SIYE Time:17:39 on 10th December 2018

James and Me
By Northumbrian

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Category: Post-Hogwarts, Post-DH/PM
Genres: Action/Adventure, Angst, Drama, General, Humor, Romance
Warnings: Extreme Language
Rating: R
Reviews: 109
Summary: Annabel has had a bad day. She tries to deal with it as best she can.

The last thing she needs is to meet someone else who has hurt her, someone who she hasn't seen in many years. Or is it?

Do people really change. Has James Sirius Potter finally grown up?

Note added by admin: while the H/G portion of this tale is secondary and comes later, the story is a fine addition to the Northumbrian post-canon, and is welcome at SIYE.
Hitcount: Story Total: 21442; Chapter Total: 1503
Awards: View Trophy Room


Mysterious Stranger

Unlike Lily and Rosie, Al made no attempt to sing. He whispered the words. Despite the fact that we’d have sounded a lot better had Lily and Rosie done the same, Al’s actions annoyed me. Hen, James, and I carried the tune, because the normally reliable Hugo was struggling with his breaking voice.

‘Seven’s for a secret, never told.’ We finished.

Hugo carefully folded up the rules and handed them to Lily. She placed them in the Tupperware box, sealed it, and placed it centrally on the rock in front of us all. In the silence after the song, everyone looked uneasy. We could feel the tension of a brewing storm. Unless someone managed to divert it, the argument that had been rumbling in the background for almost a week was about to occur. It had been held in abeyance first by the constant presence of its subject, Al’s friend, then by the absence of Henry and me. Over the Easter weekend, we’d been dragged away to see our family.

It was the day after my birthday. Henry and I had cycled down to Drakeshaugh. We’d left our bikes at the Potters’ and then all seven of us walked up to the Drakestone. As we walked, we managed to keep the conversation civil by talking about my birthday. Restricting the conversation to mundane matters made things easier, and “Annie’s Birthday” was something that had been treated very seriously ever since the events of my eleventh. We sat in our circle, cross-legged on the stone, and silence fell.

The rules were read, the song was sung, and the tensions rose. We’d made our decision without a proper meeting, and Al wasn’t happy. I stared across the circle at my brother and James.

‘First meeting of the Easter holidays,’ I said, hoping that continuing the small talk might prevent conflict. ‘And they’re almost over. Now we’re here, what’re we gonna do today?’

James shrugged, and I knew I’d failed.

‘We could walk up to the crags,’ Hugo suggested. He, like me, was trying to keep things calm, but we’d been to the top of Harbottle Crags so many times I’d lost count.

‘Yeah, we’ve got nothing better to do; let’s not talk about new members, let’s just go for a walk.’ Al’s acid sarcasm splashed across all of us. ‘Why am I here? This club is rubbish!’

‘It’s not!’ I protested, astonished by his words.

Al was usually the club’s staunchest defender, but we all knew why he was angry. While I was trying to figure out how to deal with his hurt, how to treat the obviously festering wound we’d inflicted, James poked it.

‘You’re only saying that because last week we told you Malfoy couldn’t join.’

Al bristled and, as the Potter brothers prepared for the argument they both wanted, Rosie prepared to share her views on Malfoy. Henry caught my eye, and indicated that I should try to deal with Al.

My brawny big brother wasn’t the tallest of us–Rosie still held that title–but Hen had outgrown James, and there was no doubt he was the club’s physical heavyweight. Henry nudged James firmly in the ribs and raised his hand for silence. James and Rosie hesitated. Al drew breath and prepared to ignite the argument. I put a hand on his shoulder and whispered, ‘Let Hen speak. Please, Al.’

‘Huh!’ He tensed, but other than an exhalation expressing his annoyance, he said nothing.

‘We agreed all those years ago that we’re seven.’ Henry’s voice was quiet and conciliatory. Leaning forward, he gently placed his hand on the Tupperware box. ‘Rule one — The name of the club is the Drakestone Seven.’ Pausing, he looked around at us all, emphasising the point he was making. ‘That’s why we always, automatically, say no to new members. We’re the seven; we can’t have new members. I know that, deep inside, you all do, as well!’ From the way he scratched his head, I knew that he was a little embarrassed, and that could mean only one thing, feelings.

