key?” Lupin asked.

“Another one of life’s great mysteries,” Ava said sarcastically.

“The goblins have some concerns about my account; someone’s been stopping me from receiving post from them, I only managed to contact them when I wrote directly and used Hedwig,” Harry said.

“Who would interfere with your mail?” Sirius asked whilst Lupin looked like he was putting two and two together.

“Who indeed,” Ava said rolling her eyes.

“We’ll get it sorted Harry,” Lupin said. “As soon as you’re living with us we will go to Gringotts.”

“Ava, you said Professor Snape was your godfather,” asked Mrs Weasley. “Who was that man that dropped Harry’s trunk off?”

sh*t, sh*t, sh*t. She hadn’t meant to let that slip. “That was Snape.” Ava sighed; what was the point in lying when the truth would come out eventually? She needed these people to trust her. “He was using polyjuice. Harry’s aunt knew him when they were kids and we didn’t want her to recognise him. I’m sorry for deceiving you, but we don’t want people finding out just yet. Our circ*mstances are rather private and I don’t want the Headmaster knowing as he would no doubt try to stick his nose in. He took the evidence we found to Madam Bones after he left here but this has to stay quiet; it can’t get out that he’s been helping.”

Sirius looked sick at the thought of his once teenage rival having been partly responsible with helping his godson; Ava just hoped they could put their animosity aside and grow up so everyone survives the next decade.

“We won’t tell anyone,” Mrs Weasley agreed, “it’s not our secret to tell, or anyone else’s,” she said giving the children a pointed look. “We know he was a spy during the war and given what you have told us about last year it’s vitally important that remains so. You have our word Ava that we will not betray your trust.”

Ava nodded at the sincerity. “Thank you.”

“Is Professor Snape who you live with?”

“It is, he took me in when my grandmother died,” she lied. “She raised me.”

“Oh I’m so sorry dear,” Mrs Weasley said kindly.

Ava eyed Ginny, she looked far too smug for her liking, maybe she could get someone to oblivate her just in case, they really shouldn’t have been discussing this in front of her. The boys she could trust, even Ron surprisingly but she didn’t like the attitude Ginny was throwing towards her.

“The important thing is that we are all on the same page and that our priority is protecting Harry. We agree Dumbledore can’t be trusted,” said Lupin followed by nods of agreement from the rest of the table. “Especially where Harry’s welfare is concerned; and if Snape has been helping then it’s more important than ever we keep quiet about it.” He gave Ginny a significant look that was slightly threatening – he must have seen who Ava’s anxious look had been directed at– If word got out that Snape had helped Harry escape then it could completely f*ck up the future and clue Dumbledore into their relationship. Luckily Mrs Weasley demanded to speak to Ginny in private so Ava was hopeful she was making sure the youngest redhead was being forced silent – only time will tell.

“Can I borrow Hedwig Harry?” Ava asked.

“Of course.”

Uncle Sev,

I f*cked up, I accidentally let it slip that you were my godfather and that you’ve been helping with the whole Harry situation. I was arguing with Black and it just slipped out. I didn’t even notice. Mrs Weasley has promised to keep it to herself, and they all definitely doubt the Headmaster. I’m not concerned about her, Arthur, or the boys, but Ginny the youngest seems to dislike me for no apparent reason (although I’m confident it’s jealousy over my friendship with Harry.) I didn’t like the look in her eye when the information came out and I asked them to keep it quiet.

Maybe you could obliviate her? What should I do?

Black and Lupin are aware of Harry’s upbringing and are pushing forward with gaining custody of Harry, I’ve told them to contact Amelia for assistance in case anyone tries to put a stop to it, and I’m assuming by now you have spoken to her as Lupin mentioned she had been in contact with Black about Harry.

Can you come get me tomorrow afternoon? I miss you and as much as I like this place it’s far too chaotic for my taste. I miss the peace and quiet of home.

Speak soon,

Love

Ava

P.S. If anyone else finds out who we don’t want to know I’ve come up with a backstory. You were friends with my parents who went to Durmstrang who you met when you were doing your Potions apprenticeship. They died when I was young so my grandmother brought me up until she passed away last year. We had only met a handful of times as you didn’t think it was safe for people to know, and my grandmother was a very private person who shied away from the magical world as she was a Muggle. We just won’t give names.

Ava,

Don’t worry about the Weasleys knowing; it was bound to get out eventually. Lupin will keep quiet and keep Black in line; I’m sure of it. As for Ginny if she tells Dumbledore then so be it. She’s just a child – I can’t in good conscience obliviate her. Dumbledore is bound to find out eventually that I’m your godfather and given the fact he still wants me as a spy, he won’t make it known I helped Harry escape if he were to find out or my involvement with Blacks freedom.

Amelia is aware of everything and has my full trust in keeping it confidential. I expect Black to be in contact with her again in regards to Harry and I’m positive she will explain everything to him now he’s aware of his upbringing. Honestly Ava – do not worry. Anything the youngest Weasley (or anyone for that matter) says I can easily twist in our favour but I’m positive it won’t come to that.

The backstory is a good idea. Hopefully, it won’t have to use it anytime soon, and the vaguer we are but closer to the truth the better. For all we know your parents could have gone to Durmstrang, or I could have met them during my apprenticeship.

I’ll see you tomorrow. I miss you too.

Love,

Uncle Sev.

Ava was relieved to hear Snape’s thoughts on the matter and just prayed he was right about it all. She’d never been happier to see the man and the beautiful cottage she now called home.

***

Ava had been looking forward to seeing Harry’s new home. She received a letter only three days after she had left the chaos of the Burrow from Harry saying he had moved in with his godfather. The excitement coming off the page was palpable and just in time for Harry's birthday. Sirius had organised him a party and she arrived in good time, accompanied by Snape who was disguised again using the same stolen Muggle hair. They weren’t sure who would be attending so wanted to play it safe, and said he wasn’t going to risk leaving her there whilst the party was ongoing. He also wanted to speak to Lupin, Black and Mr and Mrs Weasley about their situation, more to reassure Ava that he believed them when they said they would keep quiet about everything.

Snape had apparated them to a set of coordinates Lupin had given them and were now walking along country lanes, surrounded by wildflowers, fields, and stone houses. It was clearly Muggle. The village was very beautiful and quaint in the Yorkshire Dales with a local pub and a small shop. Ava was so happy apparition and floo travel was a thing as she would have hated being so far away from Harry during the holidays. It was one of the many things she loved about magic – instant travel; no matter how much it made her want to vomit.

With the sun shining brightly overhead and a light breeze rustling the leaves, it was the perfect day for a celebration. Snape led her down a long, winding driveway until a beautiful stone farmhouse came into view. It was charming, with its white stone walls and red-tiled roof. A large oak tree stood sentinel in the front garden, its branches casting dappled shadows across the lawn, with a wooden swing hanging from a thick branch, swaying in the breeze. In the distance, she could see fields of golden wheat swaying gently in the wind, and a large wooded area to one side.

It was a beautiful place for all of them to live. Plenty of fresh air, places to run, and be free. She could hear laughter coming from the back of the house and followed the sound, her heart light with anticipation. Rounding the corner they came across a huge garden, halfway decorated with streamers, balloons, and a large table set up underneath a gazebo. Harry was playing a game of catch with Sirius and Remus using a Quaffle. They looked so happy, so at ease, that Ava couldn’t help but smile.

“Ava!” Harry shouted his face lighting up when he saw her. He ran over and enveloped her in a tight hug. “I’m so glad you’re here!” He looked good, really good; his face was bright with happiness, he’d finally filled out his clothes and had grown another inch or two. Plus he’d had his glasses replaced; they were now smaller with sleek black frames and rounded square lens that suited his face.

“Happy birthday, Harry!” Ava said smiling, handing him a small, wrapped gift. “I hope you like it.”

Harry’s eyes sparkled with excitement as he took the present. “Thank you!”

Sirius and Remus waved at her, their faces warm with welcome. “Good to see you, Ava!” Sirius called. “Harry’s been talking about this day non-stop.”

“Hi Sirius! Hi Remus!” Ava greeted them cheerfully. “It’s beautiful here.”

“It is, isn’t it?” Remus said, smiling. “We’re glad you could join us. Both of you,” he said sincerely.

Both Ava and Snape were on their best behaviour for Harry’s benefit. Ava had come to a truce with Black after their argument at the Burrow; Lupin being a mediator as they were both extremely stubborn but one look from Harry’s pouty, sad face had them both caving. And given Snape’s involvement in freeing both Harry and Black, the animagus had no excuse not to be cordial.

They all settled at the table, the shade providing a cool respite from the midday sun. Harry eagerly unwrapped his present, revealing a set of magical paints, brushes, and a sketchbook. His eyes widened with delight. “These are amazing, Ava! Thank you so much!”

“You’re an amazing artist, Harry,” Ava said with a grin.

Harry beamed at her. “I love it. This is perfect.”

“This is from me,” Snape said thrusting a small package into Harry’s hands.

“Thank you.” He gently took off the wrapping paper revealing a small box. Opening it with shaky fingers he found a small pile of photographs and a notebook.

“It belonged to your mother; we used to share potion ideas and write them in her book. That’s your mother when she was little, and your grandparents,” he said pointing to the top photo. Ava looked over Harry’s shoulder seeing a photo of a young red-headed girl about eight years old, with a man and woman standing behind her. Harry moved to look at the next one which was of his mother with a very young Snape sat on the swings at the park. He shuffled through them; each one revealing Lily when she was a child in various stages of mischief, occasionally accompanied by her parents or Snape.

“Thank you,” Harry said again, his voice choked with emotion, discreetly wiping away a tear.

“If you ever want to know anything about your mother then you may ask me, anytime,” Snape said kindly.

Harry nodded; his eyes still glued to the photos in his hand.

“How about you show Ava around whilst we finish setting up?” Lupin suggested kindly; recognising the strong emotions coming from the overwhelmed boy.

Harry looked up smiling; his melancholy outweighed by enthusiasm. He led the way, his excitement infectious. He showed Ava the small lake where he was learning to swim, the half-built treehouse that Harry and Sirius had been attempting to build, and the wooded area that was part of their land and warded so Remus could run under the full moon.

Harry insisted on showing Ava his bedroom, which was cosy and filled with all sorts of curiosities. There were posters of famous Quidditch players, shelves lined with books, and a collection of odd trinkets he had gathered. There was evidence of Harry everywhere; his Quidditch Jersey, his Nimbus 2001, his clothes left haphazardly around the room plus a new motorbike helmet and jacket – clearly Sirius’ doing. Ava bounced on his enormous bed; the red blanket soft under her touch.

“This place is like a dream,” Ava said, marvelling at the tranquillity and beauty of it all.

“I know,” Harry said, his eyes shining. “Living here with Sirius and Remus has been the best thing ever. I can’t thank you enough for helping to get him free.”

“I’m just glad I could help, I’m so pleased you're happy here Harry.”

“I really am; I just hope I never have to return to the Dursleys again.” Harry joined her on the bed; his legs crossed facing her. “They promised me, Ava, that they won’t tell anyone about Snape being your godfather or helping me. I’ve told them everything you’ve both done and they trust you, both of you.”

Ava nodded in relief. “Thanks, Harry. I’m more worried about Ginny opening her mouth to be honest; I don’t know why she hates me so much.”

Harry just shrugged. “I don’t know – but Remus told me Mrs Weasley had a word with her about it all. Apparently she threatened her with being home-schooled if she told anyone.”

“Wow…didn’t expect that.”

“Yeah – me either. But Ron said all Ginny’s gone on about all summer is Hogwarts so I think she will take the threat seriously.”

“I bloody well hope so – I’m losing track of who knows what.” Ava worried her lip with her teeth; her fingers fiddling with the blanket. “What if I mess up again and put Uncle Sev at risk.” She looked up finding green eyes staring worriedly at her. “I can’t lose him, Harry.”

“You won’t Ava, I promise.”

Ava nodded taking his earnestness to heart. “If you had told me that first day on the train that a year later I would have found out Snape was my godfather I would have thought you had been hit with a confundus spell or needed a stint in St Mungo’s.”

Harry laughed. “Yeah – I really wish I’d been a fly on the wall the day you both found out.” Ava snorted – it wasn’t one she was likely to forget anytime soon. “That reminds me; I finally had a meeting with the goblins a few days ago.”

“You did?” Ava asked in surprise.

Harry nodded. “They’ve not located who has my key but are making arrangements to change my vault so no one else has access. There have been numerous withdrawals since my parents died but they are still investigating and they believe one of their own has been assisting with the unauthorised withdrawals, possibly under an imperious. I’ve got another meeting tomorrow; my parent's Will has finally been unsealed and returned to the bank.”

“That’s great Harry.”

“Will you come with me,” he asked nervously.

“Of course I will. I’m sure Uncle Sev will let me stay the night.”

They spent the next hour talking and laughing when they could hear Sirius bicker with Snape through the open window whilst he helped set up for the party. Eventually, people started to arrive; The Weasleys all carrying an obscene amount of food along with Hermione; Neville arrived accompanied by his grandmother, eager to show Ava his new wand and tell her how his gran had kicked his uncle out of the house. He was a much more confident boy since the last time she had seen him. Seamus and Dean arrived together, soon followed by the Gryffindor Quidditch team. Lastly, Draco arrived with Theo, looking slightly out of place but determined to fit in. Draco had a small gift bag in his hand, and Theo was carrying a wrapped package; Ava was so happy to see them both and pulled them into a three-way hug before scrutinising Theo to make sure he was okay. Despite the initial awkwardness, they were quickly welcomed into the fold, and soon the yard was filled with the sound of children’s laughter and the occasional explosion from one of Fred and George’s pranks.

As the day progressed, the group enjoyed a series of games and activities, including a giant inflatable bouncy castle, a hilarious game of musical chairs where Harry and Draco were the last two standing and ended up a heap on the floor after the chair broke when they both sat on it, and a ridiculous attempt at limbo which Ava was pants at, but Theo and Harry were surprising good at; she just hoped their flexibility wasn’t from having to contort themselves to fit in tiny hiding spaces. There was a friendly Quidditch match after lunch in a nearby field, with the Gryffindors mixing in with the rest of the party to create teams, even dragging Sirius up to play and a still disguised Snape who would only play as Keeper. They had no Snitch or Beaters balls so it was more like a game of netball on brooms. It was filled with good-natured rivalry and plenty of laughs, especially when Sirius and Snape had a spat over the Quaffle, pulling it back and forth; trying to take possession.

After the Quidditch game, everyone gathered around the table as Mrs. Weasley brought out the enormous birthday cake, decorated with Gryffindor colours and topped with twelve brightly burning candles. The group sang “Happy Birthday” with enthusiasm, and Harry, his face flushed with happiness blew out the candles, making a wish that he kept secret.

Sirius brought out a charmed record player which belted out some Muggle rock music, creating a lively atmosphere as the children sat around the garden, enjoying the music and the company. Ava found herself next to Harry at the table, both of them munching on birthday cake.

“Having fun?” Ava asked, nudging Harry playfully.

“Absolutely,” Harry replied, his grin stretching from ear to ear. “Thanks for being here, Ava. It wouldn’t have been the same without you.”

Ava smiled, feeling a warm glow in her chest. This was what true friendship felt like—shared laughter, heartfelt moments, and the sense of belonging that came from being surrounded by those who cared. Having Sirius and Harry both free from their prisons was more than Ava could ever ask for. She knew that no matter what challenges lay ahead, she could face them, no matter the reason for her being in this world.

Finally, after the sun began to set and people began to leave, Ava and Harry sat squashed together on the wooden swing watching the stars appear one by one in the darkening sky. Harry leaned back pushing with his feet to get the swing in motion, a contented smile on his face. “This has been the best birthday ever,” he said softly.

Ava smiled back at him, her heart full. “I’m glad I could be a part of it, Harry.”

As the first stars twinkled overhead, the two friends sat together in comfortable silence, knowing that this day would be one they would always remember.

***

The sky over Diagon Alley was a bright, cloudless blue as Ava made her way to Gringotts Bank with Harry and Sirius the next morning. The usual hum of magical commerce filled the air, but today it seemed muffled to Ava, her thoughts were a whirlwind of anticipation and anxiety. The contents of Harry’s parents' Will had been a mystery for so long, and today they would be finally revealed. Sirius had been pacing all morning so Ava was glad when they finally flooed to the Leaky Cauldron; the discovery that the Potter Wills had been sealed and tampered with had shaken him to his core. For Ava, it was a blend of curiosity and a fierce protective instinct towards Harry that spurred her on, and knew that uncovering the truth was crucial for his future.

As they stepped into the grand marble hall of Gringotts, the goblins eyed them with their usual suspicion. Harry approached the head teller, a particularly stern-looking goblin named Ragnok.

"We have an appointment," he said firmly. "Regarding the Potter Wills."

Ragnok’s eyes flicked over the trio before nodding curtly. "Follow me."

He led them through a maze of corridors until they reached a heavily guarded door. With a wave of his hand, the guards stepped aside, and the door swung open, revealing a dimly lit room lined with ancient scrolls and documents. Ragnok gestured for them to enter.

“Good morning Miss Morgan, Mr Potter, Mr Black,” Odbert said from behind his heavy oak desk; the same goblin who had dealt with Ava’s inheritance test.

"I am Odbert," he said introducing himself to Harry and Sirius. "I have been overseeing your accounts here at Gringotts. We have finally managed to unseal the Potter Wills. Please, have a seat."

The trio settled into the stiff chairs arranged before Odbert’s desk. With a flourish, he produced a parchment scroll, bearing the Potter family seal.

"This is the last Will and Testament of James and Lily Potter," Odbert’s explained. "It was sealed under suspicious circ*mstances, but we have verified its authenticity. However, I will discuss your accounts first."

“Upon review of the financial records, we have discovered several withdrawals from your trust fund, Mr Potter. These funds were diverted to a Petunia and Vernon Dursley and, disturbingly, some to Albus Dumbledore. We noticed the unusual withdrawals after you visited on your eleventh birthday, which led us to look further into your accounts and your parent's will given who you are. We tried to contact you, but as I’m aware your mail was being intercepted."

Ava's face darkened with fury. "Dumbledore? What would he need Harry's money for?"

Odberg shook his head. "That is beyond our purview. Our concern is the integrity of the estate and the adherence to the Potter's wishes. The amount taken by the Dursleys was meant for Harry's care, yet from the evidence Madam Bones has gathered there are no indications that it was ever used for your benefit Mr Potter.”

“No, they never spent any money on me if they could avoid it,” Harry spat bitterly.

“As for Dumbledore's share, it is unclear why he felt entitled to those funds."

"What can we do about it?" Harry asked his voice steely with determination.

Odberg pressed the tips of his long fingers together, peering over the top of them. "We can pursue legal action against the Dursleys; I believe Madam Bones is already in the process of conducting a formal investigation.”

“Yes,” Harry said. “We wrote to her, asked her to put together a case, and to check the house for any type of wards that Dumbledore is so adamant is there. She’s looking into it but said it could take time as she’s doing it discreetly.”

“As for the money Albus Dumbledore has taken we can seek restitution and look at pressing charges if he had no legal reason for pilfering your money.”

“Yes, we want to do that,” Sirius barked.

“No,” Harry said quickly.

“Why not Harry?” said Sirius. “He deserves to rot in Azkaban for everything he’s done.

“Because I don’t want him to know yet that we know he’s been stealing money. If he finds out now he will only deny it; make up some believable excuse for both the money and why he took it upon himself to put me in the Dursley's care.”

“Sirius, I’ve been gathering evidence since I arrived at Hogwarts, and now Amelia is too, but it may take years. We have to be patient. That man has a lot of people who are loyal to him, and his nose in everyone’s business. We can’t rush this.”

“Yeah, you’re right Ava,” Sirius agreed but he didn’t look happy about it.

“Additionally,” Odbert continued, “we have reallocated the remaining funds appropriately. I’ve already taken the liberty of changing your vault location and access which will now be yours and yours alone.” He passed Harry over a new key. “I will also ensure that the estate is managed according to your parent’s wishes from here on out."

“What if Dumbledore tries to access the vault now?” Harry asked, worry evident in his voice.

“Given how you want this to remain quiet for now, we will come up with a reason for him being denied access. He won’t suspect a thing; you have my word.”

Harry nodded in relief.

“Now to the next matter at hand,” Odberg said as he read of the parchment. “You have the Potter Heir vault which you may access now as you are the sole heir to the Potter fortune. You also inherit Potter Manor, however as I understand it the Manor is currently in a state of disrepair due to being abandoned during the war. There are currently wards surrounding the Manor and is unplottable. Only a Potter can gain access at this current time. The co-ordinates for the Manor are in the Potter vault, and can only be read by you.”

Sirius placed a hand on Harry's shoulder. "We'll get through this, Harry. We'll make sure everything is set right."

“I don’t really want to see the Manor right now, not yet. I’ve just moved in with you and Remus…I…that’s my home now.”

Sirius nodded his expression resolute. "We're with you, Harry. Every step of the way, whatever you need."

Odberg continued, “And now for your parents Will, Mr Potter.” Harry grabbed Ava’s hand in comfort whilst the goblin cast a spell that made the parchment glow and the seal to break. He past it over for them to read; Harry moving it so both Sirius and Ava could read it too.

This is the last Will and Testament of James Fleamont Potter and Lily Louise Potter (Nee Evans); all previous Wills are Null and Void if both parties are deceased.

We, James and Lily Potter, being of sound mind, do hereby declare our wishes regarding the guardianship and care of our son, Harry James Potter in the unfortunate event of our demise, and the management of our estate.

Under no circ*mstances is Harry to be placed with Petunia Dursley (nee Evans); the only surviving blood relation, due to their lack of magical understanding, known animosity towards wizards and witches, and being estranged for the past five years. Instead, guardianship should be granted to Harry’s godfather Mr Sirius Black, Heir to the most Noble and Ancient House of Black. In the event he cannot care for Harry then guardianship should go to Mr Remus Lupin. We are with full knowledge of Mr Lupin’s lycanthropy and do not feel he is a risk to our son. 1000 galleons should be given in monthly installments to help pay for suitable and safe accommodation, and for Remus to take part in the Wolfsbane trials. In the event of Mr Remus Lupin’s inability to serve as Harry's Guardian ( unless the reason is due to fear of his condition – don’t let me down Remus; look after Harry and take the damn money ,) we wish for him to still receive this payment.

If for reasons beyond their control, Mr Sirius Black and Mr Remus Lupin cannot take guardianship of Harry then custody is to go to Alice and Frank Longbottom, Severus Tobias Snape, or Mary Jane McDonald.

500 galleons is to be given in monthly instalments to the person(s) who becomes Harry’s guardian. This money is to help raise him; provide clothing, food and comfortable lodgings until he reaches the age of majority. Harry’s welfare will be monitored by the goblins at least bi-monthly until he attends Hogwarts, then and only then it may be reduced to checks over the holiday period until he comes of age. If the goblins find any reason to believe Harry is being neglected or money taken unlawfully from his trust fund or the Potter vaults then custody shall go to one of the others listed.

All other money, possessions and vaults are to be left to Harry James Potter and monitored by the goblins until he comes of age.

Signed: James Fleamont Potter Lily Louise Potter Date: 25th September 1981

Sirius clenched his fists, a mixture of relief and anger flashing across his face as Harry's eyes widened in disbelief. "But... why was I sent to the Dursleys then?"

Odbert continued, "It seems there were external influences that interfered with these instructions.”

Dumbledore,” Sirius muttered angrily. “He had their Will sealed Harry so no one could contest his actions. Children automatically go to their next blood relative unless otherwise stated.”

“But why? Why would he do this?”

“I don’t know Harry, but I’m determined to find out,” Sirius said softly.

“Who’s Mary?” he asked Sirius whose eyes looked sad at the mention of her name.

“She was a friend of ours; she went missing after your parents died. We think she went into the Muggle world. We don’t believe she was captured by Voldemort or his followers.”

Harry looked solemn before suddenly snorting, “Imagine if I had grown up with Snape.” He grimaced at the thought.

Hey,” Ava said, “Snape’s been nothing but kind to me, and considering the sh*t I gave him when we first started school I’m surprised he took me in at all. He would have cared for you in a heartbeat given the choice.”

“Yeah, I guess you’re right. I wonder if your parents knew mine then.”

Ava thought about it. “It’s highly possible but I think Sirius would have known them too.”

“What do you mean?” He asked. Ava realised Sirius wasn’t privy to all the information about her and Snape – could she trust him – her gut was saying yes.

“I found out Snape was my godfather last year. Odbert here,” she gestured to the goblin who was filling in some paperwork, “did an inheritance test for me and it came back as Snape being my godfather – he’d no idea; we don’t know why but we think he might have been oblivated. My parents weren’t listed except my mother’s first name. Did you know anyone called Isabella?”

Sirius frowned for a moment in thought. “No – I don’t think so, not that I can recall anyway. Did your grandmother never tell you?”

Ava shook her head. “No – never mentioned either of my parents. I didn’t even know I was a witch until I came to Hogwarts. Snape’s positive at least one of them was magical. Maybe you knew my father – I just wish I knew who he was. ”

“Yeah maybe,” Sirius said. “I’m surprised to see Snape’s name listed as a guardian for Harry though to be honest, last I heard they still weren’t on speaking terms.”

“Maybe they made up,” suggested Ava. “Although he’s never implied they had, but it’s obvious he’s missing memories.” Ava gasped. “What if both of you were oblivated, what if it’s not Azkaban that caused your memory loss.” Harry had explained to her that Sirius was struggling to remember the weeks leading up to his imprisonment and that the healers had told him it was likely due to prolonged exposure to dementors.

Harry’s eyes went wide.

“There’s no way of knowing,” Sirius said, his voice full of disappointment. “The healers couldn’t find anything wrong and it was so long ago that if that were to be true it’s unlikely our memories could be retrieved.”

Ava suddenly conjured a mirror and moved to sit next to Sirius, looking at their faces in the reflection.

“Ava, what are you doing?” Harry said looking confused.

“Comparing.”

“Comparing what?”

“Our faces for similarities.”

“I think I would have known if I had had a child, Ava,” Sirius laughed. “And there’s no way I would have made Snape godfather.”

“Stranger things have happened, but yeah, you’re probably right – we look nothing a like and I think the Black genes are rather prominent. Draco’s got similar eyes to you, and cheekbones come to think of it. Could you ask Remus; he might remember someone called Isabella – I trust you both to keep this to yourselves.”

“I promise Ava – after everything you have done for us, it’s the least we can do.”

As they left Gringotts, the weight of the revelations hung heavily in the air, but there was a newfound resolve among them. The truth was out, and with it came the power to change Harry's future for the better.

Back at the farmhouse, the tension was palpable. The revelations from Gringotts had left Harry in a state of anxiety; his emotions ranging from anger, frustration, and hurt for his lost childhood. Ava sat at their kitchen table in deep discussion with her best friend and his guardians, strategizing their next steps after they got Remus up to date on everything. Unfortunately for Ava, he hadn’t remembered anyone called Isabella either, much to her disappointment, but they had more important things to discuss for her to dwell on it.

“We need to get Amelia up to date as soon as possible,” Lupin said. It was clear that they needed legal and magical authority on their side to untangle the web of deceit that had been woven around Harry's inheritance and guardianship. “The Will has been authenticated so she can put forward an emergency court order for Harry to be permanently removed from the Dursleys. Tell her Dumbledore doesn’t need to know; as far as he’s aware Harry’s just visiting us and staying with the Weasleys for the summer. Once her investigation is complete the Dursleys should hopefully be brought up on charges of child abuse so he will have no excuse for Harry not to live with us. He seems to be only adamant he returns to the Dursleys during the summer so we have a year to sort it.”

With a plan in place, Sirius wrote a concise but detailed letter to Amelia Bones, outlining the unauthorized withdrawals from Harry's trust fund and the contents of the sealed Potter Will. He sent the letter off with Hedwig, who took flight with a sense of urgency as if understanding the importance of the mission.

Within the hour Madam Bones was sat with a cup of tea in her hand at the kitchen table.

“Given the gravity of your claims, I will personally oversee the investigation. As you know since Ava contacted me last year about your incarceration Sirius, I’ve been looking into the circ*mstances surrounding your imprisonment and Harry’s placement in the Muggle world, especially after the evidence I’ve already received of his living conditions. This a grave accusation against one of the most prominent figures in our world so we must proceed with utmost care and caution."

Sirius nodded. "We understand, Amelia. But we need to ensure that justice is served, especially for Harry."

“I understand that Sirius, but we have to be discreet, your impulsiveness has no place here, and you need to promise me you won’t do anything brash; it’s Harry’s livelihood we are dealing with.”

Sirius scoffed, “I know how to keep quiet Amelia; I was brought up by Walburga. Well dragged up….but you get the point.”

Amelia snorted, “I’ll believe that when I see it. Anyway, I've already started an internal investigation into the financial discrepancies at Gringotts. We are also discreetly looking into Albus Dumbledore's activities. However, confronting him directly without concrete evidence could be problematic, given his influence and position. This won’t be something that happens overnight, this could take months, even years. I can only use the smallest of teams who I trust implicitly. We can’t avoid any leaks."

Ava leaned forward. "What about the Dursleys? They need to be held accountable too."

Amelia's eyes hardened. "Yes, they will. Once we have enough evidence we'll move forward with legal actions against them. In the meantime, I recommend writing a list of any Muggles that you came into regular contact with; teachers, neighbours, family. Anyone you can think of, no matter how they treated you…It would also help if you could extract memories of any of the abuse you suffered… I know it will be hard Harry, to relive those memories but the more information we have the easier this will be."

Harry nodded in understanding, before grabbing a notebook. The list wasn’t particularly long, just a few teachers, Dudley’s aunt and friends, and Mrs Figg, plus a few classmates from primary school who were bullied to stay away from him. Ava’s heart broke for her friend; he must have been so lonely growing up. Her mind wandered to Toby; the thought of him growing up like that made her feel sick, anyone who could treat a child like dirt on their shoe should be hung, drawn, and quartered in her opinion.

“What about any wards around the Dursley's house?” Ava asked.

“I have had a look myself but so far haven’t found anything concrete but I’m not a curse breaker or a ward specialist. I don’t know anyone well enough to trust them with this.”

Ava nodded in understanding. “How about Bill Weasley? I know his brothers and they can be trusted. I can speak to Charlie and ask him to speak to him; he already knows about Harry’s upbringing and has agreed to help in any way he can.”

Amelia nodded. “I’ll give it some thought. Lay some groundwork for me, either from yourself or Charlie to see whether he can be trusted enough with this.”

“Okay, I will. The only problem is that he works in Egypt and it’s not something we can do over letter so I’m not sure when I could meet him.”

“That could be a problem; if you’ve not spoken to him by Christmas then I will get in touch personally; make him take a vow or something if I’m not convinced he’s trustworthy.”

Before Amelia left Ava took her to one side.

“Amelia, whoever you get to check the wards, ask them to look into blood sacrifices and whether they can create a protection on a home.”

“Blood sacrifices?” Amelia asked not in disgust but more confusion.

“Yeah – don’t ask me how I know this, but Dumbledore is adamant Harry should return to the Dursleys because his mother sacrificed herself leaving a blood protection, which is how Harry survived, meaning he should stay with a blood relative. However, I don’t believe it.” Amelia nodded for her to go on. “Why would Dumbledore know anything about what Lily did? For starters he wasn’t there – that we know of. No one has been known to survive the killing curse, so how would Dumbledore even know a blood sacrifice was used or that it would save him? – if that was true surely more people would have survived being AK’d. Would a blood sacrifice even create a protection for Harry anyway? Especially in a place where he wasn’t wanted or cared for; how far would these protections even go? The garden? The end of the street? What about when he was at the shops or at school? He is in danger then so why leave him with an abusive family when other protections could be put in place? What is he even being protected from? The war was over, and no one needed to know that Harry was the one to vanquish him, only that he was gone. Dumbledore told Harry that QuirrellMort couldn’t touch him because of his mother’s love. Surely if that’s true then her protection shouldn’t just disappear after a year if he doesn’t return to his aunt. It all just seems a bit – hypothetical and kind of controlling.”

“It all does seem rather far-fetched. I’ll look into it, Ava. Nothing has sat right with me since Sirius was sent to Azkaban and the more I learn the more I believe Voldemort is not the only person we should be worried about.”

Ava nodded and was surprised by Amelia’s casual use of Moldy’s name. “There’s another thing – if these protections or wards are meant to keep Voldy out and his followers – say for argument's sake, someone with the dark mark then how did Snape just walk in there with me when we rescued him?”

Amelia frowned. “You’re right Ava – none of this makes sense, but there could be wards that guard from anyone wanting to hurt him whether they have the dark mark or not – if their intentions are innocent then they would be let past the wards. But like I said I’m not an expert – it’s all conjecture at this point.”

Ava nodded in understanding. “If you manage to get someone you trust that’s a curse breaker, then there’s something else I will need help with,” Ava said thinking of Harry’s Horcrux. “I won’t burden you with it now as it’s extremely dangerous information if it gets in the wrong hands, but it’s extremely important in regards to Harry’s welfare.”

“Ava, you have my word that I will do anything I can to help – I want to get to the bottom of this and find justice for Harry,” Amelia said sincerely. “If you need anything in the meantime, write to me or pass a message on through Susan…And if you ever want a career in law enforcement in the future, you have my endorsem*nt.”

Ava laughed. “I think I’d rather do something a lot less stressful. Thank you though, your help has been invaluable.”

Amelia left leaving a sense of cautious optimism; her involvement lent a weight of authority and legitimacy to their cause and with her help they had a fighting chance to expose the truth and get the help Harry so desperately needed.

Chapter 4: Visiting Charlie and Some Surprising Truths.

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

The air was thick with the scent of fire and the sound of roaring as Ava and Harry stepped foot into the Dragon Reserve. It nestled in the heart of a mountain range and was a place of awe-inspiring beauty, towering peaks reached towards the heavens, their jagged edges cloaked in a mantle of emerald greenery. Ava could see why Charlie loved it so much. The sun beat down upon their backs, reflecting off the shimmering scales of the magnificent creatures that they could see in the distance as they made their way through the lush flora of the entrance to the reserve. They spotted Charlie waiting for them, his bright red hair shining brightly under the hot sun. He turned at the sound of them approaching.

“Charlie.” Ava rushed excitedly towards him, where he scooped her up into his muscled arms, spinning her around to her laughter.

“Ava, I’m so happy you could make it.” Charlie turned to the rest of the party after setting her down with a grin, his teeth popping brightly against his tanned face from years of working with dragons. "Ah, you must be Harry." He extended a hand towards the shy boy. “And you must be Sirius and Remus?” he added, shaking their hands in turn, lastly turning to Snape. “Hello Severus, glad to see you again. Welcome to the Dragon Reserve." He gestured to the land behind him with a flourish of his hand.

Charlie led them deeper into the reserve, passing small stone buildings, and a dining hall, until they reached a crop of small huts made from white stone and red clay tiles.

“Let’s get you settled in,” he said gesturing to the huts. “You’ll have to share I’m afraid, but there’s two separate rooms and a sofa bed.”

Snape grimaced but followed Charlie into the hut. Inside was a cosy, compact living space, with a small kitchenette, a fold-out dining table, and a much-worn-looking sofa bed.

Ava and Harry ran off to claim a bedroom together, leaving the adults to argue over who got the other bedroom; no doubt Snape would end up pulling the short straw and end up on the sofa bed. The bedroom was small and basic, with twin beds and a small chest of pine drawers. There was a painting on the wall of a dragon flying, occasionally breathing fire, and a large window overlooking the reserve.

Harry looked excitedly towards Ava. “I can’t believe we’re in Romania.” He turned and gazed out the window with a look of wonder in his eyes.

“I can’t believe dragons are real,” Ava said in disbelief.

“Come on kids, let’s get going,” Remus called from the other room.

As they followed Charlie around the reserve, listening to him describe the different species, Ava couldn't help but marvel at the variety of dragons they saw: There were fierce-looking red dragons with wings like razors, sleek silver dragons that glinted in the sunlight, and even a few adorable baby dragons napping in the shade. Charlie stopped them and gestured them through a tall steel gate into a large enclosure. It was a marvel of modern engineering; a massive dome constructed of reinforced glass and steel, designed to withstand the destructive forces of nature and the untamed might of its inhabitants. Within its boundaries, three baby dragons cavorted and played, their tiny, serpentine bodies glistening with an otherworldly iridescence. Their wings, mere wisps at this stage of development, fluttered uselessly as they chased each other through the cavernous space, emitting playful squeaks and pitiful roars that echoed off the curving walls.

“Oh my,” Ava gasped.

“These are my babies,” Charlie said his broad chest puffing up proudly causing Snape to snort. “Their mother was killed by poachers last week just after they hatched, but we managed to rescue them and bring them here.”

“Can we go near them?” Harry asked in awe.

“You can touch them, but let them approach you first.” Charlie whistled and the smallest dragon turned at the noise before bouncing over to him and puffing out smoke. “Come here Harry, go slow.” Harry walked slowly over to Charlie as he continued. “They are too young to breathe fire yet and are used to humans. In a few weeks they will be let out into the reserve and their natural instincts will come into play. Dragons don’t hunt people, and will only attack if threatened, but they are intelligent creatures so should never be treated like pets. Respect them and they will respect you.” Harry nodded in understanding and carefully approached the baby dragon, reaching out with one hand slowly.

“Is that why Bertie lets you ride him?” Ava asked as she watched the baby dragon nudge Harry’s hand, wanting to be petted.

“Yes, but it took a long time for me to build that trust with him, it’s not something you can accomplish overnight.”

The other two dragons had bounced their way over out of curiosity and were currently trying to get Snape to pet them between attempting feeble roars at Sirius and Remus.

Sirius sat sulking at one side of the enclosure. “Why don’t they like us?”

“Probably don’t like the wet dog smell,” Ava said sarcastically.

“What?” Sirius barked, looking at Ava suspiciously then at Lupin who just shook his head in fond exasperation.

“What animals do dragons eat?” Ava asked innocently.

Charlie gave it some thought before answering. “Usually cows, pigs that kind of thing, anything large in size.”

Ava smirked mischievously looking at Sirius and Remus. “What about dogs or wolves?”

“Sometimes,” Charlie answered not noticing Ava’s smirk, “but they would be more of a snack for them as not a lot of meat.”

Ava gave Sirius a smug look. “What about magical creatures, like werewolves, or animagus’?”

“No, they generally keep away from anything magical unless threatened. We’re not sure why.”

“Probably too temperamental for their tastes,” Ava said sarcastically making Snape snort.

“Come, I want to show you, Bertie,” Charlie said enthusiastically leading them back outside into the scorching sun. Ava walked alongside Charlie, leaving the others trailing behind. “Charlie, how closely linked are dragons to snakes?”

“I’m not sure, suppose they are both reptiles. Why do you ask?”

“Hypothetically speaking, would a Parselmouth have the ability to speak to dragons and other reptiles too?”

Charlie looked curiously at Ava. “You’re not suddenly going to tell me you’re a Parselmouth are you?”

Ava laughed. “No, well as far as I’m aware I’m not. Not that I’ve ever attempted to talk to snakes.”

“Well there’s plenty around here, just watch out for the vipers; they’re poisonous.”

“Will do, Uncle Sev come here a sec please,” she shouted behind her.

Snape approached sullenly, wiping his sweaty brow with a handkerchief. “What is it Ava?” he said as he quickly cast sun protection charms at her making her yelp at the sudden onslaught of magic coating her skin.

She shivered at the sudden coolness before answering. “Do you know how linked dragons are to snakes?”

He looked her over with a satisfied nod, happy she was thoroughly protected before answering. “Why do you ask?”

“Ava wants to know if a Parselmouth could speak to a dragon,” Charlie said rolling his eyes good-naturedly before yelping when Snape cast the same sun protection charms at him unexpectedly.

Snape glanced to Harry who was observing an injured dragon being attended to with his godfather; he was well aware of the boy’s abilities even if he wasn’t aware himself. “Honestly I don’t know, there’s a likelihood I suppose with them both being reptiles but I think they are too different.”

“Shame,” Ava said, her shoulder sagging. “How amazing would it be to be able to communicate with animals, especially a dragon?”

“I talked to a snake once,” Harry said from behind her.

Sirius’ eyes went wide. “You did?”

“Yeah, just before first year. I went to the zoo for Dudley’s birthday and spoke to one; accidentally set it free. The Dursleys thought I’d done it on purpose and set it on Dudley,” Harry said shrugging like it was nothing. “There must be loads of wizards who can speak to snakes though.”

Remus looked worriedly at the boy. “Erm, Harry.” He paused like he wasn’t sure whether to go on or not. “It’s actually really rare. It’s what Salazar Slytherin was famous for; it’s why the symbol of Slytherin house is a snake.”

“So are you telling me no one since Salazar has been able to speak Parseltongue?” Ava asked in disbelief.

Remus shook his head. “Not that we know of.”

Ava looked at Snape in confusion before turning back to Remus. “Wasn’t Moldy one?”

Remus frowned in thought. “Not that I’m aware of.”

Ava was so confused – she was sure people knew Moldy was a Parselmouth. Did they even know he was a descendant of Slytherin? If not why hadn’t he told anyone? Surely his followers knew at least – why hadn’t they connected the dots if not?

Ava internally shook the thoughts from her head and looked at her best friend with enthusiasm; a big smile lighting up her face. “Well, I think it's awesome Harry, maybe I could get a pet snake.” She looked hopefully towards Snape; eyes wide with innocence, deciding to put a pin in the whole who knew Moldy’s secrets farce.

“Absolutely not,” Snape exclaimed.

Ava pouted, her larger bottom lip coming out in full force. “Why not?”

Snape crossed his arms, not willing to give in to her innocent act. “Because I said so.”

“Not even if I find one in school,” Ava said cheekily thinking of the basilisk.

“Definitely not!”

“Fine Dad,” she said sarcastically sticking her tongue out at him and crossing her arms, mirroring his stance whilst Charlie chuckled at them both.

“Harry, I think it would be wise to keep your ability to yourself,” Sirius said gently.

Ava scowled at the man. “Oh f*ck off Sirius, why should Harry hide something that is part of him; just because people don’t understand it because of its rarity? No wonder there’s so much prejudice in the magical world; you’re all ignorant uneducated fools,” Ava said shaking her head and rolling her eyes, making Snape snort. “One blood prejudice founder from a thousand years ago has the ability so it automatically makes everyone else with the ability evil. I’ve made this argument before; would you judge every German because of Hitler? No – same rules apply…and I highly doubt Harry is the only Parseltongue in existence – speakers probably keep it to themselves because of brainless fools.” She pulled Harry away from the group and stalked off to watch Bertie the dragon who was basking in the sun without a care in the world.

“You really think it’s awesome?” Harry asked unsure, as he leaned against the dragon enclosure.

Ava turned to look at him, her face full of sincerity. “Of course I do, maybe I could try learning it?”

“I didn’t know I was speaking another language when I did it though; I thought I was speaking English.”

“Well, I’ll just listen; see if I can memorise the sounds you make. Come on let’s see if we can find one.”

They scoured the undergrowth for a good hour under the watchful eye of the adults, who were standing out of earshot arguing before they eventually found a common grass snake.

“Say hello to it Harry,” Ava encouraged.

Harry spoke what she assumed was a hello, but of course, it just sounded like a hiss to Ava. She tried to replicate the sound but Harry just laughed, saying she had said house instead.

She shrugged. “Well, at least I got the h sound right.” Ava crouched closer to the ground, her eyes scrutinising the hissing snake. “What else did it say?”

“Said it had never come across a speaker before and asked if we had seen any mice.”

“Huh, just sounded like a bunch of ssssssssss to me, although I could kind of make out when you were changing words, but they blended in together. So you can’t tell you're speaking it at all?” Ava asked curiously.

“Nope, just sounds English.”

“Weird.”

Harry worried his lip with his teeth as he leaned his head next to hers as they both lay on their bellies and inspected the snake. “Maybe I should keep this to myself”

Ava saw the worry on his face; his lips were a thin line and his eyes narrowed. “It’s up to you Harry; just don’t be frightened of the ability.”

“You know the hat wanted to put me in Slytherin,” he confessed.

“Really?” Ava said feigning surprise. “Why did you go to Gryffindor?”

“It’s where my parents went and as much as I wanted to be in the same house as you, I couldn’t in good conscious go to the same house as Moldy.”

“That’s understandable Harry. You know I think the whole house system is rubbish anyway.”

“I’m starting to realise that too. I still can’t believe Dumbledore at the end of term; he clearly favours the Lions and I’m not okay with that. I really wish I had spoken up now…I honestly don’t know why I didn’t.”

Ava shrugged. “Well neither did anyone else; not even McGonagall.”

“Yeah, I was surprised by that. I suppose no one but us really knew what went on down there. Although how Dumbledore knew it was Ron who orchestrated the chess game, or Hermione solving Snape’s riddle is anyone’s guess; none of us told him who did what or that you, Draco, and Theo weren’t with us from the start.” Harry said.

“Mmm, it is odd. Surely if he knew that, then he should also have known that Draco and I fought that troll and Draco got past Snape’s riddle as well. It only took him a couple of minutes too.”

Harry looked surprised. “Really? It took Hermione what felt like ages.”

“Yep, not to mention Theo flying Ron out. He said they didn’t encounter the Professors until they were nearly at the hospital wing. Plus the whole thing felt orchestrated if you ask me.”

“What do you mean?” Harry asked, his brow furrowing in confusion.

“Just a feeling. Why hide a fake stone? Why create stupid traps that were clearly useless? And why hide it in a school full of children? There are wards, charms, gosh…even a Muggle high-security bank would have been a better way to hide something valuable. Better yet, stick it in a house that’s unplottable under the Fidelius and Bobs your uncle. I wonder where Flamel keeps the real stone anyway?”

“Who knows, probably not even aware of Dumbledore’s fake one?”

“Probably not. I wonder why alchemy’s not taught anymore? In fact, there are a lot of subjects I’m surprised they don’t teach.”

“Like what?”

“Magical theory for one. I know we touch on it in charms and transfiguration, but it would be good to know how to create new spells or improve old ones. Magical Law is another; Sirius’s case showed me that laws can differ greatly from Muggles. There are also magical cultures and traditions; if we are not born into this world we literally know nothing, yet are somehow meant to be able to just fit in. There’s also wandlore and magical arts, like photography and painting. How are we expected to know what to do as a career if we have no idea what jobs are out there? I’m just lucky that Pomfrey took me on as an apprentice; apparently not many bother asking until they are out of Hogwarts and most do it in St Mungo’s.”

“Is that what you want to do; be a healer?”

“Maybe.” Ava shrugged. “I just think it’s a good skill to have, but I do enjoy it. I might look into Muggle medicine too; I think using both would make huge improvements to magical healing. I don’t believe magic is always the right answer; the human body is designed to heal itself in a lot of cases and sometimes should be done slowly. I think the magical world sometimes forgets that.”

Harry pulled Ava to her feet after the snake got bored of them and slithered off and walked back over to the adults when they heard their voices rise even higher causing them some concern. Charlie was standing separately; his eyes pinging back and forth like a tennis match as he watched Snape and Sirius argue, whilst Lupin held the latter back.

“…you are just the same as you were when we were teens. A selfish bastard,” Snape spat. “All you think about yourself, not the consequences of your actions.”

“Oh please, you’re one to talk Snivellous. You were always one to run, you’re a coward.”

Snape seethed. “Coward…how am I a coward?”

Sirius' eyes darkened; his face pinched with a mix of fury, hurt, and humiliation. “You’re the one who slept with me then did a runner before I’d even woken up; left a note saying it was a mistake.”

Ava stood transfixed; her eyes wide and mouth open in shock at the revelation.

“Did he just say what I think he just said?” Harry whispered in Ava’s ear, whilst equally looking wide-eyed at the arguing men.

Ava blinked repeatedly, her eyes darting back and forth between the two dark-haired men. “I think so; either that or we both just hallucinated.”

“It was a bloody mistake, we were drunk. You had just poured your heart out about Lupin, and I…I…Lily was mad at me because of the people I associated with in Slytherin. I was lonely and intoxicated,” Snape said dejectedly; all fight leaving his body momentarily. “…..Is that why you tried to get me attacked by the wolf; because I left the next morning?” he snapped, his face red with anger.

“I....I….I wasn’t thinking. I was mad at you, Remus had started seeing some Ravenclaw bloke, James was too busy fawning over Lily, Reg wouldn’t talk to me; I just needed to feel wanted for once. I woke up and you were gone. I’d never felt so alone. It was a stupid thing to do…..I’m…. I’m sorry alright.” Sirius looked remorseful; his eyes downcast and his shoulders slumped. “I regretted it as soon as I did it. I even rushed after you but James beat me to it.”

Snape walked off without a backward glance leaving the shocked group behind him. Ava ran after him, “Uncle Sev wait up…wait….are you okay?”

Snape inhaled sharply but carried on walking. “I’m fine Ava; just…it brought up a lot of painful memories of school.”

“Did you really have sex with Black?” Ava side-eyed him curiously as they carried on walking until Snape stopped to lean over a low fence, looking over a valley below.

Snape sighed then nodded, his eyes staring off into the distance.

“Merlin – how did that even happen? You two hated each other.”

Snape his head fell, hanging low; his shoulders slumped with regret. “I honestly don’t know – there was a lot of Firewhiskey involved. He was pissed at his friends – Potter, mainly I think; something we had in common. Apparently he was too self-absorbed with Lily to care that his friend was hurting. I dunno – I guess we bonded for one extremely reckless night. We were young and stupid. ”

“How old were you?” Ava asked quietly.

“Fifteen.”

“Bloody hell…..wait….did you lose your virginity to Black? Sirius Black?” Ava said astonished at the revelation.

Snape whipped round sharply to face her. “Shhh…and yes if you must know.” He continued walking in hurried footsteps, getting further away from their little group.

“Merlin…..didn’t see that one coming,” Ava said stopping to take that information in. “Wait….who topped?” she shouted as she ran up to catch up to him.

Snape turned quickly to face her. “AVA!!”

Ava hunched her shoulders up; her palms facing the air. “What? I’m curious.”

Snape pinched his nose, looking at the heavens. “You are twelve and like my daughter. I’m not answering that question. Not now, not ever. You shouldn’t even know about stuff like that.”

“Yeah, well apparently I do,” she huffed. “I’m trying to picture it…..actually…ewe….nope….nope…did not need to picture either of you naked in flagrante.” She shuddered at the thought. Snape rolled his eyes and shook his head; his face a mixture of pure disbelief and fondness.

“Come on; let’s go find something to eat.”

Dinner that evening was a quiet affair; Charlie, Ava, and Harry doing their best to diffuse the tension. In the end, Charlie took Snape off on his own for a few hours whilst Lupin and Sirius disappeared in the opposite direction, leaving Ava sat watching the sunset with Harry outside their little hut drinking homemade lemonade.

“I can’t believe they hooked up,” Ava said in astonishment as she revelled in the dragons soaring in the distance; the last of the sunlight gleaming off their beautiful scales.

“They are like, the least likely people to be together,” Harry said shaking his head.

Ava nodded; her eyes still wide at the revelation. “Yep.”

Harry raked his fingers through his hair making it stand up on its ends. “I mean how did that even happen – they hated each other?”

Ava took a sip of her drink thinking about the unlikely pair. “Well, there’s a fine line between love and hate. They are two very broken individuals who had seriously sh*tty upbringings, so for one night probably found I sense of….I don’t know….companionship maybe…or they were just extremely pissed and thought it was a good idea at the time. Who knows with those two but they were obviously very lonely. Probably good it was a one-time thing. Think they would have killed each other otherwise.”

Harry snorted. “Probably.”

“I wonder if Sirius ever told his friends? I mean they spent the rest of school humiliating him – do you think that was why?”

“They did?” Harry asked.

“Yeah – Snape had a horrible time in school. I’m sorry to say Harry but your father and Sirius weren’t the nicest of people. I don’t know much about it but they did some really nasty pranks on him, I’m sure he retaliated in kind but as far as I know it was always four against one.” He looked devastated. “Look Harry, speak to Remus – he’s likely to give you an honest answer about what went on when they were at school; I only know Snape’s side of the story, and only bits and pieces. I know your father matured a lot – your mother would never have married him otherwise.”

Harry gave a half-hearted smile. “Yeah – you’re right. Just hard to hear that someone I imagined to be a hero could be a bully.”

“I’m sure he was a hero Harry, but he was human too – we all make mistakes.”

Harry and Ava spent the next few hours watching the sun sink below the horizon until the stars came out, lost in their own thoughts.

The next week was one of the best in Ava’s life. She spent hours with Charlie and Harry learning about the different dragon species, how to take care of them when they are injured, and the day-to-day life of the reserve. It wasn’t something she would want to do all the time but would be nice to visit on occasion. The tension had eased between the other adults, Remus claiming they had all talked the following day and cleared the air. No one would tell her what had been said, but they all seemed to be in a much better mood for the rest of the week.

On their last night, Charlie had taken Snape on a walk around the reserve, claiming there was something he wanted to show her godfather. She had noticed them getting on exceptionally well but could tell Snape was keeping his guard up, no matter how many times Charlie tried flirting with him. She just hoped her godfather would relax for once and live a little. Remus had taken Sirius into the local village, whilst Harry and Ava spent their evening swimming (well Ava spent half of it trying to teach Harry to swim) in the natural rock pools that bordered the reserve until the stars came out. She would be sad to go home.

Notes:

Snape: Sweating buckets in the Romanian Heat no matter how many cooling charms he casts - Sees Ava's bare arms and legs - turns into a mother hen

Charlie: Laughing at him

Snape: Sees bare skin - Casts skin protection charms at him too.

Chapter 5: The Malfoys, Lucius is an Idiot and Saving Theo

Chapter Text

Ava walked briskly down the cobblestone path a few days after returning from Romania, her bright blue eyes scanning the manicured gardens of Malfoy Manor in the distance until she reached the warded gates where Draco stood waiting for her with a beaming smile on his face. She adjusted the strap of her leather backpack that Snape had given her; feeling a mixture of anticipation and apprehension in the pit of her stomach. Snape had insisted on staying disillusioned behind her to make sure passed the boundaries safe; he wasn’t happy about her insisting on visiting her friend. This was her first time visiting Draco at his family home, and she couldn't help but wonder what kind of week she was in for. The sun hung low in the sky, casting a warm glow over the statues and fountains that dotted the Manor's grounds. The air was warm and smelled of summer, but a cool breeze swirled the air, cooling her flushed face.

She had been nervous about meeting Draco's parents, Narcissa and Lucius, but Draco had reassured her that his father was away on business so would not be at the Manor.

“Ava,” Draco greeted her warmly, if not a little formerly.

“Hey Draco, thanks for inviting me,” she said pulling him in a quick hug, formalities be damned.

Ava followed Draco, the Manor's great oak doors coming into view. She hesitated for a moment, taking in the grand architecture and the sense of history that seemed to emanate from the very walls. She wondered what kind of stories these walls could tell if they could speak. Would they tell of the great triumphs of the Malfoys, or the darker secrets that were hidden deep within the family's past? She wondered if all the Malfoys had been Pureblood fanatics.

She followed Draco through the grand entryway, taking in the opulent details of the marble floors, the intricately carved ceilings, and the priceless works of art that adorned the walls, as he talked rapidly about the Manor. It was a far cry from Clevers cottage, the sheer size made her feel like she was in some museum, like Chatsworth house. There were corridors with magical portraits of past family members, half of which sneered at her as they passed.

