The grey and white owl landed next to her breakfast plate and stuck out its leg to her, nearly knocking over Lily’s goblet of pumpkin juice. She smiled as she immediately recognized it as Brian’s Northern Hawk owl, Ollerton. The poor bird looked exhausted, because he seemed to be flying non-stop between Hogwarts and The Groves these days.
“Another letter from Brian?” asked one of the other girls in Lily’s year.
Lily wiggled happily in her seat as she fed Ollie a kipper. “Yes, Isabel! When he asked me to correspond with him, I had no idea we’d be writing to each other quite so often,” she admitted. She broke the seal and began reading, a small smile tugging at the corners of her mouth as she read.
“So what’s he say?” Arlene asked, leaning in and nearly putting her tie in her porridge. Isabel reached over and pulled Arlene’s bowl away from their friend who looked down with a small “Oops!”
Lily shrugged, not really wanting to tell her friends just yet. “Oh, not much. Just that he’s started a new group of exercises designed to strengthen his lower back, stomach, and side muscles.” She glanced down at the letter. “I quote, ‘Melissa says she thinks the new exercises will keep me from sagging and leaning over too far in my chair. This will be the last thing we try to strengthen my core muscles before we resort to bracing spells. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life dependent on a spell or a Muggle metal brace to keep me upright, Lily. I just don’t. I want to sit up as tall as possible, on my own, but it’s hard work and I get terrible backaches by the end of the day if I’m not careful.’” Lily sighed and then added, “I hope the exercises work for him.”
“That’s nothing to smile about,” Isabel said sympathetically.
“Come on, spill! We know he’s written something that’s making you smile,” Arlene urged.
Lily felt her cheeks warm a bit as she said quietly, “He’s looking forward to coming back to Hogwarts for the Ravenclaw-Hufflepuff match on 6th March and wants me to sit with him again.” Across the table, Arlene and Isabel grabbed each other’s hands and bounced up and down in their seats, making Lily laugh. “I’m supposed to meet him in Professor Ackerley’s office before the match. Brian says there’s something he wants to show me before we go over to the stadium.”
“Erm, that’s nice,” Arlene said, glancing at Isabel. “Are we included in your group?”
Lily shrugged. “I’ll ask him if you want me to, but I think he just wants to show me. He might say yes to you two sitting with us if you’re nice to him; if you treat him like he’s fragile or something to gawk at, we’ll find somewhere else to sit.”
“Maybe it’s best if we don’t sit with them,” Arlene said to Isabel. “They may want some privacy… to… you know…”
Lily wondered what they were talking about as she went back to eating her breakfast. Her two friends continued to eat, but as they had their heads together, she knew they were talking about her.
Several minutes went by as the girls finished their meals. “So… are you… Has he…” Isabel finally asked slowly, innuendo thick in her voice.
Surprised, Lily scowled at her friend. “Are we what? Has Brian what? Spit it out and stop wagging your eyebrows at me! We’re just friends!” she hissed. She could feel her ears and cheeks growing molten as she cast furtive glances to the right and left trying to gauge whether or not the other students in the vicinity had heard them talking.
Arlene poked Isabel with her elbow. “See, I told you they were just friends. So get your mind out of the pig pen.”
Isabel stuck her tongue out at Arlene and then asked Lily, “So you two aren’t boyfriend and girlfriend and you two haven’t snogged in the broom cupboard on the sixth floor?”
“Where did you hear that?” Lily demanded. “If you heard it from my brothers, they’re going to wish they had never started that rumour.”
“Not them,” Arlene said, her eyes on her plate. “It’s just that all of a sudden you’re getting letters nearly every day from a bloke who’s three years older than we are and… and we just wondered if you were keeping anything from us.” She looked up at Lily, and then, including Isabel, Rebecca, Martha, Andrea, Ebba, and Ramona in her glance, she continued, “We want to know whether we can trust him.”
Taken aback, Lily asked, “Why should you need to trust Brian? He’s my friend.”
Rebecca joined in for the first time. “But you’re our friend, Lily. We’re worried that you’re getting in over your head and that Brian will think he can do what he wants with you.”
