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The Prince of Hogwarts (An ASP at Hogwarts prequel)



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Old July 25th, 2010, 6:50 am
Inkwolf's Avatar
Inkwolf  Undisclosed.gif Inkwolf is offline
I trusted Severus Snape
 
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The Prince of Hogwarts (An ASP at Hogwarts prequel)

This story is a prequel to my previous story, The ASP at Hogwarts. It will not be as long, and as Prince is not the Chosen One, I'm afraid he won't have any special missions or quests. This is just the simple telling of some of his earlier adventures at school.




The Prince of Hogwarts

1

The thin, black-haired boy on Platform 9 3/4 squirmed as if someone had dropped an eel down his back. “Wriggle, come on! Let go of me!”

The house elf firmly continued adjusting the boy’s necktie. “If the young master would only hold still for a moment, Wriggle would be finished.”

The boy did hold still, but only for that moment. “I can’t! I can’t!” he cried, bouncing on his feet. “I’m too excited! Hogwarts, Wriggle! Hogwarts! I’ll be living in the castle built by Godric Gryffindor, Salazar Slytherin, Helga Hufflepuff and Rowena Ravenclaw! Where Phineas Nigellus expelled Bolo Pittengarn! Where Albus Dumbledore hid the Philosopher’s Stone! Where Severus Snape—SEVERUS SNAPE--taught potions to Harry Potter! Can you imagine? I wonder if they’ve left Cousin Severus’s room the way it was. There must be some sort of historical tour of the castle, mustn’t there?”

The elf stepped back, satisfied at last. “Now the young master is suitably attired to associate with proper wizarding children. And none too soon.”

“The Prendergasts are very nice,” said Albert Severus Prince sternly. Wriggle did not approve of the neighboring Muggle children. Prince himself found their ATVs, their music, movies and video games, and even their daily farm chores fascinating. As for the children themselves, Prince thought they suspected what he was, or at least that he was something uncanny. Whatever was going on when he appeared at the farm for a visit, they treated him with a touch of deference. Possibly even awe. Prince thought it charming of them, and took it as his due.

“If the young master says so,” Wriggle sniffed contemptuously. “Does the young master have his pocket handkerchief?”

“Yes, Wriggle,” Prince said in exasperation. “AND clean underwear. AND all my school books. AND my Hogwarts robes. AND my cauldron. AND the lunch you packed me.” He eyed the leather satchel, practically bursting at the seams. He should really protest, but he knew Wriggle meant it kindly and would be miserable to send him off with only lunch money instead of a homemade feast. Prince supposed he could find someone hungry to share with on the train. His parents had always tried to impress on him the importance of generosity to the less fortunate.

“The old master,” Wriggle said huskily, as if reading his thoughts, “would be so proud to see you off to Hogwarts.” The house elf’s lip began to tremble ominously as his big, bulging eyes welled up. “The young master looks so grown up!”

“I think it’s time to get on the train,” said Prince hastily, but it was too late. Wriggle hurled himself at Prince’s chest and clung there. Wracking, hooting sobs echoed through the station, causing passers-by to turn and stare.

“All right, all right,” said Prince through his teeth, trying to keep the harshness out of his voice. Wriggle was the closest thing he had to family—well, Wriggle and old Mr. Burke, his guardian—but the last few weeks of preparing for school had been extremely difficult for the old house elf, and Prince’s patience was nearing exhaustion. He patted Wriggle’s back until the elf managed to regain control and step away, snuffling. The front of Prince’s formerly well-pressed robe was rumpled and damp, and a long arc of elf snot stretched between his tie and Wriggle’s nose.

“The…the young master needs a new necktie,” Wriggle gasped trying to pull himself together. “Wriggle will get one from his trunk, and see that all is properly repacked, and launder this one and—“

“No, Wriggle,” said Prince. “We’ve gone through three ties this morning already. It’s time for me to go.”

“But what will Wriggle do?” the elf whimpered. “All alone without his young master to look after? Wriggle is sure the Hogwarts elves will not care for his master’s clothes the way Wriggle does. Or make sure the young master eats properly. Or warm the bed linens to his pleasure. Or see that his bath is just the right temperature. Or—“

“I will just have to rough it,” said Prince, tossing his trunk into the nearest car. “Anyway, you won’t be all alone. The old Burke ought to be around some of the time. When he isn’t traveling. And his nephew, Reginald. I’ve given him permission to visit at Alspeller’s whenever he likes, and knowing him, you’ll have him and his hangers-on underfoot eight days a week, throwing his weight around and trying to lord it over the place.”

At the mention of the younger Mr. Burke, Wriggle spit on the platform. “Wriggle does NOT wish to serve the Reginald.”

“I’m not asking you to give him toe massages,” said Prince. “Just keep up Alspeller’s reputation for hospitality. Cousin Reggie can starch his own undies.” He casually began to move up the steps into the train car.

“Wriggle should be with the young master,” Wriggle pleaded. “The Reginald can look after himself, but—“

“By Morgan LeFay’s pink bloomers, and leave him to pinch all the silver, and maybe wander into the museum?” said Prince in horror. “What if he runs short of firewood and breaks up the Umfraville divan? Or uses the Keddle diary for tinder? What if he, heaven forfend, pockets the Grindelwald snuffbox?”

The horror of that possibility shocked Wriggle out of his weeping.

“I expect you to keep watch over Alspellers,” Prince continued sternly. “You are my sentry, Wriggle. It is your noble duty to defend the ancestral home against thieves and hooligans and Reginalds. Can I rely on you?”

“Wriggle will defend the young master’s home,” Wriggle announced, pulling himself up with a final sniffle. “Not a brick nor a spoon shall the Reginald pilfer!”

“Good man,” said Prince, slipping into the carriage. He appeared a moment later at the window. “And if you can find the time, give the secret passage a good going-over, will you? I think I was bitten by a doxy last time I visited the sea cave.”

As the train began to chuff and move slowly along the track, Wriggle drew himself up further still, shouting back indignantly, “There is no doxies at Alspellers!”

“Heh! Elves, eh?” said Prince to the other occupant of the compartment as he closed the window and dropped into a seat. There was no answer, and Prince looked more closely at the other boy, experiencing at a sense of familiarity. Had they met?

No, Prince realized. He did not recognize the spiky-haired blond boy in the tiger tee shirt, just the expression he wore. On one of the last trips he had taken with his family, they had been delivering one of the illicit, exotic magical crossbreeds that had become such a fad over the past decade, and the creature had fascinated him.

“I say, Tiger Boy,” said Prince. “Have you ever seen a Trolverine? They have this sort of malevolent glare, just like--”

“This is MY spot,” snarled Tiger Boy. “Sod off! Find your own compartment.”

“There’s plenty of room,” Prince argued, and found himself being hurled into the corridor where his trunk and the lunch satchel still sat.

“And it’s been an unmitigated delight to make your acquaintance as well!” Prince shouted at the compartment door as it slammed shut. Picking himself up, Prince dragged his luggage along the train corridor, looking for a compartment with an empty seat. Each berth he looked into seemed filled with happy students eagerly chatting and laughing.

Somewhere there must be a spare seat, he thought.

“Psst! Young master! Over here!” Wriggle beckoned from the door of the last compartment in the car.

“Wriggle!” Prince was aghast to see the house elf, and struggled to keep his voice down as he hurried through the door with his packages. “What are you doing here?”

“Wriggle will take care of that,” said the elf. Despite his diminutive size, he managed to hoist the heavy trunk to the overhead rack.

“You are not supposed to be here!” Prince hissed in his most dangerous voice. “You know we’re not allowed personal house elves at Hogwarts!”

“But the young master is not at Hogwarts,” said Wriggle reasonably. “Wriggle is merely seeing him off. And Wriggle happened to think,” the elf peered around slyly, “the young master has no real need to go to Hogwarts. He is clever and studious, and can easily learn magic on his own at Alspellers.”

“Oh, yes?” said Prince drily. “Learn from who? The old Burke is off to Alaska. And you made life a living hell for every tutor and governess I’ve had for the last two years!”

“Not all of them,” said Wriggle. “Wriggle only protected the young master from the cruel, harsh, unfair ones. Wriggle quite liked Mistress Penworthy. It was Mr. Burke who made her go away.”

“Because she spoiled me rotten,” said Prince, a little wistfully. He had enjoyed being spoiled rotten.

“No,” said Wriggle, his jaw jutting out. “Not possible. The young master is good and wise and clever and noble, and ought to have whatever he wants!”

“In principle, I agree,” said Prince. “But I have this sneaking horror of turning out more like Dear Reginald than like…well, like ME. It puts a damper on my enjoyment of complete and total indulgence.”

“Not possible,” said Wriggle again, firmly.

“Besides, I want to go to Hogwarts! I want to see the White Tomb and the Chamber of Secrets and the giant squid and the Great Hall! I want to meet Minerva McGonagall and Neville Longbottom and—“

“Cornelius Fudge?” Wriggle suggested. “Death Eater spawn? Hordes of unwashed, unruly children?”

Prince admitted, “Well, not especially Cornelius Fudge. But the others—goodness, yes! Except for the Prendergasts, I’ve barely seen anyone under the age of sixty for ages. It will be nice to make some friends.”

“Other children are much, much overrated.” Wriggle sank down to sit next to Prince’s foot, hugging the boy’s leg. “The young master is all Wriggle has got,” the elf murmured. “Wriggle does not need any other friends.”

Prince sighed. He had known this would not be easy. “Wriggle. I need you to go home,” he said. “Now.”

“But the train is moving,” said Wriggle happily. “The young master would not want Wriggle to apparate off a moving train.”

“Yes he would,” said Prince. “You apparated on, you can jolly well apparate off!”

“No, no, Wriggle must wait until the train stops. At Hogsmeade. The young master understands. Would the young master like a plimpy fritter? Wriggle packed—“

“Wriggle!” Prince tugged at the knot at this throat. “Would you like to have this necktie? I can have it off in about—“ With a bang, the elf vanished.

Prince sighed again. He hated to threaten the elf, but really, sometimes that was the only thing that made any impression. He considered the possibility of going through the train and looking for someone to talk to, but he felt drained, and remained where he was. It was clear why the compartment was empty. The faint odor of vomit clung to it, making him queasy himself. The satchel of Wriggle’s baked goods, unappetizing under the current conditions, sat on the seat across from Prince, looking at him reproachfully. It was trying to make him feel guilty.

Though Prince had hoped for companionship on the journey, he had tucked his battered paperback copy of Severus Snape: A Life in the Shadows into his pocket. He pulled it out now, trying to lose himself in the well-worn pages. It didn’t work. Prince found himself unable to focus on the nearly memorized text. He didn’t realize he had dropped off until a commotion in the corridor woke him. He peered out the door to see a large girl standing by the lunch cart.

“My mum said pumpkin pasties were five sickles,” the girl was objecting.

“Maybe they were, back in your mum’s day,” said the young man pushing the cart. “These days they’re eight.” The girl looked into the palm of her hand, recounting the silver coins there. Even from where Prince sat, they only counted out to five. “Chocolate frog is five sickles,” the man offered.

The girl dropped her coins into his hand and reached. Before she could pick up the chocolate frog, the man seized her wrist. “What’s this?” he demanded. “This isn’t a sickle. Don’t try to palm off your phony coins on me, young lady!”

The girl jerked her hand free, glowering. “What you got for four sickles or less?”

“Licorice wand,” said the man. “Or ice mice.”

“Ew.”

The man shrugged. “Take it or leave it, it don’t make no nevermind to me.” He pushed the cart on, the girl watching after him with a sort of dumb, baffled fury.

Prince cleared his throat. “Pardon me,” he said, gesturing at the pastry-filled satchel. “I couldn’t help overhearing, and as I happen to have—oof!”

Prince was knocked over as the large girl charged into the compartment and sat down, scarfing plimpy fritters almost before her backside hit the bench. Prince, half sat upon and half simply squashed into a corner, gasped to catch his breath. “Please, just help yourself,” he urged. “There’s no need to be shy about it.” The only reply he got was a grunt.

It would not be so bad if the girl was actually fat, Prince thought. But she was all bone and muscle, hard as rock and twice as heavy. “Help! I’m being held hostage by a half-troll!” he croaked. He got a clout in the mouth with her elbow for that.

Finally she rose and left, the empty satchel and a scattering of crumbs bedecking the opposite seat. Prince coughed, gratefully refilling his lungs. He ducked for cover when the girl poked her head back into the compartment, her mouth still stuffed and her hand gripping half a dozen chocolate biscuits.

“Fanks,” she said sardonically, spewing more crumbs. She left.

“Wench! Harpy! Juggernaut!” Prince didn’t shout after her, because, frankly, he was afraid she’d come back. He stood, shuffling from side to side as the circulation came back into his legs, and brushing spit-soaked crumbs off the front of his robes. Then he looked down, and cried out with horror.

Mangled and trampled, Severus Snape: A Life in the Shadows lay on the floor of the compartment. There was barely a page that wasn’t torn, rumpled, mutilated or soiled, and when Prince snatched it up, half the pages fell out and scattered across the floor.

Prince gathered the precious parchments and slipped them reverently into his trunk. Then he charged into the corridor to find the hefty lass and give her a piece of his mind. Only the thought that she might also take a piece of his heart and a chunk of his liver cooled him down to sanity.

But since he was up anyway, Prince decided to move around the train, and to try to find someone to talk to.

“Hullo!” he cried at the first open door he came to. “What are we talking about?”

“The Arrows,” said one girl. “They lost their Seeker, did you hear?”

“Means the Catapults are going to have a field day,” said the boy across from her.

“Not half!”

“But what about O’Reilly? I heard he may switch from the Bats.”

“What? The filthy traitor!”

“Ah,” said Prince. “Did you know they are building a new museum in Wiltshire? It opens next week, with a special display on the history of cauldrons.”

There was a pause in the conversation.

“Lovely,” said the girl. “But what has that got to do with Quidditch?”

“Well, nothing, that’s the point,” said Prince. “I assumed that if you’re discussing Quidditch, it’s because you ran out of anything less boring to talk about.”

There was another pause in the conversation.

“Do you know,” said one of the boys, “I think there are some other first-years further up in the car. Why don’t you go chat with them?”

“Just trying to expand the intellectual parameters of your conversation. Don’t mind me.” Prince gave them a little finger wave, and moved on.

He paused outside the next compartment. They were talking about Quidditch there, too, so he moved on. The next was no different. Or the next. In the next, they were discussing the Wizard Wireless serial, Malcolm of St. Mungo’s, which was just as bad, if not worse.

Finally he reached a compartment that contained four boys who appeared to be about his age. The door to the compartment was shut tight, and inside, a brown-haired boy with an intense expression was talking to three other boys. Lord, let them not be talking about Quidditch, Prince hoped, and he listened. But the boy kept his voice low, and Prince couldn’t catch a word, not even with his ear pressed to the glass.

Suddenly the door burst open, the intense boy snarling in his face. “Get him in here!” Prince was grabbed by three sets of hands and dragged inside the compartment, then pushed up against the seat, his arms held tightly twisted up behind his back.

“What did you hear?” the ringleader demanded.

There was no way out of this. The situation was ridiculous. What had they been plotting? To skip class? To pinch a gobstopper from the lunch cart?

“I know everything,” Prince sneered. “And tomorrow the world will know! It will be emblazoned across the front page of the Daily Prophet! It will be carried across the seas by express owls! It will be written in the sky by smoldering broomsticks! And when that happens, YOU WILL BE VANQUISHED!”

The four boys stared at him, open-mouthed. Then the podgy boy in the striped shirt squeaked, “Oh, ****! We’re going to have to kill him!”

“What?” said Prince, only half laughing.

“Kill him? How?” snapped the intense boy. “You got your wand, Belvedere? You know the Avada Kedavra, do you? Or maybe you brought a sword or a knife?”

“But Elroy—“

Elroy had turned back to Prince. “I’m going to show you something, mate. Look, and fear.” The boy slowly pulled his shirt up. Marked over his chest and stomach was a large image of a skull with a snake coming out of its mouth.

“Do you know what this is?” Elroy sneered.

“It looks like the Dark Mark at the moment,” said Prince, “but once you’ve grown some chest hair and a paunch, I expect it will look more like some kind of ape. Is that a real tattoo? Didn’t your parents freak?”

Prince grunted with pain as a tall, thin boy shot a fist into his solar plexus. It didn’t actually hurt that much, but Prince overreacted, on the assumption that the more they thought he was hurt, the less they would actually trouble to hurt him.

“We’re not working alone,” Parkinson smirked. “We have friends on the outside. Dangerous friends. You speak one word….one single word…and your whole family is dead.”

But Prince’s whole family WAS dead.

Instead of pretending to be impressed with the empty threat, Prince found himself seized by an overwhelming fury. He raised his legs, forcing the two who held his arms to drop him, and managed to lash out with both feet, knocking Parkinson against the wall with a blow to the chest. As soon as he hit the floor, he twisted and scrambled for the door. One of the boys managed to grab the back of his robes, but he forged ahead. The fabric tore, leaving him free to run down the corridor, his underwear and bare legs flashing his pursuers.

“Here, now!” said the man pushing the lunch cart, which was making another tour of the train, loaded with pastries and sweet desserts. Prince collided with the cart, knocking its contents to the floor and halting his progress. Never one to let ammunition go to waste, Prince leaped over the mess and began pelting Elroy and his gang with cream horns and shortcakes. The lunch cart man effectively blocked the boys from getting at Prince, but he also intercepted a large percentage of the sticky missiles with his back. Still, enough got through to coat the Junior Death Eater club with whipped cream and goo.

“What’s going on here?” demanded a stern prefect, entering at the other end of the car, just before he slipped in whipped cream and landed flat on his bottom.

Flinging the last pastry—it hit Elroy smack in the gob—Prince ducked into his compartment, slammed the door shut, and yanked his trunk down to barricade it before collapsing, panting on the seat.

Outside, the enemies pounded on his door. The lunch cart man swore and ranted. The prefect shouted, trying to restore order.

Prince laughed. He laughed until he was worn out, till the tumult and chaos in the corridor had died away, till he ached with laughing. What a terrific story this journey would make.

Of course, he had nobody to tell it to. Prince’s mirth ended. It was at times like these that he missed his family the most. Wriggle, like most house elves, had no sense of humor whatsoever. And while Mr. Burke did, he favored clever wordplay and subtle ironies. The subtleties of an excellent pratfall or an epic pie fight were as nothing to him.

Prince sank down into his seat. Then he bounced up, his good humor restored. The Prendergasts, of course! He would write them as soon as he could. Of course, he’d have to leave out the bit about Wriggle, but Muggles went off to school. They had trains, and pastries and bullies. There was nothing to stop him sharing the entire adventure with them!

When the owl delivered the letter, they’d find nothing in it at all to make them wonder!


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  #2  
Old July 26th, 2010, 3:15 am
Inkwolf's Avatar
Inkwolf  Undisclosed.gif Inkwolf is offline
I trusted Severus Snape
 
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Re: The Prince of Hogwarts (An ASP at Hogwarts prequel)

2


Prince had changed into his school robes long before the train finally stopped in Hogsmeade. The Hogwarts uniform didn’t actually vary much from his usual wizardly garb, as he had taken to wearing black in emulation of Severus Snape some time ago. He had packed a few Muggle outfits as well, for their simple practicality, and under his robes he was wearing the Kernow Bys Vyken shirt the Prendergasts had given him for his birthday, for an extra boost of morale.

He made sure the corridor was clear of threats before unblocking the door to his compartment and hurrying off the train.

It was a beautiful night, the stars sparkling and an uncommonly bright full moon lighting the edges of wispy clouds. Down at the opposite end of the platform, a huge man with a greying tangle of hair and beard bellowed, “Firs’ years! Firs’ years, this way!”

“Must be Rubeus Hagrid,” said Prince with satisfaction. He dropped his trunk by the others and hurried toward the half giant. His steps slowed as he neared the band of first year students, but it wasn’t the glares of the boy called Elroy and his companions that made him hesitate.

“She’s never a first year!” Prince said to himself. The enormous girl who had taken his lunch on the train and nearly squashed the life out of him was standing with the other new students. “By Merlin’s crusty handkerchief, she must be old enough to shave! And so help me, I believe she does!”

Prince’s blood ran cold as the girl turned to stare at him with narrowed eyes, and he realized he had been speaking aloud.

“Here,” he said, edging around to keep the crowd between him and her. “Don’t you know it’s rude to listen in when a fellow’s talking to himself?” Too much time spent alone in the museum, he thought. Thinking aloud is a habit I must break.

Hagrid directed the first years toward a group of sailboats on the lake. As the large girl hovered on one side of the crowd, glaring threateningly, and Elroy’s gang did the same on the other side, Prince stayed as near Hagrid as possible, until the half-giant nearly tripped over him.

“Don’t dally, get on board, now,” Hagrid said, frowning down at him.

Prince put on his most charming smile. “But I want to be on YOUR boat.” And he most certainly did.

“Very well, suit yerself,” said Hagrid in a brusque tone clearly intended to communicate that he could not be sucked up to. “What’s your name?”

“Albert Severus Prince,” Prince said. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”


Hagrid’s eyes widened, and his mouth opened in a silent, “Oh!”

Got you, thought Prince. He knew he could count on Hagrid’s full protection.

Something over two years ago, the Prince family had set out on a mission to deliver a particularly dangerous specimen of illegal crossbreed from Tasmania to Brazil. The lethal nature of the beast required that every Prince be on hand to help control it and to evade ministry detection. Every Prince, that is, but eight year old Albert Severus, the baby of the family, who was suffering from a nasty case of spattergroit. He was left in the charge of the Prince family house elf.

No living witness remained to say what had gone wrong, but the blood soaked wreckage of the Princes’ ship had been found adrift, with nobody remaining aboard. Antonius Burke, co-owner of Borgen & Burke’s, and long-time trading partner and friend of the Prince family, was instated as guardian to the remaining boy. In a single hour, Albert Severus Prince had lost his parents, grandparents, three sisters, three uncles, two aunts, and five cousins, and had become the last of the Princes and master of Alspellers.

There being nothing much else to report on at the time, the Prophet had made a tremendous fuss over the tragedy, and hacks like Rita Skeeter had spawned endless sentimental drivel about the poor, tragic, wealthy orphan child. Soon Prince could barely be introduced to anybody without their dissolving into tears of pity. And just as the papers were wearing out on the subject, his ninth birthday arrived, giving it all new impetus.

It was at this point that Mr. Burke, who had brought Prince to London with him, decided that the remote family mansion in Zennor was probably the healthiest place for him after all.

Prince could still be reduced to a blubbering jelly if he thought too long about his lost family, or when offered genuine condolences by someone who had actually known them. As for the weepy pity of overly sentimental strangers who had read too many mawkish newspaper columns, he found it distasteful and somewhat amusing.

And often, extremely useful.

Prince took his place happily aboard the sailboat. It felt good to have Hagrid for an ally. A half giant on your side is not to be sniffed at. It was also a pleasure to be afloat again, as Wriggle had not allowed him aboard a boat since the tragedy.

“Yeh’ll like Hogwarts,” Hagrid was assuring him. “There’s no better place to be. O’ course, yeh won’t start Care of Magical Creatures classes until third year, but if yeh find yeh need somebody to talk to, feel free to come down to my cottage for a visit. I’ll let yeh feed the new fwoopers! And there’s a pen o’ tebos--”

“Thanks,” said Prince. “I may visit you. I’ve gone a bit off magical creatures, though, if you know what I mean.”

“Ah,” said Hagrid. “Fair enough.”

“While we’re chatting,” said Prince, “can I ask you about someone? You were here during the Voldemort wars, and—“

“Harry Potter!” Hagrid boomed, beaming. “Yeah, I knew ‘im well. Still do! He was a good lad, maybe not the best student, maybe a little mischievous, but a good heart. I can tell you stories—“

“No, not him,” said Prince.

“Albus Dumbledore!” Hagrid said. “Was it him you wanted to know about? Great man, great man…”

“Severus Snape,” sad Prince. “You knew him, didn’t you?”

“Ah,” said Hagrid vaguely. After a pause he added, “He did a lot for us. Hard stuff, things nobody should have had to do.”

“Yes, but you knew him, right?” said Prince. “What was he like in person?”

“Dumbledore trusted him,” Hagrid said vaguely. “He mostly kept himself to himself. I really couldn’t say more.” He looked Prince in the eye. “I’ve kind of gone off Severus Snape. You understand.”

Prince nodded, but sighed slightly. Then a cloud moved away from the moon, and Hogwarts Castle was before them, lit up in all its glorious splendor. Students oohed and aahed from the other boats, and Prince did, too. He had seen pictures, of course, in various Hogwarts history books, but there was nothing like really being there yourself.

“…don’ understand how anyone human could’ve done it, even if—“ Hagrid muttered darkly.

“Eh?” said Prince. “What was that?”

“Nothin’” said Hagrid. “How was your journey?”

“Lovely,” said Prince. “I missed the Hogwarts Express and had to take the circus train. I was mauled by a tiger, trampled by a rhinoceros, and then I got stuck in a cage with a lot of smelly baboons who thought they were Death Eaters,” He hoped his voice carried over the water. It was a wonderfully secure feeling to have Hagrid by his side.

“Er…as long as you enjoyed the trip,” said a confused Hagrid. Yes, the Elroy cabal was glaring his way. Prince debated making a rude gesture at them from the safety of Hagrid’s shadow, but that seemed a bit excessive, so he merely lay back and basked in his immunity as the boats sailed into a cave.

“Here we are! Mind your step, now,” said Hagrid as they pulled up to an underground beach. Prince jumped out at once and helped some of the other students out of the boats. A sudden misgiving shook him as Hagrid remained where he was.

“Aren’t you coming?” Prince asked

“I’ve got to see to the boats,” said Hagrid. “And my knees aren’t so good anymore. I’ll go round the other way. It’s all right—just go right up that passageway, and you’ll find yourself at the castle door!”

“I can help you with the boats,” Prince looked nervously behind him for his enemies. They were watching with smug anticipation.

“Nah, you go on,” Hagrid called as he sailed away, followed by the empty boats. “I’ll see yeh at the sorting!”

Prince turned around. They were moving in from all sides like sharks, Elroy and his cronies and Troll Girl. Should he move away from the water and take a pounding, or stay where he was and only get a soaking? Maybe he should jump in the lake and save himself being knocked in.

No.

Prince leaped forward, between his assailants, and ran through the passageway, the others hot on his heels. He burst out onto the lawn and ran for the stone steps of the castle. Just as he reached the door, a hand closed on the back of his collar.

The castle door opened, and a vision of loveliness appeared in the shining light within. It was a teacher, armed with a cane. The hand released him instantly.

“Welcome to Hogwarts!” the old woman called. Prince scurried through the door as the rest of the students gradually made their way up the stairs. Prince stood as close to the teacher as he could. He would have done so even if it were not his best chance for self-preservation. This, he knew, must be Minerva McGonagall! Former Headmistress and hero of the Voldemort wars! She looked smaller than he had imagined from her pictures, and far older.

When they had assembled, she led them into a small chamber. The sound of voices came from a door that Prince knew led to the Great Hall. He had most of the castle floor plan memorized, as much as it could be, from books he had studied over the summer.

“Welcome to Hogwarts,” said Professor McGonagall again. “In a few moments, you will undergo the sorting ceremony. This will separate you into your houses. Your house will be like your family while you remain at Hogwarts. You will take classes with your housemates, sleep in your house dormitories, and spend free time in your house common room.”

Prince gazed around the little room as she continued describing the various houses. Prince knew all about them already, naturally. He was determined to be sorted into Slytherin, following in the footsteps of his cousin Severus.
“Now, we must wait until they are ready to begin the sorting,” said Professor McGonagall. “We have learned that it is often unwise to leave first-years unattended for too long on their arrival, so I will remain with you. Does anybody have any questions?”

Prince’s hand shot up.

Professor McGonagall looked over her glasses at him. “Yes, young man?”

“Is this the room where Othmar the Amusing wrote Ten Thousande Magickal Pranques during his detentions, or was it the one on the other side of the hall?”

Professor McGonagall opened her mouth, closed it, and finally said, “You and your classmates will have seven years at Hogwarts in which to learn all the school’s great history and traditions. There is plenty of time for that later. Are there any other questions?”

Prince’s hand shot up.

“Anyone else?” Professor McGonagall asked. When nobody else raised their hand, she looked at Prince again and said, “Yes?”

“Why ever did you retire as headmistress and let Cornelius Fudge take over?”

She sighed. “Young man, that is an impertinent and inappropriate question. Be thankful you are not yet sorted, or I would have to dock your house a point for it. Now, then--”

Prince raised his hand again.

“Were you teaching when Severus Snape was a student?” he asked. “How was he at Transfiguration? What was he like as a student? What did he do in his spare time? Did you know he was working undercover for Dumbledore? Did he prefer coffee or tea? How did he—“

“Young man--here—what is your name?”

“Albert Severus Prince.”

Her eyes went all misty. Got you, Prince thought. Old softy.

Still, she was a tough old bird. She went on firmly, “There is no time for such a long discussion at the moment. Now if nobody has any questions actually related to starting school, houses, and the sorting—yes, you. Back there.”

One of the other boys had timidly raised his hand. “Where are the bogs?”

“Right around that corner over there, and for goodness sake, be quick about it!” said McGonagall, exasperated. The boy raced for the corner, hiking up his robe as he ran, while the rest of the first years laughed.

“You didn’t answer ANY of MY questions,” said Prince in an undertone.

McGonagall rolled her eyes. “I retired as headmistress because I am not getting any younger, and felt I could no longer bring the energy to the job that it deserved.”

“Psst! Minerva! Minerva! We’re ready!” someone called from the door.

“Right. Line up there, follow me and prepare to be sorted when you are called,” said Professor McGonagall as she turned to lead them away. She muttered as she passed Prince, “And I had no idea they would give the job to Cornelius Fudge!”

Like a line of ducklings, they followed Professor McGonagall out of the chamber and into the great hall, Prince in the lead. She stopped near a three-legged stool on which sat Hogwarts’s venerable sorting hat.

When they had come to a halt, the brim of the hat cracked open, and it began to sing.

Oh, when the castle was quite new.
And wizardry was booming,
Our doughty founders set aside.
Some space for student rooming.
The soaring minds of Ravenclaw,
Besit a lofty tower.
Another one holds Gryffindor,
Whose students never cower.
The merry hearts of Hufflepuff
Stay near the wine and cake, sir!
While subtle, secret Slytherin
Sleeps ‘neath the shining lake, sir.
So come and put me on your head
And learn where you belong here.
When all is done and all is said,
The hat is never wrong, dear!

Amazing, Prince thought, when you realize that the same hat has been in use since the time of Godric Gryffindor, and has written a new song every year. That makes thousands of songs! And it’s sat on millions of heads!

He rather hoped it was occasionally washed.

“Abernathy, Rafe!” Professor McGonagall called, and a lanky red-haired boy stumbled to the stool, where the hat was put on his head.

“RAVENCLAW!” the hat called. The students at the Ravenclaw table cheered.

One by one the new students were called. Prince suffered a nasty blow when the enormous girl—“Goyle, Anna!”—was sorted into Slytherin.

Two of Elroy’s cohorts—“Blood, Lester!” and “Nott, Kedgewick!” found their way to Slytherin as well.

When “Parkinson, Elroy!” was sorted into Slytherin, Prince felt seriously put out.

“In the ineffably descriptive parlance of my esteemed Muggle associates, “ Prince muttered, “that totally sucks the biscuit.”

“Prince, Albert Severus!” Professor McGonagall called.

As he sat down, he gave her his most charming smile and mouthed “Thank you!” at her. Most people neglected to add the Severus until he had badgered them about it. He pulled the hat down to his ears.

“Hmmm, a very fine mind indeed,” the voice of the hat echoed inside his head. “I should think—“

“Slytherin,” Prince willed.

The hat hesitated. “Ravenclaw would most likely be a better fit,” it coaxed. “You would be happy there, among others who long to pursue intellectual—“

“Slytherin!” Prince did his best to channel all Wriggle’s tenacious stubbornness.

The hat gave a deep sigh. “Everyone has their own blasted opinion these days.”

“SLYTHERIN!” the hat called. Prince whooped, tossing the hat back to Professor McGonagall, who seemed to be trying hard, if not entirely successfully, to keep an appalled expression off her face. Over at the head table, Hagrid wasn’t even trying.

Prince ran to the table where the Slytherin students were applauding. The glowers of Parkinson and his friends meant nothing to him. Anna Goyle’s threatening stare bounced off him. He didn’t even mind when he discovered he was sitting across from Tiger Boy, the spike-haired lout he had thought himself rid of after the train ride.

He was in Severus Snape’s house.

He was seated at the same table where Severus Snape had sat.

He might be in a chair that Severus Snape had used.

And, by Circe’s overworked brassiere, if there was an old piece of gum stuck under the chair, Severus Snape might be the one who originally chewed it.

Albert Severus Prince was in heaven.

Without much surprise, Prince saw Parkinson’s last crony (“Zounds, Emmet!”) sorted into Slytherin. Professor MacGonagall returned to the head table, while one of the younger teachers whisked away the hat and stool.

Headmaster Cornelius Fudge stood to address the hall, and Prince sat up attentively. He had no particular interest in Fudge, but had read of him as being the most disastrous Minister of Magic in history, whose cowardice, incompetence and folly had led to the return of Lord Voldemort. Surely such a person was at least of interest, from a historical viewpoint. Prince even was willing to consider that the history books, written when the Voldemort wars were fresh and bitter in peoples’ minds, might have treated him more harshly than he deserved.

“My dear students,” said Fudge. “For those of you newly arrived, welcome to Hogwarts! For the rest of you, welcome back! It is a pleasure to see your smiling faces again. I hope your summer was both pleasant and educational, and that you are eager to be back at your studies. Many people say that your school days are the best years of your life. Though we strive to make your years here enjoyable as well as instructive, we hope this is not so. Hogwarts wishes all of its students to go on to better days, finer things, and greater challenges. And yet, when you look back on the halcyon days of your youth, I am sure all of you will remember Hogwarts with nostalgia and love. Some of you may wish you had studied harder. Some of you may wish you had made different choices…”

“Some of us may wish he’d stop talking,” Prince couldn’t help muttering. Tiger Boy smothered a guffaw. Prince’s curiosity about Fudge had been satisfied quickly, and he was hungry. The enormous breakfast Wriggle had insisted on cooking him had been over twelve hours ago, and he’d had nothing on the train.

Fudge droned on and on. Prince began to feel as if he was going to implode from the emptiness in his stomach.

As the clock hand neared the half hour, Prince wondered whether to pretend to faint from hunger. A student collapsing was bound to put a stop to the speech. But then he might be carted away and never get any dinner. He sighed.

“There ought to be another clock,” he said. “With a timer that counts down so we know how long we’ve got to listen to this drivel.”

There were a couple of choked snickers around the table.

“I mean, really!” Prince protested. “He’s said ‘the halcyon days of our youth’ three times, now. Doesn’t he know there’s thousands of other clichés he’s only used once?”

Had he been too loud? Fudge had seemed to stumble over his words and glance in his direction.

Good, Prince decided.

“Arrgh!” he cried, clutching at his heart and teetering as if he were about to fall off his seat. “Speech overdose! SPEECH OVERDOSE!” Fudge definitely faltered, and others stared.

The student sitting next to him whipped around to face him. Oh, Lord, she was a prefect.

“You!” the prefect snapped, jabbing him in the chest with a black-painted fingernail. “Sit up properly! Be quiet! Stop interrupting the headmaster!” She cuffed him on the back of the head, then slipped something into his pocket.

Nervously, Prince slid it out. It was a bar of Honeydukes chocolate.

“Holy mixed messages, Batman,” Prince murmured.

Fudge went on for another five minutes—just on principle, Prince thought—and finally ended his speech. Instantly the tables were filled with a wonderful feast—roast geese, bowls of creamy potatoes, mountains of other delicacies, each looking more tasty than the last.

Prince had just about finished filling his plate, when Cornelius Fudge spoke behind him.

“Young man, I want a word with you.”

Prince looked up. Fudge was looming over him, red in the face. Behind him stood a gypsy-looking woman in green velvet.

“All right,” said Prince cautiously. “Have a seat.”

Fudge’s jaw clenched, and he beckoned imperiously away from the table, striding away without looking to see if Prince followed. Tempted for half a moment not to, Prince took a quick bite of potatoes, swigged a couple of gulps of pumpkin juice, grabbed a roll and ran after the headmaster.

“Young man,” said Fudge. “Your behavior has been inexcusable. This rudeness must never occur again. I would not wish to put a student on detention on his first night at Hogwarts—“

Prince nodded, still chewing a mouthful of the roll. Good, he thought.

“—but make no mistake about it, I will be sending an owl to your parents!”

Prince blinked and swallowed. “That will be some trick,” he said without thinking.

Fudge turned a deeper shade of red.

“Headmaster,” murmured the woman in green, and whispered something into Fudge’s ear.

Fudge turned redder still. “Your guardian, I mean.” He turned back to the woman. “Who is he?”

“Antonius Burke,” the woman said.

“You must know him,” said Prince. He’s on the Hogwarts Board of Governors.”

He hadn’t thought it was possible for Fudge to turn any more red, but he watched it happen with interest, taking another bite of the roll.

Fudge turned to sweep away wordlessly, but stopped and looked back. “Don’t think this means you will be getting any special treatment.”

Prince looked at him wide-eyed. “I just want to be treated like any other student,” he said. Any other student with a guardian on the Board, that is.

Fudge left, and Prince returned to the satisfying task of stuffing his face.

It wasn’t until much later, when they had been taken to their new dormitory, and Prince had happily jumped into a bed, wondering if it had been Severus Snape’s, that he remembered the feud with Parkinson’s gang. They had seriously spoken as if they meant to kill him. Now was their opportunity. A few minutes with a smothering pillow, and it would be all over: the Prince family extincted for all time. Fudge would probably be thankful.

Prince lay awake in the darkness for hours, wondering if the attack would be coming at any moment. Then he fell asleep in spite of himself. When he woke, it was to the sounds of his roommates getting out of bed and dressing for class.

Prince was not sure whether to be glad he was alive, or insulted that his enemies had forgotten him so easily.



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Last edited by Inkwolf; August 16th, 2010 at 6:46 am.
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Old July 29th, 2010, 7:39 pm
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Inkwolf  Undisclosed.gif Inkwolf is offline
I trusted Severus Snape
 
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Re: The Prince of Hogwarts (An ASP at Hogwarts prequel)

3

“Pick a pinky petal for your papa's pride,
Beg a burning blossom for your budding bride,
Oh, woo me with that wonderful wiggle wag.…”

Prince climbed the stairs to the Great Hall for breakfast, singing and reveling in the daftness of the Muggle lyrics. He halted at the Slytherin table, staring at the row of disheveled and sleep-fuddled students. The sight put him in mind of a scene from one of the Prendergasts’ movies.

“Yum, crawlies!” he said in a creaky voice, flexing his fingers dramatically as he took an orange from a bowl. With a flick of his wrist he sent the fruit bouncing and rolling down the center of the table. “Catch it! Kill it!” he screeched.

The orange rolled off the end of the table unmolested, plopping to the floor. Everyone stared at him as if he were mad. Apparently, none of them had ever seen The Dark Crystal. That made it a private joke. “You let it get away!” Prince admonished the table, and took a seat, chuckling.

“You’re pushing your luck, kid.”

It was the prefect from last night, now wearing white face powder and black lipstick in addition to the dark nail polish. Prince picked up a plate and offered it to her. “Muffin, my love?” She gave him a look, gathered her things, and left the table.

Prince unrolled his copy of The Daily Prophet, which had been delivered to his bed stand before he had even been awake. Nothing interesting appeared to be happening, apart from more rallies by the nutty cult calling themselves the Sons of Walpurgis. The Prophet seemed intent on terrifying people on the subject, though Prince couldn’t see that the ninnies did anything more than march around in funny clothes spouting nonsense about how Voldemort had really been misunderstood, and would be coming back to prove it.

“Have you got a bee up your nose?”

Prince looked up to see a tall seventh-year boy glaring down at him. He felt his nose gingerly, then pulled out his handkerchief and gave a satisfying, honking blow, examining the results thereof immediately.

“My schnozzle appears to be free of apian inhabitants,” Prince reported. Across the table, Tiger Boy snorted and choked, spitting pumpkin juice everywhere.

“Then it’s you making that dratted noise,” the seventh-year snarled. “Stop humming! Blasted firsties.”

“Criminy, Yorick, were we ever really that annoying?” said a third-year.

“I wasn’t,” Tiger Boy grunted, wiping pumpkin juice off his chin. “You were.” So, his name was Yorick. Prince wondered whether Shakepearian quotation was called for, then decided it was probably unwise. Yorick was hard-faced and hard-muscled, and he had already tossed Prince aside like a gum wrapper once.

“So, what classes are on your schedules today?” asked Prince cheerfully. “I’ve got double potions with Gryffindor, and Transfiguration and Charms in the afternoon.”

“I have a smashing idea,” said the seventh year. “Why don’t you go sit over there with the other unhousebroken puppies?”

Prince peered down the table doubtfully. Anna Goyle was wolfing down a bowl of porridge as if she was afraid it was going to disapparate. Parkinson’s gang sat separate, exchanging secretive whispers. William Talbot sat alone and surly, while Ken Lovecraft and Edgerton Fish held an animated discussion of last summer’s Quidditch World Cup. Dorcas Pinkins, Dierdre Desole and Abigail Mays were blabbering about what some singer had worn to some banquet, and as for Belinda Redlin, if she had come up yet, she had already departed.

“No thank you,” said Prince. “I’ll remain here, where the conversation is on a higher intellectual plane.”

Yorick choked at that, again, spewing more pumpkin juice across the table. “Go,” said the seventh-year firmly, tipping Prince out of his chair.

With a sour glance at the upperclassman, Prince toddled off to join his classmates. Talbot seemed the best bet, so Prince took a chair beside him and began to gather some breakfast.

“Morning, Talbot,” he said, and added, “I’m Albert Severus Prince,” just in case Talbot was one of those who did not pick up names quickly.

“Pureblood?” Talbot asked. Prince froze halfway through reaching for the milk, shocked by the question. Really, hadn’t all that Pureblood supremacy nonsense died with Voldemort? He casually grasped the milk jug and poured, trying to hide his misgivings. He hoped he wasn’t going to be spending seven years in a dormitory with yet another hostile loony.

“Yes, I am, actually,” he said. But I don’t see—“

“Thought I smelled it,” sneered Talbot. “You Purebloods are the ruin of the Wizarding world. With your inbreeding, and your old, tired, weak magic.” With each adjective, he made a stabbing motion at Prince’s chest with his spoon.

“For centuries you’ve tried to keep us down, but you can’t. And you know why? Because we Freshbloods have more power. Who was the most powerful wizard of the century? Voldemort, that’s who! A Half-blood! Who was the only one who could defeat him? Harry Potter, that’s who. The son of a Muggleborn!”

Prince opened his mouth to mention Severus Snape, but thought the better of it. He wouldn’t sully his hero by providing him as evidence in support of rampant bigotry. Especially rampant bigotry of which Prince was the target.

“You tried to destroy us, and you failed. And when Lord Voldemort returns, you will pay for your failure. You all will.”

“That’s right! A Muggleborn is among you!” Talbot looked around the table. The first years all stared at him, Goyle still chewing. Parkinson’s eyes glittered strangely.

“So, what do you have to say to that, Prince Pureblood?” Talbot sneered.

For once, Prince could not think of a single witty retort.

As the Slytherin class made its way back to the dungeon for potions class, Prince found himself considering for the first time in his life how much pure wizarding blood his companions might have. Surely Goyle, unless she was actually part troll, must be pureblood? Because there were Death Eaters named Goyle, and it would be strange to have a Halfblood in that family after only a generation. And surely there had been a Nott among Voldemort’s supporters as well. Did Slytherin House still prefer purebloods when sorting? Then how in heaven’s name had Talbot had made it in?

If Parkinson and his gang were purebloods, and if Goyle was as well, perhaps they would transfer their tender affections from him to Talbot. Prince’s spirits lifted at the thought. Of course, he deplored bigotry, and it would be unconscionable to support it in his school, but he couldn’t help feeling to some degree that Talbot had asked for it.

They turned a corner, and there was a group of other students waiting by the closed door of the potions classroom. “Gryffindors!” said Prince, and added dramatically in a much deeper tone, “The enemy!”

The other Slytherins looked silently at the Gryffindors. The Gryffindors looked back, some with curiosity, some with distaste, but most without much interest. Nobody spoke.

Prince was about to take it upon himself to open the introductions and/or hostilities when the classroom door opened, and a youngish man looked out.

“Come in, come in,” he called. “Welcome to Potions class. I am Professor Puddleby. Now, the best way to learn anything practical is to dive right in, so today we will be making a cleansing solution—which, by the way, will make your cleaning-up much easier. I want you all to separate into pairs and open your textbooks to page five.”

Professor Puddleby was a colorless sort of fellow. He had lightish, short-clipped hair, and a moustache that was barely visible, as it seemed to blend into his upper lip. His eyes were an indeterminate color and lurked behind gold wire-rimmed spectacles. His robes were conservative and a tedious shade of grey. Prince tried to judge his age, but the man was so nondescript it was a challenge. Prince had hoped, at least, to study potions with someone who had studied the subject under Professor Snape, but he was uncertain whether Puddleby was even old enough to have done so.

He realized suddenly that almost everyone in the class had already paired off into partners and were studiously examining their textbooks. Apart from Prince himself, only Goyle and Talbot remained, eyeing each other like cornered rats. Prince had not counted before, but there were thirteen in the class.

“Come now, don’t dally,” said Puddleby, bustling up officiously. “You three will just have to triple up.”

“Sir,” said Prince hastily. “If it’s all right, I’d as soon work on my own.” Both Goyle and Talbot stared at him furiously, as if they wished they had thought to say it first.

“Well, my boy, if you think you’re up to it,” said Puddleby. “Potions can be complicated, though, so I will be close at hand when you need assistance.”

“Kind of you,” said Prince as he opened his book and began to sort out what he’d need: which did not include assistance from Professor Puddleby. In defiance of the restrictions against underage magic, old Mr. Burke had indulged his ward’s obsession with everything to do with Severus Snape by giving him several early potion-making lessons. In addition, many of his tutors had discovered that Prince could be motivated to study his mathematics if bribed with promises of a brewing session. In short, Prince had been making potions regularly for well over a year.

The introductory potion that had been assigned was absurdly simple. Before Puddleby had finished calling the roll and telling the class how important cleanliness was in potion making, Prince had ground the witch-hazel to powder, reconstituted the dehydrated manticore spit, and shredded the sea sponge. When Puddleby came back to help him get started, he had just put the mixture over the flame.

“Now, then, young Prince,” said Puddleby. “Do you have any questions before we get to work?”

“Yes, sir,” said Prince. “What year did you graduate from Hogwarts?”

Puddleby looked nettled. “I assure you, I am fully qualified to teach this class. Here, what are you doing? You can’t possibly be brewing yet.”

“Professor? Professor!” one of the Gryffindor girls called. “I think Harry M. has sliced his thumb off!” (Three Harrys had been sorted into Gryffindor this year.)

“Coming!” Puddleby called. Holding up a finger (not Harry M.’s) he said to Prince, “Wait till I return,” before bustling away to survey the damage.

“Of course,” Prince murmured, continuing to stir the potion. “Where would I go?” If Puddleby were that sensitive about the date of his graduation, he must be fairly young, Prince thought. Once people had hit their thirties, in Prince’s experience, they generally leaped at the chance to enthrall the new generation with nostalgic tales of their own childhood. Ah, well—at least Prince was probably in Snape’s old classroom. He wondered if he was using a desk that Harry Potter had scraped free of tubeworms.

By the time Puddleby had sorted out the wounded Gryffindor, answered the pleas of students who couldn’t tell their witch-hazel from their dysanthus or didn’t know what rehydrate meant, and returned to Prince, the potion was glossy and sparkling, and clearly complete. Puddleby dipped a rag into it and drew it across a soot-blackened teakettle. The rag unearthed a gleaming trail of silver.

“Well done, Mr. Prince,” said Puddleby, looking vaguely irritated, for some reason. “Five points to Slytherin! When you have cleaned your station, you may read Chapter One and get a head start on the next assignment, to write a six inch essay on astringents. Miss Goyle, what HAVE you done? What were you thinking?!”

Prince looked into his cauldron. Would Severus Snape have been satisfied to simply follow a recipe? Prince thought not. He put the cauldron back on the flame. He added a drop of giant’s sweat, because it smelled disgusting. He powdered and added a few dried morning glories, because he liked the color. He added a pinch of Echinacea because he had no idea what it was, though he had an impression it had something to do with anteaters.

“Mr. Prince, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” Puddleby demanded, making him jump nearly out of his skin.

