Start of Term (Hogwarts) (cont'd)

The Harry Potter books focused on the lives of Hogwarts students, but this story centers around the teachers and staff members who are in charge of educating and protecting these magical children. Set in approximately the Cursed Child time period, it follows the stories of the guardians and caretakers who keep Hogwarts safe. With great power comes great responsibility... and lots of magical headaches.
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Monkey Kitty
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Re: Start of Term (Hogwarts)

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Eve Travers

Eve breathed out a slow sigh of relief at the word 'free.'

"Yes," she said. "Something to celebrate. That will be nice. And being out of the dungeons. Can I still stay with you, Cambria?"

"Of course you can, Eve."

"Thank you."

The Potions Mistress was the happiest she'd been in... well, ever. But she was very conscious that the work was not finished yet. The real Anthony Bale was still missing. They still had no idea who was responsible for Keeva's poisoning that Barclay had tried to blame on Eve. And Cambria still bore the blood curse that made her a Maledictus, and time would someday run out on that.

It was a lot. But for today, Eve was starting to see a solution for at least one of their problems.

"First, though," Eve said. "An idea. We think the person wearing Bale's skin is using Polyjuice because the spell didn't work. Polyjuice... you know, it doesn't last long. They'll need to make more, and soon. And the ingredients for it are hard to get. Not just things you can go buy."

Cambria nodded, starting to follow. "So instead of trying to track the culprit, we find the source of the ingredients that will lead us to them. Smart. Where would they get the ingredients?"

"From Hogwarts, only one place," Eve said. "I have what they need in Potions storage. They'll steal it from me. So my idea is... we let them. Can't make it too easy or they'll suspect, but let them break in. Then we'll see who it is, and we can watch them or use the ingredients to track where they go. Um. What do you think?"
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Quaxo9
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Re: Start of Term (Hogwarts)

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Rosemary Bain

Things were finally coming together. She'd placed a ward on hers and Cambria's old rooms to keep her finger on them and any potential squatters out. At the time, she'd been certain that it wouldn't be long before Eve was acquitted and Barclay's insane rules quashed for good. Now, she felt especially good to be able to return everyone to the places where they might feel some attachment. If nothing else, Lucie and Keeva would be happy for some fresh air. Which brought to mind - the rat incident. Rosemary's head rose as she peeked over her shoulder at an over-and-done McGonagall.

"I think that's a great idea, Eve. But I also think it is time to fill in the Headmistress on everything. We may not have all our proof, but we need to tell her what we suspect."
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Re: Start of Term (Hogwarts)

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Eve Travers

Eve nodded. She knew Rosemary was right. But... she hesitated.

"I'm afraid," Eve admitted. "McGonagall has been so nice. She got me out of Azkaban. She believed in me. What if she thinks I made all this happen? What if she...?"

It wasn't that she expected to be sent back to Azkaban. That fear seemed to have been taken off the table definitively - at least for the immediate future, though some of Liam's goblin revolutionary activities concerned her a little.

"What if she gets angry? Hates me? I don't want her to hate me, or regret... or think it's bad that I'm here? Sorry..."
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Re: Start of Term (Hogwarts)

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Rosemary Bain

"I'd say she still believes in you or she wouldn't have been chasing the Auror out of Hogwarts. She's not going to regret having you here - the rat, Keeva, Bale - none of it is your fault. I am pretty sure I've caused her more trouble late than you have - and she hasn't fired me yet."

Rosemary winked, but quickly regained her composure in case the Headmistress should take her candidness the wrong way.

"At the very least, I do need to formally report the rat incident. Maybe keeping things quiet about Bale will help us catch the impersonator quicker. I can make the report myself if you want to start moving back upstairs."

She squeezed her friends' shoulders again and moved toward McGonagall.

"Headmaster, I am sorry I neglected to tell you about the rat poisoning earlier. I do hope that it wasn't a student's pet..."
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Re: Start of Term (Hogwarts)

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McGonagall sighed and rubbed her forehead absently. "I hope not either, Professor Bain," she said. "But I fear it may indeed be the case. One of the first years - Millicent Babbage - told me earlier that she is missing her rat. We can hope it's merely a coincidence and her pet is running free somewhere in the school, but perhaps we should prepare her for the worst. And all this with Bale. And the Aurors. My goodness! What a day."

