For Ambrose Rookwood, the frustration of being prefect had nothing whatsoever to do with the duties and privileges of that office. As Pansy had pointed out, the flexibility of being outside the common room after hours could prove useful.
She had also given him a list of ways he could abuse the prefect's badge, should he want to do so. She spoke from experience, having pretty much had run of the school as a prefect during the last school year, even before becoming one of the so-called inquisitors.
It was a very long list.
Of course, none of that bothered Ambrose. No, what weighed on his mind was that the post had caught him completely by surprise.
He had known exactly how many of his yearmates were likely to take the mark. Until this summer, he had been one of them. He also knew that the remaining boys in his year would be more likely to flee the country than actively oppose the Dark Lord.
So, when he suddenly found himself an enemy of the Dark Lord, he should have realized what that meant for his seventh year.
He did enjoy walking the castle after curfew, as he was doing for the first time (officially) this evening. It gave him quite a bit of time to think, which he cherished.
It turned out that Pansy had a way of… distracting him. What's worse, she knew it.
So it was that Ambrose was walking silently through the halls of the castle, charms on his boots to mask the sound of his footsteps. Pansy had teased him about that, but he had only shrugged.
"If I'm going to do this, I'd better do it properly," he had replied with a smirk.
The path from Ravenclaw Tower took him down two flights of stairs and past the Headmaster's office. At this late hour, he had not expected to find anyone.
And yet, the stone gargoyle was moving to the side as Ambrose turned the corner. Ambrose recognized him instantly, at least by appearance. It was the older wizard who sat beside the Headmaster at dinner.
The man seemed surprised to see a prefect in the hallway, but recovered quickly when Ambrose stepped into the light. Then, the man smiled brightly.
"Ah, Mister Rookwood," the man said. "I'm pleased to see you safe and sound."
"As am I, sir," Ambrose responded. "I'm sorry, have we met?"
"Only once, a long time ago," the man said with a grin. "I was one of the first to hold you, young Ambrose, when you were just a few hours old. You see, your father and I worked together, back when I consulted for the Department."
Ambrose nodded at that. Naming the Department of Mysteries in that way, without naming it, was as good as an oath. Which meant that he now knew who this man had to be.
"Lord Diggle, then. It's a pleasure." Ambrose smiled back, and offered his hand in greeting.
Dedalus Diggle did not take it immediately. Instead, he chuckled. "Augustus always said you were a smart one. I'm pleased to see he was right." Then he reached out and shook Ambrose's hand. His features softened, and a look of sadness entered his eyes. "His loss is one we'll be feeling for a long time, lad."
Ambrose nodded. "That we will," he replied, not knowing what else to say.
Diggle shook Ambrose's hand far longer than was strictly necessary, but Ambrose didn't think it polite to tell a Lord of the Wizengamot to stop being creepy. After a few moments, Diggle let go and stepped back.
"I found myself going through some of your father's papers the other day," he said, a thoughtful look on his face. "His was a keen mind. I'm glad that he can live on through his writing."
Ambrose could only nod at this. "I've done much the same, actually," he said. "I managed to save his journals from the house, before it was burned."
"Oh?" Diggle said, looking surprised and pleased. "Remarkable! Treasure those books, my boy. I suspect you'll learn a great deal about your father from those scribbles."
Ambrose raised an eyebrow. "Scribbles?"
Diggle grinned. "Have you never seen your father's shorthand? My word, we almost needed a translation spell to decipher it!"
Ambrose chuckled at that. "Thankfully, he managed to make his journals legible. So, that's a curse dodged, I suspect."
"So it would seem, my boy," Diggle said with a smile. Then he looked thoughtful again. "If you do find anything about the projects we worked on, please let me know. I'd be thankful for the chance to relive those days."
With a nod, Ambrose agreed. This man could be a source of insight into his father… and perhaps, just what the hell he was doing at the Ministry when he died. "What projects did you consult on, if you don't mind me asking?"
"Oh, well, I can't give specifics, of course, but it was mostly to do with the state of the Wizengamot," Diggle replied. "Oh, and sometimes he picked my brain on other topics, like herbology or education - I was on the board of the school, at the time, you see."