Lily folded Brian’s letter and put it in her book bag. “I appreciate your concern, but you can trust him. My parents do.” That brought a round of giggles from the girls across the table from her. “Hey, it’s not what you think. Brian isn’t looking for a girlfriend; he just wants someone to treat him like a regular bloke and not someone to be pitied. All right?”
Rebecca was the first to answer. “I understand, at least I think I do.”
Isabel persisted, “So you didn’t do anything in the broom closet the last time Brian came to a match? I know you left our section of the stands half-way through.”
“I left our section because of they way you were talking about my brothers!” Lily laughed at their expressions as her friends realized what she was talking about. “Anyway, when would Brian and I have had time for a snog? I only met him that day and Kendra was with us the whole time until she left to go find James after the match. Then we were with his parents until the three of them left that day.”
“And he hasn’t come to Hogwarts any other times since then for a quick tryst?” Arlene asked, looking pointedly at Isabel.
“No, he hasn’t, so stop thinking like that. I know he’s older than we are, but like I said, you can trust him,” Lily said evenly, even though she was tiring of the conversation.
“Then we will,” Rebecca said, emphasizing the last word and looking pointedly at Isabel who muttered, “Sorry, Lily.”
Ebba called from where she was sitting several places down the table, “I think she’s been reading too many Olivia Lovelace romance novels, Lily!”
“And listening to too many Celestina Warbeck songs on the wireless,” Lily added, eliciting a chorus of “Eeww! Not hers” from the other second year girls.
As she stood to go to her first lesson of the day, Lily asked Isabel and Arlene, “So you’re all right with me writing to Brian?”
Arlene reached over and put her hand on Lily’s. “Yes, we are. And you’ll share his news with us so we won’t worry about you?”
“As much as I can without breaking his trust in me,” Lily told her honestly.
“Good,” Arlene said, getting up as well. “I’ll see you in Transfiguration. I forgot my essay and need to go back upstairs for it.”
Lily waved at her two friends and left the Great Hall feeling a little overwhelmed by their concern, but also happy that they were accepting of her friendship with Brian.
1010 hours, Saturday, 6 March 2021
James heard the simultaneous announcements from his seat on one of the sofas facing the Gryffindor common room fireplace. The first person to express his joy was his brother who stood at the window overlooking the long curving drive from the front gates of the school. The second excited voice belonged to his sister as she crawled through the portrait hole.
James grinned and pulled at the neck of his Weasley jumper, feeling as if the day was starting off quite auspiciously because Brian Nelson was back for another visit and today was the day that Scorpius Malfoy was finally returning to school, according to Albus and Rose. He wondered why he felt so excited about Scorpius’ return, because he didn’t know him at all. Maybe the good feeling was because one of Hogwarts’ own was finally back where he belonged for good. It made sense, really, because so many of his brother’s friends had been affected by Scorpius’ absence. Then again, maybe he was just happy that Brian was back for another visit.
As Albus flew past his seat, heading for the portrait hole to greet Scorpius and his parents in the Entrance Hall, he yelled, “Come on, Rose! Come on, James! We’ll miss them!”
Rose threw down the copy of the Daily Prophet she was reading and dashed after Albus. A moment later, the portrait slammed shut with a sigh and all within the common room heard the Fat Lady grumble something about out of control fourth years.
Lily came to stand in front of James. She extended her hand, saying, “Come on, big brother. Let’s go see Brian before the match.”
James took his sister’s hand and pulled himself to his feet. He shook his head. “You can go see Brian without me. I promised to meet Kendra at the stadium instead,” he said. “We’ll meet you in the Gryffindor stands a little after eleven. We need to save an aisle seat for Brian, right Lily?”
Nodding affirmatively, Lily said, “Yes. We’ve decided to see whether the girls in Gryffindor are less catty than the Ravenclaw girls. By the way, how did you know Brian was here anyway?”
James chuckled as he pushed open the portrait hole. “You’ve been camping out in the corridor across from Ackerley’s office since breakfast,” he said. “I’m surprised you haven’t worn a hole in the floor with your pacing.”