***

As soon as Eve neared the door of her temporary room in the dungeons, she had a strange sense.

"Something's wrong," she told Cambria worriedly, and motioned for silence as she pushed open the door.

Eve was right. Her possessions and Cambria's had been strewn all over the chamber. The dresser drawers and the wardrobe stood opened and rifled. The bed linens had been pulled back and dumped on the floor.

The pillows, however, were still perfectly positioned. And on Eve's pillow, there was a single red rose.

Eve grabbed the wall, nearly passing out at the sight. "Shelby and Basil!" she said urgently. "Have to find them!" She didn't care for any of her few belongings, but the thought of what might have happened to her rat and her kitten caused her heart to beat heavily in her chest.

Fortunately, they seemed to have evaded the perpetrator, and were cowering together under the bed. Eve scooped them up and held them close.

"We need to tell Rosemary and McGonagall," Cambria said.
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Re: Start of Term (Hogwarts)

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Rosemary Bain and Sandra Davies

"Oh dear. I'm afraid we already...disposed of the body. Eve identified the poison used and suggested cremation would be the safest disposal of the body. Of course, if Millicent can describe her rat, I should be able to confirm if the rat we found was hers. Goodness, I hope not. Just one more thing with all the goings on, I'll go talk to her as soon as I can. Again, apologies, Headmaster. I shall endeavour to keep you informed."

Rosemary left her meeting with McGonagall with her head bowed and hands clasped behind her back. The good news Eve had just received certainly deserved more celebration than the few moments it had been given, but this business with Bale really couldn't wait. She just had the worst feeling...

"Professor Bain?"

The voice broke her reverie and she stopped to turn around. "Professor Davies. What have you?"

The astronomy professor was puffing a bit as she came alongside, but wore a smile on her face nonetheless. "Oh, I just heard the news about Professor Travers - you must be so happy that she's in the clear! Though, you don't appear...thrilled?"

Rosemary's faint smile of greeting twisted into something resembling disbelief. "Of course I am, she's my friend. I just...have a lot on my mind."

"Like missing rats?"

"Like missing rats." The smile returned, but Rosemary returned to walking the halls. "I hate giving students bad news about their beloved pets." It didn't surprise her that Sandra knew about the rat - it must be all over the school by now due to Auror Barclay seizing on the information. Still...it remained that someone had to have told him. Perhaps...

"You wouldn't happen to know how news of that got out, do you? I mean, Auror Barclay had to have a source..."

Sandra looked surprised, but shook her head. "No, I have no idea. But really - you know how this place is regarding secrets.." she looked at the walls and raised an eyebrow.

Rosemary couldn't help but agree that it was entirely possible one of the ghosts could have whispered something to absolutely anyone. She offered the other professor her own shrug. "I just thought I'd ask. If you'll excuse me?"

"Of course! Perhaps we can have coffee sometime. Afternoon coffee." The night professor laughed at her own joke, then wandered off down an adjoining hall.

Not entirely certain what to make of the conversation, Rosemary set it aside, fully intending to return to the problem of Bale. She picked up her pace and soon entered the dungeon to find things in chaos once more. She walked into Eve and Cambria's room, briefly surveyed the room, then began to inquire if her friends were alright - when she spotted the rose. Her blood froze.

"That bastard."
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Monkey Kitty
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Re: Start of Term (Hogwarts)

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Eve Travers and Cambria Morehouse

"He's here," Eve whispered. It was unclear if she was talking to herself, or the animals still pressed tightly to her chest, or Cambria and Rosemary.

Cambria didn't know what to say. By every indication, Eve was right. The rose was a clear taunt - and who else would know to imitate it? It had to be him.

"It's going to be okay," Cambria said lamely, and squeezed Eve's shoulder. It was the only thing she could think of to do. "We won't let him hurt you."

"I don't know what he wants," Eve said. "Why would he do this?"