Draco led her to a very delicately decorated room, the walls painted pale blue, with white covings and a beautiful fire. There were a couple of high-backed cream and blue armchairs, a fainting chair, and a comfortable-looking sofa where a woman sat who was clearly Draco’s mother; Narcissa Malfoy.

Narcissa Malfoy was a woman of striking beauty and elegance; she rose like an ethereal being, her pale pink robes flowing behind her like a cascade of liquid silk. Her blonde hair, perfectly coifed into an elaborate updo, seemed to shimmer with an otherworldly light as it caught the candlelight.

Ava couldn't help but feel a pang of envy as she watched Narcissa move with such grace and poise. Even from across the room, she could sense an air of authority and confidence emanating from the woman. She was everything Ava was not: beautiful, stylish, and graceful, the epitome of a Pureblood wife. Ava tried not to laugh at the absurdity of the situation. What the hell was she doing here? This woman was going to hate her the minute she opened her mouth. She tried not to smile at the thought but was afraid she looked constipated instead.

As Narcissa approached her, Ava took a deep breath, trying to steady her racing heart. She paused for a moment, scrutinising Ava’s pale blue summer dress and white plimsolls, before holding out her hand for Ava to take.

“You must be Miss Morgan," she said firmly but politely, her voice like silk. "It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance?" She offered a delicate smile, her perfectly sculpted lips curving upwards just so.

“Yes Mrs Malfoy,” Ava said taking her hand which felt smooth like butter.

“Draco has spoken very highly of you… considering… your upbringing,” she said scrunching her nose slightly, with a barely hidden sneer.

Ava had to hold her tongue.

They sat in the opulent parlour, Ava’s hands clasped tightly in her lap. It was awkward; as polite at Narcissa had been she felt really out of her depth. The Manor was a symbol of everything she hated, all the blood prejudice and entitlement of the wizarding pureblood families.

But Draco... Draco was different. He was still a Malfoy, still arrogant and entitled. But there was something more to him, something vulnerable under the surface. It was why Ava had agreed to visit him much to her godfather's dismay – but he saw her reasoning when she explained why it was important for her to be friends with Draco and keep him out of the clutches of the insane. Luckily Malfoy Sn was currently away and not expected back for a few more days, so she hoped she wouldn’t have to see him during her visit.

“Come, dinner will be served soon,” Narcissa said gesturing Ava and Draco out of the room and towards the dining room. She wondered if it was the room Moldy would take over in a few years and commit unimaginable crimes; just thinking of the teacher that would be devoured by a snake was making her stomach turn. She tried not to think about it and distracted herself by taking in the enormous room; the high white ceiling, the black marble fireplace, and an enormous ebony table, whilst simultaneously trying to figure out which bloody fork to use. There were four!

The first course appeared in front of her a few minutes after they had sat down in the stiff, high-backed chairs that forced her to sit straight and not slouch. She daren’t move until Draco or Narcissa took a bite, but they continued talking, seemingly oblivious to the food in front of them; a mouth-watering smoked salmon terrine. After what felt like an age Ava rolled her eyes, picked up a random knife and fork, and dug in; she was starving so etiquette be damned. She had a vague memory of starting with the outside cutlery and working your way in but she honestly didn’t care. f*ck it, she’d just wing it and hope no one noticed. No one did notice – or chose not to say anything regardless. Either that or she somehow fluked her way through each course with some form of decorum – formal etiquette really wasn’t her strong suit.

Dinner itself was a lavish affair, with many courses, the house elves scurrying about to ensure that everything was perfect. The food was exquisite, and Ava found herself savouring every bite; it beat the Hogwarts cuisine by a mile with its rich flavours and unique ingredients. By the time they were finished, she felt like she was ready to burst.

The rest of the evening they spent relaxing by the fire in the drawing room. Narcissa had insisted that Ava join them, and despite her initial reservations, she had found herself enjoying the woman's company. She shared stories of Draco as a child, much to his embarrassment, and Ava was surprised to find that there was more to Narcissa than met the eye. There was a softness to her voice when she spoke about her son, a pride that was almost palpable. It made her realise that there was more to the woman than she initially believed but she was curious to how she acted around her husband or in public, or amongst the other Pureblood elite.

Draco eventually dragged Ava away before his mother could tell another embarrassing story about him dressing up as Harry when he was five, and led her to a guest room that was next door to his. It was enormous, like something from a posh boutique hotel. The walls were decorated in pale duck-egg blue with a coordinated rug covering the dark oak floor. A large white, intricately carved wooden bed stood proudly in the centre opposite a set of large glass doors leading to a small balcony. There was a large writing desk on one wall next to a wardrobe that matched the bed.

“Wow, Draco. This is gorgeous.”

Draco smiled smugly. “There’s a bathroom just through that door,” he said pointing towards the end of the room where I small oak door stood.

Ava looked at the room in awe, taking in all its elegance. “Can I see your room?” Draco blushed but nodded and led her to the room next door.

Draco’s bedroom was exactly like she expected; full of green furnishings, dark furniture and Slytherin paraphernalia donning the walls and surfaces. Ava bounced on his bed, lying down to stare up at the ceiling that was painted with constellations. “Draco,” she said pointing to his namesake.

Draco smiled widely; the apples of his cheeks standing out. “You remembered.”

“Hard to forget when you didn’t shut up about it in our first Astronomy lesson.” Ava looked over at his large bedside table. There were a smattering of photos framed there; one of Draco and his parents, a couple of him with Theo, and a few with Pansy and Crabbe and Goyle when they were younger. “These are nice,” she said as she looked at the photos.

“My mother likes to take pictures, or get the house elves to sneakily take them,” he explained. There would be additions added of the two of them by the end of her visit proving his point.

The following day Draco had took her on a tour of the Manor, pointing out all of his favourite rooms and sharing stories about his childhood there. He had shown her the library, with its towering shelves of leather-bound books and the cosy fireplace in the corner; explored the luscious gardens, with their unique flowers and albino peaco*cks – creepy bloody things; and had even persuaded her to go for a ride with him on his new nimbus 2001, the wind whipping through their hair and the warmth of the sun on her face as she gripped tightly to his waist. It had been breathtaking, viewing the Manor and grounds from the sky, and she couldn't help but feel grateful that she was able to experience it with Draco.

That evening Draco showed her the genealogies he had, and they spent the next few hours poring over the many volumes of various family trees. Draco was going over the families of the sacred twenty-eight, whilst Ava went over other Pure-blood families. She found it fascinating, and extremely complicated how most of the families were connected in some way. Be it a great-grand parent, a cousin however many times removed or through marriage. She was surprised to learn that Sirius' parents were actually first cousins – luckily he turned out okay; well mostly. So far none of the families had shown up anyone named Isabella who was alive when Ava was born.

“This is so frustrating,” Ava grunted throwing down the book she was combing through.

“We’ll find something, Ava, I promise,” Draco said reassuringly.

She sighed in defeat. “Maybe I am Muggle-born after all.”

“But you have a trust fund.”

“Could have been set up by a friend of my parents though.”

“Yeah, I suppose. But I doubt it. Either way, if we find out who your vaults were set up by, we find a link to your parents. You said one of the vaults was number thirty, right?”

Ava shrugged. “Yeah, so?”

“Well a number that low means it’s a high security vault; one on the lowest ones underground. They usually belong to families that go back generations, back to the time of Merlin.”

Ava scoffed. “You think I’m a descendent of Merlin?”

Draco laughed. “Maybe, but what I mean is that whoever owned it had ties to a long magical bloodline. If you were Muggle-born you would not have been left such a high-security vault.”

“I suppose that makes sense. I just wish I knew who the other heir was. I might actually get some answers then. I’ve literally no idea – nothing to go on at all. Snape and I have discussed it but we are both just as clueless and the goblins won’t tell us anything until the other heir comes forward. Bloody frustrating as they might never come forward.”

“Yeah, it’s odd they’ve not made themselves known to the bank. If they’ve been then they would have been told already and given their key.”

“They are probably like me then – Muggle raised, wouldn’t know to go and check.”

“Maybe it’s Harry,” Draco said thoughtfully.

Ava waved him off. “Nah – he’s been about his vaults – it would have registered if it was him.”

Draco thought for a moment, moving the books into a neat pile. “What other Muggle-borns do we know? Granger?”

“Nah – she can trace her family back a few generations. She did write though to tell me she went for an inheritance test.”

Draco looked over, not able to keep the curiosity from his face. “Oh?”

“Yeah – turns out….she is related to Dagworth-Granger. He’s her great-great-great grandfather. There might have been more greats in there, I can’t remember.”

“So your theory might be correct then; Muggle-borns are descendants of squibs.”

“Maybe – could be a coincidence. You’d have to test a good section of Muggle-borns to be accurate, and even then, even if there’s no link to Gringotts doesn’t mean they’re not descendants. Not everyone has a vault or link to the bank. You’d need family trees on both Muggle and Wizarding sides to compare and considering squibs are usually erased from the family trees it would be hard to research.”

Draco frowned in thought. “Yeah – sounds like it could take years.”

Ava nodded dejectedly. “Yeah it could…Draco – you’ve got to promise not to tell anyone about this – especially your parents – we don’t know what’s going on, or who’s involved, and anyone knowing could put us at risk.”

“Ava – I promise – this is your secret, not mine. I won’t tell anyone.”

Ava nodded. “Thank you, Draco. – the whole thing is messed up.” She looked at the piles of thick books in frustration. “Can we go flying or something? I’m sick of looking at names.”

“Of course,” Draco said with a big smile on his face; his beautiful grey eyes sparkling with excitement. It was still light out, the sun slowly sinking beyond the horizon creating a red glow across the sky; it was a beautiful night for a fly. Draco took them for a lazy turn around the Manor grounds before settling on top of the roof to watch the sun go down; their heads bent together as they watched the last light of the day sink below the horizon. It was hard to believe that in a few years the beautiful place could become a place of horrors.

On her final day at the Manor, Ava was sat speaking as politely as she could to Mrs Malfoy, she had warmed up to the woman as the days had gone past, and had seen a more playful side of Narcissa, with her witty remarks and sarcastic comments; usually directed at her absent husband. They were laughing good-naturedly after Narcissa had told a story of when Lucius accidentally turned his precious hair bright green when the man himself came storming into the room.

“Narcissa, Draco; whose company do we have the pleasure of,” he said politely as he looked down his nose at Ava who was sat next to his son.

f*ck, f*ck, f*ck….here we go!

Draco looked nervous but held his head high and stood greeting his father. “This is Ava Morgan, my friend. Ava this is my father Lucius Malfoy.”

Lucius sneered in contempt. “Draco, why is this Mudblood in my house? Take your loving Muggle ways and leave.”

Rude!

Lucius!” Narcissa chastised rising to her feet just as Ava did the same.

“My Muggle loving ways?” Ava deadpanned, her arms crossed with a raised eyebrow and co*cky grin. f*ck the formalities.

“I’ve heard of your interference in the ways of Slytherin. How you think we should learn from Muggles. You sound like Dumbledore.”

Ava wrinkled her nose at the implication. “One - never compare me to that manipulative old man, two - I believe we should learn from Muggles to help improve our world, but never have I said change to be like them, or get rid of our magical heritage… or traditions.”

“I’ve heard all I need to know about you Miss Morgan, we are above Muggles, we are better, more powerful, and do not need their influence in our world. They are stupid and uncivilised, and Muggle-borns should be cast out.”

Ava wasn’t cowed by the man – she just looked at him like he was an ignorant child. “Do you live under a rock, Mr Malfoy?” She looked him up and down like she was calculating his stupidity before continuing; her voice becoming more derogatory with each word. “You have been spoon-fed truths and lies since you were children. You need to open your eyes. You’re a coward if you continue to follow old rules and beliefs if you honestly think Muggles are stupid or uncivilised as you so put it... Do you even know what an aeroplane is? A computer? Do you have any idea what weapons Muggles are capable of producing?” She rolled her eyes when Lucius looked at her like she was speaking a foreign language.

“Has anyone even attempted to put a bullet through old Moldy’s head, or even Dumbledore’s for that matter?” She contemplated that for a few moments giving it some thought. Could a bullet kill either of them? Would it be classed as a crime given its Muggle nature? Maybe she could test one on Nott – make out it was an accident and didn’t know how they worked. – Where would one even buy a gun in Britain? Maybe she should join a shooting range – those exist in the UK right? - She’d give it some thought.

“Muggles are capable of taking out a whole city with one bomb,” Ava continued putting a pin in the whole kill Nott Sn with a gun idea. “They don’t need you to solve their problems; they’re not weak or stupid. Do you know how far their technology, their science, their medical treatments have come in the last century alone? They can heal the body with medicine and surgery; create life when couples struggle to conceive. Their scientific discoveries are beyond what your narrow mind is capable off. They have even sent people into space, to the deepest parts of the oceans. They can communicate instantly with another person on the other side of the world, and that technology is only going to improve tenfold in the next twenty years. They can find information at a click of a button; they have no need to go routing around in books for hours at a time. They have surveillance, recording devices, weapons that a wand wouldn’t stand a chance against….do you know what a sniper rifle is?” The Malfoys all looked baffled at her question. “It’s a weapon; a gun – one bullet, one shot from 800 metres away – you’d be dead before you even knew it was coming. Muggles are exceptional people; creative, intelligent, adaptable. Yet you think they are stupid or uncultured. Have you even been into the Muggle world? Studied their cultures, their arts and music? Read their literature, visited their towns and cities. There are billions of people in the world, and yes there are a lot of evil amongst them, and wars have been fought since time began, but the same could be said about the Magical world. You can’t generalise based on assumptions, and if you think a small group of terrorists like your merry band of Death Eaters can take on the Muggle world then you are more stupid than you look.”

“Ava, I thought I heard your dulcet tones,” Snape said sarcastically as he waltzed his way into the room; his signature black robes swirling behind him. It was weird seeing him back in wizarding robes when he’d spent all summer in Muggle clothing; she’d even managed to get him in t-shirts in Romania. “Lucius, Narcissa, I believe you have met my goddaughter. Dare to insult her again and you will lose your hair – permanently,” he added with sincerity. “Have you finished your rant now, Ava?”

Ava rolled her eyes. “Yes, Uncle.”

“Good, I have matters to discuss with Lucius. I suggest you find something to do with Draco,” he said as Lucius stood there gormlessly like a fish.

He eventually shook himself out of his stupor, narrowing his eyes on Snape. “Why am I being told there is a Mudblood in Slytherin? Surely you would not have been a godfather to a Muggle’s child.”

“One – Lucius don’t even use that word in front of me, and two – don’t believe everything you hear,” Snape snapped at him.

“Who are her parents?” Lucius asked his face in pure shock. Ava wasn’t sure it was due to the way Snape had spoken to him or the surprise of him having a goddaughter.

“None of your f*cking business,” Ava spat at the Pureblood ponce.

She heard Narcissa snort, hiding it with a cough whilst Ava turned to grab Draco. They had barely taken two steps before a flash of light penetrated the room. Ava’s head whipped around, wand in hand as her heart pounded against her chest.

As her eyes adjusted from the bright light, she saw a small figure crumpled on the floor. He was pale and shaking; his body a mess of bruises and cuts. His torn shirt exposed the brutal marks of a severe beating whilst dark, swollen bruises moulted his beautiful face; a deep contusion over his left eye, rendering it nearly swollen shut. A wide cut split his lip and a deep gash married his enflamed cheek; blood oozing from the ragged wound.

Ava was moving her feet in an instant rushing to his side. “Theo!” Her eyes flooded with tears as she took in the broken boy; her hands fluttering over him not knowing what to do. “What happened?”

Theo painfully shook his head, his eyes welling up with tears. “I... I can’t stay here,” he mumbled, his words punctured with moans. “My father…he’ll know I’m here, but it was the only way I could leave.”

Ava just nodded, her mind racing; she knew exactly where to take him. She pulled him gently to his feet ignoring his weak protests as her eyes locked on a worried Snape. He nodded minutely before she grabbed the emergency portkey that he had insisted she carry and muttered the password; disappearing to the worried faces of the Malfoys.

They materialized instantly just outside the Cottage’s boundaries. Ava saw Theo’s eyes widen as he looked around at the open fields. “Where are we?”

Ava gripped the boy as he fell to his knees; the pain too much for him to carry on standing. “My home…You’ll be safe here.” The Potions Master materialised a moment later next to them. “Uncle Sev, help.”

He scooped Theo up into his arms like he weighed nothing, giving Theo the secret of his home so it would appear for him. “What happened?” he asked as he hastily carried him inside; Ava rushing to keep up with his long legs, but Theo just mumbled incoherently.

It was a flurry of activity getting Theo settled. Ava dosed him with pain potions as Snape healed his body and cleaned his many wounds. His torso was black and blue, and she honestly didn’t know how he was still alive. Through it all, Theo just laid there, his eyes closed and his face pale. He’d passed out not long after they had arrived; his chest rising slowly with every breath. Ava sat beside him, one hand clutched in his whilst the other wrapped tightly around a cold cup of tea. “Theo,” she said softly when she noticed him stir.

He opened his eyes, his gaze unfocused. “Ava,” he mumbled his voice hoarse.

Ava just nodded; her throat tight. “I’m here.” she tightened her hold on his hand. “You’re safe now.”

As Theo’s eyes welled up with tears, Ava felt a pang of rage. What had happened for his father to react with so much aggression? So much hated? Finding a gun to kill the bastard was getting more and more likely with every minute.

“Your father,” she spat.

Theo just nodded, his body shaking with sobs. “He... he gets angry,” he mumbled through his hands that were now covering his face.

Ava felt another wave of fury wash over her. That bastard. She had always known he was a cruel man; knew what he was capable of. But this... she hadn’t imagined the extent of the injuries he could inflict. Ava didn’t know how Theo had walked away with no internal injuries as every inch of his body had been bruised black and blue.

As Theo cried, Ava climbed into his bed and held him gently; her arms wrapped softly around his shoulders as he buried his head into her neck as she stroked his hair and whispered soft reassurances. Slowly but surely, his sobs began to subside; his breathing slow and even as he fell asleep. Ava felt a sense of determination as she watched the steady breathing of the boy she’d come to deeply care for. She would not let Theo return to that man, and if she found a way, she would kill the bastard; be it a gun, wand or her bare hands.

She sat there for hours cradling the boy in the quiet of the cottage, listening to his steady breathing, and felt a sense of resolve harden inside her. She would take care of Theo, no matter what it took. She would keep him safe, and make sure he was happy, because in the end that was all that mattered. Not the blood running through your veins, not the family you were born to. What mattered were the people you chose, the people you loved, and Theo was one of hers and she wouldn’t let that cruel bastard of a father take him away from her.

Snape had left after Theo was stable to return to Malfoy Manor, he had been gone for hours before he returned. Ava had been worried out of her mind with the revelation that Lucius now knew her connection to Snape and wondered what had possessed him to reveal their secret.

Snape finally popped his head round the door when the sun was low in the sky. “How is he?”

Ava looked over as she gently carded her fingers through the sleeping boy’s hair. “Resting; emotionally exhausted but his wounds have healed. They were terrible but superficial.”

“That’s good, and at least we know your charms worked.”

“Charms?” Ava asked confused.

“The bracelet you made him.” She’d forgotten about the friendship bracelet she had charmed and had given to him for Christmas. She felt sick at the thought of how much worse Theo would have been without those protections; she was positive he would have been dead.

“How did it go at the Malfoys?” she asked quietly.

“I fed him the story we came up with,” Snape said as he sat at the side of the bed and cast a diagnostic charm over Theo. “He took a vow of secrecy after Narcissa threatened to hex his balls off.”

Ava snorted. “I like her, she’s not at all as I expected.”

“She plays her part well, but she’s not one to be trifled with,” Snape said seriously. “Don’t get on her wrong side; especially where Draco is concerned.”

Ava nodded in understanding; she’d witnessed how much she loved her son. “Do you think anything I said hit home? About how powerful Muggles can be?”

“I don’t know.” Snape sighed. He looked worn; his dark eyes rimmed red with worry and exhaustion. “Narcissa is more educated in Muggle ways than she lets people realise, so it probably wasn’t all new information for her. Lucius is just stubborn so it’s hard to tell. He won’t be a problem for us though.”

“Are you sure?” Ava asked biting her lip with worry; they kept slipping up with their secret.

Snape gave her a wicked grin. “Oh I’m sure; I have plenty of blackmail on that man.”

“Really? Like what?” Ava said eager for some gossip.

“Never you mind.”

“Spoilsport... Why did you tell him anyway? You could have kept him in the dark; he obviously knows you are one of my professors.”

“I don’t know.” Snape sighed. “I heard him insult you and automatically went on the defensive. I won’t have him insult anyone I care about.”

Ava smiled at the admission. “Would you have really hexed his hair off?”

“Without a doubt,” Snape said smugly. “And I know just the hex that would make sure it never grew back.”

Ava snorted – just picturing Lucius Malfoy bald was hilarious.

It took a few days for Theo to recover fully; his cuts and abrasions healed quickly but the bruising took longer than normal to fade; the bruise paste not strong enough to deal with such brutality. Theo wouldn’t talk about what happened so Ava spent every minute trying to make Theo smile. She took him into the village where they spent hours sat by the river, skimming stones, reading books or buying Muggle sweets and drinks from the little village shop. They went on walks, paddled in the stream in the woods, climbed trees and helped Snape tend to his garden. Ava attempted to teach Theo to cook; he was okay when directed but couldn’t be left for more than five minutes before something started to burn. Mornings were spent learning new spells and potions taught by Snape, and in the evenings they listened to music or watched videos on the TV that Snape had managed to charm to work around magic; Theo’s favourites were The Goonies and Back to the Future. (The irony)

Chapter 6: Diagon, Diaries and Dipsh*ts

Chapter Text

As Ava and Theo stepped into the warmth of the Leaky Cauldron with Snape polyjuiced behind them, the aroma of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding filled their nostrils. They glanced around, taking in the cosy atmosphere and the chatter of witches and wizards. She could feel Theo's nervous energy beside her, and gave his hand a reassuring squeeze as they shuffled their way through the crowded pub.

“You’ll be fine Theo; Uncle Sev will intervene if we bump into your father okay?”

Theo nodded as she led them out of the pub to the entrance of Diagon Alley. As they walked through the cobblestone streets Ava’s eyes darted around, taking in the colourful shops and bustling crowds. It was the first time she had been there that didn’t involve a sole trip to Gringotts and she was finally able to appreciate its splendour without the nervous sick feeling she had the last two times she had been there. Ava headed to the bank whilst Theo chose to have a look round the Quidditch shop accompanied by Snape. He had a stash of money that he always carried on him in an undetectable extension bag that his mother had secretly left him before she died. Theo had told her that he thought his mother had left him a way to escape his father if things got too bad. He didn’t have a trust fund at the bank that he was aware of; his father had just given him money for school and bought his supplies the year before. He daren’t check with the goblins whether there was a one waiting for him in case his father was informed, even after Ava had explained about them and how the goblins can be discreet; he was clearly terrified and wouldn’t even write to them to check.

After refilling her nearly empty purse, Ava found Theo and Snape ogling the new Nimbus 2001. They headed to Flourish and Blotts first as Theo was eager to get his supplies quickly and leave; they had no way of knowing how often his father visited Diagon, so wanted to keep the trip short.

“Harry, Ron, Hermione,” Ava shouted seeing them about to enter the shop.

The trio turned at her shout. “Ava,” Harry said with an enthusiastic wave and she rushed up and gave her friends a warm hug.

“How has your summer been Hermione?” Theo asked shyly.

Hermione blushed as Theo focused all his attention on her. “Good, yours?”

Theo smiled; his injuries now fully healed like they’d never existed. “Better now I’m staying with Ava.”

“You’re staying with Ava?” Hermione asked a little dejectedly looking at the brunette girl for confirmation.

“Yeah, it’s been brilliant,” he said excitedly; his eyes lighting up as he thought about all the fun they had had. “Although I’m gutted I didn’t get to go to Romania with her and Harry.”

“Did Harry tell you about the dragons?” Ava asked interrupting the conversation.

Hermione nodded. “Yes, it sounded amazing, I’m so jealous.”

“Maybe next year we could all go,” Ava said. “I’m sure Charlie could sort something. What do you think Ron?”

Ron looked surprised at being asked. “Er yeah, that would be good. I would have liked to have gone this year but I didn’t want to intrude on you spending time with your godfather Harry.”

“Oh, I didn’t realise, you wouldn’t have intruded. We’ll sort something for next summer,” Harry said looking a little guilty as they entered the shop.

The bookstore was fit to bursting; Ava had forgotten about bloody Lockhart. “We can actually meet him?” Hermione squealed forgetting about their dragon conversation.

Ava rolled her eyes. “Honestly Hermione, he’s an absolute fraud.”

“What?” Hermione frowned like Ava was insane for even suggesting it. “Why do you say that?”

Ava grabbed the book Wandering With Werewolves and flipped through it. “Well for starters he claims he cured a werewolf but using the hom*orphus Charm, which is bullsh*t; there’s no cure for Lycanthropy.”

“But – it’s written in the book.”

“Hermione, just because it’s written in a book doesn’t mean it’s true, come on you're smarter than that. Don’t be fooled by a pleasing smile and fake charm. You are well-read Hermione; has any other book claimed Lycanthropy can be cured?”

“Well, no. But I’ve not read a lot about it,” she answered, her eyes scanning the shop like she immediately wanted to start researching.

Ava tried not to give her a pitying look. “I think it would be front-page news if it was.” Hermione looked crestfallen but also pissed off. She glared over Ava’s shoulder.

“It can’t be Harry Potter?” A voice shouted making Ava stiffen.

She turned to the beaming face of Gilderoy Lockhart; his neat, wavy blonde hair shining in waves, and bright blue eyes honing in on The Boy Who Lived. She felt Harry tense next to her before Lockhart dived to grab Harry’s arm; attempting to drag him to the front of the crowd.

Ava darted forward, grabbing the man by the wrist of the hand that had hold of Harry. “I suggest you take your hands off of him,” she sneered through gritted teeth.

“Oh come now, a bit of publicity, both of us will make the front page of tomorrow's Prophet.”

“Unhand him….Harry had not consented to have his photo taken, nor have you touch him. Let go,” she said loudly for the crowd to hear. She felt Theo come forward to stand protectively at the side of her, before Draco suddenly appeared out of nowhere to stand next to Harry.

“Oh don’t be silly little girl,” he said jovially trying to appease her as Harry was visually trying to get his arm free and probably contemplating making a run for it.

“I’ll give you little girl,” she muttered under her breath. “Harry do you want your photo taken?” she asked her voice loud and clear for the whole shop to hear.

Harry held his head high before answering with a firm “No!”

“Do you want this man, this stranger to touch you?”

“No.”

“You heard him Lockhart – let go! Or are you a predator, a paedophile who doesn’t know the meaning of the word no. Or are you just a fake who uses other people as a claim to fame.” She didn’t want to outright say she knew he was a fraud but she could see his smile falter at the implication anyway.

“My apologies, Mr Potter,” he said bowing his head slightly and moving back to the front of the crowd where he announced his appointment as the next DADA instructor with a lot of flair.

Ava corned the photographer who had been snapping photos of Ava’s confrontation, pulling Draco alongside her. “Any of those photos end up published, or anything derogatory gets written about Harry – you will be sued personally for libel, for taking photos of a minor without permission, and using a child for your own personal gain. DO I MAKE MYSELF CLEAR?” The man nodded.

“And I suggest you tell your colleagues too – you wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of us now would you,” Draco said who was channelling the Malfoy persona; sneer and all. The man scurried away in fright.

“Glad to know the Malfoy name is good for something,” she said cheekily to the blonde boy, whose face was now donning his perfect, beautiful smile. She gave him a warm hug after not seeing him for a couple of weeks.

“I think you’re threatening enough without needing the Malfoy name,” Draco said good-naturedly.

“Maybe we could duo – Malfoy-Morgan, partners in crime,” she said theatrically, flaring her hands like she was revealing a sign. “Has a nice ring to it.” Draco’s cheeks pinked whilst Theo laughed at them.

“…and as a token of my sincere apologises, Mr Potter will receive a copy of my texts including Magical Me, free of charge,” Lockhart announced pulling Ava away from her banter; seeing Harry presented with Lockhart’s entire works by a shop assistance.

She saw Harry scoff and dumped them in Ginny’s cauldron, saying he’d buy his own.

“Bet you loved that, didn’t you Potter,” Draco said moving towards Harry with a fake sneer on his face; his twinkling grey eyes and quirk of his lips betraying the mirth underneath. “Famous Harry Potter; can’t even go into a bookshop without being accosted.” Both Harry and Ava could detect the lightheartedness under his words. Harry gave him a lopsided grin, his dimples popping on his cheeks and bright green eyes lightening up in amusem*nt.

“Leave him alone, he didn’t want all that!” said Ginny who had spoken for the first time in front of Harry. “Although why she felt the need to step in I don’t know.” She glared at Ava. She honestly didn’t know what the girl’s problem was; she’d spent four nights sharing a room with her, and had barely gotten a word from the petite red-head. Ava had gotten to the point where she just didn’t care anymore – she couldn’t be friends with everyone. The boys were oblivious to it, and she didn’t want to cause any friction whilst staying at the Burrow, but all bets were off at school if the girl continued with her attitude.

“Maybe because someone had to, not as if there are any adults about to stop a creep like him,” Draco said, sneering at Lockhart who had started signing books.

“He’s not a creep, he’s brilliant,” Ginny defended as she crossed her arms.

Ava ignored Ginny in favour of speaking to Harry. “Where’s your godfather anyway?”

“He stayed home; crowds are still too much for him so I came with the Weasleys.” Harry moved closer to whisper to Draco; his head bending close to Draco and Ava’s. Ava clocked Ginny staring at them with pure jealousy at their close proximity before Harry continued. “What were you doing in Knockturn Alley?” Ava suddenly remembered that Harry must have still accidentally ended up coming out of the wrong floo and seen the Malfoys in Borgin and Burkes.

“My father’s trying to get rid of some of his more questionable possessions. I’m not sure what, he wouldn’t tell me,” Draco answered quietly. “The Ministry had been conducting raids, looking for dark artifacts, but some of my fathers have been in the family for generations. They’re heirlooms but the Ministry doesn’t care, so he’s getting rid of those he can bare to part with or deemed too dangerous to keep.”

“Well just be careful,” Harry said worriedly before Ava could say the same. Before they could continue their conversation, Mr Weasley bustled his way over along with Ron and Hermione. “Mad in here isn’t it, let’s go.”

“Well, well, well, - Arthur Weasley,” Lucius said, appearing suddenly like a blonde wraith. “Miss Morgan,” he added bowing his head slightly towards her. “What are you doing associating with this riff-raff.” He sneered at Mr Weasley, eyeing the man’s basic robes. Ava just rolled her eyes and stuck her tongue out at him when he wasn’t looking, making Mr Weasley snort.

“Funny is it? I hear you’ve been busy at the Ministry – conducting raids. I hope they are paying you overtime.” He reached into Ginny’s cauldron criticizing her battered copy of A Beginners Guide to Transfiguration. “Clearly not. What’s the use of being a disgrace to the name of wizard if they don’t even pay you well for it?”

“We have a very different idea of what disgraces the name of wizard Malfoy,” Mr Weasley sneered.

“Clearly,” Lucius said, his eyes focusing on Hermione’s parents who were standing out the way, looking at the shop in fascination.

f*ck - now would be the ideal chance to grab the diary. Insults were flung as the two men started fighting, limbs flying everywhere, each one trying to get the upper hand as they banged into Ginny’s cauldron making it crash to the floor; the books held within scattering everywhere, unnoticed by the two men.

“Ginny, let me help you pick up your books?” Ava said feigning politeness as she started collecting the fallen books to the noises of crashes and grunts behind her, and the Weasleys shouting encouragements to their dad. She couldn’t find the diary amongst the books. f*ck.

She heard Hagrid clamber through the crowd and separate the two men.

“Here girl, take the book, - it’s the best your father can give you –“

Before Ginny could move, Ava stepped forward grabbing the book with her back to Ginny, and gave Lucius the most scathing look she could muster. She turned slowly, putting her back to everyone and fumbled with the book, pulling the diary out that was tucked between the pages, before dropping it into Ginny’s cauldron, her back facing away from everyone.

“Hey, you stole something from me,” Ginny whined as Ava tried to discreetly hide the diary behind her.

Ava rearranged her face to look innocent. “I did not.”

“Did too, give it back; you’re hiding it behind your back,” Ginny cried. Ava half expected her to stamp her foot like a toddler.

“What seems to be the problem?” Mr Weasley said approaching the arguing girls with Mr Malfoy not far behind, both covered in injuries. Lucius was sporting a black eye, whilst Mr Weasley was nursing a split lip.

“She’s stolen something for me,” Ginny whined again turning to pout at her father.

“What would I have possibly stolen?” Ava said trying to stuff the diary down the waistband of her trousers, but she misjudged and it fell to the floor.

“Ah I believe that is mine,” Lucius suddenly said behind her, picking up the diary. “I must have dropped it.” Ava froze…f*ck.

Dad, she stole something from me.”

“Get over yourself, Ginny.” Ava threw her hands in the air showing them empty and turned to Lucius.

“I suggest you don’t let that diary into the school if you know what’s good for you Mr Malfoy,” Ava sneered quietly at him as everyone else was distracted by Ginny who was still whining.

His eyes widened. “And what would you know about this? It’s just a diary,” he hissed back.

Ava scoffed. “It’s not just a diary. Keep it hidden, keep it safe unless you want death on your hands, and it won’t be Muggle-borns that are targeted, no one will be safe; not even your son.” Her blue eyes zoned in on his; barely blinking. “I know who it belonged to – don’t be a fool, Lucius!”

She turned to find her friends, whispering in Snape’s ear as she passed. He had been stood watching in amusem*nt at the fighting. “Talk to him, that diary can’t get into the school. Steal it if you have to.”

He nodded in understanding, pulling the blonde man out of the shop to his protests.

“I’ll see you on the train Ava,” Harry said wrapping his arms around her to pull her into a quick hug. “Mr Weasley wants to get us home.”

She said gave him a big squeeze in return. “Okay, say his to Sirius and Remus for me.”

“Bye Draco, Theo,” Harry said giving them a wave.

They waved goodbye to the departing Gryffindors before turning back to the chaos of the shop. “Come on Ava we still need to get our books,” Theo said.

“Am I f*ck buying that fraud's books.”

“What?” Draco asked. “Why?”

“He’s a fraud Draco. I’m not filling his pockets. Trust me when I say we will learn bollocks all from that man.”

Draco nodded; he knew fine well to trust Ava when she spoke passionately about something.

“No DADA books then?” Theo said grinning.

“No Lockhart books,” Ava corrected. “Snape’s been teaching us what we should be learning. I’ll show you what books we have Draco.”

Ava showed him more proficient textbooks that would help them with their second-year syllabus. Ava and Theo were already well ahead in their studies, especially in spellcasting. – It helped living with a professor who was well-versed in Defence Against the Dark Arts.

They said goodbye to Draco after leaving the shop; his father taking him off to buy a new broom. Ava and Theo quickly grabbed what else they needed from the other shops which were luckily a lot quieter before Snape took them home to the safety and comfort of their little cottage.

Ava dropped her bags of school supplies on the kitchen table whilst Theo took his purchases to his room. “Did you speak to Malfoy?”

“I did, he wouldn’t hand it over, but he didn’t know what it actually was.”

Ava looked at Snape with worry. “Did you tell him?”

“No, just said I knew Moldy gave it to him and that it would release Slytherins monster, but it wouldn’t differentiate between Muggle-borns and Purebloods. The threat of Draco getting hurt seemed to get the message across.”

Snape started making a cup of tea for the three of them as Ava sat down heavily at the table. “We still need to figure a way to get it from him though.”

“I know; I’ll work on him. If it’s out of the school we have time.”

The rest of the summer was amazing and the end of the holidays came far too quickly for Ava. She had loved every minute spending time with Theo and her godfather. It had been lovely having someone her own age living with her, especially someone who was as eager to learn as she was. They would occasionally fall out and bicker, and Snape would be seen pinching his nose and looking towards the heavens in exasperation, before separating them and putting them in a time-out. They were like their own little family and each day the cottage would show more and more who lived there; Ava’s guitar and music left at the side of the sofa; Theo’s books and notes stacked on the coffee table. Not to mention the shoes and jackets left haphazardly near the front door. Ava just worried at what might happen to Theo; she didn’t want him returning to Nott Manor and his abusive father. He’d not heard hide or hair from the man. Draco had confirmed that he had come to Malfoy Manor in search of him, but Narcissa had managed to talk him into leaving the boy alone for the summer. They had found out she had lied and said he would be going to France with them for the last few weeks and had managed to get his trunk from his father which Snape had collected the day after they had brought him to the cottage, before venturing into a Muggle town to buy some clothing for Theo knowing Ava would likely take him off into the local village.

Chapter 7: A Worrisome Journey

Chapter Text

The morning of their return to school was a peaceful one. They had a hearty breakfast, made up a box of filling sandwiches and snacks to see them through the train journey, and made it to Kings Cross with plenty of time to spare. They waited outside the barrier to platform nine and three-quarters, wanting to intercept Harry and the Weasleys. He had written to say he would be arriving with them as Sirius didn’t think he would be able to handle the crowds yet.

Snape paced platform ten as Ava and Theo sat reading a Smash Hits magazine ignoring the agitated man. “Are you sure Harry will be prevented from getting through to the platform?”

“Yes, for the last time Uncle Sev,” Ava said exasperated; she had already told him three times. “If we make him go through first there shouldn’t be a problem.”

Snape looked at his pocket watch that he’d shoved in the front pocket of his jeans. “I really need to be getting to school. Dumbledore will be wondering where I am.”

“I know, but if this doesn’t work I don’t want them going off in a bloody flying car.”

Theo sat there pretending he knew what was going on. Ava had wanted to tell him everything about herself but he insisted that the less he knew the better. He was learning Occulemcy but wasn’t sufficient enough to trust his mental barriers yet so every time they started talking about something that sounded – well bizarre or confusing he zoned out and buried his nose in a book.

It was pushing ten to eleven by the time the Weasleys showed up looking harried and dishevelled.

“Ava,” Harry shouted running towards them, pushing his trolley. “Why are you still waiting out here.”

“It’s tradition,” she said. “We go through and back together.” It was the best excuse she could come up with. Harry beamed and grabbed her hand, pushing the trolley in the other. They walked quickly towards the barrier, Ava bracing herself for the inevitable crash. She breathed a sigh of relief when none came, seeing the scarlet train standing before her. Theo, a disguised Snape, and the Weasleys appeared quickly behind them, and with a rushed goodbye they boarded the scarlet train. Finding Hermione and Neville; Harry, Ava, Theo, Ron, and a reluctant Ginny slumped down into their seats with a relieved sigh.

“I didn’t think we were going to make it,” Harry said.

“Me neither,” Ron replied. “What would we have done if we had missed the train?”

Ava laughed. “Knowing you two, you would have probably flown your father’s car to Hogwarts.”

Ron’s face paled, his smattering of freckles standing out sharply against his white skin. “Mum would have killed me if I had done that.”

Ava just snorted. “Knowing your luck you would have crashed into the whomping willow.”

Ron’s face turned green at the thought. “Why is there even a fighting tree in Hogwarts?”

Ava shrugged. “I reckon it’s built over a secret passage,” Ava said evasively.

“But how would you even get into it?” Ron asked his long nose scrunched up in thought. “You would get battered to death.”

“Probably have to press something to freeze it,” Harry said shrugging. Ava wondered if Sirius had told him about it.

“Where do you think it would go?” Theo asked. “It would be an odd place for a secret passage.”

“My guess is Hogsmeade. Only place around Hogwarts.” Ava gave Harry and Theo a significant look when the others weren’t looking. They still had plenty more exploring to do in the castle. “I bet it goes to the shrieking shack”

“Why would anyone want a secret passageway to there? It’s meant to be haunted,” said Ron in horror.

Ava rolled her eyes. “Ron, the whole of Hogwarts is haunted.”

***

As Ava gazed out of the window of the train a few hours later, her eyes traced the blur of the British countryside lost in thought. She couldn't help but feel a sense of anticipation and relief washing over her. She hoped that Lucius had taken heed to her warning, and Dobby had stopped his one-elf crusade to help Harry. She was hoping for a quiet year so she could concentrate on making plans to retrieve the Horcruxes.

Suddenly, the train lurched forward, throwing Ava off-balance. The momentum of the sudden stop threw her off her chair and into Harry, who was sitting across from her. "Are you alright?" he asked, running his hand over her arms to check for injuries.

“I’m fine,” Ava said as she pushed herself off the dark-haired boy, straightening his glasses that she had knocked.

“Why are we stopping,” Hermione asked looking out the window. “We can’t be there yet; it’s not even dark yet.”

As the train finally came to a complete standstill, the sound of doors opening could be heard echoing down the corridor. Ava peered out the window in confusion, trying to see anything beyond the rolling hills and fields of sheep.

“Maybe we have stopped at another station,” Ava said, not that she could see one.

“No, I doubt it, it goes directly to Hogsmeade,” Hermione answered.

“So do all students have to go to London to travel to school?” She hadn’t really thought about it the year before, but it was kind of impractical having to travel all the way to London for some people.

“Yes, unless they live in Hogsmeade, then they just walk.”

“Well that’s just stupid; I can’t imagine Muggle-born parents who live anywhere North of Coventry being happy about having to get their kids to London. Surely they could create magical stations along the route. Just seems inconvenient to put it mildly – traipsing to London; not to mention the expense.”

Hermione just shrugged. “Maybe they think it’s all part of the experience.”

“Stupid more like. I’d rather not spend eight hours on a stuffy, smelly train given the choice.”

Ava and Theo poked their heads out of the door, seeing other students do the same. No one seemed to have a clue what was going on. They looked down the corridor at all the confused students who were half standing out of their compartments.

“Any ideas?” Theo asked.

“Not a clue. Shall we go investigate?”

Theo nodded and followed Ava out of the compartment.

“Do you want me to go with you?” Harry said as he hovered by the door as they started to walk away.

“No, it’s probably best you stay here. Check on Ginny or something.” The girl had disappeared not long after they had boarded much to Ava’s delight – she didn’t fancy having to spend all day having dirty looks thrown her way.

They headed towards the front of the train, passing worried students who were all looking either out the windows, down the corridors or rushing back and forth between compartments exchanging information with their fellow students. Ava could hear prefects calming them and wondered if any of them knew what was going on.

“Ava, Theo!” Draco called from one of the compartments. “Where are you going?”

They stopped next to the compartment seeing their fellow Slytherin second years sitting behind a worried-looking Draco. “To see what’s happening,” Ava said before saying hello to the rest of her year.

“You don’t know?” Draco said sarcastically. “Ava Morgan – the girl who seems to know everything.”

Ava laughed. “Clearly I don’t know everything.”

“I’m coming with you,” Draco insisted as he flicked a stray bit of blonde hair out of his face. Ava noticed he seemed to have grown again since the last time she had seen him. She was shorter than all of the boys now – even Harry, much to her dismay.

After a long walk past the many compartments and being slowed down by the curious students, they finally reached the front of the train. They had to climb out of the passenger cabins and walk past the tender car to reach the driver who they could see was speaking through a type of radio. It reminded her of something she had seen in a museum from the 1950s.

“Hello can anybody hear me? The Hogwarts Express has a problem. Hello. Anybody there,” the driver said into the weird-looking contraption. “Useless bloody thing.”

Ava wondered if anything had happened like this in the original story, the Hogwarts Express was never mentioned except when Ron and Harry were trying to follow it.

“Excuse me, but what’s going on?” Ava said straining her neck as she looked up at the driver from their position on the ground.

“There’s a ruddy great big wall on the track,” he answered gesturing with his hand towards the front of the train.

Ava tried to see round the engine but couldn’t see anything due to the angle they were stood. “A wall?”

“See for yourself,” he said as he pointed to the front of the train. “I can’t get in touch with anyone.”

“Can you not vanish it?” Draco said like it was the obvious thing to do.

“I’m a squib.”

They nodded in understanding before Ava and the two boys cautiously walked round to the front of the train. The tracks stretched out before them, seemingly endless in both directions. The sun was beginning to set, casting a warm golden light over the countryside, making the greenery look almost ethereal. But there, about hundred feet in front of the train, appeared to be a large red brick wall. It towered over them, at least ten feet tall and as wide as the tracks themselves. It was built with precision, almost as if it were a part of the landscape itself.

“What in the…” Draco exclaimed.

“Don’t touch it,” Ava shouted as they approached.

“What do we do?” Theo asked.

Ava cycled through the library of spells she had learned but nothing came to mind about getting rid of a brick wall. “Anyone know the vanishing spell?”

Theo shook his head. “No, it’s a fifth-year spell.”

Bombarda it maybe?” Ava knew that one, Snape had taught her and Theo over the summer, and she made a mental note for him to teach her the vanishing spell soon.

“We could try; do you think we would get flagged for underage magic?” Theo asked his teeth chewing his bottom lip with worry.

“Doubt it, we are in the middle of nowhere and they can’t prove who it was unless they check our wands, and I would think this would be classed as an emergency,” Draco reasoned.

Ava braced herself; his legs parted in a boxing stance like Snape had taught her. “Ready, Theo?”

“Ready.”

“Three, two, one…BOMBARDA.”

The wall blasted into pieces, scattering the bricks along the tracks and into the grass verge either side.

“Huh – didn’t expect that to work,” Ava exclaimed in astonishment. “Wingardium leviosa the pieces.”

“What was that noise,” a voice suddenly said from behind them. Harry had clearly ignored her and rushed to the first sign of trouble. He was followed by Hermione, Ron and Neville.

Ava gestured to the broken bricks. “Someone thought it was a good idea to build a wall on the track.”

“What?” four voices chorused in shock.

“We blasted it, can you help us move the bricks.” Ava turned and started levitating the rubble, the other second years following her lead. The track was quickly free of bricks, to the much appreciation of the driver who still hadn’t managed to get in touch with anyone via whatever system the train had. Ava borrowed Hedwig and sent a letter on to Hogwarts on his behalf, explaining the situation and the reason for the delay.

Eventually, the group of second years traipsed back to their compartment, Draco joining them.

“What do you think that was all about?” Neville asked looking worried.

“I don’t know.” Ava hoped it was Dobby, otherwise, there was something else causing problems already, and they weren’t even at school yet.

A few hours later, after the excitement had worn off and they had dug into the basket of food Ava and Theo had prepared, there was a loud pop and Harry’s trunk suddenly disappeared.

“What the hell?” he shouted, rising from his chair. “All my belongings were in there; everything that means something to me.” Harry pulled everyone else’s trunks out the way in frustration in hopes of finding his trunk hidden somewhere as his friends looked on with worry. Ava pulled him into a hug as the boy struggled to keep his tears at bay.

“We’ll find it, Harry. It’s probably just a prank.” They searched the train; every compartment, every nook and cranny to no avail. When all hope was lost a barn owl tapped at the window; it’s strong wings struggling to keep up with the speed of the train. Theo hastily opened the window, allowing the tired owl to drop a letter onto Ava’s knee.

Ava,

Please inform Harry that his belonging have somehow made their way to the castle before him. Unfortunately, it was thrown into the Whomping Willow resulting in a severely battered trunk. Fortunately, his belongings are unharmed; I believe Lupin is responsible for putting protection charms on his most beloved possessions. I’ve taken the liberty in writing to his guardians to inform them of the situation and believe they will replace his trunk post haste. I’ve taken the liberty to restock his potions supplies that were damaged and repair anything else that was broken.

Do you have any ideas as to what could have caused this? The anti-apparition wards at Hogwarts should have stopped anything like this happening unless a portkey was used, but even then, only Dumbledore or the Ministry can legally organise one, of course there are ways around this but I find it highly unlikely. Dumbledore said he would look into it and the reason for the train delay but I’m not convinced he was being genuine. I really hope these were just the result of some pranks and not something more sinister.

I should have just apparated you all to Hogsmeade; it would help my heart that’s for sure.

Love,
Uncle Sev.

“Who’s it from?” Harry asked his eyes still full of unshed tears.

“Professor Snape,” Ava answered. “He said your trunk showed up at Hogwarts, hit the Whomping Willow.”

“What!”

“He said your trunks battered, but your possessions are fine.”

Harry let out a sigh of relief. “How did this happen?”

“I don’t know Harry.” She looked at Draco contemplating whether to ask about Dobby and the diary but she didn’t know how she would be able to explain herself so kept quiet until she had more proof to go on. She’s not seen the elf whilst staying at the Manor, much to her dismay.

The second years were glad to see Hogsmeade after the stressful train journey. They followed the rest of the students to the apparently self-pulled carriages. Ava walked round the front of one; he hands reaching out for an invisible creature.

“Ava, what are you doing?” Hermione asked her eyes frowning at her friend, as the rest of her friends stopped and stared at Ava’s weird behaviour. All except Theo, who walked over, towering over her back, he took her hands and steered them forward. She looked at him in surprise until she suddenly remembered that he had seen his mother die in front of him and could therefore see the thestrals. He smiled warmly at her though, guiding her hands until they touched smooth, slippery invisible skin. It was so thin; she could feel the ridges of their bones along its sleek body. Theo continued to guide her hands until they reached its soft, short mane and followed the contours of its head until they met its face, where it gave them a playful nibble making Ava laugh.

“Ava, what are you two doing?” Harry repeated in bafflement as he approached them, Draco by his side; both of them frowning at the two Slytherins. Ava supposed they did look odd; the two of them with entwined hands making bizarre hand gestures in thin air.

“I wanted to touch the thestrals but I can’t see them,” Ava explained.

“Thestrals?” Harry asked confused, as Draco gasped; his eyes darting towards the invisible space in front of the carriages.

“They pull the carriages but can only be seen by those who have seen death.” Harry’s eyes darted to Theo in worry then understanding at Ava’s explanation.

“I’ve never heard of them,” Hermione said from behind Harry.

Ava gave the thestral one last pat before turning to climb into the carriage. “I wonder why it’s not common knowledge within the school,”

“Probably because they are seen as a bad omen,” Draco answered, whilst Ron and Neville looked terrified.

Ava scoffed. “They’re not a bad omen, just misunderstood.” Draco went on to explain to Harry and Hermione about the creatures, with Ava interjecting every so often to say they were clearly safe and tame otherwise they wouldn’t be allowed to pull the carriages. Theo described what they looked like, saying the prejudice came from their appearance and their association with death. Hermione was fascinated as usual and Ava could see the look in her eyes that meant she would be going to the library the very first chance she got.

Chapter 8: Food Glorious Food

Notes:

I'm not sure what was going through my head when I wrote this chapter.

You'll either love it or hate it!😂

Think - Flashmob

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

“Professor Snape, is everything alright?” Professor McGonagall asked the dour-looking man. “The train has arrived in good time, even with the delay. Look the carriages are already arriving,” she said as she gestured towards the gates of Hogwarts where a steady stream of carriages made their way towards the front of the castle. “Well get to the bottom of Mr Potter’s trunk and the reason for the delay.”

“I’m fine, except for this headache, it comes and goes,” Snape said as he watched the students start to disembark and head towards the entrance.

“Unc…Professor Snape,” Ava shouted in the distance, as she jumped out of the carriage, patting the invisible thestral and made her way towards the school whilst giving him an enthusiastic wave.

“Oh look it's back,” he replied sarcastically, giving an exasperated sigh but a fond look towards Ava. McGonagall uncharacteristically snorted in response.

“Miss Morgan, can you tell me what happened? “ Snape asked when she eventually reached them. “No word came from the driver about the delay.”

“He couldn’t contact anyone. There was a brick wall on the tracks.”

“A brick wall?” McGonagall said in astonishment.

“Yes, built right on the track. Theo and I bombardard it, then my friends and I used wingardum leviosa to shift the rubble. It didn’t take too long,” Ava said as the rest of the students shuffled past them and headed to the Great Hall.

Snape frowned. “And you’ve no idea what caused it?”

“None at all.”

“I’ll get in touch with the aurors, this should be investigated,” McGonagall said, “along with Harry’s trunk arriving before him. I don’t trust Albus to make the right judgement call,” she added before taking her leave.

“You really have no idea what caused it?” Snape asked quietly.

“Well an educated guess would be Dobby, but I’ve no proof. If it is him, then should we still be worried about the diary entering Hogwarts?” Ava whispered.

“Maybe, just keep your eyes and ears open. Go on, we need to get to the feast.”

The Great Hall of Hogwarts Castle was abuzz with excitement as students gathered for the annual Welcome Feast. The room was adorned with hundreds of floating candles that cast a warm, flickering glow over the long tables as students hastily took their seats, chattering away about their summers and the adventures that lay ahead.

“Everything okay Ava?” Theo asked as she sat down at the Slytherin table.

“Yeah, just filling Snape in with what happened on the train.”

“Do you think we should be worried?”

“Probably, but there’s not a lot we can do about it without more information.”

The first years entered the room interrupting their conversation and the sorting hat began to sing its usual yearly song. Eventually the Sorting Ceremony began, and one by one, the first years were called up. Ava watched intently as each student was placed into their respective Houses. She clapped loudly for each student, giving her friends the stink eye when they didn’t immediately join in. The older students around her, however, scowled and muttered under their breath. They clearly still didn’t like the fact she embraced all members of all the houses. She wanted to flip them the bird but she honestly didn’t think the Purebloods would understand its significance.

A petite girl with long, messy dirty blonde waves and bright blue eyes caught her attention. She reminded her of a fairy and had an absent look about her as she looked around the room whilst the other students seemed to be keeping their distance from her. The girl suddenly moved and focused intently on Ava, her huge eyes staring unblinking before quickly turning away.

“Do you know her?” Theo asked, noticing where Ava’s attention had gone.

Ava narrowed her eyes at the girl, wondering if they had somehow met before. “No, at least I don’t think so.” The girl’s stare had been disconcerting, like she had recognised Ava.

“Lovegood, Luna,” McGonagall called. Of course, the strange girl would be Luna. She’s forgotten she would be sorted this year.

“Five galleons she gets sorted into Ravenclaw,” Ava said quickly to Theo.

“She looks more like a Hufflepuff, you’re on.”

Less than a minute later the sorting hat shouted Ravenclaw.

“When will everyone learn not to bet against me,” Ava said smugly holding out her hand for her winnings, which Theo begrudgingly handed over with an eye roll.

As the sorting finished, a hush fell over the hall as the doors at the far end swung open, revealing a tall, lanky figure dressed in emerald robes. Professor Gilderoy Lockhart swaggered towards the front of the hall, making at least half the student body stop and stare at him. Trust the posturing git to make an entrance to have the spot light on himself.

With a wide, toothy smile that seemed to light up the room, Professor Lockhart strode confidently towards an empty chair at the staff table at the front of the hall. His blonde hair gleamed in the candlelight, and his vivid blue eyes sparkled with mirth. He waved jauntily at the students, who responded with thunderous applause and shouts of approval. Ava rolled her eyes at his posturing; he was like a bloody peaco*ck. She was not impressed.

“Welcome, welcome,” Dumbledore said rising to his feet. “I see most of you are aware of our new Defence against the Dark Arts Professor. Those of you who don’t, this is Mr Gilderoy Lockhart.”

The man stood, grinning widely, his white perfect teeth, shining brightly. She could see Snape struggling to not sneer at the man, and she couldn’t help but sympathise. She had told him everything about the fake man, and Snape had been less than impressed that he had managed to fool so many people.

