Chapter 1

Albus Potter was asleep. Pale morning light streamed in through the open window of his small bedroom, along with a cool breeze that brushed the single piece of parchment on his bedside table, causing it to rustle against the envelope on which it lay. The envelope in question had been stamped with an ‘H’, its red wax seal broken. The parchment above it was, in fact, a handwritten letter. The curly, emerald-green writing was smudged in several places as if it had been read multiple times.

HOGWARTS SCHOOL OF WITCHCRAFT AND WIZARDRY

Headmistress: Minerva McGonagall

(Order of Merlin, First Class)

Dear Mr Potter,

We are pleased to inform you that you have a place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment.

Term begins on 1 September. We await your owl by no later than 31 July.

Yours sincerely,

Pomona Sprout

Deputy Headmistress

Beside the letter sat a green reading lamp, a pair of glasses, and a small wooden podium on which rested a golden ball the size of a golf ball. The lamp and the ball matched the rest of the room with its gold and green wallpapered walls, green curtains and elaborate gold chandelier. The bare floorboards were dark wood, as was the wardrobe, chest of drawers and the bed. Besides these essentials, the room didn’t offer much space for anything else.

When Albus’s bedroom door creaked slowly open, he stirred slightly, but didn’t wake. Even when a pair of feet began tiptoeing into the room, Albus remained firmly asleep, caught, it seemed, in what must have been a nightmare. His face wasn’t calm and smooth as of one enjoying a pleasant dream, but rather his hands were balled into fists around handfuls of his bright green and yellow duvet. The intruder – a boy with untidy brown hair and freckles – continued to creep inside. If Albus had been awake he would’ve told his brother to ‘go away’, but, as it was, James was able to enter the bedroom unnoticed. James didn’t appear to have realised that Albus was in the midst of a bad dream. He was too focussed on avoiding several notoriously creaky floorboards. James’s hand was clamped around a cup of water, an excited gleam in his eyes. Once he reached Albus’s bedside, James leaned forwards, held the cup over Albus’s head and then let it tip. A stream of water splashed onto Albus’s face.

A blast of cold snapped Albus out of his dream. With a shock, he sat up sharply, breathing heavily, drops of water sliding down his face and falling from his chin. He glanced about frantically, his heart beating fast. With one hand, he reached automatically for his glasses while, with the other, he wiped at his soaked face. His fingers clasped around his glasses and he slid them onto his face. His wide eyes narrowed when the person beside his bed – bent-double and stifling his laughter – came into focus.

“James!” Albus roared as he reached for the toy broom that was hung on the wall above his bed, intending to whack James over the head with it. Unlike Albus, whose chequered green and blue nightshirt was soaked, his brother’s red and gold pyjamas had only suffered a couple of splashes.

“Shh!” James replied, his lips still curved in a highly amused grin. “You’ll wake up Lily and the old hag.”

“Well then don’t pour water over me!” Albus said, not bothering to keep his voice down. He gripped hold of the broom and brandished it threateningly. “And don’t call Mrs Figg an old hag.”

James pulled a face. “Don’t call Mrs Figg an old hag,” he mimicked in a baby-voice. “So ungrateful,” he continued. “I bring you a cup of water in the morning, and you threaten me with a broom.” With a smirk, he placed the now empty cup on the bedside table and then backed away towards the door, keeping his eyes on the broom in Albus’s hand.

“You wouldn’t have done that if Mum and Dad were home,” Albus said.

“Good thing they’re hardly ever here then, isn’t it,” he replied smoothly, smile widening.

Albus said nothing. His stomach had just performed an uncomfortable little flip. James was right, of course, their parents weren’t around much. As with most things, however, James didn’t seem remotely bothered by this fact. Quite the opposite – he looked entirely at ease.

Perhaps noticing Albus’s sudden quietness, James sighed. “Look,” he said, his tone more serious, “when you’re at Hogwarts, you’re going to have to get used to people pulling pranks on you. You can’t always be so…” James’s voice trailed off as his brain seemed to search for the right word.

“So…?” Albus prompted, his hands gripping tighter to the broomstick.

“I don’t know,” James said. “You just need to relax a little. Don’t be so worried about everything.”

“I don’t worry about everything!” Albus refuted, heat rising to his cheeks. Yet even as he said it, Albus watched James leap forward and snatch the letter off his bedside table – the letter Albus must have read a hundred times over – and his stomach twisted.