“Experimenting,” said Prince. Duh.

Puddleby waved his wand and the flame went out with a whoosh. “There will be no experimenting in this class! Everybody, potion making is a precise and delicate business. Reckless mistakes can cost lives. Randomly throwing items into a cauldron can cause catastrophe. We will be following the book, and all potion-making WILL be done BY THE BOOK. No experimenting. No innovation. No invention. No tinkering. Are we clear?”

Nobody answered.

“Right,” said Puddleby. He waved his wand again, and the cauldron was instantly cool. “Just you dump that mess down the drain, Mr. Prince, and get on with your essay.”

Prince carried the cauldron to the sink, and turned on the water. It gushed out of the gargoyle-headed spout. Prince took a last look at his potion, made a face, and tipped it out.

Only it did not pour out, not all at once. He had to shake the cauldron, and then the mass inside let go with a sucking noise and landed in a heap in the sink. It showed no inclination to go down the drain.

Prince poked at the mass. It was a soft, rubbery, blubbery, sticky lump, like a giant translucent blue slug. It still sparkled. He looked at Puddleby. The teacher was busy explaining to one of the Gryffindors the importance of rhythm in stirring. Prince slipped the blob into his pocket, rinsed the cauldron, and returned to his seat to write an essay.

When class was over, less than half of the Slytherins had completed the potion successfully. About three quarters of the Gryffindors had, though, and they seemed to depart the dungeon under a tangible aura of smugness.

“Never mind,” said Prince to the disheartened Slytherin class. “At least I got us some points. And Puddleby says Goyle’s hand won’t be permanently orange.” For some reason that didn’t cheer anyone up.

Before going up to lunch, Prince went to the dormitory and removed the mass of experimental potion from his pocket. It was no longer damp and sticky, seeming to have developed a thick skin. It was pliable, and he found it could be molded into shape. After a few moments in its molded form, though, it slumped and melted as if it had turned back into a liquid goo. When he pried at the puddle, it could still be picked up, gathered together, and molded into shape again.

“This is so cool!” said Prince, stretching and squeezing the weird mass into various shapes. He finally left the sparkly blob in his sock drawer and ran to the Great Hall to sit with his disgruntled classmates. Every attempt he made to jolly them out of their sulks, though, fell flat.

It was a relief to go on to Transfiguration. The class shuffled in, Prince taking a seat in the front row of the empty room eagerly. The rest of the students sat as far back as they could manage.

“How long do we have to wait for the teacher to show up before we can say ‘bugger it’ and leave?” asked Dorcas Pinkins hopefully.

“What’s that manky old cat doing in here?” Parkinson asked. “It looks half dead.”

“Back home, we used to pour gasoline on cats and light them on fire,” said Talbot, an ugly gleam in his eye.

“That’s horrid!” said every girl at once.

Prince was so distracted by the conversation that he almost missed what he had been eagerly awaiting: Professor McGonagall’s stunning transformation from manky old cat to feisty old professor. As Prince applauded and the others gasped in amazement, Professor McGonagall straightened up, putting a hand on the small of her back and wincing. “Welcome to Transfiguration!” she said. “The magic you will learn here is some of the most complex and the most dangerous you will learn at Hogwarts. I expect you all to take it very seriously. If you mess about here, you will leave this class and not return.” As she said it, she looked at them all fiercely, as if she thought that might not be such a bad thing. Especially, Prince assumed, in the case of Parkinson and Talbot.

Soon she had them at work, trying to transform a toothpick into a silver needle. Professor McGonagall wandered the classroom, checking their progress and occasionally offering advice.

As she passed him, Prince couldn’t resist asking, “Where did Professor Snape get his potion-making supplies from?”

“Concentrate on your work,” Professor McGonagall said sternly. Prince sighed, and she added, “If you are successful in your transformation, Mr. Prince, I may just tell you.”

Highly motivated, Prince concentrated hard on the task of transformation. Well before the end of class, he had succeeded.

“Oy! Gorgeous!” he called out to Professor McGonagall, holding up the needle in triumph.

“Yes, Mr. Prince, I see you have succeeded,” she said with a certain lack of warmth. “Well done. Five points to Slytherin! Minus two for cheek.”

“And—“

“Professor Snape ordered most of his supplies from Carver’s of London, as he felt the Hogsmeade apothecary sold materials of inferior quality and overcharged for them,” said McGonagall drily. “By the way, that apothecary has been out of business for years and should not be confused with either of the shops currently operating in Hogsmeade. Are you satisfied, Mr. Prince?”

Prince beamed at her and opened his mouth, but she held up a hand. “One question is enough for today,” she said. “Unless it is about Transfiguration.”

Prince quit while he was ahead.

There was still a fair amount of class time, so he checked on the progress of his classmates. Most still seemed to be staring hopelessly at a toothpick which was relentlessly wooden. A few of the students’ toothpicks had begun at least to be shiny or show a metallic sheen. Edgerton Fish had his nearly done, the pointy end of the needle fully transformed, though the eye end was still a wooden stick.

“You’re doing really well,” Prince encouraged him. “Keep trying!”

“Oh get stuffed!” said Fish irritably, which surprised Prince, as Fish had until now seemed a fairly decent and polite sort of chap. Prince craned his neck to have a look at Goyle’s progress without getting too close, but she snorted like a buffalo and hunched over the desk to hide it.

Everyone but Prince left Transfiguration with homework. They were supposed to complete their needles by the next class.

“Some hope!” said Abigail Mays. “I think mine’s more wooden than when I started!”

“Buck up,” sad Prince. “Charms is next!” The others groaned.

“Whose brilliant idea was it to schedule Potions, Transfiguration, and Charms all on one day?” Parkinson grumbled.

“It’s not fair!” Deirdre Desole whined. “Why can’t we finish off with something easy?”

“Like flying lessons!”

“Or Defense against the Dark Arts!”

“How do you know Charms isn’t easy?” asked Prince. “We haven’t been, yet.”

“But it’s up THERE,” Desole moaned. “On the SEVENTH FLOOR!” The tired, dispirited Slytherins looked up at the five flights of stairs and carried on complaining.

“Come on,” Prince urged. “The sooner we get going, the sooner we get it over with. Excelsior! Who’ll race me to the top?” He set off at a sprint, Mays and Fish following in a half-hearted pursuit, while the others trudged up after with sour faces.

Prince had just about made it to the sixth floor when he felt something shift under him. He made a final leap, and looked back. The staircase, Mays and Fish clinging to the rail, was changing direction. It stopped at a corridor across the way. Prince and the others could see that there was no way to get to the seventh floor from where Mays and Fish had ended up.

They—and the rest of the class—would have to go all the way back down to the third floor to change their route. Prince shrugged apologetically at his classmates, and went to the seventh floor to wait for them.

By the time they arrived at the top of the final staircase, they looked exhausted and disheveled, while Prince had had a nice rest. Before anyone could comment on the situation (as Prince could see many were dying to) Professor Flitwick bustled out of a corridor. “There you are at last! You’re all very late! Come along, the classroom is this way.” The Slytherins shuffled into the room, again choosing the seats to the rearmost, while Prince took the front row alone.

Professor Flitwick called the roll. After calling “Dorcas Pinkins!” he suddenly fumbled for a handkerchief. Dabbing at his eyes, he called out in a quavering tone, “Albert Prince!”

“Albert SEVERUS Prince,” the boy responded.

It took Flitwick a few moments to get hold of himself and go on to “Belinda Redlin!”

By Prospero’s prize pumpkin, Prince thought. He must have cut out everything Rita Skeeter wrote and read the clippings every night. Daft old thing.

Prince refrained from asking any questions about Snape and the Voldemort war, on the grounds that Flitwick looked ready to burst into tears each time he spoke. Still, by the end of class, Professor Flitwick had got over his weepiness, and Prince couldn’t help feeling a certain fondness for him, based on the wild enthusiasm he displayed whenever Prince performed a new charm correctly on the first try. Prince seemed to possess an amazing natural talent at charms, which excited Flitwick so much that he taught the boy six spells before remembering that the rest of the class was still struggling with their first.

Prince happily practiced the Lumos charm repeatedly as the class descended the stairs. The best part of his success had been seeing Talbot’s jaw clench with rage every time Prince had learned a new spell. Talbot hadn’t even managed the page-turning charm they had begun with. As they crossed the Great Hall on the way to the passage to the dungeons, Prince heard one of the older Slytherin students whistle. He was looking at the great hourglasses that held the points toward the house cup. Flitwick, in his excitement, had given Prince thirty points.

“I thought the new crop of Slytherins looked like a total washout this year, but it looks like at least one’s got a brain,” the boy commented.

“Never mind,” Prince said, leading the class down the dungeon stairway. “The points are good for all of us, right? And tomorrow’s another day.”

Something was muttered behind his back, and Prince had the sudden sensation that his ankle had been jerked sideways. He stumbled, trying to catch his balance, but his right foot refused to touch stone. He went down the steep staircase, grabbing for support at the handrail and walls, and peeling most of the skin off his palms in the process, only to land hard on his knees at the bottom of the steps.

He stared up at his classmates in shock. Each of them had a carefully blank expression. A few of them seemed to be barely holding in their satisfaction.

“I’m fine,” said Prince coldly. “Thank you for your kind concern.”



Last edited by Inkwolf; October 10th, 2010 at 11:37 pm.
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  #4  
Old August 2nd, 2010, 4:08 pm
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Inkwolf  Undisclosed.gif Inkwolf is offline
I trusted Severus Snape
 
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Re: The Prince of Hogwarts (An ASP at Hogwarts prequel)

4

Prince woke with an unusual feeling of heaviness in his chest. He had to force himself out of bed. He was glad for once that the boys who shared his dormitory had nothing pleasant to say, for he could grunt all his responses without concern that he was being rude.

Before going upstairs he opened his sock drawer and took out a piece of the blue potion blob. Last night, while the others had been working on their homework, he had had nothing to do. So he had learned a division charm, and broken the blob into four pieces, each with about the volume of a tennis ball. It fit much more conveniently in a pocket this way, and it cheered him up to be carrying his creation.

It wasn’t until the morning owls began streaming into the Great Hall that he realized how homesick he was. He missed the ocean and the moors. He missed Alspellers, having his own room, his library, and his museum of historical artifacts. He missed the Prendergasts, he missed old Mr. Burke, and he missed Wriggle.

As the owls began to thin out and depart, he stared up gloomily. It worried him that he’d heard no word from Wriggle. He had half expected to be embarrassed by hourly owls and huge hampers of baked goods from the lonesome elf. He had certainly at least expected a reply to the owl he’d sent to Alspellers yesterday. Could Wriggle have been serious about not being able to safely disapparate from a moving train? Prince had assumed he was only stalling for more time, but could he have been actually injured? Or even killed?

Or maybe the owl had simply been intercepted by the pixies. Prince sighed. The moors around Alspellers were lousy with the verminous things, and while a repelling charm kept them from being too troublesome near the house, delivery owls risked their lives with every message.

When the last owl had departed, Prince pushed his porridge away. He was just not hungry. He pulled the potion blob out of his pocket and began to mold it into a rabbit, stretching out long loops for ears.

“What have you got there?” a voice asked. It was Yorick, just come up from the dungeons.

Prince put the rabbit down on the table, where it sat for a few seconds before melting into a puddle of goo. Prince scraped it up again.

“That’s weird,” said Yorick. “Where’d you get that?”

“I invented it,” said Prince proudly.

“What? You never. You’ve only been at Hogwarts a day. Hey, Bradshaw! Come look at this!” Yorick pulled the blob into a rope and tied a few knots in it. He tossed it on the table as another boy approached. The thing sat there for a few seconds, then melted into a puddle once more.

“Strange,” said Bradshaw. “You say you made this, eh? How?” He rolled up the puddle and pulled the ends of the roll to see how far he could stretch it.

“I added some bits to my potion yesterday.”

“Did you? Here, Yorick, take this end and see how long it will go. Did Puddleby go spare?”

“If I correctly divine your meaning,” said Prince, “yes, he did give birth to several litters of hippogriffs.”

“I’ll bet he did.” Bradshaw grinned. “All right, what did you put in that potion?”

“It’s a secret,” said Prince, who was not sure he remembered. Next time he must make notes.

When the goo had been stretched out tightly across the room, Bradshaw let go, and grinned as it snapped back at Yorick, who yelped. “Come on, then, Yorick, time is short!”

Yorick quickly rolled the goo into a ball, placing it on Prince’s head and holding it there. “Take it easy, pipsqueak,” he said as the goo melted down over Prince’s head, and then Yorick ran after Bradshaw, laughing.

Prince removed the cap of blue goo from his head and began folding it into the shape of a paper boat. He thought there must be some way to make the stuff hold its form longer, if only he knew a little more about how it worked.

“Was that Bradshaw?” Edgerton Fish said breathlessly as he took the chair next to Prince. Lovecraft parked himself on Prince’s other side. “What did he say to you?”

Prince frowned. He still had no idea who had cast the tripping jinx yesterday. On the other hand, Lovecraft and Fish were nominally less foul than Parkinson’s friends and scads better than Talbot.

“He wanted to see my new invention,” said Prince. He tossed the goo into the air, let it splat on the table, and rolled it up again.

“Yes, but did he say anything important?” asked Lovecraft, without the slightest show of interest in the glob. “Anything about Quidditch?”

“No,” said Prince. “Why should he?”

“Well, duh! Because he’s Bradshaw, maybe?”

“Don’t you know he’s the Quidditch captain?” Fish demanded. “How can you be so thick? He didn’t say ANYTHING about Quidditch? Or tryouts? Didn’t you ASK him? What were you even bothering him for, then?”

“I told you,” Prince said irritably, “he was interested in my invention. He’s the one who came to me.” He bounced the sparkling goo ball on the table, but neither boy seemed inclined to take an interest in it. Lovecraft just made a noise of disgust, and they both left without another word.

Prince went on seeing how high he could make the goo bounce. It required throwing very quickly after molding, or the ball would simply flatten when it hit the table. On the other hand, if you rushed molding it, the ball turned out wonky and bounced weakly in unpredictable directions.

Prince had just about got the hang of it when a hand reached over his shoulder and snatched the goo at the high point of its bounce. Parkinson hurled the rubbery sphere full force, and Prince watched with horror as it splattered against the back of Headmaster Fudge’s head with such force that little blue droplets stretched beyond his face almost to that of the teacher to whom he had been speaking.

Prince was frozen with shock and horror, as Fudge seemed to be as well. The blue splat liquefied and ran down into the back of Fudge’s collar as Parkinson casually walked away with his friends.

“Mr. Prince,” Fudge finally said when he turned around. “See me after your classes today for the details of your detention.” He left the Great Hall, occasionally giving awkward little twitches and tugging at the back of his robes.

Prince was about to race after Parkinson in a temper when a brown owl fluttered awkwardly into the room and landed on the table. The owl’s skin showed through in places where feathers had been torn out, and the bird seemed to sway with exhaustion. It clutched a letter.

“Well done,” Prince said to the owl. “Thank you. Your courage is commendable.” He dropped half a dozen owl treats on the table. The owl ate them as Prince opened the envelope. It was not from Wriggle, but Will Prendergast.

“Dear Bertie,” it said.

“We got your letter. It was brought by an owl. An owl! I was never so amazed in my life! Dad nearly had an infarction when it flew in through the window! I don’t remember ever seeing an owl around our place before, and I’ve never HEARD of one delivering letters. It’s sitting there waiting for an answer, too, and staring at me.”

“Oh, oops.” Prince muttered.

“Is it your owl? Where did you get it? How did you train it? Is it like a homing pigeon?”

Prince sighed and skipped to the point where Will got over the owl.

“Everyone is well here. Emma is taking good care of your ponies. She is trying to teach Baxter to jump, but he just stops and lets her slide off over his head.”

It would be a strange day indeed when either of the old, fat ponies achieved lift-off, Prince thought.

“I have started school as well, though we only go to day school. Are you learning to multiply fractions? You’re bright, so could you try to explain it to me? Or give me some idea what earthly use it will ever be?”

Prince wasn’t, couldn’t, and had no idea.

“Mum says the kittens are old enough and must go. Shall we keep one for you? The two white ones have gone, but there’s still the black and white one, the gray and white one, and two gray striped.”

Prince very nearly decided to ask Will to put aside one of the striped kittens. He could easily bully or bribe Reginald into bringing it to Hogwarts. Then he remembered he was bunking with William Talbot, Cat Arsonist. The kitten was probably safer remaining in Cornwall. The pixies feared cats…

“Something odd happened yesterday. A man with red hair and funny clothes came to the door. He asked if we had seen a little boy with really big ears and buggy eyes wearing a pillowcase. Then he borrowed a loaf of bread, half a cold roast chicken, some apples, a knife, and a cake Mum had just finished making, and our tent. Mum was going to tell him no, but Great-Gran insisted he was one of the Fair Folk and we must be nice to him if the farm is going to continue doing well. Actually, she sometimes says the same about you. And sometimes about the postman’s dog. Mum is considering homes for the aged again. (It isn’t true, I know. Is it?)”

Prince frowned. Reginald was looking for Wriggle as well. Then the elf was not at Alspellers…or at least, not at home to Reginald. He could imagine Wriggle hiding from the overbearing young Burke, but the lack of word was still worrying.

Prince hurried to his first Defense Against the Dark Arts lesson, quite late.

When he arrived, the classroom was empty. A hastily scrawled note on the chalkboard said simply WAIT HERE. Prince took a seat with some misgivings. What had happened? Was there an accident? Had the whole class been taken off to the hospital wing?
As the clock ticked, Prince took out his textbook, The Dark Arts and What to Do About Them by Earlene Shields, and began reading Chapter 1, Defining the Dark Arts. The chapter seemed misnamed, as it seemed there was no way to define what was a Dark Art and what wasn’t, as it all seemed to hinge on the intention of the spell caster and the use the spell was put to.

“Those spells without any use other than to cause pain, misery, death and destruction, such as the Unforgivable Curses, are the only obvious ‘Dark Arts,’” Shields wrote. “Most Dark witches and wizards do not start out with these extreme examples of evil. They begin by perverting ordinary spells to more sinister uses, often with the best of intentions: to enforce law, perhaps, or to eliminate what they see as a threat. With each crime against their own humanity, the Dark one becomes more inured to evil, more accepting of ‘necessary evils,’ more willing to turn to destruction as a tool and terror as a motivator. They soon come to see all who cling to their own integrity as naïve and weak, those who set higher standards for themselves as ‘foolish idealists.’ They surround themselves with others who have similarly sacrificed their consciences. In a band of murderers, the torturer can convince himself he is a more decent fellow than most. People speak of the seduction of the Dark Arts. There is no seduction. There is only habit and custom, and the weakness to resist corruption. One day you get fed up with the neighbor’s dog, and curse it out of existence. Once you’ve accustomed yourself to killing the neighbors’ pets, what happens when their children become irritating enough?”

It made for unsettling reading, even without being alone in an empty classroom that echoed with very sound.

When the clock finally struck the hour, Prince packed up his things. Under the note on the chalkboard, he scrawled “Waited until class ended. A. S. Prince.” Study time was scheduled until lunch, and since it was a particularly fine day and Prince had no outstanding assignments to finish, he left the castle.

Several others seemed to have had the same idea, and students were scattered around the lawn and the lake shore. The trees were just beginning to turn, and an occasional leaf fluttered to an early union with the soil. To Prince’s surprise, he found the Slytherin first-year girls (minus Anna Goyle) sitting beside a grove of trees. He ran to them, saying, “THERE you are!” just as they cried, “Where were you?”

“We had class out in the clearing in the forest,” said Belinda Redlin. “It was lovely! Why didn’t you come? Professor Sylvanus left you a note.”

“Did she?” said Prince. “I didn’t find one.”

“It was right on the chalkboard, genius,” said Abigail Mays.

“It wasn’t” said Prince. “The board said Wait Here.”

The girls burst into hysterical giggles. “I wondered what Elroy went back for!” Dorcas Pinkins smirked.

Parkinson! That explained it. In spite of his seething annoyance, Prince laughed and said, “Well, well, looks like Parkinson got the better of me, for a change.”

He went to sit beside Belinda. He had not really made her acquaintance yet, and she seemed sweeter natured than the other girls, or at least was making an effort to smother her giggles. As he sat, though, something gold flashed between them with a snarl, and he leaped to his feet, his sleeve torn open.

“What is that?” he demanded. “It bit me.”

“Oh, I’m sorry!” said Belinda. It’s only Zeus. Zeus, here Zeus!” The gold flash reappeared. It looked like a small dog with long, soft golden fur and an eagerly wagging tail. “Zeus is a demi-crupp,” she said. “He didn’t mean to bite you, he just doesn’t know you yet.”

Prince stared at the cuddly little creature, with its lolling tongue and soft, shining eyes. He could feel a trickle of blood running down his arm.

“ It’s adorable,” he said politely. “Here, now, I thought one was only allowed to bring a squid or a penguin or a wildebeest.”

“A cat or a toad or an owl,” Abigail corrected primly.

“Literalist,” said Prince. “Anyway, aren’t magical hybrids completely off-limits? Because of their tendency to, you know, metamorphose into hideous monsters that nobble your head off?”

“You’re not scared of Zeusie?” Belinda laughed. “Anyway, none of the teachers has complained.” The little dog-beast turned invisible again.

“Erm…,” said Prince, hoping the tiny monster wasn’t looking for a new place to bite. He prepared to defend sensitive areas. “Still, all the same…”

“And what about that creature of yours?” Belinda said, still grinning. “You can’t tell me that thing’s natural.”

“What creature?” Prince asked.

“That…that ape thing! With the floppy ears!” she said. “It’s been following you around since school started. Look, it’s only over there, behind the chestnut tree!”

“Excuse me,” said Prince darkly. He stalked to the chestnut tree. He thought he could see the corner of a pillowcase sticking out from behind the trunk. He lunged around the tree. There was nothing there.

Then a chestnut fell on his head.

“Oops,” said Wriggle.

“Wriggle! Get down here this minute!” Prince ordered. When the elf had climbed down from the tree, Prince demanded, “I’ve been worried sick about you! What are you doing here?”

“The young master told Wriggle to get down—“

“No. What are you doing at Hogwarts?”

“Ah ha,” said the elf. “Wriggle had a very good reason. If Wriggle can remember it.”

“Wriggle, go HOME!”

“Wriggle remembers!” said the elf hastily, pulling something from the pillowcase he wore. “The young master forgot his spectacles!”

“I didn’t forget them,” said Prince in horror. “I left them! I don’t need them!”

“The young master gets headaches when he reads.”

“That’s what headache potions are for!”

“The young master must wear his spectacles for reading,” said Wriggle firmly, handing the eyeglasses to Prince. Prince flung them into the lake with all his strength.

They reappeared in his breast pocket.

“Mr. Burke cast a not-losing charm on them,” said Wriggle. “Also not-breaking.”

Prince roared and kicked the tree. He threw the spectacles at Wriggle’s feet. “Take them home with you.”

“The young master must wear his spectacles for reading,” said Wriggle again, picking them up.

“No!”

“The young master—“

“NO! Wriggle, go HOME!”

“If Wriggle goes home, will the young master wear his spectacles?”

Prince had to consider this one, then repeated, “NO.”

“The young master is being unreasonable.”

“Yes he is! Go home, Wriggle.”

“Wear the spectacles and Wriggle promises to go.”

“I will not!”

“Give Wriggle one good reason.”

“Because,” said Prince indignantly. “Without them I am dashing, stylish and roguishly handsome, but the minute I put them on, I transform into a weedy twerp with a pencil neck and bug eyes!”

“That is just because the young master can see himself properly!”

Prince’s jaw dropped as Wriggle clapped both knobbly hands over his own mouth, eyes widening in horror.

“Did I hear correctly?” Prince asked. “Have I just been insulted? By YOU, Wriggle?”

“Wriggle doesn’t know what he is saying any more,” the house elf whimpered. “Wriggle is a mess, and he has nobody to look after, and the house is so very, very empty without the young master.”

“The house is only empty because you’ve locked the door and Dear Reginald is forced to camp on the lawn and beg food from the Muggles. What must people think of us?” Prince scolded. But his voice had softened considerably. With a sigh of exasperation he sat on the leafy ground. Wriggle sat beside him.

After a few moments of silence, Wriggle said softly, “Wriggle could stay at Hogwarts.”

“No you couldn’t,” said Prince. “It’s against the rules. Anyway, how am I supposed to learn self-reliance with you around?”

“Self reliance is not something the young master will ever need,” said Wriggle. “Not while Wriggle lives. And the dog monster is against the rules, too, but there it is.” He pointed to an empty spot in the nearby grove near where Redlin was still sitting. “The young master is allowed a pet, is he not?”

“A cat or an owl or a toad, Wriggle. Not an elf. By Dumbledore’s jewel-toned pantyhose, Wriggle, you’re a person, not an animal.”

“Wriggle could be a cat. Wriggle could be transformed. Professor McGonagall could do it.”

“You do NOT want to be a cat in MY dormitory,” said Prince. “We’ve got a mad cat roaster on board.”

“Wriggle could be a—“

“Wriggle, if you go home now, I will ask the house head if you could come to Hogwarts. Okay?”

“Does the young master promise?”

“I promise.”

Wriggle jumped to his feet. “And the young master will wear his spectacles?”

Prince sighed. “All right, but only in the absence of witnesses. Now go let Reginald in and feed him before he eats the Prendergasts out of house and home.”

“The young master can rely on Wriggle! Wriggle will clear the lawn of Reginalds at once,” said the elf. Wriggle disapparated.

Then he re-apparated, tucked the revolting spectacles into Prince’s pocket, and vanished again.


Herbology with the Ravenclaws was the final class of the afternoon, and once his worries about Wriggle had been set to rest, Prince was free to give his mind over to the anticipation of it. Not that he had much interest in plants. The Herbology class had more compelling attractions.

Neville Longbottom—THE Neville Longbottom—stood in the greenhouse in stained gardening robes. He didn’t look apparently striking, he had a round face, his hair was thinning, there was mud or worse on his boots, and he looked more amiable than heroic, but…it was NEVILLE LONGBOTTOM!

“We’ll be starting off with something simple,” the Professor and Hero of Hogwarts said. “These Flitterblooms have become overgrown. They must be dug up, the root bulbs divided, and the individual plants repotted. If you like, you are welcome to take one with you at the end of class, since goodness knows what Hogwarts needs with all of them. I will be going around the class to check on your progress and answer any questions.

“But only questions about Herbology,” he added. “I have been warned about you Mr. Prince.” The entire class laughed (Ravenclaw less nastily than his own classmates) and Professor Longbottom looked as if he wished he hadn’t said it, but Prince didn’t mind. He was in the presence of history, even if history was walking around poking its fingers into compost.

“What are you looking so moonstruck about,” Abigail Mays finally asked him. “Fancy the Professor, do you?”

“Don’t you know who he is?” Prince demanded. “He’s Neville Longbottom!”

“He can’t be THAT Neville Longbottom,” she scoffed. “Neville Longbottom was a student.” Prince silently counted off the seconds until Abigail said, “Oh!” Really, his classmates were cretins.

They had been overheard, and whispers began traveling through the classroom. “He’s Neville Longbottom!” “No, seriously?” “It’s him!” “I can’t believe it!” “Wow…”

Prince noticed Fish and Lovecraft urgently trying to catch his attention from the other end of the table, their faces lined with confusion. It was some time before he managed to make out the question they were desperately mouthing at him. “What team?”

“He’s not a flaming Quidditch star!” Prince squeaked back in outrage, and the two Quaffleheads lost interest.

If Professor Longbottom noticed the change of focus in the greenhouse, he showed no indication, continuing to potter around and comment on peoples’ planting technique.

“Well done, Simkins,” he said affably as he came around the corner from the Ravenclaw side. “Miss Wittle, try to pack in the earth a little more tightly. The roots need something to cling to.”

“Yes Professor Longbottom,” the Ravenclaw said with reverence.

“Slow progress, eh, Mr. Prince?” he asked as he seemed to pick up speed and hurry past. “Keep at it, keep at it.”

“Professor!” Prince said hurriedly. “When you dueled Voldemort’s snake—did you think about the fact that you were avenging Severus Snape’s death?” There was dead silence as the entire classroom leaned forward and held their breath.

“Oh, dear,” said Professor Longbottom, scratching the back of his neck and turning pink as every student hung on his words. “I believe the foremost thought going through my mind was ‘Help! There’s a hideous great snake in front of me!’” There was a whoosh as every student let out their breath at once, and several laughed.

“Now, really. This time is meant to be devoted to the study of Herbology,” Professor Longbottom added firmly. “If anybody really MUST know more about the Battle of Hogwarts, there is an enormous pen full of extremely smelly tebo dung back near the stables, which must unfortunately be dug up, carted, and composted this afternoon without the use of magic. If any of you would care to join me for this event, I will answer any questions you like.”

“Well,” said Prince. “I, for one, wouldn’t miss it.”

Albert Severus Prince already had a hero. But if he ever needed another, he knew where to find the man.


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  #5  
Old August 6th, 2010, 5:00 am
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Re: The Prince of Hogwarts (An ASP at Hogwarts prequel)

5

Prince sat on his bed in his pumpkin-print pajamas. He was reading another Snape biography, munching Bertie Botts beans, and reeking to high heaven.

The dung fling had been a great success. For a while, he had been afraid he would not be able to help Professor Longbottom after all. He had remembered his scheduled meeting with Headmaster Fudge, and upcoming detention. Happily, Fudge had sentenced him to spend the afternoon helping Professor Longbottom, so none of Prince’s plans required adjustment after all.

Moreover, his trip to the Headmaster’s office had given him a chance to see the famous portraits of past Hogwarts headmasters. He had sought out and found Severus Snape among them, sleeping as they all were. While Headmaster Fudge entertained himself by delivering a stern lecture on the importance of respect and the inappropriateness of hurling missiles at headmasters’ heads, Prince surreptitiously flicked Bertie Botts’ best at the portrait until the subject opened his eyes to scowl down at him most satisfactorily.

The job itself was grueling and filthy, and his occasionally having helped muck out the Prendergast cows had not prepared him for it. He had little breath left for questions, and under the fly-infested circumstances, he had preferred to keep his mouth closed as much as feasible. Still, Professor Longbottom had answered all the questions he could manage to ask about the Battle of Hogwarts and the Voldemort war. As a bonus, Prince now had several new additions to his collection of quotations of Severus Snape. They were fine additions, too: the former Potions master had clearly been at the height of his sarcastic style when dealing with Neville Longbottom.

“For the love of Merlin, Prince,” Parkinson gagged again, “you effing STINK!”

“I know, I know,” said Prince cheerily. “All the halls below are filled with my foul reek. But I can’t help it. When I was a baby, my mother dipped me in the Bog of Eternal Stench. Unfortunately, she had to hold me somewhere, so there’s this little spot on the back of one of my ankles” (he pointed it out) “that does not smell.”
“Oh, keee-riminy!” griped Nott though his pillow. “It’s like Grawp’s breath in here.”

“Like a hag’s armpit!”

“Like a Dementor’s toilet!”

"Like an Inferi's foot fungus," Prince agreed. "Well, what can you expect? I have been delving in dung. I have been porting poo. I have been mulching manure. I have been shoveling--"

It's not that you smell worse than usual," said Parkinson through the bedsheet he had pressed over his nose and mouth. "It's just that we don't care for the change of perfume. Hasn't anybody showed you where the baths are?"

"Been there, done that," said Prince. "Got the pruny fingers to prove it."

"You can't have washed properly," mumbled Blood from under his blanket.

"If it's any comfort," said Prince, "one gets used to the odor. I barely notice it myself any more. Except when I breathe."

I have a thought," said Parkinson.

"How exciting!," Prince said. “Your first, isn’t it?”

"I think we should give our smelly friend a bath ourselves."

"I shouldn't try it if I were you," said Prince. "I'm slippery when I'm naked." He went on reading. A few moments later he looked up and realized with alarm that Parkinson and his cronies were out of bed and moving to surround him.

"Back off!" he growled. "I spent over an hour in the bath already. It didn't make any difference."

"We'll make the water LOTS hotter," promised Blood.

"And hold your head under until it smells better," said Nott.

"Get him!" barked Parkinson as Prince tried to snatch his wand from the bedstand.

Nott grabbed the back of his collar and threw him back on the bed as Zounds flung Prince’s wand across the dormitory. Blood tried to grab his arm and twist it, but Prince was not about to be caught the way he had been on the train. He punched Blood in the mouth, and kicked at Zounds when he tried the same. Nott pinned Prince down with an arm wrapped over his neck, but he twisted and struggled.

"Grab his feet!" Parkinson shouted, snatching at the kicking ankles. "We’ll drag him!" Then he staggered back, his nose pouring blood from a blow from Prince’s heel. Lester Blood threw himself on the bed, landing across Prince’s midsection and nearly knocking the breath out of him. Desperate to free himself, Prince twisted enough to sink his teeth into Nott's shoulder. The pressure lifted from his neck as Nott bellowed and jerked away, and Blood fell off the bed. Prince made the most of his freedom by swinging a punch to Nott's jaw, which unfortunately missed him entirely.

"Wrap him in the blanket!" Parkinson shouted through the bloody hand clenched over his nose. Nott tried to pin Prince down again and Blood and Zounds dragged the edges of the bedclothes from under the mattress.

"I could use some HELP here!" Prince bellowed shrilly. He didn't expect Talbot to lift a finger, of course. That nutter was watching from his own bunk, a vicious smile twisting his face. Fish was hunched over his homework, looking terrified. Lovecraft only turned the page of his magazine as if nothing was going on.

"Oh, yes, if it's not about Quidditch it doesn't matter!" Prince snarled. Blood got the blanket over his head, but he managed to twist himself free once again before they finally got him well and truly trussed up.

It was dark inside the bedclothes, but not silent. "HEAVE" Prince heard Parkinson shout, and he slid off the bed and hit the stone floor.

Prince could feel himself being dragged quickly over the flagstones, the Parkinson mob laughing. Terrified and furious, he tried to rip the cloth that imprisoned him, but his arms were still wobbly from the afternoon's labor, and even panic didn’t give them the strength to tear through the heavy cloth. He started kicking again with all his strength. Finally, one of his feet broke free and impacted on the back of someone's leg. It did him no good. They stopped, true, but only to shove his foot back into the bundle and get a tighter grip.

Then something struck him hard in the ribs--someone's foot, no doubt. More blows started to come from all directions, and Prince could only curl in a ball and wait for the kicking to stop. Talbot's mad, high-pitched cackle echoed between the dull thuds.

The kicks stopped suddenly, and the dungeon went utterly silent except for a heavy metallic clanking and dragging. Prince froze, seized by a deeper horror than the fear of his tormentors. Though the blankets went slack, he did not struggle free, but lay still, clutching them to him.

"Why have you left your beds?" a hoarse, rumbling whisper hissed and echoed in the stone chamber. Prince heard the sound of running feet rapidly moving away. He remained where he was, heart thumping, still curled in a ball. Finally, trembling, he crawled out of the blanket and looked.

Looming over him was a horrific specter. The ghost was weighed down by heavy chains, phantom blood soaking its silvery raiment. The eyes stared blankly and its face was expressionless, as if despair beyond human comprehension had forever burned away all hope and all feeling. It was the Bloody Baron.

Prince had never been less happy to meet one of Hogwarts' historical denizens. The Slytherin ghost radiated horror and cold. The boy held his blankets tighter and backed away a step. After a moment more of blank staring, the Baron turned and glided down the corridor. Prince watched him go.

Then he found himself running after the spirit, his bare feet slapping on the ice-cold stone in the ghost's wake.

When he caught up with the Baron, the ghost turned to look at him once more. Prince stopped, gripped by the terror again, and unable to speak. After watching him open his mouth once or twice, the ghost said, "Your companions will not be in a hurry to leave their beds, I think. I will sometimes investigate disturbances in the dormitories, but I make no promises."

When the ghost moved on, Prince followed again, his urgent need to know overriding his fear. This time when the ghost turned to stare at him, Prince choked out, "Severus Snape." He took several breaths before he could go on. "Do you remember a student...named Severus Snape?"

"I remember," said the ghost.

"What...what dormitory did he live in?" Of all his questions about the departed spy and hero, he was sure that only the Baron could answer this one.

"Severus Snape..." the hissing rumble would have sent more chills up Prince's spine, if there had been room for more. "He lived in the chamber that is now the sixth year dormitory. The boy called Arnold Goyle now uses his bed."

"Then..then I have to wait five years to live in the same place," Prince muttered to himself, but it was the ghost who answered.

"No," the Baron whispered. "Next year, the room you now live in will be the second-year dormitory. The year after, it will be the third-year dormitory. You will spend your years at Hogwarts all in that same room, child. Resign yourself to it. Nothing truly matters anyway."

With these final words of cheer, the ghost turned again, this time melting into the wall, where Prince could no longer follow.

He made his way back to the dormitory. The lights were out now, and as the Baron had predicted, nobody seemed to be interested in leaving his bed to renew the assault. It took Prince a few minutes to find his wand, still lying where Zounds had thrown it. He tucked it into the waistband of his pajamas as he remade his rumpled bed, then crawled in under the covers with the wand clutched in his fingers, his bruises still throbbing.

From Parkinson’s bed came a noise like someone trying to slurp butterbeer through a blocked straw. “Ad least I can’d sbell hib eddymore,” said Parkinson.

“I can,” grumbled Blood. “That stench is all over my hands, now!”

“He bit me,” Nott snarled. “I’ll probably need Wolfsbane potion the rest of my life.”

“You’re dead, Prince,” Emmet Zounds whispered. “Hear me? You’re dead. We will kill you. We are going to make you die.”

It was the last thing Prince heard before his exhaustion overcame his nerves, and he slept.



“I see a little silhouetto of a man, Scaramouche! Scaramouche! Can you do the fandango?” Prince sang in his bathtub.

He had awakened stiff and sore, but another long, leisurely hot bath was doing much to relax his muscles and restore his spirits. The tebo odor had mostly dissipated overnight, along with his fears, and Prince now suspected he had overreacted to the Parkinson brigade’s onslaught. After all, the school bathwater hardly ran hot enough to have boiled him alive, and between the four of them he doubted there was enough magical knowledge yet to warm a cup of tea. And it wasn’t as if they could blatantly drown a fellow student in the bathroom without anyone’s remarking the event. And though they had attacked him twice now, he had walked away both times with nothing but a fright and a few black and blue spots.

As for the Bloody Baron, in the light of day (and the ghost’s absence) the spectre no longer seemed quite so terrifying either. “Bloody Baron, indeed,” said Prince. “Bloody Pessimist, more like. Resign myself? Bah! Nothing truly matters? Helga Hufflepuff’s hulking hiney, what a wet stick.” Albert Severus Prince might not have the opportunity to live in Severus Snape’s own dormitory, but there was no reason to suppose he would never enter it.

He was altogether in a better mood when he went up to breakfast, finding all the first years huddled together at the end of the Slytherin table. He saw that Parkinson’s nose seemed fine, so he had either made a quick trip to the hospital wing or he had not been injured as badly as Prince had thought.

“Good morning, mes enfants,” said Prince. Pulling out a chair, he prepared to sit.

“Not here,” said Parkinson sharply. “The stench will ruin our breakfast. Go sit…with the Gryffindors.”

“The Gryffindors?” said Prince in disbelief.

“You’re a human dung bomb,” said Nott. “If you insist on making people sick to their stomachs, do it at the Gryffindor table.”

As Prince stood there, uncertain what to do about this, an extremely pretty second-year girl jumped up from further down the table. “Oh, what rubbish!” she said, putting an arm around Prince’s shoulders. “You can sit with us, ducks. I think you’re CYUUUUUTE!” As she led Prince away, she planted a lingering kiss on his cheek, adding softly afterward, “Though yes, you do pong a bit.”

“It’s a temporary condition,” Prince assured her as he looked back over his shoulder to see how Parkinson was liking this development. He and most of Prince’s class were gaping after him, mouths hanging open in disbelief and disgust.

“You’re the one who threw something at Fudge yesterday,” said one of the second-year boys. “You’re the hero of Slytherin today. What was that stuff, anyway?”

Prince, delighted that the context of the question didn’t require him to give Parkinson any credit for the deed, pulled his second lump of blue goo from his pocket. The second-years showed a gratifying amount of interest in it.

“It’s the perfect thing to throw at someone,” one boy declared. “It makes a nice, hard missile for excellent flight properties, and it goes all mushy by the time it hits them, so you don’t put out an eye or summat.” Indeed, the goo spent most of the meal being thrown at each another by the second-year boys.

When he had finished breakfast, Prince thanked the second-years for having invited him.

“Oh, you can sit with us any time that lot is being horrid!” the pretty girl said, hugging him and kissing him on the cheek again.

Prince gave her the goo ball. She was delighted, and kissed him again, which he didn’t object to at all.

“You ought to sell that stuff,” said one of the boys. “I’m not saying fanged Frisbees or Weasley Wands have to fear for their markets, but this goo is sort of entertaining. And it hasn’t been banned yet. You could make a bit of pocket money.”

Prince had plenty of pocket money, of course, but it made him think.

Prince walked to his Magical History class with mixed feelings. He had, of course, been looking forward to History as a subject. He had heard that it was taught by a ghost, which he had found very exciting, and had said to anyone who would listen that this was the way History ought to be taught, by someone who had been there.

But memories were beginning to creep back of last night, and of the terrible fear that he had felt in the presence of the Bloody Baron. He entered the class nervously, and was immediately both relieved and disappointed. Relieved because Professor Binns looked like an old duffer with none of the Baron’s aura of menace, doom and despair. Disappointed because, judging from his robes, this was a fairly modern ghost, and unlikely to be able to offer eyewitness accounts of the founding of Hogwarts or the Goblin wars.

Still, Prince took his usual front-row seat, looking forward to the class.

“Welcome, welcome, welcome,” Professor Binns said vaguely when they had taken their seats. “History is…” he shuffled through spectral notes on his podium, “what we are here to study. It is the tale of how we got from where we were to where we are, without the understanding of which one can not truly understand where we are…er…where were we? Ah.” He shuffled the notes some more. “We shall begin with what some call the dawn of wizardry. It is acceptable to theorize that those with magical talents have always appeared among the Muggles, but the most ancient known actual historical evidence of magic was found in Persia in 1235, when a sorceress preparing the ground for the erecting of a palace unearthed a buried trove of magical artifacts. Lady Ghazálah Al-Kharkh catalogued among the unearthed relics two intricately carved ivory wands, a brass goblet with a purification spell on it, a carpet in extreme disrepair upon which were still detectable the remnants of a flying spell, and a number of clay pots which, when opened, proved to hold a variety of fruits whose freshness had been magically preserved over the centuries. These fruits included seventy-three dates, one hundred and twenty-seven grapes of three different varieties, a number of figs which has been stated varyingly to be either fifty-four or forty-five, depending on the transcription of the original scroll. Jerome La Tour puts it at fifty-four, and the Abbot Redfield at forty-five. As to which is the more reliable, Redfield was astigmatic and occasionally known to make errors of transcription, most famously on the occasion when he wrote, instead of wines, that the Bishop of Little Mulchings served his distinguished dinner guests his twenty finest wives, thus leaving that innocent if bibulous cleric with a reputation for both polygamy and cannibalism which lasted in the oral folk tradition for centuries, even after a studious monk, one Brother John Worthington, cleared up the mistranscription. As to whether the numbers of LaTour are any more to be relied on, one can only point out the regrettable fact that he was French. Thus, the number of figs in the excavation is likely to remain a mystery. Also in the jars were found nineteen large pomegranates of a cultivar believed extinct since..er…yes, er.. Pibble?”

Prince had been waving his hand for some time. “It’s Prince, sir,” he said. “Albert Severus Prince. Aren’t the cave paintings in Altimira older than the Persian trove?”

“Ah,” said Binns. “I am aware of the theory that some of the abstract designs in those peculiar cave paintings are images of wands and diagrams of wand movements, however, that remains a theory based on speculation and little more.”

“But they’ve opened up more five caverns, now!” Prince objected. “They’ve found paintings of unicorns and re’ems, and found three primitive Magdalenian wands and positively identified six curses from the diagrams and—“

“All very exciting, I’m sure, Mr. Pibble,” said Binns shortly. “And if it is ever validated by competent scholars and incorporated into our history textbook, I will be most eager to teach it. Now, this cultivar of pomegranate had been extinct for well over eight hundred years. That and the signature style of carving on the wand permitted Lady Al-Kharkh to pinpoint the date of the find at—yes, Pibble, what is it now?”

“The Hall of Bones is older than that as well,” Prince said.

Binns blinked. “I am unfamiliar with the, what do you call it? Hall of Bones?”

“Unfamiliar?” Prince shouted. “It’s been in the Prophet practically every other day for over a year! They’re excavating it in Rwanda! They keep having to convince the Muggles they’re clearing an old minefield! Fourteen wizards and witches have been killed by the traps the ancient Dark wizards left behind! There’s an enormous statue of a werewolf carved out of a solid black diamond, and three Gringotts curse-breakers have just vanished while tryng to recover it, and a huge, ghostly cobra—“

“Mr. Pibble,” said Binns sternly. “Please contain yourself. We are scholars. We take our history—real history—from carefully researched, painstakingly validated, and excruciatingly redundantly fact-checked study. We do not glean it from the lurid headlines of the popular press.”

Prince thrust his hand up again, and to his surprise, so did Parkinson. Professor Binns looked relieved to have someone else to call upon. “You…yes, Robinson. You had a question? About the pomegranates, one hopes?”

“Parkinson, sir,” said Parkinson in a reedy, pompous voice. “Elroy Fenton Parkinson. Sir, how many times did Severus Snape change his socks at Hogwarts?”

The class burst into laughter as Binns blinked in confusion. Lester Blood waved his hand wildly. “Sir! Oh, sir! Is it true that Severus Snape once scratched his bum in this very room?”

“Professor! Professor!” Nott squealed. “Did Severus Snape ever wear stiletto heels?”

“Was Severus Snape secretly an oversized gnome?””

“Did Severus Snape ever kiss the giant squid? And if so, was it on the lips, or where?”

“How many Severus Snapes would you have to lay end to end to reach from here to Durmstrang?”

“Did Severus Snape eat his peas with a fork or a knife?”

“What position did Severus Snape sleep in? And did he prefer a teddy bear or a hot water bottle?”

“What brand of butterbeer made Severus Snape barf in the prettiest colors?”

Prince leaned back and waited with a raised eyebrow and a wry smile while his nearly hysterical classmates fell off their chairs and pounded on their desks. But his hands were shaking in anger and he had snapped his favorite quill.

“If I’d known you were interested, Parkers, I’d have loaned you one of my biographies,” he said when the giggling had mostly subsided. But Parkinson only grinned an impossibly wide, triumphant, and aggravating grin at him.

Binns was still looking baffled. “Snape, Snape,” he mumbled. “Where have I heard that name before? Was that the red-haired boy with no eyebrows?”

“He’s the one who spent his whole life undercover trying to defeat Voldemort,” Prince said loudly, for his classmates’ benefit as well as Binns’. “He’s the only person in the world who managed to make a fool of the Dark Lord. He’s the one who got brutally murdered while still struggling to make Harry Potter get his bum in gear. Maybe you could tell us something about him.”

“Ah, yes, the Voldemort war,” said Binns vaguely. “I’m afraid current events are not really within the purview of this class. Now, about that cultivar of pomegranate—please, Pibble, do not strike the desk with your head in that manner. You will do yourself an injury. The pomegranates were of an unusual ovoid nature…”


Prince continued to smolder with fury well into the afternoon. It didn’t help that, as the class went to their flying lesson, Parkinson was stepping on his heels at every opportunity.

Finally Prince turned around and snarled, “Am I in your way? Did you want to lead the class, Parkinson?”

“What makes you think I have an earthly where we’re going?” Parkinson grinned his most infuriating grin again. Prince made a disgusted noise and walked on, Parkinson continuing to tread on his heels.

“You’re going to have fun this afternoon,” said Parkinson. “Flying lessons! The one subject your gi-normous brain won’t help you with. In fact, I expect it will weigh you down so much that you can only fly upside down, with your humongous brain dangling below, Pibble.”

Prince said nothing.

Prince had a large estate, well shielded from Muggles.

Prince had a huge expanse of thinly-populated moor adjoining that estate.

Prince had a mansion containing no less than thirty nine broomsticks, some part of the historical collection, some left behind by departed family members, all of them his personal property.

Prince had been flying daily since he was nine.

And Prince would be delighted to rub Parkinson’s face in that fact.

The walked out into the courtyard, and several groaned when they saw another class already waiting near the broom shed.

“Why can’t we do this alone?” Abigail demanded through her teeth.

“It’s not fair!” Dierdre whined. “It’s bad enough that Gryffindor outdid us, and in Potions of all things! And it’s just a matter of time before the Ravenclaws make us look stupid in Herbology. Why do we have to look like clowns in front of Hufflepuff, too?”