"I'd say those sound like fairly dry topics, but I know how my father would have responded," said Ambrose, fondly as he remembered his father's oft-repeated saying. "He always said that he never knew what he'd need to know, or when he'd need to know it."
"And he was right, my boy. Politics, Plants, and Prophecy, that was Augustus and I," Diggle replied. He stepped forward again, and placed a grandfatherly hand on Ambrose's shoulder, reaching up due to the boy's height advantage. "Don't let me keep you from your duties, Mister Prefect. I've enjoyed meeting you again, Ambrose."
"As have I, Lord Diggle," Ambrose said. "Shall I escort you to the gates?"
Diggle waved him off. "No need, I'll find my own way. Take care, son. Don't be a stranger."
"Good night, sir," Ambrose replied.
As he watched Lord Diggle walk down the grand staircase, he replayed the conversation in his mind.
The man was good, there was no question of that. If he didn't know that sitting members of the Wizengamot were never recruited as unspeakables, Ambrose might have suspected that Lord Diggle had once worn the grey cloak. It was also clear that he had done somewhat more than merely consulting, or else he had spent much more time with Augustus Rookwood than it seemed.
When he thought back over what he had learned, Ambrose realized that there had really only been one question that Diggle had asked, one piece of knowledge that Diggle wanted. Everything the man had said was repeated, almost reinforced - except for one thing. It was as if he had tried to ask the question, without drawing attention to it.
Ambrose might not have even noticed, if his mind had not been on his father's place of death as of late.
Which, of course, begged the question - what exactly had his father known about prophecy?
As she waited to speak with her godson, Lily Potter was nervous.
For all of the planning and preparation that had gone into her reunion with Harry, she had given little thought to any reunion she might have with her godson, Neville. There had been no need, really, or so they had thought.
The flaw in their thinking had been exposed almost immediately. When they had gone into exile, Harry and Jamie had been as alike as could be, and the same went for Neville and Trevor. Without seeing their missing sons, it was easy to think of them as remaining identical. Which, of course, was the entire problem.
There was no world in which Jamie Potter rejected his family. Nor was there any situation in which Trevor Longbottom would turn his back on his name.
So, to have Harry keep the Lordship, even in the face of James' return, was a shock - compounded by the realization that Neville Longbottom was more loyal to his grandmother than to his parents.
They should have seen it coming. They didn't. No one had. When the time came to resume their roles as godmothers, Alice and Lily had pictured a reunion with the twins of Jamie and Trevor.
Now, they had to walk a very thin line of asserting themselves, without pushing their godsons away. Neville clearly had issues with his parents, and Harry's comments before the Welcoming Feast showed that he still had anger to work through. A meeting now, between mother and son, would be disastrous.
Perhaps, Lily hoped, I can get somewhere with Neville.
She looked down at her cup of tea, and saw the dregs in the bottom of the cup. Of the two of them, Alice Longbottom had always been the better student of divination, so there might be some portent in the tea. To Lily, of course, it was just an indication that she needed more tea.
She had never really believed in divination. Not until the night of Alice's wedding. As she filled her cup, she thought back to that night, so long ago.
11 August 1978
The wedding had been a spectacular affair. Even now, in a time of nearly open warfare, the families of the light had come together to celebrate. Lords and Ladies from every Light family had come to Longbottom Hall to watch as Frank Longbottom married his longtime sweetheart, Alice Kenny.
Lily Evans, the maid of honour, had beamed as her friend became Lady Longbottom. Across from her, in his crisp black and white robes as best man, had been a grinning James Potter. As the officiant, a jovial Lord Byron Beckworth, had spoken, James had tapped his left ring finger with his right hand.
Lily had blushed at the gesture, knowing exactly what James was telling her. The weight of the betrothal ring on her left hand meant that she would soon become Lady Potter. He had asked her only weeks prior, but her answer had never been in doubt.
Soon, it will be my turn, she thought to herself.
After the ceremony had come the feast, followed by the dancing. Once the bride and groom had done their duty, Lily and James had had their turn. Then Lily danced with Sirius, then Remus, and then a very nervous Peter, before James swept her up again.