James raised his eyebrows, holding up the letter as if it was evidence. “It will still say the same thing, no matter how many times you read it,” he said, a knowing smile on his face that irritated Albus. “You’re going to Hogwarts. You should be excited, not peeing your pants.”

Albus’s already warm cheeks flushed hotter. “Give it back!” he snapped as he got out of bed, holding the broom like it was a bat.

James laughed. “Little brother, you must have memorised this letter word for word,” he said, looking down at Albus, who was at least a head shorter. “I’m taking it.”

Albus made a grab for the letter, but James yanked the broom out of Albus’s hand and then, with apparent ease, shoved Albus in the chest, knocking him into the bed. One of Albus’s elbows collided painfully with the wooden frame. Scowling, Albus watched as James pocketed the letter.

“One more day,” James said, excitement clear in his voice. “You’ll love Hogwarts once you get there, as long as the giant squid doesn’t eat you on the way that is.”

Albus’s eyes widened. Laughing, James made to leave, but his steps faltered when a familiar hunchbacked figure appeared in the doorway. Mrs Figg hadn’t removed her curlers, which were pink and yellow alternately. Her white nightgown reached down to her ankles and was dotted with pink flowers. Her hands were on her hips, a stern expression on her face. Looking equally stern were the three ugly cats that came to sit by her feet, followed lastly by a particularly fat and fluffy feline.

“Morning, Figgy,” James said brightly, hiding Albus’s letter behind his back and twirling the toy broom around his head like a baton.

“Don’t you give me that cheek,” Mrs Figg replied, slapping James hard on the arm. The cats hissed. “You woke up Mr Tibbles!”

“It was Albus!” James said, rubbing his arm, amusement clear on his face.

Mrs Figg shuffled into the room, nudging James out of the way, her head shaking from side-to-side in apparent despair. “You boys,” she muttered to herself, “I just don’t know. In my day—”

Whatever Mrs Figg had been about to say about ‘her day’ was cut off when she caught sight of Albus. “Oh, Albus, look at the state of you! How did you get all wet?” Mrs Figg threw an accusatory look at James, who shrugged innocently. When she returned her gaze to Albus, her expression softened. James raised an eyebrow at Albus, who was in half a mind to drop his brother in it, especially since he was now beginning to shiver from his soaked nightshirt, but instead, he found himself replying in a slightly dejected voice.

“I knocked my drink over in my sleep,” he told her, gesturing towards the cup on his bedside table. “I was having a bad dream.” Albus tensed slightly. That last part hadn’t been a lie. He had, indeed, been in the middle of a nightmare before James had unceremoniously woken him up.

Mrs Figg rolled her eyes. “Well get changed then, silly boy!” she said. “Really! Sitting there in wet clothes! You’ll catch a chill.” She clicked her fingers at James. “Out! Out!” she barked as she shuffled towards the door. “We’ll leave Albus to change in peace.”

James propped the toy broom up against the wardrobe and then let Mrs Figg shoo him out. The moment the door shut, Albus sank back onto his bed and stared up at the ceiling. Had James been right when he said Albus worried too much? Perhaps he had been. After all, wasn’t Albus worrying right now about worrying too much? But how could he not worry? He was going to Hogwarts, to the place where his father had gone on countless life-threatening adventures and then fought against the most powerful dark wizard of all time. Of course, Albus knew that nothing anywhere near as exciting as that was likely to happen to him, but there was still the fact that he was Harry Potter’s son – he was famous, a celebrity. Albus shivered. Unlike James, Albus had never really enjoyed the attention that came with being the son of the Chosen One. People tended to expect a lot more from James, Lily and Albus than they did from others. What if Albus was hopeless at magic? What if he was the only one in Gryffindor who couldn’t fly a broomstick? What if…?

What if he didn’t even get sorted into Gryffindor in the first place?

Perhaps it wouldn’t have been so bad if Albus looked more like his mother. Lily was practically the image of her and James was a mix between both their parents, taking features from both. Albus, on the other hand, was unmistakeably Harry Potter’s son. He had the same untidy, black hair, the same brilliant green eyes, and even the same terrible eyesight.

Shaking these disturbing thoughts from his head, Albus forced himself to get up and get changed out of his wet nightclothes. Upon opening his wardrobe, he was greeted by the sight of his new, empty Hogwarts suitcase. He’d left it at the bottom of the wardrobe, underneath the pile of text books, quills, ink and other equipment he’d purchased from Diagon Alley a few days before. Still in its case, at the very back, sat Albus’s wand – twelve-inches, willow, dragon heartstring core.