“And you know this because…”
“I put one of those sound-activated Notification Spells Dad taught us last summer on Ackerley’s door. If anyone walks or talks within twenty feet of the spell, it makes my wand buzz, and it’s been buzzing non-stop since breakfast. You’re quite the pacer when you’re worrying about something, Lily.”
They approached an intersecting corridor as Lily chuckled. “I know; I can’t help it when I’m excited. Hey, see you later, James.”
James raised his hand and waved at his sister who was already sprinting towards the door to Professor Ackerley’s office.
Lily knocked on Professor Ackerley’s door immediately upon her return to his office. Inside, she could hear multiple voices, one of whom belonged to Brian. Now, the voices stopped and the professor called out for her to come in.
“Hi Brian, hello Mr and Mrs Nelson, hello Professor,” she said as she walked into the professor’s office. Then she stopped, her mouth forming a perfect ‘O’ in surprise.
Brian beamed. “Like it?” he asked, indicating the floating chair he was sitting in.
“It’s… wonderful!” Lily squeaked, not knowing what to say. “Is this the surprise you wrote to me about?”
“It is. Come with me to Ravenclaw Tower. I’m going to see if I can get my chair up the staircase,” he said, sounding nervous.
Lily looked at Professor Ackerley. “Am I allowed in the tower?” she asked.
The professor smiled. “As long as you’re with a member of Ravenclaw house, you’re permitted in, Miss Potter.”
Lily grinned at both Brian and the professor. “Then I’ll be glad to,” she said.
Brian led the way to a part of the seventh floor Lily had never been before. However, she really didn’t pay much attention to how they went because she was too busy watching Brian manoeuvre his flying chair. At last, they stopped in front of a narrow spiral staircase.
“Are you sure you’ll fit?” she asked apprehensively.
“That’s one of the things I’m testing this morning,” Brian answered. “I’m also testing whether it’s wide enough to let someone pass me if we meet on the staircase. If not, the professors will need to enchant the staircase to let that happen.”
“What can I help with?” Lily asked.
“For now, just stay where you are,” he directed. “I’m going up backwards.” He positioned his chair at the bottom of the stairs and murmured a spell. It took a moment for anything to happen, and then the flying chair began inching its way from step to step.
“You can do it, Brian,” Lily whispered over and over as she watched her friend strain to magic himself and his chair up the steep spiral. Finally, after about half a storey, he gave up and guided the chair downwards until it came to a stop at Lily’s feet.
“That was wonderful!” she cried, bouncing up and down.
“No, it wasn’t,” he grumbled, sounding discouraged. “I didn’t even make it half way up, and this chair weighs considerably less than my wheeled one.”
“I say, Mr Nelson, I’m impressed with your progress,” Professor Ackerley joined in. “You’ve had this new chair less than three days and already you’ve mastered the basics of controlling it, including the stair charm. I don’t think we’ll need to do the second test.”
Lily and Brian both raised their eyebrows as Brian’s parents each asked, “Why?”
Professor Ackerley continued, “It was obvious to me that what is needed is a double staircase, one going each way, which will facilitate ingress and egress to the tower. Even if someone wants to push past you going the same way you are, Brian, there’s very little room, and with the number of students trying to get to lessons and meals on time, it would benefit our house if we had a means to facilitate the comings and goings of the students and be less dangerous for you.” When all four looked at him questioningly, he explained, “Ravenclaw house has needed a better staircase for centuries, but no one has done anything about it until now. Headmaster Wolcott has already approved any modifications I wish to make to the stairs. Shall we go back to my office to brainstorm the plans?”
Lily looked at Brian. He was wistfully looking upward towards the door to his common room. “Professor, is there time for Brian to show me his common room?”
Professor Ackerley smiled. “Of course there is, Lily.”
With the professor’s permission, Brian floated back to the stairs and slid onto the third step. “Lily, will you shrink my chair and bring it up for me?” he asked.
Lily took out her wand and whispered the Shrinking Charm she’d learned a few weeks ago, trying not to look to the Charms Professor for approval. It took a moment, but the chair slowly became small enough for her to pick up and pocket along with her wand. Then she followed Brian up the stairs.