“Shut your piehole,” growled Parkinson. “We’re not going to look like clowns.”

“Well,” said Prince. “Not all of us.” Still, he wasn’t terribly pleased, either. He couldn’t help feeling that this was, after all, his class and his house, and the more incompetent his classmates looked, the more poorly it reflected on him and all of Slytherin. And Parkinson, at least, was going to look like a colossal idiot, if Prince had anything to say about it.

They took their place by the broom sheds, glaring silently at the Hufflepuffs. Completely oblivious to the glowering, a beefy blond Hufflepuff boy stepped forward, holding out his hand to shake. “Hello, I’m Escalus Rootle. We’re all looking forward to learning with you and building school unity together!”

It’s a junior Cornelius Fudge, Prince thought, nursing his surly and bitter mood. When Rootle thrust the hand at him, he simply folded his arms over his chest. Unfazed, the boy moved to Parkinson, who pulled a toothpick out of his pocket and started chewing it, staring insolently. Rootle moved down the row of Slytherins, none of whom made the slightest motion to shake hands.

“Never mind,” said Rootle. “Didn’t really expect more from Slytherin. I’m sure in time we’ll all be friends. Here comes the professor!”

A tall, powerful, athletic-looking wizard with a big handlebar moustache bounded into the courtyard. “Well, well. Here we are!” he boomed amiably. “I am Professor Trilby. A sound mind in a sound body, that’s what we aim for here. So, you want to fly, do you? Everybody stand by a broomstick. Try to call it up into your hand, and when you have done so, you may mount it and attempt to hover.”

Prince’s broom, naturally, came immediately to his summons, and he was off the ground almost before Trilby had finished speaking. To his surprise, Goyle lifted off nearly as quickly. These wonky old school brooms must have tremendous weight-carrying capacity, he thought, having the sense for once to keep it to himself.

“Excellent!” Trilby shouted. “You natural flyers move about and try not to crash into each other too much. I’ll be down here helping the duffers. If you get into trouble, make sure to scream as loudly as possible. Now, then, Miss Mays, jumping up and down won’t make a lick of difference…”

Prince sat on his broomstick, looking sourly down at the Slytherins below. Fish and Lovecraft, who had been planning all week to be selected for the Quidditch team the moment they set bum to broomstick, were still trying to make their brooms leap to their hands. Nearly everyone else was squabbling or shoving. Parkinson had actually managed to hover, immediately rolling over and hitting his head on the ground, thanks to the Topsy-Turvy charm Prince had put on his broomstick, but it was little comfort.

Your house will be like your family at the school, Professor McGonagall had said. What a sick joke. Prince couldn’t imagine anything more unlike a family than the Slytherin first years. Hufflepuff were different. Friends called encouragement to each other. Nobody was jeering or mocking their housemates. Rootle, flying, if a bit unsteadily, was bustling from one student to the next like an elder brother, offering words of advice.

Prince remembered his sixth birthday, when his sisters had taken him out on the moor and given him his first flying lesson. In complete secrecy, of course. His parents would have hit the roof. His throat constricted painfully at the thought, and he pushed the memory away.

“Here, now, you’re not doing that right,” said an eager, officious voice.

“Eh?” Prince turned to see that Rootle had floated up behind him.

“You want to keep your elbows tucked well in,” said the Hufflepuff. “They’re less exposed to injury that way. And you’ll have better control if you move your hands—“

“Of all the colossal crust!” Prince declared. “Who asked your advice? I’ll have you know I was flying before you could shave, me hearty.”

“I don’t shave,” said Rootle.

“But you COULD,” said Prince, making his point.

Rootle opened his mouth, closed it, and flew back to his housemates looking confused and ruffled.

Prince tucked his elbows in.

For some reason he felt better, and could now enjoy the comic spectacle of Parkinson flying along with his head bouncing on the turf. He also noticed for the first time that the Hufflepuffs didn’t seem universally delighted with the coaching of their classmate, and even thought he heard one gentle-looking lass tell Rootle to “get stuffed.”

“No, no, Parkinson,” boomed Trilby. “That’s not right at all. Let me show you. To sit one’s broomstick properly, one needs only to have a proper sense of equilibrium and learn to reflexively—YOWP!”

Prince winced as Trilby’s head crunched into a patch of gravel, then gave up watching the class to practice low flying over the lake, his toes sending up a shimmering fan of spray in his wake.

By the time class ended, Prince’s boots were squelching pleasantly, and he suspected he had caught a snail in one of them. He hung his broom on the rack and headed for the door
as Parkinson entered furiously, his hair mussed and grass-stained. “You!” Parkinson growled.

“You!” Prince responded.

“Someone put a jinx on my broomstick,” Parkinson said, giving Prince a light shove backward. “Who do you imagine that could have been?”

“The broom shed is open to the general public, I believe,” said Prince. “It might have been anyone with a sense of humor.”

“Yeah? I know someone who thinks he’s funny,” Parkinson shoved him again.

“You’d better watch yourself,” said Prince. “I have the death sentence in twelve systems!”

“And I am so tired of all your bleeding NONSENSE!” Parkinson snarled, shoving Prince right back into the broom rack. Several aged Comets clattered to the floor around his feet. The rest of the class had backed away to the walls, watching with eager interest.

“Are you trying to incite me to a duel, Parkinson?” Prince asked. “Because from what I’ve seen of your classwork, I could cut you to ribbons while you were still sorting out which end of the wand to hold.”

Parkinson snorted, but he didn’t shove Prince again. In fact, he stepped back slightly. “You haven’t the guts to fight with your fists,” he sneered.

“And you haven’t the wits to fight with your words,” said Prince. “So it seems we’re at an impasse. Wands at ten paces, then?”

Parkinson seemed about to lunge at him again, but someone interposed himself between the two. “This has gone on long enough!” he barked. Stop it at once!”

It was Rootle. “What’s the matter with you two?” he demanded. “Hogwarts can’t stand without all four houses united, but how can the houses unite if they are crumbling from within? Come on! You are brothers in Slytherin! You are part of the same great house! Whatever your differences are, surely they’re not more important than that? Why not shake hands and make up?”

“Who do you think you are?” demanded Parkinson.

“Someone who loves peace,” said Rootle pompously.

“And who is into hand shaking,” said Prince. “If you don’t mind, we’re trying to have a duel, so kindly remove yourself from the demilitarized zone.”

“ I will not. Let’s just go quietly to the Great Hall and talk things over.”

Parkinson tried to dodge around Rootle, but the large Hufflepuff was surprisingly fast on his feet. “I’m not going to let you fight,” he said. “Someone, get the professor!”

“If you won’t let me fight him, then I’ll just have to fight you, first,” Parkinson snarled, giving the surprised Rootle a shove, now. “Put up your hands, mate,”

“I’m not going to fight you,”

“Oh, yeah?” said Parkinson. He punched Rootle in the mouth. Rootle staggered. “Come on!” Parkinson yelled. “Let’s see what you’ve got.”

"I said, I'm not going to fight you," said Rootle, clutching his jaw. Rootle was very much mistaken, Prince believed.

"What's this, what's this, then?" Trilby said from the shed doorway. "Muggle fighting? Who started this?”

Every Slytherin pointed at once to Rootle. He had achieved Slytherin house unity after all.

Before the Hufflepuffs could object, Trilby boomed, "Excellent, my boy! That's what's wanted at your age, good solid physical exercise! Half the ills of the wizarding world come from people depending on magic for everything, you know. No better way to work out one's frustrations and build muscle tone and endurance than with a good old-fashioned round of fisticuffs. I'll be the referee, shall I?"

"Are you crackers?" Parkinson demanded.

"Now, each of you start in one corner--that's right--and there are, of course, rules. No magic permitted, naturally, and only blows with the fists are legal, so no kicking, biting, use of elbows, et cetera. No punching allowed at the back of the neck, the kidneys, or below the belt. No holding, no--"

"Professor Trilby!" said Rootle, "I can't believe you're encouraging this sort of--"

"Oh, bugger this for a turnip," said Parkinson, pulling out his wand. "Petrefacto intotus!" Rootle dropped like a rock, screaming.

"Mr. Parkinson," said Trilby sharply. "You can not have been listening to the rules attentively. Five points from Slytherin."

"Professor Trilby!" said a Hufflepuff girl. "I think Escalus is turning to stone!"

"Rubbish, rubbish, it's only his hands and feet," said Trilby. "Get up, boy. Walk it off, you'll feel better. You'll see."

"Five points?" said Parkinson in disbelief. "Is that all?"

Rootle still lay on the dirt floor, shaking. "I think it's spreading!" said another Hufflepuff. "It's getting worse."

"Get a healer!" wailed Rootle in a wobbly voice.

"What, for a piddly little student jinx? Oh, very well, if you insist on magical solutions. But magic is a crutch, my boy, a crutch! Stubbins, go fetch Nurse Bannock. Hurry along. Now, Rootle, try some finger and toe flexing exercises while we wait. I feel certain they will help if you only make the effort."

"Where did you learn a curse like that?" whispered Nott with admiration.

"It wasn't supposed to do that," said Parkinson, as intrigued with Rootle's condition as anyone. "Not that I'm complaining."

The Slytherins hovered on the edge of the crowd of worried Hufflepuffs, uncertainly waiting for some further lecture or punishment. When it became clear none was forthcoming, Parkinson shrugged and said, "Let's go.” He swaggered out, followed by his friends and the rest of the Slytherins.

Prince, bringing up the rear, paused for a better look at Rootle. The boy's hands and feet had enlarged and squared off into craggy shapes that looked like infant mountains. Little stones kept rolling toward him from the surrounding dirt, and seemed to be merging with his skin. A cracked, limestone grey texture was slowly working its way up the boy's neck.

"Blessed are the peacemakers," Prince muttered as he put on his hat and departed, resolving never to challenge Parkinson to a duel again.


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Last edited by Inkwolf; August 9th, 2010 at 8:42 pm.
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Old August 9th, 2010, 8:21 pm
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I trusted Severus Snape
 
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Re: The Prince of Hogwarts (An ASP at Hogwarts prequel)

6

Prince stirred the cauldron, carefully watching the contents. He was on his eighth attempt to recreate his serendipitous invention of goo, and he believed he was on the right track this time. He had come to the conclusion that Puddleby’s cooling charm had been a vital factor in the goo’s formation, and this time he would try it himself. It didn’t look too hard.

“Petrofactus Indolum!” On the other side of the dormitory, Parkinson was doing much the same thing. He had collected a number of Professor Longbottom’s superfluous Flitterblooms, and was trying his best to recreate the misspoken spell of the afternoon. From hearing Parkinson’s repeated mangling of the words, Prince had come to the conclusion that the numbskull had originally been trying to cast Petrificus Totalis, a reasonably harmless spell that had been mentioned in the first chapter of The Dark Arts and What to Do About Them.

“Terrificus Teetotum!” Parkinson shouted, and this time he made something happen. The Flitterblooom at which he was pointing his wand spun crazily faster and faster, its branches tearing to shreds as they whipped against Parkinson’s desk, bed, and friends. When it finally stopped spinning, Parkinson tossed the plant into the forest of freakish, frazzled Flitterblooms he had already mangled, and chose a fresh plant as his next target.

“Porrific…Petroficus…er..Here, you! Stop that dratted singing?” Parkinsons demanded. “How can anyone think?”

“Knees up, knees up, never get the breeze up, knees up Mother Brown,” sang Prince. “Oh, sorry. Didn’t realize I was. Still, you’ll like this next bit. All together now! Oh, my, what a rotten song! What a rotten song, what a—“

“Pecticklus Tortahdum!” Prince dropped to the floor and took cover behind his desk, even though Parkinson’s spell attempts were only getting results one time out of about twenty. This effort appeared to be another dud, anyway. Parkinson swore. “And you keep quiet, Prince, or I’ll have another go!” he threatened.

Prince chuckled. It was becoming clear that Parkinson had about the same chance of recreating the horrific stone curse as he had of chaining a dragon with a bootlace. Still, there was always the chance that some disastrous new random curse would spew from his wand. Meanwhile, however, Prince was cradling a brand new batch of sparkling blue goo.

The next morning, Prince rejoined the second year students at breakfast, where he shared the goo-making instructions with all who were interested. Even several of the older students jotted down the ingredients. Prince found all the attention very flattering.

The school day began with a study period, perhaps to allow students a rest after their midnight astronomy class the night before. Prince had barely been able to maintain his calm when arriving at the scene of Albus Dumbledore’s death. Well, actually, he had not managed to contain his excitement at all. In the interest of getting on with astronomy, Professor Sinistra had pointed out exactly where each Death Eater had stood, where Dumbledore had gone over the wall, where Harry Potter had been had immobile and invisible, and where Severus Snape had stood when he committed the terrible deed. Prince learned little about Astronomy that night, but counted it his best class of the day.

He took advantage of his free morning to visit the school library. Walking into the vast hall, he breathed in the pleasantly familiar scents of paper, glue, and preservative spells. As nobody was at the reference desk, Prince set out to find the history section on his own.

As he came around a corner, a familiar sight brought him to a halt. There was a gap between the books on one shelf at about shoulder height, and on the other side, Prince could just see the foot and leg of a house elf…a house elf wearing a pillowcase with a crest embroidered on the corner.

Wriggle was back.

Prince pretended to browse the shelves, casually moving nearer. Suddenly he lunged, thrusting his arm through the gap to seize the elf’s ankle and shouting, “HA!”

There was a screech and a series of thumps on the other side of the shelf. The ankle twisted out of his grip, followed by a louder thump. Wincing, Prince rounded the bookshelf to find a completely unfamiliar house elf lying dazed on the library floor, surrounded by books that had fallen and were still falling off the upper shelf. The embroidery on his pillowcase was not the crest of the Prince family, but of Hogwarts.

“Oh! I am so, so sorry!” said Prince, helping the house elf up. “I mistook you for someone else. Here, let me put away some of these—“

“DO NOT BE TOUCHING THOSE BOOKS!” said the house elf. “The boy would certainly put them in the wrong order. Shelving is being Blotto’s job.”

“I am sorry,” said Prince again. “Is there anything I can do to help?”

The elf shrugged. “Blotto was looking for misshelved books to return to their proper order. Now Blotto is having work to do, and is happy. The boy has done enough.”

Prince nodded, relieved. House elves liked extra work, within reason, he understood from his long association with his own servant. Well, if it would make up for the bump on Blotto’s head, Prince could provide more of it.

“I am looking for the history section,” he said. “I would be very grateful if you could show me to it.”

“Really?” said Blotto as he quickly returned the fallen books to their places. “There is not being many that ask Blotto for that. Come with Blotto, Blotto shows you the way.”

He led Prince through the maze of shelves to a section crammed with ancient, dusty, leather-bound tomes. Prince saw plenty of familiar books like Trumbull’s History of the Goblin Wars and The Legacy of Druidism, shelved among scads of books Prince had longed to read, like Merlin’s Age and Flutterbyes: the History and Social Impact of Flight. There were uncountable books he had never even heard of, and his fingers itched to open them now; A Vacuum in Power: Why the Grindelwald War was Inevitable; and Ancient Gods, Ancient Wizards; and Cauldrons Ain’t for Cooking: the Liberation of Witches; and Twelve Centuries of Leprechaun Political Influence.

“My dear Blotto,” said Prince. “I shall be camping in this aisle for the next seven years. Pardon me while I fetch my pillow and marshmallows.”

“Blotto regrets that is not being possible,” said the elf. “However, Blotto would be happy to check out materials to the very odd boy.”

Prince started making his selections. He found something missing, and frowned. “Where’s the modern history, Blotto?”

“Recent history is shelved from here,” Blotto pointed to a bookshelf, “to here.” He moved his finger three inches.

“Is that all?” asked Prince.

Blotto shrugged. “Blotto is not responsible for collection development.”

“Apparently nobody is.” Prince looked closer. There were a couple of popular, child-appropriate Harry Potter biographies, a thin book about Kingsley Shacklebolt, The Phoenix Rises: Vigilantes Versus Voldemort, and The Sweet, Sweet History of Honeydukes. There were two more books, and Prince pulled them out, holding them up as if he had discovered a pair of dead horklumps on the shelf.

Blotto had the good grace to blush. “Those books is having been donated, and considering the current collection in modern history, or lack thereof, we is not turning them down.”

“But!” Prince held them up again. They were Voldemort Betrayed: The Tragic Sacrifice of Thomas Riddle, and Darkest Dumbledore, both by Newton Avery.

“The Hogwarts Library is not censoring books,” said Blotto.

“Even when they’re complete bollocks?” demanded Prince. “Don’t you at least have a responsibility to represent the true side of the story?”

“SHHHHHHH!” Suddenly glaring down at Prince and Blotto was the vulture-like face of a ghost.

“Blotto was just about to be telling the strange boy to shhhhhhh,” said Blotto nervously. “But he is asking some good questions.” The ghostly old woman turned her scowl on Prince.

“Don’t I remember you?” she creaked, here eyes narrowing. “Weren’t you always trying to sneak into the restricted Section?”

“You may have me confused with my cousin, Severus Snape,” Prince said. “It is said that I bear a resemblance to him.” It was said mainly by Albert Severus Prince, himself.

“No,” growled the librarian. “Kenan Prince! You rotter! Is that really you? The nerve you have, showing up here again, after you stood me up at the Sorcerer’s Cotillion and went out boating with Kerensa Black! I ought to slap you silly!”

“Er—no,” said Prince hastily. “That must have been my grandfather. I am an entirely different Prince, Abert Severus, who has never been here before.”

The spook polished its spectral spectacles and peered at him more closely. “As you say,” she said, a certain resentful disappointment in her tone. “I don’t know what I can have been thinking. That was all long ago. I am Madame Pince, head librarian. How can I help you?”

“I was just remarking that your modern history section is woefully inadequate,” said Prince. “ And seems to have become infested with rubbish.”

“Budget is limited,” the old ghost’s shrill voice creaked. “And I only have the authority to order general subjects. Books related to Hogwarts classes must be requested by the professor who teaches the subject in question. Professor Binns has not gotten around to submitting a purchase order in, oh…forty years or so.”

“But that’s mad,” said Prince. “Can’t something be done?”

“The Headmaster has the authority to request materials acquisitions on any subject,” said Madame Pince. “No doubt he would be happy to set aside a suitable portion of the budget for the purchase of modern history books, if you asked him, if the money was available, and if the books in question didn’t all point out what an incompetent old poop he was!”

“So,” said Prince, “the school is going to be limited to Newton Avery’s version of modern history?”

“Unless you have a better solution,” Madam Pince creaked at him. “You may find it comforting to recall that all history is questionable, as all accounts are colored by the attitudes, wishes and agendas of those who recorded it.”

“Well, to a degree,” Prince agreed. “But having a different view of the facts is different from making up your own facts.”

“Is it?”

“Well, of course!”

“What if I told you Merlin was a half-goblin whose favorite dish was raw donkey brains?” asked Madame Pince. “What if I wrote it in a book? Would you believe it?”

“Of course not!”

“Why not?”

“Because I know enough about Merlin to know it’s nonsense,” said Prince.

“How do you know?” demanded Madame Pince. “Because you’ve read other histories? And how do you know they were accurate? Are you saying that anything different from what you already know must be false?”

Of course not! But everybody knows—“

“Oh, so anything that contradicts popular opinion is false, is that your criteria for validating new knowledge?” Madame Pince asked.

“Of course not!” Prince had to pause and think. Hoping he didn’t sound too much like Professor Binns, he said, ”Accurate history is based on verifiable facts researched by competent, trained scholars—“

“And what if two scholars disagree?” demanded Madame Pince. “Which do you believe, all evidence being equal?”

“Er…well,” said Prince. “One keeps an open mind, of course…”

Rubbish!” Madame Pince screeched. “One believes what one WANTS to believe, just like everybody else. Have you looked into and examined Newton Avery’s scholarly qualifications? Were you a witness to the events of the Voldemort wars? Or do you simply reject the perspective of these histories because they conflict with every thing you thought you knew, and believed and, most importantly, WANTED to believe? Well?”

Prince felt himself turning red. He had no grounds for argument, and it horrified him. “Here, hang on,” he protested desperately. “You’re not telling me these are true?” He held up the Avery books again.

“Utter codswallop from title page to index,” cackled Madame Pince. Prince let out a sigh of relief.

“Then why keep them on the shelf?” he demanded.

“They portray an accurate portrait of the reasoning and mindset of the modern Voldemort revisionist, and may thus provide insight and unique information to scholars studying our times,” said Madame Pince. “Besides, they circulate surprisingly well.”

“Well, of course, that makes it all lovely,” said Prince. “Can’t you at least shelve the things somewhere else? Like maybe in Abnormal Psychology, between Bonkers, Bonkers and Daft Wizards I Have Known?”

“It’s an option,” said Madame Pince. “But then we’d have next to nothing in our Modern History section.”

A tiny owl flew into the aisle and perched on Blotto’s head. The elf took the note it carried, glanced at it, and passed it on to Prince. He unfolded it.

“Mr. Prince,” it read. “Please come to my office immediately. “ It was signed by Professor Sylvanus.

“You’d better run along,” said Madame Pince. “Pity. I was enjoying our conversation.”

It was with some trepidation that Prince made his way to the dungeon. Why would Professor Sylvanus summon him? Was it because of the class he had missed? Was he in trouble for something else? Surely not the harmless charm he had placed on Parkinson’s broomstick. Could it be about the incident with Rootle? Prince hardly saw how he could be considered to blame for that one. It was Parkinson’s doing. He had only witnessed it.

Could that be it? Were they calling him in as a witness?

Was Parkinson being expelled?

Prince picked up the pace and hurried to the door of Professor Sylvanus’s office. His hopes seemed justified—Parkinson was standing beside Professor Sylvanus’s desk, his face dark with fury.

“Ah, come in, Mr. Prince,” said Professor Sylvanus. The Slytherin house head was a lovely woman with dusky skin, eyes of a deep violet shade, and a gypsy cast to her features. Though she used the office that had once been Severus Snape’s, Prince had not felt particularly inclined to visit it. Professor Sylvanus had an oddly hypnotic gaze that made Prince feel anxious to be elsewhere whenever she focused on him.

Probably she just has one eye higher than the other, or something, Prince thought, but he turned and looked around the office to avoid her gaze. The walls were covered with horns, hides and scales of particularly dangerous dark creatures, along with fierce-looking weapons and antique traps. A Kelpie-skin rug still wore the charmed golden bridle that had been used to capture the creature.

“What do you have to say about this incident, Mr. Prince?” asked Professor Sylvanus.

“Oh, ah,” said Prince, turning his attention back to the situation. “Yes, I was there. It was all most horrible. How is Rootle doing? Is there any word from the hospital wing?”

“Escalus Rootle is alive and out of danger, though far from well,” said Professor Sylvanus. “He is being slowly decalcified and should be back in class within a week or two. That is not the incident to which I am referring, however.”

“Isn’t Parkinson being expelled?” His face must have shown his disappointment, because Parkinson glowered even more fiercely.

“Mr. Parkinson has been disciplined already, by Professor Trilby, on the site,” Professor Sylvanus said firmly. “He took five points from Slytherin. I have no intention of undermining my colleagues by questioning their decisions or augmenting their disciplinary penalties. And by the way, Mr. Parkinson,” she added, “you are on detention for the next four Saturdays.”

“What?” said Parkinson. “But you said—“

“It will serve as a reminder that when you erase my blackboard messages and substitute your own, it would be wise to return later and remove the evidence. You will spend the next four Saturdays assisting Professor Puddleby, the head of Hufflepuff House. He usually doesn’t work his assistants too hard. Usually. Now, since Mr. Prince apparently has no idea why he is here, would you please repeat what you were telling me earlier?”

“I woke up this morning, and my wand was broken! He—“ Professor Sylvanus cleared her throat and Parkinson amended his statement. “SOMEBODY broke it while I was asleep!”

“Do you know anything about this, Mr. Prince?”

He didn’t and said so.

“Do you have any idea who might have done this?”

Prince thought. Someone from Hufflepuff seemed the obvious answer, but how would they have made it into the Slytherin dormitory?

“It had to be him!” Parkinson exploded. “Nobody else would dare to! Nobody else—“

“I wouldn’t touch your wand with a ten-foot polecat, Parkinson. I’ve seen you picking your nose with it.”

“I NEVER DID!”

“That is enough, gentlemen,” said Professor Sylvanus, stressing the final word. “Mr. Parkinson, Mr. Prince denies having broken your wand. You will accept that answer unless you have evidence to the contrary. Now, let’s see what we can do to remedy the situation. It may be possible to mend your wand. Have you brought the pieces?”

Parkinson groped in his pocket, and dropped a handful of small round buttons of wood. They rolled across the professor’s desk like beads broken from a string.

“Well, so much for that idea,” said Professor Sylvanus. She pulled open a desk drawer. “See if one of these will suit you until we can arrange for you to be taken in for a new wand fitting.” Parkinson rummaged in the junk drawer among broken dark detectors and frazzled quills, and finally pulled out a battered-looking wand of pale wood with several colorful stains on it. It sputtered weakly in his hand.

“All right then. I believe you have a potions lecture beginning shortly,” said Professor Sylvanus. “Mr. Parkinson, you may go. Mr. Prince, I want a word with you.” Parkinson left the room. Prince waited. Professor Sylvanus sat at her desk and fixed him with her eerie stare as Parkinson’s footsteps receded.

Finally she spoke, “I understand that last night’s unfortunate incident occurred when Rootle tried to intercede in a duel between you and Mr. Parkinson.”

“Yes, well,” said Prince. He couldn’t think of anything else to add.

“Mr. Prince,” said Professor Sylvanus. “I have heard a great deal about you from your other professors. You are quite possibly the most promising student of your year, and we need you to stay out of trouble. You’re a natural leader. Your fellow students look up to you. They admire you. And they will follow your example.”

Prince looked at her as if she was insane. Did Professor Sylvanus have no idea what was happening in the first year class at all?

“Oh, well, it was worth a shot,” said the Professor. “The fact is that dueling takes two, and you are, in your way and under the circumstances, as responsible as Mr. Parkinson for yesterday’s debacle. I understand that there is an ongoing conflict between you and Mr. Parkinson. I also understand that you are having trouble getting along with your other classmates. Do you have any idea why that is?”

“They’re morons,” was the response that came instantly to Prince’s lips.

“I’m sure they appreciate your high opinion of them,” Professor Sylvanus said, leaning back in her chair. “No doubt it inclines them to think of you as a dear friend and staunch companion. Now, really, Mr. Prince, surely a young man of your resources ought to be able to find a way to get along? A clever boy, from a prominent family, and wealthy on top of it, and yet not a single classmate is attempting to at least curry favor with you. There’s something very strange about it. Perhaps you should spend some time pondering what you can do to make your life at Hogwarts easier and less filled with curses, hexes and accusations. Make some friends, Mr. Prince. I think you will find you need them. You are going to be spending seven years with these people, and that is a very long time to spend surrounded by enemies.”

As if it was his fault his housemates were idiots! As if it was his fault Parkinson, Talbot and Goyle were monsters! As if it was his fault Fish and Lovecraft could talk about nothing but Quidditch, and the girls were ninnies with heads full of clothes and makeup and popular singers!

“The second-years like me,” Prince said sulkily. “Is there any way I could be moved up a year?”

“It’s a possibility,” said Professor Sylvanus. “All of your teachers would have to attest that you had completed the studies of the current year, and the Headmaster would have to agree to the promotion. It would involve a great deal of study and hard work, of course. And keeping out of trouble.”

“Well, then,” said Prince. “I know what I have to do, don’t I?”

Professor Sylvanus raised her eyebrows. “You would rather give up all your free time in the attempt to gain a year of study, than to make a few personal compromises to get along with your classmates?”

“That’s about the size of it,” said Prince.

“I see,” said Professor Sylvanus. “Then there’s little more to be said. Get out your wand, Mr. Prince. I am going to teach you a shielding charm. Something tells me you are going to need it.”


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  #7  
Old August 15th, 2010, 7:32 pm
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Inkwolf  Undisclosed.gif Inkwolf is offline
I trusted Severus Snape
 
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Re: The Prince of Hogwarts (An ASP at Hogwarts prequel)

7

For the most part, Prince ignored Puddleby’s potions lecture. He could read the textbook faster than Puddleby could talk about it, and reading it straight out spared him all the extraneous repetition and explanation Puddleby seemed to find necessary. Maybe the likes of Goyle and Talbot needed to hear three times why one didn’t mix dragon’s blood with toadstools, but Prince got it in one.

When class was over, Prince rather nervously went to Puddleby, who was organizing his lecture notes neatly in a color-coded folder. He hoped Puddleby didn’t think him equally responsible for Rootle, as Professor Sylvanus did. He needn’t have worried. Puddleby actually looked pleased to see him approach.

“Ah, Mr….Prince, isn’t it?” said Puddleby. “What can I help you with? Something in the lecture you need explained?” His smile slipped as soon as Prince explained what he wanted.

“Out of the question,” said Puddleby firmly. “An accelerated potions course? It is simply impossible to teach every student in the school at a different pace. Our lesson plan is set up to be an optimal learning experience for all. Potions can not be rushed. Hurrying along, willy-nilly, through complicated, delicate instructions can only lead to disaster. It can not be done, it should not be done, and it will not be done in my classroom. Do I make myself clear?”

It was clear to Prince that he would be studying Potions on his own, in secret.

Transfiguration was dull that afternoon. Nearly all of the class was still working on their toothpicks. Parkinson’s toothpick, in fact, which had been nearly completely transformed into a needle, seemed to be regressing back to wood. The spare wand spit sparks all over the desk as Parkinson gritted his teeth and fumed.

“Yes, Mr. Prince,” said Professor McGonagall, noticing his raised hand. She looked at him sternly over her spectacles. “This is not about Severus Snape again, is it?”

“I was wondering if I could get on with the next lesson,” said Prince. “I’m trying to get ahead in my studies. There’s been some talk about the possibility of my being advanced to the second year.”

For a moment, Professor McGonagall looked almost as apprehensive as Puddleby had. Then she looked around at the rest of the class—already a day behind on the lesson plan—and sighed. “Very well, Mr. Prince, you may study at your own pace. However, before you attempt ANY transfiguration, you must submit three parchments for my approval, proving that you understand the principles of the change you are attempting. I suggest you start by reading chapters two and three. You will be transforming a thimble into a goblet, which will involve a considerable alteration in size and mass.”

Prince happily settled down to study his textbook, pausing only occasionally to pepper the professor with Snape queries, when she seemed not to be too busy.

“So,” said Parkinson to Prince, as they made their way up the many flights of stairs to Charms class. “You’ll be leaving us, then?”

“Thinks he’s better than we are,” said Talbot darkly. “Thinks he’s too clever for our sort.”

“He can think what he likes, as long as we’re rid of him,” said Parkinson. “How soon do you go? Is there any way I can help?”

Prince didn’t respond. He was still trying to finish chapter three.

At least Professor Flitwick was enthusiastic about his ambitions. In fact, he promised twenty points to Slytherin for every week ahead of the lesson schedule Prince managed to advance.

“And don’t think I’ll make it easy for you, young man!” he said, eyes sparkling with excitement. “Every Tuesday after class, I will expect you to show me, not only that you have learned your new charms, but that you remember the old ones as well!”

It was almost enough to make Prince forget the teary-eyed welcome he had received on the first day of class.

That evening he read his potions textbook until his head hurt too much to continue. Then he found an unused dungeon to practice some of the more interesting and complicated mixtures.

Saturday morning was fine, and it was tempting to put aside his studies and explore the castle and grounds. He compromised with a trip to visit Dumbledore’s tomb before finding a shady spot to start writing his Transfiguration pages for Professor McGonagall.

After lunch, during which the well-meaning second-years had quizzed him on all the first-year knowledge they could remember to ask him about, he returned to the tree, this time with his astronomy book.

Prince was as fond of a lovely night sky as anyone, had often wished he could identify all the constellations, and had a certain fascination with the mysteries and wonders of outer space, fueled by science fiction thrillers he had seen on the Prendergast’s television. But that was as far as his casual interest in Astronomy went. He understood how vital knowledge of the stars could be in spell casting and potion-making, but it was all a touch too mathematical for his taste. Still, Astronomy had to be learned as well, so he buckled down and read, completing those exercises and calculations at the end of the first chapter which did not actually require being able to see the stars. He had a vague recollection that Professor Sinistra might have assigned it as homework anyway, while he was busy leaning over the tower wall to try and see where Dumbledore’s body had landed.

Finishing the last tedious calculation, he returned to the book and the next chapter. He never noticed when someone sat down beside him. Not until he was poked in the ribs, and a voice said, “Boo!”

Prince jumped. “Oh…hello, Belinda.”

“You’ve been awfully quiet today,” Belinda Redlin said. “Elroy is saying how nice it is not to put up with all that singing and nattering, but some of us miss it. Are you really going to try and get advanced to the second year? That’s just so cool.” She moved closer to him.

“Um, yes, that’s the plan,” said Prince, looking around a little warily for the toothy Zeusie. Under a nearby shrub, something invisible was shredding his Astronomy homework. “OY!” Prince shouted, jumping up.

“Bad Zeusie! Oh, you naughty boy! Come here at once!” said Belinda, covering up a giggle. Prince retrieved the spit-soaked shreds of parchment. There was nothing for it, he would have to do it over. The calculations had been tedious the first time, how much more boring could they be the second?

“Oh, don’t be angry,” Belinda said, patting the invisible little beast. “It’s too lovely a day. I heard you live on the coast. Have you ever been sailing?”

“Lots of times.”

“Oh, good! Come sailing with me!” She tugged at his hand, eyes shining.

Prince hesitated. He had only just started studying to be promoted. It seemed awfully early to cave in and go have fun instead.

Seeing his reluctance, Belinda sighed. “Hagrid says I can take out a sailboat,” she said. “But only if I take someone with me, and if one of us knows what they’re doing. I figured it didn’t look too hard, and Zeusie counted as somebody, but things have got all wonky and I can’t figure out where the ropes go. So, please? Pretty please?” She looked up at him, with wide, hopeful eyes.

“I suppose I could take a break,” said Prince. “But only for an hour. Or two.” The day was made for sailing, with its clear sky and steady breeze. Besides, his head would stop aching by the time he went back to work.

Belinda gave a squeak of pleasure and led him down to the lake.

Prince had not given much thought to Belinda before, apart from his consternation over her illegal pet. She was usually quiet and kept very much to herself. He had not noticed her classwork, and didn’t remember any of the professors either praising or correcting it. That probably meant she did all right, and was possibly even not such a numbskull as most of the other classmates. “The school sailboats should be fairly easy to control,” he said. “I mean, when they don’t have a course already set to sail for you, they control just like any sailboat, only they’ve got charms to —oh, murder. By Baba Yaga’s beatified brown babushka!”

“Well, I never sailed before,” said Belinda defensively as Prince examined the web of knots and lines that had the mast twisted and the sail hopelessly clumped.

“One supposes you might have seen a sailboat at some time or other, though,” said Prince. “Where have you put the daggerboard? Oh, heavens, no. Never mind, we shall soon have it put right! I’ve learned a knot-undoing charm. It would be best if we started right from the beginning of rigging, so you know what to do next time.”

“You are SO clever,” said Belinda, as she stepped back and let Prince undo the sorry tangle while she tossed sticks for Zeusie to fetch.

Prince had everything undone in short order, and laid out in readiness to begin again. He was fairly certain he remembered how to do it. Wriggle had not allowed him to go sailing for two years, but that hadn’t stopped him from trying to sneak off and do it anyway, or from helping guests to get boats rigged. He called Belinda.

“Can’t you just do it for me?” she asked. “I’m sort of busy.”

“No,” said Prince sternly. “You wanted to sail, and I’m going to teach you how. I don’t have time to take you sailing any time you like.” He saw Abigail Mays and the other girls sitting further along the shore and giggling together over a magazine. He called out to them, “Anyone else want to learn to rig a sailboat?”

“Oh, they won’t come,” Belinda scoffed. “Witch Weekly put out a photo special on Dugan Cadugan, and they’re still busy ogling the pictures.”

“Who in Prospero’s pants is Dugan Cadugan?” Prince asked.

“The lead ocarinist from Kinky Leprechaun, of course!” said Belinda. “Do you live in a hole in the ground or what?”

“Of course not!” said Prince. “I’ve heard of Kinky Leprechaun. They’re just too mainstream for me. I say, do you ever listen to Muggle music?” Prince noticed a timid-looking Hufflepuff boy hovering uncertainly nearby, and was about to demand to know what he was hanging around for, when he realized that the boy must have heard the invitation to learn sailing, and mistook it for a general offer. He was still half inclined to tell the boy to potter off and be about his business, but he looked so timid, and Prince was feeling just ever so slightly guilty about his part in Rootle’s misfortune.

“Yes, all right, come on, then,” he said. At that, a couple of Gryffindor third-years and a second Hufflepuff approached as well. “Well,” said Prince with some surprise. “I believe we’ll need another boat.”

He taught them a few necessary knots, and while they practiced, went to the boathouse. The door was hanging off its hinges, oddly, and he could still see the gouged grass where Belinda must have dragged the boat along. He wondered why she hadn’t simply taken one of the boats already in the water, and why she had troubled to drag the boat so far before rigging it.

He was untying the bow painter of one of the boats when a very loud voice said, “HERE!” behind him, making him jump.

“What do you think you’re up to?” Hagrid demanded. He looked alarmingly fierce.

“Er,” said Prince. “Well, Belinda needed some help with her rigging, so I was going to show her how, but now there’s others who want to learn, and there’s more than can fit in one boat, and—“

“Did you do that to the door?” Hagrid demanded. “There’s a reason this place is kept locked, you know!”

“It was like that when I came in,” said Prince. “Honestly.”

“I really ought to put you on detention!” Hagrid growled. “The boats may not be taken out without permission! It’s posted all over the place. Look, it’s posted right there!”

“But I thought you gave permission to—“

“If I’d given anyone permission, don’t you think the door would have been opened properly?”

Hagrid had a point. Prince couldn’t argue. Even if arguing with an angry half-giant had been a healthy thing to do.

He must have looked stricken and pathetic, because Hagrid’s expression suddenly softened. “Ah, I didn’t mean to shout,” he said. “Go ahead and take it, then. As it’s you.”

Prince thanked his lucky stars again for sentimental guffins.

“You know what you’re about, I expect,” Hagrid continued. “Bein’ a Prince and all.”

“Oh, yes. I’ve been sailing since I don’t remember.”

“Well, mind you keep clear of the inlet in the northeast,” said Hagrid. “There’s a new hatch of kelpies down there, and they’re just at a playful stage.”

Prince promised, and waded along the shore, pulling the sailboat after him until he reached his students, all industriously putting knots in the first boat’s lines. He gave Belinda Redlin a sour glance as he said, “Hagrid’s let us have another boat. So if you’ve got those knots down, let’s have a go at stepping the mast.”

The sailing lesson was a great success. One of the Gryffindors had a broomstick and loaned it to Prince, so he could fly from one boat to the next, giving instructions. The two Gryffindors took one boat, and Belinda sailed with the two Hufflepuffs. Prince found it flattering how they hung on his every instruction, and exhilarating to see even the third years hop to it when he gave an order.

“Pooh, I don’t see why the boats just can’t be spelled to go wherever we want,” Belinda complained, while Prince instructed them on tacking into the wind.

“What fun would that be?” Prince asked. “Then anyone could do it. It wouldn’t be sailing any more.”

“It would be less work,” said Belinda, in spite of the fact that, as far as Prince could see, she was leaving all the actual sailing to the Hufflepuffs, and just lounging in the stern cuddling her pet. “And all this zig-zagging is making Zeusie seasick.”

“My astronomy homework probably disagrees with him,” said Prince coldly.

“Are you still on about that?”

“And, strangely, Hagrid doesn’t seem to remember your asking permission to use a boat.”

“What a poor memory he must have,” said Belinda. “Ooh, look, mermaids!”

Oh, well, no point continuing the quarrel, Prince thought. He would simply have to be wary of anything Belinda told him from now on. “Oy!” he shouted. “Who wants to learn a pirate song?”

Nobody did.

Prince was still trying to work up some interest in singing among the crew when he noticed shouting. It was Hagrid, on the shore.

“What’s he saying?” he asked. The Gryffindor girl—he was in their boat now—said, “I expect he wants us to come in. It’s getting late.”

For the first time, Prince noticed how far the sun had sunk into the clouds, and the red tint to the sky. The entire afternoon had gone.

“Bugger,” he muttered. “I will have to study twice as hard tomorrow.”

But at breakfast the next morning, Jared Scroggs, one of his second year friends, said, “What’s this about you giving sailing lessons?”

And the delightfully pretty Amanda Trollope said, “Oh, I’d LOVE to learn to sail!” and before he knew it, Prince had promised another lesson.

What’s more, word seemed to have spread, and ten more students were waiting on the shore when he arrived. And so was Professor Flitwick.

“I’ve always meant to learn,” he said with a shy smile. “If you wouldn’t mind an old duffer coming along, of course.” There was no difficulty about securing permission this time, and another fine day was spent in teaching new sailors how to rig, steer, trim and tack. Prince found it much more challenging to manage five boat crews, and the first mishap of his teaching career occurred when Professor Flitwick fell overboard, but the little professor was fished out unharmed and still in a good humor.

As the boats went in for the day, Belinda Redlin (who apparently had come along again just for the ride) said to Prince, “So, that creature that follows you around is a house elf? I’d never seen one before, but I’ve been noticing them all over Hogwarts.”

“You must have sharp eyes,” said Prince. He knew the elves were there, of course, but most of them preferred to work unseen and had a talent for keeping out of sight. “That’s Wriggle. He’s gone home to Cornwall now.”

Belinda raised her eyebrows. “If you say so.”

Prince frowned. "What do you mean?"

"Well, he's only lurking over there on the shore," Belinda said, pointing. Prince looked, and thought he saw a flash of pillowcase as something ducked behind a tree. "It's so cute how he follows you everywhere you go! He had a regular fit when you went out in the boat yesterday."

"Excuse me," said Prince. He mounted the school broom and flew to the shore, landing beside the tree.

"It's no use hiding," he growled. "I've seen you now. Come out at once." Wriggle peered around the trunk anxiously.

"How could you, Wriggle?" Prince demanded. "You said you'd go home. You promised!"

"Wriggle promised to go home," Wriggle agreed. "Wriggle went home. Wriggle came back. Simple."

"You know that wasn't what I meant!"

Wriggle remained where he was, peeking out from behind the tree. "Has the young master asked his house head yet if Wriggle can stay?"

"Er...well..." Prince turned red. "I haven't quite got around to it yet, but--"

"And has the young master been wearing his spectacles?"

Prince was silent.

"Wriggle misses the old master, sometimes," said Wriggle. "The old master always kept his promises."

"Oh, yes?" said Prince, hoping to deflect some of the guilt to the other side of the conversation. "Did he keep the spirit of the promise, or just the letter?"

Wriggle fixed him with a stern glance. "Wriggle promised the old master he would look after the young master."

Prince sighed. There was nothing he could do about this. "Wriggle, please, just go home. What must Reginald be up to?"

"The Reginald is not up to much," said Wriggle. "Wriggle has put anti-Reginald curses on everything that the Reginald should not touch. When Wriggle left, he was already being chased down the stairway by an angry antimacassar."

"That is just not right. I will talk to Professor Sylvanus about you soon, I swear. Now go home, and rescue Reginald from the furniture. I don't need looking after here. I'm safe at school."

"So the young master says," said Wriggle. "But the young master is risking a watery grave all weekend, and Wriggle heard Professor Sylvanus say that the Parkinson will get a new wand tomorrow, and there are new watching spells on the dormitory so that Wriggle may not be able to slip in unnoticed this time--"

"WRIGGLE!"

"And Wriggle can not always find the Bloody Baron when he is wanted," Wriggle continued doggedly. "Wriggle saw what happened to the silly handshake boy. The Parkinson is dangerous!"

"Not to me," said Prince. "Not any more. I am learning magic at three times the rate he is. If Elroy Parkinson wants to pick a fight, he'll be sprouting toadstools before the minute has come to an end. By Isobel Gowdie's horrendous harelip! What were you thinking? If I hear about you destroying any more wands on my behalf, I will...I'll...I'll have to seriously think about what to do about it! No more! If anything, you've made matters worse. Parkinson blamed me for his wand, and sink me if the lout wasn't right after all!"

Wriggle drooped. "Wriggle was only doing what he thought best," he muttered.

"Yes, I understand," said Prince. "But it must not happen again. I need you home at Alspellers. Don't return unless I summon you."

"Wriggle has nothing to do at home."

"Well, you've reminded me of something," said Prince. "Rootle--the boy Parkinson cursed—well, Professor Sylvanus seems to be under the impression that it was partly my fault, believe it or not."

Wriggle said nothing, which Prince thought a bit disloyal.

"I thought I'd send him a little get-well gift, but I'm not allowed to go to Hogsmeade yet, and the school shop is so limited. Would you mind putting together a little something for me and delivering it to the hospital wing?"

"Wriggle is on the job!" The elf looked delighted. "What would the young master like to send?"

"I thought some rock candy would be appropriate," said Prince. "And maybe some almond rock."

"Shall Wriggle bake a batch of rock cakes?"

"Splendid!" said Prince. "You always did have a knack for spotting a theme. And, er...thanks for sending the Baron."

"It was Wriggle's pleasure," said Wriggle. "The young master is kind and generous and noble and clever and brave. Wriggle hopes sense will come with age."

He disappeared before Prince could respond. "Of all the cheek!" Prince grumbled, and flew back out to help bring the boats in for the night.




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Old August 21st, 2010, 4:35 am
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Re: The Prince of Hogwarts (An ASP at Hogwarts prequel)

8

Before going to sleep, Prince decided to attend to his correspondence. There seemed to be little he could write the Prendergasts about, except that he was hoping to advance a year, and that he had spent the weekend giving sailing lessons. That hardly seemed worth sending an owl to its possible death by pixie. Similarly, there was next to no reason to write Wriggle, who had apparently been a witness to his entire week at Hogwarts.

So Prince restricted himself to a note to Mr. Burke. Since he often suspected that man of only listening to even his most exciting stories out of politeness, he kept it brief and to the point.

“Dear Mr. Burke,

How are you? How is the search for the Ivory Sasquatch going? I hope you are keeping warm. I like Hogwarts, and got into Slytherin, your old house! So far it looks like I will be at the head of my class, which will not be hard as they are pretty nearly all nincompoops.”

Out of chivalry, he removed that last part.

“The library here has a pitiful selection of modern history books. I would like to make a donation. Would you please instruct Gringotts to advance me a thousand Galleons? I had better order the books myself, as if I don’t, they may leave it to Professor Binns, who seems to be under the impression that it is still the ‘90’s. Thank you!

Yours sincerely,
Albert Severus Prince”

It was just before curfew when he took it to the Owlery, and realized his poor timing. Nearly all the school owls were out hunting already. The lone owl standing by was one Prince recognized as the same owl who had taken his message to the Prendergasts. It had clearly been well looked after, as the broken feathers were mended, and the bare patches almost all grown over again. When the owl saw Prince, it began casually sidling along the perch toward the window.

“It’s not to Cornwall this time!” Prince said hastily, as it was about to take wing. “No pixies! I promise!”

The owl halted, and held out its talons to take Prince’s letter.

“This is for Antonius Burke,” said Prince. “He ought to be relatively easy to find. There can’t be too many old wizards wandering around the northern Alaskan wilderness among the glaciers and polar bears.”

Drooping with every feather, the owl gave Prince a bleak look before launching itself out the window. “Thank you!” Prince called after it.


Monday morning was dank and drizzly. As he climbed the stairs and entered the Great Hall, Prince thought how odd it was that only a week ago he had been waiting on the platform for the Hogwarts Express. It felt like he had been here ages already. Further down the table, the first-years were moaning about the weather, complaining that their Defense against the Dark Arts class would certainly be held indoors today. Prince thought it was a shame as well, as he had missed the first class, but he supposed he was sunburned enough from the weekend already.

“Here, what’s that?” Prince asked. Jared Scroggs was bouncing something on the table. He held it out to Prince. It was a lump of familiar goo, but it was bright red.

“One of the Gryffindors figured it out,” said Jared. “The Hufflepuffs have made yellow goo, too. The Ravenclaws are cheesed off at you for stealing their color, by the way. They’re trying to make blue and bronze striped, now, just to show how clever they are.”

“It wasn’t meant to be about house colors,” said Prince. “That’s just the color it turned out.”

“Well, it just turned out to be about house colors, too, then,” said Jared. “A couple of the fifth-years nearly gassed themselves to death over the weekend trying to make green goo with arsenic for coloring.”

Prince looked around the Great Hall. Everywhere there seemed to be people hurling globs of goo in primary colors, bouncing it on the table, or molding it into shapes. I started that, he thought.