“A powerful wand,” Ollivander, the wandmaker, had said. “You have potential, my boy.”

Albus frowned and turned his attention towards getting changed. It was a relief to get out of his wet pyjamas. By the time he’d dressed and then wiped up the water that had spilt over his bedside table, taking care to give his dad’s golden snitch a quick polish, Mrs Figg rapped on the door. “I’m making breakfast now, Albus,” she called. “What do you want? Bacon? Sausage? Eggs…?”

Albus, who had been feeling less and less hungry every day that Hogwarts loomed closer, called back that toast would be fine. He heard her lingering behind the door before her footsteps squeaked across the landing towards the stairs. Knowing she’d call him downstairs when breakfast was ready, Albus flicked on the Wizarding Wireless Network, which was currently playing the new song by alternative rock band, The Rifflers, and then reached under his bed. He pulled out a crate, inside which a sketchpad, tubes of paint in a variety of colours, a set of brushes, and several pots of ink were laid out in ordered rows and sections. Next, he pulled out a second crate (beside the first), which was full of half-finished, neatly-stacked canvases, and inspected the top one – a painting of his mother that he’d started over a year ago, but had never been able to finish as she was never around long enough to sit and pose for him. Albus smiled at the way he’d drawn her hands fiddling in her lap, her red hair swept wildly over one shoulder as if it had only just settled there. It had been obvious from the first moment that Ginny Potter had sat down for her picture that she was not someone who liked being in one place for any length of time.

Albus shoved the second crate back under the bed and then took out his sketchpad from the first. The bed creaked as he sat down. He flipped the sketchpad to his most recent drawing – a sketch of Gonçalo Flores, chaser of the Brazilian national quidditch team – and the pencil he’d last used dropped out of the pad. Albus tapped his pencil against the paper in time with the frantic, electric beat of The Rifflers latest song as he looked up at one of several posters attached to the walls of his bedroom – all of which depicted a very handsome Gonçalo Flores in numerous poses (juggling quaffles, scoring a goal, flying through clouds, and even one of him performing a complex victory dance on his broom, consisting of somersaults and spins). Unlike muggle pictures, the inhabitants of wizard images didn’t stay still. Gonçalo Flores moved about the confines of his posters as if he was a video recording that had been painted over with ink and brush.

Albus glanced from his sketch of the juggling Flores and then up at the moving version inside the poster that hung on the wall at the end of his bed. Flores’s green and gold quidditch robes flapped around him as he moved left and right, juggling three quaffles, his eyes always fixed upwards. “Um,” Albus said, “Gonçalo, could you stay still?”

The famous chaser spared him a quick, exasperated glance and then returned to concentrating on juggling. From that point on, however, he did make an effort to stay in one spot as he threw the quaffles into the air over and over again.

Albus studied the man a moment and then continued his sketch, trying to capture the expression on his face. Flores had strong, handsome features even though his face wasn’t particularly symmetrical. He had thick eyebrows, a rather massive nose, but high, prominent cheekbones and wavy, wild chestnut-brown hair. He looked a bit like a puzzle that had been put together wrong, but that had originally depicted some god-like figure.

While he sketched, Albus thought of what James would make of all his drawings of Flores. “I swear you’re in love with him or something,” he’d say. Or else he’d mutter his favourite, “Oh look, it’s Albus’s boyfriend.” Things had only been made worse, when, at the Quidditch World Cup Final, Albus had leaned so far over the edge of the box at the sight of Gonçalo Flores that he’d almost fallen out.

Albus’s cheeks went pink at the memory of it. What an idiot!

The truth was, Albus did admire Flores for his looks, but not because Albus fancied him, but because he was so interesting to draw. He was a challenge and, every time Albus tried to paint him, he’d notice something new about the quidditch player that he hadn’t seen before.

Flores’s difficult features were proving as confounding as ever. Albus frantically erased his attempts to imitate those eyes, that hair, those lips, but never getting them quite right. Often, he made the chaser’s nose too big or his jaw too square or his hairline too low. It was infuriating.

It was during a particularly dreadful attempt at Flores’s left eye that there came a soft knock at the door that Albus recognised instantly. He didn’t bother to hide his sketches as he would have done if it had been James at the door. Instead, he set the pad to one side and called, “Come in, Lily-Lu.”