‘This is probably going to sound soppy, or daft, or both, but it’s no soppier or dafter than the rules–especially Annie’s rule. Fancy making us sing!’ He winked cheerfully at me as he spoke. We both knew how much Rosie and Lily hated the song, and I knew that he was teasing them as much as he was teasing me. Looking a little embarrassed, he continued. ‘Not all of us want to sing, but it’s Rule Six, so we do. This…’ he turned and looked pointedly at James. ‘This “silly little kids” club is important to me. Whenever we meet, despite the stupid arguments we sometimes have, I feel… I feel comfor… comple… compleforted!’

‘That’s not a word,’ said James cheerfully as Hen’s sense of togetherness washed over us. ‘But it probably should be, Hen, my dauntless accomplice.’ He was smiling, and so were most of the others. Even Al, who was doing his best to remain moody, was finding it hard to maintain his frown. In an attempt to further lighten the mood, Hen responded with more word-mangling.

‘I thank you, staunch companion, for not removing the pistachio because of my disturbulated vocabularisation,’ Henry told him seriously. It worked–Al finally broke into a smile.

‘I feel it, too. Right here.’ James clenched his fist and used it to tap himself over the heart. The action, and the seriousness of his words, were enough to prevent anyone teasing him. ‘I know we were only little when we wrote the rules.’ He glanced over at our youngest members. ‘Lily and Hugo are older than Henry and I were when we all started this club, and they could probably come up with better rules. But we’re the Drakestone Seven, and no matter how silly they are, the rules matter. I’m not being stupid, am I?’

The fact that not one of us, not even Al, provided a sarcastic answer to the gift of a question James had asked showed how the magic of the place was working. My heart was in agreement. My head was nodding vigorously.

‘Hell, yeah,’ I said as, around me, the others vocalised their agreement.

‘It’s not James, or Rosie, or any of us saying no, Al,’ Henry continued. ‘It’s the rules. You know that!’

‘This is our secret,’ James added. ‘We agreed to that at the very beginning. The parents know we’re in a secret club, but they don’t know about the Seven, and they don’t know about the rules.’

‘Because they’re a secret,’ added Hugo portentously.

‘A bit of a silly secret,’ Al’s final attempt at protest was half-hearted.

‘Dun’t matter, Al,’ I said. ‘And it’s not like Scorpius Malfoy…’ I paused, incredulous, as those ridiculous syllables left my mouth. ‘Is that really his name?’

‘Yeah,’ The others all confirmed it.

‘Poor sod!’ Henry shook his head. ‘And yet you lot don’t seem to think that it’s weird.’

‘Albus Severus,’ Al reminded us. He was smiling.

‘Yeah,’ Henry admitted. ‘But it’s Potter, not…’

‘Pomegranate,’ I suggested. ‘And Al Potter sounds perfectly normal. How do you abbreviate Scorpius–Score?’

Al’s face fell, and I realised that making fun of Al’s best friend’s name was a bad move.

‘Sorry,’ I said.

‘Okay.’ With one word, Al accepted my apology.

Henry turned and stared pointedly at James. ‘It’s not like Scorpius is the first person we’ve said no to, is it?’

‘Yeah. Teddy was way too old, wasn’t he, James?’ Al reminded his brother. For a moment, I wasn’t certain whether he was holding out an olive branch or jabbing a stick into a very old wound.

‘Yes, he was.’ James took his brother’s comment as a peace offering. ‘And after that crack he made about the club being for “silly little kids”, it’s obvious that he was never good enough to join such an elite group.’

‘Right,’ I said. ‘We’re seven. No new members, never, ever.’ Nods of agreement rippled around the circle. Peace was made and agreement reached.