Cambria didn't have an answer for that either. After all these years, breaking into Hogwarts just to torment Eve seemed unlikely - there had to be something more to it. Some objective. He had alerted them to his presence on purpose... and Cambria thought she knew at least part of the reason why. Eve would be frantic and distracted, knowing he was in the castle somewhere. He was counting on them being so focused on that, that he could slip his main agenda under the radar. But what exactly was that?

"At least we probably know how he got in," Cambria mused.

"Bale," Eve agreed. It was the only thing that made sense. Hogwarts had defenses, both physical and magical, but intruders had gotten into the school in the past by impersonating people who belonged there.

"So what do we do now?" Cambria wondered aloud. "We have to stop him without putting the real Anthony Bale in danger."
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Quaxo9
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Re: Start of Term (Hogwarts)

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Rosemary Bain

"Right. We knew that someone had replaced Bale for some nefarious reason - we focused on Bale because, well, it's our job to take care of the children. Of course, whatever the end play is...it should have been focus from the beginning I suppose. Still. Bale is the key. We should do as we'd planned - track the polyjuice ingredients. But we also can't just wait. There must be another way we can work out where Darren is keeping Bale. But also - we should be keeping an eye on Darren as Bale. Maybe he'll tip us off as to what the master plan is."

She paced the small room. Her hands fidgeted with nothing.

"A man like him will notice a tracking spell on a jar. And he may have put together two and two with Lucie. Though...ho ho. I have an idea on how to expose him - but we need to find Bale first. We should do a deep search of the castle and castle grounds - starting with the little hideaways we used when we were students here. It's not impossible to get to the village unseen...we should capitalize on our own knowledge."
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Monkey Kitty
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Re: Start of Term (Hogwarts)

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Eve Travers and Cambria Morehouse

Eve nodded, deep in thought.

"We should start looking close by," Eve said. "He... Darren... would need to have quick access to Bale day and night to get more hair or nail clippings for the potion. He won't want to go far, and he'll know the potion doesn't last long, so he'll have planned for this. Probably still in the castle."

While it was possible for a Wizard to get almost anywhere in the blink of an eye by Apparition, the fact that one could not Apparate to or from Hogwarts meant that one would have to walk - or travel by broomstick, which was faster but posed its own challenges - to the edge of the grounds before Apparating anywhere. That just wasn't practical to do multiple times a day. No, Bale was close... possibly in the castle itself.

They searched for awhile, checking every nook and cranny, but to no avail...

"The Room of Requirement," Cambria said suddenly.

Eve looked understandably confused.

Cambria explained, "The last time there was a sighting of the Bale who was definitely the real one was when he was found hiding in the Room of Requirement. He went there for quiet and a break. But what if he's back there again? Not by his own will, but as a prisoner this time?"

Eve nodded slowly. "That could work. If Darren went there needing a place to hide Bale, that's what he would find."

Cambria dared to look hopeful. "No one who went there for any other reason would be able to see him. But if he's there and we go there needing to find him..."

"Then we will find him," Eve agreed.

They hurried down the corridors, eager to test the theory. Cambria pushed open the door to the Room of Requirement. "Bale?" she called.

She was answered by a hiccupping sob from a locked closet, which she hastily magicked open. Anthony Bale sat in the corner, knees drawn up to his chest with his arms wrapped around them. He looked basically unharmed other than being dirty and hungry and minus a shoe, but on the right side of his head, the hair was spiky and uneven where pieces had been hastily cut.
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Quaxo9
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Re: Start of Term (Hogwarts)

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Rosemary Bain

What a relief to find Bale unharmed, though she doubted the experience would leave the boy without scars. She turned to survey the room, suspicious of every corner.

"Right. Good to see you Master Bale. Let's get you out of here and to the Headmaster's office with all expediency."

The trick would be to get to Bale through Hogwarts without anyone seeing him and alerting Darren to the fact that they'd found the real Bale. Now they they had the child safe in hand - they had to get the intruder under bar.

"Perhaps you two should go - I'll track him down. Anthony..." her voice was kind as she knelt down in front of the boy. She gave him the date, the period and asked him what class he'd be in. That was where someone pretending to be him would be, after all.

"Be careful, we still don't know what the game is. But at least we have the young master here safe."
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