Ava rolled her eyes at the fraud as he went on about how he'd survived twelve near-death experiences and about all his so-called accomplishments. Not to mention him being the winner of Witch Weekly’s smile. It was all just a bunch of self-aggrandizing nonsense in her opinion. She couldn't help but wonder why Dumbledore had hired him in the first place. She just wished he would shut up as she was starving, of the other students were thinking the same as she looked around at the bored students who were staring forlornly at their empty plates.

Dumbledore seemed to be encouraging the man…well he wasn’t stopping him at least. She felt like singing food, glorious food from the musical Olivier. Maybe she should.

f*ck it.

She started humming the song quietly before breaking out into lyrics, his voice picking up in volume with every line.

Food, glorious food!
Hot sausage and mustard!
While we're in the mood --
Cold jelly and custard!

The students around her turned to stare before other tables noticed the disturbance. Only the Muggle-borns and a few Half-bloods seemed to recognise what she was singing, their faces going from confusion to smirks in seconds.

Pea’s pudding and saveloys
what next is the question?
Rich gentlemen have it, boys --
in digestion!

She could see Hermione smirking at her, and the twins laughing jovially, who then started humming along, not knowing the words. Seamus Finnigan and Dean Thomas looked at each other with a grin before joining in, quickly followed by more Gryffindor students including Harry who encouraged the Gryffindors to sing louder, which Ava of course copied, followed by the other tables; everyone using their knives and forks to bang on the table.

Food Glorious food
We're anxious to try it
Three banquets a day
Our favourite diet
Just picture a great big steak
Fried, roasted, or stewed
Oh food! Magical food! Wonderful
food! Marvellous food!

By the time they got to the last verse at least a quarter of the students had joined in the singing, half of which were now stood on the benches, including Ava and her Gryffindor friends.

What wouldn't we give for
that extra bit more
that’s all we live for
Why should we be fated to do
Nothing but brood on food

Ava stood on the table and belted Magical food,

Harry, Seamus and Dean followed with Wonderful food
Marvellous food, sang the Hufflepuffs.
Beautiful food, sang the Ravenclaws
Food, Glorious food glorious fooooooood, everyone who had been singing sang the last line, belting it out as loud as they could, the noise echoing around the hall.

Dumbledore surprisingly clapped at the spontaneous sing-a-along, McGonagall looked like she didn’t quite know what to make of it, and Snape was pinching his nose in his usual fashion. Lockhart looked completely put out at the fact he had been interrupted and outshined by a group of students. His frown quickly changed to a beaming (fake) smile though.

“Beautiful! What a marvellous way to show your appreciation of my new teaching post.”

Merlin – what a self-centred prick.

“Can we eat now; we’re starving,” Ava bellowed as Draco helped her down from the table.

“Quite right, Miss Morgan, quite right,” Dumbledore said waving his wand.

The table filled quickly with delicious, mouth-watering food. Ava dug in enthusiastically, giving Lockhart a sh*t-eating grin, raising her glass in a mock salute.

“Not even five minutes into term and you're already causing chaos,” Draco said, cheerfully next to her.

“I honestly felt like I was going to pass out, lunch was hours ago, and did you really want to listen to Mr Fake over there waffle on.”

“Absolutely not. What were you singing anyway?”

“It’s from the musical Olivier, based on a novel by Charles Dickens. You should read it. You know…if it’s not too Muggle for you,” she said sarcastically.

“One day Ava, I might just surprise you,” Draco said giving her a co*cky grin.

“One day, you might!” she said smiling widely back at him giving him a playful nudge with her elbow.

They spent the rest of the feast talking about their summers and what they thought the following year would entail. Ava just hoped for a quiet year.

Notes:

Snape: Wishes someone would curse Lockhart to get him to shut the hell up.

Snape: Hears humming.

Ava: Starts singing.

Snape: Here we go (rolls his eyes)

Ava & quarter the students: Bellows out song from a musical about food.

Snape: Could she be any less subtle?

Chapter 9: Prats, Points and Parties

Summary:

I ran out of ideas for questions for Lockharts Quiz - if you have any ideas leave a comment and I will answer them.

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

The next morning Ava tagged along with Harry, Ron and Hermione to the greenhouse; she had a free period and wanted to go for a run on the grounds. They had only just joined the other second years waiting outside when Professor Spout came marching along the lawn with Lockhart in tow. The Herbology Professor did not look happy. Her usual cheery smile was nowhere to be seen; her lips pursed in anger. She was a far contrast to Lockhart, with her squat, plump statue, dirt-stained robes and flyaway hair. Lockhart on the other hand was perfectly put together, with perfect blue robes, perfect hair, perfect teeth and perfect hat. Ava just wanted to throw dirt at him – no one was that perfect, not even Draco or his pompous father.

“Oh, hello there!” Lockhart called beaming at the assembled students. “Just been showing Professor Sprout the best way to doctor a Whomping Willow! But I don’t want you running away with the idea that I’m better than Herbology that she is.”

Ava snorted loudly and muttered, “no one thinks that,” under her breath causing Lockhart to falter in his self-flagranting speech.

“Greenhouse three chaps,” Sprout said a bit more cheerfully.

“Harry, I’ve been wanting a word – you don’t mind if he’s a bit late do you, Professor Sprout,” The Herbology Professor scowled, clearly not happy nor agreeing with him, but before she could say anything he slammed the door in her face, not noticing Ava still standing behind him.

“Harry, “he said as he started to turn, “Harry, Harry, Harry.”

“Well that was just rude,” Ava said, folding her arms and scowling at Lockhart.

“Ah, I didn’t see you there. Off you go to Herbology; I just wanted a word with Harry.”

“Not a chance,” she said as she opened the greenhouse and bellowed for Professor Sprout to come at once.

Sprout quickly rushed to the door. “What seems to be the problem, Miss Morgan?”

“I find it highly inappropriate that this Professor,” she said sarcastically gesturing towards the man, “wants to spend time alone with Harry for reasons clearly not related to DADA… and is once again touching him without permission.”

Professor Sprout scowled at the man, noticing Harry’s wrist was indeed clutched in his hand.

“Now, now,” he said letting go and raising his hands in defence, “I just wanted to discuss his little performance yesterday. I believe it was my fault he acted out, he saw me make the paper and wanted a taste of fame himself after he realised the grandeur of it all.”

Sprout snorted and rolled her eyes. “You, Lockhart, are a delusional man. Harry doesn’t need to do anything to make the paper, nor does he want to. Anyone who has spent more than a minute in his company would know that. As for yesterday’s ‘performance’, as you put it – were you blind? Harry didn’t start that, he joined his friends in a bit of a sing-a-long…”

Ava wished she had some pompoms, she so wanted to cheer for Professor Sprout right now. Her smile was so wide, it was hurting her cheeks; she’d never seen the usual calmly spoken teacher be so aggressive. It was awesome.

“…and if you weren’t so far up your own pompous arse you would have realised it was to get you to SHUT THE HELL UP. Now go and fluff your hair, or shine your teeth, or whatever the hell you do in your free time, I’ve got a class to teach,” she sneered before shoving him out the way and gesturing the two students inside the greenhouse, leaving a startled Lockhart in their wake.

Ava burst out laughing, “That was bloody brilliant Professor.”

Sprout smiled indulgently at her. “Yes, well, that man has already got on my last nerve once today. I’m glad you called me back; he should not have been calling a student out of class for something so trivial. Off you go Miss Morgan, I realise you are not in my morning class but I didn’t want to leave you alone out there with him.”

“Thanks, Professor, I’ll see you later Harry,” she said leaving the greenhouse for her run, to whispers of the class who had clearly been eavesdropping.

***

Ava joined the Gryffindors after lunch in the courtyard as surprisingly they had Defence together that afternoon. She was positive the only subject the Slytherins shared with the Lions was Potions in the original story, so had been surprised when she had seen her new timetable.

Hermione was sat reading Voyagers with Trolls much to Hermione’s dismay.

“I’m looking for discrepancies,” she defended seeing Ava’s unimpressed face.

“Discrepancies?”

“Yes, comparing them to other texts about the same subject. I read up on werewolves after you mentioned there’s no cure, and you’re right, only the Wolfsbane potion can help a werewolf but it doesn’t cure them, just helps them keep their mind when they transform.”

At the mention of werewolf, Harry's head had turned slightly, clearly listening in to their conversation – she wondered if Lupin had told him about his condition, especially after the revelation in Romania.

“I’ve found other so-called cures or spells Lockhart has meant to have used in his books but they aren’t mentioned anywhere else, or are used for a different purpose. If he really is a fraud, I’m going to expose him – what was Dumbledore thinking when he hired him? Did he not check his credentials?”

“I always knew you were the smartest out of all of us,” Ava said whilst Hermione blushed and beamed at her. “Just be careful. Clearly some of his so called accomplishments have been exaggerated or made up, but there might be some truth in them.”

Hermione frowned in confusion. “I don’t understand, I thought you said he was a complete fraud?”

“Oh, he is, what I mean is that it wouldn’t surprise me if he were taking credit for someone else’s work.”

“Wouldn’t they come forward – call him out on his lies?”

“Not if he used a memory charm on them…He’s clearly got to his level of fame somehow, but it’s definitely not from being good at defence.”

“A memory charm,” Hermione gasped. “But that’s barbaric.”

Ava had to stop herself from snorting – if only Hermione knew the measures she would go to to protect her family.

Ava felt Harry stiffen next to her; she looked up quickly to see what had affected him. A small, mousy-looking boy stood in front of the group holding an ordinary Muggle camera. He looked nervous but determined.

“All right Harry, I’m Colin Creevey,” he said tentatively, taking a step forward. “I’m in Gryffindor too. D’you think it would be alright if I can have a picture,” he said raising his camera hopefully.

“A picture?” Harry replied blankly, like he’d never heard of such a thing.

“So I can prove I’ve met you – I’ve read all about you. Everyone’s told me about how you….”

Ava butted in before he could go on, “Colin, it’s rather rude to ask someone for their picture or talk about their life like it was a piece of gossip. Everyone will know you have met him anyway seeing as you are in the same house – there are not exactly loads of students here.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” he said clearly mortified. “I was hoping I could have one with you and that you would sign it so I could send it to my dad, he’s a milkman, so I’ve been sending loads of pictures home to him.”

“Signed photos, you’re giving out signed photos, Potter,” Draco said with amusem*nt, his voice echoing around the courtyard. He was accompanied by Theo who smiled brightly at Ava. She was glad to see Draco’s two brutes didn’t follow him around as much.

“You know you want one Malfoy,” Harry said cheekily, causing Draco to smirk with a hint of a blush on his pale cheeks. “You’re my number one fan!” he added with a wink. Draco stuttered like he couldn’t think of a witty comeback, making the group laugh.

“Colin, could you take a photo of all of us?” Ava asked. She really should invest in a camera or ask Snape to borrow his.

“Of course,” he replied his face turning red.

Ava grabbed her friends, pulling them into a group. Ava stood next to Harry, with Draco to his left. Theo was on Ava’s right, with Hermione next to him and Ron on the end.

“Smile,” Colin said. They all beamed brightly as the flash went off, blinding them for a moment.

“Thanks, Colin. You should be careful what you send home though, the statute of secrecy is there for a reason you know.”

“What do you mean?” he asked worriedly.

“You can’t tell or show Muggles about the magical world. Your family is fine, but what if you send a moving photo and it gets into the wrong hands, or your father starts showing his friends? You could get into a lot of trouble.”

Colin’s face dropped and turned white. “I didn’t know about that.”

Ava sighed. “That really doesn’t surprise me. Just make sure you’re family are aware that they need to be discreet about where you are and that you’re a wizard. Okay?”

Colin nodded worry etched on his face.

“Can I get a copy of that photo?” Draco asked Colin. “Maybe we should all sign it, you never know we might all be famous one day – can’t have Potter take all the glory.” Draco smiled good-naturedly towards the dark-haired boy, making him roll his eyes.

“What’s all this, what’s all this?” Gilderoy Lockhart was striding towards them, his turquoise robes swirling behind him. “Who’s giving out signed photos?”

Harry started to speak but was cut short when Lockhart flung his arm around Harry’s shoulders, pinning him to his side. “Shouldn’t have asked, we meet again Harry.”

Ava was seething along with her friends; they could see the discomfort Harry was in.

“Come on then Mr Creevey; a double portrait, can’t say fairer than that, then we will both sign it.”

Colin fumbled with his camera as Ava whispered quickly to her friends.

“Jump in front of them, and pull a face in three. Three, two, one,” she shouted. On one the two Gryffindors and two Slytherins jumped in front of Harry, pulling the most ridiculous faces, as Ava lurched in front of Lockhart, pulling his hat down over his face just as the camera flash went off. Harry laughed loudly as he was pulled away by Draco and Ron, leaving the struggling professor, whose hair was now stuck up at odd angles.

“I won’t tell you again Lockhart – go near Harry one more time, let alone touch him I will make sure it’s the last thing you do,” Ava said threateningly to the dishevelled professor. Her magic cracked around her, causing the cowered professor to gulp visibly and back off. “My family is extremely powerful – you better remember that,” she added darkly; the half lie slipping easily off her tongue – Snape was powerful after all and for all she knew she could have come from a powerful family too.

“I meant no harm, Miss Morgan,” he said, his palms held up placatingly. “I just wanted to give him advice, he’s not quite at the level of fame to be signing photos, not like me who carries a stack around. It makes him look big-headed.”

“You are delusional. No one was signing photos you arrogant piece of sh*t. Stay the f*ck away from him. He’s more famous than you’ll ever be, and that’s without even trying.”

“Now – who are you to speak to me like that? I have every right to give you detention,” he snapped, his false air of importance returning to the surface.

“Yeah – good luck with that,” Ava said smugly as she walked off to join her friends.

“Twenty points from Slytherin,” Lockhart shouted to her back. Ava just made a peace sign over her shoulder as her friends laughed. (Okay she flipped him the bird, but so what.)

Fifteen minutes later, Lockhart finally showed up to their first defence class looking all perfect again.

The class shuffled in with a severe lack of enthusiasm except some of the girls who were staring dreamily at him. Ava, Draco and Theo took seats in the last row at the back of the class, whilst her three Gryffindor friends sat in the row in front of them; the usual Slytherin/Gryffindor divide long gone. Ava looked around the classroom in disgust; it was filled with smiling pictures of Lockhart in various poses and regalia. It was a sickening sight. Ava smirked to herself thinking she could get the twins on board to help her deface the pictures. (Which they did a week later)

Lockhart reached forward and picked up a copy of one of Neville’s books that he had placed on his desk.

“Me,” he said pointing at the beaming face on the front cover. “Gilderoy Lockhart, Order of Merlin, third class, Honorary Member of the Dark Force Defence League and five times winner of Witch Weekly’s Most-Charming-Smile award. But I don’t talk about that. I didn’t get rid of the Brandon Banshee by smiling at her.”

He waited for them to laugh, but the class just looked blankly at him. He coughed before continuing. “I see you have all bought copies of my books,” he said glancing around the room, only to stop on Ava’s table noticing that the three of them didn’t have any books.

“Were they sold out when you went to buy copies?” he asked Theo, ignoring Ava and Draco.

“No,” he deadpanned.

Lockhart’s brow furrowed in confusion. “Why don’t you three have my books then?”

“Waste of money,” Ava said nonchalantly

Lockhart scoffed. “They are a requirement for second year. How do you expect to pass your exams without them?”

“I don’t know – maybe read literally any other book about defence,” she said sarcastically.

“Pish – posh, my books are far superior to any riff-raff that you might find in the Hogwarts library.”

“So you’re saying Hogwarts is lacking in educational books? That the library is not stocked with the right texts for this subject? I’ll be sure to let Madam Pince know; I’m sure she will be dying to know your opinion Professor.”

Lockhart paled – Madam Pince had been there for decades, and everyone knew not to get on the wrong side of her.

“No no, that’s not what I meant. I will get you copies,” he said waving his hand like it was no trouble.

“Don’t expect me to pay for them,” Ava said rudely.

“You may borrow from me. Moving on,” Lockhart said quickly. “I thought we would start today with a little quiz, see how much you have taken in.”

He returned to the front of the class after handing out quiz papers. “You have thirty minutes – begin.”

Ava glanced down at the paper and read:

  1. What is Gilderoy Lockhart’s favourite colour?
  2. What is Gilderoy Lockhart’s secret ambition?
  3. What in your opinion is Gilderoy Lockhart’s greatest achievement to date?

On and on it went, all the way to question 54. When is Gilderoy Lockhart’s birthday, and what would his ideal gift be?

“Is this man for real?” Theo muttered next to her.

“He’s bloody delusional; as if anyone’s going to know this, unless there some stupid fan,” Ava answered a little loudly. Hermione turned to scowl at her. “No offence Hermione.”

“I dare you to write the craziest answers,” Ava whispered mischievously to the two Slytherins. They grinned smugly back at her and started scribbling away.

  1. What is Gilderoy's favourite colour? Jealously green, or maybe envy green.
  2. What is Gilderoy's Lockhart's secret ambition? World domination, using one haircare product at a time.
  3. What, in your opinion, is Gilderoy Lockhart's greatest achievement to date? Faking his way into a teaching job. Actually you probably got it by default as I doubt anyone else applied – you know the jobs cursed right?
  4. How many times has Gilderoy Lockhart won Witch Weekly's Most Charming Smile Award?

Who actually reads that drivel? – I’m guessing never; no one likes a fake smile.

  1. In his book Break with a Banshee, how did Gilderoy Lockhart bravely banish the Bandon Banshee? Spoiler alert – He didn’t
  2. Which is Gilderoy Lockhart's best side for photographs? The top side.
  3. Has Gilderoy Lockhart ever won the Dunstable Duelling Championship for wizards or just been pipped at the post? Hahahahahahahhaha – you win at duelling? I’d eat my wand if that was true.
  4. Which product does Gilderoy Lockhart use to clean his teeth with to achieve his famous dazzling white smile? Probably bleach or unicorn sh*t.
  5. Mention some of Gilderoy Lockhart's pet hates and personal vices. Mouthy students probably – hi I’m Ava – mouthy student number one. (Or maybe three, the Weasleys twins give me a run for my money.)
  6. Suggest in less than twenty words some top grooming tips for Gilderoy Lockhart. Less is more!
  7. What, in your opinion, is the bravest encounter Gilderoy Lockhart has ever had? Facing the mirror on a bad hair day.
  8. How many fans are in the Gilderoy Lockhart fan club? 3 -Me, myself and I (as in you)
  9. Name three time-defying spells that have contributed to Gilderoy Lockhart's ageless features? Another fake thing about you – what happened to growing old with grace?
  10. What does Gilderoy Lockhart absolutely never travel the world without? His arrogance and a mirror.
  11. Which wizard-couture makes Gilderoy Lockhart's magnificent robes? I don’t know but I think they need their eyes testing. One does not need to see such brightness so early in the morning.
  12. If Gilderoy Lockhart launched his own range of hair products, what would they be called? Peaco*cking
  13. Which is the personal name which Gilderoy Lockhart has given to his broomstick? Ewwee I don’t want to know what you do with your ‘personal’ broomstick – totally inappropriate question for twelve year olds.
  14. What products does Gilderoy Lockhart use to clean his broomstick? Seriously? I’m guessing strawberry flavoured lube.
  15. How does Gilderoy like to store his personal broomstick? In his tightie whities.
  16. What is Gilderoy Lockhart’s favourite animal?
  17. What is Gilderoy Lockhart’s most afraid of? Wrinkles
  18. What is the 2nd thing Gilderoy Lockhart is most afraid of? Losing his hair.
  19. What is Gilderoy Lockhart’s most prized possession? A mirror.
  20. What does Gilderoy Lockhart like to do in his spare time? Look in a mirror.
  21. What is Gilderoy Lockhart’s favourite hobby? Looking in a mirror.
  22. Who is Gilderoy Lockhart’s greatest fan? The mirror – actually the mirror is probably sick of looking at you.
  23. How many Valentine’s Day cards does Gilderoy Lockhart normally receive every year? I’d say about 200, at least 150 sent by himself; the other 50 from lonely men and woman who have nothing else better to do.
  24. What house was Gilderoy Lockhart sorted in to? The New and Noble House of Peaco*cking. Occupants – one.
  25. Who would my perfect date be with? A mirror or your broomstick.
  26. If Gilderoy Lockhart became an animagus, what animal would he be? A peaco*ck.

On and on the quiz went, boring Ava to tears until she finally reached the last question:

  1. When is Gilderoy Lockhart's birthday and what would his ideal gift be? 32nd Febulyember 1932 - a mirror.

Ava quickly made a copy of her test, stuffing it in her bag before Lockhart saw – Snape would get a good laugh out of it.

Tut-tut – hardly any of you remembered my favourite colour is lilac, I say so in Year with a Yeti.” Lockhart paused as he scanned over the last three tests, his face turning an angry beet-red.

“Detention – you three. My life’s work is not a joke.”

“Could have fooled me,” Theo muttered under his breath making Ava and Draco snort.

“My favourite colour in not envy green or vapid pink, nor is my secret ambition to transfigure into a peaco*ck. And I don’t call my broomstick Rocket Pocket or Stiffy McStiffson.”

Ava lost it - her stifled giggles turned into full-blown belly laughs. Her body convulsed with mirth, finding it increasingly difficult to catch her breath as her sides ached and tears rolled down her cheeks. She could hear Seamus and Dean banging the table with their hands and the rest of the class laughing along with her. She glanced over at Theo and Draco who were sat stoically; their postures straight, and their faces a mask of indifference, which set her off even more at seeing their perfect faces.

“But I’m positive that’s what I read Professor,” Draco said seriously. “Or was it Johnny Rocket?” he added looking at Theo.

“No actually I think it was Winky McWinkson,” Theo replied just as seriously. “And I thought you liked peaco*cks?” he added turning to the professor, “you do enough peaco*cking every day.”

Ava laughed louder, snorting in an undignified manner; she had to clutch the table to stop her from falling off her chair.

“Twenty points from Slytherin, each,” he sneered, his perfect smile turning ugly.

“Yes!” Ava whooped causing everyone to stare at her in bewilderment.

Lockhart turned away ignoring her, throwing the tests onto his desk and pulling out a covered cage.

“Now – be warned! It’s my job to arm you against the foulest creatures know to face wizardkind! You may find yourself facing your worst fears in this room. Know only that no harm can befall you whilst I am here. All I ask is that you remain calm.”

He tore the cover off dramatically revealing a cage of bright blue Cornish pixies, which had pointed faces, and shrill voices. Lockhart mistook the student’s reactions as screams of terror.

“Right then,” Lockhart said loudly. “Let’s see what you make of them.” He went to open the cage but Ava was quicker. She levitated the cage over his head, making it land with a thump in front of her.

“Were you born stupid or just look it,” she scoffed at the professor.

“I beg your pardon.”

“You don’t just set a bunch of pixies off in a room full of students. Do you have any idea what kind of chaos they would cause? You’ve taught us nothing about them. How do we control them, capture them, stop them from destroying your classroom?” She said the last part with disgust as she looked at the many faces of Lockhart that covered the room.

“Miss Morgan I know exactly what I’m doing,” he said snatching the cage from her desk and marching back to the front of the classroom.

“Get ready to run,” she whispered to her friends. Hearing her warning, they hastily packed their bags.

“Now where were we?” Lockhart said, “Ah yes.” He opened the cage, and as predicted it was pandemonium. She pushed her friends towards the door, battering away the rogue pixies, detouring to grab Neville on the way, less he be hung by the candelabra in the ceiling. Ava made sure everyone was at the door before turning smugly, freezing a couple of pixies just in time to see Lockhart’s wand being flung out the window and him being lifted by his ears and hung from the ceiling by his cloak. With one last snort she slammed the door shut, locking it for good measure and joined her laughing classmates.

“What the hell just happened?” Neville said in disbelief as his fellow Gryffindors cackled with mirth.

“The sign of an incompetent teacher,” Ava replied seriously.

“Did you really write Stiffy McStiffson on your test?” Harry asked the Slytherin boys.

They just smirked in response.

“Told you Slytherins can be fun,” Ava said crossing her arms with a smug grin.

“Do you think we should tell someone?” Hermione asked biting her lip with worry as she glanced at the door where they could hear loud bangs and pitiful whimpers.

Ava shrugged. “Maybe – in like an hour or so.”

“What damage can pixies do?” Neville asked.

Ava shrugged. “Just cause mayhem I think. I suppose they could throw him out the window.”

“What is going on here,” Professor McGonagall said behind them.

“Lockhart set a punch of Cornish pixies on us,” Harry said innocently.

He what?”

“Didn’t even tell us anything about them, or give us a spell to capture them,” Hermione said.

“I heard him say Peskipiksi Pesternomi,” Ava said innocently. “It didn’t do anything though – the pixies just threw his wand out the window.”

“Oh course it wouldn’t. That’s not even a real spell. Anyone with even the slightest bit of competence knows you use a freezing charm on them,” McGonagall said in disbelief.

“Well he never told us that, and we’ve not studied them before,” Ava said innocently. Of course, Theo and Ava had studied the second year syllabus over the summer with Snape, but she wasn’t going to let that incompetent man take the credit.

McGonagall frowned at the students. “Where is Lockhart now?”

“Still in the classroom, I made sure everyone else was out before shutting the door, I didn’t want the pixies to get free. I’m sure an expert like Lockhart can handle them, even without a wand.”

“I’m sure he can,” McGonagall said, her face failing to hide a smirk.

“I suggest you head off to your next class, and ten points to Slytherin for getting everyone to safety,” McGonagall said before turning towards the DADA classroom.

“Damn it!” Ava exclaimed, stamping her foot like a petulant child.

“Do you not like getting points anymore or something?” Harry asked, confused by her childish behaviour.

“Nope – I plan to lose as many points as possible.”

What?” The Slytherins snapped at her.

“The points system is a joke – look at what happened at the end of last year; total favouritism – no offence.”

“Hello my little Chaos Queen,” Fred said sneaking up behind her and making her jump. “What’s this about losing points?”

“As I was saying – the points system is a joke, what do we even get from it?” she questioned.

“The house cup,” Neville said.

“Anything else?”

“House pride, a feeling of accomplishment,” said Hermione.

“Anything else.”

Everyone stood thinking.

“Exactly – we spend all year earning or losing points on an unfair system. Why does one person get five points for answering a correct question, another ten? Who decides on how many points can be given? And for what? - A trophy that’s given at the leaving feast, that sits in the head of house’s office for the next year, never to be seen by the students. By the time September comes back around, it’s all forgotten about anyway. What’s the point? It’s not like the winners get some reward or a party or anything. The ironic thing is that it just seems pointless, so why bother?”

“So what do you suppose we do about it?” Fred asked throwing his arm around her shoulder and smirking.

“I say – we spread the word – get the whole school in on it. The aim – lose as many points as possible!”

“Do you think anyone with go for it?” Theo asked whilst Hermione looked like she was about to have a conniption at the thought of purposely losing points. At least she hadn’t fully rejected the idea.

“Maybe we could make a competition out of it,” George said.

Ava scrutinized him with a smirk. “What do you have in mind?”

“Everyone pays a galleon to take part; the person with the most points lost by the end of the year gets half the winnings, the other half goes towards a big end-of-year party. Fred and I never did get to throw a big bash last year.”

“I’m in,” Ava said enthusiastically.

“Me too,” agreed Theo quickly followed by Draco.

“Me too,” Ron said, clearly not wanting to be outdone by the Slytherins, plus the thought of winning a bunch of galleons.

“We’re in,” said Seamus, who indicated Dean too. Followed by a bunch of students who were still hovering around, including the Slytherin girls.

“Slytherins get penalised more than the other houses anyway, we may as well use it to our advantage,” said Pansy.

“Hermione? How about it?” Ava asked the bushy-haired girl who was worrying her lip.

“Fine,” she eventually agreed. “I’ll keep tabs on everyone who’s paid, and find a way to keep track of the points system.”

“That’s my girl,” said Theo, who blushed after realising what he had said. “I mean….”

Ava rolled her eyes. “Right everyone cough up.”

“I’ll sub you, Ron,” Harry said quietly to his friend when he realised Ron had no money on him.

“Thanks, I’ll pay you back.”

“Right so spread the word,” Ava said, handing over the pile of coins to Hermione for safekeeping who was hastily jotting down names.

Word spread quickly over the next few days, and at least half the student body had signed up. Some just for the hell of it, some - mainly the Ravenclaws who like the Slytherins thought the system was unfair, and others clearly for the money. Students stopped answering questions in class to gain points, purposely handed in homework late, and in the cases where they followed the twin's example, teamed up to consensually prank each other in front of the professors. Lockhart seemed to be the easiest to rile up and lose points with, well except Snape who knew of her plan and was quite happy to take points as often as possible.

The first lesson after the disastrous pixies Lockhart tried to coax Harry into helping him with a ‘special’ demonstration of his ‘heroic’ deeds. Harry groaned loudly until Ava rushed to the front of her class to join him. "Professor Lockhart, if you don’t mind, I’d like to volunteer for the demonstration too,” she said innocently.

Lockhart’s eyes had twinkled with a mix of surprise and delight. Ava exchanged a quick, reassuring glance with Harry, who smiled when he saw her wicked grin. "Professor, rather than re-enacting your stories, perhaps Harry and I could demonstrate our own experiences from last year. They might be more... relevant."

Lockhart’s smile faltered for a fraction of a second, but he quickly recovered. "Well, I suppose, if it’s educational... Proceed!"

Ava nodded and turned to Harry, beckoning him to join her. Harry, feeling a surge of gratitude, moved to her side. Together, they began to recount their harrowing encounter with the troll; pulling Hermione and Theo up to join them. They exaggerated everything they did; from fighting with the troll with imaginary swords to Ava having her legs cut off by a falling toilet. The class was in absolute stitches at their display until Lockhart made them sit back down as the class erupted in applause; a hint of annoyance flickering in the man’s eyes.

Lockhart, trying to regain control of the situation, clapped his hands with forced enthusiasm. "Wonderful, simply wonderful! Though, of course, nothing compared to my own adventures," he added quickly. "But very well done, you’ve provided a... unique perspective."

His attempt to downplay their story fell flat. The students were clearly more impressed by the real-life heroics of their peers than the embellished tales of their professor; they knew the four of them exaggerated their tale as the whole school knew the truth of the troll incident but it made their enactment all the more funnier.

The next lesson he attempted the same, but Harry decided to pull up Ron and Hermione and enact their adventure with finding Fluffy instead. From that day on, Lockhart never asked anyone to act out his books again. Instead, he decided to do the acting himself, much to the class's boredom. Ava and Hermione both took to purposely calling Lockhart out on his bullsh*t books with facts they had learnt whilst self-studying, or used said books that he had loaned her, Draco and Theo to build forts on their desks, and had talked Snape into transfiguring some tiny knights, so they could have epic battles in class whilst Lockhart droned on about his books. They had all refused to attend detention; purely out of principle when they could easily prove the man was incompetent and found out he was using students to sign photos of himself. Snape had taken the detentions for himself to teach them instead. He had laughed at the quiz he had given in their first lesson, and as Ava’s guardian had agreed she could remove herself from class and self-study if she so wished. At present she was staying just to toy with the man and in solidarity with her friends. So far only Sirius had given the same permission, but like Ava, Harry had agreed to stay.

A few weeks into the new school year the points system was at an all-time low, and only about a fifth of the students were keeping out of it – mainly those who were either concentrating on their NEWTS, or little firsties who still hadn’t quite settled in and didn’t want to get into trouble.

The professors (excluding Snape) had no idea what was going on. They would stand there in bafflement when students failed to answer questions, or when their normally efficient students handed in homework late. Even Hermione was consistently losing points for late assignments, and she actually seemed a lot less stressed for once. The only problem they had was Quidditch – no one was willing to lose a match intentionally, so they were having to pre-plan ready for when the season started so they could lose any points gained.

***

Towards the end of September Ava had a surprise up her sleeve for two of her best friends.

“Where are we going?” asked Theo as she guided him along a disused corridor until they came to a stop outside a large double door where Hermione and Harry were stood waiting.

“What’s going on Ava?” Hermione asked whilst Harry smirked at her unseen by the bushy-haired girl.

Ava didn’t answer, instead, she magicked the doors open and pushed Theo inside whilst Harry nudged Hermione through a second later.

“SURPRISE!” a crowd of people shouted whilst the flash of a camera went off. Bright silver and gold banners, balloons and streamers covered the old ballroom Ava had found the previous year.

“Happy Birthday you two,” Ava said as the twins set off a round of poppers covering the gobsmacked pair in brightly covered confetti.

Hermione had tears in her eyes whilst Theo looked on in shock.

“You threw us a party?” asked Theo in disbelief as he took in all their friends smiling at them.

“Of course I did, did you honestly think I’d forgotten,” Ava answered as she thrust two identical brightly covered presents into their hands; she’d bought them both a deluxe version of The Hobbit and some fancy bookmarks for the mountain of books they both had piled beside their beds. Theo’s birthday had been the day before whilst Hermione’s had been two days before that, but it had been during the week so Ava had planned the party for the Saturday instead. The duo got dragged off to receive more presents and drinks, giving Ava large beaming smiles whilst the twins got some music going on the gramophone they had found in the Room of Requirement.

“Want to dance?” asked Draco when Phil Collins You can’t hurry love started blasting around the room and balls of lights started flashing different colours.

“Of course,” Ava said grinning and taking his hand. Draco pulled her around the dancefloor, spinning her in time to the music and making her laugh. “I didn’t know you could dance.”

“Lessons, although they were never to anything like this.”

“Let me guess – ballroom.” Draco grimaced but nodded. “Maybe you could teach me; I’m more of a rock and pop girl.” As if to prove her point the music changed to Footloose, Ava heard Hermione squeal and run to join Ava on the dance floor dragging her away to do some very uncoordinated fancy footwork between pulling everyone and anyone onto the dance floor. Harry and Ron stood to the side laughing as the twins attempted to copy the girls whilst Draco and Theo looked on in bafflement, clearly having never seen that type of dancing before. Susan and Hannah joined enthusiastically whilst Ava managed to coax the second-year girls to join them. Blaise, the only other Slytherin second-year boy that had been invited joined in too, dancing between the two twins. As the party went on Ava and Hermione managed to coax everyone onto the dancefloor at least once between eating snacks, sweets and drinking fizzy pop. The Gryffindor second years really got into the swing of things eventually; Seamus tried teaching everyone an Irish jig whilst his fellow roommates laughed along like hyenas. Even the members of Hermione and Theo’s book club who Ava didn’t really know joined in, one of which danced closely with Percy – she wondered if that was his girlfriend who had been writing to him over the summer. Luna had been invited along at Ava’s insistence, tagging along with the Ravenclaw second years who didn’t quite know what to make of her. She was shy and generally in a world of her own most of the time but danced along with everyone else, usually to her our tune. Ava hadn’t had much opportunity to speak with her yet but she seemed nice enough even if she did stare intensely at her like she had something stuck on her face. Ava just shrugged it off as being one of Luna’s quirks. Ginny was the only one who didn’t seem to be enjoying herself; sulking in the corner every time anyone danced with Harry – she’d only been invited because the rest of the Weasleys had. But Ava didn’t care; she couldn’t please everyone, and seeing all her friends having a blast and a normal teenage experience was worth having one sour-faced child in attendance.

After a few hours had passed Ava cut out the lights and brought out a massive cake she had helped (well-guided) the house elves to make. It was two tiers; the bottom made to look like a pile of fancy books whilst the top was shaped to look like a Quaffle. They sang happy birthday to the teary Hermione and gobsmacked Theo who blew out the candles enthusiastically.

“He’ll never forget this you know,” Draco said quietly to Ava as Hermione started cutting the cake. She looked at him confused. “Theo, he’ll never forget this; his father never acknowledges his birthday, not even before his mother died, and he would never let him come to the manor during September either; no matter how hard my mother tried. We used to celebrate in August or October but it’s not quite the same.” Ava looked over to Theo whose smile was stretched from ear to ear; his eyes crinkling in the corners from laughing at the twins who were singing their own version of Happy Birthday.

“Well, then next year we’ll just have to make it even bigger then to make up for all the birthdays he’s missed,” Ava said determinedly.

Draco hummed in agreement. “Come on, I’m going to teach you to waltz.” Draco pulled her back to the dancefloor and attempted to teach her ballroom dancing. She hadn’t expected to be dancing with Draco to Is this Love by Whitesnake, or for Blaise, Theo and the Slytherin girls to join in on the next song and create an impromptu dance lesson with the group. There was a lot of laughing and standing on toes. Neville was surprisingly limber on the dancefloor, twirling Hannah expertly around, whilst Draco got fed up with Pansy snapping at Harry with his two left feet so promptly took over to Harry’s embarrassment, leaving Pansy with Ava, who led her gracefully around the dancefloor; her footsteps light like a bird, unlike Ava’s heavy footing.

Ava had the best time and the party only ended when they all got too hungry and thought it was best that they showed their faces in the Great Hall seeing as they had all been missing all day. There were a lot of bemused expressions from the professors and students when the large group entered the hall, some still attempting to remember the steps, whilst others were being twirled around or passed back and forth between partners until they all squeezed in at the end of the Hufflepuff table. Ava had never laughed so much or be grateful to belong to such a diverse group of friends who had set all their animosity aside to celebrate their friends birthdays.

The first week of October Ava felt like she was dying; like her stomach was ripping open in two.

“Uncle Sev,” she shouted barging into Snape’s quarter, her long wavy hair flailing wildly behind her.

“I need painkillers… Strong, strong painkillers! Paracetamol, Ibuprofen, Aspirin...I’d even take arsenic right now.”

“What? Sweetheart, what is it? Tell me where it hurts,” he shouted rushing towards her, a letter forgotten about in one hand and his wand in the other; his eyes crinkled with worry as they scanned her body looking for injuries.

“My stomach - I need a hot water bottle, chocolate and a pain reliever,” she said dramatically as she clutched her stomach and threw herself on the sofa.

Snape rolled his eyes. “Seriously Ava, do you have to be so melodramatic about a bit of menstrual cramps.”

“No uterus, no opinion,” she snapped back at him giving him a scathing look.

She’d forgotten about having to go through puberty again, and hormones, and starting her periods again…Eugh… puberty sucked. She embarrassingly had to ask Daphne for supplies as she had failed to pack any and wasn’t sure what witches even used – apparently, they had reusable, self-sanitising, self-cleaning products – made life a lot easier if not less painful.

“Here,” Snape said, handing over a pain potion and a bar of Honeydukes chocolate. “Do you have to be so dramatic about everything…you nearly gave me a heart attack!”

“Thanks,” she said downing the potion, the relief was instant. “And yes I do! Who’s the letter from?”

“None of your business,” he said blushing.

“Is it Charlie? It’s Charlie isn’t it?” she asked excitedly.

He hastily folded the letter away, shoving it in his inner pocket. “Never you mind.”

Ava broke off a piece of chocolate handing it to her godfather. “That’s not a no. So are things progressing with you two?”

“We are just corresponding, that’s all…Just friends,” he said before taking a bite of chocolate.

“But something happened in Romania, you never did say how your date went.”

Snape sat down heavily on the sofa. “Nothing happened and it wasn’t a date. And nothing will happen.”

“Did he turn you down? That doesn’t sound like Charlie.” She frowned at her godfather, trying to figure out his emotions or what was going on between the two men.

“No, he didn’t. I – I…”

“Uncle Sev – stop being so hard on yourself.”

“Leave it Ava – Please,” he said dejectedly.

Ava nodded and let the matter go. She’d been meaning to write to Charlie but hadn’t got round to it since returning to school. But she wouldn’t pry into their relationship – or lack of it.

“Anyway back to periods.”

“What about them?” Snape said pinching his nose, knowing he shouldn’t have asked.

“Who gives the sex talk?” Ava asked before shoving more chocolate into her mouth.

“Excuse me?”

“You know about the birds and the bees, and the birds and birds, and the bees and the bees.”

Snape looked utterly baffled by his goddaughter. “Why the hell are you talking about birds and bees?”

“Huh – must be a Muggle saying. I meant who teaches the students about sex education – you know puberty, hormones, sex – protection, pleasure, pro-creating…..you know sex.”

“Ava please stop saying sex,” he begged as he wiped at hand down his face.

“Oh, stop being such a prude.”

“Ava you are twelve years old – you are not having sex until you are at least thirty.”

“Well technically…..”

“Do not say you are technically thirty – you are twelve years old, have the teenage drama that comes with a twelve-year-old and no way in hell act like a thirty-year-old. So do not try to convince me otherwise.”

Ava pouted and crossed her arms, scowling at him.

“Case in point!” he said pointing at her and snorting.

“I wasn’t planning on having sex – Merlin – give me some credit. I just want to be prepared for the future – I know nothing about spells or potions or anything in relation to S.E.X.” Snape scowled at her. “What? You said not to say S.E.X.”

Snape pinched his nose again as he stood and paced the room, then scowled at the ceiling like it was refusing to tell him why he was cursed with having Ava as a goddaughter.

“And anyway, you’re my one and only guardian so it’s your responsibility to pass on the information to make sure I’m safe and well informed. So if there isn’t sex education – sorry S.E.X. then it’s up to you to tell me. Although the thought of McGonagall giving a S.E.X Ed class is hilarious. Actually you giving one is even funnier.”

“AVA,” he scolded.

“What – it is. Imagining you in your serious voice with a banana in hand, explaining how to roll a condom down,” she said mockingly whilst trying not to laugh. “Pinch the tip of the condom, place it at the top of the penis” she said imitating Snape’s voice and miming her hands, “and roll gently along the length…”

Snape looked ready to hex her. “Condoms are rarely used in the magical world – we have spells for that,” he deadpanned, clearly not impressed with her.

“See – I didn’t know that – therefore… I need educating. So does anyone actually teach it?”

“Pomfrey – although I’m not sure exactly what she teaches!”

“Another thing this school is lacking – hundreds of hormonal and horny students with barely any adult supervision nor educated properly – I’m surprised there’s not a bunch of teen pregnancies.”

“I’ll speak to Madam Pomfrey,” Snape said before storming out of the room.

“Rude,” she shouted at his back before scramming some more chocolate – Honeydukes really was the best chocolate she had ever tasted.

He came back rather quickly though and thrust a book into Ava’s hands. A Magical Guide to Contraception, Protection and Reproducing.

“Looks riveting,” she said sarcastically as she paged through the book – it was all very – clinical.

“It will give you the basics – that’s all you need to know for now, I will teach you spells once you know the theory,” Snape said before leaving the room again, probably to drown himself in a bottle of Firewhiskey.

Notes:

Ava: 'I think I'm dying'
Snape: Full on panic parent mode
Ava: 'I need chocolate'
Snape: Ready to curse her for nearly giving him a heart attack over menstrual cramps.

Ava: Starts talking about periods and sex
Snape: Looks on in horror.
Ava: Won’t shut up about sex
Snape: Looks at the ceiling….why me….why? (Eyes bottle of whiskey)

Chapter 10: Slytherins Seeker, Scary Stories, and Sickening Sensations

Chapter Text

“Hey Ava, you going to come watch us try out?” Theo asked a few days later as he waved his broom in her direction with Draco by his side.

Ava beamed at the excited boy. “You’re trying out for the team?”

“Yeah, my father always turned his nose up at it, but I say f*ck him!”

“Too right, of course I’ll come watch.” Ava threw the book down she was reading and rushed over to the two boys. “What position you going for?”

“Chaser, Draco’s going for Seeker.”

“I wonder why that is,” Ava said smirking, giving the blonde boy an assessing look. She always wondered if it was to try best Harry or whether he actually liked the position.

“Just you wait – I’m going to beat Potter off the top spot,” Draco said arrogantly.

Ava laughed and nodded enthusiastically. “Yes you will Draco.” She wondered how well Draco would do now that there was no longer full on hatred between him and Harry. As they walked down to the pitch Draco talked nonstop about how much better he was than ‘Potter’ to Ava’s amusem*nt.

Ava stood in the stands watching as the students flew in circles around the pitch. Draco really was a good flyer, it also helped that he had the latest broom – although his father didn’t seem to have bought the rest of the team new brooms yet. Theo was surprising good too; she’d only seen him on a broom during their flying lessons in first year and she had been too busy clinging on for dear life so hadn’t taken much notice of anyone else, so didn’t realise how well he could fly. He was currently using Draco’s old Cleansweeper. Flint the team Captain called them to the ground, splitting them into groups depending on what position they were trying out for. Ava watched Theo nervously fiddle with his gloves before mounting his broom again and shooting into the air. He looked over towards her; anxiety written all over his face, but she threw him a positive smile and two thumbs up. His face turned to one of fierce determination and he shot off into position. The first task was to show they could fly in formation with the rest of the chasers; there was only one position open so they would be a fight to claim it. Theo flew methodically, following the other chasers, or syncing up with them for the best possible position; like he could predict where they were about to go. She wondered how often he practiced, and whether it was at home in secret or when he stayed at Malfoy Manor.

The whistle blew, signalling the Quaffle was about to be put into play with the keeper in position. Ava’s heart skipped a beat. She watched as Theo weaved his way around the pitch, adjusting his grip on the Quaffle and passing it to and fro to the other chasers. He was the fastest flyer in the sky; there was no doubt in her mind that he'd make an amazing chaser. But others were vying for the spot too, and she couldn't help but feel protective of him. They were soon directed to simply pass, and try to score. Ava watched as Theo quickly tore down the pitch, his body moving in perfect synchronization with the other chasers. He made a sharp turn and passed the Quaffle to one of the other candidates, who missed the goal. A hint of a smile played on Ava's lips as she saw how confidently Theo had thrown the ball. Theo didn’t fumble once with the Quaffle and scored more than any other person trying out, or helped set up accurate shots for other players to attempt to score.

As the other candidates fought alongside Theo, Ava's eyes flickered between Theo and the Captain. She knew Theo was good, but she also knew that Flint had a reputation for being tough. She hoped he'd give Theo a fair chance as he was usually quiet around the older students and Flint tended to favour his friends, or those with influence from what she had gathered.

The exercises grew more challenging, and Ava watched as Theo effortlessly maneuvered around his opponents, his reflexes quicker than anyone else's. He made spectacular catches, launched the Quaffle with incredible force, and even pulled off a few fancy moves that had Ava on her feet. It was clear that he was in his element, and that he belonged on the Slytherin team.

After some time had passed the beaters hit the sky. They were brutal, showing no mercy for their fellow teammates. Theo narrowly dodged a Bludger whistling past his ear, and Ava had to close her eyes when he slipped from his broom and ended up hanging by his legs with the Quaffle between his hands.

Finally, Flint blew the whistle and they all hit the ground with sweat pouring off them. She was too far away to hear what was said, and the team took a breather whilst a smaller group stood listening to instructions from the Captain.

Draco’s hair gleamed in the sunlight, so Ava could make him out amongst the group, his chin held high and posture straight. He radiated confidence but she knew underneath it all he would be nervous; he’d barely touched his breakfast.

Flint had them fly around the stadium but rather than in a group, they had to fly in different directions and dodge each other. Draco performed spectacularly; ducking and diving and barrel rolling out of the way of the other players. There were a few near misses with the other flyers but everyone managed to stay on their brooms. Draco had definitely out flown them by far.

Next, Flint had the Chasers throw jinxed golf-like balls in random directions that mimicked the movement of a Snitch. The Seekers had to catch as many as they could before they hit the ground. Ava was surprised how good Draco was, she wouldn’t have been surprised if he had practiced all summer. After Flint had wheedled the group down to three, he had the Beaters and Chasers back in the air. The Seekers had to out manoeuvre them, staying in only a small area of the pitch. The three were fairly even in their ability. For their final test Flint released a practice Snitch, letting it disappear before sending everyone that had brooms back into the sky to mimic a real match.

Ava watched as Draco crouched low on his broom, searching desperately for the snitch, his breath coming out in white puffs, disappearing into the air as if it had never been there at all. She could see him scanning the horizon, his eyes focusing on the slightest movement, the slightest shift in colour. She was sure that he saw something, his broom shooting off before stopping abruptly; his eyes scanning the pitch once again. The other players were scattered across the sky, their movements jerky and desperate as they too searched for the elusive snitch. She could feel their frustration and determination radiating off of them in waves all the way from the stands, making the air thick with tension as time went on.

The wind picked up, sending a chill down Ava’s spine. She hoped Draco succeeded, not to prove anything to his father, but for himself.

Draco lunged forward causing Ava’s heart to race. Had he seen a flash of gold? She was sure it was the snitch, soaring high above the pitch, a faint glint where the sun hit its shimmering wings. With a roar of determination, Draco launched himself into the air, flying vertically toward the heavens, his broomstick flying beneath him effortlessly. Ava watched with joy as the other players fell away behind him, their cries of frustration and desperation carrying across the wind.

Ava shot to her feet screaming encouragement as he neared his quarry, his arm outstretched. With a whooping roar, Draco spun, his fist closed tightly and a massive grin on his face as he rushed towards the ground, his hand still raised showing the proof of his victory. Ava rushed down to the pitch to congratulate her talented friends, launching herself between them both to give a three-way hug.

“That was amazing, you two are awesome.”

“Better than Potter?” Draco said with a confident grin.

“I’d say you’re definitely going to keep him on his toes,” she said mischievously at him.

“Theo, you were fantastic,” she said giving him a high five. “I didn’t know you could fly so well.”

“Well, when you spend most of your summers with Draco and being forced onto his pitch, it would be a crime to have wasted all those hours,” he said giving Draco a friendly nudge with his elbow.

“Hey – I did not force you,” Draco said pouting.

Theo grinned shaking his head. “Course not.”

“So have you both made the team?” Ava asked unable to control her excitement.

“Yep,” they both said smugly as they started to walk towards the locker rooms. “I’m going to ask my father to buy the team new brooms,” Draco added.

Ava turned quickly to the excited boy. “No Draco – don’t do that.”

“Why not?” He looked at her frowning, the excitement falling from his face.

Ava sighed knowing exactly what would happen.

“Because then everyone will think you bought your way onto the team.”

“But I was clearly the best.”

“Yes, but the other teams won’t know that. Plus you want to win fairly, don’t you? Most of the other teams don’t have decent brooms.”

Draco’s shoulders slumped. “I suppose, the school should really have decent brooms though – I mean look at the ones we learned to fly on.”

“That’s true, maybe we could organise sponsorships. You know like professional teams. Could get new uniforms too; they’re rather outdated the Hogwarts ones,” suggested Ava.

“That’s not a bad idea,” said Theo. “Know anyone that would consider sponsoring? I honestly don’t know of many witches or wizards that would be willing to fund it. Or maybe one of the league teams would do it.”

“Well, my father would definitely sponsor the Slytherin team if we don’t find anyone else. What about Ludo Bagman – he was a Hufflepuff I think.”

Ava scoffed. “Na – man’s a gambler. Sirius might sponsor Gryffindor though.”

“As in Black? Harry’s godfather and my cousin, I think.”

“Yeah – he’s got the Black fortune at his disposal, last I heard he was burning through it buying Muggle motorbikes as a f*ck you to his mother.”

Draco snorted. “Don’t let my mother hear that.”

“Okay, so that’s Slytherin and Gryffindor possibly sorted. What about the Ministry – the Department of Magical Games and Sports?” Theo suggested as he stopped to lean against the wall outside the changing rooms.

“We could ask; no harm in trying. I’ll write to them, use the Malfoy name for some good for once.”

Ava smiled at Draco. “That’s a great idea. We could write to different teams – one of them might help, even if it’s just new bats or balls.”

That afternoon they spent in the library, drafting letters to various people and organisations. They didn’t want to spread the word around the school incase they were unsuccessful. Sirius wrote back immediately agreeing with their request and promising to keep it a surprise for the Gryffindor team. He had signed off declaring it was another f*ck you to his mother. Lucius had also agreed but on the proviso, his money would only go towards the Slytherins. Gwenog Jones, the captain of the Holyhead Harpies had written on the team's behalf, offering to provide new beaters bats for all the teams, and Quality Quidditch supplies had offered to provide new uniforms and protective leathers at a discounted rate.

The chairman of the Quidditch World Cup had gotten wind of their request through Draco’s letter to the department of Magical Games and Sports, and had agreed to fund the new uniforms. All they needed now was enough for new brooms for the Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff teams. For the Hufflepuffs it came surprisingly from Justin Finch-Fletchley after he had overheard their conversation in the library. Apparently, he was from a rather upper-class family that rubbed shoulders with the Muggle Royals and had a fortune to rival the Malfoys. His reasoning was that it gave the Hufflepuffs a fair chance for once, and the uniforms had to display his father’s law firm logo. For the Ravenclaws Padma said her father would pay for the brooms; apparently he was a huge Quidditch fan and hated that neither of his daughters was interested in playing the sport.

The day before the first Slytherin team practice six various-size boxes were delivered to Ava at breakfast by a parliament of owls, much to the confusion of the other students. Harry and the twins being nosy buggers wandered over to investigate.

“Did we miss your birthday?” Fred asked confused as he tried to figure out what the boxes were.

“I’m sure I remember sending you a present in July,” added George.

Ava rolled her eyes “You didn’t miss my birthday.”

“I totally missed your birthday,” Harry said in horror. “I’m so sorry Ava.”

“Harry, honestly it’s okay, you had other things going on at the time.”

“So what’s all this?” Fred asked as he made to grab one of the boxes.

Ava tapped his hand to stop him. “For me to know and you to find out nosey.” She smirked as she grabbed two of the boxes, whilst Draco and Theo piled up the rest and carried the pile between them.

“Oh come on Ava, don’t be a spoilsport,” said Fred with a pout as he attempted to follow them.

“Patience is a virtue my friend.” Ava winked, before throwing a sticking charm at his feet and walked out of the hall.

They dumped the boxes in Snape’s quarters, much to his dismay.

“Pray tell – What is all this?” Snape said as he put down his cup of tea scowling; his dark eyes narrowing in on the boxes. “Please don’t tell me this is one of your pranks.”

Ava gave him a scathing look. “For once can you please have faith in me – not everything I do is designed to give you grey hairs.”

“I beg to differ,” Snape said sarcastically as the boys started ripping the boxes open.

Theo held up a Slytherin Jersey, his eyes lighting up with glee. “Wow – these are amazing,”

“Check these out,” Draco said holding up one of the new brooms and letting it hover in front of him; his eyes scanning the sleek design. They weren’t Nimbuses but the latest in the Comet series; a cheaper alternative but nearly as good. Students could choose if they wanted to borrow a team broom or use their own.

“Again – Ava, what is all this?” Snape said gesturing his hand at the mess they were making.

Ava looked at him like he was stupid. “New Quidditch uniforms.”

“You bought Slytherin new uniforms and brooms, this has Lucius written all over it,” Snape said scowling. “You won’t be popular with the other houses.”

“Oh ye have little faith Uncle,” Ava said smugly as she whipped out a Ravenclaw jersey, whilst Theo opened a box of Gryffindor uniforms and Draco the Hufflepuffs.

“You got new uniforms for all the teams?” Snape said in disbelief, his mouth gaping open like a fish.

“Better – we got new uniforms and brooms for all the teams.”

“Plus new beaters bats and balls,” Theo added.

“How?” Snape said gormlessly, his eyes darting between the piles of uniforms that were taking over his floor.

“Sponsorship,” Ava said like the answer was obvious.

“Again, how?” Snape shook his head like he was trying to engage his brain.

“We wrote to people and they agreed.”

“You wrote to people and they agreed?” Snape repeated.

“Who?” He eventually said like he was struggling to form sentences.

