Here they are, Professor,’ said the tiny gamekeeper to the tall witch standing in the doorway. ‘The first years.’
you, Fenton,’ said the golden-haired witch with a nod. As the
bald dwarf hobbled away, the witch surveyed the crowd of eager
eleven-year-olds before her. Her green eyes lingered for a moment
on a rather small boy with messy black hair who jumped a bit when an
outsize tentacle surfaced in the lake to the right. The gangly
red-haired boy standing next to him smiled.
please,’ said the witch, holding open the door with a steady
hand. The first years whispered nervously to one another as they
shuffled into a great stone room with double doors and a winding
staircase that led off somewhere out of sight. When the last of
them had stepped inside, the witch strode to the front of the room and
turned to face the students.
‘Good evening,’ she said in a
well-modulated voice. ‘Behind these doors is the Great
Hall. Your fellow students, as well as your professors, are
She cleared her throat. ‘My
name is Professor Juno Hegel. In just a few moments, you will be
sorted into one of four Houses: Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff,
Gryffindor, or Slytherin. The other members of your House will
become a sort of family to you during your time at Hogwarts; you will
live with them, attend classes with them, and spend your free time in
the House common rooms. For exceptional achievements and class
preparation, you will be awarded points toward your House total; for
rule breaking and poor class performance you will lose points. At
the end of the year, the House that has accumulated the highest total
number of points will be awarded the House Cup, and a feast will be
held in their honour.’
A firm smile appeared on the witch’s
face, revealing two rows of perfectly even teeth. ‘There,’ she
said, ‘I think that’s everything of immediate importance. Excuse
me for a moment; I must ask the Headmaster if he is ready for us.’
soon as she had gone, the gangly red-haired boy turned to his friend,
who was gripping his wand very tightly beneath his robes. ‘We’re
inside now, Gil,’ he whispered. ‘I think we’re safe.’
Gil did not look convinced. ‘Constant—’
‘—Vigilance,’ finished the red-haired boy, his light blue eyes twinkling. Gil grunted in reply.
that moment, the double doors swung open and Professor Hegel was before
them once again. ‘It’s time,’ she said, smiling. ‘Don’t be
The first years poured into the Great Hall, heads
turning in every direction. The first thing the red-haired boy
noticed was the ceiling: it was black and endless, with thousands
of glowing stars. To his left and right he saw four enormous
tables, each decorated in a different colour and surrounded by noisy
students, while at the other end of the hall was a fifth table, where
older witches and wizards were sitting in ornate golden chairs.
Gil didn’t seem to be taking any of this in, however; he was glaring at
the candles floating through the air, taking pains not to let any hover
directly above his head.
Professor Hegel grabbed a wooden
stool and an ancient-looking hat from the Staff Table and walked
briskly to the centre of the hall, placing the stool on the floor and
the hat on top of it. Everyone looked on as the hat’s brim opened
wide and it began to sing:
One thousand seven years ago,
When fair Hogwarts was born,
Old Gryffindor encountered me,
A clever hat, though torn.
‘We pick our students now by hand,’
Quoth he t’ the Founders Four,
But when we’ve gone, this magic hat
Shall choose forevermore.
‘Let’s each enchant this hat in turn,’
He said, and they complied.
They summoned up their powers great
And left some here, inside.
‘Twas Godric who went first; spake he:
‘Obey ye, hat, my plot:
To Gryffindor shall always go
The bravest of the lot.’
Rowena next; to Ravenclaw
I’ll send the sharpest minds,
While Helga Hufflepuff preferred
Those diligent and kind.
Shrewd Salazar was last; his House
Completes the Hogwarts Four.
In Slytherin you’ll find the ones
Ambitious to the core.
So step right up and slip me on;
I’ve never yet been wrong.
I’ll tell you now, beyond a doubt,
In which House you belong.
The hall erupted in wild
applause and the Sorting Hat made a series of elaborate bows.