The door swung open and Albus’s little sister walked into the room, her bare feet padding across the floorboards; as usual, the creaky ones didn’t make a sound as she stepped on them. Lily’s white dress made her already pale skin appear even paler and her red hair, which reached down to her hips, stood out like lengths of flickering flame. She climbed into Albus’s bed, her body so light that the mattress barely sank, and then reached across for his sketchpad. Albus put his arm around her as she curled up against him, staring down at his sketch of Flores. She pointed to Flores’s rather terribly drawn left eye and sent Albus a questioning look.

He chuckled. “I know it’s bad,” he said, “I’m going to change it.”

She smiled and then her finger traced down Flores’s shoulder to his hand and began nodding her head.

“Yeah,” Albus agreed, “I’m getting better at drawing hands. They’re easier than faces anyway.”

Lily set the sketchbook to one side, then gestured towards the door.

“You want to go downstairs?” Albus asked.

She nodded. Taking his hand, she led him out of the room, her touch light and gentle. On the way out, he flicked off the Wizarding Wireless Network, cutting off Alava Sugarspell mid-note. The smell of bacon and sausage hit him as he entered the landing and a feeling of rising nausea came over him.

They made their way downstairs and into the cluttered hallway, which was mostly taken up by old copies of the Daily Prophet – several cuttings of which were papered across the walls (stories their mum had written over the years). There was also a troll’s-leg umbrella stand, a set of coat hooks, loaded not just with the family’s coats but with several of their dad’s quick-change Auror disguises, and a huge old cabinet that had once belonged to Great Aunt Muriel, but now took up an entire wall of the hallway. All of the awards, trophies and commendations their dad had received over the years had been stuffed, out of sight, into the cabinet.

With well-practised steps, Albus and Lily navigated the clutter of the hallway and entered the main room – a kitchen/dining/living room hybrid. The smell of bacon and sausages filled their nostrils as soon as they stepped through the door. A teakettle boiled on the stove, sending plumes of steam up to the high rafters of the room, from which hung tattered ropes for the cats to swipe at when they climbed along the wooden beams. One set of ropes held an owl perch, on which Aldwin, the family’s snowy owl, currently sat. His eyes were closed, his wise old face calm.

Unlike Aldwin, Mrs Figg bustled animatedly around the kitchen, stirring a saucepan of scrambled eggs, flipping bacon and then hurriedly buttering toast. James sat in the green leather armchair in front of the fireplace on the opposite side of the room, his feet resting on a pouffe. He was wearing a black and red Ballycastle Bats hoodie. “Hey Figgy!” he called. “Are you sure you don’t want to use Mum’s spelled kitchen utensils? They can do all this for you! The oven gloves will even serve it all up when it’ done!”

Mrs Figg harrumphed. “I don’t need magic thank you very much!” she barked. “I’ve managed quite well without it all my life. I think I can cook breakfast under my own steam. Though a helping hand from you wouldn’t go amiss!”

James looked resigned to get up and help, but then he noticed Albus and Lily standing in the doorway. “Morning, Lily-Lu,” he said happily. Lily walked over to him and then he snatched her up in his arms, threw her over his shoulder and span her round and round. She pounded him on the back until he put her down. He ruffled her hair, at which she rolled her eyes.

I’m not a child, she signed, her hand movements sharper than usual.

“Yes you are!” James replied. “You’re like five, aren’t you?”

She poked her tongue out at him and then moved over to the cupboard next to the fireplace, taking out the old chess set. She placed the box on the little table in front of the armchair, a challenge in her eye that seemed to say, I’ll show you who the child is.

James raised an eyebrow. “Alright, Lily-Lu,” he said. “You’re on.”

She smiled and began taking out the board and pieces.

James turned on Albus. “That means you can help Figgy finish up with breakfast,” he said.

“But I’m only having toast,” Albus replied, feeling rankled as he watched James settle himself back into the armchair while Lily continued to set up the chessboard.

James sent him a lopsided grin and then turned away.

Albus sighed and went to help finish off the breakfast. Poor Mrs Figg’s curls had already fallen out and her face looked red and puffy. Her flowery dress was spattered with grease. Albus helped her dish everything up and then carried the plates to the dining table which stood next to the massive glass doors that led out to the garden. Arching above the table were branches from the enormous oak tree that stood outside the house. Several of its branches stretched so far that they came in through the walls, and the wood of the house and the wood of the tree had been merged together somehow at the joins. Above the point where a couple of the branches exited the house, cat-flaps had been inserted into the wall. At that very moment, two of Mrs Figg’s cats prowled along the branches, their eyes fixed hungrily on the plates of food below.