“Goo certainly seems to be popular,” he said.

“It’s easy and free and fills you with glee ‘cause it’s great to throw at both friend and foe,” said Jared. “It’s also a little too blessed popular. I’m making book on how long it will take Fudge to ban the stuff. Odds for today are two to one all day, dropping to a low on Thursday morning of six to five, and increasing from that day on. I can give you fifteen to one on next week Friday or later. Care for a flutter?”

“Two to one for today, you said?” Prince asked, fingering the coins in his pocket.

“Mind, if you queer the odds by pasting him in the mug with another gooball, I will have to declare your bet null and void. No refunds.”

“Oh,” said Prince. “Well, I will have to think about it then.” And, of course, Professor Sylvanus had said he must keep out of trouble if he expected to be promoted to the second year. He wondered if Parkinson or one of the others would throw another gooball secretly on his behalf for a promise of half the winnings, but decided it was too risky. Besides, it would certainly put a strain on his friendship with Jared if he were found out.

He reluctantly left the Great Hall to join his grumbling classmates in the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom.

“Good morning,” said Professor Sylvanus. “Today we will continue attempting to learn to set a basic alarm ward. I have a pile of window frames here. Each of you will come and take one, and attempt to make it impossible to put a hand through it without setting off an alert. NOT YOU, Mr. Prince. You missed our last little get-together, so I want you to spend the class studying this.” She dropped a heavy book on his desk.

There were giggles and sidelong smirks from the rest of the class, who apparently thought he was being punished, but Prince was thrilled. On his desk was a copy of “Afraid of the Dark?” by the late Alastor Moody. He remembered the terrible fuss a year ago when some parents had attempted to have the book banned from Hogwarts as inappropriate and far too frightening for young students. As Mr. Burke was on the Board of Governors, Prince had overheard a lot of the debate and ranting on the subject. In the end, the book had been relegated to the restricted section.

Prince was sure Parkinson would give his front teeth to be handed a restricted textbook.

As the rest of the class collected the wooden frames and attempted to put spells on them, Prince opened the book to Chapter 1: Constant Vigilance!

The book was not only more complicated and more detailed than The Dark Arts and What to Do About Them, it was far more exciting, and full of historical anecdotes about dark wizards and witches, some so minor that Prince had not even heard of them. The paranoiac style of the author was slightly off-putting at first, but Prince soon grew to find it entertaining. And the spells were intriguing.

He hardly looked up when a few classmates managed to set off their alarm spells (a few unintentionally) and was barely able to close the cover when class came to an end.

There was a study period next, so Prince waited in the hope of speaking to Professor Sylvanus about Wriggle, but she said, “Mr. Parkinson, please wait after class,” and Prince remembered that Parkinson was to be taken to get a new wand today. Seeing him standing there, the professor said, “Mr. Prince, you may borrow that book for the time being, but keep it safe. And don’t wave it about too much.”

Prince knew he ought to work on his Charms during the study period—Professor Flitwick would be testing him on them tomorrow—but couldn’t put the Moody book down in spite of his aching head. It was only with the greatest reluctance that he decided taking it to lunch with him might be construed as ‘waving it about’ and locked it in his bedstand.

Parkinson was back at lunch, with a new wand. Prince rather hoped he meant to start trouble. He was simply aching to try the disarming spell and some of the curse deflectors from Moody’s book. But apart from showing off the wand to his friends and sending Prince a few sour glances, Parkinson did nothing.

How very annoying.

After his afternoon Herbology class, Prince asked Professor Longbottom about the possibility of studying ahead of the class. Longbottom frowned slightly. “Well, Mr. Prince,” he said. “You can read the textbook as far ahead as you like, but a plant can’t be rushed if it’s to grow properly. It must develop at its own rate and mature in the proper season. Herbology is, after all, as much a practical skill as knowledge.”

Prince started arguing briefly before realizing that this was not a complicated, metaphorical refusal of his request, but a simple literal statement. Of course, he could hardly learn to harvest starthistle when it wasn’t properly grown yet, or plant gillyweed in the dead of winter, or learn to properly tame fanged geraniums before they had fangs. He resigned himself to following the practical lesson plan, while reading ahead in the book, as Professor Longbottom had suggested.

Prince didn’t bother asking Professor Binns. He sat through most of History class grinding his teeth and shouting out occasional corrections and additions to the lesson. Professor Binns finally said in irritation, “One more interruption, Pibble, and I shall take ten points from Hufflepuff!” Whispers from some of his classmates encouraged him, “Do it! Do it!” but Prince spent the rest of the class with his head on his desk.

The entire evening was spent studying Charms.

At Potions the next morning, Prince hurried through the easy Shrinking Solution they were mixing, hoping to squeeze in a little more Charms study time. Puddleby gave him a peevish glance or two, but otherwise ignored him. Prince noticed that Puddleby seemed to favor the more dimwitted students who asked lots of simple questions.

He didn’t seem to be developing any fondness for Talbot and Goyle, though, who carried out their incompetent butchery of potion-making in sullen silence. Halfway through the class, Talbot’s cauldron erupted into a fountain of glowing, sputtering sparks. Puddleby, who had been busy holding the hand of a Gryffindor girl who couldn’t figure out how to chop her anemone properly, nearly leaped across the classroom to staunch the inferno before it could spatter sparks and burned potion over the rest of the students.

After taking five points from Slytherin, Puddleby looked around crossly. “Mr. Prince, you will join Miss Goyle and Mr. Talbot at their potion making from now on.”

“I will not,” said Prince. “I am happy here, thanks. Why should I?”

“Because you would be able help your classmates,” said Puddleby, as if that was all the reason Prince should need.

“Sod that,” said Prince. “I’m not getting in range of those two. They’ll blow me up or turn me into a puddle of slime, and not even on purpose.” Goyle’s cauldron melted into slag as if on cue.

Puddleby took two points from Slytherin for Prince’s poor attitude, but didn’t press the point. “You two need some extra help,” Puddleby said as he put out the flames from the second disaster. “I will assign an upperclassman from the advanced class to tutor you twice a week after classes.”

“Here’s a brilliant notion,” said Prince as he bottled his finished potion. “Give me that potions tutor, to help me advance to the second year, and I will babysit Talbot and Goyle through class for you.”

Puddleby opened his mouth to refuse, but Talbot, who had restarted his potion, tossed in a handful of violets recklessly, and his potion bubbled away and vanished with a ear-piercing squeal.

“Very well,” said Puddleby through his teeth. “But get up here, NOW!”

Prince quickly wiped out his cauldron and gathered his kit, to step up between the less-than delighted Talbot and Goyle. “Good morning, Dunderheads,” he said. “Meet your new potions master. I don't expect you will really understand the beauty of the softly simmering cauldron with its shimmering fumes, the delicate power of liquids that creep through human veins, bewitching the mind, ensnaring the senses…”

Transfiguration also went well, Professor McGonagall approving his parchments and starting him on the new assignment as most of the rest of the class worked to finish their needles. Prince transformed his thimble into a goblet by the end of the session, and was given the new written assignment. He hung back after class to ask a few questions about Severus Snape that he had not had time to ask during class.

“Really Mr. Prince,” Professor McGonagall said with some exasperation. “Why does Severus Snape hold so much fascination for you?”

“Well, he was a member of the family,” Prince said.

“Oh, of course. Your family…”

“Eileen Snape, his mother, was the sister of my great grandfather,” said Prince. “And I know she was disowned for marrying a Muggle, but that’s all silly old nonsense, and nobody thinks like that anymore.” Professor McGonagall was looking vague and misty-eyed, though, so Prince decided to get out before she turned sentimental and embarrassed them both. “Oh, my, I’m going to be late for Charms. Farewell, my love,” he said, hastening away before she could dock him a point for cheek.

In Professor Flitwick’s office after Charms class, he was able to prove he had learned enough to be two weeks ahead of the rest of the class, and Professor Flitwick awarded forty points to Slytherin. Even more exciting, he said, “I have something here for you, young man,” and pulled a scroll out of his desk.

Unrolled, the scroll was a long chart marked off by a calendar. A silver bar represented each of his classes, and it was decorated with a border of little green and silver snakes, twining around one another, slithering, and putting out their tongues at him.

“It’s not completely precise, but this will show you approximately how far along you are in your goal of completing the first year of study,” said Flitwick. “When all the bars are full, it will be time to consider your advancement to the second year.”

Prince couldn’t thank Professor Flitwick enough. Besides being beautifully made and useful, it was delightful to see that he was, indeed, two weeks ahead on Charms, half a week ahead in Transfiguration, and nearly eight months ahead of the Potions class. The bars for History and Flight were already silver to the ends of the year. Herbology he was right on schedule for, and lagging a bit in Astronomy.

He thought for a moment that the bar for Defense Against the Dark Arts was completely empty, but then he saw some silver blocks toward the end of the year. Apparently he was starting with the advanced lessons, and would have to eventually work his way backward to the simpler things the rest of the class was studying now. How odd.

There were no problems getting the remaining teachers to agree. Well, at least, Professor Trilby agreed outright to pass him if he could do a hundred pushups in a row. (“Pushups? What are those?” Prince asked, and was appalled to discover the answer. Still, by the end of the year he thought he could probably manage a hundred. He didn’t have much weight to lift, after all.) Professor Sinistra merely said, “Good luck getting the Universe to move according to your schedule,” which Prince took merely as a sort of repeat of Professor Longbottom’s caution.

Wednesday evening, Prince had his first official Potions tutoring session. His tutor was Aisling Cault, the prefect with the black lipstick who had slipped him the Honeydukes chocolate on his first night at Hogwarts. Since then she had added a streak of fluorescent green to her hair and a lip piercing. She spent the first half hour finding out what he already knew, before moving on to something that was actually new to him, the properties of beetle eyes in catalysing reactions between magical elements.

Prince shook the bottle of beetle eyes. “Who de-eyes the beetles, I wonder?” he said. “There must be billions of eyes in this jar alone. Where do they find so many beetles?”

“Haven’t you ever been to a beetle farm?" Cault asked. “Trust me, you don’t want to. They’re disgusting. Mind on your work, now—your cauldron’s just coming to a boil.”

Unlike Professor Puddleby, Cault asked more questions than she answered, quizzing him mercilessly. She also never had a qualm about admitting when she hadn’t a clue about what he wanted to know.

“That’s it for today: I’ve done my time,” she said when the hour was up.

“Oh. Pity. I was enjoying this,” Prince said.

Cault gave him an odd look. “How did we end up with you?” she asked. “I’d have thought the hat would shoot you off to Ravenclaw. You must really have wanted to be in Slytherin.”

“I did,” Prince said. “I like it here. Well, except for the idiots in my class.”

Cault shrugged. “That’ll be it, then. You know they foozled the hat a few years ago, and since then it’s much more likely to put you where you want to go. Oh, I’m not saying it totally overrides the founders’ wishes: if you’re a clot who wants to go to Ravenclaw, or a complete coward who thinks he can get into Gryffindor, it’s still no dice. But if you have any Slytherin qualities and really want to go there too, you’re pretty much in.”

“They foozled the hat? What do you mean, they foozled the hat? It’s a historic artifact! How could anyone tamper with it?” Prince was scandalized by the mere thought.

“The Board of Directors decided a few years ago that the Slytherin preference for pureblood wizards had seen its day,” said Cault. “They thought it was time for a little more diversity in the dungeon. The problem is, when Headmaster Fudge removed that notion from the hat’s criteria for Slytherin, I think the hat picked up a few of Fudge’s prejudices in its place. It seems sometimes like we only get new students who either wanted to be here, or are simply the dregs. All the troublemakers and bullies and idiots seem to turn up in Slytherin. It’s enough to make you despair for our little hole in the ground.”

That explained a lot, Prince thought. Talbot, to begin with. “I have nothing against Muggles or Muggleborns,” he said, “but in my opinion, they should never have messed with the hat.”

“Easy for you to say,” said Cault. “I’m Halfblood. I’d probably have been shot off to Hufflepuff, or Gryffindor, save us! Imagine having to live with that insufferable bunch of self-righteous blowhards.”

“How true,” said Prince, though in all honesty, he had not interacted with enough Gryffindors to develop a dislike based on anything but house tradition.



The next morning, Prince watched the incoming owls with interest, though he knew it was far too early to hope for a reply from Mr. Burke. To his surprise, a small owl alighted on the table beside him with a little square envelope. Opening it, Prince removed a card and stared at it in astonishment.

“What have you got there?” Jared asked peeking over his shoulder. “Mother of Merlin! You’ve got a date with the old lady!”

“What?” asked Amanda, looking blank.

“Professor McGonagall has invited me to tea,” said Prince, mystified.

“You’re kidding!”

“Not really?”

“You must be in some serious trouble!”

“What do you think it’s about?” The second-years stared at him as if he had sprouted elephant ears.

“What can I say?” Prince smiled as he shoved the card into a pocket. “She fancies me.”

Prince was troubled, though. Even Professor Binns’s out-of-date history lesson couldn’t enrage him enough to take his mind off the invitation. He felt fairly certain, especially from the reactions of the second-years, that professors did not make a habit of extending casual social invitations to students. Was it about his attempt to be promoted? Then why not simply speak to him after class? Was he in trouble for something? He didn’t remember doing anything lately that might put him in conflict with the authorities, and certainly it would be his own house head who dealt with it if he had.

He cast his mind over their last conversation. He had dodged being penalized for cheek again. Was she planning to bring it up now? Was she going to put her foot down and demand he stop it all at once? It would take half the fun out of Transfiguration class. She had also seemed a bit miffed about his Snape questions. Was she going to order him to stop asking them? That would be a pity as well, for Prince was fairly certain that, of everyone at the school, she was the one who knew the most about Severus Snape. She had also gotten a bit odd when the subject of family had been brought up.

Prince hoped she was not planning to mother him.

Since the day of the tragedy, Prince had heard soppy, sentimental women declaring that what he needed was a mother. A few, with Mr. Burke’s lukewarm consent, had even installed themselves in Alspellers for the purpose of filling that position. The jealously possessive Wriggle had seen each of them off quickly, to Prince’s complete satisfaction. Prince had no intention of accepting a substitute parent, particularly one who thought he needed parenting.

“Come in Mr. Prince.” The fateful hour had finally arrived, and Prince warily entered the office of Gryffindor’s house head. He took a seat, and accepted a cup of tea and a biscuit. The chair was comfortable, its tartan upholstery matching the other decorations in the room, including the bagpipes hanging on the wall. Professor McGonagall looked at him over her own teacup. Behind her, the school Quidditch cup stood proudly on a shelf. There were pictures on her desk and walls of people Prince supposed were her family, and others which were of student life at Hogwarts. He could not be certain, but he believed he recognized a youthful Harry Potter in one of the school scenes.

“Now, then, let’s get down to business,” Professor McGonagall said, when the social niceties had been fulfilled. “Ask me whatever you like about Severus Snape, and I will do my best to answer—if only in the interest of stopping you constantly interrupting my class.”

It was like Christmas come early. Prince wasted no time in asking question after question. Professor McGonagall not only answered them, she offered her own opinions, and stories of things Snape had done and said, and teacherly gossip from the days before the return of Voldemort. Prince actually borrowed a notebook and quill to make notes on some of the more fascinating things she told him.

“And did you know,” Professor McGonagall added, “some of Severus Snape’s memories are still stored at the Ministry of Magic. When you are older, it’s possible you may be able to access them and see for yourself what he considered important enough to preserve during his last minutes.”

The thought was mind-boggling. Prince continued asking questions and listening to tales of Snape for nearly two hours. To his surprise, he actually ran out of questions to ask. He poured himself another cup of tea while he racked his brain for more riddles to be answered.

Prince was pondering whether he should risk saying, “Thank you, Minerva, for the lovely tea,” and depart, when Professor McGonagall put down her cup, and Prince thought, here it comes at last.

Even during the most fascinating and exciting moments of their discussion, Prince had never lost the sense that Professor McGonagall had some hidden agenda in this event. He was quite sure that, having been offered such a multitude of carrots, the stick was about to be revealed. Possibly she had reconsidered letting him study ahead of the class. Maybe she, like Puddleby, was going to expect him to help tutor his laggard classmates. But Prince’s best bet was that she was about to lay down the law in a No More Cheek lecture to end all lectures.

“You have no more questions about Severus Snape?”

“No, Professor. Not that I can think of now. But I can ask outside of class, when I think of more.”

“That will be most appreciated. And you have...no questions about anybody else?”

“Not really, no,” said Prince, stirring sugar into his tea.

“I find that surprising,” said Professor McGonagall. “You do know, don’t you, that your eldest sister was in Gryffindor?”

Prince dropped his spoon. It clattered to the floor.

“Oh, my, Merylyn was such a bright soul, and so well loved. Her class graduated last year, of course, but I hear from them, and she is still missed. I remember, she was particularly fond of studying in that alcove on the north side of the tower, where you can see the—why, Mr. Prince, are you all right?”

Prince had stood up hastily, putting down his tea cup so suddenly that it sent a puddle across the professor’s desk.

He bolted for the door and ran


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Last edited by Inkwolf; August 21st, 2010 at 9:06 pm.
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Old August 23rd, 2010, 6:04 am
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Inkwolf  Undisclosed.gif Inkwolf is offline
I trusted Severus Snape
 
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Re: The Prince of Hogwarts (An ASP at Hogwarts prequel)

9

Albert Severus Prince had a firm rule against crying in front of people. He had made it an absolute principle since the day That Loathsome Photograph had been published.

It had happened at the Prince family memorial service, when it had finally really struck him that none of the family was ever coming home again—ever. He had fallen completely to pieces, and some shameless swine had stuck a camera in his face. That Loathsome Photograph had appeared on the front page of the Daily Prophet the morning after, and in reprints and magazines for eons afterward. Prince blamed That Loathsome Photograph for months of deep humiliation, and nine tenths of the soppiness he had had to endure since.

What’s more, he had heard that the photographer had received some sort of award for taking it, instead of being flogged to within an inch of his life, which Prince considered the only reasonable treatment for people who went around snapping photos of other people who were miserable, or starving, or bleeding, or dying, or being carted off to St. Mungo’s with their feet growing out of their ears. He only hoped that he might learn some really horrendous curse worthy of the occasion, should he ever meet Mr. Dennis Creevy on a dark night in Knockturn Alley.

Then again, that would probably only set off another round of reprints of That Loathsome Photograph.

Prince huddled in the dusty corner in the disused corridor on the second floor, rubbing his eyes. He knew he would not be interrupted here. On the other side of one door of the corridor was a sign warning, KEEP OUT: DEADLY DANGER. And he knew what was on the other side of the opposite, locked door, banging, rattling the knob, cackling madly and making rude noises. Nobody was likely to come anywhere near here.

How could he have been such a fool? Of course Merylyn had been in Gryffindor! Of course Professor McGonagall had known her! It explained her apparent moments of soppiness entirely. For that matter, she had been here long enough to have taught Transfiguration to his parents, if not his grandparents.

And his other sisters had been in Ravenclaw. April had only just completed her first year, and Melwyn her third, when they were lost. All this time he had been considering Professor Flitwick a completely soft ninny, but he had known them, and been their head of house. Flitwick must have suffered from the loss as well. For that matter, though Prince had no idea what houses his cousins had been in, Robin and Wilberforce had been completely daft about dangerous magical creatures, and would almost certainly have been well known to Hagrid.

Hogwarts, which he had once found such a free and easy place, had revealed itself to be filled with emotional traps. How could he ever look Professor Flitwick in the face again? Or Hagrid? Or Professor McGonagall, especially after running out of her office like a spooked rabbit?

What’s more, the shock of his own dunderheadedness, his complete obliviousness to the fact that the other Princes had been here before him and made their mark on Hogwarts’s staff was nearly enough to knock him flat. How could he not have foreseen this? How could he not have been prepared? The fact that he avoided the pain of thinking about his lost family was hardly an excuse. If he had been any stupider, his skull would surely have imploded from sheer emptiness.

As his heartbeat slowed and the constrictive pain in his throat lessened, he thought with even more dismay of his rapid exit from Professor McGonagall’s office. She must think he had gone bonkers. And he had Transfiguration tomorrow afternoon! What if she demanded an explanation in class? What if she started talking about his sister again, in front of Parkinson and Goyle and Talbot and all? The thought made him feel ill.

But he couldn’t stay in the forbidden corridor forever. Carefully peeking to see if the coast was clear, he dodged into the nearby haunted bathroom, where he expected to be undisturbed, at least by the living. He polished a spot in the dusty mirror for a look at himself. As expected, his face was streaked with tears and the dust and grime of the forbidden corridor. He turned on the tap, prepared to expunge the evidence from his face.

“WHO GOES THERE?” a voice demanded. Though he had half expected it, he still jumped. Turning around, he faced the ghost of a squat, lank-haired, spotty girl with thick glasses.

“You must be Myrtle,” said Prince, struggling to give her his well-rehearsed charming smile.

The ghost floated closely, staring at his face. “You’ve been crying!” Myrtle announced triumphantly.

“I haven’t,” said Prince. “I was chopping stinkroot and got some of the juice in my eyes. I just came in here to try and wash it out.” He hastily scrubbed his face clean, the ghost looking on suspiciously.

“I ought to report you, you know,” Myrtle threatened. “I’ve got a duty, you know. I’ve been assigned to guard the forbidden corridor, you know. What you don’t want to know is what foul, horrible creature is locked up behind those doors.”

“I already know,” said the freshly scrubbed Prince. “It was in The Unauthorized Guide to the Secrets of Hogwarts.”

“Oh,” Myrtle looked put out. “Well, I ought to report you for being in the girls’ bathroom, anyway.”

“I couldn’t see it was the girls’ loo with stinkroot in my eyes, now could I?” said Prince. “By the way, where’s the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets?”

“Over there,” said Myrtle, rolling her eyes with boredom. “So you’re one of THOSE. I should have guessed.”

Prince stared at the historic sink, feeling better by the moment. He found the little serpent mark on the plumbing.

“It won’t work, making those hissing noises at it,” said Myrtle. “You’ve got to be a REAL Parseltongue. You’re just getting spit all over the sink. By the way,” she added suspiciously, “you don’t smell like stinkroot at all.”

“Thank you,” said Prince absently. “Oh! Um, well, that’s because…er…I say, can ghosts really smell?”

Myrtle burst into tears. “I’m sorry!” said Prince, horrified. “I didn’t mean it! Whatever it was!”

“You’re like the rest!” Myrtle sobbed. “They all make fun of me!”

“No, I—“

“They make fun of my pimples! And my hair!”

“I think your hair is—“

“And my glasses!”

“I wear glasses, too!”

Myrtle stopped sobbing and glared at him, sniffling. “Do not!” she grumbled.

Prince hastily fished out his reading glasses and stuck them on. “There, see? Why would I make fun of you?”

Myrtle asked suspiciously “Why weren’t you wearing them?”

“Well,” said Prince, peering into the mirror, “they do make one look a complete prat, don’t they?“

But that set Myrtle off on another round of furious weeping. “Oh, come on!” said Prince. “I would think that none of that really mattered at, um, your stage of existence.”

“You think that just because I’m…I’m—“

“Dead?” suggested Prince, and when this caused a fresh explosion of sobs, he hastily amended, “Deceased? Passed on? Departed? Expired? Lamented? Late?” None of these made Myrtle any happier. If anything, her wails became louder than ever. As if to augment her ghostly tears, every sink in the room started gushing water, and the toilets overflowed simultaneously.

“I am so very, very, very sorry to have offended you,” said Prince, backing out of the flooded lavatory hastily. “I shall go forth and sin no more.” For the second time in an afternoon, he made a break for it, though it was his feet that were dripping this time.

He had just reached the dungeon when he realized the glasses were still on his face, and he snatched them off in horror. He would almost rather have blubbered in McGonagall’s office than be seen in his spectacles by the other Slytherins.

Though the Chamber of Secrets and Myrtle had taken his mind off his problems, it was all brought back to him at dinner, when his second-year friends curiously demanded to know what had happened at the mysterious tea with McGonagall. Prince staved them off by claiming it was about his last essay, but the thought of tomorrow’s classes returned to prey on his mind.

“You are quiet tonight, Mr. Prince,” Professor Sinistra commented in Astronomy class.

“I’m not feeling well,” Prince said. “Not well at all.” And he suspected he would be lagging even further in Astronomy, as the movements of the planets and stars seemed paltry and insignificant in the face of his predicament, and he could not concentrate on the lesson in the least.

On Friday morning he took stock. He had a study period, a potions lecture—at which Goyle and Talbot would not have the opportunity to blow anything up—and in the afternoon the dreaded Transfiguration and Charms. Skipping breakfast in the hope of looking a bit more peaked and wobbly, Prince headed for the hospital wing.

The hospital wing was a large room, filled with white-sheeted beds, all of which were currently empty. Nurse Bannock sat at a desk, marking the labels of a rack of potion bottles. She looked up when Prince entered.

“Hullo, ducks! And what can I do for you?”

“I’m feeling a trifle off,” said Prince. “I think I ought to lie down for a bit.”

“Well, let’s just have a look.” Nurse Bannock opened a drawer and extracted a tray of medical-looking equipment. “Robe off, if you please. In your skivvies.”

“I’m sure it’s nothing serious,” Prince assured her, shrugging out of his outer robe. “I just—“

“Best to check things out thoroughly at once, dearie,” Nurse Bannock said as he unbuttoned his shirt. “Sometimes we catch problems before they can get serious.” She took a silver wand from the tray and moved it from his head to his toes, first in front and then behind him, then to each side. “Hmm,” she said with a frown. She opened a small box, and a thing like a silver winged snake slithered out and launched itself at him, flying around him with dizzying speed. After orbiting for several seconds, it returned to the box. Next, Nurse Bannock took out a thing that looked like a cross between a bellows and a teapot. It puffed steam at him in soothingly scented clouds. Nurse Bannock clucked her tongue. Finally she handed him a little round jeweled pot with a sort of windmill or propeller on the top.

“Hold this,” she ordered, then touched his chest just above the heart with her wand. The little propeller spun, the jewels flashed with a red light, and a piercing alarm squealed from the pot.

“Oh, dear,” said Nurse Bannock.

“What have I got?” asked Prince, thoroughly alarmed.

“This is my avoidance meter, love,” said Nurse Bannock. “I don’t know why you’re trying to skive off, but you won’t do it with my help.”

“Well, really!” said Prince indignantly, red-faced. “You’ll be sorry when I start puking in potions class, and tell them I came here first and you sent me away.”

“I’ll look a right fool,” Nurse Bannock agreed. “You be certain to come back and say you told me so, won’t you, dearie?”

“Well, as I’m here anyway, can I get some headache potions?” Prince asked as he got dressed again. “I get headaches.”

“Oh, really? When do these headaches occur?”

“Off and on.”

“I see,” said Nurse Bannock. She went to the wall and rolled down a chart. It was covered with letters and symbols in decreasing sizes from the top to the bottom.

“Tell me, what’s the smallest row you can read?”

“Why?” Prince demanded.

“Well, love, headaches must have a cause, and both of us know you aren’t ill,” said Nurse Bannock. “It is just possible you need spectacles.”

“I don’t need them, I’ve already got them,” Prince said.

“Maybe they need adjusting. Do you wear them?”

“Of course,” said Prince. He had worn them yesterday, for five entire minutes. “I don’t see what the fuss is. I could walk into any apothecary shop in Hogsmeade and buy a hundred headache potions with no questions asked.”

“You could, if you could get to Hogsmeade, dear,” Nurse Bannock agreed.

“Well, then!”

“I will give you a few headache potions if you insist,” said Nurse Bannock. “But if I do, I will mention to your teachers that you ought to be wearing your glasses. It would be a pity to have to treat you like a child, ducky.”

Prince buttoned his last button and glowered at her. “It’s a wonder you’re not ashamed to collect your salary,” he growled, and irritably departed.

The morning study period and Potions class passed with excruciating slowness, though Prince half wished he had a way to stop time altogether for a week or so.

Lunch, just to be perverse, passed quickly, and he soon found himself trudging to the Transfiguration class at the tail end of the Slytherin first years.

Parkinson, in the lead, stopped in confusion at a branch in the corridor. Apparently he had not learned his way to the classroom yet, and, as the others milled around like sheep, it became apparent that Prince was the only one of them who remembered how to get to Transfiguration.

He had a sudden mad impulse to lead them off to some empty spot in the wrong end of the castle.

“Well?” Parkinson demanded. “What the blazes is your problem?”

“Not feeling well,” said Prince. “Nurse Bannock says it’s nothing, and wouldn’t let me stay in the hospital wing.”

“That’s awful!” said Belinda Redlin.

“That is so totally not fair!” said Dierdre Desole.

“I can get you into the hospital wing,” Parkinson offered, smacking a fist into his left hand. “If you really want to go.”

Prince pulled out his wand and glared. Parkinson snorted, “Wuss,” and took the right branch, which was, regrettably, the correct way.

Slinking unobtrusively into the classroom, Prince dropped his written work on Professor McGonagall’s desk and sat in the rear of the classroom, slumping to hide behind his textbook as he began reading the next chapter. The class had finally put aside the needles, and Professor McGonagall gave them the introductory lecture on the next transformation before handing out the thimbles.

Prince kept his nose buried in the book until a rock dropped on his desk. He jumped up, and peeked over the pages. Professor McGonagall was standing there.

“I’ve approved your written work. You may begin your next assignment, Mr. Prince,” she said. “You are to transform that stone into a wooden box. And mind that the corners are square. You will get extra credit for any carving or ornamentation you add to the box, not that you need it.” She turned to walk away.

Was that all? Prince felt he couldn’t bear to live through the weekend with the unspoken conversation still hanging over his head.

“Er, about yesterday,” he blurted. “Sorry about that. I, er, forgot I left a potion on the fire, you know…”

“I understand completely,” she said. “We must finish our conversation another time.” He must have looked as panic-stricken as he felt, because she added drily, “When you are ready.”

Professor McGonagall went on to see how Nott was doing with his thimble, and for the first time in a day, Prince felt he could breathe freely again.



Last edited by Inkwolf; August 23rd, 2010 at 8:55 pm.
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  #10  
Old August 29th, 2010, 10:16 pm
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Inkwolf  Undisclosed.gif Inkwolf is offline
I trusted Severus Snape
 
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Re: The Prince of Hogwarts (An ASP at Hogwarts prequel)

10

Prince still felt a bit apprehensive about Charms class, but he needn’t have worried. Professor Flitwick had not changed his attitude or behavior at all, and Prince easily slipped back into his own normal behavior. Similarly, anxious as he felt about asking Hagrid for the sailboats the next morning, Hagrid behaved as if nothing had changed.

This struck Prince as faintly odd, since he was certain that teachers could have nothing better to do with their free time than gossip with one another about their students. But as far as the evidence went, Professor McGonagall had kept her mouth shut about his total freak-out in her office.

Prince was grateful for that. Now he only had to hope none of the other professors would unexpectedly start awkward conversations. Though he now felt at least a bit prepared for them.

Sailing lessons took his mind off his problems. Not only were there even more people eager to learn this weekend, but several of the boats had already been taken out by last week’s new sailors, making it much more complicated and hazardous to coach his seven boats of novices.

Monday his classes would begin again, and Prince determined to get the talk with Professor Sylvanus taken care of, so he could concentrate on nothing but study. He lay awake Sunday night for quite a while, and then decided he would talk to McGonagall again, and Flitwick and Hagrid as well. The sooner that was out of the way the better, and if he broke down and made a ninny of himself, at least it would be in an office and out of sight of the general populace.

The decision filled him with dread. He was shrouded in gloom as he crossed the common room Monday morning, and almost welcomed the distraction of a fight. Two of the sixth years were shouting at each other. One boy pulled out his wand, but the other, a much bigger boy, grabbed him around the neck and started beating his head against the wall.

“Arnold, stop it!” a girl shouted. “You’re going to kill him.”

“HE SPILLED HIS POTION ON MY ARITHMANCY ESSAY!” the large boy bellowed.

“Well let’s face it, you’re going to fail Arithmancy anyway, and your essays always suck.“

“You’re next, Kettleburn!” he snarled in response, whacking the other boy against the wall again.

“ARNOLD GOYLE!” It was Aisling Cault, just coming from the passage to the girls’ dormitories. “I told you last time, it was your final warning! Drop him this instant! Professor Sylvanus will be hearing about this.”

Prince’s jaw dropped. Arnold Goyle! The student that the Bloody Baron had said was sleeping in Severus Snape’s old bed! He was obviously Anna Goyle’s older brother. He had the same blonde hair, only clipped short, the same beady, gooseberry green eyes, and the same potato-shaped nose. He was at least twice her mass, though, which Prince had not thought humanly possible.

Arnold did not drop the other boy, who seemed half conscious and was struggling to pry the beefy hands from his throat. The fingers tightened, and Goyle smashed him against the wall again.

“Petrificus Totalis!” The prefect raised her wand, and Goyle collapsed like seven tons of bricks. It still took three students to pry his fingers from the other boy’s throat.

Prince was silent at breakfast, but felt as if a weight had been lifted from his soul. A new enterprise had knocked the rest of his plans, worries and sorrows right out of his head. Why should he concern himself with rehashing painful memories with the school staff when the chance to actually sleep in Severus Snape’s former bunk existed? Snape was, frankly, much easier, more entertaining, and less painful to deal with than the rest of the departed family. Prince tried to devise a plan to gain admittance to the sixth year dormitory. He could always just ask. “Hey, Goyle, I want to spend a night in your bed!” He was sure that would end beautifully.

Class time arrived with no practical plan unfolding, and he reluctantly went to Defense against the Dark Arts. Professor Sylvanus was late for class.

“I think she’s busy giving your brother detention,” Prince told Anna Goyle.

She looked pleased.

After class, Prince asked to see Professor Sylvanus in her office. He looked around curiously. It appeared to be in the same condition as the last time he had been here. He had somehow expected there to be a wake of destruction in Arnold Goyle’s path. Prince wondered what detention Goyle had got, but suspected Professor Sylvanus would not tell, and he could find out from house gossip at lunch, anyway.

Professor Sylvanus sat at her desk and began filing her nails into sharp points. Er, no. She was just filing her nails. Prince wondered what had given him the extraordinary first impression.

“I needed to talk to you about…well…some of the school rules,” he began.

“I should warn you before you tell me what this is about,” said Professor Sylvanus. “I like to trust the students to manage their own affairs as much as possible. But Headmaster Fudge and some of the other staff have a curious conception that members of Slytherin house have no respect for rules. I am in a position of semi-trust. Therefore, once I am officially informed about any sort of rules violation, and no longer have deniability, it is my duty to take action, and the action I take is not necessarily what you might want or expect of me. Do you understand?”

“Yes, that’s all right.” He hoped it was. After all, Wriggle could hardly be punished just for showing up at Hogwarts.

“Well, then. Speak, Mr. Prince.”

“It’s my house elf,” Prince said. “He’s having a hard time letting go. In fact, he’s followed me to Hogwarts, and been following me around for a good part of the term already. I promised I would ask if he could stay, in lieu of a pet.”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Prince,” she said firmly. “The rules are very clear on the subject. Personal house elves are simply not permitted at Hogwarts.”

“Yes, but,” Prince was actually a bit relieved by the refusal, but felt he ought to put up a fight, if only out of loyalty to Wriggle. “But there are lots of rules that nobody pays special attention to. Like that girl in Hufflepuff with the Puffskein. That’s not a cat or an owl or a penguin—er, a toad, I mean.”

“Hufflepuff is not my problem,” said Professor Sylvanus.

“Well, what about Slytherin?” Prince asked. “I mean, there’s at least Barbara Redlin with that demi-crupp creature.”

Professor Sylvanus sighed. “I wish you hadn’t mentioned that. It seems that Zeus must go.”

“Oh, hang on! I didn’t mean to—“

“And the house elf,” said Professor Sylvanus firmly. “There are good reasons for the rules against personal house elves. Are you aware that the rule was made due to the number of deaths caused by 17th-century elves attempting to protect their masters from student squabbles, punishments, or even dangerous assignments?”

“It wasn’t in any of the Hogwarts histories I’ve read.”

“I spent eighteen months as an intern in the Office of House Elf Relocation, just after school,” said Professor Sylvanus. “The only relief to the boredom was to read the extreme case files. Not only were the house elves a danger to the students and teachers, but jealousies and competition between them decimated the ranks of Hogwarts’s own elves. It is not negotiable. Your elf must return home and wait for you.”

“It’s just,” Prince said awkwardly. “I don’t think he will go.”

“He is bound to obey your orders,” said Professor Sylvanus. “You’ve only got to put it in a way he can’t wriggle out of.”

Prince winced at the choice of words. Even if Wriggle was particularly clever at avoiding unwelcome commands, Prince felt it was unfair that anybody should be placed under that sort of restrictive magic. The Prince family had always accorded their elf a great deal of freedom and independence. It was especially unconscionable that he should treat Wriggle like a mindless slave, the elf being practically family. He supposed he could order Wriggle to stay at Alspellers, but what if there was an emergency? What if the place burned down? What if there was something important Wriggle needed to consult him about? He shuffled his feet.

“All right, I will deal with it,” said Professor Sylvanus. “Summon your house elf.”

“Well, actually, I think he’s gone back to Cornwall for the moment…”

“House elves always know when their masters summon them,” said Professor Sylvanus. “As you well know. Do it now.”

“Wriggle!” Prince called, reluctantly.

There was a bang, and Wriggle appeared. “Wriggle is here! What does the young master wish?” The house elf eyed Professor Sylvanus hopefully.

“Mr. Prince tells me that you wish to remain with him at Hogwarts,” said Professor Sylvanus. “I’m delighted to say that it will be possible, though only under special circumstances.”

Prince gaped.

“Yes!” said Wriggle happily. “Wriggle will serve the young master at Hogwarts! Wriggle is willing to do what is necessary.”

“Wonderful,” said Professor Sylvanus. “The first thing we must do is have you dismissed from the service of the Prince family. Mr. Prince, you have a sock or something you can spare, I trust? Then Wriggle can take service at Hogwarts. I’m sure you will enjoy it. You will have lots of students to look after, and the society of your own kind in great numbers.”

“Yeees…” Wriggle said dubiously. “And...and…when the young master graduates, Wriggle will be released from Hogwarts to serve him again?”

“Of course,” said Professor Sylvanus. “If you really want to be. We don’t hold elves against their will here.”

“Sock, please,” said Wriggle, snapping his fingers and holding out his hand. Prince pulled off his boot with misgivings.

“I doubt there will be much point, though,” said Professor Sylvanus as Prince peeled off his sock. “After all, a lovely, ancient place like Alspellers isn’t likely to remain empty for seven years. By the time young Mr. Prince graduates, another house elf is bound to have made a residence there. I wouldn’t be surprised if there aren’t already a few unattached elves sniffing around the place. Still, you’ll be welcome to spend the rest of your days at Hogwarts while the new elf attends Mr. Prince, sees him through the tribulations of life, and helps raise the next generation of Princes. I’m sure Mr. Prince will find the time to occasionally visit, perhaps even bring the children—“

Wriggle snatched his hand back from the offered footwear. “Wriggle has remembered, Wriggle has bread in the oven. Mr. Reginald can not be trusted to remove it. Wriggle must go.”

The elf vanished with a bang.

“I think that is the last we will see of Wriggle for the time being,” said Professor Sylvanus. “Was there anything else?”

“You fight dirty,” Prince commented.

“Thank you,” said Professor Sylvanus. “You may go, now, Mr. Prince.”

Relieved of yet another problem, Prince went to an empty classroom and spent his study period reading more of Moody's book. There was a chapter on wandless shielding spells, and he attempted a few of them. He had no idea whether they were working, and wondered if it was worth offering Parkinson the chance to cast hexes on him to find out.

Until he entered the stormy scene in the Great Hall, the matter of Zeusie had entirely slipped his mind. Belinda Redlin was in tears, and the other first-year girls huddled around sympathetically--and glared at him furiously when he appeared.

"How COULD you?" demanded Abigail Mays.

"I didn't mean to--"

"Oh, did you hear that, Belinda? He didn't MEAN to go to Professor Sylvanus and complain about your pet. That makes it all better, doesn't it?" Abigail glowered as Prince scuttled past to join the second years.

“I’ll remember this!” Belinda sniffled. “You’ll be sorry!”

It worried Prince. Though he hadn't really got on with any of the first-year girls, up until now he had at least considered them--except for Goyle--to be neutral. His enemies list seemed to be growing.

"I didn't know she was going to DO anything about it," Prince said to Jared, after explaining what the drama down the table had been about.

"I could have warned you," Jared said. "Aggie doesn't dare get caught with illegal crossbreeds in her house."

"I know. She explained," said Prince bitterly. "It's because she has to make Fudge believe she's enforcing the rules."

Jared grinned. "No, it's because she's been as near as a whisker to being hauled in front of the Ministry for dealing in crossbreeds herself! It's a wonder she got this teaching job, from the things I hear. Used to work for black market creature dealers and all. Rumor has it she and Hagrid have been bringing in, shall we say, a little interesting variety to the forest wildlife, too. Boggles and collywobbles and all manner of whatnots"

"No!" Prince said.

"Yeah! You won't catch me in the forest, you may lay any money you like on that," Jared said.


Now a pariah among his entire class, Prince devoted himself even more to his studies. At least potions class was more entertaining than usual, as he bullyragged Talbot and Goyle through their brewing. While Goyle at least appeared to be listening, Talbot seemed to be in direct rebellion, often doing what Prince had specifically told him not to do, and vice versa. At any rate, when they got through the class without disaster ensuing, Puddleby gave Slytherin five points.

“Five points?” protested one of the Gryffindors. “Just for not blowing themselves up? Then I ought to get fifty points. I actually made the potion correctly!”

But Puddleby just shooed them all out of the room, and Prince saw by the measuring hourglasses later that not only had Slytherin been granted those points, but they were granted in Prince’s name.

He continued to rack up points at what the second years assured him was an unprecedented rate: in Charms and Transfiguration especially. He learned to ignore Professor Binns and to pay more attention in Astronomy. Each day he checked the bars on his chart to see how far he had advanced.

He also found his life become unexpectedly easier in that Parkinson and his flunkies suddenly began to leave him in peace. Talbot still never missed a chance to sneer or make an insulting comment, but the four Junior Death Eaters suddenly became so civil and accommodating toward him that it made Prince suspicious.

He found out why on Friday.

It was the day of Quidditch tryouts. Lovecraft and Fish had been insufferable in their excitement all week, so it was good to have it over with. They slumped disconsolately over their lunches now, the very picture of disappointment.

Goyle, on the other hand, sat on the end of the table in her usual spot, radiating triumph.

“Poor dears,” Amanda Trollope said. “Bradshaw was just a bit hard on them.”

“You were at the tryouts?” Prince asked. “Why? Were you being held hostage in the stands?”

“I’m writing a story about a beautiful Slytherin girl and a gorgey Gryffindor Quidditch captain,” she said. “I needed to get some background detail.”

“Yes, poor dear was forced to ogle all those Quidditch players for hours, just to add a little realism to her bodice ripper,” Jared said. “I was standing below the stands, and thought it was raining until I realized it was drool. Thank goodness I had my brolly!”

“You are horrible, Jared Scroggs,” Amanda tossed her hair, looking more amused than offended.

“Anyway, those blokes,” Jared jerked his head toward Fish and Lovecraft, “had barely took to the air when Bradshaw told them to bugger off. Then he announced to the rest of the eager young hopefuls that anyone else who was there to waste his time had best take off before he was taken off.”

“No!”

“Yeah. And some of them went, too.”

"But Goyle got in?" Prince asked. "What position? Goal post? Spare Bludger? Banshee repellant?"

"Keeper, and not even reserve. Bradshaw sacked Axford! Not that it will make much difference," Jared sighed. "Gryffindor has it in the bag this year. I won't be making above a thimble of profit on the Quidditch tournament. Still, in a couple of years, all Gryffindor's best will be gone, and in the meantime, I have Wonder Boy here to make up the shortfall."

"Me?" said Prince in surprise. "Are that many people betting on when Goo will be banned?"

"Goo makes a bit of pocket change," said Jared. "The real money is coming from the pool on when you get raised to the lofty heights of the second year."

"You're kidding! People are really betting?"

"You never know what will catch the public fancy," said Jared. "I started the pool just as a little fun between the second years, and it got about, and Bob's-your-uncle. Everyone wants a piece of you. You appear to have been noticed. It ain't even just Slytherin any more! By the way, that Parkinson bloke of yours put five Sickles on you for January, third week."

"Well! That must explain why he's stopped pestering me."

"And your William Talbot put six Knuts on 'never in a billion years' at six hundred to one. I took it, he'll never live long enough to collect, even if he's right."

"He's not MY William Talbot. I don't want him."

"I've got two galleons on you for the first week of November," Amanda said, putting her arms around Prince. "You can do that for me, won't you, Angelfish?" She kissed him on the cheek.

Prince sputtered something, and felt his ears turning bright red.

"No interfering with the subject, or I won't pay out," Jared said sternly. "Besides, robbin' the cradle, ain'tcha, Mandy?"

"And what is that supposed to mean?" Prince demanded.

“Tchah! She’ll only break your heart, mate.”

"You’re horrible, Jared!” Amanda said again, looking delighted. "Are you jealous of little Bertie? Come on, lambikins, you know I only have eyes for you. OOH! Look! Oh, how scrummy!"

Striding beside the Slytherin table was Bradshaw, still in full Quidditch regalia, with Yorick bounding by his side like an eager puppy, as usual. Several other members of the Quidditch team swaggered behind.

"Drool alert," said Jared. "Getcher brollies out, boys."

“Is there danger of flooding?” Prince asked. “Shall I get my wellies on? Hang on—that’s Aisling Cault, isn’t it? What’s she doing with them?”

“She’s the Seeker, didn’t you know?”

Prince watched the Quidditch players—well, except for Aisling--with an inexplicable sense of dislike. Not only the lovely Amanda, but nearly every girl at the Slytherin table was gaping, cow-eyed, at the team. Abigail, Dorcas and Dierdre forgot their week-long fussing over the bereft Belinda, and started giggling, whispering, and simpering.

"Women are daft," said Prince irritably.

"With knobs on," said Jared.

Bradshaw exchanged a few words with a sixth-year, then moved on down the table and stopped to talk to Goyle. She turned red to the roots of her hair, and Abigail's trio stared in shock and blatant jealousy as the Quidditch players completely ignored their attempts to flirt.

"I see trouble on the horizon," said Jared. "Bets on whether they get into a hairpull in the girl’s dorm tonight?"

"No bets," said Prince. "Anyway, how would we know?"

“You’re the prodigy. You figure out a way into the girls’ dormitory. Generations of Slytherin males have tried and failed, of course.”

“Amanda could check for us,” Prince suggested.

“Amanda? Amanda? HELLO, MANDY!”

“I’m sorry, wasn’t listening,” Amanda said. “What was it about?”

“Why do girls go nutters over Quidditch players, anyway?” Prince demanded.

"Because they are soooo hot!" said Amanda. "Especially Bradshaw. You ought to have tried out for the team, Bertie. You’d be ADORABLE in Quidditch robes."

"I have better things to do with my time," Prince scoffed. “Besides, I’m adorable now.”

They were interrupted by the approach of a couple of disgruntled Hufflepuff first years who had business with Jared.

"Sorry," Jared said. "The bet was on when Rocky Rootle would return to class, not when he would be released from the hospital wing."

"But he's not coming back to class!" objected one of the Hufflepuffs. "He's going to be home schooled! He's scratched. The bets are off."

"No refunds," said Jared. “Pardon me, I mustn’t be late for Herbology.” He slipped away. The Hufflepuffs glared at Prince as if wondering whether he would be able to make good on Jared’s wagers, and he decided it was a good time to leave for class himself.

That weekend the weather took a turn for the cold and blustery, and Hagrid locked the boathouse, announcing an end to the sailing season. “Yeh wouldn’ want to fall into the lake this time o’ year, anyway,” he said. “It’s colder’n a Yeti’s nose.”

Prince regretted the loss of his standing as the lord and admiral of the school fleet, but knew that it would give him all the more time to devote to studying for his advancement. He buried himself in his studies, only pausing when the headaches got too fierce—then he worked on his push-ups--or when Parkinson or his henchmen came close enough to bear watching. The hoodlums left him in peace, however.

Prince did notice, though, that Talbot seemed to have become one of the gang. He wondered when that had happened, and why he hadn’t noticed. The alliance disturbed him. Parkinson and his friends were nothing worse than thugs, bullies who enjoyed throwing their weight around and demanding respect they were not entitled to. Grovel a bit, and they would leave you alone. Talbot was another story. There was something unsettling and hostile and simply wrong about him. The idea of his having allies gave Prince a sense of deep disquiet. The concept of him and Parkinson having become friends seemed bizarre. In all honesty, the thought of Talbot having ANY friends was outlandish.