Then, Professor Hegel produced a scroll from the sleeve of her burgundy
robe, cleared her throat, and read:
plain girl with chestnut hair and a face full of freckles emerged from
the back of the crowd. Sitting alone in the middle of the Great
Hall, she looked absurdly tiny; the red-haired boy noticed that her
feet barely scraped the floor. Professor Hegel smiled broadly and
placed the Sorting Hat on the girl’s head.
‘GRYFFINDOR!’ shouted the hat a moment later. The red table on the left cheered raucously as she joined them.
process was repeated as ‘Baggish, Bertha!’ became a Slytherin and
‘Banger, Iain!’ a Ravenclaw. The red-haired boy hummed nervously
under his breath as his name approached. All he knew about
Hogwarts he had learned from his mother, Adeia; his father, though a
member of a very famous wizarding family, had not possessed enough
magical talent to be invited to school. His mother, he knew, had
been a Gryffindor (‘It’s by far the best,’ she had said, before quickly
adding, ‘though I suppose the other Houses must have some merits’), but his father’s family was long associated with Ravenclaw House.
loud whisper rose from the crowd. The red-haired boy shot a
quizzical look at Gil, who gave a little shrug, and then walked
resolutely toward Professor Hegel. The Sorting Hat fell upon his
Another Dumbledore, eh? whispered the hat. Though
not quite like the others. A brilliant mind, yes, that’s to be
expected, but I think I may say…oh my, yes…I’ve never seen talent like
this, not in a thousand years. Extraordinary. How unlucky
for poor Mr Devine, he did think so much of himself…. The Sorting Hat chuckled. But
even your professors will have a devil of a time keeping up with you, I
daresay. So where shall I put you? Hmm….
Albus’ mind was swimming. I’ve never seen talent like this…he
had heard that exact phrase once before, from the strange man who had
sold him his wand (willow and phoenix feather, fourteen and one-quarter
inches). He hadn’t known what to make of it then, and even now he
could scarcely believe it was true. He knew little about magic,
for his mother didn’t like to use it in front of his father, and since
he had always possessed a certain talent for producing minor
magical catastrophes whenever he wasn’t perfectly calm, he’d never had
reason to believe his ability was in any way unusual. Quite the
contrary, in fact: by his accounts, the life he led in rural
Berkshire was the very image of normalcy. He lived in a small
stone house with his parents and younger brother; Gil and his family
lived next door. Though architecturally identical, the two houses
could not have been more different on the inside. It was
difficult to find an inch of surface space in the Dumbledore house that
was not cluttered with books, bizarre and exotic plants, or the
discarded pages of an early draft of Albus’ father’s latest
concerto. Even scarcer than clean surfaces, however, were moments
of quiet. Between Albus and his father, the piano was often in
use eight hours or more each day, and his mother had a habit of singing
Mozart to herself as she tended to her plants. Explosive noises
resounded several times daily from the direction of Albus’ brother’s
room, and Isolde the sheepdog liked to chime in with the occasional
howl. Gil’s house, in contrast, was silent as a catacomb and
never had so much as a Sneakoscope out of place. The colourful
books that stood in alphabetical order on the shelves were nothing like
the ‘great works of Muggle literature’ that filled Albus’ house; they
were enormous and had fascinating titles such as Harmless Housepet or Atrocious Animagus: A Vigilant Wizard’s Guide to Telling the Difference.
Dumbledore’s childhood wasn’t perfect, but it was a reasonable
imitation thereof. He lived in a small town that liked to call
itself the oldest in England; it was a bucolic paradise with a strange
and beautiful town hall that, as Adeia Dumbledore liked to observe,
could only have been built by wizards. Albus spent his mornings
with books (he was mostly responsible for his own education now, for
his parents had given up on tutoring him long ago and were now
trying—though without much success—to teach his younger brother to
read), his afternoons with Beethoven, Schubert, and Brahms, and his
evenings with Gil. Sometimes, during the Arcadian days of summer,
he and Gil would run the six miles to Oxford to visit what was really a
most fantastic sweets shop. They would return late in the evening
and sit in the Albert Park, playing wizard’s chess and eating sherbet
lemons out of a brown paper bag.