James and Lily temporarily abandoned their game of chess to join the table. Albus sat in his usual place next to Lily, opposite the glass doors. Feeling too sick to eat, he looked out at the overgrown garden, at the chicken coup that he knew he’d have to clean at some point today, and then further out towards the distant lopsided speck that was The Burrow. As he often did when he looked towards the cosy old house, he wondered what his grandma and grandpa were up to. He supposed Grandpa would be at work already, doing whatever it was that he did for the Ministry. Grandma would, no doubt, be coming up with more of Weasleys’ Home Wonders, her famous magical cleaning products that had sold so well in Uncle George’s joke shop.

Albus was jolted from his thoughts when he caught sight of James launching something through the air. A second later, something smacked Albus in the side of the head. To Albus’s annoyance, the thing got caught in his hair – hair that was messy enough as it was. Taking it out, he realised it was a piece of crust and that his hair was now sticky with jam. He scowled at James, who was laughing. Albus looked around for something to throw back at him, but Lily got there first. She flicked a bit of sausage. It flew across the table and landed, with pinpoint accuracy, in James’s open – laughing – mouth.

James lurched forwards, spluttered, and then coughed up the bit of sausage. Standing up, he shook a finger at Lily, a look of mixed pride and awe on his face, and then he lunged at her. In his attempt to grab her under the arms, he crashed into Albus’s chair. With a cry of shock, Albus toppled to the floor, but James jumped over him and proceeded to chase Lily in circles around the dining table, the two of them laughing madly.

Albus let Lily run past him and then grabbed at James’s ankle, causing him to fall flat on his face.

By this time, Mrs Figg had stood up and was shouting herself hoarse. “Like a pack of wolves!” she yelled. “James! You sit down! Lily, you as well!” James and Lily shrank a little under her stormy gaze. Mrs Figg then turned her fierce expression upon Albus and glared worse than ever. “Albus, I expected more of you!”

Albus righted his chair and sat back down, feeling slightly resentful that Mrs Figg had been most annoyed with him. James had thrown a jammy crust at his head!

“I was hoping,” Mrs Figg said in a calmer voice once everyone was back in their seats, “that we would be able to have a nice breakfast together. It’s not often that I get to cook for Lily, after all. And now you boys”—she threw Albus and James filthy looks—“have ruined it.”

Albus bowed his head. “Sorry, Mrs Figg,” he said.

“Yeah, sorry, Figgy,” James said.

Mrs Figg sent Lily a kind smile. “It is lovely to have you home with us, Lily,” she said.

Lily smiled shyly, her cheeks reddening.

Unlike Albus and James, Mrs Figg didn’t get to spend much time with Lily. Whenever their parents were away, instead of staying home, Lily would usually go with one of them. Therefore, Mrs Figg hardly saw Lily apart from a quick greeting before she and her cats took the Floo Network home when her babysitting duties were finished.

The reason Lily hadn’t gone away with their parents on this particular occasion Mrs Figg hadn’t said. Albus assumed that his dad must have gone on some dangerous Auror mission and that his mum was researching a news story somewhere unsafe.

When breakfast was done – Albus having only managed a few bites of toast – Albus washed the jam out of his hair and then helped Mrs Figg clear the table and do the washing-up while James and Lily continued their game of chess. Once the cleaning up was done, Albus sat by the fireplace to watch the game. As Lily and James spoke their instructions, the little figures on the board moved in response, proceeding to attack when they came into contact with an opponent’s piece. Albus winced as Lily’s queen brutally gutted one of James’s pawns. In the background, Mrs Figg swept the floor, muttering to herself about the violence of Wizard’s Chess.

By the end of the game, the chessboard was covered in broken bits of wood. When Lily’s queen checkmated the king, she swung her sword in a wide arc and then sliced off his head.

James slumped in his chair, defeated. Lily, on the other hand, folded her arms and nodded with a satisfied expression – point proven, she seemed to say.

Albus left them to tidy up the broken chess pieces while he went to clean out the chicken coup. Checking the clock before he left the house, he saw that it was already ten-thirty. He felt incredibly aware of every hour that passed, each one bringing him closer to platform nine-and-three-quarters and his first day at Hogwarts.

To his dismay, the rest of the day passed incredibly quickly, no matter how much he tried to make the time stall. He even offered to help Mrs Figg with the housework, knowing that the hours always passed in snail-like fashion when he was doing something boring. Even cleaning the bathroom, however, wasn’t sufficiently dull enough to slow down the ever-racing seconds.