“Let me see – Lucius and Sirius bought the Slytherin and Gryffindor brooms, Justin Finch-Fletchley’s father for the Hufflepuffs, and Padma’s father for The Ravenclaws. The head of the Quidditch World Cup paid for the uniforms, which Quality Quidditch Supplies did at a discount. Erm, the Holyhead Harpies bought new Beaters bats and the Wimbledon Wasps gave us their practice balls from last session once Ludo Bagman stuck his nose in.”

“And you three did all this? By yourselves?” Snape said his eyes narrowing on the three innocent faces.

“You talk like we are incapable,” Ava scoffed.

Snape realised what he had said, “I didn’t mean….I’m just surprised that’s all. The Quidditch uniforms haven’t been updated since before I was at school, and no one’s ever provided brooms before, you always had to have your own.”

“Well that’s what made me think of sponsorships; Draco was going to ask his father for team brooms, but I said it wasn’t fair on the others, it kind of snowballed from there.”

Snape picked up one of the new Slytherin Jerseys, inspecting the latest style. “When did you even start this?”

“After the try-outs,” Ava said as she started sorting the uniforms into piles for each team.

“You mean to tell me you did all this in a week?”

“Yeah, duh,” Ava said like he was an idiot.

Snape shook his head in disbelief, a touch of fondness in his eyes. “Unbelievable. Do the other teams know?”

“Nope. We’re going to surprise them tomorrow at practice,” Ava said smugly.

Early next morning, with the help of the house elves and with the assistance of Snape, they organised the new kits into team piles and disillusioned them. Ava knew the Gryffindors had booked out the pitch and that Flint had been granted permission from Snape to use it too. So she had sent missives to Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff team Captains for an emergency meeting, declaring mandatory team attendance by pretending to be Madam Hooch.

The Slytherin team arrived an hour early at Draco’s insistence.

“What’s going on Draco?” asked Flint, his heavy-set eyes staring at him in suspicion whilst the rest of the team looked bleary-eyed due to their earlier than normal practice session – the sun was barely showing itself over the horizon.

“We’ve got a surprise,” he replied smugly.

“Surprise?” Flint said raising an eyebrow, his interest piped.

“Ta-da,” Ava said dramatically waving her wand to reveal the piles of new kits.

The Slytherins stood gormlessly with their mouths hanging open, eyes wide, clearly thinking they were in some sort of lucid dream.

Flint spluttered before speaking. “Draco – you got us new uniforms?”

“And new brooms?” asked one of the chasers.

“We’ll definitely win this year – the Gryffindors will have no chance on their old brooms,” Flint said laughing loudly.

“Well there’s a catch,” said Ava quickly before the Slytherins could get too excited.

“What?” Flint asked, his face falling.

“You’re not the only ones with new kits this year. We organised sponsorships for all the houses, but none of them know yet. It’s only fair.”

“But? But?” he spluttered.

“We wouldn’t want to be seen as unsportsmanlike now would we Flint?” Draco sneered. Flint and most of the Slytherins had been surprisingly cordial so far towards the other houses – Ava wasn’t sure why but was glad to see less fighting in the halls.

“I guess not,” he replied, but Ava could tell he wasn’t happy about it, but the thought of a new broom kept his mouth shut.

“The brooms belong to the team, so they are technically on loan to you. You’re free to use your own if you prefer.” She knew Draco and Harry would stick to their Nimbus’.

“Now what are you waiting for?” Theo shouted as he started throwing the uniforms to each player.

The team beamed and quickly rushed off to get changed in record time their excitement palpable as they were eager to hit the sky. They managed to get twenty minutes in the air, looking all shiny and new before the pitch was invaded by the other teams.

“Flint!” Wood bellowed, his voice echoing across the pitch. “This is our practice time! We got up specially, you can go now.”

“Plenty of room for all of us,” Flint said smugly.

“What’s going on,” the Captain of the Hufflepuff team said who appeared with their team from the other side of the stands with the Ravenclaws.

“I’d like to know that too,” said the Ravenclaws Captain, “Madam Hooch declared an emergency meeting.”

“Yeah, well that’s news to me,” said Flint.

“Was it a lie? Did you get everyone here to show off your new uniforms?” sneered Oliver as he eyed the offending items. Their brooms were all propped behind their backs, unnoticed by the other teams.

Flint looked at him with condescension. “No, we’re here to train our new Seeker and Chaser.”

“You’ve got a new Seeker and Chaser?” Wood said distractedly, his eyes still zoned in on the new uniform that donned Flint’s body, clinging to the contours of his muscles – maybe he was actually checking him out. “Who?” he eventually asked.

From behind the other burly players, Draco and Theo emerged. Ava saw Harry gasp at the new team members, his face pinching in a cute confused way, like he didn’t know whether to be happy for them or not.

“Aren’t you Lucius Malfoy’s son,” Wood sneered his eyes zoning in on the signature Malfoy white-blonde hair.

“Funny you should mention Draco’s father,” Flint said smugly, “Let me show you the generous gift he gave the team.”

All seven held out their shiny new brooms. Ava rolled her eyes at the dramatics before the team was invaded by Hermione and Ron, who questioned what was going on, Ron gaping at the new brooms.

“At least no one had to buy their way in,” Hermione said sharply. “They got in on pure talent.”

Ava looked at Draco who gave him an I told you so look; he looked visually upset at the insinuation.

“Actually Hermione, before you start judging everyone,” Ava said firmly. “No one bought their way in. Draco and Theo are bloody brilliant and got in on their own merit.” Hermione look chastised and mumbled a sorry. “As for the brooms, Flints just trying to wind you up. We have a surprise for the teams.”

What?” a multitude of people said their eyes looking hopeful.

Revelio,” Ava shouted, pointing her wand towards the side of the pitch, revealing the three piles of the latest style Quidditch uniforms and brand new brooms.

“Surprise,” Theo, Draco and Ava shouted excitedly

“You got the team's new uniforms?” Fred said, his jaw-dropping in awe.

“And brooms?” added George who was pinching his, likely making sure he wasn’t dreaming.

“How? Why?” Wood stuttered out, his face gleaming like all his dreams had come true.

Ava shrugged like it was no big deal. “Sponsorships mainly.”

“Harry,” a shout came from the side of the pitch revealing Sirius and Remus running up to the large group both grinning from ear to ear.

“Sirius!” Harry shouted back, running up to give his godfather a hug. “You did this?”

“Not quite, I just provided a bit of money for the Gryffindor brooms. Ava, Draco, and Theo were the masterminds of it all.”

The whole group turned to look at the three young Slytherins in various expressions of shock, disbelief, or suspicion. Ava hurriedly went on to explain why and how they had done it. As she finished Wood surprisingly picked her up, her arms stuck by her sides as he spun her around, uttering incoherent words between lots of thank you's. He eventually ran off with the rest of the team to test out their new gear.

“I think that went well,” Ava said to Sirius and Remus who accompanied her to the stands.

“I’ll say. You’re – honestly Ava, I’ve never met anyone like you,” Sirius said as he glanced over at her. His face looked like he didn’t know whether to frown or smile. It resulted in a lopsided smirk. “I never did say thank you.”

“Thank you? For what?” she asked confused.

“Getting me free – I know you were the mastermind behind it all. How did you even know I was innocent or where Pettigrew was?”

“If I tell you,” she said leaning in. Sirius nodded eagerly. “I’d have to kill you,” Ava smirked making him sulk and Remus burst into laughter. “Maybe one day. Just promise me one thing, Sirius.”

“Anything,” he agreed eagerly.

“Don’t go running off to the Department of Mysteries.”

He frowned at her clearly mystified. “Why the hell would I go there?”

“Just promise me, or at least stay the f*ck away from the death room.”

Remus looked at her worriedly, whilst Sirius looked at her like she was barmy. Ava turned away distracted by the teams flying out onto the pitch. For the next few hours the four house teams trained and played alongside each other in harmony; the new brooms and uniforms giving them a feel for friendly rivalry and sportsmanship for the first time in living history at Hogwarts. By the time breakfast was over in the castle, word had somehow spread and students had filled the stands, watching the unexpected sight in awe.

“Miss Morgan,” McGonagall said, as she approached her in the Gryffindor stands where she was still sitting with Sirius and Remus and joined by Ron and Hermione who had apologised again for thinking the worst of Draco.

“Yes, Professor?”

McGonagall waved her hand towards the four flying teams who were currently having a race around the pitch, their laughter permeating the sky. “I’m guessing you had something to do with this?”

“Me?” Ava said innocent wide eyes.

“Don’t play coy, Miss Morgan, I saw the boxes.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“mmm – I’m sure Professor Snape will fill me in,” she said eying Ava with a small smirk.

Ava smirked back. “I’m sure he will.”

“Twenty points to Slytherin, and the same for Mr Malfoy and Mr Nott – I’m positive they were involved.”

Ava groaned, whilst McGonagall grinned smugly at her before walking away to speak to Remus – damn it, she was on to her.

“There a reason you don’t like receiving points?” Sirius asked with a raised eyebrow. His face had filled out and he was looking a lot healthier since the last time she had seen him. He was ruggedly handsome, with long shaggy hair, a playful grin, and an air of mischievousness that would give the twins a run for their money.

“We have a competition going on. See who can lose the most points.”

Sirius grinned, showing a full set of perfectly straight teeth. “A girl after my own heart. But why?”

Ava went on to explain in a whisper so McGonagall didn’t hear about how stupid and unfair the points system was. He listened attentively; laughing at all the different reasons students had had points taken from them. They discussed quietly ideas for more bad behaviour, each one getting more ridiculous.

“Oh and lastly – call McGonagall Minnie, or leave out catnip. That’s always a good one.”

“Can you send me some? – I don’t know where to get it from,” Ava whispered as she snigg*red, imagining McGonagall high.

“Oh course,” Sirius said giving her a wicked grin.

***

***

The weeks leading up to the first Quidditch match were the most jovial Ava had ever seen between the houses. The new brooms and updated uniforms had brought a new lease of life to the sport, with more and more students becoming interested, whether it was learning strategy, the rules or just placing bets. There had been less insults and hexes thrown too. Of course there was still the usual insult thrown at an opposing team member, but it was done in jest rather than a threat. Even Flint had managed to reign in his usual taunts, except where Wood was involved; they still had to be regularly broken apart. Ava wondered whether their rivalry matched Draco and Harry’s in the original story; there was definitely some intensity about the way the two boys reacted.

Unfortunately for Ava she couldn’t bask in the excitement of Quidditch too much, Halloween was fast approaching and she had been constantly on the lookout for anyone acting suspiciously. Ginny so far seemed herself, which usually translated into sending Ava dirty looks, so she was confident Lucius hadn’t somehow managed to give her possession of the diary. She just couldn’t be certain Lucius had ignored her warning and given it to someone else.

Luckily the twins improved her mood drastically.

“Guess what Chaos,” Fred said sitting down next to her in the library one evening, his bright blue eyes twinkling with excitement.

“We’ve only gone and done it,” George said waving a piece of parchment in front of her face as he sat down on her other side.

“Done what?” she asked cautiously – you never knew with the twins.

“Got permission to throw a Halloween party,” Fred said smugly.

What?” Ava said her eyes wide. “Let me see that.” She snatched the parchment from George’s hand.

I Professor McGonagall, Deputy Headmistress do hereby give Fred and George Weasley permission to throw a Halloween party on the night of October 31, on the following provisos.

Curfew will be extended to 12pm for all students. Anyone not in the dorms by this time will receive detention.

NO alcohol

NO pranks

NO fighting/spells or hexes against another student.

A committee must be organised to help set up and clean up the following day.

Casual attire is allowed and/or fancy dress.

The Halloween feast will proceed as normal but at the earlier time of 5pm. The hall will be cleared of the house tables at approximately 6.30pm ready for any additional decorations/provisions and refreshments to be set up.

Any decorations/music must be pre-approved by me. Mr Sirius Black and Mr Remus Lupin will be additional chaperones for the evening and can help set up a music system that can work with Muggle records – please contact them at your earliest convenience.

I am trusting you with this – don’t let me down!

“I can’t believe it,” Ava said looking at the letter with disbelief. “You actually talked Minnie into letting you throw a party. Maybe I should hold off on the catnip for now.” Ava was hoping McGonagall had found a way for the students to celebrate Samhain again since her outburst the previous year but as of yet nothing had been allowed. However, she wasn’t going to look a gift horse in the mouth and a Halloween party was right up her street.

“Catnip?” Fred questioned.

“Never mind,” Ava said evasively waving her hand.

“So who are you going to ask to help?”

“You,” George said like the answer was obvious.

“Of course, who else?”

“Erm, we're not sure, we thought you would have some ideas.”

“Pansy. She seems the type that would be good at party planning. Erm, Luna.”

“Luna? As in Looney Lovegood.”

Ava flicked Fred in the ear, “Don’t call her that.”

“Do you even know her? I know she came to the birthday party but wasn’t aware you were friends.”

“Well no, but I’m sure she’s really nice, and I’ve noticed her sitting by herself a lot.” Ava had kept meaning to sit with her at mealtimes but kept getting distracted. “It would be nice to include her. Ask Blaise too; I reckon he would be good at party planning.”

“Okay – if you insist.”

“Maybe just get the word out and see who wants to help – go from there. Get Hermione involved, she would probably be good at organising people so no one’s trying to do the same thing.”

“Got it.”

“Have you started making a list of what you will need?”

“Erm – not really.”

Ava rolled her eyes and grabbed one of the notebooks Hermione had gifted her the previous year. “Have you been given any money towards it?”

“No, didn’t think to ask to be honest,” said Fred.

“Why don’t we make it a ticketed event? Say a galleon per ticket. Money goes towards food, drinks, decorations etcetera. Anything left over can go towards the next one.”

“Good idea.”

“You’ll need to sort tickets soon though and spread the word. Halloween is only two weeks away, especially if people want to go in costume… So what do we need?” Ava said as she started to write.

The next evening, Ava, Fred, and George gathered in the empty Great Hall to discuss the party details in hopes word had gotten out for people to help. They were soon joined by Blaise and Pansy, Luna, Hermione, and a handful of other students Ava didn’t know.

“First order of business,” Fred began, “decorations.”

Luna’s eyes sparkled. “We should have enchanted floating pumpkins, and dancing skeletons, and party games.”

Pansy smirked. “And maybe a few surprise hexes for added fun.”

Ava nodded thoughtfully. “Yes as long as they are harmless. Maybe some enchanted drinks to change someone’s appearance or voice temporarily. We’ll need to balance the spooky with the spectacular. How about a spell that replicates mist on the ground and one that makes the ceiling look like an eerie autumn night? Could you replicate the spell you used at the end of last year?” Ava asked the twins thinking of one of their failed attempts they had done to steal Quirrell’s turban.

“We could do that.”

Blaise leaned back in his chair. “I can help with that.”

“Okay, so Blaise can help us with any enhancements. Pansy, Luna, Alicia, and Felix are you good with the decorations." They all nodded. “We need them to be able to be set up quickly as we won’t have a lot of time after the Halloween feast…”Lee…you good for music; McGonagall said to contact Sirius Black and Remus Lupin to help set up a magical sound system.”

“Yes that’s fine with me; I’m already working on a playlist.”

“Perfect! Hermione can you organise tickets and sales; maybe stick a deadline on them so we know our budget.” Hermione nodded as she took down notes of the meeting. “Ava – you’re in charge of snacks and drinks; I’ve heard it on good authority that you’re on good terms with the house elves and know what decent Muggle snacks would be good to buy.”

“I can do that,” she agreed.

“Everyone else – be available to help out where needed and on the day to set up.” The rest of the group nodded. “Meet back here in a week to see where we are all at or find me if you have any other ideas.”

As the sun sank beneath the horizon, casting an eerie glow over the grounds of Hogwarts, a chill wind began to whisper through the castle walls. A hush fell over the students, a palpable sense of anticipation filling the air. The Halloween feast came and went quickly, the students to excited for the school’s first-ever Halloween party and were eager to get ready.

The Great Hall was transformed into a spooky wonderland, with cobwebs draped from the ceiling, flickering jack-o'-lanterns lining the small round tables that had replaced the usual long ones, and pretend graves lined the walls of the room. Fog hovered low to the floor, giving the room an eerie feel, with loud creepy sounds vibrating across the room. The committee had outdone themselves; they had even managed to set up a Muggle-style haunted house in an antechamber just off of the Great Hall.

The room soon filled up with excited students; at least three-quarters of the attendants in fancy dress. Ava spotted Muggle-type vampires, ghosts, zombies, fairytale, and book characters. There was a mixture of costumes she was unfamiliar with, and was certain they were from wizard stories. She spotted Sirius and Remus to one side, Sirius dressed as Michael Jacksons Thriller, complete with a red leather jacket. She was surprised by the choice, given Remus’s condition. Remus on the other hand was dressed as a black dog; complete with pointy ears and a black tail. He’d somehow managed to transfigure his skin to look like black fur too. Most of the professors had joined in too; McGonagall wore pointy ears and a cats tail, Pomfrey was dressed as a pumpkin, and tiny Professor Flitwick was dressed as Yoda – Ava had laughed loudly when she had seen him. Snape on the other hand was dressed in his usual black garb, but with the Michael Myers mask – it was freaking her out a bit; she hated those films.

Fred and George, dressed as Peter Pan and his shadow (she was curious how they knew the Muggle fairy tale), were in their element, mingling with their guests and making sure everyone was having a good time. Ava had had to talk them out of smuggling in some Firewhiskey, much to their disdain. The younger ones were enjoying a variety of treats, including chocolate frogs, gummy eyeballs, and blood-red cherry-co*ke, whilst the older ones seemed inclined to make a game out of the many different Muggle fizzy drinks on offer – either trying to figure out what the artificial flavours were, or in Crabbe and Goyles case seeing who could burp the loudest.

Ava had come with Blaise, Theo, and Draco dressed as the Musketeers after she had thrown them the idea and lent them the book; Draco writing to his mother to acquire costumes much to Ava’s surprise. They had argued who would be D’Artagnan; Ava winning out by saying she was the youngest; she had even painted on a handlebar moustache and goatee on her face, much to Theo’s amusem*nt, and the boys had acquired a potion to grow out their hair to replicate the styles of the era. They eventually found the Gryffindors; Harry dressed as the Grim Reaper, Ron a pirate complete with a wooden leg, and Hermione had managed to pull off an impressive Beetlejuice, complete with frizzy white hair.

“You guys look awesome,” Ava said before making everyone pose in front of the camera she had borrowed from Snape.

Music was blaring from somewhere within the room; an eclectic mix of songs that everyone could dance to. Ava dragged her friends onto the makeshift dance floor, encouraging other students to join them. Those that were magically raised were unsure to begin with; not used to the Muggle-style music, but they were soon up and dancing; the floor filling quickly. Between teaching the Purebloods Muggle ways of dancing, attempting ballroom again, and snacking on sweets, Ava and her friends joined in with party games including bobbing for apples in a huge cauldron that liquid turned your hair different colours for ten minutes. They took a turn around the haunted house which caused Draco to scream and grab onto Harry in panic. Ava had never laughed so hard, then practically wet herself when Ron tried to take the mick but screamed himself hoarse when a giant pretend spider fell from the ceiling. She even had a dance-off with Sirius and Theo (who just rolled with it, not having a clue about the song) to Michael Jackson’s Thriller – Sirius of course won.

As the night started to wind down, the music quietened, and the last remaining students gathered around a conjured bonfire in the middle of the hall controlled by Remus. They roasted marshmallows, ready to share ghost stories. The students all looked at each other nervously, no one wanting to be the first to tell a story; many having never participated in the Muggle pastime.

Sirius Black, a renowned storyteller, leaned forward, the flickering bonfire lighting up his face, making his gauntness stand out more prominently. “I’ve got a story,” he said with an air of mystery. The air thickened with anticipation. His long, jet-black hair, which had been styled artfully into messy waves, shimmered in the flickering candlelight, casting eerie shadows across the ancient stone walls. His piercing grey eyes scanned the crowd before he began.

“Back in the seventies, just after I left school I was riding my motorbike along a Muggle road. It was getting dark, the road stretching out for miles; dense trees lined either side without another soul in sight… I was feeling free, riding the adrenaline high that comes with speeding along at high speeds, when all of a sudden a chill swept over me, the darkness closing in… I sped up, a feeling in my gut telling me to leave the road as quickly as possible, when I suddenly spot a girl, not much younger than me standing at the side of the road... She looked lost, a slightly vacant look in her eye... I pulled over, worried for this girl's safety, she was wearing a long white nightgown and had bare feet.

‘Do you need a ride,’ I asked… She nodded, giving me an address in an eerily calm voice as she climbed stiffly on the back of the bike… I felt her cold limbs envelope me, holding tightly to my waist, her head resting on my shoulders... I sped off, the darkness unnerving, and wanting to know the reason she was out in the middle of nowhere alone in the middle of the night… I could see the trees opening up, the denseness becoming less. Relief filled me at the thought of exiting the creepy road when all of a sudden I could no longer feel the girl’s arms wrapped around me, nor her legs bracketing mine… I spun my head quickly to find she was no longer there… Reluctantly I circled back thinking she had fallen off… But there was no sign of her… Nothing…. I shouted… once…twice…three times, my voice starting to break with panic… The air felt stifling, my skin clammy with fear…There was no sound… No owls hooting, no trees rustling in the breeze… I turned tail and fled, throttling the bike to its limit… I found the address the girl had given me just as the sun was rising; my nerves frazzled… I assumed someone was looking for her, or at least knew of the girl… A Muggle couple answered the door. They were older, maybe in their late sixties… “Hello,” they said, startled at being woken at an ungodly hour, “may we help you?” I described the girl, asked if they knew of anyone with that description… Their faces drained of colour, their wrinkled skin turning white… “Our daughter,” the woman said with a gasp, “was this her?” She showed me a photo; it was old; the girl wearing a dress that was decades out style... “Yes,” I answered… “But it can’t have been,” the man choked out, “she died - twenty years ago in a hit and run.”

The students gasped, the younger ones clutching each other in fear. Even though they were surrounded by ghosts on a daily basis, the story sent goosebumps down their arms.

“Who’s next,” Sirius bellowed, making everyone jump.

“I’ve got one,” said Hermione. “This ones is based on Mary, the daughter of Henry VIII, King of England in the 1500s…Legend has it that young women were encouraged to walk up a flight of stairs backward holding a candle and a hand mirror, in a darkened house… As they gazed into the mirror, they were supposed to be able to catch a view of their future husband's face... Rumour spread that some would see a skull or the face of the death himself instead, indicating that they were going to die before they would have the chance to marry… As rumour spread, girls stopped the ritual until the tradition became a myth… However history has a way of recording itself, and a group of young girls came into possession of a book claiming if you chanted ‘Bloody Mary’ thirteen times in front of a mirror in a darkened room, the vision of Mary the First would appear, giving you knowledge of the future.

However, they were wrong… For on that fateful night, when all five girls returned to their homes and chanted that historic name, Mary’s apparition appeared as an, evil, demonic spirit, covered in the blood of her victims. They claimed the apparition screamed at them, cursing them, threatening to steal their soul and scratch their eyes out for daring to summon her… The girls screaming at what they saw ran, never to look into a mirror again… So be warned and take heed – for if you were to chant ‘Bloody Mary’ in front of a mirror – it might be the last thing you ever do!”

The evening went on, with students telling scary stories, both Muggle and magical, which occasionally caused some laughter when a few didn’t understand the context. Just before curfew Ava was encouraged to tell a story, having not voiced one yet – she couldn’t actually remember any.

“Okay – who’s heard of the Chamber of Secrets?” Only a couple of Slytherin students raised their hands. She was probably going to regret telling this story and was seriously tempting fate.

“Legend has it that during the establishment of Hogwarts, Salazar Slytherin co-existed peacefully with the three other founders… As time passed, he became increasingly adamant about his disapproval of the acceptance of Muggle-borns at Hogwarts… Disagreeing with the other Hogwarts founders about the matter, Slytherin left the school… According to legend, before he left, Slytherin created a secret chamber deep underground in Hogwarts Castle — known as the Chamber of Secrets.” She paused, allowing the other students to hang on to her words.

“That Chamber was home to a monster — a Basilisk; the king of serpents… Born from a chicken's egg, hatched beneath a toad. Its methods of killing are most wondrous, for aside from its deadly and venomous fangs, the Basilisk has a murderous stare, and all who are fixed with the beam of its eye shall suffer instant death... Only seeing the monster in a reflection can save you for you will petrify rather than die… The cry of a rooster can kill it,” (or the legendary sword she thought) “and only the rare tears of a phoenix can purify its poison.

Legend has it that Salazar wanted to use it to purge the school of all Muggle-borns... It was claimed that only the Heir of Slytherin could open the Chamber of Secrets, and control the monster within… Since Salazar’s death, no one had claimed to have found the chamber... For if the monster should be released, no one would be safe.” She ended dramatically, to the frightened stares of the students. – f*ck, maybe telling the story of Slytherins monster wasn’t the best idea.

“Right everyone – it’s nearly curfew, everyone bed,” Lupin said, making everyone jump out of their frightened stupor.

Ava said goodbye to the Gryffindors and followed the Slytherins and Hufflepuffs towards the dungeons; the groups huddling together, and looking around for any sign of monsters. A few screamed when the Bloody Baron floated through the wall, much to his confusion.

Ava herself kept looking for any sign of a petrified cat, or bloody writing’s on the wall.

An almighty scream vibrated through the corridor, startling the small group. Ava, Draco, and Theo rushed forward, finding a group of students clutching each other as they surrounded something. Ava pushed her way through, finding Mrs Norris lying prone on the floor, as still as a statue.

“Slytherins monster…”

“…it’s killed Mrs Norris.”

The whispers penetrated Ava’s brain.

NO, no, no – this can’t be happening.

Ava picked the cat up, hearing the gruntled sounds of Filch approaching. There was no writing on the walls, no blood. The scene felt wrong. She glared at the cat, it didn’t feel petrified, not like she knew what that looked or felt like but, she could definitely feel the cat’s heartbeat and feel it breathing and the cat’s eyes were closed.

“Renevate,” Ava said, pointing her wand at its chest, just as Filch screeched that she’d killed it.

The cat suddenly stretched; her claws out, before swiping at Ava and bolting towards Filch.

“She had just been stupefied,” Ava said, calming the other students. “She probably startled someone and they reacted out of instinct.

She was relieved to see Mrs Norris slinking round the corner, and couldn’t be happier to fall into bed.

The first week of November brought cold weather and the first Quidditch match of the year. The air was electric with anticipation as the students of Hogwarts chattered non-stop about the upcoming match.

“You okay Draco?” Ava asked that morning at breakfast, he was looking a little green, and sleep-deprived.

“I’m fine, Potter’s going to wish he’d never picked up a broom by the time I’ve finished with him,” he said forcing out a wicked grin, but Ava could tell he was nervous.

Ava smirked back. “Just make sure you keep your head in the game, and don’t try to antagonism him too much. You’re a brilliant seeker Draco.”

“Thanks, Ava.”

“How about you Theo?”

“I can’t wait.” He was vibrating with energy, eager to get going.

Ava said a quick good luck to Harry before leaving the Great Hall, he himself looked a little green, but he perked up when she threw on his training jumper like she done for every other one of his matches.

“I thought you would be wearing Draco’s?” Harry asked with a confused smile.

“Why the hell would I do that? It's tradition,” Ava answered whilst wrapping Draco’s green scarf around her neck that she’d stolen and added ‘Malfoy’ and ‘Nott’ to the ends. “Just because I’m a Slytherin doesn’t mean I won’t support my best friend.”

“Thanks, Ava,” Harry said blushing.

“Good luck, I’ll see you after,” she said as he hurried away with his team.

The sky was a vibrant blue, untouched by the slightest trace of clouds, and the sun shone down upon them, warming their faces against the bitter air. The excitement was palpable, for it was the first time that two teams were on even footing. Both Gryffindor and Slytherin were both equally determined to claim victory, their roaring cheers echoing across the grounds as they zoomed into the air and lapped the stadium; their new, sleek uniforms creating a blur of red and green, before landing in position ready for Madam Hooch's whistle. Wood and Flint shook hands, a look of determination in their eyes, and possibly trying to break each other’s fingers.

“On my whistle,” said Madam Hooch, “three…two…one…”

As the players took to the sky on their shiny new Comet brooms, the crowd roared even louder. There was a whirl of movement as the players shot off in all directions; Draco closely on Harry’s tail. Ava wasn’t sure if they were trying to antagonise each other or it was friendly banter, she just hoped that Draco concentrated on the game rather than Harry.

Ava winced as a Bludger nearly hit the Gryffindor Seeker; missing him by a hairs-breath. George shot past to wack the Bludger out of the way, but it turned mid-air to head back toward Harry.

f*ck – that bloody house elf

Why the f*ck was Dobby still interfering? There had been no sign of the diary, no petrified students.

Ava could see Harry trying to avoid the Bludger, dodging in and out of the other players, whilst Fred and George tried to keep if from taking Harry’s head off. She didn’t know what to do; Elf magic was different so she didn’t think Snape would be able to help. She watched in dread as Harry tried to out manoeuvre the deadly Bludger before a time-out was called so his teammates could converse– he was clearly trying to get them to leave him be, and focus on the rest of the players, but they didn’t seem to be agreeing with him.

The whistle was blown far too soon for Ava’s liking; the players shot to the sky just as the sky clouded over and the heavens opened. Harry swooped and dived, still trying to avoid the rogue Bludger. She saw Draco speed up to fly next to him before pulling him forcefully by the arm to avoid the Bludger taking him out. Ava wondered what Draco was thinking, why he was assisting Harry rather than searching for the Snitch himself? They continued to doge and dive, avoiding the rogue Bludger; clearly making a game of it, going by their wide smiles. Fred suddenly appeared, hitting the Bludger with all his might, causing it to fly a good distance away from the Seekers. They shot off, heading towards the Slytherin stands. Ava saw the Snitch – not too far in front of her, just after two Seekers spotted it. They were neck and neck, racing to be the victor.

“LOOK OUT!” Ava bellowed, but it was too late, the rogue Bludger came out of nowhere, smashing into Harry’s arm and ricocheting into Draco’s head. Ava screamed his name as the blonde started to fall, his legs sliding slowly over his broom. Harry, hearing her yell turned just inches away from catching the Snitch and shot forward, seeing his rival fall to his impending death.

Ava’s heart was in her throat. One of Harry’s arms was hanging limply at his side, whilst the other held tightly to the front of his broom whilst he kept his body flat; forcing the broom to go as fast as possible. She saw him change his stance, his thighs gripping tightly, locking his ankles together as his good hand letting go; reaching out to grab Draco’s arm and pulling up with all his strength to throw him over the front of his broom as he levelled off. He locked his good arm tightly over Draco’s limp body and clutched the handle like a lifeline.

They were going to crash, they were going to crash.

Ava wanted to close her eyes at the inevitable collusion, but her eyes betrayed her; focusing intently on the green and red blur. At the last possible minute Harry managed to pull up tightly; slowing the broom significantly. He clutched the back of Draco’s head as he rolled off the broom; cushioning the unconscious boy as they hit the muddy ground.

Ava felt like she couldn’t breathe, couldn’t move until she saw the imbecile Lockhart head towards the fallen boys. She rushed to the ground as fast as she could; her legs pounding, pushing people out of the way. She had to reach them, had to protect them.

“NO,” she screamed as she saw Lockhart raise his wand at Harry, but she was too late, she could see Harry’s arm lopping around like it was made of rubber. Lockhart raised his arm again, this time towards Draco who was lying unconscious on the floor; Harry’s hand still holding his head protectively.

Don’t you f*cking dare,” she bellowed, pushing the other team members out of the way before launching herself protectively over the top of Draco, careful not to touch him; one hand raised towards the incompetent teacher, her palm facing out in a gesture to say stay back.

“Miss Morgan, I know perfectly well what I am doing,” he said confidently.

“Yeah – tell that to Harry’s arm,” she yelled at him. More professors started to arrive as she screamed at the still smiling man.

“You are the most incompetent, arrogant fool that I have ever met. What the hell do you think you were doing? He has a f*cking head injury – you could have made him brain dead, or knowing you, removed his brain. Did you even cast a diagnostic charm? Braced his neck? ….No, of course you didn’t – you absolute moron.” The man’s smile faltered, but she continued before he could say anything. “We have a healer here for a reason – let the professional do her bloody job. In fact, let everyone do their jobs without you interfering and trying to give them your useless advice.”

“Ava – come, let us see to Draco,” Snape said kindly trying to lift her away from the boy.

“NO! Not until Madam Pomfrey arrives, I won’t risk this fraud being anywhere near him,” she snapped at her godfather before turning back to the now visually upset professor – the crocodile tears were not fooling her. “I warned you, Lockhart,” she sneered. “Who the f*ck even hired you? You’re the most useless teacher I’ve ever had the misfortune to meet. I’m done with your sh*t, consider this me removing myself from your lessons and self-studying.”

“You can’t do that – you need permission from your guardian.”

“Oh really,” she said sarcastically, “well guess what, I got permission as soon as you started working here.”

“Me too,” Harry said next to her, who was lent protectively against Ava; shielding Draco from view, his useless arm lying limply by his side.

“I suggest you leave,” Snape said snidely, causing the fraud to stutter, but he was saved by Madam Pomfrey barging her way through the crowd.

“Ava I need your help. I’m going to keep his neck, and back still. Run a diagnostic for me.”

Ava nodded, chanting the spell. She gulped at what she saw. Draco had a fractured skull, a serious concussion, whiplash and small bleed on his brain. Plus a few cracked ribs where he had fallen hard onto Harry.

“Snape,” Pomfrey bellowed. “Conjure a stretcher for me.” He nodded, quickly doing as asked.

“Ava, I need you to conjure a neck brace on him,” she said as she poured a potion gently into Draco’s mouth and massaged his throat. Ava did as asked, her hand still despite the anxiety crawling in her stomach. “Right, on three, we need to lift together to get him on the stretcher. One – Two – Three.” The two levitated in sync the pale, fragile blonde until he was laid on the hovering stretcher.

Draco looked paler than ever, his skin practically translucent looking so incredibly vulnerable. Ava took one last like at him before Pomfrey directed her to take care of Harry and escort him to the infirmary.

“Is he going to be alright,” Harry asked quietly as she ran a diagnostic on him. He had a bruised spine, cracked ribs, and obviously missing all the bones in his arm.

“I don’t know Harry,” she said, her voice shaking as she helped to lift him to his feet. “You probably saved his life.”

“I don’t understand what happened, that Bludger wouldn’t leave me alone…and….and Draco. He tried to; well I don’t know what he was trying to do. But said it wasn’t a fair match, that he wasn’t going to leave my side until the Bludger buggered off. I should have told him to leave me... It’s my fault… We were having too much fun trying to outdo each other every time the Bludger came near.”

“Harry, it wasn’t your fault. Someone clearly tampered with it. Draco was just unlucky.” Harry was crestfallen but nodded. “Come on let’s get you to the hospital wing, you’ve got a long night ahead of you.”

Ava settled Harry into a bed next to the only other occupied one; the curtains pulled closed. She cast a spell to clean Harry up, and helped him change into some striped cotton pyjamas. She expected him to be embarrassed or shy but he kept glancing over to Draco’s bed; his face frowning in worry as his fingers continuous ran through his already messy hair.

“Lie down, I’m going get you some potions,” she said before rushing off to the potions cabinet. “Here drink these first. They will help with the pain, and to heal your spine.”

Harry gulped the two potions down without question.

“Now this one.”

“Gahhh,” Harry gagged.

“Skele-gro. You’re in for a painful night,” Ava said sympathetically.

“I don’t care…can you check on him?” Harry said, his green eyes pleading with worry.

Ava nodded, before ducking between the closed curtains. Pomfrey had cleaned Draco up already, he was wearing stripy cotton pyjamas like Harry’s, and looked like he was only sleeping, except for how stiff and pale he looked.

“How is he?”

“He’ll live, he might have some memory issues, but we won’t know until he wakes up. His neck and ribs are healing, and I’ve managed to sort his bleed on the brain. I don’t know what would have happened if you hadn’t of been there,” she said looking upset before she turned angry. “That incompetent fool – what was he thinking? If he had gotten hold of Mr Malfoy …..Well I don’t want to think about the damage he could have caused. I tried to give the man the benefit of the doubt after hearing the other professors complain but…Merlin…I think they were being generous.”

“Well, I gave him a piece of my mind, and quit his lessons.”

“You did?”

Ava gave her a disbelieving look, as if to say really.

“Of course you did,” Pomfrey said giving her a fond look. “He just needs rest now,” she added looking down at Draco, “and hope.” She patted Ava’s hand kindly before drawing the curtains back, and leaving for her office.

“Do you really think he will be okay?” Harry asked as he looked over at the unconscious boy.

Ava took a seat between the two beds. “I really hope so.”

The two teams streamed in at some point, eager to see how the two boys were. The game was declared over, the teams agreeing to a draw of 50-50, given the unfairness of the match and loss of their Seekers. Madam Pomfrey eventually ushered them out before they could overstay their welcome, declaring the boys needed rest, and peace and quiet.

Ava spent the night in the infirmary, refusing to leave her two friend's sides. After spending hours talking with Harry, she dozed on the chair, fidgeting as she tried to get comfortable before Harry huffed and told her to get in with him.

“Maybe I should get into one of the empty beds,” Ava said as she snuggled down, soaking in Harry’s warmth.

“And have Madam Pomfrey get mad at you for dirtying her sheets, and taking up a patient's bed?”

“Good point, although she’ll still go mad if she catches me in here with you.”

“Tough,” Harry said bucking no argument making Ava snigg*r.

Neither of them got much sleep; Ava waking from nightmares of watching her boys fall, over and over again, or of Lockhart dissolving Draco’s entire internal organs, whilst Harry kept being woken by either pins and needles in his arm or Ava squirming in her sleep. At some point Draco’s parents came and went; Narcissa crying at his bedside until they both disappeared, no doubt to curse the Headmaster.

In the early hours of the morning, when they were both dozing but not really asleep, they were awoken once again by the sounds of Dumbledore backing into the room, wearing a long woollen nightgown and a nightcap, and carrying what appears to be a statue with McGonagall. Ava burrowed down under the covers to not be seen, Harry moving quietly to cover her.

“Get Madam Pomfrey,” Dumbledore whispered.

Ava heard hushed voices before Pomfrey came bustling into the room with McGonagall.

“What happened?” Pomfrey asked

“There’s been an attack.”

“An attack? Who?”

“Colin Creevey”

“How was he attacked? He looks stiff as a board.”

“We do not know; he was found by Filch with a message. We believe he may have been there for some time. None of his housemates had seen him since last night,” said Dumbledore.

“A message?”

The Chamber of Secrets has been opened. Enemies of the heir beware,” McGonagall said stoically, the message can’t be cleaned away either so the students will soon be made aware.”

“We think it may have been a prank,” Dumbledore said. Ava had to hold her tongue. “I believe there were scary stories told at Halloween, one about Salazar’s secret chamber.”

“I’m not so sure, Albus, how would anyone even do this?” said McGonagall. Ava could hear the disbelief in her voice.

“How indeed,” said Pomfrey. “Where exactly was he found?”

“On the fifth floor, he had this on him.”

Ava stifled a gasp giving Harry a fearful look... She knew what was coming

“Do you think it caught his attacker?” Pomfrey asked.

Ava could hear the sound of steam, and smell an acrid scent of burnt plastic.

“Melted, all melted,” said Pomfrey

“Do you know what’s wrong with him,” McGonagall continued. “He has no visual ailments.”

“I believe he has been petrified,” said Dumbledore.

“Petrified? Like the Medusa myth?” scoffed McGonagall.

“In a sense, except for he is not stone. His body has merely solidified,” explained Pomfrey.

“He’s dead?” McGonagall gasped.

Harry stared wide-eyed at Ava.

“No,” Pomfrey reassured. “More like he’s in stasis; like he has been frozen.”

“Will he be okay, can you heal him?”

“I believe mandrakes are the answer, but unfortunately they are not ready. Professor Snape tried to acquire more mature ones before the start of term but he was unsuccessful, however, the ones he did manage to get will be ready by Easter.”

“What does this mean Albus?” McGonagall asked.

“I believe it is all but a prank like I said before.”

The adults moved away from Harry and Ava, and they could no longer hear their conversation.

“Ava – what do you think happened?” Harry whispered his green eyes wide with worry.

“Slytherins monster.”

“Don’t joke Ava.”

“I’m not,” she said seriously.

“But a basilisk stare kills, not petrifies.”

“They said he was found with something, it was probably his camera. He might not have seen the basilisk directly; was probably looking through his camera lens.”

“Why did none of the professors think of that?”

“Why indeed. I don’t think they believe in the legend. Although I’ve heard rumours it was opened fifty years ago.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, it was never proven. Hagrid was accused of it, and was expelled. It’s why he’s not allowed to do magic.”

“Hagrid,” Harry said a little too loudly. They froze, listening to see if they had been caught awake but no one came to them.

Ava nodded. “He doesn’t know that I know though, so keep it quiet.”

“Why would he have been blamed?”

“Because people are morons, and like to brush over the facts rather than get to the truth. He had a pet spider – an acromantula. So automatically he was the scapegoat after Myrtle died.”

“Myrtle?”

“She haunts the girl’s bathroom.”

“She haunts a bathroom?” Harry whispered in disbelief.

“Yep, likes to flood it too.” Ava had so far avoided Myrtle's bathroom not wanting to listen to her moaning whilst she had a wee, or get her feet soaked when she got into a mood and flooded the place.

“Why do you think Hagrid wasn’t the real culprit?”

“I came across it in the archives when I was researching Sirius; she had no visual wounds or any poison in her system. If an acromantula had killed her then she would have visual poisoning symptoms; blackish veins, foaming mouth, that kind of thing. Spiders will either eat their prey or wrap it with their webs for later. None of that happened. Nothing a spider could do would cause her to just drop dead.”

“We should tell someone.”

“I’ll tell my godfather,” she said, even though Snape already knew there was a beast living in the bowels of the castle, “we don’t want mass panic.”

Harry nodded. “Ava…”

“What’s wrong?”

“I’ve been hearing voices,” he whispered, his voice barely audible.

“Voices? Like in your head?”

“No, like in the walls, but no one’s been able to hear them except me. “

“What were they saying?”

“It kept saying it wanted to kill something, to rip and tear them,” Harry said, his voice shaking slightly.

Ava looked at him with worry, knowing exactly what was happening. “When did you hear this Harry?”

“Last night.”

f*ck.”

“What is it?”

“It’s the basilisk, Harry, It’s moving around the pipes,” she whispered. “You’re the only one that can hear it because you’re a Parselmouth.”

f*ck!” he swore, resting his forehead against hers. “What do we do?”

“I don’t know – Dumbledore won’t take us seriously by the sounds of it. Just don’t make it obvious if you hear it – and for the love of god Harry – do not follow it.”

“I won’t Ava, I’m not stupid,” he said snapping his head up at her; his green eyes staring determinedly into hers.

“Philosopher’s stone ring any bells? I ain’t going up against a basilisk to save your arse.”

“Yes you would,” Harry whispered cheekily. “I keep thinking about that night; how my magic felt.”

Ava looked at Harry with worry; he hadn’t talked much about that night. “Describe it to me.”

“My head felt like it was on fire but the rest of me felt ice-cold. You know the feeling you have deep inside where you know your magic comes from?” Ava nodded, she knew exactly what he meant, like her magic pooled in her chest; a warm fuzzy feeling just waiting to be released. “Well, I could feel it weakening.”

“Like you were dying?”

“Yeah, sort of, but also like it was being dragged out of me; up through my head. If you hadn’t have found me when you did I think I would be dead.”

“Don’t say that Harry. Snape and Dumbledore would have got to you if I hadn’t”

Harry shook his head. “I’m not so sure. Do you know though ever since then my magic’s felt stronger.”

“It has?”

“Yeah, spells come a bit easier now; like I had a mental block before.”

Ava’s eyes narrowed in thought. “A mental block?”

“Yeah, sometimes spells were a struggle to cast but they seem easier now. I don’t have to try so hard, and my mind feels less fuzzy – I can concentrate easier.”

“Maybe that’s just your magic improving. We’ve all got better at casting,” Ava said whilst glancing at Harry’s scar – It still looked red and angry.

“Yeah maybe,” Harry said sleepily.

As Harry settled down to try to get some more sleep, Ava lay there wide awake; her brain working overtime. She was going to murder Lucius. She racked her brains, thinking of anyone who looked like they were being possessed, but no one came to mind. Who would have Lucius given the diary to if not Ginny? She’d have to make a plan to raid her room, just in case. And Harry’s magic; had her spell released something in Harry? She wasn’t naïve enough to think the Horcrux in Harry’s head had magically disappeared but maybe something else had been blocking his magic – like a bind as it wouldn’t surprise her if Dumbledore had done something to him. She’d get Snape to check him over just in case.

Ava rolled over to look at Draco, he’d not moved at all, lying just as still at Colin. There was no way of summoning Dobby without him, and she feared for what was to come - the first thing she was going to do is make sure everyone carried a mirror with them.

Chapter 11: Incompetent Wizards, Relief, and the Ridiculous Duelling Club

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

The following morning Ava was rudely woken by Madam Pomfrey tutting loudly. She’d only managed to fall asleep around dawn and was about to chastise the matron for being in her dorm room when she suddenly felt the weight of another body pinning her down. Harry was sprawled across the bed on his front, his arm laid heavily over her stomach. The realisation of where she was hit her like a freight train; she’d hoped yesterday had been a bad dream but the sickening feeling in her stomach brought everything rushing back to her. She turned her head towards Harry. He was now wide awake with a worried, but embarrassed look on his face.

“Seeing as you insisted on staying the night, you can assist me this morning,” Pomfrey said firmly but not unkindly.

“Yes, Madam Pomfrey.” Ava bashfully shuffled out of bed, giving Harry a warm smile, before dutifully following Pomfrey to her office. She gave Draco a lingering glance as she passed; he looked so young and defenceless lying there unmoving. Her stomach squirmed at the thought of him never waking again; a lump sticking in her throat.

“Here, give these to Harry,” she said passing a pain potion and some simple clothes; grey comfortable trousers and a white top.

“How is Draco?”

Pomfrey sighed, “He’s over the worst of it, it’s up to him now to wake up.”

“How long do you think that will be?” Ava said worrying her lip between her teeth.

“Could be hours, could be days, weeks even.”

“Weeks?” Ava exclaimed.

“The head is a delicate thing, Ava, we cannot rush his healing.”

Ava nodded in understanding. “What about Colin?”

“You heard then?” Pomfrey said, giving Ava a disapproving look.

“Hard not to. You don’t honestly think it’s a prank do you?”

Pomfrey looked angry. “No, I don’t.”

“Then why does Dumbledore?” Ava snapped. “I heard what the message said, if the chamber has been opened then there’s a bloody great big snake on the loose.”

“Ava that’s just a legend and Colin would have died if he had come face to face with a basilisk,” Pomfrey said a little patronizingly.

“He was found with his camera. He could have seen it through the lens.”

“I...” Pomfrey seemed to freeze for a moment. “I never thought of that, but honestly I doubt it’s true.” Ava frowned at her in disbelief. “But I’ll pass the information on to the Headmaster.”

Ava nodded before turning to help Harry and fetch them both some breakfast.

By the time she left the infirmary and parted ways with Harry, she was both mentally and physically drained. The news of Creevey had spread amongst the houses. She could hear whispers amongst the students, some even approaching her; knowing she helped out in the infirmary asking for information. She was about to snap at them to leave her alone. Not one had asked about Draco’s condition, luckily Theo caught her before she reached the common room.

“You look like sh*t,” he said, his eyes scrutinizing her appearance.

“Thanks, Theo, love you too,” she deadpanned.

Theo grinned. “You want to go to the tree house?”

Ava breathed out loudly in relief, “god yes.” They’d not visited their tree house in the Room of Requirement since returning to school.

The beautiful pink cherry blossom welcomed them with open arms (metaphorically speaking) and they settled amongst the comfortable blankets and cushions before either of them spoke.

“How’s Draco and Harry?” Theo asked with clear worry on his face.

“Harry’s fine, he’s gone back to Gryffindor Tower. Draco’s still unconscious. Pomfrey said he’s healed physically, but we won’t know if he’s had any damage to his brain until he wakes up,” Ava said her voice breaking. “It’s my fault.”

“How’s it your fault Ava,” Theo said scooting over to put his arm around her, allowing her to rest her tired head on his shoulder. “If it wasn’t for you Lockhart would have probably killed him.”

“That’s not what I mean….If I…I,” she started, her throat thick with emotion making it difficult to speak. “I’ve changed things, and…and…and now Draco’s hurt… I shouldn’t even be here.” The damn burst, tears streaming down her cheeks as sobs wracked through her, making her body shake.

Theo pulled her into his arms, hugging her tightly. He didn’t ask what she had meant, just reassured her over and over again that it wasn’t her fault until she fell into an exhausted sleep.

Ava woke a few hours later, curled up against Theo’s side whilst he read a book, feeling raw and rung out.

“I’m sorry for having a breakdown on you,” she said, feeling embarrassed that she’d cried and snotted all over him.

“Ava – you never have to apologise to me. Especially not for being upset about your friends. I don’t know what you meant before, and I won’t ask. But whatever happened wasn’t your fault, someone tampered with that Bludger.”

“It was Dobby,” she said her voice still filled with exhaustion.

Theo looked confused. “Draco’s house elf?”

“Yeah.”

“Why the hell would his house elf try to murder Harry?” His piercing blue eyes turned to steel; his mouth a thin line. “Did Lucius put him up to it?”

“No, he think’s if he gets Harry hurt, he’d have to leave. He stopped Harry from getting his mail at the start of the summer in hopes that Harry would think his friends had forgotten about him, so he wouldn’t return to school. I think the brick wall on the train tracks and Harry’s luggage ending up in the Whomping Willow was him too.”

“But why and how do you know this?”

Ava turned to look at Theo, her blue eyes piercing his own. “Do you really want to know?”

“I do, but you know the reasons why I think it’s a bad idea, so don’t tell me,” Theo said shaking his head.

“Okay, but as to the reason why, it’s because Lucius has passed a dark object to someone in the school. They used it to open the Chamber of Secrets, and Dobby thinks Harry’s in danger because of it.”

“The Chamber of Secrets is open?” Theo said in shock. “But it’s a myth.”

Ava shook her head, “No, Colin Creevey was petrified last night – he must have seen it through his camera; it’s why he’s not dead. No doubt Dumbledore will deny it. I overhead him in the infirmary last night saying he thought it was a prank.”

Unf*cking believable. So the basilisk is real!”

“You believe me?”

“Of course I bloody believe you. – Ava I’ve watched you since the minute we met, I know you know things before they happen. I don’t know how, nor do I want to know right now. So of course I’m going to believe you when you say there’s a great big snake living in the school.”

“Yeah, thanks Theo – promise me you’ll carry a mirror with you everywhere you go?”

“I promise.”

“I don’t know what to do. How do we warn people without causing mass panic? The teachers won’t do anything unless the Headmaster tells them to.”

“I don’t know, but ever since Halloween I’ve seen people carrying mirrors, so your story must have got some people paranoid, and no doubt more people will be cautious after finding out about Colin.”

“I hope so.”

***

“Pray tell, Ava,” Snape said when she entered his quarters later that afternoon. “Why is there hysteria amongst the students?”

“What do you mean?”

“The Chamber of Secrets ring any bells? You told them the story at Halloween.”

“Erm…”

“Why, Ava? Why?”

Ava threw herself onto the sofa. “We were telling scary stories – it was the only one I could think of.”

“And now look what’s happened – everyone knows about Creevey so the whole student body is hysterical.”

“Well, at least they will be more vigilant. I’d rather them be cautious than waving it off as a prank like Dumbledore is trying to do.”

Snape sighed, sitting down next to her on the sofa where she rested her head tiredly against his shoulder. “Yeah you are right – sorry. I’ve just had to listen to Hagrid whittle on about his damn roosters for the past hour.”

“Roosters,” Ava asked in confusion before shooting to her feet. “f*ck ­– the bloody roosters…I forgot about the damn roosters. I take it they are all dead then.”

“How did you know?”

“Whoever’s got the diary will have killed them so they can’t kill the snake, this is a disaster,” Ava said throwing herself back onto his sofa and banging the back of her head against the cushion.

“Ava – we can get more roosters; I’m sure Black can be of assistance.”

Two days later after Ava wrote to Sirius claiming she needed a rooster for a prank; one rather excited animagus met her in the secret passageway to Honeydukes along with a rather ruffled bird.

“So what’s the prank?” he asked excitedly.

“Erm – haven’t decided yet; maybe use it to wake Lockhart up at an ungodly hour every day, or cover Dumbledore’s office with feathers.”

“They're a bit tame,” Sirius said disappointed.

“Sirius, it’s not really for a prank,” she went on to explain the real reason much to his disbelief, by the time they parted ways he was ready to hex Dumbledore into oblivion, tear down the castle in search of the snake and conduct a thorough search of everyone's possessions, which wasn’t actually a bad idea if they got no further finding the truth.

“Meet Hans Gruber,” Ava said laughing when she snuck the rooster into Snape’s quarters; he had no idea the significance of the name.

Snape did not look impressed in the slightest at having his quarters invaded by a crowing bird.

Later that evening, after dinner Ava frog-marched Harry to Snape’s quarters so he could perform some tests on him.

“Do I have to?” Harry moaned as they walked the dungeon corridors and used a large hand mirror to peer around corners. “Surely Madam Pomfrey would have picked up on something.”

“Not necessarily Harry. Please – just to give me peace of mind,” she begged pouting her lip.

“Fine!”

“Uncle Sev,” Ava shouted as she entered the room.

“What is it Ava?” Snape said who was sitting by the fire reading a book.

“Could you check Harry over, like you did with me? After last year Harry said his magic feels different.”

“Can you explain exactly what you mean,” Snape asked kindly. Harry went on to tell him what he had told Ava about how his magic felt less restrained and easier to wield.

“That does sound suspicious, am I okay to perform some spells on you?” Harry nodded.

About an hour later after Harry had been subjected to numerous spells, potions, and a bezoar Snape sighed.

“There are traces of a magical sever.”

“Magical sever?” Harry gasped. “What does that mean?”

“It looks like someone had conducted a spell on you to restrict your magic.”

“Dumbledore,” Ava said through gritted teeth.

“I can’t be certain – the magic was thoroughly hidden; I can’t find a magical signature.”

“Can it be removed?” Harry asked hopefully.

“It already has, whatever spell Ava used last year lifted it; it removed whatever spell was in place, essentially healing your magical core.”

“Healing my magical core?” Harry asked confused.

“From my observations, someone had intentionally cut some of your magic. Imagine your magical core is made up of thousands of strings, all intertwined.” Harry and Ava both nodded in understanding. “Some people have more than others, they usually represent how powerful a person is but rarely are anyone tested to check unless they are grievously injured to the point where their magic would drain to dangerous levels.”

“I felt my magic draining that night,” Harry said.

Snape nodded. “That is concerning, but I think whatever spell that was used on you made you more vulnerable to whatever was causing that. Now that Ava lifted the spell you should be stronger to resist anything similar in the future. As I was saying about the magical strings so to speak, about a quarter of yours looks to have been cut.”

“Cut,” Ava gasped.

“Yes, they have been repaired now but they leave scars just like an external wound could. They will fade and strengthen over time, and will have no lasting effects unless they were to be cut again.”

“Why would someone do this?” Harry asked dropping heavily onto the sofa.

Snape looked worriedly at the dark-haired boy. “I do not know.”

“Could it have been a side effect from the AK curse?” Ava asked.