As I looked at my friends, I tried to remember what we’d looked like when we’d sat there for our first meeting. We always sat in the same positions. We ordered ourselves clockwise by age: James, Henry, Rosie, Al, Me, Lily, and Hugo. As a consequence, I was always facing James and Henry.

Thinking back to the day we’d signed “the covenant” was oddly disconcerting. When we were together, it seemed like we’d always been “the seven”. The signing was ancient, almost legendary, but my memory of it was so clear that it seemed like it was only yesterday

We’d signed the covenant after Lily’s second real birthday, and her third wasn’t even two months behind us. We’d been the seven for more than four years. Why was the club so important to us? It was a kid’s club, and we were growing up. I was grown up! I was a teenager. Admittedly it was only by one day, but I was. In just over a year, Lily and Hugo–the little ones–would be teens, too.

A sudden gust of wind blew Rosie’s untidy mop of ginger hair into an even worse tangle than usual, and the Tupperware box skittered across the uneven surface of the Drakestone. As the box bounced and rattled towards a rain-filled low spot, we all reached for it. Seven hands stopped it in its tracks, and we found ourselves physically connected.

‘If you can’t make an unassisted ascent of the Great Drake Stone, you can’t join,’ said James seriously. Beside him, my brother nodded. It was a little cruel of Henry to agree to that rule, because they were addressing the only one of us who had failed to make the climb. Everyone looked expectantly at Hugo, and Henry stepped back to join me.

He set his jaw and nodded. At seven, he was the youngest. He was also the neatest and cleanest. His orange-brown parka looked brand new, he wore dark brown trousers rather than jeans, and his scuff-free brown leather shoes were highly polished.

Hugo climbed onto “the starter rock”, the long stone slab that led to the best footholds on the smooth stone face, and looked across at us. We nodded, and he set off. There were a couple of slips, but nothing serious, and then he was there, standing on the not-quite flat top of the Drakestone.

‘You’ll be fine, Lily,’ James said as his sister prepared to follow.

‘I know
that, thilly,’ she lisped scornfully. Lily was missing all four of her bottom front teeth, and two from the top. I was a little jealous of her, as I’d only lost bottom teeth. One of my top ones was loose, I pushed at it with my tongue.

Stuffing her bright red mittens into the front pocket of the muddy, lime-green denim dungarees she was wearing, Lily prepared herself for the climb. Although they didn’t look it, the dungarees were almost new. They had been a birthday present from her Aunt Luna. Her birthday party had been huge, with lots of relatives, fireworks, and everything. That was because it was only her second “real” birthday. I knew that I’d been there for her first “real” party–her fourth birthday–but I could barely remember it.

We were in that brief, six-week period where we were the same age, something that always seemed important to her. She was “Little Lily-loo” and she would probably always be the smallest of us. Perhaps that was why she always seemed to try harder; there was no doubt that the rapidity with which she scampered rapidly up the rocks was a challenge to the rest of us.

I was next. Poking my tongue through the gap in my bottom teeth, I removed my panda mittens in preparation for the climb. I was wearing my panda-eared beanie, my first ever Barbour jacket, and stout walking shoes. After checking my route, I turned to my brother. He gave me two thumbs up, winked, and shouted, ‘Go, Annie.’ I went, and was at the top before I had time to think about it.

Al was next, then Rosie, Henry, and finally, James. I wasn’t watching them; I was staring down at Drakeshaugh Wood. I’d seen a flash of black and white in the trees. I’m not really superstitious, but if I see a magpie, the act of seeking out others seems to be ingrained in me. I blame mum, because she taught me the song. One’s for sorrow, and I didn’t want sorrow.

Fortunately, when the lonely bird broke free from the trees, others followed. I counted seven. By then we were all atop the stone, and we sat in our circle for the first time. As the discussions about the club we were about to form–and its rules–began, I was already singing the song to myself.

When it came to my turn to suggest a rule, my decision was made. I’d seen seven magpies, there were seven of us, and seven’s for a secret. Added to all that, the song says that the magpie is more cunning than the raven, and more wise than any owl. My logic was impeccable, but not everyone agreed. Fortunately, a combination of my own stubbornness and total support from Henry, James, and Lily was enough to persuade the others.