“I’ve become much faster than I was three weeks ago,” Brian said as he floated backwards up the staircase.
“James told me about your spell. He was quite impressed,” Lily said.
They reached the top and Lily enlarged Brian’s chair with another spell she’d recently learned. Then the two of them faced the door and the eagle knocker.
“Don’t be surprised when it talks to you,” Brian said as he knocked once on the door.
A moment later, the eagle opened its beak and asked, “In the Muggle world, what is deaf, dumb and blind but always tells the truth?”
Brian looked at Lily, grinning. “Do you know the answer to that one?” he asked.
Lily thought a moment, thinking about Muggle objects her grandfather cherished. Finally, she nodded. “I think it’s a mirror because the qualifying word in the sentence is ‘Muggle’. Our mirrors all talk back,” she said, looking at Brian. “Did I get it right?”
“The only way to find out is to answer,” he replied.
“All right.” She looked directly at the door knocker and said firmly, “I think the answer is a mirror.” Then she waited, holding her breath.
“You must be familiar with Muggle objects, young Gryffindor,” said the eagle. “You and Mr Nelson may enter.” The door swung open and Lily released her breath, which made Brian laugh as he passed her.
Lily had heard from her Aunt Audrey about the décor of the Ravenclaw common room, so she knew what to expect, but it was much more impressive in person than to hear about it second hand. The circular room reflected the house colours of blue and bronze in the hangings, carpet and ceiling paintings. As expected, there were bookcases on all the walls between the tall arched windows. Lily ran over to one to inspect the view as several of Brian’s housemates greeted him.
A few moments later, he called, “Lily, is it all right if I go upstairs for a bit? I won’t be long.”
Since one of Brian’s letters had talked about how he longed to see his dormitory and sit on his bed, Lily waved him away, saying, “Go on. I’m enjoying the view.” She watched him shrink his floating chair and then inch his way upward, followed by several of his friends.
“Thank you for being such a good friend to my son,” a female voice said in her ear.
Lily turned to see Mrs Nelson standing next to her. “He’s a good friend to me, too,” she said. “I really like receiving his letters.”
“Lily, I’ve read some of the letters Brian has received from the girls in his house in the last few weeks. Some of them haven’t been very nice, because they keep asking him why he just doesn’t cast a spell on himself and get up and walk. There were a few others who wanted him to give them a ride on his lap. Those angered me, but yours never do. He reads them often enough that the creases are becoming quite worn, and he asked me to put a preservation spell on them,” Mrs Nelson said quietly. “Is it all right if I share something only a mother can see…”
Lily looked at her expectantly.
“You and your letters make Brian happy, because you’ve accepted him as no other girl has since his accident, not even Kendra.”
This surprised Lily. “Is it because Kendra is James’ girlfriend?” she asked. “She’s always been accepting of everyone, even if they’re a bit different from the rest of us.”
Mrs Nelson smiled. “That’s exactly it, Lily. She’s given her heart to another and while she seems to like my son, I think she still feels a little uncomfortable around him. I don’t think you do, and neither does your brother. I’m grateful to you both.”
“Then as Brian’s true friend, can I ask you something?” Lily asked.
“Would it be all right if my brothers and I make a special broom chair for Brian?” Lily asked boldly, crossing her fingers behind her back. “We have a Quidditch pitch at our house and over the Christmas hols, my brothers and cousins rigged my dad’s wheelchair to fly instead of roll. He was so happy to be flying again, and I think Brian misses being on a broom more than he lets on. We’d only make the chair for him with your permission,” she added quickly.
“Brian’s asked about going flying several times, but we’ve always avoided the subject, Lily. Let me talk to Mr Nelson. I think I can persuade him to give you permission to make the broom chair,” she said smiling.
They spoke no further on the subject because Brian came downstairs at that moment. He was smiling from ear to ear even though he seemed surprised to see his mother standing next to Lily.
“What are you doing up here, Mum?” he asked.
Mrs Nelson laughed. “I answered the question correctly, dear. The eagle even remembered me, so he let me in.”
Brian looked at his watch. “I’m glad he did,” he said, “but we need to hurry if we’re going to see the beginning of the match.”