“Are you sure you haven’t just got the pip because he’s a Muggleborn?” Amanda asked a few days later when Prince confided his anxiety at the table of the Great Hall.

“Of course not!” said Prince. Amanda had a habit of rooting for the underdog, and if there was anything Prince was sure of, it was that he didn’t want her taking Talbot’s side against him. He did consider for just a moment whether her theory was true, but remembered Talbot’s rant about Purebloods, and decided that if it was, Talbot deserved it anyway.

He was down the table with the first-years, trying to get Parkinson to take an interest in an old paper. It looked like a back issue of the Daily Prophet, and Parkinson just looked bored and said something Prince couldn’t hear.

Then Talbot looked up and saw Prince watching. His eyes seemed to light up, and he came toward Prince with a cruel smile spreading across his nasty face.

When he was halfway there, Prince realized what the paper must be. He was prepared, therefore, and had his wand out when Talbot shoved the old newspaper under his nose and demanded, “Tell me, Prince, is that YOU in this picture?”

The old Prophet with the Loathsome Photograph on its front page flared briefly and was reduced to ashes. “I’m not sure,” said Prince. “It may have been. Do you have a clearer copy? This one’s a bit hard to read.”

Talbot gasped with shock and fury. “You fatheaded Pureblood! That belonged to the library! You’ll catch it when Madame Pince finds out.”

“No, you will,” said Prince. “You’re the one who borrowed it.”

“Yeah, but YOU’RE the one who destroyed it.”

“You stuck it between my wand and the fly I was aiming at. Most careless of you. You ought to treat library materials with more respect.”

Talbot gibbered with rage for a bit, but there was nothing he could do while Prince’s second-year friends sat by, pretending not to notice anything going on, and while the teachers sat at the head table. Eventually he returned to his place.

Prince dreaded the return to class, for fear of what Parkinson might have to say about the photograph, but Parkinson only removed the toothpick from his sneer long enough to mutter, “Nancy,” before sauntering into the classroom door. Prince could almost like him for it.

As the days went by, more and more people began asking Prince, “How’s it going?” He knew it was not a casual inquiry into the state of his well-being, especially since people he didn’t even know, from all the different houses, went out of their way to ask. It was about their bets.

There was considerable discontent over the ending of the Rootle pool. What’s more, as the days went on, and Goo continued to be legal in the school, Prince saw that his friend Jared was coming under more and more pressure from discontented gamblers who had bet unwisely.

“No, I’m not taking any more bets on Goo,” Prince heard Jared telling a group of disgruntled upperclassmen in the Slytherin common room one morning. “I’ll lose my shirt already if any of the long shots come in this week. If you want to play a wager, I’m running the Quidditch tournament and the Prince pool now. Take your choice.”

“I bet three galleons on when Rootle’s coming back to class, and when is it happening?” asked a seventh year. “Never! And now, when is Goo being banned? Never, it seems! There’s no point in betting on the Quidditch cup with Gryffindor at five to six. And what about this Prince thing? How do I know this isn’t just another pie in the sky that’s never going to happen?” There were mutters of agreement through the common room.

Leaving Jared to his argument, Prince went to his dormitory and pulled the chart Professor Flitwick had made from the drawer of his bed stand. He returned to the common room, unrolled the chart, and hung it on the wall.

Students clustered around it. He had finished Potions class to the end of the year already, though Aisling continued to tutor him so he would not have so far to catch up with the second years. He was two months ahead now in Charms, and six weeks ahead in Transfiguration. He had gained three weeks on Astronomy, and four on Herbology. And, although the chart did not show this, he could do seventy-seven push-ups on his last attempt.

“Well done, Bertie, that ought to shut them up,” said Jared. “And if anyone’s going to have the inside scoop on you, it ought to be Slytherin.” Prince left for Potions class.

Talbot, still furious over the incident with the newspaper, was more recalcitrant than ever, and Prince had to watch him like a hawk to see that he didn’t blow up the classroom. Fortunately, Goyle seemed to be pulling her act together, so Prince could give most of his attention to haranguing the other dunderhead.

“¥ou’re chopping nettles, not hacking up a corpse, Talbot,” Prince said. “LITTLE slices. EVEN pieces. As thin and precise as possible. Don’t make me call the Professor again,” Prince threatened as Talbot continued to hack and slash at the plants. “Voldemort’s tonsils, are you TRYING to lose a finger?”

With a snarl, Talbot settled down to carefully slicing the already mutilated nettles.

“That’s better,” Prince said. “But it’s probably too late to do much to save those. When you powder the shrew’s teeth, try to remember that ‘powdering’ means ‘grinding into a powder,’ not ‘smacking once or twice with the pestle,’ will you? Here, now!” Prince said, noticing what Goyle was up to. “What are you at? Those are porcupine quills. The formula calls for hedgehog quills.”

“What’s the difference?” Goyle scowled.

Prince smacked himself on the forehead “What’s the difference? For the love of weasels! My dear behemoth, a hedgehog is a small, nocturnal, insectivore found in Europe, Asia, Africa, and New Zealand, resembling a Knarl. A porcupine is an enormous arboreal rodent that eats tree bark and lives in the Americas, southern Asia, and Africa. They are not even remotely related.”

“They both have quills,” Goyle said stolidly.

“My sainted pants,” said Prince. “By Hecate’s industrial-strength dog whistle! In the name of Flamel’s—hey! No, Talbot! Stop!”

Talbot had gathered his prepared ingredients and was dropping them into the cauldron in a single, wadded handful. Prince snatched at the clump, trying to catch it before it hit the boiling solution inside.

He was an instant too late. Hot liquid spouted from the mouth of the cauldron like a geyser, soaking him with scalding fluid. With a shout, Prince snatched his hands away, but they were blistering already. His sleeves smoked and were disintegrating where they had been splashed, and his skin felt like it was being eaten away. The pain was incredible.

“This looks bad,” said Puddleby. “Mr. Talbot, get Mr. Prince to the hospital wing, as quickly as possible.” Talbot took hold of Prince’s arm, and Prince gritted his teeth and staggered along with him out of the classroom.

Prince watched his hands as they made their way down the empty corridor. The flesh continued to dissolve, a noxious smoke rising to choke him. Reddish ooze dripped to leave a trail on the floor. He stumbled when they came to the stairs, and only Talbot’s steadying hand kept him from falling on his face.

Fingernails blackened and dropped away one by one, and a white patch of bare bone appeared at the knuckle of one finger, spreading and blackening. As the destruction continued, the pain actually lessened. He could barely feel his hands at all. Most of the nerves had disintegrated. He continued to walk, brain fogged by pain and shock.

Prince hesitated when Talbot opened a door in front of him. It was not the door of the hospital wing. He could see an empty room beyond.

“Shortcut,” said Talbot. “Come on.”

Prince entered and walked to the door on the other side of the room. He heard the door close behind him, and waited for Talbot to open the one in front of him.

Talbot didn’t come. Prince turned around to see the other boy standing with his wand out, smiling.

“As you’re going to the hospital wing anyway,” Talbot said, “I’m sure you wouldn’t mind helping me test a few new spells. Tell me, does it hurt when I do this? ESCORIO!”

It did.



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  #11  
Old September 4th, 2010, 3:34 pm
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Inkwolf  Undisclosed.gif Inkwolf is offline
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Re: The Prince of Hogwarts (An ASP at Hogwarts prequel)

11

Prince stumbled along the wall, every instinct telling him that to stop moving was death. Talbot renained on the opposite side of the room, circling as Prince circled, taking his time and enjoying himself. Prince’s hands were little more than charred bones, now, and even they were beginning to curl and crumble. He could feel the destruction slowly working its way up his arms.

When he reached the door, he shouted desperately for help, but his voice was weak. Kicking the door threw him off balance, and he nearly fell before stumbling on to another circuit of the room.

“Eldingrast!” Talbot shouted, raising the wand. A short bolt of lightning shot across the room, delivering a painful and numbing jolt of electricity. Prince dropped to his knees, but managed to get back on his feet and continue circling. Talbot chuckled.

Prince could think of nothing to say. He could think of nothing to do. His brain had nearly stopped functioning. He tried to force it to work.

“Escorio!” Talbot shouted again, and this time Prince raised a ruined hand and shouted back, “Skyddas!”

The skin across Prince’s side and back tore open as if struck by a whip, and he felt the warm blood soak into his clothes. The new pain cleared his head a bit, and his mind scrambled for ideas like a mouse trapped in a cauldron.

He could call Wriggle.

He nearly did so when he remembered Professor Sylvanus’s tales of house elves murdering students in school ‘squabbles.’ Prince had little doubt Wriggle could, and very well might, slaughter Talbot under the circumstances. While Prince felt that this might make the world a better place, he doubted Wriggle would be let off for the deed. The thought of losing the house elf to Azkaban frightened him more than Talbot did.

“Eldingrast!” Talbot shouted again, and again Prince yelled, “SKYDDAS!”

This time the lightning bolt spattered and died before reaching him. Prince whispered a blessing on Alastor Moody and his wandless shield spells.

Talbot was frowning now. “You shouldn’t be able to do that.” He said it like an accusation.

Prince swore at him, stumbling on. He called Talbot every filthy name he knew. There were not nearly enough of them. Talbot shrugged and raised the wand again.

“Craicealla!” Talbot shouted.

“Skyddas!” Prince responded, but too late this time. He felt a terrible pulling and itching under his skin. Then it tore open in multiple spots and a stream of blood-drenched spiders poured from every rip. Prince screamed with the pain and horror of it, beating at the demonic little arthropods with what was left of his arms. He tripped and crashed into a suit of armor, and fell to the floor with it, knowing he didn’t have the strength to get up again.

Talbot walked closer, smiling down at him, as the spiders scattered into the dusty corners of the room or scrambled to find a way out of his clothes. Prince struggled to rise, only succeeding in kicking the scattered pieces of armor around.

The door slammed open. “What’s all the noise?” an angry voice demanded. It was Yorick, the third year Quidditch player. He looked down at Prince and swore.

“It’s none of your business,” Talbot said.

“I’m telling Jeremy about this,” Yorick said, and Prince saw a flash of fear cross Talbot’s face. “Here, can you walk?” Yorick lifted Prince to his feet. Prince stood unsteadily for a moment, took two wobbly steps, and sank to the floor. Swearing again, Yorick knelt and got Prince settled across his shoulders, then rose to his feet and hurried to the hospital wing.

Just before the last turn, Yorick put Prince on his feet again. “Listen to me,” he hissed. “You can’t tell anyone what happened. Right?”

“You’re bonkers,” was all Prince could manage.

“No, listen,” said Yorick urgently. “Things will only get worse for you if you spill it. You have to keep this quiet. Will Talbot’s brother will sort him out, I promise. Trust me.”

Prince stared at Yorick. Why should he trust this boy? He knew almost nothing about Yorick, except that he was a third year, was on the Quidditch team, apparently worshipped the ground Bradshaw walked on, and had thrown him out of a train compartment.

And he often sat nearby in the Great Hall, and laughed at Prince’s jokes. Prince supposed that was worth something.

“All right, then,” said Yorick, and he half led, half supported Prince around the corner and into the hospital wing. Nurse Bannock dropped the tray she had been carrying when she saw them. A beaker shattered and several small objects scattered across the floor.

“Hieronymous Yorick!” she said. “You’ve been warned again and again, but this time you’ve simply gone too far!”

“He was like this when I found him!” Yorick protested angrily, lifting Prince and dumping him onto the nearest bed.

Nurse Bannock clucked her tongue and began examining the remains of Prince’s hands. “Would you like to tell me what happened?” she asked.

“No,” said Prince, closing his eyes.

“You know, if you let him get away with this, he’ll only put someone else in that bed,” she said.

Prince worried that she was right, but then realized the nurse was talking about Yorick, not Talbot. “Yorick just brought me here,” Prince said. “It was a potions accident. I got lost on the way.”

“If you say so,” she said skeptically. “Drink this.” She poured a dose of the foulest tasting potion he had ever experienced down Prince’s throat.

“Eeeuggh!” he gagged. “Why not just kill me and get it over with?”

“Well, it’s a good sign if you can still be saucy,” she said. “I’d like to say you’ll be out of here in no time, but those hands—“ she shook her head. “At least a week to grow them back, I’d say. You just lay back and relax as much as you can now. I can send for a really good regenerative potion from Saint Mungo’s, but until it arrives, this should start some of the healing and reduce the pain. It may make you drowsy, but since we are going to have to--”

By this time, though, Prince’s exhaustion had overtaken him, and he dropped off to sleep without hearing the end of the sentence.

He only woke up hours later when Nurse Bannock insisted he drink another, even nastier potion. Groggily he swallowed the guck, then was startled completely awake when he noticed that his hands were gone. The stumps were healed over and painless, as were the rest of his wounds, but his arms ended just below the elbow.

“They were beyond repair,” Nurse Bannock responded to his yell of shock. “We heal what we can, but you were always going to need extreme healing for this, and sometimes it’s better to make a fresh start altogether.”

At least the stumps weren’t painful. Yet. As the new potion took effect, they began to throb and burn. It was a dull ache, nothing like the searing agony the disastrous potion had caused, but it was still unpleasant and aggravating. What’s more, now that he had no hands to scratch with, he seemed to itch everywhere. Though the nurse ordered a house elf to stand by and be at his disposal, Prince could hardly ask Bobbin to scratch for him.

Still, every time he opened his eyes, the elf was there, urgently asking if he needed a drink of water or whether he was hungry.

“You’re going to drown me,” Prince grumbled as Bobbin pressed about the tenth glass of water to his lips.

“Nurse Bannock told Bobbin that Albert Prince must drink lots of fluids,” said Bobbin anxiously.

“Hang Nurse Bannock,” said Prince, and turned his face away from the glass. He looked at his arm. The end of the stump appeared to have swollen a bit, and five tiny warts had appeared, which Prince assumed would eventually grow to be fingers.

The next time he awoke, it was to the sound of shouting. He could make out the voices of Professor Sylvanus, Professor Puddleby and Headmaster Fudge, though he could not hear what they were saying.

“—had twenty-eight other students who were—“ Puddleby’s voice rose for a moment, then was unintelligible again. Professor Sylvanus said something in a scathing tone, and Nurse Bannock sounded as if she were backing her up. Fudge made conciliatory noises.

When they had stopped speaking, Prince heard footsteps approaching. He waited, anticipating a visit from his house head. To his surprise, it was Headmaster Fudge who came around the curtain to sit beside his bed.

“And how are you doing today, young man?” said Fudge with patently false heartiness.

“Lovely,” said Prince. “A bit short-handed.”

“Ha ha ha! Very amusing.” Prince could tell the laughter was faked. “I understand you got lost on the way to the hospital wing, is that right?”

At Alspellers, three shelves of the library were filled with the battered, dog-eared collection of The Adventures of Bingo Deedle. They had been the favorite childhood reading matter of both his parents, and featured the exploits of a noble and kindhearted young Hufflepuff as he solved mysteries, thwarted bullies, and went on merry escapades at Hogwarts. Prince had been seven when he started devouring the series as well, and eight when he had realized that every book followed the same formula.

The one thing he had loathed Bingo Deedle for most was the way he always nobly refused to tattle. Sometimes it made sense, like when he had protected Stinky Protheroe, who had stolen the baby dragon Professor Kettle was going to boil alive in her new potion-making experiment. More often, though, Bingo’s nobility was displayed when he refused to tattle on his enemies, after he had caught them at something, or was being blamed for one of their misdeeds. He stood there, back straight and upper lip stiff and zipped, and took whatever punishment Headmaster Scourge dealt out.

While it occasionally earned the respect and loyalty of former enemies, it usually meant the villains of the book were free to go on to more heinous acts, which Bingo Deedle and his sidekicks from Slytherin, Gryffindor, and Ravenclaw had to thwart. These suspenseful confrontations, Prince had always thought, could have been easily prevented by having got the villains suspended or expelled for their first loathly misdeeds. And maybe Badger Blackburn wouldn’t keep doing horrible things to firsties and animals if only he got caught and punished for it more often. Not ratting out the antagonists was, Prince often thought, a bald, transparent and unlikely plot device. If he were Bingo Deedle, he’d run to the Headmaster’s office every ten pages, shouting, “Guess what Blackburn’s done THIS time!”

So it was particularly galling to lie to Fudge on this occasion. “Yes, that’s right. Talbot went off to scout for the right way after we got lost, and I guess he must have got turned around.” He had no idea why Yorick wanted Talbot protected, but when he weighed the possibility of getting Talbot expelled—not a sure thing by any means--against the disadvantages of offending a Quidditch player and friend to the universally worshipped Bradshaw, he thought he could handle Talbot as an enemy better than the whole of Slytherin.

“And Mr. Yorick,’ Fudge looked disapproving and slightly hopeful. “Are you sure he didn’t harm you in any way? Nurse Bannock seems to think some of your injuries were unlikely to have been caused by the potion-making incident. You needn’t be afraid to say, you know. He’s on his very last chance already, and will be packed off within the hour if you say the word.”

“Yorick rescued me,” Prince said firmly. “He found me and took me straight to the hospital wing. If you want to know, I was practicing wandless shielding spells before class this morning, and asked Talbot to cast curses at me then.”

“Wandless shielding spells?” Fudge frowned. “But those aren’t covered until the fourth year, surely. As for Mr. Talbot, from what I have heard, he does not exactly shine at his classwork. I find it hard to believe that he is capable of—“

“Have you only come here to call me a liar?” Prince demanded indignantly. “Because, frankly, I’m tired, and I need to use the bedpan. There’s a house elf around here to help me, but if you INSIST on staying, you can just as well make yourself useful.”

Fudge was gone with gratifying alacrity, leaving Prince to wonder whether he was being a complete fool.


The days Prince spent in the hospital wing were tedious. The constant dull ache from his growing arms kept him in a surly mood, and there was nothing to distract him from it. He fretted about getting behind in his studies. Bobbit was willing to hold up a book and turn the pages when necessary, but it was awkward, and the elf had too low a level of literacy to read aloud about astronomy or transfiguration, anyway. And Prince was entirely unable to hold a wand while his hands regenerated, even if Nurse Bannock had allowed it.

Several of the second years sent small gifts, and so did some of his sailing trainees. Jared sent a card, though he did not visit. There was also a generous assortment of Zonko & Weasley products from Yorick. Prince assumed it was a bribe or a reward, though he still had no idea why Yorick would want to shield Talbot. Prince received nothing from the Slytherin first years, naturally, except an anonymous note saying ‘Serves you rite, thinking your so clever.” He couldn’t identify the handwriting.

The lovely Amanda Trollope visited him daily, and read to him from her budding romance novel. It was only slightly more painful than the regenerating spell. As the fictional, attractive, brilliant, red-haired Slytherin seeker endlessly griped to her pointless friends about how much she loathed the tall, handsome, sensitive, muscular, broad-shouldered, blond, eagle-eyed Gryffindor keeper, Prince hoped dearly that the tale would end with a marauding dragon entering the Quidditch pitch and devouring the both of them. Though he managed to be polite, he simply could not manufacture the sort of enthusiastic response he knew Amanda would like. Still, he managed not to fall asleep during the reading, and thought he deserved kudos for that.

Aisling visited once, and was the only really useful visitor he had. She read him three chapters of astronomy and quizzed him on them relentlessly until Nurse Bannock threw her out, insisting that the patient needed rest.

“Boredom, you mean,” Prince grumbled. “Is being bored silly really therapeutic?”

There were also brief visits from a few of his teachers, a particularly guilt-ridden one from Puddleby.

“I really can’t help but feel responsible for this,” Puddleby said. “Of course, I’d have brought you to the hospital wing myself, if I hadn’t had a room full of other students in the middle of brewing. But I take full blame for the entire matter. I ought to have asked Talbot if he knew the way. And at any rate you are far too young and inexperienced to be responsible for overseeing your classmates’ work. I should never have put you in that position in the first place. I assure you, when you return to class it will be different. You can return to your normal studies as Miss Goyle’s partner—no, I will not expect you to provide any guidance—and Mr. Talbot will be tutored by Miss Cault until he is capable of keeping up with the class.”

“Hang on!” said Prince. “What about MY tutoring? What about advancing to the second year?”

“It was a mistake, as I think we’ve all seen now,” said Puddleby firmly. “I thought from the first that it was far too dangerous, and I ought to have stuck to my opinion. You see where it’s ended up.”

“But that’s—it wasn’t MY—it’s not fair!” Prince sputtered angrily.

Puddleby stood to depart. “I’m sorry, I know it must be a disappointment. But some day you will understand, and thank me for this.”

“In a nargle’s eye!” Prince shouted after him. He sulked for hours after Puddleby’s departure. At least Professors Flitwick and McGonagall had both encouraged him not to let this setback interfere with his plans. Professor Sylvanus had rather wryly complimented him on his ambition in practicing wandless shielding. Her tone made him suspect she had an idea what had really happened, but would take no action unless officially informed or asked to interfere. It made him feel a little safer about eventually returning to the dormitory, to know that he could probably count on her backup if he needed it.

Because the thought of being asleep and vulnerable in the same room as Talbot was enough to give him the cold sweats, the willies, and the screaming meemies combined. His sleep was still troubled by dreams of endlessly circling a room with no exits, Talbot smiling from the other side.

It was from one of these nightmares that he was startled by a sharp pain in one toe. Waking with a yell, Prince saw a familiar, angry, and badly weather-beaten owl perched on the foot of his bed frame. It held a tattered letter in its claws.

“You bit me!” said Prince indignantly. The owl flung the letter at him, and refused the owl treats Prince had Bobbin fetch, instead swooping down on Prince’s breakfast tray and seizing three strips of bacon in its talons. The owl shredded the bacon and devoured it furiously on the headboard as Prince struggled to open the envelope with his slowly developing fingers. The owl had finished and had made its exit before Prince was able to read Mr. Burke’s long-awaited reply.

“Dear Albert,

I am delighted that you are enjoying school and doing well in your classes. I think Slytherin will suit you admirably. Agapantha Sylvanus should take good care of you. She was a friend of your mother’s, back when they both worked as beast wranglers for Borgen & Burke’s unofficial sideline in exotic pets. If she should ever express any dissatisfaction in her current career, pray let her know that B&B would welcome her back.”

Oh, lord, another family connection, Prince thought. But he had little fear of Aggie going sentimental and morbidly nostalgic on him, so it didn’t bother him much.

“I’m afraid our quest is being delayed by a series of ice storms, but we have established a base in a mountain cave, and are quite comfortable until we step outside. Regrettably, the warmth seems to attract polar bears, and I’m afraid your owl got a rather nasty shock when it flew through our wildlife repelling screen.

“On the subject of the donation, I would be a very poor guardian indeed if I let you squander your capital before you are of age on every foolish or generous impulse that crosses your fancy. You may recall we have had this conversation before, on the subject of the Home for Unwanted Kneazles, the Squib’s Relief Fund, the Association of Veterans & Victims of Voldemort’s Villainies, the Muggleworld Theme Park bankruptcy sale, the auction for the alleged Snorkack pelt, the Unicorn Conservancy, the Morris Dancer’s Museum, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Muggles, the Merlin’s Cave Preservation Society, the Ringo Starr autographed drumstick, the alleged ear trumpet of Granny Boswell, Graceland, etc.

“But since the welfare of Hogwarts is also dear to my heart, I will make you an offer. Every galleon you contribute toward the Hogwarts library from your own resources, I shall match myself. Bear in mind, however, that you are still responsible for your own daily expenses, and if you leave yourself short, I have no intention of advancing or lending you a knut.

“Sincerely Yours,
Antonius M Burke

“P.S. I shall have to see all receipts from Flourish & Blotts, as a matter of course.”

“By Baruffio’s rhinestone-studded jockstrap!” Prince growled. “What’s the point of having a fortune if it rots in Gringotts earning interest all the time?” He had a hundred galleons a month for pocket money, which he was certain was far more than most students, and was much more than adequate to cover his own needs for school supplies, snacks, and other day to day requirements. However, history books of the quality that belonged on library shelves were expensive. He could probably manage one or two a month at most, and might have to save up over several months for some of the thicker, more scholarly works. Of course, he did have a few hundred in savings at home, but he had intended to use them next summer in his attempt to restore the old Snape house on Spinner’s End, which was among the properties he had inherited.

He tried to think of a way to make some extra money. Jared had suggested long ago that he sell Goo, but he had already given the recipe away for free, and couldn’t regret it. If he had not shared it, Goo would not be nearly so popular, nor so colorful. A rainbow of new shades had been developed, and Goo was lately being hurled around in orange and purple and indigo and pink and, at last, Slytherin green.

He put his mind to it as he lay bored for the next few days, and his ideas ran from the mundane to the elaborate. He could take up a collection. He could put on an enormous historical recreation. He could ask Wriggle to pawn some of his personal property. He could hold Fudge hostage. He could find a lost treasure.

None of his plans were practical, he knew. Any sort of fund-raising really depended on the other students being interested in history, which, thanks to Professor Binns, Prince was pretty sure they weren’t. And any of his personal possessions valuable enough to be worth selling were either too historic to part with, or under the stern authority of Mr. Burke. He supposed Mr. Burke would probably let him do what he liked with the Death Eater masks, the 1715 Skylark broomstick, or George Pickingill’s nostril hair clippers, but there would probably be hell to pay if he tried to sell the house in Shanghai or the nameless little south Pacific island.

He could always try charging Cousin Reginald rent.

The thought gave him the best laugh he’d had all week, and brightened up his afternoon whenever he thought of it. He had finally had another letter from Reginald, an attempt to borrow fifty Galleons. Reginald thought far too highly of himself to stoop to taking a job, and didn’t have the means to live in the manner he felt he deserved.

Still, the day finally came when his hands were completely regrown, and he still had no idea what to do about the school library. Nurse Bannock prodded at his digits, frowning. Prince was relieved to be fully fingered-out again, though his hands looked slightly strange and unfamiliar. For one thing, they were soft, pink, and new-looking. And the scar across his knuckles, from when he had got too close to the Nundicawl cage, was gone.

“What’s the matter?” Prince finally asked the nurse.

“Don’t be troubled, pet,” Nurse Bannock said. “Your fingers just seem a bit stiff and unresponsive. I expect that will clear up with time. Still, I think we’d better arrange for piano lessons. That ought to help.”

“Piano lessons?” Prince had mixed feelings on the subject. On the one hand, he did love music, enjoyed learning new things, and would like to be able to play an instrument. On the other, it would take time from his already harried schedule.

Still, anything that would help improve his grip was a good thing, Prince soon realized. Nurse Bannock had him cast a few small charms. While he had no trouble with Lumos or the page-turning charm, any spell that required more vigorous wand movements was likely to send his wand flying across the room.

So piano lessons were arranged, and Prince was released from the hospital wing. It was a relief to be back in the bustling world, students rushing through the corridors and happy chatter all around him. As he made his way to the dormitory, he passed Parkinson’s gang.

“Well, look who’s decided to stop skiving off!” Parkinson said. “You’ve got an entire week to catch up on, now, you know.”

Prince ignored him, and looked beyond his shoulder to where Talbot stood. When their eyes met, Talbot cringed and snarled like a scorched weasel. Prince didn’t know whether the fear in his eyes was due to dread of Prince’s retribution, or because he had been ‘sorted out’ as Yorick had promised. At any rate, Talbot’s fright made Prince feel a good deal more confident about rejoining the class.

He felt better still when he noticed the large nose and knobby fingers at the top of the headboard of his bed. “Bobbin! What are you doing here?”

“Professor Sylvanus asked Nurse Bannock to ask Bobbin to keep Albert Prince under observation,” said Bobbin, peering over the headboard. “Professor Sylvanus was worried about a recurrence of symptoms. Especially curse wounds.”

“Excellent, thanks much,” said Prince. “Only, you will have to go into hiding if my own house elf turns up for a visit. I don’t think Wriggle will be pleased to find another elf looking after me.”

Even the knowledge that he was being watched over didn’t prevent Prince from setting up a few wards and alarms on his bedstead. At last assured of being left to sleep unmolested, he gratefully crawled between the sheets and relaxed. He was home again. Well, sort of.




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  #12  
Old September 7th, 2010, 9:23 pm
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Inkwolf  Undisclosed.gif Inkwolf is offline
I trusted Severus Snape
 
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Re: The Prince of Hogwarts (An ASP at Hogwarts prequel)

12

“Two hours a day!” Prince protested. “Circe’s knickers, I’m not planning to be Rachmaninoff.”

“But you are planning to cast a levitating charm without your wand flying across the room,” said Nurse Bannock. “Buckle down and stop complaining.”

So, for two hours every day, he went to the music room to bang out scales on the piano. It wouldn’t be so tedious if it was actual music. Even if he didn’t care for the tune, he could have invented his own lyrics. But there was nothing to sing along with a scale, and Miss Bickerstaff, the Squib piano teacher who had come up from Hogsmeade to give him his first lesson, had been insistent on his learning where all the notes were before progressing to anything worth playing.

It wasn’t the tedium that irritated Prince so much as the thought of how much less time he had to study his other subjects. Admittedly, he couldn’t advance very quickly in Charms when any sudden wrist motion made him drop his wand, but he could still read ahead in Astronomy, Herbology, Transfiguration and Defense Against the Dark Arts.

Puddleby was as good as his word, unfortunately. While Prince had to admit that Potions class was much improved by Talbot’s absence, he was now forced to waste time brewing simple potions far beneath his abilities. Though Puddleby had told him he was no longer responsible for Goyle’s performance, he had nothing better to do with his time than keep an eye on her and offer her such constructive encouragement as “Can’t you tell your aloe from your haworthia? Are you failing Herbology, too?” and “Surely you can chop that slug finer than that, even with fingers like bananas,” and “You know, NORMAL people peel their pokeberries.” Prince thought that people several rooms away could probably hear her teeth grinding, but at least she didn’t destroy any more cauldrons.

The day after he got out of the hospital wing, Prince stuck a can to the bulletin board, with a few anti-theft jinxes on it. Above it he hung a sign, saying ‘Please Contribute to the Hogwarts Library History book fund.—Albert Severus Prince”

He didn’t have high expectations, so when he lifted the can several days later, he was pleasantly surprised to find it heavy and full. Removing the lid, though, revealed it to be filled, not with coins, but with little glass balls. Puzzled, he looked up at the sign, and noticed it had been changed to read, “Lost my marbles! Please return if found.—Albert Severus Prince” There was muffled snickering from the first-year end of the table. Prince ignored it and removed the can and the notice.

He saw that Jared was standing in the corridor outside the Great Hall. Relieved that he would have someone decent to sit with, Prince waited as Jared chatted with a couple of Hufflepuff fifth years. When one of them pulled a handful of Galleons from her pocket and handed them to Jared, something in Prince’s brain flickered. The Hufflepuffs entered the Great Hall as Jared marked something down in a note pad. Prince approached him.

“Hullo, Titch, how are the music lessons coming along?” Jared said affably.

“Why, are you taking bets on it?” Prince asked.

“Coo. What’s got up your nose?” Jared raised an eyebrow.

“I want a cut.”

Jared’s face grew hard and fierce. “I beg your pardon, I don’t believe I can have heard you correctly.”

“I want a cut,” Prince insisted. “You’re making a bundle betting on me. There was the Goo, and there’s the study chart, and there was Rootle—some people ARE saying that was my fault—and ten to one you took bets on when I’d get out of the hospital—“

“I can’t believe my ears,” Jared spat. “Of all the selfish, greedy, little grasping pikers!“

“It’s not for me,” said Prince, reddening. “It’s only that—“

“Oh, yeah, I’m sure you have all sorts of noble causes,” said Jared. “Has it ever occurred to you that I have to pay out on bets as well? Has it ever occurred to you that people might think I’m getting you to fix the bets if I cut you in? No, you don’t think about anything but yourself, and that’s the truth.”

“Well, if it isn’t profitable, why do you bother?” Prince snapped. “The way I heard it, the house always wins, and you’re the house, aren’t you?”

“Well, that’s gratitude for you,” said Jared. “After all I’ve done for you!”

“Like what?” Prince demanded.

“Let you sit by me at lunch,” said Jared. “Given you the benefit of my experience and counsel, that’s what! And this is the thanks I get. Goo is, incredibly, still legal. Do you realize that if it gets banned now, I’ll have to pay off on a long shot? And there’s a rumor that Rootle will be coming back to school after Christmas, and I gave Vicky Weasley thirty to one odds on that! And now you’ve only gone and got yourself nobbled like a chump, and Lord knows when you’re going to catch up with the second year now, and my whole odds structure is obsolete and has to be recalculated. I’m on the verge of being pauperized, but do you care? Have you given so much as a thought to my troubles? No, because you’re self centered, and too involved in your own problems to give a flying fart for anyone else’s.”

“Well,” said Prince. “I sort of think having your hands fried off is a little more serious than having to pay out on a few bets.”

“Maybe for YOU,” said Jared coldly, and walked away.

As the days went on, Jared ignored Prince with a haughty disdain, refusing to speak to him, look at him, or even acknowledge his existence. Prince wavered between a sort of lonesome misery, and a firm and angry conviction that he was better off without Jared for a friend. It had been humiliating enough to ask for money, without being called greedy, self-centered and ungrateful.

Unfortunately, Jared and Amanda had been his closest friends among the second-years. While Amanda still spoke to him, she was more and more involved in her writing, especially as she now had a bevy of second-year girls from all four houses who adored her novel, clustered around her, and waited eagerly for every new installment.

Prince was perfectly welcome among them, of course, but couldn’t help feeling that it was somewhat unmanly to spend all his free time with a mob of maidens. Besides, even when the romance readings weren’t going on, there was endless discussion about which story character should hook up with which other story character. It made him want to shrivel like a salted slug. In addition, while Amanda and a few of the others treated him with reasonable respect, most of the girls acted as though he were five years younger than they were, instead of one, or as if he were a trained pet monkey.

Still, Amanda and her fans were much better than no friends at all, and Prince still enjoyed their conversations on the few occasions when her admiring throng wasn’t gathered around her.

“In that case, young man,” Prince said in his best imitation of Trilby, at breakfast with Amanda on one of those rare, uncrowded opportunities, “I expect you to do no less than six hundred pushups! It will be the best exercise for you! It will build your arms back up in no time! I do nine thousand every day before tiffin, and look at me!” Prince posed in several muscle-flexing positions, not that he had any muscles worth showing off.

Amanda shrieked, “No! He didn’t, really?” and down the table, Prince heard Yorick snorting with suppressed laughter.

“Actually, he upped it to a hundred fifty,” Prince said gloomily. “Honestly, I can barely do twenty any more before my wrists go all wobbly. I ask you! Anyone decent would have let me lower the number a bit.”

“Oh, you’ll manage it!” said Amanda brightly.

But Prince’s mind was elsewhere.

“I say,” he whispered, leaning close to Amanda. “Have you noticed that Yorick fellow sits near us a lot?”

“I suppose he does,” Amanda whispered back. “Do you think he fancies me? He is a really incredible Quidditch player. Did you see him in the game against Hufflepuff?” She tossed her hair a bit, watching Yorick out of the corner of her eye.

“No, I had better things to do with my time,” said Prince shortly, regretting bringing up the subject. “Honestly, Amanda, from what I’ve heard, he’s a complete thug.”

Yorick left for class, and Amanda pouted slightly. “Really, Bertie, what could you have to do that was more important than Slytherin’s first Quidditch game? We almost won, too, except the chasers were so bad that the Ravenclaw beaters were able to leave them alone entirely and concentrate on trying to wipe out our Seeker. She was right ON the Snitch when one of them--”

‘If you want to know, I was practicing charms in the Common Room while it was empty,” said Prince. “If I was going to be flinging wands around recklessly, I thought it was better not to have ‘em landing in peoples’ cocoa and impaling their cats.”

“Oh, poor dear! How did it go?”

“Nearly lost it in the fireplace, twice,” said Prince. “Still, it’s getting better.”

“I’m sure you’ll be back to normal in no time,” Amanda said. “Remember, I’m counting on you for November!”

She gave him a kiss on the cheek as she departed, but for once it failed to make his heart skip. She was counting on him to finish the first year by the first week of November. That left him precious little time. What if she lost her bet? Would she go off him the way Jared had?

Amanda had been the one to invite him to join the second years at meals. While the others didn’t seem to mind, and he quite liked several of him, they weren’t his particular friends, and without Amanda’s support, he would have little sense of belonging with them.

Prince doubled his efforts at studying. He set aside Charms entirely until he could be certain of holding his wand, and pulled out The Dark Arts and What to Do About Them, to catch up with the earlier lessons of the year. He stayed up hours later every night, even resorting to wearing the hated eyeglasses when the other students were asleep. And when his brain simply could not absorb any more data, he did pushups.

The results were evident. The progress chart in the common room started to fill in with gratifying rapidity as October crawled by. The first week of November began to feel like a real possibility.

Not everyone was pleased. One morning as he made his way through the Common Room, he noticed Parkinson and his gang staring at the chart and scowling. Parkinson turned his scowl on Prince as he walked by, and that day he tried to cast a hex on Prince between Herbology and History. Fortunately, Parkinson still had trouble with any sort of magic done at a distance, and the hex failed to work.

As the week went on, though, Prince seemed to find Parkinson or one of his friends underfoot whenever he tried to study, determined to interfere. If he struggled with his pushups, one or more idiots was bound to tackle him and pin him to the ground. If he was reading, the book would be torn from his hands and thrown wherever it was inconvenient to retrieve it from. If he was practicing spellcasting, someone only needed to sneak up while he concentrated. A quick jog to his elbow or blow on the wrist would send his wand sailing away to where one of the sneak’s cohorts could grab it and run with it, or toss it somewhere impossible to retrieve without magic. After a few days of this, Prince thought the upperclassmen and prefects he had to ask for help to get his wand back showed signs of diminishing patience.

The day he found his Herbology textbook torn to shreds, Prince had had enough. He no longer had any confidence in his ability to out-duel the Parkinson gang, not with his flimsy grip, their growing abilities, and Talbot’s curses. But he could give them something else to think about.

In the dark of the night, Prince slipped out of his bed and quietly opened one of Parkinson’s wardrobe drawers. Poking his wand into the drawer, he whispered a charm of his own invention, and quietly slid the drawer closed again. Tiptoeing around the dormitory, he did the same for all Parkinson’s henchmen, then returned to his bed with a sense of deep satisfaction.

Half an hour later, he rose again, and did Lovecraft and Fish’s. It would be suspicious if only his real enemies were targeted. Besides, though Lovecraft and Fish had done him no real harm, they certainly hadn’t done him any good.

Half an hour again, and he reluctantly rose to do the same for his own drawer. It would throw suspicion off.

Three quarters of an hour later, he decided he ought to have credit for what was a brilliant piece of spellwork, and went to Parkinson’s wardrobe and burned his initials—ASP—into the bottom of the drawer.

An hour later, he awoke again, horrified at his stupidity. He knew of no way to remove his initials from the drawer. He stared down at them worriedly. Then he drew a snake next to them, and added a few words to the burned inscription. And he made the rounds again, burning the same message into each drawer.

An hour later, he woke up again, and it was time to get up for class. He hoped his night’s work was worth the lost sleep.

As he got dressed, he frowned. “Which of you has been in my underwear drawer?” he demanded. “There’d better not be any itching powder in there.”

“Nobody in the world would want to come anywhere near your pants,” sneered Parkinson, looking as if he wished he had thought of it.

“Someone has,” Prince insisted. He rummaged through the underwear. “Look, there’s a message burned in the bottom of the drawer!”

Parkinson snorted. “Let’s see.” He shoved Prince aside and stared at scorched wood. “The ASP was here,” he read. “What in blazes is that supposed to mean?”

“It’s in my drawer, too!” said Zounds, sounding frightened.

All the boys hurried to check their own underwear drawers, staring at the mysterious message which they, fortunately, were far too stupid to connect with Prince’s initials…he hoped.

“Well, if it’s itching powder, it doesn’t seem to be working, said Prince warily, rubbing a clean pair of pants on his arm. He shrugged, and got dressed. So did the others. As they made their way to breakfast nothing seemed amiss, and over the course of the day, as they attended their classes, the mysterious Asp was forgotten.

Prince had a most rewarding consultation with Nurse Bannock after lunch, about his now aching fingers and wrists. She told him he was overdoing things, and to cut piano practice to a single hour daily. This was a relief, because Miss Bickerstaff, instead of actual music, still insisted on teaching him new scales every lesson. He was beginning to doubt her sanity. Better yet, Nurse Bannock absolutely forbade him to do more than twenty push-ups a day, and promised to have a word with Professor Trilby. The grim tone of her voice boded ill for that gentleman. A couple of salves and charms took the ache out of his joints, and he returned to class in high spirits, and didn’t drop his wand once in Transfiguration or Charms.

He went down to dinner with the greatest anticipation. There was to be a musical performance after the meal today. A group of Gryffindors had formed a band, the Blue Bludgers, and had petitioned for and received permission to perform.

He was disappointed to see Amanda was not at the table. She was sitting over at the Hufflepuff table, flocked by admirers. Apparently her new episode had been completed. Jared was away as well, dealing with his customers in the corridor again, even if Prince had been inclined to make up with him.

He almost was. He desperately wanted someone to confide in.

Yorick was there, though. And there was an empty seat next to him. Prince took it.

One of the second years looked at him with shock.

“What?” Prince asked. Elwood Birch, he thought the boy was named.

“You shouldn’t sit with the Quidditch team without permission!” Elwood said, a sort of religious fervor in his voice. Prince looked past Yorick. Sure enough, there were some of the other players. Bradshaw sat across from Aisling a few seats down. And Goyle was sitting beside her. He hadn’t noticed Goyle’s departure from the first-year end of the table, but why should he? He was never there himself.

“Oy,” said Yorick, noticing him. “How are you feeling, Pipsqueak?”

“Much better, thanks.” He offered Yorick his hand. “Albert Severus Prince.”

Yorick shook it. “Hieronymous Yorick.”

“Really?” said Prince. “So, do they call you Hero for short?”

Yorick glowered. “They call me Sir for short.”

“Right,” said Prince. “Whatever you say. Pass the milk, please, Hero.”

“Don’t make me put you back in the hospital,” Yorick growled. But he passed the milk.

As the meal drew to a close, most of the teachers and many of the older students filtered out of the Great Hall. The band was setting up its instruments near the head table. Prince watched as the drums were arranged and the guitarist and cellist tuned their instruments. There was a saxophone player, too, running scales, but Prince had heard enough scales to last him a lifetime.

He caught at Yorick’s sleeve as the boy rose. “You’re not leaving?”

“I’ve heard amateur bands before,” said Yorick. “Ten to one they suck.”

“Don’t go,” Prince urged. “Really. It’s going to be worth staying for. Something…interesting is going to happen.”

“Yeah?” Yorick sank back into his seat.

“Coming, Yorick?” Bradshaw called from the door.

“You go on,” Yorick called back. “I’ve decided to stick around for a bit.”

Prince waited on the edge of his seat, hoping that he had got everything right.

The drummer tapped out four beats on his drum, and the band started to play. Even though he was expecting it, Prince gave a yelp when a firm jerk at his nether regions pulled him out of his chair and onto his feet, and he started dancing. He could see the rest of the Slytherin first-year boys were up and grooving to the beat as well, though they looked less than happy about it.

Prince quickly found that by relaxing and dancing on his own, the spell gave him control over his own movements. Parkinson and the others, on the other hand, were yelling and wildly waving their arms around, trying to fight it. This only seemed to make matters worse for them.

It was clear to everyone that something was amiss, but before the few remaining teachers could investigate, the first-year girls jumped up to join the dancing boys, and then more students got up from their seats at all the tables, and the Great Hall became crowded with young witches and wizards, rocking out. Encouraged, the Bludgers picked up the beat, and Prince’s classmates yelled louder as their feet danced faster. Yorick rolled on the floor, laughing.

The band played for nearly an hour, and Prince was glad when they finally stopped. It was tiring to dance so long without rest, even when aided by magic.

Then some of the other students began calling for an encore, and ignoring the shouts of “No! No!” from the Parkinson gang, the Blue Bludgers played for another fifteen minutes. Actually, Prince thought as he continued hoofing it, they weren’t half bad.

Prince was nearly as exhausted as the others when they finally made their way to the dormitory. Not quite, though, as he had not expended any energy fighting the spell. While the rest of the boys collapsed onto their beds, fully dressed, and dropped off to sleep almost at once, Prince got out his inventing journal. After nearly forgetting how Goo was made, Prince had been much more careful about keeping a record of his experiments. Now he added a cheerful note to Page Four: the Dancypants charm was an unqualified success. One day, Othmar the Amusing’s Ten Thousande Magickal Pranques would have some serious competition.

Putting the book away, Prince joined the rest of his dorm mates in exhausted slumber.



“Do you think it was Arnold Goyle?” Nott suggested the next night. “He’s a troublemaker, and he’s not a—“ he looked sidelong at Prince. “Er, he’s not our sort. “

“Goyle doesn’t have the wit for something like this,” said Parkinson. “He’s all muscle and no brain. Beating you to a pulp in the corridor, yeah, but sneaking in and casting spells on your underwear? No, the Asp is someone sly and sneaky. And maybe a bit perverted.”

“Hey, Nott,” said Blood. “It couldn’t be your brother Theo, could it? He’s always been a bit of a…” Again, they all looked at Prince and clammed up.

Prince popped a pale Bertie Botts bean in his mouth. Toasted marshmallow-coconut. It was delicious. He made a terrible face and gagged. “If I had to guess, I’d say flobberworm. Ech! Say, could the Asp be a girl? I heard they can actually enter the boys’ dormitories. Enchanting underwear to make you dance seems more of a girly thing, don’t you agree?” And expanding the list of suspects was all in good fun. Prince bit down on a red and brown speckled bean. Chocolate raspberry, lovely. He choked, “I think that one may have been week-old roadkill…”

“Are you still eating those?” Parkinson stood up suspiciously. During the course of the night, the supplies of Bertie Botts beans belonging to him, Blood and Zounds had all been replaced with the contents of Bertie Botts’ Hag Bag, the special assortment designed for those with less human tastes, or who liked to revolt their friends and enemies. Each pile of disgusting candies had included a note with the compliments of the mysterious Asp. The beans Prince was now enjoying were the former stash of his enemies, and it made them all the sweeter.

He froze with horror as Parkinson seized one of the beans and ate it. Parkinson’s face turned scarlet, and he spit the chewed fragments of the brown bean on the floor.

“Dog doo!” Parkinson yelped, wiping at his mouth with a sleeve.

“Really?” said Prince in a fascinated tone. “How do you know what dog doo tastes like?” Parkinson was still too busy spitting all over the floor to answer, and Prince relaxed, blessing Bertie Botts for adding the element of risk to his confections, which had just saved him from exposure. As an afterthought, he blessed Parkinson for removing the dog-doo-flavored bean before Prince had encountered it.

Prince bit into a black bean. Licorice, rich, dark and delectable. “Sewage!” he gasped, clapping a hand over his mouth and running for the door, making retching sounds. Once away from the dormitory, he sauntered off to find a place where he could enjoy the beans and practice his charms in private.

The mysterious Asp had not finished with the first year Slytherin boys, however. The next morning they awoke to find all of their shoes had been shrunk to doll proportions, forcing them to go to their classes in stocking feet until a professor could sort things out. A couple of days later, the dorm room was flooded with water, and they awoke to find their beds floating near the ceiling. Talbot got out of bed without looking first, and had to be fished out of the water before he drowned. Another day, they opened their drawers to have all their clothes fly up and stick to the ceiling. They had to pile dressers and tables together so that Nott, the tallest, could climb up and hand down their things, otherwise they would have had to attend classes in their pajamas. As it was, it was fortunate that the weather had turned cold enough to wear full muggle outfits under their school uniforms, or they would have been in danger of flashing the entire school whenever they forgot to hold their robes down.

At any rate, the quest for the mysterious Asp distracted Parkinson’s gang almost entirely from their attempts to influence Prince’s graduation date. Prince chuckled to himself as he noted the success of the Reverse-Gravity Garments charm in his journal, and tried to think of a snappier name for it. Frock-Floating? Hoverduds? Getup-and-away?

The book was snatched from his hand suddenly. Prince had not heard Parkinson approaching. “What’s this, your diary?” Parkinson sneered. He opened the book and stared. His face reddened. “What in blazes is all this?” he finally snarled.

“What,” said Prince. “Do you mean to tell me you can’t read Cornish? You really ought to learn, Parkers. We all have a responsibility to preserve our traditional languages.”

With a disgusted sound, Parkinson hurled the notebook against the wall. Prince retrieved it, chortling.

He spent the next several days concentrating on his studies once more. Parkinson’s lot were far too busy setting snares for the Asp and trying to lure him out of hiding to trouble Prince. By the last week of October, nearly every bar on Prince’s progress chart had hit the goal. Certainly there were some gaps in Herbology and Astronomy which could only be filled by practical experience in the proper season, but he was confident that his professors would agree that he had done all he could, and advance him with the knowledge that he had the capability to catch up with it later. It was only in Defense against the Dark Arts that he had reading left to do, and he set to it, regretfully putting aside Moody’s fascinating manual to finish the actual class textbook.