We were equals; there was no captain or leader. There was only one role. Rosie was our secretary; she’d brought a notepad and a pen, and she was by far the neatest writer. She wasn’t the only one who’d thought ahead. Henry had “borrowed” a small Tupperware box from Mum’s cupboard, because we’d be burying the rules once we’d signed them. He’d also “borrowed” a pin from Mum’s sewing box. He wanted us to sign our names in blood.

The others weren’t certain about that. After Henry had stubbornly pricked his own thumb, and tried to write with the pin, he was forced to admit that writing his name in blood wasn’t as easy as it appeared in books. James suggested a thumbprint instead, so that’s what we did. As the pin was passed from one to the next, not one of us thought of cleaning it, not that we had anything to clean it with. Once James and Henry had made their faint mark on rules, Lily insisted that she be next. After that, no one was going to refuse, although Hugo had problems, and in the end Rosie had to pierce her brother’s thumb for him.

Once the deed was done, and the rules folded up and placed in the Tupperware box, I looked around at the other members of the Drakestone Seven. We were a secret club. I was a member of a secret club! It was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to me. Henry, his shaggy blond hair mostly hidden under the NUFC beanie he wore, caught my eye and grinned in triumph. His anxieties had vanished with the formation of the club.

James and Henry had both been eleven when we’d signed. As I recalled those events, I knew why the club existed, and why Henry had been anxious. I’d been through the same thing when the time for Lily to go off to big school approached. Our membership of the club had lessened my worries. The club had been Henry’s idea, James had been very keen, and together they had persuaded the rest of us–not that we had taken much persuading.

Henry–and James, I was now convinced, had been worried. They were eleven, and it was Easter. They had one more term together, and then James would be off to the school his parents had attended. He was going to Scotland, to a boarding school. The club was more than a club; it was a promise that they–that we–would stay connected no matter what.

I was certain that, somewhere deep inside myself, I’d understood that when I’d signed. The grin Lily and I had exchanged as I added my thumbprint to the rules, the hug I’d given Hugo; they were acknowledgements that we knew what we were doing. We would not be separated from our friends simply because they were going to a different school.

When we’d signed, James had been rather skinny. Now, although he wasn’t as big as Henry, he was a broad-shouldered and athletic fifteen-year-old. The sun shone on his face and they made the ginger tints in his hair glint like fire. There were a few hints of gingery down on his face, too. My brother was already shaving regularly, but James had yet to reach that stage. I continued my examination of his even features, and wondered if he had a girlfriend. It wasn’t until Hen spoke that I realised I was staring rather too intently at my brother’s best friend.

‘So, we’re good about Scorpius not joining,’ Henry concluded, wanting to make certain that the argument was closed.

‘Fine,’ Al agreed.

‘Great, so, what did you learn at Hogwarts this year, Jamie?’ Henry asked.

Rosie made her usual half-hearted protest. ‘We really shouldn’t tell you,’ she reminded us. ‘It’s illegal! We could get into a lot of trouble.’

‘Our thumbprints are on the rules, in our own blood, and we signed our names too, Rosie,’ I reminded her. ‘We can keep a secret, can’t we Hen?’

‘We always have!’ My brother nodded.

‘I…’ James hesitated. Rather than reply to my brother, he stared into my face, and gave me a worried look. ‘Me and Craig are friends again, is that okay?’

‘No!’ Henry, so reasonable up to that point, flipped from conciliator to attacker with a loudly exclaimed objection. ‘You arse, Jamie! He’s already made a fool of you twice, and now you’ve forgiven him for the second time!’

At Henry’s protest, James lifted his hand up to his left eye. I was certain he was remembering the first “Craig” incident. At that time, on my eleventh birthday, Henry had thumped James in the eye as hard as he could. It was the only time they’d ever come to blows and I had never, before or since, seen my brother so angry. Memories of the day after my birthday flashed through my head. Exactly two years ago, today…

’You okay, Annie?’ asked Henry awkwardly when I opened my bedroom door. It seemed he’d been waiting in his own bedroom until I emerged from my sanctuary.