She even found herself dancing with Lord Beckworth, a loyal ally of the Longbottoms in the Wizengamot. Asking him to officiate the ceremony had been a way of currying favor with the older Lord, and he had been thrilled to say yes. It meant little to the couple - neither Frank nor Alice had anyone in mind for the duty - so they used the honour as a gift. Lord Beckworth's gratitude at the chance to be seen in so prominent a role would pay dividends later on, and so it was a bargain.
Lily had stayed out of the politics of the day, and did not really take much notice of them beyond the fact that the event was almost entirely attended by Light families. She figured that she would have plenty of time to deal with that when she was Lady Potter.
As the song ended, she curtseyed to Lord Beckworth, who kissed her hand formally and moved toward the bar.
"May I have the next dance, Miss Evans?"
Turning, she saw a smiling Dedalus Diggle approaching. The man was one of the most respected members of the Order of the Phoenix, and a close advisor to the Headmaster. Though Lily had never really spoken to him, she did respect him.
"Of course, M'Lord," she said, offering a formal curtsey.
As the music began again, they chatted amicably about the festivities, and the ceremony beforehand. It was idle chatter, noteworthy only in that it avoided politics and the war entirely.
Diggle sighed softly as they turned about the dance floor. "I look forward to the day when every one of our gatherings is this magnificent," he said, almost to himself.
"How do you mean?" Lily asked.
He waved a hand to indicate the room, and all of its laughing and smiling occupants. "The Dark families aren't fighting for power, or wealth, or glory, Miss Evans," he said. "They fight to take this away from us. Our families, our connections, everything that makes us who we are. They seek to divide us, to make us bow down."
"Of course that won't happen," Lily said without hesitation. She even believed it.
"No, of course not," Diggle agreed. "But what do we do when the war ends, but the reasons behind the war remain?" He looked at her, and she got the feeling that he was treating the conversation as if he were teaching a lesson. "Even muggle history has examples of this, yes?"
Lily's thoughts went immediately to Germany, and she nodded. "They do," she confirmed.
Diggle smiled and nodded at her response. "So you understand that we can't just win the war," he continued. "We have to win the peace as well."
As the song ended, Lily looked back to her dancing partner. "How would we do that?" she asked.
With a laugh, Diggle bowed to her before stepping back. "We're working on it," he said, enigmatically. "Enjoy the day, Miss Evans." With that, he turned and walked toward the Headmaster's table, leaving a very curious dance partner in his wake.
Alice Longbottom had not expected the hesitant reaction Harry Potter gave to her office. As he took his seat, she said so.
Harry shrugged. "I hadn't expected to spend much time in the dungeons this year, Professor," he replied.
"No, I imagine not," she said. "I was surprised to see that you were not in my class, however."
Another shrug. "Potions did not seem necessary for my chosen career, Professor. And I'm sure you're aware that your predecessor and I had our issues."
"So I was told," Alice replied. "So you're not planning to become an auror, then? A potions NEWT is required if you follow that path."
Harry could tell she was fishing, and responded accordingly. "Once, perhaps. But being an auror isn't something that appeals to me, anymore." he chuckled to himself, as if at a private joke. "I expect I'll have had a gutful of law enforcement before the war's end, wouldn't you say?"
Alice shook her head and sipped her tea. Idly, she noticed that Harry had not yet touched his cup.
"If I had to guess, I'd say that your activities leaned more toward those of hitwizards, honestly." She watched him carefully for a reaction, and was not disappointed.
Harry shook his head, the barest hint of annoyance in his eyes. "I'm no hitwizard."
"You've gotten the backing of the DMLE, clearly," Alice responded. "And that got you help from the ICW, of all places." She leaned forward, meeting his eyes. "Besides, you've actively hunted down how many death eaters, just this past summer?" She leaned back again, taking another sip of her tea. "And let's not ignore the fact that when I first met you, after our return, it was when you held a wand to my head in my own home."
"I'll not apologize for that," Harry said, though there was a bit of embarrassment in his tone. "After all, we expected you to be an impostor, not… well."
"I can understand that," she replied, with a nod. "And the rest?"