He thought it suitable that the Asp should celebrate Prince’s graduation a little early, so as to ring in Halloween with panache. Early Halloween morning, he was awakened by shouts, as he was pulled from his bed. Prince, like the rest of his dorm mates, was trapped in a sticky, web-like substance suspended from the middle of the ceiling. It pulled him in, swinging him in an arc. He yelled, watching Parkinson, Talbot and the others similarly suspended. As the webs contracted, pulling them higher, they continued to move faster, the hub of the web spinning to swing them out as if they were on a Muggle carnival ride. Prince tried to scream as loudly as the others, and to hold back his laughter.

Just as he was beginning to feel queasy from the motion, the web stopped spinning. The eight bound boys continued to swing randomly, bumping together and twirling and sticking, until they were all bound together in one great, sticky, shouting mass.

Their shouts eventually brought older students to see what had happened, and when they had finished laughing at the spectacle, they fetched the house head. Professor Sylvanus, who had also been called in to sort out the flooding, cut them down, looking at the ceiling with tight lips. Glowing letters there spelled out ‘Happy Halloween from the Asp!’

“It was that stupid Asp again!” Talbot snarled, pulling sticky strands of web from his mouth. “If I ever catch him—“

“I’m sure he will be caught quickly, if he goes on this way,” said Professor Sylvanus, looking pointedly at Prince. “He is pushing his luck.”

Prince suddenly decided it was time for the Asp to retire. Professor Sylvanus was clearly not as dim as his classmates. And anyway, the mysterious prankster had served his purpose.

Prince took The Dark Arts and What to Do About Them to breakfast. There would be no classes today, and he hoped to finish his studies for the first year. Tomorrow he would beg to be tested, and with any luck, he would be in the second year within the week, rid of Talbot and Parkinson for good, and Amanda would have won her bet. He remained in the Great Hall after breakfast, studying right up till lunchtime.

But he had stayed up late studying, spent half the night preparing the Spider Spinner Snare, and been awakened early when it went off. His eyes began drooping uncontrollably, and suddenly the book dropped from his fingers, right into his soup bowl, and when he tried to snatch at it, he knocked a jug of pumpkin juice over it as well. With an exclamation of horror, Prince held up the soggy textbook, soup and juice drooling from it all over the table.

“Evanesco!” At once, the book was clean and dry again, as was the table.

“Thanks,” said Prince. “Thanks awfully.”

“No trouble at all,” said Headmaster Fudge. “I hope, however, that this will encourage you to do your studying at a more appropriate place and time. There are no classes today. Surely you can’t be so behind on Defense Against the Dark Arts that you have to study during meals.”

“Well, it’s just that I’m trying to get advanced as quickly as possible, so I have less to catch up with,” said Prince. When Fudge looked blank, Prince explained, “I’m trying to get promoted to the second year, you know. Ahead of schedule, I mean.”

“Well, well, I see,” said Fudge. “I’m afraid that’s not really possible, young man. So why don’t you just enjoy your holiday and—“

“What do you mean, not possible?” Prince demanded, his voice rising almost to a shout. “I’ve nearly finished the entire first year curriculum! And in only two months!” Not counting his illegal head start in Potions and Flight.

“Have you really?” said Fudge. “Well, if it’s true, that’s a most prodigious feat, and I commend you for it. But I’m afraid we look at more than academic achievements when considering early advancement. We also have to consider what is in your best interest with regard to your social development and maturity.”

“I’m extremely mature for my age!” Prince insisted.

“Are you?” said Fudge drily. “I seem to remember a certain matter of disruptive behavior on the night of your arrival. And I recall giving you detention a few days later for hurling objects in the Great Hall.”

“Are you implying that second-years never throw things at you?”

It seemed to be the wrong thing to say, because Fudge’s brows lowered and his face tightened. “I am merely saying that I believe you are better suited at this time to remain in the company of your own age group.”

“Are you off your onion?” Prince protested. “Have you MET my age group?”

But Fudge had moved on, walking away with a brisk stride. Prince stood, staring after him. All his time, all his work had been for nothing. The entire hall seemed hushed in the aftermath of the scene. From a few seats down, Prince heard Jared Scroggs clear his throat as he stood.

“No refunds,” Jared announced clearly, and departed.


Prince wandered through the corridors, stunned by his disappointment. He felt like a ship with all the wind out of its sails. What was he supposed to do the rest of the year? Go to classes to study things he already knew?

He grew angrier the more he thought about it. Yes, he remembered that Professor Sylvanus had said Fudge would have the final word. Maybe he ought to have consulted with the headmaster before he had put in all that effort. Still, Fudge had not even considered the possibility, and he had had no right to humiliate Prince in the middle of the Great Hall. The very least he could have done was to pretend to consider it, and give him the bad news in private.

All around him, people were preparing for the Halloween banquet, or enjoying their day off. He smoldered with rage at all of them. He was not only angry at Fudge. He was angry at the teachers who had encouraged him. They must at least have suspected he’d have no chance getting past the headmaster. He was angry at the teachers who had not encouraged him—they could have said right out that it would never be permitted. He was furious at Jared for caring about nothing but his stupid bets, and at the first years just for being themselves. Somehow, they all must be made to pay for his frustration.

It was time for the Asp to make a comeback.

Prince climbed to the second floor, and slipped past the warning signs on the forbidden corridor. It seemed Myrtle made a poor guardian, for she failed to note his trespassing again. Perhaps she was off with the other ghosts, preparing for the feast.

He approached the locked door. Through it, he could hear the voice again, gibbering, wailing, cackling madly, and singing snatches of songs.

“Poor thing,” Prince said. “Fudge has got you locked up, too, hasn’t he? How many years has it been now? But I bet the containment spells would all fail, if only someone would open the door. Would you like that?”

There was a sudden dead silence in the corridor. Prince smiled, and pulled out his wand. “Alohomora!” he whispered. He seized the doorknob. It wouldn’t turn. He frowned. “Alhwedhar Lavagory!” he tried, and this time the knob turned, and the door creaked, spider webs stretching across the opening as it widened.

For a moment nothing happened. Then with a shriek, Peeves the poltergeist shot from his prison with such speed that Prince tumbled through the dust in his wake. He got to his feet and brushed himself off. Already he could hear shrieks and breaking crockery from the castle. Still, he took the time to enter Peeves’ breached prison.

The room contained nothing but dust. On the floor was a trap door. Prince knew it must be where Albus Dumbledore had hidden the Philosopher’s Stone. He was tempted to enter it, to see the historical site where Harry Potter had faced Voldemort for the second time in his young life, at Prince’s own age. Perhaps the traps and puzzles were still left intact there. Perhaps Severus Snape’s riddle remained untouched.

But he was afraid someone might be coming to investigate. With Peeves out (and Prince was sure they would have little success in returning him to storage) there would be no reason to guard the room further, and he could examine it later at his leisure. For now, he simply raised his wand and scrawled The Asp Was Here in glowing letters on the dusty wall.

Then he left the room.

Standing in the corridor was the figure of a girl. At first, he thought it was Myrtle. Then he realized who stood there.

It was Belinda Redlin.

She smiled unpleasantly. “Well,” she said. “If it isn’t the mysterious Asp.”





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Last edited by Inkwolf; September 8th, 2010 at 1:49 pm.
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  #13  
Old September 14th, 2010, 4:46 am
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Re: The Prince of Hogwarts (An ASP at Hogwarts prequel)

13

Once, at the Prendergast’s house, Prince had watched a perfectly horrible nature film. It was about lions, and in it a new male lion took over the pride and killed all the cubs. The lion cubs just lay there, cowering in terror, waiting to be slaughtered.

Prince sat in Professor Sylvanus’s office, hunkered down in a chair, and thought he had an idea how those cubs felt. Outside the door, he could hear Professor Sylvanus arguing with a raging Headmaster Fudge. While most of the conversation was unintelligible, he was pretty certain he heard the words ‘ought to be expelled” at least a dozen times.

Peeves had created chaos beyond Prince’s expectations. He had gone through the Halloween banquet preparations like a hurricane, breaking and shredding everything in his path, as if determined to catch up on years of thwarted mischief in a single afternoon. In his long absence, it seemed the Hogwarts staff had grown careless about putting restrictive wards around sensitive areas, and everything in Puddleby’s potions supply cabinet that could be smashed, scattered or muddled, had been. The kitchen had also been stormed, and a good portion of the laundry shredded as well.

The Halloween Banquet had, as a result, been a very diminished event, the decorations mangled, the food decidedly below Hogwarts standards, and the prepared entertainments curtailed, as Peeves spent the feast cackling joyously overhead and hurling handfuls of mashed pumpkin at everyone in sight, while Fudge thundered and Prince looked on with a mixture of dismay and disguised delight. The Headmaster demanded that the Bloody Baron do something about this, and after a while, at the urging of Professor Sylvanus, he rose to scare Peeves out of the Great Hall. But when Fudge tried to charge the Slytherin ghost with keeping the nuisance under control and possibly recapturing him, the Baron said bitterly, “I am not a poltergeist’s nanny,” and vanished.

At least the hospital wing had escaped Peeves’s depredations, though whether this was because Nurse Bannock had kept the warding spells refreshed, or because Peeves had standards of conduct, nobody could say. Prince suspected it was the warding spells.

At long last, Professor Sylvanus entered the office. Her normally serene expression was gone. She looked utterly furious. Prince sank even further into his seat. Professor Sylvanus folded her arms and glared down at him.

“Well?” she demanded. “What have you got to say for yourself?”

Four wisecracks crossed Prince’s mind at once, along with six excuses, all of them lies. Looking at Professor Sylvanus, he did not dare to utter one of them.

“Oops?” he finally said.

“Oops. Oops, indeed.” With a disgusted noise, Professor Sylvanus slammed a hand down on her desk. “Albert Prince, never in my career have I had a student with so many advantages, who seemed so determined to make nothing of himself! Did you stop for one moment to think of the consequences before you opened that door? I don’t even speak of the vandalism Peeves visited on the school, but of the damage to your own status and ambition. Two months of incredibly hard work, simply thrown away on an impulsive prank! Are you a fool? Did you mean nothing you said about working to advance a year? Did you not hear when I said it involved keeping out of trouble?”

“But Fudge said—“

“Yes, yes, I heard all about it,” Professor Sylvanus snapped. “Did you really think your house head would have nothing to say in the matter, once it was officially proposed to the Headmaster? Do you think I am so apathetic as to let Fudge’s judgment pass without a word of dissent? Do you think he is so thoroughly a tyrant that he would not back down on such a trivial, impromptu decision, when opposed by all four house heads? Not to even mention that your guardian is on the Board of Governors!”

If there had been anywhere deeper to sink in his chair, Prince would have. “Well,” he said feebly, struggling for a defense, “Puddleby would never—“

“Don’t tell me what Puddleby would never,” Sylvanus barked. “The day I can’t handle Ian Puddleby, you can nail the lid down on my coffin and sing hallelujahs. But the matter is entirely moot, now, in any case. By allowing Peeves to throw such a titanic tantrum on your behalf, you have very efficiently sealed Headmaster Fudge’s contention that you are not emotionally mature enough to be advanced. No argument will shake him now, even if anyone should bother. You have not only squandered your own efforts, you have wasted the time of everybody who helped you. I can not begin to express my disappointment.”

Prince stared down at his shoes. He had been a fool. No, more than that, he had been an impulsive idiot, as stupid as any other in his class. How could he have forgotten Mr. Burke, or doubted the help of Professors McGonagall and Flitwick? Why hadn’t he thought to come talk to his house head before flying off the handle? He remembered the hours Professor Flitwick had spent testing him after Charms every week, and Professor McGonagall checking his essays to be sure he knew what he was doing before he attempted every new transfiguration. Aisling had tutored him, even coming to coach him in the hospital wing. And Amanda would be so terribly disappointed in him, even apart from losing her bet.

“I’m sorry,” Prince said wretchedly. “I didn’t think.”

“You state the obvious.”

“So, am I expelled?”

“Do you want to be?”

Prince had to think about that. In many ways, it would be a relief to simply go home, where there were no bullies or idiots, where he could study on his own at his own pace, and where he was nearly completely in control of his own life. Wriggle would be delighted to have him back, and he thought Mr. Burke would accept his choice.

But he loved being at Hogwarts, too. He loved the castle and all its history and secrets. He had barely begun to investigate it, had not yet seen Severus Snape’s dormitory or the Chamber of Secrets, or even the Philosopher’s Stone’s last resting place. And though he didn’t get along with his classmates, he loved having people around him. He loved the crowded corridors and the bustling Great Hall. He loved having others to laugh with, to talk with, even to fight with, or just to be with. If there was one thing Alspellers was sadly lacking, it was people, especially children.

“I want to stay at Hogwarts,” Prince said.

“Very well,” said Professor Sylvanus. “You will have to be extremely well behaved, at least until Headmaster Fudge calms down. For heaven’s sake, at least pretend to have some respect for authority.”

“I’ll try,” said Prince miserably. “But what do I do now?”

“If by ‘now’ you mean, how will you spend the rest of the weekend,” said Professor Sylvanus, ”you will report to Mr. Shunpike, the castle caretaker, and help him to clean up some of the devastation that Peeves has left in his wake. This is not your detention, however, merely reparations.”

“I mean, what do I do about classes? Because I’ve already learned everything for the first year,” Prince said.

“That will be up to your individual professors. As for Defense Against the Dark Arts, you may as well continue studying Moody’s book. And since you appear to posses no natural instincts for self-preservation, let me impress on you again the need to keep it quiet,” Professor Sylvanus said. “I’m sure possession of that book would be all that was needed to push Headmaster Fudge over the edge to expelling you. Also, it is probably as much as my job is worth if some of the board members learn that I have given a restricted book to a first year student to study, and I am no longer entirely convinced that you are worth the risk. Now, I believe you will find Mr. Shunpike in the kitchen. From the Great Hall, take the stairway down toward the Hufflepuff common room. You will see a painting of a bowl of fruit on the wall. Tickle the pear, and the doorknob to the kitchen will appear.”

“Thank you,” said Prince humbly, not even bothering to tell her he already knew the way from reading the Unauthorized Guide to the Secrets of Hogwarts. “And I really am sorry.” Remembering what she had said earlier, he asked with trepidation, “And my detention?”

“I am still working on that,” Professor Sylvanus said. “It will have to be something demanding, both physically and mentally, that will keep you engaged for long periods of time, and too challenged and possibly too exhausted to get into more serious mischief.”

“That sounds like some detention,” Prince said.

“Oh, it will be,” said Sylvanus darkly.


In the kitchen, Prince found a thin, middle-aged man with a pockmarked face sitting at a table with a large pile of broken plates beside him. He pieced together a single plate and cast a Reparo charm on it. The plate looked to Prince as if it had not been fixed very well—he could still see all the cracks, and they weren’t even lined up straight. But the man put the plate on a pile on the counter behind him and turned back to look at Prince.

“Are you Mr. Shunpike?” Prince asked.

“That’s me!” He had a thick Cockney accent and a cheerful expression. “Are you the one, then?”

“I’m sorry,” said Prince. He thought he was going to be saying it quite a lot for the next few days. “I apologize for making more work for you.”

“Never mind,” said Shunpike. “Peeves was always bound to get out sooner or later. And more work for me means job security. It ain’t easy to find a job on account of I used to be a Death Eater.”

“Really,” said Prince politely. Behind Shunpike’s back, a house elf picked up the repaired plate, wrapped it in a towel, quietly re-broke it, and fixed it properly.

“Oh, yeah,” Shunpike said. “Me and Voldy, we were like that.” He held up crossed fingers.

Prince doubted that Voldemort had had any use for henchmen incapable of properly repairing a simple plate. For that matter, Prince wondered why Hogwarts had need of a custodian when there were house elves all over the place, fully capable and eager to be of service.

But it seemed a rude question to ask, so soon after being warned to be on his best behavior, so Prince just attempted to look politely impressed, and started piecing together plates from the shards on the table, as Shunpike hinted at dark deeds in his shady past.

Putting the plates together was tedious, but slightly enjoyable, like putting together a complicated jigsaw puzzle with no picture. Shunpike's stories were entertaining, though obviously false. Still, Prince bore in mind Madame Pince’s lecture—and Professor Sylvanus’s—and listened without comment. He would ask Madame Pince later what she knew about Shunpike’s real history.

Eventually Prince became bored, and by way of experiment, cast Reparo on a single shard of plate. Instantly, all the missing bits of it flew out of the pile to reintegrate into a finished plate.

“How joo do that?” Shunpike demanded, impressed.

“I seem to have a special knack for charms,” Prince said. “Why don’t you go on with your story, and I’ll finish the repairs.”

The pile of shards grew rapidly smaller as Shunpike described an exciting duel between himself and six aurors. Prince had the rest of the plates fixed within twenty minutes, finishing just as Shunpike related his dramatic capture by the Ministry.

“And then I was taken to Azkaban, and when them Dementors came up to me, I just says, ‘Yeah, my old china, you think you’re hard enough--’”

“Speaking of old china, I’ve finished,” Prince pointed out. “What’s next?”

Next turned out to be mending shredded sheets in the laundry room. While the elves had repaired all the personal clothing that had been damaged, the bedding was left for the benefit of his detention (or Shunpike’s job security.) The Reparo charm did not work for mending cloth, and Prince had to quickly learn a reweaving charm, a charm Mr. Shunpike was apparently incapable of, because he simply leaned against the wall and went on with his tales.

Prince decided that the position of caretaker must be a purely charitable one.

When the sheets were done, they worked in the Great Hall, scrubbing the hard-dried mashed pumpkin off the floor and walls. This job was more unpleasant, being in such a public area. Some of the other students snickered and called out obnoxious comments, but Prince ignored them completely and continued to work. At least with Shunpike standing by, they couldn’t interfere with him.

“Good work,” Shunpike said at the end of the day. “I like to see a lad who isn’t afraid of a little elbow grease. One day, who knows, you might have my job!”

“Thank you,” said Prince politely, shuddering at the thought.

As he went through the common room, he took down the study chart with another twinge of guilt. Professor Flitwick had made that chart for him, without even being asked, and had taken the trouble to decorate it with little snakes in Slytherin colors. Prince rolled it up again and slipped it into a corner of his wardrobe. He stiffened slightly as Parkinson swaggered into the dormitory, followed by his minions, but Parkinson just threw himself down on the bed and gave Prince a look of disgust.

“Your friend, Scroggs is due to be sorted out one of these days. No refunds, my eyeball.”

“He’s not my friend,” said Prince coldly.

“Pity he never took bets on who’d let the poltergeist out!” The rest snickered, but Prince only busied himself rereading his battered old copy of Severus Snape: A Life in the Shadows, and repairing damaged pages as he came across them, or as they fell out.

His enemies began another discussion on how to capture the mysterious Asp, and Prince relaxed. Apparently Belinda had merely ratted him out to Professor Sylvanus, not to the rest of the class. He didn’t know whether she was simply waiting, keeping him in suspense, had not thought of spreading the word further, or had done all she meant to do. But he thought it might be worth trying to mollify her, and he thought he knew just the way it might be accomplished.

Hastening out of the room, Prince stopped in the common room to pen a few quick letters. Since some poor owl would have to make its way through the Cornish pixies at any rate, he thought he may as well kill two birds with one stone—no pun intended—and write Wriggle and the Prendergasts at the same time.

It was a puzzle to decide what to write the Prendergasts, but Prince finally wrote, “Dear Will and Emma and everyone, I have mostly been enjoying school. I gave sailing lessons on the lake on the weekends for a while, but now it’s too cold. Now I am on detention for letting a—“

Prince paused. Muggles knew about poltergeists. He knew, he had watched a movie about one with Will and Emma, one night when he had slept over. They had got out of bed after midnight and watched it with the sound turned way down, so as not to alert the Prendergast parents. It had been wildly inaccurate, but they clearly were aware of the spirits’ existence. Still, he debated whether discussing one would be a violation of magical secrecy or not. After all, they might think poltergeists were make-believe, as they thought wizards, giants, mermaids, unicorns and dragons were. On the other hand, they didn’t huddle together all night with the light on, shivering, after watching films about wizards. Which argued that they accepted poltergeists as real, Prince thought.

Finally, to be on the safe side, Prince made the letter perfectly mundane. “Now I am on detention for letting an orangutan loose. Today I spent all day repairing the plates it broke and the sheets it ripped and washing up the mashed pumpkin it threw all over the Great Hall. Tomorrow I will be washing off all the graffiti it wrote in the corridors. I was hoping to be advanced a year, but the Headmaster is throwing a hissyfit so it is probably not going to happen. I hope you are having more fun this weekend than I am. Cheerio! Albert Severus Prince.”

He wrote Wriggle a more detailed letter, leaving out the matter of Talbot, and Bobbin, and anything else he thought the elf might find so disturbing as to bring him back to school.

And last, he wrote Reginald a terse note of instruction, with a sigh adding the fifty Galleons the wastrel had asked for, and adding another fifteen for expenses. There went all his savings from October, and he would have to start over with the history book fund. But he did have a little sense of self-preservations, whatever Professor Sylvanus thought.

He arrived at the Owlery shortly before curfew again, and again, there was only one owl left on duty. Even sleeping, with its head tucked under a wing, Prince recognized it. It shuddered in its sleep, as if it was having nightmares, so Prince felt no compunction about gently poking it awake. He was doing the creature a favor.

The owl took one look at him, made a strangled squawk, and headed for the window.

“I know, I know,” Prince said hastily. “I won’t ask you to go to Cornwall again. But my life may just depend on this letter getting through. Could you find me another owl? A strong and brave owl, with a sense of duty…”

The owl stayed perched on the windowsill, ruffling its feathers. Finally it jumped back to the perch and sidled over to Prince, where it held out its claw for the letter, clacking its beak angrily and hissing.

“Wonderful!” said Prince. “It’s good to know such a reliable owl will be on the job. Here, this is for the Prendergasts again, this is for Wriggle, the house elf at Alspellers, and this is for Reginald Burke, at the same address.” The owl nearly sagged off the perch when it took the envelope containing the sixty-five Galleons. “That’s the really important one. Now the Muggles don’t know any better, and Reginald is stingy, but Wriggle will give you any reward you like. Hang on, I’ll write a note on the envelope about that. Oh, and please wait for a response from the Prendergasts again. That was very clever of you, last time.”

The owl shook itself and took off. Out the window, Prince saw it plunge immediately straight downward, dragged by the weight of the coins, and he hastened to see if the bird had crashed, but saw the owl winging on heavily, just above the ground. “Fly higher when you get to the moors!” Prince called after it. “The pixies won’t notice you as quickly!” If the owl heard, it gave no sign.


Mr. Shunpike excused himself from scrubbing walls with Prince, but the work was not difficult, and the magic mess remover quickly eliminated the rude words and doodles Peeves had made all over the walls. Prince was tempted to leave some of the funnier bits, but he was still too much in disgrace to risk it.

The only annoying part of the job was the constant stream of water down his back.

“You really are an ingrate, you know,” said Prince sternly.

Peeves ignored him, going on singing, “Silly Albert Severus Prince, nobody dafter before or since,” over and over as he wrung out the extra sponge down the back of Prince’s collar.

Aisling Cault walked by, apparently on her way from Quidditch practice with the rest of the team, and Prince stopped her, to thank her for her help and apologize for messing things up.

“Oh, don’t worry about it,” Cault said. “Peeves was always bound to get out at some time or other. Fudge locked him up when I was a first year, and Hogwarts has been quite a bit duller since. Besides, the place needed a good shaking up.”

“Thanks,” said Prince, wishing Peeves would stop trickling wash water onto his skull for a moment or two while he tried to hold a conversation. “How are you getting on with Talbot?”

“I may have to let him poison himself,” Cault said, and she moved on to rejoin the team, leaving Prince with a pleasant fantasy to cheer him while he scrubbed.

When he had finished the corridors on the first floor, he moved up to the second, and then to the third. He wondered how Peeves had managed to make such a mess in the short time he had been free. It must be part of a poltergeist’s magic, he thought. Or Peeves was highly motivated. At any rate, Prince enjoyed Peeves’s literary and artistic efforts very much, before he erased them.

“I say, Peeves,” he said, when he was thoroughly tired of being damp. “Will you go away if I teach you a song with really filthy lyrics?”

Peeves stopped dunking the sponge in the bucket and hovered close to Prince. “How filthy?” Peeves asked.

“It would probably make Professor Flitwick’s hair curl,” Prince said. “Is it a deal?”

Peeves hovered closer still. Then he wrung the sponge out over Prince’s head again. “Nope,” he said, and cackled as he bobbed around the hallway. Prince sighed, and went back to work, trying to ignore the poltergeist. This did not discourage Peeves in the least, and he went on watering Prince throughout the day.

When he finally returned to the dormitory, the other boys barely acknowledged his arrival. Parkinson and his flunkies were engaged in a perfectly normal discussion, for once, about collectible dragon models. Fish and Lovecraft were speculating on who would take the place of some Quidditch player from the Tornadoes who had been injured.

Prince crawled into bed, relieved to be dry again at last. He wondered for a moment about his enemies’ lack of interest, then remembered that the bet had been called off.

With no bet to win, the gang had no reason to interfere with his studies.

And with his spellcasting ability hampered by his clumsy new hands, he was no longer a threat to Parkinson’s dominion.

Prince was no longer a target.

He was no longer the center of attention.

And if there was one thing Prince hated, it was to be ignored.

Still, he supposed it was something he must get used to. Keeping his head down and laying low would be just another aspect of the new, improved, more humble Albert Severus Prince. At least until Fudge cooled down.

Then the Asp just might have to come out of retirement.





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Last edited by Inkwolf; September 14th, 2010 at 4:03 pm.
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  #14  
Old September 21st, 2010, 4:45 am
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Re: The Prince of Hogwarts (An ASP at Hogwarts prequel)



Hope this isn't too big a picture and messes up the thread...

There's a Making Of animation, too, but probably only look if you have a fast connection.
http://inkwolf.deviantart.com/gallery/#/d2z5y3m


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  #15  
Old September 26th, 2010, 5:44 pm
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Re: The Prince of Hogwarts (An ASP at Hogwarts prequel)

14

It was in a gloomy frame of mind that Prince resumed his classes Monday morning. He had a long round of apologies to make. He was rather glad he started his day with Defense Against the Dark Arts, since he had already apologized to Professor Sylvanus, but her expression was so dark when he entered that he muttered, “Sorry,” as he scuttled past her to take a seat and start reading.

He had heeded her words and decided to disguise the Moody book. He was puzzled for a while, afraid of making the book look too interesting, and having others want to read it. On the other hand, if he made it look too intellectual or boring, his classmates might open it to mock the contents. Or heave it into the lake for him. Finally he had made a cover for it proclaiming it to be Goblin Vocabulary for Children. The book had drawn a couple of rude comments, but the general disinterest was so thick you could stuff a mattress with it.

Defense against the Dark Arts had been put aside for the day, as a couple of cases of Spattergroit had been recently diagnosed in Hogsmeade, and Professor Sylvanus was lecturing the class on how to avoid being infected should the school become contaminated. Prince just went back to his book for the rest of the class period—he had had Spattergroit already, and was immune.

The greenhouse was in shambles, devastated by Peeves, but Professor Longbottom didn’t seem fazed at all, making the clean-up part of their lesson.

“Creeping Crabvine!” Longbottom said, holding up a squirming section of a plant. “On Halloween it was torn into bits, and by now those bits will have crept off to root themselves in other plants’ pots and beds. The assignment for today is to hunt down and uproot the little nuisances. The one who finds the most segments of Crabvine will earn ten points for their house! But watch out for the pincers. I suggest you wear gloves.”

As the Ravenclaws and Slytherins scrambled through the greenhouse, Prince apologized for releasing the poltergeist. Professor Longbottom only patted him on the back kindly. “Peeves was bound to get loose eventually. I’m sorry about your graduation plans, but I think you’ll find we still have lots of interesting things to do this year.”

Prince cheerfully joined in the Crabvine hunt. The number of people telling him that Peeves would have broken free sooner or later was beginning to make him feel positively absolved of responsibility. He found one sprout of Crabvine in a pot of honking daffodils, and was nearly deafened by the time he pried the creeper out of the earth. It was quite a while before he found another. This one, under a Flutterby bush, was larger and fought back viciously, managing to catch his finger in one of its claws before he pinned it down with his gardening fork and dug it out, just as Professor Longbottom called them all to turn in their vines.

“Give me those.” Parkinson had appeared from behind the bush, his hands full of bits of creeper.

“Why should I?” Prince demanded as he sourly surveyed the hole the Crabvine had torn in his glove. He was sure his finger would be black and blue underneath.

“Because, genius, only one house gets the points, so we need one person to have as many vines as possible,” Parkinson snarled. “Hand ‘em over. It’s the least you can do, after losing us fifty points with that Peeves stunt.”

Prince handed over the vines, not even bothering to mention that he had still contributed at least a hundred points more to Slytherin than Peeves had cost them. For once Parkinson was right, and it didn’t really matter who got the credit as long as Slytherin got the points.

And Parkinson was not the only one with the same idea. As he and Abigail Mays hissed at each other over which should get to turn in the class’s creepers, Wendy Wittle handed a bundle over to Professor Longbottom.

“Did you find all these yourself?” the Professor asked.

“I had help,” Wittle admitted with a winning smile. Professor Longbottom started counting the bits of creeper, and when he had finished, Parkinson and Mays both looked dismayed. Ravenclaw had found more than they had.

“Really, have I got to think of everything myself?” Prince muttered, handing a pair of gardening shears to Parkinson, whose face lit up. After a few moments of surreptitious snipping, Abigail took her armful of creeper bits up to Professor Longbottom. Prince felt vaguely ashamed of himself as the Professor counted them.

“Well,” Professor Longbottom said. “You do have more than Ravenclaw, Miss Mays, but some of them appear to be freshly cut. The assignment was to find rooted creepers, not to make new cuttings.”

Abigial looked indignant. “Just what exactly are you implying?” she demanded. It was convincing.

“That’s why I let her take them,” Parkinson muttered to Prince.

“Why not just count the root ends?” one of the Ravenclaw girls suggested, and Parkinson cursed under his breath. Professor Longbottom took the suggestion, and the roots were recounted. This time, Slytherin’s number was reduced by about a third.

So was Ravenclaw’s. Wittle turned bright red and sputtery.

“Hmmm, well, perhaps we will dispense with the points today,” said Professor Longbottom. “But I would like to compliment you all on your hard work and…er...ingenuity.”

The Ravenclaws went away from class angrily accusing each other in an undertone. Slytherin took it better. In fact, Parkinson gave Prince a friendly punch in the shoulder and said, “Nice trick, with the scissors. Too bad Largebum noticed it. I wonder how the Ravenclaws disguised their cuts? Oh, well, at least they didn’t get one up on us.”

“Really,” Abigail said. “To think that they’d have got away with cheating, if it wasn’t for us! It’s revolting.”

Prince said nothing, He was working on his apology for Professor Binns. It was hard to apologize to someone you find really annoying.

As it was, it turned out to be unnecessary.

“Sorry?” Binns said blankly. “Sorry for what?”

“I turned Peeves loose,” Prince reminded him, and Binns actually laughed. Prince hadn’t thought the ghost had a funny bone in him.

“My dear Pibble, Peeves has been at Hogwarts since the year 993. You would have to be a bit older to have turned him loose.”

“But—“ said Prince, but Binns was still chuckling to himself, and so he left it at that.

After History of Magic, he decided not to wait till the next day to get his most painful apologies out of the way. With a heavy heart he made his way toward Professor McGonagall’s office. Unfortunately, before he arrived he came across Peeves, zigzagging through the halls and humming to himself, his arms full of dungbombs. When he saw Prince, his eyes lit up and he cackled in glee and started hurling the things.

Prince ran and dodged, Peeves giggling behind him and singing, “Silly Albert Severus Prince, nobody dafter before or since!” Dungbombs exploded behind Prince’s heels as he charged into Professor McGonagall’s office and slammed the door behind him. He heard three dungbombs hit the door.

Turning around, he faced Professor McGonagall, who had frozen in the act of marking somebody’s essay. She raised one eyebrow at him, and Prince felt his face turn scarlet.

“I came to say I’m sorry,” he blurted out. “I’m sorry for coming in without knocking. And for letting Peeves out. And for messing everything up, after all your help.” Dungbombs continued to splatter against the outer door. “And for the smell,” Prince added. “Honestly, I can’t think why Peeves keeps coming after me, unless it’s his way of showing gratitude.”

“I think rather that he is attracted by the presence of a kindred spirit,” said Professor McGonagall drily. The thumping stopped—Peeves must have run out of bombs—to be followed by a few rude noises, and the sound of the poltergeist humming to himself as he wandered away.

“I meant to have a talk with you anyway, and as you’re here, it saves me sending for you.” Professor McGonagall glared at Prince over her square-rimmed spectacles. “I suppose you think that now you’ve finished the first year lessons, you’ll be free to spend the rest of the term lounging about and clowning. Well, nobody comes to my Transfiguration class unless they intend to learn something. I will expect your essay on the first three chapters by Friday at the latest.” She slid a book across the desk to him, and Prince picked it up.

It was the second-year Transfiguration textbook.

Prince gave a squeak of joy, and impulsively leaned across the deck to peck McGonagall on the cheek. Then he ran in terror.

“Stupid idiot!” he scolded himself as he made his way up the stairs to Flitwick’s office. “That’s bound to be another ten points from Slytherin, at least.”

To his delight, Professor Flitick had much the same attitude as Professor McGonagall, waving away Prince’s apologies without a word. “Don’t think I’ll take your not graduating early as an excuse to slack off. We’ll go on just as we have been. I expect you to be learning NEWT-level charms by your third year!”

His good mood faded with the evening, though. Parkinson and his cronies were puzzling over their Astronomy calculations in the dormitory before bed, and came up with one idiotic method after another of making the numbers come out. It was painful to think of spending the rest of the week with the morons, not even to mention the rest of the year, or even his entire school career. He certainly hoped idiocy didn’t rub off. Still, now that he had no choice, he supposed he’d better try harder to get along with them. The conflict with Ravenclaw had at least put them both on the same side for a time.

“There, I think that’s got it,” said Parkinson. “So, three months from now, Venus will be in conjunction with Mercury, Jupiter will enter the house of Pisces, and Mars will be…er…somewhere in Poland. Blast!”

Prince sighed and got up from his bed. “In the interest of getting some sleep, let me show you how it’s done.”

“We don’t need YOUR help,” Talbot snarled.

“Willy,” said Parkinson. “Shove it. Right, let’s hear it, Ponce.”

Half inclined to go back to bed and leave them to it, Prince ignored the epithet and explained how the calculations were supposed to work. Eventually they got on the right track. Parkinson was the first to wave his paper with a shout of triumph. “There, you see?” he said. “It’s occasionally useful to have a egghead around the place.”

Talbot snorted, wadded up his own paper, threw it into the trash bin, and went to bed. Prince turned in, and soon everyone else had as well.

Prince was awakened early the next morning by Bobbin the house elf. Prince had nearly forgotten the elf’s existence, and was surprised to see him. “What’s wrong?” he yawned. “Have you uncovered some sort of dastardly plot against me?”

“No, Bobbin has only been asked to send Albert Prince to Professor Sylvanus’s office as soon as possible,” said Bobbin. “Albert Prince may get dressed first, if he prefers.”

Prince got out of bed and hastily dressed. Bobbin looked worried, and that made Prince anxious as well. “Is it bad news?” he asked. “Am I in trouble again? Already? Is it about Professor McGonagall?”

“Bobbin doesn’t know,” the house elf said. “Bobbin is worrying because two cases of Spattergroit have been diagnosed in Hufflepuff. Bobbin is worried it may spread, and if Nurse Bannock needs Bobbin’s help, who will protect Albert Prince? And if Bobbin stays with Albert Prince, who will help Nurse Bannock?”

“Oh, that’s all right,” Prince said. “My hands are stronger every day. I don’t drop my wand nearly as often. Besides, I’ve decided to try and get along with Parkinson’s Pinheads better. You go on back to the hospital wing. Unless you have a bandage for my self-respect.”

“If Albert Prince is sure,” said the house elf, looking immensely relieved. He disapparated at once, leaving Prince to make his trepidatious way to Professor Sylvanus’s office.

Professor Sylvanus was arranging a series of African fetishes on a shelf when he arrived at the door. He waited for ten minutes or so before clearing his throat and saying, “Bobbin said you wanted to see me?”

“Ah, Mister Prince. A package arrived for you early this morning by courier, and I thought it best that you take charge of it at once,” she said, “considering the air holes.”

For the first time, Prince noticed a package on the professor’s desk. Something inside was moving, trying to scratch a way out. Reginald had come through for him.

“Thanks!” Prince said. “I’ve been expecting this.” He took the box and hurried away.

The common room was quiet this early, most students merely drifting through on their way to the Great Hall. Prince put the box on a desk and opened it. Inside was a kitten. It was pale, but with darker fur on its nose, tail and paws. It looked up at Prince like a little, blue-eyed angel, and when he tried to pet it, it sank two paws full of needle-sharp claws and a mouthful of baby fangs into his hand.

“Perfect,” Prince said, disengaging his hand and closing the lid of the box again with some difficulty.

“Is that yours?” William Talbot was watching him with a curiously eager expression.

“No,” Prince answered, and moved pointedly to another part of the room. Talbot hovered for a few minutes before going on toward the Great Hall. Prince returned to his spot and continued to wait. Eventually Goyle emerged from the corridor to the girls’ dormitories. Her eyes narrowed suspiciously and she favored him with something like a growl before moving on. Behind her were Abigail, Dorcas and Dierdre. Drifting along in their wake was Belinda Redlin.

“Belinda!” Prince called. “Can I have a word?” She approached with an expression of disdain, and Prince continued. “First, I want to say I’m really sorry about Zeusie. I never meant for him to get sent away. And, anyway, I thought maybe this…” He slid the box across the desk to her, and she opened it. The kitten mewed.

“A cat,” she said, trying hard to look uninterested. “How ordinary.”

“Yeah, but they won’t make you send it home, at least,” said Prince. The little beast was clawing its way up Belinda’s arm like a tiger going up a banyan tree. “By the way, thanks for not telling Parkinson about the Asp.”

Belinda snorted. “I wouldn’t tell Parkinson that his pants were on fire.”

“Oh, good,” sad Prince. “I shall have to learn a spell for that.” The kitten was wrapped around Belinda’s neck, now, and was trying to chew chunks out of her hair and purring loudly. “So, are we even?”

“I suppooooose so,” she said reluctantly. “Have you finished the astronomy calculations yet?”

“Certainly. Would you like me to show you how to do them?”

“It would save time if you just gave me the answers”

“Yes,” said Prince, “but then you would remain an ignoramus and never know how to do it yourself. I think you’re missing the point of school.”

“The point of school is to get good grades because it keeps my parents off my back,” said Belinda. “I’ll get the answers from someone else, if you’re going to be difficult.” She wandered off toward the Great Hall, kitten still happily meshed in her hair.

It was getting late, so Prince returned to the dormitory to fetch his potion-making supplies before going to breakfast. When he entered the Great Hall, he cast a glance at the hourglasses, and was surprised and relieved to see that Professor McGonagall had apparently forgotten to take any points off him for cheek. And when he approached the Slytherin table, for once the first-year girls didn’t all glare at him as if he were a leftover heap of frog innards. (Well, except for Goyle.) As Amanda was not at the table, Prince sighed inwardly and sat with the first-years again for the first time in weeks. He was treated civilly, apart from the few expected snide comments such as, “Oh, look, the Prince of Hogwarts has decided to sit with the commoners again!” Even so, nobody paid much heed to his return. Belinda’s new kitten—now named Eris—hunted a fly among the serving platters, and was the center of everyone’s attention. The presence of the kitten seemed to put even Parkinson in a cheerful mood, and he tickled it under the chin when it approached him.

The kitten instinctively avoided Talbot.

There was also startling news that three more cases of Spattergroit had appeared in the school, all in Hufflepuff so far.

“Do you think they’ll close the school?” Belinda asked hopefully.

“More likely they’ll quarantine us all in,” Aisling Cault said, passing by. “Possibly even over Christmas hols.” There were cries of horror all along the table, and several students threw wads of Goo toward the Hufflepuffs.

As Prince finished his breakfast and rose to leave, the last of his class, something heavy and metallic crashed down among the empty plates. It was a several seconds before Prince could identify the missile. It was an armor-clad owl, struggling to get back to its feet.

“Oh, splendid!” said Prince. “Well done! I suppose the owl armor was your reward for delivery, then?”

The owl hooted triumphantly, and held out a letter with one claw, nearly sending himself toppling into the leftover scrambled eggs. Prince took the letter, offering the owl a handful of owl treats, but it simply took off clumsily, bouncing off a wall and hitting one of the floating lights in midair before winging its way heavily out of the Great Hall. Somewhere in the distance, Prince heard a faint, metallic crash.

It must have been a wrench for Wriggle to give up the owl armor. Nobody had made any in over four hundred years, and however impractical, it was still antique and a curiosity. Prince supposed a couple of lifting charms might lighten the owl’s load, the next time they met. He opened the letter. It was from the Prendergasts, written by Emma this time.

“Dear Bertie,

“How lovely to hear from you again! We are all well, and we miss you. Baxter and Snowflake are fine. I have been giving them lots of exercise, but they are terribly lazy. You ought to be stricter with them.

“This morning the red-haired man came back, asking about a kitten for you. Ours had already gone. You ought to have been quicker, Bertie! But we sent him to Mrs. Horsfall in the village. He seemed really annoyed, and great-gran was worried he might ill-wish us, and a little while ago our telly reception went out and she says that’s proof he has, but I think your owl crashed into the antenna. Ought he to be wearing all that metal plating? I think it may be cruel.

“Will thinks you were being funny about the orangutan. I don’t. What kind of school are you going to, that has orangutans and owls that deliver messages? Is it an animal training school? Are you learning to be in a circus? Does the orangutan really write graffiti? How could an ape be taught to write? Though I have heard of gorillas that paint, and saw one do it in a movie, but that was an animatronic gorilla. Oh, well, Headmasters are the same all over, aren’t they? We’re making our headmaster into Guy Fawkes this year, but I doubt he’ll notice the resemblance before it goes up in flames. Take care of yourself, Bertie!

“Love,
Emma.”

Prince sighed. When had the Prendergasts become so full of questions and curiosity? When he had told them they had gnomes in their garden a few years ago, they had accepted it with wide-eyed faith.

He arrived late to Potions, and after having had the best intentions of apologizing to Puddleby and trying to make amends. The rest of the class was starting their preparations. Prince hastily took his place beside Goyle and unpacked his kit. The potion of the day was a simple Impermeable Percolation, good for sealing boats and waterproofing boots.

“Ah, Mr. Prince has chosen to join us,” Puddleby said cheerfully, approaching the desk. “We have been preparing to brew today’s potion. Is there anything you’d like explained before you start?”

“No, thanks,” said Prince. He could have brewed this one in his sleep. “But I wanted to say how sorry I am about Peeves. I know he hit the potions supplies pretty hard.”

“Don’t trouble about it,” said Puddleby. “It was high time to reorganize the cabinet in any case. And it should serve as a reminder to always put safety first, and that we ALL make mistakes.” There was something so cheerful, condescending, and perhaps even a little smug about this last statement that all Prince’s penitence vanished. “Oh, and I fear I must take ten points from Slytherin for your tardiness.”

Prince ground his teeth as he approached the potions cabinet for the special ingredients he needed. All was freshly organized and neatly laid out. He took a walrus whisker, a few plimpy scales, and was about to pick up a twig of jelutong when he realized that the plant had been mislabeled. These sticks were covered with odd spines. He had seen something like it in his Herbology book, called a sandbox tree, if he recalled correctly. He was about to call Puddleby’s attention to the error when he remembered what the book had said about the tree.

He decided not to say anything—after all, we ALL make mistakes, Puddleby had said—and took one of the spiky twigs and began to make his potion, singing as he worked.

Goyle stopped, watching him with pursed lips and a furrowed brow. “That’s French, isn’t it?” she accused.

“Well done, a thousand points to Annagoyle house,” said Prince, and went on singing.

“Mais... boum!
Quand notre coeur fait boum,
Tout avec lui dit boum,
Et c'est l'amour qui s'éveille.
Boum!
Il chante ‘Love in Bloom’
Au rythme de ce boum
Qui redit boum à l'oreille…”

Goyle hastily gathered her ingredients and cauldron, moving over to the desk where Abigail and Dorcas were working. She shoved Dorcas aside, and her work, to make room to put down her own gear.

“What is your problem?” Dorcas demanded indignantly. “Are you afraid of French songs or what?”

“He keeps singing, ‘Boom,’” said Goyle darkly. “I don’t like it.”

“Oh, Anna, you are SUCH a dope,” said Abigail, rolling her eyes. “It’s a completely different language. It’s unbelievably stupid to think that, even if he meant something by it, ‘boom’ would mean the same thing in French as it does in—“

Prince’s cauldron exploded, and shrieks filled the room.

“Really, sir,” Prince choked, waving away the column of black smoke that rose from the charred desktop. “I have no idea what went wrong.” Still, he could not quite suppress the grin on his face. Fortunately, just as Puddleby was about to respond, two more explosions occurred on the Gryffindor side of the room, and then another where Belinda and Dierdre were working.

“Everyone, stop brewing at once!” Puddleby barked, as three more cauldrons blew up.

The class evacuated the room, oily black smoke billowing out after them. The soot-stained students coughed and choked.

“Now, then, is everybody all—glurp!” A deluge of water hit him in the face.

“Fire! Fire!” called Peeves, emptying a second bucket over the students. He zipped away, chortling, to refill his arsenal.

“Everybody, return to your dormitories and get cleaned up,” Puddleby said hastily. “Class is dismissed. Take a study period—glorp!”

The class ran as Peeves pursued them with his fire bucket. The stairs slowed the Gryffindors on their way out of the dungeon, and Peeves gave them another soaking, as the Slytherins darted for the relative safety of their dormitory.

It was the best potions class ever, Prince decided.


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  #16  
Old October 1st, 2010, 5:50 am
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Inkwolf  Undisclosed.gif Inkwolf is offline
I trusted Severus Snape
 
Joined: 5845 days
Location: Wisconsin
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Re: The Prince of Hogwarts (An ASP at Hogwarts prequel)

15

His new life in the Slytherin first year was not going quite as Prince had expected. Somehow he had thought that, faced with Prince’s obviously superior intellect and academic knowledge, Parkinson’s gang would honor and revere him as their only hope of getting acceptable grades.

Instead, since he had begun helping them with their homework, they seemed to view him with all the respect and admiration they lavished on the school house elves…which, shamefully, was none at all. Over the next few days it became clear that however much they needed Prince’s help, he was barely tolerated as a necessity, and viewed with contempt as a servant or slave.

On the other hand, if he withheld his help, he supposed he would go back to being a target again. He would at least then have the genuine hope that all the others would be left back at the end of the year, but even if that dream came true, escape would be months away, and in the meantime, he was responsible for his own survival.

The really galling part of it was that the gang seemed to understand he was helping them in order to avoid being bullied, and that made them successful bullies without even having to make an effort. They quickly became smug and imperious, and he had to fight to avoid slipping into the persona of a cringing sycophant.

By Friday night, Parkinson no longer even pretended to ask for help, he simply ordered Prince to write the gang’s five Potions essays, and to have them ready by Monday night. Prince bit his tongue to keep from telling Parkinson where he could shove his essays, and went to bed too angry to sleep.

He lay awake most of the night, trying to think of ways to get revenge without being fingered for the deed. The Asp seemed the best recourse, but his secret identity was now known to at least two people, and possibly more. He supposed that after the Peeves incident, it was likely that at least the school staff knew who the Asp was. And he had no assurance that Belinda Redlin wouldn’t expose him in a fit of pique, or hold the secret over his head. Then he’d be doing homework for six people.

But until he thought of something else, the Asp was all he had.

Prince gave up on sleep at three in the morning. Silently getting up, he cast his newest charm, the Moth Magnet, on each sleeping boy—and on himself—and wrote The Asp Was Here on the floor in the usual glowing letters. Then he dressed and went to the common room, a couple of moths already fluttering in his wake. Let’s see how they like waking up covered with insects, he thought, hoping at least one of them was mottephobic.

He wondered whether he could get in trouble for being out of the dormitory at night, if it was really just early in the morning. It seemed best to stay in the common room until five or so. The room was deserted and the fire was out, and he entertained himself getting it started again, then by pretending to duel Death Eaters, dodging behind couches, crawling under tables, and casting imaginary curses at non-existing opponents.