“No – I’m positive on that. It was deliberate – you need accuracy to do something like this. There’s something else,” Snape said hesitantly.

“What? What is it?” Harry asked.

“You have a health tracker and location tracker on you.”

“Could Pomfrey have put it on me?” Harry asked.

Snape shook his head. “No, it’s old. Probably from when you were a small child.”

“Dumbledore,” Harry said, angrily. “So he definitely knew all the abuse I suffered!” Harry pulled his hair in frustration until Ava gently tugged them free and held them in her own. She was just glad Harry was finally recognising his childhood for what it was and that it wasn’t normal as he once thought.

“I can remove them,” Snape said kindly.

Harry looked at him determinedly. “Do it!”

With a swish of his wand, Snape removed the tracking spells.

“How will we explain this? Dumbledore will know they have been removed,” Harry asked realising the implications.

“We don’t,” said Ava. “If he starts asking questions then he’s going to look guilty, as how would he know about them if he didn’t place them there himself? Just don’t be left alone with him as he would no doubt try to recast them. I think it would be wise to have you checked over once a month as least just in case though.” Harry nodded in agreement.

Snape moved to his writing desk, pulling out a fresh piece of parchment. “I’m going to send my findings to Madam Bones and to your godfather; they should be informed.”

Harry nodded. “Why didn’t Pomfrey find them when she did her health checks though? I’ve had one at the start of every term and she’s never mentioned them.”

“I can only speculate,” said Snape, “but the trackers were well hidden as they were old. Magic creates layers as your magical core grows and she probably didn’t feel the need to peel back so far. She would have been more concerned with your injuries and general health than searching for trackers; they're not something a healer would generally search for as they are not a health matter. As for the damage to your magical core, whoever did it was powerful enough to hide it; make it look like your core was weaker than it was. Again Pomfrey would have had no reason to look so closely. I only did it because of the explanation you gave me about your magic. Whoever did this knew you were going to be powerful Harry; they obviously thought you were going to be a threat.”

Harry worried his lip. “Could it have been Moldy?”

“I doubt it, Harry,” said Ava. “When would he have gotten close enough to you to do something like that? It would have had to have been someone powerful enough and someone close enough to your parents.”

Whilst Snape and Ava looked angry, Harry looked damn right furious; his jaw had tightened and his teeth clenched together in fury. “One day I’m going to end the person that did this to me.”

“And I’ll be with you every step of the way,” Ava said determinedly locking her pinkie finger with his.

***

Days passed and Draco still didn’t wake. Ava spent hours outside of lessons sat talking nonsense, or pleading with him to wake up. She hadn’t realised how much Draco meant to her until his voice no longer filled the common room with laughter and sarcasm, or made snarky remarks toward her. Merlin, she missed him.

Ava sat one evening by Draco’s bedside lost in thought, when Draco’s parents entered the hospital wing. So far she had avoided them, not for the lack of trying, as she had been eager to catch the Malfoy patriarch.

Malfoy,” she snapped. She was tired and cranky, and so done with the bullsh*t already. “Who did you give it to?”

“I beg your pardon!”

“Where is it?” she hissed.

“Where is what?” he said innocently, like he didn’t have a clue what Ava was on about.

“You know exactly what I’m talking about,” she shouted.

“It’s at home – secure if you must know. Not that it’s any of your business,” he said, his nose stuck up in the air like he had something foul beneath it.

“Then explain him,” she said pointing to Colin who was at the far end of the ward. “And why there was a message claiming the Chamber of Secrets has been opened.”

“Miss Morgan, you need to keep your hysterics to yourself. I have no idea what you are talking about.”

“DO NOT PATRONISE ME! That object is currently possessing someone in this school, and has released a bloody basilisk,” she snapped.

Malfoy scoffed. “That is but a mere rumour. There has never been any proof of its existence. And how would this object possess someone?”

Ava got right up in his face and whispered through gritted teeth so his wife couldn’t hear her, “I know who that diary belonged to, I know the truth as to what it is, and I know what it’s capable of. DO NOT be naïve Malfoy. Where is the diary?”

Lucius gulped, his face turning ashen. “I swear it’s at home. I do not know what it is capable of; I was not privy to such information. I took your warning seriously.”

“Go and check.”

“What?”

“I said go and check. NOW.”

Ava was surprised when the upper-class twit, turned and left leaving his wife behind.

“I’ve never met anyone quite like you Miss Morgan,” Narcissa said with a smirk. “Nor anyone who can handle my husband other than myself.”

“Well, it’s idiots like him who cause the most problems in this world. No offence.”

“None taken. What is this object you speak of?”

“Something Moldy left in your husband’s possession, or maybe his father's. It’s extremely dangerous and needs to be destroyed.”

“Is that what really hurt my Draco?” she asked looking fearfully at her son.

“Not directly no.”

“What do you mean, not directly?”

“You’re house elf was aware of the object, and thought to protect Harry. He had a misguided logic to what he was doing. Draco got caught in the crossfire.”

“What? My house elf? Which one?”

“Dobby.”

“DOBBY!” she bellowed.

The house elf in question popped into the room; his eyes wide and little body shaking.

“Yes Miss Cissy,” Dobby stuttered, clearly terrified out of his mind. Ava wanted to protect him, knew the abuse he suffered, but she couldn’t bring herself to defend him. Draco and Harry’s fall kept playing over and over again in her mind, and her nightmares were constantly filled with images of Draco broken and bloody.

“Did you hurt Draco?” Narcissa questioned firmly.

“I did not mean to; it was meant for Mr Potter.”

“Why, why were you trying to kill Harry?”

“Not kill, never kill. Dobby wanted to save Harry Potter’s life, Mistress Cissy. Better sent home, grievously injured than remain here. Dobby only wanted Harry hurt enough to be sent home. Terrible things are to happen; Dobby cannot allow for history to repeat itself. I didn’t mean for Master Draco to get hurt; it was an accident,” Dobby said looking hopelessly at the unconscious blonde.

“Dobby,” Ava interrupted. “Do you know who has the diary?”

“Answer her,” Narcissa said when Dobby remained silent.

“No Misses Ava. I just knew it had left the Manor.”

“Can you find it?”

Dobby shook his head, his bat-like ears wafting about.

“Dobby, I will deal with you later,” Narcissa said quickly when they heard the unmistakable sound of Lucius’s cane hitting the floor. He bowed and disappeared quickly.

“Do not hurt him,” Ava pleaded. “His heart was in the right place.”

“I do not hurt my house elves Miss Morgan; I will make sure Lucius does not hear of this. But Dobby will be punished one way or another. He nearly killed my boy, accident or not.”

Ava nodded before the door burst open, showing a pale and shaking Malfoy. “It’s gone.”

“Gone – how can it be gone?”

“It was in my study, I was planning on taking it to Gringotts so I left it on my bookcase, but it’s not there.”

“If you’re lying Malfoy – so help me…”

“I swear.”

Ava swiped her hand over her face in frustration before pacing at the end of Draco’s bed. “When was the last time you saw it?”

“I don’t know. I put it amongst my books the same day we were in Diagon. I was deciding whether to keep it at home or store it in my vault. But I never got round to sorting it. Only a Malfoy has access to my study unless I have a meeting. Not even the house elves can go in.”

“Who have you had meetings with?” Ava demanded, stopping to glare at him.

“Erm – Crabbe and Goyle were over a few days ago. I had a meeting with Nott last week, one with my lawyer. A few people I make investments with, including the chairman of Cartier.”

“So anyone could have f*cking taken it!” she yelled in frustration. “If anyone ends up dead because of your incompetence I will rip off your dick off and shove it down your throat, in hopes you choke on the damn thing.”

Narcissa made a noise – Ava couldn’t decipher whether it was a noise of shock or that she was covering up a snort.

I know…let’s leave a dark artifact lying around that belongs to Old Moldy for anyone to take,” she said sarcastically. “You are an absolute moron.”

“Never have I heard such vulgar language.”

“Never have I met such an idiotic, incompetent man,” Ava shot back just as the door banged open.

“Ah Mr Malfoy, just the man I wanted to see.”

“I stand corrected,” Ava said sarcastically rolling her eyes and gesturing towards Lockhart who strode in the room, wearing bright green robes, looking all perfectly put together with a beaming smile. Read the room, you utter twat.

“And you are?” Lucius said, looking him up at down in disgust; his nose scrunched, causing Lockhart’s smile to falter.

“Gilderoy Lockhart; Order of Merlin, Third Class, Honorary Member of the Dark Force Defence League, and five times winner of Witch Weekly's Most Charming Smile Award.”

“And the world’s biggest imbecile,” Ava muttered under her breath.

Lucius looked like he’s stepped in a pile of hippogriff sh*t. Lockhart faltered when Lucius didn’t reply or seem impressed.

“I tried to heal Mr Malfoy; I knew just the spell and would have had him up on his feet in a jiffy had I been allowed to attend to him. But Miss Morgan here stopped me before I could perform the spell.”

The Malfoys turned to stare at her.

“Oh please….don’t believe the crap that comes out of this man’s mouth. If his wand had gotten anywhere near Draco, he would have had liquid for brains. He vanished all of the bones in Harry’s arm when a simple spell could have fixed him. Trust me when I say you do not want this man anywhere near your son.”

Luckily Madam Pomfrey rushed out of her office, clearly having heard the raised voices.

“Lockhart – out. What have I told you about interfering in my ward? You’ve caused enough harm as it is.” Pomfrey shooed him out of the room before he could protest or feed any more lies to the Malfoys before returning to her office.

“Ava – do you have to yell so much, and did I imagine you telling my father you were going to rip his dick off and shove it down his throat?” a croaky voice said behind her.

“Draco,” Ava choked, shoving Lucius out of the way, rushing to his bedside, and taking his hand. Tears pooled in her eyes as all her emotions came to head and literally started leaking out of her. “You’re awake.”

“I sure hope so, or this is one weird dream,” he said sarcastically, looking between Ava and his parents.

“How are you feeling my darling?” Narcissa said as she gently pushed his hair out of his eyes.

“Like I got hit in the head with a Bludger.”

Ava smiled, giving a shaky laugh. “What can you remember?”

“That stupid Bludger that wouldn’t leave Harry alone and it hit me after it hit Harry. I remember going dizzy and losing my balance, then Harry catching me. The last thing I remember is him protecting my head, and taking the brunt of the fall. I blacked out after.”

Ava let out a sigh of relief. Draco seemed okay and she prayed he had no long-term damage.

“Mr Potter saved him?” Lucius said in disbelief.

“Yes, it would have been a hell of a lot worse if he hadn’t caught him,” Ava said haughtily, daring the pompous arse to make a scathing retort.

“I shall like to meet Mr Potter,” Narcissa said, whilst Lucius scoffed at the thought. “I owe him a debt of gratitude.”

Ava nodded before turning back to face Draco. “I’ll get Madam Pomfrey, and let your parents spend some time with you. Everyone will be glad to hear that you’re awake.” She gave him a quick peck to his hand, before releasing it to fetch the healer, not noticing Draco blushing or Narcissa giving him a knowing look.

Ava headed to Snape’s quarters instead of the common room, collapsing on his worn sofa, not wanting to face the Slytherin horde or their question’s just yet.

“Ava, are you okay?” he asked worriedly putting down the book he was reading.

“Yeah, Draco’s awake.”

“Draco’s awake?” he said with pure relief in his eyes.

“Yeah.” Ava forced out before bursting into tears; exhaustion, relief, and pure anger fighting with her emotions.

“Oh Sweetheart… come here” Snape opened his arms, and she collapsed willingly into them, sobbing her little heart out; her tears soaking his shirt. He rubbed her back gently and uttered calming words before she fell into a deep sleep.

Ava woke suddenly a few hours later. She was curled up on the sofa, with a warm blanket and the fire flickering low. It was dark, and the sound of quiet voices could be heard, but she felt like she was underwater; her head throbbed, and her limbs felt heavy. She rolled onto her side, her eyes closing unwillingly and fell back into a deep sleep.

When she eventually woke properly, it was morning. The sofa had been transfigured into a bed, and a glass of water and a pepper-up potion had been left for her, with a note.

Ava,

Call for Pippie, she will bring you some breakfast. You have been excused from your classes for the rest of the morning. Get some rest. Don’t forget to carry a mirror – just in case.

Love Uncle Sev.

Ava smiled at the note before tucking it away in her pocket and called for Pippie who popped into existence, bringing a tray full of sausages, eggs, bacon, beans, toast, fruit, and yogurt. Plus croissants, orange juice and coffee. Ava didn’t realise how hungry she was, and after glancing at the clock realised she’d been asleep for over twelve hours. She eventually made it to her dorm after eating her body weight in breakfast foods, to take a very long, hot shower. Her body still felt wrung out. Her head still full of chaotic thoughts.

She spent the rest of the morning in the common room where it was quiet, missing lunch due to having a late breakfast. Theo eventually found her before her afternoon classes.

Theo rushed towards her pulling her into a hug as he sat on the sofa. “Ava, are you okay? I’ve been so worried, Snape said you passed out with exhaustion.”

“Yeah I’m okay, I think everything just caught up with me; I’ve not been sleeping well. What have I missed?” She’d barely spoken to anyone since Draco’s accident, spending all her free time in the hospital wing.

“Well, everyone knows about Colin; Dumbledore’s encouraging the rumour that it was a prank gone wrong.”

Ava huffed. “Bloody fool.”

“Most don’t believe it though. It’s probably a good thing you told the story at Halloween; everyone’s being more cautious.”

“Merlin, this is a mess,” Ava said throwing herself back on the sofa dramatically. “Did you hear Draco’s awake? I was meant to come and tell you but…well…you know.”

“Yes, Snape told me last night when I knocked on his door looking for you. I went to see him this morning. He seemed his usual self – all snarky and demanding breakfast.”

Ava snorted. “Sounds like Draco.”

“He told me about you shouting at his father, although he’s a bit confused as to why, and then about Lockhart trying to interfere. No wonder you passed out.”

“Yeah – well, I’m sick of incompetent morons. Dumbledore’s lucky I’ve avoided him so far.”

“What were you arguing with Lucius about anyway?” Theo asked making himself comfortable on the sofa as Ava had sprawled out with her cold feet pushed under his thighs. “I told Draco it was just because he made some prejudiced comment.”

“Besides his incompetence… the artifact, the one that has the ability to open the chamber – it was in his possession, now it’s missing.”

Missing?”

“Yes, he originally tried to give it to Ginny Weasley over the summer, you know when he was fighting with her father, but I stopped him. He swears it was in his study, so we think one of his acquaintances has taken it. The thing is, it could be anyone, which means anyone in this school could be in possession of it.”

“f*ck!”

“f*ck indeed. Just help me keep an eye out on anyone who looks like they could be possessed, or maybe writing in a diary.”

“A diary?”

“Yeah, just don’t ask if you don’t want to know details.”

“I won’t, and I’ll keep watch. Maybe you should write to Madam Bones; get the aurors involved.”

“Yeah – maybe. It’s just risky – the diary can’t get into the wrong hands. If things get worse though I’ll have no choice; it’s not worth someone dying.”

“Have you seen the noticeboard?” Theo said changing the subject.

“No, why?”

“Someone’s set up a duelling club.” Ava groaned. “I thought you’d be excited by it.”

“It’s Lockhart,” Ava flopped her arm dramatically over her eyes. “Why….just…why?”

“Are you going to go?” Theo asked, patting her head mockingly.

“Only to laugh when Snape takes him out.”

***

A week later, Draco was released from the hospital wing, he still had to take it easy and had been forbidden to play Quidditch until after Christmas, which was fine as the teams agreed to rearrange their matches to accommodate him. He was also currently sulking as he wasn’t allowed to participate in the duelling club either.

“I feel totally fine, and Pomfrey can’t find anything wrong with me,” he said, his arms crossed with a cute little pout on his face.

“Draco, you said you had a dizzy spell only this morning,” Theo said giving him a scathing look.

“I just stood up too quick.”

“It’s not worth the risk, especially if you want to carry on playing Quidditch,” Ava reasoned. “Besides it will be fun to watch, Snape’s going to humiliate him.”

They reached the Great Hall to find it empty of tables, and a golden stage erected along one wall. Ava could hear curious mutters about who would be teaching them. She found Harry, and the rest of the Gryffindors huddled together to one side.

“You been practicing?” Ava whispered. She’d been teaching them more advanced spells all week just in case, including a protego. Plus some extras if the opportunity arose. With Draco not participating, and Snape no longer a twat towards Harry, she was confident no one would produce a snake.

Lockhart appeared on the stage, dressed in plum robes, with a beaming smile, accompanied in contrast by a dour-looking Snape, wearing all black, looking like he just walked out of a funeral – maybe he was pretending it was Lockhart’s.

Lockhart waved for silence, “Gather round, gather round! Can everyone see me? Can you all hear me? Excellent…Now, Professor Dumbledore has granted me permission to start this little duelling club, to train you all in case you ever need to defend yourselves as I myself have done on countless occasions — for full details, see my published works…Let me introduce my assistant, Professor Snape, he tells me he knows a little bit about duelling himself and has sportingly agreed to help me with a short demonstration before we begin. Now I don’t want any of our youngsters to worry – you’ll still have your Potions Master when I’m through with him, never fear.”

Ava snorted loudly, before raising her hand, in mock politeness.

“Yes, Miss Morgan?” Lockhart asked, his smile still fully beaming.

“Why not Professor Flitwick?”

“Oh you think Professor Snape doesn’t have the skills required to duel, I have heard the Professor Flitwick did some sort of duelling game when he was younger,” he said like Flitwick’s championship was merely a children’s competition.

“You mean that he was a duelling champion!” she said factually. “But that’s not what I meant, I’m quite sure Professor Snape could wipe the floor with you with barely a thought.” Some of the students snigg*red, whilst Lockhart paled slightly. “What I meant was why isn’t Flitwick overseeing this club? After all, he is a champion dueller,” she said with a sickly sweet smile.

“Erm, I believe he was busy,” Lockhart said evasively, “and I am the Defence Professor after all.”

“Busy avoiding you,” Harry said under his breath making Ava snort.

“Anyway, where were we….Ah yes, after you,” Lockhart said to Snape, gesturing him towards the end of the stage. Snape looked menacing, whereas Lockhart was still smiling – idiot.

Lockhart and Snape turned to face each other and bowed. Well sort of; Snape basically twitched his head and Lockhart did some sort of dramatic flourish with his hands.

“As you see we are holding wands in the accepted combative position,” Lockhart told the silent crowd. On the count of three, we will cast our first spells. Neither of us will be aiming to kill of course.”

Ava snorted – yeah, maybe not kill but put the fraud down a peg or two.

“One…two…three…”

Ava barely blinked before Lockhart was thrown off the stage by Snape’s ‘expelliarmus,” his hair fanning out in disarray; the usual permanent smile transfigured into utter shock. Snape just looked down his large nose in contempt; a small smile playing at the corner of his mouth as Lockhart struggled to climb to his feet and untangle himself from his garish robes.

Ava burst out laughing and clapped loudly, which was closely followed by her friends and fellow students. “Bravo, Professor Lockhart, Bravo – you really showed him,” she mocked.

Lockhart righted himself, grabbing his lost wand from Parvati, and uttered some nonsense about how he knew what Snape was about to do, and would have known exactly how to stop him but wanted the students to see a proper demonstration.

Ava raised her hand again, which Lockhart was determined to ignore.

“Yes Miss Morgan,” Snape said loudly so Lockhart didn’t have a choice.

“That wasn’t much of a demonstration, I thought a duelling club was meant to show off your skills and gain new ones. Learn both offensive and defensive spells. Wouldn’t it be better for you to show your expertise, that you wildly show off in your ‘published works’ for all to see? I’m sure Professor Snape would be happy to oblige…I expect he would even only use defensive spells so you can demonstrate thoroughly your capability. After all, you didn’t defeat the Bandon Banshee with a smile,” she said with a mockingly sweet smile of her own.

Lockhart visually gulped, his smile faltering. “Now, now we only have an hour; we’d be here all night if I showed you everything I knew. I want to see how you lot do, then we can go from there.”

The students all stared at him in disbelief. The more lessons they had with him, the more people were starting to see the true Lockhart.

“Let’s get you in partners,” he said trying to usher students together, Ava didn’t move and neither did any of her friends.

“Is there a problem?”

“I think we need another demonstration seeing as you’ve literally not taught us how to cast an expelliarmus, only demonstrated how absurd you look flying off stage. Not everyone here knows that spell,” Harry said.

Snape smirked. “Miss Morgan, how about you come on stage and show Professor Lockhart how it’s done.”

“Certainly. In fact how about Professor Lockhart tries to disarm me and I’ll try to defend myself?”

“Of course Miss Morgan,” Lockhart said before walking to the end of the stage. He looked confident – surprisingly – maybe he was just delusional.

“On three,” Snape said. “One – Two – Three,”

Protego,” Ava bellowed, a strong white light enveloped her whilst Lockhart shouted, “Expelliarmus.” It barely produced a red light, and Ava wondered why she had bothered trying a protego when she could have just easily stepped out of the way.

Lockhart looked confused, staring at his wand like it had betrayed him, but Ava didn’t hesitate.

Expelliarmus,” she said casually without much force. Lockhart’s wand flew into her left hand where she spun it around her fingers like a baton. Her friends clapped and cheered, so she took a mocking bow before throwing the wand back to the professor.

“Professor Snape, I think it would be wise if you demonstrated the wand movements for everyone.”

“Certainly,” Snape said bowing his head in agreement.

Snape showed everyone thoroughly the wand movement and how to pronounce the incantation correctly until all the students felt confident enough to give it a try; he really was as good teacher when he wasn’t trying to intimidate everyone or call them dunderheads. Everyone, encouraged by what they had learned gathered in pairs and actually did as they were told, ignoring Lockhart when he tried to ‘help.’

Everything was going swimmingly until for some unknown reason Lockhart had decided to grab Goyle’s wand as he was casting, and said some gibberish, resulting it Goyle’s wand producing – you guessed it - a bloody snake. Bloody fates or whatever other nonsense. ­­She was contemplating whether to check the original books again – she’d been avoiding them so far; thinking they weren’t really much help anymore and she felt like she would be invading Harry’s privacy if she did. But clearly, she had been right about certain events being destined to happen.

Students screamed as they backed out of the way of the slithering, black snake. Ava looked at Snape in panic, he knew exactly what would happen if Harry interacted with it.

“I’ll deal with it,” Snape shouted, but he was too late as at the same time Lockhart said “Allow me,” brandishing his wand, resulting in an almighty bang that sent the snake ten feet in the air. It dropped angrily before turning to Justin Finch-Fletchley, its fangs bared and hissing threateningly.

Harry wasn’t close enough to Ava for her to stop him, he stepped forward hissing at the angry snake, making everyone step back even further in fear. The snake dropped to the floor and moved away, but Justin still looked terrified and angry. “What do you think you’re playing at?” Justin’s face was red, his ire directed at the confused Gryffindor, whilst the rest of the students gasped as looked at Harry in fear.

“Oh shut up Justin,” Ava shouted, “I think its awesome Harry can talk to snakes, and he was clearly stopping the snake from attacking you, right Harry?”

“Yeah – you all heard me,” he said acting confused.

“But he was speaking Parseltongue; it’s the sign of a dark wizard,” Justin said furiously.

“And your attitude is a sign that you are a complete moron,” Ava said scathingly. “All bow down to our next dark lord; the chosen one,” she said sarcastically as she bent at the waist before scooping up the snake. It was a risk, and she hoped it wouldn’t bite her, but it just looked up lazily before wrapping itself around her wrist like a bracelet.

“Yes the Boy Who Lived, Gryffindor’s Golden boy – the embodiment of all evil,” Theo said patting Harry on the shoulder in solidarity, giving him a friendly smile.

“But he set a snake on me,” Justin whined.

Ava just stared at him blankly. “You can Parseltongue too then?”

Justin scoffed looking horrified. “Of course not.”

“Then how do you know what he said?” Ava said as she cooed at the cute snake that had wrapped itself further up her arm.

Justin stuttered as looked terrified at Ava and her friends who had gathered around her to see the snake. “I- I - but the snake was coming towards me.”

“Yes, because that idiot over there hit it with a spell,” Ava said pointing to Lockhart, who was cowering at the side. “Of course it was going to be pissed off - And it did that before Harry spoke to it – then it stopped… You’re really living up to the Hufflepuff stereotypes of being dunces.” Justin’s fellow housemates shifted away from him – clearly not wanting to be associated with said dunce.

“But everyone knows people who speak it are dark,” Justin said, clearly not willing to use his brain and think differently.

“Says who – just because Salazar was one? Seriously – I thought you lot had a brain between your ears, and had stopped automatically accusing people just because some Tom, Dick, or Harry had done it in the past.” Snape snorted. “Okay, bad choice of words – but stop being judgemental twats. Does Harry seem like a dark wizard to you?”

The students all turned to stare at Harry, seemingly to assess him much to his embarrassment. Ava rolled her eyes.

“Dunderheads,” Snape muttered.

Justin stormed out of the room when no one backed him up on his accusations.

“Harry – can you ask it its name and if it’s okay?” Ava asked ignoring everyone else, half of which looked constipated – clearly from having to think. “It’s shaking a bit.”

“Erm – sure,” he said before letting out a series of hisses. “It’s called Apep and a male. He said he is hurting from where he was hit.” Ava scowled at Lockhart whose smile was more of a grimace.

Ava cast a diagnostic charm on the snake; it showed a small fracture so she cast a gentle healing charm. She wasn’t sure a charm designed for humans would work on a snake, but he immediately stopped shaking and hissed.

“He says, thank you,” Harry said.

“You’re welcome,” Ava answered as she ran her finger along its scales. Other students approached cautiously wanting to pet the snake or get Harry to speak to it whilst Lockhart slinked off.

Eventually, after about twenty minutes when Ava could see the snake and Harry getting agitated, Snape luckily spoke up, “I think that’s enough excitement for one night.” He dismissed everyone with a wave of his hand whilst Ava, Theo, Harry, Ron, and Hermione lingered. Ava looked around for Draco noticing he hadn’t joined them and wondered where he was, but he was sitting at the side of the stage looking a bit pale.

“Back to your common rooms,” Snape said, distracting her from worrying about Draco.

“Can I keep him?” Ava said turning on her puppy eyes and pouting.

Snape sighed. “No Ava.”

“Pleeeeaaassseeee,” she begged, “he won’t hurt anyone, will he Harry.” Harry hissed at the snake.

“No, he said is venom isn’t fatal to humans anyway.”

“See – plus Harry can try to teach me Parseltongue.”

“I don’t think it can be taught,” Hermione said looking curiously at the snake.

“Who knows unless we try; if it’s as rare as everyone says then no one’s been around to teach it?”

“That’s true,” Hermione agreed.

“Think of it as an experiment,” Ava said turning back to Snape.

“Fine,” he said pinching the bridge of his nose before looking at the ceiling to clearly curse the fates. “Just don’t be scaring other students with him.”

“What about Lockhart?” she asked wickedly. Snape didn’t answer, just gave her an exasperated look and walked away. “That wasn’t a no!” she yelled at his back.

Ava passed the snake over to Harry so he could converse with it some more, and Hermione could try and learn some of the language. She approached Draco who was still sitting on the edge of the stage. “Are you okay?” He looked paler than usual and a little bit shaky.

“Yeah – I think so; just a bit of a headache and a bit dizzy,” he answered waving his hand to try to reassure her.

Lumos,” Ava said creating a dull light at the end of her wand. “Look at my wand and follow the movements,” she said. He sighed but agreed.

His beautiful grey eyes moved as expected, dilating as normal. She couldn’t see anything that would be a cause for concern. “Do you need a pain potion? Maybe I should take you to Pomfrey?” She cast a diagnostic charm on him but couldn’t see anything that should worry her; just a bit of lethargy.

“No, I’ll be fine Ava,” he said pushing her hand down so her wand wasn’t in his face. “I’m just tired; I’ll see Pomfrey tomorrow if it doesn’t ease.”

“No you will tell me or Theo tonight, even if it means waking us up and we will take you to Pomfrey. Head injuries aren’t something to brush off as a bad headache Draco.”

“Yes Mum,” he said sarcastically, but smiled when she rolled her eyes at him.

“Come on let’s get back to the common room.” She pulled Draco to his feet; he was a little unsteady at first but pushed her off when she tried to help.

After parting ways with the Gryffindors outside the hall, they got all of ten paces before they heard an almighty shout from behind them. “ATTACK, ATTACK, ATTACK! NO MORTAL OR GHOST IS SAFE, RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!”

The Slytherins rushed towards the direction the Gryffindors had headed to find the three of them surrounding the prone from of Justin Finch-Fletchley, staring wide-eyed in terror at an unknown monster. He was accompanied by the no longer opaque Nearly Headless Nick; the Gryffindor ghost. He was now all black and smoky, floating immobile and horizontally six inches off the floor.

The noise of feet pounding the floor and doors banging open infiltrated the corridor until they were surrounded by students looking on in horror.

“Caught in the act,” Ernie McMillian yelled his face stark white and pointing an accusing finger at Harry.

“That will do Ernie,” McGonagall said, suddenly appearing, and telling Peeves to shut up who was singing Potter you rotter.

“But Professor, he’s a Parselmouth. We all heard him, and he tried to hurt Justin before but failed,” he accused. “She was in on it too,” he added turning to point accusingly at Ava who was clutching Apep to her chest.

Ava breathed out a sigh of defeat – she honestly didn’t have the energy to deal with any more morons today.

“This way Potter, Morgan,” McGonagall said.

“But we didn’t do anything,” Harry pleaded. Ava just followed dutifully; she wasn’t willing to go on the defence without anyone providing proof that they attacked a student. Instead, she turned to her best friend who looked terrified; his large emerald eyes full of anxiety whilst he chewed his lip in worry.

“Harry you don’t have to explain yourself. We know we didn’t do anything, and they know you didn’t. Anyone with half a brain would know that.” Ava grabbed his hand in solidarity, ignoring the professor who was giving them an assessing look.

Eventually, they came to an ugly stone gargoyle. McGonagall muttered ‘sherbet lemon’ which made the gargoyle spring to life and move aside, revealing a moving, spiralling staircase.

Ava was finally going to formally meet the Headmaster.

Notes:

Ava: Can we have a pet snake?
Snape: No
Ava: Pleeaasssee
Snape: No
Ava: (Turns on the baby blues and puppy dog look)
Snape: (Do not cave, do not cave)
Ava: Pouts
Snape: Fine

Chapter 12: The Headmaster, Students are Idiots, and Christmas at Clevers Cottage

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

They stepped off the stone staircase at the top and entered a large, beautiful circular room, full of peculiar noises and curious little instruments. Portraits of previous Headmasters and Headmistresses lined the walls, all dozing in their frames. McGonagall told them to wait before leaving them alone. Harry was still visually worried and didn’t let go of her hand, but kept fiddling nervously with something in his pocket with the other.

“You won’t be in trouble Harry,” she reassured.

“You don’t know that, what if they kick me out for being a Parselmouth? Sirius might murder me for letting it slip.”

“Well for one that’s discrimination, and two, remember what I said when we first arrived?”

Harry thought for a moment. “That you would walk right out with me and go to Beauxbatons instead,” he said smiling at the memory.

“Yep, and I still stand by that Harry.”

Ava saw Harry eye the sorting hat, clearly wondering whether he really should have been sorted into Slytherin. “Harry you don’t need a hat to tell you where you belong. You know how stupid I think the sorting is. You’re brave, courageous, and smart… and you definitely wouldn’t have survived a day in Slytherin.”

“Would too,” he defended feigning hurt.

“Mmm maybe, but you're far too impulsive.”

“So are you.”

“That’s true – maybe I should check with the hat,” she said pretending to think it over. “Honestly I have none of the so-called Slytherin traits.”

Harry snorted. “What do you think is wrong with that?” he asked, looking towards a decrepit-looking bird that looked like a half-plucked turkey – Fawkes.

“It’s a phoenix Harry; it will burst into flames sooner or later.” As if on cue the phoenix did just that, startling the green-eyed boy. “Don’t worry, phoenixes reborn from their ashes…look.” She pointed at the tiny, wrinkled newborn bird that was poking its head out of the ashes.

Weird,” Harry said just as Dumbledore came in through the office door looking sombre.

“I see you have met Fawkes, it’s a shame you had to see him on burning day, but it’s about time; he’s been looking dreadful for weeks.”

Neither student said anything, choosing to stand in solidarity instead. Dumbledore looked confused for a second like they should have been excited by his bird. Fawkes was rather fascinating – he was a mythical creature after all but right now they weren’t interested in an immortal bird.

“Lemon drop,” the Headmaster said holding out a bowl.

“No thank you,” Ava said firmly as Harry shook his head, knowing not to accept anything from the old man.

“I must ask if either of you would like to tell me anything?” he said turning on his grandfatherly smile; his piercing eyes twinkling.

“Like what sir?” Ava asked innocently.

“What happened this evening?”

“We were at duelling club, Harry was accused of being a Dark Wizard because he can speak to snakes as some idiot conjured one and Harry stopped it from attacking. We heard Peeves shouting after leaving and found Justin and Nick petrified. Obviously some idiots put two and two together and made five, blamed us rather than actually looking at the facts.”

“I do not believe Harry had anything to do with what happened to Mr Finch-Fletchley.”

Harry looked worried. “You don’t believe Ava had anything to do with it do you sir?”

Dumbledore gave her an assessing look, staring at Apep who was still curled around her wrist sleeping. “Miss Morgan I do not believe I am acquainted with your family. Their names are not on your records.”

“We are a private family Sir; there is no need for you to know who they are.”

Dumbledore clearly didn’t like that answer. “But what if there was an emergency and we needed to contact them?”

“Trust me when I say they would be immediately notified, even if I was to be unconscious. My head of house knows how to do so.”

Dumbledore frowned at her, his eyes piercing hers over his half-moon glasses. “How do I know your parents or guardians have your best interests at heart if I do not know who they are?”

“Like you had Harry’s best interests?” she retorted. “Allowing a boy to grow up in a cupboard is deemed acceptable is it? Rather a low bar you’ve set there.” She looked at him mockingly, not cowed in the slightest by his stare. “I have the best guardian a girl could possibly ask for.”

Her attitude however didn’t seem to rattle the Headmaster at all, he sat stoically assessing her; glancing at their conjoined hands with an air of animosity.

“Would you care to enlighten me as to who that is?” he asked feigning kindness as his twinkling eyes stared into hers. She felt a prod against her forehead.

“I would not.” She felt a more forceful push against her mind, but her natural defences held strong.

“I believe mind invasion without consent is extremely frowned upon; if not, illegal Sir.” Harry gasped at her side, his fingers squeezing tightly around hers.

“Forgive an old man for being curious,” he said before turning to Harry. He stared intently before sighing quietly again like he was frustrated.

“Do you do that regularly – read the student's minds? Kind of perverted.”

“I do not Miss Morgan,” he said defensively. – Could have fooled her.

“Tell me, Headmaster, do you still think these petrifications are the work of a prankster?”

“I do Miss Morgan.”

“Then you are more of a fool than you look. Is there actually a reason why we were marched into your office, or can we leave now?”

“One more question; does the word Riddle mean anything to you?”

Ava didn’t miss a beat. “Like a puzzle you mean?” she said feigning confusion. “Like the ones you have to answer to enter Ravenclaw tower?”

“Exactly that, Miss Morgan,” he said with an air of relief.

“What about them?”

“Just curious how good you are with riddles, I’ve heard you are quite the intelligent girl.”

Ava shrugged evasively.

The Headmaster looked at her intently. "If you have me, you want to share me. If you share me, you haven't got me. What am I?”

Ava had to control herself not to roll her eyes. “Secrets,” she said monotonously.

“Very good Miss Morgan, you would have made a fine Ravenclaw.”

“So the hat told me,” she deadpanned causing Dumbledore to falter. “I have a riddle for you Sir… I’m a crossroad, a choice to make, paths diverge, decisions at stake. Learn from past errors, embrace the chance, growth and success in life’s grand dance.”

Dumbledore's eyes bored into hers as he thought over the riddle. Ava and Harry both sat there awkwardly as the minutes went by until he finally said, “Mistakes.”

“Correct…May we go now?”

“How about the word, Gaunt?” Dumbledore asked instead.

“Gaunt? Well, Harry looked gaunt when I first met him, no offence,” she said turning to look at the boy. “Kind of what happens when someone is undernourished for most of their life. You look all cute and squishy now though,” she added giving his cheek a pinch, making him laugh and bat her hand away. He looked a thousand times better than he did a year ago; no paleness, no dark circles under his eyes, and a healthy weight. He was even as tall as her now, and no doubt would tower over her soon.

“Is this some kind of riddle too?” she asked turning back to the headmaster. “Or is it an association game, like you say a word and I quickly say something related? Like you say gaunt and I automatically think of Harry at age eleven. Or you say peaco*ck, I would answer Lockhart. Or doll, I’d say Mr Malfoy because he looks like he should be a Barbie.” Harry snigg*red. “Ooo this is fun, Harry give me a word.”

“Pudding…”

“…Treacle tart.”

“Lockhart…”

“…Fraud”

“Bats…”

“…Snape.”

“M and M’s…

“…Twins.”

“Jealousy…”

“…Ron…no Ginny”

“Books…”

“…Hermione.”

“Promise…

“…pinkie”

“Romania…”

“…Dragons.”

“Family…”

“…you.”

“You may go Ava,” Dumbledore said sounding exasperated at their back and forth. “Harry I would like a word.”

“Not a chance Headmaster,” Harry said before Ava got the chance. Go, Harry! “My godfather has made it perfectly clear that I’m not to be left alone with any adult, under any circ*mstances.”

“Very well, you both may go.”

They stood quickly, Ava snatching a handful of lemon drops. “For the road,” she said when Dumbledore looked confused. She was no way in hell going to eat them but was going to send them to Amelia for testing – she wouldn’t put it past the old man to lace them with potions.

They hastily left the office, not speaking until they were a few corridors away and hidden in an empty classroom before they both burst out laughing.

“I can’t believe you spoke to him like that and started playing a word game,” Harry said between snickers.

Ava just grinned. “I don’t know what he was going on about but he was clearly trying to accuse me of something. He didn’t actually say he didn’t think I was involved in the attacks.”

Harry's laugher dropped. “Yeah – how can he think that when you were with me on both occasions?”

“Because he’s a prejudiced idiot. He clearly hates Slytherins, no wonder we have such a bad reputation when even the Headmaster thinks so negatively towards us. Was that true; about what Sirius said?” Ava asked.

“Yeah, ever since – well everything; you know, his arrest, the Dursleys, and the wills, not to mention the tracker spells. He no longer trusts the Headmaster – obviously I couldn’t outright say it was him that Sirius told me not to be left alone with; told me to immediately contact him if I’m ever alone with Dumbledore.” Harry smirked as he pulled out a handheld mirror, showing the grinning face of one Sirius Black.

Ava laughed loudly. “I should have known, hi Sirius,” she said giving him a wave.

“Hi Pup, hi Ava, you are a girl after my own heart,” he said grinning as he clutched his chest. “I wished you would have been at school with us, you might have sorted the Slytherins out once and for all; sorted my brother out.” His face fell slightly at the mention of Regulus. She wasn’t ready to tell him about how he really died. “I’m going to try that game with Moony though, I’m curious as to what he would say…So Pup, so much for keeping your Parselmouth a secret.”

Harry groaned, covering his face with his hands, “I know, I was an idiot. I just didn’t think. I saw the snake going for Justin and reacted. Everyone’s going to think the worst now aren’t they?”

“Not if I can help it,” Ava said giving him a squeeze around the waist. “And if they are being idiots, I’ll grab Apep and threaten them all.”

“Who’s Apep?” Sirius asked.

Ava held up the snake that was still curled around her wrist. “My new pet snake, an idiot conjured him at duelling club.”

Sirius co*cked his eye. “Snape let you keep it?”

“Of course he did, Snape loves me,” she said giving Apep a stroke and making cooing noises at the sleeping snake.

“Hard not to say no to you, when you turn on the baby blues and pouty look,” Harry joked.

“Hey…you know you love me too,” she pouted sticking her tongue out at him. Harry blushed and turned back to Sirius who was laughing at them.

“What do you want me to do about Dumbledore?” Harry asked.

“I don’t know yet, just keep away from him, and be careful. I don’t like these attacks. I’m going to contact Amelia and the Weasleys – see if they have been informed about them. The two students are Muggle-born aren’t they?”

“Yes they are,” Ava answered.

“Then I highly doubt Dumbledore has notified either of their parents.”

“Really wouldn’t surprise me,” Ava scoffed rolling her eyes.

“I’ll do some digging and find out. What was with him asking you about riddles?” Sirius asked.

“Who knows?” Ava knew exactly why he had asked… the question was why? Did Dumbledore honestly think she was related to Old Moldy…she shivered at the thought.

“It’s getting late – you two better get back to your common rooms. And don’t forget to use a mirror to look around corners – just in case.”

***

By the time Ava had finished breakfast the next day, the attacks on Justin and Nearly Headless Nick had spread like wildfire and turned what was nervousness into panic. The fact that a ghost had been affected too sent people’s heads into a spin, and were all now thoroughly convinced there was a basilisk in the school, which Dumbledore was trying to deny. At least everyone was being cautious for once. CONSTANCE VIGALANCE came to mind, and she felt like channelling Moody just to keep everyone on their toes. Hermione, Ron and Theo had tried to convince the student population that Harry wasn’t controlling Slytherin’s monster, and that Ava wasn’t his accomplice, or secretly a Parseltongue herself whilst they had been in Dumbledore’s office.

She was about ready to declare she was the heir of Slytherin just to shut everyone up though as the whispers and rumours were just getting worse.

The school was clearly split, half knowing that Ava and Harry had an alibi as they had been in the Great Hall at the time; the other half claiming they could have had the monster lying in wait for when he was alone. It was completely ridiculous. Although no one had an answer for Colin seeing as both of them had been in the hospital wing at the time he was discovered and on the Quidditch pitch before that. Luckily no one seemed to know that the professors had been unsure how long the boy had been laid on the fifth floor before being discovered. There might have been a riot in the school if they knew.

“This is getting ridiculous,” Ava exclaimed dramatically a few weeks later as she dropped onto Snape’s sofa. “I honestly wish I was the giant squid right now…”

“So you can what? …live in the Black Lake and terrorise the merpeople instead of me? - that’s an excellent idea,” Snape said enthusiastically.

Ava gave him an unimpressed look. “No, so I could slap eight people at the same time,” she deadpanned.

Snape sighed in exasperation before taking a seat opposite her. “What’s happened now?”

“My tolerance for idiots is at an all-time low today and I’m all out of sarcasm to insult them.”

“Ava! Tell me.”

She huffed. “Fine, I’m sick of all the narrow-minded idiots in this school. For some reason they all think I’m out to get Muggle-borns; that I corrupted Harry because I’m a Slytherin, so there’s no way he could be the heir, so therefore it must be me. I don’t know who is spreading these rumours or why but it’s starting to really piss me off. Hermione and Ron are acting shifty, I’ve barely spoken to them since the Justin incident so I’m starting to think they believe the rumours, which is ridiculous but every time I ask they make up excuses to leave or change the subject. Even Harry’s been a bit odd, but I suppose he probably feels like he’s stuck in the middle. And I’m positive Draco’s still having dizzy spells but insists he’s fine…. Christmas break can’t come quick enough…..Plus I’m pissed off that Dumbledore has cancelled the Yule party that the twins were planning because of the attacks, even though he’s insisting they were pranks…. He’s a bloody walking contradiction.”

Snape was about to talk but Ava rattled on. “Oh, and I’m still no closer to finding out who has the diary. I want to raid Ginny’s room just in case but I don’t know how I could go about that without being spotted, and with the Gryffindors giving me a wide-birth. Suppose I could ask the twins.”

“I think…”

“Oh, and the other Slytherins are adding fuel to the rumours, saying all my house unity endeavours were all a front to lure people in before I set Salazar’s monster on them; although I think ninety percent of them are joking just to mess with the other houses. And the twins aren’t helping – honestly if I have to hear ‘make way for the Slytherin heir’ one more time I’m going to hex them into next week. It was funny the first two times…but the joke got old real fast.”

“Maybe…”

“Dumbledore keeps looking at me suspiciously now too, ever since he asked about my family. I still can’t believe he asked me if Riddle meant anything to me….Honestly, I’m tempted to turn into the next Dark Lord, well Lady just to piss him off….I’ve yet to use my alter ego…what was it again?”

“Nov…”

“I AM NOVA BRATAGOS,” Ava shouted raising her wand in the air dramatically. “Heir to the Slytherin dynasty, the seeker of truth, the protector of all those against tyranny, the enforcer of all things chaotic……….the one, the only, AVVVVAAAAA ….MORRRGAAAN…….crowd goes wild….wooooo…..wooooo.”

“I think you’ve finally lost it,” Snape deadpanned as he rolled his eyes.

“You’re meant to be cheering me on…I’m the new Dark Lady….bow to me at once peasant.” Ava pointed her wand at her godfather indicating he should be worshipping her feet.

Snape rolled his eyes again. “Are you quite finished?”

“No – I think my brains turned to mush from being surrounded by so many dunderheads. Or maybe it’s a side effect from memory loss. That reminds me have you found anything yet about how I somehow ended up a child again and in the past?”

“No Ava, I would have told you if I had… You’ve got to just live your life, we’ve been over this; you can’t keep thinking about your past.”

“How can you say that when I had a son,” she said angrily. She constantly thought of Toby, anything to try to keep his memory alive or distract her from the morons that were the student population.

“And the likelihood is that your son will still come to be in the future.”

“You don’t know that!”

“No, I don’t. But you have to have hope. You were sent here for a reason, and if I know you as well as I think I do, you wouldn’t have left someone you love without knowing they was going to be safe.”

Ava nodded, mollified as she played with the bracelet Toby made her.

“As for your current predicaments, ignore the dunderheads. You know better than to let them get to you. Dumbledore can be suspicious all he wants, although from what you said he clearly tried to read Harry’s mind too.”

“Yeah, but I don’t think he was successful, which is odd because Harry’s like an open book.”

“Maybe whatever magic is at play…”

“You mean Lady Magic?” Ava said rolling her eyes; they were still no closer to finding out anything factual about what the goblins had told her.

“Yes, Lady Magic…maybe that’s blocking information that’s about you being passed on through mind invasion.”

“Maybe, that’s not a bad theory. How could we test it? I can’t see Harry allowing you to invade his mind.”

“What about Theo?”

“Yeah Theo could do it, I’ll go find him.”

Ten minutes later Theo was in Snape’s quarters looking nervously at the end of his wand.

“I won’t go searching for anything else, don’t try to block me and only think of me being Ava’s godfather.”

Theo nodded.

Legilimens.” Snape held the spell for a couple of minutes before pulling away. “I couldn’t find anything about you telling him about us,” he said to Ava. “It was just normal student/teacher memories and nothing about you both staying with me over the summer.”

“Not even a memory from when I told him, but with the name blocked out?”

“No – nothing. Are you sure you weren’t trying to block me, Theo?”

“No, honestly. I know occulumency but I’m still learning; I made sure not to try it.”

Snape nodded. “This is good.”

“What about if someone who knows tries to tell someone else without my permission?”

“I don’t know; there’s no way of knowing unless someone betrays us.”

“Who else knows now?” Theo asked his eyes darting between the two.

“Too many,” Snape said sarcastically as he sat at his writing desk.

Ava rolled her eyes, “I’m not going to deny it if the truth comes out, I’m not ashamed that you’re my godfather. Those who know are people I trust with this information and not to spread it about, but accidents happen. Honestly, I’m surprised no one else has cottoned on yet. It’s not like I’m being quiet every time I bang my way in here, as long as it doesn’t get out that you’ve helped Harry then I don’t care.”

“I think most people just think you march in here to shout at him,” Theo said in explanation. “You have mellowed quite a lot apparently since Ava arrived.”

Snape looked scandalised like he was ready to start dishing out detentions and threats to anyone who dared to look at him.

“That’s good to know,” Ava said. “Anyway who knows?...The Weasleys; Ginny might be a problem though as she hates me.”

“She’s just jealous of your friendship with Harry,” Theo said.

“Well why doesn’t she hate Hermione; she spends more time with Harry than I do.”

Theo just shrugged. “Who else?”

“Harry’s godfather; Sirius Black and his friend, partner, lover….are those two actually together, Harry’s never said?” Ava asked Snape.

“Ava…why the bloody hell would I know?” Snape looked scandalised at the thought of being privy to Black's love life.

“I dunno….given your history and everything that got blurted out in Romania…”

“Moving on,” Snape said quickly, clearly not wanting to rehash that confession. “So the Weasleys, Black, Remus Lupin – they know he helped get Harry from the Dursleys too and Sirius and I’m assuming Remus know that I’m trying to find out who my parents are…..oh and the Malfoys but Narcissa and Lucius think my parents went to Durmstrang and Uncle Sev met them during his Potions apprentice...Draco knows the truth though.”

“I forgot about the Malfoys – do you think they are going to be a problem?” Theo asked.

“No, Lucius made an unbreakable vow to keep our relationship secret.”

“What about Narcissa?”

“I trust her, and she doesn’t know the full truth anyway,” said Ava.

“Why?” Theo asked with a look of confusion.

“Honestly I don’t know; gut feeling I suppose, same with Draco.”

“So that’s everyone?”

“Oh the Slytherin girls, Hermione and Padma know I don’t know who my parents are but not that Snape’s my godfather – I forgot I had told them last year.”

Snape looked exasperated. “Seriously Ava – you’re going to have to write this down and remember who knows what because I bloody well can’t.”

Ava looked sheepish. “I’m sorry – but I don’t think they will say anything – I think they’ve forgotten anyway. Although I’m not sure who Hermione thinks you are, as she’s only seen you when you were polyjuiced at Harry’s birthday.”

“I told her he was a friend of Lupin’s,” Theo said.

“You did?”

“Yeah – she asked on the day. Hasn’t mentioned him again as far as I’m aware, and I think she thinks you still live with your grandmother.”

Ava nodded. “That’s good to know, but I should probably tell her sooner rather than later as she will no doubt see the truth for herself. I think that’s everyone anyway.”

“Amelia Bones knows too,” Snape said. “She’s an old friend of mine and has been helping with Harry’s situation,”

“That’s good, hopefully it will stay that way then,” said Theo. “What about everything else that you have going on – I still don’t want to know, we don’t know how much of your life can be kept secret from prying minds yet.”

“Well, only Sev and Charlie Weasley know everything.”

“Why did you tell Charlie…you didn’t even know him?”

“Gut instinct I suppose. I don’t know – he’s a Weasley but not one in Dumbledore’s pocket; not that the rest are anymore. But he’s out of sight and if any family should be aware of things I know, then it’s the Weasleys. I trust him.”

Theo nodded in thought. “Do you often get gut instincts?”

“Not often, but I knew not to trust Dumbledore the moment I arrived.”

“What about Professor Snape?”

Ava laughed, “My gut instinct was to tear him to shreds…metaphorically speaking.” Snape snorted. “But I suppose I never distrusted him, but that could be to do with the information I have. It’s hard to explain without telling you everything.”

“I get that. What about the Malfoys?”

“Draco – yes surprisingly, Narcissa – yes; Lucius I honestly don’t know. My gut says not to trust him with anything big, but him knowing about me and Uncle Sev doesn’t bother me. The truth will come out eventually and it’s not anything major really. We already have a fake backstory which is what Lucius thinks it true so it’s not the end of the world.”

“Anyone else that you’ve had a gut reaction to?”

Ava thought for a moment. “No not really. I suppose the only other person would be you.”

Theo looked surprised. “Me?”

“Yeah – we’ve been close since we met; like my relationship with Charlie. It’s like when you instantly connect with someone and know they will be a friend for life. I had that kind of feeling. Although with you it was more like an instinct to protect at first.”

“To protect?”

“Yeah I noticed you limping after you got sorted – I’m assuming your father's doing?”

Theo nodded. “I thought I’d managed to hide that.”

“You did, I’m just observant. Why do you ask anyway?”

“There’s evidence that goes back centuries where wizards and witches have claimed they had a ‘gut instinct’ to do something or trust someone, or vice-versa. There’s nothing to claim as to why, but many have found out after that if something different had happened then there would have been serious consequences.”

“Muggles have the same idea, like a form of intuition; they believe it’s a way of protecting yourself from harm.”

“That sounds logical I suppose. Wizards believe there’s a higher force in play.”

Snape looked like he was mulling over the information. “Maybe there’s some truth in that, given the information we know.” He was clearly thinking about Lady Magic again and Ava’s situation.

“Yeah, maybe,” Ava agreed. “I have enough to be thinking about as it is though. My gut’s not proved me wrong so far, so let’s just leave it at that for now.

***

The Christmas holidays eventually descended upon them and Ava was glad to see the back of the castle. She was heading back to Clevers cottage with Theo in tow, and had persuaded Snape to let them do some Christmas shopping in Hogsmeade first before using her emergency portkey to get home rather than take the train. He reluctantly agreed after she whined about having to spend hours on the train with people who think she must be carrying a monster with her, which was ironic seeing at Harry had taken to kidnapping Apep constantly so Hermione could try learning Parseltongue – she was failing miserably so far from what Harry had told her, and Harry had all but adopted the snake and was taking him home for Christmas.

Everyone seemed to be leaving the castle for the holidays, which was another deviant from the book as she was positive Harry, the Weasleys and Hermione had stayed. Ava hadn’t bothered looking through the new versions of Harry’s books; feeling like she would be prying into Harry’s life, and had only looked over her timeline a couple of times – she’d not found anything helpful with her current predicament.

She was glad to see Draco going home for some much-needed rest too. He’d looked a lot better the last few weeks before term ended and seemed back to his usual self, and had convinced her he hadn’t had any more dizzy spells, but a few weeks peace and quiet couldn’t hurt.

Snape would be joining them but would have to venture back and forth to school to supervise the remaining students, but he had managed to sweet-talk Professor Vector in covering Slytherin head duties whilst he was away. Dumbledore had tried questioning him about it as normally he would stay in school but Snape pulled an Ava and told him it was none of his business what he did in his spare time, going so far as to pull up his contract declaring he was entitled to so many days off during the holidays. Ava wished she had been a fly on the wall for that conversation.

The two Slytherins spent the first week completing their homework, coming up with random food concoctions using the edible roses, which were surprisingly still in bloom, or listening to Snape’s cassette tapes on a Walkman she had found in the cottage during the summer. It had been charmed to use around magic without the use of batteries, and they had managed to find an amplifying charm to use on the headphones so they worked liked speakers instead. Snape checked on them sporadically, claiming he was making sure they hadn’t burnt the house down. Eventually he seemed to sack off work and spent most days at home with them, teaching them new spells, proper instruction on how to duel or just playing games. He had a stash of old Muggle board games that he claimed had belonged to Lily when they were small. Theo was a beast at Monopoly; consistently bankrupting Ava, and Snape had Scrabble down to a tee – although Ava was sure half the words were made up, and had to stop him from using anything that resembled Latin. Ava however was the reigning Queen of Cluedo, and neither of them had managed to beat her so far. They bickered, laughed, sulked and acted like they had been a family for years. Some days it felt surreal but Ava wouldn’t change a thing.

On Christmas Eve Ava had managed to talk them into going into Bakewell for the evening. They had walked into the local village a few times for food and a Christmas tree, and Ava had noticed a poster for a Christmas market and ice rink in the next town. Snape had reluctantly agreed and had driven them in, grumbling about driving in the snow. They spent a wonderful few hours in the cold, buying knick-knacks, chocolates and anything Christmassy that caught their eye. Theo was fascinated by the Muggle stalls; Ava had bought him a snowglobe of a family ice-skating that wound up, playing music, after he’d stared at it in fascination.