Harry frowned. "Professor, every death eater who died due to my actions this summer did so while attacking either myself or those under my protection."
"Yet you threw yourself into those fights, Harry," Alice pressed. "Do you want to die so badly?" Alice realized that she had phrased her point poorly when she saw the look of shock on her godson's face.
The bark of laughter, however, was unexpected.
"Really?" Harry said, amused. "You think I want to die? That's what you took from everything that's happened? The battle at the Ministry, the notices, the entire blood feud?"
Alice offered a shrug of her own. "It could look that way, from the outside, don't you agree?"
"The outside," Harry repeated, his amusement fading. "Yes, I suppose that's how it might look." Now it was his turn to lean forward, his gaze focused on the Professor. "You think I want to die for my country, is that it?"
"Not how I would have phrased it, but…" Alice's voice trailed off. "Do you?"
Harry shook his head. "Professor, my job isn't to die for a cause. It's to make sure the other poor bastard dies for his."
Lily's conversation with Neville Longbottom was much more cordial than the meeting taking place in the potions office. It was obvious that Neville was being reserved, almost guarded, about himself. But there was no animosity, no ire to be seen.
It took fifteen minutes for the conversation to heat up.
"I'd like to set a time aside for us to speak, Neville," Lily said. "I think this has been a good beginning."
"A beginning of what, though, Professor?" Neville replied, politely.
"The bond between a godparent and their godchild is important," Lily began, but Neville cut her off.
"It was important fifteen years ago, as well," Neville observed.
"Well, yes. And that makes reconnecting that much more important."
Neville leaned back, crossing his arms. "Did you know that my father swore an oath on his magic when he returned home? He swore that he had spent fifteen years trapped in his own mind. He said, he had been in a Keep of Waking Nightmares." He tilted his head, watching her for a reaction. "What an odd phrase, don't you think? Keep of Waking Nightmares. But I had other things on my mind, just then, and didn't dwell on it."
"Tell me, Professor Potter," Neville continued. "Do you speak Welsh?"
Lily shook her head. "Not as well as I'd like," she replied.
"Oh?" Neville looked surprised at that. "The Potters are from Wales, you should probably take the time. But that doesn't matter. You see, wherever my parents lived, their house was called Hunllef Deffro Cadw. It means 'Keep of Waking Nightmares'."
Lily simply nodded, not sure what else to say. The phrase had sounded familiar, but she couldn't have confirmed Neville's claim, even if she wanted to. Frank and Alice's house had just been 'Frank and Alice's house', after all.
"Which means, of course, that my parents named their secret house something that could truthfully be used in an oath, years later, to reinforce their lies." Neville sighed heavily, shaking his head. "Harry tells me that you claimed that him being left behind was beyond your control, but that theory doesn't fit the facts."
"What are you saying, Neville?" asked Lily. She found that she wanted to reach for her wand, but kept her hand around her tea cup instead.
Neville's eyes never left hers as he spoke in an even tone.
"I'm saying that this was never the contingency. Leaving Harry and I behind, this was always the plan."
Alice Longbottom was fighting the urge to shout at the boy in front of her. The whole point of these meetings had been to try and at least build a bridge to the wayward twins, to get them working with their families instead of against them. But Harry Potter was not making it easy.
"You can't expect to work with these people after you've killed their sons, Harry," she admonished.
"Work with them?" Harry replied, incredulous. "They follow a leader who has sworn to kill me, and who has made a few pretty solid efforts at it over the years. There's no middle ground there, Professor."
Alice sighed, theatrically. "Someday, though, you're going to have to sit the Potter seat, if you keep the Lordship. When that happens, you'll want to make compromises with families who sit across the aisle. If they won't work with you, then you'll get very little done."
"Then so be it," Harry said, immediately. "No political gain is worth my life, or the lives of my friends, or my betrothed."
"Madam Bones is a high government official, Harry," Alice commented.
Harry was having none of it, however. "Voldemort was there personally, Professor. He taunted me that I couldn't protect Susan when I was outside dueling him. She was just as much a target as her aunt."
Again, she shook her head. "This is how the game is played, Harry. You have to work with these people, even if you want to hate them."