It was on just such an
evening that Albus and Gil were attacked by vultures. Gil noticed
them first, of course, and jumped so high that he was momentarily as
tall as Albus. When Albus saw the two enormous birds barrelling
in their direction, he was so startled that a rather unfortunate event
occurred: the head of the newly-erected statue of Prince Albert
in the park somehow detached itself from the neck and fell to the
ground, breaking neatly into three pieces. Albus had not had time
to contemplate the severity of his mother’s reaction, for he and Gil
had started running as fast as they could toward their respective
houses. Albus reached the knob and slammed the door behind him
Albus’ father looked up from the piano. ‘Albus,’ he said, ‘What—’
was interrupted by a large mass of feathers that crashed through an
open window. The vulture dropped something small and white into
Albus’ hands, ruffled its feathers imperiously, and flew out the window
It was a letter with an unfamiliar wax seal. Turning it over, Albus saw that it was addressed to one Albus Dumbledore, Park Road, Abingdon, Berkshire.
Hogwarts is a bit behind the times—it seems owl post is all the rage
these days. You’re lucky, though,’ said Albus’ father with a note
of amusement in his voice, ‘My brothers had their letters delivered by
The crowd in the Great Hall began to
murmur. Several minutes had passed since Albus had put on the
hat. Now keenly aware of the hundreds of pairs of eyes staring at
him, Albus felt a small knot start to form in the pit of his
stomach. Why is it taking so long? he wondered.
You’re a difficult one, said the hat. I
imagine our celebrated Founders would have had one of their famous rows
over you. Besides that, I don’t often get the chance to influence
the world’s destiny with one decision.
The hat interrupted Albus’ thoughts. Why
the confusion, my boy? You’re one of a kind, the greatest genius
since Merlin—you have potential your classmates could never dream
of. And I must make certain to sort you into the House that will
best develop that potential.
How can I believe that? he thought wildly, looking round at his restless classmates. They don’t look any different from me…I’ve never felt like a genius….
They say modesty is a virtue, said the hat with a laugh. Never
thought much of it myself, to be honest. It’s strange—most
people, at some point in their lives, must face the unpleasant truth
that they are perfectly mediocre. But you, dear boy, will one day
have to learn to accept your own matchlessness. You will never be
like your classmates, and they will never be like you. For now,
though, we’ll make it ‘GRYFFINDOR!’
in the hall was deafening, though Albus could not decide whether the
Gryffindors were extraordinarily proud to have him or whether everyone
was simply relieved the hat had finally made its decision. The
older Gryffindors cheered him and shook his hand (‘Good to have you in
Gryffindor!’ shouted the beefy prefect), and Emily, the other
Gryffindor first year, gave him a shy smile. In the midst of all
this excitement, and after such a long and exhausting train ride, it
was easy to put the Sorting Hat’s words out of his mind. Albus
didn’t particularly want to think about them anyway.
‘Kunkel, Harvey!’ called Professor Hegel.
boy who approached the Sorting Hat had silver-blond hair and a long
face which, at the moment, was looking rather green. His lower
lip quivered visibly as the hat dropped over his eyes, and he looked
almost as if he were whispering something. After nearly a minute,
the hat heaved a sigh and shouted:
Icarus smiled a watery smile and joined his cheering comrades at the green table.
the second time that night, Albus felt a knot in his stomach.
Until Professor Hegel had called Gil’s name, Albus had never considered
the fact that he and the only other person he knew at Hogwarts might be
sorted into separate Houses. A wave of anxiety passed over him,
and to his horror he noticed that the edge of the red Gryffindor
tablecloth had started to turn silver. Fortunately, it was not
long before the hat bellowed:
Albus cheered and whistled as Gil ran over to the Gryffindor
table. ‘Well done, Gil,’ he said, trying to sound casual.