“That time already?” Lily asked, looking around and finding the common room completely deserted.
“It is. I’ll go down first if you’ll follow me with my chair,” he answered.
They exited the common room and started down the steps. The journey took a lot less time because Brian was letting gravity help him with his spell. In no time, he, Lily, and his parents had reached the seventh floor and soon were exiting the castle, Brian having slithered down every staircase by himself. The four of them went their separate ways at the entrance to the stadium, Lily and Brian reaching their seats next to James and Kendra in the Gryffindor section just as Madam Hooch released the balls.
Albus and Rose had raced headlong down all seven staircases to arrive in the Entrance Hall puffing like the Hogwarts Express. It was deserted except for the five boys Albus recognized as the ones who had been riding in Scorpius’ compartment on the day he was kidnapped. They greeted Albus and Rose with excited smiles.
“Rose, Albus, glad you’re here,” Preston called.
“Why wouldn’t we be here?” Rose queried as they skidded to a stop in front of the group and Albus gasped, “We told—Scorpius—we’d meet him here—didn’t we?”
Shrugging, Preston answered, “It wouldn’t feel right to serenade Scorpius with the songs from your birthday prank without you.”
Albus crossed his arms and tried to look tough, but couldn’t stop laughing. “You’re really going to repeat those ridiculous songs?” he asked once he’d recovered his breathing well enough to speak coherently.
Rose nudged him with her elbow. “Of course they are, and I’m going to help them—someone has to keep you on pitch. You can join in, too, if you want,” she said, grinning.
“I’ll sing with Ben, then. I’m in for a good nursery rhyme or two,” Albus chortled, walking over to where Ben was standing and flinging an arm across the Slytherin’s shoulders. Ben threw him a grateful look and muttered his thanks.
“I’ll start the singing with Evan,” Rose said, her voice taking on a somewhat bossy tone. “What was the order again?”
“I think it went Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff and then Ravenclaw,” Neal said as Scott nodded in agreement.
Rose looked thoughtful and then grinned. “Let’s stand the way the house tables are arranged. If Evan and I stand here, then you and Ben need to make room for Scott, Neal and Preston, Albus.”
The boys exchanged eye rolls, but let Rose line them up. She had just scurried back to stand beside Evan when the castle door opened to reveal Scorpius and his parents silhouetted against the late winter morning. Rose held up a hand and counted down on her fingers, beginning to sing “Happy Birthday” when she closed her fist. The boys let her get through one chorus before starting on their own house songs and by the time Preston joined in with “The Wall,” the Entrance Hall was ringing with discordant notes and Scorpius and his parents were grinning from ear to ear.
“That was brilliant!” he exclaimed, coming up to the group. “This was what James and Lily made every one do at breakfast the day I was rescued?”
Albus nodded, feeling suddenly serious. “Rose’s dad, my Uncle Ron, gave me another birthday present,” he said. “He rescued you that day.”
Scorpius’ eyebrows shot up. “He rescued me on your birthday? I didn’t know that,” he said, sounding awestruck.
“I don’t think he remembered Albus’ birthday until after you were safe,” Rose said. “He seemed shocked when we told our parents about the prank.”
Albus scuffed the toe of his trainer against the flagged stone floor. “I didn’t mind,” he said quietly. “Getting you out of there safely was more important than my fifteenth birthday.”
“Maybe the two of you can celebrate the day together next year,” Mrs Malfoy suggested. “You both will have something to commemorate that day.”
Startled, Albus glanced over at Scorpius and saw that he was grinning. “That might be a good thing to do, Mother,” Scorpius said.
Preston cleared his throat. “Erm, Scorp, do you need to put your things away before we head over to the stadium?” he asked.
“Father sent my trunk and book bag ahead of us from the Three Broomsticks,” Scorpius replied. “I’m ready if the rest of you are.”
With a whoop that made the Entrance Hall echo, Albus and the rest of Scorpius’ friends started for the Quidditch stadium. There was a slight scrum at the door while the boys vied for who had the honours of opening the door for Mrs Malfoy, and after she and Scorpius’ dad went through, they tumbled out onto the front steps, pushing and laughing until everyone was outside. It was then that Albus noticed that Scorpius had hung back and was now walking very close to Rose. The two had their heads together and when he looked closer, he could swear that his friend and his cousin were holding hands.