In one particularly daring leap over a chair, he tripped, and his wand went rolling under a couch. Pushing the couch away revealed not only his wand, but several dust bunnies, a couple of mangy quills, a hair clip, two knuts, and a small book. Prince picked up the book.

It was a diary.

Prince set it down on a table and looked for additional treasure under all the other couches. The floor was clean and bare beneath them. Prince wrote a note on the school stationary and left it on the back of the original couch, reminding the house elves to clean under it.

Then he sat down and looked at the diary with misgivings.

His sisters had impressed on him—rather forcefully, he recalled—that it was absolutely indefensible to look at someone else’s diary. His parents had backed them up.

On the other hand, if he didn’t open it, how could he return it to the owner? Leaving it lying in the common room was almost a guarantee that someone else would read it, perhaps some person of evil intent.

Prince opened the cover. There was no name inside. He randomly opened to a page, hoping for clues, but the entry for that day only contained a list, “Things to do: 1. Trans homework; 2. Herb essay; 3. Get new cauldron.”

He opened to another page, and found another list. He flipped until he found an entry with actual writing. “Got on Quidditch team. Everybody is jellus but I don’t care any more. Now I can sit with the team. Best thing that has happened all year since Prince left to sit with the 2nd years. Things to do: 1. Pot. essay; 2. Hist paper; 3. Gloat. A lot. Serve them right.”

“It’s GOYLE!” Prince cried with delight, every scruple vanishing. He looked for another substantial entry, and found one.

“This morning Abby said I snore and must stop it. I told her she snores too which is TRUE but of corse D&D both swore she didn’t and B wouldn’t say a word as usual. I hate them all. Things to do: 1. Study for Charms; 2. Kick everybody in the arse.”

“The things that go on in the girls’ dormitory,” Prince chortled, flipping through some more pages. He came across a crudely drawn heart with an arrow sticking through it. Inside the heart was scrawled, “Anna + Drew.”

“Drew? Who in blazes is Drew?” Prince wondered. This was less interesting, so he flipped around again, until his own name caught his eye.

“People I hate most: 1. Arnold; 2. Abby Mays; 3. Albert SEVER-ARSE Prince; 4. William Talbot….”

The list was quite long, including all their classmates, a few professors, and several people Prince did not know at all. “Only third place?” Prince muttered. “I must try harder.”

A page filled with only the names Anna Bradshaw, Anna M Bradshaw and Anna Mildred Bradshaw seemed to cast some light on the identity of the mysterious Drew. This was entertaining and hilarious, of course, but not of extreme interest. Prince skimmed though until he found himself mentioned again

“I realy need to get better at potions so I can afford to break Albert Prince’s neck.”

“Well, of all the nerve,” Prince exclaimed. “And after all the help I’ve been giving her!”

There was little else of apparent interest, mainly notes and comments on classes and Quidditch rubbish and girl stuff. Prince flipped to the final entry, which seemed to have been made just yesterday. “Things to do this weekend: 1. Potions essay; 2. Quidditch practise three hours every day; 3. Trans homework; 4. Practise charms.”

“Oh ye of little ambition,” said Prince, picking up one of the manky old quills. Chuckling to himself, he added several items to the list, waving away the moths who were beginning to collect around him.

5. SNOGG GRAWP
6. GROE A FUTE TALLER AND TEN STONE HEVVIER
7. FALE POSHUNS
8. SNOGG GRAWP AGGENN
9. STEEL BRADSHAWZ PANTZ
10. FALE TRANSFI—TRAFU—CANT SPEL IT
11. CRUSH THE SUNN IN MY FISST
12. FALE EVERYTHING ELS
13 GRIND BONZ TO MAIK MY BRED
14. MERRY GRAWP
15. WERSHIP ALBERT SEVERUS PRINCE, THE GOD OF GENIUSNESS
16. HAV GRAWPS KIDZ

It was now nearly five o’clock, which seemed a more reasonable time to be up and about. With the satisfaction of a job well done, Prince left the book on the table, lying open at the latest entry. No doubt Goyle would be grateful he had found her diary for her. Prince thought it would probably be bad form to wait around for her thanks. As well as suicidal.

He slipped back into the dormitory to get his camera. His classmates slept on, a blanket of Lepidoptera gently waving their wings over each. As Prince darted toward the door, several of the moths that had been following him left to settle on more inert victims.

As Prince had expected, the door to the former resting place of the Philosopher’s Stone was unguarded, though locked again. He cast the unlocking charm, entered, and descended warily through the trap door.

There was no Devil’s Snare waiting for him at the bottom, for which he was a bit more grateful than disappointed. The room seemed to have become a repository for odds and ends of old furniture and equipment. There were several boxes, which Prince looked into. They contained old textbooks that were apparently no longer used, but Prince supposed nobody wanted to actually throw them away. If they had been a few hundred years older, Prince would have been thrilled, but they were barely older than he was. He didn’t investigate any of the other items, not knowing why they were stored. For all he knew, they might have become cursed or dangerous from too many spells being cast on or near them. He went on to the next chamber.

It was empty, its large door open to the equally empty room beyond. In the one after that, at least, the floor was still marked out as an enormous chess board, though all the pieces were gone but a single broken rook. Still, he took pictures of it, as he had taken pictures of the empty chambers behind him.

The next chamber was empty as well, and the one beyond that. This had held Severus Snape’s puzzle, Prince knew, and he searched in vain for any sign of its existence that had been left—a shard of a bottle or a scorch mark from the black flames. There was nothing but dust. Prince sighed and sat for a while, staring gloomily at the emptiness, as the moths settled on his shoulders.

Finally he went on to the last chamber. This one was not empty. In the center of the room stood a tall, dusty mirror. Prince walked around the edge of the room, snapping pictures.

He was careful not to look in the mirror.

Prince returned to the Great Hall. It was still early, but breakfast was being served for those who still rose early on the weekend. Prince had a quick look for Goyle, but the coast was clear, so he sat at the Slytherin table and started his breakfast in haste, an eye on the doorway nearest the dungeon.

It was Parkinson and his friends who arrived first, though, disgruntled and followed by a cloud of moths and a few butterflies. Parkinson’s eyes narrowed when he saw Prince. “There you are!” he snarled. “Where have you been?”

“The moths woke me up, and I had no interest in sleeping while insects crawled up my nose. I went exploring. Why, did you miss me?” There were a couple of exposures left on the film roll, so Prince quickly snapped a photo of his classmates and their insectile entourage.

“If you weren’t sleeping, you ought to have been working on our—“ Parkinson looked around shiftily, “…your Potions homework.”

“Plenty of time. It’s only Saturday,” said Prince cheerfully. He scarfed down the last of his breakfast and scarpered in high spirits.

Prince found a dark room in which to develop his photographs, and while the pictures soaked in the developing potion, he took advantage of the solitude and darkness to take a little nap, and make up some of his missed night’s sleep.

When he woke, it was late afternoon. The photos were ready, and he dried them off. They had turned out well. He especially treasured the one of Parkinson & Co. covered with moths. Prince returned to his dormitory to store the photos and camera, reloading the film. He still had most of the weekend, and for once there was no reason to spend it studying. He wandered the castle wondering which historic site to visit next. If only he could get into the Chamber of Secrets! Was Parseltongue a thing you could learn, like other languages? Prince changed course, heading for the library.

On his way, he came across Amanda Trollope, sitting alone for once in the corridor. He hadn’t had a chance to talk to her for days. His heart leaped up, then plunged into his feet as he realized she was crying.

“Amanda!” he cried and sat beside her, the moths following him catching up and settling on his shoulders. “What’s wrong? Can I help? Are you hurt? Shall I get Nurse Bannock? Is it schoolwork? Want me to have a look at it? Has someone been mean to you? Shall I curse them? I can, you know. You haven’t just come to a sad part of your story, have you? Has what’s-his-face gone and dumped Sierra Serpentine for that snotty Ravenclaw witch?”

Amanda laughed through her tears, though Prince couldn’t imagine why. “Oh, Bertie, I wish you could help,” she said, wiping her eyes with a lacy handkerchief. “I’m leaving Hogwarts!”

Prince was speechless with horror. Leaving? Slytherin without Amanda in it would be…well, it would be Slytherin without Amanda—a dark pit full of hostile strangers. He finally managed to choke out, “But why?” If she was being expelled, he would blasted well have a word with old Mr. Burke about reinstating her.

“It’s my stupid father,” Amanda sniffed, crying again. “Gringotts is moving him to the American branch. America, of all places! And as if they can’t get anyone else! And he and Mum are all excited about it, if you can believe that. I’ve tried to get them to let me stay and finish the year, at least, but they won’t go without me. They’re so horrid!” She burst into loud sobs.

While Prince was devastated, he hoped that if his parents were alive, they would also object to being separated from him by an ocean for months. “I went to America last summer,” Prince said, weakly trying to cheer her up. “It’s really quite nice.”

“It’s a wizarding wasteland!” Amanda wailed. “They barely even play Quidditch there, they play some stupid thing called Quodpot! And what am I supposed to do? I’ll be going to Salem School, right in the middle of the year, and I won’t have a clue about anything, and I won’t have any friends!”

“Oh, you,” Prince laughed shakily through the lump in his throat. “You’ll have plenty of friends, wherever you go. The question is, how will we all get on without you?”

Amanda threw her arms around him, hugging him tightly. Prince hugged her back. It was the first time, and would probably be the last. He wondered whether he dared to kiss her.

“Oh, Bertie!” Amanda sobbed, pulling away. “You’re so sweet. If I ever really have a little brother, I hope he’s just like you!”

There were all sorts of things wrong with that statement, but it didn’t seem worth the trouble of arguing now. “How much longer do you have?” he asked.

“I’ve got to go home tonight.”

“Tonight?!”

“Yes, can you believe it? They won’t even let me stay the whole weekend, because they’re afraid the school is going to be quarantined.” Four more cases of Spattergroit had appeared, all in Hufflepuff, still. That house was now isolated from the rest of the school, though Puddleby still shamelessly went to and fro teaching Potions class.

Prince felt sick at heart, and numb with grief. He tried to think of something to say which wouldn’t make him burst into humiliating tears right there in the corridor. “Well! At least you don’t have to finish your homework,” he finally managed.

Amanda laughed through her tears. “And I have this simply awful paper due in Herbology!” She stood up, sniffling, and held out a hand to him. “I have to go say goodbye to everybody. Come with me, Bertie.”

“I can’t. I have to…I just can’t.” Being in the middle of a lot of crying girls was more than he could cope with right now.

“All right,” Amanda said. “But you will come see me off, won’t you?”

Prince nodded. “When?”

“Oh, seven or eight-ish is about as long as I can hope to put it off. Come to Aggie’s office, she’ll be sending me through the fireplace.”

Prince nodded again, and Amanda left. What Prince needed was to find a place where he could be alone and pull himself together. He set off down the corridor toward a storage room where he knew would be undisturbed.

Before he got there, he saw Parkinson and his gang ahead. Parkinson saw him and shouted, “Oy! Ponce!” Annoyance added to his misery, he ducked down a side corridor and changed course. The last thing he wanted was for the Pinheads to find him with teary eyes and a runny nose. He would head for Peeves’s old prison.

Annoyingly, Parkinson’s gang changed course with him, and when he made a few more turns, it became clear they were following him. It was almost a relief when Prince’s exasperation overcame his sorrow. He was dashed if he would let Parkinson nag him about those Potions essays at a time like this. If Parkinson was that concerned, he should do his own homework.

Prince ducked through a classroom, through the connecting door to another, and from there into another corridor and turned to circle back to where he had started. He seemed to have lost his pursuers, and to keep out of sight, headed up the stairs of the Divination tower. Professor Haruspex commuted from Hogsmeade, so the tower was likely to be completely deserted on the weekend. The stairs made seven spirals before reaching the Divination classroom.

The room was an interesting place, which Prince had never seen before. A trapdoor in the ceiling—closed, and out of reach—led to the Professor’s office, he supposed. The room itself was circular and lacking furniture apart from some divans scattered around the outer wall. The floor was marked with a circular chart showing the symbols of the Chinese zodiac. Prince, forgetting his troubles for a moment in the excitement of discovery, found that he could change the image on the floor by touching various symbols on the wall. The zodiac changed to a Western zodiac, then an Aztec calendar, a mandala, a mystically inscribed pentacle, a star chart, a clock face, and a chart of moon phases.

His investigations were interrupted. Parkinson had tracked him down after all. The gang of five came up from the spiral staircase like demons from the pit, their faces dark and sullen, a few moths still fluttering around them.

Prince was as annoyed as they appeared to be. “Are you still obsessing about those potions essays? Flamel’s flaming eyebrows, I told you, they’ll be done when I get around to it!”

“Have you ever met Mina Trewhella?” Parkinson asked.

This was totally unexpected. Prince must have looked blank, because Parkinson nodded with grim satisfaction. “I thought not. She’s a Ravenclaw fifth year. And guess what?” Parkinson pulled a familiar notebook from his pocket and held it up. “She can read Cornish.”

Prince grabbed his wand, but he fumbled getting it out, and before he had time to cast a shield spell, Talbot shouted, “Oscindo!” Prince felt something in his arm crack, and a searing pain shot from his elbow to his wrist. Before he could recover, Lester Blood tackled him amidships, knocking him to the floor, and keeping him there by sitting on his stomach while raining down punches on his face.

Prince tried to block the blows, but that meant they impacted on his fractured arm, which was probably more painful. Nott stood by, getting in a kick whenever he could find a good opening, and Prince, turning his head aside under his shielding arms to avoid being pounded in the face, saw Zounds prop his fallen wand against the wall and crack it with one firm stomp. Prince cried out at that, as he hadn’t yet at any of the physical pain the Pinheads had managed to inflict. The wand had been his grandfather’s.

Then he screamed as Talbot shoved a wand into his ribs with bruising force and shouted, “Eldingrast!” The electric shock jolted his entire body, and his heart seemed almost to stop for a moment. Blood yelled, too, and jumped up from his position, giving Prince his first chance to break free, but Nott tripped him before he could make a break for it, and they had him caught again, flat on his face this time, with an arm twisted up behind his back. At least it was not the broken arm.

“What the hell are you playing at, Will?” Blood snarled. “You nearly bloody electrocuted me as well!” Talbot said something in reply, but Prince didn’t hear it because Nott kicked him in the mouth and knocked him half insensible.

“Cruempere!” Talbot screamed, and a ripple of pain ran through Prince’s body. Blood poured from his nose. He felt his lungs filling with liquid, and when he coughed, more gore spattered the floor.

“That’s enough, Willy,” Parkinson snapped. “I’ve got enough trouble without your curses interfering with mine!” He had tossed aside Prince’s notebook and was unfolding a small square of parchment, wand in hand.

“Escorio!” Talbot shrieked, as if he hadn’t heard. Prince felt the skin tear along his neck and jaw, and heard Blood yelp and spew a tirade of foul language.

“Emmet, get his wand,” Parkinson said with exasperation. “You two, hold the buffoon still.” Prince could hear shouts and scuffling from where Zounds was trying to confiscate Talbot’s wand. Pinned to the floor by both Blood and Nott, he could barely raise his head enough to see Parkinson point his wand with an expression of triumphant expectation and a gleam in his hard grey eyes.

“Apgalot!” Parkinson cried. Then he frowned, looking at the bit of parchment again. “Did I pronounce that wrong? Nothing happened.”

This was not quite true. When the spell had been spoken, Prince felt twitchings begin throughout his body. He had a sense that something very, very wrong was happening to him.

“Try again,” Nott encouraged him.

“Ayepglat!” Parkinson barked. The twitching increased. It was similar to the way Talbot’s spider curse had felt, as if myriad somethings were inside him and struggling viciously to break out. Prince whimpered.

“This Apeface jinx is rubbish,” Parkinson growled, shredding the parchment. “Time for a good old Batbogey!”

Parkinson raised his wand again, but they all froze at the sound of running feet coming up the stairs. “Take your hands off him this minute!” a furious voice commanded.

Prince choked and gasped as he was pulled to his feet by a powerful hand seizing the bloody front of his shirt. He found himself staring into the gooseberry green eyes of an enraged beast.

“He’s mine,” Anna Goyle snarled
.





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Last edited by Inkwolf; October 1st, 2010 at 6:13 am.
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Old October 6th, 2010, 4:01 pm
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Inkwolf  Undisclosed.gif Inkwolf is offline
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Re: The Prince of Hogwarts (An ASP at Hogwarts prequel)

Chapter 16

It was getting dark by the time Prince crawled to the wall and stood, leaning against it for support. The lines in the moon chart glowed in the fading light, and under better circumstances he would have been delighted to discover it.

The thrashing Goyle had given him had been vicious enough to make Parkinson’s gang cringe, even as they cheered her on. At least when she had finished, she had shepherded the others away, even clouting Talbot for getting in a final curse.

Apart from his broken arm and all the cuts and bruises he could carry, he thought Nott might have cracked some of his teeth, or possibly even broken his jaw. The ache of it numbed his brain. He also felt a sharp, stabbing pain in his side when he breathed, and thought it might be a broken rib. Though his legs wobbled horribly, he thought he would be able to make his way to the hospital wing, or at least to somewhere he could find help.

Amanda must have gone home by now. That upset him more than all his wounds.

Still, even that grief was eclipsed by Prince’s horror at the results of Parkinson’s botched curse. Still leaning against the wall, he felt yet another slash open on the back of his right hand, the skin pulling back to reveal a staring eyeball, wildly rolling as if in panic.

He could see through these new eyes, though he had no way of controlling their movements. Their odd motions and unaccustomed positions made him queasy. Still, he supposed he ought to be grateful, since both of his original eyes were in the process of swelling shut. He could see through one eye on his cheek, another on his forehead, and now the one on his hand, and the combination was terribly disorienting. At least most of the new eyes were covered up by his clothes and showed only darkness. But the new ears under his clothes inundated his brain with the sound of cloth rubbing over them, and each new one that sprouted sent a wave of dizziness through him.

It was the parts he felt sprouting and moving on the inside of his body that really disturbed him, though. What if a new eye opened in the middle of his brain, or his heart? Would it kill him?

Prince made his way to the exit and looked down the long, darkened spiral staircase. It looked like a frighteningly dangerous way to go, with his odd vision, shaky legs and bad balance. Sliding down on his backside would be impractical, as he had several facial features inconveniently located there, now. As he wondered how to manage it, another slit ripped open on his left shoulder, and from under his shirt, a muffled voice began babbling gibberish. Prince clapped a hand over his shoulder. He hated the mouths most of all. At least the noses did nothing but drip a bit.

Staring down the dark, steep stairwell, Prince was seized with nausea and bent over to vomit on the Divination room floor. Breathing hard and spitting bile, he backed away, trying not to look at the puddle of slime and twitching eyeballs he had left behind. He made his way down the stairs, clutching the handrail as tightly as he could with his good arm. Going carefully, one step at a time, seemed the safest way to proceed, but fear that the curse would turn deadly added urgency to his descent. He moved in bursts of three or four stairs at a time, stopping to clutch at the rail and take a few breaths after each attempt.

Prince was barely twenty stairs down when his heel ripped open and squawking sounds started coming from inside his boot. Startled, he missed a step. Flailing for balance didn’t help, as the eye and two ears on his wildly waving arms only added to his discombobulation. Crashing forward, he hit the stone steps with his shoulder, flipped to land on his back, slid a few stairs further, then fell forward again, the curved wall of the tower coming straight at his head. There was a burst of shocking bright light.



It was twilight again when Prince next opened his eyes, knowing he had to get himself to the hospital wing as quickly as possible. He tried to move, but couldn’t. His legs were heavy as lead. After a brief struggle, Prince realized that the stone stairs had become strangely comfortable. Shortly after, the fact that he was in a bed became apparent. But he was neither in his dormitory nor the hospital wing. Looking around, he saw that the room was completely unfamiliar.

Not so the little old white-haired man sitting in the nearby chair and sipping tea.

“Hullo,” said Prince woozily. “Did you find the Ivory Sasquatch?”

“Regrettably, no. I was called suddenly back to England to deal with a family emergency,” said old Mr. Burke. “How are you feeling, Albert?”

Prince took stock. He was no longer in pain. The broken arm and rib seemed to be healed, as well as the cracked teeth. Better still, he was not seeing, hearing, or smelling anything from unusual parts of his body. He lifted a hand and looked at it. Where the eye had been there was nothing but a little, puckered slit, now healing over.

“I can’t move my legs,” Prince said.

“That will be Wriggle. It’s a good thing you summoned him when you did, or you might not have survived long enough to be brought to Saint Mungo’s.”

Prince looked down. Lying across his knees was the inert form of the Prince family house elf. “Did I summon him? I don’t remember at all. It must have been after I hit my head. Wriggle! Wake up…”

Wriggle twitched and snored slightly, but did not awaken. “The healers gave him a sleeping potion,” said Mr. Burke. “I fear he became rather hysterical, and was getting the way, and being very protective and threatening and generally difficult. He will revive in time.

“Now, Albert, we must talk. The injuries and curses you suffered could very well have caused your untimely death. I am moreover given to understand that this is not the first occasion on which you have turned up at the hospital wing in dire straits. Tell me what miscreant has put you in this deplorable condition, and I give you my assurances, they will brought to regret their actions. Expulsion is almost certainly within my powers in this case. A sojourn in Azkaban might even be arranged. And, although we would certainly never pursue any sort of crude personal retribution, I have a few associates in whose presence unfortunate accidents seem to occur with tragic regularity, and who I dare say would not be averse to making the acquaintance of your tormentor. Who was it, Albert?”

The image of Goyle, Parkinson and Talbot, gagged and spell-o-taped together, being lowered into a rat-infested sewer in a dark corner of Knockturn Alley was most appealing. Prince sighed and let it go. “Do you know, it’s all a blur,” he said. “I really don’t remember what happened.” It was a line straight out of Bingo Deedle.

Mr. Burke seemed to read his mind, because the old man leaned back in his chair with pursed lips and said, “I hope that your reluctance to speak does not stem from a misguided sense of honor inspired by the pages of some drivelly schoolboy novel. We are not discussing a case of someone rifling your wardrobe and taking your pocket money, or sneaking out after hours to pilfer gingersnaps from the house head’s office, this is a matter of—“

“Did you do those things at school?” Prince interrupted.

“Certainly not,” said Mr. Burke. “In my seven years at Hogwarts, I was never caught breaking a rule. I was an exemplary student in every way. I was a Prefect, in point of fact.”

“’Never caught,’ eh?”

“Who was it, Albert?” said Mr. Burke sternly. “You have nothing to fear. Names.”

“My mind is a blank,” Prince said, lying back and closing his eyes. “Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like to go back to sleep. A bit of silence, if you please.”

The room became quiet again, apart from the heavy breathing of Wriggle and the occasional muffled noise from outside the room.

After a while, Prince spoke softly in the deep, rumbling growl of the Boar God Nago. “They will suffer…as I have suffered.”

“Well, well,” said Mr. Burke, pouring himself another cup of tea. “Mind you don’t get yourself expelled, Albert. Or killed.”


Prince spent two more days at Saint Mungo’s. Wednesday he mostly slept, except when he was awakened by healers who wanted to prod at him, run tests, cast spells and pour potions down his gullet.

Thursday he felt much better. He was still very weak, and needed a walker to get around, but managed to slip away when his attendants weren’t looking. and toured the hospital. He tried to entertain the inmates of the Spattergroit ward with a few jokes. Either they were too ill to enjoy them, or simply didn’t share his sense of humor, for he failed to get a laugh out of anyone before a panic-stricken Wriggle found him and dragged him back to his own room. The rest of the day was spent in tedium, listening to the Wizard Wireless and playing cards with Wriggle, who never quite understood the rules of any game.

On Friday morning, he was discharged. The scars where he had once had superfluous eyes and mouths had shrunken to mere dimples. He was still shaky and tired easily, but mentally Prince felt as jaunty as ever. Mr. Burke declared that Prince was not yet strong enough to return to school, and should spend the weekend at home at Alspellers, returning to Hogwarts Sunday night.

Mr. Burke left to return to Alaska that afternoon, and Prince began to have misgivings about not having turned in his enemies. His thirst for revenge was fading with time, and it was beginning to seem wiser to have simply let the authorities deal with the matter. Without Mr. Burke to push the expulsion through, though, Prince had little confidence it would happen. Fudge was next to useless. If there had been only one hoodlum who had put him in Saint Mungo’s, Prince thought it might still be worth suddenly ‘remembering’ who the culprit was. But when the blame was divided among six people? Each of them would certainly be seen as only partly guilty, and it seemed unlikely, too, that half of the Slytherin first year class would be sent packing.

There was nothing to be done about it now, Prince decided, and put the matter out of his mind so he could enjoy his weekend at home. There were displays in the museum to putter with, and his favorite chair in the library to sink into once again. Wriggle insisted on building up his strength by plying him with more delicious food than any three boys could have eaten, between urging horrid and disgusting home remedies and tonics on him.

The cracked wand was laid to rest, the broken halves pieced together and stuck to the frame of a portrait of the grandfather who had once wielded it. Prince and Wriggle rummaged through drawers, trunks and closets until they found a wand that responded exceptionally well in Prince’s hand. As far as he could ascertain by searching through family portraits and records, it had once belonged to a spinster great-great aunt, Eugenia Wellesley Prince, who had been best known for her gooseberry jam, her extreme anti-Muggle political beliefs, and her amazing accuracy at spitting. It was said that she could knock a pixie out of the air at twenty paces.

On Saturday, Reginald (with ill grace) apparated with Prince to a wooded spot near the Prendergast farm, and left him to wobble his way to the house. The Prendergasts were delighted to see him. Prince explained his illness and return to Cornwall by claiming to have fallen down some stairs and hit his head—true enough—and they spent the afternoon in playing board games and pursuing other quieter-than-normal activities.

It was not a comfortable visit, at least not for Prince. Will and Emma were full of stories about their school, their teachers, and their schoolmates. Prince barely dared speak a word about his school, for fear of saying something that would violate the magical secrecy act, or bring on another barrage of astonished questions.

At last he left for home, riding Baxter and accompanied by Emma on Snowflake and Will on one of the ATVs. At least the noise of the motor gave Prince an excuse for silence. When they had reached the outer limits of Alspellers’s muggle-repelling spell, Prince dismounted from the pony and handed the reins to Emma.

“Where do you go?’ Will asked. “You always leave us here, in the middle of nowhere.” Alspellers was actually in plain sight, though of course his muggle friends could only see more rocky cliff edge ahead.

“Oh, I live not far from here,” Prince said, vaguely waving his arm. “That way.” He crossed the border of the spell, the Prendergasts watching him intently. He turned back and waved.

After a few moments, Will, blinked. He looked around wildly. “He’s gone again! How does he do that?”

“He’s standing right there,” Emma pointed, looking away for a split second. “Oh! Drat! Do you think he’s got some sort of underground passage?” The Prendergasts went on vainly looking for Prince among the rocks. The spell discouraged them from any desire to actually follow him. In time, his friends turned to go back to their farm and the chores that awaited them there. Prince sighed. If only at least one of the Prendergasts had been born with magic!

Sunday was gloomy, and so was Prince. Now that it was far too late, he cursed himself for not fingering at least Talbot. Talbot’s schoolwork was so bad that Fudge would certainly doubt his capability of hurling life-threatening curses, but Mr. Burke would have believed him.

Wriggle was also in near hysterics at the thought of Prince’s returning to school again.

“Wriggle MUST attend the young master at Hogwarts!” he insisted. “The next time the young master summons Wriggle, it might be too late!”

“It won’t be,” Prince promised grimly. “The chance of rubbing certain persons off the face of the earth permanently might be worth the sacrifice of a mere house elf. What honor for you, Wriggle, to spend your life in Azkaban, or even give up your life, knowing that you’ve possibly prevented the rise of the next Dark Lord.”

“Wriggle is ready to die in the protection of the young master.”

“I’m sure you are. And I will be certain to tell your successor the story of your courage after you are gone. It is a far, far better thing you do, Wriggle.”

Wriggle nodded. “It is.”

Prince sighed. His strategy was failing. “Wriggle, I swear that I will summon you the minute anyone looks squiggle-eyed at me.”

“There will be no need. Wriggle will be there already.”

“You can’t come to Hogwarts with me.”

“Wriggle can’t? Ha! You just watch Wriggle!”

Though Prince spent the better part of the day trying to make Wriggle see reason, reciting the Hogwarts rules, and assuring Wriggle—insincerely—that he would be in no danger whatsoever, Wriggle merely went about his housework in stubborn silence, and when Prince got out the Floo powder to return to school, Wriggle prepared to follow him.

Oh, well, Prince thought. Let Professor Sylvanus deal with this, if she can. He threw a handful of the powder into the fireplace, said “Hogwarts school, Slytherin office,” and stepped through.

He arrived at the school alone. Professor Sylvanus was waiting for him.

“Welcome back, Mr. Prince.”

“Konnichiwa! Er…” said Prince, looking back at the fireplace. “My house elf, Wriggle, was insisting on accompanying me to school, but…”

“I’m afraid that security has been increased at Hogwarts in your absence,” said Professor Sylvanus. “New barriers to unauthorized entry have been put in place. I’m afraid your house elf will no longer be able to come and go as he pleases.”

“Oh, good,” said Prince. “One mustn’t have me being rescued all the time. It’s so untidy.”

“I understand your feelings. However, there is a valid concern about the fact that a creature was able to enter the school at will and leave taking a student with him. It is a loophole in our security that could easily be exploited for less altruistic reasons than Wriggle’s. I’m sure you understand.”

Prince nodded. He understood. And he understood that he was completely on his own, now.

“By the way, Mr. Prince, have you by any chance regained any of your memories of what happened you last Saturday?”

Prince scratched his nose. “Can I ask you an entirely theoretical question?”

“Of course.”

“Entirely theoretically, what chance is there that any postulatory aggressors I happened to remember would be expelled?”

Professor Sylvanus thought. “I would say there was a forty percent chance.”

“That’s all? And what if Mr. Burke came back from Alaska?”

“Then I think the odds would increase to about fifty,” she answered. “Maybe fifty-five. The odds would also increase in your favor if the students you accuse have a record of previous misbehavior, and if the assault was entirely unprovoked. I’m afraid any denials on their part, or claims that you had previously instigated trouble would count against your case. Also, the older your enemies are, the better the odds in your favor. People are so strangely forgiving of eleven-year-olds.”

“That sucks,” said Prince.

“Nobody said life was fair,” said Professor Sylvanus. “Of course, if you had actually died, the chances would be significantly increased.”

“I must remember that next time.”

“Quite so. How is your memory?”

“Foggy.”

She nodded. “I think your health might be improved by applying yourself to a hobby,” she said. “Such as casting shielding spells, learning to set traps, watching your back and keeping your head down. Is there anything else I can do for you?”

“Transfer me to Hufflepuff?”

“They’re in quarantine.”

“Sounds lovely.”

Professor Sylvanus turned her attention to some student essays waiting on her desk. “If it’s any comfort, I believe you will not find yourself in immediate danger.”

“That is comforting,” said Prince. “I would show you how much I appreciate it, but I was brought up never to moon a lady.” He shoved his hands in his pockets and walked out of the office.

Prince walked straight to the Slytherin dungeon. He had nowhere else to go, nobody else to see. Hands still in his pockets, he swaggered into the common room with all the bravado he could muster, his insides clenching and his knees more wobbly than ever.

Parkinson’s gang was there. They were playing cards at one of the tables. Prince’s heart rate doubled at the sight of them, but he covered his fear with a scowl. Parkinson only gave him a slight nod, and fixed his eyes back on his cards. The others barely even glanced at him.

Except for Talbot, who got to his feet at once and came toward Prince, a wide, bland smile across his face. “Well, look who’s back! How are you feeling, old chum?”

For a moment Prince forgot he was being tough, and took a step back before remembering to stand his ground.

“Willy!” Parkinson growled in a warning tone, half standing.

“What? I haven’t touched him,” Talbot continued to smile. “I haven’t even pulled out my wand.” Prince could see Talbot had something in his hand, though. Talbot continued to advance until he stood toe to toe with Prince, staring into his eyes. “We’re all so glad you’re feeling better and are out of the hospital.”

Prince stared back. He had heard it said that eyes were the windows to the soul, and he half expected to see insane demons beating their heads against the inside of Talbot’s skull, but as far as he could tell, Talbot’s eyes were just eyes. The vapid smile was unsettling, though, as was the fact that Talbot never seemed to blink.

Curling his lip in a final sneer, Prince turned his back on his enemy and walked away across the common room, expecting at any moment to be struck in the back with a rock, or whatever the creep was concealing in his fist.

Nothing hit him.

But there was an unexpected splash beside him. Prince looked down. A large cup of cocoa sat on an end table, its surface still rippling slightly. While he puzzled over this development, a huge, beefy hand stretched out from the divan to pick up the mug, and Arnold Goyle drained it to the bottom.

Arnold choked. The elder Goyle clutched at his throat, making strangled noises. His face rapidly began to take on a blue tinge. Prince wondered what to do. Was Goyle really just choking, or had he been poisoned? Prince hadn’t learned of any spell to deal with a choking attack, and knew no antidotes yet. Any attempt to pound on the victim’s back, from what he had heard about Arnold, was likely to be repaid ten times over. Putting his arms around Arnold to force the air out of him was not only likely to be dangerous and subject to retribution, but ineffective, even of Prince’s arms could reach that far. Prince looked around the common room for older students who might know what to do. Most of them were watching with expressions of interest.

Finally, Arnold spit something out onto the common room floor, and took a long, wheezing breath. Prince looked down at the object.

It was a wad of Goo.

As Prince stood looking down at it, Arnold seized him by the front of the shirt—just where Anna had, Prince thought, noticing the family resemblance—picked him up off his feet and slammed him against the stony common room wall.

“YOU THINK YOU’RE FUNNY?” Goyle bellowed. Prince opened his mouth to try to speak, but he felt as if he had been caught between a hammer and an anvil, and all the air had been knocked out of his lungs. Goyle pulled him away from the wall, and smashed him into it again. “YOU THINK YOU’RE FUNNY?” he repeated.

Prince tried to suck in enough air to explain it hadn’t been him, that he had been an innocent bystander, and that he certainly didn’t go around dropping Goo into people’s cocoa. He hadn’t managed to inhale more than a teaspoon of air before Goyle slammed him against the wall a third time.

“YOU THINK YOU’RE FUNNY?” Goyle demanded again. Prince’s head was spinning and his ears rang. His legs kicked in the air like a rag doll’s. He moved his lips, tried to call for Wriggle, but even if he had been able to get the words out, Wriggle was locked out of Hogwarts. He was alone.

With a snarl, Goyle drew back a gigantic, ham-like fist. Prince closed his eyes and cringed against the wall. This was it then—the final end of the Prince family had come.

He heard the explosive sound of a fist connecting with human flesh.

He felt nothing.

After a moment, Prince opened his eyes again. Arnold Goyle had a curiously blank expression, his eyes drooping and his jaw hanging slack. His fingers released Prince, who dropped to the floor as the titan sagged and fell onto the end table with a resounding crash, smashing it flat and lying still.

Over Goyle’s body stood Hieronymous Yorick, the hard-faced, spike-haired, third year Quidditch player. His fist was still clenched, the knuckles skinned raw and bleeding.

“I think the kid’s funny,” he said. “Anyone else have a problem with that?”



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  #18  
Old October 9th, 2010, 1:57 am
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Re: The Prince of Hogwarts (An ASP at Hogwarts prequel)

17

Seizing Prince by the back of his collar, Yorick pulled him to his feet.

“Thanks,” Prince gasped.

“You and I are going to have a little chat,” Yorick growled. Still holding the back of Prince’s shirt, he marched the younger boy out of the common room and through the corridors.

Grateful as he was for the rescue, Prince could not help being annoyed. “I ought to just have Wriggle sew handles at strategic points on my clothes,” he grumbled under his breath.

“What?” Yorick demanded.

“Nothing,” said Prince. “Where are we going?”

“Somewhere we can talk uninterrupted.” There was still a fair amount of traffic moving around Hogwarts’s halls, and finally with a disgusted noise, Yorick dragged Prince out a door to the outside.

It was cold and damp, and just beginning to be dark. A steady drizzle had slackened off to a sprinkling mist. Yorick finally let go of Prince’s collar. Prince pulled his cloak more tightly about himself and waited, while Yorick glowered down at him.

“Do you know,” Yorick snarled, “the day I heard they’d hauled you off to the healers, I went to Professor Sylvanus and told her you oughtn’t to come back to Hogwarts. I told her if you did, you were only bound to get yourself killed. And do you know what she did?”

“Laughed maniacally?” Prince guessed.

“She put ME in charge of seeing that you survived,” Yorick exclaimed indignantly. “She made ME responsible for your safety. She’s been holding a detention over my head for two months, and now Aggie’s lowered the boom. YOU are my detention.”

Prince opened his mouth to make a funny remark on this, and then was struck by the unsettling memory that he had a pending detention as well, from releasing Peeves. What terrible task might fall to his lot?

Yorick continued to glare down at him. “Thank you,” Prince said nervously. Then, getting no reaction, he tried, “Sorry about that.”

After another minute of silence, he added. “I can give you a list, if you like, of people who have been—“

“All I want from you,” Yorick growled, “is to stop trying so flaming hard to get yourself murdered!”

“Me?!” Prince protested.

“Yes, you!” said Yorick. “Anyone would think you like being pounded on! Well, it’s going to change. You’re going to change. I can’t babysit you every minute, and I’m hanged if I’ll be responsible for your death because you couldn’t go without being an annoying prat for ten minutes unsupervised. Starting now, you’re going to clam up and blend in. It’s time to keep a low profile.”

“I’ve tried that.”

“Not so’s anyone would notice. Listen to me, I’m going to make a new man of you, a man who may even live to see Christmas. Step one: wipe that smile off your face. The way you walk around looking happy to be alive, it’s like painting a target on your head at a rock-throwing festival.”

“But—“

“Shut up and listen. Now, try to look angry. Just trust me on this.”

Prince forced his face into a threatening scowl.

“Lovely,” said Yorick. “You look like your house elf didn’t put enough sugar in your tea. And while I’m on the subject, I suggest you start avoiding mentioning your house elf, your mansion, your ponies, your gold-plated toilet seats, and anything else likely to cause envy, resentment and revolution among the proletariat. Now, seriously, look angry!”

Prince added a sneer to the scowl.

“Well, at least you look a bit sulky,” said Yorick. “Come on! Anger! Something must cheese you off. How about your parents? Everybody hates their parents. Lord knows I’d like to kick mine.”

“I don’t hate my parents!”

“That’s better. Try to hold that expression. Think about pop quizzes. Think about homework. Heck, just think about school.”

“I like school. Ow!”

Prince rubbed his head. Yorick held up a fist, not the one that he had bloodied striking down Arnold Goyle. “You see this? Meet Mr. Knuckles. Every time you talk utter pants, Mr. Knuckles is going to acquaint himself with your thick skull. No, you do NOT like school. You hate school. You hate homework. You hate teachers. This will be your new public attitude, one which you will NOT contradict by going and talking to bloody teachers all the time as if they were your friends!”

“Teachers are people, too,” said Prince. “Ow!”

“Right, you look surly enough,” said Yorick. “Step two. Stop singing! For the love of Merlin, when you’ve stayed up half the night studying and have a History test in twenty minutes, and are wondering if that’s enough time to write the Potions essay that’s due right after, the last thing you need is some chirpy little blaggard wandering around the room asking who put the bop in the bop shu bop shu bop! Save us! It might not even be so bad if you sang REAL songs, like on the wireless, but that nonsense you come up with—“

“Those are real songs,” Prince said. “They’re Muggle songs!”

“Pull the other one,” Yorick growled. “My mum’s a Muggle, and I’ve never heard ANYTHING like the nonsense you belt out.”

“Is she?” Prince asked with interest. Yet another half-blood in Slytherin. He wondered if Salazar had been rolling in his grave much lately.

“Yes, she is.” Yorick loomed over him, looking positively dangerous. “And before you make anything of it, let me tell you, every day my mum goes into a cage full of lions and tigers big enough to bite your head off and still have room in their mouths for twenty pounds of choccies, and she makes them do whatever she blamed well pleases, WITHOUT MAGIC.”

It sounded impressive. Prince would have said so, but Yorick went on, “And in all my life, I have NEVER heard anything like the rubbish you yodel. Come on! Admiral Nelson notified me, he had to have a bath or he couldn’t put to sea? Ooh, I love onions? Do dat dainty dance dat Dandy Doodle do? The hills are alive with the sound of music? What do you take me for, a fool? Muggle songs, my elbow. Anyway, stop it, unless you really enjoy the taste of your own blood.”

“If you say so, Hero. Ow!”

“And finally,” Yorick sighed, “Step Three is to knock off the pranks, jokes, and clever remarks. As entertaining as I find them—and I must say, I really have enjoyed your remarks over the dinner table—they just seem irritate the wrong people. Keep your mouth shut unless you have something important and serious to say. Have you got all that?”

“Right,” said Prince. “Don’t laugh, smile, talk, joke, sing, move, eat, drink, sleep or exist in general. Is breathing permitted, or shall I have oxygen imported from Antarctica and injected magically? Ow!”

“I have a feeling Mr. Knuckles is going to get a lot of exercise,” Yorick said. “Kid, don’t you want to survive the year?”

“Not if it means being buried alive,” Prince grumbled.

“Being buried dead is worse, and a real possibility,” said Yorick. “Mind, now, Parkinson and his friends have been warned off you, and they’ve said they’ll do their best to keep William Talbot reined in, but they’re kids, and they have short memories and short tempers. I can’t be in your dormitory at night, or at your classes, so you are going to have to protect yourself. And the best way to do that is to stop making everyone want to shove your head in the bog and flush. Do you think you can do that?”

“I’ll try,” he mumbled.

“Because right now, everyone in your year thinks you are a spoiled, arrogant, smug, elitist wise guy who has everything they’ve ever wanted without having to work for it, and is always laughing at them, and sucks up to the teachers like a remora on sucking potion. It’s a wonder you haven’t been smothered in your sleep.”

“I put wards around my bed.”

“Good. Keep doing that. Now let’s go in, I’m soaked and I’m freezing.”

It was not difficult to keep the smile off his face as they returned to the dormitory. Yorick’s talk had been sobering. Was that really how his classmates saw him? Not that he had any better impressions of them, but they had given him plenty of reasons for his bad opinions.

Had he given them reason for theirs?

Prince decided not to think about it yet. He bade Yorick a gloomy farewell, then went to his dormitory to set all the wards and traps around his bed that he could find in Moody’s Afraid of the Dark book.

In the middle of the night, he heard Talbot yelp from beside his bed, and heard the snap and zing of a protective spell going off. Talbot spent an hour whimpering on the cold stone floor before crawling off to bed again. Prince pretended to sleep through it.

In the morning, he sat with the first years again. He kept his mouth shut, and did not smile, laugh, join the conversation, or greet any of the teachers that walked by. When Professor Flitwick stopped to say how happy he was to see Prince back in school, Prince was as short with him as was possible without being actually rude.

Prince carried on with his new attitude through that day and the next, and the next. He found that trying to look angry and sullen actually led him to feel that way. He supposed he could get used to it over time. At least Christmas would be coming up in a month, and he could go home for a holiday and be as happy as he liked without being thrashed for it.

That night Yorick joined the first years at dinner. “So,” Yorick said loudly, taking in the other boys with his glare. “How is everyone getting along?”

“Lovely,” said Prince.

“Fine,” said Parkinson.

“Good. Any problems?” Yorick asked.

“None at all,” said Prince. “I’ve been ‘helping’ them with their homework again. Ow! What was that for?”

“You can stop that right now,” Yorick growled. “We don’t want your classmates growing up into ignoramuses because they didn’t learn anything themselves. Nobody has any use for incompetent, lazy, ignorant slackers who lounge about hoping someone does the work and they can cadge the credit. There’s nobody like that in this class, I hope, is there?”

Parkinson and his friends uttered indignant denials.

“I only asked him a question or two,” Parkinson protested. As Prince recalled, the main questions had been, “Have you got those Herbology papers finished yet?” and “You really don’t want to get on my bad side again, do you?”

“I’m glad you all agree with me,” Yorick said. “To further the spirit of ambition and display the power of your work ethic, I’m charging you with a task. Write twenty-three inches of parchment on how luminescence can be effected in percolative potions when substituting sea water in place of fresh. Use examples and be as detailed when discussing the magical reactions as possible. You too, Prince. And stop encouraging your classmates to slack off”

Yorick returned to his seat among the Quidditch team.

“The nerve!” Parkinson said when he believed Yorick was out of earshot. “What odds he’s getting us to do his homework for him?”

Prince almost said that the assignment sounded fascinating, but remembered in time to keep his mouth shut. In spite of the grumbling, later that night they all got their Potions books out and struggled with the project. It seemed Yorick’s word was law, for some reason. Probably because he was a Quidditch player, Prince decided, when Lovecraft and Fish joined in on the Potions research, although Prince was pretty sure they had not been included in Yorick’s command.

The week dragged on. The weather was an unchanging gloomy grey, which matched Prince’s mood. Keeping himself quiet, sullen and withdrawn was painful at first, but as the days went by, it felt more and more like a natural condition he could never break out of, even if he wanted to.

The weekend came, and there was nothing to do. All the things that he usually found entertaining were forbidden, it seemed. He resorted to burying himself in one of his favorite history books, but after an hour or so, it was snatched out of his hands and he found himself staring at Yorick’s angry face again.

“You just don’t get it, do you?” Yorick demanded. “Normal kids don’t read history on their days off! What have I been talking about all this time? Go play gobstones or something normal!”

“Gobstones? I outgrew gobstones when I was seven!” Prince protested.

“Go hang out with your friends then!”

“I haven’t got any,” Prince said, wishing his eyes hadn’t suddenly gone wet.

“Make some,” said Yorick through gritted teeth. “Here—“ He seized Prince by the back of the collar again and half led, half dragged him down the hall.

“I wish you’d stop doing that,” Prince complained. “I’m not a marionette.”

“There,” said Yorick. They had arrived at the Great Hall. Students were scattered around the room, some studying, some socializing. Yorick pointed to a small group of first-years huddled together chatting excitedly. “Go talk to them.” He gave Prince a shove in the direction, and Prince walked reluctantly toward the cluster.

There were five students in the group, and they seemed to be from various houses. Prince had never been shy, but on the other hand, he had never been under orders before not to smile, make jokes, or say anything anyone might possibly find offensive for whatever odd reason. How could he possibly hold a conversation?

Hullo,” he said. He was encouraged to see that one of the group was the Hufflepuff boy who had joined his first sailing lesson. “What are we up to, then?”

“Chocolate Frog cards,” mumbled a Gryffindor with her mouth full of chocolate. “I’ve got an extra Shacklebolt and two Dumbledores. Want to swap? I really want Cliodne, Herpo, Harry Potter and Lockhart.”

“And I’ve got six Cornelius Fudges,” said the Hufflepuff boy miserably. “I’ll trade for anything!”

“Thanks, but I already have the whole collection,” said Prince. “I buy the collector sets every new release. I have a 1845 Merlin, have you ever seen one?” He remembered too late what Yorick had said about not mentioning anything that would annoy the less fortunate, but the group didn’t look particularly resentful.

“I think you’ve missed the point of Chocolate Frog cards,” was all a Ravenclaw girl said. “Rupert, I’ll give you my Lockhart for Bertie Bott, and you can swap him with Violet for Dumbledore.”

They continued their negotiations, Prince standing by and listening, ignored. He watched out of the corner of his eye until Yorick departed, then slipped back to the common room for his book and found somewhere more secretive to read it.

Classes resumed Monday with a dull sameness. The class was getting used to Prince having nothing to say and blending into the background. He was becoming a complete non-entity. He wondered if they even would notice if he vanished entirely.

The gloom that was permeating his soul reached its peak on Tuesday. He generally enjoyed Transfiguration, but today’s assignment upset him. For the first time, he was transforming a living creature.

On the desk before him was a shallow, round dish. Inside it a beetle scurried in circles, vainly seeking a way out. His assignment was to transfigure the insect into a bell jar. The reading had not disturbed him at all, nor had writing the essay for Professor McGonagall.

But now, as McGonagall attempted to teach his classmates how to transform a handkerchief into a teapot, Prince could only stand staring in miserable sympathy at the tiny beast as it circled the dish. It reminded him of the time he had been trapped with Talbot, going around and around the room, with no way to escape. He still had dreams about that sometimes.

“Is there a problem, Mr. Prince?” Professor McGonagall had left the others to their work and come to look over his shoulder. “I know you understand the assignment. Your essay was extremely detailed.”

“I just…” Prince shrugged helplessly, raised his wand, and put it down again. The beetle continued circling.

“Come, now, you’re not being sentimental, are you?” McGonagall asked. “I know you use beetle parts in potion making every day. That insect has far less brain than the pig who supplied your morning bacon, and I haven’t noticed you being shy at the breakfast table, young man.”