‘From what mum told me, I was sure you’d end a Hufflepuff.’
‘Nah, mate,’ said Gil. ‘I’ve got to keep my wizard’s chess winning streak alive, haven’t I?’
laughed. Gil had never won a game of wizard’s chess in his life,
including the time when Albus had fallen asleep halfway through the
game and awoken to find that all but two of his pieces had mysteriously
left the board.
‘Phlegmingsworth, Nicolas!’ called Professor Hegel, and a smug-looking boy with black hair sauntered over to the stool.
‘SLYTHERIN!’ shouted the hat.
very pretty girl with curly strawberry-blond hair walked forward.
Albus noticed that many of the boys at the Gryffindor table were
suddenly looking very interested in the Sorting.
girl beamed and took a seat next to Emily Arvana. For some
reason, Albus found himself cheering even more loudly than he’d done
for Gil, and Professor Hegel had to clear her throat twice before the
hall was quiet enough for her to finish reading the names. When
‘Wolfe, Hannibal’ had been made a Slytherin and Professor Hegel had
cleared the hat and the stool from the hall, the wizard sitting at the
centre of the High Table rose stiffly. He clapped his hands twice
and the hall fell silent.
‘Greetings, students,’ he said in a
reedy baritone. ‘Welcome to another year at Hogwarts. I
trust your summer holidays have left you well rested and eager to
resume the enrichment of your young minds. For those first years
among you who may not know, I am Zephaniah Sagramore Gunther
Stidworthington, Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and
Wizardry, Order of Merlin, Second Class, and winner of the prestigious
Kloppenberg Prize, which I won for my groundbreaking and highly
influential research into the history of goblin dwellings in
Albus looked round the Gryffindor
table. Everyone was sitting very straight and keeping very still
except for tiny Emily Arvana, whose mouth was twitching at the
corners. He turned his attention back to the portly, grey-haired
Headmaster; the expression on the old man’s face was fabulously
pompous. Albus’ eyes twinkled.
‘I have several important
announcements to make before our feasting shall commence. Some of
you may have noticed a new face at the High Table. I would like
to introduce Professor Heisenberg, who will succeed Professor Nebula as
our Master of Divination.’
A squat, cheerful-looking witch
stood up and waved a stubby-fingered hand at the students. There
was a smattering of lacklustre applause.
‘And, of course,
Professor Nebula’s duties as Deputy Headmaster will be assumed by
Professor Juno Hegel, our Master of Transfiguration.’
Professor Hegel nodded her head, and the applause in the hall grew a bit heartier.
clapped his hands and the hall was silent once again.
‘Ahem. Caretaker Cerberus Filch has graciously compiled a list of
some two hundred forty-seven items which are officially banned on the
grounds of Hogwarts. To this list I personally have added another
twelve hundred sixty-eight such items. Your House Prefects will
distribute copies of this list to the individual students in their
House; it is your duty to commit these to memory and to return the
list, signed, to Caretaker Filch’s office no later than sunset tomorrow.
as usual, I must remind you that the Forbidden Forest is off-limits to
those who do not wish to be expelled from this most excellent
institution. And now,’ he said, clapping his hands once more,
‘let us begin.’
The Gryffindor table sagged a little under the
weight of all the food that had suddenly materialised on it.
Albus stared for a moment, not sure whether to begin with the mountain
of potatoes or the pile of pork chops. ‘Whassamatta?’ asked Gil,
who had apparently given up his habit of scrutinising every morsel
before it passed through his lips and was now gnawing savagely on a leg
A platter loaded with lemon and berry tarts caught
Albus’ eye, and he piled the desserts so high on his plate that they
almost touched his chin. When his plate was clean once again, he
was quite astounded to find that he had no room left for supper.