‘No,’ I admitted. I was in my pink, sleeveless, Elsa nightdress. I lifted one red and blotchy leg, and held out my similarly disfigured arms for him to see. ‘I expect my face is the same!’

I watched him carefully, but there was no teasing over my appearance. I eventually decided that the odd expression on his face was one of sympathy, and it seemed to me that he was struggling to express it. He nodded sorrowfully, moved forwards, and hugged me. His powerful embrace was comforting, so I threw my arms around him and hugged him back. We were still holding each other when his curiosity came to the fore.

‘Did you rub it on everywhere?’ he asked, releasing me and looking down at my legs.

‘Just my arms and face,’ I told him. ‘It smelt really nice,’ I added by way of justification. ‘But the rash has spread everywhere.’

‘Does it hurt?’ he asked.

‘Not now,’ I admitted. ‘The boils were really painful, but that ointment Uncle Harry gave to Mum sorted them out straight away.’

‘Like magic,’ Henry observed.

‘Like magic,’ I repeated the words thoughtfully, knowing that the memory I was searching for would return.

‘We’ll remember. We always do,’ Henry assured me. He hugged me again. ‘I’m glad you’re okay, sis,’ he said with quiet affection.

‘Thanks,’ I muttered. Brought close to tears by Hen’s unexpected compassion, I shrugged myself free from his arms. Releasing me, he took a hasty step back. For a second, I thought he was going to apologise for the hug, but I soon realised he was waiting for me to be rude to him. I decided not to disappoint him.

‘Your friend James is an arse!’ I said.

‘He’s not my…’ Hen began strongly, but despite everything he was unable to force out the final word. Despite everything, disavowing his friendship with James was a step too far. He tried another way. ‘I thumped him, you know,’ he admitted.

‘When?’ I asked.

‘When the boils came up, when you started screaming,’ he said. ‘James started to laugh when your skin went red. Then the boils arrived, and he looked shocked, terrified, even. I clocked him one in the eye, really hard. Dad didn’t tell me off. Neither did Uncle Harry!’

‘Good!’ I said vindictively.

‘But…’ Henry shuffled nervously.

‘But what?’ I asked.

‘I hit him, Annie,’ Henry said. ‘I hit Jamie. I’ve never actually hit anyone before, not a proper hit, anyways.’

‘He deserved it,’ I assured Henry, holding up my arms to remind my brother why.

‘Yeah, but he just took it, Annie. He just stood there, staring at you,’ Henry admitted. I could see the tears forming in my brother’s eyes as he made his confession. ‘I wanted to hit him again, to keep hitting him, but I couldn’t. He was just waiting for me to do it; he didn’t even try to defend himself. I saw Jamie’s face, Annie. He was crying… I don’t think… no… It
definitely wasn’t because I’d hit him… I don’t think he meant to hurt you. I know I should’ve thumped him again. I mean, you’re my sister, I should…’

‘You really think he was sorry?’

‘Sorry?’ Henry shook his head. ‘More than sorry, he was devastated, Annie.’

‘When you found out what Craig had done to that cream, you should’ve told your dad, James,’ Rosie’s comment pulled me back from more memories. ‘After all, what happened to Annie wasn’t your fault.’

‘It was, Rosie. I was the one who gave Annie the stuff!’ James reminded us. ‘And my formula was probably bad enough before Craig added ten times the amount of Bobotuber pus, and all those other ingredients. It might’ve killed her! I deserved the black eye, Hen, and the Quidditch ban. I’m really sorry, Annie.’

‘Oh, shut up, James,’ I ordered. ‘You can’t keep apologising forever; it was two bloody years ago! And you made up for it.’

‘Yeah. You gave Annie a proper present on her twelfth. I’m supposed to be your best mate, but you’ve never bought me a birthday present.’ Henry’s complaint was an obvious tease, yet James rose to the bait.