Ice skating was a hilarious disaster; none of them had skated before, which became apparent when they all fell on their arses the minute they put their boots on the ice. They spent an hour laughing, holding on to each other’s hand, or clinging to the side of the rink in the hopes of not falling on their already bruised bums. Snape had sworn them to secrecy about the whole thing.

They finished the evening at a pub called The Peaco*ck, which had them roaring with laughter when they saw it, thinking of what they had said to Lockhart. Theo had been fascinated by the whole town, having never ventured into the Muggle world before, except the little village near Clevers cottage, and his face had lit up when he had tried warm cider and mulled wine for the first time. Ava had fallen into an exhausted sleep that night with a huge smile on her face.

Early on Christmas morning Ava's eyes fluttered open to the bright morning light streaming through the large dormer window. She stretched lazily, her limbs heavy with sleep and the lingering warmth of the blankets. She couldn't help but feel a sense of contentment and joy wash over her as she took in her surroundings. Beside her, Theo was still fast asleep, his chest rising and falling gently beneath the rumpled sheet; a soft snore escaped his lips. Ava grinned to herself before bouncing excited on the bed like she had the previous year.

“Wake up Theo, it's Christmas.”

“It’s too early,” he groaned, pulling a pillow over his head and burrowing further into the blankets. They had stayed up late talking about anything and everything; Theo had wanted to know more about Muggle things, and Ava was happy to oblige until they had both fallen asleep in her bed from exhaustion.

“You said that last year.” She continued to bounce on the bed to no avail before tickling his sides until he was squirming and laughing for her to stop.

“Alright, alright, I’m awake. You’re like an excitable puppy.”

“You said that last year too,” Ava said grinning back. She still used the mug he bought her last Christmas.

“And I still stand by that statement,” he said grinning as he finally emerged from his cushion cocoon.

They bombed down the stairs like two excitable five-year-olds, finding Snape sitting on one of the armchairs drinking a cup of tea with an air of amusem*nt around him.

“Merry Christmas you two,” he said softly, his voice still raspy from sleep, “I trust you both slept well?”

“We did,” Ava said.

“Speak for yourself; you lay like a bloody starfish.”

“I do not!”

“Do too!”

“Do not!”

“My ribs beg to differ.”

“You could have gone back to your own bed you know,” Ava said before sticking her tongue out.

“Why would I do that when your beds more comfortable,” he retorted sticking his tongue out too.

Snape looked on in fondness at the two pre-teens bickering.

“How can it be comfortable if my elbows are in the way?” she said nudging him in the ribs.

“Heyyy – you elbows are like knives.”

“Oh, you’re so dramatic.”

“Am not.”

“Are too.”

“Children, there’s breakfast on the table,” Snape said whilst grinning at their childish behaviour. He gestured to the dining table by the window, where a steaming pot of tea and a platter of assorted breakfast pastries sat waiting.

“Thanks, Uncle Sev.”

“Thank you, Severus.”

The two of them pushed each other playfully as they fought over the best pastries. Ava snatched the only raspberry and white chocolate muffin from under Theo’s nose, and took an exaggerated bite, savouring the sweet and soft, fluffy centre.“Mmmmm,” Ava gushed.

“You’re such a brat.”

“Am not.”

“Are too.”

“But you love me all the more for it,” she said giving Theo a muffin filled grin.

“You’re disgusting!” he said with a fond smile.

Smiling, Ava finished her breakfast with more decorum and less bickering, still feeling a bit awestruck to be sharing Christmas morning with both Theo and Snape in their home. As she ate, she couldn't help but wonder how this Christmas had become so different from any she had ever imagined. Yet, as she looked over at Snape, sipping his tea and looking content, she knew that somehow, everything felt right.

After breakfast, Snape encouraged Ava and Theo to dig into their presents that was under the Christmas tree.

“These are from both of us,” Ava said passing a bottle bag and a box. Inside was an expensive bottle of Muggle whiskey that she had asked Remus to acquire it for her. She knew he was partial to that particular brand but rarely purchased it. They also bought him a new set of teaching robes that were more fitted, and in a more flattering shade of grey.

“Thank you, you really didn’t have to go to so much expense.”

“We didn’t, but we wanted to. You’ve done a lot for us, and we want you to know how much we appreciate it.”

Snape bowed his head in acknowledgement, his cheeks turning pink but didn’t respond. Ava turned back to her presents.

Theo had gifted her a beautiful set of earrings she had been admiring at the Christmas market, and a new dark green cloak that had built-in warming charms. Hermione had stocked up her supplies of Muggle stationary, including notebooks that all had cute puppies on the front making Theo snigg*r. Ron had sent a box of Bertie Botts Every Flavoured Beans. The twins had sent a box of their latest pranks, and she received the usual expensive chocolates from the Slytherin girls. Draco had gifted a white gold bracelet, with a snake charm attached, with a note saying he wished he was with her and Theo, as ‘the Manor is boring as ever, his fathers in a constant state of agitation and his mother looks about ready to hex him or cast a permanent sticking charm on his feet to stop him pacing.’ Ava snigg*red knowing exactly what had got Lucius knickers in a twist – not that the matter was funny at all, but the thought of Lucius looking all dishevelled with his hair in disarray and Narcissa on the edge of committing mariticide was just too funny.

She received a gorgeous Peaco*ck quill from Susan, which she would no doubt display rather than use (no one will stop her from using Muggle pens) and Padma gifted her a new cashmere scarf in a lovely emerald green colour. She had also received a handful of LPs and a new record player with runes etched into the sides to allow it to work with magic from Sirius and Remus.

Harry had sent her a beautiful drawing again, it was larger than the last one, and this time framed and painted in vibrant colours. It was a detailed drawing of the photo Creevey had taken of the six of them at the start of term; all big smiles, bold colours and a sense of camaraderie never before seen between the two rival houses. The magical paints made the picture look like it was alive – the figures occasionally moving or laughing.

“What are you smiling at?” Snape asked. She passed the frame in answer. “This is amazing. Harry is really talented.”

“Can you put protection charms on it? I don’t want to do it in case I get them wrong and damage it.”

“Of course.”

“Oh my god!” Ava squealed startling both Theo and Snape.

“Merlin Ava, are you determined to give me a heart attack,” Snape said clutching his chest.

“And you call me dramatic. Open them.” Ava threw identical looking presents, both wrapped in bright red paper and gold bow to the baffled Theo and Snape, before ripping into her own.

“It doesn’t say who it’s from,” Theo said as he started to carefully open the present.

Inside contained three matching Weasley jumpers, all emerald green with their initial stitched in silver on the front.

“Is this a Weasley jumper?” Theo asked seemingly confused.

“Yep.” Ava said as she hastily pulled hers on over her pyjamas.

Theo looked at her; his beautiful blue eyes full of emotion. “I don’t understand.”

“What’s there to understand; you’re part of the family now. Mrs Weasley likes to take in waifs and strays.” Ava caught Snape trying to stuff his behind his back.

“Oh no you don’t.” Ava shot to her feet, grabbed the jumper and wrestled Snape into it much to his protest, whilst Theo nearly keeled over from laughter.

“I’ve got to get a photo. Where’s the camera?” she said looking around the room.

“It broke,” Snape said quickly.

“Oh look at that – works just fine,” Ava said sarcastically, having spotted the offending camera on top of the fireplace and taking a selfie of her and Theo.

She set a timer, levitated the camera in front of the three of them, and somehow managed to make Snape laugh by telling a bad joke just in time for the flash to go off.

“You are a brat!”

“Told ya,” Theo said laughing at the disgruntled face Snape was pulling.

“No, I am Nova Bratagos,” she said seriously.

Theo looked on in confusion. “What?”

“Do not get her started on her alter ego!” Snape said firmly.

Ava pouted. “Spoilsport.”

“Here brat,” Snape said throwing her a present, before passing one to Theo as well.

Ava stuck her tongue out before opening her gift. Snape had bought her and Theo new potions kits, a variety of defence books to help with their self-study, and lastly a joint present that they opened together.

They held up what seemed to be two over-large white t-shirts stitched together along the seam.

“This is our get along t-shirt,” Theo read out loud sounding confused.

“Every time you two bicker for more than five minutes, you have to wear that. It will split in two after you have been quiet for longer than an hour.”

“Hey – we’re not that bad,” Ava defended, trying to sound petulant but snickering instead.

“I beg to differ – who spent what felt like an hour blaming one another for burning a tray of biscuits?”

“It’s not my fault he can’t cook,” Ava said huffing.

Theo scowled at her. “You never told me how long they had to go in the oven for?”

“It’s not rocket science Theo – I told you to keep checking on them…”

“…And anyway it’s you that broke the clock.”

“Well, you shouldn’t have thrown a stinging hex at me for accidentally knocking into you…”

“…You didn’t accidentally knock into me, you purposely knocked into me so I’d smear cake batter over my face.”

“Well you should have shared,” Ava huffed. “Licking the bowl out is the best part of making cakes.”

“You ate all the leftover cherries…”

“…because you decapitated my snowman figures I made out of icing.”

“That was an accident.”

“Was not...”

“…Was too.”

Snape sighed in exasperation - how did he end up with two pre-teens in his care?

“T-shirt, now!”

“But Uncle Sev,” Ava whined.

“She started it,” Theo said pointing at Ava.

“I don’t care who started it, I’m finishing it.” He threw out a non-verbal spell that magicked the t-shirt roughly onto their two bodies, pushing them both together, making them both sulk.

“An hour.”

Theo and Ava gaped at each other in shock for a moment before bursting out laughing.

"This is hilarious!" Ava managed to get out between giggles. "We're stuck together, like Siamese twins!" They both wiggled their shoulders, testing the limits of the cursed garment.

"Well," Theo said, "at least it's not permanent.”

“I can make it permanent,” Snape said in what was meant to be a serious tone, but his fond expression gave him away. He stood up to clean up the wrapping paper and then disappeared to his room, assumingly to get changed or down his new bottle of whiskey.

Theo and Ava grinned at each other before snickering again.

“Come on, get your boots on,” Ava said pulling Theo with her towards the door.

“Why?”

“It’s stopped snowing; we’re going to build a snowman.”

“A snowman? Ava, we are literally joined together,” Theo said gesturing towards their conjoined bodies.

“So – it’ll make it more fun,” she said grinning like a loon.

Theo grinned back. “You are mental.”

“Don’t pretend like you’ve only just realised that now.”

Theo rolled his eyes fondly as they shoved their warm winter boots on over their pyjamas, pulled on hats and gloves, and attached their thick cloaks around their shoulders haphazardly. They cast a few warming charms on each other before rushing out the door and stepped out into the snow; the cold air hitting their faces like a slap. Ava closed her eyes and took a deep breath, revelling in the crisp, clean scent of the freshly fallen snow. The fields and trees had all turned into a winter wonderland. The sky was bright blue; the sun shined making everywhere sparkle. She felt like she was in a different world.

Ava laughed, her breath forming little puffs in the air. She nodded towards the garden, where there was already an impressive pile of snow. "Come on, let's start rolling!" Together, they began to roll the snow into a giant ball, their movements clumsy at first until they managed to synchronize despite their earlier bickering and their restrictive movements. As they worked, they couldn't help but laugh and joke with each other, creating a very lopsided-looking snowman; complete with stones for eyes, an orange for a nose, and neck decorated with the pink roses to make it look like it was wearing a scarf.

“Not bad for my first snowman,” Theo said smiling at their work.

Ava looked at him in disbelief. “You’ve never made a snowman before?”.

Theo shook his head sadly.

Ava just wanted to hug him and make him forget about his awful childhood. She hoped Harry was making happy memories with his new family too. “Come on, lie down.”

“Why would I want to lie down in snow?” Theo asked in bafflement.

“Just lie down with me,” Ava said pulling on his arm.

He followed her to the cold floor, complaining about getting wet and sounding a lot like Draco.

“Move your right arm and leg out like this,” Ava said demonstrating with her left limbs. Theo looked confused and a little bit concerned but copied anyway until Ava stopped and pulled him up.

“What exactly was the purpose of that?”

“Snow angels, although ours looks like they ate all the Christmas puddings,” Ava said gesturing to the ground.

Theo tilted his head; squinting at the abstract figure, “I suppose I can see an angel.”

Ava laughed just in time for their t-shirts to separate. “I guess we have been good long enough.”

She hastily grabbed a ball of snow and launched it at Theo, hitting him square in the face.

“Hey, no fair!” But he retaliated quickly enough. As the snowballs began to fly, Theo and Ava let out delighted squeals of laughter, their cheeks flushed from the cold air and the exhilaration of the battle, unknowingly watched on fondly by their guardian who had been taking photos of their fun.

Snow started to fall again, soft and gentle, coating the ground once again unnoticed by the two battling teens. Theo, always the strategist, was throwing his snowballs with precision, targeting Ava’s exposed spots with deadly accuracy. Ava, in turn, grew more reckless, charging after him with careless abandon and throwing snowballs wildly, determined to get him back, she managed to corner him; pinning him to the ground until he looked more like a snowman than boy; his dark mop of hair covered in white along with his clothes. Only his pink rosy cheeks and bright blue eyes gave him away.

“Surrender,” she yelled holding a large snowball above his head.

“Never,” Theo shouted back with an unnerving smirk.

Before Ava could retaliate, a massive ball of soft snow fell on her head making Theo roll over with laughter, dislodging her from his chest. She turned to find Snape with his wand out and a massive grin on his face.

“Oh, it’s on,” she exclaimed, already balling snow in her hands. “No wands!”

In a flash of faux anger, she turned on him, laughing and shouting as she pelted him with snowballs. Snape, surprised at first, quickly regained his composure and began to defend himself, dodging and weaving through the onslaught with surprising agility that belied his age, whilst returning accurate snowballs to his targets. Theo and Ava were taken aback by his sudden ferocity, realizing too late that they had underestimated their guardian. The battle raged on, snowflakes flying through the air in a flurry of white, obscuring everything but the determination in the three pairs of eyes fixed on their targets.

Eventually, with a final, triumphant whoop, Theo and Ava joined forces and managed to surround Snape, trapping him on the ground with a bombardment of snow until they were laughing so hard they could barely breathe.

After they warmed up and actually changed out of their pyjamas the three of them spent the afternoon cooking an enormous Christmas dinner with all the trimmings. They spent the evening eating delicious food, telling stories and basking in each other’s company; forgetting all about the drama that awaited them at Hogwarts.

Notes:

Snape: Looks on fondly at his two surrogate children
Ava and Theo: Opening presents
Snape: How did I get this lucky?
Ava and Theo: Start bickering
Snape: I take it back - eyes bottle of whiskey wondering if it's too early to drink.

Chapter 13: Boxing Day and Betrayals

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

The Burrow was always a hive of activity, but on this particular Boxing Day, it buzzed with an unusual mix of excitement and tension. The Weasleys, known for their hospitality, had extended their invitation to a diverse group of guests. Harry who had been spending the holidays with Sirius and Remus had been invited as well as Ava, Snape and Theo who was a ball of nerves. They arrived armed with cakes and homemade ice-cream they had made using the edible roses.

“Theo, they will love you, you don’t need to be nervous,” Ava said as Theo fidgeted with his Weasley jumper that matched Ava’s; their chocolate-brown hair contrasting with the vibrant green. Snape had only agreed to wear it when Ava pouted like a spoilt brat and promised to cook for the rest of the holidays.

"Professor Snape, how lovely to see you," Molly greeted with a warm smile and an appreciative look at her jumper he was wearing.

“Thank you for having us,” he said politely before clocking eyes on Sirius and Lupin who were sat at the kitchen table drinking mulled wine and eating mince pies, wearing their own burgundy jumpers. They had called a truce in Romania but Ava could still see the tension between them, but for the sake of the holidays they all had agreed to be on their best behaviour.

Mrs Weasley fussed over them whilst they all caught up with the goings on in school as the rest of the Weasleys and Harry bounded into the kitchen with enthusiastic greetings and welcome hugs. Theo was quiet to begin with but Mrs Weasley’s motherly ways opened him up, and he welcomed the hug she gave him when he gave her a shy thank you for his new jumper. Ava met Bill for the first time; he was just has handsome as Charlie but had a leaner figure, long hair that was tied back with leather and wore a fang in his ear; no doubt a gift from Charlie. He seemed a rather cool guy and Ava was itching to talk to him about wards and curse breaking and whether she could trust him enough with looking into the wards surrounding Privet Drive. However not long after they arrived the kitchen door burst open making everyone jump, distracting Ava from her thoughts.

“Charlie,” Ava shouted, seeing the gorgeous dragon tamer filling the doorway. She shot up and practically threw herself into his waiting arms.

“Hey Kiddo,” he said giving her a squeeze.

“Don’t call me Kiddo,” Ava scowled as she clocked him in the arm with her fist, much to his amusem*nt.

“Charlie,” Mrs Weasley cried, “what are you doing here? You told us you couldn’t get time off?”

“Well I managed to move some things around, call in some favours,” he said giving his mum a hug and kiss on the cheek. “Thought I'd surprise you all," Charlie added as his eyes briefly met Snape's. A flicker of something unspoken passed between them.

“Charlie,” a deafening squeal came from behind them as Ginny shoved Ava out of the way with her elbow to run at her brother.

“Hey Gin,” Charlie said spinning her around, as she started talking a mile a minute taking away his attention, before the rest of his family was bombarding him with questions and greetings. He stood there with a broad grin lighting up the room, basking in the attention of his family; it was a lovely sight that Ava was glad to be a part of.

As the evening progressed with lots of good food and conversation, Ava, on her way to fetch more butterbeer, overheard Charlie speaking privately with Snape in the kitchen.

"Severus, you know how I feel," Charlie said earnestly. "I care about you. I don't see why we can't—"

"Charlie," Snape interrupted his voice softer than usual. "You're too young. I have responsibilities, more responsibilities that I can’t drop the ball on. And I... I’m not the man who can give you what you need."

"But what about what you need, Sev?" Charlie pressed his frustration evident; Ava could see him press himself up against Snape at the counter.

She could see Snape look intently at Charlie before shaking his head and looking away. "It's better this way."

“Severus, I would never expect you to pick me over Ava or even Theo, I’ve seen the way you care for them; you need them as much as they need you.”

Ava, feeling a pang of sympathy for both men, decided she would talk to Snape later. She left quickly feeling uncomfortable eavesdropping. A while later she found him alone, staring out the window at the snow-covered garden.

"You deserve to be happy you know," she said quietly sitting down next to him.

Snape turned; his expression unreadable. "Happiness is a fleeting illusion, Ava. One I am not destined to grasp."

"That's not true," Ava insisted. "You push people away because you think you don't deserve it, but you do. Charlie cares about you."

Snape's eyes darkened. "It's not that simple."

“Then explain it to me.”

“The last person I cared about died because of me, it’s bad enough that I’m risking you and Theo, I can’t lose anyone else Ava.”

“Uncle Sev, you’re not going to lose any of us. It’s why I’m here, remember?”

Snape looked at her dejectedly. “You don’t know that.”

“No, I suppose I don’t, but don’t you think we should grab whatever happiness we can whilst we’re still living, before the war starts again. You don’t know when your last day on this earth is going to be – you can’t live your life being sad all the time, we need balance. The bad stuff makes the good stuff ten times better – embrace it whilst you can… If I didn’t take every happy moment I’ve had since being here, I would have fallen into a deep depression by last Christmas. You told me I had to live my life and not dwell on my past…future…whatever…you need to do the same.”

Snape gave her a small smile. “You know you talk a lot of sense when you’re not causing chaos.”

“Hey…I resent that…I talk a lot of sense when I am causing chaos.” Snape snorted. “Just think about it; Charlie’s a good guy but he won’t wait around forever.”

Before Ava could say more, Harry approached her, looking unusually serious. "Ava, can we talk? There's something I need to—"

"Harry, come quick! Fred and George are about to start a new game!" Ron's voice cut through, pulling Harry away before he could finish his sentence.

Ava and a reluctant Snape joined the group gathered in the living room to play games. Laughter filled the air as Ava taught the rest of the Weasleys how to play charades. Even Snape seemed to relax slightly, a rare half-smile gracing his lips as he watched the others with Charlie sat close at his side; his arm relaxed along the back of the sofa behind her slightly tense godfather. Ava couldn’t help but smile at the picture they created; Snape in his emerald jumper and Charlie in contrasting grey with a large red C on the front. She sneakily took out the camera and snapped a photo of them both laughing at something ridiculous Sirius had done before either of them noticed.

Ava glanced at Theo who was laughing at Sirius too; he was rather drunk and trying to act out – well - Ava wasn’t sure what he was trying to do, but Theo was now fully at ease, enjoying the camaraderie. He exchanged a glance with her and smiled warmly. The Weasleys had a way of making everyone feel like family, and tonight was no exception; she couldn’t help but take a photo of Theo too – his rosy cheeks and beaming smile lighting up his face.

Ava turned back to the game watching Sirius mime flapping his arms like wings, moving around the circle in an exaggeratedly majestic manner, his eyes closed in mock serenity.

“A bird!” called out Ginny.

“No, no, it’s got to be more specific,” murmured Percy, tapping his chin thoughtfully.

Sirius then began to sniff dramatically, his face contorting as if he were fighting a sneeze. He mimed out an exaggerated ‘ACHOO!’ motion and pretended to stumble in mid-air, clutching at an imaginary beak.

“A sick bird?” offered Ron, his brow furrowed in concentration.

Harry burst out laughing. “A Hippogriff! It’s a Hippogriff with a cold!”

Sirius nodded vigorously, giving a mock bow. The room erupted into applause and laughter.

“Bravo, Sirius!” cheered Mrs Weasley, wiping a tear of laughter from her eye. “That was splendid!”

“Your turn Harry!” Sirius announced tossing him the bowl filled with scraps of parchment with a wink.

Harry reached in, pulled out a slip, and read it. He started pacing in place as if looking for something and then began to pretend he was lifting something long and flexible from the ground.

“Fishing!” Mr Weasley guessed leaning forward in his chair.

Harry shook his head, still yanking and pulling. Then, he acted as though he were trying something around himself and started to writhe on the floor.

“A snake!” shouted Ginny. “A snake charmer!”

Harry stood up and shook his head again, making the ‘writhing’ action more pronounced, this time adding a look of fear.

“The Basilisk!” yelled Ron, jumping up in his excitement.

“Yes!” Harry confirmed with a big grin on his face. Everyone clapped and cheered, even if it was a sore subject.

Fred and George’s joint effort for “Gilderoy Lockhart signing autographs” was an over-the-top performance flipping between trying to act like a peaco*ck and signing paper that had the whole room in stitches.

Lupin’s turn came around, and this time he pulled “Professor McGonagall turning into a cat.” He straightened up, adjusted an imaginary pair of spectacles on his nose, and then, in one smooth movement, dropped to all fours and started prowling around the circle, arching his back and flicking an imaginary tail. His cat-like movements were so precise and exaggerated that even Snape, who was usually the hardest to crack, ended up laughing, and told the room he was definitely going to give McGonagall a pensive memory of Lupin’s rendition of his old professor. Remus practically turned green and threatened to hex Snape good-naturedly if he dared do such a thing.

The room was still abuzz from the last few rounds of charades when Ava stepped up for her turn. She dipped her hand into the bowl, fishing out a new slip of parchment. As she read it, a mischievous grin spread across her face.

“Oh, this is going to be good,” she said, her eyes sparkling with anticipation.

Taking a deep breath, Ava started by puffing out her chest and striking a pose, hand on hip, imitating the person's characteristic swagger. She tossed her hair back with a dramatic flair, earning immediate chuckles from the group.

Fred elbowed George. "She's nailed the smugness."

Ava then transitioned into pretending to release a creature. She mimed unlocking a cage and then stepping back, waving her hands as if shooing something away. Suddenly, she acted startled, swatting at invisible creatures buzzing around her head.

“Cornish Pixies!” Harry shouted, clapping his hands in excitement.

Ava nodded vigorously and then began the main act. She pretended to be grabbed by the back of her robes and lifted into the air, flailing dramatically. She reached up, as if grasping at an imaginary chandelier, and dangled there, kicking her legs and looking around with a mixture of panic and irritation. She spun slowly, as if the chandelier were swaying, her eyes wide with mock terror.

“Lockhart!” Theo exclaimed, catching on quickly. “It’s Lockhart in the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom!”

“It’s the pixies, they’ve got him!” Ron added as he laughed, pointing at Ava’s frantic motions. “Oh my gosh Ava, that’s perfect! It’s exactly like what happened in class!”

“That was brilliant!” Charlie said, giving her a high five.

Sirius was practically rolling around on the floor in stitches, Lupin looking on fondly whilst Mrs Weasley was torn between laughing and trying to decide whether that had actually happened or not.

“Was that true?” she eventually asked.

“Oh yes,” Ava said laughing, “he’s the worst teacher ever. I know you like his books Mrs Weasley but he’s a complete fraud. I’ve quit his lessons.”

“Quit his lessons?” she said aghast looking towards Snape.

“Yes – we weren’t learning anything; he just used to monologue from his useless books.”

“What? Severus is this true?”

“Yes. I don’t know what possessed Dumbledore to hire him, but Ava, Theo, Harry, and Draco are far more advanced than anyone in their year from self-study alone.”

“You two have quit as well?” she said gesturing towards Theo and Harry who both nodded.

“I tried telling you Mum,” said Ron.

“I know, I just thought you were trying to get out of class because you didn’t like him. We’ll discuss this before you go back to school.”

The room buzzed with conversation and laughter as the game continued, each performance a highlight in its own right. The evening was already a roaring success, filled with laughter and joy, when the unexpected happened. Severus Snape, who had been sitting watching on in amusem*nt next to Charlie the whole time, stood up and stepped forward, signalling that he wanted to take a turn.

Ava’s jaw hit the floor – he must be drunk.

The room fell silent in surprise. The idea of Snape joining in the fun of charades was almost too much to believe. Even the mischievous twins, Fred and George, were momentarily speechless.

"Professor Snape," Harry said, struggling to keep a straight face. "Are you sure you want to join in?"

Snape gave a curt nod, his face as impassive as ever. "I believe I am capable of participating in a simple parlour game, Harry."

He pulled out a slip of parchment, glanced at it, and a rare twinkle of mischief appeared in his eyes.

The room fell silent again, all eyes on Snape, wondering how he would tackle this new challenge. Sirius himself leaned forward, clearly intrigued and perhaps a bit wary of Snape’s signature smirk.

Snape began by running his fingers through his hair, tousling it into a wild, dishevelled mess. He straightened up, adopting a swaggering stance, and placed his hands on his hips in a way that was an unmistakable characteristic of a certain Gryffindor.

“Ah, it’s going to be good,” Fred whispered to George, both of them stifling laughter.

Snape then exaggeratedly puffed out his chest and began to strut around the circle, occasionally flicking his imaginary hair back. He even attempted a roguish smile, though on Snape’s usually stern face, it looked more like a grimace.

Sirius couldn't help but laugh, clearly realising who the impression was of. Snape gave a small smirk and then moved on to the next part of his act. He mimed pulling out a wand and then, with dramatic flair, pretended to cast spells left and right, his face a mask of determined bravery. He paused, struck a heroic pose, and pretended to engage in a fierce duel, clearly exaggerating the person’s typical recklessness.

Harry burst out laughing. "It's Sirius! He's trying to be Sirius!"

“Very good Harry,” he said as everyone laughed at Sirius who was pouting between laughs and trying to convince everyone he didn’t act like that.

As the fire crackled and the games continued, the tensions that had lingered at the beginning of the evening seemed to melt away. For one night, at least, they were all just friends and family, gathered together in the warmth of the Burrow, celebrating the simple joy of being together.

The week after Christmas went far too quickly for Ava’s liking, she never did manage to speak to Bill about wards and curse breaking much to her disappointment. Charlie came over for New Year, which they spent at the local pub, eating good food and drinking local beer whilst the ‘kids’ drank weak cider, as they caught him up with the goings on in school, he’d not managed to speak to Bill either as he had headed back to Egypt the day after boxing day and the subject was far too complicated and sensitive to be discussed over letter.

Both Ava and Snape had been writing to Charlie, and he admitted it was the reason for his return to see how they were both doing after they had told him about the goings on in school and to see his family especially Ginny who he was sure wasn’t being possessed by Moldy. He had even talked his Bill into returning for Christmas rather than the family visiting him in Egypt.

That night Ava had danced the night away with Theo to the local bands as Snape watched on in amusem*nt, whilst trying to bat away Charlie who was trying to get him to dance with them too. Charlie was a terrible dancer but it made it ten times funnier. When Snape wasn’t trying to fight off Charlie he was being either hit on by the local single woman or praised by the landlady for raising two teenagers by himself after he had told Theo and Ava off for bickering again, and they had both turned to him sarcastically saying ‘yes Dad.’ When midnight came Ava and Theo dragged Snape up to join everyone as they linked hands and sang Auld Lang Syne, whilst Charlie looked on fondly at the trio. Theo was in a constant state of bewilderment at the Muggle culture but never stop smiling and laughing the whole night, even when they had to trek home in knee deep snow at one in the morning. It helped that her godfather was thoroughly pissed, singing Gimme, Gimme, Gimme by ABBA as he staggered home, leaning heavily on Charlie's strong shoulders as Ava and Theo struggled to hold themselves up right from laughing so hard.

They eventually reached the cottage; the journey taking twice as long as normal. Ava and Theo flopped onto her bed still hearing the drunken sounds of Snape still singing ABBA whilst Charlie’s booming laugh echoed through the cottage.

“Ava?” Theo said shyly.

“Yeah?” Ava said still chuckling at the singing coming from downstairs.

“I want to thank you.”

Ava turned her head to face him. “Thank me? For what?”

“For being you.”

Ava looked at him confused. “Being me?”

“For accepting me into your life; no questions asked. For healing me and bringing me here; letting me stay with you and Sev. You saved me and you don't even know it. I just wanted you to know that I am so grateful, and that I'm here for you, no matter what. I just wanted you to know that.”

“You don’t have to thank me, I love you, Theo. You would have done the same if the roles were reversed.”

“I love you too Ava….in a totally platonic, brotherly kind of way.”

Ava rolled her eyes. “Obviously you dork,” Ava replied fondly battering him in the head with a cushion.

Theo laughed, hitting her back with a soft pillow. “Brat.”

***

“So did anything happen with you two last night,” Ava said grinning as Snape staggered into the kitchen on New Year’s Day before slumping over the table; his head nestled into his arms.

“I need a hangover potion,” he muttered.

“Fresh out I’m afraid,” Ava said cheekily.

“What?” Snape yelled as he sat up suddenly before grabbing his head in pain. “There was some in the cupboard.” He eyed Ava suspiciously. “Did you and Theo sneak drinks last night?”

“Jeez Dad I was joking,” Ava said rolling her eyes and passing over a vial and cup of coffee.

“Sorry….I’ve not felt this hungover in years.” He knocked back the potion and took a hefty gulp of coffee with a satisfied sigh. “Where’s Charlie and Theo?”

“Went flying, and you didn’t answer my question.”

“Because it’s none of your business,” he retorted.

Ava scrutinised him. “What happened?”

“Nothing happened – he slept on the sofa, I passed out. End of story.”

“Uncle Sev,” Ava said softly.

“Nothing happened.” Ava let it go but she was positive Snape was lying. Before she could ask again Charlie and Theo came through the door shaking snow of their boots.

“Morning Severus,” Charlie said cheerfully, a big grin lighting up his handsome face.

“Good morning Charlie,” Snape said formally, his cheeks tinting pink.

“I really need to be getting off; promised my family I’d say goodbye before heading back to Romania.”

“I’ll miss you Charlie,” Ava said giving him a hug. “Don’t forget to write.”

“I won’t, and remember, anything happens I’ll get the first portkey back – I promise. Catch ya later Theo, and keep practicing …you’ll be a professional before you leave school if you keep it up.”

Theo gave him a shy wave. “Thanks, Charlie.”

Charlie turned to Snape who had stood from the table. “Walk me out, Severus?”

Snape acquiesced and followed Charlie out of the cottage. Ava rushed to the window to watch, she could see them standing just before the boundary lines conversing; Snape standing with his arms crossed as Charlie inched closer.

“Merlin Ava, you’re so nosy,” Theo said rolling his eyes.

“I want to know what happened.”

“What do you mean?” he asked whilst making himself a cup of tea.

Ava practically had her nose pushed against the window; she really wished the twins had made their extendable ears already. “Clearly something happened last night.”

“Well, I heard Charlie putting him to bed.”

“You did?” Ava turned to Theo, her eyes wide with hope. “Did he stay? Uncle Sev said he slept on the sofa.”

“No – I heard him say he wouldn’t take advantage of Severus whilst he was drunk. I think he just put him to bed and left.”

Ava snorted.

“What’s so funny?” Theo asked as he handed over a cup of tea and a packet of biscuits.

“He’s going to be feeling so embarrassed, he never loses control…ever.”

Theo looked out the window at the two conversing men. “Maybe he should for once.”

Ava nodded before turning back to look out the window too. “I know – just wished he’d give Charlie a chance.”

Too soon the snow turned to rain, the ground to sludge and they were back on their way to Hogwarts. They chose to get the Hogwarts Express for their return journey so they could catch up with their friends. The Christmas break had luckily calmed the hysteria over the attacks, and everyone seemed friendly enough toward her, eagerly talking about their holidays. However, Ava noted if the topic strayed to the heir of Slytherin, or its monster the conversation was quickly diverted by Ron or Hermione.

The first few weeks back were rather dull, consisting of classes, homework, and self-study for DADA. The only excitement was her healing lessons with Pomfrey and joining the music club, which was a welcome break from the rumour mill. There was only a handful of students, but they were welcoming enough; Blaise was there who played the piano, a sixth-year Ravenclaw girl called Megan who played the violin, Dean Thomas who had managed to bring his drums from home and a fifth-year Hufflepuff called Stephen who also played the guitar. They spent the hour coming up with harmonies and learning new songs; it was exactly what she needed.

There had been no more attacks since Justin, and Pomfrey had said the mandrakes would be ready for harvesting before Easter so people were a bit more relaxed about the situation much to Ava’s dismay – she needed them to be vigilant around the castle. More people had opted to quit Lockhart’s class after students complained to their parents about him. Ava and Harry’s study group now consisted of Draco, who had joined after his hospital stay, Susan Bones, Hannah Abbott, Padma, and Theo; who had managed to get permission before Christmas due to Snape lying to his father, saying he was being placed in an advanced class where he would be teaching – not technically a lie as he’d been doing that since summer. Ron and Hermione had quit DADA too; she was still cross-referencing his books with more reliable sources as she studied, but the two of them had pilfered Harry and seemed to be off doing their own thing much to Ava’s confusion.

Ron and Hermione still kept being secretive about something, and whatever they were doing Harry was going along with it. He wouldn’t answer her questions when asked, opting to change the subject or saying he didn’t know. She had a feeling he was lying to her but she supposed it wasn’t any of her business what they were up to; she had enough secrets of her own as it was. She wanted to check the books in the Room of Requirement but she was scared of what she might find. At the end of January the day after witnessing Slytherin trounce Hufflepuff; Theo scoring half the goals and Draco on top form again, Ava found out exactly why her Gryffindor friends had been distant. She’d been sitting at the common room window, staring out into the black lake, lost in a world of her own when she heard Draco come in accompanied by Crabbe and Goyle. It wasn’t exactly strange, he did still spend time with them but they didn’t follow him around like bodyguards anymore but they were acting a little odd. They kept looking around the room like they had never seen it before, and every so often would glance in Ava’s direction.

Curious, Ava went over and stood next to her friend. “Hey Draco, how’s the head?” she asked as she pushed his hair out of the way to check how hot he felt.

“Its fine Ava, stop fussing, going home for a few weeks did me a world of good,” he said pretending to bat her hand away. “You saw me on the quidditch pitch yesterday.”

“I’m only worried; it’s the healer in me. So what you guys talking about?” she asked plopping herself down on Draco’s lap as there were no spare seats. Crabbe and Goyle’s eyebrows rose like they were shocked to see them so comfortable together, which was weird as it wasn’t the first time she’d done it. The common room was often full on weekends so she regularly sat on Draco’s knee or squeezed herself next to him on one of the big comfy chairs by the fire. It had started out as a joke as everyone used to fight over the sofas like they were playing a weird game of musical chairs. Ava eventually got fed up and started using either Theo or Draco as a chair instead; Draco was more accommodating though as Theo would just bicker with her or dig his elbow into her ribs until she eventually moved. It had happened that often, it just became normal and no one batted an eyelid at them anymore.

“They want to know who I think the heir of Slytherin is,” Draco said in disbelief.

“Oh? And who do you two think is the heir?” she asked distractedly as she wriggled her butt trying to get comfy on Draco's lap.

“Ava, why do you have such a bony arse,” Draco said distractedly as he manhandled her so she sat more comfortably on his thigh.

“Erm….we don’t know,” Crabbe said, trying to bring them back into the conversation as he watched on in astonishment as the other two Slytherins started play fighting over the chair.

“We thought maybe one of the older students, one of the sacred twenty-eight,” said Goyle who looked kind of angry.

“Well if they are, they are keeping it quiet,” Draco sneered, before he huffed at Ava, flinging his arms around her in an iron grip to keep her still. “Although I might have thought they would tell me.”

“Why would they tell you,” Ava said as she gave him an elbow in the ribs.

“Well why wouldn’t they? - I’m a Malfoy,” he said seriously, making Ava snort. He couldn’t keep a straight face for long and they burst into laughter making Crabbe and Goyle jump. “What’s with you two today?” he added turning to glare at them. “You’re being weird.”

“Stomach ache,” Crabbe said. Ava, now comfortable, half on the chair, half in Draco’s lap with her legs flung over his knees, stared at the two gormless-looking Slytherins; something seemed awfully familiar about their conversation.

“Are you two together?” Goyle asked his face red and mouth set in a thin line.

Both Draco and Ava looked at him in bafflement.

“What’s it to you?” Ava asked before Draco could say anything. She suddenly had a suspicion that the two boys in front of her were not Crabbe and Goyle, but were in fact two Gryffindors who were going to be up sh*t creak when she got her hands on them.

“Erm….”Goyle stuttered. “I just thought you li….never mind.”

“Say Goyle, you pulled any pranks on any Mudbloods recently?” Ava asked seriously. She could feel Draco’s hand tense on her waist, clearly wondering what the hell was wrong with her, whilst the fake Crabbe and Goyle turned red with anger. “I need to get Apep back off Potter; I might set him on a few to scare them. I mean he’s not quite Slytherin’s monster but he’s enough to scare the sh*t out of people. He wouldn’t work on Granger as she’s used to him by now. What about Dean?”

Draco could tell something was up by the way she felt his eyes bore into the side of her face. He was clearly playing along though as he kept his mouth shut, knowing she would never normally speak like that; she had often chastised him during first year for saying anything remotely similar.

Crabbe and Goyle were looking angrier and angrier, like they were itching for a fight, but she narrowed her eyes on them, staring intently for a few moments. “You know how reckless Gryffindors can be.” She saw the way both their eyes shifted from anger to realisation, knowing Ava had caught them out in their act. She couldn’t believe she had forgotten about the polyjuice potion - in her defence she didn’t think the Lions would have had reason to question Draco anymore.

She relaxed back into Draco’s embrace as she eyed the two boys in front of her. “I may as well play up to the rumours anyway – especially after all I’ve done in this school - United the houses, persuading McGonagall to allow more clubs, got Harry out of a sh*tty situation at home, helped free an innocent man….hey, we even got all the sponsorship deals for Quidditch, and this is the thanks I get….I mean even my Gryffindor friends are being weird with me; keeping secrets and acting shifty. I thought they were my friends… Screw them… I even punched Harry’s aunt in the face when I helped rescue him, and did I get a thank you….nope… Not that I do anything for recognition but they clearly take me for granted.” - so Ava hadn’t intended to go on a rant, but once the excitement of returning to school had died down, a lot of the students outside her friendship group had gone back to giving her a wide birth, and with Hermione, Ron and Harry acting weird with her again she felt her anger rising. She’d barely seen them since the train, only during Potions where they had to concentrate, and at meal times the twins usually created a buffer between them if she sat at the Gryffindor table so she hadn’t noticed them acting differently towards her during those times. None of them had joined her DADA study group since returning either – she’d not thought too much about it at the time but now she was pissed!

“Ava are you okay?” Draco asked, tightening his arm around her waist to pull her closer. She just shrugged looking at the two disguised boys. “I honestly don’t know anymore… Maybe I should transfer to Beauxbatons, would you come with me Draco.”

Goyle looked about ready to cry – he was clearly Harry; Beauxbatons had always been their running joke. He grabbed fake Crabbe harshly by the wrist, pulling them quickly to their feet.

“Seriously what’s wrong with you two?” Draco asked the two red-faced boys.

“Medicine for stomach,” Crabbe said before rushing to the exit of the common room.

“I’ll be back in a minute,” Ava said angrily to Draco before chasing after them.

They had barely made it out of the common room when she caught them, shouting two quick incarcerous and levitating the tied-up boys into an empty classroom. Ava watched as a nose lengthened, hair turned messy and eyes changed colour revealing two very sheepish-looking Gryffindors. She stood there quietly fuming, arms crossed with a glare that could kill.

“Ava, we can explain,” Harry said quickly as Ron shouted, “We think the heir must be a Slytherin.”

Ava still didn’t reply; she felt like her friends had betrayed her and everything she stood for. They kept their plans a secret, choosing to distance themselves instead of confiding their theories. She felt tears pool her eyes but she refused to let them fall, looking at them coldly instead; still not saying a word.

“We thought the heir must be a Slytherin as you said it was Salazar’s monster in the castle and that it was a snake. So the likelihood is they’d be a Slytherin too, plus there must be another Parselmouth in the castle to be able to control it if it really is a basilisk.”

Ava still stared coldly at them, her eyes boring into them with hurt and anger.

“We thought it might be Malfoy,” said Ron. Harry glared at him like he was the biggest idiot on the planet.

Ava sent a stinging hex the both of them before heading to the door.

“Ava wait!” Harry shouted. She paused but didn’t turn around. “We’re sorry, we were wrong…we just thought if it was anyone, it would be him.”

Ava turned slowly, her bright blue eyes set in anger and her lips pursed. “I thought you were my friends, I thought you could trust me, I thought we were in this together?” Ava said quietly through gritted teeth. “I don’t care that you thought the heir was a Slytherin, I don’t care that you made polyjuice to get into the common room, what I care about is the fact you didn’t trust me enough to help you…” His voice grew in anger with every word she spoke. “That you didn’t trust me enough to tell me your plans… That you didn’t trust me enough to help brew polyjuice; that you didn’t think to ask who I suspected… I care that you went behind my back; attacked two students so you could polyjuice as them, snuck your way into the common room so you could interrogate one of my friends, one of your friends… I thought you and Draco were friends now Harry, I thought we were making progress, I thought we were done with this bullsh*t of automatically accusing someone just because of their ties with a name or a house.” Ava had tears running down her cheeks now, but her voice held strong. Harry was no better; his face was pale, his bright green eyes like glass as tears dripped out of them. Ron looked like he wanted to be sick or the ground to swallow him whole. Ava just wanted to hex them both, but the anger had drained out of her just as quickly as it had come. She just felt defeated and wanted to go home to Clevers Cottage with Theo and her godfather.

“You could have just asked me if you were so convinced it’s a Slytherin,” Ava said her voice thick with emotion. “I could have snuck you into the common room; you have a bloody invisibility cloak for Merlin’s sake... I thought we were done with prejudices? I mean….you Harry are a Parselmouth…and a Gryffindor… so how you could automatically think it was Slytherin is moronic…Or do you believe the rumours and actually think it’s me who’s been attacking students?”

“Ava, I’m sorry,” Harry choked out, his voice breaking. “We didn’t….I didn’t…. it wasn’t like that….I’m sorry….I’m so sorry Ava.”

She just looked at them with hurt; her shoulders sagged with an air of defeat. She conjured a giant mirror in front of the boys, took a deep breath, and straightened her spine, before channelling Snape’s look of indifference and left the room without a backward glance. They could get themselves out of her incarcerous, even if it took them all week.

Ava didn’t go back to the common room choosing to go to her tree house in the Room of Requirement instead. Normally when she was annoyed or pissed off she would take it out on a punch bag but she didn’t have the energy. She just wanted to curl up and go home. She laid on the floor, staring out the large window at the pretend bright blue sky. It was the first time she really missed her grandmother since being at Hogwarts; missed her comforting hugs, missed her cooking and picking blackberries, missed playing alongside her with the guitar. She really felt twelve years old now, and as much as her godfather comforted her she really just wanted the woman who was like her mother, who raised her, who made her feel safe, who taught her how to be brave, how to be strong, how to not let hurtful words and actions affect her. She felt guilty that she hadn’t thought of her grandmother more often.

“Ava?” a quiet voice said as the rickety stairs creaked revealing Theo. He didn’t ask if she was okay, didn’t ask what had happened, just laid down next to her, putting his head next to hers so they rested against each other; their dark hair bleeding together, and linked their fingers together in quiet comfort. They laid in silence for what felt like hours, lost in their own thoughts.

“Harry, Ron, and Hermione made polyjuice; they turned into Crabbe and Goyle to try figure out who Slytherin's heir is,” Ava eventually said, her voice croaky with disuse. “They even thought it could have been Draco.” Theo snorted at that. “They never told me anything; kept it to themselves, kept their distance from me instead of trusting me. I should have known they were up to something when Goyle’s potion exploded and I had to help treat everyone who had engorged body parts. They must have done it to create a distraction so they could steal ingredients. The ironic thing is Uncle Sev would have just given me them; he would have been impressed a second year could brew such a complicated potion….why didn’t they trust me Theo?” she said quietly, turning her head towards the silent boy.

“I don’t know Ava. Draco found them after you had tied them up. Gave him a peace of his mind from what he told me.”

“He did?”

“Of course he did. You’re the best thing that’s happened to this school, and they…well, I don’t know what they were thinking. Draco wasn’t very coherent when he had a rant about it, but he definitely said they had a lot of making up to do, and until they did their rivalry was back on.”

“Oh no,” Ava groaned. “I can’t take those two at each other’s throats again.”

“Well, they best hurry up and make it up to you then hadn’t they…Come on I’m hungry, it’s dinner time.”

“Can we go to the kitchens, I don’t have the energy to deal with them yet – or are they still tied up?”

“No, Draco let them free,” Theo said as he pulled Ava to her feet.

“He did?” she said in surprise.

“Apparently so, he made them beg for forgiveness for accusing him though.”

Ava stood there in shock. “They actually told him they thought it was him?”

“Yep – Harry spilled everything apparently,” Theo said as he climbed down the rickety wooden stairs.

“I’m surprised they told him to be honest.”

“Me too. Draco’s apparently told Harry he has to wear his Quidditch training jumper to all Slytherin matches in an effort to start making it up to him.”

Ava snorted. “What about Ron?”

“He has to wear a Slytherin uniform for a week.”

Ava laughed, “That’s going to clash terribly with his hair, and the twins will never let him hear the end of it.”

“Did you know Hermione’s in the hospital wing?” Theo asked casually.

Ava thought for a moment as they took a secret shortcut through the castle. “No – why?”

“I don’t know, I overheard on my way to find you.”

Ava burst out laughing suddenly remembering, “She accidently turned herself into a cat no doubt.”

“A cat?”

“Polyjuice – probably took one of Millie’s cat hairs thinking it was one of hers.”

“Do you think she will be okay?” Theo asked worriedly. “Polyjuice isn’t designed for animals.”

“She will be fine.” Theo still looked worried though. “You can go and see her you know.”

“But she betrayed your trust,” he said.

“Yeah, but that’s my problem, not yours. I don’t want this to stop you from being friends. That choice is yours.”

Theo looked torn like he wanted to support Ava but equally didn’t want to lose Hermione as a friend. “I don’t know how I feel about it all to be honest. You befriended her when she had no one, stuck up for her, invited her into the house. Plus she could have told me too, we’ve been friends since last year; I thought we had grown closer but maybe they all still hold prejudices against us… I don’t know – we need to talk to them; find out why they did it.”

“Yeah, I suppose, just not today – maybe not even this week.”

Theo nodded in understanding as they reached the kitchens. The house elves were glad to see them and happily caught the two students up with what was going on with their lives. It cheered her up somewhat and distracted her mind for a bit. She bumped into Draco on the way back to the common room, but rather than speaking he just pulled her into a bone-crushing hug. He held her tightly as she buried her head into his shoulder, breathing in the clean scent of citrus and bergamot. It helped ground her, giving her an additional sense of comfort and belonging. She reluctantly pulled away telling him she’d talk about it the next day as she was too mentally exhausted to rehash everything.

Theo pulled Ava along with him, bypassing the common room to enter Snape’s quarters. He knew she needed her family – her chosen family. Snape asked worriedly what was wrong when they entered, seeing the forlorn look on Ava’s face, but Theo just shook his head in answer; choosing to pull out some board games they had brought back to school with them instead.

Snape and Theo spent the evening cheering Ava up; playing Cluedo, acting out ridiculous charades, and singing along to Queen (obviously with a heavy silencing charm in place – god forbid anyone knew the Dungeon Bat was actually fun.) He transfigured the sofa into a comfortable bed, and his two surrogate kids crashed in a heap of exhaustion for the rest of the night whilst he spent it worrying about what the hell had happened. He’d never seen his goddaughter look so dejected or lost before.

The following morning when Ava had explained to Snape about what the Gryffindors had done he was about ready to turn back into his pre-Ava persona and make the Gryffindors lives hell. Ava had had to calm him down and make him promise he wouldn’t do anything until she had spoken to them. It still didn’t stop him from dishing out detentions every time he saw them, which involved scrubbing cauldrons or polishing the trophies without magic. Hermione had been let off so far as she was still in the hospital wing looking half cat. Ava had done her normal lessons with Pomfrey, ignoring Hermione no matter how many times she tried to explain – choosing to cast a silencing spell around her instead. She did borrow Snape’s camera though to take a photo of the feline girl – she was never going to let her live that down.

Both Harry and Ron had tried speaking to her too, but each time Ava just looked at them dejectedly saying not today before either Draco or Theo would tell them to back off with a threat or two. Ron had followed through on Draco’s punishment and had worn Slytherin robes all week alongside a badge that flashed Slytherins Rule, Gryffindors Drool.

The rumour mill got even wilder when they realised there was tension between the two houses again. Some still believing Ava was linked to the attacks thought Harry had finally cottoned on and were half expecting a duel to break out over their breakfasts. Even more, thought she had cursed Hermione out of jealousy of her friendship with Harry, and that’s why no one had seen her. Luckily everyone knew she hadn’t been petrified so they couldn’t blame the heir rumour on that. Others thought Harry had broken her heart, which had Ginny looking ridiculously smug every time she saw her, and there were rumours that there was some weird love triangle/square going on with her, Harry, Draco, and Theo. It was all a bit ridiculous really. Although it probably didn’t help that Draco and Theo were permanently stuck to her side like someone had cast a sticking charm to their arms, which were constantly either around her waist (Draco) or shoulders (Theo). It was nice at first - to feel so protected, but occasionally it got a bit stifling like you know – when she wanted to take a piss or take a shower, or literally talk to anyone else without them hovering over her. She’d taken to hiding out with the twins in their prank room whenever they got too much. They weren’t entirely sure what had happened but had promised to prank the two boys as soon as possible between trying to figure out their new project. They had come into some money after Amelia Bones had contacted them about the cage they had made to capture Pettigrew. Apparently it was so good the DMLE had wanted to buy a dozen of them for the auror department, which the twins had happily obliged. Now they were working on something for Ava– protective glasses in case she never found who had the diary and Harry and/or Ava ended up in the Chamber of Secrets.

Ava walked into the M&M Twins laboratory in the Room of Requirement a week after finding out about the Gryffindors, her senses alive with the vibrant chaos that characterized the twins' workspace. Potions bubbled, gears whirred, and enchanted objects zipped through the air, each with a life of its own. Fred and George, the masterminds behind the magical mayhem, greeted her with broad smiles.

"Ava! Just the witch we were hoping to see," Fred exclaimed, wiping a smear of green goo from his forehead.

“We’ve made progress with the glasses you requested. But we need your help.”

“Of course, what do you need?”

Fred and George exchanged a glance, and then Fred continued, "We're stuck on a few aspects. We need your expertise in spell work and potion-making to get it right. The glasses need to be able to convert magical energy into visual signals."

George picked up a delicate and elegant prototype frame, its darkened lenses shimmering with a faint, iridescent glow. "We've got the design, but the enchantments are tricky. I know you want these due to the basilisk but we think if we get it right and remove the charm that seals the eyes shut, they could be given to people who are blind.”

“That’s a brilliant idea, so what have you got already?”

Fred nodded thoughtfully. "We'll need to create a multi-layered enchantment. First, a basic sight-restoration spell. Then, we layer in a potion that enhances the connection between the eyes and the brain, allowing the visual signals to be interpreted correctly."

George grinned. "That's why we need you, and to get some ingredients from Snape. Shall we get started?"

The trio delved into their work with fervour. Ava's first task was to plan the potion that would act as the conduit between the eyes and the brain. She spent hours in the corner of their room, writing theories and potion combinations. It was rather complicated and had eventually admitted defeat and got Snape involved. Between the two of them they came up with a tricky concoction that needed rare expensive ingredients. They carefully combined powdered unicorn horn for its healing properties, phoenix feathers for their regenerative magic, and essence of moonstone to enhance the clarity of vision. Snape continued with the research as he believed it could be used to improve eyesight more than the standard spells used but would need more testing. At present he deemed it relatively safe due to them using it on glasses rather than peoples actual eyes.

As Ava worked on the potion, Fred and George worked on the enchantments. They etched complicated runes into the frames of the glasses, each symbol glowing as it absorbed the magic. The runes would channel the potion's effects directly into the wearer's eyes.

After several days of intense work, the potion was ready. It shimmered in its cauldron, a brilliant silver liquid that seemed to hum with magical energy. Ava poured it into a set of tiny vials, which Fred and George then embedded into the arms of the glasses. The final step was to fuse the potion and the enchantments into a single, cohesive spell.

Ava and the twins stood around the workbench, the prototype glasses resting in the centre. Fred raised his wand, a look of determination on his face. "Ready?"

Ava and George nodded. Fred muttered an incantation, his wand glowing brightly. Threads of magic wove through the air, connecting the glasses, the potion, and the runes. The glasses glowed, their lenses sparking with magical energy.

"Let's test them," George said, his voice tinged with anticipation.

Ava nodded as the three of them cautiously pressed the glasses to their eyes. Immediately Ava had overwhelming sense to force her eyes closed – it was the jinx they had adapted from the lip-lock spell.

“Woah,” Ava said. “I so want to open my eyes but I literally can’t.”

A few moments passed of them seeing nothing but darkness. Ava held her breath thinking the charms had failed, but slowly colour started to form, swirling around like a kaleidoscope until they settled into a picture. Except it wasn’t a picture, Ava could see everything in front of her in vivid colour, like everything was in HD vision.

Ava glanced around the room taking in the vibrant colours and details of the twin's workshop. “Wow – these are amazing. I can’t believe you pulled it off.”

“Couldn’t have done it without you and Snape,” said Fred.

“How long do you think they will last?” Ava asked.

“We’re not sure, we’ll have to keep them on – give them proper testing, make sure there’s no side- effects.”