He stood up, leaning forward, his hands on her desk.
"Then, fuck the game."
Her response was automatic. "Five points from Gryffindor, Mister Potter," she snapped out.
Harry responded by picking up his bag. Alice expected him to reply, to argue his point, to lash out. Instead, he walked to the door.
As he reached the exit, he turned back to the professor, his godmother - whom he had not once called by her name.
"Professor," he said coldly. "War is simply politics by other means. What you're telling me is that politics requires me to accept attacks on my person. I reject the very notion, and I reject anyone who would argue it." He sighed, again. "If that means I reject you, then so be it. It's not like you haven't already rejected me."
She watched as he started to open the door. Then he paused, and turned back to her once more.
"Your son has it rougher than I do, I think," Harry said.
"How do you mean?" asked Alice, in spite of herself.
Harry shrugged. "At least I still have my godfather."
She wanted to reply. She wanted to say 'No, James is alive.'
But Harry was gone before she could summon the words.
With an angry huff, Alice Longbottom looked down at her tea cup, and at the dregs floating at the bottom. The tea leaves had formed a fine layer across the bottom of the cup, bringing only one image to mind.
"Sand," Alice whispered.
She sat down heavily in her chair, eyeing the offending tea cup. Then, with a sweep of her hand, she sent it crashing into the stone wall of her office.
"Fuck!" she spat. Then she calmed herself, and sighed once again. "Fuck."
By the time Lily Potter arrived, Alice had replaced the tea with a bottle of firewhiskey.
Lily eyed the drink, as Alice poured two glasses. "That bad?"
"Worse," Alice replied. "I take it you fared no better?"
"Neville believes that we always planned to abandon him, and Harry as well," Lily said, as she took the seat her son had vacated. "He takes Frank's oath as proof that the four of us can never be trusted."
Lily winced at that, but said nothing.
Alice glanced over at the shards of her tea cup, still sitting at the base of the wall. "I wonder if there was another way," she said, quietly.
Lily eyed her friend. "You know I wish there had been."
"I mean," Alice continued, struggling for the right words. "What if she was wrong?"
"Which time?" Lily retorted. "We have the weight of prophecy, Alice - two prophecies. How do we go against that?" She leaned forward, eyeing her friend. "We've talked about this, how many times?"
"I know, I know," Alice conceded. "Do you ever wonder, though?"
"No," Lily said, firmly. "Do I regret the path she led us down? Sometimes, yeah. But she was right about one prophecy, how can we disregard the other?"
Alice took a deep breath. Then she nodded, slowly, before raising her glass. As they so often did, over the years, she offered their traditional toast.
"What began in death," she said.
Lily raised her own glass, and completed the phrase.
"...Will end in glory."
Then they drank, each hoping that the road they walked would get easier. Somehow.
11 August 1978
As night fell, the wedding reception was slowly winding down. The older folks had begun to make their excuses, and Frank Longbottom was busy gladhanding the departing guests. Many of them were important, or believed themselves so, and Frank did not want to risk insult by failing to properly send them off.
Those who remained were enjoying a quiet moment before the party began anew.
Alice Longbottom had taken the opportunity to find a sitting room, just off one of the balconies overlooking the grounds. She had found Peter Pettigrew sitting next to his date, Sybil Trelawney. Both had been nervous wrecks before the wedding, but Peter had somehow managed to calm the older Ravenclaw down. Alice had chuckled at the sight of the pair, each with their feet up, smoking on the balcony.
Whatever it was they were smoking, it seemed to have done the trick. Peter was calmer than she had ever seen him, and Sybil was sitting still for the first time all night.
Alice simply relished the time to herself, as she put her own feet up and relaxed for the first time all night. An elf brought her a slice of wedding cake, being careful to pop in and out quietly. Then, the elf returned with a glass of champagne.
Having never grown up with house elves, Alice smiled. She could definitely get used to this.
It was ten minutes of blissful silence before Lily Potter walked in. Seeing her friend, she grinned and sat down as quietly as her bridesmaid's dress would allow. Alice whispered again for a house elf, and soon Lily had her own cake and champagne.