Stidworthington rose to his feet and clapped his hands with a
flourish. The food vanished at once, leaving the tables cluttered
with sparkling gold plates. The headmaster looked as if on the
verge of another florid speech, but to Albus’ surprise he spoke only
five words: ‘Bedtime. Prefects, lead the way.’
‘First years!’ called the beefy Gryffindor Prefect. ‘First years, follow me!’
Prefect led them into the Entrance Hall and stood on the first step of
the winding stone staircase. ‘My name’s Flynn, Flynn Doyle,’ he
said. ‘I’ll take you up to Gryffindor Tower in a moment.
The staircases move, so make sure you stay right behind me. Oh,
and the password’s “flibbertigibbet,” you’ll need to remember
that. Right, then, are we all ready?’
moment, the door to the Entrance Hall creaked open and the first-year
Slytherins entered in a line. Leading them was a pretty,
dark-eyed girl wearing a Prefect’s badge. ‘Erm…hang on a minute,’
said Flynn, running off in the girl’s direction.
yawned. ‘Don’t fall asleep yet,’ said Albus, laughing.
‘We’ve still got to memorise that list of forbidden items tonight,
Gil groaned. ‘You don’t suppose there’ll be a test—’
was interrupted by the approach of three Slytherin boys. ‘Hello,’
said the shortest boy, who had black hair and a lazy voice. ‘I’m
Nicolas, and this is Hannibal and Icarus. You’re a Dumbledore,
then?’ he said.
Albus nodded, feeling unaccountably nervous.
‘I thought all Dumbledores were Ravenclaws.’
Albus’ throat was tight, and he could feel his feet beginning to lift off the floor.
‘Obviously not,’ said Gil, clutching his wand very tightly.
black eyes did not even flicker in Gil’s direction. ‘Go on,
then,’ he said. ‘Which one’s your father? Apocryphus,
Abscessus, or Apoplexus?’
‘Er…Antithesis,’ said Albus, and his feet, to his very great relief, touched the ground once again.
‘Antithesis?’ asked the tall, dark boy standing behind Nicolas. ‘I’ve never heard of him.’
Hannibal,’ said Nicolas. A nauseating smirk crept onto his
face. ‘Antithesis. He’s the youngest son, isn’t he?
Hannibal guffawed. ‘A Dumbledore Squib? There can’t…Nicolas…you’re joking…that can’t be true!’
true, isn’t it, Dumbledore? Mum told me about it last
summer. Said they would never have made Apocryphus Dumbledore
Minister of Magic if they knew Squib blood ran in the family.’
Nicolas sneered. ‘No wonder they keep that hushed up, what a
Albus felt a strange sort of burning sensation
behind his eyeballs. He had never realised that having a
non-magical father might be something to be ashamed of. The
metallic, constricted voice that came from his throat seemed not his
own. ‘My father is not a d—’
‘Oh, yeah, I’m sure your
uncles and grandparents are all right proud of him…and you,’ scoffed
Nicolas. ‘Send you lots of presents on your birthday, do they?’
burning sensation was spreading. It crept down Albus’ neck and
spine, crawled along his arms, and seemed to concentrate itself in his
fingertips. He looked frantically at Gil, whose eyes were
fearful; he had seen the sorts of things that happened when Albus was
‘Look, just…just leave him alone.’ Gil’s voice was hushed but intense. ‘Leave him alone and nothing bad will ha—’
bet you’ve never even met your grandparents, have you,
Dumbledore? Bet they won’t have anything to do with the likes of
you. Can’t say I blame them. Why they didn’t just drown
your father when he was born is beyond me.’
Several people had
turned to watch, but they were the least of Albus’ concerns.
Every inch of his skin now felt aflame. He could see his own
reflection in Nicolas’ eyes; the image was terrible indeed.
Something made him reach for his wand. He lifted it high above
his head…on Nicolas’ face was a look of genuine terror….