“You know if these prove safe – you would be right in thinking they could be sold to people who are blind it’s just a shame ingredients are so expensive.”

The twins hummed in agreement as they started taking notes.

***

Ava spent most nights staying in Snape’s quarters on the transfigured bed with Theo after the Slytherin girls had badgered her for information about what happened, telling them she was helping Pomfrey. For some reason Ava’s gut had told her to keep the information to herself, feeling that it would undo all her hard work with house unity. Even Draco and Theo seemed to be keeping quiet about it. They did throw a surprise sleepover though which cheered her up. The Slytherin girls had only invited Padma, Susan, and Hannah though. Hermione was still in the hospital anyway so not like she could have attended even if she had been invited, and Ava wasn’t as close with the other second years. It was the first one they had organised since returning to school and Ava was glad for the distraction. They spent hours pampering her; doing her nails, curling her hair and just generally making her feel good about herself; no talk about monsters or Gryffindors, the only mention was Susan telling her that her aunt was gaining evidence for when they eventually discredited the headmaster. Pansy especially had really embraced Muggle cosmetics and now had a whole case full of nail polish, make-up and hair products – Ava may have unleashed a beauty monster – Pansy had even managed to charm the polish to flash different colours.

***

January bled into February, weeks passed in a blink, like she was permanently in a daze. Ava walked into the Great Hall, expecting the usual sight of long tables filled with students and the enchanted ceiling reflecting the sky above. Instead, she was met with a sickening sea of pink. Every surface was covered in gaudy, heart-shaped decorations, and garlands of pink and red flowers hung from the ceiling. The walls were adorned with overly sentimental banners proclaiming love and friendship.

“Nope... nope... not today,” Ava muttered under her breath, grimacing at the hideous decorations Professor Lockhart had put up for Valentine's Day. She considered turning around and skipping breakfast altogether, but her grumbling stomach insisted otherwise. Steeling herself, she made her way to the Slytherin table.

“Today’s going to be consisting of a pink-induced headache,” Ava said to Theo who just laughed at her.

“Not a fan of Valentine’s Day?”

“I’m not a fan of Lockhart! Can we just go hang out in our treehouse? she said pouting.

Theo looked at her with condescension. “We can’t skip lessons, Ava.”

Ava groaned and buried her head in her arms as Lockhart appeared on stage wearing a sickly shade of pink, talking incessantly about Valentine’s Day, and explaining the twelve surly-looking dwarves that had just marched in. Snape looked like he was about to hex the man when he suggested the students ask him to make a love potion.

Ava hadn’t made it ten paces out of the Great Hall when she was suddenly accosted by a dwarf dressed as Cupid.

“You Ava Morgan?” he asked haughtily.

“Yeah,” she replied hesitantly.

‘Roses are red,

Violets are blue,

Valentine's Day is here,

And so are you!

You're the tornado,

That whirls through our days,

Leaving a trail,

Of your wild, wacky ways.

With laughter and mayhem,

You spice up our lives,

Turning calm moments,

Into broomstick rides.

So here's to the chaos,

You bring with such flair,

Happy Valentine's, my friend,

You're beyond compare!’

The dwarf flounced off without another word whilst Theo roared with laughter at the gob-smacked look on her face but before she could say anything another one appeared before she had even made it to the door.

‘Roses are red, violets are blue,

Life's never boring when we’re with you.

You bring the chaos, the wild, and the fun,

Every day’s crazy, but you’re second to none.

Chocolate may melt and flowers may die,

But your antics will always reach for the sky.

From pranks to mishaps, you keep us on our toes,

Like a hurricane wrapped in a tornado's clothes.

So here’s to you, my wonderfully wild friend,

On this Valentine’s Day, may the laughter never end.

For in all the chaos, there’s one thing that’s true,

Life’s an adventure, and it’s better with you!’

Ava looked on in horror; her face heating with embarrassment as she practically ran from the Great Hall. Ten minutes later, after she’d just settled down in transfiguration; her face having only just returned to its usual shade another one appeared, much to the annoyance of McGonagall.

‘Roses are red, violets are blue,

You’re the friend who turns chaos into a fun-filled brew.

With your antics and pranks, life’s never a bore,

You’ve captured our hearts, and left us wanting more.

Valentine’s Day with you is an unpredictable ride,

From pranks to mischief, there’s nowhere to hide.

But through all the madness, the laughter, the mess,

I wouldn’t trade your chaos for anything less.

So here’s to the mayhem, the jokes, and the fun,

To the friend who makes chaos feel like we’ve won.

Happy Valentine’s, our partner in crime,

Let’s cause some more trouble—it’s our favourite pastime!

Throughout the day, Ava found herself bombarded with pink and purple sparkles every time she turned a corner. Lockhart’s legion of dwarves, dressed as Cupid, scurried through the halls, reciting poems and delivering singing valentines. Ava tried to dodge them but they were ruthless. She couldn’t go one lesson without hearing Roses are Red, Violets are Blue. She was convinced it was the twins playing a prank on her. Theo and Draco found it absolutely hilarious. Ava just stood or sat half laughing, half in embarrassment listening to sappy verses and being covered in more than her fair share of heart-shaped confetti, she realised after the first five it was quicker to just let them get it over with it.

“Ava Morgan!” a dwarf bellowed, chasing after her with surprising speed for someone so short. “A message for you!”

Ava sighed and stopped in the entrance hall, resigning herself to her fate once again. The dwarf launched into another loud, off-key rendition of a love poem that left her cheeks burning with embarrassment as passing students giggled and whispered. She saw Harry watching, but he wasn’t laughing like the rest of the students, he looked sad. She still didn’t have the energy to speak to him even though she missed him every day. She thanked the dwarf awkwardly planning on killing the twins with her bare hands if she had to listen to one more poem, and went to hurry away but the dwarf caught up with Harry instead. Caught off guard he stared in horror as the dwarf started to recite. Harry made to run, but the dwarf jumped on him instead; pinning him down by the ankles.

‘His eyes are as green as a fresh pickled toad,

His hair is as dark as a blackboard.

I wish he was mine, he's really divine,

The hero who conquered the Dark Lord.’

Harry stood up hastily in sheer embarrassment, his face bright red, looking like he wanted the ground to swallow him whole. Ava wanted to laugh but it really wasn’t funny. Everyone knew by now that Ava was being pranked whereas Harry just looked mortified. He hastily scrambled his belongings into his bag and made a run for it as Ava noticed Ginny watching on in sheer embarrassment. She wanted to go after Harry but Draco and Theo hurried her along to her next class.

Finally, after a long day of badly avoiding confetti explosions and dodging dwarves, Ava retreated to the Slytherin common room. She collapsed into a chair by the fireplace, closed her eyes, and savoured the quiet.

“Ava,” came a soft voice. She opened her eyes to see Pansy standing in front of her, holding a beautifully illustrated card. “This was just delivered. It’s for you.”

Ava took the card, her curiosity piqued. The front was adorned with an intricate drawing of Harry and herself, smiling and looking happy. They were at the dragon reserve, with mountains behind them, and beautiful dragons soaring in the distance. She opened it to find an apology written in Harry’s familiar scrawl:

Dear Ava,

I wanted to reach out and let you know how deeply sorry I am for the pain I've caused you. Our friendship means the world to me, and I regret my actions that have hurt you. I screwed up, really screwed up.

I value the moments we've shared and the friendship we've built, and it breaks my heart to think I've jeopardized that. Please know that I'm committed to making things right and earning back your trust.

You’re my best friend Ava. I’m truly sorry.

Yours

Harry

x

Her heart ached as she read the words as Theo sat down beside her. “Are you okay?”

Ava nodded slowly, still staring at the card.

“Harry’s wanted to apologize every day,” Theo said gently. “I think he was just looking for the right way to do it.”

Ava smiled faintly as she ran her fingers over the beautiful picture, reminiscing over the time they spent at the reserve.

They sat in comfortable silence for a moment before Ava spoke again. “I should go find him, but I just….I don’t know.”

“Ava you don’t have to do anything…you don’t owe anyone forgiveness if you don’t want to.”

Ava laid her head on Theo’s shoulder. “I know. I just miss him, and Hermione, and even Ron. ”

The following week Ava was in in the hospital wing – still thoroughly ignoring Hermione who had eventually given up trying to speak as Ava would just cast a lip-locking curse at her instead. She had just started her rounds – casting cleaning charms and applying creams to the petrified students so their skin didn’t get dry when Percy and Ron came out of Pomfrey’s office.

“Hi Ava,” Percy said waving whilst Ron looked like a deer caught in headlights; stopping by Hermione’s bed whilst Percy kept walking forward.

“Hi Percy, are you okay?” she asked worriedly.

“Oh yes, just our weekly appointment with a mind healer at St Mungo’s; we use Madam Pomfrey’s floo as it has a direct connection.”

“Mind healer?” Ava questioned. Why would they need to see a mind healer?

“Oh yes – I took your advice; you know after the whole rat incident,” Percy said seeing Ava’s confusion. Of course the bloody Rat. Ava had forgotten about Pettigrew living with the boys for the past decade – she’d heard charges had been added to his sentence relating to child sex offences. She wasn’t sure of the details, but hiding in a room where a child would be in various stages of undress was enough to put him on a sex offender’s register.

Ron looked even more sheepish, hearing it was Ava’s idea.

“I’m glad – is it helping?”

“Yes massively, we actually talk about other things now too. It can be hard being one of seven.”

Ava nodded in understanding. “I can imagine.”

“Well I must be off – I’m meant to be meeting Penelope,” Percy said, whilst Ron just stood there looking embarrassed – his face as bright as his hair.

“Wait, Percy, how’s Ginny doing? She settled in Okay?”

“That’s kind of you to ask. I know she’s been unfair to you; I’ve tried talking to her but all she does is write in that diary.”

Ava’s heart boomed against her chest. “Diary?”

“Yes. It’s bright purple with ‘I heart Harry’ written across the front.” Percy rolled his eyes at the ridiculousness of it.

Ava breathed a sigh of relief before she tensed again, realising she was no closer to finding who was in possession of the diary. Although the thought of Ginny turning it purple and covering it with hearts made Ava want to laugh. Just imagining Moldy having to deal with teenage crushes and being bombarded with love confessions was just hilarious.

“Anyway I must go; I’m running late,” Percy said as he bustled out of the room,

“Ava – can we talk,” Ron asked shyly.

Ava busied herself with Colin’s bed. “I have nothing to say to you.”

“Please – please Ava; or at least talk to Harry.”

“Why? Why should I?” she snapped turning sharply to glare at him.

“Because he’s devastated.”

“Well he should have thought of that before you three...” she glared at Hermione who had stopped pretending to read to openly stare at them, “…went behind my back.”

“I know…I know – but it wasn’t Harry’s idea; he was against it from the start. He wanted to tell you – he really did, but we…” Hermione coughed “….I persuaded him not to. I thought you would have got mad at us for accusing a Slytherin.”

“You accused Draco – Draco for Merlin’s sake – you’re meant to be his friend. Well Harry is at least.” Draco and Ron had more of friends by association thing going on rather than actually liking each other. “If Draco was a descendant from Slytherin he would be shouting about it from the top of the astronomy tower for the world to hear.”

“It wasn’t just Draco really – Harry thought we were being stupid…” Hermione coughed again. “…I was being stupid and just rehashing old prejudices, which I suppose I was. But we were convinced it had to be a Slytherin and thought he would be the most likely to know.”

“And none of you thought it would have been a good idea to clue me in on any of it, thought that maybe one of your so called best friends would have been cunning or brash enough to go along with your plan, or to tell you were idiots – that I might be privy to information about my housemates.”

“We didn’t think,” Ron said sheepishly.

“No – you don’t think; Gryffindors never bloody think – you rush off with half-baked plans without giving a thought to anyone else or the consequences….Do you know what I spent doing this summer with Draco?”

The Gryffindors looked confused at the seeming change of conversation. “No.”

Ava threw up half a dozen auror-grade privacy charms that Snape had spent hours teaching her over the summer before continuing. “I spent a week at his house, and in that week he helped me pour over the genealogies of all the sacred twenty-eight families, and any family that he had history records for, helping me look for anything that might indicate who my parents are. Not one of the families that still has a living family member linked back to Salazar Slytherin.”

Ron looked even more sheepish, and she could see Hermione out the corner of her eye silently weeping.

“If you had just asked me though I could have told you exactly who’s a descendent of his through their mother’s side. A person that seemed to show up out of nowhere, a person who people are so terrified of they daren’t say his name.”

Hermione gasped whilst Ron looked like he was going to be sick.

“I thought you were both smarter than this…Did it never occur to you that Voldemort could possess someone again?” They gasped when she said his name – she never spoke it –ever. “That he could use someone for his own gain…just like last year. That someone in this school could be in danger? You know he’s still out there.” Okay, technically it’s a different part of Moldy this time but potato potatoe. “Instead the first thing you do is accuse another house, treat the one person who has stuck by all of you since the minute they walked onto the Hogwarts Express like they no longer belonged as part of your group.”

Ron was actually crying now, she’d never seen him upset, let alone cry and it was starting to make her feel uncomfortable and a little bit guilty – deep down she knew they weren’t doing it to hurt her, she knew they were just doing what Gryffindors do, but she was still hurt all the same. Maybe she should have told them about the diary; she couldn’t exactly explain why she hadn’t though. She had been berating them for keeping secrets, yet she was guilty of doing the same. Yet everything she did was to protect them, to stop them from hurling themselves into dangerous situations so they could have a normal school experience; not one fraught with pain and terror. She was failing them, failing the very reason she decided to follow Harry onto the train that day…she should have told them…should have thought of a plausible reason for knowing what she did.

She turned to leave needing time to think but found Harry stood silently by the door, clearly having sneaked in without her realising; his hand holding his invisibility cloak. She froze, part of her wanted to leave, another part wanted to shout at him – to either tell him to f*ck off or apologise, but the rest of her – the part where her heart was taking precedence over her brain just wanted to pull him into her arms, bury her face into his neck and breath in the smell that was just Harry. He looked so lost, so broken that it tugged on her heartstrings. It reminded her of the small boy she had met only a year and a half ago, the boy who had wormed his way into her heart, whose life she had just wanted to protect.

“Ava, I’m sorry,” he said his voice thick with emotion. “Please.”

It was the please that did it. She stormed over to him; Harry looking ready to accept his fate, whether it be a punch, hex, or curse. But Ava pulled him roughly, looping her arms around his waist, clutching her arms tightly to pull him as close to her as possible. He froze, clearly not expecting her reaction before clinging tightly like she was about to disappear. She buried her head into his shoulder, basking in the warmth of his body whilst they both cried silent tears; Harry saying, ‘I’m sorry, so sorry,’ repeatedly like a stuck record.

“I’m sorry too. I should have told you my suspicions.”

“No Ava, we behaved terribly. I’ll make it up to you – I promise.” Ava nodded, her face still buried in the fabric of his jumper – the red one she had bought him the previous Christmas she noticed. She held on for a few more moments before leaving the hospital wing without a backward glance. She needed time to herself, time to gather her thoughts. Unfortunately for Ava, nothing but time was what she was about to get – she took a longer route up to the seventh floor, avoiding students still milling around until she was suddenly collapsing backward stiff as a board – the last thing she saw was the yellow eyes of a bloody great big snake.

Notes:

Snape: Gets spectacularly drunk in front of Charlie
Charlie: Finds it hilarious and falls for him a little bit more.
Snape: Dies from embarrassment

***

Theo: Practically holding up a dejected-looking Ava.
Snape: Cycles through a range of emotions from wanting to protect her, to wanting to kill the bastards who hurt her.
Snape: What are these emotions? What is happening to me? (Chest feels all fuzzy inside)

Chapter 14: Petrification Really Sucks

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

It was the strangest thing being petrified; it was like being in a dream-like state where you weren’t quite sure what was real or not. – Well actually it was terrifying; Ava had heard of sleep paralysis and this was exactly what she thought it would feel like. She couldn’t move anything, but equally, she couldn’t feel anything – like someone had given her an epidural but instead of it just numbing her legs, it had numbed her entire body. Pomfrey had fussed over her when she had been carried in by a terrified Theo who had screamed the ward down thinking she was dead. The book club had apparently found her after their meeting at the end of a corridor that housed one of the mirrors that had been popping up around the school – courtesy of Snape. Theo had threatened to hex anyone who dared touch her, and swore he would kill when he found out who had done it – or at least that’s what he had told her whilst sitting vigil by her side whilst Pomfrey cast spells over her.

The thing with petrification is no one knows the effects of it unless they themselves have been in that situation. Pomfrey convinced everyone that she couldn’t hear anything and wasn’t in any pain. The pain was right but she was completely wrong about not being able to hear. She wasn’t sure of other reasons one could be petrified except from a Petrifius Totalus, but she was sure nothing felt like this – she felt constantly awake as there was no way to close her eyelids, but in the same thought she must have slept – just with her eyes open, as one minute she was in a dream-like state, the next she was listening to voices of her friends or professors.

She was constantly reciting spells in her head or counting the cracks in the ceiling; anything to distract her mind from going into panic overload at not being able to move. It was frightening and her anxiety was threatening to take over on an hourly basis if she didn’t have anything to distract herself with. Luckily someone was always by her beside; Harry, talking about ideas his godfather had given him to make it up to her between spats of constant apologises and blaming himself for being attacked. Draco would either be shouting at Harry if they happened to cross paths, chastise her for leaving him to deal with the idiot Gryffindors by himself, or he would go quiet and beg for her to wake up; his voice thick with emotion. He’d mutter under his breath about feeling like he was losing his mind, but she couldn’t always make out what he was saying. She was positive both of them would hold her hand, but she couldn’t feel any of it but could see when they were close.

Theo never left her side at night, often sneaking in after curfew to the point where Pomfrey just gave up and pushed a bed next to hers so he didn’t wake up with a crooked neck from sleeping on the stiff visitor’s chair. She often heard him cry into the pillow, and soft words saying he couldn’t lose his family – even after Snape had promised him that she would be fine and that the mandrakes would be ready soon… she guessed lying stiff as a board was as close as seeing someone dead as you could get, and no matter what your brain might say the visual would make you think that they actually were.

Snape wouldn’t visit during the day, but like Theo he would sneak in during the night, watching over both her and Theo; his face looking haunted in the moonlight. Ava was desperate to reach out, take his hand, and say she was fine – well as fine as one can be given the circ*mstances. She tried not to think about it too much – things like why had all her organs frozen except her brain which was functioning just fine. Or how she could still see, yet couldn’t blink or move her eyes – Pomfrey was constantly putting eye drops in her them to stop them drying out; making her eyes go blurry for a few minutes. There was also the fact she could still hear but she couldn’t smell or taste anything. Magic was the strangest thing with no logical rhyme or reason.

Hermione – still part cat, whose bed had been moved to the other side of Ava usually spent her time reading to her – usually the current fiction book she was reading for book club, or catching Ava up on the progress she had made with Lockhart – she was apparently close to revealing the fraud that he was, and had Susan assisting her, which obviously meant Amelia was involved too. She also spent time apologising or theorising who Moldy could be using this time, but no one stood out to be the culprit/victim. Ava really wished she had told them about the diary – her twelve year old brain really was stupid sometimes. She hoped Theo might tell them but she knew how close he protected people’s secrets, and she didn’t think Snape would tell anyone either without having some sort of plan in place. Along with her closest friends, she had a conveyor belt of visitors; the Twins threw ideas about over the top of her when they visited, Hannah and Susan told her she had been in touch with her aunt about the situation, and the Slytherin girls had stopped by a few times. Pansy usually gave her a manicure whilst Tracy and Daphne read articles from Witch Weekly in between Millie threatening to kill the person who was responsible for her petrification. She really did love the girls and vowed to spend more time with them.

A week after Ava’s involuntary stay in the infirmary Dumbledore came in escorting Ginny Weasley who was violently throwing up slugs, watched in disgust by Theo who was visiting her.

“Oh my,” Ava heard Pomfrey say. “What happened?”

“I’m not sure, she came to see me saying she wanted to tell me something but before she could get any words out she started vomiting,” said Dumbledore sounding baffled.

“I just wanted to tell you I know who A….bleugh,” more slugs projectiled over Dumbledore’s shoes. “I know about Sn….bleugh.”

“I think it’s best you try not to talk Miss Weasley,” said Pomfrey kindly.

“I think maybe one of her brothers had made her the victim of one of their pranks.”

Harry came into the infirmary just as another load of slugs spewed out of her mouth. He looked on in disgust whilst Ginny turned red in embarrassment. Dumbledore came over to her bed to ‘check’ how Ava was but he was really trying to get into her head again – wanker. Her barriers still held strong though and she could see the frustration on his face. He’d tried getting information out of Theo and Harry, asking who her guardian was so they could be notified, but they just said they were already aware. He left frustrated after that.

Harry bent his head over the bed to whisper to Theo. “I overheard the portraits on my way here – apparently Ginny kept trying to tell the headmaster something but every time she opened her mouth she would vomit up slugs. They think it was about one of the professors as she kept doing a weird mime, but no one could figure out what she was doing. Do you think she was trying to tell him about Ava and Snape?”

“I don’t know – maybe. It’s highly likely the twins slipped her one of those joke products they're making though.”

“Yeah, you’re probably right.” Ava could see Harry staring down at her, he looked so sad, his eyes red-rimmed like he hadn’t slept for weeks. Merlin, she felt so guilty.

“I hate the fact we had only just made up, I hate that I made her hate me.”

“She doesn’t hate you, she’s never hated you,” said Theo. “She was just upset – and for good reason, I might add…what were you thinking?”

“I honestly don’t know. I tried to tell her at Christmas but I never got the chance, then Ron kept telling me to keep it quiet, that she would try to stop us.”

Theo scoffed. “As if Ava would try to stop you, she would probably have told you that you were barking up the wrong tree, but she would have helped or maybe make you see logic. You know there’s more to Ava than meets the eye.”

“You think she lies to us? Ron said he’s noticed she seems…I don’t know….aware of situations before they happen or at least is privy to information we’re not.”

“No – not at all. But she does know things, future things but she’s not a seer before you ask. But I will swear on my life, on Ava’s life that everything she does is for the right reasons. To protect us. If she keeps things to herself it’s for good reason, Harry... I don’t pry – whatever information she has could cause problems in the wrong hands. I’d never risk her and I trust her with my life… Don’t take her for granted – you really hurt her.”

“I know and you’re right. If it wasn’t for her, the truth about Sirius would never have come out and he’d still be rotting in Azkaban. Plus Snape would probably still be horrible, and Gryffindor and Slytherins would still be at each other’s throats.”

“Yeah – all I heard before coming here is how bad the rivalry was, and how awful Snape was but it’s been nothing like that at all. Not since she called everyone out on their bullsh*t.” Harry snorted. “Did she ever tell you about when she shouted at Snape after our first lesson?”

Harry shook his head. “Not properly, she mentioned it but didn’t go into detail.”

“Oh she ripped him to shreds,” Theo said laughing.

“She did?”

“Yeah, I was waiting outside for her and heard everything. She called him out on his behaviour towards you, told him to stop judging you on the sins of your father. Basically told him to cut the bullsh*t and take a proper look at you. You were a mess Harry when you arrived; I can’t believe no one noticed. It wasn’t long after health checks became mandatory. She told him to get his act together and I quote ‘if you hate teaching so much why the f*ck are you here.”

Harry gasped. “She never did?”

“Oh she did alright – not one to hold back our Ava. It wasn’t the first time either; she’d gone up against him our first night here too. I think that’s why the rest of the Slytherins gave her a wide berth to begin with – didn’t want to get on her wrong side. ”

Harry snorted. “She’s like a little dog; small but fierce.”

“Don’t let her hear you say that; she’d hex you into next week.”

Harry grinned goofily. “I don’t know what I’d do without her.”

“Me either.”

They were both silent for a minute; both looking down fondly at her.

“Are you staying with her over the summer?” Harry asked breaking the silence.

“I don’t know, my father wants me home but I’m terrified. Draco said his mother will intervene if I ask, but I don’t know.”

“You can only ask, the worst she can do is say no right?”

“Yeah, Mrs Malfoy usually takes me here and there over the summer so I can escape him but I’d rather be with Ava. I feel like a guest at the Malfoys, which I always really appreciated, don’t get me wrong. Mrs Malfoy especially did a lot for me, but Ava and Severus – they feel like family. I’ve not felt like that since before my mother died.”

“I’m sure Mrs Malfoy will help. She wrote to me after Draco’s accident surprisingly. She seems like she would do anything for us lost children, even wrote to Sirius to make sure he was treating me right; she somehow found out about my upbringing.”

“Yeah, you’re probably right. I’ll write as soon as Ava wakes up.”

Ava continued to listen to boys talk, hearing about the goings on in school. Clubs had been cancelled, curfew had been brought forward and everyone had to be escorted between classes once her friends had kicked up a fuss and demanded that the threat be taken seriously. It also helped that Theo had told her that parents had become aware of the situation to the point where the likes of Mrs Weasley, Sirius, Mrs Malfoy, and Amelia Bones as parent representatives stormed Dumbledore’s office demanding to know what the hell was going on, and why parents weren’t being told about it. Threats were made to close the school leading to a compromise of having aurors stationed within the halls. – Which was bloody ridiculous considering there’s a great big bloody basilisk slithering around the plumbing – clearly Dumbledore had eliminated that fact or tried to downplay it, although it was kind of unbelievable if you really thought about it – a thousand-year-old extremely rare snake suddenly hiding in the castle, occasionally appearing to petrify people – rather farfetched really.

Another week later Ava was surrounded by five of her friends who were arguing over the top of her.

“It was Hagrid who opened the Chamber of Secrets fifty years ago,” Harry said to the gobsmacked looks of their friends.

f*ck, f*ck, f*ck. He’s found the bloody diary and Ava’s laid there like a bloody petrified lemon not able to do anything – do not follow the spiders, do not follow the spiders, do not follow the spiders, she chanted in her head hoping that she could telepathically get the message across to one of them. She really should have told them about the diary and what it could do– why didn’t she tell them – Stupid, stupid, stupid Ava.

“Hagrid – seriously,” Draco scoffed. “That oaf couldn’t control a flobberworm let alone a bloody basilisk.”

“He did, I found this diary,” Harry said. “It showed me what happened fifty years ago. It killed someone last time though.”

Draco looked like he was going to be sick. “Where did you find the diary?”

“It had been thrown into Myrtle's toilet, so she flooded the bathroom…It was a bloody great big spider that Hagrid was raising.”

Someone use their brains, someone use their brains, someone use their brains.

“It couldn’t have been a spider,” said Theo. Thank you sweet, clever, brother from another mother of mine. She wished she could kiss him right now, or even just move her hand that he had clutched in hers.

Before Theo could explain his thoughts, Hagrid himself came into the hospital wing all blubbery; snotting over a handkerchief that was the size of a pillowcase. Her friends all froze at the sight of him.

“How is she?” he asked.

“She’s the same,” Harry said coldly.

“You think it’s me don’t you,” Hagrid said feeling the icy glare the students were sending him. “I swear it wasn’t me, Aragog would never hurt anyone.”

The door burst open again revealing a portly, greying man, carrying a ridiculous green bowler hat – clearly the Minister of Magic; Cornelius Fudge. He was accompanied by Dumbledore who looked surprisingly at the group of friends gathered around Ava’s bed.

“Bad business Hagrid, bad business. Three attacks on Muggle-borns. Had to come. Things have gone far enough, Ministry’s got to act.”

“I never,” said Hagrid imploringly at Dumbledore, “you know I never.”

“I want it understood, Cornelius that Hagrid has my full confidence,” said Dumbledore. For Merlin’s sake, someone use your goddamn brain.

“Look, Albus,” said Fudge uncomfortably, “Hagrid’s records against him, the Ministry has to do something – there have been complaints; parents contacting the school's Board of Governors. I’ve got to be seen doing something. I’ve got to take him.”

“Take me…take me where?” Hagrid said, his voice trembling.

“For a short stretch only,” said Fudge, “not a punishment, more a precaution. If anyone else is caught you will be let out with a full apology.”

“Not Azkaban,” he croaked.

Someone speak up, someone speak up, someone speak up.

“What exactly are you accusing him of,” Theo asked. YES

“Petrifying the students of course.”

“How exactly is Hagrid meant to be doing that?”

“Well – he has a dangerous beast he’s been controlling,” Fudge said condescendingly.

“And what beast do you know of that petrifies people?” Theo asked politely, his Pureblood upbringing coming into play.

“Well, his record shows he was expelled for harbouring a dangerous spider that killed a girl.”

“Myrtle,” Theo said but continued when Fudge looked confused. “She haunts the girl’s bathroom; did anyone ever actually ask her how she died? Because I have….and I’ll tell you now it wasn’t a bloody acromantula.”

“Now here – you couldn’t possibly know that,” stuttered Fudge. “Who are you to question me anyway?”

“Theo Nott…You want the facts that your tiny brain can’t comprehend: One - the last thing she saw was a pair of large yellow eyes before she dropped down dead. The majority of spiders have eight, including acromantula’s which generally look black, not yellow. Two – there was no venom or bite marks found on Myrtle's body; spiders like to bite their victims first to paralyse them, which would also cause their veins to blacken and potentially foam at the mouth. Three – if it had been an acromantula it would have either eaten her or spun her body in his web for later; dragging it off to its lair.”

Fudge visually paled at the description. “Nott you say….I know of your father,” he sneered. “Likes to dabble in dark magic, how exactly do you know so much about dark creatures?” Ava didn’t like the implication.

“Because he bloody well cracks open a book,” Hermione suddenly shouted making everyone jump. “If we had a competent teacher for once, we wouldn’t have to self-study and come across all manner of topics, including dark creatures.” She stood shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with Theo.

“And you are?”

“Hermione Granger – Muggle-born.”

Before the argument could continue the doors slammed open revealing Lucius Malfoy; his Barbie blonde hair fluttering in the corner of Ava’s vision before standing at the end of the bed.

“Ah Lucius, I assume you are here as head of the Board of Governors.”

“I am Cornelius.”

“Well, you are just in time for me to escort Hagrid.”

Ava could see Lucius look worriedly at her before speaking. “You honestly don’t think this oaf is setting a basilisk on everyone do you?”

“A basilisk?” stuttered Fudge.

“Yes a bloody basilisk you fool – I take it the headmaster has been keeping that quiet,” he said sneering at the old man.

“Dumbledore…what is this…what is going on?” he demanded.

“The Chamber of Secrets has been opened. Salazar’s monster has been released,” Harry said angrily.

“But…but…that’s just a myth…no one has ever found its entrance.”

“Cornelius, everyone who has a long Pureblood ancestry knows the stories, knows there’s truth amongst the myth.”

“Well, how’s it getting around without anyone seeing?”

“The plumbing,” said Hermione. “Myrtle was killed in a bathroom.”

“But they would be dead.”

They stood silently for a moment.

“Creevey saw it through a camera lens,” said Theo

“Justin through Nearly Headless Nick, and he’s already dead so can’t exactly die twice,” said Hermione.

“What about Ava,” Draco asked quietly making the whole group stare down at her – if she hadn’t been solid as a stone she would have blushed at the attention.

“Mirror,” both Theo and Hermione said at once. She could sense them staring at each other. Theo and Hermione sitting in a tree K.I.S.S.I.N.G - move over Ron there’s a new beau in town – seriously Ava, now is not the time! Maybe all the lying still had finally sent her mental.

“You won’t die if you don’t look at its reflection,” Hermione added distracting Ava from her wandering thoughts.

“I told you, Headmaster,” Snape suddenly said, Ava hadn’t heard him enter and must have stood out of her eye-line.

“What was that Professor Snape?” Fudge asked.

“I told him my suspicions, I told him there was nothing else known that could cause such petrifications but he wouldn’t listen. I’ve been placing mirrors along the corners of every corridor just in case my theory was right. Dumbledore would not listen, merely claiming the attacks were pranks done by Miss Morgan for attention.” She felt her friends bristle at the sides. “Clearly she did not petrify herself.”

“Severus, that is why I am here,” Lucius said before ripping out a scroll. “The Governors feel it’s time you step aside. This is an order of suspension - you’ll find twelve signatures on it. Three attacks since November – how long do we let this go on for? And Muggleborn’s too – it does not look good Dumbledore. Not to mention what happened last year – sending students into the forbidden forest, knowing there was something in there killing unicorns. Plus the whole Quirrell incident. How you let Quirrell reside in the castle for an entire year without realising he was harbouring a dark entity shows how weak you have become.”

“What is this? What are you talking about? Albus, we will be having words,” said Fudge. “However you can’t suspend Dumbledore. If he can’t stop them, no one can.”

“Ah, but Fudge – you heard the truth yourself; he hasn’t been doing anything to stop them – thought it was a prank. Hadn’t even told the student's parents if what the letters to the board are to be believed.”

“You’ve not informed their parents,” Fudge said turning to glare at Dumbledore. “But that’s negligence; you have a duty of care for these children.”

“I do not have the information for Miss Morgan’s guardian,” Dumbledore said in his defence.

“How about the others Dumbledore?” Malfoy sneered, “And trust me when I say Miss Morgan’s guardian is well and truly informed of what goes on in this school.”

“You can’t take Dumbledore,” Hagrid screeched. “Take him away and it will be killings next; Muggle-borns won’t stand a chance.”

Ava swore that man had selective hearing – did he really not hear exactly what Dumbledore was doing – well not doing in this case?

“Calm down Hagrid – if the Governors want my removal, Lucius, I shall of course step aside…However,” said Dumbledore, “you will find I have only truly left the school when none here are loyal to me. You will find also that help will always be given to those at Hogwarts for those who ask for it.”

Ava really wanted to roll her eyes right now.

“But…” stuttered Fudge, “…there’s still no proof there’s a basilisk…no proof at all.”

“Actually, we can get proof now,” said Snape.

“How?” Fudge asked eagerly.

“I have the antidote for the petrification,” he said pulling out a handful of vials dramatically like some sort of Muggle magician. “The mandrakes were ready this morning. Madam Pomfrey if you will.” The Matron must have stood seething to one side at having her infirmary invaded.

Ava couldn’t feel anything as Pomfrey tipped the potion down her throat, massaging her neck to help the liquid go down. Slowly….extremely slow….like what felt like eternity the feeling in her limbs started to return. It began with a tingling in her fingers and toes that spread across her arms and legs, up through her torso eventually ending with her head. She blinked, her eyes dry no matter how many eye drops Pomfrey put in them. Slowly she tried to move; her friends watching on in anticipation, but her body screamed with pins and needles, echoing along her limbs with every minute movement. Everything felt stiff, every movement like her bones were made of brick; her muscles like tar.

“Drink this,” Snape said giving her a bright blue potion. It was one of his stronger painkillers. The relief was instant but not enough.

“Water,” she croaked. Her mouth felt like sandpaper, her tongue sticking to the roof of her mouth with every painful swallow. A straw was held in front of her lips by a worried Theo as she drained the glass and then drained another.

“It’s a f*cking basilisk, you incompetent morons,” she croakily shouted. “Rather than make up crap, or arresting the wrong person without evidence just to make yourself look good, or ignoring the facts, use your god damn f*cking brains and investigate – if a bunch of twelve-year-olds can figure this sh*t out – why can’t you.” Snape snorted, quickly covering it up with a cough. “If you’re the Minister of Magic and were unaware of the goings on in this school then that sh*t is on the headmaster, and should be investigated, but I know for a fact Madam Bones knows about what’s happening so don’t give me that nonsense that you didn’t know there was suspicions about what was in the school. You’d rather save face than risk your so stellar reputation,” she said sarcastically, her eyes darting between both Fudge and Dumbledore. “Someone in this school is being controlled by something or someone dark,” her eyes bore into Lucius’s blue ones. “Do your god damn f*cking jobs and sort it the hell out before someone ends up dead, or so help me god I will string you up by those ridiculous robes and ring your necks with them. And if you don’t believe Hagrid use bloody veritaserum, or retrieve his memory, or I don’t know – use bloody Legilimens; I know at least one of you is proficient in it.” Lucius and Fudge looked at all their robes trying to figure out who she was directing her threats at, whilst she glared at Dumbledore, who was looking menacingly at her – the twinkle long gone.

“Well I never…who do you think….” Stuttered Fudge

“Out – all three of you,” Pomfrey said ushering the three unwelcome adults out of the room. She let Snape stay, but he followed them giving one last worried look towards Ava.

“And you…” Ava snapped turning to Harry. “What have I told you about trusting things where you can’t see its brain….where is it? I need to tell…..” but she couldn’t finish her sentence as Pomfrey had shoved a potion down her throat.

“Diary…”she slurred. “Dan….ger….ous….give… to….” But she was fast asleep before she could finish.

Notes:

Ava: Lying petrified with a devastated Theo curled up by her side.
Snape: Looks on in heartbreak.

Chapter 15: The Bowels of Hogwarts

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Ava dreamt of snakes tearing through the castle, of diaries purging red blood-like ink, of students' faces popping into her mind, each one crossed off like they had been eliminated in some gruesome game. It’s gone the ghostly voice of Lucius Malfoy said. It was on my bookcase in my office- I’ve had appointments in there but only a Malfoy has access. Her mind swam with images of past conversations, past events; Draco knocked out cold; Colin being brought in; Draco looking pale during duelling club; Justin’s prone body; Draco looking sick at the mention of a diary. Her subconscious tried to tie the pieces of information together.

‘All students to return to their houses dormitories at once. All teachers are to return to the staff room immediately.’

Ava heard the announcement distantly but her subconscious was still pulling her under. Draco was at Quidditch and in the Hospital wing when Creevey was attacked, ‘we don’t know how long he had been there before he was found – his housemates claim they hadn’t seen him since last night. But Justin – he was at duelling club. ‘Draco are you okay? ‘– ‘Yeah just a bit of a headache and dizzy.’ He’d been sat on the stage – had he been there the whole time? She had been distracted by Lockhart and Apep. ‘I feel like I’m losing my mind,’ Draco had said whilst she was petrified, she had thought he had meant about her being attacked…but what if he was experiencing memory loss but he had put it down to his head injury?

“Professor Snape – you are needed,” McGonagall said pulling Ava slowly out of sleep.

“What is it?”

“The heir of Slytherin has left another message,” there was a pause, “right underneath the first one. His skeleton will lie in the Chamber forever.”

“Who is it? Which student?”

“Draco,” Ava shouted, scrambling out of the bed.

“Ava, calm down,” Snape said as he tried to push her back onto the bed.

“How did you know?” McGonagall gasped; her face white as a sheet.

“I figured it out. We have to go. He’s been possessed by a diary – it belonged to Voldemort.”

“Ava breath…you don’t know where the chamber is,” McGonagall said as she hastily put on some clothes. “And you’re just a student – let the aurors handle this.”

“I do know – we need Harry. Are the aurors here?”

“They will be in the staff room waiting for instruction.”

“Harry – find Harry; he’s the only one that can help.” She started to move but the doors banged open revealing six levitating figures held up by the wands of the professors.

“What’s happened?” McGonagall shouted as she rushed forward.

“All found petrified around the castle,” said Flitwick.

“Draco Malfoy has been taken,” McGonagall exclaimed.

Flitwick had tears in his eyes whilst Sprout looked about ready to faint. The door banged open again revealing Lockhart. “Sorry dozed off, what did I miss? – a group of Ravenclaws said they saw you all heading here.”

Snape stepped forward, “Ah just the man – a student has been taken into the Chamber of Secrets itself. Weren’t you just saying last night that you have known where the entrance has been all along?”

“Well I…I”

“Yes- didn’t you say how you knew exactly how to deal with the monster inside?” McGonagall said.

“Did I…I don’t recall.”

Stupefy,” Ava shouted. All the professors turned to stare at her in shock. “We don’t have time for this. Tie him up, keep his wand well away from him – he may be the most useless defence instructor but he knows his way around a memory charm– please we need to get Harry; he’s the only one who can help. We can’t waste any more time.”

“But you are children,” Sprout said.

“The entrance needs a Parselmouth,” Ava said as she struggled to put on a shoe.

“What?” McGonagall exclaimed.

Ava ignored everyone and hastily left the room, she heard Snape mutter than he would handle it, but he was followed by McGonagall whilst the others saw to the aurors.

“Miss Morgan, I can’t allow you to go gallivanting off, I know you care for Mr Malfoy but it’s not safe.”

“Please Uncle Sev,” she begged…they had a plan in place in case the inevitable happened.

McGonagall gasped at the Uncle remark but remained quiet.

“Meet me in the bathroom, I’ll get Harry – you get the supplies.”

Ava rushed off to the sounds of McGonagall berating him. She dashed to his private quarters, grabbed the silent rooster and the glasses the twins had made, and rushed to the bathroom, finding Harry and Snape already there.

Harry rushed over to her, bracing his hands on her arms. “Ava, what’s going on?”

“It’s Draco – Draco’s been taken, it was that bloody diary.”

“What? – Someone stole it – who took it? Who’s taken him?”

“Draco did.”

“What?” Harry looked confused, his brow furrowed and hands running nervously through his hair.

“I don’t have time to explain. But the diary was possessing him – he probably tried to throw it away, then you found it, freaked out and tried to steal it back.”

“He asked to borrow a quill– he was rummaging around in my bag after you fell back to sleep, then he disappeared.”

“Look at the taps,” Ava said urgently, “look for a snake.”

Harry found it quickly. “What should I do?” he asked as he stared at the taps.

“Imagine it’s a real snake and say open.”

He hissed, the s’s elongated. The sink sank out of sight revealing a large dirty pipe.

“You two stay here,” Snape said.

“No,” Ava said stubbornly. “You need Harry in case there are more doors to open, and I’m not leaving him to deal with this by himself.”

Ava! – there is a basilisk.”

Ava whipped out a cage from her backpack revealing a rather disgruntled rooster who was silently squawking. “Did you forget about Hans Gruber?”

“Ava you can’t rely on a bloody bird!” Snape said pinching the bridge of his nose whilst Harry looked on in confusion.

She whipped out four pairs of seemingly normal-looking sunglasses. “Got it covered.”

“Pray tell how are glasses going to stop us being stared to death.”

“Try them.”

Snape reluctantly took a pair, donning the unassuming glasses, making him look a lot like a young Adrian Brody.

“Ava why have my eyes sealed shut,” he said in a panic.

“Give it a minute.”

“What in the…..how?”

“Cool right?”

“Ava how the hell can I still see with my eyes closed?”

“Don’t ask me; they’re a Weasley invention. What exactly did you think we were doing when I asked you to help with the potion? We need to be quick though as the charms only last a couple of hours.” She hastily gave Harry a pair before pulling out two brooms she had stolen from Draco and Theo.

“Harry, try to talk to the snake first before we resort to killing it – it is over a thousand years old. You might be able to tame it.”

“Ava, we are not having another pet snake,” Snape admonished. “Especially not a giant one with murderous eyes,”

“But it’s ancient, seems cruel to kill it.”

Snape stared at the ceiling muttering about not signing up for this. “Are you determined to send me to an early grave?”

Ava froze thinking of the future that is yet to play out. “Far from it – I expect you to live to a ripe old age so your grandbabies can take up my legacy of annoying you.”

“No one can annoy me as much as you,” he said fondly whilst pinching his nose. “But I promise to live to a ripe old age as you so elegantly put it – someone’s got to keep an eye on you after all.”

Ava felt her magic thrum in worry and prayed he could keep his promise.

“Come on, we need to move. If I shout abort don’t bother with trying to tame the snake,” Ava said to Harry whilst Snape sighed in exasperation, clearly done with her sh*t.

Harry not bothering to ask for an explanation jumped onto the broom before replacing his glasses, Ava quickly sat behind him wearing a pair of her own. They shot down the pipe, barely missing the disgusting sides. There had to be another entrance – the whole thing made no sense. Modern plumbing didn’t exist a thousand years ago, so either the bathroom used to be something else and whoever installed the bathrooms knew of the chamber's existence, or there was another entrance somewhere and the pipe was just covered over, yet somehow could still be opened by speaking Parseltongue. She couldn’t imagine Salazar sliding down any sort of pipe to visit his familiar, maybe it hadn’t originally been plumbing – maybe Salazar just liked slides. The thought of a menacing-looking man shouting ‘weeeee’ with his arms in the air made her snort. Ava gripped on tightly to Harry’s jumper as he manoeuvred the broom; expertly navigating the twists and turns of the tunnel, passing smaller tunnels branching off. After what felt like forever the pipe evened off until they shot out into a small stone tunnel, tall enough to stand up in, with Snape following shortly behind.

Ava stuffed the brooms back into her rucksack before the three of them moved quickly but cautiously along the tunnel; their wands at the ready.

“We must be miles under the school,” Harry whispered as he lit his wand up with a lumos. The walls were wet and slimy, and the little light Harry’s wand gave cast menacing shadows along the walls.

“Any sign of movement get behind me,” Snape said, but the tunnel was quiet as a grave, the only sound was the crunching of animal bones underneath their feet.

“Ava, there’s something up there,” Harry whispered. They approached cautiously, relieved to find it was just a snakeskin – well not relived exactly… It was vivid poisonous green, lying curled and empty across the tunnel floor – it must have been at least twenty feet long. Snape examined the skin in curiosity – clearly his academic mind listing the ways he could use it.

“We need to keep moving,” Ava said quietly pulling her godfather away.

As the cool air of the underground tunnel whipped around them, the trio hurried deeper into the labyrinth. The flickering wandlight danced across their faces, casting eerie shadows that seemed to stretch and twist into unnerving shapes.

"How much further do you think it is?" Harry whispered, his voice trembling slightly.

“I don’t know,” Ava said as she fought against the growing unease that threatened to overwhelm her. She could feel the ancient magic in the stone walls getting stronger, long forgotten by the oblivious occupants of the castle.

As they continued to walk, the tunnel began to slope upward slightly. The air grew warmer and dryer, and the torchlight flickered less wildly casting a steadier glow upon their faces. Ava felt a dread in the pit of her stomach. What if they were too late? What if Draco was already dead?

They crept around another bend, seeing a solid stone wall, with two large, carved entwined snakes, their eyes set with glinting emeralds.

“As soon as the door is open, get behind me,” said Snape.

Harry swallowed hard, taking a step forward knowing exactly what he had to do and hissed. The serpents parted as the wall cracked open, sliding out of sight to reveal an opening.

Ava took Harry’s hand, forcing him behind Snape; his body shaking alongside hers – she was terrified. She wanted to turn back, wanted to grab Harry and Snape and run, but she couldn’t leave Draco, couldn’t leave him to his fate.

Taking a steady breath the two twelve year olds bravely followed their Potions Master into the legendary Chamber of Secrets.

Notes:

Ava: Wants to adopt a terrifying ancient snake
Snape: *Mutters to himself whilst pinching his nose* 'Do not curse your goddaughter, do not curse your goddaughter, do not curse your goddaughter.'

Chapter 16: The Chamber of Secrets, Some More Surprising Truths, and a Very Pouty Young Moldy

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

They were stood at the end of a very long, dimly lit chamber. Towering stone pillars entwined with more carved serpents, rose to support the ceiling lost in the darkness, casting long black shadows through the odd, greenish gloom. It was like they were at the bottom of the lake – which come to think of it, they probably were.

Ava’s heart was beating out of her chest as they followed cautiously. Every footstep echoed loudly off the shadowy walls as they passed through the middle of pairs of pillars until they drew level with the last two. A statue as high as the chamber loomed into view. Ava saw Harry and her godfather straining their necks to look at the giant face above, but her only focus was on the prone form laid face down between giant feet; bright blonde hair standing out against the grime.

“Draco,” Harry muttered, sprinting to him and dropping to his knees, “Draco, don’t be dead, please don’t be dead.” Ava chased after him, ignoring the protesting Snape. Harry had turned Draco over, his face was translucent, his skin as cold as ice but he hadn’t been petrified. His eyes were closed and his chest rose faintly.

“Draco, please wake up,” Harry begged as he shook the lifeless boy desperately. Ava could only stare on in horror.

“He won’t wake,” said a soft voice.

Ava and Harry both jumped, spinning around on their knees to find a tall, black-haired boy leaning against the nearest pillar watching on. He was strangely blurred around the edges, as though they were looking at him through a misted window.

“Tom – Tom Riddle?” Harry asked.

Riddle nodded, Ava stared at the boy – there was something about him that felt, not familiar exactly, but she couldn’t exactly put it into words – there was just something; like her lost memories were trying to spark into existence but couldn’t quite reach. Like when you’re thinking of something and it’s on the tip of your tongue but your brain can’t quite figure it out.

“What do you mean he won’t wake,” Harry said desperately, “He’s not…He’s not dead?”

“He’s still alive,” said Tom, “but only just.” Harry continued to ask him questions about whether he was a ghost and about the diary. Ava desperately tried to think of what to do, zoning out of their conversation, as Harry tried to get Tom to help – she really should have told him Tom was actually Moldy. Tom however didn’t even seem to notice Ava was there, and Snape had disappeared to who knows where.

Ava blanched when she realised Tom had Harry’s wand.

“I’ve waiting a long time for this, Harry Potter,” Tom said. “For a chance to see you. To speak to you.”

Expelliarmus,” Ava shouted. Harry’s wand came shooting to her hand. “Enough before you start monologuing your so-called greatest achievements.”

Tom stood there like he couldn’t believe he’d been disarmed by a tiny girl. “And who might you be?” Tom said like he had only just noticed her.

“Lady Nova Bratagoes,” she said giving a dramatic bow, “AKA Ava Morgan.”

“Ah yes Draco wrote all about you and about Harry, and how he doesn’t think he will ever be good enough for either of you, and how he doesn’t think Harry would ever understand him. It was Harry this, and Ava that….it was all very teenager dramatics.”

“Yes...yes...Moldy,” Ava said shushing the young Tom from what no doubt would be an extremely long speech. “He poured his heart and soul out. You responded in kind, fed on his biggest and darkest secrets, grew more powerful every day, enough to possess him…yada yada yada….did I miss anything?”

“Ava, what’s going on?” Harry said looking between the two.

“Ah, but you missed the best part,” Tom said brushing off her interrupting him.

“Oh, you mean the fact that possessing Draco meant it was he who strangled the roosters, he opened the Chamber of Secrets, he was the one who set the basilisk free, resulting in petrified students, including me – thanks for that by the way,” she said sarcastically. “You know it’s not much fun being completely paralyzed but actually being able to hear and see everything.”

Tom pouted….he actually pouted.

“Then let me guess…Draco got suspicious of the diary as he was having dizzy spells and blackouts which no doubt he put down to his head injury until I ended up in the hospital wing. Then he tried to get rid of it by throwing it down the toilet – I’m going to be having words with the idiot when he wakes up. Then Harry found said diary and because he’s also an idiot wrote in it too... Draco found out when I woke from being petrified, stole back the diary and you possessed him once and for all. And I’m guessing you’re so interested in Harry because he destroyed you as a baby…that’s kinda creepy by the way.”

“Destroyed him as a baby…Ava what are you talking about,” Harry asked, his brow frowning in confusion at her rant.

“Oh, I’m sorry Harry – you’ve not been formally introduced. This drama queen is none other than Tom Marvolo Riddle, AKA the self-titled Dark Lord, AKA Lord Voldemort,” she said sarcastically whilst waving her hand in his direction.

“How dare you speak my name…?”

“Dude - your name is ridiculous. Like seriously I know you re-scrambled the letters of your name but Voldemort – I mean I’ve been calling you Moldyshorts for the past year…Moldy for short- if you’re going to be ridiculous then make it funny too.”

“Moldem…Voldemort is not ridiculous,” Tom shouted stamping his foot like a toddler.

“Is too”

“Is not…”

“Is too...

“Honestly I’ve said this before but it sounds like a foot disease.”

“Does not…”

“Does too…”

“Does not…”

“Like seriously…did you make that up when you were like eleven or something….and don’t get me started on ‘Death Eater’”

“Death Eater? What are you talking about?”

“You’re elusive followers,” Ava said sarcastically rolling her eyes.

“My followers are called the Knights of Walpurgis,” Tom said dramatically, clearly hoping to impress.

He in fact did not impress anyone. Ava stood with her face impassive, eyebrow raised. Harry’s eyes had been ping-ponging back and forth between the two whilst trying to quietly drag Draco away from the squabbling pair.

“Well at some point since you created your precious diary and Harry defeating you….which FYI going after a baby is not cool dude…you changed your followers to Death Eaters… I mean… Death….Eaters….like they eat death….it makes zero sense. You may as well call them Deceased Munchers, or Extinct Devourers.”

Tom looked like he was about to have a tantrum.

“Dude…seriously….you are actually sulking that you didn’t get to do some dramatic speech to a bunch of kids, or that we are not impressed with you in the slightest,” Ava added seeing the petulant look on Tom’s face. “Or is it that I called you out on the most ridiculous names imaginable….you are what…sixteen…seventeen years old, and yet your face currently looks like a toddler.”

“Does not,” he said like he couldn’t help himself.

“Voldemort…vold-e-mort….is it like French or something?….your surname is literally Riddle….I mean you could have done so much with that… you’ve obviously never heard of the Riddler…but imagine how frustrated the so-called ‘light side’ would have been if you had kept in the shadows and left riddles everywhere you caused trouble… Ooo I’ve got a good one…kind of fitting actually…’follow the maze until you find the rat. Bring him into the light, and you'll find where I'm at’…..know the answer?” she said smugly.

Tom looked like he wanted to hex her but also like he wanted to prove a point that he knew the answer. Eventually, he said, “Reveal who my light informant is to the public, and then I would be found.”

“Ding, ding, ding….ten points to Slytherin….so much wasted potential.”

Tom looked at her curiously. “Seriously who are you, and how do you know all this?”

Your teenage nightmare….at your service,” she said dramatically taking a bow.

“Please…you are nothing. I am the greatest sorcerer in the world...I’ve driven Dumbledore out by the mere memory of me.”

“I hate to burst your bubble dude…but Dumbledore was driven out due to incompetence….you had nothing to do with it.”

“Either way Dumbledore is gone.”

A sudden squawk filled the air as Fawkes flew down carrying the sorting hat.

“Huh….weird.”

“What’s weird?” Tom asked his face full of curiosity like he couldn’t help but ask.

“Well I kind of got the impression Fawkes would only appear if someone declared loyalty to Dumbledore…no one here is loyal to him….Maybe it’s like Beetlejuice - say his name three times and he will appear….get ready to hex him…”

What?” Tom said in panic.

“Dumbledore, Dumbledore, Dumbledore,” Ava yelled. Nothing….zero…no sign of the Merlin wannabe. “Well, that was anticlimactic.”

“Stop,” he yelled realising that Harry had somehow managed to drag Draco halfway across the chamber. “Expelliarmus,” he yelled at Harry, somehow managing to use wandless magic to retrieve Harry’s wand. She wondered what had happened to Draco’s come to think of it.

“I want to know how someone who is so much like me but without any extraordinary powers managed to defeat me when they were just a baby.”

“Oh here we go…” Ava muttered rolling her eyes.

“No one knows why you lost your powers,” Harry suddenly said rising to his feet. “No one does, not even me, but I know why you couldn’t kill me. Because my Muggle-born mother died to save me. My common Muggle-born mother. She stopped you from killing me.” Tom seemed to frown when he said Muggle-born, but there was no hint of disgust on his face. “And I’ve seen the real you, I saw you last year…you’re a wreck, you’re barely alive. That’s where all your power got you. You’re in hiding. You’re ugly, you’re foul.”

“Can I interrupt before he starts going on about how similar you are,” Ava said.

“Similar?” Harry asked in disgust.