Peter stood at that point, and seemed to whisper to Sybil. She replied with a loud snore. He shrugged, and then scurried off to find his friends.
Lily chuckled to herself as she watched him go. "He always seems lost without the boys," she remarked.
Alice could only nod. "He and Sybil seem to have hit it off, don't you think?"
"I don't know about that," Lily said, nodding toward the sleeping woman.
"She ended up comfortable enough with him that she slept with him on the first date," Alice replied.
Lily looked shocked for an instant, before she burst out in laughter. Alice couldn't help but join her.
Sybil Trelawney didn't stir.
After a moment of quiet, Alice gestured with her glass. "You know, if Frank has his way, we'll be having a lot more evenings like this one."
Lily raised an eyebrow. "What, weddings?"
"No, I mean balls and parties and so on," Alice replied. "He said it's all part of being a great house."
Lily nodded, and sipped her own drink. "James has said much the same," she said. "Sometimes I'm not sure if he's talking about the Potters or the Light as a whole."
"The Great House shall stand at the hands of the sons."
Alice and Lily turned to the open door to the balcony, and saw Sybil Trelawney sitting up ramrod straight. Her voice was quiet, her words slightly slurred, but it was clear that she had spoken.
"What?" said Alice, in shock.
"The Great House shall fall at the hands of the sons," Sybil continued. Her voice grew stronger, and had an ethereal quality.
"Which house?" Lily demanded. "What are you talking about?"
Sybil Trelawney ignored her. Instead, she turned toward the two women. They gasped when they saw that her eyes were glowing.
"The House that Stands follows its own path," she declared. "Rough-hewn stone though it may be. Its road begins in death, and ends in glory, and both shall herald its legacy."
"Fuck me," whispered Alice. "It's a prophecy."
"The House that Falls is built on sand, and the voice of truth telling lies. It inflicts its own wounds, for no higher gain, just power among those called wise."
Sybil seemed to slump backwards slightly, resting in the chair as she continued.
"The Great House shall stand at the hands of the sons.
The Great House shall fall at the hands of the sons."
With that, she curled in on herself, as if drained. Before she passed out, she muttered something else, something so quiet only Lily could hear.
"What was that? What else did she say?" asked an increasingly worried Alice Longbottom.
Lily Evans turned and looked at her friend. "It was latin. She said 'Ad Fine Belli, Qui Audet, Vincit.'"
Alice could not take her eyes off of the now passed-out seer, worried that she would speak again. "What the hell does that mean?" she asked.
Lily's voice was quiet when she replied.
"At the end of the war," she whispered. "Who dares, wins."
A/N: It's no secret that this story was first envisioned as a one-shot, told as a reversal of the Prodigal Son challenge from DZ2. But it very quickly grew beyond that, even though much of the challenge framework remains (although reversed). One of the first things I did when I decided to bite the bullet and continue the tale was to figure out what the throwaway second prophecy actually was. I'm pleased to say that the prophecy here is pretty close to what I came up with, more than two years ago (!). It's changed a bit, and I tried to make it a bit more poetic, but the outlines are there. Now, as to what it means? I'm not telling.
And that's the trick. Alice and Lily heard it, and while they may not have taken it to heart, they never forgot it. So, when Trelawney gives another prophecy more than a year later, and the Headmaster himself thinks it's a true prophecy, well - Lily and Alice start wondering what the first prophecy might mean.
Yes, the future Professor Trelawney was Peter Pettigrew's plus one, for no other reason than that I found it funny (and I needed a reason to invite her). Besides, the idea of her giving a true prophecy while stoned out of her gourd amuses me. On top of that, have y'all seen that picture of Peter in the Order of the Phoenix? No one can tell me that creepy bastard didn't smoke all the weed the late 70's could provide.
I couldn't find Alice Longbottom's maiden name anywhere. So, she gets to share a name with Jason and Laura Kenny, who hold the male and female records for most individual medals for Great Britain at the Olympic games.
Today's latin translation comes courtesy Google Translate. Give me a better version that keeps the punchline, and I'll update accordingly. This felt close enough for government work.
Good luck with NaNoWriMo. I'll be doing what I can.
Feedback, as always, is welcome.