‘You’ve never bought me one, either,’ James retorted. ‘Besides, I didn’t buy Annie anything, I just magically copied a picture out of a textbook and did a bit of research.’

‘Why was there a picture of that necklace Mum gave Annie in one of your school textbooks?’ Henry asked.

‘I told you last year!’ James rolled his eyes.

‘No, you didn’t,’ I reminded him. ‘You told me, and only me, and you made me promise not to tell anyone.’

‘I didn’t mean for you not to tell Hen,’ James protested. He turned apologetically to my brother. ‘Everyone else here knows, mate. It’s not the necklace, that’s just a silver chain. It’s the gem. It’s called the Bloodstone Claw, or sometimes Merlin’s Claw, which is wrong, because it wasn’t his. It belonged to Gwenddydd, Merlin’s twin sister! It’s lost! It’s not as famous in our world as Merlin is in yours. Most wizards have never heard of it, but a lot of magical historians have. I found the woodcut in an old book and recognised it. It’s the only known image of the claw. I wish you’d let me tell Professor Binns about it, Annie.’

‘No,’ I told him. ‘Mum wasn’t happy when she found out I’d let you lot see it. It’s supposed to be a family secret.’

‘I still think we should’ve told your mum and dad what Craig did.’ Rosie refused to be diverted.

‘But then they wouldn’t’ve let James invite them here last summer,’ Lily protested.

‘That might not have been a bad thing, Lily,’ Al suggested. ‘He wouldn’t’ve hexed Henry.’

‘Henry was being… Henry, and Craig’s not used to Muggles. He was a bit jealous of James having Muggle friends. Last summer was an accident,’ Lily protested.

‘When Scorpius visited last week, he wasn’t used to Muggles, either.’ Al reminded us. ‘But he didn’t resort to “accidental” magic.’

I was getting embarrassed by the conversation. James apologised about Craig every time he saw me. I was tired of his being so miserable about what he’d done, too. ‘I’m not bothered about your Hogwarts friends, James. Neither is Hen, are you?’

‘Na,’ Henry shook his head. ‘They’re not us.’

‘They can be your friends, but they’re not part of the Seven. And they never will be,’ I said firmly. My attempt to end the discussion wasn’t good quite enough, the others wouldn’t let it drop completely.

‘Craig can be a bit of an arse at times,’ James admitted. ‘But, so can I.’

‘That is so true,’ agreed Rosie with feeling. Al nodded.

‘We all can,’ Henry agreed. ‘Maybe I shouldn’t have been so sarky to Craig, Jamie, but I’m not as forgiving as Annie.’

‘Don’t worry, I wanted to kick him the moment I saw him,’ I admitted.

‘We’ve all done stupid stuff,’ said Hugo.

‘Even Rosie,’ Al observed.

‘Just because I don’t like your friend Scorpius.’ Rosie protested, folding her arms and scowling.

‘It’s not you that doesn’t like him, it’s Dad!’ said Hugo slyly. ‘You quite like him, really, Rosie. I can tell.’

‘I do not!’ Rosie’s protest was too quick and much too strenuous. I exchanged a glance with Lily. The boys hadn’t picked up on it, but we had.

‘Scorpius!’ Lily pulled a dismissive face. ‘Surely you don’t fancy Scorpius.’

‘At least I don’t fancy Craig,’ Rosie spat back, surprising me.

‘Craig’s much nicer than Scorpius, in fact he’s really rather dreamy, and a lot better looking,’ Lily admitted. ‘I think James was right to forgive him. After all, no one who’s that good looking could be all bad, could they?’

‘Lily fancies Craig,’ Hugo sang. We might have teased Lily–or even Rosie–about their taste in boys, but I chose a very foolish way to disabuse Lily of her delusions.

‘You’re wrong about that, Lily, he is,’ I glared at James.

Although I’d intended my comment as an insult, I immediately realised what I’d actually said. It was too late; everyone else picked up on it, too. Lily’s surprise instantly turned to a calculating assessment of me.