“Oh don’t get him started Harry…both orphans, raised by Muggles, both Half-bloods…kind of look alike if you squint. Both Parselmouth's…it’s all very generic except the Parselmouth…..”

They both looked at her gormlessly. “Anyway…quick question…Why did you lose the Riddle name?”

“I didn’t.”

“Well, no one seems to know Tom Riddle is in fact Moldy…Voldemort,” she said correcting herself at the last minute.

“What?”

“Well, somewhere between your time in school and the 1980s you lose your actual name and go by Moldy…sorry…Vol-de-mort,” Ava answered sarcastically. “And Dumbledore seems to think it’s because you hated your Muggle family and anything to do with them, and that you killed them.”

“Kill my Muggle family?….My Grandfather on my mother’s side maybe if he weren’t in Azkaban, purely for treating my mother like dirt and wasting the Slytherin fortune…but my Muggle family….I met them for the first time a few years ago a few months after the war broke out… 1940… I needed somewhere to stay that wasn’t in London…the Muggle war had hit the magical papers, and there was constant news about bombs hitting Britain’s industrial cities and it was only a matter of time before London was targeted. The orphanage was there…. I couldn’t go back but Dumbledore wouldn’t let me stay at Hogwarts, even after Headmaster Dippet had agreed I could stay. I had friends who were Half-bloods…they knew people in the war office that could help track them down. The Riddles – My Grandparents, let me stay over the summers.”

“So you never killed your father?”

“Kill my father? No…I never knew him…my father was killed in action in June 1940 at Dunkirk…I was due to meet him for the first time that summer,” he said sadly. “I realised what my mother had done with a love potion – I couldn’t hold him abandoning us against him. It was practically rape what she did.”

Ava agreed with him on that statement; Love potions should be classed as an unforgivable in her opinion. “What about your grandparents?” Ava asked.

“No…I would never…they took me in during one of the most devastating times in British History when I had nowhere to go….I know they weren’t liked within the village; they were snobbish and rude, but war changes people - they turned their house into a convalescent hospital after seeing the boys from the village come home broken in both mind and body. I kept my magic hidden but helped heal where I could. They died in 1943 from tuberculosis whilst I was away at school.”

“Merlin – I’m sorry - and so bloody confused,” Ava said making Tom jump out of his melancholy thoughts.

“Enough of the trip down memory lane… I will return greater and more powerful, and restore the Magical world to its former glory.”

Tom hissed at the giant statue. The sound of something stirring could be heard from within its mouth. Ava couldn’t pull her eyes away as the largest most terrifying snake thumped loudly against the stone floor….well she wasn’t dead so at least the glasses worked…but f*ck trying to tame the beast.

“Abort, abort…” Ava shouted as she hastily opened her bag to grab the rooster.

“NO…” Tom shouted realising what she had and raising Harry’s wand to curse her, but Snape literally popped out of nowhere shooting spells in deadly precision, distracting Tom from his deadly snake.

Ava finite the spell surrounding the cage, and cast a mild hex for good measure making the rooster crow loudly; its co*ck-a-doodle-do echoing around the chamber. There was an almighty thump as the snake dropped down dead onto the dirty, damp floor. Tom screeched at seeing his pet snake dead, turning vicious towards the Potions master.

“Quick, Harry,” Ava said rushing over to Draco. She couldn’t see the blasted diary anywhere. “Where’s the diary?” They looked frantically around for any sign of it. “It’s under the f*cking snake!”

“Levitate it on three, One – two – three – Levicorpus.” But it was no use; the snake was just too heavy.

“What do we do?” Harry cried frantically as he took hold of Draco’s hand; he was even paler than before.

Ava could hear the battle going on behind her, the sounds of spells crackling and stone breaking making it hard to concentrate…think, think, think. A spell came to mind…one she memorised when the word binding caught her eye. Holding Draco’s free hand in hers she closed her eyes, blocking out the noise, calming her breathing until her heart rate calmed enough for her to concentrate. She went over the spell in her head before taking a deep breath.

“Per potestatem trium dimitto te ab iis qui ligant. Tenebras dimitte et lucem amplectere,” she said quietly.

NO,” Tom shouted.

“Keep going Ava,” Snape yelled.

“Per potestatem trium dimitto te ab iis qui ligant. Tenebras dimitte et lucem amplectere.”

“It’s working,” Harry said, his voice ringing with hope, “Ava look.”

Ava opened her eyes slowly, her brow furrowed in concentration. A soft, golden light enveloped Draco's body, making him look ethereal, like a Rivendell Elf. The spell was old and powerful; a forgotten piece of magic Ava had found amongst Snape's books that could cast out a foreign substance in one’s body that had been bound to them; she just prayed it would work.

Draco's body convulsed as she repeated the spell.

“Per potestatem trium dimitto te ab iis qui ligant. Tenebras dimitte et lucem amplectere.”

Silence filled the air as the battle ceased. A noise like someone talking their first gulp of air echoed around the chamber.

“Draco,” Harry cried. Ava looked down to find ice-steel eyes staring in wonder up at them.

“I’m so sorry…it’s my fault,” he stuttered out.

Harry helped pull him upright before Ava pulled them both into a three-way hug. “Don’t be ridiculous,” she said, her face buried in his shoulder. “You’re okay, that’s all that matters.” They held each other for what seemed like an eternity, each one taking in the other two as if afraid they would vanish if they let go. Eventually, they all pulled back when Snape approached them, a look of relief etched on his face.

“Where’s the diary?” Draco asked his voice still shaky.

"It's under the snake," Harry said, "But we can't lift it."

“We need to get to it,” Ava said, her eyes growing wide as she realized the gravity of the situation. The diary needed to be destroyed – no matter how normal or confusing speaking to the young Riddle was, he still grew up to be a megalomaniac. The room felt colder as the shadow of the giant serpent loomed over them, its lifeless body a grim reminder of the evil that once dwelled within it. She glanced over at Snape, who had collapsed against the wall, his once-proud posture now defeated. His eyes were closed, and his breathing was laboured. "Uncle Sev," she said urgently, "Are you okay?”

“I’ll be fine, it just…he was a lot more powerful than I thought.”

“How do we move the snake?”

“Did you try levicorpus?”

“Yes...but the snake's too heavy.”

“Try Levicorpus Maxima.”

“On three Harry,” she said after glancing worriedly at her godfather, whose eyes had closed and was taking in shallow breaths.

“One – two – three –“

“Levicorpus Maxima,” they both bellowed as they still clung to Draco like any movement would make him disappear. The snake lifted sluggishly a few feet off the ground, seeing the diary underneath, Draco pulled himself out of his friend's grip and commando crawled under the giant snake to retrieve it; quickly scurrying back out. Harry and Ava dropped the snake with an almighty bang, making the chamber rattle like an earthquake.

“Uncle Sev, do you think you could extract some venom?” Ava asked delicately.

“Just give me a minute.”

Whilst they were waiting for Snape to regain some strength Draco spoke. “What happened?”

“You were possessed; Moldy was using his diary to seep your life force. How did you even come to have it?”

“I found it in my father’s study; I just thought it was an old diary he never used.”

“One that just made the ink disappear?”

“What? That never happened. It was just a normal diary…here I’ll show you.” He hastily opened the diary to find blank pages.

“I don’t understand….I wrote in it for months.”

“Did it write back?” Ava asked as she searched for Tom's name; she found it stamped on the inside of the cover. The journal didn’t feel evil; in fact she could only feel a lingering dark presence – nothing like she had felt around the diadem.

“Yes sometimes, but I thought it was one of those trick journals, like you get from Zonko’s. It would make me laugh if I was feeling low, or give advice. It wasn’t until you mentioned a diary when you woke up that I realised my memory loss was connected.”

“Why didn’t you tell me you were having problems Draco?”

“I didn’t want to worry you, I went to Pomfrey but she couldn’t find anything wrong – just told me to take it easy.”

“Draco – you idiot,” Ava cried, pulling the boy into her arms. “You two – were going to make a pact right here, right now….anything feels odd, strange, suspicious, has you worried…literally anything we tell each other….no more secrets – we tell each other everything.”

“Everything….even whatever it is you said you couldn’t tell me?” Harry asked.

“Everything,” Ava agreed…okay she wasn’t going to tell them everything, she wasn’t going to burden them with everything, especially since the story was changing so it’s not like the future was actually written so why tie them down with worry. However she would tell them about her time travel and de-aging, it was one thing that would remain true, she would decide later about the rest.

“Okay I promise,” Harry said holding out his pinkie finger.

“I promise too,” said Draco who was looking at Harry’s finger like he was crazy. Ava rolled her eyes and grabbed his hands so they could link all six little fingers together.

“Just go with it Draco,” Harry said laughing. “It’s a Muggle thing.”

They heard Snape shuffling across to the Snake and watched him extract a few vials of venom. Ava placed the diary onto the floor, and stood back, pulling the two boys with her. With the venom in hand, Snape approached the diary cautiously; his movements slow with pain. They watched at a distance as he uncorked it and let the full vial of venom fall onto the diary.

The effect was immediate. The diary began to sizzle and smoke as the venom ate away at the enchanted pages. A mixture of black, red, and green ink spat onto the floor as if an artery had been severed, but there wasn’t a dramatic flood of ink. It was all rather anticlimactic; there was no rush of a wraith-like figure, no scream or shriek - Just a smoking diary which now had a giant hole in it from where the venom had spread and seeped through.

“Erm, that was definitely the diary right?” Ava asked.

“Yes,” both Draco and Harry said.

“Just thought it would be a bit more - theatrical.”

“Theatrical? What were you expecting fireworks?” Harry said sarcastically.

“Well, no but it’s meant to have a bit of Moldy in it, which means it was dark, therefore I expected a big dramatic takedown….you don’t think the part of him has forced its way into something else do you?” Ava asked turning to Snape.

“I don’t think so,” he said uncertainly. All their eyes immediately scanned the area for any sort of receptacle. The only thing there was Ava’s bag with the spare glasses, two broomsticks and Hans Gruber who was pecking at the floor. Snape immediately went over to scan the brooms, bag, and broomsticks for anything dark, whilst Ava hesitantly went over to the rooster.

“You don’t think he’s part rooster now do you?” Ava asked staring at the bird’s beady eyes, which then squawked at her. “Rude!”

“Maybe we should kill it just in case,” Harry said.

“But it's Hans,” Ava whined. “You can’t kill him; he destroyed a great big basilisk. He needs a medal.”

Snape rolled her eyes before casting a series of spells at the oblivious bird. “He’s fine, there’s no sign of anything dark.”

“What happened when you were fighting him?” Ava asked as she scooped up the squawking bird with her hands; scrutinising its beady eyes for any sign of Moldy.

“I don’t really know. We were duelling, then I heard you do that spell. He started getting weaker; started fading until he completely disappeared.”

“Like ceased to exist disappeared?”

“I think so. He literally popped out of existence.”

“Erm, where did Fawkes go?” Ava asked noticing the bird was nowhere to be seen.

“I sent her back to get help,” Snape said, “whilst you were bickering with Moldy.” Harry snigg*red. “I can’t believe you were arguing with him, I thought Theo had somehow followed you down here the way you two were at it,” Snape added giving an exasperated sigh.

“Well I honestly can say I didn’t expect to have that conversation. The strangest part was when he mentioned his family.”

“That was the strangest part to you?” Harry said in astonishment. “Not the part where you were taking the mick out of his name, or his followers, or called him dude and told him to stop pouting.”

“I’m going to need a pensieve memory of this,” Draco said with his mouth hanging open. “Ava, I swear you have a death wish.”

“What? – he was like a petulant child who was trying to play heroes and villains.”

Draco blinked at her in wonder like he was trying to figure out if she really was batsh*t crazy. “What do we tell everyone?”

“The truth – or as close to the truth,” Ava said when Draco looked terrified. “We say you found an empty diary in the library – didn’t know anyone by the name Tom Riddle so kept it for yourself – thought it was a Zonko’s product… Didn’t realise you were being possessed; thought your blackouts were due to your head injury which Pomfrey will back up as you went to see her. Next thing you knew you’re waking up to my delightful face… Meanwhile, Snape fights Moldy whilst Harry and I kill the snake with a rooster – we extract the venom and throw it over the diary destroying Riddle. We just don’t mention me using a spell to separate Moldy from Draco.”

“Why not?” Harry asked.

“Because it’s from the same book I got the spell I used on you last year.”

The two boys nodded in understanding, whilst Snape frowned again at his goddaughter.

“How do we get out of here?” Draco asked.

“I guess we fly out,” said Snape in exasperation.

“Wait,” Ava said when everyone went to move. “Draco, call Dobby.”

“Why?”

“Just call him.”

“It won’t work, my mother freed him.”

“She did?” Ava said in shock.

“Yes, I’m not sure why.”

“Can you try anyway? If not we’ll fly out.”

“Dobby.” A loud crack echoed around the chamber revealing a very frightened wide eyed house elf.

“Master Draco – you is alive…Mistress Cissy has been so worried….she has threatened to curse Master Malfoy’s hair off, then his balls, then turn his skin inside out, then make his blood boil, then….”

“We get it Dobby, but I thought my mother freed you,” Draco said as he stared at the elf who was wearing a rather large green t-shirt that came down to his knobbly knees.

“Mistress Cissy did, but I can still hear the call of my previous Masters; I can choose to answer if wants to or not. Dobby has been so worried about yous. I have been listening in the shadows waiting for news when I heards you call.”

“Thank you Dobby, please can you get us all out of here?” Draco asked looking exhausted.

“Certainly, I will always answer to Master Draco and his friends. Hold on to my arms.”

With a loud crack the five of them disapperated appearing in an instant in the hospital wing where they were swarmed by a mass of people.

Notes:

Ava: Arguing with young Voldemort.
Snape: My goddaughter seriously has a death wish.
Tom: Doesn't quite know what to make of the pint-size girl criticising him - looks on in mild panic.
Snape: How is this my life?

Chapter 17: Exposing Lockhart and Secrets revealed

Chapter Text

“Draco,” Narcissa cried grabbing the boy, and pulling him into her arms as tears streamed down her face; all sense of decorum gone. “What happened? Are you okay? Are you hurt?” she said, fussing her hands over him to check for injuries whilst thanking Dobby, who stood shyly in the corner.

“I’m fine Mum. Just feel a bit tired that’s all.”

Madam Pomfrey bustled over, forcing the boy into a bed whilst shouting at Ava, Harry, and Snape to do the same.

“Severus, what happened?” asked McGonagall who was accompanied by Amelia Bones. He went on to explain tiredly what had happened to the occupants of the room, finishing when he pulled out the warded diary.

“It’s been destroyed by basilisk venom so don’t touch it directly,” he said passing the diary over just as Dumbledore burst through the door. Ava noticed him clock the diary, his face turning into one of satisfaction.

“Albus, you’re back,” said McGonagall.

“Yes, yes Minerva,” he said. “After they heard a child had been taken they wanted to me back here as soon as possible.”

Ava highly doubted that. Probably manipulated, or blackmailed a few people into getting himself reinstated. She looked at Lucius who looked absolutely wrecked, staring at Draco intently like he thought he might disappear. He clearly hadn’t been involved with the Governors decision and wasn’t currently lucid enough to comment. Lucius obviously loved his son going by the state of him, and was probably blaming himself for what had happened – which he should to be fair – imbecile.

Pomfrey eventually forced everyone who was either not injured or family out of the infirmary. Lucius came over to Harry, Ava, and Snape, his steps slow and red-rimmed eyes unfocused.

“I owe you, all of you. You’ve saved my boy. Whatever you need I am at your disposal.” He said honestly with a small bow to his head before turning away quickly; his eyes glassy with unshed tears.

“That was unexpected,” Harry said.

“At least we know the man does have a heart,” Ava added. “I’m so tired, I feel like I could sleep for days.”

“Ava you’re magic is nearly drained,” said Pomfrey. “And so is Harry’s for that matter. What actually happened?”

Snape quickly threw up a silencing charm given the aurors still present in the hospital wing.

“The diary was sucking Draco’s life out of him, we couldn’t destroy the diary because it was trapped under the snake so I used a spell,” she said. “It’s considered dark…but it’s not, just misunderstood. It basically severed young Moldy’s connection to Draco, forcing his life force back into his body.”

Pomfrey nodded in understanding. “I take that it was from the same book the spell you used on Harry last year came from.”

Ava looked at her in shock but Pomfrey didn’t look angry, if anything she looked pensieve. “Healer magic is rarely understood. We do what we must to save lives. Just keep quiet about it,” she whispered. “It does not explain the drain on Harry’s magic however?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “I didn’t do anything strenuous really, except move the snake, but Ava helped with that too.”

“Were you touching when Ava cast on Draco?” Snape asked.

“No, I was holding Draco’s hand,” he said blushing.

“You were power sharing,” whispered Snape.

Ava looked at her godfather in shock. “Power sharing?” She’d never heard of power sharing.

“You were channelling Harry’s magic using Draco as a conduct.”

“But how?” asked Pomfrey. “Power sharing can only be done through blood magic. None of you have showed signs you were bleeding.”

“I wasn’t sure at the time,” said Snape his face pinched in thought, “but last year when you healed Harry you were all bloody; had cuts on your hands.”

“Yeah, so? We had just battled a bloody mountain troll.”

Snape looked at her in exasperation. “Tell me again what spell you used last year.”

Ava thought back trying to remember the exact words she had used. “Per vim sanguinis nostri tibi libere damus. sana cor, corpus, anima”

Pomfrey gasped. “By the power of our blood, we give freely to you. Heal the heart, the body, the soul. Were you touching when you cast?”

“I don’t remember, maybe.”

“What does that mean,” asked Harry looking at Pomfrey in confusion.

“You created a blood bond.”

“A blood bond?” Harry said looking terrified.

“Yes – but it’s nothing to be afraid of,” Pomfrey said reassuringly. “People automatically hear blood and think the worst. No, it means Ava combined her and Draco’s blood with yours; passing it on, using their life force, their magic to heal yours. It’s a bit like when Muggles do blood or platelet transfusions. Or organ transplants. Except the spell creates a bond; it’s why it’s never used. What spell did you use tonight?”

Per potestatem trium dimitto te ab iis qui ligant. Tenebras dimitte et lucem amplectere”

“By the power of three I release you from those that bind. Release the darkness and embrace the light,” Pomfrey translated. “Three is a powerful number; the first spell acted like a binder as there were three of you and you used ‘we’ instead of ‘I,’ and you were all touching; mixing your blood. The bond will recognise each other when in need, and as long as you are all touching in some way you can heal one another.”

Harry nodded like he understood. “That explains why I went after Draco during quidditch.”

“What do you mean?”

“I didn’t know he’d been hit. I felt it; it’s what made me turn. I could sense his pain but knew it wasn’t mine.”

“I thought you heard me shout,” said Ava as she remembered screaming at the two Seekers.

Harry shook his head. “You can’t hear anyone when flying unless they are right next to you, it’s like white noise.”

“How come I didn’t feel it?” asked Ava.

Snape looked thoughtful. “What was your initial reaction besides shock or being frightened?”

“Erm…” Ava thought back to that dreadful day. “I wanted to protect him, to make sure he would be taken care of properly. Make sure he was healed right. But I thought that after I saw Lockhart making his way towards him.”

“No – you knew he needed protecting, to heal. You felt it, your bond kicked in,” said Pomfrey.

“You ran like a bat out of hell Ava,” said Snape. “You never noticed but you pushed at least ten people over trying to get to Draco.”

“What does this mean? Can we hurt each other?” Ava asked worriedly.

“No, Ava,” said Snape kindly. “You have tapped into old magic that is all. Magic that’s long forgotten except to those who know where to look.”

“Like you?”

“Like me,” Snape agreed.

Ava turned worriedly to the healer who had been a mentor to her for over a year. “How do you feel about all this Madam Pomfrey?”

“Ava, I have been in this business a long time. I have, and will continue to use all types of healing; no matter where it comes from. Blood magic is old, but it is not dark in nature. It’s all about intent – like all magic.”

Ava nodded in understanding. “Do we tell Draco?” she looked over to where he was still being fussed over by his parents.

“I would think it would be wise to do so, but maybe not whilst his parents are here,” Snape said.

As Ava lay in bed that night under the care of Madam Pomfrey she thought back to what the centaur had said in the forbidden forest the previous year. Life, Death, Destiny…Healer, warrior, balancer. She’d not given it much thought over the past year, putting it down to divination nonsense. But what if there was some truth in his words. The three of them had been present at the time, and he had said The Fated Ones – Ones not one. Plural. She thought about the books she had skimmed over during the summer; was there some truth to it after all? Was that why she was here? Because she was really fated to do….what exactly? Ava snorted internally and shook her head. It was ridiculous. She wasn’t anyone special; she was just trying to make a better life for her friends. She rolled over, trying to ignore the anxiety crawling in her stomach, falling into a fretful sleep.

The next morning Ava woke to find the infirmary nearly empty again. The aurors were gone, as well as Snape and the Malfoys. The only people left were Harry and Draco. Hermione, Ron and Theo burst into the infirmary not long after with breakfast, waking up the sleeping boys.

“We only just found out you were here,” Hermione said. “We’ve been so worried, especially after Snape came to get you Harry. We thought……we thought you were dead Draco.”

“Still alive and kicking,” he said cheerfully, but Ava could see the tension in his jaw and the smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes.

“What happened?” asked Ron.

They sat and told their friends in hushed voices what had happened in the Chamber of Secrets. They in turn told them that Dumbledore had announced at breakfast the threat was now over and all those that had been petrified were now awake. Lockhart was still for some reason in the castle, seemingly oblivious to anything that had happened the previous evening.

The Great Hall at Hogwarts was adorned with floating candles, the tables filled with students enjoying their dinner the following evening. The enchanted ceiling mimicked the twilight sky, stars twinkling above. Ava was glad to be able to enjoy it again. But an air of tension underscored the usual merriment. Whispers floated around the hall, and all eyes were on Hermione Granger and Susan Bones, who stood at the centre of the room, their expressions determined. The whispers and rumours of Draco’s kidnap and the heir of Slytherin had died down after seeing him that morning with Harry and Ava, so the students sat quietly in anticipation as to what the two girls might reveal.

Susan stood shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with Hermione, their eyes locked on Gilderoy Lockhart, who was seated at the staff table, preening as usual, having no idea his lies where about to catch up with him. Ava wondered not for the first time what had happened after she had stunned him.

“Professor Dumbledore,” Hermione began her voice calm and steady, "we have something very important to share with everyone here."

The hall fell silent. Even the ghosts seemed to hold their breath. Dumbledore, with his twinkling blue eyes, nodded for Hermione to continue, though there was a hint of curiosity and concern in his gaze. He eyes darting to Ava in suspicion who was stood to the side holding the latest Weasley project. She had been expecting some sort of retaliation after the way she had spoken to him when she had woken up from being petrified but so far nothing had come of it.

“As you all know, Professor Lockhart has been celebrated for his many achievements and heroic deeds,” Hermione said, her voice echoing slightly in the vast hall. “But given the state of his teaching, his clear lack of skill and knowledge, I have uncovered the truth about his so-called accomplishments.” Lockhart’s smile faltered. He shifted uneasily in his seat, his eyes darting around the hall looking for an escape.

Hermione continued, “Over the past year, I’ve been gathering evidence—letters, testimonies, and, most importantly, tampered memories that with assistance for the DMLE—proving Professor Lockhart is a fraud.”

Gasps and murmurs spread through the crowd. Lockhart stood, trying to regain his composure. “Miss Granger, I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said, his tone dripping with false bravado. Ava stepped forward, holding a small vial in her hand whilst Hermione continued to speak. “This, Professor Lockhart, is a Pensieve vial containing the memories of several witches and wizards whose achievements you have claimed as your own.” Lockhart paled. Hermione raised her wand, tapping it against the vial and pouring into the pensive that Madam Bones had loaned that was linked to the device the Weasley Twins had made that Ava was holding. “Let’s see the truth, shall we?”

The Great Hall dimmed, and the memories projected into the air like a hologram from the twins latest creation. Students and teachers watched as scenes played out: brave wizards and witches performing extraordinary feats, only for Lockhart to appear at the end of each memory, casting powerful Memory Charms to erase their accomplishments and claim them for himself. The hall was silent; the only sound the crackling of the enchanted flames. Dumbledore’s expression was grave, his eyes no longer twinkling. Lockhart’s face was a mask of horror.

“And there’s more,” Susan said, her voice cutting through the silence. “We have testimonies from people whose lives were destroyed by these Memory Charms. They’ve been living in confusion and fear, their memories fragmented.” At that moment, the doors of the Great Hall burst open, the stern and imposing head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, strode in, flanked by several Aurors. Amelia’s eyes blazed with anger as she looked at Lockhart. “Gilderoy Lockhart, you are under arrest for the use of illegal Memory Charms and fraud,” she declared, her voice carrying authority. She turned to Dumbledore, her gaze hard. “Albus, I warned you about him. Hiring him was a grave mistake. You know the complaints filed by the students and their parents – how many students have taken to self-study due to his incompetence? How many students are going to fail their OWLS and NEWTS because you couldn’t find a decent teacher” Dumbledore nodded solemnly, his face a mask of regret. “You were right, Amelia. But the position is so hard to fill. It is cursed.”

“Curses can be countered Albus; find it and fix it. It’s been decades since we have had a decent professor that has lasted longer than a year and I’m starting to think the curse is you.” She gave the headmaster one last glare before turning to restrain Lockhart. But he ran across the hall, snatching Ron’s wand out of his hand on the way; dodging curses flying towards him. Ava, Harry and Theo chased after him, their knowledge of the castle and its hidden passages allowing them to cut him off.

“Tut, tut, tut Lockhart, running away isn’t very hero like behaviour?” Ava said sarcastically.

“You have been a thorn in my side since the day I met you,” he snapped bitterly, his face contorting, making him ugly.

“Just a thorn? Not a full rose bush? I need to up my game.”

“I may not be the best at defence spells but I know my way around an obliviate,” he spat manically.

“Good for you,” Harry said mockingly like he wanted to pat him on the head like a good dog.

“What exactly is your plan here?” Theo said, his wand pointing at the man’s head.

“A few obliviates will make you disoriented to give me time to escape.”

“A few obliviates – right – so you’re going to be able to overpower Snape. The man who sent you on your arse with barely a flick of his wand. Or McGonagall, - she’s feisty, or Madam Bones, the head of DMLE. They are all here, along with a bunch of aurors,” said Ava sarcastically.

Lockhart paled. “Perhaps not, but still I can make you go insane from memory loss, it would be the least I could do.”

The three of them snorted, making the man angry.

“Oblivate,” he shouted pointing his wand at Ava, but five wands were quicker. Ava, Harry, and Theo bellowed ‘stupefy’ just as Hermione and Draco did the same who had sneaked behind the ex-professor, accompanied by a wandless Ron. Lockhart was blasted from his feet into the ceiling, landing awkwardly on the floor; Ron’s wand snapping in two from the force of the blast.

“My wand,” he cried rushing to grab it.

“Sorry Ron, you needed a new one anyway,” Ava said with a shrug – the fates were clearly at it again.

“It was Bills, my mums going to kill me.”

“No she won’t – it was literally stolen from you. It’s not like it broke from flying your dad’s car into the whomping willow or anything,” Ava said cheekily.

“Merlin – could you imagine; I’d be getting howlers for a month if that had happened.” Ava couldn’t help but laugh.

Hurried footsteps sounded behind them as Amelia Bones came into view, her eyes glancing from Lockhart’s still body sprawled out over the floor to the six nearly teenagers laughing like hyenas.

Her eyes fell back to the unconscious Lockhart, and her expression hardened. "I see you've managed to subdue him."

"Erm – yeah, he tried to attack us, we all kind of reacted at once,” Ava said sheepishly rubbing her neck with her hand.

Amelia nodded sharply. "Very well. Let's get to the matter at hand."

Hermione stepped forward, clutching a thick file of documents. "Madam Bones, this is the evidence Susan and I have gathered."

Amelia took the file, her eyes scanning the neatly organized pages. "This is thorough," she commented, a note of approval in her voice. "Well done."

With a flick of her wand, Amelia levitated the unconscious Lockhart onto a stretcher. "I'll take him to the Ministry. He'll face a full trial for his crimes."

Ava and Hermione watched as Amelia escorted Lockhart out of the school. The tension in the room began to dissipate, replaced by a sense of accomplishment.

"We did it," Hermione said, a smile breaking across her face.

“You did it, Hermione. You and Susan.”

The next day, the Great Hall buzzed with excitement. Students whispered and pointed at the front page of the Daily Prophet, which displayed a large, moving photograph of Lockhart being led away in magical handcuffs. The headline read: **"Gilderoy Lockhart: Hero or Fraud? Ministry Investigates Shocking Allegations"**

Ava sat with Hermione and Susan at the Gryffindor table, their copies of the newspaper spread out before them. Hermione's eyes gleamed with satisfaction as she read the article detailing Lockhart's downfall.

"Looks like the whole wizarding world knows the truth now," Hermione said her voice triumphant.

Ava smiled, feeling a sense of justice. "And they have you to thank you two for it. Your research was impeccable."

Hermione blushed slightly. "Well, I wasn’t going to tolerate lies written as facts. I can’t believe he was allowed to teach."

“Who do you think is going to teach defence now?” Susan asked. “There’s still another term left of school.”

“Who knows? I’m quite happy to continue with self-study for now,” Ava said.

Hermione looked thoughtful. “Yeah me too. But it’s not really fair on those taking their OWLS or NEWTS this year.”

***

The Easter holidays came a few days later much to everyone’s relief. Ava and her friends didn’t go home for the break, using the time to catch up on work and help each other with DADA. One afternoon when everyone was off doing their own thing Ava asked Harry and Draco to meet her. She took them to the secret courtyard with the fountain they had found the previous year thinking they wouldn’t be disturbed by anyone. She knew the twins would be occupying the Room of Requirement – the practically lived in there now.

“Wow, what is this place?” Draco asked as he scanned the beautiful courtyard. The flowers were all in bloom; pinks, blues, reds and yellows making the courtyard pop with colour.

“We’re not sure, we found it last year,” Harry said. “We don’t think anyone else knows about it and we would like to keep it that way.”

Draco nodded in understanding as he looked in awe at the fountain. “Do you know who they are?” Ava asked.

“No, I don’t think so,” he said as his hands brushed over the statue of the three figures embracing.

“So the reason I brought you here is that I promised to tell you everything; well nearly everything. There are some things I don’t know and some things that are too dangerous for you to know until you learn Occlumency.”

“I know Occlumency,” Draco said. “But I’m not proficient yet. I can help teach you, Harry.”

“What’s Occlumency?” Harry asked.

“It’s a way to protect your thoughts and memories from mind invasion. It’s hard to learn but it gets easier to control once you know how.” Harry nodded in agreement.

Ava conjured some cushions for them to sit on, propped up by the fountain.

“First though, Draco – Harry and I need to tell you something.”

Draco looked at them worriedly, his face looking upset like they were about to break his heart or something. “It’s nothing bad,” Ava promised. “I accidentally created a bond between the three of us.”

Draco shook his head like he had misheard. “What?” Ava went on to explain what she had done and how there was no hidden consequences that she was aware of, just that they would know if each other was hurt and can power share to help heal each other.

Draco rubbed his hands over his face. “Wow – this is a lot. I didn’t even know power-sharing was a thing. I’ve heard of bonds but more the marriage type or darker inclined bonds like slavery, or house elf bonds.”

“I’m sorry Draco – we can find a way to break it.”

“No – don’t do that – I wasn’t saying I wanted to break it.” Draco blushed before continuing. “I kind of like that we share a bond. I think it’s a good thing with the amount of trouble we all get into.”

Harry snorted in agreement. “Understatement of the year.”

“Do you think we could power share with other spells too?” Draco asked, his smile lifting with mischief.

“I don’t know,” said Ava. “Probably best not to mess about until we know more.”

The boys nodded in agreement but she could tell Draco would be researching the Manor library as soon as he got home for summer.

“So what else did you want to tell us?” Harry asked.

“So, first off let me finish before you ask questions okay?” The boys nodded. “Right, well you both know I don’t know who my parents are and that only last year I found out Snape is my godfather.” They nodded again. “And it’s true my grandmother raised me. Harry, you know this but I don’t think you do Draco, but the day I arrived at Kings Cross before starting school I had no idea how I got there; literally no memory of me arriving at the station, of packing for Hogwarts, or even knowing I was magical… Up until that point I had been a Muggle – but the thing is…I was a Muggle in the year 2010 and I was thirty years old.”

What?” They both shouted.

“Please let me finish. When I became aware of my surroundings I remembered I had been an adult, I had a son who was ten, and as far as I’m aware I lived in the Muggle world. My memories became fuzzy after that and the only thing I could remember was my son and occasionally my grandmother. It wasn’t until we found the mirror of Erised that I remembered what she looked like.”

“You have a son?” asked Draco in astonishment.

Ava nodded. “Had or will have… I don’t know… He’s called Toby; I don’t know who his father is.”

“You don’t?” asked Harry.

“No, I think it was a one-time thing with someone I had just met, but I can’t be sure. Either way, I don’t remember him. Anyway as I was saying, as far as I was aware Hogwarts was fiction; that magic didn’t exist… You see, in the Muggle world, in the future, there are books about Hogwarts, written as a children’s story, but they are about your time here spread out over seven books, each one a year at school. They tell the story of Moldy’s return and things that happen within the school that involve you. It’s how I know things… The thing is… I was never mentioned in the books, I didn’t exist and since arriving the stories are changing.”

“Changing how?” Draco asked.

“Well for starters you two were never friends; in fact your rivalry caused a massive divide between the houses and you were really vile Draco, especially to Harry, Ron, and Hermione.”

Draco looked disgusted at the thought. “Merlin, I’m sorry Harry.”

“Draco – you’ve nothing to be sorry for,” said Harry “That’s not you – not now.”

“There’s other things too; the Slytherins never came after you when you went after Quirrell. It was only Ron and Harry that went after Hermione when the troll got in. Ginny was the one who had the diary, your father planted it on her when we were in the bookstore... You saved her Harry but you nearly died doing so as you were on your own as Ron got stranded and Hermione was still in the hospital I think... Sirius never got free from Azkaban; he escaped during third year to go after Pettigrew but he got free before the truth could get out to exonerate him, so he lived on the run. You had to go back to the Dursleys every summer. It’s how I knew of your abuse when we first met Harry – although I thought it was just a coincidence at the time.”

Harry’s eyes were wide at the knowledge. “Are you serious?”

Ava nodded. “I’d never lie to you, Harry. There are other small changes that happened too or didn’t happen. Like there were never any additional clubs, you and Ron flew to school in Mr Weasley's car and smashed into the Whomping Willow and Ron broke his wand. Hagrid went to Azkaban temporarily and told you to follow the spiders to get answers – by the way….never follow the spiders! Lockhart stole Ron’s broken wand when you forced him to go with you to the Chamber of Secrets but it backfired and he accidentally obliviated himself.”

Harry snorted. “You kept mentioning the flying car – joking about it.”

“Where do you think I got the idea from,” Ava said with a small smile. “Draco never got injured during Quidditch or had access to the diary.” Ava’s voice choked with those words. “I’m sorry Draco, if I’d never come here none of that would have happened; you could have died.”

“Hey…hey,” Draco said pulling her into a sideways hug. “Hogwarts wouldn’t be the same without you; you don’t see how much your being here has changed the school for the better. I don’t care that I got injured and it was my fault for taking the diary.”

“So are you telling me time travel is real and you’re really thirty?” Harry asked interrupting their little heart to heart.

“Time-travels real but I don’t know how I came back so far; as far as I’m aware you can only travel back five hours using a time-turner that are controlled by the Department of Mysteries. As for being thirty – not anymore according to Snape; I’m a twelve-year-old girl with the attitude of one apparently. I don’t have any memories of being an adult; not personal ones anyway. I think I was oblivated at some point before being sent back in time. I just don’t know how or why. Or even how I suddenly became magical, or de-aged. Honestly, I try not to think about it too much. Snape and I have tried researching it but we’ve hit a dead end, and it’s not something we can share with just anyone.”

“So these books you mentioned,” Draco said causing Ava to tense, “were they like a history book?”

“Erm…well sort of but in the disguise of a fictional book I suppose, about Hogwarts and Moldy returning to powers and about people fighting a war. But I get the feeling they were all lies.” She wasn’t going to tell them they were all about Harry’s years at Hogwarts.

“Why do you say that?” asked Harry who was rubbing his hands through his hair.

“Well, can you remember when I was talking to young Moldy?” Harry snorted and nodded his head. “Well, the books said he had killed his Muggle family and made it look like his magical uncle had done it. But he told us he lived with his family during the summers during the war and had never met his father. I don’t think he was lying.”

“No, he seemed surprised by the accusation,” said Harry.

“I think I was brought here to change the future and find out the truth. Dumbledore was made out to be some sort of powerful light wizard, but all I’ve seen is a manipulative man with his own agenda. There’s something bigger we’re not seeing,” Ava said before looking at the two boys. “Do you two believe me?”

“Of course we believe you,” said Draco. “You’ve never given us a reason to distrust you…right, Harry.”

“Right…we trust you Ava…can you tell us anything else about the future?”

Ava shook her head. “I can’t risk that; the futures what we make it and I’ve already changed so much already that I don’t know much anymore – it would all just be conjecture at this point. But you two have to promise me that you will listen when I tell you not to do something stupid, and that you will tell me if you’re in trouble or suspect something. The same goes for each other. And you have to promise to keep this information between us.”

“I promise,” they both said.

“Does anyone else know?” asked Draco who was absentmindedly playing with a strand of her hair.

“Snape knows everything as well as Charlie Weasley.”

“Charlie?” Harry said in astonishment. “Why him?”

“I don’t know, we became pen-pals last year and just felt I could trust him as he’s not in Dumbledore's pocket, and if the future plays out like I know it then the Weasley family is affected a lot by the war so I thought one of them should know what I do. I managed to avoid Ginny being possessed but other things happen to the family. I won’t tell you what so don’t ask.” Ava said when Harry went to speak.

“Theo knows about Snape being my godfather and bits and pieces but he doesn’t want me to tell him anything else because of his father. He’s worried if he got wind of it then his father would try to get information out of him. It’s only the Weasleys, your parents and Sirius and Remus, oh and Amelia that know about Snape being my godfather. I should probably tell Hermione come to think of it. If anyone asks he knew my parents who went to Durmstrang and he met them during his potions apprenticeship. They died when I was small and my grandmother raised me until she died just before school started. Snape kept his distance during that time for safety reasons. I’m not sure who he’s told that story to but it’s as close to the truth as we know. The Slytherin girls, Hermione and Padma know I don’t know who my parents are and that my grandmother raised me, but they don’t know about Snape. They swore they’d keep it all secret and I trust them.”

The boys nodded in understanding. “Whatever happens Ava; we’ll be by your side and help you find your parents, and find out how you came to be here,” Harry said.

Ava pulled them both into a hug. “Thank you.”

Chapter 18: Return of Quidditch, Negative House Points & Freedom at Last

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

The defeat of Slytherin's heir sent ripples of relief throughout the halls of Hogwarts. Although Ava, Harry, and Draco had kept quiet about what really happened, the rumours were still circling strong around the school. Due to the change in events from the original timeline the defeat of the young Moldy was done by Easter, so with the threat vanquished along with Professor Lockhart, Dumbledore announced the resumption of all school activities after the Easter holidays. First through fourth years had been allowed to self-study with the assistance of a rotation of aurors who came to teach the older students and allow them to catch up to where they should be but everyone was more excited for the long-awaited Quidditch matches.

As the news spread about Quidditch, excitement buzzed in the air. The Great Hall was filled with the clatter of silverware and excited chatter as students speculated about the upcoming games. The Quidditch season, put on hold due to the sinister events, was now condensed into a whirlwind of intense competition to determine the Quidditch Cup.

The first match was scheduled between Gryffindor and Hufflepuff, with the stands filled to capacity. Students from all houses adorned themselves in their respective colours, waving banners and chanting in support of their teams. Ava sat with the Gryffindors, her heart pounding with anticipation. The tension was palpable, but she had to laugh when she saw Harry zoom out of the changing rooms dressed not in Gryffindor colours but wearing Draco’s Jersey. Emerald green stood out amongst the red, like a single leaf amongst the roses. Or maybe a thorn – giving that Harry and Draco could be a serious thorn in her side.

“I can’t believe you made him wear it to his own match,” Ava said to Draco whilst laughing.

“Of course, I was going to. He had making up to do.”

“You know he was technically right, don’t you? You were being controlled by the heir of Slytherin.”

“Don’t remind me, but that’s not why I’m making him do it.”

Ava turned to look at him. “It’s not?”

“No,” Draco said fiercely, his steel-grey eyes piercing into hers. “He upset you, Ava, he took you for granted, and I never ever want to see that look on your face again. The least I can do is make him embarrass himself… I know he helped save me, and I will forever be grateful for that, but he still needs to grovel at your feet, and he did say he promised to wear it.”

“Thanks, Draco.” Ava laughed as Harry flew by with a big grin on his face and blew Draco a kiss.

The whistle blew, and the game began with a ferocity that had been building for months. Harry was a blur of green and silver, his eyes scanning the sky for the Golden Snitch. The Hufflepuff team played with determination, their formation tight and their plays strategic.

Gryffindor's Chasers, Angelina Johnson, Alicia Spinnet, and Katie Bell, worked in perfect harmony, passing the Quaffle with precision and speed. The Hufflepuff Keeper, however, was formidable, blocking shot after shot. The match was a nail-biter, with both teams giving their all but Gryffindor eventually took the advantage; their vigorous training paying off in spades as the chasers found their stride and took control.

Then, in a moment that seemed to stretch into eternity, Harry spotted the Snitch. The crowd's roar reached a fever pitch as he and the Hufflepuff Seeker raced neck and neck, the tiny golden ball darting through the air. With a final burst of speed, Harry's fingers closed around the Snitch, securing Gryffindor's victory. The stands erupted in cheers, the Gryffindors lifting Harry onto their shoulders in triumph.

Two days later saw Ravenclaw pitted against Slytherin. Ava stood in the stands accompanied by Harry who was wearing Draco’s training jumper. Ava had to admit he looked good in green; the colour made his bright eyes pop. The game was fierce and fast-paced, with Ravenclaw's strategy emphasizing their intellectual approach to the sport. They analysed Slytherin's weaknesses and tried to exploit them with surgical precision.

Slytherin's Beaters were relentless, sending Bludgers hurtling towards Ravenclaws players with no mercy. Theo was on top form, ducking in and out of the opposing Chasers, scoring goal after goal. Ravenclaws Seeker faced off against Draco, who was back to fighting fit. With the look of determination on his face, Draco’s agility and keen eye gave him the edge he needed. With a dazzling display of skill, he outmaneuvered the opposing Seeker and caught the Snitch triumphantly, securing a victory for Slytherin. Ava cheered wildly with Harry joining in by her side.

Quidditch fever had well and truly hit the castle, with banners covering the corridors, bets taken and intense practices between lessons as the final match approached; the excitement in the castle was electric. Gryffindor and Ravenclaw were set to face each other once again; a repeat of the previous year - a showdown that would determine whether Gryffindor would claim victory over them once more. The entire school turned out for the event, the stands a sea of colour. The air was tense as the points between Gryffindor and Slytherin were close. Slytherin had trounced Hufflepuff earlier in the year and was currently in the lead for the cup. Gryffindor had to score at least 260 points to win.

The whistle blew, and the game began with an intensity that had been building for weeks. Gryffindor's Chasers were relentless, their teamwork seamless. Ravenclaw's Beaters played ruthlessly, targeting Gryffindor's key players, but Fred and George were on them like glue, knocking the Ravenclaw chasers out of the way with ferocity. The Gryffindor chasers were a tight group, having played together for years, and with Wood as their keeper, the Ravenclaws had no chance. Ava could see Harry circling the pitch, eyes darting everywhere.

“He’s seen the snitch at least four times,” said Draco.

“He has?”

“Yes, but they need to rack up points for them to win. He’s leaving it on purpose.”

Ava watched closely, seeing Harry make false moves so the opposing Seeker would follow. After what seemed like an age Gryffindor was finally up to a hundred points but their Chasers were down the Ravenclaw end, trying to intercept the Quaffle.

“Ravenclaws Seeker has seen the snitch,” Theo gasped, pointing to the player. But Harry was on him in a flash, not willing to risk the loss. Faster and faster he flew until he was neck and neck with blue robes; his Nimbus giving him the edge. Ava’s heart was in her throat, not daring to look away to see where the Chasers were.

Then, in a heart-stopping moment, Harry dived suddenly at a terrifying drop as the Snitch changed direction, his broomstick cutting through the air with blistering speed. Ravenclaws Seeker was right on his tail, but he lacked the recklessness Harry exhibited; falling behind with caution. The crowd held its breath as they streaked towards the ground.

With a final, breathtaking manoeuvre, Harry snatched the Snitch from the air just feet above the grass. The stadium erupted in a roar of triumph. Gryffindor had won the match, but who had claimed victory over the cup?

“Gryffindor win,” yelled Lee Jordon, “but for the first time in Hogwarts history, never seen before, the Quidditch Cup goes to……” The crowd held their breath. “Both Gryffindor and Slytherin.”

There was a moment of silence before the stands erupted; Draco and Theo gave Ava a beaming smile before they joined their team as they flew over the stands to meet the Gryffindors. They stood shoulder to shoulder, a rarely seen moment of comradery. Ava laughed as Harry grabbed his red Quidditch jersey and shoved it over Draco’s head. He laughed good-naturedly as Colin took a photo before they switched tops for the team photos; Draco sniffing at having to wear his now sweaty top. The cup was passed around before Draco and Harry were lifted in the air; the cup holding high between them, beaming smiles for all to see. Ava could see Sirius and Remus in the teacher's stand clapping and whooping, the former openly crying in jubilation.

They were all eventually mobbed by their euphoric housemates, their victory a testament to their hard work and determination. Ava watched on, her heart swelling with pride. The intense two weeks of Quidditch had brought everyone together after the horror that had plagued the school, reminding everyone of the joy and camaraderie that came from friendly competition and house unity. Neither house cared that they had drawn for the cup; not one of them demanding a rematch for the game that was brought to a disastrous end.

The twins made hasty arrangements, commandeering the Great Hall to throw an epic victory party. As the celebrations continued long into the night, the students of Hogwarts knew that despite the challenges they faced, they were stronger together. And with Quidditch back in full swing, and the threat now gone, the magic of Hogwarts was more alive than ever.

***

After a tumultuous year at Hogwarts, the students and staff gathered in the Great Hall for the leaving feast. Ava was looking forward to the final announcement of the House Cup results after a year of purposefully losing house points. As Professor Dumbledore took the podium, the atmosphere was tense with anticipation, ninety percent of the school had been taking part in the downfall of the points system, and the last few weeks of school had been fraught with pranks, skiving lessons, and late assignments. The Slytherins and Gryffindors had been the worst with having to make up for the points they had made in Quidditch.

"Attention, students," Dumbledore began. "This year has been unprecedented in many ways. Despite the unusual circ*mstances, we must still honour our traditions and present the house cup. In fourth place, Gryffindor with minus one hundred and fifty-three points.” The Gryffindor table whooped loudly, the twins banging on the table whilst the professors looked on in bewilderment. “In third place, Slytherin with minus one hundred and ten points.” The Slytherins erupted too joining in with the Gryffindors. “In second place Hufflepuff with minus five points. Therefore the winner of the house cup is Ravenclaw, the only house not in the negative with fifty points.” Ravenclaw looked sullen, the other houses looking on in sympathy.

Dumbledore looked perplexed at the odd display; never before had the school lost so many points collectively or had been visually sad by winning the house cup.

As the noise died down Ava, Hermione, Padma, and Susan approached the front of the hall, standing shoulder to shoulder in solidarity.

“As you may be wondering why the school has been acting out of character – for the most part,” Ava said; turning to give the twins a cheeky wink.

“That we are Miss Morgan,” Dumbledore said as he eyed her suspiciously.

"Professors, Headmaster,” she continued struggling to keep the sneer out of her voice when addressing him. “The point system has been demoralizing. In Slytherin, our ambition and resourcefulness are seen as negative traits. Points are deducted for trivial reasons without considering the context.”

Susan continued "Hufflepuffs have been losing points for honest mistakes. Our hard work and loyalty seem to go unnoticed, and instead, we're punished harshly. This is disheartening and unfair."

"For us Ravenclaws,” Padma continued, “intellectual curiosity has been met with penalties. We are punished for asking too many questions and seeking knowledge, which goes against the very essence of our house values."

"Gryffindors are often penalized for taking risks that are intended to help others. Points are deducted arbitrarily, and the lack of consistency and transparency is frustrating. We need a system that recognizes and respects the strengths of each house," said Hermione.

“We need a system that is fair,” Ava continued. “Not one where the amount of points are taken depends on what house you are from, or class you are in. Why should one teacher give or take ten points, whilst another gives or takes five for the same reason? All the reasons we have said are valid, but also you must recognise that we don’t just have the traits of those houses, we shouldn’t be pigeonholed by the colours we wear. If the past two years have taught you anything, then you should realise by now that Slytherins are more than just cunning, that Ravenclaws can be loyal,” she said turning to Padma. “A Gryffindor can be intelligent,” she pointed to Hermione, “and Hufflepuffs can be resourceful,” she finished gesturing to Susan.

“But we are so much more than that,” Susan said, “we want a fair system, or we will continue the way we have for the past year. Late homework, pranks, tardiness…whatever we can think of to lose points.”

McGonagall stood and approached the students. “You have made some excellent points, we will see to it that by September a new system will be in place; one that is fair across all houses.” Dumbledore didn’t look too happy about it but he nodded his head in approval. If rumour was to be believed, Lucius and the Governors now had him on a tight leash in regards to how the school was to be run with McGonagall overseeing. According to Snape, she had a two-hour-long rant over a bottle of whiskey about the Headmaster after they had rescued Draco.

“Thank you, Professor,” the girls all said.

“I have one more announcement,” Hermione said turning to face the students. “The student with the most points lost and therefore the winner of ninety galleons…..drum roll please….” She said to the twins, who immediately started slapping the table, “…Luna Lovegood – with a total loss of one hundred and twenty-six points.”

Everyone turned to stare at the tiny blonde girl in pure bafflement who skipped up to the front of the room to collect her winnings. Ava had barely seen Luna all year – how had she lost so many points?

“The nargles told me what to do!” she said with an air of mystery. Ava burst out laughing good-naturedly, clapping with the rest of the students as Luna skipped back to her seat.

“I really need to make friends with that girl,” Ava said staring at the wide-eyed blonde who was counting her winnings.”

***

“Ava, Severus,” Theo said excitedly as he barged into Snape's quarters wafting around a letter.

“What is it?” Ava asked laughing at his enthusiasm.

“Mrs Malfoy has just written to me, she’s confirmed I can go home with you for the summer.”

“You can?” Ava said excitedly.

“Here.” Theo shoved the letter into her hands.

Dearest Theo,

After receiving your letter about your concerns about going back to Nott Manor, and witnessing the injuries you sustained by the hands of your father I have managed to persuade him into thinking you will be joining us for the duration of the summer holidays. He believes we will be spending most of it in France at our summer residence. You are of course more than welcome to stay with us for the whole summer, but as I understand it you would prefer to stay with Severus and Miss Morgan. The choice is entirely yours. I however do expect to see you at some point over the summer along with Miss Morgan. I did sorely miss you last year.

Yours sincerely,

Narcissa Malfoy

“This is brilliant; we are going to have so much fun…now have you ever heard of a theme park?” Ava said excitedly pulling Theo to the sofa, whilst Snape looked on in a mixture of fondness and pure horror as he listened in bafflement at all the things Ava wanted to do.

“So we’ve got two months to fill. So I’m thinking a theme park, the beach, the cinema, a waterpark, maybe a quidditch match if we can disguise you enough, obviously visit Harry, Draco and the Weasleys. Maybe do some sightseeing in Muggle London or maybe York….let me think…can we visit Charlie again?” Ava said turning to Snape who felt exhausted already from just listening to her.

“I’m sure that can be arranged,” he said stoically but Ava saw a hint of a smile on his face.

***

During breakfast on their last day of school, Ava, Draco, and Theo were huddled together opposite the Golden Trio at the Gryffindor table, talking excitedly over a Muggle newspaper that had been sent to them by Amelia, when they were interrupted by the Headmaster.

“Harry, I must insist on speaking with you in private.”

“Whatever you say can be said in front of my friends,” he said sassily.

Dumbledore seeing he wasn’t going to win continued, “Harry, it is of vital importance you return to the Dursleys this summer, the place you call home.”

“I have never called that place home Headmaster, but it’s funny you should mention the Dursleys.”

“Oh?”

“Mr and Mrs Dursley of number four Privet Drive, Little Whinging,” Ava started like she was telling a bedtime story, “have been sentenced to fifteen years in prison on charges of child neglect, child abuse, ABH, theft, and child endangerment.” Dumbledore’s eyes were comically wide, the twinkling non-existent.

“Evidence pertaining the crimes, “Draco continued, “will come as a shock to the local residents and rattle their quiet community. Under their care was Petunia Dursleys nephew whose name has been redacted for safety reasons. Neighbours and teachers were led to believe the child was nothing but trouble by his aunt and uncle but when questioned thoroughly, many said they were often threatened by the Dursleys or the boy’s grandfather to keep quiet.” Draco scowled at the Headmaster so Hermione took over.

“Further investigation revealed that the boy was often locked in the cupboard under the stairs for extended periods of time from the ages fifteen months to eleven years old. Evidence gathered showed that it believed the boy actually slept there during this time and was left without access to food and basic necessities.” Ava took Harry's hand over the table when she saw him shake slightly at the memories.

“The boy’s peers and teachers claimed they often saw the boy with bruises and would often miss school,” continued Theo. “His aunt would claim he was accident prone or unwell, yet there are no records of hospital or doctor’s visits until after he turned eleven when a physician was requested to give him a full medical examination. Results showed that the boy was severely malnourished, had numerous scars, including burns, and had to have bones reset due to previous breaks that had been left untreated. Neighbours confirmed they would often see the boy gardening in all weathers from being as young as three, and would often hear shouting from the house for him to cook their food or to get in his cupboard.”

“When asked why no one intervened,” Ron continued when Theo’s voice started to break. He knew exactly what neglect and abuse felt like. “They all claimed that they were threatened by his uncle or grandfather. As it stands the grandfather has yet to be identified and is still at large. Their son who was the same age as their nephew but wasn’t mistreated in the same way has been placed with child protective services.”

“Any idea who this grandfather is?” Harry asked innocently. “I never met any other family except Marge.”

“I have no idea,” Dumbledore lied.

“As you can see Sir, Harry will be staying with his godfather where he is safe,” said Ava.

“And loved,” said Draco

“And cared for,” added Theo

Dumbledore rearranged his face before speaking. “Quite right, quite right my boy. If I had known what conditions you were living in I never would have left you there.” He turned swiftly before anyone could respond.

“Unf*cking believable!” Theo said making everyone snort. “The gall of that guy.”

“Don’t worry we’ll get him…one day,” Ava said with a nasty smile.

Notes:

Ava has survived her second year at Hogwarts - Will her third year be more peaceful? Will Hogwarts avoid the dementors now Sirius is free? Will she get any closer to finding the truth, especially with young Moldy's revelation? Stay tuned to find out more.

If you're liking Ava's story please leave a comment, Kudos and Share.

Thanks for reading 😊😘

Chaos in the Castle - finding_truth_amongst_the_fiction - Harry Potter (2024)

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