A moment passed. Nothing happened.
Nicolas and Hannibal dissolved into peals of laughter. ‘Taking after your father already, Dumbledore?’
Nicolas shrieked. ‘Come on, then, lads, wouldn’t want people to
see us hanging around this sort…give them the wrong idea….’ He
was laughing so hard that his words were almost unintelligible.
three Slytherins walked away, but the blond Icarus, who had been silent
the entire time, gave Albus a weak smile as he passed.
worry about them, mate,’ Gil whispered. ‘Everyone knows
Slytherin’s full of bloody gits. They don’t know anything.
Nothing at all.’
‘He’s right,’ said a Gryffindor boy who was
almost as tall as Albus. ‘I’ve got Squib blood in my family
too…not that my family’s anything like as famous as yours.’ The
boy gave a goofy grin. ‘I’m Douglas Ploot.’
‘Gil Moody,’ said Gil, ‘And this is—’
‘Albus Dumbledore,’ said Albus, trying to force a smile onto his face. His skin still felt unbearably hot.
very pretty girl with strawberry-blond ringlets stepped forward.
Albus’ stomach flipped. Had she seen what had happened?
‘My dad’s a Muggle—that’s even worse than a Squib,’ she said with a smile.
‘Both of my parents are Muggles,’ piped the soft, high voice belonging to Emily Arvana.
‘Besides, Squib father or not, you’re still a Dumbledore,’
said Douglas, looking awestruck. ‘My dad reckons Apoplexus
Dumbledore’s the best thing that ever happened to Puddlemere United—’
Abscessus Dumbledore saved my brother’s life last year at St Mungo’s,’
said the strawberry-blonde Margaret. She wrinkled her upturned
nose. ‘Stupid prat, mum caught him drinking her cleaning potions.’
‘Sounds like he’d get on quite well with Albus’ brother,’ said Gil, grinning at Albus.
Albus laughed, the last traces of his anger evaporating. Drinking cleaning potions did
seem like the kind of thing six-year-old Aberforth Dumbledore might
try; fortunately, Albus’ mother wasn’t particularly fond of housework
and didn’t keep cleaning potions around the house.
about that,’ called Flynn the Prefect, hurrying back to the great stone
staircase. ‘Aparna and I had to discuss some very
important…erm…Prefects’ business.’ His cheeks turned a very pale
pink. ‘Right, then, follow me.’
As the weary first years
trudged through the maze of shifting staircases up to Gryffindor Tower,
Albus felt a different sort of warmth seem to spread over him. It
was a very pleasant feeling. The Gryffindors hadn’t found
anything horrible in having a Squib father; none of them had a perfect
family either. Albus pulled on his pyjamas thinking how very nice
it was to feel that he was a part of a team—that he belonged. And yet….
The voice in the back of his mind sounded remarkably like that of the Sorting Hat. You will never be like your classmates, and they will never be like you…you are matchless…one of a kind….
‘Gil!’ he whispered.
‘What is it?’ asked Gil sleepily.
here,’ said Albus, pulling Gil into a corner of the Boys’ Dormitory
where Douglas and the other two Gryffindor boys could not hear.
suddenly felt very awkward. ‘Erm…Gil,’ he said, ‘what did the
Sorting Hat say to you…you know, when you were sitting there…’
it didn’t have time to say much, did it? Told me I had some
courage and a decent mind and wished me good luck in Gryffindor.’
He paused. ‘Why? What’d it say to you?’
it was quite funny, really…’ Albus forced himself to laugh, but
the noise he produced sounded horrifyingly false. ‘It said…it
must have been playing some sort of joke on me, I reckon…it said it
hadn’t seen such talent in a thousand years…that I was the greatest
genius since Merlin.’ He laughed again, sounding even less
sincere than last time.
Gil smiled. ‘Well, of course it did, mate! What are you so nervous about?’
‘Wait, you—you think it was right?’