‘James? James! D’you really thing James is good-looking?’ Henry pointed a finger at me and began to laugh.

‘And Annie fancies James!’ Hugo sang.

Instead of teasing Lily and Rosie about boys, I suddenly found myself on the defensive. Lily, gleefully grateful that her comment about Craig had been temporarily forgotten, dashed any hope that she would come to my aid. ‘James? Good-looking?’ she asked scornfully. ‘Seriously, Annie? Are you blind, stupid, or both?’ she asked.

‘Oh, get stuffed, the lot of you!’ I said angrily. ‘Scorpius is a wuss, and Craig’s a complete arse!

My aggressive attempt to shut them up simply confirmed my embarrassment. They all turned on me, preparing to tease me mercilessly. James silenced them, but not by coming to my rescue.

‘Everybody down!’ he ordered. His eyes were wide, and he was looking at a distant point over my shoulder.

His urgent and forceful command, coupled with his surprised and serious expression wwas enough. We all obeyed without hesitation. As we did, I heard what sounded like a distant balloon bursting. My first thought while I was collapsing sideways onto the stone was that James was simply diverting everyone. The distant sound, however, confirmed to me that he really had seen something.

Rolling onto his belly, James pulled himself between Al and I and peered over the edge of the stone into the distance. I twisted around on the uneven surface to join him, and so did the others.

‘What?’ Rosie asked.

‘Where?’ Henry demanded.

‘That sounded like somebody Disapparating,’ Al observed.

‘She’s standing at the edge of the forest,’ James whispered. ‘Some guy Apparated in with her. I didn’t really see him; he left immediately.

The “she” James referred to was at least half a mile away, probably more. She’s have been difficult to spot, had she not been wearing a pink tweed jacket and matching skirt. Her outfit was a bright beacon against the shadowy trees. Beside me, Lily adjusted her spectacles. I squinted and realised that we were looking at Mrs Pink-Person’s back.

‘Disapparating? Apparating?’ I asked.

‘We can’t…’ Rosie began.

‘It’s a way of travelling,’ Al told me. ‘You concentrate on the place you want to be, and force your way through the space from where you are to where you want to be. You have to be sixteen to learn, because it can be dangerous. It takes a lot of practice, and there’s usually a bang or a pop.’

‘Teleportation?’ asked Henry excitedly. ‘And with a Bamf! Just like Nightcrawler.’

‘Who?’ everyone else asked.

Henry and I exchanged our “something else they don’t know” eye roll, and he tried to explain. ‘X-men,’ my brother began. ‘Superhero cartoons, and he was in a couple of those old movies, Apocalypse and… Oh, never mind, Apocalypse was a terrible film anyway.’

‘Anyone have any idea who she is? Al asked.

‘She’s called Mrs Peculiar Pink-Person,’ I replied. ‘Triple-p, for short.’

There were murmurs of agreement.

‘She’s definitely up to something,’ said Al.

‘But she’s not looking at us,’ Henry added.

‘No, she’s watching Drakeshaugh,’ Lily observed.

‘Very suspicious,’ said Hugo.

‘We should tell Uncle Harry,’ Rosie suggested.

‘No!’ Once again, we all contradicted Rosie.

‘This is a proper adventure, Rosie,’ Hugo told his sister. ‘We’re supposed to have adventures. Mum and Dad had loads of adventures!’

‘The Drakestone Seven and the Mystery of the Mysterious Stranger,’ added Henry portentously. I wasn’t certain whether or not he was teasing us.

‘It might be dangerous,’ Rosie suggested. Her protest was half-hearted, and James immediately squashed it.

‘Dangerous?’ James asked. ‘Hugo’s right, Rosie. Think of all the things Mum and Dad and Uncle Ron and Aunt Hermione had done by the time they were fifteen.’

‘You might be fifteen, James,’ Rosie reminded him, ‘but Hugo and Lily are only first-years.’

‘So what? You know what Mum and Dad and Uncle Harry did when they were first years,’ observed Hugo.

‘Yeah,’ Lily agreed.
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