When the grandfather clock chimed six o’clock that evening, Albus retreated to his bedroom, turned on the Wizarding Network, and focused his thoughts on his sketch of Gonçalo Flores, not letting himself think about school, not even letting the word ‘Hogwarts’ enter his head. Thankfully, carrying on with his sketch did fulfil the desired effect of clearing his mind. However, as it always did, time seemed to fly past as he sketched. Before Albus knew it, he was having to switch on his bedside lamp in order to see what he was doing. Not long after, Mrs Figg came shuffling into his room and told him to get ready for bed, as he would be getting up early in the morning. Looking down at the empty floor, however, her eyebrows drew together.

“Where are your school things?” she asked. “I thought you said you’d packed yesterday.”

Albus was glad of the low light, as it hid his flushed cheeks. The truth was, he still hadn’t packed a single item. “Oh, yeah, I put my case in my wardrobe so it was out of the way,” he lied.

Mrs Figg glanced around. “A good idea, I’d say,” she said. “I expect the case would take up half the floor space.” She pulled a face. “Such a poky, little room you’ve got. Surely, your mum or dad could magic it a bit bigger?”

Albus shook his head and pointed up at a single tree branch that entered the room through one of the walls and then exited again through another. “The oak tree is enchanted,” he said. “Grandpa said it’s magic might mess with any spells on this part of the house.”

Mrs Figg looked like she’d understood Albus’s words as much as if he was speaking another language. “Right,” she said. “Well, night then, Albus.”

“Night, Mrs Figg.”

Later that evening, Albus lay in bed, unable to sleep, his stomach gurgling and twisting. After keeping thoughts of Hogwarts from his mind all day, his worries now came back tenfold. He squeezed his eyes shut and willed himself to fall asleep, but it wasn’t long before he was imagining himself rowing across the lake towards the castle as a great, slimy tentacle wrapped around his arm and pulled him into the water.

Suddenly, the sound of two sets of footsteps on the stairs distracted him from his worried thoughts. He listened hard, straining to hear. A pair of voices were speaking in low tones, the familiar voices of his parents.

“A second opinion from who?” his dad said. “The woman is the top healer in the country.”

“She was snooty,” his mum replied.

“Yes,” his dad said, “but that doesn’t change the fact—”

“I know!” his mum interrupted, her volume rising slightly. “I just don’t understand what we’re going to do. She’s meant to start at Hogwarts in two years. How is she going to do magic if she can’t speak?”

The two of them were now walking past Albus’s room, heading for the second set of stairs that led up to the next floor. Albus slid on his glasses and then crept over to his door, pressing his ear against the wood and straining to hear. For some reason, his heart was beating fast. They were talking about Lily, about her muteness. Albus couldn’t remember the last time he’d heard them speak about it directly.

“She’ll have to use non-verbal spells,” his dad answered after a pause.

“In her first year? That’s NEWT-level magic!”

His dad let out a sigh and their footsteps halted on the second staircase. “Ginny, no-one knows for sure what will happen,” he told her. “Lily might be talking by the time she starts Hogwarts. Plus, she’s clever. Even if she can’t speak, she’ll get by.”

“But you heard Healer Lystanzer. If she can’t cast spells, her magic might become blocked.”

“She said it was only a small possibility.”

There was another pause. “Harry,” said Albus’s mum, her voice breaking. “What if she…? What if her magic…? I don’t think I could—”

“Nothing like that will happen,” his dad interrupted, his tone resolute.

“We can’t take that chance, Harry,” she said. “We have to find a way to get her talking.”

“Lystanzer said the chances of her magic getting blocked are unlikely.”

“I don’t care how unlikely it is,” his mum said. “If her magic gets blocked, she’ll…” Her voice trailed off. When she managed to speak again, it sounded like her words pained her. “Harry, she’ll die.”

There was a long silence. Albus felt as if his blood had turned to ice, as if any happiness inside him had frozen, splintered and then crumbled to dust. It couldn’t be true!

“We won’t let her die,” came his dad’s voice. “We’ll find a way to get her voice out.”

After another pause, Albus heard their footsteps carry on upstairs.

Dread and horror rose inside him. He’d always thought Lily’s muteness was just a quirk, something harmless. He’d never considered that it could be dangerous, not to mention, fatal.

Albus stumbled back into bed, placed his glasses on his bedside table, and then wrapped the duvet tight around himself. His whole body shuddered.

Finally, all thoughts of Hogwarts were swept from his mind.

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