There was a strange look in Gil’s eyes. ‘What are you playing at?’
‘I’m—I don’t understand.’
‘You really don’t know?’ said Gil incredulously. ‘Of course you’re a genius! Exactly how many times have you won against me in wizard’s chess? I can’t even win when I cheat!’
‘But that doesn’t mean—’
‘You learned to read before you were two. I could barely put a sentence together, and you were quoting Goethe—in the original French—’
‘German,’ said Albus gently.
then,’ said Gil, waving his hand dismissively. ‘And let’s not
forget that you’re quite the prodigy at the piano. You could play
Beethoven sonatas when you were five—without ever taking a lesson. Not exactly what you’d call average, mate. You never realised that?’
said Albus softly. Playing the piano was just something he’d
always been able to do; to him it seemed no different from walking.
Albus—you never compared yourself to me or Aberforth? Can you
really never have noticed that you’ve always been better than me at everything?’
‘I just thought you didn’t care for the piano. If you practised as much as I do—’
‘Not just the piano—everything. What about all those…those things that happen whenever you get excited?’
‘Mum says that happens to all wizard children!’
so,’ said Gil, his voice growing louder and higher, ‘but the most
impressive thing I’ve ever done is explode a few of mum’s Dark
detectors, and that was when I was really angry. You made
the city of Oxford disappear. Sent it back in time a thousand
years. It took fifty wizards from the Ministry to sort that whole
‘I didn’t do it on purpose!’ said Albus in a panic. ‘I can’t control what happens!’
down, mate—I know,’ said Gil, looking half exasperated and half
admiring. ‘But dad said that was very advanced magic. He
said he didn’t know any trained wizards who could cast a spell
that complicated. And you did it without even meaning to.’
Gil chuckled and shook his head. ‘It’s not easy being your best
friend sometimes, you know?’
Albus closed his eyes. It
was too much to think about when he was so tired. ‘But why didn’t
you tell me any of this?’ he said softly.
‘I thought you knew.’
‘Why hasn’t anyone ever said anything? Mum—mum’s always telling Aberforth he’s so smart, so brave, so talented…’
it’s not easy to think well of yourself when there’s somebody like you
around, is it? She knows Aberforth can’t help thinking he’ll
never measure up. I have to say I understand how he feels, poor
bloke. If I wasn’t your best friend, you know, I’d probably hate
Albus sighed. ‘I never had any idea…I never
thought I was any different from anybody else. It’s not my fault,
you know…I never asked for this….’
‘Oh, don’t start feeling
sorry for yourself,’ said Gil. ‘For a genius, you’re really
bloody thick sometimes. Do you know what I’d give to have what
you’ve got?’ He grinned. ‘Except your nose, of
course. I don’t know if I ever told you this, but—it’s a bit
Albus didn’t know what to say. He
supposed Gil meant to make him smile, but the best he could manage was
a wobbly approximation.
‘Oh, come off it. Here,’ said
Gil, pulling out a small bag from his discarded robes. ‘Bertie
Bott’s Every Flavour Beans.’ Gil chose a red bean from the bag
and popped it in his mouth. ‘Mmm…cherries jubilee. Go on,
Silently, Albus chose a spotty orange bean and put it in his mouth.
moment later, the bean and most of the contents of Albus’ stomach were
lying in an unattractive pile on the floor of the Boys’
Dormitory. ‘Ugh!’ said a green-eyed Gryffindor boy. ‘What
flavour was that?’
Albus coughed. ‘Vomit, I think,’ he said, laughing a little. ‘Tasted the same going down as it did coming up.’
The Gryffindors laughed, and despite the awful taste burning in the back of his throat, Albus reckoned he felt a little better.
A/N: The epigram for this chapter (‘Pechal’no budet moi rasskaz’) also comes from Pushkin’s epic poem The Bronze Horseman and literally means ‘Sad will my tale be.’ And as with most Pushkin, it’s far more elegant in Russian than in English!