Good for them, he thought, and he raced ahead to join his friends, leaving the two lovebirds to find their own seats for the match.
Scorpius had thoroughly enjoyed watching Hufflepuff beat Ravenclaw. He and Rose had found seats together at the top of the stands, many rows back from the rest of his friends. It didn’t bother Scorpius that he wasn’t sitting with them. In fact, he had been happy to sit quietly conversing with her until the race for the Snitch began. In the meantime, it had been really nice to just sit and talk about this and that and not have the pressure of someone asking how he was doing every half hour—like his mum did. They had even lingered in their seats until well after the other students had left so he didn’t have to be part of the crowd exiting the stadium. Rose had seemed so content to sit with him that he finally confessed that big crowds bothered him. She had squeezed his hand then, asking if he was avoiding potential confrontations with curious reporters, and told him he was brave to go to the match. When they had finally ventured back into the castle, he thanked her for a brilliant afternoon and had repeated his request that she go with him to the village the next time there was a Hogsmeade weekend. She had agreed again and he was actually a bit sad when they parted at the Great Hall doors to go sit with their respective houses at dinner.
Now, forty minutes before curfew, Scorpius sat in a corner of the Slytherin common room staring at one of his textbooks. He hadn’t turned a page in nearly a twenty minutes, so deep was he in thought. He jumped when Ben dropped his book bag on the floor and flung himself into the chair nearest to Scorpius.
“Hey, Scorpius, revising for the Astronomy test we’re having on Friday?” he asked.
Scorpius sighed and closed his book. “Nope. I know it already,” he said. He hesitated and then mumbled, “I don’t think this is such a good idea.”
Ben raised an eyebrow. “What’s not a good idea?”
“Me coming back for good.”
“What do you mean?”
“I still wake up screaming sometimes.” The confession came out in nearly a whisper.
Ben inched his chair closer to Scorpius’. “Don’t let Goyle and Harper hear you say that,” he muttered. “They’ll have it broadcast through Slytherin in no time and the whole school will know by breakfast.”
Scorpius leaned his elbows on the table, his face in his hands. “Don’t I know that?” he groaned. “But how am I supposed to keep everyone from waking up? My mum’s been casting Silencing Spells on my room so my dad can sleep.”
“I think I can help,” a voice said, making Scorpius jump.
“How so?” Scorpius asked as a boy named Brent walked up to the two friends and sat down across from Scorpius.
“Your dad talked to our head of house about your nightmares, Scorpius,” Brent said in an undertone. Scorpius recognized him as the fifth year Prefect. “Professor Pritchard told me after dinner and made me promise I’d cast a Silencing Spell each night for as long as you want one. I also promised not to tell anyone I was casting it for you.”
Feeling relieved, Scorpius said, “Thanks.” He yawned deeply, suddenly more tired than he cared to admit. “Could you cast it now?”
Brent smiled and stood up. “I’ll be right back.”
Ten minutes later, Scorpius lay down in his bed and pulled up the covers. He could faintly hear the sounds of Ben rummaging around in his trunk, but he knew nothing would escape his four-poster. Boldly, he closed the curtains closest to Ben’s bed and left a six-inch opening in the curtains closest to the wall. The faint green glow slipping through the opening was reassuring, even though it let in a cold draft. He knew he was making progress; it would only be a matter of time before he would be able to close the hangings completely. In the meantime, he sighed in contentment, thankful for Brent’s solution to his problem. He turned on his side and fell asleep, thinking about his new friendship with Rose.
2247 hours, Sunday, 7 March 2021
Rain pounded against the family room windows as Hermione, deep in thought, stared at the drops running pell-mell down the glass.
“Shall I throw another log on the fire?” Ron’s voice broke through her reverie, making her jump. “Sorry, love,” he said. “You’re a thousand light years away.”
Hermione sighed. “I’ve a lot on my mind,” she said over the rim of her tea mug.