“But it’s alive,” said Prince. “What if it doesn’t want to be a bell jar?”

“Then you can change it to a beetle again when you are done, if you think you can manage it. I’m quite sure you can.”

“Yes, but…” Prince looked down miserably at the panicky bug again. “Will it be the SAME beetle? Or will it be a totally different one?”

Professor McGonagall didn’t answer him. When he looked up, he was startled to see she had her wand out. The room seemed to swell around him, and his yell of surprise came out as a high-pitched, grating screech.

Prince’s gaze was drawn to his hands, and he stared at them in shock. They were knobbly and coal black, and his arms were covered with shaggy, grey fur. His whole body was covered with fur! He had…a tail! Prince ran his hands over his head, and a stab of intense joy pierced his soul.

He was a monkey!

Monkeys didn’t have to sulk around keeping their mouths shut. Monkeys did whatever they felt like! He could run and jump and climb the walls! He could hoot and scream! He could swing by his tail! He could throw poo at people!

Before he had the chance to act on any of these impulses, the room shrank around him, and Prince found himself standing in his own skin once more.

“Well,” said Professor McGonagall. “Tell me, do you have a strange inclination to sing silly songs and spout wisecracks? Are you pondering what cheeky remark to make next? Do you have a burning desire to ask thousands of questions about Severus Snape? Then I think you must be the same Albert Severus Prince you always were. Do you feel better now?”

“Yes,” said Prince. The class was snickering, but he didn’t care. He did feel better.

“Then get on with your work, and no more shilly-shallying.”


That evening, Prince made his way to the dungeon alone after his usual after-class session with Professor Flitwick. He sang as he came down the stairs. “Sing hey to you, good day to you, sing bah to you, ha-ha to you, sing boo to you, pooh-pooh to you, and that’s what I shall say!”

A weight had been lifted off his shoulders, and though the weather remained its grumpy, surly self, and it had grown dark early, Prince felt as if the sun was shining all around him.

“Sing bah to you, and that’s what I shall say!” he continued. “Bah! Boo! Bah! Boo! And that’s what I shall—urk!”

Yorick had seized him by the sleeve and jerked him off the last stair.

“What do you think you’re doing?” he demanded. “Someone might hear you!”

“I’m sorry, Hero, I can’t help it,” Prince said cheerfully. “It’s just who I am. I can’t change. I am incorrigible, hopeless and entirely irredeemable. Spank me, if you must.”

Prince had been afraid Yorick would be angry, but he just blew out his breath in an exasperated sigh and ran his fingers through his hair, a wry smile twisting his face.

“All right,” Yorick said. “I suppose it couldn’t last. We’ll have to go to Plan B.”

“Plan B?” There was a Plan B? Could it possible be worse than Plan A?

“Yeah, Plan B,” said Yorick. “We have to get you on the Quidditch team.”



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  #19  
Old October 15th, 2010, 3:29 pm
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Inkwolf  Undisclosed.gif Inkwolf is offline
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Re: The Prince of Hogwarts (An ASP at Hogwarts prequel)

18

“Fudge means to kill us!” Parkinson growled at lunch.

“Oh, I doubt it. They just can’t be bothered to think,” Abigail Mays sniffed.

It was Thursday, and their Flight class was coming up. Flight with the Hufflepuffs. The quarantine had been lifted days ago, after a week had passed with no new cases of Spattergroit, but the Slytherin first years had no desire to go within spitting distance of the disease-tainted Hufflepuff students.

“All right, Brainbox,” Parkinson said. “Here’s your chance to be useful. Come up with a way for all of us to skive off Flight today. I expect you don’t want to be there any more than we do.”

“I’m not going to be there,” said Prince. “I’ve got an appointment. Anyway, I’ve already had Spattergroit, so I don’t care. You ought to catch it, then you’d be immune. If you survived.”

The way Parkinson glowered at him, Prince was happy to leave his classmates and wander to the Quidditch Pitch. Yorick stood there waiting, with Bradshaw and a handful of other Slytherin students of various ages. Yorick gave him a nod as he joined the group.

“Thank you all for skiving off class to join us here,” Bradshaw said eventually. “I’m sure it was a sacrifice.” A nervous laugh rippled through the assembly.

“This try-out is by invitation only. If any of you were not officially asked, now’s the time to bugger off. And there’s been a recent development. As you all know, Wild and Armbruster were sacked as Chasers after the Gryffindor so-called game. But Isadore Larken, here—“ Bradshaw indicated a dark-skinned boy with a scar across his chin and a crooked smile,“has just transferred from Coldhart Academy in Saskatchewan, where he’s been a Chaser for two years. After seeing his form, I’ve put him on the team. The rest of you will be competing for the one remaining position.”

Nobody complained, but Prince could feel the displeasure in the air. Bradshaw’s gaze locked on Prince.

“You’re the first-year, aren’t you?” said Bradshaw. “Yorick says you can fly. Here, take this, and go over by Nott. We’ll get you out of the way first.” Bradshaw tossed Prince his own Nimbus Rover, adding, “Don’t wreck it, now. Nott-hole! Take the toddler up!”

Nott? Prince walked nervously in the direction Bradshaw pointed, to where a tall, lanky, dark-haired fourth year boy leaned against a goal post.

“Firstie?” the boy asked. “I expect you know my cousin Kedgewick, then.”

Prince made a vague noise of affirmation.

“Repulsive little squit, isn’t he?”

“I don’t know that I’d have said so,” said Prince cautiously, but he relaxed at once. Apparently he would not have to deal with a family feud. On the other hand, it seemed bizarre to him that nobody in Slytherin seemed able to get along with their own families.

“Awright, then,” Nott said, spinning a Quaffle with careless ease on one finger as he mounted his broomstick. “We’ll try a little passing as we cross the pitch. I want you to score through the middle goal once we get there. Then we’ll cross again, with complications.”

The first crossing of the pitch was simple. The Quaffle was grippy and easy to catch, and Prince was comfortable enough on his own broomstick to use one or both of his hands for ball handling. Bradshaw’s Rover was far more maneuverable and responsive than the school brooms he had been flying all year. Approaching the goalposts, Prince threw the Quaffle from as far away as he dared, hoping to impress Bradshaw with a long shot.

The Quaffle went through the ring, but just barely, striking against the upper edge, and bouncing on the bottom of the ring before falling through.

Prince looked down, but the attention of the observers was on the other end of the pitch, where Lannister and one of the other hopefuls, a black-haired girl, were approaching the opposite goals. The other applicant was more cautious, merely putting the ball through the hoop from right in front of it. I had to have looked more impressive than that, Prince hoped. Actually, he hoped someone had been watching him at all.

“This time we’ll have a few complications,” said Nott-the-Chaser, as Larken and the other candidate flew across the pitch toward him. “We’re going to try flying in a simple triangular formation. Larken and I will be the upper corners, you be the lower. The trick is, you need to move when we do, so as to stay triangular, if you know what I mean. And when I call ‘switch,’ you fly between us and invert the triangle. Got that?”

Prince nodded. It didn’t sound that complicated.

They started out across the pitch slowly, Prince flying below and between the other two. “Switch!” Nott called almost at once, and Prince flew up between the two and above them. Then Larken started to rise, and Prince moved to the right to maintain the form of the triangle, concentrating so intently on his position that he almost missed it when Larken threw him the Quaffle. “Pass it!” Nott barked, and Prince threw the ball to him. “Quicker next time,” Nott said.

Nott threw the Quaffle at him again, and as Prince reached for it, something hit him from behind. He spun on his broomstick, nearly dropping the ball. The black-haired girl smirked as she flew past him.

“Maintain the formation!” Nott ordered.

“She rammed me!” Prince protested, hurriedly flying back into position.

“Of course she did! What part of ‘complications’ didn’t you understand?” They flew on, picking up speed. Nott and Larken kept changing their positions, forcing Prince to concentrate on the formation, while trying to catch the Quaffle and pass it on, all the while being bumped and jolted by the black-haired girl. Once he threw the ball to Larken, only to have the witch swoop between them and intercept it. With a whoop of triumph, she tossed the ball to Nott, who passed it back to him with a sour expression. The next time Prince threw the Quaffle, he made sure he knew where the girl was flying, first.

After a few more moments of passing, shifting position, and fending off his rival, Prince suddenly saw something whizzing straight at his head, and without thinking he did a roll to avoid it.

“Good!” Nott shouted. Prince had not changed position, catching the Quaffle again as he rolled back upright. Yorick was flying nearby, a Beater’s club in his hand, and Prince realized that the object he had dodged must have been a Bludger.

Yorick continued sending more Bludgers his way, but like anyone who was accustomed to racing across the Cornish moors, Prince had quickly learned to avoid flying obstacles after having a pixie or two smack into his face. He dodged a second flying object, then a third, and a fourth, and then a fifth.

“THAT WAS THE QUAFFLE!” Yorick bellowed, and Prince blinked. The Quaffle he had just dodged was falling, and before he could think to dive after it, the girl had it again.

They reached the end of the pitch at last, Prince feeling pretty glum about his chances.

“Right,” Nott said. “This time, Warbeck, you join the formation. Prince, you’ll be playing the opposing team.”

Prince brightened at the thought of revenge.

He gave the trio a few minutes’ head start, then charged in as the ball was being passed. Not content to simply try to snatch the ball, he flew through the middle of the formation, blocking the girl’s flight path and forcing her to veer out of place. He buzzed around the three Chasers like an annoying mosquito, even trying once to knock the Quaffle out of Nott’s grip, unsuccessfully. He only managed to intercept it once, when he bumped Warbeck into the path of a Bludger. She took a hit on the shoulder, and snarled at him when he punched the Quaffle out from under her other arm.

When they had reached the opposite goal, the four of them settled down to earth again.

“You can go back to your classes,” Bradshaw said. “Nott, take Clay up. Larken, you’re with Docherty.”

“But—“ said Prince, and heard Warbeck echo him.

“Go on,” Bradshaw ordered. “There’s no reason to mooch around watching.”

Prince cast a quick glance at Yorick. He didn’t seem to be annoyed, upset, worried, or even particularly interested, so Prince, deciding he didn’t need to return to Trilby’s class, simply went back to the castle. Warbeck walked parallel to his course, and the two of them shot glares at each other until Prince began to feel silly about it. After all, it was only a game. Not even a game, just a few minutes of competition. There was no reason to add another enemy to his collection.

“Er,” said Prince as they reached the door.

“Good luck,” Warbeck said grudgingly.

“You, too. I hope that Bludger didn’t hurt much.”

“I imagine I’ll live,” Warbeck said, and headed up the stairs.

Prince had time to kill, now. He headed for the library, and there he borrowed a book on Quidditch regulations, and another on the history of the game, returning to the Great Hall to read them.

Quidditch history turned out to be far more interesting than he would have suspected, and it made an intriguing sidelight on his current historical knowledge of the time periods involved. Even so, he could not resist staring at his watch every five minutes.

Eventually, the first dinner bell sounded. Prince moved his books out of the way before the night’s tableware could appear. The other first years shambled in, grumbling again, and arguing over whether Dierdre should be allowed to sit with them, as she had accidentally brushed up against one of the untouchable Hufflepuffs.

Prince ignored it all, still dividing his attention between the History of Quidditch and the time.

At long last Yorick appeared, and dropped into the seat beside Prince.

“Well?” Prince demanded, putting down the book.

“Do you want the good news first, or the bad news?”

“The good news.”

“The bad news is,” said Yorick, “you sucked.” The food appeared in the serving trays, and Yorick helped himself to a thick slice of roast beef, a slab of Yorkshire pudding, and a repulsive puddle of creamed spinach. “The good news is, so did everybody else. Bradshaw is holding an elimination trial tonight after dinner for the four best candidates, among which, thanks to my endorsement, you remain. You’re to be out on the pitch in forty minutes. Eat light, you don’t want to slow yourself down.”

Prince wasn’t sure he could eat anything. “Really, it’s daft to be nervous,” he scolded himself. After all, he didn’t even like Quidditch. Did he?

In retrospect, the competition on the pitch had been sort of fun. And Yorick seemed of the opinion that being a team member would make Prince immune from further bullying.

Besides, for some reason, otherwise normal females seemed to be utterly daft about Quidditch players. Not that he cared, now that the lovely Amanda Trollope had crossed the Atlantic. Prince was certain that there could be nobody at Hogwarts as sweet, charming, and beautiful as she had been.

But he would keep his eyes open, just in case he was wrong.

He barely touched his food, watching the second hand on his watch turn around again and again, with excruciating slowness.

“Push off, already,” Yorick finally growled. “All that fidgeting is putting me off my dessert.”

Prince got up from the table and hurried toward the Quidditch pitch in the early darkness of the evening. He was the first one there. From the ground, the goal posts and the observation stands looked enormously tall. He climbed up on the stone base of one of the posts, staying on the narrow rim by clutching the wooden post. Putting one foot in front of the other carefully, Prince walked around and around the rim, one arm hooked around the post and the other extended into the air.

He had made seventy-two circuits of the post by the time Bradshaw turned up with the rest of the Quidditch team and three of the potential Chasers from earlier. Prince jumped down and hurried to join them as Bradshaw spoke, and the other team members began creating floating lights to send up circling around the goalposts.

“All right, we’ve seen how you all did in general skills earlier today. Now comes the acid test: your ability to score. You’ll go up in teams of two. The first to score a goal off our Keeper makes the team. We’ll draw lots. The two long straws go first, and you’ll have fifteen minutes to score a goal before the two short straws have their go. If nobody scores, we start over. Any questions?”

There were none. Yorick moved into the circle of applicants, holding out a fistful of broom straws. He offered the lot to Prince first.

Prince drew a short straw, and swore under his breath.

The first two contenders rose from the turf, each clutching a Quaffle.

Goyle might be a monster and a mutant, but Prince was forced to admit, she did her job well. Each Quaffle that approached a goal ring was ruthlessly smacked away. However hard the two Chasers tried to circumvent her, there she was, in front of the goal and blocking every assault. It seemed as if the only way one of them could score a goal was to coordinate an attack with his rival: not likely to happen under the circumstances. Around Prince, the Quidditch team cheered every failed goal.

It was almost as if they didn’t want a new Chaser, Prince thought.

After fifteen minutes, Bradshaw called off the two disgruntled candidates, and Prince mounted up, on Larken’s broom this time.

Prince flew wide circles around the goal posts, avoiding the floating lights and looking for an opening. There was none. Goyle kept an eye on him, while easily batting away two goal attempts by Prince’s rival, a freckle-faced boy with a crooked nose. As she reached to knock away a third, Prince tried to hurl his Quaffle through the opposite goal, but she switched directions instantly and stopped his goal with a fist thrust through the ring. Below, the team shouted with enthusiasm. It seemed to Prince that Goyle had a particularly satisfied smirk after foiling his attempt.

The freckled boy was spending most of his time diving to retrieve the Quaffle after every unsuccessful goal. Prince knew it was pointless to even try when Goyle was free to focus her attention on him. He waited for his rival to attempt another goal, hoping Goyle would eventually fail to block two Quaffles at once, but however cleverly he timed his shot, Goyle managed to stop it. Time was growing short quickly.

“Come on, Goyle,” Prince said as Freckles dove after his Quaffle yet again. “You owe me. I never turned you in for that pounding you gave me, and I could have got you expelled.”

“You earned that,” Goyle snarled. “I ought to have left Talbot to finish you off.” She whacked away another incompetent goal attempt by the freckled boy.

“My house elf is a fantastic baker,” Prince tried. “Let this goal through, and you’ll have all the gingerbread you can eat for a month.” He hurled the ball once more, and Goyle returned it with such force that its impact rolled him over on his broom, after which she immediately seized the goal ring and swung around to kick a foot through the next goal, booting Freckle-face’s Quaffle to the earth once more.

The cheering from the ground went wild, and Prince rose above the goal rings to scout for weaknesses in the defense.

“Well done, Goyle!” Bradshaw shouted. “You’re beautiful! Where have you been all my life?!”

Goyle froze and went beet red. Instantly, Prince hurled the Quaffle down at the back of her head, where it bounced off and through the goal ring.

Another wild cheer went up from the team, for him this time. Prince whooped with joy, flying a loop, and Goyle went from red to purple with rage as he sang, “I am the Chaser! I am the Chaser! You are the walrus! Goo goo g'joob goo goo g'joob, goo goo g'joob…”

When Prince returned to the ground, everyone on the team congratulated him, thumping him heartily on the back. Everyone but Goyle, of course, who was gnashing her teeth. The other three candidates shuffled off with barely a grumbled word of congratulations, not that Prince could blame them. If he could have controlled the wide grin across his face, he would have attempted a more tactful expression.

Maybe.

“Thanks for rallying around, everyone,” Bradshaw said. “”We’re finished for tonight. Come with me Prince, and we’ll get you kitted out.”

The team broke up as Prince followed Bradshaw to the equipment shed, where a uniform was found to fit him. Prince stared at himself in the mirror. The green robes looked good on him. He wondered if Severus Snape had ever played Quidditch for Slytherin.

“You will need a decent broomstick,” Bradshaw said. “Of course, now you’re on the team, you’ll be exempted from the ‘no brooms for first years’ rule. Have you got one? Or can you get one quickly?”

“I’ll send for one,” Prince promised. His Uncle Mac’s old custom-built Kestrel would be good for Quidditch, he thought. It was fast and easy to handle, and had been his favorite broomstick for some time.

“Have you played a lot of Quidditch?” Bradshaw asked.

“Er…no.” He had never actually played, though he and his sisters had tossed a Quaffle around on occasion. “But I’ve been reading the history, and the rules.”

Bradshaw nodded. “Yorick said you were the bookish type. Come with me, I have some reading material for you.”

Prince followed the Quidditch captain back to the castle and down to the dungeon. With a thrill of excitement, Prince suddenly realized they were heading toward the sixth-year dormitory.

They entered the room. Bradshaw opened a wardrobe and began rummaging in it. “Hang on, I know the stuff’s in here somewhere.”

Prince barely heard him, staring around in awe. He was in Severus Snape’s old dormitory! The Potions Master and undercover agent had slept in this room when he was Prince’s age, and had lived here for the better part of seven years. Prince was almost dizzy with the excitement. Eagerly he looked around. One of these beds had once been Severus Snape’s!

He was about to ask Bradshaw about it, but it turned out to be unnecessary as the door opened and Arnold Goyle entered. The massive sixth year tossed his schoolbooks on the floor with a rude word and hurled himself down on a dilapidated bedstead.

“Easy, Arnold,” Bradshaw warned. “You’ll break that bed one of these days.”

“Good,” Arnold grunted. “Maybe then they’ll cough up the price of a new one, and I can get a decent night’s sleep.” He got up and hurled himself down on the sagging mattress again, then frowned. “Did you hear a funny noise just then? Sort of a squeaky whimper?”

“It’s probably the wood cracking,” said Bradshaw, standing up. He had a few books in his hand. “If you hate that old bed so much, why not just accidentally set fire to it? Here, are you feeling all right, Prince? You’ve gone a bit pale.”

“Too much excitement today,” Prince managed to say.

Bradshaw shrugged and held up a handful of paperback books. “The team will be practicing on Saturday, Tuesday and Thursday mornings, as well as Friday afternoons. Meanwhile, I want you to have a look at these.” The first book was called Scoring Strategies. “Now, pay special attention to the notes in the back of the book,” Bradshaw said, and Prince flipped to a section of blank pages which had been penciled in with diagrams and instructions. “Those are our formations and team strategies. You are to memorize them, and never to let the book fall into the hands of anyone from another house.” Prince nodded, and looked at the second book Bradshaw had given him. It was titled CHASER: Secrets of the Quidditch Pros.

The third book was familiar. “Yorick said you were a history buff,” said Bradshaw. “I think you will enjoy that. It’s a real page-turner. It exposes all the lies and cover-ups, and really gives an amazing account of the life of Lord Voldemort, through interviews with the people who really knew him. I hope you enjoy it.”

“Thanks,” said Prince weakly. “Wow. Voldemort Betrayed, by Newton Avery. I’ve always heard…of it.” He had just been accepted to the Quidditch team, just by the skin of his teeth, and it didn’t seem like the best idea to tell the team captain he was a gullible prat who read utter drivel. “Newton Avery, isn’t he…”

“Yes, the leader of the Sons of Walpurgis,” said Bradshaw with enthusiasm. “Amazing man, you ought to hear him speak. There’s a Sons’ rally planned for this July in Diagon Alley. You should come. His uncle was an actual Death Eater, you know. The book’s autographed, so take good care of it. Are you sure you’re all right? You look…greenish.”

“It’s the Quidditch robes,” said Prince. “I have a reflective complexion.”

“If you say so,” said Bradshaw. “But you probably ought to lie down, in my opinion. Anyway, read those, and we’ll see you at practice Saturday morning. Yorick has great faith in your potential, so don’t let us down.”

It was a dismissal, and Prince made his exit. Yorick was waiting for him in the corridor.

“The uniform looks good on you,” Yorick said. “Congratulations again!”

Prince’s spirits lifted, his misgivings forgotten for a moment. “Can you take my picture? I want to send it to somebody.”

“Have you got a camera?”

“It’s in my dormitory,” said Prince.

“Good,” said Yorick. “Go get it. Let your classmates see you in your glory. They’ll know better than to give you any more trouble.”

Prince hurried to the common room, where he was greeted by open-mouthed astonishment by Abigail Mays and her flock. He passed them by and went to the dormitory. Parkinson and his gang weren’t there. Lovecraft and Fish were, though, and that suited Prince. They were the class Quaffleheads, after all.

They gaped at him.

“What are you doing, dressed like that?” Lovecraft finally demanded as Prince fetched his camera.

“I made the Quidditch team,” Prince said. I’m one of the new Chasers.I don’t know if you heard, but I guess after the Gryffindor game--”

“They held tryouts?” Fish said. “And you didn’t tell us?”

“It was by invitation only. Sorry.” The dawning insane rage on the faces of the two classmates he had considered among the least dangerous unnerved him, and he hurried out.

Crossing the Common Room was more uncomfortable this time. Parkinson and his cronies were huddled with the girls, and all turned to stare at him. There were also sour glances and sneers from some of the older students, especially those who had also tried out for the position of Chaser.

Parkinson muttered something to the others and they guffawed, Abby shrieking with shrill laughter. Prince tried not to break into an undignified run as he made haste to get out and rejoin Yorick.

“I think you badly miscalculated the effect of this uniform,” Prince said, handing over the camera. “Now even more people want me dead.”

“Never mind them,” Yorick said. “They know the team’s got your back, now. Anyway, they’ll all love you once we trounce Gryffindor this Saturday.”

“Once we what?” Prince asked. “I thought the game was over already. I thought there were no more games until Spring!”

“Bradshaw just told me. He wants to see the new team members in action before it gets too cold to play, so he knows where they need to concentrate on their training. He’s asked Gryffindor to give us a practice match after training on Saturday. I suggest you learn those formations quickly. Smile!”

Prince made an effort, as Yorick snapped a few photos. Then Prince gathered up his books and went back to the equipment shed to change into his school robes. After that he visited the Owlery, to send his armored owl friend on an urgent mission to Cornwall to fetch his broomstick.

Finally, Prince found a private niche in which to study Quidditch tactics, not returning to the Slytherin dormitories until the very last second of curfew, and diving into his well-shielded bed just as the lights were put out for the night.




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Last edited by Inkwolf; October 15th, 2010 at 4:01 pm.
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Old October 19th, 2010, 3:37 am
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Inkwolf  Undisclosed.gif Inkwolf is offline
I trusted Severus Snape
 
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Re: The Prince of Hogwarts (An ASP at Hogwarts prequel)

19

Saturday dawned icy cold. Prince shivered as he got out of bed and dressed, his classmates sleeping on. All his free time on Friday had been spent studying the Quidditch books, and he felt as ready as he ever would be to put the knowledge to its practical application.

Before going to the pitch, Prince slipped down the corridor to the sixth year dormitory and peeked in. Bradshaw was gone already, of course. Prince was not there to meet him, though, but to reassure himself that Snape’s bed was still there, unburned and in one piece, though it shuddered with every snore Arnold Goyle emitted.

Prince wondered whether Arnold would consider trading beds, if he disliked the one he had so much. There was bound to be some way he could make the offer. On the other hand, it seemed sacrilege to take Snape’s bed out of Snape’s dormitory after all these years. And he wasn’t even sure if it would fit out the door, without being dismantled or shrunken. And what if something went wrong, and the bed could not be returned to normal? Could Snape’s bed survive another year and a half of Arnold Goyle’s abuse? Then again, it had lasted many decades already…

With no idea how to remedy the situation, Prince went to his first Quidditch practice.


“Ow!” The third time he dropped the Quaffle, Prince couldn’t help the stream of profanity that burst from his mouth. The formations and tactics he knew. What he had never considered was that the Quaffle, so grippy and pliable under normal circumstances, turned rock hard when the temperature dipped below freezing. His fingers ached from trying to catch the cursed thing, his cheeks burned from the raw wind that slashed across his face, and the tittering and jeering that rose from the onlookers at his every mistake was humiliating beyond compare.

“You need to do better than that when the game starts,” said Nott grimly, returning from fetching the dropped ball.

“I’m trying!” Prince said. “But Merlin’s flaming hangnail! It’s like trying to catch a block of ice! And what’s with the audience? Haven’t they got anything better to do than watch sodding Quidditch practice?”

“Word got out about the practice game,” said Nott. “They’re taking bets, heavily in Gryffindor’s favor, I might add. As for the Quaffle, it may soften up when the sun gets properly risen. Until then, deal with it.” He hurled the orb at Prince again, who barely caught it, wincing.

They ran through a few formations—the less than top secret ones, Prince guessed—and he did the best he could, huddled and shivering on his broomstick. How had Yorick managed to talk him into this, he wondered? At least being beaten up was warm exercise that could be partaken of indoors.

“How are you doing?” Bradshaw asked as he flew by.

“”I’m freezing!” Prince said. “My fingers won’t bend, my eyelids are frozen open, and icicles are beginning to form on my nose.”

“Now, then.” The team captain looked at him disapprovingly. “Goyle’s a first year, too, and you don’t hear her grousing.”

“She has twelve times my body mass!” Prince protested, but Bradshaw had moved on. Apparently the Quidditch captain was unaware of the physics of heat loss.

“Here, wear these.” Larken was holding out a pair of thick woolen gloves. Larken’s own gloves, Prince realized. The other boy’s hands were bare. He suddenly felt ashamed of his complaining.

“That’s okay, really,” Prince said. “I’ll get used to it.”

“Take them,” Larken ordered. “We can’t have you dropping the Quaffle because your hands are numb. Anyway, where I come from, we walk around in our underwear in this sort of weather.”

Prince gratefully pulled the gloves on. They were a bit large, but the rubbery pads on the fingers made it much easier and less painful to catch the chilled Quaffle, and he could at least stop worrying that his fingers would freeze and snap off.

At last the Gryffindor team sauntered on to the pitch. They wore confident grins and strode with a swagger, joining Slytherin in the air for a few warm-up rounds of the pitch. The sun was finally managing to penetrate the cloud cover as the game started.

Slytherin took the Quaffle first. Nott barked out “Viper!” Prince quickly took his place in the formation, above and ahead of Nott, where he could try to head off any incoming Gryffindors attacking from the front.

The Gryffindors didn’t come from the front, though. One cut off Larken while the other two closed on Nott from the sides. “Cobra!” Nott screamed, flinging the Quaffle hastily upward. Prince nearly dropped it as he tried to move into the second formation, veering just in time to stop a tall, red-haired Gryffindor girl from plucking it right out of his fingers. From the stands he could hear someone commentating. “Vicky Weasley fails to intercept, but the Slytherin offense is scattered! Looks like the little Prince is on his own—“

Was he? Panicked, Prince flew toward the goal post as quickly as he could. Instantly the Gryffindor Chasers surrounded him. They boxed him in as he flew. He could not dive without hitting the ginger-haired boy with the wolfish grin. He could not swerve—every time he tried to change course, the beautiful redhead or the plump boy would jar and jostle him back into place. Where were they forcing him to go? He could not see the goal posts ahead. The only way out of the box was backward, and Prince decelerated with such suddenness that the Gryffindors overshot him, just before he was sideswiped and sent into a spin by Nott, who had apparently been close on his heels.

“Rattler! Rattler!” Nott was shouting at him as he came out of his spin. Prince stared dumbfounded, and just as he remembered that it was the name of a flying formation, someone popped the ball out of his grip and it flew into the plump boy’s hands.

The Gryffindors made a beeline for the Slytherin goal, the three Slytherins breathing down their necks. Prince tried to concentrate on the Quaffle, rather than meeting the eyes of his fellow Chasers, who, he was sure, must be furious at him.

There was a scramble at the goal posts, the three Gryffindors passing the ball to each other and trying to score, while the Slytherin Chasers and some well-directed Bludgers did their best to foil the attempt. At last the redhead threw the Quaffle, but Goyle snatched it from the air and dropped it into Larken’s hands.

“Adder!” Nott shouted, and he and Prince scrambled to get into place, blocking off the Gryffindors who were descending on Larken. Nott and Larken passed the ball quickly between themselves. They didn’t seem much inclined to pass it to Prince, for which Prince could not blame them, and about which he was unsure whether he was more disappointed or relieved. Finally Nott threw the ball to him, and Prince hastily hot-potatoed it to Larken before he could lose another Quaffle to the enemy. Larken made a goal—Prince hadn’t even realized they were at the goal posts—and Gryffindor took the ball.

Back and forth across the pitch they flew, Prince growing exhausted and mentally numb as the grueling game went on. Suddenly the Gryffindors made a mistake—the plump boy passed the ball to the Weasley girl, but the throw went wild, and Prince reached it first. Turning, he headed for the Gryffindor goal, hoping Nott and Larken would form up around him quickly. The ginger-haired Gryffindor boy swooped down at him from the front, and Prince clutched the Quaffle tighter, preparing to swerve.

At the last instant, the gaping jaws and slavering fangs of a wolf roared into his face. Prince screamed, and the ball was knocked out of his grip again and picked up by Weasley, who barely dodged a Bludger and turned toward Slytherin’s goalposts. Prince could hear triumphant laughter from behind his back.

“That was blatant cheating!” Prince protested to Yorick, who was passing through in pursuit of his Bludger. “No magic allowed on the pitch!”

“Lupin’s a born metamorphmagus,” Yorick called back. “It’s a grey area not covered by the rules. Besides, do you see a referee anywhere? This is a practice game! Don’t sweat it, just get back in there!”

The fright and anger had given Prince a surge of adrenaline which washed away his fatigue. He charged back into the fray. Nott had headed Weasley off, and Larken had rushed her. She barely escaped being rammed into the goal post, but was sent spinning out of control. Lupin responded to this with an elbow to Larken’s face, as Nott whacked the Quaffle out of Weasley’s grip.

Prince dodged around the plump boy, who was attempting to block him, and caught the Quaffle as it fell, hurling it immediately at the nearby goal ring.

It was knocked away by Goyle, who followed the block with a fierce blow to Prince’s head that nearly took him off his broomstick. Larken and Lupin were still engaged in a violent mid-air altercation, but Nott, Weasley and the third Gryffindor dove for the falling Quaffle as both team captains furiously called for a time out.

The Gryffindors retreated across the pitch, Lupin’s head turning backward on his shoulders and his face twisting impossibly to give them a last hideous and threatening grimace.

Bradshaw glowered at Prince. “What was that? Was it an attempt at comedy? Because own goals have never been amusing, however many Quidditch comic books and kid’s novels they put it in.”

As if he would perpetrate such a cliché on purpose! “I got confused,” Prince said, red-faced.

“Well, don’t get confused again. And you,” he rounded on Goyle. “What are you playing at? May I remind you that he is on the same team as you are? We do NOT attack team members!”

“But he’s so bloody annoying!” Goyle wailed.

“The next time either one of you steps out of line—EITHER one of you, no matter how much we need you—you’re off the team. Crud, it’s just like babysitting. Repeat after me: the Quidditch captain is not my nanny.”

Prince and Goyle sulkily repeated the phrase. The only thing that made Prince feel better was that Lupin appeared to be getting a tongue-lashing at the other end of the pitch, both from his captain and from Weasley.

Bradshaw went on to comment on and criticize the performance of the other players, as Prince and Goyle glowered at one another.

“Overall, though, I’m quite pleased,” Bradshaw concluded. “You Chasers have been scoring very nicely, and Goyle, you’re doing a fine job. I’m fairly certain Sheffield is going to have to pull his Beaters off our Seeker to deal with the scoring situation, so make the most of it, Aisling! The rest of us—hold on to your skulls. They might be about to get broken.”

Prince had not been keeping track of the score at all, and was surprised to see that they had scored ninety points, while Goyle had held the Gryffindors to one measly ten-point goal.

The game went on. As Bradshaw had predicted, the Gryffindor Beaters entered the main fray, and the Bludgers moved with more frequency through the Chasers. Prince did not find it much of an added complication, partly because of his pixie-avoiding reflexes, partly because Bradshaw and Yorick were there and protecting the Chasers as much as possible, but mainly because the enemy preferred to target Nott, Larken and Goyle. Nott and Larken were both adept at dodging. Goyle was not, and though she fended the Bludgers off with her arm pads, just as she would block incoming Quaffles, the distraction started to tell, as the Gryffindors slowly managed to score three more goals.

Slytherin kept scoring as well, and Prince was becoming comfortable enough with the game to pay more attention to his surroundings. The Seekers were flying together, the two of them wheeling, twisting and diving, apparently in hot pursuit of the Snitch. The Gryffindor beaters suddenly retreated, flying to their Seeker’s aid, and followed by Yorick and Bradshaw. As he watched them go, the Quaffle smacked Prince on the side of the head.

Prince snatched at the ball, nearly dropping it as Lupin and the other Gryffindor boy rushed him and sent him into a spin. He regained control near the goal ring. He stopped an instant to double check—yes, it was Sheffield defending the goals, not Goyle—and flungthe Quaffle through the hoop.

An enormous cheer rose from the audience. Prince thought it was for him until he saw that the Gryffindors were cheering as well. The commentator was shouting, “And the game comes to an end as Oldham takes the Snitch! The final score is…er…pending.” Off the field, people seemed to be shouting at each other.

“What’s going on?” he asked Nott.

“Well, look at the score,” Nott said. “If Gryffindor caught the Snitch before you made your goal, they won. If you made your goal before he caught the Snitch, the score is tied, and we win by Youdle’s Rule.”

“So who decides which happened first?” Prince asked as they descended to the earth.

“The referee.”

“Er…but there is no referee.” Up in the stands, the shouting had changed to fist fighting in several areas, and the flash of a curse or hex was occasionally visible.

“Well done, well done,” said Bradshaw.

“But who won?” Prince demanded.

“It doesn’t matter,” Bradshaw said. “This was a friendly. Our main purpose was to get in some practice and see how you and Larken did in action. Larken, you were splendid. Prince, you’re still pretty raw, but I think the potential is there. You will have to work hard to be ready for the Spring games, though.”

They shook hands with the Gryffindor team. When Prince shook Lupin’s hand, Lupin’s face transformed once more into a wolf’s head, complete with doggy grin and slobbery tongue. He winked. Prince did not find it funny.

They walked off the pitch as the rioting continued in the stands. Suddenly Jared Scroggs burst from the exit, a crowd of angry looking students chasing after him. He snarled in Prince’s direction as he shot past. More than one of his pursuers also glared in Prince’s direction. As if it was his fault he had made a goal at an inconvenient time!

“Well, kid,” Yorick said, “However well Bradshaw and the team think you’ve done, I think it might take a bit more than that to convince the rest of Slytherin. Take heart, though. Tonight we’ll put Plan C into operation.”

“There’s a Plan C?” said Prince. “How many plans have you got?”

“There’s just Plan C left. So don’t louse it up.”

The rest of the day was unpleasant. Prince was tired and only wanted to be left in peace to rest before he had to undergo whatever grim endeavor Yorick had in mind for him that night. But everywhere he went, someone showed up, determined to get to the bottom of who had won the morning’s practice game, and demanding to know whether Prince had scored before or after the Snitch was caught. They never seemed to believe him when he said, “I don’t know, I wasn’t watching stupid Oldham while I threw the Quaffle.”

He was already irritable before he came to dinner, and Yorick refused to answer any questions there, glaring at him and shushing him so pointedly that he gave up asking. Prince went to bed early.

He was prodded awake out of a restless dream. A dark-cloaked figure was looming over his bed. Prince yelled, but a hand was clapped over his mouth.

“Pipe down, it’s me!” Yorick growled from under the cloak. “Get up. Get your robes on, and grab your cloak.”

Prince dressed in haste. He put on his black school cloak, and Yorick hissed, “Inside out, so the badges don’t show.” Prince reversed the cloak. Yorick put a black cloth bag over Prince’s head. “Come with me, now.”

“I can’t see,” Prince muttered from inside the bag.

“That’s the idea. Come on.”

Prince stumbled along the stone floors, led by Yorick. They went up and down stairs and along empty, echoing corridors. It seemed hours later when they stopped. He could sense and hear that others were here as well.

“Nice night for a walk,” a voice said. Prince recognized the voice. The seventh year boy had once asked him if he had bees up his nose.

“Even nicer for a flight,” said Yorick.

“Best fly low. A storm is coming.”

“I can weather the storm.”

“You are late,” said the seventh year. “We almost started without you. Give your name, brothers.”

“Walden Macnair,” said Yorick. “And a new pledge.”

“Unmask the pledge.”

The bag was removed from Prince’s head. He blinked, his eyes adjusting quickly to the flickering torchlight. They were in a dark corridor. Ahead, a doorway was blocked by two tall figures cloaked in black. They wore bag-like hoods, with no eye holes or features, much like the bag Prince had worn on his journey. To the side stood four nervous-looking students, with more masked figures behind them. Prince was pretty sure he recognized two of them as older Slytherin students, but one he didn’t know at all, and he was fairly certain the fourth was a Ravenclaw.

“I thought we said no more firsties, Walden,” said the masked figure. “They’re too immature and unpredictable. That lot we have now put some kid in Saint Mungo’s.”

“I know,” said Yorick. “This is him. I figured that making him part of the order will end the conflict.”

“Hmm.”

“I will vouch for the new pledge, Augustus,” said the second masked figure. It spoke with the voice of Drew Bradshaw.

“If you say so, Lucius.” The first figure shrugged and opened a drawstring bag. “Step forward, pledges, and place your hands upon the Book. Be careful not to touch the point of the tooth.”

From the bag, ‘Augustus’ withdrew a small, battered book with an enormous fang thrust entirely through it. The other unmasked boys gasped, and Prince’s jaw dropped. He had seen this image all his life in his favorite childhood books, as well as in serious histories. Could it possibly actually be Lord Voldemort’s own diary? The one Harry Potter had destroyed? He put his trembling hand on the cover, along with the other four pledges. If it was real, he was touching an astounding historical relic. Not to mention a former horcrux. Prince was torn between excitement, reverence, revulsion, and skepticism.

“You are about to bind yourself to the sacred brotherhood of the Sons of Walpurgis. If you are not willing to take the oath, now is the time to depart, for dire consequences will befall any who break its tenets.”

The Sons of Walpurgis? That cult of idiots determined to bring back Voldemort and rewrite history in his favor? Those muggle-baiting perverters of truth?

Could he leave? Would Yorick abandon him to his fate? Would Bradshaw throw him off the Quidditch team? Would Parkinson’s lot—for it seemed they were members, unless he had misunderstood something—be more vicious than ever? Would they actually let him walk away? Would some sort of memory charm be involved? If the Voldemort diary was real, Prince certainly didn’t want to forget seeing it. What would happen if he refused the oaths? What would happen if he took the oaths? What would happen if he broke them?

As he pondered these questions, the moment to act passed, and Augustus recited, “Repeat after me: I swear ever to follow Lord Voldemort.”

“I swear ever to follow Lord Voldemort,” the pledges parroted.

Along with the chorus, Prince mumbled, “I swear never to swallow old elephant.”

“I will serve him with full loyalty and honor…”

“I will serve him with full loyalty and honor…”

“I’ll unnerve him with cold boiled tea, your honor…”

“And will strive to wake him for his second coming.”

“And will strive to wake him for his second coming.”

“And will strive to break wind for his second coming.”

Augustus put the book back in the bag. “Your sponsors will now take you aside and teach you the first level of the sacred mysteries, before you may attend the meeting. Brothers?”

Yorick took Prince by the shoulder and led him away. The other new pledges and those who accompanied them scattered in several directions. Yorick opened the door of an empty classroom, ushered Prince in, and closed the door behind them, removing his own hood.

Then Yorick smacked Prince across the head. “You little tosser! I heard all that. You could have got us into serious trouble.” He sounded more amused than angry.

“I may already be in serious trouble,” said Prince indignantly. “What happens now, if I happen to be traveling in Africa, and unwittingly eat a leftover elephant sandwich? You ought to have asked me if I wanted to join the Sons of Walpurgis before you dragged me down here and they started flinging oaths about. You could have warned me! At the very, VERY least, you ought to have said, ‘I’ve made a deal that will keep the Empire out of here forever’ as you tore off my blindfold and showed me the firing squad of horrible, gory, disgusting, violent, bloodthirsty, deathly doom.”

“Eh?” Yorick looked blank. “Empire?”

“Great flaming snakes in the morning! By Salazar Slytherin’s haunted petticoats! Zounds, gadzooks and Jiminy Christmas, I thought your mother was a Muggle. Didn’t she show you ANY Muggle movies?”

“She tried,” said Yorick. “I wouldn’t watch. At the time I thought they were irrelevant to my life.”

There was something in Yorick’s expression that put a damper on Prince’s temper and panic. Was something up with Yorick’s mother? Prince knew he could never ask, not without laying himself open to questions about his own family.

“Listen,” Yorick said. “Everyone thinks of the Sons as a sort of Death Eater cult, but it’s not. It’s more a social club than anything. A way to network with people. Oh, sure, a few idiots take it all seriously, but mostly these are perfectly decent people.”

“Perfectly decent people who want to bring back Lord Voldemort,” said Prince, “ and show everyone how nice he really was.”

Yorick snickered. “As if that’s going to happen. Come on, let them have their little delusions. Voldemort’s dead, and even if he was secretly Father Christmas, he’s not coming back. Being in the Sons will make you, Prince. You’ll have friends and contacts. We all support each other. You won’t be alone any more. Everyone needs to have backup when things get rough. The Sons will look out for you.”

“Wonderful,” said Prince. “So, will I be going about with Parkinson and Talbot, cursing and bullying and torturing non-members for the glory of Voldemort?”

“That’s not what we’re about.”

“Where has Talbot been learning all those curses from?”

Yorick looked away. “All right, a bit of, um…combat training is part of the club culture. But that’s supposed to be for use when Voldemort returns only. Your little friends have been in and out of the doghouse all year. They are on the verge of being drummed out, if they misuse any more of the –“

There was a sharp rap on the door. “Brother Walden! We’re waiting.”

“Sorry, he’s a bit slow,” Yorick called back. “Be there in a jiff!” Turning back to Prince, he said under his breath, “I’m meant to be teaching you the club rules. Do you remember the call signs from before?”

“What, all that ‘Nice night for a walk’ nonsense? Certainly.”

“Good. I’ll fill you in on the rest later. Only, everyone is assigned a code name, the name of a former Voldemort supporter. Remember that we mostly use only the first names when talking, because the surnames are too recognizable.”

Prince felt a spark of actual interest. “Can I choose my name?”

“No. We used to, but every new pledge asked to be Greyback or Lestrange, or one of the other high-profile ones, so now they’re just assigned and you have to lump it.”

“Has anyone been named Severus Snape yet?”

“Of course not, and they’re never going to be,” said Yorick. “Come on! Oh!” He cast a spell on Prince’s mask, then slipped it over the younger boy’s head again. To Prince’s surprise, he could now see perfectly through the black cloth, though the world was slightly blurry.

Yorick dragged him back into the corridor, where the others were waiting. Everyone was masked now.

“Right,” said Bradshaw. “Bartemius, you’re on. See if the coast is still clear. Into the shadows, everyone else.”

One of the figures removed its hood. Prince recognized a handsome sixth-year boy, who was always flirting in the Great Hall. He went through the doorway as the rest of the figures moved away to vanish into the darkness and silently wait.

Bartemius emerged from the door, and Prince suddenly realized where he was. Beside the attractive Son of Walpurgis floated a chattering ghost, and if ghosts could blush, Prince was sure Moaning Myrtle would be scarlet.

“And he still is really rude whenever we meet, so I think he still blames me for Peeves getting out.”

“Oh, who cares what Fudge thinks?” Bartemius said, gazing into the ghost’s bespectacled eyes. “He’s old. In a decade or two he’ll be dead or retired. You will be here forever, perfect and immortal and as beautiful as the full moon shining on new snow. Come on, angel, let’s go up to the Astronomy tower and look at the stars.”

Oh, brother, thought Prince, rolling his eyes. But Myrtle seemed to go all fuzzy around the edges, and the two departed together.

As soon as they were out of sight, everyone else hurried into the door. Prince found something extremely amusing in the image of a bevy of mysterious masked and cloaked figures rushing into a haunted bathroom.

Bradshaw removed his hood once in the bathroom. One or two people gasped—new pledges, Prince supposed, who had not recognized the revered Quidditch captain’s voice. Ignoring the shocked inhalations, Bradshaw bent over a sink and spoke strange and sibilant syllables.

Now Prince gasped as the tap began to spin and glow, and the sink sank into the floor, leaving a round hole behind. “Thank you, Lucius,” said Augustus. He stepped into the hole and slid out of sight.

“Who’s next?” Bradshaw asked.

Prince stepped forward, his heart pounding. Bradshaw nodded approvingly. “Well done, new pledge. We need more stout hearted fellows. In you go.”

Prince slid down the tunnel. The tube was dry and clean, and it seemed to go on forever. There were small side tunnels along the way, and Prince was half tempted to catch at one of them, stop himself sliding, and see what might be contained there. But he was afraid that whoever had slid down after him would accidentally kick his head down into his rib cage, should he stop suddenly.

At long last, Prince shot out the bottom of the pipe to land on a mattress placed below. A couple of masked figures standing by hurriedly pulled him to his feet and got him out of the way. A minute later, Yorick came shooting out of the tube, his mask having been lost along the way. It showed up a minute later, on the foot of the next arrival.

Yorick got his headgear back in place and they walked down a stone tunnel, lit with green torches. Prince clutched at Yorick’s arm. “This is the Chamber of Secrets!” Prince told him in an urgent, squeaky whisper.

“Yeah, I know,” said Yorick.

“It’s the Chamber of Secrets!” Prince repeated. “The Chamber of Secrets, Yorick! For the love of Gideon Crumb’s tartan nose flute! Why didn’t you warn me about THIS, if nothing else?!”

“Relax,” Yorick said. “The basilisk’s been dead for ages.”

“I could have brought my camera! Ow!”

“Pipe down,” Yorick muttered, rubbing his knuckles. “We’re nearly there.” They went around a final couple of turns and into a long chamber. Stone columns decorated with carved stone snakes lined the room, and more green torches hovered in the air. The room was filled with masked Sons of Walpurgis.

“Come on,” Yorick said, weaving his way through the crowd toward the enormous statue of Salazar Slytherin at the far end. “They will want the new pledges up front.” Prince followed, his eyes hungrily absorbing every detail of the historic room.

They stood under the looming statue, before a dais that had been constructed there. On the dais, a few more of the black-cloaked figures stood, talking quietly among themselves. As Prince stood and waited, he started listening to the room around him as well as looking. It was a bizarre contrast. With his eyes closed, the room sounded like the Great Hall on an ordinary day, with students gossiping and talking about homework and chatting with their friends. With his eyes open, a lot of sinister shapes huddled in flickering torchlight in an eerie underground lair.

Maybe Yorick was right. Maybe the Sons of Walpurgis were just normal, decent people. If it meant he would be a member of close-knit community, he supposed he could put up with their bizarre view of Voldemort, and might be able to educate some of them in accurate historical fact. After all, it was likely there were others like Yorick, with no real love for the Dark Lord, and no interest or belief in his return.

And if Yorick was wrong, and the Sons were sinister in intent after all—Prince’s heart suddenly skipped a beat.

He was in.

He was undercover, among Voldemort’s supporters.

He was following in the hallowed footsteps of Severus Snape!

The thought literally made him dizzy, and he had to grab Yorick’s arm for support. Yes, he was in, and could pass on any sinister information that came his way, and report the names of all the members he could identify, and try to foil their evil schemes without being suspected and—

“You’re cutting off my circulation,” Yorick growled.

The room became silent as one of the figures on the dais stepped forward.

“Brothers and sisters, welcome,” said the one they called Augustus. “This meeting of the Sons of Walpurgis, Hogwarts Chapter, will come to order!”




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