Ron tossed another log on the fire and returned to the sofa. “Nervous about tomorrow?”
“The last time you were this distracted, you were going to be interviewing for the Department Head’s position,” he chuckled as he reminisced, “and you aced the interview. That was over ten years ago.”
She came to sit next to him, snuggling into his side and laying her head on his shoulder. He automatically put his arm around her. “You’re right, as usual, Ron,” she said. “I can’t stop thinking about the trial.”
Ron began stroking the back of her neck. The massage felt wonderful as it chased away the beginnings of a headache. “Hermione, you’ve sat through lots of proceedings in the last ten years. What’s so different about this one?” he asked, his fingers gently soothing her tension away.
Hermione pulled away a little in order to see his face. “For one thing, I’ve always sat with Harry in the Wizengamot box. Unfortunately for me, he’s excused himself because he’s testifying and because he’s too intimately involved in the case to pass judgement fairly,” she began.
Ron scowled. “You’re just as ‘intimately involved’ because he’s your best friend and relative by marriage and the chief investigator is your husband,” he said. “Up until now you’ve been determined to see justice done, no matter how many family members are involved. Why let that get in your way now?”
“Because I’m suddenly having second thoughts on my ability to pass judgement fairly, that’s why,” she shot back, standing up and beginning to pace in front of the fireplace. “You see, this is the first trial where the major players—the Aurors and the plaintiff—are too close to me to see the whole picture objectively. I know personally what the defendant’s actions have done to the victims. I’ve watched Ginny crumble under the pressure, comforted all three of their children and watched Harry claw back to some semblance of normal life all because someone had an agenda that didn’t discriminate between head of department and minion. I’m not sure I can separate my personal feelings enough to look at the facts in the case without prejudice.”
Ron stared at her for a long moment before he said, “I’ll give you the same advice you gave me six months ago.” He came to stand before her and took both her hands in his. “If you feel in your heart that you can judge fairly and see justice done, you need to participate in this trial.”
Hermione closed her eyes and nodded, acknowledging his words.
He continued, saying, “All of the members of my investigative team were close to or old friends of Harry’s, love. At times it was difficult to put our personal feelings aside, but we did it because our desire to stop the Matron was stronger than our feelings.”
“I know they were, Ron, and I’m proud of you for persevering,” Hermione murmured with a small smile.
Ron grinned back at her. “The trial will be hard, but I know you’ll do what’s best for the Wizarding public and for Harry and the other victims,” he told her.
Hermione threw her arms around Ron’s neck, pulling him into a fierce hug. “Thanks for reminding me,” she whispered.
He hugged her back asking, “So you’ll be sitting in the Wizengamot’s box tomorrow?”
She sighed and nodded her head against his collar bone. “I will be, Ron, I will be.”
A/N: I nearly called this chapter “Friendship” for several reasons. First, it’s the friendships between Lily and the other second year Gryffindors, Brian and Lily, and Rose, Albus, Ben, Preston, Evan, Neal, Ben, and Scorpius that are predominant this chapter. Second, it’s those same friendships that are helping Brian and Scorpius assimilate back into the Hogwarts student population. Of course the two boys could have managed it by themselves, but having someone to talk with about their fears, frustrations and joys makes the task a little easier. Third, it’s my friendship with Miz636 that ultimately helped me to get this chapter written without the fear that I was making Lily and her friends sound like grown-ups. It’s been a long time since I was a teenager and I seem to have forgotten what it’s like. Miz636 was a wonderful help to me because she was willing to give her expert opinion on the importance of Lily’s friends being able to trust Brian. She also reassured me that twelve-year-old girls do talk like Lily’s friends do, and finally, she helped me understand who Scorpius might confess his lingering fears to and why he would choose one person over another. Thank you, Miz, for helping to make this chapter what it is.
I have other thank yous to say, namely to Mutt n Feathers, RebeccaRipple, RSS and Rosina Ferguson for their corrections and comments which helped me prepare the chapter before I sent it to Aggiebell. You ladies are wonderful! And Aggiebell, thank you for the additional commas as well as your comments. I’m glad I was able to make you get all sappy over Scorpius’ return to Hogwarts!